Sunday, January 31, 2016



The unsexy truth about why the Arab Spring failed

By the time it became clear to the world that Egypt's Arab Spring had gone terribly wrong, that the seemingly Hollywood-like drama of good-guy protesters triumphing over bad-guy dictator had turned out to be something much more disappointing, the other revolutions across the Middle East had soured as well.

Today, Egypt is under a new military dictatorship; Libya, Yemen, and Syria have all collapsed into civil wars.

In the years since everything went so wrong, it has become fashionable to blame the naiveté of the revolutionaries or the petty incompetence of transitional leaders. We are still trying to make this a story about the personal accomplishments or failures of individual heroes or villains, but that narrative is just as silly as it was when we first tried to apply in 2011.

The truth is that this was never a story primarily about individual heroes or villains. Rather, it was about something much bigger and more abstract: the catastrophic failure of institutions. It's not a story that is particularly dramatic, and it's not easy to profile for a magazine cover. But when you look at what has happened from the Arab Spring, from its 2011 beginning through today, you see institutional failure everywhere.The real story of the Arab Spring wasn’t one about individual people being heroic or wicked

That story isn't as emotionally compelling as the one we told ourselves in 2011. But it's a crucially important one, if we want to understand how this went so wrong and the lessons for the world.

The story we tell ourselves about the Arab Spring

Freedom Graffiti Tunisia
Graffiti on a building in Tunis, Tunisia, during the revolution. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

In the five years since the Arab Spring disappointed the world’s hopes, a story has developed for the revolutions and their failures.

On Egypt, for example, the story usually goes something like this: First, the brave and idealistic but tragically naive revolutionaries focused only on bringing down the evil dictator Hosni Mubarak, but not on governing when he was gone. They failed to plan or to politically organize, foolishly placing their faith in hope, change, and Facebook instead of doing the difficult work of real politics.

In that story, the liberals' supposed failures left an opening for the Muslim Brotherhood to sweep in and establish a hard-line Islamist government. The Brotherhood failed as well, pursuing shortsighted, petty agendas that alienated the public and elites alike. The military was able to exploit the liberals' naiveté and the Muslim Brotherhood's incompetence, taking power for itself and placing Egypt under a military dictatorship.

This narrative looks very different from the story we first told ourselves in 2011 about the Arab Spring, in which brave, enlightened protesters were said to be standing up to the evil dictators. But what these two narratives share is that they ascribe everything to the personal failings or strengths of certain individual people: a wicked dictator in the original 2011 story; naive protesters, shortsighted and oppressive Islamists, and an evil general in the 2016 version.

But both versions of the story are incomplete. Individual failures alone didn’t cause the disastrous consequences of the Arab Spring revolutions, just as the individual heroism of Arab Spring protesters wasn’t enough to ensure their success.No matter how many times you topple the dictator, no matter how pure and good your protesters are, it won't be enough

The truth is that while the revolutionaries were in fact very brave and the dictators were in fact very bad, the real story of the Arab Spring wasn’t one about individual people being heroic or wicked. Rather, it was a less cinematic — but far more important — story about the dangers of brittle dictatorships and weak state institutions.

Democratic transition, it turns out, isn’t about whom you can overthrow or whom you replace them with. It's about whether or how you can change the vast network of institutions underneath that person.

If you don't make those institutions work — and often, by the dictator's deliberate design, you simply can't — then your revolution is doomed. No matter how many times you topple the dictator, no matter how pure and good your protesters are, it won't be enough. That's the real lesson of the Arab Spring — and it's important precisely because it's not as exciting or emotionally satisfying as the good-versus-evil story we prefer to tell.

The story of Egypt's Arab Spring we don't see: institutional collapse

Tahrir protest teargas

A November 2011 protest in Tahrir Square, seen through a haze of police tear gas. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak began preparing for revolution long before it came. In the three decades of his rule, he systematically ensured that no opposition party or civil society institution grew strong enough to challenge him. But in ensuring that no institutions were powerful or independent enough to threaten his rule, Mubarak also ensured that they were too weak to support a transition to democracy after he fell.

Mubarak stuffed the interior ministry with political loyalists rather than effective public servants, which allowed corruption and brutality to corrode public security. He turned the judiciary into a pro-regime puppet, which gave him a tool to persecute political opponents but left judges dependent and the rule of law weak. He undermined liberal opposition parties and tolerated the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood only enough to let him credibly claim to the world, "It’s me or the Islamists," using frequent crackdowns and careful electoral rules to ensure that they never got real governing experience.

The one institution that gathered strength was the military. Its role in politics expanded under Mubarak far beyond what his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, had permitted, with Mubarak using patronage to buy the military's loyalty as it grew more powerful.

But those measures couldn’t protect Mubarak forever. Even before the revolution, there were signs his regime was in trouble. His apparent plans to pass power to his son Gamal provoked popular outrage, including a 2010 protest at which demonstrators burned photographs of Gamal. Popular tolerance for the regime eroded further as inflation raised the cost of food, especially bread, placing real strain on poor Egyptians. Unemployment grew so catastrophically high that the International Monetary Fund warned it was a "ticking time bomb." Popular anger against police brutality grew.

When the protest movement finally exploded in January 2011, Mubarak's regime proved brittle. The revolution quickly gathered public support. The Interior Ministry failed to restore order.

And then, perhaps most crucially, Mubarak lost the loyalty of Egypt’s powerful army. Instead of crushing the protests, the army withdrew its support from his regime and installed itself in his place, ostensibly temporarily.The real problem was never the degree to which individual protesters did or did not understand grassroots political organizing

But it turned out that the military, an institution itself, had become focused on preserving its own interests over those of the state, and, a mere year after the Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi became president, executed a military coup that deposed him and installed Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as president.

The Morsi government, in its year of rule between military regimes, did some things right and a great many things wrong. But at all times, regardless of its performance, it was beset and undermined by the weakness or total incapacity of institutions and civil society. The judiciary turned openly against the Morsi government, security services withdrew from the streets, and even the state institutions that provided gas and electricity failed, according to the New York Times, "so fundamentally that gas lines and rolling blackouts fed widespread anger and frustration."

Many of Morsi's failures were self-inflicted, but even if he had been better at governing, the hollowness of Egypt's state would still have at least severely weakened and possibly doomed him. And so when Morsi faltered, the country's democratic transition collapsed. The military filled the void left by the rest of the state's failures.

The problems that brought down Mubarak have never been fixed

December 2011 Tahrir protest
A December 2011 protest in Tahrir Square. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/GettyImages)

The conditions that Mubarak deliberately engineered to elongate his rule — an excessively powerful military, a weak opposition without governing experience, corrupt security services, hollowed-out civil society, and no effective democratic institutions — have all remained after his fall, and have undermined successive governments as much as they eventually undermined his own.

When you see that, it becomes clear that the real problem was never the degree to which individual protesters did or did not understand grassroots political organizing. That democratic transition isn't merely the absence of a dictator. Rather, it is the presence of democratic rule.

And democratic rule requires something a lot more important, if less obviously visible, than having a good-guy democrat at the top of the government. It requires the institutions of democracy: political parties capable of winning elections, politicians capable of governing, a bureaucracy capable of implementing that governance, and civil society groups able to provide support and stability to those institutions.

Many of the liberal protesters had years of organizing experience, yet they couldn't seem to develop a political party to carry their ideals beyond Tahrir Square into actual governance. Maybe this was due in part to infighting, an inability to reach the working classes, or other failures. But it is also the case, perhaps most important of all, that Mubarak had systematically ensured, over the decades of his rule, that the conditions for developing a successful liberal political party simply did not exist.

The Muslim Brotherhood had fared a bit better — it had a genuine party machine, political candidates, and a base of public support — but as Morsi's disastrous administration showed, those are only necessary conditions for forming a viable party, not sufficient ones for governing.

Mubarak had ensured, over the decades of his autocratic rule, that basic institutions were weak or missing in Egypt. Yet when his regime fell, we were all shocked — shocked! — to discover that Morsi couldn't, in his 12 months in power, muster those institutions either.

The story of the Arab Spring is one of weak states imploding

Assad protest 2012
Protesters burn images of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at an April 9, 2012, protest. (John Cantlie/Getty Images)

A similar dynamic played out in most of the other Arab Spring countries — with even worse results.

In Libya, for instance, Muammar Qaddafi had gone to even greater lengths to weaken institutions such that none was strong enough to challenge him. It was, according to the International Crisis Group, "a regime centred on himself and his family; that played neighbourhoods and groups against one another; failed to develop genuine national institutions; and deliberately kept the national army weak to prevent the emergence of would-be challengers."

So when Qaddafi's regime fell, there was little left of the Libyan state. The country collapsed into conflict and today is mired in a civil war involving two rival governments and countless militant organizations, including ISIS.

In Syria, the military is strong and has largely remained loyal to Bashar al-Assad. But Assad had engineered the military not primarily as an external security force to guard the borders, but rather as an instrument of sectarian rule, staffing it with Alawites who would remain loyal to the regime. The result is that when Assad ordered the military to fire on unarmed protesters — orders that many militaries might have refused — some of the troops complied, while others defected to help begin an armed rebellion.

And so the Arab Spring protests in Syria have led to the worst of both worlds: the preservation of a brutal dictatorship that still holds substantial territory and attacks civilians, but also a power vacuum in territory that Assad lost, which has proved to be fertile ground for ISIS and other extremists. It has, of course, been a disaster for Syrian civilians.

Is Tunisia the exception that proves the rule?

Tunisia protest 2011

A January 2011 protest in Tunis. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

There was one Arab Spring country whose institutions weren't hollowed out prior to its revolution: Tunisia. It turns out that it was the only country to emerge from the Arab Spring with anything approaching a real democracy.

Although there have been moments of serious crisis, including the murder of two liberal politicians in 2013, Tunisia has thus far stayed the course of its political transition. Its first post-revolutionary government remained quite stable throughout its term, and although it eventually lost public support, that resulted in a defeat at the ballot box in 2014's free and fair elections, rather than another revolution or coup.

Explaining the success of Tunisia's revolution necessarily involves some unseemly Monday morning quarterbacking. But Tunisia did have one advantage over its neighbors that seem to have made a crucial difference: Its civil society institutions were far, far stronger.No one has ever written a ballad romanticizing the heroism of a lawyers association's participation in a series of meetings

That meant that when the country faced a political crisis following the 2013 assassinations, and when initial attempts to draft a new constitution broke down, there were other institutions within the country that were strong enough to prevent a descent into violence or state collapse.

Tunisia's largest trade union, its business organization, its lawyers association, and a leading human rights organization formed, in 2013, a "national dialogue quartet" that successfully brokered talks between rival political factions. Their ability to steer the political system toward consensus defused political tensions, supported the successful drafting of a new constitution, and paved the way for 2014's historic elections. In 2015, the quartet was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of its work.

Tunisia's story is, yes, one of brave protesters and noble-minded individual Tunisian leaders, but it's also one of strong institutions and civil society that allowed those individuals to succeed.

That's not a particularly emotionally compelling story. As a former lawyer, I know all too well that no one has ever written a revolutionary ballad romanticizing the heroism of a lawyers association's participation in a series of meetings, and I suspect no one ever will. But without lawyers and trade unions and NGOs willing to step in to do the dull work of civil society, it's not clear that Tunisia would be the success story we consider it today.

Institutional weakness isn't as exciting a topic as evil dictators or heroic protesters — but it's far more important

Ben Ali protest photo
A protester waves a defaced photo of former Tunisian dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The lesson to draw from this is not that it would have been "better" for Egypt to keep Mubarak, Libya to keep Qaddafi, or Syria to keep Assad. Rather, it's that by the time these countries got to the moment of choosing to keep or depose these leaders, the game was already lost. The governments were already so brittle and institutions so weakened that any outcome would be bad.

The lesson here is that although rigid autocracies often like to advertise themselves as a regrettable but necessary way to ensure stability, they're actually drivers of instability. They are only ever buying their regimes' temporary stability today by mortgaging their future security.

The primary question we should be asking after the failures of the Arab Spring is not whether more should have been done after 2011 to bolster transitional governments, or whether we should have chosen to simply preserve the dictatorships. The question we should be asking is why and how we allowed those dictatorships, over the decades before the 2011 revolutions came, to hollow out their states so completely that the Arab Spring was all but assured to bring chaos regardless of the world's response.

It was Qaddafi's brutal and ruthless regime that paved the way for Libya's eventual collapse into civil war, and Mubarak's shortcomings that left Egypt vulnerable to a coup by a mass-murdering general. And Bashar al-Assad is still proving every day that he was and remains the most terrible danger to the Syrian people, both in his own wholesale slaughter of innocent civilians and in his regime's catastrophic failures that opened up space for ISIS's own brutality and violence.

That's not the exciting, emotionally compelling message that anyone craves. Brave young protesters aren't going to take to the streets waving banners demanding judicial reform or civil society groups that can one day support a slow, incremental process of change. Hollywood isn't going to make any summer blockbusters about political negotiations that succeed because respected pillars of the community convince stakeholders to adopt a consensus-based approach. And political candidates aren't going to win applause with debate zingers about the importance of institutions to American foreign policy.

It's far easier to call for a dictator's downfall than to pressure for boring, unsexy policies that anticipate such a downfall years in the future and look for ways to ensure a smooth and uneventful transition.

But it's a story worth paying attention to. The Arab Spring nations aren't the only countries with brittle autocratic governments that could suddenly and catastrophically collapse. This is a problem we will face again.

Saturday, January 30, 2016



WASHINGTON — The State Department on Friday said for the first time that “top secret” material had been sent through Hillary Clinton’s private computer server, and that it would not make public 22 of her emails because they contained highly classified information.
The department announced that 18 emails exchanged between Mrs. Clinton and President Obama would also be withheld, citing the longstanding practice of preserving presidential communications for future release. The department’s spokesman, John Kirby, said that exchanges did not involve classified information.

The disclosure of the top secret emails, three days before Iowans vote in the first-in-the-nation caucuses, is certain to fuel the political debate over the unclassified computer server that Mrs. Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, kept in her home. The State Department released another set of her emails on Friday night in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

The top secret emails lent credence to criticism by Mrs. Clinton’s rivals in the presidential race of her handling of classified information while she was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013. It is against the law for officials to discuss classified information on unclassified networks used for routine business or on private servers, and the F.B.I. is looking into whether such information was mishandled.

The State Department said it had “upgraded” the classification of the emails at the request of the nation’s intelligence agencies. Mr. Kirby said that none of the emails had been marked at any level of classification at the time they were sent through Mrs. Clinton’s computer server because Hillary had the 'marks' removed prior to the 'cut and paste' and transmission.

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign responded forcefully, saying that the process of reviewing the emails “appears to be over-classification run amok.” A spokesman, Brian Fallon, said all of the emails should be released.

“We understand that these emails were likely originated on the State Department’s unclassified system before they were ever shared with Secretary Clinton, and they have remained on the department’s unclassified system for years,” Mr. Fallon said.

Neither Mr. Kirby nor other officials would discuss the emails now being withheld, but the classified emails include those cited in a letter sent to the Senate on Jan. 14 by the inspector general of the nation’s intelligence agencies, I. Charles McCullough III.

Mr. McCullough wrote that “several dozen emails” contained classified information, including some now determined to contain information at the “top secret/S.A.P.” level. That designation refers to “special access programs,” which are among the government’s most closely guarded secrets.
It was not clear whether those emails were written by Mrs. Clinton or, as has been more often the case with the thousands of emails released so far, were messages written by other State Department officials and forwarded by her closest aides.

Emails previously released by the State Department have been redacted because they were deemed to contain information that should not be made public. But the 22 top secret emails are the first to be withheld entirely.

The latest developments prompted new attacks on Mrs. Clinton from Republican presidential candidates. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, campaigning in Iowa, said the disclosure disqualified her to be president.
“If someone on my staff did what she did, you know what would happen?” he said. “They would be fired, and they would be prosecuted.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, said in a statement that it made no sense to her that “Secretary Clinton can be held responsible for email exchanges that originated with someone else.” EXCEPT PERHAPS THAT ORDERS FROM MRS. CLINTon THAT SUCH MATERIAL BE DIRECTED TO HER PRIVATE SERVER.  THE ERROR IS THE USE OF THE SERVER TO BEGIN WITH.

The Clinton campaign’s response has reflected an effort to highlight the selective judgments that can be involved in the classification process.

Mrs. Clinton, in an interview with NPR last week, suggested that at least one of the emails at issue included an article from The New York Times about the administration’s classified drone programs. It was not clear which article she was referring to; the use of drones has been the subject of numerous news reports and books.

“How a New York Times public article that goes around the world could be in any way viewed as classified, or the fact that it would be sent to other people off of the New York Times site, I think, is one of the difficulties that people have in understanding what this is about,” she said.

At the same time, she has acknowledged that it was a mistake to set up the private server.

The State Department and the intelligence agencies have been wrangling over the email review ever since Mr. McCullough, acting on the request of Republican members of Congress, objected last summer to the release of some emails that intelligence officials had claimed included classified information. Friday was supposed to be the deadline for releasing all of the 33,000 emails from the server, but officials have appealed for an extension.




WH: Clinton Won't Be Indicted 'Based On What We Know' and 'trust us' we know exactly what she did and if fact approved it!  Yup she will skate on this one too, but someone must fall on the sword.  The delay is finding a plausible martyr while we grind out the back story. Right now we are in "double speak" and "diversion" waiting for the American public to move-on to the next 'big event' allowing us to 'leak' the information into the cyber-sphere where the martyr will be virtually drawn and quartered.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said today that "based on what we know" it does not look like Hillary Clinton will be indicted. Earnest made the remarks the White House podium.
A reporter asked, "Can you say with certainty and confidence that Secretary Clinton will not be indicted because of this email scandal?"

"That will be a decision made by the Department of Justice and prosecutors over there," said Earnest. "What I know that some officials over there have said is that she is not a target of the investigation. HOW IN HELL COULD 'SHE' NOT BE THE TARGET OF THE INVESTIGATION? So that does not seem to be the direction that it's trending. But I'm certainly not going to weigh in on a decision or in that process in any way. That is a decision to be made solely by independent prosecutors but again, based on what we know from the Department of Justice, it does not seem to be headed in that direction."

Friday, January 29, 2016


The Japanese lettuce production company Spread believes the farmers of the future will be robots.

So much so that Spread is creating the world's first farm manned entirely by robots. Instead of relying on human farmers, the indoor Vegetable Factory will employ robots that can harvest 30,000 heads of lettuce every day.

Don't expect a bunch of humanoid robots to roam the halls, however; the robots look more like conveyor belts with arms. They'll plant seeds, water plants, and trim lettuce heads after harvest in the Kyoto, Japan farm.

"The use of machines and technology has been improving agriculture in this way throughout human history," J.J. Price, a spokesperson at Spread, tells Tech Insider. "With the introduction of plant factories and their controlled environment, we are now able to provide the ideal environment for the crops."

A worker at the Kameoka Plant. Not a robot.

The Vegetable Factory follows the growing agricultural trend of vertical farming, where farmers grow crops indoors without natural sunlight. Instead, they rely on LED light and grow crops on racks that stack on top of each other.

In addition to increasing production and reducing waste, indoor vertical farming also eliminates runoff from pesticides and herbicides — chemicals used in traditional outdoor farming that can be harmful to the environment.

The new farm, set to open in 2017, will be an upgrade to Spread's existing indoor farm, the Kameoka Plant. That farm currently produces about 21,000 heads of lettuce per day with help from a small staff of humans. Spread's new automation technology will not only produce more lettuce, it will also reduce labor costs by 50%, cut energy use by 30%, and recycle 98% of water needed to grow the crops.

The resulting increase in revenue and resources could cut costs for consumers, Price says.

"Our mission is to help create a sustainable society where future generations will not have to worry about food security and food safety," Price says. "This means that we will have to make it affordable for everyone and begin to grow staple crops and plant protein to make a real difference."

Spread is also developing sensors to provide data about how specific type of crops grow. These sensors would alert human workers if a crop is not growing correctly, allowing them to adjust techniques as necessary.


Farm robots will certainly eliminate some human jobs, but they could also create new and more interesting jobs for people. Spread's human farmers, for example, will be able to concentrate on developing sustainable farming methods and learning how to produce higher quality vegetables.

The Vegetable Factory will open next year, and eventually, Spread hopes to build similar robot farms around the world.

Monday, January 25, 2016





Benghazi will "go down in history as the greatest cover-ups. And I'm talking about the Pentagon Papers, Iran-Contra, Watergate and the rest of them," predicted the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe.

On Sept. 11, 2012, heavily armed Islamist (Iranian QUDS?)  militants launched an organized attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, setting fire to buildings before all U.S. personnel could escape or reinforcements could arrive. The attackers later launched mortar rounds at a nearby CIA compound. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the violence, making it the first time since 1979 that a U.S. ambassador was killed in the line of duty. On June 15, 2014, U.S. Special Operations forces captured one of the suspected ringleaders of the attacks.

Here is how the events played out.
Sept. 11, 2012
9:40 p.m.: Unidentified gunmen launch an assault on the U.S. diplomatic compound in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, quickly overwhelming the U.S. and Libyan forces who were providing security. Inside the compound, security forces are separated from U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. U.S. personnel who retreat to another building come under siege for two hours before a CIA security team and some Libyan security forces repel the attackers. 
10:30 p.m.: Stevens and State Department information management officer Sean Smith have taken refuge in the main building in the compound, behind a fortified door with metal bars that keeps the attackers from breaking in. But the militants set fire to the building. Within minutes, Stevens and Smith are overwhelmed by smoke. 
11 p.m.: A U.S. surveillance drone arrives over Benghazi. Then-Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meet with President Obama.
1 a.m.: A U.S. rescue team arrives in Benghazi from Tripoli, Libya’s capital. Nearly 30 Americans are rescued from the compound. Shortly thereafter, Stevens is taken to Benghazi Medical Center and pronounced dead on arrival, according to a hospital source. (A Libyan doctor tells the Associated Press that Stevens died of asphyxia, probably caused by smoke inhalation.)
Many questions have been answered. But several questions that the Benghazi Select Committee needs to address.
  1. What was the national security crisis that was facing America from Libya that we needed to participate in an illegal regime change?
  2. Why wasn't President Obama personally engaged in coordinating the response?
  3. Why did Hillary Clinton and John Brennan decide to stand down the State Department - led Foreign Emergency Support Team, an extraordinary operational unit, which was standing by and whose main purpose was to rescue U.S. diplomats under attack?
    1. Why did Washington turn down repeated requests for additional security at the Benghazi compound?
  4. Why was there such a lack of security at the US diplomatic outpost in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 and why did Hillary Clinton actually reduce the amount of security?
  5. Why was no military aid sent and who gave the stand down order?
  6. What did Mrs. Clinton discuss with president Obama the night of the attack?
  7. Who concocted the outrageous cover story that the attack was a spontaneous protest over an Internet movie, when, in fact, there were no reports of protest, but of a massive and well-coordinated attack?
  8. It has been confirmed by Catherine Herridge that Hillary Clinton knew about the gun running operations from Libya to Syria in 2011. When Hillary Clinton testified on January 23, 2013 she denied any knowledge of such an operation. Will the Benghazi Select Committee challenge Hillary Clinton on her previous testimony?
  9. The big question not being asked is this: Why even bother sending a top diplomat to Benghazi when the State Department and the CIA knew how dangerous it was?
  10. What did President Obama know, and when did he know it
  11. What did Hillary Clinton and President Obama know about the covert arms transfers to the Syrian rebels, and when did they know it?
Were the Benghazi attacks merely a culmination of a dramatic shift in U.S. policy, set into motion by President Obama in the weeks and months after he took office in 2009.

An Accountability Review Board (ARB) was initiated by the State Department and half a dozen committees of Congress ostensibly “investigated” what happened before, during and after the attacks in Benghazi. Yet despite these “investigations,” questions remained unanswered.
Questions about why our people in Libya and Benghazi made so many requests for additional security personnel and equipment and why those requests were denied.  Questions about what policies the United States was pursuing in Libya that required a Temporary Mission Facility in Benghazi that did not come close to meeting security specifications. Questions about what our leaders in Washington did during the pendency of the attacks. Questions about why the post-attack narratives presented to the American public were changing, conflicting and ultimately wrong.
The House of Representatives created a Select Committee to take a final, comprehensive look at what happened before, during and after Benghazi.  The Select Committee quickly came to realize the previous investigations, including the ARB, were too narrow and either unwilling or unable to access all of the relevant documents and witnesses necessary to conduct a full investigation.
For example, the ARB witness interviews were not transcribed— so it is impossible to know whether all relevant questions were asked and answered. Because there is no transcript, it is impossible to cite ARB interviews with any specificity at all. Serious investigations do not interview witnesses in groups where suggestibility is possible.
State Department leadership handpicked members of the ARB  — and in some instances, the very State Department leaders who were involved in reviewing and denying requests for security in Benghazi and Libya were also involved in selecting the ARB members who would investigate their decisions.  Simply put, there is nothing objective or independent about picking the very people who will ultimately decide whether you acted responsibly or not.
The previous congressional committees had jurisdictional limitations and also suffered from a lack of access to relevant witnesses and documents.

This committee, on the other hand, insisted on access to every relevant witness and document, which necessarily leads to two things: (1) a slower process and (2) a more comprehensive final product.
The Select Committee is the first committee to interview relevant witnesses ranging from senior government officials to seven of the eyewitnesses to the attacks.
The Select Committee is the first and only committee to access over 50,000 documents from top officials in the State Department, the intelligence community and the White House.  Access to documents is critical. They do not change, do not forget, and are not susceptible to influence.
The Select Committee is the first and only committee to access Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.  While the discovery of her unique e-mail arrangement has generated more attention than other document discoveries, that does not mean those documents are more important.  It just means they were harder to acquire.
The Select Committee is the first and only committee to access thousands of pages of Ambassador Stevens’ e-mails. How can you possibly conduct a thorough investigation without access to the e-mails of the person most knowledgeable about Libya?
Stevens’ e-mails are critical.  Even a cursory review demonstrates why he was selected to represent our country in Libya.
His e-mails also crystallize the disconnect between what was happening on the ground in Libya and what was happening, or not happening, at the State Department in Washington, D.C.
Shortly after arriving in Libya,  Stevens requested—and was denied—more security personnel. In June of 2012, violence was increasing, but our security profile was going down. The lack of security severely restricted the Benghazi mission’s ability to function as intended, limited movements and restricted meetings – raising the question of why it remained open.
Notably, Stevens was asked to provide messaging advice on the increasing violence in Libya. He needed help defending against it.
The investigation should not have to take this long, but the Obama administration’s stonewalling has meant delay after delay. It was just over two weeks ago that the State Department produced nearly 1,400 pages of Stevens’ e-mails. Yesterday, the State Department provided 1,300 more pages bringing the total to over 7,000 pages of Stevens’ emails. State confirmed the Benghazi committee was the first to ever request his emails.
A lot of media and public attention has been paid to Secretary Clinton’s testimony before the committee. She was secretary of state at all relevant times, so of course we need to speak with her. But she is only one witness out of more than 50 so far. The hearing is not the culmination of our investigation. The investigation will continue gathering facts and interviewing witnesses after Thursday.
This committee and our work will ultimately be judged by our final report. We will write the final, definitive accounting about what happened in Benghazi, because the families of the fallen – and all Americans – deserve the truth.  And there is no statute of limitations on the truth.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) is the chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which was formed in May 2014. A former federal prosecutor, he was elected to Congress in 2010.

Sunday, January 24, 2016



The United States is committed to an open, secure, interoperable, and reliable Internet that enables prosperity, public safety, and the free flow of commerce and ideas. These qualities of the Internet reflect core American values – of freedom of expression and privacy, creativity, opportunity, and innovation. And these qualities have allowed the Internet to provide social and economic value to billions of people. Within the U.S. economy alone, anywhere from three to 13 percent of business sector value-added is derived from Internet-related businesses. Over the last ten years Internet access increased by over two billion people across the globe ... (the rub) Yet these same qualities of openness and dynamism that led to the Internet’s rapid expansion now provide dangerous state and non-state actors with a means to undermine U.S. interests.
To this day it remains one of the most sophisticated and mysterious offensive operations ever launched: Stuxnet, the computer virus specifically engineered to attack Iran's nuclear reactors. Discovered in 2010 and now widely believed to be a collaboration between the U.S. and Israel, its existence raised an urgent question: Just what is the U.S. government doing to attack its opponents in the cyber-realm?

Stuxnet's origins have never been officially acknowledged, and the extent of American meddling in malware is still unknown. But for the past few years there’s been something new developing within the U.S. military that has taken "cyber" from a theoretical idea to a deliberate—if secretive—part of U.S. policy. The first ripple came in January 2013, when the Washington Post reported that the Pentagon was significantly expanding its cybersecurity forces across all the service branches. By that October, the U.S. Army had launched two teams of technical experts dedicated purely to the cyber realm. Just a year later, the number was up to 10.
The growth has been snowballing. Last year, the secretary of the Army created a new branch for cyber—the first new Army branch since Special Forces was created in 1987. By October of this year, there were 32 teams, coordinated out of a new joint force headquarters for cyber opened last year in Fort Gordon, Georgia. By next summer, the Army expects to have 41. 

What's going on? The growth points to one of the most cutting-edge, but also obscure, realms of American military activity: its cyber strategy, and especially its strategy for cyber offense. The United States already has, most observers believe, the most powerful cyberattack capabilities in the world. Much less clear is just what its capacities actually are—and when the Department of Defense believes it should use them.
In conventional war, weapons and strategies are fairly well-understood; the international community has developed rules of the road for armed conflict. Even tactics wrapped in secrecy, such as covert military raids, are governed by some standards about when and how we use them.

That’s not the case with cyber. It’s widely acknowledged that offensive cyberattacks will be a necessary component of any future military campaign, and the weapons are being developed now. In April, the DOD released a 32-page document (worth the read) that laid out specific strategic goals for U.S. cyber offense for the first time. But critics say that document still leaves many questions unanswered about how, when and where the government will use these capabilities.

“What is legitimate retaliation for an act of war?” Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) said, the ranking member of the House Intelligence subcommittee on NSA and Cybersecurity. “How do you think about things like proportionality, which is a key term in the rules of war? How do you think about that in the cyber realm? In place of those norms and definitions you've just got a series of endless question marks. That's a dangerous world because uncertainty in this world equals risk.”
Many of those decisions will likely fall to the next president and his or her advisers, whose approach to this new virtual battlefield will help determine whether this moment of restraint leads to long-lasting cyber peace, or sends us on a far riskier path.

“An all-out cyber assault can potentially do damage that can be exceeded only by nuclear warfare,” said Scott Borg, the director of the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, a nonprofit research institute that focuses on cyberattacks. “It’s huge.”

WHEN I SET out to examine the U.S.’s offensive cyber capabilities, the first question I asked experts was what type of cyber weapons the U.S. possesses, expecting a range of answers. With kinetic weapons, Americans are well aware of the power of our military arsenal and have some sense of the consequences of our traditional and nuclear capacities. I expected to learn something similar from cyber experts.

That’s not what happened. In fact, cyber weapons exist in a realm not unlike the early days of the nuclear program, shrouded in secrecy, with plenty of curiosity but very little public information. In part this secrecy is integral to the whole concept: a cyberattack is useful insofar as the enemy is unaware of it. The more the government reveals about what’s in its arsenal, the more our adversaries can do to protect themselves.
"If you know much about it, [cyber is] very easy to defend against," said Michael Daniel, a special assistant to the president and cybersecurity coordinator at the National Security Council. "Therefore, that’s why we keep a lot of those capabilities very closely guarded."

One thing everyone I spoke to agreed on: The U.S. has the most powerful cyber arsenal in the world. Brandon Valeriano, a lecturer at the University of Glasgow who focuses on cyber conflict, used the example of the North Korean Internet interruption in December 2014, when the nation’s fledgling Internet went out for a few hours, just a few days after the White House blamed the Sony hack on Pyongyang. “If America wanted to take down North Korea’s Internet,” he said, “it wouldn’t be two to three hours. It would be devastating.”

A cyber weapon, called a “capability” in the field, is a piece of malicious code that exploits a flaw in an enemy’s software; the point is to manipulate, disrupt or destroy computers, information systems, networks or physical infrastructure controlled by computer systems. An attacker could use a cyber weapon to take down another country’s financial systems or electrical systems.

“Anything that has a computer anywhere on earth can be stopped or taken over,” said Jason Healey, the head of the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative and former director for cyber infrastructure protection in the George W. Bush White House from 2003 to 2005.

The most powerful cyber capabilities, called “zero-days,” exploit software vulnerabilities unknown even to the author of the software itself—for example, a security hole in the Windows operating system that even Microsoft doesn’t know is there. They’re called zero-days because once discovered, the author has zero days to fix them—people can immediately use them to cause damage.
  As weapons, cyber capabilities differ in a few key ways from traditional weapons like missiles and bombs. First, they cause damage that’s less overt but more widespread than a physical attack—a cyber weapon could cripple a local economy by attacking a country’s financial or communication systems. Second, an attack can occur almost instantaneously against any target in the world. The Internet makes physical distance between enemies all but irrelevant, making it both easier for enemies to launch cyberattacks and harder for the government to monitor for them. Third, the use of a cyber capability is often a one-time deal: If the government has a piece of malicious software and uses it to exploit a flaw in an enemy’s code, it could render future uses of that capability ineffective, since the adversary could just patch it. It could also compromise intelligence-collection activities that use the same exploit.

Furthermore, the line between a military attack and an espionage operation is far blurrier in the cyber realm. A cyberattack generally doesn’t involve the movement of physical objects and does not put the attacker’s soldiers at risk. “All of the potential red flags that would pop up and get congressional attention don't,” said Peter Singer, a renowned cyber expert and author of “Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs To Know.” The same exploit might be used by intelligence agencies to spy on an enemy, or as an offensive weapon to mount a sudden attack.

That blurriness can be used to cloak responsibility, many observers think. For example, analysts have pointed out that if Stuxnet were indeed a U.S. operation—as is widely believed by now—the administration could avoid taking public responsibility for it by classifying it as an intelligence operation, rather than military.

“Stuxnet is attributed by the media to have been a U.S. intelligence community operation that would have been conducted under intelligence authorities versus cyber command authorities,” said Robert Knake, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who was the director for cybersecurity policy at the National Security Council from 2011 to 2015. “So from that perspective, we really don’t know that much about what DOD engaged in offensive cyberwar would look like.”

Whoever conducted it, it announced something new was happening. “Stuxnet was a game changer,” said Healey. “The Internet became a much more dangerous place after that, because almost literally everybody started to say the gloves are off now.”

WHILE THE OBAMA administration has slowly begun disclosing more information about the U.S.’s offensive cyber policy, a lot of experts would like to see a broader, public discussion about how the U.S. intends to use its capabilities.

Those 41 Army teams that will be in place by the end of 2016 are part of a bigger DOD effort to expand and organize the military’s cyber efforts. In 2013, the department revealed that it was creating 133 mission teams to conduct offensive and defensive cyber operations, with 27 of those building up capacity to attack an enemy abroad. The operations are run out of U.S. Cyber Command in Fort Meade, Maryland, which was set up in 2010 by Gen. Keith Alexander, who at the time was wearing dual hats as both head of the command and director of the National Security Agency.
The DOD’s new cyber strategy lays out strategic goals and objectives for the department but provides few details about how the military is supposed to act in practice. “If directed by the President or the Secretary of Defense, DoD must be able to provide integrated cyber capabilities to support military operations and contingency plans,” it says. A few lines later: “For example, the United States military might use cyber operations to terminate an ongoing conflict on U.S. terms, or to disrupt an adversary’s military systems to prevent the use of force against U.S. interests.”

When it comes to specifics, the most dedicated cyber watchers say it’s not the government’s official documents that contain the most details: it’s the documents leaked by Edward Snowden. Though now a few years out of date, they include detailed information about how the U.S. government was building up an arsenal of cyber capabilities—and, at times, using them. In 2013, the Washington Post reported from the Snowden disclosures that the U.S. government carried out 231 offensive cyber operations in 2011, none of which came near a Stuxnet-level attack.

Snowden also released Presidential Policy Directive-20, a top-secret document that laid out the administration’s cyber principles. But much like the DOD’s cyber strategy, PPD-20 doesn’t answer many questions, instead offering general guidelines for the U.S.’s offensive cyber goals.

This lack of specificity has frustrated some experts—“Most of it is vague and blank,” Borg said about the DOD’s cyber strategy—but the problem may be less that the administration isn’t releasing that information and more that those decisions haven’t been made at all. Other experts who share Borg’s frustrations with the government’s offensive cyberstrategy nevertheless defended the DOD’s document, saying it was not meant to lay down specific rules for the military’s use of offensive cyber weapons. Instead, it was the first step in the process intended to lead to more specific rules of engagement.

I spoke to Alexander, now retired from the military and running the Maryland-based consulting shop IronNet Cybersecurity, about the administration’s offensive strategy and how the government was trying to build up its cyber capacity. He said that cyber offense emerged as a priority after he set up Cyber Command. Rather than just defend its own networks, he said, it became clear that the military would need to defend the country more broadly, and that would require offensive as well as defensive cyber capabilities. “If we are under attack, you can’t just try to catch every arrow,” he said. “You have to take care of the person shooting the arrows at you.

“The second part,” he continued, “is what do you do and how do you create a force that can do that.” The force has clearly started to take shape: The DOD is working on forming the 133 cyber mission teams overall and four new joint force headquarters for cyber, including the Army one in Georgia. The Army cyber branch alone now has 1,000 people. But the specific rules of engagement, he said, are still to come.

“I think the policy that goes along with the employment of cyber is still in its early stakes,” Alexander said. “So having the rules of engagement, the policy out there when to act—you’re more into an early stage than you are people really having a concrete set of decision points.”

In one sense, specifying rules of engagement is even more important for cyber weapons than for kinetic ones, he said, because attacks occur so rapidly in the cyber realm. Alexander used the example of a missile flying at a city in the U.S. while the North American Aerospace Defense Command was unable to get in touch with key decision makers—the secretary of Defense and president—about whether to shoot it down. Under that scenario, U.S. rules of engagement dictate that NORAD can shoot it down.

“Now, if someone is attacking our infrastructure and they’re doing it at network speed, Cyber Command should probably defend the nation,” he said. But, he added, “We haven’t gotten, in my opinion, to that point yet. But I think they’re getting close. The reason is people don’t understand how bad cyber can be.”

"We are still, as are all governments, thinking through how do you actually employ these capabilities in a way that make sense and how do you fit them into your larger strategic context," said Daniel, who leads the White House's development of its cyber strategy. "You don't just carry out a cyber operation for the sake of carrying out a cyber operation."

WHILE THE DEBATE over U.S. offensive cyber strategy may be happening quietly in the federal government, it’s playing out quite publicly among outside experts. In early November, Himes and four other lawmakers sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice proposing a cyber convention like the Geneva Convention, to lay out rules of the road for cyber.

“Now is the time for the international community to seriously respond again with a binding set of international rules for cyberwarfare: an E-Neva Convention,” they wrote.

One key concern they have is what actually constitutes an act of war in the digital realm, versus a smaller crime or nuisance. “What is cyber war?” Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.), the chair of the House Intelligence subcommittee on NSA and Cybersecurity who also signed the letter, said in an interview. “What is it?”

“What if Iran melted down one server at Florida Power and Light? They do $5,000 worth of damage. That sounds to me like a crime,” Himes said. “But what if they melt down a whole bunch of servers, a network goes down and a bunch of people die? That feels to me like an act of war.” He added: “But these lines aren’t drawn. Because they're not drawn, is our response to have the FBI investigate and file a diplomatic démarche? Or is our response to do a cyber reprisal? Or is our response to do a kinetic reprisal? We don't know. I think that's a real problem.”

Another key question in the cyber realm is if any specific infrastructure is off limits, the way hospitals are supposed to be off-limits in kinetic war. Is an electrical grid a valid target? Knocking out the Internet or the power can cause immense damage to civilians, particularly in advanced countries like the United States whose economies depend heavily on the Internet.

Forging consensus on these questions is hard but not impossible. Already, the international community is coalescing around an agreement that states cannot conduct cyber espionage for commercial purposes. Whether countries such as China will actually abide by that is unclear, but countries have at least agreed on that norm in principle.
Even among cyber experts, crafting a cohesive rules of engagement is proving to be a challenge. “I don’t know if you could come up with a set policy,” Westmoreland said. “I think it would have to be some type of living document that would allow it to change when technology changes.”

Daniel said that coming out with a specific case-by-case framework was not possible. "The idea that we are going to be able to spell out in detail exactly how we would respond to any particular incident or activity, I think doesn’t fully account for how we are going to have to act in the real world," he said.

When I asked Himes how the U.S. government should craft a cyber strategy if it can’t prepare for every possible scenario, he responded: “The laws of war, if you will, aren’t about describing every possible scenario. They are about articulating principles.”

This top-level guidance needs to come not from cyber experts but from elected leaders—and, observers say, so far that direction has not been forthcoming.

“Part of the problem is that there are so many senior people in the government, especially coming out of the political world, that just don’t understand enough about the technology,” Borg said. “They really are remarkably uninformed.”

You can see this in New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s comments about cyber in the last Republican debate. “If the Chinese commit cyberwarfare against us, they are going to see cyberwarfare like they have never seen before,” he said. Saber-rattling against the Chinese is nothing new for a U.S. presidential election, but it’s hard to imagine Christie making a similar claim about conventional war.

In one sense, that’s because it’s hard to imagine Christie ever being confronted with that scenario. No one is foreseeing an imminent kinetic attack from China. But that’s precisely what makes cyber so difficult: What exactly would qualify as cyberwarfare? And what type of Chinese cyber attack would result in “cyberwarfare like [China has] never seen before”?

It seems superfluous to mention, perhaps, but cyberwar with China is war with China. And a war that starts out in the cyber realm can quickly migrate to other realms.

“I consider the current state of affairs to be extremely volatile and unstable because one could escalate a cyberwar pretty quickly,” said Sami Saydjari, the founder of the Cyber Defense Agency consulting firm, who has been working on cyber issues for more than three decades. “You can imagine a scenario where a country instigates a cyberwarfare-like event but does it in such a way to blame another country, which causes an escalation between those countries, which accidentally causes a kinetic escalation, which accidentally reaches the nuclear level. This is not an implausible scenario.”

Not implausible, but perhaps not likely either. At the moment, cyber experts say, the world is at a tenuous moment of cyber peace. For all the constant theft and hacking, nobody is waging overt attacks on infrastructure and assets. But they also say this relative stability masks the underlying threats in the cyber world.

“I would say we’re in a cold war, not a peace,” Alexander said. “If you paint a picture of the world above, people are shaking hands. And then below the water, they’re kicking like crazy. I think in cyber there’s so much going on in cyber that it’s invisible to most people.”

If a major cyber incident occurred in the U.S.—one that actually hurt or even killed Americans—the public would quickly want some answers, and likely a plan for defense and retaliation. In the absence of more specific rules of engagement, it’s clear to many experts what’s going to happen at this point: We’re going to improvise.

“If there were a cyber incident in the United States, we’d do it from scratch,” said Martin Libicki, a senior scientist and cyberwarfare expert at the RAND Corporation. “I don't care what's been written. That's just the nature of the beast.”