USIP's Science, Technology & Peacebuilding Roundup

United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Science, Technology and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, April 12 - 18, 2012

Table of Contents

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Using Science to Bring Together Enemies
While tensions remain high between the United States and North Korea, the relationship is more cordial between their scientists. Scientists from both nations are collaborating via nongovernmental organizations and universities on projects ranging from tuberculosis research and deforestation issues to digital information technology. The idea behind science diplomacy is to build bridges and relationships through research and academics despite political tensions.
See the full article (CNN, Madison Park, 4/18/12)
Click to read "What Does North Korea's Ballistic Missile Test Tell Us about the Reclusive Country?," a USIP On the Issues by John Park.
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CIA Seeks New Authority to Expand Yemen Drone Campaign
The CIA is seeking authority to expand its covert drone campaign in Yemen by launching strikes against terrorism suspects even when it does not know the identities of those who could be killed. Securing permission to use these "signature strikes" would allow the agency to hit targets based solely on intelligence indicating patterns of suspicious behavior, such as imagery showing militants gathering at known al-Qaeda compounds or unloading explosives. If approved, the change would probably accelerate a campaign of U.S. airstrikes in Yemen that is already on a record pace, with at least eight attacks in the past four months.
See the full article (Washington Post, Greg Miller, 4/18/12)
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Technology Gives Viral Edge to Soldiers' Snapshots
Soldiers posing with slain or captive foes for trophy pictures is nothing new. What is new, experts said, is how technology is enabling such images to go viral. [Previously] images, shot on film that needed time to be developed and printed, were typically shared within a tight inner circles. Compare that to how today's warrior can knock off some shots with a cellphone or pocket-size digital camera, email them to comrades and family -- and potentially, if unwittingly, see them wind up in the public domain.
See the full article (AFP, Robert MacPherson, 4/18/12)
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Several Nations Trying to Penetrate U.S. Cyber-networks, Says Ex-FBI Official
At least half a dozen countries with offensive cyber-capabilities are probing U.S. corporate and military computer systems, looking for data and a toehold should they one day want to disrupt or destroy the networks. Shawn Henry, who retired from his post last month, declined to identify the countries, but other cyber-experts have said that China, Russia and Iran are among them. Henry said U.S. adversaries have shown that they are capable not only of stealing sensitive information, but of manipulating and destroying it.
See the full article (Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima, 4/18/12)
Click to read about USIP's upcoming event "USIP Annual Conference on Security Sector Transformation in North Africa and the Middle East" on May 10 at 8:30am.
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Water Scarcity to Drive Conflict, Hit Food and Energy, Experts Say
Water is increasingly becoming a scarce resource and shortages could drive conflict, hit food and energy production and threaten growth in renewable energy technology, experts warned at a water security conference on Monday. But cutting waste in water use, particularly in irrigation, as well as making good use of mobile phone technology, gathering better data and putting in place better water use policies all could help stem conflict, improve safety and ensure better water security, particularly for the world's poorest people.
See the full article (AlterNet, Laurie Goering, 4/17/12)
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Militarisation of Cyberspace: How the Global Power Struggle Moved Online
The remaining cold war superpower, the United States, is slowly squaring up to the emerging behemoth, China, in a sphere in which Beijing has a distinct advantage: cyberspace. Experts estimate China has as many "cyber jedis" as the US has engineers, and some of them, with backing from the state, have been systematically hacking into and stealing from governments and companies in the west, taking defence secrets, compromising computer systems, and scanning energy and water plants for potential vulnerabilities.
See the full article (Guardian, Nick Hopkins, 4/16/12)
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The Rise of the Killer Drones: How America Goes to War in Secret
The [Iran drone] incident underscored the increasingly central role that drones now play in American foreign policy. During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the military conducted only a handful of drone missions. Today, the Pentagon deploys a fleet of 19,000 drones, relying on them for classified missions that once belonged exclusively to Special Forces units or covert operatives on the ground. American drones have been sent to spy on or kill targets in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Somalia and Libya.
See the full article (Rolling Stone, Michael Hastings, 4/16/12)
Click to read "Myths and Misconceptions in the Afghan Transition," a USIP Peace Brief by Shahmahmood Miakhel and Noah Coburn.
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Dialing Down Corruption in Afghanistan
The rampant corruption plaguing Kabul Bank shows that traditional banking systems may not be suitable for the Afghan economy at all. However, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is working with Afghan companies to provide an alternate solution - mobile money. The ability to efficiently pay Afghanistan's security apparatus is critical to any post-war strategy, especially in the face of a U.S. drawdown and the ousting of private security firms.
See the full article (Foreign Policy, Anjana Ravi and Eric Tyler, 4/13/12)
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Report: Stuxnet Delivered to Iranian Nuclear Plant on Thumb Drive
An Iranian double agent working for Israel used a standard thumb drive carrying a deadly payload to infect Iran's Natanz nuclear facility with the highly destructive Stuxnet computer worm, according to a story by ISSSource. Stuxnet quickly propagated throughout Natanz -- knocking that facility offline and at least temporarily crippling Iran's nuclear program -- once a user did nothing more than click on a Windows icon.
See the full article (CBS, Daniel Terdiman, 4/13/12)
Click to read "Examining the Prospects for Iran Nuclear Talks," a USIP On the Issues by Daniel Brumberg.
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Pakistan Calls for End to U.S. Drone Attacks
Pakistan's Parliament unanimously demanded Thursday that the United States end its long campaign of drone strikes inside Pakistani territory, a vital component of the Obama administration's strategy against al-Qaeda and other militant groups. From Washington's perspective, the debate in Parliament was a healthy exercise in democracy but one that is unlikely to affect the drone war. The military leaders of both nations see the drones as efficient and effective in eliminating hard-core Islamic militants that plague both the U.S. and Pakistani armies.
See the full article (Washington Post, Richard Leiby, 4/12/12)
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