USIP's Science, Technology & Peacebuilding Roundup


United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Science, Technology and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, October 18 - 24, 2012

Table of Contents

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Drones: A Non-Issue in U.S. Presidential Debate Riles Pakistan
Pakistan's domestic debate over drone attacks gained momentum last year, when relations between the country and the U.S. soured after Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in Abbottabad. It has become even louder still in recent weeks, after cricketer turned politician Imran Khan staged a widely publicized demonstration against the strikes. It's hard to say exactly how many people in Pakistan support or oppose the use of drones.
See the full article (TIME, Krista Mahr, 10/23/12)
Click to read "Governance Reforms in Pakistan's Tribal Areas: The Long Road to Nowhere?," a USIP Peace Brief by Joshua T. White and Shuja Ali Malik.
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In Cyberattack on Saudi Firm, U.S. Sees Iran Firing Back
The hackers picked the one day of the year they knew they could inflict the most damage on the world's most valuable company, Saudi Aramco. On Aug. 15, more than 55,000 Saudi Aramco employees stayed home from work to prepare for one of Islam's holiest nights of the year - Lailat al Qadr. United States intelligence officials say the attack's real perpetrator was Iran, although they offered no specific evidence to support that claim.
See the full article (New York Times, Nicole Perlroth, 10/23/12) *NYT sign-up may be required to view the full article
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The Army Wants to Develop a New Generation of Cyber Weapons
The U.S. Army is conducting a new study to identify the cyber weapons it needs to develop, the service's top cyber officer said today. These weapons could be in the form of traditional electronic warfare tools such as jamming pods strapped to aircraft or they could be advanced software weapons, the three-star general said. Pentagon officials have traditionally been extremely tight-lipped about their offensive abilities in the cyber realm.
See the full article (Foreign Policy, John Reed, 10/23/12)
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France to Send Drones to Mali in Fight Against al-Qaida-backed Insurgents
France is planning to send drones into Mali as part of an international intervention to free the west African country from al-Qaida-backed insurgents who control large swaths of its territory, according to reports. A French defence official said the country was moving surveillance drones to the region as part of secretive plans with the US, amid increasing fears that, if left unchecked, the crisis could serve as a launchpad for terrorist attacks on its own soil.
See the full article (Guardian, Afua Hirsch, 10/22/12)
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How Fear of Cyber Attack Could Take Down Your Liberties and the Constitution (Huffington Post, 10/22/12)
"A cyber attack perpetrated by nation states or violent extremist groups," [Leon Panetta] predicted, "could be as destructive as the terrorist attack of 9/11." Panetta is not the first Obama official to warn that the nation could be facing a cyber catastrophe, but he is the highest-ranking to resort to 9/11 imagery in doing so. Going out on a limb that previous cyber doomsayers had avoided, he mentioned September 11th four times in his speech, referring to our current vulnerabilities in cyber space as "a pre-9/11 moment."
See the full article (Huffington Post, Karen J. Greenberg, 10/22/12)
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Threats and Technology From Iran
Everyone in tech goes to trade shows and conferences, if only to mingle. Iran has them as well, and the country just wrapped up its security trade show. This show drew users who appeared to have serious buying power. You can tell this from their uniform insignias. Local notables attended as well. Among them, Iran's police chief, Brig. Gen. Esmail Ahmadi-Moqadam. He talked about Stuxnet and how the U.S. can expect retaliation.
See the full article (Computerworld, Patrick Thibodeau, 10/19/12)
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Danish Architect Maps Every Plane, Helicopter Shot Down by Syrian Rebels
In July, the embattled regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad unleashed its jet fighters against the growing rebel forces of the Free Syrian Army, marking a major escalation of the bloody civil war. The rebels responded. Now a Danish architect and part-time aviation journalist is mapping each claimed shoot-down of Assad's jets and helicopters, resulting in the first running tabulation of the cost - at least in terms of machinery - of the escalating Syrian air war.
See the full article (Wired, David Axe, 10/19/12)
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After Libya, U.S. Seeks to LoJack Its Diplomats
A recent solicitation revealed that State wants to upgrade its security to a Personnel Tracking and Locating system that could allow diplomats to check in with security personnel through their phones or other handheld devices. The "device agnostic" system would work similarly to the Blue Force Trackers that soldiers use to keep track of one another on the battlefield: a signal emanates from the device over a satellite network and apears as an icon on a digitized map monitored by State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
See the full article (Wired, Spencer Ackerman, 10/19/12)
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CIA Seeks to Expand Drone Fleet, Officials Say
The CIA is urging the White House to approve a significant expansion of the agency's fleet of armed drones, a move that would extend the spy service's decade-long transformation into a paramilitary force, U.S. officials said. The proposal by CIA Director David H. Petraeus would bolster the agency's ability to sustain its campaigns of lethal strikes in Pakistan and Yemen and enable it, if directed, to shift aircraft to emerging al-Qaeda threats in North Africa or other trouble spots.
See the full article (Washington Post, Greg Miller, 10/18/12)
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No Wars for Water
The world economic downturn and upheaval in the Arab world might grab headlines, but another big problem looms: environmental change. Along with extreme weather patterns, rising sea levels, and other natural hazards, global warming disrupts freshwater resource availability -- with immense social and political implications. But don't expect them anytime soon. More likely, tensions over access will merely exacerbate existing regional conflicts.
See the full article (Foreign Affairs, Shlomi Dinar, Lucia De Stefano, James Duncan, Kerstin Stahl, Kenneth M. Strzepek, and Aaron T. Wolf, 10/18/12)
Click to read about USIP's upcoming event "Third Annual Conference: Preventing Violent Conflict" on October 31 at 9:00am.
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Kaspersky Lab Announces a Brand-new OS Focused on Security
The past two years or so have brought a new breed of scary malware to the forefront of public attention, including the infamous Stuxnet worm that was discovered back in 2010. It's long been known that Linux offers numerous security advantages over both Windows and Macs, of course, but security research firm Kaspersky Lab--which played a key role in identifying many of these frightening pieces of malware--apparently has other ideas.
See the full article (PC World, Katherine Noyes, 10/18/12)
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