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U.S Intelligence Agencies Work To Navigate Today’s Complex Strategic Environment

As part of the effort, the strategy calls for sharing more “actionable cyberthreat intelligence to support the defense of vital information networks and critical infrastructure.

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US Intelligence, Privacy
A specialist works at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Arlington, Va., Sept. 9, 2014. (VOA)

U.S. intelligence agencies trying to plot their course for the next four years are facing an ever more chaotic world, complicated by a weakening of the Western-led international order, rapidly changing technology, and persistent worries over uncertain funding.

The plan, outlined Tuesday in the new National Intelligence Strategy, offers what top intelligence officials describe as both “monumental” and “fundamental” improvements over the previous strategy, and is designed to reassure Americans in uncertain times.

“We face significant challenges in the domestic and global environment,” the strategy cautions. “To navigate today’s turbulent and complex strategic environment, we must do things differently.”

Transparency, ‘speaking truth’

Part of that difference will be a renewed emphasis on transparency and “speaking truth,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told members of the intelligence community while unveiling the strategy.

“We need to reassure the policymakers and the American people that we can be trusted,” Coats said, “despite the stresses that are persistent in the current environment.”

The new strategy identifies two of those stresses as “the weakening of the post-WWII [World War Two] international order,” and what it calls “increasingly isolationist tendencies in the West.”

FILE - Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats testifies on worldwide threats during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 13, 2018.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats testifies on worldwide threats during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 13, 2018.

Former intelligence officials have been quick to blame U.S. President Donald Trump for both, citing his apparent willingness to cozy up to adversaries like Russian President Vladimir Putin while at the same time criticizing allies on the world stage.

When asked Tuesday whether the report, and calls for speaking truth, were meant as a rebuke for the president, top intelligence officials said only that the trends had been gaining momentum for some time.

“We were looking at a number of these factors,” a senior intelligence official said, pointing to the increase in isolationism along with rapidly changing alliances.

“There were things you could see coming,” the official added.

U.S. intelligence officials also warned concerns about the collapse of the post-World War Two order is just part of a growing turbulence that includes a proliferation of advanced technology that has enabled adversaries, big and small, to close the gap on Washington.

“We see Russia pursuing, with a vim and vigor that I haven’t seen since the ’80s, capabilities to reach us,” a second senior intelligence official warned.

China also is catching up, both with investments in technology and with its concerted campaign to steal industrial secrets and appropriate them for military use.

“They’ve just compressed the timeframe in which new systems can be introduced,” the official said.

Cyberspace, outer space

And while much of the competition with Russia and China has played out in cyberspace, the new intelligence strategy warns the competition over outer space, once dominated by the U.S., is gaining momentum.

Russia and China are pursuing “a full range of anti-satellite weapons, which could degrade U.S. intelligence gathering abilities,” it said.

U.S. officials are additionally concerned about the impact of biotechnology and nanotechnology, which are becoming more readily available and which will also likely be weaponized – and not just by adversaries like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket, stands ready at space launch complex 40, shortly before the launch was scrubbed because of a technical issue at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Dec. 18, 2018.
A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket, stands ready at space launch complex 40, shortly before the launch was scrubbed because of a technical issue at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Dec. 18, 2018. (VOA)

​”The ability of individuals and groups to have a larger impact than ever before — politically, militarily, economically and ideologically — is undermining traditional institutions,” the strategy warns.

There is also growing concern among intelligence officials that some of the threats are ready to merge, whether as sudden alliances between near-peer U.S. adversaries like Russia and China, or agreements between nation states looking to outsource some of their dirty work and criminal actors.

To counter that, U.S. intelligence officials are putting a premium on partnerships, both with traditional allies and with the private sector.

“We simply cannot ignore the advantage that partnerships outside the federal government bring,” Director Coats said Tuesday.

Other top officials said in the case of partnerships with private technology companies, the Intelligence Community is hopeful the emphasis on transparency can help.

“This is a world that demands us to have a different conversation,” a senior intelligence official said, noting the intelligence community has already been making a greater effort to share threat assessments with private companies, especially in cyberspace.

Sharing information

As part of the effort, the strategy calls for sharing more “actionable cyberthreat intelligence to support the defense of vital information networks and critical infrastructure.”

Other concerns identified in the new intelligence strategy include continued upheaval from migration and climate change, both of which are “straining the capacities of governments around the world and are likely to result in further fracturing of societies, potentially creating breeding grounds for radicalization.”

The release of the new strategy Tuesday comes with the U.S. government still mired in a monthlong partial shutdown. And while the key U.S. intelligence agencies are funded through the end of September, the strategy warns the failure to provide stable budgets could put U.S. intelligence efforts at risk.

Also Read: US President Donald Trump Made Thousands of False Claims in Two Years

“Continued federal budget uncertainty strains the IC’s [Intelligence Community’s] ability to make deliberative and responsive resource decisions,” according to the new strategy.

“The IC needs to develop methods to efficiently shift resources to mitigate programmatic (fiscal) risk and avoid loss of vital programs, capabilities, and resource investments,” it adds. (VOA)

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New York Times Devotes Entire Front Page to COVID-19 Victims

The names of 1,000 of the COVID-19 victims were published on the front page of New York Times

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New York Times
The New York Times dedicated its front page to the names of COVID-19 victims. Pixabay

The New York Times has devoted its entire front page to the names of 1,000 of the COVID-19 victims as the US approaches nearly 100,000 virus deaths, the current highest in the world as suggested by COVID-19 Information & Resources.

The Sunday edition’s front page comprises a simple list of names and personal details taken from obituaries around the US, the BBC reported.

The headline is “US deaths near 100,000, an incalculable loss”, with a sub-heading that reads: “They were not simply names on a list. They were us.”

New York state, the epicentre of the US coronavirus pandemic, has recorded 385,000 confirmed cases, with 23,195 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

New York Times
Newspaper article titled “A New Physics Based on Einstein” published in ”The New York Times” on November 25, 1919. Wikimedia Commons

Also Read: New York State Allows Gatherings of up to 10 People

New York City accounts for 197,000 infections and 16,149 fatalities.

As of Sunday, the US registered the world’s highest number of cases and deaths at 1,622,670 and 97,087, respectively. (IANS)

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US White House Releases Report Announcing Onset of Cold War With China

US has formally announced the onset of Cold War with China

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China flag
US has officially announced Cold war with China. Wikimedia Commons

By Aarti Tikoo Singh

With its new vision document on China, the US has formally announced the onset of its Cold War with the Asian giant, accusing it of exploiting rule-based world order and re-shaping international system in favour of Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) ideology and interests.

Just short of calling it Cold War, the US in its latest report titled, ‘United States Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China’, released by the White House, has announced that it is “responding to the CCP’s direct challenge by acknowledginga that the two major powers are in a “strategic competition and protecting” their “interests appropriately”.

Until now, the US policy towards the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the report said, was “largely premised on a hope that deepening engagement would spur fundamental economic and political opening” in China and make it a “responsible global stakeholder, with a more open society”.

However, after over 40 years, “it has become evident that this approach underestimated the will of the CCP to constrain the scope of economic and political reform”.

Over the past two decades, reforms have slowed, stalled, or reversed, the report said.

“The PRC’s rapid economic development and increased engagement with the world did not lead to convergence with the citizen-centric, free and open order as the US had hoped. The CCP has chosen instead to exploit the free and open rules- based order and attempt to reshape the international system in its favour.”

Beijing openly acknowledges that it seeks to transform the international order to align with CCP interests and ideology, the US said. “The CCP’s expanding use of economic, political, and military power to compel acquiescence from nation states harms vital American interests and undermines the sovereignty and dignity of countries and individuals around the world.”

mountain china

Beijing openly acknowledges that it seeks to transform the international order to align with CCP interests and ideology, the US said. Pixabay

The White House pointed out that Beijing in its neighborhood, engages “in provocative and coercive military and paramilitary activities in the Yellow Sea, the East and South China Seas, the Taiwan Strait, and Sino-Indian border areas”.

Just a day ago, US diplomat and acting assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, Alice Wells had called out the CCP regime for ratcheting up tensions with India along its borders. Chinese soldiers in the last few months has engaged in several violent faceoffs with Indian soldiers in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Ladakh over boundary issues.

Announcing its approach, the US report said that it is “working in concert with mutually aligned partnersa”Southeast Asian nations, Japan, India, Australia, Republic of Korea and Taiwan on their outlook on the free, open and secure Indo-Pacific region”.

Guided by a return to principled realism, the report said thatA given the strategic choices China’s leadership is making, “the United States now acknowledges and accepts the relationship with the PRC as the CCP has always framed it internally: one of great power competition”.

The White House made it clear that it is not interested in effecting any change in China’s domestic governance model but at the same time said that it won’t make “concessions to the CCP’s narratives of exceptionalism and victimhood” .

The US policies, the report said, are designed to protect its interests and empower its institutions to withstand the CCP’s malign behaviour and collateral damage from the PRC’s internal governance problems.

China
The White House made it clear that it is not interested in effecting any change in China’s domestic governance model. Wikimedia Commons

Accusing the CCP of running propaganda and false narratives, the White House declared that it will continue to challenge Beijing’s attempts at false equivalency between rule-of-law and rule- by-law; counterterrorism and oppression; representative governance and autocracy; and market-based competition and state-directed mercantilism.

The US will not accommodate Beijing’s actions that weaken a free, open, and rules-based international order, the report said, adding that it will continue to refute the CCP’s narrative that the the US is in strategic retreat.

Also Read: Smartly Manage Your Sweet Cravings Amid the Lockdown

Using the Cold War terminology, the White House announced that it will work with its robust network of allies and like- minded partners to resist attacks on shared norms and values, within their own governance institutions, around the world, and in international organizations.

The US government said it does not cater to CCP’s demands to create a proper “atmosphere” or “conditions” for dialogue because it sees no value in engaging with Beijing for symbolism and pageantry.

“We instead demand tangible results and constructive outcomes. We acknowledge and respond in kind to Beijing’s transactional approach with timely incentives and costs, or credible threats thereof. When quiet diplomacy proves futile, the United States will increase public pressure on the PRC government and take action to protect United States interests by leveraging proportional costs when necessary,” the report said. (IANS)

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US CFTC Warns About Volatile Crude Oil Contracts

US Futures regulator cautions on volatile crude oil contracts

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CFTC
CFTC has warned market participants about the negative pricing of crude oil. Pixabay

According to International News, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has warned market participants to be prepared that certain commodity contracts may see possibly negative pricing and extreme volatility in the light the negative pricing of crude oil seen last month.

The CFTC has issued an advisory on risk management and market integrity under the current market conditions in the wake of the unusually high volatility and negative pricing experienced in the May 2020 West Texas Intermediate (WTI) light sweet crude oil futures contract on April 20 (the penultimate day of trading and expiration of the contract).

The Commission has emphasised that the subject of this advisory applies equally to trading in other commodities and the registrants should remain vigilant.

The CFTC
The CFTC has issued an advisory on risk management and market integrity under the current market conditions in the wake of the unusually high volatility and negative pricing. Pixabay

The CFTA said that the onset of the Covid 19 pandemic has adversely affected the economies of the US and other major countries.

Read More: Private Companies Now Allowed to Take Part in Planetary Exploration: Finance Minister

Global markets, including those regulated by the CFTC, have been affected by both fundamental and global factors this year as economies and industries have slowed down dramatically or shut down completely, resulting in unprecedented market impacts.

This economic downturn has coincided with substantially increased market volatility in key agricultural, energy and financial sectors, including the futures and options on futures markets regulated by the Commission, it said.

The impact of fundamental and technical factors has been particularly acute for contracts that call for physical delivery of the underlying commodity as demonstrated by the unprecedented price movements in certain commodities, the Commission said. (IANS)