Category Archives: Events

Upcoming Lectures, Meet-ups, Happy Hours, Discussions, Symposia, Conferences

08 – 12 February 2016 Events of Interest

This is a roundup of maritime security and national security events by  that our readers and members might find interesting. Inclusion does not equal endorsement, all descriptions are the events’ own. Think of one we should inclcalendarude?  Email Emil at operations@cimsec.org.

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Upcoming CIMSEC Events

10 Feb 2016 – February CIMSEC DC Meet-up, Details TBD

TBD Mar 2016 – 2nd Annual CIMSEC Forum for Authors and Readers (CFAR)

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08 – 12 February 2016 Events of Interest

08 Feb 2016 – New York City, NY – Maverick PAC – “An Evening with Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham”

09 Feb 2016 – Washington, D.C. – DEF – DEF DC Agora Monthly Meet-up (6:30 pm @ Eastern Foundry in Crystal City)

10 Feb 2016 – Webinar – Bloomberg Gov – “Rapid Response Budget Analysis”

09 Feb 2016 – London, UK – IISS – “The Military Balance 2016: Press Launch”

10 Feb 2016 – February CIMSEC DC Meet-up, Details TBD

11 Feb 2016 – Washington, D.C. – Atlantic Council – “The United States Marine Corps in the Twenty-First Century”

11 Feb 2016 – Washington, D.C. – CAP – “Sunnylands II: Previewing the U.S.-ASEAN Summit”

11 Feb 2016 – Washington, D.C. – CNAS – “Book Event Invitation: In Europe’s Shadow”

11 Feb 2016 – Washington, D.C. – SASC – “National Commission on the Future of the United States Army”

12 Feb 2016 – Washington, D.C. – AEI – “A Navy in Balance? A conversation with CNO ADM John Richardson”

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Long-range Events

17-19 Feb 2016 – San Diego, CA – USNI/AFCEA – “WEST 2016: How do We Make the Strategy Work?”

18 Feb 2016 – Washington, D.C. – ASNE – “The Athena Project – Harnessing Deckplate Innovation”

18 Feb 2016 – Washington, D.C. – JHU APL – “Rethinking Security Seminar: Rethinking Cyber Warfare” with Colonel Michael H. Brown, USMC (ret)

20 Feb 2016 – Williamsburg, VA – DEF – “DEF[x]William & Mary” (ft. CIMCECians Scott Cheney-Peter and Matt Hipple)

23 Feb 2016 – Norfolk, VA – ODU – “Collaboration in Space for International Global Maritime Awareness”

01 March 2016 – “European Union Visitors Program” (Applications due March 1st)

01 March 2016 – Lome, Togo – AU – “AU Regional Conference: Maritime Security and Development in Africa”

05 Mar 2016 – Medford, MA – The Fletcher School – “Managing Political Risk”

22 March 2016 – New York City, NY – 92Y – “US Foreign Policy and the 2016 Election”

21-23 March 2016 – Norfolk, VA – HSOutlook – “Maritime Security East 2016”

28 March 2016 – New York City, NY – UN – “UNCLOS Treaty for Marine Biodiversity Preparatory Committee Meeting”

01 April 2016 – Washington, D.C. – CAP – “Setting Priorities for Nuclear Modernization”

06-08 April 2016 – Pittsburgh, PA – NDIA – “NDIA 2016 National Conference”

14-17 April 2016 – Ottawa, Canada – 83rd Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History 

01-04 May 2016 – Beverly Hills, California – 2016 Milken Institute Global Conference (Applications for Military Leadership Circle due 01 March)

11-15 May 2016 – Portland, Maine – “Maritime History Conference” 

21 June 2016 – Kiel, Germany – “Maritime Security Challenges and the High North” 

25-28 Sep 2016 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – International Sociological Association – “Transformations of the Military Profession”

Farsi Island and Matters of Honor

By LT Robert “Jake” Bebber USN

The recent incident of two U.S. Navy riverine boats crossing into Iranian territorial waters around Farsi Island and the subsequent arrest and detention of their crews has sparked a debate on a number of related issues, including the behavior of the officers and crew to the larger geopolitical issue of America’s relationship with Iran and the recently concluded nuclear “deal”. CAPT Steven Horrell has suggested that much of this debate is really “partisan vitriol” and “a litmus test of opposing camps of foreign policy.” He argues that the OIC submitting to a video recording of his “apology” was “quite possibly his best course of action.” He rightly counsels that we do not yet know all of the relevant facts regarding this incident, and one hopes the Department of Defense investigation is swiftly conducted and made public. While he acknowledges that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) was wrong in its “initial treatment of the crew and propagandizing of the apology video,” he argues that the time for debate or calls to action are “not when the personnel are still on foreign soil …” He suggests that this may have been an attempt by the IRGC to “seize an opportunity” to use this incident to bolster their domestic political standing in Iran. At the end, however, CAPT Horrell seems more concerned about the “behaviors of our polarized body politic” than the long-term consequences to American power, prestige and yes, honor.

There is a persistent myth that Americans have historically avoided partisanship when it comes to national security or international crises. A cursory review of our past shows otherwise.  The War of 1812 was perhaps America’s most divisive conflict (even when compared to Vietnam), with vigorous opposition and “partisan vitriol” coming from within President Madison’s own party, led by John Randolph of Virginia. More recently, Americans were lectured that “we have a right to debate and disagree with any administration” on matters of national security. Indeed American political leaders of the opposing party have summarily declared wars “lost” in the middle of the fighting. On the recent Iran nuclear deal, the President himself declared that those opposed to him were “making common cause” with Iranian hardliners like the IRGC and that they were supporting war with Iran. The fact that candidates for the Presidency have “politicized” the incident, using it as a way to contrast their vision with that of their opponents during an election year should come as no surprise, and indeed seems to follow our traditional historical pattern.

Why might scenes of Navy Sailors on their knees, hands on their heads, surrendering to IRGCN forces and later apologizing on camera cause such a visceral reaction among Americans? The answer may be found in antiquity, and was best articulated by Thucydides. More than 2,500 years ago, he identified “three of the strongest motives” that explained relations between states were “fear, honor and self-interest.” While he is considered the “father” of the “realist” school of international relations, his point about notions of honor and prestige are often overlooked. The eminent Yale historian and classicist, Donald Kagan, carefully articulates why, despite being considered antiquated  by some academics and elites, “the notion that the only thing rational or real in the conduct of nations is the search for economic benefits or physical security is itself a prejudice of our time, a product of the attempt to treat the world of human events as though it were an inanimate, motiveless physical universe. Such an approach is no more adequate to explain behavior today than it ever was.” From this vantage point, Americans perceive that the systematic humiliation of American Sailors was a blow to our honor and prestige. Historically, Kagan notes, “when the prestige of a state wanes, so, too, does its power — even if materially … that power appears to remain unaffected.” Perhaps this is why, even coming on the heels of the Vietnam War, the Ford Administration reacted so assertively to the Cambodian seizure of the U.S.-flagged merchant vessel Mayaguez, as noted by retired Navy Captain and professor Jerry Hendrix. Even at a point in U.S. history where American power seemed at its weakest, the Khmer Rouge thought twice about taking on a superpower. The Farsi Island incident today seems to suggest that despite being a much stronger power than in 1975, the U.S. engenders much less fear, let alone respect, from its adversaries.

Patrol boats employed by Navy Expeditionary Combat Command.
Patrol boats employed by Navy Expeditionary Combat Command.

CAPT Harrell and others consider the capture and release of American Sailors a “larger diplomatic success.” He specifically notes that the release was “due almost wholly to the existing relationships between Presidents Obama and Rouhani and Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Zarif. This, in turn, is due to having achieved their nuclear agreement.” He suggests that when an incident occurs between two potential adversaries, “the first phone conversation better not be after the crisis has started.” This implies that prior to the current administration, there were no mechanisms for direct or indirect communication. However, the previous administration held 28 separate meetings with Iranian officials of ambassadorial rank, including 15 direct U.S.-Iran meetings. Clearly, there was someone to have a conversation with prior to President Obama taking office, and the U.S. and Iran had open diplomatic channels, if a cool relationship. Whether the release was due to an “existing relationship” or simply because the Iranians got what they wanted (a taped apology, propaganda videos and pictures of American military personnel surrendering) is hard to say. The Middle East Media Research Institute suggests it is more likely that Tehran did not want to delay the lifting of economic sanctions and to ameliorate the negative impression left from the burning of the Saudi Arabian embassy and consulate. In any case, focusing on the release of the Sailors ignores the larger question – what emboldened the IRGCN to feel like they could capture two U.S. Navy vessels in the first place? There seemed to be no reticence on the part of the Iranians to risk a confrontation, and therefore they could act with impunity – at least that is how it appears.

While we can all be thankful for the Sailors safe release, many have a much less sanguine view. This incident seems to embody a recent, growing perception of American weakness and decline. That belief is held here in America and around the world – especially among our adversaries. The fact that American honor is so easily besmirched and violated without fear of retribution only exacerbates this view. This is more than just “partisan vitriol” in my opinion, but a real and growing problem that should concern us all, regardless of party, as Americans.

LT Robert “Jake” Bebber is an Information Warfare officer assigned to U.S. Cyber Command. The views expressed here are his own and do not represent those of the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Cyber Command or the Department of the Navy. He welcomes your comments at jbebber@gmail.com.

Canadian Intelligence Accountability

This article originally featured at the Conference of Defense Associations Institute. It can be read in its original form here

CDA Institute guest contributor Kurt Jensen, retired as Deputy Director of Foreign Intelligence, explores the question of accountability in intelligence activities.

We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” said US President Franklin Roosevelt many years ago. This is no longer true. In the grip of an undefined terrorist threat, we should be very fearful about diminishing our freedoms through unlimited ‘security measures.’

Vague and statistically insignificant fears of terrorism have made us surrender privacy and other rights. But are we any safer? The recent ‘terrorist’ threats and incidents in Canada are unlikely to have been impeded by the enhanced intrusion in our lives to which we are all now subject. To ‘protect’ us, intrusive powers have been given to security agencies with little or no objective accountability. In this, Canadians are largely alone among developed nations. Canadian security and intelligence accountability has withered over the past decade, and is inadequate.

Intelligence staffs are honourable and scrupulous about adhering to the laws. But scrutiny of actions is a necessary tool of democracy. Great power and great secrecy make accountability reasonable and imperative in protecting the rights of citizens. The means employed are less important than how robust and uncompromising the instruments are. As it stands, Canada’s intelligence accountability régime is deficient.

Administrative oversight by bureaucrats and ministers is good – and necessary. But it is not a solution. Remember the old adage of ‘Who will watch the watchers.’ In Canada the answer is no one. The response to public concerns can no longer be ‘Trust us, we’re the good guys.’

We are at a democratic cross-​roads. We cannot rationalize intrusive acts which are against the basic principles of what this country stands for by accepting that the actions taken are legal and sanctioned by Parliament. Nor should we assume that intelligence accountability, which is not at arms-​length, is a solution to concerns about transgressions. Many of the intelligence intrusions into our democratic entitlements are likely here to stay but nothing precludes that citizens be protected by a robust accountability infrastructure.

The new Canadian government has announced that it will review the egregious Bill C-​51 and has proposed the creation of a parliamentary oversight body under MP David McGuinty. This is a good first step but it is not enough.

Parliamentary accountability of intelligence is vital, and now seems inevitable. Canada may follow the British model which has, itself, evolved over time. The British model began as a Committee of Parliamentarians reporting to the Prime Minister. This changed in 2013 when it evolved into the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (ISC), with members appointed by Parliament after considerations of nominations from the Prime Minister. A parliamentary accountability architecture would not conflict with the existing mandates of either the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) or the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) Commissioner.

A parliamentary committee should include an active mandate to oversee all authority warranted to infringe the rights of individuals or involve potentially aggressive collection strategies beyond our borders. We cannot afford unwarranted transgressions of the rights of potentially innocent individuals. But we need more than tinkering at the edges to protect rights and freedoms.

Canada does not have adequate accountability of its intelligence activities. The Office of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) Inspector General, a modest but important part of the oversight architecture, was disbanded by the previous government to save a budgetary pittance. Only two organizations, CSIS and CSEC, are subject to any form of arms-​length accountability. While these are Canada’s two major intelligence organizations, quite a few other smaller departments and agencies have niche responsibilities (Global Affairs Canada, National Defence, Canadian Border Security Agency, Transport, Finance, etc.). These are not subject to any arms-​length accountability. A more robust accountability architecture would contribute to public trust.

Equally important is the need for accountability structures to have resources adequate to address realistic challenges. Neither SIRC (for CSIS) nor the small staff of the CSEC Inspector General are adequately resourced. Arms-​length accountability must be credible if public confidence is to exist.

A Super-​SIRC has been discussed to oversee the entire intelligence community. This is not the answer. The intelligence units employ different tradecraft, different operational spheres (domestic and foreign), and face a host of other challenges. However, a Super-​SIRC administrative structure or secretariat might work if it contained separate entities tasked with looking at different intelligence units since the necessary skills to carry out oversight functions would not easily shift from Transport Intelligence to FINTRAC (Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada), for example. A Super-​SIRC secretariat could oversee common functions such as the protocols involved when review agencies had to connect, share, or consult with each other when appropriate – in a sense, to ‘follow the investigate thread’ when it flows from one agency to another, as has happened between CSIS and CSEC. A second area of commonality would be for a Super-​SIRC secretariat to oversee what data is provided to Canada’s intelligence partners.

An intelligence ombudsman, possibly a sitting or retired federal judge, is required to act as a court of last resort for those perceiving themselves to be penalized by the negative, illegal, or incorrect application of intelligence to their situations. People falling between the ‘intelligence cracks’ have no recourse to justice now. The media regularly reports on violations and injustices, but the media is no solution to insufficient intelligence oversight architecture.

Protecting sources and methods is imperative in the intelligence world but has become an excuse for unnecessary secrecy. Many historical intelligence files can and should be released to Library and Archives Canada for objective and arms-​length evaluation by the public (i.e., mostly academics and the media). Most historical material now being held under restricted access would not compromise security. Indeed, many intelligence files are already available in Library and Archives Canada – including World War II ENIGMA material released decades ago. Releasing historical files is a confidence building measure.

Bad things happen to people who surrender freedoms without accountability. This can’t be sanctioned in a Canadian democracy. Accountability is not to be feared by those engaged in intelligence matters. Its architecture must be balanced, objective and at arms-​length, and must provide an equilibrium between the rights and entitlements of citizens and the needs of national security. We’re not there now.

Dr. Kurt F. Jensen spent his career in the Canadian diplomatic service. He retired as Deputy Director of Foreign Intelligence. He is now an Adjunct Professor at Carleton University teaching courses relating to intelligence matters. (Image courtesy of Jeremy Board/​Flickr.)

Sea Control 106 – Arctic Circle

seacontrol2Ever wonder what is happening in the Arctic? Sea Control: North America host Matthew Merighi interviews three graduate students running the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy’s annual Arctic Conference: Molly Douglass, Rabia Altaf, and Drew Yerkes. The interview examines border claims, resource politics, and how the various regional actors are approaching this new frontier.   

DOWNLOAD: Arctic Circle