By Dan Merica
This weekend marks the conclusion of this year’s Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado, an event that brought together some of the key players in the world of defense and national security policy.
Here the five moments that the Security Clearance Blog’s team will be talking about on the flight back to Washington:
1. The United States is keeping close tabs on Syria’s weapons, al Qaeda’s influence
As war rages on in Syria, the United States intelligence community is closely monitoring the situation, National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen told CNN’s Intelligence Correspondent Suzanne Kelly.
According to Olsen, there is an intense focus on Syria’s chemical weapons.
"We are still looking in Libya at where those weapons may be, and there are concerns that weapons in Libya have fallen into the hands of groups like al Qaeda and al Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb. As of right now with respect to Syria, we do think the government has control of the weapons," Olsen said Thursday.
But even with the intelligence community focusing on weapons and al Qaeda in Syria, one former defense official is concerned that the U.S. national security arm – an entity that generally plans for the “day after” the guns of war stop firing – is failing to do that in Syria.
Hank Crumpton, former coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department, told CNN’s Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty that the United States is not doing enough to prepare for a Syria without Assad.
In particular, the United States’ lack of understanding of the Syrian rebels worried the former defense official.
"How do we understand them? How do we work with them?" Crumpton asks. "Because they are the future of Syria; because they represent the Syrian people. And that should be more of a diplomatic initiative than we've done to date."
In Crumpton’s opinion, finding out more about the Syrian rebels should be the United States’ premiere intelligence concern.
2. With success comes demand, leaving some to worry that Special Operations forces could become overused, misused
The success that Special Operations forces have seen in Afghanistan and Iraq, along with high-profile missions like the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden and the 2009 rescue aboard the Maersk Alabama, have led these highly-trained troops to used a higher level than in previous years.
And according to Adm. Eric Olson, the former head of the U.S. Special Operations Command, there is a possibility that this could lead to misuse of these highly-trained forces.
"It's a real danger," retired Adm. Eric Olson said. "They come to be thought of as a utility infielder, sometimes a utility infielder with guns, and they may be asked to solve problems that are not necessarily special operations problems."
In particular, Olson warned against having these forces provide security to overseas dignitaries – something that has occurred in the past.
The elite troops are being used around the world. According to the current head of U.S. Special Operations, Adm. William McRaven, said members his force of 66,000 Special Operations troops are currently operating in 79 countries.
But McRaven is not shying away from the success. McRaven, a Navy SEAL himself, who was in command of the Osama bin Laden raid, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that the raid will go down as one of the “great intelligence operations in history.”
While that conclusion has been discussed by a number of high-profile people in the past, it was a candid moment from McRaven, who also reflected on the possibility that bin Laden was not, in fact, in the Abbottabad compound.
"My job was to get him if he was there. If he wasn't there, we would know that pretty quickly and we would get up and get out," McRaven added.
3. Fighting terror requires “a different mindset, a different structure”
Terrorism, both foreign and domestic, continues to be a threat that requires the defense and intelligence community to treat the continued conflict “more like managing a disease,” than the standard understanding of war, Crumpton said.
In a panel moderated by CNN’s Jill Dougherty, Crumpton gave a candid view of how the war on terror requires “a different mind-set, a different structure. And it's going to be much more than military action and covert power.”
Looking back on his time at the State Department, Crumpton reflected on how much September 11, 2001, changed the thinking of intelligence officials.
"You had 19 al Qaeda operatives with box cutters who somehow compelled us to spend over a trillion dollars in extra defense spending. We've never seen that in the history of human conflict," Crumpton says. "You look at the role of nonstate actors, not just al Qaeda and not just their affiliates, but the narco-traffickers in Mexico. Fifty thousand dead since 2006. These are nonstate actors. You look (at the threat) in cyberspace, maybe half of that is nonstate actors."
4. Domestic threats persist and the electrical grid keeps on DoD official up at night
With overseas U.S. combat troops becoming increasingly difficult targets for terrorists, one Department of Defense official expressed great concern that America's enemies will skip the battlefield and turn their focus on cyberattacks of targets in the United States.
His main concern: the U.S. electrical grid.
Paul Stockton, assistant secretary for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs at the Department of Defense, said an attack on the U.S. grid would not only affect millions of people in the United States, but it would also affect critical defense infrastructure at home and abroad.
Stockton, who used multiple questions in his Aspen Security Forum panel to address this concern, told the audience that this sort of attack was keeping him up at night.
“Our adversaries, state and nonstate, are not stupid. They are clever and adaptive,” Stockton said. “There is a risk that they will adopt a profoundly asymmetric strategy, reach around and attack us here at home, the critical infrastructure that is not owned by the Department of Defense.”
But terrorism is not the only disaster that would bring to down the U.S. grid. Stockton also warned of a massive natural disaster that would disable power “for weeks to months across a multistate area.”
5. When it comes to dealing with cyberattacks, the U.S. gets a failing grade
If the United States’ ability to deal with cyber attacks was being graded like a student's test,the nation's top cyber official would give it an 'F'.
That is the main takeaway from a discussion with Gen. Keith Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency and commander of U.S. Cyber Command, who went on to say echo concerns about how cyber attacks may effect domestic, civilian targets.
"I'm worried most about the power. I'm worried about water, I think those are the ones that need the most help," Alexander said.
Alexander’s job has increased as of late, especially because of the leaps and bounds that U.S. cellular technology has made over the last few years.
“Your cell phone is communicating completely digital; it's part of the Internet. Your attack surfaces for adversaries to get on the Internet now include all those mobile devices. And so, if you want to penetrate, you can go through a land line, to the Internet that way, or now we can go through the iPhone, or the Android or through your mobile device that way," Alexander said. "The mobile security situation lags. It's far behind.”
And while the general’s concerns were the highlight, Alexander was not all negative. During his discussion, he outlined industry and government partnerships that look to lessen these cyber vulnerabilities.
All of Alexander’s comments come as the Senate debates the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, which would establish what the government and industry can do to protect the nation's computers from attack.
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Keeping the rubes whipped up with fear and xenophobic hatred is what passes for "security" in these times.
The truth about national security -> Google Dishonorable Disclosures on You Tube ! And remember when you vote !
Mr. Merica makes a good effort here to boil the Aspen conference down to its essence – not an easy task. I would add that another theme was the tension due to "nation-building" missions overseas. Lots of discussion by current and formal officials about how (and how much) it should be a part of U.S. foreign policy, and who should be doing it. (Military? State Department? USAID?) Very interesting panels, overall.
obama has lost influence in the ME as Israel eyes chem weapons in Syria has both terrorist & Iran view weapons as a target to acquire.
The power grid is so unbelievably weak and vulnerable, I've been thinking about it myself for years, even before September 11th. We leave them exposed to natural forces and terrorists, when they should be buried underground and shielded. More expensive to do? You betcha! But worth it? YES. I'm going to keep nagging about power grid issues until something is finally done about it. That and nuclear power plants near shore lines and quake zones.
6. It's a myth.
So how do we protect the U.S. electrical grid???
Here's a crazy idea... If the computers controlling the power grid and the water supply are so important that someone is going to "hack" them and cause widespread chaos, why doesn't someone UNPLUG THEM FROM THE INTERNET?! No new laws, no money spent. Just because it is a computer doesn't mean it needs to connect to the net.
This isn't rocket science people.
There is no national security threat to our power grid. Every government activity of importance to national security is independent of the power grid. This issue is more of a job justification and career job security ruse for government bureaucrats, who will take decades to study the problem and formulate unrealistic, overpriced, and unworkable proposed solutions.
everyone wants our boys home but no one will vote for it. Look at our two nominees: lmao. Hope you slobs are willing to lose a few thousand more Americans over the next 4 years. Better not cry at his funeral when you voted for it.
Its that they are there whos gonna hire em
Quite true zzBottom, quite true. These troops have been victimized by the ignorance of the average American voter!!!
How can you possibly say they've been victimized when every single one of them is a war time volunteer???
"With success comes demand, leaving some to worry that Special Operations forces could become overused, misused"
Change 'could' to 'have' and you have an accurate statement. CNN gets a grade 'F' too for their 'journalism' effort
"Fighting terror requires 'a different mindset, a different structure' "
They said the same exact thing during Vietnam about he Vietnamese...just an excuse to not go in 100%
In response to the Hank Crumpton quote in item #3:
The 19 guys with box cutters only cost us a couple of billion in direct damage in the form of 3,000 lost lives, lost buildings, lost aircraft and immediate cleanup. The rest of the 0.998 trillion was lost because we CHOSE to spend it on non productive, ineffective and irrelevant "security". The future will not be any different than the past until we are willing to take responsibility for OUR decisions.
Oh lord another over the top security article. Will killing a few more senior citizens keep you safe. All I see here are what to do of the problem not the root of the problem. People forget history read a little about al qaeda how it formed how bin laden who the cia had in high regard when it came to killing soviets became such a threat. Im not even going to go into why we never got to see his body, we saw saddams, qaddafi but not his oh well big brother knows best right I mean government is always so trustworthy. Please do not feed the military industrial complex they get fat on your blind patriotism
After studying a little about how people got around the Berlin wall and they finally tore it down partially because people always found a way around it . How secure is security ? I was always told a fence gives us a false sense of security .
We throw away trillions on Iraq and Afghanistan and scrimp on security at home. We have hundreds of military bases around the world helping their economies and providing free security and whine when people talk of providing medical care or food stamps at home.
And they forgot the most important which is #6 President Obama knows the difference boots on the ground verses more sophisticated and intelligent weapons.
Oh please – as if Obama is some kind of independent person with a background in military intelligence. This "community organizer" and junior Senator only knows what his military advisors tell him. He is a puppet for the 1% Bankers who put him in office. In other words – he works for the same people that George Bush worked for. Nothing has changed, only the front man is different
Stop being so naive and wake up
you are so ON IT !! here here....
Do the one percent want Romney or Obama this time? Sounds like its their call
The US is being turned into a country of sniveling cowards, afraid of their own shadow. OOOH, the bogeyman might get me, we need to spend jillions we don't have on security and to hell with paying for health care or infrastructure or anything that won't get as many of the plutocracy rich.
I'm glad you're not in charge! These are real threats that can bring down the entire country and all of our defense systems. We must protect from those that wish us harm.
RdWt you remind of lois in that family guy episode where she runs for mayor, just say 9/11 and you throw money at it.
Does everyone feel safe now?
US security consists mainly of people making about $8 a hour.you can bet they are ready to risk their lives to make it safe for you!!!!
My biggest fear is that Obama gets re-elected.
I agree with Dave....that is my biggest fear too,obama gets re-elected!
It seems like the more we try to look out for country best interest as far as national security. We loose more or our rights and liberties. However, we have to do what we have to do to stay safe.
Those who sacrifice essential liberty for temporary security, invariably end up with neither.
TERRORIST GROUPS IN INDIA
• RASHTRIYA SWAYAM SEWAK SHANG (R.S.S.)
• VISHWA HINDU PARISHAD
• HINDU MUNNANI
• ARYA SAMAJ
• SHIV SENA
• BHARATIYA JANATA PARISHAD
• SANT SAMITI
• HINDU MAHASABHA
• BAAJRANG DAL
India poses a clear and present danger to the regional security of the world. ...to USA...NATO.... Hindu cult extremism is on the rise and fanning all terrorism worldwide. Indians are the bankers to and financing terrorism and supporting Talibans and Al Qaeda and harboring them in India. Like the NAZI's they need to be stopped forcefully and immediately. If it takes bombing lets bomb India, if it takes Drones...lets drone New Delhi
I guess we already lost. I now press "Publicar" to post.
The most important thing to know, and not surprisingly excluded from the list, is that we are in BAD hands.
Prepare for Jew World Order Police State.
The best way to protect the Grid is to not grant visas to moslems unless they provide certified names of two sponsors from their home country's government and post a $100,000.00 bail.
Just lock yourself in your double wide trailer …..btw, you forgot about the Mexicans!
Joe, How about debating instead of your 5 year old insults. I call D-bag on Joe!!!!!
Does everyone got it? Joe's a D-Bag. It has been verified, he is definitely a D-Bag. Joe's comments should be ignored as useless.
Good call, volsocal.
Too bad most of the electrical engineers are moslems. Get an education so you can maintain your grid. Im sure thats too tough for your pea brain.
That is a great idea. You should become our president and we can become the #1 country for stupidity.
You are an Idiot.
Five things are too many. The only thing you really need to know is that American politicians and our former president/criminal in chief are the biggest bunch of cowards in the entire world who traded our freedom for what they perceive to be their security. All they really wanted was a police state.
I hope that mere cowardice is the only issue. How about they may be attempting a police state so that they and their financial supporters can do as they wish?
Kinda like they're already doing now?
While you're at it make sure you tell EVERYBODY EVERYTHING about the US security concerns, practices, weaknesses, etc. so terrorists know where to attack next.
Agreed! Letting terrorists know where we are most vulnerable! Freedom is great, but are we too free? Can't the government and the press not report things because of national security interests? It seems like we tell the enemy what should be their next move, repeatedly.
this is another example of the times american people know more than the focal point of the story. Our Generals and admirals are defunct.
the biggest threats to the US are – 1. debt repayment through uncontrolled pullbacks from abroad 2. former enlisted men experiencing sharp declines in standard of living 3. Biological pandemic attacks or natural 4. disruption in the traffic of food cargo due to fuel price and availability 5. Racial protests during or following the presidential elections. 6. God and me if you don't give my child back.
What was that last one, again?
Everything is much better now, family stuff can truly change your normal behavior. I am lucky because I followed a mantra of "turn the pain into good". I recommend if you find yourself with family court paper on your desk.
Duh... the US didn't even have the foggiest prior to 9/11. Billions of dollars spent by the CIA and NSA for what? Zip.
Avoid getting yourself killed should apply to defense spending as well as soldier training. We are in a trap. Spend zero dollars on the US Military for 30 years, and only react to local threats.
Do you people go back and read your own posts.? Think with your brain and not your crotch. No wonder this country has major problems!!
CNN is becoming dumber by the minute, the CNN reputation crumbles a little evrytime they make something up about Syria
Fox isn't far behind.
I recently attended a financial security conference and asked one of the attendees, who was VP of Security and Fraud Prevention for one of the largest banks in the world, why cybersecurity and specifically internet financial fraud were not a much greater priority for the banks. He said quite confidently, that internet fraud was only a 2 billion dollars a year problem, while traditional check fraud remains a 200 billion dollars a year problem. It therefore doesn't make sense for the banks to focus their resources on developing cybersecurity solutions.
It's an interesting point, that I believe can be applied across other industries even national defense. The solutions won't appear until there is enough reason to justify the billions of dollars required to build them. We need to have a genuine cyber war, that causes trillions of dollars in economic damage, to justify the tens or hundreds of billions that need to be spent on cybersecurity. Until that happens, don't hold your breath waiting on any change to the status quo.
Can we please get an article on "Five Things to Know About US Foreign Policy?" Or perhaps "Five Drivers of US Foreign Aid?" Let's deliver some truth to the American public so that they can see how ugly their country really is.
its always nice how cnn fabricates these silly lists to distract you with, um i mean to inform you with. hmmm i wonder why the story tellers at cnn don't mention how iran is buying up tons of US wheat as the sanctions against them take hold? story here: http://www.infowars.com/sanctions-take-effect-iran-begins-stockpiling-food/ odd that with the drought and the price of corn about ready to skyrocket.... why is YOUR food being sold to the supposed "enemy"? reality is, crap like this, with its childish security theme and little golden book fables, is just to distract you from whats really going to hurt you, the cost of food and the global bankers stealing you blind! why does cnn NOT talk about how we give israel money who in-turn buys while phosphorus weapons to burn palistinian children with? does it not matter to you if its not your children while your too busy being told to be scared of boogie men who DO NOT EXIST????? why does cnn not tell the story of the obama billboard in idaho comparing him to the aurora killer? is that reality too harsh for some? since the fake 9/11drama has unfolded, lords bush and obama have done nothing but storm troop the middle east and north africa killing millions directly with our troops and killing millions indirectly buy supplying arms to the opposition for regime change. WITH YOUR MONEY! and who's evil? who's stupid for fearing the little made up fables vs the real picture??? you people need to learn when your being lied to before you find yourselves with nothing in this land your forefathers made FREE FOR YOU!
You must be from Maine. haha
My suggestion: See psychiatrist, remove all weapons from home, stop smoking crack, give up on education, move to woods, have a good day.
Saeed: I have read several of you're commets and everything you say is off based from actual facts. More than likely your probably just looking for a reaction out of people to get attention. To wish that upon kids in any culture is just plain sick. You really haven't posted anything that makes any sense and should be banned from every U.S. site. You are an embarrassment not only to yourself, but to also the people you represent.
Personally, I dont feel the cyber attack is as threatening as it is being portrayed to us. For one, why would we be advertising are vulnerabilities on cnn? I mean really, lets go ahead and let our enemies know that we have weak cyber security and it can be infiltrated with ease...? Second, we are the most technologically advanced military out there so I am pretty confident we have a defense when it comes to cyber wars/security. IT is on the rise and many of the corporations that may have had vulnerabilities are bulking there defense and updating their outdated systems. Of course there are threats, but if we were suffering catastrophically I dont think we would be going public with it. As far as infrastructure, like someone already said stop making it internet based. We were able to make it work before the internet, so there is no reason we cant now.
For your information Righteous, saeed is one of the most sensible bloggers here. At least he is not blindsided by all this right-wing propaganda coming out of the news media as most people are!!! People need to think for themselves.
Saeed reminds me of the pakistani islamic terrorist who tried to destroy westerners in 26/11 in mumbai india. pakistani isi elements supports terrorism
Seed wrote: "What someone should do blow up a British kindergarten there will be body parts of British an Irish children spread all over the place that would funny ha ha ha.
He wrote the above comment under a different articles (on the Olympics). Under THIS article, saeed left a near identical comment. Nothing more said.
George Patton has called saeed "one of the most sensible bloggers here."
George Patton, your words lack all credibility. You are blinded by political bias in all your comments, to the point of outright lying just to attack someone you disagree with. There are plenty of facts out there. If you want a respectable argument, try using them in your arguments.
Very disappointed in you george-some of the stuff you post I agree on, but if you are going to say saeed is one of the most sensible people on here you are sadly mistaken. Saeed is a moron and so are you for trying to back him.
Oh and I forgot George Jetson, were in my post am I agreeing with the right-wing?
The biggest threat to America's security are: 1. The Tea Party...2. The GOP...3. The NRA....4. Rush Limbaugh...5. The Confederacy.
Thank you, Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer. I couldn't have said it better, except that you forgot to mention the M.I.C.(military-industrial-complex) which now owns the majority in Congress plus the White House.
Well put, Blah blah...... and so very true, too!!!
Another thing that backfires on your credibility – praising a comment twice, as two separate replies. And no, you didn't mistakenly praise someone else the second time: You addressed the same commenter twice. You are the biggest fool I've seen on here in a while.
Not at all! It's the self-righteous, uneducated voter, such as yourself.
Maybe I'm a little naive (*GASP*...did I just say that??)...but it seems to me the threat of cyber-attacks to the electrical grid, and other utilities, could be eliminated with one simply step: Disconnect them from the internet. If the hackers don't have any possibly way of accessing the computers, there's no threat. There's really no reason why the computers at our utility plants should need to be connected to the 'net. None. Before the internet came along, there was no such thing as a cyber-attack on our electric grid...and our power plants ran just fine. The same thing could be said about the military's computers. Disconnect them from the public internet, and put them all on an intranet instead where there's no possibility for access by a hacker. I'm amazed at how stupid this country has become.
SIMPLE....not simply. I haven't had my full mug of coffee yet.
And POSSIBLE...not possibly. Sheesh, I need to proofread before hitting "Publish".
Well Said, and so glad you understand and use the english lang. and the internet properly, after coffee !!!!!!!
The electrical grid is not a national security issue. Just because a tree branch falls on your TV cable line; it does not mean that Islamic terrorists have invaded Smallville, Kentucky.
actually it is
Electrical grid, cable TV...no big difference there.
1. fear 2. fear 3. fear 4. fear and 5. more fear
What I know about National Security is we waste to much money executing it. We don't do it right. Get rid of all the wasted government agencies that do nothig but exploit and abuse it, and let the right agencies focus on what their mission statements were created for: DOD and FBI. How many botched events are going to take place before something is done about failing agencies and fighting battles that don't and wo't get won. Get rid of DHS, ATF, DEA, IRS, etc, etc, etc...and let the FBI and DOD do what they are paid to do.
Most of the people over national security were installed by bush after 911, he placed so many people in different parts of the goverment that it will take years to weed them out. like roberts and alito on the supreme court.
right, we should start calling it 'irrational security' as its obvious that national has nothing to do with it.
National security : The threat is one step ahead. Like the police national security responds after the fact.
TSA. is a complete waste of time. There can be no perfect security.
You didn't build that. Someone else did.
woof woof woof! racist spotted woof woof!
Given that Obama was talking about roadways and infrastructure he was totally correct. Unless you think the CEO's of companies built the Eisenhower Interstate System.
Of course they did. The roads were built by local/state/national companies who bid to build them. Those companies were run by CEO's. Eisenhower didn't grab a shovel and wheelbarrow and go out and build it himself. As far as I know, nobody in congress ever knew what a shovel was for, except somebody else uses one to do what they say to do.
That's exactly right. Someone else built the roads, electrical grid, internet - everything that facilitates business was build by someone else.
saed & joe: u r 2 very sick & uneducated loosers!
Biggest fear, Obama, inexperience and intel leaks everywhere.
Wow Dude, do you consider Mitt the Twitt's performance in London an intellectual success? That guy is not Presidential material, in fact, he's just another Bush W village idiot. I'll take Obama over any thing the GOP/T have any day. At least Obama is not trying to destroy the Middle Class like the republicans want so badly.
You didn't build that.
Someone else built that.
Mitt Romney not qualified? You mean a community organizer is? Mitt Romney contributed more to the US economy in 1 day than Obama has in his enitire lifetime.
It appears even his own international allies can't support Mitt and Twit. As reported on CNN.com earlier, a Tory (read: conservative) called out Mitt Romney as a fool to 60,000 Londoners at the opening ceremony of the Olympics. That Tory? London's Mayor, in the presence of 3 former Prime Ministers, the current Prime Minister, and most of the Royal Family. He then proceeded to brag about meeting the senior British intelligence director, violating a well-known and long-standing precedent that those meetings are not talked about.
Mitt Romney is a moron, and completely unqualified in international relations in an age of internationalism.
Just what did you consider bush then, the most incompetent president in history. id is either uneducated or in bred people like you that is wrong with this country now.
The first thing you should know is if you go to mainstream media to find out how safe the Obama admin is keeping you, you are really being misslead. Obama is driven to help the US slip into the third world and may only need four more years to pull this off.
It's about time, dude.
Where do idiot's like you come from? or are you mitt the twit's son?
Mitts whole campaign rests on that lie! That is pathetic.
bark bark woof! racist post spotted! woof woof woof!
what someone shoudl do is take a flamethrower to a british or irish kindergarten burn the fil,th down and then post the thing on youtube. someone should take a pediatric education and when he has become a teacher at a irish child school when he alone with the irish children he should kill them all chop the fil,th up and post the deed on youtube that would me so funny.
Bet that flame thrower would fit right up a certain orifice on you. (below the waist) Would love to see the expression on your face when the trigger is pulled. lmao
saeed the muslim & joe the retard. 2 sick & uneducated loosers!
Sounds like you want some attention and will say anything to get it.
i do hope ur talking about the 2 loosers who want to blow up british children with flames via thier butts & not me!
Saeed, maybe that could happen to you and your kids.... Mohamad was a pedophile in case you forget!
Not before your mother gets blown up by a suicide bomber on the way to the market and your sister gets stoned for wearing her burkah wrong.
its time to burn down the whoo,rehouse of ireland all irish women are whoo,res they are posted all over the internet.