Three Things to do Right Now to Enhance National Security

I spent almost a decade as an undercover officer in the CIA. I was the guy in the back alleys at four o’clock in the morning collecting intelligence on threats to the Homeland.

It’s been great leveraging this background and experience during my time in Congress to advocate for the things we need to do in order to improve our National Security. Here are three things we can do right now to enhance the security of our nation.

Double Up on Human Intelligence

The President should give the CIA the authority to double the amount of human intelligence coming out of Syria within the next 45 days.

Not only, should we be collecting more intelligence on the plans and intentions of Daesh, we should be focusing on Jabhat al-Nusrah (JN), al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. JN has gained influence over the local population because they provide weapons to groups fighting Bashar al-Assad, and social services to suffering populations.

There are two wars going on in Syria — one against Islamic Terrorists like Daesh and JN, but there is also a war waging against Syrian Dictator Bashar al Assad.

We need to know which groups in Syria are committing to being part of an anti-Daesh coalition and committed to finding a lasting, real political solution in Syria after Assad goes.

A Digital Act of War — Define It!

If a serious and sophisticated attacker has enough time he or she will get into a digital network. Governments and private corporations need to be able to detect an attacker on their network quickly, quarantine him completely and then kick him off.

Bad actors like Russia, Iran, and China have demonstrated time and time again they have both the capabilities and the intent to use the cyber domain as an operating space to wreak havoc.

Russia was responsible for the three-week “wave” of cyber-attacks launched against Estonia in 2007. They also used cyber operations to target a Ukrainian power grid, leading to widespread power outages.

Iran launched a cyber-attack on a small dam in New York in 2013. In 2012 they targeted Saudi ARAMCO’s cyber database, erasing massive amounts of data. In 2014 they launched an attack on Sands Las Vegas Corporation.

China too has been caught red handed engaged in the cyber theft of private U.S. companies’ intellectual property as well as stealing 23 million records on our most sensitive employees.

The United States Government does not yet have an agreed-upon response to these kinds of aggressive attacks. When there are no known automatic responses to these flagrant aggressive acts then these actors have no motivation to stop these activities that extend well beyond what should be an accepted norm for cyber operations.

Treat Russia Like a Threat — Not a Partner

Russia has demonstrated it is not committed to genuine partnership with the United States. At the 2010 Lisbon Summit, President Medvedev and NATO leaders met to set forth a path for a “new stage of cooperation towards a true strategic partnership.”

These public displays of cooperation have never effectively deterred Russia from continuing its destabilizing activities around the globe. Russia’s war with Georgia in 2008 was an effort to carve out the Abkhazia and South Ossetian regions from Georgia’s rule and incorporate them into the Russian sphere.

Moscow exploited instability in Ukraine in 2014 to assert control over Crimea, and has since provided direct military support to separatists in Eastern Ukraine battling Ukrainian forces. Russia’s airstrikes in Syria effectively propelled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from a threatened position to one of strength at any future negotiating table.

Now, the chances Bashar al-Assad will actually remain president of Syria, for any length of time — after using chemical weapons against his own people and fomenting a conflict that has displaced hundreds of thousands — are frighteningly too high.

Russia distorts its stated objectives and it refuses to acknowledge the devastating humanitarian effects of its actions, all the while presenting itself as a willing partner on the international stage.

The U.S. must call Russia out for its actions.

The more we treat them like a partner, the more legitimacy they obtain, and the more they are able to threaten us and our allies. Let’s treat them like what they are — a threat to peace and global stability.

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