John Stokes

Google poses Obama a problem

Google’s decision to publicly confront the Chinese government over cyber attacks that have been hitting Google customers for the past year or so poses a difficult challenge for the Obama administration. The threat by Google to shut down its operations in China over the attacks is the first public acknowledgement by a major US corporation

Where’s the accountability?<br />

The verdict is in and just about every part of the US intelligence community failed to perform. The Solomonic decision of President Obama is that no individual is at fault – no systemic leadership problems here – and so nobody will be held accountable. Instead, there will be improved processes and better technology. This was

Staffing the Pentagon

Michele Flournoy is expected to be nominated today  by President-Elect Barack Obama as the first female Under Secretary for Policy in the Pentagon. Her appointment will be greeted on both sides of the Atlantic with a huge sigh of relief. The policy position became hugely controversial in the Bush years when Douglas Feith occupied the

Overcoming America’s intelligence woes

The failed terrorist attack on a North West Airlines plane last month has reignited the debate about just what can be done to improve the performance of America’s intelligence agencies. Despite spending close to $100 billion since the attacks of 9/11 nine years ago, it has become clear in the aftermath of the failed attack

The failures of American intelligence

The terrorist attacks on 9/11 succeeded because US intelligence failed to bring the various pieces of information together to prevent them. The attempted terrorist attack on a North West Airlines plane headed for Detroit almost succeeded because US intelligence failed to bring different pieces of information together that would have prevented the bomber getting on

The West’s intelligence deficit on Iran

At the headquarters of the Defense Intelligence Agency outside of Washington DC, there are no cardboard mockups of Iran’s nuclear sites that can be used for briefing the military on plans of attack. Instead, there is a very cool 3D map table that allows the viewer to fly into and through the many layers of

The Bush administration in the firing line

The appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the torture of terrorist suspects by CIA officials marks the beginning of several years of paralysis for the US intelligence community and the likely jailing of several officials. The decision by Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint John Durham to investigate claims of abuse comes fast on

Damaging revelations make the CIA more risk averse

The latest revelations about the CIA’s prospective covert assassination program is yet another nail in the coffin of US intelligence and its willingness to take risks. Immediately after the World Trade Center attacks in 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney called a meeting of intelligence chiefs to ask them what new powers they would like to

US intelligence rivalry flares over British connection 

The CIA station in London is at the center of a bitter fight between different branches of the US intelligence community in Washington DC. For years, the CIA has had the right to appoint the station chief who runs US intelligence operations in London and liaises with MI6 and GCHQ. Now, the National Security Agency

Rules of war for cyberspace

The Obama administration is planning to rewrite the rulebook for warfare establishing new laws for war in cyberspace including a series of international agreements that will spell out just what actions are permissible and what will be considered an act of war. For the first time, countries like China, which launch millions of attacks every

The North Korea dilemma

As North Korea continues to ratchet up the nuclear rhetoric, the US and its allies have publicly determined that ‘something must be done’. Barack Obama, in what is the first and most serious test of his Presidency, announced that the world must ‘stand up’ to North Korea. But behind the bluster from Pyongyang and Washington

Memoir wars

If M had Miss Moneypenny, General Mike Hayden had Cindy. Both were attractive and of a certain age and both were excellent guardians of the gate. While Miss Moneypenny never caused M any trouble at all,Cindy is turning out to be a focus of a major row between Hayden, the head of the CIA and

More continuity than change on torture

The prospect of revenge and justice against the kidnappers and torturers of the Bush administration have been prime drivers for many Obama activists which explains the huge cloud of disillusionment that is spreading across Washington. The activists could stand a rollback on the Iraqi withdrawal, a troop build up in Afghanistan, even the unwillingness to

Stopping US-UK intelligence cooperation is impossible

The idea that America threatened to withdraw intelligence cooperation if British courts released evidence of alleged torture as two High Court judges suggested earlier this week has been ridiculed by the spooks on both sides of the Atlantic. The intelligence relationship is so close that it would be simply impossible for cooperation to stop and

The Obama administration needs to strengthen US cyber-defences

Three major cyber attacks on America’s infrastructure from either Russia or China have sent shockwaves through the Obama administration. In the past few weeks, there have been penetrations of the nation’s power grid, the water supply system and the Air Force’s air traffic control network. All of which have heightened the fear of an “electronic

Obama remains in touch

One of the most complex questions taxing the first days of the Obama administration can now be answered: The new President will be allowed to keep his beloved Blackberry that hangs permanently from his belt and is used dozens of times a day. The National Security Agency has come up with a technology package that

A surprise choice

The appointment of Leon Panetta to run the CIA in the Obama administration has sent shock waves through the US intelligence community. Panetta, who was Chief of Staff in the Clinton White House, is a budget hawk who in the past has argued for tougher control of intelligence spending. At the same time, he has

Obama administration to form new cyber war doctrine

The Obama administration is set to appoint General Keith Alexander (pictured), the current Director of the National Security Agency, to be the new Cyber Czar. In a major departure from the past, Alexander, who will receive his fourth general’s star, will have an initial budget of around $8 billion and will control how it is

Obama’s security team dilemma

So far, President-elect Obama’s appointments to his new administration have received widespread plaudits but he is running into serious trouble finding the right people for his national security team. He ran his election campaign, in part, on a series of promises to break firmly with the Bush administration. US troops would be out of Iraq

The Chinese cyber assault on America

The decision by the US military to ban the use of all flash drives, CDs or other mobile devices to fight a virus that has already infected thousands of government computers is yet another illustration of the cyber challenge confronting America. The Agent virus, a variant of the SillyFDC worm, infects networks and then automatically