We Now Live In A “Ransomware World!”

How many times have we heard a major company or industry has been attacked by a foreign ransomware assault? It’s happened dozens of times, as reported by the Mainstream Media. However, unreported ransomware attacks number in the thousands!

Why do so many of these go unreported? Most targeted companies are afraid for their ransomware attacks to be publicly revealed for fear of it happening to them again, but by different ransomware entities that have turned their operations into fleecing corporations and individuals of tens of millions of dollars!

A week ago, the REvil ransomware gang locked up the data of more than 1,000 businesses in an unprecedented supply-chain attack on the software firm Kaseya, demanding $70 million for the data’s release. While it’s unclear which, if any, of the individual businesses have paid the group anything, just a month ago, JBS and Colonial Pipeline paid nearly $11 million and $5 million, respectively, to resume operations after a ransomware attack.

The fact that attackers can mount these attacks so frequently and extort large sums of money from victims shows that encryption has emerged as an excellent way to hold hostages. What if an adversary state or a terrorist group starts using the same tool to demand something more than money?

Today, ransomware is treated mostly as a criminal problem, but it may soon be a geopolitical issue. I use game theory to study ransomware, and I’ve also examined how adversaries like North Korea use cyber tools for strategic goals. My research suggests it’s only a matter of time before encryption is used for geopolitical gains. The incentives built into ransomware attacks — for both the attacker and the victim — will make it easier for smaller, poorer players to extract concessions from more powerful adversaries. But the good news is that two can play at that game: In the future, encryption might also become a way for countries to proportionally respond to cyberattacks without causing an all-out war in cyberspace.

Throughout history, state and non-state actors have sought to hold an enemy’s valued assets at risk to bargain for political gains. Land invasions that captured capital cities have been used to compel governments to surrender, threats to close critical maritime chokepoints have been used as bargaining chips, and hostages have been taken to negotiate political or monetary concessions. In other cases, adversaries have kidnapped each other’s princes or held one another’s cities at risk with nuclear weapons, creating mutual hostage relationships to ensure neither side upsets the status quo.

Ransomware — or the underlying encryption algorithm that locks up data — is just another chess piece in this game. But the game theory that drives the attacker and the victim in a ransomware attack may sometimes make this a more attractive way of coercing the enemy than bombings, blockades, or nuclear threats.

The nature of encryption increases the incentives for attackers to attack and for victims to concede. First, once the victim’s data is locked up, the attacker can keep it that way for as long as it takes to get their demands met, at no extra effort or cost. Compare this to other methods of holding enemy assets at risk — laying a siege, blockading a port — which can be as costly to maintain for the attacker as they endure for the defender. Even after a siege starts, the attacker needs to credibly commit to applying force for long enough to convince the defender to acquiesce.

If the capacity to keep the asset at risk is limited by how long an army can keep attacking or how much airpower the military has, the attacker’s threat to hurt the asset may not be credible. The defender may decide to wait it out, predicting the attacker will eventually back down. But the attacker faces no such credibility problem when using encryption — it costs nothing to keep the “siege” going as long as necessary.

Second, encryption is reversible, which makes it more appealing for the victim to concede. As with kidnapping, it is the prospect of getting the hostage back — in this case, the recovery of data and systems — that makes concessions attractive. On the other hand, a threat that relies on destroying a part of the asset creates sunk costs. Every hostage executed and every building bombed cuts away from what the attacker can promise to give back if the victim concedes.

Third, ransomware attacks are just easier to carry out than other forms of geopolitical coercion. Compared to a conventional military operation or a nuclear program, the barrier to entry is very low. Encryption algorithms are readily available, and even lazier attackers can purchase highly customizable ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) subscriptions for as low as $40 per month.

Encryption can also hold assets at risk around the globe without geographical constraints. Without having to punch through the Ardennes, acquire long-range missiles or control strategic chokepoints on land and sea, an attacker can take hostages. It’s a cheap, easy way to create more bargaining chips whenever something needs to be exchanged but cannot be taken by brute force. These practical benefits would seem quite attractive to an impoverished and isolated state like North Korea or a non-state group with few resources.

Of course, encryption has limitations. Because ransomware relies on denying access, encryption cannot inflict costs if the victim doesn’t value what’s being encrypted or can easily replace the asset. A defender that can adopt real-time, offline backups has an alternative way to get their data back after a ransomware attack, which reduces the attacker’s coercive power. This option to back up data is a unique advantage for the defender, unlike in other domains.

However, the ability to adopt seamless backup is not always correlated with the business’s importance. For example, a power plant that runs on a legacy operating system will probably struggle with backups because it most likely requires custom solutions. Therefore, a ransomware attack is primarily a selection problem: An attacker needs to identify a victim who is either unlikely to have good backups or has such large daily costs that even a week or two’s disruption inflicts high costs. This is why ransomware has moved away from targeting individuals towards businesses such as hospitals or utilities. Now, attackers are casting an even wider net, encrypting multiple businesses at once by exploiting supply chains.

Ransomware and encryption have additional limitations that they share with other forms of coercion. Any effort to hold enemy assets at risk can prompt retaliation and escalation, and victims may resist making concessions out of fear of acquiring a reputation as an easy target. These common problems make it difficult in general to force geopolitical adversaries to do what you want. Nonetheless, because encryption resolves certain credibility concerns, it is likely to appear in the toolbox of both state and non-state actors as they seek new ways to make gains without blatantly inviting retaliation.

Given these factors, when might ransomware be used for geopolitical purposes instead of simply extorting money? Here are a few ways it might play out — and they’re not all bad.

The bad news is that ransomware could be used as an additional tool by any state and non-state actors that have previously attempted to extract concessions by holding enemy assets at risk. Iran has held Americans as hostages and seized ships in the Strait of Hormuz to compel states to unfreeze Iranian financial assets, undermining U.S. sanctions. It’s conceivable that Iran could attempt to create a similar situation using ransomware as it experiments with new ways to conduct cyber operations. Iran has already used ransomware as part of a destructive cyber campaign against Israel since last year. It may be only a matter of time before they demand something in return rather than cause destruction.

Non-state actors such as Yemeni rebels have taken hostages to negotiate prisoner swaps. Pro-Russian insurgent groups have occupied government buildings to demand a referendum on secession, and ISIL seized Iraq’s largest oil refinery. Because ransomware greatly reduces the cost of occupation for the attacker and does not require geographical and military advantages, it can be a viable alternative to the physical occupation of buildings and or taking of actual hostages.

The geopolitical use of ransomware is, therefore, an asymmetric threat. Poorer, less connected state and non-state actors will be able to use encryption to punch above their weight and force concessions from more powerful states. In a tit-for-tat exchange of ransomware, target-poor states such as Iran and North Korea have less to lose from having their own critical systems frozen than their target-rich Western counterparts because these smaller states are less reliant on cyberspace for everyday activity.

Non-state actors like civil war belligerents and terrorist groups will have even less to lose, assuming the technology remains ubiquitously available at a low cost. While conducting ransomware attacks requires basic cyber operations training and Internet infrastructure, the barrier to acquiring these prerequisites is relatively low. We can expect some of these actors to try their hand, now that it is common knowledge that ransomware pays.

The good news is that encryption can be used to respond to a fait accompli in cyberspace. If an adversary has taken something valuable, whether a piece of territory or cryptocurrency stolen from an exchange, one way to respond is to take something that they value in turn to create a mutual hostage relationship, then negotiate for both assets’ return. For instance, the quickest way to get North Korea to return its stolen cryptocurrency is probably by freezing some of its own assets instead of a long process of trying to regulate intermediary money launderers. Such measures may be useful if the United States cannot rely on purely defensive measures to prevent such grabs from occurring in the first place or rely on international law enforcement efforts to apprehend hackers.

Using encryption to create mutual hostage relationships might offer a useful solution to the dilemma of how to respond to malicious cyber campaigns without violating international norms proportionally. Cyber practitioners and scholars have long debated how to respond to cyber operations and other internationally wrongful acts that fall below the threshold of war. Encryption could be an appropriate tool because it can be calibrated to be proportional, has limited potential for casualties, and can be reversed upon the target state’s compliance. If encryption comes to be accepted as a more proportional and temporary method of cyber retaliation, it could counterintuitively help build international “rules of the road” for cyberspace — similar to how “letters of marque” were issued for anti-piracy efforts in the olden days.

It may be several years before we see the first coercive encryption used in a geopolitical context. Ransomware was first used in the 1980s, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that it became a pervasive threat as criminals learned and fine-tuned their operations over time. The skyrocketing ransom demands and emergence of new tactics, such as encrypting backups and exploiting supply chains, indicate that this learning is still ongoing in many ways. Likewise, the first documented case of cyber espionage was in 1986, but it took years before states adopted this new means of conducting espionage in earnest.

Given these lengthy timelines, the idea that encryption could be another chess piece in the greater geopolitical game is still probably relatively obscure to national security practitioners more used to traditional forms of warfare. However, increasingly high-profile ransomware incidents like Kaseya and Colonial will get policymakers — as well as adversaries — thinking in this direction more and more.

As the source of wealth moves elsewhere, as countries’ most valued assets move from the physical to the virtual realm, the weapons will also adapt accordingly. Encryption is one excellent tool to hold such connected assets at risk, and soon actors will learn to use this tool to extract more than money.

Summary

Do you feel warm and fuzzy, and secure after reading this? Probably not. Honestly, it is foolish for anyone to feel their computer networks and devices are safe from ransomware attacks. One must remember that those responsible are, in many cases, the same individuals and/or companies that wrote the software encryption programs for internet security that have been sold to the very companies they hack today!

There is NO absolute way to protect your computer data on your laptop or network, as long as any of your devices have internet access. It is unfathomable to understand that the only way to 100% protect from ransomware attacks is to keep your computer or network away from the internet.

Is THAT going to happen?

We all know no company can avoid using the internet for day-to-day operations completely. The best way to at least thwart some of these attacks is to use encryption software on each of your devices. Monitor the websites that are frequented via your network. And do the best you can to keep employees (or family members) from even surfing the net and “checking out” different websites.

If all of that is done and one still becomes a victim of a ransomware attack, immediately consult the law enforcement in your state and push aggressively for their assistance.

What about ransom payments? I defer to local and state law enforcement agents for the appropriate response to that question. In some cases, you may be instructed to pay the criminal who has you locked down. Others will tell you to consider doing so a part of the job.

There’s NO way to be certain it won’t happen to you. I don’t sweat it! If it does, we’ll deal with it, regardless of what is done to us and by whom.

I suggest you consider grabbing a tall glass of unsweet ice tea with a lime in it while trying to maintain your emotions and mental state of mind. Think about it: if you can accomplish that one thing, you’ll already be at a source for the right answer.

Don’t Diminish That!!!

Memorial Day 2021: We Will NOT Forget

When we daily see videos on the news and watch speeches from our leaders in Washington, we take for granted that vitriol, anger, and division are normal for the people of our nation. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are plenty of political hacks that want Americans to embrace divisiveness as “normal.” We cannot ever allow that to be accepted.

There are innumerable things that we overlook, assuming they just come from being an American: freedom to move about as we please, assembling together, worshipping together, speaking our minds, voting our consciences, working for an honest wage, and being protected all the while by law enforcement at federal, state, and local levels paid for by our taxes. Those 400,000 buried today in Arlington National Cemetery probably overlooked many of these same things until they headed off to war — war for THEIR nation.

It’s almost sad that today is the only day of the year set aside as THE day to memorialize the contribution of all those men and women who in acts of preserving all these things we take for granted listed above and the massive numbers of those NOT listed. But isn’t it sadder that only when things in the nation get really tough, and when the rumbling of “potential” conflicts and/or wars escalate to a fever pitch do we give military service members and the price tag many of those who serve have paid a simple thought of gratitude?

Dare we take that love and commitment and sacrifice for granted?

“Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for a friend.”

The most honorable thing about this that few ever contemplate is that almost every one of those who lie in rest at Arlington Cemetery or in makeshift graveyards around the world faced a decision, knowing that their choice could very well sentence them to death — and they still swore that oath!

From all of us at TruthNewsNetwork to all of you who have family members who gave their lives and lost them in the act of protecting our nation we say “Thank You.” We certainly know that our saying that does NOT make any of your pain go away. But it’s the least that we can do.

We will NEVER forget!

 

 

Death of Soleimani Ushers in Armageddon

Unless you have been for the last week in a coma, one of the World’s greatest terrorists died in a U.S. missile strike at Baghdad Airport. Iranian General Qasem Soleimani — that’s right, an Iranian General who was in Iraq — was the target of that missile strike. Who was this guy, and why did the U.S. take him out?

Follow this Bullet-point explanation:

  • President Trump ordered the attack on Major General Qassem Soleimani, a master terrorist and the head of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), on January 2nd.  He was killed along with seven others as he arrived at the Baghdad Airport.  Here are key facts about this man, who was responsible for the deaths of untold numbers of people around the world.
    Soleimani was the most potent Iranian general.  While other generals may have outranked him, as Commander of the Quds Forces, he answered only to Iran’s Supreme Leader.  His authority was outside the usual military chain of command in Iran, and he was given carte blanche authority for the export of terror around the world as he coordinated and directed the numerous Iranian militias and proxies worldwide.
  • The Quds Forces were responsible for assassinations, terrorism, and unconventional warfare that Iran exports and executes globally, including places like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen.  He was the benefactor of Hamas and Hezbollah.  Soleimani participated in assassinations and assassination attempts in the U.S., Germany, India, and Argentina.
  • He was also linked to the deaths of over 600 U.S. service members in Iraq, as he supplied enhanced Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) to the insurgency there.  Thousands of U.S. troops were wounded and maimed by these weapons.  The IRGC was responsible for 17 percent of all U.S. casualties in Iraq between 2003 and 2011.
  • We are in a War on Terror since September 11, 2001.  Iran is the leading state-sponsor of terrorism, and the Quds Forces have been declared a terror organization.  In war, a general officer of an enemy force is a legitimate military target.  This was not an assassination.  It was the killing of an enemy soldier in a war.
  • According to Secretary of State Pompeo, Soleimani died not killed because of his past deeds, but because the U.S. learned of planned attacks by Soleimani on U.S. personnel and others.  The attacks were imminent.
  • Because of this, President Trump was not required to notify Congress in advance.  Under his Article Two powers in the U.S. Constitution, and following the War Powers Act, the president can take military action if a threat against the United States is imminent.
  • The attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad were not mere demonstrations.  They were coordinated attacks on the U.S. compound and its personnel directed by Soleimani and his Quds Forces, in coordination with Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq.
  • Soleimani was also responsible for the deaths of hundreds of demonstrators in Iran as they protested against government corruption and a failing economy in Iran.
  • Over the last several weeks, hundreds of Iraqi demonstrators died as they protested against Iranian influence in their own country and government corruption in Iraq.  The use of live ammunition against these demonstrations in Iraq can also be traced back to Soleimani.

Reaction

The events of the last several days are a reminder that there are evil people and terrorist forces who seek to do us harm.  When they chant “Death to America” and “Death to Israel,” they genuinely mean it.

As with the death of Osama bin Laden, one would expect the entire American government to applaud the elimination of the world’s most vicious and most potent general who was personally responsible for the deaths of at least 600 Americans plus involved in the extermination of hundreds of thousands in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. Democrats and Republicans alike in the aftermath of bin Laden’s death congratulated President Obama and those 23 military heroes who sneaked into that Pakistani compound to get Osama bin Laden.

Republicans applaud President Trump’s actions to eliminate Soleimani. Democrats: not so much. Their venomous responses and continued attacks on President Trump just escalated in the wake of Soleimani’s death.

Here are just a few:

  1. Sen.Tom Udall (D-NM) claimed that Trump is “bringing our nation to the brink of an illegal war with Iran with no congressional approval.”
  2. Sen. Tom Carver (D-DE) noted that the Trump administration has “chosen rash provocation over any coherent strategy” and expressed fear that this most recent activity may be more of the same.
  3. Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI) noted that he has “serious concerns about this President’s execution of a potential act of war without authorization of Congress.”
  4. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) “Trump’s apparent assassination of Soleimani is a massive, deliberate, and dangerous escalation of conflict with Iran. The President just put the lives of every person in the region – U.S. service members and civilians – at immediate risk. We need de-escalation now.”
  5. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) “Trump Admin owes a full explanation of airstrike reports—all the facts—to Congress&the American people. The present authorizations for the use of military force in no way cover starting a possible new war. This step could bring the most consequential military confrontation in decades.”
  6. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) “Soleimani was a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans. But this reckless move escalates the situation with Iran and increases the likelihood of more deaths and new Middle East conflict. Our priority must be to avoid another costly war.”
  7. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) “When I voted against the war in Iraq in 2002, I feared it would lead to greater destabilization of the region. That fear, unfortunately, turned out to be true. The U.S. has lost approximately 4,500 brave troops, tens of thousands have been wounded, and we’ve spent trillions.”
  8. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) “So what if Trump wants war, knows this leads to war and needs the distraction? The real question is, will those with congressional authority step in and stop him? I know I will.”
  9. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) “American leaders’ highest priority is to protect American lives and interests. But we cannot put the lives of American service members, diplomats, and others further at risk by engaging in provocative and disproportionate actions.”

I know of not a single Democrat who has verbalized any support for the elimination of Soleimani. But, of course, the Democrat-News Media were quick to demonize President Trump for the attack, even to the point of memorializing Soleimani!

Breaking news: Airstrike at Baghdad airport kills Iran’s most revered military leader, Qasem Soleimani, Iraqi state television reports https://t.co/NbZW4DaWvD
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) January 3, 2020

In addition to that quick tweet from The Post, the television leftist shows all abandoned their “normal” Trump-bashing and have gone all-in on Soleimani. I honestly did not know there were so many military and intelligence experts regarding administrative responsibilities for the notification of Congress before such covert actions are taken! Dozens of “military and legal experts” flood news shows on CNN, MSNBC, even the big three, ABC, NBC, and CBS, urging every American to run to their storm shelters to make sure they’re fully stocked for the imminent Armageddon that Soleimani’s death triggered.

Examples?

Those are just a few. In the last few days, such allegations against the President have escalated dramatically.

The Legality

No President has the unilateral authority to start a war. The War Powers Act details steps mandated for the U.S. to enter into a war. However, since 2001 and the World Trade Center attacks, things in the world of Intelligence and Terror have changed.

Regarding this specific action by President Trump, the Pentagon said Gen. Qassem Soleimani was “actively developing” plans to kill American diplomats and service members when he died. “That would appear to place the action within the legal authority of the president, as commander in chief, to use force in defense of the nation under Article II of the Constitution,” said Bobby Chesney, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law who specializes in national security issues.

“If the facts are as the Defense Department said, then the president relatively clearly has Article II authority to act in self-defense of American lives,” Chesney said.

“That justification would apply even if Soleimani hadn’t already launched an attack under the established doctrine of ‘anticipatory’ self-defense,” according to Jeff Addicot, a retired Army officer and expert in national security law at St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio. “Legally, there’s no issue,” Addicot said. “Politically, however, it’s going to be debated, whether it’s the correct response. In my opinion, it’s the appropriate response, but it’s certainly legal.”

Summary

I’m said today — said that our country is so divided and so political. However, history shows us that American citizens have since the first Americans came ashore have had different ideas about government, rules and laws, and the way our country should operate. They with much debate created a template with which the majority agreed to use as the basic structure of living in America.

But things were different then. Early Americans while disagreeing, found ways to work through those differences, discuss, argue, and sometimes even come to blows or duels. But there was one common goal: to reach agreement so as to adhere to the articles of the U.S. Constitution, even when some of those articles were not appreciated by some of those settlers. It was called (and still is) “The Rule of Law.”

I’m disappointed that those from one political party have simply drawn a red line between their party and the party on the other side and said, “It’s our way or the highway.” And that is happening on every issue.

I see no end in sight.

What is causing all this? It boils down to two things: power and control. A large group of bureaucrats have sold their souls to the objective of snatching all the power of government that can be snatched, and with that power, instigate control over every aspect of the government of the United States.

What other explanation for what’s happening is there?

I’ll end with this:

“Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people. This, in fact, is our new American moment. There has never been a better time to start living the American dream.”

“So tonight I am extending an open hand to work with members of both parties, Democrats and Republicans, to protect our citizens, of every background, color, religion and creed.”

Those words came from Donald Trump’s first State of the Union Address. He’s a Republican reaching out to Democrats for unity. Every president reaches to those in the opposition for unity. They each know (and most have adopted that as their policy) that this country — a Democratic Representative Republic — MUST have agreement between those with opposing views of government to maintain its fundament status. Thankfully, our leaders have always ultimately worked through differences to reach a consensus.

It’s critical that we do on this issue, too. Instead of pointing fingers and name-calling, there needs to be an emphasis by all that at the end of the day, we are ALL Americans and we are “One Nation under God.”

It needs to remain what it is today.

Drums of War

Thankfully, the U.S. stays away from wars. That is unless there seems to be no way out. Yes, I know that the basis for going to Iraq for those proven “Weapons of Mass Destruction” Saddam had turned out to be a bit iffy. Hindsight always being 20/20 indicates that war was probably a mistake — a “probable” mistake that cost 4500 Americans their lives. But that’s a conversation for another day.

The Drums of War have suddenly begun to sound again: this time again in the Middle East. Even as the Obama Administration quietly turned the U.S. into a “cash cow”  by sending $150 Billion to Iran as part of that Iran Peace Deal in an effort to coax the Middle East rogue nation out of their nuclear weapons activities, those drums continued to sound and are getting louder today.

The U.S. has tried many ways to nudge the leaders of Earth’s #1 terrorist power away from conflict. Current National Security Advisor John Bolton sent a mind-boggling message to Iran’s leaders in 2015 when it appeared Iran was preparing to attack American allies. Bolton’s message stated that to stop Iran from bombing, the U.S. should bomb Iran. Thankfully no bombing occurred on either side. But the sparring and rhetoric between both nation’s leaders is continuing and is escalating every day.

Meanwhile, the citizens of both countries are praying that the war stays away. This while American intelligence reports alerted military leaders once more that Iranian attacks may be imminent. The U.S. military has responded to this intelligence by sending an aircraft carrier group into the Mediterranean to send Iran a message while getting close just in case Iran starts some type of military conflict.

At Home in Congress

While this is going on, many Americans look on in horror as several members of Congress continue their rhetoric targeted at the greatest ally the U.S. has in that part of the World: the nation of Israel. Last weekend, Palestinians lobbed more than 400 rockets into Israel that killed several Israelis. No one knows for sure if those rockets were actually provided by Iran, but such has happened on multiple previous occasions and experts deem their involvement in this latest incident as “probable.”

Muslim Extremism in the Middle East is once again the probable source of the latest conflict between Muslims and Jewish people. Such conflicts have existed for centuries. The U.S. has always in similar situations sided with Israel. But the new “look” in Congress may signal a change in that policy. This has many Americans concerned as well as are foreign leaders across the globe.

But one Muslim religious leader has decided to take-on these U.S. legislators who have been sending mixed signals regarding U.S. support for Israel.

That Iranian-born Australian Shia Muslim imam, known as the “imam of peace,” called out freshman Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib on Saturday for remaining silent amid that onslaught of Palestinian rocket fire into Israel.

“Remember that time Omar and Tlaib condemned Hamas’ terrorism?” Imam Mohamad Tawhidi tweeted. “Neither do I.”

Tawhidi, who is the president of the Islamic Association of South Australia, was responding to the nearly 600 rockets that have been fired into Israel from across the Gaza border this past weekend. The Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas has already claimed responsibility for three Israeli deaths, according to The Jerusalem Post. Neither Omar nor Tlaib have commented on the attack.

Omar and Tlaib became America’s first Muslim congresswomen when sworn into office in January. Their time in office has been full of allegations of anti-Semitism and anti-American sentiments.

Omar has defended anti-Israeli statements, such as ones invoking Allah to expose Israel’s “evil doings” and faced criticism from both sides of the aisle for promoting age-old anti-Semitic claims such as that Jews’ support of Israel is paid for and that they have dual loyalty to the U.S. and Israel.

Tlaib has also received widespread criticism for her ties to anti-Israel and terror-affiliated activists. Pro-Hezbollah, anti-Israel activist Abbas Hamideh attended her swearing-in ceremony and private dinner, and Tlaib hosted in her congressional office Joe Catron, an avowed supporter of multiple Palestinian terrorist organizations such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Hezbollah and Hamas.

She is also a member of multiple anti-Semitic social media groups, including the “Palestinian American Congress,” where members frequently demonize Jews and Israel. The founder of the aforementioned Facebook group, Maher Abdel-qader, is a Palestinian activist and was a key fundraiser for Tlaib’s congressional campaign.

Omar and Tlaib both fundraised with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a well-known pro-Palestinian organization with ties to Islamic terror groups. The U.S. Department of Justice listed CAIR as an unindicted co-conspirator in funding millions of dollars to Hamas. Additionally, the United Arab Emirates named CAIR a terrorist organization along with al-Qaeda and the ISIS in 2014.

Both the Minnesota and Michigan congresswomen deny they are anti-Semitic. However, they promote the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to punish Israel by economically depriving the country for its alleged mistreatment of Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The Anti-Defamation League describes BDS as “the most prominent effort to undermine Israel’s existence.”

Tawhidi has condemned the duo’s anti-Semitism in the past, specifically while visiting the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.

“The American Congress should not be a platform for Islamist members of the American government to preach their hate against the Jewish people,” Tawhidi said in February. “The Jewish people will remain a minority and have remained a minority. If this situation continues then this minority will be persecuted once again and we need to make sure that this never happens.”

“It’s very sad to see what is happening within the American government,” he continued. “People like Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, absolute frauds and Islamists, promoting hatred against the Jewish people.”

Is Anything Scarier?

The answer is a resounding “Yes.” We have recent history with war in the Middle East. America learned a lot from both wars in Iraq. And certainly much was learned from the drastic changes in contemporary war in the U.S. struggle with Syria and ISIS. War is different than ever before. It has changed. Yet its devastation and severe costs of human life, social and actual infrastructure, and dollars and cents keep most from testing it as being a logical answer for conflict. But still the strongmen of the World speak freely of war as not just rare possibilities but as near certain probabilities. It’s the same concept as the bully in the schoolyard staking out his territory and power.

But even with U.S. ships in the Mediterranean and drawing the line in front of Iran, the scariest potential war that faces the U.S. is NOT against a foreign foe or even several, it’s a war from within. Yes, the Drums of War that sound the loudest are those marking a second U.S. Civil War.

It’s easy to imagine that a second civil war might proceed like the first: two particular factions with state militaries against each other along specific strategic fronts. Generals would choose a side, those with the most troops and firepower at their disposal would claim victory. The outcome, we imagine, would likely be a winner-take-all restructuring of the United States.

But that’s not really how wars are fought in the 21st century. Indeed, much of the last century was about deconstructing the habits of large-scale, state-driven conventional warfare. As networks distribute power to the edges, warfighting shifts further away from a handful of central forces and towards a web of small actors. Warfare now often comes from ideologically and economically diverse communities whose suffering and fear is preyed upon by stealthy bad guys. They become guerrillas, rebel factions, proxies, and insurgencies. Sometimes they look more like tribal conflicts composed along racial, religious, or economic lines, often on top of crises that push violence to become a necessary solution. But they are rarely simple two-sided conflicts.

To dismiss this possibility here in the U.S. risks missing the signs of coordinated disruption and violence. If we keep thinking in terms of opposed armies, we’ll fail to develop successful strategies for recognizing and containing such a new hybrid type warfare.

For the United States, the shape of future internal conflicts will be as de-centralized. A 21st century homeland conflict would likely be made up of numerous diverse factions organized by digital tools around ideological networks. It would likely be a patchwork of affiliated insurgency groups engaging in light skirmishes along the edges of their networks, mixed with high-value terror attacks against soft and hard targets. Such groups are much smaller than conventional militaries and where they lack in firepower, they replace with ugliness and severity. As in Charlottesville and Berkeley, the fronts are less regional and far more ideological.

Furthermore, digital networks erase the boundaries of the state. Like the Islamic State and al Qaeda, any cell can access the literature, claim allegiance in some distant suburb, and start whipping up violence against their targets. Both Antifa and the Alt-Right are a mix of different groups loosely coupled under their respective brand names with local chapters spread across global networks. These are not top-down hierarchies. They’re stealthy and shapeless with the capacity to grow quickly then disappear.

As an example, consider ISIS. One simply cannot explain the speed and scale at which the Islamic State formed without that network effect. And it can happen again and in the United States.

Just as we risk missing the signs of networked violence, thinking in terms of a classic civil war can blind us to the many actors working to disrupt the U.S. from within and beyond our borders.

Behind the extremists are often additional layers of those who hate the liberty and freedom of the United States: oligarchs, transnational criminal networks, and foreign powers wielding them on both sides towards their strategic goals. We’ve seen this with Russian-backed Facebook groups organizing right wing protests in the U.S., and in the increasing regularity of information warfare originating from adversarial governments. They don’t want or feel the need to invade the U.S. from the outside, but to use these types of networking to attack the U.S. from within using angry and disenfranchised Americans!

With this in mind we can picture what a modern U.S. civil war might look like. More sporadic and unexpected conflicts but with fewer deaths. Factions popping up like mushrooms, taking different forms but coordinated across invisible networks. Waves of information warfare. Chaos and accelerated violence with a healthy immune response from the local and national authorities. The outcome (and probable goal) would likely be a split of the republic into smaller, more manageable alliances, though it may just as easily harden an increasingly unilateral federal government. This is essentially how Russia waged its internal war against Ukraine.

To counter this threat in America it’s critical to establish more formal practices for identifying and tracking domestic extremism — with an honest recognition that young, white males on both ends of the political spectrum are the most likely to commit violence. In doing so there must be inclusion in looking for likely participants from all factions. Likewise, we must formalize intense network analysis to map and track these groups across their digital territories and to identify their backers, funders, and agitators. Finally, there needs to be a very serious conversation about how to regulate Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter as platforms for influence, instigation, propaganda, and recruiting.

For now, America is held in line by the strong rule of law and a good-enough economy that most people still have something to lose by choosing violence. But as our government and corporate leaders continue to attack the rule of law and economic opportunity, the norms deteriorate  and the space for evil spurred by anger becomes bigger.

Are we headed to the second U.S. Civil War? My gut says the likelihood of a second U.S. civil war in the next five years is between 20 and 40 percent but trending upward significantly. And with the vitriol and hatred being spewed daily by the 2 dozen in number and growing Democrat presidential candidates, the possibilities for anger rising to the level of internal war are steadily increasing. God help us!

This 65 year old grandfather of 6 does not want to sit on the sidelines and be forced to pray every day for the safety of my 6 grandsons while they wage war, especially against fellow Americans. War is the direct product of Men and Women who simply refuse to discuss resolutions to differences because of hardness in their hearts. Burying a few teenage children is too great a price to pay for the pride that instigates those deaths. But stopping a civil war is a process that requires mutual agreement. I’m fearful that there aren’t enough people in D.C. that really care to do the right thing in regard to many issues we are dealing with today, yet alone to stop a war.

“Wisdom dictates reasoning, reasoning dictates compromise.” Hopefully that will be the song this in Washington will sing in this circumstance.

 

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