Confidential

Russia’s Threat to Norway in the Next 24 Months

Several countries’ Intelligence services operate within Norwegian territory. In terms of infiltration and reconnaissance, Russia’s Threat to Norway is the greatest of all operators. In light of the war between Russia and Ukraine, it is highly likely that Moscow will engage in cyber-attacks and illegal procurement activities in order to obtain sensitive information and access to technology. This ultimately services the country’s strategic aims within the region as Norway remains locked in a power struggle with Russia [source].  

Key Judgement 1: In the next 24 months, the threat posed by Russian cyber operations against Norway is serious and highly likely to continue at current levels.

  • Computer network operations have become an integral part of the activities of the Russian Intelligence Services. The Norwegian National Security Authority has reported numerous Russian cyber-attacks aimed at both public and private sector organisations [source].

  • Norway’s Intelligence Service believes that Russian hacking group APT28 was responsible for the cyber-attack on Norweigan Parliament in 2020 [source]. APT28 is highly likely to be associated with the Russian GRU [source]. The attack affected the Norwegian Parliament’s email system of politicians and employees. Moreover, classified information regarding several foreign states’ Intelligence was downloaded by the hacking group [source].

  • Russian Intelligence agencies are likely to target their cyber operations at organisations affiliated with Norwegian foreign affairs, defence, and security. The Norwegian National Security Authority publicly warned these sectors that they should prepare for Russian cyber attempts to steal sensitive data [source].

  • Russia perceives Norway as a hostile actor, due to its founding member status in NATO. The Cold Response 2022 – a Norwegian military exercise – began in March. Norway invited NATO allies and partner nations to participate [source]. Cold Response is the largest Norwegian-held military exercise since the end of the Cold War [source].

  • Therefore, it is highly likely that Russia will continue its cyber-attacks against Norway. Norwegian foreign affairs, defence, and security policy are likely to be Russia’s primary targets. 

Key Judgement 2: In the next 24 months, it is highly likely that Norway’s oil and gas installations will be the target of Russian cyber-attacks. 

  • Scientists and Analysts have warned that Norwegian oil and gas installations are at an increased risk of Russian cyber-attacks following the intensification of the war between Russia and Ukraine [source].

  • The European Union is trying to find a way to cope with partial disruption to gas imports from Russia. Western countries have long been under pressure to diversify their energy sources and migrate away from their reliance on Russian natural resources. The Russian military incursion of Ukraine has increased the urgency of finding alternative oil and gas suppliers [source].

  • Norway is Europe’s second largest gas provider after Russia, responsible for near 25% of total imports of gas in the area. Due to the crisis in Ukraine, gas deliveries from Norway are particularly important for Europe [source].

  • Therefore, Russia is highly incentivised to undermine Norway’s supply of gas to Europe, by delaying and interrupting the provision of the service through cyber-attacks. This would deter the EU from imposing further sanctions on Moscow by forcing dependence on Russia’s gas and oil supplies. 

Key Judgement 3: In the next 24 months, it is likely that Russia will engage in illegal procurement activities in Norway.

  • Russian state actors seek new technologies to ensure military capability, political influence and economic growth. Moscow is willing to go to great lengths to obtain technology to fulfil such strategic aims. 

  • Russian actors involved in illegal procurement attempts in Norway use illegal means such as cyber hacking or circumventing export control regulations, especially in light of EU sanctions that seek to limit Russia’s access to sensitive technology. [source]

  • Norwegian enterprise offers goods, services, technology, and expertise that is advantageous for Russia’s military development. Moreover, Norwegian research institutions and private organisations have access to advanced laboratory facilities and research infrastructures. Therefore, Russia may be incentivized to use illegal means to obtain sensitive information, knowledge and technology, that it would be otherwise prevented to obtain in light of the sanctions imposed on Moscow [source].

Intelligence cut-off date: 6th of May 2022

Confidential

Russia’s Threat to Sweden in the Next 24 Months

Russia’s threat to Sweden has become more and more real in the last months. This is mainly due to Sweden’s ambition to join NATO.

In the past years, the relationship between Sweden and Russia has not been stable. On the one hand, Sweden published its Arctic policy in 2020. It focuses on climate change and international cooperation, which also includes Russia.

On the other hand, in October 2020, Sweden announced an increase in military spending by 40% over five years. This is due to the Russian presence and activity in the Baltic Sea. In December 2021, Russia threatened Sweden, threatening with political and military consequences if Sweden joins NATO. Lastly, Sweden has condemned Russia’s invasion and strengthened its desire to join NATO as early as May 2022. Furthermore, it started supporting Ukraine with military and humanitarian aid.

Key Judgment 1: In the next 24 months, Sweden will strengthen its relationship with Western countries. Consequently, it is highly likely that it will join NATO.

  • At the end of December 2021, Russia threatened both Sweden and Finland in the event that they would join NATO. Moscow said that there would be “serious military and political repercussions”. In the past, Sweden carried out military exercises with NATO. However, it did not want to join the international organisation. This is because it feared that it would limit its decisional independence.

  • In February 2022, an SVT poll, a Swedish public broadcaster, showed that 35% of Swedes opposed NATO membership. On the other hand, 41% supported it. However, the percentage of the population that would like Sweden to join NATO is likely to grow, since Sweden is condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Even though some political parties, such as the Social Democrats, are still against NATO membership, it is clear that the Russian invasion of Ukraine changed the whole security setting of Europe and especially the Baltic region. On the 15th of May, the Swedish Prime Minister and other leading members are meeting to discuss the issue, and whether join or not NATO.

Key Judgment 2: In the next 24 months, it is highly unlikely that Russia will attack Sweden, despite the recent threats.

  • In the past years, Sweden secured closed military cooperation with Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Sweden is now helping Ukraine with humanitarian, military, and technical support. It imposed sanctions against Russia, following the European Union, and it also banned Russian aircraft from its airspace.
Russia's threat to Sweden
Swedish Minister of Defence, Peter Hultqvist, US Secretary of Defence, Jim Mattis, and Finnish Minister of Defence, Jussi Niinistö, at the Pentagon signing a new trilateral agreement.

Despite Sweden does not interpret Russia’s words as a military threat, it started boosting its military presence in Gotland and other key areas in the country. The militarisation started immediately after, six Russian Amphibious Warfare ships entered the Baltic Sea, in mid-January. Even though the ships left the area a couple of days later, Swedish troops are remaining in place. In the case of a hypothetic Russian attack, Sweden would be able to contrast the first wave of attacks.

Key Judgment 3: In the next 24 months, it is highly likely that Russia will keep threatening Sweden by cyber attacking structures and facilities.

  • Last year, after three years of investigations, the Swedish prosecutors found out that between December 2017 and May 2018 the Russian GRU military intelligence hacked the national sports federation in Sweden. The “Fancy Bear” group, which is a Russian hacking group controlled by the GRU, according to the US intelligence agencies, is responsible for the data security breaches. The “Fancy Bear” stole and then published personal details, medical records, and records of doping tests of Swedish athletes.

  • In January 2021, large drones were seen flying over the royal family palace in Drottningholm, two airports, Kiruna and Lulea, and three nuclear plants, Oskarshamn, Ringhals and Forsmark, in Sweden. The military style of the drones and their coordination suggest that there could be a state government behind it. A Russian man was arrested for flying a drone on the royal family palace. However, there are no suspects for the others. Moscow’s involvement could be taken into consideration since the accident happened after the Russian threats were sent to Sweden. It is highly likely that this was not an attack, but a Russian attempt to spread fear among the population. The Swedish intelligence agency took over the investigation. However, there is no evidence that a foreign power is behind these actions.

Key Judgment 4: In the next 24 months, It is highly likely that Russia will keep spreading disinformation in Sweden, in order to weaken Sweden’s relationship with NATO.

  • In the past years, Sweden has been the subject of a Russian disinformation campaign. Russian aim is to intimidate and threaten Sweden and increase polarisation which would then lead to Sweden moving away from NATO. Russia has been targeting Swedish news organisations, in order to prevent and contrast a hypothetical NATO membership.

  • Even before the Russian invasion, Putin and his government started stating that Ukraine was killing many Russians in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. This was done in order to depict Ukraine as the enemy and the aggressor. After the invasion, the disinformation campaign intensified. For example, various pro-Russia accounts started spreading fake videos on Ukraine and its actions on Telegram.

Intelligence cut-off date: 6th of May 2022

Confidential

India’s Accidental Missile Strike Into Pakistan 

Summary:

On March 9th, 2022, an Indian BrahMos missile was launched and landed in Mian Channu, Pakistan, over 120 kilometres away. It was not until 24 hours later that Pakistan officially confirmed an object in their airspace. (Source) The Indian government released a statement that a missile was fired accidentally during a maintenance checkup. The Indian government expressed the actions as “deeply regrettable” in their own broadcasted statement. (Source

Key Judgment 1: It is highly unlikely that the two nations will move closer to a conflict directly from this action in the next 12 months. 

  • Both governments have so far acted with extreme maturity and prudence towards each other, which is rare for adversarial nations. The geopolitical climate of the world is in a precarious state with the Western world rallying against Russia. 

  • However, in a 1991 agreement, India and Pakistan both signed that they must warn each other of air space violations. Pakistan has been quick to criticize India for not doing so until after the Pakistani government began publishing the incident. (Source

  • Both nations are most likely not posturing for an escalation to conflict. Which could be possibly in part because how the world has reacted to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 
India's Accidental Missile Strike
Image of the missile’s impact site near Mian Channu, Pakistan. (source

Key Judgment 2: It is likely that this incident will disrupt India’s plan to sell their missile systems abroad in the coming future. 

  • Many sources point to the missile as the BrahMos (PJ-10) that was recently developed in conjunction with Russia. A medium range, supersonic cruise missile, the BrahMos has been India’s recent venture into selling domestic made weapons systems. However, the BrahMos’ failure fits the same narrative as the Russian-ventured  Sukhoi-30 MKI.  

  • The Philippines (source) and Egypt (source) are looking to purchase missiles, but this recent “accident” may prove fatal to the deals. The lack or miscalculation of safety parameters may discourage potential buyers and push them into other markets. 

  • The Indian government has offered an in-depth investigation into the event with hopes of finding the cause. This move, if done correctly and fluently can possibly save face with potential buyers of the missile system. 

Key Judgment 3: It is realistically probable that this was a covert test of Pakistan’s surface to air and missile defense systems. 

  • Being adversaries and sharing a contested border, covert actions done to probe military readiness on both sides may be seen. Some within the Pakistani military suspected the launch was not a declaration of war, but some further aim from India. (Source) This may also explain why Pakistani officials are criticizing India for not using the line to warn Pakistan. (Source)

  • The strike may have effectively proved that Pakistan’s air defense coverage is lacking. For one, the Indian’s have affirmed the launch from Ambala, a garrison town, whereas Pakistan claims it was from Sirsa. Also, the two disagree about the trajectories and flight paths of the missile, with Pakistan demanding answers. (Source)

  • There are some factors to consider around the Indian armed forces and their track record around accidents. A helicopter accident that led to the death of India’s first Chief of Defense Staff, General Bipin Rawat, and several other officers in 2021 and the friendly shooting down of an Indian helicopter by Indian air defenses in Srinagar during the Balakot crisis in 2019 are a few recent incidents of note.
Confidential

Iranian missile strike in Irbil

Summary

In an attack like Operation Martyr Soleimani in January 2020, Iran claimed responsibility for an attack on U.S consulate buildings in Irbil, Iraq. (Source) The attack, which occurred March 13th, is said to be a retaliatory action against Israel. Two Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) members were killed in an airstrike in Syria the week prior. (Source)

Key Judgment 1: It is highly likely that this strike will intensify animosity between Iran, the U.S, and Israel – prompting increased tensions in the region in the next 6 months. 

Footage of the strike in Irbil. (Source)
  • The United States, having a laxed role in Iraq, will most likely respond with a continuation of heavy sanctions. 

  • This attack was reportedly in response to the Israeli strikes on alleged IRGC drone and munition factories in Syria. (Source)  

  • Israeli memory is long and their missiles are accurate. This attack will most likely prompt retaliatory strikes by the Israelis on other IRGC facilities. Israeli doctrine has shown that even in response to small attacks larger retaliatory strikes are a routine part of doctrine and are thought to dissuade further attacks. (Source)

Key Judgment 2: It is likely that this attack will have repercussions for the Iranian nuclear deal, and further close them off from European nations as well. 

  • Iran’s nuclear capabilities are at the heart of contention between Western nations. Talks to resuscitate the 2015 deal were paused prior to the strike in Irbil.

  • Congresswoman Elaine Luria reflected this: “If reports are accurate, the Biden Administration must withdraw its negotiations with Iran. We cannot re-enter a failed JCPOA [the Iranian nuclear agreement formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] to further empower Iran and threaten global security.” (Source)

  • This outcry is also reverberated by other Western nations, and leaves Iran shunned by nations with sway in their nuclear deal. With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Iran and Russia, both being sanctioned and shunned, may grow closer in relation, cooperation and cause in defying the west. 

Key Judgment 3: It is realistically probable that Iraq will align with other regional actors and nations to dissuade further attacks on Iraqi sovereignty. 

  • Iraq has condemned the attacks in Irbil and is working with officials from the Kurdistan region to investigate the attack. (Source)  Below is a tweet from the Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. 
Iran Strike In Irbil
  • The Saudi government has also condemned the attacks, expressing solidarity and supporting measures for “[Iraq] to protect its security and stability.” (Source) In working closely with Iraq, Saudi Arabia can further exhibit regional control and dominance over their Shia adversary, Iran. 

  • Iraq is geographically positioned between Iran and their main adversaries, meaning Iranian influence in the region is not new. This attack, overall, is a continuation of a soft conflict between Iran and Israel in the region.
Confidential

Mercy of the Wicked: The CIA’s Phoenix Program

The CIA instituted a bloody campaign of exporting torture techniques across the world and into the hands of cruel regimes, officially known as the Phoenix Program.

In Ash

As the curtains fell on World War II, the modern world, militaries and governments adapted to meet the needs and want of the new era of society. The horrors of the war still reigned on the collective consciousness of the world. Footage of the Nazi death camps, the firebombing of Dresden, and the brutal but triumphant Operation Overlord landing on December 6th, 1944 were all still fresh in the minds of the war-torn but hopeful, world. 

The Nazi regime that strangled the free world with promises of an everlasting empire, or “Third Reich” as the leader of the party and nation, Adolf Hitler, would adopt as its designation, led a campaign of systemic terror and brutality against the European continent. Using techniques adapted from the Herero genocide during the colonial period of Germany, the Nazis cruelly tortured and killed people throughout Europe with little discretion. The Nazi party is known for its cruel experiments on the mind and body within the walls of its many death camps spread across Eastern Europe. They were dabbling in eugenics, mind control, and even human genome advancement trying to create a perfect army for the Reich. 

Smoldering Embers

When the Reich fell in 1945, the United States realized the intellectual value of Nazi scientists, engineers, and doctors, among many other individuals. To make sure that in the post-war period the United States had the scales tipped in their favour, they unveiled “Operation Paperclip”, a project designed to recruit past Nazis into the government, giving them jobs and new identities as long as they provided their knowledge to the U.S military and government. The most well-known and in a sense, catch twenty-two with this program is Werner von Braun. Braun designed the Nazi’s most technologically advanced weapon, the V-2 rocket. Using his skills in rocket technology and propulsion, he became head of the National Air and Space Program and is highly credited with getting the United States space program to a point where it could land on the moon in 1969. Without this acquisition of intellect from the United States’ former enemies, it is not known where the space program would be.

Wait! Who Let the Nazi’s in?

However, while there were notable successes with the acquisition of Nazi scientists and members into the government, the grievances and cruelty they projected spread in the intelligence community like cancer.

The Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA, is America’s leading foreign intelligence agency and was formed in 1947 in response to the growing tension between the Soviet Union and the United States. Stemming from Nazi techniques and ideology and the cruel practices in which they learned how a break a person mentally, the CIA formed a basis for psychological torture. Furthermore, it sponsored its propagation around the world, under the guise of relief and assistance programs. The most famous was the Phoenix Program by the CIA during the conflict in Vietnam.

The Phoenix Shrieks

The Phoenix Program was crafted by the CIA as an intelligence ladder and channel in Vietnam in 1967. It was a cumulation of all counter-insurgency operations in the country. Such as police, military intelligence, and other CIA operations in the region. Through this compression of counter-insurgency operations, the CIA was in a better position to receive and extract information from high-value targets. The key factor and edge of the Phoenix Program’s structure were that it was almost just as loose and flexible as its enemies. For example, CIA agents and plain-clothes officers would work very closely and collaborate despite the differences in training and stature. 

One arm of the Phoenix Program, the Office of Public Safety, or OPS, was a program to help train allied police forces around the world that was created in 1962. It quickly became a key tool in disseminating CIA torture techniques and stopping communism worldwide. The OPS would take trainees from Latin America, Vietnam, and other nations to a clandestine training centre in Washington D.C, where they were taught torture techniques by U.S officials. In the case of Vietnam, trainees were trained under “stringent wartime measures designed to assist in defeating the enemy.” In 1971, a South Vietnamese trainee wrote in his thesis 

“Despite the fact that brutal interrogation is strongly criticized by moralists, its importance must not be denied if we want to have order and security in daily life.” (McCoy, 62)  

The Ladder of Intelligence

The Phoenix Program had crafted a ladder of intelligence from rural Vietnam to the head intelligence office in Saigon. This was mainly due to Peter DeSilva, the CIA station chief in Saigon. DeSilva wanted to replicate the Vietcong’s brutal techniques back onto themselves and instituted an equally brutal system. Using local thugs under the guise of “Provincial Reconnaissance Units” or PRUs, systematic torture would begin to plague the Provincial Interrogation Centers in each province. (McCoy, 64) 

K. Barton Osbourn, a military intelligence official who worked with the Phoenix Program in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968, described the insertion of a dowel into a captive’s ear until it was hammered into their brains until died, and the sexual and electric exploitation of men and women prior to their death. Osbourn testified that all these procedures were outlined to him and all other operatives, Vietnamese or American, in the Defense Collection Intelligence Manuel, which was issued to him during training.

CIA Phoenix Program
K. Barton Osborn and intel agent Michael Uhl (Source)

There are chilling accounts of direct CIA atrocities in South Vietnam, particularly in the Bien Hoa Mental Hospital in Saigon. It is reported that in 1966 Dr Lloyd H. Cutter and two other psychiatrists were sent with an electroshock machine provided by the Technical Services Division of the Office of Public Safety (OPS), to test whether certain depatterning exercises worked on the brain to alter human behaviour. Utilizing the Phoenix ladder, Viet Cong prisoners were brought to the hospital and given excessive shock treatments. For one week straight, they were subjugated to 60 shock treatments every day. Not a single captive survived, and without any results, the CIA doctors packed up and flew back to the United States. 

Then in 1968, based on a journalist’s account, a CIA team and one doctor flew to the hospital and implanted “tiny electrodes” in each captive’s brain, and at the change of a frequency could make the men defecate and vomit at will. The men were also given knives and the doctor tried to get them to enact violence upon one another. When this did not occur, Green Berets, following CIA orders, shot and killed the men, and then burned their bodies in the hospital courtyard. (McCoy, 65)

In 1970-1971, William Colby, chief of pacification in Vietnam, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that the Phoenix Program had killed 6,187, or just over 12% of the 75,000 strong Viet Cong, in just 1969 alone. Several days later, Colby reaffirmed to the Senate Committee the Program had killed 20,587 Vietcong “suspects” since 1968. (Colby, 1971) The South Vietnamese government countered with the number 40,994 since 1968. (McCoy, 67) Colby’s recollection of the casualties up until 1971 is as follows, 

“I believe that the figures in mid-1971 that were testified to at the time were some 28,000 had been captured, some 20,000 had been killed, and some 17,000 had actually rallied by that time. Obviously, the program has been going on since then, and those figures are larger today.” (Colby, 1971)

 According to the same release as Colby’s testament, the Phoenix Program was fully integrated into the South Vietnamese police forces in 1972, and all U.S assistance to the Phoenix Program through the Department of Defense has subsequently ended. (Colby, 1971)

William Colby (Source)

Wings of Fire

While the U.S was fighting the Vietcong in Vietnam, U.S officials understood more must be done to combat the perceived threat of communism, and to do so counter-insurgency operations around the world would be bolstered and efforts would be increased. This resulted in the creation of the Latin American prototype of the Phoenix Program, Project X. While one can argue it is merely an extension of the Vietnamese Phoenix Program, it is rather a synthesis and revision of techniques and practices used in Vietnam. Project X began sometime in 1965-1966 and existed, as a confidential Pentagon memo states, “to develop an exportable foreign intelligence package to provide counterinsurgency techniques learned in Vietnam to Latin American countries.” (McCoy, 71) 

The American public was first made aware of Project X and its stranglehold on Latin America in 1970 when an OPS advising officer, Dan Mitrione, was executed by Tupamaro rebels in Uruguay. It was revealed by a Cuban double agent that Mitrione, a father of nine, was a mastermind of torture and its dissemination through his role in the OPS in Uruguay. His motto was, reportedly, “The right pain in the right place at the right time”, and felt that premature death in torturing someone, meant that the technique had failed. (McCoy, 72) 

Dan Mitrione (source)

Starting in 1971, a congressional investigation into OPS had brought fruition to the claim it was proliferating torture manuals, programs, and training around the world. By 1975, Congress cut funding for all police and prison training abroad, which abolished the Office of Public Safety. (McCoy, 73) However, Congress never investigated who was the source of this information and training: the CIA. The CIA escaped any reform and scrutiny and had already changed its main arm of torture dissemination to the Army’s Military Advisor Program, which had just the same reach as OPS did. (McCoy, 74) The dissemination of such content came to a halt under Jimmy Carter’s humanist administration, in which he put a stop to all covert actions by the CIA and other agencies during his term as President.

 Latin America had stayed under the radar in terms of CIA-taught torture for some time until 1988 until a New York Times expose pointed to CIA-taught torture in Honduras under the command of Colonel Gustavo Alvarez Martinez. The correlation between the CIA and the Honduran government’s torture lies in the almost word for word Kubark interrogation manual produced in the 1960s as a result of MKULTRA by the CIA, and the Honduran Human Resource Manual that was drafted in 1983.

Talons of Smoke

In 1953, the CIA and Israeli Mossad instituted a coup in Iran to put the pro-Western Shah back to power. The CIA had to help maintain his control for the 25 years he was in power. Most importantly, in 1959, the CIA was involved in the reorganization of the Iranian secret police. The CIA is personally responsible for the Savak, the most brutal of the secret police squads, as they trained the unit and its interrogators based on Nazi torture techniques the agency inherited through Operation Paperclip, directly after WWII. (McCoy, 75) Jessie Leaf, a former CIA analyst, recalled “Although no Americans particularly participated in the torture, people who were there seeing the rooms and being told of torture. And I know the torture rooms were all toured and paid for by the U.S.A.” (McCoy, 74) 

This is another example of the CIA’s clear dissemination of not only torture techniques but quite literally whole torture rooms and funds to do so. In the 1970s, opposition grew to the Shah, and the Savak stepped up its cruel treatment and torture of dissidents. In an interview with Le Monde, the Shah said, “Why should we not employ the same methods as you Europeans? We have learned sophisticated methods of torture from you. You use psychological methods to extract the truth: we do the same” (McCoy, 75)

The widespread use of torture by the Shah would actually play into his own demise. Student protestors kept dissenting and protesting, so the Savak kept arresting and torturing. This cycle continued, and over time the Iranian government had over 50,000 political prisoners in its prisons. By 1979, an Islamist movement overthrew the Shah and pro-Western Iran. By resting his regime upon the arrest, torture, and forced will of the Iranian people, the Shah orchestrated his own downfall. The CIA-crafted torture that was meant to keep the peace and stop bad actors was the chisel that slowly fractured the legitimacy and reception of the Shah and the Iranian government.

A suspected SAVAK agent after being arrested by revolutionary forces. (Source)

Breath of Sulfur

The Philippines and its own rendition of CIA-crafted torture provide a dark and cruel look into the psychology of the torturer and how that affects society as a whole. President Ferdinand Marco was a cruel autocrat who, from 1972 to 1986, used torture as a key tool in his all-powerful regime. (McCoy, 75) Filipino torture specifically, was very theatrical in its approach. The torturer plays a grand inquisitor, and all-powerful form of salvation, while the victim is led to believe they are nothing but a coward, and confessing to their crimes, legitimate or not, is the only salvation from the torture they brought upon themselves. (Holden, 2011) 

This last part is very important. No matter what, the torturer would use language that points the blame on the individual, such as “you leave me no choice..” .. “because you choose to not cooperate” and “you are just making it worse for yourself” (McCoy, 97) These all play into the victim’s psychology so detrimentally they start to perceive their torturer as an omnipotent force, the only thing that can save them. 

CIA Phoenix Program
Ferdinand Marco (Source)

The Priest

Father Edgardo Kangelon was tortured by the government after a rumour that the Catholic Church was a safe haven for Communists. He was tortured for two months with minor physical pain – some punches and kicks, but mainly degrading comments on his sexuality, past and even faith. The torturers used everything they could against the priest until he finally broke and named other church officials as Communist agents. (McCoy, 79) He released a 25-page memoir, where the theatrics taken on his torturers was broadcasted to the world, and striking similarities between his torture and the CIA’s Kubark manual point to CIA involvement in the Philippine’s torture program. 

Salvaging the Phillippines

One cryptic reality and the well-observed case of collective trauma in a society is that of the Philippines. When the government would torture and kill somebody, they would almost always leave their bodies for display publicly. All who passed by were now part of the torture; their brains were not only tortured by the images, but the fact they are seeing the results of their own collective actions in governments and society. This surfaced a neologism in the Filipino-American dialect as “salvaging.” Now imagine America today, where every day a new unarmed person is killed by the police and society has now come to the acceptance and normality of such a barbaric practice that we brand a word or phrase like, “clean up”. For instance, “New York police “cleaned up” three men today, suspected of nothing.” That sort of trauma is hard to capitalize on and almost harder to get rid of, as everyone is affected in their own personal way by it. 

The Colonel and the RAM

After the fall of Saigon in 1975, the CIA stepped up counter-insurgency operations in Asia and implemented its programs and techniques within its old colony and ally, the Philippines. CIA involvement leads back to 1978 when a popular human rights newsletter reported that the top torturer for President Marco, Lieutenant Colonel Rolando Abadilla was studying at the Command and General Staff School in Kansas. Also, another newsletter claimed that Abadilla’s protege, Rodolfo Aguinaldo, was on his way to study under the CIA for one year in the United States. 

Many of the torturers from the Philippines were young, recent graduates from the Philippine Military Academy. This would lead to implications in the government and society that will eventually lead to its overall destabilization. By being able to torture any member of society, such as priests, journalists, politicians, and even other military officials, these young officers’ view of society was a ripped veil. (Holden, 2011) Throughout their training, it was reaffirmed that anyone in their country could be an enemy, and no one was off-limits to such cruel treatment. They had this empowering feeling of authority and omnipotence that would lead some officers to form RAM or Reform the Armed Forces Movement, which would carry the country through destabilizing coups in the 1980s. (Holden, 2011)

Torture Backfires on Marco

By instituting this torture, Marco, like the Shah, played a key part in his own demise. These coups destabilized the country and eventually led to a guerilla like a campaign against the government by underground RAM forces, which included terror bombings and shootings. (Holden, 2011) Marco relied on this CIA-crafted and disseminated torture, and it cost him the overall stability of his regime. Due to the omnipotent and all-powerful role he prescribed his young officers, they quickly saw through the thin veil of civil society and chose to violently exert their will on it, just as they had done to so many people. 

The Eagle Extinguished?

The proliferation and perceived success of the Phoenix Program during the conflict in Vietnam not only led to more CIA-crafted torture programs, such as Project X but also actually furthered the deterioration of American allied governments abroad, specifically in the implementation of state terrorism and abuse by Iran prior to 1979 and the Philippines in the and 1980s.

The CIA, first using the Office of Public Safety and wartime channels in Vietnam successfully disseminated torture techniques that were derived from the MKULTRA findings and Nazi torture techniques in World War II, throughout the country and established a ladder of intelligence that made sure no one was safe from its oversight and agents – this was called the Phoenix Program. Then, using different channels and revised techniques, the CIA unrolled Project X, the child of the Phoenix Program. This then spilt into over ten countries in Latin America, most importantly, Honduras. 

By taking trainees from allied countries across the world, like Iran and the Philippines, CIA-crafted torture found its way across the globe still. Instead of holding up the regimes, it was taught to, it only did more to unravel and destabilize those regimes. 

In Iran, a sort of cycle appeared to occur, where dissidence occurs, cruel torture tries to extinguish it, then more dissidence in response to that torture begins to occur, and then the torture is ramped up until the dissidence reaches a radical and revolutionary point. 

In the case of the Philippines, CIA-crafted torture led to the creation of an exclusionary and radical military echelon that for almost a decade tormented daily life in the country.

References

LOC-HAK-331-4-20-7. (2010, May 13). Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/LOC-HAK-331-4-20-7.pdf.

McCoy, A. W. (2007). A question of torture: Cia interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror. New York: Metropolitan Books.

Holden, W. (2011). Neoliberalism and state terrorism in the Philippines: the fingerprints of Phoenix. Critical Studies on Terrorism, 4(3), 331–350. https://doi.org/10.1080/17539153.2011.623401

Rosenau, W., & Long, A. (2009). The Phoenix Program and Contemporary Counterinsurgency. Ft. Belvoir: Defense Technical Information Center.

KUBARK COUNTERINTELLIGENCE INTERROGATION. (1997, January). Retrieved from https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB27/docs/doc01.pdf.

Confidential

An Introduction to Fifth Generation Warfare

5GW
Graduates of the 80th Training Command PSYOP class receive regimental crest pins at the end of their field exercise at Fort Hunter Liggett, California, Feb. 6, 2019.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love 5GW

We type these words travelling through the Swiss Alps on high-speed rail. As the world becomes
smaller, we at The Radio Research Group have witnessed firsthand how nearly everything we knew
about modern conflict is changing, under the shadow of Fifth Generation Warfare. The incredible, exponential, accelerating pace of technology has overturned centuries of standard operating procedure. Diplomats and military leaders alike have been thrust into uncharted domains, disrupted by an invisible enemy that makes us question our reality.

Darkness descends upon us as a tunnel envelops our train. Terrestrial GSM goes dark, satellite
tracking loses sync. We enter the Gotthard Base tunnel, the longest tunnel in the world.

Our world is evolving so quickly that classical frameworks of thought around modern warfare have become irrelevant. Our GSM modem connects to a cell tower deep within the tunnel. We reconnect
to the world, deep underground, at the speed of light. Pre-existing notions believed to be impossible
beforehand have now become commonplace.

Our train exits the tunnel, sunlight envelops the train as GPS returns back online. Incredible
mountains open up all around us as we enter an incredible new world.

What is 5GW?

William Lind’s generations of warfare model goes something like this:

GenerationDescriptionMade Irrelevant By
1stAncient melee battleMuskets
2ndOrganized battle with gunpowderBlitzkrieg
3rdMechanized warfare focused on speed and manoeuvrabilityTerrorism
4thDecentralized warfare is led by state actors (Primarily Kinetic)The Mobile Internet, Network Effects
5thInformation and Perception (Primarily Non-Kinetic)TBD?

The concept of Fifth Generation Warfare itself is controversial, with Lind arguing against it saying that
4GW “had yet to fully materialize”. We argue that what is happening in modern conflict today is
so radically different from the 4th generation framework that it’s time to enter the fifth
generation. (We were so convinced that we had to write the Wikipedia article on it ourselves,
despite it now being heavily redacted. Many of the key elements we have added here.)

Our favourite definition of Fifth Generation Warfare is featured in Abbot’s “Handbook of 5GW”,
2010, stating that “The very nature of Fifth Generation Warfare is that it is difficult to define.”
Besides the fact that defining a subject based on it being difficult to define is counterintuitive, Abbot
adds that 5GW is a war of “information and perception”.

5GW is a war of information and perception.

We at Radio Research have evolved the definition, stating that Fifth Generation Warfare is defined
by data-driven, non-kinetic military action designed to take advantage of existing cognitive
biases and create new cognitive biases. Or as Abbott and Rees/Herring describe, “the deliberate
manipulation of an observer’s context in order to achieve a desired outcome.”

Fifth-generation warfare technologies have advanced to the point that when applied correctly, their
very use has been concealed. As we will describe further below in the Attribution Problem, in many
cases simply understanding who is behind a 5GW attack is impossible.

This means that a Fifth Generation Warfare conflict can be fought and won without a single bullet being fired,
or even most of the population knowing that a war is taking place. The following technologies and
techniques are often associated with 5GW. What’s important to note is that these technologies may
be used to heavily influence, or completely remove the need for kinetic combat:

  • Misinformation (Data Driven)
    • Deepfakes
  • Cyberattacks
    • Honeypots
  • Social engineering
  • Social media manipulation (Data Driven)
    • Decentralized and highly non attributable psychological warfare (memes, fake news)
  • Mass surveillance
    • Open-source intelligence
    • Commercially available Social media analytics
    • Open source and grey market Data Sets
    • Commercially available Satellite / SA imagery
    • Commercially available Electromagnetic intelligence
    • Cryptographic backdoors
  • Electronic warfare, with the rapid reduction in cost and availability thereof
    • Open source encryption/ DeFi / Community technology
    • Low cost Radios / SDRs
    • Quantum computers? (unclear if being used yet at scale)

Abbot finished his description of 5GW quite elegantly, quoting Clarke’s third law; “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

In Summary 5GW:

  • Is a war of information and perception
  • Targets existing cognitive biases of individuals and organizations
  • Creates new cognitive biases (social engineering)
  • Is different from classical warfare for the following reasons:
    • Focuses on the individual observer / decision maker
    • Is difficult or impossible to attribute
    • Nature of the attack is concealed

Below we will describe where current frameworks for warfare begin to unravel, and what we can do next.

Origins

The origins of 5GW as mentioned before are hotly contested, as data driven warfare combined with
propaganda date back at least to the end of WWII. Some of the best work in the space happened
around this time.

For our analysis, we focus on how networked mobile computing and big data analytics are being
used to drive decision making on a societal scale. While the “Handbook of 5GW” alludes to early
examples, the book was published before one of the most disruptive societal events had happened
since 9/11.

Fifth Generation Warfare
Egyptian protestors shine high powered lasers at a helicopter, disrupting its optics. (Source)

Precursors to 5GW: The First Accidental Fifth Generation Conflict

The Arab Spring represents a key turning point in warfare, emerging in Tunisia in 2008, and erupting
across North Africa in 2010. The Arab Spring was the first conflict to be driven by Social Media,
primarily Facebook and Twitter.

We had witnessed first-hand that a revolution or protest would show up first in the data, then on BBC
a few hours later. The conflict was manifesting itself online, and generating tremendous amounts of data
before any kinetic action would take place.

The Arab Spring lacks a few key elements of Fifth Generation Warfare, most notably the ambiguity of the opposing force. (Despite having some ambiguity as to who was fueling it. An interesting side note is that one of the main organizers of the Egyptian Revolution, Wael Ghonim, worked at Google at the time).

From our interactions with people involved during those early years of mostly privatized data
collection, the use of social media to cascade into a regional conflict was almost entirely accidental.
Because of that, we like to call The Arab Spring the first accidental fifth-generation conflict.

The societal echoes of the Arab spring continued to bounce around the planet, focusing a few years
later on Hong Kong and Taiwan during democratic protests in 2014. At this point, we begin to see a
new technology beginning to emerge: Decentralized technologies (or “zero trust systems” for those
of you who work in more conservative organizations like the DoD). During the Sep 2014 Hong Kong
protests, encrypted messaging apps were used heavily. When local cellular infrastructure was
“overloaded” protesters employed a decentralized Mesh networking app called Firechat- completely
bypassing Great Firewall restrictions. Governments were so disturbed by the event, Russia began
deploying its own electronic warfare units to protests.

Decentralized currencies like Bitcoin began to see popular use, For example during Occupy Wall
Street, 2011). While decentralized warfare is a key element of the 4GW definition, the coming
ambiguity of attackers and the use of big data and media as a weapon reinforcing one another takes us
into new realms.

Fitting a Fifth Generation Warfare puzzle piece into a Fourth generation playing field

While warfare has a long history of psychological operations and propaganda, conflict going online
has accelerated psychological warfare, reducing the feedback loops to milliseconds. Facebook
product teams have a word for this: “Dopamine Loops”. In the world of big tech, you can build, test,
deploy in a matter of minutes. Military, advertising, and political strategists are beginning to think
about how they can leverage over a hundred years of teachings in psychological warfare and combine this knowledge with data-driven, psychological feedback loops to influence behaviour.

We call this the Social Engine, Facebook (sorry “Meta”) calls it “business as usual”. The creation of
data-driven cognitive biases has already defined the past decade, everything from “swinging”
elections, to determining a Netflix script, or which celebrity will be in an advertisement for makeup.

In fact, we used GPT-3, an AI algorithm to write the italicized section of this paragraph. GPT-3 is a
predictive text entry program, which allows people to type words on their keyboard by predicting
keys that are likely to be typed. This allows us to influence cognitive biases by sneaking certain
ideas into peoples’ text, bypassing their critical thought processes altogether. People will then
replicate these messages in their own texts, and the spread of the content will be a reflection of the
users’ natural cognitive biases.

These capabilities are unseen in traditional warfare and do not fit well into the 4GW framework.

One of the main areas where 4th generation warfare begins to break down is the ambiguity of the
attacking force, in particular, “the cyber attribution problem”. This is related to the fact that software
engineers are actively hiding or misconstruing their identity while writing lines of code. In some
cases, hackers are even using modified cyberweapons leaked from NSA servers (see EternalBlue,
2017).

In a Fifth Generation of cyberwar, simply knowing who your enemy is can be nearly impossible.

The Attribution Problem

The cyber attribution problem has highlighted the problems of traditional warfare, as almost all
modern military doctrine requires knowing the identity of your enemy. This is where modern conflict
begins to get outright frightening. Governments have routinely stated that cyberattacks can and will
be responded to with kinetic force.

In the 2018 edition of the “U.S. Dept. of Defense Nuclear Posture Review” the U.S. government
states that they reserve the right to respond to “non-nuclear strategic attacks” with “the employment
of nuclear weapons”. The fatal flaw of nuclear deterrence is that it does not apply only to nuclear
weapons.

“The United States would only consider the employment of nuclear weapons in extreme
circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States, its allies, and partners. Extreme
circumstances could include significant non-nuclear strategic attacks.” (Insert Citation)

The Nuclear Posture Review itself mentions “Cyber” sixteen times. Considering some of the largest
cyberattacks in history was started by teenagers, (Mirai botnet, 2016) the impact of The Cyber
Attribution Problem on modern nuclear deterrent theory is quite literally insane.

“We used to be able to get into a room with an enemy, now they’re just floating in the ether,”
-M speaking to Bond in No Time to Die, 2021

A new era begins.

The Birth of Fifth Generation Warfare

Social media in its essence (along with most of the internet today) is driven by for-profit cognitive programming, also known as advertising. Ads along with the exponentially growing set of “Advertising” data generated by billions of people have now been weaponized. The amount of data that can be collected on an individual is increasing exponentially.

We argue that the first compelling case of Fifth Generation Warfare was the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. This includes complete ambiguity of the opposing force, wide-scale societal engineering using data (see Cambridge Analytica), organized counterattacks between government and social media companies, censorship, and the direct attack on the decision making process of billions of people.

We encourage you to read the leaked internal Facebook report detailing precisely how this is taking place from the perspective of a computer scientist. It’s fascinating and very scary: “Stop the Steal and Patriot Party: The Growth and Mitigation of an Adversarial Harmful Movement”).

Unfortunately, the 2016 presidential election gets too political for most readers, as their own cognitive biases prevent the creation of a subjective Fifth Generation Warfare framework. We may update this section in the future, and continue our story of 5GW with something far less controversial.

Israel, May 2021: Operation Guardian of the Walls

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are masters of information warfare. Israel even has their own propaganda division of the military, the IDF Spokesperson Unit. They have a pretty cool logo, representing the propagation of radio waves.

The first 5GW conflict to evolve into a kinetic battle (excluding the storming of the U.S. Capitol a few months before) took place during the 2021 Israel–Palestine conflict. On May 13th, 2021, the IDF announced falsely on Twitter, and on the record to The Wall Street Journal, that “IDF air and ground troops are currently attacking in the Gaza Strip”. The IDF had announced that an Israeli invasion of Gaza had begun.

The New York Times then reported the following day that the announcement had been a deception, that no Israeli troops had stepped foot into Gaza. IDF further clarified the statement declaring that the intent of the announcement was to expose opposing Hamas forces (presumably using unmanned ISR) and destroy tunnel networks with precision-guided munitions.

Katz and Bohbot describe separately in their book “Weapon Wizards, 2017”, how IMSI-catchers and cellular network analysis were used to previously identify and destroy Hamas tunnels. If an IMSI “teleports” from one place to another, it’s a tunnel. A single fighter (likely many) forgetting to turn off their cellular transmitters after the news reports may have resulted in massive, heavy bombing attacks. There is so much data in our corner of the universe, that the absence of data can even provide information.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit announced two weeks after operation “Guardian of The Walls”, that the conflict was the “First AI war”. IDF continued to describe a system built by Unit 8200 that fused “signal intelligence (SIGINT), visual intelligence (VISINT), human intelligence (HUMINT), geographical intelligence (GEOINT)”. While such battlefield management systems (BMS, or C5ISR) have existed for years before the 2021 Gaza crisis, the announcements themselves combined with social media deception and precision-guided munitions represent a stark contrast to the Lind definition of fourth-generation warfare.

The IDF example does however lack “ambiguity of the opposing force”, but does include many unprecedented techniques and technologies- most notably using media as a weapon combined with unmanned ISR.

From here take a quick coffee break, before we dive even deeper into the strange, mind-bending and brain-frying world of Fifth Generation Warfare.

A Syndrome in Havana: A Symptom of Fifth Generation Warfare?

Our last example, Havana Syndrome, includes the purest form of Fifth Generation Warfare we have witnessed to date. It is also one of the weirdest. Havana Syndrome checks all of the 5GW boxes:

  • Ambiguity of the opposing force.
  • Ambiguity of attack vector.
  • Dopamine loops.
  • Triggering existing cognitive biases in target.
  • Creating new cognitive biases.

In fact, Havana Syndrome is so obscure there is significant debate within the U.S. DoD on whether or not it even exists.

Havana Syndrome was first reported in and around the Cuban embassy in 2016 and has since been reported all around the world including Guangzhou, Hanoi, Berlin, and most notably Vienna, Austria.

Diplomats report hearing strange noises and headaches, resulting in significant neurological damage. The US Army Mad Science Lab interviewed Dr James Giordano, one of the doctors involved in researching the cases.

You should read the deleted report, it is extremely interesting: (Link to report)

As Dr James Giordano describes to the U.S. Army Mad Science Lab:

“To date, there are over 100 validated cases of personnel being afflicted with the subjective symptoms and clinically validated objective signs representative of Havana syndrome…

“ The acute symptoms are relatively ambiguous, in that some individuals report sensations of pressure in the head, ringing or buzzing in the ears, and feelings of confusion…

“The majority of the originally affected individuals, and many of those subsequently affected have shown long-lasting, discernible neurological features that are evident upon physiologic testing and imaging…”.

To make things even more interesting, the State Department recently declared that 5GW was no attack at all, simply a cricket, Anurogryllus Celerinictus, and that psychogenic effects were the primary cause of reported health issues.

The Army report has since been deleted. We do love 5GW!

The last we checked, there is no Anurogryllus Celerinictus in Vienna or Berlin, but go read the DoD report for yourself. The very nature of the attack being ambiguous, and the heated debates between DoD and even CIA officials over causes and existence make “Havana Syndrome” fit perfectly into our 5GW framework.

Take a look at the DoD report on crickets: (Source)

We surely have not seen the last of our friend Anurogryllus Celerinictus, and expect to see more attacks like this play out in the future. (We think it is a Massive MIMO attack using modded cell towers, but that’s story for another day)

History of Fifth Generation Warfare Summary:

5GW Checklist:

  • Ambiguity of the opposing force.
  • Ambiguity of attack vector.
  • Dopamine loops.
  • Triggering existing cognitive biases in target.
  • Creating new cognitive biases.
  • Emerges from The Arab Spring.
  • Solidified during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
  • The 2021 Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the first example of 5GW in kinetic battle.
  • Havana Syndrome is pure 5GW.

From here, the future is incredibly uncertain. We lie at the brink of WWIII in Europe. Deep Fakes are being created by both sides. It is more important now than ever to begin thinking about 5GW. We have attempted to organize a framework of thought.

Our thinking on this is evolving rapidly, as cognitive bias plays a role in influencing each section of the OODA loop. Here are some recommendations:

Observe: What’s happening. Understand the battlespace, attempt to single out the opponent or describe key attributes. Get as much data as you can and hire the best people who can work with that data. China is doing this by building a network of “AI consultancies” around the earth, along with backdooring apps for kids to feed massive amounts of data back to Beijing. The U.S. does this by working with Facebook, ISPs, and controlling Android. Hedge funds have a lot of this data as well. Maintain caution when developing your own mass surveillance tools, as this may accelerate the systemic issues in your society, and the enemy will target these weak points within your own team. Mass surveillance generally poses more risks to civilization than benefits. Is mass surveillance a deterrent technology? This is open for debate and becomes increasingly relevant in 5GW.

Orient: Attempt to understand any pre-existing cultural biases you may have. 5GW attacks the decision-making ability using the biases as cognitive tools of influence. What memes do you like or political groups you do prefer, what are your fetishes and dislikes? What skeletons do you have in the closet? How do you use social media? How’s your relationship going with a loved one? All of this data is being harvested from your internet history and the spatial web and will be used against you in a world of Fifth Gen targeted warfare. (Most of this data is commercially available on the grey market).

Once you establish a psychological baseline, we can try to separate cultural biases from cognitive biases. A meme you viewed the day before can certainly impact decisions you are going to make today. The only recommendation we have here so far is to reduce your digital attack surface, go spend time in nature, and meditate. Meditate on your pre-existing cultural biases to build a baseline and understand where your ego will play in your subconscious decision-making processes. Humans really haven’t progressed very far in understanding this front, and some of the best work on this is thousands of years old. We recommend starting with the Bhagavad Gita.

Decide: We now have to choose the best strategy to recover faster, move forward, and act with minimal damage. See if you can test your hypotheses, and watch out for making the same decision over and over again. In many cases, you simply have to “move fast and break things”, and make sure that when you do Act that you get data. Have the means to analyze this data at scale and a plan for a complete breakdown in communications. Ideally, you have some insanely large supercomputers to help you, the latest Facebook Graph, and that you watch out for biases in your own algorithms. In many cases the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System will already be orbiting, your servers will be on fire, your comms backdoored, and you won’t have the pleasure of testing your theories.

Act: Pull the trigger, and get as much possible data as you can in the aftermath. In the end, we’re all human, this is what will be used against us.

We Are only at The Beginning of 5GW

Hopefully, we could give you a quick overview of what the hell 5GW is, its history, and how we can begin thinking about it. Our definition of a 5GW framework is evolving, and we encourage you to contribute to the conversation and challenge our thinking.

Denying that 5GW exists is incredibly dangerous, and we see a tremendous divide between the hackers and cryptographers we speak to and officials in the public sector. Most people we speak to at the DoD think we’re completely crazy.

The attacks that we will begin to see will quickly evolve beyond “crickets” and into the bizarre and seemingly impossible. It’s easy to get rather depressed about a future of biological and nuclear deterrence, massive social engineering attacks, and hypersonic proliferation concerns. But we must always remain positive.

Thinking about the world in regards to limited resources, (a war of “us” vs. “them”) is the root of much of the world’s issues. Our economy is moving digital, and incredible technologies are coming online that solve most of the resource-driven conflicts that we have seen historically:

  • Petrochemical – Nuclear
  • Drought – Desalination
  • PetroDollar – DeFi
  • Disease – mRNA/ CRISPR
  • Advertising – Web3

Civilization requires a fundamental shift in our organizations and institutions towards a perspective of abundance, with a strong focus on defence based deterrence (e.g. password managers or the Iron Dome). Data is going to help us. Understanding and mastering 5GW is going to be key.

And to finish, we once asked a DARPA program manager how they stay optimistic about the future, having witnessed so many technologies that could wipe civilization off the face of this earth. The ex-program manager responded, “Civilization has been through a lot, they always get through!”

The future is going to be incredibly interesting, and we’re excited to see it.

5GW Recommendations:

  • Use the OODA loop to build a framework of thinking.
  • Defensive:
    • Understand basic cybersecurity: Use a password manager and hardware security keys. Understand your own biases, culture and those that have inflicted you (media, memes)
    • Meditate and understand your own biases
    • Map your electronic attack surface and Work to limit your digital footprint (e.g. who has access to your location data?)
    • Attain complete technology awareness on your domain
    • Map and visualize filter bubbles
    • Assume your entire network is going to get attacked, taken offline and have a plan
    • Do not underestimate blockchain, learn about zero knowledge proofs and DAOs. Read the Blockchain And Decentralized Systems by Pavel Kravchenko for everything you need to know technically. Read The Sovereign Individual for a good understanding on the societal implications.
    • Assume all commercial cryptography is either backdoored or will be broken during the next great conflict
    • Map your cryptographic roots or trust and have a key management plant
    • Invest in modern communications equipment and “zero trust systems”
    • Pay for security audits and Red teams if you are an organisation
    • Red team your systems.
    • Red team your people, perform simulated phishing exercises.
  • Offensive:
    • 5GW is mostly defensive, but there are a few things to be done.
    • Inoculation Theory. A fairly new concept for resisting social engineering, but a focus on reinforcing an idea by presenting the intended target with weak counterarguments. A recommendation from Over The Horizon: (Link)
    • Surveillance, Controversial but effective, at least in understanding a baseline.
    • Censorship. Social media companies are a business of influencing cognitive bias.
    • Generation of fake and alternative profiles and data, hide in the randomness. See Sybil attack, sock puppet accounts.
    • Meme warfare.
    • Make social media algorithms accountable and open. This is a major problem today as social media reinforces cognitive biases, generally for profit.

Essential reading on the history and future of propaganda, and information warfare:

  • Massenpsychologie (Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego), Sigmund Freud, 1921.

  • Propaganda, Edward Bernays, 1928 (heavily inspired Propaganda Minister Goebbels).

  • The Ultra Secret, F.W. Winterbotham, 1974. The first “tech leak”, the book goes into detail in the breaking of the Enigma Codes at Bletchley Park, along with the propaganda campaigns organized by Churchill and Special Liaison Officers to hide Ultra’s use.

  • Berlin Diary William L. Shirer, 1941. Describes the compelling account of WWII breaking out in Europe as it’s happening, as described by a CBS news correspondent. His descriptions of Nazi propaganda and arguments with censors is fascinating.

  • Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, 2007. Just read it.

  • Snow Crash Neal Stephenson, 1992. (Science Fiction) An extremely entertaining account on information warfare, literally defined the “MetaVerse” and “Avatar”

Confidential

Mozambique Crisis: 6 Month Outlook

Mozambique Crisis 6 month
PEMBA, Mozambique (Feb. 4, 2019) Military members from the Tanzania People’s Defence Force. Photo by the U.S. Department via Rawpixel.

Summary

Mozambique is shattered by the ongoing economic, humanitarian, political, and security crisis. Since 2017, Mozambique, especially the northern area of Cabo Delgado, is under the siege of Al-Shabaab (Mozambique) and the Islamic State in Central Africa Province (ISCAP) insurgents. Terrorist attacks in Cabo Delgado have planned to disrupt international investments in natural gas. The reserves of natural gas in Mozambique are worth $60 billion, representing one of the most valuable resources of the territory. Therefore, the disruption of these investments put Mozambican’s economy in a tough spot, creating socioeconomic instability and the population’s dissatisfaction. In 6 months, the Mozambique crisis is likely to improve through counterinsurgency maneuvres and international humanitarian aid.  

Key Judgement 1

Al-Shabaab (Mozambique) and the Islamic State in Central Africa Province (ISCAP) are unlikely to disappear from Cabo Delgado in the next 6 months.

  • Since the first terrorist attack on 5 October 2017, Al-Shabaab’s (Mozambique) militants have dominated Cabo Delgado province. Until 2021, the violent insurgency killed at least 3,000 civilians and displaced 800,000. 
  • However, Al-Shabaab (Mozambique) found fertile grounds in Mozambique to recruit new militants.
  • The extremist group exploited the weaknesses of the Mozambican government as an advantage to carry on the insurgency. 
  • The corruption scandal of 2016—the hidden debt of $2.7 billion-damaged the Mozambican economy, leaving the population in economic instability. Al-Shabaab(Mozambique) exploited the population’s dissatisfaction and desperation to recruit new fighters.
  • Moreover, human rights violations and people displacement due to government resource extraction are identifiable as the main drivers to join Al-Shabaab(Mozambique).

Key Judgement 2

The intervention of SADC and the Rwandan troops is likely to decrease the armed uprising in Mozambique in next 6 months.

  • The Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Rwandan troops are trying to contain the insurgency in Cabo Delgado with the help of the European Union and the US.
  • In August 2021, the US launched a military program to improve the battlefield capabilities of Mozambican commandos and rangers. 
  • On the 12 January 2022, the SADC extended their mandate in Mozambique. 

Key Judgment 3

The Mozambique crisis will likely improve the humanitarian crisis and guarantee socioeconomic development in the next 6 months.

  • SADC’s counterinsurgency campaign is trying to give partial stability to Cabo Delgado. However, socioeconomic development and humanitarian aid can provide the total stability of the province.
  • Indeed, to restore peace in Cabo Delgado, the Mozambican government needs to rebuild the trust with their citizens.
  • The corruption scandal of 2016 and the human rights violation against artisanal ruby miners in Montepuez were the main drivers of discontent. 
  • The USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance is already assisting the humanitarian crisis in Cabo Delgado, including food, protection, and shelter. Indeed, it is likely that the humanitarian assistance will increase if SADC’s counterinsurgency campaign is successful. 
  • Finally, the Mozambique LNG Project needs to be restored to provide socioeconomic benefits and stability.

Intelligence Cut-off Date (ICOD): 21-03-2022

Confidential

GPS Spoofing: Pioneered in Russia

GPS Spoofing
Russian Soldier settin-up an electro magnetic antenna

GPS Spoofing, by its nature, mimics global positioning signals to provide false positives. The main actor in the rise of spoofing is Russia.

Key Judgements

KJ–1. Russia is almost certainly at the forefront of developing large-scale GNSS spoofing capabilities. Over 9,000 spoofing incidents were recording within Russian waters between 2016 and 2018.

KJ–2. Incidents surrounding the Kerch Strait is almost certainly one of the most concerning areas in which spoofing has been deployed. Misdirecting shipping through Ukraine’s only access to oceans in the East has the potential to increase tension in the area further.

KJ–3. Individuals and small groups can make spoofing devices. However, these open-sourced tools, which cost less than $300 to make do not provide the same amount of threat that a militarised system presently provides.

Why is this Important?

With GPS being ubiquitous around the world, preloaded onto the majority of smartphones and global militaries relying on various global positioning systems, the ability to misdirect an active target is almost certainly one of the most dangerous evolutions in electronic warfare.

Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) misdirection (spoofing) goes above what is capable with a common GPS Jammer. A GPS Jammer is relatively common, with cheap options available on eBay for as little as £22, and information freely available online on how to use them. Their usage is often not nefarious in intention with regard to public safety. Taxi drivers, as an example, may use these to prevent companies from spying on what they deem as personal information. However, these devices can still cause damage within several kilometres, affecting all users locally as well as systems on the same frequency (EG: 5G) of GPS.

Russian GPS Spoofing
The Krasukha is a Russian mobile, ground-based, electronic warfare (EW) system

GPS Spoofing

Spoofing, in contrast, is almost certainly only nefarious in use and can cause much more disruption. 

The idea of Spoofing a GNSS signal and jamming are two very different notions. Jamming by nature is more of a brute force technique that will stop all signals coming in or out of a certain area. Spoofing, in contrast, is a much more calculated and underhand technique that pretends to be an original signal to a target.

Although commonly referred to as GPS spoofing, this nature of attack targets GNSS, rather than the United States GPS network specifically. Any system using GNSS, such as GPS, the European Union’s new Galileo system, Russia’s Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) and others can be targeted.

Spoofing also requires the false signal to be stronger than the legitimate one. False signals can lead to a target either appearing in a different area than it occupies, to slight course changes that can lead vehicles into dangerous areas and enemy territory. The University of Texas in 2013 demonstrated how this could be done in an inauspicious way that would make it unlikely that a false signal would be noticed. In a demonstration, they managed to spoof the signal of a superyacht, changing course by 3 degrees. With the ship out at sea, the only sense of direction the crew had was the GPS, resulting in an unrecognised change of direction.

Russian GPS Spoofing

The main actor in the rise of spoofing is Russia, almost certainly the main force behind the development of spoofing. The most notable incidents have taken place either within Russia or in and around its territorial waters.

In June of 2017, there were reports of multiple ships within Russian waters in the Black Sea experiencing problems with global positioning systems. Although they were in the sea in between Turkey and Ukraine, the GPS in 20 ships showed their position being within an airport in Sochi.

However, one of the most concerning areas in which GPS was spoofed was within the Kerch Strait. Vessels traversing this waterway were being sent signals that positioned them either within the Simferopol airport in Crimea, or within Anapa airport on the Russian mainland on the east bank. On the 15th of September 2016 and 15th of May 2018, Vladimir Putin visited the Kerch Bridge. 

On both occasions, it was the only official visit by Putin in the year and the only spoofing incidents in the year in Kerch. In 2016, ships were told that their present location was at Simferopol airport 200km away in Crimea, while the 2018 event was when the vessels were told that they were currently located in Anapa Airport 65km away.

The Kerch Strait is a key waterway for both Ukraine and the Russians. Ukraine uses the Azov sea as its only connection to open oceans and world trade, while Russia is seeking to control the area since the annexation of Crimea. With Russia building up its fleet in the area and Ukraine disputing its now lack of commercial ship access due to the bridge being built only having a 33m height, the deployment of spoofing equipment in the area is almost certainly an indicator that the Russians plan to deploy it in anger at some point in the near future.

GPS Spoofing

The Center for Advanced Defense (C4ADS) released a report that detailed 9,883 vessels in Russia, Crimea and also Syria between February of 2016 and November of 2018. The Russian mainland locations were:

  • Moscow
  • Petersburg
  • Gelendzhik
  • Arkhangelsk
  • Vladivostok

Crimean locations were:

  • The Kerch Strait
  • Sevastopol
  • Olyba

The Russian Khmeimim airbase in Syria was also detected to have had GPS spoofing operations.

What’s Next in GPS Spoofing?

Although spoofing originally was only used in the hands of the state military, it is slowly being co-opted by individuals as technology is disseminated. A Japanese Researcher, Takuju Ebinuma, has posted a GPS signal-simulator on GitHub. Not only is this software now open-source, but there are now researchers developing and testing homemade spoofing equipment that is almost certainly near consumer-ready in the next 2-3 years.

Spoofer design created by researchers at Virginia Tech, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China & Microsoft Research

Although these designs are becoming consumer-friendly and easy to create for a backroom hacker, there are significant drawbacks for non-military spoofers.

  • They need to be within close proximity of any target (Either on the vehicle itself – or in a drone flying, above for example)
  • Pre-defined knowledge of a route is needed for an effective attack against human-controlled vehicles.
  • If an individual knows where they are going, it won’t work.

Conclusion

GNSS spoofing, although evolving at a rapid rate, is still early in development and will likely not be a common danger within the next two years. Despite this, Russian deployments of the technology warrant caution and further investigation and indicate they are highly likely the leaders in the development of this technology. Military uses of spoofing almost certainly represent a greatly increased threat than individual actors using the technology at present. Although its primary use at present is focused on shipping and other transport, its use on drones, aeroplanes and other vehicles in a warfare setting represent a heightened threat should it be deployed on the battlefield.

Image: Russian MOD (link)

Image2: Virginia Tech (link)

This article was first published on the 15th of April 2021

Confidential

LOVEINT: Cyber-Stalking by Spies

LOVEINT

LOVEINT Definition

A term coined by NSA staff refers to the practice of using access to surveillance technology to gather intelligence on partners or love interests. Simply put, LOVEINT is the practice of cyber-stalking. The term plays on the naming of intelligence collection techniques with the suffix ‘INT’, such as HUMINT referring to Human Intelligence.

LOVEINT’s History

Although it is reasonable to suspect that LOVEINT is not a new phenomenon and that spies likely throughout history have gone beyond their remit and snooped on their loved ones, it was not until 2013 that such abuses of power were officially confirmed.


In 2013, the NSA admitted that there had been several incidents of agency officers wilfully violating NSA protocols in order to spy on their love interests. Despite the NSA stating that there were only a limited number of these incidents, the practice was well-known enough to gain its own term ‘LOVEINT’ within the agency.
After these revelations, Senator Diane Feinstein, chair of the Senate intelligence committee, stated that the misconduct involving surveillance of spouses or love interests ‘in most instances’ did not intrude on the private information of Americans. However, most of these instances of misconduct were self-reported. Moreover, with an NSA audit from spring 2012 finding 2,776 cases of “unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications” from the preceding 12 months, it is possible that LOVEINT is more widespread than the NSA would suggest.


In each of the officially reported cases of misconduct, the NSA stated that disciplinary action was taken, including termination of employment, demotion in rank, temporary reduction in salary, restricted access to NSA software and recommendations for limited security clearance. However, specific evidence for disciplinary action against NSA officers was never provided. Such information was also not provided to the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time, Senator Patrick Leahy after he specifically requested it.

Privatisation of LOVEINT

The rapid growth of independent intelligence companies in recent years has led to the problem of LOVEINT also developing in the private sector. According to several sources, in 2016 an employee of the private Israeli digital surveillance company NSO Group was fired after being found to have used advanced company software to spy on a female acquaintance.


The NSO Group rose to prominence after developing a spyware program named Pegasus and providing this software to at least 10 governments and regimes as well as state security services in 40 undisclosed countries. The popularity of the program among security services and governments was due to its ability to covertly transform a mobile phone into a tool of constant surveillance. The Pegasus program grants operatives and clients of the NSO Group access to any messages sent or received through the phone on encrypted platforms, access to the camera and microphone to covertly record a target, as well as the ability to eavesdrop on calls.


The NSO Group employee caught participating in LOVEINT in 2016 was noticeably sloppy. He accessed the Pegasus program, despite the knowledge that clients of the NSO Group are alerted when their Pegasus program software is being used. As such, the NSO client in the UAE government promptly reported the unauthorised use of the program and the employee was swiftly identified and subsequently admitted to his misconduct.


After the 2016 incident, the NSO Group improved its security processes to try and prevent such misconduct from reoccurring, including the introduction of biometric checks. However, these procedures are only likely to deter operatives who have limited knowledge of the system or are amateurish in their attempt to misuse surveillance programs. Operatives with an advanced understanding of the program and the security checks, as well as individuals of a more senior rank, could still potentially evade these mechanisms.


With fewer checks and accountability in the private sector, it is the responsibility of the company to prevent and root out misconduct. Due to the nature of private intelligence companies allowing them to be independent and justifiably secretive, there may be more opportunity for LOVEINT to occur without sufficient oversight, compared with public sector agencies, if conducted by technically capable operatives or senior level staff.

Psychology of Cyber-Stalking

Although given a tongue-in-cheek name by NSA staff members, LOVEINT can be simply classified as cyber-stalking by spies.


Therefore, to understand the psychology of LOVEINT, one must only look into the psychology of cyber-stalkers. According to a study conducted by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, “for men, cyberstalking intimate partners may be best explained as impulsive, sensation-seeking behaviour. Men may be drawn to the thrilling, taboo nature of secretly checking up on their current or former partners.”. In comparison, the study found that “For women, cyberstalking intimate partners may be explained by feelings of inadequacy and inferiority (vulnerable narcissism). Women who are highly sensitive to rejection may cyberstalk their partners in an effort to avoid rejection.”.


Spies are human as well, therefore we can expect some operatives within the national security sector to display these personality traits. However, the types of people attracted to such roles may increase the likelihood of LOVEINT cyber-stalking occurring. Despite very few psychological studies being conducted on spies and national security professionals, due to the nature of their work, we can presume the types of personalities that are attracted to such a lifestyle. As the study detailed above suggests, cyber-stalking performed by men is likely in those with “sensation-seeking behaviour”, which is a probable personality trait of men who seek work in national security due to the apparent thrill of spying on threatening actors.


Moreover, Dr Michele Galietta, Professor of Psychology at the City University of New York, noted that stalkers usually have “very narrow interests, very little leisure activity, variable other social interactions; so these tend to be their primary relationships.”. Due to the workload, commitment, and intense interest in subjects regarding national security that is required to work in the national security sector, it is likely that a sizeable amount security professionals fit this profile.


This is not to suggest that most spies are stalkers or potential stalkers. On the contrary, agencies aim to recruit individuals that are highly conscientious and use psychological testing to ensure this. Therefore, it is almost certain that most security professionals are not inclined to take part in misconduct to cyber-stalk love interests. Nevertheless, some less conscientious individuals slip through the cracks of the recruitment/screening process and abuse their power.

Democratisation of LOVEINT?

There is an alarming new trend of publicly available spyware being downloaded and used by members of the public to cyber-stalk their partners. In Britain, the use of what has been named ‘stalkerware’ apps has increased by 93% during the pandemic.


Alike to the Pegasus program, these apps allow individuals to secretly download software onto another person’s phone and gain access to their exact location, encrypted messages, private images and videos, emails, texts and permits eavesdropping on and recording of phone conversations. However, unlike the Pegasus program, this software can only be installed by someone with direct access to their target’s phone or who knows their cloud details. As a result, this software is often bought and used by individuals who wish to monitor people they are in a close relationship with.


Disturbingly, these apps are advertised as being made to monitor children, employees and loved ones.
As a result of the public availability of these apps, domestic abusers and stalkers have been given the technological means to monitor the location and private lives of their victims. Unfortunately, Jaya Baloo, a chief information security officer at Avast, stated that attempts to block access to these apps through vetting and verification processes is alike to playing “Whack-A-Mole”. This is due to the same spyware reappearing under a different app name or similar software being provided by a different company.

Conclusion

Although LOVEINT may be rare in national intelligence agencies, the recent growth of private surveillance companies, as well as the public availability of ‘stalkerware’ apps, has radically reduced oversight for individuals misusing intrusive software to monitor their partners and love interests. To tackle this growing problem, stronger regulation of private intelligence companies is required, as well as legislation limiting public access to ‘stalkerware’ apps.


Moreover, to ensure the proper compliance of operatives of national surveillance agencies, oversight bodies need to be empowered further. Despite LOVEINT within national agencies being a rare occurrence, such wilful misconduct and the subsequent punitive action should be readily accessible to oversight bodies. This will not only ensure that agencies effectively deal with operatives who abuse their power, but may also increase public trust in surveillance agencies. This is especially relevant considering a recent report released on January 31st, 2022, by the NSA Inspector General, stating that NSA operatives in several instances had failed to comply with official procedures or policy requirements intended to prevent the illegal or improper monitoring of American citizens.

Confidential

CSOR: The Canadian Special Operations Regiment

The Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) is a special forces unit part of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM). Along with conducting complex missions and being able to operate in harsh environments, CSOR is also capable of cooperating and working alongside other international elite units.

CSOR Operators during an airshow in Canada

History of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment

On the 1st of February 2006, the Canadian Army established the Canadian Special Operations Regiment. However, it traces its roots to the First Special Service Force (FSSF). The FSSF, created in 1942, was an American-Canadian special forces unit. It was also known as the “Devil’s Brigade” because of its ability to raid during the night the Nazi forces at the Anzio beachhead.

Straight after its establishment, the recruitment took place and 175 candidates registered for the first CSOR selection course. At the end of the course, on the 13th of August 2006, the Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, in Ottawa, hosted the official stand-up ceremony for CSOR.

The first commanding officer of CSOR was Lieutenant Colonel Jamie Hammond. Since its creation, the unit went to hot spots such as Afghanistan, Libya, and Mali, due to its operations skills and abilities. This highly-trained unit focuses on reconnaissance, support of other elite units, rescue, direct action, and training of foreign special forces.

Structure

CSOR’s current commanding officer is Lieutenant Colonel Michael Laplante and the regimental sergeant major is Chief Warrant Officer Jeff Chalmer.

The Canadian Special Operations Regiment is part of the CANSOFCOM, which also consists of the Joint Task Force 2 (JTF-2), the Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit, the 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron, and the Canadian Special Operations Training.

Organisational Chart of CANSOFCOM

The Canadian Special Operations Regiment has between 700 and 800 personnel and the average age is around 30.

The selection process is open to both male and female individuals. In 2006, the first enlisted woman completed the whole process and became a badged operator. However, the individuals need prior military experience, in order to apply.

High levels of motivation and physical fitness are required to complete the CSOR Assessment Centre, which is a crucial phase of the selection.

Personnel can join as either Special Forces Operator or Special Operations Supporter. In the first case, the individuals are specialists directly employed in the tactical aspects of the missions. In the latter, the role consists of support personnel to the staff officer and other positions within the unit. 

Responsibilities of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment

CSOR is a Tier 2 Unit, even though it is considered the “sister” of the JTF2, which is Tier 1. CSOR’s role is to support the Tier 1 units, especially during the operations.

The main goal of the CSOR is to execute missions abroad or in Canada on behalf of the Canadian government.

Other tasks include:

  • Conduct Non-Combatant Evacuation Operation (NEO)
  • Infiltrate and exfiltrate to and from operational areas
  • Manipulating support and personal weapons systems
  • Conduct Direct Action
  • Disrupting enemy defensive systems

They have to perform these tasks by being able to:

  • Climbing cliffs and ladders
  • Parachuting
  • Rappelling
  • Conducting close-quarters battle (CQB)
  • Disarming
  • Lifting and pulling
  • Executing battle drills in various types of terrain and weather
(Video; CSOR Training Exercise; via canmildoc on YouTube)

Training

The process to become a member of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment is long and tough. The training that the recruits have to go through is highly selective and rigorous. In 2006, for the first selection course, 300 soldiers applied, 175 were selected and only 125 completed the training.

The general requirements for the candidates are:

  • Minimum two years of military service for Regular forces, and three years for Reserves.
  • Complete the Pre-Screening Physical Fitness Test (PFT)
  • Complete a parachute training
  • Obtain security clearance

The CSOR PFT for Special Forces Operator candidates consists of:

  • 20 metres shuttle run
  • Minimum 40 press-ups and 40 sit-ups in one minute
  • Minimum five pull-ups
  • Combat Swim Test that consists of 25 metre swim in combat uniform, boots, rifle and no flotation
  • Loaded March of 13 kilometres with 35kg in less than two hours and 26 minutes
  • Casualty evacuation of a similar size soldier (minimum 70kg) to a distance of 25 metres carrying their own and the casualty’s weapon.
The Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR)
CSOR members conduct a freefall jump out of a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III during Exercise Emerald Warrior in 2013

The PFT for Special Operations Supporter is different since the number of skills and the amount of knowledge required is less than the one for a Special Forces Operator. It consists of:

  • Basic military Swim Test that includes rudimentary swimming skills and water safety knowledge

  • Loaded March of 13 kilometres with 24.5kg in less than two hours and 26 minutes

  • Casualty evacuation of a similar size soldier (minimum 70kg) to a distance of 25 metres carrying their own and the casualty’s weapon.

Those who complete the whole selection process and training receive the regiment’s tan beret and join either the Special Forces Company, one of the three Direct Action Companies, or the Support Company.

Equipment

The Canadian Special Operations Regiment badge consists of a V-42 stiletto, which was the fighting knife of the FSSF and represents a link to the FSSF and the CANSOFCOM.

The golden wings signify swiftness, which symbolises the unit’s readiness to be deployed abroad or in Canada. The laurel wreath represents the knowledge of the unit and the willingness of the operators to be educators as well.

The crossed arrows signify friendship and honour the 1st Canadian Special Service Battalion, considered as the founding Canadian special operations force unit.

The motto of the CSOR is “Audeamus”, which means “Let us dare”, referencing the ability of the unit to face any kind of challenge.

The Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR)
The CSOR badge

The CSOR, in addition to Canadian Army standard issue equipment, also uses the following weaponry:

Pistols

  • Browning 9mm Pistol
  • SIG Sauer 9mm P226

Others

  • Heckler & Koch 9mm MP5
  • Remington 870P
  • C7A2 5.56mm Automatic Rifle
  • C8A3 Carbine Rifle
Canadian Special Operations Regiment
Canadian Special Operations Forces Command Operator firing a Colt Canada C8 with IUR, EOTech holographic sight, LA-5 laser sight, and Maximum Defense CQB stock

International Exercises

In 2008, the CSOR was sent to Jamaica to train the Jamaica Defence Force. The training consisted of shooting, tactics, basic military skills, assistance in first aid, and close quarter battle.

The Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR)
CSOR soldiers sent to Jamaica to train the Jamaica Defence Force

Since 2011, the CSOR took part in Exercise Flintlock. In that year, 14 soldiers of the CSOR trained members of Mali’s military in Senegal.

In 2016, more than a hundred personnel went to Senegal in February to train on counter-terrorism skills members of the Niger’s Army. Their training focused on how to work together and new tactics.

An Operator with the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command observe Forces Armed Niger (FAN) during direct action training during EXERCISE FLINTLOCK 16 in Senegal, February 2016.

In 2013 the CSOR attended an international special forces competition in Jordan and reached third place, after the Chinese Snow Leopard Commando unit and a Chinese Special Police team. The competition focused on the counter-terrorism skills of military and law enforcement units. The competition, which hosted 35 units from 18 countries, consisted of shooting exercises, aircraft assault, handling casualties, and building entry.

CSOR soldier in Jordan

In November 2016, the unit went to Belize to take part in Exercise Tropical Dagger. The exercise comprehended Members of the Belize Defence Force and Jamaica Defence Force. The exercise consisted of advanced training of small arms, operational planning, close quarter battle techniques, and advanced jungle training.

The Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR)
The CSOR during the Exercise Tropical Dagger in Belize

CSOR’s Missions

The Canadian Special Operations Regiment was present in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2014, supporting Canada’s mission. CSOR was mainly responsible for training the local forces, including the Afghan Provincial Response Company (PRC). On the other hand, on some occasions, CSOR took part in battles against the insurgents. One of these battles took place in May 2011.

The morning of the 7th of May 2011 seemed just like any other day. The CSOR, located in Base Graceland, Kandahar City, was getting ready for the day. It all changed afternoon when the first bullets were heard. The Taliban were attacking three different locations in Kandahar City and were positioning bombs around the building where they were hiding. With the intervention of the PRC, the CSOR decided to go with them to provide support.

The insurgents managed to hide into a three-storey building and for hours they kept their position, making it hard for the CSOR and the PRC to attack them. After many attempts by Sergeant Sebastian, Captain Dave, the CSOR’s Captain, called in the Joint Task Force 2 (JTF-2). At first light, on the 8th of May 2011, the CSOR and JTF-2, with a combined attack, managed to defeat the insurgents, securing the objective. For their role in this battle, Captain Dave and Sergeant Sebastian received the Star of Military Valour.

While in Afghanistan, on the 24th of June 2011, the regiment lost its first member, Master-Corporal Francis Roy. He died in Kandahar Province in a non-combat accident.

Since 2014, the CSOR is also involved in Iraq. The Canadian contribution to the fight against the Islamic State is called Operation Impact. Op Impact is part of a bigger US-led mission, called Operation Inherent Resolve. The role of CSOR consists of training and supporting the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and the Kurdish Peshmerga. Their support consists of training in combat skills, such as sniper and mortar training, in the medical field, and in advanced tactical battlefield skills. The unit, while in Iraq, takes also part in intelligence gathering and planning.

In 2015, Sergeant Andrew Joseph Doiron was killed by friendly fire. His death marked the first Canadian casualty in Iraq.

CSOR soldiers in Iraq embedded with the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters

Last year, in 2021, the Canadian Special Operations Regiment was sent once again to Afghanistan to evacuate the staff in the Canadian embassy in Kabul and destroy anything sensitive.

Since January 2022, Canadian special forces among which the CSOR were deployed to Ukraine due to the rising tensions between Russia and NATO. Other than supporting Ukraine’s Security Forces, the CSOR has the task of developing evacuation plans for Canadian diplomatic personnel in case of a Russian invasion.