Confidential

Violence in Mexico: 12 Month Outlook Gang Cartels

gang cartels 2023
Mexican journalists silently marched in downtown Mexico City in protest of the kidnappings, murder and violence against their peers throughout the country. Photo by Knight Foundation via Flickr.

Summary

Mexican drug cartels dominate the international distribution of drugs in the American continent. In December 2006, the US and Mexican governments began to wage a “War on Drugs” to reduce the presence of drug cartels in Mexico and illegal drug demand abroad. Despite the efforts, drug cartels are still present and flourish in Mexico. Indeed, the flourishment of drug cartels has been responsible for the escalation of violence since 2006. One hundred ninety-eight active crime groups are still fighting for territorial legitimacy and drug trafficking supremacy in Mexico. In the next 12 months, gang cartels will likely continue affecting civilians and US interests

Key Judgement 1

Fighting is likely to increase for gang cartels trafficking hegemony in the next 12 months.

  • In Tulum, ten drug cartels are currently fighting over drug sales, while also causing civilian deaths.
  • Since 2006, 150,000 people have died due to drug cartels violence. 
  • The high presence of tourists in the coastal zone of Acapulco, Cancun, Puerto Morelos, and Tulum represents the most lucrative areas for the drug trade. Therefore, cartels are fighting to obtain hegemony of the drug street-level dealing. 
  • Additionally, cartels are fighting to control the drug smuggling routes to the US. Indeed, On the 7th of January 2022, nine bodies were found on a highway in Veracruz, a region bordering the Gulf of Mexico. 

Key Judgement 2

Corruption in the Mexican government and police forces is likely to reinforce drug cartels in the next 12 months.

  • Mexican government’s corruption facilitates the criminal-business enterprise and reinforces their chances of survival.
  • Genaro García Luna, leader of the Mexican federal police 2006-2012, helped the Sinaloa cartel to smuggle drugs to the US in exchange for $3 million. 
  • In 2019, judge Isidro Avelar Gutierrez was sanctioned for taking bribes from the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and Los Cuinis Drug Trafficking Organization.

Key Judgement 3

The Mexican government is likely to press for additional US assistance to fight drug cartels in the next 12 months.

  • Since 2007, the US government has invested $3.3 billion in the Mexican War on Drugs, however did not reduce gang violence in Mexico. 
  • The Merida Initiative is coming to an end due to its current inefficacy. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard are calling for a new agreement with the United States.
  • The deal will tackle crime, funding, and migration issues. 
Confidential

Mexico’s Affliction: Recruitment and Training in Cartel Land

Cartel Recruitment and Training

2018 saw unprecedented violence in Mexico. According to Animal Politico, in 2018 the number of homicides in Mexico increased in 27 of the country’s 32 states. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has responded by deploying 60,000-National Guardsmen to eight states accounting for half of the country’s homicides. The deteriorating public security situation in Mexico can be in large part attributed to the evolving landscape of the country’s infamous drug cartels. In recent years, larger cartels have dissolved and fragmented into smaller, but more volatile, groups.

For example, dominant criminal organizations, such as the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG) and the Zetas, have either splintered or are threatened by smaller groups that are diversifying their criminal portfolios and using brute force to conquer new territory. In this increasingly fragmented market, the survival of the cartels also depends on recruitment and training of their foot soldiers. For obvious reasons, the world of cartel recruitment and training has largely remained in the shadows.

‘You will be working for the CJNG’

CJNG is itself a splinter group of the Sinaloa Cartel that arose after the arrest and extradition of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, aka “El Chapo”. The Attorney General’s Office estimates that the cartel operates in 28 of the country’s 32 states. The group now faces its own breakaway faction in its home town of Guadalajara, the Nueva Plaza Cartel. CJNG also is at war with the Santa Rosa de Lima cartel over illicit activities, like oil theft in Guanajuato. 

A recent piece by Insight Crime, which was originally published in Spanish by Sin Embargo via Telemundo, provides a rare glimpse of the recruitment and training of new members by CJNG cartel. It tells the story of Francisco, a name he has given to protect his identity, that meets a man at a bar in a southern Mexico state, who he would later find out was one of the children of CJNG leader Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, alias “El Mencho.” Francisco says he was looking for a job as a security guard and was offered training in the mountains of Guadalajara. Yet, he would come to find out that he would be working for CJNG.

Francisco spent three months in a training camp in Talpa de Allende, a municipality in western Jalisco state. He and his 19 companions were subjected to physical and psychological resistance tests, as well as loyalty tests. He tells the story of one recruit who failed to properly assemble a gun and was quickly killed by one of the cartel “trainers”.

Any means necessary

 

According to Mexican media, some 200 people have disappeared in the Tala de Allende area since 2013. Many are believed to have fallen victim to CJNG recruitment. However, the tactic described by Francisco is only one of many brutal strategies used by the cartel. In March 2016, authorities claim the cartel had set up a “ghost” business named Segmex advertising security jobs, entrapped recruits, and then forced them to attend training. In 2017, the El Pais newspaper said that cartels even place false advertisements for positions such as pollsters and local police officers on the social media platforms to lure recruits.

Only the tip of the iceberg

Twenty-three CJNG sites were uncovered between 2013-18 alone, with at least four known to be used for training. According to Jalisco’s state attorney office, these sites had between 50 and 60 CJNG members overseeing up to 40 captive recruits. While, training sites have been uncovered across the country over the last decade, from the Guatemalan to the U.S. border.

Back in 2006, Guatemalan police uncovered a training camp run by the Zetas. It had an airstrip, an obstacle course, and a shooting range with moving targets. In the same year, at least 6training camps were identified in northern Tamaulipas and Nuevo León states, some within a few miles of the Texas border, according to the testimony of five protected witnesses who were trained in the camps. Recruits at these ‘military-style’ camps included American teenagers. At the time, the Zetas cartel were known to have invested about 50% of their earnings on training, recruitment, and intelligence-gathering.

Cartel Recruitment and Training

Cartel blowback

Despite the aggressive recruitment of civilians, cartels have long depended on the expertise of elite soldiers for their upper ranks. This first became known in the 1990s when the Gulf cartel actively recruited Mexican special forces to create its own paramilitary force unit, known as the Zetas, who later turned on the Gulf Cartel and established their own outfit. Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, an associate professor at George Mason University and author of Zetas Inc., told the Guardian that “what we do know is that special forces helped turn Mexico’s narcos into the paramilitary armed groups we see today.”

According to Mexico’s defence ministry, about 1,383 elite soldiers deserted between 1994 and 2015. These deserters included those trained in counter-terrorism, counter-intelligence, interrogation and strategy from French, Israeli and US advisers, according to a 2005 FBI intelligence document. Ex-special forces from Guatemala to Colombia are also known to have joined the cartel ranks in mass over the decades. The question is whether Mexico’s National Guard is up for this seemingly insurmountable challenge.

Image: Candysdirt / Youtube  — (link1) / (link2)

Confidential

AMLO’s New Plan for Security in Mexico

AMLO

On 1 Jul 2018, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, or AMLO as he is known in Mexico, won the presidency by a landslide. The two-time presidential candidate and former mayor of Mexico City campaigned on a new approach to the country’s deteriorating security crisis, promising to de-militarize law enforcement efforts and address the social issues that he says are the root causes of violence.

Since 2006, the drug war has left more than 200,000 dead, 40,000 disappeared, and approximately 26,000 unidentified corpses and over 1,100 mass graves. The violence has also directly affected local politicians, journalists, and women. In 2012, the drug war death toll was around 15,000, but peaked in 2018 with more than 33,000 murders, up by 15% from 2017.  

Alfonso Durazo, the new secretary of public security, pledged a radically different approach to the “repressive strategy” that has been in force since 2006 when former president Felipe Calderón deployed the military to wage a war on drugs. But in an interview with WPR, Eric Olson, a global fellow and security expert with the Mexico Institute at The Wilson Center in Washington, says a closer look at AMLO’s policies since he took office in December reveals “a sharp departure” from his campaign rhetoric.

AMLO

The Plan in Theory

In November, AMLO, the then-president-elect announced a new security policy. He explained that 70% of the new government’s strategy to bring peace to the country will be “preventative”. This would involve combating the root causes of violence through stimulating economic growth, creating jobs, providing greater education opportunities, and generating well-being. The remaining 30% of the strategy would be “coercive,” including the planned deployment of 119,250 members of the federal security forces. The latter went against his campaign rhetoric—promising a withdrawal of the military from the streets. However, the plan kept with AMLOs pacifist tone in ensuring peace through rejuvenated values instead of violence.

The new security strategy is built on eight key components:

1. The eradication of corruption and a renewed pursuit of justice

The elimination of political impunity for lawmakers and monitoring of government purchases in real-time. The classification of corruption as a serious crime

2. Guaranteed employment, education and health care

Poverty reduction through development and well-being programs

3. Guaranteed respect for and promotion of human rights

Repression or torture are not permissible and pledges to investigate all reports of human rights violations. The release of political prisoners who didn’t commit any act of violence

4. The regeneration of societal ethics

The creation of a moral constitution to improve relationships at the individual and collective level

5. Reformulation of the war against drugs

Government funding dedicated to fighting cartels and other criminal gangs will be redirected to drug rehabilitation services and programs

6. Peace-building

The government will seek to build peace by guaranteeing victims’ rights and will introduce legislation that could reduce prison terms for criminals or grant amnesty

7. Recovery of the control of prisons and improvement of their conditions

Separation of convicted criminals from inmates ordered to remain in preventative custody. Improving conditions in women’s prisons will also be a priority

8. The new security plan

The creation of a new national guard to both prevent and fight crime as well as preserve security

A Continuation of the ‘Iron Fist’?

When AMLO was asked what surprised him the most upon becoming president-elect, he mentioned the “disaster” that were local, state and federal police forces. This, he said, made it vital to keep the army deployed until police forces improved enough to oversee security. However, he plans not only to maintain the existing forces but ramp them up. The last component to his security plan calls for the creation of a new military force of 50,000 troops, initially drawn from the ranks of the armed forces and federal police. The new guard, which will be under the control of the army, will be made up initially of members of the army, navy and military police, and is expected to be operational within three years.

Mario Delgado, the leader of AMLO’s MORENA party in the lower house, said the new military body would exist “as long as this crisis of violence and insecurity persists.” Under the previous government, President Enrique Nieto’s Internal Security Law setting the military as a law enforcement body was deemed unconstitutional for allowing the military to overstep civil authority. MORENA was able to bypass this by recently changing the constitution in their favour.

All out of solutions?

The desperate need for a new approach in Mexico was highlighted by the trial and conviction of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzman, the former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, in the US. During the trial, dramatic allegations emerged of corruption at the highest levels of Mexico’s government. It also underscored the failure of the “kingpin strategy” to combat the cartels. Since the arrest of “El Chapo,” nothing has changed in Mexico and it is business as usual for the cartels.

AMLO should be lauded for proposing alternatives to these failed policies that have been nothing but disastrous. However, the amnesty concept for criminals is not only controversial, but it fails to address the key drivers of Mexico’s violence. Moreover, many of his proposed policies are long-term in nature, such as youth scholarships and job training. He seems to have recognized this by taking a heavy-handed response to the immediate threats of oil theft in Guanajuato and cartel control in Tijuana. The results of which are still unclear, but for both, he received his own personal death threats.

Image: AP News (link)

Confidential

CJNG Cartel Terror on Both Sides of the Border

CJNG drug cartel is one of the biggest and most violent organised crime groups active in Mexico as well as across the border in the United States.

This Grey Dynamics article examines different aspects of the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG), ranging from the ways they function in the US, as well as the issues they face within Mexico and within their ranks.

CJNG cartel

 

This Grey Dynamics article examines different aspects of the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG), ranging from the ways they function in the US, as well as the issues they face within Mexico and within their ranks.

Key Judgements

KJ-1. The CJNG is highly likely insured against raids, arrests, or law-enforcement efforts. Indicators of corruption within the Mexican government likely suggest that the CJNG at the minimum enjoys a sphere of protection. The nature of corruption along with its history in Mexico suggests the CJNG has and will continue to have capability to traffic within US territory.

KJ-2. It is highly likely the CJNG will continue to market their drugs in rural communities across the US, specifically communities struck hard by the US opiate the methamphetamine epidemics. CJNGinfiltration of those markets is one of their key business strategies.

KJ-3. It is likely that as CJNG will be met with rival opposition as they seek to take over as the premier TNO in Mexico. This will likely be shown at the border with disputes between CJNG and rival cartels over key US border crossings used in trafficking operations.

Mexican Corruption as the MOAF – Mother of All Factors

Corruption in Mexico has highly likely formed an informal network of law-enforcement officials and policymakers which allow cartel activities to flourish. Former defence secretary Salvador Cienfuegos was arrested on corruption charges for aiding the H-2 cell of the Beltran-Leyva Organisation, and former secretary of public security Genaro García Luna was arrested in December 2019 for aiding the Sinaloa Cartel. The CJNG specifically bribed Roberto Castañeda, former governor of Nayarit along with former Nayarit Attorney general Isidro Avelár.

In the case of Cienfuegos, according to the US Department of Justice (DOJ), he connected cartel members with an informal network of corrupt officials. The different levels of government of officials involved in corruption, particularly Cienfuegos, make it likely that the CJNG, similar to organisations in the past, enjoys a significant level of aids both in the transport of narcotics to the US and in the systematic protection of the organisation in Mexico. The release of Cienfuegos in exchange for El Mudo, head of La Linea Cartel and responsible for 6 deaths. Success in seizing narcotic shipments or in arrests will likely have short term effects on the organisation’s capability to traffic narcotics across the US border. SEDENA diverted $156 million to bogus companies from 2013-2019 with no member of the executive committee who approved of the sales being charged.

CJNG: Méxican Big Pharma, Américas Curse

Border security and the bilateral war against Mexican Transnational Organizations (TNOs) is a prominent issue in the US, both from a law enforcement perspective, and also a political one (big surprise there…) The past four years of the Trump administration has included harsh political rhetoric levied towards the Mexican government’s inability to curb the activity of TCOs like the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG), and its failure to assist US Homeland Security organizations their efforts to impede the steady stream of drugs flowing across the border. Politics aside, the CJNG has capitalized on America’s illicit drug problem, and have begun to carve out a niche market in some unexpected places.

According to the 2019 DEA National Drug Threat Assessment, CJNG “is one of the most powerful and fastest-growing cartels in Mexico and the United States”. According to that same report, the group uses smuggling routes along corridors in Tijuana, Juarez, and Nuevo Laredo. The US domestically speaking, CJNG is known to have distribution hubs in Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and New York, and has infiltrated markets (primarily heroin) in Chicago, Denver, El Paso, Oklahoma City, and some unlikely places akin to rural Virginia, Nebraska, North Carolina, Mississippi, and Kentucky.

CJNG has an attraction to the US opiate epidemic, and for good reason. That epidemic, which is affecting the US Midwest in disproportionate amounts, is a prime drug market for their product. A basic universal principle of drug markets is capitalizing on the constant cycle of supply and demand. Having a customer base for a highly addictive drug, such as heroin, means you will have a constant stream of income. CJNG takes advantage of the issues within rural US communities for this reason.

For example, there is an investigative story in the Courier Journal that takes an in-depth look into the CJNGoperating in a few of these communities. This article focuses on the small towns of Axton and Winchester, Virginia – two locations where there has been CJNG linked drug activity. Using those towns as an example, the common modius operandi is for the group to pick up shipments of drugs from the larger distribution hubs, like Los Angeles or Chicago, and then ferry them into rural communities via interstate freeways and highways.

Members (or allies) of the group will blend into these communities and essentially live a double life to avoid detection. Race and ethnicity are not a factor as well, and CJNG often uses unsuspecting local dealers to sell their products. Organizational linked violence is uncommon, and it is likely it will continue to be so, due to the nature of their business model. Committing acts of violence in the way that they do across the border in Mexico is unhelpful for CJNGs goals, the primary one being profit revenue.  The same goes for caution in the potency of their product to avoid excessive customer fatalities, as noted in this Grey Dynamics article.  

Border Insecurity

Like other TNOs, CJNG has an appreciation of the US-Mexico border. Along the just under 3218Km span of the border, there are never-ending labyrinths of smuggling tunnels and corridors. Within border towns like Tijuana (borders California) Juarez, and Nuevo Laredo (both border Texas), it is highly likely there is a constant presence of CJNGoperatives, as well as corrupt government and law enforcement officials who assist their freedom of movement across the US side of the border.  

Grey Wolves: Turkey’s Shadow Network

Domestically speaking in Mexico, CJNG is known to have a presence in at least 22 states, with an ever-expanding territory in tandem with their continued growth as an organization. Cartel territory historically ebbs and flows but having a presence on the US-Mexico border is a must-have for any organization looking to make money off the US market, as the CJNG does. Mexican TNOs use drug trafficking routes for human trafficking as well.

Cjng cartel
  • Mexican Border

As mentioned earlier, the main areas of CJNG activity on the Mexican side of the border are Tijuana, Juarez, and Nuevo Laredo. In this case, “presence” does not always mean an overwhelming physical one. For example, in 2016 Business Insider reported that CJNG “has focused on forging alliances with members of the Tijuana underworld in a challenge to the Sinaloa cartel”. This is a similar tactic to how they use non-cartel US drug dealers to sell and distribute domestically. The Juárez market is contested with the Sinaloa Cartel, which is a more mature (albeit fractured) TNO. In Juárez and other towns on the US side, there is violence, both between rival cartels, as well as directed at local and government officials and law enforcement.

  • US Border

The methods CJNG uses to get their drugs into the US are not much different from the general cartel formula. Hidden compartments in vehicles crossing the border, house to house underground tunnels, and now even the utilization of drones. As far as specific areas go, it has been reported by the DEA that they utilize the parallel US border towns to the above-mentioned Mexican ones. El Paso, San Diego, and Laredo to be specific. From there, the drugs are transited to distribution hubs, and into local communities. 

This report was a collaborative effort between Iñigo Camilleri (Spain) and Michael Ellmer (United States)

Image: Screen capture of CJNG propaganda video

Confidential

UFOs: A Fringe Conspiracy, or National Security Threat?

Pentagon released video capture of an UFO

UFOs are a cultural phenomenon, and a controversial one at that. For millennia, Unidentified Flying Objects have been the subject of great mystery and speculation. Society often characterizes UFOs as more of a pseudoscience or misinterpretation of reality than a field worthy of study. 

That couldn’t be further from the truth, however. From an intelligence and security standpoint, UFOs are more relevant now than ever.

UFOs on the fringes

UFOs follow in step with other paranormal or obscure human events and experiences that have cultivated a surrounding subculture or fandom. There is plenty to say about the demystification of UFOs, and the realistic threat they pose on the integrity of international security, but the communities that foster UFO conspiracy theories seem to have the loudest voice. 

It’s worth noting the negative implications of such communities, daresay the more conspiratorial ones, who hold UFOs as evidence of extraterrestrial aliens visiting earth, possessing some sort of advanced spacefaring technology, and who can traverse the galactic expanse at ease, and conduct operations on earth, ranging from reconnaissance missions to full-fledged human abduction. 

Peripheral beliefs like that have their way of infiltrating the cultural zeitgeist as less of a reality-based conviction, and more of a taboo topic or meme. It makes sense why. At first glance, it may seem strange that a civilization capable of interstellar space travel would have any interest in our decaying planet. 

“If” some sort of alien species was to reach earth, all they would have to do is tune into the US mainstream news cycle. That alone would be enough to deter any further inquiry into the planet. Attempted humor aside, the noise generated by UFO conspiracy theorists has resulted in the topic being cluttered with skepticism. It has been etched into the pantheon of comical fringe topics, among its brethren Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and the more recent addition of QAnon.

UFO enthusiasts at the Alienstock festival near Area 51, New Mexico (wikicommons)

UFOs as an ancient phenomenon

History has shown evidence of UFOs and the sighting thereof in ancient civilizations. These recorded sightings are not significant in a national security context, yet still shed some light on how easy the misinterpretation of natural phenomenon can be. Such misinterpretations are the basis for the pseudo-scientific factions underneath the UFO umbrella. 

Now, imagine for a moment how often UFO sightings get reported in modern times, with the existence of aircraft and drones. For the ancient world, that simply was not the case. Whatever humans observed and recorded during that time was likely some sort of natural event or optical illusion on behalf of the observers. 

Take St. Elmo’s Fire, for instance. Not the coming-of-age 80s movie, the scientific effect. To stop short of a poor attempt at defining something far outside the intended scope, St. Elmo’s Fire is a natural occurrence that results from ionized particles in the air turning into plasma and emitting a bluish glow. (source


In modernity, we can explain it. In antiquity, they couldn’t. You can do the math from there: an ancient observer notices St. Elmo’s Fire around some sort of prominent object, doesn’t understand it, yet must assign a meaning. The meaning in that context would have a divine origin, such as the visitation of a deity, or a supernatural omen. 

And there you have it; a myth is born. People tell other people, shared stories form, oral tradition spreads and preserves the stories which turn into legends, so on, so forth… 

Many cultures have their own examples of this idea playing out. Especially the ancient Romans, who had a particular knack for spotting what they classified as “flying armaments”. Some scholars trace the bulk of these ancient UFO sightings to the Annales Maximi, a series of annals documenting key events prior to 123 BC. The contained reports of what we would call UFOs are rife with military terminology, which reflects both the knowledge of their most advanced technology and the wartime conditions they endured during the period of the reporting. (source

Descriptions of these sightings include:

  • “Ships in the sky”

  • “Round shields made of metal in the sky”

  • “Flying stones” 

  • “Flying weapons”
  • “Flying shields on fire”

  • “Fiery globes”

The big picture is that the ancient world’s perception of UFOs is not much different from ours. Rome is one example, but civilizations throughout history had their own way of describing these events, that was sized to whatever level of understanding they had at the time (i.e., military technology). Although those occurrences have likely explanations with contemporary knowledge, humans labeled them as supernatural. 

Hieroglyphs in the Temple of Seti, Egypt. Some people believe they illustrate some sort of aerial craft resembling a UFO (flickr)

Project Bluebook

Fast forward to the 21st century, and you get Project Bluebook. Between 1947 and 1969, the US Air Force conducted this project to investigate UFOs—the first large-scale investigation of its kind. 

The late 40s were the era that UFO sightings began taking off in the public sphere. Advancements in aircraft technology were proliferating, a symptom of the Second Great War and incumbent Cold War. Not only that, but private flying was more accessible for amateur pilots, especially in the US. Kenneth Arnold was one civilian pilot who helped kick-start the UFO craze. 

On the 24th of June 1947, Arnold was flying a private aircraft near Mt. Rainier in the great state of Washington. Although the skies were clear, he saw in the distance a flash of a bright light, followed by nine more quick flashes. As written in The Atlantic, a report from Arnold described the lights as objects in the sky doing quick movements in all directions, including along a horizontal axis, side to side. (source

Some would say it’s a strange coincidence, but that same year was the famous Roswell incident. During the summer of 1947, a press release from the US Army described the recovery of a “flying disc” in the vast deserts surrounding Roswell, New Mexico. Eyewitnesses claimed to have seen “alien bodies” taken from the wreckage, and rumors swirled in the public sphere. 
The government has since proven that the wreckage was from an at the time classified spy device, as part of Project Mogul, including the “alien bodies” which were likely test dummies encapsulated in the device. Roswell remains a crucial element of early modern UFO canon. 

The Project Bluebook investigation was long, extensive, and scientific. By the end in 1969, 12,618 reported sightings occurred, and of those 701 remained “unidentified”. (source) Other conclusions included:

  • “No UFO reported, investigated and evaluated by the Air Force, was ever an indication of threat to our national security.”

  • “There was no evidence submitted to or discovered by the Air Force that sightings categorized as “unidentified” represented technological developments or principles beyond the range of modern scientific knowledge.”

  • “There was no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as “unidentified” were extraterrestrial vehicles.”

Upon the finale of Project Bluebook, the US Air Force determined it would no longer dedicated resources to researching UFOs. Instead, they outsourced the task to private institutions and local law enforcement agencies. 

A resurrection of interest

UFOs have had a recent resurgence in the public sphere. There is a valid argument that the most significant reason for the resurgence is the June 2021 release of a government intelligence report. The report was supposed to declassify damning information about the government’s knowledge of UFOs, and give the public access to a slew of documents and reports regarding the topic that were once classified.

Conspiracy theorists and UFO enthusiasts salivated at the idea, expecting the government to reveal its arcane secrets, and give them the fuel to rationalize wearing protective headwear made of tinfoil, and using social media to grass roots organize a movement—or rather, a meme—to storm Area 51. 

To their dismay, the government didn’t deliver. An Office of the Director of National Intelligence report titled the “Preliminary Assessment of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena” sums up the executive summary of the later report’s findings: 

  • “The limited amount of high-quality reporting on unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) hampers our ability to draw firm conclusions about the nature or intent of UAP.”

  • “In a limited number of incidents, UAP reportedly appeared to exhibit unusual flight characteristics. These observations could be the result of sensor errors, spoofing, or observer misperception and require additional rigorous analysis.”

  • “There are probably multiple types of UAP requiring different explanations based on the range of appearances and behaviors described in the available reporting.”

  • “UAP clearly pose a safety of flight issue and may pose a challenge to U.S. national security.”

  • “Consistent consolidation of reports from across the federal government, standardized reporting, increased collection and analysis, and a streamlined process for screening all such reports against a broad range of relevant USG data will allow for a more sophisticated analysis of UAP that is likely to deepen our understanding.” (sourcefor all bullet points)

Even though the conspiracy side of the UFO community got little information, the results of the report are alarming from a national security standpoint. Forget aliens and interstellar spacecraft. They are good for science fiction, but pure speculation versus a real clear and present danger. 
Instead, there is an excellent reason for governments to invest time and resources into the research of UFOs/UAP. If the recent report says anything, it’s that someone out there may have technology that surpasses the Western powers in terms of advancement and strength. 

UFOs and national security

Over at The Warzone, author Tyler Rogoway has a published article taking a thorough analysis into the idea of UFOs being adversarial drones that can surpass our air defenses and spy on the United States, both domestic and abroad. (source) Rogoway makes a very efficient and pointed case, that provides a cornucopia of food for thought regarding the perception the US government has on UFOs. 

That article ties into the more realistic view of UFOs, and how they are a relevant danger to national security. Drones are an ever-expanding necessity for a military force entering the future of warfare, however that may look. But who’s to say the US alone possesses the most advanced ones?
As obscure as it may sound, there is a realistic probability the hubris of the US and the fallacy of viewing the country as a bastion of advanced military technology may prevent the Pentagon from seeing things as they are. 

Intelligence failures have already led the US alone into years upon years of unnecessary war in Iraq, but could a similar intelligence failure be happening in its assessment of the current security threats and the aerial capabilities they have? 

Speculation is all we can do, but as Rogoway states with clarity and conviction, and as is necessary for any world superpower to do, there should be a greater sense of awareness in this area. 
The nations defenses cannot enact military readiness if procedures are non-existent. Procedures cannot be drafted, solidified, and tasked outwards without having an initial starting point. 

For the optimists among us, hope is not yet abandoned. According to Live Science, the Pentagon is opening a specific office dedicated to UFOs, as per the National Defense Authorization Act, which was codified in December of 2021. 
The central focus of this office is to investigate the potential for foreign adversaries developing and producing technologies that are beyond what the US is aware of. A step in the right direction, assuming it’s taken seriously. 

Omega thoughts

There is something happening within the skies that transcends our understanding. We as a species and civilization are at the most advanced time in the history of our world, yet we still encounter things like UFOs that leave us without the ability to explain or rationalize. 

Much like our ancient brothers and sisters, we still try to make sense of things by assigning meaning, hoping to take the edge off the sting of reality that reminds us of how little we know about the universe. 

The idea of extraterrestrials and advanced spacecraft has a strong gravity, pulling our collective imaginations into the thought of something greater than our natural world and everyday experience. For now, we can’t say for certain any such beings or technology exists. 

Until we can, we can continue to invest resources into investigating UFOs. Or, if you live in the US, blaming literally everything bad that happens in China and Russia. Are they the culprits? Or are they another Lovecraftian cog in the existential dread machine? Who knows, but the US has a Space Force now, so at least they have that going for them. 

Confidential

Pegasus Software and the Rise of Spyware

Representation of a Data Breach by Pegasus malware. [source]

Introduction

Pegasus is a spyware malware existing since 2016 created by the Israeli company NSO Group, operating since 2010. Its role is to provide full access to a smartphone to track criminals and terrorists by exploiting 0-day vulnerabilities. New study highlights great improvement in the malware technology, requiring no manual intervention contrary to the past. Serious breach in its ethical use led to important geopolitical and civil-rights consequences.

Key Judgement 1

Pegasus technology has highly likely progressed, making it a dangerous instrument both for national security and for the safety of victims targeted.

  • A media investigation reveals widespread and ongoing exploitation of Israel-based NSO company hacking software Pegasus. The corporation claims is only meant to be used against criminals and terrorists. Only military, law enforcement, and intelligence organizations in 40 unspecified countries are technically allowed to use the business’s espionage capabilities.
  • Clients, which can only be countries, should be approved both by the NSO and the Israeli minister of defence responsible for issuing individual export licences. 
  • Countries that have very likely used this kind of technology for other purposes that the one specified are Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Hungary, India, and the United Arab Emirates. [source]
  • The malware requires no manual intervention and infects iPhones and Android. It allows users to extract texts, photographs, and emails, as well as record calls, activate microphones and access GPS and encrypted apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal. 

Key Judgement 2

The spyware will likely lead to more targeting of journalists and dissidents as well as breaches in sensitive data in the next 12 month

  • Mexico is one of the main users of the software with more than 15 000 numbers. Among them, the one of Cecilio Pineda Birto recently murdered in a carwash. Even if his phone has not been found after the homicide, it is very likely that Pegasus’ system was central in founding its location. [source]
  • It is very luckily that Washington Post’s Saudi columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, had been another of the victims of the software. Its monitorition by the Saudi services thanks to Pegasus led to his assassination in the Istanbul consulate on October 2, 2018. The Turkish prosecutor investigating his killing was also a target, as well as its relatives and friends. 

Key Judgement 3

Targeted countries and entities will likely curtail the illicit use of the malware in the next 12 months.

  • The Pegasus project might spark debates over government monitoring in other countries accused of using the technology.
  • Several countries have opened independent investigations compared to those of NSO and the Israeli government. Indeed, it is likely that breach of devices of Heads of state and members of the government have been committed. [source]
  • The US authorities blacklisted the Israeli group NSO, creator of Pegasus. This will likely complicate its relations with potential US partners, particularly those that allow it to launch attacks. Indeed, NSO Group has used, until this summer, Amazon Web Services.  [source]
Fake Amnesty International Website containing Sarwent RAT. [source]

Key Judgement 4

Private Hacking Firms will try to replicate and develop more sophisticated and discreet spyware like Pegasus malware in the next 12 months.

  • An attack group very luckily based in Russia is attempting to spread malware. He is using the concerns about the deployment of the Pegasus spyware. It created a hoax version of the Amnesty International website with a malicious download that claim protect their devices. 
  • Users downloaded instead a lesser-known RAT (Sarwent) capable of stealing a wide range of sensitive data. Sarwent appears to be similar to a standard antivirus tool. It gives the attacker the ability to upload and run any additional malicious software. It can also access any type of data from the victim device.
  • Cisco Talos discovered and analysed the malware. They state that the actor might not be only trying to easily monetize. Indeed, the low amount of targets on the one hand and the high level of customization of the malware on the other hand, may point to a more experienced character not driven by profit but more grey means [source].
Confidential

Native Americans in World Wars: Bravery and Sacrifice

World War II Navajo Code Talker Veteran by Cpl. Bryan Nygaard for the USMC

Native Americans fought in foreign world wars because they wanted to belong.

All humans want to belong. It’s an objective reality, and a universal desire of our species.   

Belonging comes in many forms. Some forms align vertically, with a connection to the divine, nature, and the universe. There is a sense of majesty to take part in something larger than self. It helps some find meaning in a chaotic existence. It broadens a narrow scope.

Horizontally lies other layers of belonging, such as relationships, tribes, ideologies, and groups. We are social beings at heart. We must cooperate for our survival, however that may look.

Nature is another point on the horizontal axis of belonging.

“There is an ancient faithfulness in nature. Mountains, fields, and shorelines are still to be found in the same places after thousands of years”, writes the late Irish poet, John O’Donohue.

It is a lost art in Western society: to cherish nature and feel connected to it in an enriching way.

Native Americans master the art. They always have, for millennia.

Long before European colonizers forcefully took indigenous land, tribes in North America belonged. They belonged to the forests, mountains, plains, and deserts, to regions, territories, and hamlets, and amongst the animal kingdom in the wilds.  

Strong in Spirit

Spirituality is at the core of Native American culture. Diverse theologies and pantheons of spirits exist among the many populations. Tribes are the social breakdown of indigenous peoples, and the idea of community itself is borderline divine.

An emphasis on community is a stark change from the glorification of the individual that has ideologically colonized the indigenous lands of North America over the centuries.

Native American wisdom says,

“Honor the sacred. Honor the Earth, our Mother. Honor the Elders. Honor all with whom we share the Earth: -Four-leggeds, two-leggeds, winged ones, swimmers, crawlers, plant and rock people. Walk in balance and beauty.”

Native Americans in World Wars
Navajo tribesmen portraying war gods

Wisdom of the ancients

What does any of that have to do with the relationship between Native Americans in the World Wars? Ruminating on esoteric ideas of belonging doesn’t really mesh well with the brutal nature of global conflict.

It’s important though. Esoteric thought is a tenet of Native American culture. We can learn much from the wisdom of the tribes that can help understand their inclinations towards patriotic servitude.

Native Americans embody the warrior spirit, but also act as sages, known for profound storytelling, and living poetically. Allegory and written wisdom reflect both nature and nurture. There are proverbs of war, of appreciation for nature, and of the importance of living in harmony.

They were free of outside cultures and ideologies. There were no foreign occupiers forcing them to conform to a societal structure devoid of their timeless traditions.

That changed after the European conquest in the 16th century. It was then that belonging began its descent into obscurity.

Conquest

In the 16th century, European settlers formed colonies along the East coast of America. These colonies were extensions of the British empire. They ended up collectively rebelling against the crown, planting the seed of liberty that eventually grew into the United States – the self-proclaimed “land of the free” – which sounds good on paper, but is far from accurate with the nation’s treatment of indigenous people.

The all-encompassing history of Native Americans is dense, and not the intended subject of focus. It is important to note, however, the way indigenous people have suffered, from the signing of the Declaration of Independence to the 21st century.

Between the late 1700s and late 1800s, the Indian Wars took place, spanning across the entire country. These wars were not the first of their kind post-European colonization. Far from it, but still unique, in the sense that they were some of the last conflicts before the industrial age fought between Native Americans and white settlers.

Pushed Beyond the Brink

Western expansion and war drove ancient indigenous populations out of their sacred land. There were few options given: either assimilate to American culture or perish.

Some chose the former outcome; many faced the latter. History writes:

“By the early 20 century, the American-Indian Wars had effectively ended, but at great cost. Though Indians helped colonial settlers survive in the New World, helped Americans gain their independence and ceded vast amounts of land and resources to pioneers, tens of thousands of Indian and non-Indian lives were lost to war, disease and famine, and the Indian way of life was almost completely destroyed.”    

Perspective leads to sorrow when imagining that reality. Cemeteries of history are abundantly filled with the mass graves of conquered empires. It is almost inescapable, and even the United States is not immune.

As it stands, the conquest of the Native Americans is a cataclysmic betrayal of the values and ideals embedded in the Constitutional framework. It would be hard to imagine the indigenous populations that survived into the 20th century would ever want to help the nation that took their land and decimated their people and culture, especially through the act of military service.

That is why it is mesmerizing to picture Native Americans in the World Wars.

Native Americans in World Wars
An artistic take on the Jamestown Landing in Virginia, location of the first English colony in America

Native Americans in World War I

An assassination was all it took to propel the world into its first large-scale conventional conflict.

In 1914, an already primed powder keg in Europe was lit following the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the Archduke of Austria.

What followed was four years of conflict between two power conglomerates.

The Central Powers comprised Bulgaria, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire. The Allied Powers included the United States, Romania, Japan, Russia, France, and Great Britain.

That is a dramatically oversimplified explanation of World War I, which was an event that ushered in a new age of military technology and mass destruction. Battlefields raged across Europe and the Middle East. Nothing was linear in the way it played out.

According to History,

“Thanks to new military technologies and the horrors of trench warfare, World War I saw unprecedented levels of carnage and destruction. By the time the war was over and the Allied Powers claimed victory, more than 16 million people—soldiers and civilians alike—were dead.”

Race relations during WWI

During the WWI era, the United States had a grotesque level of deeply rooted racism within its culture. The overwhelming majority of US service members were Caucasian, and overt racism was still a serious issue, both domestically and in the armed forces.

It is refreshing to know that the concepts of valor and duty do not discriminate, and there are myriads of accounts involving people of color and colored units, who had some of the greatest achievements in both World Wars.

Native Americans were a marginalized community in the World War I era, and one of the last communities one would imagine voluntarily fighting for the US in a foreign conflict. Strangely enough, that wasn’t the case. Patriotism infected the Native American community.  

Beyond the Call of Duty

The National Museum of the American Indian writes,

“When the U.S. entered World War I in April 1917, many Native Americans welcomed the opportunity to serve in the armed forces. By September, nearly 12,000 men had registered for military service. Native women also volunteered and served as army nurses in France. Approximately 10,000 American Indians joined the Red Cross, collecting money and donating supplies to support the war effort.”

To add another extraordinary layer to that, over half of the Native American population at the time were not US citizens. According to John J. Pershing at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History,  

“More than 11,000 American Indians served with the American forces during World War I. Nearly 5,000 Native men enlisted and approximately 6,500 were drafted—despite the fact that almost half of American Indians were not citizens and therefore not eligible for conscription.

By the end, roughly one quarter of all indigenous men served in the US armed forces during the war.

Native Americans in World Wars
Native American soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 358th Infantry, 90th Division, WWI (flickr)

Uncommon Valor Exemplified

Private Calvin Atchavit hailed from Walters, Oklahoma, and was a member of the Comanche tribe. He was eventually awarded the prestigious Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest military honor in the United States Army.

As cited,

“Calvin Atchavit, private, Company A, 357th Infantry, 90th Division. For extraordinary heroism in action near Fey-en-Haye, France, September 12, 1918. During the attack of his company, though he had been severely wounded in his right arm, Pvt. Atchavit shot and killed one of the enemy and captured another.”

Amado Garcia and Lauriano Martinez hailed from New Mexico and members of the Pueblo tribe. In a preserved newspaper clip, D.J. Ryan writes,

“A crawl three hundred yards in front of the lines and through the enemy’s wire was a part of the preliminary work in an attack on a hostile machine-gun nest by three members of Co. K, 110th Infantry, 28th Division, on August 26, 1918, near Fismes.

The party included Amado Garcia and Lauriano Martinez from New Mexico, reported to the Catholic records through parishes at Albuquerque and Watrous. Doubtless, their Indian ancestry was a point considered in selecting them for a tour through the wire.Ten yards from their objective, they were fired on by the enemy. In the action that followed, the enemy crew resisted stubbornly-but scored poorly. The invading Americans dispatched three and drove off the others with clubbed rifles.”

Both men earned the French Croix de Guerre with a Gilt Star, and the Distinguished Service Cross for their valor.

Native Code

Native Americans resonate with legend and story. Both are an essential cultural stratum. Indigenous oral traditions preserve their chronicles, to be passed down from generation to generation. Accounts of men who demonstrated prowess and valor in war.  

The first American warfighters strove to mirror those indigenous warriors, who were not merely relics of the past, but examples to emulate in the present.

 Native American bravery moved beyond the front lines. Conflict is not purely violence, and a well-oiled conventional force has multiple components, with specialized units supporting the ground combat elements.   

One particular unit became a prototype that was replicated and built upon in the global conflict that took place a few decades after World War I ended.

A major problem Allied Powers faced was not as bullets or incoming fire, but the interception of radio traffic and code-breaking by the enemy. In particular, the Germans used cracked radio code to their advantage. This occurred in key flashpoints like the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in 1918.

A solution to the German code-breaking challenge was needed with urgency.

No Such Thing as Chance

By chance, an Army captain, walking through a camp, overheard a pair of soldiers talking in a language unfamiliar to him. The soldiers were from the 142nd Infantry Regiment, and were of Choctaw descent, whose tribes language the officer overheard.  

The indigenous men informed the captain native soldiers at the company headquarters also spoke the Choctaw language. He quickly called his command and relayed a message in Choctaw that was translated by the natives on the other end.

Choctaw language is unique, in that it’s relatively internal to the Native American community. According to BBC,

“It was a largely unknown language. Only a few American Indian tribes had more than 20,000 people so their languages weren’t widely spoken, and most weren’t written down. Even if they were, it was usually only the Bible and hymns, which were consumed locally.”

A prospective solution turned into practical action and the Choctaw Telephone Squad formed. Commanders would tactically position native American men in the unit around the battlefield where they could transmit messages back and forth in Choctaw over the hook, which eased the threat of German detection.

The Choctaw Telephone Squad were instrumental in future victories, and the precursor to the fabled Code Talkers in World War II.

Native Americans in World Wars
Soldiers from the Choctaw Telephone Squad (flickr)

Aftermath

We traditionally meet troops returning home from war with celebration and reverence from the public.

Parades, media attention, and a heightened patriotic atmosphere. We as a society give thanks to those who came back, and mourn the lives lost.

Overall, returning from war symbolizes the conclusion of an experience that transcends normal life for those who experience it. One would imagine all service members receive the same treatment when they cross over domestic lines, but that far from the case for the Native Americans who fought in World War I. John Maynard writes,

“Indigenous contributions to the Great War and a genuine lack of acknowledgment of that contribution have long aggrieved Indigenous families and communities. Thousands of Indigenous men fought for their country in World War I, many making the ultimate sacrifice. On returning home many of the Indigenous veterans were disillusioned and frustrated that their courage and bravery were not rewarded with due recognition of their service for their country.”

Not only were their achievements overlooked, but fighting and bleeding for the nation wasn’t even enough to gain citizenship.

The federal government made some progress eight years after the war when the Indian Citizenship Act took effect on the 2nd of June 1924. The act gave citizenship and the right to vote for all Native Americans in the United States, but with some exceptions. According to the Library of Congress, they gave states the right to enforce their own laws, and some did until 1957.

World War I was a pivotal moment in Native American culture, and the warrior spirit that was shown in Europe re-surged mere decades later.

Native Americans in World War II

“The Indian is the best damn soldier in the Army.”

Major. Lee Gilstrop

World War II. From 1939 to 1945, most of the world found itself in another conventional conflict, primarily between the Axis and Allied Powers. Battlefields were in Europe, Africa, and the Pacific. So on and so forth…

Domestically, the Native American population was continuing to suffer the effects of post-World War I. Economic hardship, lack of jobs, and limited educational opportunities were some issues effecting indigenous peoples. Societal structures limited tribes to life on reservations, surrounded by a growing American culture that was nullifying their own.  

On the 7th of December 1941, an unprecedented catastrophic event transpired on American soil: Pearl Harbor.

Japan’s aerial strike in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, brought the US into the war effort, starting with the Pacific Theater, and later joining other Allied Forces in Europe. The nation became energized, and its once isolationist posture towards the war changed overnight.

Answering the Call

Mirroring World War I, Native Americans once again felt called to join the fight. After all, the United States is, in theory, their rightful land. For them, it was less about fighting for the United States—not nullify that aspect, for it was prevalent—but to fight on behalf of their ancestors, and the soil that was once theirs.

As aforementioned, the ancestors of indigenous service members were the antecedent for their zeal and prime performance on the battlefield. Accounts claim Native Americans were some of the best recruits in basic training and were already proficient in the survival skills that were lacking in most non-indigenous citizens enlisting or being drafted.

Not only that, but the indigenous way of life bred them to be commandos. Historian Thomas Morgan writes, “Native Americans endured thirst and lack of food better than the average soldier. They had an acute sense of perception and excellent endurance, along with superior physical coordination.”

Over the duration of the war, 25,000 Native Americans served among the various branches in the US Armed Forces.

Native Americans in World Wars
Attack on Pearl Harbor, 7th of December 1941 (flickr)

The Machita Incident

Patriotism and duty didn’t reach all corners of the Native American community. Some (albeit a rather small percentage) resisted service and did not forget the sins of the nations past towards their people.

One lesser known instance of Native American resistance is “The Machita Incident”, or as some call it “Arizona’s last great Indian war”.

Pia (translating to “man without a grindstone”) Machita was a leader in the Tohono O’odham tribe of Arizona. An anti-establishment attitude was prominent amongst the members of Pia’s smaller community within the tribe, who rejected the Gadsden Purchase, and opposed government or “Anglo” intervention in their people’s affairs.

On the 16th of December 1940, Washington D.C. put the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 into effect. At first, all men between the ages of 21-36 faced a mandate to register for the draft, but the low age dropped to 18 after the start of World War II.

Resistance and Confrontation

With Native Americans being considered US citizens at this point (mostly), the Act applied to them as well. Pia Machita viewed this as a repetition of government oppression and formed an insurrectionist movement amongst the draft eligible men in his tribe. Their intent was to refuse registration.

The US government sent representatives onto the Tohono O’odham reservation to conscript eligible men on the 13th of October 1940. It isn’t much of a surprise, but they resisted, and refused to sign the paperwork.

In response, on the 16th of October 1940, the government sent more representatives, except this time, instead of pens and paper, they wielded firearms and tear gas.

As written by scholar Elmer W. Flaccus, federal law enforcement conducted a raid on Pia Machita and his resistance. There were no casualties, and Pia fled the area with some of his men, beginning a seven-month long search conducted by federal law enforcement. Eventually, the law found Pia in Arizona and sentenced him to an 18-month prison sentence. The judicial system later granted Pia a reduced sentence after advocacy from his tribe.

Native American Women in World War II

Native American women showed the same level of sacrifice and bravery as the men.

Although their enlistments were fewer, they stood right alongside indigenous men in the recruiting station lines. A 1943 quote from a Lakota Sioux student named Margie Williams is powerful in explaining why women would willingly serve in the war. She writes,

“It is with much pride that the Indian woman dons the uniform of her country . . . The Redman is proving to his white brother that he can make an outstanding contribution, both on the home front and behind the firing lines. With the same pride and devotion, the Indian woman is proving herself to be one of Uncle Sam’s priceless daughters”

There is a reason that is a reoccurring theme throughout this article. It’s hard to ignore how profound the above sentiment is. The women wanted to prove themselves to be considered an American, even at the risk of life and limb. Patriotism was something very real to them. It was one act to fight for the values of the United States. It’s a higher one to do so for your ancestral homeland.

Service at Home

They did not limit native American women to the military in terms of service. Many of them contributed to the domestic war effort, which was a popular industry for women of all ethnicities during that period. One in four Native American women worked in factories, in cities off the reservation. That experience exposed them to a different life and culture, that lacked familiarity.

Native American women also found themselves active on the reservations and took leadership roles given up by the men who were overseas. With a such a large percentage of the tribe populations being men who were away, indigenous women had to step into traditionally male roles, such as manning fire lookouts, chopping wood, and farming. The role Native American women played in World War II embodied the idea of duty and sacrifice.

Native Americans in World Wars
African American women in WWII, another example of women from a marginalized community serving the nation that failed them

Changing gears, it’s time for an expose on one Native American warfighter. “Epic” isn’t even the proper term to describe this, as you will see.

Everything you are about to read happened. No fabrication, and no hyperbole included for dramatic effect. War Chief Medicine is more than a legend. He was a living god of war.

War Chief Medicine Crow

Joseph Medicine Crow was born on the 27th of October 1913, on the Crow Indian Reservation in Lodge Grass, Montana.

He grew up hearing oral stories from tribe elders who were present at the battle of Little Bighorn, making him one of the last members of his nation to have a firsthand account.

Life on the reservation was difficult, and the Crow Nation was suffering great calamity during his youth. Young Joseph could discern what needed to be done to help change his tribe’s circumstances in the future. He wanted to pursue an education – something that uncommon within his community, and that could transfer into skills to help it.

Medicine Crow excelled through school, graduating from Linfield College in 1939, and then completing a graduate course in anthropology at the University of Southern California. He was the first member of the Crow Nation to be awarded a master’s degree.

Like other Native Americans, Pearl Harbor influenced Medicine Crow. In 1943, he left behind a job working at the naval shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, and enlisted in the US Army, eventually being assigned to the 103rd Infantry.

The Trials of the War Chief

As is common amongst indigenous service members, Medicine Crow wanted to fight in the name of his ancestors, harnessing the stories and accounts of their heroism and strength passed down during his tribal upbringing.

The 103rd Infantry deployed to Europe to fight the Germans, which is when Medicine Crow’s story turns into legend.

For context, there are four qualifications a tribe member must meet in order to earn the title Chief of Tribe:

  1. Touch or strike an enemy without killing him
  2. Wrestle a weapon away from an enemy warrior
  3. Command a war party successfully
  4. Enter an enemy camp at night and steal a horse

Earning the Title

Medicine Crow knocked out the first two qualifications in one event. According to the National Park Service,

“His unit hit a little town with just one main street. He did not want to participate in such a raid but instead asked his superior’s permission to have a little extra time to accomplish a deed.

The Commanding Officer (C.O.) sent him around the street and down an alley. He saw an opening in a gate and a German was doing the same thing. They bumped heads and Joe gave him a butt stroke with his rifle and knocked the enemy’s rifle out of his hand.”

For the third qualification, Medicine Crows company was behind enemy lines, devoid of ammunition, and locked in fierce combat. He bravely led a squad of men through heavy fire and obstacles back to Allied territory. After loading up some ammunition, Crow led his squad back across German lines and successfully resupplied his company.

While conducting a scouting mission under the cover of darkness, Medicine Crow carefully stalked horse-mounted German soldiers. When the opportunity arose, he stole a horse, gathered the rest, and took off into the distance. That act fulfilled all the requirements needed to earn the title.

With all the qualifications complete, Joseph Medicine Crow became the Chief of Tribe: the last living member of the Crow Nation to carry that title.

His accolades from World War II include the Bronze Star, French Legion of Honor, Gold Congressional Medal of Honor, an honorary doctorate from the University of California. He was and also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2008.

Chief Joseph Medicine Crow passed away on the 3rd of April 2016, in his home state of Montana.

Native Americans in World Wars
Chief Joseph Medicine Crow and President Barack Obama (wikicommons)

The Navajo Code Talkers

The Navajo Code Talkers are a revered unit of Native Americans in World War II, and the spiritual successors of the World War I Choctaw Telephone Squad.

Like World War I, the threat of enemy interception of communication was prevalent. The former wars after-action reports highlighted the effectiveness of the Choctaw speakers. That inspired a recruiting effort directed at Native American men who could speak their tribe’s unwritten language.

There were multiple different code talker units, but the Marine Corps Navajo Code Talkers are arguably the most famous one to operate in World War II.

A New Language of War

Navajo language is complex and unwritten. Outside of the tribe, there is a disproportionate number of non-Navajo people who can understand it. Complex dialects, syntax, and tone fluctuations are the perfect blend of linguistic attributes for verbal cryptography.

Also participating in the Bougainville operation in December 1943 were (left to right, front row): Pvt Earl Johnny, Pvt Kee Etsicitty, Pvt John V. Goodluck, and PFC David Jordan. Rear row, left to right: Pvt Jack C. Morgan, Pvt George H. Kirk, Pvt Tom H. Jones, Cpl Henry Bake, Jr.

Philip Johnson, a World War I veteran, was one of the few people speak fluent Navajo outside of the tribe. He was also aware of the defense departments’ ongoing search for a Native American language suitable for communications code. According to the Naval History and Heritage Command,

“Early in 1942, Johnston met with Major General Clayton B. Vogel, the commanding general of Amphibious Corps, Pacific Fleet, and his staff to convince them of the Navajo language’s value as code. Johnston staged tests under simulated combat conditions, demonstrating that Navajos could encode, transmit, and decode a three-line English message in 20 seconds. Machines of the time required 30 minutes to perform the same job. Convinced, Vogel recommended to the Commandant of the Marine Corps that the Marines recruit 200 Navajos.”

The Corp honoured Johnson’s recommendation and began recruiting Navajo men who went through the same boot camp as other Marine enlistees. Upon completion, the first wave of 29 Code Talkers began developing a code. They used Navajo words in replacement of individual English letters, akin to the phonetic alphabet system used by the contemporary armed forces.  

Navajo Code Talker, Chester Nez, was present. In his own words,

 “This major took us into a great big room and he said, ‘you guys are going to have to make up a code in your own native language,’ that’s all he said. He left, closed the door behind him, and locked the door.”

Past Meets Future

The result was two codes. The first code, “Type 1”, comprised 26 Navajo terms that stood for individual English letters. For instance, the Navajo word for “ant,” wo-la-chee, was used to represent the letter “a” in English, writes the National World War II Museum.

Type 2 code expanded on Type 1, resulting in a larger dictionary. This version included new combinations of Navajo words to translate English words foreign to the language.

For example, “besh-lo” is a Navajo word for “iron fish”, which translates to submarine, and atsá translates to eagle, which is code for a military transport plane.

A later dictionary contained over 600 words is accessible in digital form, courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Native Americans in World Wars
The first 29 Code Talkers swearing into service, Fort Wingate, NM (wikicommons)

Baptised by fire

On the 7th of August 1942, The Navajo Code Talkers stormed the beaches of Guadalcanal with the First Marine Division.

This was their trial by fire – the first time they performed their role in a battlefield setting, where kinetic warfare and the fog of war could impede the performance of an already difficult mental task. They ultimately persevered and conducted translations throughout the battle without the Japanese decoding their communications.

Following Guadalcanal, the Marine Corps deployed the Navajo Code Talkers to every operation in the Pacific Campaign, with continuous success.

Some men from the unit endured harrowing instances, like Fleming Begaye Sr, who experienced his landing vessel being struck by enemy fire during a beach assault. That resulted in him having to swim to the beachhead under fire, receiving life threatening wounds along the way.   

The Code Talkers’ work directly affected the success of the Battle of Iwo Jima. According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence,

“six Navajo Code Talker Marines successfully transmitted more than 800 messages without error. Marine leadership noted after the battle that the Code Talkers were critical to the victory at Iwo Jima.”

No Axis Power was able to crack the Navajo Code Talkers encryption for the duration of World War II.

By the end of the war, roughly 400 indigenous Marines served in the unit. That number only accounts for the Navajo personnel. Multiple other similar units existed throughout the armed forces.

Native Americans in World Wars
Marine Corps Cpl. Henry Bake Jr with Code Talker Pfc. George H. Kirk operating in the Pacific Campaign (flickr)

Aftermath II

The Navajo Code Talkers received many awards, including all 29 original members being presented the Congressional Gold Medal in 2001 by President George W. Bush. As of this year, only four men who served in the program remain alive.

Native Americans struggled after World War II. It was like the post-World War I era all over again. Once again did they return from the greatest war in world history to be forgotten by the public they so valiantly served. Thomas D. Morgan writes,

“The wartime economy and military service took thousands of Indians away from the reservations. Many of these Indians settled into the mainstream, adapting permanently to the cities and to a non-Indian way of life. Moreover, thousands returned to the reservation even after they had proved themselves capable of making the adjustment to White America. Those who left traditional cultures did not necessarily reject their heritage. Instead, they forged a new Pan-Indian identity to cope with the differences they perceived between themselves and whites.”

A cultural crisis ravaged the reservations. Already suffering tribes were being pushed further and further away from their ancient ways of living and being forced to assimilate to “White America”. Indigenous veterans did not receive the same star treatment another service members, and many came home and fell into alcoholism, poverty, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

There were some benefits for some indigenous participants of the war. The GI Bill and other Department of Veterans Affairs programs were available to them. Some Native American veterans traded reservation life for college and other professional sectors. Many became leaders, using the warrior spirit that drove them in war to lead people in their communities, both on the reservation and off.

Closure

It is an act of supreme grace Native Americans would want to help the United States in virtually any foreign war, yet they did.

They did with patriotism and selflessness; honor, courage, and commitment, as the Marine Corps so elegantly preaches.

At first, they had to depart from their land, as European colonizers moved in, starting the decline in their culture, and the forced assimilation into a Western way of life.

Then, they departed once again, off their reservations and across the sea, taking part in something far greater than self, fighting for the nation that betrayed them, and doing so with the same level of bravery and courage as their white brothers and sisters in arms.

Twice…

Thomas Morgan writes,

“They left the land they knew to travel to strange places, where people did not always understand their ways. They had to forego the dances and rituals that were an important part of their life. They had to learn to work under non-Indian super visors in situations that were wholly new to them.”

To Wars Beyond

Although the conclusion of World War II ushered in a new era for the United States, and for the native American community, large-scale conventional warfare was far over. Native Americans continued to volunteer in the Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and the recently concluded Global War on Terror.

In the words of Sitting Bull,

“I am a red man. If the Great Spirit had desired me to be a white man he would have made me so in the first place. He put in your heart certain wishes and plans, in my heart he put other and different desires. Each man is good in his sight. It is not necessary for Eagles to be Crows. We are poor… but we are free. No white man controls our footsteps. If we must die…we die defending our rights.”

Dying defending their rights, they surely did, for freedom, that they deserved more than any other community in this nation.

May their legends and stories from the Great Wars live on forever.

May the remaining survivors rediscover their sense of belonging

Native Americans in World Wars
Native American veterans participating in a 2017 ceremony, South Dakota (wikicommons)

Confidential

Maduro’s Corrupt Practices: Leaks and arrests in Venezuela

Venezuela: An Update

The Maduro regime is under several fronts of pressure including crime, humanitarian, political and environmental concerns. Nevertheless, previous scandals threatening the regime lacked the effect to topple Maduro’s corrupt practices, only to weaken it. Currently, the fragile security and economic environment in Venezuela likely limit the potential responses of the Maduro government to crises.

In September, hackers leaked databases from Venezuela’s Naval Intelligence Department and Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM). Simultaneously, the arrest of two high-ranking officials provides evidence of foreign and domestic corrupt practices.

  • Norway, in September, mediated negotiations which failed to establish monitored elections between the regime and opposition. The regime’s demands make it likely that recent events forced the negotiations to not be continued.
  • The wave of incidents likely prevents the participation of the regime in internationally-monitored negotiations. The negotiations provided legitimacy to the PSUV in Venezuela and internationally. The information likely to emerge from former officials places the regime in a negative spotlight, in turn affecting participation of foreign states.

Background

The stability of Venezuela gradually decreased in the last decade. Criminal organisations enjoy limited freedom to control and exploit the Colombian border as a criminal environment, including natural resources and populations. In Bolivar and Amazonas, foreign state activity and illegal mining threatens the survivability of the environment and the large-scale health of indigenous populations. In Caracas, cooperating with criminal organisations created urban conflicts between state and non-state actors who previously worked together. With all occurring under the knowledge of the government, Maduro’s corrupt practices lost control of the security, economic and social environments. While Maduro maintains the narrative of US interference, the humanitarian situation worsens and the elections in November are unlikely to provide transparent results.

Intelligence Leaks: Maduro’s corrupt practices and fragile security environments

Exposing foreign operations

The DGCIM of Venezuela is likely vulnerable to further cyber-attacks exposing its methodology and operations. TeamHDP, an informal group of Venezuelan hackers who target Cuba and the Venezuelan regime, is responsible for targeting the government of Maduro. The Venezuelan hacker @failure_system on Twitter exposed the strategic objectives and doctrine of the DGCIM. A database was leaked containing 200 Venezuelan counterintelligence officers operating on Colombian soil, including personal and operational information.

Renting VISAS and territory

Additionally to the DGCIM leaks, the Naval Intelligence leaked identities add evidence to the likely foreign and non-state actor interference in Venezuela. A founding member of TeamHDP @ThePinguinHDP obtained over 600 identities of personnel within the Naval Intelligence Directorate. Within the identities, foreign individuals appeared as well as civilians with no official role within the Navy. The presence of foreign individuals certified as intelligence officials makes it likely that the government is using state bodies to provide foreign access to Venezuelan territory.

@failure_sistem provided evidence of Maduro’s corrupt practices, in particular collusion between drug trafficking and the government. The Vice-Admiral of Naval Intelligence in 2019, Harrys Totesaut, appointed Alexander Aponte Ramirez to command intelligence networks in Bolivar, Sucre, Anzoátegui, Delta Amacuro and Monagas. Ramirez in 2019 was arrested transferring 338 Kg of cocaine, using the state of Monagas to store the narcotics. With the location of the states being strategic to trafficking through the Atlantic, it is likely that Ramirez is not a singular case within Naval intelligence.

Previous ‘Employment’ History

The history of harbouring non-state actors and wanted individuals in Venezuela stems from the Chavez regime. In 2001, Venezuela provided an identity and refuge to Hakim Mohammed Ali Diab Fattah, considered a co-conspirator of the 9/11 who trained along one of the hijackers Hani Hanjour. Maduro’s corrupt practices almost certainly stem from Chavez.

Chavez and Maduro’s corrupt practices: Unfortunate arrests

The old and the new

The arrests of Alex Saab and Hugo Carvajal likely present a threat not to a particular governmental figure but to the general Venezuelan regime. While Saab is the money-laundering right-hand of Maduro, Carvajal provides information as the head of intelligence of Chavez from 2001-2011. Neither Saab’s or Carvajal’s full cooperation with authorities is guaranteed and arrests are not certain to yield changes. Nevertheless, the potential span of information likely places pressure on the Maduro regime.

Extraditions, collaboration and allies

The behaviour of the Venezuelan government indicates highly likely desperation to free or detach itself from Saab. The regime is threatening Saab with charges of treason and espionage if the information is revealed. Simultaneously, pressure from diplomats in the negotiations with the opposition in Mexico includes demands to free Alex Saab. The extradition, although approved, is not being carried out due to health concerns regarding Maduro’s right-hand man. It is likely that ultimately, Saab will be extradited, forcing the regime to detach itself from the information provided. Additionally, Maduro will likely target Saab as either a political prisoner or a foreign agent, depending on the detail provided of Maduro’s corrupt practices.

Confidential

Cryptography: Breaking the Glass Ceiling

Cryptography and Intelligence, in both times of war and peace, is oftentimes thought of as a man’s world. Particularly in areas of naval or military intelligence. The achievements of famous male cryptographers such as Alan Turing are household knowledge. However, women have long been a key component of cryptography efforts, both in the UK and the US.

Cryptography
Img; Women working in the Decoding Room in Bletchley Park; via Google Arts & Culture

So What?

Whilst often understudied, women in cryptography have given a lot to the development of the field. Due to secrecy, women working in cryptography have often not been able to share stories of their contributions. As a result, historians have focused on this relatively recently due to the declassification of war files.

Early Origins

Genevieve Hitt is likely the first-ever female cryptographer in the US. Born in 1885 in Texas as Genevieve Young, she married Captain Parker Hitt in 1911, who was stationed in the 22nd Infantry at Fort Sam, Houston. As a military wife, she often travelled with him. Between 1911 and 1917 she worked on a volunteer basis alongside her husband in breaking Mexican government codes. Her most notable work took place during the American Punitive Expedition in Mexico in 1916-17.

Parker Hitt left Fort Sill in 1917 to join the AEF (American Expeditionary Forces). However, Genevieve continued her voluntary cryptography work due to her aptitude in the role. In 1918 she was offered paid work as a cryptographer for the Southern Department of the AEF.

Hitt is a key example as she illustrates the way that women were first brought into the cryptography profession. Due to the need for secrecy, recruitment was focused on trusted women into cryptography. Therefore those with existing ties to the military were scouted. This led to many military wives or other family members of serving operatives were enlisted into cryptographic roles. This trend continued through World War two and much of the Cold War.

World War Two

World War Two produced significant developments in the field of cryptography. The breakout of WW2 meant that nations now had a vested interest in developing their cryptography capabilities. However, the army needed a large proportion of male workers for arms forces. At the time they did not accept female recruits. Similarly, there was societal pressure for men to join the war by doing active service rather than working in offices. The result was large numbers of women working in cryptography roles.

The UK

In the UK, there were many women working in cryptography, the most famous example being the women of Bletchley Park. Women made up over 63% of the workforce at Bletchley Park. They were largely focused on codebreaking Japanese and German messages. Ultimately, women working on cryptography in Bletchley Park are estimated to have shorted WW2 by up to four years, and saved millions of lives as a result.

Cryptography
Img; Women working on cryptography in the Communications Centre of Bletchley Park; via Google Arts & Culture

The US

The same is true within the US. There were only 181 people working in cryptography in the US Army at the beginning of World War Two. However, at the peak of female employment by US military forces during WW2, there were more than 10,000 American women working in cryptography. This meant that almost 70% of the military cryptography force were females. These workers largely focused on codebreaking of Axis Powers encrypted messages to further naval and military intelligence.

In fact, the US learned of the end of World War Two due to US Army Intelligence intercepting a Japanese transmission agreeing to a surrender. It was in fact a woman, Virginia Aderhold, who worked to decipher this, and as such, she was the first person in the US to learn that the war had ended.

Cold War

Women continued to work in cryptography well after the conclusion of World War Two, though many did leave as there was less immediate need for cryptographers. The US military hub acquired Arlington Hall. That hub alone employed over 1,000 women to code break during the war. Arlington had previously been an all-female college.

Cryptography

Img; Women working in Arlington Hall on codebreaking in late 1945; via the NSA)

Following the conclusion of the war, the National Security Agency remained at Arlington Hall until the construction of the new NSA headquarters in the 1960s, with many women still being employed. Most notably, women that had been trained extensively in cryptography at Arlington Hall went on to do vast and varied work during the cold war. Key examples include Dorothy Blum and Ann Caracristi, who both significantly changed the way the NSA used computers as part of cryptography. Both of these women went onto achieve supergrades in the NSA, showing their incredible contribution to the field.

Summary

Women in Cryptography have long been understudied yet have given a lot to the field. The vast numbers of women working in Cryptography, both in the US and the UK, were integral to war efforts as well as post-war operations. Women were instrumental to codebreaking, most famously in Bletchley Park. However, there is often fewer discussions on the innovation that women offered in the field of Cryptography. Women were not only into security and military agencies to do administrative tasks; they were and are also able to take on challenging codebreaking tasks to increase military intelligence.

Top Secret

Hezbollah’s Business Affairs Component

Business Affairs Component

Hezbollah’s Business Affairs Component relies on a network of recruits, sympathisers and non-state actors to obtain profits while maintaining deniability. From donations to extortions, methodologies to obtain funding vary depending on the environment and communities.

Why Does This Matter?

‘Hezbollah engages in drug trafficking.’ Half-truths like this statement create false comparisons, such as Hezbollah mirroring drug cartel behaviour outside Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. While Hezbollah’s financial wing does obtain profits from drug trafficking, the structure makes illicit trade only a part driver of the revenue. As a consequence, Hezbollah’s Business Affairs Component expands across continents.

  • Social welfare and political representation are likely drivers of individual and civilian financial support for Hezbollah. Apart from support from the Iranian regime, social and political relevance are likely other crucial assets of Hezbollah’s maintenance.
  • Lebanese communities and criminal hotspots are infiltrated to create or maintain financial networks. Deniability is likely maintained through a combination of official members and non-associated individuals with Hezbollah.
  • A decrease in attacks outside the Middle East likely increases the probability of Hezbollah infiltrating abroad Lebanese and foreign communities. With attacks concentrated in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, Hezbollah’s Business Affairs Component has an opportunity to strengthen a clandestine and illicit network amongst foreign communities.

Hezbollah’s Business Affairs Component

Designated by the DEA as the ‘Business Affairs Component’ (BAC), operations Cedar and Cassandra partly revealed adaptive capabilities of the BAC.  The financial branch manages to balance simultaneously licit and illicit activities while maintaining a public cover. Ahead of one BAC network, Adhman Tabaja is openly and directly associated in Lebanon with 15 companies while indirectly to 17 companies. Simultaneously, in overseas operations intended to generate profits, the BAC is capable of penetrating expatriate communities and leveraging civilian support, funding and extortion. The diversity in source funding likely creates the BAC structure similar to a multinational company with illicit revenues.

Keeping in mind the adaptability trait, the BAC is reported by the DEA and the US government to be under the control of Unit 910. Although this would mean proceedings contribute to the clandestine foreign wing of Hezbollah, it is likely that the BAC also contributes to the general funding of Hezbollah. The foundation of the BAC in 2008 by Imad Mughniyah was after that of the ESO.

The current leader of Hezbollah’s Business Affairs Component is Abdallah Safieddine, cousin of Hassan Nasrallah, general leader of Hezbollah. Hezbollah’s financial networks likely cooperate indirectly with ESO operatives, particularly around illicit and clandestine methods of economic growth. This level of clandestine cooperation provides the BAC and the ESO an opportunity to exchange capabilities and increase the frequency of operations as well as funding.

Hezbollah’s Business Affairs Component Tactics & Techniques

Structure

Being portrayed as a financial institution, the BAC’s is structured in loose networks of individuals and families who own multiple front companies. Aside from these networks, the BAC simultaneously uses ‘operatives’ to engage in illicit activities, as well as lawyers and auditors. Operatives collect funding through communities, companies and illicit sources which is laundered in Lebanon through leading networks of the BAC.

The BAC is filled with prominent individuals and families sharing the majority of businesses in the service of Hezbollah. As of 2019, a total of 8 individuals and families including Safieddine and Tabaja were identified as the executive leadership of Hezbollah. Apart from economic strength, the ‘executive board’ of the BAC all enjoy strong social positions and influence, enabling domestic support of Hezbollah’s money laundering apparatus.

Business Affairs Component

Functionality

The BAC, likely along with the ESO, develops networks of sympathisers and unofficial supporters across Lebanese expat communities. Labelled recently as Hezbollah’s support networks by the Atlantic Council, the networks likely provide BAC operatives with direct funding as well as leverage to penetrate communities to engage in taxation or extortion. A study in 2004 found Hezbollah to have significant influences amongst expatriate communities in Sierra Leone, including extortion and illicit taxation.

Hezbollah’s Business Affairs Component includes illicit markets and trafficking as a normalised yet clandestine branch. Behaviour with various OGC’s make it likely that Hezbollah do not solely directly engage in trafficking, but any activity which may generate create a network of influence and profit. The Brazilian PCC offered security protection in prison to Farouk Omairi, while Hezbollah offered laundering services as well as logistics to PCC traffickers. An increase in the production of cocaine as well as organised crime across Mexico and Latin America likely increases the presence of BAC operatives in illicit market environments.  

Social Welfare & long-term strategies

Tactics like kidnappings or taxation need geographical control and sufficient capability to withstand counter-reactions by armed forces. Hezbollah’s economic strategy with the BAC likely places long-term funding as a priority rather than short-term profit. Grey Dynamic’s article on Hezbollah’s presence in Latin America examined support networks and the benefits which the networks provide Hezbollah.

Hezbollah’s Business Affairs Component almost certainly relies on support networks of operatives and sympathisers to ensure operational presence within a country. This makes the growth of Lebanese refugees a likely driver for Hezbollah to increase and expand its influence.

The tentacles of the BAC expand further than Venezuela, the tri-border area and even South America. Operations Cedar and Cassandra uncovered the roles of the Lebanese-Canadian bank in laundering money towards Hezbollah’s activities in Lebanon. In 2013, the Treasury Department sanctioned 5 individuals in Sierra Leone, Senegal, Cote D’Ivoire and the Gambia as recruitment and foreign policy agents of Hezbollah in West Africa.

While these individuals are regarded as official Hezbollah representatives, it is highly likely that members of the BAC, as well as support networks, are developed and strengthened on the African West Coast.

Image: RAND (link)

Image2: Images of Money / Wikimedia Commons (link)