The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) is allegedly a group of hackers supporting the Syrian government of Bashar al Assad. Its tactics include denial of service attacks, defacements and spamming campaigns.  Observers debate whether it is directly supported by the Damascus government; however, Assad has publicly praised the group.  It targets Syrian rebels and other perceived enemies of the Assad regime, particularly news outlets.  Apparent targets have included the BBC, AP, NPR, Financial Times, Washington Post and al-Jazeera.

Dr. Gabi Siboni, Director of the Military and Strategic Affairs Program at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, shared his analysis of the SEA background and structure, capabilities, political motivations and discussed why America should take the SEA seriously.

Potomac Institute CEO Mike Swetnam opened the discussion.  Closing remarks were provided by Amb. David J. Smith, Potomac Institute Senior Fellow and Cyber Center Director; and Mr. Paul DeSouza, founder and Director, Cyber Security Forum Initiative.

Video of Event Available:  Kearsarge ARG and 26th MEU Commanders Review Deployment

Current events in the Middle East were a focus for the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) during a recent eight-month deployment, and the Navy and Marine Corps personnel were ready for exercises in Jordan, ongoing conflict in Syria, and increased tension in Egypt.

The military commanders of the two units discussed challenges related to current events, logistics and equipment during a brief at the Potomac Institute Dec. 5.  Navy Capt. Jim Cody commands the Kearsarge ARG, and Marine Corps Col. Matthew St. Clair commands the 26th MEU.  The three-ship ARG included about 4,000 Sailors and Marines and the 26th MEU.

The two commanders also discussed the mix of old and new equipment they used during the deployment, specifically the air assets – from helicopters to unmanned aerial vehicles.  Changes in technology for ships and aircraft will change the face of the deploying units in the future, as they prepare for missions ranging from combat to logistics to search and rescue. 

The next big decks amphibious ship will not have a well deck for smaller surface vehicles to bring heavy equipment to the shore, so that equipment will have to be lighter for air assets to carry it.  Heavier equipment will have to be forward staged or brought in by larger Military Sealift Command ships.

The video of the brief and questions/answers is available here:

Experts from U.S. Government, Academia Discussed Challenges, History, And More

In light of the growing debate over the Geneva deal with Iran as illustrated by the Senate’s move toward a new sanctions bill, a panel of experts discussed many issues including the nuclear “red line” status, options for future trade-offs negotiations, and short and long term regional and global strategic implications.

The Honorable Bijan R. Kian, the highest ranking Iranian-American to serve two U.S. presidents, was the keynote speaker.

Video from the event is now available.

Panel Addresses Security Challenges of a New, Permanent Fixture

Although lone wolf terrorism, as perpetrated by individuals in Oklahoma City, Fort Hood, and Oslo, has become a permanent fixture of security concerns nationally and globally, the phenomenon is not very well understood. A panel of experts discussed the nature of the growing threat and what modern societies can do to reduce the risks.

Michael S. Swetnam, CEO and Chairman, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies offered opening remarks, and the panel was moderated by Prof. Yonah Alexander, Director, Inter-University Center for Terrorism Studies, and Senior Fellow, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.

Panelist speakers included: 
Marion (Spike) Bowman, Former Deputy General Counsel (National Security), Federal Bureau of Investigation; Distinguished Fellow, Center for National Security Law, University of Virginia School of Law
Prof. Amit Kumar, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
Kyle B. Olson, President, The Olson Group, Ltd.

Prof. Don Wallace Jr., Chairman, International Law Institute, provided closing remarks.

The video is can be viewed here:

Crime & Terrorism Converge: 

The growing nexus between gangs and terrorism has resulted in a unique type of threat. Since the 1980s, evidence of narcotics trade has been linked to terrorism and transnational organized crime.

Experts from law enforcement, Drug Enforcement Agency and Security and Intelligence backgrounds discussed the links between criminal activity and groups with terrorist acts and organizations; the political and economic effects of crime and terrorism on a national level; the need for policy to put distance and separation between the worst criminal groups and the worst terrorist organizations; and the similar characteristics and motivations that drive individuals to join criminal and terrorist groups.

Operating without borders and in areas of government instability, Latin American gangs, such as MS-13, and Mexican cartels have been financing terrorist operations through the drug trade. In the United States, Los Angeles gangs have been linked to Hezbollah and Minnesota groups have been linked to Al-Shabaab. Narco-trafficking is a lucrative business and terrorist organizations such as the FARC, Hezbollah, and al-Qa'ida take advantage of this black market.

Panelists included Mark Stainbrook, Assistant Chief, San Diego Harbor Police; Vanda Felbab-Brown, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, Brookings Institution; and Anthony Placido, Principal, Booz Allen Hamilton and Former Assistant Administrator for Intelligence, Drug Enforcement Agency. 

This discussion is available for viewing in two parts:





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The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies is an independent, 501(c)(3), not-for-profit public policy research institute. The Institute identifies and aggressively shepherds discussion on key science and technology issues facing our society. From these discussions and forums, we develop meaningful science and technology policy options and ensure their implementation at the intersection of business and government.

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