Micah Zenko

Politics, Power, and Preventive Action

Zenko covers the U.S. national security debate and offers insight on developments in international security and conflict prevention.

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You Might Have Missed: Iran, Cyberattacks, and Targeted Killings

by Micah Zenko
November 18, 2012

Air Force Space Command Network Operations and Security Center at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs (Rick Wilking/Courtesy Reuters). Air Force Space Command Network Operations and Security Center at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs (Rick Wilking/Courtesy Reuters).

IAEA Board of Governors, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevent Provisions of Security Council Resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” November 16, 2012.


Michael Cohen and Michael Wahid Hanna, “Cut (a Deal) and Run,” Foreign Policy, November 16, 2012.


Room for Debate: How Can Targeted Killings Be Justified?” New York Times, November 15, 2012.


Government Accountability Office, “Diplomatic Security Challenges,” November 15, 2012.

Diplomatic Security’s mission and the resources needed to carry it out have grown substantially since 1998. Following the 1998 embassy bombings in Africa, Diplomatic Security determined that many U.S. diplomatic facilities did not meet its security standards and were vulnerable to terrorist attack. Diplomatic Security added many of the physical security measures currently in place at most U.S. missions worldwide, such as additional barriers, alarms, public address systems, and enhanced access procedures. From 1998 to 2009, there were 39 attacks aimed at U.S. Embassies, Consulates, or Chief of Mission personnel (not including regular attacks against the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad since 2004). The nature of some of these attacks led Diplomatic Security to further adapt its security measures. Moreover, the attacks of September 11, 2001, underscored the importance of upgrading

Diplomatic Security’s domestic security programs and enhancing its investigative capacity. Furthermore, following the onset of U.S. operations in Iraq in 2003, Diplomatic Security has had to provide security in the Iraq and other hostile environments such as Afghanistan and Pakistan.Diplomatic Security funding and personnel increased considerably in conjunction with its expanding mission. Diplomatic Security reports that its budget increased from about $200 million in 1998 to $1.8 billion in 2008. In addition, the size of Diplomatic Security’s workforce doubled between 1998 and 2009. For example, the number of security specialists (special agents, engineers, technicians, and couriers) increased from under 1,000 in 1998 to over 2,000 in 2009, (see fig. 1). At the same time, Diplomatic Security has increased its use of contractors to support its security operations worldwide, specifically through increases in the Diplomatic Security guard force (with over 35,000 guards in Fiscal Year 2011) and the use of contractors to provide protective details for American diplomats in high-threat environments.


Bryan Bender, “Report Says $67.9 Billion in Defense Budget Is Idled Away,” Boston Globe, November 15, 2012.

Fishy is right, according to “Department of Everything,” a wry but scathing new report commissioned by Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma that identified $67.9 billion in the defense budget during the next decade designated for projects that have little to do with defending the nation. That waste includes conducting nonmilitary research, running schools, grocery stores, and microbreweries, and maintaining unnecessary overhead and supplies.


Michael Peel and Abigail Fielding-Smith, “Yemeni Nobel Winner Criticizes U.S. Drones,” Financial Times, November 9, 2012.

Ms Karman, whose award has made her one of the best-known figures internationally from the changing Arab world, praised the “great values” of the US and called on its public to press the second Obama government to live up to those in its foreign policy.

“We don’t want to keep saying we are with the American people but we are not with the American administration,” she said, adding that many people had formed a “negative image” of the US’s international actions. “The whole world is waiting for Obama. He has four years to support the people’s demands around the world and to challenge injustice and achieve peace.”


Committee on Enhancing the Robustness and Resilience of Future Electrical Transmission and Distribution in the United States to Terrorist Attack, Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System, National Academy of Sciences, November 2012.

(3PA: With the continues warnings from public officials about an imminent Cyber Pearl Harbor, this report is a sober and rigorous study of the vulnerabilities of America’s electric power system to potential terror attacks. You’ll note  that the vast majority of this system consists of privately owned, regulated utilities,  and the recommendations focus on how all government and non-government stakeholders should play a role at reducing vulnerabilities.)

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