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: Snowden, Homeland Security, and Drone Strikes

by Micah Zenko
December 6, 2013

Karen Parrish, “Hagel Arrives in Bahrain for Speech at Dialogue,” American Forces Press Service, December 5, 2013.

Hagel noted during a press conference yesterday that even as it focuses more attention on the Asia-Pacific, the United States is fully engaged around the world.

Our interests, the United States of America’s interests, are the world’s interests,” he said. “Our interests are not defined by one region or one country or one area.”

(3PA: This is a prime example of what is called “projection bias.”)


Sean Gardiner, “New York’s New Police Chief Faces Fewer Crimes, More Counterterrorism,” Wall Street Journal, December 5, 2013.

When Mr. Kelly handed the NYPD to Mr. Bratton at the start of 1994, the city had just finished a year with 1,946 homicides, or more than five each day. More than 600,000 major crimes were reported in 1993…

Through Monday, there have been 307 murders in 2013. The city is also on pace to finish with fewer than 200,000 major crimes—about one-third of what Mr. Bratton faced at the start of his first tenure.


Department of Defense Press Briefing by Secretary Hagel and General Dempsey in Pentagon Briefing Room,” U.S. Department of Defense, December 4, 2013.

One of the things that is coming out of the QDR that began to be illuminated by some strategic seminars that we ran about a year ago is that the homeland is no longer a sanctuary. If we’re engaged in a conflict virtually anywhere in the globe, there is likely to be some effect in the homeland. Whether it’s potentially ballistic missiles or cyber, something could potentially affect the homeland in a way that it hasn’t heretofore. So the homeland is actually achieving much greater prominence in our discussions of our future strategy than at any time in my 40 years, as it should.


David Zucchino, “Afghans describe relatives’ deaths in recent drone strike,” Los Angeles Times, December 1, 2013.

The sunburned 28-year-old farmer looked up and saw a gray, narrow-winged drone circling the village. A few minutes later, he said, it fired a missile that landed with a tremendous thud across a stony ridge line. He recognized the smoking remains of his brother, his brother’s wife and their 18-month-old son. Jan and other villagers say 14 people were killed in the attack; U.S. and Afghan officials place the toll at 11.


Stefan Frei, “The Known Unknowns: Empirical Analysis of Publicly Unknown Security Vulnerabilities,” NSS Labs, December 2013.

Given the NSA budget of USD $25 million for the purchase of exploits in 2013 and given that the documented price of an exploit ranges from USD $40,000 to USD $250,000, it can be assumed that this will result in at least another 100 to 625 exploits per year – or 86 to 541 known unknowns on any given day, provided the market can satisfy the demand.


Anthony Faiola, “Britain targets Guardian newspaper over intelligence leaks related to Edward Snowden,” Washington Post, November 30, 2013.

In the summer, a senior official at the British Embassy in Washington called Abramson at the New York Times to request the return of Snowden data — a request Abramson has said she denied. “We were made aware that the NYT might be in possession of a large number of stolen, highly classified documents,” said a British official who declined to be named. “Would it be unreasonable of us to ask for them back?”

(3PA: Thankfully, American newspapers don’t allow foreign governments to prevent their investigative reporting.)


Ipsos Poll Conducted for Reuters,” Ipsos, November 26, 2013.

Ipsos Reuters Poll


Matt Spetalnick, “Americans back Iran deal by 2-to-1 margin: Reuters/Ipsos poll,” Reuters, November 26, 2013.

Despite that, 65 percent of those polled agreed that the United States “should not become involved in any military action in the Middle East unless America is directly threatened.” Only 21 percent disagreed with the statement.


Amada Cordova, Lindsay D. Millard, Lance Menthe, Robert A. Guffey, and Carl Rhodes, “Motion Imagery Processing and Exploitation (MIPE),” RAND Corporation, 2013.

This report discusses a set of technology enablers, which we call motion imagery processing and exploitation (MIPE), that can help military intelligence organizations more effectively manage and analyze the deluge of motion imagery in current and future conflicts.

We define MIPE as the class of technologies, systems, and capabilities that have these purposes:

— to aid in the detection, identification, and tracking of humans, vehicles, and other objects of interest (OOIs) in live and archival video, with or without associated metadata
— to aid in the identification of human actions and activities of interest (AOIs) in live and archival video
— to aid in the characterization of relationships between and among OOIs and AOIs
— to facilitate any subsequent analysis, such as multi-intelligence (multi-INT) fusion, network analysis, and data visualization.

To be useful to military intelligence operations, MIPE systems must be evaluated under conditions that mimic real-world application of the system, which may include very large target sets and diverse environments. The desired capabilities may also depend on the type of military operation; for example, evaluations of MIPE system performance in irregular warfare may not be relevant to major combat operations. It is also important to note that performance in one area may be heavily dependent on performance in another. For example, the ability of a system to exploit data may depend on previous processing.

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