Ukraine Must Not Become a New Berlin Wall

by PSA Staff | March 13th, 2014 | |Subscribe
Sam Nunn is currently a member of PSA’s Board of Advisors and is the CEO and co-chairman of NTI. He previously served as a U.S. Senator. The article was co-authored by Des Browne, Wolfgang Ischinger, Igor Ivanov, and Adam Daniel Rotfeld. The article originally appeared in NTI News

Ukraine Must Not Become a New Berlin Wall

On Friday, March 14, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet in London to discuss the Ukrainian crisis. The situation that we now see in Ukraine graphically demonstrates the inadequacies of the current Euro-Atlantic security system. More than twenty years after the end of the Cold War, the states of the Euro-Atlantic region have yet to define, agree, or implement an approach to security that can ensure peace, independence, and freedom from fear of violence for all nations.

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Take Politics Out of Diplomacy

by PSA Staff | February 28th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Thomas Pickering is a retired ambassador and former Under Secretary of State. He is currently a member of PSA’s Advisory Board. This article was co-authored by Nicholas Kralev. The article originally appeared in USA Today

Take Politics Out of Diplomacy

Diplomacy is easy and anyone can do it. This is the message U.S. presidents of both parties have been sending the American people and the world for decades. They have done so not verbally, but through their actions, giving away ambassadorial posts as rewards to unqualified people only because they were top fundraisers during the presidents’ election campaigns.

As old as that issue is, it has received renewed and greater attention recently, following last month’s embarrassing Senate confirmation hearing of President Obama’s nominees as ambassadors to Norway and Hungary. Sen. John McCain’s public shaming of those nominees, hotel magnate George Tsunis and soap opera producer Colleen Bell, for not knowing basic facts about the country where they are supposed to serve or about U.S. interests in that country, has sparked important media commentary.

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Why 9/11 Can Happen Again

by PSA Staff | February 21st, 2014 | |Subscribe

Gary Hart is a lawyer and former senator from Colorado. He currently serves on PSA’s Advisory Board. Norman Augustine co-authored the article. This article was originally published in the Los Angeles Times.

Why 9/11 Can Happen Again

In February 2001, a bipartisan federal commission on which we served warned that terrorists would acquire weapons of mass destruction and mass disruption. “Attacks against American citizens on American soil, possibly causing heavy casualties, are likely over the next quarter-century,” the Hart-Rudman Commission said. “In the face of this threat, our nation has no coherent or integrated governmental structures.” We added: “Congress should rationalize its current committee structure so that it best serves U.S. national security objectives.”

We identified 50 ways to improve national security, none of which was implemented before 9/11. One recommendation — to create a single agency to deal with homeland security — was not acted on until a year and a half after those tragic attacks.

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NSA Spy Technology Placing Privacy Rights in Jeopardy

by PSA Staff | February 21st, 2014 | |Subscribe

Lee Hamilton is a member of PSA’s Advisory Board and currently directs the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years. This op-ed was originally published at The Times Herald.

Lee Hamilton: NSA spy technology is placing our privacy rights in jeopardy

We keep learning one more way government’s expanded surveillance powers intrude upon our privacy and civil liberties.

The National Security Agency’s surveillance and monitoring abilities are unprecedented and seem unlimited. So we face the crucial question of how we can we prevent abuse of the capabilities the NSA has been given. Our challenge is to put into place a permanent system to oversee that power.

The agency gained its capabilities over the course of at least a decade with the full knowledge of some members of Congress and the judiciary, and of the White House. This is perplexing. At a time of rising public suspicion of government, did those in the know really believe no public policy debate was necessary?

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Security Is the New Oil

by PSA Staff | February 10th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Gary Hart served as US Senator of Colorado from 1975-1987 and is currently a member of PSA’s Advisory Board. This article was originally published in the Huffington Post

Security Is the New Oil

The confused debate, such as it is, over the struggle between privacy and security in the era of Snowden reveals again even greater confusion over our attitudes about government. The conservative anti-government party seems more comfortable (or perhaps less uncomfortable) with intelligence agencies listening to their phone calls than the progressive pro-government party which deplores government surveillance.

Put another way, conservatives seem more willing to sacrifice privacy for security than progressives. But this was true in other ways during the Cold War and War on Terrorism eras. Those outraged by government spending did not believe that expensive weapons systems, however questionable, involved government spending. And conservatives came to strongly support entitlement programs from which they benefitted. Though unspoken, the government spending to which they were opposed were by and large public assistance to the poor and unemployed, a relative small portion of the federal budget compared to defense and entitlements.

But the principal conundrum involves defining the “government” which we either support or oppose. The government composed of a vast defense and intelligence network (and “intelligence” broadly defined is now costing more than $70 billion a year–including the controversial telephone monitoring system) receives little criticism, even for its massive surveillance of American citizens, from those who oppose big government. And those who support public assistance to the poor, elderly, and unemployed by and large oppose government intrusion into their lives.

A notable exception to these confused attitudes toward government is represented by many libertarians who have emerged in the age of Snowden to decry NSA intrusion in their lives. Unlike modern conservatives and liberals who support those government activities they like and oppose those government programs they oppose, libertarians usually demonstrate more intellectual integrity. Big government is bad whatever it is up to. With few exceptions, institutions such as the Cato Institute have deserved respect over the years for this consistency.

Which is the point of this commentary: let’s all be more consistent. Either we are against government spending and bureaucracy in all its forms, including surveillance programs, or we are for some and against others. Consistency in this regard at least has the therapeutic affect of revealing radio talk show rhetoric for what it is…pure rhetoric.

So what can be done to reconcile privacy and security? Require Foreign Intelligence Security Act (FISA) courts to hear privacy advocates, not just security lawyers, before issuing a warrant for surveillance as required by the Fourth Amendment. Require NSA and other intelligence collectors to be more honest with Congressional oversight committees and those committees to be more vigilant in doing their jobs. Require presidents and their administrations to exercise more control over the intelligence collection services. (Will we ever know whether President Obama himself knew of the vast collection being carried out by NSA before the Snowden revelations?) And finally, require applications to FISA courts for surveillance warrants to identify specific targets with specific, but renewable, time limits and very specific showings of probable cause for suspecting those targets.

In the wireless age, cell phone users must understand that their conversations are being broadcast and thus subject to off-the-shelf Radio Shack technology intercepts. One suspects that al Qaeda operatives have figured this out some time ago. Though it seems confusing at best, there is and will be less privacy in wireless communications than those on more secure land lines.

Which points to an ugly truth: government intelligence services are not the only ones hacking our conversations and communications. There is a vast underground network of private hackers intruding on our privacy in massive ways. Shut down the NSA and you have still not secured your privacy. Welcome to the 21st century.

The age of communications, mass social media, ubiquitous technology, and of mass interception (and thus of Snowden) is a new world…and not an especially brave one. Advocates and policy makers on both sides–security and privacy–are staking out their positions and the balance required for an advanced 21st century democracy has yet to be struck. Expect the as-yet not very productive debate to continue. Out of the polarized pro-surveillance/anti-surveillance struggle some new rules will eventually emerge. And hopefully they will work…at least for a while.

But then, some years down the line, there will be a new threat, a new technology, possibly a new government agency, and the cycle will begin again. Security is the new oil. Remember the closing scene in Three Days of the Condor. The CIA man (Cliff Robertson) tells Robert Redford’s Joe Turner that of course the renegade CIA unit was pursuing oil: “The American people want oil and they want us to get it for them. They don’t care how we get it. They just want us to get it.”

Balancing liberty and security

by PSA Staff | February 10th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Lee Hamilton is co-chair of PSA’s Advisory Board and Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years. This article was originally posted in the Detroit News.

Balancing liberty and security

Every few days, we learn yet one more way in which government’s expanded surveillance powers intrude upon our privacy and civil liberties.

Last week, it was the revelation that spy agencies in the U.S. and Britain have been snagging personal data from the users of mobile phone apps.

Before that came news that the National Security Agency was tracking our social connections and delving into our contact lists.

It appears the agency can do anything it wants when it comes to collecting information on pretty much anyone it wants.

We can take pride in this technological virtuosity, but it has propelled an expansion of government power unlike anything I’ve seen since I joined Congress 50 years ago.

So we face the crucial question of what to do about it. How can we prevent abuse of the capabilities the NSA has been given?

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What are the Benefits of a CTBT?

by PSA Staff | January 22nd, 2014 | |Subscribe

Jenifer Mackby is a Senior Adviser at Partnership for a Secure America. She worked on the negotiations and implementation of the CTBT and has served in senior positions at a number of international organizations focusing on nuclear, biological, and conventional weapons issues. Mackby is the co-author of several books on these subjects and has appeared in The New York Times, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and National Defense University publications.

What are the Benefits of a CTBT?

While waves of generations in many countries have fought for a treaty to ban nuclear weapon test explosions, the U.S. Congress has been divided on the issue in recent decades. The Senate rejected the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1999 by a vote of 51-48, putting it on the same side of the street as those it finds most unsavory– North Korea, Iran, Pakistan. In a 2009 bipartisan Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the U.S., the CTBT was the only issue on which they could not agree. However, given new political realities and new scientific findings about verification capabilities, many in the national security community now support the treaty and believe it should be re-visited.

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Remarks by Senator Sam Nunn to the American Nuclear Society

by PSA Staff | January 13th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Sam Nunn is the Co-Chairman and CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and former US Senator from Georgia. Mr. Nunn is a member of PSA’s Board of Advisors. This speech was originally published on NTI’s website.

Remarks by Senator Sam Nunn to the American Nuclear Society

Thank you, Jim Rogers, for your introduction and for your outstanding leadership.  I particularly want to thank Jim and all gathered here today for the work of this Society – helping the world benefit from the peaceful uses of nuclear science.

On this Veterans Day, I would also like to recognize one of our nation’s most outstanding public servants and veterans, former Senator Pete Domenici.

I am delighted to join George Shultz, who addresses every challenge with energy, optimism, keen intellect and wisdom.  He is always looking to the future – with one exception.  When George attended Henry Kissinger’s 90th birthday party, he reflected, “Ah, Henry — to be 90 again!”  I also thank Sid Drell for proving many times that a brilliant theoretical physicist can make a profound empirical difference in the security of his country and the world.

All Americans should be grateful for the remarkable work that the people in this room have done to improve and ensure safety and efficiency in the nuclear field.  Preventing accidents is absolutely essential.  The future of nuclear energy depends equally on security:  preventing the theft of weapons-usable materials—either highly enriched uranium or separated plutonium—that could lead to a terrorist nuclear attack.  Nuclear energy also depends on avoiding a dangerous future where a state acquires technology for peaceful purposes, then uses it for nuclear weapons.  Safety, security and nonproliferation are the three key links in the chain to assure the benefits of the atom for humanity.

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Why the Central African Republic Crisis Is a Security Problem for the U.S.

by PSA Staff | January 13th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Madeleine Albright is Chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group and member of PSA’s Board of Advisors. She served as the 64th Secretary of State from 1997 to 2001, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. This article originally appeared in Defense One.

Why the Central African Republic Crisis Is a Security Problem for the U.S.

Americans can take a measure of pride this holiday season in the recent trip undertaken by their United Nations representative, Ambassador Samantha Power, to the strife-torn Central African Republic, a country wracked by violence directed against civilians by Muslim and Christian mobs.

During her time on the ground in the CAR, Ambassador Power conveyed three core messages.  To the country’s transitional authorities, she insisted that they do everything possible to heal the wounds that have opened and to protect their citizens from attack. The responsibility for peace and stability, she argued, begins with them.

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Are We Fighting a War on Terror in 2013?

by PSA Staff | December 13th, 2013 | |Subscribe
The author, Alessandria Dey, is an undergraduate student of Hamilton College and a current participant of Hamilton’s DC Program. She is an intern at  Partnership for a Secure America.

Are We Fighting a “War on Terror” in 2013?

In 2001, following the events of September 11th, former President Bush declared a “war on terror.” What followed was a military invasion into Afghanistan, marking the beginning of this long war. Now, after more than a decade of active U.S. military presence, many are questioning our nation’s future intentions in the Middle East. In addition to the continuation of U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, U.S. involvement in counterinsurgencies and nation building has led to more skepticism of our foreign policy goals. The main question is: are we fighting a “war on terror” in 2013? The answer is yes.

A “war on terror” is defined beyond direct altercations with terrorist groups. In addition to combating terrorist groups and affiliates, the “war on terror” is a crusade against potential security threats against the U.S. In 2013, a “war on terror” includes the repression of terrorist groups, democratization of the Middle East, and continued nation-building – essential objectives for protecting the homeland in the long term.

There has been a notable decrease in the activities of major terrorist groups after the initial invasion of Afghanistan. Despite the decrease in the activities of groups like al-Qaeda, their presence and the determination of insurgents remain a threat to the government in place. U.S. involvement in counterinsurgency campaigns is vital to the stability of Afghanistan.  Insurgents are responsible for a considerable amount of damage and their relationship with al-Qaeda remains intact. They  hinder economic development and improvement in governance needed for the long term stability of Afghanistan. Four thousand Afghan civilians in the first half of 2013 were victims of insurgents’ high profile attacks. Suicide attacks remain steady with 150 per year since 2009. Insurgents are now infiltrating the Afghan police  and turning their weapons on Afghan and NATO forces. (more…)

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All blog posts are independently produced by their authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of PSA. Across the Aisle serves as a bipartisan forum for productive discussion of national security and foreign affairs topics.