NSA Talks Privacy Concerns In Dallas

This news story first appeared on November 19, 2013. For more information click here.

By Lauren Silverman, KERA News; November 19, 2013

NSA Talks Privacy Concerns In Dallas

North Texans got to ask an official from the National Security Agency questions about privacy last night. In part, thanks to Edward Snowden. Since the former NSA contractor began leaking classified documents showing the agency’s vast reach, officials have been trying to make their case to the public. Tuesday night the director of compliance at NSA, John DeLong visited SMU.

This is John DeLong’s first visit to Texas on business – his grandparents are actually from Beaumont – and he received a warm welcome at SMU.

DeLong came to Dallas for a public conversation on the agency – and to defend the NSA. He says the negative headlines about a lack of controls and oversight are inaccurate –that the agency has been beefing up its self-surveillance over the past few years.

“We’ve actually quadrupled the number folks working in compliance,” he said, “to over 300 people. I don’t think people understand that. “This is serious oversight.”

Just this week, the NSA declassified hundreds of pages of documents, including a judge’s ruling that the government repeatedly exceeded its authority for collecting metadata from Americans’ emails.

That worries 28-year-old Ashley Carlisle. She came to ask the question on many Americans minds:

“What do you know about me?”

And while Carlisle didn’t find that out exactly, she says the conversation did shed some light on how the agency goes about obtaining a warrant to get more information on an individual.

“But I’d like to know more about it,” she says. “Hopefully they’ll have more debates like this.”

The NSA Goes Public

John Delong reassured the audience there will be more open conversations, and that the agency won’t just stand by until the controversy subsides.

“The confidence of the American people is very important to us,” he said. “We have lived in a world of secrecy. And we’re trying to get a lot more information out.”

DeLong points to a new website called IC On The Record, which features declassified surveillance documents, and says the agency is also working on an annual report to release to the public.

Finally, DeLong promised you’ll see more “NSAers” at open events like this one. The hope is that giving a human face to the agency will make it easier to trust.

- See more at: http://breakthroughs.kera.org/nsa-talks-privacy-concerns-in-dallas/#sthash.6Avs3yIN.dpuf

- Learn more at: http://blog.smu.edu/towercenter/events/intelligence/

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

To Avoid Failure, You Must Recognize Success

This news story first appeared on May 8, 2013. For more information click here.

By Joshua Rovner, The Dallas Morning News; November 3, 2013

The Department of Defense is in for some serious belt-tightening.

It already lost $37 billion as a result of sequestration, and much deeper cuts are coming. The Budget Control Act of 2011, along with the end of war-related spending, may end up costing the Pentagon about a third of its budget. It will surely affect the thousands of Texans associated with the defense industry in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Defense officials hope for a political compromise that would help them avoid this fate, but the outlook is not promising, and both parties have shown that defense spending is no longer sacrosanct. Moreover, few lawmakers will take the political risk of cutting military pay and benefits, which account for most of the rise in defense spending, so shrinking budgets will mostly affect decisions about what to buy and how to use it.

For policymakers and military planners, strategy under budget austerity is the new normal.

How can leaders make strategic decisions under these conditions? Last week’s Tower Center Conference on National Security at Southern Methodist University put the question to a range of military officers and national security scholars.

One answer reflected traditional thinking about threat assessment. When faced with uncertainty, the best solution is to survey the world for new threats and focus on meeting them. This is a common-sense approach to dealing with a range of uncertain challenges. Done well, it can alert officials to new issues for which they are insufficiently prepared. But it can be taken too far: The constant search for new threats may cause officials to exaggerate the real danger to national security, turning small problems into large ones and making it difficult to set priorities.

To avoid these pitfalls, a different approach would look not to the uncertain future but to the known past. Instead of warily scanning for new threats, it would focus on evaluating the results of recent U.S. strategy. This would include a frank discussion of mistakes and missed opportunities, but also a recognition of U.S. victories. The ability to see success is not just a feel-good excuse for patriotic backslapping. If we are interested in making prudent decisions about future strategy and defense spending, it is essential to see what worked and why.

Unfortunately, the U.S. is not always able to see victory, even when evidence of success is clear and abundant. In the 1990s, for example, observers increasingly came to believe that while the U.S. had won the first Gulf War, it had lost the peace. They worried that Saddam Hussein would remain a threat as long as he was in power and that he would eventually crack the international coalition arrayed against him. This view was widely held in Washington, and by the end of the decade, regime change became stated U.S. policy.

But the U.S. was not losing the peace. In fact, it had already won it. It had demolished Iraq’s conventional forces in the war, and it was doing so much damage to Iraq’s economy that it would take decades to rebuild. U.S. forces and international inspectors eliminated Iraq’s arsenal of chemical and biological weapons and forced Saddam to mothball his nuclear program.

Most of all, they altered Saddam’s basic worldview. Before the war, he sought to be a regional hegemon and rejected any international criticism as an insult to Iraqi honor. After the war, he focused his attention inward, doing whatever he could to keep his domestic enemies at bay, while simultaneously allowing international weapons inspectors to run around the country. Saddam was still in charge, but Iraq was no longer a meaningful threat to the United States or anyone else.

The failure to realize the extent of its success was one major reason the U.S. invaded again in 2003. That war, and all the pain and frustration that followed, would not have been necessary had leaders recognized their earlier victory.

There have been other underappreciated success stories. Counterterrorism efforts against al-Qaeda, though controversial, have been extremely effective. After 9/11, the U.S. methodically dismantled the al-Qaeda that existed in the 1990s. That version of al-Qaeda was wealthy, well-organized and able to operate from a durable sanctuary in Afghanistan. Today, its leaders are mostly dead or in prison, its organization is shattered and its sanctuary is gone. While many terrorists still claim some association with al-Qaeda, none possess the capacity for spectacular violence that made the original version different. As a result, the U.S. can safely reduce its presence in Afghanistan and avoid another costly nation-building campaign.

No one wants to underestimate threats, and no politician wants to be blamed for letting his or her guard down if something terrible happens later. But leaders must be willing to recognize victory. The alternative — ignoring past triumphs and assuming persistent insecurity — will be a recipe for failure in an age of austerity.

Joshua Rovner is the John Goodwin Tower distinguished chair in international politics and national security at SMU.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Kenneth Pollack | Unthinkable: Iran, the Bomb, and American Strategy

OB-ZA119_bkrvbo_DV_20130923124122

Kenneth Pollack, Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution discussed his new book, Unthinkable: Iran, the Bomb, and American Strategy on October 7, 2013 at the SMU Tower Center.

“The Tower Center’s relevant and interesting roundtable discussion was perfectly timed. On the heels of Iranian President Rouhani’s visit to the UN General Assembly, we were able to hear from the author about U.S. policy towards Iran, as well as discuss several other policy puzzles in the Middle East.

I think we all left better informed and with an improved understanding of the region, which we can now share with our SMU students.”

- Diana Newton, Senior Fellow, Tower Center


pollackKenneth M. Pollack is an expert on Middle Eastern political-military affairs, with particular emphasis on Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the other nations of the Persian Gulf region. He is currently a senior fellow in the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. He served as the director of the Saban Center from 2009 to 2012, and its director of research from 2002 to 2009. His most recent book isUnthinkable: Iran, the Bomb, and American Strategy. Pollack received his B.A. from Yale University and a Ph.D. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His dissertation was titled The Influence of Arab Culture on Arab Military Effectiveness, 1948-1991.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Peña Nieto’s Debut: The First Days of the Mexican President

KWG_8933

Another successful program at the SMU Tower Center for Political Studies featuring two prominent Mexico scholars and intellectuals on September 12th, 2013 – former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, the Honorable Antonio O. Garza, and Director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, Dr. Duncan Wood. The program was moderated by Tower Center Senior Fellow, Lee Cullum, noted international journalist, and offered a dynamic discussion about the current Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, and his reforms.

The discussion focused on a couple of major topics: energy and fiscal reform, the Pacto por Mexico, and the return of the PRI to power. Both speakers were candid about the problems and opportunities facing México and left the audience hopeful that the country is moving in the right direction with a more open economy and a more transparent political process. The current President is spearheading efforts to improve sectors of the Mexican economy, such as energy, telecommunications, … that were lagging but rule of law and corruption continue to hamper reform efforts.

– Luisa del Rosal, Program Director, SMU Tower Center

KWG_8990

“What a first rate program!  I scrambled to find my note pad and record the information and anecdotes the speakers shared. (And what they were hesitant to share, Lee managed to extract!) Well done, Tower Center!” – Pia Orrenius, Senior Fellow, SMU Tower Center

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Student Fellow Presentation | Julien Teel: Territorial Disputes in the East China Sea

Julien Teel, senior SMU student and student fellow at the John G. Tower Center for Political Studies, gave a presentation on “Territorial Disputes in the East China Sea and Its Implications on the China-Japan-U.S. Triangular Relationship” at the Tower Center boardroom on September 17, 2013.  More than 20 students, faculty, and Tower Center members attended and had a lively discussion.

teel presentationTerritorial disputes in the East China Sea are complex, involving many different interests and issues—which made it the perfect subject for Julien to study considering his deep interest in national security, and maritime security in particular.  In addition to building on his studies at SMU these past years, his internship at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. this past summer also allowed him to work with scholars from Japan who are experts on security and foreign policy in Asia and to attend events at various research organizations in the national capital.  Having just 30 minutes to talk about a highly complex issue and to an audience beyond his peers in a typical classroom setting made him a little nervous at first.

teel presentation2Feedback from the audience indicates he did a fantastic job.  Julien said he learned a lot from this experience: from thinking critically about how to present information and analysis to gaining confidence in public speak and skills in interacting with audiences.  He urges other students to seize opportunities to present their research to broader audiences, and hope the Tower Center and other forums will give students more opportunities to showcase their research.

 

– Anny Wong, Tower Center Fellow

* This activity benefitted from the U.S. Institute of Peace’s Public Education for Peacebuilding Support Initiative.


Teel, JulienJulien Teel is a senior majoring in Political Science and International Studies, while also minoring in Chinese and Asian Studies. His research encompasses security and defense issues in East Asia, as well as analyzing the trilateral relationship between the U.S., Japan, and China. Currently, Julien is in the process of applying for Officer Candidate School in the Navy with the intention of entering as an Intelligence Officer. He eventually hopes to become a Foreign Area Officer in the Navy, formulating and promoting American foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific region.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tower Center Student Fellow: Hughes Trigg outreach

teel2Julien Teel, senior SMU student and student fellow at the John G. Tower Center for Political Studies, planned, built, and conducted an education outreach at the Hughes Trigg Student Center on September 16, 2013.  Between 11.00am and 1.00pm, Julien, along with junior student Julianna Bond, presented information on territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas, answered questions, and encouraged students to learn more about rising tensions in these two regions and implications for U.S. national security.  About 30 students stopped by and half engaged in in-depth discussions with Julien and Julianna.

teel3In a chat with Julien after the event, he said he found that most students were surprised to hear that there are decades-old conflicts in the region.  Most were keen to learn more and remarked they wish the media would do more to educate the public on complex issues like these and not only report when crisis or violence occurs.  Asked what he values most from this experience, Julien said it was eye-opening to see that fellow students are keen to learn more about world affairs and he believes such education outreach is important to raise awareness among young people and prepare them for their careers.

– Anny Wong, Tower Center Fellow

* This activity benefitted from the U.S. Institute of Peace’s Public Education for Peacebuilding Support Initiative.


Teel, JulienJulien Teel is a senior majoring in Political Science and International Studies, while also minoring in Chinese and Asian Studies. His research encompasses security and defense issues in East Asia, as well as analyzing the trilateral relationship between the U.S., Japan, and China. Currently, Julien is in the process of applying for Officer Candidate School in the Navy with the intention of entering as an Intelligence Officer. He eventually hopes to become a Foreign Area Officer in the Navy, formulating and promoting American foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific region.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tower Center Received Support from the United States Institute of Peace (USIP)

The Tower Center has been selected to receive support from the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) Public Education for Peacebuilding Support initiative to examine rising tensions over disputed territories in the South China Sea and the importance of peaceful, non-violent solutions to U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific region. Public Education for Peacebuilding Support is a new initiative of USIP, administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE), which seeks to support American colleges, universities and public libraries in advancing public education on international peace and conflict resolution.

The funding provided by USIP will enable the Tower Center to hold an expert roundtable (click here to register), a film show with commentary (click here to register), and student-driven research and presentations (click here to register) to expand understanding of how regional conflicts in Asia are intimately tied to U.S. national security, diplomatic, and economic interests in the region.

USIP is the government’s only national security and foreign affairs institution created by the U.S. Congress to professionalize the field of international conflict management and peacebuilding, implement conflict management operations abroad, and generate new tools for conflict management and prevention. As part of its congressional mandate, USIP makes awards to organizations that will advance its mission of supporting national security by funding alternatives to violence around the world.

The Tower Center appreciates the federal support provided by USIP for its important work.

USIP Logo

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The John G. Tower Center Faculty Fellowships

The John G. Tower Center for Political Studies offers faculty fellowships to support and enhance research and undergraduate instruction and to provide seed monies to conduct preliminary research that may lead to outside funding. The award limit is $2500.

These fellowships are open to members of the SMU faculty whose work broadly bears on international and comparative politics, political economy and institutions. The project should be described in a 3 to 5 page proposal outlining the goals of the research to be undertaken, the methodology to be used, a time schedule to be followed, and a detailed budget.

Tower Center Faculty fellowship funds are generally not awarded for domestic or international conference travel as such funds are available elsewhere in the University.  The funds cannot be used to purchase computer hardware or supplement salary.

The application should include a current CV and a list of other agencies or institutions to which the applicant has applied or from which the applicant is receiving funding.

The proposal should include plans for disseminating the results of the research (including the results of previous fellowships if prior grants have been awarded) or for offering the course or curriculum to be developed. This is essential for applications made less than three years since receiving a prior grant.

The award recipient will be asked to present the results of the research in a Tower Center seminar.

The deadline for application is October 20, 2013

This Fellowship will be awarded after a competitive review of the proposals by the Fellowship Committee of the Tower Center, chaired by the director and to include two members of the Faculty Board.

Fellows are asked to cite the Tower Center for Political Studies at SMU in any publications resulting from work done during the grant and to provide the Tower Center with copies of the work.

Please submit application and direct inquiries to Ray Rafidi, Associate Director of the Tower Center, 233 Carr Collins Hall.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Colin Powell Faculty Fellowship

The John G. Tower Center for Political Studies offers the Colin Powell Global Order and Foreign Policy Fellowship. The purpose of this award is to increase research and scholarship and to provide seed monies that may lead to outside funding.  The award is up to $5000 for individuals and up to $10,000 for teams.

This fellowship is open to members of the SMU faculty whose work broadly bears on issues such as the structure of what former President George H.W. Bush called the New World Order and the role of the US in this New Order.

In addition to individual projects, the Tower Center encourages applications from research groups or teams that are seeking seed money for a larger project with the prospect of external funding. Team projects will be evaluated on the basis of their potential for matching grants.

Applications must include a 5 to 10 page proposal outlining the goals of the research to be undertaken, the methodology to be used, a time schedule to be followed, and a detailed budget.  Powell Fellowship funds are generally not awarded for domestic or international conference travel as such funds are available elsewhere in the University.  The application should be accompanied by a current C-V or C-Vs in the case of group applications.  Applications for research support should include a list of other agencies or institutions to which the applicant/s has/have applied or from which the applicant/s is/are receiving funding. The award cannot be used to purchase computer hardware or to supplement salary.

The proposal should discuss plans for disseminating the results of the research. Each award recipient will be asked to submit a final report at the end of the project, and to present the results in a Tower Center seminar.

The deadline for application is October 20, 2013

This Fellowship will be awarded after a competitive review of the proposals by the Fellowship Committee of the Tower Center, chaired by the Director, and to include two members of the Faculty Board.

Powell Fellows are asked to cite the Tower Center for Political Studies at SMU in any publications resulting from work done during the grant and to provide the Tower Center with copies of the work.

Please submit applications and any inquiries to Ray Rafidi, Associate Director of the Tower Center, 233 Carr Collins Hall.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Help Wanted: Hackers

This news story first appeared on May 8, 2013. For more information click here.

By Rena Pederson, KERA News; May 8, 2013

Google.  Bank of America. The U.S. Treasury Department.

They’re just a few of the victims hit by cyber-attacks that stymied their computer operations.

Before he left office, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned the U.S. is facing a “cyber Pearl Harbor.”  He said  “An aggressor national or extremist group could gain control of critical switches and derail passenger trains, or trains loaded with lethal chemicals.  They could contaminate the water supply in major cities, or shut down the power grid across large parts of the country.”

There is already plenty of evidence of the national security danger:

In a single intrusion, hackers stole 24,000 files containing Pentagon data. Before that, hackers stole plans for a $300 billion fighter jet. And penetrated the Air Force’s air traffic control system.

To make matters worse, we may not have the talent graduating from our public schools to out-hack the hackers who are stealing into our government offices and financial institutions. We need software coders who can build better firewalls to protect us and we need the equivalent of cyber Navy Seals who can penetrate threatening systems.

James Gosler, a cyber security specialist at the Sandia National Laboratory, estimates there are only 1,000 people in the United States with the ultra-sophisticated skills needed for cyber defense. He says we need 20,000 to 30,000.

While we have been inching along, other countries have been racing ahead to develop troops for information warfare.  Iranian hackers recently were able to capture one of the Pentagon’s RQ-170 drones.  They tricked the unmanned aircraft into thinking it was landing in Afghanistan.  Cyber attacks traced to China have become so frequent and alarming that President Obama mentioned it in his first congratulatory call to the new Chinese President Xi Jinping.

What are these countries doing that we aren’t?  In China, Iran, and Russia, young hackers are scouted like the star athletes that are recruited here for sports teams.  They are groomed to become cyber warriors.  You can see the results in global cyber competitions: In the World Finals of the International Collegiate Programming Contest, which is sponsored by IBM, the top medal awards for the last five years have gone to China and Russia. Only one American university was in the top ten this year – Harvard placed seventh. MIT was 18th.

It’s time for America to get in the game.  We have to start by training more teachers who can inspire students to study algebra.  A program created at The University of Texas in Austin recruits college students brainy enough to major in math and science to become classroom teachers. More than 6,000 students are now enrolled in UTeach programs at 34 campuses, including – the University of North Texas, U-T Arlington and U-T Dallas.

But more universities and more students across the country need to sign up.  The White House estimates the U.S. will need as many as 100,000 more math and science teachers in the next five years.

We need to support grassroots efforts such as “Commit” in the Dallas School District, or charter schools like Uplift and KIPP Academy, or the National Math and Science Initiative, headquartered in Dallas.  We need to spend more money on education, not less. And expand Advanced Placement programs in math and science so more of our students will be college ready.

We shouldn’t have to wait until our ATMs or the gas pumps or the lights aren’t working because another country hacked in. It’s time to build up our supply of human talent just like we build up our supply of planes and tanks when we need to.  The planes and tanks aren’t going to do much good if the Pentagon computers are shut down.

Rena Pederson is a Dallas journalist and former communications advisor at the U.S. State Department. Ms. Pederson also serves as a member of the board of directors of the Tower Center.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment