Summary: The strategic warning report is intended to provide relevant and necessary intelligence to the senior policy-maker for the United States (U.S.) intelligence community (IC). The strategic warning report aims to identify the necessary posture and response to address the matter referenced in the strategic warning. The strategic warning report will convey to the policy-maker the urgency to respond and the potential consequences concerning national security (Gentry and Gordon 2019). Therefore, the intelligence professional must be clear, concise, and deliberate in presenting the strategic warning to a policymaker.
The national security matter addressed in this strategic warning report concerns the potential degradation and limitations of U.S. intelligence collection and analysis platforms due to the deliberate disinformation campaign directed by the foreign adversary (Frank, Dambre, and Clark, 2022). Contained in this strategic warning report are significant factors affecting the policies regarding national security. The pertinent factors include Assumptions, Analysis, Threats, Indicators, Opportunities, and the Strategic Intelligence Posture (SIP). The foreign adversary’s disinformation campaign may take many forms but is most often seen across virtual social media platforms. Social media platforms are a lightly controlled breeding ground for disinformation strategies. The intelligence professional’s strategic warning is thus that disinformation operations targeting U.S. intelligence collection and national interests represent a critical threat to the intelligence community infrastructure and its ability to provide valued strategic intelligence to senior policy-makers in the intelligence community.
There have been several flawed attempts to inhibit the spread of disinformation. The focus has always been on social media platforms. The role of actors other than social platforms is often ignored, particularly the historical part of mass media in spreading state propaganda or suppressing political expression (CITAP, 2022). Most recently, President Biden established the Disinformation Governance Board to study best practices in combating the harmful effects of disinformation. The board was later dissolved in May 2022. Following the false premise that “broken” social media is responsible for the ills it reveals, regulation will suppress speech (Cato, 2022). Social media restrictions will be viewed as an infringement on First Amendment Rights. Social media restriction is not an infringement when the rights being practiced impede national security. Focusing on the perpetrators and penalizing violators will minimize the spread of disinformation to manageable levels (DHS, 2022).
Disinformation has a long history of plaguing Americans. According to Marwick and Kuo (2021), it became apparent in the 2016 U.S. General elections that the spread of disinformation is driven by fundamental human tendencies to share shocking information and to prefer information that conforms with their existing beliefs (Haigh, Haigh, and Matychak, 2019). Disinformation happens in moments of crisis when people search for information to help them understand what is happening or how to stay safe (ShareVerified, 2022). There is evidence that certain groups purposely target U.S. intelligence agencies to discredit their reports. They have been named the ‘deep state’ on many platforms. The narrative is constantly repeated. As a result of this disinformation campaign against the U.S. intelligence agencies, the reports are questioned and often not believed.
Disinformation is crippling the credibility of the United States intelligence agencies. The political, economic, and cultural impacts limit the United States’ ability to govern effectively. In the wake of the crisis in Ukraine that erupted in 2013–2014, the Kremlin has been accused of orchestrating disinformation campaigns against the Ukrainian government and western countries by using online trolls, a person or group that intentionally incites discord in online conversations, and state-controlled online outlets such as RT (formerly known as Russia Today), Sputnik and Life News (Bjola and Pammet, 2016). Foreign news has led to a wave of counter-disinformation measures in the West to combat what is seen as a threat to democracy, international security, and stability (Golovchenko, Hartmann, and Adler-Nissen, 2018). Action must be taken immediately to quell the spread of disinformation to ensure the United States can continue supporting Ukraine effectively as Russia reconstitutes and continues its advancements in Eastern Ukraine. More people are beginning to support the narrative that Ukraine is corrupt and perhaps Russia is justified in launching an attack. Failure to counter anti-Ukraine messaging can have an irreversible impact on Western democracy when factual evidentiary data from the intelligence community is rendered propaganda from the ‘deep state.’ More than $40 billion in additional aid to Ukraine was approved by the U.S. Congress on May 19, 2022, bringing the total U.S. commitment during the Russian invasion to roughly $54 billion combined with the aid package passed in March (Pallaro and Parlapiano, 2022). The U.S. cannot sustain this level of support to Ukraine without U.S. support, and the disinformation campaign may prolong the war and the level of aid needed by the Ukrainian government.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, companies providing social media and messaging services have taken a wide array of steps to counter harmful disinformation, label or block state-sponsored or state-affiliated press, and introduce extra safety measures (Human Rights Watch, 2022). However, news media outlets in the United States like Fox News continue to traffic disinformation that erodes trust in American agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Mercieca conducted a ‘play-by-play’ assessment of Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s communication strategy that outlines the harm disinformation played. Disinformation is furthering the divide politically, economically, and racially. Propaganda is a type of communication built for warfare (Mercieca, 2021). Communication is a kind of force, a weapon in and of itself (Mercieca, 2021). Specific programs hosted on Fox News can be dangerous because it hosts many of the highest-rated shows with a following that some believe the disinformation presented. Disinformation claims from a seemingly reputable news correspondent with such a massive following are dangerous. Conservative media has focused on the economy and demanded the U.S. spend more internally instead of supporting Ukraine. The cost of living and gas prices lend credence to the narratives that the U.S. is not economically able to support Ukraine without significant domestic economic support measures.
Sanger and Barnes (2020) write that the Russian military has recently taken a central role in the Russian Federation government, leading a disinformation effort against the U.S. Intelligence community. The effects of disinformation on intelligence collection and dissemination have been amplified by the U.S. own political system, which needs addressing. The purpose of a deliberative disinformation campaign against the U.S intelligence community is to distract, obstruct and render their collection effort difficult and less credible. These foreign governments’ efforts are relentless, and a recent example is the Islamic Republic of Iran. Bennett (2021) reported that Iranian state actors are intensifying their disinformation campaign on social media to spread discord and anti-Semitic tropes inside the U.S. This deeply rooted disinformation will empower the enemies and make the U.S. vulnerable to attacks if we continue this path. Under these conditions, the U.S. intelligence apparatus becomes ineffective, and ultimately, democracy will not stand.
Disinformation knows no digital or physical borders, which has proven true time and again: disinformation poses a global threat to open and democratic societies (Pamment, 2020). How can disinformation be detected? Harvard Summer school published tips for people to consider when reading the news; the tips include evaluating characteristics such as author, publisher, website URL, author contact details, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, quotes or references, and the availability of the information on other sites (Marlin, 2019). The process for finding indications can be exhaustive. When Russia began amassing its troops on its Western border, social media depicted a different narrative, a clear sign of either disinformation or cover for operations that were not yet apparent. Russian President Putin methodically planned to invade Ukraine anddeflect Western retaliation. U.S. intelligence remained steadfast in analyzing Russia’s true intent; however, they were doubted. Providing indications, strategic warnings, and credibility is critical to U.S. intelligence operations’ success.
Sound decision-making relies on the ability of an individual to analyze the facts at hand and come to a rational conclusion about the best course of action based on those facts (American Security Project, 2022). Suppose the individual is making decisions based on false or otherwise unreliable information; in that case, those decisions may not be in the interest of that individual or the institution for which they work (American Security Project, 2022). We enjoy a close partnership with social media platform owners. We must now work with the news pundits and owners to stop spreading disinformation that harms national security and our ability to produce credible intelligence. The window is narrow, and if the U.S. President has to issue an Executive Order, he must do so immediately to prevent the spread of disinformation inhibiting our alliance from defeating Russia’s advancement on Ukraine. The intelligence agencies need their voices to be heard above the noise, and disinformation traffickers must be penalized.
Strategic Intelligence Posture (SIP)
Figure one below represents the Strategic Intelligence Posture (SIP). It is a graphic depicting the complexities of conducting intelligence operations in an environment filled with disinformation. It demonstrates critical challenges in collecting and disseminating factual data and the difficulty in managing collection and mitigating the risk of proliferating false data. Disinformation has no front line; potential battlefields are anywhere networked systems allow access (Molander, Riddile, and Wilson, 1996).
Figure 1. Strategic Intelligence Posture
Russia points to evidence exposing Kiev’s intentions to use biological weapons
Documents uncovered in the special military operation in Ukraine corroborate the evidence exposing the Kiev regime’s intentions to use biological weapons, Head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Research Center for Chemical and Biological Threats Dmitry Poklonsky said in the run-up to the Ninth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention. “In some cases, the study focused on infectious disease agents that had never been registered on Ukrainian soil,” he said – informs TASS.
“We have obtained reports of investigations into a collection of microorganisms that indicate the accumulation of pathogens in unsubstantiated amounts. There are documents confirming the intentions to acquire unmanned delivery vehicles that could be used for employing biological weapons. Considering the non-transparent nature of this work and the absence of any substantiated responses from the United States and Ukraine, we, of course, regard the documents obtained as proof that Article 1.4 of the Convention was violated,” the defense official said.
The documents obtained in the special military operation in Ukraine, including reports by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency of the US Department of Defense, corroborate that the nature of work carried out there frequently ran counter to pressing healthcare problems, he stressed.
“In some cases, the study focused on infectious disease agents that had never been registered on Ukrainian soil,” Poklonsky pointed out.
Neither Washington nor Kiev deny the fact of the existence of biological labs in Ukraine bankrolled by the Pentagon, he pointed out.
“It was confirmed by the 2005 agreement between the US Department of Defense and the Ukrainian Health Ministry. Far more questions arise from the nature of the studies being carried out in these biological laboratories and how this work complies with the Convention’s requirements,” the chief of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Center for Chemical and Biological Threats said.
Psychological Warfare (PSYOPS)- The Pandora’s Box of Security Issues
The world, functioning in its numerous forms and dimensions, is primarily perceived and misperceived by individuals through the faculty of the human Mind. A factor that creates a significant difference vis-a-vis human beings and other species is the complex cognitive ability possessed by humans. The mind is fundamentally an expression of thoughts circulated and imbibed through various means of communication. Deconstructing it further, thoughts portray the information consumed by an individual. In other words, this complex combination of the human mind, thoughts, and information shapes and reshapes our psychology.
Psychological war, in this context, can be perceived as a strategically orchestrated arrangement of information derived from variables like history, polity, religion, culture, literature, and philosophy broadly to channel propaganda with the prime objective of influencing and manipulating the behavior of the enemy to further one own interest. The term Psychological war is believed to be coined by a British Historian and military analyst, J.F.C Fuller, in 1920. One can observe that psychological war as an instrument of strategic importance is not of recent origin. Instead, the evolution of this tactic can be traced long back in history since the emergence of the State. It is considered one of the fundamental tools of statecraft and quite often has been put into the application as an instrument of state policy. Drawing a logical parallel, it can be advocated that psychological war has a close resemblance with the ancient notion of the allegory of the cave when applied in the present context.
Relevance of Psychological War
Napoleon Bonaparte once said “There are two powers in the world, the sword and the mind. In the long run, the sword is always beaten by the mind.” With the gradual progress of human intelligentsia, the world is and will be shaped and reshaped through the use of technology. The hyperconnected nature of a modern globalized world broadly portrays the image of a collective human consciousness deeply engrossed in the overwhelming nature of technology that reverberates with every emerging aspect of human life. When viewed from the prism of the State as a governing body in the international forum, technology will be the emerging axis of geopolitics since no state and its citizen can exist in silos devoid of the influence of other states. This is primarily due to the free flow of data. In this context, due to the free flow of data, the power of propaganda as a significant dimension of psychological war would prove to be an effective instrument used by the State to further its national interest.
In this contextual framework, the role of conscious manufacturing of narratives under the larger ambit of the idea of psychological war must be given due consideration. In his famous book,The Ultimate Goal: A Former R&AW Chief Deconstructs How Nations and Intelligence Agency Construct Narratives, Vikram Sood unfolds the idea of how narratives are created, propagated, sustained, and refined in domestic countries and abroad to further the national interest. He emphasizes not only the power of information but also the power of disinformation to de-track and mislead the collective consciousness of the nation. Therefore, it is of critical significance for a nation to enhance its understanding of psychological war, considering it a major security issue.
The cost and the expense of war are also major concerns for the State. In this regard, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval establishes the viewpoint that wars are gradually becoming ineffective in achieving political and military objectives and that they are also highly expensive and are gradually becoming unaffordable. He further puts forward the idea of the 4th generation warfare where the operational target of the objective would be civil society. A fair understanding of the 4th generation warfare is of critical importance due to the fact that the modus operandi to target civil society would primarily be through the perpetual use of psychological war. The cost of psychological war, when compared with other forms of war, is abysmally low and also highly effective in manipulating the behaviour of the State. The cost-effectiveness helps it be more sustainable, which can be continued for an extended period of time.
Materialisation of Psychological War
Psychological war is applied by many States as an instrument of state policy. China, in this regard, can be considered a prominent player that has materialized this idea. In the strategic book on statecraft, The Art Of War, Sun Tzu states that “All warfare is based on deception.” China has consciously tried to bridge the gap between the theory and practice of psychological war. The Dhoklam issue in 2017 substantiates how the Chinese government used psychological war as an instrument of state policy to further its national interest.
The hostile approach of Pakistan towards India is not of recent origin. Instead, it is a phenomenon that can be traced back in history during the early germination of the idea of Pakistan when the Muslin League was formed in 1906. After the materialization of this idea by a painful partition of India in 1947, Kashmir became the bone of contention right after Pakistan’s inception as a nation-state. Pakistan, over the years, has become cognizant of the conventional asymmetry between the two nations. Therefore, it has operationalized the path of psychological war in the Kashmir region with a more pinpointed approach of using Twitter as an operational instrument to create misperceptions at a low cost to achieve its objectives.
Psychological War and the Indian Perspective
Taking a momentary glance at the historical evolution of India as a civilizational State, it can be rightly stated that understanding the nature of the mind has been a perpetual theme in the philosophical construct of India. The use of psychological war is not a new phenomenon. The references to it can be prominently found in Indian mythology. In this regard, the epic story of The Mahabharatha is a prominent example.
In one of the instances, Krishna applied this idea of psychological war by disclosing a fact to Karna, which hitherto was kept secret and hidden from him. Krishna, just before the war, unfolded the fact to Karna that he is the eldest son of Kunti, his father is the Sun God, and the Pandavas his brothers. This very fact and the timing of the disclosure of this fact put Karna in a deep psychological trauma that depletes his mental strength. It was at this moment that Krishna offered Karna to join the battle from the side of Pandavas. A similar instance of psychological war used by India was found during The Bangladesh liberation war.
In the context of psychological war, Arthashstra is also a relevant text. It mentions the art of Kutayuddha. In Sanskrit, the word Kuta implies the application of deception, the creation of misperception, and misleading the enemy state; Yudh means war. Kautilya is a staunch advocate of establishing a network of espionage to initiate intelligence and counterintelligence measures as a major security initiative for a state. Therefore, it can be rightly perceived that India has a history of psychological war, which it has implemented to maintain security and stability.
Taking an analogical perspective, if the mechanism of psychological war is like a gun, then information is the potential bullets that are fired from it to target the enemy. The flow of Information can be considered the most important factor that makes psychological war lethal, precise, and effective. Therefore, there exists an urgent need for the establishment of an ‘Information Operations Command’ to tackle the issue of psychological war that is rapidly maturing and enhancing in its nature and methodology, fusing with the 5th generation warfare.
Another area of critical importance in this regard is the pressing need for a ‘National Security Doctrine.’ A national security doctrine is primarily a broad vision of a nation in the domain of its security from an inclusive perspective. Strong inter-agency coordination and refined analysis of security issues are needed.
Psychological war, as a rapidly evolving tool of statecraft in the security domain, acts as a linchpin vis-a-vis the 4th and 5th generation warfare where civil society and citizens are targeted with a perfect blend of technology and information. This makes it a war that doesn’t have a start or an end date. It is fought every minute, and progress can be achieved, even though at a minuscule level, but on a daily basis. Therefore, India as a major player in international politics with two hostile neighbors on its eastern and western border, must hold into perspective the scope, significance, and emerging dynamics of psychological war to keep herself abreast with other states at the international level on the security front.
Growing India Israel Relations: A Threat to Sovereignty of Gulf States
India has developed remarkable ties with the Gulf nations, particularly the GCC, over the past few decades. The significant trade between GCC nations and India and Israel are the main cause. This gradualist approach and efforts on part of India is to include Israel in a broader Middle East policy. Under the Namenda Modi administration, since 2017 Israel is “special and normal” because India has avoided the negative repercussions and no longer have fears opened relations with the Jewish state.
However, the point of concern is that India and Israel’s growing ties must not result in a coalition against Muslims. Modi and Netanyahu have many good reasons to rejoice over their thawing ties. But the gulf countries must discredit them if they use that proximity to advance a common narrative of extreme nationalism, exclusion, and labeling Muslims as the enemy.
Since October 25th, 2022, news reports have been making the rounds in the media revealing India’s involvement in global terrorism. Eight former Indian Navy officers have recently been detained in Qatar on suspicion of espionage and terrorism supported by the Indian government. These spy-officers were arrested in August 2022 for their involvement in international terrorism, espionage, and spying while working in Qatar for a private company and providing training and other services to the Qatari Emiri Navy.
Purnendu Tiwari, a retired (Naval commander) who received the Pravasi Samman 2019 (Highest Indian Award Abroad), was the brains behind the transfer of data from a major Gulf Muslim nation to Israel and India. It has been reported in the media that these Indian officers had access to sensitive information while working with Qatar’s enemies and the Defense, Security, and other government agencies. This is not the first time; India has been involved in espionage operations that violate foreign governments’ sovereignty, though it continues to deny it. International terrorism perpetrated by India has also frequently targeted Pakistan in the past. One such instance is the Kalbushan Yadav case.
The relationship between India and Israel is frequently described as a result of a natural convergence of ideologies between their respective ruling BJP and Liked parties. The BJP’s Hindutva and right-wing Zionism are two ethno-nationalist political movements that naturally discriminate against other races and religions because they are based on the majority populations they serve. In comparison to earlier, more liberal iterations of Hindutva and Zionism, both parties have become more racist. Therefore, by all means, India’s continued close strategic, economic, and security ties with Israel are more ideological than pragmatic.
India should make an effort to protect itself ideologically from the threat of Hindutva becoming the state’s guiding principle and a vehicle for incitement both domestically and abroad. Its exclusivist and discriminatory belief that India is only the property of Hindus is dangerous, especially at a time when Muslim minorities are increasingly being lynched in the name of cow vigilantism.
Today, the Gulf is an integral part of India’s ‘extended neighborhood’, both by way of geographical proximity and as an area of expanded interests and growing Indian influence. However, as a result of escalating anti-Muslim sentiment and the Hindutva movement’s flawed ideology, the BJP, government is arguably facing its most difficult diplomatic challenge in its nine years in office. A few years ago in 2020, Muslim nations were outraged by Nupur Sharma’s (a BJP official) insulting comments made during a TV debate about the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Islamic-majority nations voiced their opposition through tweets, official statements, and by summoning Indian diplomats. The BJP was compelled to take action against the party officials for posting a screenshot of offensive tweet.
Subsequently, Princess Hend al-Qassimi of the UAE then made a rare public statement in response to the rising Islamophobia among Indians, saying in a tweet, “I miss the peaceful India.” She did this after she specifically called out a tweet from an Indian resident of the UAE as being “openly racist and discriminatory,” reminding her followers that the penalty for hate speech could be a fine or even expulsion. These statements come after the Islamic world, including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, urged India to act quickly to defend the rights of its Muslim minority and expressed concern about how the BJP treats Indian Muslims.
This suggests that the relationships New Delhi has worked so hard to build over the past few years drawing on the efforts of the previous administration is now seriously in jeopardy. India’s diplomatic achievement is starting to fall apart due to domestic developments that target its 200 million Muslims. The flagrant mistreatment of India’s Muslim communities now jeopardizes New Delhi’s carefully crafted Middle Eastern diplomacy, particularly with regard to the Gulf States.
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