National Security

In-The-News: CGA's Nate Snyder Named as Next-Gen Latino Leader in National Security

This article original appeared on the New America blog, September 16, 2019.

Current events have signaled that the American people want a government that reflects the diversity of our nation and leadership at the national level that brings together different perspectives to address America’s emerging national security and foreign policy challenges.

The Latino community is abundant with leadership in defense, diplomacy, and international development, and an excellent resource in addressing such challenges. From the Revolution to today, Latinos have helped build this country. Latinos have served in uniform from the Navy’s first Admiral David Farragut to the Congressional Gold Medal Borinqueneers; to the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson and current Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez; to Jose Garzon, professor and a 30-year veteran of the USAID Foreign Service and international activists like Chef Jose Andrés, who formed World Central Kitchen to feed families and individuals touched by disasters. Their contributions highlight that there has been no shortage of important contributions from this talent-rich and diverse community.

The Diversity in National Security Network and the New America Foundation take great pleasure in recognizing the caliber of talent available within the Latino community and elevating the next generation of voices in the national security conversation. We are pleased to honor the contributions of 30 Latino rising-star professionals in U.S. national security and foreign policy. The list features experts currently serving in government, think tanks, academia, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and the media. Selection is based on career excellence and leadership, current work in national security or foreign policy, contributions to their issues of expertise through thought leadership, and demonstrated service to their communities.

This list is part of a series highlighting the need for diverse voices in national security and foreign policy. We encourage you to read "Bringing More Diversity to the National Security Arena" and the previous lists in this series for Black American and Asian American and Pacific Islander National Security & Foreign Policy Next Generation Leaders and after you learn about this year's Latino National Security & Foreign Policy Next Generation Leaders.

Nate Snyder
National Security Advisor and Former Obama DHS Counterterrorism Official

Nate Snyder is a current Senior Advisor for Cambridge Global Advisors, LLC, a national security consulting and strategic communications firm. Most recently, Nate contributed to CBS This Morning, Meet the Press Daily, MSNBC Live, and CNN Tonight to provide counterterrorism analysis in the wake of the El Paso terrorist attack. Other contributions include his analysis on the 5G network national security threats posed by Huawei with Hill TV. Previously, Nate served as an Obama Administration DHS counterterrorism official and advisor to DOJ, FBI, NCTC, and the White House. Before joining the Obama Administration, Nate held numerous senior positions with the 2007-2008 Obama Presidential Campaign. Nate is a graduate of the White House National Security Leadership Workshop and board member of the Obama Latino Appointee Alumni Association, LATINOS44. He is a graduate of Syracuse University and has a master’s degree from the U.S. Naval War College in national security and counterterrorism. Learn more about him hereLinkedIn, and on Twitter.

Expertise: Counterterrorism and Cybersecurity

Commentary: Protecting Europe from China will strengthen the future of NATO

This op-ed originally appeared in EURACTIVE online on June 19, 2019

By: Douglas Lute

NATO, the world’s oldest and most successful alliance, recently turned 70 years old. As a report from Harvard’s Belfer Center explains, the Alliance faces a daunting array of challenges, including some that are familiar like defence spending and Russian aggression.

Other challenges are only now emerging and will become increasingly important in coming years. Especially pressing is the growing strategic competition between the Western alliance and China, which will likely dominate the world scene for the next several decades.

Today the competition with China is mostly economic, not military, but NATO members need to pay attention. Chinese economic investments today can lead to political influence tomorrow, and also have security implications. China’s annual foreign direct investment in Europe grew to $420 billion in 2017, a fifty-fold increase over a decade.

As part of the Belt and Road Initiative, China focuses investments on transportation and communications infrastructure, vital connections to Europe’s huge market with 500 million consumers and one-fourth of global GDP.

With these huge investments, China will gain political influence within European Union governments, as we have already seen in several cases. As political divisions widen within both NATO and the EU, cohesion erodes and these key institutions will struggle to attain consensus on how to address this challenge.

The competition with China includes emerging digital technologies that have significant security implications. Artificial intelligence, quantum computing, robotics and biotechnology may revolutionise warfare, perhaps on the scale of the changes brought on with the development of nuclear weapons in the early years of NATO.

Most attention today centres on the competition for 5G communications networks. While Chinese-made 5G infrastructure tends to be less expensive, it introduces new vulnerabilities because of the potential for the Chinese government to gain access to the networks and the data that travels across them.

Neither economic nor security concerns are likely to completely dominate in the European market as individual Member States weigh costs, benefits and risks. As it stands, the European 5G market is poised to contain a significant amount of Chinese infrastructure.

Economic factors can be balanced with security concerns. European governments can leverage contractual, regulatory and technological tools to mitigate security risks. For example, mandating interoperability between 5G technological components would ensure that one manufacturer, such as China’s Huawei, does not dominate the market.

Without careful coordination among allies to agree on reasonable security measures,  5G competition threatens to divide NATO and the EU politically, lead to barriers to integration, and reduce the overall benefit of 5G to European consumers.

While 5G is the current hot topic, it is just the beginning of competition with China in emerging technologies. In the coming decades, even more sophisticated data-based technologies will mean that both America and the European Union face a long term, geo-strategic competition with China.

Some of these technologies will have even more direct implications for national and Alliance security than 5G, changing fundamentally how NATO deters and, if necessary, fights wars.

Now is the time for NATO — and its most important partner, the EU – to wake up to the challenge from China, while it is still primarily economic and not yet military. Together, the US and NATO allies comprise about 50% of global GDP.

The trans-Atlantic alliance is a strategic advantage for both America and Europe that China cannot match – if we act together. As the competition with China is mainly economic and political, it should be a priority topic for US-EU and NATO-EU consultations.

For example, the US should welcome recent EU initiatives to implement measures to control foreign investment, similar to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). The competition for 5G in Europe is only the opening round in the strategic competition with China.

America and Europe, joined together in NATO, are stronger together.

Commentary: 5G risk is about more than simply securing competitive advantage

This op-ed originally appeared in The Hill on May 17, 2019.

By: Nate Snyder

The dawning of 5G capabilities will revolutionize our telecommunications and online networks. Data transport speeds will increase to 10 times faster than what they are with 4G. As countries across the globe discover and develop new 5G innovations, so too will terrorist organizations, private actors, and lone offenders. If there is a new technology breakthrough with the public at large, it will no doubt be leveraged by bad actors who will develop and discover their own insidious innovations and exploitations.

While working on counterterrorism efforts at the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama administration, I became familiar with how private actors and terrorist organizations exploit any vulnerabilities they can, especially when it comes to online networks and using the internet. These bad actors exploit network vulnerabilities to target and disrupt critical infrastructure, and access and exploit information and people.

It is no secret that the Chinese government has built in capabilities to control the online access of its own citizens. It is also widely known that Huawei is essentially state controlled and influenced. Reports note the company is 99 percent answerable to the Chinese government. Various backdoors, control measures, and surveillance applications have been built directly into the “Great Firewall” of Chinese online infrastructure.

Many of these surreptitious access points and controls are coded into core software and engineered into hardware. While at the Department of Homeland Security, I met with a senior Chinese counterterrorism delegation. I asked them how they address online radicalization to violence. Without hesitation, they replied, “We turn the internet off.” If the Chinese government uses these vulnerabilities to its advantage, you can guarantee that terrorist organizations will also seek to exploit them.

That explains why Prime Minister Theresa May announcing that the United Kingdom will allow Huawei to build noncore 5G functions is a significant problem. Not only is it a British security risk, but it also affects American and allied security. Allowing Huawei onto our collective 5G networks would be like inviting inside a Trojan horse that can be exploited by the Chinese government and other bad actors. The British government has cited compromising vulnerabilities in the Huawei supply chain. Several years ago Vodafone discovered security flaws in Huawei software that, while not fatal, continue to compromise the reputation of the company.

Because of these software and hardware vulnerabilities, likely created with purpose, Huawei and the Chinese 5G supply chain cannot be trusted. The supply chain security is beyond suspicious, and some American allies have already banned the use of Huawei 5G technology. Since the Huawei and Chinese 5G supply chain has more holes than Swiss cheese, it is fair to expect not if but when bad actors will exploit these vulnerabilities.

Some of the greatest deterrents we have against terrorists using online networks and the internet are awareness and intelligence. With Huawei potentially holding a monopoly on the flow and curation of 5G information across the globe, who knows if it will allow adequate access to investigate terrorist threats, emerging trends, threat vectors, and critical data. Huawei will essentially become an all knowing information provider and could handicap the United States and allied intelligence communities. Imagine the embarrassment of relying on Huawei for intelligence to investigate domestic terrorist threats in our own backyard, let alone the potential international ramifications. Even if access is given, the information could be suspicious. Needless to say, bad actors will exploit these blind spots.

The United States should lead the fight for shared principles and ensure competition and interoperability among technology vendors. The Trump administration should focus on building a coalition of our closest allies instead of ridiculing them. This key coalition should push for mandating interoperability among technology providers, ensuring that one company does not become the sole provider for unimagined future technologies like 6G, and tackling risks through diversification and threat dispersion.

The coalition should also demand that Huawei provide the interoperable technology to strengthen noncore technology. Without diversity of secure technology in the 5G ecosystem, the United States leaves itself open to exploitation. Should these demands not be met, the coalition will need to develop new information sharing agreements to mitigate the simple fact that Huawei cannot be a trusted reliable information provider. The United States, along with our closest allies, should lead in the race to develop forward looking and competitive 5G infrastructure technology and policy, or risk falling prey to bad actors. If we are able to get our act together, we still have the opportunity to positively impact 5G development, but we must act now before it is too late. Our national security depends on it.

Nate Snyder is a senior advisor with Cambridge Global Advisors. He was a senior counterterrorism official with the Department of Homeland Security and the Countering Violent Extremism Task Force under President Obama.

Commentary: Firewalling Democracy: Federal Inaction on a National Security Priority

This piece originally appeared in The Hill, January 31, 2018.

January marked the first anniversary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s designation of elections as “critical infrastructure,” placing them into the category of other physical or virtual sectors — such as food, water and energy — considered so crucial that their protection is necessary to our national security. Naming “elections” as a critical infrastructure sub-sector was a key action taken by then-Secretary Jeh Johnson following an Intelligence Community report about ways Russia sought to meddle in the 2016 elections via a variety of hacking tactics aimed at election offices, voter databases and our larger digital democracy.

At the time, I was serving as DHS Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis — and I was encouraged greatly by the critical infrastructure move. Voting administration is a state and local responsibility, but these entities often are overburdened, under-resourced and not exactly versed in Kremlin-based cyber crimes. The announcement reflected a new reality that election security is national security — and it provided enhanced capabilities for the feds to coordinate on election cyber threats.

However, since that optimistic moment 13 months ago, there has been unwillingness at the highest levels of the federal government to act.

On Capitol Hill, it’s taken a year for the Secure Elections Act (S. 2261), to be introduced. Although a positive first step toward ensuring that states have grants and other support to protect their voting systems, the bill’s future is unclear beyond the six bipartisan co-sponsors backing it.

At DHS, scores of mid-level staff — especially within the National Protection and Programs directorate — are working to answer state and local election officials requesting cyber assistance, while at the same time gathering what limited resources exist to prepare for 2018.  But these folks are operating minus top cover from the White House or other cabinet-level leaders, many of whom continue to eschew that Russia is a concern altogether.

As I consider possible reasons for this federal lack of leadership, it appears the fear of attaching oneself to the politics of the past election — rather than tackling the real challenges of the upcoming one — emerges as the most plausible explanation.

For one, it’s not for lack of threat. The vulnerabilities within our democratic infrastructure are deepening every day. In June, DHS announced that voting systems and registration databases in at least 21 states had been the aim of Russian hacking attempts in 2016. Last fall, across the pond, the Brits laid claim that the same Russia-based Twitter accounts that targeted the 2016 U.S. election also employed divisive rhetoric to influence the Brexit referendum. Even as recently as November, news emerged that Russian bots flooded the Federal Communications Commission’s public comment systems — an important democratic forum for Americans to voice opinions — during the net-neutrality debate, generating millions of fake comments.

Federal procrastination is also seemingly not tied to lack of pressure. It is true that DHS’s initial offers for cyber assistance were not embraced by state and locals in past elections. But since last year, there’s been a backlog of requests pouring in. Meanwhile, local election directors such as Cook County, Illinois’ Noah Praetz, have taken it upon themselves to develop election cybersecurity plans, despite no federal backing. Even the hacker community — traditionally allergic to Washington — has been raising the alarm on election security. For example, DEFCON, the world’s largest hacker conference, held an educational voting machine hacking demonstration last summer to show how susceptible election equipment is to cyber attack.

Finally, I surmise absent response is not a factor of the arduous process that is federal policymaking. Historically, when a national security threat to America is imminent, I’ve seen leaders act swiftly, honorably and without regard for politics. In this case, we have waning time to act: The 2018 election season is weeks away with primaries starting in March in Illinois and Texas. And when it comes to Russia’s goal of undermining democracy, they’re not likely to take this cycle off. Indeed, they will most likely apply the lessons of 2016 with a more calculated approach.

After 47 years in working in national security — much of that spent in the military and federal government — I respect the evolving threats facing democracy today. Yet the urgent work at the state and local level to prepare for future elections will be insufficient if it is not fully matched and funded by the federal government.

With new leaders, including DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, assuming the helm, this is a moment to choose national defense over politics. A window, albeit closing, exists to support state and locals — along with mid-level civil servants — focused on the problem.

In the vital cause to reassure Americans that their democracy can withstand outside attacks, our enemies are counting on political division and chaotic discourse. I encourage leaders at every level to leverage the best of our national security resources, unite and then prove them wrong.

Francis X. Taylor, a senior advisor at the security consulting firm Cambridge Global Advisors in Washington, is the former under secretary for intelligence and analysis at the Department of Homeland Security. He also served as the former head of diplomatic security with the State Department and is a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general.

IN-THE-NEWS: Douglas Lute Joins ABC This Week with George Stephanopolous to talk Afghanistan

CGA Principal and former NATO Ambassador Douglas Lute told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview on "This Week" Sunday that the United States is stuck in a political and military stalemate in Afghanistan, and it is unclear whether President Donald Trump's new strategy in the country will resolve it.  Read more here

IN-THE-NEWS: Top former US officials call for talks with Taliban

WASHINGTON: As the Trump administration is gearing up to announce its Afghan policy review, four top US officials formerly linked in some capacity with Afghan war have urged the Trump administration to move for a political settlement in Afghanistan with the help of Pakistan and other regional partners.

Speaking at a US think tank, the influential officials also snubbed some Afghan participants who called for reconsidering Durand Line and US aid to Pakistan saying that even complete halt in US aid won’t change Pakistan’s position as the country is no more dependent on American assistance.

The speakers included former US ambassador to NATO and former deputy national security adviser on Iraq and Afghanistan, Douglas Lute, former acting special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (2016-2017), Laurel Miller, former senior adviser to the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (2009-2013), Barnett Rubin and former senior adviser on Afghanistan and Pakistan for the under secretary of defense for policy, Christopher Kolenda.

They said sending a few thousand more troops to Afghanistan will not change the situation drastically and negotiated political solution is the only way forward for the United States. They added that with the exception of India, all regional powers like China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan want a non-military political solution to the Afghan conflict as no one wants permanent US military bases in their backyard.

During the debate two Afghan participants tried to blame Pakistan for Afghan trouble and credited US aid for Pakistan’s recent economic turn-around. However experts completely disagree with them.

“US aid did not give rise to Pakistan’s economy,” said Barnett Rubin adding that there are misconception about the magnitude of US aid. He explained that US aid was not given to Pakistan in return for Pakistan’s fight against Taliban in Afghanistan. “US assistance to Pakistan was given under an agreement between General Musharraf and President Bush which allowed use of Pakistan’s territory to put our military in Afghanistan. Without Pakistan’s permission, we could not have entered our forces in Afghanistan, a landlocked country.”

He said if US breaks the agreement, Pakistan can also follow suit and stop movement of Nato and US containers on its soil. Laurel Miller who served as Af-Pak representative said US can cut off 100 percent aid to Pakistan but it would still not change Pakistan’s perception about its security concerns.

She said US wants to use aid to press Pakistan from its position of supporting Taliban but the administration has to understand that Pakistan is no more dependent on the US assistance. On a question about Durand Line, she said US can’t resolve the problem as Pakistan would never accept that. “It is not a realistic thing to assume US will help Afghanistan in its claim on Durand Line”.

She said US should facilitate international mediator between Taliban and Afghan government so that regional partners especially Pakistan could understand that US is sincere in peace process.

“These countries would be in the region forever. They have stakes and if they see that a political outcome can protect their stakes they are more likely to support that solution,” she added. Douglas Lute, Former US ambassador to Nato said US troop surge of a few thousand will not break the stalemate in Afghanistan. He called for effective political dialogue to resolve the conflict.

Christopher Kolenda said US is spending about $25 billion every year on Afghan war. He said the only possible solution for US is a negotiated settlement. “Since Second World War studies show that insurgency that has external sanctuary and internal support has been successful every single time,” he said.

He said Pakistan believes a stable Afghanistan will team up with India to harm Pakistan and India understands this fear and it is using its relations with Afghanistan to forward its own interests in the region.

This article originally appeared in The News, July 15, 2017.