The National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) unveiled the National Counterintelligence Strategy of the United States of America 2020-2022 on February 10th.
“Today’s strategy represents a paradigm shift in addressing foreign intelligence threats as a nation. While past counterintelligence strategies categorized the threat by our top foreign nation-state adversaries, this one focuses on five key areas where foreign intelligence entities are hitting us hardestand where we need to devote greater attention – critical infrastructure, key U.S. supply chains, the U.S. economy, American democratic institutions, and cyber and technical operations,” said NCSC Director William Evanina.
“With the private sector and democratic institutions increasingly under attack, this is no longer a problem the U.S. Government can address alone. It requires a whole-of -society response involving the private sector, an informed American public, as well as our allies,” Director Evanina added.
According to the strategy, which was signed by President Trump on January 7, 2020 and can be found on the Department of National Intelligence website [pdf], three principal trends characterize the counterintelligence threats to the US.
- The number of threat actors targeting the U.S. is growing, ranging from state actors like Russia, China, Iran, Cuba, and North Korea; to non-state actors like Lebanese Hizballah, ISIS and al-Qaeda; to hacktivists, leaktivists and those with no formal ties to foreign intelligence services.
- These threat actors have increasingly sophisticated intelligence capabilities and technologies at their disposal, including advanced cyber tools, biometric devices, high-resolution imagery, enhanced technical surveillance equipment, advanced encryption and big data analytics.
- Threat actors are using these enhanced capabilities against an expanded set of targets and vulnerabilities. While foreign intelligence entities are targeting most federal agencies in the U.S., including those without a national security mission, they are also targeting a broad array of private sector and academic entities and seeking to influence U.S. public opinion.
The assessment is that in terms of intelligence, China is Washington’s premiere adversary, and Russia is primarily mentioned in the sphere of propaganda.
Upon even a simple glance, many of the emphasized points are specifically part of the Trump administration’s pressure campaign against Beijing.
It has five primary objectives:
- Protect the nation’s civil and commercial, defense mission assurance and continuity of government infrastructure from foreign intelligence entities seeking to exploit or disrupt national critical functions.
“Foreign intelligence entities have embedded themselves into U.S. national labs, academic institutions, and industries that form America’s national innovation base. They have done this to acquire information and technology that is critical to the growth and vitality of the U.S. economy.”
This, in turn, puts at risk U.S. innovation and the competitiveness of American companies in world markets.
To counter it, the mechanism to detect foreign threats will be improved, awareness of foreign intelligence threats to the US economy, and identify and counter foreign investments that threaten the US economy.
- Reduce threats to key U.S. supply chains to prevent foreign attempts to compromise the integrity, trustworthiness, and authenticity of products and services purchased and integrated into the operations of the U.S. government, the Defense Industrial Base, and the private sector.
“The exploitation of key supply chains by foreign adversaries—especially when executed in concert with cyber intrusions and insider threat activities—represents a complex and growing threat to strategically important U.S. economic sectors and critical infrastructure.”
The toolkit to counter these threats must be improved. The US needs to enhance its capabilities to detect and respond to supply chain threats, as well as to advance the supply chain integrity and security across the entire government.
- Counter the exploitation of the U.S. economy to protect America’s competitive advantage in world markets and our technological leadership, and to ensure our economic prosperity and security.
“Many countries target the United States because it is a global center for high-technology research, technology and innovation. Foreign intelligence entities have embedded themselves into U.S. national labs, academic institutions, and industries that form America’s national innovation base.”
It has been known for a while that any new technology originates in the U.S., if it doesn’t originate in the U.S., but in Russia, for example, as in the case with hypersonic technology – then Russia simply stole it. The same is twice as valid for China, which according to the US has stolen, more or less, every technological advancement from the U.S. and/or others.
The detection for foreign threats to the innovation base must be improved, as Russia managed to steal the entire hypersonic technology, and then the U.S. apparently also entirely lost the technology and needs to fast-track its development.
Broaden awareness of foreign intelligence threats to the U.S. Economy. This, once again, relates to Huawei and its presumed spying.
Identify and counter foreign investments in the United States that pose a national security threat. Essentially, the protectionism will become much more severe.
- Defend the United States against foreign influence to protect America’s democratic institutions and processes, and preserve our culture of openness.
“Foreign intelligence entities are conducting influence campaigns in the United States to undermine confidence in our democratic institutions and processes, sow divisions in our society, exert leverage over the United States and weaken our alliances.”
It’s unmentioned that most of the supposed influence campaigns are carried out by specifically U.S. media and one should not forget that providing any form of evidence is much better than simply throwing accusations around.
To counter these activities, however, the US plans to advance its counterintelligence capabilities and activities to detect, deter and counter such foreign attempts.
Strengthen partnerships across U.S. Government departments and agencies; with state, local, tribal, and territorial governments; and with the private sector. Thus, no other information designated as propaganda should be allowed, only the sanctioned propaganda.
And finally, foreign partnerships should be deepened and developed, so that any influence can be countered in a timely manner.
- Counter foreign intelligence cyber and technical operations that are harmful to U.S. interests.
“Our foreign adversaries are capable of conducting cyber espionage and technical operations against U.S. interests around the world and they continue to develop new and more effective capabilities in these areas. Readily available and advanced cyber and technical surveillance tools offer threat actors a relatively low-cost, efficient, deniable, and high-yield means of accomplishing their goals.”
This can be seen in the campaign against Huawei and its 5G technology.
This objective will be achieved by wide trainings, improving the counterintelligence toolkit, specifically in the sphere of cybersecurity.
The report, in its entirety, repeats many of what is being done against China, and in part, against Russia.
Thus, protectionism will get much harsher for Washington’s economy, as it is constantly under threat of being allegedly ruined by Beijing, and at the same time, the U.S. democracy is constantly under threat from alleged “Russian trolls” and their massive and all-encompassing influence campaigns.
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