from Politics, Power, and Preventive Action and Center for Preventive Action

You Might Have Missed: Incirlik Air Base, Open Source Data, and Existential Threats

July 24, 2015

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Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

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Dion Nissenbaum, “Turkey to Let U.S. Military Launch Strikes Against Islamic State From Turkish Soil,” Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2015.

The deal, agreed to by President Barack Obama and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will allow the U.S. to use Incirlik Air Base in eastern Turkey to send manned and unmanned planes to attack Islamic State fighters, the officials said. The two leaders spoke on Wednesday, the White House said.

(3PA:  In an earlier book, I wrote extensively about the limits that Turkey placed on U.S. military access to Incirlik airbase from 1991 to 2003. For an abridged version, see my article about why U.S. drones can’t fly from or over every single country:

“For example, basing rights agreements can limit the number of civilian, military, and contractor personnel at an airbase or post; what access they have to the electromagnetic spectrum; what types of aircraft they can fly; how many sorties they can conduct per day; when those sorties can occur and how long they can last; whether the aircraft can drop bombs on another country and what sort of bombs; and whether they can use lethal force in self-defense. When the United States led the enforcement of the northern no-fly zone over Iraq from the Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey from 1991 to 2003, a Turkish military official at the rank of lieutenant colonel or higher was always on board U.S. Air Force AWACS planes, monitoring the airspace to assure that the United States did not violate its highly restrictive basing agreement.”)

James Dobbins, et al., “Choices for America in a Turbulent World,” RAND Corporation, 2015.

Today, the United States faces no existential threat; rather, it confronts an unusually wide and diverse array of challenges. (p. xiv)

(3PA: This key finding from a major new RAND study is worth keeping in mind as Pentagon officials continuously claim that Russia poses an “existential threat” to the United States.)

JASON, The Mitre Group, “Open and Crowd-Sourced Data for Treaty Verification,” October 2014.

Rapid advances in technology have led to the global proliferation of inexpensive, networked sensors that are now providing significant new levels of societal transparency. As a result of the increase in quality, quantity, connectivity and availability of open information and crowd-sourced analysis, the landscape for verifying compliance with international treaties has been greatly broadened. Of comparable importance is the impact more generally on tracking activities potentially threatening to US and international security.

These technologies present both challenges and opportunities for the government to make effective use of the available information and analysis. Agility will be required in adopting the new technologies and exploiting the data. To this end, government should give high priority to 1) tracking public sector activities involving sensor development and data sharing in support of increased transparency; and 2) developing a strategic plan for keeping up with the evolving protocols for collecting, transmitting and analyzing the resulting data. The data are significant in arms control treaty verification and monitoring.

Raw data obtained by these public means may be reliably validated by independent confirmation, supported by checks for internal consistency from quantitative analysis of the clutter (as distinct from errors) in the data. There is an opportunity to enhance transparency and confidence through cooperative activities with other nations, and through exchanges among technical experts in areas of mutual interest such as the environment, climate and public health. We also recommend training and tasking staff in foreign missions to identify appropriate sources of open information, and engaging the business community to share open source information and analysis. Finally, we advocate keeping open source information and analysis open to the greatest degree possible and appropriate so as to encourage vetting as well as increased transparency. (p. 65)

(3PA: The JASONs is an independent scientific advisory group that has conducted classified and unclassified research projects for the U.S. government on national security matters since 1960.)

Combating Terrorism: State Should Evaluate Its Countering Violent Extremism Program and Set Time Frames for Addressing Evaluation Recommendations,” Government Accountability Office, July 22, 2015.

To date, the CT [Counterterrorism] Bureau has not evaluated the CVE [Countering Violent Extremism] program despite having identified the program as a priority goal for the bureau. The bureau acknowledged that such an evaluation would help it to ensure accountability, better measure program impact and effectiveness, and shape future programming decisions, but has postponed plans to evaluate the CVE program every fiscal year since 2012. The bureau cited two main reasons for postponing these plans. First, the bureau said it is difficult to evaluate the CVE program given that its goal is to deny terrorist groups new recruits and measuring and attributing this negative effect can be a complex task. Second, the CVE program is a relatively new effort for the U.S. government and most of its partners, so evaluation methodologies are still evolving. As of June 2015, the CT Bureau was unsure what future evaluations it would undertake but indicated that it was working to finalize its evaluation plans for 2015. (p. 20)

(3PA: This means the bureau within the U.S. government that is most responsible for keeping people in other countries from becoming terrorists has not evaluated if its programs work.)

More on:

Military Operations

Terrorism and Counterterrorism