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Mission Corner

Mission Corner

Mission Corner is an online journal of commentary by leaders in the national security community working on new and evolving mission issues.

Posted by SAP NS2 Editorial Team, April 3, 2015

One Way to Flag Threats Outside the U.S.: Follow the Money

Money - CREDIT: CREATIVE COMMONS IMAGE
CREDIT: CREATIVE COMMONS IMAGE

A drug operation sending cash to Hezbollah. A charity group the United Arab Emirates has accused of funding Hamas. And 15 nonprofits the Kenyan government has said are secretly funding al-Shabaab (the terror militia group of neighboring Somalia).

These are just a few examples of the ways combatants have hijacked the otherwise harmless matter of remittance payments—sending money earned in one country to another back home—to fund terrorism, according to reports.

Banks across the globe including Barclays, Citigroup, and HSBC are taking action by shutting down accounts that enable remittance programs, whether they are involved with suspicious transfers or not, in fear of the whooping fines tied to infractions that run counter to various federal regulations.

Although shuttering these types of remittance transactions that fund terrorist networks is an essential tactic in keeping the U.S. and its national interests safe, it also cuts some of the behavioral indicators that may serve as early alerts. So how can the country keep an eye on threat financing without relying exclusively on banks to serve as the premiere tracker?

The answer lies in the hands of public-private partnerships—like the newly established Counter Extremism Project—that are using new technologies to track terrorism remittances that could slip under the radar.

ISIS and Other Groups Pique Interest in Funding Patterns

Until recently, remittance tracking through bank money transfer accounts has been the key tool in providing insights on threat finance and the funding of terrorist networks. In 2013, the U.S. Department of the Treasury reported that approximately $22 million in U.S. assets sponsoring terrorism had been identified and blocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control. But with some banks closing this vital information stream, the importance of remittance tracking has taken center stage in the national security conversation.

Despite closed channels, the World Bank says it expects remittances to rise to $681 billion by 2016—a - 100% increase from its 2015 predications. While a hefty portion of these remittances is unrelated to terrorism activity, the increased use of remittance programs could make it easier for terrorism funds to drift through unnoticed. The result: More needles to discover in a growing number of haystacks relating to threat finance information.

Additionally, the escalation of violent radical groups and terrorist groups—specifically the well-financed Islamic State militant group ISIS—has sparked global interest in cutting off terror-supporting remittance funds.

David Cohen, the U.S. Department of Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Finance, called ISIS (also known as ISIL) the "the best-funded terrorist organization we've confronted" in an October 2014 speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"To some extent, ISIL poses a different terrorist financing challenge," said Cohen. "It has amassed wealth at an unprecedented pace, and its revenue sources have a different composition from those of many other terrorist organizations."

The increased need for smart information analysis within remittance streams has opened the door to national security experts offering aide. The Counter Extremist Project (CEP), a leading nonprofit based in New York City, is composed of veterans in the fields of counterterrorism and security who aim to pinpoint and cut off terrorism financing programs from their source.

The terror attacks on French periodical Charlie Hebdo in January 2015were linked to Yemeni funds. But because the transaction was made in smuggled cash, not through a traceable transfer, officials were limited in their ability to predict the attack. Many believe ISIS has used similar techniques to run money across borders.

"The government alone can't fight this problem," said Fran Townsend, CEP founder and former chair of the Homeland Security Council and Chairwoman of Board of Directors for SAP NS2, in a November 2014 interview with Homeland Security Today.

"We think we can bring to bear some of our tools and to share information with law enforcement around the world. Where the government can't leverage the information that we produce, we can exert public pressure."

For sure technology will remain a tool to help global law enforcement officials identify threat finance needles in noisy and very large data sets.

Posted by Jim Walsh, October 30, 2014

Mounting global threats require new ways of thinking, leaders at national security summit say

Former U.S. Defense Secretary Dr. Robert Gates' speaking at the 2014 SAP NS2 Solutions Summit
Former U.S. Defense Secretary Dr. Robert Gates' speaking at the 2014 SAP NS2 Solutions Summit

The old paradigm of looking at global conflicts as regular or irregular, high-end or low is no longer adequate in the world America inhabits—whether the issue is Russia, cybersecurity, terrorism or anything else.

Such was tenor of former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates' keynote address Thursday to attendees of the third annual Solutions Summit, a national security conference presented by Maryland-based technology firm SAP NS2 in Falls Church, Va.

"Great powers can't afford to get tired. Russia is not tired. China is not tired. Neither are the terrorists and thugs," said Gates, whose book "Duty: Memories of a Secretary at War" chronicles his tenure as U.S. Secretary of Defense under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Gates is the only defense secretary to serve under consecutive presidents of opposing parties. He left the post in 2011.

The proliferation of ISIS throughout the Middle East, cybersecurity and the global creep of the Ebola virus were noted as three in a long list of national security threats grappling for the nation's attention and resources.

The event featured a number of past and present national security leaders including Michael J. Morell, former deputy director of the CIA; U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte; and Fran Townsend, former assistant to President George W. Bush. Speakers and panelists addressed a wide-ranging array of concerns facing the U.S. national security community, including the opportunities and risks associated with the ever-growing pool of global data.

"We are awash in information and data, we're collecting it really well," said host Mark Testoni, president of SAP NS2 the American subsidiary of global technology giant SAP. "I'm not sure yet if we've learned how to analyze it really well. ... The good news is the tools and the capabilities are emerging that allow us to do that."

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Posted by SAP NS2 Editorial Team, September 17, 2014

Mission professionals can leverage in-memory computing to unlock insight from massive data sets

Binary

In today's increasingly interconnected world, challenges and threats are proliferating, along with the number of open source data sources and types of information available to analysts. Some of the most worrisome threats come from globally networked actors who aren't susceptible to traditional mission work. National security organizations are looking for ways to access information on open networks and understand so-called patterns of life and human geography.

Technology and solution providers such as SAP NS2 have responded to the challenge with cost-effective solutions that can reduce the time spent ingesting data and increase the time spent analyzing it.

SAP NS2's HANA in-memory Real Time Data Platform offers text analysis capabilities that use Natural Language Processing to analyze text in open sources of information to discover actionable insights in more than 30 languages.

These tools equip analysts to find patterns and insights from multiple data and information streams including open-data sources such as Twitter and other social media. The tremendous speed of in-memory processing in the HANA platform means that unprecedented amounts of open-source text information can be ingested in a very quick cycle, so that analysts can stay on top of events.

The SAP text-analytics engine can create an information architecture that incorporates raw data with other tools such as libraries to comb through the noise and flag potential problems before they happen. All of these capabilities are embedded in the SAP NS2 HANA Real Time Data Platform.

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Posted by Cherreka Montgomery, National Vice President for Corporate Development, SAP National Security Services (SAP NS2), July 1, 2014

Why protecting your network is more important now than ever before

Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, Monday, May 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, Monday, May 19, 2014. Holder announced that a U.S. grand jury has charged five Chinese hackers with economic espionage and trade secret theft, the first-of-its-kind criminal charges against Chinese military officials in an international cyber-espionage case. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

When it comes to data breaches, Edward Snowden may be on everyone's mind—but he's not the only threat organizations face in the information age.

Rogue actors and adversaries are using new tactics to infiltrate government entities and private firms. And the implications are dire.

Snowden's leak of documents related to the surveillance activities of the National Security Administration contained much more than the details of how the U.S. government kept tabs on persons of interest. The leaks reportedly included information on American national security tactics, technology and operational capabilities, as well as weapons system data.

The Justice Department has accused employees of the Chinese military of launching cyber attacks on U.S. business interests. Attorney General Eric Holder's May 19 announcement of indictments against those individuals was the first time the U.S. publicly accused a foreign power of cybercrimes against domestic firms.

Businesses such as U.S. Steel Corp., Westinghouse Electric Co. and Alcoa Inc. were named among the victims. And there were subsequent reports that China's hacking abilities extend far wider and deeper than the indictment reflects.

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Posted by Cherreka Montgomery, National Vice President for Corporate Development, SAP National Security Services (SAP NS2), June 4, 2014

The price tag on peace: How Washington can optimize the business of defense

Demonstrators hold posters reading 'Referendum' during an anti-government rally in Luhansk, Ukraine, on March 29, 2014. As Ukraine moves quickly to build up its governance, it still casts an uneasy eye toward Russia, fearing a possible troop invasion into eastern Ukraine. (AP Photo/Igor Golovniov)
Demonstrators hold posters reading "Referendum" during an anti-government rally in Luhansk, Ukraine, on March 29, 2014. As Ukraine moves quickly to build up its governance, it still casts an uneasy eye toward Russia, fearing a possible troop invasion into eastern Ukraine. (AP Photo/Igor Golovniov)

Crisis in Ukraine, the international response to Boko Haram and a never-ending dance with an unstable North Korea are just a few of the big-ticket issues the U.S. military faces this year as it reaches into a thinner wallet. Washington will have to do more with less as it looks to spread just shy of $600 billion across efforts to stay on top of emerging threats around the globe.

The watchword: Efficiency.

"The military should—and can—operate more efficiently," Baker Spring, national security policy expert at the Heritage Foundation, wrote in a key report on military performance logistics. "Any system as far-flung and complex as the military's logistical system will operate better and more efficiently when it is supported by state-of-the-art information technology."

Officials in Washington are debating how the military does what it does just as Russia's activity in Ukraine has all but vaporized the illusion of a post-Cold War quiet period and put the world on notice. News outlets worldwide have covered Moscow's annexation of the Crimea region and the massing of 40,000 troops along the country's borders. The U.S. and its NATO allies have conducted war exercises in the region in a show of support for the former Soviet republics such as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia that fall under the security of the NATO alliance.

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