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December 2013

Book Review: Cybersecurity and Cyberwar - What Everyone Needs To Know (Singer/Friedman)

Cybersecurity and Cyberwar – What Everyone Needs To Know

Peter W. Singer and Allan Friedman

Oxford University Press, USA (January 3, 2014), 320 pages <ISBN-13: 978-0199918119>

“Cyber War” is a topic of tremendous interest in current thinking on conflict. Scores 51RYtiqxonL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_of books are in print that opine on the nature of “war” in the cyberspace domain.  Many of these are verbose, or dryly make attempts at erudition without conveying much that is useful.

That is why this soon to be published offering by Peter Singer and Allan Friedman, “Cybersecurity and Cyberwar – What Everyone Needs to Know” is such a refreshing discovery.  The pair present a compelling reference for use by a broad audience.  The wisdom of the authors comes through in part from the book’s layout.  It presents topics under three general categories:  “How It All Works”; “Why It Matters”; and “What Can We Do”.  From these three categories a number of short, compelling and readable essays issue forth.  Series of questions that many ask are presented, with answers that inform without overwhelming. 

For example, in the “how it works” section, the reader is presented with a short “history of the internet”, how “governance” works, and continues into topics  on security, threats, vulnerabilities, etc. (The article entitled “One Phish, Two Phish, Red Phish, Cyber Phish” is a great example of the mix of levity and serious discussion.)  The subsequent sections lay out the main title topics for dissection and discovery.   The articles vary from two to five pages and are “stand alone” topics.  Each one can be lifted out and studied without necessarily needing the book for “context”.  The end notes are numbered sequentially for easy reference/referral.  There is a useful glossary as well, particularly valuable if the reader skips around on this book.

This gets to what makes “Cyberwar and Cybersecurity” a compelling reference.  The reader can pick any part of this book and quickly come away with useful information.  This makes it an excellent text book for classes focused on cybersecurity, or for consideration of cyberspace capabilities within the larger context of war, strategy, or national security.  An instructor or facilitator can lift out a topic and begin useful discussions.

This book is highly recommended, whether as a read-through text, or to those who want a handy ready-reference on the broad topics of cyberwar and cyber security.  It should be the first book to read if one is just entering into this fray and wants to be acquainted with the major issues, terms of reference, and areas of dispute and conflict.  It is my hope that this book becomes a regularly updated reference (similar to “In Search of Excellence” for business types).  

It is available on Amazon.com,
among other places

For those in the National Capital Region on January 6th, 2014,  Brookings Institution will be hosting a panel discussion with the authors, moderated by Noah Schactman. For more information, link here.




Photo: USS Truxtun view


U.S. Navy sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun prepare for a replenishment with the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Kanawha in the Atlantic Ocean, Dec. 16, 2013. The Truxtun is conducting its final predeployment evaluation with the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group to achieve mission readiness and the ability to work with international allies while executing the Navy's maritime strategy. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd class Scott Barnes

Book Review - "American Heroes on the Homefront" by LtCol (ret) Oliver North

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the books Category on the far right side bar.

9781476714325_p0_v2_s260x420Oliver North’s latest book with Bob Hamer, American Heroes On The Homefront has many inspirational and compelling stories.  It chronicles how those serving and their families have triumphed over individual tragedies.  The personal stories show the different types of relationships from being engaged, married, to having a family.  The reader will go from the emotion of hope to despair as they follow the triumph of some, overcoming a handicap, to the families who lost a loved one and paid the ultimate sacrifice. 

These personal stories described in the book are through interviews of those serving, their spouses, and their family members.  Lt. Colonel North explained to blackfive.net, “ I wrote this because my wife gave me a guilt trip.  She said that ‘you never understood what we as families had to go through back home.’ The fact is that people are getting notifications, not really aware of what is going on with their loved ones, and praying they never receive a knock on their door.  This is the rest of the story, of what families have gone through.”

There are stories from the Viet Nam era through the War on Terror.  It chronicles why the soldiers chose to be in the military, what are their job duties, what happened to them, and what transpired in the aftermath. North described the book as partially a love story and partially a war story.  It becomes obvious when reading about the survivors who lost limbs that their mate became their caregiver and medical advocate.

Because this is the first war since the American Revolution without a draft, those fighting are all volunteers including the families.  A powerful quote in the book should sum up all Americans feelings, “The young Americans I have been covering for FOX News since September 11th, 2001 forfeited the comforts of home, absented themselves from the affection of loved ones, and volunteered to go into harm’s way in some of the most difficult and dangerous places on earth.  They are the best and the brightest of their generation… Heroes are people who place themselves at risk for the benefit of others.”  The book hammers home that we as Americans should be thankful to those who have risked everything to protect us here at home.  This includes the family members who have sacrificed as well. 

Lt. Colonel North wants Americans to know that anyone who buys a book from the website http://olivernorth.com/ will get an autographed copy but more importantly will be donating money to the wounded warriors.  That alone should be reason enough to buy a copy, but this book also shows the courage, perseverance and fortitude of the families and the injured.  

Two Golden Knights Receive Soldier's Medal

Any free fall parachutist's worst nightmare...

Everything was wrong.

Two members of the Golden Knights parachute team were tangled together, plummeting to Earth at 65 mph with little chance of survival.

One of them, Sgt. David Echeverry, was being strangled by a parachute cord. He knew that he and his teammate, Staff Sgt. Christopher Clark, couldn't survive if they remained entwined. So in his last moments of consciousness, he pulled his release cord, hoping to give his partner a chance...

Read what happened next at the Stars & Stripes.


Wreaths Across America

Some people truly do get it. Morrill Worcester of Worcester Wreath and the rest of the folks behind the Wreaths Across America project are great examples of that.

Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, was a 12 year old paper boy for the Bangor Daily News when he won a trip to Washington D.C. His first trip to our nation’s capital was one he would never forget, and Arlington National Cemetery made an especially indelible impression on him. This experience followed him throughout his life and successful career in business, reminding him that his good fortune was due, in large part, to the values of this nation and the Veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their Country.

In 1992, Worcester Wreath found themselves with a surplus of wreaths nearing the end of the holiday season. Remembering his boyhood experience at Arlington, Worcester realized he had an opportunity to honor our country’s Veterans. With the help of Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, arrangements were made for the wreaths to be placed at Arlington in one of the older sections of the cemetery, a section which had been receiving fewer visitors with each passing year.

Intrepid leader of the Maine Wounded Heroes program Pam Payeur and some of her comPATRIOTs are heading down to Arlington for the wreath laying this year. We salute them and will be joining them Saturday morning at 9:30.

I took this picture a few years back after they had dressed a section at Arlington. What a brilliant, beautiful and touching tribute. Bravo!

Wreaths at Arlington

Book Review - "George Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution"

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category on the far right sidebar.

9781595231031_p0_v3_s260x420A fascinating new best-selling book, George Washington’s Secret Six:  The Spy Ring That Saved The American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yeager combines history, intrigue, and adventure.  It is written in the format of a political thriller with a riveting and inspiring story.  Six covert agents for the Continental Army displayed confidence, fearlessness, and leadership as they navigated through the Loyalists and British army to gain intelligence.

The six agents were Robert Townsend, a newspaper editor; Austin Roe, a bartender; Celeb Brewster, a longshoreman; Abraham Woodhull, who traveled to and from New York; James Rivington, who owned a coffeehouse; and a female socialite only known as Agent 355. It is unimaginable how these people sat behind enemy lines every day for four years, knowing they could suffer the same fate as Nathan Hale.  Readers will be surprised to find out these true American heroes never wanted any credit, and only one actually met General George Washington.

A great quote in the beginning of the book, “Those men and women whose true identities are never revealed and whose stories have never been told, but who offer their service and their lives on behalf of their country.  To each of them we owe an inexpressible debt.” Kilmeade told blackfive.net, “I wrote it thinking of today’s military and operatives.  If you try to compliment them they always deflect to someone else.  They just don’t want to take credit even though they deserve it.  They do great things because they are on a mission for their country.  This was similar to those spies in the Culper Ring.  They risked their lives because they believed in a cause. They did it for their country and they didn’t want the praise, they didn’t want to get paid. I think that’s reflective of who we are as a country.  Washington said, ‘never ask their names, I will never tell.’  But he kept their letters. That allowed us to piece the puzzle together.”

Besides these six Kilmeade shows Washington as a great General and strategist. He knew that the British could not be defeated with manpower, arms, or a show of force, but with a battle of wits.  With this mindset, Washington decided to implement a network of spies, working together, to undermine the British war strategy in New York and Long Island. Washington was able to push these Agents to give more detail and timely information because he was able to assess their character. A book quote from a former British military officer shows the importance of these men and woman to the American Revolution, “The Americans did not outfight us, they out spied us.”

One of the most captivating parts of the book is the description of how the Culper Ring was able to prevent Benedict Arnold from handing over West Point to the British, and the ability of Agent 355 to determine that Arnold was a traitor.  Kilmeade noted, “She laid the groundwork for Benedict Arnold’s being discovered as a spy.  She was able to listen to the gossip in New York City.  After Arnold was nearly captured the whole crew went into mourning because she was probably killed.”

Kilmeade also explains how the Culper Ring, the American intelligence officer, Benjamin Tallmadge, and General Washington used a pre-Morse Code, with numbers representing names and places, invisible ink, encryption, and dead drops to communicate.  They would send innocuous letters, and on the back would be the important information written with invisible ink.  What is incredible is that they were able to come up with these ideas during the war, without any prior espionage knowledge, and understood the necessity of keeping the dispatches from being discovered by the British. 

George Washington’s Secret Six:  The Spy Ring That Saved The American Revolution is a book about American history that is insightful and riveting.  Anyone who wants a good spy thriller should read this book.  What makes it even more interesting is that this thriller is a true story.

Some Retired LTC "Strategist" Living in England Wants to take your guns


Not really wading into the debate on the 2nd Amendment (let's keep it), but going after some of the morons who think they have the moral authority and bright ideas to change it/eliminate it.  Take this supposedly retired LTC, Bob Bateman, writing in Esquire about how true gun control might be brought about...

For starters, this retired LTC living in England is embarrassed by our country when among the Brits.  There's plenty to be embarrassed about - first, I'd start apologizing to Her Majesty for Bruno Mars, the POTUS, and what we did with plaid in the 70s.  But they owe us because that bumbling idiot, Piers Morgan, lives here.  Anyway, I digress...you should read the Esquire piece, but keep in mind that I have never met anyone who claims to manage violence for a living that actually did so. 

Here are some of "Bob's" MENSA-like suggestions:

1. The only guns permitted will be the following:

  • a. Smoothbore or Rifled muzzle-loading blackpowder muskets. No 7-11 in history has ever been held up with one of these.
  • b. Double-barrel breech-loading shotguns. Hunting with these is valid.
  • c. Bolt-action rifles with a magazine capacity no greater than five rounds. Like I said, hunting is valid. But if you cannot bring down a defenseless deer in under five rounds, then you have no fking reason to be holding a killing tool in the first place.

2. We will pry your gun from your cold, dead, fingers. That is because I am willing to wait until you die, hopefully of natural causes. Guns, except for the three approved categories, cannot be inherited. When you die your weapons must be turned into the local police department, which will then destroy them. (Weapons of historical significance will be de-milled, but may be preserved.)

3. Police departments are no longer allowed to sell or auction weapons used in crimes after the cases have been closed. (That will piss off some cops, since they really need this money. But you know what they need more? Less violence and death. By continuing the process of weapon recirculation, they are only making their jobs -- or the jobs of some other cops -- harder.)

4. We will submit a new tax on ammunition. In the first two years it will be 400 percent of the current retail cost of that type of ammunition. (Exemptions for the ammo used by the approved weapons.) Thereafter it will increase by 20 percent per year.

5. We will initiate a nationwide "buy-back" program, effective immediately, with the payouts coming from the DoD budget. This buy-back program will start purchasing weapons at 200 percent of their face value the first year, 150 percent the second year, 100 percent the third year. Thereafter there will be a 10 year pause, at which point the guns can be sold to the government at 10 percent of their value for the next 50 years.

6. The major gun manufactures of the United States, less those who create weapons for the federal government and the armed forces, will be bought out by the United States of America, for our own damned good.

For a seriously epic fisking/verbal-judoing of Bob, do yourself a favor check Michael Z. Williamson (yeah THAT Mike Williamson) for a suitable reply.  Even Uncle Jimbo would be jealous of this takedown...


Update:  Our friends at Ranger Up have something to say about Bob too.  Jackass.

Cutting military retirement?

Our elected representatives have a responsibility to get the obscene growth of our disgracefully wasteful and inefficient Leviathan of a  government under control. But screwing over those who have dedicated their lives to keeping all of us safe is a reprehensible way to do so.

There is a greater recognition too –in Congress and among the Joint Chiefs—  that it must come to terms with personnel-related costs, which are eating up  more and more of what money remains.

“Forty-four cents of every dollar we spend goes to military personnel,” said  House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R.-Calif.) “You look at  Detroit, you look at General Motors, you look at what happens when you build up  these costs, but we aren’t doing anything about it in our [defense] bill this  year.”

Buck McKeon is a good guy, but last time I checked those overpaid auto workers were not humping a one hundred pound ruck sack up and down the Hindu Kush while pretty much everyone there tried to kill them.

They have looked at raising costs to the military and retired folks for medical care and now they are looking at basically giving a pay cut to active duty folks and using that to help fund retirement. I think it might be time to start ringing the phons of our representatives and letting them know what we think about this.