Fear fear fear in the US; Adm. Olson on ‘gray wars’; 3 minutes with Ted Cruz; USAF needs more drone operators; and a bit more...

The national mood is grim, the New York Times reports. “Americans are more fearful about the likelihood of another terrorist attack than at any other time since the weeks after Sept. 11, 2001,” according to a new Times/CBS News poll.

“Fifty-seven percent of Americans disapprove of [President Barack Obama’s] handling of terrorism,” and “Seven in 10 Americans now call the Islamic State extremist group a major threat to the United States’ security, the highest level since the Times/CBS News poll began asking the question last year.”

Meanwhile, Americans’ fears of a Trump presidency are beginning to show in the polls as well, with 64 percent saying “they would be concerned or scared about what he would do if he became president.”

But a strong majority of Republicans were confident in Trump’s ability to confront terrorism, the Times writes: “Seven in 10 voters who said they were likely to vote in a Republican primary said he was well equipped to respond to the threat, with four in 10 ‘very confident’ he could handle terrorism. Only Senator Ted Cruz of Texas comes close to those numbers.”

For what it’s worth: “Cruz has increased his share of the vote to 16 percent from 4 percent in October...Twenty-six percent of Mr. Trump’s supporters said Mr. Cruz was their second choice, more than any other candidate.”

Noteworthy: “The survey was largely conducted before Mr. Trump’s proposal, announced Monday, to temporarily block Muslims from entering the country.” More here, or read the full results, here.

Ted Cruz on national security, in three minutes: Defense One’s Molly O’Toole caught Cruz in the bowels of Capitol Hill the day before a key ISIS hearing in the Senate—which he missed—and the short of it is he’s a big fan of “carpet-bombing” ISIS and arming the Kurds.

One thing he isn’t a big fan of: a Senate declaration that “the United States must not bar individuals from entering into the United States based on their religion.” Cruz and three other Republicans on the Judiciary Committee—Senators Jeff Sessions of Alabama, David Vitter of Louisiana, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina— voted against it.

What else isn’t Cruz a big fan of? Read on, here.

And, oh-by-the-way: ISIS may have a passport printing machine that they’ve already used to infiltrate U.S. borders, according to a 17-page Homeland Security Investigations Intelligence Report sent to law enforcement last week and obtained by ABC News. The source that informed the report added “that fake Syrian passports are so prevalent in Syria that Syrians do not even view possessing them as illegal” and “fake Syrian passports can be obtained in Syria for $200 to $400 and that backdated passport stamps to be placed in the passport cost the same.” More here.

Clearing the air: Islamic State oil revenue comes from Assad and Turkey, the U.S. says. While Moscow and Ankara trade barbs over who profits from Syria’s illicit petro spoils, a U.S. Treasury official just offered “one of the most detailed public explanations of Islamic State’s oil trade,” Reuters reported Thursday. “U.S. Treasury Department official Adam Szubin said militants were selling as much as $40 million a month” with a “far greater amount” ending up in Assad’s control “while some is consumed internally in Islamic State-controlled areas. Some ends up in Kurdish regions and some in Turkey,” he said.

And read this exhaustive deep dive into the Syrian oil trade from The Daily Beast’s Matthew Reed. Really too much to excerpt here, but it’s definitely worth the click.

The U.S. military said Thursday it recently killed three more senior ISIS leaders, including alleged “finance minister” Abu Salah, “a senior leader responsible for coordinating the group’s extortion activities,” and “another leader who acted as an executive officer.” More here.

U.S. Army Col. Steve Warren also said also said Western-backed forces in Syria’s north have added a couple hundred more square kilometers to the turf Warren says they’ve “liberated” in the past roughly two months or so. In early November, that number sat at 250 square kilometers.

But it’s not all peaches and cream in NE Syria: Three truck bombs killed at least 50 people and wounded 80 more in the northeastern Hasaka province, Reuters reports.

Former USSOCOM chief Adm. (ret.) Eric Olson says the U.S. is not ready for the “gray wars” that are consuming headlines across multiple continents: “Increasingly, violent conflict is taking place in what experts call the ‘gray zone.’ That is, as the current commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, Gen. Joe Votel, said, where entities or groups ‘seek to secure their objectives while minimizing the scope and scale of actual combat.’”

The gray zones include “Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its continued activities in eastern Ukraine; the self-proclaimed Islamic State’s barbaric control of key parts of Iraq and Syria; Chinese construction on disputed reefs in the South China Sea; Boko Haram’s continued reign of terror in Nigeria; and the ongoing Houthi rebellion in Yemen.”

So amidst all this disorder, Olson writes, “how do we organize and prepare America to excel against non-traditional threats? What is the role of our military in addressing this emerging range of non-traditional national security issues?” Read his take, here.

From Defense One

State Department: hackers may have stolen sensitive data from us. The revelation, buried in a new inspector general report, is the first acknowledgment that foreign spies might have grabbed national secrets during a months-long campaign last fall. NextGov’s Aliya Sternstein has the story, here.

Meet the military-funded AI that learns as fast as a human. Today, it recognizes handwriting; tomorrow, it may vastly improve the military’s surveillance and targeting efforts. Technology Editor Patrick Tucker reports, here.

The Pentagon wants networks to find and fix their own security holes — in seconds. DARPA researchers think humans take too long to detect software vulnerabilities, tipping the scales in favor of the criminals who want to exploit them. So the agency is hosting a Proposers Day on Dec. 14 for its upcoming Rapid Attack Detection, Isolation and Characterization (RADICS) program, which seeks an “automation revolution in computer security.” NextGov’s Mohana Ravindranath, here.

Welcome to the Friday edition of The D Brief, from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Tell your friends to subscribe here: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. Want to see something different? Got news? Let us know: the-d-brief@defenseone.com.

More than 7,600 U.S. special operators spoke out against the issue of women in combat, and their voices were united, “blunt, and at times, profanity-laced,” the Associated Press reports off the RAND survey on women in combat roles (first reported on last week by Defense One).

One respondent: “I could list hundreds of reasons why women cannot do the job that a Green Beret is required to do, but as I only have 1,000 characters, I will choose the one that I think is the most important…I weigh 225 pounds, and 280 pounds in full kit, as did most of the members of my ODA (a 12-man Army Green Beret unit). I expect every person on my team to be able to drag any member of my team out of a firefight. A 130-pound female could not do it, I don't care how much time she spends in the gym. Do we expect wounded men to bleed out because a female soldier could not drag him to cover?"

Replied another: “We are hunter killers, we are coarse, we bleed, we get blown up, we fight together. And we do the same with our HN (host nation) counterparts. At the end of the day we want to crack a beer and talk, joke about very unpolitically correct things. They are not going to feel part of the team. They will feel alienated, and they will be frustrated, and they will be angry. And before you know it the whole team is falling apart.”

For more on upcoming challenges in meeting Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s big decision, read Gayle Tzemach Lemmon’s report, here.

Moscow is picking and choosing among rebels it likes to help Assad’s hold on power: “President Vladimir Putin said on Friday Russia supports the opposition Free Syrian Army, providing it with air support, arms and ammunition in joint operations with Syrian troops against Islamist militants.” He also said more than 5,000 Russian troops “are engaged in offensive actions against terrorists, alongside regular forces, in the provinces of Homs, Hama, Aleppo and Raqqa.”

And Putin’s defense minister offered a bold read on ISIS in Iraq and Syria, claiming their numbers total “around 60,000” and the group controls 70 percent of Syria. More here and here.

The U.S. Air Force is working to send 3,000 more airmen overseas for drone operations, U.S. News’ Paul Shinkman reports.

“We’ve made a decision, much like we did on the nuclear enterprise, that we need to shift more resources,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said. “One of the reasons why we have found ourselves in a bit of a pickle here is that every time we think we know what the requirement is for the [drone] field, the requirement goes up,” she said.

Indeed, Shinkman adds, “Strain on the drone and instructor cadre of roughly 1,200 allows for the Air Force to train only 180 pilots each year, instead of the 300 annually it would need to meet its current mission demand, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said in July.” Read the rest, here.

Lastly—today is “ISIS troll day,” the hacker collective Anonymous announced this week. The goal: “bombard the terrorist group with mocking posts online” since the group “relies heavily on social media to spread its propaganda and attract followers,” CBS News reported. "Do not think you have to be a part of Anonymous,” the group said.  “Anyone can do this and does not require any special skills.”

Some of their ideas include “Twitter users post mocking photos of ISIS along with the hashtags #Daesh and #Daeshbags. Beyond the digital, they suggested that, in ‘real life,’ people print out photos that mock or satirize ISIS and distribute them around their respective cities.” Read the rest, here.