Drop that FitBit, soldier! The U.S. military has ordered its personnel to immediately stop using geolocation services — on both personal and government-issued devices — in all “operational areas.” That covers smartphones, tablets, fitness trackers, smartwatches and all other applications with geolocation features, Nextgov reports.
‘Operational areas’? “The Pentagon defines an operational area as ‘a location where military are operating for the purposes of a specific mission,’ Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Audricia Harris told Nextgov. Overseas military outposts, such as those used in the fight against ISIS, would fall under this umbrella, she said, but the Pentagon building would not.”
Read the Aug. 3 memo from DepSecDef Shanahan, who writes, “These geolocation capabilities can expose personal information, locations, routines, and numbers of DoD personnel, and potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission.”
Waivers can be issued by combatant commanders, and Shanahan has ordered the intelligence community to help develop risk-assessment protocols for determining when the value of using GPS services outweighs the risk.
Backstory: The ban follows several high-profile leaks of location data from fitness trackers widely used by troops. Patrick Tucker looked at the situation in January’s Strava’s Just the Start: The US Military’s Losing War Against Data Leakage.
Now what? Writes Defense One contributor Justin Sherman: “The consequences of Internet-of-Things insecurity on national security should now be clear.” It’s time for the entire federal government to think hard about how all its internet-connected devices, not just the Pentagon’s GPS-enabled ones, should be used and secured. Read on, here.
From Defense One
The US Military Just Partially Banned Geolocatable Cellphones. That's a Start. // Justin Sherman: The consequences of Internet-of-Things insecurity on national security should now be clear.
Stealthier Tanks Are On The Way // Christian Trotti and John Watts: Several tech trends will make tomorrow’s tanks harder to spot — and that may have strategic implications.
5 Unanswered Questions About Space Force // Marcus Weisgerber: As Pentagon leaders plan changes to the U.S. military’s orbital-operations organizations, analysts wonder whether they have done all their homework.
Pentagon Prohibits Personnel From Using GPS Services in All ‘Operational Areas’ // Jack Corrigan, Nextgov: The device-agnostic policy applies to smartphones, tablets, fitness trackers, smartwatches and all other applications with geolocation features.
How Trump Radicalized ICE // Franklin Foer, The Atlantic: A long-running inferiority complex, vast statutory power, a chilling new directive from the top—inside America’s unfolding immigration tragedy.
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. They can subscribe here for free. On this day in 1789, the U.S. Congress established the War Department. It would keep that title for 160 years — until 1949 when it was formally renamed the Department of Defense on August 10. (The Soviets would detonate their first atomic bomb just 19 days later.)
Newsflash from North Korea: "What was significant about Singapore was the North Korean commitment to denuclearize, and they have not taken effective steps to do that," National Security Adviser John Bolton told PBS Newshour on Monday evening. Video of that, here.
Add it to the list of “All the Times North Korea Promised to Denuclearize,” which includes this quote from James McKeon, a policy analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation: “Add to this uncertain stew the fact that Trump very recently tore up a nuclear inspection framework that was actually working in Iran, and it’s hard to see how or why North Korea would go through with a promise that it has broken time and again. Especially this time.”
Speaking of: the White House re-imposed a raft of sanctions on Iran today — in the hopes that it will fuel protests there.
Said President Trump in a 5:31 a.m. ET tweet: “Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States. I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!”
FWIW: Iran calls these latest U.S. moves “psychological warfare,” the BBC reports.
ICYMI: Russia wants the U.S. to help it rebuild Syria and get as many refugees as they can back to the country. That’s the latest from Moscow’s “closely guarded communications channel with America’s top general” — Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford.
This update came via a Pentagon memo seen by Reuters, and which reportedly “received an icy reception in Washington,” according to the news agency.
The catch, from the Pentagon’s POV: “The memo said the U.S. policy was only to support such efforts if there were a political solution to end Syria’s seven-year-old civil war, including steps like U.N.-supervised elections.”
- Backstory reading: “After Secret Trump Meeting, Russia Offers to Resume Military Relations,” from our own Kevin Baron and Patrick Tucker, just 20 days ago.
Russian disinformation alert: Reuters writes “The U.S. government memo explicitly said the Russian proposal was not ‘an outcome’ of the Trump-Putin talks, but cautioned that Russian officials were trying to present it differently.”
Ref., e.g., this line in the memo:
- “Russian diplomats and other officials have also been engaging in an aggressive campaign to describe the initiative in other capitals and to insinuate that it is an outcome of the U.S.-Russia meeting in Helsinki, which it is not, repeat not.”
From Dunford’s office: Not a peep. “In accordance with past practice, both Generals have agreed to keep the details of their conversations private,” said spox Capt. Paula Dunn.
For the record: “Rebuilding Syria will also be a massive effort, costing at least $250 billion, according one U.N. estimate.” Read the rest, here.
Related reading: The Pentagon got a bit cheeky with Reuters’ reporter Phil Stewart about a lot of this Dunford-Russia dialogue. See a series of tweets Monday from Stewart seeking clarification from the building here, here, and here.
From rebuilding Syria to rebuilding Yemen...is anyone interested? That’s one question taken up in a new analysis of Yemen’s future at Just Security this morning.
The gist: “AQAP and ISIS are vulnerable in Yemen in a way they’ve never been before. The U.S. should do everything in its power to continue to decimate these organizations while simultaneously pushing for a quick end to this war. But it should do so with the idea that as soon as the fighting stops the U.S. will lead the way with development aid and help to stitch the country back together again.” Read on, here.
Wanna read a bit more on that drone attack in Venezuela on Saturday? The open-source investigators at Bellingcat have a new analysis of what we can glean from available imagery. Three quick points in summary:
- “Open source information indicates two drones attempted to attack a parade at which President Maduro was speaking.
- Both drones likely carried some form of explosive device. One detonated near the parade, the other crashed and then likely detonated, causing a fire.
- Despite apparent claims from one group, it is not possible to accurately attribute this apparent attack without further information.” Read the full analysis, here.
‘Gimmick drones’: C4ISRNet’s Kelsey Atherton has his own take on what’s going on, here.
This week in future tech: An AI system can scan your emails to help gauge company morale. The Atlantic’s Frank Partnoy has a bit more in the upcoming September issue, or online here.
Burritos should probably not be warmed on aircraft exhaust ducts, fired CO now knows. The Marines relieved a commander at Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, Japan, in early June. Among the list of complaints against this apparently quite selfish fella: He "rearranged his pilots' flight schedules to give himself more time in the cockpit," "abused his staff and officers for months," and also "warmed a burrito on the exhaust duct of the aircraft." Military.com has the story of Col. Mark Coppess, here.
And finally this morning: From the British tabloids comes two kinda crazy stories involving the UK military. First up from the famously long-winded headline writers of the Daily Mail UK: “Honeytrap spy stole secrets of new RAF jet: Female agent hacked airwoman's Tinder profile to target stealth fighter crews involved in the £9bn F-35 project”
On deck: “Battle of Portaloo: Army bomb squad captain who was stripped naked and locked in a toilet by his drunk troops faces huge bill after smashing his way out.” Not sure you need a great deal more preview for those two stories, so click away when you’ve got time today for a bit more leisurely reading.
Quick note about the Daily Mail: It has “a poor track record with fact checkers,” according to these folks.