CIA CREST database and Geolocation

TitleRecently, to the delight of the OSINT community, the CIA updated its CREST digital library with the addition of upwards of 800,000 new files. While much of the credit for the agency’s initiative is due to the perseverance of journalist Mike Best (perhaps we should also spare a thought for the CIA employees who were likely on ‘scan and document’ duty
in the basement for their first few years of service), granting digital access to the 13 million pages is a welcomed act of compliance and transparency to researchers and citizens alike. Many of the documents made available date from the 50s through to the 80s and some contain guides on opening sealed letters and invisible writing, as well as reports stating the ‘total lack of evidence’ of UFOs.

Admittedly, it is quite fun to rummage through papers with titles worthy of an X-files episode; however, we endeavoured to find how such newly available information might be relevant to non-proliferation research today. This post will serve both to illustrate the type of valuable information the CREST database can offer, and to demonstrate some useful geolocation techniques.

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Trump and el-Sisi: A new brotherhood in Egypt?

Post by Peter WaringResearch Intern at ICSA

‘He took control of Egypt. And he really took control of it.’                                                                                                                                       – Trump on President el-Sisi of Egypt

In September during a visit to the United Nations, President el-Sisi of Egypt met Donald Trump in a New York hotel and afterwards claimed that he had ‘no doubt’ the real-estate mogul would make a strong leader. Trump, for his part, said of el-Sisi that he was a ‘fantastic guy’ and they had ‘great chemistry.’ With such a seemingly strong rapport it was little wonder that the Egyptian strongman was the first world leader to call Trump following his election win earlier this week. Yet despite this personal goodwill, it is arguably the end of the Obama era, more so than the looming Trump presidency, that will be considered by many in the Egyptian elite as an opportunity to re-set their relations with the United States. The Egyptian regime has been critical of the White House’s response to the 2011 uprising in Cairo, particularly the perceived betrayal of longstanding partner Hosni Mubarak. Relations were further strained by the 2013 military ousting of the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood regime and the ongoing reprisals meted out against its former leaders and supporters. Despite her calls as Secretary of State for a more conservative response to the crisis in 2011, Clinton’s recent rhetoric, especially in a primary debate when she referred to the Egyptian regime as an ‘army dictatorship,’ suggested a hardening in her stance toward el-Sisi’s government – a fact not lost on the Egyptians and which partly explains their recent flirtations with Russia and Iran. In contrast, Trump’s predilection for ‘strong leaders’ will likely be welcomed across the Middle East as the President–elect is, according to Robin Wright of The New Yorker, expected to prioritise ‘stability over democratic values.’

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Rhetoric and Reality: Trump and the Middle East

Post by Joakim Bjornestad, Research Intern at ICSA

The election of Donald Trump as leader of the ‘Free World’ leaves us with many questions and few answers. The uncertainty comes from Trump’s unclear, changing, or non-existent policies. Imagining what this uncertainty may look like can lend some analytical clarity.

One could say there are broadly two schools of thought concerning Trump’s foreign policy. The first literalist school takes Donald Trump for his word, believing he will follow through on his campaign promises based on largely illiberal values. This would logically include scrapping the Paris Agreement, pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, and perhaps allowing Japan to acquire nuclear weapons. The other more hopeful school, expounded by President Obama the day after Trump’s victory, Theresa May, and other Western heads of state, considers Trump’s election to be business as usual – and they assume Donald Trump will follow diplomatic etiquette and international norms.

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Stallers of proliferation – Why is South Korea not nuclear?

Post by Cristina Varriale, Research Intern at ICSA

The beginning of 2016 has seen several major blows to the threat perceptions of South Korea. On the 6th January, its isolated and precarious neighbour, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) conducted an underground nuclear test. Shortly following this on the 7th February, the DPRK successfully launched a satellite into orbit, testing prohibited dual-use missile launch technologies. While scepticism of exact capabilities persists, the steps between current technologies and a deliverable nuclear tipped missile appear to be reducing.  Nevertheless, despite a total of four nuclear tests, numerous missile launches and suggestions of a fifth nuclear test possible[1], South Korea are not currently countering with their own nuclear weapons programme despite calls from senior politicians[2].   Continue reading