This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
Biden's Intelligence Lapse
Mike Ford 6/18/2021 4:02 PM
DOD Publication on Critical Information
“President Biden told reporters Wednesday he gave President Vladimir Putin a list of 16 critical infrastructure entities that are ‘off limits’ to a Russian cyberattack,” goes the lede from a report from FOX News this past Wednesday. Further down in the article:
Those entities include energy, water, health care, emergency, chemical, nuclear, communications, government, defense, food, commercial facilities, IT, transportation, dams, manufacturing and financial services.
"We'll find out whether we have a cybersecurity arrangement that begins to bring some order," Biden said. Putin, for his part, denied any involvement in a recent spate of cyberattacks that have hit major industries across the U.S.
"I looked at him. I said, ‘How would you feel if ransomware took on the pipelines from your oil fields?’ He said, ‘It would matter.’ This is not about just our self-interest." the president said.
Biden refused to say if military action was on the table if Russia was found to be responsible for a ransomware attack.
The way this has been treated by the legacy press on one hand and conservative media on the other, is a case study in and of itself. The legacy press gave IPOTUS Biden kudos for a stellar performance at the first summit between the two heads of state, one titular and one actual. I’m sure you can figure out which is which. Conservative media on talk radio, wasn’t so kind, actually having the courage to point out that Biden looked weak and ineffectual next to Putin. However, some in conservative media seemed to diminish the seriousness of IPOTUS Biden’s “16 Point Red Line” to Putin. More than one has said that Biden giving that list to Putin doesn’t mean a whole lot, because he wasn’t telling Putin anything he didn’t already know. Of course, Putin knows how important the items on that list are. That’s not the point.
What the addled septuagenarian in charge did, was to confirm to Putin what WE consider OUR most important vulnerabilities. There is an important element of deterrence among great powers. It’s called, “ambiguity.” Ambiguity means that except in certain circumstances, you never really want your enemy to know what your vulnerabilities are. The illegitimate issue of our last election removed all ambiguity.
Our military uses (of course) an acronym for this concept.
EEFI: Essential Elements of Friendly Information are questions adversary officials and intelligence systems are likely to ask about specific friendly intentions, capabilities, and activities so they can obtain answers critical to their operational effectiveness.
Short version…EEFI are things we don’t want the bad guys to know about us. One of those things, is what we are thinking. What do we consider important? What do we intend to do given certain circumstances? In the intelligence world, those are the most difficult questions to answer. Counting enemy tanks and missiles is relatively easy. Understanding when and under what circumstances the enemy leader will use them is a much more difficult question.
Side Note: Determining what an enemy values, can be even more difficult when you attempt to assess your enemy through your own worldview. Some in the U.S. have made that mistake immediately determining that China did not deliberately let loose the Wuhan virus, thinking that they wouldn’t risk their own people. More on that in another article.
Back to our President’s major faux pax. My good friend and long time Army buddy, Colonel Sam Pearson responded thusly:
As a retiree of the United States Army and having attended the Naval War College, I can state that official identification of critical infrastructure is a bad move. What we have here, is that President Biden identified what the US Government considers critical infrastructure - he has identified to Putin what targets he should hit next time. Biden is a national security threat to this country. I guarantee at least one of those items on his “off-limits list” will be the next target of a Russia Cyberattack. This attack might come in weeks, might come in days, but it will come as sure as the sun will rise again. Did you tell him what will happen Mr. President, if any of those 16 areas are targeted? Or did you just issue another ultimatum that he will take as a “red line” you are unwilling to enforce and invite him to cross it? If you don't know the answer to that Joe Biden, you have been in the wrong business your entire life.
That is just my straightforward look at this from one point of view. The next questions to consider are; What did Putin think about that disclosure? What does he think about Biden? Is he diminished in Putin’s eyes because of that? More to follow. Stay tuned.
Mike Ford is a retired Infantry Officer who writes mainly on Military and Foreign Policy, while occasionally dabbling in Political and Economic matters. Ford has widespread experience, ranging from military, local law enforcement and developing technology solutions for special operations applications.
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