Category Archives: Aspen

Aspen Security Forum 2014 Highlights


July 23-26, 2014

Some of the more interesting talks at the Aspen Security Forum 2014 from current and former military and intelligence leaders. All of the ASF2014 talks can be viewed here.

Rethinking the U.S. National Security Apparatus

This session will discuss whether the United States government is properly structured,
financed, and staffed to meet the security threats of today.

Gen. Michael Hayden (Ret.), Former Director, Central Intelligence Agency; Former
Director, National Security Agency; Principal, The Chertoff Group
Mike Leiter, Former Director, National Counterterrorism Center; Head of Global
Government and Commercial Cyber Operations, Palantir; National Security Analyst,
NBC News
John McLaughlin, Former Acting and Deputy Director, Central Intelligence Agency;
Distinguished Practitioner-in-Residence, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced
International Studies
Adm. Eric Olson (Ret.), Former Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command
MODERATOR: Eric Schmitt, National Security Correspondent, The New York Times

Striking the Right Balance Between Security and Liberty

We are still in the post-9/11 era, but we are also in the post-Edward Snowden era.
Citizens’ expectation that the government will protect them from security threats is
unchanged, but they are much less willing now than they were in the immediate
aftermath of the terror attacks to grant the government virtual carte blanche to do what
it thinks is necessary to respond to these threats. What is the “right” balance between
security and liberty?

Raj De, General Counsel, National Security Agency
Robert Litt, General Counsel, Office of the Director of National Intelligence
John Rizzo, Former Deputy & Acting General Counsel, Central Intelligence Agency
Scott Charney, Corporate Vice President, Trustworthy Computing, Microsoft
MODERATOR: Greg Miller, National Security Correspondent, The Washington Post

The Future of Warfare

Our still formidable nuclear arsenal and our supremacy in conventional armaments are
of limited use in a world now dominated by the asymmetric tactics of terrorists and
cyber-warriors. What are the new weapons—and new conceptions of warfare—that can
help America maintain its strategic and tactical edge?

Dawn Meyerriecks, Deputy Director, Directorate of Science and Technology, Central
Intelligence Agency
Steve Chan, Director, Network Science Research Center, IBM
Lynn Dugle, President, Raytheon Intelligence, Information, and Services; Vice President,
Raytheon Company
MODERATOR: Kevin Baron, Executive Editor, Defense One

Intergovernmental Cooperation in Counterterrorism

This session will explore the respective roles of key actors at various levels of
government and in the private sector in counterterrorism and how cooperation among
them can be improved.

Matt Olsen, Director, National Counterterrorism Center
Robert Mueller, Former Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation; Partner, Wilmer
Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP
Ralph Boelter, Vice President, Corporate Security, Target; Former Assistant Director,
Counterterrorism Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation5
MODERATOR: Mike Isikoff, Chief Investigative Correspondent, Yahoo News

Security Challenges in an Ever-Evolving Cyber Realm

If the good news is that cyber-threats are now on everybody’s radar screen, the bad
news is that we seem no closer to getting a handle on how to counter them. What can
we do to counter this ever evolving threat?

Richard Ledgett, Deputy Director, National Security Agency
MODERATOR: David Sanger, Chief Washington Correspondent, The New York Times


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Aspen Ideas Festival 2013  –  June 26 – Sept 2

Ours is the era of pervasive data: we are surrounded by signals and sensors that chronicle everything about our world and our lives. Web and mobile phone usage patterns reveal much about our behavior. Soon practically every device will be a connected device: our cars, fitness monitors, streetlights, and buildings will all participate in the data production economy. This represents a shift in the human condition, a shift in what it means to be human when everything about us can be quantified, measured, analyzed, and nearly permanently stored. All this creates unprecedented economic opportunity, but also new anxieties about privacy, identity and the nature of hyper-quantified humanity. Enter the artist, who has always helped us see the world in new and different ways. New technologies have also reliably led to disruptive advances in art: think what perspective did for the renaissance or how the portable oil tube enabled the impressionists to move outdoors and paint in natural light. So consider what a moment this is for artists as they embrace a new medium: the world of data.

The artists in this show are pioneers in developing the visual language that makes data captivating, expressive and meaningful. They follow in the tradition of filmmakers, photographers and pop artists who embraced new technology throughout the 20th century, and explored the intersection of commercialism and art. These works take us beyond literal data visualization (a staple of science, business and journalism) to help us see the unexpected in data, gain a sense for its cultural meaning, and make the otherwise abstract into an emotional experience. They don’t provide ready answers, but rather ask questions about how data is represented, interpreted and used in society.

R. Luke Dubois uses pervasive data the way pop artists like Andy Warhol or James Rosenquist obsessively manipulated the mass consumer imagery of their era. Coming from the world of commercial illustration they adapted the language of advertising and pop culture to fine art. Today, DuBois uses contemporary software techniques to change the context in which we see data, presenting it in a fresh, sometimes jarring perspective. He asks how data can be emotionally impactful at a time when we are surrounded by so much of it we are practically numbed out.

Dubois’ work plays a context flipping game with data. Hindsight is Always 20/20 (2008) uses the familiar context of a Snellen eye chart to present something unexpected: a statistical analysis of the Presidential State of the Union Addresses. The result is the ability to see all-at-once the rhetoric and priorities of every American Presidency.

A More Perfect Union (2011) downloaded 16.7 million profiles from dating sites to analyze the words single Americans use to identify themselves. By transposing the language of personal ads for cities on the familiar form of a map, we are presented with a voyeuristic geography of our desires.

Hard Data (2011) is Dubois’ experiment in using the emotional power of music to experience data. It’s a string quartet composed from Iraq war causality statistics in the style of composers who wrote for war. The project is also an act of data journalism: the artist spent a year gathering information from multiple sources to create a comprehensive casualty data set not available from any government.

These artists express their ideas in computer code and algorithms, which then execute the work. This approach predates computer art. In the 1960s conceptual artist Sol Lewitt wrote out detailed instructions for his Wall Drawings, which others then (painstakingly) executed. His phrase “The idea becomes a machine that makes the art,” is now the basis for a new generation of art. There is a direct line from Lewitt to early computer drawing languages like Logo to Processing, a popular open source language co-developed by Artist Casey Reas.

In Signal to Noise (2012) Reas has constructed a machine that worries about the evolution of television. Every second a frame of analog TV is deconstructed and used to seed a unique abstract digital response. It plays out the tension between old and new media relentlessly on screen.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Zero Noon (2013) is an examination of the time dimension in data. At what rate do species go extinct, do we consume oil, or do girl scouts sell cookies? Each of these is rendered as a 24-hour clock giving us a visceral feel for the pace of these phenomena as well as an exotic new measure of time.

Siebren Versteeg applies the concept of collage to the Internet: In Light; of Everything uses custom software to collect images from everywhere and assembles them into a composition daily. Like Zero Noon, it starts fresh each day.

Fifty Years ago Aspen Institute founder Walter Paepcke turned to artists and design- ers of the day like László Moholy-Nagy and Herbert Bayer to interpret the Great Ideas of Western Man at a time of cold war ideological tensions. Today, with big data and its implications so important to citizenship and society, artists are at the forefront of helping us see and understand data in altogether new ways. And the questions they ask help us process our collective anxiety and fascination with the phenomena of a pervasively instrumented world.

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U.S. Paying Syrian Rebels $150 Per Month


The United States has been paying thousands of Syrian police officers who deserted the regime of President Bashar Assad.

Officials said the administration of President Barack Obama has approved tens of millions of dollars to pay the salaries of police officers who joined the rebels. They said the officers were working to maintain order in rebel-controlled territory, mostly in northern Syria.

“There are literally thousands of defected police inside of Syria,” Assistant Secretary of State Rick Barton said. “They are credible in their communities because they’ve defected.”

In an address to the Aspen Security Forum on July 19th, Barton, responsible for State Department stabilization operations, did not say how many Syrian police deserters were on the U.S. payroll. He said the officers were receiving about $150 per month, a significant salary in Syria.


The address marked a rare disclosure of direct U.S. aid to Sunni rebels in Syria. Congress has approved more than $50 million for the Syrian opposition, much of which has not been spent.

Barton said the police officers remained in their communities despite their defection from the Assad regime. He said the U.S. stipend was meant to ensure that they stay on the job.

“We’d rather have a trained policeman who is trusted by the community than have to bring in a new crowd or bring in an international group that
doesn’t know the place,” Barton said.

Barton said the rebel movement was awaiting a range of non-lethal U.S. equipment. He cited night vision systems and medical supplies.

Syrian Girl points out that it’s not just defected Syrian police officers on the U.S. payroll,  but rebel groups (many Al Qaeda affiliated) as well. Reports from both AFP and Channel4 in the past year show rebels who say they are getting paid the same amount, $150 per month.


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