Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Heritage President to Also Lead Sister Lobbying Arm

Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts said he will also become president of the think tank's sister lobbying arm, Heritage Action for America.

This will be the first time that the head of the Heritage Foundation has also headed Heritage Action.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

How a North Korean Cyber Group Impersonated a DC Think Tanker

Here is more from CNBC: 

Six years ago, a well-respected researcher was working late into the night when she stepped away from her computer to brush her teeth. By the time she came back, her computer had been hacked.

Jenny Town is a leading expert on North Korea at the [Stimson Center] and the director of Stimson’s 38 North Program. Her work is built on on open-source intelligence, Town said on Monday. She uses publicly available data points to paint a picture of North Korean dynamics.

“I don’t have any clearance. I don’t have any access to classified information,” Town said at the conference.

But the hackers, a unit of North Korea’s intelligence services codenamed APT43, or KimSuky, were not only after classified information.

The hackers used a popular remote-desktop tool TeamViewer to access her machine and ran scripts to comb through her computer. Then her webcam light turned on, presumably to check if she had returned to her computer. “Then it went off real quickly, and then they closed everything down,” Town told attendees at the mWISE conference, run by Google-owned cybersecurity company Mandiant.

Town and Mandiant now presume the North Koreans had been able to exfiltrate information about Town’s colleagues, her field of study, and her contact list. They used that information to create a digital doppelganger of Town: A North Korean sock puppet that they could use to gather intelligence from thousands of miles away.


Here is more about Jenny Town's story from a previous report.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Former Austrian FinMin Who Danced With Putin Moved to Russia to Open Think Tank

Here is more from Associated Press:

A former Austrian foreign minister who had invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to her wedding and danced a waltz with him at the 2018 reception said she has moved to St. Petersburg to set up a think tank there.

Karin Kneissl, 58, announced on messaging app Telegram on Wednesday that her ponies, which she has been keeping in Syria, were taken to Russia on a Russian military plane.

Kneissl was nominated as a non-party member by the right-wing Freedom Party to serve as foreign minister, a position which she held from 2017 to 2019.

At the Eastern Economic Forum in the far eastern Russian city of Vladivostok earlier this week, Kneissl told Russian state news agency Tass that she had set up the Gorki center — a think tank associated with the state university in St. Petersburg.

Because the think tank requires a lot of her time, she decided to move to Russia, she said.


The "Gorki" in Gorki Centre is reportedly short for "Geopolitical Observatory for Russia's Key Issues."

Monday, September 18, 2023

Heritage Foundation Scholars Forced To Remove Names From Manifesto

Here is more from Politico, in a piece entitled "Too Hot for Heritage!: Why did a pair of Heritage Foundation scholars need to hastily un-sign a conservative group's manifesto?":

Avik Roy, a longtime fixture in Republican policy-wonk circles, made a splash this summer when he organized a manifesto pushing back on the nationalist, market-skeptical tendencies on the new, Trump-era right. The document, signed by Jeb Bush, Grover Norquist, George Will, and a couple hundred other conservative worthies, generated a decent amount of inside-the-Beltway buzz when it launched in July.

It wasn’t just that Freedom Conservatism: A Statement of Principles highlighted a family feud within the movement. It was the very fact that its pieties about the majesty of capitalism were even controversial — an indication of just how far conservative economic theology had drifted.

An even bigger indication came early this month. That’s when Joel Griffith and Peter St. Onge, two scholars from the Heritage Foundation, reached out to Roy to ask that their names be removed from the document.

“They both emailed me at the tail end of Labor Day weekend saying that they had been required by Heritage to take their names off the signatory list,” Roy told me. Unlike many think tanks, Heritage has a longstanding policy requiring that employees vet their publications to make sure they don’t contradict the foundation’s official stance — a rule the pair had apparently fallen afoul of.


A number of think tankers outside of Heritage signed the manifesto that Joel Griffith and Peter St. Onge were forced to un-sign, including those from the Hoover Institution, Niskanen Center, Manhattan Institute, Bipartisan Policy Center, Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), and the R Street Institute.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Council on Foreign Relations Taking Heat for Hosting Closed-Door Meeting with Iranian President

Here is more from The Washington Free Beacon:

A prominent Washington, D.C., think tank is under fire for its decision to host Iran’s president while he is in New York City for the United Nations’ annual gathering.

The Council on Foreign Relations, one of Washington’s most influential foreign policy hubs, is scheduled to host an invitation-only event with Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi next Tuesday, a source confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon, when the Iranian leader is in New York City to attend the U.N.’s General Assembly, the annual weeklong gathering of world leaders.

Former senior U.S. officials and Iranian dissidents blasted the think tank for hosting a regime mouthpiece who is engaged in plots to assassinate American leaders. News of the event was first outed by a CFR fellow on Twitter. CFR has not posted details about the event on its website or publicly acknowledged it is taking place. The think tank also would not respond to Free Beacon requests for comment.


The most interesting tidbit from the story is how the closed-door meeting became public.  The Free Beacon notes that CFR member and Iranian dissident Roya Hakakian declined the invitation via a message on X.

A senior congressional aide reportedly said that the CFR event could violate US anti-terrorism laws.


Tuesday, September 12, 2023 Starting $20 Million Fund for AI Experts at Think Tanks

Artificial intelligence (AI) issues are getting lots of attention and funding at think tanks.  Here is the latest example, from TechCrunch:

Ahead of Wednesday’s AI-focused private congressional meeting with tech giants, Google this morning announced a new initiative aimed at supporting researchers and public policy solutions around AI with the debut of the Digital Futures Project. As part of the effort, Google’s charitable arm is establishing a $20 million fund that will provide grants to think tanks and academic institutions developing AI expertise.

The tech giant says it aims to fund independent thinkers who are looking into topics like how AI will impact global security or how it can be used to enhance the security of institutions and enterprises; how AI will impact labor and how we can transition the workforce to the AI jobs of the future; how governments can use AI to boost productivity and economic growth; and what kinds of governance structure and cross-industry efforts can best promote responsible AI innovation.

The inaugural grantees of the Digital Futures Fund include the Aspen Institute, Brookings Institution, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Center for a New American Security, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Institute for Security and Technology, Leadership Conference Education Fund, MIT Work of the Future, R Street Institute and SeedAI. reportedly will fund various organizations around the world, with non-US think tanks likely to get a chunk of that money. 

Before this latest tranche of money, think tanks had already pivoted toward AI.  Brookings, for example, has an Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technology Initiative, while CSIS has the Wadhwani Center for AI and Advanced Technologies.