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  • Patterson Alum Named Head of Threat Operations at U.S. Department of State

    U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE  

    Bureau of Diplomatic Security  

    _________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    For immediate release

    Washington, D.C.

    October 12, 2022

    Former aide to retired Iowa U.S. Rep. Jim Leach named as head of threat operations at U.S. Department of State  

    Paul Houston, who has spent a lifetime overseas, was named the Deputy Assistant Secretary and Assistant Director of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) for Threat Investigations and Analysis (TIA) on August 22, 2022. TIA serves as a global platform for threat investigations, analysis, and dissemination.  

    In addition to a bachelor of arts degree in political science, with a separate focus on international business, from the University of Iowa in 1995, Mr. Houston has a master’s degree in national security policy and international economics from the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce.  

    “No matter where my family lived abroad, I consider my home to be in Iowa,” Mr. Houston said. “I am grateful for my four years at the University of Iowa, my job as a legislative assistant for former U.S. Representative Jim Leach, and the many professional and personal relationships I have developed. The hard work, discipline, and initiative that is native to Iowans has shaped my approach to my professional career.”   

    As assistant director of TIA, Mr. Houston oversees a comprehensive directorate focused on the dissemination of intelligence and threat information to U.S. diplomatic missions and interests around the world. TIA is a 24/7, 365-day operation staffed with agents, analysts, and contractors focused on the protection of people, facilities, and information.     

    Mr. Houston’s overseas assignments include Germany, Jordan, Haiti, Serbia and the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Domestically, Mr. Houston served as the director of the DSS Office of Special Investigations – conducting criminal and administrative investigations for the U.S. Department of State. Before that, he was the deputy director of the DS Command Center.  

    Mr. Houston attended the Senior Executive Leadership Program at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, the U.S. Department of State’s National Security Executive Leadership Seminar (NSELS), and the Foreign Service Institute’s Senior Executive Threshold Seminar.    

    The Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) is the law enforcement and security arm of the U.S. Department of State. DSS has the largest global presence of any U.S. law enforcement organization, operating at more than 270 U.S. diplomatic posts in over 170 countries, and in 33 U.S. cities. The organization leads worldwide security and law enforcement efforts to advance U.S. foreign policy and safeguard national security interests.  

    To learn more about the Diplomatic Security Service, please visit diplomaticsecurity.state.gov.  

    For media queries, please contact DS-Press@state.gov.  

    ———————————————————————————

    (Photo taken from the U.S. Department of State’s website, which can be found at: https://www.state.gov/biographies/paul-r-houston/)


  • The Meridian Summit & Tackling Washington, D.C.

    This weekend, a group of Patterson students travelled to Washington, D.C. to attend the Meridian Summit at the United States Institute of Peace.  This was the first in-person Summit since COVID-19, and this year, the focus was primarily on issues facing cyberspace.  The Summit was split into two locations: the Main Stage and the Innovation Stage.  The Main Stage primarily focused on what was called “The Global Divide,” focusing on this incredible divide between those who have access to the internet and those who do not.  The Innovation Stage, however, focused on a variety of issues including inclusivity in cyber careers as well as cybersecurity. 

    Students meet with Patterson alum at a restaurant in Arlington, Virginia

    The Summit began with a presentation that illustrated this global divide—walking through more developed nations as well as LDCs (“least developed countries”).  The numbers emphasized that while a country may be “developed,” that doesn’t necessarily mean that every citizen has access to the internet, whether through a phone or through another device.  What shouldn’t be surprising, however, is how large that number became in LDCs, and this divide is further deepened when other factors like age, gender, and ethnicity are considered.  For example, in some parts of the world, women have even less of a chance to gain access to the internet. 

    To continue with this idea of The Global Divide, a panel convened to discuss what happens when the nations finally obtain access to the internet.  What stood out to me the most was this idea that while access to the internet is important, it is cybersecurity that is the key issue that shouldn’t be dismissed.  If one has access to the internet but fails to have the proper defense against cyber attacks, then would that person be more vulnerable than if he never received that access?  The answer to that question is quite simple: he would be.  Therefore, the panel emphasized this “package deal” that would need to be presented to those without internet access.  And finally, the panel addressed another key component to closing this global divide: affordability.  For someone in a LDC, affordability could be the one thing that prevents them from gaining access to the internet.  Logically, if one must choose between food for their family and paying for internet access, one would always choose to provide for their family. 

    Another interesting panel included a discussion on how governments and the private sector can work together to improve what is called “tech diplomacy.”  Tech diplomacy is essentially collective action between government and the private sector to maintain regulations and innovation in our evolving world.  Tech diplomacy not only involves expanding access to LDCs, but it also includes keeping the internet “open and free”—even in authoritarian regimes.  Moreover, we cannot discuss keeping the internet “open and free” to all people without mentioning the private sector’s responsibility in helping keep the internet affordable for all people—regardless of where they live.  The panel concluded by emphasizing the importance of tech diplomacy being at the forefront of modern diplomatic policy.

    Students toured the Lincoln Memorial

    That night, we realized a few students in our group had never visited D.C. before, so we met up with a few Patterson alum and took the metro out to the National Mall to see the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.  As we read Lincoln’s words along the walls, we were reminded of our patriotism and dedication to continue moving toward a more inclusive and equal society.


  • The South China Sea, Chinese Aggression, & Alleged Assault: The Fall Simulation

    On October 7th & 8th, the Patterson School and the Army War College participated in the annual negotiation exercise.  This exercise consisted of several countries working together to overcome issues facing the South China Sea.  The countries that participated in this simulation were the United States, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Japan. 

    The UN Special Representative Speaks to the Delegations

    The simulation began as confronting Chinese aggression in the region.  China, contrary to international law, claimed the Paracel and Spratly Islands as their own, which caused tensions among its neighbors.  China’s neighbors heavily relied upon countries residing outside the South China Sea—the United States and Japan—to counter China’s aggression, and as a result, the United States was able to draft a massive multilateral agreement on principle that included intertwining of the economies, planning of joint military exercises, establishing an exclusion zone around the contested islands, and affirming that any and all contested claims to the islands would be settled within the ASEAN coalition at a future date.

    Team Malaysia Discusses Strategy

    The United States realized its role was to simply push back against China’s agenda in the South China Sea while enforcing international law and the freedom of navigation, and the United States utilized its relationship with the smaller Asian nations to do so.  As a result, the United States was able to not only address each nation’s concerns relating to China, but the United States was also able to establish further economic and military ties that resulted in less reliance on the Chinese. 

    Of course, the Chinese delegation did everything it could to prevent this multilateral agreement from forming, and perhaps their most clever strategy was setting up meetings with all delegations with the intention of not following through on any of the planned outcomes arising from these meetings.  For example, in its second meeting with the United States, China proposed a “green deal,” which included details on tackling climate change and global warming.  When asked how China could propose such an agreement given China was the number one polluter in the world, China could not provide an adequate response—indicating China’s intention of simply stalling the multilateral agreement.  The United States used this discovery against the Chinese delegation and pressed into the multilateral agreement by informing the smaller Asian nations of China’s true intentions: to prevent progress from taking place at this Summit and continue its aggression in the South China Sea.  Ultimately, the Chinese delegation’s tactic failed as the United States was able to secure the multilateral agreement within the last hour of the simulation.  Once all nations involved signed the agreement, the United States had achieved its overall goal: to push China back from its illegal claims and unfounded aggression. 

    (From left to right) Heads of Delegation from the United States, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Japan, and Vietnam Meet to Discuss the Multilateral Agreement on Principle that Counters Chinese Aggression in the South China Sea

    When the United States finally personally presented this multilateral agreement to China, the two Heads of Delegation met one-on-one in the presence of three mentors.  The United States intended for the meeting to be short—simply layout the foundations of the four-part agreement and to inform China that the United States would working with the other Asian nations to counter China’s objectives.  However, the United States and China quickly found themselves in a shouting match that resulted in the Head of the United States’ delegation enforcing his position by shoving his finger into the Head of the Chinese delegation’s shoulder.  As he did so, the Head of the United States’ delegation stated that this was the future China should have foreseen and that China needed to face the consequences of its actions.  Shortly after the encounter, the Head of the Chinese delegation walked through the halls, shouting that the United States had assaulted the Chinese delegation.  The Head of the Chinese delegation filed a complaint to the United Nations, and the United Nations Special Representative met individually with both Heads as part of his investigation into the incident.  However, with these meetings falling so close to the end of the simulation, the UN Special Representative did not formally reprimand the quarreling Heads.

    The simulation officially ended when the Heads of each delegation gave their closing remarks.  Because every country apart from China had agreed to the multilateral agreement on principle, their closing remarks were quite similar and spoke of immense cooperation with the United States and Japan.  China, however, did not echo that sentiment.  The Head of the Chinese delegation, in a homemade sling to emphasize the alleged assault, gave his closing remarks, and his remarks reflected a sense of betrayal from its neighbors as well as open hostility to the United States.  Despite China’s attempt to gain favor from its neighbors, the United States and other Asian nations enforced international law and illustrated a united front against China and its aggression in the region.

    In essence, the goal of the simulation was to resolve the dispute diplomatically, and while tensions rose over the two days, students were able to work together to form firm, yet reasonable, solutions facing the South China Sea.


  • Kidnappings, Assassination Attempts, Military Coups, and a Humanitarian Crisis: Patterson Students Take on the Crisis Simulation

    On February 24 & 25, the Patterson School held its annual crisis simulation. With the help of Patterson faculty, former Patterson students organized a simulation to conduct the first in-person crisis simulation since the pandemic began. Below is a summary of the simulation.

    The simulation consisted of five teams: Venezuela, Peru, China, Colombia, and the United States. While each team had a set of red lines they were forbidden to cross, teams worked together to not only advance their own interests in the region but to also aid in the humanitarian crisis. While some of this aid came in the form of direct monetary payments, the majority of the aid consisted of resources used to fight the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g. vaccines, PPE, etc.).

    Each team performed according to their red lines and their regional interests. For example, from Team China’s perspective, China’s goal was to maintain its economic interest in the region while also not recognizing there was even a humanitarian crisis. Meanwhile, Team Colombia’s main objective was to reject recognition of Venezuela’s new President after ghastly circumstances surrounded the election and to counter Chinese influence in the region. How each team accomplished its goals was…unique.

    After managing to secure its red lines and negotiating several agreements that expelled Team United States’ influence from the region, Team China began kidnapping delegates from Team Colombia in an effort to stall progress between Team Colombia and Team United States. However, privately, Team China’s justification for the kidnappings was simple: to obtain intelligence on which team was behind the assassination attempt of Venezuela’s new President. Team China believed that Team Colombia and Team United States were colluding to overthrow the Venezuelan President; however, after thoroughly interrogating the two delegates from Team Colombia, Team China discovered it was actually SIM Control (the simulation leadership) behind the assassination attempt.

    Regional relations also took a toll during these negotiations as Team Peru’s delegation was overthrown by a military coup on the second day–invalidating nearly every agreement previously made. However, even with this unforeseen event, Team Peru was able to come out with newly formed agreements with each team. Additionally, Peru managed to secure a trilateral Memorandum of Understanding with Colombia and Venezuela to establish stability in the region through renewed partnerships with the current regimes. And finally, Colombia was able to secure steady relations with the United States as the two countries worked together to confront the growing humanitarian crisis as well as to expand trade, cultural, and tourism opportunities.

    In sum, the crisis simulation not only forced Patterson students to step into leadership roles, but it also encouraged students to behave in a manner consistent with their designated delegation. While some delegations faced more difficulty than others, they managed to overcome those obstacles with tenacity, incredible leadership, and creativity.


  • Bolsonaro Involved in Coup Against Brazil?

    Written by Ciara Perez

    February 5, 2023

    On January 26, Brazilian magazine Veja released audio of Senator Marcos do Val, formerly a close ally of Bolsonaro, in which he claimed that the former president had been plotting a way to remain in power and overturn the election. The audio was released after the senator denied the magazine’s report of the alleged plot, which hadn’t cited the senator as its source. Senator Do Val alleges of having “met with Bolsonaro and lawmaker Daniel Silveira on Dec. 9 at the presidential residence” which is where the discussion of the plot took place. Supreme Court Justice, Alexandre de Moraes, has confirmed that this is the same information the senator shared with him. However, Moraes has also ordered Do Val to “provide sworn testimony to federal police within five days as part of Supreme Court investigation into the January 8 riots”.

    Senator Do Val also revealed to Moraes that Silveira had asked him to trap Moraes into saying “something incriminating while secretly recording him” as a means of discrediting the presidential election. Do Val allegedly quotes Bolsonaro as having said, “I annul the election, Lula isn’t sworn in, I stay in the presidency and arrest Alexandre de Moraes because of his comments”. Moraes has been a big target for Bolsonaro supporters, who believe he “interfered in the election to help Lula”. He is also the head of Brazil’s top electoral authority and often played defense against Bolsonaro’s attacks on “the integrity of Brazil’s electronic voting system”.

    Silveira was arrested due to “a warrant issued by Moraes, who accused him of disobeying court rulings”. He had previously been “sentenced for anti-democratic acts after issuing threats against de Moraes and other justices” but had been pardoned by Bolsonaro. On the same day that Senator Do Val made his claims, President Lula also made allegations against Bolsonaro, stating that he was involved in the January 8th storming of government offices.

    Though Bolsonaro has been in Florida since late December, and has applied for a six-month tourist visa to remain in the U.S., he is under investigation in Brazil for his “alleged role in inflaming riots by his supporters”. His son “has admitted the meeting took place but denies a crime was committed” and Bolsonaro himself has made no comment on the matter.  


  • Pro-Western Candidate Defeats Oligarch in Czech Republic Presidential Election

    Written by Ash Breedlove

    February 5, 2023

    On January 28th, General Petr Pavel was elected president in the Czech Republic. Pavel is a former army chief and NATO official who has been vocal about his pro-Western views. Pavel’s opponent, billionaire Andrej Babis, spouted populist rhetoric in his campaign and portrayed Pavel as a warmonger for supporting Ukraine. Babis did not want to “drag the Czech Republic into war” and questioned NATO security policy. During his term as prime minister, Babis put his companies into a trust and was investigated by the European commission for allocating EU subsidies to his businesses. Pavel defeated Babis with 58.3% of the vote.

    The election of Pavel represents a new direction for the Czech Republic. He has been clear about his support for Ukraine and his goal to bridge political differences in the country. The role of the president in the Czech Republic is mostly ceremonial, however, Pavel’s winning of the election represents a victory for democratic values. Pavel has the power to appoint prime ministers, other officials, and sway foreign policy. In a speech after learning he had won the election Pavel stated, “values such as truth, dignity, respect and humility won.”


  • Algeria Enjoys a European Embrace

    Written by Jesse Moore

    February 5, 2023

    Energy-hungry Europeans are keeping an ineffective regime afloat. Despite recent rows with Spain and its dark colonial past with France, relations between Algeria and major European powers are on the mend. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni visited with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune last month, highlighting Algeria’s importance for the West. Italy depends on Algeria for 40% of its gas, up by 10% since the war in Ukraine. In fact, the North African country sends over 80% of its gas to Europe through Spain and Italy. Algeria is also vital to Europe for its influence in North Africa and the Sahel where it’s seen as a stabilizer, and it also seems to be increasing its capability for military intervention.

    Despite this rapprochement, Algeria’s domestic situation is a mess. High inflation, high youth unemployment, a poor business environment, ineffective governance, and saber-rattling with the country’s rival, Morocco, keep the country’s prospects low. The one bright spot is Algeria’s provision of heavily subsidized ‘basics of life’ (staple foods, electricity, housing, etc.) to its people, a policy that may be untenable once energy prices subside. While a change in governance and economic policies would be a relief to the people of Algeria, it is unlikely to happen soon. Western governments are all too eager to lap up energy markets outside Russia and potentially pull one of Russia’s top arms importers away from Moscow. Algeria should take their (likely to be) brief moment in the sun to create a better future for its population.


  • Scarcity, Protests, and the Many Intrigues Before Nigeria’s General Elections

    Written by Osetemega Iribiri

    February 5, 2023

    In November 2022, Nigeria’s outgoing President, Muhammadu Buhari, unveiled the newly designed naira denominations of N1000, N500, and N200 introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, said significant cash withdrawals from financial institutions would be monitored and scrutinized. He affirmed that the redesign was poised to make Nigeria a cashless economy. He added that the CBN must redesign currency every five to eight years as the policy demands. To effect this change, January 31, 2023, was given as the deadline for exchanging old notes for new notes.

    Although the CBN has been able to collect N1.9 trillion of 3.23 trillion of the old notes in circulation and extended the deadline by ten days to February 10, this exercise has been chaotic. The new notes have been reportedly scarce, with lengthy queues visible at ATMs across the nation, brawls at banks and Nigerians struggling to access the new notes. These unbearable conditions led to protests in various parts of the country, which left one dead on Friday as security agents clashed with protesters.

    This currency crisis is coming a few weeks before Nigeria’s parliamentary, state, and presidential elections – a season often characterized by money exchange. Analysts say this redesign has thwarted politicians’ plans who had stocked up the old currency. On the positive angle, some say it would reduce vote buying. However, despite how good this plan sounds, it has made life uncomfortable and stressful for many Nigerians; it has raised a shadow economy with banking agents charging exorbitant fees. Some mobile money agents charge a whopping 20% on cash withdrawals following the natural laws of demand and supply. This scenario is a classic example of a cart being put before the horse because many Nigerian banks do not have the infrastructure to scale up to the cashless economy frame the CBN desires.

    Alongside this currency scarcity is a looming fuel distribution crisis categorized by long queues and exorbitant fuel prices of up to N600/liter (about $1.30 using official exchange rates). There are many intrigues leading to the Presidential and National Assembly on Saturday, February 25, 2023, and Governorship and State Houses of Assembly on Saturday, March 11, 2023. How would it all end? The answer lies in the wait.


  • Mozambique: Global win & domestic setback

    by Osetemega Iribiri

    Ambassador Pedro Comissário Afonso Source: Sputnik International

    Mozambique was inaugurated into the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member on January 24 when its ambassador, Pedro Comissário Afonso, installed its national flag with other members outside the council chambers. The country won the election in June 2022 to serve for two years, giving it a more significant voice in international peace and security issues.

    However, the nation is currently facing an insurgency in its Cabo Delgado province in the north, where extremist group Ansar Al Sunna, also known as al-Shabab, has been attacking and causing displacement and deaths. After a two-day visit to Mozambique, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Greenfield, on Friday, emphasized that more efforts are needed to combat the insurgency, which has affected almost 1 million people and caused 5,000 deaths.


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