This week takes a look at two DSNlytic tools for OSINT Network operations, covert operations for the PLA and Russian paramilitary groups, changes to the CIA, and local political context for Taiwan President Tsai’s National Day speech.
Main image source: Office of the President, Republic of China (Taiwan)
Google analytics is a powerful tool for website owners to measure website traffic, chiefly to be able to turn that traffic into money through Google Adsense campaigns. Most websites that are monetising content have one or the other. For researchers, these analytical tools are great first steps at getting an idea of how big a connected network is. Websites owned by the same person or group are highly likely to use the same Adsense and analytics code; inputting that code into DNSlytics will return all other websites which also have the same code. DNSlytics reveals historic websites as well, however, this information does come at a subscription cost.
To note, DNSlytics has many, many tools, but today only the two previously featured tools are featured.
First, to obtain these codes find the source code for a webpage. Upon opening the source code, search for “`UA-“` and “`pub-“` using the ctrl+f/cmd+f command.
The pub- code is for Google Adsense. Plug the code into the Reverse Adsense tool and any new information on that website, along with any other websites returning that same code, will show up. Larger networks may return hundreds of websites, specifically if one website is part of a media group. Smaller networks, however, may return only that website, or one other result. The same applies to the UA- code, which is for Google Analytics. Analytic codes are more common, as not all websites will monetise through Adsense, but more will have Google Analytics to monitor their traffic.
Unfortunately, there are limitations for larger networks without a premium subscription. Exploring a network through DNSlytics, however, could still be an important part of a first-step in an investigation.
PLA Navy off Alaska, Wagner Group Research, and Changes at the C.I.A.
Three articles this week! Only one of these count as an OSINT article, while the other two are geopolitical related.
First is Pacific Rim: Trying to make sense of how the US Coast Guard and the Chinese Navy went toe to toe off Alaska, by Line of Actual Control. Full disclosure, I did collaborate on this article. However, LOAC does a fantastic job of highlighting the findings. On the last days of August, a Chinese PLA Navy flotilla arrived in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Alaska. The United States Coast Guard monitored the flotilla, everyone followed maritime law and ethics, and nothing happened. However, what was the PLAN and Coast Guard actually doing on that day? That is what this article is about – pinpointing the PLAN and Coast Guard using Satellite Imagery from Sentinel I. The article was fun to collaborate on, and the satellite imagery in Alaska can also just be stunning.
Second, is a story from Newlines Magazine, who obtained a Samsung tablet allegedly owned by a Russian paramilitary operative in Libya. The Wagner Group Files is an in-depth story about the tablet, and a larger expose of the Wagner Group (Группа Вагнера). The most revealing aspects are maybe not the operations, but the reading that was on the tablet, including Hitler’s Mein Kampf. The reporting concludes that the Wagner Group, opposed to other outlets’ conclusions, is not an extension of the Russian Ministry of Defence, rather, a paramilitary group with connections to Russia’s oligarchy. The group recruits, (under) pays, and trains Russians with nationalistic sentiment from regions of the country where ethnic Russians are a minority. The grotesque and Nazi-esc imagery members of Wagner adorn are thus more features than bugs.
Third, the New York Times published two articles in tandem this week regarding the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) restructuring after what may have been years of work, lost. First, counterintelligence efforts are suffering beyond just the borders of China. In the past several years, reporting has indicated that the C.I.A. has lost almost all cells and counterintelligence personnel inside of China. The timing was critical as tensions rose over economic and espionage concerns. These efforts were even more troubling for the C.I.A. after protests in Hong Kong heightened tensions with Beijing, and subsequent tensions over Taiwan have been rising. The lack of counterintelligence in Beijing is particularly troubling as misunderstandings could easily spark conflict. These concerns, however, clearly extend beyond Beijing, as countries across the globe have become more effective, or brutally effective, at dismantling counterintelligence operatives and operations. Moreover, the failure to bolster efforts at establishing counterintelligence in Latin America has given way to China doing so first. Subsequently, the C.I.A. also announced a new focus on China, with the opening of the China Mission Centre. This centre will serve as a basis for new language training and intelligence gathering on Beijing. Moreover, they will also overhaul other departments to focus more on climate change and future pandemics. The past few years have been indicative of grim tension inside the agency, and these new measures are likely outward signs of pressures to make such changes.
President Tsai’s National Day Speech in a Taiwanese Political Context
Reporters have a propensity when reporting on what President Tsai of Taiwan says to put that into an international context. Taiwan is a flashpoint, and this context is hard to avoid, especially after the PLAAF sent over a hundred planes into the ADIZ over several days as a provocatory move. President Tsai herself stated as much when stating that Taiwan is a line of defence for democracy; the international context is warranted. Yet, there can also be a missing Taiwanese context lost internationally.
The first cultural reference that cannot be lost is President Tsai saying that Taiwan is no longer the ‘Orphan of Asia’ – the reference is best explained in this thread, and it cannot be overlooked for how President Tsai is positioning Taiwanese identity in her second-term.
Taiwanese identity is one of the paramount local contexts for National Day on 10 October, also known as Double Ten Day (雙十節). The day celebrates the beginning of the Wuchang uprising which saw the overthrow of the Qing Dynaasty. Some Taiwanese do not celebrate or recognise National Day as it celebrates the Republic of China and was largely associated with the Kuomintang during the era of one-party martial-law dictatorship. Now that Taiwan, the Republic of China, is a democratic state that celebrates its diversity, others use it as a day to remember the sacrifices it took to initiate democratic reforms, celebrate that democracy, or join in the festivities with friends and family.
Consequentially, President Tsai carefully connected Taiwan’s and the Republic of China’s modern identity to democratisation. Moreover, and pressingly, she also stated that the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China, should not subordinate each other. This is in sharp movement away from deep pan-blue Kuomintang adherents who want to have more control on the mainland. The speech was also a sharp move away from the Kuomintang’s more nationalistic stance that ties to the ROC identity over the Taiwan identity, while pursuing closer relations with China, including under one-country-two-systems. The thesis of the speech was that unification (in Taiwan) through democracy would strengthen Taiwan against Beijing’s aggressive military.
President Tsai embracing the Taiwanese identity, carefully separating from Beijing while condemning their violent rhetoric and presentations of warplanes, was significant for the local context. Tsai masterfully crafted her words, adhering to the cross-strait ambiguity and not independence, while also giving the Taiwanese people room to craft their own identity politically. There was a focus on stability and peace, yet uncompromising adherence to Taiwan’s sovereignty.
This juxtaposes strongly to Xi Jinping’s speech earlier in the week marking the Wuchang Uprising (the People’s Republic of China National Day is 1 October, although they do mark the Wuchang Uprising, including some slight historical revisions on Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s legacy). He stated that ‘peaceful’ reunification for Taiwan was in the best interest of both nations; although he did not exclude the use of force. The same week, the Chinese Communist Party indicated that they were going to mandate Mandarin-language education to ‘assimilate‘ minorities. The PLA also simulated an amphibious assault on a beach in Fujian for the third time this summer; a not-so veiled attempt at war-gaming an assault on Taiwan. Subsequently, People’s Daily published an op-ed that reunification is a duty to the motherland (this is not the first time this line has been used either).
In light of Beijing’s blatant aggression, international coverage will likely focus on the cross-strait dynamics of President Tsai’s speech. In the U.S., the week was marked by continued calls from legislators to end strategic ambiguity on the defence of Taiwan. President Tsai stooping into many of the traps that Beijing (or the Kuomintang) has laid with the nuances of language, action, and alliances would be easy. Yet, under incredible pressure from three-sides, Tsai delivered an eloquent speech that should be praised in light of the challenge the day offered. The verbiage marked the contrast between Taiwan and the PRC, notably the opportunity and commitment to democracy in Taiwan.
Map of Holland: According to Astronomical Observation Measurements of Willebrord Snellius (1791)
This map offers a short of a turning point in map-making in general. A century earlier, Willebrord Snellius at the University of Leiden prototyped the process of triangulation for maps, leading to more accurate maps that were better representations of actual distance and geolocation. Franz Ludwig Güssefeld, a Prussian Cartographer drew this map of Holland in 1791. The details are very much worth looking closer at on the Library of Congress, specifically the focus put into lots and city connections.