Ann Marlowe

Ann Marlowe, a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute, is a writer and businesswoman based in New York City. In 2011, she made four trips to Libya to cover the revolution and war and returned twice in 2012. She is working on a book that will follow Libya's first year post-Gaddafi. Between 2002 and 2011 she traveled regularly to Afghanistan and published often on Afghanistan's politics, economy, culture and the U.S. counterinsurgency there. Her articles have appeared in the op –ed pages of the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post and New York Post, and in the Weekly Standard, Daily Beast, Forbes.com, TNR.com,and many other publications. She tweets regularly (@annmarlowe) and blogs on Libya, the Arab Spring, the links between war and art and the cultural aspects of counterinsurgency for World Affairs at: http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/new/blogs/marlowe

Her monograph on the life and intellectual context of David Galula was published by the Strategic Studies Institute of the Army War College in summer 2010. Ms. Marlowe has also published two memoirs and is one of the contributers to A New Literary History of America (Harvard University Press, 2009).

Ms. Marlowe is a regular guest on the John Batchelor radio show discussing Libya, Afghanistan and counterinsurgency. She has also appeared on Fox's "Happening Now", PBS’s “Ideas in Action” with Jim Glassman, VOA, RTTV, BloggingHeadsTV.com and other television programs. She has spoken at U.S. Army bases, the Army War College, U.S. State Department, the Institut d'Histoire du Temps Present in Paris, and American colleges. In 2009, she was a Media Fellow at the Hoover Institution and returned there for a research fellowship in 2010.

Ms. Marlowe was born in Suffern, New York in 1958 and educated at public schools in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. She received her B.A. in philosophy magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1979 and studied classical philosophy there in the Ph.D. program in 1979-80. In 1984, she received an MBA in finance from Columbia University's Graduate School of Business.


Trump’s Data Gurus Are Now Turning Their Attention To Your TV

January 16th, 2018

Originally published in Fast Company on Nov 15 2017
(https://www.fastcompany.com/40477438/cambridge-analytica-has-your-tv-in-mind-and-an-unlikely-ally)

11.15.17 PLATFORM WARS
Trump’s Data Gurus Are Now Turning Their Attention To Your TV
Cambridge Analytica is eyeing targeted TV ads and mobile apps alongside some surprising allies.

BY ANN MARLOWE
Cambridge Analytica, the Anglo-American data and behavioral science firm that worked for Ted Cruz and Donald Trump–and that sparked an investigation in the U.K. and inquiries by U.S. lawmakers–has announced two initiatives in the past year that highlight some of the newer techniques in targeted advertising and the complex relationships that surround them.

Since last year’s presidential campaigns, the company has sought to expand further into targeted, or addressable, TV, an emerging type of data-driven ad technology that marketers and political campaigns can use to know not just what key audiences and voters like on TV and in other media, but also to determine what particular messages to show them and when.

In an interview last month at the Advertising Week conference in New York, Duke Perrucci, Cambridge’s chief revenue officer, described the potential of new digital TVs and set-top boxes, and a future when targeted ads take up your whole screen. “Because you know the people in that home, and because you buy commercially available data, you know a lot about those people—there’s tons of data out there—now you can send those targeted ads specifically to those homes, the same way you would to a Facebook profile or to an Instagram account,” he said.

While campaign dollars increasingly flow to internet ads–last year, spending on digital advertising eclipsed TV for the first time–television remains the ground zero of big ad campaigns, and the ad targeting and data capabilities in TV are starting to catch up to what’s used online. The idea is to allow candidates and brands to reach only those viewers who meet a desired demographic (e.g. potential buyer of motorcycle insurance). Rather than buying ads the old fashioned way during a certain program (a college football game, for instance) addressable TV allows advertisers to purchase an audience (like undecided Republicans).

CEO of Cambridge Analytica Alexander Nix [Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Concordia Summit]
Cambridge’s efforts in addressable TV began last year. In October 2016, during the final stretch of the presidential campaigns, the company announced a partnership with cross platform analytics company ComScore to merge Cambridge Analytica’s “behavioral psychology and data analytics platform” with ComScore TV data, yielding insight “into which programs, stations and dayparts deliver the highest densities of the targeted audiences that the company’s clients seek to influence,” according to a statement about the partnership.

Typically, Cambridge’s political work has drawn significant support from the conservative mega-donor Robert Mercer, and much of its work in U.S. elections has been for candidates Mercer supports. Steve Bannon, Breitbart News CEO and former advisor to President Trump, sat on Cambridge’s board of directors until late last year. But the TV data effort, as well as a mobile data tie-up in Mexico, have links with another lesser-known American billionaire family, one whose large campaign contributions tend to support Democrats.

ADVERTISING

Charlie Ergen, founder of the broadcast satellite company Dish and the satellite equipment maker EchoStar, is said to be the richest man in Colorado, with a reported net worth of $18.8 billion. He is also a registered Democrat who was once a bundler for long-time friend John McCain ahead of his presidential bid in 2008. In 2016, Ergen and his wife hosted Clinton for a fundraiser at their home, where the candidate collected at least $750,000.

Dish founder Charlie Ergen [Photo: Kim Kulish/Corbis via Getty Images]
Last October, as part of the partnership with ComScore, viewer data from 52,000 households, including some Dish households, was set to eventually flow to Cambridge Analytica. ComScore taps Dish data thanks to ComScore’s acquisition of analytics company Rentrak, in January 2016. Dish has had close ties with Rentrak since 2008, and, after it acquired 7% of the company in 2012, it agreed to provide Rentrak with exclusive use of its set top box data.

“DISH is a major partner that helped us change the measurement landscape by allowing massive and passive television measurement across a national footprint,” comScore’s CEO, Serge Matta, said in a 2016 statement. A spokesperson for ComScore was unable to describe the outcome of the Cambridge Analytica partnership. Representatives for Cambridge Analytica and Dish declined to comment for this story.

In September, Cambridge’s new brand-focused unit, CA Commercial, announced its own ad targeting TV product, SelecTV, that it said it would roll out in the U.S. and U.K., followed by additional countries and markets in coming months. Available in more than half of all 119.6 million U.S. TV homes, and in every U.S. market, addressable TV “has finally reached a scale that has become very attractive to performance marketers,” Alexander Nix, Cambridge’s CEO, said in a statement.

Born out of a recent campaign to promote a new un-named cable TV show, the technology, Nix said, has led to a “huge tuning uplift” over traditional age and gender targeting, an effect that is “additionally amplified when homes are exposed to both desktop and mobile advertising.” It’s not known yet if or how Cambridge intends to use addressable TV data during upcoming political campaigns, for instance, during the 2018 U.S. midterm elections.

Dish is now America’s second-largest satellite TV operator and fourth-largest pay TV provider, and it’s also at the forefront of the ongoing battle to monetize set top box data to reach voters—one that, between digital and TV and a mix of the two—is expected to grow even hotter next year. In September, the company launched a new targeted TV ad program in partnership with Volvo, which can deliver targeted ads simultaneously on Dish and on the company’s Sling TV over-the-top service.

Dish may have good reason to be casting about for innovative ways to bolster its TV business. While it earned $15 billion in revenue in 2016, its stock price has fallen more than 20% since July, and amid historic declines in TV viewership, it has seen a rapid drop-off in customers: during the third quarter, Dish lost another 129,000 pay TV subscribers, out of a nationwide base of around 13.7 million.

On a recent phone call with analysts, Ergen pointed to existing advertising as part of the problem. Traditional TV, he said, is “suffering declines in part because it’s not as good a product. It’s more expensive. Rates have gone up as viewership goes down. And the commercial load–you’re talking about 30% of the viewing minutes are commercials. That’s an unhealthy viewer experience,” Ergen said. “There’s things as an industry we can do to change that. If the industry starts thinking of creative ways to compete, that market can stabilize.”

[Photo: Flickr user Ambuj Saxena, Tim Mossholder/Pexels]
TARGETING TVS
The quest to target voters through TV is decades old and bipartisan. But practitioners say it was the Obama campaign in 2012 that signaled a breakthrough in using both social media and set-top box data in an effort to more precisely identify and persuade undecided voters. Rentrak, which is nonpartisan, collected the data and hired a third party to “anonymize” it so that the Obama team would only know that the information was coming from a set-top box of somebody on the persuadable list; personally identifying information would be stripped away.

In the 2016 election, however, the Clinton campaign chose to build their own TV buying and targeting strategy, not to use a more advanced version of the Obama approach. “It’s frustrating when you build something that is available to both sides, and the side you personally support doesn’t use it,” Carol Davidsen, Obama’s TV ad guru, and now a comScore executive, told AdAge in February. (It’s not clear if Cambridge used the comScore system during its work for the Trump campaign.)

US spending on addressable TV ads doubled in 2015 and is set to double again this year, but it’s still only a tiny piece of the ad pie: according to eMarketer, targeted TV ads will account for a mere $2.25 billion, or just under 3%, of all TV spending in 2018, and $3 billion in 2019. Among the efforts to grow those numbers is OpenAP, a system created by Viacom Inc., 21st Century Fox Inc. and Time Warner Inc.’s Turner that aims to standardize the targeting categories ad buyers can increasingly reach through TV. Google and Facebook are also investing in targeted television ads.

Addressable TV ad spending in the US is growing quickly, but will remain a small portion of total spending for the foreseeable future, according to eMarketer.
“TV is still the strongest media you’ve got to get your message out, but it’s got a lot to learn from digital,” Perrucci, who has been leading Cambridge’s foray into the commercial sector, said at Advertising Week. “Why not take everything we know about the audience and use that to drive much more targeted TV?”

But the combination of otherwise anonymous data on people’s TV viewing habits with social, demographic, psychographic, and other personal data is a growing privacy concern, argues Jonathan Albright, research director at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism. Few voters even know their watching patterns are being watched, whether by Dish or another provider.

“If you know [a voter] watch[es] Fox News at 5 p.m. every day and you also know from that addressable TV data—if someone has DirectTV, TiVo, whatever–how much of Fox News they watch, if they watch all of it or not. That kind of resolution is incredible,” he said. Most people don’t realize “that you can place and you can target like that to TV viewers.”

Related: Bots Are Scraping Your Data For Cash Amid Murky Laws And Ethics

Many cable operators use opt-out rather than opt-in consent, virtually guaranteeing that many citizens are unaware of how their data is used. In June 2016, communications advocacy group Public Knowledge filed complaints with the FCC and FTC over the technology, and singled out AT&T, Cablevision, and Comcast as the worst offenders.

The group’s FCC complaint asserts that cable and satellite providers do not adequately obtain customer consent to use customer data, while the FTC complaint argues that the industry’s use of customer data without appropriate disclosures or opt-in consent amounts to an “unfair and deceptive” practice that’s in violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

[Photos: Tim Mossholder/Pexels, Flickr user Christian Frausto Bernal]
A CAMBRIDGE-ERGEN CONNECTION IN MEXICO
TV isn’t the only domain where the Ergen family’s business intersects with the Trump data contractor. This summer, Cambridge announced that it would send content to Mexican phone subscribers in advance of their 2018 presidential election through an app that gives users ad-sponsored airtime or mobile internet.

In Mexico, Cambridge Analytica signed an agreement with Pig.gi, an app in use there and in Colombia, in advance of next year’s presidential elections. Pig.gi offers users free airtime and/or email service on mobile phones in exchange for receiving sponsored content. It will allow Cambridge to collect information on and deliver advertising to the phones of 850,000 Mexicans; several political parties have expressed interest in the tie-up.

Among Pig.gi’s investors are Charlie Ergen’s son, Chris Ergen, who’s worked in international business development at Dish since 2014, as well as Variv Capital, which has a joint venture in Mexico with Dish, and Pig.gi’s founders, Colorado brothers Joel and Isaac Phillips, who are connected with Chris Ergen in several vaporous businesses.

Pig.gi, which is currently available for Android in Mexico and Colombia, says its users have seen advertising content half a billion times. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with the app so that their partners can get the right message to the right people at the right time,” Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix says on the company’s website.

Many Mexicans are “undecided and unmotivated,” Brittany Kaiser, Cambridge’s vice president of business development, told Bloomberg. “There’s a huge opportunity in this country to find the issues that are important for people and actually turn people out to vote.”

Meanwhile, Kaiser, who recently updated her Facebook page to say that she is living in Mexico City, lists Chris Ergen as one of her friends on Facebook. (After an emailed inquiry, the page is no longer publicly visible.) In February 2015, Kaiser was a moderator at a Washington meeting on “Digital Diplomacy” organized by the Digital Future Forum, a company started by Chris’s co-investors in Pig.gi, Joel and Isaac Phillips.

Cambridge is also staffing up across Mexico in advance of next year’s elections. As BuzzFeed reported, Arielle Dale Karro, head of operations in Mexico for Cambridge Analytica, posted a job listing in the Facebook group “Foreigners in Mexico City” on October 23, seeking staff for gubernatorial campaigns in seven of Mexico’s 31 states: Chiapas, Guanajuato, Morelos, Puebla, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, and Veracruz. The company is also looking for someone to work in Mexico City. As of last week, however, Cambridge doesn’t appear in the National Registry of Suppliers of the National Electoral Institute (INE), which is a requirement for any firm that wants to be hired by a political party in Mexico.

The TV and mobile app projects aren’t the only convergence of Cambridge Analytica with the Ergen family. In 2010 Cambridge’s Swiss partner Nicolas Giannakopoulos became a co-shareholder in a company with Charlie Ergen. Giannakopoulos, who describes himself as “a private consultant in security and investigation,” says the company was meant to distribute Dish content on the internet outside the U.S. Ergen joined Giannakopoulos’s firm, CH-Communication SA, six days after its founding on July 22, 2010, and resigned nearly a year later.

That year, Giannakopoulos, a Swiss and Greek citizen was also working with SCL Group, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica. (SCL has a complex capital structure depicted here.) Until recently, one of his stable of Swiss companies shared an address and phone number with SCL’s Geneva office; the address disappeared from SCL’s website after the Sarawak Report questioned his links to SCL’s work in Malaysia. Asked about his activities for SCL in Switzerland by Sarawak Report, Nicolas Giannakopoulos claims to being “their partner for a long time.” But, he said, “the truth is that I have not done anything yet!”

While Charlie Ergen hasn’t been affiliated with CH-Communication for six years, son Chase Ergen is connected with another Giannakopoulos firm, the Organized Crime Observatory. In a January 2015 announcement, OCO said that Chase Ergen was being appointed Special Envoy for Dominica and St Kitts-Nevis, where Ergen reportedly holds a passport. Neither Chase Ergen nor Giannakopoulos responded to emailed requests for comment.

In recent weeks, Cambridge has been thrust further into the political spotlight amid ongoing investigations about Russian interference in the 2016 elections. The company is now turning over to investigators documents related to its role in the 2016 campaigns, while the U.K. Information Commissioner is examining its role working for Leave.eu during a pro-Brexit campaign. Cambridge has issued contradictory statements about whether or not it used personality targeting ahead of the U.S. election and whether it worked for Leave.eu and in what capacity. And perhaps most intriguingly, it was reported last month that Cambridge’s CEO, Alexander Nix, contacted Julian Assange offering his help in releasing Hillary Clinton’s allegedly missing emails.

Cambridge’s current work and partnerships are more complicated and less seductive than a narrative of evil Republican billionaires or Russian agents funding demagogic appeals on social media. They are a reminder that the quest for data and the power that comes with it is increasingly independent of partisanship or ideological belief.

11.15.17PLATFORM WARS
Trump’s Data Gurus Are Now Turning Their Attention To Your TV
Cambridge Analytica is eyeing targeted TV ads and mobile apps alongside some surprising allies.
Trump’s Data Gurus Are Now Turning Their Attention To Your TV
[Photos: Kisa-Murisa/iStock, Flickr user dailyinvention]
BY ANN MARLOWELONG READ
Cambridge Analytica, the Anglo-American data and behavioral science firm that worked for Ted Cruz and Donald Trump–and that sparked an investigation in the U.K. and inquiries by U.S. lawmakers–has announced two initiatives in the past year that highlight some of the newer techniques in targeted advertising and the complex relationships that surround them.

Since last year’s presidential campaigns, the company has sought to expand further into targeted, or addressable, TV, an emerging type of data-driven ad technology that marketers and political campaigns can use to know not just what key audiences and voters like on TV and in other media, but also to determine what particular messages to show them and when.

In an interview last month at the Advertising Week conference in New York, Duke Perrucci, Cambridge’s chief revenue officer, described the potential of new digital TVs and set-top boxes, and a future when targeted ads take up your whole screen. “Because you know the people in that home, and because you buy commercially available data, you know a lot about those people—there’s tons of data out there—now you can send those targeted ads specifically to those homes, the same way you would to a Facebook profile or to an Instagram account,” he said.

While campaign dollars increasingly flow to internet ads–last year, spending on digital advertising eclipsed TV for the first time–television remains the ground zero of big ad campaigns, and the ad targeting and data capabilities in TV are starting to catch up to what’s used online. The idea is to allow candidates and brands to reach only those viewers who meet a desired demographic (e.g. potential buyer of motorcycle insurance). Rather than buying ads the old fashioned way during a certain program (a college football game, for instance) addressable TV allows advertisers to purchase an audience (like undecided Republicans).

CEO of Cambridge Analytica Alexander Nix [Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Concordia Summit]
Cambridge’s efforts in addressable TV began last year. In October 2016, during the final stretch of the presidential campaigns, the company announced a partnership with cross platform analytics company ComScore to merge Cambridge Analytica’s “behavioral psychology and data analytics platform” with ComScore TV data, yielding insight “into which programs, stations and dayparts deliver the highest densities of the targeted audiences that the company’s clients seek to influence,” according to a statement about the partnership.

Typically, Cambridge’s political work has drawn significant support from the conservative mega-donor Robert Mercer, and much of its work in U.S. elections has been for candidates Mercer supports. Steve Bannon, Breitbart News CEO and former advisor to President Trump, sat on Cambridge’s board of directors until late last year. But the TV data effort, as well as a mobile data tie-up in Mexico, have links with another lesser-known American billionaire family, one whose large campaign contributions tend to support Democrats.

ADVERTISING

Charlie Ergen, founder of the broadcast satellite company Dish and the satellite equipment maker EchoStar, is said to be the richest man in Colorado, with a reported net worth of $18.8 billion. He is also a registered Democrat who was once a bundler for long-time friend John McCain ahead of his presidential bid in 2008. In 2016, Ergen and his wife hosted Clinton for a fundraiser at their home, where the candidate collected at least $750,000.

Dish founder Charlie Ergen [Photo: Kim Kulish/Corbis via Getty Images]
Last October, as part of the partnership with ComScore, viewer data from 52,000 households, including some Dish households, was set to eventually flow to Cambridge Analytica. ComScore taps Dish data thanks to ComScore’s acquisition of analytics company Rentrak, in January 2016. Dish has had close ties with Rentrak since 2008, and, after it acquired 7% of the company in 2012, it agreed to provide Rentrak with exclusive use of its set top box data.

“DISH is a major partner that helped us change the measurement landscape by allowing massive and passive television measurement across a national footprint,” comScore’s CEO, Serge Matta, said in a 2016 statement. A spokesperson for ComScore was unable to describe the outcome of the Cambridge Analytica partnership. Representatives for Cambridge Analytica and Dish declined to comment for this story.

In September, Cambridge’s new brand-focused unit, CA Commercial, announced its own ad targeting TV product, SelecTV, that it said it would roll out in the U.S. and U.K., followed by additional countries and markets in coming months. Available in more than half of all 119.6 million U.S. TV homes, and in every U.S. market, addressable TV “has finally reached a scale that has become very attractive to performance marketers,” Alexander Nix, Cambridge’s CEO, said in a statement.

Born out of a recent campaign to promote a new un-named cable TV show, the technology, Nix said, has led to a “huge tuning uplift” over traditional age and gender targeting, an effect that is “additionally amplified when homes are exposed to both desktop and mobile advertising.” It’s not known yet if or how Cambridge intends to use addressable TV data during upcoming political campaigns, for instance, during the 2018 U.S. midterm elections.

Dish is now America’s second-largest satellite TV operator and fourth-largest pay TV provider, and it’s also at the forefront of the ongoing battle to monetize set top box data to reach voters—one that, between digital and TV and a mix of the two—is expected to grow even hotter next year. In September, the company launched a new targeted TV ad program in partnership with Volvo, which can deliver targeted ads simultaneously on Dish and on the company’s Sling TV over-the-top service.

Dish may have good reason to be casting about for innovative ways to bolster its TV business. While it earned $15 billion in revenue in 2016, its stock price has fallen more than 20% since July, and amid historic declines in TV viewership, it has seen a rapid drop-off in customers: during the third quarter, Dish lost another 129,000 pay TV subscribers, out of a nationwide base of around 13.7 million.

On a recent phone call with analysts, Ergen pointed to existing advertising as part of the problem. Traditional TV, he said, is “suffering declines in part because it’s not as good a product. It’s more expensive. Rates have gone up as viewership goes down. And the commercial load–you’re talking about 30% of the viewing minutes are commercials. That’s an unhealthy viewer experience,” Ergen said. “There’s things as an industry we can do to change that. If the industry starts thinking of creative ways to compete, that market can stabilize.”

[Photo: Flickr user Ambuj Saxena, Tim Mossholder/Pexels]
TARGETING TVS
The quest to target voters through TV is decades old and bipartisan. But practitioners say it was the Obama campaign in 2012 that signaled a breakthrough in using both social media and set-top box data in an effort to more precisely identify and persuade undecided voters. Rentrak, which is nonpartisan, collected the data and hired a third party to “anonymize” it so that the Obama team would only know that the information was coming from a set-top box of somebody on the persuadable list; personally identifying information would be stripped away.

In the 2016 election, however, the Clinton campaign chose to build their own TV buying and targeting strategy, not to use a more advanced version of the Obama approach. “It’s frustrating when you build something that is available to both sides, and the side you personally support doesn’t use it,” Carol Davidsen, Obama’s TV ad guru, and now a comScore executive, told AdAge in February. (It’s not clear if Cambridge used the comScore system during its work for the Trump campaign.)

US spending on addressable TV ads doubled in 2015 and is set to double again this year, but it’s still only a tiny piece of the ad pie: according to eMarketer, targeted TV ads will account for a mere $2.25 billion, or just under 3%, of all TV spending in 2018, and $3 billion in 2019. Among the efforts to grow those numbers is OpenAP, a system created by Viacom Inc., 21st Century Fox Inc. and Time Warner Inc.’s Turner that aims to standardize the targeting categories ad buyers can increasingly reach through TV. Google and Facebook are also investing in targeted television ads.

Addressable TV ad spending in the US is growing quickly, but will remain a small portion of total spending for the foreseeable future, according to eMarketer.
“TV is still the strongest media you’ve got to get your message out, but it’s got a lot to learn from digital,” Perrucci, who has been leading Cambridge’s foray into the commercial sector, said at Advertising Week. “Why not take everything we know about the audience and use that to drive much more targeted TV?”

But the combination of otherwise anonymous data on people’s TV viewing habits with social, demographic, psychographic, and other personal data is a growing privacy concern, argues Jonathan Albright, research director at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism. Few voters even know their watching patterns are being watched, whether by Dish or another provider.

“If you know [a voter] watch[es] Fox News at 5 p.m. every day and you also know from that addressable TV data—if someone has DirectTV, TiVo, whatever–how much of Fox News they watch, if they watch all of it or not. That kind of resolution is incredible,” he said. Most people don’t realize “that you can place and you can target like that to TV viewers.”

Related: Bots Are Scraping Your Data For Cash Amid Murky Laws And Ethics

Many cable operators use opt-out rather than opt-in consent, virtually guaranteeing that many citizens are unaware of how their data is used. In June 2016, communications advocacy group Public Knowledge filed complaints with the FCC and FTC over the technology, and singled out AT&T, Cablevision, and Comcast as the worst offenders.

The group’s FCC complaint asserts that cable and satellite providers do not adequately obtain customer consent to use customer data, while the FTC complaint argues that the industry’s use of customer data without appropriate disclosures or opt-in consent amounts to an “unfair and deceptive” practice that’s in violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

[Photos: Tim Mossholder/Pexels, Flickr user Christian Frausto Bernal]
A CAMBRIDGE-ERGEN CONNECTION IN MEXICO
TV isn’t the only domain where the Ergen family’s business intersects with the Trump data contractor. This summer, Cambridge announced that it would send content to Mexican phone subscribers in advance of their 2018 presidential election through an app that gives users ad-sponsored airtime or mobile internet.

In Mexico, Cambridge Analytica signed an agreement with Pig.gi, an app in use there and in Colombia, in advance of next year’s presidential elections. Pig.gi offers users free airtime and/or email service on mobile phones in exchange for receiving sponsored content. It will allow Cambridge to collect information on and deliver advertising to the phones of 850,000 Mexicans; several political parties have expressed interest in the tie-up.

Among Pig.gi’s investors are Charlie Ergen’s son, Chris Ergen, who’s worked in international business development at Dish since 2014, as well as Variv Capital, which has a joint venture in Mexico with Dish, and Pig.gi’s founders, Colorado brothers Joel and Isaac Phillips, who are connected with Chris Ergen in several vaporous businesses.

Pig.gi, which is currently available for Android in Mexico and Colombia, says its users have seen advertising content half a billion times. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with the app so that their partners can get the right message to the right people at the right time,” Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix says on the company’s website.

Many Mexicans are “undecided and unmotivated,” Brittany Kaiser, Cambridge’s vice president of business development, told Bloomberg. “There’s a huge opportunity in this country to find the issues that are important for people and actually turn people out to vote.”

Meanwhile, Kaiser, who recently updated her Facebook page to say that she is living in Mexico City, lists Chris Ergen as one of her friends on Facebook. (After an emailed inquiry, the page is no longer publicly visible.) In February 2015, Kaiser was a moderator at a Washington meeting on “Digital Diplomacy” organized by the Digital Future Forum, a company started by Chris’s co-investors in Pig.gi, Joel and Isaac Phillips.

Cambridge is also staffing up across Mexico in advance of next year’s elections. As BuzzFeed reported, Arielle Dale Karro, head of operations in Mexico for Cambridge Analytica, posted a job listing in the Facebook group “Foreigners in Mexico City” on October 23, seeking staff for gubernatorial campaigns in seven of Mexico’s 31 states: Chiapas, Guanajuato, Morelos, Puebla, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, and Veracruz. The company is also looking for someone to work in Mexico City. As of last week, however, Cambridge doesn’t appear in the National Registry of Suppliers of the National Electoral Institute (INE), which is a requirement for any firm that wants to be hired by a political party in Mexico.

The TV and mobile app projects aren’t the only convergence of Cambridge Analytica with the Ergen family. In 2010 Cambridge’s Swiss partner Nicolas Giannakopoulos became a co-shareholder in a company with Charlie Ergen. Giannakopoulos, who describes himself as “a private consultant in security and investigation,” says the company was meant to distribute Dish content on the internet outside the U.S. Ergen joined Giannakopoulos’s firm, CH-Communication SA, six days after its founding on July 22, 2010, and resigned nearly a year later.

That year, Giannakopoulos, a Swiss and Greek citizen was also working with SCL Group, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica. (SCL has a complex capital structure depicted here.) Until recently, one of his stable of Swiss companies shared an address and phone number with SCL’s Geneva office; the address disappeared from SCL’s website after the Sarawak Report questioned his links to SCL’s work in Malaysia. Asked about his activities for SCL in Switzerland by Sarawak Report, Nicolas Giannakopoulos claims to being “their partner for a long time.” But, he said, “the truth is that I have not done anything yet!”

While Charlie Ergen hasn’t been affiliated with CH-Communication for six years, son Chase Ergen is connected with another Giannakopoulos firm, the Organized Crime Observatory. In a January 2015 announcement, OCO said that Chase Ergen was being appointed Special Envoy for Dominica and St Kitts-Nevis, where Ergen reportedly holds a passport. Neither Chase Ergen nor Giannakopoulos responded to emailed requests for comment.

In recent weeks, Cambridge has been thrust further into the political spotlight amid ongoing investigations about Russian interference in the 2016 elections. The company is now turning over to investigators documents related to its role in the 2016 campaigns, while the U.K. Information Commissioner is examining its role working for Leave.eu during a pro-Brexit campaign. Cambridge has issued contradictory statements about whether or not it used personality targeting ahead of the U.S. election and whether it worked for Leave.eu and in what capacity. And perhaps most intriguingly, it was reported last month that Cambridge’s CEO, Alexander Nix, contacted Julian Assange offering his help in releasing Hillary Clinton’s allegedly missing emails.

Cambridge’s current work and partnerships are more complicated and less seductive than a narrative of evil Republican billionaires or Russian agents funding demagogic appeals on social media. They are a reminder that the quest for data and the power that comes with it is increasingly independent of partisanship or ideological belief.

Ann Marlowe, a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute, is a writer and financial investigator in New York. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnMarlowe. The author wishes to thank journalist Wendy Siegelman for her research and insights. Alex Pasternack also contributed reporting.

The Counterinsurgent (review of Max Boot’s biography of Edward Lansdale)

January 16th, 2018

originally published in The Weekly Standard, Jan 15 2018 (http://www.weeklystandard.com/the-counterinsurgent/article/2011035)

The mixed legacy of Edward Lansdale.
1:55 PM, JAN 07, 2018 | By ANN MARLOWE

“You dirty son of a bitch.  .  . somebody’s got to beat you up and I hereby appoint myself.” Thus Edward Lansdale recalled addressing the CIA station chief in Saigon in the mid-1950s, when Lansdale was a CIA operative under cover of assistant air attaché at the American embassy. Whether or not his memory was exact—he recounted this anecdote in an interview three decades after the fact—the gist of the story is certainly correct: Lansdale was far from a natural fit in bureaucracies. He thrived only in informal settings, a trait that shaped his career and led to his contribution to American military history: as a pioneering practitioner of what are now known as counterinsurgency (COIN) techniques.

Born in 1908 to an automotive executive and his homemaker wife, Edward G. Lansdale spent his childhood in Detroit, then in Westchester County, then Los Angeles. He was a mediocre student—although he did well enough in high school to get into UCLA in 1927, majoring in English. The campus had only opened eight years earlier, so the friendly, talkative Lansdale had a chance to help start new institutions, including a satirical magazine, a fraternity chapter, and an ROTC unit. His grades were so bad that he couldn’t graduate after four years, so he quit school and moved to New York, hoping to make it as a writer or cartoonist.

It was not a great moment to find such work—the Depression was on—but Lansdale did manage to find a wife, Helen Batcheller, a pretty and reserved woman seven years his senior. Giving up on New York, the couple moved to California in 1935, where Lansdale got a start in advertising when one of his brothers offered him a job. The nascent advertising industry proved a good fit for Lansdale’s strategic intelligence, excellent writing skills, and personal brashness, but after Pearl Harbor, he burned to join the military. His efforts to enlist in the Army were rebuffed because of a minor medical condition, but a few months later he found a route to wartime service: in the Office of Strategic Services, a newly created intelligence agency. It was the perfect situation for a smart, charming, creative, untamed individual like Lansdale. Based in San Francisco and New York, he gathered intelligence and recruited agents, and was good enough at the work to earn promotions and to remain after the war’s end at OSS and its successor entities: the Office of Policy Coordination, a highly secret, fast-growing group created in 1948 and tasked with acting on intelligence analysis, and the Central Intelligence Agency, which soon absorbed OPC. (From 1947 until 1963, Lansdale was officially in the Air Force, working on assignment at these intel agencies.)

Lansdale’s historical importance is due to his successful-for-a-while counterinsurgency practices and to his accomplishments as a sherpa (or puppet master, depending on one’s view) to Ramon Magsaysay of the Philippines and Ngo Dinh Diem of Vietnam. Both were doomed figures. The engaging Magsaysay was killed in a plane crash in March 1957 and a few years later Ferdinand Marcos began his two decades of kleptocratic rule in the Philippines. The more-problematic Diem was assassinated with tacit American approval in 1963, and of course South Vietnam fell to North Vietnamese forces in 1975. The question for historians is whether things might have turned out differently in either case.

Max Boot, the military historian, policy expert, and opinion journalist, is a prominent supporter of COIN strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan, so Lansdale is a natural subject for him. The Road Not Taken, Boot’s thumping new biography of Lansdale, will appeal to anyone interested in the debates over the effectiveness of COIN.

For most readers, though, the question will be whether they should crack open a big new book—600 pages, plus notes—about a marginal figure when there already exists a well-written 1988 biography. Edward Lansdale: The Unquiet American by the late Cecil B. Currey, an Army reserve chaplain, weighs in at a comparatively slender 350 pages. Currey had the advantage of interviewing Lansdale in person in 1984—the quotation at the beginning of this review comes from one of Currey’s interviews—as well as other individuals who are now long dead. (His book boasts an introduction by former CIA director William Colby.)

Both biographers mainly rely on the same sources—and Lansdale’s was a well-documented life. (While working on a research project at the Hoover Institution, I myself read boxes of Lansdale’s letters and dispatches from the Philippines.) Boot emphasizes that, unlike Currey, he has had access to Lansdale’s letters both to his wife and to Pat Kelly, Lansdale’s longtime Filipina mistress. Indeed, Boot is the only person besides Lansdale to have read both sets of letters.

This is a fair point, since Lansdale’s long relationship with the smart, brave, and spirited Kelly was a huge and defining part of his personal life. Their affair began in 1946, and Lansdale tried to get his wife to agree to a divorce, but the proper, Christian Science-devoted Helen refused, and the marriage lasted until her death in 1972. Soon after Helen died, Lansdale and Kelly, who had often gone years without seeing each other, were married. By drawing on the lovers’ correspondence, Boot’s book gives us a much fuller picture of Lansdale the man. Yet it’s still an open question whether Lansdale’s letters to Kelly add much to our understanding of his professional life and his contributions to counterinsurgency theory and practice. I was struck by how much his letters home to his wife and family were written with an eye to a larger readership, more like blog posts than personal letters. Even writing to Kelly, once past the obligatory mild sexual innuendos, Lansdale was relentlessly on message about the Philippine situation. Perhaps the biggest divergence between the public and private Lansdale papers is in his occasional candor in the latter about how bad the situation in South Vietnam really was.

* *

Half adman, half spook; an accomplished writer who never finished college; an Air Force major general who never fought a battle—what is it that made Lansdale a “counterinsurgent par excellence,” as Boot calls him, whose “practices could be emulated by contemporary advisers in countries ranging from Mali to Mexico”? If we are to draw lessons for today’s counterinsurgency efforts from Lansdale’s record, it is worth looking closely at just how replicable his practices are.

Col. Lansdale and Philippine defense minister Ramon Magsaysay in October 1952, on an inspection of the Philippine countryside. [Muir S. Fairchild Research Information Center/Maxwell AFB, via Liveright]
Boot ably takes us through Lansdale’s career in the Philippines. His first stint, from roughly 1945 to 1948, was spent composing reports based on his observations of the country and then working as a public affairs officer. During his second stint, from 1950 to 1954, he was personal adviser to Philippine defense secretary Ramon Magsaysay. Drawing on Lansdale’s creativity and adman’s insight into what moves people, as well as Magsaysay’s credentials as a patriot and man of the people, the inseparable pair began to experiment with what we would now call “population-centric” counterinsurgency techniques to use against the Communist Huk rebellion then underway. They arranged food deliveries for farmers that the Huks exploited; they had soldiers hand out candy to children; they promised land to defecting guerrillas. They engaged in psychological warfare, manipulating superstitions and suspicions. These techniques, combined with more conventional military measures, destroyed the insurgency. Lansdale then strove in a thousand ways to have Magsaysay elected president in 1953, which he was. There followed a period of reasonably good government, sadly short lived.

Lansdale in 1953, on his first trip to Vietnam. [Muir S. Fairchild Research Information Center/Maxwell AFB, via Liveright]
Meanwhile, in 1953, while still working in the Philippines, Lansdale made his first trip to Vietnam. He moved there in June 1954, staying through 1956, with shorter postings ending in 1968. Lansdale brought with him a successful template from the defeat of the Huks. The only problem was each unhappy country is unhappy in its own way.

In Vietnam, Henry Kissinger wrote in 1965, Lansdale seemed to rely too much on Philippine precedents “no longer fully relevant”:

The Philippine Insurrection has as many points of difference from the Vietnamese civil war as similarities to it. In the Philippines the insurrection had never reached the scale of the war in Vietnam. There was no foreign base for the guerrillas. The indigenous government was much stronger. There was a tradition of working with Americans. The situation in Vietnam is much more complex, much less susceptible to bravura, individual efforts.

If Kissinger was right—and military historians have been arguing similar questions almost since the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam conflict began—then the subtitle of Boot’s book, Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam, is a misapprehension. Maybe there was no American tragedy in Vietnam. Not every error is a tragedy. Maybe Lansdale could have done nothing to stop the Communist takeover.

Boot’s observations certainly turn more critical as the book progresses, and by the time his narrative reaches the fall of Saigon, his belief in the Lansdale magic wanes:

Would the course of the conflict have been different if Lansdale’s advice had been heeded? There is, of course, no way to know. .  .  . South Vietnam might not have survived even if Lansdale had enjoyed more success in implementing his agenda; North Vietnam would have been a tough and determined adversary under any circumstances, with more will to win than the United States had.

And, Boot adds, Lansdale was “downright delusional” to suggest that a proper American psychological-operations campaign against Hanoi could have led to the overthrow of the North Vietnamese politburo.

Boot gives short shrift to the most successful U.S. counterinsurgency program, the Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS), which is understandable given that it started in May 1967 and Lansdale left Vietnam for the last time in June 1968. But CORDS, which aimed at engaging the rural population through improved security and state institutions so that it would support the government of South Vietnam, is Exhibit A for those historians who maintain that the United States tried counterinsurgency tactics and still came up short.

Boot’s decision to largely leave aside the extensive scholarly debate about whether and how the United States could have won in Vietnam is an odd omission for a writer on military doctrine, especially one making the case that we should today be doing more to emulate the actions of his subject. Could a COIN-centric strategy have worked in Vietnam? There is a current in recent scholarship, exemplified by Dale Andradé’s influential 2008 article “Westmoreland Was Right,” that argues that a concerted COIN campaign would not have succeeded:

The strategy conducted by the North Vietnamese was arguably like no other in history. It was the epitome of insurgencies: a combination of large main force units, a well-entrenched guerrilla movement with deep roots in the South Vietnamese countryside, and the support of two powerful sponsors—China and the Soviet Union. All of this, combined with the ability to attack South Vietnam over and over again, with no threat of a serious retaliation, was an unprecedented advantage. To simply argue that the U.S. military ignored pacification does not begin to address the problem of countering such a threat.

As Andradé goes on to note, each of the Military Assistance Command Vietnam commanders was “caught on the horns of the same dilemma”: Gen. William Westmoreland “concentrated on the main forces and failed to prevent a guerrilla offensive in 1968,” and Gen. Creighton Abrams “placed great emphasis on pacification and failed to prevent a conventional buildup in 1972.” Neither commander, Andradé writes, “had the resources or the opportunity to handle both threats simultaneously.”

Lansdale himself grew dubious about whether American efforts could succeed in Vietnam. Boot quotes a letter Lansdale sent his wife in October 1965:

I’m scared to tell everyone how really bad it is. .  .  . What has happened here is that after 20 years of war almost all the tensile strength has gone out of the social fabric. Military operations just make it limper. The village folks just don’t seem to give a damn about anything except to please be left alone.

This insightful remark, from one of the leading lights of COIN, acknowledges that COIN is limited by human and social nature—by the receptiveness of the population.

Lansdale on a visit to the remote Vietnamese village of Binh Hung in early 1961. [Muir S. Fairchild Research Information Center/Maxwell AFB, via Liveright]
And of course counterinsurgency strategy is also limited in the other direction: by the abilities of the people attempting it. Nothing Boot says about Lansdale contradicts the criticism that COIN can only work so long as charismatic leaders practice it, and that it doesn’t work when mediocre leaders do. Here is Boot:

How different history might have been if Lansdale or a Lansdale-like figure had remained close enough to Diem to exercise a benign influence and offset the paranoid counsel of his brother.

Saying that Lansdale had a unique ability to get along with Diem and that had Diem stayed in power he could have saved Vietnam is not the same thing as saying that Lansdale’s or anyone’s practice of COIN would have saved Vietnam from Communist takeover. And if Lansdale was the only person who could manage Diem, I’d conclude not that Vietnam would have been better if President Kennedy had assigned Lansdale the job of resident Diem wrangler, which seems to be Boot’s position, but that Vietnam needed someone other than Diem.

A similar example of the dependence of counterinsurgency techniques on the all-too-rare alignment of practitioner and population can be found in the story of perhaps the most brilliant COIN theorist of them all, Lansdale’s French contemporary David Galula. He concludes his beautifully written military memoir Pacification in Algeria by casually informing us that his two successors in company command were promptly shot dead by the “pacified” villagers of the Kabylie. (His immediate predecessor met the same end.) Not much of a success if you only make your area of operations safe for yourself.

* *

Lansdale’s career was essentially over when he left Vietnam for the last time in June 1968 at the age of 60. As Boot makes clear, this was due to his personality: “In his attempts to influence American leaders, Lansdale lacked the deft touch he displayed in dealing with foreign leaders.”

Lansdale could be inspiring; men who worked for him tended to want to continue to work for him for decades. “I’ve met a handful of people in my life who have this particular genius for dealing with human beings in ways that make them feel dignified,” Walt Rostow said of him. Kissinger called Lansdale “a man of extraordinary gifts” and “an artist in dealing with Asians.”

Yet Lansdale stumbled again and again with the American ambassadors, cabinet ministers, CIA honchos, and—to a lesser extent—military commanders he had to work with in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Washington. Frustratingly, his good ideas were often overlooked because of his underlying resentment of having to operate in formal, structured, hierarchical organizations. Boot comments perceptively that Lansdale “viewed the bureaucracy as an enemy and, by so doing, turned it into one.”

My hunch is that Lansdale was not threatened by the two leaders who adored him, Magsaysay and Diem, because both had elements of the underdog about them—but he constantly found himself fighting with other Americans for alpha-male status. Rather than my hunch, I would prefer to have Boot’s thoughts on this matter, and in a book this length a few pages of psychologizing would have been perfectly in order, but none are to be found.

* *

Throughout The Road Not Taken, Boot briefly mentions memorable cultural and political events contemporaneous with the stories he’s telling. But he shies away from exploring the broader cultural context for Lansdale’s ideas about counterinsurgency.

Boot does note that advertising—the field in which Lansdale worked through the late 1930s—was where he learned “many of the skills that he would later employ as a CIA operative.” Sure, persuading American housewives to buy a certain brand of soap powder is in some ways similar to persuading Southeast Asian villagers to support a certain political party; a catchy jingle might help in either case. But Boot’s book could have used some discussion of the emerging business of advertising and the theories that Lansdale would have been exposed to as a young adman and exactly how they might have shaped not only Lansdale’s but other American military men’s ideas in the 1950s.

Currey is only a little better than Boot on this, quoting Lansdale in 1950 when he was teaching psychological warfare at the Pentagon to Philippine Army officers training in the United States. “All you have to figure out,” Lansdale said, “is what you want the enemy to do and then use psychological means to get them to do it.” No 18th-century commander could have said such a thing, but neither biographer gives us the context to really understand the importance of psychology to changes in strategic thought.

As for military doctrine, the growing cultural relativism of the fifties and sixties surely has a great deal to do with the Kennedy administration’s openness to COIN. In 1957, soon after Lansdale finished his first stint in Vietnam, Marcel Duchamp wrote: “The creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work into contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act.” The same tide that raised the boat of Duchamp raised that of counterinsurgency theory. COIN is also largely about perceptions; it’s the Vietnamese villager’s perception that counts.

Such ideas were in increasingly wide circulation during the Vietnam era. Edward L. Katzenbach, a deputy assistant secretary of defense, wrote in 1962, “Although Mao never states it quite this way .  .  . his fundamental belief is that only those who will admit defeat can be defeated. .  .  . Or, conversely, when the populace admits defeat, the forces in the field might just as well surrender or withdraw.” Marine lieutenant general Victor Krulak, who ran one of the few successful small-unit counterinsurgency operations in Vietnam, echoed that sentiment: “The battlefield is in the minds of 16 or 17 million people.”

This perspectivalism is invaluable in small doses; it can aid critical thinking and can helpfully remind strategists of the importance of seeing events from others’ eyes. But if it dominates strategic thinking it can lead to disaster. In a brilliant, widely debated 2009 article, “A Strategy of Tactics,” whose title became a shorthand for the American problem in Afghanistan, military historian Gian Gentile argued:

In the American Army’s new way of war, tactics—that is, the carrying out of the “way”—have utterly eclipsed strategy. .  .  . Because the United States has “principilized” population-centric COIN into the only way of doing any kind of counterinsurgency, it dictates strategy.

Perhaps Boot decided his own views were sufficiently well known, with many articles and a book on counterinsurgency already under his belt, and so chose to leave them on the margins. But The Road Not Taken—an interesting book, written in prose that’s clear and well crafted—would have been much richer if Boot had engaged in this debate over the limitations of COIN.

It may sound odd to speak of so large a biography as halfhearted, but there it is: Boot seems charmed by but ultimately ambivalent about his subject. On Lansdale’s professional life, Boot is too narrowly focused on the task at hand, marshaling all the facts, to explore the intellectual and cultural context of his subject’s ideas. And for all the quoting from Lansdale’s letters, his personality still seems somehow elusive. But perhaps this is how Lansdale, both achingly sincere and a professional dissembler who always had an eye on posterity, would have wanted it.

Terror and Slow Justice: Dragging Libya to court for a deadly 1989 hijacking.

September 3rd, 2017

originally published in The Weekly Standard, Sept 4 2017

Few Americans noticed, but this past June, Muammar Qaddafi’s longtime spy chief Abdullah Senussi was apparently released from prison in Tripoli, where he had been sentenced to death in July 2015 for decades of officially sanctioned murders of his fellow Libyans. If Senussi was not released—everything is murky in Libya—he was at least seen at a festive meal at a Tripoli hotel.

Justice has been a long time coming to Senussi, one of six Libyans convicted in a French court in 1999 for the murder of 170 people on UTA Flight 772, the “forgotten flight” of the title of Stuart Newberger’s book. The DC-10 had left Brazzaville, Congo, on September 19, 1989, and reached its first stop, N’Djamena, Chad. It took off from N’Djamena for its final stop, Paris, but 45 minutes after takeoff a bomb exploded and the plane broke into four sections that plunged from the sky, some of the passengers likely still conscious when they smashed into the Niger desert.

Newberger, a lawyer who represented the seven Americans killed on Flight 772, writes that it is unlikely Senussi will leave Libya alive. But his own narration of decades of terror by Qaddafi and others, and decades of appeasing international responses, should make us wonder. One condition of the release of the American hostages from Iran in 1981 was that they could not sue Iran. Many laws have been passed since to assist victims of terror in seeking redress in civil lawsuits in the United States, but as Newberger’s UTA 772 case shows, legal judgments can always be overtaken by political events. The results are rarely fair to the victims of terrorism and their loved ones.

Newberger is most engrossing in describing the work supervised by France’s Jean-Louis Bruguière, an 11th-generation investigating magistrate, which he calls with some justice “one of the greatest detective stories of all time.” The plane’s debris—and the passengers’ remains—were scattered over a 50-by-5-mile area of remote desert in an era before GPS, mobile phones, Google Earth, and many other contemporary tools. Remarkably, within four weeks the remains of a suitcase were found; it tested positive for plastic-explosive residue.

Bruguière leveraged France’s good connections in Congo, where it turned out the bomb entered the UTA plane in a suitcase carried by a Congolese, Apollinaire Mangatany. His small group of revolutionaries aimed to overthrow Mobutu, the dictator of neighboring Zaire, and they accepted assistance from Libya’s Brazzaville embassy. In revenge for France’s support of Chad in the recently ended Libya-Chad war, Mangatany’s Libyan handlers supplied him with a suitcase containing explosives, telling him it was intended to blow up the French plane when it sat on the runway in N’Djamena. Mangatany may not have been killed in the explosion: His remains, along with those of over 60 of the other passengers, were never identified, and it’s possible he got off the plane in Chad and disappeared.

By June 1990, physical evidence surfaced indicating Libya’s involvement. Newberger details the patient police work that tied a tiny piece of green plastic circuit board found at the crash site to the German middleman who sold 100 Taiwanese-made timers to one of Abdullah Senussi’s subordinates in the Libyan Mukhabarat (intelligence service). The Germans apparently had thought they were providing timers for battery-operated runway lights on remote desert airstrips in Libya.

In October 1991, Bruguière issued international arrest warrants for four Libyans—including Senussi. But none was extradited: Libya doesn’t allow its citizens to be tried for crimes outside the country, and Libya’s lawyers pointed out at the time that France doesn’t either. Eventually Bruguière charged Senussi and five other Libyans with destroying UTA 772; they were convicted in absentia in 1999.

Meanwhile, in November 1991 a Scottish prosecutor had indicted Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah, apparent Libyan Mukhabarat agents, for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, on December 21, 1988, which resulted in the deaths of 259 passengers and crew, as well as another 11 people on the ground. The majority of victims aboard that flight were American and the crash site was easy to reach, so it received much more media attention than UTA 772. Yet even for Pan Am 103 it would take until 2003 for a compensation deal to come together, and it was not finalized until 2008.

Newberger entered the story in April 2002 when he was contacted by Douglas Matthews, the billionaire owner of the DC-10 leased to UTA. Matthews wanted to bring a civil suit against Libya for the destruction of his $40 million aircraft, and his lawyer knew of Newberger.

Newberger had become famous in 2000 for winning $40 million in compensatory damages for newsman Terry Anderson, held hostage for seven years by Iran. This lawsuit was only made possible by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 and by 1996 amendments to the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. These measures, enacted in response to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, allowed for the waiving of sovereign immunity to bring lawsuits against states that sponsored terrorism, and allowed commercial assets of these countries to be seized in the United States. It took the passage of still another law for Anderson to collect his judgment from $400 million in Iranian government funds frozen in the United States.

The UTA 772 suit was filed in 2003 and took its name, Pugh v. Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, from Robert L. Pugh, a diplomat who survived the U.S. embassy attack in Beirut in 1983 and was ambassador to Chad in 1989. His wife Bonnie had been one of the seven Americans killed on UTA 772. It took until 2008, with Libya delaying every step of the way, but Pugh resulted in a massive judgment of around $6 billion in favor of the American plaintiffs. Here is where Newberger and the families involved in his case find out that “politics was more powerful than law”—because (spoiler alert) a political agreement ended up having a large effect on the settlement. The relatives who participated in the Pugh suit were each eligible to receive $10 million, just a tenth of what they would have received under the court judgment against Libya, had it been allowed to stand.

Newberger’s book is at its best—clear and fast-paced—when discussing the details of policework. The book would have benefited, however, from an editor who could have steered the author away from some formulaic descriptions and clichés. Also, it would have been compelling to hear the voices of the Pugh plaintiffs that Newberger represented, were they willing be interviewed and quoted. And, given the complicated nature of the story Newberger is telling, the absence of a timeline is keenly felt.

In the years since the Pugh case was decided, the struggle to use our legal system to bring terrorists and their supporters to justice has continued. A law passed in 2016—the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which was enacted in the only override of a presidential veto in the Obama years—allows federal courts to exercise jurisdiction over foreign states charged with supporting terrorism, regardless of whether the state is designated a sponsor of terrorism. This change in the law made it possible, earlier this year, for many of the families of the victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia in civil court. This is a welcome development, but if there is any lesson to be found in Newberger’s book, it is that expectations should be tempered, since justice can be very slow in coming.