The CIA Uses Cyber Anti-Forensics (Vault 7: Marble)

Posted today by WikiLeaks:

"Marble is used to hamper forensic investigators and anti-virus companies from attributing viruses, trojans and hacking attacks to the CIA. Marble does this by hiding ('obfuscating') text fragments used in CIA malware from visual inspection. This is the digital equivallent of a specalized CIA tool to place covers over the english language text on U.S. produced weapons systems before giving them to insurgents secretly backed by the CIA."

Deception is a vital part of offensive cyber operations, efforts that consume the vast majority of all federal cyber spending:

"Across the federal government, about 90 percent of all spending on cyber programs is dedicated to offensive efforts, including penetrating the computer systems of adversaries, listening to communications and developing the means to disable or degrade infrastructure, senior intelligence officials told Reuters."

This is why attribution is a lost cause despite the assurances of security vendors and government spies. Operational signatures can be mimicked, attacks staged, and forensic artifacts forged. Welcome to the wilderness of mirrors. -BB(2017-03-31)

Vault 7 and The Specter of Vendor Collusion

A WikiLeaks press release describes the CIA's efforts to develop firmware-level rootkits:

"Included in this release is the manual for the CIA's 'NightSkies 1.2' a 'beacon/loader/implant tool' for the Apple iPhone. Noteworthy is that NightSkies had reached 1.2 by 2008, and is expressly designed to be physically installed onto factory fresh iPhones. i.e the CIA has been infecting the iPhone supply chain of its targets since at least 2008.

"While CIA assets are sometimes used to physically infect systems in the custody of a target it is likely that many CIA physical access attacks have infected the targeted organization's supply chain including by interdicting mail orders and other shipments (opening, infecting, and resending) leaving the United States or otherwise."

The notion that all of Silicon Valley's secret deals somehow ended in 2013 is delusional. In a recent interview Julian Assange calls out the usual suspects:

"Other companies affected by the CIA's hacking tools, such as Google, Microsoft and Apple, in contrast, simply forwarded WikiLeaks' offer to provide further information to their legal departments. Assange claims that this was done because these companies work with US intelligence agencies. It is also the reason that so many employees at such companies have US government security clearance, especially those who work in cybersecurity departments."

The bitter pill is this: you cannot have your cake and eat it too regardless of how much money the C-suites in the Bay Area throw at public relations and overt gestures of defiance. -BB(2017-03-23)

WikiLeaks Releases CIA Hacking Documents (Vault 7)

Years ago Cryptome warned that the CIA's role in mass surveillance was being overlooked. Today this claim is shown to be 100% spot on. WikiLeaks reveals that the CIA is neck deep in hacking.

"By the end of 2016, the CIA's hacking division, which formally falls under the agency's Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI), had over 5000 registered users and had produced more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other "weaponized" malware. Such is the scale of the CIA's undertaking that by 2016, its hackers had utilized more code than that used to run Facebook. The CIA had created, in effect, its "own NSA" with even less accountability and without publicly answering the question as to whether such a massive budgetary spend on duplicating the capacities of a rival agency could be justified."

Cryptome has a history of being correct about spies and their ops. And so I'll repeat a prescient observation from John Young:

"The last thing CIA and its supporters want is a revelation of its manipulation of civilian leaders institutionalized by the 1947 National Security Act (also opposed by the military)."

Note the mention of anti-forensic techniques. Does this raise a few questions about allegations of Russian hacking? There's a reason why President Truman regretted the cloak and dagger authorization he granted the CIA. -BB(2017-03-07)

Update: The CIA has responded with an official statement. Which is essentially a pack of lies. The CIA's job is to implement policy which is mandated primarily by economic elites and organized groups representing business interests. It exists to assist in opening up markets and providing access to resources on behalf of oligarchic factions. Executive Order 12333 enables CIA operations within our borders. As Dennis Kucinich correctly notes "we are sliding down the slippery slope toward totalitarianism."

Several weeks ago, an exec at Microsoft called for a "Digital Geneva Convention." This may be interpreted as a public relations gesture by a documented NSA partner. Arms control in the cyber realm is nothing more than pleasant fiction.

White House Focuses on Alleged Messenger, Ignores Message

POTUS issued an official statement yesterday which specifies how the administration plans to respond to alleged Russian hacking during the 2016 election season. In this statement he enumerates a series of symbolic gestures:

"I have issued an executive order that provides additional authority for responding to certain cyber activity that seeks to interfere with or undermine our election processes and institutions, or those of our allies or partners. Using this new authority, I have sanctioned nine entities and individuals: the GRU and the FSB, two Russian intelligence services; four individual officers of the GRU; and three companies that provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations. In addition, the Secretary of the Treasury is designating two Russian individuals for using cyber-enabled means to cause misappropriation of funds and personal identifying information. The State Department is also shutting down two Russian compounds, in Maryland and New York, used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes, and is declaring 'persona non grata' 35 Russian intelligence operatives. Finally, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are releasing declassified technical information on Russian civilian and military intelligence service cyber activity, to help network defenders in the United States and abroad identify, detect, and disrupt Russia's global campaign of malicious cyber activities."

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has itself offered some comments on the matter:

"We are tired of lies about Russian hackers that continue to be spread in the United States from the very top. The Obama administration launched this misinformation half a year ago in a bid to play up to the required nominee at the November presidential election and, having failed to achieve the desired effect, has been trying to justify its failure by taking it out with a vengeance on Russian-US relations."

Check out this White House fact sheet for additional details. Notice the disclaimer at the top of the Joint Analysis Report (JAR), and note also that there's no mention of WikiLeaks. In other words no hard evidence so far.

Not that it matters. Honestly, is it such a horrible crime that the public got a first hand look at how corrupt the Democratic Party elites are? Obama focuses on the alleged messenger instead of the message and this is the establishment's tell. Democratic elites were caught red handed colluding against Bernie Sanders, pandering to oligarchs, and manipulating the media. Hence they're desperate to change the subject and spread blatant lies. -BB(2016-12-30)

Update: In a recent column the New Yorker shows its colors. Jelani Cobb's observation of bipartisanship is the establishment forming ranks against an act of rebellion by voters. Witness the New Yorker, the alleged pinnacle of highbrow periodicals, refer to a mass dump of verified emails as propaganda. The editorial board at the New Yorker has thrown its full weight behind the establishment's diversion. Eschew a discussion of factual content (e.g. elite corruption) and scream "thief" as loud as they can.

Election Leaks: Watching The Mighty Wurlitzer Spring into Action

Note the following headline to a recent article in the New York Times by David Sanger.

Chock full of tacit assumptions, the CIA's narrative: that Russia targeted the elite of the Democratic party, leaked their emails to the public and in doing so caused Hillary Clinton to lose the 2016 presidential election. Gasp. A more accurate headline might read:

The CIA has a long and storied history of political meddling going back all the way to Italy at the end of WWII. It also has an extensive history of manufacturing intelligence of questionable value, something which the large agenda setting outlets have chosen to ignore. While the establishment hyperventilates about Russian hacking, is it really such an awful thing that American voters got an honest look at the inner workings of the Democratic Party and their chosen candidate? All the collusion, corruption, and failed media manipulation. That, dear reader, is the real story. Whomever leaked those emails deserves a public service award.

In the background former members of the Deep State murmur about leaks, rather than hacking. Such that the establishment's campaign and its focus on Russia could be interpreted as an act of revolt against a candidate who threatens to violate unspoken tenents of foreign policy espoused by neocons on the right and liberal interventionists on the left. Yet the talking heads of the media drone on together in an incredible lockstep. Propaganda in action. -BB(2016-12-18)

CIA Alleges Russian Election Hacking (Focus on the Messenger)

The Washington Post reports that the CIA blames officials from the Russian government for meddling in the 2016 presidential election:

"Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton's chances."

In an interview with John Pilger, Julian Assange stated that "we can say that the Russian government is not the source." Likewise, in an interview with Time Magazine, Donald Trump said that "I don’t believe they interfered... It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey." This disconnect, between the President-elect and the intelligence community, is remarkable.

Please keep in mind that attribution is an extremely complicated issue when it comes to cyberattacks. As I wrote to the New York Times a couple of years back:

"Leaked documents reveal classified government programs like HACIENDA and corporate services like Ntrepid's Internet Operations Network, which are leveraged to reroute network traffic and undermine digital trails. Furthermore, logistical signatures can be faked and forensic artifacts can be forged. In other words, when facing off against an organized, well-funded adversary, attribution is largely a lost cause."

The Trump Transition Team, in a biting response, reminds readers that the CIA is not necessarily the sole arbiter of the truth in global matters and that the agency has been horribly wrong on important issues in the past. "These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction"

Yet the documents released by WikiLeaks are genuine. They reveal systemic corruption on behalf of an establishment politician who, with her husband, made over $150 million giving speaches to corporate leaders, promising that her private stance will benefit them despite her public stance.

The same guarantee of authenticity cannot be made for material published by the Washington Post, which fairly recently has been guilty of spreading propaganda about Russian propganda thanks to a compromised journalist named Craig Timberg. Why, pray tell, is the media (which backed Clinton across the board) so focused on the identity of the messenger instead of the message itself? On a national level big money has largely captured our policy making organs. -BB(2016-12-10)

Update: The ODNI has refused to back the CIA's conclusions.

"While the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) does not dispute the CIA's analysis of Russian hacking operations, it has not endorsed their assessment because of a lack of conclusive evidence that Moscow intended to boost Trump over Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, said the officials, who declined to be named."

Update: The Nation has posted an excellent article which explains how the large agenda setting news outlets have failed to question the CIA's narrative:

"The high-profile anchors and analysts on CNN, CBS, ABC, and NBC who have cited the work of The Washington Post and The New York Times seem to have come down with a bad case of historical amnesia. The CIA, in their telling, is a bulwark of American democracy, not a largely unaccountable, out-of-control behemoth that has often sought to subvert press freedom at home and undermine democratic norms abroad."

Third NSA Leaker Revealed

Several paragraphs down in an article which presumes to focus on efforts to dismiss NSA director Mike Rogers is the following bombshell:

"There was a second, previously undisclosed breach of cybertools, discovered in the summer of 2015, which was also carried out by a TAO employee, one official said. That individual also has been arrested, but his case has not been made public. The individual is not believed to have shared the material with another country, the official said."

The new CIA director, Mike Pompeo, believes that Edward Snowden should be executed. I guess Ed shouldn't plan on coming home any time soon. -BB(2016-11-20)

New York Times: 2016 Results are "Stunning"

Shocked, I tell you. Shocked. Yet recall how media editors made a deal to "elevate" Trump. A truly epic backfire! That's $521 million flushed down the tubes. The basket of deplorables has spoken. And now the GOP owns both the executive and congress.

I wonder if Bill Clinton regrets making the call to Donald to chat about running for office.

"No one predicted a night like this" claims the New York Times. As if the media's tarnished credibility were the product of mere oversight. Innocent mistakes. Complete hogwash: Scott Adams, Michael Moore, Allan Lichtman, and the Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California tracking poll were all spot on. What happened is that nearly every paper from the New York Times to Rolling Stone sold their souls early on as part of a backroom strategy to create Republican "pied pipers."

First WMDs in Iraq, then mass surveillance in the United States, then neo-nazis in Ukraine, then CIA-armed jihadists in Syria, and now this. Sorry New York Times, that's way more than three strikes. -BB(2016-11-08)

Endless Wars, The Media, and the 2016 Election

Film director John Pilger explains that the so-called Global War on Terror™ has nothing to do with eliminating terror. The proof is self-evident: what started off as a small group of jihadists in Afghanistan is now a whole series of extremist movements spread across the Middle East. Instead, the threat of terrorism has been used as a pretext to eliminate regimes that refuse to cede to U.S. foreign policy:

"The attack on Iraq, the attack on Libya, the attack on Syria happened because the leader in each of these countries was not a puppet of the West. The human rights record of a Saddam or a Gaddafi was irrelevant. They did not obey orders and surrender control of their country."

What allows American political leaders to smash the Middle East with a sledgehammer? A press which has relinquished its duty to question the nature of perpetual war and more importantly the forces that incite it. How can there be a war on terrorism when the United States offers "ironclad" guarantees of security to Saudi Arabia and when the CIA secretly trains and arms thousands of jihadists? How can there be a war on terror when our leaders fail to question whether U.S. foreign policy plays a fundamental role in making people receptive to extremist messaging? Pilger calls them out:

"Propaganda is most effective when our consent is engineered by those with a fine education – Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Columbia — and with careers on the BBC, the Guardian, the New York Times, the Washington Post. These organisations are known as the liberal media. They present themselves as enlightened, progressive tribunes of the moral zeitgeist. They are anti-racist, pro-feminist and pro-LGBT. And they love war."

Just like Hillary Clinton, the major liberal outlets pander to identity politics to acquire a progressive veneer because these issues aren't seen as a threat by the American Deep State. -BB(2016-10-29)

Update: Chris Hedges lays out a similar analysis:

"Candidates Trump and Clinton have no plans to halt our slide to oblivion. They are part of the circus. They, like all of the other elites, profit from the system that is destroying us. They lack the incentive and probably the capacity to challenge the structures and assumptions that define corporate capitalism. They function as high priests. They peddle the illusions. They laud our ingenuity and strength. They preach the inevitability of human progress and American exceptionalism. They tell us what we want to hear. They appeal to our emotions, as does all of mass culture. They do not acknowledge reality. That would spoil the show."

White House Focuses on Messenger, Ignores Message

Ditto that for the DHS and DNI.

Carefully avoid the message: a corrupt money-driven political system that secretly colluded to undermine a populist movement within the Democratic party in favor of liberal oligarchs. A presidential candidate who speaks out of both sides of her mouth, offering platitudes to the proles while letting the bankers know where she really stands:

"Mrs. Clinton said she dreamed of 'open trade and open borders' throughout the Western Hemisphere. Citing the back-room deal-making and arm-twisting used by Abraham Lincoln, she mused on the necessity of having 'both a public and a private position' on politically contentious issues. Reflecting in 2014 on the rage against political and economic elites that swept the country after the 2008 financial crash, Mrs. Clinton acknowledged that her family's rising wealth had made her 'kind of far removed' from the struggles of the middle class... Mrs. Clinton said it was an 'oversimplification' to blame the global financial crisis of 2008 on the U.S. banking system... The Clintons have made more than $120 million in speeches to Wall Street and special interests since Bill Clinton left the White House in 2001."


These are facts that the establishment didn't want you to read, and with good reason. They demonstrate which groups in society mainstream politicians actually serve. Is it any surprise that the two choices the corporate media serves up in 2016 are a billionaire and a professional politician who clearly wants to become a billionaire. It doesn't really matter who provided this information. Whoever they are they deserve a public service award. Thank you for speaking truth to power WikiLeaks. -BB(2016-10-08)

Snowden 2.0 Secretly Arrested by Feds

"The contractor was identified as Harold T. Martin 3rd, 51, of Glen Burnie, Md., according to a criminal complaint filed in late August. He was charged with theft of government property, and unauthorized removal or retention of classified documents."

Do you suppose they'll try to find some way to blame this on the Russians? -BB(2016-10-04).

Update: Like I said, the contortions begin:

"They [FBI investigators] are exploring the possibility, however remote, that someone might have hacked into his home computers, which had minimal security protections."

UK Admits Libya Intervention was Disaster

Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee has issued a scathing critique:

"This policy was not informed by accurate intelligence. In particular, the Government failed to identify that the threat to civilians was overstated and that the rebels included a significant Islamist element. By the summer of 2011, the limited intervention to protect civilians had drifted into an opportunist policy of regime change. That policy was not underpinned by a strategy to support and shape post-Gaddafi Libya. The result was political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of ISIL in North Africa. Through his decision making in the National Security Council, former Prime Minister David Cameron was ultimately responsible for the failure to develop a coherent Libya strategy."

How convenient, to spotlight Cameron right after he resigns. Don't expect something similar on this side of the pond even though the whole "Assad must go" mantra is an obvious pretext. It's all about oil. -BB(2016-09-15)

Trump vs. Clinton: Ready for Oligarchy

The photo above pretty much says it all. Chris Hedges spells it out while Robert Reich makes apologies for neocon Hillary:

"Well, reducing the election to personalities is kind of infantile at this point. The fact is, we live in a system that Sheldon Wolin calls inverted totalitarianism. It’s a system where corporate power has seized all of the levers of control. There is no way to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs or ExxonMobil or Raytheon. We’ve lost our privacy. We've seen, under Obama, an assault against civil liberties that has outstripped what George W. Bush carried out. We've seen the executive branch misinterpret the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force Act as giving itself the right to assassinate American citizens, including children. I speak of Anwar al-Awlaki's 16-year-old son. We have bailed out the banks, pushed through programs of austerity. This has been a bipartisan effort, because they've both been captured by corporate power. We have undergone what John Ralston Saul correctly calls a corporate coup d’état in slow motion, and it’s over."

See Also:

"While there is a difference in the temperament of the two major presidential candidates, that difference will play out only in how our poison will be delivered. Political personalities serve global corporate centers of power. They do not control them. Barack Obama illustrates this... They kneel before the war machine, which consumes trillions of dollars to wage futile wars and bankroll a bloated military. To defy the fortress state is political suicide. Politicians are courtiers to Wall Street. The candidates mouth the clichés of justice, improvements in income equality and democratic choice, but it is a cynical game. Once it is over, the victors will go to Washington to work with the lobbyists and financial elites to carry out the real business of ruling."

WikiLeaks Dumps AKP Emails; Erdogan Resets Turkey's Foreign Policy

As Turkey suspends or detains over 50,000 people in the wake of a coup attempt the country's Telecommunications Communications Board announced that it was blocking access to WikiLeaks, which has released a collection of close to 300,000 emails related to Turkey's AKP party.

In the background is another, larger, story that's received very little attention by the American press. Turkey, No doubt concerned by U.S. support for Kurds, has "normalized" its relations with Russia, Isreal, and -get a load of this- Syria! This has the potential to completely undermine Obama's pivot to Asia which, at least in this part of the world, is focused on using Syria to enable a pipeline from Qatar to the EU. Looks like Erdogan may have changed his mind. -BB(2016-07-20)

Related: Patrick Cockburn reports that officials in Turkey fear a second coup attempt

Related: Sources in France estimate that 100 jihadists are still entering Syria from Turkey each week to join ISIS.

Update: Officials in Turkey admit that a purge of Gulen followers had been in the works for years:

"We are not making up these stories; this is not some Jason Bourne trilogy... We have these massive cells, networks, and they [Gulen Network] have a bank. They have massive financial resources."

Still believe that the CIA had nothing to do with this, as Obama claims?

Turkey: Coup Attempt in Progress

Though some outlets declare that the ongoing coup against the Erdogan government has crumbled other media sources report that it's still unclear exactly who is in charge. The reasons that might drive an insurrection are manifold:

"Mr. Erdogan attracted a wide-ranging constituency in the early years of his tenure, including many liberals who supported his plans to reform the economy and remove the military from politics. But in recent years he has alienated many Turks with his increasingly autocratic ways, cracking down on freedom of expression, imposing a significant role for religion in public life and renewing war with Kurdish militants in the country's southeast."

"Mr. Yildiz said that recent terrorism in the country attributed to Islamic State militants, including a recent attack on Istanbul's main airport that killed dozens, was 'the tipping point' for him. He blamed Turkey’s policy on Syria for the terror attacks. Early in the civil war there, Turkey supported rebel groups fighting against the Syrian government. Many of the fighters who traveled through Turkey to Syria joined the Islamic State, and critics have blamed Mr. Erdogan for enabling its rise."

As with leaders in Pakistan, Erdogan has tried to straddle the fence when it comes to radical jihadists. Now rifts have appeared in Turkey's deep state. We'll see if a dominant faction emerges or if the country, likes its neighbors to the south, plunges into conflict. -BB(2016-07-15)

Update: It looks like U.S. spies didn't see this coming:

"Diplomatic cables and intelligence reports written as recently as this month concluded that Mr. Erdogan had won enough support in the upper ranks of the military to head off any possible plots before they materialized, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence reporting."

Update: Graham Fuller explains why the coup is bad news regardless of what happens:

"How legitimate can any successor government be, when elected with the assistance of the military that pulled the plug on the last government?"

Update: The U.S. embassy in Turkey has stated that local authorities are denying movements on to and off of Incirlik Air Base.

Update: Those engaged in the attempted coup asserted that they wanted "to reinstall the constitutional order, democracy, human rights and freedoms, to ensure that the rule of law once again reigns in the country, for the law and order to be reinstated."

Update: Erdogan blames the followers of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has himself denounced the coup attempt. In fact Gulen suggested that the coup attempt might have been staged.

Secretary of State Kerry responded to allegations of U.S. involvement:

"We fully anticipate that there will be questions raised about Mr Gulen, and obviously we invite the government of Turkey ... to present us with any legitimate evidence that withstands scrutiny and the United States will accept that and look at it and make judgments appropriately"

Odd that Kerry should mention U.S. involvement in overthrowing leaders. In the distance can be heard "Assad must go."

Update: More than 6,000 have been arrested as members of the military indicate that they were told the whole thing was just a drill. Also there appear to be signs of planning with regard to arrest lists.

Chilcot Iraq War Inquiry Published

The official proclamation of what most people already know: the destruction of Iraq is one vast war crime built upon a sprawling foundation of lies. The report confirms that "there was no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein" and that "the judgments about the severity of the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction – WMDs – were presented with a certainty that was not justified."

WikiLeaks offers an important response: "UK press today, from the BBC to the Guardian, denouncing Blair over Iraq; left unstated: their own huge propaganda effort pushing for war." Indeed, corporate news outlets were instrumental in selling the war to the public using weapons of mass deception.

Note also the following State Department memo that appears to reference the report:

"The UK had 'put measures in place to protect your interests' during the UK inquiry into the causes of the Iraq war."

The alleged Global War on Terror is motivated by the desire to open up markets and access resources on behalf of the American Deep State. Corporate profits above all else. -BB(2016-07-06)

Related: FAIR covers how the media ignored and then dismissed the Downing Street Memo.

Related: John Stauber explains why the Democrats give Bush and Company a free pass.

Related: Jeffrey St. Clair examines the role of the CIA, the Rendon Group, and the Pentagon's Office of Strategic Influence in fabricating a pretext for invasion.

Spy Chief Reports "Counterterror" Civilian Deaths

Per a recent executive order the Office of the DNI has released a report which offers a tally of the number of drone attacks, special ops raids, and manned airstriked in places like Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. The report explicitly precludes attacks in 'areas of active hostilities' (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria). Given the Deep State's tendency towards signature strikes it's almost certain that the official range of 64-116 civilians deaths (during the period from January 20, 2009 to December 31, 2015) is drastically understated.

For example, the Bureau of Investigative Journalists finds that:

"This is a fraction of the 380 to 801 civilian casualty range recorded by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism from reports by local and international journalists, NGO investigators, leaked government documents, court papers and the result of field investigations. While the number of civilian casualties recorded by the Bureau is six times higher than the US Government’s figure, the assessments of the minimum total number of people killed were strikingly similar. The White House put this figure at 2,436, whilst the Bureau has recorded 2,753."

The White House needs to downplay the mayhem that U.S. foreign policy causes because it doesn't want to confront the reality that the global war on terror is only creating more terrorists. A self-perpetuating strategem that has taken a small group of jihadists in Afghanistan and turned them into plague that's spread over the entire Middle East. -BB(2016-07-02)

Brexit Results: Rule, Britannia! Britannia Rule Your Way! Democracy Wins

Old money billionaires issued warnings, the political proxies of the donor class echoed similar talking points, aristocrats voiced their outrage, celebrities chimed in, and allegedly progressive news outlets focused myopically on racism.

But ultimately Brexit is really about one thing, democratic governance. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard strikes at the root:

"Stripped of distractions, it comes down to an elemental choice: whether to restore the full self-government of this nation, or to continue living under a higher supranational regime, ruled by a European Council that we do not elect in any meaningful sense, and that the British people can never remove, even when it persists in error"

The British people took a stand today against an entity that has its roots in the American Deep State. In the early days of its genesis the push for a European Union was funded heavily, and covertly, by U.S. intelligence. Though the unification was sold as a way to prevent conflict the actual reason has more to do with consolidating control on behalf of profound sources of influence.

"The documents confirm suspicions voiced at the time that America was working aggressively behind the scenes to push Britain into a European state. One memorandum, dated July 26, 1950, gives instructions for a campaign to promote a fully fledged European parliament. It is signed by Gen William J Donovan, head of the American wartime Office of Strategic Services, precursor of the CIA."

There have already been threats, don’t expect the Deep State to go quietly. Ian Welsh explains why:

"Because leaving neo-liberal organizations must be met with pain, or other people might do the same. International organizations like the EU, IMF, and WTO are how the elites make sure that neo-liberalism continues, because their rules make it impossible to run non-neo-liberal economies."

Indeed Brexit can be viewed as a proxy vote against the neoliberal project. A campaign that is guided by the desire to put business in front of everything else. Despite the deluge of elite sponsored propaganda the British electorate has opted for sovereignty. A truly historic event. -BB(2016-06-23)

Yves Smith explains how the EU planted the seeds of its own demise:

"One of its underlying principles was a suspicion of democracy and a preference for rule by technocrats. Those experts have done too well from their misrule and are too remote from the victims of their blinkered vision to be able to change course. Europe’s fault lines will thus open into full-bore fractures due to their refusal to abandon the neoliberal policies that sowed the seeds of this revolt."

Panama Papers: John Doe's Manifesto

The person behind the Panama Papers leak has posted a Manifesto. In his ending salvo he spells out the nature of our current economic system:

"The collective impact of these failures has been a complete erosion of ethical standards, ultimately leading to a novel system we still call Capitalism, but which is tantamount to economic slavery. In this system—our system—the slaves are unaware both of their status and of their masters, who exist in a world apart where the intangible shackles are carefully hidden amongst reams of unreachable legalese. The horrific magnitude of detriment to the world should shock us all awake. But when it takes a whistleblower to sound the alarm, it is cause for even greater concern. It signals that democracy's checks and balances have all failed, that the breakdown is systemic, and that severe instability could be just around the corner. So now is the time for real action, and that starts with asking questions."

Recall the famous quote regarding the "invisible government" by the father of modern propaganda, Edward Bernays. Yet another term for the American Deep State. -BB(2016-05-06)

And so art imitates life as Arthur Jensen explains:

"It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today... There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM, and ITT, and AT&T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today."

EU Created as a CIA Project

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard points out a part of europe's recent history that's been whitewashed out of the history books:

"It was Washington that drove European integration in the late 1940s, and funded it covertly under the Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations."

"As this newspaper first reported when the treasure became available, one memorandum dated July 26, 1950, reveals a campaign to promote a full-fledged European parliament. It is signed by Gen William J Donovan, head of the American wartime Office of Strategic Services, precursor of the Central Inteligence Agency."

"The key CIA front was the American Committee for a United Europe (ACUE), chaired by Donovan. Another document shows that it provided 53.5 per cent of the European movement's funds in 1958. The board included Walter Bedell Smith and Allen Dulles, CIA directors in the Fifties, and a caste of ex-OSS officials who moved in and out of the CIA."

The unification project was originally sold under the pretext of preventing conflict. But beneath the surface is the underlying drive to consolidate control. -BB(2016-04-28)

POTUS Statements Belie U.S. Nuclear Intentions

As a student at Columbia President Obama denounced the "billion dollar erector sets" of "military-industrial interests". And during his term in office he has publicly spoken of "America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons."

Such is the nature of American political theater. As the United States plans to double down on nuclear weapons, investing what is projected to be a figure "between $600 billion and $1 trillion over a thirty year period." The President promises "change" while largely preserving the status quo. Don't feel so bad, the dupes of the Norwegian Nobel Committee were also taken in.

One establishment selling point appears to be that the focus will be on designing smaller, less destructive but more precise, nuclear weapons. The problem with this approach is that it has the potential to lower the threshold for use. -BB(2016-04-17)

Update: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain:

"While the president’s about-face mystified arms-control advocates, one element was thoroughly predictable: Bechtel would be the primary recipient of the lucrative DOE and DOD contracts resulting from the buildup."

U.S. Weaponry is Everywhere in the Middle East

One report describes the mayhem caused by American bombs:

"Saudi Arabia-led coalition airstrikes using United States-supplied bombs killed at least 97 civilians, including 25 children, in northwestern Yemen on March 15, 2016"

And another article recounts how heavy ordnance deployed in Iraq and Syria ends up for sale on the Internet.

"In Iraq, the Facebook arms bazaars can resemble inside looks at the failures of American train-and-equip programs, with sellers displaying a seemingly bottomless assortment of weapons provided to Iraq’s government forces by the Pentagon during the long American occupation."

"Similarly, weapons identical to those provided by the United States to Syrian rebels have also been traded on Facebook and other social media or messaging apps."

In the wake of this veritable flood of arms are any number of imploded governments and narco states.

"Afghanistan accounts for 90 percent of the world's heroin; more than two-thirds of that comes from Helmand’s opium poppies... In the last 11 months, 3,000 Afghan government soldiers and policemen have been killed in Helmand, according to General Qahraman's figures. That is half or more of the estimated 6,000 Afghan security forces, police officers and soldiers killed in the country's 34 provinces over the last 12 months... Whoever controls opium territory controls a rich income stream. The Taliban directly impose taxes on the crop; some government officials do, too, or more often solicit bribes to look the other way."

For the execs of the defense industry, all of this unspeakable fallout is simply a negative externality. -BB(2016-04-07)

Panama Papers: What About Western Oligarchs?

In an encore of a story originally covered back in 2014 by Ken Silverstein, a massive leak of 11.5 million documents reveals how the wealthy and powerful hide their assets:

"The company at the center of all these stories is Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian provider of offshore companies with dozens of offices all over the world. It sells its shell firms in cities such as Zurich, London, and Hong Kong – in some instances at bargain prices."

"Among others, Mossack Fonsecas' clients include criminals and members of various Mafia groups. The documents also expose bribery scandals and corrupt heads of state and government. The alleged offshore companies of twelve current and former heads of state make up one of the most spectacular parts of the leak, as do the links to other leaders, and to their families, closest advisors, and friends. The Panamanian law firm also counts almost 200 other politicians from around the globe among its clients, including a number of ministers."

Here's a roll call of world leaders: MAURICIO MACRI, President of Argentina. AYAD ALLAWI, Former Iraqi PM. SIGMUNDUR DAVID GUNNLAUGSSON, PM of Iceland. KING SALMAN BIN ABDULAZIZ BIN ABDULRAHMAN AL SAUD, King of Saudi Arabia. PETRO POROSHENKO, President of Ukraine. RAMI AND HAFEZ MAKHLOUF, Cousins of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. KOJO ANNAN, Son of ex-U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. FAMILY OF NAWAZ SHARIF, PM of Pakistan. ARKADY AND BORIS ROTENBERG, Lifelong friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin. SERGEY ROLDUGIN, Close persona friend of Putin. IAN CAMERON, Father of David Cameron.

Cryptome remarks that "Bragging of big number of docs then releasing only a few, hyperbolized and redacted, has become stultifying, pretentious journalism."

Former UK ambassador Craig Murray spells it out:

"The leak is being managed by the grandly but laughably named 'International Consortium of Investigative Journalists', which is funded and organised entirely by the USA's Center for Public Integrity. Their funders include: Ford Foundation, Carnegie Endowment, Rockefeller Family Fund, W K Kellogg Foundation, Open Society Foundation (Soros), among many others. Do not expect a genuine expose of western capitalism. The dirty secrets of western corporations will remain unpublished."

Another investigator concludes:

"The engineered 'leak' of the 'Panama Papers' is a limited hangout designed to incriminate a few people and organization the U.S. dislikes. It is also a demonstration of the 'torture tools' to the people who did business with Mossak Fonseca but have not (yet) been published about. They are now in the hands of those who control the database. They will have to do as demanded or else ..."

Keep in mind that this is just one law firm, the proverbial tip of the iceberg. This data should be available to everyone in a searchable database. That's how Assange would have done it. The fact that the journalists involved in this story haven't done so is very telling. -BB(2016-04-04)

Update: Oh, this is rich:

"Ryle says that the media organizations have no plans to release the full dataset, WikiLeaks-style, which he argues would expose the sensitive information of innocent private individuals along with the public figures on which the group's reporting has focused. 'We're not WikiLeaks. We're trying to show that journalism can be done responsibly'"

Cryptome offers an antidote: "Journalistic pusillanimity is growing with increase in files, as if majestic hoarding justifies picayune cupidity."

Update: McClatchy unearths a handful of Americans:

"There are at least 200 scanned individual U.S. passports. Some appear to be American retirees purchasing real estate in places like Costa Rica and Panama. Also in the database, about 3,500 shareholders of offshore companies who list U.S. addresses. And almost 3,100 companies are tied to offshore professionals based in Miami, New York, and other parts of the United States."

Why so few?

"Americans can form shell companies right in Wyoming, Delaware or Nevada. They have no need to go to Panama to form a shell company to use for illicit activities."

In other words, the United States is itself becoming a tax haven!

"Academic research supports the notion that U.S. financial institutions are very lax when dealing with foreign clients. When conducting experimental research, Sharman and his collaborators tried to set up shell corporations in a number of traditional tax havens while retaining anonymity. They found that providers in many of these tax havens were unwilling to set up companies without getting some kind of identification, such as a notarized copy of a passport. Providers in rich countries in the OECD — including especially the United States — were much happier to set up shell corporations. Only three out of 27 U.S.-based providers demanded some proof of identity."

And here's a related story from 1980 pointed out by Mark Ames. Years ago the CIA put the kibosh on a huge tax evasion case. Why did the DoJ back off?

"What caused the Justice Department to back off seems to have been the CIA's argument that pursuit of the Castle Bank would endanger 'national security.' This was involved because that bank, besides its possible use as a haven for tax evaders, was the conduit for millions of dollars earmarked by the CIA for the funding of clandestine operations against Cuba and for other covert intelligence operations directed at countries in Latin America and the Far East. A major tax evasion investigation of the bank probably would have endangered these CIA operations."

Unaoil Bribe Factory Under Investigation

Fairfax Media and Huffington Post are covering a multi-national investigation into a business based in Monaco run by the Ahsani family:

"The US Department of Justice, FBI, UK National Crime Agency and Australian Federal Police are now jointly investigating Unaoil and some its multinational clients. The probe is likely to be one of the world's biggest, given the number of companies and countries involved."

Based on a sizable cache of leaked email what emerges is a picture of corporate-financed corruption on an industrail scale:

"Hundreds of major international corporations -- including Halliburton, its former subsidiary KBR, Rolls-Royce and Samsung -- counted on Unaoil to secure lucrative contracts in Iraq, Kazakhstan, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, and other countries in Africa, the Middle East, and the former Soviet Union, tens of thousands of internal emails and documents reveal. It's common for large multinational corporations to partner with smaller firms with local expertise to win contracts. But in many cases, Unaoil wasn't winning contracts because of its expertise -- it was winning them by paying millions of dollars in bribes to corrupt officials."

As author Adam Hochschild noted, the major oil companies have always formulated their own foreign policy and conducted business according to their own rules. They simply buy what they want. And by doing so these companies directly enable problems that generate widespread political instability. A corrupt government cannot provide the services to its public that it needs to, and this creates the sort of unrest that allows violent movements like ISIS to thrive. Profits for Halliburton and a recipe for failed states. -BB(2016-04-01)

Upate: 2016-04-02.

"British financial giant HSBC and American bailout kingpin Citibank processed transactions, managed money and vouched for Unaoil"

U.S.-Armed Groups Battle Each Other in Syria

The Los Angeles Times describes how the public and clandestine components of U.S. foreign policy are feeding the conflagration in Syria:

"In mid-February, a CIA-armed militia called Fursan al Haq, or Knights of Righteousness, was run out of the town of Marea, about 20 miles north of Aleppo, by Pentagon-backed Syrian Democratic Forces moving in from Kurdish-controlled areas to the east."

"While the Pentagon's actions are part of an overt effort by the U.S. and its allies against the Islamic State, the CIA's backing of militias is part of a separate covert U.S. effort aimed at keeping pressure on the Assad government in hopes of prodding the Syrian leader to the negotiating table."

Such is the defense industry's profitable business model. Arm everyone and then aim them at each other. Upper echelon military leaders like President Eisenhower and Smedley Butler tried to warn us. -BB(2016-03-28)

Snowden Rides the Crypto Fence

Snowden has made yet another high-profile appearance, voicing a rather strong opinion:

"The FBI says Apple has the ‘exclusive technical means’ to unlock the phone. Respectfully, that's bullshit"

Hold it a minute, isn't this the same guy who believes that strong crypto is "one of the few things that you can rely on" while he describes Apple as a company which ensures that "your private life remains private". But if Snowden is correct and the FBI can unlock the San Bernardino iPhone...

Let's hope Snowden doesn't become a smug mirror-gazing narcissist like Daniel Ellsberg spending the rest of his days pandering to liberal billionaires. No doubt the Silicon Valley crowd are begging to make Ed into a marketing concubine. Mark Ames comments:

"What Snowden has is the whole American liberal establishment culture invested in his sanctity. You can't break through that faith with mere facts, the infallible hero narrative means the world to them."

At least WikiLeaks has the decency to dump their files. No tepid excuses about wanting to return to the United States some day. In for a penny, in for a pound! -BB(2016-03-10)

Addendum: Tim Shorrock asks:

"I thought the anti-surveillance movement was created to confront power and authority. So why does it need gurus who are never challenged? I wish someone would ask snowden at Logan why Tor is "safe" if the FBI and NSA can penetrate it. Or where's the NSA contractor docs? Mass movements triumph when they're vibrant & diverse & question all forms of authority. This looks like a cult."

Syria: It's All About Oil and Regional Influence

Though this topic has been discussed at length in previous posts, it's worth repeating:

"Secret cables and reports by the U.S., Saudi and Israeli intelligence agencies indicate that the moment Assad rejected the Qatari pipeline, military and intelligence planners quickly arrived at the consensus that fomenting a Sunni uprising in Syria to overthrow the uncooperative Bashar Assad was a feasible path to achieving the shared objective of completing the Qatar/Turkey gas link. In 2009, according to WikiLeaks, soon after Bashar Assad rejected the Qatar pipeline, the CIA began funding opposition groups in Syria."

The argument that "Assad must go" because he's a tyrant falls apart in light of the fact that the United States supports brutal regimes all over the planet. Assad refused to play ball with the American Deep State and Syria subsequently was marked for demolition. -BB(2016-02-27)

Pakistan's ISI, the Afghan Narco State, and the CIA

After finding out that Osama bin Laden had been holed up at a compound in Abbottabad, the following probably isn't that much of a surprise:

"Experts have found a lot of evidence that Pakistan facilitated the Taliban offensive... Its intelligence service has long acted as the manager of international mujahedeen forces, many of them Sunni extremists, and there is even speculation that it may have been involved in the rise of the Islamic State."

And what explains this? Carlotta Gall claims that:

"Pakistan regards Afghanistan as its backyard. Determined not to let its archrival, India, gain influence there, and to ensure that Afghanistan remains in the Sunni Islamist camp, Pakistan has used the Taliban selectively, promoting those who further its agenda and cracking down on those who don't. The same goes for Al Qaeda and other foreign fighters."

Naturally there are extensive links between the ISI and the CIA. I suppose now we know where a good chunk of billions in U.S. foreign aid goes? -BB(2016-02-07)

Pakistan's Deep State Foments Conflict with India

Citing a litany of historical examples, Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker remarks on a disturbing pattern:

"Pakistani militants regularly try to sabotage peaceful relations between their country and India... But the important point is who backs, trains, tolerates and supports those militants: the Pakistani military and, most particularly, its spy service, known as the Inter-Services Intelligence, or the I.S.I."

And why, pray tell, would Pakistan's security services back terrorists?

"It keeps the country of Pakistan focussed on something other than its intractable domestic problems, and it justifies the military’s bloated budgets."

Sound familiar? Note how the United States vows to defend the largest source of Islamic terrorism in the world? Terrorism is encouraged to create a pretext for military action abroad, in a gambit to access natural resources, and to justify greater social control domestically. -BB(2016-01-16)

Mass Starvation in Syria

The citizens of a once middle-income nation pay a truly awful cost for the decisions of foreign leaders:

"About 400,000 Syrians are trapped behind front lines, denied access to food and medicine. That United Nations count has risen from 240,000 since 2014, when the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a binding resolution ordering the warring parties to allow aid delivery."

A direct consequence of U.S. foreign policy, which armed jihadists, and the "ironclad" guarantee of security that it offers to the global wellspring of Sunni Extremism. -BB(2016-01-11)

Hersh: Generals Went Around Obama, Channeled Intel to Syria

Yet another bombshell report from Seymour Hersh. Back in the summer of 2013 a classified all-source assessment by the Pentagon concluded that moderate forces were largely imaginary and that the CIA's program was essentially arming extremist groups like Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS. Yet team Obama was so intent on "Assad must go" that they ignored an opposition force comprised of jihadists. The White House promoted the myth that the United States could fight terror and depose Assad at the same time.

So, what did the generals do?

"In the autumn of 2013 they decided to take steps against the extremists without going through political channels, by providing US intelligence to the militaries of other nations, on the understanding that it would be passed on to the Syrian army and used against the common enemy, Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State... Obama didn't know, but Obama doesn’t know what the JCS does in every circumstance and that's true of all presidents."

And where are alleged U.S. allies in all of this?

"Saudi Arabia continues to be a major provider of funds to the Syrian opposition, estimated by US intelligence last year at $700 million."

Can you guess what happened when CIA director Brennan asked the Saudis to stop funding said extremists? Pretty please, with sugar on top?

"Brennan's message was ignored by the Saudis, the adviser said, who 'went back home and increased their efforts with the extremists and asked us for more technical support. And we say OK, and so it turns out that we end up reinforcing the extremists.'"

"But the Saudis were far from the only problem: American intelligence had accumulated intercept and human intelligence demonstrating that the Erdogan government had been supporting Jabhat al-Nusra for years, and was now doing the same for Islamic State."

Yet Obama continues to abide by a narrative that reeks of cognitive dissonance. Refusing to confront the Gulf States or Turkey. Replacing Martin Dempsey at the JCoS with Joseph Dunford, a general who accepts the canard of "moderate" rebels. -BB(2015-12-21)

CISA 2015 Enacted, Embedded in Omnibus Spending Bill

In a clever ploy, politicians took the questionable legal provisions of CISA 2015 (aka S. 754) and, right before the holidays, quietly stuck them into the recently passed omnibus spending bill (aka H.R. 2029: The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016).

"By sticking CISA into such a huge omnibus bill, there's basically no way it won't become law. And if anything, the version of CISA that was quietly slipped into this budget plays with privacy even faster and looser than the original. For one, a previously held prohibition against sharing information with the NSA has been removed, meaning America's best surveillance agency can receive pertinent data without it being handled by Homeland Security first. More importantly, the provision that required personal information to be scrubbed from cybersecurity reports also seems to have gone missing, leaving that task up to the discretion of which ever agency gets their hands on it."

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) warned us of the implications back in late October:

"Information sharing without robust privacy protections — millions of Americans are going to say that's a surveillance bill"

Notice how the New York Times simply mumbles something about this in passing, buried way down in its coverage. As if to say "And, oh, by the way"...

"The package also incorporates legislation that expands the sharing of information between private firms and federal security agencies to prevent cyberattacks."

Both parties helped push this legislation through. They'll probably do a victory lap in the press to create the impression that they accomplished something. Accomplished for whom? Bill Moyers offers an answer:

"By such are we governed today: soulless puppets dangling from the rich man’s string, their wooden hands outstretched, palms upturned. As we speak they are writing in secret new rules to perpetuate the rule of the few."

A sad day, and a reminder that oligarchy is bipartisan. -BB(2015-12-19)

Deep State Player: Vitol

Yesterday the Telegraph offered a peek behind the curtain with regard to the decade-spanning global war on terror that's ravaged the Middle East. Meet megacorp Vitol:

"Simply put, Vitol is one of the biggest trading companies on the planet. It is the ninth largest corporation in the world by revenue, behind only Shell and BP from the FTSE 100, and comfortably ahead of Volkswagen, Apple and Chevron. Last year Vitol's sprawling empire raked in $270bn in sales."

Like many actors on the world stage this company has leveraged its power to influence international developments:

"Taylor's buccaneering reputation was cemented the previous year when it emerged that Vitol had been a key backer of the Libyan revolution. Its savvy traders had managed to avoid a barrage of Nato bombs and a naval blockade to send dozens of tankers to rebel-held ports such as Tobruk and Zawiya. Supplies of diesel, petrol and fuel kept creaking power stations under rebel control from grinding to a halt and ultimately proved vital to efforts to overthrow Gadaffi."

This is the side of history that we're not meant to see. A contest that hides itself behind a torrent of mass media propaganda, to carve up what's left of the world. Powerful corporate interests are institutionally compelled to acquire access to new markets and resources in a mad race to maximize profits. -BB(2015-12-13)

A Message on Friday the 13th

Terrorists don't destroy freedom, it's a short-sighted response to the threat of terrorism which does that. -BB(2015-11-13)

Update: Recall the black and white world view of former President George Bush: "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." In a similar fashion ISIS actively seeks to employ terror to "sharpen the contradictions" (foment the "The Extinction of The Grayzone") and polarize the world. French President François Hollande declares "we are going to lead a war which will be pitiless." Does he not realize that a crackdown will only radicalize more people?

The mayhem in France is a direct reflection of the unspeakable death and destruction that plagues the middle east. In Syria the death toll exceeds well over 200,000 people with millions of refugees. This, dear reader, is the natural result of covert programs that armed, trained, and supported Suuni extremists. All in a gambit to depose Assad, a policy agenda that was established years ago. France is now suffering from the unenlightened self-interest of the Atlantic ruling class. We need to contemplate the forces that create terrorism rather than address the symptoms.

Ian Welsh offers an astute synopsis: "'Terrorists' and western Governments have become co-dependent. Many in the West want further excuses for internal repression (which is usually justified as just being against a despised minority, then spreads), and for more war."

Update: In Iraq, ISIS bombs that targeted Shiites in Baghdad killed 26 people. Such losses are a daily event in this war-ravaged country. Thanks to a U.S. invasion based on lies.

Update: The lesson to be gleaned? Don't ask western leadership to "fix" anything. Western leaders organized jihadists in Afghanistan and created Al Qaeda. They smashed Iraq with a sledgehammer and this gave birth to ISIS. They don't fix things. "The Iraq war was an immense profit opportunity and that a great deal of money was funneled to the right people. Again, this is one of our leaders core competencies, this is what they do well."

Why is Syria Being Demolished?

William Blum is back from a hiatus and in his latest dispatch presents a series of facts that provide some much-needed context about what's happening in Syria:

"The mainstream media almost never mentions the proposed Qatar natural-gas pipelines – whose path to Europe Syria has stood in the way of for years – as a reason for much of the hostility toward Syria. The pipelines could dethrone Russia as Europe’s dominant source of energy."

"US policy in Syria in the years leading up to the 2011 uprising against Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, which began the whole current mess, was designed to promote sectarianism, which in turn led to civil war with the goal of regime change"

Assad defied the Atlantic ruling class and they set the country ablaze. This is what happens to nations which have an independent foreign policy and refuse to submit to the mandates of the American deep state. -BB(2015-11-04)

U.S. Special Forces Bound for Syria

George Santayana observed that "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." (The Life of Reason, 1905). Having said that, here's news from the Beltway:

"The United States will deploy dozens of special operations forces to northern Syria... The White House said the troops would be on a mission to 'train, advise and assist' and would number fewer than 50."

Really? Just training and advising? That's what the White House claimed about troops in Iraq ("American forces [in Iraq] will not have a combat mission") but officials at the Pentagon beg to differ.

Russia has taken notice and issued a warning:

"The question of using military force in any form without the agreement of Damascus is for us unacceptable"

Another sad chapter in the endless war on terror. The defense industry whistles the national athem while processing all those new orders. -BB(2015-10-30)

Update: the White House claims these troops will "advise local forces fighting the Islamic State." Local forces? I take it that this means terrorist groups (so-called "moderate" fighters)? POTUS is being intentionally vague so that his alleged war on terror doesn't look so contradictory. It would also appear that special forces troops in Syria are doing a whole lot more than just advising, as the Delta Commando Raid in May revealed. As usual, truth is the first casualty when the White House desperately tries to gain leverage during talks in Vienna, pushing for regime change in the name of American oil interests.

Update: Quietly, in the background while all of the focus in on overt programs, "A covert train-and-equip effort run by the C.I.A. is still very much active." Training who? Equipping who? "Moderate" terrorists?

Update: According to the NYTimes the special forces and 50 ton payload of ammo are intended for an "alliance" (the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces) which consists primarily of Y.P.G. Kurdish troops and a token smattering of other fighters. Hard to view this as anything other than a propaganda contrivance by the United States to "play down its close relationship with the Kurds so as not to alarm Turkey."

Update: The Wall Street Journal reports that the CIA and Saudi Arabia will be arming "moderate" terrorists. Arming our enemies, a shot in the arm for the defense industry. It guarantees future profits...

CIA Director's Emails Now Online

WikiLeaks strikes again, with a collection of documents derived from CIA Director Brennan's AOL account. Check out the corporate links between POTUS, Brennan, and the CIA:

"Brennan went private in 2005-2008, founding an intelligence and analysis firm The Analysis Corp (TAC). In 2008 Brennan became a donor to Obama. The same year TAC, led by Brennan, became a security advisor to the Obama campaign and later that year to the Obama-Biden Transition Project. It is during this period many of the Obama administration's key strategic policies to China, Iran and 'Af-Pak' were formulated. When Obama and Biden entered into power, Brennan was lifted up on high, resulting in his subsequent high-level national security appointments."

Reading a document on TAC yields an interesting side note concerning the CIA's watchlist (see page 24 under "Workflow'):

"84% of the names reviewed did not meet the standard for nomination to any watchlist."

As noted by Cryptome, Brennan's private sector company The Analysis Corporation (TAC) was the Intelligence Solutions business of Global Defense Technology & Systems, Inc. ('GTEC'), now renamed Sotera Defense Solutions. -BB(2015-10-22)

Update: Day 2, more emails provided including a contact list.

Update: Day 3, an unidentified table of group members and a dossier on an FBI agent.

Drone Documents Leaked

It appears that yet another Ed Snowden figure has emerged, this one with a stash of secret documents which describe America's drone program:

"The secret documents lead to the conclusion that Washington's 14-year high-value targeting campaign suffers from an overreliance on signals intelligence, an apparently incalculable civilian toll, and — due to a preference for assassination rather than capture — an inability to extract potentially valuable intelligence from terror suspects. They also highlight the futility of the war in Afghanistan by showing how the U.S. has poured vast resources into killing local insurgents, in the process exacerbating the very threat the U.S. is seeking to confront."

Case in Point: Operation Haymaker. Here are some choice excerpts:

"The documents show that during a five-month stretch of the campaign, nearly nine out of 10 people who died in airstrikes were not the Americans' direct targets. By February 2013, Haymaker airstrikes had resulted in no more than 35 'jackpots,' a term used to signal the neutralization of a specific targeted individual, while more than 200 people were declared EKIA — 'enemy killed in action.'"

"According to the documents, raids performed on the ground during Haymaker were far less lethal than airstrikes and led to the capture of scores of individuals. Research by Larry Lewis, formerly a principal research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses, supports that conclusion... He found that drone strikes in Afghanistan were 10 times more likely to kill civilians than conventional aircraft."

The drone program itself is based on the premise that we can kill our way out of trouble rather than revisit our disastrous foreign policy. The elite prefer to set fire to broad swathes of the Middle East. They engage in a global war on terror that perpetuates itself. The failed state model of neocolonialism. -BB(2015-10-15)

158 American Families Outline a Deep State

Pluralists may contend that true power in the United States has been constitutionally vested in "the people" through mechanisms like the electoral process, freedom of speech, and the ability to establish political parties. The traditional view is that these aspects of our political system result in a broad distribution of power that prevents any one faction from gaining an inordinate amount of influence. And today the New York Times shows just how flawed this vantage point is:

"Now they [plutocrats] are deploying their vast wealth in the political arena, providing almost half of all the seed money raised to support Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. Just 158 families, along with companies they own or control, contributed $176 million in the first phase of the campaign"

"More than 50 members of these families have made the Forbes 400 list of the country's top billionaires, marking a scale of wealth against which even a million-dollar political contribution can seem relatively small. The Chicago hedge fund billionaire Kenneth C. Griffin, for example, earns about $68.5 million a month after taxes, according to court filings made by his wife in their divorce. He has given a total of $300,000 to groups backing Republican presidential candidates. That is a huge sum on its face, yet is the equivalent of only $21.17 for a typical American household, according to Congressional Budget Office data on after-tax income."

The American Deep State is bipartisan and led primarily by finance. Read the list of donors for yourself. They have money and power, they can use it to get more, and they want it all. -BB(2015-10-11)

Update: Ian Welsh offers a similar analysis.

"You keep precisely, and only, the rights (which includes property and jobs) that you are able and willing to fight for. Anything you have in excess of that will eventually be taken away from you, awaiting only someone with enough power having the opportunity and motive to do so."

Just ask native Americans or tribes in Guatemala. Today is Columbus day.


If there was ever any doubt, the GCHQ implemented a program that aimed to build the world's biggest surveillance engine and henceforth profile every single user of the web:

"The system was designed to provide the agency with 'either (a) a web browsing profile for every visible user on the Internet, or (b) a user profile for every visible website on the Internet.'"

"One system builds profiles showing people’s web browsing histories. Another analyzes instant messenger communications, emails, Skype calls, text messages, cell phone locations, and social media interactions. Separate programs were built to keep tabs on 'suspicious' Google searches and usage of Google Maps."

People who frequent, for instance, are of particular interest. And the drive by spies to conquer encryption with subversion is also on full display:

"'Pertinent metadata events will be locked within the encrypted channels and difficult, if not impossible, to prise out,' the report says, adding that the agencies were working on a plan that would '(hopefully) allow our Internet Exploitation strategy to prevail.'"

So, yes, they're watching and collecting damn near everything. -BB(2015-09-25)

Technical surveillance counter measures professional James Atkinson comments:

"I believe that you have caught the U.S. government red-handed allowing GCHQ free and unrestricted access to spy on U.S. citizen, inside the United States, within any form of warrant, or with what is called a 'General Warrant' which the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled is illegal."

"Someone at or near the location in Sterling, VA is performing a MITM attack on Cryptome visitors, and this image out of the slidedeck with the two GPS coordinates is the U.S. Government performing a MITM attack against Cryptome and sharing the collected intelligence with the Brits, or the U.S. Government giving the British government backdoor access into the U.S. (illegal) collection systems."

Saudi Arabia Has a Growing Nuclear Program

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Saudis are moving to establish their own nuclear program.

"Saudi Arabia, the most ambitious of the group, has announced plans to build 16 reactors over the next several decades, providing a projected 15% of the country’s electricity possibly as early as 2032, according to a Saudi government website. The estimated cost of the program: more than $80 billion, according to an analysis of the plans by Ali Ahmad, a research fellow and lecturer on energy policy at Princeton University. Mr. Ahmad says he based his calculation on a roughly $5 billion price tag for each reactor."

No sanctions for the country that plays a major role in supporting extremist groups like ISIS. No sir! Client states always get a free pass as well as ironclad security assurances from the United States. -BB (2015-09-19)

Obama's Recent Performance in Alaska

In a much-needed Counterpunch piece Dave Lindorff calls out the President's political theater in Alaska:

"Now we have this flimflam artist up in Alaska, talking about the crisis he has helped worsen, calling it an existential issue. And yet even as he speaks, the Shell Oil Company is towing a giant oil drilling rig up to the Arctic Ocean, thanks to an Obama administration permit, to begin drilling for oil in the shallow waters north of Alaska — drilling for yet more oil, that is, even as the world is facing a glut of the stuff, in a delicate region that would be devastated by a well blow-out, because ice would make containment an impossibility."

It's incredible that POTUS mouths words about climate change while at the same time calling for more ice breakers and giving a big fat wet kiss to Shell oil.

Don't forget that he's trying to raise $1 billion for his Presidential Library, and lord knows that money has got to come from somewhere. Just ask Bill and Hillary Clinton. -BB(2015-09-03)

The Nuclear Weapons Dropped on Japan Were Not Used to End the War

The most credible source on this matter is Admiral William D. Leahy, who was then chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and Truman's leading military advisor. In his book I Was There Leahy wrote (page 441):

"It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons."

As Washington's Blog points out, the decision was likely a political one intended to intimidate the Soviets. When the American Deep State wants to send a strong message to groups of ruling elites in other countries, it doesn't care how many dead bodies it has to walk over. If you have any questions about the nature of the wealthy factions who formulate U.S. foreign policy, all you have to do is contemplate this photo taken inside of the Nagasaki blast radius. -BB(2015-08-09)

A Deep State Cover-Up: The NSA and 9/11

James Bamford reports that the NSA intercepted a phone call in March of 2000 destined for Osama bin Laden's operations center in Yemen. The phone call originated from a line in San Diego belonging to Khalid al-Mihdhar, one of the 911 hijackers. If American spies had followed up on this lead it's likely they would've unearthed the 911 plot. Only they didn't.

Then NSA director Michael Hayden claimed that the NSA wasn't able to geolocate the San Diego call based on technical limitations and subsequently used this explanation to help justify the NSA's bulk collection of phone records. Former NSA senior executive Thomas Drake argues that Hayden is wrong:

"Every number that comes into that switchboard, if you're cast-iron coverage on that switchboard, you know exactly what that number is and where it comes from.… You know exactly—otherwise it can’t get there."

Another NSA veteran, Kirk Wiebe, notes that every phone call is transmitted with billing information:

"You know the phone numbers involved, who’s making the phone call, and who it's going to because the billing system has to have that metadata to charge you,"

In other words, the NSA could clearly tell that Khalid al-Mihdhar was calling from San Diego. Moving forward from this conclusion raises a lot of interesting questions. -BB(2015-07-24)

NSA Watches German Minister Dodge Torture Issues

WikiLeaks has posted a Top Secret intelligence report from 2005 where German Foreign Minister Frank­Walter Steinmeier appeared to be pleased that American officials had stonewalled him on CIA rendition flights:

"Steinmeier described the mood during his talks with U.S. officials as very good, but feared that the most difficult part was still ahead. He seemed relieved that he had not received any definitive response from the U.S. Secretary of State regarding press reports of CIA flights through Germany to secret prisons in eastern Europe allegedly used for interrogating terrorism suspects."

Yet it's part of the public record that the CIA has kidnapped and tortured German citizens:

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange spells out the implications:

"The NSA has been used to help the CIA kidnap and torture with impunity. For years the CIA was systematically abducting and torturing people, with the tacit complicity of European governments. In 2005 German Foreign Minister Steinmeier was thrilled that his tactic of asking Condoleezza Rice no hard questions about CIA renditions had worked. The US said nothing that would require him to do anything. And how do we know about it? Because the National Security Agency was gloating to the US senior executive about intercepting this cowardly display."

Germany largely toes the neoliberal line. Like a good little client state. -BB(2015-07-21)

Report: APA Officials Protected The CIA's Torture Program

Adding to the conclusions of two previous reports, the American Psychological Association (APA) Board of Directors hired attorney David Hoffman of law firm Sidley Austin to investigate the involvement of the APA in CIA torture. The Sidley Austin report is damning (see p. 11):

"The evidence supports the conclusion that APA officials colluded with DoD officials to, at the least, adopt and maintain APA ethics policies that were not more restrictive than the guidelines that key DoD officials wanted"

James Risen of the New York Times observes:

"Two former presidents of the psychological association were on a C.I.A. advisory committee, the report found. One of them [Joseph Matarazzo] gave the agency an opinion that sleep deprivation did not constitute torture, and later held a small ownership stake in a consulting company founded by two men who oversaw the agency’s interrogation program"

The APA has issued an apology. A testimony to the Deep State's ability to infiltrate and undermine scientific organizations. Robert Jay Lifton is spot on, the psychologists who aided torture should be charged, as should the torturers. -BB(2015-07-11)

Update: Most of all, we need to hold accountable the officials who created and concealed the CIA's torture program. All the way to the top of the political food chain.

Related: Mark Ames writes about the long and storied history of American psychologists working with the CIA:

"Half a century ago, the president of the American Psychiatric Association, Ewen Cameron, was paid by the CIA to conduct bizarre and brutal mind-control experiments on unwitting patients at McGill University who’d checked in for relatively minor psychological problems (anxiety, postpartum depression) and ended up near-vegetables."

U.S. Economic Espionage Against Brazil

First France, then Germany, and now Brazil joins the list of countries infiltrated by American spies:

"The publication proves that not only President Dilma Rousseff was targeted but also her assistant, her secretary, her chief of staff, her Palace office and even the phone in her Presidential jet. The US targetted not only those closest to the President, but waged an economic espionage campaign against Brazil, spying on those responsible for managing Brazil's economy, including the head of its Central Bank. The US also extensively targetted Brazil's diplomacy, targetting the phones of its Foreign Minister and its ambassadors to Germany, France, the EU, the US and Geneva as well as its military chiefs."

"The economic targets within Brazil's government include its key Finance Ministers and even the Governor of the Brazilian Central Bank. Cabinet Minister Nelson Henrique Barbosa Filho, who served as Executive Secretary at Brazil's Ministry of Finance from 2011 to 2013 and who is now Minister of Planning, Budget and Management is on the target list, as is Antonio Palocci, Minister of Finance under former President Lula and now Dilma's Chief of Staff."

More proof that U.S. spies are the Praetorian Guard of American corporate interests. It's all about opening up markets and accessing resources to feed an economic system that demands infinite growth from a finite planet. Profit above all else... even if it means extinction. -BB(2015-07-04)

Five Eyes Spied on German Leadership, Angela Merkel

A few days back the Germans dropped an inquiry into claims that the U.S. tapped Angela Merkel’s Phone for lack of evidence. Well, now we have proof that Angela and her peers in German leadership were indeed spied upon. Here are some choice intercepts: Merkel's not optimistic about Greece and mention of a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT), something I'm sure American bankers are opposed to.

Will Germany continue to behave like a good little U.S. client state, or will it show some backbone and take a stand? Sadly, history informs that there may be perfunctory show of outrage (for domestic consumption) but then Germany will fall back into line. -BB(2015-07-02)

Update: The Intercept reports that in the summer of 2011 the CIA station chief in Berlin revealed the identity of a German counter-terrorism official who was leaking documents to Der Spiegel.

U.S. Economic Espionage Against France

For years now government officials have thrown temper tantrums about China spying on American companies. Thanks to WikiLeaks the world can now understand the depth of their brazen hypocrisy. They have absolutely no shame:

"The United States has been conducting economic espionage against France for more than a decade. Not only has it spied on the French Finance Minister, it has ordered the interception of every French company contract or negotiation valued at more than $200 million. That covers not only all of France's major companies, from BNP Paribas, AXA and Credit Agricole to Peugeot and Renault, Total and Orange, but it also affects the major French farming associations. $200 million is roughly 3,000 French jobs. Hundreds of such contracts are signed every year. The United States not only uses the results of this spying itself, but swaps these intercepts with the United Kingdom. Do French citizens deserve to know that their country is being taken to the cleaners by the spies of supposedly allied countries?"

And who, pray tell, benefits from this spying? The true constituents of American intelligence: the large corporate interests that have achieved state capture. The American Deep State. -BB(2015-06-30)

The Delphi Declaration

Economics professor Michael Hudson offers a concise synopsis of what's unfolding between Greece and the European Troika. Here are some excerpts:

"Last weekend a group of us met in Delphi to discuss and draft the following Declaration of Support for Greece against the neoliberal Institutions. It is now clear that finance is the new mode of warfare. The creditors' objective is the same as military conquest: they want the land, the natural resource rights and monopolies, and they want tribute (in this case, debt service). And they don't want sovereign Greece to tax the economic rent from these assets. In short, the negotiation between The Institutions and Greece is a bold exercise in rent extraction."

"Followers of recent news reports should bear in mind that despite all the statements of good faith that Greece 'wants to pay its debts,' the reality is that there is no money to do so – except to the extent that the IMF may 'extend and pretend' the charade by advancing Greece the IMF's own money to pay. As matters have turned out, Tsipras and Varoufakis have not paid foreign debts with Greek money. They have not balanced the Greek budget by cutting back pensions, nor have they sold off the crown jewels of publicly owned infrastructure that European banks hoped to finance to their clients."

Hudson's preface is followed by a statement of support signed by those who met in Delphi. One point they make resonates in particular:

"You may live in Lisbon or in Paris, in Frankfurt or in Stockholm, you may think that you are living in relative security. Do not keep such illusions. You should look to Greece, to see there the future your elites are preparing for you, for all of us and for our children. It is much easier and intelligent to stop them now, than it will be later. Not only Greeks, but all of us and our children will pay an enormous price, if we permit to our governments to complete the social slaughter of a whole European nation."

Neocolonialism is at work. The insistence on austerity by the Troika is very telling. -BB(2015-06-27)

Update: Krugman calls the referendum a good thing (though the IMF director thinks it's pointless).

"If it wins the referendum, the Greek government will be empowered by democratic legitimacy"

"With voters both furious at ever-greater demands for austerity and unwilling to leave the euro... The referendum will, in effect, ask voters to choose their priority, and give Tsipras a mandate to do what he must "

Update: Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called for a July 5th vote on whether Greece should accept the Troika's demands. Yves Smith offers some much needed commentary:

"Tsipras should have held a referendum long before he stripped the Greek government of funds to keep paying the creditors, since a default is better managed with some cash on hand... the referendum ruse looks to be about trying to spare Tsipras and Syriza the worst consequences of his having underestimated the creditors and not preparing for worst-case scenarios, which is another responsibility of leadership that he and his party have neglected."

Enthen mén Skýlle, hetérothi de dîa Charubdis

American Spies Have Been Surveilling French Leadership

Move over Angela Merkel, thanks to WikiLeaks we have proof that the global Eye of Providence has been directed at political leadership in France:

"Prominent within the top secret cache of documents are intelligence summaries of conversations between French government officials concerning some of the most pressing issues facing France and the international community, including the global financial crisis, the Greek debt crisis, the leadership and future of the European Union, the relationship between the Hollande administration and the German government of Angela Merkel, French efforts to determine the make-up of the executive staff of the United Nations, French involvement in the conflict in Palestine and a dispute between the French and US governments over US spying on France."

Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "Fuck the EU", no? -BB(2015-06-23)

Update: The political leadership in France puts on a mild show of outrage for domestic consumption as they pass yet another new surveillance law. Nothing to see here folks, move along...

Related: Cryptome offers kudos to WikiLeaks for releasing this data without redactions or presumably a government run-by. Unlike other news outlets, ahem, that have agreed to check with government spies before releasing documents:

"What I did was that I worked in partnership with the journalists who received the material. As a condition of receiving the material they agreed, prior to publication, to run these stories by the government. Not for the government to censor them, but for the government to be able to look at these and go “look, this isn’t going to get anybody killed, this isn’t going to put a human agent behind enemy lines at risk” or something like that."

What's Behind the "Pivot to Asia"?

It's interesting to note that the whole pivot metaphor, the product of policy architects like Kurt Campbell, was first brought to the public's attention by Hillary Clinton in a 2011 op-ed. Here are some salient excerpts:

"As the war in Iraq winds down and America begins to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, the United States stands at a pivot point. Over the last 10 years, we have allocated immense resources to those two theaters. In the next 10 years, we need to be smart and systematic about where we invest time and energy, so that we put ourselves in the best position to sustain our leadership [hegemony], secure our interests [$$$], and advance our [neoliberal] values."

"Harnessing Asia's growth and dynamism is central to American economic and strategic interests and a key priority for President Obama. Open markets in Asia provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for investment, trade, and access to cutting-edge technology. Our economic recovery at home will depend on exports and the ability of American firms to tap into the vast and growing consumer base of Asia."

Whose economic recovery? Mike Whitney offers a translation:

"Having reduced the great American middle class to a lifeless, rotting corpse incapable of sustaining even meager demand or growth, US elites are packing the boats and heading for China, the shining corporate Valhalla on the hill."

This isn't about saving the American middle class. It's about sustaining corporate profits and infinite economic growth on a finite planet. Hillary Clinton essentially tips her hat to the plutocrats who drive this process. More evidence that oligarchy is bi-partisan. -BB(2015-06-23)

JTRIG Conducts PSYOPs, NSA/GCHQ Reverse For Zero-Day Exploits

The Intercept released some 250 pages of Snowden documents today. The GCHQ's dirty tricks department, JTRIG, has been hard at work:

"The document lays out the tactics the agency uses to manipulate public opinion, its scientific and psychological research into how human thinking and behavior can be influenced, and the broad range of targets that are traditionally the province of law enforcement rather than intelligence agencies."

Likewise members of the Five Eyes are neck deep in Software Reverse Engineering (SRE) in an effort to identify security holes:

"Reverse engineering 'is essential in order to be able to exploit such software and prevent detection of our activities,' the electronic spy agency said in a warrant renewal application."

Company names that appeared: Exlade's CrypticDisk, Acer's eDataSecurity, vBulletin, Invision Power Board, Kaspersky Labs, Cisco,...

Word on the street is that companies like Microsoft cooperate in this hunt for secret bugs.

Honestly, breaking copyright law is of little concern to GCHQ. Covert spy ops that kill and maim are commonplace. -BB(2015-06-22)

U.S. Lawmakers Admit The Presence of Nazis in Ukraine

Though outlets like the New York Times has downplayed, if not outright ignored, the presence of Neo-Nazi factions in Ukraine, Robert Parry of Consortium News reports:

"On June 10, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bipartisan amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act – from Reps. John Conyers Jr., D-Michigan, and Ted Yoho, R-Florida – that would block U.S. training of the Azov battalion and would prevent transfer of shoulder -fired anti-aircraft missiles to fighters in Iraq and Ukraine."

For specific details see H.R. 2685, Section 10009:

"None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to provide arms, training, or other assistance to the Azov Battalion."

Keep in mind that this is the first time since WWII that Neo-Nazi outgrowths have openly acquired positions in government and been appointed as high-level advisors. The American media has largely neglected to cover this. A sure sign that Deep State power is being applied. -BB(2015-06-13)

Related: The Pentagon, pending the approval of POTUS and the Secretary of Defense, wants to send heavy weaponry to NATO allied nations in Eastern Europe:

"The 'prepositioned' stocks — to be stored on allied bases and enough to equip a brigade of 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers — also would be similar to what the United States maintained in Kuwait for more than a decade after Iraq invaded it in 1990 and was expelled by American and allied forces early the next year."

"A full brigade’s worth of equipment — formally called the European Activity Set — would include about 1,200 vehicles, including some 250 M1-A2 tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, and armored howitzers, according to a senior military official."

The American Deep State Forms a Shadow NSA

A recent article by Tim Shorrock at the Nation describes the emergence of a new national-security class. Government officials who leverage their security clearances and inside contacts on behalf of powerful corporate interests once they leave the public sector:

"The cyberintelligence- industrial complex is qualitatively different from—and more dangerous than—the military-industrial complex identified by President Eisenhower in his famous farewell address. This is because its implications for democracy, inequality, and secrecy are far more insidious."

Not only can big business purchase influence with politicians, now they can acquire insights based on classified secrets. There's a reason someone like Keith Alexander can ask for $1 million a month. This offers large multinational corporations access to the black hole of official secrecy which has proven to resist both oversight and accountability. Hence creating a dynamic where money begets power in a feedback loop that accelerates itself. -BB(2015-05-28)

In a New Yorker piece Mattathias Schwartz indicates that the problem is systemic. Power has become so concentrated that rule of law has broken down:

"Some have argued that the current surveillance regime isn't as bad as the activities of Henry Kissinger, who ordered wiretaps on his rivals during the Vietnam era, or of J. Edgar Hoover, who used the F.B.I. to authorize the covert infiltration of left-wing groups and terrorized Martin Luther King, Jr., with anonymous threats. Those abuses led to the lengthy investigations of the Church Committee, and the current system of judicial and congressional oversight. It's true that the modern surveillance regime is less about the passions of individuals and more about the tendencies of institutions. But those tendencies—especially the belief that national security can trump the plain English of the law—will likely make it hard for this generation to achieve meaningful surveillance reform. This week's debate over Section 215 should be the beginning of a much larger conversation."

Pentagon Document: West Knowingly Helped to Create ISIS

Nafeez Ahmed examines a declassified US Defense Intelligence Agency document from August of 2012.

"Noting that 'the Salafist [sic], the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq] are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria,' the document states that 'the West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition,' while Russia, China and Iran 'support the [Assad] regime.'"

"In a strikingly prescient prediction, the Pentagon document explicitly forecasts the probable declaration of 'an Islamic State through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria.'"

"The secret Pentagon document thus provides extraordinary confirmation that the US-led coalition currently fighting ISIS, had three years ago welcomed the emergence of an extremist 'Salafist Principality' in the region as a way to undermine Assad, and block off the strategic expansion of Iran. Crucially, Iraq is labeled as an integral part of this 'Shia expansion.'"

As Obama eventually admitted, the notion of Syrian moderates making a difference was a 'fantasy.' Never mind that the term was repeated by Western officials ad nauseam. The implications are unsettling:

"The revelations contradict the official line of Western governments on their policies in Syria, and raise disturbing questions about secret Western support for violent extremists abroad, while using the burgeoning threat of terror to justify excessive mass surveillance and crackdowns on civil liberties at home."

Divide and rule abroad while consolidating power at home. The American Deep State has a long tradition of helping to create, fund, and arm its enemies. The Hegelian Dialectic is still in use. -BB(2015-05-24)

Banks Guilty of Foreign Currency Manipulation

Barclays, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and the Royal Bank of Scotland have all pleaded guilty to manipulating prices in the $5-trillion-a-day foreign currency markets. They'll pay over $5 billion in penalties, an insitutional slap on the wrist that will allow wealthy executives to walk away scot-free.

"For the banks, though, life as a felon is likely to carry more symbolic shame than practical problems. Although they could be barred by American regulators from certain activities, the banks scrambled behind the scenes to persuade those regulators to grant exemptions."

Matt Taibbi comments:

"Every single day, that $5 in your pocket was worth a little bit more or a little bit less, based on what these people were doing. And if you spread that out to everybody on Earth, it turns into a financial crime that's on a scale that, you know, you would normally only think of in Bond movies or something like that."

"They have been dinged for everything from bribery to money laundering, to rigging Libor, to mass fraud in the subprime mortgage markets and now the forex markets. It's one mass crime over—you know, after another, and there's no consequence."

Of course, we've been sold out. What, pray tell, did President Obama tell bankers in the wake of the 2008 collapse?

"You guys have an acute public relations problem that's turning into a political problem. And I want to help... I'm not here to go after you. I'm protecting you... I'm going to shield you from congressional and public anger."

The financial titans of the Deep State are bigger than ever and largely calling the shots, hence above the law. -BB(2015-05-21)

Why the Media Highlights Ed Snowden Instead of Jeremy Hammond

This piece at the Mint Press explains that the establishment views Snowden's core message as being far less threatening than Hammond's:

"Snowden is giving us a message of reform... We can just tweak this one thing and everything will go back to being right as rain regarding corporate and government surveillance. Whereas Jeremy is saying this is egregious and it all has to go from start to finish."

As Congressman Otis Pike observed decades ago, what ails the American body politic isn't just a couple of bad apples. It's a systemic problem:

"In this situation they are asked much more; they are asked to believe that their country has been evil. And nobody wants to believe that."

Elements of the corporate elite don't mind it when you bash their political operatives in office. But witness how they're engaged in all sorts of public relations stunts so that they appear to be mere innocent victims and champions of privacy. -BB(2015-05-19)

White House Lies About The Bin Laden Assassination

Based on information from a retired senior intelligence official, Seymour Hersh indicates that the government's story behind the killing of Osama Bin Laden is chock full of fabrications:

"Bin Laden had been a prisoner of the ISI at the Abbottabad compound since 2006; that Kayani and Pasha knew of the raid in advance and had made sure that the two helicopters delivering the Seals to Abbottabad could cross Pakistani airspace without triggering any alarms; that the CIA did not learn of bin Laden’s whereabouts by tracking his couriers, as the White House has claimed since May 2011, but from a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer who betrayed the secret in return for much of the $25 million reward offered by the US, and that, while Obama did order the raid and the Seal team did carry it out, many other aspects of the administration's account were false."

Our close allies, the Saudis are also implicated:

"The Saudis didn't want bin Laden's presence revealed to us because he was a Saudi, and so they told the Pakistanis to keep him out of the picture. The Saudis feared if we knew we would pressure the Pakistanis to let bin Laden start talking to us about what the Saudis had been doing with al-Qaida. And they were dropping money – lots of it. The Pakistanis, in turn, were concerned that the Saudis might spill the beans about their control of bin Laden. The fear was that if the US found out about bin Laden from Riyadh, all hell would break out. The Americans learning about bin Laden's imprisonment from a walk-in was not the worst thing."

The whole Zero Dark Thirty narrative about torture playing a key role was nothing more than raw propaganda fed to the public by the CIA and Hollywood. The American Deep State openly backs a regime that plays a central role in supporting Al Qaeda. It's clear that there's an entire segment of society (e.g. bankers, spies, politicians) that are largely above the law. -BB(2015-05-11)

Update: Shamus Cooke explains why this information is so vital:

"The White House-Zero Dark Thirty narrative gave a mighty PR boost to the 'war on terror,' where the U.S. throws hundreds of billions of dollars into bombs, warplanes, and mass surveillance that has proved to be a miraculous failure. The war on terror has 'succeeded' only in further destabilizing the Middle East that then fertilizes the ground for extremist groups like ISIS."

Related: The mainstream media has launched a volley of smear pieces at Hersh. Trevor Timm offers a cogent response:

"How many people knew about the Bush administration's manipulation of intelligence before the Iraq war? Hundreds? Over a thousand? How many knew about the NSA’s mass phone metadata program aimed at Americans until Edward Snowden revealed it? A thousand? Ten thousand? It stayed secret for more than seven years until a single person—a contractor, not an NSA employee—exposed it."

"Most journalists would never dream of confronting CIA officials with the same aggressiveness they now direct at Hersh—even though, less than six months ago, the Senate released a 500-page report documenting in meticulous detail the dozens of times the CIA blatantly lied to the public, the press, and Congress about torture over the past decade."

Related: former CIA officer John Kiriakou responds to three former CIA directors who offered an apologia for torture:

"In 1968, for example, The Washington Post published a photo of a US soldier waterboarding a North Vietnamese prisoner. The Defense Department investigated the incident, court-martialed the soldier, and convicted him of torture."

"Some current and former CIA leaders will argue that torture netted actionable intelligence that saved American lives. I was working in the CIA's counterterrorism center at the same time they were, and I can tell you that they’re lying."

Related: Alexander Cockburn saw through Obama's volcano of lies back in 2011!

"Specific knowledge by US intelligence of the compound and its likely possible prime denizen goes back to 2005."

Ditto that for Raelynn Hillhouse, who also wrote a series of similar reports in 2011. She claims Hersh hasn't given her due credit.

Mark Ames points out that history repeats itself as Hersh is now being smeared as he was when he reported on the CIA's MH-CHAOS program in 1974. And Noam Chomsky offers some qualifications from his book What We Say Goes(page 19):

"You got to understand that any report by any reporter from an unidentified intelligence or diplomatic source is reporting what they want you to believe. It may or may not be true."

Update: Right about now I suppose Nicholas Schmidle of the New Yorker feels like a whore.

Related: The CIA denies drugging detainees.

"Brent Mickum, an attorney who represents Abu Zubaydah, a detainee mentioned more than 1,000 times in the Senate's executive summary and the only high-value captive subjected to all 10 of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques, said he doesn't doubt that Abu Zubaydah was drugged during interrogations."

Kingpin Strategy: Who Loses, Who Gains?

The global war on terror's program of high-value targeting (read assassination) has its origins in the global war on drugs. In both cases flawed reasoning aggravated problems rather than addressing them constructively. The United States cannot kill its way out of trouble. Andrew Cockburn spells it out. Here are some excerpts.

"Implicit in the concept was the assumption that the United States faced a hierarchically structured threat that could be defeated by removing key leadership components... Far from impeding the flow of cocaine onto the street and up the nostrils of America, it was accelerating it. Eliminating kingpins actually increased supply."

The war on terror has witnessed similar results:

"As with the kingpin strategy, the causes of this apparently counter-intuitive result became obvious upon reflection. Dead commanders were immediately replaced, and the newcomers were almost always younger and more aggressive than their predecessors, eager to 'make their bones' and prove their worth."

And who benefits?

"The kingpin strategy might have failed on the streets of American cities, but it had been a roaring success when it came to the prosperity of the DEA... The strategy has, however, been of inestimable benefit to a host of interested parties, ranging from drone manufacturers to the CIA counterterrorism officials who so signally failed to ward off 9/11 only to adopt assassination as their raison d'être."

The Hegelian Dialectic is alive and well. Assassination programs constitute a self-licking ice cream cone. -BB(2015-04-28)

Report: Death by Drone

Back in 2013 POTUS remarked: "Before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured -- the highest standard we can set."

In outlining his four-part plan to counter terrorism POTUS touted Yemen as a successful case-study: "This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years."

During his 2015 State of the Union address POTUS stated: "As Americans, we respect human dignity... and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained."

A report by the Open Society Justice Initiative casts doubt on all of these claims:

"The United States has been conducting targeted killings in Yemen at least since 2002. These killings have been cloaked in secrecy. Neither the U.S. nor the Yemeni government systematically discloses information on civilian deaths and injuries caused by U.S. airstrikes."

"The nine case studies documented in this report provide evidence of 26 civilian deaths [including five children] and injuries to an additional 13 civilians."

In an approach that borders on Orwellian Newspeak, the political operatives of the Deep State simply change their definition of words so that public statements like the above can be made. The same dynamic applies to mass surveillance. Placate the unwashed masses with soothing assurances so that they don't oppose what's being perpetrated behind a veil of official secrecy. -BB(2015-04-14)

Update: Right on schedule the New York Times reports a drone attack that kills an Al Qaeda's spokesmen in Yemen.

Update: The Intercept reveals that Germany, a U.S. client state, is operating a drone base out of Ramstein.

Update: The Washington Post reports that a drone attack near the Afghan border killed two hostages. Why do these two deaths warrant an official White House "Statement" when there are hundreds of innocent people who have been killed? Because its a vital propaganda tool.

Dan Froomkin notes the madness of the Deep State:

"Obama and the political operatives running the White House continue to make life-or-death decisions in a bubble, surrounded by overconfident and overly bellicose men who are so in denial about the fact that they routinely kill civilians that they have created their own reality in which everyone who dies deserved it, and every death helps."

The New York Times claims that the American public approves:

"Despite the bad reviews overseas, drone strikes remain persistently popular with the American public, with about two-thirds expressing approval in polls. And despite the protests of a few liberal Democrats or libertarian Republicans, they have enjoyed unusual bipartisan support in Congress, where they are viewed as reducing the threat of terrorist attack and keeping American operators out of harm's way."

The New York Times subsequently prints a cheer-leading report on drone attacks in Pakistan, then posts an additional piece that describes how "conflicted" POTUS is about a state-sponsored terror program which kills far more civilians than terrorists.

Update: The New York Times describes how the CIA's Michael D’Andrea (aka "the wolf") achieved deep support for drone attacks in Congress and how CIA Director Brennan has failed to move the Drone program to the Pentagon. In 2013 Dianne Feinstein stated:

"The figures we have obtained from the executive branch, which we have done our utmost to verify, confirm that the number of civilian casualties that have resulted from such strikes each year has typically been in the single digits"

Independent reports expose this for the lie that it is (a reality that even an establishment paper like the New York Times has been forced to admit). Yet Dianne Feinstein, dutifully backs the Deep State:

"Ms. Feinstein was asked in a meeting with reporters in 2013 why she was so sure she was getting the truth about the drone program while she accused the C.I.A. of lying to her about torture"

Mark Ames at Pando offers astute insights into President Obama's response:

"you can see the logic of Obama deciding to one-up Team Bush's refusal to ever take responsibility for their myriad catastrophic screw-ups, by flipping it around and taking responsibility for everything. Because doing so in a political context of zero accountability means zero consequences, lots of brownie points from all the other compromised Beltway hacks"

CIA Director Contemplates the Global War on Terrorism

John Brennan was at Harvard recently. Regarding the war on terrorism he commented that the United States is 'winning':

"It has taken off of the battlefield a lot more terrorists, than it has put on."

Using the neocon meme of the 'long war' Brennan later added that he didn't see an end in sight:

"It's a long war, unfortunately. But it's been a war that has been in existence for millennia... this is going to be something, I think, that we're always going to have to be vigilant about"

According to a CIA-FBI taskforce at the time of 9/11 Al-Qaeda numbered somewhere in the range of 500-1,000. They were practically nonexistent in Iraq. Fast forward to 2015: Afghanistan is a narco state, Iraq is a war zone, and the Middle East is awash with tens of thousands of radical jihadists. For example, in September of 2014 the CIA put ISIS numbers at around 30,000 but Kurdish leaders claim there are at least 200,000. Never mind other groups like al-Nusra.

This is what happens when U.S. leadership takes a sledgehammer to the middle east, subjects entire populations to drones, and offers support to both jihadist groups and the primary source of radical ideology in the region. The war against terrorism will never end because it's self-perpetuating. All to the greater glory of the Deep State. -BB(2015-04-09)

Related: the Global War on Terror (GWOT) can be seen as an extension of the Global War on Drugs (GWOD):

"Both are brutally expensive and arguably un-winnable. And in both cases, use of the word 'war' is a deliberate and calculated language choice. Americans are taught that a war is something an entire nation must fight, and something that requires sacrifice for the greater good. Considered in the context of government surveillance, both 'wars' are euphemisms for a specific kind of government rationalization."

The Role of Banks In State Capture

Financial executives hold a special place in the Pantheon of the American Deep State. In a recent Counterpunch essay Ellen Brown explains why this is the case. Here are a handful of notable excerpts:

"Today the vast majority of the money supply in Western countries is created by private bankers. That tradition goes back to the 17th century, when the privately-owned Bank of England, the mother of all central banks, negotiated the right to print England's money after Parliament stripped that power from the Crown. When King William needed money to fight a war, he had to borrow. The government as borrower then became servant of the lender."

"In All the Presidents' Bankers, Nomi Prins names six banking giants and associated banking families that have dominated politics for over a century. No popular third party candidates have a real chance of prevailing, because they have to compete with two entrenched parties funded by these massively powerful Wall Street banks."

"Running for office became expensive, so that those who seek office require wealthy sponsors to whom they are then beholden. Second, the great majority of voters have little independent knowledge of those for whom they vote or of the issues to be dealt with. Their judgments are, accordingly, dependent on what they learn from the mass media. These media, in turn, are controlled by moneyed interests."

"Today's global economy is fully transnational. The money power is not much interested in boundaries between states and generally works to reduce their influence on markets and investments"

The large corporate banking houses are the ringleaders of the neoliberal system. They embody a way of organizing society that imposes a pathological emphasis on profit above all else, including democracy. -BB (2015-04-07)

Related: Defense Secretary Ashton Carter pushes for TPP:

"Passing TPP is as important to me as another aircraft carrier"

Attempts to implement reform are hobbled:

"But as the evolution of Reg AB II suggests, banks and their advocates have managed to preserve many of the industry’s pre-crisis practices by focusing lobbying efforts on obscure corners of the regulatory world, far from the glare of congressional debate or public scrutiny. Many of these agencies are staffed by appointees from the industry they regulate and return to it when their stints are over."

Global War on Terror Body Count

This is the end result of policies that were allegedly born out of a hunt for imaginary nuclear weapons:

"This investigation comes to the conclusion that the war has, directly or indirectly, killed around 1 million people in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan, i.e. a total of around 1.3 million"

Nuclear weapons? That Saddam admitted Iraq didn't have? Really? Better judgement informs that the spoils of perpetual conflict were too good for the Deep State to pass up. Destroy, rebuild, pillage, launder,... repeat. It continues unabated. -BB(2015-03-26)

Don't forget how the New York Times largely failed in its duty as a watchdog with regard to Iraq, mass surveillance, ISIS, and Nazis in Ukraine.

See also: Response to Bolton, Muravchik, Friedman Warmongers

"Neither newspaper would publish a story that urged the United States to launch a bombing campaign to destroy Israel's actual nuclear arsenal as a step toward creating a nuclear-free Middle East. That would be considered outside responsible thought and reasonable debate."

"The Times doesn't even blush when one of its most celebrated columnists mulls over the idea of sending weapons to the terrorists in ISIS"

"But beyond the hypocrisy and, arguably, the criminality of these propaganda pieces, there is also the neocon record of miscalculation. Remember how the invasion of Iraq was supposed to end with Iraqis tossing rose petals at the American soldiers instead of planting 'improvised explosive devices' – and how the new Iraq was to become a model pluralistic democracy?"

Canadian Spies at CSE Use False Flag Ops

Once again there's ample proof that spies take measures to cover their tracks:

"According to the Snowden documents, it has a range of 'deception techniques' in its toolbox. These include 'false flag' operations to 'create unrest,' and using so-called 'effects' operations to 'alter adversary perception.'"

Nice. Past reports demonstrate that both the GCHQ and the NSA also use this sort of anti-forensic technology (i.e. JTRIG and ORBS).

Hence the whole idea of deterrence promoted by spymasters like Admiral Mike Rogers is revealed as a flimsy pretext for requesting funds. You can't retaliate if you're not sure who attacked you. The offensive mindset of Rogers will undermine our collective security on behalf of a cabal of spies, the Praetorian Guard of the moneyed elite. -BB(2015-03-23)

U.S. Soldiers Killed Unarmed Afghans for Sport

The Guardian drops a bombshell:

"In a series of videotaped confessions to investigators, some of which have been broadcast on American television, Morlock detailed how he and other members of his Stryker brigade set up and faked combat situations so that they could kill civilians who posed no threat to them. Four other soldiers are still to come to trial over the incidents."

Another sad chapter in a war that, despite the President's talking points, hasn't ended:

"American officials are girding for another year of bloody fighting with the insurgents. Senior Obama administration officials broadly concluded during meetings over the last week that many of the roughly 10,000 troops and thousands of civilian contractors in Afghanistan would be needed well into 2016, officials said."

Torture, drones, covert ops. These soldiers are the offspring of the Deep State. -BB(2015-03-20)

EU Powers To Join Chinese Development Bank

The Grey Lady delivers a telling report this morning:

"The announcement on Tuesday by Germany, France and Italy that they would follow Britain and join the Chinese-led venture delivered a stinging rebuke to Washington from some of its closest allies. It also called into question whether the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which grew out of a multination conference in Bretton Woods, N.H., in 1944 and established an economic pecking order that lasted 70 years, will find their influence diminished."

American political leadership are none too happy about this because it means that their divide and conquer strategy isn't working:

"US powerbrokers are convinced that America's economic slide can only be arrested by staking a claim in Central Asia, dismembering Russia, encircling China, and quashing all plans for an economically-integrated EU-Asia."

Wolfowitz spelled this out explicitly way back in the 1990s:

"Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union"

A meme which is echoed, predictably, by STRATFOR's CEO (from segment 1:40 to 1:57):

"The primordial interest of the United States, over which for centuries we have fought wars–the First, the Second and Cold Wars–has been the relationship between Germany and Russia, because united there, they're the only force that could threaten us. And to make sure that that doesn't happen."

Tyrants like Genghis Khan didn't vanish into the history books. They're still around and fomenting conflict for their own gain. -BB(2015-03-18)

DNI Admits That Cyber Armageddon is Delusional

From the IC's latest Worldwide Threat Assessment:

"The likelihood of a catastrophic attack from any particular actor is remote at this time. Rather than a 'Cyber Armageddon' scenario that debilitates the entire US infrastructure, we envision something different. We foresee an ongoing series of low-to-moderate level cyber attacks from a variety of sources over time, which will impose cumulative costs on US economic competitiveness and national security"

After years of hyperbole the IC finally concedes. The Cult of Cyberwar can eat crow. Industry puppets like Leon Panetta, Paul Kurtz, and Mike McConnell can enjoy a thick generous serving of humble pie.

Even then, note that cyber attacks are hardly what anyone would call an existential threat. Despite what Keith Alexander claims about cybercrime representing the "greatest transfer of wealth in history." Good lord, I guess he's never heard of Quantitative Easing. -BB(2015-03-13)

See also: Nomi Prins on Quantitative Easing.

"Rather than show meaningful initiative to engender safety in the financial system (which if she had, or wanted to, would have rendered her a non-viable candidate for her position), she reprimanded the banks while providing them cheap capital."

Al Jazeera: The Spy Cables

Another [incomplete] dump of non-Snowden docs that focuses on HUMINT:

"Spanning a period from 2006 until December 2014, they include detailed briefings and internal analyses written by operatives of South Africa's State Security Agency (SSA). They also reveal the South Africans' secret correspondence with the US intelligence agency, the CIA, Britain's MI6, Israel's Mossad, Russia's FSB and Iran's operatives, as well as dozens of other services from Asia to the Middle East and Africa."

Lots of hype (to bolster ad $$$) and redactions (to please spies). Read the editor's apologia. -BB(2015-02-23)

Joint project between Al Jazeera and The Guardian.

Netanyahu Lied About Iran Nuclear Program : Mossad concluded that Iran was not producing nuclear weapons, after PM sounded alarm at UN in 2012.

Greenpeace Leader Targeted by Spies Before G20

South Africa's National Intelligence Agency Riddled With Foreign Spies : [quelle surprise!]

Intelligence Services Spread Lies for Political Gains : Iraq in 2003 remains the poster child

Spies Pass Off Fantasy as Analysis, Spread Rumors : Just like journalists, they sensationalize to lure sponsor funds. We've got the real dirt! Open your wallet...

South African Spies a Law Unto Themselves : Sound familiar? CIA watching the watchers in the Senate?

Mossad Cozy with Egyptian Deep State : They literally use the term "Deep State"

The source of the leaks is ostensibly a former apartheid-era intelligence agent:

"The agent, whose name is known to The Sunday Independent, had given his brother-in-law access to his official computer."

"The brother-in-law copied all the files in the hard drive and then sold them to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the British secret intelligence MI6."

Equation Group Linked to NSA Ops

A Moscow-based anti-virus vendor has released [limited] information on malware used by what they refer to as the Equation Group. Tactics definitely indicate an attacker with significant resources:

"Secretly intercepted a package in transit, booby-trapped its contents, and sent it to its intended destination. In 2002 or 2003, Equation Group members did something similar with an Oracle database installation CD"

"USB stick-based reconnaissance malware to map air-gapped networks... Bypassing code-signing restrictions... Rewrote the hard-drive firmware of infected computers—a never-before-seen engineering marvel that worked on 12 drive categories from manufacturers including Western Digital, Maxtor, Samsung, IBM, Micron, Toshiba, and Seagate."

Investigators haven't claimed outright that this is an NSA campaign, but I would tend to believe with some degree of confidence that it is. -BB(2015-02-17).

Cryptome notes:

"Equation Group hard disk subverson portends same for CPU, memory, graphics, peripherals, networks, personal devices. HW spy ubiquity sub SW."

And also:

"Firmware, HW, SW of the Internet subverted from its birth by design to allow access to anything linked to it. Cybersec is placebo."

Mohammed Toiman al-Jahmi Incinerated By Hellfire Missile

A 13 year-old boy in Yemen named Mohammed Toiman al-Jahmi, whose father and brother had both been killed earlier by American drone attacks, was likewise murdered by a Hellfire missile. Glenn Greenwald makes three important observations:

"The U.S. media just got done deluging the American public with mournful stories about the Jordanian soldier, Moaz al-Kasasbeh, making him a household name... By stark contrast, I'd be willing to bet that the name 'Mohammed Tuaiman al-Jahmi' is never uttered on mainstream American television."

"I have no idea whether this 13-year-old boy was 'a member of al-Qaeda,' whatever that might mean for a boy that young. But neither does the New York Times, which is why it's incredibly irresponsible for media outlets reflexively to claim that those killed by U.S. drone strikes are terrorists."

"If it were American teenagers rather than Yemeni ones regularly being burned to death – on American soil rather than Yemeni soil – does it take any effort to understand why there'd be widespread calls for violence against the perpetrators in response?... In 2009, the U.S. got caught using cluster bombs in Yemen in an attack that slaughtered 35 women and children. Obama then successfully demanded that the Yemeni journalist who proved that the attack was from the U.S., Abdulelah Haider Shaye, be imprisoned for years. In December, 2013, a U.S. drone strike killed 12 people as they traveled to a wedding."

When it comes to spreading death, destruction, and chaos the United States is second to none. This is the bloody gaping maw of empire that apologists try to conceal with glittering generalities like "freedom" and "democracy." -BB(2015-02-12)

Noam Chomsky explains how ISIS is the direct result of U.S. and Saudi imperialism:

"The US created the background out of which ISIS grew and developed... One of the effects of the invasion was immediately to institute sectarian divisions."

"An extremist version of Saudi extremism is the doctrine that was picked up by ISIS. So it grew ideologically out of the most extremist form of Islam, the Saudi version, and the conflicts that were engendered by the US sledgehammer that smashed up Iraq and has now spread everywhere."

U.S. Nuclear Stockpile : In 2013 - 4,804 weapons

HSBC Leaks Reveal Deep State Actors

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reports:

"Secret documents reveal that global banking giant HSBC profited from doing business with arms dealers who channeled mortar bombs to child soldiers in Africa, bag men for Third World dictators, traffickers in blood diamonds and other international outlaws."

"The documents obtained by ICIJ are based on data originally smuggled away by a former HSBC employee-turned-whistleblower, Hervé Falciani, and handed to French authorities in 2008."

The Guardian also has a hand in this emerging story:

"The HSBC files [almost 60,000], which cover the period 2005-2007, amount to the biggest banking leak in history, shedding light on some 30,000 accounts holding almost $120bn (£78bn) of assets."

The world's second largest bank, a veritable pillar of the global neoliberal agenda, puts access to cheap raw material (blood soaked cash) above all else (alleged "Scottish banking principles") as plutocrats extract wealth and then refuse to contribute anything back. It's likely that HSBC will get away with another billion dollar fine, demonstrating that bankers for all intents and purposes are above the law. -BB(2015-02-09)

How to Destroy ISIS

In order to destroy ISIS it's necessary to look at the forces that created the organization. In a detailed treatment that's well worth the read Nafeez Ahmed reminds us not to forget the role played by clandestine intelligence agencies. Here are some of his conclusions:

"It [ISIS] is a co-creation of the Western and Muslim worlds, specifically of Western and Muslim 'security' agencies who have lost all moral compass in the pursuit of geopolitical prowess, self-aggrandisement and corporate profiteering."

"We must exert robust oversight over our unaccountable intelligence services, whose secret support for militants abroad has undermined national security and permitted associated extremists to run amok at home."

"Ultimately, we must re-evaluate the role of the West in the region and, in doing so, accept that the only way to end IS’s capacity to recruit extremists is to restore hope: the same hope that we extinguished with unfathomable levels of violence, which to this day we continue to deny. Restoring hope means that Western governments must let go of their counterproductive geopolitical self-interest, apologise wholeheartedly for their wanton destruction of Iraq, and replace the endless provision of instruments of death and torture, with meaningful aid to help rebuild life in the form of humanitarian relief, reconstruction and economic development"

Not an easy task seeing the sway that private capital has over political leaders in the United States. The elite stranglehold over domestic and foreign policy needs to be broken in order to save the human species. -BB(2015-02-08)

Hammond: The So-Called "Cyberwar" is Really a Class War

Jeremy Hammond has written a brilliant condemnation of the Pentagon's campaign for information dominance:

"If the US truly wanted to stop the proliferation of nation-state hacking, they would push for UN conferences to establish guidelines defining and prohibiting 'cyber-warfare'. This would require coming clean and putting an end to their own operations, but if they won't even abide by the Geneva Conventions regarding prisoners of war and the use of torture, there's no reason to expect they wouldn't continue hacking in secret. Just as the US government want a monopoly on the use of military force – waging wars to 'spread democracy' while condemning those who fight back as 'terrorists' – they correspondingly seek a monopoly on the use of hacking."

"When those in power break their own laws then there is no law and no moral authority; there are just competing factions in an international power struggle to control resources like oil, land, drugs and information. Like all wars, only the rich ruling class benefits, and everyone else suffers."

Indeed, security for the 1% as they pillage the earth. A global operation led by government spies (YOU JOHN BRENNAN, YOU ADMIRAL ROGERS), the Praetorian Guard of the moneyed elite. -BB(2015-02-05)

UK Army Launches Social Media PSYOPs

Yesterday the Guardian reported that the UK's Military, following the example of the United States and Israel, would be forming a social media brigade to manipulate public opinion:

"The 77th Brigade, to be based in Hermitage, near Newbury, in Berkshire, will be about 1,500-strong and formed of units drawn from across the army... Both the Israeli and US army already engage heavily in psychological operations."

"The Israel Defence Forces have pioneered state military engagement with social media, with dedicated teams operating since Operation Cast Lead, its war in Gaza in 2008-9. The IDF is active on 30 platforms – including Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Instagram – in six languages"

Thanks to a ground-breaking 2008 Report By WikiLeaks we know that this sort of program is actually standard practice:

"The policy states that while the entire UK population is usually considered the 'principal target', among the 'overlapping sub-sets across the spectrum of UK society', the 'most influential target' is 'the limited group of people who hold disproportionate influence on the direction of government and public thinking and policy development'. This group includes 'politicians and statesmen, members of 'think-tanks' and professional bodies, special political advisers, newspaper columnists, academics, analysts and journalists (who are increasingly voicing opinions on current affairs issues)'."

"The report shows that the UK government has learned little from earlier scandals such as Operation Mass Appeal, where MI6 planted stories prior to the invasion of Iraq to boost support for the war. In the United States such domestic propaganda operations are illegal and while there have been a number of violations, there has also been a number of subsequent investigations into those violations."

For an eye-opening look at American PSYOPs, watch Scott Noble's film PSYWAR online for free. -BB(2015-02-01)

Like the NSA, China Wants Back Doors

In May of 2014 China banned Windows 8 from government machines and subsequently announced that it would implement a vetting process for high-tech equipment sold in China, in addition to developing its own national operating system. According to an article published by the New York Times, China's State Internet Information Office wants vendors to hand over source code and institute back doors:

"The bank rules say 75 percent of technology products used by Chinese institutions must be classified as 'secure and controllable' by 2019... For most computing and networking equipment, the chart says, source code must be turned over to Chinese officials... The chart also calls for companies that want to sell to banks to set up research and development centers in China, obtain permits for workers servicing technology equipment and build 'ports' to allow Chinese officials to manage and monitor data processed by their hardware."

The New York Times neglects to mention that hi-tech companies actively cooperate with the NSA to enable covert back doors. Though there is mention in this article of the NSA's campaign to undermine technology both at home and abroad.

The market for high-tech equipment in China runs into hundreds of billions of dollars per year. Many denizens of the C-Suites will likely choose to "obey the law" in order to maintain quarterly profits while government officials claim that everything they do is perfectly "legal." -BB(2015-01-29)

Koch Network Plans to Spend Nearly $900 Million

The New York Times reports:

"In the last presidential election, the Republican National Committee and the party's two congressional campaign committees spent a total of $657 million."

"In 2012, the Kochs' network spent just under $400 million, an astonishing sum at the time. The $889 million spending goal for 2016 would put it on track to spend nearly as much as the campaigns of each party's presidential nominee."

There are something like 300 donors in the Koch Network. Overall in the U.S. there are around 70,000 ultra-high net worth individuals worth more than $30 million each and over 1,300 billionaires. A small group of leveraged plutocrats outspends everyone else. Hence, it should come as no surprise that both Hillary and the GOP candidates are all talking to donors at the moment. You know, the folks who matter. -BB(2015-01-27)

Henry Giroux warns that:

"Democracy is dead in the United States. A new society is being constructed that no longer believes in political concessions, given its addiction to greed, power and its savage willingness to use state violence to manage its problems."

Zephr Teachout hits the nail on the head:

"Think of campaign contributions as the gateway drug to bribes. In our private financing system, candidates are trained to respond to campaign cash and serve donors' interests. Politicians are expected to spend half their time talking to funders and to keep them happy. Given this context, it's not hard to see how a bribery charge can feel like a technical argument instead of a moral one."

Richard Wolf takes his analysis a step further:

"Corruption is endemic to the capitalist system and has not been successfully regulated away. Perhaps a system change is warranted?"

The Malware-Industrial Complex Exposed

A recent article from Der Spiegel describes the NSA's gambit for "global network dominance" a term that no doubt is derived from the Pentagon's notion of "full spectrum dominance." The DoD's hyperbolic rhetoric merely reflects a broader foreign policy agenda, a pathological desire to maintain unilateral control in a world that is gradually becoming multi-polar. Recall Snowden's description of NSA programs in an open letter to Brazil:

"These programs were never about terrorism: they're about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They're about power."

As we explain in our book, Behold a Pale Farce, a veritable parade of officials, former officials, and think tank spin artists have vocally warned us of cyberwar doomsday scenarios. By directing the public's attention outward these end time myths serve to conceal the depth of America's hypocritical commitment to offensive technology. U.S. spies are neck deep in clandestine ops at home and abroad and they've been enabled by the emergence of a sprawling underground industry that develops weaponized malware and tools of mass surveillance. The resulting top-down security model undermines our collective security. Spies and their patrons stand to gain while everyone else outside of the top-secret circle is left to fend for themselves, security for the 1%.

Scott Horton in his book Lords of Secrecy accurately describes what's happening:

"The more serious threats to American democracy are internal. They stem from a steady transfer of democratic decision making and authority away from the people and to unelected elites. This has occurred both with respect to the disproportionate grasp of power by wealthy super elites, and by the rise of national security elites who increasingly take the key decisions about national security matters without involving the people in any meaningfully democratic process."

The Spiegel article says something similar:

"Intelligence agencies have adopted 'plausible deniability' as their guiding principle for Internet operations. To ensure their ability to do so, they seek to make it impossible to trace the author of the attack."

"It's a stunning approach with which the digital spies deliberately undermine the very foundations of the rule of law around the globe. This approach threatens to transform the Internet into a lawless zone in which superpowers and their secret services operate according to their own whims with very few ways to hold them accountable for their actions."

The NSA's interest in anti-forensic technology puts the Sony Hack in a whole new light, doesn't it? Yet after all of the lies we've been fed their are still people who would have us blindly accept the official narratives conveyed by high-ranking national security apparatchiks.

At this point rationally questioning what we're told is practically a civic duty. -BB(2015-01-18)

Charlie Hebdo Is a Failure of Foreign Policy, Not Security

As government officials start to once again declare "War" on terrorism Patrick Cockburn points out that providing security services with more power is a futile approach:

"Plots and conspiracies, orchestrated from abroad or home grown, conducted by well-trained jihadis or by angry young men with kitchen knives, pose threats too numerous and diverse for them all to be prevented."

"It was political leaders who got rid of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and have tried to displace Bashar al-Assad in Syria without thinking through the consequences."

And it's political leaders who supported and continue to support brutally oppressive client states in the Middle East that promote radical Islam. -BB(2015-01-11)

Update: Chris Hedges succinctly encapsulates this message:

"We have engineered the rage of the dispossessed. The evil of predatory global capitalism and empire has spawned the evil of terrorism. And rather than understand the roots of that rage and attempt to ameliorate it, we have built sophisticated mechanisms of security and surveillance, passed laws that permit the targeted assassinations and torture of the weak, and amassed modern armies and the machines of industrial warfare to dominate the world by force."

Echoed by Shamus Cooke:

"Islamic fundamentalism was virtually extinguished from 1950-1980, with Saudi Arabia and later Qatar being the last bastion and protective base of fundamentalists who were exiled from the secular countries. This dynamic was accentuated during the cold war, where the U.S. aligned itself with Islamic fundamentalism — Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states"

"The U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria have destroyed four civilizations within Muslim-majority nations. Once proud people have been crushed by war — either killed, injured, made refugees, or smothered by mass unemployment and scarcity. These are the ideal conditions for the Saudi-style Islamic fundamentalism to flourish"

Update: Who will mourn those killed in Baga? Or those civilians killed in Syrian airstrikes? Jeremy Scahill states:

"I guarantee you that very powerful individuals in Nigeria are allowing this to happen or looking the other way, similar to what happens with the Saudi royals with acts of terrorism around the world, where, on the one hand, they say, 'Oh, we’re with America, and we denounce this,' on the other hand, their cousin is one of the major funders of it."

"Every single one of those heads of state or representatives of governments there have waged their own wars against journalists."

Why Plutocrats Prefer Crisis over Growth

Conventional wisdom about economic depressions informs us that the moneyed class deplore them as the decrease in economic growth costs them income in terms of profits and interest. Political economists Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler explain the questionable underlying assumptions behind this perspective:

"Their ultimate aim is not to consume more goods and services (although that happens too), but to increase their power over others. And the key measure of this power is their distributive share of income and assets."

"Capitalism pits capitalists against other groups in society – as well as against each other. And in this multifaceted struggle for greater power, the yardstick is always relative."

"Capitalists seek not utility through consumption but more power through redistribution. And they achieve their goal not by raising investment and fueling growth, but by allowing unemployment to rise and jobs to become scarce."

Recall that some of the country's most notorious plutocrats (e.g. Howard Hughes, Joe Kennedy, J. Paul Getty) arose during the last Great Depression. An instance of what has been referred to as disaster capitalism. -BB(2014-12-28)

See also:

"Remember, this is the second time we've had a global financial crisis followed by a prolonged worldwide slump. Then, as now, any effective response to the crisis was blocked by elite demands for balanced budgets and stable currencies. And the eventual result was to deliver power into the hands of people who were, shall we say, not very nice."

CIA Report on Assasination Plots

WikiLeaks has released a classified document entitled Best Practices in Counterinsurgency. "The report weighs the pros and cons of killing 'insurgent' leaders in assassination plots. After the report was prepared, US drone strike killings rose to an all-time high."

German outlet DW notes:

"The CIA document also lists risks related to targeted assassinations, including 'strengthening an armed group's popular support with the population, radicalizing an insurgent group's remaining leaders, and creating a vacuum into which more radical groups can enter,' as well as 'provoking insurgents to alter strategy or organization in ways that favor the insurgents.'"

"Instead of always targeting the most important targets: 'a pruning approach can be used to remove effective midlevel leaders,' and 'protect incompetent leaders or restore them to positions of authority,' CIA analysts believe."

"However, the report also states that the Taliban and al Qaeda are quite successful at replacing leaders, 'especially at the middle level,' and that 'numerous al Qaeda leaders oversee external operations, minimizing the disruptive impact of individual losses, according to clandestine reports.'"

"According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, there have been 354 drone strikes in Pakistan alone targeting Taliban and al Qaeda leadership since 2009, and between 2,400 and 3,888 people have been killed in the campaign."

"Depending on the estimate, civilian casualties are believed to number from 416 to 959, including hundreds of children."

Even the CIA concedes that these programs are resulting in self-perpetuating war -BB(2014-12-19)

See Also:

"Assassination has always been an arm of US foreign policy, just as in periods of turbulence, as in the Sixties, it has always been an arm of domestic repression as well. This is true either side of the executive order, issued by president Gerald Ford in 1976, banning assassinations. 'No employee of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination,' states Executive Order 11905."

See Also: Watch the CIA Sell Death

"This clinical depiction of assassination parallels the descriptive language used by Pacific Northwest gardening newspaper columnist Marianne Binnetti when offering friendly advice to gardeners combatting botanical independence movements on the homefront,"

"The importance of this leaked report is the view it provides us of how the CIA privately talked to itself and the Executive Branch, in part aping a pose of comparative social science, as it sold a new generation of assassination campaigns designed to thwart the development of insurgent political movements challenging American military interests."

Senate Torture Report Summary Released (Updated)

The Senate's executive summary of their torture report lists 20 key findings (pages 2-16). They're enumerated (i.e. a summary of a summary) here. Pretty damning material even with redactions. Intelligence officials knowingly tortured people, lied habitually about what they did, and also lied about its effectiveness so that they could keep doing it. To this day U.S. spy masters claim they have no regrets and continue to spin propaganda in defense of their crimes.

In 1989 the CIA reported to Congress that:

"Inhumane physical or psychological techniques are counterproductive because they do not produce intelligence and will probably result in false answers"

The current CIA Director thinks otherwise, he claims that torture is a good thing:

"Our review indicates that interrogations of detainees on whom EITs [torture] were used did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives. The intelligence gained from the program was critical to our understanding of al-Qaida and continues to inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day"

In light of this Marcy Wheeler makes an important observation:

"As the Senate Armed Services Committee Report on torture... makes clear, the Bush regime embraced torture not for 'intelligence' but for 'exploitation.'... to help recruit double agents and to produce propaganda."

All told some 54 countries were involved with the CIA's program. Some hosted black sites. As you might expect, the media also played along. A myriad of laws were broken. Obama claims to confront the past while signaling that he won't prosecute anyone. Just like banking executives, intelligence officers are above the law:

"One of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better. Rather than another reason to refight old arguments, I hope that today's report can help us leave these techniques where they belong—in the past."

Witness Article 12 of the U.N. Convention Against Torture (which the U.S. ratified in 1994):

"Each State Party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committee in any territory under its jurisdiction."

This is all very telling:

"Obama's refusal to enforce this unequivocal prohibition means that torture effectively remains a policy option rather than a criminal offense"

In the end the CIA does just what it's told. As does the President. The Deep State is in charge. -BB(2014-12-09)

See Also: Globalizing Torture Report (2013)

"This report provides for the first time the number of known victims of secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations and the number of governments that were complicit. Based on credible public sources and information provided by reputable human rights organizations, this report is the most comprehensive catalogue of the treatment of 136 individuals reportedly subjected to these operations. There may be many more such individuals, but the total number will remain unknown until the United States and its partners make this information publicly available."

See Also: An Appraisal Of Technologies Of Political Control (1998)

"The objectives of this report are fourfold: (i) to provide Members of the European Parliament with a guide to recent advances in the technology of political control; (ii) to identify, analyse and describe the current state of the art of the most salient developments; (iii) to present members with an account of current trends, both in Europe and Worldwide; and (iv) to develop policy recommendations covering regulatory strategies for their management and future control."

Surveillance technology, crowd control weapons, prisoner control as a privatised industry, mark-free interrogation and torture technologies...

See Also: CIA's Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual

See Also: U.S. Army Military Intelligence Battalion Interrogation Manual

Glenn Greenwald Neglects Cypherpunk History

In a recent Intercept piece Glenn Greenwald endorsed the commercial-grade encryption advertised by Google and Apple:

"It is well-established that, prior to the Snowden reporting, Silicon Valley companies were secret, eager and vital participants in the growing Surveillance State. Once their role was revealed, and they perceived those disclosures threatening to their future profit-making, they instantly adopted a PR tactic of presenting themselves as Guardians of Privacy. Much of that is simply self-serving re-branding, but some of it, as I described last week, are genuine improvements in the technological means of protecting user privacy, such as the encryption products now being offered by Apple and Google, motivated by the belief that, post-Snowden, parading around as privacy protectors is necessary to stay competitive."

So, it's all hype with the exception of "genuine" countermeasures like encryption. History illustrates the risky nature of this stance. Read my full response here. Beware of illusory, underhanded, magic acts. -BB(2014-12-06)

Update: Julian Assange likewise promotes encryption in a New York Times op-ed.

Egypt Sentences 188 To Die

After dropping charges against deposed President Hosni Mubarak Egyptian courts continue to hand out death sentences on an industrial scale:

"In the third such mass sentencing in less than a year, an Egyptian court on Tuesday condemned a group of nearly 200 defendants to die after a single mass trial in the killing of a handful of police officers during a riot last year."

Will President Obama claim to be "appalled"? Of course not. As Marilyn Vogt-Downey explains it helps to remember that American foreign policy doesn't mean well:

"It was, thus, not a revolution that occurred in 2011 with the overthrow of Mubarak, but a 'regime change,' a frequent goal of such elaborate and well-resourced US imperialist operations. The US State Department has unlimited funds as do Google and the other capitalist collaborators, who operate as a well-integrated engine of the Pentagon and the US State Department–they are, in really, a single entity."

A reminder that U.S. leaders have no scruples when it comes to working with authoritarian regimes or terrorists. In the end alleged values (e.g. freedom, democracy) espoused by the "shining city on a hill" take a back seat to powerful corporate interests. -BB(2014-12-03)

Update: Glenn Greenwald recalls how Hillary Clinton claimed that "I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family." The democrats are just as guilty as the republicans: oligarchy is bipartisan.

CIA-Trained Forces In Syria Work With al-Qaeda

The Associated Press reports:

"Syrian rebels backed by the United States are making their biggest gains yet south of the capital Damascus, capturing a string of towns from government forces and aiming to carve out a swath of territory leading to the doorstep of President Bashar Assad's seat of power... The rebel forces are believed to include fighters who graduated from a nearly 2-year-old CIA training program based in Syria's southern neighbor Jordan... the rebels are working together with fighters from al-Qaida's Syria branch, whose battle-hardened militants have helped them gain the momentum against government forces."

One netizen comments:

"I find it quite astonishing that there is not any critical reporting in the Main Stream Media about this quite direct U.S. cooperation with al-Qaeda."

Building up enemies is necessary to keep the war machine fed. -BB(2014-11-29)

Update: CIA-Trained Rebels Not Subject to Leahy Law

"Because the Syrian rebels will not be part of a state-sponsored force, the laws will not apply, U.S. officials said. Instead, the alternate screening plan was developed under Army Maj. Gen. Michael K. Nagata, commander of CENTCOM’s special operations component."

Somehow CIA trained/equipped mercenaries aren't "state-sponsored", offering the CIA the ability to put itself beyond the law (once again).

Drone Killings Anything But Targeted

CIA director John Brennan speaks of applying "targeted, surgical pressure" to terrorists. Yet reality stands in stark contrast to Brennan's cool assurances:

"A new analysis of the data available to the public about drone strikes, conducted by the human-rights group Reprieve, indicates that even when operators target specific individuals – the most focused effort of what Barack Obama calls 'targeted killing' – they kill vastly more people than their targets, often needing to strike multiple times. Attempts to kill 41 men resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,147 people, as of 24 November."

On top of that propaganda factories like USA Today inflate the threat of ISIS attacks against the United States. Dave Lindorff offers an effective antidote:

""How serious a risk do these perhaps dozens of IS fighters with US passports pose to the security of American citizens here in the US? Probably not much. Certainly no more of a risk than that posed by some of the hundreds of thousands of frustrated and angry US soldiers who are shipped off to fight America's imperial wars, only to find out later that they have been simply enforcers of US imperialism, and that the buddies they lost, or the limbs or parts of their brains that they themselves lost, were sacrificed not to 'protect America's freedom,' but to make the world safe for Exxon, Goldman Sachs and RJ Reynolds, or to enrich the likes of Boeing, Litton Industries and Halliburton.""

The Deep State is champing at the bit to dive into the next round of perpetual war. -BB(2014-11-26)

The Neoliberal "Disimagination Machine"

Corporate money has done much more than capture our republic. The Mighty Wurlitzer of mind-warping propaganda has infiltrated our cultural and social systems, crippling our ability to envision a new way of doing things:

"The 'disimagination machine' is both a set of cultural apparatuses extending from schools and mainstream media to an idiotic celebrity culture and advertising apparatus that functions primarily to undermine the ability of individuals to think critically, imagine the unimaginable, and engage in thoughtful and critical dialogue. Put simply, to become critically informed citizens of the world."

This is a lengthy treatment but it's well worth the effort. In the spirit of the 1971 Powell Memo the moneyed elite are using a multifaceted approach to consolidate control. -BB(2014-11-24)

Glenn Greenwald Blames The Hostage

In his latest piece at the Intercept Glenn Greenwald posits that governments "don’t walk around trying to figure out how to limit their own power." Instead he advocates relying on consumer demand to solve the failings of cyber security. This is very telling. That we turn to corporate interests to protect us.

Yet our government cedes power and authority on a regular basis, and corporations pathologically lure customers with clever marketing without actually providing better security. Indeed this is how the hi-tech industry has operated for years. The techno-libertarians are masters of security theater. Profits can be decoupled from genuine security in a society defined by secrecy, propaganda, and state capture.

Read my full response to Greenwald here (there's also an HTML version at Counterpunch). Let's hope Mr. Greenwald responds like an adult. -BB(2014-11-21)

Henry Giroux adds the following:

"What is odd about Greenwald's piece is that he has no understanding of how traditional state sovereignty has given way to corporate sovereignty or for that matter how under neoliberalism power is global and politics is local. Corporations are the problem in that they are the life line for a form of casino capitalism in which capital is all that matters and market fundamentalism is the template for governing not merely economics but all of social life. What is at stake here is imagining a notion of democracy that is not compatible with capitalism."

This article should illustrate what Giroux is talking about:

"From 2007 to 2012, the two hundred most politically active corporations in the United States spent almost $6 billion for lobbying and campaign contributions. And they received more than $4 trillion in US government contracts and other forms of assistance. That's $760 for every dollar spent on influence, a stunning return on investment."

See Also:

"The notion that the only obligation of citizenship is consumerism is morally bankrupt and politically reactionary. It is degrading to claim that people simply need to be shoppers to fulfill their role as citizens. This ideological monstrosity both undermines any viable notion of citizenship and makes a mockery of democracy."

Neoliberal Whistleblowing

Tarzie laments the corporate takeover of both Snowden's documents and the surrounding narrative:

"Here we have a public resource in the form of government documents affecting everyone on earth and paid for by the good people of the United States, the only complete cache of which has been effectively privatized, by a bunch of rich white people, mostly dudes, who are also touting the private sector as the vessel of our deliverance from state surveillance evil. Yay Apple! Yay Google! Yay Whisper Systems! All of it wrapped in a tightly controlled, corporate mediated, relentlessly commodified narrative that is as much, if not more, about the self-actualization of the whistleblower and members of his inner circle as the global violation of human rights by the United States government."

Business interests are keen to cast themselves as the solution to mass surveillance when the reality is that they're central to the problem! -BB(2014-11-19)

Columbia Researchers Defeat Tor

More bad news for the Tor project, per this paper:

"Our method revealed the actual sources of anonymous traffic with 100% accuracy for the in-lab tests, and achieved an overall accuracy of about 81.4% for the real-world experiments, with an average false positive rate of 6.4%"

Given the resources they throw at subversion the NSA probably already has an equivalent approach. Perhaps this explains all of the animosity and juvenile outcry from Tor developers?

"Curiously, not a single one of these critics disputed the facts in the story. There wasn’t a single factual error they could point to; so instead, they took to a range of familiar PR smear tactics—tactics one usually sees used by oil company PR flacks, but not by privacy hacktivists. First, they flooded social media telling anyone who showed interest in my article that they should ignore it; then when that didn’t work and the article caught fire, they tried to discredit it with crude insults, misdirection, and outright lies, even going as far as to claim that I’m funded by the CIA. From my experience, when your article produces bizarre hostile reactions like this it means you've hit on something important."

Attacking the messenger is an age-old tactic of the desperate. Hats off to truth tellers. -BB(2014-11-15)

Update: The Tor team's response is dismissive, "traffic correlation attacks are not a new area." A weak counter argument and a sign that things are not looking well in light of an adversary (Five Eyes) that dominates the Internet.

EFF Plugs The Senate's USA Freedom Act, Loses More Credibility

After recognizing that Skype might not be as secure as Microsoft claims, the Electronic Frontier Foundation turns around and places its full support behind the Senate's version of the USA Freedom Act:

"While Leahy's version of the USA Freedom Act may have some flaws... We urge you to contact your senator and tell them to support the USA Freedom Act."

The Sunlight Foundation and a group of well-known whistleblowers beg to differ:

"The Senate version of the USA FREEDOM Act is a problematic answer to an enormous problem... The USA FREEDOM Act legalizes currently illegal surveillance activities, grants broad immunity to corporations that are undercutting our right to privacy, fails to reform other authorities used to collect bulk/bulky information about Americans and everyone else in the world, and reauthorizes the PATRIOT Act for another 2.5 years."

Recall how Julian Assange noted that the EFF is funded heavily by Google. The USA Freedom Act is evidence that NSA reform is largely theater performed by lawmakers too scared of the Deep State to take substantive action. -BB(2014-11-11)

Operation Onymous Casts Doubt on Tor

European and American officials have been busy taking down hundreds of Tor-protected services:

"In all, the agency says it's seized 414 '.onion' domains, the web addresses used by the anonymity software Tor that hides the physical location of those sites’ servers"

Thus affirming John Young's prescient statement on the folly of comsec:

"The most widely trusted and promoted systems are the most likely to be penetrated, exploited, spied upon, successfully attacked, covertly compromised with faults hidden by promoters, operators, competitors, compromisers and attackers all of whom warn against the others while mutually benefiting from continuous alarms about security and privacy."

Don't say I didn't warn about this. Read the full essay here. -BB(2014-11-08)

Former NSA General Counsel Does a Corporate Tap Dance

Yesterday the Guardian published an article where former NSA lawyer Stewart Baker described the relationship between hi-tech and goverment spies as being adversarial:

"The state department has funded some of these tools, such as Tor, which has been used in Arab Spring revolutions or to get past the Chinese firewall, but these crypto wars are mainly being fought between the American government and American companies"

As with Comey and Hannigan, this is yet another performance by officials to push the focus towards overt backdoors (key escrow, a zombie idea) and draw attention away from covert backdoors (zero-day flaws). Private sector collaboration continues unabated despite the kabuki theater of alleged resistance. Over 70% of the Intel Budget goes to corporate players and the U.S. hosts a data broker industry that dwarfs the NSA. So for all intents and purposes it's not unreasonable to view our government's surveillance apparatus as a public sector appendage of a much larger corporate system.

History shows very clearly that our foreign policy works to benefit elite interests and that intelligence services dutifully follow orders. Mass interception, as well as the mass subversion that enables mass interception, are instruments of this agenda. -BB(2014-11-05)

Hacking Team Remote Control System (RCS) Manuals

The press is finally starting to recognize the power of subversion, dispelling the notion that strong encryption is a panacea. Today a report by The Intercept says as much:

"When Apple and Google unveiled new encryption schemes last month, law enforcement officials complained that they wouldn't be able to unlock evidence on criminals' digital devices. What they didn't say is that there are already methods to bypass encryption, thanks to off-the-shelf digital implants readily available to the smallest national agencies and the largest city police forces — easy-to-use software that takes over and monitors digital devices in real time"

As I've warned earlier, the faux cries of protest by FBI James Comey about the FBI "going dark" are entirely theater as are most gestures towards reforming our intelligence services. The American Deep State is running rampant and there is very little that our political leaders can do about it (after all, they're just the hired help). If history is any indicator I doubt if mere "reform" will be sufficient. -BB(2014-10-30)

Related: The FBI will use similar tools (built in-house or purchased) to defeat encryption. James Comey is misrepresenting the level of protection afforded by strong crypto.

Serpico's Lessons Instruct NSA Reform

Politico has posted an essay by Frank Serpico (entitled "The Police Are Still Out of Control") and while most of his observations dwell upon recent events in Ferguson another way to view this article is from the vantage point of addressing much larger institutionally entrenched organizations like the NSA and CIA. Power dynamics, you see, recur at varying levels of granularity.

For example, Serpico laments:

"I went successively to the inspector's office, the mayor's office and the district attorney. They each promised me action and didn't deliver. The lobbying power of the police was too strong. I discovered that I was all but alone in a world of institutionalized graft"

"It's the same old problem of political power talking, and it doesn't matter that both the president and his attorney general are African-American. Corruption is color blind. Money and power corrupt, and they are color blind too."

Faced with leaked documents our political class will likewise offer optimistic reassurances in public while also failing to deliver anything that threatens the global surveillance apparatus. Deep State capture goes to the top of the food chain. I imagine Otis Pike or Frank Church penning an article entitled "The Spies Are Still Out of Control." Society needs more than just reform. -BB(2014-10-24)

Surveillance Reform Theater

The FBI wants to bring back key escrow. Bruce Schneier offers a biting retort:

"All the FBI talk about 'going dark' and losing the ability to solve crimes is absolute bullshit. There is absolutely no evidence, either statistically or even anecdotally, that criminals are going free because of encryption."

Why, pray tell, would James Comey promote a strategy like key escrow that has already been utterly refuted and is unlikely to be accepted by lawmakers?

I'd argue that what we're witnessing is largely theater, efforts that offer the impression that legal issues are being contemplated without actually challenging the surveillance state. Officials pretend to "do something" while keeping the global panopticon firmly in place and catering to their corporate masters.

James Comey understands much of this. Like other officials (e.g. Keith Alexander, James Clapper, John Brennan, and President Obama) he has absolutely no shame when it comes to brazenly telling lies. Politicians are born actors with latent talent for the national stage. -BB(2014-10-21)

Covert Agencies, Democracy, and Ed Snowden

As classified documents trickle into the public eye spymasters are well aware that they likely face nothing more than band aid reform. That is, if emerging distractions don’t preclude change entirely. What happened to Diane Roark can be interpreted as a litmus test, an indicator that congressional leaders have been co-opted. The type of pervasive compromise that enables the CIA to spy on Senators and subsequently receive the full confidence of the chief executive. The fingerprints of the American Deep State are unmistakable.

All told Admiral Mike Rogers and CIA director John Brennan probably see the Snowden affair as a mere public relations issue. Nothing more.

What really threatens government spies is the notion that society doesn't need them or their machinations. That clandestine groups which undermine our collective cyber-security, manipulate the media, foment regime change, and wield a global panopticon are intrinsically dangerous to the republic despite construed external threats to national security. Recall how President Truman regretted turning the CIA "into peacetime cloak and dagger operations."

In this regard the former CIA operative named Edward Snowden largely colors within the lines, plugging for spy-friendly reform without striking at the root. –BB(2014-10-14)

Read the full essay here. I hope Ed does.

Related: to create the perception that they're "doing something" officials and executives are primarily engaged in Surveillance Reform Theater.

Happy Bartolomé de las Casas Day

The Oatmeal does an outstanding job of covering Columbus Day:

"Good ol' Chris Columbus: sex slaver, mass murderer, and champion of sociopathic imperialism, has his own holiday."

"They ... brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks' bells. They willingly traded everything they owned... . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features.... They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane... . They would make fine servants.... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want."

Howard Zinn's Chapter on Columbus should be mandatory reading for elementary school students so that they understand the true face of empire. -BB(2014-10-13)

Former Editor Admits CIA Manipulation

The former editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of Germany's larger papers has come forward to admit that he worked closely with the CIA. Udo Ulfkotte indicates that U.S. intelligence is set on fomenting military conflict with Russia:

"This is a point of no return, and I am going to stand up and say... it is not right what I have done in the past, to manipulate people, to make propaganda against Russia, and it is not right what my colleagues do, and have done in the past, because they are bribed to betray the people not only in Germany, all over Europe. ...I am very fearful of a new war in Europe, and I don't like to have this situation again, because war is never coming from itself, there is always people who push for war, and this is not only politicians, it is journalists too. ...We have betrayed our readers, just to push for war. ...I don't want this anymore; I’m fed up with this propaganda. We live in a banana republic, and not in a democratic country where we have press freedom"

Yet another data point which rienforces the notion that the CIA is playing a much larger role than the corporate media is depicting. -BB(2014-10-09)

Related: NSA Operatives in Foreign Countries. NSA "Core Secrets" ECI Programs Revealed:

"The National Security Agency has had agents in China, Germany, and South Korea working on programs that use 'physical subversion' to infiltrate and compromise networks and devices"

"The most controversial revelation in Sentry Eagle might be a fleeting reference to the NSA infiltrating clandestine agents into 'commercial entities.'"

"The ACLU's Soghoian said technology executives are already deeply concerned about the prospect of clandestine agents on the payroll to gain access to highly sensitive data, including encryption keys, that could make the NSA's work 'a lot easier.'"

As I've said before, crypto is no panacea in the face of subversion! -BB(2014-10-11)

Bill Black on The Deep State's Overlords

Former regulator Bill Black was on Moyers & Company a couple of days ago reminding viewers that bank executives were at the heart of the 2008 financial collapse (via Control Fraud). As with our intelligence services, Black laments that the plutocrats of the financial class are often above the law:

"There is no justifiable reason [for not prosecuting bankers]... We prosecuted successfully over 1,000 bankers in the savings and loan and bank crises."

"If you want to create the next crisis and make it vastly worse, leave the people in charge who led the frauds in the senior ranks at the banks in charge of those banks. So now they have all the postgraduate education in how to run a fraud."

He points to state capture as a primary enabler. In a nutshell, the parasitic rentiers of the banking industry can afford to buy what they want:

"The problem definitely comes from the top. And remember, Obama wouldn't have been president but for the financial contribution of bankers."

Looking forward Black isn't optimistic:

"We have created the incentive structures that is going to produce a much larger disaster. And just look at it. Again it isn't just the frauds that led to the crisis. It is all the frauds afterwards. HSBC knowingly launders over $1 billion in funds for the Sinaloa cartel, one of the most vicious drug cartels in the world that has caused the deaths of thousands of people."

"Standard Chartered, one of the, again one of the largest banks in the world, not only evaded sanctions on funding terrorist groups and nations that we say are funding terror, but actually had training manuals on how to deceive the United States regulators."

Bankers are the high-level architects of our current economic system, the technocratic vanguard of the neoliberal revolution. It's all about opening up new markets, accessing resources, and generating debt. This relatively small subset defines the core financial infrastructure that the American Deep State serves. -BB(2014-10-05)

Perpetual War, An Intended Outcome

A number of writers have pointed out the contradictory nature of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), that alleged efforts to stamp out terrorism only creates more terrorists. An essay by David Mizner published in Jacobin explains that perpetual war may not be accidental:

"How much death and destruction would American terror warriors have to cause before their ostensible opponents rejected their claims of noble intent? During the thirteen years of the 'war on terror,' actions of the United States government have consistently and predictably strengthened anti-American terrorist groups. To chalk this all up to stupidity — rather than unstated imperial imperatives — is to choose ignorance."

Mizner further asserts that what's developed isn't exactly the product of a conspiracy but rather the logical, structural, result of elites seeking to further their own economic interests:

"Corporate chieftains, pro-war pundits, and political leaders didn't huddle in a room and plot to keep the war going. They didn't have to; the process drives itself as elites fulfill their wants."

"The United States bombed Libya as part of a larger military buildup... The reason the US strengthened the jihadist groups trying to overthrow Assad... The Syrian regime is an ally of Iran... It wasn't until ISIS threatened Irbil in Kurdistan, an oil capitol, that the United States started to bomb ISIS"

History has demonstrated that U.S. policy makers have no problem with jihadists as long as their goals don't contravene those of U.S. elites:

"The US has killed hundreds of thousands of people in the name of fighting terrorism. The war is all too real. But it's also fake. There is no clash of civilizations, no ideological battle, no grand effort on the part of the United States to defeat terrorism. As long as terrorism doesn't threaten core US interests, American elites are content to allow it — and help it — flourish. They don't want to win this war. It will go on forever, unless we make them end it."

The real victors in this never-ending conflict are the private-sector forces that stand behind the American Deep State: the defense industry, the fossil fuel companies, and the banks. -BB(2014-10-04)

Related: Greenwald echoes this message.

"This war – in all its ever-changing permutations – thus enables an endless supply of power and profit to flow to those political and economic factions that control the government regardless of election outcomes."

Regulatory Capture By The Banks

In my presentation on cyber espionage I note that the plutocrats of Wall Street own U.S. political leadership, federal regulators, and the rating agencies. Today This American Life offers up additional evidence. For example, in the wake of the 2008 collapse the New York Fed asked a columbia professor, David Beim, to examine why regulation had failed so badly:

"Dudley gave Beim a team of Fed managers and they went around interviewing people at the New York Fed. And what they found were a whole range of problems, all of them distressing to read about. They found deference to the banks, they found an unwillingness to take action, extreme passivity, and they found what experts call 'regulatory capture.'"

On an aside, Willem Buiter actually also used the term "regulatory capture" earlier in a 2008 paper. Anyway, in response to Beim's report the Fed hired a bunch of new people and one of these hires was a lawyer named Carmen Segarra. What she found echoed Beim's report:

"What I was sort of seeing and experiencing was this level of deference to the banks. This level of fear. And just not really showing a lot of interest in putting two and two together. It's not like we would walk out of a meeting and they would be like 'Oh my God, when they said that, what did that mean? Let's go research it.' It was like 'Oh well, next meeting.'"

Segarra has tape recordings that corroborate her assertion. Bankers have the resources and ability to reward those who serve them. As long as this is true regulation will likely continue to be a parody of what it should be. -BB(2014-09-26)

Update: In an extended postmortem Yves Smith comments on the sorry state of journalism:

"Most journalists are afraid to rock the access journalism boat and do real sleuthing, and to make up for that, they'll pile onto a story where someone else has taken the risk, in this case Segarra by making her tapes public. And while their release proves Segarra to be as credible as she appeared to be from her court filings, it remains to be seen whether she can really come out a winner. Reputable institutions close their ranks against people who refuse to knuckle under to pressure to conform"

Arabs & U.S. Bomb Syria, Manufacture Enemies

The United States with the help of Gulf State actors like Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has launched a wave of air strikes against targets in Syria. Professor Vijay Prashad dispenses a couple of useful insights:

"The fact that no air defense system from Syria had engaged any of the American planes or drones is indicative that there was some kind of coordination."

"They are currently, as I said, attacking in northern Syria. So where the strikes happened were not exactly where their main fighting forces are right now based."

"The real solution in the region is going to come from some kind of grand bargain between Iran and Saudi Arabia. These two countries have been at each other's throats since 1979."

That last observation is particularly salient. There are powerful undercurrents that drive the Middle East's multi-tiered proxy battles. As long as American foreign policy ignores these factors military action will only make things worse.

Glenn Greenwald concludes that this dysfunctional approach is part of an intentional strategy to feed the defense industry:

"The U.S. has known for years that what fuels and strengthens anti-American sentiment (and thus anti-American extremism) is exactly what they keep doing: aggression in that region. If you know that, then they know that. At this point, it's more rational to say they do all of this not despite triggering those outcomes, but because of it. Continuously creating and strengthening enemies is a feature, not a bug. It is what justifies the ongoing greasing of the profitable and power-vesting machine of Endless War."

Keep in mind that the ensuing destruction weakens targeted countries so that they're less likely to resist the overtures of fossil fuel players and the banks which back their projects. It's the Deep State model for neocolonialism. -BB(2014-09-23)

Are Google and Apple On Your Side Against The NSA?

Both companies have scored headlines in the Washington Post about their device-level encryption. But will this technology really protect you against NSA warrants? Leaked documents indicate otherwise. Read the full essay here. Keep in mind that corporate spies and government spies converge in the corridors of the Deep State. -BB(2014-09-22)

Related: Andy Greenberg reminds readers that courts can still hand out jail time in an effort to acquire passwords.

Related: Apple has a history of Inflating security claims.

Please understand that this is the same company that has absolutely no qualms about using slave labor. Do you honestly believe that civil liberties are anything other than a marketing strategy? If leaks had never revealed Apple's complicity with NSA surveillance then you can bet that executives wouldn't give civil liberties a passing thought. They're too busy rolling around in all that money. -BB(2014-09-23)

Yahoo's Innocent Victim Narrative

The Washington Post has reported that the U.S. government threatened Yahoo with a "massive" $250,000 per day fine if the company failed to hand over user data to the NSA. Observers have depicted Yahoo's legal activity as part of an ongoing "battle" with the government. The company's general counsel has also stated:

"Users come first at Yahoo. We treat public safety with the utmost seriousness, but we are also committed to protecting users' data. We will continue to contest requests and laws that we consider unlawful, unclear, or overbroad."

This coverage creates the impression that Yahoo is an intrepid champion of human rights. But is this really the case? Is filing a law suit really the best that Yahoo could've done? Lavabit’s founder, Ladar Levison, decided that he’d rather shutter his business when confronted with government demands for information. Keep in mind that in the past Yahoo has cooperated with the Chinese government, handing over information of political dissidents who were subsequently imprisoned and tortured. Are these the actions of a company that "battles" for civil liberties? Or perhaps they indicate that executives are more interested in obeying the law to maintain quarterly profits? -BB(2014-09-18)

The Rise of ISIS and The Hegelian Dialectic - Part II

John Pilger offers a brief glimpse into the early origins of what currently manifests itself as ISIS. The CIA's fingerprints are everywhere:

"Modern jihadism was invented by US and Britain, assisted by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The original aim was to use and develop an Islamic fundamentalism that had barely existed in much of the Arab world in order to undermine pan-Arab movements and secular governments. By the 1980s, this had become a weapon to destroy the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The CIA called it Operation Cyclone; and a cyclone it turned out to be, with its unleashed fury blowing back in the faces of its creators."

Details of more recent ISIS history are provided in a lengthy treatment by Nafeez Ahmed:

"Classified assessments of the military assistance supplied by US allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar obtained by the New York Times showed that “most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups... are going to hardline Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups that the West wants to bolster."

"By the SSG's own conservative estimate, as much as 15% of rebel fighters are Islamists affiliated to al-Qaeda, either through the Jabhut al-Nusra faction, or its breakaway group ISIS. But privately, Pentagon officials estimate that 'more than 50%' of the FSA is comprised of Islamist extremists, and according to rebel sources neither FSA chief Gen Salim Idris nor his senior aides engage in much vetting, decisions about which are made typically by local commanders."

As you may have guessed, it's about oil and what's taking place looks an awful lot like a strategy of divide and plunder:

"Equally important, Washington would be able to justify its long-term and heavy military presence in the region as necessary for the defense of a young new state asking for US protection – and to secure the stability of oil markets and supplies. That in turn would help the United States gain direct control of Iraqi oil and replace Saudi oil in case of conflict with Riyadh"

The United States has shown a talent for creating its own enemies, hence justifying perpetual military spending and weakening the Middle East on behalf of the oil industry. -BB(2014-09-17)

Update Harvard's Garikai Chengu provides more context:

"There are essentially three wars being waged in Syria: one between the government and the rebels, another between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and yet another between America and Russia. It is this third, neo-Cold War battle that made U.S. foreign policy makers decide to take the risk of arming Islamist rebels in Syria, because Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, is a key Russian ally. Rather embarrassingly, many of these Syrian rebels have now turned out to be ISIS thugs, who are openly brandishing American-made M16 Assault rifles."

"America’s Middle East policy revolves around oil and Israel. The invasion of Iraq has partially satisfied Washington's thirst for oil, but ongoing air strikes in Syria and economic sanctions on Iran have everything to do with Israel. The goal is to deprive Israel's neighbouring enemies, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Palestine's Hamas, of crucial Syrian and Iranian support."

ISIS Plan Will Foment Terrorism

After declaring that the United States has no strategy with regard to ISIS, within a matter of days the President has fleshed out a multi-phased agenda which entails U.S. military involvement:

"The first phase, an air campaign with nearly 145 airstrikes in the past month, is already underway..."

"The next phase... intensified effort to train, advise or equip the Iraqi military, Kurdish fighters and possibly members of Sunni tribes"

"The final... — destroying the terrorist army in its sanctuary inside Syria — ...some Pentagon planners envision a military campaign lasting at least 36 months."

The defense industry heard this and likely celebrated; an approach that will create even more enemies because it fails to account for the factors that motivate militant jihadism:

"They thought the far enemy—the U.S., they called the 'far enemy'—was the one that had to be hit, because it was the U.S. that was supporting all these dictators in the Arab world, and therefore better to hit the far enemy. And then, after the U.S. came into the Middle East in the Iraq War to liberate Kuwait, and then the U.S. stayed, troops in Saudi Arabia, then the United States became the main enemy because, again, like the Russians in Afghanistan, it was a foreign army in Arab or Islamic lands, and therefore it had to be driven out."

"So the problem is that all these Arab countries are in the same dilemma that the U.S. is in, which is their autocracy, their mistreatment of their citizens, created this problem over the years, and American militarism, from the American perspective, is also part of the impetus that expands this problem. So, combining American militarism with Arab dictatorships is probably the stupidest recipe that anybody could possibly come up with to try to fight jihadi movements like al-Qaeda and Islamic State and others, because it was that combination of Arab autocracy and American militarism that actually nurtured and let these movements expand"

Echoes of Hegel's dialectic. U.S. foreign policy tends to manufactures its own enemies, intentionally or through sheer incompetence. Either way the corporate interests behind the Deep State win. -BB(2014-09-08)

Update: Obama Panders to Elites

"In an effort to win over elite opinion before a speech to the nation this week on Iraq and Syria, President Obama played host at a White House dinner on Monday evening for a bipartisan group of prominent foreign policy experts."

These are the people who matter to POTUS, the corporate money they represent are his true constituents.

The Holes in NATO's Cyber Defense Pledge

Today the New York Times published an op-ed letter which I composed a couple of days ago.

The moral of the story is this: when high-level Pentagon types start yammering about cyberattacks from Russia or China keep in mind that our security services are neck deep in deception ops (their own classified documents boast about it). History shows that the American Deep State is constantly in search of new enemies and its corporate rulers have no scruples about launching attacks which kill untold thousands of innocent people so that they can boost quarterly profits. -BB(2014-09-04)

Update: The editors limit submissions to about 150-words, so I've posted a longer version of my letter here.

Putin's Remarks on Iraq, Ukraine

Vladimir calls out the American Deep State, commenting on our failed state model for resource extraction married with the elite's zero-sum game of perpetual war:

"Do you remember the joke: 'Whatever Russians make, they always end up with a Kalashnikov?' I get an impression that whatever Americans touch they always end up with Libya or Iraq"

See also:

"I think no one is thinking of unleashing a large-scale conflict with Russia. I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers"

This explains why the Cold War targeted third-world countries. The U.S. elite prefer "manageable" regional conflicts. Feed the war machine without the threat of nuclear escalation. -BB(2014-08-30)

Related: Kissinger confuses 'order' with 'hegemony.' Naturally the Wall Street Journal publishes this apologia for empire.

The Rise of ISIS and The Hegelian Dialectic

An essay by Patrick Cockburn, exerpted from his new book, describes how the United States lost the War on Terror. Here are a few choice snippets:

"By continuing these contradictory policies in two countries, the U.S. has ensured that ISIS can reinforce its fighters in Iraq from Syria and vice versa. So far, Washington has been successful in escaping blame for the rise of ISIS by putting all the blame on the Iraqi government."

"In 2009, eight years after 9/11, a cable from the U.S. secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, revealed by WikiLeaks, complained that donors in Saudi Arabia constituted the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide."

"The 'war on terror' has failed because it did not target the jihadi movement as a whole and, above all, was not aimed at Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the two countries that fostered jihadism as a creed and a movement. The U.S. did not do so because these countries were important American allies whom it did not want to offend. Saudi Arabia is an enormous market for American arms, and the Saudis have cultivated, and on occasion purchased, influential members of the American political establishment. Pakistan is a nuclear power with a population of 180 million and a military with close links to the Pentagon."

The defense industry is ecstatic, selling heavy ordinance to destroy U.S. weaponry left behind by the Iraqi army which is now being wielded by CIA-armed jihadists. Likewise, a partitioned Iraq will have diminished bargaining power to the greater glory of the oil barons. It's the new failed state model for corporate imperialism draped in faux humanitarian concerns.

Hegel's model lives on: control the nature of the conflict and you can manipulate its final outcome. Supply and fund both sides: cognitive dissonance or a fixed fight? Either way the Middle East will endure a self-perpetuating regional conflict that churns on forever. War is peace as Orwell's book described. -BB(2014-08-21)

Update: an echo from Greenwald:

"U.S. military action in that region virtually never fulfills the stated goals (nor is it intended to do so), and achieves little other than justifying endless military action for its own sake."

Update: And another from Jan Oberg:

"The Western world including Denmark has the enemies it has created by itself. And, in reality, not many others."

Snowden Shows His Hand

In an interview with James Bamford published by Wired Ed Snowden asserts that:

"We have the means and we have the technology to end mass surveillance without any legislative action at all, without any policy changes... By basically adopting changes like making encryption a universal standard—where all communications are encrypted by default—we can end mass surveillance not just in the United States but around the world."

The fact that he blatantly ignores the problem of subversion is very telling. It hints at a libertarian perspective with its contempt for government. Who needs political solutions when you can just download an App? This is a mindset that would definitely make Pierre Omidyar some money.

Yet as history has shown technology can be subverted (witness the Heartbleed vulnerability), and shared class interest encourages [secret] cooperation between executives and spies. The only way to really put a stop to this is by changing the ground rules by which companies and intelligence agencies operate under. Though there are technical and economic aspects, fundamentally this is a political problem. -BB(2014-08-13)

Extended Commentary: See this Counterpunch essay.

Related: Agee vs. Snowden

Notice Agee's emphasis on a political solution while Snowden thinks that using strong crypto will be sufficient. Tarzie comments:

"Agee's statement about how capitalism requires a security apparatus is undeniably true and one needn't betray the CIA or be super informed to figure that out. It's also something that you will never hear Snowden, Greenwald or any of their more highly placed admirers and colleagues say."

Cornering the Market on Zero-Day Exploits

Taken from a Slash-Dot post that a reader has directed my attention to:

"Kim Zetter of Wired Magazine has recently covered Dan Geer's keynote speech at Black Hat USA. In his lengthy address Geer, representing the CIA's venture funding arm, suggested that one way that the United States government could improve cyber security would be to use its unparalleled budget to buy up all the underground's zero-day vulnerabilities."

Geer is a gifted speaker and his rhetoric borders on art. But the basic idea of cornering the market is dangerously flawed. Though it is predictable if you understand the nature of the Deep State and the private sector interests that it caters to. My formal response to Mr. Geer is here. -BB(2014-08-08)

This is priceless: Rudyard Kipling presciently countered Geer's proposition close to a century ago. With homage to VUPEN and the software developers at Microsoft, allow me to introduce the poem "Dane-Geld."

The CIA Spied on Senate Computers

This is a truly grave warning sign:

"In a statement issued Thursday morning, a C.I.A. spokesman said that agency's inspector general had concluded that C.I.A. officers had acted inappropriately by gaining access to the computers."

Despite the CIA's best effort to deny it. What happens to checks and balances when the executive branch spies on the other two branches? Friends, it's called the Deep State. -BB(2014-07-31)

Update: Calls for resignation emerge. Note how the White House backs Brennan. Our whole intelligence systems needs fundamental structural reform, firing a CIA director would only be cosmetic. But a house-cleaning would be a good start...

Related: Jeff Moss and his ilk provide a platform for the Deep State to broadcast its propaganda.

Update : The fact that POTUS has stated that John Brennan has his "full confidence" should be seen as the canary in the coal mine dropping dead.

"Leaving Clapper, and especially Brennan, in office is the ultimate surrender by Congress of what little remains of democratic government in the US. It is the end of the Constitution. If secret government cannot be called to account, then the country is being run by a secret government whose power no longer has any limits."

"There are ways to recover government of, by and for the people, but they are no longer likely to involve elections, since secret government has the power to subvert elections. If Brennan and Clapper can get away with what they have thus far gotten away with — not just thumbing their noses at Congress, but actually spying on its members with impunity — then the only way to take back popular government remains overthrowing those in power, dragging them before public tribunals, and administering people's justice, whatever form that may ultimately take."

NSA Links With Saudi Arabia

The United States tries very hard to provide the veneer of a liberal democracy by relegating practices like torture to secret prisons in other countries. Yesterday The Intercept released a top secret memo which proves that the NSA is providing direct support to Saudi Arabia, a country that the State Department openly admits is a police state. The Intercept article states:

"The NSA's formal 'Third Party' relationship with the Saudis involves arming the MOI with highly advanced surveillance technology. The NSA 'provides technical advice on SIGINT topics such as data exploitation and target development to TAD,' the memo says, 'as well as a sensitive source collection capability.'"

"The Saudi Ministry of Defense also relies on the NSA for help with 'signals analysis equipment upgrades, decryption capabilities and advanced training on a wide range of topics.' The document states that while the NSA 'is able to respond to many of those requests, some must be denied due to the fact that they place sensitive SIGINT equities at risk.'"

Once again our leaders show that elite interests trump our alleged democratic values. When push comes to shove the U.S. reveals the face of empire. -BB(2014-07-26)

Crypto, Cure-Alls, and State Capture

Shava Nerad, the founding executive director of the Tor project, contacted me about my recent article on Tor. I've offered a public response here.

If you read the comment section below Yasha Levine's piece on Tor you'll see that Shava jumps into the discussion early and points out that one of the most effective tools of an activist is their ability to reach out towards members of the establishment and win them over. Ground troops of the elite who lose faith in their cause hardly fight for it at all.

To play Devil's advocate and highlight an interesting corollary, I'd also note that (as Nietzsche observed) "if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you." Intelligence services actually prefer to be on intimate terms with their opponents. The Soviet security services implemented the canonical example of this technique in a counter-intelligence program called "Operation Trust." In the aftermath of the Russian Civil War Soviet Spies identified a series of loosely coupled monarchist White Guard cells. Rather than crush them outright the Soviets leveraged them to manufacture a larger "resistance movement."

Anyway, Shava has a long history as an activist and this cannot be discounted. I'd encourage you to read her comments at Pando, the various responses, and then make up your own mind. -BB(2014-07-24)

Update: More details from Levine in a second story. Here are a couple of snippets that caught my attention:

"In 2009, Jacob Appelbaum came onboard as one of five salaried employees of the Tor Network, earning a salary of $96,000 as a developer. About 90% of Tor's funds that year came from federal grants, mostly from the State Department and the CIA-spinoff International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB). Appelbaum's Tor gig has continued uninterrupted ever since, netting him somewhere around a half-million dollars. Not a bad haul."

"Appelbaum trained an employee of Qatar's 'censorship network'? That's nice of him — I mean, why wouldn’t you train a censorship apparatchik working for an autocratic state known for brutal 'modern slavery,' where foreign workers are routinely worked to death in the punishing Qatari heat, and where there’s no freedom of religion and sexuality?"

Snowden Neglects Crypto Caveat

In a recent interview with the Guardian:

"Journalists have to be particularly conscious about any sort of network signalling, any sort of connection, any sort of licence-plate reading device that they pass on their way to a meeting point, any place they use their credit card, any place they take their phone, any email contact they have with the source because that very first contact, before encrypted communications are established, is enough to give it all away"

What he fails to mention is the crypto, in an of itself, is not enough. -BB(2014-07-19)

Would You Trust Tor with Your Life?

If you lived in a police state where political activism could get you killed, would using Tor be enough to safeguard your identity? The general sympathy conveyed by privacy advocates is that "Tor still works." But are these Tor supporters soft-pedaling the potential pitfalls? There are cynics in the crowd (like me), researchers who feel that the users are being given a false sense of security, that people are depicting Tor as the digital equivalent a reinforced concrete barrier when in practice it can often be little more than a speed bump against trained spies. There's evidence that while the NSA thinks that "Tor Stinks" there are also reasons why spies don't want to scare people away from using it…"

Read the essay here, cross-posted at Cryptome, Counterpunch, and Dissident Voice. -BB(2014-07-17)

Update: Yasha Levine at Pando has written an in-depth article on the history of Tor. This is worth reading also.

Open the Snowden Files

Krystian Woznicki :

"The snowden story has been a great, exceptional media narrative -- if only for its unusual duration (unfolding over the course of more than a year and stimulating a variety of debates). but the fact, that material, that one brave whistleblower considered to be worth of public interest, has been "secured" or "privatised", rendering again unaccessible what previously has been unaccessible -- doesn't this fact add a very unsettling layer to the narrative, turning the success story into somewhat of a tragedy?"

Cryptome notes that:

"This piecemealing is common among the Snowden doc withholders. As if they do not know what to do with the full material, so dribble the parts they understand (or judge the public will believe) with lengthy narratives confected with modest evidence."

The media is also vulnerable to pressure from spies and the corporate empire which they represent. Any news agency that abides by the traditional model of journalism will likewise be subject to various forces that wish to manufacture consent. -BB(2014-07-06)

Update Cryptome demands a public accounting and release:

"Your prompt response to this demand is expected. If not received within two weeks from the date of this letter, I will initiate legal proceedings to enforce your compliance. Public support for this demand and class action participants in the legal proceeding will be solicited by publication today of this letter on the website"

Microsoft Transparency Center Propaganda

A couple of days ago a fresh-faced Microsoft VP with a Colgate smile announced that Microsoft had implemented TLS to protect its email services as well as running a victory lap for a new "Transparency Center" to Redmond:

"Our Transparency Centers provide participating governments with the ability to review source code for our key products, assure themselves of their software integrity, and confirm there are no 'back doors.' The Redmond location is the first in a number of regional transparency centers that we plan to open. We continue to make progress on the Transparency Center in Brussels that I announced in January, with other locations soon to be announced."

Really? No back doors in Windows? --horse laughter--

Hear that dull thud? That's a Microsoft executive running head first into reality. Ken Thompson, the original architect of UNIX, solidly refuted Microsoft's reasoning decades ago:

"The moral is obvious. You can't trust code that you did not totally create yourself. (Especially code from companies that employ people like me.) No amount of source-level verification or scrutiny will protect you from using untrusted code. In demonstrating the possibility of this kind of attack, I picked on the C compiler. I could have picked on any program-handling program such as an assembler, a loader, or even hardware microcode. As the level of program gets lower, these bugs will be harder and harder to detect. A well installed microcode bug will be almost impossible to detect. "

This is why the subversion programs being run by intelligence services need to be outlawed. Read my entire essay about Microsoft's silly PR stunt here. -BB(2014-07-03)

NSA Surveillance and Social Control

Snowden's statements at the National Press Club in Washington underscore his earlier claims that NSA surveillance is relatively useless as a tool for counterterrorism. Rather, mass interception is being applied to conduct economic espionage and diplomatic manipulation—and (most important) impose social control. Snowden implies that the NSA's surveillance apparatus isn’t being wielded to protect America from terrorism. It’s being used as a mechanism in service of the powerful.

The United States is now a surveillance state where corporate and government spies collaborate to monitor citizens. If academic researchers like Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty are correct in their analysis of growing economic inequality, the end game for society will be pretty grim. As our social fabric disintegrates and the climate becomes less hospitable, the immiseration of the average person will lead to widespread mobilization.

The US elite are well aware of what happened to French aristocrats in the eighteenth century. To save themselves from a similar fate, they will switch the cogs of the surveillance state into high gear, and the United States will witness the sort of oppression that is the hallmark of a police state.

This is an op-ed letter that will appear in the July 14, 2014, issue of The Nation. -BB(2014-07-02)

Blackwater: Deep State Mercenaries

James Risen, the same journalist being strong-armed for exposing the CIA's botched MERLIN operation in his 2006 book State of War, has dropped a bombshell in the New York Times. Risen describes how a 2007 State Department investigation into Blackwater (now Academi) ground to a halt:

"The inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater's top manager there issued a threat: 'that he could kill' the government's chief investigator and 'no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq'"

A State Department memo written by Jean Richter states:

"I witnessed Blackwater contractors make disparaging remarks of superiority in reference to the FBI personnel presence in Iraq. These comments along with my COM Authority conversation sent a clear message that the Blackwater contractors saw themselves as 'above the law' and actually believed that they 'ran the place.'"

As those people who attended the ill-fated wedding party in Yemen can tell you, outside U.S. borders the Deep State's contempt for rule of law is legendary. -BB(2014-06-30)

A Question for Glenn Greenwald

It's Wednesday evening, June 18th, at 8:35pm and I just spent an hour listening to Glenn Greenwald speak at the Nourse Theater in downtown San Francisco as he kicked off his nation-wide book tour.

I think that anyone who attended would agree that he masterfully deconstructed several myths surrounding the Snowden revelations (e.g. Snowden is a Russian spy, Snowden is a narcissist, meta-data collection is not an invasion of privacy, the NSA programs collect data selectively, and mass interception is aimed at keeping us safe from terrorism). He sprinkled his presentation liberally with humor and kept the audience engaged. Yet when it came time to Glenn to discuss solutions he was nowhere near as explicit as he was with his earlier material. Given that he opted to forgo a public question and answer session; here I am.

Hello there Glenn...

You can read the rest of this essay here. It's also cross-posted at Counterpunch and also at Cryptome. -BB(2014-06-19)

Google's Shareholder Theater

Scanning over the headlines of the New York Times this past Saturday, June 6th, the public relations team at Google scored a splashy front page spot which confidently boasts that the company is working hard to impede the NSA (e.g. to “erect barriers”) by comprehensively encrypting data in transit through Google's networks. Other hi-tech companies, like Yahoo, have implemented similar measures. Of course, there are a number of particulars that this story fails to acknowledge…

Read the rest of this essay here. Encryption is no panacea, never mind the corporate spying. -BB(2014-06-10)

Related: Is Al Gore is more progressive than the EFF on the subject of corporate surveillance?

"Business are collecting way more information than they should. We now have a stalker economy where customers become products."

Microsoft Lies About NSA Collaboration

In response to Chinese allegations that Windows 8 can be used as a tool for U.S. intelligence, Microsoft has publicly asserted that:

"Microsoft has never provided any so-called 'Backdoor' into its products or services."

This is patently not true:

"Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), the world's largest software company, provides intelligence agencies with information about bugs in its popular software before it publicly releases a fix, according to two people familiar with the process... Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft and other software or Internet security companies have been aware that this type of early alert allowed the U.S. to exploit vulnerabilities in software sold to foreign governments, according to two U.S. officials."

Of course Microsoft plays ball with the NSA, the defense industry has always been good to the executives in Redmond. Recall the four zero-day exploits in Stuxnet? Why let something trivial like civil liberties get in the way of quarterly earnings? CEOs watch the Nightly Business Report, not Democracy Now!

Corporate spies, despite their many staged protests to assuage shareholders and customers, have much more in common with government spies than they let on. See the WikiLeaks cables on Google's secret dealings in the Middle East. Who's holding the shit-bag now? Sadly, Mr. and Mrs. Smith while the Deep State consolidates control. -BB(2014-06-06)

Ed Snowden Ignores Private Sector Spies

The following is an excerpt from Ed Snowden's "Reset The Net" statement:

"I'm asking you to join me on June 5th for Reset the Net, when people and companies all over the world will come together to implement the technological solutions that can put an end to the mass surveillance programs of any government."

Very odd, seeing as how the private sector plays a crucial role in driving the surveillance state. Approximately 70 percent of the intel buget goes to the private sector. Smaller companies that don't play ball tend to end up like Lavabit. For the large corporate interests linked with the American Deep State there's too much money at stake to let something like civil liberties get in the way. Such that the whole notion of privacy is often a marketing gimmick. Don't be evil my eye.

Is Ed showing his libertarian naïveté? Mass subversion, and the mass interception it enables, are fundamentally political problems that cannot be solved by sheer technical means. -BB(2014-06-05)

Keith Alexander and The Neoliberal Agenda

In the previous blog entry (from 2014-05-25) I mentioned the "neoliberal agenda". Readers have asked for elaboration and I believe that Henry Giroux offers a concise description:

"What we have seen in the United States and a number of other countries since the 1970s is the emergence of a savage form of free market fundamentalism, often called neoliberalism, in which there is not only a deep distrust of public values, public goods and public institutions but the embrace of a market ideology that accelerates the power of the financial elite and big business while gutting those formative cultures and institutions necessary for a democracy to survive."

The intelligence services form part of a structural layer around the visible government to construct a Deep State. Oligarchic factions use this layer to implement neoliberal policies via their agents in elected office. As Ed Snowden described, in an open letter to Brazil, the American surveillance apparatus primarily serves elite interests:

"These [NSA] programs were never about terrorism: they're about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They're about power."

Let's not forget that mass interception is also used to enable more brutal methods of oppression:

"The Pakistani report, obtained and published this week by the Bureau for Investigative Journalism, details 75 drone strikes and their alleged collateral damage between 2006 and 2009. Of 746 people killed by drones in that period, the BIJ report says, at least 147 'are clearly stated to be civilian victims, 94 of those are said to be children'"

Is it any wonder that former spy chief Keith Alexander is currently in Copenhagen at the Bilerberg Conference pressing the flesh with business executives? He stands to profit handsomely for being such a faithful servant. -BB(2014-05-30)

United States Mulls DEFCON Restrictions

DEFCON originally rejected my talk on Chinese Cyber Espionage because I wasn't .gov, didn't have enough first-hand knowledge of China, and lacked adequate citations. A quick glance at our book should dismiss all of these concerns as ridiculous.

Now it looks as though the U.S. government may be exerting some influence directly:

"Washington is considering using visa restrictions to prevent Chinese nationals from attending popular summer hacking conferences in Las Vegas as part of a broader effort to curb Chinese cyber espionage, a senior administration official said Saturday."

"The official said that Washington could use such visa restrictions and other measures to keep Chinese from attending the August DefCon and Black Hat events to maintain pressure on China after the United States this week charged five Chinese military officers with hacking into U.S. companies to steal trade secrets."

"Speakers included Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and other high-ranking U.S. intelligence and military officials."

There you have it, dear reads, out-group homogeneity bias on display by the U.S. government. Every Chinese citizen is deemed to be a spy. Why? Because DEFCON is actually a platform for the U.S. intelligence community and they wouldn't dare entertain dissenting opinions that might reveal American spies for what they are: the Praetorian Guard of the corporate elite and their neoliberal agenda. -BB(2014-05-25)

Postscript: My co-author, the psychology professor, has pointed out that, strictly speaking, this is profiling more than out-group bias. Either way there are elements of xenophobia.

Behold a Pale Farce - Signed By The Authors

We've recently happened upon a bulk delivery from Trine Day and can now offer signed copies of this book at a discount ($11 per copy + shipping). Please see this site's publication page for details. - The Management (2014-05-24)

The American Deep State Remains In Iraq

Now that the United States of Amnesia has forgotten about Iraq, Al Jazeera can disclose the punchline of our disasterous invasion:

"While the US military has formally ended its occupation of Iraq, some of the largest western oil companies, ExxonMobil, BP and Shell, remain."

"According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), Iraq's oil reserves of 112 billion barrels ranks second in the world, only behind Saudi Arabia. The EIA also estimates that up to 90 per cent of the country remains unexplored, due to decades of US-led wars and economic sanctions."

Mike Whitney comments:

"Big oil runs everything in America. People talk about the power of Wall Street and Israel, but oil is still king. They run it all, and they own it all."

This is how neo-colonial wealth extraction operates. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis pay with their lives on behalf of fossil fuel industry profits. -BB(2014-05-23)

DoJ To Charge Chinese Officials With Espionage

The New York Times reports on this comical political gesture:

"The Department of Justice said on Monday it had charged five individuals in China’s People's Liberation Army in connection with stealing trade secrets from some of the largest American companies, including Westinghouse, United States Steel and Alcoa."

Really? Does this means that the Chinese Government can prosecute General Alexander for the NSA's theft of source code from Huawei? Alexander may need to put his consulting gig on hold while he hires a legal team.

George Smith understands this security theater for what it really is, a distraction:

"Now all us Americans who either have crap jobs or no jobs and are needing food stamps will know where to point the finger of blame: The Chinese army that is stealing our corporate secrets."

We know where the blame clearly lies: our parasitic financial class and their corrupted operatives in the public sector. -BB(2014-05-19)

Related: China Responds:

"The US' deceitful nature and its practice of double standards when it comes to cyber security have long been exposed, from the Wikileaks incident to the Edward Snowden affair."

"A Xinhua report on Tuesday stated that between March and May this year, a total of 1.18 million computers in China were directly controlled by 2,077 machines in the United States via Trojan horse or zombie malware."

Related: Marcy Wheeler notes that:

"Much of the charged activity involves stealing information about trade disputes — the same thing NSA engages in all the time."

Related: The New York Times adds that France is just as culpable:

"The French, for example, were notorious for conducting state-backed corporate espionage long before the Chinese mastered the form. And if they choose, Chinese leaders has ample opportunity to retaliate by making life even harder for American companies."

"As President Obama has said on numerous occasions, we do not collect intelligence to provide a competitive advantage to U.S. companies, or U.S. commercial sectors."

Related: In an open letter to Brazil, Ed Snowden contradicts this narrative.

"These programs were never about terrorism: they're about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They're about power."

Related: And there are numerous instances of economic espionage conducted by the NSA that benefited U.S. business interests. For example:

"when the Clinton administration was locked in a high-stakes negotiation in the 1990s to reach an accord with Japan, it bugged the Japanese negotiator's limousine. At the time, the chief beneficiaries would have been the Big Three auto companies and a smattering of parts suppliers."

Related: Officials admit that the NSA spies for economic advantage:

"The officials say, while the N.S.A. cannot spy on Airbus and give the results to Boeing, it is free to spy on European or Asian trade negotiators and use the results to help American trade officials — and, by extension, the American industries and workers they are trying to bolster."

Yves Smith: Somehow it's OK to spy if it relates to trade policy. I'm not making that up.

NSA Surveillance Serves Corporate Interests

Beatrice Edwards answers questions about her book The American Corporate Security State. A couple of points resonate:

"The government's surveillance operations are put at the service of corporate interests, but they are presented as operations undertaken in the public interest. Corporate power and the public interest are not the same. The government finances its surveillance with taxpayer funds, but then puts its operations at the service of private power rather than the public. This conflict of interest is concealed through government secrecy."

"Wholesale surveillance means that journalists cannot protect their sources' identities, which means that the press becomes little more than a mouthpiece for the state. That represents the end of democratic governance as we know it."

Though I strongly disagree with this author on encryption as a panacea. If intel agencies root your box and scrape enough RAM to recover keys it doesn't matter how strong your crypto is. Remember Heartbleed? Or the Target Breach?

Mass subversion enables mass surveillance. These strategies undermine our collective liberty and security on behalf of a small cabal of spies and corporate interests. Security for the 1%. -BB(2014-05-18)

NSA Subversion: U.S. Is World's Leading Rogue State

Back in December of 2013 Der Spiegel reported that:

"If a target person, agency or company orders a new computer or related accessories, for example, TAO can divert the shipping delivery to its own secret workshops. The NSA calls this method interdiction. At these so-called 'load stations,' agents carefully open the package in order to load malware onto the electronics, or even install hardware components that can provide backdoor access for the intelligence agencies. All subsequent steps can then be conducted from the comfort of a remote computer."

"These minor disruptions in the parcel shipping business rank among the 'most productive operations' conducted by the NSA hackers, one top secret document relates in enthusiastic terms. This method, the presentation continues, allows TAO to obtain access to networks 'around the world.'"

While the hypocrites in the House Intelligence Committee directed all sorts of accusations at Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE, everyone can now see that the NSA is currently neck deep in subversion. Today in the Guardian Glenn Greenwald provides more details:

"A June 2010 report from the head of the NSA's Access and Target Development department is shockingly explicit. The NSA routinely receives – or intercepts – routers, servers and other computer network devices being exported from the US before they are delivered to the international customers."

"The agency then implants backdoor surveillance tools, repackages the devices with a factory seal and sends them on. The NSA thus gains access to entire networks and all their users. The document gleefully observes that some "SIGINT tradecraft … is very hands-on (literally!)".

According to Greenwald not only did U.S. officials want to promote U.S. hardware to benefit American hi-tech (by badmouthing Chinese products), but they also wanted to increase the reach of the NSA's surveillance programs:

"Warning the world about Chinese surveillance could have been one of the motives behind the US government's claims that Chinese devices cannot be trusted. But an equally important motive seems to have been preventing Chinese devices from supplanting American-made ones, which would have limited the NSA's own reach. In other words, Chinese routers and servers represent not only economic competition but also surveillance competition."

There you have it, the NSA has undermined countless network devices and servers being used all over the world. What else would you expect from the world's leading rogue state. -BB(2014-05-13)

The NSA's Corporate Collaborators

Counterpunch has published an essay of mine. Here's an excerpt:

"Since Ed Snowden's documents have trickled out into public view companies like Google have tried to distance themselves from the NSA, to make public displays of anger, to create the impression that they were somehow strong-armed into helping government spies and that they've been working to bolster their security against the NSA's prying eyes. Above all hi-tech companies want to look like they're siding with their users."

"These gestures are likely theater, being performed by executives on behalf of quarterly earnings. Such is the beauty of PR [public relations]. Hi-tech companies don't really need to fend off government spies but merely provide users with the perception of resistance."

Check out the rest here.

After all of the lies it's hard to believe that the monoliths of hi-tech are merely innocent pawns. Anyone who has studied the history of the CIA knows that business interests have a long and storied history of working with our intelligence services. There are any number of financial, legislative, and operational incentives. Keep in mind that the Deep State is driven by sources of influence outside of government. In other words, Wall Street is used to giving orders, not taking them. Watch Scott Noble's documentary Counter-Intelligence to gain insight into this. -BB(2014-05-09)

Deep State Players Push for Extinction Events

An excellent article written by Peter Hart at FAIR documents how elite front men in the corporate press have suggested that accelerating the development of domestic fossil fuel is the solution to the unfolding crisis in the Ukraine. Hart quotes Bill O'Reilly:

"Fox News host Bill O’Reilly (3/3/14) advised that 'the Keystone Pipeline must be approved' because 'Russia is blackmailing Europe over energy.... The more oil and natural gas the USA and Canada can produce and distribute, the weaker Russia becomes on the world stage.'"

Anyone who has read the recent UN Report on climate change or followed the work of activists like Bill McKibben understands that expanding fossil fuel programs is a path to global collapse.

The corporate interests of the American deep state are fully aware of this. Their general response: why let the future of a few billion people stand in the way of quarterly profits? When the immiseration of the average person reaches critical mass the powers that be will be ready with their Orwellian surveillance apparatus and associated legal provisions like Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act. Chris Hedges offers a few comments along this line:

"The nation has entered a post-constitutional era. It means that extraordinary rendition of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil by our government is legal. It means that the courts, like the legislative and executive branches of government, exclusively serve corporate power—one of the core definitions of fascism. It means that the internal mechanisms of state are so corrupted and subservient to corporate power that there is no hope of reform or protection for citizens under our most basic constitutional rights."

Recall the lesson passed on by the activists from Pennsylvania who broke into an FBI office in 1971, exposing the illegal COINTELPRO operation. Our representatives don't represent us. If there will be change it will be up to us. -BB(2014-05-06)

Piketty's Solution Is Intentionally Myopic

In a comprehensive and brilliant essay published by Counterpunch political economist Alan Nasser points out that while Piketty's treatise goes a long way towards illustrating the grave nature of the threat society faces (i.e. plutocratic tyranny), the book's admittedly "utopian" solution of a global wealth tax is clearly wanting:

"If the existing economic system makes Piketty's prescription -a global tax on wealth- virtually impossible to realize, why does he not question the system itself, and describe the outlines of a workable alternative? Because Piketty’s conception of the most discussed alternative, democratic socialism, is inexcusably narrow."

Nasser points out that from the 1930s to the 1970s the share of the national income subsumed by the top 1% fell steadily. In no small part due to the blood and sacrifice of organized workers:

"What accounted for this remarkable period when Americans enjoyed the highest standard of living they had ever experienced, and capital experienced its greatest defeats? Why this outbreak of relative equality? Militant labor, extensive unionization, ongoing additions to government programs and aggressive black activism were essential factors."

The inequality that has blossomed since the 1970s is can be largely attributed to the process of state capture, where the wealthy use their resources to purchase influence and adjust policies in a feedback look that accelerates itself. Such is the conclusion of Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page in an analytic study, which does not mince words:

"Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence."

Implementing real change will remain a pipe dream as long as our leaders are beholden to oligarchic factions. Tackling inequality will mean following the examples of the past and taking on the entrenched power structures of the elite. -BB(2014-05-02)

Commentary on The FBI's Global Hacking Campaign

Recently a Russian journalist, Nikita Alentyev, asked me for a response to a New York Times story which described how Hector Xavier Monsegur supplied Jeremy Hammond with a list of foreign websites to hack on behalf of the FBI. Here are a couple of choice snippets:

"In light of Edward Snowden's revelations it's clear that the United States is the world's leading aggressor as far as cyber-espionage and mass interception are concerned. The NSA is without equal among nation-states in this regard..."

"Publicity of this sort seriously undermines U.S. credibility, America's so-called 'soft power.' It illustrates that U.S. leaders are unwilling to adhere to the values and principles that they outwardly claim to represent. Our leaders certainly don’t make much of a fuss when other countries get hacked. When the Chinese complain of 'massive and shocking' intrusions, its disclosures are met with silence. Yet cyber-attacks on the United States cause officials to erupt in spasms of righteous indignation... With regard to current American foreign policy, hypocrisy is something that the U.S. excels at."

For another incredible example of this double standard, witness Secretary of State Kerry's complaint about Russia's "contrived pretext for military intervention". As if he had no memory of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the imaginary WMDs that our leaders used to justify it. -BB(2014-04-29)

The "Job Creator" Myth Debunked

In an op-ed piece Paul Krugman describes how the public relations apparatus of the moneyed elite has historically tried to dismiss the subject of economic inequality:

"For the past couple of decades, the conservative response to attempts to make soaring incomes at the top into a political issue has involved two lines of defense: first, denial that the rich are actually doing as well and the rest as badly as they are, but when denial fails, claims that those soaring incomes at the top are a justified reward for services rendered. Don’t call them the 1 percent, or the wealthy; call them 'job creators.'"

Economist Michael Hudson reminds us that the term job creator is a rhetorical ploy used by the oligarchs to make us align their interests with ours. Hudson remarks:

"Let's look at Forbes' list of the richest people in Russia, China, the Ukraine or the post-Soviet economies. I can guarantee you that they didn't make this wealth by saving up income, they didn't earn a higher income; they stole the property by fraud and internal bribery, the same way that the great fortunes were made in the United States. American Fortunes by Gustavus Myers shows how the railroad land grants made fortunes by bribing congressmen and by privatising the land. The great fortunes are made by privatising natural resources, land and the public domain, and since 1980, when the concentration of wealth and income have really taken off, as Piketty shows, this is the age of privatisation, of Margaret Thatcher, of Ronald Reagan, and Boris Yeltsin in Russia."

The truth is that the primary actors of the Deep State are often parasites. -BB(2014-04-25)

Private Equity Emperors of the Deep State

Every year the New York Times prints a list of CEO salaries and while Larry Ellison may seem to be cleaning up, making over $70 million in 2013, Les Leopold points out that $70 million is actually small potatoes compared to the transnational capitalist class...

"The true robber barons run hedge funds and private equity companies. They make billions, not millions, and they do it not by running businesses, but by siphoning wealth away from companies, consumers, students and governments."

For example, Steven Cohen made $2.3 billion in 2013. Several times what Ellison makes. But they don't necessarily create value, rather they extract it like financial parasites:

"One of the biggest strip mining efforts takes place when private equity funds and hedge funds buy up companies using borrowed money, which they then put on the books of the target company. They then use the target company's cash flow to pay off the debt and pay themselves enormous fees and special dividends. Their profits are sheltered by a special 'carried interest' tax loophole, which allows the financial honchos to pay 19 points below the standard income tax rate for high earners. The odds are high that the top hedge fund earners listed above pay a lower tax rate than you do, given the loopholes open to them. (Think Mitt Romney and Bain Capital.)

"To pay for the enormous incomes earned through these leveraged buyouts, the strip miners' companies raid pension funds, cut wages and benefits, sell product lines, reduce R & D and ship jobs abroad. The CEOs of the target companies become junior partners in the rape of their own companies through golden parachutes and enormous stock options."

Yes, you're right. There is something very wrong about this. But why don't we hear more about it?

"No one wants to mess with the big hedge funds and private equity firms. After all, any one of them could buy up The New York Times in a heartbeat and turn it into a cooking magazine. And, I can tell you from personal experience these guys are touchy — when first writing about the John Paulson Abacus deal, his lawyers threatened to sue me."

This kind of money and power purchases a lot of influence. It's one of the driving forces behind the American Deep State. -BB(2014-04-21)

Taibbi Assails the Untouchables

Matt Taibbi was on Democracy Now! today to discuss the how members of the financial elite have avoided doing prison despite the obvious devastation that they've wrought, as detailed in his new book The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap. He laments that, with homage to Orwell, some animals are more equal than others when it comes to the U.S. justice system:

"If you're going to put people in jail for having a joint in their pocket or for slinging dime bags on the corner in a city street, you cannot let people who laundered $800 million for the worst drug offenders in the world walk."

Like former SEC lawyer James Kidney, Taibbi indicates that this state of affairs can be traced all the way to the top:

"You have a whole bunch of people sort of at the top of the regulatory agencies, whether it's Justice, the SEC, the CFTC, maybe the Enforcement Division of the SEC, who all came from these big banks or from law firms that represented these big banks... as a result of this kind of merry-go-round of people who all work for the same companies —and they're going to go to government for a while, then they're going to go back to the corporate defense community after they leave and make millions of dollars—they're very, very reluctant to be aggressive against these companies, because it's their—culturally, they're the same people as their target"

"This was a crisis that was much huger in scope than the S&L crisis or the accounting crisis. I mean, it wiped out 40 percent of the world's wealth, and nobody went to jail"

It's worse than that, in the aftermath of the 2008 collapse executives laughed all the way to the bank:

"Not only were these guys not prosecuted, they got to keep all of their money, all of the ill-gotten gains that they made during these periods."

As Peter Dale Scott observes, the very fact that events have played out in this manner hints at the true nature of America's power structure. -BB(2014-04-15)

Selective Amnesia About USAID

Mark Ames has written a piece on USAID that's a must-read with regard to putting current events into context. For example, he goes into the details of an infamous USAID police-training program:

"Under Kennedy's reorganization, a police training program set up under President Eisenhower, the Office of Public Safety (OPS), was placed under USAID's authority. The OPS had been set up in 1957 to train friendly overseas police forces how to be more professional, more democratic, less corrupt, more like us — but in reality, the OPS was essentially a CIA proxy, headed by an agent named Byron Engle, its ranks covertly sprinkled with CIA spooks in hotspots across the globe."

On the OPS roster was a former FBI agent named Dan Mitrione who taught advanced counterinsurgency techniques:

"By the end of the 1960s, when Mitrione left for Uruguay, USAID had trained over 100,000 of Brazil's police in the dark arts of rule-by-terror; another 600 Brazilian police were brought to the US for special USAID training in explosives and interrogation techniques."

"Brazil's military dictatorship murdered or disappeared hundreds of dissidents, and tortured and jailed thousands more. Among those tortured: a Marxist student named Dilma Rousseff, arrested in 1970 and subjected to beatings to her face that distorted her dental ridge, and electrical shocks from car batteries, resulting in the hemorrhaging of her uterus. Today, Rousseff is Brazil's president"

Former CIA officer turned whistleblower John Stockwell describes how Mitrione would randomly grab people off the streets and torture them to death as a form of instruction:

"All they [the guinea pigs, beggars from off the streets] could do was lie there and scream. And when they would collapse, they would bring in doctors and shoot them up with vitamin B and rest them up for the next class. And when they would die, they would mutilate the bodies and throw them out on the streets, to terrify the population so they would be afraid of the police and the government."

Mark Ames comments:

"Multiply Dan Mitrione’s story by all the other Dan Mitrione's working in all the other USAID Offices of Public Safety that we rarely hear about, and you start to get a sense of how small USAID's failed Twitter revolution in Cuba is by the agency's standards."

So when you hear officials laud all of the wonderful things that USAID does, keep in mind that there's a brutal side to this organization that's heavily linked to CIA black bag ops. -BB(2014-04-13)

Desde La Sombra Episode

If your Castilian Spanish is up to par, you can follow Daniel Estulin as he interviews me about the pale farce of Cyberwar and the threat inflation that feeds the malware-industrial complex. The Pentagon is opting for offensive solutions that undermine our collective security and liberty on behalf of a cabal of spies and private sector interests. Witness the operation of the Deep State, the Praetorian Guard of the corporate elite. -BB(2014-04-09)

Turkey & Saudis Involved in Syrian Sarin Attacks

Yesterday Seymour Hersh dropped a bombshell in the London Review of Books, explaining why President Obama opted for disarmament in Syria while the United States rushed headlong into Liya. Here are some snippets:

"'We knew there were some in the Turkish government,' a former senior US intelligence official, who has access to current intelligence, told me, 'who believed they could get Assad's nuts in a vice by dabbling with a sarin attack inside Syria – and forcing Obama to make good on his red line threat.'"

"On 20 June analysts for the US Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page 'talking points' briefing for the DIA's deputy director, David Shedd, which stated that al-Nusra maintained a sarin production cell... 'Turkey and Saudi-based chemical facilitators,' it said, 'were attempting to obtain sarin precursors in bulk, tens of kilograms, likely for the anticipated large scale production effort in Syria.'"

"Last May, more than ten members of the al-Nusra Front were arrested in southern Turkey with what local police told the press were two kilograms of sarin. In a 130-page indictment the group was accused of attempting to purchase fuses, piping for the construction of mortars, and chemical precursors for sarin. Five of those arrested were freed after a brief detention."

Hersh, during an interview with Amy Goodman about his LRB article, added that the weapons used to deliver nerve gas in Syria weren't military grade:

"I can tell you, I quote somebody from inside that investigation unit who was very clear that the weapons fired were homemade and were not Syrian army."

All of this is particularly interesting given the recent leaked conversation where Turkish officials debated conducting a false flag operation in their own country to spur Turkey's involvement in Syria. The Deep State is alive and well, and using the Hegelian dialectic in an attempt to establish a Syrian client state. -BB(2014-04-07)

NSA Coverage Ignores the [Obedient] CIA

The people behind have raised an interesting point: the NSA doesn't work in a vacuum, it's part of a much larger community that includes heavyweight Deep State players like the CIA. Here are a couple of choice snippets:

"The CIA is the principal customer of NSA products outside the military. When global cyber spying Cybercom was proposed NSA did not want to do it, claiming it exceeded NSA's military mission. However, the pols, and CIA, wanted that very excess, in particular for spying inside the US, ostensibly banned for the CIA but now needed for terrorists inside."

"The joint CIA-NSA Special Collection Service (SCS) -- with 5-Eyes Echelon -- has been doing for decades what NSA is now alone accused of doing: CIA provided the targets, NSA did the technical collection from those global stations identified by X-Keyscore (most located in embassies or nearby)..."

"SCS also does burglaries, code snatches, decrypts, doc drops, stings, ploys, blackmail, the panoply of CIA operations. The increased civilian target panoply bestowed upon NSA came from CIA demands channeled through ODNI."

"The last thing CIA and its supporters want is a revelation of its manipulation of civilian leaders institutionalized by the 1947 National Security Act (also opposed by the military)."

Note the reference to 1947. It's part of the public record that President Truman, who created the CIA when he signed the National Security Act of 1947, publicly regretted that the CIA had become a nexus of covert operations. In a Washington Post op-ed (written shortly after President Kennedy was assassinated) Truman stated:

"I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations. Some of the complications and embarrassment I think we have experienced are in part attributable to the fact that this quiet intelligence arm of the President has been so removed from its intended role that it is being interpreted as a symbol of sinister and mysterious foreign intrigue—and a subject for cold war enemy propaganda."

However, this doesn't mean that the CIA is a rogue agency. When congressman Otis Pike investigated the CIA in the 1970s he found that the CIA was largely an obedient arm of the executive, a conclusion that was echoed by CIA officer Philip Agee.

"All evidence in hand suggests that the CIA, far from being out of control, has been utterly responsive to the instructions of the President and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs."

This would make sense as both POTUS and the CIA tend to be linked heavily to the same sources of wealth and influence outside of the government. In fact, when the "rogue agency" narrative is dusted off it's usually done so to serve an institutional purpose. Recall the strategy of plausible deniability used to build a wall around President Reagan during the Iran-Contra affair. Noam Chomsky notes:

"What the record shows is that the C.I.A. is just an agency of the White House, which sometimes carries out operations for which the Executive branch wants what's called 'plausible deniability'; in other words, if something goes wrong, we don't want it to look like we did, those guys in the C.I.A. did it, and we can throw some of them to the wolves if we need to."

According to Daniel Ellsberg the executive, ordering secret operations under the authority of secret laws supported by the secret rulings of secret courts, has used the NSA and CIA (and other IC members) to skew the power structure of the republic.

"I don't see how democracy can survive when one branch, the executive branch, has all the personal communications of every member of Congress, and every judge, every member of the judiciary, as well as the press, the fourth estate that I have just been describing."

The ongoing struggle between the CIA and the Senate bolsters this hypothesis. Senator Feinstein warns:

"Mr. President, the recent actions that I have just laid out make this a defining moment for the oversight of our Intelligence Community. How Congress responds and how this is resolved will show whether the Intelligence Committee can be effective in monitoring and investigating our nation's intelligence activities, or whether our work can be thwarted by those we oversee."

Yet, considering all of this in-fighting, it's also important to keep in mind that POTUS is just a faithful servant of his constituents. The oligarchic factions that purchase what they want. -BB(2014-04-03)

Related: A must-read by Tom Engelhardt which draws together the failing war on terror and the burgeoning surveillance state. Both are symptoms of the same illness, the power elite consolidating their wealth and control.

"The orderliness of secret power in Washington and chaos under heaven, the growth of a police state and a planet run riot, turn out to be two sides of the same coin."

Response to Schneier: The Public-Private Partnership

Bruce Schneier has posted an essay where he concedes that measures being implemented by the private sector are intended merely to give the perception of stronger security. In other words, all of the various press releases about stronger encryption and contacting the White House are just PR-driven performances. Corporate spies and the government spies are cast from the same mold:

"Yes, it may seem like the the public/private surveillance partnership has frayed -- but, unfortunately, it is alive and well. The main focus of massive Internet companies and government agencies both still largely align: to keep us all under constant surveillance. When they bicker, it's mostly role-playing designed to keep us blasé about what's really going on... "

"The biggest Internet companies don't offer real security because the U.S. government won't permit it."

But this begs a question that Mr. Schneier is conspicuously ignoring...

Who, pray tell, is driving the government to undermine security? Any thoughts on this, Bruce? Who are the "deciders"?

It should be abundantly clear to anyone who follows American politics that corporate factions have largely achieved state capture. Perhaps the average person assumes that only places like the Ukraine suffer from this sort of problem? Our government responds primarily to those interests that have the resources to punish and reward those in government. The Deep State has been the conduit for the neoliberal coup d'état. As things stand now elected leaders have a tendency to dance to the tune of Big Oil, Defense Contractors, and Hi-Tech. Above it all reigns Wall Street, which has illustrated the sort of power it has over the economy.

Asking corporate interests to increase pressure on the government is nonsensical. The 1%, with their market fundamentalism, intentionally created this mess. Listen to the final echoes of the Occupy Movement: in order to reclaim our privacy and our security, the 99% need to reclaim the government. -BB(2014-04-01)

Comsec, Tor, and Hunting Admins

Cryptome remarks on the unpleasant reality of compromised COMSEC as the (profitable) industry standard:

"Not many honest comsec wizards nowadays are promising more than compromised comsec, and the compromise is gradually increasing as Snowden material is dribbled out to convince the public and wizards not a hell of a lot can be done about it except believe in and buy more compromised comsec."

In other words, vendors use the sorry state of their own products to convince you to buy "new and improved" versions that are equally subverted! The flawed technology softly whispers "trust me" while hiding a dagger behind its back. It's a feature not a bug.

Take Tor as a case study: one advocate claims its the best thing since sliced bread with regard to protecting yourself online while another old hand (Roger Dingledine) is gleefully showing spooks how to compromise it. -BB(2014-03-23)

Related: Operation Shotgiant reminds us that the United States performs industrial espionage, subverting foreign equipment and undermining our collective security, while officials predictably focus all of their attention on Chinese threats.

Related: In a Nutshell:

"No risk, no security market, so what fool would want an Internet that had no faults. No bank would want perfect security to be available directly to customers. No military or spy agency would want perfect national security available to the citizenry. No government would want a threat-free populace. No comsec industry would want ... "

NSA's TURBINE: Millions of Implants

Today The Intercept posted a lengthy report on the NSA's plans to enable computer subversion on an industrial scale:

"The implants being deployed were once reserved for a few hundred hard-to-reach targets, whose communications could not be monitored through traditional wiretaps. But the documents analyzed by The Intercept show how the NSA has aggressively accelerated its hacking initiatives in the past decade by computerizing some processes previously handled by humans. The automated system – codenamed TURBINE – is designed to 'allow the current implant network to scale to large size (millions of implants) by creating a system that does automated control implants by groups instead of individually.'"

"Earlier reports based on the Snowden files indicate that the NSA has already deployed between 85,000 and 100,000 of its implants against computers and networks across the world, with plans to keep on scaling up those numbers."

In other words, it doesn't matter how strong your crypto is if the NSA can infect your system with an implant. Eat your heart out Google. -BB(2014-03-12)

Related: Naturally CYBERCOM nominee Vice Admiral Michael S. Rogers is proposing this technique as a way to solve the problem of attribution and thus leverage the cold war strategy of deterrence. For reasons that I discuss in my upcoming book, Behold a Pale Farce, Rogers is selling a dangerous pipe dream:

"Without referring directly to a secret N.S.A. program to place 'implants' on computer networks around the world, so American officials could see attacks in the making, he said in his written answer that the United States could make it clear that it knows where attacks are coming from and is prepared to retaliate."

Related : Cryptome Advocates Cyber Security as a Public Good

"Comsec as a right for human discourse rather than a commercial service could enforce privacy beyond easy violation for official and commercial purposes. Freedom of comsec, say, as a new entry in the US Bill of Rights could lead the way for it to be a fundamental element of Human Rights."

Also : Beware Cyber Carpet Baggers

"Thanks, Ed, comsec evangelist extraordinaire. If the media operation goes well Snowden could die penniless like the genius Tesla was aced by profit-driven Edison."

The State, the Deep State, and the Wall Street Overworld

Former diplomat and UC Berkeley Professor Peter Dale Scott, whose work focuses on the machinations of the American Deep State, has recently written a fairly lengthy article in The Asia-Pacific Journal. Scott contends that:

"This development of a two-level or dual state has been paralleled by two other dualities: the increasing resolution of American society into two classes – the 'one percent' and the 'ninety-nine percent”' – and the bifurcation of the U.S. economy into two aspects: the domestic, still subject to some governmental regulation and taxation, and the international, relatively free from governmental controls. All three developments have affected and intensified each other – particularly since the Reagan Revolution of 1980, which saw American inequality of wealth cease to diminish and begin to increase. Thus for example we shall see how Wall Street – the incarnation of the 'one percent' – played a significant role in increasing the deep state after World War Two, and how three decades later the deep state played a significant role in realigning America for the Reagan Revolution."

Scott goes on to offer a historical cross section which shows how Wall Street, defense contractors, and the oil industry have leveraged covert operations since the late 1940s to further their own narrow financial interests. -BB(2014-03-11)

Related : The Far Right in The Ukraine

"The new deputy prime minister, Oleksandr Sych, is from Svoboda; National Security Secretary Andriy Parubiy is a co-founder of the neo-Nazi Social-National Party, Svoboda's earlier incarnation; the deputy secretary for National Security is Dmytro Yarosh, the head of Right Sector. Chief prosecutor Oleh Makhnitsky is another Svoboda member, as are the ministers for Agriculture and Ecology"

Putting fascists into power is something the American Deep State excels at.

Related : Nafeez Ahmed concludes that events in Ukraine are driven by clashing oil interests.

"Resource scarcity, competition to dominate Eurasian energy corridors, are behind Russian militarism and US interference... Ukraine is caught hapless in the midst of this accelerating struggle to dominate Eurasia’s energy corridors in the last decades of the age of fossil fuels."

Henry Giroux on the Deep State

Mike Lofgren, a former Congressional staff member who served both the House and Senate Budget Committees, wrote an essay at Bill Moyers site about the Deep State. This is a concept that originated in Turkey but was largely popularized in the West by Berkeley scholar Peter Dale Scott.

Moyers had some of his former guests respond to Lofgren's essay. By far Henry Giroux offers the most illuminating critique, underscoring that the Deep State is itself an effect, not a root cause:

"The Deep State is symptomatic of something more ominous, the rise of a new form of authoritarianism, a counter-revolution in which society is being restructured and advanced under what might be called the neoliberal revolution. This is a revolution in which the welfare state is being liquidated, along with the collective provisions that supported it. It is a revolution in which economics drives politics."

Bravo, Mr. Giroux! I hear echoes of Sheldon Wolin's concept of Inverted totalitarianism. The driving force behind the emergence of the Deep State can be traced to sources of wealth, power, and violence in the private sector. The moneyed elite find ways to purchase what they want, "money, like water, will always find an outlet." To see the origins of the neo-colonial path in American history, look to the War and Peace Studies. -BB(2014-02-22)

Related: I've added a graphic interpretation of the Deep State here. Also, U.S. billionaires have apparently funded activity in the Ukraine, in addition to U.S. government-backed USAID. Glenn Greenwald has posted a response. One reader comments:

"Forget about journalistic independence, can anyone in good conscience work for someone who helped fund what *they believe* was a coup?"

Update: Marcy Wheeler, of The Intercept, asserts that:

"I don't see any evidence here that those donations were explicitly intended to pay for regime change"

Also, an article at Pando addresses the alleged journalistic independence of Intercept writers:

"Pierre Omidyar, First Look's sole backer, has a vision. A vision he spends his day sharing with First Look's reporters via their internal messaging. By Scahill's own admission, Omidyar's voice is heard more frequently than any editorial staffer at the company."

The underlying issue here is this: billionaires have largely achieved state capture. The course that society takes is now being decided by a constantly shifting mass of corporate factions and this is directly opposed to the spirit of democratic government:

"Clubs of elite donors in both parties are taking a more central role in shaping policy and campaigns, displacing party leaders and the outside-spending organizations they helped create after the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision in 2010. And the sheer scale of their spending is almost certain to rewrite the playbook for political campaigns this year, as candidates reckon with the strongly held views of some of the world’s wealthiest people."

Obama Masks His Ukraine Agenda

Counterpunch columnist Chris Floyd responds to recent criticism of Putin by President Obama. Here are some choice snippets:

"Take his astonishing attack on Vladimir Putin for 'interfering' in Ukraine. That Obama could make this charge with a straight face — days after his own agents had been exposed (in the infamous “Fuck the EU” tape) nakedly interfering in Ukraine"

"It is, by all accounts, a highly corrupt enterprise given to insider deals for well-connected elites who influence government policy for their own benefit. (I guess this might be a reason for overthrowing a democratically elected government with an armed uprising supported by foreign countries, but I would be careful about espousing this as a general rule if I were an American president.)"

"If the entire Ukrainian people now want to get rid of their president, there are free elections scheduled for 2015"

Also, professor Stephen Cohen provides some much needed context:

"Since the Clinton administration in the 1990s, the U.S.-led West has been on a steady march toward post-Soviet Russia, began with the expansion of NATO in the 1990s under Clinton. Bush then further expanded NATO all the way to Russia's borders. Then came the funding of what are euphemistically called NGOs, but they are political action groups, funded by the West, operating inside Russia. Then came the decision to build missile defense installations along Russia's borders, allegedly against Iran, a country which has neither nuclear weapons nor any missiles to deliver them with. Then comes American military outpost in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, which led to the war of 2008, and now the West is at the gates of Ukraine. So, that's the picture as Moscow sees it. And it's rational. It's reasonable. It's hard to deny."

"What are they doing? The highest-ranking State Department official, who presumably represents the Obama administration, and the American ambassador in Kiev are, to put it in blunt terms, plotting a coup d’état against the elected president of Ukraine."

Floyd and Cohen are right on, Obama provides all of the outward gestures of "a compassionate, progressive, anti-elitist peacemaker" while his agents in the Ukraine facilitate chaos in the name of economic interests. -BB(2014-02-20)

Related : The Deep State is at work in the Ukraine.

"This is not some cabal that was hatched in the dark of night. This is something that hides in plain sight. It's something we know about, but we can't connect the dots, or most people don't connect the dots. It's kind of a natural evolution when so much money and political control is at stake in the most powerful country in the world. This has evolved over time... It is a hybrid of corporate America and the national security state."

Mike Lofgren's full essay is here. I would also advise readers to peruse a similar essay by John Young here.

"Behind the avoidance of public responsibility is the ever increasing use of unjustified secretkeeping, prolongation of exaggerated threats to national security, and as Ike warned the perpetuation of the lucrative military-industry-media complex hidden by official secrecy."

More On Economic Espionage By The NSA

The Times reports that the NSA was involved in spying on an American law firm which was assisting Indonesia with trade issues:

"Even though the Indonesian issues were relatively modest for the United States — about $40 million in annual trade is related to the clove cigarette dispute and $1 billion annually to shrimp — the Australian surveillance of talks underscores the extent to which the N.S.A. and its close partners engage in economic espionage."

One classified document implicates the U.S.D.A. as a frequent recipient of economic intelligence:

"'The U.S.D.A. is involved in trade operations to protect and secure a large segment of the U.S. economy,' that document states. Top agency officials 'often rely on SIGINT' — short for the signals intelligence that the N.S.A. eavesdropping collects — 'to support their negotiations.'"

Yet NSA officials loudly claim that the United States doesn't engage in economic espionage:

"The department [of defense] does ***not*** engage in economic espionage in any domain, including cyber"

More lies. That's all these spies do. There's no reason to trust anything they tell us directly. Better to rely on what they say when they think no one is listening. -BB(2014-02-16)

Related :

"I find it a bit mind boggling and a little bit difficult how I can connect or reconcile discussion about shrimps and how it impacts on Australian security"

State Department Conversation Leaked

A leaked conversation between between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador to the Ukraine provides unique insights into the nature of U.S. foreign policy:

"I don't think Klitsch should go into the government. I don't think it's necessary, I don't think it's a good idea."

Paul Craig Roberts nails the takeaway:

"Ukraine has a democratically elected government, but Washington doesn't like it because Washington didn't pick it. The Ukraine or the western part of it is full of Washington funded NGOs whose purpose is to deliver Ukraine into the clutches of the EU where US and European banks can loot the country, as they looted, for example, Latvia, and simultaneously weaken Russia by stealing a large part of traditional Russia and converting it into US/NATO military bases against Russia."

Another astute comment:

"The 'fuck the EU' remark is only about the difference in style. The U.S. wants fast sanction against the legal government and the people of Ukraine and to install its own puppet while the EU wants a different puppet and a less noisy kind of coup."

As William Blum has observed, since the end of World War II the United States has "endeavored to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of which were democratically elected." U.S. foreign policy isn't about democracy, it's about neo-imperial hegemony. Kissinger himself, in a fit of candor, admitted as much:

"I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves."

The State Department has, once again, shown its true colors. They're not pretty. -BB(2014-02-07)

See also :

"Her [Victoria Nuland's] husband is Robert Kagan, the right-wing foreign policy pundit who served as the founding chairman of the Project for a New American Century, the neo-conservative Washington think tank that played a key role in the political and ideological preparation for the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan."

Pike: The Whole Barrel of Apples is Bad

With the recent passing of Otis Pike, Pando has published a piece that dwells on the hard kernel of truth that Pike bit down on while investigating the misdeeds of the CIA:

"As Pike put it, in Watergate the American people were asked to believe that 'their President had been a bad person. In this situation they are asked much more; they are asked to believe that their country has been evil. And nobody wants to believe that.'"

For this incredible public service the Deep State went after him:

"'I'm serious, there will be retaliation,' Rogovin said. 'Any political ambitions that Pike had in New York are through. We will destroy him for this.'"

Which leads us to where the United States is today, staring down the intelligence services once again.

"Any politician' —or political handler— with a sense of history will point to Otis Pike’s fate: He stuck his neck out and took on the National Security State on terms that should've appealed to common sense conservative values: Are taxpayers getting fleeced? Is America safer under these programs? He was destroyed. And after he was destroyed, he was forgotten. Now he's dead, and no one noticed, or cared."

The Deep State will go to great lengths to protect its privilege and power. Don't expect many U.S. politicians to take a stand. -BB(2014-02-05)

Related : DEA + Sinola Cartel = Deep State.

"Business Insider reported, 'An investigation by El Universal found that between the years 2000 and 2012, the U.S. government had an arrangement with Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel that allowed the organization to smuggle billions of dollars of drugs while Sinaloa provided information on rival cartels.'"

"Written statements were provided to a U.S. District Court in Chicago, confirming the alliance between the DEA and Mexico's largest cocaine cartel. The written testimony, combined with other evidence, shows DEA officials met with leaders of the Sinaloa cartel more than 50 times between 2000 and 2012."

Edward Snowden: Spies Informally Collaborate

Snowden tells how the NSA sidesteps the legal constraints of spying on Americans with a little help from foreign agencies:

"So there is a sort of a trading dynamic there but it's not, it's not open. It's more of a nudge and wink and beyond that the key is to remember the surveillance and the abuse doesn't occur when people look at the data; it occurs when people gather the data in the first place."

He also responds to DNI Clapper's assertion that he still has documents or relied on 'accomplices'.

"I gave all of my information to the American public, to American journalists who are reporting on American issues"

Snowden closes with an explanation of why he's not coming back to the United States any time soon:

"It's, I would say, illustrative that the President would choose to say someone should face the music when he knows the music is a show trial."

There's not been much coverage of this by the U.S. media... -BB(2014-02-04)

Bankers Send Us A Message

Matt Taibbi has just written a sardonic piece for Rolling Stone which dwells on the inability of the Department of Justice to punish the financial elite:

"Eric Holder drops a bunch of fines on the Chase corporate entity from 20,000 feet and then watches as bank leaders give themselves raises, force low-level underlings to pay the tab, and publicly denounce the settlements as undeserved. And get away with doing it."

Nice. This is how the bankers remind us who's in charge. Taibbi explains that the problem has to do with how our government deals with reckless corporate behavior:

"People like Holder still don't understand that the leaders of these rogue firms have no problem blowing up their own companies and/or imperiling the world economy, so long as they continue to personally get paid."

Though it could be argued that officials know exactly what's going on and they're simply too timid to strike at the root:

"They decided last year to make a big show of punishing JP Morgan Chase as a symbol of bank corruption, then forgot to punish the actual people who oversaw the bank's misdeeds. This is a little like trying to rein in a class bully by halving his school's budget. It doesn't work. Crimes are committed by people, and justice has to target people, too. Or else the whole thing is a joke, as we found out last week."

The nature of our justice system hints at a reality that is aptly described by Mike Whitney at Counterpunch:

"Obama is merely the mask that conceals the ruthless machinery of Empire. The real power lies beyond the veil, in the Deep State apparatus which decides everything from drone strikes to Gitmo, from NSA dragnets to habeas corpus, from deficit-slashing austerity to the 'pivot to Asia'. Obama has no say-so in any of these decisions. He's merely a public relations invention whose job is to look sincerely into the teleprompter while announcing the latest round of budget cuts or more of the deeply-regressive social policies his puppetmasters crave. That's his job and everyone knows it."

Short-term self interest wins because the current system rewards it. Sociopaths in the corporate domain arise as a result of behavioral adaptation. These are the type of people who start wars to protect their interests, maintain access to precious resources, and ensure the flow of global capital. -BB(2014-01-31)

Destroying the Constitution to Protect the 1%

The New York Times has published a noteworthy op-ed by Peter Ludlow which details how the propaganda apparatus of the moneyed elite is being leveraged to extort the American public into sacrificing civil liberties:

"Just like authoritarian states, democracies can use fear to exert control over the populace and consolidate power."

It's interesting that both Bill Keller and Tom Friedman have presented fundamentally flawed arguments for giving up consitutional rights in order to save the constitution (in the New York Times of course). Eric Prince, not someone who could be mistaken for a bleeding heart liberal, describes the folly of this mindset:

"I don't know if I want to live in a country where lone wolf and random terror attacks are impossible 'cause that country would look more like North Korea than America."

Luldow points out that The Pentagon and its patronage networks are guilty of intentional threat inflation to bolster a perpetual war on terror that lines the pockets of oligarchs:

"We are conditioned to fear persons in caves in Pakistan but not the destruction of our water supply by frackers, massive industrial accidents, climate change or the work-related deaths of 54,000 American workers every year. Fear of outside threats has led us to ignore the more real dangers from within."

"Does it not occur to the United States that the drone strikes and assassinations are creating more terrorists than they are neutralizing? Perhaps it has, but the calculation has been made that it does not matter. The newly minted enemies can be used to gin up more fear, more restrictions on our freedoms, and so the cycle goes. One might argue that the United States has become a government of fear, by fear, and ultimately, for fear."

"In each case, the images of mushroom clouds, environmental terrorists and agents of mayhem were used to justify actions that would otherwise seem excessive – all in the service of protecting corporate interests."

Bravo, Professor Ludlow. These are very much in line with the conclusions that Dr. Cheung and I arrived at in our book Behold a Pale Farce. -BB (2014-01-21)

A More Honest Rendition of Obama's NSA Speech

Martin Luther King, Jr., was targeted by U.S. intelligence services because he was viewed as a threat by what C. Wright Mills called the Power Elite. With homage to King, Chris Hedges has recast Obama's recent speech on NSA reform to make it both shorter and more direct. Here are some choice excerpts:

"I would not be where I am today were it not for the courage of dissidents like Martin Luther King Jr. who were spied upon by their own government. But I, like Bill Clinton, have sold out those true patriots and gutted those government programs that made possible my own education and ascent into systems of elite power. As president I understand, as do Bill and Hillary, that political power is about us, not about you. I know where power in this country lies. It does not lie with the citizen. It lies with Wall Street and corporate boardrooms. And since my vanity demands that I be famous, wealthy and powerful, I work hard for these centers of power. None of these centers of power want to see any curbs on the security and surveillance state. And so I will make sure there are none."

"I will propose turning over the storage of all your data to a third party, perhaps a private corporation. This will offer you no protection, but it should provide a good government contract to one of my major campaign donors."

"It does not matter if they are ordinary people or foreign leaders. I am not going to apologize for monitoring the communications of friends and allies. We know what we are doing. We know why this is important. The effects of declining incomes for working men and women, the massive debt peonage that keeps people trapped, the slashing of government assistance programs, the chronic, long-term unemployment, and the effects of climate change will eventually trigger volatile unrest. We are ready. The likelihood of totalitarianism no longer comes from fascism or communism. It comes from corporations. Corporations, for which I work, fear those who think and write and speak out and form relationships freely. Individual freedom impedes their profits. And the surveillance system I am protecting today is designed to keep these corporations in power."

Alfred McCoy adds:

"For an imperial power losing its economic grip on the planet and heading into more austere times, the NSA’s latest technological breakthroughs look like a bargain basement deal when it comes to projecting power and keeping subordinate allies in line -- like, in fact, the steal of the century."

It's all about control and empire. Witness the hand of the Deep State at work. -BB(2014-01-20)

Obama's Speech on NSA "Reform"

The President unveiled proposals yesterday that amount to cosmetic changes in how mass interception is performed.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation responds:

"Mass non-targeted surveillance violates international human rights law. It is disproportionate because it sweeps up the communications and communications records of million of innocent people first and only sorts out second what is actually needed. Obama's reforms take a step forward in recognizing that foreigners deserve at least some privacy, but to be consistent with the rule of law, the NSA must be forbidden from engaging in mass, untargeted surveillance in the U.S. or abroad"

So our President just barely scratched the surface. The EFF offers specifics in their speech scorecard:

"There are three types of mass surveillance that we know about that we were using to evaluate Obama's promises in this category: surveillance of millions of phone records under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act; surveillance of Internet communications internationally under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act; and surveillance of communications overseas under Executive Order 12333."

The ACLU echoes the EFF's observations:

"The president's decision not to end bulk collection and retention of all Americans' data remains highly troubling. The president outlined a process to study the issue further and appears open to alternatives. But the president should end – not mend – the government's collection and retention of all law-abiding Americans' data."

Kevin Gosztola responds:

"Where the speech failed tremendously was in its ignorance of issues that arise from the fact that NSA has weakened encryption. There was no part of the speech that addressed whether criminal defendants have a right to information collected against them during their criminal trials. He said nothing about how agencies are collecting information on targets illegally, arresting them for crimes and then going back and using parallel construction through the use of legally collected evidence to put a case together and prosecute them."

Glenn Greenwald responds:

"The crux of this tactic is that US political leaders pretend to validate and even channel public anger by acknowledging that there are 'serious questions that have been raised.' They vow changes to fix the system and ensure these problems never happen again. And they then set out, with their actions, to do exactly the opposite: to make the system prettier and more politically palatable with empty, cosmetic 'reforms' so as to placate public anger while leaving the system fundamentally unchanged, even more immune than before to serious challenge."

Julian Assange responds:

"I think it's embarrasing for a head of state to go on like that for forty minutes and say almost nothing."

Pierre Omidyar responds:

"Obama to Snowden: thanks for showing me the gaping hole we tore in the Constitution. Here's a band-aid. Now please go to jail."

Indeed, the President has tipped his hat. He's not going to do anything substantive as far as the NSA is concerned. The President is beholden to his constituents in the corporate sector who use their wealth, power, and violence to set policy in D.C. The President is beholden to the Deep State. As the burglars who broke into the FBI's office decades ago noted: "It became pretty obvious to us... that if we don't do it, nobody will." A prayer, then, for activists like Jeremy Hammond. -BB(2014-01-18)

From Surveillance State to Police State

Chris Hedges strikes at the root in an essay posted today via truthdig. We currently live in a surveillance state. The moment that large swathes of people begin to mobilize against the Corporatocracy it will morph into a police state:

"The public debates about the government's measures to prevent terrorism, the character assassination of Edward Snowden and his supporters, the assurances by the powerful that no one is abusing the massive collection and storage of our electronic communications miss the point. Any state that has the capacity to monitor all its citizenry, any state that has the ability to snuff out factual public debate through control of information, any state that has the tools to instantly shut down all dissent is totalitarian. Our corporate state may not use this power today. But it will use it if it feels threatened by a population made restive by its corruption, ineptitude and mounting repression. The moment a popular movement arises—and one will arise—that truly confronts our corporate masters, our venal system of total surveillance will be thrust into overdrive."

History has shown that government and corporate monitoring (though there is ultimately little difference) is aimed at the Deep State's greatest enemy: an engaged population. -BB(2014-01-06)

Related: Snowden and Hammond revelations echo the COINTELPRO Leaks.

"The book shows how the break-in, and subsequent release of the contents of the FBI's files to newspapers across the country, upended the public's perception of the up-till-then inviolate head of the Bureau, paving the way for the FBI's overhaul"

Glenn Greenwald notes:

"Former FBI and CIA chief William Webster is shown in the film conceding that the documents they revealed led to important debates, but nonetheless condemning them on the grounds that they used the 'wrong methods' - criminal methods! - to expose these bad acts, insisting that they should have gone through unspecified Proper Channels."

The Times has also covered this story.

"'When you talked to people outside the movement about what the F.B.I. was doing, nobody wanted to believe it,' said one of the burglars, Keith Forsyth, who is finally going public about his involvement. 'There was only one way to convince people that it was true, and that was to get it in their handwriting.'"

"Since 1956, the F.B.I. had carried out an expansive campaign to spy on civil rights leaders, political organizers and suspected Communists, and had tried to sow distrust among protest groups. Among the grim litany of revelations was a blackmail letter F.B.I. agents had sent anonymously to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., threatening to expose his extramarital affairs if he did not commit suicide."

"'It became pretty obvious to us... that if we don't do it, nobody will.'"

The NSA and Entrenched Power Structures

A piece from Pando steps up to the elephant standing in the corner:

"For now, the question is: How can revelations about the out-of-control NSA (and GCHQ) spying program lead to something better? How do we make sense of it given all the bewildering technologies, and how can it be transformed into a politics?..."

"As journalist Tim Shorrock discovered, 70 percent of today's intelligence budget flows to private contractors. Privatization and public-private contracting, did more than funnel taxpayer billions into private hands. It also blurred legal accountability. It's one of the main problems we're still dealing with today, and it's why the current monomaniacal fixation on NSA evils, without a proportionate focus on private sector surveillance, is another dead-end..."

"What the hell were those tech heads from Apple, Google, Facebook, and other tech giants doing in the White House the day before Obama’s NSA report was released? No one seemed to think anything was weird about that picture, the picture of corporate power nakedly dictating to a democratically elected President on the eve of a report that directly concerns those tech titans’ bottom lines."

How to address state capture by the corporate empire? The machinations of the Deep State? Develop infrastructure and a new vision for society. In other words, the Democratic and Republican parties are different wings of the corporate party. The entire political class of this republic must be voted out of office. -BB(2013-12-30)

Snowden Christmas Message 2013

"Hi, and merry Christmas. I’m honored to have a chance to speak to you and your family this year."

"Recently, we learned that our governments, working in concert, have created a system of worldwide mass surveillance watching everything we do."

"Great Britain's George Orwell warned us of the danger of this kind of information. The types of collection in the book: microphones, video cameras, TVs that watch us — are nothing compared to what we have today. We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go."

"Think about what that means for the privacy of the average person. A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They'll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves, an unrecorded unanalyzed thought. And that’s a problem because privacy matters."

"Privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be."

"The conversation occurring today will determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that surrounds us and the government that regulates it. Together, we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance and remind the government if it really wants to know how we feel asking is always cheaper than spying."

"For everyone out there listening, thank you and merry Christmas."

BlackRock: Deep State Player

The Economist, as one might expect, infers that the notion of corporate state capture is a mere "conspiracy":

"Ask conspiracy theorists who they think really runs the world, and they will probably point to global banks, such as Citigroup, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase. Oil giants such as Exxon Mobil and Shell may also earn a mention. Or perhaps they would focus on the consumer-goods firms that hold billions in their thrall: Apple, McDonald’s or Nestlé."

Of course, they turn around and tacitly admit that the folks at Project Censored were right all along. Meet BlackRock, a card-carrying member of the Deep State:

"One firm unlikely to feature on their list is BlackRock, an investment manager whose name rings few bells outside financial circles. Yet it is the single biggest shareholder in all the companies listed above. It owns a stake in almost every listed company not just in America but globally. (Indeed, it is the biggest shareholder in Pearson, in turn the biggest shareholder in The Economist.) Its reach extends further: to corporate bonds, sovereign debt, commodities, hedge funds and beyond. It is easily the biggest investor in the world, with $4.1 trillion of directly controlled assets (almost as much as all private-equity and hedge funds put together) and another $11 trillion it oversees through its trading platform"

Of course, it's not a conspiracy. It's well documented, by credible scholars from world-class universities, that the United States is devolving into corporate fascism. Even Nobel Prize Winning Economists acknowledge the truism of private power. Good Lord, even former White House officials and Presidents (when they're being honest) admit as much. Yet the free-market cult at The Economist would dismiss this obvious development because it flies in the face of their ideological stance, a stance which often serves as a pretext for class war. -BB(2013-12-21)

A Proposal to Rein in The Deep State

A recent post at Cryptome offers a blueprint for throttling global espionage operations. The author begins by noting that existing justifications for spying have only created a worldwide system of private-sector interests that transcend state control:

"The circular defense of spying that 'we have to do it because every nation does it' has led to spiralling increases comparable to excessive military expenditures which inhibit action on far greater social needs..."

"The national security state has become a global enterprise through technology beyond control of any particular state due to excessive secrecy, inter-state agreements, mutual assistance treaties, transgression of local laws and, most importantly, the industry providing the personnel, tools and skills for excessive global spying, as Snowden himself represented."

Next, the author proposes that the U.N. give Snowden amnesty and that the entire trove of documents be deposited with the U.N. as a globally accessible resource.

"Snowden should be given sanctuary and amnesty by the United Nations in a location of his choosing to provide testimony about what he knows and what might be done to harness the technology of excessive global spying."

"Snowden's material should be deposited securely with the United Nations as a unique global resource for study, understanding and development of policy to uniformly reduce among all nations the need for excessive spying and how to control the technology which is now driving it."

Finally, Snowden could be granted a permanent UN position of ombudsman for control of excessive spying technology so that privacy can be fomented at a grass roots level. Spies lose; Mr. and Mrs. Smith win.

"In addition to UN sanctuary and amnesty for Snowden, he should be appointed, with his concurrence, for a permanent UN position of ombuds for control of excessive spying technology, with assistance from a panel of global experts in the full range of this invasion technology by land, sea, air and electromagnetic spectrum..."

"The ombudsman should be non-commercial civilian operating without secrecy to avoid the excessive secrecy upon which global spying is dependent, customarily justified by military defence and commercial proprietary..."

"Freedom from and individual protection against spying would be instituted as a global right to privacy against governments, commerce and institutions overseen by the office of UN ombudsman, beginning with control of and demilitarization of spying technology, and then by legislative assurance of lawful compliance."

An interesting proposal. Though it puts an awful lot of faith in the United Nations. Prominent members like the United States, driven by powerful corporate factions, have demonstrated in the past that, when push comes to shove, they do what they want despite what the world thinks. -BB(2013-12-21)

Judge Rules Against Phone Surveillance

The Electronic Frontier Foundation covers this encouraging development, though they qualify:

"Judge Leon stayed the order pending appeal because of the significant nature of the decision. Both EFF and the ACLU have active lawsuits challenging the same program, before other judges."

Here are a few interesting snippets from Judge Leon's ruling:

"I cannot imagine a more 'indiscriminate' and 'arbitrary invasion' than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying it and analyzing it without judicial approval"

"Turning to the efficacy prong, the Government does not cite a single instance in which analysis of the NSA's bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the Government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive in nature. In fact, none of the three 'recent episodes' cited by the Government that supposedly 'illustrate the role that telephony metadata analysis can play in preventing and protecting against terrorist attack' involved any urgency."

In an open letter to Brazil, NSA whistleblower Ed Snowden takes this train of thought to its logical conclusion:

"These programs were never about terrorism: they're about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They're about power."

Amy Davidson remarks on the implications of Judge Leon's ruling:

"What his ruling does is deprive the N.S.A. of the argument of obviousness: the idea that what it is doing is plainly legal, plainly necessary, and nothing for decent people to worry about."

Though the EmptyWheel wisely advises readers not to get too excited as this is just the first step of progress in an interminable struggle against the agenda of the Deep State. -BB(2013-12-17)

Alleged Links Between NSA and PayPal

Sibel Edmonds has been contacted by a retired NSA official who claims that Snowden's document cache contains evidence of a close partnership between the NSA and Paypal. Other NSA whistleblowers have offered comments:

William Binney:

"Sunlight, transparency, is the only cure; the only way to bring about needed changes. This is why the public is entitled to have all the evidence and documents. The partnership with PayPal's owner, thus, the new ownership of Mr. Snowden's documents by an individual who is implicated in these documents, presents grave concerns and consequences, and a major conflict of interest for transparency, integrity and whistleblowers."

Note: An addendum by Binney

"Unfortunately, Sibel attributes some of her words to me. I do not know that PAYPAL is involved – only that financial data is being used by NSA. And, based on the 'BR' number 13/80 on the Verizon court order to give records to NSA, I estimated that this program involved 78 companies. These would include: telecom's, internet service providers, banks/finance/credit cards, travel, plus others. So, there's a lot of business data being collected by NSA and the FBI. In the future, if I am to be quoted, I will have to I will have to insist on a pre-publication review."

Russell Tice:

"For NSA, information from financial institutions such as PayPal is equally if not more valuable and sought after than that obtained from social media and other software companies such as Facebook, Microsoft and Google... I wouldn't doubt the existence of evidence and documents implicating corporations such as PayPal within the large cache obtained by Edward Snowden. The partnership and data collection arrangements have existed for many years."

John Young at Cryptome describes the dynamics at play:

"Government access to financial transactions has always been top priority for all government agencies, worldwide. Nothing is more important to governments than where the money is, especially money for taxation required to avoid death-stake in the heart of governments. So it is consistent that NSA (and other spies) have access to all on- and off-line financial services providers. As you know, financial services are required to cooperate with their governments, perhaps second only to defense industries, perhaps first due to the need to track worldwide arms sales. Control of arms means control of wealth, and nothing is more appreciated by the few wealthy to offload arms cost to millions of taxpayers"

This is a fairly scathing indictment by credible voices. -BB(2013-12-13)

Related: Corporate Spies Must Be Neutered

The Free Software Foundation makes a salient point that has been largely ignored by the corporate media:

"Nowhere on the coalition site, or in the open letter, do any of the companies take any responsibility for what is happening. Yet, they have intentionally put their users in a vulnerable position, and exploited them without hesitation."

See also:

"Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, always keen to play the market, has been one of the greatest single influences in eroding the private domain of users. 'People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time' (Switched, Jan 11, 2010). Now, Zuckerberg has changed the tune for the moment, fearing that such 'sharing' may well have to be qualified."

It's all about corporate profits, the focus on the NSA is distracting people from another nexus of monitoring. Google's CEO publicly sheds a few tears and desperately hopes to divert attention from private-sector spooks.

Greenwald Ignores The Deep State

In a Q&A with CNET, Glenn Greenwald claims that there's a key difference between government and corporate surveillance:

"If you look at the Bill of Rights, it limits what the state can do but doesn't limit what corporations can do, and that's because, as oppressive as corporations can be, the state has unique powers -- like the ability to put you into a cage for a long time, or life, or even take your life; and the ability to take your property; to impose all kinds of taxation; to build weapons that can be used against people around the world -- that corporations don't actually have alone."

This is a naive conclusion (has someone been seduced by a billionaire? overcome with vainglory?). Greenwald fails to recognize that the government, for years, has often served as a proxy for sources of wealth and power outside of government. When the Koch brothers or the less conspicuous elements of the financial elite want something, they buy it. It works this way in many countries.

If corporate interests want you in a cage, they'll get their political operatives in Washington D.C. to do their dirty work for them. Companies like Google will seek control by concurrently purchasing influence and also subverting regulatory frameworks. The oligarchs that largely run this country seek to cement their hold into full-blown inverted totalitarianism, corporate dictatorship without tears. -BB(2013-12-07)

Plutocrats Drive Presidential Elections and The Surveillance State

An article published by Salon covers an eye-opening research paper by Thomas Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen, and Jie Chen (Ferguson in particular is well known for his analysis of how big money rules electoral politics in the United States). This paper finds:

"Both major party campaigns float their campaigns on the basis of appeals to the one percent – fully 59 percent of the president's campaign funding came from that quarter (56 percent, if one applies the higher threshold of $1,000 contributions) while 79 percent of the funds mobilized by Romney’s campaign originated there."

The Salon article notes that:

"This contrasts rather jarringly with the popular image of the 2012 campaign as one pitting Obama's middle-class constituency against Romney's plutocratic backers. It was more of a plutocrat vs. plutocrat affair."

Once more, there are financial links connecting President Obama to the hi-tech corporate interests involved in building the surveillance state:

"President Obama's support within big business was broader than hitherto recognized. His level of support from firms in telecommunications and software was very strong indeed, sometimes equaling or exceeding Romney's. Many firms and sectors most involved in the recent controversies over surveillance were among the President’s strongest supporters."

Salon comments:

"In the wake of the ongoing revelations from Edward Snowden of a national security state-turned-surveillance behemoth, the level of financial support the president enjoys from the industries working with the government to spy on Americans starts to make sense."

This is the Deep State at work. Sources of private influence and wealth which lack constitutionally vested authority have leveraged their ample resources to exercise state power and shape policy decisions on their own behalf. The surveillance state benefits the wealthy elite in many ways at the expense of our civil rights and the integrity of the republic. -BB(2013-12-01)

Publication Notice: Behold a Pale Farce

Behold a cavalcade of legislators, government officials, and think tank fellows. They claim that the United States waivers perilously at the brink of catastrophe, that foreign powers are poised to cripple the U.S. power grid and decimate the banking system. They warn that if we fail to implement the measures which they endorse, we risk a Cyber Armageddon.

Yet this End Times narrative is a farce, and a pale one at that. These doomsday scenarios serve only to benefit the military-industrial complex. Cyberwar propaganda is an instance of threat inflation. Much like during the run-up to the disastrous global War on Terror. The message of cyberwar elicits a crisis mentality. The end result is an anxious public that's susceptible to ill-conceived, but highly profitable, solutions.

Once more, while the apparatchiks sound the alarm about external threats, there are genuine threats emanating from within. America's Deep State is busy executing campaigns of espionage and sabotage in foreign networks. U.S. intelligence agencies are embroiled in covert operations at home and abroad which have been instrumental in the emergence of a sprawling underground industry that develops weaponized malware and Orwellian mass interception tools. Proponents explain that these developments are necessary to ensure our 'national security.' The reality is that this decidedly offensive approach is seriously undermining our collective security.

In these pages you'll see who is stirring the cyberwar pot, the real threats that we're being distracted from, and the often unacknowledged root causes of our growing cyber insecurity.

Author Note: The original publisher of this book got cold feet and backed off. The chief editor in particular voiced deep concern about "push back," coverage of former DNI Mike McConnell, and the onset of the 2012 Presidential election. Kris Millegan at TrineDay has proven that he's not so easily bullied. -BB(2013-11-15)

TPP Chapter is Revealed To Public

Announced a few hours ago:

"Today, 13 November 2013, WikiLeaks released the secret negotiated draft text for the entire TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) Intellectual Property Rights Chapter."

Salon covers this:

"Intellectual property experts are critical of the draft treaty, which they say would help the multinational movie and music industries, software giants and pharmaceutical manufacturers to maintain and increase prices by reinforcing the rights of copyright and patent owners, clamping down on online piracy and raising obstacles to the introduction of generic drugs and medicines."

McClatchy and Kevin Gosztola have also written about the release. -BB(2013-11-13)

Corporate Spies Ramp Up Their "Fight The Power" Propaganda

In an essay published by The Atlantic, Bruce Schneier claims that corporate America has gotten its mind right, making a veritable 180 with regard to mass interception:

"This is the new reality. The rules of secrecy are different, and companies have to assume that their responses to NSA data demands will become public. This means there is now a significant cost to cooperating, and a corresponding benefit to fighting."

Schneier is way off the mark: there is a benefit if companies create the *perception* that they are fighting. The reality that society actually confronts is more accurately spelled out by Heidi Boghosian, the executive director of the National Lawyers Guild:

"People need to know that for all intents and purposes, the distinction right now between government and the corporate world is virtually nil. They are hand-in-hand working to gather information about Americans as well as people across the globe, to really be in a race to collect more information than any other country can, because I think in their eyes, having this information, storing it, and being able to access it for years on end is a symbol of power and control. So that you can't really make that distinction anymore between big business and government."

Recall that political leaders in D.C. take their marching orders from boardrooms in Manhattan. Google spends more money than Lockheed on the beltway to purchase influence. Corporate spies in the Pentagon's patronage networks are the ones driving all this. Anti-establishment narratives are pure propaganda. These private sector interests *are* the establishment. -BB(2013-11-10)

TPP: Plutocrats Consolidate Control

The media has nearly blacked out the story of the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations. This raises questions:

"Why all the sudden newfound enthusiasm for more free trade? Even more important, why all the secrecy? Why are our leaders desperately reconfiguring the legal super structures of global trade without either consulting their respective voting constituencies or even divulging what is actually up for grabs in the negotiations?"

Spanish writer Don Quijones offers a few answers:

"The new generation of trade treaties goes far beyond what was envisaged for NAFTA and GATT. What they ultimately seek is to transfer what little remains of our national sovereignty to the headquarters of the world's largest multinational conglomerates. In short, it is the ultimate coup de grâce of the ultimate coup d'état. Not a single shot will be fired, yet almost all power will be seized and transferred into private hands — and all of it facilitated by our elected representatives who, by signing these treaties, will be permanently abdicating their responsibilities to represent and protect the interests of their voting constituencies."

This is how neo-imperialism works. Note how it relies heavily on secrecy to marginalize civil society so that the public cannot interfere while these moneyed sociopaths plan to hollow out the middle class. -BB(2013-11-06)

The Deep State & Extrajudicial Executions, War Crimes

Counterpunch has published an appropriately scathing response to a fan-boy piece in the Washington Post regarding the NSA's role in drone strikes:

"There is not a single word in the entire story to suggest, even remotely, that there is anything wrong with the government of the United States running high-tech death squads and blanketing the globe with a level of invasive surveillance far beyond the dreams of Stalin or the Stasi. There is not even a single comment from some token 'serious' person objecting to the policy on realpolitik grounds: i.e., that such actions create more terrorists (as the Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai told Obama to his face last week), or engender hatred for the US, destabilize volatile regions"

In the end, Floyd shows that the whole idea of "reform" is farcical, an obvious effort to appease main street without weakening the Deep State:

"Let us be clear: we are talking about moral compromise here. What is at issue is not the levels of 'legitimacy' that might or might not be produced by a broader 'debate' or 'reform' of the system. What is at issue is the actual moral content of actual policies being perpetrated by the government: the killing of human beings on the arbitrary order of the state, outside even the slightest pretense of judicial process; invasive surveillance, overturning even the slightest pretense of the integrity, autonomy and individual liberty of citizens; and all that falls between these two poles – such indefinite detention, black ops, and torture."

Even now, the Deep State's political operatives are dutifully insisting that Orwellian mass interception is necessary to protect us. This train of thought essentially argues that the only thing standing between us and security is the constitution.

Related: Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have published reports on U.S. drone murders. Amnesty International concludes:

"Because the US government refuses to provide even basic information on particular strikes, including the reasons for carrying them out, Amnesty International is unable to reach firm conclusions about the context in which the US drone attacks on Mamana Bibi and on the 18 laborers took place, and therefore their status under international law. However, based on its review of incidents over the last two years, Amnesty International is seriously concerned that these and other strikes have resulted in unlawful killings that may constitute extrajudicial executions or war crimes."

Our leaders say that these attacks are carefully targeted. But revelations show just how dishonest our politicians are:

"On a sunny afternoon in October 2012, 68-year-old Mamana Bibi was killed in a drone strike that appears to have been aimed directly at her. Her grandchildren recounted in painful detail to Amnesty International the moment when Mamana Bibi, who was gathering vegetables in the family fields in Ghundi Kala village, northwest Pakistan, was blasted into pieces before their eyes."

This is, dear reader, the grisly face of empire. Now perhaps it's clear why we need all this secrecy. -BB(2013-10-23)

"In short, the government may classify information, not because that information reveals tactical or operational secrets but because the conduct it reveals could in theory anger existing enemies or create new ones... this justification for secrecy will be strongest when the U.S. government's conduct most clearly violates accepted international norms."

Related: U.N. Report on Drone Strikes and Perpetual War

"The Obama administration’s drone and targeted killing policy will come under scrutiny at the United Nations today with a report concluding at least 400 Pakistani civilians have been killed by drone strikes over the past decade. Another 200 victims have been deemed 'probable non-combatants.'"

"If the United States were to take the position that it remains in a state of armed conflict—because that is its position in relation to al-Qaeda—with all of these organizations, wherever they are, then of course the United States would be condemning itself to a permanent state of war."

Related: A Report from Alkarama

"While the other 'human rights' groups ask President Obama to please lay out what the law is, whether his killing spree is part of a war or not, who counts as a civilian and who doesn't, etc., Alkarama actually compares U.S. actions with existing law and points out that the United States is violating the law and trying to radically alter the law."

NSA Involved In State-Sponsored Terror

This earlier story, about collaboration between Greenwald and Scahill, strongly suggested that the NSA's link to CIA ops would come to light. The NSA is complicit in the global campaign of terror being conducted by the United States.

"Former CIA officials said the files are an accurate reflection of the NSA's contribution to finding targets in a campaign that has killed more than 3,000 people, including thousands of alleged militants and hundreds of civilians, in Pakistan, according to independent surveys. The officials said the agency has assigned senior analysts to the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, and deployed others to work alongside CIA counterparts at almost every major U.S. embassy or military base overseas."

Kevin Gosztola notes that:

"There are clear issues, such as whether the United states is violating international humanitarian law or committing war crimes, when it launches drone strikes in Pakistan (or other countries) in which it has not declared war. No nod to this reality can be found in the Post's story"

Witness the Praetors of the Deep State at work. General Alexander claims that "ours is a noble cause," refusing to acknowledge the blood of all those innocent people. -BB(2013-10-18)

NSA Contact List Collection

More Snowden-based disclosures. This time on mass interception of contact lists. Here's the skinny:

"During a single day last year, the NSA's Special Source Operations branch collected 444,743 e-mail address books from Yahoo, 105,068 from Hotmail, 82,857 from Facebook, 33,697 from Gmail and 22,881 from unspecified other providers, according to an internal NSA PowerPoint presentation. Those figures, described as a typical daily intake in the document, correspond to a rate of more than 250?million a year."

"The collection depends on secret arrangements with foreign telecommunications companies or allied intelligence services in control of facilities that direct traffic along the Internet’s main data routes."

"Although the collection takes place overseas, two senior U.S. intelligence officials acknowledged that it sweeps in the contacts of many Americans. They declined to offer an estimate but did not dispute that the number is likely to be in the millions or tens of millions."

"The agency avoids the restrictions in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by intercepting contact lists from access points 'all over the world,' one official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the classified program. 'None of those are on U.S. territory.'"

More proof that dragnet surveillance is the rule, and that the NSA will do everything it can to find ways to skirt existing rules. BB(2013-10-17)

The NSA/GCHQ Subvert Tor Anonymity

In the Summer of 2013, Cryptome's John Young warned that alleged anonymity services were often not as safe as advertised:

"Crypto, anonymizers, dropboxes, pastebins, brilliantly ineffective code and privacy policies fail to deliver on their promises despite endless tantrums, permutations, tweeks, corrections, apologias, excuses, exculpation"

Today the Guardian has published documents that support this stance. Intelligence services like the NSA and GCHQ are working diligently to undermine Tor-based anonymity. The technology itself is solid enough that the NSA admits it "will never be able to de-anonymize all Tor users all the time." But at the same time the agency has been successful enough that internal researchers state:

"[A] critical mass of targets use tor. Scaring them away from Tor might be counterproductive"

In other words, they want people to keep using Tor because it will keep targets of interest in a domain where they can use a growing collection of tools to spy on them.

The NSA appears to have the most success undermining the anonymity that Tor offers by attacking the computers of the people using Tor (rather than attacking Tor directly). Ah yes, the quandary of endpoint security. Bruce Schneier has written an article describing the process:

"After identifying an individual Tor user on the internet, the NSA uses its network of secret internet servers to redirect those users to another set of secret internet servers, with the codename FoxAcid, to infect the user's computer."

"FoxAcid is the NSA codename for what the NSA calls an 'exploit orchestrator,' an internet-enabled system capable of attacking target computers in a variety of different ways. It is a Windows 2003 computer configured with custom software and a series of Perl scripts. These servers are run by the NSA's tailored access operations, or TAO, group. TAO is another subgroup of the systems intelligence directorate."

"To trick targets into visiting a FoxAcid server, the NSA relies on its secret partnerships with US telecoms companies. As part of the Turmoil system, the NSA places secret servers, codenamed Quantum, at key places on the internet backbone. This placement ensures that they can react faster than other websites can. By exploiting that speed difference, these servers can impersonate a visited website to the target before the legitimate website can respond, thereby tricking the target's browser to visit a Foxacid server."

It's interesting to note the government's ties with Tor. Keep your friends close. Keep your enemies closer. -BB(2013-10-04)

The NSA Maps Out "Contact Chains"

The Times has publihsed a story on "Sigint Management Directive 424," which allows the NSA to collect and analyze metadata "without regard to the nationality or location of the communicants." Here's a basic outline:

"The spy agency began allowing the analysis of phone call and e-mail logs in November 2010 to examine Americans' networks of associations for foreign intelligence purposes"

"The legal underpinning of the policy change, she said, was a 1979 Supreme Court ruling that Americans could have no expectation of privacy about what numbers they had called. Based on that ruling, the Justice Department and the Pentagon decided that it was permissible to create contact chains using Americans' 'metadata,' which includes the timing, location and other details of calls and e-mails, but not their content. The agency is not required to seek warrants for the analyses from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court."

"N.S.A. analysts were told that they could trace the contacts of Americans as long as they cited a foreign intelligence justification. That could include anything from ties to terrorism, weapons proliferation or international drug smuggling to spying on conversations of foreign politicians, business figures or activists."

It would seem that American metadata is up for grabs, without a warrant, as long as the collectors can claim some sort of foreign intelligence angle (which could be fairly tenuous). Business figures? Activists?

"The N.S.A. documents show that one of the main tools used for chaining phone numbers and e-mail addresses has the code name Mainway. It is a repository into which vast amounts of data flow daily from the agency's fiber-optic cables, corporate partners and foreign computer networks that have been hacked."

"An internal briefing paper from the N.S.A. Office of Legal Counsel showed that the agency was allowed to collect and retain raw traffic, which includes both metadata and content, about 'U.S. persons' for up to five years online and for an additional 10 years offline"

It's clear that the United States is now a surveillance state. The next step in this process is the emergence of a police state. All the tools are in place... while our politicians tell us they're working to keep us safe. -BB(2013-09-29)

Related : NSA's Marina Metadata Database

"Any computer metadata picked up by NSA collection systems is routed to the Marina database, the guide explains. Phone metadata is sent to a separate system."

"Of the more distinguishing features, Marina has the ability to look back on the last 365 days' worth of DNI metadata seen by the Sigint collection system, regardless whether or not it was tasked for collection."

"The ability to look back on a full year's history for any individual whose data was collected – either deliberately or incidentally – offers the NSA the potential to find information on people who have later become targets. But it relies on storing the personal data of large numbers of internet users who are not, and never will be, of interest to the US intelligence community."

How The Elites View Oppositon to Drones

A Yemeni anti-drone activist was recently detained in the UK under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act of 2000. Apparently drone opponents are treated as a terrorist threat, such that the law is being used to silence dissent. According to Glenn Greenwald this mindset is widespread in US intelligence circles:

"Top secret US government documents obtained by the Guardian from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden characterize even the most basic political and legal opposition to drone attacks as part of 'propaganda campaigns' from America's 'adversaries'."

Here's an interesting top secret snippet:

"Attacks against American and European persons who have become violent extremists are often criticized by propagandists, arguing that lethal action against these individuals deprives them of due process."

Greenwald responds:

"In the eyes of the US government, 'due process' – the idea that the US government should not deprive people of life away from a battlefield without presenting evidence of guilt – is no longer a basic staple of the American political system, but rather a malicious weapon of 'propagandists'."

Yet the true propaganda isn't coming from activists, it's coming from our leaders. David Swanson points out a whopper in Obama's recent speech at the UN:

"We have limited the use of drones." (Bush drone strikes in Pakistan: 51. Obama drone strikes in Pakistan: 323)

Orwell: "In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act" -BB(2013-09-27)

Yves Smith Deconstructs Robert Reich

And boy does he have it coming. Robert Reich is a globalist who masquerades as a champion for workers rights. Quelle surprise! In a recent post author Yves Smith drives this point home. Don't be seduced by his apparently leftist stance. Yves notes that Reich contends that globalization is inevitable, there's nothing we can do. Politicians just *love* this because it absolves them of responsibility. Yves counters:

"We live in a system of managed trade. And contra Reich's cheery [free trade] assertion that we simply have to accept these inevitable forces, the fact is that our trade partners have negotiated deals with an eye to preserving trade surpluses and helping protect their workers. The US has come to assume the role of consumer for the rest of the world. Our trade partners are perfectly happy with the result, since our trade deficits are tantamount to exporting US demand to support jobs overseas."

Reich is also one to push for better education, though this does little when high-level STEM jobs are being offshored en masse to other countries to bolster corporate profits. CEOs justify this by claiming that there's a shortage of engineers. The IEEE has debunked this as a myth. Norma Matloff, a professor at UC Davis, has also researched this topic extensively. Yves Smith directs our attention to an important fact:

"Reich has been a speaker at major offshoring industry events.. Reich is performing a monstrous sleight of hand. He tells rapt audiences that he's all for just about everything on labor's wish list. But then he shakes an adult finger and says, 'Yes, but you must work hard and have good skills to compete with those diligent Germans and Chinese.' He then proposes subsidies and training and a grand national strategy to build up target industries, while failing to tell his following that the very trade rules he's touting as inevitable and even helpful make the pro-labor program he pretends to back impossible."

George Smith offers spot-on commentary:

"Fuck the celebrity professional left edutainment and collections machine."

Very clever, promote the interests of the 1% in the guise of a flawed populist agenda. Paul Ryan sits up at night desperately wishing that he could be this slick. -BB(2013-09-26)

The 1,600 Pound Gorilla That Pushes for War

There are those who would lay all of the blame on the push for military action in Syria on the Israeli lobby. In an excellent Counterpunch essay Shamus Cooke illustrates how this viewpoint is myopic. Follow the money says Cooke. Specifically, he directs the reader to examines the banks and their craving for new markets:

"When there are overseas barriers to these types of profits, such as currency controls and other restrictions on foreign investment — as exist in Syria, Iran, and China — these nations are viewed as 'enemies' by the banks who cheerlead their destruction. A submissive nation with an 'open' economy is very good for the profits of U.S. corporations, and submissiveness is best taught by fear, i.e., the threat of military intervention."

The banks are accompanied by a series of related business sectors, many of which directly profit from manufacturing instability:

"The banks don't act alone, but lead a pro-war coalition of corporations, such as the lesser gorillas the authors mention, like weapons manufacturers, the giant construction companies that 'rebuild' a bombed nation, oil companies, and a gaggle of other companies — and there are many — who directly benefit from war profiteering; not to mention the fact that every U.S. multinational corporation has a stake in ensuring that their business is operating in a secure environment, with minimal chance of being nationalized by the host country."

Cooke also points out something with often goes unnoticed. The U.S. dollar is the world's primary reserve currency and oil is priced in terms of the U.S. dollar. This enables massive defense spending on behalf of the United States...

"It is not the individual oil companies that matter so much — as the authors suggest — but the role oil plays in broader geopolitics and as the motor of the U.S economy. Monopolizing this prized resource allows the U.S. massive deficit spending (war spending) via the 'petro-dollar' trade, while ensuring that rival nations will be intimidated by the possibility of having the oil valve turned off. This is why the Middle East continues to be the prime objective for U.S. foreign policy."

Then there's an obvious truism which anyone who has read Imperial Brain Trust can appreciate:

"Ultimately, however, the U.S. empire existed before the nation of Israel was even born, and would continue if Israel no longer existed. Obama's administration is not full of AIPAC lobbyists, but wealthy bankers."

When global developments like this occur there are typically multiple forces at work transpiring on several layers. While AIPAC is certainly a player in all this, it's just one factor in a very complicated equation. -BB(2013-09-18)

Meet The Transnational Capitalist Class (TCC)

The truth tellers at Project Censored has released a chapter from their 2014 book:

"In this study, we decided to identify in detail the people on the boards of directors of the top ten asset management firms and the top ten most centralized corporations in the world. Because of overlaps, there is a total of thirteen firms, which collectively have 161 directors on their boards. We think that this group of 161 individuals represents the financial core of the world's transnational capitalist class. They collectively manage $23.91 trillion in funds and operate in nearly every country in the world."

The authors, Phillips and Osborne, begin with a comprehensive overview of earlier studies on American elites and then move out to broader works on the Transnational Capitalist Class. There's one point they make that really caught my attention:

"The billionaires inside the TCC are similar to colonial plantation owners. They know they are a small minority with vast resources and power, yet they must continually worry about the unruly exploited masses rising in rebellion. As a result of these class insecurities, the TCC works to protect its structure of concentrated wealth. Protection of capital is the prime reason that NATO countries now account for 85 percent of the world's defense spending, with the US spending more on military than the rest of the world combined. Fears of rebellions motivated by inequality and other forms of unrest motivate NATO’s global agenda in the war on terror"

The real service of this study is that it tells you who, exactly, these people are. Most academic scholars prefer to speak in the abstract. Here Phillips and Osborne actually name names, 161 to be precise. -BB(2013-09-13)

Questions for Greenwald

The Rancid Honeytrap (RH) points out that Snowden's disclosures are transpiring within the framework provided by the corporate mass media. This, in and of itself, is reason for pause. RH states:

"There are no miracles on cable news networks co-owned by defense contractors and cable monopolists; there aren't even happy accidents"

In other words, the leaks could be serving an agenda. An agenda with just enough institutional clout behind it to aggravate other powerful entities. This reflects the fact that ruling class interests (i.e. the oligarchs) have been known to coalesce into factions such that their various stances eventually surface in the media cloaked as opposing viewpoints.

"I certainly don’t believe the conspiracy theory that Snowden is a CIA warrior in a turf dispute with the NSA, but its conception of competing crime syndicates is truer in broad strokes than the left wing vision of power as one undifferentiated mass of united malice. People who use 'NSA' and 'the government' and 'the oligarchs' interchangeably and within that framework see Snowden and Greenwald as gatecrashers are seriously missing the point. Along with rival agencies and corporate elites who covet a bigger share of post 9/11 loot and power, there are certainly those who realize how the NSA's virtually unlimited snooping capabilities give the agency and its friends a tremendous amount of deal-breaking leverage."

From 10,000 feet, I believe that Sheldon Wolin's concept of Inverted Totalitarianism is being realized. The Deep State is in control. Though, as Tom Ferguson has described in his Investment Theory of Party Competition, it doesn't mean that big money is a single united front. However, at the same time I would also argue that there are times where the oligarchs exhibit, and pursue, shared class interests.

RH notes that Greenwald and his colleagues have explicitly self-censored (see the final paragraph of this article). The end result being that Greenwald risks supporting the very power structures he claims to struggle against:

"Greenwald has proven a surprisingly capable gatekeeper, whether he sees himself as such or not."

Last, but not least, a series of questions...

"When choosing partners in the US, why did the Guardian choose the New York Times, with its abysmal record on Wikileaks and on truth-telling generally? If, for some reason, Snowden wants to keep this under the auspices of establishment journalism, could he be encouraged to open it up to less dubious institutions, like say, McClatchey?"

"Considering that a lot of people in the security field are starting to resent the withholding of technical information that would assist them in building tools to circumvent the NSA, are there any plans to distribute the leaks to engineers so that technical measures for resisting the NSA can be improved and so that more specialized stories are available to technicians?"

"To what extent, if any, are commercial considerations affecting the timing and placement of the leaks? What financial dealings, if any, have potential to cause conflicts of interest?"

I would sincerely hope that Glenn would address these questions. -BB(2013-09-11)

Update: Glenn has responded. Though he doesn't necessarily answer the three questions above and the tone that he assumes is very telling. Nevertheless, as Howard Zinn would say, we live in the United States of Amnesia, so there is an argument for dragging things out. -BB(2013-09-12)

The NSA and GCHQ are Undermining Our Collective Security

Despite attempts by intelligence agencies to censor this story, both the New York Times and the Guardian report that the NSA and GCHQ have invested a significant amount of effort towards subverting modern cryptographic tools:

"The agency, according to the documents and interviews with industry officials, deployed custom-built, superfast computers to break codes, and began collaborating with technology companies in the United States and abroad to build entry points into their products. The documents do not identify which companies have participated."

"The N.S.A. hacked into target computers to snare messages before they were encrypted. In some cases, companies say they were coerced by the government into handing over their master encryption keys or building in a back door. And the agency used its influence as the world's most experienced code maker to covertly introduce weaknesses into the encryption standards followed by hardware and software developers around the world."

"the N.S.A. spends more than $250 million a year on its Sigint Enabling Project, which 'actively engages the U.S. and foreign IT industries to covertly influence and/or overtly leverage their commercial products’ designs' to make them 'exploitable.' Sigint is the acronym for signals intelligence, the technical term for electronic eavesdropping."

The intelligence services gleefully admit what they've done:

"Classified briefings between the agencies celebrate their success at 'defeating network security and privacy'."

Bruce Schneier comments that the Internet has become a global panopticon and that the U.S. has set a very bad example that will enable abuses in other countries:

"By subverting the internet at every level to make it a vast, multi-layered and robust surveillance platform, the NSA has undermined a fundamental social contract. The companies that build and manage our internet infrastructure, the companies that create and sell us our hardware and software, or the companies that host our data: we can no longer trust them to be ethical internet stewards."

Glenn Greenwald likewise focuses on the betrayal that hi-tech security vendors have committed:

"So it's really a form of fraud that the—that the technology industry is perpetrating on its users, pretending that they’re offering security while at the same time working with the U.S. government to make sure that these products are being designed in a way that makes them actually vulnerable to invasion. And again, sometimes it's the fault of the technology companies. They do it because they want good relationships with the U.S. government. They're profit-motivated. They get benefits from it. But a lot of times there's just pressure and coercion on the part of a very powerful, sprawling U.S. government that induces these companies to do it against their wishes."

One way towards better security is inidcated by Ed Snowden, and then echoed by Schneier:

"Encryption works. Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on."

Thus we see the hand of the Deep State at work. This is the natural end result of top-down security. Security for no one, no one except the minions of the Deep State. -BB(2013-09-07)

Related: The Washington Post examines Tor funding:

"Last year, DoD funding accounted for more than 40 percent of the Tor Project’s $2 million budget. Other major donors include the U.S. State Department, which has an interest in promoting Internet freedom globally, and the National Science Foundation. Add up all those sources, and the government covers 60 percent of the costs of Tor’s development."

"Roger Dingledine, a founder of the Tor Project, says that the Defense Department money is much more like a research grant than a procurement contract."

Mr. Dingledine, it's now a documented part of the public record that the U.S. government has shown that it's ultimate goal is "defeating network security and privacy"

What better way to spy than to subvert a tool that people mistakenly believe will offer them anonymity. Cryptome's John Young nailed this whole subversion story months ago:

"The current comsec excuplt is to claim the Internet and personal devices constitutie a surveillance state, a vast spying machine, a tool for public manipulation, no matter that this has been a hoary blame shifting of security experts since fear-mongering was invented. Security is deception. Comsec a trap. Natsec the mother of secfuckers. You, Applebaum."

Red Lines, Credibility, and Al-Qaeda

President Obama insists that:

"My credibility's not on the line. The international community's credibility is on the line."

"First of all, I didn't set a red line."

"As commander in chief, I always preserve the right and the responsibility to act on behalf of America's national security. I do not believe that I was required to take this to Congress"

Nebraska Republican Deb Fischer responds:

"It was the president who drew that line. It's the president's credibility."

Tony Blinken, Obama's Deputy NatSec Advisor, claims:

"There's been a norm against the use of chemical weapons for nearly 100 years"

It appears that Mr. Blinken in unaware that the U.S. government helped Iraq deploy chemical weapons back during the reign of Saddam. Never mind the white phosphorus, depleted uranium, or the atom bombs. Blinken seems entirely comfortable with the U.S. acting as Al-Qaeda's air force.

That's what happens when politicans have been captured by the Deep State. Wired magazine reports on the recent Senate vote:

"Senators voting Wednesday to authorize a Syria strike received, on average, 83 percent more campaign financing from defense contractors than lawmakers voting against war."

Lo, Senators bow to war despite the fact that public opinion is overwhelmingly against military intervention:

"Many of the president's core supporters, especially African-Americans and members of the Democratic Party's liberal wing who voted repeatedly against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are expressing the deepest reservations... Democrats say they are being confronted with a difficult choice: Go against the wishes of a president who is popular and well respected in their caucus, or defy voters back home who are overwhelmingly opposed to another United States military intervention overseas."

This raises a question: who, exaclty, is pressuring the President if not his grass roots voter base? The Deep State, that's who. -BB(2013-09-06)

The Deep State Is In Charge

Yves Smith examines a thesis proposed by Gaius Pubius; that the intelligence services have taken over:

"Gaius focuses on the question of the degree to which the military-surveillance complex is already calling the shots in the US. While he uses the current sanitized formulation, 'deep state,' I wish he and others in the opposition would use a more accurate, if perhaps less tidy, turn of phrase, like 'slow motion military coup.'"

With regard to a more accurate definition, the Deep State is embodied in terms of a Corporate Coup d'Etat. Peter Dale Scott, who has written at length on this topic, defines the Deep State as:

"The wider interface in America between the public, the constitutionally established state, and the deep forces behind it of wealth, power, and violence outside the government."

In other words, the Deep State consists of power not constitutionally or legally established that's fundamentally driving the exercise of state power. The United States is an empire and the emperor is an amalgam of corporate interests. Intelligence agencies like the NSA and CIA are the Praetorian Guard of the insular elite who pull the strings for their own benefit. -BB(2013-08-31)

Norms, Chemical Weapons, and Contradictions

Paul Waldman examines the recent focus on chemical weapons:

"Why do we have this international consensus saying that while it's bad for someone like Assad to bomb a neighborhood full of civilians and kill all the men, women, and children therein, it's worse for him to kill that same number of civilians by means of poison gas than by means of 'conventional' munitions that merely tear their bodies to pieces?"

"If the same number of children had been blown apart by bombs, you'd never see the pictures at all, because the editors would have considered them too gruesome to broadcast. And not having seen the images, we might be just a little less horrified."

John Mearsheimer, during an impressive tour de force on the PBS News Hour, adds:

"The United States used nuclear weapons in World War II. So the norms could not have been very powerful in that war... I ask you, what's the difference between killing somebody with shrapnel or bullets vs. killing them with chemical weapons? I don't see any meaningful difference. If we're so concerned about the fact that people have been killed, we should have intervened a long time ago in Syria. And, of course, we didn't because we don't want to get in the middle of this situation because we have no way to fix it."

Tariq Ali reminds:

"The country that has of course used chemical weapons is the United States, which used white phosphorus in Fallujah. No red lines were drawn them, except the red lines of Iraqi blood."

Despite the obvious lack of public support, the media continues to report that President Obama is feeling "pressure" to engage our military. Who exactly is exerting this pressure?

"The 'growing calls ... for forceful action' aren't coming from the people, or Congressional majorities, or an expert consensus. The pressure is being applied by a tiny, insular elite that mostly lives in Washington, D.C., and isn't bothered by the idea of committing America to military action that most Americans oppose. Nor are they bothered by the president launching a war of choice without Congressional approval, even though Obama declared as a candidate that such a step would be illegal. Some of them haven't even thought through the implications of the pressure they're applying."

Robert Fisk notes that the insular elite also don't seem to care very much that U.S. military action will benefit the same sort of radicals that we spent over a trillion dollars fighting.

"If Barack Obama decides to attack the Syrian regime, he has ensured – for the very first time in history – that the United States will be on the same side as al-Qa’ida."

The Deep State fixates on its credebility and influence. Raytheon's stock surges. The people of Syria will suffer, as it's highly unlikley that there's a feasible military solution. -BB(2013-08-30)

Google: Welcome to the Deep State

In the wake of reports that the NSA is handing out cash in return for people's data, Julian Assange sheds some sunlight on the ties between service providers like Google and our government. The connections are much deeper than most people think. According to Fred Burton, Stratfor's Vice President for Intelligence and a former State Department official:

"Google is getting WH [White House] and State Dept support and air cover. In reality they are doing things the CIA cannot do... [Cohen] is going to get himself kidnapped or killed. Might be the best thing to happen to expose Google's covert role in foaming up-risings, to be blunt. The US Gov’t can then disavow knowledge and Google is left holding the shit-bag"

Assange offers additional nuggets of information that demonstrate just how tightly linked things are:

"WikiLeaks cables also reveal that previously Cohen, when working for the State Department, was in Afghanistan trying to convince the four major Afghan mobile phone companies to move their antennas onto US military bases. In Lebanon he covertly worked to establish, on behalf of the State Department, an anti-Hezbollah Shia think tank. And in London? He was offering Bollywood film executives funds to insert anti-extremist content into Bollywood films and promising to connect them to related networks in Hollywood. That is the Director of Google Ideas. Cohen is effectively Google’s director of regime change. He is the State Department channeling Silicon Valley."

Ultimately, the U.S. government acts abroad to benefit corporate leadership. Respected foreign policy experts like Noam Chomsky and William Blum have written extensively on this. It's a matter of state capture. The execs at Google can be seen above in the blatant pursuit of shared class interests abroad:

"(1) a single-minded focus on maximizing short-term elite economic and military interests; (2) a refusal to let other societies follow their own paths if perceived to conflict with these interests; (3) continual and massive violations of international law; (4) indifference to human life, particularly in the Third World; (5) massive violation of the U.S. Constitution, especially through the executive branch's seizure of the power to wage unilateral and unaccountable war in every corner of the globe; (6) indifference to U.S. and international public opinion, which is often more progressive and humane than that of the elites; (7) a remarkable ability to 'manufacture consent,' aided by the mass media and intellectuals, that has blinded most Americans to the truth of what their leaders actually do in their names."

Witness the machinations of the 1% -BB(2013-08-24)

Keith Alexander: Inside The Elite Mindset

Recently Jennifer Granick, the Director of Civil Liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, was given access to Keith Alexander. In the aftermath of their dinner together Granick sums up the ideological void that separates them:

"Whether you believe that unchecked power inevitably corrupts, or rather believe that the sincere intentions of well-meaning individuals will protect us."

General Alexander's stance is nearly identical to that assumed by monarchies for thousands of years. China's many dynasties speak to this directly. In theory it didn't matter that the leadership had complete authority because they were assumed to be an enlightened, good-intentioned, individuals. History shows exactly how dangerous this misplaced trust is. Dynasty after dynasty were consumed by their own corruption.

Granick observes that:

"The General seemed convinced that if only I knew what he knew, I would agree with him. He urged me to visit Pakistan, so that I would better understand the dangers America faces."

Ah, yes: "If you only knew what I knew". This is an old stand-by, wielded by leaders who wish to conceal their true nature. Former CIA office John Stockwell, who sat on a sub-committee of the National Security Council, explains how this talking point is merely an apologia for corrupt apparatchik:

"I wanted to know if wise men were making difficult decisions based on truly important, threatening information, threatening to our national security interests. If that had been the case, I still planned to get out of the CIA, but I would know that the system, the invisible government, our national security complex, was in fact justified and worth while. And so I took the job.... Suffice it to say I wouldn't be standing in front of you tonight if I had found these wise men making these tough decisions. What I found, quite frankly, was fat old men sleeping through sub-committee meetings of the NSC in which we were making decisions that were killing people in Africa. I mean literally. Senior ambassador Ed Mulcahy... would go to sleep in nearly every one of these meetings...."

Oh, and as far as Pakistan is concerned, I'm sure General Alexander understands the backlash that our global terror campaign is creating. How a man with over a dozen granchildren enables a brutal program that kills hundreds of innocent children is beyond me. -BB(2013-08-24)

The Deep State Unbound: Oversight Fails Completely

The Washington Post has reported that the NSA has broken surveillance laws thousands of times. These developments, captured in an internal agency audit, were not shared with the President, the FISA Court, or Congress:

"The documents, provided earlier this summer to The Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, include a level of detail and analysis that is not routinely shared with Congress or the special court that oversees surveillance. In one of the documents, agency personnel are instructed to remove details and substitute more generic language in reports to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence."

"The NSA audit obtained by The Post, dated May 2012, counted 2,776 incidents in the preceding 12 months of unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications. Most were unintended. Many involved failures of due diligence or violations of standard operating procedure. The most serious incidents included a violation of a court order and unauthorized use of data about more than 3,000 Americans and green-card holders."

According to the Post these violations have increased over time. So much for empty claims (e.g. Obama, Clapper, Alexander) that the U.S. doesn't listen in on Americans.

But it gets even worse, the chief justice of the FISA court, Judge Reggie B. Walton, warns that his court doesn't have the authority to sufficiently oversee the NSA:

"The FISC is forced to rely upon the accuracy of the information that is provided to the Court... The FISC does not have the capacity to investigate issues of noncompliance, and in that respect the FISC is in the same position as any other court when it comes to enforcing [government] compliance with its orders."

It would seem that the Executive, the secret courts, and Congress are not really in charge. Instead, the Deep State is in charge. Senior Fellow at Global Security, George Smith, laments:

"Have to be the deliveryman of bad news: It’s not fixable in my lifetime. The technology of American global security has been turned on the civilian populace because that’s where the money is now."

There are deep forces at work here. Chris Hedges spells it out. The accelerating divergence between the moneyed elite and everyone else:

"What is happening in Egypt is a precursor to a wider global war between the world’s elites and the world’s poor, a war caused by diminishing resources, chronic unemployment and underemployment, declining crop yields caused by climate change, overpopulation and rising food prices."

Impeachment would be a good start. But in the end our entire body politic has been subverted by the Deep State, power not constitutionally or legally established that's driving the exercise of state power. Here it is, people, right before our eyes. Reform at this point would be a cosmetic band-aid. What the United States needs is nothing short of a Consitutional Convention. -BB(2013-08-16)

The Times Finally Confronts Obama's Lies

On August 8th, Charlie Savage published an article which described NSA mass interception:

"It [the NSA] copies virtually all overseas messages that Americans send or receive, then scans them to see if they contain any references to people or subjects the agency thinks might have a link to terrorists."

In light of this disclosure, even the editorial board of a mainstream outlet concedes:

"Data collection on this scale goes far beyond what Congress authorized, and it clearly shreds a common-sense understanding of the Fourth Amendment... Naturally, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved these half-baked assertions with a secret opinion."

To top it all off, in a move that's very revealing, Barack Obama has the audacity to go on national televsion and claim "there is no spying on Americans." As you can see, these front men for the Deep State (President Obama, General Keith Alexander, DNI James Clapper) dissimulate almost as easily as they breathe. Perhaps they're trying to leverage the PR tactic known as the Big Lie:

"The broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods."

The mainstream can no longer dismiss people like Mark Kelin, William Binney, or Ed Snowden. The surveillance apparatus of the Leviathan known as the Deep State has emerged from the depths for all to see. The U.S. Republic faces nothing short of a Consitutional Crisis. Will society hold felons and war criminals accountable? -BB(2013-08-09)

General Alexander: The Deep State's Talking Points

The man who presides over the NSA and CYBERCOM appeared yesterday at Black Hat USA, repeating a number of standard talking points about the emerging surveillance state. Pulling the national security card, he pleaded that Orwellian mass interception is necessary to keep us safe It’s a ridiculous argument that essentially extorts privacy (e.g. as Tom Friedman and Bill Keller both asserted, we must undermine the Constitution to save it). A notion, by the way, that Founding Father Benjamin Franklin found abhorrent:

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Likewise, a former Stasi officer warns:

"It is the height of naivete to think that once collected this information won't be used... This is the nature of secret government organizations. The only way to protect the people's privacy is not to allow the government to collect their information in the first place"

To support his stance, in a public statement given by General Alexander on June 25, 2013, the NSA director claims:

"We provided over 50 cases to both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees that show the specific contribution of these programs to our understanding and, in many cases, disruption of terrorist plots in the United States and over 20 countries throughout the world."

Kenneth Roth, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch (and a former federal prosecutor during the 1980s,), says otherwise:

"Upon scrutiny, however, many of these plots appear in fact to have been uncovered not because of the mass collection of our metadata but through more traditional surveillance of particular phone numbers or email addresses—the kinds of targeted inquiries that easily would have justified a judicial order allowing review of records kept by communications companies or even monitoring the content of those communications."

When asked about why terrorists are attacking the United States (this is where he really shows the true extent of his indoctrination) General Alexander asserts that terrorists attack us to impose a caliphate of sharia law:

"'Why do so many countries want to attack us?' the person asked."

"The general replied that America stands in the way of them reaching their objective, which is to force everybody to comply with sharia law."

More unadulterated propaganda; terrorists are attacking us because the United States is engaged in an unrivaled global campaign of state-sponsored terror. President Obama's own words explain the basic dynamic at work:

"There is no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders"

The people who have attacked the United States confirm President Obama's observation. Glenn Greenwald points out:

"In the last several years, there have been four other serious attempted or successful attacks on US soil by Muslims, and in every case, they emphatically all say the same thing: that they were motivated by the continuous, horrific violence brought by the US and its allies to the Muslim world - violence which routinely kills and oppresses innocent men, women and children"

It's well documented that the Deep State has embarked on a self-perpetuating program of systematic mass murder that has killed hundreds of innocent children. Is it any wonder why people abroad despise us? It's not our freedoms that they hate; it's the brutal reign of terror that our leaders are executing. In other words, Muslims look around and conclude that the United States hates their freedoms.

The epicenter of the progressive movement, Noam Chomsky, describes the contradictory nature of Alexander's various explanations:

"You can’t seriously on the one hand be not only carrying out massive terror but even generating potential terrorists against yourself and claim that we have to have massive surveillance to protect ourselves against terror. That’s a joke. It should be headlines."

General Alexander, sitting on mountains of pilfered data, is no doubt aware of this. The very fact that he falls back on such a blatantly flawed argument reveals the interests that he represents. General Alexander serves the deep forces of wealth and power that reside outside of government. -BB(2013-08-01)

Related Questioning the NSA's Success Rate:

"At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, the chairman, Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, accused Obama administration officials of overstating the success of the domestic call log program. He said he had been shown a classified list of 'terrorist events' detected through surveillance, and it did not show that 'dozens or even several terrorist plots' had been thwarted by the domestic program."

According to National Security Agency Deputy Director John Inglis:

"Bulk collection of phone records of millions of Americans under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act has been key in stopping only one terror plot — not the dozens officials had previously said."

Related: Terrorists Admit Why They Attack

"In his address, Mr. Zawahri called for attacks on American interests in response to its military actions in the Muslim world and American drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors statements by jihadists."

General Alexander, I don't hear any mention of sharia law...

The Manning Verdict And The Ascent Of The Deep State

Here are a collection on responses to recent developments in the Manning trial:

Michael Ratner:

"Here you have man who who's revealed very important information about war crimes, whose information actually sparked the Arab spring, and you have him being convicted of 20 charges that can carry 134 years. And you have people who were engaged in the criminality he revealed not being investigated at all."

Julian Assange via WikiLeaks

"This is the first ever espionage conviction against a whistleblower. It is a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism. It is a short sighted judgment that can not be tolerated and must be reversed. It can never be that conveying true information to the public is 'espionage'."

Julian Assange on Democracy Now!:

"The prosecution has not alleged that a single person came to harm as a result of Bradley Manning's alleged actions, not a single person. And, in fact, no evidence was presented that anyone was indeed harmed. The defense is not allowed to argue that that means that these charges should be thrown out."

"We now have a state within a state in the United States. There are more than five million people with security clearances, more than one million people with top-secret security clearances. The majority of those one million people with top-secret security clearances work for firms like Booz Allen Hamilton and so on, where they are out of the Freedom of Information Act, where they are out of the inspector general of intelligence’s eye. That is creating a new system, a new system of information apartheid, a new asymmetry of information between different groups of people. That’s relating to extensive power inequalities with the — if you like, the essence of the state, the deep state, the intelligence community, lifting off from the rest of the population, developing its own society and going its own way."

More from Assange

"Assange said the only victim in the case had been the US government's 'wounded pride', adding that Manning's disclosures had helped spark the Arab Spring... He described the soldier as the best journalistic source the world had ever seen, uncovering war crimes in Iraq which he maintained had led to the removal of US troops from that country."

Daniel Ellsberg:

"When I hear Bradley Manning and when I read what he said in the chat logs and whatever, I'm hearing myself when I was twice his age 40 years ago, and I know my motives and I perceive the same motives in his case, in each case actually, to save lives, to shorten a wrongful, hopeless, stalemated war, and to do so by informing the public and challenging them to live up to the Constitution in an unconstitutional war, to live up to ideals of democracy and of nonaggression, rather than fighting an aggressive war"

Commentary: Manning has exposed the war crimes and corruption of the Deep State. Thanks to him, and other whistleblowers, our understanding of the Deep State's true nature has gained clarity. Peter Dale Scott elaborates:

"More and more, it is becoming common to say that America, like Turkey before it, now has what Marc Ambinder and John Tirman have called a deep state behind the public one. And this parallel government is guided in surveillance matters by its own Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, which according to the New York Times, 'has quietly become almost a parallel Supreme Court.' Thanks largely to Edward Snowden, it is now clear that the FISA Court has permitted this deep state to expand surveillance beyond the tiny number of known and suspected Islamic terrorists, to any incipient protest movement that might challenge the policies of the American war machine."

Hence Lon Snowden correctly observes that his son should stay abroad. Decision makers know they have to make an example of whistleblowers to safeguard their power. -BB(2013-07-31)

XKeyscore: NSA's Mining Tool

The Guardian releases another document that fleshes out Ed Snowden's initial statement about being able to get anything on anyone, in addition to making Mike Rogers look like an idiot:

"'I, sitting at my desk,' said Snowden, could 'wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email.'"

"US officials vehemently denied this specific claim. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said of Snowden's assertion: 'He's lying. It's impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.'"

"But training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed."

The NSA responds to this article:

"Every search by an NSA analyst is fully auditable, to ensure that they are proper and within the law."

Response: Legal? Would this be public law or secret law?

"These types of programs allow us to collect the information that enables us to perform our missions successfully – to defend the nation and to protect US and allied troops abroad."

Response: As expected, the spearhead of the Deep State pleads national security and claims that auditing prevents misuse (Really? And who pray tell maintains the audit logs?) -BB(2013-07-31)

Chomsky: Drones and The Surveillance State

Noam Chomsky, speaking recently at the Geneva Press Club, explained why our political leaders have such a fixation with secrecy:

"Governments as I mentioned before always plead security no matter what's going on... If you look at anyone who's spent any time poring through declassified records –I have, I'm sure many of you have– you find that overwhelmingly the security is the security of the state from its own population and that's why things have to be kept secret."

He also pointed out that U.S. foreign policy and our state-sponsored war crimes are creating the very threat that all of this surveillance is allegedly intended to prevent:

"The plea of the US government in this case for the surveillance and so on, is that it’s security against terror. But at the very same moment the US policy is designed in a way to increase terror. The US itself is carrying out the most awesome international terrorist campaign, ever, I suppose– the drones and special forces campaign. That’s a major terrorist campaign, all over the world, and it’s also generating terrorists. You can read that and hear that from the highest sources, General McChrystal and scholars and all, so on."

"So you can’t seriously on the one hand be not only carrying out massive terror but even generating potential terrorists against yourself and claim that we have to have massive surveillance to protect ourselves against terror. That’s a joke. It should be headlines."

But it's not, because the Deep State is exerting its influence. The same sort of influence that can force heads of state out of the sky. The Hegelian dialectic is at work, we're racing toward an apocalypse of the Deep State's creation. -BB(2013-07-31)

Addendum: George Smith observes:

"And therein lies a central dilemma in any attempt to restore prosperity, genuine security and fairness in the country. They're a big part of the problem."

Drone Strikes and The Face of Empire

Cornel West responds to Obama's recent public statements:

"President Obama is a global George Zimmerman, because he tries to rationalize the killing of innocent children, 221 so far, in the name of self-defense"

This is particularly salient in light of a leaked document on drone strikes in Pakistan:

"The internal document shows Pakistani officials too found that CIA drone strikes were killing a significant number of civilians – and have been aware of those deaths for many years. Of 746 people listed as killed in the drone strikes outlined in the document, at least 147 of the dead are clearly stated to be civilian victims, 94 of those are said to be children."

Empire, while earnestly trying to maintain a respectable facade at home, reveals its true nature abroad. -BB(2013-07-24)

Related : Don't expect things to change anytime soon.

"It doesn't matter who is president. No 'ordinary American who can dream of one day becoming president' is in a position to alter the basic equation, which would involve bucking the vast military-financial-industrial-academic complex that drives the American economy, funds our political elections and keeps people in line through any means necessary. That's as true of Obama as it was of Kennedy or Nixon or …fill in the blank."

"The Pentagon and CIA are powerful and independent fiefdoms characterized by entrenched agendas and constant intrigue. They are full of lifers, who see an elected president largely as an annoyance, and have ways of dealing with those who won’t come to heel."

Related : Drones and Surveillance

"The two are functionally of a piece because they both aim at the same goal: control over everything that can possibly bear on the fortunes of the elites Obama serves."

Related : The Spearhead of Inverted Totalitarianism

"N.S.A. is the spearhead for an American version of fascism, running neck-and-neck with the CIA-JSOC paramilitary-operation synthesis for that honor."

How Elites Thwart Revolutions, Impose Police States

Author Yves Smith points us to an op-ed by UCSB professor William Robinson:

"The Italian socialist Antonio Gramsci developed the concept of passive revolution to refer to efforts by dominant groups to bring about mild change from above in order to undercut mobilisation from below for more far-reaching transformation..."

"The Obama project co-opted that brewing storm from below, channelled it into the electoral campaign, and then betrayed those aspirations, as the Democratic Party effectively demobilised the insurgency from below with more passive revolution."

Yves then adds that:

"A general strike would be a galvanizing event but I don't see how that gets done. I suspect we'll see more and more random violence as frustrated individuals lash out. And that sort of violence will serve as the perfect pretext for more and more aggressive policing and surveillance."

And now, dear reader, this may provide some perspective on the NSA's mass interception programs. Economic and political assaults will continue until people are forced to respond. When they do, the surveillance state will be there to greet them. -BB(2013-07-20)

Hayden Defends The Surveillance State

Former CIA/NSA Director Michael Hayden writes about Ed Snowden's disclosures in a CNN op-ed:

"First, there is the undeniable operational effect of informing adversaries of American intelligence's tactics, techniques and procedures..."

Response As Bruce Schneier points out, this assertion doesn't even pass the laugh test. Terrorists changed their tactics years ago. Unless, of course, when Hayden uses the word "adversaries" he's referring to the American public. Noam Chomsky offers insight in this regard:

"The worst enemy of any government is its own population."

Hayden continues, detailing the alleged "damage" the Snowden has wrought through whistleblowing:

"But there is other damage, such as the undeniable economic punishment that will be inflicted on American businesses for simply complying with American law."

Response Just becuase it's legal doesn't make it right... It's the classic Eichmann Defense, "I was just following orders."

Anyway, onto Hayden's final (ridiculous) charge against Snowden:

"The third great harm of Snowden's efforts to date is the erosion of confidence in the ability of the United States to do anything discreetly or keep anything secret."

Response Good lord, man, the problem here is not that we can't keep secrets. The problem is that we've got too many. We've established a system where secret courts pass secret laws on secret programs that impact our constitutional rights; where privacy is being sacrificed on the altar of national security. This kind of secrecy and control are antithetical to democracy. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has admitted as much. And the fact that Hayden supports the machinations of the surveillance state reveals his authoritarian colors. Then again, what would you expect from someone who was so completely entrenched in the power structures of the Deep State? -BB(2013-07-20)

False Flag Ops Are Everywhere

A blog entry at Darker Net explores the connections between Barret Brown, Michael Hastings, and the Endgame company. In doing so this essay points out a salient aspect of the malware-industrial complex:

"What is at stake here is that the United States government has outsourced the most evil elements of national security: the ability to hack into computer systems across the world, foreign and domestic, private or government owned. The organizations they outsourced this to then set about monetizing the process, selling it to the highest bidder. This process could also allow corporations and the financial and political elites to create acts of war that appear to have come from the US Government due to the severely interconnected nature of the intelligence community, split between private companies and actual government agencies with alleged oversight of sorts. Edward Snowden’s access to NSA data while an employee of a private company for only four months (Booz Allen Hamilton, owned in large part by the Carlyle group which has long ties to the Bush family) illustrates the extent of the problem."

Vendors may outwardly claim that they don't sell malware to a particular set of customers, but in the end corporations exist to generate profit and any vestige of patriotism often gets tossed out the window when shareholder interests are at stake. Such is the siren call of the highest bidder.

Furthermore, I would take this one step further. The rise of these independent private sector operators means that the field is now flooded with non-state actors who will gladly do the day-to-day dirty work for anyone who can pay. It's naive to think that only government agencies can launch ops.

T.S. Eliot queried:

"In a wilderness of mirrors. What will the spider do, Suspend its operations, will the weevil Delay?"

As someone who has researched anti-forensics, I can confirm that there's been significant investment in this arena. In my opinion it would be failry simple for an idependent outfit to launch an attack and stage it (operationally, technically, and geographically) to implicate an uninvolved party as the aggressor. Certainty is the false refuge of officials begging for government funding. -BB(2013-07-19)

Snowden Statement from Moscow Airport

Today, 5pm Moscow time, our hero reiterated the dangers that mass interception, coupled with state secrecy, posed to liberty and democracy.

"The 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution of my country, Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and numerous statutes and treaties forbid such systems of massive, pervasive surveillance. While the US Constitution marks these programs as illegal, my government argues that secret court rulings, which the world is not permitted to see, somehow legitimize an illegal affair. These rulings simply corrupt the most basic notion of justice – that it must be seen to be done. The immoral cannot be made moral through the use of secret law."

Snowden is reconsidering asylum in Russia given how the President of Bolivia was treated and how the United States is executing a full-court press to influence Latin American governments.

"As we have seen, however, some governments in Western European and North American states have demonstrated a willingness to act outside the law, and this behavior persists today. This unlawful threat makes it impossible for me to travel to Latin America and enjoy the asylum granted there in accordance with our shared rights."

Obama claimed that he wouldn't scramble jets "to get a 29-year-old hacker" but one has to admit that there are veiled threats at work. When the U.S. security apparatus wants something, it tends to get it, as Microsoft would no doubt agree. -BB(2013-07-12)

Rob Urie observes :

"If NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden can find his way to political asylum in Venezuela, as current rumor has it, the local issue of an American democratic activist (Snowden) finding refuge in a democratic country is solved. But the larger problem of the citizens of the U.S. passively accepting the increasingly oppressive terms of empire remains."

"The next move of empire is for 'reformers' to step in to save the totalitarian apparatus under the guise of 'correcting its excesses.' And until life becomes a lot more uncomfortable for the bourgeois wasteland of the American left, 'reform' will likely serve its purpose of derailing change."

Snowden Interview, Part 2

Snowden recalls that he started as a true-believer and then, over time, his faith was shaken by the blatant manipulation he witnessed:

"As I watched the news and I increasingly was exposed to true information that had not been propagandized in the media, that we were actually involved in misleading the public and misleading all publics, not just the American public, in order to create a certain mindset in the global consciousness... the structures of power that exist are working to their own ends to extend their capability at the expense of the freedom of all publics."

Then he touches on what his disclosures ultimately reveal:

"The NSA doesn't limit itself to foreign intelligence. It collects all communications that transit the United States. There are literally no ingress or egress points anywhere in the continental United States where a communication may enter or exit without being monitored and collected and analyzed. The Verizon document speaks highly to this, because it literally lays out they're using an authority that was intended to be used to seek warrants against individuals, and they're applying it to the whole of society by basically subverting a corporate partnership through major telecommunications providers, and they're getting everyone’s calls, everyone's call records, and everyone's Internet traffic, as well."

And don't expect things to get any better under allegedly progressive leaders:

"We're compounding the excesses of prior governments and making it worse and more invasive. And no one is really standing to stop it"

You can expect elements in the media, which have long-standing relationships with the intelligence community, to continue to focus on the messenger instead of his message. -BB(2013-07-10)

More From Snowden on Big Brother

The following statements are from an article that was published by Der Spiegel:

"Yes of course. They [the NSA] are in cahoots with the Germans, as well as with the most other Western countries"

"When the last large wiretapping scandal was investigated - the interception without a court order, which concerned millions of communications - that should really have led to the longest prison sentences in world history. However, then our highest representatives simply stopped the investigation. The question, who is to be accused, is theoretical, if the laws themselves are not respected. Laws are meant for people like you or me - but not for them."

"The partners in the 'Five Eyes' [the secret services of the Americans, the British, the Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians] sometimes go even further than the NSA people themselves. Take the Tempora program of the British intelligence GCHQ for instance. Tempora is the first 'I save everything' approach ('Full take') in the intelligence world. It sucks in all data, no matter what it is, and which rights are violated by it."

Related : Secret Court Creates Secret Law for Secrect Monitoring

"In more than a dozen classified rulings, the nation's surveillance court has created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans while pursuing not only terrorism suspects, but also people possibly involved in nuclear proliferation, espionage and cyberattacks, officials say."

"The FISA judges have ruled that the N.S.A.'s collection and examination of Americans' communications data to track possible terrorists does not run afoul of the Fourth Amendment, the officials said."

Secrecy may very well be the primary threat to our Republic. How can important issues be debated and examined if everything is a secret? National security is just an excuse, secrecy is a tool to marginalize the public - BB(2013-07-07)


Glenn Greenwald states that this proves what a joke the FISA court is, and the whole notion of oversight:

"What kind of a country has a court that defines the Constitution in total secrecy and forces us to live under truly secret law in which the government can do all sorts of things to us that we're not even aware of, that it's claiming the right to do and being given the power to do it?"

Where is this headed if left unhindered? Greenwald warns:

"The NSA is in the process, in total secrecy, with no accountability, of constructing a global, ubiquitous surveillance system that has as its goal the elimination of privacy worldwide"

The evidence, in addition to recent events, supports his conclusions. -BB(2013-07-08)

EU Leaders Show Their Colors

Yesterday, the aircraft flying Bolivian President Evo Morales from a convention in Moscow back to Bolivia was forced to reroute its flight path when France, Portugal, Italy, and Spain refused to authorize the President's plane to fly through their airspace.

"Bolivia's ambassador to the UN, Sacha Llorenti Soliz France, said Portugal, Spain and Italy 'violated international law' by blocking Morales's plane, adding that 'the orders came from the United States.'"

Like other EU members, despite the appearance of outrage, Germany has yielded to pressure from the U.S.:

"Germany on Tuesday evening became just the latest country to reject NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's application for asylum"

These actions speak very loudly. They reveal a massive disconnect between the song and dance that officials perform for the public and the full-court grovel that they do in private when dealing with the U.S.

With this in mind, Dave Lindorff raises an interesting point:

"Has the US, with its massive spy network, just demonstrated that it now has a power greater than its nuclear arsenal: a dossier perhaps on almost every leader in the world with which it is able to blackmail even the likes of Hollande, Merkel and Putin? It is hard to come up with another explanation for the way this incident played out."

Consider the implications from the following New York Times op-ed :

"N.S.A. listening in on ordinary Europeans is perfectly legal under United States law; the agency is prohibited only from snooping on Americans without court authorization. German intelligence agencies are similarly prohibited from spying on Germans. It is naïve to assume that allied intelligence agencies do not share data that may be off limits to one and not the other."

This is power being exercised being the scenes as our leaders strive desperately to keep the truth from us and deter future whistleblowers. -BB(2013-07-04)

Related : France performs mass interception, "at the margins of legality and outside all serious control," just like the UK's GCHQ!

Related : Nicaragua Steps Up

"We are open, respectful of the right to asylum, and it is clear that if circumstances permit it, we would receive Snowden with pleasure and give him asylum here in Nicaragua"

Related : Venezuela Steps Up

"He is a young man who has told the truth, in the spirit of rebellion, about the United States spying on the whole world."

"The European people have seen the cowardice and the weakness of their governments, which now look like colonies of the United States"

Related : Bolivia Steps Up

"He is a young man who has told the truth, in the spirit of rebellion, about the United States spying on the whole world."

For live updates, see this link.

Latin American nations demonstrate that they're willing to confront the Hegemon, showing far more backbone than the 'colonies' over in the EU. -BB(2013-07-06)

PRISM: It's Not About Terrorists

Recently on Democracy Now! Michael Ratner, the legal counsel for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, made a very astute observation regarding the PRISM program:

"You have to ask yourself, is this huge, massive surveillance system, of every single person in the world, conceivably—is this—is terrorism the real justification for it, or is it something else? Is it simply the U.S. and a couple of other countries, the U.K., trying to dominate what would have been the most democratic platform in the world, the Internet system, and trying to dominate it from a vertical point, a high country point on top of it, and just take control of all of our lives through information? That's what I think is going on. This is not about terrorism."

Why all the fuss about Snowden then? Thomas Drake offers his insight:

"The government is desperate to not deal with the actual exposures, the content of the disclosures. Because they do reveal a vast, systemic, institutionalized, industrial-scale Leviathan surveillance state that has clearly gone far beyond the original mandate to deal with terrorism — far beyond."

An article published by Bloomberg concurs:

"The Prism surveillance program focuses on access to the servers of America's largest Internet companies, which support such popular services as Skype, Gmail and iCloud. These are not the services that truly dangerous elements typically use."

What's driving PRISM then? Money and Power. It's about transferring money to defense contractors and controlling dissent as the U.S. decays into a third-world country.

In light of what's truly at stake, perhaps an advisory is in order:

"The American security state does not like being made to look impotent and foolish. Getting Snowden rendered or killed has to be a very high priority."

Let them pursue. The world is watching: di pia facta vident -BB(2013-06-26)

Related: A former Stasi officer Comments on the NSA's monitoring programs.

"It is the height of naivete to think that once collected this information won't be used... This is the nature of secret government organizations. The only way to protect the people's privacy is not to allow the government to collect their information in the first place."

Related :

"What very few people are acknowledging, amidst all the discussion about the Snowden leak and what it reveals, is that a very real purpose of the surveillance programs—and perhaps the entire war on terror—is to target and repress political dissent. 'Terrorism' is the new 'Communism,' and the war on terror and all its shiny new surveillance technology is the new Cold War and McCarthyism."

More Lies and Exceptionalism From Obama

Recently the President was on Charlie Rose, decked out in full damage control mode. Here's one of the more ridiculous soundbites:

"What I can say unequivocally is that if you are a US person, the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls... by law and by rule, and unless they... go to a court, and obtain a warrant, and seek probable cause, the same way it's always been, the same way when we were growing up and we were watching movies, you want to go set up a wiretap, you got to go to a judge, show probable cause"

The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald calls out Obama on his B.S.:

"This has become the most common theme for those defending NSA surveillance. But these claim are highly misleading, and in some cases outright false."

"Top secret documents obtained by the Guardian illustrate what the Fisa court actually does – and does not do – when purporting to engage in 'oversight' over the NSA's domestic spying. That process lacks many of the safeguards that Obama, the House GOP, and various media defenders of the NSA are trying to lead the public to believe exist."

Here's another gem from Obama during his chat with Charlie Rose:

"Every country in the world, large and small, engages in intelligence gathering and that is an occasional source of tension but is generally practiced within bounds... Our value added is at the top of the value chain and if countries like China are stealing that that affects our long-term prosperity in a serious way."

It's almost as if Obama is claiming that other groups aren't 'fighting fair' by hitting the United States below the belt. Ha! Sorry Mr. President, all's fair in the Wilderness of Mirrors. The New York Times Joe Nocera shows the flaw in this hypocritical stance:

"If you are going to lecture the world about right and wrong — and if you're trying to stop bad behavior — perhaps you shouldn't be engaging in a version of that behavior yourself"

Intelligence services steal secrets to achieve a strategic advantage. Period. While it's now a matter of public record that the United States is one of the principal aggressors in Cyberspace, somehow when other groups spy on us to acquire valuable data it's different because, well, the United States is 'special.' Again, perhaps this is the benefit of being the world's leading rogue state. -BB (2013-06-20)

Related : Schneier observes that the U.S. is even more culpable.

"More than passively eavesdropping, we're penetrating and damaging foreign networks for both espionage and to ready them for attack. We're creating custom-designed Internet weapons, pretargeted and ready to be 'fired' against some piece of another country's electronic infrastructure on a moment's notice."

"This is much worse than what we're accusing China of doing to us. We're pursuing policies that are both expensive and destabilizing and aren't making the Internet any safer. We're reacting from fear, and causing other countries to counter-react from fear. We're ignoring resilience in favor of offense."

All of this is true, yet our leaders still promote these destructive solutions. Why is the United States focusing on offense in addition to Orwellian monitoring solutions? Because they represent money and power to the patronage networks that constitute the U.S. war machine; the vanguard of the 1%. -BB(2013-06-21)

Bill Keller, Tom Friedman, and Privacy Extortion

Today in the New York Times, the former executive editor (the very same editor who failed to challenge stories about imaginary WMDs in Iraq) brazenly shows his true colors:

"Tom's important point was that the gravest threat to our civil liberties is not the N.S.A. but another 9/11-scale catastrophe that could leave a panicky public willing to ratchet up the security state, even beyond the war-on-terror excesses that followed the last big attack. Reluctantly, he concludes that a well-regulated program to use technology in defense of liberty — even if it gives us the creeps — is a price we pay to avoid a much higher price, the shutdown of the world's most open society."

In this instance he's backing Tom Friedman's earlier apology for Big Brother:

"I believe that if there is one more 9/11 — or worse, an attack involving nuclear material — it could lead to the end of the open society as we know it. If there were another 9/11, I fear that 99 percent of Americans would tell their members of Congress: 'Do whatever you need to do to, privacy be damned, just make sure this does not happen again.' That is what I fear most."

You may notice a subtle form of extortion at play here. Society is being lectured that it must yield privacy or face a future, potentially nuclear, act of terror. In other words, the mouthpieces of the establishment are saying that we must undermine the Constitution in order to save it. Such is the power of emotionally loaded propaganda. To paint pictures of the apocalypse, to sow anxiety, and convince the public to accept Orwellian monitoring schemes because the alternatives are so much worse.

But we do not have to sacrifice privacy to have security. We can have both. The proper response to the threat of terror is not to devolve into a police state. The appropriate response is to refuse to be terrorized; to become more open, more transparent, and more democratic. -BB (2013-06-17)

The Aggressor in Cyberspace? The United States

Yet another incredible disclosure from The Guardian:

"Barack Obama has ordered his senior national security and intelligence officials to draw up a list of potential overseas targets for US cyber-attacks, a top secret presidential directive obtained by the Guardian reveals."

"The 18-page Presidential Policy Directive 20, issued in October last year but never published, states that what it calls Offensive Cyber Effects Operations (OCEO) 'can offer unique and unconventional capabilities to advance US national objectives around the world with little or no warning to the adversary or target and with potential effects ranging from subtle to severely damaging.'"

While the Pentagon and our elected officials go into hysterics with regard to other countries inflicting losses on our economy (good lord, it's as if they slept through the 2008 financial crisis), the Malware-Industrial complex is busy behind the scenes planning to launch its own attacks on behalf of advancing "US national objectives around the world" (read, the interests of the oligarchs that own the United States). But, hey, the defense contractors have found a new growth industry to sustain their budgets!

These fear-mongers make such compelling hypocrites. This is American exceptionalism at its finest. Cyber-attacks are a grave violation, unless of course the United States is doing the attacking. This is the advantage of being the world's preeminent rogue state, led by a war criminal who's been bought and paid for by the deep state. -BB(2013-06-08)

Related : George Smith comments on our government's double standard

"Truth be told, the US has been in terrible position to lecture people on proper conduct in cyberspace since releasing the Stuxnet virus into Iranian networks in an effort to physically damage its nuclear program."

"It set off an escalating cyber-arms race. This, in turn, triggered retaliations against US networks and greased the black market for the hoarding and clandestine sale of security vulnerabilities."

Rancid Cyberwar Hypocrisy : Glenn Greenwald spells it out

"Obama administration has spent three years now running around the world warning about the dangers of cyber-attacks and cyberwarfare coming from other nations like China, like Iran, like other places, and what is unbelievably clear is that it is the United States itself that is far and away the most prolific and the most aggressive perpetrator of exactly those cyber-attacks that President Obama claims to find so alarming. And as you say, we published the story on the eve of his conference with the president of China, in which the top agenda item, because of the United States' insistence, was their complaints about Chinese cyber-attacks and hacking. And it just shows the rancid, fundamental hypocrisy of the statements the United States makes, not just to the world, but to its own people about these crucial matters."

That sums it up nicely. We've met the enemy: our leaders, the same people who take their marching orders from boardrooms all over Manhattan. -BB(2013-06-10)

Related : The NSA's Offensive Unit

"According to former NSA officials interviewed for this article, TAO's mission is simple. It collects intelligence information on foreign targets by surreptitiously hacking into their computers and telecommunications systems, cracking passwords, compromising the computer security systems protecting the targeted computer, stealing the data stored on computer hard drives, and then copying all the messages and data traffic passing within the targeted email and text-messaging systems. The technical term of art used by NSA to describe these operations is computer network exploitation (CNE)."

Related : More Details on Offensive Ops

"The detailed records - which cannot be independently verified - show specific dates and the IP addresses of computers in Hong Kong and on the mainland hacked by the National Security Agency over a four-year period."

"The small sample data suggests secret and illegal NSA attacks on Hong Kong computers had a success rate of more than 75 per cent, according to the documents. The information only pertains to attacks on civilian computers with no reference to Chinese military operations, Snowden said."

"The primary issue of public importance to Hong Kong and mainland China should be that the NSA is illegally seizing the communications of tens of millions of individuals without any individualised suspicion of wrongdoing... They simply steal everything so they can search for any topics of interest."

Related : Security for the 1%

"Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), the world's largest software company, provides intelligence agencies with information about bugs in its popular software before it publicly releases a fix, according to two people familiar with the process. That information can be used to protect government computers and to access the computers of terrorists or military foes."

Corporate oligarchs have always been enabling and driving our security services. Recall United Fruit in Guatemala? Corporate interests are the "objectives" that Obama references in PPD 20.

Big Brother: Execs Open Their Front Doors for PRISM

According to a breaking story covered by the Guardian, since 2007 the public sector spooks at the NSA have had "direct access" to private sector servers run by several prominent online providers. This includes companies like Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL, and Apple.

Glenn Greenwald describes the implications: An Orwellian mass interception system that turns the Internet into the world's largest telescreen.

"The objective of the NSA and the U.S. government is nothing less than destroying all remnants of privacy. They want to make sure that every single time human beings interact with one another, things that we say to one another, things we do with one another, places we go, the behavior in which we engage, that they know about it, that they can watch it, and they can store it, and they can access it at any time. And that's what this program is about. And they're very explicit about the fact that since most communications are now coming through these Internet companies, it is vital, in their eyes, for them to have full and unfettered access to it. And they do."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation says "see, we told you so":

"EFF and others had long alleged that, despite the rhetoric surrounding the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act, the government was still vacuuming up the records of the purely domestic communications of millions of Americans. And yesterday, of course, with the Verizon order, we got solid proof.. And it appears that the reach of this vacuum goes much further, into the records of our Internet service providers as well."

The EFF also recommends a course of action:

"Congress now has a responsibility to the American people to conduct a full, public investigation into the domestic surveillance of Americans by the intelligence communities, whether done directly or in concert with the FBI. And it then has a duty to make changes in the law to stop the spying and ensure that it does not happen again. In short, we need a new Church Committee."

In a twist that's almost comical, corporate execs plead ignorance:

"An Apple spokesman said: 'We have never heard of PRISM. We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers and any agency requesting customer data must get a court order'"

Senator Feinstein offers up an apology for programs like PRISM:

"I read intelligence carefully, and I know that people are trying to get to us. This is the reason why we keep TSA doing what it's doing. This is the reason why the FBI now has 10,000 people doing intelligence on counterterrorism. This is the reason for the National Counterterrorism Center that's been set up in the time we've been active. It's to ferret this out before it happens. It's called protecting America."

Norman Solomon responds:

"You're all playing abhorrent roles, maintaining a destructive siege of precious civil liberties. While building a surveillance state, you are patting citizens on the head and telling them not to worry."

National security is the excuse of choice for those who wish to undermine the consitution. Note how she hides behind a wall of secrecy: "trust me, I read the briefings." -BB(2013-06-08)

Chomsky: U.S. Leaders are War Criminals

The MIT professor who represents the ideological epicenter of the modern progressive movement has recently put out a call for international justice:

"Bush and Blair ought to be up there [at the International Criminal Court]. There is no recent crime worse than the invasion of Iraq. Obama's got to be there for the terror war."

Similarly, during an interview on Democracy Now! :

"When I saw the pictures of the Bush library presentation. There was a group of men standing there, former presidents, the ones that are alive. Every one of them is a major criminal. A major criminal."

After all of the lies about WMDs, high-level officials admit why so many innocent poeple had to die:

"'Of course it's about oil; we can't really deny that,' said Gen. John Abizaid, former head of U.S. Central Command and Military Operations in Iraq, in 2007. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan agreed, writing in his memoir, 'I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.' Then-Sen. and now Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the same in 2007: 'People say we're not fighting for oil. Of course we are.'"

The outcome of our approach towards 'national security' is an endless global war which has been rebranded in terms of "persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks."

Will there ever be trials? Probably not. That's the benefit of being the world's largest and most powerful rogue state: absolute impunity -BB(2013-06-01)

Related : Civil War in Iraq

"More than 1,000 people were killed in violence in Iraq in May, making it the deadliest month since the sectarian slaughter of 2006-07."

Related : Palast Dwells on Motives

"The invasion was not about 'blood for oil', but something far more sinister: blood for no oil. War to keep supply tight and send prices skyward."

Related : On the media's role

"President george w. bush took america to wars based on obvious lies, and so did president obama. Both administrations are guilty of war crimes and almost every possible infraction of constitutional and international law. Yet, no presstitute member of the media would dare mention impeachment, and the House would never bring the charge."

Responses to Obama's Speech on Counterterrorism

Today at National Defense University in Washington, Obama spoke at length on the topic of drones. Despite our President's emphasis on the precise nature of drone assassinations, it's important to recognize that the C.I.A. has no idea who is actually being killed.

"The documents also show that drone operators weren't always certain who they were killing despite the administration's guarantees of the accuracy of the CIA's targeting intelligence and its assertions that civilian casualties have been 'exceedingly rare.'"

Hence, it's only logical that the victims are often innocent people:

"Sadaullah Wazir was another victim of hope and change. His house in North Waziristan was targeted on Sept. 7, 2009. The strike killed four members of his family. Sadaullah was 14 years old when it happened. A few days after the attack, he woke up in a Peshawar hospital to the news that both of his legs had to be amputated and he would never be able to walk again. He died last year, without receiving justice or even an apology. Once again, no militant was present or killed."

What we've created, as Jeremy Scahill explains , is a global battlefield that perpetuates itself:

"The president, like his predecessors Bush and Cheney, has asserted the right to strike in any country around the world and has effectively subscribed to the doctrine that the world is the battlefield. And so, as long as that remains on the books, that the United States says, 'Well, we're different than every other nation around the world, in that we have the right to strike in any country where we perceive an imminent threat, and imminent has been redefined in our secret proceedings inside the White House or the Justice Department,' then none of this is going to fundamentally change."

WAR IS PEACE, proclaims the Ministry of Truth. The Telescreens are here. So are the Thought Police. Orwell's vision is being realized in all its horrific glory. The oligarchs quietly gloat and we mostly remain silent. -BB(2013-05-23)

Related : CodePink Takes on Obama's Doublespeak

"We have been so disappointed with Obama; we expected him to make serious changes like taking drones out of the hands of the CIA, stopping the signature strikes, apologising to innocents who have been killed, families of the innocent, and announcing that he, as commander-in-chief, would close Guantánamo, so when he did not I felt compelled to speak out."

Related : Gosztola's deconstruction

"It is essentially a public relations gambit, a recognition that critics are increasingly being considered credible so there must be a rebranding. That means the policies and operations could potentially remain the same, but the government will define what is being done as 'persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks' and not some kind of 'boundless global war.'"

Related : Increasing Drone Strikes?

"Obama dropped that wording Thursday, making no reference at all to senior operational leaders. While saying that the United States is at war with al Qaida and its associated forces, he used a variety of descriptions of potential targets, from 'those who want to kill us' and 'terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat' to 'all potential terrorist targets.'"

Glenn Greenwald : On Obama's masterful use of Orwellian doublethink

"His most consequential speeches are shaped by their simultaneous affirmation of conflicting values and even antithetical beliefs, allowing listeners with irreconcilable positions to conclude that Obama agrees with them."

"Obama's formulation for when drone strikes should be used was broader than past government statements, which meant he 'appeared to be laying groundwork for an expansion of the controversial targeted killings.'"

Ross Douthat isn't convinced...

"Listened to or skimmed, the address seemed to promise real limits on presidential power, a real horizon for the war on terror. But when parsed carefully, it's not clear how much practical effect its promises will have."

Obama claims that "This is a just war - a war waged proportionally, in last resort and in self-defense." And he's wrong on all three counts.

Austerity, Krugman, and The 1%

Over the past few months Paul Krugman has authored a series of "see, I told you so" articles in the New York Times on the failings of austerity dogma. And rightly so, as austerity doctrine is merely an ideological weapon of the elite:

"Business interests hate Keynesian economics because they fear that it might work — and in so doing mean that politicians would no longer have to abase themselves before businessmen in the name of preserving confidence. This is pretty close to the argument that we must have austerity, because stimulus might remove the incentive for structural reform that, you guessed it, gives businesses the confidence they need before deigning to produce recovery."

Rob Urie, however, observes that Krugman's Keynesian solutions tend to focus on treating the symptoms of our economic illness:

"Were a leading 'liberal' economist able to implement his/her wish list of fiscal stimulus it would do little to stabilize the system of finance capitalism. And by avoiding the larger issues Keynesian economic 'patch' jobs facilitate the next spectacular catastrophe. In fact, modest Keynesian patches have been applied during recessions in the recent decades of the ascendance of finance capitalism and its associated crises keep getting worse."

In other words, Dr. Krugman would be well-advised to revisit his tacit support for Obama and start considering underlying structural issues (e.g. state-capture and the subsequent growing inequality) that shape our economy. Urie concludes:

"The 'debate' isn't a debate at all—the ruling class wants austerity to transfer wealth from government to their pockets and austerity is what we have. The Ivy League Keynesian contingent can continue to have their egos soothed with phone calls from the White House but that does little to suggest their economics aren't an effete hoax—they might be right if they could get their policies implemented but they can't. For everyone else Marx and Lenin are the new go-to political economists, not because I say so but because the ruling class does."

Looks like someone has called Krugman out... -BB(2013-05-18)

Power Grid: Physical Threats Trump Cyber Threats

Gerry Cauley, chief executive of the North American Electric Reliability Corp, just put a damper on all of the hype surrounding cyber-attacks on the power grid:

"It takes a small number of crews with explosives and you've created not only an outage over an area or a city, but smoke and fire and flash-type stuff"

"We don't do ourselves a favor if we only concentrate on cyber. Physical security is a concern for us as well... Anyone who is smart enough to do those kinds of things has better things to do than shut the lights out"

Cauley refers to recent attempts to hack the power grid "not that overwhelming" and says that he's genuinely more concerned about physical security. -BB(2013-05-15)

The Pentagon Fixates on China

Buried on page 36 of the DoD's 2013 report on China:

"The US government continued to be targeted for [cyber] intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military"

China responds:

"We firmly oppose any groundless criticism and hype, because groundless hype and criticism will only harm bilateral efforts at co-operation and dialogue."

George Smith chimes in, noting that trends like offshore outsourcing gave away the family jewels to China long ago:

"American businesses ceded their technology to the Chinese industrial base long before Chinese espionage became an issue the national security megaplex decided to exploit for the purpose of corporate computer security business rent-seeking."

"Who are you going to find on the street who cares if Chinese cyberwarriors from a building in Shanghai are into American businesses? They've already lost their jobs or much of their earning power. And their access to the Internet is a smartphone made in China."

"Take a day off from the memes. Corporate America isn't hiring, haven't you heard? It's not because of mass Chinese cyber-spying."

Chinese officials echo this to a degree:

"Trumpeting China's military threat to promote its domestic interests groups and arms dealers... U.S. arms manufacturers are gearing up to start counting their money."

As with Drones, the Pentagon views "cyber" as a growth market. The strategies at play in both domains will ultimately make us less safe. -BB(2013-05-09)

Updated: Questioning The Global Assassination Program

The New Yorker has just published an essay on U.S. drone attacks. It begins by presenting some insightful historical context:

"During the nineteen-seventies, it seemed as though this era of covert action were coming to an end. After a congressional investigation exposed the extent of C.I.A. plots, President Gerald Ford issued an executive order banning political assassinations. Successive Presidents strengthened the ban with executive orders of their own, codifying a growing bipartisan consensus that assassinations undercut America's avowed commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law."

This raises some important questions:

"Is a program of targeted killing, conducted without judicial oversight or public scrutiny, consistent with American interests and values?"

"As things stand, Obama will bequeath to his successors a worrisome precedent: without trial, the President has the right to kill any U.S. citizen who is judged, on the basis of unpublished criteria, to have become an enemy combatant."

The criteria, though secret, would appear to be fairly loose:

"In an area of known militant activity, all military-age males were considered to be enemy fighters. Therefore, anyone who was killed in a drone strike there was categorized as a combatant."

Once more, is assassination-by-drone even a plausible solution. Or will it just make matters worse and set an awful precendent?

"Several former Shin Bet leaders argue forcefully that terrorism is ultimately a political problem that cannot be resolved by endless campaigns of assassination."

"Just as Eisenhower failed to think through the consequences of his push-button interventionism, Obama seems unwilling to confront the possibility that drone strikes may be creating more enemies than they're eliminating."

"Ten years or less from now, China will likely be able to field armed drones. How might its Politburo apply Obama's doctrines to Tibetan activists holding meetings in Nepal?"

Our leaders don't seem to be interested in publicly discussing any of this. It's far more convenient for them to marginalize the public by keeping everything secret. -BB(2012-04-30)

Related : A Yemeni speaks on drone strikes in his country.

"In another botched strike, a missile struck a passenger van in central al-Bayda governorate on September 2, 2012, killing 12 civilians, 3 of them children. Local and international media initially quoted anonymous Yemeni officials as saying the strike targeted militants, but state-run media later conceded the killings were an 'accident' that killed civilians."

"The short-term military gains are miniscule compared to the long-term damage that the targeted killing program causes. In the place of one slain leader, new leaders swiftly emerge in furious retaliation for attacks in their territories. And with each strike, it becomes ever easier to belong to a militant group in the region where your tribe lives."

"There is no easy way to end terrorism. Only a long-term approach that strengthens democracy, accountability and justice, together with programs to address structural economic and social drivers of extremism can bring about security in my country."

A very telling Obama quote:

"There is no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders."

Yet drone strikes persist. Why? Perhaps it might help to follow the money.

Update : Using Old War Crimes to Justify New Ones

"In a chilling 16-page dossier known simply as the White Paper, one of Obama's statutory brains at the Justice Department cites the 1969 secret bombing of Cambodia as a legal rationale justifying drone strikes, deep inside nations, against which the United States is not officially at war."

Update : Drones or Indefinite Detention?

"John Bellinger, who was responsible for drafting the legal framework for targeted drone killings while working for George W Bush after 9/11, said he believed their use had increased since because President Obama was unwilling to deal with the consequences of jailing suspected al-Qaida members."

Update : Chomksy speaks

"JSOC and the drones are a self-generating terror machine that will grow and expand, meanwhile creating new potential targets as they sweep much of the world. And the executive won't want them just 'sitting around.'"

"The dangers of unexamined and unregulated monopoly power, particularly in the state executive, are hardly news. The right reaction is not passive acquiescence."

More Allegations of Price Fixing

Matt Taibbi drops a bombshell in an article published this past week by Rolling Stone:

"Regulators are looking into whether or not a small group of brokers at ICAP may have worked with up to 15 of the world's largest banks to manipulate ISDAfix, a benchmark number used around the world to calculate the prices of interest-rate swaps."

"Interest-rate swaps are a tool used by big cities, major corporations and sovereign governments to manage their debt, and the scale of their use is almost unimaginably massive. It's about a $379 trillion market, meaning that any manipulation would affect a pile of assets about 100 times the size of the United States federal budget."

The European Federation of Financial Services Users warns that:

"Those markets which are based on non-attested, voluntary submission of data from agents [Libor, ISDAfix] whose benefits depend on such benchmarks are especially vulnerable of market abuse and distortion"

Or, as Taibbi puts it:

"When prices are set by companies that can profit by manipulating them, we're fucked."

Yet the financial institutions involved in this alleged manipulation have proven too big to fail in the past. Officials offered apologies about preventing harm to the economy and the Oligarchs who've captured our political system basically walked away Scott Free. In other words, don't expect anyone to do any jail time. -BB(2013-04-27)

Airstrike Kills 12 Children in Afghanistan

According to a report in the New York Times, Afghan officials believe that the U.S. Deep State is involved in a recent massacre:

"The spokesman for President Hamid Karzai said Thursday that the C.I.A. was responsible for calling in an airstrike on April 7 that left 17 Afghan civilians dead, 12 of them children, and that the secret Afghan militias that the agency controls behaved as if they were 'responsible to no one.'"

Surely you can imagine the wave of outrage that would shake the United States if an airstrike killed 12 children on American soil. -BB(2013-04-20)

Related : Why Terrorists Attack

"Al-Muslimi will meet with White House officials to tell them what he told a Senate subcommittee yesterday: CIA and military drone strikes are strengthening al-Qaida's Yemeni affiliate and making average Yemenis hate America."


"In the last several years, there have been four other serious attempted or successful attacks on US soil by Muslims, and in every case, they emphatically all say the same thing: that they were motivated by the continuous, horrific violence brought by the US and its allies to the Muslim world - violence which routinely kills and oppresses innocent men, women and children"

On the Boston Bombings

In a Danger Room post, Spencer Ackerman cautions readers not to jump to conclusions:

"Not every bombing, no matter how many civilians are killed or how terrifying it is, is terrorism. The Boston Marathon atrocity on Monday may qualify or it may not... Terrorism is not just violence aimed at civilians. Terrorism is violence aimed at civilians with a political objective. Most often, but not always, terrorism is violence aimed at civilians with a political objective, aimed to cause a spectacle."

If the bombings actually end up to be a genuine act of terrorism, Bruce Schneier has a few choice words of advice:

"There's one thing we can do to render terrorism ineffective: Refuse to be terrorized."

"Don't glorify the terrorists and their actions by calling this part of a 'war on terror.' Wars involve two legitimate sides. There's only one legitimate side here; those on the other are criminals. They should be found, arrested, and punished. But we need to be vigilant not to weaken the very freedoms and liberties that make this country great, meanwhile, just because we're scared."


"A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks concludes that 'it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture' and that the nation’s highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it."

Finally, Glenn Greenwald focuses on the need to extend empathy and compassion towards all innocent victims of violence, especially those in other countries:

"Indeed, just yesterday in Iraq, at least 42 people were killed and more than 250 injured by a series of car bombs, the enduring result of the US invasion and destruction of that country. Somehow the deep compassion and anger felt in the US when it is attacked never translates to understanding the effects of our own aggression against others."

Cyberwar Rent-Seeking

George Smith responds to a Reuters story which announces that Obama is going to make cybersecurity a growing priority:

"There are no statistics on what cyberespionage or cyberwar costs (or could cost) the nation, just claims and wild estimates based on nothing."

"By contrast, charts and graphs of hard statistics are published weekly on the horrifying state of the economy for the middle and lower class. They show that among western civilized nations, yawning inequality that dwarfs the rest has grown. They show that foodstamp usage has ballooned to an all time high because the American economy does not produce jobs that pay a living wage. They show that corporate profits have soared but that the great majority of people have seen nothing except shrinkage or, even, total collapse in their worth and fortunes."

"Yet today we are saddled with an administration that has actively worked to create the impression that defense against cyberattack is one of the country's most pressing problems."

George makes a valid point. So what's behind the media push?

"As the sequestration slowly starts to grind at the sick, the poor, the elderly and the other parts of the middle class, the cyberwar-is-coming campaign is all about realignment of taxpayer dollars for the preservation and expansion of security jobs and services, a transfer of wealth from the bottom and the middle of American society, to the top."

We're being barraged by messages that point to external agents attacking U.S. banks. But perhaps we should be more concerned about these same banks attacking us. -BB(2013-04-13)

Related , Theat inflation during the Cold War:

"To hide the ugly realities and to overcome popular opposition to the policies, Reagan granted CIA Director William Casey extraordinary leeway to engage in CIA-style propaganda and disinformation aimed at the American people, the sort of project normally reserved for hostile countries. To oversee the operation – while skirting legal bans on the CIA operating domestically – Casey moved Raymond from the CIA to the NSC staff."

Actors and Spectators in the Grand Arena

There are respected political philosophers like Sheldon Wolin who argue that the public has largely receded into the background of contemporary politics, assuming the role of disinterested observers:

"Roughly between one-half and two-thirds of America's qualified voters fail to vote, thus making the management of the 'active' electorate [the political class] far easier. Every apathetic citizen is a silent enlistee in the cause of inverted totalitarianism. Yet apathy is not simply the result of a TV culture. It is, in its own way, a political response. Ordinary citizens have been the victims of a counterrevolution that has brought 'rollbacks' of numerous social services which were established only after hard-fought political struggles, and which the earlier Republican administrations of Eisenhower and Nixon had accepted as major elements in a national consensus. Rollbacks don't simply reverse previous social gains; they also teach political futility to the Many. And along the way they mock the ideal and practice of consensus."

In his book Griftopia Matt Taibbi provides an example of this sort of general disengagement:

"The presidential election is a drama that we Americans have learned to wholly consume as entertainment, divorced completely from any expectations about concrete changes in our own lives. For the vast majority of people who follow national elections in this country, the payoff they’re looking for when they campaign for this or that political figure is that warm and fuzzy feeling you get when the home team wins the big game. Or, more importantly, when a hated rival loses. Their stake in the electoral game isn't a citizen's interest, but a rooting interest"

Occassionally high-level planners will experience fits of honesty and admit how they view the rest of society:

"We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

Decision makers employ the necessary stimulus to elicit the desired response from the political class. From the vantage point of Hegel's Dialectic, controlling the interaction between the thesis and antithesis produces the necessary synthesis. This is how oligarchs manufacture consent. -BB(2013-04-06)

The Cult of Cyberwar's Misdirection

Nearly a year ago, General Keith Alexander stood up in front of the American Enterprise Insitute and made the following statement regarding the losses attributed to cyber attacks:

"In my opinion, it's the greatest transfer of wealth in history"

Perhaps General Alexander was too busy running the NSA and CYBERCOM to notice the $7.7 trillion (roughly half our annual GDP) that our government secretly committed to bailing out the banks back in 2008? If you want to ponder genuine economic destruction all you need to do is follow the aftermath of the 2008 crisis. According to UC Berkeley economist Brad DeLong:

"When I take present values and project the US economy's lower-trend growth into the future, I cannot reckon the present value of the additional loss at less than a further 100% of a year’s output today – for a total cost of 1.6 years of GDP. The damage is thus almost equal to that of the Great Depression – and equally painful"

Yet President Obama, during his 2013 State of the Union address, chanted the Cult of Cyberwar's standard doomsday mantra:

"Our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, our air traffic control systems."

And in the wake of recent DDoS attacks he's making conspicuous public gestures.

"The difficulty of deterring such attacks was also the focus of a White House meeting this month with Mr. Obama and business leaders, including the chief executives Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase; Brian T. Moynihan of Bank of America; Rex W. Tillerson of Exxon Mobil; Randall L. Stephenson of AT&T and others."

George Smith succinctly explains the misdirection at work:

"The President cannot get the minimum wage raised. He cannot do anything to reverse the austerity policies the Republican Party, from its minority position, has imposed on the country. He cannot or will not enact any measures as chief executive that might begin to make economic life in the country better for the majority of its citizens.

"So what is he doing? Partially busying himself meeting with Wall Street's master bankers and ginning up news on the daggers of cyberwar, attributed to China, Iran and North Korea, aimed at America’s heart."

While the 1% is busy hollowing out the middle class, our leaders distract us with intimations of Cybergeddon. -BB(2013-04-01)

The Deep State's Dirty Wars

Peter Dale Scott (who coined the phrase Deep Politics) spoke about the origins of the Deep State concept in a 2011 interview:

"The term 'Deep state' comes from Turkey. They invented it after the wreck of a speeding Mercedes in 1996 in which the passengers were a Member of Parliament, a beauty queen, a local senior police captain, and an important drug trafficker in Turkey who was also the head of a criminal paramilitary organization – the Grey Wolves – that went around killing people. And it became very obvious in Turkey that there were a covert relationship between the police who officially were looking for this man – even though a policeman was there with him in the car – and these people who committed crimes on behalf of the state. The state that you commit crimes for is not a state that can show its hand to the people, it’s a hidden state, a covert structure."

The New Yorker offers a somewhat equivalent definiton:

"The deep state is a presumed clandestine network of military officers and their civilian allies who, for decades, suppressed and sometimes murdered dissidents, Communists, reporters, Islamists, Christian missionaries, and members of minority groups—anyone thought to pose a threat to the secular order, established in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal, or Atatürk. The deep state, historians say, has functioned as a kind of shadow government, disseminating propaganda to whip up public fear or destabilizing civilian governments not to its liking."

While the term was invented in Turkey, Scott has his own interpretation which he uses to discuss power structures in the U.S.:

"I adapt the term somewhat to refer to the wider interface in America between the public, the constitutionally established state, and the deep forces behind it of wealth, power, and violence outside the government. You might call it the back door of the Public state, giving access to dark forces outside the law."

In a review of the Movie Dirty Wars published today by the Guardian, Glenn Greenwald provides astute commentary about what enables, and the consequences of, the global covert war being fought by the American Deep State:

"The most propagandistic aspect of the US War on Terror has been, and remains, that its victims are rendered invisible and voiceless. They are almost never named by newspapers... As Ashleigh Banfield put it her 2003 speech denouncing US media coverage of the Iraq war just months before she was demoted and then fired by MSNBC: US media reports systematically exclude both the perspectives of 'the other side' and the victims of American violence. Media outlets in predominantly Muslim countries certainly report on their plight, but US media outlets simply do not, which is one major reason for the disparity in worldviews between the two populations."

"The evidence has long been compelling that the primary fuel of what the US calls terrorism are the very policies of aggression justified in the name of stopping terrorism. The vast bulk of those who have been caught in recent years attempting attacks on the US have emphatically cited US militarism and drone killings in their part of the world as their motive. Evidence is overwhelming that what has radicalized huge numbers of previously peaceful and moderate Muslims is growing rage at seeing a continuous stream of innocent victims, including children, at the hands of the seemingly endless US commitment to violence."

Witness the combined potency of secrecy, violence, and propaganda as the body politic stumbles recklessly forward under their influence. -BB(2013-03-31)

Secrets Exposed in Deep State

Cryptome's John Young has reviewed Deep State, a book by Marc Ambinder and D.B. Grady about our thriving surveillance state and the imminent threat it represents to our Constitutional liberties:

"The least protected, most Wall Street billboarded, secret is that war is immensely profitable to those shrewd enough to avoid the carnage while being generously rewarded by wartime picking of citizen wallets, aided by ridiculously paid safe-at-home shills celebrating valor and sacrifice (market boom, Zero Dark Thirty ilk, ex-SEAL chest-beaters)."

"The open-dirty-secret secrecy industry exposed in Deep State is as rouged as war harlotry, as venal as political campaigns, as crass as high-brass military coins, as formulaicly vulgar as thanking troops for service, as duplicitous as veterans' filthy hospitals and always delayed, cropped and denied benefits."

"Top leaders lust for secretly sharing means and methods to exploit the bottom, so gather to swap kisses with PR whores in Aspen, Bilderberg and Davos. They serve on secrecy-slathered advisory boards of governments, rotate through government offices, eroticize military contracting officers with promises of future triple-dipping benefits."

"Read Deep State to be informed, galvanized and bold-heartened to raise the black flag, commence cutting throats of secretkeepers."

I strongly suspect that the authors may have drawn from Peter Dale Scott's concept of Deep Politics when they decided on the title for their book. A synopsis of Deep Politics and the Deep State can be found in Scott's recent book American War Machine -BB(2013-03-30)

The Cost of The Iraq Invasion

The Christian Science Monitor is covering a recently updated report published by scholars at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies. Among other things, the report finds that:

"More than 70 percent of those who died of direct war violence in Iraq have been civilians – an estimated 134,000. This number does not account for indirect deaths due to increased vulnerability to disease or injury as a result of war-degraded conditions. That number is estimated to be several times higher."

"The Iraq war will ultimately cost US taxpayers at least $2.2 trillion. Because the Iraq war appropriations were funded by borrowing, cumulative interest through 2053 could amount to more than $3.9 trillion."

"Terrorism in Iraq increased dramatically as a result of the invasion and tactics and fighters were exported to Syria and other neighboring countries."

To think that all of this devastation took place on behalf of imaginary WMDs. But if WMDs were a pretext, why the invasion? Former chair of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, stated:

"I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil."

Current Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel also noted:

"People say we're not fighting for oil. Of course we are. They talk about America's national interest. What the hell do you think they're talking about? We're not there for figs."

Greg Palast has concluded:

"The invasion was not about 'blood for oil', but something far more sinister: blood for no oil. War to keep supply tight and send prices skyward."

The ability of our leaders to lead the charge into Iraq is a testimony to the power of modern propaganda. -BB(2013-03-19)


"The agency's intelligence collection on Iraq's relationship with al-Qaida was thin — Iraq's connections to terrorist organizations were so minute it wasn’t a priority for us — so it was difficult to even construct a chart showing connections, as if we were mapping the Barksdale crew on The Wire."

Related , The Invasion as Premeditated Crime:

"Four of the administration's key sources were not verified. Two sources were fabricators, one had provided forged documents and the other shared hearsay."

"Iraqis, at minimum, deserve to see officials in the United States and United Kingdom who engineered the war and then waged empire for over eight years brought to justice."

Commentary on the APT1 Story

There is a counter-narrative emerging:

Gary McGraw:

"Sadly, policymakers seem to think we have completely solved the attribution problem. We have not... Those of us who work on security engineering and software security can help educate policymakers and others so that we don't end up pursuing the folly of active defense."

Steven Naslund:

"If you see an attack coming from China in particular it is because they WANT you to know it is coming from China. I would think any state sponsor conducting a very serious attack would conceal themselves better than that. I also believe that a lot of attacks that look like they are coming from China are actually coming from elsewhere. Think about this, if I am a hacker in the US, attacking a US victim, it would be a big advantage to look like I was coming from China because it almost guarantees no attempt to prosecute or track me down since everyone in this business knows that if it comes out of China you can't do anything about it."

As mentioned in a previous post below, false flag operations are an age-old tactic used by spies throughout history. It's typically in the best interest of an intel operator to muddy the water by framing someone else. Who better than China? Anti-forensic technology has attained a level of sophistication where you can tell whatever story you want... and it will entirely convince more susceptible members of the public.

Does anyone find the timing of this story's publication with the President's release of his strategy on mitigating the theft of trade secrets interesting? Just a coincidence? Really? - BB(2013-02-23)

Related : Cryptome on Staged Attacks

"Malware can be invented, planted and discovered by cybersecurity and AV experts to exploit fearful clients, governments, citizens, users and in complicity with other experts and their witting and unwitting hackers -- cyberwarfare is booming thus mostly war-time profligate waste, duplicity, treachery and chicanery."

China Accused of Hacking, No Solid Evidence

Security researchers have announced that they've identified attackers whom they suspect are backed by the Chinese government. However, as the New York Times article on this story concedes:

"The firm was not able to place the hackers inside the 12-story building, but makes a case there is no other plausible explanation for why so many attacks come out of one comparatively small area."

Another security professional comments:

"For non-technologically savvy people, it is easy to become starry-eyed for the forensics experts. They seem to have this magical power to pinpoint the bad guys. I can picture readers of these stories smirking and trying to high five these CSI themed cybersuperheros. In a fantasy world, it is touching. In the intelligence, political, financial and security world, it is a dangerous precedent being set by companies like Mandiant and others. It is slowly becoming 'cyber yellow cake' [WIK] at its finest with the outcomes always being distorted, or misunderstood, or outright flagrant lies being told by security professionals."

Allow me offer a degree of clarity. If I were running an operation for an organization in Eastern Europe, as a matter of standard operating procedure I would go to great lengths to obfuscate my trail and stage my attacks in such a way as to implicate a 3rd-party. Honestly, it's anti-forensics 101. Using internationalized tools, a different language, indigenous computing algorithms, planted artifacts, and pivot points in other countries are all par for the course. Any operator worth their salt will use these techniques. Welcome, dear reader, to the wilderness of mirrors. -BB(2013-02-19)

The 2013 State of The Union Adress

President Obama raises the specter of Cybergeddon:

"Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, and our air traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy."

It's interesting that the President mentions real threats to the U.S. economy. Because, by all means there are real threats to our economy: the bankers who brought us the 2008 collapse.

D.B. Grady comments :

"It's hard to take warnings of an 'imminent' cyber-9/11 seriously, in part because no serious observer of electronic warfare considers it possible, let alone imminent."

Yet Obama focuses on hypothetical worst-case scenarios. He doesn't have a choice. President's are, after all, merely the political operatives of the 1%. -BB(2013-02-12)

Funding The War Machine

The New Yorker has just published a piece that questions the wisdom of U.S. military spending:

"The U.S. once regarded a standing army as a form of tyranny. Now it spends more on defense than all other nations combined... Between 1998 and 2011, military spending doubled, reaching more than seven hundred billion dollars a year—more, in adjusted dollars, than at any time since the Allies were fighting the Axis."

Where does all this money go? The author, Jill Lepore, states:

"Much of the money that the federal government spends on 'defense' involves neither securing the nation's borders nor protecting its citizens. Instead, the U.S. military enforces American foreign policy."

Foreign policy that, ultimately, is dictated from boardrooms across the country by the various corporate interests that have captured our political structures. Much to the benefit of the patronage networks which branch out from the Pentagon.

To convince the public to submit to high levels of military spending, our leaders have deployed a truly massive campaign of propaganda. According to former Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich:

“'The mystical war against Communism... finds its counterpart in the mystical war on terrorism.' Mystification, he said, leads us to exaggerate threats and ignore costs. 'It prevents us from seeing things as they are.'"

And now the front men of the Military-Industrial Complex have identified new markets. They use the same basic PR tactics to convince us that a "cyber-Pearl Harbor" is imminent. Unless, of course, we fork over a mountain of cash so that they can keep us "safe." -BB(2013-01-27)

Related: U.S. Cyber Command Grows Significantly

"The command, made up of about 900 personnel, will expand to include 4,900 troops and civilians."

"The plan calls for the creation of three types of forces under the Cyber Command: 'national mission forces' to protect computer systems that undergird electrical grids, power plants and other infrastructure deemed critical to national and economic security; 'combat mission forces' to help commanders abroad plan and execute attacks or other offensive operations; and 'cyber protection forces' to fortify the Defense Department’s networks."

Glenn Greenwald offers a much-needed sanity check:

"This massive new expenditure of money is not primarily devoted to defending against cyber-aggressors. The US itself is the world's leading cyber-aggressor. A major purpose of this expansion is to strengthen the US's ability to destroy other nations with cyber-attacks. Indeed, even the Post report notes that a major component of this new expansion is to 'conduct offensive computer operations against foreign adversaries.'"

"This new massive expansion has little to do with any actual cyber-threat - just as the invasion of Iraq and global assassination program have little to do with actual terrorist threats. It is instead all about strengthening the US's offensive cyber-war capabilities, consolidating control over the internet, and ensuring further transfers of massive public wealth to private industry continue unabated."

Bravo, Mr. Greenwald. -BB(2013-01-31)

Banking Oligarchs Are Untouchable

Frontline recently broadcast a program that demonstrates the degree to which rule of law has been subverted in the United States. Jeff Connaughton, the former Chief of Staff for Senator Ted Kaufman, states:

"I think that is without a doubt a factor in the difficulty of proving intent. But I'm sorry, I just don’t believe there was enough effort. It just doesn't make common sense. And so you're telling me that not one banker, not one executive on Wall Street, not one player in this entire financial crisis committed provable fraud? I mean, I just don’t believe that."

Former New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer adds:

"The Justice Department failed. They have not done what needed to be done. They didn’t ever try to bring together one coherent narrative, laying out the entirety of the story against one of the major players and demand sanctions that are meaningful. That to me is what has been fundamentally lacking."

Our security services threatened Aaron Swartz with decades in prison for downloading files from JSTOR. Yet the executives who sent the economy into a death spiral, rigged LIBOR, and washed money for the Cartels are doing just fine. This is what happens when politicians are bought and paid for by Wall Street money:

"As for President Obama, what is there to be said? Goldman Sachs was his number-one private campaign contributor. He put a Citigroup executive in charge of his economic transition team, and he just named an executive of JP Morgan Chase, the proud owner of $7.7 million in Chase stock, his new chief of staff."

The gains of the New Deal Era are gradually being rolled back until there's just the Plutonomy and the Precariat. The battles that were waged by organizations like the Wobblies will now have to be fought all over again. As you can glean from this Army Manual, the owners of our society understand what's coming and are making preparations to deal with the inevitable. -BB(2013-01-23)

The Great Divergence Reflects State Capture

The Economic Policy Institute explains that the growing wage gap isn't the result of a skill shortage, despite what high-tech companies claim (normally when they want the government to raise the H1-B ceiling):

"In our view, the substantially increased need for education and skills has been met by the increased supply of education and skills. Changing wage differentials have been driven by economic policy in acts of omission and commission."

This conclusion has been rienforced by a well-known Professor at Berkeley:

"Despite anecdotes about how employers cannot find workers with the skills they need, there is little evidence that the unemployment rate remains elevated because of mismatches between the skill requirements of available jobs and the skills of the unemployed... The high unemployment rate is the result of weak demand, not structural mismatches."

There are plenty of highly-skilled workers in the United States. There are also plenty of lobbyists who funnel a veritable mountain of cash into D.C. on behalf of corporate interests.

What we're seeing is the gradual deconstruction of notion that increases in productivity and economic growth will benefit everyone. The rising tide does not lift all boats. When the 99% finally realize that they're losing ground to the benefit of a ruling elite, the social fabric of the United States will begin to disintegrate.

When this fabric begins to break apart, dear readers, people will begin to see why the Department of Homeland Security was really created. -BB (2013-01-13)

Senate OKs Warrantless Wiretapping

The ACLU reports:

"The Senate today reauthorized the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, an unconstitutional spying bill that violates the Fourth Amendment and gives vast, unchecked surveillance authority to the government. The FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act (H.R. 5949), passed on a 73-23 vote, authorizes the National Security Agency to conduct dragnet surveillance of Americans’ international emails and phone calls."

Dianne Feinstein claims:

"This necessary legislation will continue to keep America safe by enabling our intelligence community to identify and neutralize terror networks before they harm us either at home or abroad."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation Responds:

"This vote was nothing less than abdication by Congress of its role as watchdog over Executive power, and a failure of its independent obligation to protect the Bill of Rights. The FISA Amendments Act and the ongoing warrantless spying on Americans has been, and will continue to be, a blight on our nation and our Constitution."

Oliver Stone adds:

"He [Obama] has taken all the Bush changes he basically put them into the establishment, he has codified them. That is what is sad. So we are going into the second administration that is living outside the law and does not respect the law and foundations of our system and he is a constitutional lawyer, you know."

National Security is the ultimate apology. As with torture, our leaders claim that they must undermine the Constitution because they don't have a choice... national security is at stake. -BB(2012-12-29)

U.S. Government Perception Management

According to an information warfare specialist at the National Defense University, manipulating public opinion has taken center stage as a means to gain support for U.S. policies:

"What's changing is the realization that in this so-called war on terrorism, this is not a force multiplier; this might be the thing that wins the whole thing for you... This gets to the importance of the war of ideas. There are a billion-plus Muslims that are undecided. How do we move them over to being more supportive of us? If we can do that, we can make progress and improve security."

Related: Along these lines, Yemen's government attempted to conceal U.S. Drone strikes:

"Within seconds, 11 of the passengers were dead, including a woman and her 7-year-old daughter. A 12-year-old boy also perished that day, and another man later died from his wounds. The Yemeni government initially said that those killed were al-Qaeda militants and that its Soviet-era jets had carried out the Sept. 2 attack."

Related: An article on torture propaganda.

"Even given that huge damage, arguably the more severe and longest lasting unintended consequences have been those we have inflicted upon ourselves. That we are still debating torture's virtues is itself strong evidence of the ill effect of torture on those who would wield it, in this case an entire society. There has been not just a coarsening of our ideals but a rebuke of them. In failing to assess and acknowledge the damage we've done, we have cheapened the idea of America."

Our leaders try very hard to convey the idea that the United States is spreading freedom and democracy. Yet, anyone who makes the effort to look beyond this kind of superficial rhetoric will realize that we do just the opposite by supporting brutal regimes around the world. -BB(2012-12-26)

"The United States speaks about supporting human rights and democracy, but while the Saudis send troops to aid the Khalifa government, America is sending arms. The United States is doing itself a huge disservice by displaying such an obvious double standard toward human rights violations in the Middle East. Washington condemns the violence of the Syrian government but turns a blind eye to blatant human rights abuses committed by its ally Bahrain."

The Children That The Media Ignores

George Monbiot points out the media's double standard:

"Most of the world's media, which has rightly commemorated the children of Newtown, either ignores Obama's murders or accepts the official version that all those killed are 'militants'. The children of north-west Pakistan, it seems, are not like our children. They have no names, no pictures, no memorials of candles and flowers and teddy bears. They belong to the other: to the non-human world of bugs and grass and tissue."

Juan Cole reminds us:

"Let's also Remember the 176 children Killed by US Drones."

To the executives that run the major news outlets, why is the mass murder of children outside the United States any less significant? -BB(2012-12-19)

Bankers Enable the Cartels, But Are Too Big To Jail

The New York Times reports that HSBC, after transferring mountains of cash on behalf of drug cartels, will simply be fined. State and federal authorities have basically apologized for their inability to indict the bank:

"A money-laundering indictment, or a guilty plea over such charges, would essentially be a death sentence for the bank. Such actions could cut off the bank from certain investors like pension funds and ultimately cost it its charter to operate in the United States, officials said."

Glenn Greenwald comments on how this apology fit into the larger narrative of exceptionalism:

"We are constantly told that immunizing those with the greatest power is not for their good, but for our good, for our collective good: because it's better for all of us if society is free of the disruptions that come from trying to punish the most powerful, if we're free of the deprivations that we would collectively experience if we lose their extraordinary value and contributions by prosecuting them."

You can't jail bankers because ultimately they are the law. Threaten them and you'll see who really wields power in the United States. Our representatives are just intermediaries, the political operatives of the 1%. -BB(2012-12-14)

Related: Matt Taibbi relates the sort of punishment that these bankers deserve:

"How about you dive into every bank account of every single executive involved in this mess and take every last bonus dollar they've ever earned? Then take their houses, their cars, the paintings they bought at Sotheby's auctions, the clothes in their closets, the loose change in the jars on their kitchen counters, every last freaking thing. Take it all and don't think twice. And then throw them in jail."

"Sound harsh? It does, doesn't it? The only problem is, that's exactly what the government does just about every day to ordinary people involved in ordinary drug cases."

Responding to Grover Norquist

Grover Norquist is a front man for the right wing of the Republican Party. He's succeeded in getting more than 270 members of congress to sign an agreement (the "Taxpayer Protection Pledge") whereby they promise not to support legislation that will raise taxes. Republicans who defy Norquist face primary battles against candidates supported by Norquist. When asked what he thought about the government's duty towards the elderly and the poor (e.g. medicare, social security), he responded:

"It should stop stepping on them, kicking them and making their lives more difficult."

In other words, we have no need for government, for regulation, and everything should be left to the free market and "individual initiative." This was the world envisioned by Ayn Rand when she created the philosphy of Objectivism. Relentless self-interest is virtuous; Social Darwinism reborn.

Nicholas Kristof exposes the fraud of this sort of market fundamentalism:

"Anyone who honestly believes that low taxes and unfettered free markets are always best should consider moving to Pakistan’s tribal areas. They are a triumph of limited government, negligible taxes, no 'burdensome regulation' and free markets for everything from drugs to AK-47s."

As does Noami Klein:

"Climate change is, I would argue, the greatest single free-market failure. This is what happens when you don't regulate corporations and you allow them to treat the atmosphere as an open sewer."

The standard argument, deployed by the political operatives of the 1%, against raising tax rates is that it will negate growth by discouraging investment (i.e. trickle-down economics). Warren Buffet explodes this myth:

"Between 1951 and 1954, when the capital gains rate was 25 percent and marginal rates on dividends reached 91 percent in extreme cases, I sold securities and did pretty well. In the years from 1956 to 1969, the top marginal rate fell modestly, but was still a lofty 70 percent — and the tax rate on capital gains inched up to 27.5 percent. I was managing funds for investors then. Never did anyone mention taxes as a reason to forgo an investment opportunity that I offered."

The plutocrats of today, like the British colonialists of yesterday, live in their own separate world. Why should they care about the societal fallout that their wealth extraction generates? -BB(2012-11-27)

Drone Assassinations, Signature Strikes, and Secrecy

Below are a number of telling excerpts from a New York Times article on drone strikes:

"For years before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the United States routinely condemned targeted killings of suspected terrorists by Israel, and most countries still object to such measures."

"The word evolved to mean the 'signature' of militants in general — for instance, young men toting arms in an area controlled by extremist groups."

"Experts say the strikes are deeply unpopular both in Pakistan and Yemen, in part because of allegations of large numbers of civilian casualties, which American officials say are exaggerated."

"Despite public remarks by Mr. Obama and his aides on the legal basis for targeted killing, the program remains officially classified."

Sarah Knuckey of New York University School of Law asks:

"What if all countries did what the U.S. is doing?"

A study performed by Stanford Law School and the NYU School of Law contends that the government's claims of surgical accuracy are nothing more than propaganda:

"While civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged by the US government, there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians."

"US drone strike policies cause considerable and under-accounted for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury. Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities."

Columbia's Law School has also published reports that question the White House narrative that drone strikes are an effective tool with little downside or collateral damage.

Glenn Greenwald points out the futility of our government's basic strategy:

"To solve the problem of anti-American hatred in the region, we must do more and more of exactly that which - quite rationally - generates that hatred."

Noam Chomsky observes:

"One of the major reasons for government secrecy is to protect the government from its own population."

The United States is setting a dangerous precedent, using methods that will inevitably backfire, while stifling formal legal challenges through secrecy. - BB(2012-11-25)

Friedman Warns of Imaginary STEM Skill Shortage

Thomas Friedman, the establishment mouthpiece, is back at it, towing the corporate line with flimsy anecdotal evidence:

"We're in the midst of a perfect storm: a Great Recession that has caused a sharp increase in unemployment and a Great Inflection — a merger of the information technology revolution and globalization that is simultaneously wiping out many decent-wage, middle-skilled jobs, which were the foundation of our middle class, and replacing them with decent-wage, high-skilled jobs. Every decent-paying job today takes more skill and more education, but too many Americans aren’t ready. This problem awaits us after the 'fiscal cliff.'"

Friedman is dead wrong, there's actually a surplus of workers with STEM skills. What's happening isn't about a lack of talent, it's about Corporations making a buck:

"Simply put, a desire for cheap, skilled labor, within the business world and academia, has fueled assertions—based on flimsy and distorted evidence—that American students lack the interest and ability to pursue careers in science and engineering, and has spurred policies that have flooded the market with foreign STEM workers. This has created a grim reality for the scientific and technical labor force: glutted job markets; few career jobs; low pay, long hours, and dismal job prospects for postdoctoral researchers in university labs; near indentured servitude for holders of temporary work visas."

These CEOs aren't job creators, they're wealth extractors. -BB(2012-11-19)

USCC 2012 Annual Report Published

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission predictably concludes that (a drum roll please)... China is "the most threatening actor in cyberspace." Who would have guessed?

Former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden indicates otherwise:

"There was a survey done not too many months ago. They asked the citizens of some cyber-savvy nations around the world, who do you fear most in the cyber-domain? And, quite interestingly, we were number one."

Given how much we spend on our military, roughly equal to the combined defense spending of the rest of the world, it's highly unlikely that China can hold a candle to the U.S. stockpile of offensive technology. -BB(2012-11-14)

Deconstructing The Offensive Approach

Gary McGraw does a truly impressive job of revealing the flawed reasoning behind Leon Panneta's stance on cyber-attacks. In this illuminating essay Gary explains how the best defense is NOT a good offense (though such thinking might serve to acquire large disbursements of federal funding):

"We've established that offense, even in the guise of active defense is a poor deterrent. If everyone has cyber-rocks and attribution is difficult, a cyber-troublemaker can start a real war using Gandalf's trick. What are we to turn to as a deterrent or a power differentiator?"

"The answer is clear: cyber-defense."

This is a topic that I've also spoken about. -BB(2012-11-08)

Related : Chevron, Stuxnet, & Collateral Damage

"I don't think the U.S. government even realized how far it had spread... I think the downside of what they did is going to be far worse than what they actually accomplished."

Here's a question: Is the U.S. government going to compensate organizations which were unintended victims?

A Clean Slate, Big Brother Style

The New York Times celebrates Peter Neumann's gambit to rethink the whole concept of a computer:

"Years after most of his contemporaries have retired, Dr. Neumann is still at it and has seized the opportunity to start over and redesign computers and software from a 'clean slate.'"

"He is leading a team of researchers in an effort to completely rethink how to make computers and networks secure, in a five-year project financed by the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa, with Robert N. Watson, a computer security researcher at Cambridge University's Computer Laboratory."

"One design approach that Dr. Neumann's research team is pursuing is known as a tagged architecture. In effect, each piece of data in the experimental system must carry 'credentials' — an encryption code that ensures that it is one that the system trusts. If the data or program’s papers are not in order, the computer won’t process them."

Cryptome offers a couple of salient remarks:

"Peter Neumann proposes killing computers and the Internet to start over and build something far worse to meticulously track every nano-bite of digital communications with unrevocable, implanted encrypted ID in every device to authenticate ID of users."

"DARPA, who else, is funding the work to kill anonymity and privacy for, ta da, national security racketeering."

"The bountiful cyberwar mongerers are delirious with support for their job security of predicting evermore Pearl Harbors, amply protected by secrecy of 'defensive' USG cyber aggression."

Keep in mind that Neumann works for SRI, which has long-standing ties with the Department of Defense. -BB(2012-10-31)

The 1% In China and the United States

The New York Times has publised an article that describes how the relatives of China's prime minister, Wen Jiabao, have benefited financially as a result of his political influence.

"Many relatives of Wen Jiabao, including his son, daughter, younger brother and brother-in-law, have become extraordinarily wealthy during his leadership, an investigation by The New York Times shows. A review of corporate and regulatory records indicates that the prime minister's relatives — some of whom, including his wife, have a knack for aggressive deal making — have controlled assets worth at least $2.7 billion."

Of course, these people don't even comes close to the Walton family. According to labor economist Sylvia Allegretto:

"the Forbes [400] list reveals that six Waltons — all children (one daughter-in-law) of Sam or James 'Bud' Walton the founders of Wal-Mart — were on the list. The combined worth of the Walton six was $69.7 billion in 2007— which equated to the total wealth of the entire bottom thirty percent!"

The Waltons, you see, don't have time to run for office. They leave the dull chore of legislation to their political operatives in Washington. In fact, the Waltons probably see lawmakers as nothing more than 'hired help'.

The Chinese government has formally censored this story. In the United States, the ruling class doesn't bother. It's far easier to distract everyone with reality T.V., sports, and the latest electronic gadgets. - BB(2012-10-27)

Blaming Inequality Entirely on Globalization and Automation

This is a favorite tactic of the establishment, because it allows our legislators to throw their arms up and claim that there's nothing they can do.

"The causes of income stagnation are varied and lack the political simplicity of calls to bring down the deficit or avert another Wall Street meltdown. They cannot be quickly remedied through legislation from Washington. The biggest causes, according to interviews with economists over the last several months, are not the issues that dominate the political debate."

"At the top of the list are the digital revolution, which has allowed machines to replace many forms of human labor, and the modern wave of globalization, which has allowed millions of low-wage workers around the world to begin competing with Americans."

Of course, it's an obvious cover story, as Paul Pierson and Jacob Hacker explain. The U.S. economy is based on ground rules that are established by lawmakers.

"When you look at other affluent democracies that have also been exposed to these same kinds of pressures, who are actually more open -- smaller economies are often more open to the global economy than the United States is -- you don't see anything like the run-up in inequality, especially this very concentrated high-end inequality, in most of these other countries that you see in the United States. Which to us, really, was a very strong clue that we need to understand why the American response to globalization, to technological change has been different than the response of most other wealthy democracies."

Legislators won't do anything, not because of economic forces beyond their control, but because they're beholden to corporate money. -BB(2012-10-26)

Striking at the Root of the Problem

High-profile commentators like Thomas Friedman purport to understand the great issues facing the United States:

"The nexus of debt, taxes and entitlements... how to generate growth and upgrade the skills of every American in an age when the merger of globalization and the information technology revolution means every good job requires more education; how to meet our energy and climate challenges; and how to create an immigration policy that will treat those who are here illegally humanely, while opening America to the world's most talented immigrants, whom we need to remain the world's most innovative economy."

Yet Friedman completely fails to acknowledge the underlying core issue that most gravely threatens society on a fundamental level: the corporate takover of our republic. Perhaps this is expected as Friedman is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a member of the establishment. As such he has to assume the system's validity a priori. The Occupy Movement doesn't suffer from this shortcoming.

"With the upcoming presidential election, we are going to be given two sides of the same corporate coin. Without question, we reject the idea that Mitt Romney, the man behind Bain Capital, can do anything other than gut what remains of the public sector, destroy what remains of our social services, and empower corporations to further take over our country."

"Barack Obama's agenda is not so different from that of Mitt Romney's. If Obama is elected we will continue to see more human rights abuses, the rolling back of our constitutional rights, and a continuation of the silent coup that corporate America is executing on what remains of our sham of a democracy."

Bill Moyers also stands in stark contrast to spokesmen like Friedman:

"We've been governed for years now by one or the other of them, see-sawing back and forth in controlling Congress and the White House, so self-absorbed and corrupted by money that neither seems willing or able to cope with reality, or even to grasp what's happening to everyday Americans. By their very nature, neither party's capable of providing the radical critique we need - a blunt, even brutal assessment of a political system so dysfunctional as to call into question the survival of democracy."

Metanoia Films does a brilliant job of explaining the two-party illusion here.

Let's face it, the 1% see us as expendable:

"Neither American political party recognizes this disconnect. Neither party can afford to recognize it, as both parties are dependent on corporate campaign financing, and offshoring boosts executive bonuses and share prices. A political party that opposes offshoring of US jobs simply does not get financed."

I've written about the corporate-party system also. -BB(2012-09-07)

Plan X and Full Spectrum Dominance

Wired reports on the Pentagon's 'Plan X':

"The Pentagon's top research arm is unveiling a new, classified cyberwarfare project. But it's not about building the next Stuxnet, Darpa swears. Instead, the just-introduced 'Plan X' is designed to make online strikes a more routine part of U.S. military operations. That will make the son of Stuxnet easier to pull off -- to, as Darpa puts it, 'dominate the cyber battlespace.'"

Our leaders go into hysterics about Russia and China, to distract us from offensive programs that are being developed by the world's leading rogue state. All to the benefit of a sprawling defense industry, which is currently outshining WallStreet as far as CEO pay is concerned:

"Chief executives of the top five U.S. military contractors were paid a total of $107 million last year, 43 percent more than the heads of the five biggest U.S. banks, who made $75 million. That's a reversal from 2007, when the defense executives received $97 million, 41 percent less than the $163 million that went to the top banking chief executives."

Recall Harold Pinter's 2005 Nobel Lecture:

"I have said earlier that the United States is now totally frank about putting its cards on the table. That is the case. Its official declared policy is now defined as 'full spectrum dominance'. That is not my term, it is theirs. 'Full spectrum dominance' means control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources."

He's right. The moneyed elite are actually pretty clear about what they want. In his book Tragedy and Hope, Georgetown University professor Carroll Quigley breaks it down (see the bottom of page 277 ):

"The powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole."

For specifics, research the War and Peace Studies undertaken by the Council on Foreign Relations. -BB(2012-08-22)

NSA Chief Hypes Cyber Threat

The New York Times reports on a recent event, the Aspen Security Forum, which it also happens to sponsor. The Times claims that this is the "first official acknowledgment" of how vulnerable the U.S. is:

"General Alexander said that what concerned him about the increase in foreign cyberattacks on the United States was that a growing number were aimed at 'critical infrastructure,' and that the United States remained unprepared to ward off a major attack. On a scale of 1 to 10, he said, American preparedness for a large-scale cyberattack is 'around a 3.'"

Cryptome exposes this somber warning for what it is: propaganda

"Alexander, contrary to previous DIRNSAs, is speaking quite often to gin cyber-aggression as dual-use head of NSA and Cybercom, first for defense second for offense, both now ordered to expound open cyber-threat propaganda to parallel long-standing covert information operations."

"Among a slew of commercial initiatives drumming cyber conflict, the Aspen Security Forum aims to be the premier war-bloviation platform, heavily empaneled by former USG officials now shilling for the national security industry. NY Times sponsorship is indicative of the perdurable wartime financial benefits for the media in conjunction with financial markets. Bloviation blows ill winds, the storm front gaining force during presidential campaigns."

"Cyber attacks on the US, do not forget them, they are legion, expect them, thanks to NSA/Cyber Command Anonymous operations."

These officials loudly warn about attacks on our infrastructure while they're busy sticking it to someone else under the veil of government secrecy. We've met the attackers; they're U.S. intelligence services. -BB(2012-07-27)

Threat Inflation In Action

In the aftermath of the attack in Colorado, officials may take the opportunity to focus our attention on homegrown terror threats. This would only be expected as, in their minds, terror is the greatest threat that this country faces:

"Terrorism, Clapper [Director of National Intelligence] said, is the first and foremost threat."

Is our DNI aware that terrorist attacks killed seventeen U.S. private citizens in 2011? (see page 20 of the report)

On the other hand, there are roughly 30,000 people killed in lethal traffic incidents every year.

Of course, admitting this won't help the DNI acquire additional funding or authority. -BB(2012-07-24)

The President Plugs Legislation with Worst-Case Scenarios

Barack Obama has left a missive at the corporate altar which is the Wall Street Journal:

"In a future conflict, an adversary unable to match our military supremacy on the battlefield might seek to exploit our computer vulnerabilities here at home. Taking down vital banking systems could trigger a financial crisis. The lack of clean water or functioning hospitals could spark a public health emergency. And as we've seen in past blackouts, the loss of electricity can bring businesses, cities and entire regions to a standstill."

"For the sake of our national and economic security, I urge the Senate to pass the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 and Congress to send me comprehensive legislation so I can sign it into law."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation warns that:

"Our contacts in Washington tell us it's likely that opponents will try to strip out these [privacy] protections by hyping up fears of catastrophic cyberattacks and calling for stronger national security provisions. We need to organize now to stop any Floor amendments that would undermine these major privacy wins."

Ask any seasoned Public Relations consultant. Nothing sells an agenda like a heavy dose of anxiety. Create the perception of a threat (the thesis) which leads to public outcry (the anti-thesis) and facilitates the adoption of a preconceived solution (synthesis). Hegel's dialectic lives on. -BB(2012-07-20)

HSBC, Banking Elite Have No Fear of Reprisal

First the Mortgage Crisis, then the LIBOR Scandal, and now we find that HSBC has been laundering money for Mexican drug lords and catering to the banking needs of Organized Crime groups the world over. Though Forbes is insistent that HSBC was, strictly speaking, fined for "inadequate paperwork." Ahem.

The attraction of this sort of blood money is that it represents a cheap source of what is essentially the banking industry's raw material. As Michael Ruppert explains in his book Crossing the Rubicon :

"Those who have the lowest cost of capital win. In the best-case scenario this would be capital on which you didn't have to pay any interest at all, or even raised -- somehow -- for free. Finding the cheap capital (just like the cheap oil) is the trick: knowing where the money is and how it works. But big money doesn't always broadcast its location."

I don't necessarily buy the cover story that these poor executives are simply in over their heads with regard to grasping the complex nature of their industry. I think they're well aware of the basic game plan: extract as much wealth as they can and work to prevent our mobilization against the process. HSBC will pay a fine and be on its merry way, because the elite own everyone with enough institutional authority to send them to jail. -BB(2012-07-17)

Related David Brooks defends the elite:

"I'd say today's meritocratic elites achieve and preserve their status not mainly by being corrupt but mainly by being ambitious and disciplined. They raise their kids in organized families. They spend enormous amounts of money and time on enrichment. They work much longer hours than people down the income scale, driving their kids to piano lessons and then taking part in conference calls from the waiting room."

Chris Hayes offers an astute response:

"There's a lot of hard-working, disciplined, totally corrupt folks on Wall Street, for instance, and I don't think we have to choose between the two. And, you know, I make a book-length argument to support my contention..."

Inspecting Syrian Opposition Spokesmen

The Guardian has published a report that examines the Syrian "official spokesmen" or "pro-democracy campaigners":

"A number of key figures in the Syrian opposition movement are long-term exiles who were receiving US government funding to undermine the Assad government long before the Arab spring broke out. Though it is not yet stated US government policy to oust Assad by force, these spokespeople are vocal advocates of foreign military intervention in Syria and thus natural allies of well-known US neoconservatives who supported Bush's invasion of Iraq and are now pressuring the Obama administration to intervene."

Bassma Kodmani is one of these key figures. She's the director of the Arab Reform Initiative which was founded by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), an organization that's best described by Shoup and Minter:

"[Council on Foreign Relations] goals remain, as always, to influence the government and public opinion in favor of an imperial role for the United States."

With these credentials it should come as no surprise that she's been to the Bilderberg conference twice. In other words, she's a vetted representative of establishment interests. The Guardian article remarks:

"Kodmani is not some random 'pro-democracy activist' who happens to have found herself in front of a microphone... A picture is emerging of Kodmani as a trusted lieutenant of the Anglo-American democracy-promotion industry."

The crisis in Syria has set in motion a campaign to establish a pro-US regime. That is, one that supports U.S. foreign policy goals as defined by the boardrooms in Manhattan. Noam Chomsky states that:

"The real challenge for the west relates to democracy itself. If there were to be a true democracy in Syria, the west would find this much more difficult to handle."

This definitely says something about how the average Syrian feels about the United States. -BB(2012-07-13)

Leaks, Disinformation, and Hegel's Dialectic - (2012-07-05)

In the early days of the Soviet Empire, the GPU ran a counterintelligence campaign called Operation Trust which created an anti-Bolshevik opposition group in an effort to provide the GPU with a means to undermine their enemies. As cryptome's John Young explains, this strategy is still being used:

"The enemy are those who set up and participate in false public interest initiatives to mislead the public, a very ancient practice of power groups who sponsor dissidents to serve as controlled opposition. CIA and most if not all national intelligence agencies (and their host governments) engage in this practice by supporting NGOs, individuals, churches, universities, think tanks, media outlets, including so-called alternative outlets, anti-war initiatives."

"Indeed, it is prudent to consider any long-lived group as having been either set up by authorities or co-opted once successful (usually through favorable tax treatment and funding). It is a difficult task to sort out who is complicit and who is not due to the quick adoption by covert operations of the honest groups means and methods."

Michel Chossudovsky offers a similar analysis:

"It is in the interest of the corporate elites to accept dissent and protest as a feature of the system inasmuch as they do not threaten the established social order. The purpose is not to repress dissent, but, on the contrary, to shape and mould the protest movement, to set the outer limits of dissent."

"To maintain their legitimacy, the economic elites favor limited and controlled forms of opposition, with a view to preventing the development of radical forms of protest, which might shake the very foundations and institutions of global capitalism. In other words, 'manufacturing dissent' acts as a 'safety valve,' which protects and sustains the New World Order."

In other words, high-level planners can control the outcome of a conflict by managing both sides. Manipulate the thesis and anti-thesis and you can determine the outcome of their inevitable synthesis. To put Hegel's dialectic another way: nothing beats a fixed fight. -BB(2012-07-05)

The Final Nail in the Coffin

History repeats itself in Montana. The U.S. Supreme Court, in light of the Citizens United case, has reversed an existing decision of the Montana Supreme Court that limited political spending by business interests. Larry Howell, an associate professor at the University of Montana School of Law, explains what originally led to political spending limits in Montana:

"Montana's continued fight to restrict independent corporate expenditures in campaigns for elected office is rooted in the State's history of corrupt elections during the War of the Copper Kings, which took place at the turn of the twentieth century. At the time, the State was infamous for what historian K. Ross Toole described as the 'massive corruption of the machinery of government' that resulted from the willingness of three mining barons, or 'copper kings,' to spend millions of dollars in their battle to control both Montana's vast copper deposits and its government."

Somehow the U.S. Supreme Court believes that billions of dollars of untraceable cash won't purchase influence. The very fact that a decision like this could be made, one that contradicts well-documented historical evidence, is a demonstration of just how strong the ruling class has become. Without a doubt this is power being wielded, right before our eyes. The ventriloquists of Wall Street have gained the upper hand. -BB (2012-06-25)

JPMorgan Explodes the Myth of the Free Market

For decades, ideologues like Alan Greenspan have perpetuated Ayn Rand's misconception that relentless self-interest was a good thing and that any attempt by the government to intervene was a bad idea (as Atlas might shrug and we'd all starve). After proving himself wrong, by playing a pivotal role in the dismantling of our regulatory structures, a normally unrepentant Greenspan would eventually admit that he was wrong.

Yet the cognitive illusion known as free market dogma survives in people like Jamie Dimone, who Barack Obama would have us believe is wealthy because he's 'superior' (the core tenant of Social Darwinism).

Research done by Kenichi Ueda and Beatrice Weder di Mauro of the IMF demonstrates otherwise. They're aren't wealthy because they're brilliant, the elite of the financial sector are wealthy because they've paid off our elected officials and turned them into their personal political operatives. This article at Bloomberg desbribes a result of this relationship:

"In recent decades, governments and central banks around the world have developed a consistent pattern of behavior when trouble strikes banks that are large or interconnected enough to threaten the broader economy: They step in to ensure that all the bank's creditors, not just depositors, are paid in full. Although typically necessary to prevent permanent economic damage, such bailouts encourage a reckless confidence among creditors. They assume the government will always make them whole, so they become willing to lend at lower rates, particularly to systemically important banks."

In other words, our government is providing an implicit subsidy to large financial institutions by assuming risk of failure so that they can borrow at lower rates. Such is the moral hazard of what's known in financial circles as the "Greenspan put", the belief that the Fed will bail out the industry if failure is imminent.

This reveals free market ideology for what it is: a pretext that the elite dust off when they find it expedient, like when they want to attack social spending or other measures to protect the working class. Noam Chomsky describes this hypocrisy:

"Free markets are fine for you, but not for me. That's, again, near a universal. So you -- whoever you may be -- you have to learn responsibility, and be subjected to market discipline, it's good for your character, it's tough love, and so on, and so forth. But me, I need the nanny State, to protect me from market discipline, so that I'll be able to rant and rave about the marvels of the free market, while I'm getting properly subsidized and defended by everyone else, through the nanny State. And also, this has to be risk-free. So I'm perfectly willing to make profits, but I don't want to take risks. If anything goes wrong, you bail me out."

Thomas Friedman claims that our leaders simply need to be more honest.

"You'd think one of them, just one, would seize the opportunity to enlist their people in the truth: about where they are, what they are capable of"

Of course, this would require politicians to admit that they're nothing more than intermediaries for the small group of oligarchs that controls this country. -BB(2012-06-24)

The Utility of Cyberwar Treaties

Bruce Schneier has written an essay where he espouses the use of cyber treaties:

"Banning cyberweapons entirely is a good goal, but almost certainly unachievable. More likely are treaties that stipulate a no-first-use policy, outlaw unaimed or broadly targeted weapons, and mandate weapons that self-destruct at the end of hostilities. Treaties that restrict tactics and limit stockpiles could be a next step. We could prohibit cyberattacks against civilian infrastructure; international banking, for example, could be declared off-limits."

"...The very act of negotiating limits the arms race and paves the way to peace. And even if they're breached, the world is safer because the treaties exist."

This is debatable. For example, when the United States signed the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972, the Russians interpreted this as a sign to rush forward and create new weapons. According to Kanatjan Alibekov, First Deputy Director of Biopreparat from 1988 to 1992:

"In the 70s and beginning of 80s the Soviet Union started developing new biological weapons -- Marburg infection biological weapon, Ebola infection biological weapon, Machupo infection, [or] Bolivian hemorrhagic biological weapon, and some others."

"Smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980. And just immediately after, the Soviet Union government realized that nobody would have defense in the future against this agent, because it was declared [that] there was no necessity to vaccinate people any more. This weapon became one of the most important weapons, because the entire population of the Earth became absolutely vulnerable to this agent and to this weapon."

Concealing the development of malware is far easier than it is for bioweapons. How, exactly, are we to ensure that certain kinds of offensive software aren't being implemented? The very idea that we could detect and track the development of such malware is pleasant fiction.

Once more, in the aftermath of an orchestrated attack the quandry of attribution would make enforcement almost impossible. Staging an attack to frame another country is entirely feasible. Even worse, false-flag ops are well within reach of a funded private outfit. There are too many actors joining the fray, which is itself a wilderness of mirrors, for our leaders to think that they can put a lid on Pandora's Box with a treaty. I'm still not sure just how effective this approach would be. -BB(2012-06-14)

Blaming the Victim

David Brooks, op-ed columnist for the New York Times, explains why society has lost faith in its institutions:

"Vast majorities of Americans don't trust their institutions. That's not mostly because our institutions perform much worse than they did in 1925 and 1955, when they were widely trusted. It's mostly because more people are cynical and like to pretend that they are better than everything else around them. Vanity has more to do with rising distrust than anything else."

Sorry Mr. Brooks, we don't trust these institutions because they don't deserve it. Trust is something that's earned and they've proven that they don't work on our behalf. How else would you explain the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act or the The Commodity Futures Modernization Act? How else would you explain the tidal wave of lobbying money that washes over the beltway? Or why banks that were too big to fail back then are larger than ever?

Our rising distrust isn't a product of our vanity. It results from the financial disaster of 2008 which, as Matt Taibbi puts it, "forced the monster of American oligarchy out from below the ocean surface and onto the beach, for everyone to see."

The Masters of Mankind, those "extraordinary" people celebrated by the establishment, have demonstrated a notable talent for rigging the game, wading neck deep into "shitty deals", and then getting their political operatives in DC to stick the rest of society with the losses. -BB(2012-06-12)

Crossing the Rubicon: Stunxet

Update: a more recent version of this essay has been posted at Counterpunch.

After its initial discovery in 2010, the culprit behind the Stuxnet computer worm has finally been revealed: the United States. Despite the ruckus that U.S. officials make in public about Chinese and Russian hackers, the U.S. is admittedly one of the most active players in this field. News coverage may adopt a seemingly congratulatory tone but there are reasons why this is an unsettling state of affairs.

Containment and control are not trivial issues. As the White House discovered, once you deploy offensive software there's no guarantee that it won't find its way out into the wild and infect otherwise uninvolved third parties. And what about the risk that some random Black Hat scavenges captured components for their own purposes? These concerns are exactly what discouraged the Pentagon from launching a cyber-attack against Saddam Hussein's financial system before the invasion of Iraq.

Then there's also the matter of efficacy. Was the Stuxnet attack actually as debilitating as a conventional military strike? Or have decision makers merely shown their hand and tipped off the Iranians?

One aspect of Stuxnet, which has been corroborated at length by forensic investigators, is that the worm leveraged zero-day exploits to do its job. It's generally known among Black Hats that the United States is a principal customer in the underground market for zero-day exploits. As Bruce Schneier notes, the very existence of a market like this undermines our collective security because it encourages flaws to remain secret on behalf of intelligence services who want to covertly access computers. This is security for the 1%, relative insecurity for everyone else.

Finally, Stuxnet exposes American exceptionalism. Espionage and sabotage are presented as intolerable criminal transgressions, normally causing our elected officials and military leaders to erupt in fits of righteous indignation. That is, unless the United States is doing the spying and the sabotaging (in which case we're seemingly rather proud of our status as leading rogue state). By crossing the Rubicon, our leaders have irrevocably lost the moral high ground. Not a wise decision for a country that, itself, depends heavily on the same buggy software that it regularly subverts. -BB(2012-06-06)

Related: With regard to attribution and Flame, this blogger claims to know who's responsible:

"My source also tells me that this is the first known instance in which Israeli intelligence has used malware to intrude on Israeli citizens. Within Israel and the Palestinian territories Flame is implemented by the Shin Bet. The 'beauty' of it for the secret police is that unlike 'legal' eavesdropping on phones or computers, you don't need to ask for judicial approval to infect a computer."

Conjecture? Disinformation? This would be standard tradecraft (spies love nothing more than to muddy the water). An official statement by an Isreali government spokesman denies any responsibility.

On the other side of the Atlantic, an NBC reporter has quoted an un-named U.S. official who stated that "it was U.S." Yet the New York Times article says otherwise:

"The computer code [for Flame] appears to be at least five years old, and American officials say that it was not part of Olympic Games. They have declined to say whether the United States was responsible for the Flame attack. "

Five years old? Anti-Virus researchers like Mikko Hypponen openly admit that current approaches to securing systems are lacking:

"Flame was a failure for the antivirus industry. We really should have been able to do better. But we didn't. We were out of our league, in our own game."

Drone Strikes and Counterterrorism

This morning Jake Tapper presented the following question to the Secretary of Defense:

"The Times of London reported last week that the civilian casualties in Yemen as a result of drone strikes have, quote, 'emboldened Al Qaeda.' Is there not a serious risk that this approach to counterterrorism, because of its imprecision, because of its civilian casualties, is creating more enemies than it is killing? "

Leon Panetta's response:

"First and foremost, I think this is one of the most precise weapons that we have in our arsenal. Number two, what is our responsibility here? Our responsibility is to defend and protect the United States of America."

Glenn Greenwald offers some revealing commentary:

"Note that Panetta studiously ignored, rather than addressed, the question of whether the U.S. - by continuously killing Muslim civilians and thus intensifying anti-American animus - is creating more Terrorists than it is killing and thus making the U.S. less safe. That's because there is no answer. Continuously bombing Muslim countries and killing civilians ostensibly as a means of combating anti-American Terrorism is exactly like smoking six packs of cigarettes a day to treat emphysema: one would do it only if one wanted to make the problem worse, or, at best, was recklessly indifferent to the outcome."

Note also on how Mr. Tapper didn't insist on getting a straight answer. - BB(2012-05-27)

Related: Business interests in Ohio are trying desperately to jump on the drone bandwagon.

"Ohio, in particular, has made attracting the drone industry a major component of its statewide economic strategy, hoping to encourage local economic growth and create jobs by making the state the premier location for drone testing and research in the U.S."

"In order to clear the way for increased drone testing and research in Ohio, the Dayton Development Coalition and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), a major defense contractor with substantial operations in Dayton, are conducting a multi-year study led by 'senior executives of military and civilian stakeholder organizations.'"

East Meets West: Propaganda in Action

This New York Times report looks at how the 1% in China are utilizing an age-old technique to try and mobilize the populace:

"This week Mr. Yang revealed another side of his persona in a torrent of microblog messages that derided some foreigners as 'trash' and accused Western men of seducing local women in an effort to spy on China."

"Analysts suggest the rising nationalist sentiment may be related to a spate of events that have unnerved the Chinese leadership, including territorial disputes in the South China Sea, a sharply slowing domestic economy and the political turmoil prompted by the downfall of the populist up-and-comer Bo Xilai."

Misdirect people to an external enemy to distract them from a concrete internal threat. Tycoon Joe Ricketts is using the same ploy here in the United States:

"Our Republic is under assault from our government..."

Point listeners to the government, prevent them from noticing the corporate coup d'état that has taken place. The 1% owns our elected officials, our regulators, and our media. -BB(2012-05-26)

David Brooks, the Masters of Mankind, and the Big Lie

The big lie is a standard propaganda technique. It's described below in an Office of Strategic Services profile of Adolph Hitler:

"People will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it."

A couple of years back, New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote a piece which appears to have based its conclusions on the the big lie of high finance:

"They [populists] can't seem to grasp that a politics based on punishing the elites won't produce a better-educated work force, more investment, more innovation or any of the other things required for progress and growth."

"Hamilton championed capital markets and Lincoln championed banks, not because they loved traders and bankers. They did it because they knew a vibrant capitalist economy would maximize opportunity for poor boys like themselves. They were willing to tolerate the excesses of traders because they understood that no institution is more likely to channel opportunity to new groups and new people than vigorous financial markets."

In other words, we have to overlook their shortcomings because these men are geniuses who construct the pillars of economic growth. President Obama definitely admires certain members of the financial caste:

"JPMorgan is one of the best-managed banks there is. Jamie Dimon, the head of it, is one of the smartest bankers we got"

Such is the big lie. Matt Taibbi breaks it down:

"Goldman is not a company of geniuses, it's a company of criminals. And far from being the best fruit of a democratic, capitalistic society, it's the apotheosis of the Grifter Era, a parasitic enterprise that has attached itself to the American Government and taxpayer and shamelessly engorged itself on us all."

These bankers aren't givers, they're takers. That's their fiduciary duty: short-term profit regardless of the greater societal costs. Does Brook's op-ed sound more like an apologia for the 1%? -BB(2012-05-23)

Section 1021 of NDAA Ruled Unconstitutional - (2012-05-21)

Recently a federal judge forbid enforcement of detention-related portions of the 2012 NDAA. According to Chris Hedges:

"The government has 60 days to appeal. It can also, as Mayer and Afran have urged, accept the injunction that nullifies the law. If the government appeals, the case will go to a federal appellate court. The ruling, even if an appellate court upholds it, could be vanquished in the Supreme Court, especially given the composition of that court."

Is this really about fighting terror, or perhaps something else?

"The corporate state knows what is coming. Globalization is breaking down. Our natural resources are being depleted. Economic and political upheavals are inevitable. And our corporate rulers are preparing a world of masters and serfs, a world where repression will be our daily diet, a world of hunger and riots, a world of brutal control and a world where our spirits must be broken."

Keep in mind that in terms of sheer size, the DHS is unrivaled outside of the military. -BB(2012-05-21)

Predator's Ball

This New York Times op-ed points to research which reveals the frequency of predators in finance.

"Studies conducted by Canadian forensic psychologist Robert Hare indicate that about 1 percent of the general population can be categorized as psychopathic, but the prevalence rate in the financial services industry is 10 percent. And Christopher Bayer believes, based on his experience, that the rate is higher."

The author then goes on to describe a mindset that has become commonplace in corporate boardrooms:

"Enron, BP, Goldman, Philip Morris, G.E., Merck, etc., etc. Accounting fraud, tax evasion, toxic dumping, product safety violations, bid rigging, overbilling, perjury. The Walmart bribery scandal, the News Corp. hacking scandal -- just open up the business section on an average day. Shafting your workers, hurting your customers, destroying the land. Leaving the public to pick up the tab. These aren't anomalies; this is how the system works: you get away with what you can and try to weasel out when you get caught."

The standard counter-argument goes something like this: sure, there are a few bad apples. But, there are a lot of honest, hard-working, executives in the workplace too. Deresiewicz responds by observing that ethical behavior is purely optional. I would further add that institutional forces also drive executives to behave as if they were psychopaths.

"There are ethical corporations, yes, and ethical businesspeople, but ethics in capitalism is purely optional, purely extrinsic. To expect morality in the market is to commit a category error. Capitalist values are antithetical to Christian ones. (How the loudest Christians in our public life can also be the most bellicose proponents of an unbridled free market is a matter for their own consciences.) Capitalist values are also antithetical to democratic ones. Like Christian ethics, the principles of republican government require us to consider the interests of others. Capitalism, which entails the single-minded pursuit of profit, would have us believe that it's every man for himself."

The "job creators" claim they're merely "doing god's work." -BB (2012-05-13)

The Danger of a Bad Precedent

In this essay Glenn Greenwald explains (once again) why it's dangerous to make exceptions to the rule of law, even when it seems justifiable:

"Julius Caesar... noted that Roman law forbids the execution of Roman citizens even for heinous crimes, and that executing the conspirators would thus require the creation of a radical and dangerous precedent: dangerous because to vest the power in the State to kill its own citizens, even if justified in the specific case where it is first done, would be to vest the power generally and thus ensure its inevitable abuse."

The same dynamic is at work with the Glomar Doctrine, a policy which:

"Allows government agencies to respond to requests under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, by refusing to confirm or deny the existence of the records that have been requested."

When the Glomar Doctrine was first established, there seemed to be a legitimate reasons. But now...

"The C.I.A. has grossly abused it, in cases relating to the targeted killing program and other counterterrorism operations. It is invoking the doctrine not to protect legitimately classified information from disclosure, but to shield controversial decisions from public scrutiny and to spare officials from having to defend their policies in court."

In order to govern and make constructive decisions, citizens need access to accurate information. -BB(2012-05-08)

The Deindustrialization Of America

Author Michael Snyder laments that:

"We are witnessing the deindustrialization of America. Tens of thousands of factories have left the United States in the past decade alone. Millions upon millions of manufacturing jobs have been lost in the same time period. The United States has become a nation that consumes everything in sight and yet produces increasingly little."

If a manufacturing country like China wants to engage us in a trade war, what do you think would happen? We don't make anything... -BB (2012-05-06)

IMF Study on U.S. Economic Inequality

This IMF report describes a process of economic extraction that has been utilized over the past few decades:

"The poor and the middle class seem to have resisted the erosion of their relative income position by borrowing to maintain a higher standard of living; meanwhile, the rich accumulated more and more assets and invested in assets backed by loans to the poor and the middle class. Consumption inequality that is lower than income inequality has led to much higher wealth inequality."

In other words, profits made on behalf of stagnating wages, cutbacks, and increased efficiencies have been invested... so that they can loan it back to us and charge us interest on it.

Paul Krugman points out the ultimate culprit:

"The real structural problem is in our political system, which has been warped and paralyzed by the power of a small, wealthy minority. And the key to economic recovery lies in finding a way to get past that minority's malign influence."

Our Republic has suffered a Corporate Coup d'Etat. - BB(2012-05-04)

The Economic Game Plan of the 1%

The GOP's Paul Ryan spells it out:

"Cut income tax rates and simplify the code, privatize Medicare, shrink the food-stamp and Medicaid programs and turn almost all control over to the states, and reduce domestic federal spending to its smallest share of the economy since World War II."

This op-ed warns that:

"The slow start for the economy in 2012 - an annual rate of 2.2 percent in the first three months of the year - is evidence that the recovery is too weak to push joblessness much lower than its current 8.2 percent, and too fragile to withstand the kinds of budget cuts Congressional Republicans are proposing."

Noam Chomsky further explains that:

"The reason is that state governments are much more under the control of private business than the federal government is. The federal government's big enough so that, you know, it can somehow stand up against private power to some extent. State governments, it's hopeless. I mean, even middle-sized businesses can play one state against another."

For good measure, Paul Krugman choke slams Mitt Romney:

"Not long ago, conservatives gushed over Ireland's economic policies, especially its low corporate tax rate; the Heritage Foundation used to give it higher marks for 'economic freedom' than any other Western nation. When things went bad, Ireland once again received lavish praise, this time for its harsh spending cuts, which were supposed to inspire confidence and lead to quick recovery. And now, as I said, almost a third of Ireland's young can't find jobs."

At least the Democrats try to assume a low profile when they cater to the 1%. -BB(2012-04-30)

No Moral High Ground Here

As usual, the universal apology ("national security") is brought out by decision makers to explain away torture.

"But we did the right thing for the right reason. And the right reason was to protect the homeland and to protect American lives. So yes, I had no qualms."

Another approach is to re-direct our attention to an equally disturbing practice:

"We don't capture anybody any more, Lesley. You know their default option of this Administration has been to kill all prisoners. Take no prisoners."

Nevertheless, even the Inspector General of the CIA conlcuded that there's no solid proof that torture works (see page 89):

"There is limited data on which to assess their [Enhanced Interrogation Techniques] individual effectiveness."

Senator John McCain agrees that not only is torture ineffective, but it also robs us of any sort of moral authority. -BB (2012-04-30)

They Get Bailed Out, We Get Sold Out

With homage to Chomsky, Rob Urie takes this meme and applies it to our military campaigns in the Middle East:

"The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are wars over resources, primarily oil. In the minds of war architects they may serve a broader geopolitical purpose, but that purpose is at its core economic --maintaining a ready supply of oil for multinational oil companies. The wars were estimated some years ago to cost several trillion dollars. This amount is to be borne by taxpayers, not to mention the human toll in lives and lost possibilities. Another way to phrase this is: 'oil companies and military contractors got bailed out, we got sold out.'"

With regard to implementing this purpose, the tip of the spear is well-protected by state sanctioned secrecy:

"The rest of the world has had few illusions about where American wealth comes from. The CIA has long functioned as an oil mafia undermining democratically elected and democratically functioning governments to control oil for private interests. The American military has been a tool of private American interests for most of its existence. And these government agencies are economies unto themselves receiving 'black' budgets over which there is little oversight or accountability."

Witness the efficacy of corporate extraction and exploitation. -BB (2012-04-29)

Heywood, Hakluyt, and Shell Oil

According to the New York Times Neil Heywood, the British businessman who was allegedly murdered in China, had ties to Hakluyt & Company, a private-sector spook outfit established by former MI6 officers.

"The private intelligence firm Hakluyt, founded by former officials with MI6, the British secret intelligence service, said Mr. Heywood had occasionally worked as one of its associates, helping prepare due-diligence reports on Chinese companies for investors. That association, even if it had ended months before his death, inspired speculation that he was a spy, although an official with the Foreign Office in London effectively denied that."

There are mixed stories about Heywood's final hours. The Wall Street Journal has him acting like a hunted animal. On the other hand, The Telegraph characterized him as being happy.

There are whispers that Hakluyt is still on Shell Oil's payroll. This isn't necessarily suprising, as Shell has made use of Hakluyt's clandestine services before. Shell Oil has done business in Chongqing, the city where it is believed that Mr. Heywood was murdered. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Shell "signed the first production-sharing contract to explore, develop and produce shale gas in China." This deal was signed with China National Petroleum Corporation, which has ties to several people involved in this scandal. -BB (2012-04-28)

More Cyber Worst-Case Scenarios

Yesterday in a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Management (OMI), Cyber- Hype got some air time:

"The US government, critical infrastructures, American business institutions and our personal data are being compromised by nation states and hacker groups. The intent is to conduct cyber warfare, possibly paralyzing our infrastructure, stealing our intellectual property, conducting espionage, and gaining access to our credit card, bank account and social security numbers."

It's no surprise that the legislator who made these statements, Michael McCaul (R-TX), has received campaign money from the likes of Raytheon, Boeing, VeriSign, and Lockheed Martin.

In accordance with Ferguson's Investment Theory of Politics, McCaul is merely catering to the wants and needs of his constituents (e.g. defense contractors).

Forget Cyberwar. Let's focus on serious threats, like greedy bankers. -BB (2012-04-25)

Who's Afraid of the SEC?

According to 60 Minutes, Lehman execs have relative immunity from SEC prosecution:

"There is one plausible explanation why the SEC hasn't gone after top Lehman executives. As it turns out, some of Lehman's most egregious accounting shenanigans took place right under the noses of government regulators."

It probably didn't help that the regulators in the SEC were outgunned with respect to grasping the rocket-science internals of derivatives.

"They may not have had the expertise necessary to understand the material they were receiving. They were getting the material. Whether they understood it is another question."

All of this complexity is a shroud that bankers hide behind. Once more, because officials in DC see these execs as being privy to the inner workings of certain opaque financial products, Washington brings the execs back to clean up the mess that they created. Sensible minds would have reinstated the Glass-Steagall Act. No such luck. -BB (2012-04-23)

Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty Speak

These world-class economists, who documented the growth of economic inequality in the United States, broach the subject of taxation:

"Their proposed corrective remains far outside the bounds of polite political conversation: much, much higher top marginal tax rates on the rich, up to 50 percent, or 70 percent or even 90 percent, from the current top rate of 35 percent."

"Mr. Piketty and Mr. Saez argue that history is on their side: Many countries have higher tax rates -- and the United States has had higher tax rates -- without stifling growth or encouraging the concentration of income in the hands of the very rich."

The Heritage Foundation and its ilk would warn that this would deter investment and hurt the economy. Warren Buffet easily dispels this myth:

"I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone - not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 - shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off."

Related: According to a report from Mother Jones :

"Between 2008 and 2011, 26 major American corporations paid no net federal income taxes despite bringing in billions in profits."

Related: The 2 America's: Big vs. Small Business.

"When big corporations use offshore tax havens, small businesses pay the price -- literally. If they were to cover the cost of corporate abuse of tax havens in 2011, the average U.S. small business would pay $2,116."

Related: It Pays to Lobby.

"280 profitable Fortune 500 companies collectively received $223 billion in tax breaks between 2008 and 2010 while contributing $216 million to Congressional candidates over the last four election cycles."

Thanks to front men like Grover Norquist, the gridlock we see in Congress is not an accident. -BB (2012-04-17)

'Information Sharing' is a Euphemism

The San Jose Mercury News has published a report on the emerging concept of public-private partnerships to fight cybercrime.

"On Monday, in a sign these concerns are shared at the highest levels of the Obama administration, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will make a personal pitch for help to tech companies in San Jose. And Congress is mulling several bills to encourage government and business to share intelligence about the computerized threats."

"Also sounding alarms is Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency and commander of U.S. Cyber Command, which guards military networks. At an October conference he appealed for the private and public sectors to work together because 'this is something that we cannot do by ourselves.'"

Related: The EFF states that:

"The bill expressly authorizes monitoring of our private communications, and is written so broadly that it allows companies to hand over large swaths of personal information to the government with no judicial oversight--effectively creating a 'cybersecurity' loophole in all existing privacy laws."

Take action: here. -BB (2012-04-15)

China's 1% Duke It Out in Public

This L.A. Times article exposes a rift in the upper echelons of China's ruling class. The implications are disturbing.

"Last month, Bo [Xilai] lost his job, fired over what was described in a Communist Party statement released through state media this week as 'serious discipline problems.' The statement also said Gu [Bo's wife] and a family aide were under arrest as suspects in the November death of Neil Heywood, a 41-year-old British businessman and a longtime family friend."

It would appear that, similar to the basic dynamic in the United States, rule of law breaks down as one ascends the power structure. Recall the case of Viktor Bout. Are Chinese officials only willing to enforce the law now that Bo has outlived his usefulness? Would this murder have been investigated as rigorously if Bo had chosen not to rock the boat? All animals are equal, only some are more equal than others. Especially in China - BB(2012-04-11)

Related: this New York Times article observes that:

"In the view of some analysts and party insiders, that same scandal has raised the notion of high-level misconduct among China's elite to a level that some say could have far-reaching and unpleasant implications for stability. It could cast a long shadow over one of the party's linchpins: the notion that a handful of all-powerful officials and retired elders are better qualified to pick their successors than are ordinary citizens."

Colleges Run Screaming From Metrics

This article reveals how Universities have become concerned that people may begin to evaluate the quality of their programs. Educators contend that:

"I'm not sure any standardized test can effectively measure what students gain in problem-solving, or the ability to work collaboratively"

Of course, there's no reason to shell out $80,000 to learn how to problem solve or work collaboratively. The best way to acquire these tools is through direct experience in the field, not in a classroom. Organic chemistry and quantum mechanics, now that's a different story...

"In 2008, the Consortium on Financing Higher Education, a group of some of the nation's most prestigious colleges and universities --including all of the Ivy League-- issued a lengthy manifesto saying that what its students learn becomes evident over decades and warning against a 'focus on what is easily measured.'"

Would you join a weight loss program that didn't believe in scales? The people who ran such a business could shower customers with a litany of alleged benefits without having to demonstrate any sort of concrete results. The ivy league institutions, in particular, face the unpleasant prospect of people realizing that the diplomas that they sell are merely pricey ornaments made of paper. -BB (2012-04-08)

Final Words of Dimitris Christoulas

"The Tsolakoglou government has annihilated all traces for my survival, which was based on a very dignified pension that I alone paid for 35 years with no help from the state. And since my advanced age does not allow me a way of dynamically reacting (although if a fellow Greek were to grab a Kalashnikov, I would be right behind him), I see no other solution than this dignified end to my life, so I don't find myself fishing through garbage cans for my sustenance. I believe that young people with no future, will one day take up arms and hang the traitors of this country at Syntagma square, just like the Italians did to Mussolini in 1945."

Think Tank Beats War Drums

The New York Times has covered a monograph released by the Brookings Institute:

"At a seminar last week at Tsinghua University in Beijing, where Brookings finances a study center, Mr. Lieberthal said there was an increasing belief on both sides that the two countries would be 'antagonistic in 15 years.' That would mean major military expenditures by both countries to deter each other, and pushing other countries to take sides."

The tone of this content is very telling. In the late 1970s, a decorated CIA officer named John Stockwell went public. In his book, The Praetorian Guard, he stated that:

"Enemies are necessary for the wheels of the U.S. military machine to turn."

The Times article above also makes reference to cyber operations originating (e.g. IP address) from within China.

"American law enforcement officials see an alarming increase in Chinese counterespionage and cyberattacks against the United States that they have concluded are directed by the Chinese authorities to gather information of national interest."

Some concrete proof might be nice, the kind that stands up in a court of law.

Richard Clarke, in a separate Times op-ed, believes that traffic inspection is the way out:

"The Department of Homeland Security could inspect what enters and exits the United States in cyberspace. Customs already looks online for child pornography crossing our virtual borders. And under the Intelligence Act, the president could issue a finding that would authorize agencies to scan Internet traffic outside the United States and seize sensitive files stolen from within our borders."

Yet, it's dangerous to institute the tools of a Police State and simply assume that they'll never be abused. Classified Executive Orders seem to be in fashion at the moment... -BB(2012-04-03)

Flawed Cyber Legislation and Security for The 1%

The EFF discusses Senator Joseph Lieberman's Cybersecurity Act of 2012 (S. 2105) and McCain's SECURE IT Act (S. 2151):

"As written, these bills could provide immunity to ISPs and other private and government actors for all of the egregious behavior outlined above involving the monitoring, blocking, and modification of data packets."

This post also highlights an aspect of cybersecurity that's traditionally ignored by lawmakers:

"The intelligence community within the government benefits from keeping attacks secret so that they can be deployed against our enemies, and very likely stockpiles zero-day exploits for this offensive purpose. There is then pressure to selectively harden sensitive targets while keeping the attack secret from everyone else and leaving popular software vulnerable. This is 'security for the 1%,' and it makes the rest of us less safe. "

Elected officials want to avoid laws that might offend their investors (software vendors) in the private sector. -BB(2012-03-25)

Update (2012-04-02): An article at Forbes reports that iOS exploits garner the highest payday.

Emmanuel Saez: Income Gap Is Getting Worse

Professor Saez has updated his paper "Striking it Richer: The Evolution of Top Incomes in the United States" to include data up to the end of 2010. His conclusions are not encouraging.

"In 2010, average real income per family grew by 2.3% (Table 1) but the gains were very uneven. Top 1% incomes grew by 11.6% while bottom 99% incomes grew only by 0.2%. Hence, the top 1% captured 93% of the income gains in the first year of recovery."

The political operatives of the 1% think this is a good thing:

"There is income inequality in America. There always has been and hopefully, and I do say that, there always will be."

Perhaps these apologists should visit the Third World to see exactly where we're headed. The kind of inequality we're witnessing is a threat to our republic -BB(2012-03-14)

What Scientist Shortage?

Beryl Benderly exposes the myth of the skill shortage:

"For years that the US produces ample numbers of excellent science students. In fact, according to the National Science Board's authoritative publication Science and Engineering Indicators 2008, the country turns out three times as many STEM degrees as the economy can absorb into jobs related to their majors."

The reports which claim that we don't have enough grads in the hard sciences are driven by greedy corporate interests that want access to cheap labor. I applaud the Columbia Journalism Review for honestly covering this topic. -BB (2012-03-02)

Related: don't let the recent unemploymet figures fool you. As Dave Lindorff remarks:

"The US economy is in the same swamp that it has been in for the past four years, and the American people are still being screwed by a system that is all about shifting wealth from the bottom and the middle up the top 1%."

WikiLeaks Releases Global Intelligence Files

"Today, Monday 27 February, WikiLeaks began publishing The Global Intelligence Files -- more than five million emails from the Texas-headquartered 'global intelligence' company Stratfor. The emails date from between July 2004 and late December 2011. They reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal's Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defense Intelligence Agency. The emails show Stratfor's web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods."

This demonstrates that nation states don't have a monopoly on intelligence collection and analysis. - BB(2012-02-27)

The 1% Paints Anonymous as Existential Threat

They're back at it again, the Cult of Cyberwar has revealed a new marketing twist on their standard doomsday message: switching from China to Anonymous. George Smith breaks it down:

"One of the central features of cyberwar/cyberattack scaremongering is argument from authority. Us officials have abused it for personal and political agendas for well over a decade. In the process, they've destroyed any legitimacy, relying totally on fantastic and apocalyptic claims, never backing anything up other than with assertion one had better listen up because very important people are all repeating the same claims. Noam Chomsky called it manufacturing consent. Now it's gulling the rubes for personal gain."

Related: The Atlantic questions:

"Ask yourself if Anonymous should be deemed a terrorist group. Who has Anonymous hurt? What kinds of laws have they broken? Are they pursuing weapons? Do they sell drugs? Do they have guns? What credible evidence do we have that they are trying to hurt regular citizens? If not, what is gained by lumping them in along with real and persistent threats to Americans?"

For all to see... this is the rain dance of the 1% - BB(2012-02-23)

Lost Chapter Now Available

There are reasons why an open debate about the role of money in politics has been stymied. It goes without saying that a truly honest conversation about the formulation of public policy is bound to make the vast majority of elected officials uneasy. The relatively small group at the top of the income spectrum is in a position where they can exert their leverage, directly or indirectly, to muddy the water and silence dissent. In some cases the mere threat of reprisal is enough to quell voices of opposition.

The 1st edition of The Rootkit Arsenal, published back in the summer of 2009, included a short epilogue that raised questions about the underlying integrity of the political system in the United States. It used the metaphor of a malware infestation to discuss aspects of popular participation and means of control. In preparing the forthcoming 2nd edition, this material has been extended and explores territory that has just barely received attention from the major news outlets. Though the publisher has opted not to include this content, it has been made available here.

The War Logs and "National Security"

In this article from the Daily Beast we see the U.S. government admitting that the Significant Activity reports in question (the documents contained in the Iraq and Afghan war logs) did NOT contain information that would compromise our key sources.

"Would a SIGACT, if it was released, compromise our key sources?"

"No sir."

National security is the perfect apology, an all-purpose justification used to marginalize us and give free reign to those who would abuse it. -BB(2011-12-18)

The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act

This op-ed, written by two retired four-star Marine generals, notes that U.S. legislators believe that we must choose between our safety and our ideals:

"One provision would authorize the military to indefinitely detain without charge people suspected of involvement with terrorism, including United States citizens apprehended on American soil. Due process would be a thing of the past. Some claim that this provision would merely codify existing practice. Current law empowers the military to detain people caught on the battlefield, but this provision would expand the battlefield to include the United States -- and hand Osama bin Laden an unearned victory long after his well-earned demise."

For details, see section 1031 of this bill. The very fact that something of this nature has been attempted should raise a red flag. As Dave Lindorff observes:

"A hollowed-out country like the this one, which is under-funding education, health care, infrastructure investment, research, and environmental protection, while its governing class steadily disenfranchises, disempowers, and impoverishes the public while systematically taking away their right to protest, is ultimately doomed."

Dana Priest has reported, on the vast domestic security apparatus that was built up in the wake of 9/11. Re-visit the above op-ed one more time and consider this development. Then consider who funds all those lobbyists in D.C. -BB(2011-12-17)

Putting a Face on the 1%

Sylvia Allegretto, a labor economist from Berkeley takes a look at the Forbes 400 and compares it to the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF).

"The Forbes list reveals that six Waltons -- all children (one daughter-in-law) of Sam or James 'Bud' Walton the founders of Wal-Mart -- were on the list. The combined worth of the Walton six was $69.7 billion in 2007 -- which equated to the total wealth of the entire bottom thirty percent!"

Six people own more than the bottom 30%. Can you imagine the political influence these six people have? Somebody funds all those lobbyists. It's only natural that these people have moved to cut back on employee benefits. -BB(2011-12-15)

Related: The Guardian reports that the top one percent received 27-40% pay hikes last year. How are you doing?

Old School Journalists Line Up

Julian Assange has recently become a target for columnists like David Brooks and Marc Thiessen . They say he's an "old-fashioned anarchist" and that WikiLeaks is a "criminal enterprise." Really?

David Samuels provides a degree of clarity to what's really at stake.

"The fact that so many prominent old school journalists are attacking him with such unbridled force is a symptom of the failure of traditional reporting methods to penetrate a culture of official secrecy that has grown by leaps and bounds since 9/11, and threatens the functioning of a free press as a cornerstone of democracy."

"The result of this classification mania is the division of the public into two distinct groups: those who are privy to the actual conduct of American policy, but are forbidden to write or talk about it, and the uninformed public, which becomes easy prey for the official lies exposed in the Wikileaks documents"

John Young of Cryptome chimes in about the media's double standard:

"This scapegoating of WikiLeaks and Assange by the New York Times counsel commences a defense against prosecution for conspiracy. Expect all those who have profited from the WikiLeaks salacious material and worldwide consumption of it, including the WSJ, will do the same. Official secrecy is the biggest cause of leaks, and nobody leaks more than governments and lawyers in their own interest, under guise of national security, law and order, fair play, and other dissimulation."

The media relies heavily on the government as a source of information. You can expect the major outlets to tow the line. -BB(2011-12-14)

Why They Occupy

While critics have claimed a lack of focus, this is just misinformation. As Robert Fisk explains, people are outraged because:

"They have for decades bought into a fraudulent democracy: they dutifully vote for political parties which then hand their democratic mandate and people's power to the banks and the derivative traders and the rating agencies, all three backed up by the slovenly and dishonest coterie of 'experts' from America's top universities and 'think tanks', who maintain the fiction that this is a crisis of globalization rather than a massive financial con trick foisted on the voters."

Mark Shields adds:

"I think the message, which is, people say, unclear is a lot stronger than the messenger... It cuts across partisan, religious, racial, age divisions. So I think that is a direct consequence of the movement. I think the movement's message has been very effective in getting across."

Internet Freedom Hypocrisy

Our Secretary of State proclaims the following during a speech at the Hague:

"This is an urgent task. It is most urgent, of course, for those around the world whose words are now censored, who are imprisoned because of what they or others have written online, who are blocked from accessing entire categories of internet content, or who are being tracked by governments seeking to keep them from connecting with one another."

Glenn Greenwald points out the obvious double standard:

"What Hillary Clinton is condemning here is exactly that which not only the administration in which she serves, but also she herself, has done in one of the most important Internet freedom cases of the last decade: WikiLeaks. And beyond that case, both Clinton specifically and the Obama administration generally have waged a multi-front war on Internet freedom."

Once again, Clinton wields the unspoken assumption of American exceptionalism. -BB(2011-12-09)

Related: WikiLeaks has published an information pack on the banking blockade.

The Oligarchy Spells Out Its Endgame

Henry Ford paid his workers enough so that they could buy the cars they produced. Alan Nasser points out that this dynamic has changed:

"Conventional economic wisdom teaches that it is not in the interests of employers to drive wages down to desperation levels, since most consumers are wage earners and consumption demand generates from 66 to 72 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. Were employers to drive wages too low they would at the same destroy their customer base, which is good for neither capital nor labor. This line of reasoning assumes that capitalism is organized such that each nation's labor market is both entirely domestic and the sole source of the demand for its economy's output. But capitalism is a global system and its sovereign components are not closed economies."

The emergence of demand in other countries will allow business leaders to profit by hollowing out of the American middle class. Our loss is their gain because they don't care what we can or cannot afford. After all, they can always give us loans so that we can purchase what they tell us we should have.

These people at the top are pressing their advantage and they're in this game to take it all. -BB(2011-12-03)

The U.S. Financial System and Drug Money

Years ago I read about this in Michael Ruppert's book Crossing the Rubicon, but wasn't sure what to make of it. Here we see that Mr. Ruppert was indeed right on target:

"Banking powerhouse Wachovia Corp. last year agreed to pay $160 million in forfeitures and fines after U.S. federal prosecutors accused it of 'willfully' overlooking the suspicious character of more than $420 billion in transactions between the bank and Mexican currency-exchange houses - much of it probably drug money, investigators say."

As Ruppert points out, any business with access to cheap raw materials (capital, in the case of banking) has an notable advantage. Large banks might just overlook half a trillion dollars worth of drug-related business because it serves shareholders.

Notice how no one goes to jail for fundamentally enabling an industry that results in untold misery and destruction. Again, this just goes to show you who really runs this country. -BB (2011-12-02)

Related: check out Roger Ebert's review of Ruppert's 2009 documentary.

The International Mass Surveillance Industry

There's a whole industry that caters to police states. WikiLeaks is helping to expose it.

"'Who here has an iPhone?' Assange asked attendees of the press conference in London. 'Who here has a Blackberry? Who here uses Gmail? Well you are all screwed. The reality is intelligence contractors are selling right now to countries across the world mass surveillance systems for all of those products.'"

Assange also warns that:

"SSL is no longer safe and alleged that intelligence agencies have compromised Certificate Authorities (CAs). CAs issue digital certificates used for SSL. Hundreds of intermediate CAs can issue SSL certificates linked back to a root CA."

This is not a good sign. -BB(2011-12-02)

Bailout Secrets Revealed

Again, we see how secrecy is used to marginalize us.

"The Fed didn't tell anyone which banks were in trouble so deep they required a combined $1.2 trillion on Dec. 5, 2008, their single neediest day. Bankers didn't mention that they took tens of billions of dollars in emergency loans at the same time they were assuring investors their firms were healthy. And no one calculated until now that banks reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed's below-market rates."

"The amount of money the central bank parceled out was surprising even to Gary H. Stern, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis from 1985 to 2009, who says he 'wasn't aware of the magnitude.' It dwarfed the Treasury Department's better-known $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. Add up guarantees and lending limits, and the Fed had committed $7.77 trillion as of March 2009 to rescuing the financial system, more than half the value of everything produced in the U.S. that year."

Lawmakers weren't aware of details. Even they were marginalized. This fact, all by itself, demonstrates who wields the real power in this country. -BB(2011-11-29)

Secrecy and Soft Money in D.C.

A couple of weeks ago, 60 Minutes ran a story that examines ideas presented in a book written by Peter Schweizer of the Hoover Institute. Schweizer contends that:

"The fact is, if you sit on a healthcare committee and you know that Medicare, for example, is considering not reimbursing for a certain drug that's market moving information. And if you can trade stock off of that information and do so legally, that's a great profit making opportunity. And that sort of behavior goes on."

"The buying and selling of stock by corporate insiders who have access to non-public information that could affect the stock price can be a criminal offense, just ask hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam who recently got 11 years in prison for doing it. But, congressional lawmakers have no corporate responsibilities and have long been considered exempt from insider trading laws, even though they have daily access to non-public information and plenty of opportunities to trade on it."

"In mid September 2008 with the Dow Jones Industrial average still above ten thousand, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke were holding closed door briefings with congressional leaders, and privately warning them that a global financial meltdown could occur within a few days. One of those attending was Alabama Representative Spencer Bachus, then the ranking Republican member on the House Financial Services Committee and now its chairman."

"These meetings were so sensitive-- that they would actually confiscate cell phones and Blackberries going into those meetings. What we know is that those meetings were held one day and literally the next day Congressman Bachus would engage in buying stock options based on apocalyptic briefings he had the day before from the Fed chairman and treasury secretary. I mean, talk about a stock tip."

They say that the grandfather clock in the Skull-and-Bones Tomb at Yale is set 5 minutes fast. There's something to this, as financial institutions profit by being first, being smarter, or by cheating. Offering access to information, which can then be monetized, is a more subtle means of influence peddling. Compare this to the brazen tactics of a lobbyist like Grover Norquist, who'll threaten to unseat Republicans who don't sign his pledge. As Cryptome's John Young explains.

"Secrecy poses the greatest threat to the United States because it divides the poplulation into two groups, those with access to secret information and those without. This asymmetrial access to information vital to the United States as a democracy will eventually turn it into an autocracy run by those with access to secret informaton, protected by laws written to legitimate this privileged access."

This may help to explain why the founders of the CIA were heavily involved in finance. -BB(2011-11-27)

Against the Corporatocracy

Reading a DHS threat assessment of the Occupy Pittsburgh campaign, authorities seem to think that the protests are primarily "focused on the banking and finance sector."

This merely hints at the core goals of this movement, which aims to instigate a "soft regime change" to "end the pervasive corruption at the heart of our political system, in which corporate money wins elections, drafts laws and trumps citizen desires."

It's not just indignation at the all-consuming greed of certain financial institutions. It's a desire to fundamentally alter our political institutions to remove the influence of big money. -BB (2011-11-25)

EU Enters its Endgame

In this New York Times op-ed Ross Douthat describes how the 'Groupe de Francfort (GdF)' is reminding everyone who's really in charge:

"There were few tears in Italy and Greece for Silvio Berlusconi and George Papandreou, the prime ministers -- respectively corrupt and hapless -- whose downfalls were engineered by the Brussels-Berlin-Paris axis. But their forced departures, however welcome, open a troubling window on what a true European state would look like. Stability would be achieved at the expense of democracy: the rituals of parliaments and elections would endure, but the real decision-making power would pass permanently to the forces represented by the so-called 'Frankfurt Group' -- an ad hoc inner circle consisting of Germany's Angela Merkel, France's Nicolas Sarkozy and a cluster of bankers and E.U. functionaries, which has been spearheaded European crisis management since October."

You can expect to see more of this as decision makers encourage us to passively accept what's transpiring. -BB(2011-11-20)

Financial Lobbying Firm Proffers Attacks Against OWS

Lobbyists see a chance to cash in.

"A well-known Washington lobbying firm with links to the financial industry has proposed an $850,000 plan to take on Occupy Wall Street and politicians who might express sympathy for the protests...The proposal was written on the letterhead of the lobbying firm Clark Lytle Geduldig & Cranford and addressed to one of CLGC's clients, the American Bankers Association."

This is a novel trench-level view of the 1%'s propaganda machine. -BB(2011-11-19)

Related: Read about the "Lower Manhattan Security Initiative." The decision makers have been quietly coordinating their own strategy.

Rootkit Arsenal Plagiarism

Very interesting...

"The InfoSec Institute ( offers a variety of training on security topics such as penetration testing and reverse engineering. After it was discovered that ISI took large portions of material from without credit or license, additional review was performed of available material. This included a presentation from founder/owner Jack Koziol and other contract instructors. It became clear that the Corelan incident was not a one-off, and likely not the work of a rogue contractor as ISI claimed."

Greetings to Reddit and -BB(2011-11-19)

The Growing Edifices of the Security State

In the wake of 9/11 our decision makers funneled hundreds of billions of dollars into our intelligence apparatus. Yet, as Richard Clark explains:

"We're all very glad that bin Laden has finally been caught, but it was a handful of people. It wasn't this enormous, bloated, tens of thousands of people apparatus that we've set up. It was a small, highly-skilled, highly dedicated group of intelligence analysts. That's who found him, not all of these contractors, not these giant agencies and giant centers."

This point raises other questions. Dana Priest, for example, asks:

"Why do we need such a large intelligence effort ---the 1,300 agencies we identified that are a part of this effort--- to defeat a couple thousand people?"

Perhaps Chris Hedges can shed some light on the topic:

"George Orwell wrote that all tyrannies rule through fraud and force, but that once the fraud is exposed they must rely exclusively on force. We have now entered the era of naked force. The vast million-person bureaucracy of the internal security and surveillance state will not be used to stop terrorism but to try and stop us."

As Miles Copeland has observed, our security services are firmly a part of the establishment. -BB(2011-11-15)

Related: City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez would probably agree.

Politics: "The Shadow Cast on Society by Big Business"

Chomsky describes how the elite have given up on the social contract that emerged after WWII. Now they're just out to save themselves.

"In the past 30 years, the 'masters of mankind,' as Smith called them, have abandoned any sentimental concern for the welfare of their own society, concentrating instead on short-term gain and huge bonuses, the country be damned -- as long as the powerful nanny state remains intact to serve their interests."

The New York Times just published an op-ed by Jeff Sachs where he offers a few ideas on how to implement change:

"Shareholders, for example, should pressure companies to get out of politics. Consumers should take their money and purchasing power away from companies that confuse business and political power."

Is this realistic, given that large segments of shareholders might actually have a vested interest in lobbying elected officials? Will we, as consumers, be able to act as a countervailing force? It may not be so simple. The people that actually control this country have demonstrated in the past exactly how far they'll go to maintain control and criminalize dissent. -BB(2011-11-14)

Related: The Miracles of Modern Propaganda

"Ronald Reagan beat out Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the former president Americans would like to see in the White House during these trying economic times."

National Security, Secrecy, and Viktor Bout

Viktor Bout is an international arms dealer who hails from Russia. He was extradited to the United States in 2010 from a prison in Thailand. Earlier this month he was convicted of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and provide aid to a terrorist organization.

Daniel Estulin traveled to Thailand to interview Bout before he was extradited.

The New York Times points out that:

"Irbis Air [Owned by Bout] landed in Baghdad 92 times between January and May 2004, while also conducting deliveries elsewhere in Iraq. Mr. Bout earned $60 million between 2003 and 2005 -- in addition to the free fuel that the United States military gave to regular cargo operators."

"Mr. Bout's client list in Iraq made for intriguing and damning reading: The United States Air Mobility Command, Federal Express, Fluor and KBR, among others. At the time Mr. Bout was supposedly wanted by the F.B.I. and the C.I.A., as well as being the subject of an Interpol arrest warrant."

Apparently the law does not apply to people who are useful to decision makers. Our rulers conveniently turn a blind eye and then shroud what's going on under the veil of national-security-imposed secrecy. The decision makers themselves are likewise immune. -BB(2011-11-12)

The Danger of a Band-Aid Solution

In an article that's been published by The Economist readers are told that:

"Braver politicians would focus on two things. The first is tackling the causes of the rage speedily. Above all that means doing more to get their economies moving again."

In a sense, there's misdirection taking place. The state of our economy is not a root cause, only a symptom. The markets upon which our economy is based are governed by rules that our legislators establish. Starting in the 1970s, industry leaders got organized and executed what is essentially a corporate coup. The market crash of 2008 is merely a natural result of this.

Talking about the economy is easier, it saves people from facing a more painful reality about who runs this country and how they operate. Better to stick to band-aid solutions that placate Main Street without really threatening Wall Street. This is tragic, because the fundamental problem and its consequences will continue to plague us despite how we address its symptoms. -BB(2011-11-09)

The Intellectual Corruption of The 1%

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg shows his true colors when explaining the cause of the mortgage crisis:

"It was not the banks that created the mortgage crisis. It was, plain and simple, Congress who forced everybody to go and give mortgages to people who were on the cusp."

Matt Taibbi reveals this for what it is: a pathetic conservative talking point.

"This was an orgiastic stampede of lending, undertaken with something very like bloodlust. Far from being dragged into poor neighborhoods and forced to give out home loans to jobless black folk, companies like Countrywide and New Century charged into suburbs and exurbs from coast to coast with the enthusiasm of Rwandan machete mobs, looking to create as many loans as they could."

"They lent to anyone with a pulse and they didn't need Barney Frank to give them a push. This was not social policy. This was greed. They created those loans not because they had to, but because it was profitable. Enormously, gigantically profitable -- profitable enough to create huge fortunes out of thin air, with a speed never seen before in Wall Street's history."

Later on he adds that:

"The whole game was based on one new innovation: the derivative instruments like CDOs that allowed them to take junk-rated home loans and turn them into AAA-rated instruments. It was not Barney Frank who made it possible for Goldman, Sachs to sell the home loan of an occasionally-employed janitor in Oakland or Detroit as something just as safe as, and more profitable than, a United States Treasury Bill. This was something they cooked up entirely by themselves and developed solely with the aim of making more money."

Personally, I'm amazed that Bloomberg was able to keep a straight face while he offered up his twisted version of reality. I mean, c'mon, who do you think spends all that money lobbying congress? Could it be any more obvious who owns these politicians? -BB(2011-11-04)

Related: Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman takes on those attempting to discredit the recent CBO findings:

"The usual suspects have rolled out some familiar arguments: the data are flawed (they aren't); the rich are an ever-changing group (not so); and so on. The most popular argument right now seems, however, to be the claim that we may not be a middle-class society, but we're still an upper-middle-class society, in which a broad class of highly educated workers, who have the skills to compete in the modern world, is doing very well."

"It's a nice story, and a lot less disturbing than the picture of a nation in which a much smaller group of rich people is becoming increasingly dominant. But it's not true."

"Workers with college degrees have indeed, on average, done better than workers without, and the gap has generally widened over time. But highly educated Americans have by no means been immune to income stagnation and growing economic insecurity. Wage gains for most college-educated workers have been unimpressive (and nonexistent since 2000), while even the well-educated can no longer count on getting jobs with good benefits. In particular, these days workers with a college degree but no further degrees are less likely to get workplace health coverage than workers with only a high school degree were in 1979."

As one commentator from The Economist stated:

"If we don't agree that rich people have more political power than poor people and that they use that power to pursue their economic interests, then we've really got a communications problem."

Duqu C2 Moves to Belgium

This story demonstrates that identifying the geographic origin of an attack doesn't necessarily result in attribution...

In a recent report, the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive (ONCIX) admits this flat out.

"US private sector firms and cybersecurity specialists have reported an onslaught of computer network intrusions that have originated in China, but the IC [intelligence community] cannot confirm who was responsible."

Nevertheless, officials will make a lot of noise about this, perhaps blaming China despite the fact that they don't really know who's actually responsible, because they need to frame what's happening such that it will benefit them in terms of control and federal funding. -BB(2011-11-03)

How The 1% Implements Social Control

Noam Chomsky speaks out in an interview published by Guernica:

"About 80% of the businesses in Mexico are involved in one manner or another with the drug racket. Now once you start publishing things like that and looking into it, you're getting to the power centers of Mexican society, and they're simply not going to want to be exposed. If they can use the drug assassins to stop it, they will."

"The drug problem is in the United States, not in Mexico. It's a demand problem and that is to be dealt with here, and it is not being dealt with. It's been shown over and over that prevention and treatment are far more cost effective than police action, out-of-country action, border control, and so on. But the money goes in the other direction and never has an impact."

"Only two plausible answers to that. All the leaders are collectively insane, which we can rule out, or else they are just pursuing different goals. Abroad, it's a counterinsurgency campaign, cover for counterinsurgency in Colombia. At home, it's a way of getting rid of a superfluous population."

"Governments are not in the business of catering to their citizens. It's as old as Adam Smith. The governments work for their main constituencies. When the Republicans come into office with plans to increase benefits for the wealthy -- like making sure that the super wealthy get tax cuts, making sure that the insurance companies and the financial institutions are unconstrained in their operations -- that's not for the benefit of U.S. citizens. That's for the benefit of their constituency. Same when Obama poured money into the banks. That's his constituency. In fact, that's the main source of his campaign funding. The things governments are doing here that have harmful effects abroad are not being done for the benefit of the citizens here."

Being from a state that tends to spend more on prisons than on education, I'm inclined to agree with Professor Chomsky. -BB(2011-10-30)

CBO Report Released

Eugene Robinson states in a Washington Post op-ed:

"The hard-right conservatives who dominate the Republican Party claim to despise the redistribution of wealth, but secretly they love it - as long as the process involves depriving the poor and middle class to benefit the rich, not the other way around. That is precisely what has been happening, as a jaw-dropping new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office demonstrates. Three decades of trickle-down economic theory, see-no-evil deregulation and tax-cutting fervor have led to massive redistribution. Another word for what's been happening might be theft."

It should be interesting to see how the commentators at Fox News try to discredit this report. -BB(2011-10-28)

Related: Ralph Nader, in a Couterpunch article, states that:

"Each new protest gives the protesters new insights. The protestors are learning how to challenge controlling processes. They are assembling and using their little libraries on site. They are learning the techniques of open, non-violent civil disobedience and building personal stamina. They are learning not to be provoked and thereby win the moral authority struggle which encourages more and more people to join their ranks."

Nothing Beats a Fixed Fight

Bernie Sanders laments the state of our financial system. He warns that:

"Not only do they run the banks, they run the institutions that regulate the banks."

This approach seems to be working out very well for the 1%. What this means is that the Occupy Movement has its work cut out for it, going up against an entrenched and formidable power structure. As one participant notes, they seem to have, at least for the time being, avoided a common pitfall:

"The good news is that even those Occupiers who do not identify as anti-capitalist/radical/revolutionary seem to recognize that the political system as presently constituted is irredeemably broken and that, consequently, selling the movement out to Democratic Party would be, at best, a gross exercise in futility"

Where to go from here? They can't bide their time forever. Perhaps they can learn something from the Civil Rights Movement. -BB(2011-10-20)

Related: This is who Occupy Wallstreet is up against. An economic "super-entity" that spans nations in such a manner that "a large portion of control flows to a small tightly-knit core of financial institutions." In short, the United States has been rooted. The only thing that will save us will be to rebuild the system.

A comedian, of all people, realized this years ago.

Duqu Red Herring

Symantec describes a Remote Access Trojan (RAT) that doesn't self-replicate. It also lacks industrial control system features. Though, according to Symantec, parts of Duqu are indentical to Stuxnet. Additional details can be gleaned from Wired.

George Smith cautions against hysteria and presumption:

"Once a thing is in world circulation it is not protected or proprietary property. Such malicious code may contain hindrances to copying or reverse engineering but these can be overcome given enough effort. Add to this the fact that source code for malware has never been secure. It always becomes something coveted by many, often in direct proportion to its fame. Therefore, it would not be surprising given the Byzantine and secretive interlinked nature of this world, that Stuxnet code had leaked, even if only in bits and pieces."

If I were running a black bag op and wanted to misdirect investigators, this is definitely an approach that I would consider. Nothing beats muddying the waters. -BB(2010-10-19)

Related: For all the hype surrounding cyberwar, even the United States resists the temptation because:

"Administration officials and even some military officers balked, fearing that it might set a precedent for other nations, in particular Russia or China, to carry out such offensives of their own, and questioning whether the attack could be mounted on such short notice. They were also unable to resolve whether the president had the power to proceed with such an attack without informing Congress."

Oh, and while you're fixated on this RAT, never mind the rise of the Plutonomy...

Striking at The Root

Lawrence Lessig explains why people are occupying Wall Street:

"As every financial analyst not dependent upon the corruption that is Wall Street has screamed since the bill was passed, financial reform changed nothing. We are more at risk of a major financial collapse today than we were a decade ago. And the absolutely obscene bonuses of an industry that pays twice its pretax profits in salaries are even more secure today."

Then he continues on to explain how the political rootkit maintains control:

"Neither party dares to cross Wall Street, since both parties know they could not win control of Congress or the White House without Wall Street's money. So they feed the addiction, and ignore the real work that they should be doing."

The idea that we live in a representative democracy is a misconception. It doesn't matter who gets elected if the lobbyists simply buy off whoever happens to be in office. -BB(2011-10-05)

Related: Mother Jones has published a couple of instructive articles on economic inequality and the state of unions

The DHS Examines Stuxnet

"'The virus was brought back in here and run in a contained facility against actual control system equipment so that we could study those effects to release mitigation measures to the general public,'... Edwards would not reveal details of the analysis because it was sensitive information."

In a sense, this report appears to contradict claims that the United States created Stuxnet. Would the DHS really spend all this effort dissecting Stuxnet if they could get their hands on technical specifics the easy way? Or, perhaps the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing in the body politic of US Intelligence? -BB(2011-09-30)

Measuring Risk: Cybergeddon or Goldman Sachs?

In a truly incredible fit of candor, a trader being interviewed by the BBC stated that:

"Most traders we don't really care about having a fixed economy, having a fixed situation, our job is to make money from it... Personally, I've been dreaming of this moment for three years. I go to bed every night and I dream of another recession... This is not a time right now for wishful thinking that governments are going to sort things out... The governments don't rule the world, Goldman Sachs rules the world."

Faced with such honesty, detractors have tried to scream hoax. To no avail. The BBC stands by its story, and a group of pranksters known as the "Yes Men" have also denied involvement. The Yes Men web site comments:

"Who in big banking doesn't bet against the interests of the poor and find themselves massively recompensed - if not by the market, then by humongous taxpayer bailouts? Rastani's approach has been completely mainstream for several years now; we must thank him for putting a human face on it yesterday."

For all of the media hype that's accompanied the notion of cybergeddon and the fear-mongering that another nation will bring down our banking system, the raw numbers speak volumes. In terms of actual loss I think people would be well advised to much more frightened of Goldman Sachs. -BB(2011-09-26)

Related: The New York Times reports that "protesters say they so distrust their country's political class and its pandering to established interest groups that they feel only an assault on the system itself can bring about real change."

Wall Street Market Manipulation

"A Wall Street regulator said industry complaints about market manipulation and trade reporting have spiked this year, raising questions about the adequacy of banks' internal controls over their traders."

Related: Senate report on the 2008 collapse.

"This Report is the product of a two-year bipartisan investigation by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations into the origins of the 2008 financial crisis. The goals of this investigation were to construct a public record of the facts in order to deepen the understanding of what happened; identify some of the root causes of the crisis; and provide a factual foundation for the ongoing effort to fortify the country against the recurrence of a similar crisis in the future."

Related: This New York Times article claims that "A Secretive Banking Elite Rules Trading in Derivatives."

"In theory, this group exists to safeguard the integrity of the multitrillion-dollar market. In practice, it also defends the dominance of the big banks. The banks in this group, which is affiliated with a new derivatives clearinghouse, have fought to block other banks from entering the market, and they are also trying to thwart efforts to make full information on prices and fees freely available."

All the destruction of a WMD without the radioactive aftertaste - BB(2011-09-21)

Moving Towards a Garrison State

Many thanks to Bruce Schneier for directing me towards this report.

"An ACLU report release to coincide with the 10th anniversary of 9/11 warns that a decade after the attacks, the United States is at risk of enshrining a permanent state of emergency in which core values must be subordinated to ever-expanding claims of national security."

Remember, there's a reason why Orwell is censored in China. Silent weapons are being deployed in a quiet war against the state's most dangerous enemy, it's own population. Control versus Liberty: choose. -BB(2011-09-12)

Related: Dick Destiny adds a few words along this line.

"Arms control agencies, any public information source that didn't directly serve the war on terror by finding new threats, any threats, went silent, were marginalized or ceased to exist. It's a matter of economics and capitalism. There is no money in not feeding the fear."

DigiNotar Hacker Speaks

It appears that a hybrid (Ring-0/Ring-3) rootkit may have been used in the DigiNotar hack.

"a) I'm single person, do not AGAIN try to make an ARMY out of me in Iran. If someone in Iran used certs I have generated, I'm not one who should explain."

"b) This attack was really more sophisticated than simple Stuxnet worm. 0-days? I already have discovered similar bugs, trojan? I already wrote most sophisticated undetectable ring0 and ring3 rootkit (works together), signing certificates? huh, man! I have around 300 code signing certificates and a lot of SSL certs with again code signing permission, look at Google's cert, I have code signing privilege! You see? I owned an entire computer network of DigiNotar with 5-6 layer inside which have no ANY connection to internet, I have so much to explain, but later... You have to wait!"

It would be interesting to see exactly how this was done. -BB(2011-09-07)

Related: GlobalSign freaks out.

APT Origins offers a welcome antidote to the growing misconception that China is the world's source of all APTs:

"We often forget that not too long ago that the boogeyman was Russia. That threat came during the arms race (Cold War) and it was business as usual then too. Many companies profited heftily during this period and I am sure many companies stand to profit handsomely from a Cyber Arms Race. This is nothing more than history being repetitive however, the platform has changed to a computing based battleground. Based on 'evidence' smack dab in front of our faces and under our noses, what else do we see or know of in regards to experts' explanation of APT? Not much. We have these experts consistently relying on word of mouth of each other and of IP addressing. Completely ignoring the fact that IP is a horrible identifier. Every security professional knows that IP addressing is not an identifier rather well, yet many are quick to fist pump and shout: 'APT, China!!! Look at that IP' even though FACTUAL evidence proves otherwise."

False flag operations are as old as warfare. I'd argue that in cyberspace they're even easier to execute. -BB (2011-08-31)

Cornel West: Cui Bono?

The New York Times features an op-ed by Cornel West:

"The age of Obama has fallen tragically short of fulfilling King's prophetic legacy. Instead of articulating a radical democratic vision and fighting for homeowners, workers and poor people in the form of mortgage relief, jobs and investment in education, infrastructure and housing, the administration gave us bailouts for banks, record profits for Wall Street and giant budget cuts on the backs of the vulnerable."

Perhaps this is to be expected. As Matt Taibbi explains, Goldman Sachs was Obama's number-one private campaign contributor.

This, in turn, unearths an even more unsettling reality. In the United States, our two-party system is really just a single-party system: the corporate party. -BB (2011-08-26)

An Apocalypse of Our Own Creation

Rep. Ted Poe offers his solution for dealing with intellectual property theft:

"It's time to get tough on China. And that's just the way it is."

Really Ted, some details might help. Personally, I think it's constructive to put this into perspective.

"American businesses... downsized and outsourced their manufacturing to Asian labor, effectively turning themselves into artisan custom shops for the plutocracy. In this bargain, repeated all across US non-military domestic production, the American companies gave up their intellectual property and trained the Chinese to make their goods for the sake of the short term bottom line."

"And it is only logical that some Chinese, maybe many, would see no point in maintaining licensing agreements with American multi-nationals once they could copy the goods on their own."

"Comments left on the Chinese sales site, and many YouTube vidoes, show young American men who have no problem buying fakes of US premium goods. Since wages have been destroyed, this too is a logical development."

"And American companies, individually and collectively, do not have the resources needed to combat the problems brought upon us by the great trade imbalance."

It's ironic that businesses are now complaining about a trend that they themselves were instrumental in creating. -BB(2011-08-24)

Warren Buffet and The Mega-Rich

In Warren Buffet's recent New York Times op-ed he notes that:

"While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks... These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It's nice to have friends in high places."

I, for one, particularly enjoyed his scathing rebuttal of a well-known conservative talking point:

"Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends."

"I didn't refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone - not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 - shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what's happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation."

What this essay underscores is how unhealthy our political system has become. The three or four thousand families at the top of the income spectrum appear to have a special relationship with legislators. Why is that? -BB(2011-08-16)

Mudge Speaks on Malware

At Black Hat USA Peiter Zatko (aka Mudge), a program manager at DARPA, touched on the nature of offensive software:

"Zatko analyzed 9,000 samples of malware code and found that, on average, each consisted of 125 lines of software code. That's not a lot of cost, time, or engineering effort. By comparison, the most sophisticated cyber protection software uses about 10 million lines of code. And, based on research by IBM, there are one to five bugs introduced in every 1,000 lines of code, Zatko said."

"Malware writers thrive by finding bugs and exploiting the vulnerabilities that the bugs introduce. Modern day operating systems may consist of 150 million lines of code, which means that each new OS can introduce 150,000 bugs to exploit. These numbers make it seem like keeping up with the bad guys is a losing game, Zatko said."

You may recall that this most recent patch tuesday included roughly 40 MB of updates for Windows Server 2008. Rather than treat the symptoms of the problem, why not address the underlying cause and find ways to build better software? -BB(2011-08-11)

Cofer Black: Visions of Cybergeddon (Must be the Heat)

Cofer Black appeared at Vegas this past week, ominously warning that "he sees parallels between the terrorism threat that emerged before the September 11 attacks a decade ago and the emerging cyber threat now."

That's interesting... I see parallels also: I see yet another former government official who's trying to drum up business by shamelessly leveraging the attacks of 9/11. On second thought, I supposed this should come as no surprise, given that Mr. Black was a Vice Chairman at Blackwater USA. It goes without saying that the aftermath of 9/11 was a gold rush for these people.

Cofer Black sanctimoniously claims that "Men's minds have difficulty adapting to things which they have no personal experience." This, no doubt, is a variation of "I could tell you, but it's classified" argument; typical of ex-agency types who fall back on the veil of secrecy when they've got nothing better to buttress their sales-pitch with. As former CIA agent John Stockwell can attest, "it's a very powerful argument, our presidents use it on us. President Reagan has used it on the American people, saying, 'if you knew what I know about the situation in Central America, you would understand why it's necessary for us to intervene.'"

Never mind the billions of dollars we actually lose every year to cybercrime, espionage, fraud, identity theft, and the like. In the tradition of Mike McConnell and Michael Hayden, Mr. Black would rather fixate on Cyberwar because... well, because none of the truly immediate (and far more tangible) threats will divert federal funding to his private sector interests. -BB(2011-08-07).

Related: Consensus Reality and Cybergeddon

Why do hypothetical stories of Cybergeddon garner so much bandwidth when reports of million dollar cyber-heists appear almost every day?

Perhaps, as this article from the Columbia Journalism Review suggests, this is a result of PR firms filling the void left by shrinking news rooms. As Arthur Brisbane queries: "Is it a concern to you that The Times relies to some extent on P.R. professionals for story ideas?"

The Vampires of Silicon Valley

At first blush this recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle reads like a late night infomercial for local hi-tech firms. My, my, my. Look at all the attractive, hip, 30-somethings from out-of-town being pursued by eager corporate suitors and showered with any number of tantalizing recruiting perks. Local Bay Area talent, one can only hope, has seen this sort of mating dance before and knows how it ends.

Closer inspection of this story yields a picture that is far more telling. There's a sinister punch line waiting for those who are able to see beyond the carefully constructed mirage: as workers, we are viewed by the decision-makers as disposable cogs. Contrary to the propaganda from human resources, the people at the top could care less about your long-term well-being. You're just a means to an end, and one with a conspicuously limited shelf-life at that.

As Wharton's Peter Cappelli explains, if the folks in HR had the guts to be honest they'd probably admit that: "We don't want to have to train anybody, and when those skills become obsolete we don't want to have to retrain them."

Like any successful black widow, they'll lure you into their web with a well-practiced sales pitch, bleed you for everything that you've got, and then toss your withered cadaver into the dumpster outside when they're done. Heck, when food gets scarce enough the Jackals in the executive suite will gladly turn on each other. Why should corporate America care? After all, they can simply throw a few more cocktail parties and round up yet another herd of fresh meat. -BB(2011-08-04)

Related: Cryptome's analysis of NSA help-wanted propaganda ...

"Recruiters are devious as they must be or nobody would join the secretkeepers if they knew the truth of what was in store for them to give up control of their lives and minds forever, and remain compelled to lie, lie and lie some more, and, to be sure, recruit noobs by writing noobish nonsense."

Telling Truth to Power

You may have heard of the story of Tom Drake, a high-ranking NSA employee who warned of mismanagement and waste in the agency on a massive scale. Specifically, he told of a failed project called "Trailblazer" which consumed $1.2 billion before being cancelled. As a result he was charged with the Espionage Act of 1917 and threatened with a 35-year sentence. Drake claims that this was done to send a message:

"To other whistleblowers, to others in the government, not to speak up or speak out. Do not tell truth to power. We'll hammer you."

The ensuing trial, where Drake was sentenced to a a year of probation and 240 hours of community service, has proved very interesting. The presiding Judge, Richard D. Bennett, stated that:

"I don't think that deterrence should include an American citizen waiting two and a half years after their home is searched to find out if they're going to be indicted or not. I find that unconscionable. Unconscionable. It is at the very root of what this country was founded on against general warrants of the British."

As in the case of Glenn Greenwald, WikiLeaks, and HBGary Federal, what we're seeing is the lengths that powerful institutions will go to in order to silence whistle-blowers. -BB(2011-07-30)

Cyber-Weapons and The Hegelian Dialectic

Though attention seems to be focused on nation-state players the true facilitators here are often corporate entities. Keep in mind that these same private-sector interests have no inherent sense of national loyalty. They exist strictly to serve shareholders and financial backers, period. If they could make a buck off of it I doubt if they'd have a problem with offering their services to both sides of an altercation. As the author of this article from Business Week observes:

"U.S. companies don't appear to face export restrictions, as the Pentagon's manufacturers of bombs and fighter jets do. In fact, companies like Endgame have cropped up all over the world. Appin Technologies, to cite one example, is a New Delhi company that offers a wide variety of computer security services, including helping countries analyze attacks and, if needed, respond in kind."

"...And so the unregulated cyber-weapons makers flourish, selling to the highest bidder. Business is great."

In other words, these companies help to both create incidents and then help clean up the mess afterwards. It reminds me of certain U.S. banking interests during WWII who did business with the Germans. You see, it doesn't matter who wins or loses, what matters is conflict and the lucrative business it generates. To actually address of the root cause of incidents (e.g. buggy software ) might impact the bottom line. As Tom Henderson notes:

"They aren't financially compelled to stop the problem before it starts. There is no motivation for an ounce of prevention that prevents the hideous pounds and costs of cure."

The unpleasant reality is that there's a lot of money to be made in selling offensive weaponry and, as a result, it's convenient to get policymakers to simply side-step much more effective preventative measures. -BB(2011-07-24)

Inside the Hunt for the CIA's "John"

In this article recently published by The Observer we see the power of open source intelligence as Cryptome's John Young demonstrates how easy it is to follow up on the clues provided by the Associated Press and leverage the Internet to discover the identity of the man in charge of tracking down Osama bin Laden. Young asserts that there's a hidden agenda at play:

"Putting this guy in the picture was no accident. To show him directly behind Panetta? I think they wanted to reward this guy's hard work and get some favorable publicity and it worked. It's one of the few successes they can crow about..."

"I think they shopped him to Obama with his height and his basketball background and his looks, and Obama fell in love with him... C.I.A. John is a very marketable product now... I think he'll be on the lecture trail. First it will be private briefings, and slowly he'll ease out. Isn't he a great role model? Tall, athletic. They're going to make the most of this."

There's definitely something to be said for this train of thought. As good PR is a valuable commodity in the political realm that often leads to funding. At the same time, could there be a degree of risk associated with this sort of self-congratulatory disclosure?

"John could be in serious danger if exposed, not from Al-Qaeda, necessarily, but from rogue elements of the Pakistani intelligence agency, the I.S.I., who have made common cause with Al-Qaeda and have access to greater resources."

That's an interesting point, even if it's moot in the context of this story. What's the use of spending billions of dollars to destroy a terrorist threat when the organization that spawned it will simply create another? - BB(2011-07-15)

Kaspersky Speaks on Attribution

The founder of Kaspersky Lab admits that tracking down the origin of a cyberattack can be an extremely difficult (if not impossible) task:

"viruses unfortunately don't carry ID cards. We can at least usually identify the originator's language, and that's at the moment the inventor communicates with his virus and gives it a command..."

"...I have no information pointing toward China as the actual originator. Professionals do their work through proxy servers. They can be located in China but controlled from the United States. Perhaps it was just competitors -- but people then pointed the finger at China. Anything can happen in our business."

How difficult do you think it would be for a small group of skilled developers to use internationalized tools to develop malware that appears to have been created from another country? Putting your faith in the veracity of embedded strings is utter foolishness.

If Stuxnet is truly the "super weapon" that the media says it is, do you honestly think the engineers who built it would be sloppy enough to give themselves away so easily? False flag operations are a time-honored practice in the wilderness of mirrors. -BB (2011-07-14)

An Electronic Pearl Harbor

George Smith elaborates on how worst-case thinking causes us to focus too heavily on perceived threats rather than addressing tangible ones. Smith laments that:

"The world economy was put in a tailspin by Wall Street financial systems in 2008. It has yet to recover.

And while Wall Street has done nicely since then, Main Street America has not. And by all accounts, no significant protections against Wall Street's predations have been put in place in the intervening period.

The argument that the US financial system ought to be protected from electronic Pearl Harbor would, if all Americans actually knew of it, strike them as ridiculous.

It's easily observable that people are much more interested in protection from the racket that's the American financial system. Cyberwar and hack attacks on it, when compared to the damage inflicted by Wall Street misbehavior, are absurdly small things."

Yet we hear much more about these perceived threats because certain corporate entities stand to profit handsomely from the hysteria that they produce. Such is the madness of crowds. -BB (2011-06-28)

Homeland Security Threat Assessment: 2008-2013

This is one of the reports pilfered by LulzSec. It has more than a couple of gems related to cybersecurity. For example:

"Foreign nations are the most capable and resource-rich cyber threat actors. The most advanced nations have established active and robust information operations (IO) or CNO organizations. Some nations' military and intelligence agencies have created distinct directorates to carry out aspects of IO, such as CNE, CND, and CNA."

I assume that a list of such nations would include the United States? In fact, I would wager that in terms of sheer efficacy, we're near (or at) the top of the list. As General Hayden commented, other countries are scared of us:

"There was a survey done not too many months ago. They asked the citizens of some cyber-savvy nations around the world, who do you fear most in the cyber-domain? And, quite interestingly, we were number one."

In this sense, the nature of international relations could be characterized as anarchic. With very few exceptions, everyone spies on everyone else. This is something to keep in mind when reading Cyberwar stories. We're hardly an innocent bystander. It's probably closer to the truth to say that we're an active participant. - BB (2011-06-24)

Recurring Themes: The Fannie Mae Scandal and CyberWar

New York Times columnist David Brooks offers a blistering commentary on the Fannie Mae scandal:

"The scandal has sent the message that the leadership class is fundamentally self-dealing. Leaders on the center-right and center-left are always trying to create public-private partnerships to spark socially productive activity. But the biggest public-private partnership to date led to shameless self-enrichment and disastrous results..."

"The final message is that members of the leadership class have done nothing to police themselves. The Wall Street-Industry-Regulator-Lobbyist tangle is even more deeply enmeshed."

This dynamic isn't limited to the financial sector of our economy. Look around at the media's coverage of recent cyberattacks and, even more telling, the solutions that government officials propose . -BB (2011-06-18) asserts that David Brooks' conclusions are:

"Equally applicable to the cybersecurity gov-mil-spy-media industry where deliberately inept, weak security -- to allow spying and data gathering -- is obscured by blaming hackers and foreign agents with demand for increased budgets and contracts."

Related: Agent.btz thrives and still no word of conclusive attribution.

Related: Check out the NSA's "Site M," a $5.2 billion centralized cyber-command center.

False Flags, Killswitch Tech, and The Easy Way Out (...Just Blame China)

This is an excellent piece on the idea of an Internet killswitch and the inherent shortcomings associated with it.

"Creating a killswitch for the Internet would never work because of the flaw in attribution. Who is attacking? Seriously, ask yourself, who is attacking?

This is at the core of why most of these ridiculous ideas will fail. Because we cannot attribute an identifiable aggressor, then who are we cutting ourselves off from? Not to mention, because of the flaws associated with attribution, an attacker can pretend to be anyone he or she or Country Y wants to be. In fact, should a killswitch ever be implemented, an attacker can cause huge financial fall-out by simply pretending to be a country of his or her or Country Y's choice. Imagine having an entire banking infrastructure disconnected because of a bunch of script kiddies. For every step this government (the United States) takes, they seem to take the same redundant steps backwards."

This essay might also shed some light on Richard Clark's recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. Chinese Generals claim they need to protect themselves against the US Military. American officials point to the Chinese and offer similar dire warnings. Methinks the two sides keep each other in business. - BB (2011-06-16)

Related: Does this seem like a veiled threat to you?

Alan Paller: Stop Blaming the User, Build Better Software

A few days ago, Alan Paller (the director of research at The SANS Institute) made a few comments about cyber-security on the PBS News Hour:

"For too long, the corporations and governments have been what we call blaming the users... It's very much like automobiles 50 years ago. We said that the drivers had to be safe drivers, and that would solve all the problems. But we didn't solve most of the -- we didn't do as well on automobile safety until we fixed the cars and we fixed the roads. We haven't done enough to make software that people buy safe"

The current state of affairs is something that the software industry, as a whole, doesn't want to face. You can educate users all you want and lock down your servers like Fort Knox, but a skilled attacker armed with weaponized zero-day exploits will waltz right through your defenses and sink your battleship. Once that happens, short of turning the damn things off, you're out of luck.

This is not a problem that you can buy your way out of with expensive, high-end, security products (contrary to the subliminal whispers of the marketing execs). Nor can we deal with it by falling back on the threat of conventional military force or spending a few billion on cyberweapons. To evolve beyond our current state of cyber-insecurity we need to invent better ways to build secure software. -BB (2011-06-06)

The Futility of Sabre Rattling

Today the Wall Street Journal published an article describing a Pentagon report which depicts cyberattacks as acts of war and discusses the option of responding with conventional military force. As one anonymous official stated, "If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks."

This may seem sensible, until you consider how difficult it is, in practice, to tackle the issue of attribution. As I've stated many times in the past, our government funded projects like TOR to ensure that we could perform operations online that could never be traced back to us. Is it unreasonable to assume that other nations have developed similar technology?

Can you imagine what would happen if we accused another country of committing a cyberattack and bombed them, only to discover later on that we were wrong?

Even more unsettling is the idea that this sort of military strategy could allow a nation-state to attack itself and then use the staged event as a pretext to launch a conventional military attack? Doesn't anyone remember Operation Northwoods?

According to James Bamford, in his book Body of Secrets:

"Operation Northwoods, which had the written approval of the Chairman and every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for innocent people to be shot on American streets; for boats carrying refugees fleeing Cuba to be sunk on the high seas; for a wave of violent terrorism to be launched in Washington, D.C., Miami, and elsewhere. People would be framed for bombings they did not commit; planes would be hijacked. Using phony evidence, all of it would be blamed on Castro, thus giving Lemnitzer and his cabal the excuse, as well as the public and international backing, they needed to launch their war"

The Wall Street Journal also reports that "Pentagon officials believe the most-sophisticated computer attacks require the resources of a government."

I don't necessarily agree with this. As many venture capitalists in the Bay Area will tell you, talent and skillset are important factors. Given the right group of ten people, you could build a formidable cyberweapon for a few million dollars. This is well within the reach of private corporate interests, who could then sell their technology to the highest bidder... putting the kibosh on the notion that "the best way to deter major attacks is to hold countries that build cyber weapons responsible." - BB(2011-05-31)

A Grifter's Utopia

In the wake of the 2008 financial collapse, the standard account provided by free market ideologues is that our banks sold mortgages to people who should've known better, the tools they used to quantify risk were flawed, and that federal regulators couldn't keep up with the flood of work that inundated their offices. Our capitalistic system runs in cycles, so they say, and this is just one of those occasional low points that we should all come to expect.

The service that Matt Taibbi does for us in his latest book is to expose this explanation for what it is: a cover story. Free market apologies aside, core components of this nation's power structure have been subverted by a relatively small group of moneyed interests that have used their leverage to buy off anyone who stands in their way. The rules that dictate how our markets operate are being rigged by a veritable army of corporate lobbyists. The benefactors of this hostile takeover, the economically privileged families at the top of the income spectrum, have witnessed exorbitant gains. Everyone else has had to make do with treading water.

As Taibbi explains: "While the rest of us argue about Mexican babies before the midterms, hotshot DC law firms like Skaden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom may have as many as a hundred lawyers working on unresolved questions in the Dodd-Frank bill. And that's just one firm. Thousands of lobbyists will be employed; millions of lobbying dollars will be spent."

Let retired officials-turned-management-consultants trade in their credibility to peddle inflated tales of Cybergeddon . As far as our financial infrastructure is concerned, the clear and present danger that we face comes from within. Most of the propaganda that's jettisoned into the public arena is an effort to conceal this fact, to re-direct our anger and outrage away from responsible parties. As Taibbi warns, the people who played pivotal roles in creating this crisis are the same individuals who've been recruited to prevent it from happening again. "We have to trust these people to do the right thing, but we can't, because, well, they're scum. Which is kind of a big problem, when you think about it." - BB (2011-05-28)

Related: To see how these recent developments fit into a historical trend that began back in the early 1970s, you might also want to read the book Winner-Take-All Politics . For additional details on the mortgage crisis, I'd strongly recommend viewing the movie Inside Job

More On Our Double Standard

The New York Times reports that the founder of Blackwater, Erik Prince, has been hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi to form an 800-member mercenary force. This article states that these troops "could be deployed if the Emirates faced unrest in their crowded labor camps or were challenged by pro-democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world this year."

This article also mentions that:

"In recent years, the Emirati government has showered American defense companies with billions of dollars to help strengthen the country's security. A company run by Richard A. Clarke, a former counterterrorism adviser during the Clinton and Bush administrations, has won several lucrative contracts to advise the U.A.E. on how to protect its infrastructure."

As Chomsky has noted:

"In the real world, elite dislike of democracy is the norm. The evidence is overwhelming that democracy is supported insofar as it contributes to social and economic objectives, a conclusion reluctantly conceded by the more serious scholarship."

"Elite contempt for democracy was revealed dramatically in the reaction to the WikiLeaks exposures. Those that received most attention, with euphoric commentary, were cables reporting that Arabs support the U.S. stand on Iran. The reference was to the ruling dictators. The attitudes of the public were unmentioned. The guiding principle was articulated clearly by Carnegie Endowment Middle East specialist Marwan Muasher, formerly a high official of the Jordanian government: 'There is nothing wrong, everything is under control.' In short, if the dictators support us, what else could matter?"

Q&A With Ralph Langer

He makes some interesting statements:

"We concluded that the U.S. is the leading force behind Stuxnet development. They didn't do it on their own; they had help from nation states. But it's clearly the work of the U.S."

"If you look at the facts, it is pretty clear that the attackers had substantial Siemens insider information. Just by looking at the attack code, you can infer this because it would take an outsider years to discover the vulnerabilities that were exploited by Stuxnet by just reverse engineering."

If someone goes around throwing rocks through other people's windows, it's kind of hard to be sympathetic when they complain about someone else doing it to them... -BB(2011-05-11)

Assange Points Out The 'Appalling Spy Machine'

There's no need for oppressive arm-twisting. People are literally opting to be monitored. Really, I have to admit, it's an extremely clever approach. Recall how the former executive from HBGary Federal leveraged social networking as an intel resource. Yet most people don't recognize this, they're too enamored by stories that cast social networking as a tool for political change in the Middle East. They fail to see the vast potential for abuse...

...and pundits want me to trust "The Cloud" with my data. Ha! -BB (2011-05-06)

Related: Some people may consider the Internet itself to be a massive tool for surveillance. There's something to be said for this train of thought. With regard to the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, the New York Times published a story that describes how our leaders "turned to one of their greatest investigative tools - the National Security Agency began intercepting telephone calls and e-mail messages between the man's family and anyone inside Pakistan."

Related: According to the Federation of American Scientists, domestic surveillance grew in 2010.

Rogelio Hackett: One More Drop in the Bucket

"A federal search warrant executed on the defendant's residence on June 30, 2009 located 676,443 stolen credit card accounts on the defendant's computers and in his e-mail accounts. Credit card companies have identified tens of thousands of fraudulent charges on these accounts totaling $36,624,815.52"

There's no denying that cybercrime is a credible and well-documented threat. Yet, for whatever reason (ahem), this concrete threat tends to be overshadowed by vague intimations of cyberwar that often have only one foot in reality. -BB(2011-04-22)

Related: As usual, the media is rife with stories that describe data breaches and wire fraud. On the other side of the fence are somewhat dubious accusations of cyberwar and attempts to paint other countries as the boogeyman. This is what happens when federal funding is at stake and certain business interests stand to gain from fear mongering.

Update: Here are a couple of articles that focus on this trend (with thanks to Bruce Schneier).

Uncle Sam's Button Man

This article describes Mr. Rizzo as an "elegant 63-year-old who wears cuff links and pale yellow ties." Though, I think that his interview banter is far more telling.

"How many law professors have signed off on a death warrant?" he asks.

If you'd like to address this rhetorical question, I suppose you could stop by for a chat and take this up with Mr. Rizzo. -BB(2011-04-12)

Internet Samizdat Takes on Corruption

This New York Times article looks at a web site run by Aleksei N. Navalny. There's also a New Yorker piece on this story as well.

Navalny admits to ambitions towards holding public office. He's also been accused of being a CIA plant. According to the NYTimes report, he supplied his wife with "a list of phone numbers to call if he disappeared... other lawyers, journalists and opposition politicians."

With billions of dollars at stake, it will be interesting to see how Aleksei's crusade evolves and even more interesting to see how the corporate power structure responds. -BB(2011-03-31)

They Never Wanted Attribution To Begin With

According to Michael G. Reed, a researcher at the Naval Research Laboratory who helped to develop TOR, the motivation behind the creation of this technology was to enable spooks to shield themselves from attribution.

"The *PURPOSE* was for DoD / Intelligence usage (open source intelligence gathering, covering of forward deployed assets, whatever). Not helping dissidents in repressive countries."

This is why ridiculous ideas like cyberwar deterrence and international treaties are nothing more than philosophical hubris. When faced with an organized intrusion set, trying to track down their identities would be an exercise in futility. Governments have funded research efforts like TOR to ensure that this is the case. -BB(2011-03-25)

Legislators Call for Investigation

The plot thickens as Hunton & Williams faces increased scrutiny. -BB (2011-03-02)

"A group of House Democrats is calling on Republican leaders to investigate a prominent Washington law firm and three federal technology contractors, who have been shown in hacked e-mails discussing a 'disinformation campaign' against foes of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce."

"In a letter to be released Tuesday, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and more than a dozen other lawmakers wrote that the e-mails appear 'to reveal a conspiracy to use subversive techniques to target Chamber critics,' including "possible illegal actions against citizens engaged in free speech."

Related: The House Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities on Wednesday asked the Defense Department and its intelligence arm - the National Security Agency - to hand over copies of any contracts they may have signed with HBGary Federal, Palantir Technologies and Berico Technologies.

Related: Anonymous takes aim at the Koch brothers. This article from the New York Times may help explain why.

Send Lawyers, Guns, and Money

Here's an article from Salon on Hunton & Williams, the law firm that BofA hired to deal with their Wikileaks problem (by way of a Dept. of Justice recommendation). H&W, in turn, called up their fixers and, well, you know the rest. -BB (2011-02-16)

"What makes Hunton's involvement in the anti-WikiLeaks scheming so striking is that the firm represents some of the biggest names in corporate America. Hunton's website touts its representation of Wells Fargo, Altria (aka Phillip Morris), the telecom Cingular, and defense contractor General Dynamics, among many others."

RELATED: the inside scoop on how Anonymous hacked HBGary Federal.

RELATED: Check out this op-ed from Wired. Paul Roberts observes "how effortlessly and seamlessly the focus on 'advanced persistent threats' shifted from government backed hackers in China and Russia to encompass political foes like ThinkProgress or the columnist Glenn Greenwald. Anonymous may have committed crimes that demand punishment - but its up to the FBI to handle that, not 'a large U.S. bank' or its attorneys ...What threat to all of our liberties does that kind of IT security firepower pose when its put at the behest of corporations, government agencies, stealth political groups or their operatives?"

Inside The Campaign Against WikiLeaks

Wired provides additional backdrop on the affair. It's interesting to see how quickly companies like Palantir and Berico backpedal once this plot comes to light. Would they have done so otherwise? -BB(2011-02-15)

RELATED: Glenn Greenwald, who was to be targeted as a part of the campaign, offers his comments:

"The real issue highlighted by this episode is just how lawless and unrestrained is the unified axis of government and corporate power. I've written many times about this issue -- the full-scale merger between public and private spheres -- because it's easily one of the most critical yet under-discussed political topics. Especially (though by no means only) in the worlds of the Surveillance and National Security State, the powers of the state have become largely privatized. There is very little separation between government power and corporate power. Those who wield the latter intrinsically wield the former."

"That's what this anti-WikiLeaks campaign is generally: it's a concerted, unified effort between government and the most powerful entities in the private sector (Bank of America is the largest bank in the nation). The firms the Bank has hired (such as Booz Allen) are suffused with the highest level former defense and intelligence officials, while these other outside firms (including Hunton & Williams and Palantir) are extremely well-connected to the U.S. Government. The U.S. Government's obsession with destroying WikiLeaks has been well-documented. And because the U.S. Government is free to break the law without any constraints, oversight or accountability, so, too, are its 'private partners' able to act lawlessly. That was the lesson of the Congressional vesting of full retroactive immunity in lawbreaking telecoms, of the refusal to prosecute any of the important Wall Street criminals who caused the 2008 financial crisis, and of the instinctive efforts of the political class to protect defrauding mortgage banks."

Defense Contractors: Too Big To Fail

"Why should the Pentagon be talking up the stocks, even implicitly, of the companies it buys from? ...The answer, I eventually learned, has to do with something that happened a very long time ago, and goes under the category of 'Be careful what you wish for.' Let's just say that banking isn't the only industry where the government has allowed a handful of companies to become too big to fail."

Defense spending is currently around $700 billion, roughly half of the discretionary spending in our budget. You can bet that this industry is looking for new reasons for us to keep spending... -BB (2011-02-12)

Documents on Wikileaks from HBGary Federal and Palantir

Here is a version of the report that HBGary Federal compiled on Anonymous. Is this the genuine article or just grist for another spook paper mill?

Even more interesting is this synopsis of "The Wikileaks Threat" written up by the likes of Palantir Technologies, HBGary Federal, and Berico Technologies. It would appear that members of the establishment have started talking to the corporate equivalent of hired guns.

"Together, Palantir Technologies, HBGary Federal, and Berico Technologies bring the expertise and approach needed to combat the WikiLeaks threat."

Looks like we know who lost the first round... -BB (2011-02-10)

The Shortest Path to the Executive Washroom

"In the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, officers who committed mistakes that left people wrongly imprisoned or even dead received only minor admonishments or no punishment at all, an Associated Press investigation has found ...many officers who made significant missteps are now the senior managers fighting Obama's spy wars."

Years ago, in 1997, I recall a Control Data veteran confiding in me that you weren't considered material for upper-level management until you had at least one really big failure under your belt. - BB (2011-02-09)

Turmoil In Egypt

"In a stunning collapse of authority, most police have withdrawn from major cities, and soldiers fired shots into the air in an effort to control the crowds, seized by growing fears of lawlessness and buoyed by euphoria that three decades of President Hosni Mubarak's rule may be coming to an end."

Related: This study released by the USAF Institute for National Security Studies "challenges the current US policy towards Egypt and its underlying assumption that regime stability supercedes a US interest in true political development."

Related: Wikileaks reports that "As recently as February 2010, as indicated in 10CAIRO213, an activist implored the United States diplomats to get closer to the Egyptian government in order to combat torture and reduce the growing brutality of the police. The answer from Vice President Biden is that the political leader, the highest authority in the country, is not a dictator. The answer from the U.S. is silence, and dismissal of the Egyptian people's desire to create a better future."

I think it's important to note that Egypt, which is a recipient of billions of dollars of US Aid, was our first partner in the CIA's rendition program in the mid-1990s. - BB(2011-01-30)

Interesting Historical Records

One can only guess what the unofficial conversations were like. The following are declassified snippets from various formal meetings during the reign of the Ford administration.

Richard Helms (former CIA Director) speaking with President Ford on the Church Commission:

"If allegations have been made to Justice, a lot of dead cats will come out. I intend to defend myself. I don't know everything which went on in the Agency; maybe no one really does."

Commentary: That's an interesting conjecture. Nobody really knows everything that goes on. Plausible deniability in action.

Henry Kissinger (then Secretary of State) adding his two cents in a different conversation along the same lines:

"Hoover did things which won't stand scrutiny, especially under Johnson. We will put these out in generic terms as quickly as possible. The Bureau would like to dribble it out. This will divert attention and show relative cooperation with the committee."

Commentary: How was Hoover able to survive, if not thrive? If there was a solid argument for an organization like Wikileaks, this is it. There are instances when all of our celebrated checks and balances break down...

William Colby (then CIA Director) speaks with President Ford and Henry Kissinger:

"They have asked for all the records of our relations with PanAm, [edited out] ITT and others. If we acknowledge a relationship, we will kill these companies and our ability to place agents and get cooperation."

Commentary: If you look at the key players in the CIA's history, you'll find that there are strong ties with this country's financial engine. -BB (2011-01-25)

What Do We Still Manufacture?

With the demise of the steel industry and other manufacturing sectors in the US, George Smith addresses this question.

"From 2009, another appalling graph produced from data taken by the US Census, part of Commerce, on military production in the US versus everything else (and originally shown in the NY Times):"

"While what production of durable goods in the US that remains is charted, it along with the fortunes of the middle class and mass unemployed cratered in 2009. However, military production did not. It went through a minor dip and then soared. This is immoral. It destroys any argument on fairness and shared burden and consequences being a part of US society. It broadly and mercilessly insults the intelligence of all those who must listen to, see or read about the Department of Defense making nibbles around the edges to trim its budget in the coming time of austerity."

The risk to our nation from cyberwar is dwarfed by the economic hole that we've been digging. The Chinese have been there, gladly, helping us do just that. Perhaps this is a function of our collective short-term view. Our leaders only look towards the next business quarter or the next election cycle. All the while, a culture that measures time in terms of 200-year dynasties looks on and quietly smiles. -BB (2011-01-20)

OECD Report: Risk of Cyberwar Exaggerated

A study done by researchers from Oxford and the London School of Economics concludes (among other things) that:

"Analysis of cybsersecurity issues has been weakened by the lack of agreement on terminology and the use of exaggerated language. An 'attack' or an 'incident' can include anything from an easily-identified phishing attempt to obtain password details, a readily detected virus or a failed log-in to a highly sophisticated multi-stranded stealth onslaught. Rolling all these activities into a single statistic leads to grossly misleading conclusions...Cyberespionage is not a 'few keystrokes away from cyberwar.'"

"It is unlikely that there will ever be a true cyberwar."

"Large numbers of attack methods are based on faults discovered in leading operating systems and applications. Although the manufacturers offer patches, their frequency shows that the software industry releases too many products that have not been properly tested."

Of course, I could have told you that. -BB (2011-01-18)

Wikileaks and The Propaganda Model

Is the mass media a watchdog or merely a cheerleader?

"As Columbia University digital journalism expert Emily Bell argues, it [Wikileaks] forces journalists and news organisations to demonstrate to what extent they are now part of an establishment it is their duty to report. In other words, WikiLeaks exposes the degree to which normal journalism has lost its watchdog role. Mainstream journalism stands accused of failing to be critical enough of those in authority. Over the economic crash of 2007 and over intelligence and the Iraq war, it failed to challenge the conventional wisdom. It was not a conspiracy or a failure of resource. It was because journalism can be too responsible, balanced and passive. Sometimes journalism needs to be disruptive, critical and even partial."

Aside: To see just how passive the media can be, I'd strongly urge you to view Bill Moyer's eye-opening documentary Buying The War. You won't find this kind of in-depth analysis elsewhere, which is why I support PBS. -BB (2011-01-16)

The PhD Shortage Myth

Contrary to what the corporate decision makers have been telling us, there is no shortage of talent in the United States. In fact, there's a surplus! According to this recent article in The Economist:

"In a recent book, Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus, an academic and a journalist, reports that America produced more than 100,000 doctoral degrees between 2005 and 2009. In the same period there were just 16,000 new professorships. Using PhD students to do much of the undergraduate teaching cuts the number of full-time jobs."

Without a doubt, the claim of a "talent shortage" is merely a pretext for offshoring and H-1B initiatives. In a nutshell, it's all about access to cheap labor. Universities benefit as do business interests. All the while executive salaries continue to skyrocket. What will this do to the United States over the long run as people realize that no one wants to hire an American with a PhD in the hard sciences? Would you like some fries with that? -BB (2011-01-08)

Related: Proponents of offshoring and H-1B often use the free market argument as a convenient ideological excuse. As John Cassidy's recent article in The New Yorker demonstrates, the idea of a free market is also somewhat mythical.

"During the half century after Lincoln's Presidency, the business-backed Republican Party was in power for most of the time, and tariffs on manufactured goods remained at forty to fifty percent, the highest levels anywhere. It was during these years that the US economy grew to rival the economies of Britain and Germany in industries such as iron and steel and chemicals ...The fact is that not one of today's economic powers practiced free trade during its developmental stage."

In other words, state intervention to protect US domestic interests enabled the United States to emerge as a financial powerhouse, not free markets. Large multinationals dust off the free market argument when it suits their interests, not ours. -BB (2011-01-09)

Related: Another New York Times article on China's "indigenous innovation" policy. -BB (2011-01-12)

The Bureaucratic Nature of the CIA

While the popular image of the CIA conveyed in books and movies is often that of a rogue organization. It's probably much closer to the truth to say that the CIA, as Chomsky has characterized it, is "basically just an obedient branch of the White House."

This view is supported by a Top Secret interview with David Cohen, the former Deputy Director for Operations for the CIA. In this interview, he notes that:

"When you take an action on the edge and you don't think leadership will stand with you, you soon decide to stay far from the edge. The DO had many years in which they thought that the White House endorsed action, only to find out that the White House was not supportive in the end. CIA is as risk-taking as the policy environment will support. Just having case officers asked by senior officials, 'why did you do this?' sends a message that risk-taking is not supported."

I suspect that the White House would prefer to maintain the CIA's rogue elephant image so that a certain degree of plausible deniability can be exercised when need be. If something unpleasant comes to light, the White House can claim "we didn't do it, it was those loose cannons over in the CIA." Then they feed a couple of CIA officials to the wolves and wash their hands. -BB(2010-12-31)

Update: Former NSA Director, General Bill Odom disagrees. He claims that "The CIA currently does not work for anyone - it pretends to work for the President but is in fact out of control."

Bruce Sterling on Wikileaks

Mr. Sterling offers his synopsis of Wikileaks and Assange.

"While others stare in awe at Assange's many otherworldly aspects: his hairstyle, his neatness, his too-precise speech, his post-national life out of a laptop bag, I can recognize him as pure triple-A outsider geek. Man, I know a thousand modern weirdos like that"

Reading this essay, I cannot help but detect a hint of offhand dismissal. "Never you mind" says Mr. Sterling, "just another cyber misfit, they're a dime a dozen." As an author, I can heartily testify that you can spend your life reading books, or you can go out and live a life that someone will want to write a book about. For better or for worse, Julian Assange falls into the latter category. Merry Christmas, Wikileaks. -BB (2010-12-25)

Is Wikileaks a CIA Front?

In this article, Michel Chossudovsky makes his case:

"On the surface, nothing proves that Wikileaks was a CIA covert operation. However, given the corporate media's cohesive and structured relationship to US intelligence, not to mention the links of individual journalists to the military-national security establishment, the issue of a CIA sponsored PsyOp must necessarily be addressed... It is in the interest of the corporate elites to accept dissent and protest as a feature of the system inasmuch as they do not threaten the established social order. The purpose is not to repress dissent, but, on the contrary, to shape and mould the protest movement, to set the outer limits of dissent."

In other words, if you control both of the prize fighters in a boxing match you'll profit regardless of who wins. -BB (2010-12-19)

Update: Over the past several days I have received mail from a number of government employees who've protested that Wikileaks couldn't possibly be a CIA psyop because the Wikileaks staff are "far too competent." -BB (2010-12-23)

More on The Quandry of Attribution

Jeffrey Carr, in this Forbes article, questions the notion that Israel is responsible for Stuxnet.

"The appeal of a U.S. or Israeli cyber attack against first Bushehr, then Natanz, was just too good to pass up even though there was no hard evidence and very slim circumstantial evidence to support a case for either country. The best that Ralph Langner, CEO of Langner Communications (and the leading evangelist for this scenario) could point to was an obscure Hebrew word for Myrtus and a biblical reference for a date found in the malware that pertained to Persia; both of which could have been explained in a half dozen alternate ways having nothing to do with either Israel or the U.S."

"As far as China goes, I've identified 5 distinct ties to Stuxnet that are unique to China as well as provided a rationale for the attack which fits China's unique role as Iran's ally and customer, while opposing Iran's fuel enrichment plans. There's still a distinct lack of information on any other facilities that suffered damage, and no good explanations for why there was such massive collateral damage across dozens of countries if only one or two facilities in one nation state were the targets however based solely on the known facts, I consider China to be the most likely candidate for Stuxnet's origin."

In this white paper, he also questions the assumption that Stuxnet is a state-sponsored project.

"The Stuxnet malware analysis performed by Symantec, ESET, Kaspersky, Langner Communications, and Microsoft all point to a well-funded team of developers with certain unique skill sets and several months for development and testing. The obvious conclusion is that this team was sponsored by a nation state, however certain multi-national corporations have the same or better resources than many governments. In some countries, the government has a controlling interest in their largest corporations such as China's national champion companies (i.e., Huawei) or France's majority ownership of Areva."

It's been months, now, and we still don't have the answers we need. This demonstrates the truck-size hole that exists in the flawed strategy of cyberwar deterrence or the idea that we can limit problems with treaties (that we can't enforce). -BB (2010-12-17)

Cyberwar Treaties

Yet again, the central issue of attribution rears its ugly head. Even if you succeed in tracing an attack back to a specific geographic location, there's really no fool-proof way to ascribe responsibility. Such is the nature of contemporary anti-forensic technology (and the internet in general). There's nothing to prevent a determined (e.g. state funded) attacker from breaking the terms of a treaty and then shielding themselves with plausible deniability or, even worse, framing a 3rd party.

Let's not forget the possibility that the intel services of a treaty participant could simply pay one of the more sophisticated criminal groups to do their dirty work for them. The aforementioned outlaws would probably have no idea who really hired them, providing an extra layer of obfuscation.

Whenever I read about the idea of cyberwar treaties, I think back to the Biological Weapons Convention that the US and USSR signed in 1972. The Soviets seemed to interpret the treaty as an opportunity to accelerate their weapons program. -BB (2010-12-04)

Related: Attribution cuts both ways. "Recall as well that the main technical tool used to anonymize submissions to WikiLeaks, Tor (The Onion Router), came out of a US Naval Research Laboratory project to protect clandestine activities overseas. In fact, members of the military are some of the most vocal opponents of current attempts in the US to require person-level attribution of data packets online."

Gary McGraw: Cyberwar and Influence Peddling

One of the world's leading experts on developing secure software speaks out against the hype surrounding cyberwar in this Q&A from CNET.

"There is a lot of crime, less espionage, and very little cyberwar. (chuckles) And the root cause for capability in all these things is the same. That is dependence on systems that are riddled with security defects. We can address all three of those problems. The most important is cybercrime, which is costing us the most money right now. Here's another way to think about it: everyone is talking about the WikiLeaks stuff, and the impact the latest (confidential files) release is having on foreign policy in the U.S. The question is, would offensive capability for cyberwar help us solve the WikiLeaks problem? The answer is obvious. No. Would an offensive cyberwar capability have helped us solve the Aurora problem where Google's intellectual property got sucked down by the Chinese? The answer is no. What would have helped address those two problems? The answer is defense. That is building stuff properly. Software security."

I couldn't agree with him more. -BB(2010-12-01)

Brzezinski on CableGate: Catastrophic, But Not Serious

Last night on PBS, Zbigniew cut to the chase pretty quickly:

"I think the most serious issues are not those which are getting the headlines right now. Who cares if Berlusconi is described as a clown. Most Italians agree with that. Who cares if Putin is described as an alpha dog? He probably is flattered by it."

"The real issue is, who is feeding Wikipedia on this issue -- Wiki -- Wiki -- WikiLeaks on this issue? They're getting a lot of information which seems trivial, inconsequential, but some of it seems surprisingly pointed...It's, rather, a question of whether WikiLeaks are being manipulated by interested parties that want to either complicate our relationship with other governments or want to undermine some governments, because some of these items that are being emphasized and have surfaced are very pointed. And I wonder whether, in fact, there aren't some operations internationally, intelligence services, that are feeding stuff to WikiLeaks, because it is a unique opportunity to embarrass us, to embarrass our position, but also to undermine our relations with particular governments."

Wikipedia? Was that a Freudian slip? All joking aside, I think he's alluding to an issue that is worth some thought. Just as intelligence services have long standing back channels with the press, as pointed out by editors like the New York Time's Max Frankel, have interested parties devised ways to influence Wikileaks? This is the danger of being an information chokepoint. -BB (2010-11-30)

Iran Admits to Malware Issues

"Mr. Ahmadinejad publicly acknowledged, apparently for the first time, that Iran's nuclear program had recently been disrupted by a malicious computer software that attacked its centrifuges. 'They succeeded in creating problems for a limited number of our centrifuges with the software they had installed in electronic parts,' he said at the news conference."

This New York Times article implies that the malware was indeed Stuxnet. Though it isn't stated explicity. In fact, the article mentions that "Mr. Ahmadinejad did not specify the type of malware or its perpetrators." Assuming that Stuxnet was to blame, questions still remain: Who wrote Stuxnet? Was Iran an intended target?

Related: Another New York Times article provides additional information concerning the Google attacks:

"China's Politburo directed the intrusion into Google's computer systems in that country, a Chinese contact told the American Embassy in Beijing in January, one cable reported. The Google hacking was part of a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage carried out by government operatives, private security experts and Internet outlaws recruited by the Chinese government. They have broken into American government computers and those of Western allies, the Dalai Lama and American businesses since 2002, cables said."

Keep in mind that this is based on information from a "contact." Before we invaded Iraq, our Secretary of State stood before the UN Security Council on May 27, 2003, and (based on intel from a contact) alleged that Iraq had developed mobile production facilities for biological weapons.

Another thing to keep in mind is that China isn't the only nation-state that ventures into other peoples networks. I'm fairly confident that we do it just as much (if not more so). -BB (2010-11-29)

CableGate: First Batch of US Diplomatic Cables Released

The cables, which date from 1966 up until the end of February this year, contain confidential communications between 274 embassies in countries throughout the world and the State Department in Washington DC. 15,652 of the cables are classified Secret. The embassy cables will be released in stages over the next few months.

The The New York Times, Der Spiegel, and The Guardian were all given access to these cables and have dedicated portals.

The White House has responded:

"Such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government. These documents also may include named individuals who in many cases live and work under oppressive regimes and who are trying to create more open and free societies."

The New York Times thinks otherwise:

"The cables tell the unvarnished story of how the government makes its biggest decisions, the decisions that cost the country most heavily in lives and money. They shed light on the motivations and, in some cases, duplicity of allies on the receiving end of American courtship and foreign aid. They illuminate the diplomacy surrounding two current wars and several countries, like Pakistan and Yemen, where American military involvement is growing. As daunting as it is to publish such material over official objections, it would be presumptuous to conclude that Americans have no right to know what is being done in their name."

Regardless of how government officials and the press view the release of these documents, one thing is certain: leaders are probably now aware that they may one day be held accountable for what they do and say. The veil of secrecy has been pulled back. This will impact how our government operates and how we interact with other countries. Perhaps this is one of the ulterior motives of cablegate? -BB (2010-11-28)

Life in The Wilderness of Mirrors

This New York Times book review looks at a number of recent books that have been authored by former CIA officers. These sort of memoirs tend to fall into two categories. On one side you'll find people like Miles Copeland, an officer in both the OSS and CIA, who asserts that the general public has a biased view of the CIA because we only hear about the failures (an argument that rests heavily on the secret nature of intelligence operations). In his book, Without Cloak Or Dagger, Copeland explains that:

"Unless you can believe that even a government as wasteful and inefficient as our own would tolerate the existence of a vast and costly facility which is inactive and ineffective, you must believe that it accomplishes something. More than that, you must believe that most of what it does is successful. No Government, even our own, would tolerate for long a costly agency that has more failures than successes."

The current slew of publications seem to claim just the opposite. They paint a picture of an unwieldy bureaucracy that's mired in the security of administrative rituals which place an emphasis on quantity over quality. Some former officers even go so far as to suggest that we start over with a clean slate. This definitely doesn't jibe with Copeland's description of the indoctrination process that CIA officers undergo during training.

"Even the most anti-Government cynic comes out with the conviction that the nation faces dangers to national security which are more awful than even the gloomiest columnist imagines, and that the machinery of which the CIA is a part has means of combating them which are so sophisticated and powerful as to be beyond the comprehension of all but those who are a part of them."

How's that for hyperbole? So, who do you believe: the old stalwart or the groans of disenchantment that point to the conspicuous absence of intelligence "slam dunks?"

Perhaps Lindsay Moran can offer some insight. In her book, entitled Blowing My Cover, she recalls a warning from a grizzled rank and file CIA veteran who advises her not to let the job consume her, as the higher-ups in the beltway pay much more attention to failure than success. -Barry Bennington (November 27, 2011)

Ever Wonder How Government Officials Really Feel?

According to this article in the Washington Post, Wikileaks is gearing up to release US State Department documents. The current administration appears to be bracing for impact. The article reports:

"U.S. officials are concerned that some of the leaked cables could include details of conversations in which senior foreign politicians offer candid appraisals of their governments. Those assessments could prove embarassing, not only to the United States but to the politicians and governments concerned."

Elizabeth King, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs recently sent an e-mail to Senate and House Armed Services Committees asserting that "The publication of this classified information by WikiLeaks is an irresponsible attempt to wreak havoc and destabilize global security. It potentially jeopardizes lives."

Julian Assange is no stranger to this sort of critique. In a correspondence sent to volunteers[at] in March of 2008, he stated that:

"The first ingredient of a democracy is the people's right to know, because without such understanding no human being can meaningfully choose to support anything, let alone a political party. Knowledge is the driver of every political process, every constitution, every law and every regulation... Since knowledge is the creator and regulator of all law, it must be placed beyond law."

As the clock ticks down to the release date, which the Pentagon suspects may be as soon as November 26th, I wonder if the State Department will simply weather the oncoming storm. Or, (as Wikileaks has intimated ) "the coming months will see a new world, where global history is redefined." Either way, I cannot help but notice the admonishment by Wikileaks to "Keep us strong." Says Cryptome: "it's the patois of whispering promises of manifold return on investiment for riches to come. Open your wallet." -BB (2010-11-24)

NSA Assurance Director: Focus on Defense

In this article from Network World, the NSA's Information Assurance Technical Director, Dickie George, acknowledges the issues posed by attribution. He states, "Back then, if the Soviets fired a missile you knew it was the government and could tell where it was fired from... Today, it's bits and you don't see them coming through the air." In other words, how can you rely on a policy of deterrence when you can't even tell who attacked you? Correct me if I'm wrong, but it's been months now and we still don't have any concrete evidence that will tell us who, exactly, built stuxnet.

In this arena, Dickie claims that we need to "make ourselves harder targets." The best defense isn't a good offense, contrary to what you may hear from retired government officials who now represent corporate interests in the defense industry. The best defense is... a solid defense.

These are similar to some of the basic arguments that I touched on this past October during an event at San Francisco State University. -BB (2010-11-21)

RELATED: A recent Senate hearing on Stuxnet. Notice who provided the witness testimony. Do you think they might have a vested interest in painting an ominous picture?

More Details Emerge on Stuxnet

Researchers at Symantec have uncovered more details with regard to what this malware does. Specifically, they discovered that "Stuxnet requires particular frequency converter drives... [and] changes the output frequencies and thus the speed of the motors for short intervals over periods of months. Interfering with the speed of the motors sabotages the normal operation of the industrial control process."

Note that Details over who created Stuxnet and why they created it are still sadly absent. Though this didn't stop anyone in the press from taking almost comical speculation about Stuxnet and presenting it as fact. -BB (2010-11-13)

Identifying The CPU: Towards Hardware-Oriented Malware

"This technology is very easy to build since it does not rely on deep analysis of chip logical gates architecture. Floating Point Arithmetic (FPA) looks promising to define a set of tests to identify the processor or, more precisely, a subset of possible processors."

This is the first step towards building malware that targets a specific chipset, as opposed to a specific OS. Once you know the chipset, you can look for hardware-specific exploits. Finding a hardware-level flaw... that, dear reader, is the challenging part. -BB (2010-11-11)

U.S. Dept. of States Warns Against Using AES

If this doesn't raise an eyebrow, I don't know what will:

"The Bureau of Information Resource Management's Radio Programs Branch (IRM/OPS/ITI/LWS/RPB) provides all overseas missions two-way radios equipped with Digital Encryption Standard (DES) or Advance Encryption Standard (AES). These encryption algorithms provide limited protection from unauthorized interception of voice communications and are only approved for the transmission of Department of State Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) and Department of Defense For Official Use Only (FOUO) communications. Under no circumstances should DES- or AES-equipped radios be used for the transmission of classified information, as defined by Executive Order 12958."

If there are flaws in AES that make it undesireable as an encryption algorithm for classified information, then it's probably not a good standard. Unless of course, for whatever reason, you want people to rely on an algorithm that allows you to eavesdrop. Someone has some explaining to do... -BB (2010-11-07)

Another Leak Source Is In The Works

The Wall Street Journal reports that "a group that includes former WikiLeaks staffers who left the organization after disagreements with founder Julian Assange is pursuing plans for a rival document-leaking venture, said people familiar with their plans."

It's interesting to examine how the WSJ frames this story. They present it as if it were a bad thing. The reality is that having multiple outlets makes it more difficult for opponents to subvert the flow of information to the public. A single outlet represents a choke point that becomes an attractive target for prosecution, bribery, and disinformation campaigns. Don't think "competition," think "failover." - BB (2010-11-05)

RELATED: Here are some notes from a recent event at the NYU School of Law. "Wikileaks should be seen as one of many counter-authority initiatives stretching back three millennia, the numbers increasing rapidly via the Internet, including those using public benefit initiatives to hide the authoritarian -- every authoritarian allows a controlled counter for gloss." I find the last part of the previous sentence to be particularly disturbing. Every power structure tolerates a token amount of resistance to help legitimize itself. - BB (2010-11-06)

The Press, Intel Agencies, & Wikileaks

New York Times Op-ed: "Some say that what's important is the material itself. Whether or not Julian Assange is a rogue with a political agenda, what matters most is that The Times authenticates the information."

Cryptome: "This is the Times's vainglorious argument: we will take the information, for free, thank you very much, then transform it into our 'reputable' product. The same with spies. In the end there is little difference among thieves who steal open and leaked information and bump up the price as if exploiting sweat labor."

The Drive Towards National Operating Systems

Reliance on Windows has motivated countries like Russia, India, and China to think about building their own OS. The basic premise being that it may not be a wise to base your core digital infrastructure on an OS that you don't own, control, and audit. Who really knows what's in that special sauce? Is that a genuine kernel bug or a cleverly disguised back door? Can you say "plausible deniability?"

Perhaps these governments should chat with Joanna Rutkowska. There's definitely something to be said for her disposable VM concept. Though I wonder how this would impact a forensic investigation?

One might speculate that certain problems we have regarding cyber security may be rooted in the short-term mindset of our culture in general. Executives focus on the next business quarter, politicians focus on the next election cycle, and as a result we never step back to see that there's a long-term endgame being played out; one that will require us to make investments that may not yield significant returns (or appear attractive) over the short-term but will be necessary for us to function as years turn into decades. -BB(2010-10-27)

Wikileaks Releases Second Round of Documents

"At 5pm EST Friday 22nd October 2010 WikiLeaks released the largest classified military leak in history. The 391,832 reports ('The Iraq War Logs'), document the war and occupation in Iraq, from 1st January 2004 to 31st December 2009 (except for the months of May 2004 and March 2009) as told by soldiers in the United States Army. Each is a 'SIGACT' or Significant Action in the war. They detail events as seen and heard by the US military troops on the ground in Iraq and are the first real glimpse into the secret history of the war that the United States government has been privy to throughout."

"The reports detail 109,032 deaths in Iraq, comprised of 66,081 'civilians'; 23,984 'enemy' (those labeled as insurgents); 15,196 'host nation' (Iraqi government forces) and 3,771 'friendly' (coalition forces). The majority of the deaths (66,000, over 60%) of these are civilian deaths. That is 31 civilians dying every day during the six year period. For comparison, the 'Afghan War Diaries', previously released by WikiLeaks, covering the same period, detail the deaths of some 20,000 people. Iraq during the same period, was five times as lethal with equivallent population size."

According to the Washington Post, main outlets like the The New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel, were granted early access to the War Logs and have established portals focusing on different aspects of the reports. -BB(2010-10-23)

RELATED: The New York Times reports that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has admitted that he accepts "bags of cash" from the Iranian government.

RELATED: PBS News Hour included a segment last night that addressed what we've learned from the leaked information. John Mearsheimer, a West Point graduate, former Air Force officer and professor at the University of Chicago had this to say: "It's quite clear from the documents that numerous cases are found where Americans were reporting these abuses. The problem is that people further up the chain of command, both the military and civilian individuals, didn't do anything to stop it. There is no question that the Americans knew what was going on. It's not like this was happening in the dark, and we only suspected it and didn't really know about it. We knew about it, and we didn't do anything to stop it. We effectively turned a blind eye. And this was strategically foolish and, I think, morally bankrupt."

RELATED: I thought the following excerpt from an article published by Der Spiegel summed things up nicely. "In one respect, the US Armed Forces, which compiled these documents, and the website WikiLeaks, which is now publishing them, share a common interest. Both organizations view the documents as an inside look at the Iraq war -- the most precise, detailed and comprehensive proximity to the bloody truth yet."

Fear and Loathing In San Francisco

This Thursday, October 21st, our primary investigator and resident heretic will appear at San Francisco State University to speak on the gilded hyperbole of Cyberwar. Come see what drives the media frenzy behind this term and learn how the power brokers in our society manipulate our institutions to manufacture consent. -R. James (10/18/2010)

The Cyberwar Echo Chamber

Former DHS secretary Michael Chertoff repeats a message originally promoted by former DNI Mike McConnell: deterrence. As I've pointed out, this is a flawed approach that could lead us to initiate hostilities against the wrong country. Anti-forensics has progressed to the point where it would be entirely feasible for one nation-state to frame another. Currently there seem to be any number of former government officials talking about Cyberwar, and this fact hints at the reasons why this idea has achieved so much momentum. -BB (2010-10-15)

RELATED: A Reuters article notes that "The Pentagon's biggest suppliers -- including Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co, Northrop Grumman Corp, BAE Systems Plc and Raytheon Co -- each have big and growing cyber-related product and service lines for a market that has been estimated at $80 billion to $140 billion a year worldwide"

RELATED: The truth finally starts to come out. The BBC reports on the UK's recently published National Security Strategy. This document claims that Cyberwar is right up there with nuclear weapons and pandemics. These assertions have been made in light of annual cuts of 8% to the defence budget over the next four years.

Myrtus or MyRTUs?

John Markoff in the New York Times has written an article which intimates that the Stuxnet worm may be the work of Israel's Unit 8200. According to Markoff, "Several of the teams of computer security researchers who have been dissecting the software found a text string that suggests that the attackers named their project Myrtus... an allusion to the Hebrew word for Esther. The Book of Esther tells the story of a Persian plot against the Jews, who attacked their enemies pre-emptively."

Really? Personally I'd be surprised if a crack team of Israeli software engineers were so sloppy that they relied on outdated rootkit technology (e.g. hooking the Nt*() calls used by Kernel32.LoadLibrary() and using UPX to pack code). Most of the Israeli developers I've met are pretty sharp. Just ask Erez Metula.

It may be that the "myrtus" string from the recovered Stuxnet file path "b:\myrtus\src\objfre_w2k_x86\i386\guava.pdb" stands for "My-RTUs," as in Remote Terminal Unit. See the following white paper from Motorola, it examines RTUs and PICs in SCADA systems. Who knows? The guava-myrtus connection may actually hold water.

As you can see, the media's propaganda machine is alive and well. -BB (2010-10-01)

UPDATE: Elinor Mills of cnet tries to separate fact from theory in this reality check. For example: there's no solid evidence as to who's behind the malware or even what country or operation was the intended target, and it's unknown if any serious damage has been done.

RELATED: As the frenzy over Stuxnet plods onward, The FBI has released details on Operation Trident Breach. According to the FBI's press release, criminals made off with roughly $70 million.

I'm sure you can see a pattern here. While we're distracted with a litany of ominous sounding potential threats to our welfare, actual losses caused by tangible crimes are occurring on a daily basis. As Bruce Schneier has pointed out, the solutions that we turn to depend on how we frame what's going on. Will we focus on Cybergeddon or will we focus on more mundane events that have an actual cost which we can directly measure?

Stuxnet: Despite Rumors and Hyperbole, Questions Remain

RELATED: George Smith observes that "the lack of substantial proof of success in offensive malware operations won't stop anyone in the business of insisting just the opposite... Stuxnet as a super cyber weapon is a hot, sexy story. The hype behind it is predictable, even logical"

RELATED: Cybercrime Continues As CyberWar Fizzles - "In a rash of dawn raids, police in the United Kingdom nabbed 19 people suspected of stealing more than $9 million from online bank accounts."

RELATED: Yet Even More Cybercrime - "The FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office in southern New York announced charges today against 37 people accused of being part of an international crime ring that stole $3 million from bank accounts." No rumors, no hype, no anonymous sources. Just hard facts. Cybercrime is the domain where we are suffering death by a thousand cuts.

The issue of attribution once again comes to the forefront. This morning an Associate Press article declared that "Government experts and outside analysts say they haven't been able to determine who developed it [Stuxnet] or why." Keep this in mind because there are any number of interests that stand to gain by planting the seed of suggestion.

Another thing that I found interesting was the admission by commercial researchers that this might not be the work of a nation-state. Rather, it might just be a "well-funded private entity." Trust me, there are plenty of these out in the wild (just take a look at how Presidential elections are financed in the United States). Contrary to popular belief, you don't necessarily need a billion-dollar budget to develop cyber weapons. Though I'm sure there are contractors who would insist that this is the case. Charlie Miller has asserted that paralyzing the United States would requires two years of effort and less than 100 million dollars. In the case of Stuxnet, the estimate seems to be a team of 5-10 people. In my opinion, this kind of effort would easily be in reach of a private organization that has a few million dollars to throw around.

Finally, despite all the media buzz that reflects on what could have happened, according to Siemens: of the 15 industrial control plants that Stuxnet found its way into, none have been adversely affected. -BB (2010-09-26)

Not So Cutting-Edge Aspects of Stuxnet

Despite certain facets of this malware that are definitely notable (e.g. employing multiple 0-day exploits, the use of code signing certificates, auto-update with an option to use P2P channels in the event that the C2 node goes down), there are aspects of the implementation that surprised me as being slightly dated.

For example, to map DLLs into memory Stuxnet relies on a well-known hook-based approach that alters a handful of lower-level APIs used by the Kernel32.LoadLibrary() routine. This strategy generates forensic artifacts by virtue of the fact that a DLL loaded in this manner ends up in memory, and in the system's runtime bookkeeping, while failing to show up on disk (a telltale sign, just ask the response team at Guidance Software). In other words, the absence of an artifact is itself an artifact.

A less conspicuous strategy is to use what's been called "Reflective" DLL injection, which is what contemporary suites like Metasploit use. Essentially, reflective DLL injection sidesteps the Windows Loader entirely in favor of a custom user-mode loader (an idea that was presented years ago by researchers like the Grugq, e.g. Data Contraception).

Stuxnet also uses DLLs packed with UPX. Any anti-forensic developer worth their salt knows that UPX leaves a signature that's easy for a trained investigator to recognize. A brief glance at the file headers is usually enough. Once recognized, unpacking is a cake walk. Now, I would expect that if the engineers who built this software took the time and care to implement the obscure PLC features that they did, they'd also have the resources and motivation to develop custom packing components. I mean, if you're going to pack your code, at least make it difficult for the forensic guy wading through your payload. C'mon! It's not that much work.

Why even use DLLs? Why not create some special-purpose file format that relies on a shrouded address table and utilizes an embedded virtual machine to execute one-of-a-kind bytecode? Really, if you have a federal budget backing you up why not go full bore? Heck, I know I would. Ahem.

What all of this seems to indicate is that the people who built this in some respects took the path of least resistance. They opted to trade development effort for a forensic footprint. Is this the super weapon that the media is making Stuxnet out to be? -BB(2010-09-24)

We've Met the Enemy and He Is...

When reading stories about espionage in the press there can be a tendency to adopt a mindset that frames incidents in terms of one nation-state versus another, and this often lends itself to tacitly assuming a sort of moral high ground. Or, put more mildly, it gives the general impression that a specific nation-state is an offender in this arena more so than other nation-states (e.g. man, it's those darn Canadians again!).

While certain intelligence agencies have been known to establish "special relationships," for the most part everyone spies on everyone else. Such is life in the theatre of international relations. As in the genre of noir fiction, everyone is dirty to some extent (even the protagonist). While most of the stories I've read seem to point to China or Russia as the usual suspects, I think it's interesting to note something that retired Air Force General Michael Hayden said during an interview on the Jim Lehrer News Hour program:

"There was a survey done not too many months ago. They asked the citizens of some cyber-savvy nations around the world, who do you fear most in the cyber-domain? And, quite interestingly, we were number one.

The Chinese were a close second, but we were number one, which I think is simply a reflection that we are a technologically agile country, and we have very good intelligence services, and the rest of the world is kind of responding to that reality."

RELATED: Recall the Crypto AG story reported by the Baltimore Sun. If these allegations had been leveled at another country, you can imagine the outrage that we would have voiced.

"For four decades, the Swiss flag that flies in front of Crypto AG has lured customers from around the world to this company ...Some 120 nations have bought their encryption machines here. But behind that flag, America's National Security Agency hid what may be the intelligence sting of the century. For years, NSA secretly rigged Crypto AG machines so that U.S. eavesdroppers could easily break their codes, according to former company employees whose story is supported by company documents."

A Cyberwar Gulf of Tonkin Incident?

An article by SecurityWeek offers opposing viewpoints on the Pentagon hack.

Chester Wisniewski, Sophos Chief Security Adviser: "Why would a foreign intelligence agency attack the U.S. government with such a low-powered weapon? ...In his words, 'Either it wasn't put there by a foreign government or it wasn't agent.btz.'"

Tom Conway, McAfee's Director of Federal Business Development: "Why reveal your trade craft if something that's widely available on the black market will do the job?"

Comments: I'm inclined to side with Chester. The fact is that the agent.btz worm didn't "do the job." In an age of custom firmware rootkits, rogue hypervisors, and circuit-level subversion, a payload that "does the job" wouldn't have been discovered!

"Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence" - Napoleon Bonaparte

If intel agencies from other countries had wanted data from top secret networks, I have a very hard time believing that they'd be anywhere near this sloppy. It sounds more like someone is exaggerating a pedestrian malware infestation as a means to bolster funding and then shielding themselves against further scrutiny by using the standard secrecy argument: "I can't tell you, it's classified." -BB (2010-09-05)

The Best Defense isn't a Good Offense

The decision makers at the Pentagon are at it again. According to an article published by the Washington Post, officials are considering preemptive strikes as a way to protect us. The difference is that it's being dressed up with new jargon; in this case it's being referred to as an "active defense." Oh, that's rich.

This suffers from the same basic problem as the doctrine of massive retaliation: attribution. If you can't identify the actual origin of an attack, it's an exercise in futility to build up a huge stockpile of offensive capabilities (unless of course you're in the business of building offensive weaponry). Furthermore, are we prepared to live with the consequences when we attack the wrong country? Correct me if I'm wrong but did we just spend close to a trillion dollars to protect ourselves from imaginary weapons of mass destruction? Think of what that money could have done here in the US if we had directed it towards health and human services.

In what military officials are calling the fifth domain, the best defense is not a good offense. We'd be much better off focusing on, well, defense. -BB (2010-09-02)

More Cyberwar Fear Mongering

In this Foreign Affairs article, Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn hypes an incident with a thumb drive that occured back in 2008:

"The flash drive's malicious computer code, placed there by a foreign intelligence agency, uploaded itself onto a network run by the U.S. Central Command. That code spread undetected on both classified and unclassified systems, establishing what amounted to a digital beachhead, from which data could be transferred to servers under foreign control"

Reports from Wired appear to counter his assertions.

"Agent.btz is a variant of the SillyFDC worm... Agent.btz's ability to compromise classified information is fairly limited. SIPRNet, the military's secret network, and JWICS, its top secret network, have only the thinnest of connections to the public internet. Without those connections, intruders would have no way of exploiting the backdoor, or, indeed, of even knowing that agent.btz had founds its way into the CENTCOM network... What spy service would launch such a lame attack?"

Another thing to keep in mind, dear reader, is that Foreign Affairs is a publication of the Council on Foreign Relations. -BB (2010-08-26)

UPDATE: The New York Times has printed an article on this. According to the Times, Lynn composed his Foreign Affairs essay to "to raise awareness of the threat to United States cybersecurity ...and partly to make the case for a larger Pentagon role in cyberdefense."

I'd pay close attention to the second half of that previous sentence. -BB(2010-08-26)

WikiLeaks Releases Another Red Cell Memo

"This CIA 'Red Cell' report from February 2, 2010, looks at what will happen if it is internationally understood that the United States is an exporter of terrorism..."

"The report looks at a number cases of US exported terrorism, including attacks by US based or financed Jewish, Muslim and Irish-nationalism terrorists."

RELATED: A WSJ article that looks at how WikiLeaks conceals funding information. The empire strikes back, so to speak. -BB (2010-08-26)

Cryptome's John Young: The Single Greatest Threat to Democracy

"Secrecy hides privilege, incompetence and deception of those who depend on it and who would be disempowered without it...

A vast global enterprise of governments, institutions, organizations, businesses and individuals dependent upon the secrecy of abuse of secrecy has evolved into an immensely valuable practice whose cost to the public and benefits to its practitioners are concealed by secrecy...

Secrecy poses the greatest threat to the United States because it divides the poplulation into two groups, those with access to secret information and those without. This asymmetrial access to information vital to the United States as a democracy will eventually turn it into an autocracy run by those with access to secret informaton, protected by laws written to legitimate this privileged access and to punish those who violate these laws."

This may sound a bit overblown. But consider this: according to the Top Secret America project, some 854,000 people (more than the entire city of San Francisco) hold top-secret security clearances. In the greater DC area, 33 buildings for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built in the aftermath of September 2001. These structures consume the same amount of space as three Pentagons - roughly 17 million square feet.

Does John Young really sound so far off of the mark? -BB (2010-08-23)

International Bankers Deem Themselves Above The Law

"Barclays Bank PLC, a United Kingdom corporation headquartered in London, has agreed to forfeit $298 million to the United States and to the New York County District Attorney's Office in connection with violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA)"

"According to court documents, from as early as the mid-1990s until September 2006, Barclays knowingly and willfully moved or permitted to be moved hundreds of millions of dollars through the U.S. financial system on behalf of banks from Cuba, Iran, Libya, Sudan and Burma, and persons listed as parties or jurisdictions sanctioned by OFAC in violation of U.S. economic sanctions."

Though this may seem like a lot of money at first blush. It's just a slap on the wrist, which Barclays will probably accept as the cost of doing business. At best, this is a symbolic victory. -BB (2010-08-18)

FRONTLINE to Explore the Subversive Effects of Secrecy

"The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies duplicate the same work."

"The major function of secrecy in Washington is to keep the U.S. people and U.S. Congress from knowing what the nation's leaders are doing. Secrecy is power. Secrecy is license. Secrecy covers up mistakes. Secrecy covers up corruption." - Major John Stockwell

Apologies for Big Brother

In this New York Times op-ed, Richard Falkenrath applauds the United Arab Emirates for its recent decision to suspend BlackBerry service within its borders. The Canadian company that developed the technology, Research In Motion, has resisted modifying its infrastructure to enable authorities to easily intercept the data streams of selected users.

Falkenrath concludes: "In the end, it is governments, not private industry, that rule the airwaves and the Internet. The Emirates acted understandably and appropriately: governments should not be timid about using their full powers to ensure that their law enforcement and intelligence agencies are able to keep their citizens safe."

It's interesting to note that Falkenrath, who was a deputy homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush, now works for the Chertoff Group. The Chertoff Group is a consulting firm that derives its name from one of its principals, Michael Chertoff, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from 2005 to 2009.

Co-CEO of Research in Motion responded that "Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off."

RELATED: Nicholas Merrill (aka John Doe) of Calyx Internet Access finally speaks out.

"I kind of felt at the beginning, so few people challenge this thing, I couldn't just stand by and see, in my opinion, the basic underpinnings of our government undermined ... I was taught about how sophisticated our system of checks and balances is . . . and if you really believe in that, then the idea of one branch of government just demanding records without being checked and balanced by the judicial just is so obviously wrong on the surface."

The "Insurance" File

"At the center of the drama was the posting last week of a massive 1.4 gigabyte mystery file named 'Insurance' on the WikiLeaks website. The 'Insurance' file is encrypted, nearly impossible to open until WikiLeaks provides the passwords. But experts suggest that if anyone can crack it - it would be the National Security Agency."

"'Do we believe that WikiLeaks has additional cables? We do,' said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. 'Do we believe that those cables are classified? We do. And are they State Department cables? Yes.'"

Cryptome: Doubts about the invulnerability of AES have persisted since NSA selected an algorithm from an AES competition that was considered by cryptographers not to be the strongest. And that it is likely for strongest protection NSA uses a top secret cryptosystem while promoting AES for public and official use. It is argued that NSA, like all official comsec agencies, would never endorse a system it could not secretly access. And these agencies never reveal that capability -- NSA's backdoor access to Crypto AG was revealed by an employee of the company.

Too Many Secrets

The following excerpts are from an op-ed in The New Yorker

"Shutting WikiLeaks down, assuming that this is even possible, would only lead to copycat sites devised by innovators who would make their services even more difficult to curtail. A better approach for the Defense Department might be to consider WikiLeaks a competitor rather than a threat, and to recognize that the spirit of transparency that motivates Assange and his volunteers is shared by a far wider community of people who use the Internet."

"There is a simple lesson here: whatever the imperfections of WikiLeaks as a startup, its emergence points to a real shortcoming within our intelligence community. Secrets can be kept by deterrence, that is, by hunting down the people who leak them, as Thiessen proposes, and demonstrating that such behavior comes with real costs, such as prison time. But there are other methods: keep far fewer secrets, manage them better."

Wikileaks and Our Foreign Policy

"No amount of rhetorical tap dancing will allow the White House to escape the fundamental contradictions that underlie U.S. policy toward Af-Pak."

Contradiction #1: We're in Afghanistan to prevent future attacks by Al Queda

"Now that al Qaeda can attack the United States, its friends and allies from Yemen or Somalia or Pakistan or London or New Jersey, it's hard to claim any uniqueness for Afghanistan. So, why does the United States have to fight the war there with 100,000 troops?"

Contradiction #2: We're in Afghanistan to prevent an extremist coup in Pakistan

"Here's where the new trough of secret WikiLeaks comes in Pakistani military intelligence... is indeed helping the Taliban against Americans in Afghanistan. To boot, the Pakistani government is providing safe haven to the Taliban in Northwest Pakistan, thus making it militarily impossible for U.S. forces to smash them."

Cryptome's John Young Responds to Mike Mullen

"The principal thing that WikiLeaks is doing and as I'm -- and I'm doing, also on another side, is we're trying to give a more fuller picture of the -- of the terrible situation in these countries, that the -- the U.S. military is killing thousands of people over there and that that is not being reported very well.

We regularly publish photographs put out by the Department of Defense about Afghanistan and Iraq. And there's never any carnage shown. You seldom see any of the carnage caused by the military in these wars. And war is carnage. But what you see are a kind of scenes you've just shown. And that's a -- that's an unbalanced view of what's happening there.

There is far more killing being done by the military in Afghanistan than there is by the Taliban, including innocent people. And we just don't get to see that. That is heavily censored. It's classified. It's not put out. What we get is the sanitized version that makes it look like the young soldiers are at risk or innocent civilians are at risk of being killed by the Taliban. But that is a completely inaccurate picture.

...the two talking points that are now being used to change the -- the dialogue about this leak. One is the risk of these informants. The other is that there's nothing new here. Those are talking points that are used by people who are trying to change the topic away from the carnage caused by the military into a polite kind of talking head version, as though there's nothing new here.

Notice that Admiral Mullen talked about blood on the soldiers' hands. WikiLeaks has answered that very effectively. He's changing the topic. He does not want to talk about what the military is doing in Afghanistan.

It is uncontrolled carnage going on over there as American policy. Otherwise, they'd be showing more of the truth."

This is it, dear readers. John Young is pointing out the propaganda machine in action. Pick up a copy of Noam Chomksy's Manufacturing Consent for a more detailed description of how the media works. -BB (2010-07-31)

I Walk The Line

Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen

"Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing, but the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family. Disagree with the war all you want, take issue with the policy, challenge me or our ground commanders on the decisions we make to accomplish the mission we've been given, but don't put those who willingly go into harm's way even further in harm's way just to satisfy your need to make a point."

Julian Assange

"Foresight requires trustworthy information about the current state of the world, cognitive ability to draw predictive inferences and economic stability to give them a meaningful home. It's not only in Vietnam where secrecy, malfeasance and unequal access have eaten into the first requirement of foresight ('truth and lots of it'). Foresight can produce outcomes that leave all major interests groups better off. Likewise the lack of it, or doing the dumb thing, can harm almost everyone."

Wikileaks Releases Over 75,000 Secret US Military Reports

In a bold move that probably constitutes this generation's version of the Pentagon Papers, Wikileaks has published thousands of classified documents that describe U.S. military operations in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2010.

Three media outlets received copies of these documents in advance: The New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel. These outlets have confirmed the authenticity of the reports.

The documents imply, among other things, that Pakistan's intelligence service may be assisting the Taliban despite the billions of dollars in support that Pakistan receives from the United States. In addition, as with Vietnam, things may be less encouraging than our leaders are willing to admit.

The White House has responded. Julian Assange dismissed accusations by Obama administration officials, stating that "We are familiar with groups whose abuse we expose attempting to criticise the messenger to distract from the power of the message."

"Mission Accomplished" proclaims the former President, with a big grin on his face. After spending hundreds of billions of dollars to no avail, one has to wonder who the winners are. My guess is that the answer to this question can be gleaned by scanning through annual reports of companies in the defense industry. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. -BB (2010-07-26)

The Top Secret America Project: The New Praetorian Class

The first time I heard the term Praetorian used, it was in a book written by former CIA agent John Stockwell. By the time you're done reading these three Washington Post articles you should have a pretty good idea what's driving all of the recent Cyberwar fear-mongering ...

Overview of Project : "'Top Secret America' is a project nearly two years in the making that describes the huge national security buildup in the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks."

Project Articles - PART 1

Part 1 - A hidden world, growing beyond control

Part 1 - Q&A

Quotes and Comments

"The U.S. intelligence budget is vast, publicly announced last year as $75 billion, 21/2 times the size it was on Sept. 10, 2001."

"Because it lacks a synchronizing process, it inevitably results in message dissonance, reduced effectiveness and waste ...We consequently can't effectively assess whether it is making us more safe."-Retired Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines

comment: So, in other words, we have no idea if all of this money is simply a gift to the private corporate interests that help build this system.

"Secrecy can undermine the normal chain of command when senior officials use it to cut out rivals or when subordinates are ordered to keep secrets from their commanders."

"In the Department of Defense, where more than two-thirds of the intelligence programs reside, only a handful of senior officials - called Super Users - have the ability to even know about all the department's activities. But as two of the Super Users indicated in interviews, there is simply no way they can keep up with the nation's most sensitive work."

"'I'm not going to live long enough to be briefed on everything' was how one Super User put it. The other recounted that for his initial briefing, he was escorted into a tiny, dark room, seated at a small table and told he couldn't take notes."

comment: This makes me wonder if the people who are supposed to be in control are actually in control? Has the system been subverted by a cabal of mid-level people who know how to firewall the boss?

Project Articles - PART 2

Part 2 - National Security Inc.

Part 2 - Q&A

Quotes and Comments

"Out of 854,000 people with top-secret clearances, 265,000 are contractors"

"Contractors can offer more money - often twice as much - to experienced federal employees than the government is allowed to pay them. And because competition among firms for people with security clearances is so great, corporations offer such perks as BMWs and $15,000 signing bonuses, as Raytheon did in June for software developers with top-level clearances."

"A 2008 study published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence found that contractors made up 29 percent of the workforce in the intelligence agencies but cost the equivalent of 49 percent of their personnel budgets."

"The evolution of General Dynamics was based on one simple strategy: Follow the money... Revenue from General Dynamics' intelligence- and information-related divisions, where the majority of its top-secret work is done, climbed to $10 billion in the second quarter of 2009, up from $2.4 billion in 2000, accounting for 34 percent of its overall revenue last year"

comment: As I noted earlier, if all of this funding isn't necessarily making us more secure, then who is truly benefiting from the massive intel build up?

"In September 2009, General Dynamics won a $10 million contract from the U.S. Special Operations Command's psychological operations unit to create Web sites to influence foreigners' views of U.S. policy. To do that, the company hired writers, editors and designers to produce a set of daily news sites tailored to five regions of the world. They appear as regular news Web sites, with names such as ' The News and Views of Southeast Europe.' The first indication that they are run on behalf of the military comes at the bottom of the home page with the word 'Disclaimer.' Only by clicking on that do you learn that 'the Southeast European Times (SET) is a Web site sponsored by the United States European Command.'

comment: Widespread manipulation of public opinion is alive and well. Don't think for a minute that it's only limited to other countries.

Project Articles - PART 3

Part 3 - The Secrets Next Door

Part 3 - Q&A

Quotes and Comments

"From the road, it's impossible to tell how large the NSA has become, even though its buildings occupy 6.3 million square feet - about the size of the Pentagon - and are surrounded by 112 acres of parking spaces. As massive as that might seem, documents indicate that the NSA is only going to get bigger: 10,000 more workers over the next 15 years; $2 billion to pay for just the first phase of expansion; an overall increase in size that will bring its building space throughout the Fort Meade cluster to nearly 14 million square feet."

"Six of the 10 richest counties in the United States, according to Census Bureau data, are in these [Fort Meade] clusters."

"Loudoun County, ranked as the wealthiest county in the country, helps supply the workforce of the nearby National Reconnaissance Office headquarters, which manages spy satellites. Fairfax County, the second-wealthiest, is home to the NRO, the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Arlington County, ranked ninth, hosts the Pentagon and major intelligence agencies. Montgomery County, ranked 10th, is home to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. And Howard County, ranked third, is home to 8,000 NSA employees."

comment: All animals are equal. It's just that some animals are more equal than others. This is your federal tax money at work.


David C. Gompert : Acting Director of National Intelligence

Wired : "This piece is about much more than dollars. It's about what used to be called the Garrison State: the impact on society of a praetorian class of war-focused elites. Priest and Arkin call it 'Top Secret America,' and its so big and grown so fast, that it's replicated the problem of disconnection within the intelligence agencies that facilitated America's vulnerability to a terrorist attack."

The Office of the DNI : Attempts to apologize for redundancy, mission overlap, and poor information sharing.

The Atlantic: "The culture of secrecy has fascinated observers and participants for decades. It is always deplored as a fundamental rejection of American values: citizens need reliable information in order to exercise their rights, and lawmakers cannot use the cloak of secrecy to hide their own sins. But somehow, the secrecy apparatus resists all efforts to shrink it. Presidents come and go, but secret-keepers burrow deep into the government."

Salon: "Secrecy is the religion of the political class, and the prime enabler of its corruption. That's why whistle blowers are among the most hated heretics. They're one of the very few classes of people able to shed a small amount of light on what actually takes place."

Closing Remarks

"Over the past two years, one of the most thought-provoking observations I have heard from both military and intelligence folks is this: There are probably 500 al-Qaeda members left in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. At most, the organization may have a couple thousand people worldwide. Why do we need such a large intelligence effort ---the 1,300 agencies we identified that are a part of this effort--- to defeat a couple thousand people?" -Question posed by Dana Priest

Hardware-Level Malware on Dell R410s


1. This issue does not affect any Dell PowerEdge servers shipped from our factories and is limited to a small number of the replacement motherboards only which were sent via Dell's service and replacement process for four servers: PowerEdge R310, PowerEdge R410, PowerEdge R510 and PowerEdge T410. The maximum potential exposure is less than 1% of these server models.

2. Dell has removed all impacted motherboards from the service supply. New shipping replacement stock does not contain the malware.

3. The W32.Spybot worm was discovered in flash storage on the motherboard during Dell testing. The malware does not reside in the firmware.

4. All industry-standard antivirus programs on the market today have the ability to identify and prevent the code from infecting the customer's operating system.

5. Systems running non-Microsoft Windows operating systems cannot be affected.

6. Systems with the iDRAC Express or iDRAC Enterprise card installed cannot be affected.

7. Remaining systems can only be exposed if the customer chooses to run an update to either Unified Server Configurator (USC) or 32-bit Diagnostics.

RELATED: Richard Bejtlich calls out Dell to step up their game with regard to how they handled the incident.

I have to admit, this story really caught my attention.

"We have identified a potential issue with our service mother board stock, like the one you received for your PowerEdge R410, and are taking preventative action with our customers accordingly. The potential issue involves a small number of PowerEdge server motherboards sent out through service dispatches that may contain malware. This malware code has been detected on the embedded server management firmware as you indicated."

It will be interesting to see how this story unfolds. How did the malware find its way into the firmware? Who was responsible? Will we ever know? How can you protect yourself from this sort of subversion, especially on a tricked out machine that only the OEM truly understands. -BB (2010-07-21)

NPR Reports on Cyberwarrior Shortage

Years ago, when the debate over offshore outsourcing took center stage, we were told that high-tech corporations were simply following their financial prerogatives by finding new ways to stay competitive in the free market economy. Never mind the long-term strategic costs that would come back to haunt us years later when the countries we shipped our jobs off to started to catch up with us. Naturally, many students saw the writing on the wall and pursued work in other fields. Why take out all of those student loans and devote years of your life preparing for a job that's headed overseas?

This "shortage" of computer security talent: we did it to ourselves. It's a symptom of a much larger problem. The unpleasant truth is that our leaders have willfully allowed this state of affairs to develop. This is because they're beholden to a powerful group of business interests that have no real sense of obligation to the U.S. as a country. Strictly speaking, the multinationals exist to generate value on behalf of their shareholders, whoever they may be.

Furthermore, I would contend that the free market argument is nothing more than an ideological ploy that's brought into discourse whenever it happens to be convenient. What exists in our society is a thinly veiled double standard. Unemployed workers can be sternly lectured by drug-addled radio commentators on the advantages of self-reliance. But for large corporations that need to be bailed-out or benefit from wars based on imaginary weapons of mass destruction, the welfare state must thrive to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars.

To see where this trend is going to take us, I would start by reading a book published by the Cornell University Press (a notably conservative institution) entitled The State of Working America. If you want to extrapolate even further, research the origins of the term "Plutonomy."

Though free market advocates ridicule protectionist measures as decidedly un-American, Intel's former CEO Andy Grove has a few words of his own to offer:

"I fled Hungary as a young man in 1956 to come to the U.S. Growing up in the Soviet bloc, I witnessed first-hand the perils of both government overreach and a stratified population. Most Americans probably aren't aware that there was a time in this country when tanks and cavalry were massed on Pennsylvania Avenue to chase away the unemployed. It was 1932; thousands of jobless veterans were demonstrating outside the White House. Soldiers with fixed bayonets and live ammunition moved in on them, and herded them away from the White House. In America! Unemployment is corrosive. If what I'm suggesting sounds protectionist, so be it."

-BB (2010-07-21)

WSJ: Raytheon Wins $100 Million Classified Contract

According to an article written by Siobhan Gorman in the Wall Street Journal, Raytheon Co. has been awarded a $100 million dollar classified contract to perform initial work on a program called "Perfect Citizen." Note that Gorman is relying on information received from "a person familiar with the project." This report claims that Perfect Citizen is a surveillance program intended to detect cyber attacks on organizations that maintain our critical infrastructure. Both the NSA and Raytheon declined to comment.

Reuters has also looked into this development. They quote an NSA spokesman who claims that "This is a research and engineering effort... there is no monitoring activity involved, and no sensors are employed in this endeavor." Other than that, both the NSA and Raytheon are very tight-lipped about the contract itself.

The Reuters article points to a speech given by Secretary of Defense William Lynn, where Lynn states that "more than 100 foreign intelligence organizations are trying to break into U.S. systems."

What this seems to confirm is that the actual threats we face are related to espionage and cybercrime. It think it's pretty safe to assume that nation-states spy on each other, and that espionage has been going on for centuries. Furthermore, I bet we're neck deep in our own efforts when it comes to compromising systems in other countries and so it strikes me as odd that people are so shocked when we happen to be on the receiving end.

The gilded hyperbole of cyberwar exists partially because certain contracting companies, consulting firms, and federal agencies know that they stand to benefit from the spotlight that's been put on the Internet. They know that with the right amount of fear-mongering they can steer some of the resulting federal funding their way. -BB (2010-07-10)


Is Espionage an act of War?

While government officials, and former government officials, stoke the flames of hysteria, it's reassuring to occasionally hear a measured voice of dissent. I'm speaking of Bruce Schneier's recent op-ed piece on CNN. Schneier states:

"Cyberspace has all sorts of threats, day in and day out. Cybercrime is by far the largest: fraud, through identity theft and other means, extortion, and so on. Cyber-espionage is another, both government- and corporate-sponsored. But we're not fighting a cyberwar now, and the risks of a cyberwar are no greater than the risks of a ground invasion."

Based on the relative frequency of cybercrime and espionage, I would agree with him. These are the clear and present dangers. As Schneier points out, what cyberwar advocates tend to do is to lump everything together such that occurrences of espionage suddenly become acts of war. If that's the case, then it's safe to say that we're currently at war with half of the developed world, including our allies (and we have been for decades). For example, Schneier observes:

"Recent news articles have claimed that China declared cyberwar on Google, that Germany attacked China, and that a group of young hackers declared cyberwar on Australia. (Yes, cyberwar is so easy that even kids can do it.) Clearly we're not talking about real war here, but a rhetorical war: like the war on terror."

Though, I would add that, because attribution is such a basic issue, we may never know who was behind the attacks on Google. It could very well have been another nation-state using anti-forensic technology. For the time being, we only know that the attacks originated from China. I think that this is an important point.

So why all of the hyperbole? Why all of the semantic acrobatics? Why all of the doomsday Cassandra's? According to Schneier:

"It's about who is in charge of cyber security, and how much control the government will exert over civilian networks. And by beating the drums of war, the military is coming out on top."

Let's not forget all of those defense contractors and consulting firms that stand to make a tidy profit if the government decides to steer tax dollars in their direction. It's been well documented that these organizations have been bolstering their cyber divisions in anticipation of a windfall.

Instead of giving control of the Internet over to the military, Schneier advocates leveraging existing peacetime institutions that can be moderated by the judicial system and legal protections. I would also recommend that we focus on the core vectors that facilitate these attacks to begin with: like insecure software. -BB (2010-07-07)

UPDATE: Richard Bejtlich does us the service of referencing a formal defintion.

Comments on The Economist, July 3rd - 9th, 2010 Issue

The inevitable occurred this week as The Economist broached the topic of cyberwar with a couple of articles in its July 3rd issue. Note the dramatic mushroom cloud and the intimations of mass destruction. The first article concludes that "countries should agree on more modest accords, or even just informal 'rules of the road' that would raise the political cost of cyber-attacks." It also makes vague references to "greater co-operation between governments and the private sector."

When attribution is a lost cause (and it is), international treaties are a meaningless because there's no way to determine if a participant has broken them. The second recommendation is even more alarming because it's using a loaded phrase that, in the past couple of years, has been wielded by those who advocate Orwellian solutions.

The following article is a morass of conflicting messages. It presumes to focus on cyberwar, yet the bulk of the material deals with cybercrime and run-of-the-mill espionage. Perhaps this is because the author is grasping for examples to impress the reader with. Then there's also the standard ploy of hypothetical scenarios: depicting how we might be attacked and what the potential outcome of these attacks could be. The author shows his true colors in closing when he concludes with the ominous warning that terrorists "prefer the gory theatre of suicide-bombings to the anonymity of computer sabotage...for now."

What disturbs me the most is that The Economist never goes beyond a superficial analysis of the topic to examine what's driving all of the fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Perhaps that would be dysfunctional, as it might lead the press to investigate itself. To help shed light on what's taking place in the body politic, I've decided to release my Lockdown 2010 white paper and slide deck. Read through this material and then go back and re-visit the articles in The Economist. -BB (2010-07-03)

White Paper: Manufacturing Consent & Cyberwar

Slide Deck: Manufacturing Consent & Cyberwar

RELATED: A NYTimes article detailing proposed "solutions." Including Howard Schmidt's "voluntary trusted identity" system and Vinton Cerf's internet driver's license.

Dueling Banjos

Charlie Miller:"It would take two years and cost less than 50 million dollars a year to prepare a cyberattack that could paralyse the United States."

Bruce Schneier:"It's very easy to invent scare scenarios but this does not mean we should actually be scared by them."

Comments:These statements were made at a conference in Estonia that was organized by the NATO-accredited Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence. This should tell you a few things right away.

The threat of cybercrime is real, just read the articles in Below Gotham's News section. Cyberwar, however, is more likely a pretext. The ultimate question is what can we do to protect ourselves from the former and insulate ourselves from the fear-mongering agenda of the latter?

As Estonian President, Mr. Toomas Hendrik Ilves noted on the opening day of the conference: "we lack clear attribution to any political entity; we lack a response doctrine to apply were we to know who committed the aggression." This is a central issue that will define the debate that follows. I think that Richard Clarke may have touched a nerve when he started talking about regulating the software industry. -BB (2010-06-19)

Clarke Points a Finger at Microsoft

Microsoft: "Don't regulate security in the software industry, don't let the Pentagon stop using our software no matter how many security flaws it has, and don't say anything about software production overseas or deals with China."

This isn't anything new to us folks who slog away in I.T. oblivion. What's interesting is that someone high up finally got the nerve to acknowledge the truth. Until we hold software vendors liable, we can expect the same lip-service that self-regulation has generated in the past. There are some public goods that the free market simply cannot generate. -BB (2010-06-10)

Fear and Loathing at Lockdown 2010

In mid-July our frontman, Bill, will be headed to the midwest to talk about manufacturing consent and the gilded hyperbole of cyberwar. He's been invited by the folks who run Lockdown 2010 at UW. -Rick James (June 3, 2010)

Intel Myths

David Cornwell, also known by the pen name John le Carré, worked for both MI5 and MI6 before he retired in 1964 to focus on writing. His literary depiction of intelligence work is in stark contrast to the romantic stereotype promulgated by actors like Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan. In what may be his best novel to date, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, he uses the main character as a means to comment on the nature of his earlier profession:

"What do you think spies are: priests, saints and martyrs? They're a squalid procession of vain fools, traitors, too, yes; pansies, sadists and drunkards, people who play Cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten lives. Do you think they sit like monks in London, balancing the rights and wrongs?"

When spies come in from the cold they often have trench-level insights that differ sharply with popular conceptions. Take Philip Agee's 1978 book entitled Dirty Work: The CIA in Western Europe, where he dispels several myths about the Central Intelligence Agency. For example:

Myth: The major problem is lack of control; that is, the CIA is a "rogue elephant."

"As former Secretary of State Kissinger told Representative Otis Pike's Intelligence Investigating Committee, 'Every operation is personally approved by the President.' ... Successive administrations - together with American-based multinational corporations - have continually demanded the freest possible access to foreign markets, labor, agricultural products, and raw materials. To give muscle to this demand for the 'open door', recent presidents have taken increasingly to using the CIA to strengthen those foreign groups who cooperate - and to destroy those who do not."

On Recruiting Spies

On the surface, this is just another glossy article put out by a University's PR department. But there are actually a couple of interesting nuggets embedded in this alumnus biography. For example, while most of the books that I've read seem to indicate that intelligence agencies draw primarily on the military to fill positions, my own experience is that agencies like the CIA also tend to attract people who possess what might be seen as unconventional backgrounds. Sometimes these are the best hires (Fidelity's Peter Lynch was a philosophy major as an undergraduate). Sulick has both components in his background; he served in the Marines and spent years in academia studying Russian literature.

Note Sulick's recruitment tactic: "Foreigners, certainly Russians who were my main target, are proud of their literature and are proud when a foreigner knows something about it. When you discuss literature with somebody, they reveal much about themselves."

If Sulick's career trajectory is any indication, it's my guess that twenty years from now the director of the CIA's Clandestine Service will be someone who's completely fluent in Farsi and Mandarin. Perhaps they will have analyzed the Persian translation of Shuǐhǔ Zhuan. -BB (2010-05-28)

Joe Riggins: Don't be a Know-It-All

Wednesday at CEIC 2010 I sat in on Joe Riggins "Spy vs. Spy" presentation, which focused on the vagaries of the insider threat. Joe did a commendable job of maintaining our attention with a series of war stories. My personal favorite involved an engagement where a team from Guidance was inspecting a machine that processed credit card transactions. It had five (count them: five) different remote desktop applications installed on it. As it turned out, the server was managed by a number of administrators who couldn't agree on a standard package; definitely a case of too many cooks in the kitchen.

Joes also reported that organized crime elements in Russia are now making more money off of credit card fraud than the Columbian crime lords are making off the drug trade. Now that's one hell of a statement! While I'd like to know where he got that information, I wouldn't necessarily be surprised if it was true.

Finally, Joe hinted at where security software vendors will be headed to expand their market space: intelligent mobile devices. -BB (2010-05-28)

Rootkit Arsenal Discount Flyer

After my talk at CEIC 2010, a couple of people asked me where they could pick up a copy of The Rootkit Arsenal. The publisher (Jones and Bartlett) is offering copies at a discount. See the above link for details. -BB (2010-05-28)

Richard Clarke's Book Reviewed By The New York Times

More cyberwar doom and gloom. Who can come up with the best movie script? Mike McConnell or Richard Clarke? - BB (2010-04-28)

Cryptome's John Young adds his two cents:

"Pity Kakutani [book review author], dim-wittingly flogging for two highly paid promoters of cyber pearl harbors. Cybersec, a favorite DC scam spreading around the globe, meanwhile all govs and coms working together are going full speed at spying on cyber users, as ever, for racketeering national security. What the racketeers want is perfect cybersecurity for their trashing that of everyone else."

SOURCE Boston 2010 Post-Game Wrap-up

The demands of my job prevented me from staying for more than a day, so I sat in on a couple of presentations on the 22nd. Perhaps that's a good thing, as my mere presence tends to attract black helicopters and clean cut fellows talking into their sleeves. All told, Stacy Thayer and her SOURCE co-conspirators did an admirable job of managing the flow of people and events. The weather was balmy, the lobster was fresh, and (best of all) the Seaport Hotel, where the event took place, was a $2 bus ride from Boston Logan International. -BB (2010-04-23)

Assurance at Oracle

Mary Ann Davidson is a suit that doesn't sound like a suit. This is definitely a mark in her favor. During her presentation she described how Oracle is trying to build assurance into its products. She said that isn't so much about establishing a brigade of security police as much as it's about putting the requisite expertise into development so that engineers do the right thing to begin with. Prevention beats detection, so to speak. Davidson observed: "My goal in life is to be out of a job."

Opting Into Surveillance

By far, this was the highlight of the day. Moxie Marlinspike offered an insightful look at how small choices about the technology we use can end up being big choices that impact our ability to participate in society. His delivery was crisp and very entertaining. Why mandate telescreens when you can solicit people to voluntarily be monitored? Who needs TIA when we have Google? Who knows more about their local population: Kim Jong-Il or Google? (Hint: it's not Kim Jong-Il).

I was in the front row taking notes and midway through the talk he came rushing over to where I was seated. At that very moment, I had visions from the movie The Manchurian Candidate flashing through the back of my mind. The Man was finally going to dispatch me with a deep cover plant. Lucky for me, Moxie just wanted a glass of water. "I should have planned ahead," he muttered under his breath.

The Current State of Metasploit

HD was back, and this time he was wearing a suit and a bit more formal in his manner. Hey, give the guy a break, he's a father now. With the blessings of the demo gods, HD managed to pack two hours of material into a 60-minute period. As things stand now, Metasploit has attained the 100,000 LOC mark in light of full-time QA and an accelerated release cycle. He also showed off a slick GUI interface and talked about the Express version's price tag (somewhere around $3K). I think what I appreciate the most was his side-comment that the presentation basically amounted to a thinly veiled sales pitch.

Doing Away With Anonymity

This past week, experts met at a Russian-sponsored security conference in Germany.

"During a panel discussion on computer crime, Col. Gen. Boris N. Miroshnikov, an official with the Russian Interior Ministry, and Stewart A. Baker, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, and the former chief counsel for the National Security Agency, agreed that the most important step in combating Internet crime would be to do away with the anonymity that has long been a central tenet of Internet culture."

As Dan Greer has observed: "If the tariff of security is paid, it will be paid in the coin of privacy"

As Cryptome has observed: "There it is: spies oppose anonymity for anyone except their own criminal operators, winking, 'do what we say not what we do.'"

My thoughts: It's dangerous to install the machinations of a totalitarian state and then simply assume that it will never come to that. There was a time, not so long ago, when social security cards were printed with the caveat that they were not to be used for purposes of identification. -BB (2010-04-17)

RELATED: According to Lt. General Keith Alexander, the impact of new security technology on Internet privacy is classified.

Enter: QubesOS

Notable researchers Joanna Rutkowska and Rafal Wojtczuk (from Invisible Things Lab, aka ITL) have released an open source OS that uses virtualization technology to implement security through isolation. Given the architect's reputation with rootkit technology, who else would you trust to offer a secure platform? -BB (2010-04-07)

Shadows in the Cloud

This investigation is a result of a collaboration between the Information Warfare Monitor and the Shadowserver Foundation. It examines "a complex ecosystem of cyber espionage that systematically compromised government, business, academic, and other computer network systems in India, the Offices of the Dalai Lama, the United Nations, and several other countries."

As usual, attribution is an issue. The true identity of the attackers is unknown -BB (2010-04-06).

The War on WikiLeaks Continues

"At exactly the time when U.S. government secrecy is at an all-time high, the institutions ostensibly responsible for investigation, oversight and exposure have failed. The American media are largely co-opted, and their few remaining vestiges of real investigative journalism are crippled by financial constraints. The U.S. Congress is almost entirely impotent at providing meaningful oversight and is, in any event, controlled by the factions that maintain virtually complete secrecy."

The CIA document that this article links to is particularly disturbing. Basically, it confirms my suspicion that leaders often depend on voter apathy and manipulate the local population to manufacture consent. It will be interesting to see how things unfold in Iceland. - BB (2010-03-29)

After All These Years: Zero-Day Exploits Persist

Hats off to Peter Vreugdenhil, who bypassed both ASLR (Address Space Layout Randomization) and DEP (Data Execution Prevention) as part of his bid to compromise IE8 at this year's CanSecWest. Well played, Peter.

RELATED: The reknowned Charlie Miller also demonstrated his superior Black Hat Gong Fu with a Safari hack.

...One tends to wonder how much a fellow like Charlie could make on the open market by selling exploits to the people behind the current generation of APTs? This is literally the sort of technology that can make or break a covert operation. In my opinion, guys like Charlie are worth their weight in plutonium. BB - (2010-03-25)

The Cyber War Has Not Begun

In this essay, James Lewis states that: "Expanded attention to cybersecurity is a good thing, but it seems that it is difficult to discuss this topic without exaggeration. We are not in a 'cyber war.'"

Yet, this doesn't seem to have stopped people from using the term to encourage the sort of hysteria that leads to heavy federal spending. In my opinion, we need to be focusing on cybercrime, not cyberwar. - BB (2010-03-19)

Propaganda Aimed at WikiLeaks

When the New York Times publishes a story on you, you've definitely gotten someone's attention. Perhaps this is what happens when you release unclassified copy of the "standard operating procedures" at Guantnamo Bay. Recently Wikileaks published an Army Counterintelligence analysis of the threat posed by Wikileaks. The report concludes:

" uses trust as a center of gravity by assuring insiders, leakers, and whistleblowers who pass information to personnel or who post information to the Web site that they will remain anonymous. The identification, exposure, or termination of employment of or legal actions against current or former insiders, leakers, or whistleblowers could damage or destroy this center of gravity and deter others from using to make such information public."

The report also speculates that Wikileaks may be supported by the CIA. As the accusations fly, and the water becomes ever more muddied, one is left to ponder who's telling the truth. Now you know why spies refer to their professional environment as the "hall of mirrors." -BB (2010-03-18)

Military Propaganda Techniques

Comes see the tradecraft of the grand rumor mill. This excellent compilation of tactics is based upon "Appendix I: PSYOP Techniques" from "Psychological Operations Field Manual No.33-1" published by Headquarters; Department of the Army, in Washington DC, on 31 August 1979.

UPDATE: To witness a classic example of this sort of manipulation, there's an article you can view online in Monday's WSJ. When it comes to overt, state-sponsored, propaganda on a large scale, China really excels. According to the WSJ's report:

"Chinese news Web sites have also been told they will be required to use only official accounts of the situation if is closed... It's not uncommon for propaganda authorities in China to give orders dictating the nature of news coverage on sensitive issues where they fear dissent. The fact that authorities have decided that Google's situation should get that treatment suggests they know that many Chinese Internet users, tens of millions of whom are Google users, don't see things the same way the government does."

...Beware the Ides of March. -BB (2010-03-15)

RELATED: speaking of propaganda, check out the FBI's stern warning and the recent WhiteHouse "leak". -BB (2010-03-05)

The Big Haircut

Another remark that Robert Baer makes in the WSJ piece mentioned earlier is that "The art of assassination, the kind we have seen over and over again in Hollywood movies, may be as passé as killing people by arsenic or with a garrote. You just can't get away with it anymore."

This led to some lively banter among members of the lab this evening. OK, guarded by a phalanx of bodyguards and custom armored vehicles, how would one world power decapitate another nation state?

According to Colonel Stanislav Lunev, a Russian military officer who defected to the United States, the GRU planned to employ suitcase nukes to take out our leadership if the need ever arose. It makes sense, I guess. Why gamble on a huge operation that allows no margin for error when all you really need to do is get a high-yield bomb within range of a capital building?

As Baer asserted: "If it had been a Russian hit, for instance, they would have used a pistol or a car bomb, indifferent to the chaos left behind." Or, in this case, a kiloton nuclear device. -BB (2010-03-03)

Assasination Econometrics

Here's an interesting WSJ article by Robert Baer, a former CIA spook. In it, he concludes that:

"There should be a cost-benefit calculation in deciding whether to assassinate an enemy... There's certainly an argument to be made that we should have assassinated Saddam Hussein rather than invade Iraq."

This sounds remarkably similar to ideas presented by Jim Bell over a decade ago in his "Assasination Politics" manifesto. The difference is that Bell takes Baer's somewhat offhand observation and follows through with it to reach a rather novel corollary.

"Consider how history might have changed if we'd been able to 'bump off' Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo, Kim Il Sung, Ho Chi Minh, Ayatollah Khomeini, Saddam Hussein, Moammar Khadafi, and various others, along with all of their replacements if necessary, all for a measly few million dollars, rather than the billions of dollars and millions of lives that subsequent wars cost."

"But that raises an interesting question, with an even more interesting answer. 'If all this is so easy, why hasn't this been done before?' I mean, wars are destructive, costly, and dangerous, so why hasn't some smart politician figured out that instead of fighting the entire country, we could just 'zero' the few bad guys on the top?"

"The answer is quite revealing, and strikingly 'logical': If we can kill THEIR leaders, they can kill OUR leaders too. That would avoid the war, but the leadership on both sides would be dead, and guess who is making the decisions about what to do? That's right, the LEADERS!"

"And the leaders (both theirs and ours!) would rather see 30,000,000 ordinary people die in WWII than lose their own lives, if they can get away with it. Same in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and numerous other disputes around the globe. You can see that as long as we continue to allow leaders, both 'ours' and 'theirs,' to decide who should die, they will ALWAYS choose the ordinary people of each country."

Not to mention that large military operations are costly affairs, demanding a nontrivial infusion of taxpayer dollars. -BB (2010-03-02)

New Information on Aurora Attacks "Leaked"

The New York Times reports that "people involved in the investigation" have disclosed that the recent attacks on Google have been traced back to Shanghai Jiaotong University and the Lanxiang Vocational School.

First it's Taiwan, then it's somewhere in the mainland, who knows where things will lead to next? Perhaps Toledo, Ohio? As the NYTimes article concedes, "computer industry executives and former government officials said it was possible that the schools were cover for a 'false flag' intelligence operation being run by a third country."

Keep in mind that, for all intents and purposes, that this is a leak. As Cryptome has observed:

"Leaks depend upon secrets, they thrive on each other. Leakers and secret keepers are complicit and share characteristics: both exaggerate the importance of information they process, keep secret their sources and operations."

See also:

"The business of leaks has become a racket of journalism in cahoots with governments, maybe it always was, but it got a big boost in the 1960s and 70s. Leaks of secrets are now standard operating procedure of official and unofficial secret keepers to boost their budgets and privileges and to garner public belief and best of all, coins. Secret keepers supply leaks to media to lure eyeballs for advertising hypnosis."

The danger of leaks, and the gilded hyperbole that they often employ, is that they can lead to a sort of crisis mentality that's less resistant to plans that might otherwise not stand up to logical examination. Keep people off balance for long enough, on a steady diet of fear and anger, and they'll fall right into the trap that's been set for them by the people who stoke the flames of hysteria. -BB(2010-02-19)

UPDATE (More Leaks): Joseph Menn reports that an anonymous researcher working for the US government told the Financial Times that US analysts have identified the author of code used in the Google attacks.

According to this leak, the consultant who wrote this code isn't an an employee of the Chinese government and didn't launch the attack. Though he did post parts of his code to an online forum.

Great. In other words they still can't prove who performed the attack. For all we know, the attackers outsourced development, or perhaps trawled the internet looking for proof-of-concept sample code. Plenty of claims with little or no solid evidence; the SOP of media leakers. -BB(2010-02-22)

You'll Just Have to Trust Us

In matters of foreign policy, one way to sideline opposition is to employ the veil of national security. When "experts" try to pull this tactic, I'm reminded of a lecture that a former CIA officer named John Stockwell gave back in 1987. Stockwell, a Major in the Marine Corp who served on the subcommittee of the National Security Council as chief of the CIA's Angola Task Force, noted that:

"It's a very powerful argument, our presidents use it on us. President Reagan has used it on the American people, saying, 'if you knew what I know about the situation in Central America, you would understand why it's necessary for us to intervene.'"

When he questioned his superiors, they assured him that he should just focus on doing his job, that there were wise men in DC sitting in the National Security Council who had access to all the necessary information, who could see the big picture and make the tough decisions. After toiling for years in the field, Stockwell came in from the cold and was rewarded with the opportunity to peek behind the curtain. According to Stockwell:

"What I found, quite frankly, was fat old men sleeping through sub-committee meetings of the NSC in which we were making decisions that were killing people in Africa. I mean literally. Senior ambassador Ed Mulcahy... would go to sleep in nearly every one of these meetings...."

Stow this away somewhere in a far cranial recess, so that as the indictments fly over who is doing what to whom in the new cyber cold war (and why), you can maintain a semblance of objective equilibrium.

HBGary Releases Report on Aurora Malware

This a fairly comprehensive summary of what's been released to the public so far. HBGary has also developed a tool that can remotely scan Windows machines for the Aurora code and remove it. With regard to identifying the ultimate source of the attacks, the report states:

"At this time, there is very little available in terms of attribution. A CRC algorithm tends to indicate the malware package is of Chinese origin, and many attacks are sourced out of a service called, a small company operating out of Changzhou. The owner is Peng Yong, a Mandarin speaker who may have some programming background with such algorithms. His dynamic DNS service hosts over 1 million domain names. Over the last year, HBGary has analyzed thousands of distinct malware samples that communicate with While Peng Yong is clearly tolerant of cyber crime operating through his domain services, this does not indicate he has any direct involvement with Aurora."

Greg Hoglund, the company's CEO (and the godfather of Windows rootkits), recently acknowledged: "there's no hard evidence anywhere that shows that China's government has anything to do with it." Truth is, regardless of what the headlines in the mainstream media infer, we don't know yet who's responsible (though we can definitely speculate). If there's one lesson that I took from Black Hat DC last week it's that attribution on the Internet is problematic. -BB(2010-02-11)

China Toughens Cyber Laws?

Sort of ironic, given the recent NYTimes article on state-sponsored hacking. Then there's the TimesOnline report that quotes officers who believe that they should strengthen their military until China is "strong enough for a hand-to-hand fight with the US."

Talk about mixed messages. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. -BB(2010-02-07)

Black Hat DC 2010 Postgame Wrap-Up

Jeff Moss kicked off this year's Black Hat DC by observing that we'll probably never be able to completely eliminate cyber attacks, and because of this perhaps we should follow Israel's example and work on improving our response capabilities. He also mentioned the issue of attribution, my current pet peeve given all the media coverage that cyber-attacks have been getting.

Next up was keynote speaker Greg Schaffer, Assistant Secretary for Cyber Security and Communications. According to Moss, he's the highest ranking DHS official to ever speak at Black Hat. It was obvious he was up there: lots of abstract references to "spaces" and "practices." Though, I did appreciate his observation that, in the age of worldwide connectivity, every unprotected node is a potential threat. This sort of reminded me of Richard Bejtlich's "Protect The Data" blog entry.

The Joys of Whack-A-Mole

The first session I attended was hosted by a panel of speakers, including the director of Network Abuse at The underlying message (one which Joseph Menn would echo later on the same day) was that going after offenders isn't horribly effective because law enforcement doesn't work that well in an international environment. In so many words, Russia and China don't do squat (and in some cases may actually be shielding offenders). To add insult to injury, when organizations like GoDaddy suspend domains, they end up getting lawsuits thrown at them. Granted no one's ever been successful, but still it's expensive to go through all of the legal steps to get each lawsuit thrown out.

Don't Worry: It's An Art Project

Joe Grand offered an informative discussion on how to cross over to the hardware side of hacking. A lot of what he touched on (e.g. the emergence of small-scale collaboration and outsourcing) reminded me of an article that appeared a while back in Wired Magazine about the rise of DIY.

Let's Go On A Boar Hunt!

If a Russian chief of police and his henchmen invite you to go hunting late at night after several rounds of vodka, lock yourself in your room and don't open the door for anyone. In this talk, Financial Times journalist Joseph Menn offered highlights from his recently published book "Fatal System Error." All told, Menn paints a pretty ominous picture. Though attribution is possible, it's very (very) resource intensive. Couple this with the fact that Russian authorities seem to be protecting high-level offenders. Menn suggests that we start over because, as things stand now, there's no way to impose rule of law on the internet.

Black Hat DC 2010: Day 02

It's Greece All Over Again

The caveat of implementing wiretapping functionality in a network infrastructure, AKA Lawful Intercept, is that it can be turned against the people who it was originally intended to help. The Athen's Affair is a well known example of this. In this session, IBM's Tom Cross examined flaws in Cisco's lawful intercept facilities.

White Hat Hacker Mindset

Though I can relate to the basic premise of this session, that the goals of the average pen tester are constrained (and perhaps artificial), I disagree with the speaker's claim that "In general using rootkits to maintain control is not advisable or commonly done by sophisticated attackers because rootkits are detectable."

Stealth technology is part of the ongoing arms race between Black Hats and White Hats. To dismiss rootkits outright implies that this arms race is over (and I assure you, it's not). I suspect that Greg Hoglund, Jamie Butler, Holy Father, Joanna Rutkowska, and several defense contracting agencies would all agree. By definition, the fundamental design goal of a rootkit is to subvert detection.

Always Have a Good Lawyer

The grand finale of this year's Black Hat DC was a session led by HD Moore. This guy, HD, is a geek's geek; a man whose mind is working so fast that the words tumble out of his mouth like a 10 GB text file streaming to stdout. He gave the audience a personal history of the Metasploit project and some interesting insights into what can happen when the suits get involved. Congrats on the baby HD!

NOTE: I've put up the slides and white paper for my presentation.

Government Agencies Vie for Zero Day Exploits

Here's a story you don't read about every day... -BB(2010-01-29)

"There's also another, highly secretive market for zero days [exploits]: U.S. and other government agencies, which vie with criminals to offer the most money for the best vulnerabilities to improve their military and intelligence capabilities and shore up their defenses.

TippingPoint's Amini said he has heard of governments offering as high as $1 million for a single vulnerability ...a price tag that private industry currently doesn't match.

Little is publicly known about such efforts, and the U.S. government typically makes deals through contractors, Amini said. Several U.S. government agencies contacted by The Associated Press did not respond to requests for comment.

One researcher who has been open about his experience is Charlie Miller, a former National Security Agency analyst who now works in the private sector with Independent Security Evaluators. Miller netted $50,000 from an unspecified U.S. government contractor for a bug he found in a version of the Linux operating system."

Oil Companies Targeted

UPDATE: The Register has called out the mainstream media on China's connection with the recent Google attacks: "If proof beyond a reasonable doubt is good enough in courts of law, shouldn't it be good enough for relations between two of the world's most powerful countries?"

The Christian Science Monitor reports that Marathon, ExxonMobil, and ConocoPhillips appear to have suffered at the hands of an Advanced Persistent Threat ( APT ). The attacks, which took place in 2008, targeted "bid data" which details the potential value of oil-bearing land.

The use of custom tools and spear-phishing hints at the involvement of skilled teams. At the same time, I'll admit that it's refreshing to note that the experts cited in this article have the integrity to admit that attribution is a fundamental problem, forgoing the urge to shout out accusations:

"A simple thirst for oil is no proof that a country is conducting corporate espionage. Even the suggestion, contained in one of the documents, that some data had flowed from a ConocoPhillips computer to a computer in China could have been the result of some other nation's cyber-spy unit co-opting Chinese servers to cover their tracks, experts say. Lee and other specialists admit that it will be difficult, and perhaps impossible, to ever determine definitively who was behind the attacks."

Read that last sentence carefully, and repeat it to yourself over the next few months. -BB(2010-01-26)

Fear and Loathing at SOURCE Boston 2010

In April, our spiritual fixer (Bill Blunden) will infiltrate the home of the Red Sox to speak at the SOURCE Boston conference. His talk will touch on the futility of disk-based forensic analysis. Presentation date TBA. -R. James (Jan. 23, 2010)

Rootkit Envy

About now, I suppose that the engineers who designed the payloads used in the attacks on Google (whoever they may be) are wishing that the stealth technology and anti-forensic measures that they employed were half as good as those that U.S. intelligence agencies use. -BB(2010-01-19)

The China Syndrome - Updates

UPDATE: Metasploit has released a module that utilizes the IE exploit mentioned below.

UPDATE: Code used in the Google attack is now available.

UPDATE: McAfee offers more details about the attack. Also, there's a CNET article that provides additional backdrop.

UPDATE: A newsflash from Reuters reports that the United States has backed Google's decision to end its support for censorship in China. An official from the Chinese government responded that all foreign companies are expected to abide by Chinese law.

Microsoft's CEO, Steve Ballmer, is anything but sympathetic:

"I don't understand how that helps us, and I don't understand how that helps China... There are attacks every day. I don't think there was anything unusual, so I don't understand."

I would agree that attacks happen every day. However, I think that the level of expertise demonstrated by the attackers, and the precise nature of the intrusions, warrants a certain amount of attention (especially when one of the targets is a high-profile corporation that publicly flaunts the intelligence of its employees).

Perhaps China doesn't want "help?" Perhaps they'd like this whole thing to blow over so that they could get back to business as usual. - BB (2010-01-15)

The China Syndrome: "Highly Sophisticated/Coordinated Attacks"

Big names like Google and Adobe have recently announced that they've been hit by precision-guided cyber attacks. According to the WSJ, Google and Adobe were among dozens of companies that the attackers targeted. Based on Google's response, it would appear that they believe the intrusions to be state-sponsored. I can almost hear Eric Cartman (screw you guys, I'm going home).

For those readers interested in the "how" of the attacks, this article from Wired magazine offers a number of details. Consultants from iDefense leaked specifics that Google has declined to confirm.

Though there seems to be a political angle to the Google attack, one thing's for sure: theft of intellectual property can offer a huge return on investment. Just ask Vladimir Kryuchkov, former KGB Chairman:

"Intelligence is probably the most profitable structure in the country. It pays its expenses with dividends. One single operation, concerning outer space, pumped 500 million dollars into our economy."

Hell, even Ugly Betty isn't safe! (The Chinese knock-off is a show called "Ugly Wudi")

Russian Security Firm Releases Exploits

Evgeny Legerov, of the Moscow-based company Intevydis, explains why he thinks responsible disclosure is flawed and why Intevydis is releasing a series of zero-day exploits:

"We do not support it [responsible disclosure]. Because it is enforced by vendors and it allows vendors to exploit security researches to do QA work for free."

"You, ABCD company, making N millions per year selling your buggy XYZ product all over the world, why are you asking to give the results of the hard work during many years for free? Instead of wasting your and our time would not it be better to allocate resources to enforce good coding practices for all your amateur software developers?"

Offensive Technology in CS Programs

This morning the New York Times published a story detailing how American universities are scrambling to develop academic programs that focus on computer security:

"Banks, military contractors and software companies, along with federal agencies, are looking for 'cyber ninjas' to fend off a sophisticated array of hackers, from criminals stealing credit card numbers to potential military adversaries."

Here's a question: how many of these newly minted programs give their students first-hand experience creating offensive (e.g. malicious) software? The Times article mentioned an MS program in cyber-security offered by NYU-Poly. I checked out the curriculum to this program and didn't see anything remotely resembling a course on malware design. Why are institutions in other countries, like Canada and Finland, able to offer such courses? Once more, will this state of affairs put the U.S. at a long-term strategic disadvantage?

The best way to construct an effective defense is often through direct exposure to offensive technology (why should the bag guys be the only ones with the requisite know-how?). If we fail to encourage an open discussion of malware analysis and development in academia, we'll end up in a position where we're constantly playing catch-up with the Black Hats. Given the steady rise of cyber-crime over the past few years, this is not somewhere that the United States will want to be. -BB (2010-01-04)

Dry Rot And The Internet

A termite infestation is one of the most insidious and destructive predicaments that a wood-framed structure can face. Infestations typically start in some obscure corner, well out of sight, and spread silently, inch-by-inch over the course of years. Colonies can number into the millions, using a decentralized swarm intelligence that's self-organizing. By the time that the owner becomes aware of the problem it's often too late, the integrity of the entire building has been compromised.

Now imagine this scenario played out by a state-sponsored botnet that's employing a bare-metal rootkit to fly below radar level; perhaps the result of a hardware vendor cooperating with an intelligence agency to embed stealth technology at the circuit level. The infestation could occur over the span of several years, as the botnet spreads to hundreds of millions of hosts using a decentralized peer-to-peer swarm intelligence that relies on a carefully designed covert channel. The botnet could sit dormant (in a manner similar to Conficker), a massive sleeper cell that exists only to propagate, waiting for the order to wake up in the event of Wold War III. Or it could work to progressively corrupt data, instituting alterations until even the backups of backups are bad.

What would happen if the circuit-level backdoor was discovered by other nation state players and unleashed against its maker? According to researchers that I've spoken with, these are cyber-war scenarios that the DoD has examined.

But is this really what we need to be worried about on a day-to-day basis? Bruce Schneier says cyber-crime is the real threat (and I would agree with this). Though, he also pointed out in a 2005 essay that:

"The countermeasures aimed at preventing both cyberwar and cyberterrorist attacks will also defend against cybercrime and cybervandalism. So even if organizations secure their networks for the wrong reasons, they'll do the right thing."

This is akin to NASA's Apollo program, which yielded a number of technological advances as a byproduct of our ultimate goal of landing on the moon. So, even if we never actually made it to the moon, the effort would have been worth it in the long run. -BB (2009-12-30)

Open Source Anti-Virus as the Public Option

Yesterday afternoon, over lunch, a colleague of mine who was born in Hungary pointed out that the United States is the only industrialized country that doesn't provide universal health care to its citizens. Then he went on to explain how medical care was a basic human right and that society, as a whole, benefits from keeping its population in good health.

Could the same argument be made with regard to computers? Should there be a state-funded alternative (e.g. open source anti-virus) so that users could take steps to maintain the health of their systems? After all, decreasing the number of compromised machines has its benefits, right? Or would this approach just provide attackers with a better way to implement instance-specific attacks, leaving users with a false sense of security? This is one of those "dangerous ideas" that I'd encourage people to think about. -BB (2009-12-23)

Black Hat Vertical Integration

While bulletproof hosting services have proven valuable to online criminals, some groups are moving up the food chain by directly allocating blocks of IP addresses from Regional Internet Registries (RIR) and Local Internet Registries (LIR). According to a posting by Kasperksy:

"Attackers who own their own large blocks of IP space have a much easier time hiding their activities than do criminals who have to go through legitimate ISPs or hosting providers. There's no abuse desk to complain to, no recourse for people who find themselves being attacked by a given range of IP addresses."

In theory, this sort of thing shouldn't happen. The problem is that in certain parts of Europe the record-keeping and oversight facilities necessary to verify applicant organizations are lacking (again, this is an infrastructure issue). A couple of years back, the Russian Business Network was able leverage this aspect of address allocation to score a large block of IP addresses from RIPE, essentially becoming a rogue ISP.

Fear and Loathing at CEIC 2010

In May of 2010, our fearless leader (Bill Blunden) will head back to Vegas to speak at the Computer and Enterprise Investigations Conference. Anti-forensics and rootkits will likely be on the menu. Presentation date TBA. -R. James (Dec. 12, 2009)

Why Isn't China Throttling Its Malware?

Anyone who has done business in Hong Kong knows that, despite the rapid growth of mainland China, this region still has one ace up its sleeve: infrastructure, thanks to the British colonialists. Specifically, I'm talking about the legal and regulatory oversight necessary to support economic activity.

For example, if you want to buy or sell gold, it's generally less risky to do so in Hong Kong because there's a significant amount of checks and balances in place to safeguard buyers and sellers. In fact, it's fairly common for merchants from the mainland to travel to Hong Kong to deal in gold for this very reason. Simply put, the infrastructure is better.

This reality points to basic underlying flaws in China's system. Perhaps this is to be expected, given that the current system evolved as a result of thousands of years of rule by dictatorship, in one form or another. China simply doesn't have the tradition of checks and balances that are the hallmark of a democratic society. This, in turn, may explain why the vast majority of bullet-proof internet hosting services operate out of China. -BB (2009/11/29)

U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, 2009 Report

This congressional committee report, in Section 4 of Chapter 2, concludes that:

"The direct attribution of such activities targeting the United States presents challenges due to hackers' ability to conceal their locations. Nonetheless, a significant and increasing body of circumstantial and forensic evidence strongly indicates the involvement of Chinese state and state-supported entities."

The report doesn't go into the details of exactly how we know who's attacking us. In so many words, they're saying "we just know, trust us." Boy, that sounds like a slam dunk to me! I can't help but wonder if the actual perpetrator is simply making effective use of anti-forensics to place the blame on somebody else?

Regardless of who's culpable. The existence of state-sponsored hacking isn't necessarily earth-shaking news. As the recent 60 Minutes piece demonstrated, we're probably one of the more active players in this field. So, when other countries discover the existence of advanced persistent threats in their networks, some of the binaries that they recover probably can be attributed to us.

Fear and Loathing at Black Hat DC 2010

In late January, Bill will be navigating the beltway to speak at Black Hat DC 2010. Hopefully life in Northern California hasn't softened him up so much that he can't handle winter on the east coast. -R.James (Nov. 12, 2009)

Wired Magazine on the 60 Minutes Report

One side claims the 2007 power outage in Brazil was due to hackers and the other side dismisses it as the result of poorly maintained high voltage insulators. Who do you believe? This story from Wired reminds me of an observation that Bruce Schneier made recently.

"We tend to be poor judges of risk. We overact to rare risks, we ignore long-term risks, we magnify risks that are also morally offensive. We get risks wrong -- threats, probabilities, and costs -- all the time. When we're afraid, really afraid, we'll do almost anything to make that fear go away. Both politicians and marketers have learned to push that fear button to get us to do what they want."

As an experiment, read through the news stories that I've collected over the past year and ask yourself which threat seems more immediate: cyberwar or cybercrime. Naturally, some people would argue that the actual threat that cyberwar represents can't be properly evaluated because much of the truly substantive evidence must be kept secret for the sake of national security... -BB (2009/11/11)

60 Minutes: Sabotaging the System

This evening I watched a piece by 60 Minutes that focused on threats to our infrastructure from computer-based attacks. While some aspects of the broadcast verged on sensationalism (which is only natural, given that 60 Minutes is trying to attract viewers on behalf of their advertisers), I was encouraged by the inclusion of points that are typically neglected when it comes to news stories like this.

For example, take the following observation made by Jim Lewis, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies:

"We're in the top of the league. We are really good. And if you talk to the Russians or the Chinese, they say, 'How can you complain about us, when you do exactly the same thing?' It's a fair point with one exception: we have more to steal. We have more to lose. We're the place that depends on the Internet. We've done the most to take advantage of it. We're the ones who've woven it into our economy, into our national security, in ways that they haven't. So, we are more vulnerable."

Sure, our networks have been penetrated and data has been stolen. But we're not an innocent bystander here. Heck, we break into networks in other countries too, all of the time. In fact, we're pretty damn good at it. So should do we, as a country, have the right to be indignant when intruders breach our security? Personally I think embarrassment might be a better response. Obviously our offense is much better than our defense. But why does this state of affairs exist? The 60 Minutes report hinted that part of the problem has to do with the financial prerogatives of the corporations that create high-tech products. Specifically, Congressman Jim Langevin noted that:

"The private sector has different priorities than we do in providing security. Their, in a sense bottom line, is about profits. We need to change that. We need to change their motivation so that when we see a vulnerability like this we can require them to fix it."

In my opinion, instituting meaningful change is going to be difficult, as legislators will be forced to bite the hand that feeds. Don't think for a minute that all of those hi-tech lobbyists will roll over and purr if our representatives start talking about measures that might adversely impact the bottom line. Offshore outsourcing, for instance, represents a long-term threat to the technical leadership that the United States has maintained since World War II. Yet, our legislators are woefully silent when it comes to actually doing anything about it. Guess what happens when most of our hardware is manufactured in other countries because it's cheaper? According to Jim Gosler:

"We have found microelectronics and electronics embedded in applications that shouldn't be there. And it's very clear that a foreign intelligence service put them there."

Would you like some fries with that? -BB (2009-11-08)

Peter Kleissner: It's Just Technology

After presenting the "Stoned Again" bootkit at Black Hat USA 2009, Peter's then employer (Ikarus Software) asked him to resign. This is ridiculous. As Professor George Ledin of Sonoma State has pointed out, it's probably more dangerous not to have an open discussion of malware technology. It seems the AV industry would rather gag everyone and stifle external research.

Reading this Washington Post article made me think of Colonel Kurtz from the movie Apocalypse Now.

"I've seen horrors... horrors that you've seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer... you have no right to judge me."

Microsoft's (Lack of) Forensic Tools - Continued

A reader contacted us this morning to let us know that Microsoft does actually offer a forensic tool. It's a custom USB drive that ships with a suite of 150 commands. Unfortunately, Microsoft seems to limit distribution of its forensic thumb drive to law enforcement personnel.

The tool's public announcement, from 2008, can be viewed here. Microsoft's official page for this product is here.

Can You Believe It? They're Spying on Us!

Yet another vague story from the Wall Street Journal about an unnamed company that had its machines compromised by intruders who were "likely supported, if not orchestrated," by the Chinese government. Note that attribution is one of the primary issues when it comes to cyber-attacks. Recall the news stories that came out earlier this year that had legislators clamoring for retaliation. As it turned out, the reported attacks didn't come from North Korea, but from somewhere in Miami (or who knows where).

Keep in mind, dear reader, that the art of starting wars has been honed for thousands of years. Whenever I read this sort of story, I'm reminded of a particularly chilling quote from Gilbert's Nuremberg Diary that's attributed to Hermann Goering:

"Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger."

Finally, just to be fair, even if this actually is the work of attackers backed by China, I'm pretty sure we're spying on China also. It's just that we're not as noisy or conspicuous when we do. -BB (2009/10/23)

The Invisible Giants

In the early 1900s, the city of Cleveland established itself as a center of economic activity. Its status was reflected by the fact that, in the wake of the Federal Reserve Act, Cleveland was chosen to host one of the Fed's twelve regional banks. The driving force behind Cleveland's ascent during this period can be traced back to the Van Sweringen brothers, who developed a railroad empire that was based in the city. The Van Sweringen brothers were elusive, low key, billionaires. One might even go so far as to say that discretion was their hallmark. They literally had a man on their payroll whose sole job it was to keep their name out of the papers. The economic equivalent of a rootkit, they preferred to exercise their power indirectly from behind the scenes, with subtlety. Hence, cynics who scoff at the notion of hidden rulers and their intermediaries in the power structure might be well advised to recall a statement made by then President Woodrow Wilson:

"A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is privately concentrated. The growth of the Nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men... We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated, governments in the civilized world, no longer a government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and the duress of small groups of dominant men."

Related: Thought control in economics. A professor at Wellesley observes that "supply and demand curves only determine prices in perfectly competitive markets, which don't exist. I considered this key to my students' education, especially since mainstream economists apply the framework inappropriately so often."

We're Number 1 (Well, Sort Of)

As of 7:27am PST (2009-09-17), The Rootkit Arsenal is the #1 selling book in the Security category of the "Business & Culture" sub-section of the "Computers & Internet" section at Though, strictly speaking I think I should point out that with its overall sales ranking of 8,399 the book is hardly the most popular technical book at My suspicion is that books are assigned to these carefully delineated groups for marketing purposes. Ahem. Anyway, having put this into context, I'd like to extend my thanks to everyone who's read the book and also to my cohorts here at Below Gotham Labs. Keep those e-mails coming. -BB

State-Sponsored Rootkits

Recently, a professional malware developer who worked for ERA IT Solutions (a commercial software company that supplies security tools to the Swiss government) released VoIP monitoring code to the public. That's right, you heard correct, there are professional software engineers actively designing malware on behalf of national governments.

Security through obscurity may not be an impenetrable shield but it is a barrier, and not always a trivial one. Results that might take an independent lab several months of excruciating reverse engineering might only take a few days for a lone engineer who happens to possess the necessary design documents and specifications. Having the cooperation of OEMs and software vendors can make the difference between a buggy proof of concept and a robust, production-quality, implementation with all the bells and whistles. This is because effort that otherwise would be spent isolating magic numbers and decomposing obscure protocols can be directed towards actual software development.

I'll probably never know exactly how far ahead state of the art rootkits are from what we see at conferences like Black Hat. I don't have the requisite security clearance. But if my instincts are correct, the things that show up in the public sector are relatively basic instruments that merely hint at what's been done by the intelligence agencies. To see what I'm talking about, check out the rootkit described in this article. -BB (2009-08-30)

Microsoft's (Lack of) Forensic Tools

For many years, I wondered why Microsoft couldn't release a set of utilities that were as serviceable as those offered by the researchers at Winternals. Then, on July 18th of 2006, Microsoft announced they were acquiring Winternals. Will we have to wait for a similar event to occur in order to have access to robust, native, forensic tools?

After all, if anyone possesses the information necessary to build a stable and comprehensive suite of forensic tools for Windows it would be, well, Microsoft. Perhaps they're worried that such apps would be used by reversers to peek at things that they're not supposed to? Who knows? I just wish that I could sidestep the process of having to deal with freeware that randomly crashes or shelling out big bucks for overpriced third-party software. -BB (2009-08-19)

Sun Tzu and Cyber War in Georgia

"A wise general makes a point of foraging on the enemy. One cartload of the enemy's provisions is equivalent to twenty of one's own, and likewise a single pound of his provender is equivalent to twenty from one's own store" -Sun Tzu, The Art of War

While reading the Wall Street Journal's article on the DDoS that took place last year in Georgia, I couldn't help but think of the above quote. The perpetrators used our infrastructure to support their attack. They used U.S.-based social-networking sites, stolen American identities, and modified code that Microsoft provides for free.

As the article observed: "cyber-warfare has outpaced military and international agreements, which don't take into account the possibility of American resources and civilian technology being turned into weapons."

Encryption Keys and Plausible Deniability

Recently an article appeared in the Register about two people who were convicted for failing to reveal their encryption keys to authorities. If you're using an encryption package that allows you to create, and encode, a virtual file system (i.e. a large file that the software mounts and treats as a logical disk), one way you could protect yourself would be to create a secondary encrypted file system within another. This way, if you're coerced into providing an encryption key you could offer the key to the outer file system (which you might want to populate with a smattering of decoy files) while concealing the inner file system somehow. This is the motivation behind TrueCrypt's "hidden volume" feature.

I suppose that if you really wanted to be paranoid, you could create yet another encrypted file system within the secondary file system...

Computer Security Meets Ulam's Dilemma

Stanislaw Ulam was a Mathematician from Poland who came to the United States at the outbreak of World War II and subsequently was involved in the Manhattan Project. He observed that, over time, mathematics had grown into such a vast discipline that making progress required focusing on a narrow area of specialization. The problem with this tendency is that it makes it much more difficult to grasp, and appreciate, developments in other sub-domains.

Having walked the halls at Black Hat, I can see the same thing happening to computer security. Fields like web-based attacks and firmware exploits are so rich with ideas and technical minutiae that specialization is becoming a matter of necessity. The emerging ecosystem that supports the creation and deployment of malware reflects this fact. One engineer builds a rootkit that gets bundled as a payload in an exploit used by a worm that's written by another engineer, who then sells it to someone else who uses it to seed the internet and grow a botnet, that gets rented out by a front man from somewhere else...

Like an Eskimo stuck on an iceberg that's breaking apart, it gets harder and harder to keep a foothold on every field until finally it becomes impossible. Eventually, you have to choose your own little plot of conceptual real estate and try to keep an eye on related subjects. In the worst case, you choose an area that dwindles into obscurity (remember Trusted Xenix?), and then, well, it helps if you can swim.

Black Hat USA 2009 Material Posted

Here's the white paper and slide deck that I presented at Black Hat USA 2009. My comments on the event follow below.

Black Hat USA 2009: Postgame Wrap-Up

Looking back over the two-day event, the first thing that struck me was the sheer scale of the conference and how well they were able to manage the flow of people. Caesar's Palace was definitely a suitable venue for this conference.

I started off the first day with the keynote address by Douglas Merrill, whose talk revolved around psychological acceptance (i.e. security measures are futile unless users are willing to actually use them). Next, I sat in on Peter Kleissner's presentation on the Stoned Again Bootkit, which detailed a framework for loading arbitrary payloads into the kernel during system startup.

The highlight of the morning session was the talk led by Peter Silberman and Steve Davis , from Mandiant, who demonstrated how to re-construct Metasploit intrus