By 2004 I had moved to a slightly different place at GlobalSecurity.Org, still doing pro bono public research on various security topics.
This work moved into the domain of poison recipes, specifically those for ricin and alleged home-made chemical and biological weapons, which had originated in the American survivalist extremist fringe during the Eighties. By the Nineties these tracts had been migrated to the Internet and simultaneously translated into Arabic.
In terms of practical things, this was one of the first places you could see at least one of the claims made by the US government, delivered by Colin Powell in his address to the UN Security Council, on reasons for war in Iraq, shot to pieces.
The London ricin ring as a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda had been part of Powell’s presentation and the material published at Globalsecurity destroyed it.
Around 2006, the public work was formally moved to Dick Destiny blog.
Material published through here pushed back against mainstream and government claims that al Qaeda had capability in biological chemical weapons and that documents found on the Internet conferred equal capabilities to any jihadis interested in them.
While unpublicized that effort has been a success.
With the help of others the official public position was modified. One example was the grudging concession in the 2008 report from the US Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism: “We accept the validity of intelligence estimates about the current rudimentary nature of terrorist capabilities in the area of biological weapons … ” (Page 39.) Those intelligence estimates were not furnished by the US government’s analytical apparatus. They came from the work of outsiders, from here and analysis provided by colleagues.
Other proof is the anecdotal evidence that mainstream news is no longer littered with scare pieces insisting that al Qaeda men in some broken down hideout can make WMDs because of global access to terror capabilities granted by the Internet. Still, occasionally I have to issue burn notices on retired CIA men who resist getting the message. One example of such, from last year, is here.
Not bad for a blog.
Since then regular readers know I’ve kept up the fight while expanding into system domestic problems of economy and inequality which threaten the nation’s security in ways foreign threats during the war on terror never could.
This short history touches upon why the work has mattered. And so I ask for your help in keeping it moving forward and vital. Please help spread the word.
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In today’s New York Times, Roger Cohen has a piece that compares Europe and the US. It begins by focusing on the old meme of ‘can-do’ American exceptionalism and history, trying to point out how Europe was exhausted after the bloodlettings of the World Wars while we were poised to leap ahead.
This is tired news but a popular thing to reminisce about now because of national decline. It’s the equivalent of any standard pep talk given by any high school coach — “boys, we can do anything we set our minds to, it’s not the size of the dogs in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dogs, etc (!)” — before taking the field and receiving a good beating, anyway.
Bits Cohen uses as illustrative moments are the battles of Verdun and the Somme, two things which have no comparisons in US history.
One of the things you awaken to is that it’s now almost a century since Europe ripped itself to shreds at Verdun. Geoffrey Wheatcroft recently calculated in The New York Review of Books that British losses on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916, given respective populations, were the equivalent of “280,000 GI’s killed between dawn and dusk.”
The Great War had its midcentury European sequel. And so power passed to America. It was of a United States ascendant that Berlin wrote, a confident nation assuming responsibility for the world.
Cohen later gets around to writing that Europe has obviously recovered and even has some stuff to teach us.
However, he might have added, for the sake of a cautionary tale, the American experience that introduced the nation into its decade of decline.
This country lost a mere fraction of the people the French lost at one battle and the Brits saw killed at the Somme.
But we completely lost our heads, essentially declaring permanent war on about half the world. The military and national security infrastructure ballooned and we threw away millions of middle class jobs so giant multi-national corporations and the wealthiest could thrive even more during this period.
At one point Cohen wonders about what can be done, suggesting wanly that Bill Clinton recently had a good essay on the matter in Newsweek.
I’m trying to figure out why job seekers don’t have the skills companies need; why the community colleges and vocational programs, which have done such a great job for America, are not providing more people with the skills to fill these vacancies. Do people just not enroll in the right programs or do they drop out because of the economy? I hope we can find out.
It’s a self-reinforcing delusion caught, like a disease, from just reading all the cant delivered by your social peers and cronies in the business and opinion pages of the nation’s newspapers.
People don’t lack skills in the US. When Fender and Gibson fired most of their domestic workforce involved in making electric guitars and shipped those jobs to China it wasn’t because the Chinese had set up community colleges which taught people how to make rock and roll instruments and Americans had grown stupid and unskilled.
If you look at pictures from the old Fender plants in a semi-official history of the company, The Soul of Tone, there were plenty of people in evidence making things. And they were obviously not all initially trained in community college. And they didn’t pick it all up in high-school industrial arts classes. Jobs were offered and they were trained, for example — to assemble guitar amplifiers, at the plants. Period.
It’s not that hard to train people. But “lack of training” is an excuse for the real reason corporate America isn’t hiring. It just isn’t interested in American labor. Bad for the bottom line when you can do it elsewhere.
The world didn’t stop wanting electric guitars because they are old and were invented back in the Fifties. And this country’s middle class can’t survive by complete conversion to making a few pricey big ticket items for the corrupt militaries of the world. Or whatever passes for made things that the world’s wealthiest can buy in the next few years. Becoming the equivalent of chocolate truffle and symbols of ostentatious living makers to the world isn’t going to cut it.
It’s absurd that “climate change” has become an unpronounceable phrase under Obama and that green technology initiatives have been stymied by sterile ideological dispute. Intelligent use of resources makes strategic sense for America whatever your hang-up on global warming. It’s equally absurd that private U.S. corporations, having made $1.68 trillion in profits in the last quarter of 2010 and sitting on piles of cash, are doing fine while job numbers languish and more Americans struggle.
None of this makes moral or any other sense. America needs an energy policy and an industrial policy. It has to lead in green technology and — purist capitalist reflexes notwithstanding — it must find ways to get corporate America involved in a national revival.
Unfortunately he knows, and so does everyone else, that’s just not going to happen.
I get one or two interview requests a week on cybersecurity lately.
The conversations always hinge on matters of absolutely no interest to the American middle class. Most popular now: “What would a cyberwar look like?”
I usually don’t answer such questions with predictions or go-alongs.
This is because the term “cyberwar” has been so abused and overused it’s effectively meaningless.
Its only utility is to rivet a reader’s attention. And while it still merits discussion there’s no capacity for conducting any kind of thoughtful debate on it in the national media. Or the halls of Congress or anywhere that’s not behind walls of secrecy.
Anyway, cybersecurity and cyberdefense, like much national security, is now almost totally split away from the interests of average people.
The American economy, which has turned on the middle class, is the foremost consideration in life. Not whether or not the CIA’s website is taken down or defense contractors and banks are invaded by hackers.
Last week, a new story arose, inspired by fear of LulzSec, which has since allegedly disbanded out of boredom.
Banks, it was said, wanted to be protected in cyberspace. Not out of any sudden realization that cybersecurity adds value and is a good thing to practice but because said banksters were worried about the cyber-paupers getting into their stuff and the scandal and momentary public embarrassment that entails.
And in this they show what can be seen when people lose all faith in corporations and government institutions. There’s no sympathy for the defense contractor or giant financial multinationals that are hacked.
If you find anything at all, it’s something closer to “they had it coming.”
Lynn and others also say the Pentagon must more aggressively protect the networks of defense contractors that possess valuable information about military systems and weapons’ designs. In a new pilot program, the Defense Department has begun sharing classified threat intelligence with a handful of companies to help them identify and block malicious cyber activity on their networks.
Over time, Lynn said, the program could be a model for the Homeland Security Department as it works with companies that run critical infrastructure such as power plants, the electric grid and financial systems.
[The bold-faced objective is of absolutely zero value to average Americans. No one will see any benefit, ever, on whether or not the Lockheed Martins of the US are protected from hacker breeches by the Pentagon. Lockheed Martin's financial and proprietary business interests are the only things served
Another paradox here is that Lockheed Martin has very aggressively marketed its cyber-defense arm to the US government and military. Commercials are not hard to find in which the company portrays mock cyber-attacks being warded off by their brave and canny cyber-defenders..]
At a recent Capitol Hill hearing, incoming Pentagon chief Leon Panetta, the outgoing CIA director, said the U.S. must be aggressive in offensive and defensive countermeasures.
“I’ve often said that there’s a strong likelihood that the next Pearl Harbor that we confront could very well be a cyberattack that cripples our power systems, our grid, our security systems, our financial systems, our governmental systems,” he said.
Panetta is the hero of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. But that does not mean he is a whiz-bang in all matters.
The “electronic Pearl Harbor” trope in reference to cyber-attack is now about fifteen years old.
In the first page list is something I wrote back in 1997 entitled “Electronic Pearl Harbor — Not Likely.”
A great deal has changed since them. But my title, as one of the few predictions I have ventured, remains solid.
Routinely, as one sees if one scans up the search page, are many many trivial writers declaring how “electronic Pearl Harbor” may have already happened. (Or what it would look like.)
The original Pearl Harbor, it’s worth noting, was impossible to overlook.
A cursory reading of these beware-of-electronic-Pearl-Harbor notices since the late Nineties reveals their sameness. All of them are ultimately based on the simplistic idea that unknown enemies on the other side of the world can overturn substantial portions of the US by flicking a few software switches.
This is essentially the result of two things: now way-old American national security infrastructure near psychotic paranoia over magical technological surprise that never occurs and now way-old methodology on massaging the national treasury for funding.
The other bits in the current arguments about cybersecurity and cyberwar are the warnings that the financial system could be hit.
The world economy was put in a tailspin by Wall Street financial systems in 2008. It has yet to recover.
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.
In the last edition of the series, I mentioned Bob Graham, the ex-WMD Commission chairman who carved out a niche for himself as top salesman for the bioterror defense industry. Graham’s eternal message has been that apocalyptic bioterrorism is coming, so spend more now on bioterror defense.
Graham also fell into the role of professional committee chairman.
If a president has to put together a fig leaf commission to “research” something, Graham is always picked. Because no one wants him for anything meaningful outside selling bioterror defense spending.
So life as a professional Washington chairman soaks up the rest of his time, along with publishing contracts for books no one who isn’t paid to would read.
Then it’s always back to selling the dread of bioterror …
Having dumped that load of well-earned steaming hot superciliousness one other thing needs to be added. In the ten years of the war on terror, Bob Graham has never been right about anything.
Graham’s lesser Siamese twin in this matter is ex-GOP Senator Jim Talent, whose only legislative contribution came during the Clinton administration as part of Newt Gingrich’s Contract On For America and its subsequent Welfare Reform Act.
Jim Talent’s signal contribution, bless his heart, was to make it harder for the poor to get food stamps. This made him a darling of the Heritage Foundation on the subject of entitlement.
Like Graham, Jim Talent is nothing but a shill for the bioterror defense industry. And in that role he recently contributed horrible, what amounts to virtually fraudulent testimony, to Congress.
Removing bioterrorism from the category of WMD will neither be quick nor easy, but it is vital to both America’s economic and national security. I would remind you that bin Laden had a background in construction. It shouldn’t be surprising that he chose to attack buildings in America, because he understood what damage could be wrought by flying fully-fueled, wide body airplanes into those structures. Al Qaeda’s new leader is just as determined to attack America. His formal training was in medicine and infectious disease—one more reason we worry about bioterrorism. But this is not just about al Qaeda.
If the FBI is correct in its assertion that Dr. Bruce Ivins was the sole perpetrator of the 2001 anthrax letter attacks, then a single individual with no training or experience in weaponizing pathogens, and using equipment readily available for purchase on the Internet, was capable of producing high-quality, dry-powdered anthrax. The only difference between producing enough material for several envelopes and enough material to attack a city is just a matter of a few months production work in a laboratory, rather than the few hours of late night work cited by the FBI investigation.
The bottom line on the feasibility of bioterrorism is quite clear.
This is Jim Talent arguing with distinctly unusual illogic that Bruce Ivins, one of the nation’s foremost experts on anthrax, working in the nation’s foremost laboratory on biodefense, with the best access to gold standard anthrax spores in the world … proves that anyone — those completely without training — could do the same.
Here’s a fellow who has never had a single serious course in microbiology in his entire life, a man who wouldn’t know a Gram stain from a grass stain, as an “expert” on bioterrorism and how one makes diseases into weapons before Congress of the allegedly most advanced country in the world.
It’s flabbergasting in its audacity.
But it’s consistent with the bioterror defense industry lobby. Its people will say anything, twisting facts until they’re totally unrecognizable, just to further the message that more money needs to be sent to its clients.
Talent references his new organization, the private sector WMDCenter, here.
By lobbying standards, it’s a small and relatively insignificant shop. And although it pretends to be bipartisan, it’s not. There’s very little interest in anything it does on the left side of the aisle.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The photograph on Home Depot’s website shows a line of smiling soldiers unloading a truck stacked with power tools and other company wares.
The company says this shows “federal dollars go farther at The Home Depot.” San Francisco Attorney Paul Scott says the photo also shows the company providing Chinese-made products in violation of the Buy American Act, and the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating.
A federal judge in April refused Home Depot Inc.’s bid to toss a whistle blower lawsuit Scott and other attorneys filed against the Atlanta-based company. Now the country’s largest home improvement retailer is the latest company accused of running afoul of the Buy American Act, a 1933 law aimed at protecting U.S. jobs. The law requires that all materials used in construction of public projects originate in the United States or “designated countries.”
As a practical matter, this probably encompasses cruel and unusual punishment. That’s because it’s virtually impossible to find any goods not made in China (or other Asian country) in middle American big box stores.
And that description now always ties to the question, “Why do poor whites always vote for the people who harm their livelihoods the most?”
Vulgarly, heevahavas, are ignorant, or very misled, on the issues which will have direct influence upon them. But they are easily inflamed and mobilized by emotional cultural issues and a rage against “elites.”
This problem has become more pronounced in the US in 2012, successfully fed by very visible national decline, unstable irrational political leadership, economic collapse and the natural scapegoating that has resulted when the desperate are trying to keep heads above water.
And technology, particularly the media and the Internet, has not been a leveler. Specifically, because neither yet effectively communicate truth. The antidote is personal and direct education on the economic issues which dictate quality of life. Destruction of labor equals destruction of the middle class wage earner.
Dr. [Wayne Flynt, professor emeritus, Auburn] says the political problem working people face is what he calls “hard support” for Republican and conservative politics …
“They don’t want to pay taxes. They don’t care about public schools,” he said. “They particularly don’t want to pay for black kids in public schools. They are not going to subsidize schools in Birmingham, Huntsville, Montgomery and Mobile, in the inner-city. And they are certainly not going to support schools in the Black Belt, where virtually all the kids are black.”
So people like former Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, a.k.a. the “Ten Commandments Judge,” who is now talking about running for president even though he can’t even win a Republican primary for governor in Alabama, argue that the “real issue” is abortion, and the solution is posting the Ten Commandments in public places such as courts and schools.
“Well, obviously, posting the Ten Commandments is not going to make that happen,” Dr. Flynt said.
“We’ve just seen by what happened in Wisconsin what the real agenda is: To make the United States like Alabama was in the middle of the 19th century.”
People in Wisconsin were even talking about the so-called “Southern policy” toward economic development. “Of course above all else it is anti-union,” he said. Basically it means: “Keep unions out (and) stop regulation of business.”
“I think you are going to see a lot of elections turn around in 2012 in places like Wisconsin and Ohio, where finally, apathetic voters discover that all those battles that were so painfully won by your mother and father, your grandmother and grandfather, are going to be taken away if you just apathetically sit there on your rear-end …
So, he said: “What labor’s going to have to do is find a way to communicate with their members who are interested in the economic issues and the future of their jobs, and their kids’ jobs, and using that media in order to educate themselves, educate their members, tell their members, ‘Hey! Have you watched this? Cause you really need to watch this. Because this is where you’re going to learn an awful lot of stuff … about regulations, about jobs and about the future.”
It’s no secret that the big mainstream media often rips off journalists at smaller net publications as well as bloggers. However, it’s still startling when you see someone with a sterling reputation caught at it.
The Awl, a Minnesota altie, excoriates Rolling Stone and Taibbi for not attributing much of the detail and color research, which had appeared previously in a variety of smaller venues — including blogs, that went into the Bachmann piece.
The backlash against the lashing out against presidential candidate Michele Bachmann has already begun. Following the Palin blueprint, Bachmann plans on fully leveraging the negative publicity with her base: they see leftist attacks as a point of pride and an indication of strength.
This outpouring of disgust is coming at the expense of the excellent local bloggers in Minnesota who have long tracked and fact-checked Bachmann. Their work will be the uncredited foundation of probably every Bachmann hit piece you’ll read between now and 2012. It’s begun with the self-destructive chewing-out that Matt Taibbi gave Bachmann in Rolling Stone …
The parade of uncredited use of material from Ripple in Stillwater [blog], and several other Minnesota blogs that have dogged Bachmann for years now, is likely to continue as well. Publications such as the Minneapolis City Pages and the Dump Bachmann blog have been the original sources of numerous stories about Bachmann’s career foibles.
For example, in the Rolling Stone piece, Taibbi writes …
The Awl then back-to-backs originals from original Minnesota small media sources and Taibbi’s piece.
They effectively point out the total lack of proper attribution.
Rolling Stone editor Eric Bates is questioned about it and gives a lame excuse not worth repeating.
Last week, Taibbi used his Bachmann source as the basis for his first appearance on Olbermann’s Countdown as a regular contributor.
“I can’t believe he ever came here,” one of the source who was not attributed, , blogger Karl Bremer told the Awl. “Actually, he didn’t: Taibbi confirmed to me that he never set foot in Minnesota for the piece,” it ends.
The curse of Michele Bachmann put the voodoo to Matt Taibbi.
From a review of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present in the NY Review of Books:
In possibly the best chapter of the book, Madrick recounts the irony of how Reagan, the great moralizer, made unchecked greed and runaway individualism not only acceptable, but lauded, in the American psyche.
Replace “Great Depression” with “the financial crisis and its aftermath,” and it could be John Boehner today, rather than Friedman in 1962, speaking these words. Like Reagan, Friedman proclaimed a creed of greedism (our term)—that unchecked self-interest furthers the common good.
Madrick’s character-centered narrative makes it seem as if the triumph of greed was the result of a series of contingent events: the inflation of the 1970s, the exploitation of that inflation by Reagan and Friedman, the wheeling and dealing of the likes of Sandy Weill, and the diffidence of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Yet surely there must have been deeper forces at work.
We have argued elsewhere (and are not unique in doing so) that white backlash—especially Southern white backlash—against the civil rights movement transformed American politics, creating the opportunity for a major push to undermine the New Deal. Also, it’s hard to make sense of the growing ability of bankers to get the rules rewritten in their favor without talking about the role of money in politics, and how that role has metastasized over the past thirty years. There’s another book to be written here—perhaps less personality-centered and hence less entertaining than Madrick’s, but one that gets at the forces that made the reign of financial villains possible.
But today’s Republicans remain firmly attached to greedism … It has now become orthodoxy on the right—despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary—that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, not Angelo Mozilo and Countrywide Credit, are to blame for the subprime mess. While proclaiming themselves defenders of the little guy, Republicans are currently hard at work undermining the Obama administration’s consumer protections that would largely prevent a replay of rapacious subprime lending.
Still only a 1-in-4 chance the GOP will smash the economy by refusing to raise the debit ceiling, at InTrade.
Reader J points to a speech at Bank of America Sucks.
While I personally condemn violence of any kind, I am stunned that they are not participating more in the Tea Party, even rioting in the streets, clashing with the cops, conducting sit-ins at their colleges, interrupting political events and so on. Instead, the young people of this generation appear to be sound asleep, lethargic and seemingly unaware of how badly their generation is being royally abused by the deep-seated corruption and abuse of power in the government …
Except for the superior human beings who volunteer for U.S. military service, I am not impressed with this generation. They are being led to their own slaughter and are blindly following along instead of fighting for their own survival. Text or twitter that, Millennials.
Ted, obviously not up on LulzSec. Also wounded that more young whipper-snappers don’t come to see his casino and ag fair tour.
Because a 21-year-old man was caught on a security camera urinating into a city reservoir, Oregon’s biggest city is sending 8 million gallons of treated drinking water down the drain.
Portland officials defended the decision Monday, saying they didn’t want to send city residents water laced, however infinitesimally, with urine.
The 21-year old, a fellow named Josh Seater, has had his emission video viewed many, many more times than his first ultimate fighting cage match, here.
This afford an opportunity to again attack the myth that water supplies are easy targets for terrorism.
As explained in the news story, the problem facing any would-be despoiler is dilution.
Urine, which isn’t particularly noxious, well — Josh just couldn’t supply enough of it. By about six orders of magnitude.
This apparently meant nothing to the local heevahavas who came to the decision, because of public revulsion, that eight million gallons had to be dumped.
During summers of my college years, I managed the Pine Grove community swimming pool, which held half a million gallons and was served by a two story pump-and-filter house, the water purified by drop percolation through granulated coal and sanitized by elemental chlorine injection.
Of course, customers urinated in the pool all the time. The chlorine kept the water free of fecal bacteria. The coal pulled out all the ammonia.
Any large standing body of water, the community pool was no exception, attracts animals.
The critters most frequently fished from the swimming pool were snapping turtles (from a nearby canal) which were always alive. And frogs, which were dead about half the time.
The urine-in-the-water supply near Seattle mentions dead animals being found in the reservoir, as well as regular use by water fowl.
There aren’t any poisons which, in small amounts, can threaten a water supply of this size. Theoretically, botox is poisonous enough, but the toxic protein complex simply wouldn’t survive long enough once dumped, in any quantity, into the water. The US had a cracked plan to do this during the Cold War. Developed in 1953, it was nonsensical.
The only “sort of” controlled experiments using poison to toxify large bodies of water in recent times have been in California.
“Late in 2009, reports of Northern Pike showing up in angler catches began again, indicating another failed attempt [at Lake Davis],” says an entry at Wikipedia. It is hard to know if it is true.
Anyway, even this type of thing is quite beyond the capabilities of any terrorists.
There is one way to contaminate water and most people know it with a little prodding. Oil spills.
Between one and two quarts of motor oil was enough to contaminate the Pine Grove community pool, forcing its closure for about a week, in the mid-Seventies. The lifeguards and janitorial staff had to remove the oil, which had maliciously been put in the pool overnight by a couple of local vandals, by skimming.