Winning hearts and minds campaign deemed possibly ‘sick’

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, War On Terror at 1:01 pm by George Smith

Today Secrecy Blog posted a copy of the Army’s Military Intelligence Bulletin, this particular edition devoted to th Human Terrain System.

The Human Terrain System “is a U.S. Army program to conduct social and cultural studies in support of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan,” writes Steve Aftergood. “The Bulletin provides theoretical and practical accounts from HTS personnel in the field.”

For instance, one of the accounts from the new bulletin contains an interesting if unintentionally hilarious account of some US information operations in Iraq:

With adolescents growing up in the recent decade, the word “sick” refers to something that is “crazy, cool, insane.” To people living in the US 10 to 30 years ago, the word “sick” had a different definition — “afflicted with ill health or disease, ailing” or “mentally, morally or emotionally deranged, corrupt, or unsound: a sick mind.” Now consider the development of an IO campaign to discredit a group of insurgents: “Those people are sick.” The American who lived in the US 10 to 30 years ago would understand this to mean that the group is mentally deranged or morally corrupt. However, an American adolescent today would interpret this to mean that the group is really cool and hip. Rather than being an abstract issue, this problem actually negatively impacted US IO in Iraq on numerous occasions. In the summer of 2010 an IO campaign was pursued to portray several individuals and insurgent groups as criminals. Unfortunately, the Arabic language used presented these people in more of a “Robin Hood” fashion and may have assisted in recruitment.

In other words, if you speak in the language of a duffer or military stodge, it may not communicate quite what one thinks to a younger generation in a different country.

In another section of the bulletin HTS researchers present numerous colored maps of Afghanistan.

Maps can be quite helpful in understanding where you are. And sometimes not so much, depending on circumstances.

For these maps, a red area denoted where locals were very unlikely to report IEDs to authorities. A yellow are was explained to mean the locals were “somewhat unlikely” to report IEDs to authorities.

But what if one is on the boundary between a red and a yellow or moving from one to the other? Which level of “unlikely” should be assumed?

And how much ‘likely” is in the “likely” in green areas where the color is said to signify the locals are “likely” to report IEDs?

One can see the conundrums that might arise in the determination and weighing of a variety of “likely” stories, so to speak.

Secrecy Blog’s post on Military Intelligence and the Human Terrain System magazine is here.

As an exercise, it is left to DD blog readers to determine the precise meaning of the word “sick” in the title of today’s post.

Locals in this area perhaps thought not likely to report IEDs.


All they need is Facebook and that Google guy, right?

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 11:24 am by George Smith

Remember when Facebook and that Google guy freed Egypt from tyranny?

It worked so well I went to Cairo last week to see the New Digital World’s Fair of Democracy and Freedom expo. Indeed, I have been posting on my Facebook page all this week from the bank of the Nile. I just didn’t geo-tag it on my wall.

Tom Friedman on the power of Google Earth to free the downtrodden from tyranny, March last year:

While Facebook has gotten all the face time in Egypt, Tunisia and Bahrain, don’t forget Google Earth, which began roiling Bahraini politics in 2006.

Tom Friedman, lecturing the gullible at a university:

Friedman also noticed that the most explosive group of citizens were young men who used Facebook as a means of rallying protestors. Friedman compared these Egyptians to a tiger just let out of its cage, dangerous and unpredictable. They were ready for a change and did not care if the rest of the world was ready. Friedman used this example to warn students about the hazards of posting information for the world to see. Once the citizens pressed “enter” on their Facebook pages, the protest was forever immortalized in the cyber world. Nothing could be changed, and the world would soon see the effects of their electronic planning.

Tom Friedman today, Facebook and the Google guy gone missing:

The young Egyptians who drove the revolution are desperate for the educational tools and freedom to succeed in the modern world. Our response should have been to shift our aid money from military equipment to building science-and-technology high schools and community colleges across Egypt.

Yet, instead, a year later, we’re in the crazy situation of paying $5 million in bail to an Egyptian junta to get U.S. democracy workers out of jail there, while likely certifying that this junta is liberalizing and merits another $1.3 billion in arms aid. We’re going to give $1.3 billion more in guns to a country whose only predators are illiteracy and poverty.

Build science and technology high schools and community colleges? What they really need is more Facebook and Google guy pixie dust, right?

So where is Facebook Google guy?

“Wael Ghonim attended the International Monetary Fund (IMF) meeting in 2011, stating that ‘I feel like Joe the Plumber,’ referring to the conservative activist who became a shorthand for populist outrage during the 2008 U.S. presidential election,” reads his Wiki page.

“In April 2011 Ghonim announce he was taking a ‘long term sabbatical’ from Google in order to start a ‘technology focused NGO to help fight poverty & foster education in Egypt … In May 2011 Ghonim said that he has signed a ‘Revolution 2.0’ book deal …”


Wayback Machine: We demonstrated how to take down the grid, 1998

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism at 1:03 pm by George Smith

From the archives of the old Crypt Newsletter, a collection of excerpts from the nation’s newspapers on Eligible Receiver, in 1999, collecting pieces spanning about three years. Eligible Receiver was an exercise, ostensibly done to test what could be done to hack the country’s infrastructure. It was actually only a set of simulations and musings. And it’s real purpose was to have a something upon which to build an alarming narrative on vulnerability to take the country’s news organs.

Contrast with recent news of exercise run to overawe congresspeople, mentioned here.

The meaning of Eligible Receiver

From the Crypt Newsletter (JOSEPH K) Guide To Tech Terminology:

Eligible Receiver: A Pentagon ghost story repeated ad nauseam to journalists and the easily frightened in which ludicrous or totally unsubstantiated claims about menaces from cyberspace are passed off as astonishing deeds of techno-legerdemain performed by cybersoldiers working within a highly classified wargame.

Usage: Author James Adams claimed in Techweek magazine that Pentagon hackers employed in Eligible Receiver “did more than the massed might of Saddam Hussein’s armies, than the Nazis in the Second World War.”

Since its first appearance in 1997, Eligible Receiver, like the phrase “electronic Pearl Harbor,” has become a good watermark for identification of uncritical, unsophisticated journalism addressing the potential for cyberterrorism to lay low the nation.

Although never substantiated with solid proof by Pentagon leadership, Eligible Receiver has become an article of faith in the mainstream newsmedia and still appears quite regularly since its genesis almost three years ago as prima facie evidence of what hackers could do to plunge the empire into chaos.

Characteristics of invocations of Eligible Receiver can include any or all of the following: there were 20, or 25, or 35, or 50 hackers; the hackers were from or hired by: [the Pentagon, the NSA, the Joint Staff], the national power grid was taken down, the 911 service was taken down, troop movements were disrupted, the hackers were more powerful than Nazi armies in World War II, laptops were bought, laptops were stolen, software was bought off-the-shelf, software was obtained from the Net, unspecified secret computer systems were compromised and/or unspecified public computer systems were compromised.

Here then, a selection of examples of Eligible Receiver in the news:


On October 9, 1999, the Los Angeles Times published a story on the Pentagon’s Moonlight Maze hysteria entitled: “In Theory, Reality, US Open to Cyber-Attack — An NSA test exposed vulnerability of critical computer systems to hackers; Outside assault proved it.”

In paragraph seventeen, buried near the end of the Los Angeles Times piece, Drogin writes: “Indeed, the evidence suggests a certain amount of hype and hysteria have overshadowed the reality of cyberspace.”

It was an inadvertently telling choice of words, for in just the story’s second paragraph — one of the piece’s impact points — Drogin fell prey to the same phenomenon.

Drogin invoked the Pentagon ghost story of Eligible Receiver — the secret DoD wargame conducted two years ago which proponents of “electronic Pearl Harbor” insist demonstrated the nation could be flattened by cyberattack.

Drogin wrote: “The [Eligible Receiver] hackers broke into networks that direct 911 emergency systems.”

It was a clear and rather extravagant error.

Appearing in June of 1998 to testify before Congress, Ellie Padgett, deputy chief of the National Security Agency’s office of defensive information warfare spoke of how Eligible Receiver addressed the alleged vulnerability of the 911 phone system.

In a simulated exercise, Padgett said, “we scripted (an) Internet message (that) would be sent out to everybody saying there was a problem with the 911 system, understanding that human nature would result in people calling the 911 system to see if there was a problem.”

The working idea in this part of Eligible Receiver revolved around the hypothesis that many people viewing the message on the Internet in a newsgroup might panic and phone their local 911 trunk, causing a jam-up on the line.

“It can probably be done, this sort of an attack, by a handful of folks working together . . .” Padgett said.

This is an extremely far cry from Drogin’s assertion that the 911 system was broken into by alleged Eligible Receiver hackers. In fact, it has nothing at all to do with breaking into a 911 computer system, whatever that might be.

However, it is consistent, thematically, with the flavor of the mythology propagated on Eligible Receiver …

In fact, during an interview with Crypt Newsletter in the summer of 1998 concerning Eligible Receiver, a Pentagon spokeswoman for the affair asserted “no actual switching systems” were broken into at any time during Eligible Receiver. She went on to say that Eligible Receiver had only simulated these attacks on NSA computer networks set up to emulate potential domestic national systems.

Nevertheless, Drogin also wrote in paragraph two of the Times piece: “In less than three months, the [Eligible Receiver hackers] secretly penetrated computers that control electrical grids in Los Angeles, Washington, and other major cities.”

The lead claims in the Los Angeles Times article are the framing points for a larger discussion on how Moonlight Maze has publicly proved what the Eligible Receiver exercise secretly demonstrated two years ago, which constitutes another rather extensive leap in linking the facts that are known about both.

Drogin quoted from counter-terrorist “czar” Richard Clarke:

“An enemy could systematically disrupt banking, transportation, utilities, finance, government functions and defense.”

The Clarke quotes are functionally identical to the same statements made for Signal magazine in August of this year when it was suggested that the Freedom of Information Act could be “modified” as part of a plan to help protect us from cyberattack. They add nothing to the actual body of knowledge on Moonlight Maze.

For the complete Clarke-uttered propaganda published in August see the “electronic Pearl Harbor” archive.

“It’s cheaper and easier than building a nuclear weapon,” said Clarke for the LA Times.

Buried in Drogin’s piece was comment by John Gilligan who “directs information technology and information systems at the [Department of Energy.]”

Gilligan, while talking about hacker attacks, “[also argued] that the danger is usually overstated,” according to the Times.

“To get access to the electricity grid computers, to start to shut some of the grid, you have to really work at it . . . To do a Pearl Harbor, you need a lot of inside information.”


The September 19, 1999, issue of New Scientist magazine invoked the mythos as an example of what “cyberwar” could do in an article entitled: “To the virtual barricades.”

“[Electronic Pearl Harbor” can be done — as was demonstrated two years ago when the US Department of Defense conducted a ‘war game’ to test its defences against cyber attacks. In an operation dubbed Eligible Receiver, fifty hackers tried to infiltrate DoD systems using only the simplest of hacking tools.

“Their task was to simulate an attack from North Korea. Despite the best efforts of the DoD, intelligence and security agencies, and the private sector . . . the hackers reduced a virtual electricity grid to 50 per cent effectiveness in just seven days.”


On June 26, 1999, the Christian Science Monitor featured a story entitled: “The hidden dangers of information warfare.”

The Monitor’s reporter cited the Pentagon’s secret exercise, Eligible Receiver, in the standard manner.

“. . . Operation Eligible Receiver demonstrated the potential vulnerability of the U.S. government’s information systems. The National Security Agency hired 35 hackers to launch simulated attacks on the national information structure. The hackers obtained ‘root access’ – the highest level of control – in 36 of the government’s 40,000 networks.

“If the exercise had been real, the attackers would have been able to create power outages across Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, and New York. They could have disrupted the Department of Defense’s communication systems (taking out most of the Pacific Command) and gained access to computer systems aboard U.S. Navy vessels.

“It was a disturbing exercise. So much so, that several top White House officials have spoken of the possibility of an ‘electronic Pearl Harbor’ attack on the U.S. mainland. Added to these vulnerabilities is the fact that most Americans have no sense of how information warfare will affect them.”

Further along, the Monitor called upon James Adams, appearing here as CEO of IDefense — a firm that advertises its skill in preventing potential “Eligible Receivers,” to provide the pro forma warnings.

“It is a very serious problem,” said Adams for the Monitor.


From the April 1999 issue of “Government Executive,” a reporter writes on the danger of cyberterror to the national networks:

“The liability posed by such dependence became clear when the Pentagon conducted an exercise known as Eligible Receiver in 1997. Using off-the-shelf technology and software downloaded from hacker Web sites, a team of about 20 employees from the National Security Agency hacked into unclassified Pentagon computer systems. The surprise exercise, designed to expose weaknesses in computer security, succeeded beyond the planners’ wildest expectations. Among other things, the exercise showed how hackers might disrupt troop deployments.

“It was startling,” [Deputy Defense Secretary] John Hamre said. ‘We didn’t really let them take down the power system in the country, but we made them prove that they knew how to do it.'”


From an April 22, 1999, issue of “Inside the Army:”

“Two years after Eligible Receiver, a joint exercise conducted by DOD in which virtual ‘terrorists’ used stolen hardware from a government facility to gain control over secret computer systems without being detected, the military finds itself ‘in full-scale conflict,’ [Deputy Secretary of Defense] John Hamre said. Important lessons learned over this period include ‘that cyperspace ain’t for geeks, it’s for warriors,’ he said.”


From a March 22, 1999 report by Associated Press writer Laura Myers entitled “Study Finds Hacker Threat a Real Danger.” Reporter Myers appears to be only vaguely familiar with the Pentagon claim and gets a figure wrong.

This is hardly a liability for the mythos. Even Pentagon proponents of “Eligible Receiver” can’t seem to agree on the number of people involved.

Myers nevertheless passes on the growing legend as proof of national danger:

“In 1997, a national security team of about 20 people, in a cyberwar game [Eligible Receiver] lasting three months, gained access to unclassified Pentagon computers, giving the team the ability to disrupt troops movements.”


From an interview on cyberterrorism conducted with Senator John Kyl by the United States Information Agency (USIA), published in November 1998:

Kyl: Well, [cyberterrorism is] surprisingly easy. It’s hard to quantify that in words, but there have been some exercises run recently. One that’s been in the media, called Eligible Receiver, demonstrated in real terms how vulnerable the transportation grid, the electricity grid, and others are to an attack by, literally, hackers — people using conventional equipment, no “spook” stuff in other words.


From the Fall 1998 issue of the University of Southern California’s “Networker” magazine:

“Operating under the code-name Eligible Receiver, 35 people working for the National Security Agency targeted unclassified computer systems across the country. Employing only hacking tools downloaded from the Net and standard-issue computers, the team reportedly accessed the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii – in charge of 100,000 troops – among other targets.

“‘We didn’t really let them take down the power system in the country, but we made them prove that they knew how to do it,’ Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre told the press.

“Before Eligible Receiver, what you had was a bunch of driven geeks and a few admirals and generals dotted around who said that ‘this is really important stuff’ and a bunch of traditionalists who were saying ‘yeah, right. It’s all just rubbish, really,’ says Adams. ‘Well, Eligible Receiver gave everyone a very nasty shock because it showed that the whole system could be devastated,’ he adds.”

Editor’s note: James Adams wrote a book called “The Next World War,” published in 1998, that based most of its premises that computers would fight all future wars on Pentagon claims like “Eligible Receiver.” The book was pilloried for passing on myths and April Fool’s jokes, such as the Gulf War virus hoax, as fact. [Adams also founded a computer security company called iDefense. Many years ago it declared bankruptcy and faded away.]

“[Eligible Receiver] resonated at the Department of Defense, which has 2.1 million computers, 100,000 local area networks, and more than 100 long-distance networks. Eligible Receiver was ‘a very telling example for all of the senior leadership here,’ says Susan Hansen, a [Pentagon flack] for Secretary of Defense William Cohen.


From a USIA interview (published in November 1998) with reporter James Adams, here advertised as the CEO of “Infrastructure Defense,” a firm started to help protect from potential Eligible Receivers:

“The ‘hackers’ taking part in the exercise — called Eligible Receiver — were, in fact, U.S.government employees. They were given no advance intelligence. They bought their laptops from a local computer store.

“The hackers successfully demonstrated that they could with ease break into the power grids of all the major U.S. cities — from Los Angeles to Chicago to Washington, D.C., to New York — that were linked to the U.S. capability to deploy forces. At the same time they were able to break into the -911- emergency telephone system and could comfortably have taken both of those networks down . . .”


From a September 2, 1998, Jane’s Defense Weekly piece on information warfare and the Department of Defense:

“In one Joint Chiefs of Staff simulation, known as Eligible Receiver, US officials posing as terrorists were able to shut down key command and control systems at US Pacific Command headquarters.”


In an August 2, 1998 story by Cox Newspapers’ by Andrew Glass entitled: “Target America: Computer Warfare,” the Pentagon grail is credited with turning off all operations of the DoD’s Pacific Ocean/Asian command as well as the 911 system.

Sun Tzu — an ancient and quite dead Chinese military philosopher — is credited with the germ of the idea, too, somehow.

“Last June, the National Security Agency staged a ‘red team’ exercise, code-named Eligible Receiver, in which agents pretending to be North Koreans infiltrated the command-and-control facilities of the U.S. Pacific Command in Honolulu — demonstrating their ability to neutralize most U.S. armed forces from Okinawa to San Diego for many hours without firing a shot.

“Attaining 100 victories in 100 battles is not the pinnacle of excellence,” [Sun Tzu] wrote in ‘The Art of War,’ the earliest known treatise on military science. ‘Subjugating the enemy’s army without fighting is the true pinnacle of excellence.'”

And, further on:

“Appearing last June before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on technology, terrorism and government information, Ellie Padgett, deputy chief of the NSA’s office of defensive information warfare, told of one aspect of the worrisome success in Eligible Receiver.

In a phase of the exercise that simulated attacks, she said, ‘we scripted (an) Internet message (that) would be sent out to everybody saying there was a problem with the 911 system, understanding that human nature would result in people calling the 911 system to see if there was a problem’ — thus causing the overloaded phone system to crash.”


In a speech in Aspen, Colorado, in late July 1998, the Pentagon’s John Hamre said of Eligible Receiver: “A year ago, concerned for this, the department undertook the first systematic exercise to determine the nation’s vulnerability and the department’s vulnerability to cyber war. And it was startling, frankly. We got about 30, 35 folks who became the attackers, the red team . . . We didn’t really let them take down the power system in the country, but we made them prove that they knew how to do it.”


From a June 1998 Congressional Governmental Affairs Committee meeting chaired by Congressman and former actor Fred Thompson who played a naval commander in the movie adaptation of Tom Clancy’s “The Hunt for Red October”:

“Lt. General Minihan, the Director of the National Security Agency, will identify in greater detail the nation’s vulnerability as revealed in a recent war game known as Eligible Receiver. The Committee also will explore whether the [Y2K] problem will increase America’s vulnerability to attack. As we approach the 21st century, will terrorists and rogue nations test their information warfare weapons without fear of being caught and insert data smart bombs into the nation’s computers for use at a later date?”


From a May 24, 1998 story in the Washington Post written by Bradley Graham:

“Many details of the exercise, dubbed Eligible Receiver, remain closely held. But according to official sources, a group of 35 NSA specialists simulated a series of rolling power outages and 911 emergency phone overloads in Washington and a handful of other cities. They showed that large-scale blackouts could be caused by targeting computerized sensing and control devices known as Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition systems, which have become common substitutes for human monitors in operating electrical, oil, gas, transportation and water treatment systems.”


From an April 23, 1998 press conference led by Kenneth Bacon, the Pentagon’s head flack:

“And that was one of the, as I said, one of the signal achievements of the exercise the Joint Staff ran, ELIGIBLE RECEIVER, to improve the awareness of people within the Department of what the computer security issue is.”

The archives of the old Crypt Newsletter.

A Rock the Fort show that would take balls

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll at 10:47 am by George Smith

I’m astonished by the level of mediocrity in ideas and words it takes to touch off a controversy in some part of the military. It sure doesn’t take much to put the feeble minds on edge.

You read about Marine Gary Stein and expect fire-breathing. The reality is a dullard who can’t write and a Facebook page filled up by a crowd cheering a milchtoast’s taunting of the presidency.

Or there’s the alleged struggle to get a rock concert for atheists, to balance the Bill Graham evangelicals, in the cauldron of steel and bravery that’s Fort Bragg.

And who’s on the bill?

Richard Dawkins. Sound of air going out of tires, people muttering angrily in the audience.

Now, if someone wanted to show balls, and balls are what it takes to be an airborne man, this is the rock concert headliner you’d have at Fort Bragg. To show balance, to demonstrate tolerance and equal regard for all. In honor and celebration of now being able to say you’re gay in the army! To infuriate Jerry Boykin.

Rock the Trans Special Operations Command.

I love it! And a great rip on the old Wilson — Phillips hit, “Hold On.” And, unlike the rest of the flat tires in the recent stories on allegedly trying to make statements, it rocks.

In other matters, I’m betting Willam Belli was tossed off RuPaul’s Drag Race this week because he told Pam Anderson he was wearing a new pair of Versace shoes while in the spotlight.

I’d think the contract the contestants sign stipulates they not do anything that looks like a product endorsement.

Who knew Fort Bragg was loaded with sissies?

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll at 9:49 am by George Smith

Latest mainstream news controversy, the flip side of the Gary Stein coin, a soldier who got his rock concert for atheists approved at Fort Bragg after a long battle for equal representation.

This as a personal cause, a counterbalance to Rock the Fort, a big concert Billy Graham Ministries puts on for the airborne troops.

From the wire:

After a sometimes painful 18 months of gestation, Sgt. Justin Griffith of Fort Bragg, N.C., exclaims, “My baby is about to be born!” His baby is Rock Beyond Belief, apparently the first major atheist event on a U.S. military base.

Griffith, 29, who has served five years in the Army, including two deployments to Iraq, has been wrestling with the overwhelmingly Christian establishment in the Army since September 2010 to get to this point.

The March 31 event is Griffith’s answer to Rock the Fort — a day-long evangelical Christian concert and festival held at Fort Bragg on Sept. 25, 2010, put on by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, with the support and blessing of the military brass. It was the fourth in a series of events sponsored by the group on various U.S. bases dating to 2009.
Among the headliners for the all-day atheist festival on the base are scientist Richard Dawkins, the rock band Aiden and singer/songwriter Roy Zimmerman.

I can consult my rock critic pals like Chuck Eddy and Metal Mike Saunders about the bill. We’d have a really good laugh at the idea.

Richard Dawkins and rock. Not in this universe. Dawkins is big with tech nerds. It’s his audience.

The XVIII Airborne Corps and the US Army Special Operations Command? And Richard Dawkins? You’ll have to pay ’em to go, and maybe even then they’d just run off with the money for some decent beer. That’s what I’d do.

Fort Bragg, not exactly the place you’d find wimpish tech geek fans of Richard Dawkins, despite the post’s tongue-in-cheek title.

Rock the Fort, the Billy Graham Ministries organized festival, doesn’t have quite as bad a bill as Rock Beyond Belief.

But it’s still total crap.

The headliner is Hawk Nelson, a Canadian band accurately described as as second or third tier sissy boy rock.

There are a lot of sweater vest and polo shirt twinky rock bands in North America. The Jonas Brothers and Disney TV guaranteed it. Hawk Nelson aren’t even close to being the best, if that’s the word to use.

The video — well, the little cheer-leading girls are nice.

Real big in the US Army’s airborne corps. Fer sure.

By the way, you can still vote for something a lot better than this dross. Unlike all the above, we do rock. Plus we’re mean and old coots, despising activist atheists and proselytizing evangelicals equally.


Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 9:18 am by George Smith

Mark Fiore does the iGadget/Apple lampoon. Run, don’t walk.

“Unlock our true potential with iLobby,

Because most of our cash is overseas.

When a company becomes this rich,

Tax cuts, become more brilliant …”


No mo’ Gary Stein, puh-leez!

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 5:20 pm by George Smith

Gary Stein, the US Marine who dared, DARED, to put up a Facebook page and publish his one sentence Tea Party slogans here, the story goes, is threatened with being given the boot from the Corps.

Why, for Heaven’s sake?

Gary Stein, by the evidence of his own hand, isn’t exactly the brightest guy on the block. The Tea Party page doesn’t deliver anything you haven’t seen before, furnished hot and furious but in the same dull way favored by all good Tea Party Patriots.

A sampling:

“The is the Tea Party not the Me Party”

How’s that “Hope and Change” thing working for you?

You don’t raise the taxes to meet the budget…. you cut the budget to meet the taxes… its (sic) common sense budgeting… its (sic) the Tea Party Budget.

Sorry about that last post… We have fixed the issue… Let just be very very clear… Racism is not now, never has, and never will be acceptable here at AFTP. Any racist comment will be deleted and you will banned! -Gary Stein


Gary Stein’s page, contrary to his post about the Tea Party not being the “me” party, is really about his popularity now.

Not his fault. But he’s not exactly avoiding the perks of exposure.

Reads an AP story today:

A Marine sergeant who started a Facebook group that is openly critical of President Barack Obama and posted comments saying he will not follow the unlawful orders of the commander in chief is facing possible dismissal from the Corps.

The Marines on Wednesday told Sgt. Gary Stein — a Camp Pendleton Marine who started the Facebook page called Armed Forces Tea Party — that he is in violation of Pentagon policy barring troops from political activities.

Stein, a nine-year member of the Corps, said he started the page to encourage fellow service members to exercise their free speech rights

Gary Stein deserves to stay a Marine. And his opinions, along with those who comment on his Facebook page, are fine. They are all as boring as he is, if more spittle-spraying. It’s cyberspace. That can’t be helped.

Pages and pages of people’s one line comments, all misspelled, cursing the president and Democrats. Real dangerous outside-the-box thinking and free speech. Such insubordination. Such bravery to say what you truly believe, such uprightness.

When all is said and done there will be a book contract in it. Gary Stein could be the next Joe the Plumber, fer sure.

The Bogometer is blinking red … reset it, please

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism at 3:47 pm by George Smith

History means a lot on the cybersecurity/cyberwar beat. Particularly not knowing it.

If you’re reporter on the cyber-disaster line you probably don’t remember what went on five years ago. And, under no circumstances, do you recall or even care what transpired before that. Short attention/retention is your thing. To be otherwise threatens the job security, making it harder to work.

So most have no idea how truly deadening and repetitive is the messaging on the subject.

Names change a little. But the claims are always the same. The sky is about to fall.

Lots of reasons for it in the US psyche. Almost too many to write about thoroughly in even a year’s worth of blog posts.

Today, among others having to do with being self-serving, there’s the national trait, or character flaw, of a kind of bragging grandiloquent importance coupled with the bright seam of American paranoia toward the outside world.

And it’s all hung on the hooks of bad days from national history.

Add a strong dose of the American belief that sometimes bullshit magically transforms into not-bullshit if a few people with well-known names in Congress say it. (This being part of abuse of argument from authority and the American techno-shaman reliance upon truth being a matter of majorities quoted in the press, mentioned a few hours earlier.)

From The Hill on March 17:

Lawmakers and administration officials have warned of potentially catastrophic consequences if Congress doesn’t pass cybersecurity legislation this year, but some observers question whether the rhetoric is overblown.

“Think about how many people could die if a cyber terrorist attacked our air traffic control system and planes slammed into one another,” Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) testified at a Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing last month. “Or if rail-switching networks were hacked — causing trains carrying people, or hazardous materials — to derail and collide in the midst of some of our most populated urban areas, like Chicago, New York, San Francisco or Washington.”

At the hearing, committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said he feels like it’s Sept. 10 2001, on the eve of a devastating terrorist attack.

“The system is blinking red – again. Yet, we are failing to connect the dots – again,” Lieberman said.

Senior administration officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FBI Director Robert Mueller, performed a classified demonstration of how the government would respond to a cyber attack on the New York City electrical grid in front of dozens of senators earlier this month.

“The simulation was realistic and illustrated just how dangerous inaction on cybersecurity legislation can be,” Rockefeller said. “If we don’t take these steps now, we’ll be back at this again at some point in the future, only it won’t be an exercise.”

The hearing and demonstration were part of a push for Congress to pass the Cybersecurity Act, a bill authored by Sens. Lieberman and Susan Collins (R-Maine) that would give the Homeland Security Department the authority to require that critical private computer systems meet certain security standards.

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, on September 9, 2003:

Cybersecurity expert warns of post-9/11 vulnerability

Almost two years after the devastating attacks of 9/11, former Bush White House adviser Richard Clarke sounded the alarm in Pittsburgh about a cyberattack that could be just as damaging to the national psyche, arguing that the federal government remains “slow” and “very 20th century” in its preparation for computer-based terrorist threats.

Clarke, in an interview yesterday on Carnegie Mellon University’s campus, singled out the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, led by former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, for being sluggish in making cyberspace a true national security priority. The department, Clarke noted, has yet to appoint a director and several key managers to its National Cyber Security Division — a group asked to implement a protection plan Clarke developed before leaving the Bush administration in February.

The problem, Clarke said, is that Homeland Security leaders still “think of risks to our society in terms of things that explode and incidents that have body bags. In the 21st century, as the power blackout of Aug. 14th proved, a great deal of damage to our economy and disruption to our way of life can be done without anything exploding or anybody being killed.”

Clarke’s insistence that the country pay attention to cybersecurity has made him a polarizing figure in the computer industry and Washington D.C., where he has worked for the last four presidents and advised three of them on intelligence and national security matters.

He left the White House as Bush’s cybersecurity czar in February, to become a consultant. Known for his contempt of bureaucracy and his critique of pre-Sept. 11 intelligence failures, Clarke emerged after 9/11 as the digital Paul Revere, warning that the country’s electrical power, finance, telecommunications, transportation, water and especially the Internet are all vulnerable to cyberattack.

In making his case for shoring up the nation’s electronic infrastructure, Clarke is getting support from Pittsburgh and specifically, CMU. With Clarke’s assistance, CMU computer scientist Roy Maxion sent a letter last year to President Bush warning that “our nation is at grave risk of a cyberattack that could devastate the national psyche and economy more broadly than did” the 9/11 attacks.”

The letter, cosigned by Maxion’s CMU colleague John McHugh and more than 50 of the country’s top computer scientists, laid out a nightmarish scenario involving the sudden shutdown of electric power grids, telecommunications “trunks,” air traffic control systems and the crippling of e-commerce and credit card systems with the use of several hundred thousand stolen identities. “We would wonder how, as nation, we could have let this happen,” the letter said.

Maxion and his co-signers proposed a five-year cyberwarfare effort modeled on the World War II Manhattan Project, requiring an investment ranging from $500 million to $1 billion per year. “The clock is ticking,” the letter said.

Some critics maintain that Clarke and institutions such as CMU, which was awarded $35 million in federal funds last year to fight cyberterrorism, are hyping a threat that does not really exist — especially in the case of al-Qaida, the organization that carried out the attacks of 9/11.

Dorothy Denning, one of the country’s top cybersecurity experts and a professor at the U.S. Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, Calif., said she did not sign her name to Maxion’s White House letter because “I had a certain amount of reservation about whether or not it needed to be bought to that level of attention.”

Denning has not “seen the kind of devastating attacks people are worried about,” and she hasn’t “seen terrorists actively pursing” the Internet as a weapon. Clarke, Denning added, is right to point out the “vulnerabilities in our infrastructure that could be exploited” by everyday hackers and admitted that “bad things could happen.” But “until those things do happen, no one knows what the cascading effect might be.”

Another skeptic, George Smith, is more harsh in his appraisal of Clarke’s admonitions.

“I can’t think of a single Clarke prediction or warning that was right or of any lasting value,” said Smith, senior fellow with Alexandria, Va.-based defense think tank GlobalSecurity.Org.

He added: “In 2003, it takes no great intellect to say the nation is in great danger from the electronic frontier. The fantastic claim always gets attention, diverts the mind from thornier but mundane problems … Far easier to say al-Qaida is looking to turn off the power. You don’t ever have to prove if there is even a small nugget of truth to it.”

Terrorists, Smith said, “are interested in creating bloodshed and terror. The Internet doesn’t rise to this level of impact in a way that a truck bomb does.”

Referring to the e-mail virus that has been plaguing computer systems of late, Smith argued that “you can get three or four hundred copies of SoBig in your e-mail box a day — a thousand, two thousand — and it just has no physical impact no terror juice to it.”

But Clarke, who was in Pittsburgh yesterday to speak at a computer intrusion detection conference, said he has been in this position before, warning of national security threats that some would not take seriously. Clarke, a counterterrorism coordinator under President Clinton, was among those who worried about Osama Bin Laden’s capabilities before the events of 9/11.

“An awful lot of people, unfortunately, don’t believe (a cyberattack) will happen,” he said. “And as with terrorism itself, we learned from 9/11 that you can yell and yell and yell and imagine something happening and say it is going to happen, as I did with regard to al-Qaida, and no one believes you enough to act until it happens.”

As for al-Qaida, Clarke claims that some of its followers have master’s degrees in computer science, and that “there is lots of evidence that al-Qaida has downloaded sophisticated hacking tools because we have seized their computers and know what’s on them. So, I do think there is grounds for concern.”

But focusing on al-Qaida is missing the point, he said. “I don’t think it is terribly important who the enemy is. It doesn’t matter. What you need to worry about is the vulnerabilities.”

There are some encouraging signs that the country may be safer from cyberattacks than it was before 9/11, according to Clarke.

There is anecdotal evidence, he said, that the companies that control much of the country’s electric power generators, telecommunications lines, rail terminals and shipping containers are taking the voluntary security steps asked of them in Bush’s National Plan for Protecting Cyberspace, developed by Clarke and released earlier this year.

Bush’s plan relies on U.S. business, rather than the federal government, to shore up the nation’s computer security infrastructure. Clarke, in fact, came to Pittsburgh twice last October to drum up support for the plan, making the point that for U.S. businesses the increased costs of preparing for an attack do not have to drain a company’s productivity.

Some critics, responding to requests from the Bush administration that U.S. firms make themselves more secure, argued that companies have little incentive to pay for such measures in a slow economy.

Others said the plan itself lacked federal firepower.

“If (Clarke) had made it to correspond with the urgency of his warnings, it would have been a strong strategy with teeth in it, capable of compelling the private sector to improve security practices in many different ways,” said Smith, the senior fellow with think tank GlobalSecurity.Org. “However, when unfurled, it had no power. It might as well have not been written.”

But Clarke maintained yesterday, in an interview, that U.S. companies and the federal government are spending more money on cybersecurity and that the viruses that plagued computers this summer are forcing CEOs to pay more attention to the problem. Clarke, during his speech yesterday at CMU, even expressed confidence that this issue is making its way into pop culture, citing the recent movies “Terminator 3” and “Matrix Reloaded.”

In the latter, Keanu Reeves’ character Neo takes a tour of Zion, the last human city to survive outside the computer-generated Matrix, and is told that Zion’s citizens do not think about the machines that power the city until the machines stop working.

Paraphrasing Neo, Clarke said, “People need machines. But, machines need people, too.”

“[James A. Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies] said the memory of Sept. 11 looms large for many of the lawmakers pushing cybersecurity legislation,” reads The Hill piece from March 17.

From the point of view of judgment by reputation, you would take whatever Joe Lieberman says and, for safety’s sake, put it in the trash.

The Pittsburgh newspaper piece was extracted from the archive of the old Crypt Newsletter website at NIU.

Tombstone of Beef Products, Inc, comes into view

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall at 12:24 pm by George Smith

So far this week Kroger and SafeWay, two of the nation’s biggest supermarket chains (I shop at Ralphs in Pasadena, a Kroger property), have forsworn Beef Products, Inc’s pink slime.

From the wire:

Supermarket chains Kroger Co. and Stop & Shop said Thursday they will join the growing list of store chains that will no longer sell beef that includes an additive with the unappetizing moniker “pink slime.”

The chains joined Safeway, Supervalu and Food Lion, among others, who have said they won’t sell beef with the filler.

“Our customers have expressed their concerns that the use of lean finely textured beef — while fully approved by the USDA for safety and quality — is something they do not want in their ground beef,” Kroger said in a statement. “As a result, Kroger will no longer purchase ground beef containing lean finely textured beef.”

As a result one would expect the company of Eldon Roth to shortly be in ruins. Unless it can maintain a niche selling pink slime into prison cafeterias, to pet manufacturers, or to the base kitchens serving US military men overseas.

Unsurprisingly, Beef Products’ website shows no indication of the landslide of lousy news re pink slime.

There are others, like Wal-Mart, which have still not eschewed the purchase of pink slime. Corporate America, however, is not particularly ballsy when it comes to going against widespread consumer revulsion.

And the image of finely textured beef — pink slime — is now forever repugnant.

Atom drone ideas ruefully cancelled

Posted in Bombing Paupers, Crazy Weapons at 10:46 am by George Smith

Today Steve Aftergood at Secrecy Blog posts a .pdf from the national labs explaining that special secret drone propulsion systems/technology has been canceled due to “poltical conditions.”

Reads the blog:

A certain technology that could extend the mission duration and capabilities of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) was favorably assessed last year by scientists at Sandia National Laboratories and Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation. But they concluded regretfully that “current political conditions will not allow use of the results.”

The assessment was carried out to explore the feasibility of next generation UAVs. The objective was “to increase UAV sortie duration from days to months while increasing available electrical power at least two-fold,” according to a June 2011 Sandia project summary.

In it’s own way, this is a concession to the now decades long work of Aftergood and the Federation of American Scientists.

Although the the developers of this new potential drone propulsion power system do not specifically name it in the .pdf from Sandia, the technology and studies most probably stem from use of nuclear materials — radioisotopes and the power-generating processes of fission and radio-decay.

This triggers recall of the secret Timber Wind project of the Nineties, ideas and hardware for use of nuclear reactors in rocket propulsion, born of the same lab featured in today’s announcement.

Aftergood and FAS blew the lid off Timber Wind and the resulting sunlight caused it to wither and die. Global concern over potential US tests and flying of nuclear reactor run rockets did not count as good publicity.

Of this, Aftergood wrote recently:

The discovery of the hyper-classified Timber Wind program was an inspiration for the FAS Project on Government Secrecy, since we considered it a compelling instance of classification abuse … Timber Wind was canceled shortly after it became public, and other nuclear rocket initiatives likewise faded away in the 1990s, as the effort to develop nuclear rocketry for military or civilian applications surged and then collapsed, leaving behind only a bunch of good stories.

Today’s post at Secrecy blog also shows that even the boffins of bad ideas are occasionally compelled to admit the atrocious quality of some of the things they come up with preclude them ever being implemented.

Yes, news or even rumors of killer drones loaded with radioisotopes and fission products for purposes of propulsion over the impoverished regions of the world to hunt terrorists and civilians who are in the wrong place — that would really generate the good will. Even moreso than now.

The post at Secrecy blog is here.

“No near term benefit to industry or the taxpayer will be encountered as the result of these studies,” write Sandia boffins, a bit glumly.

« Previous Page« Previous entries « Previous Page · Next Page » Next entries »Next Page »