Pete Hoekstra was a Republican congressman for eighteen years. In that time he accomplished nothing. He did achieve a reputation as fool, wrong about everything, until 2010 when he left his political career in the House.
In 2006, Hoekstra was also briefly in the news, and on DD blog radar, for flaunting a peculiar map, pictured above, that tried to make the case al Qaeda was everywhere in the United States.
Osama bin Laden, insisted Hoekstra in a ludicrous speech on the matter, was much like Max DePree, a business leader virtually no one has heard of, an American entrepreneur who allegedly really knew how to get things done and a mentor of Hoekstra’s.
In a rambling, sometimes unintentionally nutty speech, Hoekstra warmed to his subject: how al Qaeda must have read from the work of his mentor, Max DePree, CEO/Chairman of Herman Miller Corp.(a manufacturer of office furniture), who wrote the books “Leadership Jazz” and “Leadership is an Art.”
Al Qaeda was nimble, entrepreneurial and agile. It ran its business of terror along the advice of DePree and had good bosses who empowered their employees …
Summing up, Pete Hoekstra is a bigot and a fool, someone without even the sense to be trusted to do the right thing with a rake and a pumpkin-colored leaf bag in the fall. Now he is warehoused as “a senior adviser in Dickstein Shapiro’s Public Policy & Law Practice,” according to a biographical line.
When I put that question in striking bold yesterday I got to thinking about what has happened in the last fifteen to twenty years. The time period encompasses my writing and work on various matters having to do with security ranging from the old origins of malware to chemical and biological weapons.
That started, depending on where I choose to pick an event, either in the administration of the first Bush, or a little later, with the presidency of Bill Clinton. Long enough to have something to say in terms of perspective, I think.
A number of things are very clear and profoundly disappointing.
The US has always been burdened by an excessively large analytic structure in national security, one in which the primary function is very much not analytic. It’s purpose is to arrive at justification for whatever leadership wishes to do.
That in itself is a major problem and it is at the very roots of the phenomenon that I call shoeshine.
Shoeshine is the work of a managerial and interpretive class of American labor, generally upper middle class, one that is employed to come up with stuff, rationalizations, justifications, all for the convenience to those at the very top in American national and business leadership. Shoeshine has virtually no social value except as employment. It keeps people in work and they can, of course, buy stuff in the economy.
But, fundamentally, shoeshine is a government in collaboration with the private sector employment jobs program that produces nothing of any material value for the vast majority of Americans.
For example, assertions that China is spying away American wealth in cyberspace are signally not important for any Americans except those generating them and the people paying for it to be disseminated. They have no meaning. There are no statistics, except the numbers of news stories and memorandums produced. But there is a big structure that has been employed to embed this information in American culture.
And it has not just been with China.
It goes on to encompass the bogus rhetoric that constantly speaks of the American financial system being threatened by devastating cyberattack, of the electricity being turned off nationwide, of calamities brought on by alleged digital assaults that require one to believe they can rival the destructive power of natural disasters.
Add to it the now impossible to reverse received wisdom that people in the sandy wastes of some poor country you barely know can easily make weapons of mass destruction. Or whatever reasons are given this week for piling up more dead with drone strikes. There really is no end to it.
And there is immorality to this because, at its heart, it’s the human machinery of rationalizing destruction.
However, when I started this there was a class of middle and upper middle class managerial and interpretive workers, smaller, which pushed back.
It was a class that inhabited philanthropic non-profit agencies devoted to such things as the furtherance of public understanding on national security issues, interpretation of treaties and global compliance and arms control.
With eight years of the Bush administration and another four with Barack Obama in charge, that’s all virtually swept away. Agencies I used to call when I was a newspaper reporter for independent from the national line information either became stunted versions of their former selves are ceased operations altogether.
Readers will have also noticed that, in the last decade, the United States isn’t even remotely interested in arms control, unless for the convenience of beating up on Iran and North Korea, and launching a clandestine war against the former.
Arms control was actually perverted into an excuse for invading Iraq.
The US is for arms proliferation big time, the best, as long as we’re doing the selling.
The world wide web, blogs, Wikileaks, whatever you want to name, didn’t fill the vacuum. Almost everyone just quit. They had to. All the money, what small amounts there were, went away. The only money spent for analysis of national security issues now is all on the other side. And its function is simply to pay people to come up with enemies lists and memos to be publicized on who is attacking us and who we are to be frightened of.
Over this period I had acquaintances who also did the progressive critical side of the coin. They wrote blogs or ran websites, worked for little agencies trying to do their part.
As the national security megaplex ballooned they either faded away or went to work for it. If they went to work for it, they went silent, never to speak again. Worried about careers, some even pulled down their old works.
And I was not being at all facetious when I mentioned earlier in the week that the state of rational discussion on cyberwar had been so degraded by this long process of attrition that it is mostly reduced to 140-character Twitter tweets.
The best people can come up with is a short (not too long so as to bore the audience) indignant squawk on social media.
It was the occupational role of managers and engineers (the professional managerial class), along with many other professionals, to manage, regulate, and control the life of the working class. They designed the division of labor and the machines that controlled workers’ minute-by-minute existence on the factory floor, manipulated their desire for commodities and their opinions, socialized their children, and even mediated their relationship with their own bodies.
At the same time though, the role of the PMC as “rationalizers” of society often placed them in direct conflict with the capitalist class. Like the workers, the PMC were themselves employees and subordinate to the owners, but since what was truly “rational” in the productive process was not always identical to what was most immediately profitable, the PMC often sought autonomy and freedom from their own bosses.
This class grew rapidly from the 1930s to about the mid-Seventies when the “capitalist class” reasserted control and began to cut it back with waves of layoffs tied to de-industrialization.
Technological advances and, most recently, the Internet, have continued to hack at it.
What’s left is now also employed, keeping jobs as long as possible, in cannibalization, boiling down other sections of the economy, finding ways other people can be cast off.
“Then, in just the last dozen years, the PMC began to suffer the fate of the industrial class in the 1980s: replacement by cheap foreign labor,” they continue.
That part of the managerial interpretive class that cannot yet be replaced is in American financial services and the national security megaplex. For the defense infrastructure, it’s been a relatively safe harbor of jobs for those whose work is to furnish information conveniences and processes for the very top of the pyramid.
It is not a mystery why their work has not even the slightest connection to the lives of great numbers of other Americans.
WTF is wrong with these people is that counter-reality and satisfying the political needs of their uppers is what they must do to earn a good living in view of the increasingly throttled prospects offered by this country.
And so they have been transformed into the bleak concrete of a predatory process and structure. In this structure it is imperative they not understand anything which conflicts with the purpose of the job and that they not give a shit about that. Or, if they do, to at least stuff it.
People who work at the Pasadena office of the California Department of Motor Vehicles provide more value daily than the shoeshine workers in national security. Whether you like standing in line waiting your turn or not, the public sector employees get things done that are necessary so that you can drive a car in California. And that’s important to everyday people.
One of the easiest ways to evaluate how this structure’s frankly idiotic, paranoid and self-serving fantasies have broken off with reality is also their presence in (or contamination of) entertainment.
You can compare their weird and estranged myths to the parallel proliferation of zombie and vampire movies, tv shows, books and comics.
Cyberwar is as present during the week in scripts for television and movies, maybe more so if not as successfully, as zombies. So is apocalyptic chemical and biological warfare. Add electromagnetic pulse armageddon.
All of these, propagandized into American culture by the managerial corps of national security shoeshiners to such an extent they’ve become silly popular primetime diversions, crap that has virtually nothing to do with day-to-day life over the last two decades.
The New York Times’ front-page report this week that the Chinese army is hacking into America’s most sensitive computer networks from a 12-story building outside Shanghai might finally convince skeptics that the threat of “cyber warfare” isn’t the fevered fantasy of Richard Clarke, the producers of “Die Hard 4,” or the generals at the ever-growing U.S. Cyber Command. Alas, it’s real.
But what is the threat? Few of those in the know believe that some fine day, out of the blue, China will zap the programs that run our power grids, gas lines, waterworks or banking systems, sending our economy — and much else — into a tailspin. Even if the Chinese could pull off such a feat with one keystroke, it’s hard to imagine what they’d accomplish, especially since their fortunes are wrapped up with our own.
Alas, cyberwar shoeshine is real. No, strike that. Not something I’d write. Too easy.
How does someone who never showed much interest in cybersecurity in the last fifteen years go on this way?
It’s a question that applies generally since the topic is at the stage where people who never traditionally cared about it, or even knew much about basic cybersecurity, the nature of the threats, and networked computing, now believe they’re ready to be theorists on it.
Kaplan cites a book by Richard Clarke, 2010’s “Cyber War,” in which he “likened the current era to the decade after the first atomic bombs, when American, then Soviet, scientists built these weapons of enormous destructiveness — but before politicians or strategists devised ways of thinking about them rationally: how to control them, deter their use or limit their damage if a war couldn’t be deterred.”
This was one of the reasons Clarke’s book was brushed off.
For Kaplan’s column, the virus mentioned is Shamoon, implied Iranian retaliation against us and our proxies for Stuxnet.
Shamoon crashed and corrupted information on Saudi oil company computers, information — if they weren’t totally incompetent, that was backed up multiple times somewhere else.
Kaplan mentions Barack Obama’s recent executive order, one that lobbied for increased information sharing back and forth between the cyber-intelligence agencies and corporate America.
The history with regards to information sharing is fifteen years old.
It started with the Clinton administration where it was vigorously pursued by Clarke and assistant secretary of defense John Hamre. They argued for an exception to be added to the Freedom of Information Act, one to encourage corporate America to be forthright about its computer security intrusions, secure in the knowledge its secrets were safe from competitors and journalists armed with FOIA.
They got what they wanted. And it didn’t make a substantial difference. Subsequently, every year — between then and now — someone has always argued for ever more information sharing. Corporate America is not transparent. A frictionless system of information passage with it cannot be created.
Paradoxically, the US government has contributed to the creation of a global Internet security environment where information is not to be shared because there is value in that. Critical vulnerabilities have great worth in cyber-weapons development. This has created a gray market in which the vulnerabilities, information of zero social value, are sold at good profit.
As with discussions about cyberwar and the creation of cyber-weapons, the American government, by its actions, has cut the ground from under its feet on being in position to take the high ground, right from the start.
“Unnamed Pentagon figures continue to get big ink for their thesis that Chinese military cyber assault is a threat of trouser-moistening magnitude,” reported Lewis Page skeptically at the Reg today.
“Last week’s media bandwagon, initiated after Financial Times hacks in Washington obligingly got things rolling, is now thundering along unstoppably as foaming tech-dunce scribes pile aboard.
“On Friday it was [The Times of London’s] turn to play ventriloquist’s dummy.
” ‘Chinese military hackers have prepared a detailed plan to disable America’s aircraft battle carrier fleet with a devastating cyber attack, according to a Pentagon report obtained by The Times,’ ” says the Thunderer.”
If you read through to the end, public proclamations on cyberwar, often as what China could do to America — steal wealth, blow things up, turn things off — goes all the way back to 1999.
A lot of very bad stuff has happened in this country since then. Most of it rained down on the average citizen.
But cyberwar as perpetrated by the Chinese, something that would be worse than Sandy, that could turn off the power on the East Coast?
WTF is wrong with these people?
As with most of the professional pundit and journalist class, the talkers on cyberwar have been wrong about virtually everything. But there’s never been a penalty for being wrong because the members of the group all think alike and protect themselves.
It’s not that cyberwarriors from nations, including China, aren’t into American networks. They are and always have been.
How can you protect any network from undoing given that it takes only clueless employees, contract workers or officials to click on attachments carrying malware in e-mail messages made to look legitimate?
However, what does it all mean? Why do they do it? Is it because they’re really so deluded they believe they’ve put together a master plan to turn off the United States?
Believe me, if it could be done, hackers — who have never been known as shrinking violets — would have pushed that switch years ago.
Or is it because of a combination of factors? Because the networks are vulnerable, they can do it, and they so they do. Or because there’s a mindless, but human belief, that if you vacuum up enough information you gain an insurmountable edge over potential foes?
Is it even possible to process all the material gathered in such ways, to take much more than quickly vanishing advantage from even pieces of it?
No one knows. There’s no way to measure such things.
WhiteManistan is disempowered here. They may have been mad for a day in Poway but it no longer matters.
The trick is disempowering the right wing white guy thing, or at least disengaging from it, everywhere else.
Universal ridicule is key. Middle-aged white guys already have a terrible image with the young and there’s nothing that inspires more respect than overweight cranky people waving idiotic flags with rattlesnakes and assault guns on them.
“I’ll keep my freedom, guns and money …” Now there’s a slogan to bring smiles.
In the last fifteen years the US government, military and intelligence agencies have established a solid reputation as regular liars about everything. Particularly when it comes to national security.
Everyone knows this. Everyone also knows the mainstream news has abandoned caring about it.
So every week, something intelligence insulting is repeated again, delivered on menaces, or a single menace, that is threatening the republic, or worse, stealing wealth.
This week it was triggered by a report issued by Mandiant, a computer security firm interested in drumming up business, publicity and currying favor with the US government.
Mandiant’s report told about the Shanghai group, a Chinese military run espionage operation against everything in the United States, all from one building.
It is not news that the Chinese have an extensive espionage campaign conducted through cyberspace and in the real world, against this country. It does and it’s really annoying.
In fact, it is probably safe to say the building in Shanghai is, by far, not the only place involved in it.
But this report was delivered conveniently to capitalize on the Obama administration’s executive initiatives, all virtually pointless, to increase the nation’s defenses against alleged catastrophic cyberattacks on the infrastructure.
And various ex-military men, now lobbyists for big security firms, have been trotted out.
They conveniently say their bits, the traditional scripted theater of fear-mongering on the Chinese menace and cyberwar.
Special mention goes to Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and CIA, now a big can of cyberwar shoeshine for the Chertoff Group where he’s cashing in his chips.
This is how it has worked for the last decade or so. You do your time at the top of the national security heap, pursuing the process of war.
No one cares if you’re good or bad, you’re never replaced, just boosted up and the vast majority of Americans never know or can remember your name. You’re never exposed to the costs of war and the enemy can’t get at you, the lowers suffer that. But for being part of the army of colorless but very important men of national intelligence service, you proceed to the private sector where you are rewarded even more handsomely as totem pole and lobbyist for more predatory defense spending in your specialty.
Hayden’s comments for a story on the cyber-victimization of US corporations by Chinese intelligence for NBC have been so pompous and self-serving they bring on gales of laughter.
Though the United States limits its espionage to national security interests, intelligence officials said, China has launched a well-organized campaign to steal American corporate secrets via the Internet.
“I know states steal secrets. Our states steal secrets. And we’re actually pretty good at it. But we self-limit. We steal things that are valuable and useful for your security, for your liberty and for your safety,” Hayden said.
“This is stealing American wealth. It’s stealing American jobs. It’s stealing American competitive advantage,” General Michael Hayden, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, said in an interview with NBC News.
This has become the common nonsense from the shoeshine corps of cyberwar. The Chinese are stealing our wealth, it is the greatest theft of the future in history.
There is never any figure attached to it because no such figures can be estimated.
On the other hand, one gets all kinds of figures on the loss of American wealth in the economic charts presented weekly by Nobel laureate Paul Krugman on his blog at the New York Times.
Of course, the data on these losses did not result from cyberespionage on everything in the US by the Chinese military.
It was the result of the global economic calamity brought on by the Wall Street financial district, a job of our own devise.
And this illustrates the disconnect between the Michael Haydens and the rest of us. None of this means anything to them except as careerism, a way of increasing self-worth, pure and simple.
The Haydens of government have no connection with the country beyond the DC/northern Virginia national security megaplex. If they actually believe the weird and ludicrous things they say, it’s only because they’ve spent their careers working in an environment where they’ve never been exposed to potentially damaging criticism and superciliousness.
So whatever Michael Hayden was stealing in the name of liberty and safety (say that again, feel the sneer forming on your lips) for us, it didn’t trickle down to the rest of America. And it never will.
Gen Michael Hayden believed the results [of the drone program] had been spectacular.
“A significant fraction of al-Qaeda senior leadership in the tribal region has been ‘taken off the battlefield’,” he said.
“That used to mean ‘killed or captured’. In the last couple of years it simply means killed. We just aren’t doing any capturing.”
Ironically the CIA’s drone programme was greatly accelerated under President Obama who has authorised more than 160 Predator missions – four times as many as his predecessor, President George W Bush, targeting not just al-Qaeda but Taliban leaders also hiding in the border areas.
The programme has been highly contentious and controversial.
Gen Hayden denied the attacks were state-authorised assassinations. He said the US was at war with al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and was simply acting in self-defence.
When I pointed out that legally the war was in Afghanistan not Pakistan, he said that was not how the American administration looked at it.
This raises the ridiculous question sometimes posed in sarcastic 140-character tweets on Twitter: “Why don’t we launch a drone strike or a cruise missile on the Chinese hacker building in Shanghai?”
The answer’s obvious. They’re not destitute nobodies in the sandy wastes of the most desperate places of the world. They’d fight back.
(As a side note, this is the degenerate state of debate on cyberwar. Ten years ago you could occasionally find critical voices saying something on it for news agencies. Now that’s all gone, the only thing left being to do it on Twitter with a hashtag or two.)
Besides, corporate America depends on China — to disappear the wealth of Americans who used to work for Apple and … and … and, you know.
Early in the week I received an e-mail query about the old Mujahideen Poisons Handbook. Many readers will remember it as a .pdf pamphlet that figured prominently the US government’s and media’s received wisdoms passed out on al Qaeda and its capabilities with regards to weapons of mass destruction.
A historian was asking where to find a clean copy because she was writing a book about “popular manuals and their challenges to free speech. She explained this went back into the 19th century.
Loompanics, an American publisher based in Port Townsend, Washington, specialized in fringe books on mayhem and other unsavory topics. It was part of this literature in the United States, although its heyday ran only from the mid-Seventies to the early Nineties.
When the digital networks began to arrive in the early Nineties bits of the detritus from Loompanics and other fringe US publishers were copied into cyberspace, usually by young men, and distributed out of their bedroom-based bulletin board systems.
This copied samizdat electronic literature went around the world.
Paradoxically, this phenomenon and the rise of the web put Loompanics out of business. Which wasn’t a bad thing considering the collateral cost in ruined lives possession of the works of Loompanics and other similar publishers has caused as a result of the war on terror.
Free speech guarantees the right to publish odious materials of little social value. But there can be severe random and unintended costs associated with it.
The war on terror produced such things and continues to do so.
Specifically, with regards to Loompanics, the brief e-mail discussion
dealt with the Mujahideen Poisons Handbook.
Specifically, the bit on “betaluminium” was a garbled excerpt on botulism from a Loompanics book, Maxwell Hutchkinson’s (a pseudonym) The Poisoner’s Handbook. (On which I’ve regrettably written quite a bit.)
Most of the information in both the Mujahideen Poisons Handbook and Hutchkinson’s Poisoner’s Handbook is laughable in terms of accurate chemistry and biology. However, over the decade, many counter-terror and police forces never got that.
And you couldn’t tell them.
Perhaps it was too inconvenient to the time and their purposes to admit to such things. Or maybe their analyses were just always done by “experts” who were really incompetent.
Both pamphlets were apparently written/composed/put together by people who seemed to have very little idea about chemical or biological terrorism, or poisoning, but wished to create appearances that they did. They wrote as if they had performed procedures that simply do not adhere to reality.
Nevertheless, these writings became documents that put you away, ruining a life and reputation once news is published and convictions handed down.
In the United States, possession of recipes or related materials copied from them and other similar publications are always presented as evidence of intent to commit acts of terrorism in domestic trials.
I’ve been consulted in three such trials on these publications and recipes, two in England years ago. And more recently, one which is set to run soon in Georgia.
But the Post’s article, by dint of the importance of the newspaper, puts it in the forefront in terms of the damage it did to public information and perception on these things.
During the war on terror, al Qaeda never possessed the capability to make weapons of mass destruction. The best it could manage was apparently videotaping, very early on, the cruel killing of a puppy with cyanide in a room used as a gas chamber.
However, the government and very-important-person thinking on the matter was just the opposite.
They were very wrong. And if they continue to think such things, they still are. The Post’s reporters and editors, and too many others to count in the mainstream media, got it all wrong.
In 2005, Steve Coll won the Pulitzer for his book, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. Today he is the president of the New America Foundation, “a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy institute that invests in new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of challenges facing the United States.”
The belief that weapons of mass destruction can be simply made from recipes included in the publications of the American fringe, migrated to the desperate places of the world, is now irreversibly embedded in our culture.