E. Howard Hunt 2.0

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism at 12:55 pm by George Smith

Ex-NSA chief Keith Alexander, a man in the mold of E. Howard Hunt.

From Politifact, via this blog, a week or so ago:

During his 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to “ensure that his administration develops a Cyber Security Strategy that ensures that we have the ability to identify our attackers and a plan for how to respond that will be measured but effective.???

In the year since our last ruling, the attention devoted to cybersecurity has only increased, partly due to well-publicized breaches of customer data but especially from revelations about National Security Agency surveillance of electronic and telephone traffic.

On Feb. 12, 2013, Obama signed an executive order on “Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity,??? which called for the implementation of a cybersecurity framework launched one year later …

“On one hand, we had the Obama administration working for development of increased cybersecurity through its ‘framework’ initiative,??? said George Smith, a senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.org. On the other hand, Smith said, the administration was “allowing the NSA to aggressively pursue initiatives that destroy the security and trust in global as well as domestic networks.???

In building the biggest cyberwar machine in the world under the leadership of NSA chief Keith Alexander, the United States government put itself squarely in an untenable and amoral position when it comes to computer security on the global networks.

While outwardly working the media on the need to strengthen national and private sector computer security, using the language of dire predictions and apocalyptic scenarios, behind the scenes its offensive cyberwar and spying operations were actively working to make networks untrustworthy.

The Edward Snowden affair exposed the hypocrisy in all its embarrassing detail.

Prior to Snowden, one could find Keith Alexander making speeches on computer security on how his agency wanted to protect the country by forming an active layer of defense between the national cyber-infrastructure and all putative threats.

With the news of the Heartbleed vulnerability this week, and a Bloomberg story which asserted the NSA knew of the bug for two years, the country is shown just precisely how untrustworthy and predatory the agency was under Keith Alexander.

From Bloomberg, yesterday:

The NSA has faced nine months of withering criticism for the breadth of its spying, documented in a rolling series of leaks from Snowden, who was a former agency contractor.

The revelations have created a clearer picture of the two roles, sometimes contradictory, played by the U.S.’s largest spy agency…

Ordinary Internet users are ill-served by the arrangement because serious flaws are not fixed, exposing their data to domestic and international spy organizations and criminals, said John Pescatore, director of emerging security trends at the SANS Institute …

“It flies in the face of the agency’s comments that defense comes first,??? said Jason Healey, a former Air Force cyber officer told Bloomberg. “They are going to be completely shredded by the computer security community for this.???

Unfortunately, this isn’t new. Computer security experts not connected to the US government warned that in creating a global black market in which the agency bought analyses of network and computer vulnerabilities for use in its offensive cyberwar and spying operations, America was conducting operations that could in no way be reconciled with its oft-stated public position of being for strengthening computer security.

In this, the US has made itself the exceptional nation. And not in any good way.

To illustrate, from the New York Times, a couple weeks ago:

In the months before Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s arrival in Beijing on Monday, the Obama administration quietly held an extraordinary briefing for the Chinese military leadership on a subject officials have rarely discussed in public: the Pentagon’s emerging doctrine for defending against cyberattacks against the United States — and for using its cybertechnology against adversaries, including the Chinese.

The idea was to allay Chinese concerns about plans to more than triple the number of American cyberwarriors to 6,000 by the end of 2016 …

But the hope was to prompt the Chinese to give Washington a similar briefing about the many People’s Liberation Army units that are believed to be behind the escalating attacks on American corporations and government networks.

So far, the Chinese have not reciprocated …

The Pentagon plans to spend $26 billion on cybertechnology over the next five years — much of it for defense of the military’s networks, but billions for developing offensive weapons …

Moreover, disclosures about America’s own focus on cyberweaponry — including American-led attacks on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and National Security Agency documents revealed in the trove taken by Edward J. Snowden, the former agency contractor — detail the degree to which the United States has engaged in what the intelligence world calls “cyberexploitation??? of targets in China …

We clearly don’t occupy the moral high ground that we once thought we did,??? said one senior administration official.

Which is something of an understatement.

What, then, is Keith Alexander’s legacy?

Nothing good. I thought about it for a bit and one name that comes to mind is E. Howard Hunt, a career CIA officer and, later — more famously, one of the Nixon White House “plumbers” who ran the Watergate burglary and other clandestine operations for that administration.

Hunt strongly thought he was always serving his country. Before he was put away for almost three years for crimes connected to Watergate he stood before the Senate in 1973, wounded and distraught:

“I am crushed by the failure of my government to protect me and my family as in the past it has always done for its clandestine agents. I cannot escape feeling that the country I have served for my entire life and which directed me to carry out the Watergate entry is punishing me for doing the very things it trained and directed me to do.”

New York Times journalist Tim Weiner described Hunt with a proper degree of superciliousness in a review of his biography, AMERICAN SPY: My Secret History in the CIA, Watergate, and Beyond, published posthumously:

Hunt wanted to believe he fit the popular image of the C.I.A.’s founders — the American aristocrats, the tough young veterans of the last good war, the daring amateurs who set out to save the world.

Hunt, it turned out, was among the worst of them. He was a liar, a thief and a con man — all admirable qualities for C.I.A. officers who served overseas during the cold war, aspiring to the British definition of a diplomat: a gentleman who lies for his country abroad. Fine when Hunt was station chief in Uruguay. Dangerous when put to work in Washington.

Hunt closes by arguing that “the C.I.A. needs to clandestinely produce television programs, movies and electronic games??? to recruit talented young Americans, citing Fox’s “24??? as a model. Great idea — get me Rupert Murdoch! He wants “the PlayStation generation??? to revive “the principals [sic] and ideals??? — sigh — of the C.I.A.’s founding fathers, to go “back to the heart and souls of the ‘daring amateurs.’ ???

This comes from the man who helped bungle both the Bay of Pigs and the Watergate break-in. It is not sound counsel.

‘[Hunt] drew no distinction between orchestrating a black-bag job at a foreign embassy in Mexico City and wiretapping the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate complex,” wrote Weiner in his obituary for the New York Times.

Does anything sound familiar?

Keith Alexander is not E. Howard Hunt. He did not botch the Bay of Pigs operation or help overthrow a foreign government, as Hunt did to Jacobo Arbenz, the elected president of Guatemala in 1954.

Today, however, Alexander is more powerful. Alexander also never has to worry about suffering the fate of E. Howard Hunt.

There won’t be any serious Senate investigations and no chance at criminal exposure. Mostly, because that’s not how our country works anymore.

“I think it’s wrong that — that newspaper reporters have all these documents, 50,000 or whatever they have and are selling them and giving them out as if these — you know, it just doesn’t make sense. We ought to come up with a way of stopping it. I don’t know how to do that. That’s more of the courts and the policy-makers. But from my perspective, it’s wrong, and to allow this to go on is wrong.” — Keith Alexander, 2013

The above quote is taken from Bill Blunden and Violet Cheung’s Behold a Pale Farce: Cyberwar, Threat Inflation & the Malware Industrial Complex.

It is the first book on the subject of cyberwar that I will be able to highly recommend. And that spans around fifteen years of them.

The reason for this, the short one, anyway, is that all books published in America on cyberwar have been total crap, works of mostly mislabeled fiction.

This is quite easy to see, today, doubly so in light of the past year.

Behold a Pale Farce is not crap. It is a carefully researched reality-based examination of the subject and a review of it will post tomorrow or Monday.


  1. Ted Jr. said,

    April 13, 2014 at 10:44 am

    E Howard Hunt – let me recall here – yes it’s coming back now – allegedly one of the ‘tramps’ photographed in Dallas on a fateful day in 1963.

    General K Alexander – wonder what photographs exist of him?

  2. George Smith said,

    April 13, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    All those taken at Def Con and Black Hat on the trips to recruit the tykes into corporate stooge-ism. Come help us defend the the banks, I mean, Wall St. I mean, the cyber-infrastructure. Or, instead of causing trouble for nothing, come and let us pay you for it. We offer full benefits and a pension. Ho-ho.


    This is so cute.

    People that age don’t know who E. Howard Hunt was, anyway. And some of the Watergate plumbers turned infame into celebrity.