The Joker

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism at 11:03 am by George Smith

Lord spare us once again from 60 Minutes whoopie cushion news of things to come, deadeningly promised and threatened for as long as I’ve been in cyberspace:

Panetta: The reality is that there is the cyber capability to basically bring down our power grid to create … to paralyze our financial system in this country to virtually paralyze our country. And I think we have to be prepared not only to defend against that kind of attack but if necessary we are going to have to be prepared to be able to be aggressive when it comes to cyber efforts as well. We’ve got to develop the technology, the capability, we’ve got to be able to defend this country.

60 Minutes has also been the go-to place if you want to make an unchallenged claim on cyberwar. Here it is from 2010:

“Can you imagine your life without electric power?” Retired Admiral Mike McConnell asked correspondent Steve Kroft …

“If I were an attacker and I wanted to do strategic damage to the United States, I would either take the cold of winter or the heat of summer, I probably would sack electric power on the U.S. East Cost, maybe the West Coast, and attempt to cause a cascading effect. All of those things are in the art of the possible from a sophisticated attacker,” McConnell explained.

“Do you believe our adversaries have the capability of bringing down a power grid?” Kroft asked.

“I do,” McConnell replied.

The actual measurable reality is that this has been repeated thousands of times over the last fifteen years. In this it is like the story of electromagnetic pulse doom, which also features of hundreds of stories over the past decade asking you to imagine what your life would be like without electricity.

As a matter of observation, it’s the only thing the authority figure defense establishment salesmen and fearmongers can think of to get maximum attention. What’ll we do without power? We’ll all die! And it can happen now!

Here’s a record of the cant on digital attack, sampled from national news, over a decade ago:


1999, the Washington Times —

“China could launch a devastating computer-run sabotage operation by attacking U.S. oil refineries, many of which are grouped closely together in areas of Texas, New Jersey and California.”

“A [Chinese] computer attacker could penetrate the electronic ‘gate’ that controls refinery operations and cause fires or toxic chemical spills . . . ”

Same year, ITN Network from England

“In the City of London, if you were to hit two or three places – nor more than that -they would be able to turn the city off and that would stop the banking system and it would stop the share-trading system . . . Identifying the crazed, skilled cyber attacker is perhaps the single most difficult task that the cyber spooks face at the moment,” said Peter Sommer from the London School of Economics for ITN.

Same year, a State Department memo

“Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security David Carpenter told [an] audience of business security specialists that they must educate themselves about the mounting threats of cyber-crime. He said terrorists are constantly devising new ways ‘to cripple business, government, and infrastructure,’ and inventing new methods of ‘creative destruction.'”

1999, Richard Clarke, talking to the Associated Press:

“We could wake one morning and find a city, or a sector of the country, or the whole country have an electric power problem, a transportation problem or a telecommunication problem because there was a surprise attack using information warfare.”

1999, the Los Angeles Times

George Tenet, CIA director is quoted: “Potential targets are not only government computers but the lifelines we all take for granted — our power grids and our water and transportation systems.”

Another Pentagon wargame scenario, this time called Zenith Star, is invoked. The standard pro forma claims are issued: “enemy hackers supposedly had triggered blackouts . . . They paralyzed 911 systems . .

” . . . a team of NSA hackers proved that they could easily disable power, telephones and oil pipelines across the country as well as Pentagon warfighting capabilities.”

Richard Clarke, quoted in the New York Times, early 1999

“I’m talking about people shutting down a city’s electricity . . . shutting down 911 systems, shutting down telephone networks and transportation systems. You black out a city, people die. Black out lots of cities, lots of people die.”

Scripps News Service, 1999

While our information warriors are said to be the mightiest in the world, the Scripps Howard piece also reads: “A nation that would have no chance challenging America’s conventional or nuclear forces might well prevail in a computer attack.”

“Among the most sophisticated are India, Syria and Iran [anonymous] experts say.”

” . . . But a cyberattack on a country’s power grid, while militarily defensible, can cause more calamities than a missile and far more ‘collateral damage’ to innocents than it causes harm to an enemy’s forces or ability to fight.”

Occasionally, an official — long since gone, would gamely try to rephrase matters. From an obscure thing the Defense Information and Electronic Report, 1999.

“[The term Electronic Peal Harbor] connotes this ‘lights-out’ idea,” [Jeffrey Hunker, an official during the Clinton administration] said for Defense Information. “It tends to oversimplify the threat, which ranges from existential terrorism to overt acts to overthrow the military. . . . It trivializes the real [danger], which I think is much more than what’s been understood.”

Richard Clarke, again in the LA Times in 1999

“An enemy could systematically disrupt banking, transportation, utilities, finance, government functions and defense … It’s cheaper and easier than building a nuclear weapon.”

For NPR in 1999, GOP whacko REp. Curt Weldon, long since run out of Congress

“[Curt] Weldon says a successful hacker could disrupt civilian life, striking hospitals or train systems …

WELDON: “It’s not a matter of if America has an electronic Pearl Harbor, but when.”

The Christian Science Monitor, when it was still a real newspaper, and not a minor news website due to reader indifference, in 1999

“. . . 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.”

Federal Computer Week, a brigadier is interviewed, 1998

“A digital enemy can bypass the military and take down critical infrastructure — automated power plants, stock markets and transportation systems — and disable this nation without firing a shot . . . Call it a virtual Cold War . . .”

WIRED, May 1997

1. “We will have a cyber equivalent of Pearl Harbor at some point, and we do not want to wait for that wake-up call,” attributed to former U.S. Deputy Atty. General Jamie Gorelick.

2. “I-war can be the kind of neat, conceptually contained electronic Pearl Harbor scenario that Washington scenarists like — collapsing power grids, a stock market software bomb, an electromagnetic pulse that takes the phone system out.”

This article went on to get a credit in the last Bruce Willis Die Hard movie over a decade later.

Authoritative, accurate and long, it captures the establishment record on the matter.

And here is a listing, compiled on the WordPress blog, of similar more recent utterances.

It is the meme of turning the United States off via remote control. Again and again and again.

It is the only way to get unthinking people to accept how, maybe, enemy nations, bad actors, disgruntled insiders, anyone on the other side of the barricades of Fortress America, will take the country down without immediately getting bombed into rubble.

Now, it’s also more and more about protecting the 1 percent from the imagined predations of the paupers.

How else to interpret something like “to paralyze our financial system in this country …”

Nobody in the great mass that is not the 1 percent or in the service of the same cares about attacks on the American financial system. They do, on the other hand, wish our financial system would stop attacking them.

This is Leon Panetta doing the dance for the 1 percent, signaling the masters that he’s doing his best to see more swag comes their way in defense contracts for protecting cyberspace.

It’s what the serious people do.


  1. Jim said,

    January 6, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    Isn’t, Aren’t these people smart enough to realize some things should not be on the internet?
    And we pay for such brillance?

  2. amanfromMars said,

    January 7, 2012 at 12:14 am

    So 12 long years on [All those quotes above were dated 1999] and still the holes and zeroday exploit vulnerabilities persist, and in fact, proliferate and become even more sophisticated and unknowable and potent/catastrophically powerful.

    What does that tell you about the chance of effective defence against a widening and deepening operating systems penetration exercise with stealthy astute alternative drivers leading reconfigurations on a failed and effectively petrified, intellectually bankrupt system, trying protect an admin and core source database which has lost all power in the earlier virtually absolute control it was able to muster/filibuster?

    Methinks you should be accepting there is no known available sustainable defence PERIOD……for a compromised inequitable program of chaotic order, which is all that the present and past have delivered.

    Time for some TLC and NEUKlearer HyperRadioProActive ProgramMING, methinks, for Presentation of Future Grand Orders and Great Games with Clouds Hosting Advanced Operating Systems …….. which is an altogether much more entertaining beast to harness any which way you can.

    Best of all about the Future though, is IT does not suffer Mad and Bad and Sad and Trad Rad Fools for Source Input, thus is Output Better Beta Tailored for Beta AIR&dDevelopment ProgramMING Projects…….. Civil CyberIntelAIgent Space Missions ….. Magical Mystery Turing AIdDVentures.