David Kirkpatrick

August 5, 2010

Will the WikiLeaks issue close military/intelligence doors?

Michael Hayden hopes not. The relationship between intelligence agencies and the military is always pretty fragile and the WikiLeaks incident over posting classified video of a 2007 Baghdad helicopter attack a couple of months ago threatens to shut down a lot of communication between the government entities.

From the first link:

The recent publication of classified military documents on the whistleblower site WikLeaks should not be allowed to chill information sharing that’s been going on within the military and intelligence communities, the former director of the CIA said Tuesday.

In an interview, retired Gen. Michael Hayden, who led both the CIA and the National Security Agency (NSA), expressed concern over the potential for knee-jerk restrictions on data sharing in response to the incident.

“Senior leadership in the country will have to guard against over-reaction,” Hayden cautioned. “Clearly, we need to be careful. We have to pay more attention to security,” he said.

Wikileaks last week posted more than 90,000 military and intelligence documents on the ongoing war in Afghanistan. Bradley Manning, an Army intelligence analyst already charged with supplying WikiLeaks with a video allegedly showing a deadly U.S Apache helicopter attack in Iraq, is the prime suspect in the leak of the Afghanistan war documents.

April 8, 2010

Cyberwar food for thought

The CIO.com daily newsletter had a lot of cyberwar coverage today, and there’s plenty to think about when contemplating the future of national security.

Here’s highlights from three articles.

First up, is the U.S. the most at-risk nation in the world vis-a-vis cyber attack? Facts on the ground ought to give a little pause.

From the link:

Although the United States likely has the best cyberwar capabilities in the world, “that offensive prowess cannot make up for the weaknesses in our defensive position,” one-time presidential advisor Richard Clarke argues in his forthcoming book Cyber War.

Clarke — who served as special advisor to the president for cybersecurity in 2001 and now teaches at Harvard’s Kennedy School for Government and works at Good Harbor Consulting — fears that any outbreak of cyber warfare would spill over into more violent conflict.

“Far from being an alternative to conventional war, cyber war may actually increase the likelihood of the more traditional combat with explosives, bullets and missiles,” Clarke writes in his book, which is due out April 20.

Next up, when the cyber attack happens here, what’s the chain-of-command and other protocols? Not as easy to answer as I’d like because of the widespread nature of cyber attack and the likely integral involvement of private enterprise. It’s akin to bombing a factory without the obvious military-based response.

From the link:

Because possible return fire could come from traditional military, intelligence, diplomatic or economic agencies — and perhaps even from private business — the United States needs a set of policies and procedures for cyberwarfare that are still in the making, experts say.

The president’s top cyber adviser, Howard Schmidt, has said in interviews that the responsibility for cybersecurity is a shared responsibility between public and private sectors. And within the government it will be shared among government agencies but not in a well-defined way. “Who’s in charge?” asks Jamie Sanbower, the director of security for Force 3, an integrator that works with the federal government. “That’s the number-one challenge we’re facing right now.”

And finally more analysis of the Google/China issue, and does it signal the beginning of a public cyberwarefare age? If nothing else, with a very concrete example to turn to, expect a lot more mainstream coverage of cyberwar issues

From the final link:

Many see the attacks as evidence that the U.S. is already in the midst of an undeclared cyberwar, with attacks against government targets estimated to have more than doubled in the past two years. Just last week, a top FBI official called cyberattacks an “existential threat” to the U.S. On Friday, two U.S. senators now pushing cybersecurity legislation in Congress reiterated those sentiments.

And Mike McConnell the former director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and director of national intelligence during the Bush administration, recently said in a Washington Post (WPO) column that the U.S is not only fighting such a war, it’s also losing the battle.

February 24, 2010

United States not ready for cyberwar

Via KurzweilAI.net — This warning from Michael McConnell shouldn’t be dismissed as another Bush 43 administration official hoping to paint Obama as unprepared for security threats and attempting to preemptively pin any future attacks on the purported incompetence of the White House. McConnell served as NSA director under Clinton before his stint as Director of National Intelligence under Bush and then briefly under Obama. Cyberwarfare is one threat the U.S. faces where the overwhelming might of our military does not make a whit of difference.

U.S. Unprepared for ‘Cyber War’, Former Top Spy Official Says
BusinessWeek, Feb. 23, 2010

The U.S. isn’t prepared for a massive attack on its computer networks by another country and would lose, former Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell told a Senate panel today.
Read Original Article>>

February 12, 2010

Can China’s computer manufacturing industry be trusted?

A very good question, and the current answer is a bit unsettling.

From the link:

Is it safe to buy Chinese-made computer equipment?With Google and the National Security Agency now teaming up to investigate supposed Chinese hacking and most of our PC hardware coming from China, it’s a fair question. And a hard one to answer with certainty.

It is made more urgent by a report in the Sunday Times newspaper that Chinese spies in the U.K. have been handing out bugged memory sticks and cameras to targeted businesses in an attempt to steal the companies’ intellectual property.

Headlined, “China bugs and burgles Britain,” the story quotes a classified report from MI5–their equivalent of our CIA–and says, “The gifts–cameras and memory sticks –have been found to contain electronic Trojan bugs which provide the Chinese with remote access to users’ computers.”

My friend, security blogger Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, yesterday posted an item suggesting it wouldn’t be too difficult for Chinese PC manufacturers to build backdoors into their products and use them to spy on pretty much anyone.

“If China’s government really is hell-bent on keeping an eye on American and European businesses, why not just incorporate 21st century backdoors into their products? Then, you could just have them automatically call home to do a data dump of documents. If there’s anything interesting in the files, it can be set to monitor its user on a regular basis,” Vaughan-Nichols wrote.

“There’s nothing difficult about doing this. Not only are backdoors easy to create, running an automatic check for words of interest, even in terabytes of documents, just requires some servers. After all,Google does it every day with far more data than such a plot could ever uncover.”

November 17, 2009

Crunching the numbers on NSA’s new data center

The National Security Agency is planing a $1.5 billion cybersecurity data center at the Camp Williams National Guard base in Utah. This post takes a crack at the numbers and finds the result a bit wanting.

From the link:

For me, the math just doesn’t add up. According to the budget document, the power density will be “appropriate for current state-of-the-art high-performance computing devices and associated hardware architecture.” Yet if you calculate the watts per square foot by dividing the center’s total watts (65MW) by total square feet (1.5 million), you come up with a power density estimate of about 43 watts per square foot. No way that’s “state of the art.”

July 24, 2009

The NSA wiretapped US citizens …

… and the mainstream media brushed the story under the proverbial rug. Just imagine, the MSM totally failed at doing its job. Er, scratch that bit of sarcasm. The MSM has been so full of fail for so long it’s far beyond parody.

From the link:

The cliché doesn’t seem far off the mark after reading Mark Klein’s new book, “Wiring up the Big Brother Machine … and Fighting It.” It’s an account of his experiences as the whistleblower who exposed a secret room at a Folsom Street facility in San Francisco that was apparently used to monitor the Internet communications of ordinary Americans.

Klein, 64, was a retired AT&T communications technician in December 2005, when he read the New York Times story that blew the lid off the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. Secretly authorized in 2002, the program lets the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) monitor telephone conversations and e-mail messages of people inside the U.S. in order to identify suspected terrorists. Klein knew right away that he had proof — documents from his time at AT&T — that could provide a snapshot of how the program was siphoning data off of the AT&T network in San Francisco.

Click here to find out more!Amazingly, however, nobody wanted to hear his story. In his book he talks about meetings with reporters and privacy groups that went nowhere until a fateful January 20, 2006, meeting with Kevin Bankston of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Bankston was preparing a lawsuit that he hoped would put a stop to the wiretap program, and Klein was just the kind of witness the EFF was looking for.

June 16, 2009

NSA and domestic surveillance

This New York Times report on the National Security Agency and ongoing domestic spyingis troubling. One of the largest problems with police state apparatus is how pernicious it becomes. Once in place it’s very, very difficult to root out. Every freedom lost is a freedom you can’t expect to get back.

From the link:

Since April, when it was disclosed that the intercepts of some private communications of Americans went beyond legal limits in late 2008 and early 2009, several Congressional committees have been investigating. Those inquiries have led to concerns in Congress about the agency’s ability to collect and read domestic e-mail messages of Americans on a widespread basis, officials said. Supporting that conclusion is the account of a former N.S.A. analyst who, in a series of interviews, described being trained in 2005 for a program in which the agency routinely examined large volumes of Americans’ e-mail messages without court warrants. Two intelligence officials confirmed that the program was still in operation.

Both the former analyst’s account and the rising concern among some members of Congress about the N.S.A.’s recent operation are raising fresh questions about the spy agency.

Representative Rush Holt, Democrat of New Jersey and chairman of the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, has been investigating the incidents and said he had become increasingly troubled by the agency’s handling of domestic communications.

In an interview, Mr. Holt disputed assertions by Justice Department and national security officials that the overcollection was inadvertent.

“Some actions are so flagrant that they can’t be accidental,” Mr. Holt said.

November 20, 2008

USS Liberty document dump

Filed under: et.al., Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:36 pm

Looks like a lot of government material surrounding the USS Liberty incident — for those who don’t know, that was a 1967 attack on a US Navy intelligence ship by the Israeli airforce. To this day it’s not certain whether it was a horrible accident, or a brazen military strike by Israel against an ally.

Ambinder has a link to the doc dump and some insight:

From the link:

On Monday, thanks to the National Security Archive, the National Security Agency released thousands of pages from its enormous, official, classified history of the nation’s signal intelligence and communications security operations during the code war. Its author is Dr. Thomas Johnson, the agency’s official historian.

Also from the link:

The entire history, which will take us afficiandos a while to pluck through, was once classified as Top Secret Umbra, with Umbra denoting intelligence of a specific level of sensitivity. At the bottom of the document, the reader is instructed to Handle Via Talent-Keyhole Comint Channels Jointly.  For those who aren’t intel fetishists, Talent-Keyhole is a category designation of sensitive compartmented information that deals with signals intelligence. Talent information deals with aircraft-gathered intelligence; Keyhole denotes imagery (imint) from satellites. Comint refers to sensitive signals intelligence methods and sources. Basically, the history was written at a level of classification that basically forbid even many intelligence professionals from reading it.

Of course, that’s all been declassified. Or most of it — the documents are studded with fascinating redactions…

September 22, 2008

Electronic Frontier Foundation sues Bush 43 admin

I doubt it’ll come to pass, but I’d like to see the culpable parties — and as sitting president the buck stops with George W. regardless what he does, or does not, know — be held responsible for sacking and looting our body politic, treasure and heritage. Read: the Constitution, I think treasure needs no further clarification, and championing torture and war crimes.

In a start to this process the Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed suit against Bush, Dick Cheney and the National Security Agency.

From the CIO.com link:

The lawsuit, filed Thursday, alleges that the NSA is conducting mass surveillance on U.S. residents, even as Bush and other officials say the program only targets U.S. residents when they communicate with overseas terrorism suspects. Filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the lawsuit is a class-action complaint on behalf of all residential customers of AT&T’s telephone and Internet services.

The lawsuit alleges that the NSA has installed equipment to conduct mass surveillance at AT&T telecom facilities in San Francisco; Atlanta; Seattle; Los Angeles; San Diego; San Jose, California; and Bridgeton, Missouri. “We allege a nationwide network of such NSA vacuum-cleaner surveillance facilities that would indiscriminately collect communications of all of the people who use AT&T’s network,” said Kevin Bankston, senior staff attorney at EFF.

March 13, 2008

The government is watching you …

Remember that little domestic spying program — Total Information Awareness — that was determined to be overly broad and more than likely unconstitutional? The one that was killed off several years ago?

Well, it wasn’t killed after all. It just went a little more underground like any good domestic spying program offered by tyrannic states throughout history.

Go read the entire linked Wall Street Journal article, but here’s the intro to get you started:

Five years ago, Congress killed an experimental Pentagon antiterrorism program meant to vacuum up electronic data about people in the U.S. to search for suspicious patterns. Opponents called it too broad an intrusion on Americans’ privacy, even after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But the data-sifting effort didn’t disappear. The National Security Agency, once confined to foreign surveillance, has been building essentially the same system.

The central role the NSA has come to occupy in domestic intelligence gathering has never been publicly disclosed. But an inquiry reveals that its efforts have evolved to reach more broadly into data about people’s communications, travel and finances in the U.S. than the domestic surveillance programs brought to light since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Congress now is hotly debating domestic spying powers under the main law governing U.S. surveillance aimed at foreign threats. An expansion of those powers expired last month and awaits renewal, which could be voted on in the House of Representatives this week. The biggest point of contention over the law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, is whether telecommunications and other companies should be made immune from liability for assisting government surveillance.

Largely missing from the public discussion is the role of the highly secretive NSA in analyzing that data, collected through little-known arrangements that can blur the lines between domestic and foreign intelligence gathering. Supporters say the NSA is serving as a key bulwark against foreign terrorists and that it would be reckless to constrain the agency’s mission. The NSA says it is scrupulously following all applicable laws and that it keeps Congress fully informed of its activities.

According to current and former intelligence officials, the spy agency now monitors huge volumes of records of domestic emails and Internet searches as well as bank transfers, credit-card transactions, travel and telephone records. The NSA receives this so-called “transactional” data from other agencies or private companies, and its sophisticated software programs analyze the various transactions for suspicious patterns. Then they spit out leads to be explored by counterterrorism programs across the U.S. government, such as the NSA’s own Terrorist Surveillance Program, formed to intercept phone calls and emails between the U.S. and overseas without a judge’s approval when a link to al Qaeda is suspected.

The NSA’s enterprise involves a cluster of powerful intelligence-gathering programs, all of which sparked civil-liberties complaints when they came to light. They include a Federal Bureau of Investigation program to track telecommunications data once known as Carnivore, now called the Digital Collection System, and a U.S. arrangement with the world’s main international banking clearinghouse to track money movements.

Keep in mind proponents of this level of domestic spying want you to remember, “there’s nothing to fear as long as you’re not doing anything wrong.” We all know government ought to be trusted with secrets and given expanded functions. I can’t believe some people still call the Bush 43 regime “conservative.”