Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for January 17th, 2015

The Digital Arms Race: NSA Preps America for Future Battle

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Jacob Appelbaum, Aaron Gibson, Claudio Guarnieri, Andy Müller-Maguhn, Laura Poitras, , Leif Ryge, and report in Spiegel Online:

The NSA’s mass surveillance is just the beginning. Documents from Edward Snowden show that the intelligence agency is arming America for future digital wars — a struggle for control of the Internet that is already well underway.

Normally, internship applicants need to have polished resumes, with volunteer work on social projects considered a plus. But at Politerain, the job posting calls for candidates with significantly different skill sets. We are, the ad says, “looking for interns who want to break things.”

Politerain is not a project associated with a conventional company. It is run by a US government intelligence organization, the National Security Agency (NSA). More precisely, it’s operated by the NSA’s digital snipers with Tailored Access Operations (TAO), the department responsible for breaking into computers.Potential interns are also told that research into third party computers might include plans to “remotely degrade or destroy opponent computers, routers, servers and network enabled devices by attacking the hardware.” Using a program called Passionatepolka, for example, they may be asked to “remotely brick network cards.” With programs like Berserkr they would implant “persistent backdoors” and “parasitic drivers”. Using another piece of software called Barnfire, they would “erase the BIOS on a brand of servers that act as a backbone to many rival governments.”

An intern’s tasks might also include remotely destroying the functionality of hard drives. Ultimately, the goal of the internship program was “developing an attacker’s mindset.”

The internship listing is eight years old, but the attacker’s mindset has since become a kind of doctrine for the NSA’s data spies. And the intelligence service isn’t just trying to achieve mass surveillance of Internet communication, either. The digital spies of the Five Eyes alliance — comprised of the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — want more.

The Birth of D Weapons

According to top secret documents from the archive of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden seen exclusively by SPIEGEL, they are planning for wars of the future in which the Internet will play a critical role, with the aim of being able to use the net to paralyze computer networks and, by doing so, potentially all the infrastructure they control, including power and water supplies, factories, airports or the flow of money.

During the 20th century, scientists developed so-called ABC weapons — atomic, biological and chemical. It took decades before their deployment could be regulated and, at least partly, outlawed. New digital weapons have now been developed for the war on the Internet. But there are almost no international conventions or supervisory authorities for these D weapons, and the only law that applies is the survival of the fittest.

Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan foresaw these developments decades ago. In 1970, he wrote, “World War III is a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation.” That’s precisely the reality that spies are preparing for today.

The US Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force have already established their own cyber forces, but it is the NSA, also officially a military agency, that is taking the lead. It’s no coincidence that the director of the NSA also serves as the head of the US Cyber Command. The country’s leading data spy, Admiral Michael Rogers, is also its chief cyber warrior and his close to 40,000 employees are responsible for both digital spying and destructive network attacks.

Surveillance only ‘Phase 0’

From a military perspective, surveillance of the Internet is merely “Phase 0” in the US digital war strategy.

Continue reading. It becomes very grim. Later in the article:

Intelligence agencies have adopted “plausible deniability” as their guiding principle for Internet operations. To ensure their ability to do so, they seek to make it impossible to trace the author of the attack.

It’s a stunning approach with which the digital spies deliberately undermine the very foundations of the rule of law around the globe. This approach threatens to transform the Internet into a lawless zone in which superpowers and their secret services operate according to their own whims with very few ways to hold them accountable for their actions.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2015 at 4:13 pm

Kale, sausage, and cauliflower soup

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I just made this recipe—with, of course, a few changes. Original ingredients along with [my changes/additions]:

[4-8 oz smoked bacon, cut into chunks and sautéed]
1 pound Italian sausage links, halved lengthwise [1.25 lb, links cut into bite-size pieces crossways]
2 large carrots, chopped [no change]
1 small onion, chopped [1 large Spanish onion, chopped]
2 cloves garlic, minced [4 cloves garlic, minced]
6 cups chicken broth [8 cups homemade chicken broth]
1 cup chopped Portobello mushroom caps [1 large Portobello chopped; next time use 2]
1 cup chopped cauliflower [1 small head, chopped]
2 cups coarsely chopped kale [1 bunch red kale chopped, stems minced; 1 bunch red chard likewise]
1 bay leaf [skipped it]
1/2 teaspoon oregano [1 Tbsp dried Mexican oregano]
[Salt, freshly ground pepper]

Extremely tasty. I cooked the bacon and when it was done, removed that, then added the cut-up sausage and cooked that until browned, then removed to cook onions and carrots, which I cooked pretty well. The browning, along with the mushrooms, gave it a rich taste. One might even venture a can of diced tomatoes.

Once I added the last stuff—all the veg—I brought it to simmer, covered it, and just simmered it 30 minutes. Really good.

I used my 6-qt All-Clad Stainless pot, 10.5″ in diameter, 4.25″ deep. The large diameter helps a lot in sautéing things: more hot surface.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2015 at 4:00 pm

Posted in Food, Low carb, Recipes

US Mission Creep in Iraq, Part Deux

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Peter Van Buren at Informed Comment:

The current American war in Iraq is a struggle in search of a goal. It began in August as a humanitarian intervention, morphed into a campaign to protect Americans in-country, became a plan to defend the Kurds, followed by a full-on crusade to defeat the new Islamic State (IS, aka ISIS, aka ISIL), and then… well, something in Syria to be determined at a later date.

At the moment, Iraq War 3.0 simply drones on, part bombing campaign, part mission to train the collapsed army the U.S. military created for Iraq War 2.0, all amid a miasma of incoherent mainstream media coverage. American troops are tiptoeing closer to combat (assuming you don’t count defensive operations, getting mortared, and flying ground attack helicopters as “combat”), even as they act like archaeologists of America’s warring past, exploring the ruins of abandoned U.S. bases. Meanwhile, Shia militias are using the conflict for the ethnic cleansing of Sunnis and Iran has become an ever-more significant player in Iraq’s affairs. Key issues of the previous American occupation of the country — corruption, representative government, oil revenue-sharing — remain largely unresolved. The Kurds still keep “winning” against the militants of IS in the city of Kobani on the Turkish border without having “won.”

In the meantime, Washington’s rallying cry now seems to be: “Wait for thespring offensive!” In translation that means: wait for the Iraqi army to get enough newly American-trained and -armed troops into action to make a move on Mosul.  That city is, of course, the country’s second largest and still ruled by the new “caliphate” proclaimed by Islamic State head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. All in all, not exactly inspiring stuff.

You can’t have victory if you have no idea where the finish line is. But there is one bright side to the situation. If you can’t create Victory in Iraq for future VI Day parades, you can at least make a profit from the disintegrating situation there.

Team America’s Arms Sales Force

In the midst of the December holiday news-dumping zone, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) quietly notified Congress of several pending arms deals for Iraq. DSCA is the Pentagon office responsible for coordinating arms agreements between American defense contractors and foreign buyers.

Before those thousands of not-boots-on-the-ground troops started hemorrhaging back into Iraq late last year, DSCA personnel made up a significant portion of all U.S. military personnel still there. Its staff members are, in fact, common in U.S. embassies in general. This shouldn’t be surprising, since the sales of weaponry and other kinds of war equipment are big business for a range of American companies, and the U.S. government is more than happy to assist. In fact, there is even a handbook to guide foreign governments through the buying process.

The DSCA operates under a mission statement which says . . .

Continue reading.

This is exactly the pattern—professional army, not citizen soldiers; wars all fought far away; thank them for their service but do nothing more, and let the institutions drift—that James Fallows wrote about and has been following up with letters from readers. Most recent column has links to earlier ones.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2015 at 3:03 pm

A good step taken by Eric Holder, but let me just say…

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I’m referring to his move to discontinue Federal civil asset forfeiture except in very narrowly defined categories:

Police will no longer be able to seize private assets through the federal program unless they’re directly linked to public safety concerns. Items that can still be seized include illegal firearms, ammunition, explosives, and property associated with child pornography.

I find it significant that this new (and very good) move has no impact at all on Wall Street. The hit (and a well-deserved hit) is to government agencies. With Wall Street, Mr. Holder is much more gentle, quashing a case from going to trial because Jamie Dimon called him personally, Dimon becoming worried once he discovered (after he had rejected the settlement offer) that the government had an actual witness who could testify that JP Morgan Chase had quite deliberately committed fraud. Didn’t want THAT to go to trial! So a phone call, Holder quashes the trial, JP Morgan Chase pays a settlement (actual cost SUBSTANTIALLY below the figures Holder quoted) that is a fraction of profits, and everyone’s taken care of (if you get my drift).

Here’s an excellent summary of the specifics, and here are some of my own blog posts on the matter, much of it about JP Morgan Chase chicanery. You can also look at for JP Morgan Chase articles—here’s one.

Basically, JP Morgan Chase is a criminal organization, but one phone call from its CEO to Eric Holder and the trial is quashed.

That’s what comes to mind when I think of Eric Holder, once and doubtless future Wall Street lawyer.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2015 at 1:48 pm

“Just knock.. three times.. and whisper low…. that you.. and I.. were sent by Moe.”

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Amazing, but I have to say I love it.

The line is from the song “Hernando’s Hideaway” from the (wonderful) musical The Pajama Game (and that’s the album to get: the 1954 original cast album) from the even better (and highly recommended) book 7½ Cents, by Richard Bissell, author of Still Circling Moose Jaw, among other things. Worth a read.

WSUI, the State University of Iowa (later renamed University of Iowa) campus radio station, used to have a weekend feature in which they would play an original cast album like The Pajama Game, and between songs summarize the action that occurs between songs, thus setting the song in context. It was terrific.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2015 at 1:12 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life

Some parts of the NYPD strongly resemble a racket

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Stephanie Clifford reports in the NY Times of one such gang in the NYPD:

A Brooklyn man who claimed the police manufactured gun-possession charges against him had his case dismissed on Thursday, amid two investigations into the practices of a group of police officers in the 67th Precinct in East Flatbush.

The man, Jeffrey Herring, had maintained his innocence ever since his arrest on June 4, 2013, asserting that officers had planted the gun on him and fabricated the circumstances of his arrest.

The officers claimed that they got a tip from a confidential informer that Mr. Herring had a gun. Prosecutors had been instructed to bring the informer to court on Thursday; the defense had challenged whether that informer even existed.

At the hearing, prosecutors offered no evidence or mention of that informer.

“Based upon information provided to us by defense counsel” and on the office’s own investigation, said Paul Burns, an assistant district attorney, “we do not believe at this time that we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt the charges against Mr. Herring.”

Justice Dineen Riviezzo of State Supreme Court dismissed and sealed the case, saying she was “glad to hear there’s an ongoing investigation.”

In researching the case, a lawyer for Mr. Herring, Debora Silberman of Brooklyn Defender Services, found others that mirrored it, involving the same group of police officers. In the other cases, defendants also said the guns were planted, with the police saying that officers saw the suspects storing the guns in plastic bags or handkerchiefs.

After the arrests, more similarities arose: The use of confidential informers was suddenly mentioned months into the proceedings, and the informers were never produced in court even after judges’ and lawyers’ requests. Judges had called some of the police version of events “incredible,” and the accounts “extremely evasive.”

The Brooklyn district attorney, Kenneth P. Thompson, said, “We will investigate the arrest of Mr. Herring and other arrests by these officers because of the serious questions raised by this case.”

After inquiries from The New York Times, the Police Department opened an Internal Affairs Bureau investigation into the officers’ conduct. . .

Continue reading. Yes, the Police Department investigates itself—God forbid that an independent investigator be appointed!! An independent investigation would not be away of the nuances—the political connections, the reciprocity of favors, and so on—and might just actually determine what’s going on and why.

Have you noticed that police department investigations of officer-involved shootings almost always, across the country, find that the shooting was justified. This instance in Albuquerque, where two police officers face homicide charges for shooting down a retreating mentally ill man that they had come (in effect) to harass: he was homeless, so they came to throw away his belongings and force him to move. (Albuquerque does not have any programs like that of the Utah city that totally eliminated the problem of homelessness by ensuring that everyone had a home. It worked well, and is helping men and women re-enter society after a rough patch. So I don’t imagine this guy actually chose to be homeless, but that he was forced to it by circumstances and total lack of a safety net—indeed, in view of his being shot to death, sort of the opposite of a safety net—think a rack of metal spikes. That sort of safety net.)

And with Charlie Hynes, former DA in Brooklyn, just outright running a racket, totally corrupt, assisted by a NYPD detective who would make sure the evidence all pointed the right direction.

No wonder the NYPD is so touchy about criticism. There’s a lot to criticize.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2015 at 12:54 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

The US has the power to treat other nations and prisoners as it pleases—and sometimes that works out poorly

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Increasingly it seems that the US is reaping what it continues to sow with unjustified imprisonments, torture (and I doubt that it’s actually no longer done: it has too many defenders in the CIA and in Congress), massacres of civilians through drone attacks on city council meetings, wedding parties, and the like, and so on. Take a look at the opening of this story in the NY Times by:

In the year after the United States’ invasion of Iraq, a 22-year-old pizza delivery man here couldn’t take it anymore. Sickened by images of American soldiers humiliating Muslims at the Abu Ghraib prison, he made plans to go fight United States forces. He studied a virtual AK-47 on a website. Then he took lessons from a man, using a hand-drawn picture of a gun.

It was an almost laughable attempt at jihad, and as the day of his departure approached, the delivery man, Chérif Kouachi, felt increasingly unsure of himself.

When the police arrested him hours before his 6:45 a.m. Alitalia flight on Jan. 25, 2005, he was relieved. “Several times, I felt like pulling out. I didn’t want to die there,” he later told investigators. “I told myself that if I chickened out, they would call me a coward, so I decided to go anyway, despite the reservations I had.”

A decade later, Chérif Kouachi, flanked by his older brother Saïd, no longer had any reservations, as the two jihadists in black, sheathed in body armor, gave a global audience a ruthless demonstration in terror. . .

Continue reading.

The US seems to believe it can mistreat civilians with impunity. It turns out to be a false notion. And the invasion of Iraq, based on outright lies, has destroyed one nation (Iraq) and IMO badly damaged another (the US).

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2015 at 10:24 am

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