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13 investigations, no court-martials: Here’s how the US Navy and Marine Corps quietly discharged white supremacists

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Will Carless reports in USA Today:

For decades, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps have quietly kicked out some of the worst white supremacists in their ranks, offering them administrative discharges that leave no public record of their hateful activity, a USA TODAY review of Navy documents found.

The documents, obtained via a public-records request by the open-government advocacy group American Oversight, detail 13 major investigations into white supremacist activity in the Navy and Marine Corps over more than 20 years. They show a pattern in which military leaders chose to deal with personnel involved in extremism by dismissing them in ways that would not attract public attention.

Take what happened to Edward Fix and Jacob Laskey.

In the early hours of Dec. 10, 2000, three white men left a neo-Nazi rally and headed to downtown Jacksonville, Florida. They were looking for a Black person to beat up, according to the Navy records.

On Main Street, they found John Joseph Newsome, 44. They beat him severely with their fists, boots and a broken bottle, all the while shouting “Kill the n—–,” according to the documents.

Then they went looking for another victim.

The trio was soon arrested and charged with aggravated battery causing great bodily harm and committing a hate crime. All three pleaded guilty to felonies and were sentenced to varying terms in the Duval County jail.

But two of the men faced another investigation. Fix and Laskey were enlisted members of the United States Navy, serving at nearby bases.

Yet the two sailors never faced military charges, which likely would have resulted in them being dishonorably discharged if they had been found guilty.

Instead, the Navy dismissed them via administrative discharges. Their only punishment from the Navy for almost beating a man to death in a racially-motivated hate crime was to lose their jobs, documents show.

Fix and Laskey entered civilian life with barely a blot on their military record. Fix fared even better: Because he had cooperated with civilian prosecutors, the felony conviction never went on his record.

13 investigations into white supremacy. No court-martials.

The Navy records describe investigations into allegations of white supremacist assault, theft, verbal abuse, threats and even gang crimes between 1997 and 2020.

One investigation involved members of a white supremacist gang called the “RRR”— an apparent nod to the KKK — who branded themselves with lighters and got in fights with nonwhite Marines.

In another case, a female sailor started one of the earliest online white supremacist message boards. She bragged about her top-secret security clearance while writing screeds about Hitler, Jews and Black people.

Not one of the 13 investigations resulted in a military trial, known as a court-martial, according to the documents. That’s the only way a member of the military can receive what’s called a “punitive discharge” such as a dishonorable or bad conduct discharge.

Instead, some of the personnel received small fines or pay cuts. Most of the troops who were let go received a general discharge under honorable conditions, the most mild administrative discharge.

Besides the 13 cases, records for another 10 have not been released because they are being reviewed, said a spokeswoman for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which investigates felony-level criminal activity.

Most of the cases in the documents were never written about in the media. The names of Navy personnel are redacted, along with other identifying details. USA TODAY identified a few through other sources, but most remain anonymous.

What most of the accused white supremacists went on to do after leaving the Navy is also unknown.

a’s most violent and notorious neo-Nazis. At the time of the beating, he already sported a chest tattoo of a swastika, according to the civilian prosecutor who handled his case.

Less than two years after the Navy let him go, Laskey was involved in an attack on a synagogue full of worshippers. He was convicted of throwing bricks etched with swastikas through the windows of the temple. After spending more than a decade in prison, he was released in 2018, only to quickly be charged with assaulting and stabbing another neo-Nazi.

He was released in 2020, sporting a mask of facial tattoos including the words “white power” inked across his jawbone.

Laskey could not be reached for comment. Fix, whose last known address was in Rochester, New York, didn’t respond to calls.

Navy officials said the documents viewed by USA TODAY represent only the most severe instances of white supremacy investigated in the ranks. Most incidents are dealt with internally rather than being formally investigated, according to military law experts and service members. That means there’s no paper trail.

The military doesn’t track how many people are removed for extremist activity, but there are signs that incidents of white supremacy are rising among troops, reflecting a surge in hate crimes among the general population.

More than a third of active-duty military personnel reported seeing white supremacist or ideologically driven racism while on duty, according to a 2019 survey by the Military Times. It’s higher for nonwhite members of the military. The 36% of respondents who reported seeing white supremacist or racist ideologies on display was up from 22% in 2018.

“As a country, we haven’t decided that white supremacy is something that we really want to acknowledge, let alone address in a major way,” said Sarah Vinson, a forensic psychiatrist and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Morehouse School of Medicine.

If the military truly wants to ferret out white supremacy, she said, transparency and consequences are critical. “If you allow things to go unchecked, they don’t magically get better and go away — they escalate.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it suggests some serious problems within the US military and the US itself, problems the US is trying to ignore.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 April 2021 at 1:35 pm

Three groundbreaking journalists saw the Vietnam War differently. It’s no coincidence they were women.

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Cambodian Prime Minister Long Boret, center, meets with war correspondent Elizabeth Becker in Cambodia in 1974. (Elizabeth Becker)

Margaret Sullivan writes in the Washington Post:

Frances FitzGerald paid her own way into Vietnam. She was an “on spec” reporter with no editor to guide her, no office to support her, and no promise that anyone would publish what she wrote about the war.

She knocked out her first article on a blue Olivetti portable typewriter she had carried from New York and mailed it the cheap and slow way from a post office in the heart of Saigon’s French quarter to the Village Voice, nearly 9,000 miles away.

It arrived, and on April 21, 1966, the Voice published FitzGerald’s indictment of the chaotic U.S. war policy.

“The result was a highly original piece written in the style of an outsider, someone who asked different questions and admitted when she didn’t have answers,” wrote Elizabeth Becker in her new book, “You Don’t Belong Here: How Three Women Rewrote the Story of War,” which celebrates the work of FitzGerald, Kate Webb and Catherine Leroy.

Becker, a former war correspondent in Cambodia toward the end of the decades-long conflict, wrote about these women in part because she had experienced much of what they did — just a little later, and with appreciation for the paths they’d broken.

“I went through it at the tail end, and they were my role models,” Becker told me last week. She admired them because they had broken gender barriers, endured sexual harassment and been belittled by journalistic peers who thought women had no place near a war zone.

But “I wanted to write more than a ‘breaking the glass ceiling’ book,” said Becker, who has broken a few of her own: It’s likely that, as a stringer in Cambodia in the early 1970s, she was the first woman to regularly report from a war zone for The Washington Post. Later, she became the senior foreign editor at NPR and a New York Times correspondent.

What struck Becker about her subjects went far beyond gender. It was the women’s approach to their work. They were more interested in people than in battlefields, quicker to see the terrible cost of violence to the Vietnamese as well as to Westerners, less likely than many of their male colleagues to swallow the government’s party line.

“They brought this common humanity and an originality to their work,” Becker said.

Remarkably early, FitzGerald clearly described what American officials didn’t want the public to see: the chaos, the lack of sensible purpose.

“For the Embassy here the problem has not been how to deal with the crisis — there is no way to deal with it under U.S. Standard Operating Procedures — but rather how to explain what is happening in any coherent terms,” she wrote in that 1966 article for the Voice. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 March 2021 at 6:22 pm

The now-declassified story Juanita Moody and the Cuban missile crisis

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David Woman writes in Smithsonian:

On the morning of Sunday, October 14, 1962, Juanita Moody exited the headquarters of the National Security Agency, at Fort Meade, Maryland, and walked the short distance to her car, parked in one of the front-row spaces reserved for top leadership. The sky was a crystalline blue, “a most beautiful day,” she recalled later. Moody had just learned that the U.S. Air Force was sending a U-2 spy plane over Cuba to take high-altitude photographs of military installations across the island. Moody was worried for the pilot—twice already in the past two years a U-2 spy plane had been shot out of the sky, once over the Soviet Union and once over China. She was also worried for the country. Tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union were worsening by the day. President John F. Kennedy, American military leaders and the intelligence community believed that the Soviet military was up to something in Cuba. Exactly what, no one could say. “I went out and got into my old convertible at the precise moment I had been told this pilot was going to get into his plane,” Moody said.

What unfolded over the next two weeks was arguably the most dangerous period in the history of civilization. Close to 60 years later, the Cuban Missile Crisis is still considered a nearly catastrophic failure on the part of America’s national security apparatus. How America’s top agents, soldiers, diplomats, intelligence analysts and elected officials failed to anticipate and uncover the buildup of a nuclear arsenal on America’s doorstep, less than 100 miles off the coast, is still being studied and debated. At best, the story of American intelligence activities before and during the crisis is far from complete. One of the most extraordinary omissions to date is the central role played by Moody, a 38-year-old code-breaking whiz and the head of the NSA’s Cuba desk during the perilous fall of 1962. Even today her name is largely unknown outside the agency, and the details of her contributions to the nation’s security remain closely guarded.

Of medium height, with lightly curled brown hair and a round face, Moody was not a spy in the secret agent sense. Her world was signals intelligence, or “sigint”—radio messages, radar data, electronic communications, weapons systems readings, shipping manifests and anything else that could be surreptitiously intercepted from friends and foes alike. Her only brief turn in the spotlight came more than a decade after the Cuban Missile Crisis, when she found herself caught up in the domestic surveillance scandals that engulfed Washington after Watergate. But who was this woman? I’ve spent several years trying to find out, digging through government archives and reviewing formerly classified documents, including internal NSA reports and performance reviews obtained using the Freedom of Information Act, as well as interviewing historians, current and former NSA staff and Moody’s surviving relatives, who provided personal letters and photographs. Now the story of this spy service pioneer and key figure in the nation’s response to Soviet encroachment in the Western Hemisphere can be told for the first time.

* * *

Juanita Moody (Née morris) was born on May 29, 1924, the first of nine children. Her father, Joseph, was a railroad worker turned cotton-and-soybean farmer, and her mother, Mary Elizabeth, a homemaker. The family lived in the hamlet of Morven, North Carolina, in a rented house with no bathroom, no electricity and no running water.

Moody was a leader from an early age. “I felt I had to do what Juanita said,” her sister Virginia “Dare” Marsh, 90, told me on a call last spring. To her siblings, Juanita’s authority was on a par with that of their parents, yet her brothers and sisters didn’t resent her. “She was always sweet lovin’ and fair to me,” Marsh said. There was also a sense that Juanita was special. “I felt at times like my parents looked up to her as well.” The school superintendent in Morven saw a spark in her, too, and recommended her for Western Carolina Teachers College, in Cullowhee.

Juanita borrowed money and enrolled, but then came the war. “All of the sudden there were practically no men left on the campus,” Moody recalled later, in one of a series of interviews with NSA historians that were declassified in 2016. “I felt that it was wrong to be spending my time in this beautiful place—clear blue skies, going around campus and studying and going to classes at leisure, when my country was in a war.” At the Army recruiting office in Charlotte, she said she wanted to volunteer. “What do you want to do?” the recruiter asked. “I’d like to get into intelligence work,” she said.

It was spring 1943. Moody took a few tests and was sent to Arlington Hall, in Virginia, headquarters of the Signal Intelligence Service, the precursor to the NSA. She was trained quickly in what was known as “cryptanalysis,” and was soon part of a group that used ciphers to crack encrypted Nazi communications. When she finished work for the day, she and a few other obsessives stayed late into the night, working illicitly on an unsolved “one-time pad,” a code that could only be cracked with a key provided to the message’s recipient ahead of time. She recalled working “every waking moment” and subsisting on buns made by a sympathetic local baker who left them for her to pick up on her way home in the middle of the night.

The painstaking nature of code breaking in those days, when teams of analysts sifted through piles of intercepted texts and tabulated and computed possible interpretations using pencil and paper, made a deep impression on Moody. Eventually, she and a colleague, a linguist and mathematician who had worked at Bletchley Park, Britain’s code-breaking headquarters, persuaded agency engineers to custom-build a machine for the one-time pad problem based on Alan Turing’s work that could generate cipher keys automatically, using the agents’ inputs. “It was a very clumsy thing,” Moody recalled. But it worked, helping the Americans decode secret messages sent to Berlin from the German ambassador in Tokyo. It was the first of many times in her long career that Moody, who would herself become a familiar face at Bletchley Park and at the IBM campus in New York, helped advance intelligence work by pushing for an ambitious and innovative use of new technologies.

After Japan’s surrender, Moody told her superior at the SIS that, with the war done, she planned to return to college. Although he himself had earned a PhD, he told her that she was making a big mistake. “This is your cup of tea, and there are going to be other targets”—other secrets to uncover in defense of the nation. “This effort is not going to stop today. This is just the beginning.”

Moody stayed with the SIS, as a staff cryptanalyst focused on signals collection in Eastern Europe. In 1947, she was promoted to chief of the Yugoslavia section. Five years later, on October 24, 1952, President Harry Truman signed a secret memorandum, and the National Security Agency was born. Since the NSA’s inception, its role was unambiguous: snoop, scoop, filter, deliver. The agency’s responsibility ended at gathering information. Analysis was the purview of the brains at CIA.

During the 1950s, Moody took on several new leadership roles at the NSA—chief of European satellites, chief of Russian manual systems, chief of Russian and East European high-grade manual systems. She also fretted over technical inefficiencies. At a time when computing technology was advancing quickly, she viewed the NSA’s use of handwritten decryptions, memos and top-secret communications as anachronistic. Where she excelled was not high-level mathematics or engineering but the application of new technologies to distill huge amounts of data and make it available to decision makers as quickly as possible. She was an advocate for using big data long before the concept had taken hold, and she pushed the agency to adopt the latest tools—Teletype, Flexowriter, early IBM computers, an intranet precursor and a searchable database called Solis.

She managed whole teams of people—her “troops,” as she called them. As a leader, she was impolitic by her own measure, occasionally calling meetings to order by whacking a hockey stick on the table. She established a system she called “Show and Tell.” Each morning, while she sipped her coffee, the division heads under her command would come by her office one by one to present highlights from the previous day’s intelligence haul. Moody would then grill them about when the intercepts were made and when the information had been sent to the NSA’s “customers”—the White House, congressional leadership, military brass, the other intelligence agencies. When she judged the lag time to be substantial, she said so. “You people are doing a tremendous job producing beautiful history,” she’d tell them. “You’re not producing intelligence.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 March 2021 at 11:18 am

A modest step forward: George Schulz forces Andrei Gromyko to discuss the Soviet shooting down of a Korean civilian airliner — Notes of the meeting)

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It’s not often that one can read the actual notes from a diplomatic encounter. From the Office of the (US) Historian:

105. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

• U.S.—Secretary Shultz
• Assistant Secretary Richard Burt
Ambassador Arthur Hartman
Ambassador Jack F. Matlock
Mr. William D. Krimer, Interpreter
USSR—Foreign Minister A.A. Gromyko
Deputy Foreign Minister Komplektov
• Ambassador Makarov
• Mr. Viktor Sukhokrev, Interpreter

[Page 363]

The Secretary thought it would be fair to say that when he and Foreign Minister Gromyko agreed to hold this meeting several weeks ago, he had hoped that this meeting might make a modest step forward in the relationship between our two countries. Instead, the destruction of a civilian airliner carrying 269 people by a Soviet military aircraft has created a major new obstacle to progress.

Gromyko interrupted at this point, threw his glasses on the table, stood up and said he refused to discuss this matter as he had told the Secretary earlier.2

The Secretary interrupted and said he strongly insisted on such a discussion, that he had instructions to discuss this matter with Gromyko in order to draw his attention to how deeply this action had shocked all Americans. We were shocked by the cost in human life.

Gromyko interrupted again to say that he knew this without the Secretary telling it to him. He proposed that they first discuss an agenda on what issues were to be taken up at today’s meeting.

The Secretary said that he would take up the Korean airliner shoot-down right now. If Gromyko did not want to listen, that was his privilege.

Gromyko said he proposed that they discuss the major, important questions of curbing the nuclear arms race, and did not agree to start off on another issue.

The Secretary said that we must start with the question of the Korean airliner since it was on everyone’s mind as Gromyko surely heard in the conference room during the last two days. We must know the facts and how the Soviets plan to deal with them.

Gromyko said he knew this without the Secretary telling him, only he knew the facts of the matter better than anyone, i.e., he knew the truth.

[Page 364]

The Secretary repeated that his agenda called for first discussing the question of the Korean airliner tragedy.

Gromyko repeated that he wanted to talk about nuclear arms first; later he would be ready to discuss the question of the airliner.

The Secretary said that the airliner matter was of first importance and this was the subject he proposed to discuss with GromykoGromyko need not listen if he did not choose to, but he himself intended to explain his concerns.

Gromyko said he was reaching the conclusion that the Secretary did not want to discuss any other problem. In that case they had nothing to discuss at this meeting. The Secretary was in the clutches of an artificially built scheme.3

The Secretary interjected that if Gromyko did not want a meeting, so be it, and rose from his seat. He was disappointed that Gromyko did not want to hear our position. He pointed out that the other matters Gromyko had mentioned were the subject of discussions in Geneva and elsewhere but here, today, and under these circumstances, he had to address the problem that was foremost not only in his mind but also foremost in the views of most people throughout the world. Many Foreign Ministers had raised the question of the meeting here; airline pilots are very concerned; so are publics everywhere.

Gromyko said that the Secretary had already said a great deal on this question. He could report to the United States that he had only one matter to discuss, but Gromyko would report to his Government and to the whole world that the US side refused to discuss matters of such enormous importance as curbing the nuclear arms race and preventing the outbreak of nuclear war, and that he himself was prepared to discuss nuclear weapons. He added that he was entirely prepared to discuss other matters as well, including the Korean airliner matter. But priorities had to be agreed upon first and he would note that this was the first time that he found himself in a situation where the Secretary of State of the United States was attempting to impose an agenda for a meeting without taking into account the views of the other side.

The Secretary said that if Gromyko did not want to discuss this question with him, that would be his choice. But the Secretary’s choice [Page 365]was to convey to Gromyko the information he had regarding this matter.

Pacing and greatly agitated, Gromyko said,  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 March 2021 at 4:22 pm

Removed from command: A two-star general’s mental health disaster and fight to recover — A good discussion of bipolar disorder from a man who’s been there

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Gregg Martin and Philip Martin write in Task & Purpose:

t was mid-July 2014. I was 58 years old and after more than three decades in the Army, I was a two-star general and President of the National Defense University, the nation’s highest military educational institution, located in Washington, D.C. NDU fell under the supervision of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the country’s top-ranking military officer. And the Chairman had just ordered me to report to his office at the Pentagon the next day. 

Something was up. Until very recently, my job performance had been rated as exemplary, and I had received extremely positive feedback. Had the Chairman approved my request for a three-year extension at the university? Did he want to reinforce what a great job I was doing and give me guidance for my upcoming third year at the helm? Was he unhappy with me and about to terminate my presidency? Or, was it something else? I would soon find out.

The Chairman was a brilliant, inspirational, and friendly man. He had been a fabulous boss, as well as a colleague, mentor and friend for nearly 20 years. When I walked into his office, I noticed his lawyer was in the room, which was not a good sign. I saluted the Chairman and he walked over and gave me a hug.

“Gregg, I love you like a brother,” he said. “But your time at NDU is done. You have until 1700 today to submit your letter of resignation to me or I will fire you. Is that clear?” Had I been in a normal state of mind, with a healthy brain, I probably would have been stunned, upset, or disappointed. But I was in a state of acute mania, and I had none of those feelings or reactions. I was already anticipating my next grandiose mission from God.

“A lot of people think you have serious mental health problems. I’m ordering you to get a command-directed psychiatric health exam at Walter Reed. You need to go this week.”

Indeed, my behavior had become erratic and disruptive to the mission. I had lost the confidence of much of the staff and faculty of National Defense University. I resigned that afternoon. My 35-year career would end sooner than I had anticipated.

To be clear, I was not wronged. The Chairman made the absolute right decision. He was taking good care of my own health and welfare, as well as his university’s welfare and mission success. Had I been in his shoes, I would have made the exact same decision. NDU benefited greatly under the leadership of the ambassador who took my place as interim president. I do not dispute any decision, medical or administrative. Furthermore, I am not a medical doctor and I believe that the clinicians at Walter Reed are true professionals who did their best. 

But consider this: One week before I was asked to resign, two medical doctors — my general practitioner and a psychiatrist — had evaluated me and given me a clean bill of health. 

“It is my professional opinion that [Major General] Martin is physically and mentally fit for duty,” wrote one. 

The psychiatrist wrote: “I do not find evidence of psychiatric illness. Specifically, he does not have depression, mania or psychosis…he is psychiatrically fit for duty.”

The reason I say this is not to criticize, but to emphasize how devilishly difficult it is even for medical professionals to recognize and correctly diagnose bipolar disorder, even when it is in an acute state.

That day in the Chairman’s office, it had never crossed my own mind that I was mentally ill. I felt terrific and was full of energy, drive, enthusiasm and ideas. There was important work to be done. In fact, the week after I had resigned, I was given yet another unremarkable medical examination: “fit for duty.”

Yet the truth is that for more than a decade, I had unknowingly served as a senior leader in the U.S. military with undiagnosed bipolar disorder. According to medical authorities, my bipolar disorder was “triggered” in 2003 when I was serving as a colonel and brigade commander during the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It grew worse for nearly a decade, and between 2012 and the summer of 2014 my mania became “acute.” At last, in late 2014, four months after my resignation from NDU, I spiraled, then crashed, into hopeless, terrifying depression and psychosis. From late 2014 through 2016, I was in a battle for my life.

Had there been warning signs and indications? How did I myself miss them? How did my family, friends and colleagues miss them? How did the institution I worked for so long miss them? If there were warnings, what were they? 

Bipolar disorder in a nutshell: What exactly is it?

Formerly known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is a general term that, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), comprises a cluster of related disorders that are characterized by distinctive and extreme shifts or cycles, in mood. These moods oscillate between varying degrees of two poles: mania and depression, or “highs” and “lows.” 

Manic states are typically marked by elevated, expansive or irritable moods and increased energy; feeling overly happy and optimistic; being highly talkative but with pressured speech; having an inflated self-esteem or feeling grandiose or religious, as if on a mission directly from God. There’s often little need for sleep, since it’s common to feel rested after three hours, but the mind is always racing with ideas and distracted, which can lead the afflicted to take part in high risk, dangerous, or potentially painful activities, such as drug and alcohol abuse, high risk sex, affairs, and extravagant spending sprees. 

Mania is much more than feeling up, happy or energetic. It can be life-threatening and highly destructive, with some manic symptoms being severe enough to cause marked social or occupational impairment or require hospitalization to prevent harm to self or others. And it is driven in large part by  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 March 2021 at 12:23 pm

The Boogaloo Bois Have Guns, Criminal Records and Military Training. Now They Want to Overthrow the Government.

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A.C. Thompson, ProPublica, and Lila Hassan and Karim Hajj, FRONTLINE, report in ProPublica:

Hours after the attack on the Capitol ended, a group calling itself the Last Sons of Liberty posted a brief video to Parler, the social media platform, that appeared to show members of the organization directly participating in the uprising. Footage showed someone with a shaky smartphone charging past the metal barricades surrounding the building. Other clips show rioters physically battling with baton-wielding police on the white marble steps just outside the Capitol.

Before Parler went offline — its operations halted at least temporarily when Amazon refused to continue to host the network — the Last Sons posted numerous statements indicating that group members had joined the mob that swarmed the Capitol and had no regrets about the chaos and violence that unfolded on Jan. 6. The Last Sons also did some quick math: The government had suffered only one fatality, U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, 42, who was reportedly bludgeoned in the head with a fire extinguisher. But the rioters had lost four people, including Ashli Babbitt, the 35-year-old Air Force veteran who was shot by an officer as she tried to storm the building.

In a series of posts, the Last Sons said her death should be “avenged” and appeared to call for the murder of three more cops.

The group is part of the Boogaloo movement — a decentralized, very online successor to the ­­militia movement of the ’80s and ’90s —­ whose adherents are fixated on attacking law enforcement and violently toppling the U.S. government. Researchers say the movement began coalescing online in 2019 as people — mostly young men — angry with what they perceived to be increasing government repression, found each other on Facebook groups and in private chats. In movement vernacular, Boogaloo refers to an inevitable and imminent armed revolt, and members often call themselves Boogaloo Bois, boogs or goons.

In the weeks since Jan. 6, an array of extremist groups have been named as participants in the Capitol invasion. The Proud Boys. QAnon believers. White nationalists. The Oath Keepers. But the Boogaloo Bois are notable for the depth of their commitment to the overthrow of the U.S. government and the jaw-dropping criminal histories of many members.

Mike Dunn, a 20-year-old from a small town on Virginia’s rural southern edge, is the commander of the Last Sons. “I really feel we’re looking at the possibility — stronger than any time since, say, the 1860s — of armed insurrection,” Dunn said in an interview with ProPublica and FRONTLINE a few days after the assault on the Capitol. Although Dunn didn’t directly participate, he said members of his Boogaloo faction helped fire up the crowd and “may” have penetrated the building.

“It was a chance to mess with the federal government again,” he said. “They weren’t there for MAGA. They weren’t there for Trump.”

Dunn added that he’s “willing to die in the streets” while battling law enforcement or security forces.

In its short existence, the Boogaloo movement has proven to be a magnet for current or former military service members who have used their combat skills and firearms expertise to advance the Boogaloo cause. Before becoming one of the faces of the movement, Dunn did a brief stint in the U.S. Marines, a career he says was cut short by a heart condition, and worked as a Virginia state prison guard.

Through interviews, extensive study of social media and a review of court records, some previously unreported, ProPublica and FRONTLINE identified more than 20 Boogaloo Bois or sympathizers who’ve served in the armed forces. Over the past 18 months, 13 of them have been arrested on charges ranging from the possession of illegal automatic weapons to the manufacture of explosives to murder.

Most of the individuals identified by the news organizations became involved with the movement after leaving the military. At least four are accused of committing Boogaloo-related crimes while employed by one of the military branches.

Examples of the nexus between the group and the military abound.

Last year, an FBI task force in San Francisco opened a domestic terror investigation into  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much, much more.

Later in the article:

The Marine Corps is working to root out extremists from its ranks, a spokesman said.

“Association or participation with hate or extremist groups of any kind is directly contradictory to the core values of honor, courage and commitment that we stand for as Marines and isn’t tolerated,” Capt. Joseph Butterfield said.

No reliable numbers exist about how many current or former military members are part of the movement.

However, military officials at the Pentagon told ProPublica and FRONTLINE that they have been concerned by a surge in extremist activity. “We are seeing an increase in concerning behavior,” said one official, stressing that military leaders are “very actively” responding to tips and are thoroughly investigating service members linked to anti-government groups.

Experts worry about people with military training joining extremist groups.

Boogaloo Bois with military experience are likely to share their expertise with members who’ve never served in the armed forces, building a more effective, more lethal movement. “These are folks who can bring discipline to a movement. These are folks that can bring skills to a movement,” said Jason Blazakis, director of the Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 February 2021 at 12:44 pm

Arrows vs Armour – Medieval Myth Busting

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Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2021 at 7:41 pm

Posted in History, Military, Video

‘Be ready to fight’: FBI probe of U.S. Capitol riot finds evidence detailing coordination of an assault

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It’s becoming increasingly that what happened on January 6 was a serious and deliberate attempt at a coup, which failed only because of the extraordinarily high level of incompetence of those attempting it .

As an instance of deliberate intent, see “Trump Defense Secretary Disarmed D.C. National Guard Before Capitol Riot,” a report by Mark Sumner in The National Memo, which begins:

testimony before the House this week, Capitol Police and D.C. National Guard officials acknowledged that by Jan. 4 they understood that “… the January 6th event would not be like any of the previous protests held in 2020. We knew that militia groups and white supremacist organizations would be attending. We also knew that some of these participants were intending to bring firearms and other weapons to the event. We knew that there was a strong potential for violence and that Congress was the target.”

On that same day, former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller issued a memo to the secretary of the Army placing some extremely unusual limits on National Guard forces for that event. It’s not a to-do list. It’s a list of thou shalt nots. A long list. A list that says guard forces can’t arrest any of the pro-Trump protesters, or search them, or even touch them. And that’s just for starters.

The full memo shows that the D.C. Guard did receive a request from D.C. government for guard presence during the Jan. 6 event. Miller responds promptly to go ahead, so long as the soldiers are given no weapons, no body armor, and no helmets. They can bring agents like pepper spray or flashbangs. They can’t share any gear with Capitol Police or Metro D.C. Police. They can’t … really do much of anything.

When initial reports indicate that the handful of National Guard forces that were deployed to D.C. on that day were dedicated to directing traffic several blocks away from the area of the Trump rally, it may simply be because that’s the only thing they could find for them to do considering the restrictions that were given. It’s clear that these restrictions would have absolutely prevented any guard forces from trying to protect any location. . .

Read the whole thing.

And see also the report in the Washington Post by Devlin Barrett, Spencer S. Hsu, and Aaron C. Davis:

When die-hard supporters of President Donald Trump showed up at rally point “Cowboy” in Louisville on the morning of Jan. 5, they found the shopping mall’s parking lot was closed to cars, so they assembled their 50 or so vehicles outside a nearby Kohl’s department store. Hundreds of miles away in Columbia, S.C., at a mall designated rally point “Rebel,” other Trump supporters gathered to form another caravan to Washington. A similar meetup — dubbed “Minuteman” — was planned for Springfield, Mass.

That same day, FBI personnel in Norfolk were increasingly alarmed by the online conversations they were seeing, including warlike talk around the convoys headed to the nation’s capital. One map posted online described the rally points, declaring them a “MAGA Cavalry To Connect Patriot Caravans to StopTheSteal in D.C.” Another map showed the U.S. Congress, indicating tunnels connecting different parts of the complex. The map was headlined, “CREATE PERIMETER,” according to the FBI report, which was reviewed by The Washington Post.

“Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in,” read one posting, according to the report.

FBI agents around the country are working to unravel the various motives, relationships, goals and actions of the hundreds of Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Some inside the bureau have described the Capitol riot investigation as their biggest case since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and a top priority of the agents’ work is to determine the extent to which that violence and chaos was preplanned and coordinated.

Self-styled militia members planned days in advance to storm the Capitol, court papers say

Investigators caution there is an important legal distinction between gathering like-minded people for a political rally — which is protected by the First Amendment — and organizing an armed assault on the seat of American government. The task now is to distinguish which people belong in each category, and who played key roles in committing or coordinating the violence.

Video and court filings, for instance, describe how several groups of men that include alleged members of the Proud Boys appear to engage in concerted action, converging on the West Front of the Capitol just before 1 p.m., near the Peace Monument at First Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Different factions of the crowd appear to coalesce, move forward and chant under the direction of different leaders before charging at startled police staffing a pedestrian gate, all in the matter of a few minutes.

An indictment Friday night charged a member of the Proud Boys, Dominic Pezzola, 43, of Rochester, N.Y., with conspiracy, saying his actions showed “planning, determination, and coordination.” Another alleged member of the Proud Boys, William Pepe, 31, of Beacon, N.Y., also was charged with conspiracy.

Minutes before the crowd surge, at 12:45 p.m., police received the first report of a pipe bomb behind the Republican National Committee headquarters at the opposite, southeast side of the U.S. Capitol campus. The device and another discovered shortly afterward at Democratic National Committee headquarters included end caps, wiring, timers and explosive powder, investigators have said. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2021 at 3:05 pm

960lbs crossbow vs 150lbs crossbow

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Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2021 at 1:42 pm

Posted in Military, Technology, Video

The Woman Whose Invention Helped Win a War — and Still Baffles Weathermen

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Our common culture has long had a blind spot regarding women — their identity, experience, and achievements — and to some extent it is an active blind spot, in which some efforts are made to hide and erase knowledge of women’s accomplishments and women’s valid experience (cf. Harvey Weinstein and how culture covered for his offenses).

Irena Fischer-Hwang writes in Smithsonian Magazine:

On June 4, 2013, the city of Huntsville, Alabama was enjoying a gorgeous day. Blue skies, mild temperatures. Just what the forecasters had predicted.

But in the post-lunch hours, meteorologists started picking up what seemed to be a rogue thunderstorm on the weather radar. The “blob,” as they referred to it, mushroomed on the radar screen. By 4 PM, it covered the entire city of Huntsville. Strangely, however, the actual view out of peoples’ windows remained a calm azure.

The source of the blob turned out to be not a freak weather front, but rather a cloud of radar chaff, a military technology used by nations all across the globe today. Its source was the nearby Redstone Arsenal, which, it seems, had decided that a warm summer’s day would be perfect for a completely routine military test.

More surprising than the effect that radar chaff has on modern weather systems, though, is the fact that its inventor’s life’s work was obscured by the haze of a male-centric scientific community’s outdated traditions.

The inventor of radar chaff was a woman named Joan Curran.

Born Joan Strothers and raised in Swansea on the coast of Wales, she matriculated at the University of Cambridge’s Newnham College in 1934. Strothers studied physics on a full scholarship and enjoyed rowing in her spare time. Upon finishing her degree requirements in 1938, she went to the University’s preeminent Cavendish Laboratory to begin a doctorate in physics.

At the Cavendish, Strothers was assigned to work with a young man named Samuel Curran. For two years, Strothers got along swimmingly with her new lab partner. But with international conflict brewing in Europe, in 1940 the pair was transferred twice to work on military research, and ended up at Exeter.

There, the two developed proximity fuses to destroy enemy planes and rockets. There also, Strothers married Sam and took on his last name, becoming Joan Curran. Shortly after their wedding in November, the Currans transferred to the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE) in the autumn of 1940. Curran joined a team led by British physicist and scientific military intelligence expert R.V. Jones that was developing a method to conceal aircraft from enemy radar detection.

The idea, Jones later explained in his book Most Secret War, was simple. Radar detectors measure the reflection of radio waves of a certain wavelength off of incoming objects. As it turns out, thin metal strips can resonate with incoming waves, and also re-radiate the waves. Under the right conditions, the re-radiated waves create the sonic impression of a large object when in reality, there is none—hence, the blob in Alabama.

This property means that a few hundred thin reflectors could, together, reflect as much energy as a heavy British bomber plane would. A collection of strips might conceal the exact location of an aircraft during a raid behind a large cloud of signal, or even lead the enemy to believe they were observing a major attack when in reality, there was only one or two planes.

By the time Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941, Curran was nearly a year into painstaking experiments on using metals to reflect radar signals. She had tried a seemingly countless number of sizes and shapes, from singular wires to metal leaflets the size of notebook paper. The leaflets had been a particularly interesting idea, since they could do double-duty as propaganda sheets with text printed on them.

In 1942, Curran finally settled on reflectors that were about 25 centimeters long and 1.5 centimeters wide. The reflectors were aluminized paper strips bundled into one-pound packets and intended to be thrown out of the leading aircraft. When defenestrated from a stream of bombers once every minute, they could produce “the radar equivalent of a smokescreen,” according to Jones.

In 1943, the reflector strips were put to a serious military test when the Allies launched Operation Gomorrah on Hamburg, Germany. Operation Gomorrah was a brutal campaign of air raids that lasted over a week, destroyed most of the city and resulted in almost 40,000 civilian deaths. But with rates of only 12 aircraft losses out of 791 on one evening’s bombing raid, the campaign was a major victory for the Allies, in large part due to Curran’s reflectors.

Perhaps most notably, radar chaff was used as part of a large-scale, elaborate diversion on June 5, 1944 to prevent German forces from knowing exactly where the Allied invasion into Nazi-held continental Europe would begin. Deployed on the eve of what would become known as D-Day, two radar chaff drops, Operations Taxable and Glimmer, were combined with hundreds of dummy parachutists to draw German attention towards the northernmost parts of France, and away from the beaches of Normandy.

Curran went on to work on . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Later in the article:

“We don’t know how many women were working in the labs of famous male scientists, or how many discoveries women contributed to, because for centuries men did a very good job hiding the achievements of women,” Wade remarked in an email.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2021 at 9:45 am

Insurrection Timeline – First the Coup and Then the Cover-Up

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Steven Harper writes at Moyers on Democracy:

The Department of Defense’s January 8, 2021 press release purports to “memorialize the planning and execution timeline” of the deadly insurrection that it calls the “January 6, 2021 First Amendment Protests in Washington, DC.”*

The memo’s minute-by-minute account creates a false illusion of transparency. In truth, its most noteworthy aspects are the omission of Trump’s central role in the insurrection and the effort to shift blame away from Trump and his new Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller.

Who is Christopher Miller?

By November 9, every news organization declared that former Vice President Joe Biden had won the election. On that day, Trump fired Acting Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and replaced him with Miller, an Army retiree who worked for a defense contractor until Trump tapped him as his assistant in 2018. Miller’s promotion began a departmental regime change that embedded three fierce Trump loyalists as top Defense Department officials: Kash Patel (former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA)), retired army Gen. Anthony Tata (pro-Trump Fox News pundit) and Ezra Cohen-Watnick (former assistant to Trump’s first national security adviser, Mike Flynn).

At such a late date in Trump’s presidency, many asked why the shake-up at the Department of Defense? We may be learning the answer.

Prior to the Attack

The department’s January 8, 2021 memo ignores Trump’s central role in igniting and then encouraging the January 6 insurrection. In fact, the only reference to Trump appears in a January 3 entry, when Miller and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Milley meet with him and he concurs in activation of the DC National Guard “to support law enforcement.”

Other than that, Trump is conspicuously absent, along with the most important parts of the story. In the date and time entries that follow, only those in italics and preceded with “(DoD Memo)” summarize items from the Defense Department’s January 8 memorandum. The memo ignores every other fact set forth in this post.

Dec. 19, 2020: Trump tweets: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

Jan. 3, 2021: Replying to a tweet from one of the rally organizers, Trump tweets: “I will be there. Historic day.”

Jan. 4: The National Park Service increases the crowd estimate on the January 6 rally permit to 30,000 — up from the original 5,000 in December.

January 6, 2021:

8:17 a.m.: Trump tweets: “States want to correct their votes, which they now know were based on irregularities and fraud, plus corrupt process never received legislative approval. All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!”

Noon: Trump begins to address the mob and continues speaking for more than 90 minutes.

  • “We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved.”
  • “We won this election, and we won it by a landslide. This was not a close election.”
  • “I hope Mike is going to do the right thing. I hope so. I hope so, because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election. All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify, and we become president, and you are the happiest people.”

1:00 p.m.: While Trump continues his rant to the mob, some members of Trump’s crowd have already reached the US Capitol Building where Congress assembles in joint session to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. An initial wave of protesters storms the outer barricade west of the Capitol Building. As the congressional proceedings begin, Pence reads a letter saying that he won’t intervene in Congress’s electoral count: “My oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority.”

1:10 p.m.: Trump ends his speech by urging his followers to march down Pennsylvania Avenue. “We’re going to the Capitol. We’re going to try and give them [Republicans] the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country…If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

The Attack

If the District of Columbia were a state, its governor alone could have deployed the National Guard to crush the riot. Instead, Trump and his Defense Department had that responsibility, and an unprecedented assault on a sacred institution of government succeeded, if only for a few hours.

(DoD Memo) 1:26 p.m.: The Capitol Police orders the evacuation of the Capitol complex.

1:30 p.m.: The crowd outside the building grows larger, eventually overtaking the Capitol Police and making its way up the Capitol steps. Suspicious packages — later confirmed to be pipe bombs — are found at Republican National Committee headquarters and Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington.

(DoD Memo) 1:34 p.m.: DC Mayor Muriel Bowser asks Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy — who reports to Miller — for more federal help to deal with the mob.

Bowser is told that the request must first come from the Capitol Police.

(DoD Memo) 1:49 p.m.: The Capitol Police chief asks the commanding general of the DC National Guard for immediate assistance.

2:15 p.m.: Trump’s mob breaches the Capitol building – breaking windows, climbing inside and opening doors for others to follow.

(DoD Memo) 2:22 p.m.: Army Secretary McCarthy discusses the situation at the Capitol with Mayor Bowser and her staff.

They are begging for additional National Guard assistance. Note the time. It’s been almost an hour since Bowser requested help.

2:24 p.m.: Trump tweets: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”

After erecting a gallows on the Capitol grounds, the mob shouts, “Hang Mike Pence.” Rioters create another noose from a camera cord seized during an attack on an onsite news team.

2:26 p.m.: Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund joins a conference call with several officials from the DC government, as well as officials from the Pentagon, including Lt. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, director of the Army Staff. Piatt later issues a statement denying the statements attributed to him.

“I am making an urgent, urgent immediate request for National Guard assistance,” Sund says. “I have got to get boots on the ground.”

The DC contingent is flabbergasted when Piatt says that he could not recommend that his boss, Army Secretary McCarthy, approve the request. “I don’t like the visual of the National Guard standing a police line with the Capitol in the background,” Piatt says. Again and again, Sund says that the situation is dire.

(DoD Memo) 2:30 p.m.: Miller, Army Secretary McCarthy and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff meet to discuss Mayor Bowser’s request.

(DoD Memo) 3:04 p.m.: Miller gives “verbal approval” to full mobilization of the DC National Guard (1,100 members).

It has now been more than 90 minutes since Mayor Bowser first asked Army Secretary McCarthy for assistance. It took an hour for Defense Department officials to meet and another half hour for them to decide to help. And Bowser still doesn’t know the status of her request.

(DoD Memo) 3:19 p.m.: Pelosi and Schumer call Army Secretary McCarthy, who says that Bowser’s request has now been approved.

(DoD Memo) 3:26 p.m.: Army Secretary McCarthy calls Bowser to tell her that her request for help has been approved.

The Defense Department’s notification of approval to Bowser came two hours after her request.

While Miller and his team were slow-walking Mayor Bowser’s request, she had sought National Guard assistance from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R). At about the same time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called Northam directly for help and he agreed.

3:29 p.m.: Gov. Northam announces mobilization of Virginia’s National Guard. But there’s a hitch. Federal law requires Defense Department authorization before any state’s National Guard can cross the state border onto federal land in DC. That approval doesn’t come until almost two hours later.FBI report warned of ‘war’ at Capitol, contradicting claims there was no indication of looming violence

(DoD Memo) 3:47 p.m. Governor Hogan mobilizes his state’s National Guard and 200 state troopers.

The Defense Department “repeatedly denies” Hogan’s request to deploy the National Guard at the Capitol. As he awaits approval, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) calls Hogan from the undisclosed bunker to which he, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have been evacuated. Hoyer pleads for assistance, saying that the Capitol Police is overwhelmed and there is no federal law enforcement presence.

4:17 p.m.: Trump tweets a video telling rioters, . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Also of interest: “FBI report warned of ‘war’ at Capitol, contradicting claims there was no indication of looming violence,” a report in the Washington Post. Republicans in general, and particularly those who supported the Trump administration prior to the uprising (that is, almost all Republicans), are frantically trying to hide or minimize their involvement and support of the insurrection, including making the ludicrous claim that those storming the Capitol were not Trump supports but Antifa members disguised as Trump supporters.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2021 at 12:08 pm

Report from a toxic work culture: “How I Managed My Mental Illness as a Career Military Officer”

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Stephen Chamberlin writes in Medium:

Zero Defect? Really? Really.

Hidden in Plain Sight

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 January 2021 at 2:51 pm

How to Get Rich Sabotaging Nuclear Weapons Facilities

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Matt Stoller writes in BIG:

Happy new year. Today I’m going to write about the Russian hack of American nuclear facilities, and why a billionaire private equity executive just profiled in the Wall Street Journal as a dealmaker extraordinaire is responsible. Plus some short blurbs on:

  • The Problem with Amazon competitor Shopify
  • Ticketmaster’s Grotesque Settlement with the Department of Justice
  • Economists Non-Surprising But Important Findings about Debt-Fueled Private Equity and Covid
  • Big Tech and Diversity
  • Appliance Parts Monopolization?

Happy New Year! The password is 12345

My Password Is “Password”

Roughly a month ago, the premier cybersecurity firm FireEye warned authorities that it had been penetrated by Russian hackers, who made off with critical tools it used to secure the facilities of corporations and governments around the world.

The victims are the most important institutional power centers in America, from the FBI to the Department of Treasury to the Department of Commerce, as well as private sector giants Cisco Systems, Intel, Nvidia, accounting giant Deloitte, California hospitals, and thousands of others. As more information comes out about what happened, the situation looks worse and worse. Russians got access to Microsoft’s source code and into the Federal agency overseeing America’s nuclear stockpile. They may have inserted code into the American electrical grid, or acquired sensitive tax information or important technical and political secrets.

Cybersecurity is a very weird area, mostly out of sight yet potentially very deadly. Anonymous groups can turn off power plants, telecom grids, or disrupt weapons labs, as Israel did when it used a cyber-weapon to cripple Iranian nuclear facilities in 2010. Bank regulators have to now consult with top military leaders about whether deposit insurance covers incidents where hackers destroy all bank records, and what that would mean operationally. It’s not obvious whether this stuff is war or run-of-the-mill espionage, but everyone knows that the next war will be chock full of new tactics based on hacking the systems of one’s adversary, perhaps using code placed in those systems during peacetime.

And that makes this hack quite scary, even if we don’t see the effect right now. Mark Warner, one of the smarter Democratic Senators and the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said “This is looking much, much worse than I first feared,” also noting “The size of it keeps expanding.” Political leaders are considering reprisals against Russia, though it’s likely they will not engage in much retaliation we can see on the surface. It’s the biggest hack since 2016, when an unidentified group stole the National Security Agency’s “crown jewels” spy tools. It is, as Wired put it, a “historic mess.”

There is a lot of finger-pointing going on in D.C. and in cybersecurity circles about what happened and why. There are all of the standard questions that military and cyber lawyers love, like whether this hack is war, espionage, or something legally ambiguous. Policymakers are revisiting the longstanding policy of having the National Security Agency focus on offensive hacking instead of securing defensive capacity.

The most interesting part of the cybersecurity problem is that it isn’t purely about government capacity at all; private sector corporations maintain critical infrastructure that is in the “battle space.” Private firms like Microsoft are being heavily scrutinized; I had one guest-post from last January on why the firm doesn’t manage its security problems particularly well, and another on how it is using its market power to monopolize the cybersecurity market with subpar products. And yet these companies have no actual public obligations, or at least, nothing formal. They are for-profit entities with little liability for the choices they make that might impose costs onto others.

Indeed, cybersecurity risk is akin to pollution, a cost that the business itself doesn’t fully bear, but that the rest of society does. The private role in cybersecurity is now brushing up against the libertarian assumptions of much of the policymaking world; national security in a world where private software companies handle national defense simply cannot long co-exist with our monopoly and financier-dominated corporate apparatus.

All of which brings me to what I think is the most compelling part of this story. The point of entry for this major hack was not Microsoft, but a private equity-owned IT software firm called SolarWinds. This company’s products are dominant in their niche; 425 out of the Fortune 500 use Solar Winds. As Reuters reported about the last investor call in October, the CEO told analysts that “there was not a database or an IT deployment model out there to which [they] did not provide some level of monitoring or management.” While there is competition in this market, SolarWinds does have market power. IT systems are hard to migrate from, and this lock-in effect means that customers will tolerate price hikes or quality degradation rather than change providers. And it does have a large market share; as the CEO put it, “We manage everyone’s network gear.”

SolarWinds sells a network management package called Orion, and it was through Orion that the Russians invaded these systems, putting malware into updates that the company sent to clients. Now, Russian hackers are extremely sophisticated sleuths, but it didn’t take a genius to hack this company. It’s not just that criminals traded information about how to hack SolarWinds systems; one security researcher alerted the company last year that “anyone could access SolarWinds’ update server by using the password “solarwinds123.’”

Using passwords ripped form the movie Spaceballs is one thing, but it appears that lax security practice at the company was common, systemic, and longstanding. The company puts its engineering in the hands of cheaper Eastern Europe coders, where it’s easier for Russian engineers to penetrate their product development. SolarWinds didn’t bother to hire a senior official to focus on security until 2017, and then only after it was forced to do so by European regulations. Even then, SolarWinds CEO, Kevin Thompson, ignored the risk. As the New York Times noted, one security “adviser at SolarWinds, said he warned management that year that unless it took a more proactive approach to its internal security, a cybersecurity episode would be “catastrophic.” The executive in charge of security quit in frustration. Even after the hack, the company continued screwing up; SolarWinds didn’t even stop offering compromised software for several days after it was discovered.

This level of idiocy seems off-the-charts, but it’s not that the CEO is stupid. Far from it. “Employees say that under Mr. Thompson,” the Times continued, “an accountant by training and a former chief financial officer, every part of the business was examined for cost savings and common security practices were eschewed because of their expense.” The company’s profit tripled from 2010 to 2019. Thompson calculated that his business could run more profitably if it chose to open its clients to hacking risk, and he was right.

And yet, not every software firm operates like SolarWinds. Most seek to make money, but few do so with such a combination of malevolence, greed, and idiocy. What makes SolarWinds different? The answer is the specific financial model that has invaded the software industry over the last fifteen years, a particularly virulent strain of recklessness typically called private equity.

I’ve written a lot about private equity. By ‘private equity,’ I mean financial engineers, financiers who raise large amounts of money and borrow even more to buy firms and loot them. These kinds of private equity barons aren’t specialists who help finance useful products and services, they do cookie cutter deals targeting firms they believe have market power to raise prices, who can lay off workers or sell assets, and/or have some sort of legal loophole advantage. Often they will destroy the underlying business. The giants of the industry, from Blackstone to Apollo, are the children of 1980s junk bond king and fraudster Michael Milken. They are essentially are super-sized mobsters who burn down businesses for the insurance money.

In private equity takeovers of software, the gist is the same, with the players a bit different. It’s not Apollo and Blackstone, it’s Vista Equity Partners, Thomas Bravo, and Silver Lake, but it’s the same cookie cutter style deal flow, the same financing arrangements, and the same business model risks. But in this case, the private equity owner of SolarWinds burned down far more than just the firm.

Arson for Profit

In October, the Wall Street Journal profiled the man who owns SolarWinds, a Puerto Rican-born billionaire named Orlando Bravo of Thomas Bravo partners. Bravo’s PR game is solid; he was photographed beautifully, a slightly greying fit man with a blue shirt and off-white rugged pants in front of modern art, a giant vase and fireplace in the background of what is obviously a fantastically expensive apartment. Though it was mostly a puff piece of a silver fox billionaire, the article did describe Bravo’s business model.

Thoma Bravo identifies software companies with a loyal customer base but middling profits and transforms them into moneymaking engines by retooling pricing, shutting down unprofitable business lines and adding employees in cheaper labor markets.

The firm then guides its companies to use the profits they generate to do add-on acquisitions, snapping up smaller rivals with offerings that they could spend months and millions of dollars trying to replicate.

As I put it at the time, Bravo’s business model is to buy niche software companies, combine them with competitors, offshore work, cut any cost he can, and raise prices. The investment thesis is clear: power. Software companies have immense pricing power over their customers, which means they can raise prices to locked-in customers, or degrade quality (which is the same thing in terms of the economics of the firm). As Robert Smith, one of his competitors in the software PE game, put it, “Software contracts are better than first-lien debt. You realize a company will not pay the interest payment on their first lien until after they pay their software maintenance or subscription fee. We get paid our money first. Who has the better credit? He can’t run his business without our software.”

SolarWinds represents this thesis perfectly. The company was . ..

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 January 2021 at 11:20 am

The Endgame of the Reagan Revolution

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Heather Cox Richardson writes a good summary of modern American political history:

And so, we are at the end of a year that has brought a presidential impeachment trial, a deadly pandemic that has killed more than 338,000 of us, a huge social movement for racial justice, a presidential election, and a president who has refused to accept the results of that election and is now trying to split his own political party.

It’s been quite a year.

But I had a chance to talk with history podcaster Bob Crawford of the Avett Brothers yesterday, and he asked a more interesting question. He pointed out that we are now twenty years into this century, and asked what I thought were the key changes of those twenty years. I chewed on this question for awhile and also asked readers what they thought. Pulling everything together, here is where I’ve come out.

In America, the twenty years since 2000 have seen the end game of the Reagan Revolution, begun in 1980.

In that era, political leaders on the right turned against the principles that had guided the country since the 1930s, when Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt guided the nation out of the Great Depression by using the government to stabilize the economy. During the Depression and World War Two, Americans of all parties had come to believe the government had a role to play in regulating the economy, providing a basic social safety net and promoting infrastructure.

But reactionary businessmen hated regulations and the taxes that leveled the playing field between employers and workers. They called for a return to the pro-business government of the 1920s, but got no traction until the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, when the Supreme Court, under the former Republican governor of California, Earl Warren, unanimously declared racial segregation unconstitutional. That decision, and others that promoted civil rights, enabled opponents of the New Deal government to attract supporters by insisting that the country’s postwar government was simply redistributing tax dollars from hardworking white men to people of color.

That argument echoed the political language of the Reconstruction years, when white southerners insisted that federal efforts to enable formerly enslaved men to participate in the economy on terms equal to white men were simply a redistribution of wealth, because the agents and policies required to achieve equality would cost tax dollars and, after the Civil War, most people with property were white. This, they insisted, was “socialism.”

To oppose the socialism they insisted was taking over the East, opponents of black rights looked to the American West. They called themselves Movement Conservatives, and they celebrated the cowboy who, in their inaccurate vision, was a hardworking white man who wanted nothing of the government but to be left alone to work out his own future. In this myth, the cowboys lived in a male-dominated world, where women were either wives and mothers or sexual playthings, and people of color were savage or subordinate.

With his cowboy hat and western ranch, Reagan deliberately tapped into this mythology, as well as the racism and sexism in it, when he promised to slash taxes and regulations to free individuals from a grasping government. He promised that cutting taxes and regulations would expand the economy. As wealthy people—the “supply side” of the economy– regained control of their capital, they would invest in their businesses and provide more jobs. Everyone would make more money.

From the start, though, his economic system didn’t work. Money moved upward, dramatically, and voters began to think the cutting was going too far. To keep control of the government, Movement Conservatives at the end of the twentieth century ramped up their celebration of the individualist white American man, insisting that America was sliding into socialism even as they cut more and more domestic programs, insisting that the people of color and women who wanted the government to address inequities in the country simply wanted “free stuff.” They courted social conservatives and evangelicals, promising to stop the “secularization” they saw as a partner to communism.

After the end of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, talk radio spread the message that Black and Brown Americans and “feminazis” were trying to usher in socialism. In 1996, that narrative got a television channel that personified the idea of the strong man with subordinate women. The Fox News Channel told a story that reinforced the Movement Conservative narrative daily until it took over the Republican Party entirely.

The idea that people of color and women were trying to undermine society was enough of a rationale to justify keeping them from the vote, especially after Democrats passed the Motor Voter law in 1993, making it easier for poor people to register to vote. In 1997, Florida began the process of purging voter rolls of Black voters.

And so, 2000 came.

In that year, the presidential election came down to the electoral votes in Florida. Democratic candidate Al Gore won the popular vote by more than 540,000 votes over Republican candidate George W. Bush, but Florida would decide the election. During the required recount, Republican political operatives led by Roger Stone descended on the election canvassers in Miami-Dade County to stop the process. It worked, and the Supreme Court upheld the end of the recount. Bush won Florida by 537 votes and, thanks to its electoral votes, became president. Voter suppression was a success, and Republicans would use it, and after 2010, gerrymandering, to keep control of the government even as they lost popular support.

Bush had promised to unite the country, but his installation in the White House gave new power to the ideology of the Movement Conservative leaders of the Reagan Revolution. He inherited a budget surplus from his predecessor Democrat Bill Clinton, but immediately set out to get rid of it by cutting taxes. A balanced budget meant money for regulation and social programs, so it had to go. From his term onward, Republicans would continue to cut taxes even as budgets operated in the red, the debt climbed, and money moved upward.

The themes of Republican dominance and tax cuts were the backdrop of the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. That attack gave the country’s leaders a sense of mission after the end of the Cold War and, after launching a war in Afghanistan to stop al-Qaeda, they set out to export democracy to Iraq. This had been a goal for Republican leaders since the Clinton administration, in the belief that the United States needed to spread capitalism and democracy in its role as a world leader. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq strengthened the president and the federal government, creating the powerful Department of Homeland Security, for example, and leading Bush to assert the power of the presidency to interpret laws through signing statements.

The association of the Republican Party with patriotism enabled Republicans in this era to call for increased spending for the military and continued tax cuts, while attacking Democratic calls for domestic programs as wasteful. Increasingly, Republican media personalities derided those who called for such programs as dangerous, or anti-American.

But while Republicans increasingly looked inward to their party as the only real Americans and asserted power internationally, changes in technology were making the world larger. The Internet put the world at our fingertips and enabled researchers to decode the human genome, revolutionizing medical science. Smartphones both made communication easy. Online gaming created communities and empathy. And as many Americans were increasingly embracing rap music and tattoos and LGBTQ rights, as well as recognizing increasing inequality, books were pointing to the dangers of the power concentrating at the top of societies. In 1997, J.K. Rowling began her exploration of the rise of authoritarianism in her wildly popular Harry Potter books, but her series was only the most famous of a number of books in which young people conquered a dystopia created by adults.

In Bush’s second term, his ideology created a perfect storm. His . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

The Twelfth Day of Christmas may be very bad

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January 6 is the Twelfth Day of Christmas, ending the Christmas season with the Feast of the Epiphany, commemorating the anniversary of the visit of the Three Magi to view the infant Jesus. This year the date may have a grimmer outcome. David Troy comments on Facebook:

It looks like we have a serious problem emerging. There is a gap between what intelligence analysts and government officials are reporting and what journalists are reporting about our current situation. This may be a potentially catastrophic “failure of imagination” that may lead to dangerous and unpredictable outcomes.

Washington Post’s columnist, the intelligence analyst David Ignatius, shares with increasing alarm that Trump loyalist Kash Patel, recently installed at the Pentagon, may replace Wray at FBI. This may stall important investigations and also threaten intelligence dumps intended to harm political enemies and/or protect allies.

Most alarmingly, he reports that Ezra Cohen-Watnick, whom we have been watching and reporting on here, may replace Gen. Paul Nakasone as head of NSA. This likewise has potential for damaging intelligence dumps.

There is perhaps an unhealthy if understandable focus on the election. There do seem to be efforts to incite violence around DC on January 6th. That violence may spread; it may lead to invocation of the Insurrection Act; there may be calls to invalidate the election and, at Flynn’s urging, re-run the election using “military capabilities.” I rate this as young adult fantasy. The Constitution is clear and the election will not be re-run.

HOWEVER, the actual thing to be on the lookout for here is the final thrust and twist of the knife on the way out the door, and the damage that could ensue. Who benefits? Putin and Trump. Moves that harm the incoming administration’s ability to govern; moves that create chaos and delegitimize American democracy; things that kill Americans through inaction and neglect? All of those things are on the table.

I can’t stress this enough: it’s not about overthrowing the election, it’s about saving face, tearing down as much as possible, creating conditions that favor the maximization of discord and even death.

We have no idea the harms possible with Patel at FBI and with ECW at NSA! The fact that Ignatius is getting the same chatter that we are as lowly OSINT analysts is extremely concerning. The Nashville incident was driven by a 5G fringe lunatic, and is adding momentum to the cult narratives.

We need to close the gap between analysis and reporting immediately and get people within government and media up to speed on the potential for harm here. This is a moment as dangerous as 9/11 (as if every day is not already; difficult to overstate here) and we are suffering from a lack of imagination about what is possible — especially with regards to Iran, as noted by Ignatius. In the end the election is over but there is a high-stakes final roll of the dice. We mustn’t be in denial about the potential for harm.

The article by David Ignatius that Troy references begins:

Not to be alarmist, but we should recognize that the United States will be in the danger zone until the formal certification of Joe Biden’s election victory on Jan. 6, because potential domestic and foreign turmoil could give President Trump an excuse to cling to power.

This threat, while unlikely to materialize, is concerning senior officials, including Republicans who have supported Trump in the past but believe he is now threatening to overstep the constitutional limits on his power. They described a multifaceted campaign by die-hard Trump supporters to use disruptions at home and perhaps threats abroad to advance his interests.

The big showdown is the Jan. 6 gathering of both houses of Congress to formally count the electoral college vote taken on Dec. 14, which Biden won 306 to 232. The certification should be a pro forma event, but a desperate Trump is demanding that House and Senate Republicans challenge the count and block this final, binding affirmation of Biden’s victory before Inauguration Day.

Trump’s last-ditch campaign will almost certainly fail in Congress. The greater danger is on the streets, where pro-Trump forces are already threatening chaos. A pro-Trump group called “Women for America First” has requested a permit for a Jan. 6 rally in Washington, and Trump is already beating the drum: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

Government officials fear that if violence spreads, Trump could invoke the Insurrection Act to mobilize the military. Then Trump might use “military capabilities” to rerun the Nov. 3 election in swing states, as suggested by Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser. Trump “could take military . . .

Read the whole thing.

Later in the article:

Another strange Pentagon machination was the proposal Miller floated in mid-December to separate the code-breaking National Security Agency from U.S. Cyber Command, which are both currently headed by Gen. Paul Nakasone. That proposal collapsed because of bipartisan congressional opposition.

But why did Trump loyalists suggest the NSA-Cyber Command split in the first place? Some officials speculate that the White House may have planned to install a new NSA chief, perhaps Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the young conservative recently installed to oversee Pentagon intelligence activities.

With firm control of the NSA and the FBI, the Trump team might then disclose highly sensitive information about the origins of the 2016 Trump Russia investigation. Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe tried to release this sensitive intelligence before the election, despite protests from intelligence chiefs that it would severely damage U.S. national security. Trump retreated under pressure from then-Attorney General William P. Barr, among others.

Trump’s final weeks in office will also be a tinder box because of the danger of turmoil abroad. Iranian-backed militias fired more than 20 rockets last Sunday at the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad, with around nine hitting the compound but inflicting no American casualties. The United States sent intense, high-level messages to Tehran, public and private, warning against any further provocation. The toughest was a Dec. 23 tweet from Trump warning: “If one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think it over.” State Department and Pentagon officials say Trump’s retaliatory threat is real.

Another potential flash point is just a week away. Jan. 3 marks the first anniversary of the U.S. targeted killing of Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani and Iraq militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Any new violence could . . .

Written by LeisureGuy

27 December 2020 at 7:02 am

Cruel Bombs — Nuclear bombs from various vantages

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Nuclear and thermonuclear bombs are bad to have around. One interesting part of this video are the shots showing the instant of detonation.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 December 2020 at 1:00 pm

Trump Asked About Imposing Martial Law to Run a New Election

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Kevin Drum picks up on something the NY Times seems to view as inconsequential:

Here is the front page of the New York Times at the moment:

Down below the fold, just barely beating out “Biden Introduces His Climate Team,” is a story headlined “Trump Weighed Naming Election Conspiracy Theorist as Special Counsel.” The conspiracy theorist in question is Sidney Powell, who is indeed a complete loon. However, if you click the link and read down to the sixth paragraph, you learn this about Friday’s meeting at the White House:

Ms. Powell’s client, retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser whom the president recently pardoned, was also there….During an appearance on the conservative Newsmax channel this week, Mr. Flynn pushed for Mr. Trump to impose martial law and deploy the military to “rerun” the election. At one point in the meeting on Friday, Mr. Trump asked about that idea.

Now, I’m not a Times editor with decades of experience with this stuff, but doesn’t this seem a wee bit more important than whether a nutter is appointed special counsel for a few weeks? And also perhaps more important than “Britain Tightens Lockdown” at the top of the page?

It does to me! The president of the United States asked a bunch of his advisors about the feasibility of imposing martial law and having the Pentagon run a new election. In other words, staging a military coup. Sure, everyone at the table shot it down, because even Rudy Giuliani isn’t that far gone. But he asked! The president of the United States! What does Trump have to do these days to rate a bigger headline? Invade Canada?

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2020 at 8:28 pm

The Republican Party is the party of bad faith

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Heather Cox Richardson writes regarding Friday’s events:

A year ago today, the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald J. Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

In his plea to Senators to convict the president, Adam Schiff (D-CA), the lead impeachment manager for the House, warned “you know you can’t trust this president to do what’s right for this country.” Schiff asked: “How much damage can Donald Trump do between now and the next election?” and then answered his own question: “A lot. A lot of damage.” “Can you have the least bit of confidence that Donald Trump will… protect our national interest over his own personal interest?” Schiff asked the senators who were about to vote on Trump’s guilt. “You know you can’t, which makes him dangerous to this country.’’

Republicans took offense at Schiff’s passionate words, seeing them as criticism of themselves. They voted to acquit Trump of the charges the House had levied against him.

And a year later, here we are. A pandemic has killed more than 312,000 of us, and numbers of infections and deaths are spiking. Today we hit a new single-day record of reported coronavirus cases with 246,914, our third daily record in a row. The economy is in shambles, with more than 6 million Americans applying for unemployment benefits. And the government has been hobbled by a massive hack from foreign operatives, likely Russians, who have hit many of our key departments.

Today it began to feel as if the Trump administration was falling apart as journalists began digging into a number of troubling stories.

Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, appointed by Trump after he fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper by tweet on November 9, this morning abruptly halted the transition briefings the Pentagon had been providing, as required by law, to the incoming Biden team. Observers were taken aback by this unprecedented halt to the transition process, as well as by the stated excuse: that Defense Department officials were overwhelmed by the number of meetings the transition required. Retired four-star general Barry R. McCaffrey, a military analyst for NBC and MSNBC, tweeted: “Pentagon abruptly halts Biden transition—MAKES NO SENSE. CLAIM THEY ARE OVERWHELMED. DOD GOES OPAQUE. TRUMP-MILLER UP TO NO GOOD. DANGER.”

After Axios published the story and outrage was building, Miller issued a statement saying the two sides had decided on a “mutually-agreed upon holiday, which begins tomorrow.” Biden transition director Yohannes Abraham promptly told reporters: “Let me be clear: there was no mutually agreed upon holiday break. In fact, we think it’s important that briefings and other engagements continue during this period as there’s no time to spare, and that’s particularly true in the aftermath of ascertainment delay,” a reference to the delay in the administration’s recognition of Biden’s election.

Later, the administration suggested the sudden end to the transition briefings was because Trump was angry that the Washington Post on Wednesday had published a story showing how much money Biden could save by stopping the construction of Trump’s border wall. Anger over a story from two days ago seems like a stretch, a justification after the briefings had been cancelled for other reasons. The big story of the day, and the week, and the month, and the year, and probably of this administration, is the sweeping hack of our government by a hostile foreign power. The abrupt end to the briefings might reflect that the administration isn’t keen on giving Biden access to the crime scene.

Republicans appear to be trying to cripple the Biden administration more broadly. The country has been thrilled by the arrival of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine that promises an end to the scourge under which we’re suffering. Just tonight, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized a second vaccine, produced by Moderna, for emergency authorization use. This vaccine does not require ultracold temperatures for shipping the way the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine does. Two vaccines for the coronavirus are extraordinarily good news.

But this week, as the first Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines were being given, states learned that the doses the federal government had promised were not going to arrive, and no one is quite sure why. The government blamed Pfizer, which promptly blasted the government, saying it had plenty of vaccines in warehouses but had received no information about where to send them. Then the White House said there was confusion over scheduling.

Josh Kovensky at Talking Points Memo has been following this story, and concluded a day or so ago that the administration had made no plans for vaccine distribution beyond February 1, when the problem would be Biden’s. Kovensky also noted that it appears the administration promised vaccine distribution on an impossible timeline, deliberately raising hopes for vaccine availability that Biden couldn’t possibly fulfill. Today Kovensky noted that there are apparently doses missing and unaccounted for, but no one seems to know where they might be.

Today suggested yet another instance of Republican bad faith. With Americans hungry and increasingly homeless, the nation is desperate for another coronavirus relief bill. The House passed one last May, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to take it up. Throughout the summer and fall, negotiations on a different bill failed as . . .

Continue reading, and read the whole column. The US is sliding into the abyss, pushed along by the GOP.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2020 at 9:29 pm

The end-game seems to be in Russia’s favor

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I blogged earlier about the explicit celebration in Russian media over the damage President Trump has done (and continues to do) to the United States. And Heather Cox Richardson sounds a somber note in her column today in which she reflects on yesterday’s news. I quote from the middle of the column:

. . . The story is getting worse still.

Today CISA said that the hackers used many different tools to get into government systems, taking them into critical infrastructure, which could include the electrical grid, telecommunications companies, defense contractors, and so on. Officials said that the hacks were “a grave risk to the federal government.”

Later in the day, it came out that the Energy Department and the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees our nuclear weapons, was also hit, although a Department of Energy spokesperson said that there is no evidence that the hackers breached critical defense systems, including the NNSA.

Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, today said the company had identified 40 different companies, government agencies, and think tanks the hackers infiltrated, and that those forty were just the tip of the iceberg. Smith said that more companies had been hit than government agencies, “with a big focus on I.T. companies, especially in the security industry.”

The Associated Press quoted a U.S. official as saying: “This is looking like it’s the worst hacking case in the history of America. They got into everything.” Tom Kellermann, the cybersecurity strategy chief of the software company VMware, told Ben Fox of the Associated Press that the hackers could now see everything in the federal agencies they’ve hacked, and that, now that they have been found out, “there is viable concern that they might leverage destructive attacks within these agencies.”

It is not clear yet how far the hackers have penetrated, and we will likely not know for months. But given the fact they have had access to our systems since March and have almost certainly been planting new ways into them (known as “back doors”), all assumptions are that this is serious indeed.

Initially, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo downplayed the attack, saying that such attacks are common and that China, not Russia, is the biggest offender. Trump has said nothing about the attacks, and administration officials say that they are simply planning to hand the crisis off to Biden.

But this attack does not come out of the blue for the Trump administration. There was discussion of strengthening our security systems against attackers after the 2016 election, and on July 9, 2017, Trump suggested we would partner with Russia to address the issue. “Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded,” he tweeted.

Congress instead created the CISA within the Department of Homeland Security in 2018 to protect against precisely the sort of attack which has just occurred, shortly after Russia hacked our electrical grid, including “multiple organizations in the energy, nuclear, water, aviation, construction, and critical manufacturing sectors,” according to the FBI and Department of Homeland Security report.

In response to the Russian attack, the U.S. hit Russia’s electrical grid in June 2019.

And then — and note this especially:

Since then, administration officials have deliberately forced out of CISA key cybersecurity officials. The destruction was so widespread, according to Dr. Josephine Wolff, a professor of cybersecurity policy at Tufts University’s Fletcher School who holds her PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), “they signify the systematic decimation of the personnel most directly responsible for protecting critical infrastructure, shielding our elections from interference and guarding the White House’s data, devices and networks.”

Almost exactly a year ago, on December 19, 2019, Wolff warned in the New York Times that “As we head into 2020, worrying about the integrity of our elections, the growing scourge of ransomware and the increasingly sophisticated forms of cyberespionage and cybersabotage being developed by our adversaries, it’s disconcerting to feel that many of our government’s best cybersecurity minds are walking out the front door and leaving behind too few people to monitor what’s coming in our back doors.”

Just a month ago, Trump continued this process, firing Christopher Krebs, the former director of CISA, on November 18, saying he was doing so because Krebs defended the 2020 election as “the most secure in American history.” Krebs said that there “is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

Read the whole column and reflect on it. And this morning Mike Allen and Jonathan Swan report in Axios:

Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller ordered a Pentagon-wide halt to cooperation with the transition of President-elect Biden, shocking officials across the Defense Department, senior administration officials tell Axios.

The latest: Biden transition director Yohannes Abraham contradicted the Pentagon’s official response to this story on Friday afternoon, telling reporters, “Let me be clear: there was no mutually agreed upon holiday break.”

  • “In fact, we think it’s important that briefings and other engagements continue during this period as there’s no time to spare, and that’s particularly true in the aftermath of ascertainment delay,” Abraham continued, referring to the Trump administration’s delay in recognizing Biden as president-elect.
  • Miller had said in a statement following the publication of this story: “At no time has the Department cancelled or declined any interview. … After the mutually-agreed upon holiday, which begins tomorrow, we will continue with the transition and rescheduled meetings from today.”

Behind the scenes: Trump administration officials left open the possibility cooperation would resume after a holiday pause. The officials were unsure what prompted Miller’s action, or whether President Trump approved.

Why it matters: Miller’s move, which stunned officials throughout the Pentagon, was the biggest eruption yet of animus and mistrust toward the Biden team from the top level of the Trump administration.

  • Fury at the Biden team among senior Pentagon officials escalated after the Washington Post published a story on Wednesday night revealing how much money would be saved if Biden halted construction of Trump’s border wall.
  • Trump officials blame the leak on the Biden transition team (Though, it should be noted, they have no evidence of this, and both reporters on the byline cover the Trump administration and have historically been prolific beneficiaries of leaks.)

What happened: Meetings between President Trump’s team and the Biden team are going on throughout the government, after a delayed start as the administration dragged its feet on officially recognizing Biden as president-elect.

  • Then on Thursday night, Miller — who was appointed Nov. 9, when Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper right after the election — ordered officials throughout the building to cancel scheduled transition meetings.

A senior Defense Department official sought . . .

Continue reading.

This all seems quite ominous, particularly since many Republicans (including the White Supremacist wing and President Trump) continue to dispute that Joe Biden is the President-Elect, despite having previously said that they would accept only the decision of the Electoral College. When that decision did not go the way they wanted, they promptly reneged. They are not to be trusted because they so consistently lie.

December 21 seems to be a date that holds a special fascination for them — the winter solstice plus the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn (an unusual astronomical event) plus Trump’s time in office is running out and on that date he will have less than a month left to screw things up for his successor (or, as he undoubtedly sees it, for the person who humiliated him). And in the meantime the daily death toll in the US continues to climb. (That little downturn is an artifact of reports delayed by the Thanksgiving holiday. You can see how the catch-up continued the trend line upward.) The chart shows a 7-day rolling average of deaths per million. The US current death rate is greater than in the earlier peak.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2020 at 11:34 am

David Troy on Trump’s current coup effort

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A Facebook post by David Troy:

The coup against the intelligence community and military is advancing as anticipated. Last night, Chris Krebs of the DHS Cyberintelligence Security Agency, the group that protected the election and which has verified its integrity, angering Trump, was finally actually fired.

Acting Secretary of Defense Miller has now ordered troop drawdowns in Afghanistan, Somalia, South Korea and Germany. However you may feel about American military presence in those places, under no circumstances is it appropriate to rush those actions in the context of a transition, leaving a mess for the next administration, abandoning allies in the process.

We continue to see a clear intention to fire Haspel, Wray, and Barr, all of whom are blocking the release of sensitive intel that the administration (and Russia) wish to release as a political weapon, and to try to erase evidence of Russian involvement in the 2016 election. Nakasone may also be a target but he has not yet been as consistently named; Flynn stooge Michael Ellis is general counsel at NSA however and that may be sufficient to effect compromise there; we don’t know.

It appears that Roger Stone and Jason Sullivan have been collaborating with Ezra Cohen Watnick since at least January to leak secret information out through social media channels and through the QAnon psyop. On Sunday, national security attorney Mark Zaid (Cohen-Watnick’s attorney) denied to us that Ezra was running this operation himself, and Zaid claims not to know who Jason Sullivan is. We have information that suggests Zaid may be being misled by his client. Sullivan is business partners with former NSA technical director Bill Binney, a major promoter of QAnon content. Sullivan is Stone’s social media guru.

The electoral games being played by the Trump team are desperate and likely to fail. We see little evidence of the social or political capital required to betray the will of the voters. We assess this to be a proforma exercise being done by Trump so he can say he did it.

The threat to the intelligence community, American security, and sources and methods is extremely credible. Newspapers are struggling to cover this because it is hairy and hard to understand; we are briefing multiple outlets and they are doing their best. Sharing our assessment here so as to at least get the word out somewhere.

At root, this moment is payback for the perceived gloating by the west in 1991 after the fall of the USSR. To the extent the KGB, then FSB and GRU, sought revenge against US intel agencies, the Trump presidency was that revenge, and as it draws to a close, this is the culmination. We are getting our intel capacity owned by Russian intel. Paybacks are hell.

Militarily, we are seeing the imposition of a “Eurasianist” worldview envisioned by Russian strategist Aleksandr Dugin, vastly reining in American power overseas; diminishing NATO; crushing the EU; eliminating American presence in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. This is what they aim to do at least; it remains to be seen if military leaders themselves will go along and how quickly.

Trump is on the way out, but the country Biden inherits may be significantly compromised, and it’s not clear we can do much more than watch as that happens.

This Twitter thread is important:

And read “The Unlikely Origins of Russia’s Manifest Destiny” in Foreign Policy. See also

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2020 at 10:23 am

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