Category Archives: Security

Can Facebook’s CSO be Held Liable for Atrocity Crimes?

Something like this image representing weaponized social media may be the next addition to The Atlantic “Brief Visual History of Weapons”.

New legal research moves us closer towards holding social media executives criminally liable for the Rohingya crisis and other global security failures under their watch:

…this paper argues that it may be more productive to conceptualise social media’s role in atrocity crimes through the lens of complicity, drawing inspiration not from the media cases in international criminal law jurisprudence, but rather by evaluating the use of social media as a weapon, which, under certain circumstances, ought to face accountability under international criminal law.

The Guardian gave a scathing report of how Facebook was used in genocide:

Hate speech exploded on Facebook at the start of the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar last year, analysis has revealed, with experts blaming the social network for creating “chaos” in the country. […] Digital researcher and analyst Raymond Serrato examined about 15,000 Facebook posts from supporters of the hardline nationalist Ma Ba Tha group. The earliest posts dated from June 2016 and spiked on 24 and 25 August 2017, when ARSA Rohingya militants attacked government forces, prompting the security forces to launch the “clearance operation” that sent hundreds of thousands of Rohingya pouring over the border. […] The revelations come to light as Facebook is struggling to respond to criticism over the leaking of users’ private data and concern about the spread of fake news and hate speech on the platform.

The New Republic referred to Facebook’s lack of security controls at this time as a boon for dictatorships:

[U.N. Myanmar] Investigator Yanghee Lee went further, describing Facebook as a vital tool for connecting the state with the public. “Everything is done through Facebook in Myanmar,” Lee told reporters…what’s clear in Myanmar is that the government sees social media as an instrument for propaganda and inciting violence—and that non-government actors are also using Facebook to advance a genocide. Seven years after the Arab Spring, Facebook isn’t bringing democracy to the oppressed. In fact…if you want to preserve a dictatorship, give them the internet.

Bloomberg also around this time suggested Facebook was operating as a mass weapon by its own design, serving dictatorship.

It is important when looking back at this time frame how a key Facebook executive at the heart of decisions about safety was in just his second year ever as a “chief” of security.

He infamously had taken his first ever Chief Security Officer (CSO) job at Yahoo in 2014, only to leave that post abruptly and in chaos in 2015 (without disclosing some of the largest privacy breaches in history) to join Facebook.

August 2017 was a peak period of risk according to the analysis above. So take note that the Facebook CSO decided to launch a “hit back” PR campaign at critics of Facebook safety.

Stamos was particularly concerned with what he saw as attacks on Facebook for not doing enough to police rampant misinformation spreading on the platform, saying journalists largely underestimate the difficulty of filtering content for the site’s billions of users and deride their employees as out-of-touch tech bros. He added the company should not become a “Ministry of Truth,” a reference to the totalitarian propaganda bureau in George Orwell’s 1984.

His talking points read like a libertarian screed that journalists would take us straight into totalitarianism by asking for better editorial practices and protection of vulnerable populations from harms.

Think of it like this: the chief of security says it is hard to block Internet traffic with a firewall because it would lead straight to shutting down the business. That doesn’t sound like a security leader, it sounds like a technologist that puts making money above user safety (e.g. what the Afghanistan Papers call profitability of war).

Facebook’s top-leadership was rolling out angry “shame” statements to those most concerned about lack of progress. He appeared to be expressing that for him to do anything more than what he saw as sufficient in that crucial time would be so hard that journalists (ironically the most prominent defenders of free speech, the people who drive transparency) couldn’t even understand if they saw it.

To keep his screed in perspective, while a head of security was calling people closest to the problem not expert enough on the topic, he didn’t bring great experience or examples to the table to earn anyone’s trust. He was the public face of a high-profile risk management problem that Facebook dangerously stumbled with year after year:

A person with knowledge of Facebook’s [2015] Myanmar operations was decidedly more direct than [Facebook vice president of public policy] Allen, calling the roll out of the [security] initiative “pretty fucking stupid.” […] “When the media spotlight has been on there has been talk of changes, but after it passes are we actually going to see significant action?” [Yangon tech-hub Phandeeyar founder] Madden asks. “That is an open question. The historical record is not encouraging.”

We know tragically today that journalists were repeatedly right in their direct criticism of Facebook security and demands for transparency, and the CSO was wrong to “hit back” at these critics with opaque promises as a superior intellect.

Facebook has been and continues to be out-of-touch with basic social science. Facebook was and continues to resist safety controls on speech that protect human rights, and has continued saying it is committed to safety while arguing against norms of speech regulation.

The question increasingly is whether actions like an aggressive “hit back” on people warning of genocide at a critical moment of risk (arguing it is hard to stop weapons from being used and fearing any limits on the use of those weapons) makes a “security” chief criminally liable.

My sense is it will be anthropologists, experts in researching baselines of inherited rights within relativist frameworks, who emerge as best qualified to help answer questions of what’s an acceptable vulnerability in social media technology.

We see this already in articles like “The trolls are teaming up—and tech platforms aren’t doing enough to stop them“.

The personal, social, and material harms our participants experienced have real consequences for who can participate in public life. Current laws and regulations allow digital platforms to avoid responsibility for content…. And if online spaces are truly going to support democracy, justice, and equality, change must happen soon.

Accountability of a CSO for atrocity crimes during his watch appears to be a logical change, if I’m reading these human rights law documents right.

America Stands Alone in Refusing Children Rights in the Digital Age

Happy Human Rights Day 2019!

The final report from the 14th Internet Governance Forum (IGF) has been released, and it carries important conclusions such as this one:

With so many children making use of the Internet – 1 in 3 Internet users in the developed world, and 1 in 2 globally, are children – the main issue surrounding children’s rights in the digital age is how to interpret and uphold such rights, which are enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

This Convention, promoted by President Ronald Reagan and ratified in 1989, now is the most-signed human rights legislation in the world. There is just one country in the world refusing to sign it.

America.

The refusal to sign the Convention is based on a false concept of sovereignty.

This false concept is implicated in the mass incarceration of children separated from their parents by America, disgraceful exposure of networks conspiring against women and children such as Epstein and Governor Bevin, as well extremist religious groups funding a minority of politicians being allowed to deny all American children the rights they would get anywhere else in the world.

Just for comparison to other nations in the world, America’s top two causes of death of children are cars and guns, which tend to be propagated by extremists as symbols of American sovereignty.

Motor vehicle crashes caused the death of 4,074 children in 2016. That’s more than 80 kids per state. “Motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death for children and adolescents, representing 20% of all deaths; firearm-related injuries were the second leading cause of death, responsible for 15% of deaths.” As you can see, #2 on the list is guns — no surprise considering we are bombarded weekly with news of random senseless deaths from revolvers to machine guns. Firearms caused the death of 3,143 children in 2016.

Abuse of children and murder with cars literally are so ingrained in the American power psyche they are being pardoned just this month by politicians.

The question becomes simply whether an honest campaign like the famous “Stop The Child Murder“, which dramatically improved quality of life in Holland, would ever work in America.

With cars came carnage. In 1971 alone, thirty-three hundred people—including more than four hundred children—were killed on Dutch roads. A number of organizations, including a group named Stop de Kindermoord, or Stop the Child Murder, began agitating to take the streets back from automobiles.

Forty years later America is still busy pardoning those who abuse and kill…so when will it wake up to reduce these top causes of physical death from the past age?

Other countries clearly have proven much better paths forward. What likelihood is there for America to catch up and sign the Convention to become at least a follower in child safety for the emerging digital age? Or could it even leap-frog and jump into a leadership role? One thing is certain: the current U.S. stance on rights is regressive relative to the world.

When Jesters Were Messengers of War


The “official website for BBC History Magazine, BBC History Revealed and BBC World Histories Magazine” presents some graphic details for Medieval messaging protocols:

…jesters were often required to go to the battlefield with their masters to carry messages between the leaders of warring armies, demanding that a city surrender to a besieging army or delivering terms for the release of hostages. Unfortunately for the jesters, the enemy did sometimes ‘kill the messenger’ as an act of defiance (especially if they regarded the terms being offered as an insult) and some used a catapult or trebuchet to hurl the unfortunate messenger (or his severed head) back into his own camp as a graphic illustration of what they thought of the message.

The story ends with this “grave warning” from a certain jester’s final resting place:

If chance has brought thee here, or curious eyes
To see the spot where this poor jester lies
A thoughtless jester even in his death
Uttering his jibes beyond his latest breath.

Detecting Different: How the CIA Caught a Spy

Aldrich Ames became famous for being a “slob” American spy, easily caught and convicted once suspected. (Source: FBI)

Spoiler alert, WBUR News ran a story called “Can A Computer Catch A Spy” that centers on this false premise:

Grimes suspected [Aldrich Ames] for a reason no algorithm would have divined: He just seemed different.

I call BS on the idea that humans in the CIA caught a spy by seeing something algorithms could not. Not only are algorithms incredibly able to divine different, they’re fast becoming a threat and we want them to overlook differences more often than find them.

Algorithms typically can see differences more often than we can, or want to, see them.

The story later admits this point itself by claiming computers are much faster than humans at making connections from random piles of data, forcing us to address some uncomfortable findings.

And then the story goes on to reverse itself again, claiming that algorithms can’t make meaningful connections without human assistance.

Bottom line is it’s a mess of a story, flip-flopping its way around the question of how to find a spy when he’s staring you in the face.

The lesson of Aldrich Ames was to question why humans had refused to “see” things that later seemed such obvious warning signs. So the next question in this context should be whether humans will detune computer algorithms in the same way humans are prone to ignore signals.

Fast forward to today and there’s a competition ending December 15 on new thinking in how to find insider threats:

The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (OUSDI), in cooperation with WAR ROOM, is pleased to announce an essay contest to generate new ideas and elevate thinking about insider threats and how we respond to and counter the threat.

See also: Insider Threat as a Service (IaaS)

Are American Children Right to Inherently Distrust Technology?

American children playing in a field by destroying a familiar piece of technology

A researcher in America has posed a theory that children distrust technology because it is presented in an unfamiliar format to them:

Danovitch’s theory as to why kids behave this way is that the idea of voice assistants—and by extension, the internet—is amorphous and hard to grasp. If you’re a child who thinks there’s a tiny woman who lives in the kitchen called Alexa (as Danovitch says her son did), you’re trying to wrap your head not only around how this thing works but what its knowledge base is in the first place. Trusting another person, on the other hand, is hardwired into our brains.

It seems obvious that other countries, cultures, societies would help illuminate human reasons for distrust of technology. I wonder why only American children were studied. A call-out to “her son did” suggests the researcher may be operating with an extremely narrow scale of inward-looking human observation, rather than outward to help others in far more diverse situations.

Also the conclusion begs the question of how early an introduction to technology would achieve “hardwired” status for this researcher.

I’m skeptical of that hardwired theory. Moreover I’m skeptical that the issues observed are about trust that comes from familiarity as much as it is about social training in playfulness and boundaries of authority. Look at how the same researcher describes a teacher as a counterexample to technology:

Turns out kids overwhelmingly trust a teacher—even if the teacher is wrong. That makes sense: they know their teacher, and that teacher has developed a strong relationship with them. But the kids preferred their peers over the internet, too, even though they knew their friends had roughly the same amount of knowledge as they did.

A teacher typically gets presented to the children as someone who will penalize them if there is distrust.

In other words the cost of distrust in a teacher is a bad grade or even detention. The cost of distrust in peers is exclusion or social exodus. What’s the cost of disagreeing with a toy? Knowing something, as in being familiar, probably isn’t the trigger of trust as much as knowing the boundary of authorization to play and push back.

Another way of looking at this is children reflect active trends in society earlier than adults may recognize them. We of course see this in terms of clothing and music.

So if adults are giving off signals that technology is not to be trusted (as we should, for example because Amazon has serious and repeated ethics failures) then children will take that position much more readily (as they should, for example because they don’t have a history of trust to get in their way).

Studies do show that globally trust is declining in American technology companies because they get caught harming society.

The Trust Barometer survey revealed 61 percent of people in developed markets, believe technology companies have too much power to determine what news and information we see, and only 39 percent of respondents in developed markets believe tech is putting the welfare of its customers ahead of profits.

The researcher should be asking children whether they think the technology is working in that child’s best interest, or in the best interest of all children. And then ask them if they think there is any penalty for distrusting or disagreeing with the technology.

CIA History and Birth of Modern American Information Warfare

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) use of information warfare is often discussed and sometimes cited, yet is not clearly linked to any present day debates about authorization regarding “cyber” active-defense (offense). This becomes confusing as the intelligence community may be in competition with the military over emerging demand for modern hacking capabilities, particularly in cases outside the U.S. government’s own systems.

The clandestine nature of ongoing intelligence missions makes it difficult to expose and examine fully any examples, which unfortunately means the most current relevant trade craft goes un-examined while debates rage about who should be doing it. Perhaps an investigation of history would help here with direction.

A case easily can be made that information warfare options today are a derivation of 1930s experimentation and 1940s deployments, which means the CIA creation story might be extremely relevant to today’s Title 10 / Title 50 debates.

It thus is increasingly important for American “cyber” policy-makers to spend the time to consider international political winds of the 1930s, as this was when purpose and scope for information gathering was established for dissemination and covert operations against foreign adversaries.

Take for example Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) initiated steps around central intelligence operations in the aftermath of his U.S. presidential campaign victory, with an eye on tensions spreading in Europe and Asia.

During the 1932 U.S. presidential campaign William Hearst allowed his expansive media empire to circulate Hitler’s writing and spread white nationalist’s ideology in America.

Hearst defended his actions by expressing he had fear of socialism and was a believer in the false depictions by Hitler. To put it briefly, FDR won the Presidency in spite of an American media giant’s attempts to stir up Nazi sympathizers and groups of “devoted nationalist followers to threaten and beat up leftists”. 1

Later Hearst admitted a change of heart so by 1938 he had reversed position on Hitler, allegedly because the Nazi Kristallnacht facts being reported by his papers. However for FDR the information warfare die already had been cast by 1932; foreign military intelligence operations were correctly identified in undermining American stability. FDR after winning the election was immediately faced with how to put in place national security measures to counteract dangerous information warfare threats to global democracy.

A rarely referenced event in this context, yet still very important to this history of information warfare, is the 1934 establishment of a Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Overtly the FCC is described as a means to break up monopolization in American communications. It also should be seen in direct and stark opposition to what American and British officials had heard reports of in Nazi Germany. Hitler’s volksgemeinshaft meant a total centralization of communications under a state propaganda ministry, which manifested in April 1934 using the Reich Radio Company. 2

The 1934 move towards decentralized regulated communications not only was a reaction to Hearst’s role in 1932, but also appears to have been a reasonable means to neutralize future national security disaster (prevent broadcast subversion and manipulation by foreign military intelligence or domestic collaborators). How better to defend both U.S. communications infrastructure and content against powerful yet naive Nazi sympathizers? This is where the story of the CIA really begins, as FDR not only began exploring how to initiate U.S. offensive capabilities with the latest technology, he first had used authority to block foreign information attacks.

The parallel to modern debates is interesting because critics of offensive hacking often point to American infrastructure having a weak defensive posture. Here we see FDR’s creation of offensive capabilities after he pushed through improvements to defense long before with creation of the FCC. It begs the question whether a “cyber” equivalent to the FCC today would placate critics of offensive operations. The FCC also long predated deterrence theorists of WWII and after, where offensive capabilities may be proposed as an alternative to improving resilience to attacks.

During the summer of 1940, at a time when there was no American clandestine service organization in operation, FDR sent a special envoy to London. The President wanted to know whether unusually lackluster resistence to violent Nazi incursions in Europe was related to information warfare measures. FDR asked his envoy to assess whether “demoralizing propaganda and internal subversion by Nazi sympathizers” had been undermining national security of states targeted by Hitler. 3

The President obviously needed to curtail the influence of German military intelligence service information campaigns, and measure the effects of domestic espionage and sabotage. The insights gathered from his first envoy to Europe led FDR to dispatch another one the following year to assess strategic options for American military campaigns in the Middle East.

The result of information gathering by these special envoys came in June 1941 with the Creation of an Office of the Coordinator of Information (COI) led by Colonel William J. Donovan. Donovan was an internationally-renowned and highly-decorated WWI hero who had been on both trips and had written a “Memorandum of Establishment of Service of Strategic Information”. FDR charged him with building the clandestine operations group to report directly to the President.

Harpers Magazine a couple months later in August, a little over a year after the fall of France, wrote publicly about Nazi military intelligence using radio broadcasts to undermine resistance. 4

“…announcers would tell their listeners daily: Your leaders are corrupt. Your British Allies are cowards and traitors. The Fuhrer has said time and again: ‘Germany wants nothing of France.’ French listeners! Force your government to make peace!’ Together with such appeals went terrifying proofs of the omniscience of the German Intelligence. On one occasion two French generals sitting down to dinner in the Maginot Line heard on the radio an exact description of the menu.

During this time the “America First” campaigners had pushed a similar line of “make peace” to spread Hitler’s power (and they still continued even through WWII despite sedition charges and conviction of members of “America First”). 5 Because the State Department, Army, Navy and FBI were collecting information in a decentralized fashion, FDR found they didn’t address his need to protect America from the “Firsters”.

When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor months later and Germany declared war on America a dramatic elevation of task was imminent for the COI. The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) began calling for measures of “subversive activity” to undermine German resistance. FDR’s concept of COI was set on a course to answer this call with a specific duty in operations. by the summer of 1942, a year after it was first setup with several hundred civilians reporting directly to the President, COI moved under JCS and was rebranded the famous Office of Strategic Services (OSS).

The JCS issued an OSS mission statement, which echoed FDR’s earlier emphasis: prepare studies and research, plan and execute subversive activity, and operate and train an organization to collect information via espionage. 6

The OSS was formalized into a military outfit because an acute need was perceived by Donovan for strategic analysis of vast information collections. Any initial propaganda functions of the COI were removed, per FDR’s requirement those capabilities not fall under military leadership, handed instead to an Office of War Information. The OSS now sought ways to operate along with other long-established Allied services such as British Military Intelligence, as well as Churchill’s newly formed Special Operations Executive (SOE), in recommending and executing methods to prepare for invasions and lower resistance to military campaigns.

FDR by this time seemingly had built almost a decade of political groundwork for American foriegn intelligence operations. Donovan’s leadership brought to the table a stellar reputation. Despite these huge advantages, the initial steps for OSS as a military service provider were far from easy. Detractors soon demanded trust come from evidence of extensive field expertise and experience with clandestine services, which few Americans could have possessed at its start.

A high bar for staff within the OSS maybe was a reflection of British reputation at the time, given its many decades of running global spy networks and sabotage operations. Orde Wingate, for example, was only classified as a junior intelligence officer in the late 1930s when he pioneered “Commando” tactics to undermine Arab resistance. The British also tended to exhibit overconfidence and unfairly dismiss other services.

Collaborations fumbled so badly, for example, that the September 1939 invasion by Nazi Germany meant Poland was already occupied by the time reports of breaking German Enigma would be taken seriously by the British. 7 In many ways these failures had laid the groundwork for an American brand of centralized intelligence service to emphasize extremely rapid study and more open collaboration.

At the very least, without having yet built an espionage organization or a methodology for collaboration, OSS initially was built by Donovan as the coordinated path for longer-standing foreign intelligence services to funnel into American military objectives. Arguably this sharing emphasis was a wise move at the time to rapidly train and expand his staff. After WWII a highly-collaborative style confronted Donovan with an image problem, however. Some questioned in public whether the British training the OSS meant it was theirs to drive, and not something uniquely American.

In fact, Donovan quickly proved not only a uniquely American capability of the OSS, he also proved it to be an independent intelligence service provider very useful for military leadership. The first real opportunity to show what OSS could do in active war efforts was Operation Torch of 1942. Churchill and FDR had agreed in July of that year to a joint invasion of French North Africa controlled by the Vichy regime.

The U.S. Fifth Army called the OSS to aid with a November invasion plan in areas of Morocco, while the British called in their SOE for an Algerian front.

Torch symbolized more than just the test of OSS. It was the first American-led entry into the European war, and was described by General Eisenhower as a test of the Allies bringing “an unprovoked attack upon a neutral country.” 8 Psychological methods were a major consideration as the U.S. military wanted to ensure positive morale for landing forces, as well as lowered resistance from occupied areas, not to mention keeping political support at home.

Here’s an example propaganda leaflet that was titled “Cleaning in Africa” and dropped by the British during Operation Compass (Desert War) in Libya after 1940 (click to enlarge):

The small invasion force of 10,000 troops was believed to depend heavily on a welcome response by the French, while also maintaining secrecy to prevent Axis forces being allocated into the region. These essentially sat in opposition to each other, since secrecy hampered the ability to precisely time local support. General Eisenhower, along with military chiefs, decided the complexity of this would be dealt with best by their newly established OSS using its independent capabilities for sabotage and information warfare.

Success of the OSS during Torch is debated by historians and beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say that being overly optimistic meant the U.S. military was faced with significant casualties; resistance falsely was predicted to be minimal (it was fierce) and subversion was ineffective (secrecy made landing coordination improbable). Even the goal of avoiding any build-up of Axis forces did not happen, if we consider mission scope to include the coming Tunisian campaign.

Instead of OSS successes, it was Hitler’s sudden violation of the armistice from 1940 — invading unoccupied parts of France — that brought unexpected relief on American forces. A Vichy authority in Algeria opened the door to negotiation with Eisenhower, signing a cease-fire that stopped resistance and Allied casualty counts.

This cease-fire was the most expedient path to set in motion transition to much larger landing forces, although it risked the Allies dealing with a known Nazi collaborator. French Admiral Darlan signed with American leaders only for a guarantee he would preserve authority over his concept of a French North Africa, as his trust in the erratic Hitler evaporated.

The OSS service, despite these non-optimal results in Torch, became seen by U.S. military commanders as an essential ingredient to future campaigns. A reputation spread for the service being a quick study of foreign data and providing useful analysis. This not only was recognized by Americans, it also led to British clandestine operations increasing in wake of Torch, represented in territorial competitions that would soon emerge. Just three years after Torch some asked whether FDR’s vision and Donovan’s execution had led America to surpass British capabilities in special operations and gathering secret intelligence. 9

After the war ended in 1945 the military operation of OSS led out of “room 109” was shut-down by then president Truman and restarted shortly afterwards without Donovan, renamed as the Central Intelligence Group (CIG). Two years later the CIA was named. 10

Three lessons can be learned from this sequence of events that ended in the creation of the CIA.

First, America before the 1930s was in grave danger as it lacked any mechanism to respond in-kind to active information warfare measures taken by foreign adversaries to undermine a political system. A rush to correct this disadvantage was felt by the U.S. presidential election winner of 1932, given no capabilities on par with German military intelligence methods that had been generating Nazi sympathizers. Moving early and quickly was essential to later success of information warfare.

Second, America in the 1940s benefited from establishing its own brand of professional spy service (information collection and analysis group) to support its military campaigns heading into neutral third-party states, to reduce resistance, minimize casualties, and maintain domestic support.

Third, the expansive global role the U.S. was holding after WWII meant it felt pressure to maintain a centralized collection of data to continue warding off apathy in the face of veiled yet serious threats to democracy.

Donovan perhaps said it best when in 1945 he advocated for creating the CIA because “America cannot afford to resume its prewar [America First] indifference…the greatest nation in the world cannot rely upon physical strength alone”. 11


Endnotes

  1. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/05/william-randolph-hearst-gave-america-first-itsnationalist-edge/481497/
  2. David Welch, The Third Reich: Politics and Propaganda, (New York: Routledge, 1994): 38
  3. https://www.nps.gov/articles/wild-bill-donovan-and-the-origins-of-the-oss.htm
  4. https://harpers.org/archive/1941/08/u-s-international-broadcasting/
  5. http://www.ajcarchives.org/AJC_DATA/Files/1944_1945_5_USCivicPolitical.pdf
  6. Thomas F. Troy, Donovan and the CIA (Frederick, MD: University Publications of America, 1981), Appendix F, JCS 67: 429.
  7. https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/the-man-who-invented-the-commandoswingate-ofpalestine/
  8. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe (New York: Doubleday, 1948): 86.
  9. Bickham Sweet-Escott, Baker Street Irregular (London: Methuen & Co, 1965): 126.
  10. https://www.stripes.com/news/us/birthplace-of-cia-american-spycraft-make-national-register-of-historic-places-1.451217
  11. “Donovan: Father of US Intelligence”, CIA YouTube Video, 26 Jul 2012.

Russia’s Big New Exports: Mercenaries and Election Tampering

The Moscow Times reports that Russia is on track to become the global leader in exports of low-cost mercenaries and election tampering.

Wagner, a “businessman” working for Russia’s President, is dumping large numbers of low-quality talent at low-cost in Mozambique (as well as several other countries) to undercut local experts in the field:

Gartner said he had proposed to bring around 50 highly qualified experts to Mozambique at a cost of between $15,000 and $25,000 per person per month.

While no public information is available on how much Wagner pays its mercenaries, Yevgeny Shabayev, a former Russian military officer and self-appointed spokesman for the group, told The Moscow Times that on average, a lower-rank Wagner soldier receives between 120,000 and 300,000 rubles per month ($1,800 – $4,700).

See also: “No Ordinary Murder: Mozambique Police Death Squad Kill Election Observer” and “Southern Africa History and the “Genocide” of White Farmers

Lithuania Under Attack in Information War on NATO

Useful analysis of information warfare attacks on NATO can be found in the breakdown of a campaign in Lithuania. “Eugenijus Lastauskas, head of the Lithuanian military’s Strategic Communication Department” is quoted in DefenseOne:

  • September 26 & 27 operatives hack kasvyksta.lt, a genuine news organization, to post a fake story as training for a bigger attack in October
  • October 17 operators again hack kasvyksta.lt to post a false story about purported U.S. plans to move nuclear weapons to Lithuania
  • False emails, purporting to be from known journalists, are sent to Nausėda’s office and other officials asking for official comment on the false story
  • The false story is circulated widely across Russian social media channels
  • October 18 operatives again hack legitimate media outlets to deface them with the false news
  • Journalists outside of Russia also targeted with email campaigns made to look like requests from members of the Lithuanian government

And then the icing on the cake:

…attackers even drew up a fake tweet from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pomepo ‘congratulating’ the Lithuanian president on the news of the move of the nuclear weapons…

What is the response by the United States?

The American government now is debating the appropriate organizational structure to defend against latest formats of attack.

It is becoming increasingly clear that information warfare is a different phenomenon from traditional warfare: in information warfare, there are no sideliners, everyone is a target, and everywhere is the battlespace. Thus, any attempt to put the burden on just the Departments of Defense and State to counter information warfare efforts is likely to be fraught with complex authority issues about which domestic department or agency is charged with various information warfare tasks.[9] Here, the Department of Homeland Security, Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and various domestic intelligence agencies will undoubtedly have roles to play. The challenge is to precisely identify those roles.

[…]

An information warfare directorate within the National Security Council could help tease out answers by relying on expert briefs from the defense community, think tanks, corporations, and academia. In turn, the directorate could provide careful summaries to the National Security Council’s core members, allowing them to truly begin to enumerate the pragmatic policy options. Ideally, after frank debates among principal National Security Council members, resolutions for action should emerge and shape presidential policy.

It may be illustrative to note that in the 1930s FDR took quick action to research how best to respond to Nazi military intelligence campaigns, after he had watched American newspapers as well as European institutions fall victim to information warfare.

His rapid response helped slow Nazi collaborators in “America First” from expanding their influence campaigns before Germany formally declared war on America, and also led to the formation of a government team that eventually would become the CIA.

The man chosen to lead the CIA would say at the time “America cannot afford to resume it’s [America First] prewar indifference”.

Given how the current occupant of the White House literally returned to the apathy of “America First”, and has aligned with Russian interests more than American values, we are in very different times than when FDR appointed “Wild Bill” to direct what had to be done.

William Donovan’s duffel bag in the CIA museum

4MP Night Color Vision Cameras to Replace IR

Fundamentally I see artificial light at night as a form of pollution. It makes me cringe whenever I fly over cities at night all lit up like a garbage dump of lumens.

Clear vision in low light seems like exactly the sort of thing that technology could solve at scale the right way (enhance human vision to see dark as day) and improve the world in so many ways, when instead it was used the wrong way (very inefficiently emulate sunlight artificially).

Imagine cars with windscreens and mirrors that presented night roads as if it was still daylight, instead of having to constantly re-engineer headlight coverage.

This is why I’ve written before about night vision products, and about light risks in war too.

The good news is technology has been advancing quickly and a huge Chinese research company has announced commercial availability of 4MP Night Color vision to rival Standard IR

Popular Alabama County Sheriff Assassinated

Five on-duty law enforcement officers have killed in Alabama by gunfire this year, which carries a death penalty.

Such a penalty not only has proven to be no deterrent, in the latest killing the suspect was in no danger. He assassinated an extremely popular Sheriff and later just walked into custody with the gun in his hand.

Sheriffs essentially are a political position. In this tragic case the Sheriff’s political position was especially notable for three reasons.

One: An unpopular white man assumed historically unexpected control of Alabama after alleged electronic vote machine fraud

In 2002, Republican Bob Riley narrowly beat Democrat Don Siegelman in the Alabama gubernatorial race when several thousand votes from Baldwin County, Alabama, [87.3% white] mysteriously switched from Siegelman to Riley when Democrat observers left the polling place after midnight. “When Baldwin County reported two sets of results, it was clear to me that someone had manipulated the results,” said Auburn University political scientist James H. Gundlach in a report on the controversy, A Statistical Analysis of Possible Electronic Ballot Box Stuffing.”There is simply no way that electronic vote counting can produce two sets of results without someone using computer programs in ways that were not intended.” According to Gundlach, such electronic ballot-stuffing could be accomplished by having access to the “tabulating computer at some time before the election to install [a special electronic] card and after the election to remove the card.”

Two: That surprise Governor then attempted to push a white Sheriff into a black community and they very openly disagreed with him.

Lowndes County is predominantly black. It had a population of around 11,000 in the 2010 census. In 2007, more than 60 people gathered at the Lowndes County Courthouse to protest then-Gov. Bob Riley’s appointment of a white law enforcement officer to replace the county’s deceased sheriff. At the time, the county commission president said all five commissioners and other elected officials had recommended Williams, who is black, for the position.

Three: Instead of the plant of an unpopular white Sheriff by the unpopular white Governor, it was Williams — an exceptionally popular black veteran of military and law enforcement — who eventually was elected to the job. Willams just was assassinated by the young white son of a neighboring county’s Deputy Sheriff. As Williams was meeting a group of people at a store about a loud music complaint it was the Deputy Sheriff’s son who walked up unprovoked and fatally shot Williams reportedly in front of his own son.

..the sheriff was speaking with someone at the scene before William Chase Johnson got out of his truck and approached him. “William Chase Johnson exited his truck with his pistol in hand. William Chase Johnson approached “Big John” Williams without provocation and shot Sheriff “Big John” Williams while he was fulfilling his duties as Sheriff of Lowndes County, Alabama,” the suit states.

It is not clear yet whether and how race was a factor. However, it is clear that electronic voting fraud is real and this killing has the hallmarks of a political assassination, which already has seriously shaken the community. The suspect fled and then a few hours later returned to the scene on foot carrying the assassination weapon as he calmly turned himself in for arrest.