"In a mad world only the mad are sane." – Akira Kurosawa
"In a mad world only the mad are sane." – Akira Kurosawa
By censoring Anthony Shaffer’s new book "Operation Dark Heart" even though uncensored review copies are already available in the public domain, the Department of Defense has produced a genuinely unique product: a revealing snapshot of the way that the Obama Administration classifies national security information in 2010.
With both versions before them, readers can see for themselves exactly what the Pentagon classifiers wanted to withhold, and can judge for themselves whether the secrecy they tried to impose can be justified on valid national security grounds. In the majority of instances, the results of such an inspection seem disappointing, if not very surprising, and they tend to confirm the most skeptical view of the operation of the classification system.
The most commonly repeated "redaction" in Operation Dark Heart is the author’s cover name, "Christopher Stryker," that he used while serving in Afghanistan. Probably the second most common redactions are references to the National Security Agency, its heaquarters location at Fort Meade, Maryland, the familiar abbreviation SIGINT (referring to "signals intelligence"), and offhand remarks like "Guys on phones were always great sources of intel," which is blacked out on the bottom of page 56.
Also frequently redacted are mentions of the term TAREX or "Target Exploitation," referring to intelligence collection gathered at a sensitive site, and all references to low-profile organizations such as the Air Force Special Activities Center and the Joint Special Operations Command, as well as to foreign intelligence partners such as New Zealand. Task Force 121 gets renamed Task Force 1099. The code name Copper Green, referring to an "enhanced" interrogation program, is deleted.
Perhaps 10% of the redacted passages do have some conceivable security sensitivity, including the identity of the CIA chief of station in Kabul, who has been renamed "Jacob Walker" in the new version, and a physical description of the location and appearance of the CIA station itself, which has been censored.
Many other redactions are extremely tenuous. The name of character actor Ned Beatty is not properly classified in any known universe, yet it has been blacked out on page 15 of the book. (It still appears intact in the Index.)
In short, the book embodies the practice of national security classification as it exists in the United States today. It does not exactly command respect.
A few selected pages from the original and the censored versions of Operation Dark Heart have been posted side-by-side for easy comparison here:
The New York Times reported on the Pentagon’s dubious handling of the book in "Secrets in Plain Sight in Censored Book’s Reprint" by Scott Shane, September 18:
From: Secrecy News — 09/29/10
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at
Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/
Based on Department of Defense security concerns, sections of Operation Dark Heart have been redacted in the published edition. The newly revised book keeps our national interests secure, but this highly qualified warrior’s story is still intact. Shaffer’s assessment of successes and failures in Afghanistan remains dramatic, shocking, and crucial reading for anyone concerned about the outcome of the war.
"While I do not agree with the edits in many ways, the DoD redactions enhance the reader’s understanding by drawing attention to the flawed results created by a disorganized and heavy handed military intelligence bureaucracy." –Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer
Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer had run intelligence operations for years before he arrived in Afghanistan. He was part of the “dark side of the force”—the shadowy elements of the U.S. government that function outside the bounds of the normal system. His group called themselves the Jedi Knights and pledged to use the dark arts of espionage to protect the country from its enemies.
Shaffer’s mission to Afghanistan, however, was unlike any he had ever experienced before.
There, he led a black-ops team on the forefront of the military efforts to block the Taliban’s resurgence. They not only planned complex intelligence operations to beat back the insurgents, but also played a key role in executing those operations—outside the wire. They succeeded in striking at the core of the Taliban and their safe havens across the border in Pakistan. For a moment Shaffer saw us winning the war.
Then the military brass got involved. The policies that top officials relied on were hopelessly flawed. Shaffer and his team were forced to sit and watch as the insurgency grew—just across the border in Pakistan.
This wasn’t the first time he had seen bureaucracy stand in the way of national security. He had participated in Able Danger, the aborted intelligence operation that identified many of the future 9/11 terrorists but failed to pursue them. His attempt to reveal the truth to the 9/11 Commission would not go over well with his higher-ups.
Operation Dark Heart tells the story of what really went on–and what went wrong–in Afghanistan. Shaffer witnessed firsthand the tipping point, when what seemed like certain victory turned into failure. Now, in this book, he maps out a way that could put us on the path to winning the war.
by Charlie Savage
Global Research, September 27, 2010
New York Times
WASHINGTON — Federal law enforcement and national security officials are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations for the Internet, arguing that their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is “going dark” as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone.
Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.
The bill, which the Obama administration plans to submit to lawmakers next year, raises fresh questions about how to balance security needs with protecting privacy and fostering innovation. And because security services around the world face the same problem, it could set an example that is copied globally.
James X. Dempsey, vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, an Internet policy group, said the proposal had “huge implications” and challenged “fundamental elements of the Internet revolution” — including its decentralized design.
“They are really asking for the authority to redesign services that take advantage of the unique, and now pervasive, architecture of the Internet,” he said. “They basically want to turn back the clock and make Internet services function the way that the telephone system used to function.”
But law enforcement officials contend that imposing such a mandate is reasonable and necessary to prevent the erosion of their investigative powers.
“We’re talking about lawfully authorized intercepts,” said Valerie E. Caproni, general counsel for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “We’re not talking expanding authority. We’re talking about preserving our ability to execute our existing authority in order to protect the public safety and national security.”
Investigators have been concerned for years that changing communications technology could damage their ability to conduct surveillance. In recent months, officials from the F.B.I., the Justice Department, the National Security Agency, the White House and other agencies have been meeting to develop a proposed solution.
There is not yet agreement on important elements, like how to word statutory language defining who counts as a communications service provider, according to several officials familiar with the deliberations.
But they want it to apply broadly, including to companies that operate from servers abroad, like Research in Motion, the Canadian maker of BlackBerry devices. In recent months, that company has come into conflict with the governments of Dubai and India over their inability to conduct surveillance of messages sent via its encrypted service.
In the United States, phone and broadband networks are already required to have interception capabilities, under a 1994 law called the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act. It aimed to ensure that government surveillance abilities would remain intact during the evolution from a copper-wire phone system to digital networks and cellphones.
Often, investigators can intercept communications at a switch operated by the network company. But sometimes — like when the target uses a service that encrypts messages between his computer and its servers — they must instead serve the order on a service provider to get unscrambled versions.
Like phone companies, communication service providers are subject to wiretap orders. But the 1994 law does not apply to them. While some maintain interception capacities, others wait until they are served with orders to try to develop them.
The F.B.I.’s operational technologies division spent $9.75 million last year helping communication companies — including some subject to the 1994 law that had difficulties — do so. And its 2010 budget included $9 million for a “Going Dark Program” to bolster its electronic surveillance capabilities.
Beyond such costs, Ms. Caproni said, F.B.I. efforts to help retrofit services have a major shortcoming: the process can delay their ability to wiretap a suspect for months.
Moreover, some services encrypt messages between users, so that even the provider cannot unscramble them.
There is no public data about how often court-approved surveillance is frustrated because of a service’s technical design.
But as an example, one official said, an investigation into a drug cartel earlier this year was stymied because smugglers used peer-to-peer software, which is difficult to intercept because it is not routed through a central hub. Agents eventually installed surveillance equipment in a suspect’s office, but that tactic was “risky,” the official said, and the delay “prevented the interception of pertinent communications.”
Moreover, according to several other officials, after the failed Times Square bombing in May, investigators discovered that the suspect, Faisal Shahzad, had been communicating with a service that lacked prebuilt interception capacity. If he had aroused suspicion beforehand, there would have been a delay before he could have been wiretapped.
To counter such problems, officials are coalescing around several of the proposal’s likely requirements:
Communications services that encrypt messages must have a way to unscramble them.
Foreign-based providers that do business inside the United States must install a domestic office capable of performing intercepts.
Developers of software that enables peer-to-peer communication must redesign their service to allow interception.
Providers that failed to comply would face fines or some other penalty. But the proposal is likely to direct companies to come up with their own way to meet the mandates. Writing any statute in “technologically neutral” terms would also help prevent it from becoming obsolete, officials said.
Even with such a law, some gaps could remain. It is not clear how it could compel compliance by overseas services that do no domestic business, or from a “freeware” application developed by volunteers.
In their battle with Research in Motion, countries like Dubai have sought leverage by threatening to block BlackBerry data from their networks. But Ms. Caproni said the F.B.I. did not support filtering the Internet in the United States.
Still, even a proposal that consists only of a legal mandate is likely to be controversial, said Michael A. Sussmann, a former Justice Department lawyer who advises communications providers.
“It would be an enormous change for newly covered companies,” he said. “Implementation would be a huge technology and security headache, and the investigative burden and costs will shift to providers.”
Several privacy and technology advocates argued that requiring interception capabilities would create holes that would inevitably be exploited by hackers.
Steven M. Bellovin, a Columbia University computer science professor, pointed to an episode in Greece: In 2005, it was discovered that hackers had taken advantage of a legally mandated wiretap function to spy on top officials’ phones, including the prime minister’s.
“I think it’s a disaster waiting to happen,” he said. “If they start building in all these back doors, they will be exploited.”
Susan Landau, a Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study fellow and former Sun Microsystems engineer, argued that the proposal would raise costly impediments to innovation by small startups.
“Every engineer who is developing the wiretap system is an engineer who is not building in greater security, more features, or getting the product out faster,” she said.
Moreover, providers of services featuring user-to-user encryption are likely to object to watering it down. Similarly, in the late 1990s, encryption makers fought off a proposal to require them to include a back door enabling wiretapping, arguing it would cripple their products in the global market.
But law enforcement officials rejected such arguments. They said including an interception capability from the start was less likely to inadvertently create security holes than retrofitting it after receiving a wiretap order.
They also noted that critics predicted that the 1994 law would impede cellphone innovation, but that technology continued to improve. And their envisioned decryption mandate is modest, they contended, because service providers — not the government — would hold the key.
“No one should be promising their customers that they will thumb their nose at a U.S. court order,” Ms. Caproni said. “They can promise strong encryption. They just need to figure out how they can provide us plain text.”
Global Research Articles by Charlie Savage
Complete article at:
By Zach Carter, AlterNet
A full 90 members of Congress who voted to bailout Wall Street in 2008 failed to support financial reform reining in the banks who drove our economy off a cliff. But when you examine campaign contribution data, it’s really no surprise that these par …
Complete article at:
An imagined conversation about politics and the economy between President Obama and residents of Des Moines, Iowa.
Christian Science Monitor
By Robert Reich, Guest blogger
ROBERT REICH IS CHANCELLOR’S PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC POLICY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AT BERKELEY. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Clinton….
September 29, 2010
President Obama continues his economic tour today (Wednesday) with stops in Des Moines, Iowa, and Richmond, Va. In Des Moines he hosts a backyard discussion on the challenges currently facing the middle class with approximately 70 neighbors from the area, according to the White House. Here’s an imagined version of that discussion:
Obama: Thanks so much for joining me. I know many of you are hurting and angry about the economy, and I don’t blame you. … We learned that in the Great Depression, but Republicans obviously didn’t — and they’ve blocked every jobs program I’ve offered.
Neighbor: Why don’t you have a showdown with them? Let them filibuster a jobs bill and show which side you’re on and which side they’re on?
Obama: That’s just Washington at its worst. More deadlock. …
Neighbor: If they do make gains in the midterm, it will be more important than ever for you to show which side you’re on and which side they’re on. Then at least you have a fighting chance of mobilizing Americans behind you. Otherwise this aftershock of a recession will go on for years, demagogues will prey on the public’s anxiety to foment even more anger and resentment, you’ll lose in 2012, and we’ll have an even more hateful politics.
Obama (blinking, momentarily unsteady, stuttering): You … You’re … right! … Thank you! (Everyone cheers.) We’re gonna fight! … I finally get it! (More cheers.)
Neighbor: Any while you’re at it, read Robert Reich’s latest book, Aftershock. It explains it all. Here’s a copy.
Reich (Supercapitalism), secretary of labor under Bill Clinton and former economic adviser to President Obama, argues that Obama’s stimulus package will not catalyze real recovery because it fails to address 40 years of increasing income inequality. The lessons are in the roots of and responses to the Great Depression, according to Reich, who compares the speculation frenzies of the 1920s–1930s with present-day ones, while showing how Keynesian forerunners like FDR’s Federal Reserve Board chair, Marriner Eccles, diagnosed wealth disparity as the leading stress leading up to the Depression. By contrast, sharing the gains of an expanding economy with the middle class brought unprecedented prosperity in the postwar decades, as the majority of workers earned enough to buy what they produced. Despite occasional muddled analyses (of the offshoring of industrial production in the 1990s, for example), Reich’s thesis is well argued and frighteningly plausible: without a return to the "basic bargain" (that workers are also consumers), the "aftershock" of the Great Recession includes long-term high unemployment and a political backlash–a crisis, he notes with a sort of grim optimism, that just might be painful enough to encourage necessary structural reforms.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
THIS WEEK IN PETROLEUM REPORT RELEASE – September 29, 2010
This Week In Petroleum http://www.eia.gov/oog/info/twip/twip.asp?src=email
Analysis, data, and charts of the latest weekly petroleum supply and price data.