It seems difficult to exceed the scope of “total war” as defined by 1940s, when civilian populations were bombarded from the skies, armies of millions grappled over bloody battlefields, and entire cities were obliterated by atomic weapons. But the 21st century is trying.
Imagine a conflict in which each side tries to control the leadership of rival nations; where enemy agents impersonate, or sometimes recruit members of the armed and police forces of your own state; where hostile forces can wipe out the bank accounts of thousands or even millions of individuals.
Think of a world in which there is no sanctuary, where no flight or concealment is possible. A reality in which millions of distributed cameras, augmented by intercepted emails, cell phone video, and imagery make it impossible to lose one self in a crowd. It will be a world without front lines, without a clearly identifiable friend or foe. This, and terrorism too. Conceive of living in such a universe; and realize that perhaps you may be living in it already.
Start with your friendly computer, whose screen is blinking cheerfully in front of you. It may be stealing your banking details.
The New York Times describes Gauss, malware aimed at penetrating banks and stealing the credentials of those who to use them. Why was it made? It was designed, according to the NYT’s sources, by American or Israeli programmers in order to penetrate Lebanese banks and thereby discover who Hezbollah was funding and being funded by. It’s collecting data for subsequent surveillance, hacking, or even inclusion in a Kill List, as described by another New York Times article. “Mr. Obama has placed himself at the helm of a top secret “nominations” process to designate terrorists for kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical.”
Gauss can be thought of as the collection part of a spidering program, a sort of Google that brings up a list of bad guys when you plug in a search, as defined by President Obama and thereafter to be passed on to whatever sharp end is appropriate. Russia’s Kaspersky labs is, of course, on the job unraveling its secrets.
Kaspersky’s researchers said they were confident that Gauss was the work of the same hands as Flame, because the two viruses were written in the same language (known as C++) on the same platform and shared some code and features. Different people probably wrote Doqu and Stuxnet, the first two state-sponsored viruses to surface in recent years, they said, but all four were probably commissioned by the same state-sponsored entity.
“There is absolutely no doubt that Gauss and Flame were printed by the same factories,” Mr. Raiu said. “An early version of Stuxnet used a module from Flame, which shows they are connected. Stuxnet was created by a nation-state — it simply could not have been designed without nation-state support — which means Flame and Gauss were created with nation-state support as well.”
Kaspersky Lab has declined to speculate on which nation-states were responsible. The New York Times reported in June, based on interviews with officials in several countries, that Stuxnet was jointly developed by the United States and Israel.
But one can’t help but think Kaspersky’s efforts are also be directed at creating an equivalent capability for the Kremlin. For Putin must also have his “kill list”. Who is working for “other side” any more when your favorite anti-virus provider is also the Russian government’s? Yet it is important to realize that in the 21st century, being on the “same side” isn’t so clear any more. For example, Israel and America are allies, right? Maybe that is only sometimes. Israel wants the Administration to acknowledge that the Iranian nuclear threat has increased in the light of new evidence.
ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE — The White House Thursday declined to respond to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s comment that new US intelligence warns the Iranian nuclear threat has become much more “urgent.”
Barak had suggested that a new US intelligence assessment on Iran had brought the Obama administration’s position much closer to that of the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Air Force One that he would not comment on “intelligence matters or intelligence … the president may or may not have received.”
Intelligence that the President may or may not have received, and evaluated by people who may or may not be who they claim to be. The modern ambiguity of identity was highlighted by two incidents. The first was the killing of three Marine special operations personnel by the Afghan police chief of Sangin province, who it turns out was working for the other side, if you can still say that. Closer to home Army Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo was “convicted of collecting bomb-making materials for what he told authorities would be a ‘massive attack’ on a Texas restaurant full of Fort Hood troops” for religious reasons. Solution: more gun-free zones.
Still, this business of fighting without uniforms is disturbing. It breeds an endemic suspicion even among allies. Saudi Arabia recently said it would intercept any Israeli aircraft attempting to cross its airspace en route to striking at Iranian nuclear targets. But some news stories quote Israeli sources as saying the message was really coming from the Administration.
Senior Israeli officials have claimed that the Americans are leveraging the Saudi threat in an attempt to dissuade Israel from launching a unilateral offensive on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Some sources estimate that Saudi Arabia, which is equipped with American-made fighter jets, would have allowed Israel to cross its airspace if the latter would have coordinated its military operation with the White House.
So are the Saudis doing Obama’s bidding or is it Obama doing the Saudi’s bidding? Does it matter? We’re all one happy family. Quite without the public noticing, the iftar has replaced Christmas — excuse me the Holidays — as White House’s most observed event. The Washington Post reports on an a holiday that every red-blooded American knows and celebrates:
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will celebrate the Islamic holy month of Ramadan by hosting an iftar (ifta) dinner Friday night at the White House.
The iftar is the meal that breaks the day of fasting, when Muslim families and communities eat together after sunset.
The meal to be served in the State Dining Room will be the fourth iftar that Obama has hosted. It continues the tradition of hosting iftars that began annually under President Bill Clinton and was continued by President George W. Bush.
Don’t we all know the familiar song?
Little iftar tree;
No one to buy you, give yourself to me.
You’re your weight in precious gold you see.
My little iftar tree.