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“They”

August 15th, 2012 - 10:31 am

A report that a group of former Special Forces operators are going to denounce the partisan politicization of military victories were dismissed by an Obama campaign official as the squeaking of has-beens. “An Obama campaign official said: ‘No one in this group is in a position to speak with any authority on these issues and on what impact these leaks might have, and it’s clear they’ve resorted to making things up for purely political reasons.’” They would know. After all Obama campaign officials would know the real score right?

The OPSEC group says it is not political and aims to save American lives. Its first public salvo is a 22-minute film that includes criticism of Obama and his administration. The film, to be released on Wednesday, was seen in advance by Reuters.

“Mr. President, you did not kill Osama bin Laden, America did. The work that the American military has done killed Osama bin Laden. You did not,” Ben Smith, identified as a Navy SEAL, says in the film.

“As a citizen, it is my civic duty to tell the president to stop leaking information to the enemy,” Smith continues. “It will get Americans killed.”

The argument from superior knowledge has been extended to the administration’s dismissal of Israeli worries over Iran. AFP reports that “in remarks seemingly aimed at Israel, the United States said Friday it had ‘eyes’ and ‘visibility’ inside Iran’s nuclear program and would know if Tehran made a ‘breakout’ towards a nuclear weapon.” The source of the administration report was anonymous.

One might think that if the US truly had “eyes” and “visibility” inside Iran’s sanctum sanctorum then ‘they’ would not advertise the fact in the media. But what do we know? As ‘they’ said we are not “in a position to speak with any authority on these issues and on what impact these leaks might have”. We should let bigger brains solve the problem.

What do campaign officials have to do with setting people straight on national security issues? Well what did Valerie Jarrett have to do with the decision to launch the mission against Osama Bin Laden? Apparently, quite a lot. Karen McQuillan, writing in the American Thinker cites author Richard Miniter and Edward Klein, “former foreign editor of Newsweek and editor of the New York Times Magazine” as saying that Jarrett is

“ground zero in the Obama operation, the first couple’s friend and consigliere.” Klein — who claims he used a minimum of two sources for each assertion in his book on the Obama presidency, The Amateur — writes in detail about Jarrett opposing the raid on bin Laden. She told Obama not to take the political risk. Klein thought Obama ignored Jarrett’s advice. Miniter tells us he listened to her, three times telling Special Operations not to take the risk to go after bin Laden.

In in any case it implies that Jarrett knew about the planned raid beforehand.

Every insider in Chicago told Klein the same thing: Jarrett has no qualifications to be the principal advisor to the president of the United States. She doesn’t understand how Washington works, how relations with Congress work, how the federal process works. She doesn’t understand how the economy works, how the military works, how national security works. But she understands how Obama works.

The president turns to Valerie Jarrett for definitive advice on all these issues. She has given him terrible advice over and over, and still he turns to her.

The security game has been turned inside out these days. Some of us fear terrorism, but others fear counter-terrorism even more. Wikileaks says Abraxas sold a countersurveillance package to a number of large government and private organizations that use facial and other recognition technology to detect reconnaissance by terrorists intent on attacking their buildings. Another nail in the coffin of privacy, right. Well maybe privacy has been dead or has been dying for quite some time. And everyone has been in on it, from Big Brother to the hackers that supposedly protect us from Big Brother. Maybe the only distinction that now exists is between surveillers and the surveilled.

The surveillance experts at the National Security Agency won’t tell two powerful United States Senators how many Americans have had their communications picked up by the agency as part of its sweeping new counterterrorism powers. The reason: it would violate your privacy to say so.

That claim comes in a short letter sent Monday to civil libertarian Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall. The two members of the Senate’s intelligence oversight committee asked the NSA a simple question last month: under the broad powers granted in 2008′s expansion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, how many persons inside the United States have been spied upon by the NSA?

The query bounced around the intelligence bureaucracy until it reached I. Charles McCullough, the Inspector General of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the nominal head of the 16 U.S. spy agencies. In a letter acquired by Danger Room, McCullough told the senators that the NSA inspector general “and NSA leadership agreed that an IG review of the sort suggested would itself violate the privacy of U.S. persons,” McCullough wrote.

Not that it matters any more. Consider: Kaspersky is asking for your, mine — anyone’s — help in cracking the encrypted parts of the Gauss malware package. Readers will recall that Gauss was found in Lebanese computers. The initial hypothesis was that it was aimed at Lebanese banks to spy on their transactions. Now it turns out that the big mystery is who it was aimed at in the first place. Gauss, as it turns out, is keyed to a very specific target.

Researchers at Kaspersky Lab in Russia are asking the public for help in cracking an encrypted warhead that gets delivered to infected machines by the Gauss malware toolkit.

The warhead gets decrypted by the malware using a key composed of configuration data from the system it’s targeting. But without knowing what systems it’s targeting or the configuration on that system, the researchers have been unable to reproduce the key to crack the encryption …

The payload is delivered to machines via an infected USB stick that uses the .lnk exploit to execute the malicious activity. In addition to the encrypted payload, infected USB sticks deliver two other files that also contain encrypted sections that Kaspersky has been unable to crack.

“The code that decrypts the sections is very complex compared to any regular routine we usually find in malware,” Kaspersky writes. Kaspersky believes one of these sections may contain data that helps crack the payload.

“The [encrypted] resource section is big enough to contain a Stuxnet-like SCADA targeted attack code and all the precautions used by the authors indicate that the target is indeed high profile,” Kaspersky writes in its blog post.

The payload appears to be highly targeted against machines that have a specific configuration — a configuration used to generate a key that unlocks the encryption. That specific configuration is currently unknown, but Roel Schouwenberg, a senior researcher with Kaspersky, says it has to do with programs, paths and files that are on the system.

Once it finds a system with the programs and files it’s looking for, the malware uses that data to perform 10,000 iterations of an MD5 hash to generate a 128-bit RC4 key, which is then used to decrypt the payload and launch it.

From these characteristics it is reasonable to infer that Gauss has been designed to take down something almost sui generis; definitely not the computer you can buy in the local electronics store. Furthermore, it is clear that whoever designed Gauss already had access to its specific configuration and have a deep understanding of the platform they intend to attack. Since only the target can turn the key, Kaspersky is crowdsourcing the decryption efforts.

Should you help? Well it all depends on who you think designed Gauss. And who you think Kaspersky’s efforts would benefit. The logical answer to both questions is we don’t know.  If you crack the code you unmask the mastermind.  But maybe we should ask the Obama campaign officials. They seem to know a lot about these things. Is that good or bad? Well I don’t know either. Lee Smith points out that we no longer live in a world with clear lines dividing “friend” and “foe”.

as Cairo marches toward what seems to be a Muslim Brotherhood monopoly, the real significance of Morsi’s latest move lies elsewhere, in Washington and Jerusalem, where differing perceptions of Egypt’s political crisis have made plain that the United States and Israel are not united on matters of the Middle East. Their different interpretations of regional developments—particularly how they perceive various threats—are forcing the longtime allies apart.

Over the last six decades, the U.S.-Israel relationship has had less to do with the personal inclinations of American and Israeli leaders than with the particular events that have cemented the alliance. From the Cold War and the need to protect the vast energy resources flowing through the Persian Gulf, culminating with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the strategic realities of the Middle East have kept Israel and the United States tied at the hip. That’s changing.

Perhaps we now live in a world of “they”.  All we know is that “they” — whoever they are — are embarked upon policies that seem strangely independent of traditional national, religious or even ethnic boundaries. OPSEC’s criticism of the administration’s leak of classified information, extending Lee Smith’s argument, fails because their the former Special Operator’s quaint notion of national interest no longer coincides with the modern lexicon. National interest is now no longer obvious; instead it is whatever “they” want. Apparently only these anonymous few understand the real agenda, can apprehend the total picture and know where all the pieces are. As for the rest of us, none are in “a position to speak with any authority on these issues and on what impact these leaks might have.”

Hope and change? Nope. Hope and pray. Yes.


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