Ashton Carter

Are Escaped Zoo Animals Autonomous?

Back when David Sanger revealed new details of how StuxNet broke free of Natanz, he used the metaphor of an escaped zoo animal actively unlocking its cage.

In the summer of 2010, shortly after a new variant of the worm had been sent into Natanz, it became clear that the worm, which was never supposed to leave the Natanz machines, had broken free, like a zoo animal that found the keys to the cage. It fell to Mr. Panetta and two other crucial players in Olympic Games — General Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Michael J. Morell, the deputy director of the C.I.A. — to break the news to Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden.

An error in the code, they said, had led it to spread to an engineer’s computer when it was hooked up to the centrifuges. When the engineer left Natanz and connected the computer to the Internet, the American- and Israeli-made bug failed to recognize that its environment had changed. It began replicating itself all around the world. [my emphasis]

This zoo animal found the keys to its cage, broke free, spread to an engineer’s computer, failed to recognize its new environment, and then began replicating itself all around the world.

That is, Sanger used the language of a cognizant being, acting as an agent to spread itself. That’s not inapt. After all, viruses do spread themselves (though they don’t actually go seek out keys to do so).

Which is why this detail, noted in Obama’s other pre-Thanksgiving document dump, is so stunning. (h/t Trevor Timm)

The Defense Department does not require developers of computer systems that launch cyber operations to implement the same safeguards required of traditional arms makers to prevent collateral damage.

[snip]

directive, released Nov. 21, mandated that automated and semi-autonomous weaponry — such as guided munitions that independently select targets — must have human machine interfaces and “be designed to allow commanders and operators to exercise appropriate levels of human judgment over the use of force.” The mandate called for “rigorous hardware and software verification and validation” to ensure that engagements could be terminated if not completed in a designated time frame. The goal is to minimize “unintended engagements,” the document states.

The Pentagon is permitting less human control over systems that deploy malware, exploits and mitigation tools, highlighting Defense’s focus on agile responses to computer threats. The document, signed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, explicitly states that the directive “does not apply to autonomous or semi-autonomous cyberspace systems for cyberspace operations.”

We have already lost control of one our semi-autonomous cyberspace operations. The potential danger from its “escape” could be tremendous.

And yet DOD specifically exempts similar operations in the future? So we can commit the same error again?

Gitmo’s Commanders and My 4-Year Old Niece Play Games

I enjoyed watching my 4-year old niece wallop Mr. EW in a game of “Matches” last week. She kept making up new rules every turn, ensuring Mr. EW didn’t know precisely what the rules of the game were.

It provided me an excellent opportunity to teach her what the word “shrewd” means–”A special kind of smart.”

I’m less amused by this: Gitmo’s second new set of Military Commission rules in as many years. Last year, they released the 2010 Manual for Military Commissions hours before Omar Khadr’s trial started. This year, they’re introducing the 2011 Regulation for Military trial days before the Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri death penalty case starts. But make no mistake, this “Regulation” amends last year’s Manual. As Carol Rosenberg reports:

The Defense Department released the document two days ahead of the arraignment of a Saudi-born captive charged with murder and terrorism for al Qaida’s suicide bombing of the USS Cole off Yemen.

[snip]

Almost simultaneously, the document appeared on the war court’s new nearly $500,000 website, numbering 202 pages and including some changes to procedures. For example, each case’s military judge now has the authority to approve the costs of a so-called “learned counsel,” typically a civilian defense attorney with extensive experience defending capital murder cases. It also outlined procedures through which observers could protest, through a chief clerk, a judge’s decision to declare an aspect of a trial as “protected.”

[snip]

The Pentagon’s new Deputy Secretary of Defense, Ashton B. Carter, signed the new document on Sunday. He said in a foreword that it provided guidance at times that differed from the way the U.S. military court martials its own troops. “That difference is necessitated by the unique circumstances of the conduct of military and intelligence operations during hostilities or by other practical need.”

Legal experts were poring over the document Monday night.

Meantime, Human Rights Watch attorney Andrea Prasow called the timing troubling.

“The very idea that new rules could be issued moments before someone is arraigned to face the death penalty offends any notion of due process,” said Prasow, who has worked on war court defense cases. “The stamp of illegitimacy has been firmly affixed to Nashiri’s case.”

To make it all the more pathetic, check out the image at the top of the page.

Nothing

That’s the top corner of these brand new rules. From DOD. The biggest bureaucracy in the world.

With no headers.

How the hell can DOD release new rules governing a capital case without even bothering to include headers or footers (the document has simple centered page numbers) to indicate these are actually the rules issued by the biggest bureaucracy in the world?

It’s like some sergeant somewhere who doesn’t know how to operate Microsoft Word was tweaking these until an hour ago.

Seriously, I haven’t even gotten into the contents of these new rules yet. But they look like a–very long–high school project, not the considered rules of  court of law.

Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz Okay, CNN International simulcast is great. Just did a report on the scary clown ban in France. Now that is news I can use. #BanClowns
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bmaz @LegallyErin The report I just saw on CNN looked pretty awesome. Wind and waves onto roads and all kinds of good stuff.
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bmaz @LegallyErin Bundle up baybee!
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bmaz @LegallyErin Say, my tee-bee says you have some kind weather thing going on there.
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bmaz @walterwkatz @gideonstrumpet @ScottGreenfield @LilianaSegura @roomfordebate Yes, that was a nice little touch, no? Jeebus.
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bmaz RT @LegallyErin: There's something very sexy about Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal. I always date the worst guys.
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bmaz @imraansiddiqi You seemed like such a respectable chap, and now here you are talking about Kardashians. #Shame
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bmaz @cody_k I went as a Pando journalist blowing shit out of my ass about Greenwald.
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bmaz @dcbigjohn @erinscafe In or out of the furry costume?
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bmaz RT @AntheaButler: Hands up, don't shoot. RT @deray: Superhero protest. #Ferguson http://t.co/ejnhDLq7jv
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bmaz @JoshuaADouglas @rickhasen @chrislhayes And I ask because that was why I blew off the injunction+contemplated whether were provable damages.
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bmaz @JoshuaADouglas @rickhasen @chrislhayes Question since you are in state there, is hearing even possible before the injunction would be moot?
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