At the end of last week, I joked a little about privacy and civil liberties advocates having had the “best week ever”. It was indeed a very good week, but only relatively compared to the near constant assault on the same by the government. But the con is being put back in ICon by the Administration and its mouthpieces.
As I noted in the same post, Obama himself has already thrown cold water on the promise of his NSA Review Board report. Contrary to some, I saw quite a few positives in the report and thought it much stronger than I ever expected. Still, that certainly does not mean it was, or is, the particularly strong reform that is needed. And even the measures and discussion it did contain are worthless without sincerity and dedication to buy into them by the intelligence community and the administration. But if Obama on Friday was the harbinger of the walkback and whitewash of real reform, the foot soldiers are taking the field now to prove the point.
Sunday morning brought out former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morrell on CBS Face the Nation to say this:
I think that is a perception that’s somehow out there. It is not focused on any single American. It is not reading the content of your phone calls or my phone calls or anybody else’s phone calls. It is focused on this metadata for one purpose only and that is to make sure that foreign terrorists aren’t in contact with anybody in the United States.
Morrell also stated that there was “no abuse” by the NSA and that Ed Snowden was a “criminal” who has shirked his duties as a “patriot” by running. Now Mike Morrell is not just some voice out in the intelligence community, he was one of the supposedly hallowed voices that Barack Obama chose to consider “reform”.
Which ought to tell you quite a bit about what Barack Obama really thinks about true reform and your privacy interests. Not much. In fact, Morrell suggested (and Obama almost certainly agrees) that the collection dragnet should be expanded from telephony to also include email. Not exactly the kind of “reform” we had in mind.
Then, Sunday night 60 Minutes showed that fluffing the security state is not just a vice, but an ingrained habit for them. Hot on the heels of their John Miller blowjob on the NSA, last night 60 Minutes opened with a completely hagiographic puff piece on and with National Security Advisor Susan Rice. There was absolutely no news whatsoever in the segment, it was entirely a forum for Rice and her “interviewer”, Lesley Stahl, to spew unsupported allegations about Edward Snowden (He “has 1.5 million documents!”), lie about how the DOJ has interacted with the court system regarding the government surveillance programs (the only false statements have been “inadvertent”) and rehab her image from the Benghazi!! debacle. That was really it. Not exactly the hard hitting journalism you would hope for on the heels of a federal judge declaring a piece of the heart of the surveillance state unconstitutional.
Oh, yes, Susan Rice also proudly proclaimed herself “a pragmatist like Henry Kissinger which, as Tim Shorrock correctly pointed out, is not exactly reassuring from the administration of a Democratic President interested in civil liberties, privacy and the rule of law.
So, the whitewashing of surveillance dragnet reform is in full swing, let the giddiness of last week give way to the understanding that Barack Obama, and the Intelligence Community, have no intention whatsoever of “reforming”. In fact, they will use the illusion of “reform” to expand their authorities and power. Jonathan Turley noted:
Obama stacked the task force on NSA surveillance with hawks to guarantee the preservation of the program.
Not just preserve, but to give the false, nee fraudulent, patina of Obama Administration concern for the privacy and civil liberties concerns of the American citizenry when, in fact, the Administration has none. It is yet another con.
Or, as Glenn Greenwald noted:
The key to the WH panel: its stated purpose was to re-establish public confidence in NSA – NOT reform it.
There may be some moving of the pea beneath the shells, but there will be no meaningful reform from the administration of Barack Obama. The vehicle for reform, if there is to be one at all, will have to come from the Article III federal courts. for an overview of the path of Judge Leon’s decision in Klayman through the DC circuit, see this piece by NLJ’s Zoe Tillman.
Lastly, to give just a little hope after the above distressing content, I recommend a read of this excellent article by Adam Serwer at MSNBC on the cagy pump priming for surveillance reform Justice Sotomayor has done at the Supreme Court:
If Edward Snowden gave federal courts the means to declare the National Security Agency’s data-gathering unconstitutional, Sonia Sotomayor showed them how.
It was Sotomayor’s lonely concurrence in U.S. v Jones, a case involving warrantless use of a GPS tracker on a suspect’s car, that the George W. Bush-appointed Judge Richard Leon relied on when he ruled that the program was likely unconstitutional last week. It was that same concurrence the White House appointed review board on surveillance policy cited when it concluded government surveillance should be scaled back.
“It may be necessary to reconsider the premise that an individual has no reasonable expectation of privacy in information voluntarily disclosed to third parties,” Sotomayor wrote in 2012. “This approach is ill suited to the digital age, in which people reveal a great deal of information about themselves to third parties in the course of carrying out mundane tasks.”
Give the entire article a read, Adam is spot on. If there is to be reform on the surveillance dragnet, it will almost certainly have to be the handiwork of the courts, and Justice Sotomayor planted the seed. The constant barrage of truth and facts coming from the Snowden materials, what Jay Rosen rightfully terms “The Snowden Effect” is providing the food for Sotomayor’s seed to flower. Hopefully.
From the No Kidding Files, courtesy of Jason Leopold, comes this gem from vaunted National Security Advisor Susan Rice:
“Let’s be honest: at times we do business with govts that do not respect the rights we hold most dear”
Well, hello there Susan, I couldn’t agree more. Especially on days when I see things like this from the
Glenn Greenwald and Pierre Omidyar Snowden file monopoly err, Barton Gellman at the Washington Post:
The National Security Agency is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world, according to top-secret documents and interviews with U.S. intelligence officials, enabling the agency to track the movements of individuals — and map their relationships — in ways that would have been previously unimaginable.
The number of Americans whose locations are tracked as part of the NSA’s collection of data overseas is impossible to determine from the Snowden documents alone, and senior intelligence officials declined to offer an estimate. “It’s awkward for us to try to provide any specific numbers,” one intelligence official said in a telephone interview. An NSA spokeswoman who took part in the call cut in to say the agency has no way to calculate such a figure.
It is thoroughly loathsome that Americans must do business with a government that does this, and insane that it is their own government.
It is “awkward” to determine how many innocent Americans are rolled up in the latest out of control security state dragnet the United States government is running globally. Actually, that is not awkward, it is damning and telling. Therefore the American citizenry must not know, at any cost.
Susan Rice is quite right, we are forced to “do business” with a government that does “not respect the rights we hold most dear”
[Here is the full text of the Susan Rice speech today that the above quote was taken from. It is a great speech, or would be if the morals of the United States under Barack Obama matched the lofty rhetoric]
On the first page of a WaPo story on an Eric Holder speech, it says this.
Holder indicated that the Justice Department is not planning to prosecute former Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, one of the journalists who received documents from Snowden and has written a series of stories based on the leaked material. Greenwald, an American citizen who lives in Brazil, has said he is reluctant to come to the U.S. because he fears detention and possible prosecution.
Based on that, I think, a slew of journalists are reporting that DOJ will not prosecute Glenn Greenwald.
Then click the link:
And here’s what it says:
“Unless information that has not come to my attention is presented to me, what I have indicated in my testimony before Congress is that any journalist who’s engaged in true journalistic activities is not going to be prosecuted by this Justice Department,” Holder said.
“I certainly don’t agree with what Greenwald has done,” Holder said. “In some ways, he blurs the line between advocate and journalist. But on the basis of what I know now, I’m not sure there is a basis for prosecution of Greenwald.” [my emphasis]
In this passage, which is admittedly not a transcript, Holder seems to distinguish between “true journalistic activities” and “advocate.”
If that is, in fact, fair syntax, then it suggests something troubling. Not just that Holder remains open to be persuaded that journalist Glenn Greenwald might be prosecutable. But that the “line” is drawn where “journalism” turns to “advocacy.”
Damn. I hope he tells our founding fathers, because it sounds like he might well have prosecuted a sizable chunk of those advocate journalists.
Been a huge week of activity, from the shutdown/default can down the road kicking, to new FISC apologia, to the stunning announcement of a new media venture. So, a lot of stuff, so to speak. Also, my retained palm tree trimmers think my palm trees are too unruly and nasty for their “talents”. Say what you will, the last item is really troubling.
Anyhoo, I hear there are sports afoot this weekend. Let us start with the lead on the title of this post, the Gronk. The Gronk is back baybee! And that means we must celebrate the return of the Gronk jesus. Since those nasty Patriots up and cut Baby Jesus. Brady has basically been pulling shit out of his ass with Julian Edelman and a cast of nobodies. Smurf Amendola still out and proving exactly how valuable Wes Welker really was (hey, even Giselle must want him back by now), but with Gronk back, maybe, just maybe, the Pats can still take the Jets, Jets, Jets. I think they can make Rex suck on Gronk’s toes!
Okay. On to the other NFL games and things of note. Apparently Adrian Foster of the hapless Houston Texans has decided NOW is the time to market his football career via an IPO stock offering. Gosh, I am no Goldman Scrotum Sacks level genius business expert, but maybe when your team sucks ass so bad you are turning to, effectively, your taxi squad quarterback, and the local fans think that is the only possible excitement in sight…maybe you are not an IPO genius. Just saying. And i say this with all love and due respect for our long time friend and matey, teh Gulf Coast Pirate. Arrrrrr, don’t but that there stock matey!
The Iggles will ride Nick Foles again with Michael Vick on the injury bench. Foles was down in the hated Old Pueblo of the Arizona Wildcats for 2.5 years, so I know him well. Kid has a great arm, and lots of natural talent. Never read off coverages so good, and is nowhere near the “mobile” quarterback Chip Kelly relishes. That said, he may well have NFL level talent, but as far as I have ever seen, it is as more of a classic drop back QB. We shall see. I actually think Matt Barkley is a better leader, but who knows what Kelly will do in Philly. If you ask me, Kelly’s QB is not yet on the Eagles.
In memoriam, last rites must be given to Bad Eli and the Lost Gents of The Meadowlands. On a far happier note, HUGE congratulations to our good friend Pachacutec who was able to finally get married thanks to the rapidly un-bigoting of these here United States. I have never been more happy for a betrothed couple. Salute! Unfortunately, the Giants will still suck this year; though there may be a wedding wedding gift from the Vikings if Adrian Peterson is not so pissed and charged up he rambles for 350 yards.
Oh yeah, Gronks at Jets is actually a game. I know the Mistress of the Distressed Song will be along to carp about how Pretty Tom and his band of Edelmans can not POSSIBLY beat Rex Toesuck and the Jets, but I don’t buy it. The Tom and Gronk Show is more fabulous. In other Big Mitten news, the Kittehs should put the Bungles in the litter. Browns are a semi-real deal, but not in Lambeau. Bears and Skins are a pick em. Chefs look to have home cooking. Oh, yeah, about those Donkos in the title of this post. Peyton going back to Indianapolis. Irsay trying to get in Peyton’s giant head. Who will win that? Um, think I will take Peyton’s big head and the Donkos over Irsay’s idiocy. Luck is a keeper, but not this time. Enjoy the Donkos (okay jackasses) in the Canyon music attached hereto.
In the Semi-Pro league, Florida State versus Clemson is by far the class of the offering. Game is prime time and in Clemson’s Death Valley home. Still, I am hard pressed to not pick the Seminoles and their wonder child QB Jamels Winston in an upset. Really tough call; Tajh Boyd is pretty much the match, more experienced, and at home. I have bad misgivings about this, but have a hunch the ‘Noles are on a roll. The Washington huskies are going to be the final straw for the ASU Sun Devils. Game is at Frank Kush Field, but i won’t be there. Huskies are good; Sun Devils an anomaly. Pick em.
As I write and post this, it looks like the Cardinals are cleaning out the Bums, 6-0 in the 5th. for good in Busch Stadium. Bye bye Bums, that pissing in the DBack’s pool was bad karma for you. Who couldda knowd? The Sawx are up 3-2, and have the last two games of the ALCS at home in Fenway. Still, the Tiger’s pitching is a problem. Tigers are coming with Scherzer and Verlander in games 6 and 7. Bad ass stuff there. Sawx counter with Buchholz and Lackey respectively. Not the star glitz of the Tigers’ pitching aces, but not bad at all. In Fenway, if the Sawx can’t win one of the two, they don’t deserve the pennant.
There you go. Let your hair down and trash this post with all your swerve and verve.
Although many people have been long familiar with her name and career, there seems to be new buzz about the [possible] identity of the female CIA operative lionized in the bin Laden killing and talk of the town movie “Zero Dark Thirty“.
The Twitters are abuzz this morning, but this article from John Cook at Gawker last September tells the tale:
Her name is Alfreda Frances Bikowsky and, according to independent reporters Ray Nowosielski and John Duffy, she is a CIA analyst who is partially responsible for intelligence lapses that led to 9/11. The two reporters recently released a “documentary podcast” called “Who Is Richard Blee?” about the chief of the agency’s bin Laden unit in the immediate run-up to the 9/11 attacks and featuring interviews with former counterterrorism official Richard Clarke, former CIA agent Bob Baer, Looming Tower author Lawrence Wright, 9/11 Commission co-chairman Tom Keane, and others. In it, Nowosielski and Duffy make the case that Bikowsky and another CIA agent named Michael Anne Casey deliberately declined to tell the White House and the FBI that Khalid al-Mihdhar, an Al Qaida affiliate they were tracking, had obtained a visa to enter the U.S. in the summer of 2001. Al-Mihdhar was one of the hijackers on American Airlines Flight 77. The CIA lost track of him after he entered the U.S.
Bikowsky was also, according to Nowosielski and Duffy, instrumentally involved in one of the CIA’s most notorious fuck-ups—the kidnapping, drugging, sodomizing, and torture of Khalid El-Masri in 2003 (El-Masri turned out to be the wrong guy, and had nothing to do with terrorism). As the Associated Press’ Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo reported earlier this year, an analyst they described only by her middle name—”Frances”—pressed for El-Masri to be abducted even though some in the agency weren’t convinced he was the terrorist that Frances suspected he was. Instead of being punished or fired for the error, “Frances” was eventually promoted to running the Global Jihad Unit by then-CIA director Michael Hayden. According to Goldman and Apuzzo’s story, “Hayden told colleagues that he gave Frances a pass because he didn’t want to deter initiative within the counterterrorism ranks.”
My, my, the CIA does have problems keeping secrets lately, don’t they? A point saliently noted by Marcy in relation to both Matt Bissonnette and the Mexican “trainers” who were involved in in an ambush. I guess the de rigueur Obama Administration leak prosecution will be along any second.
It is fairly amazing Bikowsky’s name has been kept out of the real limelight surrounding [speculation on] Zero Dark Thirty this long, considering her known involvement in the other issues, especially the one about gleefully horning in on the torture show viewing [which Bikowsky did in regards to KSM]. An attitude that speaks volumes as to →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
There are many symbols emblematic of the battle between the American citizenry and the government of the United States in the war of transparency. One of those involves John Kiriakou. Say what you will about John Kiriakou’s entrance into the public conscience on the issue of torture, he made a splash and did what all too few had, or have since, been willing to do. John Kiriakou is the antithesis of the preening torture monger apologist in sullen “big boy pants”, Jose Rodriquez.
And, so, people like Kiriakou must be punished. Not by the national security bullies of the Bush/Cheney regime who were castigated and repudiated by an electorate who spoke. No, the hunting is, instead, by the projected agent of “change”, Barack Obama. You expect there to be some difference between a man as candidate and a man governing; the shock comes when the man and message is the diametric opposite of that which he sold. And, in the sling of such politics, lies the life and fate of John Kiriakou.
Why is the story of John Kiriakou raised on this fine Saturday? Because as Charlie Savage described, Kiriakou has tread the “Path From Terrorist Hunter to Defendant”. Today it is a path far removed from the constant political trolling of the Benghazi incident, and constant sturm and drang of the electoral polling horserace. It is a critical path of precedent in the history of American jurisprudence, and is playing out with nary a recognition or discussion. A tree is falling in the forrest and the sound is not being heard.
You may have read about the negative ruling on the critical issue of “intent to harm” made in the federal prosecution of Kiriakou in the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA) last Tuesday. As Josh Gerstein described:
Prosecutors pursuing former CIA officer John Kiriakou for allegedly leaking the identities of two other CIA officers involved in interrogating terror suspects need not prove that Kiriakou intended to harm the United States or help a foreign nation, a federal judge ruled in an opinion made public Wednesday.
The ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema is a defeat for Kiriakou’s defense, which asked the judge to insist on the stronger level of proof — which most likely would have been very difficult for the government to muster.
In 2006, another federal judge in the same Northern Virginia courthouse, T.S. Ellis, imposed the higher requirement in a criminal case against two former lobbyists for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
However, Brinkema said that situation was not parallel to that of Kiriakou, since he is accused of relaying information he learned as a CIA officer and the AIPAC staffers were not in the government at the time they were alleged to have received and passed on classified information.
“Kiriakou was a government employee trained in the classification system who could appreciate the significance of the information he allegedly disclosed. Accordingly, there can be no question that Kiriakou was on clear notice of the illegality of his alleged communications.
Gerstein has summarized the hard news of the court ruling admirably, but there is a further story behind the sterile facts. By ruling the crucial issue of “intent” need not be proven by the accusing government, the court has literally removed a critical element of the charge and deemed it outside of the due process proof requirement, much less that of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
What does that mean? In a criminal prosecution, it means everything. It IS the ballgame.
And so it is here in the case of United States v. John Kiriakou. I am going to go a little further than Gerstein really could in his report, because I have the luxury of speculation. As Josh mentioned:
On Tuesday, Brinkema abruptly postponed a major motions hearing in the case set for Wednesday and a hearing set for Thursday on journalists’ motions to quash subpoenas from the defense. She gave no reason for canceling the hearings.
HELLO! That little tidbit is the everything of the story. I flat out guarantee the import of that is the court put the brakes on the entire case as a resultnof an off the record joint request of the parties to facilitate immediate plea negotiation. As in they are doing it as you read this.
There is simply no other reason for the court to suspend already docketed process and procedure in a significant case, much less do so without a formal motion to extend, whether by one party or jointly. That just does not happen. Well, it does not happen unless both parties talked to the court and avowed a plea was underway and they just needed the time to negotiate the details.
So, what does this mean for John Kiriakou? Nothing good, at best. Upon information and belief, Kiriakou was offered a plea to one count of false statements and no jail/prison time by the original specially designated lead prosecutor, Pat Fitzgerald. But the “word on the street” now is that, because the government’s sheriff has changed and, apparently, because Kiriakou made an effort to defend himself, the ante has been ridiculously upped.
What I hear is the current offer is plead to IIPA and two plus years prison. This for a man who has already been broken, and whose family has been crucified (Kiriakou’s wife also worked for the Agency, but has been terminated and had her security clearance revoked). Blood out of turnips is now what the “most transparent administration in history” demands.
It is a malicious and unnecessary demand. The man, his family, and existence are destroyed already. What the government really wants is definable precedent on the IIPA because, well, there is not squat for such historically, and the “most transparent administration in history” wants yet another, larger, bludgeon with which to beat the baby harp seals of whistleblowing. And so they act.
To date, there have been no reported cases interpreting the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA), but it did result in one conviction in 1985 pursuant to a guilty plea. In that case, Sharon Scranage, a former CIA clerk, pleaded guilty for providing classified information regarding U.S. intelligence operations in Ghana, to a Ghanaian agent, with whom she was romantically involved. She was initially sentenced to five years in prison, but a federal judge subsequently reduced her sentence to two years. That. Is. It.
So, little wonder, “the most transparent administration in history” wants to establish a better beachhead in its fight against transparency and truth. John Kiriakou is the whipping post. And he is caught in the whipsaw….prosecuted by a maliciously relentless government, with unlimited federal resources, and reliant on private defense counsel he likely long ago could no longer afford.
It is a heinous position Kiriakou, and his attorneys Plato Cacheris et. al, are in. There are moral, and there are exigent financial, realities. On the government’s end, as embodied by the once, and now seemingly distant, Constitutional Scholar President, and his supposedly duly mindful and aware Attorney General, Eric Holder, the same moralities and fairness are also at issue. Those of us in the outside citizenry of the equation can only hope principles overcome dollars and political hubris.
Eric Holder, attorney general under President Barack Obama, has prosecuted more government officials for alleged leaks under the World War I-era Espionage Act than all his predecessors combined, including law-and-order Republicans John Mitchell, Edwin Meese and John Ashcroft.
“There’s a problem with prosecutions that don’t distinguish between bad people — people who spy for other governments, people who sell secrets for money — and people who are accused of having conversations and discussions,” said Abbe Lowell, attorney for Stephen J. Kim, an intelligence analyst charged under the Act.
The once and previous criticisms of John Kiriakou, and others trying to expose a nation off its founding tracks, may be valid in an intellectual discussion on the fulcrum of classified information protection; but beyond malignant in a sanctioned governmental prosecution such as has been propounded against a civilian servant like John Kiriakou who sought, with specificity, to address wrongs within his direct knowledge. This is precisely where, thanks to the oppressive secrecy ethos of the Obama Administration, we are today.
Far, perhaps, from the “hope and change” the country prayed and voted for in repudiating (via Barack Obama) the festering abscess of the Bush/Cheney regime, we exist here in the reality of an exacerbated continuation of that which was sought to be excised in 2008. Kiriakou, the human, lies in the whipsaw balance. Does John Kiriakou plead out? Or does he hold out?
One thing is certain, John Kiriakou is a man, with a family in the lurch. His values are not necessarily those of those of us on the outside imprinting ourselves on him.
If the government would stop the harp seal beating of Mr. Kiriakou, and at least let the man stay with his family instead of needlessly consuming expensive prison space, that would be one thing. But the senseless hammer being posited by the out for blood successor to Patrick Fitzgerald – Neil MacBride, and his deputy William N. Hammerstrom, Jr. – is scurrilous.
Rest assured, far from the hue and cry on the nets and Twitters, this IS playing out on a very personal and human scale for John Kiriakou while we eat, drink and watch baseball and football this weekend.
As a follow up to yesterday afternoon’s decision in the WikiLeaks grand jury subpoena case, it is, shall we say, interesting that the New York Times today comes out with and editorial slamming democracies that use secret evidence and maneuvers to prosecute journalists.
The editorial is titled No Way to Run a Democracy and it doesn’t spend one word of it on the rabid use of just those tactics in relation to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange (See here and here). Nor has there been any comparable outrage over the US actions against WikiLeaks journalists in any other NYT effort and/or article.
Now, make no mistake, the plight of investigative journalists in Turkey under threat from the administration of Prime Minister Erdogan is extremely troubling, and it is commendable that the Gray Lady has called it out. But it does make you wonder where the same outrage is in relation to the First Amendment eviscerating effort of the US Department of Justice toward WikiLeaks and Assange. An investigation which could, and if it is taken to its logical conclusion, should involve the Times itself.
Maybe it is because Bill Keller reached some agreement with the DOJ not to trash them in return for DOJ laying off the NYT during one of his endless tete a tetes with them over quashing news reporting, maybe Keller and the Times are fearful that they don’t have some kind of secret agreement with the DOJ, maybe it is the product of the merging of the media and government in the US, or maybe it is because of Keller’s irrational and unprofessional extreme dislike of, and contempt for, the “dirty” Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.
Whatever the reason, the stridence against the Erdogan government actions contrasted with the silence toward the domestic Obama government actions is telling.
In a post I’ll write some day, I will show how the WikiLeaks cables show that every time a partner government threatens to use the high tech intelligence toys we share with it–notably our telecommunication wiretapping–to spy on domestic opponents, the Obama Administration makes a very concerted effort to disavow such efforts (if not end the partnership).
Which is why I find it so interesting that the CEO of Palantir Technologies just apologized to Glenn Greenwald for (I guess) allowing HBGary to target him for an oppo research and attack on his credibility.
“As the Co-Founder and CEO of Palantir Technologies, I have directed the company to sever any and all contacts with HB Gary,” the statement starts.
Dr. Karp explains that Palantir Technologies provides a software analytic platform for the analysis of data. They do not provide – “nor do we have any plans to develop” – offensive cyber capabilities.
In addition, the statement says that Palantir does not build software that is designed to allow private sector entities to obtain non-public information, engage in so-called cyber attacks, or take other offensive measures.
“I have made clear in no uncertain terms that Palantir Technologies will not be involved in such activities. Moreover, we as a company, and I as an individual, always have been deeply involved in supporting progressive values and causes. We plan to continue these efforts in the future,” Dr. Karp added.
“The right to free speech and the right to privacy are critical to a flourishing democracy. From its inception, Palantir Technologies has supported these ideals and demonstrated a commitment to building software that protects privacy and civil liberties. Furthermore, personally and on behalf of the entire company, I want to publicly apologize to progressive organizations in general, and Mr. Greenwald in particular, for any involvement that we may have had in these matters.”
Somehow,Dr. Karp forgot to apologize to Brad Friedman, another journalist WBGary–in projects bid in partnership with Palantir–has targeted.
But perhaps more relevant is Palantir’s primary focus: working with the national security apparatus. They’ve done at least $6,378,332 in business with entities like SOCOM and FBI in the last several years. And while they say they have no plans to adopt “offensive cyber capabilities,” that’s not to say they’re not helping the government analyze data on our presumed enemies.
I would imagine Palantir has pretty good reason to know that the government will not do business with a contractor using the same technologies to target Glenn Greenwald (and maybe Brad Friedman).
At least not publicly. Remember–DOJ recommended Hunton & Williams (which put Palantir and HBGary together for the bid) to Bank of America.
Wikileaks has posted the presentation three security companies–Palantir, HBGary Federal, and Berico Technologies–made to Bank of America, proposing to help it respond to Wikileaks.
In addition to the degree to which the proposal emphasizes the national security ties and military background of the employees of the company (particularly Berico), the presentation fleshes out what the companies proposed. Under potential proactive tactics, it lists:
Of particularly interest, they describe HBGary Federal’s abilities to conduct INFOOPS, including “influence operations” and “social media exploitation.”
In other words, in addition to proposing to conduct cyber attacks on Wikileaks’ European-based infrastructure (complete with a picture of WL’s bomb shelter-housed servers), the proposal appears to recommend that these companies be paid to troll social media, like Twitter, to not only “identify risky behavior of employees” but also, presumably, “push the radical and reckless nature of wikileaks activities.” You know–the kind of trolling we often see targeted at Glenn (and in recent days targeted against David House, who was also listed in this presentation).
In addition, the presentation proposes to create a concern over the security of the infrastructure. Interestingly, when additional newspapers in Europe got copies of the State cables (including Aftenposten), some people speculated that the files had come from a hack of Wikileaks servers. (Note how the slide above notes the disgruntled WL volunteers.)
That doesn’t mean we’re seeing this campaign in process. After all, Glenn has a ton of enemies on Twitter. And if the intent behind leaking additional copies of the cables was to suggest WL’s infrastructure had been hacked, that perception has largely dissipated as more and more newspapers get copies.
One final note: according to Tech Herald, the law firm pitching these firms, Hunton and Williams, was itself recommended to BoA by DOJ. As the presentation makes clear, these are significant government contractors. (Remember, we’re getting these documents because Anonymous hacked HBGary Federal, which was offering what it had collected to DOJ.) To what extent is what we’re seeing just an extension of what our own government is trying to combat Wikileaks?
On Saturday, private security firm HBGary Federal bragged to the FT that it had discovered who key members of the hacking group Anonymous are. In response, Anonymous hacked HB Gary Federal and got 44,000 of their emails and made them publicly available.
You believe that you can sell the information you’ve found to the FBI? False. Now, why is this one false? We’ve seen your internal documents, all of them, and do you know what we did? We laughed. Most of the information you’ve “extracted” is publicly available via our IRC networks. The personal details of Anonymous “members” you think you’ve acquired are, quite simply, nonsense.
So why can’t you sell this information to the FBI like you intended? Because we’re going to give it to them for free. Your gloriously fallacious work can be a wonder for all to scour, as will all of your private emails (more than 44,000 beauties for the public to enjoy). Now as you’re probably aware, Anonymous is quite serious when it comes to things like this, and usually we can elaborate gratuitously on our reasoning behind operations, but we will give you a simple explanation, because you seem like primitive people:
You have blindly charged into the Anonymous hive, a hive from which you’ve tried to steal honey. Did you think the bees would not defend it? Well here we are. You’ve angered the hive, and now you are being stung.
As TechHerald reports, among those documents was a presentation, “The Wikileaks Threat,” put together by three data intelligence firms for Bank of America in December. As part of it, they put together what they claimed was a list of important contributors to WikiLeaks. They suggested that Glenn Greenwald’s support was key to WikiLeaks’ ongoing survival.
The proposal starts with an overview of WikiLeaks, including some history and employee statistics. From there it moves into a profile of Julian Assange and an organizational chart. The chart lists several people, including volunteers and actual staff.
One of those listed as a volunteer, Salon.com columnist, Glenn Greenwald, was singled out by the proposal. Greenwald, previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York, has been a vocal supporter of Bradley Manning, who is alleged to have given diplomatic cables and other government information to WikiLeaks. He has yet to be charged in the matter.
Greenwald became a household name in December when he reported on the “inhumane conditions” of Bradley Manning’s confinement at the Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia. Since that report, Greenwald has reported on WikiLeaks and Manning several times.
“Glenn was critical in the Amazon to OVH transition,” the proposal says, referencing the hosting switch WikiLeaks was forced to make after political pressure caused Amazon to drop their domain.
As TechHerald notes, an earlier version of the slide said support from people like Glenn needed to be “attacked.”
Now aside from the predictable, but nevertheless rather shocking detail, that these security firms believed the best way to take WikiLeaks out was to push Glenn to stop supporting them, what the fuck are they thinking by claiming that Glenn weighs “professional preservation” against “cause”? Could they be more wrong, painting Glenn as a squeamish careerist whose loud support for WikiLeaks (which dates back far longer than these security firms seem to understand) is secondary to “professional preservation”? Do they know Glenn is a journalist? Do they know he left the stuffy world of law? Have they thought about why he might have done that? Are they familiar at all with who Glenn is? Do they really believe Glenn became a household name–to the extent that he did–just in December?
I hope Bank of America did buy the work of these firms. Aside from the knowledge that the money would be–to the extent that we keep bailing out Bank of America–taxpayer money, I’d be thrilled to think of BoA pissing away its money like that. The plan these firms are pushing is absolutely ignorant rubbish. They apparently know almost nothing about what they’re pitching, and have no ability to do very basic research.
Which is precisely the approach I’d love to see BoA use to combat whatever WikiLeaks has coming its way.