10 Years Later, Information Asymmetry Could Launch Another War

Ten years ago, the Bush Administration was planning the last details of the new product announcement it would roll out in September, a new product announcement that would lead to an expensive, illegal war that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

A key part of that product rollout was the manipulation of information asymmetry: the leaking of out-of-context classified information to Judy Miller. After she published it on the front page of the NYT, the warmongers pointed back to it as the complete truth. Yet because the information was classified–because it was illegal for experts to counter the claims made by Judy’s sources–the other side barely came out. It wasn’t until well into the war that enough of the Iraq NIE was declassified to reveal that the warmongers had presented a completely imbalanced picture of Iraq’s WMD program and that dissenters had rightly debunked some of the warmongers claims.

Which is worth remembering as you read this piece from Jeffrey Lewis (of ArmsControlWonk fame). While I think Jim would have issue with some of the claims Lewis makes on technical grounds, but Lewis addresses recent Israeli claims about new intelligence on Iran’s nuke program to argue for reading NIEs and other WMD intelligence with some nuance (you can click through to read his nuanced take, both on the 2007 Iran NIE and the purportedly new piece of intelligence). But one of several reasons why we’re not getting that nuance, Lewis argues, is because Congress and others are cracking down on responsible, nuanced communication.

Unfortunately, the White House’s concerted campaign to criminalize national security discourse has prevented officials from discussing the estimate with journalists, allowing the most alarmist conjecture to dominate public debate.

Among other things, DiFi has proposed curtailing background briefings that could provide the kind of nuanced reading Lewis speculates at here. In addition, DOD has reportedly made a top secret request for staffers to identify whether they’ve spoken with one of the journalists who has covered this issue most closely (for better and worse), David Sanger.

In short, even assuming the leak witch hunts are in good faith, they may well bring us to war just as surely as the leaks to Judy Miller did a decade ago.

Apparently, we haven’t even figured out how to avoid being snookered into war by A1 cutouts.

24 replies
  1. thatvisionthing says:

    …Congress and others are cracking down on responsible, nuanced communication.

    Unfortunately, the White House’s concerted campaign to criminalize national security discourse…

    Hey, serious sideways glitch-in-the-Matrix question. Does that cover blogs, and does that include commenters? Because a weird thing just happened to me.

    There I was, writing/previewing a comment in your Assange diary, when before I could post it my computer just went dead. Total black, instant off, just boom. My tinfoil: Was it like… did somebody pull my plug? Can they DO that? How? Zap you through your power cord? I’m on battery power this time.

    It was a comment I had spent time on and included the two magic words, jury nullification, that can seize the govt in its tracks. In the context of Assange, is that national security discourse? Like, who even reads me? I’m nobody. But for a computer to just turn itself off? Instant death at the nobody level? (Oh, wait…) My fingers were nowhere near the off switch and the rest of the electricity here stayed on.

    (Hey, was I right, what I said to Sibel Edmonds? “Which is the bigger secret? 9/11 and state secrets, or jury nullification?” http://fdlbooksalon.com/2012/06/30/fdl-book-salon-welcomes-sibel-edmonds-classified-woman-the-sibel-edmonds-story-a-memoir/#comment-2221888 — I see I wrote half my Assange comment before there.)

    (“I thought, wow, those must be powerful words.” — http://news.firedoglake.com/2010/08/20/jury-duty/#comment-48166 )

    Have Ron Wyden or Sheldon Whitehouse said anything about secret powers over blogs? Smart electricity? Crazy, I know, but it happened.

  2. jawbone says:

    How to sell a war is yet another way Obama has enhanced, extended and cemented the tricks and power plays of the Bush/Cheney regime. I’ve been thinking since last fall that the way our MCM (Mainsteam Corporate Media) is playing this is just like the run up to BushBoy’s Iraq Invasion, with a big exception: Back in 2002-03, NPR and even the NYTimes had reporting which did tell the truth. NPR had a strong segment with nuclear scientists on why the aluminum tubes could not be used effectively to what Bush/Cheney said the Iraqis wanted them for. It had to be in the fall since I was raking leaves as I was listening to it.

    In the Times one had to be sure to check out the back pages and the grafs buried toward but not at the end to get the good revelations.

    We don’t have that now. Only within the past week to ten days have NPR and other papers reported things which are not pure propaganda and only contained “rebels'” comments.

    The info is there for those willing to really dig around the web, who know the blogs which aren’t corrupted, who have time and tenacity, but, for those with long hours and home obligations it’s tough to find the reality reports.

    Thank you, Marcy. Thanks to Moon of Alabama and others.

  3. lefty665 says:

    @thatvisionthing: “Can they DO that? How? Zap you through your power cord? I’m on battery power this time.”

    Sure, but not likely. Coming in through the power line is cumbersome and slow. The vehicle is much more likely to be that internet connection thingy you’re using. It is a two way street that is as fast as you pay for it to be.

    Everything you (me, everybody) sends, posts, says over any phone, transacts or drives past is being vacuumed up. Why bother going to the effort of cutting off traffic that may become part of a “Signature” triggering more prejudicial targeting some Tuesday?

    We tend to fool ourselves about being “safe”. There’s no protection from “national technical means” if you attract sufficient attention.

    Apple has mostly relied on being inconsequential to avoid commercial hacking. That means Macs, Ipads, Iphones are extraordinarily vulnerable.

    Microsoft has acknowledged working with NSA to improve Windows “security” (whose?) for at least a decade. Is it really just a coincidence that Flame exploited “flaws” in older Microsoft encryption code to gain access?

    Intel hardware over the last decade has added more remote access and control features with every iteration. That includes the ability to communicate “out of band” (OOB) over the network connection. OOB means when the computer is turned “off”, or as close to it as you can get short of pulling the plugs, removing the batteries and wireless nic.

    Beef Hollow Rd. will be twice the size of the US Capitol. Every day bytes are becoming smaller. What do you think they’re going to fill it with? Betchya it’s going to be more than blog posts and cell phone conversations. The contents of all those hard drives out there might be about enough to do it. Remember DiFi, it’s ok to collect.

    I’ve been trying to stir up some interest around here on technical exploits at the personal level in addition to the more spectacular vacuuming at the telco switches, or cell data, that get most of the attention. Micro vs Macro. There have been no signs it’s on anybody’s list of concerns.

    Remember the old counselor’s saying, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean nobody’s after you”.

  4. greengiant says:

    I’m convinced Rachel of credit card services is a person location service. used as backup for the cell phone locator.

  5. thatvisionthing says:

    @lefty665: Hi lefty, thanks for taking me seriously. I don’t think I’m paranoid so much as I think THEY’RE paranoid. Thinking about what you wrote, power cord versus modum. The modum was the first thing I checked, and its electricity was on. But, weird thing, when you disconnect from the internet by pulling the cable out (I do it accidentally all the time, my plugs are wiggly), the internet light on the modum goes out. This time when I disconnected the cable, the internet light stayed on. Also, power wise, if it was electricity going out, the battery would have come on and the computer wouldn’t crash. The battery was charged and that’s what’s happened before when the electricity goes out. But that didn’t happen. Still, I don’t trust the power cord and I am writing this comment on battery power.

    Nobody can be more low tech than me. This is a Windows Vista HP laptop running a Linux live CD. I hardly ever use the Vista, but it’s still there somewhere. And I know what it’s like when I crash the live CD by overtaxing it, and this wasn’t it. The computer doesn’t turn off, it just goes brainless, like when the record player tone arm gets to the end of the record. Now you know my era.

    Something else I thought about later was, maybe it wasn’t an American kill switch, maybe it was the British? Two things, first I had been on Craig Murray’s UK website earlier and had even tried to leave a comment, which failed, as others were saying theirs had. Well, his site was overloaded, nothing special about me. Then when I was writing my comment here, I was talking about how America had England to thank for jury nullification, and I was researching William Penn’s 1670 trial and specifically Bushel’s case on wikipedia. I think my last words were thanking Great Britain for jury nullification and the Magna Carta. All of that COULD matter hugely if Assange were really going to trial, but that does’t seem to be the case. And what do I know about the state of jury nullification in England now? Absolutely zip. But if it’s running in the background here, maybe it’s running in the background there too. We all go back to the Magna Carta, it’s in our judicial DNA. And it could change the world. It always has, and that’s why the powerful disappear it.

    Last thing, what I felt when it happened. First, astonishment. Stark, blank astonishment. Check the electricity, check the rest of the house. Then, HA! Remembered “Wow, those must be powerful words.” Bug eyes! Because I love the idea of powerful words, and oh my God, look, even I, me the random nobody, can say them. Plus, you see what it means? If the insecurity state gets to be so huge and so paranoid that they’re watching bugs like me, and they’re teaching their people to seek and destroy “jury nullification” — that means it’s still being taught, even though civics classes for kids are down the drain. Ha! I felt like sending up balloons.

    That’s what I felt like. Now, eh, I’m a silly bug. Who knows what really happened? It could be a thousand things. But that’s the one I thought of yesterday, and I still feel like sending up balloons. Words are powerful! Anyone can hear them! Anyone can say them!


  6. thatvisionthing says:

    Ah, touchy touchy! From the England section of “jury nullification” on wikipedia:


    In 1982, during the Falklands War, the British Royal Navy sank an Argentine Cruiser – the “ARA General Belgrano”. A civil servant (government employee) named Clive Ponting leaked two government documents concerning the sinking of the cruiser to a Member of Parliament (Tam Dalyell) and was subsequently charged with breaching section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911. The prosecution in the case demanded that the jury convict Ponting as he had clearly contravened the Act by leaking official information about the sinking of the Belgrano during the Falklands War. His main defence, that it was in the public interest that this information be made available, was rejected on the grounds that “the public interest is what the government of the day says it is”, but the jury nevertheless acquitted him, much to the consternation of the Government. He had argued that he had acted out of ‘his duty to the interests of the state’; the judge had argued that civil servants owed their duty to the government.

    That’s a bit closer than John Peter Zenger and William Penn. And directly on point to Julian Assange. Never, NEVER look there!

  7. BearCountry says:

    @thatvisionthing: Well, I also use an HP laptop. It has dropped out on me twice in the last month or so. I was not typing anything, I was simply cruising around on the web. I had to restart and both times the computer had to fix itself which took at least 1/2 an hour. I plan to call HP since it is in warranty.

  8. lefty665 says:


    Still awfully unlikely. I’d poke at other things first. First on the list being thermal. Most computers will shut down if they get too hot. In my experience that can be abrupt. The CPU says “I’m too hot” and turns off before it melts itself. Some, but by no means all, have settings that slow the CPU to prevent overheating, and on those performance just degrades. I’ve got one processor that acts like yours, every thing is fine until it hits the magic temperature and switches off. Spooked me until I started watching CPU temp and could replicate the behavior. Laptops are especially hard to cool. Do you have yours elevated so air flow is unimpeded? Laptop coolers that sit under the computer and have a couple of small fans are a good idea too.

    One problem with power line intrusion is that it’s hard to get past transformers and rectifiers. That’s both the incoming power line and the power supplies that convert line voltage AC to low voltage DC for both laptop and modem. Switching power supplies on desktop computers pose their own set of issues. Not impossible, but not likely. There’s too many easier ways to be had.

    As always, be careful where you go out there. Be sure your modem/router has good security features, that you are running a software firewall, a solid anti virus program, at least one other spyware/malware program and that all (including OS) have current patches. No single protection will catch everything, and no combination is a guarantee. A good combination can make it hard enough to get in that everyday black hats will go elsewhere for the easy pickings.

    Linux is a curious OS for someone without propellers on his geek beanie. How’d you get there?

  9. thatvisionthing says:

    @BearCountry: I left out the part where I said I’d never buy an HP laptop again. Ever ever ever. Good luck with customer service, I’ve been there. My condolences.

  10. thatvisionthing says:


    Linux is a curious OS for someone without propellers on his geek beanie. How’d you get there?

    Because before I hated HP, I hated Microsoft. And what happens when you can’t keep up and do all the stuff you’re supposed to in your paragraph above the one I quoted. Thinking sadly of my old xp desktop, which will never go online again. Come to think of it, the xp internet doomloop happened when I clicked a Wikileaks link, and that was years ago. So, what’s left, I’d rather trust open source. Live CD seems to have been pretty safe so far, whatever that means. If it fails, just start fresh, no biggie. Make a new CD if you have to, oh please don’t have to, can’t remember how. I think I’m like one of those toys that goes until it hits a wall and turns around until it dies or falls over. A bee could knock me over. I don’t think it was any of those things you said though, but then again I think it’s a rubber band in the engine that keeps my car going. My propeller head. (350,000 miles! 8(| :-) Thanks again.

    (That was a propeller head: 8(| :-)

  11. thatvisionthing says:

    P.S. And whatever it was, it was all worth finding @7, which I hadn’t known about before. Oh, look! The joy of it.

  12. thatvisionthing says:

    @lefty665: If it was heat, what about the modem lights, the internet one that usually goes off when it’s disconnected but didn’t this time?

  13. kefty 665 says:

    @thatvisionthing: “If it was heat, what about the modem lights”. Dunno. I’m able to look at something and see it wrong, especially with things like a row of lights on a piece of gear with small labels. Doesn’t happen often, but I’ve learned to look twice. LEDs don’t use much current, it is not uncommon to take awhile for the light to go out after power is removed.

    “It was all worth finding” The web is amazing, most of the world’s wisdom and information, and all the disinformation ever invented, are available at the click of a mouse. It’s been quite a ride. How quaint it seems that Bill Clinton’s vaunted rapid response team used faxes as their medium.

    “Because before I hated HP, I hated Microsoft.” A wise selection sir. Might I suggest a dessert of dumping Intel too?

    With an Intel CPU & support chips you get Advanced Management Technology (AMT) and vPro on newer products. Those technologies are OS agnostic. They are marketed to make support easier, and to recover/secure lost or strayed equipment. The capability to remotely monitor, run or brick your machine even when it is “off” is disconcerting. If your notebook has a wireless connection, unplugging it from the modem and turning it off may not make you safe. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_vPro

    “I think it’s a rubber band in the engine that keeps my car going.” Please don’t tell me it ain’t so.

    In the end I remain skeptical about the cause your abrupt shutdown. Seems that we’re in a time when there’s more value in collecting all the traffic all then the time than in screwing individual posts. We’re both old enough to remember less days of yore and the mantra “save early and often”. That is still good advice. The counselor’s observation about paranoia I quoted at 4 is not bad either. YMMV, 350k, that’s impressive.

  14. thatvisionthing says:

    @kefty 665: No, I’m sure about the lights. And though the computer has bombed only the once, the light thing has happened before and since, intermittently, along with strange things like how I sometimes have to click a link twice (not a double click) or more to invoke it, all of which makes me think of the splitter in the room in San Francisco. And then I laugh. 8(|:-) Because my brain keeps imagining. Because I know my brain, it’s a cluttered mess, same for my computer and web surfing, and I’m imagining the sense that serious people might make of it. Mr. Magoo watching Mr. Magoo. That’s a cartoon I want to see.

    What kind of computer doesn’t have Intel? I can’t afford a Mac. I like open source, what’s the most generic computer possible?

    Having read @7, it makes perfect sense to me that it’s uptight British with a kill switch, although it’s easier to think now that it never happened at all. I mean, look at the Belgrano case, the civil servant Ponting didn’t even leak to the press, he informed a Member of Parliament, and STILL the British government tried to convict him of heinous violation of a 1911 Official Secrets Act. Can they look more paranoid or silly? To a jury? It only makes it clear that to the government, its own people and their representatives are the enemy. It also reminds me, disgustedly, of our representatives, and how Daniel Ellsberg went to Senators first with the Pentagon Papers years before he leaked to the press, and they wouldn’t act, and of the Senators we have now who keep secrets from us rather than inform us. They’ve lost sight of the first thing. There’s the treason. Like Ellsberg said, who was the enemy we were keeping secrets from when the Pentagon Papers were classified Top Secret? The Vietnamese knew their own history. It was us, the American people. It was all about maintaining lies and fiction to us. I think the blue cover was only finally declassified last year; until then it was evidence the report existed that they still couldn’t admit. Crazy. Same with this Ahab-Moby Dick thing with Julian Assange. Ahab was crazy. So was Captain Queeg. That’s what this looks like. And Ahab and Queeg will be the last to admit it.

    Tell me about smart electricity. They install it without your permission, even when you don’t want it, and as I understand it you are helpless to override it, whatever it is. That’s why I look at the power cord.

    Thanks again.

  15. thatvisionthing says:

    @kefty 665: Oh, hey, I clicked your Intel link. Look at this:

    There is apparently no way to disable vPro on a PC and most users cannot detect outside access to their PC via the vPro hardware based technology.[22] Moreover, Sandy Bridge and most likely future chips will have “the ability to remotely kill and restore a lost or stolen PC via 3G”.[23]


    A vPro PC includes:

    – Multi-core, multi-threaded Intel Core 2 Duo (those are mine!) or Quad processor.[1]
    – Intel Active Management Technology (Intel AMT), a set of hardware-based features targeted at businesses and which allow remote access to the PC for management and security tasks, when an OS is down or PC power is off.[1][4] Note that AMT is not the same as Intel vPro; AMT is only one element of a vPro PC.
    …yada yada…
    Execute Disable Bit which, when supported by the OS, can help prevent some types of buffer overflow attacks.[15]
    – Support for Microsoft Windows Vista, including Microsoft Windows Vista BitLocker with an industry-standard Trusted Platform Module version 1.2 and Intel graphics support for Windows Vista Aero graphical user interface.[16][17]

    They talking about me? How can I know?* Even running Linux, and even if I wipe out the Vista, it still won’t matter, because it’s the Intel Core 2 Duo processors? Does Ron Wyden know? Is DiFi telling?

    *I clicked the link at footnote 17 — http://www.intel.com/business/casestudies/windows_vista_solution_brief.pdf — it’s supposed to go to a PDF but redirects to Intel’s home page.

  16. Hep Me Plz says:

    did you include the link for this >>>> Which is worth remembering as you read this piece from Jeffrey Lewis (of ArmsControlWonk fame). in the post somewhere ??? i went thru every link in the post but cannot find anything with Jeffrey Lewis on it. am i being a retard ???

  17. lefty665 says:

    @thatvisionthing: “What kind of computer doesn’t have Intel? I can’t afford a Mac. I like open source, what’s the most generic computer possible?”

    Macs are worse. They’ve run naked until recently. Mac security seems to be about where Windows was 10-15 years ago. They’ve got some hard lessons to learn. Fortunately they don’t have to overcome Jobs anymore.

    Look at AMD CPUs and non Intel support chips. Those are available in both notebooks and desktop machines. They will run most any OS Intel hardware will. Often they are less expensive than roughly comparable Intel based products. Some intrusive technology is still there, but the capability and level of integration in hardware is lower, at least for now.

    If my computer only dumped once as I was ready to post and I was able to go back and post I’d be curious. I wouldn’t be looking under the rugs and behind the curtains unless it happened again, and again.

    “I sometimes have to click a link twice (not a double click) or more to invoke it, all of which makes me think of the splitter in the room in San Francisco. And then I laugh.” Good, glad you can laugh. The chances that the splitters are causing you user interface issues are pretty low on the list of usual suspects. There are lots of legitimate ways for bytes to get routed, mis-routed, and re-routed into the bit bucket. The amazing thing is that the web works as well as it does. However, the odds are very high that nearly every byte gets split, scanned and archived for later “use”.

    Technology’s a moving target, and stepping along right smartly. Today’s paranoia can morph into tomorrow’s reality. All I can suggest is to keep your eyes open, and remember the Buffalo Springfield: “Paranoia strikes deep, into your mind it will creep. It starts when you’re always afraid…”

    Dunno what the answers are. Staying as well informed as possible and being willing to speak out are about where it is for me.

  18. thatvisionthing says:

    @lefty665: Thanks. I love Buffalo Springfield. Also the Kinks, paranoia will destroy ya.

    I’ve been typing a while on a comment to leave on Craig Murray’s UK blog. Just in case, I pulled out my power plug and have been running on battery power. Long comment, it’s been awhile. My battery indicator still says: “Laptop battery is fully charged.” On this energy hog? I can’t believe it. It can go about an hour on battery before it dies, and it’s been about… well it’s been awhile.

    But if you say so.

    Oh hey! I just clicked the battery icon again and now it says:

    Laptop battery (100%)
    Laptop battery (100%)

    One for me, one for you. 8(|:-)

  19. thatvisionthing says:

    @thatvisionthing: Wait! It’s still saying saying it’s 100% charged. I didn’t unplug the modem. Can the modem charge the laptop? 88(| :-o

    Whoops, new message:

    Battery Discharging

    Laptop battery discharge (4%)

    Huh. Battery with a red X where it was just totally green.

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