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Halloween Monday: Dying for Love

In this roundup: Turkish troubles, good tech bad tech, fickle market reaction, and Halloween tricks-or-treats.

Because it’s Halloween I’m sharing a short film for Movie Monday based on that theme. It’s probably R-rated so don’t launch it in the office without the doors shut and/or the volume down. It parodizes so many cheap horror films of the 1980s-2000s including the Final Girl trope.

I need to watch this short a couple more times. The film is billed as a single take — one long, unbroken camera shot — but I’m not certain it is. I think there may be a hidden few cuts when the location changes from one end of a room to another. Look at this analysis of Alfred Hitchcock’s use of dissolve cuts in his 1948 film Rope and you’ll see what I mean by hidden cuts. Keep in mind that with digital technology, even dissolve cuts may be smoother and much less detectable than they were in 1948 with traditional film.

Turkish troubles

Good tech, bad tech, or something in between

  • Delta Airlines implements RFID baggage tracking app (Fortune) — FINALLY. I’ve been wondering ever since the furor over Walmart using RFID on inventory why airlines couldn’t use RFID and let their customers track their own bags. Only took ~16 years or so. And thank goodness this technology isn’t WiFi-enabled. Should save billions of dollars — let’s hope that trickles down to savings on tickets.
  • Toyota developing a keyless access system for carsharing (Detroit Free Press) — Really? Didn’t Toyota have keyless remote fobs that were hacked just last year?
  • SpaceX still investigating launchpad explosion (Business Insider) — To be fair, it’s not clear yet what triggered the explosion two months ago. Can’t say if this is good or bad technology or something else altogether. (Not going to mourn the loss of a satellite which was to provide internet to African continent via Facebook. This part I’d call bad tech. Can’t we come up with some other approach to providing internet besides a walled garden with fake news?)

The market = fickle mistress?[1]

Tricks or treats?

  • Spooky reads: scary seance scenes in fiction (Guardian) — Could be fun to read while waiting for trick-or-treaters to knock on your door.
  • What makes a good horror film? (OpenCulture) — If you’d rather watch than read something scary tonight, bone up first before surfing Netflix or Amazon for a film.
  • Werewolves in classic literature (Sententiae Antiquae) — Classic literature, as in Greek or Roman, has a surprising number of references to lycanthropy. Did they tell each other these stories to scare each other around the campfire?
  • Sluttiest Halloween costumes (McSweeney’s) — Of 1915, that is. In case you need a laugh and not a scare. I sure could right now; only one more week of election terror to go.

Watch out for little ghosts and goblins tonight!
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[1] Note: You’re not seeing things — I accidentally hit the Publish button before I’d updated the two market economics bits!

Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, geek since birth. Opinions informed by mixed-race, multi-ethnic, cis-female condition, further shaped by kind friends of all persuasions. Sci-tech frenemy, wannabe artist, decent cook, determined author, successful troublemaker. Mother of invention and two excessively smart-assed young adult kids. Attended School of Hard Knocks; Rather Unfortunate Smallish Private Business School in Midwest; Affordable Mid-State Community College w/evening classes. Self-employed at Tiny Consulting Business; previously at Large-ish Chemical Company with HQ in Midwest in multiple marginalizing corporate drone roles, and at Rather Big IT Service Provider as a project manager, preceded by a motley assortment of gigs before the gig economy was a thing. Blogging experience includes a personal blog at the original blogs.salon.com, managing editor for a state-based news site, and a stint at Firedoglake before landing here at emptywheel as technology’s less-virginal-but-still-accursed Cassandra.
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Friday: Sinnerman

In this roundup: A look outside the U.S.’ borders — TTIP’s end, Turkey at risk, Chile and women’s reproductive rights, more.

Featured jazz artist today is Eunice Waymon, known best by her stage name Nina Simone. Recognized for her powerful political work, Mississippi Goddamn, Simone was an incredibly gifted pianist trained at Juilliard with a predilection for the works and method of Johann Sebastian Bach. She became a singer only after nightclubs for which she performed insisted she must sing and play piano together.

Two of my favorites apart from Sinnerman shared here are Feeling Good and I Put a Spell on You. I’ll always have a warm, fuzzy place for Ain’t Got No/I Got Life medley, a variation of the song from the 1960s Broadway musical Hair. I can remember singing along to this recording during long road trips.

Why Nina Simone today? Because of Sinnerman, which seems particularly appropriate during this election season.

Looking away from our nation’s navel

  • Op-ed: Is Turkey nearing civil war? (Süddeutsche Zeitung) — Guest contributor Yavuz Baydar reviews developments in Turkey after the so-called coup attempt, including calls to arm citizens, reestablish an Ottoman caliphate, and create militarized youth groups attached to mosques. Turkish media, operating with the blessing of President Tayyip Erdoğan, has shown maps featuring Mosul and parts of northern Greece as part of a Turkish empire.
  • TTIP may be in death throes, but resuscitation attempted (euronews) — This article quotes a Spanish automotive partmaker who complains the need to inspect parts both on export and import is expensive, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement would eliminate the costly redundancy. Except the existing duplicative inspections didn’t prevent Volkswagen Group and its vendor Bosch from shipping fraudulent vehicles and parts, did it? Yeah. Not so much…in spite of TTIP’s near-death, the US and EU met earlier this month to regroup and try to force TTIP through before the end of President Obama’s term.
  • Chile’s president aims to change restrictive anti-abortion laws (NPR) — Chile is among the five most restrictive countries in the world, outlawing abortion even to save the life of the mother. President Michelle Bachelet made it her goal to change the laws; the country’s lower house has already approved legislation to allow abortion in case of rape, to save the mother, or in case of mortal fetal defect. Chile’s senate must yet vote to approve this legislation before it becomes law. In the mean time, women must travel abroad to obtain abortions or risk jail if they attempt it in Chile on their own.
  • Radical Ukrainian nationalists rising (euronews) — Members of far-right groups Azo regiment and the Right Sector recently marched through Kyiv to celebrate Ukrainian patriotism while protesting pro-Russian separatists.

Tech Debris
Here’s a collection of odd technology bits I’ve run across recently worth a read:

  • Dutch researchers working on anti-hacking technology (euronews) — They’re working on unique identifiers for devices attached to the internet, like the myriad Internet of Things (webcams, baby monitors, so on). This seems like a waste of time given every device should already have an ID assigned by a network. Keep an eye on this; it’d certainly make surveillance easier. Ahem.
  • Troubling case of Facebook v. Vachani (NPR) — Fluffy overview of the suit filed against Steven Vachani whose portal site product pissed off Facebook greatly. But you should read the op-ed from July by Orin Kerr about this case — brace yourself for your freak out.
  • From the archives: Interview with John Arquilla on cyberwarfare (FRONTLINE) — Perspective on the origins of current cyberwarfare policies arising from Bush administration post-9/11. As you read this, keep in mind Arquilla is a proponent of preemptive warfare and the use of cyberwarfare against terrorism.
  • Twitter as a government tool against the people (Bloomberg) — We take for granted we can type anything we want in social media. Not so in much of the rest of the world, and Twitter is an example of social media with both great potential to inform while putting users at risk where speech is not free. Although after the recent revelations Twitter sold data to a U.S. intelligence front, speech isn’t exactly free on Twitter for U.S. citizens, either.

Longread: Did newspapers screw up?
We’ve watched the decline of newspapers for over a decade as its analog business model met the reality of a digital age. Jack Shafer wrote about the possibility newspapers may have made a critical error during the generational shift to online media — perhaps the seasoned existing outlets should have remained firmly committed to print. Two key problems with this analysis: 1) printing and distribution remains as expensive as all other factors in producing a newspaper, and 2) the population consuming newspaper content is changing, from a print-only to digital-only audience. This must be acknowledged or newspapers will continue to struggle, and large papers will continue to pursue consolidation in order to reduce costs to operate.

With that in mind, I still don’t understand why The Washington Post, owned by Jeff Bezos, hasn’t opted to offer a Kindle to subscribers willing to pay for a full print subscription a year in advance. A low-level Kindle is cheaper than the cost to print. Ditto to The New York Times; why hasn’t it considered a tie up with Kobo or another e-reader manufacturer?

That’s it for this week; have a good weekend!

Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, geek since birth. Opinions informed by mixed-race, multi-ethnic, cis-female condition, further shaped by kind friends of all persuasions. Sci-tech frenemy, wannabe artist, decent cook, determined author, successful troublemaker. Mother of invention and two excessively smart-assed young adult kids. Attended School of Hard Knocks; Rather Unfortunate Smallish Private Business School in Midwest; Affordable Mid-State Community College w/evening classes. Self-employed at Tiny Consulting Business; previously at Large-ish Chemical Company with HQ in Midwest in multiple marginalizing corporate drone roles, and at Rather Big IT Service Provider as a project manager, preceded by a motley assortment of gigs before the gig economy was a thing. Blogging experience includes a personal blog at the original blogs.salon.com, managing editor for a state-based news site, and a stint at Firedoglake before landing here at emptywheel as technology’s less-virginal-but-still-accursed Cassandra.
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FBI Has Almost 20 Cybers Stationed around the World

As part of cybersecurity awareness month, the FBI published this release about having almost 20 cybersecurity “Assistant Legal Attachés” around the world.

Another way we’re working to combat the cyber threat is by placing Bureau cyber experts in FBI legal attaché (legat) offices in strategic locations around the globe—a critical step because cyber threat actors can and do operate virtually anywhere in the world, crossing national and international borders with a few strokes of a keyboard to reach their victims.

Our experts are called cyber assistant legal attachés, or ALATs, and they work on a daily basis with law enforcement in host countries, sharing information, cooperating on investigations, and enhancing our relationships overall. Sometimes, they even work in the same physical space alongside their foreign counterparts.

The cyber ALAT program began in 2011, when several FBI Cyber Division personnel were deployed to a handful of legat offices to address significant cyber threats in those regions impacting U.S. interests and FBI investigations.

Five years later, there are eight permanent cyber ALAT positions—two in London and one each Bucharest, Romania; Canberra, Australia; The Hague, Netherlands; Tallinn, Estonia; Kyiv, Ukraine; and Ottawa, Canada. And currently, the Bureau maintains nearly a dozen temporary duty (TDY) cyber ALAT positions—their locations determined by the cyber threat environment and the host nation’s capabilities in working with the FBI in identifying, disrupting, and dismantling cyber threat actors and organizations.

I get the value of this program. The investigations into some  of the most disruptive cyberattackers require a lot of resources, and surely those resources are better spent if they’re working closely together.

But it does raise some questions. If an FBI Agent is working overseas and deploys an exotic technique there, is it bound by US law, the law of the host country, or by EO 12333? And if that technique ends up nabbing US defendants, do those defendants learn in discovery that the evidence came from an FBI Agent partnering with foreign law enforcement (or spooks) overseas? Or does this just get laundered with the protection DOJ provides foreign evidence.

All these cyber tools disembodied from a legal jurisdiction may be necessary, but it’d be nice to know what, if any, laws they operate under.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

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In Latest Russian Plot, WikiLeaks Reveals Hillary Opposes ISDS

Among the emails released as part of the Podesta leaks yesterday, WikiLeaks released this one showing that, almost a year before she was making the same argument in debates with Bernie Sanders, Hillary was opposed to Investor State Dispute Settlement that is part of the Trans Pacific Partnership. (h/t Matt Stoller) ISDS is the means by which corporations have used trade agreements to operate above the domestic laws of party countries (if you haven’t read this three part series from BuzzFeed to learn about the more exotic ways business are profiting off of ISDS).

The email also appears to echo her later public concern that she had changed her mind on TPP because of KORUS.

After our last talk with HRC, we revised our letter to oppose ISDS and include her caution about South Korea.

Sure, other Podesta emails show Hillary supporting a broad region of free trade (and labor) in the Americas. But this more recent email confirms that the views she expressed in debate were more than just an attempt to counter Bernie’s anti-trade platform.

Whether or not this is newsworthy enough to justify the WL dump, it is noteworthy in light of NYT’s rather bizarre article from some weeks back suggesting that WL always sides with Putin’s goals. As I noted, the article made a really strained effort to claim that WL exposed TPP materials because it served Putin’s interests. Now, here, WL is is releasing information that makes Hillary look better on precisely that issue.

That doesn’t advance the presumed narrative of helping Trump defeat Hillary!

Then, as I noted yesterday, in spite of all the huff and puff from Kurt Eichenwald, the release of a Sid Blumenthal email used by Trump is another case where the WL release, as released, doesn’t feed the presumed goals of Putin.

Which brings me to this Shane Harris piece, which describes four different NatSec sources revealing there’s still a good deal of debate about WL’s ties to Russia.

Military and intelligence officials are convinced that WikiLeaks is an ongoing threat to U.S. national security and privacy owing to its leaks of classified documents and emails. But its precise relationship with Russia has been a subject of internal debate. Some do see the group as being in cahoots with the Kremlin. But others find that WikiLeaks is acting mainly as the beneficiary of stolen documents, not unlike a journalistic organization.

There are some funny aspects to this story. Nothing in it considers the significant evidence that WL is (and has reason to be) affirmatively anti-Hillary, which means its interests may align with Russia, even if it doesn’t take orders from Russia.

It also suggests that if the spooks can prove some tie between WL and Russia, they can spy on it as an agent of foreign power.

But those facts don’t mean WikiLeaks isn’t acting at Russia’s behest. And that’s not a trivial matter. If the United States were to determine that WikiLeaks is an agent of a foreign power, as defined in U.S. law, it could allow intelligence and law enforcement agencies to spy on the group—as they do on the Russian government. The U.S. can also bring criminal charges against foreign agents.

WL has been intimately involved in two separate charges cases of leaking-as-espionage in the US, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. The government has repeatedly told courts that it has National Security/Criminal investigations, plural, into WikiLeaks, and when pressed for details about how and whether the government is collecting on supporters and readers of WikiLeaks, the government has in part hidden those details under a b3 FOIA exemption, meaning a statute prevents disclosing it, while extraordinarily refusing to reveal what statute that is. We certainly know that FBI has used multiple informants to spy on WL and used a variety of collection methods against Jacob Appelbaum, including (according to Appelbaum) physical tails.

So there’s not only no doubt that the US government believes it can spy on WikiLeaks (which is, after all, headed by a foreigner and not a US organization), but that it already does, and has been doing for at least six years.

Perhaps Harris’ sources really mean they’ve never found a way to indict Julian Assange before, but if they can claim he’s working for Putin, then maybe they’ll overcome past problems of indicting him because it would criminalize journalism. If that’s the case, it may be shading analysis of WL, because the government would badly like a reason to shut down WL (as the comments about the direct threat to the US in the story back up).

As I’ve said before, the role of WL in this and prior leak events is a pretty complex one, one that if approached too rashly (or too sloppily) could have ramifications for other publishers. While a lot of people are rushing to collapse this (in spite of what sounds like a continuing absence of directly incriminating evidence) into a nation-state conflict, things like this TPP email suggest it’s not that simple.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

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NSA, Lazarus, and Odinaff

Reuters has a report that SWIFT — the international financial transfer messaging system — has been hacked again, what it describes as the second effort to steal big money by hacking the system.

Cyber-security firm Symantec Corp said on Tuesday that a second hacking group has sought to rob banks using fraudulent SWIFT messages, the same approach that yielded $81 million in the high-profile February attack on Bangladesh’s central bank.

Symantec said that a group dubbed Odinaff has infected 10 to 20 organizations with malware that can be used to hide fraudulent transfer requests made over SWIFT, the messaging system that is a lynchpin of the global financial system.

But it should say the third hack. As the Snowden documents revealed, NSA was double dipping at SWIFT in the 2010 to 2011 timeframe, though to steal information, not money.

What’s interesting about this latest hack, though, is it targets the US and countries closely aligned with it, though it appears to be a criminal organization not a state.

Symantec said that most Odinaff attacks occurred in the United States, Hong Kong, Australia, the United Kingdom and Ukraine.

The Reuters report also notes that Symantec thinks the Sony hack was done by a group it calls Lazarus, which may not be the same as North Korea.

As with the Yahoo scan ordered last year — which effectively appears to have hacked all Yahoo’s users — it makes sense to think of US nation-state hacks and criminal or foreign adversary ones in the same breath. Not only might an NSA hack expose methods others might use, but with an entity like SWIFT, there’s no reason to privilege US hacking over others.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

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On Provenance and Putin: That Sid Blumenthal Story

At a campaign appearance yesterday, Donald Trump quoted a judgment that Kurt Eichenwald made in an article last year on the Benghazi investigation.

One important point has been universally acknowledged by the nine previous reports about Benghazi: The attack was almost certainly preventable. Clinton was in charge of the State Department, and it failed to protect U.S. personnel at an American consulate in Libya. If the GOP wants to raise that as a talking point against her, it is legitimate.

The rest of the article was about how politicized the inquiry was. But right there in the middle of his article, Eichenwald included a namby pamby both-sides paragraph — one that could have better nuanced the conclusions of the many Benghazi reports — that said Benghazi was a legitimate issue to raise against Hillary.

Sucks to be Eichenwald, because Trump just used it on his campaign, to thrilled cries from his frothy supporters.

The quote came up on the campaign trail because Sid Blumenthal had forwarded the article — highlighting the description about the politicized questioning he himself had undergone, but ultimately quoting the entire article, including that namby pamby paragraph — to a bunch of undisclosed recipients, including John Podesta, under the subject line “The truth…” Blumenthal surely meant that Eichenwald’s larger point — that the whole investigation was politicized — was the truth, but he did forward the whole thing, including the namby pamby paragraph, under that heading.

The forwarded story got released by WikiLeaks as part of its Podesta leaks (emails which Hillary effectively confirmed during the debate by explaining one of the emails that had attracted the most attention).

Now, as it turns out, Sputnik published a story on the email, erroneously attributing the entire judgment, including that attacking Hillary for Benghazi was a legit talking point, to Blumenthal, not Eichenwald. They apparently realized their error and took it down. But not before Eichenwald started wondering how Trump came to be quoting his own namby pamby paragraph on the campaign trail.

In an article asserting that Trump got his talking point from the Sputnik story, Eichenwald has given up not only his namby pamby tone, but moderation. In it, having already suggested the misattribution to Blumenthal was due to “incompetence,” he then claims it was also deliberate disinformation. He then states as fact that Trump got this “falsehood” from the Kremlin.

This is not funny. It is terrifying. The Russians engage in a sloppy disinformation effort and, before the day is out, the Republican nominee for president is standing on a stage reciting the manufactured story as truth. How did this happen? Who in the Trump campaign was feeding him falsehoods straight from the Kremlin? (The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment).

The Russians have been obtaining American emails and now are presenting complete misrepresentations of them—falsifying them—in hopes of setting off a cascade of events that might change the outcome of the presidential election. The big question, of course, is why are the Russians working so hard to damage Clinton and, in the process, aid Donald Trump? That is a topic for another time.

Here’s an earlier version of the article, in which Eichenwald even more obviously asserts that the Sputnik article is both an error and a deliberate falsification.

Of course, this might be seen as just an opportunity to laugh at the incompetence of the Russian hackers and government press—once they realized their error, Sputnik took the article down. But this is not funny at all. The Russians have been obtaining American emails and now are presenting complete misrepresentations of them—falsifying them—in hopes of setting off a cascade of events that might change the outcome of the presidential election. The big question, of course, is why are the Russians working so hard to damage Clinton and, in the process, aid Donald Trump. That is a topic for another time.

There are two interesting details about Eichenwald’s story. Nowhere in the piece does he link the actual Wikileaks email, which makes it clear that Blumenthal had, in fact, forwarded that namby pamby paragraph along with everything else. It is clear that the email was just a forwarded Newsweek article, but given that the part Blumenthal highlighted at the top was his own testimony, it is perhaps understandable why someone might make the misattribution.

More interesting still, while Eichenwald links this YouTube of what he says is Trump repeating the Sputnik talking point, he only selectively quotes from it. But it appears (and I admit that this, as with all of Trump’s ramblings, is not entirely clear) that Trump introduces the quote this way:

So Blumenthal writes a quote — this just came out a little while ago, I have to tell you this. “One important point has been …

It’s certainly possible Trump meant, “So Blumenthal writes, I quote,” but at least to my ear, he said, “Blumenthal writes a quote.” If that’s right, then Trump couldn’t have been working from Sputnik (or he at least wasn’t replicating their error), because he would have been properly attributing this judgment as a quote (of Eichenwald). Trump does go on to say “this is Sidney Blumenthal, the only one he was talking to,” after insinuating that one reason Hillary set up her email server may have been to continue talking to “Sleazy Sidney” after Obama told her to stop, but nowhere in the clip do I see Trump IDing it as an email from Blumenthal. Perhaps Eichenwald bases this assertion — “He told the assembled crowd that it was an email from Blumenthal” — on some other part of the appearance.

Eichenwald also notes that Trump was “holding a document in his hand.” But the document appears to be a transcribed talking point; it’s almost certainly not the Sputnik article. So that doesn’t tell us anything about provenance.

In other words, it’s not actually clear where Trump got this from, or whether Trump’s staffers had at least corrected Sputnik’s error. It may well be! But Eichenwald hasn’t made that case.

Apparently this frothy Trump supporter tweeted out the claim, just as Trump stated it, though he has since deleted it. (h/t Emma Jones) The supporter, who joined Twitter in February 2016, could well be a Russian troll (but one that long precedes this particular leak campaign), but he certainly models as an Infowars loving Hillary hater who overreads anything implicating her, something America has in ready supply without Putin’s help.

There’s one other part of this that I find notable, aside from the claim that Sputnik made this error out of both incompetence and deliberate disinformation. A big part of this narrative is that Wikileaks is doing Russia’s bidding rather than — a more logical explanation — attacking Hillary, with whom Julian Assange has had a 6-year adversarial relationship.

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Wikileaks may well be working with Russia and/or the effect of sharing a mutual interest in weakening Hillary may amount to the same.

But this is actually a case where Russia did not do what has been alleged they might. That is, Wikileaks released what is an email no one contests, a not very controversial one at all. While Wikileaks has made misleading claims about what it has released at times, this is not one of them.

One thing clearly did not happen though. Even assuming Russia is responsible for the Podesta email leak, Russia did not “falsify” the original email to say what Eichenwald is so convinced Russia wanted to claim, that Blumenthal himself had endorsed Eichenwald’s namby pamby judgment that Benghazi is a fair talking point to use against Hillary. That claim only came after Sputnik tried to make it a bigger issue (but then realized its error, according to Eichenwald).

If Russia were doing what Eichenwald claimed — and they might in the future!! — then they would have doctored the email on the front end, not when republishing it in a state outlet.

Update: Unsurprisingly, Glenn Greenwald rips this (especially Eichenwald’s inflammatory tweets about the story) apart. More interesting, WaPo also dings Eichenwald for overclaiming what this incident reveals.

Update, November 1: There’s a very strange coda to this story. The guy who, until this event, worked at Sputnik and was responsible for the mistake, Bill Moran, wrote up this story from his viewpoint. Here’s how he made the mistake.

On Columbus Day, I made an embarrassing mistake. I noticed a series of viral tweets attributing words to Sidney Blumenthal on the Benghazi scandal. The original WikiLeaks document, to which the original article linked, was lengthy – 75 pages. I reviewed the document in a hurry, but I did not read all of them.

[snip]

I was moving too fast and I made a mistake – a mistake that I remain embarrassed about making. I stepped outside to smoke a cigarette after scheduling our social media accounts, stopped halfway through, thought “why hasn’t anybody else picked this up?” gave the document a second review, realized my error, and proceeded to delete the story.

The story was up from 3:23PM EDT to 3:42PM EDT and received 1,061 views before being removed – I’d like to apologize to weekend readers for making that mistake no matter how honest an error it was.

What happened next is weirder. Eichenwald made a series of contacts with the guy, basically trying to persuade him not to tell the real story publicly, including by suggesting he could help him get a job at New Republic and then by threatening him.

Then, as Paste describes, they had a long conversation that Moran, at first, wasn’t going to release. In it, Eichenwald waggles around American spooks.

In Moran’s notes on the call, he quotes Eichenwald as repeating that the “intelligence community” was monitoring both Sputnik and a separate Twitter account, which he holds responsible for the blowback (as opposed to his own story). He went on to say that everyone at Sputnik had an intelligence file on them, and asked if Moran had made any foreign phone calls that might have raised eyebrows. He went on to imply that Moran might have issues getting a re-entry visa into America if he ever traveled abroad, and then offered to help Moran “find a real job” to extricate him from the situation. He went on to say that both Sputnik and Russia Today have been targeted by the intelligence community, and will soon be subject to sanctions that aim at shutting them down for good.

Which Eichenwald does again in a follow-up email (at which point Eichenwald seemed to be going nuts, because he didn’t realize that Moran included Newsweek’s own lawyer on the exchange and instead assumed it was Moran’s lawyer).

Next, he reverts to the threatening language—the “bad cop” persona—telling Moran that he could tie him to the Russians themselves: “Now, there is one alternative here,” Eichenwald writes. “I can write: ‘William Moran, the writer for Sputnik, said he based his article not on directives from the Russian government but on an anonymous tweet that used a clip of the image of the document. He said he accepted the anonymous tweeters’ description that this was from Blumenthal, and did so because he was rushed. However, as the government official with knowledge of the intelligence inquiry said, the original altered document that was tweeted onto the internet came from a location that has been identified as being connected to the Russian disinformation campaigns, and only the news outlet owned by the Russian government published an article based on it.”

In other words, perhaps in an attempt to salvage his reputation, or perhaps in truth, Eichenwald was dragging the intelligence community into this.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

putin

Argument: The DNC Hack Attribution Was A Response to Brick and Mortar Events

Last week, ODNI and DHS released a statement widely viewed as attributing the hack and leak of DNC and other Democratic materials to Russia. The statement was actually a bit more nuanced than that:

Assertion 1: Russia compromised DNC and other political organizations

The statement starts with a comment that is spook speak for “we’ve proven this.”

The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations.

Mind you, this is the bit the IC has been confident of all along: they found hackers at the DNC and the hackers have all the attributes of two different Russian hacking groups.

Assertion 2: The leaking is consistent with stuff Russia has done elsewhere

The next move is the most interesting, in my opinion. The IC strongly suggests the leaking of those hacked files is Russia, but doesn’t use the same spook speak confidence language.

The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.

Here, the IC is not saying “we are confident Russia then handed all these files to WikiLeaks, as well as created two cover identities through which to leak them.” Instead, they are saying Russia has done similar things before and has the motivation to do so here. As they have for months, the spooks still appear not to have the same level of proof tying the hacking to the leaking that would allow them to say “we are confident” for this assertion, at least not that they’re willing to admit, which I find incredibly interesting.

Assertion 3: Russia is trying to interfere with the election

Having stated very confidently Russia did the hack and less confidently that it did the leak, the statement brings the nugget language: basically accusing Putin of masterminding the whole thing.

These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process. Such activity is not new to Moscow—the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there. We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.

For my purposes here, I’m not interested in testing the truth of this statement — though I am a bit interested in how “influencing public opinion” is deemed to be “interfering with the US election,” because it’s something many people don’t seem to have thought through (nor have they thought through how it differs from the US’ own information operations or PR involvement of other foreign powers in our elections).

Especially given this bit:

Assertion 4: Hackers operating through a Russian server hacked some state election websites, but that may not be the Russian state

The statement goes out of its way to note that the Russian-attributed activity most directly connected to the election, the voter rolls, may not actually be the Russian state, but instead just servers operated by a Russian company.

Some states have also recently seen scanning and probing of their election-related systems, which in most cases originated from servers operated by a Russian company. However, we are not now in a position to attribute this activity to the Russian Government.

Remember, identity thieves have in the past stolen far more voter registration records for identity theft. It’s certainly possible that’s what went on here. More importantly, the IC appears to have nothing from collection on Russia they’re willing to share to claim that this hacking is part of Putin’s mastermind plot.

The rest of the statement goes on to talk about the ways (which I’ve talked about as well) that our localized system of elections makes it really hard to hack an election (though that also makes it really easy to botch an election or even to tamper with elections by disenfranchising select voters, which is what people should be far more concerned about, given that we know such efforts are effective and ongoing).

The IC has long known this but chose to release this statement now

The reason I’ve broken this out into four parts — 1) we know Russia hacked the DNC, 2) the leaks of hacked material is consistent with stuff Russia has done in the past, 3) Putin is in charge, 4) Russia may not have hacked the state websites — is to call attention to the fact that the IC has been leaking assertions 1, 2, and 4 for months. The stated (leaked) reason to hold off on a formal attribution was the uncertain status of assertion 2: the IC doesn’t yet know how the files got from the DNC hackers into Julian Assange’s hands.

But the IC chose to release this statement without growing any more certain about assertion 2 and without solving assertion 4.

In my opinion, that means the IC released this statement to get to assertion 3. Putin is trying to “interfere” in our election by “influencing public opinion.”

The release timing is more about kinetic events elsewhere than it is about IC certainty

So why release this statement now, when the IC doesn’t seem to have gotten any more certain about assertion 2 or 4?

At the end of what I think is an overly pessimistic piece on America’s inability to deter hacking, Jack Goldsmith considers the possibility that undeterred cyberattacks may be a response to brick and mortar conflict.

Without robust defenses or effective deterrence, the United States can expect many more, and more harmful, cyber intrusions by adversaries who are asymmetrically empowered by the rise of digital networks.  There is no end to the ways that they might spy in, steal from, or disrupt U.S. networks, public and private.  That sounds bad, buts the implications are worse.  Asymmetric offensive cyber operations by our adversaries can be an effective response to every element of U.S. foreign and military power.  For all we know the Russian DNC hack is a response to sanctions for Ukraine and an attempt to win leverage in Syria.  Imagine the United States wanted to do more—via sanctions, or through military operations, or in cyber—to slow Russian operations in Eastern Europe or Syria.  The Russians could easily respond via cyber, where it appears to have an asymmetrical advantage.  Indeed, the relatively tepid USG response to Russian aggression in Eastern Europe and Syria may be a result of USG worries about the implications of the DNC hack.  In other words, the Russians may already be using cyber to deter the United States from seemingly unrelated foreign policy actions it might otherwise take.

Aside from his totally inappropriate use of “asymmetric” here — there’s no lack of potential symmetry between the cyber capabilities of the US and Russia, just an emphasis of one tool over another — I agree with this passage. Indeed, I’ve been saying for a long time that the most obvious explanation for why Putin would do all this so blatantly is because in his view the US carried out a coup in Ukraine and is attempting regime change in Syria to choke Russia strategically.

And as Goldsmith argues, the US’ weak spot is its vulnerability to cyber attacks, absolutely. That weakness is made worse, too, by continued  US insistence on retaining access to all potential offensive tools, even if they can be most dangerous against US targets if they ever, say, show up on an online sale (Goldsmith was curiously silent about the Shadow Brokers release here).

I suspect China, in particular, has done the same kind of mapping we have with Treasure Map, with a focus on having cyberattacks ready to launch that would neutralize us if we ever got into a hot war.

But Goldsmith doesn’t consider the possibility that things may also work in the reverse way.

The US released this statement at a time when it was also making a big diplomatic push against Russia — proposing a ceasefire at the UN it knew Russia would veto, after having failed to negotiate a ceasefire with Russia directly because it asked for things (a no fly zone, basically) that Russia has neither the interest nor the legal necessity to agree to, because Russia is in Syria at the behest of the still-recognized government of the state, we’re not. As it happens, the US is ratcheting up this effort at a time when our Saudi allies’ activities in Yemen make it hard to make a principled stance against Russia, because we’re implicated in Yemen in the same way Russia is in Syria.

More importantly, things are getting very very hot, with Russia moving missiles to Kaliningrad and threatening retaliation for any strikes on Syrian controlled territory.

So I would suggest the timing of this announcement — basically confirming the same certainty and uncertainty the IC has had for months, then using it to accuse Putin of trying to intervene directly in our country — is actually our response to more concrete events elsewhere, not the reverse (though there admittedly may be some chicken-and-egg stuff here, in that we may have held off on attribution in hope we could negotiate directly with Russia).

That is, both sides seem intent on ratcheting up the conflict between Russia and the US, and blaming Putin for interfering in our elections is one tool to do that.

If I’m right, the statement may have nothing to do with deterrence. Rather, it may have everything to do with escalation of other conflicts, providing a reason to pitch Russia’s strategic moves elsewhere as a direct threat to the US. I’m not saying Russia isn’t a dangerous adversary. I’m saying that the release of this statement will do nothing to prevent more hacks, but it will provide cause to claim the increasingly hot conflict with Russia directly threatens the US.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

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Does a Fifth of Yahoo’s Value Derive from (Perceived) Security and Privacy?

The NYPost is reporting that Verizon is trying to get a billion dollar discount off its $4.8 billion purchase price for Yahoo.

“In the last day we’ve heard that [AOL head, who is in charge of these negotiations] Tim [Armstong] is getting cold feet. He’s pretty upset about the lack of disclosure and he’s saying can we get out of this or can we reduce the price?” said a source familiar with Verizon’s thinking.

That might just be tough talk to get Yahoo to roll back the price. Verizon had been planning to couple Yahoo with its AOL unit to give it enough scale to be a third force to compete with Google and Facebook for digital ad dollars.

The discount is being pushed because it feels Yahoo’s value has been diminished, sources said.

AOL/Yahoo will reach about 1 billion consumers if the deal closes in the first quarter, with a stated goal to reach 2 billion by 2020. AOL boss Tim Armstrong flew to the West Coast in the past few days to meet with Yahoo executives to hammer out a case for a price reduction, a source said.

At one level, this is just business. Verizon has the opportunity to save some money, and it is exploring that opportunity.

But the underlying argument is an interesting one, as it floats a potential value — over a fifth of the original purchase price — tied to Yahoo’s ability to offer its users privacy.

As I understand it, the basis for any discount would be an interesting debate, too. The NYP story implies this is a reaction to both Yahoo’s admission that upwards of 500 million Yahoo users got hacked in 2014 and the more recent admission that last year Yahoo fulfilled a FISA order to scan all its incoming email addresses without legal challenge.

Yahoo has claimed that it only recently learned about the 2014 hack of its users — it told Verizon within days of discovering the hack. If that’s true, it’s not necessarily something Yahoo could have told Verizon before the purchase. (Indeed, Verizon should have considered Yahoo’s security posture when buying it.) But there are apparently real questions about how forthcoming Yahoo has been about the extent of the hack. The number of people affected might be in the billions.

Yahoo can’t claim to have been ignorant about its willingness to respond to exotic FISA requests without legal challenge, however.

Verizon bought Yahoo at a time when Yahoo’s aggressive challenged to PRISM back in 2007 was public knowledge. Given that Verizon had been — or at least had been making a show — of limiting what it would agree to do under USA Freedom Act (Verizon got too little credit, in my opinion, for being the prime necessary driver behind the reform), that earlier legal challenge would have aligned with what Verizon itself was doing: limiting its voluntary cooperation with US government spying requests. But now we learn Yahoo had repurposed its own spam and kiddie porn filter to help the government spy, without complaint, and without even telling its own security team.

I’ll let the mergers and acquisitions lawyers fight over whether Verizon has a claim about the purchase price here. Obviously, the $1 billion is just the opening offer.

But there is a real basis for the claim, at least in terms of value. Verizon bought Yahoo to be able to bump its user base up high enough to be able to compete with Google and Facebook. The perception, particularly in Europe, that Yahoo has neither adequately valued user security nor pushed back against exotic US government demands (especially in the wake of the Snowden revelations) will make it a lot harder to maintain, much less expand, the user base that is the entire purpose for the purchase.

So we’re about to learn how much of an international Internet Service Provider’s value is currently tied to its ability to offer security to its users.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

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BREAKING! There Were State-Sponsored Terrorists Operating in the US in 2015

If we’re to believe the NYT’s explanation for why Yahoo was asked to scan all its email in 2015, there are (or were) state-sponsored terrorists operating in the US. That’s the only logical explanation for why the FBI would use an individualized FISA court order to obligate Yahoo to adapt their kiddie porn filter to search for a signature used by what NYT describes as state sponsored terrorists.

Although the digital signature was individually approved by a judge, who was persuaded that there was probable cause to believe that it was uniquely used by a foreign power, the collection was unusual because it involved the systematic scanning of all Yahoo users’ emails. More typical surveillance court orders instead target specific user accounts.

[snip]

In fact, according to the government official and other people familiar with the matter, Yahoo was served with an individualized court order to look only for code uniquely used by the foreign terrorist organization, and it adapted the scanning systems that it already had in place to comply with that order rather than building a new capability.

Now, I don’t find this explanation all that plausible, because if there were real state-sponsored terrorists operating in the US, the US would be bombing the shit out of the country in question. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia sponsor terrorists, but they’re our friends and we try to overlook the way they foster terrorism. So I’m betting these aren’t real terrorists, but instead entities the government has told the FISA Court are terrorists to make it possible to approve things they otherwise would find questionable. Plus, it sounds so much cooler when you make such explanations than if you admit you were scanning all Yahoo users’ emails to search for hackers.

I’m going to wildarseguess that this really means the US had a line on Iranian Revolutionary Guard hacking techniques. I say that because the government has long argued that Iran (or at least, the Revolutionary Guard) is a terrorist organization so it can use fancy spy tools that have only been approved for terrorism uses. It’s a bullshit claim, but one the FISC has consistently approved going back years, probably to 2006 (and one OLC almost certainly approved under Stellar Wind). If this operation had happened two months later, after USA Freedom Act expanded the definition of foreign power to within two degrees of proliferators, they might have used that excuse, but back then, piggybacking a terrorist claim onto the use of the foreign government tie would provide the most impressive claim to need to scan domestically.

We even know the IRGC uses Yahoo, because that’s what NSA was collecting on in 2011 when someone spamouflaged key IRGC accounts at precisely the moment we were trying to entrap a top IRGC commander in the Scary Iran Plot.

And while the request to Yahoo came at a later time, we know that the US was aggressively going after Iranian hackers at least in late 2014 because they were targeting banks. DOJ would go on to indict a bunch of Iranians for, among other things, hacking a very small dam.

So rest assured, Yahoo users! FBI only made Yahoo scan your emails because it was hunting terrorists in your inbox.

But remember, that also means there are real state-sponsored terrorists — and not just ISIS wannabes — among us.

Update: Revolutionary for Republican fixed.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

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HAL (er, um, BAH) Bites NSA

Way back in August, the government arrested a guy named Harold Thomas Martin III, who goes by Hal. Someone leaked news of the arrest to some of a who’s who list of NYT reporters — including Adam Goldman, Jo Becker, Michael Schmidt, David Sanger, Scott Shane, Matt Apuzzo, and Mark Mazzetti — who wrote what was originally a four paragraph story noting Martin is a Booz contractor and he is suspected of “taking the highly classified ‘source code’ developed by the agency to break into computer systems of adversaries like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.” That is, the leak suggested that the FBI had found their Shadow Brokers culprit.

The story has since been updated to include, among other things, a claim from an “Administration official” that “investigators suspected that Mr. Martin might have taken the material before Mr. Snowden’s actions became public,” which is rather curious since the classified documents described in the DOJ announcement on the arrest are six 2014 documents obtained from sensitive intelligence that were found in his house and vehicle.

The complaint alleges that among the classified documents found in the search were six classified documents obtained from sensitive intelligence and produced by a government agency in 2014. These documents were produced through sensitive government sources, methods, and capabilities, which are critical to a wide variety of national security issues. The disclosure of the documents would reveal those sensitive sources, methods, and capabilities.

Martin may have started taking documents before Snowden, but if DOJ’s allegations are true, he was able to continue even after Snowden (and would have needed to if he were actually the Shadow Broker source).

The conflicting information on this suggests that DOJ doesn’t have any fucking clue what Hal Martin did yet, or why he did it. FBI was clearly trying to figure that out while someone was leaking to everyone at the NYT in terms that suggested the FBI had found the Shadow Brokers source (including the completely bullshit emphasis on Russian and Chinese targets, ignoring how many American companies have been exposed in the Shadow Brokers leak).

Or perhaps not.

The original Shadow Brokers announcement was (as Rayne’s timeline lays out) on August 15. Martin was arrested on August 27. Since that time there have been two more Shadow Brokers announcements, one of little import that seems to mock Asian diction posted on PasteBin on August 28, and another bizarre self-interview posted on Medium last week. In my quick review the voice of those posts is different from the original (as is the claimed political bent). So it is possible the FBI has kept Martin’s arrest secret to try to lure in someone else with further SB announcements.

Or maybe Martin just stupidly brought work home and is fucked because the NSA believes or believed he could be the source of the Shadow Brokers documents, and they need a scapegoat and he’ll do fine. Good thing he is being represented by the same public defender who got Thomas Drake off with a plea deal.

Which leaves the one certainty we can take away from this thus far. Booz Allen Hamilton — which just got $144 million in new DOD business yesterday (h/t Tim Shorrock) — needs a lot more scrutiny in its ability to keep the nation’s secrets safe … and may well need to lose a lot of business.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.