I noted earlier that the reporting on the US not imposing cybersanctions on China appears to have credulously served its purpose in creating a narrative that may have helped create the environment for some kind of deal with China.
NYT’s David Sanger did his own version of that story which deserves special focus because it is so full of nonsense — and nonsense that targets Iran, not China.
Sanger starts his tale by quoting something President Obama said at Fort Meade over the weekend out of context. In response to a question about the direction of cybersecurity in the next 5-10 years, Obama spoke generally about both state and non-state actors.
Q Good afternoon, Mr. President. You alluded to in your opening remarks the threat that cyber currently is. And there’s been a lot of talk within the DOD and cyber community of the possibility of a separate branch of the military dedicated to cyber. I was wondering where you see cyber in the next five to ten years.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s a great question. We initiated Cyber Command, anticipating that this is going to be a new theater for potential conflict. And what we’ve seen by both state and non-state actors is the increasing sophistication of hacking, the ability to penetrate systems that we previously thought would be secure. And it is moving fast. So, offense is moving a lot faster than defense.
Part of this has to do with the way the Internet was originally designed. It was not designed with the expectation that there would end up being three or four or five billion people doing commercial transactions, et cetera. It was thought this was just going to be an academic network to share papers and formulas and whatnot. And so the architecture of the Internet makes it very difficult to defend consistently.
We continue to be the best in the world at understanding and working within cyber. But other countries have caught up. The Russians are good. The Chinese are good. The Iranians are good. And you’ve got non-state hackers who are excellent. And unlike traditional conflicts and aggression, oftentimes we don’t have a return address. If somebody hacks into a system and goes after critical infrastructure, for example, or penetrates our financial systems, we can’t necessarily trace it directly to that state or that actor. That makes it more difficult as well. [my emphasis]
Sanger excised all reference to “excellent” non-state hackers, and instead made this a comment about hacking by state actors.
“Offense is moving a lot faster than defense,” Mr. Obama told troops on Friday at Fort Meade, Md., home of the National Security Agency and the United States Cyber Command. “The Russians are good. The Chinese are good. The Iranians are good.” The problem, he said, was that despite improvements in tracking down the sources of attacks, “we can’t necessarily trace it directly to that state,” making it hard to strike back.
Sanger then took this comment very specifically directed at the upcoming Xi visit and China,
And this is something that we’re just at the infancy of. Ultimately, one of the solutions we’re going to have to come up with is to craft agreements among at least state actors about what’s acceptable and what’s not. And so, for example, I’m going to be getting a visit from President Xi of China, a state visit here coming up in a couple of weeks. We’ve made very clear to the Chinese that there are certain practices that they’re engaging in that we know are emanating from China and are not acceptable. And we can choose to make this an area of competition — which I guarantee you we’ll win if we have to — or, alternatively, we can come to an agreement in which we say, this isn’t helping anybody; let’s instead try to have some basic rules of the road in terms of how we operate.
And suggested it was directed at other states more generally.
Then he issued a warning: “There comes a point at which we consider this a core national security threat.” If China and other nations cannot figure out the boundaries of what is acceptable, “we can choose to make this an area of competition, which I guarantee you we’ll win if we have to.”
Sanger then spends six paragraphs talking about how hard a time Obama is having “deterring” cyberattacks even while reporting that China and the US have forged some kind of deal that would establish norms that are different than deterrence but might diminish attacks. He also, rather curiously, talks (again) about “unprecedented” theft of personal information in the OPM hack that we need to deter — even though James Clapper has repeatedly said publicly that we do the same thing (and by some measures, on a much bigger scale).
As I keep explaining to gobsmacked security experts, according to the DHS, not only are motion picture studios like Sony considered Critical Infrastructure the security establishment must protect, but so are casinos (and campgrounds!) as part of the “Commercial Facilities Sector.”
The Commercial Facilities Sector consists of eight subsectors:
- Public Assembly (e.g., arenas, stadiums, aquariums, zoos, museums, convention centers).
- Sports Leagues (e.g., professional sports leagues and federations).
- Gaming (e.g., casinos).
- Lodging (e.g., hotels, motels, conference centers).
- Outdoor Events (e.g., theme and amusement parks, fairs, campgrounds, parades).
- Entertainment and Media (e.g., motion picture studios, broadcast media).
- Real Estate (e.g., office and apartment buildings, condominiums, mixed use facilities, self-storage).
- Retail (e.g., retail centers and districts, shopping malls).
Which is why I find it interesting that along with noting that hackers might start altering — rather than just zeroing out — the entries in software, in his Global Threats testimony James Clapper asserted that “Iranian actors have been implicated” in hacking Sheldon Adelson’s casino.
Iran very likely values its cyber program as one of many tools for carrying out asymmetric but proportional retaliation against political foes, as well as a sophisticated means of collecting intelligence. Iranian actors have been implicated in the 2012-13 DDOS attacks against US financial institutions and in the February 2014 cyber attack on the Las Vegas Sands casino company.
A number of outlets reported that Iran, rather than Iranian actors, did the hack.
Bloomberg reported that Iranians were behind the hack in December.
I can think of a number of reasons why the US didn’t make a bigger deal out of Iranians hacking our critical infrastructure Sheldon Adelson’s casinos. Because they couldn’t prove the tie between the actors and the Iranian state, because fighting to protect Adelson’s corruption is less palatable than fighting to protect Hollywood, because it would have focused on Adelson’s threats to bomb Iran, and because they’re trying to craft a peace deal.
And that’s probably just a start.
Still, I’m surprised others — such as Bibi Netanyahu — haven’t made a bigger issue out of Iranian actors’ successful attack on one of the people funding the anti-Iranian lobby.
When Mike Allen asked Sheldon Adelson in September why he had dumped so much money in what would be an unsuccessful attempt to help Republicans win in november, Adelson’s first reason was that he was being unfairly treated by DOJ.
Self-defense: Adelson said a second Obama term would bring government “vilification of people that were against him.” He thinks he would be at the top of that list and contends that he already has been targeted for his political activity.
Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp. is being scrutinized by federal investigators looking into possible money-laundering in Vegas, and possible violation of bribery laws by the company’s ventures in China, including four casinos in the gambling mecca of Macau. (Amazingly, 90 percent of the corporation’s revenue is now from Asia, including properties in Macau and Singapore.)
The country’s leading megadonor is irritated by the leaks. “When I see what’s happening to me and this company, about accusations that are unfounded, that kind of behavior … has to stop,” he said.
Adelson gave the interview in part to signal that he intends to fight back in increasingly visible ways. Articles about the investigations appeared last month on the front pages of The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. He maintains that after his family became heavily involved in the election, the government began leaking information about federal inquiries that involve old events, and with which the company has been cooperating.
The aim of the leaks, he argued, is “making me toxic so that they can make the argument to the Republicans, ‘This guy is toxic. Don’t do business with him. Don’t take his money.’ Not all government employees are leakers, but most of the leakers are government employees.”
Asked to response to Adelson’s comments, the Justice Department said it does not comment on, or confirm, investigations.
While Adelson blames DOJ for leaks, much of the outlines of his corrupt business doings came from public court filings.
One thrust of the investigation pertains to whether the fixer Adelson’s casino company used in China, Yang Saixin, had engaged in bribery. Another involves evidence that a Chinese-born Mexican businessman with ties to the Sinaloa cartel, Zhenli Ye Gon, laundered drug profits through the Venetian casino in Las Vegas (using HSBC). And while Adelson himself has not been implicated in those and other money laundering and bribery allegations, the breach of contract suit brought by his former Macau CEO, Steven Jacobs, alleges that Adelson was personally involves in orders that Jacobs extort Chinese officials and sustain a “prostitution strategy.”
And while there were hints just before the election that Adelson and his company would be treated just like every other MOTU–given a wrist slap–the WSJ yesterday described the signs of the inevitable settlement. There’s the hiring of former US officials to internally police money laundering (and, probably, to turn the Sands into an espionage asset).
Sands has recently hired three former FBI agents to strengthen anti-money-laundering efforts and improve the background checks the company does on VIP customers and junket operators, the people familiar with the matter said.
And there’s the promises to stop allowing customers to hide their identity.
The casino operator also will no longer allow gamblers to transfer funds from their bank accounts under an alias, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Sands and other casino operators have allowed important clients to deposit money—on occasion millions of dollars at a time, in the case of Sands at least—in accounts in one country and use it in another for gambling, according to casinos executives and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The casinos say their systems are safe against money laundering.
But law enforcement authorities say they are concerned about the use of these types of transfers across international borders, particularly from junkets; without the more specific source-of-funds and other requirements that banks provide, those fund exchanges could carry a high risk of money laundering, they say.
As well as generalized compliance improvements.
In addition, the casino operator is retraining its staff on U.S. antibribery laws and on ways to avoid doing business with people and entities on the U.S. sanctions list, which includes alleged terrorists, narcotics traffickers, and other perceived threats with whom U.S. firms are banned from doing business, according to another one of the people.
This is, in short, precisely what we see every time the DOJ lets a big financial entity off of money laundering charges that small fry like check cashing store managers would get indicted and go to prison for.
So Adelson need not have spent those millions to try to defeat Obama. Obama’s DOJ was always unlikely to go after his company aggressively.
I could be wrong, but it appears as if Lanny Breuer is about to declare the Sands casinos systematically important and therefore too big to jail.
MoJo has released the full Romney donor video. And like Josh Marshall, I was immediately struck by this passage (after 3 minutes in–this is my transcription). This is in response to a donor suggesting that if Mitt could get the Iranians to agree to drop their pursuit of a nuclear bomb.
And the American people are not concentrated at all on China, on Russia, Iran, Iraq. This President’s failure to put in a place a Status of Forces Agreement allowing 10-20,000 troops to stay in Iraq–unthinkable. And yet in that election–in the Jimmy Carter election–the fact that we had hostages in Iran, I mean that was all we talked about then. And we had the two helicopters crash in the desert, that was the focus and so him solving that made all the difference in the world.
I’m afraid today if you simply got Iran to agree to stand down a nuclear weapon they’d go, “hold on.”
By the way, if something of that nature presents itself, I will work to find a way to take advantage of the opportunity. [my emphasis]
Now, like Marshall, I think this explains why Mitt jumped on the Libyan attack so quickly.
Though there’s even more here. Mitt seems to suggest that Reagan solved the Iranian hostage crisis. That’s an allegation that has been made, but it’s not something that people like Mitt discuss in public.
And consider how MoJo came to publish this entire video: James Carter IV–Jimmy’s grandson–helped track the video down. He specifically mentioned Mitt’s attacks on his grandfather as part of his motivation.
But Carter also confirmed there is a personal side to the backstory of the campaign video: he was especially motivated, he said, because of Romney’s frequent attacks on the presidency of his grandfather, including the GOP candidate’s comparisons to the “weak” foreign policy of Carter and Barack Obama.
“It gets under my skin — mostly the weakness on the foreign policy stuff,” Carter said. “I just think it’s ridiculous. I don’t like criticism of my family.”
This passage certainly sounded like very calculated criticism of the Carter family.
I suggested in June that Sheldon Adelson was probably willing to dump so much on Mitt’s campaign, after working so hard to defeat him in the primary, to purchase an Administration that would serve Likud’s interests. I even reflected on what a nice October Surprise Adelson’s money could buy.
Rest assured, if Adelson were to present Romney with such a surprise, Romney would be waiting to take advantage of it.
Mitt Romney’s latest overseas outrage is asserting that Palestinians are so much poorer than Israelis because of their culture.
“As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality,” the Republican presidential candidate told about 40 wealthy donors who breakfasted around a U-shaped table at the luxurious King David Hotel.
Romney, seated next to billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson at the head of the table, told donors at his fundraiser that he had read books and relied on his own business experience to understand why the difference is so great.
“And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things,” Romney said, citing an innovative business climate, the Jewish history of thriving in difficult circumstances and the “hand of providence.”
While some outraged responses have focused on Mitt’s ignorance of the true extent of Palestinian poverty and others have decried Mitt’s racism, all I could think is that Mitt is voicing a misreading (but not an extreme one) of the latest fad book among policy elites of both parties: Daren Acemoglu and James Robinson’s Why Nations Fail.
Why Nations Fail purports to explain why some areas are rich and some poor (it adopts economic success as its measure of success and failure with no questioning of whether that’s the correct measure) by pointing to what it deems the relative extractive characteristic of a particular state. In states where the elite share the wealth via relatively open political systems, wealth grows. In states where the elites keep the wealth to themselves with the help of political repression, wealth stagnates.
The reason I think Mitt’s comment comes from having read or been briefed on Why Nations Fail (aside from his comment attributing the opinion, in part, to books he has read) is because his comment basically repeats the book’s key gimmick: the authors compare Nogales, Mexico with Nogales, AZ, North and South Korea, and South and North America and with each claim the wealthier of the geographically contiguous pair is wealthy because of its relative freedom. Mitt is making the same comparison–explaining why people in contiguous geographic areas have dramatically different outcomes.
In both the book’s gimmick and what I suspect is Mitt’s appropriation of it, there’s something missing. Why Nations Fail claims that everyone in Nogales, AZ enjoys great political rights; it doesn’t consider the important economic role played in the Southwest by undocumented workers who enjoy no political rights. Nor does it consider the way the drug war strips money and viable economic growth out of the rest of Latin America. Similarly, while the book admits that the US has provided a lot of aid to South Korea since the Korean war–not to mention paid for its defense–it doesn’t consider how important that outside relationship has been in determining South Korea’s path since the war. And somewhere in the discussion of how the US evolved in a less extractive fashion than Latin America–which includes a discussion of genocide in Latin American–the authors state something to the effect of “the Native Americans [in the US] were sidelined” (I listened to the book, so I can’t give you the exact quote). “Sidelined” (if that’s the word the authors used) is the politically correct–and almost unremarked term–for extraction that democrats later go on to whitewash.
And all that’s before you get to the inter-state power dynamics that lie behind the success or failure of a lot of smaller client states, which itself tends to tolerate a lot of extraction the authors barely mentioned.
Now, if Mitt got his little theory from Why Nations Fail, it is a misreading of the book, though not a big one. Mitt attributed the difference to culture, not politics. But in a policy world where people uncritically say Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East (ignoring Iran and Turkey, but also ignoring that Arabs in Israel–to say nothing of the occupied territories–don’t enjoy the same rights as other Israelis), Mitt really is just replicating Why Nations Fail‘s gimmick, pointing to democracy and innovation as a way to ignore the oppression that democratic regimes exert over others and instead celebrate that difference.
In which case, if I’m right, the whole flap should focus not just on the comment itself, but on what it says about Mitt’s cognitive ability (his slight misreading of the book), but also the policy elites’ fetishization of a book that engages in the same kind of whitewashing, to serve virtually the same end, a sort of blind self-congratulation.
Update: NYT’s Michael Barbaro, who has read Romney’s No Apology, says he cites David Landes’ The Wealth and Poverty of Nations in the book. IIRC, Why Nations Fail bills itself as a critique of Landes (though perhaps more his earlier technological determinism).
After visiting his bankster donors in London, Mitt is on his way to visit megadonor Sheldon Adelson’s other country, Israel. Perhaps in a bid to butter up Adelson, Mitt’s staffers put up an Israeli flag on the plane before they remembered he’s running to be President of the United States.
And just as Mitt prepares to suck up to Israel, leak witch hunt targets Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman have a piece cataloging how much Israel spies on us. They describe:
It also reveals that after it gave up its nuke program, the CIA considered Libya a better counter-terrorism partner than Israel.
During the Bush administration, the CIA ranked some of the world’s intelligence agencies in order of their willingness to help in the U.S.-led fight against terrorism. One former U.S. intelligence official who saw the completed list said Israel, which hadn’t been directly targeted in attacks by al-Qaida, fell below Libya, which recently had agreed to abandon its nuclear weapons program.
Now, it’s not just Mitt who sucks up to the Israelis. Goldman and Apuzzo note the US has given Israel $60 billion since we nabbed Jonathan Pollard and Obama just released an additional $70 million of military aid.
But as Mitt tries to appear less obtuse in Israel than he did in UK, remember that the Israelis are probably stealing our secrets even as he unfurls their flag.
The Internet is abuzz today with Sheldon Adelson’s announcement that he has already donated $10 million to Mitt Romney’s SuperPAC and plans to provide limitless donations to defeat Obama.
Forbes has confirmed that billionaire Sheldon Adelson, along with his wife Miriam, has donated $10 million to the leading Super PAC supporting presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney–and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. A well-placed source in the Adelson camp with direct knowledge of the casino billionaire’s thinking says that further donations will be “limitless.”
But the attention is mostly focused on the sheer numbers he’s talking about, not what it suggests that Adelson–who already spent buckets of money to try to defeat Mitt in the primary–has now promised limitless donations to defeat Obama.
This is about Likud trying to decide the American elections.
Adelson doesn’t hide the fact that this donation is about Israel as much as it is Obama’s “socialism.”
Adelson, this source continues, believes that “no price is too high” to protect the U.S. from what he sees as Obama’s “socialization” of America, as well as securing the safety of Israel. He added that Adelson, 78, considers this to be the most important election of his lifetime.
Nor is it surprising he’s doing this. More than he is for any of these American politicians, Adelson is Bibi Netanyahu’s Sugar Daddy. And Obama has been remarkably successful thus far in stymying Bibi’s goal of forcing the US to attack Iran. In addition to the sanctions regime that has brought about negotiations, in recent months, the Administration has leaked both a white paper showing that an Iran attack would do nothing but set off a regional war and news of the bases in Azerbaijan Israel would use if it unilaterally attacked Iran. David Sanger quoted Presidential briefers and Joe Biden–Bibi’s old nemesis–blaming Israel for freeing StuxNet, possibly intentionally. Leon Panetta has, on the record, told the entire world, including Iran, when Israel planned to attack. (I actually thought Panetta’s latest 60 Minutes appearance might have been an attempt to placate Israel.)
It may appear to us that the Administration continues typical American policy of capitulating to Israel. But the Obama Administration has taken surprisingly strong measures to push back against Israel.
And now Sheldon Adelson has promised to use unlimited funds to get rid of President Obama.
As much as the money concerns me, that’s not what I worry about the most. The Israelis have never been shy about running off-the-books operations to influence our policies. Indeed, they played a role in Iran-Contra, the start of which goes back to the last October Surprise plot to make sure a Democrat didn’t get reelected in 1980. And the state of affairs in Israel’s neighborhood (both Syria and Egypt would be excellent candidates, though if I were Turkey I’d be cautious, too) is such that it would be very very very easy to create an October Surprise that would make it a lot harder for Obama to get reelected.
Bibi’s Sugar Daddy just announced the world he will do anything in his power to defeat Obama. You can be sure Bibi feels the same way.
Update: Iran/Israel confusion fixed, h/t vl.
Man, if Leon Panetta doesn’t get into trouble for revealing details of Anwar al-Awlaki’s targeting or confirming that Pakistani doctor Shikal Afridi was working for the CIA when he collected DNA from Osama bin Laden’s compound, I wonder if he’ll get in trouble for (apparently) telling David Ignatius when Israel will attack Iran?
Panetta believes there is strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June — before Iran enters what Israelis described as a “zone of immunity” to commence building a nuclear bomb.
Now perhaps this is another sanctioned leak meant to ruin Bibi Netanyahu’s surprise (though I’m not sure how Iran would prepare to defend against an Israeli attack).
If so, Ignatius’ article sure sends a divided message. On one hand, it suggests the US would not participate.
The administration appears to favor a policy of staying out of the conflict, unless Iran hits U.S. assets, which would trigger a strong U.S. response.
This U.S. policy — signaling that Israel is acting on its own — might open a breach like the one in 1956, when President Eisenhower condemned an Israeli-European attack on the Suez Canal.
Yet at the same time it lays out the circumstances under which the US would get involved.
Administration officials caution that Tehran shouldn’t misunderstand: The United States has a 60-year commitment to Israeli security, and if Israel’s population centers were hit, the United States could feel obligated to come to Israel’s defense.
I’m sure the Israelis would never be able to cock up a Scary Iran Plot targeted at Tel Aviv.
What Ignatius doesn’t emphasize–though he does hint at it–is the real reason for this schedule.
Complicating matters is the 2012 presidential campaign, which has Republicans candidates clamoring for stronger U.S. support of Israel.
Bibi’s biggest political donor, Sheldon Adelson, has already dumped $10 million into the GOP primary. To imagine that Bibi is not, at the same time, gaming out how the electoral schedule might play into the optimal time to pick a war with Iran is naive.
Which, I guess, may be why Panetta is blabbing this particular detail.