Most Recent Column, Op-Ed, Opinion, World — March 2, 2011 at 7:57 pm

Operation Set-the-Record-Straight

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Proponents of Wikileaks identify Julian Assange as an international hero and liken him to the Founding Fathers of the United States. Critics cast Wikileaks as a nefarious syndicate deserving the label of foreign terrorist organization. Some go even further by demanding Julian Assange be given the death penalty or summary execution. In either case, the situation and stakes are clear. We are living in the age of the information revolution. The invention of the personal computer and internet connected us all. It also produced participatory democracy—on an unprecedented scale—that caught the international power elite completely off guard. Now we observe these power brokers frantically scrambling to return the naïveté of the public back to the levels prior to globalization in the wake of this technological empowerment.

This should not come as a surprise. Authority figures rarely want to cede power to others. Nevertheless business leaders, government officials, and IGOs need to realize that there is no turning back. The technology is here to stay. The only question remaining is: where do we go from here? The consensus from these entities seems to be to target Wikileaks in order to cut the head off the proverbial snake. However, those who propose this measure fail to comprehend the size and scope of this lofty idea.

The cyber security giant H.B. Gary realized this when it started testing the waters in defense of Bank of America. In anticipation of a presumably embarrassing document dump by Wikileaks, Bank of America retained H.B. Gary Federal—by recommendation of the U.S. Department of Justice—as a security consultant. Everything seemed okay and out of the public eye until the CEO of H.B. Gary, Aaron Barr, began antagonizing the internet activist group known as Anonymous, which operates in tandem with Wikileaks’ transparency efforts worldwide as a guard dog. In both private correspondences and public statements, Barr boasted of having information that would cripple the infrastructure of the group and render them ineffective.

As soon as these claims hit the public domain, H.B. Gary and Aaron Barr became prime targets for Anonymous. H.B. Gary found itself wrecked and ravaged within 24 hours of Barr’s statements. The company that prided itself on cyber security had its files seized, sensitive materials publicized, and its website defaced. Adding insult to injury, immediately after the operation, Anonymous announced that a 16 year old girl compromised the security protocols of the cyber security giant.

The most fascinating outcome of this exchange, however, came by way of the sequestered files from H.B. Gary and Barr’s email account. In these files, Anonymous uncovered a comprehensive strategy concocted by Hunton & Williams, H.B. Gary, Palantir, and Berico to discredit Wikileaks. The Machiavellian plan included: disseminating misinformation, providing Wikileaks with false information and calling them out on it once they published the material, instigating feuds within Wikileaks, stalking Wikileaks employees, creating uncertainty over the security and confidentiality of Wikileaks’ sources, and conducting cyber attacks to mine information from the organization about its sources. What does this conspiracy tell us about democracy, about freedom of speech, about freedom of the press, and about the so-called transparent U.S. government?

This development provides critical insight that should realign public perceptions regarding a number of issues. First, it appears the U.S. government wants to play both sides of the fence, so to speak. U.S. officials feign outrage over “cyber crime” and “terrorism” while simultaneously conspiring with private entities and other nations behind closed doors to commit offenses that they publicly condemn. Second, cyber security firms and their clients—including U.S. government agencies—do not possess a higher degree of electronic protection than the average citizen. Third, Wikileaks should not be anyone’s central concern for the simple reason that, in the absence of Wikileaks, the leaks will continue through the independent efforts of groups like Anonymous. Lastly and most importantly, when comparing Wikileaks to significant leaks from the past, such as the Pentagon Papers‘ acquitted whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, it appears that the U.S. wants to reframe social and poltical norms. The U.S., empowered by stringent counterterrorism measures in the wake of September 11, 2001, effectively conditioned the populace into believing that electronic acts of civil disobedience, protest, and crimes of conscience are equal to terrorism just because these interactions occur through the new medium of the internet.

Taking all of this into consideration, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently said that, “[c]onfidential communication gives our government the opportunity to do work that could not be done otherwise.” Are the arrangements made between the Department of Justice, Bank of America, and H.B. Gary, et al the type of “confidential communication” so eloquently described by Secretary Clinton? If so, how long can the U.S. government, its privileged corporate entities, and its allies operate with impunity under the guise of patriotism? More importantly, how long will the public, through its complacency and silent consent, permit the US government to target these individuals with Draconian electronic communication laws such as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the USA PATRIOT Act?

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  1. excellent resume of the whats the answer??!!

  2. Bravo!

    Concise and to the point. I think that we have seen the ugly mask of institutional fear lifted with the revolution in Egypt (not that they have achieved it yet). However long it takes, whatever strife the Egyptian people must still suffer, they are moving inexorably forward, never looking back. This is the lesson of Egypt.

    With the rantings by Mubaruk of Egypt and the outright rambling by Gaddafi of Libya, it will be difficult, to say the least, for the American government to play the ‘terrorist’ of ‘drugs’ cards anytime soon without being associated with such tyrants. If they do, they risk isolation from the international community.

    I can’t seem to find fault with the American people, or the government, for that matter, after the examples of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. The lesson we learned there? Follow the money.

    With three solid examples in North Africa, I’m sure America’s problems can be approached the same way. Money is power, follow the money.

  3. It is becoming very obvious that we citizens will have to fight hard to retain our basic freedoms. Unfortunately our eyes have been shuttered for too long while governments have been plotting to compromise those freedoms. However as the HBGary Event shows, Years of shady dealing can be undone in a very short time, and I doubt that this event has run its course. I guess that we can thank the American Government for giving us this very valuable tool (the internet) by which we can keep them honest.

  4. in america democracy and free speech are an illusion. it doesnt truly exist.

  5. Excellent summary. Well done.

  6. When considering the Pentagon Papers, Ellsberg, and then the irony that unfolded with Nixon himself, I would think that the Obama admin (Clinton included) would want to steer the handling of this situation in the opposite direction. If we can’t learn from history, we’re doomed to repeat it. (That phrase rings with greater truth each passing day.)

    I find the fact that the ACLU is now making a big deal of the Rolling Stone article regarding a Dept of Justice investigation into potential DOD staffers using PSYOPS to influence congressmen a riot!

    As noted in this Columbia Political Review article, the DOJ recommended HBGary to Bank of America. Considering all of the tie-ins in that fiasco unveiled in the emails posted on Anonymous websites, why would anyone think that the DOJ would conduct a thorough and JUST review and follow-through of the PSYOPS situation. (Especially considering “PSYOPS” type tactics have been used for decades in various capacities across the globe.) The most that’s likely come of that investigation is a few closed door sessions, maybe some transparent congressional hearings in which one or two guys are noted as the scapegoats for all, and then the book is closed. No one will be held accountable. (Aaron Barr will probably start using an alias and working as a lobbyist in another 2 yrs.)

    In regards to silencing dissidence within the online social mediums, while they may not have recognized the shift several years ago, people of all ages, nationalities, and locales are now taking notice. The US converted to digital TV and slowly digital radio is wiping out analog. Score 1 for Big Brother on that. It’s difficult to spread the word though pirate ham radio and TV stations when most aren’t accessing the analog platform. Despite what could be considered a win there, through the push for the digital wave they’ve united the masses. Those normally silenced have been given a voice. Be it a backyard soapbox or a global stage, the message of the need for true governmental transparency will be heard. There’s no closing the gate. Alternate methods of communication are no doubt in place, should a worldwide internet blockade ever spring up.

    Side note: I’ve seen many bash the Obama admin and Hills for lack of transparency. Yes, the lack of openness goes against much of his campaign promises (welcome to politics), but everyone should keep in mind the BoA insanity and other backstage drama has been culminating for decades under both Bush Jr. and Sr., and in some instances, back to the Reagan years.

    In regards to Bradley Manning, in my opinion what’s interesting about the 104 offense charge, isn’t if the Army can or will identify the “enemy.” (Let’s be real…that’s a rather obscure term for the military). I think the bigger issue is the 2nd element of the crime. In light of the new wave of HBGary et al emails obtained by Anonymous, how are they going to prove Manning distributed the downloaded files to Assange?

    Clearly the recent exploit by the 16 yr old Anonymous hacktivist demonstrates that gov’t organizations are far more open to attack than they or the general public once believed. In which case, despite the fact that there may be evidence to prove Manning downloaded the docs, isn’t there a gaping hole of potential reasons of how Assange obtained the files? With Anonymous everywhere and clearly with their ability to snatch the most sensitive of docs, isn’t it possible that the collection of info was obtained via a movement set in motion before Manning even came on to the scene?

    Yes there may be ample circumstantial evidence to link the Manning – Assange exchange, but I would hope that when it comes to determining the life or death of a US citizen, our government would require more than just a strong likelihood.

    Currently it appears there are many in the US that would like that boy to fry. I have a feeling their position on the case will rapidly sway once the masses get wind of the full HBGary, BoA, and DOJ dealings. If Manning gets the death penalty, the Anonymous movement that is ever growing will likely revere him as a martyr …the Joan of ArkAnon if you will. At that point, hold on to your satellites when the hailstorm hits.

  7. This is like a pretty good 10th grade paper.

    Don’t tell me which parts of this story are fascinating, show me. Dammit this sucks.

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  9. I think the answer is that stronger laws which protect whistle blowers need to be enacted. It appears to have become the conceptual norm in the US that it is wrong to speak out of fraud, error and abuse; and if one does then they deserve the retribution they receive. People tend to self justify why they remain silent even when they know something is wrong; and one way to do that is to join in the crucifiction and character assasination of those who dare to speak out.

  10. What this excellent article gets to the heart of is the complete corruption that systematically undermines our political and corporate sectors. Enron et al were not the famed ‘bad apples’ but representitive of a culture that has accepted lies and propaganda as necessary in their war. The war is not on any actual countries or ‘terror’ but in actual fact a very simple war for money. Like pirates and mafia organizations our governments and corporations believe in their ‘National interest’ or the interest of the stock holders. Laws support this by enshrining it in law that corporations must protect profit above any other consideration (eg environment, fairness etc). Our governments seem to interpret their ‘mandate’ as having to use any nefarious means at their disposal in the permanent ‘war’. The problem is that as Jake says: we are all connected via technology. This effectively means borders have become almost meaningless. We all identify with the protesters in Egypt/Libya and Tunisia etc. We see that our own banks, corporations, and gov are engaged with the systematic looting of the worlds resources to fill their own coffers. Its piracy pure and simple. The wealth of the world is not shared among its inhabitants- its a battle for the resourses. How long before our own public starts to feel like rising up and purging the cheats, liars and crooks?

    The US gov under both GOP and Dem stewardship are similar in many ways to the Saudi/Libyan regimes. Torture, looting, secrecy, lies, authoritarian and capable and guilty of persistent lies to the public about the true nature if the world and its geo-political landscape. The corporate owned media has created a matrix-like reality that is now cracking due to the technology (Twitter/FB/Youtube/mobile phones/internet) etc that has allowed us all to bypass the propaganda from the gov/media and start to decide on what we ourselves believe to be ‘reality’.

    Politicians always say that the world is much more complex that we know and that they have to make difficult decisions for our national interest but behind closed doors in total secrecy. Well perhaps the future could be that we all get to see behind the mask and see if we approve of what decisions are made once we have the information.

    I feel that the next few months are going to be even more interesting. The rest of the leaks are going to be fascinating- Wikileaks openly claims to open governments. Lets see which other governments get ‘opened’ to our scrutiny.

  11. You hit the nail on the head. 1984 is alive and well or worse than forecast. Good writing, my man.

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  13. Well done Jacob…

    Now what will you do for a follow up?

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  15. Focus on the targets, want freedom fight for it, this tells me that gov n corps want to be two faced which the ppl have always known. Want to scare the gov find documents they never want to be seen.

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  18. if Wikileaks published their information in a news paper no one would bat an eye lid , its only the fact they are makeing computer security organization look like a joke that people are crying ..

  19. Thank you. This is heartening really. Knowing that people are monitoring the big institutions. It gives us all hope that one day we will have a genuinely caring, transparent world in which to live. Clever people – keep up the great work!

  20. am with you 100%…..the establishment’s response to this is so transparent,,….it does not take a brain surgeon to realise it is primarily motivated by fear…….

  21. Great article!

  22. The realignment that will probably occur after the information era is probably a conscient decision by the people to use the technology to participate to forums in order to ratify themselves laws or directions they believe are necessary to counter the monopoly of power of the elites and create a referenda system like the one on which should help shaping the agenda of global politics or force the governments into transparency.

  23. We MUST demand criminal prosecution not only for BofA, Countrywide executives, but many other from Wall Street and our government that turned the other way while all this fraud was going on and then bailed them out with OUR MONEY so now they can settle their crimes! WHAT ABOUT US, WHAT ABOUT PEOPLE???? Are we going to get our houses for free now? Are we going to be reimbursed for pain and
    sufferings caused by those greedy demons???
    The results of Wall Street’s fraud are numerous FRAUDclosuers, topped with the ignorance that works well for those who committed the biggest financial crime in
    the history of the world. Nothing will change until the responsible for this scam are prosecuted! We must do that, we should not rest until the truth is out
    and all those responsible are prosecuted.
    Please read about MA Essex County Register of Deeds:”My
    office is a crime scene!” –

  24. Its simple. Whatever the US does is ok,and sanctioned by the way by God. everyone else is suspect.

  25. I have worked for many years internationally in the oil business. It is as bad as you can imagine. And if you follow the money it is even worse.
    I love what John at #20 said but I think he has it backwards. I think God requires the approval of several corporations before he can act. We all know the President does. Change? Change you can believe in? The sad commentory here is that Obama can’t do it alone and the American people left of Hitler are incredibly unorganized and simply unable to believe what is happening. Shut off FOX. Shut off CNN and go looking for the truth. You will not like what you find.
    Oh and read “Every Man in This Village is a Liar” by Megan K. Stack
    How many people have died so corporations can turn a profit. Where is the bill going? To the bankrupt American government. Why is it banmkrupt? Ask George.

  26. WOw, these laws keep poping up year after year, patriot act, sopa, fema, some make it through and some don’t. People are starting to wake up. Ive been following this stuff for years. They say bad things will start to happen to you if you look into what the govt. and corporations are up to and a few screwed up things have gone on recently that I cant explain except for maybe the shit we leave on blog pages are being monitored.

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