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Posts Tagged ‘CIA’

CIA Project MK-ULTRA, by Larry Romanoff – The Unz Review

Posted by M. C. on July 31, 2020

https://www.unz.com/lromanoff/cia-project-mk-ultra/

Note to readers:

This essay is an edited and abridged version, with content reformatted, of that originally posted here. It is updated with some new material and full references. A list of the most important references is at the end of the essay, before the notes. I deleted the small portion on P. W. Botha because I was unable to locate my primary reference which was text extracted from the Truth and Reconciliation hearings held in South Africa. The content was testimony by one of Botha’s underlings at a hearing that Botha refused to attend. Rather than leave questions about the validity of statements, I deleted that section.

CIA Project MK-ULTRA

The United States government funded and performed countless psychological experiments on unwitting humans, especially during the Cold War era, perhaps partially to help develop more effective torture and interrogation techniques for the US military and the CIA, but the almost unbelievable extent, range and duration of these activities far surpassed possible interrogation applications and appear to have been performed from a fundamental monstrous inhumanity. To simply read summaries of these, even without the details, is almost traumatising in itself.

In studies that began in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the US Military began identifying and testing truth serums like mescaline and scopolamine on human subjects, which they claimed might be useful during interrogations of Soviet spies. These programs eventually expanded to a project of vast scope and enormous ambition, centralised under the CIA in what would come to be called Project MK-ULTRA, a major collection of interrogation and mind-control projects. Inspired initially by delusions of a brainwashing program, the CIA began thousands of experiments using both American and foreign subjects often without their knowledge or against their will, destroying countless tens of thousands of lives and causing many deaths and suicides. Funded in part by the Rockefeller and Ford foundations and jointly operated by the CIA, the FBI and the intelligence divisions of all military groups, this decades-long CIA research constituted an immense collection of some of the most cold-blooded and callous atrocities conceivable, in a determined effort to develop reliable techniques of controlling the human mind.

MK-ULTRA was an umbrella for a large number of clandestine activities that formed part of the CIA’s psychological warfare research and development, consisting of about 150 projects and sub-projects, many of them very large in their own right, with research and human experimentation occurring at more than 80 institutions that included about 50 of America’s best-known colleges and universities, 15 or 20 major research Foundations including Rockefeller, dozens of major hospitals, a great many prisons and mental institutions, and many chemical and pharmaceutical companies. At least 200 well-known private scientific researchers were part of this program, as were many thousands of physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists and other similar. Many of these institutions and individuals received their funding through so-called “grants” from what were clearly CIA front companies. In 1994 a Congressional subcommittee revealed that up to 500,000 unwitting Americans were endangered, damaged or destroyed by secret CIA and military tests between 1940 and 1974. Given the deliberate destruction of all the records, the full truth of the MK-ULTRA victims will never be known, and certainly not the death toll. As the inspector general of the US Army later stated in a report to a Senate committee: “In universities, hospitals and research institutions, an unknown number of chemical tests and experiments … were carried out with healthy adults, with mentally ill and with prison inmates.” According to one government report, “In 149 separate mind-control experiments on thousands of people, CIA researchers used hypnosis, electroshock treatments, LSD, marijuana, morphine, Benzedrine, mescaline, seconal, atropine and other drugs.” Test subjects were usually people who could not easily object – prisoners, mental patients and members of minority groups – but the agency also performed many experiments on normal, healthy civilians without their knowledge or consent.

There were 149 subprojects listed under the umbrella of MKULTRA. Project MONARCH has not been officially identified by any government documentation as one of the corresponding subprojects, but is used rather, as a descriptive “catch phrase” by survivors, therapists, and possible “insiders”. MONARCH may in fact, have culminated from MKSEARCH subprojects such as operation SPELLBINDER, which was set up to create “sleeper” assassins (i.e. “Manchurian candidates”) who could be activated upon receiving a key word or phrase while in a post-hypnotic trance. Operation OFTEN, a study which attempted to harness the power of occult forces was possibly one of several cover programs to hide the insidious reality of Project MONARCH. There were also operations BLUEBIRD, ARTICHOKE, MKNAOMI, and MKDELTA.

Another CIA Operation called Midnight Climax consisted of a network of CIA locations to which prostitutes on the CIA payroll would lure clients where they were surreptitiously plied with a wide range of substances including LSD, and monitored behind one-way glass.[1][2]Several significant operational techniques were developed in this theater, including extensive research into sexual blackmail, surveillance technology, and the possible use of mind-altering drugs in field operations. In the 1970s, as another part of its mind control program, the CIA conspired with Eli Lilly and Company to produce one hundred million doses of the illegal drug LSD, enough to send almost everyone in the United States on a trip. No explanation was ever given as to what the CIA did with a hundred million doses of acid but, since much of this activity was exported, reviewing international political events during this period may bring interesting possibilities to mind.

Frank Olson Project

See the rest here

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Presumptuous Pompeo Pushes Preposterous ‘Peking’ Policy – Consortiumnews

Posted by M. C. on July 30, 2020

As a first-hand witness to much of this history, Freeman provided highly interesting and not so well-known detail mostly from the Chinese side. I chipped in with observations from my experience as CIA’s principal analyst for Sino-Soviet and broader Soviet foreign policy issues during the 1960s and early 1970s.

https://consortiumnews.com/2020/07/28/presumptuous-pompeo-pushes-preposterous-peking-policy/

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

Quick. Somebody tell Mike Pompeo. The secretary of state is not supposed to play the role of court jester — the laughing stock to the world. There was no sign that any of those listening to his “major China policy statement” last Thursday at the Nixon Library turned to their neighbor and said, “He’s kidding, right? Richard Nixon meant well but failed miserably to change China’s behavior? And now Pompeo is going to put them in their place?”

Yes, that was Pompeo’s message. The torch has now fallen to him and the free world. Here’s a sample of his rhetoric:

“Changing the behavior of the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] cannot be the mission of the Chinese people alone. Free nations have to work to defend freedom. …

“Beijing is more dependent on us than we are on them (sic). Look, I reject the notion … that CCP supremacy is the future … the free world is still winning. … It’s time for free nations to act … Every nation must protect its ideals from the tentacles of the Chinese Communist Party. … If we bend the knee now, our children’s children may be at the mercy of the Chinese Communist Party, whose actions are the primary challenge today in the free world. …

“We have the tools. I know we can do it. Now we need the will. To quote scripture, I ask is ‘our spirit willing but our flesh weak?’ … Securing our freedoms from the Chinese Communist Party is the mission of our time, and America is perfectly positioned to lead it because … our nation was founded on the premise that all human beings possess certain rights that are unalienable. And it’s our government’s job to secure those rights. It’s a simple and powerful truth. It’s made us a beacon of freedom for people all around the world, including people inside of China.

“Indeed, Richard Nixon was right when he wrote in 1967 that “the world cannot be safe until China changes.” Now it’s up to us to heed his words. … Today the free world must respond. …”

Trying to Make Sense of It

Over the weekend an informal colloquium-by-email took pace, spurred initially by an op-ed article by Richard Haass critiquing Pompeo’s speech. Haass has the dubious distinction of having been director of policy planning for the State Department from 2001 to 2003, during the lead-up to the attack on Iraq. Four months after the invasion he became president of the Council on Foreign Relations, a position he still holds. Despite that pedigree, the points Haass makes in “What Mike Pompeo doesn’t understand about China, Richard Nixon and U.S. foreign policy” are, for the most part, well taken.

Haass’s views served as a springboard over the weekend to an unusual discussion of Sino-Soviet and Sino-Russian relations I had with Ambassador Chas Freeman, the main interpreter for Nixon during his 1972 visit to China and who then served as U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1989 to 1992.

As a first-hand witness to much of this history, Freeman provided highly interesting and not so well-known detail mostly from the Chinese side. I chipped in with observations from my experience as CIA’s principal analyst for Sino-Soviet and broader Soviet foreign policy issues during the 1960s and early 1970s.

Ambassador Freeman: Read the rest of this entry »

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Our Foreign Policy Nightmare: Vice President Susan Rice | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on July 28, 2020

…investigative journalist Gareth Porter, in an interview with The American Conservative. Porter pointed to Rice’s influence on the Obama administration decision to bomb Libya and Syria, as well as her push for escalation in Afghanistan and her support of aid to the Syrian rebels. “In each case I would argue she was coming out either against Obama’s clear-cut instincts or preferences in White House meetings or in a situation where he was hesitant,” and that she was part of the pressure he received from “a coalition of hawks” in the administration.

Biden is the place holder for the next real progressive/war party choice. Will the VP candidate be Goldman Sachs real presidential choice?

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/our-foreign-policy-nightmare-vice-president-susan-rice/

Libya, Syria, Afghanistan—Rice was at the table for every Obama debacle. And she has no solid positions of her own.

US President Barack Obama, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice during a NATO summit on July 8, 2016 in Warsaw, Poland. (WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Susan Rice, former national security advisor to President Obama, is reportedly under consideration for the vice presidential slot in presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s administration. Biden is currently considering four black women to be his vice president, among them Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Rep. Val Demings of Florida, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Rep. Karen Bass of California, and Rice.

Biden said he will make his final decision in early August ahead of the Democratic National Convention which will take place in Milwaukee from Aug. 17 to 20.

All the women Biden is considering have had “some exposure to foreign policy and national defense issues,” Biden has said, and he wants someone who can serve as president at a “moment’s notice” and with whom he is “simpatico.”

Rice, whose office was next door to Biden’s during Obama’s second term, checks all those boxes.

“The most important attribute that I have is almost two decades of experience in senior ranks of the executive branch,” Rice told the Washington Post.

While VP contender Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) has been accused of planting negative stories about potential rivals in the media, Rice has been keeping her name in the news by writing regular op-eds in the New York Times and appearing on a spate of TV shows.

In The New York Times, Rice wrote that Trump “is utterly derelict in his duties, presiding over a dangerously dysfunctional national security process that is putting our country and those who wear its uniform at great risk. At worst, the White House is being run by liars and wimps catering to a tyrannical president who is actively advancing our arch adversary’s nefarious interests.”

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Rice accused Trump of “doing nothing” about Russian bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. On the “Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” she trashed Trump’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Obama administration gave the Trump administration a playbook for a possible pandemic, Rice said, and she personally participated in a tabletop exercise with the incoming Trump cabinet where they discussed the possibility of “a novel SARS-like virus emerging from China,” said Rice.

All that preparation, she said, “seemed to be for naught, because a couple of years into office, President Trump dismantled the office that I set up on global health security; they trashed that playbook or stuck it in some drawer, some shelf and never pulled it out. For two months, January, February and part of March, [Trump] really denied the reality of this virus, equated it to the seasonal flu … and by that time, it was already well-embedded in our country.”

Whether it’s due to her strengths as a potential VP candidate or her criticism, Rice’s reappearance on the national stage earned the Trump administration’s ire, and senior Trump officials have returned fire. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed Rice on Fox News for what he called her “history of going on Sunday shows and lying;” this week, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Rice had issued a “stand down” order on Russian cyber attacks and did nothing to combat Russian election meddling.

Rice may be about to reprise her role as “the right’s favorite chew toy,” as one commentator dubbed her back in 2012.

Following the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, Rice appeared on the Sunday morning talk shows and recited CIA talking points. Those points, which were based on intelligence assessments at the time, turned out to be incomplete and misleading, and Rice was accused of being “incompetent,” “untrustworthy,” and soft-pedaling terrorism. She has also been criticized for her decision to unmask the identities of senior Trump officials, which President Trump called a crime.

Rice, who was Obama’s national security advisor at the time, told House investigators that she asked for the unmasking in order to understand why the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates was in New York late in 2016. Her explanation satisfied influential Republicans on the House committee that investigated.

“I didn’t hear anything to believe that she did anything illegal,” Florida Republican Rep. Tom Rooney told CNN of Rice’s testimony, which is classified.

Although it was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, not Rice, who played the lead role in the decisions that led to the Benghazi attacks, Rice has been widely panned in conservative media as responsible for the embassy attack. A Biden selection would give Republicans an opportunity to resurrect Rice as their bogey-woman. But with Democrat voters, there’s a possibility those attacks could backfire, and the left could spin them as Fox News baselessly attacking a blameless black woman.

Whether Rice is chosen as Biden’s vice presidential pick or not, she will likely have a great deal of influence within a Biden administration, particularly on foreign policy. She had a seat at the table during some of the Obama administration’s most momentous decisions. She was Obama’s ambassador to the UN during his first term; during his second, she served as national security adviser. What, if any, lessons did she learn?

What would U.S. foreign policy look like with Biden and Rice working in the West Wing again?

“Even if she is not chosen as Biden’s VP, Rice would be in line for Secretary of State, or another position of that elevated nature. I’m aghast at the thought of her becoming president, because she’s such a hawk,” said historian and investigative journalist Gareth Porter, in an interview with The American Conservative. Porter pointed to Rice’s influence on the Obama administration decision to bomb Libya and Syria, as well as her push for escalation in Afghanistan and her support of aid to the Syrian rebels. “In each case I would argue she was coming out either against Obama’s clear-cut instincts or preferences in White House meetings or in a situation where he was hesitant,” and that she was part of the pressure he received from “a coalition of hawks” in the administration.

Obama ultimately overruled Rice on Syria, a decision that she says was the right call.

Here’s how she describes it:

“Ultimately, we would fail to garner the necessary support for a congressional authorization to use force. Republicans and Democrats had acted precisely as I predicted. Ironically, it turns out, I was right about the politics; but President Obama was right about the policy. Without the use of force, we ultimately achieved a better outcome than I had imagined.”

It is difficult to imagine a situation worse than Syria, where nearly half a million have died in a civil war that has been ongoing since 2011.

This incident is illustrative; has Rice learned from her mistakes?

Her nearly 500 page memoir Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For, published in 2019, meticulously documents a great deal. Rice is careful to thank nearly everyone she ever worked with, including the White House chef!

Unfortunately, she studiously avoids drawing overarching policy conclusions. Rice, a Stanford graduate and Rhodes scholar with a Ph.D. in international relations, is simply too smart to jeopardize her future Washington career ambitions by offending or criticizing anyone she might have to work with again. Her book is, therefore, a typical one by someone hoping for a position in a future president’s administration.

“Susan Rice is right in the middle of the road, when you think about foreign policy hands in DC,” said John Glaser, director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, in an interview with The American Conservative. “She has a lot of high level experience in foreign policy, but I’ve never been able to detect a way she stands out as a unique thinker, in that she had something to say about the way she’d prefer the U.S. to go. She says things that are plastic, packaged to be right in the center of the foreign policy consensus in D.C. That’s how I see her: run of the mill, not an extraordinary pick … If she were VP, our foreign policy would not be different than what we’ve seen the past 30 years.”

Given that Biden is campaigning on a “return to normalcy,” the foreign policy of the last 30 years isn’t necessarily something that Biden views negatively.

A Biden-Rice presidency would seek a return to the Paris climate accords, the JCPOA Iran deal negotiated during Obama’s second term, and would expand and strengthen NATO. They would likely avoid engaging in any new ground wars like Libya or Syria. Biden and Rice would be more hawkish on Russia, and if Rice’s latest op-eds are any measure, they would likely be more assertive with China as well.

“But, I worry that at the end of a Biden administration, we will still be arguing about getting out of Afghanistan, and (about) stopping the bombing of places like Iraq,” Glaser said.

about the author

Barbara Boland is TAC’s foreign policy and national security reporter. Previously, she worked as an editor for the Washington Examiner and for CNS News. She is the author of Patton Uncovered, a book about General George Patton in World War II, and her work has appeared on Fox News, The Hill UK Spectator, and elsewhere. Boland is a graduate from Immaculata University in Pennsylvania.  Follow her on Twitter @BBatDC.

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The Evil, Immoral, Vicious, and Hypocritical Embargo Against Cuba – The Future of Freedom Foundation

Posted by M. C. on July 24, 2020

A dark irony, of course, is that the embargo has enabled the U.S. government to wield and exercise the same type of economic control over the American people that the Cuban socialist regime exercises over the Cuban people. It’s called adopting socialism to oppose socialism.

https://www.fff.org/2020/07/20/the-evil-immoral-vicious-and-hypocritical-embargo-against-cuba/?utm_source=FFF%2BDaily&utm_campaign=ddd8480a92-FFF%2BDaily%2B07-20-2020&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1139d80dff-ddd8480a92-317323329

by

The banality of evil that characterizes the U.S. national security state is demonstrated perfectly by the continuation of its deadly economic embargo against Cuba, which has been ongoing for some 60 years.

What’s the point of the embargo? After all, the Pentagon’s, CIA’s, and NSA’s official enemy Fidel Castro died years ago. Why continue to intentionally inflict harm on the Cuban people?

And make no mistake about it: Inflicting harm on the Cuban people is the purpose of the embargo. Its aim is to impoverish or starve Cubans into ousting their post-Castro regime and installing another pro-U.S. right-wing brutal dictatorship similar to the one that Castro ousted from power in the Cuban revolution.

In fact, the first embargo that the U.S. implemented against Cuba was during the reign of the crooked, corrupt, and brutal pro-U.S. right-wing dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. That was an arms embargo. U.S. officials didn’t want weaponry imported into Cuba because that might enable the Cuban people to oppose Batista in a violent revolution.

During his reign, Batista partnered with the Mafia, the premier criminal organization that was smuggling drugs into the United States. As part of their partnership agreement, Batista let the Mafia operate gambling casinos in Cuba. As part of that cozy relationship, Batista would have his henchmen kidnap underaged girls in Cuba and turn them over to the Mafia, which would then provide them as perks to the high-rollers in its casinos. That’s one of the things that brought on the Cuban Revolution.

That’s the guy that the U.S. national-security state was hell-bent on keeping in power. Thus, it should surprise no one that the CIA, like Batista, later entered into partnership with the Mafia, knowing full well that the Mafia was engaged in massive criminal activity. The purpose of the CIA-Mafia partnership was assassination. They were working together to assassinate Castro.

It stands to reason that the Mafia would try to assassinate Castro. It has lost all its casinos to Castro’s nationalization. And it was in the business of killing people.

But the U.S. government? In the business of murder? And in partnership with the biggest criminal organization in the world?

Don’t forget something important here: Castro, Cuba, and the Cuban people have never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so. No invasion. No terrorist attacks. No assassinations.

In fact, it has always been the other way around. In the more than six decades of bad relations between Cuba and the U.S., it has always been the U.S. government that has been the aggressor. An invasion, terrorist attacks, assassination attempts, and the embargo, all on the part of the U.S. government.

U.S. national-security state officials always justified such actions under the notion that Cuba was the spearhead of a worldwide communist conspiracy to take over the United States, one that was supposedly based in Moscow. It was always a ridiculous notion but that was the mindset of CIA, NSA, and Pentagon officials during the Cold War — that Cuba’s communist regime posed a grave threat to U.S. “national security.”

But the Cold War ended more than 30 years ago. Do the CIA, NSA, and Pentagon still think that the United States is in danger of falling to the Cuban communists?

Of course not. Now, it’s just sheer viciousness. Now, it’s just a matter of doing everything possible to oust the current regime in Cuba from power and restoring a Batista-like dictatorship, one that will be loyal and deferential to the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA.

The viciousness is demonstrated by the fact that the embargo doesn’t just criminalize Americans who do business with Cuba. It also targets foreign companies who do so. If they are caught doing so, they are targeted for prosecution or economic banishment here in the United States. In the minds of U.S. officials, it’s more imperative than ever to squeeze as many Cubans as possible into death and suffering.

Needless to say, the embargo has made things significantly worse for the Cuban people during the COVID-19 crisis. That’s fine with U.S. officials. The more Cubans who die, the greater the chance of an internal regime-change operation.

Sure, there is no doubt that Cuba’s socialist economic system is a major factor in the economic suffering of the Cuban people. But there is also no doubt that the U.S. embargo has served as the other side of a vise that has squeezed the economic lifeblood out of the Cuban people.

A dark irony, of course, is that the embargo has enabled the U.S. government to wield and exercise the same type of economic control over the American people that the Cuban socialist regime exercises over the Cuban people. It’s called adopting socialism to oppose socialism.

When will the evil, immoral, vicious, and hypocritical U.S. embargo against Cuba be lifted? When a critical mass of the American people, including those who go to church every Sunday, have a crisis of conscience and demand that it be lifted.


This post was written by:

 

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.

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Is Thinking Cancelled? – Kunstler

Posted by M. C. on July 21, 2020

The mayors of New York, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, Minneapolis, Portland, Atlanta, and Washington DC have all allowed rioting, looting, property destruction, and arson to reign in their streets, and entertained measures to defund and hogtie the police, or abolish them altogether. These are all Democratic Party-controlled cities with Democratic mayors.

Do you suppose that voters have had a good look at these scenes and concluded that the Democratic Party is perhaps uninterested in civil order? And for what purpose, exactly? Does it reflect badly on President Trump…

https://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/is-thinking-cancelled/

James Howard Kunstler

Everything’s in play now. Consensual reality is on the run — the old certainties of US history and the receding promises of the future sink into a fiery sludge of the corona virus present. Things happen without apparent consequence. Authority is on the lam. Coercion stalks the land rooting out thought-crime. Fantasies and delusions rush into the space that reason has vacated in fear of its life. Maybe better not think at all. But you can’t help it, can you? To be human is to be dogged by your own thoughts.

One thought I can’t help thinking is that the failure to resolve the dishonest operations of RussiaGate is a big part of what drove authority and responsibility, those two sentinels of sanity, AWOL. The crimes of officers in the FBI, DOJ, CIA, and other agencies go unadjudicated while clear evidence of their seditious misdeeds has been publicly documented and widely published. It seems as if this great matter of attempting to overthrow the president has come down to the sheer will of William Barr and John Durham daring to ignite the engines of consequence, and you wonder if they have any idea how their stalling damages the national psyche.

General Flynn, the American Dreyfus, remains twisting slowly in the wind despite the DOJ dropping charges against him. Judge Emmet Sullivan is busy destroying the credibility and authority of the federal bench with bad faith procedural shenanigans underwritten by Ben Wittes’s Lawfare claque of Beltway shysters maneuvering in the background to protect Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Is it not past time for the DC Circuit Court of Appeals to force Judge Sullivan to end the case, or admonish and remove him?

Beyond all the legalese bullshit, an innocent man’s life is stuck unfairly and unjustly in limbo after three years of a malicious prosecution. Why has the attorney general not preferred charges against Gen. Flynn’s chief prosecutor, Brandon Van Grack — or, for that matter, against Robert Mueller, Andrew Weissmann and the whole Special Counsel staff — for withholding evidence and plenty of other obvious prosecutorial mischief? Mr. Barr has stated plainly more than once that the agency he took charge over in 2019 “us[ed] the criminal justice process as a political weapon.” Is that against the law or not? Does it injure this society to leave that question unanswered, month after month?

In a better society, the newspapers would have rushed to Gen. Flynn’s defense. Except our leading newspapers are so vested in years of their own untruth that they don’t dare to cover the story. Where is the consequence for Dean Baquet, editor of The New York Times, since Times staffer Bari Weiss disclosed his failure to control the ideological bullying, coercion, and hostility to fair play in his newsroom?  Mr. Baquet has not just wrecked an institution; he’s made the whole business of covering reality look like a hustle. Does The New York Times’s board of directors not care about its reputation? Maybe the message is: why should anyone care about his or her reputation? And what kind of culture grows out of that code?

The mayors of New York, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, Minneapolis, Portland, Atlanta, and Washington DC have all allowed rioting, looting, property destruction, and arson to reign in their streets, and entertained measures to defund and hogtie the police, or abolish them altogether. These are all Democratic Party-controlled cities with Democratic mayors.

Do you suppose that voters have had a good look at these scenes and concluded that the Democratic Party is perhaps uninterested in civil order? And for what purpose, exactly? Does it reflect badly on President Trump that the murder rate under Bill de Blasio and Lori Lightfoot is suddenly off-the-charts while they are busy undermining police authority and its ability to protect the public? What do you make of St. Louis Chief Prosecutor (effectively DA) Kim Gardner moving to prosecute Mark and Patricia McCloskey for defending their house against a mob that threatened to burn it down? Missouri governor Mike Parson declared over the weekend that he’ll pardon the couple in short order if they are charged — at last, an unequivocal and decisive action on behalf of sanity.

There will be a whole lot more in the way of real-life problems to make the American people crazy in the months ahead. We have not even cleared up the affronts to decency and reason that happened before the corona virus landed and began destroying millions of lives and livelihoods. The siren call from anarchy is already blaring. Is there anything about this republic that you think is worth defending? Is thinking cancelled?

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RAY McGOVERN: Powell & Iraq—The Uses and Abuses of National Intelligence Estimates – Consortiumnews

Posted by M. C. on July 20, 2020

https://consortiumnews.com/2020/07/18/ray-mcgovern-powell-iraq-the-uses-and-abuses-of-national-intelligence-estimates/

By Ray McGovern

The New York Times Magazine on Friday posted “Colin Powell Still Wants Answers,” a long article by Robert Draper to appear in Sunday’s edition. The article is based on Draper’s upcoming book, To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America Into Iraq.

Google Books calls it “the definitive, revelatory reckoning with arguably the most consequential decision in the history of American foreign policy.” I can hardly wait.

Meanwhile, Draper’s article focuses on then Secretary of State Powell and his UN speech of Feb. 5, 2003 and the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) upon which it is largely based. A lot of the detail will be new to most readers, not very much new to Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, which had been established a month before. VIPS watched the speech, dissected it, and sent their verdict to President George W. Bush before close of business that same afternoon

We gave Powell a charitable grade of “C”, faulting him for, inter alia, not providing needed context and perspective. We should have flunked him outright.

Draper describes how, despite CIA’s strong effort to please, the “case” the agency made for war on Iraq, using such evidence as there was on weapons of mass destruction, was deemed not alarmist enough for Vice President Dick Cheney and other administration hawks.

Specifically, the hawks were dissatisfied with the evidence-light, but-alarmist (term of art used was “leaning forward”) Pentagon and White House briefings by CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin in late Dec. 2002 on WMD in Iraq. The hawks started to look elsewhere, since not all senior officials (including Powell) appeared to be “with the program.”

Draper reports that Powell ordered Carl Ford, director of the widely respected State Department Intelligence Unit (INR), to review the bidding regarding biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. Ford’s analysts strongly disputed many of the key assertions from the usual suspects — particularly those coming from non-intelligence, war-friendly bureaucrats enlisted to support the war-lust proclivities of Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Powell’s chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, was also spending an inordinate amount of time batting away unsourced and dubious-sourced assertions from Cheney-ites, so Powell finally told Wilkerson to start drafting from scratch.

Here’s where it gets interesting; here is where a little history and inside-baseball intelligence experience comes in handy. Draper quotes Powell: “It was George Tenet who came to the rescue.”

CIA Director Tenet suggested basing a new draft on the National Intelligence Estimate of Oct. 1, 2002, “Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction.” That had immense appeal to Tenet and others who had been co-opted into “leaning forward” to facilitate a Bush/Cheney war on Iraq. Indeed, one can assume it had appeal to most of those involved in Powell’s speech preparation, given that the Security Council briefing was but a handful of days away.

I have been referring to that NIE, advisedly, as The Whore of Babylon, wrong on every major accusation about WMD in Iraq. I speak from experience at the CIA as a former chair of National Intelligence Estimates. This one was prepared not to determine the truth, but rather to “justify” a preemptive war on Iraq, where there was nothing to preempt.

To their credit, State/INR analysts had expressed formal dissent from some of its main conclusions back in September 2002.

No, it is not possible that Powell could have been unaware of that. And it is not difficult to explain why Powell chose to spurn his own intelligence analysts, despite their relatively solid reputation. I will resist the temptation to guess at Powell’s motivation, even though I have had some considerable experience with him. Back in the day, we used to spend a few minutes comparing notes before my one-on-one morning briefings of his boss, Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger, with The President’s Daily Brief.

I am not surprised, though, as Draper quotes Powell explaining his decision to stay in place as secretary of state and to do what he was told: “I knew I didn’t have any choice. He’s the President.” Draper adds that, “although Powell would not admit it, Bush’s request that he be the one to make the case against Hussein to the U.N. was enormously flattering. Cheney took a more direct approach: ‘The Vice President said to me: “You’re the most popular man in America. Do something with that popularity.””

The All-Purpose NIE on Iraqi WMD

Draper describes INR’s Director Ford as “heartsick” watching Powell on TV before the UN Security Council. Ford’s chagrin was widely shared among serious intelligence analysts — as well as by us alumni watching the prostitution of what had been our tell-it-like-it-is intelligence analysis profession. But there the National Intelligence Estimate was for plucking — an intelligence community-endorsed consensus already “on the books” — and with drafting time running out.

Admittedly, this would be a far cry from starting “from scratch.” Rather, it became a case of “garbage in, garbage out.” Draper names the intelligence garbagemen: CIA Director Tenet, his deputy McLaughlin, the chair of the NIE Robert Walpole, for example. They were out and out guilty of fixing the NIE in the first place and then its derivative that Powell briefed in open session to Security Council. No, these were not innocent mistakes. The intelligence was fraudulent from the get-go.

I am not making this up. Read the rest of this entry »

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Watch “Unleashing The Beast: How Trump Green-Lit CIA Global Secret War” on YouTube

Posted by M. C. on July 16, 2020

23:00 Moderna vaccine trials running 50% adverse reactions.

No thank you.

Also, past CDC report says masks ineffective in blocking influenza transmission.

 

Be seeing you

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Rise of Another CIA Yes Man – Consortium News

Posted by M. C. on July 16, 2020

You asked if I knew Morell and what he is like. I do; you nailed it.

The only moment of discomfort is when you use Tenet as a compass point for the actual truth. Because, of course, Tenet often has his own version of the facts.

https://consortiumnews.com/2011/08/29/rise-of-another-cia-yes-man/

Exclusive: The gross manipulation of CIA analysis under George W. Bush pushed a new generation of “yes men” into the agency’s top ranks. Now one of those aspiring bureaucrats will be Gen. David Petraeus’s right-hand man, writes ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern. (Also, at end of article, see special comments from several CIA insiders.)

By Ray McGovern

As Gen. David Petraeus prepares to take the helm at CIA in September, he can expect unswerving loyalty from his likely deputy, Michael Morell, who has been acting director since July when Leon Panetta left to become Secretary of Defense.

Like many senior CIA officials in recent years, Morell’s record is checkered, at best. He held key jobs in intelligence analysis over the past decade as the CIA often served as a handmaiden to the war propagandists.

As for Michael Morell, as with many other successful CIA careerists, his strongest suit seemed to be pleasing his boss and not antagonizing the White House. If past is precedent, his loyalty will be to Petraeus, not necessarily to the truth.

Forgive me if my thinking about loyalty to the facts seems “obsolete” or “quaint” or if it seems unfair to expect CIA analysts to put their careers on the line when politicians and ideologues are misleading the nation to war but those were the principles that analysts of my generation tried to uphold.

The recent tendency at CIA to give politicians what they want to hear rather than the hard truth is not healthy for the Republic that we were all sworn to serve.

And, if Petraeus’s own past is precedent, loyalty to the four-star general will not always be synonymous with loyalty to the truth.

Burnishing an Image

However, you will get no indication of this troubling reality from the flattering, but thin, feature about Michael Morell, “Mr. Insider Will Guide Petraeus at the CIA,” by Siobhan Gorman in the Wall Street Journal on Aug. 26.

Gorman is normally a solid reporter; but either she did not perform due diligence and let herself be snookered, or her editors stepped in to ensure her story was consonant with the image Petraeus and the Establishment wish to create for Morell.

Before her “rare” interview with Morell, Gorman should have taken a close look at former CIA Director George Tenet’s memoir, At the Center of the Storm, to learn what Tenet says about Morell’s record during the last decade’s dark days of misleading and dishonest intelligence.

In Tenet’s personal account of the CIA’s failures around 9/11 and the Iraq War, Morell Tenet’s former executive assistant is generally treated kindly, but Tenet puts Morell at the center of two key fiascoes: he “coordinated the CIA review” of Secretary of State Colin Powell’s infamous Feb. 5, 2003 address to the United Nations and he served as the regular CIA briefer to President George W. Bush.

Putting Access Before Honesty

So, Morell was there as Bush blew off early CIA warnings about the possibility of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden being “determined to strike in the US” and while Bush and his neoconservative inner circle were concocting intelligence to justify invading Iraq.

Tenet credits Morell with suggesting to analysts that they prepare a report on the terrorist threat, which became the President’s Daily Brief that was handed to Bush on Aug. 6, 2001, at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Bush brushed aside the warning with a reported comment to the CIA briefer, “all right, you’ve covered your ass,” and went off fishing.

Though Tenet said Morell got along well with Bush, it appears the President didn’t pay much heed to any CIA information coming from Morell, at least not anything that went against what Bush wanted to hear nor did Morell seem to risk offending the President by pushing these contrary points.

After the Aug. 6 PDB was delivered, Tenet wrote that he needed to follow it up, and did so with a trip to Crawford 11 days later, when Tenet remembers Bush driving him around in a pickup truck as Tenet made “small talk about the flora and fauna.”

Morell also was the CIA briefer with Bush in Florida on the morning of 9/11 when news arrived about the attacks on New York City’s Twin Towers. Later, Bush told Morell “that if we [the CIA] learned anything definitive about the attack, he wanted to be the first to know,” Tenet wrote, adding:

“Wiry, youthful looking, and extremely bright, Mike speaks in staccato-like bursts that get to the bottom line very quickly. He and George Bush had hit it off almost immediately. In a crisis like this, Mike was the perfect guy for us to have by the commander-in-chief’s side.”

However, it appears Morell was not willing to risk his rapport with Bush by challenging the President’s desire to pivot from retaliatory strikes against Afghanistan to a full-scale invasion of Iraq based on false and misleading intelligence.

Tenet also described Morell’s role in organizing the review of the “intelligence” that went into Powell’s speech, which let slip the dogs of war by presenting a thoroughly deceptive account of the Iraqi threat, what Powell later called a “blot” on his record.

Though the CIA embraced many of Powell’s misleading assertions, Tenet recounted one exchange in which Morell stood up to John Hannah, an aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, regarding Iraq’s alleged efforts to obtain yellowcake uranium from Niger.

“Hannah asked Mike Morell, who was coordinating the review of the speech for CIA, why the Niger uranium story wasn’t in the latest draft,” Tenet wrote. “‘Because we don’t believe it,’ Mike told him. ‘I thought you did,’ Hannah said. After much wrangling and precious time lost in explaining our doubts, Hannah understood why we believed it was inappropriate for Colin to use the Niger material in his speech.”

Despite that one pushback, the CIA analysts mostly bent to pressures coming from the White House for an alarmist treatment of allegations about the “weapons of mass destruction,” which turned out not to be in Iraq.

Of the CIA’s finished intelligence product, it was reportedly the PDB delivered by Morell that most exaggerated the danger.

Not Mistaken, Dishonest Read the rest of this entry »

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How the Pentagon failed to sell Afghan government’s bunk ‘Bountygate’ story to US intelligence agencies  | The Grayzone

Posted by M. C. on July 11, 2020

The Times reported first on June 28, then again on June 30, that a large amount of cash found at a “Taliban outpost” or a “Taliban site” had led U.S. intelligence to suspect the Russian plot.  But the Times had to walk that claim back, revealing on July 1 that the raid that turned up $500,000 in cash had in fact targeted the Kabul home of Rahmatullah Azizi, an Afghan businessmen said to have been involved in both drug trafficking and contracting for part of the billions of dollars the United States spent on construction projects.

https://thegrayzone.com/2020/07/07/pentagon-afghan-bountygate-us-intelligence-agencies/

Another New York Times Russiagate bombshell turns out to be a dud, as dodgy stories spun out by Afghan intelligence and exploited by the Pentagon ultimately failed to convince US intelligence agencies.

By Gareth Porter

The New York Times dropped another Russiagate bombshell on June 26 with a sensational front-page story headlined, “Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops, Intelligence Says.”  A predictable media and political frenzy followed, reviving the anti-Russian hysteria that has excited the Beltway establishment for the past four years.

But a closer look at the reporting by the Times and other mainstream outlets vying to confirm its coverage reveals another scandal not unlike Russiagate itself: the core elements of the story appear to have been fabricated by Afghan government intelligence to derail a potential US troop withdrawal from the country. And they were leaked to the Times and other outlets by US national security state officials who shared an agenda with their Afghan allies.

In the days following the story’s publication, the maneuvers of the Afghan regime and US national security bureaucracy encountered an unexpected political obstacle: US intelligence agencies began offering a series of low confidence assessments in the Afghan government’s self-interested intelligence claims, judging them to be highly suspect at best, and altogether bogus at worst.

In light of this dramatic development, the Times’ initial report appears to have been the product of a sensationalistic disinformation dump aimed at prolonging the failed Afghan war in the face of President Donald Trump’s plans to withdraw US troops from it.

The Times quietly reveals its own sources’ falsehoods

The Times not only broke the Bountygate story but commissioned squads of reporters comprising nine different correspondents to write eight articles hyping the supposed scandal in the course of eight days. Its coverage displayed the paper’s usual habit of regurgitating bits of dubious information furnished to its correspondents by faceless national security sources. In the days after the Times’ dramatic publication, its correspondent squads were forced to revise the story line to correct an account that ultimately turned out to be false on practically every important point.

The Bountygate saga began on June 26, with a Times report declaring, “The United States concluded months ago” that the Russians “had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year.” The report suggested that US intelligence analysts had reached a firm conclusion on Russian bounties as early as January. A follow-up Times report portrayed the shocking discovery of the lurid Russian plot thanks to the recovery of a large amount of U.S. cash from a “raid on a Taliban outpost.” That article sourced its claim to the interrogations of “captured Afghan militants and criminals.”

However, subsequent reporting revealed that the “US intelligence reports” about a Russian plot to distribute bounties through Afghan middlemen were not generated by US intelligence at all.

The Times reported first on June 28, then again on June 30, that a large amount of cash found at a “Taliban outpost” or a “Taliban site” had led U.S. intelligence to suspect the Russian plot.  But the Times had to walk that claim back, revealing on July 1 that the raid that turned up $500,000 in cash had in fact targeted the Kabul home of Rahmatullah Azizi, an Afghan businessmen said to have been involved in both drug trafficking and contracting for part of the billions of dollars the United States spent on construction projects.

The Times also disclosed that the information provided by “captured militants and criminals” under “interrogation” had been the main source of suspicion of a Russian bounty scheme in Afghanistan. But those “militants and criminals” turned out to be thirteen relatives and business associates of the businessman whose house was raided.

The Times reported that those detainees were arrested and interrogated following the January 2020 raids based on suspicions by Afghan intelligence that they belonged to a “ring of middlemen” operating between the Russian GRU and so-called “Taliban-linked militants,” as Afghan sources made clear.

Furthermore, contrary to the initial report by the Times, those raids had actually been carried out exclusively by the Afghan intelligence service known as the National Directorate of Security (NDS). The Times disclosed this on July 1. Indeed, the interrogation of those detained in the raids was carried out by the NDS, which explains why the Times reporting referred repeatedly to “interrogations” without ever explaining who actually did the questioning.

Given the notorious record of the NDS, it must be assumed that its interrogators used torture or at least the threat of it to obtain accounts from the detainees that would support the Afghan government’s narrative. Both the Toronto Globe and Mail and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) have documented as recently as 2019 the frequent use of torture by the NDS to obtain information from detainees.  The primary objective of the NDS was to establish an air of plausibility around the claim that the fugitive businessman Azizi was the main “middleman” for a purported GRU scheme to offer bounties for killing Americans.

NDS clearly fashioned its story to suit the sensibilities of the U.S. national security state. The narrative echoed previous intelligence reports about Russian bounties in Afghanistan that circulated in early 2019, and which were even discussed at NSC meetings. Nothing was done about these reports, however, because nothing had been confirmed.

The idea that hardcore Taliban fighters needed or wanted foreign money to kill American invaders could have been dismissed on its face. So Afghan officials spun out claims that Russian bounties were paid to incentivize violence by “militants and criminals” supposedly “linked” to the Taliban.

These elements zeroed in on the April 2019 IED attack on a vehicle near the U.S. military base at Bagram in Parwan province that killed three US Marines, insisting that the Taliban had paid local criminal networks in the region to carry out attacks.

As former Parwan police chief Gen. Zaman Mamozai told the Times, Taliban commanders were based in only two of the province’s ten districts, forcing them to depend on a wider network of non-Taliban killers-for-hire to carry out attacks elsewhere in the province. These areas included the region around Bagram, according to the Afghan government’s argument.

But Dr. Thomas H. Johnson of the Naval Postgraduate School, a leading expert on insurgency and counter-insurgency in Afghanistan who has been researching war in the country for three decades,  dismissed the idea that the Taliban would need a criminal network to operate effectively in Parwan.

“The Taliban are all over Parwan,” Johnson stated in an interview with The Grayzone, observing that its fighters had repeatedly carried out attacks on or near the Bagram base throughout the war.

With withdrawal looming, the national security state plays its Bountygate card

Senior U.S. national security officials had clear ulterior motives for embracing the dubious NDS narrative. More than anything, those officials were determined to scuttle Trump’s push for a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan. For Pentagon brass and civilian leadership, the fear of withdrawal became more acute in early 2020 as Trump began to demand an even more rapid timetable for a complete pullout than the 12-14 months being negotiated with the Taliban.

It was little surprise then that this element leapt at the opportunity to exploit the self-interested claims by the Afghan NDS to serve its own agenda, especially as the November election loomed. The Times even cited one “senior [US] official” musing that “the evidence about Russia could have threatened that [Afghanistan] deal, because it suggested that after eighteen year of war, Mr. Trump was letting Russia chase the last American troops out of the country.”

In fact, the intelligence reporting from the CIA Station in Kabul on the NDS Russia bounty claims was included in the Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) on or about February 27 — just as the negotiation of the U.S. peace agreement with the Taliban was about to be signed. That was too late to prevent the signing but timed well enough to ratchet up pressure on Trump to back away from his threat to pull all US troops out of Afghanistan.

Trump may have been briefed orally on the issue at the time, but even if he had not been, the presence of a summary description of the intelligence in the PDB could obviously have been used to embarrass him on Afghanistan by leaking it to the media.

According to Ray McGovern, a former CIA official who was responsible for preparing the PDB for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, the insertion of raw, unconfirmed intelligence from a self-interested Afghan intelligence agency into the PDB was a departure from normal practice.

Unless it was a two or three-sentence summary of a current intelligence report, McGovern explained, an item in the PDB normally involved only important intelligence that had been confirmed.  Furthermore, according to McGovern, PDB items are normally shorter versions of items prepared the same day as part of the CIA’s “World Intelligence Review” or “WIRe.”

Information about the purported Russian bounty scheme, however, was not part of the WIRe until May 4, well over two months later, according to the Times. That discrepancy added weight to the suggestion that the CIA had political motivations for planting the raw NDS reporting in the PDB before it could be evaluated.

This June, Trump’s National Security Council (NSC) convened a meeting to discuss the intelligence report, officials told the Times. NSC members drew up a range of options in response to the alleged Russian plot, from a diplomatic protest to more forceful responses. Any public indication that US troops in Afghanistan had been targeted by Russian spies would have inevitably threatened Trump’s plan for withdrawal from Afghanistan.

At some point in the weeks that followed, the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency each undertook evaluations of the Afghan intelligence claims. Once the Times began publishing stories about the issue, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe directed the National Intelligence Council, which is responsible for managing all common intelligence community assessments, to write a memorandum summarizing the intelligence organizations’ conclusions.

The memorandum revealed that the intelligence agencies were not impressed with what they’d seen. The CIA and National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC) each gave the NDS intelligence an assessment of “moderate confidence,” according to memorandum.

An official guide to intelligence community terminology used by policymakers to determine how much they should rely on assessments indicates that “moderate confidence” generally indicates that “the information being used in the analysis may be interpreted in various ways….” It was hardly a ringing endorsement of the NDS intelligence when the CIA and NCTC arrived at this finding.

The assessment by the National Security Agency was even more important, given that it had obtained intercepts of electronic data on financial transfers “from a bank account controlled by Russia’s military intelligence agency to a Taliban-linked account,” according to the Times’ sources.  But the NSA evidently had no idea what the transfers related to, and essentially disavowed the information from the Afghan intelligence agency.

The NIC memorandum reported that NSA gave the information from Afghan intelligence “low confidence” — the lowest of the three possible levels of confidence used in the intelligence community.  According to the official guide to intelligence community terminology, that meant that “information used in the analysis is scant, questionable, fragmented, or that solid analytical conclusions cannot be inferred from the information.”

Other intelligence agencies reportedly assigned “low confidence” to the information as well, according to the memorandum. Even the Defense Intelligence Agency, known for its tendency to issue alarmist warnings about activities by US adversaries, found no evidence in the material linking the Kremlin to any bounty offers.

Less than two weeks after the Times rolled out its supposed bombshell on Russian bounties, relying entirely on national security officials pushing their own bureaucratic interests on Afghanistan, the story was effectively discredited by the intelligence community itself. In a healthy political climate, this would have produced a major setback for the elements determined to keep US troops entrenched in Afghanistan.

But the political hysteria generated by the Times and the hyper-partisan elements triggered by the appearance of another sordid Trump-Putin connection easily overwhelmed the countervailing facts. It was all the Pentagon and its bureaucratic allies needed to push back on plans for a speedy withdrawal from a long and costly war.

Gareth Porter

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist who has covered national security policy since 2005 and was the recipient of Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in 2012.  His most recent book is The CIA Insider’s Guide to the Iran Crisis co-authored with John Kiriakou, just published in February.

 

 

 

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The CIA Can’t Protect Its Own Hacking Tools. Why Should We Trust Government Privacy and Security Proposals? – Reason.com

Posted by M. C. on June 24, 2020

It gets worse. Because the CIA servers lacked activity monitoring and audit capabilities, the agency did not even realize it was hacked until Wikileaks publicly announced it in March of 2017.

https://reason.com/2020/06/23/the-cia-cant-protect-its-own-hacking-tools-why-should-we-trust-government-privacy-and-security-proposals/

The very idea that our intelligence agencies could keep encryption bypasses secret is absurd.

We are often told that law enforcement must have a way to get around strong encryption technologies in order to catch bad guys. Such a “backdoor” into security techniques would only be used when necessary and would be closely guarded so it would not fall into the wrong hands, the story goes.

The intelligence community does not yet have a known custom-built backdoor into encryption. But intelligence agencies do hold a trove of publicly unknown vulnerabilities, called “zero days,” they use to obtain hard-to-get data. One would hope that government agencies, especially those explicitly dedicated to security, could adequately protect these potent weapons.

A recently released 2017 DOJ investigation into a breach of the CIA Center for Cyber Intelligence’s (CCI) “Vault 7” hacking tools publicized in 2016 suggests that might be too big of an ask. Not only was the CCI found to be more interested in “building up cyber tools than keeping them secure,” the nation’s top spy agency routinely made rookie security mistakes that ultimately allowed personnel to leak the goods to Wikileaks.

The released portions of the report are frankly embarrassing. The CCI cyber arsenal was not appropriately compartmentalized, users routinely shared admin-level passwords without oversight, there seemed to be little controls over what content users could access, and data was stored and available to all users indefinitely. No wonder there was a breach.

It gets worse. Because the CIA servers lacked activity monitoring and audit capabilities, the agency did not even realize it was hacked until Wikileaks publicly announced it in March of 2017. As the report notes, if the hack was the result of a hostile foreign government like, say, China, the CIA might still be in the dark about the hack. Might there be other unknown breaches that fit this bill?

The report recommended several measures the CIA should take to shore up its internal defenses. Among the few that were not redacted: do a better job of protecting zero days and vetting personnel. Okay, so don’t make all of the same mistakes again: got it.

Well, it looks like even this goal was too ambitious for the CIA. Intelligence gadfly Sen. Ron Wyden (D–Ore.), who first publicized the report, wrote a letter Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe stating that “the intelligence community is still lagging behind” three years after the report was first published. He demanded public answers for outstanding security problems in the intelligence community, such as a lack of basic practices like multi-factor and email authentication protocols.

What a snafu. It is absurd enough that the CIA of all places cannot even implement basic password protection programs. But when intelligence hacking units cannot even manage to protect its own hacking tools, our troubles multiply.

The CIA is unfortunately not uniquely incompetent among the intelligence community. The National Security Agency (NSA) found itself the victim of a similar zero day link in the 2016 Shadow Brokers dump. These are just two incidents that the public knows about. A culture of lax security practices invites attacks from all kinds of actors. We don’t know how many times such hacking tools may have been discovered by more secretive outfits.

Many policy implications follow. There is a strong case to be made that intelligence agencies should not hoard zero-day vulnerabilities at all but should report them to the appropriate body for quick patching. This limits their toolkit, but it makes everyone safer overall. Of course, foreign and other hostile entities are unlikely to unilaterally disarm in this way.

The intelligence community supposedly has a process for vetting which zero days should be reported and which are appropriate to keep secret, called the Vulnerabilities Equities Process (VEP). Agencies must describe a vulnerability to a board who decides whether it’s dangerous enough to need patching or useful enough for spying purposes.

For example, a vulnerability in some technology that is only used in China would probably be kept for operations. Theoretically, a vulnerability in some technology that is widely-used in the United States would be reported for fixing to keep Americans safe. As these incidents show, this does not always happen.

The VEP process is clearly insufficient, given these high-profile breaches. The very least the intelligence community can do is appropriately secure the bugs they’ve got. Efforts like Wyden’s seek to impose more accountability on these practices.

There’s a more general lesson about government efforts to improve security and privacy as well.

As implied earlier, we should strongly resist government efforts to compromise encryption in the name of law enforcement or anything else. Some of the most technically savvy government bodies cannot even secure the secret weapons they have not advertised. Can you imagine the attack vectors if they publicly attain some master encryption-breaking technique?

It also demonstrates the weaknesses of many top-down proposals to promote privacy or security. Government plans often attempt to sketch out master checklists that must be followed perfectly on all levels to work well. They can be time-consuming and burdensome, which means that personnel often cut corners and shirk accountability. Then when disaster inevitably strikes, the conclusion is that “people didn’t stick to the plan hard enough,” not that the plan was generally unrealistic to start.

There isn’t a lot that the public can do about seemingly out-of-control intelligence agencies failing to secure potent cyberweapons beyond making a fuss. “National security” and all that. But it does give us a powerful argument against granting more power to these insecure intelligence bodies to break strong encryption. Governments can’t even protect their secret cyber weapons. They almost certainly will not be able to protect a known backdoor into encryption.

Be seeing you

 

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