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Posts Tagged ‘Wikileaks’

JOHN KIRIAKOU: DOJ Promises Ring Hollow – Consortiumnews

Posted by M. C. on July 12, 2021

While working as a volunteer for WikiLeaks, Thordarson contacted the U.S. embassy in Reykjavik in 2011 to offer himself as an informant, receiving immunity as part of the deal. He then took part in a sting operation against Assange that led then Icelandic Interior Minister Ögmundur Jónasson to kick the FBI out of the country.

The Icelandic media report said Thordarson had been diagnosed as a clinical sociopath, that he is a convicted serial pedophile, and that he had embezzled more than $50,000 from Wikileaks.

When I received my FOIA documents, I was struck by one in particular. It was a memo from the warden to all prison staff, entitled “Incoming Inmate John Kiriakou.” It opened with huge block letters: CAUTION: INMATE HAS ACCESS TO THE MEDIA!! I was a nobody and the Justice Department was restricting my access to the outside world. What were they so afraid of? What did they think I was going to say?

https://consortiumnews.com/2021/07/10/john-kiriakou-doj-promises-ring-hollow/

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News

The U.S. government hates Julian Assange. Can we trust the Justice Department to not put him in a SAM unit or to keep him out of an ADX super max prison?

Many of my friends here at Consortium News and elsewhere have written recently about the UK High Court’s decision to allow the U.S. Department of Justice’s appeal of a lower court’s decision against extraditing Julian Assange to go forward.

The Higher Court’s decision is narrow in nature—the court will allow the DOJ to appeal the lower court’s finding that U.S. prisons are dangerous and oppressive—but will not allow the U.S. to appeal any factual findings on Julian’s condition or mental health. Assange faces 175 years in prison in the United States if he is extradited and found guilty of national security crimes related to Chelsea Manning’s revelations to Wikileaks more than a decade ago.

By way of background, the mainstream media in the United States barely touched on the UK ruling. It was a one-day story, and a small one at that, and the editorial line was that the DOJ is working hard to get its man. The ruling, though, wasn’t the real news.

The more important news, which broke just a few days before the court decision, was that the DOJ’s top witness against Julian had granted an interview with an Icelandic newspaper in which he recanted everything he said about Assange.

He admitted he’d lied to the FBI about being instructed by Assange to conduct hacking operations. Everything that Sigudrur “Siggi” Thordarson told the FBI was a lie, and the FBI’s case appears to be falling apart. Indeed, Ed Snowden opined soon after that the case against Assange was “dead.”

While working as a volunteer for WikiLeaks, Thordarson contacted the U.S. embassy in Reykjavik in 2011 to offer himself as an informant, receiving immunity as part of the deal. He then took part in a sting operation against Assange that led then Icelandic Interior Minister Ögmundur Jónasson to kick the FBI out of the country.

The Icelandic media report said Thordarson had been diagnosed as a clinical sociopath, that he is a convicted serial pedophile, and that he had embezzled more than $50,000 from Wikileaks. Journalists say it’s unclear why Thordarson would have told a reporter about his lies, especially when the FBI had already chosen either to believe him or to pretend that he was telling the truth. It could be that, as a sociopath, he craved the publicity, even if he harbored no regret or remorse about being called out as a liar.

What Justice?

Artist’s view of an ADX Florence cell design. (RicHard-59, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Still, the case against Assange goes on, a mockery of what “justice” is supposed to be. And what is the “justice” that the Justice Department is promising the UK courts? It’s that Assange won’t be subject to incarceration as part of Special Administrative Measures (SAM) or sent to the notorious “Supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado (ADX), “unless he were to do something subsequent to the offering of these assurances that meets the tests for imposition of SAMs or designation to ADX.”

In other words, if Julian were to speak to a journalist, if he were to look at a guard cockeyed, if he were to speak disrespectfully to an administrator, or if he were even to say something controversial in a private telephone call (which would be monitored, of course) that would be enough to send him to a SAM unit or even to ADX. The Justice Department’s promises ring hollow.

I spent 23 months in a “modified SAM unit” after blowing the whistle on the CIA’s torture program. Six months or so into my sentence, I decided to file a Freedom of Information Act request on myself just to see what it was that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) had on me. I couldn’t understand why my contact with the outside world was restricted, especially after my sentencing judge ordered that I be sent to a minimum-security work camp. (The BOP arbitrarily sent me to a higher-security prison with no explanation.)

When I received my FOIA documents, I was struck by one in particular. It was a memo from the warden to all prison staff, entitled “Incoming Inmate John Kiriakou.” It opened with huge block letters: CAUTION: INMATE HAS ACCESS TO THE MEDIA!! I was a nobody and the Justice Department was restricting my access to the outside world. What were they so afraid of? What did they think I was going to say?

Now imagine Julian Assange in the same position. He’s known around the world. People want to hear what he has to say. He has millions of supporters. Journalists seek out his advice. His case is political. The U.S. government hates him. Can we trust the Justice Department to not put him in a SAM unit or to keep him out of an ADX?

Not a chance. The fight’s not over, but it’s possible that the end—a win for Assange—is in sight. It’s up to us to keep up the pressure on the White House, the Justice Department, and the mainstream media. We can’t let up.

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act—a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

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The Assange Case Isn’t About National Security, It’s About Narrative Control – by Caitlin Johnstone – Caitlin’s Newsletter

Posted by M. C. on July 9, 2021

Leaving aside the fact that the Pentagon already admitted years ago that it could not find a single instance of lives being lost due to the publications for which Assange is currently being prosecuted, this case is not and has never been about national security. This case has always been about narrative control.

https://caitlinjohnstone.substack.com/p/the-assange-case-isnt-about-national

Caitlin Johnstone

Julian Assange once said, “The overwhelming majority of information is classified to protect political security, not national security.”

As someone whose life’s work before his imprisonment was combing through documents of an often classified nature, he’d have been in a prime position to know. He’d have seen time and time again how a nation’s citizenry are not under the slightest threat from the secret information in the documents that had been leaked to him from around the world, but that it could damage the reputation of a politician or a government or its military.

As the persecution of the WikiLeaks founder continues to trudge on with the UK government’s granting the Biden administration permission to appeal a declined extradition request, claiming that it can safely imprison Assange without subjecting him to the draconian aspects of America’s prison system which caused the initial dismissal, it’s good to keep in mind that this is being done entirely for the purpose of controlling public access to information that is inconvenient for the powerful.Consortium News @ConsortiumnewsDesperate to Get Assange, US Promises No SAMS & Prison Time in Australia consortiumnews.com/2021/07/07/des…Image

July 8th 202138 Retweets58 Likes

The prosecution of Julian Assange under the Espionage Act is being touted by the US government as a matter of national security; you can’t simply allow journalists to publish classified information about the things its military forces are doing in the nations they occupy, because that could endanger American lives. 

Leaving aside the fact that the Pentagon already admitted years ago that it could not find a single instance of lives being lost due to the publications for which Assange is currently being prosecuted, this case is not and has never been about national security. This case has always been about narrative control.

The US government is not afraid that unauthorized publication of government secrets will lead to Americans being killed, it’s afraid it will lead to their knowing the truth. The powerful understand that narrative control is everything, and that an entire globe-spanning empire depends on keeping the masses from having a lucid perception of what’s really going on in the world. There is an unfathomable amount of power riding on their ability to continue doing this.

Assange isn’t in Belmarsh Prison for doing something wrong, but for doing something right. For trying to give the public information which will help them form a truth-based worldview so that they can make intelligent informed decisions about where they want to collectively steer society together. Because the oligarchic empire depends on the ability to manipulate the way people think, act and vote to benefit the powerful, this was like handing someone who’s being groomed by a sexual predator a guidebook of all of the psychological tactics that are being used.

This good deed could not go unpunished.https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/9lZQAyK_86A?rel=0&autoplay=0&showinfo=0&enablejsapi=0

Nothing WikiLeaks published endangered the American people, it endangered a globe-spanning empire’s ability to control our understanding of what’s happening in the world. This was a most egregious offense as far as our rulers are concerned, and it could not be allowed to stand. 

So an example is being made. In less polite times Assange would have been tortured and drawn and quartered in the town square while the king looked on sipping from a goblet of mead. In the days of polite liberal democracy our rulers must remain hidden, and they must publicly torture dissidents to death in the name of national security concerns.

Beneath all the spin and excuses, this is all being done to show everyone what happens to you if you reveal embarrassing truths about the most powerful people on earth. If you compromise their political security. It’s telling the world, “If you ever try to interfere in our control over the dominant narratives, this is what we will do to you.” 

And, whether we fully understand what’s really happening or not, that’s the message that is being ingested here. Journalists who find themselves in a position to publish such things going forward will find themselves thinking thoughts about what happened to Julian Assange.Don’t Extradite Assange @DEAcampaignBREAKING: Julian Assange’s fiancée @StellaMoris1 gives powerful statement outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London. “This case is the most vicious attack on global press freedom in history.” #AssangeCase #FreeAssange July 7th 20211,278 Retweets2,442 Likes

This is why it’s so important that they don’t win this case. We cannot allow ourselves to be cowed away from the truth in this way, or else we’re flying blind. We’re unable to obtain information which will help us steer society in a truth-based direction.

The Assange case receives so much attention not because of interest in one man’s fate, but because of interest in everyone’s fate. If humanity is ever to turn away from its self-destructive patterns and create a healthy world, it will necessarily need to do so guided by the light of truth and transparency. As long as the powerful are able to keep us confused and deluded using propaganda and government secrecy, such a world will never come into being.

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Key Witness in US Case Against Assange Changes His Story – Consortiumnews

Posted by M. C. on June 28, 2021

https://consortiumnews.com/2021/06/27/key-witness-in-us-case-against-assange-changes-his-story/

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

An FBI informant upon whose information the United States based aspects of an indictment against imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange has now admitted that he fabricated the evidence. 

Sigudur “Sigi” Ingi Thordarson has told an Icelandic publication in an article that appeared on Saturday that he made up the allegation that Assange asked him to hack a government computer. That testimony played a key part in the indictment against Assange for conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. 

Thordarson, 28, is referred to as “Teenager” in the part of the indictment that focuses on events in Iceland, where Assange was working in 2010.  The indictment alleges that, “In early 2010, ASSANGE asked Teenager to commit computer intrusions and steal additional information, including audio recordings of phone conversations between high-ranking officials of the government of NATO Country-I, [Iceland] including members of the Parliament of NATO Country-I.” 

Thordarson has now told the publication Stundin that this is a lie. The publication reported:

“In fact, Thordarson now admits to Stundin that Assange never asked him to hack or access phone recordings of MPs. His new claim is that he had in fact received some files from a third party who claimed to have recorded MPs and had offered to share them with Assange without having any idea what they actually contained. He claims he never checked the contents of the files or even if they contained audio recordings as his third party source suggested. He further admits the claim, that Assange had instructed or asked him to access computers in order to find any such recordings, is false.”

Thordarson’s testimony is contained in a superseding indictment filed by the U.S. Justice Department, which aimed to bolster the conspiracy to commit computer intrusion charge against Assange, carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The indictment also charges Assange under the Espionage Act for unauthorized possession and dissemination of defense information, which could add an additional 170 years in prison. 

More ‘Teenager’ Fabrications

The indictment against Assange alleges that “ASSANGE and Teenager failed in their joint attempt to decrypt a file stolen from a NATO Country-1 bank.”  Stundin reports:

“Thordarson admits to Stundin that this actually refers to a well publicised event in which an encrypted file was leaked from an Icelandic bank and assumed to contain information about defaulted loans provided by the Icelandic Landsbanki. The bank went under in the fall of 2008, along with almost all other financial institutions in Iceland, and plunged the country into a severe economic crisis. The file was at this time, in summer of 2010, shared by many online who attempted to decrypt it for the public interest purpose of revealing what precipitated the financial crisis. Nothing supports the claim that this file was even ‘stolen’ per se, as it was assumed to have been distributed by whistleblowers from inside the failed bank.”

The indictment alleges that, “In early 2010; a source provided ASSANGE with credentials to gain unauthorized access into a website that was used by the government of NATO Country-I to track the location of police and first responder vehicles, and agreed that ASSANGE should use those credentials to gain unauthorized access to the website.” 

But Thordarson told Stundin “he had been given this access as a matter of routine due to his work as a first responder while volunteering for a search and rescue team. He also says Assange never asked for any such access.”

See the rest here

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston GlobeSunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He began his professional career as a stringer for The New York Times.  He can be reached at joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe .

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THE REVELATIONS OF WIKILEAKS: No. 9—Opening the CIA’s Vault – Consortiumnews

Posted by M. C. on October 28, 2020

https://consortiumnews.com/2020/10/26/the-revelations-of-wikileaks-no-9-opening-the-cias-vault/

By Patrick LawrenceSpecial to Consortium News

On Feb. 6, 2017, WikiLeaks released documents detailing the Central Intelligence Agency’s espionage program in the months leading up to and following France’s presidential election in 2012. 

The agency used spies and cyberweapons to infiltrate and hack into the major political parties with competing candidates — the Socialists, the National Front and the Union for a Popular Movement. Their candidates — respectively François Hollande, Marine Le Pen and incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy — were also spied upon individually, as were many other prominent political figures.

The objectives of the program included ascertaining the contending parties’ political strategies and platforms, their views of the U.S., and their relations with the European Union, with other European nations (Germany, Britain) as well as Israel, Palestine, Libya, Syria, and others. The CIA’s French operation lasted 10 months, beginning in November 2011 and enduring until September 2012, several months after Hollande won the election and formed a Socialist government.

WikiLeaks’ disclosure of the agency’s project bears a special irony: It was just as WikiLeaks published this material in 2017 that the CIA helped propagate unsubstantiated (and later discounted) “intelligence” that Russian hackers and propagandists were interfering with France’s presidential election that year. Similar allegations (similarly lacking in evidence) were floated as the European Union held parliamentary elections in May 2019.

As WikiLeaks reported at the time of the releases on the CIA’s covert activities in France, those revelations were to serve “as context for its forthcoming CIA Vault 7 series.” WikiLeaks’ apparent intent was to display a CIA’s hacking operation in action.

Vault 7, the subject of this latest report on the history of WikiLeaks disclosures, stands as the most extensive publication on record of classified and confidential CIA documents. Never before and not since have the agency’s innumerable programs and capabilities been so thoroughly exposed to public scrutiny.

Biggest Since Snowden

Rally in Germany in support of Edward Snowden, Aug. 30, 2014. (Markus Winkler, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder and publisher, described the Vault 7 publications as the most significant since Edward Snowden, the former CIA data analyst, released an unprecedented trove of National Security Agency documents in the summer of 2013. 

The Vault 7 series concerns the extraordinarily sophisticated inventory of cyber weapons the CIA has developed to spy on or hack into the communications of any person or entity it targets. Apart from the espionage function, certain of the programs in Vault 7 — this designation is WikiLeaks’, not the CIA’s — can also plant documents and data without being detected as the source — when, for example, the agency wishes to compromise an adversary via a false-flag operation.

The program wherein this capability was developed, called Marble, may have been crucial to creating the orthodox “narrative” that Russia was responsible for the theft of Democratic Party email in 2016 — the cornerstone allegation in the construct we now call Russiagate.

The Vault 7 releases expose the CIA’s hacking activities from 2013 to 2016. The series began on March 7, 2017, with the publication of “Year Zero,” an introductory survey and analysis of the agency’s globally deployed hacking programs. The Vault 7 series ran for six months, concluding on Sept. 7, 2017.

Complete as of that date, the series is comprised of 23 publications, each of which focuses on an individual hacking or cyber-espionage program. Marble is one of these. 

The CIA’s development of its hacking capabilities began as a joint effort with the National Security Agency. But the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, begun in 2001 and 2003 respectively, proved a turning point for the agency. It was during this time that the CIA, as WikiLeaks puts it in its introduction to the Vault 7 series, “gained political and budgetary preeminence over the NSA.”

According to former U.S. intelligence sources, the CIA has invested some $175 billion in its vast variety of cyber programs in the post–2001 years. “The agency’s hacking division, WikiLeaks notes, “freed it from having to disclose its often controversial operations to the NSA (its primary bureaucratic rival) in order to draw on the NSA’s hacking capacities.”

A Near Deal to Free Assange

Assange in 2014, while in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. (Cancillería del Ecuador, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

WikiLeaks launched the Vault 7 series at a delicate moment for Assange, who was at the time taking asylum at the Ecuadoran embassy in London.

Shortly after Donald Trump took office in January 2017, Assange’s attorneys approached a lawyer named Adam Waldman, who was noted for his Washington connections.

Assange’s team proposed negotiations that would commit the U.S. to granting Assange limited immunity and safe passage from the Ecuadoran embassy in exchange for his agreement to limit publication of classified CIA documents. The agency knew by this time that WikiLeaks had an extensive inventory of CIA documents it was prepared to publish. These included what WikiLeaks soon named Vault 7.

Crucially, Assange signaled that he was also willing to reveal technical evidence that would shed light on who was not responsible for the theft of email from the Democratic National Committee in mid–2016. This was key: By this time the “narrative” that Russia had hacked the DNC’s computer servers was well-established; the Democratic Party, the intelligence agencies, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the media were heavily invested in it. Assange, while observing the WikiLeaks principle of not revealing sources, had by this time asserted that Russia had nothing to do with the intrusion.  

The Justice Department and Assange’s attorneys drafted an immunity deal in the course of the negotiations that both sides agreed to pursue. The attorneys’ initial contact, through Waldman, was a DoJ official named Bruce Ohr. The lead DoJ negotiator was named David Laufman. When WikiLeaks released “Year Zero” on March 7, 2017, these negotiations were still in progress; the release had no apparent impact on the talks.

But at this point the contacts between Assange and the U.S. government took a fateful turn. The only full account of the events summarized below was written by John Solomon, who has followed the Russiagate phenomenon from the first, and was published in The Hill on June 25, 2018.

Shortly after negotiations began, Waldman, the go-between, contacted Mark Warner, the Democratic senator from Virginia, to see if the Senate Intelligence Committee, of which Warner was vice-chairman, wished to contact Assange on its own in connection to matters related to Russia. This proved a miscalculation.

Sen. Mark Warner giving keynote address during 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. (Qqqqqq, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Warner, who had vigorously pressed the Russiagate narrative from the first, soon contacted James Comey, then the FBI director. Comey was also an aggressive Russiagate advocate and had a direct interest in sustaining the official account of events: It was while he ran the FBI that the bureau worked with CrowdStrike, the infamous cybersecurity firm hired by the DNC, to build what is now demonstrated to be an entirely false case to support the Democrats’ assertions of Russian responsibility for the mail intrusion.

Any proof that Russia had no role in the DNC mail theft would have discredited the FBI and Comey and very likely destroyed the career of Comey and numerous others. 

Comey, working through Sen. Warner, immediately ordered Waldman to cut off the Assange–DoJ talks. Although negotiations continued a brief while longer, Comey had effectively dealt them a soon-to-be-fatal blow. By this time WikiLeaks had released two other Vault 7 document collections, including what it called the Marble Framework.

The DoJ finally broke off the negotiations on April 7, when WikiLeaks released a fourth set of documents, this one called Grasshopper. Six days later Mike Pompeo, then CIA director, gave a notably aggressive speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Washington think tank, in which he called WikiLeaks “a nonstate hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.” https://www.youtube.com/embed/pe3ApagvwNM?enablejsapi=1&autoplay=0&cc_load_policy=0&iv_load_policy=1&loop=0&modestbranding=1&fs=1&playsinline=0&controls=1&color=red&rel=0&autohide=2&theme=dark&

With the CSIS speech, Pompeo effectively opened the Trump administration’s rigorously pressed campaign to have Assange extradited from Britain. The WikiLeaks founder appears never to have had another chance to negotiate an agreement providing for his freedom.

Run Amok

The Vault 7 releases continued at a steady pace, roughly four a month, for the next five months. The documents WikiLeaks made public, along with descriptions of the programs WikiLeaks deemed significant, can be found via its “Vault 7: Projects” report. Taken together they describe an expensively funded U.S. government organization that has run frighteningly amok, operates with no regard for U.S. or international law, and stands entirely beyond civilian control. Many of the projects exposed in the Vault 7 releases, and very likely most or all, violate Fourth Amendment rights to privacy and the CIA’s charter, which bars the agency from activity on U.S. soil.

Former CIA Director Allen Dulles. (CIA)

The history of the CIA, reaching back to Allen Dulles’ tenure as director (1953 to 1961), indicates that from its earliest days it entertained a diabolic desire to accumulate the power to operate with no reference to constraints of any kind, including those imposed by ordinary standards of decency. In this way it was effectively the id of America’s exceptionalist consciousness. What we see in the Vault 7 series is the perversely logical outcome of this culture of limitless impunity and immunity.

By the end of 2016, the hacking division of the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence had more than 1,000 hacking, malware, virus-implanting, remote-control and Trojan-horse programs in its inventory. These comprised more than 700 million lines of computer code.

Former CIA and NSA officials told Consortium News that a line of code costs roughly $25 to produce, putting the cost of the agency’s hacking tools over the years these programs were developed at $175 billion. “The CIA had created its ‘own NSA,’” WikiLeaks noted when it began releasing the Vault 7 publications, “with even less accountability and without publicly answering the question as to whether such a massive budgetary spend on duplicating the capacities of a rival agency could be justified.”

What follows are accounts and summaries of the most significant of the 23 Vault 7 releases. We present these chronologically, the earliest first, to give readers a clear idea of how WikiLeaks organized and presented the Vault 7 project. 

Year Zero

March 7, 2017

With the publication of “Year Zero,” it was immediately clear that WikiLeaks had penetrated into or very near the core of the CIA’s cyberoperations. This first Vault 7 release is comprised of 8,761 documents and files obtained from what WikiLeaks describes as “an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virginia, the agency’s headquarters.

Aerial view of CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. (Carol M. Highsmith, Wikimedia Commons)

As WikiLeaks notes, the agency had “lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal” shortly before it published “Year Zero.” There had been a massive leak, to put this point in simple terms. “The archive appears to have been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner,” WikiLeaks reported, “one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.” This occurred at some point in 2016.

“Year Zero” serves as an overview of “the scope and direction of the CIA’s global hacking program” and an introduction to material included in the Vault 7 releases to follow. The agency’s inventory of tools was the purview — and we can assume continues to be so — of the Engineering Development Group (EDG), a technology department under the authority of the Center for Cyber Intelligence.

The EDG also tests and operates its products once they are perfected and added to the agency’s arsenal. The engineering group, Wikileaks reported, has developed some 500 projects, each with its own malware and hacking tools. The EDG’s focus is on penetration, implanting, control and exfiltration. “Year Zero” analyzes the most important of these. 

High among the objectives of Vault 7 programs was to achieve the capability of penetrating the manufacturers of cellular telephones and other electronic devices for a variety of operations. Among the products targeted for this purpose were Apple’s iPhone and iPad, Google’s Android operating system, Microsoft Windows and Samsung televisions.

Programs included in the Vault 7 collection were designed to hack these and other commonly used devices and systems remotely so they can corrupt the targets and also send the CIA the owner’s geographic location and all audio and text communications. Other programs were capable of turning on a device’s microphone and camera without the owner’s knowledge. Other attack-and-control programs targeted MAC OS X, Solaris and Linux operating systems.

A number of the CIA’s programs revealed in the Vault 7 releases focus exclusively on one or another of these companies, most commonly Microsoft.

Building 92 at Microsoft Corporation headquarters in Redmond, Washington. (Coolcaesar, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

“Grasshopper” (April 7, 2017) is a platform for the development of malware designed for attacks on Windows operating systems. “AfterMidnight” (May 12, 2017) and “Brutal Kangaroo” (June 22, 2017) also target the Microsoft Windows platform, while “Weeping Angels” (April 21, 2017) infiltrated Samsung televisions. “Outlaw Country” (June 30, 2017) is designed for attack on computers that use the Linux OS. 

“Year Zero” also details the CIA’s use of what the agency calls “zero days.” These are commonly occurring software code imperfections and vulnerabilities in electronic devices that the CIA knows and makes use of but does not disclose to manufacturers or the public.

In some respects, zero days are treated as commodities. While the CIA discovered some zero days on its own, it obtained others from the NSA, GCHQ (the NSA’s British counterpart), or the FBI. It also purchased zero days from private cyber-weapons manufacturers much as the Pentagon would buy a weapons system from a defense contractor.

The CIA’s stockpile of zero days enables it to bypass encryption systems installed in such communications applications as WhatsApp, the widely used long-distance telephone and text service. This makes zero days, which can be used either locally or remotely, especially significant in extending the reach of the agency’s hacking operations. The CIA’s practice of keeping zero days secret — effectively hoarding them, as WikiLeaks notes — is especially cynical and dangerous.

As WikiLeaks explains:

“If the CIA can hack these phones then so can everyone else who has obtained or discovered the vulnerability. As long as the CIA keeps these vulnerabilities concealed from Apple and Google (who make the phones) they will not be fixed, and the phones will remain hackable. The same vulnerabilities exist for the population at large, including the U.S. Cabinet, Congress, top CEOs, system administrators, security officers and engineers. By hiding these security flaws from manufacturers like Apple and Google, the CIA ensures that it can hack everyone– at the expense of leaving everyone hackable.”

Most malware developed by the EDG and related units in the CIA’s organizational structure is designed to remain in implanted devices for considerable lengths of time — in some cases years — after it is installed. So long as it is present it communicates regularly and in two-way fashion with the CIA’s Command and Control systems.

While many programs are implanted remotely, some require a physical presence. This typically means an agent infests a targeted device on site. But in some cases, the CIA covertly intervened into supply chains and delivery services, including postal services, by opening, infecting, and on-sending products without the knowledge of either the manufacturer or the purchaser.

As it began its Vault 7 series with “Year Zero,” WikiLeaks took the occasion to note “an extreme proliferation risk in the development of cyber ‘weapons,’” as Assange put it at the time. He drew a comparison between these weapons and the global arms trade, noting “the inability to contain them, combined with their high market value.”

The source of the Vault 7 trove, who was among the former government hackers and contractors circulating the Vault programs among themselves, shared these and other concerns:

“In a statement to WikiLeaks the source details policy questions that they say urgently need to be debated in public, including whether the CIA’s hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of oversight of the agency. The source wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation, and democratic control of cyber-weapons.”

This is Consortium News’s intent in publishing its report on Vault 7.

Mindful of the risks attached to proliferation, and perhaps of past (and unfounded) charges that its publications compromised U.S. national security and American personnel, WikiLeaks notes that it was careful to avoid distributing what it termed “‘armed’ cyber-weapons” as it published the Vault 7 series.

It also said it redacted “tens of thousands of CIA targets and attack machines throughout Latin America, Europe, and the United States.” In a note in an FAQ section appended to “Year Zero,” WikiLeaks states, “Names, email addresses, and external IP addresses have been redacted in the released pages (70,875 redactions in total) until further analysis is complete.”

Dark Matter
March 23, 2017

Projects developed in the “Dark Matter” program were designed to penetrate Apple Macs and iPhones with what is called firmware — that is, malware that continues to infect the units attacked even if the OS is reinstalled. “Sonic Screwdriver,” a sub-project in this group, allowed attackers to install and activate computer code while users booted up these Apple devices.

See the rest here

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for theInternational Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, author and lecturer. His most recent book is Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century (Yale). Follow him on Twitter @thefloutist. His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site.

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Pentagon Papers Whistleblower Dismantles Myths Around Assange

Posted by M. C. on September 18, 2020

https://shadowproof.com/2020/09/16/pentagon-papers-ellsberg-extradition-trial-assange/

Kevin Gosztola

Opponents of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange often hold up Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg as an example of someone who was responsible for a good leak. They insist WikiLeaks is not like the Pentagon Papers because supposedly Assange was reckless with sensitive documents.

On the seventh day of an extradition trial against Assange, Ellsberg dismantled this false narrative and outlined for a British magistrate court why Assange would not receive a fair trial in the United States.

Assange is accused of 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act and one count of conspiracy to commit a computer crime that, as alleged in the indictment, is written like an Espionage Act offense.

The charges criminalize the act of merely receiving classified information, as well as the publication of state secrets from the United States government. It targets common practices in news gathering, which is why the case is widely opposed by press freedom organizations throughout the world.

James Lewis, a prosecutor from the Crown Prosecution Service who represents the U.S. government, told Ellsberg, “When you published the Pentagon Papers, you were very careful in what you provided to the media.”

The lead prosecutor highlighted the fact that Ellsberg withheld four volumes of the Pentagon Papers that he did not want published because they may have impacted diplomatic efforts to end the Vietnam War. However, Ellsberg’s decision to withhold those volumes had nothing to do with protecting the names of U.S. intelligence sources.

As Ellsberg described for the court, the 4,000 pages of documents he disclosed to the media contained thousands of names of Americans, Vietnamese, and North Vietnamese. There was even a clandestine CIA officer, who was named.

Nowhere in the Pentagon Papers was an “adequate justification for the killing that we were doing,” Ellsberg said. “I was afraid if I redacted or withheld anything at all it would be inferred I left out” the good reasons why the U.S. was pursuing the Vietnam War.

Ellsberg was concerned about revealing the name of a clandestine CIA officer, though he mentioned the individual was well-known in South Vietnam. Had he published the name of the officer today, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act could have easily been used to prosecute him. But he left it in the documents so no one could make inferences about redacted sections that may undermine what he exposed.

Like Assange, Ellsberg wanted the public to have a complete record.

This did not exactly distinguish Ellsberg from Assange so Lewis explicitly highlighted an article, “Why WikiLeaks Is Unlike The Pentagon Papers,” by attorney Floyd Abrams, which he wrote for the Wall Street Journal.

Abrams was one of the attorneys who represented the New York Times in the civil case that argued the government should not be able to block the media organization from publishing the Pentagon Papers. And like Lewis, Abrams fixated on the four volumes that were kept confidential.

Ellsberg insisted Abrams was “mistaken.” He never had any discussion with Ellsberg while defending the right to publish before the Supreme Court so Ellsberg said Abrams could not possibly understand his motives very well.

In the decades since the Pentagon Papers were disclosed, Ellsberg shared how he faced a “great deal” of defamation and then “neglect” to someone who was mentioned as a “clear patriot.” He was used as a “foil” against new revelations from WikiLeaks, “which were supposedly very different.” Such a distinction is “misleading in terms of motive and effect.”

Ellsberg noted Assange withheld 15,000 files from the release of the Afghanistan War Logs. He also requested assistance from the State Department and the Defense Department on redacting names, but they refused to help WikiLeaks redact a single document, even though it is a standard journalistic practice to consult officials to minimize harm.

“I have no doubt that Julian would have removed those names,” Ellsberg declared. Both the State and Defense Departments could have helped WikiLeaks remove the names of individuals, who prosecutors insist were negatively impacted.

Yet, rather than take steps to protect individuals, Ellsberg suggested these government agencies chose to “preserve the possibility of charging Mr Assange with precisely the charges” he faces now.

Not a single person has been identified by the U.S. government when they talk about deaths, physical harm, or incarceration that were linked to the WikiLeaks publications.

The lead prosecutor asked Ellsberg if it was his view that any harm to individuals was the fault of the American government for letting Assange publish material without redactions.

Ellsberg indicated they bear “heavy responsibility.”
Lewis attempted to trap Ellsberg into conceding Assange had engaged in conduct that resulted in grave harm to vulnerable individuals. He read multiple sections of an affidavit from Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg, who is in the Eastern District of Virginia where Assange was indicted.

It covered a laundry list of allegations: they named local Afghans and Iraqis that were providing information to coalition forces, forced journalists and religious leaders to flee, led to harassment of Chinese academics labeled as “rats,” fueled violent threats against people who met with U.S. embassy staff, resulted in Iranians being identified and outed, and spurred violence by the Taliban.

“How can you say honestly and in an unbiased way that there is no evidence that WikiLeaks put anyone in danger?” Lewis asked.

Ellsberg told Lewis he found the government’s assertions to be “highly cynical.” He invited Lewis to correct him if he was wrong, but it is his understanding that no one actually suffered harm as a result of these threats. “Did one of them suffer the carrying out of these threats?”

Lewis replied the rules are you don’t get to ask the questions. He tried to move on as Ellsberg insisted he be allowed to provide the rest of his answer, but Judge Vanessa Baraitser would not let Ellsberg complete his response.

It deeply upset Assange, who spoke from inside the glass box where he sits each day. Baraitser reminded him not to interrupt proceedings as Edward Fitzgerald, a defense attorney, attempted to convince the court that Ellsberg should be able to finish his answer.

Lewis continued, “Is it your position there was absolutely no danger caused by publishing the unredacted names of these informants?”

In response, Ellsberg said the U.S. government is “extremely cynical in pretending its concerned for these people.” It has displayed “contempt for Middle Easterners” throughout the last 19 years.

As Lewis insisted one had to conclude Iraqis, Afghans, or Syrians named in the WikiLeaks publications were murdered or forced to flee, Ellsberg refused to accept this presumption.

“I’m sorry, sir, but it doesn’t seem to be at all obvious that this small fraction of people that have been murdered in the course of both sides of conflicts can be attributed to WikiLeaks disclosures,” Ellsberg stated.

If the Taliban had disappeared someone, Ellsberg said that would be a seriously harmful consequence. “I am not aware of one single instance in the last 10 years.”

At no point did the lead prosecutor offer any specific example of a death, and so the record remains as it has been since Chelsea Manning was put on trial. The government has no evidence that anyone was ever killed as a result of transparency forced by WikiLeaks.

Ellsberg informed the court his motive was no different from Assange’s motive. The Espionage Act charges that Assange faces are not meaningfully different either. And, in fact, he faced efforts by the government to wiretap and incapacitate him just like Assange did while in the Ecuador embassy in London.

Ellsberg recalled that he did not tell the public what led him to disclose the Pentagon Papers because he expected to be able to testify about his motive during his trial.

When his lawyer asked him why he copied the Pentagon Papers, the prosecution immediately objected. Each time his lawyer tried to rephrase the question, the court refused to permit him to tell the jury “why he had done what he’d done.”

Federal courts continue to handle Espionage Act cases in the same manner. “The notion of motive or extenuating circumstances is irrelevant,” Ellsberg added.

“The meaning of which is I did not get a fair trial, despite a very intelligent and conscientious judge. No one since me has had a fair trial.”

“Julian Assange could not get a remotely fair trial under those charges in the United States,” Ellsberg concluded.

Photo of Daniel Ellsberg by Christopher Michel

***

[NOTE: John Goetz, an investigative journalist who worked for Der Spiegel in 2010-2011, gave crucial testimony on German citizen Khaled el-Masri, who the CIA kidnapped and tortured. He described how WikiLeaks disclosures helped El-Masri and provided support for a statement El-Masri has submitted to the court. When El-Masri’s statement is read into the record or made public, I will cover this important aspect of the extradition trial in full.]

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News Media Who Ignore The Assange Trial Are Admitting They Don’t Care About Journalism – Caitlin Johnstone

Posted by M. C. on September 17, 2020

Now that it is out in the open that the US government plans to prosecute any journalist anywhere in the world who it deems to have committed “disclosure of secrets which harm the national interest” (which in Assange’s case means exposing US war crimes), anyone on earth who actually plans on doing real journalism which holds real power to account is at risk.

https://caitlinjohnstone.com/2020/09/17/news-media-who-ignore-the-assange-trial-are-admitting-they-dont-care-about-journalism/

The Sydney Morning Herald just published an article titled “Julian Assange interrupts extradition hearing again” about the WikiLeaks founder’s correct interjection that he never put anyone’s lives in danger with the publication of the Manning leaks a decade ago.

It’s actually a rather shocking smear piece for the SMH, who has been one of the better Australian publications at giving Assange a fair hearing over the years. The article’s author Latika Bourke spends an inordinate amount of time waxing on about Assange’s naughty “outburst” and how he was reprimanded for it by the judge, telling readers that the prosecution “separates Assange from the press which also published information revealed by WikiLeaks but without naming journalists, human rights advocates and dissidents who were informing on their governments and repressive regimes”, and bringing up Osama bin Laden’s possession of WikiLeaks documents apropos of precisely nothing.

At no time does Bourke (who has been a regular smearer of Assange) bother to provide the reader with any of the readily available information showing that Assange never caused anyone harm and was not responsible for the unredacted documents being made public. She weaves a narrative about Assange being badly behaved in the courtroom, insinuates that the accusations he objected to could be true to the furthest extent possible without actually making a claim that would need to be retracted, and gets out.

 

And unfortunately this drivel is more or less typical of the coverage Assange’s historic, world-shaping extradition trial has been receiving from the mass media since it resumed this month. To the extent that they report on the trial at all, mainstream news outlets have mostly limited their coverage to trivialities like trouble with courtroom audio equipment or postponement due to a coronavirus scare. No mainstream outlet has been covering this immensely important trial in-depth to anywhere near the extent that former UK ambassador Craig Murray has been doing every night, or explaining to their audience the significance of a precedent which will allow journalists all over the world to be extradited and jailed for exposing embarrassing truths about the US government.

This dereliction of journalistic responsibility was damning enough back when the prosecution was trying to argue that Assange doesn’t have First Amendment protections because he was engaged in espionage and not journalistic behavior. But now that the prosecution has pivoted to arguing that it doesn’t matter that Assange is a journalist because the US government is allowed to imprison people for journalism, this dereliction of duty has become far more pronounced.

Murray writes the following in his latest update:

The prosecution’s line represented a radical departure from their earlier approach which was to claim that Julian Assange is not a journalist and to try and distinguish between his behaviour and that of newspapers. In the first three days of evidence, legal experts had stated that this gloss on the prosecution did not stand up to investigation of the actual charges in the indictment. Experts in journalism also testified that Assange’s relationship with Manning was not materially different from cultivation and encouragement by other journalists of official sources to leak.

 

By general consent, those first evidence days had gone badly for the prosecution. There was then a timeout for (ahem) suspected Covid among the prosecution team. The approach has now changed and on Tuesday a radically more aggressive approach was adopted by the prosecution asserting the right to prosecute all journalists and all media who publish classified information under the Espionage Act (1917).

 

The purpose of the earlier approach was plainly to reduce media support for Assange by differentiating him from other journalists. It had become obvious such an approach ran a real risk of failure, if it could be proved that Assange is a journalist, which line was going well for the defence. So now we have “any journalist can be prosecuted for publishing classified information” as the US government line. I strongly suspect that they have decided they do not have to mitigate against media reaction, as the media is paying no attention to this hearing anyway.

 

Murray’s subsequent breakdown of the prosecution’s arguments makes it clear that he was not over-selling this change in strategy. His notes on attorney for the prosecution James Lewis’ arguments contain lines as blatant as “There are Supreme Court judgements that make it clear that at times the government’s interest in national security must override the First Amendment” and “serial, continuing disclosure of secrets which harm the national interest cannot be justified. It therefore follows that journalists can be prosecuted” in arguing against witness testimony that Assange’s publishing behavior should be protected by the First Amendment.

“The United States Supreme Court has never held that a journalist cannot be prosecuted for publishing national defence information,” Murray reports Lewis argued.

So that’s the precedent the prosecution is setting now. No longer “We can extradite and imprison Assange because he isn’t a journalist”, but “We can extradite and imprison Assange because we’re allowed to extradite and imprison journalists.”

The argument that Assange isn’t a journalist has always been transparently false, whether made in the courtroom or in the court of public opinion. Publishing important information so that the public can understand what’s going on in their world is exactly the thing that journalism is. All WikiLeaks publications have included extensive written analyses of their contents, and its staff have received many esteemed awards for journalism.

 

But the fact that the prosecution is no longer even attempting to argue against the journalistic nature of the actions they are attempting to criminalize means they have ceased trying to pretend that they are not waging a war against worldwide press freedoms. Which means that all journalists and news media outlets have lost their last excuse for not condemning Assange’s persecution with great force and urgency.

Now that it is out in the open that the US government plans to prosecute any journalist anywhere in the world who it deems to have committed “disclosure of secrets which harm the national interest” (which in Assange’s case means exposing US war crimes), anyone on earth who actually plans on doing real journalism which holds real power to account is at risk. If someone isn’t using whatever platform they can to denounce Assange’s persecution, they are showing the world that they have no interest in ever doing real journalism which holds real power to account.

News reporters and news outlets are showing us what they are right at this moment. If they are not speaking out for Assange’s freedom right now they are telling you that his persecution poses no threat to them. They are telling you that they never plan on doing anything that might hold power to account with the light of truth. They are telling you that they will side with power every time. They are telling you they are propagandists.

The prosecution’s new line of argumentation should have drawn massive headlines from all the major news outlets who’ve been bloviating about the dangers posed by Trump’s war on the press with flamboyant preening and self-aggrandizement. Instead they are silent, because they do not care.

To quote Maya Angelou, when someone shows you who they are, believe them.

_________________________

Feature image by Garry Knight.

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THE STALINIST TRIAL OF JULIAN ASSANGE. WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?

Posted by M. C. on September 8, 2020

The aim was to silence and criminalise WikiLeaks and its founder. Page after page revealed a coming war on a single human being and on the very principle of freedom of speech and freedom of thought, and democracy.

The imperial shock troops would be those who called themselves journalists: the big hitters of the so-called mainstream, especially the “liberals” who mark and patrol the perimeters of dissent.

http://johnpilger.com/articles/the-stalinist-trial-of-julian-assange-whose-side-are-you-on-

John Pilger

JAgag.jpg

When I first met Julian Assange more than ten years ago, I asked him why he had started WikiLeaks. He replied: “Transparency and accountability are moral issues that must be the essence of public life and journalism.”

I had never heard a publisher or an editor invoke morality in this way. Assange believes that journalists are the agents of people, not power: that we, the people, have a right to know about the darkest secrets of those who claim to act in our name.

If the powerful lie to us, we have the right to know. If they say one thing in private and the opposite in public, we have the right to know. If they conspire against us, as Bush and Blair did over Iraq, then pretend to be democrats, we have the right to know.

It is this morality of purpose that so threatens the collusion of powers that want to plunge much of the world into war and wants to bury Julian alive in Trumps fascist America.

In 2008, a top secret US State Department report described in detail how the United States would combat this new moral threat. A secretly-directed personal smear campaign against Julian Assange would lead to “exposure [and] criminal prosecution”.

The aim was to silence and criminalise WikiLeaks and its founder. Page after page revealed a coming war on a single human being and on the very principle of freedom of speech and freedom of thought, and democracy.

The imperial shock troops would be those who called themselves journalists: the big hitters of the so-called mainstream, especially the “liberals” who mark and patrol the perimeters of dissent.

And that is what happened. I have been a reporter for more than 50 years and I have never known a smear campaign like it: the fabricated character assassination of a man who refused to join the club: who believed journalism was a service to the public, never to those above.

Assange shamed his persecutors. He produced scoop after scoop. He exposed the fraudulence of wars promoted by the media and the homicidal nature of America’s wars, the corruption of dictators, the evils of Guantanamo.

He forced us in the West to look in the mirror. He exposed the official truth-tellers in the media as collaborators: those I would call Vichy journalists. None of these imposters believed Assange when he warned that his life was in danger: that the “sex scandal” in Sweden was a set up and an American hellhole was the ultimate destination. And he was right, and repeatedly right.

The extradition hearing in London this week is the final act of an Anglo-American campaign to bury Julian Assange. It is not due process. It is due revenge. The American indictment is clearly rigged, a demonstrable sham. So far, the hearings have been reminiscent of their Stalinist equivalents during the Cold War.

Today, the land that gave us Magna Carta, Great Britain, is distinguished by the abandonment of its own sovereignty in allowing a malign foreign power to manipulate justice and by the vicious psychological torture of Julian – a form of torture, as Nils Melzer, the UN expert has pointed out, that was refined by the Nazis because it was most effective in breaking its victims.

Every time I have visited Assange in Belmarsh prison, I have seen the effects of this torture. When I last saw him, he had lost more than 10 kilos in weight; his arms had no muscle. Incredibly, his wicked sense of humour was intact.

As for Assange’s homeland, Australia has displayed only a cringeing cowardice as its government has secretly conspired against its own citizen who ought to be celebrated as a national hero. Not for nothing did George W. Bush anoint the Australian prime minister his “deputy sheriff”.

It is said that whatever happens to Julian Assange in the next three weeks will diminish if not destroy freedom of the press in the West. But which press? The Guardian? The BBC, The New York Times, the Jeff Bezos Washington Post?

No, the journalists in these organisations can breathe freely. The Judases on the Guardian who flirted with Julian, exploited his landmark work, made their pile then betrayed him, have nothing to fear. They are safe because they are needed.

Freedom of the press now rests with the honourable few: the exceptions, the dissidents on the internet who belong to no club, who are neither rich nor laden with Pulitzers, but produce fine, disobedient, moral journalism – those like Julian Assange.

Meanwhile, it is our responsibility to stand by a true journalist whose sheer courage ought to be inspiration to all of us who still believe that freedom is possible. I salute him.

Follow John Pilger on twitter @johnpilger

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The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity : Journalism’s New Propaganda Tool: Using ‘Confirmed’ to Mean its Opposite

Posted by M. C. on September 6, 2020

But what is clear is that the “confirmation” which both MSNBC and CBS claimed it had obtained for the story was anything but: all that happened was that the same sources which anonymously whispered these unverified, false claims to CNN then went and repeated the same unverified, false claims to other outlets, which then claimed that they “independently confirmed” the story even though they had done nothing of the sort.

http://ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2020/september/05/journalism-s-new-propaganda-tool-using-confirmed-to-mean-its-opposite/

Written by Glenn Greenwald

One of the most humiliating journalism debacles of the Trump era played out on December 8, 2017, first on CNN and then on MSNBC. The spectacle kicked off on that Friday morning at 11:00 a.m. when CNN, deploying its most melodramatic music and graphics designed to convey that a real bombshell was about to be dropped, announced that anonymous sources had provided the network with a smoking gun proving the Trump/Russia conspiracy once and for all: during the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump, Jr. had received a September 4 email with a secret encryption key that gave him advanced access to WikiLeaks’ servers containing the DNC emails which the group would subsequently release to the public ten days later. Cable news and online media spontaneously combusted, as is their wont, in shock, hysteria and awe over this proof that WikiLeaks and Trump were in cahoots.

CNN has ensured that no videos of the festivities are available on YouTube for anyone to watch. That’s because the claim was completely false in its most crucial respect. CNN misreported the date of the smoking gun email Trump, Jr. received: rather than being sent to him on September 4 — ten days prior to WikiLeaks’ public release, thus enabling secret access — the email was merely sent by a random member of the public after the public release by WikiLeaks (September 14), encouraging Trump, Jr. to look at those now-public emails.

Though the original false report cannot be viewed any longer (except in small snippets from other networks, principally Fox, discussing CNN’s debacle), one can view the cringe-inducing video of CNN’s Senior Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju explaining, after the Washington Post debunked the story, that “we are actually correcting” the reporting, doing his best to downplay what a massive blunder this was (though the whole thing is fantastic, my favorite line is when Raju says, with no small amount of understatement: “this appears to change the understanding of this story,” followed by: “perhaps the initial understanding of what this email was, perhaps is not as significant based on what we know now”: perhaps):

The CNN page which originally published the blockbuster story contains this rather significant correction at the top:

Washington (CNN) Correction: This story has been corrected to say the date of the email was September 14, 2016, not September 4, 2016. The story also changed the headline and removed a tweet from Donald Trump Jr., who posted a message about WikiLeaks on September 4, 2016.

So mistakes happen in journalism, even huge and embarrassing ones. Other than some petty schadenfreude, why is this worth remembering? The reason is that that sorry episode reflects a now-common but highly corrosive tactic of journalistic deceit.

Very shortly after CNN unveiled its false story, MSNBC’s intelligence community spokesman Ken Dilanian went on air and breathlessly announced that he had obtained independent confirmation that the CNN story was true. In a video segment I cannot recommend highly enough, Dilanian was introduced by an incredibly excited Hallie Jackson — who urged Dilanian to “tell us what we’ve just now learned,” adding: “I know you and some of our colleagues have confirmed some of this information: what’s up?” Dilanian then proceeded to explain what he had learned:

That’s right, Hallie. Two sources with direct knowledge of this are telling us that Congressional investigators have obtained an email from a man named “Mike Erickson” — obviously they don’t know if that’s his real name — offering Donald Trump and his son Donald Trump, Jr. access to WikiLeaks documents… It goes to the heart of the collusion question….. One of the big questions is: did [Trump Jr.] call the FBI?

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How could that happen? How could MSNBC purport to confirm a false story from CNN? Shortly after, CBS News also purported to have “confirmed” the same false story: that Trump, Jr. received advanced access to the WikiLeaks documents. It’s one thing for a news outlet to make a mistake in reporting by, for instance, mis-reporting the date of an email and thus getting the story completely wrong. But how is it possible that multiple other outlets could “confirm” the same false report?

It’s possible because news outlets have completely distorted the term “confirmation” beyond all recognition. Indeed, they now use it to mean the exact opposite of what it actually means, thereby draping themselves in journalistic glory they have not earned and, worse, deceiving the public into believing that an unproven assertion has, in fact, been proven. With this disinformation method, they are doing the exact opposite of what journalism, at its core, is supposed to do: separate fact from speculation.

CNN ultimately blamed its anonymous sources for this error, but refused to out them by insisting that it was a somehow a good faith mistake rather than deliberate disinformation (how did multiple “good faith” sources all “accidentally misread” an email date in the same way? CNN, in the spirit of news outlets refusing to provide the accountability and transparency for themselves that they demand from others, refuses to this very day to address that question).

But what is clear is that the “confirmation” which both MSNBC and CBS claimed it had obtained for the story was anything but: all that happened was that the same sources which anonymously whispered these unverified, false claims to CNN then went and repeated the same unverified, false claims to other outlets, which then claimed that they “independently confirmed” the story even though they had done nothing of the sort.

undefined

It seems the same misleading tactic is now driving the supremely dumb but all-consuming news cycle centered on whether President Trump, as first reported by the Atlantic’s editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg, made disparaging comments about The Troops. Goldberg claims that “four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day” — whom the magazine refuses to name because they fear “angry tweets” — told him that Trump made these comments. Trump, as well as former aides who were present that day (including Sarah Huckabee Sanders and John Bolton), deny that the report is accurate.

So we have anonymous sources making claims on one side, and Trump and former aides (including Bolton, now a harsh Trump critic) insisting that the story is inaccurate. Beyond deciding whether or not to believe Goldberg’s story based on what best advances one’s political interests, how can one resolve the factual dispute? If other media outlets could confirm the original claims from Goldberg, that would obviously be a significant advancement of the story.

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Justice Department announces superseding indictment against Wikileaks’ Assange | TheHill

Posted by M. C. on June 25, 2020

“The Trump DOJ’s attempt to imprison Julian Assange for working with his source to publish classified documents that exposed US war crimes is the most severe US threat to press freedom since 2016,” Greenwald tweeted. “It’s sickening to watch so many journalists ignore it, & so many liberals cheer it.”

What is the point? The plan is to have Assange die in jail.

Like with Bin Laden, you can’t have people who know too much to do any talking.

https://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/504434-justice-department-announces-superseding-indictment-against-wikileaks

The Justice Department on Wednesday announced a superseding indictment in the case against WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange, alleging that he intentionally worked with hackers affiliated with groups “LulzSec” and “Anonymous” to target and publish sensitive information.

The new indictment, handed down by a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va., did not add any charges to the existing 18 charges brought against Assange last year, but alleged that Assange and WikiLeaks actively recruited hackers to provide WikiLeaks with documents.

Assange is alleged to have provided the leader of hacking group “LulzSec” with a list of groups to target in 2012 in order to obtain information to post to the WikiLeaks platform.

The new indictment alleges that in one case, Assange gave the LulzSec leader specific documents and pdfs to target and sent to WikiLeaks, and WikiLeaks eventually published information obtained from an American intelligence company by a hacker associated with LulzSec and with Anonymous.

“To obtain information to release on the WikiLeaks website, Assange recruited sources and predicted the success of WikiLeaks in part upon the recruitment of sources to illegally circumvent legal safeguards on information, including classification restrictions and computer and network restrictions,” the indictment reads, noting this was done with the intent to publish the information online.

The 18 charges unveiled last year alleged that Assange worked with former Army Intelligence Analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010 to obtain and disclose sensitive “national defense information” through conspiring to crack a password tied to a Department of Defense computer.

WikiLeaks has published thousands of pages of material obtained from Manning, including details around Guantanamo Bay detainees and combat guidelines concerning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If convicted, Assange faces a maximum of 10 years in prison for each of the existing 18 charges brought against him except for alleged conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, for which Assange could face up to five years in prison.

Assange is currently detained in the United Kingdom after being evicted from the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he took refuge for several years. The U.S. has requested Assange’s extradition.

Manning was freed from prison in March after being jailed since May, 2019 for refusing to appear before the grand jury involved in the indictment against Assange.

A federal judge ruled that her testimony was unnecessary, but ordered her to pay a fine of $256,000. The ruling came the day after reports emerged that Manning had attempted suicide while in custody.

The earlier charges brought against Assange and Manning ignited a debate over the publication of classified materials, and whether the case could produce a chilling effect on journalists who publish these documents.

Glenn Greenwald, co-founding editor of The Intercept, tweeted Wednesday following the superseding charges being made public that the charges constituted a “severe” threat to press freedom.

“The Trump DOJ’s attempt to imprison Julian Assange for working with his source to publish classified documents that exposed US war crimes is the most severe US threat to press freedom since 2016,” Greenwald tweeted. “It’s sickening to watch so many journalists ignore it, & so many liberals cheer it.”

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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.

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