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Saturday, 29 November 2014

US Dominates Cyber Warfare

Facebook and other internet giants may be getting the blame for terrorism at home and abroad, but we know that the blame for fanning the flames lies a lot closer to home in the governments of Britain and the United States.

When it comes to cyber warfare, the US claims that the terrorists are the real threat. Yet, a new book gives the lie to that assertion: the US has led the world in developing the weapons of 'information wars' and now has greater technical reach and sophistication than any other force on the planet. Shane Harris's new book, @War, is a gold mine of information on the historical development of US cyber power, initially as a defensive move and increasingly thereafter as an offensive weapon against all rivals, large or small, nation states, non-state actors or particular individuals. And, despite continual and loud claims about the rule of law, America's cyber warfare violates American, international and others' laws through the sheer level of intrusion and sabotage carried out.

For example, had Iran planted the Stuxnet virus into the American nuclear enrichment process, President Obama would declare it an act of war requiring the superpower to exact revenge. Yet, that's exactly what the US and Israelis did to Iran's nuclear plant at Natanz, causing massive damage.

Harris talks about the emergence of a new 'military-internet complex' of state and private corporations collaborating to make data available to the NSA and a whole myriad of state agencies surveilling everything that moves in our social media, emails, phone calls, and other electronic communications. So much for the rule of law; and even when there's a hint that the law does not adequately serve the American foreign policy establishment's voracious appetite for information, the law can be changed.

That's what happened under the Bush administration when several top officials at the Justice Department threatened to resign if the president authorised the bulk collection of metadata, including details of an email sender's other information. The programme was pulled for a few months, the law altered to permit the previously illegal actions and this was all handed over to the Obama administration in 2009.

What does Haris mean by military-internet complex? It means the nine largest corporations - like Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook (yes, Facebook), YouTube and Apple -  allowed the US government access to their information: that's 20% of total download traffic via YouTube; 425 million Gmail users; 281 million Yahoo accounts; and 420 million Outlook users; and 250 million iPhones sold by Apple in 2012.

Some corporations are so close to the NSA that they have a decades-long connection: SAIC in California, for example, is known by the NSA as "NSA-West".

Military-internet complex also has a face or faces, moving around the complex, making money, selling skills, and developing ever more powerful weapons of cyber warfare for full spectrum dominance. Mike McConnell, for example, who was intelligence adviser to General Colin Powell in the early 1990s, went on to head the NSA and created "offensive cyber teams" that would, among other things, violate international law by trying to "knock out the lights in Tehran". After leaving the NSA in 1996, McConnell worked as head of cyber security for Booz Allen Hamilton, making millions by selling back to the government what he'd learned at the NSA. In 2006, McConnell moved to director of national intelligence after a phone call from his old patron, VP Dick Cheney, and a chat with his old friend secretary of defence, Robert Gates.

Hacking into others' computers and networks and information flows, much of which flows through America itself, is now routine and integrated into the other forms of lethal military violence at the disposal of the United States.

And its efffects are lethal: it means intercepting phone calls, emails, etc... and relaying them all in real time to someone who decides that it is time to kill the enemy.

Not for the first time, complaints about the power of others - states, groups - and the relative weakness of the United States bear little resemblance to reality, in the post-truth virtual world of US power and paranoia.

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