In this edition of Know your Enemy, let me introduce you to Wikileaks.
If you haven't ever heard of Wikileaks and believe it to be some sort of strange Wikipedia website, you are wrong. Most of all, you're pretty out of the loop. That's where Wikileaks comes in. Wikileaks first showed up on the internet around 2007 and the pinned founder Julian Assange is the public face of the site. He's essentially the Bill Paxton character from True Lies.
Their main interest is exposing oppressive regimes all over the world. Highlighting and shedding light to otherwise unscrupulous situations. And since our nations hands are as dirty as the next, it was good to hear that Wikileaks was breaking ground by releasing previously top secret documents.
"you want me to hack the planet?" - dj qualls, 2003
Julian Assange, proprietor of the WikiLeaks website, on which he has already published about 76,000 classified documents relating to the Afghanistan war, says he will within weeks publish another 15,000. Assange hopes these disclosures will lead to war crimes trials to punish Americans.
The initial disclosure was comprised of raw battlefield reports and other materials classified at the "secret" level. Many of the documents reportedly contained the names and locations of Afghans who have aided U.S. and NATO troops. The Taliban took note and promised punishment of those people. Other damage done by the publication of these documents is still being assessed.
The second round of disclosures may be worse. The Obama administration seems content with chest-thumping threats of possible prosecutions of Assange. Which, even if they are brought successfully, seems a long shot given Assange's life beyond U.S. courts' jurisdiction and thus won't prevent disclosure.
And now, given Assange's actions are based outside the U.S., in nations where Assange is safe from U.S. court action, another "Pentagon Papers" case or even an attempt at prosecution would be pointless. But we have a right to act to protect our secrets. And act we must. So what should be done to prevent Assange from publishing them?
A friend of mine, a more-or-less retired CIA paramilitary operative, sees the solution in characteristically simple terms. "We should go get him," he said, speaking of Assange.
When my friend says "get him," he isn't thinking of lawsuits, but of suppressed pistols, car bombs and such. But as heart-warming as it is to envision Assange surveying his breakfast cereal with a Geiger counter, we shouldn't deal with him and WikiLeaks that way.
At the risk of abusing the Bard, let's "Cry havoc, and let slip the geeks of cyberwar." We need to have a WikiLeaks fire sale.
A "fire sale" (as those who saw Die Hard 4 will remember) is a cyber attack aimed at disabling -- even destroying -- an adversary's ability to function. Russia did this to Estonia in 2007 and Israel apparently did this to Syrian radar systems when it attacked the Syrian nuclear site later that year. The elegance of this is that if we can pull off a decisive cyber operation against WikiLeaks, it can and should be done entirely in secret.
Plausible deniability, anyone?
And it's easier said than done. WikiLeaks functions, according to one expert I conferred with, through a network of computer servers in several countries. Moreover, Assange has a small army of "supporters" helping to hide and distribute information. The servers' network is hidden behind a wall of anonymous communications links. That makes a cyber attack hard to do, but not impossible.
There are legal restrictions that could prevent our military cyberwarriors from holding the fire sale. Could, but perhaps -- if interpreted aggressively -- wouldn't. This would be a good time to follow the military motto that it's better to ask forgiveness than permission. However, STRATCOM (Strategic Command) hasn't -- according to one source -- taken on any offensive missions yet. And the new CYBERCOM boss, Gen. Keith Alexander, hasn't even set policy for how and when such offensive operations could or would be done.
Which brings us back to the spooks. They have the capability, but will they use it?
Probably not. The intelligence community is now ruled by the Department of Justice with the backing of the White House. Attorney General Eric Holder's iron grip even overrides the legal obligation the IC has to advise congressional intelligence committees of its activities. One senior intelligence community source told me that no information goes to Congress unless and until Holder's crew reviews and approves it.
As that source told me, Holder is interested in prosecuting terrorists, not gathering intelligence. It stretches credulity to believe that he -- or Obama -- would allow a fire sale attack on WikiLeaks.
Over the past decade, America has been unwilling to defend its secrets and punish leakers. Under Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, fear of media reaction prevented the investigation of some of the most damaging leaks in history, ranging from the New York Times's publication of the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program to the Washington Post's publication of the CIA's secret prisons for terrorists. The people who leaked those secrets were left unpunished by Gonzales's Justice Department refusal to subpoena the reporters and force disclosure of their sources.
In Unrestricted Warfare, the highly controversial 2002 book by two active duty Chinese People's Liberation Army officers, Cols. Qiao Liang and Wang Xiansui pose the difference between historical warfare and modern warfare by the juxtaposition of two concepts. First, to "fight the fight that fits one's weapons"; second, "making the weapons to fit the fight." They insist that the modern battlefield is everywhere, from distant nations to the streets of every city. And every computer network.
China has probably invested more time and resources to cyberwar than any nation. Its cyber attacks -- espionage and disruption -- on our military, intelligence and defense contractors occur every day. Liang and Xiansui note that computer hackers "…are adopting a new tactic which might be styled 'network guerilla warfare.'" Just so.
The WikiLeaks publication of secret information is just the beginning. There will be more leakers sending more secret information to offshore websites for publication. Unless we interdict and disrupt them, WikiLeaks and its progeny will have free rein to publish any secrets that may fall into their hands, or which they can convince or pay people to give them to publish. The courts are not agencies of national defense. The military and intelligence communities are and it is through them we should act.
Our government has the obligation to act aggressively to protect our secrets. We need to, as Liang and Xiangsui wrote, make the weapons to fit the fight. That includes development, deployment, and use of every cyber weapon our computer scientists can devise to protect our secrets.
WikiLeaks should be hit with the cyber equivalent of napalm. Let's have that fire sale. Burn, baby, burn.
One of my favorite things about this whole Wikileaks situation is watching these wannabe armchair cyber-warriors theorize electronic warfare scenarios like they have any idea what they are talking about. Turn off Die Hard 4, homie. None of this Hackers bullshit is real.
It's pretty obvious that they get all their ideas from Hollywood and have zero clue about the reality of the matter, but it's still a little silly, don't you think?
Let me just point something out again from that massive wall of stupidity..
A "fire sale" (as those who saw Die Hard 4 will remember) is a cyber attack aimed at disabling -- even destroying -- an adversary's ability to function. Russia did this to Estonia in 2007 and Israel apparently did this to Syrian radar systems when it attacked the Syrian nuclear site later that year. The elegance of this is that if we can pull off a decisive cyber operation against WikiLeaks, it can and should be done entirely in secret.Oh, okay. So the model we should follow are from a movie about events that never happened. DDoS attempts that the Russian government probably didn't have anything to do with that turned out to be nothing more than a temporary nuisance, and an attack against Syria's outmoded, centralized air defense network that had more to do with actual, conventional bombs than it did CYBER WAR!
But hey, thank god men of this caliber are keeping a watchful eye out for our country's interest in cyberspace! No wait, not only is this really stupid, but it's totally irrelevant to the case at hand, one that involves hypothetical attacks against a single organization rather than against The Internet: All Of It!
Even better is that Wikileaks is set to release CIA papers TODAY! At least according to yesterday's Twitter feed. I'm crossing my fingers that the paper is titled "How to frame Julian Assange for rape." Even just a memo describing Assange and his background, residences, etc. would be pretty funny.
But this means that I'm certain to remain glued to the computer screen for updates all day. I sure hope that he has plenty more "INSURANCE" files to release and that the C.I.A. didn't just trick him into blowing his load. But let's face it, this is probably going to look a lot like this;
"welp. we broke the rules of engagement a fuckload lately, probably shouldn't have, but w/e this is war"I think the most comical part of all this is how our nation is talking about our secrets, like Wikileaks is going to tell everyone what we wrote in our Lisa Frank diaries. At best, they're not going to expose anything that people haven't already been talking about for the last 4 years or so in how our nation is fairly corrupt.
This notion that those secrets belong to us, and our possession of them is contingent on our not being in of possession of them. The second everyone knows about our secrets, they'll cease being our secrets. Proof, like that, they'll be our truths or disclosures or our pile of documents that we'll never read or care about. Disclosure is theft! The theft of American property.
Not to mention that by this point, Wikileaks could make up whatever they want now and the government would just refuse to confirm or deny any of it. What's that? Secret documents about how Bush liked to wear women's under pants under his flight suit?
The first of the documents has already been cranked out. And what happens to be the first top secret thing in the pipe line? Looks like you should invest in American Terrorism Futures!
This CIA "Red Cell" report from February 2, 2010, looks at what will happen if it is internationally understood that the United States is an exporter of terrorism; 'Contrary to common belief, the American export of terrorism or terrorists is not a recent phenomenon, nor has it been associated only with Islamic radicals or people of Middle Eastern, African or South Asian ethnic origin. This dynamic belies the American belief that our free, open and integrated multicultural society lessens the allure of radicalism and terrorism for US citizens.' The report looks at a number cases of US exported terrorism, including attacks by US based or ﬁnanced Jewish, Muslim and Irish-nationalism terrorists. It concludes that foreign perceptions of the US as an "Exporter of Terrorism" together with US double standards in international law, may lead to noncooperation in renditions (including the arrest of CIA officers) and the decision to not share terrorism related intelligence with the United States.And full document..
This all is referring to US agents and citizens directly funding and/or doing the terrorism. The piece also shows that US agents were involved in the abduction of an Egyptian cleric which they originally said they had nothing to do with. The C.I.A has not commented on any of the allegations, but I'm pretty sure I can guess what they will say..
But even then, everyone probably knew they did have something to do with this already. It is still kind of cool to have them actually admitting to it. I mean, let's face it, does it come as a surprise to anyone that the C.I.A. creates terrorist? I thought, for sure, that everyone already knew that. What next, you're going to want me to be surprise about how the intelligence management all have at least 4 separate computers each and still can't check their email?
Come on Wikileaks, where's the hard hitting shit? I just have to ask where's my god damned F-15's dropping 500 lb bombs on civilians video, Wikileaks. You promised! Most of all, why haven't they exposed the aliens yet? Come on Wikileaks, get on the ball here.