s the Obama administration expands
Bush-era surveillance programs over the nation's electronic
communications' infrastructure, recent media reports provide tantalizing
hints of Pentagon plans for waging cyberwar against imperialism's
On May 31, The Wall Street Journal
that the Pentagon now asserts "that computer sabotage coming from
another country can constitute an act of war, a finding that for the
first time opens the door for the U.S. to respond using traditional
One sound bite savvy wag told journalist Siobhan Gorman, "if you
shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your
Also on May 31, The Washington Post
that America's shadow warriors have "developed a list of cyber-weapons
and tools, including viruses that can sabotage an adversary's critical
networks, to streamline how the United States engages in computer
hat "classified list of capabilities has been in use for several
months," with the approval of "other agencies, including the CIA." Post reporter
Ellen Nakashima informed us that this "sensitive program ... forms part
of the Pentagon's set of approved weapons or 'fires' that can be
employed against an enemy."
Not to be left in the dust by their U.S. and Israeli allies, The Guardian
that the "UK is developing a cyber-weapons programme that will give
ministers an attacking capability to help counter growing threats to
national security from cyberspace."
Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey told The Guardian that
"action in cyberspace will form part of the future battlefield" and
will become "an integral part of the country's armoury."
It appears that Western military establishments are in the grips of a
full-blown cyber panic or, more likely, beating the war drums as they
roll out new product lines with encouragement from corporate partners
eager to make billions developing new weapons systems for their
respective political masters.
And why not? As Bloomberg News
reported back in 2008, both Lockheed Martin and Boeing "are deploying forces and resources to a new battlefield: cyberspace."
Bloomberg averred that
military contractors and the wider defense industry are "eager to
capture a share of a market that may reach $11 billion in 2013," and
"have formed new business units to tap increased spending to protect
U.S. government computers from attack."
Linda Gooden, executive vice president of Lockheed's Information Systems & Global Services unit told Bloomberg,
"The whole area of cyber is probably one of the faster-growing areas"
of the U.S. budget. "It's something that we're very focused on."
As part of the new strategy to be released later this month, the Post reports
that the military needs "presidential authorization to penetrate a
foreign computer network and leave a cyber-virus that can be activated
However, when it comes to espionage or other activities loudly
denounced as illegal intrusions into the sacrosanct world of government
and corporate crime and corruption, the "military does not need such
We're told such "benign" activities "include studying the
cyber-capabilities of adversaries or examining how power plants or other
"Military cyber-warriors," Nakashima writes,
"can also, without presidential authorization, leave beacons to mark
spots for later targeting by viruses," an "unnamed military official"
told the Post.
But wait, aren't those precisely the types of covert actions decried by politicians, media commentators and assorted experts when they're directed against the heimat? Is there a double standard here? Well, of course there is!
Along with a flurry of Defense Department leaks designed to
ratchet-up the fear factor and lay the groundwork for billions more from
Congress for giant defense firms servicing the Pentagon's unquenchable
thirst for ever-deadlier weapons systems--cyber, or otherwise--"threat
inflation" scaremongering described by researchers Jerry Brito and Tate
Watkins in their essential paper, Loving the Cyber Bomb?
, take center stage.
Just last week, former Democratic party congressional hack, current
CIA Director and Obama's nominee to lead the Defense Department, Leon
Panetta, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that "the next Pearl
Harbor that we confront could very well be a cyberattack that cripples
America's electrical grid and its security and financial systems," The Christian Science Monitor
Cripple the financial system? Why greedy banksters and corporate
bottom-feeders seem to be doing a splendid job of it on their own
without an assist from shadowy Russian hackers, the People's Liberation
Army or LulzSec
However, the Pentagon's propaganda blitz (courtesy of a gullible or
complicitous corporate media, take your pick) is neither meant to inform
nor educate the public but rather, to conceal an essential fact: the
United States is already engaged
in hostile cyber operations against their geopolitical rivals--and
allies--and have been doing so since the 1990s, if not earlier, as
journalist Nicky Hager revealed when he blew the lid off NSA's Echelon
program in a 1997 piece for CovertAction Quarterly
Botnets and Root Kits: What the HBGary Hack Revealed
When The Wall Street Journal informed
readers that the "Pentagon's first formal cyber strategy ... represents
an early attempt to grapple with a changing world in which a hacker
could pose as significant a threat to U.S. nuclear reactors, subways or
pipelines as a hostile country's military," what the Journal didn't disclose is that the Defense Department is seeking the technological means to do just that.
Implying that hacking might soon constitute an "act of war" worthy
of a "shock and awe" campaign, never mind that attributing an attack by a
criminal or a state is no simple matter, where would the Pentagon draw
After all as The Guardian
with the "underground world of computer hackers ... so thoroughly
infiltrated in the US by the FBI and secret service," will some
enterprising criminal acting as a catspaw for his/her U.S. handlers,
gin-up an incident thereby creating Panetta's "cyber Pearl Harbor" as a
pretext for a new resource war?
While fanciful perhaps, if recent history is any guide to future
American actions (can you say "Iraq" and "weapons of mass destruction"),
such fabrications would have very deadly consequences for those on the
wrong side of this, or some future, U.S. administration.
But we needn't speculate on what the Pentagon might do; let's turn our attention instead to what we know they're doing already.
Back in February, The Tech Herald
that the private security firms HBGary Federal, HBGary, Palantir
Technologies and Berico Technologies were contacted by the white shoe
law firm Hunton & Williams on behalf of corporate clients, Bank of
America and the U.S. Chamber on Commerce, to "develop a strategic plan
of attack against Wikileaks."
The scheme concocted by "Team Themis" was to have included a dirty
tricks campaign targeting journalists, WikiLeaks supporters, their families and the whistleblowing group itself through "cyber attacks, disinformation, and other potential proactive tactics."
But when the CEO of HBGary Federal boasted to the Financial Times that he had penetrated the cyber-guerrilla collective Anonymous
the group struck back and pwned ("owned") HBGary's allegedly "secure"
servers, seizing a treasure trove of some 70,000 internal emails and
other documents, posting them on the internet
As I reported
this year, Team Themis looked like a smart bet. After all, HBGary and
the other firms touted themselves as "experts in threat intelligence and
open source analysis" with a focus on "Information Operations
(INFOOPS); influence operations, social media exploitation, new media
, which was fronted millions of dollars by the CIA's venture capitalist arm, In-Q-Tel
bragged that they could deliver "the only platform that can be used at
the strategic, operational, and tactical levels within the US
Intelligence, Defense, and Law Enforcement Communities," and that they
can draw "in any type of data, such as unstructured message traffic,
structured identity data, link charts, spreadsheets, SIGINT, ELINT,
IMINT and documents."
In other words, these firms subsisted almost entirely on U.S.
government contracts and, in close partnership with mega-giant defense
companies such as General Dynamics
, SRA International
, ManTech International
and QinetiQ North America
, were actively building cyber weapons for the Defense Department.
In the aftermath of the HBGary sting, investigative journalist Nate Anderson published an essential piece for Ars Technica
which described how HBGary and other firms were writing "backdoors for the government."
"In 2009," Anderson wrote, "HBGary had partnered with the Advanced
Information Systems group of defense contractor General Dynamics to work
on a project euphemistically known as 'Task B.' The team had a simple
mission: slip a piece of stealth software onto a target laptop without
the owner's knowledge."
HBGary's CEO Greg Hoglund's "special interest," Anderson reported,
"was in all-but-undetectable computer 'rootkits,' programs that provide
privileged access to a computer's innermost workings while cloaking
themselves even from standard operating system functions. A good rootkit
can be almost impossible to remove from a running machine--if you could
even find it in the first place."
The secret-shredding web site Public Intelligence
published HBGary's 2008 paper, Windows Rootkit Analysis Report
Amongst the nuggets buried within its 243 pages we learned that Hoglund
suggested to his secret state and corporate clients that "combining
deployment of a rootkit with a BOT makes for a very stealth piece of
Readers should recall that back in 2008, an article published in the influential Armed Forces Journal
advocated precisely that.
Col. Charles W. Williamson III's piece, "Carpet Bombing in Cyberspace," advocated "building an af.mil
network (botnet) that can direct such massive amounts of traffic to
target computers that they can no longer communicate and become no more
useful to our adversaries than hunks of metal and plastic."
It would appear that the project envisioned by HBGary and General
Dynamics would combine the stealthy features of a rootkit along with the
destructive capabilities of a botnet.
One can only presume that
defense firms are building malware and other attack tools for the
Defense Department, the CIA, the National Security Agency and
USCYBERCOM, and that they constitute the short list of "approved weapons
or 'fires'" alluded to by The Washington Post.
A 2009 HBGary contract proposal released by Public Intelligence, DoD Cyber Warfare Support Work Statement
disclosed that the "contract will include efforts to examine the
architecture, engineering, functionality, interface and interoperability
of Cyber Warfare systems, services and capabilities at the tactical,
operational and strategic levels, to include all enabling technologies."
The firm proposed an "operational exercise design and construction,"
as well as "operations and requirements analysis, concept formulation
and development, feasibility demonstrations and operational support."
"This will include," the proposal averred, "efforts to analyze and
engineer operational, functional and system requirements in order to
establish national, theater and force level architecture and engineering
plans, interface and systems specifications and definitions,
implementation, including hardware acquisition for turnkey systems."
Under terms of the contract, the company will "perform analyses of
existing and emerging Operational and Functional Requirements at the
force, theater, Combatant Commands (COCOM) and national levels to
support the formulation, development and assessment of doctrine,
strategy, plans, concepts of operations, and tactics, techniques and
procedures in order to provide the full spectrum of Cyber Warfare and
enabling capabilities to the warfighter."
In fact, during an early roll-out of the Pentagon's cyber panic
product line five years ago, Dr. Lani Kass, a former Israeli Air Force
major and acolyte of neocon war criminals Dick Cheney and Donald
Rumsfeld, and who directs the Air Force Cyber Space Task Force under
Bush and Obama, submitted a provocative proposal.
During a 2006 presentation titled, A Warfighting Domain: Cyberspace
Kass asserted that "the electromagnetic spectrum is the maneuver space.
Cyber is the United States' Center of Gravity--the hub of all power and
movement, upon which everything else depends. It is the Nation's neural
network." Kass averred that "Cyber superiority is the prerequisite to
effective operations across all strategic and operational
domains--securing freedom from attack and freedom to attack."
Accordingly, she informed her Air Force audience that "Cyber favors
the offensive," and that the transformation of a militarized internet
into a "warfighting domain" will be accomplished by "Strategic Attack
directly at enemy centers of gravity; Suppression of Enemy Cyber
Defenses; Offensive Counter Cyber; Defensive Counter Cyber;
In the years since that presentation such plans are well underway.
In another leaked file, Public Intelligence
that HBGary, again in partnership with General Dynamics, are developing
"a software tool, which provides the user a command line interface,
that will enable single file, or full directory exfiltration over
Called "Task Z," General Dynamics "requested multiple protocols to
be scoped as viable options, and this quote contains options for VoIP
(Skype) protocol, BitTorrent protocol, video over HTTP (port 80), and
HTTPS (port 443)."
As I reported
year, the Obama administration will soon be seeking legislation that
would force telecommunications companies to redesign their system and
information networks to more readily facilitate internet spying.
And, as the administration builds upon and quietly expands previous
government programs that monitor the private communications of the
American people, The New York Times
that our "change" regime will demand that software and communication
providers build backdoors accessible to law enforcement and intelligence
Such "backdoors" will enable spooks trolling "encrypted e-mail
transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook
and software that allows direct 'peer to peer' messaging like Skype" the
means "to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages."
These are precisely the technological "fixes" which firms like
HBGary, General Dynamics and presumably other defense contractors are
actively building for their secret state security partners.
The Fire This Time
While denouncing China, Russia and other capitalist rivals over
cyber espionage and alleged hacking escapades, the deployment of digital
weapons of mass destruction against selected adversaries, Iran for one,
is an essential feature of Pentagon targeting profiles and has now been
fully integrated into overall U.S. strategic military doctrine.
This is hardly the stuff of wild speculation considering that
evidence suggests that last year's attack on Iran's civilian nuclear
program via the highly-destructive Stuxnet worm was in all probability a
joint U.S.-Israeli operation as The New York Times
Nor should we forget, that U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM
the Pentagon satrapy directed by NSA Director, Gen. Keith Alexander, is
"a sub-unified command subordinate to U. S. Strategic Command," the
lead agency charged with running space operations, information warfare,
missile defense, global command, control, intelligence, surveillance and
reconnaissance (C4ISR), global strike and strategic deterrence; the
trigger finger on America's first-strike nuclear arsenal.
Will the next crisis trigger an onslaught against an adversary's civilian infrastructure? The Washington Post informs
us that an unnamed U.S. official acknowledged that "'the United States
is actively developing and implementing' cyber-capabilities 'to deter or
deny a potential adversary the ability to use its computer systems' to
attack the United States."
However, while the "collateral effects" of such an attack are
claimed to be "unpredictable," one can be sure that civilian populations
on the receiving end of a Pentagon cyber attack will suffer mass
casualties as water and electrical systems go offline, disease and panic
spreads and social infrastructures collapse.
Welcome to America's brave new world of high-tech war crimes coming soon to a theater near you (3D glasses optional).