No Minister

Posts Tagged ‘Intelligence and Security

Discretion is the better part of valour

with 22 comments

“Joshua son of Nun sent two spies out from Shittim secretly with orders to reconnoitre the country. The two men came to Jericho and went to the house of a prostitute named Rahab..”

Discretion is certainly a quality prized by both the first and the second oldest professions in the world.

Nobody who uses either of these services wants that fact broadcast across the community, and both the provider and the user understand the mutual protection provided, even in these days of legal prostitution and advertising thereof.

Speaking of the CIA and its friends, they’ve been leaking to their favoured MSM sources, starting with the NYT, that they’ve provided intelligence to the Ukrainians that has enabled them to:

  1. Kill some of Moscow’s generals,
  2. Down a plane carrying Russian soldiers (at the start of the war near Kyiv International Airport)
  3. Sink one of Putin’s warships (the Moskva)

Now I doubt that anybody, least of all the Russian FSB and GRU, has ever doubted that US intelligence has been helping the Ukrainians from day one and earlier, using satellite and drone observation, plus signals intelligence of all types. And I don’t have a problem with that because I want Putin to lose.

But it’s long been understood that all this is done on the down low. Aside from anything else you don’t want to show your cards to the enemy as to how you’re getting all this information. Let them guess. And in this case you also don’t want to start a larger war by pushing the Russians to start taking more direct actions against specific US intelligence platforms and generally pushing Putin into a corner he can’t get out of. For once I’ll quote the Democrat-supporting moron NYT opinionater, Tom Friedman:

“Boasting about killing his generals and sinking his ships, or falling in love with Ukraine in ways that will get us enmeshed there forever, is the height of folly.”

Which leads into one of those classic spycraft, “you know that I know that you know…” things. Surely the US intelligence agencies are not so stupid as to run such risks, in which case the question is why they would be blabbing about this.

The rather frightening theory I have is that elements of US intelligence have concluded that since the Russian military has proven to be a bit of a paper tiger and Putin has been revealed as not so smart as was claimed, that the US can start rubbing his nose in this stuff; “Yeah, we did all this! Watcha gonna do tough guy? Huh? Huh?”

Before anybody says that the CIA and company could not be that arrogant, hubristic and stupid let me remind you of the rather long list of hubristic failures they’ve had over the decades, from missing the fall of the Shah of Iran, to missing the fall of the Warsaw Pact and then the USSR, to the 9/11 attacks and Iraqi WMD’s. Yes, they’ve had spectacular successes, including greatly contributing to the fall of the USSR. But there’s enough failure and mistakes in that history to put the brakes on when it comes to confronting a nuclear power, one still with some 6000 warheads.

Incidentally that second claim about the downed transport plane is likely to be bullshit, as detailed here in Red State where the reporter (a former US Army officer) tears it apart and wonders why the CIA is trying to take credit for something that does not appear to have happened. The details of the claim are fascinating in themselves, like no wreckage spotted for such a shoot down; but in light of the other stuff about killing Russian Generals and the Moskva it’s this I find fascinating:

The lead reporter on the story was the Intelligence Community’s and FusionGPS’s go-to guy, Ken Delanian. Delanian is basically a stenographer for the IC who, in the past, has submitted his reporting to the CIA for pre-publication review and correction. The story goes on to sing the praises of the intelligence community’s work in keeping Ukraine in the fight.

Why did the IC “officials” who fed stuff to Delanian push this story out, and why Delanian and his co-authors didn’t attempt a fact check?

Actually he answered that question with that earlier paragraph. He goes on to point out that the sources probably have little to do with with Ukraine and are just passing along water cooler gossip.

But that’s still rather reckless in this situation. Another writer points out that the Pentagon is pushing back on such claims, and that this leads to a speculation only a little less worse than the deliberate goading of Putin:

Now, however, identifiable Pentagon officials—people with names, like, “John Kirby”—are walking back the claims of the anonymous “senior American officials” and “US officials”.

That the US government is so divided on the core issue of war or peace with a nuclear power is disturbing in and of itself. That one faction in the government is attempting to go over the heads of the Pentagon on the issue of a war of choice adds to the concern. The fact that the sources are identified so vaguely is further cause for concern, since it suggests a lack of military expertise. That this semi-public debate is taking place with essentially no significant input from the one constitutional institution of the American republic which has the authority to declare a war—the legislative branch—or meaningful public debate should raise our concerns to the level of alarm.

Then there’s “The Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022”, which is being touted as a way of expediting the delivery of weapons and munitions to Ukraine. Lend-Lease? I don’t object to the actions but the choice of name, with its quite deliberate echo of World War II history, is another marker of Washington arrogance and hubris, on both the Democrat and GOP sides.

And that’s apart from the $40 billion Ukraine aid bill passed by the House, amazingly an increase from the $33 billion requested by Biden, so you know how hot a bipartisan Congress is for this stuff, even when it contains shit like this:

  • $54 million goes to the Center for Disease Control.
  • $67 million is given to the DOJ for salaries and expenses.
  • $110 million is marked for embassy security in other countries
  • $4 billion is delegated to Joe Biden for “foreign military assistance” with essentially no stipulations.
  • $17.6 billion goes to the Department of Defense for stuff that may or may not have anything to do with Ukraine.

Chip Roy of Texas summed it up very well.

None of this is smart, from the leaks to the spending, all of which may be nudging the US to something more than a proxy war, which is why it’s even led to speculation about other reasons that may lie behind all this:

Abraham Lincoln arrested opposition journalists and publishers during the War between the States.  WWI saw the passage of the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918, the latter of which absolutely infringed upon freedom of speech.  And Franklin Roosevelt is notorious for having interned U.S. citizens of Japanese and also of German descent and for persecuting some Italian-heritage Americans.

Civil rights’ trampling would surely be worse under a major-war scenario today.  Not only are we much farther down the rabbit hole of moral nihilism and wanton constitutional trespass, but Americans who even question our Ukraine policy are already labeled “stooges of Putin.”  Moreover, Democrats have already made crystal-clear what they want: complete power — by any means necessary.

I don’t think the Democrats are either smart enough or courageous enough to pull that off.

Lastly from the world of Smart People In Charge, I’ll leave you with this video of some Ukrainian “soldier” supposedly doing a training video on how to operate a mortar. It’s not just the Russian military that have training problems. Here’s the snapshot from near the end in case you don’t want to watch two minutes of video.

I’ve never fired a mortar or even been near one, but I’ve watched enough war movies to know that that is not the end you stick in the mortar tube first.

The Intelligence Community

US Intelligence reports Russian commanders have orders to invade and Sky News reports Australia’s Defence Minister, Peter Dutton, therefore is considering sending military assistance to Ukraine.

Adolf struggles to recollect any instance where the Amercan intelligence community got something right.

Pearl Harbour?

Bay of Pigs?

9/11

WMD?

Kabul?

With a gang of clots like Clapper, Brennan, Comey and McCabe running the show, I’d be surprised if they could find an ice-cream shop within a mile of the White House

.

Written by adolffinkensen

February 21, 2022 at 4:22 pm

Posted in Australia, USA

Tagged with

The China Syndrome

Since the movie was made in 1999, has come to be regarded as a cult classic and viewed by tens of millions of people, I don’t think readers will mind if I give up at least one of the plot spoilers from the end of Fight Club.

The skyscrapers owned by the credit card companies do get blown up by Tyler Durden’s team of anarchists – all while the classic Gen X band, Pixies, have their song “Where Is My Mind?” playing in the background (inside joke).

I didn’t watch the move until the mid-2000’s and that final scene is a lot more shocking than it would have been pre 9/11, especially since the way those buildings fall is eerily realistic.

But that’s not the problem that the Chinese censors had with the scene.

No, their problem was that a bunch of anarchists (somewhat organised anarchists I must say) cannot be seen to be demolishing The Powers That Be, being the modern tangle of state and corporate power. So if you’re streaming the movie in China the screen fades to black just before the explosions begin, and the following text appears on screen:

Through the clue provided by Tyler, the police rapidly figured out the whole plan and arrested all criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding. After the trial, Tyler was sent to lunatic asylum receiving psychological treatment. He was discharged from the hospital in 2012.

I don’t know about releasing old Tyler: it seems to me that the solution employed by Edward Norton’s character was the only one that could work.

The Washington Free Beacon had some fun imagining similar re-workings of other classic movies:

Gladiator 

The Praetorian Guard surrounded fallen emperor Commodus, saving him from certain death at the hands of his treasonous slave. The crowd cheered as Maximus was slaughtered and dismembered with his fellow gladiators. Their bodies were reassembled, crucified, and displayed at Roman Forum as a warning to common citizens. On the emperor’s orders, the bodies of Maximus’s dead wife and son were exhumed and re-executed.

Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi  

Following their arrest for incest, among other charges, Luke and Leia were subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques, providing crucial intelligence. Imperial Forces launched a preemptive strike against the Ewoks, killing most of the furry terrorists. Survivors were relocated to education camps on Zeitooine Autonomous Planet. The Death Star destroyed what was left of the Rebel Fleet, and order was restored to the galaxy.

But before you laugh too hard at the Chinese Communist obsession with speech and mind control you should check out what’s happening on Airstrip One:

A number of skits from classic comedy shows have been memory-holed entirely by the BBC, with the UK’s national broadcaster quietly editing re-broadcasts of old programming to remove supposedly offensive elements of the shows.

Shows such as Dad’s ArmySteptoe and Son and I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again have been hit by censorship according to the publication, with some sketches being stripped from rebroadcasted programmes entirely… Frequent targets of censorship are jokes revolving around sexuality, gender relations and race.

“Listeners enjoy a huge number of old comedies from the archives on 4 Extra and on occasion, we edit some episodes so they’re suitable for broadcast today, including removing racially offensive language and stereotypes from decades ago, as the vast majority of our audience would expect,” the spokesman said.

Of course. Incredible. There are now, in the BBC, real-life Winston Smiths, quietly altering the past in order to match the present. It is beyond irony! It is beyond fucking parody. Speaking of which:

Meanwhile, a 1970 episode of I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again had an entire sketch cut that involved a gag about scantily dressed women seen on Top of the Pops.

“We have noticed that it is possible to see right up to the girls’ knickers, owing to the shortness of their miniskirts, so we’ve asked the girls to drop them,” legendary actor John Cleese said while parodying a spokesman for the BBC during the bit.

If you didn’t laugh at that you know which camp you belong to.

Twenty years ago the idea of free trade with China was that it would enable the West to also export its ideas to China. Instead, we’re importing their ideas, and their values.

I can’t even!

Written by Tom Hunter

February 2, 2022 at 10:58 am

The GCSB is on the case?

I would think they would be for the Ministry of Health, following this news:

Websites under Brazil’s Ministry of Health (MoH) have suffered a major ransomware attack that resulted in the unavailability of COVID-19 vaccination data of millions of citizens.

Following that attack that took place at around 1 am today, all of MoH’s websites including ConecteSUS, which tracks the trajectory of citizens in the public healthcare system, became unavailable. This includes the COVID-19 digital vaccination certificate, which is available via the ConecteSUS app.

Especially since the Waikato DHB was hit with a similar cyberattack some months ago which is still causing ongoing problems, according to people I know in that system.

I had to chuckle at the Twitter site, ZeitgeistNZ, carrying this news, because it turns out to be a New Zealander and I first saw it on the huge Instapundit blog, which undoubtedly will have delivered huge numbers of visitors to ZitgeistNZ.

It’s amazing how often the people running these systems find out that their backups are not as good as they thought they were, since such things should mean attacks like this are a mere inconvenience to the owner of the system, although having personal information being published by the hackers is a problem for both parties.

Quote of The Year

On intelligence:-

Living in the past, this group can’t explain why US intelligence was sure there was a Capitol ‘insurrection’ and completely sure there would not be a Taliban insurrection.

Written by adolffinkensen

August 23, 2021 at 12:04 pm

Posted in USA

Tagged with

The hackers strike back

In a world, incredibly the Western world, where freedom seems to be under ever greater threat than before – due less to government than to people apparently not rating it as much as they used to – it’s nice to see an example of a fightback.

In this case the story is especially meaningful because there has been much coverage in recent years of how Information Technology (IT) is now enabling The Powers That Be to spy on us in ever more detailed ways. The old East German Stasi would have given up their first-born sons for the sort of spying tech that China’s security services are employing – and likely those of the West as well.

Belarus is one such country, never having recovered from its Communist culture when it found itself a new and separate nation after the collapse of the USSR (it having been of those “Republics”). Former communist bigwig Alyaksandr Lukashenka quickly figured out how to get on top and stay there in this new world, with all his totalitarian, authoritarian instincts born of a communist life having ameliorated not one bit. He’s been the leader of the nation since the early 1990’s, complete with the usual sham elections.

Naturally one of his tools was the internal security services, former KGB types, but now with extra computer power allowing huge centralised databases containing untold amounts of personal information on ordinary people.

Of course, while you can have such centralisation of data nowadays thanks to IT, you can’t actually centralise the IT itself. The very nature of modern IT systems is that they are distributed; the amount of computer power available to ordinary people is also vast, and increasing everyday, which means these ordinary people can do things that only nations could do – like finding ICBM sites from private satellite photos.

And so…

While refraining from naming an exact number of files, the hackers claim to have obtained classified passport records for the Belarusian security forces’ leadership, members of Lukashenka’s inner circle, plus State Security Committee (KGB) employees, including intelligence officers operating in the European Union.

On July 26, the group’s Telegram channel teased passport data for KGB Chairman Ivan Tertel;

Each individual’s dossier, the hackers claim, contains passport photos and data; his or her residence permit; the name of the government body or military unit for which the person works; the names of family members, “and so on.”

“Will many KGB agents be ready to operate abroad, knowing that data about them has already leaked?” one of the hackers asked rhetorically in a bot-assisted Telegram chat with Current Time.

Aside from passport data, the Cyberpartisans claim to have accessed the records of the Belarusian traffic police, which the hackers say include information on registered cars for the KGB, the anti-corruption police, and tsikhary (“silent men”), masked muscle men in plainclothes known for brutally rounding up suspected protesters.

It’s a great example of the lack of culture change since 1991 that Belarus still has an actual KGB, they didn’t even bother changing the name, so much in love with their totalitarian past are they.

The cyber hack is yet to be confirmed, but as the article points out:

To verify the Cyberpartisans’ claim of having hacked Belarus’ passport database, Current Time submitted to the hackers the names and dates of birth of two Belarusian citizens, who agreed to the information’s release.

After a few minutes’ search in their alleged data trove, the Cyberpartisans sent the two Belarusians’ complete passport details, their official places of residence and work, and also technical information — for example, that one passport no longer has the space to affix visas.

Seems like confirmation to me. The logo below is that of the hacker group.

Written by Tom Hunter

August 13, 2021 at 10:20 am

The undergraduate NRO

A couple of decades ago I read a SF story that had – as basically a throwaway commentary – a section on the future of private-sector Earth Observation satellites and national military security.

The concept was that in this future the planet was surrounded by so many such satellites generating vast quantities of imagery, that millions of people had taken up the hobby of scanning through the stuff looking for things that interested them, and that this included large numbers of people who simply loved looking to see what national militaries were up to around the globe.

The upshot was that in this future, national military forces found themselves more hemmed in than they had been in the days of military spying by the likes of the National Reconnaissance Office and their famous series of “KeyHole” spy satellites (plus whatever they have today).

That future is here now.

News recently broke that the Chinese were building new ICBM launch sites, adding to their nuclear arsenal for the first time in decades. While that was important news I just assumed that it had been discovered via the usual means of spy satellites and other intelligence gathering.

Not exactly:

The silos were spotted by Decker Eveleth, an undergrad at Reed College. He spent weeks poking around on satellite imagery until he happened upon the silos’ distinctive inflatable dome coverings. (Which, in turn, has led some people to describe them as “bouncy houses of death.”)

The reason he had something to “poke around” in was exactly as that old SF story described:

Planet Labs, however, created a new kind of small, low-cost imaging satellite and put up so many of them that it can take multiple pictures of every spot on Earth, every day. In this case, Planet had years’ worth of pictures of the area in question, and Eveleth was ready, willing and able to scour them pixel-by-pixel.

Moroever, once he had spotted this, he was able to get more detail:

Eveleth contacted Planet to see if they could use a larger breed of their satellites to take even higher-resolution pictures of the area with the domes. Planet could.

Lewis and Eveleth were able to log in to Planet’s service and see not just the domes but also trenches, for communications cables, leading out from underground facilities where the military likely has its launch operations. 

Naturally the Chinese denied the story, claiming it was a wind farm, until further evidence from Lewis and others shut down that propaganda. The US State Department said such a development was “concerning”. That comment made me wonder if they, the NRO and the US military and government already knew about this – given their spying capabilities and general interest in monitoring China’s military, you’d think they would – but had chosen to say nothing?

There’s more detail at the link, including a reference to New Zealand’s very own Rocket Lab company and the micro-satellite launches it has been doing. That last, in turn, brought me to this article; Rocket Lab launches secret payload from New Zealand:

After waiting out high winds, Rocket Lab’s low-cost Electron rocket launched a top-secret payload for the National Reconnaissance Office from New Zealand, halfway around the world from the U.S. spy satellite agency’s headquarters.

That is just the latest of several such launches, which probably makes the Mahia peninsula a military target, as Paul Buchanan pointed out a couple of years ago in very interesting article on that subject, Launching Into Trouble?:

If the contract to deliver military payloads is solely and exclusively with the US, then Rocket Lab has painted a target on Launch Complex 1 in the event that the US becomes embroiled in a large-scale conflict with a major power. Even if it allows nations other than the US to launch military payloads on Electron boosters, Rocket Lab has made the Mahia Peninsula a target whether or not weapons satellites are launched from there. After all, the main use of smallsats is for surveillance, tracking, mapping and telecommunications, all of which are essential for the successful prosecution of contemporary wars. So even if smallsats launched from the Mahia Peninsula do not carry weapons on them, the site becomes a potential target.

In fact he questioned whether this was even legal under the Space Laws written up to allow RocketLabs to operate in the first place (New Zealand had no such laws because…. well, we’re NZ).

The question is whether there is a legal basis to permit or prohibit foreign military satellites, especially weaponised satellites, being launched from NZ soil with NZ technologies. I am unsure if that is the case one way or another and have heard of no parliamentary or ministerial discussion of the matter.

Written by Tom Hunter

July 20, 2021 at 12:52 pm