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07 June 2017

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Gene O.

Great post, thanks TTG. I concur on all points you covered. I do have one snivel: don't believe we should be going back to stovepiping intel. Perhaps it could be done in a limited way as you suggest. Although I am not computer savvy enough to even imagine how that would work.

I saw that Assange calls her a hero, and offered a $10K reward to burn an Intercept reporter for reportedly outing the leaker. And yet Assange was the one that enabled the Russians by posting their hacks on wikileaks. And he claimed to be 1000 percent confident that the Russians had nothing to do with the leaked emails he published. Miss Winner should tell him to stick his support where the sun don't shine. His involvement will get her a maximum sentence.

Bill H

I remember when Watergate was ongoing, all the cries about our democratic way of life being in danger. I said then, as you are saying now, that our constitution and the governance upon which is is founded are a whole lot stronger and more durable than such doomsayer give it credit for.

DianaLC

I am most concerned with her age. I would not have been concerned about that many years ago, but recently I've come to believe that we do little in this country to train our young people how to think logically. The country and our educational systems are now so divided ideologically that the young are most likely, no matter where they are being educated, at the whim of their instructors' personal ideologies and are being taught what to think, not how to think.

And your mention of God shows me clearly that you do most likely come from my generation. It doesn't appear to me that many her age nowadays believe there is a God and most are taught that they, themselves, are quite able to to decide right and wrong without any help from a Deity.

So, you are right, I think, in feeling many will end up spending years in prison. It would be wise to set up good libraries in those facilities with books on philosophy, religion, logic, and even on the advances that have been made in understanding how the brain works. I will even suggest that the libraries should have literature from all past centuries of human writing and history books from all time period. (I am overwhelmed with the artistic talent of our youth and with their advanced abilities in many subjects and in athletics. But somehow we have failed to make them aware that they are not really little gods.)

Old Microbiologist

It is a big can of worms. It opens up a lot of questions as to who sets foreign policy, who decides who and what is the "enemy", what past involvement we have had in interfering with Russian elections and the follow-on repercussions on a tit-for-tat basis, why Russian attempts but not Israeli or Ukrainian (and others) are bad but the others okay, etc. the list can be very long. It certainly doesn't excuse any government employees for releasing anything classified and as you say low level but not high level (Petraeus for example) will get punished to the maximum extent possible.

Perhaps this now sets the stage for a series of follow-on arrests and prosecutions which are way past due. Maybe it is also a slippery slope and the higher mucky-mucks will slide down into the level of prosecution as the efforts to clean house and gains momentum. We are seeing traitorous behavior throughout the US government and especially in the Clintonista's realm. Where it ends up is anyone's guess but watching Trump I can guess that it won't be anything that we could predict. I think in this case this particular analyst is a useful idiot who has opened up the door to a cascade of events. Perhaps this is progress and will aid Trump in the long run? Perhaps we will see a change to the Constitution similar to what was recently enacted in Germany to stifle fake news? It is a whole new game if this goes the way I think it might.

Old Microbiologist

Gene, I think it is likely that there are multiple efforts running simultaneously some external of which some were state sponsored and others just garden variety hackers. However, it is very possible that most were really internal and conducted by various IC elements inside the US government. The release of the NSA and CIA hacking tools have shown they developed and implemented hacks designed to look like foreign government attacks. So, winnowing out who did what to whom and when is going to be really next to impossible especially if the investigation is led by the perpetrators (as likely happened in Ukraine with MH-17). It will be interesting to watch this unfold.

Dr. George W. Oprisko

More of the pot calling the kettle black. If the Russians did as claimed, I would not be surprised, at all, given the meddling we have done politically there. I am specifically thinking of our meddling in the election which gave Yeltsin his second term, and the putsch in Ukraine.

I believe a consequence of these revelations will be mass migration of all Russian computer systems off Intel architecture chips and onto ChiRus CPUs, concomitant with migration onto a ChiRus OS, for the express purpose of making NSA sleuthing more difficult. This will be followed by massive continuing assaults on AngloZionist networks for the purpose of finding exploits capable of shutting down critical utilities, ala Stuxnet vsavis the Iranian centrifuges.

The US will complain, but given their behavior, nothing will come of it.

Meanwhile, the Medical access crisis, and public health crises in the USA will go unattended, the elderly will continue to live on dog food, and those who work for minimum wage will continue to survive, barely, on Food Stamps.

Before you flame me, I'm a Vietnam Vet. I too took an oath "to support and defend the constitution under Almighty God" and I too went into harms way, and I too believed in duty, honor, country.

INDY

TonyL

TTG, thank you for this

"If I ever found myself faced with a decision to go with a solemnly sworn oath before God or my signature on a legal agreement, I certainly hope I would choose my sacred honor and loving God over the penalties of the US legal code, no matter how severe those penalties might be."

And I agree with this: "The illegal leaks were just icing on the cake."

Tel

I have not found anyone offering the entire report, even the articles claiming that this document was "leaked online" provide neither a link, nor any plausible method of finding said document. All smoke, no fire.

The article in "The Intercept" has just a few details from that NSA report, with sections blacked out (why black anything if the whole document is already leaked) and even these details apparently their journalist was unable to read properly (yes the article is not even consistent with the small amount of evidence it does put forward). For example, the diagram showing the phishing attach strategy uses the words "Probably within" in relation to the connection with GRU. Hmm, what does that mean "probably"? Sounds kind of uncertain. How does this journalist interpret this word?

"The NSA report, on the contrary, displays no doubt that the cyber assault was carried out by the GRU."

There you go "probably" is equivalent to "no doubt". Something you can only learn from journalists (the least trusted profession on Earth).

Now the rest of what he describes is the same phishing that's been going on for 20 years or more, which is very well known to most people on the Internet. We all get buckets of junk email, containing links to all sorts of dodgy sites... big deal, nothing new here. Some people will click on them, there's always someone. OK, many variations exist, and two-factor authentication introduces a bit of an extra complexity, but none of that is specific to Russia, nor even relevant to the question of whether Russia is involved.

In terms of actual evidence... zip. I mean something that directly links the Russian government. Just show me one tiny bit of real first-hand evidence.

Many other news sources are making reference, to a reference, to the original Intercept article. Which really doesn't help a whole lot.

Overall... highly unconvincing.

Fredw

Thank you TTG for a nuanced analysis based strictly on the known facts. You have stated the tradeoffs of wide versus narrow distribution of classified data pretty clearly but at a very high level. Previous posting leads me to believe that these tradeoffs are not clearly understood by SST readers. Could someone post a more detailed explanation? Or least some links?

Joe100

TTG -

Thanks for this thoughtful and informative post.

I have assumed that Hilary Clinton would have been a priority target for Russia and other counties with substantial intelligence capabilities while she was Secretary of State. If so, is it plausible that Russian intelligence (or Russian hackers) had obtained her private server emails? If this is likely, and if Russia wanted to impact the election, it would seem to me that releasing her "private" emails - which probably included any seriously problematic activities - would have had a substantially larger impact on the election than releasing the DNC emails.

The Twisted Genius

Tel,

A pdf of the document is on documentcloud.org. This is an analytical report, not a piece of raw intelligence. It does not even refer to the raw intelligence reports as footnotes or endnotes as most reports I've seen. The report refers to GRU origin of the operation as confirmed information rather than analytical judgement.

turcopolier

TTG

"Obama’s personal warning to Putin in September 2016, his “red phone” warning to Putin along with the expulsion of 35 Russian officials in December 2016 and the 6 January 2017 DNI report tipped Putin to holes in his commo systems. As soon as I heard our government accuse Putin of being behind the DNC hacks, I knew we were deep in their shit. All that didn’t come about because of the CrowdStrike malware report. The illegal leaks were just icing on the cake." IMO your points all imply that there had been a massive US penetration of Russians comms and that the Obama administration progressively indicated to the Russians by implication that this had occurred. It is nevertheless one thing to suspect that this was true and quit another to KNOW because of the content of the leaked diplomatic and GRU material that it is true. The "icing on the cake" was in this case about a foot thick. pl

Mark Moon

As someone with no direct experience with these matters, that's the part that I truly don't get: that IC professionals so feared Trump or so wanted to be at war in Syria or Ukraine or the Baltics or wherever, that they unmasked lots of the US monitoring capabilities in an all out quest to damage Trump. It's very hard to see how that was a rational calculation. It's also interesting that I've only heard people here speak about this cost to the leaking, while most media seem oblivious...

turcopolier

TTG

"The report refers to GRU origin of the operation as confirmed information rather than analytical judgment." NSA does not produce finished reports based on multi-sourced. Information, SIGINT, IMINT, HUMINT, Open Source information, etc. It produces either raw reports of what was collected or what it calls semi-processed information that seeks to put its own products in context so that they not be misinterpreted. This evidently was one of the latter, but it must be remembered that such reports from NSA are firmly rooted in and concerned with SIGINT product. pl

turcopolier

Mark Moon

Until the action of the Georgia Peach there was no [articular reason to think that IC professionals did anything like that. Their politically appointed bosses had the same access as the professionals. pl

Marcus

Are you including NSA, politicians, and various intel managers as potential enemies of the Constitution? There seems to be ample evidence there was massive violation of the Constitution involving the Fourth Amendment and chilling of First Amendment rights by collection of phone and internet communications by the NSA specifically. The National Intelligence Director even lied to our Representatives about this collection.

This is a monumental violation of trust on the American people. Regardless of any good intent to protect us, the potential for damage to individuals going forward is incredible. This reminds me of two former army friends looking out a window view of the street and talking in an infamous prison in Moscow during Stalin's reign. The one in custody asked his friend, "Am I a suspect?" his friend answered "No you're guilty, all those people out there are the suspects." Are we all suspected terrorists?

As to Winner and more appropriately Snowden, I'll paraphrase Martin Luther King, "an individual who breaks a law because his conscience tells him what he is doing is right, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over an injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law."

The Twisted Genius

pl,

NSA is now firmly rooted in all manner of cyber-int as well. They referred to it as "SIGINT at rest" in a concerted effort to wrest control of all cyber collection from other IC agencies. This all happened after Y2K. Eventually they agreed this field was big enough for everyone. Within DOD the Air Force was always trying to claim this as their own domain.

turcopolier

TTG

Yes, the cyber connection is there with the NSA/Cybercommand merged function but the Georgia Peach's paper seems to have been intelligence rather than cyberops. pl

Simplicius

TTG,

The report describes Malicious VB macros & PowerShell - this is amateurs' night. Frankly the GRU should be embarrassed at the exposure of their use of such antediluvian methods.

What is unfortunately rather more convincing is the obvious redaction of named individuals in the GRU from the document. I guess this is what pl refers to in concluding that their internal comms are compromised. Winner clearly didn't see or care about that small detail. She bears no comparison with Snowden, who at least had the good sense to move to Moscow.

Dr. George W. Oprisko also makes a good point in his comment above. Modern strong encryption techniques likely mean we have their secret keys in order to read encrypted traffic - i.e. NSA are inside the Ruskies' machines. If GRU still use Windows/Intel, or other technologies connected with the US, they are greater fools than we give them credit for. Not for much longer I suspect; we could be headed for an intelligence Dark Age.

English Outsider


It seems that it's difficult to keep information secret if you spread it around the intelligence community but difficult to make good use of information - analyse it and put it in context - if you don't.

Since information shared with a great number of people is always vulnerable to leaks that means that a certain degree of slippage has to be accepted. Quite serious slippage sometimes, because a trivial-seeming item of information might help an analyst on the other side to come to a non-trivial conclusion. Walling off or "stovepiping" particularly sensitive information can't therefore solve the problem entirely.

That "natural slippage" must be something all intelligence services must have to take into account but the less of it the better - if it occurs seldom then it will be easier to identify the source of the leak and seal it off.

What's occurring in the US at present is very far removed from anything that can be called natural slippage:- 1. It seems that a thumb drive and a few spare hours can facilitate the release of information that previously would have taken a major effort to acquire. 2. It also seems that an appeal to conscience, or even to political conviction, can be used to justify any leak by any member of the intelligence community. Put those two together and we move from natural slippage to all hell let loose, which to an outsider seems to be a fair description of what's happening at present in parts of the US intelligence community.

As a dissident deplorable - and getting more dissident and deplorable by the day - you might think that this state of affairs would suit me very well. It opens a window on to what the politicians are doing or authorising. But:-

1. The window's open enough as it is. We need no leaks to tell us we are arming dubious forces in the Ukraine. We need merely to look at the Congressional record. We don't need leaks to tell us that ISIS was let run in Iraq. President Obama told us so on prime time television and why. The Wikileaks revelation that governments go to great lengths to collect and collate data on us wouldn't have surprised the Elizabethans, or not those who knew of Walsingham, nor would the fact that that process is often abused. No one doubts that we have Special Forces all over the ME, or if they do there's enough open source material around to enlighten them, and finding out the names of units or the identity of individuals would add nothing useful to our knowledge.

So we've got chapter and verse for the use our defence and intelligence forces are being put to anyway, We don't need leaked and often dubious footnotes as well.

2. The window's open enough but no one much is looking through it. We need merely look at this site, SST, to see that. Here we see, from the Colonel, you, and other specialist contributors, the record of what we are doing in the ME and elsewhere laid out, together with assessments of that record. The gap between that and what is put out by public media is almost unbridgeable. It is that information gap, not the lack of information, that renders control of the politicians by the voters difficult.

3. Release of defence information, or of information from which defence information might be deduced, is inherently dangerous. The fact that politicians are misusing our armed forces at present, and also misusing our intelligence services, does not mean that those defence forces and intelligence services don't have a genuine function to perform. Unless we take a pacifist line and wish to see no defence forces at all then they'd better be in good shape for times when they might really be needed. That's why I don't want to know, and want no one else to know, such information as mentioned in (1). Releasing information that's not open source about, say. the location of units or individuals adds nothing useful to the information we need and quite possibly puts those units or individuals at risk. Similarly, releasing specific information about our intelligence gathering capabilities tells us nothing we can't guess but could render those capabilities less effective.

That's a more significant consideration for the UK. The American defence establishment is so large that it can no doubt afford to lose a bit of effectiveness without seriously compromising its performance. There's a lot of excess fat there. That's not the case so much in the UK. "Full spectrum" is now merely a pretence, the forces are still undermanned, and the alliances that might compensate for those deficiencies are in question. In addition the army, according to what one hears said publicly by senior officers, has been run ragged in the various recent interventions and the cadre of experienced men to train the next generation is smaller than it should be. For the UK therefore unauthorised release of defence and intelligence information isn't damage that can so easily be accommodated.

Such considerations as I have set out above will be part and parcel of your everyday thinking. But the reason I've set them out is that a passage in your article causes me slight uneasiness:-

"If I ever found myself faced with a decision to go with a solemnly sworn oath before God or my signature on a legal agreement, I certainly hope I would choose my sacred honor and loving God over the penalties of the US legal code, no matter how severe those penalties might be. But more on this later."

One has to agree with that in the case of blatant criminality - a soldier ordered to shoot prisoners might certainly feel that honour came before duty when the two conflict - but the difficulty is that we all have different definitions of blatant criminality. In the case of the release of information you are discussing here, it may be that it was motivated by the belief that Trump or his administration is the embodiment of evil and that all means are fair to combat that evil. The plea of honour or of conscience can therefore be stretched as far as one pleases until it simply becomes a license to do whatever one feels like.

In the US intelligence community I believe a formal process is in place to resolve this conflict. It doesn't work. As far as I know there is no such process in the UK. Instead the Courts sometimes decide retrospectively whether the plea of conscience is justified. I don't think that works too well either. It seems to me that placing the burden of such a decision - whether to go public with damaging information on grounds of conscience - on the individual is unsatisfactory, both for the individual and for the community.

One is therefore forced to the conclusion that the intelligence community, however it's used, has to be regarded as a sealed box. No plea of conscience can justify the release of classified information. The supervision of that community, and the settling of such difficult questions as are raised in your article, has to come from the politicians representing us and acting in good faith.

Which is where all collapse in a heap of laughter. In such cases "You can write to your Congressman" means, I would imagine, as little as "You can write to your MP." But what I'm really saying is that if you've got out of control or derelict politicians then it's inevitable you'll have an intelligence community that doesn't work properly, and no attempt to remedy that by setting out internal rules can be effective.

A simplistic but not I hope facile conclusion. Perhaps your "more on this later" will arrive at a more satisfactory one.


JMH

Dear Sir,

"And of course what destroys reason is passion. The principal passion in politics is greed. That is what pulls you down.” Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

Reality isn't being pulled down by her sacred honor but rather her political passions.

Mark Moon

Great point about pros vs appointees, although one would think that even political appointees should be smart enough or have long enough horizons calculate more rationally. Apparently, that's simply not the case.

 ishmael Zechariah

TTG,

Excellent exposition. I have a few hypothetical questions:
1-Let us posit that there was a successful "Russian" hack of the US election system. Could it really influence the outcome of the election? By what mechanism?
-Do you think the election results were changed due to such a hack?
2-Is it possible that the Russians were running an interference operation to stymie a Borg operation to anoint Hillary Clinton?
-If there were a Borg operation to install La Clinton by derailing Sanders and destroying Trump, would you consider such activity a "subversion of the constitution" as well?
-If so, who has the duty and the means to counter it?
3-Is there, or is there not, "(a) vast snowflake conspiracy to get Trump out of office"? Perhaps one might substitute "Borg" for "snowflake" to make the question more appropriate.
Pax.
ishmael Zechariah

Account Deleted

Whatever the arguments either way, the balance in the trade-off seems to be tipping further in one direction almost daily. If someone this junior and dumb can cause so much damage so easily, it seems to me the balance needs to be redressed.

turcopolier

English Outsider

It is not just in the intelligence community that such documents are circulated. The IC are not the consumers, merely the producers. pl

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