Archive for July, 2011

LARGEST-EVER CYBER THEFT FROM THE PENTAGON REVEALED

July 15, 2011

AP reported on July 14, 2011, that The Pentagon revealed that in the spring of 2011 suffered one of its largest losses ever of sensitive data in a cyberattack by a foreign government. It’s a dramatic example of why the military is pursuing a new strategy emphasizing deeper defenses of its computer networks, collaboration with private industry and new steps to stop “malicious insiders.”

24,000 files containing Pentagon data were stolen from a defense industry computer network in a single intrusion in March 2011. The spokesman offered no details about what was taken but in an interview before the speech he said the Pentagon believes the attacker was a foreign government. He didn’t say which nation.

Many cyberattacks in the past have been blamed on China or Russia. One of the Pentagon’s fears is that eventually a terrorist group, with less at stake than a foreign government, will acquire the ability to not only penetrate U.S. computer networks to steal data but to attack them in ways that damage U.S. defenses or even cause deaths.

Sophisticated computer capabilities reside almost exclusively in nationstates. U.S. military power is a strong deterrent against overtly destructive cyberattacks. Terrorist groups and rogue states are a different problem and harder to deter.

“If a terrorist group gains disruptive or destructive cybertools, we have to assume they will strike with little hesitation,” he said.

The Pentagon has long worried about the vulnerability of its computer systems. The concern has grown as the military becomes more dependent not only on its own computers but also on those of its defense contractors, including providers of the fuel, electricity and other resources that keep the military operating globally.

At his Senate confirmation hearing last month, new Defense Secretary Leon Panetta cited “a strong likelihood that t he next Pearl Harbor” could well be a cyberattack that cripples the U.S. power grid and financial and government systems. He said last weekend that cybersecurity will be one of the main focuses of his tenure at the Pentagon.

The Pentagon operates more than 15,000 computer networks and 7 million computers in dozens of countries.

As shown by the March attack on a defense industry computer network that contained sensitive defense data, the military’s vulnerability extends beyond its own computers. In a new pilot program, the Pentagon is sharing classified threat intelligence with a handful of companies to help them identify and block malicious activity.

Intrusions in the last few years have compromised some of the Pentagon’s most sensitive systems, including surveillance technologies and satellite communications systems. Penetrations of defense industry networks have targeted a wide swath of military hardware, including missile tracking systems and drone aircraft.

The Pentagon currently is focused 90 percent on defensive measures and 10 percent on offense; the balance should be the reverse, he said. For the federal government as a whole, a 50-50 split would be about right.

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama signed executive orders that lay out how far military commanders around the globe can go in using cyberattacks and other computer-based operations against enemies and as part of routine espionage. The orders detail when the military must seek presidential approval for a specific cyberattack on an enemy, defense officials and cybersecurity experts told the AP.

The strategy unveiled by Lynn is oriented toward defensive rather than offensive measures. It calls for developing more resilient computer networks so the military can continue to operate if critical systems are breached or taken down. It also says the Pentagon must improve its workers’ cyber “hygiene” to keep viruses and other intrusions at bay. And it calls for fuller collaboration with other federal agencies, companies and foreign allies.

The strategy also is focused on insider threats. Without citing specifics, it says it will try to deter “malicious insiders” by “shaping behaviors and attitudes through the imposition of higher costs for malicious activity.”

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SYRIA THE NEW IRAN ? – AMERICAN EMBASSY ATTACKED IN SYRIA

July 12, 2011

Supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad have attacked the U.S. and French embassies in Damascus, UPI reported on July 11, 2011.

The attacks occurred after the U.S. and French ambassadors visited the central city of Hama, where an anti-government rally was held on July 8.

A U.S. State Department spokeswoman told reporters about 300 intruders, incited by a government-sponsored television station, made their way onto the U.S. Embassy grounds and committed some minor vandalism. When confronted by Marines stationed at the compound, they fled over the walls -the same way they had gotten in.

The protesters smashed windows and raised a Syrian flag in the compound.

Earlier, guards at the French Embassy fired into the air to disperse a crowd.

“It’s the Syrian government’s responsibility to provide security at the embassy, and they clearly failed in that responsibility,” spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters during the daily press briefing.

The goal is to see that the will of the Syrian people for a democratic transformation occurs said Hillary Clinton.

Human rights groups say at least 1,500 civilians have been killed and thousands more have been arrested since the country’s uprising started in mid-March.

WHITTAKER CHAMBERS VS. THE SOVIET EMPIRE

July 10, 2011

Ex-Communist Whittaker Chambers’ book Witness (1952) lives on. In the 1950s he was attacked by the left worldwide after testifying in the Alger Hiss case that this prominent establishment jurist was a communist.

Chambers allegations of Communist conspiracies have been entirely vindicated with documentation from Soviet Venona cables.

On July 9, 2011, is the 50th anniversary of Whittaker Chambers death as reported by National Review. He was born in Philadelphia.

Upon graduating high school, Chambers left home and worked as a construction laborer on the Washington, D.C., subway system, before drifting to New Orleans, and then returning to attend Columbia University from 1920 to 1924. Under the tutelage of Columbia English professor Mark Van Doren (before Van Doren became an internationally known literary critic and poet), Chambers tried his hand at poetry, even completing a book of poems entitled “Defeat in the Village,” before realizing, “I never could write poetry good enough to be worth writing.”

This apprenticeship, however, helped teach Chambers “the difficult, humbling, exacting art of writing,” and he would go on to become an exceptionally gifted writer of prose. He joined the Communist party in 1925, experiencing great success as a writer at the Daily Worker and as an editor at The New Masses, both Communist-controlled publications. In 1932, Chambers was asked to join the underground movement of the Communist party, and he served in the Fourth Section of Soviet Military Intelligence. Recognizing Chambers’s intellectual prowess, the underground placed him with the Ware Group (a collection of Communist cells consisting of government officials and journalists) in Washington, D.C. It was here, among other promising New Deal civil servants, that he encountered Alger Hiss. Chambers and Hiss, along with their spouses, became close friends.

During late 1938, overwhelmed by the horrific actions of the Soviet Communist party, in particular the Stalinist purges and forced starvation of Ukrainian peasants, and having rejected Communism’s militant atheism, Chambers left the Communist movement. The Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939 was a watershed event for Chambers, who realized that much of the confidential information about the U.S. that he had forwarded to the Soviet Union could now be passed to Germany. Thus Chambers decided to divulge his prior activities for the Communist underground to the federal government.

Shortly thereafter, Chambers was able to meet with the head of security at the State Department, A. A. Berle. Although Chambers revealed most of his activities, he withheld the facts of espionage conducted by his cell, largely to protect others, including, notably, Alger Hiss. Regardless, it was not until 1948 — nine years later — that the information he provided to Berle was acted upon by the government. Chambers was subpoenaed by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) to corroborate the testimony of Elizabeth Bentley who alleged that Soviet espionage was occurring within the U.S. government. Chambers corroborated Bentley’s allegations, supplemented them with his own, and confronted Alger Hiss on the first day of his testimony. (Eventually, all 21 names that Chambers provided to HUAC were confirmed by subsequent Soviet archival research.) In 1950, Hiss was convicted of perjury after two federal trials.

A naturally gifted linguist, particularly fluent in German, Whittaker Chambers translated into English a number of children’s books over the years. Chambers joined Time magazine in 1939, initially as a book reviewer, later as a writer and editor. He wrote many of Time’s cover stories during his tenure, including profiles of historian Arnold Toynbee, vocalist Marian Anderson, theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, and Pope Pius XII. Chambers, based upon his experience as a Communist and intuitive grasp of history, displayed a remarkably prescient understanding of the Cold War as an editor and writer for Time’s foreign-news section. He also contributed seven brilliant essays to Life’s 1947–1948 “Picture History of Western Civilization” series. Compelled to resign from Time during the tumultuous Hiss trials, Chambers became an editor and writer on the staff of National Review from the latter part of 1957 to the middle of 1959.

THE ARAB REVOLT AS AN ECONOMIC REVOLT

July 9, 2011

Fouad Ajami at Hoover Institution in California wrote in July 8, 2011, in Wall Street Journal on the important subject von Hayek and the Arab Revolt

Hayek would have seen the Arab Spring for the economic revolt it was right from the start.

What Hayek would call the Arab world’s “road to serfdom” began when the old order of merchants and landholders was upended in the 1950s and ’60s by a political and military class that assumed supreme power. The officers and ideologues who came to rule Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Algeria and Yemen were men contemptuous of the marketplace and of economic freedom. As a rule, they hailed from the underclass and had no regard for the sanctity of wealth and property. They had come to level the economic order, and they put the merchant classes, and those who were the mainstay of the free market, to flight.

It was in the 1950s that the foreign minorities who had figured prominently in the economic life of Egypt after the cotton boom of the 1860s, and who had drawn that country into the web of the world economy, would be sent packing. The Jews and the Greeks and the Italians would take with them their skills and habits. The military class, and the Fabian socialists around them, distrusted free trade and the marketplace and were determined to rule over them or without them.

In Libya, a deranged Moammar Gadhafi did Saddam one better. After his 1969 military coup, he demolished the private sector in 1973 and established what he called “Islamic Socialism.” Gadhafi’s so-called popular democracy basically nationalized the entire economy, rendering the Libyan people superfluous by denying them the skills and the social capital necessary for a viable life.

In his 1944 masterpiece, “The Road to Serfdom,” Hayek wrote that in freedom-crushing totalitarian societies “the worst get on top.” In words that described the Europe of his time but also capture the contemporary Arab condition, he wrote: “To be a useful assistant in the running of a totalitarian state, it is not enough that a man should be prepared to accept specious justification of vile deeds; he must himself be prepared actively to break every moral rule he has ever known if this seems necessary to achieve the end set for him. Since it is the supreme leader who alone determines the ends, his instruments must have no moral convictions of their own.”

This also describes the decades-long brutal dictatorship of Syria’s Hafez al-Assad, and now his son Bashar’s rule. It is said that Hafez began his dynasty with little more than a modest officer’s salary. His dominion would beget a family of enormous wealth: The Makhloufs, the in-laws of the House of Assad, came to control crucial sectors of the Syrian economy.

The Alawites, the religious sect to which the Assad clan belongs, had been poor peasants and sharecroppers, but political and military power raised them to new heights. The merchants of Damascus and Aleppo, and the landholders in Homs and Hama, were forced to submit to the new order. They could make their peace with the economy of extortion, cut Alawite officers into long-established businesses, or be swept aside.

But a decade or so ago this ruling bargain—subsidies and economic redistribution in return for popular quiescence—began to unravel. The populations in Arab lands had swelled and it had become virtually impossible to guarantee jobs for the young and poorly educated.

Attempts at “reform” were made. But in the arc of the Arab economies, the public sector of one regime became the private sector of the next. Sons, sons-in-law and nephews of the rulers made a seamless transition into the rigged marketplace when “privatization” was forced onto stagnant enterprises. Of course, this bore no resemblance to market-driven economics in a transparent system.

The sad truth of Arab social and economic development is that the free-market reforms and economic liberalization that remade East Asia and Latin America bypassed the Arab world. This is the great challenge of the Arab Spring and of the forces that brought it about. The marketplace has had few, if any, Arab defenders. If the tremendous upheaval at play in Arab lands is driven by a desire to capture state power—and the economic prerogatives that come with political power—the revolution will reproduce the failures of the past.

SENATOR MCCAIN CRITICAL OF OBAMA ADMINISTRATION AFGHAN WITDRAWAL

July 5, 2011

U.S. Senator John McCain said President Obama erred when he announced plans to begin pulling troops out of Afghanistan some two years before they began.

His view was in Afghanistan that Obama’s 2009 pledge to begin a withdrawal this in 2011 added too much uncertainty to the situation and undermined the plan to win the loyalty and support of the Afghan population.

“The fact is there is no recommendation by any military person to have this early withdrawal, and it’s an unnecessary risk,” McCain stated on CNN.

McCain:

the idea of a negotiated settlement with the Taliban is premature, as proven by last week’s raid on a Kabul hotel by militants with ties to both the Taliban and Pakistan.

The senator told CNN that while he did not agree with Obama’s plans, he would not dismiss it as a political move and was confident the military would do its best to carry out its orders effectively.

RUSSIA TO DEPLOY 2 ARMY BRIGADES IN THE ARCTIC

July 3, 2011

On July 1, 2011, AP reported that Russia’s military will deploy two army brigades to help protect what is called “the nation’s interests in the Arctic”.

Russian news agencies are quoted as saying the brigades could be based in Murmansk, Arkhangelsk or other areas.

IS LIBYAN ARMS FLOWING TO AL QAEDA?

July 2, 2011

Gary Schmitt wrote on July 1, 2011, on NR Online that Western governments worries that Libyan government arms might be flowing to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Spain’s interior minister, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, has said:

There is arms trafficking at the border between Libya and Mali and this has to worry us because it could at this moment be supplying sophisticated weapons, which are therefore dangerous, to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

If we don’t do anything, AQIM could take advantage of this situation to grow, and if AQIM grows so will the risks faced by Europe and the United States.

There is also the possibility that the weapons going to AQIM are being sold by elements within Libya’s security forces because of a breakdown in control from Tripoli. In either case, weapons appear to be getting in the hands of some pretty dangerous folks.

This is just another reason why letting the military campaign against Gaddafi drag on—as the administration has—is such a problem. Common sense says that stirring up a hornets’ nest is a sure way to get stung. If you don’t want that to happen, it’s best to destroy it—and the sooner the better.