Streetwise Professor

July 7, 2013

Fighting the War on the War on Terrorism

Filed under: Military,Politics — The Professor @ 8:38 pm

It was only a matter of time.  Today Der Spiegel announced an upcoming interview with Snowden, conducted by Laura Poitras and . . . Jacob Appelbaum.  The Der Spiegel article states that the interview took place via encrypted email: that would be Appelbaum’s specialty.  Although the article merely states that the interview took place while Snowden was in Hawaii, before he decamped to Hong Kong, the most reasonable inference is that Appelbaum has been in on this from the beginning, in January, before Snowden joined Booz Allen Hamilton with the specific intent of gaining access to, and stealing, highly classified NSA information.

Several facts support this inference.  First, Appelbaum and Poitras have a longstanding relationship.  Both were in Iraq in the 2004-2005 time period, where they were in contact with terrorist elements.  They appear together regularly at events where they criticize the US surveillance state, and use their personal experiences as human interest illustrations.  Second, Appelbaum is expert in secure and encrypted internet communication.  So they know one another, they share an agenda, Snowden helps them advance that agenda, and Appelbaum can provide the communications security that Snowden (and probably Poitras) certainly would have insisted on from the beginning.

Making Appelbaum another accessory/accomplice in an elaborate, pre-planned endeavor to steal the classified NSA information.  I also wonder if Appelbaum provided assistance or advice to Snowden in hacking the NSA computers.

The Appelbaum-Poitras connection sheds considerable understanding on their real agenda.  Both tell of how they are routinely stopped whenever trying to enter the US, and subjected to questioning and seizure of their computers, cameras, etc.  They portray themselves as victims of the metastasizing security state, and their story is quite exceptional.  And that’s the point: it is exceptional, which raises the question of why they are singled out for such treatment?  Could it be their time in Iraq, when both inserted themselves at the center of an ongoing insurgent campaign against US forces?  Recall the link from my earlier post, which described how US soldiers are convinced that Poitras had foreknowledge of an ambush on an American patrol, didn’t warn the US military, and witnessed the ambush from a roof overlooking the street where it occurred. These were not innocents abroad.  Anything but.

The presence of hard core activists like Greenwald, Poitras and Appelbaum should raise huge red flags.  They have been on a campaign to undermine US intelligence and foreign policy for years.  They are inveterate opponents of the military and intelligence operations against terrorism.  They are not disinterested, objective, critical observers.  They are combatants in lawfare and information warfare waging, an asymmetric campaign against the US and its allies.

Yet they get bylines in mainstream publications, and other mainstream publications repeat their stories uncritically, without any mention of their clear agenda.

In some cases, it is possible to see why.  The allegations in the Der Spiegel article state that German intelligence cooperates closely with the NSA.  This is highly damaging to Merkel, who is up for election in September, and whom Der Spiegel opposes.  This story is therefore a convenient cudgel for bashing Merkel, and Der Spiegel may therefore be perfectly willing not to look too closely at the source, and their agenda.  Not that that’s right, just that it’s a plausible explanation.  It’s actually more disturbing that other outlets seem to be willfully avoiding directing any scrutiny at who is pushing this story and why.

They are a big part of the story, but they are being allowed to tell it in bylined pieces, no questions asked.

And the story is matastasizing.  In addition to the Der Speigel teaser, Greenwald wrote a story for the Brazilian O Globo detailing “indiscriminate” NSA spying on Brazilians.  He then wrote about it on the Guardian blog.

Remember how this story started.  The initial breathless reporting was that the NSA, which is charged with collecting foreign signals intelligence, was collecting electronic data on Americans.  It has now evolved to how the NSA is collecting signals intelligence and electronic data on . . . foreigners.  A spy agency spies.  Go figure.

Here’s what Greenwald says:

There are many more populations of non-adversarial countries which have been subjected to the same type of mass surveillance net by the NSA: indeed, the list of those which haven’t been are shorter than those which have. The claim that any other nation is engaging in anything remotely approaching indiscriminate worldwide surveillance of this sort is baseless.

As those two articles detail, all of this bulk, indiscriminate surveillance aimed at populations of friendly foreign nations is part of the NSA’s “FAIRVIEW” program.

Note: “non-adversarial” and “friendly” nations.  The implication is that this is somehow illegitimate, because such nations cannot pose a threat.

But a big portion of what NSA does is look for terrorists, not affiliated with a state, but who may be located in friendly/non-adversarial nations.  Like Brazil.  Indeed, the lawless Tri-Border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina has been a major source of terrorism-related concern since almost immediately after 9-11.  Indeed, terrorists can be-and are-in pretty much every nation of the world.  Consider US interest in Germany.  9-11 hijackers lived in Germany for years prior to their attack.

In other words: if you want to fight terrorism, you have to cast a wide net, encompassing every nation in the world, including ones whose governments are friendly.  Indeed, this is exactly why many of these nations cooperate with our efforts: why they are “in bed with” the NSA, as Snowden says of Germany.  They would like to eliminate terrorist threats on their territories.  These are cooperative efforts at self-defense. (I would hardly be surprised if there is cooperation between, and information sharing among, US and Brazilian intelligence.)

But in Greenwaldworld, terrorism is just a word used to demonize Muslims fighting back against a war being waged on them by the US.

And that’s the point behind Greenwald’s and Appelbaum’s and Poitras’s agenda.  They are fighting The War on the War On Terrorism.

Dontcha think that deserves a mention?  Shouldn’t the publications that give them a platform have reservations about relying upon them?  Even if everything they report is true, selective disclosure of facts is one of the most effective ways of deceiving and manipulating.  Those with an agenda have an incentive to manipulate and deceive.

One last thing.  Check out the last paragraph in the Greenwald piece:

This has been a Guardian story from the start and will continue to be. Snowden came to us before coming to any other media outlet, and I’ll continue to write virtually all NSA stories right in this very space.

Sounds like there’s a little hostility brewing between Greenwald and Poitras.  He’s probably catching heat from the Guardian.  Did he promise them that they would have an exclusive on Snowden?  Asssange already burned them on the Manning material, promising them an exclusive and then releasing the information.

But that’s all part of this story, because this story is really, in an important way, all about them.  Not that you’ll know that reading any major news source.

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  1. So… you’re saying an NSA contractor would need the help of Jacob Appelbaum to set up encrypted email? You do know Appelbaum represents Tor, the free and open source anonymizing software anyone can download and use? Through which you might send, say, OpenPGP/GnuPG encrypted messages? Technologies which have been around for ages, which are sometimes used by law enforcement and counter-terrorism operatives themselves?

    Congratulations, you’ve spun an amazing tale to try and rationalize away the obvious.

    The past 6 decades, the US has invaded countries, deposed democratically elected leaders, funded terrorism, ran false flag operations and assassinated people around the world. Meanwhile Wikileaks is a bunch of geeks and nerds who know technology very well, who grew up on this stuff, and whose worldview has very few borders in it because of it. You can read all about the cypherpunks of the 90s, the archives are online. Look at where these people—whom you ascribe such fantastical motives to—really come from. Speak from fact, not fiction.

    Comment by Henry — July 8, 2013 @ 2:24 am

  2. @Henry. I know all about Appelbaum, thank you, including his involvement with Tor. Including how Tor is the favoritist thing ever for child porn sickos.

    Yes, Snowden probably was aware of PGP, etc., and probably was able to use it. But he was also likely aware that he was confronting the most sophisticated surveillance apparatus in the world, and would no doubt value the involvement of a specialist in the area. And Poitras was not an expert, and would likely have required and wanted assistance in maintaining communications security.

    Riddle me this: what other than communications security did Appelbaum bring to this interview? Except maybe hacking tips that he could pass on to Snowden.

    Re your last paragraph, I observe you are a fan of the nihilistic/anarchistic technotribe. Perhaps more than a fan.

    I know exactly where these people come from. I know precisely what they want-because they are not shy about propounding their views. I am largely in agreement with Catherine Fitzpatrick’s characterization of this as a techno form of Bolshevism. Not to endorse everything the US government has done in the last 6 decades, but given a choice between an (imperfect) system with some rather powerful checks and balances, operating in a messy real world, and a self-appointed geek elite that views itself as above and outside the law, and which has a techno-utopian world view, I’ll choose the former. Every fucking time.

    And I do not ascribe fantastical motives to these people. They flaunt them. Sorry you’re upset that I actually take them at their word. Not really. Sorry that is.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — July 8, 2013 @ 2:27 pm

  3. That’s a great piece and a great response. I think it won’t be proved that Appelbaum hooked up with Snowden before he claims he did, and maybe he didn’t. It’s very likely he did help with encryption and with strategy, which is what he has done with WikiLeaks whatever his claimed “ambivalence”.

    Today’s hackers are far more than the cyberphunks or phone freaks of the 1990s — they are far more malicious and powerful and destructive. I’ve read the histories and I know the difference and I’ve lived the difference.

    Russia invades countries, deposes democratically elected leaders even in its own country, aids and abets the states that fund terrorism and doesn’t deter terrorist movements that used to be Soviet clients and assassinates people at home and abroad. Russia’s crimes historically and today utterly dwarf anything the US does, whatever the realities. The myopia here has ceased to be merely an immoral position, it’s an active national security harm as people like the Tsarnaevs absorb it and act on it, despite its patent falsity.

    Comment by Catherine Fitzpatrick — July 9, 2013 @ 1:34 am

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