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Real D-Boys Video…

Monday, August 6th, 2007

The host site of the Delta Force video did some updating yesterday which affected the video feed on DT.

We pulled the post until the glitch was fixed.

So now it’s back up and we’ve got it for you again…Enjoy.

– Christian

Picking the Killers from the Kids

Thursday, May 17th, 2007

Afghanistan-sniper-web.jpg

During a Pentagon briefing yesterday, the Joint Chiefs head of regional operations, BGEN Perry Wiggins, deconstructed a recent operation to take out Taliban fighters hiding among children.

The explanation comes as the military takes fire from the Afghan government on civilians killed in the crossfire between coalition troops and Talib holdouts.

And its also interesting to note, the detailed description of the Special Forces troops avoidance of friendly fire comes in sharp contrast to the Armys condemnation of the Marine Corps commandos who were booted from Afghanistan after their response to a roadside ambush killed civilians in the crossfire in March.

BGEN Wiggins:

I’m sure all you know, there’s been a lot of recent coverage about civilian casualties associated with the counterinsurgency operations against the Taliban. Here’s an illustration of how we actually operate against the barbaric enemy that we face in the Afghanistan theater, and shows the restraint and precision exercised by our forces with respect to the civilian populace.

(more…)

Cat & Mouse in Cyberspace

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

Interesting news on the infowar front, in two parts. First, Declan McCullagh has stumbled onto a previously-undisclosed FBI Net-monitoring program that’s “broader and potentially more intrusive than the FBI’s [infamous] Carnivore surveillance system.“
keyboard_fingers.jpg

Instead of recording only what a particular suspect is doing, agents conducting investigations appear to be assembling the activities of thousands of Internet users at a time into massive databases, according to current and former officials. That database can subsequently be queried for names, e-mail addresses or keywords…
Call it the vacuum-cleaner approach. It’s employed when police have obtained a court order and an Internet service provider can’t “isolate the particular person or IP address” because of technical constraints, says Paul Ohm, a former trial attorney at the Justice Department’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section…
That kind of full-pipe surveillance can record all Internet traffic, including Web browsing–or, optionally, only certain subsets such as all e-mail messages flowing through the network. Interception typically takes place inside an Internet provider’s network at the junction point of a router or network switch.

Top data-miners and social network analysts have questioned whether this kind of broad-brush surveillance works at all. And while we’re all getting caught in the FBI’s electronic dragnet, the real bad guys are getting smarter about hiding their tracks. The Middle East Media Research Institute notes:

The Global Islamic Media Front [recently] announced the imminent release of new computer software called “Mujahideen Secrets.. [allegedly] the first Islamic computer program for secure exchange [of information] on the Internet,” and it provides users with “the five best encryption algorithms, and with symmetrical encryption keys (256 bit), asymmetrical encryption keys (2048 bit) and data compression [tools].”

The package “is comparable to any number of commercial products available here in the United States,” says ZDNet blogger Mitch Ratcliffe. “The difference is an Islamist skin, which seems more a gimmick to inspire confidence in the software than a guarantee it will be effective.“
But “‘Mujahedin Secrets’ is the latest example of the growing technical competence of online supporters of al-Qaida and other Islamic terror networks, but encryption capabilities are not new in the world of cyber-jihadis,” IntelCenter’s Ben Venzke tells UPI.

“This is consistent with the ongoing efforts of jihadist sympathizers online… Encryption is used by some (Islamic terrorists)” and some al-Qaida manuals have addressed the question.
He said encryption is “a standard part of the operational security practiced (online) by those (Islamic terrorists) who take the time to use it.

Inside the N.S.A. Hearing

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

National Journal surveillance reporter Shane Harris has been watching Attorney General Gonzales testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He calls an exchange with Senators Feingold and with Schumer about the NSA domestic wiretapping program’s new legal status “especially illuminating.” Harris sees a new kind of order for the eavesdropping, issued by a single — likely Administration-friendly — judge.
ag_ag_shrug.jpgFirst, the attorney general referred to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge who issued this recent authorization as he, when Gonzales said, He was very careful. That means that the presiding judge, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who reportedly has expressed concerns about the NSA program tainting other FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] warrant applications, was not the judge who issued this order that apparently allows the NSA program to continue. Of course, Kollar-Kottelly is the only woman on the 11-member court, so that doesnt much narrow down the question of which judge gave the order.
When Feingold asked Gonzales how long it took the court to issue this order, Gonzales replied that it took longer than a normal FISA application. There are varying accounts of how long it takes to secure and execute a FISA warrant, but administration officials have said in the past that they didnt originally seek FISA warrants for the NSA program, in part, because the process took too long. So, it sounds as if Gonzales is saying that this most recent order from the judge came after longer than usual deliberation on his part.
Gonzales also said that the administration submitted an application for this order to the judge, and that it was innovative. To the first partapplicationthis raises the question, which the Justice Department hasnt answered, of whether this recent order applied to one particular intercept, to more than one, or to the entire program. Sen. Schumer pressed Gonzales for some specificity on this point, but the attorney general declined to discuss what he said were operational details of the matter. But reading between the lines a bit, I suspect that Gonzales means the administration has come up with an application for electronic surveillance, one that that fits the special parameters of the NSA program, and that this innovative application is different from a traditional FISA application. It took some time for a judge to get comfortable with this application, Gonzales said, which I think implies that this application is, indeed, unusual. Whether it will be used on a case-by-case basis, or whether it will cover any and all surveillance conducted under the parameters of the NSA program is unclear. But presumably, if a judge has found this new application acceptable, and has ruled that it does work under the intelligence surveillance law, then the administration would use it again if necessary.
One final note, Gonzales did refer to orders, plural, from the judge. He said that these orders meet the legal requirements under FISA and that they also include minimization procedures [to protect personal privacy] above-and-beyond what is normally required under law. Gonzales also acknowledged that, until the judge issued his recent order, the administration did not believe that FISA was available to cover the NSA program. At times, officials have said that they thought FISA did not apply, indicating that they had made a legal judgment independent of the courts ruling. But Gonzales now seems to be saying that officials were unsure whether FISA applied or not, which is what prompted them to work up this new, innovative application to the court.
One other note: In yesterday’s background briefing by senior Justice Department officials, one of the them said that the new orders “take advantage of use of the use of the FISA statute and developments in the law. I can’t really get into developments in the law before the FISA court. But it’s a process that began nearly two years ago, and it’s just now that the court has approved these orders.“
“Developments in the law” implies that the recent court order is based not only on FISA, but on recent law, as well. Could be the Patriot Act, which includes electronic surveillance provisions. It sounds as if the judge considered statutes other than FISA in making his decision.
Shane Harris
UPDATE 9:33 AM: As TPM Muckracker notes, “Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) out-and-out called Gonzales a liar.” The AG claimed he briefed Congress on the surveillance program’s new legal boundaries. “She was never told of the plan, she said, and from what she heard yesterday it likely stinks:

Ms. Wilson, who has scrutinized the program for the last year, said she believed the new approach relied on a blanket, programmatic approval of the presidents surveillance program, rather than approval of individual warrants.
Administration officials have convinced a single judge in a secret session, in a nonadversarial session, to issue a court order to cover the presidents terrorism surveillance program, Ms. Wilson said in a telephone interview. She said Congress needed to investigate further to determine how the program is run.

UPDATE 9:38 AM: Gonzales has met the enemy. And he blogs.

NSA Wiretaps Brought Under Law (Updated Again)

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

wiretap.jpgGreat news: The NSA’s domestic spying program is finally being brought within the bounds of the law, more than a year after it was revealed.
The Justice Department has decided to let the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court — the traditional, and legal, monitor of government wiretap programs — start examining the spy efforts. Before, the Bush Administration said no such review was needed — a legal reading that even former NSA chiefs said was wildly off-base.
The court has already “approved one request for monitoring the communications of a person believed to be linked to al-Qaida or an associated terror group,” the AP says.
It’s a huge (and welcome) turnaround for an administration that said previously that the president had the power to order almost anything in the name of fighting terror. (And “still believes that,” according to flack-in-chief Tony Snow.) So why the change? Snow mumbled something about the court’s increased “agility.” But you can bet your ass the new Congress had a whole lot to do with it.
UPDATE 3:28 PM: Shocker. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, in his letter describing the rule change, appears to be lying through his teeth shading the truth, saying that the administration has been trying to put the wiretaps under the court’s authority since the spring of 2005. If that’s the case, Glenn Greenwald asks, “why didn’t they say so when the controversy arose?“
UPDATE 3:35 PM: Patrick Keefe, author of Chatter: Dispatches from the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping, is taking a wait-and-see approach to Gonzales’s announcement. “It’s just not clear what it means,” he tells Defense Tech.

There have already been proposals for the FISA court to grant blanket retroactive approval to the program, and if that’s what this is, then it’s not much of a concession from the administration. If, on the other hand, it’s actually case-by-case approval by FISA judges we’re talking about, I’m not sure how that’s going to square with the reported scope of the program. The ostensible grounds for circumventing the FISA in the first place were that this program didn’t fit in the FISA framework. And given that it reportedly does a kind of mile-wide-and-inch-deep network analysis that is antithetical to the personalized, legally sanctioned surveillance contemplated by the FISA, I’m not sure how you can make the two procedures fit. Unless what they’re really saying here is that they’re abandoning the program altogether, and returning to one-target-at-a-time, retail-rather-than-wholesale surveillance. Which somehow I doubt.

UPDATE 3:35 PM: “It sounds to me like this court just re-wrote the law and made a second category of wiretaps (one that is easier to get but only targeted at overseas communications),” writes Ryan Singel.
He also notes that Gonzales’s announcement comes just a day before he is supposed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Pretty sneaky, sis,” Ryan says.
UPDATE 4:51 PM: “Another question raised by Gonzales letter indeed, in the first sentence is which FISC judge issued this order?” surveillance scoopmaster Shane Harris tells Defense Tech.

The letter states that a judge issued the order. Does Gonzales mean the courts presiding (or chief) judge, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly? Presumably he would have said so if that were the case. Kottelly has been briefed on the NSA program previously. She reportedly has been concerned that information obtained without warrants under the NSA program could taint other warrant applications before the court.
The FISC is made up of 11 sitting federal judges hailing from judicial districts across the country. Did the administration select a particular judge to approach for this order? Heres the breakdown on how many judges were appointed by a particular president:

Jimmy Carter: 1
Ronald Reagan: 4
George H.W. Bush: 3
Bill Clinton: 2
George W. Bush: 1

Pentagon, CIA Go Bank-Snooping

Saturday, January 13th, 2007

The military team tracking anti-war protesters is now digging through bank records, too.
bank_vault.jpg“The Pentagon has been using a little-known power to obtain banking and credit records of hundreds of Americans and others suspected of terrorism or espionage inside the United States,” the Times reports. It’s “part of an aggressive expansion by the military into domestic intelligence gathering. And the CIA is joining in, also “issuing what are known as national security letters to gain access to financial records from American companies.”


The letters provide tremendous leads to follow and often with which to corroborate other evidence in the context of counterespionage and counterterrorism, said Maj. Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman…
But even when the initial suspicions are unproven, the documents have intelligence value, military officials say. In the next year, they plan to incorporate the records into a database at the Counterintelligence Field Activity office at the Pentagon to track possible threats against the military, Pentagon officials said…
Some national security experts and civil liberties advocates are troubled by the C.I.A. and military taking on domestic intelligence activities, particularly in light of recent disclosures that the Counterintelligence Field Activity office had maintained files on Iraq war protesters in the United States in violation of the militarys own guidelines. Some experts say the Pentagon has adopted an overly expansive view of its domestic role under the guise of force protection, or efforts to guard military installations…
One prominent case in which letters were used to obtain financial records, according to two military officials, was that of a Muslim chaplain at Guantnamo Bay, Cuba, who was suspected in 2003 of aiding terror suspects imprisoned at the facility. The espionage case against the chaplain, James J. Yee, soon collapsed, and he was eventually convicted on lesser charges of adultery and downloading pornography.
Eugene Fidell, a defense lawyer for the former chaplain and a military law expert, said he was unaware that military investigators may have used national security letters to obtain financial information about Mr. Yee, nor was he aware that the military had ever claimed the authority to issue the letters.
Mr. Fidell said he found the practice disturbing,? in part because the military does not have the same checks and balances when it comes to Americans civil rights as does the F.B.I. Where is the accountability? he asked. Thats the evil of it it doesnt leave fingerprints.

(Big ups: DK)

Darpa Preps for “Baghdad 2015″

Tuesday, January 9th, 2007

The current TomDispatch has a great round-up of Darpa’s research into the future of urban warfare. But man, do you have to put up with a lot to get to the good stuff.
soldier_overlook.jpgThe article’s main thrust is that the Pentagon is readying itself for a “low-intensity world war of unlimited duration against criminalized segments of the urban poor.” There’s an “assumed need to be in the urban Iraqs of the future, [so] the question for the U.S. military becomes a practical one: How to deal with these uppity children of the third world.“
Yeah, I’m rolling my eyes, too. Like the failed-state jihadists of the world will just go about minding their own business… if the U.S. just stays out their slums. Sure. Worked like a charm, before 9/11.
Besides, the U.S. has been fighting in cities since… well, since before there was a U.S. (George Washington tangled with the Red Coats in New York City, for example.) And we’ve never been all that good at it. The fact is, American armed forces have almost always preferred a stand-up fight — an open war — to some close-quarters, urban combat. That’s what are training is oriented around. That’s what our gear is made for. But the guys plotting to hurt us and our allies are in cities. So it’s into urban canyons our military must go.
The article winces about American military talk of prepping for “Baghdad 2015″ and urban fights of the issue fights. “Today, it’s Baghdad; tomorrow…it could be Accra, Bogota, Dhaka, Karachi, Kinshasa, Lagos, Mogadishu or even a perennial favorite, Port au Prince.” But given how badly “Baghdad 2007″ is going, doesn’t the Pentagon — and especially, its research arms — owe it to the rest of us to get better at those kinds of conflicts? Especially when Baghdad is only one in a long list of urban operations (Mogadishu, Srebrenica, Kabul) the U.S. has found itself in over the last few decades? Wouldn’t anything less would be… well, a dereliction of duty?
Anyway. After several more paragraphs, we get to the meat of the story, on “the wide range of efforts to visualize, map out, and spy on the global mega–favelas that the U.S. has, until now, largely scorned and neglected.” Most of these programs won’t be new to close readers of Defense Tech. But it’s interesting, and helpful, to see ‘em all in one place. Items include…

VisiBuilding: This is a program aimed at addressing “a pressing need in urban warfare: seeing inside buildings” by developing technology that will allow U.S. forces to “determine building layouts, find anomalous quantities of materials,” and “locate people within the building…“
UrbanScape: This program aims “to make the foreign city as familiar as the soldier’s backyard’” by providing “the warfighters patrolling an urban environment with an up-to-date, high resolution model of the urban terrain that can be viewed, manipulated and analyzed.“
Urban Hopping Robots… a semi-autonomous hybrid hopping/articulated wheeled robotic platform [like this one, maybe — ed.] that could adapt to the urban environment… and provide the delivery of small payloads to any point of the urban jungle while remaining lightweight, small to minimize the burden on the soldier.
Close Combat Lethal Recon This deadly, loitering explosive expressively for use in urban landscapes will expand a soldier’s killing zone by reaching “over and around buildings, onto rooftops, and into open building portals.” Think of it as a smart grenade or, according to DARPA Director Tether… “a small mortar round with a grenade-size explosive in it. A fiber-optic line unreels from its back end and provides the data link that allows the soldier to see the video from the munition’s camera and to fly it into the target.”

If it works — and that’s always a big if, when you’re talking about a Darpa project — that does sound like a nasty weapon. Not just in a city. But in any environment.
FWIW, The story leaves of of its list two of the creepiest Darpa programs geared towards urban fights. “Combat Zones That See” tries to strap cheap cameras together, giving soldiers watch over an entire city at once; the “Integrated Sensor is Structure” program aims to do the same thing — with a giant, all-seeing blimp. And then there’s Darpa’s next robotic road race. It’s through… a city! (Cue scary music.)

New Spy Chief’s “Total Information” Ties

Friday, January 5th, 2007

“John Michael McConnell, the retired vice admiral slated to become America’s new top spy, [has some] longtime associations [which] may cause him headaches during Senate confirmation hearings,” Newsweek​.com notes.“One such tie is with another former Navy admiral, John Poindexter, the Iran-contra figure who started the controversial ‘Total Information Awareness’ program at the Pentagon in 2002.“
iaologo.gif


The international consultancy that McConnell has worked at for a decade as a senior vice president, Booz Allen Hamilton, won contracts worth $63 million on the TIA “data-mining” program, which was later cancelled
[kinda sorta — ed.] after congressional Democrats raised questions about invasion of privacy… While his role in the TIA program is unlikely to derail McConnell’s nomination, spokespeople for some leading Democratic senators such as Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Ron Wyden of Oregon say it will be examined carefully.
McConnell was a key figure in making Booz Allen, along with Science Applications International Corp., the prime contractor on the project, according to officials in the intelligence community and at Booz Allen who would discuss contracts for data mining only on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. “I think Poindexter probably respected Mike and probably entrusted the TIA program to him as a result,” said a longtime associate of McConnell’s who worked at NSA with him…
Intel experts agree that McConnell will need all the good will he can get from the intelligence and defense communities. “It’s a good appointment for a bad office,” says John Arquilla, who teaches intelligence at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. “The directorate of national intelligence should not exist. It’s very redundant.” Insiders say Negroponte was frustrated by his lack of budgeting control over Pentagon intelligence, and the resistance of the CIA to his direction since his office was created in 2004 as part of the Bush administration’s post-9/11 reforms.

And by the way, Rutty asks in the comments (I’m paraphrasing heavily here): What was McConnell’s role in Echelon — the NSA’s massive information sweeper, which got some much attention during the Clinton years? (The project had been around for decades, remember.)

Data Diver Disses Terror-Mining

Tuesday, December 12th, 2006

Jeff Jonas is one of the country’s leading practitioners of the dark art of data analysis. Casino chiefs and government spooks alike have used his CIA-funded “Non-Obvious Relationship Awareness” software to scour databases for hidden connections.
nyt_mag_terror_diagram.jpgSo you’d think that Jonas would be all into the idea of using these data-mining systems to predict who the next terrorist attacker might be.
Think again. “Though data mining has many valuable uses, it is not well suited to the terrorist discovery problem,” he writes in a new study, co-authored with the Cato Institute’s Jim Harper. “This use of data mining would waste taxpayer dollars, needlessly infringe on privacy and civil liberties, and misdirect the valuable time and energy of the men and women in the national security community.” Are you listening, NSA?
Jonas doesn’t have a problem cobbling together information on suspects from various databases. It’s using these databases to forecast a terrorist’s behavior — think market research, but for Al-Qaeda — that Jonas hates. “The possible benefits of predictive data mining for finding planning or preparation for terrorism are minimal. The financial costs, wasted effort, and threats to privacy and civil liberties are potentially vast,” he writes.

One of the fundamental underpinnings of predictive data mining in the commercial sector is the use of training patterns. Corporations that study consumer behavior have millions of patterns that they can draw upon to profile their typical or ideal consumer. Even when data mining is used to seek out instances of identity and credit card fraud, this relies on models constructed using many thousands of known examples of fraud per year.
Terrorism has no similar indicia. With a relatively small number of attempts every year and only one or two major terrorist incidents every few yearseach one distinct in terms of planning and executionthere are no meaningful patterns that show what behavior indicates planning or preparation for terrorism. Unlike consumers shopping habits and financial fraud, terrorism does not occur with enough frequency to enable the creation of valid predictive models. Predictive data mining for the purpose of turning up terrorist planning using all available demographic and transactional data points will produce no better results than the highly sophisticated commercial data mining done today
[with results in the low single-digits ed.]. The one thing predictable about predictive data mining for terrorism is that it would be consistently wrong.
Without patterns to use, one fallback for terrorism data mining is the idea that any anomaly may provide the basis for investigation of terrorism planning. Given a typical American pattern of Internet use, phone calling, doctor visits, purchases, travel, reading, and so on, perhaps all outliers merit some level of investigation. This theory is offensive to traditional American freedom, because in the United States everyone can and should be an outlier in some sense. More concretely, though, using data mining in this way could be worse than searching at random; terrorists could defeat it by acting as normally as possible.
Treating anomalous behavior as suspicious may appear scientific, but, without patterns to look for, the design of a search algorithm based on anomaly is no more likely to turn up terrorists than twisting the end of a kaleidoscope is likely to draw an image of the Mona Lisa.

Civil libertarians and bloggers have talked ’til they’re blue in the face about how lame this kind of terror-predicting is. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard a giant of the field, like Jonas, come out against the practice — at least not on-the-record. Let’s hope this is one conversation that the feds are monitoring.
(Big ups: Daou)
UPDATE 11:49 AM: Shane Harris here. Die-hard proponents of pattern-based ‘data mining’ to catch terrorists will remain unconvinced by Jonas’ and Harper’s argument. While it’s true that data mining in the commercial sector is based upon “training patterns,” backers of systems such as Total Information Awareness will say, yes, and that’s why data mining for terrorists has to start with hundreds — maybe thousands — of known or potential terrorist patterns to look for. A major part of TIA research was the creation of terrorist attack templates through red teaming exercises, in which experts were paid to come up with devious and clandestine plots that a terrorist might conceivably attempt. Their various machinations would, presumably, leave a set of digital footprints — airline tickets purchased, money wired, hotels paid for, and so on — and THAT data would be mined for clues.
What’s also interesting about this paper is the combination of the authors. Jim Harper is a well-known and articulate activist, and has long since staked out central territory in the security vs. privacy debate. But Jonas has stayed out of politics. Indeed, those who’ve met him will know that he sticks out like a sore West coast thumb among Washington gear heads, being unafraid to use the word “dude” in formal conversation and happily acknowledging his ignorance of most Beltway insider baseball. But those who know Jonas and have heard him speak about electronic terrorist hunting know that, like his co-author Harper, he has a strong libertarian streak. Maybe Jonas wouldn’t put it quite that way — dude — but it’s there.

DNI’s Privacy Pow-Wows

Friday, December 1st, 2006

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees all U.S. intelligence agencies, has for nearly three months been holding a series of low-profile “privacy workshops” with a range of experts on technology and privacy.
20050217elpepuint_6_I_LCO.jpgThe stated purpose to educate DNI officials, their technologists, and civil liberties watchdogs on what current and emerging technologies could be used to protect privacy rights during the collection and analysis of intelligence. These broad and largely informal discussions are being held against the backdrop of increased surveillance and electronic monitoring by the government as it pursues terrorist suspects.
Some of the workshop attendees praised the DNI for seeking checks against potential abuses, particularly as the governments appetite for data mining and profiling systems increases. But several well-known and highly regarded experts — who include vocal critics of the Bush administrations counterterrorism policies — were not invited to attend.
The final workshop will be held next week, outside Washington. Officials arent asking attendees to recommend a particular way forward on privacy-protection, but they say theyll use what theyve learned to help chart the DNIs research agenda.
Check out the full story in the current National Journal, out now.
Shane Harris