Americans are reminded once or twice a week now about the administrations prowess in international security. The latest accomplishments by the White House came out Monday after a drone strike killed 14 Pakistanis. The New York Times is reporting that leaked information by White House sources have confirmed this. “Missiles fired from a suspected American drone killed at least 14 people in Pakistan’s tribal belt early Monday, the third strike in three days and a signal of the Obama administration’s determination to press ahead with the controversial covert campaign even as it conducts tense political negotiations in Islamabad.” If the drone that made the strike was suspect then why is the New York Times giving credit to the Obama administration? And if the program is covert then why is the New York Times reporting it in the first place?
We now know thanks to the New York Times that the president has a hit list and he personally sanctions the murder of individuals in foreign lands. According to this story between 14 and 16 individuals were killed but there is no mention of casualties or names of the dead or even what they are accused of doing. Deeper in the story the Times reports this nugget. “Another feature of the evolving drone campaign is the C.I.A.’s increased willingness to hit targets in densely populated urban areas, like town bazaars, drawing criticism from human rights campaigners about the level of civilian casualties. American officials say the missiles are precisely targeted and claim few civilian lives, although the definition of who constitutes a noncombatant is disputed.”
This is not new news last year 06/06/2011 this blog published “Obama's Hit List”. At that time the hit list was leaked to reporters during a trip to Pakistan with Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton and Admiral Mike Mullen. During that trip Pakistani officials were presented with a list of 5 names. They were told By Clinton and Mullen that if the 5 were not killed by the Pakies then they would do it for them, A week later the 5 were reported dead by a drone strike.
Apparently there is no such thing as a noncombatant, in the “Tuesday Terror Talks” that the president and Senior Security Advisor John Brennan and campaign adviser David Axelrod have they discus who they are going to kill next by shuffeling cards with suspected militant's names on them. Mr Brennan reticently confirmed that the the administration now considers any individual within the striking distance of a drone attack a militant or combatant. Mr Brennan is quoted in speeches saying, “That not a single noncombatant had been killed in a year of strikes.” Their have been claims made by administration officials during interviews that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan under Mr. Obama was in the “single digits.” That is amazing, its like saying that only six people in a crowd of 20 are going to get wet if you spray them with a fire hose.
Leaking information like this on a daily basis is not only dangerous but undermining to the security of the nation. The Obama Administration has turned the occasional leek into a torrent. Not a week gos by without a story bragging about how President Obama is fighting the war on terror. In January 2012 we had the confirmation of Dr. Shakeel Afridi on the 60 Minuets program by Leon Pannetta. The Doctor was already jailed in Pakistan prior to the interview however as a principal in confirming Osama Bin Laden whereabouts the doctor and his family should have been given safe haven in the US just prior to the Abbottabad raid. This was a major blunder and should never have happened. Their was the underwear bomber in May of 2012. That story was broken by the Associated Press and they claim to have prior knowledge of the plot one week before the event. However the AP reporters working the story agreed with CIA sources to withhold publication till after the event completely unfolded. Several days after that story hit the wire the New York Times published a story detailing the role of the bomber as a double agent working for the CIA and Saudi intelligence agencies. It was reported by the times that the undercover agent was instrumental in several plots one of witch was the killing of Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso,a suspected conspirator in the USS Cole bombing. The reveal of this bomb plot and the outing of the double agent has forced the FBI, CIA and the White House into damage control ever since the disclosure.
The revelations coming out of the White house now regarding Cyber attacks are just as flabbergasting. The revelations being relieved by administration officials such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, David Axlrod and of course that ubiquitous “high ranking official speaking on terms of anonymity” are just flowing out to the world. This is not a lack of restraint on the part of government officials but a deliberate campaign in an attempt to artificially inflate President Obama’s stock during election season.
Ms Clinton speaking in Tampa at a Special Operations Command conference revealed that the U.S. State Departments Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications had been hacking AQAP web sites manipulating the code and altering the sites content. Ms Clinton remarked that activities such as this are meant to “discredit al Qaida” in hopes to reduce the number of militant recruits. The only reason for disclosing this information publicly is to display a new feather in her cap. Would that declaration by Ms Clinton be enough for a Muslim student studying at USF to hack into Tampa Electric cutting power to 4 million customers?
Since that revelation it has been disclosed by the New York Times that the U.S. Government has been involved in operation “Olympic Games”, the creation of “Flame” and “Stuxnet” the worms and viruses that disabled centrifuges concentrating uranium in Iran. Statements by government officials regarding these attacks implicate Iranian workers at the enrichment plants. If in fact there is CIA assets within the Iranian nuclear inner circle then the White House just left them twisting in the wind. By publicly suggesting that workers carried the virus into the plant completely undermines the credibility of the CIA. It further hampers their ability to secure confidential informants and operatives in the future. The U.S. and Israel relied on engineers, maintenance workers and others to hand carry the Stuxnet worm past checkpoints and now puts plant security on alert for both spies and unwitting accomplices with physical access to the plant. A member of the geek squad that designed Stuxnet said that having an inside man was their “holy grail,” and “It turns out there is always an idiot around who doesn’t think much about the thumb drive in their hand.”
The current reality of this situation is the fallout that the US Government has to deal with. First there is the operatives themselves. When Iranian security finds the insurgents that planted the virus they will be killed, that may have already happened, we don't know. By the Iranians coming out and saying that the virus has been “contained” may be an indication that the traders have been dealt with and that the threat to the nuclear facility has been neutralized.
When the New York Times published the means by which Stuxnet was deployed eliminates the possibility of any future computer espionage. It also puts the responsibility of friendly fire on the US Government. Now that Stuxnet has sprouted legs and is loose finding its way around the world via the internet and the New York Times confirms the US Governments involvement opens up the government to international law suits and retribution. Experts from Symantec and Kaspersky Labs have already stated that the worm is making its way around the internet. The Stuxnet worm went after programmable-logic controllers. Specifically, the target was PLC’s made by the German engineering conglomerate Siemens. These controllers are small gray boxes mounted within a manufacturing plant to control valves, switches, pumps, uranium centrifuges, etc. If you ever wonder how a cookie factory makes such a uniform product it is attributed to a PLC's accuracy.
This virus was developed by exploiting a back door into the Windows operating system code called a “zero day.” This back door is something that the operating systems engineers at Microsoft did not know existed and it's discovery by the software security specialists called it “unprecedented and inscrutable”. But windows was not the target of the worm it was the PLCs and they are a controller operating semi-autonomously by using software from a Taiwanese company named Realtek. To defeat this software a Digital signature needed to be obtained and with viruses this is usually obtained by replication or forgery how ever in this case the digital signature was authentic.
This implicates the Obama Administration in industrial espionage, theft of copyright material and computer hacking for malicious purposes. One of the questions that must be asked is. Attorney General Eric Holder are you ready to deal with this in front of the oversight committee.
Back in July of 2011 Vanity Fair published a story on the Stuxnet worm Titled “A Declaration of Cyber-War” By Michael Joseph Gross, in that story it is revealed that A Symantec geek named Frank Rieger had traveled to six European countries in the summer of 2010 to meet with members of each nation’s Stuxnet-analysis group. He spoke with high-level intelligence sources in three of those countries. Rieger told Gross that all three have provisionally concluded that Stuxnet was a joint operation of the U.S. and Israeli governments. That was the first time that is was publicly disclosed that the US was involved in this computer warfare scandal but it was still supposition until The New York Times sighted it's source inside the White House.
The publicizing of these events do nothing for President Obama's popularity, most believe just the opposite. The ability to keep keep your mouth shut in the time of war is critical to national security. The only thing these leaks prove is that this administration is nothing but a group of “C” team players being lead by an armature in chief.