Category Archives: Military Industrial Complex

NATO to expand military exercises

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Secretary General of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen (File Photo)

Defense ministers of NATO agreed Alliance should hold major live exercise in 2015.

World Bulletin | Feb 22, 2013

NATO will get prepared for new possible threats with great military exercises after the transition of the country to full Afghan security responsibility.

“Over the last decade, in Afghanistan, Kosovo and other operations, our servicemen and women have learned to work together more closely than ever before. The challenge we will face over the coming decade is to preserve and pass on those skills, as our biggest operation comes closer to completion,” Secretary General of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.

As part of the initiative, defense ministers of NATO agreed that the Alliance should hold a major live exercise in 2015, and draw up a comprehensive programme of training and exercises for the period 2015-2020 under the name of Connected Forces Initiative.

NRF

The ministers also agreed that the NATO Response Force (NRF) would be at the core of the initiative. The NRF is the Alliance’s rapid-reaction corps, which is prepared and validated through an annual cycle of training and exercises.

“This will make the NATO Response Force a cooperation school, as well as a quick-reaction tool. An immediate resource, but also an investment in the future,” he said.

Scientists create ‘sixth sense’ brain implant to detect infrared light

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A brain implant which could allow humans to detect invisible infrared light has been developed by scientists in America. Photo: ALAMY

A brain implant which could allow humans to detect invisible infrared light has been developed by scientists in America.

telegraph.co.uk | Feb 15, 2013

By Nick Collins

Scientists have created a “sixth sense” by creating a brain implant through which infrared light can be detected.

Although the light could not be seen lab rats were able to detect it via electrodes in the part of the brain responsible for their sense of touch.

Similar devices have previously been used to make up for lost capabilities, for example giving paralysed patients the ability to move a cursor around the screen with their thoughts.

But the new study, by researchers from Duke University in North Carolina, is the first case in which such devices have been used to give an animal a completely new sense.

Dr Miguel Nicolelis said the advance, reported in the Nature Communications journal this week, was just a prelude to a major breakthrough on a “brain-to-brain interface” which will be announced in another paper next month.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science in Boston on Sunday, he described the mystery work as something “no one has dreamed could be done”.

The second paper is being kept secret until it is published but Dr Nicolelis’s comments raise the prospect of an implant which could allow one animal’s brain to interact directly with another.

In the first study, rats wore an infrared detector on their head which was connected to electrodes in the part of their brain which governs touch.

When one of three ultraviolet light sources in their cage was switched on, the rats initially began rubbing their whiskers, indicating that they felt as if they were touching the invisible light.

After a month of training, they learned to link the new sensation with the light sources and were able to find which one was switched on with 100 per cent accuracy. A monkey has since been taught to perform the same task.

The study demonstrates that a part of the brain which is designed to process one sense can interpret other types of sensory information, researchers said.

It means that in theory, someone who is blind because of damage to their visual cortex could regain their sight using an implant in another part of the brain.

Dr Nicolelis said: “What we did here was to demonstrate that we could create a new sense in rats by allowing them to “touch” infrared light that mammals cannot detect.

“The nerves were responding to both touch and infrared light at the same time. This shows that the adult brain can acquire new capabilities that have never been experienced by the animal before.

“This suggests that, in the future, you could use prosthetic devices to restore sensory modalities that have been lost, such as vision, using a different part of the brain.”

The study is part of an international effort to build a whole-body suit which allows paralysed people to walk again using their brain to control the device’s movement.

Infrared sensing could be built into the suit to inform the person inside about where their limbs are and to help them “feel” objects.

Dr Nicolelis and his collaborators on the project hope to unveil the “exoskeleton” at the opening ceremony of the football World Cup in Brazil in 2014.

DARPA wants to watch how you type your sentences and how you use your mouse to assemble an “online fingerprint”

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foreignpolicy.com | Feb 15, 2013

By John Reed Friday,

DARPA is getting serious about one of the issues that cyber-security professionals inside and outside government regularly bemoan: the relative inability of weak passwords to protect…anything.

To overcome the fact that passwords can be stolen or hacked — and don’t necessarily protect a computer once the authorized user is logged on — the Pentagon’s research arm has kicked off a $14 million effort to develop sensors that can constantly monitor users’ online behavior to determine whether they are who they say they are.

This kind of vigilance is going to become all the more important as the Pentagon shrinks the number of networks it runs under its cloud-computing initiative and fields mobile devices capable of handling classified information. Ask any cyber security expert and they will tell you that computer networks will inevitably be compromised and that the best defense lies in constantly monitoring for weird behavior.

How exactly do you do that? Well, that’s where DARPA’s Active Authentication program comes in. The Active Authentication program is aimed at verifying your identity based on your online behavior instead of an easily guessed or stolen password.

“The program focuses on the development of new types of behavioral biometrics focused on the user’s cognitive processes,” Richard Guidorizzi, DARPA program manager, explained in an email to Killer Apps. In English, that means Active Authentication will monitor your computer habits — like your typing patterns, the way you use a mouse, and even how you construct sentences — to assemble an “online fingerprint.”

“Examples of this could include, but are not limited to, behavioral biometrics that focus on a user’s unique way of typing on the device or cognitive biometrics that focus on how the user processes language and structures sentences,” he said.

In theory, a user would log onto his computer using a government-issued secure ID card, known as a Common Access Control card. This would tell AA sensors to begin monitoring the user, analyzing typing and sentence structure, and comparing the patterns to previous behavior.

AA isn’t just limited to desktop computers. DARPA will also address mobile devices.

This could come in mighty handy for soldiers and spies who are increasingly reliant on smart phones and tablets to do everything from filing flight plans to collecting and sharing classified information.

Mobile devices will have their own unique safeguards. “For example, the accelerometer in a mobile phone could track how the device rests in a user’s hand or the angle at which he talks into it. Another technique might track the user’s gait, reflecting how he walks as it is transported. In theory, each of these examples could be another layer of user validation,” Guidorizzi writes.

Don’t expect AA tech to be put into place anytime in the near future, though — AA’s work is experimental. “This program is not intended to develop fielded systems but instead to advance the technologies and concepts outlined above,” added Guidorizzi.

Still, some type of online identity software may emerge in the coming years. Just today White House Cyber Security Coordinator Michael Daniel told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that he wants to see research and development programs that sound a lot like AA shift the balance of cyber power from favoring the attacker, as it does right now, to favoring the defender.

Daniel told Killer Apps he wants to know whether there are “ways that you can bake in better credentialing into the underlying structure of the Internet? Are there ways you can get the software manufacturers make software secure by default, so that you actually have to work at browsing insecurely?”

Military contractor Raytheon’s disturbing Big Brother software trolls social networks to find out where you are and what you are doing

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It’s a disturbing vision, summoning up George Orwell’s “Big Brother.”

sfgate.com | Feb 12, 2013

by Caleb Garling and Benny Evangelista

Raytheon, a Massachusetts defense contractor, has built tracking software that pulls information from social networks, according to a video obtained by the Guardian newspaper in London.

The gist of the Guardian article:

“The Massachusetts-based company has acknowledged the technology was shared with U.S. government and industry as part of a joint research and development effort, in 2010, to help build a national security system capable of analyzing ‘trillions of entities’ from cyberspace.”

Using public data from Facebook, Twitter, Gowalla and Foursquare, the software – called RIOT, or Rapid Information Overlay Technology – apparently gathers uploaded information and forms a profile of a person’s every move that was registered with one of the websites.

The video obtained by the newspaper starts with a demonstration by Raytheon’s “principal investigator,” Brian Urch, showing how easy it is to track an employee named Nick – a real person – based on all the places he has checked in using his smartphone.

Raytheon Riot: Defense spying is coming to social networks

Raytheon Riot Software Predicts Behavior Based on Social Media

“When people take pictures and post them on the Internet using their smartphones, the phone will actually embed the latitude and longitude in the header data – so we’re going to take advantage of that,” Urch says. “So now we know where Nick’s gone … and now we’ll predict where he’ll be in the future.”

Urch goes on to analyze – using graphs and calendars – where Nick likes to spend his personal time and make predictions about his behavior.

“If you ever wanted to get a hold of his laptop, you might want to visit the gym at 6 a.m. on Monday,” Urch says with alarming casualness.

It’s a disturbing vision, summoning up George Orwell’s “Big Brother.”

But it’s also a reminder that advertisers are not the only ones with interest in the reams of data that social networks collect about regular people. Consider: Had the CIA built a tool like Facebook, we’d probably all be terrified.

And all the tracking data this tool analyzes is provided voluntarily, by us. The satirical news site the Onion, always on point, once joked that the CIA’s “Facebook Program” had drastically cut its spying costs.

Users who enjoy posting their lives on computers they don’t control – i.e. those of Facebook, Twitter, Google, et al – should not be surprised when that data get out of their control. Some governments, like France, are doing what they can to keep an eye on how social-networking data are used, but at the end of the day, if we don’t want Facebook and Twitter using our data, we shouldn’t give that to them.

A final note: The Raytheon video features technology from 2010 – three years ago. No doubt the tracking software has come a long way since then.

Cyber, drone operators now eligible for ‘Distinguished Warfare’ medal

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The Global Hawk, built by Northrop Grumman, features a bulging forehead. What you can’t see is all the high-tech gear it’s packing.
(Credit: Stephen Shankland/CNET)

The Pentagon is expected to announce today the creation of a medal that can be awarded to drone operators as well as to individuals fighting in the cyberwar trenches.

The first new medal out of the Defense Department since the 1944 creation of the Bronze Star recognizes the growing importance of cyberwarfare and drone strikes.

cnet.com | Feb 13, 2013

by Charles Cooper

Distinguished_Warfare_Medal_120x243This would be a first. The Distinguished Warfare Medal, a nearly two-inch-tall brass pendant below a ribbon with blue, red and white stripes, will be handed out to people judged to have racked up “extraordinary achievement” directly tied to a combat operation but at a far remove from the actual battlefield, according to the Associated Press, which first reported the news. This is said to be the first new combat-related award since the 1944 creation of the Bronze Star.

In taking this step, the Pentagon is explicitly recognizing the increasing importance of cyberwar and drone activities to the nation’s defense complex. Indeed, the U.S. Air Force is on record predicting that by 2023 one-third of its attack and fighter planes will be drones.

Update 1:36 p.m. PT: The Defense Department has just announced the Distinguished Warfare Medal. In a statement, it gave two examples of the kinds of exceptional achievements that might merit the new medal:

“The most immediate example is the work of an unmanned aerial vehicle operator who could be operating a system over Afghanistan while based at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. The unmanned aerial vehicle would directly affect operations on the ground. Another example is that of a soldier at Fort Meade, Md., who detects and thwarts a cyberattack on a DOD computer system.”

Pentagon contractor Raytheon knows what you are doing, where you are and where you are going

Defence contractor Raytheon has developed a tool that can mine social media to track and predict individuals’ behaviour, according to The Guardian.

Privacy crisis in progress as social media tracking again found to be intrusive

Register | Feb 11, 2013

A global “Big Sinister Defence Company Develops ‘Google For Spies’ That Your Government May Already Have Bought “ story is therefore unfurling as you read this piece.

The key “features” of Raytheon’s tool, developed in co-operation with the US government and delicately titled Rapid Information Overlay Technology (RIOT), are said to be an ability to sift through social media and figure out who your friends are and the places you frequent. With that data in hand, The Guardian feels “monitoring and control” of you, I, and everyone we collectively hold dear is eminently possible. It’s implied, despite Raytheon saying it’s had no buyers, that such software is likely to end up in the hands of a repressive State, or a shadowy agency inside a more open State. Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald has piled in with a story on the same theme.

How Raytheon software tracks you online video

All of which sounds just terrifying, except for the fact similar software can be had from other sources that are far less scary than a “defence contractor.”

IBM, for example, happily sells “social media analytics” software that can “Capture consumer data from social media to understand attitudes, opinions, trends and manage online reputation” and even “Predict customer behavior”. And yes, that’s the same IBM that can whip up a supercomputer or sell you a scale-out NAS capable of storing multiple petabytes of data. Throw in the social stuf and Big Blue, too, could help someone nasty to obtain, retain and analyse petabytes of data about us all.

SAS’ offering in the same software category is capable of “continuously monitoring online and social conversation data to identify important topics” and “continuously captures and retains more than two years of online conversation history”. SAS even offers to host its solution, meaning all that data about you is stored by a third-party company you’ve never heard of (and isn’t even open to the scrutiny afforded to listed companies).

Customer service software outfit Genesys sells “Social engagement” software that “Automates the process of (social) listening to your customers” and “Extends business rules and service level strategies to the growing volume of social media-based customer interactions. Could those business rules become “security rules”?

A quick mention of Big Data, daily and breathlessly advanced as capable of all of the above, and much more to more data, is also surely worth inserting at this point.

And then there are Google, Twitter, Facebook and others whose entire business is built on figuring out who you spend time with and where you spend (or intend to spend) that time, so they can sell that information to advertisers. Or hand it over to the government, when asked, which seems to be happening rather more regularly if the social networks’ own reports on the matter suggest.

We’re not suggesting any of the software or services mentioned above were designed as instruments of State surveillance, but it is surely worth pointing out that Raytheon is far from alone in having developed software capable of tracking numerous data public sources, aggregating them into a file on an individual, and doing so without individuals’ knowledge. That the company has done so in collaboration with the US government should not surprise, either: show The Reg a software company uninterested in adapting their wares for government and/or military applications and we’ll show you a software company begging for a shareholder lawsuit and/or swift and replacement of its top executives.

As for the spatial aspect of the allegations, the fact that photos contain spatial metadata is hardly news, nor is the notion that social media leaves a trail of breadcrumbs novel. One has only to revisit news from 2010 to be reminded of how pleaserobme.com pointed out how social media can alert thieves to the fact you’ve left your home. And let’s not even try to draw a line between a new-wave marketing tool like Geofeedia (today spruiking itself as offering real-time maps showing Tweets around the Grammies and as capable of letting one “monitor events to gather sentiment data”), mashups from clever folks who map check-ins and sinister surveillance-ware.

Far clearer is the fact that you, dear reader, are the product for any free online product. Also crystal clear is that by using such services, data about you will be consumed by a large and diverse audience. The scariest thing of all may be how few of those that use such services care or even realise the reality of the situation.

 

US media yet again conceals newsworthy government secrets

The Washington Post
The Washington Post this week admitted it was part of an “informal arrangement” to conceal from its readers a US drone base in Saudi Arabia. Photograph: Alamy

The collective self-censorship over a US drone base in Saudi Arabia is but the latest act of government-subservient ‘journalism’

The entity that is designed to be, and endlessly praises itself for being, a check on US government power is, in fact, its most loyal servant.

guardian.co.uk | Feb 7, 2013

by Glenn Greenwald

The US media, over the last decade (at least), has repeatedly acted to conceal newsworthy information it obtains about the actions of the US government. In each instance, the self-proclaimed adversarial press corps conceals these facts at the behest of the US government, based on patently absurd claims that reporting them will harm US national security. In each instance, what this media concealment actually accomplishes is enabling the dissemination of significant government falsehoods without challenge, and permitting the continuation of government deceit and even illegality.

One of the most notorious examples was in mid-2004 when the New York Times discovered – thanks to a courageous DOJ whistleblower – that the Bush administration was eavesdropping on the electronic communications of Americans without the warrants required by the criminal law. But after George Bush summoned to the Oval Office the paper’s publisher (Arthur Sulzberger) and executive editor (Bill Keller) and directed them to conceal what they had learned, the NYT complied by sitting on the story for a-year-and-a-half: until late December, 2005, long after Bush had been safely re-elected. The “national security” excuse for this concealment was patently ludicrous from the start: everyone knew the US government was trying to eavesdrop on al-Qaida communications and this story merely revealed that they were doing so illegally (without warrants) rather than legally (with warrants). By concealing the story for so long, the New York Times helped the Bush administration illegally spy on Americans.

The Washington Post’s Dana Priest, in a superb act of journalism, reported in 2005 that the CIA was maintaining a network of secret “black sites” where detainees were interrogated and abused beyond the monitoring scrutiny of human rights groups and even Congress. But the Post purposely concealed the identity of the countries serving as the locale of those secret prisons in order to enable the plainly illegal program to continue without bothersome disruptions: “the Washington Post is not publishing the names of the Eastern European countries involved in the covert program, at the request of senior US officials.”

In 2011, the New York Times along with numerous other US media outlets learned that the American arrested in Pakistan for having shot and killed two Pakistanis, Raymond Davis, was not – as President Obama falsely claimed – “our diplomat”, but was a CIA agent and former Blackwater contractor. Not only did the NYT conceal this fact, but it repeatedly and uncritically printed claims from Obama and other officials about Davis’ status which it knew to be false. It was only once the Guardian published the facts about Davis – that he was a CIA agent – did the Times tell the truth to its readers, admitting that the disclosure “pulled back the curtain on a web of covert American operations inside Pakistan, part of a secret war run by the CIA“.

The NYT, as usual, justified its concealment of this obviously newsworthy information as coming “at the request of the Obama administration, which argued that disclosure of his specific job would put his life at risk”. But as the Guardian’s Deputy Editor Ian Katz noted, “Davis [was] already widely assumed in Pakistan to have links to US intelligence” and “disclosing his CIA role would [therefore not] expose him to increased risk”.

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And now, yet again, the US media has been caught working together to conceal obviously newsworthy government secrets. On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that two years ago, the Obama administration established a base in Saudi Arabia from which it deploys drones to kill numerous people in Yemen. including US citizen Anwar Awlaki and, two weeks, later his 16-year-old American son Abdulrahman. The US base was built after the US launched a December, 2009 cruise missile/cluster-bomb attack that slaughtered dozens of Yemeni women and children.

But the Post admitted that it – along with multiple other US media outlets – had long known about the Saudi Arabia drone base but had acted in unison to conceal it from the US public:

“The Washington Post had refrained from disclosing the specific location at the request of the administration, which cited concern that exposing the facility would undermine operations against an al-Qaeda affiliate regarded as the network’s most potent threat to the United States, as well as potentially damage counterterrorism collaboration with Saudi Arabia.

“The Post learned Tuesday night that another news organization was planning to reveal the location of the base, effectively ending an informal arrangement among several news organizations that had been aware of the location for more than a year.”

The “other news organization” which the Post references is the New York Times. The NYT – in a very good article yesterday on the role played by CIA nominee John Brennan in US drones strikes in Yemen – reported that Brennan “work[ed] closely with neighboring Saudi Arabia to gain approval for a secret CIA drone base there that is used for American strikes”. As the paper’s Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan, explained, the NYT was one of the papers which “had withheld the location of that base at the request of the CIA”, but had decided now to report it. That was why the Post did so.

The existence of this drone base in Saudi Arabia is significantly newsworthy in multiple ways. The US drone program is drenched with extreme secrecy. The assassination of Awlaki is one of the most radical acts the US government has undertaken in the last decade at least. The intense cooperation between the US and the incomparably despotic Saudi regime is of vital significance. As Sullivan, the NYT’s Public Editor, put it in defending the NYT’s disclosure (and implicitly questioning the prior media conspiracy of silence):

“Given the government’s undue secrecy about the drone program, which it has never officially acknowledged the existence of, and that program’s great significance to America’s foreign policy, its national security, and its influence on the tumultuous Middle East, The Times ought to be reporting as much and as aggressively as possible on it.”

As usual, the excuses for concealing this information are frivolous. Indeed, as the Guardian’s Roy Greenslade noted, “the location of several drone bases was published as long ago as September last year on at least one news website, as this item on the North America Inter Press Service illustrates.” Gawker’s Adrian Chen documents numerous other instances where the base had been publicly disclosed and writes:

“In the case of the Saudi drone base, the Times and the Post weren’t protecting a state secret: They were helping the CIA bury an inconvenient story. . . . The fact that the drone base was already reported renders the rationale behind the months-long blackout a farce.”

In an article on the controversy over this self-censorship, the Guardian this morning quotes Dr Jack Lule, a professor of journalism and communication at Lehigh University:

“The decision not to publish is a shameful one. The national security standard has to be very high, perhaps imminent danger. The fact that we are even having a conversation about whether it was a national security issue should have sent alarm bells off to the editors. I think the real reason was that the administration did not want to embarrass the Saudis – and for the US news media to be complicit in that is craven.”

The same dynamic drives most of these acts of US media self-censorship. It has nothing to do with legitimate claims of national security. Indeed, none of these facts – once they were finally reported – ultimately resulted in any harm. Instead, it has everything to do with obeying government dictates; shielding high-level government officials from embarrassing revelations; protecting even the most extreme government deceit and illegality; and keeping the domestic population of the US (their readers) ignorant of the vital acts in which their own government is engaged.

There are, of course, instances where newspapers can validly opt to conceal facts that they learn. That’s when the harm that comes from disclosure plainly outweighs the public interest in learning of them (the classic case is when, in a war, a newspaper learns of imminent troop movements: there is no value in reporting that but ample harm from doing so). But none of these instances comes close to meeting that test. Instead, media outlets overwhelmingly abide by government dictates as to what they should conceal. As Greensdale wrote: “most often, they oblige governments by acceding to requests not to publish sensitive information that might jeopardise operations.”

As all of these examples demonstrate, extreme levels of subservience to US government authority is embedded in the ethos of the establishment American media. They see themselves not as watchdogs over the state but as loyal agents of it.

Recall the extraordinary 2009 BBC debate over WikiLeaks in which former NYT executive editor Bill Keller proudly praised himself for concealing information the Obama administration told him to conceal, prompting this incredulous reply from the BBC host: “Just to be clear, Bill Keller, are you saying that you sort of go to the government in advance and say: ‘What about this, that and the other, is it all right to do this and all right to do that,’ and you get clearance, then?” Keller’s admission also prompted this response from former British diplomat Carne Ross, who was also on the program: “It’s extraordinary that the New York Times is clearing what it says about this with the US Government.”

After the Guardian published the truth about Raymond Davis, former Bush DOJ laywer Jack Goldsmith, in 2011, defended the New York Times’ concealment of it by hailing what he called “the patriotism of the American press“. He quoted former Bush CIA and NSA chief Gen. Michael Hayden as saying that “American journalists display ‘a willingness to work with us’ . . . but with the foreign press ‘it’s very, very difficult'”. Goldsmith said that while foreign media outlets will more readily report on secret US government acts (he named The Guardian, Al Jazeera and WikiLeaks), US national security journalists with whom he spoke justified their eagerness to cooperate with the US government by “expressly ascrib[ing] this attitude to ‘patriotism’ or ‘jingoism’ or to being American citizens or working for American publications.”

That is the key truth. The entity that is designed to be, and endlessly praises itself for being, a check on US government power is, in fact, its most loyal servant. There are significant exceptions: Dana Priest did disclose the CIA black sites network over the agency’s vehement objections, while the NYT is now suing the government to compel the release of classified documents relating to Obama’s assassination program. But time and again, one finds the US media acting to help suppress the newsworthy secrets of the US government rather than report on them. Its collaborative “informal” agreement to hide the US drone base in Saudi Arabia is just the latest in a long line of such behavior.