Felipe Rodriquez on Wed, 21 Feb 96 19:53 MET

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

nettime: Pentagon net-trolling

synopsis: Het Pentagon (US militair-industrieel complex) geeft nogmaals
          aan waarom encryptie beschikbaar moet blijven voor een ieder.
          (impliciet ook waarom remailers nodig zijn) 

          X-URL: http://www.fas.org/pub/gen/fas/sgp/

> Pentagon Trolls the Net
> By David Corn
> c1996
>  Internet users beware; Pentagon snoops are taking an interest in your
> cyber-communications. Last summer, Charles Swett, a policy assistant in the
> Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and
> Low-Intensity Conflict, produced a report  that assessed the intelligence
> value of the Internet for the Defense Department. His study discovered the
> obvious: By monitoring computer message traffic and alternative news sources
> from around the world, the military might catch "early warning of impending
> significant developments." Swett reports that the "Internet could also be
> used offensively as an additional medium in psychological operations
> campaigns and to help achieve unconventional warfare objectives." A striking
> aspect of his study is that there is one sort of Internet user who attracts a
> large amount of attention from Swett: cyber-smart lefties.
>    The thirty-one-page, unclassified study is mostly cut and dry. Much of it
> describes what the Internet is and what can be found within its infinite
> confines. Swett lists various "fringe groups" that are exploiting the
> Internet: the white-supremacist National Alliance, the Michigan Militia,
> Earth First, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). He
> highlights MUFON--the Mutual UFO Network--which uses the Internet to
> disseminate information on "U.S. military operations that members believe
> relate to investigations and cover-ups of UFO-related incidents." MUFON
> computer messages, Swett notes, "contain details on MUFON's efforts to
> conduct surveillance of DoD installations." The report does not suggest that
> the computer communications of MUFON and these other groups should be
> targeted by the military--though X Filers will be forgiven for wondering if
> something sinister is afoot.
>    What Swett apparently finds of greater interest than MUFON and the "fringe
> groups" is the online left. A significant portion of the report is devoted to
> the San Francisco-based Institute for Global Communications, which operates
> several computer networks, such as PeaceNet and EcoNet, that are used by
> progressive activists. I.G.C. demonstrates, he writes, "the breadth of
> DoD-relevant information available on the Internet." The paper refers to
> I.G.C. conferences that might be considered noteworthy by the Pentagon,
> including ones on anti-nuclear arms campaigns, the extreme right, social
> change, and "multicultural, multi-racial news." Swett cites I.G.C. as the
> home for "alternative news sources" that fill gaps in the mainstream media.
> (It might be good for Pentagon analysts to read I.G.C. dispatches from
> Holland's Peace Media Service.) Yet he seems to say that one can  also track
> the left around the world by monitoring I.G.C.: "Although [I.G.C.] is clearly
> a left-wing political organization, without actually joining I.G.C. and
> reading its message traffic, it is difficult to assess the nature and extent
> of its members' actual real-world activities."
>  Swett's paper presents the world of opportunity awaiting a cyber-shrewd
> military and intelligence establishment. The Pentagon and intelligence
> services will conduct "routine monitoring of messages originating in other
> countries" in the search for information on "developing security threats."
> That means overseas e-mail, like overseas phonecalls, will be intercepted by
> the electronic eavesdroppers of the National Security Agency or some other
> outfit. The data will be fed into filtering computers and then, if it
> contains any hot-button words, forwarded to the appropriate analyst.
> "Networks of human sources with access to the Internet could be developed in
> areas of security concern to the U.S." (But bureaucrats rest assured; "this
> approach"--using computer-assisted spies--"could never replace official DoD
> intelligence collection systems or services.") The Internet "can also serve
> counterintelligence purposes" by identifying threats to the Pentagon and U.S.
> intelligence activities. As an example, Swett refers to a message posted in a
> discussion group for "left-wing political activists" that repeated an A.P.
> article about an upcoming U.S. Army Special Operations Command training
> exercise at an empty Miami Beach hotel.
>  Another growth area is the dirty tracks department. Noting that government
> officials, military officials, business people, and journalists all around
> the world are online, Swett envisions "Psychological Operations" campaigns in
> which U.S. propaganda could be rapidly disseminated to a wide audience. He
> adds, "The U.S. might be able to employ the Internet offensively to help
> achieve unconventional warfare objectives." Swett does not delve into details
> on how the Internet could serve such a mission. But he tosses out one
> possibility: communicating via the Internet with political and paramilitary
> groups abroad that Washington wants to assist while "limiting the direct
> political involvement of the United States." Imagine this: contras with
> computers.
>  Swett does point to a few potential problems. The Internet is chockful of
> chit-chat of no intelligence value. Retrieving useful nuggets will require
> monumental screening. He also predicts that one day video footage of military
> operations will be captured by inexpensive, hand-held digital video cameras
> operated by local individuals and then up-loaded to the Internet. Within
> minutes, millions of people around the world will see for themselves what has
> happened--which could lead to calls for action (or calls to terminate action)
> before government leaders have had a chance to react and formulate a
> position. Such a development, he observes, "will greatly add to the burden on
> military commanders, whose actions will be subjected to an unprecedented
> degree of scrutiny." And opponents of the Pentagon might try to exploit the
> Internet for their own devilish ends: "If it became widely known that DoD
> were monitoring Internet traffic for intelligence or counterintelligence
> purposes,  individuals with personal agendas or political purposes in mind,
> or who enjoy playing pranks, would deliberately enter false or misleading
> messages." The study ends with a series of vague recommendations--all to be
> carried out "only in full compliance with the letter and the spirit of the
> law, and without violating the privacy of American citizens." 
>  The Swett paper is "refreshingly candid," says Steven Aftergood of the
> Federation of American Scientists, who placed a copy of the document on the
> FAS web site on government secrecy, where it is being downloaded about twenty
> times a day (at http://www.fas.org/pub/gen/fas/sgp/.).  The I.G.C. staff is
> amused by Swett's interest. "We must be doing something right," notes George
> Gundrey, program coordinator of I.G.C.'s PeaceNet. "But it is interesting
> that all of his [I.G.C.] examples are the most left-wing items [on the
> network]." 
>  Swett's study is not the first of its kind. Under the rubric of "information
> warfare," other Pentagon outfits and military contractors have studied how to
> use computer networks to collect public information, disseminate propaganda,
> politically destabilize other governments, and plant computer viruses into
> the information systems of foes. (The latter task is particularly foolhardy.
> Deploying viruses into cyber-space--even if targeted against an enemy--would
> likely pose a danger to the United States, since this country is more
> networked than any other.) But Swett's office--the Pentagon's dirty tricks
> shop--is a newcomer to this scene, acoording to David Banisar, a policy
> analyst for the Electronic Privacy Information Center. Banisar's group has
> been helping international human rights groups use encryption to protect
> their global e-mai, "so the spooks don't listen in"
>  It is natural that the national security gang will try to infiltrate and use
> a communication medium like the Internet to its advantage. What is most
> troubling about Swett's paper is its preoccupation with left-of-center
> travelers in cyberspace and _domestic_ political activities. In the appendix,
> Swett reproduces four examples of notable e-mail. One (written by progressive
> activists Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven) calls for 100 days of
> protest in response to the Republican's Contract with America, another
> announces plans for a demonstration at the 1996 G.O.P. convention in San
> Diego, the third relays to lefties information on the U.S. Army exercise at
> the Miami Beach hotel, and the last is a communique from the Zapatistas of
> Mexico. Swett's use of these cyber dispatches can be explained one of two
> ways. Either the left has made much more progress in cyber-organizing than
> the right and "such fringe groups" as PETA, or Swett, true to institutional
> tradition, is overwrought about the use of the Internet by a certain parties.
> In any case, the would-be watchers in the defense establishment ought to be
> watched closely--especially if Swett's report refelcts broader sentiment
> within the Pentagon.
> =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
> This message was forwarded through the Red Rock Eater News Service (RRE).
> Send any replies to the original author, listed in the From: field below.
> You are welcome to send the message along to others but please do not use
> the "redirect" command.  For information on RRE, including instructions
> for (un)subscribing, send an empty message to  rre-help@weber.ucsd.edu
> =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

*  distributed via nettime-l : no commercial use without permission
*  <nettime> is a closed moderated mailinglist for net criticism,
*  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
*  more info: majordomo@is.in-berlin.de and "info nettime" in the msg body
*  URL: http://www.desk.nl/nettime/  contact: nettime-owner@is.in-berlin.de