Thursday, December 9, 2010

Is WikiLeaks The Cyber Hiroshima And Will The World Ever Be The Same?

Is WikiLeaks The Cyber Hiroshima And Will The World Ever Be The Same?


Wikileaks: The Cyber Hiroshima

What we are all witnessing in the unfolding Wikileaks drama is a stunning reprise of the birth of the nuclear-era at the close of World War II -- with cyber warfare playing the role of the American attack on Hiroshima.

With the dropping of the world's first nuclear weapon, followed quickly by a second over Nagasaki, World War II ended -- and the world as it was up until that moment changed radically forever. The Cold War was cold in part due to the recognition that nuclear weapons were so terrifyingly effective that there would be no winners in their mass use. Of the Cold War confrontations -- notably Korea and Vietnam -- nuclear weapons were never used, and could have been. The Cuban missile crisis terrified the world in its day, concentrating global attention on the real possibility of global annihilation.

The Wikileaks attack on the United States government has quickly been followed by attacks or threatened attacks on non-military institutions such as MasterCard, Visa and If not stopped, chaos will reign. And this will not be easy to stop. Indeed, SarahPAC, the website of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, has been targeted. This means little in terms of Palin herself (somebody doesn't like her…newsflash.) Added to the other civilian attacks, the Palin attack means quite literally that no one with computerized anything is safe.

While Julian Assange and his followers are leftists, as with the technology that built the bomb, the technology to do what Wikileaks is doing will soon spread. A crazy who hates, say, the New York Times or MSNBC or the Catholic Church or the Democrats or Hollywood or Wall Street -- or you -- can do precisely what is being done to Palin and the rest. No one, whether institution or individual, will be safe.

This is a major development -- and inevitable. It can and will change the world.
In some respects it may help some of the world's flashpoints. Arguably, Iran's nuclear missile program could be dismantled without firing a shot -- its high tech innards ruined at the press of a button in Jerusalem or by some guy sitting around in his underwear in his basement in Seattle or Kuala Lumpur.

It will also have significant political ramifications. To the extent an aggressive Republican House turns its sights on what the Obama Administration knew and did or didn't do months ago to stop Wikileaks in its tracks, this could prove to be the most explosive political event of 2011 and the 2012 campaign season. As one American institution, candidate, celebrity or private individual after another falls prey to Wikileaks attacks -- and this is related to a perceived incompetence by the Obama Administration -- there will be a furious political hell to pay that will make the reaction to ObamaCare look like child's play.

Stay tuned. Something big is happening right in front of our eyes. And it may well change the world as we know it.

DNS Provider Mistakenly Caught in WikiLeaks Saga Now Supports the Group 

"We've Done The Time, We May As Well Do The Crime": Mistaken ...

Twitter: "We've done the time, we may as well do the crime": Mistaken identity victims easyDNS support Wikileaks |

 WikiLeaks Battle Fuels Cyber Revolution Attacks 

Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, said the WikiLeaks drama has the potential to be the seed of a revolution. As he sees it, the DDoS attacks have the feel of revolt, right now against authority in general, but it could become more focused as time goes on.

"Technology allows a small number of talented people to quickly organize and mobilize large groups very quickly, and that capability appears to be being demonstrated here," Enderle said. "Confidence in authority, particularly in the U.S., is at historic lows, and coupled with high unemployment the risk of revolt would appear to be unusually high."

All that seems to be needed is a big-enough spark, he said. Enderle sees the WikiLeaks drama as more of a warning of what could be coming. "How the U.S. and other governments respond will make all the difference," he said. "Right now they seem to be making things worse, which probably won't end well."…

Pro-Wikileaks Cyber Army Gains Strength; Thousands Join Ddos Attacks
By Gregg Keizer Computerworld - The retaliatory attacks by pro-WikiLeaks activists are growing in strength as hackers add botnets and thousands of people ...


Wikileaks Exposes Yet More US Cover-Up Of Torture

There is another bombshell release from Wikileaks (via theNew York Times) today regarding the diplomatic thuggery practiced by the US embassy in Germany over the rendition and torture of one of its citizens.  The piece in the NYT reports:

John M. Koenig, the American deputy chief of mission in Berlin, issued a pointed warning in February 2007 urging that Germany “weigh carefully at every step of the way the implications for relations with the U.S.” in the case of Khaled el-Masri, a German of Lebanese descent. Mr. Masri said he was held in a secret United States prison in Afghanistan and tortured before his captors acknowledged their mistake and let him go.

This is evidence in itself that the US government was so worried that the evidence surrounding el-Masri’s rendition and brutal torture might get a full airing in the European or International press.  Noticeably, the diplomatic messaging here doesn’t mention any of the illegal and inhumane treatment this man underwent in Afghanistan, but only comments on certain “implications” in the relationship between the US and Germany.  It’s almost as if the torture of a citizen of another country is an unmentionable thing, all done in the name of fighting terrorism.  This dramatically sums up the US government’s position in the years after 9/11: all these extreme methods are in the name of Keeping America Safe, and that’s all.  This fits the pattern with the United States’ demands on the UK to whitewash its complicity in the illegal invasion of Iraq (among other things).  The story publishes more of the diplomatic techno-speak:

In one cable, written before Mr. Koenig’s warning to Germany’s deputy national security adviser, the embassy in Berlin reported that diplomatic officials had “continued to stress with German counterparts the potential negative implications for our bilateral relationship, and in particular for our counter-terrorism cooperation, if further steps are taken to seek the arrest or extradition of U.S. citizens/officials.”

What Ambassador Koenig seems to be implying here is that if Germany dared to expose the United States’ extraordinary, illegal renditions and oppressive torture the outcome could be that these “counter-terrorism” methods may not be able to be used in this fashion.  In the “up is down” world that surrounded the US government in the decade after 9/11, this probably makes sense.  Unfortunately in the real world, in which the US is a party to an international anti-torture treaty, this is simply evidence of a cover up of illegal, immoral activity.  Here is what the NYT story reports happened to el-Masri:

Mr. Masri was seized on Dec. 31, 2003, as he entered Macedonia while on vacation; border security guards confused him with an operative of Al Qaeda with a similar name. He says he was turned over to the C.I.A., which flew him to Afghanistan, where he says he was tortured, sodomized and injected with drugs. After five months, he was dropped on a roadside in Albania. No charges were brought against him.

This entire incident happened because of a confusion of names.  Not because el-Masri was a “terrorist,” or anything close to the sort.  The US government is seeking to cover up this disastrous encounter in order to save itself the embarrassment of admitting the CIA made a horrendous mistake.  Since the US still carries itself as some sort of global super power (despite two catastrophic wars abroad) its government must have felt it could intimidate Germany into noncompliance.  To this day, nothing has happened to bring anyone to justice, so perhaps it’s “mission accomplished,” so to speak.  The story reports on what happened in Germany:

The prosecutor’s office in Munich issued warrants for the arrest of the C.I.A. operatives, but Germany’s government did not press for arrests or extraditions.

Of course not.  To expose the massive illegal behavior by the United States in the “war on terror” is to look directly into the rabbit hole.  And it would appear no one, except for the groundbreaking website Wikileaks, wants to explore that place.


Wikileaks Cables: Shell's Grip On Nigerian State Revealed

US embassy cables reveal top executive's claims that company 'knows everything' about key decisions in government ministries


The oil giant Shell claimed it had inserted staff into all the main ministries of the Nigerian government, giving it access to politicians' every move in the oil-rich Niger Delta, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable.

The company's top executive in Nigeria told US diplomats that Shell had seconded employees to every relevant department and so knew "everything that was being done in those ministries". She boasted that the Nigerian government had "forgotten" about the extent of Shell's infiltration and was unaware of how much the company knew about its deliberations.

The cache of secret dispatches from Washington's embassies in Africa also revealed that the Anglo-Dutch oil firm swapped intelligence with the US, in one case providing US diplomats with the names of Nigerian politicians it suspected of supporting militant activity, and requesting information from the US on whether the militants had acquired anti-aircraft missiles.
Other cables released tonight reveal:

The latest revelations came on a day that saw hackers sympathetic to WikiLeaks target MasterCard and Visa over their decision to block payments to the whistleblowers' website.

The website's founder, Julian Assange, spent a second night in jail after a judge refused him bail prior to an extradition hearing to face questioning over sexual assault charges in Sweden.

Campaigners tonight said the revelation about Shell in Nigeria demonstrated the tangled links between the oil firm and politicians in the country where, despite billions of dollars in oil revenue, 70% of people live below the poverty line.

Cables from Nigeria show how Ann Pickard, then Shell's vice-president for sub-Saharan Africa, sought to share intelligence with the US government on militant activity and business competition in the contested Niger Delta – and how, with some prescience, she seemed reluctant to open up because of a suspicion the US government was "leaky".

But that did not prevent Pickard disclosing the company's reach into the Nigerian government when she met US ambassador Robin Renee Sanders, as recorded in a confidential memo from the US embassy in Abuja on 20 October 2009.

At the meeting, Pickard related how the company had obtained a letter showing that the Nigerian government had invited bids for oil concessions from China. She said the minister of state for petroleum resources, Odein Ajumogobia, had denied the letter had been sent but Shell knew similar correspondence had taken place with China and Russia.

Nigeria is Africa's leading oil producer and the eighth biggest exporter in the world, accounting for 8% of US oil imports. Although a recent UN report largely exonerated the company, critics accuse Shell, the biggest operator in the delta, and other companies, of causing widespread pollution and environmental damage in the region. Militant groups engaged in hostage-taking and sabotage have proliferated.

The WikiLeaks disclosure was today seized on by campaigners as evidence of Shell's vice-like grip on the country's oil wealth. "Shell and the government of Nigeria are two sides of the same coin," said Celestine AkpoBari, of Social Action Nigeria. "Shell is everywhere. They have an eye and an ear in every ministry of Nigeria. They have people on the payroll in every community, which is why they get away with everything. They are more powerful than the Nigerian government."

The criticism was echoed by Ben Amunwa of the London-based oil watchdog Platform. "Shell claims to have nothing to do with Nigerian politics," he said. "In reality, Shell works deep inside the system, and has long exploited political channels in Nigeria to its own advantage."

Nigeria tonight strenuously denied the claim. Levi Ajuonoma, a spokesman for the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, said: "Shell does not control the government of Nigeria and has never controlled the government of Nigeria. This cable is the mere interpretation of one individual. It is absolutely untrue, an absolute falsehood and utterly misleading. It is an attempt to demean the government and we will not stand for that. I don't think anybody will lose sleep over it."

Another cable released today, from the US consulate in Lagos and dated 19 September 2008, claims that Pickard told US diplomats that two named regional politicians were behind unrest in the Rivers state. She also asked if the American diplomats had any intelligence on shipments of surface to air missiles (SAMs) to militants in the Niger Delta.

"She claimed Shell has 'intelligence' that one to three SAMs may have been shipped to Nigerian militant groups, although she seemed somewhat sceptical of that information and wondered if such sensitive systems would last long in the harsh environment of the Niger Delta," the cable said.

Pickard also said Shell had learned from the British government details of Russian energy company Gazprom's ambitions to enter the Nigerian market. In June last year, Gazprom signed a $2.5bn (£1.5bn) deal with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to build refineries, pipelines and gas power stations.

Shell put a request to the US consulate for potentially sensitive intelligence about Gazprom, a possible rival, which she said had secured a promise from the Nigerian government of access to 17trn cubic feet of natural gas – roughly a tenth of Nigeria's entire reserves. "Pickard said that amount of gas was only available if the GON were to take concessions currently assigned to other oil companies and give them to Gazprom. She assumed Shell would be the GON's prime target." Pickard alleged that a conversation with a Nigerian government minister had been secretly recorded by the Russians. Shortly after the meeting in the minister's office she received a verbatim transcript of the meeting "from Russia", according to the memo.

The cable concludes with the observation that the oil executive had tended to be guarded in discussion with US officials. "Pickard has repeatedly told us she does not like to talk to USG [US government] officials because the USG is 'leaky'." She may be concerned that ... bad news about Shell's Nigerian operations will leak out."

Shell declined to comment on the allegations, saying: "You are seeking our views on a leaked cable allegedly containing information about a private conversation involving a Shell representative, but have declined to share this cable or to permit us sufficient time to obtain information from the person you say took part in the conversation on the part of Shell. In view of this, we cannot comment on the alleged contents of the cable, including the correctness or incorrectness of any statements you say it contains."

By Gautham Nagesh 12/09/10 01:42 PM ET

Incoming House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Pete King (R-N.Y.) introduced a bill Thursday aimed at stopping WikiLeaks by making it illegal to publish the names of military or intelligence community informants. The bill is a companion to the Senate version unveiled last week.

King has previously called on Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange under the Espionage Act. He said the Securing Human Intelligence and Enforcing Lawful Dissemination (SHIELD) Act would give the Justice Department the authority to do exactly that. 

“Julian Assange and his associates who operate and support WikiLeaks have not only damaged U.S. national security with their releases of classified documents, but also placed at risk countless lives, including those of our Nation’s intelligence sources around the world," King said in a statement. 

The Senate version of the bill was sponsored by Sens. John Ensign (R-Nev.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.) in response to WikiLeaks's publication of thousands of classified diplomatic cables, some of which have proven embarrassing to the U.S. government because of their frank tone. 

Assange surrendered to police in London on Tuesday to face a Swedish arrest warrant for rape and sexual molestation allegations. He has been refused bail and plans to fight extradition to Sweden. Assange has denied any wrongdoing and called the allegations part of an international plot to stop WikiLeaks.

Credit card and payment processing firms such as Paypal, Visa and MasterCard have cut ties with WikiLeaks this week in response to pressure from the U.S. government. In response, a small army of activist hackers has launched denial of service attacks dubbed "Operation Payback" that has also targeted2008 GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

Schneier on Security 

I don't have a lot to say about WikiLeaks, but I do want to make a few points.

Encryption isn't the issue here. Of course the cables were encrypted, for transmission. Then they were received and decrypted, and -- so it seems -- put into an archive on SIPRNet, where lots of people had access to them in their unencrypted form.

Secrets are only as secure as the least trusted person who knows them. The more people who know a secret, the more likely it is to be made public.

I'm not surprised these cables were available to so many people. We know access control is hard, and it's impossible to know beforehand what information people will need to do their jobs. What is surprising is that there weren't any audit logs kept about who accessed all these cables. That seems like a no-brainer.

This has little to do with WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks is just a website. The real story is that "least trusted person" who decided to violate his security clearance and make these cables public. In the 1970s, he would have mailed them to a newspaper. Today, he used WikiLeaks. Tomorrow, he will have his choice of a dozen similar websites. If WikiLeaks didn't exist, he could have made them available via BitTorrent.

I think the government is learning what the music and movie industries were forced to learn years ago: it's easy to copy and distribute digital files. That's what's different between the 1970s and today. Amassing and releasing that many documents was hard in the paper and photocopier era; it's trivial in the Internet era. And just as the music and movie industries are going to have to change their business models for the Internet era, governments are going to have to change their secrecy models. I don't know what those new models will be, but they will be different.

WikiLeaks Art Exposé: U.S. Tried to Trade Sunken Gold for Nazi Loot 

MADRID— An underwater treasure. A looted Impressionist masterpiece. Diplomatic intrigue. Nazis. It all sounds like the plot of a Clive Cussler novel. But no, these are the components of the latest real-life revelation from the WikiLeaks cables. All these things collided in 2008, when diplomats were hunting for solutions to two very different cultural restitution cases and sought a clandestine compromise, according to the latest of the leaked dispatches highlighted by the Guardian.

On the one side, the Spanish were looking to reclaim the so-called "Black Swan" treasure, a $500 million trove of gold and silver coins discovered in the wreck of the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, a Spanish galleon that sank off the coast of Portugal in 1804 in a battle with four Royal Navy ships. Underwater robots from the Florida-based Odyssey Marine Exploration company discovered the sunken treasure in March 2007, and the company shipped the loot straight back to the United States, provoking anger in Spain, which claims the hoard as its own.

Along with descendants of 249 Spanish sailors who perished in the long-ago naval battle, the Spanish government took Odyssey to court in Atlanta, and won. However, the exploration company has appealed, claiming that the galleon was on a commercial mission and that Spain therefore does not have the right to the majority of the treasure.

On the other side is a tale from the darkest days of Nazi Germany, with the U.S. seeking to aid a Los Angeles-based Jewish family in recovering Camille Pissarro's "Rue St Honoré. Après-midi. Effet de Pluie" (1897), which currently hangs in Madrid's famous Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. In 1939, Lilly Cassirer was forced to sell the picture by the Impressionist master for the equivalent of $360 to obtain an exit visa as she fled Germany.

According to a summary of the situation in one WikiLeaks cable, "Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza acquired [the painting] in 1976. In the early 1990s, the Spanish government purchased the collection and built the current museum. In 1958, Mrs. Cassirer received a DM120,000 restitution payment for the disappearance and provisional dispossession of the painting, but retained full right to the painting." The Thyssen-Bornemisza has steadfastly refused to return the disputed Pissarro to Cassirer's heirs.

And that's where the "Black Swan" treasure comes in. Seeking to resolve the situation, U.S. ambassador Eduardo Aguirre apparently attempted to use the Odyssey dispute as a bargaining chip, offering to help in the return of the 17-ton coin hoard in exchange for help in getting Pissarro's delicate streetscape back to the Cassirers.

Spanish culture minister César Antonio Molina refused the gambit: "The minister listened carefully to the ambassador's message, but he put the accent on the separateness of the issues." Instead, he suggested that Spain could do some outreach to the Los Angeles Jewish community, including setting up a travel fund to promote cultural exchange.

Both the Spanish sailors and the Cassirer family continue their quests for their respective treasures.


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