by Tom Burghardt
July 4, 2011
Last week, the White House released its National
Strategy for Counterterrorism, a macabre document that places a premium
on "public safety" over civil liberties and constitutional rights.
"hope and change" huckster Barack Obama had the temerity to assert
that the President "bears no greater responsibility than ensuring the safety
and security of the American people."
Pity that others, including CIA "black site" prisoners tortured to death to
"keep us safe" (some 100 at
last count) aren't extended the same courtesy as The
Washington Post reported last week.
News editor Steven Aftergood correctly points out, the claim that the
"has no greater responsibility than 'protecting the American
people' is a paternalistic invention that is historically unfounded and
potentially damaging to the political heritage of the nation."
"the presidential oath of office that is prescribed by the
U.S. Constitution (Art. II, sect. 1) makes it clear that the President's
supreme responsibility is to '...preserve, protect, and defend the
Constitution of the United States.'
There is no mention of public safety. It
is the constitutional order that the President is sworn to protect, even if
doing so entails risks to the safety and security of the American people."
But as our former republic slips ever-closer towards corporate dictatorship,
Obama's mendacious twaddle about "protecting the American people," serves
only to obscure, and reinforce, the inescapable fact that it's a rigged game.
"what happens in Vegas," Baghdad, Kabul or Manama
- from driftnet
spying to political-inspired witch-hunts to
detention - won't, and hasn't, "stayed in Vegas."
Cyber Here, Cyber
There, Cyber-Surveillance Everywhere
Last month, researcher Barrett Brown and the OpMetalGear network
lifted the lid on a new U.S. Government-sponsored cyber-surveillance
now Odyssey, a multiyear, multimillion dollar enterprise currently run by
defense and security giant Northrop
With some $10.8 billion in revenue largely derived from contracts with the
Defense Department, Northrop Grumman was No.
2 on the Washington Technology
Top 100 List of Prime Federal Contractors.
"For at least two years," Brown writes, "the U.S. has been conducting a
secretive and immensely sophisticated campaign of mass surveillance and data
mining against the Arab world, allowing the intelligence community to
monitor the habits, conversations, and activity of millions of individuals
Information on this shadowy program was derived by scrutinizing hundreds of
the more than 70,000 HBGary emails leaked
onto the web by the cyber-guerrilla collective Anonymous.
Brown uncovered evidence that the,
"top contender to win the federal contract
and thus take over the program is a team of about a dozen companies which
were brought together in large part by Aaron Barr - the same disgraced CEO
who resigned from his own firm earlier this year after he was discovered to
have planned a full-scale information war against political activists at the
behest of corporate clients."
Readers will recall that Barr claimed he could exploit social media to
gather information about WikiLeaks supporters
in a bid to destroy that organization.
Earlier this year, Barr told the Financial Times he had used scraping techniques and had infiltrated
WikiLeaks supporter Anonymous, in part by using IRC, Facebook, Twitter and
other social media sites.
According to emails subsequently released by Anonymous, it was revealed that
the ultra rightist U.S. Chamber of
Commerce had hired white shoe law firm Hunton
& Williams, and that Hunton attorneys, upon recommendation of an
unnamed U.S. Department of Justice official, solicited a set of private
...collectively known as Team
Themis - and stitched-up a sabotage
campaign against WikiLeaks, journalists, labor unions, progressive
political groups and Chamber critics.
Amongst the firms who sought to grab the Romas/COIN/Odyssey contract from
Northrop when it came up for a "recompete" was TASC,
which describes itself as,
"a renowned provider of advanced systems
engineering, integration and decision-support services across the
intelligence, defense, homeland security and federal markets."
According to Bloomberg
BusinessWeek, TASC's head of "Cybersecurity Initiatives," Larry Strang,
was formerly a Vice President with Northrop Grumman who led that firm's
Cybersecurity Group and served as Northrop's NSA Account Manager.
that, Strang, a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, was Vice President for
Operations at the spooky Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC).
Brown relates that emails between TASC executives Al Pisani, John Lovegrow
and former HBGary Federal CEO Aaron Barr, provided details that they,
in talks with each other as well as Mantech executive Bob Frisbie on a 'recompete'
pursuant to 'counter intelligence' operations that were already being
conducted on behalf of the federal government by another firm, SAIC, with
which they hoped to compete for contracts."
In fact, HBGary Federal and TASC may have been cats-paws for defense giant
ManTech International in the race to secure U.S. Government
Clocking in at No.
22 on Washington Technology's "2011 Top 100 list," ManTech earned some
$1.46 billion in 2010, largely derived from work in,
"systems engineering and
integration, technology and software development, enterprise security
architecture, intelligence operations support, critical infrastructure
protection and computer forensics."
The firm's major customers include the
Defense Department, Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department
and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Pentagon's
geek squad that is busily working to develop software for their Cyber
Insider Threat (CINDER)
Both HBGary Federal and parent company HBGary, a California-based security
firm run by the husband-wife team, Greg Hoglund and Penny Leavy, had been
key players for the design of malware, undetectable rootkits and
other "full directory exfiltration tools over TCP/IP" for the Defense
Department according to documents released by the secret-shredding web site Public
Additional published documents revealed that they and had done so in close
collaboration with General Dynamics (Project
C and Task
Z), which had requested,
"multiple protocols to be scoped as viable
options... for VoIP (Skype) protocol, BitTorrent protocol, video over HTTP
(port 80), and HTTPS (port 443)" for unnamed secret state agencies.
According to Brown, it appears that Romas/COIN/Odyssey was also big on
social media surveillance, especially when it came to "Foreign Mobile" and "Foreign
Indeed, documents published by Public Intelligence (scooped-up
by the HBGary-Anonymous hack) was a ManTech International-HBGary
collaboration describing plans for Internet
Based Reconnaissance Operations.
The October 2010 presentation described
plans that would hand "customers," presumably state intelligence agencies
but also, as revealed by Anonymous, corporate security entities and public
relations firms, the means to perform "native language searching" combined
with "non-attributable architecture" and a "small footprint" that can be "as
widely or narrowly focused as needed."
ManTech and HBGary promised to provide customers the ability to
"Locate/Profile Internet 'Points of Interest'" on "individuals, companies,
ISPs" and "organizations," and would do so through "detailed network
mapping" that will,
"identify registered networks and registered domains"
"Graphical network representation based on Active Hosts"
and network application identification"
"Identification of possible
...through "Technology Research, Intelligence Gap Fill,
Counterintelligence Research" and "Customer Public Image Assessment."
The presentation described the social media monitoring process as one that
would "employ highly skilled network professionals (read, ex-spooks and
former military intelligence operatives) who will use,
Internet access, custom developed toolsets and techniques, Native Language
and in-country techniques" that "utilize foreign language search engines,
mapping tools" and "iterative researching methodologies" for searching,
"Websites, picture sites, mapping sites/programs"
"Blogs and social
"Forums and Bulletin Boards"
"Network Information: Whois, Trace Route, NetTroll, DNS"
"Archived and cached websites"
Clients who bought into the ManTech-HBGary "product" were promised,
Non-attributable Open Source Research Results"
"Sourced Research Findings"
"Triage level Analysis"
"Graphical Network and Social
...via data mining and extensive link analysis.
Undoubtedly, readers recall this is precisely what the National Security
Agency has been doing since the 1990s, if not earlier, through their
electronic communications intercept program Echelon, a multibillion Pentagon
project that conducted corporate espionage for American multinational firms
as researcher Nicky Hager revealed in his 1997 piece for CovertAction
Other firms included in Lovegrove's email to Barr indicate that the new
Romas/COIN/Odyssey "team" was to have included:
"TASC (PMO [Project Management
Operations], creative services)
HBGary (Strategy, planning,
Archimedes Global (Specialized linguistics,
Acclaim Technical Services (specialized linguistics)
Mission Essential Personnel (linguistic services)
Cipher (strategy, planning operations)
PointAbout (rapid mobile application development, list
of strategic partners)
Google (strategy, mobile application and platform
development - long list of strategic partners)
Apple (mobile and desktop
platform, application assistance - long list of strategic partners)
trying to schedule an interview with ATT plus some other small app
Recall that AT&T is the NSA's prime telecommunications partner in that
agency's illegal driftnet surveillance program and has been the recipient of
"retroactive immunity" under the despicable FISA Amendments Act, a law
supported by then-Senator Barack Obama.
Also recall that the giant tech firm
Apple was recently mired in scandal over reports that their mobile phone
platform had, without their owners' knowledge or consent, speared geolocational data from the iPhone and then stored this information in an
Apple-controlled data base accessible to law enforcement through various
"lawful interception" schemes.
"Whatever the exact nature and scope of COIN," Brown writes, "the firms that
had been assembled for the purpose by Barr and TASC never got a chance to
bid on the program's recompete. In late September, Lovegrove noted to Barr
and others that he'd spoken to the 'CO [contracting officer] for COIN'."
The TASC executive told Barr that "the current procurement approach" was
cancelled, citing "changed requirements."
Apparently the Pentagon, or other unspecified secret state satrapy told the
"an updated RFI [request for information]" will be issued
soon. According to a later missive from Lovegrove to Barr, "COIN has been
replaced by a procurement called Odyssey."
While it is still not entirely
clear what Romas/COIN or the Odyssey program would do once deployed, Brown
"mobile phone software and applications constitute a major
component of the program."
And given Barr's monomaniacal obsession with social media surveillance (that
worked out well with Anonymous!) the presence of Alterian and
SocialEyez on the procurement team may indicate that the secret state is
alarmed by the prospect that the "Arab Spring" just might slip from
proverbial "safe hands" and threaten Gulf dictatorships and Saudi Arabia
with the frightening specter of democratic transformation.
Although the email from
TASC executive Chris Clair to John Lovegrow names "Alterion"
as a company to contact because of their their "SM2 tool," in all likelihood
this is a typo given the fact that it is the UK-based firm "Alterian" that
has developed said SM2 tool, described on their web
site as a,
"business intelligence product that provides visibility into
social media and lets you tap into a new kind of data resource; your
customers' direct thoughts and opinions."
This would be a highly-profitable partnership indeed for enterprising
intelligence agencies and opaque corporate partners intent on monitoring
political developments across the Middle East.
In fact, a 2010 press
release, announced that Alterian had forged a partnership with the
Dubai-based firm SocialEyez for "the
world's first social media monitoring service designed for the Arab market."
We're informed that SocialEyez, a division of Media
Watch Middle East, described as,
"the leading media monitoring service in
the Middle East," offers services in "television, radio, social media,
online news and internet monitoring across most sectors including
commercial, government and PR."
That Barr and his partners were interested in bringing these firms to the
Romas/COIN table is not surprising considering that the Alterian/SocialEyez
"to develop and launch an Arabic language interface for Alterian SM2 to make it the world's first Arab language social media
Inquiring minds can't help but wonder which three-lettered
American agencies alongside a stable of,
"corporate and government clients,
including leading Blue Chips" might be interested in, "maximizing their
social media monitoring investment"?
Pentagon "Manhunters" in the House
On an even more sinister note, the inclusion of Archimedes
Global on the Romas/COIN team should set alarm bells ringing.
Archimedes is a small, privately-held niche security firm headquartered in
Tampa, Florida where, surprise, surprise, U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM)
has it's main headquarters at the MacDill Air Force Base.
On their web site,
Archimedes describes itself as,
"a diversified technology company providing
energy and information solutions to government and businesses worldwide."
The firm claims that it "delivers solutions" to its clients by,
deep domain expertise, multi-disciplinary education and training, and
While short on information regarding what it actually does, evidence
suggests that the firm is chock-a-block with former spooks and Special
Forces operators, skilled in the black arts of counterintelligence, various
information operations, subversion and, let's be frank, tasks
euphemistically referred to in the grisly trade as "wet work."
According to The
Washington Post, the firm was established in 2005.
the Post claims in their "Top Secret America" series that the number of
employees and revenue is "unknown," Dana Priest and William M. Arkin note
that Archimedes have five government clients and are have speared contracts
"Ground forces operations"
"Specialized military operations"
Brown relates that Archimedes was slated to provide "Specialized
linguistics, strategy, planning" for the proposed Romas/COIN/Odyssey project
for an unknown U.S. Government entity.
Based on available evidence however, one can speculate that Archimedes may
have been chosen as part of the HBGary Federal/TASC team precisely because
of their previous work as private contractors in human intelligence
(HUMINT), running spies and infiltrating assets into organizations of
interest to the CIA and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC)
throughout the Middle East, Central - and South Asia.
In 2009, Antifascist
Calling revealed that one of Archimedes Global's senior directors,
retired Air Force Lt. Colonel George A. Crawford, published a chilling
Counter-Network Organizing for Irregular Warfare, for the
highly-influential Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) at MacDill Air
Force Base in Tampa.
JSOU is the "educational component" of United States Special Operations
mission that touts its ability to "plan and synchronize operations" against
America's geopolitical adversaries and rivals, JSOU's Strategic Studies
"advances SOF strategic influence by its interaction in academic,
interagency, and United States military communities."
"information and risk" brief claim they can solve
"the most difficult communication and risk problems by seeing over the
horizon with a blend of art and science."
And with focus areas that include,
"strategic communications, media analysis and support, crisis
communications, and risk and vulnerability assessment and mitigation," it
doesn't take a rocket scientist to infer that those well-schooled in the
dark art of information operations (INFOOPS) would find a friendly home
inside the Romas/COIN contract team.
With some 25-years experience,
"as a foreign area officer specializing in
Eastern Europe and Central Asia," including a stint "as acting Air and
Defense Attaché to Kyrgyzstan," Crawford brings an interesting skill-set to
Manhunting - the deliberate concentration of
national power to find, influence, capture, or when necessary kill an
individual to disrupt a human network - has emerged as a key component of
operations to counter irregular warfare adversaries in lieu of traditional
state-on-state conflict measures.
It has arguably become a primary area of
emphasis in countering terrorist and insurgent opponents.
Crawford, Manhunting: Counter-Network Organization for Irregular Warfare, JSOU Report 09-7, The JSOU Press, Hurlburt Field, Florida, September 2009,
Acknowledged manhunting masters in their own right, the Israeli
settler-colonial security apparat have perfected the art of "targeted
killing," when they aren't dropping banned munitions such as white
phosphorus on unarmed, defenseless civilian populations or attacking
civilian vessels on the high seas.
Like their Israeli counterparts who come highly recommended as models of
restraint, an American manhunting agency will employ similarly subtle,
though no less lethal, tactics.
Crawford informs us:
When compared with conventional force-on-force
warfare, manhunting fundamentally alters the ratio between warfare's
respective firepower, maneuver, and psychological elements.
becomes less significant in terms of mass, while the precision and
discretion with which firepower is employed takes on tremendous significance,
especially during influence operations. Why drop a bomb when effects
operations or a knife might do?
(Crawford, op. cit., p. 11)
Alongside actual shooters,
"sensitive site exploitation (SSE) teams are
critical operational components for Pentagon 'manhunters.' We're told that
SSE teams will be assembled and able to respond on-call 'in the event of a
raid on a suspect site or to conduct independent 'break-in and search'
operations without leaving evidence of their intrusion."
Such teams must
"individual skills" such as "physical forensics, computer or
electronic exploitation, document exploitation, investigative techniques,
biometric collection, interrogation/debriefing and related skills."
As if to drive home the point that the target of such sinister operations
are the American people and world public opinion, Crawford, ever the
consummate INFOOPS warrior, views "strategic information operations" as key
to this murderous enterprise.
"must be delicately woven into
planned kinetic operations to increase the probability that a given
operation or campaign will achieve its intended effect."
Personnel skilled at conducting strategic
information operations - to include psychological operations, public
information, deception, media and computer network operations, and related
activities - are important for victory.
Despite robust DoD and Intelligence
Community capabilities in this area, efforts to establish organizations that
focus information operations have not been viewed as a positive development
by the public or the media, who perceive government-sponsored information
efforts with suspicion. Consequently, these efforts must take place away
from public eyes.
Strategic information operations may also require the
establishment of regional or local offices to ensure dissemination of
influence packages and assess their impact.
Thus manhunting influence may
call for parallel or independent structures at all levels..."
cit., pp. 27-28)
While we do not as yet have a complete picture of the Romas/COIN/Odyssey
project, some preliminary conclusions can be drawn.
"Altogether, then," Brown writes, "a successful bid for the relevant
contract was seen to require the combined capabilities of perhaps a dozen
firms - capabilities whereby millions of conversations can be monitored and
automatically analyzed, whereby a wide range of personal data can be
obtained and stored in secret, and whereby some unknown degree of
information can be released to a given population through a variety of means
and without any hint that the actual source is U.S. military intelligence."
Although Brown's initial research concluded that Romas/COIN/Odyssey will
"in conjunction with other surveillance and propaganda assets
controlled by the U.S. and its partners," with a firm like Archimedes on-board,
once information has been assembled on individuals described in other
contexts as "radicals" or "key extremists," will they subsequently be made
to "disappear" into the hands of "friendly" security services such as those
of strategic U.S. partners Bahrain and Saudi Arabia?
We're reminded that,
"Barr was also at the center of a series of conspiracies
by which his own company and two others hired out their collective
capabilities for use by corporations that sought to destroy their political
enemies by clandestine and dishonest means."
"none of the companies involved," Brown writes,
investigated; a proposed Congressional inquiry was denied by the committee
chair, noting that it was the Justice Department's decision as to whether to
investigate, even though it was the Justice Department itself that made the
initial introductions. Those in the intelligence contracting industry who
believe themselves above the law are entirely correct."
Brown warns that,
"a far greater danger is posed by the practice of arming
small and unaccountable groups of state and military personnel with a set of
tools by which to achieve better and better 'situational awareness' on
entire populations" while simultaneously manipulating "the information flow
in such a way as to deceive those same populations."
Beginning, it should be noted, right here at home...