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Confirmed: Listening to Whistleblower John Reidy Could Have Saved the Lives of Numerous CIA Assets

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Back in 2015, I looked at the whistleblower case of John Reidy, a former CIA contractor who had warned of catastrophic failures in a communications system.

Reidy describes playing three roles in 2005: facilitating the dissemination of intelligence reporting to the Intelligence Community, identifying Human Intelligence (HUMINT) targets of interest for exploitation, and (because of resource shortages) handling the daily administrative functions of running a human asset. In the second of those three roles, he was “assigned the telecommunications and information operations account” (which is not surprising, because that’s the kind of service SAIC provides to the intelligence community). In other words, he seems to have worked at the intersection of human assets and electronic reporting on those assets.

Whatever role he played, he described what by 2010 had become a “catastrophic intelligence failure[]” in which “upwards of 70% of our operations had been compromised.” The problem appears to have arisen because “the US communications infrastructure was under siege,” which sounds like CIA may have gotten hacked. At least by 2007, he had warned that several of the CIA’s operations had been compromised, with some sources stopping all communications suddenly and others providing reports that were clearly false, or “atmospherics” submitted as solid reporting to fluff reporting numbers. By 2011 the government had appointed a Task Force to deal with the problem he had identified years earlier, though some on that Task Force didn’t even know how long the problem had existed or that Reidy had tried to alert the CIA and Congress to the problem.

All that seems to point to the possibility that tech contractors had set up a reporting system that had been compromised by adversaries,

When news of CIA’s loss of numerous Chinese assets came out, I again pointed back to Reidy’s warnings.

Today, Yahoo confirms that the communications system weakness first identified by Reidy 11 years ago was indeed exploited first by Iran (where, Yahoo says, Reidy was stationed), then by China, and to a lesser degree, Russia.

Iran was able to use the vulnerability to unwind the US’ network of spies by using Google to identify signatures of the system.

This hunt for CIA sources eventually bore fruit — including the identification of the covert communications system.

A 2011 Iranian television broadcast that touted the government’s destruction of the CIA network said U.S. intelligence operatives had created websites for fake companies to recruit agents in Iran by promising them jobs, visas and education abroad. Iranians who initially thought they were responding to legitimate opportunities would end up meeting with CIA officers in places like Dubai or Istanbul for recruitment, according to the broadcast.

Though the Iranians didn’t say precisely how they infiltrated the network, two former U.S. intelligence officials said that the Iranians cultivated a double agent who led them to the secret CIA communications system. This online system allowed CIA officers and their sources to communicate remotely in difficult operational environments like China and Iran, where in-person meetings are often dangerous.

A lack of proper vetting of sources may have led to the CIA inadvertently running a double agent, said one former senior official — a consequence of the CIA’s pressing need at the time to develop highly placed agents inside the Islamic Republic. After this betrayal, Israeli intelligence tipped off the CIA that Iran had likely identified some of its assets, said the same former official.

The losses could have stopped there. But U.S. officials believe Iranian intelligence was then able to compromise the covert communications system. At the CIA, there was “shock and awe” about the simplicity of the technique the Iranians used to successfully compromise the system, said one former official.

In fact, the Iranians used Google to identify the website the CIA was were using to communicate with agents. Because Google is continuously scraping the internet for information about all the world’s websites, it can function as a tremendous investigative tool — even for counter-espionage purposes. And Google’s search functions allow users to employ advanced operators — like “AND,” “OR,” and other, much more sophisticated ones — that weed out and isolate websites and online data with extreme specificity.

According to the former intelligence official, once the Iranian double agent showed Iranian intelligence the website used to communicate with his or her CIA handlers, they began to scour the internet for websites with similar digital signifiers or components — eventually hitting on the right string of advanced search terms to locate other secret CIA websites. From there, Iranian intelligence tracked who was visiting these sites, and from where, and began to unravel the wider CIA network.

Yahoo describes that Iran and China likely traded technology, which is how China proceeded to use the same technique to target CIA assets.

While Yahoo doesn’t emphasize it, it seems likely that if SAIC and Raytheon hadn’t had so much power when Reidy first started warning of this compromise, it would have been addressed far more quickly. Instead, he lost clearance and was fired.

Which, on top of a lot of other lessons, seems to be a superb example of how ignoring a whistleblower can have catastrophic consequences.

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benzado
2 days ago
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Indirect Detection

8 Comments and 18 Shares
I'm like a prisoner in Plato's Cave, seeing only the shade you throw on the wall.
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benzado
3 days ago
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New York, NY (40.785018,-73.97
popular
3 days ago
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7 public comments
Covarr
3 days ago
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I had a friend a couple months ago ranting about how awful the pro-pedophilia movement was, and all I could think was "what pro-pedophilia movement?"
Moses Lake, WA
chrisamico
3 days ago
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This is pretty much the social web in 2018.
Boston, MA
rraszews
3 days ago
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Fred Clark, the Slacktivist, has written a bunch of times before about the "Anti-Kitten-Burning Coalition". Long story short, probably no one is burning kittens or hunting shelter animals for sport; claiming such (and in many cases, convincing yourself you believe it too) is a way to make yourself feel like a hero for opposing something evil (Without having to do much work, since you can't actually go out there and fight the kitten-burners as said burners do not exist), and get other people to sign on to support your side because otherwise they're siding with the kitten-burners.
corjen
3 days ago
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Sharing for the alt text.
Iowa
ireuben
4 days ago
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I totally thought this was going to be a “my hobby is...” post (or maybe that’s just what the friend is doing!).
alt_text_at_your_service
4 days ago
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I'm like a prisoner in Plato's Cave, seeing only the shade you throw on the wall.
alt_text_bot
4 days ago
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I'm like a prisoner in Plato's Cave, seeing only the shade you throw on the wall.

Dentistry

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I was in one of my local coffee shops a few weeks ago and the barista and a customer were having a conversation about dentists. They were both obviously not rich and lacking dental insurance, not that dental insurance means anything more than a cheap cleaning once per year. The divergence between dental care and medical care in this country is fascinating. Bad teeth can eat your brain, basically.

But they were discussing a hero dentist who while I think I caught her address I am not sure of so I can't advertise (near the Italian Market in Philly if anyone wants to share). (From what I heard) she offers a cheapish xray and cleaning, and prioritizes what you need. Like "you need 12 cavities filled but I really need to do these 2."

That people can't afford dentistry, which is probably more important than regular medical checkups, is why america is great.
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benzado
5 days ago
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Coincidentally, my tooth has been aching since Thursday.
New York, NY (40.785018,-73.97
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15 Reasons Why Democrats Crushed Republicans This Week

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Let’s review what’s happened over the past few days:

  1. Democrats won a huge victory in the House. Even with all the gerrymandering and voter suppression that Republicans put in place, they won by a popular margin of 7-8 percent. When all the counting is done, they will probably have won about 35 new seats and Nancy Pelosi will be Speaker of the House. This ends Trump’s legislative agenda for good.
  2. Trump immediately responded by holding an obviously unhinged press conference in which his nervousness and fear were plain to see.
  3. Halfway through, he instigated a fight with CNN’s Jim Acosta, a reporter he doesn’t like. The more we learn about this, the more it seems like the fight was carefully planned and executed by Trump’s communications staff.
  4. Following the fight, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders retweeted a video created by InfoWars, the most infamous source of conspiracy theories in America. The video appeared to be doctored to make it look like Acosta “karate chopped” a young intern. In fact. he did nothing of the sort, and his arm moved only in response to her effort to take away the microphone.
  5. Sanders then repealed Acosta’s White House pass.
  6. In other news, Trump nominated Matthew G. Whitaker, an obvious crackpot who has commented frequently on the Russia probe, to take over as attorney general. There are good reasons to think this is illegal, and protests erupted immediately all over the country.
    Erik Mcgregor/Pacific Press via ZUMA
  7. The Florida senate race continues to get tighter. The Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson is still behind, but he’s getting closer every day. His opponent, Gov. Rick Scott, is melting down over this:

    “Late Tuesday night, our win was projected to be around 57,000 votes. By Wednesday morning, that lead dropped to 38,000. By Wednesday evening, it was around 30,000. This  morning, it was around 21,000. Now, it is 15,000….In Palm Beach County, there are 15,000 new votes found since election night.”

    This is pretty normal as mail-in ballots are counted. If those votes are in liberal counties, then it makes sense that they might go against the Republican. And since there are lots of votes left still unopened, it’s quite possible that when all the votes are counted, Nelson might end up the winner. As a result, Scott is accusing the vote registrars of voter fraud and has filed a lawsuit to stop the counting. He can do this because he’s the governor and the person in charge of election integrity. But the bottom line is that he’s sailing a leaky boat. When all the votes are counted, Nelson is most likely to be the winner, and Scott will have to file a blizzard of lawsuits to try to overturn the result. Sound familiar?

  8. Elsewhere, Arizona is getting closer too. Democrat Kyrsten Synema is now 10,000 votes ahead of her Republican opponent. And Democrat Jon Tester has been declared the winner in Montana.
  9. Overall, Republican flipped seats in North Dakota, Indiana, and Missouri. Democrats have flipped a seat in Nevada and are quite possibly going to flip a seat in Arizona. In Florida, they may well prevent Republicans from flipping another seat. Altogether, if the best case works out for Democrats, they will lose only a net of one seat, leading to a 52-48 Senate. That’s not much. It makes Mitch McConnell’s job easier, but it also means that Democrats have an excellent chance of winning back the Senate in 2020, when Republicans have 21 senators to protect while Democrats have only 14—all but one of whom is pretty unbeatable. Republicans, by contrast probably have 5 or 6 vulnerable seats.
  10. In the House, the race in the California 45th district between Democrat Katie Porter and Republican Mimi Walters is shrinking. Two days ago Walters was ahead by 6,000 votes. Today her lead was down to 4,000 votes with nearly 100,000 votes left to be counted. I mention this race only for personal reasons since I live in the 45th, and I’m pretty sure this is the first time in my life I’ve voted in a congressional race that was actually close. It’s very exciting.
  11. In state races, Democrats have picked up seven governor’s seats and hundreds of state assembly seats. This will be critical when it comes to redistricting in 2021.
  12. In legal news, a panel of judges ruled against a partisan gerrymandering by Democrats in Maryland. It will go straight to the Supreme Court and probably get combined with a Republican gerrymandering case in North Carolina. This is good, since it will allow the court to make a combined ruling that will appear nonpartisan. If the court actually does something to rein in egregious partisan gerrymandering, it’s good news for Democrats even if it’s not good news for Maryland Democrats.
  13. Another panel of judges ruled that Trump didn’t have the power to repeal DACA.
  14. And just today, a judge blocked the Keystone XL pipeline, one of the first things Trump tried to open up on his second day in office.
  15. Altogether, the Democrats won a big victory in the House, suffered a small loss in the Senate, and won a big victory in the states. They also seem to be doing very well in court cases around the country, and public opinion is very much on their side. Meanwhile, Trump’s ability to win races is getting weaker, but Republicans are stuck with him anyway. More about that in the previous post I wrote this morning.

That’s more than a dozen bits of truly bad news for Republican, and it’s only going to get worse as they stare down the long barrel toward 2020, where the Senate map is massively in favor of Democrats; the economy is likely to be on a downturn; and Donald Trump will probably have long-since worn out his welcome with his one-trick pony. In other words, they’re getting more and more desperate, knowing that a historic shellacking is probably headed their way in two years.

And this desperation is showing. Over the next two years Republicans can nominate some more conservative judges to the lower courts, but that’s about it. With Democrats controlling the House; the filibuster controlling the Senate; and a man-child controlling the White House, they’re in for a very rough two years.

So I’m curious: is there still anyone out there buying the Republican fable that this was sort of a 50-50 election? Believe me, it wasn’t. From the start it was a huge win for the Democrats, and three days later that win is looking even more remarkable when you account for the seats won, the economic headwinds they plowed through; the gerrymandering they overcame; and the obviously panicky reaction this has all gotten from Republican pols. Unless they change and change fast, Republicans might not win another election for a decade. That’s what they’ve always been afraid of—namely that racism couldn’t be a winning card forever as America steadily became less white—and 2018 might be the year that finally proves it. They held on longer than any party of old white men should have, and that’s a testament to their ruthlessness and political smarts. Eventually, though, the tide rolls in and Republicans are left sticking their fingers into the leaky old dikes of Fox News while Democrats are creating brand new barriers helmed by men and women of all races who are best suited to the job. Which party would you rather work for?

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benzado
6 days ago
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New York, NY (40.785018,-73.97
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fxer
6 days ago
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"Unless they change and change fast, Republicans might not win another election for a decade."

oh God that was the exact same line from Nov 2016, it was so prevalent even frigging SNL spoofed it.
Bend, Oregon

Hey David: It Wasn’t “We” Who Screwed the Working Class

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I get so tired sometimes. Here is David Brooks today:

Working-class voters tried to send a message in 2016, and they are still trying to send it. The crucial question is whether America’s leaders will listen and respond.

One way to start doing that is to read Oren Cass’s absolutely brilliant new book, “The Once and Future Worker.” The first part of the book is about how we in the educated class have screwed up labor markets in ways that devalued work and made it harder for people in the working class to find a satisfying job.

Part of the problem is misplaced priorities. For the last several decades, American economic policy has been pinioned on one goal: expanding G.D.P. We measure G.D.P. We talk incessantly about economic growth. Between 1975 and 2015, American G.D.P. increased threefold. But what good is that growth if it means that a thick slice of America is discarded for efficiency reasons?

No. It was not “working-class voters” who sent a message in 2016. It was white working-class voters.

It was not the “educated class” that screwed up the labor market for the non-rich. It was the Reagan/Gingrich/GOP establishment.

It was not “we” who decided that GDP was the only thing that mattered and low incomes at the bottom didn’t. It was right-wing Republicans.

So, so tired. I get so very tired of conservatives or centrists or bobos—or whatever it is that David Brooks calls himself these days—refusing to acknowledge this stuff. Progressives have been fighting all along for the working class; for equitable labor markets; for higher wages; for labor unions; for taxing the rich; for job training; for workplace regulations; for universal medical care; for equal treatment regardless of race or sex; and a million other things. Have we accomplished much? Not nearly as much as we should. Brooks is sure right about that.

But it’s not because of some amorphous “we.” It’s because Republicans have spent the past four decades fighting all these things hammer and tongs and then telling working class whites to vote for them because Democrats won’t let them tell ethnic jokes anymore.

Fuck me.

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duerig
5 days ago
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I am a 'centrist' or 'bobos', so I suppose the author of the article would not care for my opinion on this matter. And the author is right that there is some inherent skeeziness in using the 'we' to distribute blame instead of 'I' if you are talking about policies that you yourself supported and now question. And it is also fundamentally bullshit to try to make the summation of inconsistent ideas (voting) into a coherent singular narrative (working class people want this or white people want that).

However, this article twigs something I have been thinking about quite a bit. Which is that there is a larger trend over the past several decades which 'both sides' are part of. And that trend is the hunt for purity, for excluding those that don't measure up on whatever scale.

Here, the author is explicit about it. The author themselves is a paragon of virtuous purity who has never compromised on the clearly and obviously correct policy positions. They therefore are exempt from the 'we' that has to reflect on whether there needs to be a course correction. Because the author already knew the right answer all along and the only course correction that needs to happen is for people who were wrong to correct course to follow the author.

This puts the author on a wonderful pure pedestal from which to survey the political landscape. And being this pure with such clear villains must be a psychological comfort to go along with their weariness.

But aside from psychological comfort, does this purity actually bring anything useful to the table? And what perils does it bring?

(1) Certainty and purity will hamper any possible change of ideas or actions. It is almost certain that I am dead wrong about some things I believe, and even things that I am right about are probably various shades of wrong as well when you get into the details. And even if I'm right about the ends, it is clear by the fact that I have not succeeded in getting to those ends that I need to think carefully about how to achieve those ends and if my current strategy is successful or if I should switch strategies. All of these things are aided by a sense of doubt and a sense of personally being in the mud with everyone else.

(2) Inclusiveness, seeing yourself as part of a 'we' helps more clearly see the burden. It helps you see problems as truly common. And I think there is an important distinction between 'That shithole President isn't my President because I didn't vote for him' vs. 'That shithole President is our President because we as a country voted for him (regardless of my personal vote) and we need to work on the problem'. It is also true that we as a country and a world have an unclean legacy. Not just 'we in the West', but 'we as humanity'. I don't like the idea that my tax money is going to pay for the debts that the shithole president is accumulating, for example, but they are my debts too even if they are not chosen personally by me. We share the burden of our unclean legacy whether or not we were personally involved in the making of it.

(3) There is no sure way to be persuasive and to get people on your side. But making somebody into the 'other' is anti-persuasive. In order to achieve any agenda at all, you need a broad coalition. Most people in the coalition will only care slightly or not at all about what you want to achieve. But you are compromising on some things you want in order to get them on board. And that means compromising on your purity. You cannot succeed with just the 'purest' or with just the ones with the most zeal. Dealing with and catering to 'allies' is a long and thankless task. Lots of people have complained about how useless they feel like 'allies' are. But the truth is that you are catering to them and buttering them up to try to get them to care about your issue and at the same time they are doing the same to you to get you to care about their issue. Maybe we can accept that this is the long and slow process of building coalitions to get things done and this is just how living in a large diverse society works.

(4) At the end of the day, we need to build a country that is by and for everyone. The only way this works is if we all see each other as 'one of us'. This would not be the case if any one side got all their own way. If a large group of people, rightly or wrongly, wants things a certain way, even if they want a shithole President, our society is set up to give them their way some of the time. And our society must be set up that way to continue functioning. Political change is about changing institutions but only at the same rate that we change the populace. That is why change and improvement can be so hard in a democracy. But that is also why a democracy is our best option. Because as long as we have a democracy, we are still a 'we'. And we decide together, even if sometimes we get things wrong or it takes a long time to get them right.

I'm still thinking about how much 'inclusiveness' is proper and the ways in which 'exclusiveness' and 'purity' are important. But it is very worrying that we seem to have less inclusiveness and more purity all the time. We are certainly less inclusive than is proper as a society.
benzado
6 days ago
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What Drove Media Coverage of the Migrant Caravan?

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Here in leftyville, it’s an article of faith that hysteria over the migrant caravan from Honduras is purely an invention of Donald Trump, one that the media, inexplicably, went along with. I certainly believe that, and during lunch it occurred to me that it might be interesting to check out Google Trends to test this theory.

To my surprise, it didn’t really check out. So I drove home to put together a chart showing that we had gotten this one wrong. But then I dumped everything into Excel and looked a little more closely and—well, the Trump/media hacking theory actually does check out. At least, I think it does. Here’s a chart showing public interest in the caravan as measured by Google Trends:

When the caravan forms around October 13, the media isn’t reporting it and public interest is about zero. After a few days of Trump talking about it, it finally catches on. Then the caravan crosses into Mexico, another newsworthy moment, but nothing happens. It’s not until October 22 and 23, when the New York Times splashes a couple of big, scary pictures on its front page that hysteria really takes off.

But then interest drops off, so Trump doubles down, calling the caravan “an invasion of our country.” Interest immediately jumps as the media reports this, even though there’s really nothing inherently newsworthy about it. Finally, on November 4 at 7 pm, just before Election Day, interest spikes up as Trump delivers a stemwinding rally focused almost wholly on immigration.

November 5 is the last day to make an impression on voters. On November 6, press attention is focused solely on the election and interest in the caravan plummets. On November 7 it plummets again. Today, as near as I can tell, it’s flattening out at about the level it had in mid-October, when hardly anyone cared.

There’s always a chicken-and-egg problem with this stuff. Does public interest drive media coverage, which is perfectly normal, or does media coverage drive public interest? If the latter, what drives the media coverage in the first place? In this case, media coverage seems to mostly follow Trump, not the specific events that would be newsworthy on their own merits. This suggests that, in fact, they’re taking their cues from Trump and Fox News more than they are from their own independent news judgment. But honestly, it’s hard to say for sure, isn’t it?

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benzado
6 days ago
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