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The road to ALBA, the "Cubanization" of Venezuela, part 2


Part 2

Chavez emerged stronger from the coup, regaining political strength by charging that the media and business had crafted a "conspiracy against him and the Venezuelan people." A lack of leadership and cohesion among business elites, labor and clergy prior to and during the coup lost their momentum and almost immediately their legitimacy. Conservative elements overplayed their hand by moving to reverse Chavez's populist decrees that comprised the Bolivarian Revolution as they tried to immediately remove the National Assembly and Supreme Court.

Journalists and the media became ground zero for press control:

The media and Chavez have long been at war, with the president accusing journalists of lying to the people and with even some media executives -- such as El Nacional publisher Miguel Otero -- admitting that the industry was opposed to Chavez. The battle now is coming to a head over the media's role in Chavez's brief ouster. Journalists have been accused of everything from support and encouragement for the coup to outright participation in it. Chavez has floated the idea of a conspiracy of elites that includes the hostile media.

By early 2004, the Venezuelan National Armed Forces (FAN) was well underway to being transformed into an instrument that would forestall a second coup attempt, advance the Bolivarian Revolution, and seek to counter regional threats from US-sponsored Columbia:

  • Purging and restructuring command structure of FAN's active-duty officers combined with generous salary and benefits increases
  • Recruiting noncommissioned officers and troops committed to the Bolivarian revolution, e.g., Bolivarian Circle militias and other Chavista groups into a people's reserve army outside direct FAN control, and the Bolivarian Liberation Front (FBL) militia
  • Improved communication between FAN senior commanders and clandestine armed civilian Chavista groups
  • New weapons systems acquisitions

Cuban advisors, overt and covert, assist in restructuring the FAN as well as providing security and political advice. While English quotes of Chavez's comments vary, there is some consistency to his statement that Cuba and Venezuela are "sailing" or "swimming together toward the same sea of happiness" (here and here).

Chavez's personal attacks on Bush43 and the US administration appears to have unsettled members of his government and the FAN that the US will retaliate, possibly by using Columbian armed forces. While many military, business and administration groups have profited from the Bolivarian Revolution, they tend to view one another as competitors in economic advantage, seeking to retain their advantage at the expense of others:

[Chavistas] generally became much bolder after the Bolivarian Revolution swept nearly every elected local and regional position in Oct. 31, 2004, regional elections. Without any opposition confronting him, Chavez has accelerated his efforts to consolidate political power. Along with victory has come increased competition between civilian government officials and senior military personnel who have personal economic and political investments in backing the president.

Reshuffling civilian and military positions indicates that Chavez is unsure of a second coup or assassination attempt. Perhaps it is coincidence, but embedded in a warning to the US against assassinating Chavez, I found Castro's comment curious that the US "would be responsible for killing Chavez even if the Venezuelan military was to carry out the assassination." Still, one must wonder at the true level of support that Chavez has with Castro given his relationship with key members that Chavez wants to replace.

Part 4

In the Time of Hugo Chávez
Deborah Sontag
New York Times
June 2, 2002
Mirrored here

Gordon Housworth

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The road to ALBA, the "Cubanization" of Venezuela


Part 1

Cubans began arriving en masse in Venezuela soon after Chávez assumed office in 1999. By 2001 Chavez was employing Cuban assets in intelligence, internal security and political matters to the point that claims were made that the "Cubanization of Venezuela" had commenced. (Cuba's backing of a guerrilla insurgency against Venezuela in the 1960s left many current and former FAN military believing that Cubans had returned to the same venue by different means.)

Although Chavez denied the presence of Cuban assets, the US suspended long established intel-sharing arrangements with Venezuela's interior and political police. Having already gelded the Supreme Court and the National Assembly, a unicameral legislature established through Chavez's constitutional reforms, Chavez was co-opting the serving military by making them a major beneficiary of his administration, and worked his political base by launching "Bolivarian Circles," a grassroots political group ostensibly "to defend the Bolivarian revolution against the counter-revolution," on the advice of Castro in 2000.

Chavez assumed correctly that the US would not interfere so long as Venezuela sent oil north and did not interfere with Plan Colombia, the U.S.-supported coca eradication and paramilitary interdiction in Columbia (against the FARC, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and elsewhere.

Cuban-backed and staffed programs called misión barrio adentro, or mission inside the neighborhood, in urban gardening, literacy training, and medical care to the poor were demonstrably solidifying Chávez's stature among its impoverished citizens. Accounts vary but it appears that overt political training was omitted in this grassroots effort to bolster Chavez in a possible recall referendum. "Overwhelmingly anti-Chávez," Venezuelan media commented on the downsides to these Cuban efforts, not the least of which was the insertion of Cuban paramilitary and intelligence assets, all to no effect upon the Venezuelan poor.

A useful survey on the backdrop of the linking of race to poverty among indigenous Indians, mestizos, and blacks in populist Latin American politics, of which Chavez is one of the best practitioners, is Latin America: Racial Revolt in the Making, mirrored here. In a private note of Nov 2003 about this survey, I observed:

Bolivia's domino falls on Ecuador as racially based popular revolts by indigenous peasant and impoverished groups start spreading throughout Latin America. Four South American presidents have been toppled in the past four years. Further forced regime changes are likely, endangering U.S. economic and security interests in several countries.

It is interesting to note that there is almost no public notice in the US of al Qaeda cells operating in several Latin American countries among expatriate Muslim communities. There is also little public awareness of an interrogated al Qaeda suspect noting that operatives in "countries adjoining the US" [seeking]to hijack inbound freight aircraft and then use them as missiles against high value targets. If larger parts of Latin America fall out of their government's hands it will duplicate areas of Africa that are imploding due to AIDS depopulation. All make very effective training grounds far from the eyes of US agencies. (Witness the three-year old insurgent training camp for Indonesian militants in Mindanao in the Philippines which both the US and Philippine governments did not know existed until a group member was captured.)

By 2002, Chavez's domestic situation has worsened:

"Just three years into his presidency, Chavez's combative rhetoric had alienated virtually every sector of Venezuelan society with his attacks on the news media and Roman Catholic Church leaders, his refusal to consult with business leaders, and his failed attempt to assert control over labor groups. Chavez's government also inherited a staggering $21 billion in back wages and pensions owed workers by previous administrations... [Suspected] ties to Colombia's leftist guerrillas angered many in the military and abroad.

A short-lived coup was carried out by the entire military high command against Chavez in April 2002 on the heels of a massive anti-Chavez protest and strike organized by the Venezuelan Workers Confederation and the business association Fedecamaras (in support of a strike by the state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela) in which Chavez "ordered National Guard troops and civilian gunmen, including rooftop snipers, to stop the marchers from reaching the palace":

Rooftop snipers and Chavez supporters repeatedly fired upon the protesters and even ambulance crews trying to evacuate the wounded. As the bloodbath unfolded, Chavez ordered five Caracas television stations off the air -- charging they were inciting violence. Most Venezuelans were denied images of "Chavistas" repeatedly firing on unarmed protesters, bodies lying in pools of blood on the streets, and hooded thugs attacking police until after the military rebelled.

part 3

Gordon Housworth

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Venezuela's Telesur is the voice of ALBA, the voice of the Bolivarian Revolution


Venezuela's forthcoming 24-hour hemispheric satellite TV news network Telesur (Televisora del Sur, or TV of the South) will be the voice of ALBA, the voice of the Bolivarian Revolution which has been called the "Cubanization of Venezuela" and, I submit, more threatening than al Jazeera to which it is being compared. Al Jazeera does not have at its core a regional Cuban-style socialist policy projected atop a remilitarized Venezuelan National Armed Forces (FAN) and Cuban-trained intelligence corps.

Most English readers will be not be familiar with ALBA, properly Alternativa Bolivariana para America Latina y el Caribe, but often abbreviated as Alternativa Bolivariana para Las Americas. ALBA is an "institutional framework for creating a regional socialist political union aligned against" the US, well beyond that of a "vanity plate for Chavez to help bolster his image as a regional leader." While I agree that there may not be significant traction among left-leaning Latin American governments, especially Brazil, I see a parallel to Muammar Qaddafi's subversions in the Maghreb, the Sahale and Central Africa that requires no other state partnership. Only a few more will be familiar with the Bolivarian Revolution (also here), a socialist revolution said to be an "ideology and the political point of view... inspired by Simon Bolivar, the national hero of Venezuela," who sought independence from Spain. Castro has already designated Chavez as heir to the leadership of Latin America's revolutionary and progressive forces, and that Cuban-Venezuelan linkage has become the centerpiece of Chavez's foreign policy.

Despite regional giants such as Brazil's O Globo and TV Globo, much Latin American programming has been telenovelas, melodramatic serialized fiction, combined with a relative lack of "Latin American perspective of news" as CNN, even the BBC, were seen to favor international news at the expense of regional events. Telesur's programming is to be divided between news and documentaries of "Latin America interest."

I've no objection to legitimate regional news, but I do have a concern with a state news organization that substitutes intentional distortion for mere absence of interest. My concern is greater when Telesur emerges as the legitimate Venezuelan press is being muzzled by ingeniously vague "press laws, under which whoever "offends," or "shows disrespect for," or "defames" [Chavez] or his top officials, will face fines and punishment of six to 30 months in prison":

"There is no jurisprudence to go by, and people don't know what is allowed and what's a crime"… The new laws have already led to widespread self- censorship across the country's half-dozen private channels… Late-night TV jokes about Chávez are out, risqué political talk shows are being canceled, and news reports are being finely combed before airing. "Telesur is introducing a super-well-funded official voice, just as free-press voices are being fined and intimidated."

All Venezuelan channels already suffer another form of control, what I call a denial of service censorship, in their legal obligation to interrupt scheduled programming to cover speeches by Chavez called "cadenas" which literally go on for hours. During 2002 street protests, pro and con, over Chavez's administration policies, opposition stations ran Chavez's speeches split screen with coverage of the demonstrations. Chavez's response was to take the stations off-air.

My vote goes with Jorge Ramos' Telesur o TeleChávez (worth the effort to run it through translation). My concern is bolstered when I see the likes of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), and Human Rights Watch express concern over Chavez's rising media regulation. (Always a good sign of validation when the left attacks RSF.) It is also informative to see the left of center Council on Hemispheric Affairs generalize the desire of many Telesur owners to insure an unfettered avenue for their government's views:

"Chávez found himself yielding an important battlefield to anti-Chavista perspective, both from within and from outside the county. Uruguay and Argentina found a similar lack of ability to communicate - and this is their combined response."

The news hole is skewed for the most part with regards to these topics as English texts are predominantly left learning or highly sympathetic to Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, and Cuba while ALBA-related Spanish items are largely pro-Venezuelan and Cuban. One must do their research, returning to the early days of Chavez's administration, to understand his experience with the media, more local than international, and what is called the "Cubanization of Venezuela."

Part 2

Venezuela backing international news channel
Some charge network is Chavez propaganda tool
By Danna Harman
05/18/2005 - Updated 12:53 AM ET

Latin leader rebels against US-centric news
Original title was Latin strongman rebels against US-centric news
[ CSM Editor's note: The original headline mischaracterized Chavez.]
By Danna Harman
Christian Science Monitor
May 13, 2005 edition

Brazil: Lula's New, Secret Best Friend
May 2, 2005

All Latin America, All the Time
New 24-Hour TV Networks Aim to Unite Region With Tailored Coverage
By Monte Reel
Washington Post
March 10, 2005

Will Venezuela Send Russian Weapons To South American Terrorists?
By Stephen Blank
Jamestown Foundation
February 17, 2005

Telesur o TeleChávez
Por Jorge Ramos Avalos
14 de Febrero del 2005

Gordon Housworth

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Qur'anic desecration: When does "a senior U.S. government official" merit sensitivity training and the understanding that "There are no rear areas in the media war"?


The essential story of the Islamic firestorm that commenced with a Pakistani translation of Newsweek's Gitmo: SouthCom Showdown is not that Newsweek erred, although I believe that some grounds for investigatory rebuke exist (depending on a single source but saying "sources," not getting a leaked copy or a verbal reading of the supposed release text to insure correct fact and contextual relevance) or that excesses of various US soldiers and guards may prove to validate the spirit if not the fact of the SouthCom complaint, but that a "senior U.S. government official" could be so politically tone deaf as to not raise a flag within DoD or the administration, depending upon where this official resides, over what would be an explosive issue to Muslims, and that DoD could remain unperturbed over the probe for almost a week until Pakistan's most accomplished and charismatic cricketer, the smiling assassin, Imran Khan, could translate a brief item in Periscope, a short, speculative, but usually well-sourced Newsweek column.

Desecration of the Qur'an is a heinous affront to Muslims - far above the corporeal abuses of Abu Ghraib - and is a capital offence in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Contrast that to US free speech laws that allow any religious document be it a Bible or Qur'an to be desecrated. In a form of Islamic extraterritoriality, the US is being called upon to "hand the culprits over to an Islamic country for punishment" lest a jihad be launched against the US.

It is conceivable that the US could have prejudiced essential Islamic cooperation in its GWOT (global war on terror) in Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Muslim states while giving succor and recruitment to terrorists and insurgents. Yes, al Qaeda manuals coach detainees to make claims of US or coalition insults to Islamic institutions and religion, and yes, when US troops can call their own Muslim troops and translators sand niggers, we heap assumption of guilt upon ourselves, but in the case of the SouthCom article, DoD had some two weeks, possibly more, between Newsweek's sharing the article text with its source and the Pakistani translations to recover and get ahead of the media impact. I submit that the impact of such cultural breaches is so great that the military should treat items containing these presumed religious infractions with far more attention and classify traffic on such items at a much higher level.

It is this utter disregard for issues that inflame our erstwhile allies and adversaries alike that is the seminal failure. In There are no rear areas in the media war either (Jan 2005), I noted the overdue attention to media sensitivities for frontline troops, regular and reserve, down to the "strategic corporeal":

Given the media fishbowl in which the Iraq has long immersed, tugged at every turn by protagonists of every stripe, it is remarkable that US forces at the soldier level are joining the media war [nearly] two years in the Iraqi war, is now public: media training for soldiers going into the war zone has been stepped up, becoming mandatory for Army troops. "Talking point" cards for military personnel, meanwhile, are being updated regularly as the war progresses… What was once an elective available upon request to interested military units has become a mandatory requirement for all army troops deploying to Iraq, and its intent is to serve each individual soldier, not just officers and senior enlisted, as a "standard part of deployment preparation." [Where] would we be had we trained troops in basic prisoner treatment, especially when they are the common criminals of Abu Ghraib. I believe that those so concerned fail to recognize the military sea change. Media training, like basic training, has now a become necessary skill, a "common task, much like firing your rifle" for every soldier.

Media and cultural training must be applied to our senior ranks as well such that it becomes a "common task" to support a "necessary skill." I leave it to the reader to follow the following chronology back in time. Muslims have already died in rioting to date over the possibility of desecration. I suspect that some US troops, directly and indirectly, will also die for this lapse. While I did not think it possible that our image in the Arab world could sink below that of Abu Ghraib, we have done so in a manner that will translate into lessened advantage and higher cost to the US in achieving its anti-terrorist goals.

How a Fire Broke Out
By Evan Thomas
May 23, 2005 issue

The Editor's Desk
Mark Whitaker
May 23 issue

Shoura Demands US Apology
P.K. Abdul Ghafour
Arab News
Monday, 16, May, 2005 (07, Rabi` al-Thani, 1426)

Muslim World Protests Qur’an Desecration
Arab News
Saturday, 14, May, 2005 (05, Rabi` al-Thani, 1426)

US Pledges 'Transparent' Probe of Koran Desecration Charge
By David Gollust
Voice of America
13 May 2005

Afghans Stage Protests Over Quran Abuse
Thursday May 12, 2005 5:28pm from our sister station WJLA-TV
Associated Press

Have we come to this?
Shireen M Mazari
The News
Wednesday May 11, 2005-- Rabi-us-Sani 02, 1426 A.H.

Riots over US Koran 'desecration'
11.05.2005 (May 11, 2005)

Imran demands US Apology for Holy Quran desecration
Pak Tribune
Friday May 06, 2005 (1547 PST)

Gitmo: SouthCom Showdown
May 9, 2005 issue

Gordon Housworth

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What if Google bought ChoicePoint or vice versa, part 3


Part 2

In January 2004, Google's Eric Schmidt said the firm's goal was to create a "Google that knows you." Google's Desktop search brings Google closer to its goal of mixing "public and private queries in the future, leveraging its key moneyspinning product: contextual advertising." Google expects users to make private (desktop) queries thereby generating "more hits for [and] more revenue for Google's ad business" by combining personal and web searches.

Potential privacy violations are many: inadvertent indexing of files considered private, personally or financially damaging, information stored in cache to circumvent SSL VPN security, encryption (by recovering the cleartext). Shared PCs on corporate LANs become vulnerable to those working different shifts in different locations

Google's "My Search History" service option allows users "to see all of their past search requests and results" by date/time:

Whenever a user is logged in, Google will provide a detailed look at all their past search activity. The service also includes a "pause" feature that prevents it from being displayed in the index. Users will be able to pinpoint a search conducted on a particular day, using a calendar that's displayed on the history page. The service sometimes will point out a past search result related to a new search request.

The online service is designed to store years of each individual's search activity, although users can remove selected links from their personal archive at any time. Because the history feature requires an individual login, it could help Google better understand each user so it can customize its results to reflect a person's specific interests.

Google's Web Accelerator is designed to improve access to Web pages by serving up cached or compressed copies of sites from Google's servers. Leaving aside yet more security flaws, privacy advocates are concerned about the scope of data collected by Web Accelerator which gives it the ability to "monitor a person's travels across the Web":

"The business they're in here with this new product is market research--they'll be looking at what people are doing on the Internet, what they're reading, what they're buying. There's potentially a lot of information just from the click-stream of the URLs people visit."

I find it interesting that Google has brought back a Web acceleration tool whose popularity was greatest when dial-up connections were prevalent, but much less now for broadband. Yes, it has plausible benefit in that it can mitigate packet loss and can optimize how an object-heavy Web site is compressed and sent to a viewer, but I agree with Ben Edelman's comment that "[It] makes me uncomfortable because it's Google collecting yet more information about everyone and doing it in a way that's not necessary." (Readers not familiar with Edelman's efforts are referred here and here.)

There are many doubters to Google's comments that the Web Accelerator's click-stream data is not associated with a PC's cookie and that Web Accelerator is not a market research tool:

Google states in its privacy policy that it does not share personally identifiable information with use of the software. Still, privacy experts warn that the policy is silent about what click-stream data it collects and what Google does with the information.

As EULAs (end user license agreements) can change quickly and without notice to most users, the matter still remains what Google will do in the future with data already in storage as well as data captured going forward as they make changes in how click-stream data is tied to a Google cookie:

"If you look at Google, this fabulously useful company, they make their money by selling people ads." Besides search, "the way Google becomes useful is in building some model of who I am and what I'm interested in and delivering me ads. That's either really useful or very sinister."

If all of the above search issues stay solely in commercial advertising revenue generation beyond the hands of crackers and governments, Google and its search brethren have an opportunity to prosper without being drawn into the dataveillance dispute. But I think not. To Stewart Brand's "Information Wants To Be Free. Information also wants to be expensive," I would add Information wants to be aggregated.

Spying on the spyware makers
By Declan McCullagh, CNET
Published on ZDNet News: May 4, 2005

Google speed bump draws scorn
By Stefanie Olsen, CNET
Published on ZDNet News: May 6, 2005

Google Launches Personal History Feature
20 April 2005

Desktop Google Finds Holes
By Bruce Schneier
November 29, 2004

Google Desktop privacy branded 'unacceptable'
By Andrew Orlowski
The Register
15th October 2004

Gordon Housworth

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What if Google bought ChoicePoint or vice versa, part 2


Part 1

Google is a classic example of user willingness to exchange absolute privacy for attractive and useful services.

In "No Place to Hide," Robert O'Harrow notes that "personal data has become a commodity that is bought and sold essentially like sow bellies," where commercial firms collect data as part of "consumer relationship management" and private individuals surrender data either unwittingly or for increased convenience.  O'Harrow observes that:

many consumers find it convenient to be in a marketing dossier that knows their personal preferences, habits, income, professional and sexual activity, entertainment and travel interests and foibles. These intimately profiled people are untroubled by the device placed in the car they rent that records their speed and location, the keystroke logger that reads the characters they type, the plastic hotel key that transmits the frequency and time of entries and exits or the hidden camera that takes their picture at a Super Bowl or tourist attraction. They fill out cards revealing personal data to get a warranty, unaware that the warranties are already provided by law. "Even as people fret about corporate intrusiveness, they often willingly, even eagerly, part with intimate details about their lives."

Google and other online search firms have prospered by offering increasing convenience in a world where a lack of data has been replaced by a surfeit of data such that a search capacity to find needed information has great value. In the process, an increasing amount of personal data aggregation is occurring without users' knowledge.

By 2002, Google was collecting 150 million queries daily from over 100 countries, taking "snapshots of its users' minds and aggregating them":

Searches are logged by time of day, originating I.P. address (information that can be used to link searches to a specific computer), and the sites on which the user clicked. People tell things to search engines that they would never talk about publicly -- Viagra, pregnancy scares, fraud, face lifts. What is interesting in the aggregate can be seem an invasion of privacy if narrowed to an individual.

Google can see where it is being used globally in real-time. It knows the peak time for sex searches, each country's usage pattern, what ideas and cultural phenomena migrate globally. It knows that there is a global similarity in the top subject queries: sex, celebrities, current events, products, and computer downloads. Its analysts can presage a decline in popularity of an pop star entertainer by a drop in queries, or "which countries took their recent elections seriously because of the frenzy of searches," giving rise to Google Zeitgeist, a weekly and monthly listing of the top gaining and declining queries. (A 2004 Year-End Zeitgeist offers an international perspective on that year's major events and trends.)

Collusion when and where it suits: While it has escaped the notice of most Google users, groups such as Reporters Without Borders (RWB) have criticized Google for acquiescing to Chinese pressure "for its supposed complicity in government censorship, requesting that the popular Web tool provider pull its news service that excludes content not approved by the Chinese government."

The Citizen Lab tested the Chinese Language Google News filtering, confirming that it was filtering access from China:

"It is actually a form of geolocation filtering since users who access Chinese Language Google News from anywhere but China are not subjected to the filtering and receive full search results."

While the business community would find broad agreement with the comment that Google has "little negotiating power with officials in China [such that] you can't bargain [because] you don't have that bargaining leverage, it's important to find the least common denominator [and] enter the market with that initially," and I suspect that cooption will have little effect on Google's current revenue base, I believe that such comissive behavior on Google's part is a latent issue that could cause trouble as part of a perceived pattern of offenses.

Consider the impact of Google's Gmail to offer authorities a means to learn the "contents of a communication, and [take] action based on what it learns." (Note that there is already precedent that the US government believed that ""interception" did not occur when the computer analysed the packets, read their contents, and flagged them for human viewing [but that] only human reading impacted a legitimate privacy interest.):

Google's plans to run targeted advertising with the mail that you see through its new Gmail service represents a potential break for government agencies that want to use autobots to monitor the contents of electronic communications travelling across networks. Even though the configuration of the Gmail service minimises the intrusion into privacy, it represents a disturbing conceptual paradigm - the idea that computer analysis of communications is not a search. This is a dangerous legal precedent which both law enforcement and intelligence agencies will undoubtedly seize upon and extend, to the detriment of our privacy.

The Gmail advertising concept is simple. When you log into the Gmail to retrieve and view your email, the service automatically scans the contents of the email and displays a relevant ad on the screen for you to see. Although it has been said that neither Google nor the advertiser "knows" the text or essence of the email message, this is not strictly true: if you click on the link to the ad, it can be reasonably inferred that the text of the email in some way related to the advertiser's service.

Moreover, like any email provider, the text of your Gmail is stored and subject to subpoena.

Part 3 Concludes

Goodbye to Privacy
New York Times
April 10, 2005

Google's China Filtering Draws Fire
By Jay Lyman

Google's Gmail: spook heaven?
By Mark Rasch, SecurityFocus
15th June 2004
The Register

Postcards From Planet Google
New York Times
November 28, 2002

Gordon Housworth

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What if Google bought ChoicePoint? Or vice versa? What if there was no Chinese Wall?


Think of the scope of privacy penetration, in near real-time, if the capacities of Google and ChoicePoint were seamlessly merged as a single searchable database.

Why would you think it farfetched? It is certainly not. Both firms harvest personal information but one, Google, currently uses its information to sell ads while the other, ChoicePoint, sells its information directly to purchasers.

When Roger Clarke defined dataveillance as the systematic use of personal data systems in the investigation or monitoring of the actions or communications of one or more persons, the interpretation was often tilted to governmental use of personal data. The rise of commercial data warehouses such as ChoicePoint acting as de facto intel agencies have expanded the private-public use of personal data. I maintain that search firms such as Google will join that group either by scope creep or acquisition.

Google still has a white knight image of a 'bringer of technology' and services (societal contributor) while ChoicePoint, has increasingly garnered a reputation as either a private intelligence agency that can collect what government cannot and then sell it to government for profit, or as a purveyor of credit information without sufficient validation and vetting of its customers (societal risk).

I submit that Google is marching inadvertently, at least under its founding management, towards a less savory public opinion. The reason is that many of its functional enhancements designed to "draw eye balls" are architected with less respect to security, secondary effects, and unintended consequences that are the current products of Microsoft now that Redmond has understood the threat both to its own financials and to the national IT infrastructure. Yet Microsoft is pilloried as evil while Google is let off the hook. As Google adds functionality that more aggressively promotes ads, alters rankings based on criteria other than user search results, and continues to provide ill-designed and poorly proofed applications it will see a different response:

Google has quickly found that the seeming legions of security hobbyists and professionals are perfectly willing to find and publicize flaws, whether the company approves or not. "More people are looking at us from a security analysis standpoint, because there are more applications out from Google, and we are also higher profile."

From malicious hackers using Google to hunt for sensitive information, to the increasing scrutiny of the security of Google's services and software, the search giant's popularity has a significant downside.

I think that Google is actually more vulnerable than Microsoft as it inhabits a halfway house between Microsoft's desktop and enterprise tools and ChoicePoint's pure data information seller. The comment made of Google that "There is a tough balance between providing information to customers and providing information that can be harmful in the hands of an attacker" could apply equally apply to ChoicePoint.

One wonders how long Google can forestall tarnish of its white knight image. While one of the "ten things Google has found to be true" is "You can make money without doing evil," the short version of "do no evil" now gets quite a lot of sarcasm on the web (search Google using the word "Google" plus the phrase "do no evil".) I would expect that distaste to grow.

Some useful reading as we proceed to examine Google:

Architectures of testimony, architectures of control propelled to convergence

Rising awareness and increasing value of 'Commercial-off-the-shelf' tools and companies for intelligence gathering and analytics

Implications of absence of liability: shifting the cost from perpetrator to consumer and bystander

Part 2 continues

Google's search for security
By Robert Lemos
December 22, 2004

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Tribal and religious impacts among Iraqi and foreign Muslim elements, continued


Part 3a

The violence has become so great that a number of Iraqis are fondly remembering Allawi as a "strong figure" in comparison to Jaafari. Yet so equally great is the desire of Shias to retain power without provoking a civil war that Sistani replied to a fellow cleric's question as to how long Shiites can refrain from counterattacking against Sunni deprecations by saying 'until the day of judgment.'

I am not yet certain that the appointment of Sadoon al-Dulaimi as defense minister will stem Sunni fears while allowing him to fend off Shia demands for a new cleansing of military figures associated with the Baath regime (which would surely push many more Sunnis over the edge, but so great is the fear and desire of Shias not to fall back under Sunni domination). Still, Dulaimi may be that mystical candidate.

Dulaimi is a secular Sunni from one of Iraq's most influential tribes and hails from Ramadi, one of the centers of Sunni resistance. Rising to lieutenant colonel in the General Security Directorate, Dulaimi left Iraq in the 1980s under a death sentence for the UK where he studied sociology, returning to Iraq only after Hussein was removed. Dulaimi became director of the well respected Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies (ICRSS) where he oversaw a series of well-researched polls of Iraqi opinions on a variety of issues, including the Coalition Provisional Authority who underwrote ICRSS activities.

Dulaimi's poll results shined as harsh a light on Coalition activities as it did the general security situation. In mid-April 2004:

According to Dulame… prisoner abuse and other coalition missteps now are fueling a dangerous blend of Islamism and tribalism. For example, while American officials insist that only fringe elements support the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr, a majority of Iraqis crossed ethnic and sectarian lines to name him the second most-respected man in Iraq, according to the coalition-funded poll.

"I don't know why the (Coalition Provisional Authority) continues in these misguided decisions," Dulame said last week. "But if they pack and leave, it's a disgrace for us as Iraqis and for them as Americans. Their reputation will be destroyed in the world, and we will be delivered to the fanatics."

For comparison, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) produced surveys of similar, if less pointed, results in evaluating five sectors: security, governance and participation, economic opportunity, services (power, water and sanitation), and social well-being (health care and education). In order to gage progress, CSIS defined a tipping point as a view "from the perspective of the Iraqi citizen [a level of] achievable goals [has been reached which indicate that] Iraq is likely headed in a clear direction toward self-sustainability and further progress." As of the update, "Iraq has still not passed the tipping point [in] any of the five sectors of reconstruction [and] Iraq’s reconstruction continues to stagnate [with no sector] moving on a sustained positive trajectory toward the tipping point." While all sectors saw "little overall positive or negative movement," some such as health care have suffered serious regression.

Sectarian Sunni fault lines in Part 3c

Previous weblog notes that weigh on this issue:

Parts of Iraq vote, the Red Eminence does not, and the Gray Eminence does not show his hand
Identifying Kamal the tailor, musing on the 'other guy'
Putting aside militant ire, can Muslim moderates merely survive their conservatives?
Parsing political from traditional Islam
The most likely of US Allies: Iraqi Shiites

Progress Or Peril? Measuring Iraq’s Reconstruction
Frederick Barton, Bathsheba Crocker
September 2004

No longer on CSIS site but mirrored
here, here, and here

Note: Mafhoum archives both of these CSIS items as part of its coverage of the Arab world. Mafhoum Press & Studies Review has a Special IRAQ Search page serving English, Arabic, French and German.

Progress Or Peril? Measuring Iraq’s Reconstruction
Frederick Barton, Bathsheba Crocker
Iraq Update, August-October 2004

No longer on CSIS site but mirrored here

Gordon Housworth

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Tribal and religious impacts among Iraqi and foreign Muslim elements


Part 2

This series started with two forecasts, the first that Iraqis, primarily Sunnis, will attempt to produce a new WMD (primarily chemical) capacity, and the second, that this capacity will be used against US/Coalition forces and Shias and other adversary Sunni groups. Part 2 was an introduction to the impact of tribes and clans so that the many fault lines of intercene violence among Sunni-Shia, Sunni-Kurd, Sunni-Sunni, various indigenous criminal organizations, and jihadists (foreign Muslim fighters) would be easier to grasp.

First is the obvious Sunni-Shia fault line whose origins commence (here and here) at the death of the Prophet in 632. Soon gaining ascendance, Sunnis dominated Islamic history for over 1300 years and until the January 2005 election "18 of the 21 Arab countries were ruled by Sunnis." The shock of Sunnis to now be subservient to Shias, regardless of the demographic predominance of Shias cannot be underestimated. The fact that a "predominantly Shiite government to preside over an Arab state is utterly revolutionary." The shock to Swedes when traditionally subservient Norway inverted the economic pyramid via North Sea oil revenue (the Swedes' hierarchy is Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and, last, Norway) pales in comparison to Sunnis finding themselves second, even third, in government after Shias:

Sunni Arabs constitute about 4 million of Iraq's population of 25 million and predominate in Baghdad and its western and northern hinterlands. They had been the elite of the country in the 20th century, and they dominated the upper reaches of the civilian bureaucracy and the officer corps, as well as being large landlords and entrepreneurs. Under Saddam Hussein, the Baath Party became an important source of wealth and patronage for Sunni Arabs, the top leadership of which kept Kurds and the majority Shiites politically marginalized.

For Sunni Arabs, then, the triumph of the Iraqi Shiites is a calamity. The tables have been turned in a manner reminiscent of the South during Reconstruction, when former slaves not only were freed and granted civil rights, but also briefly won political power in some states. So one easily foreseen consequence of the Shiites' triumph could be a redoubling of the Sunni insurgents' efforts to disrupt and, ultimately, defeat the democratic government in Iraq.

The tedious delay in forming a Cabinet and government has unleashed the sectarian violence that I had expected to follow the 72-hour lockdown over the elections. The perceived Shia-Kurdish bickering over power sharing, including which Sunni candidates might pass almost impossible acceptance criteria (free of Baathist taint yet of personal competency and tribal status to fulfill their brief and command Sunni allegiance), has opened a window for combinations of Sunni Baathists, insurgents, and jihadists increasingly target Shiites and Kurds. Juan Cole observed:

In the week after the Cabinet was presented to Parliament, Sunni Arab guerrillas went on a bombing spree that left some 200 dead and hundreds more wounded. The Bush administration had hoped that the new, elected government would attract the loyalty of alienated Iraqis, and that as a result the guerrilla war would wind down. Instead, Sunnis are furious that their representation on the Cabinet is still unclear and that their suggestions for Cabinet members have been rejected by Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari.

The massive suicide bombing that killed 60 and wounded 150 at a police recruitment station in Irbil Wednesday morning was only one of a string of deadly assaults signaling the resolve of the Sunni Arab guerrillas to keep fighting. While some of the attacks were carried out by fundamentalist holy warriors ("jihadis"), the bulk are probably the work of Baath military men. A Col. Zajay, a Shiite police official in south Baghdad, told the London Times last week, "We have lots of information that the Baathists are regrouping ... They think they can take power again."

Continued in 3b

A New Political Setback for Iraq's Cabinet
New York Times
May 9, 2005

Iraq Finally Fills Six Cabinet Vacancies
The Associated Press
May 8, 2005; 11:51 AM

Melting Pot of Blood
By Juan Cole
Friday 06 May 2005
Mirrored complete here

Bush, the Great Shiite Liberator
New York Times
May 1, 2005
Mirrored in
Bahrain News and Lebanese Lobby

Gordon Housworth

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Enmity and animosity among Iraqi tribes, clans, and individuals


Part 1

The enmity and animosity among various Iraqi tribes cannot be underestimated:

The many-to-many relationships of interacting clans is much more useful to understanding [Iraq] than is the concept of a nation-state. Indeed, Saddam Hussein acted much like Josip Broz Tito in Yugoslavia in restraining this web of conflicting relations that US forces released at the fall of Saddam.

Despite the fact that journalists inquiring after sectarian interests and concerns at the time of the January 2005 national election were often reproved with the comment to the effect that 'We are all Iraqis' (normally it is Sunnis that speak of themselves as 'Iraqis), the reality is closer to the Bedouin saying:

"My full brother and I against my half-brother, my brother and I against my father, my father's household against my uncle's household, our two households (my uncle's and mine) against the rest of the immediate kin, the immediate kin against non-immediate members of my clan, my clan against other clans, and, finally, my nation and I against the world."

As one is not, or should not be, entitled to an informed opinion on Iraq without a sound understanding of tribes, I refer readers to Zeyad's excellent Iraq's tribal society: A state within a state, parts 1, 2, 3 and 4, 10-18 June, 2004. (At least look at the tribal map and the accompanying legend - but you should really read the series as Zeyad notes, "Not much attention has been devoted to this subject in the Western media, and all the related articles published on the web are shallow and do not reflect the true picture nor the importance of the historical role of tribalism in Iraqi (and Arab in general) society." I put Healing Iraq up with Riverbend and Where is Raed.)

Just the barest snippets from part one:

The land that is today called Iraq has been exposed for millenia to waves of Bedouin migration from the south for purposes of either military conquest… searching for water and pasturage to graze their flocks, raiding and looting… or settlement.

Iraqis therefore have been conditioned (for centuries) by this ongoing 'clash of cultures' to follow two different (and often antithetical) sets of social values; urban values derived from their own ways of life and history as the cradle of civilisation, and tribal values imposed upon them by the Bedouin influence.

This has resulted in a form of duality or 'cultural ambivalence' in the Iraqi personality which is easily recognised by Westerners and they may therefore incorrectly describe Iraqis as being 'two-faced', when in fact Iraqis are unaware of their inconsistent behaviour and have had no choice in it.

Tribalism originated in the Arabian peninsula in order for the inhabitants to survive the harsh desert nature… Blood kinship is important in clan societies, it is the bond that unites all clan individuals and which also defines the relationships with other clans. A tribe is composed of several clans also sharing the same lineage, tribal groups or confederations are also made of several different tribes which trace back their origins to one forefather.

Clan societies were lead by Sheikhs, the term Sheikh in Arabic means a 'male elder' and is not neccessarily restricted to tribal leaders. The Sheikh, usually elected by the clansmen, acts as judge to the clan or family, decides on matters of war and peace, assigns duties to clansmen, and mediates during disputes between the clan and other clans. Each smaller family and clan has its own leader or Sheikh, and consequently each tribe and tribal confederation has its own Sheikh.

Within each tribe there is a Council of Sheikhs of different clans who would assist and advise the leader and at certain occasions replace him with another Sheikh when he fails his duties, is unworthy of leadership, or when his actions threaten the welfare of the tribe. So tribal Sheikhs were not exactly tyrants, and were easily replaceable by force of sword if neccessary.

This preoccupation with lineage and blood ties [Zeyad notes that his "own family tree goes back to Qahtan, the forefather of southern Yemeni Arabs who is supposed to have lived around 2000 B.C."] was also a source of hostility between different tribes [thus] it is not uncommon for clans of the same tribe to be at war with each other, and then suddenly unite against an outside aggression or a common enemy, after which they would be back to fight each other. One would be shocked when taking a look at tribal wars throughout history for their absurd reasons.

Tribal values can be summed up in three groups or complexes: loyalty [of the individual to the tribe and the tribe to the individual], militancy [where courage and victory in battle brings booty and respect], and honour [from generosity to hospitality to protection of the weak and the refugee].

In the understatement of the quarter century, Zeyad notes that, "Some of these values may seem contradictory to outsiders at first glance," but then the Arab shield is a land of contradictions, or as one Arab told the reporter and director of "Death of a Princess," Antony Thomas, 'To be an Arab is to be a schizophrenic.' (Also worth reading is the interview with Thomas for some powerful contradictions in other areas of Arabia.)

Tribal and religious impacts in Part 3.

Iraq's tribal society: A state within a state (part one), 10 June, 2004
Iraq's tribal society: A state within a state (
part two), 12 June, 2005
Iraq's tribal society: A state within a state (
part three), 15 June, 2004
Iraq's tribal society: A state within a state (
part four), 18 June, 2004
Healing Iraq

Iraqi tribal Genealogy
Major Tribes and Clans in Iraq
Distribution of Major Ethno-religious Groups in Iraq
Distribution of religious groups in the Baghdad area
Zeyad, Healing Iraq

Gordon Housworth

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