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Delta between worst-case and realistic cyberattacks narrow


It is my want to revisit projections and forecasts, mine and others, to look for accuracy in both substance and timing; are assumptions still accurate and if not, why not; what new players and tools have entered the market; and what has shifted. The assumptions and the development process are more interesting than the answer as too many people treat a situation in time as something fixed, instead of seeing it as a still frame in a motion picture (where the trick is to predict the next scene).

One such item is an August 2002 What are the real risks of cyberterrorism? that looked at "possible--though still improbable--worst-case cyberattacks, followed by more realistic threats." In two years, the delta between the worst case and realistic threats has narrowed.

While it is generally true that cyberattacks "come in two forms: one against data, the other on control systems," I would make the distinction that there are three categories: data, analysis of data, and control. Data is often of modest value, especially when data volumes are large and/or frequently changing, and time is short. Actionable information comes from the speedy analysis of data. Poor design, design driven by cost cutting, and design taking immediate advantage of newer technologies without thinking of security intrusion have conspired to create conditions in which data, analysis and control increasingly merge.

The article said that [data attacks] "attempts to steal or corrupt data and deny services" while "control-system attacks attempt to disable or take power over operations used to maintain physical infrastructure" and of those the SCADA systems (supervisory control and data acquisition) and its core RTUs (Remote Telemetry (or Terminal) Units) are key. At the time, Richard Clarke among others said that any "damage resulting from electronic intrusion would be measured in loss of data, not life."

I submit that increasing systems interconnectivity and interdependence is narrowing the gap between loss of data and loss of life. Pursuing the analysis of data as opposed to raw data allows perps to obtain insight that allows them to attack a target either directly or gain an understanding of the means to attack its control systems. If the default shutdown conditions of a control system are poorly designed, interrupting the control system is tantamount to overtaking the system (witness the failure fault paths of older nuclear reactors in the interaction of their physical design and their control systems). If the perps can spot an asymmetrical weakness they will take that path of least resistance, least cost, and least exposure.

It was cold comfort then and far more discomfiting now that the July 2002 Digital Pearl Harbor exercise could conclude that "communications in a heavily populated area" would be disrupted but "would not result in deaths or other catastrophic consequences," In a misplaced presumption of safety, it noted that the attack team "needed $200 million, high-level intelligence and five years of preparation time." If not al Qaeda, that certainly puts at least five nations and the odd drug lord as immediate contenders.

I often speak of the glide slope to the desktop of any technology, i.e., that over time all technologies become small enough and cheap enough to fit on a desktop. I would like to see the Naval War College and Gartner rerun that attack again as I wager that the cost, time, and needed sensitive information would be significantly less. Recent variants of the Sasser worm are believed to have shut down some systems and that was designed and launched by a group of German youths. No $200 million here.

Why should we be surprised? A group of teenager hackers calling themselves the Legion of Doom took control of the BellSouth infrastructure in 1989. "During the attack, the hackers could have tapped phone lines and even shut down the 911 system."

When we see as yet unidentified perps gain control of part of the TeraGrid and nearly gain an ability to launch an enormous DDoS attack, the improbable becomes increasingly likely.

While I still agree that the greatest net threat from al Qaeda remains its C3 ability, I am less comfortable with an earlier comment attributed to Richard Clarke that "Osama bin Laden is not going to come for you on the Internet." At a minimum, the net can be used in a hybrid attack in which the cyber side disrupts the ability of the defender to anticipate, identify, or respond to a physical attack.

What are the real risks of cyberterrorism?
By Robert Lemos
Special to ZDNet
August 26, 2002, 6:23 AM PT

Gordon Housworth

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Keep freezing Yankees in the dark, this time so say Yankees


A financially needy Massachusetts old industrial city declines an urban renewal, a guaranteed fuel supply, and millions in annual revenue. California-based environmental groups complain that an "over the horizon" offshore terminal will kill marine life.

I am reminded of the New England and Californian resistance to offshore oilrig drilling in their waters during the gasoline shortages of the 1970s but quite happy to see expanded oil and gas lifts off the shores of Texas and Louisiana. ("Drive 90 -- Freeze a Yankee" became a popular bumper sticker in Houston, Texas.  The last of the series was, I believe, "Freeze a Yankee in the dark.")

Regional jibes aside, real and unfounded threats of terrorism are derailing new, desperately needed domestic LNG terminals. (The US has only four, built in the 1970s.) Attempts to flank US resistance by building Mexican terminals have been similarly attacked.

Aside from terrorist threats, LNG risks are less than that of propane or gasoline as it burns with a lazy flame and will not "explode and won't burn in its liquid state. In a spill, the product can be ignited, but only after it vaporizes and combines with a mixture of air ranging from 5% to 15%. Mixtures outside that range are either too lean or too rich to burn and most of the gas, being lighter than air, quickly dissipates." The Algerian LNG liquefaction plant explosion had more to do with its manner of warming the liquid LNG (a steam boiler as opposed to using seawater) than will LNG flammability.

The shift between safe and unsafe has to do with the amount of explosives that can be brought aboard or adjacent to an LNG tanker -- and it has to reach US shores via tanker:

"Ninety-six percent of the world's natural-gas supplies are located in places that are geographically remote, such as West Africa or Qatar. To get that natural gas to other markets, it is first cooled to reduce its volume. The cost of cooling and shipping LNG has plummeted in recent years, allowing companies to deliver it halfway around the world at competitive prices."

Japan has no choice as it has a smidgen of coal along the Shimonoseki Straits and no oil or gas reserves. Japan receives ten LNG shipments weekly via Tokyo Bay adjacent to metropolitan Tokyo.

US nationals still pretend that they have a choice. If demand gets increasingly critical, I can imagine federal eminent domain will step in over a state -- as the US is doing over Nevada with the spent fuels storage facility at Yucca Mountain.

Given that al Qaeda stowaways entered the US using LNG tankers as an underground railroad, something does need to be done in prioritizing and neutralizing realistic threats to our fuel supply as a uniform application of uniformed fear will leave us in an equally difficult position, such as the next hot summer or cold winter.

Personally, the scenarios that I like are to get an LNG tanker into the inner harbor or lash one next to a cruise ship, i.e., delivering target and weapon to one another. Command of the flight deck works as well for tankers as for aircraft. (Doesn't have to be LNG. Texans like myself still remember the aftermath of the accidental detonation of a fertilizer-laden vessel in Texas City, Texas. Pieces of the vessel landed miles away.)

Fears of Terrorism Crush Plans For Liquefied-Gas Terminals
Activists Claim an Explosion Could Create Deadly Fires; Dr. Fay Spreads Message
Industry: Risks Overblown
May 14, 2004; Page A1

Gordon Housworth

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All security systems are bankrupt when the operators are daft


Is there any surprise here over this UK breach when we allow the hiring of incompents and criminals as TSA guards here in the US and spawn baggage theft rings by its members. (Remember, we have to leave all checked luggage open for them as sitting ducks.) These UK violations are appearing here as well.

From Firms fail to hire security staff with formal qualifications:

Only 10% of UK businesses and 25% of large companies have staff with formal security qualifications, such as CISSP or CISM, on their security teams, the Department of Trade & Industry's latest Information Breaches Survey has revealed.

And only 42% of businesses have staff with formal IT qualifications of any kind on their security teams, the survey of 1,000 UK businesses showed.

And from a reader comment (a former ground security coordinator for a [US] midwestern airport) in Comments: Gadgets of Mass Destruction:

The most fun part of my job was to run FAA-approved security test, where I got to legally sneak guns, simulated bombs, grenades and such through security checkpoints.

Now, these were real guns, basically- except for the insides were modified somehow to be unworkable. Anyway, I always got them through. Always. And they KNEW that they were probably being tested anytime I walked through with a bag, with my airport ID on...and they still missed it. When they miss a gun you can't just whip it out in front of everyone and panic the passengers- you have to show the supervisors a little card first that says "You have just failed an FAA/TSA security test, the agent will now show you what you missed" or something similar.

They Still miss guns 25-30% of the time, and knives 70% of the time, and simulated explosives 60%according to CBS News.

Posted by Rex Stetson at August 5, 2003 11:11 AM

Allowing one arm of your organization to hire the unqualified or the malicious invites disaster to the other arms that depend upon its security systems to perform as advertised.

Firms fail to hire security staff with formal qualifications
IT Management: HR & Skills
by Bill Goodwin
Tuesday 11 May 2004

Comments: Gadgets of Mass Destruction
Post by Rex Stetson at August 5, 2003 11:11 AM

Gordon Housworth

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Excessively and poorly executed by amateurs, Abu Ghraib is built on a long tradition


Let me set an expectations horizon for you as it will show how each of us can interpret an event such as Abu Ghraib in very different light.

When I first saw the Costa-Gavras film, Missing [about the CIA supported coup in Chile] in 1982 with two women, one that canvassed Latin America seeking students for US graduate scholarships and the other raised in Central America with a father in AID, we all began to laugh uproariously when the father (Jack Lemon) and wife (Sissy Spacek) were searching the makeshift morgue under the stadium for the son/husband. The almost exclusively Anglo audience thought us ghouls; some were leaving the theater because of the 'violence portrayed.' We were laughing because all the "bodies" looked as if they were asleep and dusted white with talcum. There was no sign of fatal torture, dismemberment, massive gunshot and other trauma, no advanced stages of rigor mortis. For each of us it was a cartoon rather than a vision of reality.

A film closer to reality was the Oliver Stone 1986 film, Salvador, in which the freelance journalist (James Woods) warns a colleague never to obey the instruction of the Paras to get down on his knees as that is the dehumanizing step that precedes summary execution.

When you are familiar with the desaparecidos ("The Disappeared") populating the miniature killing fields of Guatemala and Salvador (often times a preexisting garbage dump), when you as a gringo in the bush fear detainment by the military as much as kidnapping by the guerillas, when the hapless, innocent Indios were killed by the military by day and by the guerillas by night, you laugh at the likes of Missing.

With that preamble the conclusions of a declassified (secret) 1992 "report of investigation" written for then Secretary of Defense Cheney came as no surprise, especially as we had access to some of the Spanish-language versions. That report noted a series of Southern Command and the School of the Americas counterintelligence and interrogation manuals used throughout Latin America contains ""objectionable" and prohibited material. Army investigators traced the origins of the instructions on use of beatings, false imprisonment, executions and truth serums back to "Project X"-a program run by the Army Foreign Intelligence unit in the 1960s." It went on to note that the material "undermines U.S. credibility, and could result in significant embarrassment."

Those manuals were found to have been derived from two earlier CIA manuals, the first the "KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation-July 1963" (Part I, II, and III) and its derivative "Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual-1983" (Part I and II), I had the KUBARK manual (where KUBARK was an agency codeword for itself) shortly after its FOIA release in 1997. It tracked my Spanish texts nicely. The National Security Archive at George Washington University draws your attention to the section "The Coercive Counterintelligence Interrogation of Resistant Sources" with its assessments on employing "Threats and Fear," "Pain," and "Debility."

Interrogation recommendations contain the threat of violence and deprivation but noted "that no threat should be made unless the questioner "has approval to carry out the threat."" The manuals get rather specific, such as in how much voltage to apply where to the interrogatee.

"Human Resource Exploitation" notes that the interrogator "is able to manipulate the subject's environment to create unpleasant or intolerable situation, to disrupt patterns of time, space, and sensory perception."

"Human Resource Exploitation" was hand edited to alter passages that appeared to advocate coercion and stress techniques to be used on prisoners following congressional investigations of Central American atrocities in the mid 1980s. A prologue was added stating that:

The use of force, mental torture, threats, insults or exposure to inhumane treatment of any kind as an aid to interrogation is prohibited by law, both international and domestic; it is neither authorized nor condoned."

My point is that this has been around for a long time, was muted whenever it came to public attention, and was widely disseminated to client states (some of whom dispensed with any mention of the Geneva Conventions and made the manuals fit their own "human rights" horizon).  I submit that many if not most Central and South American citizens will find Abu Ghraib recognizable rather close at hand.

Abu Ghraib is built on this long tradition. It did not spring as Minerva from the head of Jupiter. At a minimum, it was longstanding policy excessively and poorly executed by amateurs to no particular strategic value.

Gordon Housworth

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Coping with two kinds of surprises: Planned surprises and Unplanned surprises


I like to say that God presents us with two kinds of surprises: Planned surprises (those we could have/should have anticipated but didn't) and Unplanned surprises (those we reasonably would not). Good systems design certainly cuts down on the planned surprises while pushing out the surprise horizon for the unplanned ones.

Going through Disaster Recovery Journal, I was drawn to Evan and Manion's Minding The Machines: Preventing Technological Disasters:

"The answer [to disaster prevention] has far less to do with technology and far more to do with the value judgments of the parties involved, the structure of organizations, and the inadequacies of human communication. Why did the people making the decisions disregard the recommendations of their own engineers? What risk evaluation procedures were in place at the time? How can the lessons from [and earlier disaster] be applied to the future design and assessment of technology?"

I found the risk assessment and mitigation analysis in Minding The Machines for "technological {unintentional] disasters" to have applicability in resisting manmade ones. It groups leading causes into four categories (technical design, human factors, organizational system factors, and socio-cultural factors) that can be exploited equally well by terrorists. I liked the fact that its assessment of the limitations of risk assessments rises from the fact that processes are driven by humans, and therefore are all subject to the limitations of our own capability to "properly assess high consequence, low probability events."

A Plant Maintenance review observed that Minding The Machines shows that traditional, technocratic methods of assessing and managing these catastrophic failure risks are no longer appropriate as it outlines significant failings in the methodologies typically used (e.g. Probabalistic Risk Assessment (PRA), Quantitative Risk Assessment (QRA) and Risk-Cost-Benefit Analysis (RCBA)):

  • Problems in identifying a comprehensive list of all potential risk factors
  • Problems with uncertainties in the modeling of systems
  • Problems associated with determining cause-effect relationships
  • Uncertainties due to human factors
  • Problems of complexity and coupling

Putting those limitations in anti-terrorism terms is another way to say that you can never spin every possible scenario and then prepare to defend them uniformly. Russ Ackoff's comment as to "how poorly we tend to handle" technological disasters applies equally to manmade events. I would submit that the authors' "preventive roles [what authors call Counter-Measures] for every participant in technological systems, from corporations to individual citizens" also have merit in deflecting manmade ones. "Technological disasters can kill thousands, and destroy the organizations in which they occur." Certainly the costs and dislocations of these accidental events match those of terrorist events.

Looking at some thirty disasters worldwide, Evan and Manion note that potential problems were recognized long before lives were lost or property was damaged. (Bubbling those pockets of recognition up to executive action remains a persistent hard rock.)

There is an excellent directory of PPTs summarizing each chapter of Minding the Machines at James Madison University. Definitely worth a look if one is not reading the book. They take a systems approach to look for patterns and commonalities from which they tease out counter-measures that combine professional, organizational, legal, and political strategies to help prevent technological disasters.

I feel that anti-terrorism design is running the same trajectory of technological disasters, i.e., that while much has been learned of their causes and prevention, most firms have not learned the lessons or implemented appropriate preventive strategies.

Minding The Machines: Preventing Technological Disasters
by William M. Evan and Mark Manion. 2002
Prentice Hall, September 2002
ISBN: 0130656461

Gordon Housworth

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Rationalizing military accountability with systemic design faults


The sound bite that continued to echo from the testimony of Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba before the Senate Armed Services Committee was in response to a question from the committee chairman, Sen Warner to explain "what went wrong:"

"Failure in leadership, sir, from the brigade commander on down, lack of discipline, no training whatsoever and no supervision."

I think the second leading clip was Taguba's response to Sen. Byrd's question as to who "gave the order to soften up these prisoners":

"We did not find any evidence of a policy or a direct order given to these soldiers to conduct what they did. I believe that they did it on their own volition. I believe that they collaborated with several [military intelligence] interrogators at the lower level," based on information obtained from interviews and written statements. "We didn't find any order, written or otherwise, that directed them to do what they did."

Taguba is a soldier's soldier, whose father fought the Japanese in WW II and escaped from the Bataan Death March, and a man for whom the army is a noble institution. I rate his technical analysis and honor highly. I would also note that the modern US military has a level of accountability far higher than our political and commercial elites. (It’s that "pottery rule" that Powell spoke of to Bush.)

So while Taguba's analysis may prove to be technically correct and that two brigade commanders, one MI and one MP, and some intermediate commanders down to those now facing courts martial will face a penalty, I remain convinced that the system failed those lowest on the hierarchy.

The Lehrer NewsHour's HEART OF DARKNESS, an attempt to probe the psychology behind abusive behavior, drew together the likes of Robert Lifton, a psychiatry professor who's studied Nazi doctors and Vietnam veterans, Philip Zimbardo of Stanford Prison Experiment fame, and Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a retired West Point psychology professor.

In response to the question, Why do apparently ordinary people commit brutal acts like this?, Lifton describes a three-tier system:

LIFTON: I would understand it as what I call an atrocity- producing situation. In studying Vietnam and what happened there and interviewing Vietnam veterans I found that the situation they were in was so structured psychologically and militarily that ordinary people, no better or worse than you or me, could walk into it and commit atrocities.

It works from many levels because as we've heard there are sometimes instructions given from those in charge of interrogation, people from military intelligence, or sometimes there's just a kind of indirect suggestion that softening up processes can be tough and abusive.

And then there's still a higher level of high-ranking officers and war planners who demand information from interrogations and apply pressure on those military intelligence officers. So here you have a three-tier dynamic and the foot soldiers, the MPs and the civilian contractors are caught in this atrocity-producing situation. They adapt to the group and they join in.

Sound like Abu Ghraib to me. In response to a question on the potential for brutality and atrocity in anyone and what triggers it?, Zimbardo responded:

ZIMBARDO: Human nature has the potential to be good or evil. It depends entirely on the situation around us. These young men and women who are being scapegoated, being rushed to trial, rushed to judgment, were embedded in an evil barrel.

What happened is, in my study, we took good young then... men, put the them in an evil barrel of a simulated prison and out came corrupted young men who did sadistic acts very similar to what you see in Abu Ghraib [and] these were college students to other college students.

In response to What drove that? I mean did you ask them?

ZIMBARDO: No, no. Just the opposite. I was a superintendent of the prison who said no physical violence but they waited until I went to sleep because for a variety reasons. First of all, prison situations are one of enormous power differentials. Guards have total power over prisoners who have no power. Unless there's strict leadership, unless there's clear leadership that prevents the abuse of power, that power will seep out. That power, that sadistic impulse will dominate. That's what we saw in our prison. That's what you see in Abu Ghraib.

My sense is that these young men and women are certainly not... certainly didn't go in as bad apples -- just as in our prison they went in as good American soldiers. They've come out shamed. Their future is destroyed. What happens is what the system is doing is taking the blame away from those who created the barrel.

I leave it to the reader to consult the transcript or listen to the clip. For me, the system is still not being held accountable, and unless fixed, the next time the 'superintendent is sleeping' the excesses will reemerge.

Army General Says Abuse Caused by Faulty Leadership
Taguba Makes First Appearance Since Writing Report on Abu Ghraib
By William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 11, 2004; 2:20 PM

NewsHour transcript
May 11, 2004
Audio Clip here.

Gordon Housworth

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With a beheading al Qaeda becomes Robin Hood


Al Qaeda executed both an individual and a political masterstroke in the beheading of an American civilian contractor, Nick Berg. When no other force could harness Iraqi and Arab rage at the US into action, al Qaeda did it with a knife and a video. Berg was the hapless metaphor for US and UK forces in the region. I fear that the video of Berg will have much more recruiting power than that of Daniel Pearl. I would expect copycat events as well as US retribution.

Video Seems to Show Beheading of American
May 11, 2004
Filed at 1:38 p.m. ET

Daniel Pearl ‘refused to be sedated before his throat was cut’
Daily Times Monitor
May 9, 2004

Gordon Housworth

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Industrial espionage: how your intellectual property is stolen


We have previously discussed what is being stolen and who steals it. This discusses the means by which it is stolen.

The National Counterintelligence Center (NACIC) was established in 1994 to improve US counterintelligence (CI) coordination and cooperation among our CI agencies. The first of NACIC's Annual Report to Congress on Foreign Intelligence Collection and Industrial Espionage was published in 1995 and yearly thereafter. The industrial espionage collection methods section from the inaugural 1995 issue is still one of its unclass best and is often cited by later reports.

Ideological and military adversaries, allies, and neutrals alike target US economic and technological information. The 'friendlies,' in fact, can more successful per dollar expended as they build atop their legitimate access to US information to further their intel targeting. Certain allies such as France, Israel, and the PRC "have infrastructures that allow them to easily internalize high-tech information and utilize it in competition against US firms."

"Practitioners seldom use one method in isolation but combine them into concerted collection programs. Although countries or corporations have been known to turn legitimate transactions or business relationships into clandestine collection opportunities, some of the methods listed are most often used for legitimate purposes. While their inclusion here is not intended to imply illegal activity, they are listed as potential elements of a broader, coordinated intelligence effort."

Here are the basic methods. Were you to canvass your organization, it is most likely that you have been targeted by multiple means either to secure new data or to validate data previously obtained:

Traditional Methods: Espionage methods reserved for collecting national defense information are now being applied to collect economic and proprietary information.

Classic Agent Recruitment: A trusted insider of any rank or station is a superb collector of proprietary or classified information. Those is lower support and clerical ranks can often better access information without alarm.

US Volunteers: Thieves can be found anywhere where greed, money problems, drugs, alcohol, and personal stress are present.

Surveillance and Surreptitious Entry: Economic and industrial espionage can be a simple break-in or bag op where information or an information appliance is stolen over property.

Specialized Technical Operations: Higher order intrusions against computers, telecommunications, and private-sector encryption weaknesses "account for the largest portion of economic and industrial information lost by US corporations."

Economic Disinformation: Disinformation campaigns are used to "paint foreign competitors or countries [such as the US] as aggressive and untrustworthy" and so scare away domestic companies and potential clients from dealing with US companies."

Other Economic Collection Methods: Tasking foreign students in the US studying or working as an assistant to an individual in a targeted field.

Tasking Foreign Employees of US Firms and Agencies: Direct recruitment by a competing company or non-intel government agency, no intelligence service involvement, for its R&D effort.

Debriefing of Foreign Visitors to the United States: Active debriefing of one's citizens after foreign travel.

Recruitment of Emigres, Ethnic Targeting: Repatriate émigré and foreign ethnic scientists as technology transfer, appealing to patriotism and ethnic loyalty.

Elicitation During International Conferences and Trade Fairs: Concentrated groups of specialists on a specific topic offer opportunity to target individuals while they are abroad. Recruitment may also occur with follow-up when persons return to the US.

Commercial Data Bases, Trade and Scientific Journals, Computer Bulletin Boards, Openly Available US Government Data, Corporate Publications: Open-source collection of legally and openly available competitive information in the US. Valuable in its own right, can hone more illegal search efforts.

Clandestine Collection of Open-Source Materials: Groups or agencies that are monitored by US CI attempt to obscure their interest in specific open-source materials.

Foreign Government Use of Private-Sector Organizations, Front Companies, and Joint Ventures: Exploitation of existing non-government affiliated organizations or creation of new ones such as friendship societies, exchange organizations, and import-export firms offering frequent contact with foreigners.

Corporate Mergers and Acquisitions: Corporate mergers and acquisitions made specifically to allow a foreign company to acquire US-origin technologies without spending their own resources on R&D.

Headhunting, Hiring Competitors' Employees: Hiring knowledgeable employees of competing US firms to do corresponding work for the foreign firm.

Corporate Technology Agreements: Technology sharing agreements and negotiations that require US firms to divulge excessive information about its processes and products.

Sponsorship of Research Activities in the US: Sponsoring of research activities at US universities and research centers to collect proprietary information or insert intelligence officers for data collection.

Hiring Information Brokers, Consultants: Information brokers purchase information or offer commission or agency agreements. Brokers also hire former US government officials to lobby for expanded data access.

Fulfillment of Classified US Government Contracts and Exploitation of DOD-Sponsored Technology Sharing Agreements: Traditional US allies primarily use companies that are partially or substantially controlled by a foreign government to seek classified US government contracts.

Tasking Liaison Officers at Government-to-Government Projects: Requests for on-site liaison officer to monitor progress and provide guidance during joint R&D activities are used for unapproved data collection.

Gordon Housworth

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Systemization of aggressive interrogation


The Post's The Psychology of Torture points out that torture is often seen by the perpetrators as carrying out the dirty work for our side in order to save lives, i.e., it is more often a sacrifice for one's group (in-group love) than a hatred for an outsider (out-group hate):

"When torture takes place, people believe they are on the high moral ground, that the nation is under threat and they are the front line protecting the nation, and people will be grateful for what they are doing." "Torturers usually believe they are carrying out the will of their societies -- and feel betrayed when the public professes outrage after the abuses come to light."

In the post 11 September world, many US nationals agreed that the war on terrorism was a new struggle that demanded new methods, coercion included. It should be noted that this group included a broad group: "Significant portions of the public in opinion polls, military strategists, law experts, and even ethicists and the clergy."

Governments also send signals for results without explicitly specifying the means or the intensity to obtain it. In the US' case, it would appear that the 'war on terror' justified the means and diminished observation of the Geneva Conventions.

Yet in every conflict, aggressive interrogation is brought forward "based on pragmatism, military history and theories of a just war. Once aggressive interrogation or torture is authorized for "ticking bomb" scenarios, what gets lost is the idea that coercive measures should be reserved for extreme cases and so it often spreads to less severe situations as the norm.

The Secret World of U.S. Interrogation concluded a three part Post series in which it noted that Abu Ghraib was just the "largest and suddenly most notorious in a worldwide constellation of detention centers -- many of them secret and all off-limits to public scrutiny -- that the U.S. military and CIA have operated in the name of counterterrorism or counterinsurgency operations since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks." Some prisoners are held by foreign governments by US informal request, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and Saudi Arabia for example.

It is interesting that while prisoner detainment has focused on Guantanamo, it is but the tip of an iceberg of some 9,000 individuals held by the US overseas, the vast majority under military control. The detainees have no conventional legal rights or guarantee of treatment accorded prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions.

"The largely hidden array includes three systems that only rarely overlap: the Pentagon-run network of prisons, jails and holding facilities...; small and secret CIA-run facilities where top al Qaeda and other figures are kept; and interrogation rooms of foreign intelligence services... to which the U.S. government delivers or "renders" mid- or low-level terrorism suspects for questioning."

And it is not new by any means as "every aspect of this new universe -- including maintenance of covert airlines to fly prisoners from place to place, interrogation rules and the legal justification for holding foreigners without due process afforded most U.S. citizens -- has been developed by military or CIA lawyers, vetted by Justice Department's office of legal counsel and, depending on the particular issue, approved by White House general counsel's office or the president himself."

The CIA developed new interrogation rules of engagement post 11 September that was vetted by DoJ and approved by the NSC. Assets in the field are to seek approval from Washington to use "enhanced measures," yet many intel operatives note that time an patience are often more productive than intense interrogation.

That would seem to match the Saudi experience which describe something more akin to deprogramming: "Working in tandem with relatives of the detainees, clerics try to convince the subjects over days or weeks that terrorism violates tenets of the Koran and could bar them from heaven."

The BBC's Iraq abuse: US policy or anomaly? is the better of a flurry of European articles about "R2I" or Resistance to Interrogation. Some articles get it wrong in saying that it sprang from one nation over another, or that it is a purely defensive or offensive effort, or that it was a method of hardening US and UK SpecOps troops against their own capture and interrogation that went bad at Abu Ghraib.

It notes that Abu Ghraib's Detention Operations "focused on three areas: Intelligence integration, synchronisation, and fusion; interrogation operations; and detention operations," where the "integration", "synchronisation", "fusion" and the phrase "enabler for interrogation" mean the process by which the detention officers "prepare the prisoners for questioning by subjecting them to demoralising techniques."

The beeb notes that the British use of torture in Northern Ireland backfired and in the succeeding publicity "the IRA was handed a new recruiting sergeant."

The Psychology of Torture
Past Incidents Show Abusers Think Ends Justify the Means
By Shankar Vedantam
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 11, 2004; Page A14

Secret World of U.S. Interrogation
Long History of Tactics in Overseas Prisons Is Coming to Light
By Dana Priest and Joe Stephens
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, May 11, 2004; Page A01

Iraq abuse: US policy or anomaly?
By Paul Reynolds
BBC News Online world affairs correspondent
Published: 2004/05/09 18:32:23 GMT

Gordon Housworth

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A survey of US POW interrogation and Abu Ghraib in particular, Part II


Continued from Part I

Al Jazeera's Israeli lessons for the US in Iraq makes a very different causal connection: Al Jazeera's 20-odd million listeners now 'know' that it was the Israelis who taught these techniques to the Americans. In point of fact there has been spirited consultations between various Israeli and US intel and military groups, but as noted above, I put the Abu Ghraib excesses more to a combination of the reflexes that were identified in the Stanford Prison Experiment and a variant of the approved Guantanamo interrogation process gone bad, i.e., if you assign guards untrained to their task and yet too young to question their orders in charge of a prison population that you will get "any prison anywhere, Abu Ghraib included."

Of course, Al Jazeera's listeners will have none of it. They know it was Israel. For Arabs, Israel is the warp from which every fabric of the Middle East landscape is made.

The Times' In Abuse, a Portrayal of Ill-Prepared, Overwhelmed G.I.'s paints a grim picture of utterly unprepared young men and women who "works at McDonald's one day; the next day you're standing in front of hundreds of prisoners, and half are saying they're sick and half are saying they're hungry."" While the 320th Military Police Battalion's specialty was guarding enemy POWS, very few of the reservists had been trained for that role and even fewer knew how to run a prison. "They were deployed so quickly from the mid-Atlantic region that there was no time to get new lessons."

The inmate population ballooned while the 320th remained short-handed to the point that "no more than six guards on a single shift would be in charge of 700 Iraqi prisoners. "On my compound, we were doing 16-hour days. It was a very high-stress environment."" This is a disaster without the culture clashes of inexperienced US reservists consigned to a long deployment of poor conditions with, it appears, absolutely no conditioning in treating Muslim prisoners and the nature of the Middle East itself.

The 372nd Military Police Company joined the 320th shortly thereafter and all soon found themselves under nightly attack from insurgents. In short order, formal command of Abu Ghraib was transferred to the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade yet the prison commander and staff state that "the military intelligence officers had, even before [transfer, had] essentially taken control of the prisoners in the Tier 1 cellblock and had encouraged their mistreatment… [The] 372nd "was directed to change facility procedures to `set the conditions' " for interrogations." "It was like they were in charge now; it's a military intelligence unit now," said a member of the 320th Battalion.

"They were in charge; it was almost like whatever his [MI] battalion wanted, his battalion got," Sergeant Lamela said of one senior intelligence officer at the prison. "He moved people out of their units so his personnel could live in their units. His personnel could walk around without proper uniforms; we as M.P.'s were not to correct them; he would say, `Let it slide.' "

The intelligence officers' practice of wearing uniforms without insignia made it difficult for soldiers to identify the officers or even to determine which of them were military and which belonged to other agencies, including the C.I.A., whose officers periodically visited Abu Ghraib prison to participate in interrogations."

I find it interesting that the commander of the 320th battalion blamed two soldiers who are "are both corrections officers in civilian life… They were the natural leaders in the military police company, he said, since they spoke of their work experiences… "Taking these prisoners out of their cells and staging bizarre acts were the thoughts of a couple of demented M.P.'s who in civilian life are prison correction officers who well know such acts are prohibited." If this proves to be a significant contributor to the event, we are right back at a 'domestic prison' causal condition.

I am certain that we will learn much more in the coming weeks about the interrogation techniques, approved and not, the 205th MI unit, and the CACI civilian interrogators, but I hope that this gives you a reference point on interrogations at the moment.

Pentagon Approved Tougher Interrogations
By Dana Priest and Joe Stephens
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, May 9, 2004; Page A01

'Too nice' Guantanamo chief sacked
BBC News
Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK

Mistreatment of Prisoners Is Called Routine in U.S.
New York Times
May 8, 2004

Israeli lessons for the US in Iraq
By Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank
Al Jazeera
Friday 07 May 2004, 2:48 Makka Time, 23:48 GMT

In Abuse, a Portrayal of Ill-Prepared, Overwhelmed G.I.'s
New York Times
May 9, 2004

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  


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