Friday, May 29, 2015

Child abuse 'may well have been' covered up

Lord Tebbit told the Andrew Marr Show the culture at the time was to protect "the establishment" rather than delving "too far" into such claims.

His comments come after it emerged that the Home Office could not locate 114 potentially relevant files.

Current MP Keith Vaz said files had been lost "on an industrial scale".

The government has rejected calls for an over-arching public inquiry into the various allegations of child abuse from that era.

However, a new review, to be carried out by a senior legal figure from outside Whitehall, will look into a Home Office review last year of any information it received in the 1980s and 1990s about organised child sex abuse.

Home Secretary Theresa May will make a statement on the issue to the House of Commons on Monday...

How Private Contractors Have Created a Shadow NSA

About a year ago, I wangled a media invitation to a “leadership dinner” in northern 
Virginia sponsored by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance. INSA is a powerful but 
little-known coalition established in 2005 by companies working for the National Security Agency. In recent years, it has become the premier organization for the men and women who run the massive cyberintelligence-industrial complex that encircles Washington, DC.

The keynote speaker was Matthew Olsen, who was then the director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). He used his talk to bolster the morale of his colleagues, which had recently been stung by the public backlash against the NSA’s massive surveillance programs, the extent of which was still com-ing to light in the steady release of Edward Snowden’s huge trove of documents. “NSA is a national treasure,” Olsen declared. “Our national security depends on NSA’s continued capacity to collect this kind of information.” There was loud, sustained applause.

One of those clapping was a former Navy SEAL named Melchior Baltazar, the CEO of an up-and-coming company called SDL Government. Its niche, an eager young flack explained, is providing software that military agencies can use to translate hundreds of thousands of Twitter and Facebook postings into English and then search them rapidly for potential clues to terrorist plots or cybercrime.

It sounded like the ideal tool for the NSA. Just a few months earlier, Snowden had leaked documents revealing a secret program called PRISM, which gave the NSA direct access to the servers of tech firms, including Facebook and Google. He had also revealed that the NSA and its British counterpart, the GCHQ, had special units focused on cracking encryption codes for social media globally...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Attack Scenario 404

Attack Scenario 404 *
How the Attack Might Have Been Engineered (But Probably Wasn't)

The case that the 9/11/01 attack was an inside job can be made quite apart from any specific theory as to how it was accomplished, by simply demonstrating that only insiders had the means and opportunity to execute key elements of the attack. The true nature of such an operation is undoubtedly hidden behind layer upon layer of cover story, and its details may never be discovered. Speculative theories of the operation, while not verifiable, nonetheless can be useful in answering important questions about the attack, such as the size of the conspiracy required to carry it out.

Attack Scenario 404 is such a theory. It shows that, although the attack employed a variety of sophisticated communications and weapons technologies, all of these technologies were available "off-the-shelf", having been developed by secret programs ostensibly for other purposes. Specific tasks required to fulfill the mission were outsourced to companies providing strict confidentiality and working on a need-to-know basis.

This scenario shows that, through their positions of access in the military command structure, a very small group of people would have been able to appropriate these technologies to carry out the attack. While the attack is engineered by a core of only a dozen people, vast numbers of people facilitate the attack and cover-up, for the most part unknowingly, by simply doing what they normally do in their positions: promote and protect their agencies and the status quo. The public at large participates in the cover-up by failing to question the attack and instead believing the relatively comforting myth of bin Laden.

This scenario contrasts with Professor A.K. Dewdney's Operation Pearl, which requires large numbers of insiders. One of the most persuasive arguments made by defenders of the official story is that an inside job would have involved a conspiracy too large to keep concealed. Attack Scenario 404 provides a counterexample...

The Means for Executing the 9/11 Attack

The Means for Executing the 9/11 Attack
The success of the 9/11/01 attack depended on each of the following five events happening as planned:

Four jetliners were taken over with no effective resistance.

Three of the four jetliners were flown into small targets, with the Pentagon strike involving extreme aerobatic maneuvers.

The air defense network froze for over an hour while the attack unfolded.

The towers self-destructed in a manner never before seen in any structure.

According to the official story, bin Laden got lucky in each case. The hijackers enjoyed phenomenal success in taking over each of the four planes, despite at least one Vietnam-era fighter pilot being among all four of the cockpit crews. The hijackers displayed miraculous skill in flying jetliners into small targets despite the fact than none had ever flown a jet. The Air Force and Air National Guard failed to put up any defense against the jetliners-turned-missiles, despite ample warning times and response options.

The Very Lucky Hijackers
Statistically speaking, the probability of the alleged perpetrators enjoying such a run of luck is vanishingly small. The probability that a mission would succeed can be calculated by estimating the probabilities of achieving each individual task required to fulfill the mission, and then multiplying those probabilities together. (This method of computing probabilities assumes that the individual events are causally independent. Since the success of each task was not strictly independent, the following computation is not statistically rigorous, but is provided only to illustrate a point.)

The following table lists estimates of probabilities for each of several tasks critical to the success of the mission. In all cases we chose much higher probabilities than the facts would warrant, in order to give the official story the benefit of the doubt....

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Outside the Box Video Series: The Power of Nightmares

Written and produced by Adam Curtis, The Power of Nightmares—The Rise of the Politics of Fear explores the similarities between the ascent of the American Neo-Conservative movement and the trajectory of radical, fundamentalist Islamism in three one-hour films.

More controversial, perhaps, than even this comparison, is the argument that the threat of radical Islamism—al-Qaeda in particular—has been exploited by politicians around the world, especially American neocons, in order to advance their own agenda.

Episode 1: Baby It’s Cold Outside
This episode traces the origins of pan-Arab Islamist ideology to its founder Said Qtub—an Egyptian student who studied in America and became incensed with American commercialism and its corrupting nature. It also details the work of Leo Strauss, a Platonic philosopher at the University of Chicago who was extremely influential over the growth of American neo-conservatism and emphasized deceit as necessary for elites to maintain control over an orderly society...

Congress Unites to Demand Answers on Deadly Incompetence of FBI

With all of its shortcomings, at least the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has achieved one thing: In a harshly divided Congress, its astonishing ineptitude—or worse—has managed to unite Republicans and Democrats. This ineptitude may have literally sent innocent people to their deaths.

In a strongly worded letter, the GOP chairman and the ranking Democrat of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform demanded answers from FBI Director James Comey regarding the recent revelations that the Bureau’s forensic “experts” made erroneous statements in an unfathomable 95% of trials involving microscopic hair analysis.

A “catastrophe”
“The scope of this catastrophe is almost impossible to believe,” Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) wrote, noting that 35 of the defendants in the cases involving such testimony ended up receiving the death penalty. Nine of them have already been executed and five others died on death row. According to the FBI’s own internal investigation, errors were made in 94% of those cases.

“Our criminal justice system—and people’s very freedom—relies on the integrity of FBI analysts’ reports and testimony,” added the two lawmakers. “To learn that the FBI systematically provided erroneous information and biased report results in matters of life and death is shocking and obviously unacceptable.”...

Saturday, May 16, 2015


The Underhanded Crypto contest was inspired by the famous Underhanded C Contest, which is a contest for producing C programs that look correct, yet are flawed in some subtle way that makes them behave inappropriately. This is a great model for demonstrating how hard code review is, and how easy it is to slip in a backdoor even when smart people are paying attention.

We’d like to do the same for cryptography. We want to see if you can design a cryptosystem that looks secure to experts, yet is backdoored or vulnerable in a subtle barely-noticable way. Can you design an encrypted chat protocol that looks secure to everyone who reviews it, but in reality lets anyone who knows some fixed key decrypt the messages?

We’re also interested in clever ways to weaken existing crypto programs. Can you make a change to the OpenSSL library that looks like you’re improving the random number generator, but actually breaks it and makes it produce predictable output?

If either of those things sound interesting, then this is the contest for you..

Friday, May 15, 2015

The oddly beautiful and sometimes disturbing artistic talent of the nation’s drug cops

The skeleton swoops into the foreground wearing a tuxedo, top hat and pink-framed glasses. Behind him, a rainbow sky fades into a field of twinkling stars. He holds a syringe in one hand, sending a celebratory squirt of its contents into the air.

It looks like the type of scene you might see on a college dorm room poster celebrating drugs and the counterculture. But in fact, it's an embroidered uniform patch made for members of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Dangerous Drugs Intelligence Unit, a group that monitors major drug trafficking organizations. And it's just one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of colorful and sometimes bizarre patches manufactured for various DEA divisions and task forces over the years.

Patches aren't unique to the DEA -- there are program and mission patches associated with many federal agencies and programs. One expert estimates there are 20,000 in existence today, some of which are historic relics and others in use. The most famous may be the patches made for NASA's shuttle missions. But in the universe of federal patches, the DEA's stand out for their outlandishness, as well as for showing a lighter, even flamboyant side of an agency that often presents itself as straight-laced and straight-edged...

The 10 biggest lies you’ve been told about the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Today, the Senate makes a critical test vote on the Obama Administration’s trade agenda, kicking off a process that the White House hopes to end with the signing of an agreement between 12 nations called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In preparation for this vote, President Obama has been deliberately antagonizing his critics, mostly liberal Democrats. Senator Elizabeth Warren is “a politician, like everybody else,” Obama said Friday to Yahoo News, who has “got a voice that she wants to get out there,” framing her concerns as insincere self-aggrandizement. Those concerns, Obama added, are “absolutely wrong.”

This is not the first time that Obama and his aides have depicted opposition on trade as deliberate misinformation designed to stir up a left-leaning political base, or generate campaign contributions; my favorite is the claim that Warren is merely trying to energize a non-existent Presidential campaign.

It’s beneath the dignity of the Presidency to so aggressively paint opponents as not just wrong on the facts, but hiding the truth on purpose. Warren has responded without using the same indecorous tactics. Unfortunately, I don’t have the same self-control. So by way of response, here are ten moments where the President or his subordinates have lied – call it “misled” or “offered half-truths” or whatever; but I’m in an ornery mood so let’s just say lied – about his trade agenda:

1. 40 PERCENT: The President and his team have repeatedly described TPP as a deal involving nearly 40 percent of global GDP. This tells only part of the story. First of all, the U.S. by itself represents 22 percent of global GDP; a bill naming a post office would involve that much. Second, we already have free trade agreements with six TPP partners – Canada, Mexico, Australia, Singapore, Chile and Peru – and between them and us, that’s 80 percent of the total GDP in this deal. The vast majority of the rest is represented by Japan, where the average applied tariff is a skinny 1.2 percent, per the World Bank.

You can see this paragraph in graphic form here. The point is that saying TPP is about “40 percent of GDP” intimates that it would massively change the ability to export without tariffs. In reality it would have virtually no significance in opening new markets. To the extent that there’s a barrier in global trade today, it comes from currency manipulation by countries wanting to keep their exports cheap. The TPP has no currency provisions...