Bank Cosmos

Leonid Chernovetsky with Kiev-based evangelist Sunday Adelaja. Thank you, pastorsundayadelaja.blogspot.com

Leonid Chernovetsky with Kiev-based evangelist Sunday Adelaja, founder of the Embassy of God church. Thank you, pastorsundayadelaja.blogspot.com

I had a lot of fun looking into Zhanna Kobylinska last weekend, but I couldn’t do justice to Leonid Chernovetsky, the former mayor of Kiev and supporter of Ms. Kobylinska’s employer, the Embassy of God church. He’s a man that needs his own post.

The money behind Mr. Chernovesky comes from banking, and in my experience, you can tell a lot about a politician by watching the money. So let’s do that!

1. In 1992, shortly after the fall of the USSR,  Mr. Chernovetsky founded Pravex bank after having worked 1) as Kiev’s chief investigator (police) and then 2) as a professor at Shevchenko National University where he studied government corruption. Sometime while teaching, Chernovetsky banded together with other teachers and his family to start what would become Pravex. Where the money came from is unclear, but Jed Sunden’s Kyiv Post says this:

He [Leonid Chernovetsky] also started a consulting business, “Law, Economy, Sociology,” with his university colleagues, which later became Pravex.

“I made my first million in 1992. At the beginning, business wasn’t good, and there was little need for legal consulting then,” said Chernovetskiy. “At the end of 1991, the law firm started to work. It is true, though it was small money. Then there were quite a number of different projects – hard currency stores, real estate and antique auction organizations.”

Soo… we can be pretty sure that the seed money is untraceable. Wherever it came from, there was enough money to back Ukraine’s eighth largest bank and compete with the large multinationals which descended on the Ukraine after perestroika.

2. In 2008– at the same time Mohammad Zahoor was liquidating his Ukrainian steel assets– the Chernovestsky family sold Pravex bank to Italy’s megabank Intesa Sanpaolo. Why the sudden sell-offs?

In 2008 Kiev held a “snap election” after Chernovestsky had been accused of corruption– an election which Chernovestsky won and maintained his mayoral seat. Disappointed contenders included Oleksander Turchinov and famous heavyweight boxer Vitaly Klitschko, the brother of US intelligence asset Wladimir Klitschko, who flashed his dick for American foreign policy in 2009.  It seems Chernovestsky’s corruption scandal made oligarchs nervous, which may have sparked the sell-off. It also seems that whoever gave Pravex its seed-money had no problem passing the ball to the Italians.

3. On January 23rd 2014, just days before UKUSA’s ‘Maidan’ revolution got rolling in Kiev, Intesa Sanpaolo sold Pravex to Centragas AG.

It’s deals like that which give the Italians a bad name! :)

Centragas AG is Dmytro Firtash’s Swiss holding company for his firm RosUkrEnergo. You’ll remember Firtash as the oligarch who brought a libel lawsuit against Jed Sunden’s Kyiv Post, which resulted in UK readers being blocked from kyivpost.com and set Ian Bearder from Oxford off on a self-righteous tirade. Firtash has made trouble for UKUSA spooks in the past by using the UK’s byzantine libel laws against them.

I believe 1) somebody told the Italians that Maidan was coming down the pipe, and 2) the Italians didn’t have faith that Maidan would be good for Ukraine’s economy in the long term*.  Pravex became a ‘hot potato’. The Italians found a quick buyer in Firtash, the guy ticking off UKUSA spooks.

Firtash has Russian ties: his flagship company, RosUkrEnergo, of which he owns 45%, was set up with Russia’s Gazprom. According to Voice of Russia:

In 2004, the Ukrainian businessman and Russian Gazprom jointly set up RosUkrEnergo, a company to distribute natural gas in Ukraine and in the European Union. Due to this company’s activities, Ukraine was able to acquire gas at prices well below market rates. Later that year Mr. Firtash became a major shareholder of Crimean Soda Plant (Krasnoperekopsk) and Krymskiy TITAN (Armiansk).

Cheap gas is one of the reasons that Russia will always have its hooks in Ukraine.

In 2010, Wikileaks leaked US diplomatic messages in which the “Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor allegedly wrote that gas-trading Ukrainian billionaire Dmytro Firtash told of needing permission from alleged Russian crime boss Semyon Mogilevich to do business in Ukraine during the lawless 1990s.” The Kyiv Post says Firtash denied the remarks.

This is where things get weird, because Firtash was arrested in Vienna this May on an FBI (i.e. American) warrant based on his allegedly corrupt activities in India back in 2006. The arrest may also have something to do with unsubstantiated reports that Firtash is funding Maidan revolutionaries as well as the Vitaly Klitschko-led party UDAR.

So, er, Gazprom’s man in Kiev, who is funding the anti-Russian Maidan protests, has been arrested by the Viennese on behalf of the FBI?! Fortunately, things are cleared up by the Americans at Foregin Policy, who point out that only Russia-aligned oligarchs have been ‘toppled’ by Maidan:

He [Firtash] was released after paying 125 million euros in bail, and currently remains in Austria, where he is fighting extradition to the United States.

I speculate, readers, that Maidan is working so well for the Americans that they’re scared to let moneybags Firtash anywhere near the revolution or Vitaly Klitschko, who is now Mayor of Kiev– the first real one since Leonid Chernovetsky disappeared.

Disappeared?! Yes, there’s a part of this story yet to tell. In 2011, Chernovetsky disappeared on the job. After more corruption scandals, Chernovetsky went AWOL for a few months and eventually turned up in Israel.

The eccentric mayor of Kiev, who mysteriously vanished from Ukraine and has not been spotted in public for months, has reappeared in Israel on “an unofficial holiday”, according to media reports.

Leonid Chernovetsky, who bewildered Ukrainians with his bizarre antics in office and still officially retains his post, was discovered by Ukrainian television channel 1+1 in an elite district of Tel Aviv.

Why did Chernovetsky run? Well, in November 2010, Ukranian President Viktor Yanukovych, the guy who Maidan ousted, had stripped Chernovetsky of his mayoral powers and left him as a figurehead. Chernovetsky was described as being ‘like the Queen of England’.

On top of loosing his power, Chernovetsky was displaying signs of weakness, such as posing for the press in his Speedos and cozying up to weird organizations like Nigerian pastor Sunday Adelaja’s ‘Emabassy of God’. Chernovetsky’s bizarre behavior has earned him the nickname “Lenny Cosmos”. If Chernovetsky isn’t soft in the head, then he’s very good at making people think he is. I’m sure that by late 2010, twenty years’ worth of enemies smelled blood in the water.

“They are judging me today and want me to spend the rest of my life behind the bars of a psychiatric hospital,” Mr. Chernovetsky said. “Look at my body, at how I express my thoughts. I am absolutely healthy. I think logically and philosophically.”

“They are judging me today and want me to spend the rest of my life behind the bars of a psychiatric hospital,” Mr. Chernovetsky said. “Look at my body, at how I express my thoughts. I am absolutely healthy. I think logically and philosophically.”

Which brings me to my final point about where Chernovetsky’s Pravex banking money came from. From my experience, managing money well is hard, and managing a lot of money well is even more difficult. People who manage money well don’t have time for weird media escapades, questionable charities or public office. Anytime a figure acts like Chernovetsky, you can be sure he’s just a front for someone else’s money and the real brains are elsewhere. Where? Chernovestsky sold out to the Italians and has had Israeli citizenship since 1994, two years after he got into the banking business. Also, he’s not in a Viennese jail.

*(If Ukraine-shipped Russian gas becomes unreliable, ‘Western Europe’ would depend on buying Russian energy through Moscow-aligned Belarus, or the German-aligned Nord route, or through countries like Turkey-Georgia-Azerbaijan. Or NATO-groupies could do something *totally crazy* like build a pipe through Iraq-Syria-Israel.)

Rainbow Brite does ZunZuneo

I’ve noticed an uptick in people hitting my site having searched for ‘Jed Sunden’ lately.

“Great,” I thought, “He’s back in the news.” So I did a ‘Google News’ search on Jed and came up with a surprising result. I think the story that’s prompting people to search for Jed is actually about someone else altogether: Zhanna Kobylinska.

Zhanna Kobylinska is a Ukraine-based PR pro who started her own blog in 2012; this is what Jed Sunden’s former asset, The Kyiv Post, says about Ms. Kobylinska’s new media project:

Editor’s Note: Kyiv public relations specialist Zhanna Kobylinska’s “Good News Ukraine” blog sticks to uplifting news and steers clear of controversy. Readers can send news items to Kobylinska at positiveukraine@gmail.com

The Kyiv Post lets Ms. Kobylinska write her own articles promoting her own blog which is called ‘Good News Ukraine‘. Tagline: “The greatest Ukraine’s treasure is people loving and respecting the country.”

Kobylinska’s biographic blurb states:

Kyiv resident Zhanna Kobylinska initiated the Ukrainian public project ‘Go Ukraine! Let’s Go!, which can be found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/groups/positiveukraine/.

Zhanna Kobylinska's avatar for her Kyiv Post series on rainbows.

Zhanna Kobylinska’s avatar for her Kyiv Post series on rainbows and unicorns.

‘Good News Ukraine’ is filled with sunshine-y tidbits like international youth meet-ups, music news, and numbered lists about feel-good topics à la BuzzFeed. ‘Good News Ukraine’ reminds me of  ZunZuneo, USAID’s political psy-op in Cuba, which aimed to worm its way into the Cuban public’s trust with feel-good, gossipy news stories and then surreptitiously insert anti-Havana political propaganda.

Is that what ‘Good News Ukraine’ is about too? A Ukraine-targeted ZunZuneo?

Ms. Kobylinska’s blog is getting press attention again for some reason– take this Swiss puff-piece, for example.

It’s not a good sign that The Kyiv Post, American agent Jed Sunden’s old baby, is giving Kobylinska a weekly microphone. But where does Ms. Kobylinska come from? What is her history?

I can’t definitively answer those questions, but I can tell you that the first reference I’ve found online about Zhanna Kobylinska comes from a blurb in The Kyiv Post on April 8th 2011: (You can click on it to make the text a little larger.)

From the April 8th 2011 Kyiv Post.

From the April 8th 2011 Kyiv Post.

Note that Zhanna worked for the “SBU state security service of Ukraine” for ten years before she was a church spokesperson. Weird enough? The Embassy of God church in Kiev is supported by former mayor Leonid Chernovetsky, and appears to be a Christian Zionist organization judging by their press in CharismaNews.com. The church has been accused of having ties to organized crime.

Zhanna Kobylinska’s next *probable* appearance happened through a 2012 post on BYUkraine.com: a ‘Zhanna Kobylinska’ wrote this cheery piece about Easter eggs which is also great PR for the Ukraine.

BYUkraine.com is the address of ‘Blue and Yellow: Life in Ukraine’ and is run by a Brit called Ian Bearder. ‘Blue and Yellow’ provides internet content about Ukraine and was started in late 2011, about the same time Jed Sunden would have begun his latest Ukrainian internet content company, ‘Internet Investments’. (Jed Sunden has removed information about ‘Internet Investments’ from his LinkedIn page since I last wrote about him.)

ian bearder

Ukraine-minded Brit Ian Bearder.

When Ian Bearder isn’t running ‘Blue and Yellow’, he’s campaigning for a seat in the European Parliament! From his Facebook profile:

Ian Bearder is a Liberal Democrat candidate for the 2014 European elections. His unique European expertise and his strong commitment to regional development make him an excellent candidate for the South East region.

And…

Born in Hertford Heath in 1978, Ian grew up in Oxfordshire. After studying Software Engineering Management at Bournemouth University, he split his time between his work as an IT consultant and travel. Between 2003 and 2009 he visited all 49 European countries, an experience which sparked a deep interest in European affairs and international politics.

Ian has been a long-time Liberal Democrat campaigner, standing as a candidate in Oxford in 2004, 2006 and in 2008. For the past five years he has represented the UK Liberal Democrats at the annual pan-European Liberal Democrat (ELDR) party congress and is a co-opted member of the national European Liberal Democrats (LDEG) executive.

After completing a masters degree in European Politics in Hungary in 2009, Ian spent two years living and working as a broadcast journalist in Ukraine.

It should surprise no one that Mr. Bearder’s ‘Blue and Yellow’ site is extremely supportive of the Maidan revolution in Ukraine; Ian’s Facebook page is very critical of Putin.

Bearder’s “IT consultant” experience includes working for ERTICO, a partnership of big-name American and European multinationals:

ERTICO – ITS Europe represents the interests and expertise of around 100 Partners involved in providing Intelligent Transport Systems and Services (ITS). It facilitates the safe, secure, clean, efficient and comfortable mobility of people and goods in Europe through the widespread deployment of ITS.

Here’s a list of ERTICO “partners”, which include companies like IBM.

Ian Bearder, the Brit who just happened to alight in Eastern Europe after a whirl-wind tour of the continent, is a creature of UKUSA. If his publication was an early sounding board for happy-smiley Zhanna Kobylinska, then we know what she is too.

Ian Bearder has one more *possible* connection to Jed Sunden.  In late 2010, RosUkrEnergo co-owner Dmytro Firtash filed a libel lawsuit against The Kyiv Post which resulted in the website denying access to UK users for some time. An ‘Ian Bearder’ from Oxford wrote a letter to the editors of The Kyiv Post full of righteous indignation about Firtash’s actions and advice as to how The Kyiv Post should restore website access to UK readers. Read the full tirade here.

If our two Ian Bearders from Oxford are the same, they’ve been invested in The Kyiv Post’s agenda for some time.

I think it’s painfully obvious that Zhanna Kobylinska is backed by Jed Sunden’s patrons and The Kyiv Post’s creepy new owner, Mohammad Zahoor. I’ve provided circumstantial evidence that she’s connected to Ian Bearder and that Ian Bearder is aligned with Sunden/Zahoor. I suggest that these three are a pathetic troika of weak propagandists who are trying to pin a smiley face onto Anglo-American adventurism in the Ukraine.

Poor show.

P.S. For a little Saturday fun, check out this review of Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer, which also speaks to US propaganda efforts across the globe! Attention James Clapper: you should get ‘GaryReviews’ to preview + approve your projects prior to the $$$. Best. Contractor. Ever. Will save billions on ‘hearts and minds’!

A Death in Finland

Leonid Andreyev stands before one of his own drawings, 1909.

Leonid Andreyev stands before one of his own drawings, 1909.

A few months ago, I wrote about Leonid Andreyev’s final book, Satan’s Diary. This is an extraordinary work that probably inspired Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita.

What’s remarkable about Andreyev’s book is that it describes rich Americans’ role in the Russian Revolution via the fictionalized account of ‘Henry Wondergood’. Wondergood is actually Satan, who masquerades as a billionaire philanthropist from Illinois. The history which Satan’s Diary describes is dangerous to talk about even today.

The only non-fiction book I’m aware of that tries to explain rich Americans’ involvement in setting up the Bolshevik government is Anthony Sutton’s Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution. It’s not often discussed in ‘safe’ historical research, because that type of ‘research’ is usually funded by bequests from wealthy philanthropists. From AnthonySutton.com:

Professor Richard Pipes of Harvard said in his book, Survival Is Not Enough: Soviet Realities and America’s Future (Simon & Schuster;1984): “In his three-volume detailed account of Soviet Purchases of Western Equipment and Technology . . . [Antony] Sutton comes to conclusions that are uncomfortable for many businessmen and economists. For this reason his work tends to be either dismissed out of hand as ‘extreme’ or, more often, simply ignored.”

However, if you study Soviet/Russian literature it’s pretty hard to ignore rich Americans’ and Brits’ support of the Bolsheviks: the best Russian writers were drawn to the cynicism and hypocrisy behind the new government in Moscow.

Leonard Andreyev was a child of the revolution who ended up being ‘eaten’ by it, much like Vsevolod Meyerhold. Andreyev’s literary patron in the USSR was Maxim Gorky, a close friend of Lenin and the state’s literary gatekeeper. This is how Countess Tolstoy described Andreyev’s writing:

“The poor new writers, like Andreyev, succeed only in concentrating their attention on the filthy point of human degradation and uttered a cry to the undeveloped, half-intelligent reading public, inviting them to see and to examine the decomposed corpses of human degradation and to close their eyes to God’s wonderful, vast world, with the beauties of nature, with the majesty of art, with the lofty yearnings of the human soul, with the religious and moral struggles and the great ideals of goodness– even with the downfall, misfortunes and weaknesses of such people as Dostoyevsky depicted… In describing all these every true artist should illumine clearly before humanity not the side of filth and vice, but should struggle against them by illumining the highest ideals of good, truth, and the triumph over evil, weakness, and the vices of mankind… I should like to cry out loudly to the whole world in order to help those unfortunate people whose wings, given to each of them for high flights toward the understanding of the spiritual light, beauty, kindness, and God, are clipped by these Andreyevs.”

I hope readers will see why debased writing is useful for revolutionaries; this type of art aggravates discontent and demoralization which can then be deflected onto the targeted ‘regime’. I recommend reading the “Politicized Warfare: ‘Black’ and ‘White’ Propaganda” section of this University of Warwick essay.

Enemy soldiers were fed a diet of dance music, seedy entertainment and soft pornography (interspersed with advice on malingering) through one such ‘black’ station known as the ‘Soldatensender Calais’. Crossman even claimed that there was an ‘Astrological Programme’ whose audience inside Germany probably consisted of about forty individuals at most, but which it was believed was popular with senior members of the Nazi Party.33 Its aim was to play on the fact that many senior Nazis were known to have an interest in astrology, feeding them gloomy astrological predictions about their military campaigns.

Andreyev was celebrated by powerful revolutionaries as long as he was on their side, but when Andreyev became disillusioned with the Bolsheviks, he was blacklisted and forced into exile. By 1919, Andreyev had become a dangerous liability to the Bolsheviks and their American supporters.

The Soviet authorities are famous for how closely they spied on, and how cunningly they controlled, artists under their sway: the sad fate of Bulgakov is a testimony to this. When Andreyev ran to Finland, did his spook handlers just disappear too?

I invite readers to examine the character of Andreyev’s American translator, Herman Bernstein, who wrote this preface to his 1920 edition of  Satan’s Diary:

 PREFACE TO SATAN’S DIARY

Leonid Andreyev’s last work was completed by the great Russian a few days before he died in Finland, in September 1919.  But a few years ago the most popular and successful of Russian writers, Andreyev died almost penniless, a sad, tragic figure, disillusioned, broken-hearted over the tragedy of Russia.

A year ago Leonid Andreyev wrote me that he was eager to come to America, to study this country and familiarize Americans with the fate of his unfortunate countrymen. I arranged for his visit to this country and informed him of this by cable. But on the very day I sent my cable the sad news came from Finland announcing that Leonid Andreyev died of heart failure.

Reading that excerpt made my hair stand on end. Why? Andreyev fled Russia for Finland ready to warn Americans about what was really going on under the Bolsheviks. He told his translator, Herman Bernstein, about his intention to talk in America; Bernstein took charge of the travel arrangements which, strangely, dragged on for over a year. A few days before Andreyev was finally set to go, he died of heart failure.

Who was Herman Bernstein?

Herman Bernstein, just prior to being made ambassador to Albania by Herbert Hoover.

Herman Bernstein, just prior to being made ambassador to Albania by Herbert Hoover.

Herman Bernstein wasn’t just any old translator, but a deeply connected political operator within the Wilson and Hoover administrations. Herman Bernstein was the Wolf Blizter of his day; he was sent with the American Expeditionary Forces to Russia to ‘report’ on the war much like Winston Churchill ‘reported’ on the Boer War and Nick Denton ‘reported’ on the fall of communism in Hungary for the FTHerman Bernstein  was a propagandist who worked for the same interests that backed Woodrow Wilson and Herbert Hoover: wealthy, Anglo-American financiers and other assorted billionaires. Henry Wondergoods.

I propose, readers, that Andreyev was being watched– and probably ‘contained’–  by friends of the Bolsheviks overseas and that Bernstein was one of these ‘watchers’.

Bernstein was a very busy man in the years leading up to Andreyev’s death. He was sent to cover the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917  as well as the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, where Germany was unjustly saddled with crushing reparations payments to the UK and France. (New York financial interests were heavily represented throughout the post-WWI peace negotiations and had spies in the US delegation who leaked confidential treaty information to favored bankers back in NYC. )

Apart from his journalistic work, Bernstein made a career out of leaking documents, a set of which were published by Alfred Knopf in 1918  as The Willy-Nicky Correspondence: Being the Secret and Intimate Telegrams Exchanged Between the Kaiser and the Tsar  which included a foreword by Theodore Roosevelt (US president 1901-1909). This leaked correspondence painted the Kaiser as a monster at a time when Anglo-American elitists were working hard to prove that Germany was solely responsible for WWI and therefore justify their demand for crushing ‘reparations’ payments. The economic privation caused by these reparations, and the economic mismanagement they resulted in (people were starving in Germany), is often credited with fueling the rise of National Socialism. Regular readers will remember that Alfred Knopf was a favored publisher amongst the FDR/Churchill spy network.

Alfred Abraham Knopf, publisher of Herman Bernstein and British 'illegal' spy Roald Dahl.

Alfred Abraham Knopf, publisher of Herman Bernstein and British ‘illegal’ spy Roald Dahl.

Bernstein ran amongst the highest levels of Anglo-American war propagandists. Bear this in mind when you evaluate the attention Bernstein paid to Andreyev in 1919: it was extremely important to America’s power elite to sanitize what Andreyev might say. The political import of Andreyev’s message was on par with painting Germany as the aggressor in WWI.

Why haven’t we all heard of Satan’s Diary?!

Bernstein had excellent literary connections in Russia and the United States, both before and after the Bolshevik Revolution. He corresponded with all the big names, from Count Tolstoy to Leon Trotsky. Bernstein’s contacts meant he had extraordinary access to writers like Andreyev, for whom he became  a literary gatekeeper responsible for translating much of Andreyev’s work into English– eight works between 1909 and 1923. Andreyev was a literary superstar who needed careful ‘handling’.

Bernstein served his masters’ interests so well that Hoover made him ambassador to Albania from 1930-1933. He spent the rest of his life championing Zionism and the state of Israel.

When I read that excerpt from the preface to Satan’s Diary, I don’t hear a concerned friend of Andreyev. I hear the words deft behind-the-scenes operator who’s just solved a problem for his bosses. It’s not good for men like Bernstein to have disillusioned Russian revolutionaries talk about ‘Henry Wondergoods’ to the conservative American masses.

IF Bernstein was a gatekeeper, why not have Andreyev’s work burned? Why take on the dangerous task of translating it into English? Andreyev was a very celebrated author; people outside of the intelligence community knew about what he was writing and his views. A book by Andreyev simply couldn’t just disappear– that’s why Andreyev was so dangerous once he became disillusioned. The next best thing for Bernstein and his patrons was to control the reception of Satan’s Diary: one way to do this was to control how it was translated. If you read Bernstein’s preface, it’s full of nebulous phrases like: [Andreyev was] “disillusioned, heart-broken over the tragedy of Russia”; [Satan's Diary is an] “absorbing satire on human life”; or “He [Andreyev] portrayed Satan coming to this earth to amuse himself and play”.

All of those phrases are grotesque generalizations designed to obfuscate: Andreyev was disillusioned, specifically, with Bernstein’s friends the Bolsheviks and their billionaires; Satan’s Diary is a satire of the Bolshevik government’s hypocritical funders; and Satan came to do exactly as the Bolshevik’s American funders did. Bernstein’s weasel-words remind me of Bill Colby’s attempt to push blame for his drug-dealing off onto ‘the CIA in general’!

I wish that I had a copy of the original Russian version of Satan’s Diary; given the provenance of Bernstein, I can’t help believe that the Russian version is far more cutting and explicit in its satire of America’s ‘great and good’.

A Call for Papers

Last week three prominent members of the US military put their support behind a study from The Palm Center which suggests that the US Military should lift their ban on openly transgendered service members.

I was not surprised by this development: considering the military’s 2011 decision to support openly gay soldiers, supporting openly transgendered ones seems like the logical next step.

What did surprise me was that these prominent military figures, which include a former Army acting surgeon general and a former chief of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, threw their weight behind a report that says 15,500 transgender members actively serve in the military, while 134,300 “Veteran retired Guard/Reserve” are transgendered. That means one in a hundred active US military personnel are transgendered.

Jennifer Natalya Pritzker

Lt Col Jennifer Natalya Pritzker, of the billionaire Chicago family, ‘anonymously’ donated $1.35 million to the Palm Center to fund research on integrating the transgendered community into the US military, says Advocate.comThank you, chicagophoenix.com for image.

15,500 active transgendered military personnel is a huge number; the estimate’s validity is bolstered by the fact that two distinguished military medical professionals– who ought to know about the populations they serve– authored the report in question.

These estimates come from UCLA Law Center’s Williams Institute, which also estimates that transgendered individuals are much more likely to serve in the military than the US population in general:

Williams Center Trans SoldiersThis is how the estimates’ creators, Gary J. Gates and Jody L. Herman, describe their findings:

By comparison, approximately 10.7% of adults in the US have served. This implies that transgender individuals are about twice as likely as adults in the US to have served their country in the armed forces. Transgender individuals assigned female at birth are nearly three times more likely than all adult women and those assigned male at birth are 1.6 times more likely than all adult men to serve.

The transgendered community’s devotion to the armed services exists despite persistent discrimination from the defense establishment: the military has banned openly transsexual people from serving. On top of that, I find it extraordinary that a persecuted minority is drawn to an organization which, at least for the past sixty years, has been used to force the will of a few people on less powerful countries around the globe.

This apparent anomaly begs the question: what is it about the US military that attracts so many transgendered individuals? Gary and Herman have provided statistical evidence that demands further research.

Are statistics for homosexual people in the military also so striking? Yes, they are. Gary Gates, the same researcher as before,  wrote a paper in 2004 for the Urban Institute, here are some select quotes:

Estimates suggest that more than 36,000 gay men and lesbians are serving in active duty, representing 2.5 percent of active duty personnel. When the guard and reserve are included,nearly 65,000 men and women in uniform are likely gay or lesbian, accounting for 2.8 percent of military personnel.

[In an entirely different paper, Gary Gates estimates that 1.7% of the US population identifies as homosexual, so gays appear strongly over-represented in the military. -a.nolen]
Continuing from Gates’ 2004 paper:

In particular, military service rates for coupled lesbians far exceed rates for other women in every military era of the later 20th century. Nearly one in 10 coupled lesbians age 63–67 report that they served in Korea, compared with less than one in 100 of other women. Even in the most recent service period from 1990 to 2000, service rates among coupled lesbians age 18–27 are more than three times higher than rates among other women

Nearly one million gay and lesbian Americans are veterans.

The District of Columbia leads all states with a rate of 10.2 gay or lesbian veterans per one thousand adults, more than double the national average.

Homosexuals have shown this eagerness to serve despite institutional discrimination:

Despite a variety of rules designed to keep gay men and lesbians out of military service, census data make clear that they are actively serving in the armed forces, in guard and reserve units, and have served in the military throughout the later part of the 20th century.

Again, homosexuals’ draw to the military– despite the organization’s historically discriminatory stance — is something that is difficult for me to understand. Are homosexuals drawn to the military for the same reasons as  transgendered service members?

Many of you know that I’m interested in ‘spooky’ things, so my next question… Is the LGBT community also overrepresented in the intelligence community? Seeing as a lot of spook talent is derived from the military, my hunch is that they are.  What’s tricky about this question is that it’s very hard to count spooks given the secretive nature of their work– you never know if you’re getting a representative sample of the intelligence community. (Unless you’re somebody like DNI James Clapper, but even he may not know about all his contractors!:) )

The best most people can do– probably the best most professional intelligence historians can do– is look to history for individuals who are now known agents and were also part of the LGBT community.

The most famous homosexual intelligence professionals  are Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt, who were Soviet double agents and half of ‘The Cambridge Five’, of who only four are known conclusively. Burgess and Blunt were known homosexuals at a time it was illegal to be so; yet these two men also held sensitive positions in the UK government. (Between the known four spies, they infiltrated MI5, MI6, the Foreign Office, the War Ministry and Blunt  even became an advisor to the Royal Family!). I don’t want to get hung up on their traitorous actions. What I do want to point out is that even back in the 1940s homosexuals were represented amongst the UK intelligence community’s ‘best and brightest’. Both the British and the Soviets recognized something exceptional about Burgess and Blunt.

The Soviets chose to recruit and cultivate these two highly-placed, homosexual spies  over a period of thirty years. That’s a huge investment which the Russians wouldn’t have made unless the pair showed exceptional intelligence talent. There were plenty of prominent Brits with socialist sympathies; there were plenty of well-placed Brits in the Communist Party who the Soviets could have recruited (See Secrets of the Service, by Anthony Glees); but it was a group of disproportionately gay agents who were the ‘jewel in the Soviets’ crown’– agents who were  recruited despite the obvious vulnerabilities their sexuality presented at the time.

History provides far more examples of LGBT agents than just Burgess and Blunt. Gabriel Pascal, the Hollywood movie-man who put British spy Roald Dahl in touch with FDR was homosexual; Julia Child’s husband Paul Cushing Child, who was in charge of USIA propaganda in Germany after WWII was likely bisexual; FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover, who left such an indelible mark on US intelligence worldwide, was likely bisexual (and is rumored to have dressed as a woman for  sex parties); Hoover’s partner both at the FBI and domestically, Clyde Anderson Tolson was also likely gay; Joan Cassidy, the famous US Navy intelligence office was homosexual; Whittaker Chambers was homosexual. These eight people are just the intel pros I can think of off the top of my head– most of them were heavy-hitters in the intelligence community. Considering that homosexuality was frowned upon amongst the general public, there are probably many more examples.

What about less well-placed spooks? Ironically, the turmoil caused by the gradual discovery of the Cambridge Five sheds light on just how many homosexual agents have contributed to the intelligence community.The ‘Lavender Scare’ of the 1950s and 60s specifically targeted homosexuals and sought to remove them from sensitive positions in the government. In the words of Tracey Ballard, an intelligence agent who came out in the 1980s:

Hundreds of gay men and women were purged from government agencies in the ’50s and ’60s. But Ballard says that charge — that gays were a blackmail risk — was always false.

“If you do research within the community over the decades, you’ll find that it really wasn’t an issue,” she says. “LGBT people were not blackmailed in any type, any way or form. That was their way of ensuring that we were not employed.”

Trudy Ring, Advocate.com reporter, wrote this in a review of a documentary about the ‘Lavender Scare‘:

Cassidy was one of thousands who either resigned or were fired because of the order, which she says initiated a “witch hunt.”

From the side of the 50s-60s persecutors, a Mr. Clevenger gives this congressional testimony on April 24th, 1950:

It is an established fact that Russia makes a practice of keeping a list of sex perverts in enemy countries and the core of Hitler’s espionage was based on the intimidation of these unfortunate people.

Despite this fact however, the Under Secretary of State recently testified that 91 sex perverts had been located and fired from the Department of State. For this the Department must be commended. But have they gone far enough? Newspaper accounts quote Senate testimony indicating there are 400 more in the State Department and 4,000 in Government…

Here we find that the Commerce Department has not located any homosexuals in their organization. Are we to believe that in the face of the testimony of the District of Columbia police that 75 percent of the 4,000 perverts in the District of Columbia are employed by the Government, that the Department of Commerce has none?

[In The Haunted Wood, Weinstein and Vassiliev detail Soviet penetration of the State Department; the department which Soviets codenamed 'Surrogate'. -a.nolen]

It seems experts agree that prior to 1950s, homosexuals were well represented in the US government and at the intel-sensitive State Department in particular.* This speaks well toward their representation in the intelligence community.

What about today? Any investigation into the LGBT contribution to intelligence is hard because, of course, current agents cannot identify them selves as such. Therefore, the best anybody (besides James Clapper!) can do is make an educated guess about who works with intelligence, and amongst that subset look at who identifies as LGBT or is likely part of the community.

Here are some prominent LGBT intel candidates: Peter Thiel (Palantir co-investor with CIA’s In-Q-Tel) is gay;  high-profile Tor promoter Jacob Appelbaum is homosexual/bisexual; FBI asset/Advocate.com contributor ‘Laurelai‘ and former analyst Chelsea Manning are transgendered;  intel-affliated media baron Nick Denton is homosexual; Snowden clean-up crew Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald are homosexual; the CIA’s porn king Hugh Hefner is likely bisexual; Anderson Cooper was/is a gay CIA agent. Those are nine high-profile LGBT people who are *probably* serving their country this very minute.

I have no way of knowing whether that list is a representative sample of high-profile intelligence professionals, but the fact that even I could come up with nine candidates in the time I took to type the preceding paragraph suggests that the LGBT community has an active roll in today’s intelligence ‘sphere’. I don’t think an active roll should be surprising, given exceptional LGBT participation in the military.

But what about the spook rank-and-file? Are homosexuals persecuted at government agencies today? According to Michael Barber, the CIA’s LGBT Community Outreach and Liaison program manager:

More than 200 CIA employees are members of the agency’s LGBT resource group today. The spy agency is one of the founding partners of Outserve, an organization that represents gay active military personnel, including those with the CIA.

Barber says there were always gay men and women doing important jobs at the agency, but until recently few were comfortable being out.

“Part of the reason we’re doing outreach is to change that perception in the community,” he says. “That this is no longer an issue for holding security clearance, that we want the best and the brightest regardless of your sexual orientation.”

Given intel attitudes before ‘The Cambridge Five’ and the attitude of the CIA (at least) today, perhaps it’s more accurate to say that excluding gays from intelligence work during the 50s and 60s was a deviation from the norm.

Check out this recent press release from James Clapper’s office (Director of National Intelligence), announcing an Advocate.com article about a transgendered CIA employee’s ‘transition’.

I’m not saying that every great intelligence professional is or was gay, nor even that homosexuals are overrepresented in the intelligence community as a whole. (It may be true, but don’t have access to that type of data!) However, having read a fair amount about the history of the Western world’s modern intelligence services, it strikes me how many prominent intelligence pros– people who are in the public eye and must therefore be exceptionally reliable– were and are homosexual, bisexual or transgendered. The prevalence of homosexuality amongst talented, prominent and celebrated intelligence professionals deserves academic study.

Now that the US military has taken steps to shake off the nearly global prejudice against LGBT people, I challenge the security-cleared research community to investigate just what role this exceptional minority has played in shaping the US military, and organizations like the CIA, NSA and FBI, into what they have become today.

Here are some questions to get the pros started:

1) Was homosexuality really a blackmail risk? If it was, why were so many LGBT agents employed by intelligence agencies prior to 1950? What was special about the 50s and 60s that changed intelligence leaderships’ perspective so abnormally?

2) What is it about the military lifestyle that appeals to the LGBT community despite active persecution?

3) Are LGBT professionals statistically overrepresented in high-trust intelligence positions?

 

 

* The D.C.’s total population in 1950 was 814,000, if at least 4000 LGBT individuals were employed by the government in D.C.’s ten square miles alone; and if Gates’ estimate of 3.5% LGBT across the population holds; and if the government accounted for 29% of D.C. employment back in the 1950s too, then the LGBT community was probably over-represented in government prior to the 50s and 60s. (4000 ‘caught’ LGBT individuals who were employed by the government makes them alone 1.7% of total government employees in D.C.) I doubt as many as one in two LGBT individuals were counted by the press or police; the 4000 figure probably represents a more vocal/outgoing segment of the LGBT population.

Goodwill Burner

Last week I posted about Benny Johnson’s firing from BuzzFeed: Who Did Benny Johnson Tick Off? This post got a bit of attention, eliciting predictable responses from BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith and Gawker’s J.K. Trotter. I even got @blippoblappo to laugh!

However, while @blippoblappo was laughing, he/she was also typing furiously.

@blippoblappo and @crushingbort, proprietors of the blog which allowed Ben Smith and J.K. Trotter to take down Benny Johnson, were busy preparing a smear on Farheed Zakaria. I guess they took my criticisms seriously and decided that a blog ‘on Journalism’ ought to talk about somebody else besides Benny Johnson. One day after my post regarding ‘Our Bad Media’, @blippoblappo and @crushingbort rushed out this monstrosity: Did CNN, The Washington Post, and TIME Actually Check Fareed Zakaria’s Work For Plagiarism?

I call this post a monstrosity because many of the instances of accused ‘plagiarism’ involve Zakaria quoting statistics. Although Zakaria should have said where the numbers came from in every instance, this type plagiarism is small fry in the larger trend of theft that ‘Our Bad Media’ claims to be fighting.

@blippoblappo and @crushingbort: it feels like you’re scraping the barrel. Is re-shaming Fareed Zakaria the most pressing issue in the universe of journalistic plagiarism?

I have little respect for Zakaria, he typifies soft establishment journalism. However, I find it difficult to believe that Zakaria’s (mis)use of statistics  constitutes egregious ‘undiscovered’ plagiarism, or that they are extraordinary examples of plagiarism amongst journalists in general. I think that there are worse instances of high-profile plagiarism out there, but there probably aren’t many high-profile targets as soft as Fareed, whose career was very publicly blighted by plagiarism back in 2012. Fareed is an easy target.

It seems that many ‘Our Bad Media’ readers agree with me. Out of the 34 comments their first post generated, here are some gems:

It’s one thing to plagiarize the written expression of ideas, quite another to cite statistics. Seems to me, Zakaria is just lazy, restating numerical data and statistics, using someone else’s words. The bar is much lower, IMO. I thou doth protest too much.

And…

This is ridiculous. Almost every example you cite are statistics or quotes. We’re supposed to be outraged? Don’t quit your day job hacks.

Not only did @blippoblappo’s and @crushingbort’s attack on Zakaria not get them love, it didn’t get them quality press either. They knew that they had to to better, so the next day on August 20th, they published How And Why Lying About Plagiarism Is Bad – A Response To Fareed Zakaria And Fred Hiatt; followed by The Paste-American World: How Fareed Zakaria Plagiarized In His International Bestseller (And The Magazines He Used To Run) on August 22nd.

The first one of those garnered all of four comments, each one dripping with support for @blippoblappo and @crushingbort. It also promised that “Our Bad Media will have more extensive examples of plagiarism by Fareed Zakaria later this week.”

Those extensive examples came from Zakaria’s book The Post-American World and two articles from Foreign Affairs and Newsweek. Even though @blippoblappo and @crushingbort felt their previous work held up “pretty well”,  they piled these instances of plagiarism on top of the mess, and added a few off-topic attacks, such as the following:

Post-American World can be best described up as the kind of book your dad bought at the airport to kill time reading about This Changing Planet Of Ours, then bought again later because it had a 2.0 at the end, the way his phone’s fart noise app did when it added new fart noises.

The last post generated 13 comments which, again, are dripping support for @blippoblappo and @crushingbort. See a pattern? Our anonymous bloggers are on the defensive.

I have no doubt that Fareed Zakaria is a plagiarist. He’s also a lazy journalist who habitually paraphrases other writers so that he doesn’t have to do work himself. Everybody knows this; it’s old news. Zakaria is a very safe target for @blippoblappo and @crushingbort to attack, and they’ve clearly done a minimal amount of work to do so.

In conclusion, attacking the shoddy journalist Fareed Zakaria is an easy ‘n’ fast way for @blippoblappo and @crushingbort to ‘prove’ that they don’t just have a ‘boner’ for Benny. ;)

I’d like to remind readers that @blippoblappo and @crushingbort said they didn’t have a clear agenda when they began their crusade against Benny Johnson last month. Consider this quote from their article with Talking Points Memo:

TPM: Do you plan to continue scrutinizing BuzzFeed?

@crushingbort: This was all done on a whim and I’m not sure what we do next, but this isn’t meant to be some kind of anti-BuzzFeed initiative. Jesse Eisinger made a point I strongly agree with, which is that plagiarism is far from the worst problem in journalism. But it seems to be the one of the few that editors respond to.

Sometime after their take-down of Johnson– and *probably* after being called out as hired hacks by yours truly– @blippoblappo and @crushingbort decided a half-assed assault on well-known plagiarist Fareed Zakaria was a good idea.

@blippoblappo and @crushingbort: how’s this all working out for you?

I look forward to @blippoblappo’s and @crushingbort’s next attempt to spin a career out of their sloppy ‘Benny’ job.

 

 

P.S. @BennyJohnson has been a very quiet twitter account since July 26th. Does BuzzFeed have Benny Johnson on such a tight contract that he can’t talk about his experiences? That kinda goes against BuzzFeed’s informal, fun-loving image, doesn’t it? Have 1000 BuzzFeed lawyers made sure that no Peretti creation will ever go rogue against the outlet? Is my source for fuzzy cat pics really an authoritarian bully?

ducttape

Thank you, buzzgasm.com

 

PSA: Tor Vulnerability Reporting Procedure

A few weeks ago a.nolen reader Hubri5 alerted me to the sorry fate of two Tor researchers from Carnegie Mellon who didn’t ask the Department of Defense for permission to talk about their work on de-anonymizing the Tor network. These researchers, Alexander Volynkin and Michael McCord, had their Black Hat 2014 talk cancelled at the 11th hour; the talk was titled “You don’t have to be the NSA to break Tor: de-anonymising users on a budget“.

That’s bad behavior folks– bad behavior on the part of Volynkin and McCord. Always get permission from the DoD or The Tor Project before talking about Tor vulnerabilities. Tor must maintain the trust of its users– this is a matter of national security.

I don’t want to harp on the negative, so I’m going to talk about one company who did things right by Tor, and it seems, gave up valuable digital forensic analysis business in the process. Digital Forensics Solutions LLC is a New Orleans-based company that captures digital evidence for its customers, who presumably include law enforcement.

The driving force behind Digital Forensics is– or was, cause he’s not currently listed on their website– researcher Andrew Case. Case wrote a clever add-on for open-source memory analysis toolkit Volatility, which lets users reconstruct files even when ‘criminals’ have taken security precautions by only using random access memory on their machines. Case was able to reconstruct files even after they’d been scrambled by popular ‘live cd’ operating systems like Tor’s TAILs, Ubuntu or BackTrack.

Even though Case makes a living by exploiting the technological edge of digital forensics, he chose to give up that edge by making his research known to the wider world, and in particular, The Tor Project. Why, Case?

“You know with Tor, they deal in a lot of countries where there aren’t warrants or anything, so it’s, uh, it can be hectic.”

For Andrew Case, and Digital Forensics Solutions LLC, global citizenship trumps the profit motive. Tor helps places that, uh, don’t have warrants, like we have warrants in America. Case and his employer share that same wide-eyed altruism that inspired Operation Iraqi Freedom!

I’ve embedded a video of Case giving an ‘update’ to his Black Hat 2011 talk titled De-Anonymizing Live CDs through Physical Memory Analysis. This Black Hat talk was not pulled, because as Andrew explains in the video below, he contacted the appropriate players first. [Good stuff starts after 7:40. Not Work Safe.]

Q: So what did TAILs do to mitigate forensic analysis?

Case: So this is actually pretty interesting. When the abstract went online for the Black Hat talk it had mentioned TAILs, and analyzing the TAILs live cd, and it’s something that immediately hit their developers’ list and I emailed them and they started working on some stuff.

Tor Vulnerability Researchers: All The Tor Project wants is to be given a heads-up, so they can spin the vulnerability to the media in a way that preserves the public’s trust. As a Tor Project spokesman told the Guardian regarding Volynkin/McCord’s pulled presentation:

Organisers from the Tor Project said they were working with the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) at Carnegie Mellon, which is sponsored by the US Department of Homeland Security, to release information on the problems identified by the researchers.

“We did not ask Black Hat or CERT to cancel the talk. We did (and still do) have questions for the presenter and for CERT about some aspects of the research, but we had no idea the talk would be pulled before the announcement was made,” said Tor Project president Roger Dingledine.

“We never received slides or any description of what would be presented in the talk itself beyond what was available on the Black Hat webpage. Researchers who have told us about bugs in the past have found us pretty helpful in fixing issues, and generally positive to work with.”

Gee, Alexander Volynkin and Michael McCord, Tor is “generally positive” to work with. Just do the right thing already! Think of all those crying babies in Iran who don’t have, like, warrants. You can read more about Roger Dingledine, Tor’s president, here.

In the video interview I’ve embedded above, Andrew Case goes beyond the call of duty to plug The Tor Project’s ability to fix the vulnerability he discovered how to exploit:

“The first thing they [Tor/TAILs developers] do– as we talked about before, if you can pull the plug on the machine or just get memory wiped somehow, then there’s no evidence of what you did. So the first thing they did is like they implemented, it’s called K-exec, I’m not sure what it stands for, but what it lets you do is  move it [the data? a.nolen]  to another kernel, you know, another Linux kernel while you’re already in Linux without rebooting the machine.

So what they do at that point, when you tell it to shutdown, instead of only shutting it down and hoping that RAM clears itself, it boots into this minimal K-exec kernel, then goes back and wipes all the memory for you, that you were using. You know, overwrites it multiple times. So at that point, you know, memory is really gone, fairly instantly, as soon as you’re done using the system as opposed to hoping that the hardware is going to do that for you.

That was the first thing. And I think two weeks ago there was another TAILs release and that’s actually in there. And the second one was … I’m not sure it’s done yet, their project page was confusing… what they want want to do is whether using a CD or a USB stick, is as soon as you pull the USB stick out or hit the eject button on the CD, it boots into a separate, it uses a UDEV rule to see the device activities happening, and from there they go back and wipe all the memory again, sort of without waiting for the machine to cycle down– so if the door’s getting kicked in you just pull the USB drive out and your machine starts erasing itself and there really is no evidence of what you did.”

It’s interesting how Andrew, who makes a living by undoing the work TAILs claims to do, can go on to plug the Tor Project’s ability to undermine his own work in turn. To put this in perspective, imagine a narc glowing over Los Zetas’ ability to cover their distribution networks. The drug world can get ‘hectic’, but those Zetas deal in places where there’s no other way to become a billionaire… There’s something insincere in your Tor promotion, Andrew. Sometimes I feel like everybody’s on the same team.

On the face of it, Digital Forensics’ decision to throw away the competitive edge may appear to be a poor business decision. However, things become a little more clear when you consider who Andrew Case’s boss is: Daryl Pfeif, CEO of Digital Forensics Solutions LLC.

"Daryl Pfeif is drawn to emerging and useful technology like a moth to the flame."

“Daryl Pfeif is drawn to emerging and useful technology like a moth to the flame.”

I lifted that cheeky little avatar from the ‘Board of Directors‘ page of the Digital Forensic Research Workshop or ‘DFRWS’ [no idea where the 'S' comes from- a.nolen]. This is her full blurb from the DFRWS website:

Daryl Pfeif

Chief Executive Officer, Digital Forensics Solutions, New Orleans, LA
Daryl Pfeif is drawn to emerging and useful technology like a moth to the flame. She attended her first Digital Forensics Research Workshop in 2004 and they haven’t been able to get rid of her since. She is the co-founder of http://www.DigitalForensicsSolutions.com and has over fifteen years of experience as a communications technology consultant and lead project manager in both the public and private sectors.

The DFRWS was started by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Defensive Information Warfare Branch. Daryl is the skirt on the board, which also includes MITRE’s Eoghan Casey  who “supports forensic R&D at the DoD’s Cyber Crime Center (DC3/DCCI)” and Wietse Venema, who writes forensic analysis software for IBM.

MITRE is a *grotesque* US government research institute/think tank, which spearheads the ‘Insider Threat Initiative‘, through which government employees are encouraged to rat on any co-worker who “expresses unhappiness with U.S. foreign policy” or shows sympathy for the “underdog“.

IBM has written a lot of social network analysis software, which a.nolen reader E. Oop alerted me to. [Thank you, E. Oop!] The jewel in IBM’s ‘Facebook’ crown is Analyst’s Notebook, which you can read about in this article comparing IBM’s product with that of their competitor, Sentinel Visualizer. Sentinel Visualizer is partly funded by In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm. The beauty of market forces + government money!

So those are Ms. Pfeif’s, er, bedfellows… suddenly it becomes clear to me why Andrew Case was so eager to give up his firm’s competitive advantage. Unfortunately, in real life the good guys don’t always win, and Digital Forensic Solutions’ website hasn’t been updated since 2012.

votive candle

P.S. Wouldn’t it be ‘sooo NSA’ if the US gov could watch every file unscrambled by folks using Volatility software… #tinfoil!

Who Did Benny Johnson Tick Off?

Benny Johnson talks about what job he’d like to have more than Political Editor @ BuzzFeed.

A couple of weeks ago Benny Johnson, the pseudo-conservative political pundit, was let go from BuzzFeed for plagiarism. Apparently Johnson has been a gratuitous plagiarizer for more than a year. Nobody seemed to care before July 24th, when Benny’s career came to screeching halt. What happened?

The story goes that on July 24th two no-name twitter dudes, @crushingbort and @blippoblappo, set up a WordPress blog, ‘Our Bad Media‘, listing instances of Benny’s obvious plagiarism. Miraculously, J.K. Trotter of Gawker found ‘Our Bad Media’ on the very day of its first post and wrote an article about Benny’s bad behavior. Trotter’s Gawker article caught BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith’s attention, resulting in Benny’s being fired.

Plagiarism is bad, but it’s not the astounding part of this story. What’s amazing is that the bloggers, @crushingbort and @blippoblappo, expect the public to believe their take-down of Johnson was: “just something two people with some spare time did on a whim after it seemed like it’d probably be more than just a shot in the dark.

Benny Johnson’s firing seemed fishy to me from the git-go and insincere statements like the one above have prompted me to investigate the various players involved in Benny’s saga.

The anonymous bloggers, @crushingbort and @blippoblappo, say they were motivated by Johnson’s self-righteous tweets accusing IJReview of plagiarism after IJReview did plagiarize a widely-read and snarky article by Johnson, which mocked George Bush Sr.’s unfortunate sock-style. As ever with Benny Johnson, the mockery was subtle and posed as a tounge-in-cheek compliment to Bush I, no doubt why IJReview picked it up. IJReview didn’t get the joke, and pulled the article (apparently) after Johnson called them out on their plagiarism.

https://twitter.com/bennyjohnson/statuses/491953975785426944

Johnson’s cutting remark to IJReview, the supposed-political-ally of ‘whiter than white’ Benny, launched @crushingbort’s and @blippoblappo’s crusade against Benny and ended Benny’s BuzzFeed career.

“@crushingbort: It [the attack blog, Our Bad Media] was definitely prompted by Johnson tweeting about the IJReview.”

@crushingbort’s and @blippoblappo’s web-chronicle of Johnson plagiarism spans a grand total of two days, 24-25th July, and the blog hasn’t been updated since. (‘Our Bad Media‘ claims to be ‘on Journalism’, but it only talks about Benny.)

Our Bad Media’s J.K. Trotter/Gawker connection smells, especially because of the timing of Trotter’s July 24th article, which outed Benny as a plagiarist. Trotter’s Gawker (NYC-based) article was published at 2:16 pm (EST) on the same day as @crushingbort’s and @blippoblappo’s first post! (That’s three hours BEFORE the first comment on the blog (time-stamped 5:24 pm) if the blog is East Coast, but five hours ahead if the blog is West Coast! By the ‘Our’ in ‘Our Bad Media’ I presume the blog is American.)

Not only was J.K. Trotter remarkably ahead of the WordPress curve, but Trotter had time 1) to contact BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith for a statement and receive a reply 2) notice that BuzzFeed articles had been altered after his initial contact with Ben Smith and 3) get his article about Benny Johnson’s plagiarism-oopsy through Gawker’s editorial process before 2:16pm on July 24th. Trotter’s a fast worker! Be careful, J.K., rushing is what got Benny into trouble…

Let’s recap the chain of events: two disinterested citizens do two days of blogging which 1) get BuzzFeed’s attention by the first day and 2) leads BuzzFeed to fire an editor on the second. Wow. That’s got to be some type of record.

Johnson’s editors, lead by Ben Smith, took less than 48 hours to fire him. Somebody on BuzzFeed’s ‘editorial’ mailing list leaked Ben Smith’s ‘We Fired Benny’ email to Gawker’s J.K. Trotter within that 48 hours:

After carefully reviewing more than 500 of Benny’s posts, we have 41 instances of sentences or phrases copied word for word from other sites. Benny is a friend, colleague and, at his best, a creative force. But we had no choice other than letting him go.

More fast workers! Smith ends the note by undermining himself:

Tonight’s decision is not a knee-jerk response to outside criticism, though we are genuinely grateful to the people who helped point out instances of plagiarism. Nor is it meant as a personal condemnation: Benny at his best is a creative force, and we wish him the best. Finally, it is not a warning that you’ll be fired for a small mistake or an isolated error. We will always have a more forgiving attitude toward bold failures, innocent errors, and misfired jokes than more skittish old media organizations.

I agree with Ben Smith, there’s nothing knee-jerk about Benny’s firing. I believe that Benny got on the Bush Clan sh*t-list with his snide mockery of this prominent American family. Benny pushed the Bushes too far when he jeered at their media project, IJReview, which despite its bluster about page views, is struggling to be taken seriously.

Jeb Bush could stand you mocking his demented father, Benny, but hitting his pocketbook took things one step too far.

https://twitter.com/PUNKSPANK/statuses/492341525699780609

The twitter quote above is the earliest reference to ‘Our Bad Media’ I could find; it’s time-stamped 10:12 am on July 24th. Notice how Benny’s attack on IJReview came just one day before. @crushingbort and @blippoblappo are fast workers too!

So, seriously folks, who’d Benny p*ss off?

Well… IJReview is a shell of a media outlet with only two staff members listed on their website: Bubba Atkinson (Editor in Chief) and Kyle Becker (managing editor). There are no current Staff Writers it seems, which makes sense, because IJReview appears to do nothing but aggregate internet content and turn it into ‘click bait’, making IJReview.com the most popular internet destination I’ve never heard of. DeathandTaxesMag.com:

The right wing has its own Upworthy knockoff. According to Quantcast, it’s [IJReview's] quickly becoming more popular than Upworthy, and even conservative sites like Breitbart and The Daily Caller. It’s called Independent Journal Review, though its name is a huge steaming turd of a lie, because it’s neither a journal nor a review nor independent.

More important than it’s management, however, is that IJReview is funded by 27-year old Alex Skatell  and 42-year old Phil Musser: IJReview is just one tool in their election-molding toolkit, ominously called ‘Media Group of America’. This is how DeathAndTaxesMag.com describes IJReview’s backing:

The site is funded by Alex Skatell (former staffer for the National Republican Senatorial Committee) and Phil Musser (a former Tim Pawlenty adviser). It’s owned by Media Group of America, a conservative LLC which also runs consulting firm IMGE (which has worked with clients like Boeing and BMW) as well as Gravity, which manages technology and data for campaigns.

Alex cut his teeth working for 1) liberals in Australia “as digital director for the Liberal Party of Australia and now Prime Minister Tony Abbott”; and 2) Republicans in the USA “as Director of New Media & Technology for the Republican Governors Association (RGA)”.

Phil Musser is much more interesting: he’s a creature of US Senator Mel Martinez, a Cuban-American power-broker who ran US government department HUD (The Department of Housing and Urban Development) from 2001-2003. HUD is a nexus of cronyism, theft and scandal: HUD’s role in dubious mortgage repackaging schemes is part of what brought on the 2008 financial crisis in the USA.

Phil Musser also worked at HUD from 2001 to some time in 2004:

Phil served as Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Policy Advisor of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. At HUD, Phil managed the development of public policy, a thirty billion dollar budget and served as a key liaison to the White House. Additionally, Phil coordinated intergovernmental relations and worked with many governors, mayors and local officials on important community housing issues.

Musser left HUD at about the same time Mel Martinez did, in order to work on Martinez’s political campaign!

In 2004, Phil served as a senior advisor to Senator Mel Martinez’s successful U.S. Senate campaign in Florida and as a deputy director of the G-8 Summit in Sea Island, GA, for the U.S. Department of State.

Mel Martinez got his start in politics by being a “pragmatic” friend of Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Jeb is the sock-loving George Bush Sr’s second son, and father of  Mexican-American political hopeful George P. Bush. Martinez is a creature of the Bush Family; Musser is a creature of Martinez; IJReview is a creature of Musser.

See where I’m going? The money that gave Mel Martinez his leg up is probably behind IJReview. That money probably got tired of Benny Johnson peeing on their socks pant-legs. So two bloggers, who’d rather not reveal their names, were paid to attack Benny Johnson (a poor-quality journalist and an easy target) for two whole days, giving BuzzFeed an excuse to fire him by the end of the second day.

@crushingbort: Jesse Eisinger made a point I strongly agree with, which is that plagiarism is far from the worst problem in journalism. But it seems to be the one of the few that editors respond to.

The ‘Our Bad Media’ blog was made-to-measure!

If you’re interested in reading what *probably* got Benny Johnson on Jeb Bush’s radar, check out How To Thank a Soldier by George W. Bush, 23 Things I Learned Spending A Day With George H. W. Bush at The George Bush Library  and BuzzFeed’s celebrated A Gentleman’s Guide to Picking Socks. That sock one was published three weeks ago, on July 22nd.

This is purely anecdotal, but I’ve heard that the Bush clan is vicious with their vendettas and has a very long memory. Benny, BuzzFeed’s pseudo-conservative jester, has been making dangerous jokes at the Bushs’ expense for one year at least. Check out:

A Gentleman’s Guide To Picking Out Socks, As Told By George H.W. Bush

George H.W. Bush is obsessed with socks. He is even currently judging his own sock competition, run through his foundation. So what makes a good sock?

“When friends discover your fondness for feisty footwear, they will question your taste…”

"When friends discover your fondness for feisty footwear, they will question your taste..."

 
(Bush Foundation)

“…and possibly even your soundness of mind.”

"...and possibly even your soundness of mind."

 
(Bush Foundation)
 
Ponder this little number from Benny’s trip to the Bush Library, in which Benny harps on the Bushs’ oil connections and discloses Bush security info, like the faces, size and movements of Bush Senior’s Secret Service detail (!?) How do you spell ‘threat’ in Washington, Benny? Hint: it doesn’t involved the letters B, S, H or U.

23 Things I Learned Spending A Day With George H.W. Bush At The George Bush Library

It would be prudent.

[I don't know why the preceding short sentence was in Benny's article header all by itself- a.nolen.]

17. Bush is always surrounded by four Secret Service men, even when he’s talking with a close friend.

 
Bush is always surrounded by four Secret Service men, even when he's talking with a close friend.

[Is that friend Sally Shelton-Colby?! :) -a.nolen]

1. And the number one most important thing learned at the Bush library:

And the number one most important thing learned at the Bush library:

 

This photo exists.

That photo reminds a.nolen of Roald Dahl’s relationship to the FDR family! I’m also reminded of John Rizzo’s book on liberal Hollywood and the CIA.

If I’m right in my conclusions, then Benny was fired when he attacked the Bush family’s struggling internet media investment, The Media Group of America.

BuzzFeed itself is fronted by a really creepy character called Jonah Peretti, who helped found The Huffington Post. HuffPo now works closely with The Intercept investor Pierre Omidyar. I’ll remind you of these ties by quoting one of my previous posts, Apple Pie and Snuff Vids:

An awful lot of sickos have been talking to BuzzFeed about snuff fantasies. What is it about this news outlet?

Well, it was founded by Jonah Peretti,  the same guy who founded The Huffington Post– you know, that disappointing online newspaper which teamed up with Pierre Omidyar BEFORE he found Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. See where I’m going?

The same people who are promoting Jacob Appelbaum and Tor, are promoting the clean-up agents Greenwald and Poitras, and are providing a platform signaling NSA wackos to go for it: “Your buddies’ll love you for ever and do you recognize this supermarket?”

a.nolen sees the formation of a media constellation: HuffPo, The Intercept, BuzzFeed.* Readers will remember that the Bush Family is no stranger to the intelligence community: George H. W. Bush was the CIA head who took over after William Colby and covered for Colby’s traitorous actions.

Bush Family intel connections just may explain how Jeb Bush could get BuzzFeed to defend his investment in IJReview so quickly…

It shouldn’t be forgotten that whoever @crushingbort and @blippoblappo really are, they knew to contact J.K. Trotter at Gawker, another spooky-smelling outfit. They knew that J.K. Trotter would do exactly what they wanted him to do.

I’m excited to see where Benny Johnson turns up next!

* BusinessInsider, the NYC news spigot founded by “a disgraced Wall Street analyst“, may also be part of this constellation. BuzzFeed and BusinessInsider published the ‘Snowden Supermarket’ pictures which, in an under-handed way, encouraged outraged intelligence personnel to take violent action against Snowden.

Knowing what I know now, I believe that when BuzzFeed and BusinessInsider  published the supermarket pictures, and when BuzzFeed pushed Benny’s snuff piece, they were bolstering Snowden’s image as a martyr to people who wanted to believe that while simultaneously showing support for anyone who feels threatened by what Snowden did and making the argument for taking spying in-house. I believe a lot of thought went into Benny Johnson’s Snowden-snuff piece: America’s Spies Want Edward Snowden Dead. Edward Snowden himself drew attention to this piece in his ARD interview in January, so we know it’s one for which US intel wanted really wide viewership.

Why? Benny’s article screams ‘Snowden isn’t US intel!’ even though we now know Snowden is. Johnson’s piece pumps the idea that what leaks have leaked did damage to US intelligence, thought Johnson gives no examples of damage. The article stress that Snowden was a contractor. Benny was presenting the intel-lifer argument.

And now Benny’s gone from BuzzFeed. Don’t tick off the Bushes!

Outsourcing

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An old friend once told me that when ‘public spectacles’ happen, like the non-existent ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ or the Edward Snowden Saga,  the plan behind them always has more than one goal. That’s not to say that every newsworthy event is planned, but there will always be a plan to spin the public’s interpretation of that event– to do otherwise would be a wasted opportunity.

My old friend would probably have said, “a.nolen, you thought too much about what the Snowden revelations mean to people like you, and not enough about what the revelations mean to the people who use these abusive programs every day.”

I do not know every purpose behind what Snowden did, but I feel strongly that one such purpose was to reign in intelligence outsourcing. Intelligence outsourcing is a threat to full-time, ‘lifer’ spooks because it takes away their power base. Intel outsourcing has existed for a long time, but it started to get scary for intel ‘lifers’  in the 1990s and turned into a feeding frenzy after 9/11.

As much as I wanted Snowden to be a hero, he ain’t. Now that I’ve dropped those blinders, what should have been clear all along has slowly come into focus: immediately after Snowden’s revelations, establishment pundits began to call for an end to intelligence outsourcing. “Put the Spies Back Under One Roof!” shouted Tim Shorrock of the NYT on June 13th. The Washington Post was there one week earlier: “The outsourcing of U.S. intelligence raises risks among the benefits” said

Neither the NYT or WaPo had to work hard to come to these conclusions, because dear old Dianne Feinstein spelled it out for everybody:

“I’m very concerned that we have government contractors doing what are essentially governmental jobs and, I think, particularly with highly classified information,” Feinstein said. “Government people, who take an oath to keep that information secure, should be the ones” handling sensitive intelligence.

In fact, if you Google ‘intelligence outsourcing’, you’ll get a ton of links to mid-2013 news stories about Snowden’s leaks, followed by a rash of ‘outsourcing analysis’ from 2007, when outside contracting last drew fire  and prompted the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to request a study on the phenomenon.

Back in 2007, this is what the AFCEA, a US military think-tank/lobby,  had to say about outsourcing:

Since the mid-1990s, intelligence outsourcing has increased 38 percent to reach $42 billion in 2005, with an estimate of 60,000 to 70,000 contracting personnel. According to multiple press accounts, more than $34 billion, or 70 percent of the intelligence community’s budget for fiscal year 2007, was spent on private contractors for tasks ranging from intelligence collection to dissemination. Media reports suggest that 60 percent of the Central Intelligence Agency is supported by contractors, and 70 percent of its counterintelligence field activities are as well.

Congress estimated that the government spent on average $126,500 annually to support a full-time intelligence civilian. At least $250,000 is necessary to support a core contractor with overhead fees. Many supporters of outsourcing argued that even though a core contractor costs substantially more than a full-time civilian, the total expenditure to pay for the civilian benefits and retirements far exceeds the short-term cost.

I doubt things have got any better under Obama. So you see, if your power-base really is the CIA (for example) and you’re not just at the Agency to further business interests somewhere else, then outsourcing is a big problem for you: you’re loosing control of the information flow and being bled dry in the process. The US intelligence community isn’t used to being on the receiving end of that type of deal!

How did the Intelligence Community find themselves in this position? The fall of the USSR didn’t help, but more than that, they fell victim to their own predation. It’s in their culture to exploit. If you hire people whose big talent is to manipulate events towards their own ends, guess what type of management you’ll end up with…
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James the Gnome

Managers like James Clapper, the current Director of National Intelligence, who took office in August 2010. Clapper is a man with many fingers in many pies. He’s worked as an intelligence contractor himself, according to the LA Times:
Four months after James R. Clapper left his federal job as head of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in June 2006, he joined the boards of three government contractors, two of which had been doing business with his agency while he was there.

It was not the only revolving door entered by Clapper, who is now President Obama’s nominee to be director of national intelligence.

In October 2006 he was hired full-time by DFI International, which was trying to boost its consulting with intelligence agencies. In April 2007, when he returned to public service as the chief of the Pentagon’s intelligence programs, DFI paid him a $50,000 bonus on his way out the door, according to his financial disclosure statement. Five months later, DFI landed a contract to advise Clapper’s Pentagon office, though company officials do not recall collecting any revenue from the deal.

And…

Clapper’s first private-sector stint came after he retired from the Air Force in 1995 as a lieutenant general. He worked for Booz Allen and SRA International, both major intelligence contractors. After the Sept. 11 attacks, he was tapped to lead the geospatial agency, which purchases satellite imagery from private firms and analyzes it for military and intelligence agencies.

Clapper left in June 2006 and joined two corporate boards — 3001, a mapping and surveying company whose main clients included the geospatial agency; and GeoEye, whose predecessor firm in 2004 had won a $500-million contract from the agency while Clapper was chief. Clapper also joined the advisory board of Sierra Nevada, an Air Force contractor.

Booz Allen Hamilton– ya’know like Snowden–  is part of the Carlyle Group, George Bush Senior’s old haunt and current employer of one of Bill Colby’s boys, Johnathan E. Colby. Check out Jonny’s corporate bio. Ken Delanian goes on:

Now, however, Clapper is poised to become intelligence chief at a time when Congress is asking questions about the explosive growth of private contracting in the $75-billion U.S. intelligence operation. With lawmakers calling on the Obama administration to reduce the outsourcing, a logical question is whether a veteran of the close alliance between government and contractors — Clapper strongly defended the practice in response to a lawmaker’s question about a Washington Post series last week — is best suited to bring that system to heel.

Was Clapper’s head in the game?

“I worked as a contractor for six years myself, so I think I have a good understanding of the contribution that they have made and will continue to make,” he said. “I think the issue is, what’s the magnitude? And most importantly … how do we ensure that we’re getting our money’s worth?”

While that attitude must have made his patrons happy, I guess it’s not what his new team wanted to hear, ’cause now Clapper’s got to deal with the Snowden mess…

But Clapper is more than just a ‘squirrel trying to get a nut’  in the outsourcing phenomenon; he helped lay the foundation.  Way back in the 1990s,  in what appears to be the Autumn/Winter 1993/94 American Intelligence Journal, Clapper showed himself to be an advocate of ‘rationalization’, which is the first step to outsourcing*. His article, titled Reorganization of DIA and Defense Intelligence Activities by Lieutenant General James R. Clapper, USAF, Director Defense Intelligence Agency, starts this way:

“Gentleman, we have no more money. Now we must think.”– Ernest Rutherford, British Physicist and Noble Prize Winner, 1871-1937

Rutherford used those words in the early 1890s while addressing a poorly-funded British Government committee assigned the task of determining the feasibility of splitting the atom. Little did Baron Rutherford of Nelson know at the time, but his insightful declaration would, in many ways, define the principal challenge the US defense intelligence community faces today, almost a century later.

Clapper, I’m sure it would warm the cockles of Lord Rutherford’s heart to know he gave voice to your concerns!

Clapper goes on to describe how he (and his staff) trimmed the fat in various intelligence activities:

As part of the DIA reorganization we sought to drive authority down the management chain to the lowest level, and shifted the agency’s previous analytic orientation from a regional to a functional basis.

The restructuring also cut supervisors by 169, or by approximately 30%, and reduced burdensome layering across the agency…

The article details more layoffs, restructurings, stream-linings, etc. which freed up military talent so that men like Clapper could rent it back to the government at twice the price later… a practice which Lord Rutherford’s generation first instituted back in Britannia. (Clapper does not draw out his historical reference to make that connection! A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, James.)

So you see, from an intelligence-lifer’s point of view, making Clapper DNI was putting a fox in charge of the hen-house. DNI is an Obama-appointed position, which tells us that the power behind the president has more to do with ‘Money That Likes the Use Intelligence’, rather than grisly ‘intelligence-lifers’, who are powerful only as information gatekeepers. This is the lifers’ ‘meme’, courtesy of Jonah Gale’s 2011 ‘Masters in Security‘ thesis at Georgetown Uni:

This thesis finds that intelligence outsourcing—while a useful tool—may be financially and structurally deleterious and undermines American constitutional governance when contractors are allowed to perform inherently governmental activities.

Mr. Gale has a bright career ahead of him. What that means to you and me is that the right people were being conditioned with this message as far back as 2011, while the actual ‘take down’ operation came two years later. Make sure everybody knows what to do when ‘it’ happens!

What does surprise me about the Snowden operation is that it appears intelligence gate-keepers’ interests are going to trump the money interests. Michael Woods, VP of Verizon Communications, made a statement on June 5th this year addressing the “inappropriateness” of outsourcing intelligence. Whatever Verizon’s real reasons for this request for distance, the message is clear: time to take eavesdropping in-house. Woods’ statement is one that the Senate Intelligence Committee decided to make prominent on their website.

However, intelligence-lifers’ victory isn’t complete: note that the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2014 pretty much puts a band-aid on the outsourcing problem. After all, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein’s own millions come from military contracts– she’s gonna put numero uno first, even if she has to give lip-service to the other team. (Feinstein’s vice-chair, Saxby Chambliss, was part of the post 9/11 intelligence inquiry which was supposed to pinpoint where spooks failed. Whatever Chambliss actually found, we ended up with an outsourcing bonanza. So guess which team he’s on.)

My guess is that Snowden himself knows what he’s doing, because in his NBC interview he made hints about ‘more regulation’ making PRISM-like programs safer; a view which is very naive.  Snowden’s not naive.

The ugly truth here is that the ‘lifer’ intelligence community’s answer to their outsourcing problem was to disgorge state secrets. I’m happy that these secrets came out; in an attempt to save their own butts these spooks actually did something good for the country. However, their intentions do matter: the lifers did a noble thing for small-minded, selfish reasons. They betrayed what they say is in the US’s best interests to protect their own power-base. That’s a Bill Colby-worthy move; somebody’s been taking notes these past 40 years.

If you needed more proof that these folks can’t be trusted with mass surveillance tools, you’ve got it right here. The intelligence community exists to further the interests of the intelligence community. We can do better.


* Clapper championed two ‘pinch points’ in the flow of intelligence also, 1) the National Military Joint Intelligence Center (NMJIC) which controls what ‘Combat Command’ hears from eight other intel gathering outfits, including the NSA and CIA and 2) the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System (JWICS) which tells every different military operation what they need to know when they need to know it… what Clapper ominously calls a “classified CNN”. Is that what you really wanted to say James?

Clapper's Intel Pinch Points, courtesy of this 1993 paper.

Clapper’s Intel Pinch Points, courtesy of this 1993 paper.

Yikes. Tell me those two creations aren’t ripe for exploitation.

Security Theater 3000

Greg Hoglund and his wife, Penny Leavy-Hoglund, say business at their HBGary security company has rebounded after the initial negative fallout from the widely publicized hacking episode in February. "In a weird sort of way, it has helped our business," Leavy-Hoglund said. Read more here: http://www.modbee.com/2011/08/21/1823958/hacked-cybersecurity-firm-hbgary.html#storylink=cpy

Greg Hoglund and his wife, Penny Leavy-Hoglund, say business at their HBGary security company has rebounded after the initial negative fallout from the widely publicized hacking episode in February. “In a weird sort of way, it has helped our business,” Leavy-Hoglund said.
Thank you, modbee.com

What follows is the incredible story of how, I believe, naive and unreliable Anonymous members were culled by the FBI and partner security firms through the creation and destruction of ‘LulzSec’. LulzSec was an Anonymous splinter group whose leader ‘Sabu’, real name Hector Xavier Monsegur, shopped his co-conspirators to the FBI allegedly after his arrest on June 7th 2011. I think Sabu’s FBI collaboration actually began a few weeks earlier.

This is important because, if I’m right, the ‘Sabu’ events suggest that elements in the FBI collaborated with influential private security companies to engineer the ‘LulzSec’ security threat and remake Anonymous in their own image.

Why would elements in the FBI and private securities firms want to control Anonymous? Anonymous is a loosely-organized hacker collective which has unclear goals. The only thing they reliably do is drum up business for security firms and provide political fodder for lawmakers itching to ‘crack down’ on the internet. If you make money from outsourcing security, Anonymous is good for you.

Our story begins when a handful of Anonymous members hacked HP Gary on Feb 7th 2011. The Anonymous hackers stole emails in retaliation for the actions of HP Gary partner and ex-Naval cryptographer Aaron Barr, who had contacted the Financial Times on Feb 5th claiming to know the real names of Anonymous members.  The article was phrased as a shout-out to the FBI. Barr said he had uncovered the names using social media like Facebook and LinkedIn. Barr also said that he had infiltrated Anonymous by pretending to be somebody else.

Anonymous members were outraged and released Aaron Barr’s ‘liberated’ emails publicly, to the great embarrassment of security firm HP Gary. Barr’s emails included his poorly-conceived research which (Anon members said) accused hundreds of innocent people of being part of Anonymous, a group which has committed criminal acts. This was the same research which Barr had summarized for the Financial Times.

Even worse for HP Gary was that Anonymous also exposed gross  security incompetence at the company, which was professionally devastating. HP Gary’s own security was so bad that Ars Technica featured a write-up of their “basic” mistakes. HP Gary’s ruling family, Greg Hogland and his wife Penny Leavy, were desperate to stop the rest of HP Gary’s email being released.

Penny Leavy was so desperate that she decided to contact Anonymous spokesman Barrett Brown and beg for the leakage to stop: she spoke with him on the phone first, then the conversation moved to an IRC online chat. (!?) Anonymous member ‘url’ copied the entire 5000 line chat for public viewing here. It’s a real-time recording of, reputedly, Anonymous trying to blackmail HP Gary into doing the ethical thing by the hundreds of people Barr falsely accused.

Penny Leavy, Greg Hoglund and Aaron Barr resisted doing the ethical thing at every turn, because admitting wrongdoing would poison their business relationship with the FBI. Aaron was scheduled to meet with the FBI the next morning (Feb 8th) *probably* to pitch HP Gary services based on the Anonymous data which he knew was grossly flawed.

Back to that long IRC blackmail chat… I’ve edited the 5000 chat lines down to the core conversation here. It’s about 1/3 of the original’s length. Greg Hogland, Penny Leavy, Aaron Barr take part, as well  as a small band of Anonymous members including ‘Sabu’ and ‘Barrett Brown’. Most important of all,  an unknown journalist called ‘Laurelai’ was also part of the blackmail chat.

‘Laurelai’ was part of the IRC chat from the very start, even though none of the Anonymous people seemed to know who ‘Laurelai’ was. ‘Laurelai’ claimed to work for the Anonymous/Wikileaks hybrid journalism project, Crowdleaks, though he/she was unfamiliar with how the Anonymous media machine works. Despite her ignorance of the situation,  ‘Laurelai’ somehow knew to be at that particular IRC chat for HB Gary information.  Was Laurelai’s presence a newbies’ astounding good luck, or something more sinister? Consider what happened next…

Four days after the blackmail chat, on Feb 11th,  ‘Laurelai’ leaked information which identified ‘Sabu’ to Backtrace Security, according to the firm. Backtrace is “a small security consulting firm with operations in Michigan and Florida that specializes in social engineering”, says Threatpost.com. Backtrace identified Sabu as Hector Xavier Monsegur themselves, then alerted the FBI to Sabu’s real name in mid-March 2011 when they made their findings public.

By April 2011, the FBI had worked out who Sabu was through their own independent methods. (‘Cause government employees can do it without private outsourcing! ;P)

I don’t believe that the FBI waited another two months to put pressure on Sabu. I believe that they wanted to look good with a fast win against Anonymous. I believe that FBI pressure on Sabu started sometime in April 2011.

But Sabu wasn’t arrested until June 7th! I don’t believe there’s anything magical about being arrested that suddenly makes it possible for the FBI to put pressure on somebody. The FBI is not known for gentlemanly– or even legal– tactics, and I refer you to CIA whistle-blower John Kiriakou’s open letter to Edward Snowden for proof. If you need more convincing, consider that even FBI fan-boy J. M. Berger admits the Bureau regularly breaks its own rules when targeting groups it doesn’t like.

I think that Sabu’s first mission for the FBI was to create LulzSec, an organization that was supposed to exist for 50 days, just long enough for everybody involved to do something illegal on record.

Lulzsec's 'seal of office'.

LulzSec’s ‘seal of office’.

If I’m correct about Sabu, the FBI and LulzSec, then ‘Laurelai’ is the key player who made the FBI’s plan possible, and knew when and where Penny Leavy was going to negotiate with her blackmailers. Penny didn’t start out on an IRC chat, she was on the phone with Barrett Brown when she then decided to continue the talk on IRC, enabling more Anonymous members to go ‘on record’. Penny said she had never used IRC before that chat. (IRC is a well-know way for Anonymous to communicate.) This IRC chat was NOT a spontaneous event; somebody told ‘Laurelai’ to be there and try to get info on Anonymous by posing as a journalist. ‘Cause everybody knows Anonymous are media whores! Just ask Palantir Technologies.

Laurelai would deliver the goods on Sabu in four days. ;)

 

Who is Laurelai?

Threatpost.com describes ‘Laurelai as ” Wesley Laurelai Bailey, a Davenport, Iowa based Anonymous member”. This is because ‘Laurelai’ appears to be a male-to-female transexual and transgendered rights activist, according to what I could find on the *very partial* Encyclopedia Dramatica and The Trans Advocate. ‘Laurelai’ has angered somebody, because ED accuses ‘Laurelai’ of violence against women and other very serious things that make ‘Laurelai’ seem unstable, like a person who it would be easy for the FBI to lean on. (BTW, Laurelai claims to be the one who ‘proved’ Stuxnet was NSA too… )

According to my old buddy Adrian Chen, Laurelai (again, seems to be the same one) cooperated completely with the FBI during their ‘investigation’ into Lulzsec:

Bailey says Lulz Security [LulzSec] hackers hold a grudge against her for leaking logs from the secret chat room in which they planned the HBGary hack—which she says she did in retaliation for them harassing some of her friends. (We later published an article based on the logs.) When the interview was over, the agents carted off a couple of her hard drives, her camera and other computer equipment.

Who are these friends of Laurelai? Jennifer Emick of Backtrace Security! The firm that first outed Sabu to the FBI!

Soon, [Jennifer] Emick found herself and some online acquaintances engaged in a pitched online turf war with members of Anonymous, with each side accusing the other of offenses including “trolling” (or online harassment) and “doxing” (or publicly outing) each other.

“You had these warring groups and, in the end, you find out that a lot of what happened was manufactured by other people, and you don’t know the truth behind it,” said Gregg Housh, a self-described Internet activist and early member of Anonymous who Emick believed was behind many of the online attacks against her.

But Emick‘s early involvement with the group had given her contacts that would later prove useful. Among them, Wesley Lauelai Bailey, a Davenport, Iowa based Anonymous member who uses the handle “Laurelai.” It was Bailey who would ultimately provide Emick with the information that would lead to Sabu‘s arrest.

BackTrace Security founder Jennifer Emick used to be an Anonymous member back when Anonymous was attacking the Church of Scientology. Emick and Anonymous have a history of feuding and Backtrace has gone after Wikileaks in the past:

Brown [Barrett Brown, Anonymous spokesman] claims that BackTrace was a group that was affiliated with th3j3st3r, an online activist best known for launching a denial of service attack on Wikileaks for its publication of leaked U.S. diplomatic cables. Brown said the individuals behind BackTrace are also behind the Anonymousdown Web site and Twitter accounts like @faketopiary and @fakegregghoush that have been publishing links that claim to out, or “dox,” Anonymous members in recent days. Brown said the group was also compiling information on him and his former acquaintances, including an “ex-girlfriend’s 16-year-old daughter” as part of their research on Anonymous.

So not only does Jennifer Emick work alongside the FBI, she actively antagonizes Anonymous. Security theater!

The information Sabu gave to the FBI helped them arrest people associated with Lulzsec, a splinter group, not Anonymous proper. LulzSec was set up by Sabu in May 2011, well after the FBI knew who he was. This matters, because if LulzSec actions had been conducted under Anonymous proper, Anonymous might now be as dead as LulzSec.

It’s as though the FBI was protecting Anonymous by telling Sabu to draw away an undesirable element, which was later neutralized. (We now know that there were probably two other FBI informers involved in LulzSec too.) Since LulzSec’s destruction, Anonymous has gone on to drum-up business for security companies and provide political fodder for internet-freedom quashing lawmakers, but in a safer-feeling way, according to the FBI in August 2013.

Creation of LulzSec: The FBI got a win against famous hackers; HP Gary and friends got a more manageable way to scare up business.

Interestingly, ex-intelligence pro Quinn Norton was Anonymous’ WIRED contact for two years which, judging by WIRED’s archives of her work, spanned October 2011 through July 2012. This is what her website says:

I was Wired‘s correspondent on Anonymous and the Occupy movement in 2011 & 2012. While I wrote dozens of articles, witnessed six evictions and several major hacks/Anonymous protest actions, two pieces hold a special place in my coverage:
My Inside Anonymous for July/2012 Wired Magazine
A Eulogy for Occupy,” Wired.com December/2012

Being involved with Anonymous in the 2011/2012 period specifically means something to the intelligence community. Consider that Sabu, a “Puerto Rican guy in the projects“, was ‘hacking’ for the Arab Spring in Tunisia circa December 2010… how ‘Global Village’!

But how much of a win was Lulzsec for the FBI? It was only a complete win for FBI brass who benefit from working with the private sector…

 

A Little Background

The creation of LulzSec came at the perfect time for companies like HP Gary,  Palantir Technologies, Berico Technologies and their lawyer buddies Hunton & William. There was discontent in Congress about how private security firms were being used to gather dirt on critics of powerful institutions, like the US Chamber of Congress. Aaron Barr’s unethical behavior spurred a dozen congressmen to call for an inquiry a few weeks after the Anonymous email leaks on March 1st:

The plan, which called for drawing up detailed social networks of progressive critics and sought to launch malware hacks against progressive organizations, was ostensibly created by data security firm HBGary Federal.

It was revealed when protest group “Anonymous” compromised the company’s network and dumped tens of thousands of their emails onto the public Internet.

Amid the emails, details began to emerge about a shadowy world of defense contractors, where social media could be used to manipulate public opinion and bloggers are handled as mortal enemies.

HBGary Federal was just one group allegedly at work on projects related to these efforts. Together with Berico Technologies and Palantir Technologies, the entire group was called “Team Themis.” They were compiling the plans as something of a sales pitch for the Chamber’s law firm, Hunton & William.

‘Team Themis’ is what Hunton & William pitched to Bank of America, with special emphasis on pressuring Glenn Greenwald to drop his Wikileaks support. Attempting to pressure Glenn is what actually brought HP Gary down, I wrote about that in my post Deconfliction.

In a nutshell, ‘Team Themis’ were desperate to show that they’re the good guys, and LulzSec suddenly appeared to fill the void with a 50-day “reign of terror” (Thanks, Adrian!); an evil reign, during which hackers were “Laughing at your security since 2011!” and attacking the CIA, the US Senate and even an FBI affiliate… Note how the NSA and it’s legion of contractors are suspiciously absent.

Team Themis would probably have got away with it too, if it weren’t for that pesky kid from the CIA Salon magazine. Which brings me to another point…

There’s one more worrisome issue that needs airing: in this post-Snowden world, we now know that the NSA/CIA/FBI work directly with companies like Facebook to map social networks, so its unlikely that Aaron Barr was going to give the Feds anything they didn’t have already.  Was the whole HP Gary fiasco a fake conflict for fake stakes?

Was LulzSec’s ‘reign of terror’ just security theater, designed to justify outsourcing intelligence work to private companies, companies which are unpopular in Washington because they undermine *some* real spooks’ job security? How often over the past year have you heard full-time government spooks bitch about the problems with outsourcing? Hmm.

Was it full-salary spooks’ fear of being displaced by contractors that made Snowden’s leaks happen, I wonder? (That one’s for you, E. Oop. ;) )

Maybe this generation’s epic intelligence in-fight is between those who profit from government outsourcing and those who profit from keeping intelligence in-house… because if it’s all about money, that explains how Gawker.com can hate  1) Snowden AND 2) conservative intelligence pros AND 3) people who out David Horowitz’s CIA work.

 

Let’s Not Forget Penny and Greg

ON THE SUBJECT OF MONEY…

To understand why the USA is the way it is, you need to know something about a nasty subset of the population who make money as government contractors. Don’t get me wrong, there can be decent people who work for the Feds, but it’s a line of business that also attracts some really ugly characters.

Many of the ugly ones are two-bit millionaires who exploit connections with the military, or some other vast bureaucracy, to enrich themselves. These are the littler guys who make money off war, social crises and fear; they are modern-day carpetbaggers.

Penny Leavy and Greg Hoglund are two such carpetbaggers. Incompetent but well-connected, they’ve scraped together a small fortune from prostituted security clearances and those in Washington who are willing to outsource government functions.

From my experience, what unites these carpetbaggers is their lack of ethics or concern for how their actions affect fellow citizens. They’re mindlessly loyal to whichever bureaucracy happens to be paying them at the moment, consequences be damned. If pressed, they’re good at logical contortions in support of their greed: somehow they’re never the bad guys in their own mind. Don’t believe me? Read Penny’s IRC chat.

That IRC chat shows how Penny Leavy et alia try to wriggle out of an embarrassing situation.

The IRC chat also explains why Palantir Technologies’ sales pitch to Bank of America focused on Glenn Greenwald and other media pros. The IRC blackmail chat shows that Anonymous’s only plan was to drum-up media exposure; they can’t agree on what they actually want from HP Gary.

Anonymous participants relied on these journalists (amongst others): Glenn Greenwald, Andy Greenberg (Forbes’ contact with Julian Assange), Parmy Olson (Forbes’ contact with Anonymous). Anonymous also counted heavily on CNN for media exposure– they had five different contacts there! Given that Anonymous member ‘+cOs’ claims to have given over 50 interviews to news outlets like The Guardian, NYT, AOLNews, CBS, and that Anonymous member ‘Baas’ rolls with ‘Swedish media’, it’s easy to understand why CIA-private-partnership Palantir Technologies would create a set of slides on Glenn Greenwald like the ones I wrote about in my previous post.

Back in 2011, Anonymous pundits had an awful lot of media-establishment friends who were willing to give the ‘hackers’ what they wanted: an audience. HP Gary understood those media connections and thought they could ride people like Glenn Greenwald to lifetime employment. Peeing on Glenn’s shoes  is what ultimately brought HP Gary down a few months later and  *interrupted* the gravy-train for Penny and Greg– but they’re already back in the saddle! (Check out that link. If you put your cursor over the Hoglunds’ headshots the pictures swizzle. That’s carpetbagger for ‘classy’!)

Washington D.C. may be evil, but it’s also entertaining…

 

PS. To my buddy, Hubri5: Paul Roberts isn’t talking about you in this ThreatPost.com article, is he?

In an interview with Forbes.com, a spokesman for BackTrace, who used the name Hubris, said the group “aims to put an end to Anonymous ‘in its current form.’” According to the article, BackTrace’s members have become disenchanted with Anonymous’s more strident, political activism – a change from the group’s roots as an anarchic prank-oriented collective whose biggest target had been the Florida based Church of Scientology. “Anonymous has never been about revolutions. It’s not about the betterment of mankind. It’s the Internet hate machine, or that’s what it’s supposed to be,” Hubris is quoted as saying.

How did you get to be wound up with Backtrace Security and this mess?! ‘Cause, I gotta say, Backtrace smells really bad…

Deconfliction

The first time I heard the phrase ‘deconfliction team‘ was when it came out that the NSA was using online gaming forums, like those of the World of Warcraft (WoW), to identify people who hold anti-government views.

Somewhere in Maryland, circa 1989...

Somewhere in Maryland, circa 1989…

Apparently, the NSA has so many gamers trolling WoW, that they need an oversight team to make sure that none of the different operations interfere with each other. That oversight group is called a ‘deconfliction team’.

My post today is about what happens when deconfliction teams fail. In 2011, one such disaster occurred when Palantir Technologies collided with Glenn Greenwald.

Palantir Technologies was founded by Peter Thiel, the millionaire Facebook investor and ex-PayPal CEO whose homosexuality was forcibly outed by Nick Denton’s Gawker.com. Palantir got its start-up money from Thiel’s firm, Founders Fund, as well as the CIA’s private technology investment firm In-Q-Tel. Unsurprisingly,  Palantir’s main business is data collection and analysis for the US Intelligence Community.

What that means, readers, is that Palantir does the heavy data lifting for US Intelligence clients. Palantir knows the spying methods, but not necessarily the overarching spying strategy or anything else about intelligence operations that Palantir was not hired to help with. Palantir ‘needs to know’ very little.

So… way back  in 2011, Palantir was at best on the peripheral edge of a deconfliction team’s radar.  Couple that with Palantir’s red-blooded hunger for profit anywhere, anyhow, and you have the perfect deconfliction storm.

Everything went pear-shaped the day Wikileaks claimed to have stolen data from one of Bank of America’s executives. The data was said to contain embarrassing and incriminating information on BoA. (Subsequent developments cast a lot of doubt over the meaning of this data ; it also seems that part of this data was deleted the following August by ex-Wikileaker Daniel Domsheit-Berg, whose theatrical behavior aggravated tensions amongst Wikileaks members. )

BoA responded by trying to get a jump on the Wikileaks hackers: they hired a flashy lawyer (Hunton and Williams), who in turn tried to peddle the services of Palantir Technologies/ HB Gary/Berico Technologies. According to The Tech Herald:

Palantir would take care of network and insider threat investigations. For their part, Berico Technologies and HBGary Federal would analyze WikiLeaks.

This is where the fireworks really start, because Palantir put together a presentation on how they would “take care of”  the insider threat, which involved targeting Glenn Greenwald in particular. Let me stress that Palantir called out Glenn Greenwald by name as a fair-weather friend of Wikileaks. Here’s a slide from Palantir’s presentation to BoA:

HBGary_Greenwald_PalantirThe start of a tradition in leaked slide shows? :)

Depending on who you ask, Palantir’s proposal was either released to Crowdleaks.org or hacked free by Anonymous, and the whole ugly mess came out. HP Gary took the fall for Palantir, Berico and the lawyers: HP Gary was split in half, one half folded, the other got bought my Man Tech International.

How did Glenn Greenwald respond to the knowledge that the CIA’s data-intelligence Death Star had been trained on his chest? Glenn found it all hard to take seriously”. You’re one cool customer, Glenn!

And did Palantir Technologies take the usual corporate route: clam up and call a crack team of lawyers? No. Palantir co-founder Alex Karp made a special, personal statement to Glenn apologizing for Palantir’s behavior and severing profitable contacts with HP Gary.

Palantir’s plot targeted other journalists too, even though Karp didn’t feel it necessary to make special apology statements to them: James Ball (The Guardian), Jennifer 8. Lee (The New York Times), Daniel Mathews (The Telegraph, Forbes, The Times). Notice any employment patterns in this list?

What I believe happened with Palantir/Greenwald is the mother of all ‘deconfliction’ FUBARs. Fortunately for Langley, the mainstream media is so complicit that nobody ‘credible’ dug too deeply.

Things start to smell even worse when you look into the background of HP Gary, the fall-guy-company. HP Gary was a data analysis firm which focused on serving the US Federal Government (through its offices in Bethesda, MD and Washington D.C.) The firm was started by Greg Hoglund, a regular Black Hat presenter, whose hobby was exploring the World of Warcraft online network. In 2005, he wrote about Blizzard’s WoW spy program, ‘The Warden’, which monitored data on gamers’ PCs: everything from emails sent to programs executed. What Blizzard was doing is similar to what the NSA can do through ‘backdoors’ in software. Back in 2005, the Electronic Freedom Foundation thought Hoglund was pretty cool.

One week before the ‘Targeting of Greenwald’ broke (and one day after Arron Barr, an HP Gary colleague who published data on Anonymous members in the FT), HP Gary was attacked by Anonymous so ferociously that Hoglund’s wife Penny had to call Anonymous and beg them stop. Hi. This is Mrs. Hoglund. Yes. I guess there’s been some trouble at school… I laugh, but Mrs. Hoglund’s outreach worked.

So, readers, Greg Hoglund was an expert on the World of Warcraft networks who was willing to work with CIA buddies. We learned later, of course, that the NSA was using WoW networks to watch possible future ‘terrorists’. Perhaps professional game trolling was Hoglund’s gig after HP Gary folded?

What about Glenn? Like any good media operative, he set about using this opportunity to his advantage, honing the same righteous indignation and factual casualness that would make him famous two years later after the Snowden Leaks:

Given my involvement in this story, I’m going to defer to others in terms of the reporting.  But — given the players involved and the facts that continue to emerge — this story is far too significant to allow to die due to lack of attention.  Many of the named targets are actively considering commencing civil proceedings (which would entail compulsory discovery) as well as ethical grievances with the relevant Bar associations.  As the episode with Palantir demonstrates, simply relying on the voluntary statements of the corporations involved ensures that the actual facts will remain concealed if not actively distorted.  The DOJ ought to investigate this as well, but for reasons I detailed on Friday, that is unlikely in the extreme.  Entities of this type routinely engage in conduct like this with impunity, and the serendipity that led to their exposure in this case should be seized to impose some accountability.  That this was discovered through a random email hack — and that these firms felt so free to propose these schemes in writing and, at least from what is known, not a single person raised any objection at all — underscores how common this behavior is.

This rant came on February 15th 2011, four days after Glenn got his personal apology from Alex Karp– so when Glenn wrote that screed he knew he was safe and smelt blood in the water. Fast forward a few years: Glenn’s now working for the guy who owns Thiel’s ex-employer, PayPal. Small world.

Given that part of Palantir’s strategy was to feed weak-minded journalists false information to discredit them, I’m not surprised that Glenn ignored Snowden’s emails for so long before Laura Poitras lead him by the nose back to Cinncinatus@lavabit@CryptoPartyWiki.

Palantir Greenwald Technique

Find slides at The Tech Herald.

Consider Daniel Domscheit-Berg’s antics around the Bank of America information in light of point one on that slide. Bank of America is one of the major US banks, which have a long history of cooperating with US intelligence. I’ve heard these financial institutions described as “revolving doors” for organizations like the CIA, Citibank being the most notorious.

Veteran Tor watchers will note that Palantir thought Wikileaks’ servers’ position in Sweden made them more vulnerable… not surprising, seeing as the Swedes are partners to the US Department of Defense’s Tor Project.

Wrap Up: Edward Snowden, operator of one of the largest Tor exit nodes, chose Glenn Greenwald, the guy CIA-partner Palantir won’t touch, to ‘out’ his trove of leaks. A trove of leaks that you’ll never read.

You know, it’s weird, but I don’t think Ed’s cute anymore.