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3:43 AM 12/20/2020 – Audio Post: “Intelligence Failure” – One of the many, I stopped counting

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3:43 AM 12/20/2020 – “Intelligence Failure” – One of the many; I stopped counting them a long time ago. What is wrong with the American Intelligence Services? Why do all these bad things keep happening to America?! – M.N.

Intelligence failure – StarTribune.com

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Washington – Over the past few years, the U.S. government has spent tens of billions of dollars on cyberoffensive abilities, building a giant war room at Fort Meade, Md., for U.S. Cyber Command, while installing defensive sensors all around the country — a system named Einstein to give it an air of genius — to deter the nation’s enemies from picking its networks clean, again.

It now is clear that the broad Russian espionage attack on the U.S. government and private companies, underway since spring and detected by the private sector only a few weeks ago, ranks among the greatest intelligence failures of modern times.

Einstein missed it — because the Russian hackers brilliantly designed their attack to avoid setting it off. The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security were looking elsewhere, understandably focused on protecting the 2020 election.

The new U.S. strategy of “defend forward” — essentially, putting American “beacons” into the networks of its adversaries to warn of oncoming attacks and provide a platform for counterstrikes — provided little to no deterrence for the Russians, who have upped their game significantly since the 1990s, when they launched an attack on the Defense Department called Moonlight Maze.

Over the past few days, the FBI, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence formed an urgent response group, the Cyber Unified Coordination Group, to coordinate the government’s responses to what the agencies called a “significant and ongoing cybersecurity campaign.”

At the very moment in September that Russian President Vladimir Putin was urging a truce in the “large-scale confrontation in the digital sphere,” where the most damaging new day-to-day conflict is taking place, one of his premier intelligence agencies had pulled off a sophisticated attack that involved getting into the long, complex software supply chain on which the entire nation now depends.

“Stunning,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., wrote Tuesday night. “Today’s classified briefing on Russia’s cyberattack left me deeply alarmed, in fact downright scared. Americans deserve to know what’s going on.”

He called for the government to declassify what it knows and what it does not.

Briefings on the intrusion, including to members of Congress, have discussed the extent of the Russian penetration but have not outlined what information was stolen — or whether the access the hackers gained might allow them to conduct destructive attacks or change data inside government systems, a fear that looms above mere spying.

Investigators have not discovered breaches into any classified systems, only unclassified systems connected to the internet. Still, the intrusion seems to be one of the biggest ever, with the amount of information put at risk dwarfing other network intrusions.

On Wednesday morning, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., called the Russian cyberattack “virtually a declaration of war.” All nations spy on one another, and the United States uses cyberinfiltration to steal secrets as well. But disparate Russian intelligence units have, in previous attacks, used similar access to shut systems down, destroy data and, in the case of Ukraine, shut off power.

The Russians have denied any involvement. The Russian ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, said there were “unfounded attempts by the U.S. media to blame Russia” for the recent cyberattacks, in a discussion hosted by Georgetown University on Wednesday.

Until Saturday, President Donald Trump had said nothing, perhaps aware that his term in office is coming to an end just as it began, with questions about what he knew about Russian cyberoperations and when. The National Security Agency has been largely silent, hiding behind the classification of the intelligence. Even the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the group within the Department of Homeland Security charged with defending critical networks, has been conspicuously quiet on the Russian mega hack.

Blumenthal’s message on Twitter was the first official acknowledgment that Russia was behind the intrusion.

Trump administration officials have acknowledged that several federal agencies — the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, parts of the Pentagon as well as the Treasury and the Department of Commerce — had been compromised in the Russian hacking. But investigators are still struggling to determine the extent to which the military, intelligence community and nuclear laboratories were affected.

Inside banks and Fortune 500 companies, executives are also trying to understand the impact of the breach. Many use the network management tool that the hackers quietly bored into, which is called Orion and made by Austin, Texas-based company SolarWinds. Los Alamos National Laboratory, where nuclear weapons are designed, also uses it, as do major military contractors.

“How is this not a massive intelligence failure, particularly since we were supposedly all over Russian threat actors ahead of the election?” Robert Knake, a senior Obama administration cybersecurity official, asked on Twitter.

The intrusion, said the person briefed on the matter, shows that the weak point for the American government computer networks remains administrative systems, particularly ones that have a number of private companies working under contract. The Russian spies found that by gaining access to these peripheral systems, they could make their way into more central parts of the government networks.

SolarWinds was a ripe target, former employees and advisers say, not only for the breadth and depth of its software, but for its own dubious security precautions.

Reuters earlier reported that a researcher informed the company last year that he had uncovered the password to SolarWinds’ update mechanism — the vehicle through which 18,000 of its customers were compromised. The password was “solarwinds123.”

Even if the Russians did not breach classified systems, there is a lot of highly sensitive data in places that do not have layers of classification. That was the lesson of the Chinese hacking of the Office of Personnel Management five years ago, during the Obama administration, when the security-clearance files on 22.5 million Americans, and 5.6 million sets of fingerprints, were being stored on lightly protected computer systems in, of all places, the Department of the Interior.

They are now all in Beijing.

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New billboard in downtown Phoenix shows President Trump in prison jumpsuit behind bars | Arizona News

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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – There’s a new billboard in downtown that shows where anti-Trumpers hope President Donald Trump ends up after leaving the White House.

The billboard features Trump in an orange prison jumpsuit with behind bars. He has a name tag that reads, “Don the Con.” There are also mushroom clouds behind him with swastika-like dollar signs next to him. The billboard is on Grand Avenue near 11th Avenue.

 

Just below the picture of Trump is a digital crawl that says “TRUMP DEATH CLOCK” and then gives the number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., which is more than 311,000 as of Thursday night. It also says people should wear a mask.

This new billboard comes after a similar billboard stood there for about three years. It had Trump in a regular suit with the same mushroom clouds and the dollar signs that looked like swastikas. That billboard was created and paid for by Los Angeles-based artist Karen Fiorito.

 


Copyright 2020 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

How Huntington and Fukuyama got the 21st century wrong | Opinions News | Al Jazeera

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What is going on in the 21st-century world of international politics? With very few exceptions, national elections are revealing degrees of partisanship and ideological polarisation among voters never seen before. It seems not to be a rare occurrence these days that the losers are either claiming that they are actually the winners or that the results have been rigged by their opponents and can therefore be disregarded.

This is the farcical game outgoing President Donald Trump is currently playing in the United States, despite there being little or no evidence that President-elect Joe Biden and the Democratic party committed the widespread electoral fraud he wildly accuses them of. As Republican Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland has openly lamented, today the US risks being seen as a “banana republic” rather than as the leader of the democratic world.

Despite this, hordes of Republican supporters continue to rally behind the anti-democratic narrative that President Trump continually tweets. As one newspaper article pointed out, the “United” States has become the “Divided” States of America.

If the recent examples of Belarus and Myanmar are anything to go by as well, it would seem that opposition parties have little faith in the mechanism of democratic elections reconciling alienating differences or bringing citizens closer together. Creating divisiveness seems to be the order of the day, even in established democratic countries.

In India, the largest democracy in the world, for example, Prime Minister Narendra Modi secured a second term for his BJP government in 2019 with a campaign that demonised the Muslim minority as enemies. “Divider-in-Chief” was how Time magazine labelled him on one of its front covers.

Everywhere, the volatility of public opinion has confounded the pollsters and seen political scientists searching for explanations.

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None of these developments was foreseen by two of the most prominent political scientists – Francis Fukuyama or Samuel P Huntington – in their respective grand theories of how the 21st century would unfold.

Following the ending of the Cold War, Fukuyama confidently predicted in an article titled, The End of History – and later in a book that liberal democracy would sweep through the world as the ultimate form of human government. In his view, the collapse of the Soviet Union meant that communism had failed as the obvious alternative, and political Islam as a political system was never likely to draw more than minority support.

Accordingly, the 21st century would experience, under America’s custodial guidance, the installation of a new world order based on a single global system of democracy, individualism, and free markets.

Although he drew on the same turn of events, the post-cold war world that Huntington conjured up in 1993 was very different. In his Foreign Affairs article titled, The Clash of Civilizations, he argued that international relations would be characterised not by consensus about liberal democracy, but by conflict between entire civilisations, particularly between Islam and the West. Huntington contended that substantial differences in culture and religion would propel the 21st century in the direction of inter-civilisational war. The fault lines between civilisations would specifically become the “battle lines of the future”.

As 2020 draws to an end, however, neither of these grand theories seems to be playing out the way their authors anticipated.

 

As early as 2006, when American forces were beginning to get bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq, Fukuyama conceded that “liberal democracy” could not be imposed on people without their consent. By 2020, he was not even sure that “liberal democracy” existed in the US any more. For under Trump, he maintained, the US had become the epitome of “kakistocracy”, a government of the “worst”, not the best kind.

At a first glance, Huntington’s “clash of civilisations” theory may have been looked more successful. The 9/11 tragedy, the recurrent deadly lone-wolf attacks on non-Muslim targets, the ISIL’s (ISIS’s) proclamation of a new caliphate, and the “fault-line” tensions about the hijab and status of Muslim women in Western countries may lead some to think that there is indeed a major clash between the Islamic world and the West. In fact, even though Huntington died in 2008, his thesis has remained the standard reference point for thinking about the future direction of international relations and in just the past two years, it was cited more than 35,000 times on Google Scholar.

But a growing number of scholars (more accurate to say ‘the vast majority of scholars’. When thesis first came out it was roundly derided. It still is though less vehemently.) are simply not convinced that these happenings presage the kind of culturally-based religious conflict that Huntington foresaw breaking out on a cataclysmic. What collectively they take issue with is the reductionist basis of Huntington’s whole thesis. They part company with him over his key assumptions that Islam and the West constitute monolithic civilizations, that differences of religious culture will put them on a direct war footing, and that all Muslims will come to embrace the world order advanced by fundamentalist Islam. Niall Ferguson appears to be the only one prepared to countenance that Huntington’s prophecy could become “a real winner”.

Intra-civilisational fissures have undermined not only Fukuyama’s world system of liberal democracy, but also the cohesiveness of Huntington’s civilisational blocs. The erosion of the very hallmarks of American world order, such as open debate, the rule of law, and accountable government, have gradually devalued the currency of Western democracy, while bitter sectarian conflicts have set back any immediate prospect of a Muslim anti-West coalition forming.

What has arguably overtaken the envisaged ascendancy of “liberal democracy” and the placing of entire civilisations on a war footing has been the globalisation of neoliberal ideology and its concomitant by-product of populist reaction.

Neoliberalism, which nearly all capitalist societies have embraced since the 1980s, has verifiably resulted in the inequitable distribution of national wealth to the few who effectively exercise power and benefit most from the policies they promote. That the large majority of people acquiesces to a situation that ostensibly disadvantages them is due to the pervasiveness of neoliberal ideology and the difficulty of effectively questioning the global system it sustains.

Enter populism, a phenomenon that is changing political landscapes throughout the world, though in different ways. In the West, populism manifests itself as a groundswell of right-wing disaffection with liberal democratic governments and corrupt ruling establishments. Populism of this kind is driven by narratives that identify metropolitan elites and multinational outsiders as virtual enemies of the state.

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In South Asia, populism has fed into top-down discourses that identify religious minorities as anti-national impediments to unity and development. In both Modi’s India and Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka, Muslims have been instrumentally targeted to garner populist support for policies that blunt opposition to their regimes and weaken constitutional checks on their use of power.

In Muslim Pakistan and Bangladesh, the omnipresence of India in their neighbourhood has always fed into populist narratives about the Hindu other and the role their respective armies play as the symbolic bulwarks of Islam.

While Huntington has been credited with incorporating a populist dimension into his “clash of civilization” thesis, he did not foresee that the trajectory populism might take would just as likely foment intra-state tensions as heighten inter-civilisational antagonisms.

A decided turn towards authoritarianism, to offset popular dissent, is arguably becoming a defining feature of politics in Asia, the Middle East, and South America, and indeed in the democratic West, as well.  A political scientist looking into the crystal ball today might well project the remainder of the 21st century not in terms of looming civilisational war, but of increasing civil unrest.

The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.


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7:04 AM 12/19/2020 – Investigate Trump and Trumpism in depth, including its very possible German Fascist and Abwehr roots!

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 MAGA! 

Put the Trump Criminal Family in prison, and ASAP! 

Investigate Trump and Trumpism in depth, including its very possible German Fascist and Abwehr roots! 

Investigate the GOP, the FBI, the CIA and other related structures for their roles in creating and bringing to power the historical monstrosity and aberration of Trumpism. 

I suspect strongly that Trump is the Very Special Agent of the FBI. 

Investigate the Invesdtigators! 

MAGA! 

Michael Novakhov 

7:04 AM 12/19/2020

SolarWinds hackers broke into U.S. cable firm and Arizona county, web records show

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LONDON (Reuters) – Suspected Russian hackers accessed the systems of a U.S. internet provider and a county government in Arizona as part of a sprawling cyber-espionage campaign disclosed this week, according to an analysis of publicly-available web records.

The hack, which hijacked ubiquitous network management software made by SolarWinds Corp to compromise a raft of U.S. government agencies and was first reported by Reuters, is one of the biggest ever uncovered and has sent security teams around the world scrambling to contain the damage.

The intrusions into networks at Cox Communications and the local government in Pima County, Arizona, show that alongside victims including the U.S. departments of Defence, State, and Homeland Security, the hackers also spied on less high-profile organisations.

A spokesman for Cox Communications said the company was working “around the clock” with the help of outside security experts to investigate any consequences of the SolarWinds compromise. “The security of the services we provide is a top priority,” he said.

In emailed comments sent to Reuters, Pima County Chief Information Officer Dan Hunt said his team had followed U.S. government advice to immediately take SolarWinds software offline after the hack was discovered. He said investigators had not found any evidence of a further breach.

Reuters identified the victims by running a coding script released on Friday here by researchers at Moscow-based cybersecurity firm Kaspersky to decrypt online web records left behind by the attackers.

The type of web record, known as a CNAME, includes an encoded unique identifier for each victim and shows which of the thousands of “backdoors” available to them the hackers chose to open, said Kaspersky researcher Igor Kuznetsov.

“Most of the time these backdoors are just sleeping,” he said. “But this is when the real hack begins.”

The CNAME records relating to Cox Communications and Pima County were included in a list of technical information published here by U.S. cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc, which was the first victim to discover and reveal it had been hacked.

John Bambenek, a security researcher and president of Bambenek Consulting, said he had also used the Kaspersky tool to decode the CNAME records published by FireEye and found they connected to Cox Communications and Pima County.

The records show that the backdoors at Cox Communications and Pima County were activated in June and July this year, the peak of the hacking activity so far identified by investigators.

It is not clear what, if any, information was compromised.

SolarWinds, which disclosed its unwitting role at the centre of the global hack on Monday, has said that up to 18,000 users of its Orion software downloaded a compromised update containing malicious code planted by the attackers.

As the fallout continued to roil Washington on Thursday, with a breach confirmed at the U.S. Energy Department, U.S. officials warned that the hackers had used other attack methods and urged organisations not to assume they were protected if they didn’t use recent versions of the SolarWinds software.

Microsoft, which was one of the thousands of companies to receive the malicious update, said it had currently notified more than 40 customers whose networks were further infiltrated by the hackers.

Around 30 of those customers were in the United States, it said, with the remaining victims found in Canada, Mexico, Belgium, Spain, Britain, Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Most worked information technology companies, as well as some think tanks and government organisations.

“It’s certain that the number and location of victims will keep growing,” Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a blog post here.

“The installation of this malware created an opportunity for the attackers to follow up and pick and choose from among these customers the organizations they wanted to further attack, which it appears they did in a narrower and more focused fashion.”

Reporting by Jack Stubbs; Editing by Chris Sanders and Edward Tobin

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When Russian Jews tried to steal a plane to reach Israel

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In Hanukkah 1970, a group of Jews from the Soviet Union stood trial after they attempted to hijack an Antonov AN-2 aircraft to take them across the border to Sweden, from where they intended to go to Israel.

The KGB, which had been aware of their intentions, was waiting to arrest the group and charge them with treason.

02:54/22:31Weekly Review – Dec. 18, 2020

Sylva Zalmanson was raised in Riga in a Jewish family. At 20, she became an activist in the Zionist cause, disseminating Hebrew language study books to Jewish communities around the country, listening to Israel Radio broadcasts in Russian and other such activities the authorities described as crimes.

Zalmanson twice requested to be allowed to leave for Israel and was rejected both times. “You will rot here and never see your Israel,” she was told.

Her husband, Eduard Kuznetsov, born in 1939, was a native of Moscow and despite his communist upbringing began voicing anti-regime opinions at a young age.

He was a professional wrestler, studied philosophy at university and joined the Soviet Army in the hope that he would be stationed abroad and would be able to escape his country, but ended up being posted in Moscow.

He was arrested at the age of 22 after editing an underground anti-Soviet newspaper and was sentenced to seven years in a gulag. After his release he was forced out of Moscow and settled in Riga where he heard some Jews there were given visas to leave.

He and Zalmanson met in a Zionist underground cell, fell in love and married.

One month after they were married, another activist suggested a plan that would later be called “Operation Wedding.”

The idea was to organize Jewish families who wanted to immigrate to Israel to all buy tickets on the same flight posing as guests in a wedding party. They intended to force the pilots out of the aircraft, providing them with sleeping bags to protect them from the cold, so that one of their number, trained aviator Mark Dymshits, could fly them to Sweden.

Zalmanson, her new husband and her two brothers were among the dozen members of the group.

They knew they could be shot or if they were fortunate merely arrested, but were hoping for a miracle. They also hoped public opinion and pressure from Jews all over the world would bring about their eventual release.

An informant told the KGB of the plan and they were all under surveillance. Despite an obvious KGB tail, they made their way to the airfield where they were arrested.

“We knew we had begun our journey to Israel,” Zalmanson says of those days. “Though it may have taken years to get there.”

On December 15, 1970, the Leningrad trial began. Zalmanson, the only woman in the group, was first to take the stand.

“If you had not deprived us of our basic right to leave the Soviet Union, we would have simply purchased an airline ticket to Israel,” Zalmanson told the court.

“Even now in this dock I believe the day will come that I will be in Israel. A faith that has lasted 2,000 years is giving me my hope.” She then recited the words of the famous Psalm 137: “If I forget thee o Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill.”

Those words reverberated around the world, making her a symbol of the struggle of Soviet Jewry in the early 1970s.

When the verdict was read on December 24, most in the group received a sentence of four to 15 years in prison.

Zalmanson was sentenced to 10 years but her husband Eduard and Dymshits were both sentenced to death.

The harsh sentences shook the world and hundreds of thousands took to the streets in capitals all over Europe and in Washington, demanding “Let my people go.”

World leaders appealed to then Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev to commute the death sentences of Jews who simply wanted to leave for Israel but were prevented by the regime.

The international pressure worked, and on December 31 the death sentences were commuted and the two men were sentenced to 15 years in prison.

During his incarceration, Kuznetsov wrote two books which he managed to smuggle out. They were published and translated into several languages.

Zalmanson served her time at Potma women’s penal colony, where she was kept in solitary confinement for six months after hitting a fellow prisoner who had made anti-Semitic comments.

During the time the group’s imprisonment and as a result of the diplomatic pressure put on the Soviet authorities, 245,000 Jews were granted visas to leave. This was a dramatic increase, after only 3,000 Jews were allowed to leave in the 1960s.

To her surprise, Zalmanson was released just four years after she was convicted. It was only 20 years later that she found out why – Israel had agreed to hand over Soviet spy Yuri Linov in exchange for her freedom.

The Soviet authorities wanted to claim she was being released on humanitarian grounds and urged her to ask for a pardon. But she refused, saying she would never ask them for anything.

They had no choice but to let her out but she demanded to see her husband and brothers first.

After spending five days with Kuznetsov, she left for Israel where she was greeted by a welcoming crowd at the airport.

Zalmanson spent years fighting for her family and the rest of the group’s freedom. She went on a 16-day hunger strike outside the UN headquarters in New York, refusing to eat to the point of losing consciousness.

Nine years after they were sentenced, Kuznetsov and the rest were set free in another spy swap agreed between the U.S. and the Soviets. In April 1979, they arrived in New York where Zalmanson was waiting, and from there flew to Israel.

Just 10 months later, Zalmanson and Kuznetsov welcomed a daughter, Anat. Today she is a filmmaker documenting her family’s momentous past.

“I made my film after realizing that the story had only been told from a Soviet perspective and my parents and their friends were labeled as terrorists,” Anat said.

“My parents risked their lives and their freedom to leave the Soviet Union and immigrate to Israel,” Anat said. “All I that is left for me is to tell their story.”

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В “Ростелекоме” оценили затраты хакеров на кибератаки

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Стоимость кибератак на государственную информационную инфраструктуру составляет 1,5 миллиона долларов, рассказал в интервью РИА Новости вице-президент “Ростелекома” по информационной безопасности Игорь Ляпунов.

Technical Difficulties of Contact Tracing 


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