- You have to hand it to congressional Democrats. Mendacious
grifters whose national security agenda is virtually indistinguishable
from Bushist Republicans, when it comes to rearranging proverbial deck
chairs on the Titanic, the party of "change" is second to none
in the "all terrorism all the time" department.
- While promising to restore the "rule of law,"
"protect civil liberties" while "keeping America safe,"
in practice, congressional Democrats like well-coiffed Republican clones
across the aisle, are crafting legislation that would do Dick Cheney proud!
- As the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 (<http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-s773/text>S.773)
wends its way through Congress, civil liberties' advocates are decrying
provisions that would hand the President unlimited power to disconnect
private-sector computers from the internet.
- CNET reported August 28, that the latest iteration
of the bill "would allow the president to 'declare a cybersecurity
emergency' relating to 'non-governmental' computer networks and do what's
necessary to respond to the threat."
- Drafted by Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Olympia
Snowe (R-ME), "best friends forever" of the National Security
Agency (NSA) and the telecommunications industry, they were key enablers
of Bush-era warrantless wiretapping and privacy-killing data mining programs
that continue apace under Obama.
- As The New York Times revealed in June,
a former NSA analyst described a secret database "code-named Pinwale,
that archived foreign and domestic e-mail messages." The former analyst
"described being trained in 2005 for a program in which the agency
routinely examined large volumes of Americans' e-mail messages without
court warrants. Two intelligence officials confirmed that the program was
still in operation."
- Antifascist Calling has noted on more than one occasion,
that with "cyberterrorism" morphing into al-Qaeda 2.0, administration
policies designed to increase the scope of national security state surveillance
of private communications will soon eclipse the intrusiveness of Bushist
- As Cindy Cohn, the Legal Director of the Electronic Frontier
Foundation (<http://www.eff.org/>EFF) wrote earlier this
month, commenting on this summer's public relations blitz by former NSA
boss Michael Hayden and Office of Legal Counsel torture-enabler John Yoo's
defense of the so-called Presidential Surveillance Program,
- While the details are unknown, credible evidence indicates
that billions of everyday communications of ordinary Americans are swept
up by government computers and run through a process that includes both
data-mining and review of content, to try to figure out whether any of
us were involved in illegal or terrorist-related activity. That means that
even the most personal and private of our electronic communications--between
doctors and patients, between husbands and wives, or between children and
parents--are subject to review by computer algorithms programmed by government
bureaucrats or by the bureaucrats themselves. (Cindy Cohn, "Lawless
Surveillance, Warrantless Rationales," American Constitution Society,
August 17, 2009)
- Both Rockefeller and Snowe are representative of the
state's "bipartisan consensus" when it comes to increasing the
power of the intelligence and security apparatus and were instrumental
in ramming through retroactive immunity for telecoms who illegally spy
on the American people. If last year's "debate" over the grotesque
FISA Amendments Act (FAA) is an indication of how things will go after
Congress' summer recess, despite hand-wringing by congressional "liberals,"
S.773 seems destined for passage. CNET revealed:
- When Rockefeller, the chairman of the Senate Commerce
committee, and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) introduced the original bill in
April, they claimed it was vital to protect national cybersecurity. "We
must protect our critical infrastructure at all costs--from our water to
our electricity, to banking, traffic lights and electronic health records,"
Rockefeller said. (Declan McCullagh, "Bill Would Give President
Emergency Control of Internet," CNET News, August 28, 2009)
- But as we witness practically on a daily basis, hysterical
demands for "protection" from various "dark actors"
inevitably invokes an aggressive response from militarized state security
apparatchiks and their private partners.
- As Antifascist Calling reported in July (see:
"Behind the Cyberattacks on America and South Korea. 'Rogue' Hacker,
Black Op or Both?"), when North Korea was accused of launching a widespread
computer attack on U.S. government, South Korean and financial web sites,
right-wing terrorism and security specialists perched at Stratfor and
the American Enterprise Institute --without a shred of evidence--linked
the cyber blitz to a flurry of missile tests and the underground detonation
of a nuclear device by North Korea.
- Adding to the noise, Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), the
ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee went so far as to
urge President Obama to respond--by launching a cyberattack against the
bankrupt Stalinist regime.
- Despite provocative rhetoric and false charges that might
have led to war with disastrous consequences for the people of East Asia,
as it turned out an unknown sociopath used an updated version of the MyDoom
e-mail worm to deploy a botnet in the attack.
- As Computerworld reported, the botnet "does
not use typical antivirus evasion techniques and does not appear to have
been written by a professional malware writer." Hardly a clarion call
for bombing Dear Leader and countless thousands of Koreans to smithereens!
- In this context, the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 goes much
further than protecting "critical infrastructure" from over-hyped
- Among other measures, Section 18, "Cybersecurity
Responsibilities and Authority," hands the Executive Branch, specifically
The President, the power to "declare a cybersecurity emergency and
order the limitation or shutdown of Internet traffic to and from any compromised
Federal Government or United States critical infrastructure information
system or network."
- This does not simply apply to federal networks, but may
very well extend to the private communications ("critical infrastructure
information system or network") of citizens who might organize against
some egregious act by the state, say a nuclear strike against a nation
deemed responsible for launching a cyberattack against the United States,
as uggested in May by the head of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM)
General Kevin Chilton.
- As I reported in June (see: "Cyber Command
Launched. U.S. Strategic Command to Oversee Offensive Military Operations"),
the military's newly-launched U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) is a "subordinate
unified command" overseen by STRATCOM. Would "message force multipliers"
embedded in the media or Pentagon public diplomacy specialists carrying
out psychological operations (PSYOPS) here in theheimat, become the sole
conduit for critical news and information during said "national emergency"?
- Additionally, under Section 18's authority The President
"shall designate an agency to be responsible for coordinating the
response and restoration of any Federal Government or United States critical
infrastructure information system or network affected by a cybersecurity
emergency declaration under paragraph (2)." What agency might Senator
Rockefeller have in mind for "coordinating the response"? AsAntifascist
Calling revealed in April (see: "Pentagon's Cyber Command
to Be Based at NSA's Fort Meade"), CYBERCOM will be based at NSA headquarters
and led by Lt. General Keith Alexander, the current NSA director who will
oversee Pentagon efforts to coordinate both defensive and offensive cyber
- How might an out-of-control Executive Branch seize the
initiative during an alleged "national emergency"? Paragraph
6 spells this out in no uncertain terms: "The President may order
the disconnection of any Federal Government or United States critical infrastructure
information systems or networks in the interest of national security."
- The draconian bill has drawn a sharp rebuke from both
civil libertarians and the telecommunications industry. Larry Clinton,
the president of the Internet Security Alliance (<http://www.isalliance.org/>ISA)
told CNET: "It is unclear what authority Sen. Rockefeller thinks is
necessary over the private sector. Unless this is clarified, we cannot
properly analyze, let alone support the bill."
- And Wayne Crews, the director of technology studies at
the rightist Competitive Enterprise Institute told Federal Computer
Week: "From American telecommunications to the power grid, virtually
anything networked to some other computer is potentially fair game to [President
Barack] Obama to exercise 'emergency powers'."
- True enough as far as it goes, these "free market"
cheerleaders are extremely solicitous however, when it comes to government
defense and security contracts that benefit their clients; so long as the
public is spared the burden of exercising effective control as cold cash
greases the sweaty palm of the market's "invisible hand"!
- As Antifascist Calling revealed in June
(see: "Obama's Cybersecurity Plan: Bring on the Contractors!"),
the ISA is no ordinary lobby shop. According to a self-promotional blurb
on their web site, ISA "was created to provide a forum for information
sharing" and "represents corporate security interests before
legislators and regulators."
- Amongst ISA sponsors one finds AIG (yes, that AIG!)
Verizon, Raytheon, VeriSign, the National Association of Manufacturers,
Nortel, Northrop Grumman, Tata, and Mellon. State partners include the
U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Congress, and the Department of Commerce.
- Indeed ISA and CEI, are firm believers in the mantra
that "the diversity of the internet places its security inescapably
in the hands of the private sector," and that "regulation for
consumer protection" that rely on "government mandates"
to "address cyber infrastructure issues" will be "ineffective
and counter-productive both from a national security and economic perspective."
CEI and ISA's solution? Let's have another gulp of that tasty "market
- In other words, hand over the cash in the form of taxpayer
largess and we'll happily (and profitably!) continue to violate the rights
of the American people by monitoring their Internet communications and
surveilling their every move through nifty apps hardwired into wireless
devices as the Electronic Frontier Foundation revealed in a new report on
- Unfortunately, Clinton, Crews and their well-heeled partners
seem to have forgotten an elementary lesson of history: a national security
state such as ours will invariably unwind its tentacles into every corner
of life unless challenged by a countervailing force--a pissed-off, mobilized
- Now that national security "change" chickens
are coming home to roost, both CEI and ISA seem incredulous: you mean us?
How's that for irony!
- Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney with EFF told CNET
that changes to the original version of the bill do not address pressing
- Tien told the publication: "The language has changed
but it doesn't contain any real additional limits. It simply switches the
more direct and obvious language they had originally to the more ambiguous
(version)...The designation of what is a critical infrastructure system
or network as far as I can tell has no specific process. There's no provision
for any administrative process or review. That's where the problems seem
to start. And then you have the amorphous powers that go along with it."
- McCullagh avers: "Translation: If your company is
deemed 'critical,' a new set of regulations kick in involving who you can
hire, what information you must disclose, and when the government would
exercise control over your computers or network."
- And there you have it, a "cybersecurity" blacklist
to accompany a potential state takeover of the Internet during a "national
emergency." What will they think of next!
- Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based
in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action
Quarterly and Global Research (http://globalresearch.ca/), his articles
can be read on http://www.dissidentvoice.org/, Dissident Voice
- © Copyright Tom Burghardt,
- Antifascist Calling, 2009