June 20, 2013
The journalist Michael Hastings, who died in what authorities have described as a high-speed car crash, was an active member of Project PM, a crowd-sourced research effort to expose government intelligence contractors.
“If you care that the surveillance state is expanding in capabilities and intent without being effectively opposed by the population of the West, you can assist in making this an actionable resource for journalists, activists, and other interested parties,” the Project PM wiki states. “Consider doing a bit of research on the companies and government agencies listed on this wiki, or even adding new topic for investigation by our participants.”
Barrett Brown, the founder of the initiative, was arrested by the FBI and faces up to 105 years in prison. Brown is described as the “brain trust” for the hacktivist group Anonymous.
Two indictments against Brown are for allegedly “threatening of an FBI officer in a YouTube video and the concealing of evidence,” writes Patrick McGuire for Vice.com, and “do not seem worthy of such a harsh sentence, considering a man in Houston recieved only 42 months for threatening to blow up an FBI building, and a former dentist got 18 months for threatening to kill an FBI agent. The third, however, pertains to Barrett Brown’s pasting of a link in an Anonymous IRC chat room to a document full of credit card numbers and their authentication codes that was stolen from the security company Stratfor, in the midst of a hack that released over five million internal emails. Those emails were published to Wikileaks.”
Brown’s Stratfor hack revealed the inner workings of Trapwire software. It purportedly acquires video from far-flung surveillance cameras located in stores, casinos and other businesses around the country and uses sophisticated facial recognition software to identify people of interest captured by ubiquitous cameras numbering in the millions.
Trapwire software is a significant breakthrough for the surveillance state. It was uncovered by security researcher Justin Ferguson. He delved into the massive pile of emails hacked by Brown from Stratfor – the Austin-based firm regarded as a shadow CIA – on Christmas of 2011. In response to Ferguson’s discovery and the Trapwire revelation, Wikileaks was hit with a large scale distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack.
Brown discovered the software produced by Trapwire is owned by Cubic, a San Diego company acquired by Abraxas Corporation. Barrett also uncovered tax returns calling into question Cubic’s denial that it is not affiliated with Trapwire and the software.
Abraxas is run by a former CIA spook, Richard Helms (not to be confused with the CIA director under Nixon). He was also one of the original assignees to its Counter Terrorism Center in the mid-1980s.
Moreover, according to Florida State’s records of corporations, Helms is the director of Ntrepid, a company that won a $2.76 million dollar contract from Centcom, the U.S. Central Command. Ntrepid innovated a product called Tartan, a program that can “analyze illicit organizations and less structured social networks by identifying: Ranks of influence within human networks… [and can] end the use of [online] aliases.”
“Clearly they are looking to dismantle the smoke and mirrors that groups like Anonymous maintain, by hanging out in chatrooms where they do not need to identify themselves officially, with many private communications happening at once,” writes McGuire. “This creates a difficult-to-penetrate den, where people can easily hide online. Evidently, Ntrepid is seeking to pull all of that apart with Tartan.”
Michael Hastings’ association with Barrett Brown and his work on Project PM, in addition to his outing a top U.S. general responsible for conducting the war in Afghanistan – a key mantlepiece in the manufactured war on terror – undoubtedly put him at risk and resulted in his assassination.
It can no longer be claimed that Hastings was merely the victim of a car accident. He was specifically targeted for his investigative journalism, most recently stories he was developing on the FBI and the CIA, as we noted earlier today.
Obviously, the intelligence and surveillance state is intimately involved in an effort to eliminate whistleblowers and journalists who get too close to the truth. The murder of Michael Hastings should send a chill down the spine of journalists everywhere, especially those in the alternative media.