Wednesday, Jul 21st, 2010
An increasing clamour to restrict and control the internet on behalf of the government, the Pentagon, the intelligence community and their private corporate arms, could result in a staged cyber attack being used as justification.
Over recent months we have seen a great increase in media coverage of inflated fears over a possible “electronic Pearl Harbor” event, with reports claiming that the U.S. could be “felled within 15 minutes”.
Vastly over-hyped (and in some cases completely asinine) claims that the power grids and other key infrastructure such as rail networks and water sources are wired up to the public internet have permeated such coverage.
Threats against computer networks in the United States are grossly exaggerated. Dire reports issued by the Defense Science Board and the Center for Strategic and International Studies “are usually richer in vivid metaphor — with fears of ‘digital Pearl Harbors’ and ‘cyber-Katrinas’ — than in factual foundation,” writes Evgeny Morozov, a respected researcher and blogger who writes on the political effects of the internet.
Morozov notes that much of the data on the supposed cyber threat “are gathered by ultra-secretive government agencies — which need to justify their own existence — and cyber-security companies — which derive commercial benefits from popular anxiety.”
When the Cybersecurity Act was introduced by Senator John Rockefeller last year, he made similar claims about the threat of cyber attacks, adding “Would it have been better if we’d have never invented the Internet?”.
Rockefeller’s legislation gives the president the ability to “declare a cybersecurity emergency” and shut down or limit Internet traffic in any “critical” information network “in the interest of national security.” The bill does not define a critical information network or a cybersecurity emergency. That definition would be left to the president, according to a Mother Jones report.
Provisions in the bill would allow the federal government, via the DHS and the NSA, to tap into any digital aspect of every citizen’s information without a warrant. Banking, business and medical records would be wide open to inspection, as well as personal instant message and e mail communications – all in the name of heading off cyber attacks on the nation.
Enhancements of such provisions are contained in the more recent “Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act”, which is being pushed hard by Senator Joe Lieberman. The bill would hand absolute power to the federal government to close down networks, and block incoming Internet traffic from certain countries under a declared national emergency.
An accompanying cybersecurity control grid would only create greater risk according to experts who note that it would essentially “establish a path for the bad guys to skip down.” Other countries, such as Australia and the UK are following suit.
The program dovetails with the Pentagon’s newly created Cyber Command, headed by Keith B Alexander, the acting head of the NSA and the man behind the massive program of illegal dragnet surveillance of domestic communications since at least 2001.
During the Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing, Alexander said the Pentagon’s Cyber Command would enjoy “significant synergy” with the NSA. “We have to show what we’re doing to ensure that we comport, comply with the laws,” said Alexander, perversely claiming the agency is respecting and protecting the privacy of the American people.
The Pentagon considers cyberspace a warfighting domain equal to land, sea, air and space. In 2003, the Pentagon classified the internet as an enemy “weapons system” requiring a “robust offensive suite of capabilities to include full-range electronic and computer network attack.” It has spent Billions of dollars building a super secret “National Cyber Range” in order to prepare for “Dominant Cyber Offensive Engagement”, which translates as control over “any and all” computers. The program has been dubbed “The Electronic Manhattan Project”.
The enemy is never specifically named, it is merely whoever uses the net, because the enemy IS the net. The enemy is the freedom the net provides to billions around the globe and the threat to militaristic dominance of information and the ultimate power that affords.
These initiatives represent a continuation of the so called “Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative”, created via a secret presidential order in 2008 under the Bush administration. former National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell announced that the NSA’s warrantless wiretaps would “be a walk in the park compared to this,”.
“This is going to be a goat rope on the Hill” McConnell said. My prediction is that we’re going to screw around with this until something horrendous happens.”
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
As we have previously reported, large corporations such as Google, AT&T, Facebook and Yahoo to name but a few are intimately involved in the overarching program. Those corporations have specific government arms that are supplying the software, hardware and tech support to US intelligence agencies in the process of creating a vast closed source database for global spy networks to share information.
Clearly the implications of this program for the open and free internet, and for liberty in general are very worrying, this has been reflected in the resistance and criticism from groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
In light of this, there is a real danger of a hyped or completely staged cyber attack being propagated in order to bring the issue to public attention and counter the critics who have exposed it as a part of the agenda to restrict the Internet.
In 2008 Stanford Law professor Lawrence Lessig detailed such ongoing government plans for overhaul and restriction.
Lessig told attendees of a high profile Tech conference that “There’s going to be an i-9/11 event” which will act as a catalyst for a radical reworking of the law pertaining to the internet.
Lessig said that he came to that conclusion following a conversation with former government Counter Terrorism Czar Richard Clarke, who informed him that there is already in existence a cyber equivalent of the Patriot Act, an “i-Patriot Act” if you will, and that the Justice Department is just waiting for a cyber terrorism event in order to implement its provisions.
Lessig is the founder of Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society. He is founding board member of Creative Commons and is a board member of the Software Freedom Law Center. He is best known as a proponent of reduced legal restrictions on copyright, trademark and radio frequency spectrum, particularly in technology applications.
These are clearly not the ravings of some paranoid cyber geek.
Though Richard Clarke advocates an enhancement of cyber security, even he has stated that it would be a terrible idea to allow the government to regulate and filter the internet.
We have also recently seen multiple mock attacks conducted by the government, via private outsourcing, on it’s own infrastructure systems. On such exercise, called “We Were Warned: Cyber Shockwave”, involved Former Department of Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff and former CIA deputy director John McLaughlin taking the roles of government leaders. CNN broadcast the entire simulation on prime time television.
Alex Jones recently discussed this issue on Russia Today news programming:
Journalist Webster Tarpley also lays out the hyping of cyber threats as a pretext to takedown the internet: