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Jun 10 2013

The cyberattack target list story

Somewhat overshadowed by the news about the government sweeping up phone and internet communications has been the other whistleblower release of a secret directive by president Obama calling for agencies to draw up a list of targets for cyberattacks. Some responders have said that there is no news here. They say that of course the US targets other countries for such attacks and only the naïve would expect anything else. A variant of this argument is also given for the revelations about the government collecting phone and internet records. That is true but they need to be aware that when they argue this way, they have fallen victim to a specific propaganda strategy.

This is how it works. The US government engages in all manner of covert activities all over the world. But it carefully denies any official confirmation while giving a wink and a nudge to the cognoscenti that things may be otherwise. So sophisticated observers and media types think they know the real story while the vast majority of the country does not. This enables the government to assert that it is acting morally and then, when the truth is revealed, to scoff at critics by implying that they were stupid to think otherwise.

The real story is not that we have confirmation of cyberattacks now, it is that there was no immediate response when the US government earlier sanctimoniously warned of cyberattacks by other countries and that such cyberattacks would be considered an act of war.

Why didn’t the reporters and knowing insiders immediately say that this was hypocritical because the US government was doing also it? Because as long as there was no official confirmation, the government could grandstand, knowing that they would not be challenged. Then when the truth is revealed, they can dismiss it by saying that this is old news. So they get the benefit of escaping criticism both times.

This way of playing the sophisticated insiders is an old game. I am surprised that these insiders still fall for it.

Tom Tomorrow already has a cartoon out on this.

25 comments

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  1. 1
    Marcus Ranum

    Some responders have said that there is no news here.

    There is, likewise, no news when the US complains about Chinese cyberattacks, then.

    I’ve been fighting this particular cyberwar meme for almost a decade. There’s too much $$$$ at stake, basically, and the US is treating cyberspace as its colony.

  2. 2
    Marcus Ranum

    It’s important to note that the US/Israeli Stuxnet attack was a war crime under Protocol 2 (1977) of the Geneva Conventions – the clauses regarding dams and nuclear facilities being absolutely off-limits for targeting. The power plant at Bushehr was infected by Stuxnet and may have been damaged (the Iranians aren’t talking) as well as the centrifuge cascade at Natanz (which was damaged – when centrifuges full of uranium hexaflouride spinning at 100,000rpm go haywire, they go very haywire indeed. Explosively haywire.)

    Can you imagine the screaming and wild chest-pounding that would emerge from Washington if someone launched a comparably successful attack against Oak Ridge?

  3. 3
    slc1

    Yeah, far better to attack Iran’s nuclear weapons plants with 15 megaton bombs. I really find it unfathomable that folks like Ranum and Singham are so sanguine about Iran’s nuclear weapons programs from the safety of Cleveland, Ohio and Morrisdale, Pa.., which are out of range of Iran’s missiles The folks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel are rather less sanguine about it.

  4. 4
    Marcus Ranum

    I really find it unfathomable that folks like Ranum and Singham are so sanguine about Iran’s nuclear weapons programs

    It’s because we have morals and aren’t ultranationalist nutbags.

    Now, go find a mirror and take a look in it.

  5. 5
    Marcus Ranum

    Oh, and where do you live?

    We’ve already established that you’re comfortable using nuclear weapons against a target that’s near a city of hundreds of thousands of civilians. The only difference between you and what you fear is that you appear to be a deranged chickenshit. If you actually had any power to execute on your mad ravings you’d be as bad as – or worse than – those you so mindlessly hate.

  6. 6
    slc1

    I live in Northern Virginia, which is also out of range as we sit here today of Iran’s missiles. That, of course, will probably change in the future. Just to be fair, it is probably barely within range of Israel’s Jerciho-3 ICBM and well within range of Israel’s submarine based cruise missiles (the Dolphin submarines purchased from Germany can carry cruise missiles, despite the claims of the German Government that they can’t).

    Since Ranum is so concerned about the health and welfare of Iranians living near their nuclear weapons facilities, he should welcome Stuxnet and other such attacks as far more humane then my 15 megaton bombs. But, of course, since Ranum is in agreement with the mad mullahs who run Iran that Israel must go, he’s just A OK with a nuclear armed Iran, as long as they can’t reach to Morrisdale, Pa.

  7. 7
    slc1

    I have a flash for Ranum, at the time of the Stuxnet attacks, newspapers in Israel had stories every day about it so the lame stream media there was up to snuff. Hell, even Al Ahram, and other newspapers in the Arab world had multiple stories about it. There was a story in Al Ahram by a columnist there giving credit to the then head of the Mossad, Meir Dagan, for his efforts to slow down the Iranian nuclear program. If the lame stream media in the US didn’t report the story, it’s their fault.

  8. 8
    Marcus Ranum

    I live in Northern Virginia, which is also out of range as we sit here today of Iran’s missiles.

    I see. So you were trying to imply that Mano and I are less brave – when you’re less than brave yourself. Good to clear that up. Chickenhawks like you disgust me.

    Since Ranum is so concerned about the health and welfare of Iranians living near their nuclear weapons facilities

    I’m concerned with aggressive warfare regardless of who it’s being waged against. I don’t approve of using nuclear weapons at all. Nor do I approve of bombing civilians, under any circumstances. Any circumstances includes pre-emptive attacks.

    Normally I wouldn’t have to clarify that pre-emptive strikes are offensive warfare but you appear to be so deranged as to not understand that.

    he should welcome Stuxnet and other such attacks as far more humane then my 15 megaton bombs

    Unlike you, I don’t make false moral equivalencies. Especially not surrounding a false choice.

    I don’t favor any attacks on Iran at all. I favor diplomacy. Something the US and its allies need to learn how to do. (I include Israel under “allies” in the preceeding)

    since Ranum is in agreement with the mad mullahs who run Iran that Israel must go

    Liar. I have never said anything agreeing with the “mad mullahs” who run Iran. Nor do I think Israel must go.

    I have been critical of Israel’s policies, war crimes, and terrorism – as any moral person would be – which is not at all the same as agreeing with enemies of Israel. I assume you actually understand that and are simply a coward and a liar.

    The fact that you have to deliberately misrepresent my position in order to make yourself look better ought to tell you something about how extreme your own position is. You’ve deliberately mischaracterized those who disagree with your deranged nationalism here and elsewhere (I saw you posting lies about Prof Singham over in Ed Brayton’s blog, and when I called you on it — crickets) You’re hardly worth the pause it’d take to wipe you off my shoe, except I don’t like seeing public lies and bullshit like yours stand without someone showing that we won’t just sit by silent in the fact of tribalistic and ultranationalistic warmongering.

  9. 9
    atheist

    slc1, your logic is cockeyed because you’re assuming that A. a cyberattack on Iran and B. a nuclear attack on Iran, are the only possible choices. Once you introduce option C. do nothing to Iran, and D. something else, you will be free to look at this in a non-bloodthirsty manner.

  10. 10
    Nick Gotts

    Look slc1, we all know you’re a genocidal scumbag, there’s really no need to go on proving it.

  11. 11
    slc1

    We have been trying diplomacy for several years now and Iran has used it as a tool to stall and obfuscate. The only think Iran will accept is US and Israeli acquiescence in their developing nuclear weapons. Diplomacy with the mad mullahs is as futile as Neville Chamberlain found diplomacy to be at Munich. And if Ranum want’s to call Godwin on me, have at it.

    As for whether I have characterized Ranum and Singham’s position on Israel, as far as I am concerned, failure to end Iran’s nuclear weapon’s program, which will be the result of Ranum’s “diplomacy” is tantamount, to advocating the removal of Israel. Don’t like it, tough bananas.

  12. 12
    slc1

    Re atheist

    Anyone advocating doing nothing or doing diplomacy relative to Iran’s nuclear weapons program is advocating the removal of Israel from the Middle East, which is the mad mullahs wet dream.

  13. 13
    slc1

    Nick Gotts, heir to the throne of Neville Chamberlain.

  14. 14
    Marcus Ranum

    As for whether I have characterized Ranum and Singham’s position on Israel, as far as I am concerned, failure to end Iran’s nuclear weapon’s program, which will be the result of Ranum’s “diplomacy” is tantamount, to advocating the removal of Israel.

    In other words: because we disagree with you, you can lie about our beliefs regarding any other topic as well

    I.e.: if you feel like saying that Marcus eats dead babies it is correct and justified because I don’t share your opinion about Israel.

    (eyeroll) Could you possibly be more dishonest? Why don’t you just make up random shit and say I said it. Who knows, I might actually have, in your dreams.

  15. 15
    Marcus Ranum

    You really enjoy false equivalency, don’t you?

  16. 16
    Marcus Ranum

    So let me see if I got this right – you’re likening Gotts to Chamberlain because you, in the role of Hitler, are advocating genocide and Gotts is trying to talk you around. Have I got that false equivalency right?

  17. 17
    Marcus Ranum

    After all, because you don’t agree with me about X, you must agree with Hitler about Y.

    It’s the same kind of “reasoning” you employ. Only I’m taking pains to make sure nobody thinks I’m actually serious – whereas you present your lies as if they are truths.

  18. 18
    Marcus Ranum

    Anyone advocating doing nothing or doing diplomacy relative to Iran’s nuclear weapons program is advocating the removal of Israel

    I support a denuclearized middle east. I don’t think anyone should have nuclear weapons there. And I think that any states attempting to develop nuclear weapons outside of the nonproliferation treaty ought to suffer sanctions. Whether it’s Israel, Iran, or anyone else.

    If the “mad mullahs” shouldn’t have nukes, the same certainly could be said for the “rabid zionists” – as exemplified by you, who appear to advocate first-use against civilian targets. Just listen to yourself – you are a poster child for why negotiated nuclear disarmament is a really good idea.

  19. 19
    slc1

    Re Marcus Ranum

    A denuclearized Middle East is a utopian dream which ain’t going to happen in our lifetimes. At least with only Israel having nuclear weapons, there is some restraint as to their use as they can’t use them unless given permission by the US. There is no such restraint on Iran.

    I would remind Ranum that it required several months of back and forth between Israel and the US before the former was given permission to attack the alleged nuclear plant in Syria.

  20. 20
    slc1

    There are many who disagree with me as to whether Chamberlain’s pilgrimage to Munich in 1938 was a bad idea. That didn’t turn out too well for Britain and France.

  21. 21
    slc1

    Wrong, me in the role of Churchill.

  22. 22
    slc1

    Gotts, like Ranum, believes in appeasement. Appeasement doesn’t pay as Britain and France’s attitude toward Frankenberger proved conclusively. If anything, the mad mullahs running Iran are at least as insane as Frankenberger.

  23. 23
    jamessweet

    My first reaction on hearing this news was: Not only is transparency the ethically right thing to do, but it’s also the strategically correct thing to do. To quote Dr. Strangelove: “Of course, the whole point of a Doomsday Machine is lost, if you keep it a secret! Why didn’t you tell the world, eh?” Of course, it’s a little different, because this is not a MAD strategy… nevertheless, I think that US strategic interests would be better served by letting our countries know just how fucked up their technological infrastructure is going to be if we pull the trigger.

  24. 24
    atheist

    advocating doing nothing or doing diplomacy relative to Iran’s nuclear weapons program is advocating the removal of Israel from the Middle East

    So, to you diplomacy is the same as genocide. Do you also consider a nuclear attack on Iran to be the only true Middle Eastern peace? Because then your delusions would at least balance.

  25. 25
    atheist

    Ooooh! Can I be Alexander the Great?

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