by GH Eliason
The Vault 7 exposé by WikiLeaks neglected to mention the most important part of the disclosure. Sure, the CIA has all these tools available. Yes, they are used on the public. The important part is; it’s not the CIA that’s using them. That’s the part that needs to frighten you.
The CIA, by the definition of its mission, cannot use the tools in Vault 7, and definitely not on Americans. All the tools are unclassified, open-source, and can be used by anyone. It makes them not exactly usable for secret agent work. That’s what makes it impossible for them to use Vault 7 tools directly. Because of the possible exposure for the agency, use of the tools was farmed out.
Instead, they are there for subcontractors to use. Are you worried about your TV watching you? Has your car developed the habit of starting itself in the morning?
If these tools were solely in the hands of a US agency, you would be much safer. The agencies have limits on what they can do and agencies have oversight providing protections.
Instead, intelligence and counterterrorism tools are in the hands of people that make most of their money pushing political agendas forward. And there is no oversight for what they are doing with the tools.
In March 2015, I started writing about private NSA guns for hire. These hired guns work in the revolving door between government Intel and counterterrorism and private intel and counterterrorism. What it showed was the same people that worked for US agencies and trained them were using the same tools and methods on Americans that they used for terrorist hunting. And they brag about it in social media.
The same people that take counterterrorism measures against Al Qaeda, are free to use those tools on you. According to CNN, Aaron Weisburd models his methods on the no-holds-barred Al Qaeda model.
From CBS News:
sources close to U.S. intelligence as saying that “hackers knocked out Al Qaeda’s online means of communication, thus preventing them from posting anything to commemorate 911 anniversary.” The paper also said Western intelligence suspects two hackers were responsible: Aaron Weisburd from Internet Haganah and Rusty Shackleford from the web group My Pet Jawa.”
According to Sputnik News:
As much as 80 percent of the US National Security Agency’s (NSA) budget is privatized, demonstrating the merger between Washington and corporate organizations, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Tuesday.”
This means that up to 80% of that budget is going to people in the private sector that are also working on other agendas, including their own. That’s why we see more headlines like “NSA staff used spy tools on spouses, exlovers:watchdog.” or “The Crazy Emails That Took Down NSA Spook John Schindler.” Both articles show contractors use Vault 7 tools for their own domestic spying or revenge.
In May 2015, the Nation published an article that is a must read to grasp how dangerous this has become. I’ve written intensively on how these tools are used to create news and policy from a ground and company level for NGO’s and lobbyists. This article ratchets it up by looking at the policy makers and former agency heads that go into the private Intel and policy crafting business for hire.
According to The Nation:
These are the people — often referred to as “intelligence professionals” — who do the actual analytical and targeting work of the NSA and other agencies in America’s secret government. Over the last 15 years, thousands of former high-ranking intelligence officials and operatives have left their government posts and taken up senior positions at military contractors, consultancies, law firms, and private-equity firms. In their new jobs, they replicate what they did in government—often for the same agencies they left. But this time, their mission is strictly for-profit.”
What does this have to do with overhauling the ODNI and 17 Intel agencies? Everything. From oversight to policy, the level of non-partisan professionalism needed to conduct unbiased intelligence work is no longer there. The Vault 7 leak could well be an inside attempt to address these issues.
“In the intelligence community in the United States, there are certain disgruntled individuals [concerned] about the way operations are being run, and it’s obvious that material has come out that was felt by some of these individuals needed to be discussed,” Kampmark explained.”
The ODNI and its agencies descent into shambles have been three presidencies in the making. Why a shambles? When intelligence is based on political agendas, rumor, or speculation instead of facts, it’s in trouble. All of it was done in the name of getting faster intelligence and making actionable Intel available to members of Congress that had no business getting involved with classified, need to know basis intelligence.
The second part of this article will address how much effect these intel releases have on breaking story news over the years.
Many of the Intel experts hired as contractors are not Intel experts. As you’ll soon see, a housecleaning at the agency level and contractors is both unavoidable and necessary.
I asked Michael Jasinski, Assistant Professor Department of Political Science University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh about this. Professor Jasinski had oversight over researchers that were later hired by US Intel agencies and provided evaluations of them prior to their employment.
His comments show why a radical cleanup in both intel and counter-terrorism needs to happen. With the following statement he also added that their obvious patriotic feelings were real, but:
My most recent experience with the “intelligence” community was at MIIS, post-9/11 when the agencies were coming there to hire, and they were hiring big. They hired many of my research assistants–I was doing what might be termed “open-source intelligence” on WMD proliferation–and in the process, they’d ask me, their immediate supervisor, for my opinion.
So I’d tell them point-blank: can’t read, can’t write, can’t analyze. I don’t care what their CV says, the only language they can function in at any level is English. No matter, they’d get hired anyway. Drug convictions? No matter, they’d get hired anyway (at least at the time, the CIA would hire you if you didn’t have any drug convictions within the last 3 years). Scary political views they wore on their sleeve? No matter, they’d get hired anyway. All of my good assistants went to work for the UN, IAEA, major NGOs. The dregs went to “intelligence.”
So now when I see a) the “Russian interference” stories and b) the inability to safeguard, and presumably use responsibly, your own cyber-warfare arsenal, I can’t say I’m exactly surprised. But there are no shortcuts in this kind of work. If you rapidly expand at the cost of dramatically lowering standards, you (and the country) are going to pay a price. We’re paying it right now…”
When OSINT was pioneered, from the 1990’s into the 2000’s, none of the agencies had any experience with OSINT. It was a new concept. To get Intel gathering and online counterterrorism where it is today, US intelligence agencies relied on the methods and help of an out of work web-designer, a pornographer suffering from toxic black-mold induced delusions, a gift shop employee, a stay at home dad whose last job was selling underwear, and a man that heard coded intel messages in fax transmission beeps. Unfortunately, this isn’t a joke.
One thing all these people have in common is that none of them have a background in intelligence or antiterrorism. In the years before and after 9/11, these concerned citizens took to the web and started pioneering a new form of intelligence called OSINT (Open Source Intelligence). This would later provide the basis for the establishment of the NSA and become the backbone of US intelligence gathering.
All the intelligence gathering agencies rejected it at first because it relied on social media. At best this intelligence can only be looked at as unsubstantiated or rumor level information. While it’s OK for pointing to a potential problem, it’s limitations are that it provides unproven and possibly compromised and tainted information. The CIA was focused on HUMINT (Human Intel, using human agents or trusted sources) and SIGINT(Signals Intel/ communications).
These Open Source Intel pioneers started gaining ground by emailing community leaders and US Congressmen. They pushed OSINT to the forefront of US intelligence by sending it to anyone they thought would listen and forward their Intel to the US government. At first, they worked on the War on Terror.
Along the way, they collected letters of recommendation which they flashed around to the next prospective clients in government, Intel agencies, military, and lobbyists. This is important because letters of recommendation from people not in the Intel business became the basis for this new internet, Google search based, cottage industry.
Some of them work directly with Israeli intelligence. Most of these pioneers found ready help by sending their Intel to Israeli embassies that sent the info to US government agencies. At the same time, with the help of the connections they were making, they published news stories in major publications before US agencies had time to digest the information that they received. This forced the US government to react to their online Google-driven research.
Because it was Open Source Intel, these pioneers figured out quickly that they could send or sell the information BEFORE it was reviewed by an agency and classified. All Intel the CIA receives is given a classified rating whether it is open source or not. This one point increased the status of the practitioners.
Congressmen, Governors, and news outlets that were interested started getting the same “Intel” the CIA was. It also became clear quickly that the new Intel could be framed on whatever bias you chose. This meant it could be used to create policy.
Lobbyists and Congress quickly figured out that by using these sources, they could push pet or paid foreign policy forward. Because it was a private effort, OSINT operators got paid to deliver Intel for groups looking for specific insights. For instance, during the Gulf War, they searched for WMD and Al Qaeda connections.
From the mid-1990’s this became a boom industry thanks to pioneers Steve Emerson and Rita Katz. Emerson’s big break came with CNN after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. He was sure Islamists were behind it. Being wrong didn’t slow him down.
Before 9/11, Emerson and Katz open source Intel was being spread far and wide and thanks to personal networking efforts it made then president Bush’s daily briefings about Al Qaeda. Emerson and Katz provided erroneous open source Intel to support Ahmed Chalabi’s drive for invading Iraq. This was personal to Katz and Intel agencies noted that most of her Intel is one-sided and politically charged.
Katz made it a habit of bombarding agencies and media with new social media findings that came so fast news cycles couldn’t keep up with it. To ignore her meant you could be scooped by another news agency. To publish it meant that it was unsubstantiated information.
For Katz, this came to a head in 2007 when she posted an Osama bin Laden interview online before Al Qaeda had a chance to. How many conclusions does this point to? Al Qaeda got the video from Katz.
According to the Washington Post:
A similar event occurred Friday when another group beat al-Qaeda by nearly a full day with the release of the first video images of bin Laden to appear publicly since 2004. That group, the SITE Institute, provided the tape to government agencies and news organizations at a time when many well-known jihadist Web sites had been shut down in a powerful cyber attack by unknown hackers.”
According to the Newsweek article “How Richard Clarke Outsourced Terrorist Intel,” both Emerson and Katz became the go-to companies for OSINT. US intelligence had no experience with it until this period. And US intel and law enforcement didn’t want any.
Emerson and Katz furnished Clarke and his staff with the names of Islamic radical Web sites, the identities of possible terrorist front groups and the phone numbers and addresses of possible terror suspects–data they were unable to get from elsewhere in the government.
This private pipeline of information–which began under President Clinton and continued under Bush even after September 11–irritated top officials at FBI headquarters, especially when much of the private research bore fruit and was later used to help develop a U.S. government list of banned organizations whose assets were frozen by the Treasury Department.”
After the Patriot Act, it was these two in particular and contractors like them that caused the “no-fly” lists to fill out so quickly. The search for terrorists had begun and it looks like it was paid on a piece-work basis. The more potential terrorists there were the more money in government contracts that could be had.
Until this point, Emerson and Katz research was funded by unnamed wealthy donors and foundations who had an interest in finding Islamic terrorists operating in the US online. In his book “Against All Enemies” Clarke writes “Within days” of his first request in late 1999, Clarke writes, Emerson provided him “with a long list of Web sites sitting on servers in the United States.” Clarke then passed along the list to the Justice Department and FBI. But officials there balked at using it and complained at the time about “how difficult it was to prosecute ‘free speech’ cases.”
While all of this sounds good and noble, the reality was and is that most of the targeted websites were American citizens expressing free speech. The only qualification to get on their list for a news site or a website was to print anti-Zionist articles, pro-Palestinian articles, or write something against the policies their donors or lobbyist bosses were against. When the government refused to act, OSINT pioneers took it upon themselves to shut down, hack, makeup, and plant evidence on websites to try to get convictions.
Big media and the agencies themselves did their job letting the public know what was going on. Because no one understood the technology and therefore didn’t care about this, the problem grew to where it is today. As early as 2003 in the Chicago Tribune, the FBI gave warnings like this one about a particular website it was asked to investigate, “The site is not illegal in any way [nor does it condone] illegal activity,” said FBI spokesman Frank Bochte in Chicago. “We cannot be the Orwellian thought police. If it is mere words and nothing beyond that, there’s nothing we can do.”
The proof terrorist hunter Aaron Weisburd offered was simple. “It talks about the “Zionist” rope over American leaders and lists 45 Jews in top positions of U.S. government. A photo gallery features the burning of the American flag, and one section is called “Know Your Enemy.”
In 2005, the Washington Post interviewed Weisburd and he unabashedly states his group uses the same tactics as Al Qaeda. He goes on to say that not everything they do is legal. According to his victims, he used the tools, access, and criminal activity to destroy their lives. They had nothing to do with the war on terror. They wrote human rights articles.
The Guardian made the point in November 2014 saying:
Our choice isn’t between a world where either the good guys spy or the bad guys spy. It’s a choice of everybody gets to spy or nobody gets to spy.”
The privatized NSA makes its living off building hate. They are hired to drive headlines and policy. A longtime partner of Rita Katz and Aaron Weisburd drove these headlines in the UK.
‘Terror expert warns of ‘new 9/11’’, The Express, 1 January 2009; ‘Attack on US ‘soon’’, The Sun, 1 January 2009, ‘HATE HIT LIST’, The Sun, 7 January 2009
In her 2003 book “The Terrorist Hunter,” Rita Katz went as far as to say “the F.B.I., didn’t “possess one-thousandth of my knowledge on the relevant issues.”
Through agency overhaul in 2004, Congress set the stage and legislated the method that agencies and media warned would result in politically motivated, goal oriented reports loosely defined as intelligence. All of it affects policy today because a lot of it is designed to.
Because of the overhaul the US Government hired an out of work web-designer, a former reporter that was really bad at finding terrorists, a gift shop employee, and a man who dropped out of college to jump into the fray with no terrorism expertise to teach government agencies how to conduct OSINT.
With over 20 years of experience, Steve Emerson must deliver crazy good OSINT intel to the US government. Just how good is the god-father of US government OSINT intel?
“Senior officials in the U.S. administration called Emerson’s claims “incorrect and misleading.”
“Steven Emerson: the Fox news expert who thinks Birmingham is ‘totally Muslim'”
“David Cameron: US terror ‘expert’ Steve Emerson is a ‘complete idiot'”
Unfortunately, this isn’t a joke. These same experts taught NATO, the FBI, CIA, NSA, and related agencies their expertise in the business through 6-week courses and seminars. They also testify as expert witnesses for Congress and supply an endless stream of Intel built on the policies their clients or prejudice dictates. Today’s DNI is filled with people that learned his methods.
How serious are they taken? The Information Operations Newsletter Vol. 12, no. 06 (April 2012) Compiled by: Mr. Jeff Harley, US Army Space and Missile Defense Command Army Forces Strategic Command G39, Information Operations Division quotes the above-listed OSINT pioneers as the experts to listen to.
Throughout 2015 and 2016, I followed a team of these OSINT pioneers setting up to attack people in the USA using these technologies. Because no one had ever cared before, they were very open about what they were doing in social media if you knew where to look. They geo-located victims, collected information, and added hackers in the group to attack American news websites.
I followed this group as they destroyed the income of news websites and started to destroy the reputations of owners and journalists. After documenting enough of the facts, I tried to contact the concerned parties directly and indirectly. I wrote a couple articles describing how it was happening and even quoted the group doing it describing what they were setting up for. This even included screen shots.
Why would they go as far as geo-location? Vault 7 makes that clear. The pioneer in this area also helped set up the Peacemaker website for Ukraine. This site provides kill lists with all the information known or needed to find someone. Within a month of my first article about Peacemaker in March 2015, the first victim was murdered.
It raises some serious questions about what is occurring in 2017. When it’s clear the people using Vault 7 tools don’t think of you as anything more than an enemy in a “Call of Duty” video game and they get paid for results, it’s time to question the legality.
When they do it for foreign governments, it’s time bring up treason. When they turn around, work for government and then put the same people and news site on lists; Are they working for their private clients or for the US government? If you disagree with their employers politics, they get paid to destroy your life. They are a privatized NSA attacking you.
Part 2 of this article will show the second fork using these tools took. Understanding who is behind the stories about Russian election influence, hacking, and even the MH-17 disaster in 2014, and why they did it is an eye opener.
This dissects fake news and shows how prominent fabricated intelligence is in mainstream media. The article shows the methodology and the technicians that ignited and pushed the biggest controversies of the past few years.
These are the tools and these are the players that built the election interference and Russian hacking story. The 17 Intel agencies need a ground up rebuild.
George Eliason is an American journalist that lives and works in Donbass. He has been interviewed by and provided analysis for RT, the BBC, and Press-TV. His articles have been published in the Security Assistance Monitor, Washingtons Blog, OpedNews, the Saker, RT, Global Research, and RINF, and the Greanville Post among others. He has been cited and republished by various academic blogs including Defending History, Michael Hudson, SWEDHR, Counterpunch, the Justice Integrity Project, among others.
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The privatization of cyber weapons is disconcerting, but not suprising. The policy implications are obviously worth considering, as they are/were when we learned about the privatization of chemical weapons production (http://bit.ly/2o4nCHB). Welcome to corporatocracy.
‘strictly for profit’
Therein lies the psychopathic economic imperative, that is like a runaway train that’s gonna run out of rails.
And we’re the passsengers.
The scariest part of George Eliason’s article is that OSINT operators like Steve Emerson and Rita Katz make Eliot Higgins and his Bellingcat project look like the rank amateurs they are when it comes to serving up lies and idiocy.
Oops, I might pre-empted GH Eliason’s discussion in Part 2 where he’s going to talk about the MH17 shootdown.
” The 17 Intel agencies need a ground up rebuild.”
No. The 17 Intel agencies don’t need a ground up rebuild so much as a hole in the ground.
And I rather think that it’s actually comforting that most of the so-called intel operations have been privatized as opposed to “centralized” under a single control structure. Why? Because therein at least lies the promise that ‘competition’ or “competing interests” between the various branches of these intelligence “agencies” holds out the promise of “factionalism” or “divisiveness” among the power elites themselves, that is to say, of a likelihood that the entire existing power apparatus or command structure will self-destruct.
And “that,” more than anything, is what needs to happen.