Monday, January 19, 2009


In addition to the regular flogging of the meme that it's easy for terrorists to [fill in the blank], another aspect of predator state 'security' practice is the dissemination of jumped-up apocalyptic threats -- practically speaking, a relentless bullshitting of the populace over matters of national security. Regularly done to massage requests for funding, it also serves political purposes.

On Sunday, the outgoing Bush administration delivered a well-publicized salvo on theoretical attacks the nation might face during the Obama administration. This was to create the impression that the administration was on the ball.

One favorite tactic in this game is to say something to the effect of: "Just imagine how bad things would be if al Qaeda [fill in the blank with some action that is both fantastic and terrible]." And now we're warning you about it ahead of time!

"National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe [said] the Bush White House has laid out another key scenario, too, one that many intelligence experts believe needs immediate attention from the new president's team: A cyber attack launched from overseas to disrupt critical computer systems," reported CBS News.

Joel Brenner, the "government's top cyber security official," "believes that water and sewer systems, electricity grids, air and ground traffic control, and financial markets are all possible targets."

"If instead of attacking the Twin Towers, al Qaeda had taken down a major bank, the economic consequences would have been an order of magnitude ten times greater than the economic consequences of 9/11," Brenner told Rita Braver of CBS News. "I don't say the personal physical damage but the economic damage of taking down a system would be enormous and would reverberate through the world financial system." (See footnote [1] below.)

In a publicity stunt, the interview was snatched and put on the website of the Director of National Intelligence as a .pdf. This was notable for the inclusion of comments from an actor on a recent episode of "24," noted by Cryptome here. (See the very top of the page.)

It's unclear who added the bits from "24" and why they're missing from the text version at CBS.

Your host is no longer sure what constitutes good journalism at major news networks. However, conflating acting from "24" and comments, however annoying, from a real high-ranking policy maker in national security definitely falls within the realm of predatory behavior.

But back to Brenner's claim.

It fulfills the requirement that the gullible be asked to believe the idea that al Qaeda could launch a cyber-attack on the United States, one with even more appalling consequences than 9/11. This is not only common-sense defying, but also intelligence-insulting, considering that by far the worst threats to the security and well-being of everyday Americans in the last two years have come from within Wall Street's financial products industry.

"All this comes after many in the Bush administration came to believe that the Clinton team didn't wave enough red flags about potential threats," reported CBS News. "But current White House Officials say they are not just trying to be sure no one points a finger at them."

In reality, predator state 'security' is a fairly bi-partisan affair. During the tenure of the Clinton administration, there was certainly no lack of government security men warning about potential future threats to the United States.

Paradoxically, one of the most massaged threats during this period was that of cyber-attack.

From Signal magazine in August of '99, here's the Clinton administration's Richard A. Clarke, prior to his role as bete noir of the Bush administration:
"Without computer-controlled networks, there is no water coming out of your tap; there is no electricity lighting your room; there is no food being transported to your grocery store; there is no money coming out of your bank; there is no 911 system responding to emergencies; and there is no Army, Navy and Air Force defending the country . . . All of these functions, and many more, now can only happen if networks are secure and functional.

"A systematic [attack] could come from a terrorist group, a criminal cartel or a foreign nation . . . and we do know of foreign nations that are interested in our information infrastructure and are developing offensive capabilities that would allow them to take down sectors of our information infrastructure ... Envision all of these things happening simultaneously -electricity going out in several major cities; telephones failing in some regions; 911 service being down in several metropolitan areas. If all of that were to happen simultaneously, it could create a great deal of disruption, hurt the economy . . .

Keep in mind, this was well prior to 9/11. And these were not isolated predictions and exaggerations.

See here for much more. It was a systemic and regular practice then, just as it is today.

[1]. Meritless statements about potential threats dealing with how terrorists might kill Americans are often packaged with unexamined claims in which it is maintained they will be even worse than 9/11.

Just from yesterday's post, on terrorists who might use mosquitoes:

"Lockwood reflects on what would happen if a dedicated suicide-terrorist suffering from yellow fever offered his body to be feasted upon by mosquitoes, thousands of which could then be released in a large city. More people might die as a result than were killed in the twin towers."

Such things appear particularly churlish and self-serving only a day before the inauguration of Barack Obama.


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