'Stuxnet' Leaks Lead Straight to White House

Editor’s Note – Eventually, every story about leaks keeps ending up back at the White House itself. Why, because everything they do has a political goal in mind, especially when they need to ‘spike’ another football.

As we have been saying for years now, the current administration is the team that will say and do anything to achieve an end. Not only do they ‘spike the football’, repeatedly, they conflate the event to be solely as a result of their prowess. Allies be damned, sources get burned, methods are exposed, and it matters little, unless it sullies their image. This applies to all things domestic as well.

The Constitution and our nation-of-laws are just something to avoid, circumvent, or just ignore. If that cannot be achieved, they create or contrive some loophole, set up a list of talking points, couch it in some greater good, and then  release their minions and sycophants to the talking head circuit.

Meanwhile, they turn the tables on their detractors and accuse everyone else of the same thing. Then the willing media echos these talking points, forgets to do any investigative journalism, or simply ignores the issue.

In classified cyberwar against Iran, trail of Stuxnet leak leads to White House

By Rowan Scarborough – The Washington Times

The Obama administration provided a New York Times reporter exclusive access to a range of high-level national security officials for a book that divulged highly classified information on a U.S. cyberwar on Iran’s nuclear program, internal State Department emails show.

The information in the 2012 book by chief Washington correspondent David E. Sanger has been the subject of a yearlong Justice Department criminal investigation: The FBI is hunting for those who leaked details to Mr. Sanger about a U.S.-Israeli covert cyberoperation to infect Iran’s nuclear facilities with a debilitating computer worm known as Stuxnet.

New York Times story adapted from the book, “Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power,” quotes participants in secret White House meetings discussing plans to unleash Stuxnet on Iran.

StuxnetExplained

The scores of State Department emails from the fall of 2011 to the spring of 2012 do not reveal which officials told Mr. Sanger, but they do show an atmosphere of cooperation within the administration for a book generally favorable toward, but not uncritical of, President Obama. For example:

“I’m getting a bit concerned about the pace of our interviews — or lack of pace, to be more precise — for the book,” Mr. Sanger said in an email Oct. 30, 2011, to Michael Hammer, a senior State Department public affairs official. “The White House is steaming away; I’ve seen [National Security Adviser Thomas E.] Donilon many times and a raft of people below. Doing well at the Pentagon. But on the list I sent you starting on Sept. 12 we’ve scheduled nothing, and chapters are getting into final form.”

Mr. Sanger’s book debuted in June 2012 and brought an immediate call from Republicans to investigate the leaks. They charged that administration officials jeopardized an ongoing secret cyberattack by tipping off Iran’s hard-line Islamic regime about war plans.

They also charged that Obama aides were leaking sensitive materials on other issues, such as the Navy SEAL-CIA raid to kill Osama bin Laden, to burnish Mr. Obama’s credentials as commander in chief as the 2012 election approached.

The nonprofit Freedom Watch acquired the State Department emails via a Freedom of Information Act request filed days after the book was published. Larry Klayman, its director, said State at first had told him it did not have any documents. He then filed suit in federal court.

In December, U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Wilkins ordered State to turn over emails relating to its cooperation with Mr. Sanger.

Officials line up

“When you read the totality of those documents, it’s a super-close relationship they are furthering with Sanger,” Mr. Klayman said. “They were literally force-feeding him.”

He said State has yet to provide transcripts of the Sanger interviews.

“I think the thrust of this is this requires a significant investigation,” Mr. Klayman said, adding that he has provided the emails to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

State Department spokesman did not respond to emails from The Washington Times requesting comment.

In one email, a public affairs official said Mr. Sanger wanted to discuss “Cybersecurity — particularly if there’s a legal framework being developed on the offensive side.” Stuxnet would be an example of an offensive cyberweapon.cyberwar_WH

Mr. Sanger’s nudging seemed to do the trick. Over the next several months, Mr. Hammer, the senior public affairs official, arranged interviews with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and a roster of senior aides.

By March 2012, Mr. Sanger had spoken with Deputy Secretary of State William Burns; Deputy Chief of Staff Jake Sullivan, who is now Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s national security adviser; Robert Einhorn, then a special adviser on arms control; Harold Hongju Koh, State’s legal adviser; and others.

In December 2011, Mr. Hammer sent an email summarizing Mr. Sanger’s reporting and reproducing a story from the previous month headlined “America’s Deadly Dynamics with Iran,” which reported on the Stuxnet computer worm.

It is not unusual for authors to request and sometimes win access to administration officials. Mr. Sanger’s access, however, is notable in that its subsequent disclosures prompted an FBI investigation in which agents have interviewed government officials.

The worm on the loose

Mr. Sanger wrote a June 1, 2012, article on Stuxnet that was adapted from his book, which debuted later that week. In the story, he quoted “participants” in White House meetings on whether to continue attacking Iran with Stuxnet, which somehow had broken free into the Internet.

“At a tense meeting in the White House Situation Room within days of the worm’s ‘escape,’ Mr. Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency at the time, Leon E. Panetta, considered whether America’s most ambitious attempt to slow the progress of Iran’s nuclear efforts had been fatally compromised,” the story said.

“Should we shut this thing down?” Mr. Obama asked, according to members of the president’s national security team who were in the room.”

Republicans said those passages alone are evidence that Obama aides broke the law by publicly disclosing a covert program.

With the story and book in print, State Department public affairs on June 7 sent to department officials a transcript of a floor speech delivered by Sen. John McCain that week. The Arizona Republican accused the administration of deliberately leaking secrets to portray Mr. Obama as a “strong leader on national security issues” in an election year.

“What price did the administration apparently pay to proliferate such a presidential persona highly valued in an election year?” he said. “Access. Access to senior administration officials who appear to have served as anonymous sources divulging extremely sensitive military and intelligence information and operations.”

‘Drones and cyber’

Citing the book, Mr. McCain said: “The administration officials discussed a most highly classified operation that is both highly classified and still ongoing, an operation that was clearly one of the most tightly held national security secrets in our country until now.”

Asked on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on June 3, 2012, whether the administration leaked to him to bolster the president’s image, Mr. Sanger said:

“I spent a year working the story from the bottom up, and then went to the administration and told them what I had. Then they had to make some decisions about how much they wanted to talk about it.

“All that you read about this being deliberate leaks out of the White House wasn’t my experience. Maybe it is in other cases,” he said. “I’m sure the political side of the White House probably likes reading about the president acting with drones and cyber and so forth. National security side has got very mixed emotions about it because these are classified programs.”

Said Mr. McCain: “I don’t know how one could draw any conclusion but that senior members of this administration in the national security arena have either leaked or confirmed information of the most highly classified and sensitive nature.”

On June 5, The New York Times published a review of the Sanger book by Thomas Ricks, an author and former reporter for The Washington Post.

Mr. Sanger clearly has enjoyed great access to senior White House officials, most notably to Thomas Donilon, the national security adviser,” Mr. Ricks wrote. “Mr. Donilon, in effect, is the hero of the book, as well as the commenter of record on events. He leads the team that goes to Israel and spends ‘five hours wading through the intelligence in the basement of the prime minister’s residence.’”

Three days later, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced that he had appointed two U.S. attorneys to investigate leaks, including the Stuxnet disclosures.

White House press secretary Jay Carney took offense to Mr. McCain’s speech.

“Any suggestion that this administration has authorized intentional leaks of classified information for political gain is grossly irresponsible,” he said.

A ‘target’ in the probe

In May, The New York Times reported: “The investigation into reporting by David E. Sanger of The Times, about efforts to sabotage the Iranian nuclear program, appears to be one of the most active inquiries.”

In June, NBC News reported that the FBI had zeroed in on one of the nation’s highest-ranking military officers at the time that Mr. Sanger was researching his book in 2011.

NBC said that retired Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and one of Mr. Obama’s closest military advisers, was a “target” in the probe — a designation that often means the Justice Department plans to indict the person.

Gen. Cartwright retired in August 2011.

Mr. Donilon, the national security adviser, submitted his resignation in June and left the post last month.

More than any previous president, Mr. Obama has aggressively gone after leakers — in this case possibly members of his own inner circle.

The Justice Department took the unusual step of collecting data on phone calls to and from the Washington bureau of The Associated Press in an effort to find who leaked information about a foiled terrorist attack.

The Justice Department has charged two former CIA employees and one former National Security Agency worker with providing secrets to journalists. In all three of those cases, the FBI acquired the “smoking gun” by obtaining emails between the reporters and the leakers.

In all, the Obama administration has charged eight people with leaking secrets, the most recent being former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

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Cyber attacks, the bad guys and the good guys

Editor’s Note – As we continue to see cyber warfare as perhaps the greatest and fastest growing threat to our security, as a country, as communities, as individuals, the point is driven home daily. As we get attacked by the bad guys, our own NSA has been delving into attacks of its own it appears – for many years.

You may have noticed a slow down in your connectivity and speed on the internet because reports came out that a major ‘denial of service’ attack occurred on a site designed to prevent spam. The BBC reports on the attack:

The internet around the world has been slowed down in what security experts are describing as the biggest cyber-attack of its kind in history. A row between a spam-fighting group and hosting firm has sparked retaliation attacks affecting the wider internet. It is having an impact on popular services like Netflix – and experts worry it could escalate to affect banking and email systems.

Five national cyber-police-forces are investigating the attacks. Spamhaus, a group based in both London and Geneva, is a non-profit organisation that aims to help email providers filter out spam and other unwanted content. To do this, the group maintains a number of blocklists – a database of servers known to be being used for malicious purposes.

Recently, Spamhaus blocked servers maintained by Cyberbunker, a Dutch web host that states it will host anything with the exception of child pornography or terrorism-related material. (Read the rest of the story here at BBC.)

But its not just the bad guys acting on the internet, Bill Gertz in the Washington Times reports below on our own government’s activities. For more on the subject, click on these links below:

Inside the Ring: NSA on cyberwar

By Bill Gertz – Washington Times

Cyberwarfare is the hot topic in military and intelligence circles at the Pentagon amid unrelenting cyberattacks from ChinaRussiaIran and elsewhere.

But for the super-secret National Security Agency, cyberwarfare is nothing new.

The electronic spying and code-breaking agency provided a rare public look at its views on cyberwarfare by releasing this month redacted copies of its internal newsletter, which show that NSA has been engaged in cyberwarfare for more than a decade.

A 1997 article published in the once-classified newsletter Cryptolog was written by legendary NSA official Bill Black. He stated that the agency received the mission for Computer Network Attack (CNA) — offensive cyberwarfare — on March 3, 1997, from then-Defense Secretary William S. Cohen.

“This delegation of authority has added a new, third dimension to NSA’s ‘one mission’ future,” Mr. Black, at the time a special assistant to the NSA director for information operations, stated in the spring 1997 issue. “That is, in the networked world of Cyberspace, CNA technology is the natural companion of NSA’s exploit and protect functions.”

Other sections of the newsletter were heavily redacted and labeled “Top Secret Umbra,” the code word used to protect electronic intelligence.

Under a section headlined “The Future of Warfare is Warfare in Cyberspace,” Mr. Black, who rose to NSA deputy director before retiring, said information warfare provides “digital coercion” as a military and political option for leaders.

“The primary target of this option is the information infrastructure of an adversary,” he said. “Such information infrastructures are expected to be primarily computer controlled, operated by the commercial-civilian sector (unprotected), and the primary infrastructure upon which military forces almost totally depend.”

Future warfare will involve attacking computer-controlled infrastructure with the aim of degrading, disrupting or destroying networks and rendering computers “intelligence ‘targets’ of the highest priority,” he said.

“There are specific types of weapons associated with Information Warfare,” Mr. Black wrote. “These include viruses, worms, logic bombs, trojan horses, spoofing, masquerading, and ‘back’ or ‘trap’ doors. They are referred to as ‘tools’ or ‘techniques’ even though they may be pieces of software. They are publicly available, very powerful, and, if effectively executed, extremely destructive to any society’s information infrastructure.”

As a result, information warriors will need to be expert in understanding the virtual world and have extensive knowledge of non-military targets. Military cyberwarriors will be the “tooth,” and civilians will be the “tail” in what the military calls the tooth-to-tail — frontline and support — relationship in warfare.

Mr. Black stated that the new information age that has emerged since the end of the Cold War is engulfing every aspect of society, including electronic spying. It has produced the need to consolidate what he termed “cyberology” along with cryptology.

“Cyberology’s central activities, i.e., ‘exploitation,’ ‘protection,’ and ‘attack,’ will be worked together, thus benefiting all of them,” he stated.

Just as many viewed industrialists and capitalists during the industrial age as the problem, “in today’s age, the public has centered in on government as ‘the problem,’” he wrote.

“Specifically, the focus is on the potential abuse of the government’s applications of this new information technology that will result in an invasion of personal privacy,” he said. “For us, this is difficult to understand. We are ‘the government,’ and we have no interest in invading the personal privacy of U.S. citizens.”

Critics have disagreed, including several NSA whistleblowers who accused the agency of violating the law by intercepting Americans’ emails in the early 2000s as part of the Terrorist Surveillance Program.

Mr. Black acknowledged that “public worries are real” and will impact NSA operations if legislation is used to prevent potential NSA “involvement in the public sector.”

That problem persists today as most U.S. infrastructure is held by the private sector, which remains wary of inviting NSA to help counter or disrupt foreign cyberattacks.

The NSA documents were obtained by the website governmentattic.org.

Terrorists’ ‘Black Summer’

U.S. national security officials are warning that jihadists are planning a major cyberattack against vital infrastructure soon.

The alert was sent following a report on a jihadist website Monday by two groups that announced in Arabic an “Open Invitation for All Hackers to Participate in ‘Operation Black Summer’ To Target U.S. Vital Services.”

The attackers plan to use the Twitter hashtag #opBlackSummer to wage electronic warfare against the United States with other jihadists.

“It is also essential to note that this raid will be a global one in which all the enemies of the United States, whether Muslims or non-Muslims, will take part,” the posting stated, noting that Osama bin Laden had advocated such attacks.

The message said one group involved in the attack is the al Qaeda Digital Army and appeared on the al Qaeda-linked website Ansar al-Mujahideen Network.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a statement during the Chinese leader’s visit to Moscow that mentioned the “problem” of other nations’ missile defense — seen as a reference to U.S. and NATO defenses in Europe.

The statement released Friday called for building “a new type of great power relations” and called on “all nations of the world to deepen mutual understanding, coordination and cooperation on the question of missile defenses.”

The statement urged states to “be prudent” in deploying and cooperating on missile defenses, and to “oppose” one nation or a group of nations from taking steps to “unilaterally and unlimitedly strengthening missile defenses, harming strategic stability and international security.”

“We stand for the collective confrontation of the challenges and threats from ballistic missiles, preferring to confront the proliferation of ballistic missiles within the framework of international law and political diplomacy, where the security of one group of nations cannot be sacrificed at the expense of another group of nations,” the statement said.

The statement, while couched in diplomacy-speak, appears to reflect Russian and Chinese opposition to U.S. missile defenses that both governments have said threatens the offensive missiles of Russia and China.

During the visit, Mr. Xi was shown how U.S. and NATO missile defenses will impact Russian strategic missiles, according to Russian press reports.

White House National Security Adviser Thomas E. Donilon will visit Moscow April 15 for talks on missile defenses.

The Pentagon announced earlier this month that it is canceling a long-range missile defense interceptor that Moscow saw as a threat to Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles and opposed.

Russian officials have said the cancellation of the SM-3 IIB interceptor did not resolve their opposition to joint U.S.-NATO missile defenses in Europe. Moscow is demanding legal restrictions on U.S. defenses, something the Obama administration has opposed.

On Monday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu discussed missile defenses during a telephone talk.

The Donilon mission to Moscow prompted criticism from Rep. Mike D. Rogers, Alabama Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces.

“In view of the president’s latest concession to Russia on missile defense, it’s fitting that Mr. Donilon now heads to visit with Mr. Putin,” Mr. Rogers said in a statement. “Much like President Obama asked [former] President [Dmitry] Medvedev to ‘transmit’ his promise of ‘flexibility’ after his ‘last election,’ Mr. Donilon now goes to see what that flexibility has earned our president,” Mr. Rogers said.

“I predict nothing, just as I predicted in two letters before the March 15th announcement that Obama would make this unilateral concession to Russia,” he said. “The president could at least have the courtesy to share with Congress the same proposals his national security adviser is sharing with Putin.”

A White House spokesman had no comment on Mr. Donilon’s visit.