Are Free Societies at a Disadvantage in National Cybersecurity

Jack Goldsmith and Stuart Russell just published an interesting paper, making the case that free and democratic nations are at a structural disadvantage in nation-on-nation cyberattack and defense. From a blog post:

It seeks to explain why the United States is struggling to deal with the "soft" cyber operations that have been so prevalent in recent years: cyberespionage and cybertheft, often followed by strategic publication; information operations and propaganda; and relatively low-level cyber disruptions such as denial-of-service and ransomware attacks. The main explanation is that constituent elements of U.S. society -- a commitment to free speech, privacy and the rule of law; innovative technology firms; relatively unregulated markets; and deep digital sophistication -- create asymmetric vulnerabilities that foreign adversaries, especially authoritarian ones, can exploit. These asymmetrical vulnerabilities might explain why the United States so often appears to be on the losing end of recent cyber operations and why U.S. attempts to develop and implement policies to enhance defense, resiliency, response or deterrence in the cyber realm have been ineffective.

I have long thought this to be true. There are defensive cybersecurity measures that a totalitarian country can take that a free, open, democratic country cannot. And there are attacks against a free, open, democratic country that just don't matter to a totalitarian country. That makes us more vulnerable. (I don't mean to imply -- and neither do Russell and Goldsmith -- that this disadvantage implies that free societies are overall worse, but it is an asymmetry that we should be aware of.)

I do worry that these disadvantages will someday become intolerable. Dan Geer often said that "the price of freedom is the probability of crime." We are willing to pay this price because it isn't that high. As technology makes individual and small-group actors more powerful, this price will get higher. Will there be a point in the future where free and open societies will no longer be able to survive? I honestly don't know.

EDITED TO ADD (6/21): Jack Goldsmith also wrote this.

Posted on June 19, 2018 at 6:54 AM • 58 Comments


Godfree RobertsJune 19, 2018 7:39 AM

"There are defensive cybersecurity measures that a totalitarian country can take that a free, open, democratic country cannot."?

This looks like a straw man argument. I cannot think of one country that is totalitarian nor of one that is free, open and democratic. The USA for example, though promoting itself as a democracy is not in any sense democratic, barely free and less open than at any time in its existence.

Vlad P.June 19, 2018 7:45 AM

Well, for what it's worth, the same reasoning can apply to explain why in all Hollywood movies Aliens do attack the US first, if not only. Because it is a free society, blah, blah, blah, and Aliens live in authoritarian regimes.

Martin SustrikJune 19, 2018 7:55 AM

> As technology makes individual and small-group actors more powerful, this price will get higher. Will there be a point in the future where free and open societies will no longer be able to survive?

I would say decentralization may prove to be the key here. Highly decentralized societies may be harder to attack simply because there's no single point of failure.

That makes authoritarian countries, which are, in their nature, centralized seem vulnerable. But there's no lack of centralized democracies either.

ZQJune 19, 2018 8:10 AM

@Godfree Roberts: You need to look at this as a spectrum, not on a binary level. Some societies are more free than others, and some have more dictatorial tendencies than other. For example, it's easier for propaganda to spread easily in a society that favor free media versus in a society that favor it less.

GregWJune 19, 2018 8:41 AM

And then sometimes we lose battles because of incompetence at multiple levels, e.g. the OPM hack. Don't blame that on democracy. Has an indepth 'five whys' analysis been done on that? Even by an academic or journalist?

PeteWJune 19, 2018 9:15 AM

A free society where power is decentralized, and where education, equality, privacy, and security are basic personal rights would (IMHO) be more resilient to cyber attacks.

de la BoetieJune 19, 2018 9:23 AM

Does this not confirm that the prioritisation of attack over defence by the democratic nations look like lunacy - as you're already observed?

Of course, when paradoxical things happen, you ask cui bono, and the answer is not far to find - the MIC and TLA empires. Which also have you questioning whether democracy is a facade given the manipulations and trashing of the rule of law that have happened recently.

MajorJune 19, 2018 9:49 AM

There are so many problems with this logic, particularly the conclusion that we are at more risk because we are free (relatively).

1. I'm sure free societies gain much more benefit from technology to start off with.

2. In free societies we enable more academic, business, and individual contributions to cybersecurity, which protect us better than totalitarian countries.

3. Free societies have better sources of income, reducing the incentive for their citizens to be cybercriminals.

4. Citizens of free societies are more invested in their societies, making them more likely to act in socially protective ways.

The title of the post is just another version of "The communists are going to get us because we are too free" or "The drug dealers are going to get us because we are too free".

I'm surprised that Bruce seems to fall for this trap this time, having avoided other versions of it (DRM for example) many times.

This isn't to say that we haven't allowed corporations to ignore security with little cost. Great security is hard but many companies, including essential infrastructure, fail at basic security. This is not a problem of freedom, but of greed and ignorance and regulatory capture.

The whole "the problem of freedom is the problem of crime" is also wrongheaded. Homosexuality, encryption, blacks sitting at lunch tables, interracial marriages, alcohol, smoking pot and many other perfectly fine things were crimes at one point. It would have been no advantage to our society to have effectively suppressed these things.

Many crimes are the cutting edge of societal change. Even theft is a largely a marker of unequal opportunities that should be addressed more than suppressed.

Crime is the entropy source in the evolutionary algorithm of our society. If crime is impossible, we have a locked-in static society.

Freedom is good, mkay?

vas pupJune 19, 2018 10:23 AM

If I may, within one 'democratic' society it could not have reasonable explanation when some actions are crime in one part, but legal in other:
e.g. prostitution (Nevada), euthanasia (Oregon), cannabis (Colorado and other but not all),abortions, age of consent for sex you name it -just some examples.
In really free society your life AND body as whole and its parts belong to YOU, not government, president, PM, king. Meaning it is up to you how to use it (type of sexual activity involved by person reached adulthood - for free of for pay, sell or donate your organs, make any piercing, tattoos, change you gender),how and when to dispose it (right to suicide/euthanasia), what kind of substance digest. Government should be involved if and only if in all those case minor involved, violence take place, actions directly affects other people (e.g. I guess DUI should be punished. In short, Government should NOT put moral issues under the protection of Law, because morality is not universal (you have good examples), but law applies to everybody.
Yes, I agree with other respected bloggers that democracy is spectrum thing, as result everything is depends on base line: e.g. your own country 10 years ago and today, or your country today versus other countries today (compare with N Korea and Switzerland and you may have different picture. Freedom for people or freedom for big business?
Freedom of thought as mother of wisdom or political correctness as internal censor to save yourself?

asdfJune 19, 2018 10:27 AM


Really good points. Especially pointing out the issue of regulatory capture and the flaw of framing security as having a direct relationship to freedom (or crime even being inversely related to security, considering things like homosexuality and encryption were never a security threat).

But the idea behind the analysis is on-point. Bruce posted a link to a cool paper by Dan Geer that made similar points, but from a complex network perspective.

Peter S. ShenkinJune 19, 2018 10:35 AM

@Dan "They're using our own democracy against us!"

Or, to quote an old gospel song, "They've got the church outnumbered."

In fact, democracies have always gone through totalitarian periods, while pretending otherwise, in times of stress. England during WW-II under Churchill, for example. America during F. D. Roosevelt's New Deal, for another. America during WW-II , under FDR; in this last case, Supreme-Court approval of the imprisonment of American citizens of Japanese origin was simply part of the pretense.

Perhaps the worst in America was WW-I, where people (like Eugene Victor Debs, but he was not alone) were imprisoned simply for expressing opinions opposing the war. (Re. Debs, I'm referring to his 1918 arrest.)

One question is whether all this was necessary, aside from whether it was consistent with democratic ideals, which it clearly was not. We became more tolerant with the Vietnam war, and, acknowledging that this may be merely an old-fart's view of the world, and allowing for the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc, and even acknowledging my part in the protests, it seems to me that America has kinda gone downhill since then.

HumdeeJune 19, 2018 10:51 AM

I agree with others that this post by @bruce is unnecessarily alarmist. I do so because I agree that the USA is hardly a model of democratic participation (it is better than some, worse than some).

Further, I find this statement by Bruce bemusing. He writes, "Dan Geer often said that "the price of freedom is the probability of crime." We are willing to pay this price because it isn't that high."

Huh? Double huh? First, the USA leads the world in mass incarceration.

So the idea that the price we are paying "isn't that high" is wrong. It is higher in the USA than anywhere else in the world measured on a per capita basis. Further, Geer's quote creates a false association between freedom and crime when they have nothing to do with one another--crime is a function of law for if there were no laws there would be no criminals. Would the entire lack of a legal system mean that such a society had the highest degree of freedom? Depends on your definition of freedom...some people would consider the jungle to be the least free.

@Bruce writes, "Will there be a point in the future where free and open societies will no longer be able to survive? "

That is bimbo talk. "free and open societies" means nothing more than "societies like the one I happen to like", which is all well and good because one is entitled to like what one likes but if the internet hastens the demise of the USA I, for one, am persuaded that there is a strong possibility that the loss of the USA as a world power would increase the freedom and openness of the world at large.

bttbJune 19, 2018 11:36 AM

Today at 1 pm et, Dave Davies talks with David Sanger on Fresh Air; perhaps available or on a public radio station near you, or later, by transcript or recording.

"Sanger, author of The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage, and Fear in the Cyber Age. He writes about the Russian hacking of the DNC; digital sabotage from Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea; and how the U.S. is trying to defend itself. Sanger is a national security correspondent for the New York Times."

OT, but John Prine fans might enjoy his show yesterday.

"Prine released his first album in 1971 with several songs that remain staples of his repertoire, like "Angel From Montgomery," "Paradise," "Sam Stone" and "Hello In There.""

btw, afaik, Fresh Air was once rumoured to one of the favorite radio shows amongst USA Sheriffs' Departments.

FelicityJune 19, 2018 12:11 PM

Or we could, I don't know, maybe stop making everyone battle each other to survive while a small number gain immense wealth. A decade or two of not forcing everyone to needlessly suffer and struggle for scraps while being fed a steady diet of propaganda designed to demonize those not like them would do wonders for the crime rate.

And great news everyone, we can have that today, no new sci fi tech needed. Just need to reject the toxic narrative you have been fed, the senseless consumption and consumerism.

Stop being bullied or manipulated by human supremacists. They've been ruining things for millennia and it's time it stopped.

wiredogJune 19, 2018 12:23 PM

@Godfree Roberts
"The USA for example, though promoting itself as a democracy is not in any sense democratic, barely free and less open than at any time in its existence. "

This is only true if you're a white male Christian.

BillikinJune 19, 2018 12:36 PM

In the developed world wasn't the greatest threat to cybersecurity in the 1990s Microsoft? They could not be bothered to make Windows secure. In the near future isn't the greatest threat the Internet of Things? Again, because the makers and sellers of those things will not bother to make them secure.
In both cases, is it our free society that is the reason for these threats? Or is it those with economic power who want to own everything, including, effectively, us?

PeterJune 19, 2018 12:42 PM

Yeah..And the CIA don't kill people .
Bruce, was it your wonderfull democrazy or some dictator who tapped ALL emails, sms, mobile-calls and whatnot ? Or sold cocaine for the contras ?? .
Sorry to wake you yank-guys up, but you aint half as great as you all seem to think.

Michael ArgastJune 19, 2018 2:05 PM

Other than the free/centralized soft/hard target argument, there is another advantage specifically that China has over the US here. Specifically, state owned enterprises combined with PLA funded and orchestrated IP theft allow for the effective use of nation state apparatus to profit state owned enterprises. Being able to support corporate espionage at the scale of hundreds of billions of dollars of IP theft per year and thus favour Chinese firms puts other corporate entities at a significant disadvantage.

I've seen everything from the theft of paint formulas, market/financial information for purposes of acquisition in the energy sector, drill/mining data to have competitive advantage in mineral rights auctions. Having a continuous intelligence advantage has resulted in rapid scale and success of Chinese national firms.

HumdeeJune 19, 2018 3:17 PM

@wiredog writes, "This is only true if you're a white male Christian."

I'm curious as to what groups you think are more free now in America than they were say, fifty years ago? Homosexuals, though their successes certainly have been mixed. To some minor degree women, but that too is varied and strongly correlates with economic class.

I've seen your talking point come up now and then: that all this doom and gloom about America is really just the carping of jealous white men who resent having their historical privilege taken away. I don't buy it. I don't buy it because I don't see how /any/ social class in America is thriving except the wealthy.

[BTW I recognize I am starting to wander from the security focus of this blog but @Bruce started it!]

albertJune 19, 2018 3:36 PM

This paper is the dumbest piece of crap I'm ever read. Unfortunately, I have neither the time nor the patience to respond to each point. It appears that the authors need to get out of their ivory tower and see how the real world works. Some of the commenters here have seen the issues, others appear to be trolling for the MSM.

@Michael Argast,
"..effective use of nation state apparatus to profit state owned enterprises...". It's not just state-owned companies, it's all companies. It's much simpler if you have one central entity overseeing business. Decisions affecting the economy can be implemented 'instantly'. Here, the Elite have to engage in payouts to Congress, elections, and all that crap, and it costs time and money. All this pissing and moaning about IP theft isn't going to solve anything. Isn't it possible to dramatically reduce IP theft? Are we helpless against the onslaught? What is being done?
Look, it's not complicated. We have a system based on corporate greed, controlled by the private banks, and the War Machine. The Elite have -exactly- the degree of cyber-security they want. No more and no less. Not only are politicians too old and too ignorant to understand the situation, they are incapable of doing anything about it.

This is where we stand. Our IC is used for warmongering, and trying to mitigate cyber threats for other countries, who have been defined as 'enemies'. How's that working out? We need 'enemies' to keep the US world-wide military continuously engaged. We're experts at making enemies, but why not make friends? We might as well try it; we've got a lot to lose.

. .. . .. --- ....

bttbJune 19, 2018 3:48 PM

The topic of this thread, Free Societies are at a Disadvantage in National Cybersecurity, involves, of course, topics like false flag operations, attribution problems, Non-official cover, and disinformation, spin, or propaganda. For example, regarding a potential cyber active measure, the USA election, and Roger Stone, from emptywheel:

"Now, as I said, the reason we’re learning about this particular lie from Caputo and Stone is because it feeds a certain narrative, that the FBI was seeking to set up the Trump campaign. That makes zero sense, given that even accepting the outreach from a Russian would have triggered attention from the FBI, and it’s clear FBI just got this information recently (probably, as I’ve noted, on March 9 [2018]). Remember, too, the FBI didn’t formally learn that the Russians were targeting the Democrats, to the extent they did (and the Russians targeted Rubio and Graham as well) until June [2016]. So there’s no reason the FBI would have used a Russian to deal dirt in May. In other words, Caputo and Stone’s story makes zero sense.

But it is notable that Russians and their partners have used so many former informants in their outreach to Trump’s team. In addition to Oknyansky (whom the Russians would have known by the networks he helped expose), there’s Felix Sater (whose role as an informant was already known), who pitched both a Tower deal and “peace” in Ukraine. And while it hasn’t been confirmed, George Nader would not be a free man right now if he hadn’t traded cooperation for freedom, in light of his serial child pornography violations.

Of course, the Trump team hasn’t said a word about Nader and Sater being FBI informants infiltrating their campaign, perhaps because Mueller had them cooperating before this strategy got rolled out.

I have long said that one of the easiest ways to avoid network analysis scrutiny the US is known to do is to become (or remain) an informant. Both David Headley and Tamerlan Tsarnaev appear to have evaded scrutiny that way, and even Omar Mateen may have gotten less scrutiny because his father was an informant. There’s lots of reason to believe that gets your communication channels pulled from the network mapping programs, for two reasons: first, because informants need to be deconflicted (meaning you need to make sure the DEA doesn’t arrest someone who’s working for the FBI), and because if they remain in the network mapping pool, you’ll soon have half the FBI two degrees from drug lords and terrorists and therefore subject to NSA’s analytical tradecraft.

If I know that, Russia knows that (and there’s good reason to believe Russia has exploited that in the past). Moreover, the FBI has been hacked itself in recent years, multiple times. If data on the FBI’s own networks is available, it’d make it even easier for Russia to identify people it could use as outreach to the Trump campaign.

In other words, it’s possible, if not likely, we’ll see more former FBI assets networked into efforts to compromise the Trump campaign. Because that would be the best way to avoid scrutiny."

The Washington Post has a recent article that summarizes a lot.

Frank WilhoitJune 19, 2018 5:29 PM

"...There are defensive cybersecurity measures that a totalitarian country can take that a free, open, democratic country cannot...."

This is sloppy reasoning based on sloppy political science and sloppy history. Here, exactly, is the slop: you are confusing "free, open, democratic country" with "free AND/OR open AND/OR democratic polity that is not riven to paralysis by domestic factional conflict", which is not at all the same thing.

"Free" is one axis. Do you think you know what "freedom" means? Very well then, so do I: I think it is a euphemism for unaccountability. On goes the game, forever and ever.

I cannot even postulate a meaning for "openness", above the level of we'd-know-it-if-we-saw-it. It is an inane concept, barely even rising to the level of a handwave. (You may have noticed that I am not a fan of intersubjectivity generally.)

"Democracy" also has > N meanings for every N people who have used it. My meaning is the tyranny of the majority, full stop.

The outcome of World War II hinged, in substantial part, upon the fact that the Allies had, on the whole, better operational cybersecurity than the Axis. Now tell us how much less "free", less "open" , less "democratic" the Allied nations became during the war, and why that was qualitatively expectable. Extrapolate to the current climate of perpetual undeclared "war".

PeaceHeadJune 19, 2018 7:27 PM

I am in agreement with Mr. Godfree Roberts.

Freedom is not the problem, it's the solution as well as it's own reward.
Authoritarianism has been infiltrating USA in bolder and bolder increments since 1776 or 1976, depending upon your perspective.

The honorable Edward Snowden did significantly explain in his non-sensationalised writings and interviews how the US has more to lose because of it's internetworked dependencies and that it's better to be defensive than offensive and that it's better to implement strong infrastructural security and pragmatic common sense than to engage in cyberwarfare.

Stuxnet might have been brilliant, but you can't dodge that genie out of the bottle. That was part of the beginning of this type of concern. I am in agreement with the honorable Edward Snowden. I hope that he is exhonorated at some point soon within his lifetime; he's been since vindicated against the false claims that he endangered lives. He's done more helping the masses than harming. I only say these things because the mere mentioning of his name stirs up naysayers who didn't follow through on learning about his reputation's evolution.

But to get back on topic, there's really no reason to complain about supposedly being at a disadvantage. We really aren't. Freedom is our biggest advantage because it saves so many lives from torture, murder, abduction, censorship, and ballistic extremes. Our system is definately not perfect and it's showing severe injuries lately, but it is certainly not the problem.

Seeking refuge within totalitarianism will not solve security problems. It would throw the baby out with the bath water off a cliff into boiling sulfur spring populated by parasite-infested hungry pirranhas.

So yeah, that is not the answer.
Freedom needs to be bolstered by science, humanitarianism, and common sense. ...Not attacked.

That being said, I'm still glad that people like Trump were ironically smart enough to be polite and friendly to a potentially vicious dictator in order to accomplish a more peaceful coexistence and to leverage that peacefulness into the future and to reduce geopolitical tensions deeper into the future (even though he exaccerbated them alot at first and still does!).

May Peacefulness Prevail Within All Realms of Existence.

PatriotJune 19, 2018 10:00 PM

My colleagues and I have been saying this for a long, long time. It is interesting how reality slowly dawns on the benighted, in this case starting years after the cookie jar has been robbed with glee, over and over.

The Chinese are laughing. Cast your eyes back to the Office of Personnel Management data breaches, some of the worst data compromises in U.S. history, and you can see the full story of U.S. passivity and helpless apathy.

The authors of the article that Mr. Schneier has brought up are on the right track when they compare the U.S. to the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire's failure was partly to do with unlimited military expansion. This is one part of the issue.

Yes, having a prosperous, open society does make the U.S. vulnerable to attack. Look at the Chinese agents who penetrated the OPM with such ease. By the way, how many failures, by how many organizations, must have been asleep at the wheel for those agents to waltz into the OPM--Chinese passport holders to boot--for their op to succeed? The NSA, feckless; the FBI, feckless; U.S. CI, absent; the OPM, a disgrace. What was the reaction from the executive branch? They said not to worry about it. A treasure trove of data for prime use against U.S. intelligence and U.S. global interests, which could very well cost U.S. lives during a military conflict, was a problem that just wouldn't go away! As in many other data breach disasters, those responsible for the failure just wanted to pretend that it did not happen.

Another important point: putting people into positions of authority because of their race or gender, instead of their qualifications, is not a weakness the Chinese suffer from.

In the U.S. GOV Hydra, with many heads and a little self-interested brain in each, institutional failure is not isolated, and it is not just due to political correctness. If you still doubt whether the U.S. is in real trouble, go to YouTube and behold U.S. Green Berets running away from a gunfight in Tongo Tongo, Niger. They were untrained and completely unready for that mission, and that is all there is to it. The response was to spend more money for drones. No. The response should be to teach Green Berets tactics and the ability to fight on the ground so they don't run away without covering each other. Teach them mission planning. Teach them situational awareness.

The other third of the problem is not that the U.S. has freedom of speech. The failure is that America has become passive and is devoted to mediocrity in the form of multicultural namby-pambiness. As Mr. Schneier has very rightly pointed out, to do information security you need to take an adversarial stance, and that stance is lacking in many quarters. There needs to be an informed effort against the real threats, and a consciousness that the U.S. is a we that can falter, even fail. And the U.S. needs real leadership.

What looks like a powerful effort by people who care--for example, by the military and the NSA, etc.--spending about one trillion dollars in total, may actually be self-serving in some instances and do nothing that actually benefits the country. In fact, it may be groups of people who just want to get rich and don't really care if the Chinese rob the country blind or if wars are endless, as long they themselves profit. This is actually what has happened to America after 9-11.

The response will be to spend more money because contractors and bureaucrats like money. The response should be for heads to roll when failure occurs, for the leadership to acknowledge that the U.S. is in real danger vis-a-vis China, for cyber defense to be taken seriously, and to be honest about the clash of civilizations that his going on right now and how America appears to be losing.

AnuraJune 19, 2018 10:49 PM


Authoritarianism has been infiltrating USA in bolder and bolder increments since 1776 or 1976, depending upon your perspective.

The US started out extremely authoritarian (although not by the standards of the time), but has been tending towards less authoritarianism over time. We tend to take two steps forward, one step back, and right now we are on a long back step as concentration of wealth increases the need for guard labor, surveillance has become ridiculously cheap due to advances in technology and a consumer electronics market ruled by first-to-the-market capitalism, while marketers and information brokers have invested tons of money to create a privatized mass-surveillance infrastructure.

Sancho_PJune 20, 2018 5:00 AM

@Bruce: Nice try, anyway.
[In fact, I think @Bruce wanted to collect some talking points from his audience :-) ]

Wesley ParishJune 20, 2018 5:24 AM

Completely off-topic and out of left field: I think the result of any rapprochment between North Korea and South Korea will lead to North Korea copying South Korea's public institutions as quickly as they can manage to out-manage their current set of bosses.

On a hardly related and thus off topic note, I did read back in the late nineties that companies - private and public - were command economies. I think that may well be the cause of US national cyberinsecurity - command economies are notorious for failing to anticipate the obvious, and with at least two giant command economies in charge of the US national debt aka the US defense budget, and other giant command economies in charge of US cyberspace, the US has less flexibility than the 1980s USSR. In this matter, for its willful blindness, the Chicago School of Economics that led to such atrocities as Reaganomics and Thatcherism, is guilty of the serious scientific crime of falsifying data. It failed to note that companies are command economies and are thus no more capable of responding adequately to a free market than a nationwide command economy such as the Soviet Union.

As far as the current topic goes - I used to think that too, during the latter stages of the Cold War, wondering why the Free World was so busy publishing the details of their weapons systems so the opponent, the USSR and its cohorts, could copy or emulate. That lasted until I took a good long look at the other things that the Free World was producing besides weaponry, and compared it to the opponents' list. Giant tractors, and I don't think the Russian Federation's yet produced a light aircraft even roughly equivalent to the highly useful Cessna range of single-engined aircraft that are so useful as feeder airliners in Papua New Guinea and Australia's Northern Territory. Let alone the brilliant DH Beaver and Otter and Twin Otter.

IsmarJune 20, 2018 6:43 AM

Alas @Bruce
There are no free societies nor there have ever been any. There are only degrees of control imposed by the ruling elite. Hence, if I try to use a TOR service or any form of encrypted communications channel like Signal or such I immediately become a POI and draw unwanted government attention. The only difference is that if I live in Australia I can still use these and think I have some sort of privacy, whereas if I live in UAE I am not given the luxury of even imagining of having any privacy at all. So from a security point of view I would think that Australia would have an edge being able to eavesdrop on my communications over UAE where I would not even attempt to communicate electronically at all.

WinterJune 20, 2018 7:11 AM

The problem with these types of analysis, that run back to the emergence of democracy itself, is that they disregard the very foundations of societies.

A democracy is a society with a very high flow of information between its members. That "broadband flow" of information allows well informed and high trust societies.

Both well informed members and high trust makes for efficient, and rich, societies with effective government.

Undemocratic societies are the opposite. They are low trust societies with misinformed members. These societies are inefficient and badly governed (generally very corrupt). It seems the USA are in the process of disintegrating into an undemocratic, inefficient part and a democratic, efficient part. Identifying the parts is left as an exercise for the reader.

Can, e.g., undemocratic and corrupt Russia destroy, e.g, democratic and well governed Germany? Of course, in the short run.

Can Germany outrun Russia in every respect, including cyber warfare? Who even questions that?

vas pupJune 20, 2018 11:35 AM

Looks like there is kind of misunderstanding of difference between democracy and republican form of government where elected officials (even when election is not corrupted on any level) basically not often if not at all follow their election campaign promises after being elected.
You may not like current US President, but his exception is that he follows his pre-election promises (you like them or not) in his policy after election. Other elected officials either looking for excuses ('we were not informed properly before' - then why you did make promises?) or just abandon altogether needs of constituents (in favor of lobbyists or/and contributor to their election campaign) until two weeks before next election when they suddenly recall about your existence. That is political theater, not democracy.
Democracy is about political regime(rights, freedoms, prosperity, safety, health care you name it) not type of the electoral process. You may have democratic Kingdom/monarchy (Norway, Sweden, Netherlands), democratic republic (Finland, Switzerland). You know as all respected bloggers examples of non-democratic republics with elected officials as ruling class.

Ross SniderJune 20, 2018 7:48 PM

This might explain why the US National Security establishment has undergone draconian and authoritarian changes over the past 15 years.

Is "Cybersecurity" now synonymous with "Propaganda warfare"? Because I hear it used for this, but also for other purposes (sabotage, espionage, theft) for which "free" societies are not at any particular disadvantage.

PeaceHeadJune 20, 2018 7:54 PM


Hehe, I had the same polite calm suspicion.
No matter, we all obliged and tipped our hands and our hats.

It seems that a lot of us agree about portions of the problemscape, but our implied solutionsets are very different from each other in some cases. However, I still like the diversity and sharing of intellectualism.
And I agree that's a plus not a minus.

If our society wasn't free to a degree, this entire website and interaction and it's related topics and books wouldn't exist. Clearly that's worth mentioning, right? (rhetorical question!)

I'd rather not bite those particular feeding hands.

IsmarJune 20, 2018 10:55 PM

I agree but also contributing to this blog can be a double-edged sword as those in power listen in as well and nobody likes having their flaws pointed out

Mikko KivirantaJune 21, 2018 12:18 AM

There is an interesting study by Kukkola, Ristolainen and Nikkarila of the Finnish defence forces, which takes a look on a thought-provoking development in Russia: they seem to be developing the capability to disconnect and isolate the russian part of the Internet from the global web at will, without hopelessly messing the functionality of their local part of the web. The Telegram chaos is an example of how much various web functionalities are entangled so that you cannot disable one service without disrupting a number of other services. This program, dubbed 'RuNet 2020' seems to have been underway since 2014 at least, and hence predates the Telegram mess by several years.

Sounds like a sensible way to go in the world threatened by cyber attacks and also information warfare. And it's one more example about asymmetries between free and authoritarian societies - although I'm not sure why such a disconnection capability at national level would be at odds with the free society? It merely creates a capability to be used at emergencies only, and is probably related with how other freedoms, too, may be diminished during the time of war.

DrJJune 21, 2018 4:49 AM

I'd recommend David Runciman's book - How Democracy Ends - for an interesting exploration of the state of democracy and what might come next.

bttbJune 21, 2018 9:58 AM

@Usual suspects, including those who we haven't heard from for awhile

From emptywheel"

"Putin hated Hillary for several actions she took at SoS [Secretary of State], and they are somewhat understandable.

First, he blamed her for dissent in 2011 and 2012. Putin is right that that dissent was the purpose of Hillary’s policies. Ironically, it’s part of the double edged sword that is Tor. Here’s a provocative piece from Jack Goldsmith that I think addresses the conflicts with the Hillary type agenda.

Hillary’s SoS also got RU to abstain from the Libya vote in 2011, based on a promise we weren’t engaged in regime change. We were.

That’s why Hillary (and Petraeus’) policies in Syria were a line in the sand for Putin, particularly given that Assad is a more cherished client than Qaddafi was.

The fact of the matter is that Hillary pursued regime change (and her aides remained around to do same in Ukraine). Loathe Putin all you want — he has earned it. But understand, too, that even ignoring Bill’s expansion of NATO, Putin regarded Hillary’s embrace of regime change as a threat to key RU interests and largely defined a threat to him. He acted accordingly."

+ 1 for the Goldsmith 17 page article, which Bruce links to above (html) and which emptywheel links to here (pdf): (pdf)

Table of Contents
The Failure of Internet Freedom, by Goldsmith
1) Hypocrisy
2) Failure Abroad
3) Failure at Home
4) Conclusion: Tradeoffs

"Jack Landman Goldsmith (born September 26, 1962) is an American lawyer and Harvard Law School professor who has written extensively in the field of international law, civil procedure, cyber law, and national security law.[2] He has been "widely considered one of the brightest stars in the conservative legal firmament."[3]"

UsualJune 21, 2018 5:34 PM

Jack Landman Goldsmith's lack of acknowledgement of the existence of other unmentioned critical factors and their importance in the information operations to harm other countries is remarkable, eg the roles of profit maximization by YouTube FaceBook etc played as perverse incentives for deploying AI algorithms that prioritized the promotion and suggestion of hateful inflammatory news and videos that in turn created a cottage industry of fake news as a way of generating income and also the politically motivated information operations that the most effective way to achieve the intended results was through hateful inflammatory news and videos.

Anyone who was neutral would have been quite disheartened by the level of hateful inflammatory news and videos that YouTube and FaceBook were shoving into their faces nonstop without being prompted to dish out these suggestions. People were held as powerless hostage to YouTube and FaceBook suggestions of hateful inflammatory news and videos.

The lack of acknowledgement of the role of perverse incentives for profit maximization at YouTube FaceBook played in the information operations is huge tell of the motives of Jack Landman Goldsmith

Sancho_PJune 22, 2018 2:51 AM

@Ismar, re our opinion

Sorry to scratch your picture, but no one - let alone the powers - cares whatever Ismar or Sancho vent, here or wherever.
The powers would not even ignore it - if they knew about.
@Bruce listens because he is not part of the powers.

In contrast to a dictatorship, in a democracy the opinion of the plebs is void.

Clive RobinsonJune 22, 2018 7:44 AM

@ Mikko Kiviranta,

[It] takes a look on a thought-provoking development in Russia: they seem to be developing the capability to disconnect and isolate the russian part of the Internet from the global web at will, without hopelessly messing the functionality of their local part of the web.

This development was obviously going to happen when the ITU meeting in Doha back in 2014 went "pear shaped" not just for Russia but quite a few other nations wanting more autonomy over the Internet.

The US Gov "Spookworks" was heavily supported by some of Silicon Valley's most "Heavyweight" Corps such as Google to fight to maintain "US autonomy" along with most of the "Extended Five-Eyes" and even the Pacific-Eyes and quite a few Northen European NATO members and their "Spookworks".

I mentioned it at the time on this blog, but it was not picked up on by others for discussion. So finally it appears others are now having their antenna twitch, much to late to head it off with a more moderate path...

Speaking of which when Paul Wolfowitz was at the World Bank a lot of his unpleasent techniques came to light,

As the second part of the article shows "Wolfowitz was a usefull tool" for the more hidden neo-con agenda as is the Israeli politicians (something even the IDF now know and are talking about publically).

At various points Wolfowitz let slip bits of key information about what the Iraq war was realy about. The put up story was "protection of Israel" but the real target surprising for many was not the oil of Iraq and Iran, but the EU.

The US neo-cons regard the EU as one of the biggest threats to their plans for the US there can possibly be. They have targeted the EU in many ways, including trying to turn them into a "usefull idiot" against Russia, in much the same way they have with South Korea against both Russia and China.

The "soft path" failing the inflamation of the Middle East by the US is quite deliberatly a neo-con policy to make considerable numbers of refugees to swamp the EU and other surrounding nations. Not just as a distraction against Israeli far right minority political policies (largely successfull) but to break up the EU with immigration issues.

Unfortunatly the "most usefull tool" for the neo-cons in Europe is "Mummy Merkel". In the main her policy on refugees caused the rise of not just nationalism but ultra right wing and neo-nazi views. Which has also set the agrarian south against the industrial north in various ways. This has caused considerable issues that have alowed certain EU neo-cons in Northern Europe to effectively force Southern European countries to be "asset stripped" in the equivalent of a "fire sale". That the "friends" of the EU neo-cons benifit by greatly, as they walk down an economic path that was the favourd policy of nazi economists...

It was also one of the drivers behind both US and EU neo-con illegal investment in the Brexit vote. For different reasons the US and EU neo-cons found that the promise of former "status" glories to dissafected and mainly myopic decendents of "landed gentry" and those who wish the return of upper class status made "useful idiots". Because with it's "recognition" by kow tow and fetlock tugging being the "usefull idiots" strongest desire for "status" was an easy in for their various neo-con policies.

The result being much "propaganda" that was easily disprovable being given predominance as what we now call "fake news". Whilst many saw right through it, the main stream media owned by certain US interests --News Intetnational-- strongly pushed the neo-con agenda with authoritarian followers and those of limited "neighbour interaction" of what are in effect "closed societies" of herbivore not tribal outlook. The result being the marginal win from Brexit by those of herbivore outlook who in reality have most to lose from Brexit.

As for the continuing "non" deal, this is unsuprising the ex Greek Finance Minister pointed out not just that this would happen long prior to the Brexit vote, but why and more importantly by whom. The "usefull idiots" that are responsible for the UK side of things are playing their ventriloquist puppet parts so well you have to wonder why the hand that drives them has not exoloded out of the useful idiots vacuous heads...

The whole point of the "non" position by EU neo-cons is to make the UK an example to other EU nations to "Kow Tow" to the unelected or be ruined...

Hopefully I will not be alive when what are currently the scourge of "rent seekers" become the new "landed gentry" and the King Game gives us back our "surfdom" status, not with the State but Corporations with the "voice behind the throne" being the general neo-con agenda...

Our host @Bruce noted the "surfdom" process gaining momentum on the Intetnet, but at the time probably did not realise what it ment and to whom and why on a wider basis. There are quite a few Sovereign States that will not stand for becoming "vassal states" of the US in any way, hence the Intetnet "kick back" you have highlighted. I would expect to see a lot more of it fairly soon, with the likes of the FBI just arbitrarily throwing their weight around with abusing the DNS system to sink hole servers being the most publically visable aspect of the US making their jurisdiction "world wide" instead of as they originally agreed to by treaty rules of "within their national borders". Nations are waking up to where this is going to go and starting to take precautions to limit / mitigate the harms the US represents in terms of cyber-real-politic, as well as that of the EU and other "power bkock" entities.

It's difficult to decide if this will result in balkanisation or real democracy. The point being that as @Bruce has noted recently "centralisation" makes control easier, and as I pointed out at the time centralization results from what is simple cost reduction economics.

Whilst there is little individuals can do, nation states can for their own protection turn the Internet from a "funnel-web" with the "devour all" US at it's center into a net of potentialy equal nodes. Which was the original DoD intent as it alows "routing around damage" and that includes "national security" and it's protection from other nation states.

That is the more links a nation has with other nations the more robust their systems become from the control of one other nation or collection of nations. In a way this is also a protection mechanism against the original form of terrorism that was the "tyranny of nations" that can be seen in history by the control of resources know as "water rights wars".

It's clear the US has a long term policy of trying to take control of resources, much as China does and as Russia and China have with the supply of resources. In the US one asspect is that of the longterm energy generation production. This can be seen by the faux war on nuclear weapons prior to the inevitably shortage of fossil fuels makes current conventional generation economically unviable or subject to political control.

Much as many would like to use "green" methods they are all currently unreliable due to lack of "efficient storage technology", hence the view by both politicians and technologists that "nuclear generation" is the only way to go for a whole host of reasons. Thus the US trying to deny nations the ability of independent nuclear generation is a very easy way to turn them into future "vassal nations". We have seen Russia amongst others "turning off the gas tap" as a means of modern political influance to see what the results of the US nuclear control policy would be. Much of Eastern Europe including Germany are vulnerable to this. Likewise those nations in other Super Power "co-prosperity" spheres of interest.

Currently the US has that sort of control on the Internet. Whilst they have used it for "collect it all" for the IC, recent LEO operations by the US DoJ, judiciary and FBI shows where it is going to go if not put in check.

Oddly perhaps with a little thought it can be seen that nations turning the funnel-web into a net would actually increase democracy not just "national security". What many do not realise, is that as long as there are a minimum number of non centralized links to any given point in a net, traffic can be routed beyond control of any one nation or even collection of nations, except that of the nation the start and end points are located in, that in theory control all the "direct links" to the end points. However even this is in doubt, as demonstrated in North Korea and other parts of the world "mobile technology" crosses borders, enabling non-official links to be established to route around national control. Similar techniques can likewise work as the many Pirate Radio Stations have established with easily made microwave and optical links.

More importantly is that not only can you build a "reliable" network ontop of an unreliable network, you can also build other types of network ontop as well. Two such networks are mix-net networks and broadcast-net networks, when combined they can produce a "Traffic Analysis Proof" network. This is not just the ultimate in democratization network with all it's pros and cons, it is also the biggest fear of those who want states of "authoritarian follower" citizens such as the neo-cons and similar of extream self-interested political and related view wishing to become the new Barrons, Earls and Kings of a "new-order surfdom".

Clive RobinsonJune 22, 2018 9:28 AM

@ Wesley Parish,

Shortly before the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall I happened to be in West Germany on business as part of work involving electronic locks for the hospitality industry. Chatting to a taxi driver getting me to the customer, I told him about the fears in the UK and US that the CCCP would "push back" against those nations alowing "free passage" to East Germans to the West. And the fear that if it happened there might be armed conflict by the West as a response, leading to larger conflict.

It turns out the taxi driver was an escapee from the east to west, and he told me a couple of things firstly not to worry as the East German puppet leader Erich Honecker was seen as a failure in everybodies eyes even in Moscow. Which is why there had been no pushback and nor would there be in the future[1]. Secondly he told me a relevent joke,

At an economics conferance in the bar an American and Russian economists were arguing the merits of Capitalism -v- Communism. A little East German Prof was standing there nodding occasionaly at the various points, when suddenly he said "Gentlemen stop, I see what your problem is, there is no difference!" Both the American and Russian looked at him with questioning suprise and more than askance. So the little East German said "Gentlemen, it's easy, you both have a very great love for what you hold in highest regard, in Russia it's the working man, and in the US the profits earned by the working man, you both want to ensure like any jealous lover what you love will not be stolen away. Thus in America that you love goes into banks to be locked up safely, in Russia with the same love you have Gulags".

A very short while later business took me to Berlin and I was there on the night the wall started to come down. Being somewhat youthful I went to lend a hand and I hand carried a part of the wall home with me. Which I still have, along with a photo of me with a borrowed sledge hammer having a vigours blow for freedom, whilst the hammers owner watched on and had a breather.

bttbJune 23, 2018 9:52 AM

Food for Thought ("'FFT'"), for example, from above
A) Goldsmith and Russel
B) Goldsmith

A) and B): no mention of either 'Cambridge Analytica' or 'Brexit', afaik, in either paper. Not noteworthy?

From A) an interesting reference. What would the consequences have been?:

"North Korea was reportedly one spelling error away from stealing $1 billion from
the New York Federal Reserve in 2016. 25 ...
25 ​Sanger, Kirkpatrick, and Perlroth, “The World Once Laughed.”" presumably in reference to

From A) "Stuart Russell is a Visiting fellow at John F. Kennedy School’s Belfer Center at Harvard University (on loan from the United Kingdom government). Russell works on the Kennedy School’s Cyber Security Project.
The views expressed in this paper are his own and do not represent the views of the government of the United Kingdom."

bttbJune 23, 2018 10:46 AM

I enjoyed your post

Rat f?cking and elections is nothing new, of course. It is hard to predict, however, how rat f?cking will manifest itself in future elections. Big money (Mercers, Kochs, Putin, Fortune 10, and so on), intelligence (not stupid), or powerful technology (you name it), of course, can create formidable actors.

Turkey has elections tomorrow.

iirc a home grown 'encrypted' chat app may have rolled-up Erdogan's opposition in a recent coup attempt in Turkey.

Upcoming Mexico election (1 July 2018)

Before in Mexico (articles from 2016):
And from: this link

Current in Mexico (June 2018):
"Facebook’s fight against fake news has gone global. In Mexico, just a handful of vetters are on the front lines.
MEXICO CITY — This spring, a doctored image claiming that the wife of the leading Mexican presidential candidate was the granddaughter of a Nazi ricocheted across Facebook and its messaging service, WhatsApp.

The post, shared 8,000 times before it was disproved, was part of a flood of fabricated stories that have spread on Facebook and its other services, including Instagram, ahead of Mexico’s July 1 presidential election — the country’s own version of the divisive misinformation that sought to influence the 2016 campaign across the border.

Determined to prevent a repeat of the abuses of its platform ahead of the U.S. midterm elections in November, Facebook has poured resources into election integrity, hiring thousands of content moderators and fact-checkers, deploying artificial intelligence, and conducting large sweeps of problematic accounts. Each new election is a test: Facebook’s security and civic teams are actively tracking 50 different elections in 2018 — and triaging for those deemed “high risk” — amounting to a national election practically every week.

The Mexican election reflects the constantly mutating ways social media can be weaponized against democracy — and the immensity of Facebook’s global challenge.

Most of Facebook’s users live in countries like Mexico, where government corruption is endemic, distrust of the mainstream media is widespread, viral memes and WhatsApp messages are often perceived to be as credible as news stories, and the forces manipulating debate online are internal, tied to domestic political parties and other local actors..."

bttbJune 23, 2018 11:44 AM

@Clive Robinson

It appears that it doesn't take many people in powerful positions (Peter Principle anybody) to make a mess or clusterf?ck of the blue planet.

From your link above: another link :

"When Donald Rumsfeld appointed Wolfowitz his deputy in January 2001, the latter plumped to have his longtime associate Feith installed as assistant secretary of defense for policy and planning. Feith was an odd choice to be the No. 3 man at the Pentagon, given that he opposed much official US government policy. He was, among other things, a diehard opponent of the Oslo peace accords between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Feith then appointed his former boss, Richard Perle, also close to the Israeli right and a man who had advocated an Iraq war for Israel's benefit, to head the Defense Policy Board, a civilian oversight body for the Pentagon.

Just as Wolfowitz brought in Daboub at the World Bank to enforce narrow ideological programs such as gutting family planning, so he had earlier politicized intelligence at the Pentagon. Wolfowitz's tendency toward clientelism made him vulnerable to groupthink based on unexamined premises. In the case of Iraq, the consequences were tragic.

Wolfowitz and his cronies were fixated on overthrowing the government of Iraq. Richard Clarke detailed in his memoirs, "Against All Enemies," how he had enormous difficulty in calling a meeting of high Bush administration officials to discuss the threat of al-Qaida in spring of 2001. When Clarke finally had the opportunity to make his case to them, Wolfowitz "fidgeted" and "scowled" and attempted to shoot him down. "I just don't understand," complained Wolfowitz, "why we are beginning by talking about this one man bin Laden." Clarke says he explained that he was talking about al-Qaida "because it and it alone poses an immediate and serious threat to the US."

Clarke alleges that Wolfowitz responded, "You give bin Laden too much credit," and insisted that bin Laden's success with operations such as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing would have been impossible without a "state sponsor." He added, "Just because FBI and CIA have failed to find the linkages does not mean they don't exist."

The theory that Saddam was actually behind almost all the terrorist attacks on the United States from 1993 forward had been laid out by wild-eyed crank and supposed Middle East expert Laurie Mylroie in her "Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against America," which was published by the American Enterprise Institute (neocon central) in 2000."

bttbJune 23, 2018 11:52 AM

Finally, two from emptywheel:

"Far more likely, Mueller is ensuring one of his A Teams — including Dickey, DOJ’s best cyber prosecutor — will be able to move on to more important tasks on the central matters before him."
"Amid the ongoing family separation crisis, I want to look back at something that raised a few eyebrows among the more generalized nausea at Trump’s behavior at the G-7."

bttbJune 25, 2018 9:58 AM

The Wiretap Rooms
The NSA's hidden spy hubs in 8 U.S. Cities, from The Intercept:

"The secrets are hidden behind fortified walls in cities across the United States, inside towering windowless skyscrapers and fortress-like concrete structures that were built to withstand earthquakes and even nuclear attack. Thousands of people pass by the buildings each day and rarely give them a second glance, because their function is not publicly known. They are an integral part of one of the world’s largest telecommunications networks – and they are also linked to a controversial National Security Agency surveillance program.

Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. In each of these cities, The Intercept has identified an AT&T facility containing networking equipment that transports large quantities of internet traffic across the United States and the world. A body of evidence – including classified NSA documents, public records, and interviews with several former AT&T employees – indicates that the buildings are central to an NSA spying initiative that has for years monitored billions of emails, phone calls, and online chats passing across U.S. territory.

The NSA considers AT&T to be one of its most trusted partners and has lauded the company’s “extreme willingness to help.” It is a collaboration that dates back decades. Little known, however, is that its scope is not restricted to AT&T’s customers. According to the NSA’s documents, it values AT&T not only because it “has access to information that transits the nation,” but also because it maintains unique relationships with other phone and internet providers. The NSA exploits these relationships for surveillance purposes, commandeering AT&T’s massive infrastructure and using it as a platform to covertly tap into communications processed by other companies.
The NSA documents, which come from the trove provided to The Intercept by the whistleblower Edward Snowden, describe AT&T as having been “aggressively involved” in aiding the agency’s surveillance programs. One example of this appears to have taken place at the eight facilities under a classified initiative called SAGUARO."

echoJune 25, 2018 5:09 PM

The thread of joy running through these comments is that the "powers that be" are fundamentally incompetent.

I just got back from a holiday and after scanning the newspapers had one of those "Oh, my god" moments and rolled my eyes at the stupidity of everything. The control freakery and grandstanding and fence sitting hypoctrisy of it all? Can I go back on holiday please?

bttbJune 25, 2018 5:51 PM

imo below is an interesting read about ConFraudUs and the Mueller investigation. In addition, "ConFraudUs indictments don’t need to prove intent for the underlying crimes." Things may be heating up.

From :

"CNN’s David Gelles has an instructive tweet this morning showing how the rate at which Trump tweets about the Mueller “witch hunt” is accelerating.

[embedded tweet]

Assuming this includes this morning’s two “witch hunt” tweets, Trump is on pace to use the phrase 28 times by the end of the month, though I bet he’ll continue to accelerate the use of it in the week remaining in the month.

The Mueller investigation is, I suspect, coming to a head.

I don’t claim I know how it will turn out. The president has an enormous amount of power and his flunkies in Congress promise they’re about to end Rod Rosenstein’s bend-don’t-break defense by impeaching him (though Rosenstein and Chris Wray have just thrown more documents out to slow the Republicans). It’s certainly possible that Trump will make a last ditch effort to undercut the Mueller investigation and that effort will be competently executed and none of the secondary fall-back defenses Mueller has put into place will work. For now, though, the Trump team seems intent on a delay and discredit strategy, which won’t stave off any imminent steps.

So we shall see whether Trump succeeds in undercutting the investigation. I keep thinking, “that’s why they play the game,” but this is no game.

There are a number of reasons I think Mueller’s investigation is coming to a head. But consider one detail. I’ve long explained that Mueller seems to be building a series of Conspiracy to Defraud the United States indictments that will ultimately incorporate the entire Russian operation (and may integrate the Trumpsters’ international self-dealing as well). As Mueller’s team has itself pointed out, for heavily regulated areas like elections, ConFraudUs indictments don’t need to prove intent for the underlying crimes. They just need to prove,

'(1) two or more persons formed an agreement to defraud the United States;

(2) [each] defendant knowingly participated in the conspiracy with the intent to defraud the United States; and

(3) at least one overt act was committed in furtherance of the common scheme.'

Let’s see how evidence Mueller has recently shown might apply in the case of Roger Stone, Trump’s lifelong political advisor. We already knew that Stone had communications that he did not immediately disclose with Guccifer 2.0 and Wikileaks. With both, Stone has contributed to and reinforced claims the entities were not Russian operations, though his conversion about the source of the Hillary emails was pretty sudden and curiously timed.

Now we know that in May, Stone had lunch with someone calling himself Henry Greenberg offering dirt on Hillary. His explanation — based only on the texts that Michael Caputo was asked about in a Mueller interview — is not that he didn’t entertain the offer, but that he didn’t take Greenberg up on the offer as made in late May because Greenberg was asking for big money.


This is just one of the people Mueller has publicly focused on in recent days. We could lay out similar arguments for Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, and Brad Parscale, at a minimum. Mueller had — and acted on — probable cause warrants covering five AT&T phones in March, all of which probably had close ties to Rick Gates. Assuming those targets are distributed proportionately with the US population, he’s likely to have obtained warrants for as many as 15 phones just in that go-around.

So if Roger Stone is any indication, the Mueller investigation may soon be moving into a new phase."

justinacolmenaJune 25, 2018 8:01 PM

Dan Geer often said that "the price of freedom is the probability of crime." We are willing to pay this price because it isn't that high.

Dan Geer is wrong.

The Mueller investigation is, I suspect, coming to a head.

Oh, I hope so. Lady Liberty needs to pop that pimple on her face right away.


Spell it out for the jury, then. We're dumb fscks. What does it mean to "defraud the United States?" Did someone fool the Central Intelligence Agency and steal some money that was earmarked for one of their "Black Ops?" You mean the guy that was supposed to be offed is still alive? We just gotta make sure he doesn't come to court. I mean, you know, we're dumb, like I said, but we're not that dumb.

vas pupJune 27, 2018 11:37 AM

bttb • June 25, 2018 5:51 PM.
Thank you for that post. Many years ago on TED addresses of some of those hubs were disclosed. Link just confirmed them.
Regarding AT&T: now I understood why government did not break them down utilizing antitrust law. Company is too valuable for 1984-type activity. I don't like monopolists - no competition, no quality service, no reason for price dropping for service.
Can you imagine rates they charged for international calls? Are those 'snitching' expenses included in those high rates (like in 20 century)?

bttbJuly 1, 2018 7:55 PM



What does it mean to "defraud the United States?" Did someone fool the Central Intelligence Agency and steal some money that was earmarked for one of their "Black Ops?" You mean the guy that was supposed to be offed is still alive?..."

ConFraudUs might have included a guy on a rug with an iPod. For example, :

"In reality, both of Manafort’s search suppression motions are garden variety, in no way very interesting and unlikely to succeed (indeed, the equivalent motion with respect to his storage unit already failed in DC). That’s why I find Tillman’s observation so interesing; she even told me that Ellis didn’t want to hear any more on the search of the residence, but Manafort’s lawyer nevertheless presented it anyway, effectively laying groundwork for appeal on the damned iPods.

There’s been a lot of talk about why Manafort doesn’t flip now, and I realized when I read Tillman’s piece that this is likely one reason why. Fourth Amendment protection is not associative: Manafort is the only person who can bitch endlessly that the FBI took his iPods. So if there’s anything on there that implicates other people as well as himself, the serial bids to undermine the condo search (which would be followed by another if Mueller ever charges the June 9 meeting) would be the only thing to keep that evidence out of any trial.

I sure do get the feeling there’s something damned incriminating on those iPods."

btw, from the link at 5:51 pm above:

"ConFraudUs indictments don’t need to prove intent for the underlying crimes. They just need to prove,

'(1) two or more persons formed an agreement to defraud the United States;

(2) [each] defendant knowingly participated in the conspiracy with the intent to defraud the United States; and

(3) at least one overt act was committed in furtherance of the common scheme.'"

bttbJuly 1, 2018 8:53 PM

@vas pup

"Regarding AT&T: now I understood why government did not break them down utilizing antitrust law. Company is too valuable for 1984-type activity. I don't like monopolists - no competition, no quality service, no reason for price dropping for service.
Can you imagine rates they charged for international calls? Are those 'snitching' expenses included in those high rates (like in 20 century)?"

Maybe the USG got a quantity discount. In other words, perhaps, then and now we were both the product and customer, like with ISPs.

As you may know, one of the authors above, Jack Goldsmith, was at the Office of Legal Council (OLC) during part of that period. Perhaps he could share some stories.

"In June 2004, Goldsmith withdrew as legally defective the Bybee Memo and the Torture Memos, and advised DOD not to rely on the March 2003 memo. At the same time, he submitted his resignation. Several years later he said this was to try to force the administration to accept his withdrawal of the memo.[3] OLC legal opinions written in August 2002 related to the government's use of enhanced interrogation techniques, or torture, on individuals detained as enemy combatants. Newsweek reported that the CIA had regarded the Bybee memo as a "golden shield" against potential prosecution of officials involved in the program.[9]

But, Goldsmith was unable to have his office complete what he intended as the replacement legal opinions before he resigned on June 30, 2004.[10] He said later that he had felt he had lost the confidence of the administration. By December 2004, the replacement counsel at OLC had reaffirmed the previous legal opinions.

Goldsmith later said that one consequence of OLC's "power to interpret the law is the power to bestow on government officials what is effectively an advance pardon for actions taken at the edges of vague criminal statutes."[11]"

bttbJuly 7, 2018 12:24 PM

From: , amongst the comments:

SpaceLifeForm 5:26 pm: The Brits Told Us [the US NSA] the Russians Were Hacking Our Election
[apparently, GCHQ *thought* so]

Trip 6:01 pm: Ongoing fuckery with pysop trolls:
Pro-Trump & Russian-Linked Twitter Accounts Are Posing As Ex-Democrats In New Astroturfed Movement
#WalkAway from this deceptive propaganda campaign

earlofhuntingdon 11:06 am: It’s what you do when the law is against you, you have a bad client and bad facts. But the NYT doesn’t want to admit that in a headline.
"Shifting Strategy, Trump’s Lawyers Set New Conditions for Mueller Interview"

From some relevant tweets, from :

Paul Rosenzweig
Paul Rosenzweig
Replying to @benjaminwittes @nytmike and 5 others
1. Trump will never sit for an interview; 2. Mueller should "ask" but not "compel" -- avoiding a fight. 3. Starr thought that refusing an interview might be grounds for impeachment. And 4. Mueller does not need interview any more than prosecutor ever needs the target.
8:47 AM - 7 Jul 2018
Reply Retweet Like More
Paul Rosenzweig Paul Rosenzweig

Replying to @benjaminwittes @nytmike and 5 others
PS If he is successfully compelled and he lawyers don't force him to take the 5th, they are incompetent ... and Flood is not incompetent.
View conversation · Reply Retweet Like
bmaz bmaz

Replying to @RosenzweigP @benjaminwittes and 5 others
Sure. But it would be sweet to force him to assert it. Frankly, I don't think Mueller will waste the time doing so. But, as Mad Magazine used to say..."Scenes We'd Like To See".
View conversation · Reply Retweet Like

PeaceHeadJuly 11, 2018 9:02 PM

@ Anura, thanks for the comments. I have similar beliefs about that.

@ Ismar, I comprehend what you are saying. I don't really attempt to point out anybody's flaws. At least not personALLY.

However, the internet can be brutally honest and brutally cruel and dishonest at the same time. It's worth it to use some resilience against taking constructive criticism personally or assuming that talking about technical stuff is malicious.

However, also, I can empathise and accommodate that many people may not have flaws they are concerned about, but points of temporary vulnerability. I am not a hostile person. I do not wish for harm to occur to anyone. Even some of the worst things that happened to me, I wouldn't wish on anybody else. And others have been through much worse than me, in other capacities.

I try to be a realist. Part of that attempt involves me acknowleging that I really am pretty naive. And I certainly don't claim to know anybody here at all. And I assume that most don't know me very well either. For me, it's not an extreme type of assumption set.

But I will try to be sensitive. I'm not on the "warpath". I don't have any axes to grind about anything. I can emote, but that's fullest extent. And I don't weaponize words either.

There are some (others elsewhere) who could be thankful that I didn't end up as a criminal and/or terrorist. And I won't. Not ever.

I like some of this site because it helps nourish a style of thinking and consideration that is in the same pathway of thought of trying to comprehend rather than merely judge. I prefer not to be prejudiced. For me, that requires needing to seek more info on topics that I don't know alot about.

But also that requires a sense of adventure in not being afraid to say what I believe sometimes, as long as I don't cause harm to anybody.

But I am also in the process of trying to wrap up my participation level on this site because my communication style, although mild, does overwhelm some types of people culturally.

I'd rather be "pre-emptively peaceful" and to "escallate being nice unilaterally". And I'm not speaking sarcastically.

Peace be with you.

Rufo GuerreschiJuly 15, 2018 12:53 AM

It's true, democratic nations are at a great disadvantage to authoritarians ones, as these miss any transparency of controls over their abusive cyber-offense against individuals and nations.

Meanwhile, EU member states hesitate to compete in cyber-offense, because they feel they should disclose found vulnerabilities.

They should, instead: (1) invest hugely in such capabilities, without disclosing, to keep up with authoritarian nations; (2) Subject that to extreme resilient oversight against abuse; and (3) decisively build dual-use techs that are beyond nation-state hacking AND allow legit lawful access.

Our Trustless Dual-Use initiative is working towards (1) and (2):

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