Creating bogeymen is a specialty of the US national security complex. It's business, pure and simple. And what better place to gin up fear-based economy business than in the newspaper of America's business, the Wall Street Journal.
So in the past week we've seen the Journal enlisted in a campaign to make patsies of the hacking group, Anonymous.
It's worked like this.
First, the famous ex-government national security man, Richard Clarke, writes an editorial claiming hackers may soon be able to touch off a real war between nation states:
"If the hackers turn their attention to disruption and destruction, as some have threatened, they are likely to find the controls for electric power grids, oil pipelines and precious water systems inadequately secured. If a hacker causes real physical damage to critical systems in that region, it could quickly involve governments retaliating against each other with both cyber and conventional weapons."
Obviously, this is meant to sound very serious. If hackers, by implied extension -- Anonymous, could do such things they could touch off a shooting war. Therefore, it's time to get ahead of the curve and declare them an existential threat to the country.
Anonymous is many things: Audacious. Adept with publicity. Very troubling to some segments of establishment America. (Kind of like OWS.)
However, an existential threat to the United States isn't one of them. But there's certainly money in trying to make people believe it.
Clarke is a 1 percenter and much of his good fortune has been found in cybersecurity.
"[But lately Richard Clarke has] spent much of his time on cyber security through his consulting practice Good Harbor Consulting, an editorial in The Wall Street Journal, an upcoming book and the boards of two venture-backed security start-ups ...
"Q. Why are you joining the board of Bit9 [one of the security start-ups]?
"[Clarke]: Standard solutions that people have used for years -- firewalls and antivirus -- are still needed, but not sufficient. I've seen companies where advanced persistent threats had gotten through and companies where they hadn't gotten through. The difference turns out to be Bit9."
Yes, in the computer security industry there's always someone with the new turnkey solution. Been that way for a couple decades. Remember the Blitzkrieg Server? Didn't think so. (Feel free to come up with your own citation from the past.)
Levity aside, a few days ago the Wall Street Journal's news section ran another piece in which the National Security Agency's Gen. Keith Alexander reinforced the hackers will try to take down the grid meme:
"Despite National Security Agency director Gen. Keith Alexander's reported concerns that the Anonymous hacking group might try to attack the North American power grid, experts consider such a scenario to be extremely unlikely and Anonymous spokesmen dismiss the whole idea as 'ridiculous.'
"In an article in today's (Feb. 21) Wall Street Journal, reporter Siobhan Gorman writes that Alexander, in private meetings at the White House, has said Anonymous 'could have the ability within the next year or two to bring about a limited power outage through a cyberattack.' "
Of course, it is -- as usual -- completely unnecessary to provide any bolstering evidence for such a presumption.
I was polled. So cutting to it:
"Talk is cheap in cyberspace ... Restraint, however, is not. If someone could have easily done this -- and they can't -- they wouldn't have been able to resist doing it just for bragging rights.'
"People who talk about cyberwar and what can be done have abused this one for well over a decade ... I have materials in my files predicting the lights will be turned out that are well over ten years old."
One of the central features of cyberwar/cyberattack scaremongering is argument from authority. Us officials have abused it for personal and political agendas for well over a decade. In the process, they've destroyed any legitimacy, relying totally on fantastic and apocalyptic claims, never backing anything up other than with assertion one had better listen up because very important people are all repeating the same thing. Noam Chomsky called it manufacturing consent. Now it's gulling the rubes for personal gain.
This has resulted in a repeated mythology rather than a serious body of thought and debate people would do well to consider. As far as mythologies go, it's a technical one, its legends -- that the power grid will go down, that water will be contaminated, that the financial system will be corrupted (the latter is particularly atrocious in light of reality) -- unique to our national circumstances.
It's ripe for exploitation and that's just what our authorities do with it in the fear-based economy.
Cult of Electromagnetic Pulse Crazy: Target -- the UK
This week James Arbuthnot, a Tory member of Parliament brought the Cult of Electromagnetic Pulse Crazy to the UK, resulting in a burst of stories on how England could be thrown back to the time of the movie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, or whatever passes for it in merry Old England.
One example of the news, from the Beeb:
"The Defence Select Committee said the resulting radiation pulse could disrupt power and water supplies, UK defence and satellite navigation systems.
"Its chairman, Tory MP James Arbuthnot, said an attack was 'quite likely' ,,, Mr Arbuthnot added: 'it would actually have a far more devastating effect to use a nuclear weapon in this way than to explode a bomb in or on a city. The reason for that is it would, over a much wider area, take out things like the National Grid, on which we all rely for almost everything, take out the water system, the sewage system.'
"'And rapidly it would become very difficult to live in cities. I mean within a matter of a couple of days."
Arbuthnot's House of Commons report on the matter is here.
A quick look at it shows part of the Conservative Party mesmerized by the US Cult of EMP Crazy lobby, specifically EMPAct America, and one of its old members, Avi Schnurr. Schnurr is also part of the Bomb Iran/Israeli missile defense lobby and here he is in an old YouTube video for EMPAct.
"Airplanes could fall from the sky," he says. It would be back to the days of horse and buggy, no ice cubes in the ice tray, and so on. Readers know the script.
And reliance on EMPAct America's old study, referred to as the EMP Commission Report is shown here.
Schnurr testified on non-nuclear electromagnetic pulse weapons also. While unnamed these include the electromagnetic pulse suitcase of doom, the truck-mounted electromagnetic pulse ray, and the electromagnetic pulse grenade -- all of them coming but never quite arriving for, oh say, twenty years.
However, they are always a favored topic of the electromagnetic pulse defense lobby and so the Arbuthnot report warns of them:
44. Avi Schnurr said:
The biggest issue with non-nuclear EMP weapons is that the complexity and threshold required to produce them is minimal, to say the most. At the summit meeting in Washington DC, for example, there were two Assistant Secretaries of Defence, a Deputy Under-Secretary and the Pentagon's chief lawyer, all of whom expressed grave concerns over this risk--the non-nuclear EMP risk in particular, but the risk of EMP in general. The non-nuclear EMP risk is much shorter-range. However, that range, which could be 100 metres, a fraction of a kilometre or a kilometre--under certain circumstances, which I could discuss separately, it could be multiple kilometres--includes the risk of having a field strength that would be even greater, although limited in extent, than a nuclear EMP [...]. We had a speaker at that summit who described, to the extent he was allowed to describe it, a device that he built from hardware he acquired from retail stores in the United States, which he had built into a van.
45. A number of nations are thought to be undertaking research into the development of non-nuclear EMP attack weapons, but the Government does not currently regard them as a serious risk ...
In the main, Arbuthnot's report for Parliament relies entirely on material now five to ten years old, and entirely the product of the US electromagnetic pulse defense lobby.
National Geographic's Doomsday Preppers are ready for electromagnetic pulse doom but not unfortunate accidents with firearms
This week, from Arizona news radio:
"He's not worried about Mayan prophecies or weird predictions about the end of days, the worst case scenario for Tim Ralston is an electromagnetic pulse attack by a rogue country."
" 'If they dropped one bomb in our atmosphere -- about 300 miles -- say, above Kansas City, it will set off a chain reaction that in a millisecond our power grid as we know it would be shut down for well over two years,' Ralston said."
"Ralston, married father of two from Scottsdale, is getting national media attention for the doomsday precautions ..."
While I have tuned out the lamentable show alert readers have pointed out the television segment in which the man who is ready for electromagnetic pulse attack accidentally destroys his thumb.
"No, shooting your thumb off isn't some 'Prepper' rite of passage," reads the caption on a video chronicling the matter.
The collateral damage of the Cult of Electromagnetic Pulse Crazy, on cable television. That's progress you can measure.
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