The Edward Snowden affair has done many things. One of the most signal is its complete destruction of the US government/national security megaplex's campaign of cyberwar hype, disinformation and outright lying.
In the weeks preceeding the emergence of Edward Snowden's information on cyber-spying the US government had been conducting a carefully staged p.r. operation to paint China as the primary sinner in cyberspace. China was a country that was not playing fair, one targeting our networks and "intellectual property" in the cyber equivalent of a clandestine war.
This was said, most notoriously by National Security Agency director Keith Alexander, to constitute "the greatest transfer of wealth in history." The economic future of the United States was imperiled by Chinese espionage.
The Snowden affair has silenced Alexander on this matter. If only for the time being. And the crisis has forced the four-star general to explain, a job he has performed very poorly, what US cyber-spying and cyberwar operations are really up to.
And what is it that the US government, the NSA, the military and its intelligence agency contractors are up to? That's easy to summarize. It was so before Edward Snowden spilled the beans to the Guardian.
The US has been quietly building the biggest cyberwar machine in history.
And it's aimed wherever they want it to be aimed.
This is not much of a surprise but it is good that Edward Snowden has given us a first-hand look at it.
The US outspends every other nation, in every facet, of military development and deployment.
Why should cyber-operations be any different?
The hypocrisy on the subject, practiced by the majority of the US mainstream media is overwhelming.
A couple months back, while writing a look back at the fifteen-year American history of threat inflation in cyberspace and the origins of talk about digital 911's and Pearl Harbors, I noted the mainstream media had gone absent. Quit. Gave up. Kicked the bucket.
It stopped serious reporting on many national security issues and almost completely took up the government line that many enemies were preparing to cut the country down through remote manipulation on the world wide networks.
The media completely went over to the national security establishment side, accepting without question, the regular script: The United States was being surveyed and probed, its networks penetrated in advance of a time when the financial system would be attacked, nationwide power blackouts caused, the water poisoned, almost all facets of modern life disrupted.
In choosing to pass this all on, at the whims of any anonymous government or industry source peddling it, the press was just a conduit, a bilge pipe, a stenography pool for the spreading of what's called "chumpbait." Critical response, I remarked -- half jokingly, had been banished to, at best, 140-character tweets on Twitter.
The week leading up Snowden's expose delivered a perfect example of US cyberwar chumpbait.
The Washington Post had been leaked a "confidential" portion of a Pentagon report on China. The "confidential" part was said to reveal massive Chinese infiltration of US networks and the making off with unspecified details on expensive and very important US weapons systems.
At the time, SITREP noted:
If you've been following along it's no secret the US government and the national security industry have been waging an increasingly concerted campaign to increase cyber-defense spending. The linchpin of the strategy is the relentless argument that Chinese hackers, under the guidance of its government and military, are into all American corporate business, military networks and the nation's infrastructure. Because of this catastrophe looms.
Another ploy in this orchestrated theatrical production arrived today in the guise of the Defense Science Board report, Resilient Military Systems and the Advanced Cyber Threat ...
However, it is not the same report the Washington Post's Ellen Nakashima publicized in a big story on alleged deep Chinese cyberespionage directed against the US military and its arms manufacturers.
"Designs for many of the nation's most sensitive advanced weapons systems have been compromised by Chinese hackers, according to a report prepared for the Pentagon and to officials from government and the defense industry," writes Nakashima for the Post.
The public version of the DSB report contains only three instances of the word "China" and only one of "Chinese." "Espionage" appears only four times in report's 146 .pdf pages.
What does this mean?
It means one of the Defense Science Board's members or minions -- which can be any number of a pool of representatives from arms manufacturers like Boeing and Northrop Grumman, to consultants to these same businesses or small national security "think tanks" or lawyers in legal firms providing consultation on cybersecurity issues under contract to the Department of Defense -- leaked the real report, the "confidential" part, to the Washington Post.
These are never selfless acts to get word out about an emerging national threat. That's not how things work.
What it is is another report, among an increasing number, aimed at growing the national security industry's cyberwar and cyber-defense programs, in which many of the Defense Science Board's members are employed.
The secret report, the one the Washington Post tells us about, is to redirect attention toward a new threat. It is part of a national argument that generally lumps all cyber-crime , cyber-spying and claimed cyberwar into one big threat aimed at the United States, over everyone else.
That campaign had been effective until the arrival of Edward Snowden in the pages of the Guardian. All week long US newspapers had been filled with pieces on how the administration was going to get tough with the Chinese premier at a summit in southern California. The Chinese would be told their cyber-espionage would no longer be tolerated. There would be consequences if they did not shape up.
The stories published in the Guardian blew that away. When it is shown the US has the biggest cyber-surveillance operation in the world and that it's aimed at American citizens and heavily involved in operations against foreign countries, not the least of which is China, the complaint that our country is allegedly being picked on unfairly in cyberspace is unsustainable.
Leaks aimed at fostering government and industry agendas on national security have always been applauded. They're perfectly acceptable shoeshine, propaganda and media manipulation for furthering national security aims. They're invariably aimed at increasing budgets and the rationalizing of doing things to others. In this case the outrage comes from the news that its the American people, first, who've had things done to them, without being told or asked.
On the other hand, Edward Snowden-style leaking, material that shows what the national security complex is doing without official permission, stuff that immediately starts up an acrimonious global stink, is abhorrent, even treasonous.
So what's all this crap about the United States having a free press? Yes, it's a free press. Free to pass on everything that power wants said, free to not be much interested in anything else until compelled to by an Edward Snowden.
In 2012 I wrote someting for Federal Computer Week, describing to its readers, the culture which may have influenced the mindset of Bradley Manning. It extends to Edward Snowden, too, both leakers in the sense of revealing truth about power, not at all like those who, on government contract, tip the media for the purpose of spreading chumpbait.
Back in the early 1990s, I edited an electronic newsletter that dealt with the culture of amateur virus writers -- hackers who wrote mobile malware. Julian Assange was a subscriber. This is only to illustrate Assange's bona fides as someone from the original world computer underground, a place where one of the driving philosophies was to reveal the secrets of institutional power.
Once confined to what was considered a computer geek fringe, that ideology is now entrenched. It's no longer an outsider mindset, and it hasn't been for a long time. Now it's inside, with its originators entering middle age. And younger adherents of the philosophy are coming along all the time.
They're everywhere -- employed by government, the military and corporate America. And because we have come to the point that the United States is considered by some to be a bad global actor -- whether you share that point of view or not -- the government is faced with a problem it cannot solve. Its exposure is thought by many to be deserved.
In this new reality, as in nature, a vacuum is abhorred. The mainstream media no longer fulfills the role of speaking truth to power. It opened the door for Assange and WikiLeaks ...
"But the good news [for the federal government and its contractors] is that, although you can't eliminate the Bradley Mannings, they won't be common," I continued.
And they are not. In fact, I've been surprised -- even dismayed -- at how so many of Edward Snowden's colleagues remain silent in view of what they must see as things Americans ought to know about.
In 2013 America, money, a good job and a security clearance does buy a lot of silence. Our national security complex is not a culture of bold iconoclasts ready to make life-changing sacrifices. This makes Edward Snowden legitimately remarkable.