TBR News February 20, 2011

Feb 20 2011

The Voice of the White House


            Washinigton, D.C., February 20, 2011: “The most hated person today in Washington is Julian Assange, head of the WikiLeaks

            An overall view of the Bank of America material now held by WikiLeaks reveals that starting in 2008, the Bank of America acquired Countrywide Mortgage, a very aggressive mortgage company that specialized in creating fraudulent loans to individuals that were unable to make continuing payments on their mortgages. Countrywide then sold these fraudulent mortgages to larger banking houses like Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and others. The results of this takeover of Countrywide? The Bank of America now has over 1.3 mortgage holders in foreclosure.

            Bank of America was subsequently sued by California, Illinois and eight other states over its predatory lending policies. The bank was forced to produce a settlement of over $8.4 billion in loan relief plans for those victims holding Countrywide mortgages.

            In June of 2010, Bank of America had to pay out $108 million because of a suit by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for “having extracted excessive fees” from their borrowers facing foreclosure. In August of 2010, Bank of America was forced to pay out $600 million to settle shareholder lawsuits which claimed that Bank of America’s Countrywide Mortgage had “concealed the riskiness” of its lending standards. In June of 2010, the State of Illinois once more had to sue the Bank of America for “racial discrimination” in its lending practices. The WikiLeaks documentation shows thousands of in-house emails circulating among top Bank of American personnel showing with shocking clarity that the bank was not only fully cognizant of the illegality of their actions but were, in fact, continuing these actions because of the assurance of protection by “senior American legislators and officials.”

            Additional material in the WikiLeaks fundus concerns the brokerage house of Merrill Lynch which Bank of America acquired for $50 billion in January of 2009. The aforesaid “senior American legislators and officials: quicklyi loaned the Bank of America $20 billion in loans to facilitate this purchase. Subsequently, it was revealed that Merrill Lynch had lost over $16 billion at the end of 2008 but had paid out over $4 billion in bonuses to all the top Merrill Lynch personnel. In sum, the Merrill Lynch people, secure in the knowledge of a connived Federal bailout, took the funds for personal gain. The WikiLeaks documents clearly show all of this in detail, complete with boasting emails on the part of the recipients of the monies.

            As another aspect of this enormous financial scandal furthered purely for gain, corporate and personal, the Bank of America has been the instigator of the so-called “robo-signing” scandal  As a single example of this illegal conduct, in February of 2010, a Bank of American employee testified on deposition that they had personally signed over 8,000 official foreclosure documents without ever reading any of them. This is a clearcut violation of the law but there are so many such examples of this, not limited to the Bank of America alone, that there is not sufficient space to list them all. The WikiLeaks documents clearly show that these illegal actions were fully known to senior Bank of America officials and that extensive cover-ups were ordered from the very top levels of that bank.

             WikiLeaks documentation shows clearly that the “senior American legislators and officials.” Who connived with the Bank of America include the leadership of the Federal Reserve, top Congressional leaders (mostly Republican) and even senior members of the White House staff, both in the Bush and Obama administrations.

            With this pending dam collapse release to the public, it is no wonder that the government itself, the officials of the Bank of America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the most powerful, arch-conservative business cabal would all join forces in an attempt to discredit or permanently silence Assange and his organization.

            The front organization, HBGary Federal, a specialist in computer manipulations, was hired by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Bank of America to attempt to plant false information with WikiLeaks, double-heading frantic government attempts to get Assange physically into their hands. When WiliLeaks struck back and, in turn, infiltrated the government and private sector’s attempts to infiltrate them, it was discovered that HBGary Federal was involved with Stuxtnet, a very sophisticated computer virus developed by Israeli and American experts and designed to infiltrate and destroy computer systems deemed “unacceptable” to Washington.

            Bank of American officials have been warning Washington that if they crash, the damage to the American ecnomoy wouild be catastrophic because of their size and pervasiveness and this message has resonated very clearly in official circles, prompting frantic but clumsy attacks on Assdange and his organization.”

Ed note: Here is an earlier reporting of material on the subject:

Bank of America Fights Pressure on Mortgages

November 4, 2010

by Nelson D. Schwartz

New York Times

Bank of America on Thursday rebuffed claims by a lawyer for several big investors, including the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, that it should buy back troubled mortgages because the loans were made improperly.

In its first response to the investor claims, Bank of America argued that the effort would have the effect of speeding up the foreclosure process and force it to evict more homeowners. The investors’ claims have become a major worry on Wall Street as the foreclosure crisis has escalated.

A group of investors, including the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Pimco, the money management firm, is pressing Bank of America to buy back a portion of some $47 billion worth of mortgages. They argue that Countrywide, a unit of Bank of America, has not been servicing the mortgages correctly and that the loans did not conform to underwriting standards.

In a letter from its lawyers Thursday, Bank of America said the problems stemmed from the economic downturn rather than any underlying problem with how the mortgages were sold to investors. It called the investor claims “utterly baseless.”

Signaling a much more aggressive legal stance, the bank also criticized the lawyer behind the effort, Kathy D. Patrick. It argued that a letter she wrote last month that was signed by clients was “written for an improper purpose, or in furtherance of an ulterior agenda.” Ms. Patrick did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment.

Since Ms. Patrick’s letter was released last month, Bank of America shares have slumped on fears that investor efforts to force it to buy back mortgages — known as put-backs — could be a drain on earnings for years. In recent days, several reports by Wall Street research firms have estimated the put-back claims could cost the industry $43 billion to $90 billion.

At the same time, Bank of America’s chief executive, Brian T. Moynihan, went on the offensive at a conference with bank analysts in Boston on Thursday. “I don’t think we should be put in a position where we aren’t trying to help homeowners through this strife because people want us to foreclose faster,” he said.

In addition, Mr. Moynihan said, he was caught off guard by the decision of the Federal Reserve and Freddie Mac, the government-controlled giant, as well as private investors to sign the letter.

Bank of America and other large institutions like JPMorgan Chase and GMAC Mortgage themselves have faced criticism that foreclosures have been pursued without the proper paperwork or with signatures by so-called robo-signers. But on Wall Street, the worry is that the investor effort to get the banks to buy back defaulted mortgages could actually be a longer and more expensive fight for the industry.

At the same time, Bank of America faces pressure to slow the foreclosure process, even as large investors — including the government in the case of the Federal Reserve and Freddie Mac — push for the foreclosures to proceed.

In Thursday’s letter, written by Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, one of New York’s top law firms, Bank of America’s lawyers note that Freddie Mac has stated publicly that it is committed to help troubled mortgage holders keep their homes.

“Your demands to hasten foreclosures and to reduce loan modifications are patently inconsistent with that stated aim,” the letter said.

The investors also argue that Bank of America is keeping the mortgages on its books to collect fees, rather than proceed with foreclosures. But Barbara J. Desoer, president of Bank of America Home Loans, said that charge was false.

“We have no financial incentive to keep mortgages on the books longer,” she said. “Isn’t it better to modify the loan and keep people in their homes rather than foreclosing?”

            Ms. Desoer said the underlying reason for the surge in foreclosures was the broader economic downturn, taking issue with critics who claim many of these loans should never have been made in the first place. “The economy declined, unemployment went up and house prices declined,” she said. “That’s not a reason for a loan to be put back.”




The Wisconsin Deficit “Crisis”, the Madison “Riots”, and Other Myths

February 18, 2011


The political situation in Wisconsin has come to a head following the proposal of a budget bill by newly elected Republican Governor Scott Walker which would for all intents and purposes strip public employees with the exception of police, firefighters, and state troopers of the right to collectively bargain. Governor Walker has claimed this radical measure is necessary to avert a deficit crisis for the state of Wisconsin. The situation has rapidly escalated with Walker threatening to call out the National Guard shortly after introducing the bill. Demonstrations broke out almost immediately with Wisconsin State Senate Democrats leaving the state to prevent a vote on the bill. The conservative media has advanced in full force unconditionally supporting the Governor’s union-busting measure claiming the state is on the edge of total chaos. Glenn Beck has taken to the airwaves claiming the city of Madison is rioting as has the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. Voices like Rush Limbaugh and Republican Congressman Paul Ryan have repeated this assertion of chaos in the street. Above all they have consistently advanced the argument that gutting the rights of workers is necessary to balance Wisconsin’s budget.

All of these arguments and claims by the conservative movement are bald-faced lies.

This is not hyperbole or exaggeration. These claims of civil disorder in the streets and a deficit crisis are completely at odds with the facts. Contrary to the fear-mongering claims of Glenn Beck the demonstrators in Madison have remained orderly and peaceful. The Madison Police Department released a statement today saying they are proud of the way the protestors have conducted themselves. The only advisory from the Madison Police to the public is a notice to motorists of greater congestion in the vicinity of the Capitol. If you don’t believe the police there are the photos submitted by people in Madison showing large, energetic, and perfectly peaceful crowds. Hardly what one could seriously call a riot.

The next falsehood being circulated is the claims of a deficit crisis. The line of reasoning goes that it is only possible to balance the budget by completely destroying the right of public workers to collectively bargain. It skips straight past negotiations, furloughs, and other austerity measures to one of the most extreme solutions possible. 44 states are currently facing serious budget problems and yet the only other state considering such a radical tactic is Ohio. With such an extraordinary measure being advanced and the National Guard being readied in case of strikes it sounds like the deficit in Wisconsin must be insurmountable. This again is wrong. The Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau issued a report on January 31st asserting the bulk of the budget shortfall of $202 million was caused by a series bills supported by Governor Walker. Quite contrary to his claims of union benefits and salaries being the cause it was his own deficit spending that created the alleged crisis.

Governor Scott Walker has created a crisis and rapidly escalated it in a bid to crush the public employee unions of the state of Wisconsin. There wouldn’t be a budget crisis of Walker genuinely practiced what he preached on the campaign trail. There are no facts supporting any of the claims of civil disorder or a deficit crisis. Walker’s attempt to ramrod a rollback of the rights of workers by a century has nothing to do with fiscal conservatism and everything to do with political opportunism. His readying of the National Guard over budget negotiations is extraordinary overkill. If Governor Walker was genuinely interested in serving the people and balancing the state budget he should sit down with the state workers and negotiate not threaten them with an unnecessary and malicious attack on their most basic rights.   ////

Senate Bill Would Make Leaks a Felony

February 17th, 2011

by Steven Aftergood

Legislation introduced in the Senate this week would broadly criminalize leaks of classified information.  The bill (S. 355) sponsored by Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) would make it a felony for a government employee or contractor who has authorized access to classified information to disclose such information to an unauthorized person in violation of his or her nondisclosure agreement.

Under existing law, criminal penalties apply only to the unauthorized disclosure of a handful of specified categories of classified information (in non-espionage cases).  These categories include codes, cryptography, communications intelligence, identities of covert agents, and nuclear weapons design information.  The new bill would amend the espionage statutes to extend such penalties to the unauthorized disclosure of any classified information.

(Another pending bill, known as the SHIELD Act, would specifically criminalize disclosure — and publication — of information concerning human intelligence activities and source identities. Both bills were originally introduced at the end of the last Congress, and were reintroduced this month.)

“I am convinced that changes in technology and society, combined with statutory and judicial changes to the law, have rendered some aspects of our espionage laws less effective than they need to be to protect the national security,” said Sen. Cardin.  “I also believe that we need to enhance our ability to prosecute… those who make unauthorized disclosures of classified information.”

“We don’t need an Official State Secrets Act, and we must be careful not to chill protected First Amendment activities,” he said.  “We do, however, need to do a better job of preventing unauthorized disclosures of classified information that can harm the United States, and at the same time we need to ensure that public debates continue to take place on important national security and foreign policy issues.”

The bill would replace the Espionage Act’s use of the term “national defense information” with the broader but more precise term “national security information.”  It would outlaw any knowing violation of an employee’s classified information nondisclosure agreement, “irrespective of whether [the discloser] intended to aid a foreign nation or harm the United States.”  The bill would not criminalize the receipt of leaked information, and it would not apply to whistleblowers who disclose classified information through authorized channels.

But it would establish a rebuttable presumption that any information marked as classified is properly classified.  (The bill does not distinguish between “information” and “records.”)  This means that the government would not have to prove that the leaked information was properly classified;  the defendant would have to prove it was not. In order to mount a defense arguing “improper classification,” a defendant would have to present “clear and convincing evidence” that the original classifier could not have identified or described damage to national security resulting from unauthorized disclosure.  Such challenges to original classification are almost never upheld, and so the defendant’s burden of proof would be nearly impossible to meet.

The bill does not provide for a “public interest” defense, i.e. an argument that any damage to national security was outweighed by a benefit to the nation.  It does not address the issue of overclassification, nor does it admit the possibility of “good” leaks.  Disclosing that the President authorized waterboarding of detainees or that the government conducted unlawful domestic surveillance would be considered legally equivalent to revealing the identities of intelligence sources, the design of secret military technologies or the details of ongoing military operations.

And at a time when an unprecedented number of leak prosecutions are underway, the bill’s premise that an enhanced ability to prosecute leaks is needed seems questionable.  In fact, in a 2002 report to Congress, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft said that the laws already on the books were sufficient and that no new anti-leak legislation was required.

“Given the nature of unauthorized disclosures of classified information that have occurred, however, I conclude that current statutes provide a legal basis to prosecute those who engage in unauthorized disclosures, if they can be identified…. Accordingly, I am not recommending that the Executive Branch focus its attention on pursuing new legislation at this time,” Mr. Ashcroft wrote.

In 2000, Congress enacted legislation to criminalize all leaks of classified information, but the measure was vetoed by President Clinton.

“There is a serious risk that this legislation would tend to have a chilling effect on those who engage in legitimate activities,” President Clinton wrote in his November 4, 2000 veto message.  “A desire to avoid the risk that their good faith choice of words — their exercise of judgment — could become the subject of a criminal referral for prosecution might discourage Government officials from engaging even in appropriate public discussion, press briefings, or other legitimate official activities. Similarly, the legislation may unduly restrain the ability of former Government officials to teach, write, or engage in any activity aimed at building public understanding of complex issues.”

“Incurring such risks is unnecessary and inappropriate in a society built on freedom of expression and the consent of the governed and is particularly inadvisable in a context in which the range of classified materials is so extensive. In such circumstances, this criminal provision would, in my view, create an undue chilling effect,” President Clinton wrote.


Firm in WikiLeaks plot has deep ties to Feds

Just as HBGary was plotting to attack WikiLeaks, it was on the way to getting Defense Department security clearance

February 16, 2011

by Justin Elliott


It’s well known at this point that HBGary Federal was one of several technology firms recently exposed for scheming to attack WikiLeaks, Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, and critics of the Chamber of Commerce. What has gotten less attention is just how much business HBGary Federal and its partner company, HBGary, do with the United States government.

Internal HBGary Federal emails reviewed by Salon show that the firm was on its way to getting security clearance at the Department of Defense late last month. HBGary Federal CEO Aaron Barr has bragged that the firm provides “specialized threat intelligence, incident response, and information operations capabilities to the IC [Intelligence Community], DoD, and Federal agencies.” The exact nature of the services provided by HBGary Federal — and what intelligence agencies might be involved — is not clear.

(The plotting against WikiLeaks and Chamber of Commerce critics, by the way, was performed by HBGary Federal at the behest of Hunton and Williams, a law firm that has worked for the Chamber and Bank of America, which is reportedly a future target of WikiLeaks. This work was apparently separate from the HBGary Federal’s government work.)

HBGary proper, which is based in California, is known as a provider of malware detection services. HBGary Federal, which shares offices with HBGary and 15 percent of which is owned by HBGary executives, was touted as offering “best-in-class malware analysis and incident response products and expert classified services to the Department of Defense, Intelligence Community and other U.S. government agencies,” according to one November 2009 email. Another internal email describes HBGary Federal as a wholly owned subsidiary of HBGary.

HBGary itself has won $3.3 million in federal government work since 2004, contracting records show. That includes contracts for services like “protection vulnerability assessment” with the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the FBI, and the Department of Interior.

Having proper clearance is key to winning federal security contracts. So it’s not surprising that the bio of HBGary Federal’s chief operating officer, Ted Vera, notes that he holds “security clearances with the DoD and Intelligence Community.” Barr, for his part, came to HBGary Federal after stints as a Navy cryptologist and a cybersecurity official at Northrop Grummans, the defense contracting giant. A former CEO of HBGary Federal, Jamie Butler, who left the firm in 2006, held a security clearance at the “top secret” level.

On Jan. 27 — when the plotting against WikiLeaks had already been underway for a few months — HBGary Federal was granted what’s known as “facility clearance” at the Defense Department. That’s a precursor to getting specific classified access once a contract has been granted. (See the approval document, approved by the Defense Security Service, here.) DSS spokeswoman Cindy McGovern told Salon today that HBGary Federal is still in the process of getting its clearance. She had no comment on the fact that HBGary is implicated in the WikiLeaks scandal.

Emails also show the HBGary Federal executives corresponding with federal employees from a range of agencies including Los Alamos National Labs, the Army, and the National Security Agency. There’s also talk of work with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

Given all these ties to the federal government, it’s striking how amateurish HBGary Federal’s research methods were when it came to WikiLeaks and Chamber of Commerce critics. Barr, the HBGary Federal CEO, primarily used Facebook and other social media websites to put together dossiers on, for example, labor activists. It will be interesting to see if the bad publicity surrounding the scandal affects HBGary’s contracts with the government.

Justin Elliott is a Salon reporter. Reach him by email at jelliott@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin

Multiple Targets by HBGary Federal

In addition to a plan to attack Wikileaks revealed in emails of HBGary Federal, several other groups were to be targeted according to an email on November 17, 2010 from Aaron Barr, HBGary Federal, to Amanda McDonald, Berico Technologies.

Change To Win FB Group.rtfd.zip;
            Change To Win FB Page.rtfd.zip;
             Velvetrevolution FB Page.rtfd.zip;
            US Chamber Watch FB Page.rtfd.zip;
            Stop The US Chamber of Commerce FB Page.rtfd.zip;
            Justice Through Music FB Page.rtfd.zip;
             SEIU.docx; [Service Employees International Union]
            Code Pink FB Page.docx;
             American Crossroads Watch FB Page.docx;
            Agit-PoP Communications FB Page.rtfd.zip

Anonymous security firm hack used every trick in book

SQL injection, weak password security, social engineering – oh my!

Februiary 17, 2011

by John Leyden


An attack by Anonymous on security firm HBGary used a combination of software vulnerabilities and social engineering to pull off a highly sophisticated hack, it has emerged.

A SQL injection weakness in a third-party content management product used to post content on HBGary’s website allowed a cadre of hackers from Anonymous to steal hashed versions of passwords used to update its website.

A brute force dictionary-based attack on these passwords allowed the miscreants to work out the login credentials used by HBGary Federal employees, including chief exec Aaron Barr and COO Ted Vera. Barr and Vera made the mistake of using the same passwords for their Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.

Crucially the same password was also used to administer a corporate email account, a failing seized upon by Anonymous to extract a cache of corporate emails which were subsequently posted as a torrent, exposing confidential emails. The emails, in turn, revealed who had access to the rootkit.com research site maintained by HBGary, and the probable root access password of the machine hosting the site.

Using this information Anonymous was able to hoodwink an associate of HBGary into dropping firewall defences and allowing remote access to the site under the pretext that the message came from Barr, who was supposedly on the road at a security conference at the time. The credentials were handed over, allowing Anonymous to deface the website.

A detailed analysis of the hack by Ars Technica, based on interviews with members of Anonymous and other research, can be found here.

HBGary had intended to reveal its research into the senior members of Anonymous at the BSides San Francisco conference, which runs parallel to this week’s RSA Conference. In the wake of the hack (and “numerous threats of violence”) HBGary withdrew from the RSA show, replacing their booth with a forlorn sign recorded in a blog post by Sophos here.

The leaked emails detail a supposed business proposal by HBGary to assist Bank of America’s law firm, Hunton & Williams, in a dirty tricks campaign aimed at discrediting WikiLeaks in the run-up to the expected publication of confidential bank documents. The leaked documents detail supposed plans to dig up dirt and apply pressure to key WikiLeaks supporters as well as proposals to submit false documents in a bid to discredit the whistle-blowing website.

HBGary said the leaked documents might have been altered prior to publication. “Given that Anonymous has had these emails for days I would be highly suspect [sic] of them,” the president of HBGary Penny Leavy told the BBC.


Increasing Poverty Levels in the United States

            With 43.6 million Americans currently relying on food stamps, there are 13 states with over a million people already on food stamps:

Texas 3,925,119 (number of people on food stamps)  15.6% (of state   population)

California 3,521,881  9.5%
Florida 2,994,413  15.9%
New York 2,934,493  15.1%
Michigan 1,920,330  19.4%
Ohio 1,772,608  15.4%
Georgia 1,732,865  17.9%
Illinois 1,732,169 13.5%
Pennsylvania 1,673,714 13.2%
North Carolina 1,531,255  16.1%
Tennessee 1,264,407  19.9%
Arizona 1,050,181  16.4%
Washington 1,019,791  15.2%

States with over 18% of the population on food stamps:

Mississippi 612,889  20.7%
Tennessee 1,264,407  19.9%
Oregon 749,498  19.6%
Michigan 1,920,330  19.4%
New Mexico 399,454  19.4%
Louisiana 866,905  19.1%
West Virginia 345,683  18.7%

Kentucky 813,041  18.7%
Maine 241,117  18.2%
South Carolina 839,109  18.1%
Alabama 863,606  1.1%

In the District of Columbia, there are 131,611 people on food stamps, 21.9% of the population.

American ities with a poverty rate over 25% :

Detroit 36%,

Cleveland 35%,

Buffalo 29%,

Milwaukee 28%,

St. Louis 27%,

Miami 27%,

Memphis 26%,

Cincinnati 26%

Philadelphia 25%


Hezbollah’s potent ‘verbal bomb’

February 17, 2011
Mohyeddin Sajedi

             Hezbollah’s fightersSecretary General of the Lebanese resistance movement of Hezbollah, Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah detonated a potent political bomb by asking his group’s members to capture al-Jalil (Galilee) region in the event of any Israeli attack on Lebanon.

            “I say to the fighters of the Islamic Resistance: be ready. If a new war is imposed on Lebanon we may ask you to take Galilee, to free Galilee,” he said.

            His speech served as a response to recent remarks by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. While visiting Lebanon’s border with Israel, he told Israeli soldiers “ you may be called to enter again we must be prepared for every test.”

            Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded promptly to Nasrallah, saying, “Nasrallah announced today that he can occupy the Galilee, but I have news for you, he can’t…Anyone who hides in a bunker will stay in a bunker.”

             Although, the premier has tried to respond to Narallah with confidence and in a derogatory tone and assure the public opinion inside Israel, the Hezbollah leader’s response has caused concerns for some in Israel.

            During the 33-Day War, Nasrallah lived up to his every promise and avoided rhetoric about goals not within his power to achieve. This caused the Israelis to believe that his remarks do not serve as psychological or military bluff. His famous slogan of “Haifa and after Haifa” materialized in the form of Hezbollah’s missile attack on the city.

            In 1992, ten years after Israel attacked Lebanon and advanced as far as Beirut, Tel Aviv’s political leaders mocked the remarks by Hezbollah’s leaders pointing to Israel’s defeat. The Israelis were, however, forced to accept defeat in 2000 and forever abandoned any designs on permanently occupying a part of Lebanon.

            Six years later, when Israel entered into another war with Lebanon to restore its military prestige and grandeur, the Israelis again mocked Nasrallah’s remarks – vowing to crush the resistance movement in the very first days. It took Tel Aviv a month to suffer its biggest military defeat.

            For many, there was no doubt that Israel would enter into another war with Lebanon to retaliate the defeat and restore its ‘power of deterrence.’ Dates even came up setting the time or the commencement of the war. Israel was awaiting the findings of the international tribunal investigating the assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Official Israeli sources have announced since last year that the court would hold Hezbollah responsible for the assassination. Weakening of Hezbollah and pushing Lebanon into a civil war would make for a golden opportunity for Israel to attack the country.

            After the 2006 war, Hezbollah managed to match Israel’s threats with those of its own. The secretary general repeatedly said Lebanon would return Israel’s potential attack on Beirut Rafiq Hariri International Airport with targeting the Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv and hit Tel Aviv itself, should Israel assault the houses in the Lebanese capital’s southern suburb: An eye for an eye.

            Now, Hezbollah has expanded this warning, saying any Israeli military advancement would be met with advancement of the movement’s fighters into the northern parts of occupied Palestine.

During the 2006 war, Hezbollah fired its missiles deep into Israel and caused much damage. The fighters fought the Israelis inside Lebanon, killing some, destroying some tanks and even managing to drown an Israeli frigate in the southern Lebanese coast. Unconfirmed reports even suggested that some of Hezbollah’s units had entered into northern Israel.

            Ground incursion is different from guerilla warfare and is in need of aerial and armored support. This is a classic formula. This probably the reason why Netanyahu says Hezbollah would never attack Israel. Nasrallah’s audience, however, are accustomed to not hearing idle talk from him.

            Another issue is that the Tunisian, and more importantly, the Egyptian revolutions have created a new situation in the region, which has caused Israel to seriously pause before launching any wholesale or limited war in Lebanon and Gaza.

            In 1982, Israel attacked Lebanon after signing the Camp David Accords with Cairo. The agreements turned Egypt into the Arab alliance’s black sheep, creating disunity and confusion among the Arab states and convinced them not to launch a war on Israel without Cairo’s cooperation.

            In 2006, Israel enjoyed Arab backing in its attacks on Lebanon and Jordan, with Egypt and Saudi Arabia laying the blame on Tal Aviv’s opponent, namely Hezbollah.

            This Arab axis has now lost its balance. Meanwhile, the United States and Europe are distracted by developments of another nature in the Middle East.

             Jordanian Justice Minister Hussein Mjali’s calls for the freedom of the Jordanian soldier, who killed seven Israeli troops in the border area in 1997, prevents Amman from resting assured that Israel would not take any military action.

            The Hariri tribunal has lost its practical sense. Until one month ago, an atmosphere of angst dominated Lebanon and the people feared that the court’s verdicts could push their country into the abyss of civil war.

            The concerns, though, have now disappeared. Even if the court accuses Hezbollah’s secretary general of being the main element behind the assassination, nothing would change.

             Furthermore, neither anyone in Lebanon nor any government in the Middle East would undertake steps to back up the allegation.




FBI to Announce New Internet-Wiretapping Push

February 17, 2011

by Declan McCullagh

CBS News

The FBI is expected to reveal Thursday that because of the rise of Web-based e-mail and social networks, it’s “increasingly unable” to conduct certain types of surveillance that would be possible on cellular and traditional telephones.

FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni will outline what the bureau is calling the “Going Dark” problem, meaning that police can be thwarted when conducting court-authorized eavesdropping because Internet companies aren’t required to build in backdoors in advance, or because technology doesn’t permit it.

Any solution, according to a copy of Caproni’s prepared comments obtained by CNET, should include a way for police armed with wiretap orders to conduct surveillance of “Web-based e-mail, social networking sites, and peer-to-peer communications technology.”

The last example, which was floated last fall, is likely to be the most contentious. When an encrypted voice application like Phil Zimmermann’s Zfone is used, the entire conversation is scrambled from end to end. It’s like handing a letter directly to its recipient–bypassing workers at the neighborhood post office, who could be required to forward a copy to the FBI.

Forcing companies like Zfone and Skype, which also uses encryption for peer-to-peer calls, to build in backdoors for police access was rejected in the 1990s and would mark a dramatic departure from current practice. And anyone hoping to foil the FBI could download encrypted VoIP software from European firms like Lichtenstein-based Secfone AG, which sells it for Android phones.

Caproni’s remarks don’t, however, include a specific proposal. “Most our interception challenges could be solved using existing technologies,” she says, “that can be deployed without re-designing the Internet and without exposing the provider’s system to outside malicious activity.” In addition, she adds, “the Going Dark problem does not require fundamental changes in encryption technology.”

The FBI’s announcement comes amid two countervailing trends: a coalition of advocacy groups and technology companies including AT&T and Google is pressing to rewrite federal law to include additional privacy protections for cloud computing and mobile devices. Meanwhile, the Justice Department and some conservative Republicans have proposed that Internet service providers (and perhaps Web companies as well) be required to keep records of what their customers are doing, a concept called data retention.

Yesterday some members of that same coalition–the American Library Association, the Center for Democracy and Technology, NetCoalition (Google, Yahoo, and CNET are members), and TechFreedom –released an open letter expressing concerns about the FBI’s push to broaden wiretapping laws. At the very least, the letter says, the bureau must “identify the particular services or technologies most in need of additional surveillance capability” and demonstrate that alternatives to new laws won’t work.

The FBI is couching its arguments in broad terms, saying it’s only trying to preserve the ability to conduct wiretaps as technology advances. “Any solution to the Going Dark problem should ensure” that once a judge has approved a wiretap request, Caproni is expected to tell a House of Representatives committee tomorrow, “the government is technologically able to execute that court order in a timely fashion.”

Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Kevin Bankston said this evening that the FBI already can intercept messages on social-networking sites and Web-based e-mail services with existing law. (This was the purpose of the FBI surveillance system known as Carnivore, later renamed DCS1000.)

“Facebook messages and Gmail messages travel in plain text over those same broadband wires for which the FBI demanded wiretapping capability just a few years ago,” Bankston said. “Why has that new capability not been sufficient?”

Congress should investigate exactly how the FBI has used its existing interception capabilities, he said, before contemplating “adding to that capability and forcing online communications service providers to redesign their systems to introduce new security vulnerabilities to facilitate government wiretapping.”

Under a 1994 federal law called the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA, telecommunications carriers are required to build in backdoors into their networks to assist police with authorized interception of conversations and “call-identifying information.”

As CNET was the first to report in 2003, representatives of the FBI’s Electronic Surveillance Technology Section in Chantilly, Va., began quietly lobbying the FCC to force broadband providers to provide more-efficient, standardized surveillance facilities. The Federal Communications Commission approved that requirement a year later, sweeping in Internet phone companies that tie into the existing telecommunications system. It was upheld in 2006 by a federal appeals court.

But the FCC never granted the FBI’s request to rewrite CALEA to cover instant messaging and VoIP programs that are not “managed”–meaning peer-to-peer programs like Apple’s Facetime, iChat/AIM, Gmail’s video chat, and Xbox Live’s in-game chat that do not use the public telephone network.

In the last few years, according to Caproni’s prepared remarks, investigations have been hindered because of the lack of built-in backdoors. Examples she cites include a two-year Drug Enforcement Administration investigation into cocaine importation that was thwarted because an unnamed communications provider lacked intercept ability, and a 2009 child pornography prosecution where neither the (unnamed) social networking site nor the (unnamed) communication provider could intercept the communications.

“On a regular basis, the government is unable to obtain communications and related data, even when authorized by a court to do so,” Caproni’s statement says. It adds, however, that the Obama administration does not have an official position on whether any legislative changes are necessary.

If Congress does nothing, law enforcement still has options. Police can obtain a special warrant allowing them to sneak into someone’s house or office, install keystroke-logging software, and record passphrases. The Drug Enforcement Agency adopted this technique in a case where suspects used PGP and the encrypted Web e-mail service Hushmail.com. And the FBI did the same thing in an investigation of an alleged PGP-using mobster named Nicodemo Scarfo.

Another option is to send the suspect spyware, which documents obtained by CNET through the Freedom of Information Act in 2009 showed the FBI has done in cases involving extortionists, database-deleting hackers, child molesters, and hitmen. The FBI’s spyware is called CIPAV, for Computer and Internet Protocol Address Verifier.

Update 12:00 a.m. PT Thursday: I should have noted that the EFF obtained some relevant documents via FOIA a few weeks ago that they posted on Wednesday, just in time for the House hearing. Among the high points: the FBI’s Operational Technology Division says that the Going Dark program is one of the FBI’s “top initiatives.” There’s a five-pronged Going Dark program that includes extending existing laws and seeking new federal funding to bolster lawful intercept capabilities. Going Dark has been a FBI initiative since at least 2006 and has involved writing checks to consultants at RAND Corporation and Booz, Allen and Hamilton to come up with solutions.

Conversations with the Crow

            When the CIA discovered that their former Deputy Director of Clandestine Affairs, Robert  T. Crowley, had been talking with author Gregory Douglas, they became fearful (because of what Crowley knew) and outraged (because they knew Douglas would publish eventually) and made many efforts to silence Crowley, mostly by having dozens of FBI agents call or visit him at his Washington home and try to convince him to stop talking to Douglas, whom they considered to be an evil, loose cannon.

           Crowley did not listen to them (no one else ever does, either) and Douglas made through shorthand notes of each and every one of their many conversation. TBR News published most of these (some of the really vile ones were left out of the book but will be included on this site as a later addendum ) and the entire collection was later produced as an Ebook.

            Now, we reliably learn, various Washington alphabet agencies are trying to find a way to block the circulation of this highly negative, entertaining and dangerous work, so to show our solidarity with our beloved leaders and protectors, and our sincere appreciation for their corrupt and coercive actions, we are going to reprint the entire work, chapter by chapter. (The complete book can be obtained by going to:


 Here is the sixty-third  chapter

Conversation No. 63

Date: Friday, February 7, 1997

Commenced:  11:55 AM CST

Concluded:  12:35 PM CST

RTC: Hello there, Gregory. I hope you’re feeling better than I am.

GD: You have a cold?

RTC: No, getting old. Some advice, Gregory. Don’t get old. The worst part isn’t forgetting things, it’s remembering. And knowing you are helpless to correct the present. But there still is correcting the past.

GD: Historians do that all the time. Hitler lost so Hitler was always wrong. Roosevelt won so Roosevelt was always right. Saints and sinners. It depends entirely on who wins.

RTC: True. I told you I once met Roosevelt, didn’t I? My father got me in to see him. Old and shaky, but still clever. Phony old bastard, one thing to the face and another to the back, but very shrewd in political circles. He set up a powerful movement, but as soon as he hit the floor, they started to dismantle it.

GD: Müller was filling me in on the anti-Communist activities he was involved in. McCarthy and all of that.

RTC: Well, Franklin put them all in, and Truman threw them all out. Most of them were Jewish so we were all accused of anti-Semitism, but we held all the cards then and they knew it, so criticism was muted. It wouldn’t be that way now, but times change.

GD: They always do and a smart man changes with them.

RTC: Some times the older forms are better.

GD: Yes, but people grow tired of old forms and want new ones. A revolution might mean more money and power for some and death or disgrace for others. The wheel does turn.

RTC: So it does. I wanted to give you a little background here, Gregory, about you. You see, at one time, these others wanted to set up a sort of private think tank. They wanted to call it after the oracle of Delphi. Tom Kimmel, Bill Corson, the Trento ménage, Critchfield and others. But they wanted me to be the honcho.

GD: And why you?

RTC: I have the connections with the business community. I could get big money people behind the idea. It was a sort of miniature Company if you will. Money and power. We always called it the Company because it was a huge business conglomerate. But anyway, this think tank would bring all of us lots of money. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel too happy with the make up of it. Kimmel is pompous and entirely too much obsessed with his late Grandfather; the Trentos are very lightweight, but aren’t really aware of it; and poor Bill is a perpetual wannabe, running around trying to sound like a great keeper of various unknown secrets. We tried Costello. Tom liked him because of his Pearl Harbor writings, but I never liked him. There was a screw loose in his brain somewhere. And of course being a fairy didn’t improve his objectivity. I gave up on John after his trip to Reno. He hated you, you know.

GD: My heart is breaking. I should have given him some of my old shorts to chew on.

RTC: Now do let’s be serious, Gregory. John was a spiteful person but I got the impression he thought you were much worse than he was and since he was hiding his perversions, he probably thought you could see through him. I think people get that impression: That you watch and see too much. Of course, it doesn’t help that you run your mouth and say terrible things about self-made saints. Anyway, I didn’t want John involved and then I began to have some interest in you. Of course, I couldn’t put you forward for the group because Kimmel detested you and Bill didn’t know where to turn. He liked you but always listened to others in making up his mind. When I ditched Costello and Bill knew you and I were talking, Kimmel went through the roof. He didn’t like me talking to you and spent much time getting his oafs at Justice to ring me up and tell me how terrible you were. Tom likes to get others to do his dirty work, I noticed long ago. The Trento family didn’t know you and Bill is actually afraid of you. So the private study group for profit more or less died a natural death. I wanted to include you but they did not so there it ended.

GD: I would have had no problem working with you but not with the others. Bill is a lightweight, Kimmel a gasbag and the one Trento book I tried to read was hopeless.

RTC: Yes.

GD: ‘And slime had they for mortar.’—Genesis 11:3.

RTC: Citing Scripture, Gregory? I thought the Devil did that.

GD: He does. Daily. Now we call him Pat Robertson.

RTC: Where’s your Christian charity?

GD: I sold it to buy a gun.

RTC: Yes. Well, to get back to the subject here, which is the fact that these gentlemen do not like you, but I do. They have stopped yapping about you because I told them to shut up, but no doubt they still run around behind my back and try to stab you in the back. Never to the face, but in the back.

GD: Not to change the subject, Robert, but why do you really call it the Company?

RTC: Because it’s a huge business. We are one of the most powerful businesses on the planet, Gregory. We make enormous sums of money, have established a tight and very complete control over the media, have the White House doing as we tell them to, overturn foreign governments if they dare to thwart our business ventures, and so on.

GD: Business ventures?

RTC: A generalized case in point. A left-wing nigger gets into power in the Congo. The Congo has huge uranium deposits. Will Moscow get the uranium? The Belgian businessmen come to us for help. We agree to help them and we get into a civil war and murder Lumumba. One of our men drove around with his rotting corpse in his trunk. The head of the UN starts to interfere in matters, so we have an aircraft accident that kills him very dead and stops the interference. We tell the President about the uppity nigger but not about poor dead Dag. We tell them what we want them to hear and nothing more.

GD: And the business aspect?

RTC: The drugs, of course, bring in astronomical amounts of loose money. And if some rival group cuts into the business, we get them removed. Ever read about huge heroin busts somewhere? Our rivals going down for the third time. All of this is part and parcel of the Plan.

GD: Sounds like the Templar’s Plan.

RTC: Ah, you know about this, do you? Which one of the seven dwarves enlightened you? Not Kimmel, but probably Bill.

GD: Actually no. I was speaking of the Plan of the Templars…

RTC: Ah, you see, you do know that. You knew Allen was an initiate, didn’t you?

GD: Well, not in so many words. Didn’t the Templars get disbanded for having too much money? I think they killed DeMolay…

RTC: Now don’t change the subject here. They were never really disbanded, but they went underground. Do you know how much money they had? The French only got a little bit of it. Now let me know, who told you?

GD: You did, actually. Just now. I was thinking of Umberto Eco’s excellent Foucault’s Pendulum and his discussion of the survival of the Templars.

RTC: I missed that one. Is that an old book?

GD: No. Late ‘80s, if I remember. Brilliant historical pastiche. Eco’s an Italian scholar and the book is wonderful, although I doubt very few people in America would understand a word of it. They don’t teach history in our public schools, only political correctness. You can no longer look for the chink in someone’s armor anymore because Asians are terribly offended and you dare not call a spade a spade.

RTC: Yes, yes, I know all that. Stunts the mind.

GD: It’s my impression, based on my visits to your town, that they don’t have any minds to stunt.

RTC: Don’t forget, Gregory, that I was in government service as well.

GD: There are always exceptions, Robert.

RTC: Many thanks for your kindness, Gregory. The Templars have always had money but they have been an underground power for so long, they are set in their ways. We are public and they are not, so there is a sort of joint partnership here. As I said, Dulles was taken in when he was in Switzerland. One of the Jung people, as I remember. They can open doors, Gregory, don’t ever think they can’t, but they are always out of the sunlight.

GD: Like the mythic vampires.

RTC: Custom and usage, as they say. We have common interests, believe me.

GD: Catholic group?

RTC: Not anymore.

GD: Well, I had an ancestor in the Teutonic Knights, and they really never went away. And the Knights of Malta still have some influence in Papal matters. Interesting about the Templars, though. I thought Eco was just a good story teller. Could be. Secret societies have always intrigued parts of the public. The dread Masons, for example. Of course, before the French Revolution, they had a great deal of clandestine power in France, but now I think they’re just a high class fraternal organization. Müller told me that the Nazis were obsessed with the Masons, but when the Gestapo got around to really investigating them, they found nothing sinister at all. Just a social organization and nothing more.

RTC: You know quite a bit about so many interesting things. I can see why you got on with the kraut and why the rat pack here hates you. I must ask you please not to discuss this business with anyone. I would also ask you not to put it into anything you write concerning me. The Kennedy business is bad enough, but no one would believe a word of the other business.

GD: I agree, Robert. But if I have to give up a really interesting story, can I get more information on Kennedy?

RTC: Yes, I can send you more. I did give Bill a copy of the Russian report, but nothing more. He started bragging about this, so I basically shut him down. Of course, it doesn’t really say anything, but once is enough when someone starts to leak out material they have sworn to keep silent about.

GD: And have you tested me?

RTC: I don’t need to. You aren’t trying to make points with the bosses like they are. I hate to say it because I am friendly with all of them, but they are just a bunch of useless ass kissers. You certainly are not.

GD: No, I am not. I don’t trust anyone in the establishment. My God, you ought to listen to what the Landreth people were telling me, I want to wet myself, that they can put me on the cover of Time magazine. Of course I really believe them and I would like nothing better than to have my picture on the cover of Time magazine. It used to be a good news magazine but now it’s worse than People Magazine which sells very well in the supermarket checkout lines. And right next to the National Enquirer which is probably written by the same people.

RTC: I think the day of the printed paper or magazine is dying. We still have our hand in on that game. We moved to television, but that is also losing out, so we are moving into the Internet. But don’t ask me about that, because I know nothing about it. We view the Internet as very dangerous because we can’t begin to control it. Set up a few people with money and push them. Hope for the best, you know. but doubtful.

GD: The Templars story is interesting, mainly because I read Eco and know something about their early days.

RTC: When the conspiracy idiots babble on about secret societies, they don’t have any idea what they’re talking about. They go on about the CFR and the Masons but they don’t know the half of it.

GD: Did you ever read Mills’ The Power Elite? Came out in ’55 and is a little out of date but very good.

RTC: Can’t say as I have. Didn’t you mention this once? No matter. I might have but years ago. Speculative?

GD: Concrete, realistic and so on. The reason why the American public is so wrapped up in conspiracy theories is because they have lost all faith in their government and most of our major institutions such as banks, the press, mainline religion and so on. I remember the so-called OPEC panic when the price of gas at the pump went up every ten minutes. There was no OPEC crisis, but just the oil companies creating a panic so they could make huge profits. Ever notice, Robert, how the price of gas at the pump soars just at the beginning of summer when everyone drives on trips and then comes down in winter when no one drives? And how the price of fuel oil drops off in summer when no one needs it but then shoots up every winter when everyone does? Tell me, are these accidents?

RTC: Of course not, Gregory, of course not.

GD: I’m surprised that people don’t pick up on this.

RTC: They won’t pick up on anything at all and what if they did? A little talk here and there and they pay the bills.

GD: And the sheep get shorn again.

RTC: Yes, if you want to put it that way. That’s why they’re there, isn’t it?

(Conclusion at 12:35 PM CST)


Dramatis personae:


James Jesus Angleton: Once head of the CIA’s Counterintelligence division, later fired because of his obsessive and illegal behavior, tapping the phones of many important government officials in search of elusive Soviet spies. A good friend of Robert Crowley and a co-conspirator with him in the assassination of President Kennedy


James P. Atwood: (April 16, 1930-April 20, 1997) A CIA employee, located in Berlin, Atwood had a most interesting career. He worked for any other intelligence agency, domestic or foreign, that would pay him, was involved in selling surplus Russian atomic artillery shells to the Pakistan government and was also most successful in the manufacturing of counterfeit German dress daggers. Too talkative, Atwood eventually had a sudden, and fatal, “seizure” while lunching with CIA associates.


William Corson: A Marine Corps Colonel and President Carter’s representative to the CIA. A friend of Crowley and Kimmel, Corson was an intelligent man whose main failing was a frantic desire to be seen as an important person. This led to his making fictional or highly exaggerated claims.


John Costello: A British historian who was popular with revisionist circles. Died of AIDS on a trans-Atlantic flight to the United States.


James Critchfield: Former U.S. Army Colonel who worked for the CIA and organizaed the Cehlen Org. at Pullach, Germany. This organization was filled to the Plimsoll line with former Gestapo and SD personnel, many of whom were wanted for various purported crimes. He hired Heinrich Müller in 1948 and went on to represent the CIA in the Persian Gulf.


Robert T. Crowley: Once the deputy director of Clandestine Operations and head of the group that interacted with corporate America. A former West Point football player who was one of the founders of the original CIA. Crowley was involved at a very high level with many of the machinations of the CIA.


Gregory Douglas: A retired newspaperman, onetime friend of Heinrich Müller and latterly, of Robert Crowley. Inherited stacks of files from the former (along with many interesting works of art acquired during the war and even more papers from Robert Crowley.) Lives comfortably in a nice house overlooking the Mediterranean.


Reinhard Gehlen: A retired German general who had once been in charge of the intelligence for the German high command on Russian military activities. Fired by Hitler for incompetence, he was therefore naturally hired by first, the U.S. Army and then, as his level of incompetence rose, with the CIA. His Nazi-stuffed organizaion eventually became the current German Bundes Nachrichten Dienst.


Thomas K. Kimmel, Jr: A grandson of Admiral Husband Kimmel, Naval commander at Pearl Harbor who was scapegoated after the Japanese attack. Kimmel was a senior FBI official who knew both Gregory Douglas and Robert Crowley and made a number of attempts to discourage Crowley from talking with Douglas. He was singularly unsuccessful. Kimmel subsequently retired, lives in Florida, and works for the CIA as an “advisor.”


Willi Krichbaum: A Senior Colonel (Oberführer) in the SS, head of the wartime Secret Field Police of the German Army and Heinrich Müller’s standing deputy in the Gestapo. After the war, Krichbaum went to work for the Critchfield organization and was their chief recruiter and hired many of his former SS friends. Krichbaum put Critchfield in touch with Müller in 1948.


Heinrich Müller: A former military pilot in the Bavarian Army in WWI, Müller  became a political police officer in Munich and was later made the head of the Secret State Police or Gestapo. After the war, Müller escaped to Switzerland where he worked for Swiss intelligence as a specialist on Communist espionage and was hired by James Critchfield, head of the Gehlen Organization, in 1948. Müller subsequently was moved to Washington where he worked for the CIA until he retired.


Joseph Trento: A writer on intelligence subjects, Trento and his wife “assisted” both Crowley and Corson in writing a book on the Russian KGB. Trento believed that he would inherit all of Crowley’s extensive files but after Crowley’s death, he discovered that the files had been gutted and the most important, and sensitive, ones given to Gregory Douglas. Trento was not happy about this. Neither were his employers.

Frank Wisner: A Founding Father of the CIA who promised much to the Hungarian and then failed them. First, a raging lunatic who was removed from Langley, screaming, in a strait jacket and later, blowing off the top of his head with a shotgun.

Robert Wolfe: A retired librarian from the National Archives who worked closely with the CIA on covering up embarrassing historical material in the files of the Archives. A strong supporter of holocaust writers

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