TBR News November 17, 2016

Nov 17 2016

The Voice of the White House  

Washington, D.C.  November 17, 2016: “Trump is right of center but not strongly so.

The vacancy on SCOTUS will in all probability be filled with a judge who is right of center.

Trump’s vice president is a member of the religious right and they are strongly opposed to abortion, uni-sex public lavatories and many other subjects.

On the other hand, the great mass of the American public has ceased hating gays and has been legalizing marijuana.

If the religious right tries to interfere with such attitudes, there will be more public resistance and, eventually, rebellion.

Trump was elected by a (slim) majority public vote to offset the arrogant liberals and if he wishes to avoid problems with the masses, he will adhere, in the main, to those attitudes he put forward during his successful campaign.

The political leaders of this country live in a closed community and have no genuine interest in public opinion, until election time, and are influenced by infusions of money from interested parties.

The public supplies them with tax monies, under duress, which are spent on political, not social, issues.

This is a combination that can lead to serious frictions which, if not addressed, can result in rebellion.

I view the last presidential election as a public rebellion.

The American media, always under control, does not understand this and neither do the bewildered political leaders.”

The New Red Scare

Reviving the art of threat inflation

December Issue

by Andrew Cockburn


“Welcome to the world of strategic analysis,” Ivan Selin used to tell his team during the Sixties, “where we program weapons that don’t work to meet threats that don’t exist.” Selin, who would spend the following decades as a powerful behind-the-scenes player in the Washington mandarinate, was then the director of the Strategic Forces Division in the Pentagon’s Office of Systems Analysis. “I was a twenty-eight-year-old wiseass when I started saying that,” he told me, reminiscing about those days. “I thought the issues we were dealing with were so serious, they could use a little levity.”

His analysts, a group of formidable young technocrats, were known as the Whiz Kids. Their iconoclastic reports on military budgets and programs, conveyed directly to the secretary of defense, regularly earned the ire of the Pentagon bureaucracy. Among them was Pierre Sprey, who later helped to develop the F-16 and A-10 warplanes. He emphatically confirmed his old boss’s observation about chimerical threats. “It was true for all the big-ticket weapons programs,” he told me recently. “But although we pissed off the generals and admirals, we couldn’t stop their threat-inflating, and their nonworking weapons continued to be produced in huge quantities. Of course,” he added with a laugh, “the art of creating threats has advanced tremendously since that primitive era.”

Sprey was referring to the current belief that the Russians had hacked into the communications of the Democratic National Committee, election-related computer systems in Arizona and Illinois, and the private emails of influential individuals, notably Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta — and then malignly leaked the contents onto the internet. This, according to legions of anonymous officials quoted without challenge across the media, was clearly an initiative authorized at the highest level in Moscow. To the Washington Post, the hacks and leaks were unquestionably part of a “broad covert Russian operation in the United States to sow public distrust in the upcoming presidential election and in U.S. political institutions.”

In early October, this assessment was endorsed by James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, and the Department of Homeland Security. Though it expressed confidence that the Russian government had engineered the D.N.C. hacks, their curiously equivocal joint statement appeared less certain as to Moscow’s role in the all-important leaks, saying only that they were “consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.” As for the most serious intrusion into the democratic process — the election-system hacks — the intelligence agencies took a pass. Although many of those breaches had come from “servers operated by a Russian company,” the statement read, the United States was “not now in a position to attribute this activity to the Russian Government.”

The company in question is owned by Vladimir Fomenko, a twenty-six-year-old entrepreneur based in Siberia. In a series of indignant emails, Fomenko informed me that he merely rents out space on his servers, which are scattered throughout several countries, and that hackers have on occasion used his facilities for criminal activities “without our knowledge.” Although he has “information that undoubtedly will help the investigation,” Fomenko complained that nobody from the U.S. government had contacted him. He was upset that the FBI had “found it necessary to make a loud statement through the media” when he would have happily assisted them. Furthermore, these particular “criminals” had stiffed him $290 in rental fees.

As it happened, a self-identified solo hacker from Romania named Guccifer 2.0 had made public claim to the D.N.C. breaches early on, but this was generally written off as either wholly false or Russian disinformation. During the first presidential debate, on September 26, Hillary Clinton blithely asserted that Vladimir Putin had “let loose cyberattackers to hack into government files, to hack into personal files, hack into the Democratic National Committee. And we recently have learned that, you know, that this is one of their preferred methods of trying to wreak havoc and collect information.”

By “wreak havoc,” Clinton presumably had in mind such embarrassing revelations as the suggestion by a senior D.N.C. official that the party play the religious card against Bernie Sanders in key Southern races, or her chummy confabulations with Wall Street banks, or her personal knowledge that our Saudi allies have been “providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups.” It made sense, therefore, to create a distraction by loudly asserting a sinister Russian connection — a tactic that has proved eminently successful.

Donald Trump’s rebuttal (“I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the D.N.C. . . . It could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs four hundred pounds, okay?”) earned him only derision. But a closer examination of what few facts are known about the hack suggests that Trump may have been onto something.

CrowdStrike, the cybersecurity firm that first claimed to have traced an official Russian connection — garnering plenty of free publicity in the process — asserted that two Russian intelligence agencies, the FSB and the GRU, had been working through separate well-known hacker groups, Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear. The firm contended that neither agency knew that the other was rummaging around in the D.N.C. files. Furthermore, one of the hacked and leaked documents had been modified “by a user named Felix Dzerzhinsky, a code name referring to the founder of the Soviet Secret Police.” (Dzerzhinsky founded the Cheka, the Soviet secret police and intelligence agency, in 1917.) Here was proof, according to another report on the hack, that this was a Russian intelligence operation.

“OK,” wrote Jeffrey Carr, the CEO of cybersecurity firm Taia Global, in a derisive blog post on the case. “Raise your hand if you think that a GRU or FSB officer would add Iron Felix’s name to the metadata of a stolen document before he released it to the world while pretending to be a Romanian hacker.” As Carr, a rare skeptic regarding the official line on the hacks, explained to me, “They’re basically saying that the Russian intelligence services are completely inept. That one hand doesn’t know what the other hand is doing, that they have no concern about using a free Russian email account or a Russian server that has already been known to be affiliated with cybercrime. This makes them sound like the Keystone Cops. Then, in the same breath, they’ll say how sophisticated Russia’s cyberwarfare capabilities are.”

In reality, Carr continued, “It’s almost impossible to confirm attribution in cyberspace.” For example, a tool developed by the Chinese to attack Google in 2009 was later reused by the so-called Equation Group against officials of the Afghan government. So the Afghans, had they investigated, might have assumed they were being hacked by the Chinese. Thanks to a leak by Edward Snowden, however, it now appears that the Equation Group was in fact the NSA. “It doesn’t take much to leave a trail of bread crumbs to whichever government you want to blame for an attack,” Carr pointed out.

Bill Binney, the former technical director of the NSA, shares Carr’s skepticism about the Russian attribution. “Saying it does not make it true,” he told me. “They have to provide proof. . . . So let’s see the evidence.”

Despite some esoteric aspects, the so-called Russian hacks, as promoted by interested parties in politics and industry, are firmly in the tradition of Cold War threat inflation. Admittedly, practitioners had an easier task in Selin’s day. The Cold War was at its height, America was deep in a bloody struggle against the communist foe in Vietnam, and Europe was divided by an Iron Curtain, behind which millions chafed under Soviet occupation.

Half a century later, the Soviet Union is long gone, along with the international communist movement it championed. Given that Russia’s defense budget is roughly one tenth of America’s, and that its military often cannot afford the latest weapons Russian manufacturers offer for export, resurrecting this old enemy might seem to pose a challenge to even the brightest minds in the Pentagon. Yet the Russian menace, we are informed, once again looms large. According to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, Russia “has clear ambition to erode the principled international order” and poses “an existential threat to the United States” — a proclamation endorsed by a host of military eminences, including General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, his vice-chairman General Paul Selva, and NATO’s former Supreme Allied Commander, General Philip Breedlove.

True, relations with Moscow have been disintegrating since the Bush Administration. Yet Russia achieved formal restoration to threat status only after Putin’s takeover of Crimea in February 2014 (which followed the forcible ejection, with U.S. encouragement, of Ukraine’s pro-Russian government just a few days earlier). Russia’s intervention in Syria, in the fall of 2015, turned the chill into a deep freeze. Still, the recent accusation that Putin has been working to destabilize our democratic system has taken matters to a whole new level, evoking the Red Scare of the 1950s.

At the core of the original Cold War threat was the notion that the Soviets, notwithstanding the loss of 20 million lives and the utter devastation of their country in World War II, somehow maintained a military technologically equal to that of the United States, and far greater in numbers. Portraying the United States as militarily vulnerable might have seemed tricky. There was, after all, the nation’s million-man army, its 900-ship navy, its 15,000-plane air force, and a strategic nuclear arsenal guaranteed, as its commander, General Curtis LeMay, announced in a 1954 briefing, to reduce Russia to a “smoking, radiating ruin in two hours.”

Nevertheless, public belief in the Soviet Union as an existential threat (not that the phrase existed then) was undimmed. The enemy to be held in check appeared awesome. No less than 175 Soviet and satellite divisions were reportedly poised on NATO’s eastern border, vastly outnumbering the puny twenty-five NATO divisions defending Western Europe. U.S. military officials regularly delivered somber warnings that the Soviets were also close to overtaking us in the quality of their military hardware. In 1956, when the Soviet defense minister, Georgy Zhukov, informed a visiting U.S. delegation that its estimate of Soviet military strength was “too high,” the visitors brushed this aside as obvious disinformation. They returned home, as one of them wrote later, convinced that “the Soviets were rapidly reaching the point where they could successfully challenge our technical superiority.”

Zhukov was telling the truth. Soviet military units were to a large extent undermanned, badly trained, and ill equipped — those menacing divisions in East Germany had only enough ammunition for a few days of fighting. An exhaustive 1968 study by the Systems Analysis Office concluded that the two sides in Europe were actually equal in numbers. But since this dose of reality ran counter to the official story, it had no effect on military planning, and certainly none on defense spending.

The “missile gap,” conceived by the Air Force and heavily promoted by John F. Kennedy as he ran for the White House in 1960, stands out as a preeminent example of Cold War threat inflation. Kennedy, briefed by the CIA on President Eisenhower’s orders, knew perfectly well that no such gap existed — except in America’s favor. He campaigned on the lie nonetheless, and once in office, he felt it necessary to spend billions of dollars on a thousand Minuteman ICBMs. (In accord with Selin’s maxim, a large percentage of the missiles were inoperable thanks to a faulty guidance system.)

So it continued. Throughout the Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties, the Soviet threat reliably prompted infusions of cash into the defense complex, to the gratification of its many functionaries, not least the congressmen and senators who were amply rewarded for their role in lubricating the process. Meanwhile, the “American threat” was performing a similar role on the other side of the Iron Curtain, sustaining the Soviet military’s grip on the commanding heights of a comparatively impoverished domestic economy. Thus, the Soviets eagerly matched the U.S. missile buildup until they, too, had the ability to lay waste to the planet several times over.

Maintaining these huge forces on hair-trigger alert, ready to launch on a few minutes’ notice, was an intricate business, requiring radar arrays, high-powered computers, and elaborate communication networks. Though profitable for participants, these systems had potentially catastrophic consequences. In November 1979, for example, Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s national-security adviser, was awoken at three in the morning with the news that the NORAD headquarters in Colorado had detected Russian nuclear missiles streaming toward the United States; they would begin detonating in a matter of minutes. A second call moments later confirmed the report. Brzezinski was on the point of calling Carter, who would have had three minutes to decide whether to precipitate an all-out nuclear war, when a third call announced it had all been a mistake. A NORAD computer had inexplicably started running a software program simulating a Russian attack. Another false alert occurred the following year, this one generated by a single malfunctioning computer chip. The Soviets, meanwhile, developed the Perimeter system, by which alerts of an incoming attack would automatically trigger a counterstrike.

A decade later, the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union appeared to consign the long-standing threat of nuclear annihilation to the ash can of history. Europe was (almost) stripped of tactical nuclear weapons, and the United States and Russia agreed to reduce their strategic arsenals to 6,000 warheads on either side. American nuclear bombers (though not missiles) were taken off alert. Although the Russians had inherited the remains of the Soviet arsenal, they could not afford to maintain or update decaying systems. In the words of Bruce Blair, a leading authority on nuclear weaponry who once served as a Minuteman launch-control officer, our perennial opponent “effectively disarmed.”

Unsurprisingly, there was much optimistic talk of a “peace dividend” for the American taxpayer. If the threat propelling all that spending over the years had disappeared, surely defense budgets could and should be slashed. Our fighting forces did indeed shrink — by 1997, half the Air Force’s tactical fighter wings had been disbanded, while the Army had lost half its combat units, and the Navy more than a third of its ships. Overall military spending, on the other hand, remained extremely high. As Franklin “Chuck” Spinney, then an analyst at the Defense Department and long an acute observer of such trends, noted presciently in 1990: “The much smaller post–Cold War military will require a Cold War budget to keep it running.” Spinney was overoptimistic: allowing for inflation, defense spending has never once fallen below the Cold War average.

This mismatch, astonishing to the uninitiated, was in fact a classic example of a hallowed Pentagon maneuver known as the “bow wave.” When afflicted by rare but irksome intervals of budgetary hardship, the services launch research-and-development projects, initially modest in cost, that lock in commitments to massive spending down the road. A post-Vietnam downturn had spawned the B-2 bomber and the MX intercontinental missile. Now the post–Cold War drought incubated the F-22 and F-35 fighter programs, not to mention a fantasy-laden Army project, replete with computers and sensors, called Future Combat Systems. The cost of these projects would explode in later years, even when there were no tangible results. The F-22 was canceled early in its planned production run, while the Army project never got off the drawing board. The F-35 program staggers on, with an ultimate budget now projected at $1.5 trillion.

All this was achieved without much sign of a viable enemy, despite hopeful invocations of the Chinese military as a potential “peer competitor.” In any case, steps were being taken to remedy that deficiency. As I have explained before in this magazine, the United States casually violated promises made in the Soviet Union’s dying days not to expand NATO into Eastern Europe — an initiative prompted and certainly exploited by U.S. arms manufacturers smarting from the outbreak of peace and in need of fresh markets. A possible downside to this trend surfaced in 2008, when Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, an enthusiastic petitioner for NATO membership, provoked hostilities with Russia in expectation, reportedly encouraged by Vice President Cheney, of U.S. military support. “Misha was trying to flip us into a war with Russia,” Bruce P. Jackson, a former Lockheed Martin vice president who had been key to the NATO expansion effort, recently explained to me. President Bush proved reluctant to blow up the world on behalf of his erstwhile protégé, and Saakashvili was left to his fate.

Initially, the Obama Administration appeared disposed to warmer relations with Moscow. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented her Russian counterpart with a “reset” button. According to Vali Nasr, a former State Department official, the new direction was largely prompted by a desire to gain Russian cooperation for tougher sanctions against Iran. In pursuit of this goal, Nasr later wrote,

Obama stopped talking about democracy and human rights in Russia . . . abandoned any thought of expanding NATO farther eastward, [and] washed his hands of the missile defense shield that had been planned for Europe.

These amicable gestures also extended to a 2010 nuclear-arms-control agreement. New START, as it was called, cut the number of strategic nuclear-missile launchers deployed by either side and limited the number of warheads to 1,550. Commendable as this might seem, there was less to the agreement than met the eye. The treaty reduced the number of deployed Minuteman ICBMs from 450 to 400, along with the same quantity of deployed warheads. Yet this slimmed-down complement of missiles, constituting only part of our nuclear arsenal, still represents eight thousand times the explosive force meted out at Hiroshima. The fifty missiles taken out of service were by no means destroyed, merely stored away against the day when they might be needed, in which case they could be reloaded in their old silos — which would be kept “warm,” ready for reuse.

In fact, this modest effort at trimming the nuclear arsenal came at a high price, which we will be paying for many years to come. As the administration struggled to gain ratification for the treaty, key Republicans, led by Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, demanded a commitment to the “modernization” of our nuclear forces. This clashed somewhat with Obama’s 2009 pledge to take “concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons.” Nonetheless, he caved and accepted the trade-off. Though the president protested that he was merely taking steps to maintain and secure the existing nuclear arsenal, modernization turned out to mean the wholesale replacement of almost every component of the force with new weapons, and at vast cost.

The Navy has therefore been promised a fleet of twelve ballistic-missile-launching nuclear submarines, loaded with newly developed missiles, at an estimated price of $100 billion. The Air Force will acquire 642 new ICBMs at a supposed cost of $85 billion (a price tag that will, like that of the naval program, inevitably increase). In addition, the Air Force is getting a long-range nuclear bomber, the cost of which it has brazenly classified with the excuse that such details would reveal technical secrets to the enemy. The shopping list also includes several nuclear warheads that are essentially new designs. Meanwhile, command-and-control systems are being developed for an array of satellites (costing up to $1 billion each), whose purpose is to make the business of fighting a nuclear war more manageable.

Those new warheads have allowed the nuclear laboratories (better described as weapons factories) to elbow their way to the trough. Thus the Los Alamos lab in New Mexico plans to expand its facility for producing plutonium “pits” — the fissile core at the heart of a nuclear weapon. Instead of an annual total of ten such pits, Los Alamos now plans to manufacture eighty, at a cost of some $3 billion. This is despite the fact that the United States has roughly 15,000 pits in storage, most of which will be in working order for another century. In a fine example of the pervasive power of the military–industrial complex, Tom Udall of New Mexico, among the most liberal members of the Senate, has felt it necessary to support this inane scheme.

Reliable estimates indicate that “modernization” will ultimately deplete the public purse by $1 trillion. Justifying such spending might have been tough in the immediate aftermath of the Soviet collapse. But times have changed. “We are investing in the technologies that are most relevant to Russia’s provocations,” Brian McKeon, principal deputy undersecretary for policy at the Department of Defense, told Congress in December 2015. In other words, Moscow has resumed its customary role as budget prop and bogeyman — and one with a modernization plan of its own.

On the face of it, the Russians have plenty to modernize. American bomber pilots “need around two hundred hours of flight training a year in order to remain proficient in everything from takeoff to landing to flying the plane,” Bruce Blair told me. “Back in the Nineties, all the Russian pilots were receiving just ten hours of flight training per year. The last time I checked, they were up to eighty or ninety hours.” Blair also cited the Russian deployment of mobile early-warning radars around the borders to compensate for the “drastic decline of their missile-attack early-warning system over the past two decades. They have not yet managed to put up a satellite network.”

True, the Russians have been digging underground bunkers for their military and civilian leadership, including one to house the general staff at their wartime headquarters south of Moscow. They are developing a big intercontinental ballistic missile, the RS-28 Sarmat, and another missile, the Bulava, for a new class of submarine. They are also reported to be designing a nuclear-armed underwater drone, allegedly capable of zipping across the ocean and exploding in an American harbor. You could even argue, as Blair does, that the “operational posture” of the Russian military, which essentially collapsed after 1989, has “been fixed, more or less.”

A Russian military “more or less” back in working order doesn’t sound much like an existential threat, nor like one in any shape to “erode the principled international order.” That has not deterred our military leadership from scaremongering rhetoric, as typified by Philip Breedlove, who stepped down as NATO’s commander in May. Breedlove spent much of his three-year tenure issuing volleys of alarmist pronouncements. On various occasions throughout the Ukrainian conflict, he reported that 40,000 Russian troops were on that nation’s border, poised to invade; that regular Russian army units were operating inside Ukraine; that international observers were reporting columns of Russian troops and heavy weapons entering Ukraine. These claims proved to be exaggerated or completely false. Yet Breedlove continued to hit the panic button. “What is clear,” he told Washington reporters in February 2015, “is that right now, it is not getting better. It is getting worse every day.”

In reality, the fighting had almost completely died down at that point. There was still no sign of the armored Russian invaders Breedlove had unblushingly described. This in no way fazed the general, whose off-duty relaxation runs to leather-clad biker jaunts. His private emails, a portion of which were pilfered and released by a hacker organization called DC Leaks (rapidly and inevitably billed as a Kremlin tool), revealed him to be irritated by Obama’s dovishness and eager to pressure the White House for a change of policy. “I think POTUS sees us as a threat that must be minimized,” he complained to a Washington friend in a 2014 email.

Breedlove’s spurious claims, which were echoed by the U.S. Army commander in Europe, Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, reportedly caused considerable agitation in Berlin, where officials let it be known that they considered such assertions “dangerous propaganda” without any foundation in fact. Der Spiegel, citing sources in Washington, insisted that such statements were by no means off the cuff, but had clearance from the Pentagon and White House. The aim, according to William Drozdiak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center on the United States and Europe, was to “goad the Europeans into jacking up defense spending” — and the campaign seems to have worked. Several NATO members, including Germany, have now begun raising their defense spending to the levels demanded by the United States.

Russian actions, when interpreted as threateningly aggressive, have been a boon to the defense establishment. But talking up Russian capabilities is no less important for nurturing defense budgets in the long term — in case the Kremlin’s foreign policy should take on an inconveniently peaceful turn. So, just as those U.S. generals returned home from a desolate Russia in the mid-1950s convinced that Soviet weapons makers were about to challenge American technical superiority, Russian weapons are today receiving glowing reviews from U.S. military leaders.Last June, for example, Vice Admiral James Foggo, commander of the Sixth Fleet, told The National Interest that the Russians had upped their game on submarine warfare. He singled out for praise the Severodvinsk, a 13,800-ton behemoth. Foggo also noted that the Russians were “building a number of stealthy hybrid diesel-electric submarines and deploying them around the theatre.” In the same article, Alarik Fritz, a senior official with the Center for Naval Analyses and an adviser to Foggo, described these hybrid vessels as some of the most dangerous threats faced by the U.S. Navy: “They’re a concern for us and they’re highly capable — and they’re a very agile tool of the Russian military.”

A closer look reveals something less impressive. The sinister-sounding description “hybrid diesel-electric” refers to a submarine equipped with a small nuclear reactor that is used to power up the electric batteries that drive the boat while it is underwater. (On the surface, it relies on diesel power.) Despite the admiral’s casual reference to “a number” of such boats, the Russians have built just one, the Sarov. It was laid down in 1988 and entered service in 2008, after which they apparently decided to build no more. In any case, the design concept sounds strange — as the batteries need topping up, the reactor, described by engineers as a “nuclear teakettle,” is switched on and off. This would be a cumbersome and noisy process, the opposite of stealthy. In any event, there is little sign of a surge in Russian submarine building, which seems to be proceeding very, very slowly. The dreaded Severodvinsk, laid down in 1993, took twenty-one years to be built and enter active service. The Sarov, that “very agile tool” of the Evil Empire, took twenty years.

Similar distortion proliferates in depictions of the Russian and, for that matter, the Chinese air force. (China has yet to be raised to “existential” threat status — maybe because we owe them so much money.) Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan, published by the USAF this year, asserts that the service’s “projected force structure in 2030 is not capable of fighting and winning against [the expected] array of potential adversary capabilities.” Unsurprisingly, this gloomy forecast is followed by an urgent plea for more money. In contrast, Pierre Sprey, who may certainly be considered an authority on fighter design, observes that even the latest Russian fighters are “huge, awfully short-ranged, and relatively unmaneuverable, except at low speeds — which is good for air shows and nothing else. Their ‘latest’ models are basically the same old machines, such as the MiG-29, which has been around for years, with a few trendy add-ons. But they’ve realized that you can sell more airplanes abroad if you change the number, so the MiG-29 has become the MiG-35, and so on.”

Needless to say, Russia’s land forces are being accorded a status no less ominous than its subs and planes. “The performance of Russian artillery in Ukraine,” according to Robert Scales, a retired Army general who is esteemed by many of his peers as a military intellectual, “strongly demonstrates that, over the past two decades, the Russians have gotten a technological jump on us.” The Russians’ T-14 Armata tank is similarly hailed in the defense press as a “source of major concern for Western armies.”

In one sense, the new Red Scare has had the desired and entirely predictable result. Defense spending, though hurt by troop wind-downs in Iraq and Afghanistan, is now exhibiting renewed vigor. Introducing its upcoming $583 billion budget in 2016, the Pentagon specifically cited “Russian aggression” as a rationale for spending. NATO allies have meanwhile pledged to increase their defense spending to 2 percent of GDP.

Yet despite all the rhetoric, practical responses to the “existential threat” have been curiously modest. Even with 480,000 troops, the U.S. Army generates surprisingly little fighting power. According to its chief of staff, this force is hard-pressed to field more than a third of its “ready” 4,500-man brigades, overwhelmingly light infantry, that can deploy and fight in less than a month. “These are paltry numbers for a force that approaches nearly a half-million,” Douglas Macgregor, a former colonel and pungent commentator on defense topics, wrote me recently. To achieve “this stellar result,” added Macgregor, the U.S. Army has eleven four-star generals scattered throughout the world.

A loudly proclaimed plan to bolster NATO’s eastern defenses against those aggressive Russians has turned out to mean sending a battalion — 700 troops! — to Poland and each of the allegedly threatened Baltic republics. In addition, the United States will rotate one armored brigade into and out of Eastern Europe. Aerial reinforcements to the Baltics have been similarly miserly: small contingents of fighters deployed for limited periods before returning home.

It is not as if the military lacks sufficient cash. The Army budget alone, some $150 billion, is more than twice Russia’s spending for the entire armed forces. The ratios for the other services are similarly unbalanced. The answer would seem to lie in the military’s priorities, thanks to which actual defense needs take second place to more urgent concerns, such as the perennial interservice battle for budget share, as well as the care and feeding of defense contractors (who will doubtless employ all those four-star generals once they retire).

This approach, of course, generates a staggering amount of waste. Many of the headline scandals, such as the $200 million F-35 fighter that could not fly within twenty-five miles of a thunderstorm, have become notorious — but the list is long. The Army in particular has spawned an impressive list of procurement projects, including helicopters, radios, and armored troop carriers, that have come to nothing. The Future Combat Systems referred to above is said to have been launched by Army chief of staff General Eric Shinseki as a kind of preemptive strike on the taxpayer’s wallet. “If I don’t buy something new,” he reportedly declared, “no one on the Hill will believe that the U.S. Army is changing.” The project ultimately absorbed $20 billion with nothing whatsoever to show for it.

There would seem to be one major difference between the fine art of threat inflation as practiced during the Cold War and the current approach. In the old days, taxpayers at least got quite a lot for their money, albeit at inflated prices: the 900 ships, the 15,000 planes, and so forth. Things are different today. The so-called global war on terror, though costing more than any American conflict apart from World War II, has been a comparatively lackadaisical affair. Iraq at its height absorbed one fifth the number of troops sent to Vietnam, while Air Force sorties ran at one eighth the earlier level. Though the weapons cost more and more, we produce fewer and fewer of them. For example, the Air Force originally told us they were buying 749 F-22 fighters at a cost of $35 million each. They ended up with 187 planes at $412 million apiece. The trend persists across the services — and sometimes, as in the case of the Army’s Future Combat Systems, no weapons are produced at all.

This may be of comfort to those who worry at the prospect of war. Yet the threat inflation that keeps the wheels turning can carry us toward catastrophe. Among the token vessels deployed to reassure Eastern European NATO countries have been one or two Aegis Destroyers, sent to patrol the Baltic and Black Seas. The missiles they carry are for air defense. Yet the launchers can just as easily carry nuclear or conventional cruise missiles, without any observer being able to tell the difference.

Bruce Blair, who spent years deep underground waiting to launch nuclear missiles and now works to abolish them, foresees frightening consequences. As he told me, “Those destroyers could launch quite a few Tomahawk cruise missiles that can reach all the way to Moscow. You could lay down a pretty severe attack on Russian command-and-control from just a couple of destroyers.” This, he explained, is why the Russians have been aggressively shadowing the ships and buzzing them with fighter planes at very close quarters.

“Now the Russians are putting in a group of attack submarines in order to neutralize those destroyers,” Blair continued. “And we’re putting in a group of P-8 antisubmarine airplanes in the area in order to neutralize the submarines.” Quite apart from the destroyers, he continued, “are the B-2 and B-52 missions we fly over the Poles, which looks like we’re practicing a strategic attack. We fly them into Europe as shows of reassurance. We’re in a low-grade nuclear escalation that’s not even necessarily apparent to ourselves.” Excepting a few scattered individuals in intelligence and the State Department, he continued, “so few people are aware of what we’re getting into with the Russians.” Nobody is paying attention on the National Security Council, Blair said, and he added: “No one at Defense.”

Russia hopes for Trump new approach to Syria crisis: agencies

November 17, 2016


Russia hopes that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s new administration will take a new approach to resolving the Syrian crisis, Russian news agencies cited a Russian deputy foreign minister as saying on Thursday.

Mikhail Bogdanov also said that Russia has started contacting Trump’s team in relation to Syria.

(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Catherine Evans)

Titanpointe:The NSA’s Spy Hub in New York, Hidden in Plain Sight

November 16 2016

by Ryan Gallagher and Henrik Moltke

The Intercept

They called it Project X. It was an unusually audacious, highly sensitive assignment: to build a massive skyscraper, capable of withstanding an atomic blast, in the middle of New York City. It would have no windows, 29 floors with three basement levels, and enough food to last 1,500 people two weeks in the event of a catastrophe.

But the building’s primary purpose would not be to protect humans from toxic radiation amid nuclear war. Rather, the fortified skyscraper would safeguard powerful computers, cables, and switchboards. It would house one of the most important telecommunications hubs in the United States — the world’s largest center for processing long-distance phone calls, operated by the New York Telephone Company, a subsidiary of AT&T.

The building was designed by the architectural firm John Carl Warnecke & Associates, whose grand vision was to create a communication nerve center like a “20th century fortress, with spears and arrows replaced by protons and neutrons laying quiet siege to an army of machines within.”

Construction began in 1969, and by 1974, the skyscraper was completed. Today, it can be found in the heart of lower Manhattan at 33 Thomas Street, a vast gray tower of concrete and granite that soars 550 feet into the New York skyline. The brutalist structure, still used by AT&T and, according to the New York Department of Finance, owned by the company, is like no other in the vicinity. Unlike the many neighboring residential and office buildings, it is impossible to get a glimpse inside 33 Thomas Street. True to the designers’ original plans, there are no windows and the building is not illuminated. At night it becomes a giant shadow, blending into the darkness, its large square vents emitting a distinct, dull hum that is frequently drowned out by the sound of passing traffic and wailing sirens.

For many New Yorkers, 33 Thomas Street — known as the “Long Lines Building” — has been a source of mystery for years. It has been labeled one of the city’s weirdest and most iconic skyscrapers, but little information has ever been published about its purpose.

It is not uncommon to keep the public in the dark about a site containing vital telecommunications equipment. But 33 Thomas Street is different: An investigation by The Intercept indicates that the skyscraper is more than a mere nerve center for long-distance phone calls. It also appears to be one of the most important National Security Agency surveillance sites on U.S. soil — a covert monitoring hub that is used to tap into phone calls, faxes, and internet data.

Documents obtained by The Intercept from the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden do not explicitly name 33 Thomas Street as a surveillance facility. However — taken together with architectural plans, public records, and interviews with former AT&T employees conducted for this article — they provide compelling evidence that 33 Thomas Street has served as an NSA surveillance site, code-named TITANPOINTE.

Inside 33 Thomas Street there is a major international “gateway switch,” according to a former AT&T engineer, which routes phone calls between the United States and countries across the world. A series of top-secret NSA memos suggest that the agency has tapped into these calls from a secure facility within the AT&T building. The Manhattan skyscraper appears to be a core location used for a controversial NSA surveillance program that has targeted the communications of the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and at least 38 countries, including close U.S. allies such as Germany, Japan, and France.

It has long been known that AT&T has cooperated with the NSA on surveillance, but few details have emerged about the role of specific facilities in carrying out the top-secret programs. The Snowden documents provide new information about how NSA equipment has been integrated as part of AT&T’s network in New York City, revealing in unprecedented detail the methods and technology the agency uses to vacuum up communications from the company’s systems.

“This is yet more proof that our communications service providers have become, whether willingly or unwillingly, an arm of the surveillance state,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the liberty and national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “The NSA is presumably operating under authorities that enable it to target foreigners, but the fact that it is so deeply embedded in our domestic communications infrastructure should tip people off that the effects of this kind of surveillance cannot be neatly limited to non-Americans.”

The NSA declined to comment for this story.

US intelligence head James Clapper resigns

November 17, 2016


US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has announced he has submitted his resignation. Clapper said last year that he would step down at the end of President Barack Obama’s final term in office.

In his resignation letter, Clapper said that his more than 50 years of service was enough.

“I submitted my letter of resignation last night which felt pretty good. I’ve got 64 days left,” Clapper said during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Thursday.

Clapper’s resignation comes as the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump begins discussions on cabinet appointments.

There is “no reason to question” FBI Director James Comey for disclosing the Bureau’s renewed investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails a week before the election, Clapper told the lawmakers.

Clapper was sworn in as the fourth Director of National Intelligence (DNI) in August 2010. During his tenure as director he has often been required to defend the position of the National Security Agency (NSA).

In a famous exchange in March 2013, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) asked Clapper, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

Clapper answered, “No, sir… not wittingly.”

Just two months later, NSA whistleblower Snowden left the US with 10,000 documents exposing the extent of government surveillance. Snowden’s files showed that the NSA was indeed collecting telephone metadata of millions of law-abiding Americans. Clapper was never charged with lying under oath, however.

Clapper spent 32 years in the US Air Force, retiring in 1995 with the rank of Lieutenant General. His last post was as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). He then spent six years in the military industry, before returning to head the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency from 2001 to 2006. He briefly taught at Georgetown University before President George W. Bush appointed him undersecretary of defense for intelligence in 2007.

The position of Director of National Intelligence was established under the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, following a recommendation by the 9/11 Commission.

The commission had identified major intelligence deficiencies over the 9/11 attacks and failures of the intelligence community to be able to protect US interests against foreign threats.

The DNI is the principal adviser to the president on intelligence matters related to national security, and directs and oversees the National Intelligence Program.

US ‘sanctuary cities’ to protect against possible Trump deportations

With President-elect Donald Trump threatening aggressive action against illegal migrants, liberal mayors are reassuring their immigrant populations that they’re safe. But that task may prove difficult.

November 17, 2016


The mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel gave a speech Monday addressing the nearly half-million undocumented  immigrants who live in the city.

“To all those who are, after Tuesday’s election, very nervous and filled with anxiety, you are safe in Chicago, you are secure in Chicago and you are supported in Chicago,” said Emanuel. “Chicago will always be a sanctuary city.”

His speech came one day after President-elect Donald Trump, in a televised interview, doubled-down on his campaign promise to immediately deport as many as 3 million undocumented immigrants out of the estimated 11 million currently in the US.

In the past week, the mayors of several large cities, including New York and Seattle, have spoken out against Trump’s plans with a promise of their own: that they’ll serve as “sanctuary cities” for immigrants.

What is a sanctuary city?

Sanctuary cities are at least as old as San Francisco’s 1989 ordinance preventing city police from enforcing immigration law. Their numbers increased under the Obama Administration, which deported a record 2.5 million people between 2009 and 2015, earning the president the nickname “deporter-in-chief” from pro-immigrant groups.

In the US, it is the federal government’s job to investigate violations of immigration law. There is a specific agency for this – the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, known commonly as ICE. Only they have the authority to make arrests and begin deportation proceedings.

Nevertheless, ICE often asks local police to report suspected undocumented immigrants or detain them for ICE to question. In other words, local law enforcement is expected to serve as the eyes and ears of the federal government.

Not so in sanctuary cities.

There is no legal definition of the term, but Kemi Bello, spokesperson for the National Immigration Law Center, tells DW that “for our purposes, we view sanctuary cities as places that either limit participation of their local law enforcement agency in helping ICE carry out deportations, or refuse … altogether.”

In Chicago, for example, the “Welcoming City Ordinance” prohibits city police from enforcing immigration law. If they were to arrest a person for theft, police would not be allowed to inquire whether the suspect is a US citizen.

If this same person were about to be released from jail and ICE wished to question him about his immigration status, Chicago police would not be allowed to “expend their time responding to ICE inquiries,” according to the ordinance. When city police in a sanctuary city refuse to accept an ICE request to hold a prisoner, they are not breaking federal law. The requests are non-binding, meaning that they are indeed requests and not orders.

All in all, the National Immigration Law Center reports that such ordinances exist in 39 cities, including the country’s three largest cities New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. In addition, four states – California, Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut – and 364 counties have related laws on the books, although there is much variety among them, says Bello.

Sanctuary cities “are not preventing ICE from doing their job,” says Cesar Cuauhtemoc Garcia Hernandez, law professor at the University of Denver and author of the 2015 book “Crimmigration Law.” They’re just demanding that ICE actually comply with the Constitution and get a warrant before detaining a suspect, he tells DW.

No court has ruled that sanctuary cities’ ordinances are unconstitutional. In fact, the legal battle could end up going in their favor. A federal court ruled in October that ICE’s requests – not the cities’ refusals – are unlawful, arguing that ICE is overstepping its authority by asking police to detain suspects without a warrant, which is forbidden in the 4th Amendment of the Constitution.

The “Donald Trump Act”

Sanctuary cities once again became a focal point of the debate on immigration policy in the run-up to the recent presidential election. In July last year,  a young woman named Kate Steinle was shot to death in San Francisco allegedly by an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who had already been deported from the US five times. Her death soon became political, with then-candidate Trump declaring that the murder was “disgraceful and totally preventable.”

In response to the killing, Republican legislators crafted a bill seeking to punish sanctuary cities by withholding federal funding if they refused to cooperate with ICE. It was nicknamed the “Donald Trump Act” by Democrats who felt that Trump had helped politicize the murder trial.

Democrats managed to block the legislation, but Trump promised during his campaign that as president he would crack down on sanctuary cities which “have resulted in so many needless deaths.”

Legal battles aside, Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities, a punishment he has vowed to carry out even without the approval of Congress. Cities like Chicago could lose millions of dollars, mostly in the form of federal grants for city projects.

The showdown has yet to begin. Trump doesn’t take office until January 2017. In the meantime, some of the most powerful mayors in the US seem at least as resolute as Trump in their relationship with the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.

iPhones Secretly Send Call History To Apple, Security Firm Says

November 17 2016

by Kim Zetter

The Intercept

Apple emerged as a guardian of user privacy this year after fighting FBI demands to help crack into San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone. The company has gone to great lengths to secure customer data in recent years, by implementing better encryption for all phones and refusing to undermine that encryption.

But private information still escapes from Apple products under some circumstances. The latest involves the company’s online syncing service iCloud.

Russian digital forensics firm Elcomsoft has found that Apple’s mobile devices automatically send a user’s call history to the company’s servers if iCloud is enabled — but the data gets uploaded in many instances without user choice or notification.

“You only need to have iCloud itself enabled” for the data to be sent, said Vladimir Katalov, CEO of Elcomsoft.

The logs surreptitiously uploaded to Apple contain a list of all calls made and received on an iOS device, complete with phone numbers, dates and times, and duration. They also include missed and bypassed calls. Elcomsoft said Apple retains the data in a user’s iCloud account for up to four months, providing a boon to law enforcement who may not be able to obtain the data either from the user’s carrier, who may retain the data for only a short period, or from the user’s device, if it’s encrypted with an unbreakable passcode.

“Absolutely this is an advantage [for law enforcement],” Robert Osgood, a former FBI supervisory agent who now directs a graduate program in computer forensics at George Mason University, said of Apple’s call-history uploads. “Four months is a long time [to retain call logs]. It’s generally 30 or 60 days for telecom providers, because they don’t want to keep more [records] than they absolutely have to. So if Apple is holding data for four months, that could be a very interesting data repository and they may have data that the telecom provider might not.”

It’s not just regular call logs that get sent to Apple’s servers. FaceTime, which is used to make audio and video calls on iOS devices, also syncs call history to iCloud automatically, according to Elcomsoft. The company believes syncing of both regular calls and FaceTime call logs goes back to at least iOS 8.2, which Apple released in March 2015.

And beginning with Apple’s latest operating system, iOS 10, incoming missed calls that are made through third-party VoIP applications like Skype, WhatsApp, and Viber, and that use Apple CallKit to make the calls, also get logged to the cloud, Katalov said.

Because Apple possesses the keys to unlock iCloud accounts, U.S. law enforcement agencies can obtain direct access to the logs with a court order. But they still need a tool to extract and parse it.

Elcomsoft said it’s releasing an update to its Phone Breaker software tool today, that can be used to extract the call histories from iCloud accounts, using the accountholder’s credentials. Elcomsoft’s forensic tools are used by law enforcement, corporate security departments, and even consumers. The company also leases some of its extraction code to Cellebrite, the Israeli firm the FBI regularly uses to get into seized phones and iCloud data.

In some cases Elcomsoft’s tool can help customers access the iCloud even without account credentials, if they can obtain an authentication token for the account from the accountholder’s computer, allowing them to get iCloud data without Apple’s help. The use of authentication tokens also bypasses two-factor authentication if the accountholder has set this up to prevent a hacker from getting into their account, Elcomsoft notes on its web site.

Apple’s collection of call logs potentially puts sensitive information at the disposal of people other than law enforcement and other Elcomsoft customers. Anyone else who might be able to obtain the user’s iCloud credentials, like hackers, could potentially get at it too. In 2014, more than 100 celebrities fell victim to a phishing attack that allowed a hacker to obtain their iCloud credentials and steal nude photos of them from their iCloud accounts. The perpetrator reportedly used Elcomsoft’s software to harvest the celebrity photos once the accounts were unlocked.

Generally, if someone were to attempt to download data in an iCloud account, the system would email a notification to the account owner. But Katalov said no notification occurs when someone downloads synced call logs from iCloud.

Apple acknowledged that the call logs are being synced and said it’s intentional.

“We offer call history syncing as a convenience to our customers so that they can return calls from any of their devices,” an Apple spokesperson said in an email. “Device data is encrypted with a user’s passcode, and access to iCloud data including backups requires the user’s Apple ID and password. Apple recommends all customers select strong passwords and use two-factor authentication.”

The syncing of iCloud call logs would not be the first time Apple has been found collecting data secretly. A few months ago, The Intercept reported about similar activity occurring with iMessage logs.

Chris Soghoian, chief technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, said he’s not surprised that Apple is collecting the information.

“It’s arguably not even the worst thing about iCloud,” he told The Intercept. “The fact that iCloud backs up what would otherwise be end-to-end encrypted iMessages is far worse in my mind. There are other ways the government can obtain [call logs]. But without the backup of iMessages, there may be no other way for them to get those messages.”

Still, he said it’s further proof that “iCloud really is the Achilles heel of the privacy of the iPhone platform. The two biggest privacy problems associated with iCloud don’t have check boxes [for users to opt out], nor do they require that you opt in either.”

Jonathan Zdziarski, an iOS forensics expert and security researcher, said he doesn’t think Apple is doing anything nefarious in syncing the call logs. But he said that Apple needs to be clear to users that the data is being collected and stored in the cloud.

Authorized and Unauthorized iCloud Collection

iCloud is Apple’s cloud service that allows users to sync data across multiple Apple devices, including iPhones, iPads, iPods, and Macs. The iPhone menu corresponding to the service gives users the option of syncing mail, contacts, calendars, reminders, browser history and notes and wallet data. But even though call logs are automatically getting synced as well, the menu does not list them among the items users can choose to sync. Because there’s no way to opt-in to sync call logs, there is also no way to opt out — other than turning off iCloud completely, but this can cause other issues, like preventing apps from storing documents and data (such as WhatsApp backups) in the cloud.

“You can only disable uploading/syncing notes, contacts, calendars and web history, but the calls are always there,” Katalov said. One way call logs will disappear from the cloud, is if a user deletes a particular call record from the log on their device; then it will also get deleted from their iCloud account during the next automatic synchronization.

Katalov said they’re still researching the issue but it appears that in some cases the call logs sync almost instantly to iCloud, while other times it happens only after a few hours.

In addition to syncing data among their devices, users can also configure their iCloud account to automatically back up and store their data. Katalov said that call logs get sent to the cloud with these backups as well, but this is separate from the trafficking his company discovered: Even if users disable the backups, their call logs will still get synced to Apple’s servers.

“I would suggest Apple to add a simple option to disable call log syncing, as they do that for calendars and other things,” Katalov told The Intercept, though he acknowledges this would likely take some re-architecting on Apple’s part. Nonetheless, he says “they should allow people to disable that if they want to.”

Even as Apple has increased the security of its mobile devices in recent years, the company has been moving more and more data to the cloud, where it is less protected. Although iCloud data is encrypted on Apple’s server, Apple retains the encryption keys in almost every instance and can therefore unlock the accounts and access data for its own purposes or for law enforcement.

“All of your [iCloud] data is encrypted with keys that are controlled by Apple, but the average user isn’t going to understand that,” Zdziarski said. “You and I are well aware that Apple can read any of your iCloud data when they want to.”

A report in the Financial Times nine months ago indicated Apple plans to re-architect iCloud to resolve this issue and better protect customer data, but that has yet to occur.

Apple discusses the privacy implications of iCloud collection on its website, and does say that implementing backups will send to iCloud “nearly all data and settings stored on your device.” A 63-page white paper on the site discloses more clearly that call logs get uploaded to Apple servers when iCloud backups are enabled. But neither document mentions that the logs still get uploaded even if backups aren’t enabled.

Even law enforcement seems to be in the dark about the availability of these logs, especially logs going back four months. Osgood told The Intercept he was not aware of them. And in an online document about handling legal requests from law enforcement, Apple never mentions that call logs are available through iCloud. It says that it possesses subscriber information that customers provide, including name, physical address, email address, and telephone number. It also says it retains IP connection logs (for up to 30 days), email metadata (for up to 60 days), and content that the user chooses to upload, such as photos, email, documents, contacts, calendars, and bookmarks. The law enforcement document also says that Apple’s servers have iOS device backups, which may include photos and videos in the user’s camera roll, device settings, application data, iMessages, SMS and MMS messages and voicemail.

The only time it mentions call logs is to say that iCloud stores call histories associated with FaceTime, but it says it maintains only FaceTime call invitation logs, which indicate when a subscriber has sent an invitation to someone to participate in a FaceTime call. Apple says the logs “do not indicate that any communication between users actually took place.” It also says it only retains these logs for “up to 30 days.”

But Elcomsoft said this is not true. Katalov said the FaceTime logs contain full information about the call, including the identification of both parties to the call and the call duration. He said his researchers also found that the FaceTime call logs were retained for as long as four months.

Early Clues from Frustrated Apple Customers

Some users are aware that their call logs are being synced to Apple’s servers, because a by-product of the automatic syncing means that if they have the same Apple ID as someone with a different device — for example spouses who have different phones but use the same Apple ID — they will see calls from one device getting synced automatically to the device of the other person who is using the same ID.

“Its very irritating,” one user complained in a forum about the issue. “My wife and I both have iPhones, we are both on the same apple ID. When she gets a call my phone doesn’t ring but when she misses that call my phone shows a missed call icon on the phone app and when I go to the phone app its pretty clearly someone who wasn’t calling my phone. Any way to fix this so it stops?”

Another user expressed frustration at not knowing how to stop the syncing. “I use my phone for business and we have noticed in the last few days that all of the calls I make and receive are appearing in my wife’s iPhone recent call history? I have hunted high and low in settings on both phones but with no joy.”

There’s no indication, however, that these customers realized the full implications of their logs being synced — that the same data is being sent to and stored on Apple’s servers for months.

Apple isn’t the only company syncing call logs to the cloud. Android phones do it as well, and Windows 10 mobile devices also sync call logs by default with other Windows 10 devices that use the same Microsoft Account. Katalov said there are too many Android smartphone versions to test but his company’s research indicates that call log syncing occurs only with Android 6.x and newer versions. As with Apple devices, the only way for a user to disable the call history syncing is to disable syncing completely.

“In ‘pure’ [stock versions of] Android such as one installed on Nexus and Pixel devices, there is no way to select categories to sync,” Katalov said. “For some reason, that is only able on some third-party Android versions running on Sony, HTC, Samsung etc.” The company already produces a tool for harvesting call logs associated with Android devices.

There’s little that subscribers can do to prevent law enforcement from obtaining their iCloud call logs. But to protect against a hacker who might obtain your AppleID from doing the same, they can use two-factor authentication. But Zdziarski said there’s another solution.

“The takeaway really is don’t ever use iCloud. I won’t use it myself until I can be in control of the encryption keys,” he said.





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