Showing posts with label intelligence. Show all posts
Showing posts with label intelligence. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Are there any Patriots in the Republican Party?

Gobsmacked. There's no other word to describe my reaction to Trump's latest assertion of the power to disclose intelligence information from other countries to the Russians. And to do it from the hip.

This is just one more example of Trump's apparent belief that he was elected emperor or dictator. No wonder he likes the Russians so much. Before the 1917 revolution, Russian Tsars ruled by issuing decrees (Ukase) on any subject they wanted to. Putin follows similar procedures, even to the point of having his opponents assassinated.

So when Donald J. Trump tweets that he has the "absolute right" to declassify anything he wants to, that sounds an awful lot like the assertion of an absolute monarch. He apparently is under the impression that there are no limits to his power.

That isn't in keeping with our patriotic traditions.

There is a reason that officers of the United States swear to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States," rather than an oath of loyalty to the president.

We also had an early dispute over how to address the president. An early candidate phrase was "Your Highness." That didn't fly. Quite rightly.

Every day in every way we learn yet again that when other candidates declared Donald J. Trump unfit to serve as president, they were absolutely correct.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Flip Flops

I get a bit tired of candidates accusing each other of "flip-flops."

I suppose no one remembers Ralph Waldo Emerson, who penned perhaps the last word on the subject:“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. ”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Mahatma Gandhi also touched on the subject; he often changed his mind publicly. An aide once asked him how he could so freely contradict this week what he had said just last week. The great man replied that it was because this week he knew better.

--- Gandhi

"When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"

--- John Meynard Keynes

Saturday, November 7, 2015

May Day, 1960

May Day, 1960, CIA pilot (former Air Force officer) Francis Gary Powers, flying alone at more than 70,000 feet, was on his 27th U-2 mission, flying over Sverdlovsk in the Soviet Union. The CIA estimated the altitude of the U-2 was above the reach of any Soviet missile or aircraft. That estimate proved to be too optimistic, and Gary Powers was shot down on one of the biggest Soviet holidays.

Contrary to the CIA's expectations in such an event, Powers survived and was captured.

Stephen Spielberg captures much of the drama of that time in the Cold War in his new movie,Bridge of Spies, starring Tom Hanks. The main hero of the story is a New York lawyer who negotiated the eventual release of Powers. A second important character is the Soviet spy, Rudolf Abel, who was offered in exchange.

It is mostly a true story, with some embellishment for effect. Here is a useful comparison of the true events with the fictional movie version:

Go see Bridge of Spies.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ukraine, Russia, Malaysia: Fools Act And People Die

I just listened to the tapes released by Ukraine of separatist militiamen talking to Russian military officers about the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner. It helped that Ukraine provided a transcription in Russian, but the Russian was clear and not hard to understand. I didn't get a hint of remorse or even much excitement when they reported it was a civilian passenger liner.

Here is a link. It is worth listening to, even if you don't understand Russian. Pretty cold-blooded.

The missile used was apparently a Russian SA-11 GADFLY, a medium-range, semi-active, radar-guided missile using solid-rocket propulsion that provides defense against high-performance aircraft and cruise missiles. The SA-11 represents a considerable improvement over the earlier SA-6 GAINFUL system, and can engage six separate targets simultaneously, rather than the single target capability of the SA-6. Single-shot kill probability are claimed to be 60-90% against aircraft, 30-70% against helicopters, and 40% against cruise missiles, a significant improvement over the SA-6. The system is more mobile, taking only about 5 minutes to move from road march to engagement. The new system also offers significantly greater resistance to ECM than previous systems. The SA-11 system is comprised of the TELAR (9A310M1), Loader/Launcher (9A39M1), SNOW DRIFT Surveillance Radar (9S18M1), and Command and Control vehicle (9S470M1).

The Mach 3 semi-active homing 9M28M1 missile has a maximum slant range of 28 km and a minimum range of 3 km. It is capable of engaging targets between altitudes of 30 and 14000 m and can sustain 23 g maneuvers. The solid fuel missile is 5.6 meters long with a diameter is 0.4 m and a wing span is 1.2 m. The launch weight is 650 kg, which includes a 70 kg HE warhead with a 17 meter lethal radius.

More than enough to destroy a civilian airliner flying under civilian air traffic control using ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) procedures at normal operating altitude flying straight and level.

Ultimately, Russia is responsible for this shoot-down.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Syria And Chemical Weapons - Light At End Of Tunnel?

Today's news seems somewhat hopeful.

It isn't clear how it came about, but it sounds like Secretary of State Kerry may have proposed a settlement believing Syria would refuse - and now both Syria and Russia are jumping through hoops as fast as they can to accept it.

The proposal that Syria turn over its chemical weapons to international control is a good one. It was made even better when Russia suggested the weapons be destroyed under international supervision.

Doing this would resolve a potential dilemma: should there be a strike against Syria's chemical weapons depots? On the one hand, that would be the most justifiable target. On the other hand, attacking the chemical weapons would likely release some very nasty stuff into the Syrian countryside - possibly causing innocent deaths.

President Theodore Roosevelt is often quoted as advising that we "speak softly and carry a big stick."

George W. Bush's neocons seemed to think that meant "shout loudly and hit people over the head with the stick."

Sometimes diplomacy can accomplish wonders, but it is hard work best accomplished behind the scenes.

I hope that's what's going on here.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Seventy Years Ago: WWII In The Pacific - Bombing Kiska August 12, 1943

ALASKA (Eleventh Air Force): From Adak B-24's and B-25's fly 26 bombing, strafing, and radar and photo reconnaissance sorties over Kiska. From Amchitka P-40's, P-38's, B-24's, B-25's, and A-24s fly 70 bombing sorties over the island and are joined by B-24's, P-40's, and F-5A's flying 6 reconnaissance and photo sorties. Targets included the runway, harbor and shipping installations, army barracks, and the Rose Hill area. Lost is B-24D 42-40309.

My friend Ray Rundle, a Navy Communications Technician expert in communications intelligence then stationed on Adak, told the Army there were no more Japanese troops on the island. The Army didn't believe him. Army pilots insisted that Japanese troops remained and had fired anti aircraft weapons against Army bombing missions.

In fact, the Japanese troops had evacuated the island under cover of fog on July 28, two weeks earlier.

When the US Army invasion force stormed ashore on August fifteenth, the invaders found three dogs. US Navy Chief of Naval Operations Earnest King reported to Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox that all they found were some dogs and freshly brewed coffee. When Knox questioned the report, King responded that Japanese dogs were very clever and knew how to make coffee.

Descendants of the Japanese dogs still lived on Adak when I was stationed there twenty years later. And Ray Rundle, who had been commissioned and promoted to the rank of Navy Lieutenant, had also returned to Adak.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Friday, June 14, 2013

More On Communications Intelligence

I realize my previous post on communications intelligence might have been a bit much for some readers. My excuse is that I was personally fascinated with the case of Stanley Johnston revealing through the Chicago Tribune that the US knew in advance where and when the Japanese would attack Midway. How Johnston may have learned of this remains a bit speculative.

What I find equally interesting is that Johnston, who was embarked as a journalist aboard USS Lexington (CV-2) during the battle of the Coral Sea, seems not to have been aware of the role played by communications intelligence in that battle. How did the US fleet know to be where they were at the time they were in order to engage the Japanese?

Johnston's book, Queen Of The Flattops, about the last days and eventual loss of Lexington remains a masterpiece of war coverage.

Two movies about the war in the Pacific provide some information about the role of communications intelligence: "Tora! Tora! Tora!" and "Midway." My favorite is Tora! Tora! Tora!

A recent series on public television, "Bletchley Circle," touches on the special skills of the (mostly women) who worked on breaking German codes during WWII.

Two works by Alexander Solzhenitsyn are of interest. In August, 1914, Solzhenitsyn describes the utter disaster of the Russian army at the Battle of Tannenberg, largely due to administrative incompetence in delivering radio code books to the field in time for the attack. As a result, Russian forces could only communicate with each other in the clear. The Germans knew every Russian move in advance. Whether the code books would have been effective had they been distributed is another question.

During the Winter War of 1939 between Finland and the Soviet Union, it is said that Finnish forces intercepted encrypted Soviet radio communications, transmitted the intercepts to Swedish experts at Uppsala University. The intercepts were decrypted and the information sent back to Finland. This intelligence enabled Finnish ski troops to operate with devastating effectiveness against Soviet units.

The other related book by Solzhenitsyn is First Circle. That book describes the work of Soviet convicts in developing technical means of voice recognition to identify a dissident from a recording.

These efforts were all forerunners of today's cyberwar.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Communications Intelligence: Press Disclosures In 1942 - Chicago Tribune

The Snowden affair calls to mind an earlier history of U.S. Intelligence efforts targeting communications. In the 1920's and 30's, the United States targeted foreign diplomatic and military communications. The early origins of the effort remain murky. The entire field of cryptography and cryptanalysis burgeoned after the introduction of radio communications. Intercepted radio message traffic provided intelligence analysts vast quantities of material to exploit. During World War I, the main target was Germany.

After WWI, for a time the effort continued using combined resources of the Army, Navy, State Department and Justice, under leadership of Herbert Yardley, who had headed the Army's communications intelligence effort during the Great War. This effort, known officially as the Cipher Bureau and unofficially as the American Black Chamber, continued until it was closed during the Hoover Administration in an apparent economy measure. Or, alternatively, it was closed as a result of Secretary of State Stimson's discomfort with the program. "Gentlemen don't read each other's mail," he declared.

Japan had been a major target of US communications intelligence which played a key role in US diplomatic success during the Washington Naval Conference of 1922. The Navy began its own effort at communications intelligence in 1926 (probably building on earlier efforts). Here is an account of the Navy's efforts leading up to WWII.

Something to bear in mind is that US Government efforts to intercept, decode, translate and distribute foreign message traffic was in clear violation of the Telecommunications Act of 1934. These efforts, which played a key role in US operational success in both oceans during WWII, continued to violate US law until an exception was made by statute in 1978.

In the intervening decades, there were several instances of inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of US communications intelligence. Here is an account of what happened in 1942 concerning one such unauthorized disclosure concerning Midway:

The Battle of Midway continued long after the combatants retired. Because of the confusion that surrounded the nascent and relatively unfamiliar U.S. Navy policies governing secrecy and need to know in 1942, the Battle of Midway was refought in the newspapers and courthouses of three major U.S. cities - New York, Chicago, and Washington - for several weeks after the battle actually ended. At issue was how the Navy knew of Japanese plans, how that knowledge came into the possession of a newspaper reporter, and how the government should handle a serious security violation. In the end no one was ever formally punished for revealing to the public the role communications intelligence played in the Japanese defeat. Whether the Japanese ever discovered that U.S. cryptologists had successfully penetrated their most secret operational code, or even suspected the magnitude of the warning provided by COMINT, remains a matter of conjecture to this day. At the time, however, officials within OP-20-G were certain that subsequent almost draconian corrections in Japanese communications procedures and cryptography were traceable directly to the following events.
On 17 May 1942, the survivors of the Lexington were en route to San Diego and San Francisco aboard the USS Barnett and the USS Elliot. (One account said that Admiral Fitch and Captain Sherman were aboard the transport Chester.) Anticipating their arrival in the United States, CINCPAC sent the following message to Admiral Fletcher, CTF 17, with information copies to COMINCH and the Commandants of the 11th and 12th Naval Districts:
It is imperative that all survivors Coral Sea action being returned Mainland be instructed that they are to refrain from any mention of the action upon their arrival west coast port. Com11 is requested berth transports where debarkation can be conducted without contact with newsmen. All personnel will probably require reoutfitting. There will be no publicity regarding this matter until Navy Department release. Barnett and Elliot will stop at San Diego to discharge excess personnel en route San Francisco. 
Despite these precautions by CINCPAC, events aboard the Barnett resulted in even more damaging revelations than those CINCPAC had hoped to prevent. In ancillary actions, CINCPAC learned that medical reports filed in Navy Bureau of Medicine channels revealed the status of American carriers after the battle. In a hasty message on 3 June 1942, CINCPAC notified COMINCH and requested immediate action to suppress the errant reports. At 2050 on 8 June 1942, COMINCH sent the following message to CINCPAC:
Contents of your 311221 May were published almost verbatim in several newspapers yesterday. Article originated with correspondent Stanley Johnson [sic] embarked on [USS] Barnett until June 2d. While your despatch was addressed Task Force Commanders it was sent in channel available to nearly all ships which emphasizes need of care in using channels para. Cominch investigating on Barnett and at San Diego. 
CINCPAC's message of 311221 May contained his final appreciation of the Japanese order of battle prior to Midway.
True to his word, COMINCH immediately convened several formal inquiry panels, which began gathering depositions from witnesses. The panels inquired into the circumstances aboard the Barnett, which, in addition to most of the crew, carried the executive officer of the Lexington, Commander Morton T. Seligman, and a newspaper correspondent, Mr. Stanley Johnston, back to the United States, and in Chicago in the headquarters Colonel R.R. McCormick's newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, where the story had originated. According to Admiral King's biographer, Thomas B. Buell in Master of Seapower, Admiral King "was in a white fury at his headquarters while his staff frantically tried to discover the source of the leak."
By 11 June all of the principals had been interviewed. Those aboard the Barnett were interviewed more than once. Out of this work emerged a very unpleasant picture of official neglect and confusion concerning the safeguarding of communications intelligence both on the Barnett and in the newspapers. Because of the perception that newsmen accompanying U.S. forces were sworn to secrecy, indictments of the principal employees of the Chicago Tribune were sought on 9 June, even before the inquiries were completed. They were returned on 7 July by a Chicago grand jury. At this point serious snags appeared at every turn, and the matter lay in the hands of the grand jury and a special prosecutor for several weeks while the navy added depositions to a record that increasingly showed that Johnston, a British subject, had, with the help or negligence of others, betrayed the trust placed in him.
While many in the navy focused on finding a suitable punishment for Johnston, COMINCH issued another memorandum on 20 June 1942 similar to those he had originated in March and April. It was sent to CINCLANT, CINCPAC, and CDR- SWPACFORCE bearing the subject "Control of Dissemination and Use of Radio Intelligence." Within the navy this would prove to be the only remedial action to come out of the Johnston case.
On 24 June the New York newspaper PM published a story without attribution announcing that the Justice Department did not plan to prosecute anyone, either in the newspapers or in the U.S. Navy, as a result of their role in the revelations. Ironically, three days later the navy discovered that Johnston's own government had earlier declared him "unreliable" as a correspondent. It was the same government, however, that subsequently forged the ultimate solution by addressing the correlation between the Johnston revelations and safeguarding communications intelligence.
On 14 July, the special prosecutor, Mr. William D. Mitchell, transmitted his comprehensive "Report on the Chicago Tribune Case" to Attorney General Francis Biddle and Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox. His conclusion, after he had reviewed the law, the evidence, and the circumstances surrounding the "leak," ended by suggesting that "the game may not be worth the candle" and that the national effort would be better served if the case were dropped.
In the mind of the special prosecutor, none of his major reasons for dropping the case concerned the safeguarding of communications intelligence. Three salient points concerning the merits of the government's case were cited instead. All were related to the personal behavior of the principals: "1) Johnston said (on 8 June) that he got the information from a paper he found on his desk; 2) Two officers testified seeing Seligman working at a table in his quarters and that before him was a 'writing on Navy paper' giving a list of Jap vessels divided into a 'striking force, support force, etc.'; 3) If, as appears likely, some officer left a copy of that dispatch lying around, it may fairly be said there was as much carelessness on the ship as the Tribune was guilty of, and the Jury may think so." 
No further action was taken until 15 August 1942, when the British Admiralty delegation in Washington sent a letter to Admiral King expressing concern that the Hearst revelations posed a danger to special intelligence methods, that a trial would further compromise this source, and that "preservation of this invaluable weapon outweighs almost any other consideration." King's reply reassured the British that the U.S. Navy would not do anything to increase the harm already inflicted by the original news story.  Five days later, the Chicago Daily Tribune carried the front page story, "U.S. Jury Clears Tribune." This story signaled the end of the grand jury investigation, though no reasons were ever given to the press by Mr. Mitchell, the special prosecutor.
What were the facts in the strange case of Stanley Johnston? As noted above, CINCPAC 311221Z May 42, was the message that passed CINCPAC's final appreciation of the Japanese order of battle for the Battle of Midway to the commanders of Task Forces 16 and 17, Admirals Spruance and Fletcher, respectively. The message was passed in communications channels available to other ships. Contrary to normal practices, which expected communicators to ignore traffic not addressed to their ship or commander, it was probably decoded by communications officers from the Lexington en route home from the loss of their ship at Coral Sea, who were acting as watch standers aboard the transport USS Barnett (AP11). Their reason for doing so may have been the presence of the Lexington's executive officer, Commander Morton Seligman. The message was given to Commander Seligman, who, apparently under the impression that he was authorized to do so, showed the message to Johnston, who had been aboard the Lexington during the battle and was being evacuated with the crew. Johnston and Seligman may have shared the same quarters aboard the Barnett
On 7 June 1942, five days after Johnston's arrival in San Diego and one day after CINCPAC's "POA Communique #3" appeared announcing "a momentous U.S. victory," Johnston's story of U.S. foreknowledge of Japanese forces and their plans appeared in the Chicago Tribune and other newspapers in Washington and New York. The headlines that introduced the story on page 4A in the Washington Times Herald for 7 June 1942 revealed without a doubt that the author had been privy to secret material concerning Japanese intentions and strategy: "U.S. KNEW ALL ABOUT JAP FLEET. GUESSED THERE WOULD BE A FEINT AT ONE BASE, REAL ATTACK AT ANOTHER."
Though he could not know the extent of the duplicity involved, Walter Winchell, in his column in the New York Daily Mirror, characterized the Tribune as having "tossed security out the window." Understandably, Johnston's repeated denials that he had ever seen CINCPAC's message were received with cynical disbelief in Washington. Even his media superiors readily admitted they could not otherwise account for the similarities. 
On 8 June, following an inconclusive meeting between high naval and newspaper officials, Johnston and his editor in Washington, Arthur Henning, met privately with Vice Admiral Russell Willson, Admiral King's chief of staff. It was during this meeting, as noted by the special prosecutor, that Johnston may have contradicted himself (Admiral Willson was to say that Johnston "confessed") and admitted seeing a list of Japanese vessels.  With the concurrence of the secretary of the navy and the president, Admiral King barred Seligman from promotion forever. Seligman retired in 1944.
OP-20-G's assessment of the damage done by the Johnston revelations took a long time to develop primarily because the Japanese themselves were slow to change their procedures. Nevertheless, OP-20-G maintained it was no mere coincidence that within a few weeks of the Johnston expose drastic changes were made in virtually all Japanese codes and ciphers including the Japanese Fleet General-Purpose System, which changed on 15 August, only two months into the current cipher. Consistent with these changes, navy monitors also noted the omission of message serial numbers beginning on 15 August and a major change in the Japanese callsign system on 1 October 1942. 
All of the Japanese refinements were justifiably described by OP-20-G analysts as serious threats to their capability to produce current intelligence.  Thus, it is difficult to say at this point that a single event occurred that prompted Admiral King to decide what course of action he would take. It may have been OP-20-G's concern that a jury trial would have even more painful consequences than those already experienced, or Admiral Willson's reading of the meeting he had had with Johnston, or the trauma of preparing highly classified testimony to be given before a Chicago grand jury. Clearly, Admiral King had decided not to implement the 7 July grand jury indictment when he responded to the British letter in August; and the evidence suggests, albeit weakly, that as early as 20 June he had begun to regret even seeking the indictment.
Throughout the Johnston affair, OP-20-G consistently sought a plausible cover story to minimize the damage already done. They appealed to King for future safeguards to prevent the loss of a vital advantage to the navy. King's reiteration of his restrictions on distribution on 20 June, while perhaps not all that OP-20-G wanted, strongly suggested that these appeals were heard.
Questions concerning the appropriate applications of communications intelligence to wartime emergencies of all types continued to arise. One problem addressed in December 1942 affected how newspapermen and radio broadcasters treated information they knew originated from enemy communications. A new paragraph was prepared for insertion in the "Code of Wartime Practices for the American Press" by the secretaries of war and navy and sent to the director of censorship for implementation:
To the end that the enemy may not have information concerning any success the U.S. may attain in deciphering his encoded or enciphered communications, no mention should be made of available or captured enemy codes or enemy ciphers, or about the intelligence gained from intercepting and studying enemy radio messages.
A prestigious trade journal gave immediate approval to the addition while at the same time registering the idea that after the war censorship should not continue. After citing a post-Pearl Harbor report that "monstrously exaggerated" U.S. losses as an example of irresponsible behavior, the editorial concluded with some ideas that are still relevant:
As between an ethical professional requirement that a journalist hold nothing back and a patriotic duty not to shoot one's own soldiers in the back, we have found no difficulty in making a choice. Freedom of the press does not carry with it a general license to reveal our secret strengths and weaknesses to the enemy. 
It was not until 1985 that anyone from the Pacific COMINT centers received any formal recognition for his contribution to either the Coral Sea or Midway victories. In 1985, in response to a massive outpouring of affection from his friends, Joseph Rochefort received the Distinguished Service Medal posthumously from the secretary of the navy. For the rest, their epitaph was most fittingly expressed by a perfect stranger many years later:
History, with its flickering lamp, stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days. What is the worth of all this? The only guide to man is his conscience. The only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions. It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield, because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations, but with this shield, however the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honour. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

NSA, Metadata And History

Recent disclosures that NSA has been collecting data, perhaps massive amounts of so-called meta data, on telephone, internet and social network communications calls to mind some history.

From the very beginning of the Republic - and even before, intelligence played a major role in our revolution. Consider the mobilization of patriots in New England to resist and outwit the Redcoats intending to seize the arms and military provisions of the local militia. There was not only the midnight ride of Paul Revere (and others) that fateful 18th of April in '75. There was all the preparatory work.

The Concord militia removed their heavy cannon from the armory and buried the big guns in hidden locations. They relocated gunpowder and other supplies. They hid as much of the other provisions and weapons as they could. How did they know what the British intended? Intelligence. Collected by bartenders, artisans and ordinary citizens who interacted with soldiers and officers in their every day dealings. Their observations came together in time to warn militia of the British move on Lexington and Concord.

Make no mistake, the British were collecting intelligence as well. But they faced the same dilemma that occupiers throughout history have faced - whom to trust and how to evaluate the information gathered. In today's parlance - how to tell the "good guys" from the "bad guys." Even worse, how to suppress the insurrectionists without arousing animosity among those on the fence? They never solved the problem.

And what of Paul Revere?

Suppose the British had been able to uncover the role of key individuals, illuminate their relationships and round up the leaders? Could they have done this without overhearing actual conversations or intercepting letters?

Suppose all they had was a list of members of various New England organizations. What could they have learned?

As it turns out, they might have been able to arrest and interrogate the whole conspiracy. One of the keys was Paul Revere.

Last week, Kieran Healey, a Duke University Sociologist, posted a very interesting examination of how the British might have been able to use what is now called "metadata" to catch Paul Revere.  Metadata is apparently what NSA is collecting from Google, Verizon and other sources. Here is his post.

Here is a more detailed article on Paul Revere's ride by political scientist Shin-Kap Han. The metadata in both articles is drawn from David Hackett Fisher's book, Paul Revere's Ride. Another of David Hackett Fisher's books, Washington's Crossing, gives a good feel for the effectiveness of Washington's intelligence networks during the campaign in New Jersey and the increasing frustration of British intelligence.

All of this preceded the U.S. Constitution.

Even the central trade offs between liberty and security - a dilemma of the present age, was apparent before the Constitution:

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Benjamin Franklin, 1775