U.S. Congress requests ban on Chinese Tech Companies

Despite the warning from Congress, the United States allows Chinese companies to manufacture military and computer technologies which are equipped with back doors for spying purposes.

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | OCTOBER 8, 2012

Chinese telecom firms Huawei and ZTE are a threat to American security. That’s the conclusion of a report completed by the Intelligence Committee of the U.S. Congress after a year of research.

According to the commission, it is impossible to ensure that the two groups are independent of the Chinese government and therefore can be used to undermine U.S. security. “On the basis of classified and unclassified information, Huawei and ZTE can not guarantee their independence from the influence of a foreign state, so it poses a threat to U.S. security,” says the report.

The commission believes that the Chinese government could use these two groups for the rapid growth of economic and military espionage, or cyber attacks. Huawei has answered that 70% of its business is in China. The company works in 150 countries and in none of those it has had any problems. Of course, the United States is not any country and the behind the stage war between these two foes has not stopped.

According to U.S. research commission, the two groups did not provide satisfactory answers to parliamentary questions on their relations with the Chinese government. “China has the means, the opportunity and the motivation to use telecommunications companies for malicious purposes,” according to the report to be released Monday.

In conclusion, the commission said that the U.S. “should block acquisitions and mergers involving Huawei and ZTE because they would pose a threat to the national security interests of the United States. “U.S. government systems of communication,” the commission concludes , “especially in sensitive areas should not include equipment or components from Huawei and ZTE.”

But the Backdoor is left Open

Whether the commission’s concern is legitimate or not, the truth is that the report comes too late and too short about the way the Chinese have been able to infiltrate the U.S. Huawei and ZTE are not the only two companies manufacturing equipment for the U.S. government and its military. According to current and former intelligence sources in the United States, the Chinese have now have the capacity to access much of the equipment produced in China and that is being used on American territory.

The Chinese do so by utilizing previously installed components that allow them to remotely access the equipment from abroad. This revelation was first presented by Lignet, an intelligence company that detailed how communications equipment can potentially be disabled by the Chinese. The devices installed in the machines are popularly knows as backdoors because they provide hidden access to anyone who knows how to use them.

Mundane technologies fabricated in China and other Asian countries have already been demonstrated to have secret access points which can be used by technology companies, at the request of government agencies to spy on users. The same situation occurs with military grade equipment, for example, which is manufactured abroad for the United States government. Both hardware and software can be set up to enable outsiders to get into communication and weapons systems just as government agencies use the cameras built in computers and cellphones or GPS technology to monitor people’s every move.

Backdoors installed in communication devices for consumers or government use can be exploited for spying purposes to gain control of information, movement and habits, for example. Both Huawei and ZTE have been informally accused of installing microchips and stealth circuitry to enable remote control of devices manufactured in their factories. Huawei is a Chinese corporation that occupies its resources to offer networking and communication equipment and services. This company is only second to technology giant Ericsson as a provider of mobile telecommunications equipment and software.

But Huawei’s reach goes beyond American territory. It is a key provider of equipment and services that have to do with almost everything to other developed nations. It is similar to what USAID represents for the United States. The organization is an American funded front to infiltrate other countries under the auspices of humanitarian aid. Suspicion about USAID’s activities in several countries had gotten it kicked out of several countries. The most recent one is Russia.

Well known technology companies such as Symantec held partnerships with Huawei in the past, but the security software enterprise apparently ended that relationship due to the security concerns posed by the U.S. government. Another notable client of the Chinese company is the government of Iran, which has prompted some people to think that the Iranians themselves could use the backdoors to infiltrate American infrastructure. So far, however, it’s been the Americans and Israelis who have attacked Iran in several occasions with computer bugs known as Trapwire, Stuxnet and others.

Given this scenario, it sounds logical to hear the American government talking about strengthening internet security for the sake of protecting its infrastructure. The part that is not so logical is that the U.S. government allows the same technology companies to continue manufacturing sensible portions of that infrastructure, which is what opens the door to internet insecurity. Another issue is that the Americans also intend to clamp down on internet freedom by using cyber threats as a justification to ban certain portions of the world wide web.

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$1 billion face recognition system across America

RUSSIA TODAY | SEPTEMBER 9, 2012

Birthmarks, be damned: the FBI has officially started rolling out a state-of-the-art face recognition project that will assist in their effort to accumulate and archive information about each and every American at a cost of a billion dollars.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has reached a milestone in the development of their Next Generation Identification (NGI) program and is now implementing the intelligence database in unidentified locales across the country, New Scientist reports in an article this week. The FBI first outlined the project back in 2005, explaining to the Justice Department in an August 2006 document (.pdf) that their new system will eventually serve as an upgrade to the current Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) that keeps track of citizens with criminal records across America .

“The NGI Program is a compilation of initiatives that will either improve or expand existing biometric identification services,” its administrator explained to the Department of Justice at the time, adding that  the project, “will accommodate increased information processing and sharing demands in support of anti-terrorism.”

“The NGI Program Office mission is to reduce terrorist and criminal activities by improving and expanding biometric identification and criminal history information services through research, evaluation and implementation of advanced technology within the IAFIS environment.”

The agency insists, “As a result of the NGI initiatives, the FBI will be able to provide services to enhance interoperability between stakeholders at all levels of government, including local, state, federal, and international partners.” In doing as such, though, the government is now going ahead with linking a database of images and personally identifiable information of anyone in their records with departments around the world thanks to technology that makes fingerprint tracking seem like kids’ stuff.

According to their 2006 report, the NGI program utilizes “specialized requirements in the Latent Services, Facial Recognition and Multi-modal Biometrics areas” that “will allow the FnewBI to establish a terrorist fingerprint identification system that is compatible with other systems; increase the accessibility and number of the IAFIS terrorist fingerprint records; and provide latent palm print search capabilities.”

Is that just all, though? During a 2010 presentation (.pdf) made by the FBI’s Biometric Center of Intelligence, the agency identified why facial recognition technology needs to be embraced. Specifically, the FBI said that the technology could be used for “Identifying subjects in public datasets,” as well as “conducting automated surveillance at lookout locations” and “tracking subject movements,” meaning NGI is more than just a database of mug shots mixed up with fingerprints — the FBI has admitted that this their intent with the technology surpasses just searching for criminals but includes spectacular surveillance capabilities. Together, it’s a system unheard of outside of science fiction.

New Scientist reports that a 2010 study found technology used by NGI to be accurate in picking out suspects from a pool of 1.6 million mug shots 92 percent of the time. The system was tested on a trial basis in the state of Michigan earlier this year, and has already been cleared for pilot runs in Washington, Florida and North Carolina. Now according to this week’s New Scientist report, the full rollout of the program has begun and the FBI expects its intelligence infrastructure to be in place across the United States by 2014.

In 2008, the FBI announced that it awarded Lockheed Martin Transportation and Security Solutions, one of the Defense Department’s most favored contractors, with the authorization to design, develop, test and deploy the NGI System. Thomas E. Bush III, the former FBI agent who helped develop the NGI’s system requirements, tells NextGov.com, “The idea was to be able to plug and play with these identifiers and biometrics.” With those items being collected without much oversight being admitted, though, putting the personal facts pertaining to millions of Americans into the hands of some playful Pentagon staffers only begins to open up civil liberties issues.

Jim Harper, director of information policy at the Cato Institute, adds to NextGov that investigators pair facial recognition technology with publically available social networks in order to build bigger profiles. Facial recognition “is more accurate with a Google or a Facebook, because they will have anywhere from a half-dozen to a dozen pictures of an individual, whereas I imagine the FBI has one or two mug shots,” he says. When these files are then fed to law enforcement agencies on local, federal and international levels, intelligence databases that include everything from close-ups of eyeballs and irises to online interests could be shared among offices.

The FBI expects the NGI system to include as many as 14 million photographs by the time the project is in full swing in only two years, but the pace of technology and the new connections constantly created by law enforcement agencies could allow for a database that dwarfs that estimate. As RT reported earlier this week, the city of Los Angeles now considers photography in public space “suspicious,” and authorizes LAPD officers to file reports if they have reason to believe a suspect is up to no good. Those reports, which may not necessarily involve any arrests, crimes, charges or even interviews with the suspect, can then be filed, analyzed, stored and shared with federal and local agencies connected across the country to massive data fusion centers. Similarly, live video transmissions from thousands of surveillance cameras across the country are believed to be sent to the same fusion centers as part of TrapWire, a global eye-in-the-sky endeavor that RT first exposed earlier this year.

“Facial recognition creates acute privacy concerns that fingerprints do not,” US Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) told the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on privacy, technology and the law earlier this year. “Once someone has your faceprint, they can get your name, they can find your social networking account and they can find and track you in the street, in the stores you visit, the government buildings you enter, and the photos your friends post online.”

In his own testimony, Carnegie Mellon University Professor Alessandro Acquisti said to Sen. Franken, “the convergence of face recognition, online social networks and data mining has made it possible to use publicly available data and inexpensive technologies to produce sensitive inferences merely starting from an anonymous face.”

“Face recognition, like other information technologies, can be source of both benefits and costs to society and its individual members,” Prof. Acquisti added. “However, the combination of face recognition, social networks data and data mining can significant undermine our current notions and expectations of privacy and anonymity.”

With the latest report suggesting the NGI program is now a reality in America, though, it might be too late to try and keep the FBI from interfering with seemingly every aspect of life in the US, both private and public. As of July 18, 2012, the FBI reports, “The NGI program … is on scope, on schedule, on cost, and 60 percent deployed.”

‘Minority Report’ software now available to Law Enforcement

The software is also crammed into Microsoft’s Kinect Console to map human body physiology and movements.

AFP | JULY 23, 2012

The software behind the film “Minority Report” — where Tom Cruise speeds through video on a large screen using only hand gestures — is making its way into the real world.

The interface developed by scientist John Underkoffler has been commercialized by the Los Angeles firm Oblong Industries as a way to sift through massive amounts of video and other data.

And yes, the software can be used by law enforcement and intelligence services. But no, it is not the “pre-crime” detection program illustrated in the 2002 Steven Spielberg sci-fi film.

Kwin Kramer, chief executive of Oblong, said the software can help in searching through “big data” for information. It can also create souped-up video-conference capabilities where participants share data from multiple devices like smartphones and tablets, integrated into a large video display.

“We think the future of computing is multiuser, multiscreen, multidevice,” Kramer told AFP.

“This system helps with big workflow problems.”

A key part of the system is the gesture interface, which the company calls the “g-speak” spatial operating environment.

That grew out of a project by Underkoffler — then a scientist at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology — for “Minority Report,” before he became chief scientist at startup Oblong.

“We have demo versions of this kind of software which show exactly the ‘Minority Report’ user experience, allowing you to move back and forth in time, or to zoom in to look at details,” Kramer said.

He said the same software can help businesses to “allow better collaboration, visualization and analysis of large amounts of data.

“You can have a lot of data but it’s hard to make use of that,” Kramer said.

“It can be on different machines and hard to access. This allows multiple people to look at that.”

Gestural interfaces have been developed for other firms including Microsoft’s Kinect but Oblong says it has far more sophisticated systems which can use Kinect and more.

Some highly sensitive systems use a data glove which can be more precise than ordinary hand movements.

Oblong has contracts with firms such as Boeing, General Electric and Saudi Aramco to help in analyzing large amounts of data. It is also developing a gestural interface for onboard computers with automakers.

It has raised an unspecified amount of venture capital from investors including Foundry Group, Energy Technology Ventures and Morgan Stanley Alternative Investment Partners.

Brad Feld, managing director at Foundry Group, said Oblong offers “a path to fundamentally change the way we interact with computers.”

Yet the question Oblong often gets is how users can get the “Minority Report” software.

David Schwartz, the company’s vice president for sales, said “We get calls from people in the military who say, ‘I want the ‘Minority Report’ interface.”

He said the systems could be used for a realistic version of high-tech software interfaces on TV shows like “CSI.”

“They would like to get it for free,” he added.

What makes the real-life version of the software different from the one seen on film is that Oblong does not supply the analytics of the futuristic “pre-crime” division.

That does not prevent a company or law enforcement agency from using the software and adding its own analytics.

“We think law enforcement and intelligence are big data users and we think our technology is the leader,” Kramer said.

He said Oblong currently has no government customers in the United States or abroad but offers itself as “a core technology provider.”

Still, Oblong leverages its role in the movies to get in the door, even if the software is not quite the same.

“I think most people look at those ‘Minority Report’ interfaces and imagine how they could use that flexible system in their own office or designs studio,” Kramer said.

“It isn’t science fiction, it’s real.”

Stratfor Firm Spied on Occupy Movement

Russia Today
January 29, 2012

Anonymous promised that after hacking the intelligence firm Stratfor, called by some a “shadow CIA,” they’d prove that they were more than just a consulting firm.

Now it looks like the private company worked along with law enforcement in attempting to bring down the Occupy movement.

In some of the latest pieces of correspondence made public, however, information that many had already suspected about the role law enforcement played in infiltrating the Occupy Wall Street movement is brought to light. In an exchange of emails between Stratfor executives that has been published by hackers involved in the matter, employees of the firm go back-and-forth with one another in detail over information that Texas law enforcement supplied the firm after investigating an Austin Occupy meet-up.

In the emails, Stratfor employees discuss intel about the Occupy movement that was supplied to them by a “Texas DPS agent,” or an officer within the ranks of the Lone Star State’s Department of Public Safety. The DPS is a state-wide law enforcement agency that investigates suspicious activity and allegations of terrorism within Texas. The question of why state law enforcement shared that email with a private intelligence firm is open to interpretation, but certainly suggests that attempts to understand and perhaps undermine the local OWS chapter was more than just a minor operation.

According to the documentation, which includes correspondence from late 2011, Stratfor employees discuss both Occupy Austin and the Deep Green Resistance, or DGR. While DGR is not directly affiliated with Occupy Wall Street, it is a similar movement — to a degree — that encourages environmental activism that isn’t present in more mainstream campaigns. In a press release, the DGR attacks both Texas authorities and Strarfor for their newly revealed roles.

Read Full Article…

The Corporate Internet Based Reconnaissance Operations

United States government contractors partner to spy on everything to “keep us safe”.  Internet Based Reconnaissance Operations (Echelon)

Tom Burghardt
Global Research
July 6, 2011

Last week, the White House released its National Strategy for Counterterrorism, a macabre document that places a premium on “public safety” over civil liberties and constitutional rights.

Indeed, “hope and change” huckster Barack Obama had the temerity to assert that the President “bears no greater responsibility than ensuring the safety and security of the American people.”

Pity that others, including CIA “black site” prisoners tortured to death to “keep us safe” (some 100 at last count) aren’t extended the same courtesy as The Washington Post reported last week.

As Secrecy News editor Steven Aftergood correctly points out, the claim that the President “has no greater responsibility than ‘protecting the American people’ is a paternalistic invention that is historically unfounded and potentially damaging to the political heritage of the nation.”

Aftergood avers, “the presidential oath of office that is prescribed by the U.S. Constitution (Art. II, sect. 1) makes it clear that the President’s supreme responsibility is to ‘…preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.’ There is no mention of public safety. It is the constitutional order that the President is sworn to protect, even if doing so entails risks to the safety and security of the American people.”

But as our former republic slips ever-closer towards corporate dictatorship, Obama’s mendacious twaddle about “protecting the American people,” serves only to obscure, and reinforce, the inescapable fact that it’s a rigged game.

Rest assured, “what happens in Vegas,” Baghdad, Kabul or Manama–from driftnet spying to political-inspired witchhunts toillegal detention–won’t, and hasn’t, “stayed in Vegas.”

Cyber Here, Cyber There, Cyber-Surveillance Everywhere

Last month, researcher Barrett Brown and the OpMetalGear network lifted the lid on a new U.S. Government-sponsored cyber-surveillance project, Romas/COIN, now Odyssey, a multiyear, multimillion dollar enterprise currently run by defense and security giant Northrop Grumman.

With some $10.8 billion in revenue largely derived from contracts with the Defense Department, Northrop Grumman was No. 2 on the Washington Technology 2011 Top 100 List of Prime Federal Contractors.

“For at least two years,” Brown writes, “the U.S. has been conducting a secretive and immensely sophisticated campaign of mass surveillance and data mining against the Arab world, allowing the intelligence community to monitor the habits, conversations, and activity of millions of individuals at once.”

Information on this shadowy program was derived by scrutinizing hundreds of the more than 70,000 HBGary emails leaked onto the web by the cyber-guerrilla collective Anonymous.

Brown uncovered evidence that the “top contender to win the federal contract and thus take over the program is a team of about a dozen companies which were brought together in large part by Aaron Barr–the same disgraced CEO who resigned from his own firm earlier this year after he was discovered to have planned a full-scale information war against political activists at the behest of corporate clients.”

Readers will recall that Barr claimed he could exploit social media to gather information about WikiLeaks supporters in a bid to destroy that organization. Earlier this year, Barr told the Financial Times he had used scraping techniques and had infiltrated WikiLeaks supporter Anonymous, in part by using IRC, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.

According to emails subsequently released by Anonymous, it was revealed that the ultra rightist U.S. Chamber of Commerce had hired white shoe law firm Hunton & Williams, and that Hunton attorneys, upon recommendation of an unnamed U.S. Department of Justice official, solicited a set of private security contractors–HBGary, HBGary Federal, Palantir and Berico Technologies (collectively known as Team Themis)–and stitched-up a sabotage campaign against WikiLeaks, journalists, labor unions, progressive political groups and Chamber critics.

Amongst the firms who sought to grab the Romas/COIN/Odyssey contract from Northrop when it came up for a “recompete” wasTASC, which describes itself as “a renowned provTASC, ider of advanced systems engineering, integration and decision-support services across the intelligence, defense, homeland security and federal markets.”

According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, TASC’s head of “Cybersecurity Initiatives,” Larry Strang, was formerly a Vice President with Northrop Grumman who led that firm’s Cybersecurity Group and served as Northrop’s NSA Account Manager. Prior to that, Strang, a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, was Vice President for Operations at the spooky Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC).

Brown relates that emails between TASC executives Al Pisani, John Lovegrow and former HBGary Federal CEO Aaron Barr, provided details that they “were in talks with each other as well as Mantech executive Bob Frisbie on a ‘recompete’ pursuant to ‘counter intelligence’ operations that were already being conducted on behalf of the federal government by another firm, SAIC, with which they hoped to compete for contracts.”

In fact, HBGary Federal and TASC may have been cats-paws for defense giant ManTech International in the race to secure U.S. Government cyber-surveillance contracts. Clocking in at No. 22on Washington Technology’s “2011 Top 100 list,” ManTech earned some $1.46 billion in 2010, largely derived from work in “systems engineering and integration, technology and software development, enterprise security architecture, intelligence operations support, critical infrastructure protection and computer forensics.” The firm’s major customers include the Defense Department, Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Pentagon’s geek squad that is busily working to develop software for their Cyber Insider Threat (CINDER) program.

Both HBGary Federal and parent company HBGary, a California-based security firm run by the husband-wife team, Greg Hoglund and Penny Leavy, had been key players for the design of malware, undetectable rootkits and other “full directory exfiltration tools over TCP/IP” for the Defense Department according to documents released by the secret-shredding web site Public Intelligence.

Additional published documents revealed that they and had done so in close collaboration with General Dynamics (Project Cand Task Z), which had requested “multiple protocols to be scoped as viable options … for VoIP (Skype) protocol, BitTorrent protocol, video over HTTP (port 80), and HTTPS (port 443)” for unnamed secret state agencies.

According to Brown, it appears that Romas/COIN/Odyssey was also big on social media surveillance, especially when it came to “Foreign Mobile” and “Foreign Web” monitoring. Indeed, documents published by Public Intelligence (scooped-up by the HBGary-Anonymous hack) was a ManTech International-HBGary collaboration describing plans for Internet Based Reconnaissance Operations. The October 2010 presentation described plans that would hand “customers,” presumably state intelligence agencies but also, as revealed by Anonymous, corporate security entities and public relations firms, the means to perform “native language searching” combined with “non-attributable architecture” and a “small footprint” that can be “as widely or narrowly focused as needed.”

ManTech and HBGary promised to provide customers the ability to “Locate/Profile Internet ‘Points of Interest'” on “individuals, companies, ISPs” and “organizations,” and would do so through “detailed network mapping” that will “identify registered networks and registered domains”; “Graphical network representation based on Active Hosts”; “Operating system and network application identification”; “Identification of possible perimeter defenses” through “Technology Research, Intelligence Gap Fill, Counterintelligence Research” and “Customer Public Image Assessment.”

The presentation described the social media monitoring process as one that would “employ highly skilled network professionals (read, ex-spooks and former military intelligence operatives) who will use “Non-attributable Internet access, custom developed toolsets and techniques, Native Language and in-country techniques” that “utilize foreign language search engines, mapping tools” and “iterative researching methodologies” for searching “Websites, picture sites, mapping sites/programs”; “Blogs and social networking sites”; “Forums and Bulletin Boards”; “Network Information: Whois, Trace Route, NetTroll, DNS”; “Archived and cached websites.”

Clients who bought into the ManTech-HBGary “product” were promised “Rapid Non-attributable Open Source Research Results”; “Sourced Research Findings”; “Triage level Analysis”; “Vulnerability Assessment” and “Graphical Network and Social Diagramming” via data mining and extensive link analysis.

Undoubtedly, readers recall this is precisely what the National Security Agency has been doing since the 1990s, if not earlier, through their electronic communications intercept program Echelon, a multibillion Pentagon project that conducted corporate espionage for American multinational firms as researcher Nicky Hager revealed in his 1997 piece for Covert Action Quarterly.

Other firms included in Lovegrove’s email to Barr indicate that the new Romas/COIN/Odyssey “team” was to have included: “TASC (PMO [Project Management Operations], creative services); HBGary (Strategy, planning, PMO); Akamai (infrastructure); Archimedes Global (Specialized linguistics, strategy, planning); Acclaim Technical Services (specialized linguistics); Mission Essential Personnel (linguistic services); Cipher (strategy, planning operations); PointAbout (rapid mobile application development, list of strategic partners); Google (strategy, mobile application and platform development–long list of strategic partners); Apple (mobile and desktop platform, application assistance–long list of strategic partners). We are trying to schedule an interview with ATT plus some other small app developers.”

Recall that AT&T is the NSA’s prime telecommunications partner in that agency’s illegal driftnet surveillance program and has been the recipient of “retroactive immunity” under the despicable FISA Amendments Act, a law supported by then-Senator Barack Obama. Also recall that the giant tech firm Apple was recently mired in scandal over reports that their mobile phone platform had, without their owners’ knowledge or consent, speared geolocational data from the iPhone and then stored this information in an Apple-controlled data base accessible to law enforcement through various “lawful interception” schemes.

“Whatever the exact nature and scope of COIN,” Brown writes, “the firms that had been assembled for the purpose by Barr and TASC never got a chance to bid on the program’s recompete. In late September, Lovegrove noted to Barr and others that he’d spoken to the ‘CO [contracting officer] for COIN’.” The TASC executive told Barr that “the current procurement approach” was cancelled, citing “changed requirements.”

Apparently the Pentagon, or other unspecified secret state satrapy told the contestants that “an updated RFI [request for information]” will be issued soon. According to a later missive from Lovegrove to Barr, “COIN has been replaced by a procurement called Odyssey.” While it is still not entirely clear what Romas/COIN or the Odyssey program would do once deployed, Brown claims that “mobile phone software and applications constitute a major component of the program.”

And given Barr’s monomaniacal obsession with social media surveillance (that worked out well with Anonymous!) the presence of Alterian and SocialEyez on the procurement team may indicate that the secret state is alarmed by the prospect that the “Arab Spring” just might slip from proverbial “safe hands” and threaten Gulf dictatorships and Saudi Arabia with the frightening specter of democratic transformation.

Although the email from TASC executive Chris Clair to John Lovegrow names “Alterion” as a company to contact because of their their “SM2 tool,” in all likelihood this is a typo given the fact that it is the UK-based firm “Alterian” that has developed said SM2 tool, described on their web site as a “business intelligence product that provides visibility into social media and lets you tap into a new kind of data resource; your customers’ direct thoughts and opinions.”

This would be a highly-profitable partnership indeed for enterprising intelligence agencies and opaque corporate partners intent on monitoring political developments across the Middle East.

In fact, a 2010 press release, announced that Alterian had forged a partnership with the Dubai-based firm SocialEyez for “the world’s first social media monitoring service designed for the Arab market.”

We’re informed that SocialEyez, a division of Media Watch Middle East, described as “the leading media monitoring service in the Middle East,” offers services in “television, radio, social media, online news and internet monitoring across most sectors including commercial, government and PR.”

That Barr and his partners were interested in bringing these firms to the Romas/COIN table is not surprising considering that the Alterian/SocialEyez deal promises “to develop and launch an Arabic language interface for Alterian SM2 to make it the world’s first Arab language social media monitoring tool.” Inquiring minds can’t help but wonder which three-lettered American agencies alongside a stable of “corporate and government clients, including leading Blue Chips” might be interested in “maximising their social media monitoring investment”?

Pentagon “Manhunters” in the House

On an even more sinister note, the inclusion of Archimedes Global on the Romas/COIN team should set alarm bells ringing.

Archimedes is a small, privately-held niche security firm headquartered in Tampa, Florida where, surprise, surprise, U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) has it’s main headquarters at the MacDill Air Force Base. On their web site, Archimedes describes itself as “a diversified technology company providing energy and information solutions to government and businesses worldwide.” The firm claims that it “delivers solutions” to its clients by “combining deep domain expertise, multi-disciplinary education and training, and technology-enabled innovations.”

While short on information regarding what it actually does, evidence suggests that the firm is chock-a-block with former spooks and Special Forces operators, skilled in the black arts of counterintelligence, various information operations, subversion and, let’s be frank, tasks euphemistically referred to in the grisly trade as “wet work.”

According to The Washington Post, the firm was established in 2005. However, although the Post claims in their “Top Secret America” series that the number of employees and revenue is “unknown,” Dana Priest and William M. Arkin note that Archimedes have five government clients and are have speared contracts relating to “Ground forces operations,” “Human intelligence,” Psychological operations,” and “Specialized military operations.”

Brown relates that Archimedes was slated to provide “Specialized linguistics, strategy, planning” for the proposed Romas/COIN/Odyssey project for an unknown U.S. Government entity.

Based on available evidence however, one can speculate that Archimedes may have been chosen as part of the HBGary Federal/TASC team precisely because of their previous work as private contractors in human intelligence (HUMINT), running spies and infiltrating assets into organizations of interest to the CIA and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) throughout the Middle East, Central- and South Asia.

In 2009, Antifascist Calling revealed that one of Archimedes Global’s senior directors, retired Air Force Lt. Colonel George A. Crawford, published a chilling monograph, Manhunting: Counter-Network Organizing for Irregular Warfare, for the highly-influential Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

JSOU is the “educational component” of United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). With a mission that touts its ability to “plan and synchronize operations” against America’s geopolitical adversaries and rivals, JSOU’s Strategic Studies Department “advances SOF strategic influence by its interaction in academic, interagency, and United States military communities.”

Accordingly, Archimedes “information and risk” brief claim they can solve “the most difficult communication and risk problems by seeing over the horizon with a blend of art and science.” And with focus areas that include “strategic communications, media analysis and support, crisis communications, and risk and vulnerability assessment and mitigation,” it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to infer that those well-schooled in the dark art of information operations (INFOOPS) would find a friendly home inside the Romas/COIN contract team.

With some 25-years experience “as a foreign area officer specializing in Eastern Europe and Central Asia,” including a stint “as acting Air and Defense Attaché to Kyrgyzstan,” Crawford brings an interesting skill-set to the table. Crawford writes:

Manhunting–the deliberate concentration of national power to find, influence, capture, or when necessary kill an individual to disrupt a human network–has emerged as a key component of operations to counter irregular warfare adversaries in lieu of traditional state-on-state conflict measures. It has arguably become a primary area of emphasis in countering terrorist and insurgent opponents. (George A. Crawford, Manhunting: Counter-Network Organization for Irregular Warfare, JSOU Report 09-7, The JSOU Press, Hurlburt Field, Florida, September 2009, p. 1)

Acknowledged manhunting masters in their own right, the Israeli settler-colonial security apparat have perfected the art of “targeted killing,” when they aren’t dropping banned munitions such as white phosphorus on unarmed, defenseless civilian populations or attacking civilian vessels on the high seas.

Like their Israeli counterparts who come highly recommended as models of restraint, an American manhunting agency will employ similarly subtle, though no less lethal, tactics. Crawford informs us:

When compared with conventional force-on-force warfare, manhunting fundamentally alters the ratio between warfare’s respective firepower, maneuver, and psychological elements. Firepower becomes less significant in terms of mass, while the precision and discretion with which firepower is employed takes on tremendous significance, especially during influence operations. Why drop a bomb when effects operations or a knife might do? (Crawford, op. cit., p. 11, emphasis added)

Alongside actual shooters, “sensitive site exploitation (SSE) teams are critical operational components for Pentagon “manhunters.” We’re told that SSE teams will be assembled and able to respond on-call “in the event of a raid on a suspect site or to conduct independent ‘break-in and search’ operations without leaving evidence of their intrusion.” Such teams must possess “individual skills” such as “physical forensics, computer or electronic exploitation, document exploitation, investigative techniques, biometric collection, interrogation/debriefing and related skills.”

As if to drive home the point that the target of such sinister operations are the American people and world public opinion, Crawford, ever the consummate INFOOPS warrior, views “strategic information operations” as key to this murderous enterprise. Indeed, they “must be delicately woven into planned kinetic operations to increase the probability that a given operation or campaign will achieve its intended effect.”

Personnel skilled at conducting strategic information operations–to include psychological operations, public information, deception, media and computer network operations, and related activities–are important for victory. Despite robust DoD and Intelligence Community capabilities in this area, efforts to establish organizations that focus information operations have not been viewed as a positive development by the public or the media, who perceive government-sponsored information efforts with suspicion. Consequently, these efforts must take place away from public eyes. Strategic information operations may also require the establishment of regional or local offices to ensure dissemination of influence packages and assess their impact. Thus manhunting influence may call for parallel or independent structures at all levels…” (Crawford, op. cit., pp. 27-28, emphasis added)

While we do not as yet have a complete picture of the Romas/COIN/Odyssey project, some preliminary conclusions can be drawn.

“Altogether, then,” Brown writes, “a successful bid for the relevant contract was seen to require the combined capabilities of perhaps a dozen firms–capabilities whereby millions of conversations can be monitored and automatically analyzed, whereby a wide range of personal data can be obtained and stored in secret, and whereby some unknown degree of information can be released to a given population through a variety of means and without any hint that the actual source is U.S. military intelligence.”

Although Brown’s initial research concluded that Romas/COIN/Odyssey will operate “in conjunction with other surveillance and propaganda assets controlled by the U.S. and its partners,” with a firm like Archimedes on-board, once information has been assembled on individuals described in other contexts as “radicals” or “key extremists,” will they subsequently be made to “disappear” into the hands of “friendly” security services such as those of strategic U.S. partners Bahrain and Saudi Arabia?

We’re reminded that “Barr was also at the center of a series of conspiracies by which his own company and two others hired out their collective capabilities for use by corporations that sought to destroy their political enemies by clandestine and dishonest means.”

Indeed, “none of the companies involved,” Brown writes, have been investigated; a proposed Congressional inquiry was denied by the committee chair, noting that it was the Justice Department’s decision as to whether to investigate, even though it was the Justice Department itself that made the initial introductions. Those in the intelligence contracting industry who believe themselves above the law are entirely correct.”

Brown warns that “a far greater danger is posed by the practice of arming small and unaccountable groups of state and military personnel with a set of tools by which to achieve better and better ‘situational awareness’ on entire populations” while simultaneously manipulating “the information flow in such a way as to deceive those same populations.”

Beginning, it should be noted, right here at home…