CIA History and Birth of Modern American Information Warfare

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) use of information warfare is often discussed and sometimes cited, yet is not clearly linked to any present day debates about authorization regarding “cyber” active-defense (offense). This becomes confusing as the intelligence community may be in competition with the military over emerging demand for modern hacking capabilities, particularly in cases outside the U.S. government’s own systems.

The clandestine nature of ongoing intelligence missions makes it difficult to expose and examine fully any examples, which unfortunately means the most current relevant trade craft goes un-examined while debates rage about who should be doing it. Perhaps an investigation of history would help here with direction.

A case easily can be made that information warfare options today are a derivation of 1930s experimentation and 1940s deployments, which means the CIA creation story might be extremely relevant to today’s Title 10 / Title 50 debates.

It thus is increasingly important for American “cyber” policy-makers to spend the time to consider international political winds of the 1930s, as this was when purpose and scope for information gathering was established for dissemination and covert operations against foreign adversaries.

Take for example Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) initiated steps around central intelligence operations in the aftermath of his U.S. presidential campaign victory, with an eye on tensions spreading in Europe and Asia.

During the 1932 U.S. presidential campaign William Hearst had used his expansive media empire to circulate Hitler’s writing and spread a white nationalist’s ideology. Hearst defended his actions by expressing fear of socialism and communism depicted by Hitler. To put it briefly, FDR won the Presidency in spite of this American media giant’s attempts to encourage Nazi sympathizers and groups of “devoted nationalist followers to threaten and beat up leftists”. 1

Later Hearst had a change of heart and by 1938 reversed position on Hitler, allegedly because of the Nazi Kristallnacht then being reported by his papers. However for FDR an information warfare die had already been cast by 1932. Foreign military intelligence operations were believed to be undermining American stability. FDR was faced after winning the election with how to put in place national security measures that could counteract dangerous threats to democracy.

A rarely referenced event in this context, yet still very important to this history of information warfare, is the 1934 establishment of a Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Overtly the FCC is described as a means to break up monopolization in American communications. It also should be seen in direct and stark opposition to what American and British officials had been reported happening in Nazi Germany. Hitler’s volksgemeinshaft meant a total centralization of communications under a state propaganda ministry, which manifested in April 1934 using the Reich Radio Company. 2

The 1934 move towards decentralized regulated communications not only was a reaction to Hearst’s role in 1932, but also appears to have been a reasonable means to neutralize future national security disaster (broadcast subversion and manipulation by foreign military intelligence). How better to defend both U.S. communications infrastructure and content against powerful yet naive Nazi sympathizers? This is where the story of the CIA really begins, as FDR not only began exploring how to initiate U.S. offensive capabilities with the latest technology, he first had used authority to block foreign information attacks.

The parallel to modern debates is interesting because critics of offensive hacking often point to American infrastructure having a weak defensive posture. Here we see FDR’s creation of offensive capabilities after he pushed through improvements to defense long before with creation of the FCC. It begs the question whether a “cyber” equivalent to the FCC today would placate critics of offensive operations. The FCC also long predated deterrence theorists of WWII and after, where offensive capabilities may be proposed as an alternative to improving resilience to attacks.

During the summer of 1940, at a time when there was no American clandestine service organization in operation, FDR sent a special envoy to London. The President wanted to know whether unusually lackluster resistence to violent Nazi incursions in Europe was related to information warfare measures. FDR asked his envoy to assess whether “demoralizing propaganda and internal subversion by Nazi sympathizers” had been undermining national security of states targeted by Hitler. 3

The President obviously needed to curtail the influence of German military intelligence service information campaigns, and measure the effects of domestic espionage and sabotage. The insights gathered from his first envoy to Europe led FDR to dispatch another one the following year to assess strategic options for American military campaigns in the Middle East.

The result of information gathering by these special envoys came in June 1941 with the Creation of an Office of the Coordinator of Information (COI) led by Colonel William J. Donovan. Donovan was an internationally-renowned and highly-decorated WWI hero who had been on both trips and had written a “Memorandum of Establishment of Service of Strategic Information”. FDR charged him with building the clandestine operations group to report directly to the President.

Harpers Magazine a couple months later in August, a little over a year after the fall of France, wrote publicly about Nazi military intelligence using radio broadcasts to undermine resistance. 4

“…announcers would tell their listeners daily: Your leaders are corrupt. Your British Allies are cowards and traitors. The Fuhrer has said time and again: ‘Germany wants nothing of France.’ French listeners! Force your government to make peace!’ Together with such appeals went terrifying proofs of the omniscience of the German Intelligence. On one occasion two French generals sitting down to dinner in the Maginot Line heard on the radio an exact description of the menu.

During this time the “America First” campaigners had pushed a similar line of “make peace” to spread Hitler’s power (and they still continued even through WWII despite sedition charges and conviction of members of “America First”). 5 Because the State Department, Army, Navy and FBI were collecting information in a decentralized fashion, FDR found they didn’t address his need to protect America from the “Firsters”.

When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor months later and Germany declared war on America a dramatic elevation of task was imminent for the COI. The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) began calling for measures of “subversive activity” to undermine German resistance. FDR’s concept of COI was set on a course to answer this call with a specific duty in operations. by the summer of 1942, a year after it was first setup with several hundred civilians reporting directly to the President, COI moved under JCS and was rebranded the famous Office of Strategic Services (OSS).

The JCS issued an OSS mission statement, which echoed FDR’s earlier emphasis: prepare studies and research, plan and execute subversive activity, and operate and train an organization to collect information via espionage. 6

The OSS was formalized into a military outfit because an acute need was perceived by Donovan for strategic analysis of vast information collections. Any initial propaganda functions of the COI were removed, per FDR’s requirement those capabilities not fall under military leadership, handed instead to an Office of War Information. The OSS now sought ways to operate along with other long-established Allied services, such as the British Military Intelligence and Special Operations Executive (SOE), in recommending and executing methods to prepare for invasions and lower resistance to military campaigns.

FDR by this time seemingly had built almost a decade of political groundwork for American foriegn intelligence operations. Donovan’s leadership brought to the table a stellar reputation. Despite these huge advantages, the initial steps for OSS as a military service provider were far from easy. Detractors soon demanded trust come from evidence of extensive field expertise and experience with clandestine services, which few Americans could have possessed at its start.

A high bar for staff within the OSS maybe was a reflection of British reputation at the time, given its many decades of running global spy networks and sabotage operations. Orde Wingate, for example, was only classified as a junior intelligence officer in the late 1930s when he pioneered “Commando” tactics to undermine Arab resistance. The British also tended to exhibit overconfidence and unfairly dismiss other services.

Collaborations fumbled so badly, for example, that the September 1939 invasion by Nazi Germany meant Poland was already occupied by the time reports of breaking German Enigma would be taken seriously by the British. 7 In many ways these failures had laid the groundwork for an American brand of centralized intelligence service to emphasize extremely rapid study and more open collaboration.

At the very least, without having yet built an espionage organization or a methodology for collaboration, OSS initially was built by Donovan as the coordinated path for longer-standing foreign intelligence services to funnel into American military objectives. Arguably this sharing emphasis was a wise move at the time to rapidly train and expand his staff. After WWII a highly-collaborative style confronted Donovan with an image problem, however. Some questioned in public whether the British training the OSS meant it was theirs to drive, and not something uniquely American.

In fact, Donovan quickly proved not only a uniquely American capability of the OSS, he also proved it to be an independent intelligence service provider very useful for military leadership. The first real opportunity to show what OSS could do in active war efforts was Operation Torch of 1942. Churchill and FDR had agreed in July of that year to a joint invasion of French North Africa controlled by the Vichy regime.

The U.S. Fifth Army called the OSS to aid with a November invasion plan in areas of Morocco, while the British called in their SOE for an Algerian front.

Torch symbolized more than just the test of OSS. It was the first American-led entry into the European war, and was described by General Eisenhower as a test of the Allies bringing “an unprovoked attack upon a neutral country.” 8 Psychological methods were a major consideration as the U.S. military wanted to ensure positive morale for landing forces, as well as lowered resistance from occupied areas, not to mention keeping political support at home.

Here’s an example propaganda leaflet that was titled “Cleaning in Africa” and dropped by the British during Operation Compass (Desert War) in Libya after 1940 (click to enlarge):

The small invasion force of 10,000 troops was believed to depend heavily on a welcome response by the French, while also maintaining secrecy to prevent Axis forces being allocated into the region. These essentially sat in opposition to each other, since secrecy hampered the ability to precisely time local support. General Eisenhower, along with military chiefs, decided the complexity of this would be dealt with best by their newly established OSS using its independent capabilities for sabotage and information warfare.

Success of the OSS during Torch is debated by historians and beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say that being overly optimistic (resistance falsely was predicted to be minimal, instead turning fierce) and ineffective with subversion (secrecy made landing coordination improbable), meant the U.S. military was faced with significant casualties. Even the goal of avoiding any build-up of Axis forces did not happen, when we expand mission scope to consider the coming Tunisian campaign.

Instead of OSS successes, it was Hitler’s sudden violation of the armistice from 1940 — invading unoccupied parts of France — that brought unexpected relief on American forces. A Vichy authority in Algeria opened the door to negotiation with Eisenhower, signing a cease-fire that stopped resistance and Allied casualty counts.

This cease-fire was the most expedient path to set in motion transition to much larger landing forces, although it risked the Allies dealing with a known Nazi collaborator. French Admiral Darlan signed with American leaders only for a guarantee he would preserve authority over his concept of a French North Africa, as his trust in the erratic Hitler evaporated.

The OSS service, despite these non-optimal results in Torch, became seen by U.S. military commanders as an essential ingredient to future campaigns. A reputation spread for the service being a quick study of foreign data and providing useful analysis. This not only was recognized by Americans, it also led to British clandestine operations increasing in wake of Torch, represented in territorial competitions that would soon emerge. Just three years after Torch some asked whether FDR’s vision and Donovan’s execution had led America to surpass British capabilities in special operations and gathering secret intelligence. 9

After the war ended in 1945 the military operation of OSS led out of “room 109” was shut-down by then president Truman and restarted shortly afterwards without Donovan as the Central Intelligence Group (CIG). Two years later the CIA was named. 10

Three lessons can be learned from this sequence of events that ended in the creation of the CIA.

First, America in the 1930s lacked any mechanism to respond in-kind to active information warfare measures taken by foreign adversaries to undermine a political system. A serious disadvantage was felt by the U.S. presidential election winner of 1932, given no capabilities on par with German military intelligence methods that had been generating Nazi sympathizers.

Second, America in the 1940s needed a professional spy service to support its military campaigns heading into neutral third-party states, to reduce resistance, minimize casualties, and maintain domestic support.

Third, the expansive global role the U.S. was holding after WWII meant it felt pressure to maintain a centralized collection of data to continue warding off apathy in the face of velied yet serious threats to democracy.

Donovan perhaps said it best when in 1945 he advocated for creating the CIA because “America cannot afford to resume its prewar indifference…the greatest nation in the world cannot rely upon physical strength alone”. 11


  2. David Welch, The Third Reich: Politics and Propaganda, (New York: Routledge, 1994): 38
  6. Thomas F. Troy, Donovan and the CIA (Frederick, MD: University Publications of America, 1981), Appendix F, JCS 67: 429.
  8. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe (New York: Doubleday, 1948): 86.
  9. Bickham Sweet-Escott, Baker Street Irregular (London: Methuen & Co, 1965): 126.
  11. “Donovan: Father of US Intelligence”, CIA YouTube Video, 26 Jul 2012.

Russia’s Big New Exports: Mercenaries and Election Tampering

The Moscow Times reports that Russia is on track to become the global leader in exports of low-cost mercenaries and election tampering.

Wagner, a “businessman” working for Russia’s President, is dumping large numbers of low-quality talent at low-cost in Mozambique (as well as several other countries) to undercut local experts in the field:

Gartner said he had proposed to bring around 50 highly qualified experts to Mozambique at a cost of between $15,000 and $25,000 per person per month.

While no public information is available on how much Wagner pays its mercenaries, Yevgeny Shabayev, a former Russian military officer and self-appointed spokesman for the group, told The Moscow Times that on average, a lower-rank Wagner soldier receives between 120,000 and 300,000 rubles per month ($1,800 – $4,700).

See also: “No Ordinary Murder: Mozambique Police Death Squad Kill Election Observer” and “Southern Africa History and the “Genocide” of White Farmers

Lithuania Under Attack in Information War on NATO

Useful analysis of information warfare attacks on NATO can be found in the breakdown of a campaign in Lithuania. “Eugenijus Lastauskas, head of the Lithuanian military’s Strategic Communication Department” is quoted in DefenseOne:

  • September 26 & 27 operatives hack, a genuine news organization, to post a fake story as training for a bigger attack in October
  • October 17 operators again hack to post a false story about purported U.S. plans to move nuclear weapons to Lithuania
  • False emails, purporting to be from known journalists, are sent to Nausėda’s office and other officials asking for official comment on the false story
  • The false story is circulated widely across Russian social media channels
  • October 18 operatives again hack legitimate media outlets to deface them with the false news
  • Journalists outside of Russia also targeted with email campaigns made to look like requests from members of the Lithuanian government

And then the icing on the cake:

…attackers even drew up a fake tweet from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pomepo ‘congratulating’ the Lithuanian president on the news of the move of the nuclear weapons…

What is the response by the United States?

The American government now is debating the appropriate organizational structure to defend against latest formats of attack.

It is becoming increasingly clear that information warfare is a different phenomenon from traditional warfare: in information warfare, there are no sideliners, everyone is a target, and everywhere is the battlespace. Thus, any attempt to put the burden on just the Departments of Defense and State to counter information warfare efforts is likely to be fraught with complex authority issues about which domestic department or agency is charged with various information warfare tasks.[9] Here, the Department of Homeland Security, Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and various domestic intelligence agencies will undoubtedly have roles to play. The challenge is to precisely identify those roles.


An information warfare directorate within the National Security Council could help tease out answers by relying on expert briefs from the defense community, think tanks, corporations, and academia. In turn, the directorate could provide careful summaries to the National Security Council’s core members, allowing them to truly begin to enumerate the pragmatic policy options. Ideally, after frank debates among principal National Security Council members, resolutions for action should emerge and shape presidential policy.

It may be illustrative to note that in the 1930s FDR took quick action to research how best to respond to Nazi military intelligence campaigns, after he had watched American newspapers as well as European institutions fall victim to information warfare.

His rapid response helped slow Nazi collaborators in “America First” from expanding their influence campaigns before Germany formally declared war on America, and also led to the formation of a government team that eventually would become the CIA.

The man chosen to lead the CIA would say at the time “America cannot afford to resume it’s [America First] prewar indifference”.

Given how the current occupant of the White House literally returned to the apathy of “America First”, and has aligned with Russian interests more than American values, we are in very different times than when FDR appointed “Wild Bill” to direct what had to be done.

William Donovan’s duffel bag in the CIA museum

4MP Night Color Vision Cameras to Replace IR

Fundamentally I see artificial light at night as a form of pollution. It makes me cringe whenever I fly over cities at night all lit up like a garbage dump of lumens.

Clear vision in low light seems like exactly the sort of thing that technology could solve at scale the right way (enhance human vision to see dark as day) and improve the world in so many ways, when instead it was used the wrong way (very inefficiently emulate sunlight artificially).

Imagine cars with windscreens and mirrors that presented night roads as if it was still daylight, instead of having to constantly re-engineer headlight coverage.

This is why I’ve written before about night vision products, and about light risks in war too.

The good news is technology has been advancing quickly and a huge Chinese research company has announced commercial availability of 4MP Night Color vision to rival Standard IR

Popular Alabama County Sheriff Assassinated

Five on-duty law enforcement officers have killed in Alabama by gunfire this year, which carries a death penalty.

Such a penalty not only has proven to be no deterrent, in the latest killing the suspect was in no danger. He assassinated an extremely popular Sheriff and later just walked into custody with the gun in his hand.

Sheriffs essentially are a political position. In this tragic case the Sheriff’s political position was especially notable for three reasons.

One: An unpopular white man assumed historically unexpected control of Alabama after alleged electronic vote machine fraud

In 2002, Republican Bob Riley narrowly beat Democrat Don Siegelman in the Alabama gubernatorial race when several thousand votes from Baldwin County, Alabama, [87.3% white] mysteriously switched from Siegelman to Riley when Democrat observers left the polling place after midnight. “When Baldwin County reported two sets of results, it was clear to me that someone had manipulated the results,” said Auburn University political scientist James H. Gundlach in a report on the controversy, A Statistical Analysis of Possible Electronic Ballot Box Stuffing.”There is simply no way that electronic vote counting can produce two sets of results without someone using computer programs in ways that were not intended.” According to Gundlach, such electronic ballot-stuffing could be accomplished by having access to the “tabulating computer at some time before the election to install [a special electronic] card and after the election to remove the card.”

Two: That surprise Governor then attempted to push a white Sheriff into a black community and they very openly disagreed with him.

Lowndes County is predominantly black. It had a population of around 11,000 in the 2010 census. In 2007, more than 60 people gathered at the Lowndes County Courthouse to protest then-Gov. Bob Riley’s appointment of a white law enforcement officer to replace the county’s deceased sheriff. At the time, the county commission president said all five commissioners and other elected officials had recommended Williams, who is black, for the position.

Three: Instead of the plant of an unpopular white Sheriff by the unpopular white Governor, it was Williams — an exceptionally popular black veteran of military and law enforcement — who eventually was elected to the job. Willams just was assassinated by the young white son of a neighboring county’s Deputy Sheriff. As Williams was meeting a group of people at a store about a loud music complaint it was the Deputy Sheriff’s son who walked up unprovoked and fatally shot Williams reportedly in front of his own son.

..the sheriff was speaking with someone at the scene before William Chase Johnson got out of his truck and approached him. “William Chase Johnson exited his truck with his pistol in hand. William Chase Johnson approached “Big John” Williams without provocation and shot Sheriff “Big John” Williams while he was fulfilling his duties as Sheriff of Lowndes County, Alabama,” the suit states.

It is not clear yet whether and how race was a factor. However, it is clear that electronic voting fraud is real and this killing has the hallmarks of a political assassination, which already has seriously shaken the community. The suspect fled and then a few hours later returned to the scene on foot carrying the assassination weapon as he calmly turned himself in for arrest.

Defeated Governor of Kentucky in Last Days Pardons Child Abuse and Vehicular Murder

A Kentucky judge who was friends with the accused spent his retirement apparently to coerce a child victim of parental abuse to change her testimony.

Expressing concern over the “highly unusual circumstance” of [Judge] Mershon “confronting her directly and privately,” Eckerle sided with the prosecution, which contended that Mershon “altered” the victim’s memory, “and by using judicial coercion and intimidation, that he overcame her, causing her to claim falsely that she had lied (at) trial.”

When that didn’t work, because courts rejected false claims and suspected coercion, the judge somehow convinced the unpopular governor with only a few days left in office to pardon sex crimes. The judge continued to play a partial role by personally celebrating with the accused.

Mershon picked up Hurt at the state prison in La Grange on Friday and drove him to his mother’s house, the retired judge told The Courier Journal on Monday.

A child abuse expert weighed in the same story and correctly concluded this all an obvious abuse of the justice system.

Pamela Darnall, president of Family & Children’s Place, a regional child advocacy center that evaluates and treats children for sexual abuse, said she was shocked by the circumstances of the pardon. In general, children do not lie about sexual abuse, she said. “The research continually bears out that the majority of kids are not making it up,” she said. Darnall said she was disturbed that Mershon later sought out the victim, which the prosecution argued caused her to change her story. “These are people in power. This is a judge,” Darnall said. “This is what kids deal with when people who are the adults … pressure these kids.” Nor could Darnall understand Bevin’s willingness to pardon Hurt. “A leader steps in and says I simply believe it wasn’t true so I’m going to pardon him,” she said. “What kind of message does that kind of behavior send to our kids and send to adults who have lived with their secrets for so many years?”

In related news at the end of the story, the governor says murder with a vehicle is not murder.

Jerry Thompson was killed in 2014 when his vehicle was struck by a car driven by Wibbels. The governor wrote that Wibbles “was involved in a tragic accident and has been incarcerated as a result of his conviction for wanton murder. This was not a murder.”

Wibbels was driving in traffic such that he allegedly used an emergency shoulder to illegally pass when he struck Thompson’s vehicle head-on.

Why the White House Pardoned Convicted War Criminals

Italian dictator Mussolini was hanged (with his mistress) before he could be tried for war crimes. His soldiers claimed themselves victims while “committing atrocities that for 60 years have gone unpunished.”

The short answer: these pardons serve to undermine democratic institutions and demonstrate “strong man” capabilities of an unaccountable leader.

The longer answer: foreign military intelligence harnessing bias, a form of blind-spot no matter how intelligent the victim, can drive societal fracture and disfunction through manipulations of American sentiment. In this case a divisive issue of war crimes is being used as both proof of power and also a test of loyalty to an authority who is undermining checks and balances.

This kind of manipulation process should be familiar to some as canon of social engineering, with many books already written on the subject.

It also is well documented through the tragic history of the developing world, cruelly manipulated during the Cold War to foment coups and drive power towards dictators who would serve some narrowly-defined agenda (instead of allowing representative democracy). Chad, Guatemala, Angola, Mozambique, Iran…the list I’ve written about on this site alone is long.

The White House unilateral and un-American move to pardon war criminals shows how power is being manipulated by foreign military intelligence campaigns leveraging bias, much in the same way developing nations were manipulated during the past 70 years.

Rolling Stone explains succinctly how a modern system of malicious social media is being used:

Russia’s goals are to further widen existing divisions in the American public and decrease our faith and trust in institutions that help maintain a strong democracy. If we focus only on the past or future, we will not be prepared for the present. It’s not about election 2016 or 2020.

This is spot on. Militarized information campaigns push bias every day to build power slowly in order to wield at a moment’s notice, which Rolling Stone refers to as emotional drive:

She wasn’t selling her audience a candidate or a position — she was selling an emotion. Melanie was selling disgust. The Russians know that, in political warfare, disgust is a more powerful tool than anger. Anger drives people to the polls; disgust drives countries apart.

Pardoning war criminals thus does three things for the current White House by generating disgust:

  1. Demonstrates bias towards “supreme leader” who can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, regardless of law. This generates disgust among those who believe in the rule of law, such as the Constitution. Also this negates any commentary about war-crimes being committed in Syria after American forces retreated. It’s a negation of both domestic and international moral code.
  2. Demonstrates bias towards the “Christian warrior” who can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, regardless of law. This generates disgust among those who believe in the rule of law, such as the military code. Soldiers pay attention to example and failing to hold bad examples accountable generates dissent in ranks.
  3. By establishing these two bright lines of disgust on social media and elsewhere it slowly helps identify the extremists in America happy to obey a dictator. We see two national tests of loyalty based on emotive-based bias. Those disgusted by such obvious violations of laws are classified as disloyal to dictatorship and abruptly pushed out in favor of servile minds that give an ok to overtly destroying democratic concepts like the Constitution.

To make a finer point on this, some American military leaders are convinced that mutually assured destruction (MAD) kept the world free of war, while others realized there have been many wars despite MAD with untold suffering and the UN primarily has served to prevent escalations. This used to be a minor point of division worth debating.

By fueling bias, military agents have turned that division into a massive fissure where people are disgusted by the opposing side; either rule of law is respected (e.g. a UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is signed easily) or laws get ignored because might is said to make right (e.g. abuse of children gets called an inherent right of parenting).

Already we see people defending the White House by saying their dictator can do no wrong as they consider the current occupant “strong” and therefore above all laws. They’ll follow his orders to abuse anyone even the most vulnerable populations unable to defend selves.

To be fair the supporters of the current White House don’t necessarily like its occupant as much as the theory of “strong man” power that political scientists used to refer to as fascism. The support is driven by disgust with representative democracy, which means there is desire for dictatorship where a small cabal of power can even dispose of the current bumbling occupant and his family.

There even could be simmering intent to soon install a new and more competent/healthy dictator via secret police (typical role for those who commit war crimes) in order to better achieve some narrowly-defined self-serving agenda (e.g. national socialism, where a very small group gets defined as being an elite nation to absorb all benefits away from much larger state populations).

Here’s how Mussolini himself described it in a text he was credited with in 1932 (“La dottrina del fascismo”, an essay written by Giovanni Gentile):

Fascism attacks socialism first, then tries to destroy all of democracy. In a reverse theory, Mussolini here is giving away the gatekeeper/antidote. He apparently believed if people helped genuine socialist candidates and causes they were holding back the slide to dictatorship.

Speaking of 1932, America saw a similar trend to today when Hearst published Adolf Hitler’s narratives and disseminated Nazi military intelligence propaganda as news.

At that time the bias technique was against “bolshevism” and for “pacifism”. Hearst (and the Koch family) were far less successful than today’s Zuckerberg, however, and the pro-fascism leader in America failed to get elected President that year.

Here you can see why the 1932 Presidential election was so critical to the rejection of fascism; rejection of the “strong man” propaganda spreading at that time

An Allied victory in 1945 clearly cuts fascism lines short. WWII soldiers from America destroyed the Axis forces, which had defeated socialism and trained their guns on all of democracy. This victory restored faith in laws and institutions (e.g. establishment of the UN) and meant the US was able to even export concepts of teamwork and respectful collaboration (lean out) onto occupied fascist countries. In that sense, Germany and Japan have become something of time-capsules for the values of the US that made it so successful.

Here’s how seasoned leaders have described the current White House attacking military values and authority, which appears to most as a mad man throwing away America’s democratic legacy to replace it with the disgusting ideas of fascism:

To put the US back on track and reverse the White House, these pardons for war crimes need to not disgust and divide the nation. And that seems unlikely given how fascist tactics are intended to disgust anyone who really believes in rule of law, let alone gave an oath to uphold the Constitution. A bully push towards divisiveness and away from law, as a disgusting test of loyalty, is exactly why the White House pardoned the accused.

See also: “2016 Republican Candidate: Fascist Week 2016”

Have You Ever Been Studied for Naming Your Machines?

As a little child I once got a ride to school from a neighbor who had a Subaru 4×4 that could go where school buses were failing (another time our bus was rescued from a ditch by a Korean-war 6×6 but that’s a story for another day).

Her tiny white car slowly crawled in low range over big prairie snow drifts and up the icy dirt hills. She softly patted the dash with her heavily bundled hand and yelled “COME ON BESSIE” above the roar of a little EA82 boxer engine that could.

It has been so many years, I wonder did she put her Bessie down and was it cruel when she did it? That’s the kind of question being asked by MIT in a new article asking if pressing an “off” button is equivalent to a machine murder. Maybe that’s the wrong question entirely, since they can be turned on again? Are you god if you can switch a robot on?

Here’s a particularly funny part where a “roboticist” notices that humans in high-risk/controlled environments like to name things and minimize changes.

Julie Carpenter, a roboticist in San Francisco has written about bomb disposal soldiers who form strong attachments to their robots, naming them and even sleeping curled up next to them in their Humvees. “I know soldiers have written to military robot manufacturers requesting they fix and return the same robot because it’s part of their team,” she says.

Should we accept this as some kind of exception as opposed to a norm? Who doesn’t name things or keep them close, even ones we don’t mind turning off?

The General Lee. Naming our automation machines is a long tradition.

Here’s a thought. Sleeping with a machine preserves integrity and reduces cost of trust. Returning the same one helps maintain integrity too, as every machine tends to have particulars.

I’d challenge this roboticist to put such behavior in historic context of soldiers and their machines for the past 100 years. And despite my “Bessie” experience, I’d say we trend more towards machines as extensions of our bodies, and not really companion-like.

Recently I wrote about the Aboriginal soldiers who defeated Ottoman forces in 1917, and how they were ordered to shoot their healthy horses after victory.

In fact the old Japanese theory suggests we are less likely to anthropomorphize robots that appear the most human-like. We might be most comfortable turning them off due to what they called the “uncanny valley“.

Attachment seems to come more from extension of our functional needs, which makes sense especially for bomb disposal risks, and helps explain the reasoning behind shooting victorious horses after battle has ended.

Of all the times I held my named laptop (because of course it has a name) in my arms, even sleeping next to it, nobody ever wrote about this as some kind of attachment. And I’d say they probably didn’t need to.

In fact I’d guess the percentage of security pros who keep their systems close and avoid rotations is near 100% but why call that a study subject?

US Court Rules Passwords are Protected Because Testimonial

There’s a part of a new decision that I keep re-rereading, just to make sure I read it right:

As a passcode is necessarily memorized, one cannot reveal a passcode without revealing the contents of one’s mind.

I mean that’s just not true. The old joke about people putting sticky-notes with passcodes on their monitor is because sometimes they are too hard to memorize. The reason NIST backed off complexity requirements and rotations is because passcodes turned out to be too hard to memorize and people were storing them unsafely.

We all recommend password managers and using unique passwords for every site, which is all too hard to memorize. The entire password market doesn’t believe passwords are necessarily memorized.

And then there’s the simple fact that passcode sharing often uses communication channels that rely on storage other than the human mind.

Also beyond being wrong that sentence seems unnecessary to the decision. If this case didn’t have a password written down, despite an accused saying he use one 64 characters long, then it becomes an exception. The fact remains passcodes very often are stored outside the human mind.

The rest of the decision is not terribly surprising

…the compelled production of the computer’s password demands the recall of the contents of Appellant’s mind, and the act of production carries with it the implied factual assertions that will be used to incriminate him. Thus, we hold that compelling Appellant to reveal a password to a computer is testimonial in nature.

Fullenkamp: We Use the Past to Better Understand our Present

Trips to relive famous tactical events sounds in this podcast like something we could do a lot more of for information security.

…military historian Len Fullenkamp reflects on the importance of immersing oneself in the minds of strategic leaders facing dynamic and complex situations. One tool is the staff ride, an opportunity to walk a battlefield and understand the strategic perspective of the leaders…

I’ve walked countless battlefields and tried to relive the decisions of the time. One of the most unforgettable was a trench line perfectly preserved even to this day on a ridge that held off waves of attacks for several sleepless days.

On another long-gone battle ground I stumbled upon three live bullets that had been abandoned for decades, slowly rusting into the ground atop a lookout. I held them in my hand and stared across the dusty exposed road below for what seemed like hours.

Yet I rarely if ever have seen a similar opportunity in the field of security I practice most today. Has anyone developed a “staff ride” for some of the most notorious disasters in security leadership such as Equifax, Target, Facebook…? That seems useful.

In this podcast the speaker covers the disastrous Pickett’s charge by pro-slaveholder forces in America. After two-days investment the bumbling General Lee miscalculated and ordered thousands of men to their death in what he afterwards described plainly as “had I known…I would have tried something different”.

Fullenkamp then goes from this into a long exploration of risk management until he describes leadership training on how to make good decisions under pressure:

What is hard is making decisions in the absence of facts.

Who could be the Fullenkamp of information security, taking corporate groups to our battlefields for leadership training?

Also I have to point out Fullenkamp repeats some false history, as he strangely pulls in a tangent about how General Grant felt about alcohol. Such false claims about Grant have been widely discredited, yet it sounds like Fullenkamp is making poor decisions with an absence of facts.

Accusations of alcoholism were a smear and propaganda campaign, as historians today have been trying to explain. For example:

Grant never drank when it might imperil his army. […] Grant, in a letter to his wife, Julia, swore that at Shiloh, he was “sober as a deacon no matter what was said to the contrary.”

We know today what actually happened was a concerted group of white supremacist historians of a defeated pro-slavery war machine began a campaign to posthumously destroy the character of Grant, to undermine his widespread popularity and programs of civil rights.

After Grant’s death, exaggerated stories about his drinking became ingrained in American culture.

First, the truth of charges against Grant are related to America’s pre-Civil War political and military patronage system (corruption basically) being unkind to him. He succeeded in spite of them and he was living proof of someone using the past to better understand the present.

After extensive experience fighting in all major battles of the Mexican-American War he didn’t sit well being idle and under-utilized. He was introverted and critical of low performing peers. A superior officer in California used minor charges of alcohol as a means to exercise blunt authority over the brilliant Grant.

Second, it was KKK propaganda campaigns of prohibition that pushed the false idea that Grant’s dispute with his superior was some kind of wild and exaggerated issue relevant to prohibition.

In fact history tells us how pro-slavery Generals literally became so drunk during battles they disappeared and were useless, every single time they fought. The KKK projected those real alcoholic events from pro-slavery leadership onto Grant to obscure their own failed history and try to destroy his name.

Apparently it worked because it’s 2019 and far past time for people to stop repeating shallow KKK propaganda about America’s greatest General and one of the greatest Presidents.

the poetry of information security