Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Cartel Reader for Democracies

A democracy's control of its monetary system is fundamental to its autonomy and freedom. Opacity of banking and corporate transactions, as well as opacity of organized crime communications, is a threat to democracy. The compromise of a state's security organs by organized crime is frightening. The compromise of a nation's military veterans and (potentially) contractors should make a democratic people tremble.

It appears that the subversion and de facto acquisition of our banks, security organs and military might be well underway.

The cartels should be reckoned into any discussion of Manning, Snowden and the NSA. 

One may appeal to the Constitution over the NSA; to whom may we appeal when cartels have acquired Snowden's documents and advanced capabilities in infosec and surveillance?

Sampling from my personal reader/collected links on relevant topics.
Updated 12/15/2014

Obama Declares War on Global Organized Crime 2011
US Imposes Sanctions on Four International Criminal Groups
Executive Order
Japan: US Declares War on the Yakuza

McCain Petitions to Add Russian Group, with Kremlin Contacts, to List
Senator McCain Calls Upon President Obama to Apply Aggressive New Sanctions Designed to Combat Terrorism to the Russian Organized Crime Group Who Murdered Sergei Magnitsky

The Opacity of Takeovers and The Danger of Whistleblowing

Infiltrated Corporations
Olympus: A Rotten Picture at Olympus
State Oil Company Infiltrated in Mexico: Los Zetas called Mexico's most dangerous drug cartel.
(I'll welcome additional links. Explains NSA interest in Brazilian oil auctions? Very attractive to organized crime.)
Brazil: Brazil Police Op Uncovers Organized Crime-Politics Link

Infiltrated Banks
Wachovia: How a big US bank laundered billions from Mexico's murderous drug gangs
Wachovia and Others:    Wachovia's Drug Habit
Colombia: Western banks 'reaping billions from Colombian cocaine trade'
US and European Banks Hunger for Liquidity: American Narcos: The Real ‘Masters of Paradise’
If it waddles like a duck...
The Scam Wall Street Learned From the Mafia
*An attempt at Weaning? -- Secret Fed Loans Gave Banks $13 Billion Undisclosed to Congress
Global: Drug money saved banks in global crisis, claims UN advisor
Germany: The Case Gustl Mollath – The Time of the Hyenas A critical media research by Ursula Prem
(The researcher for the article above implicates journalists in the crime. Free press, or infiltrated, too?)
Germany: Court Releases Whistleblower from Psychiatric Ward
Russia: Shadow of Magnitsky Case Reaches Switzerland

Switzerland: Switzerland Awash with Money Laundering Cases

Anonymous Discovers Cartel's IT Quotient, Unbound by Any Constitution (Cartel Promises to Acquire Increased IT Capacities)

Cartels aren't as limited as governments; they promise to find what governments can't.
(Note that they are ruthless about secrecy. Makes NSA a worthy target, Snowden a desirable acquisition?)
Anonymous Retreats from Mexican Drug Cartel Confrontation
Dispatch: Anonymous' Online Tactics Against Mexican Cartels

Cartels Making Good on Comms Capacities

More on Los Zetas Radio Network

"the kingpins stay off the network — they use the internet to send messages"
Radio Tecnico: How The Zetas Cartel Took Over Mexico With Walkie-Talkies (added 12/15/2014)

Facebook Hitman Highlights Organized Crime's Online Presence

Latin America and Caribbean Cyber-Security Trends and Government Responses (Trend Micro) (PDF)

Raises serious questions re: Ecuadorean interest in hosting Assange, Snowden
Mexican cartels move into Ecuador

Brazil Investigating Hack of Military Police Data

Cartels are keeping up, but "law enforcement and governments were failing to keep up with advancing technology."

Complexity: Persian Gulf is Growing Drug Hub for LatAm Groups

State Security Subverted

Evidence Suggests Cover-Up in ATF Scandal, as More Guns Appear at Crime Scenes

Border Patrol

Mexican hitman claims cartels bought guns from US Border Patrol
(06/12/2014) Removal of border agency’s internal affairs chief raises alarms
"members of drug cartels and gangs have been applying for jobs in the U.S. government “for the purpose of corrupting the system by passing along intelligence, sharing intelligence gaps, showing vulnerabilities.”"
Ousted chief accuses border agency of shooting cover-ups, corruption

Secret Service
Secret service agents sent home after Colombia prostitution allegations
Inspector General's Report Contradicts Secret Service on Prostitution Scandal

Secret Service Back Story
Secret Service Agents in Colombia are Eavesdropping on Suspected Counterfeiters

(I am looking for another link--I lost it--Secret Service wrapped up a joint counterfeiting bust in Colombia not long before Obama's visit. The prostitution scandal reads like a "shot across the bow," from that vantage point.) Reference: Europol 13 April 2012

Military Veterans

Cartels are Recruiting US Soldiers as Hitmen, and The Pay is Good
(01/10/2013) Team of contract killers led by ex-soldier 'Rambo' busted, prosecutors say (I predicted this several years ago; it was obvious--veterans returning to a non-existent job market and Zetas expanding. I hope my other prediction doesn't come true: cartels with enough liquidity to hire US military contractors, subvert their employees, or  hire teams of their unemployed workers. --Unfortunately, it's possible (probable?) that's already happened. (24/9/2013) See text, re: US contractor, blue box, on this page: NarcoPetro Dollars – Zetas Inside Pemex)


If a post can be dedicated, I'd dedicate this one to the friends of Gustl Mollath, who stood by him for so many years, and to those still working for justice for Sergei Magnitsky.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Mangling the Snowden Questions

How many current journalists have the capacity to analyze digital content for payload? Set up secure communications? Storage?

Greenwald doesn’t; he’s being “managed” by his source.
What does that do to journalistic integrity?

Why Greenwald?

He looked sympathetic? How did Snowden come to prioritize sympathy over info security?

To others, Greenwald might have looked ideal: sympathetic to an NSA whistleblower, unskilled in info security, and residing in South America.

Who’s interested in info security in South America?

The answer to that question makes Greenwald look like the ideal delivery system…

It’s the job of journalists to not believe in the “hero myth,” to be skeptics and to maintain their objectivity.

Did it become too difficult when the subject matter made them the story?

Personal privacy and freedom of the press are a no-brainer. From the beginning, the public conversation has been consumed with the completely obvious.

PRISM--we already know what it's bad for.

Is it impermissible to ask what it's good for?


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Could the Constitution be Employed in a Social Engineering Exploit?

Jay Rosen was kind enough to correct my understanding of Snowden's security precautions by providing a link to this recent article: How Laura Poitras Helped Snowden Spill His Secrets

So, it's inaccurate to characterize Greenwald as clueless. At the same time, material has still been transferred, via a journalist, to a realm where data security protocols are not the norm--where a password to the material is written down and carried on person, and where presumably few have the background to inspect the encrypted digital content of drives for more than document files, or to prevent skilled unauthorized access and transfers of material.

No one should misunderstand me to be saying press freedoms and protections, safety of person, or privacy, are of no consequence--they are of the utmost importance to democracy. But, much of the public conversation is one-dimensional, to the extent that it obscures consideration of  other threats to democracy that are equally potent and real, and that attend the transfer of digital information.

Peter Maass cites quotes Poitras' fears over the growing threat of the nation-based shadow governments. What frightens me is the absence of the cartels from the discussion--the shadow governments that have even less of their iceberg apparatus showing above water, rapidly expanding powers--extreme liquidity--and certainly access to just as much technological sophistication as any democracy.

They have repeatedly infiltrated global banking, subverted the Secret Service and possibly the ATF, hired returning American soldiers as hitmen and kidnapped digital communications engineers in a quest to create impenetrable communication systems. They could easily be the shadow governments with the most interest in crippling PRISM, acquiring information about NSA methods, accessing their files, and transporting an NSA level engineer into their realm. Is it coincidence, or of utmost concern, that cartel activity formerly based in Colombia has now moved to Ecuador? What about McCain's contention that there is ample evidence that Russia's most powerful organized crime group is deeply intertwined with their government, at the highest levels? When I note the two countries with the most interest in hosting Snowden,  I worry--for us and for him.

If the power most integral to the cartels' success is their ability to operate in secret, to create massive "icebergs" with very little showing above water, social engineering would be the most sensible method of acquiring the information they need. As a result, I don't just ask myself about freedom of the press and personal privacy, I also ask whether those values could not be socially engineered so that we, in our altruism, miss a sleight of hand. My questions bother me, but I don't think they're "bad" questions in the era of digital information: 

Could the Snowden affair go down as the social engineering feat of the decade? Was the Manning incident a practice run? Are journalism companies and individuals without info security protocols and training vulnerable, in the course of investigative reporting on traditional core Constitutional issues, to also being used as digital information vectors, in the service of organized crime?

We absolutely can't have a war on journalists' lives and our privacy, but we also can't afford not to know what these extremely wealthy, liquid and sophisticated sub rosa governments are doing, either. How do we protect our democracies from both threats?

I want to see that conversation.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

I Wrote the Password for International Security Documents on a Piece of Paper

The public discussion of  Snowden's leak has been as naive as Greenwald's handling of his digital files. It's criminal.

The paper media companies are so far behind the digital curve, still. Will they ever catch up? Putting digital files on a password protected hard drive or usb drive is not the equivalent of putting paper files into a safe with an alarm.

Do *any* of the major media companies have digital security protocols in place for their journalists? For their organization? If not, then they can't protect their sources and they're putting them at extreme risk. If you're reading this and you're considering becoming a source, I'd think twice about your choice of journalist and media company.

Judging from Greenwald's and the Guardian's data security behavior, they not only can't protect their sources, they also can't be certain that they haven't transmitted a digital payload, in addition to documents, to unintended recipients...anywhere in the world. 

The media doesn't seem to see this potential, but governments (such as the one that recently trashed some unsecured hard drives) and criminal groups surely do.

So, let's add some nuance and consider another angle. (If you think my imagination is too wild, just pretend it's a screenplay.) 

A hostile nation or crime group easily liberates top secret information from a secure facility by using an upper level mole to cultivate a whistleblower and provide him/her access to info and digital payloads. The discontented whistleblower walks out the door with more than just documents on a company laptop. The mole is untraceable. A counterintelligence tool enters public knowledge, internationally. Methods are revealed. Using algorithms and potent hashtags gleaned from past social media viral events, a team simultaneously and strategically posts the seeds that grow into an unnuanced public frenzy over privacy and hostility to government surveillance, of any kind. The whistleblower is subsequently offered protection by two countries professing concern about human rights, one of which has longstanding government connections to organized crime at the highest levels, the other host to one of the most powerful crime groups in the world. The digital files sit in the possession of a journalist with no clue about data security, and on the unsecured, crackable hard drives of a major media company. Having engineered the transfer of documents from a secure facility to multiple unsecured locations, the files are easily accessed by...