Ignorance is Strength

Information Warfare in the New World Order

On July 15, 1996, President Clinton issued Executive Order #13010, which addressed "threats of electronic, radio-frequency, or computer-based attacks on the information or communications components that control critical infrastructures ('cyber threats'). Because many of these critical infrastructures are owned and operated by the private sector, it is essential that the government and private sector work together to develop a strategy for protecting them and assuring their continued operation."

If your Big Brother alarm isn't going off yet, you better make sure it's plugged in. During the reign of dictator Benito Mussolini, corporate and government power in Italy were merged into a hybrid form of corporatism which came to be known as fascism. Under the Third Reich, Hitler's Nazi Party (National Socialist Worker's Party) placed Germany under a similar system of government corporatism.

The line between the private sector and the public sector in the United States is gradually blurring along a similar path. To point out just a few examples, corporatization of government programs is all the rage in Washington, and corporate use of prison labor is rapidly becoming the status quo in America's criminal rehabilitation system. Welfare assistance to America's impoverished is being slashed while welfare to corporations is at an all-time high. The tax burden carried by the American people has quadrupled over the past forty years, while the tax rate on corporations has remained virtually unchanged. Corporations fund politicians on both sides of the ballot box, and the winners make it worth their while. Meanwhile, the military, having no all-consuming global enemy such as communism to obsess over, is being used for domestic purposes ranging from providing training and equipment for quasi-military police operations to direct participation in drug interdiction efforts.

One of Executive Order #13010's offspring is the recently-released Defense Science Board Task Force report on "Information Warfare-Defense." Among other startling proposals, the report recommends relaxing legal restraints on what measures the Department of Defense may take in carrying out reprisals for cyberassaults. "Confusion... stems from uncertainty over when or whether a wiretap approval is needed," the report stated. "Government-wide guidance, and perhaps legislation as well, are needed in the areas of Department assistance to the private sector..., tracing attackers of unknown nationality (intelligence versus U.S. persons), tracking attackers through multiple systems, and obtaining/requiring reports of computer-related incidents from the private sector..."

The "confusion over wiretap approval" is clarified later in the report: "The Task Force found some confusion among the Department's representatives regarding the scope of their authority to monitor systems and networks for the purpose of assessing the security of the systems and networks."

Department of Defense "assistance" to private industry? Requiring reports of computer-related incidents from the private sector? Surveillance of systems and networks in order to assess their "security"? Spooky stuff, to say the least!

And what happened to America's law enforcement apparatus? The report makes little mention of prosecuting computer crimes through traditional, conventional police agencies. Instead, it recommends the establishment of an Information Warfare Center to harness the technology necessary for waging cyberwar. After all, the report states bluntly, "information warfare is a form of warfare, not a crime or act of terror."

The Defense Science Board Task Force also suggests granting "unequivocal authority for Department users to monitor, record data, and repel intruders in computer systems for self protection" and "direction to use banners that make it clear the Department's presumption that intruders have hostile intent and warn that the Department will take the appropriate response."

In other words, trespassers will be shot.

This brings to mind the time my dad tried to locate my aunt's home page. She's a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force who was stationed at the Pentagon at the time. Being a web newbie, the old man accidentally keyed in the wrong URL and randomly ended up in what was apparently a restricted area of the Air Force's web server. Numerous banners warned him that he was in a restricted area and ordered him to leave immediately. The problem was, he wasn't real sure how he got there in the first place. He fumbled through several more "restricted" pages before leaving the site.

This is a true story.

So, with security like that, the Defense Science Board Task Force is definitely correct that the Pentagon's firewall could use a little more kerosene. But the task force's chairman, Duane Andrews, told the Wall Street Journal that he would like to see the law changed to allow the Pentagon to retaliate against intruders using "a polymorphic virus that wipes out the system, takes it down for weeks."

So here's my dad with a polymorphic virus rendering his LCIII an electronic vegetable, if the Department of Defense follows through on the task force's recommendations.

Note that task force chairman Duane Andrews is currently the vice president of corporate development at Science Applications International Corporation, a defense technology consulting company with strong historical ties to the intelligence community. Admiral Bobby Inman, former head of the ultra-secretive National Security Agency, is on SAIC's board of directors, as well as Melvin Laird, Nixon's defense secretary, and General Max Thurman (retired), commander of the Panama invasion.

It is the DoD's prerogative to protect its systems from intrusion and attack. But the Pentagon seems bent on applying a coercive black-and-white warfare model to a complicated problem with a thousand shades of gray. They want a magic smart bomb to blow up all the hackers with, further testament that they truly are operating within a system that they do not understand.

The task force repeatedly yanks the "evil hacker" hobgoblin out of its bag of horrors and justifications. "The hackers and the cyber criminals are very efficient," the report states. "The current state of technology favors the attackers, who need only minimal resources to accomplish their objectives. They have accumulated considerable knowledge of various devices and commercial software by examining unprotected sites. This know-how... is shared on the 400-plus hacker bulletin boards, worldwide. This includes hacker bulletin boards sponsored by governments (for example, the French intelligence service sponsors such a board). These boards are also used to distribute very sophisticated user-friendly 'point-and-click' hacker tools that enable even amateurs to attack computers with a high degree of success."

The report also mentions a few hacker tactics that have become very familiar to AOL users: "Attacks are not just based on the use of smart tools. Simple social engineering -- impersonation and misrepresentation to obtain information -- remains very productive. The ruses are many: 'cyber friend,' providing a free software upgrade that has been doctored to circumvent security, a 'customer' demanding and receiving support over the telephone from a customer-oriented firm." Say, buddy, have you downloaded your free copy of AOL 4.0 yet? Oh, and by the way, I'm with AOL customer service, and if you don't send me your password in the next two to three minutes, your account will be deactivated.

Don't worry, though! The Pentagon plans to protect you from these data insurgents, and then some. The task force pushes hard for an Information Warfare Center, emphasizing the "need" for federal police and intelligence agencies to make information freely available to one another. "In some cases, the military, law enforcement and intelligence communities are restricted by law, executive order, or regulation from sharing certain information," the report states. "Historically, these communities are notoriously bad at sharing information."

But isn't that actually a good thing? As Lawrence Dennis said, "Integration of governmental agencies and coordination of authority may be called the keystone principle of fascist administration." Ever heard of Lawrence Dennis before? He was the American fascist economist who wrote in his 1936 book, "The Coming American Fascism," that defenders of "18th-century Americanism" would soon be "the laughing stock of their own countrymen." He predicted that the adoption of economic fascism would intensify the "national spirit," using it to fuel "the enterprises of public welfare and social control." In 1936 -- eerily echoing the spirit of 1997 -- Dennis wrote that the biggest stumbling block to the development of economic fascism in America was "liberal norms of law or constitutional guarantees of private rights."

Like Hitler and Mussolini, Dennis and many other elite intellectuals of their day saw corporate/government hybridization as an "enlightened" form of social organization. Many federal programs created under their guidance are still functioning, albeit in less "enlightened" form, today.

And now, the Defense Science Board Task Force is recommending that a $3 billion tug boat be used to tow the information economy into the shipping lanes of economic fascism. For our own good, of course.

Information warfare has been a significant aspect of human conflict since long before Sun Tzu wrote The Art of War. The difference now is that the very basis of our economy is information-dependent. Information is no longer merely a tactical consideration; it is the source of the host nation's vigor, and a target as well.

This isn't just war games and theory, either. In fact, the U.S. has already fought a few violent skirmishes in the new frontier of infowar. One of these -- the United Nations-supervised fiasco in Somalia -- provides some insight into where the task force's recommendations may be leading us.