Monday, October 15, 2007

The Wizard War 2007

Rusty Shackleford looks at the storm brewing around a Jihadi website called Inshallashshaheed. It's operated by a person whose identity Shackleford was long aware of, but kept secret both for ethical reasons and because it was the subject of an ongoing investigation by the FBI. However, the New York Times decided to run a piece essentially outing Inshallashshaheed and Rusty is not happy. "I've known about this piece for a few weeks and wrote the NY Times to ask Moss not to run it. No reply from the Times. While we appreciate Moss's commitment to spreading the word about the Internet Jihad, we really wish he would have consulted with us on the matter." The site is operated by an American who Rusty describes as a traitor, in the sense that he "openly supports the enemies of the United States in a time of war." And the issue that Shackleford raises is whether it should have been outed at all.

Readers may recall the post, "It's a Small World" which came out six days ago where I commented on MSM accusations that the White House had compromised the surveillance of a website being monitored by private counter-terrorists by distributing a video of Osama Bin Laden that had been abstracted from it. It's the very same thing that Shackleford is now accusing the New York Times of doing. In that post I wrote that it is sometimes better to keep an enemy website open.

the "nuclear bomb" dropped by the Burmese authorities on their cyber-dissidents [by shutting down ISP's] may paradoxically be far less destructive than the strategy tacitly adopted by the United States: that of infiltrating the enemy Internet sites and performing logical operations on them.

Sometimes. In "It's a Small World", I concluded that the public release of the Osama video may have harmed intelligence interests but it may have not. It all depended on factors that I had no way of knowing. There's an optimal time to close down a particular Jihadi website based on considerations best not discussed. Unfortunately, as Rusty Shackleford has discovered, on a publicly accessible network like the Internet there always exists the possibility of someone cutting in and doing it for you. In this case the New York Times may have shut down a gold mine. I'd only like to add that since Inshallashshaheed has opened under a new alias, according to Rusty Shackleford, the goldmine is still giving, although not in the same way.

Readers may wonder why it isn't possible to publish a nice set of guidelines on when it is proper to "out" an enemy website so that we can all agree on the right thing to do. The difficulty is that in this shadow game, where signals [you can think of Inshallashshaheed as being a bundle of signals on many levels] are constantly being detected, analyzed, spoofed, distorted, and played back the "right action" is often based on the particulars of the situation. Think about it is this way. Everyone knows that by forcing the enemy into emissions control he gains and he loses. And you gain as well as lose. How much each side gains or loses is for you to know and for him to find out. So if you are monitoring his emissions undetected or seeing things in his signals he may not realize you are seeing there is a case for keeping him on the air, fat dumb and happy. But there are situations where you want him to shut down and go into another mode, which is governed by a different set of pros and cons. Which is best? It depends.

But for a newspaper like the New York Times those operational factors are probably missing from the calculus. For most newspapers the only question is probably whether the story will attract readers. A newspaper is a business after all. Will they hold back from other considerations? I'd like to say "it depends", but the honest answer is "I just don't know".


Blogger RWE said...

In 1942 the British tried a large commando raid on the French port of Dieppe. The operation proved to be a huge failure, largely because weather delayed the operation by a couple of days, resulting in the landing occurring on the very day a British double agent had transmitted to the Germans per the instructions of his British handlers.

But the invasion was a resounding success in one respect. The Canadian commandos cut the phone wires leading to a German radar station. Rather than just destroying the station they left it operating, unmolested, and cutting the landline wires forced it to switch to radio for issuing directions to German fighters. The British were ready, tuned in, and were able to deduce key aspects of German radar control procedures. This ultimately led to the ability to jam and even spoof German fighter interceptor directions.

In fact the British efforts at misdirection proved to be so effective that at one point the Germans even considered replacing normal voice commands with music, as in “If you hear Wagner, they are attacking Berlin. If it is a waltz, the target is Hamburg.” There was very nearly a “Battle of the Bands.”

10/15/2007 06:47:00 PM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

Irregular Restrictive Measures — Blogospheric Computer Network Attack

Why does our government allow American internet service providers to host them? My assumption is that the government agency tasked with tracking jihadi websites (and I’m not sure which one is) misses a lot of them and is too politically correct to take much action against the sites they do find. I assume this because the government has done nothing to engender any warm and fuzzy feelings that they know what they are doing in the info war. I’m not a defeatist. I support the war. I want to help. My perception has been managed, accidently or by design on somebody’s part, to assume that the Other Government Agencies are incompetent in fighting the War of Ideas. On matters of efficiency, effectiveness, judgement, agility, speed, I don’t give OGA’s much benefit of the doubt. My default position holds them as jacked up until proven otherwise.

10/15/2007 07:12:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.

Samir Khan is committing treason against the people of the United States of America. He should be charged with treason. If the authorities are unwilling to act, there should be a public petition of American citizens formally seeking the prosecution of Samir Khan for treason.

If done carefully and correctly, not only will Samir Khan be put on trial, but the entire ideology of al-Qaeda can be put on trial. Of course it will be a media circus; if possible, let's turn the media circus to our advantage.

Samir Khan comes across as one of the more unsympathetic characters one can prosecute for treason; not only is he as guilty as sin but his words damn him not only to a judge or jury but to many other people. And if Samir Khan isn't charged with treason, who will ever be charged with treason? "Treason" is a word with actual meaning, a word with consequences whose gravity must be respected. It must not be used lightly as an epithet, yet if the law against treason is never enforced, the meaning of treason becomes effectively meaningless.

Now is the time to clarify for posterity that any American citizen who adheres to al-Qaeda or gives al-Qaeda aid and comfort is a traitor against the people of the United States of America, and will be dealt with accordingly.

The New York Times article gives Samir Khan a chance to leave the United States. Although I doubt Samir Khan will avail himself of the opportunity to flee, the publication of the New York Times article inadvertently puts pressure on authorities to press charges on him soon lest he gain the requisite resources for departure.

10/15/2007 08:15:00 PM  
Blogger Teresita said...

And now we learn that the Telecoms were spying on American phone conversations as early as February 2001, seven months before 9-11. They are being sued for doing this, and Bush is pushing legislation that will basically throw those lawsuits out by retroactively giving the green light to those companies. Bush says all they were doing was helping national security in the wake of 9-11. Even scarier than that is there might be enough Democrats who buy that line and put the bill over the top.

10/15/2007 08:32:00 PM  
Blogger Alison said...

The name of the website apparently means something like "a martyr waiting to happen if Allah so wills" So this Saudi lad not only cheered on the Islamofascists,but himself was a ticking time bomb.
The organization that radicalized him in their teachings operates freely in our nation.
This is madness.Drop the hammer on both the young man and his teachers.

10/15/2007 09:28:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

So now we are treated to the spectacle of Teresita blaming the Bush Administration for failing to stop the 9/11 attacks and blaming the Bush Administration for attempting to stop the 9/11 attacks.

Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.

Is Teresita secretly the Red Queen from "Through the Looking Glass"?

Alice laughs and says "There's no use can't believe impossible things."

"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

Believe Hillary-Edwards-Gore-Obama will make the world a safer place, if you want to try a tough one...

10/15/2007 09:32:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

Also, during WWII the British via Enigma learned of many things the Germans were about to do. However, the British and the Allies did not always preact the German moves for fear of tipping off the German's their communications were like an open book.

I do not have any concrete examples, but I am quite sure this meant people died who would not have if alerted.

Inshallah is Arabic for "If God Wills" and Shaheed is the word for martyr, so Inshallahshaheed implies "I will be a martyr God willing."

10/16/2007 07:17:00 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Also, during WWII the British via Enigma learned of many things the Germans were about to do. However, the British and the Allies did not always preact the German moves for fear of tipping off the German's their communications were like an open book.

I do not have any concrete examples, but I am quite sure this meant people died who would not have if alerted.

The bombing of Coventry.

10/16/2007 07:41:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

The bombing of Coventry is indeed an example of suffering a loss in order to preserve intelligence assets. The disaster at Dieppe is another – although it had been planned that the releasing of the news of the attack just a bit too late to do the Germans any good - and it did not work out that way, the Germans were so impressed with their spy that took everything he said from then on as absolute gospel. And on 6 June 1944 the spy assured them that Normandy was just a diversion and that the real invasion would occur at Calis. The failure at Dieppe helped ensure the success at Normandy.

A week after the Normandy invasion, in the Pacific the USN listened in to a Japanese aircraft that was directing the attack and used that information to aid their interception efforts. At the end of the day some Navy officers wanted to send Hellcats to shoot down the controlling aircraft. Admiral Mitscher replied “No, indeed. He did us too much good.” And besides, they might need him again. They called the battle the Marianas Turkey Shoot.

10/16/2007 09:03:00 AM  
Blogger Aristides said...

The principles of network theory -- specifically the principle of preferential attachment -- support Wretchard's intuition (as he is no doubt aware). Thus:

New vertices (nodes) attach preferentially to sites that are already well connected.

New nodes do not connect randomly; they prefer to connect to well-established hubs. For instance, knowledge is biased to a well-connected node. Other avenues into the network may exist, but if they aren't known they can't be accessed.

Preferential attachment is the probability that a node connects to a node with ‘k’ links. The higher ‘k’, the higher the probability. If we want to model a network, we have to incorporate both the growth rule and preferential attachment.

The more-connected node will grow faster than the less-connected node. As a new player seeks to attach to a network, it will naturally gravitate to a well-established, well-connected, and well-known hub.

Implication: An aspiring terrorist will “connect” to a node that is already well-established and widely used – e.g. a popular website, a highly-visible Imam, etc. This means our best technique is not to destroy the well-connected nodes. Instead, we should appropriate these collection sites and use them to attract and neutralize the kinetic end-user -- i.e. the business end of the terrorist network. So long as we can comprehensively monitor jihadi websites and fire-breathing Imams, and so long as we can't preempt new websites and Imams from picking up the fallen banner, our best strategy is to keep the ones we know about up and running and in the dark.

10/16/2007 10:08:00 AM  
Blogger Alexis said...

There is always a tradeoff between knowing what your enemy is up to and letting them sap your morale.

What if, during World War II, there had been Nazi rallies in American streets and major demonstrations by Axis sympathizers? Moreover, what if they had been protected by the police as "free speech"? The effect would have been lowering the morale of the American home front because people would ask, "If our government is allowing this to happen here, what's the point to fighting this war over there?" Remember, in 1940,pro-Nazi beer parties in Philadelphia celebrating the conquest of Paris had a profound effect on a little Jewish kid in a Catholic neighborhood. That boy has become one of the most celebrated defeatists of modern times, spreading his anti-American venom and inspiring enemies of America far and wide. His name is Noam Chomsky.

Preserving operational wartime intelligence was important enough to let the bombing of Coventry happen, yet this imperative can go too far. When the Finsbury Mosque openly acts as a center of al-Qaeda activity, some intelligence may result, but the cost is immense in terms of giving al-Qaeda an institutional propaganda platform and lowering the morale of people in Britain. Let's face it -- most Britons don't want to fight.

Intelligence gathering is important, but most people lack the sophistication of a spymaster. They see what is right in front of them and the see their government's inaction and apparent unwillingness to protect them. Anti-war sentiment increases when people see that their enemy can broadcast messages right in front of them; the sight of the enemy next door with police protection leads people to give up the fight. Some people get outraged; they are called vigilantes by the New York Times. Those who don't get outraged will simply become passive.

A refusal by the United States Government to prosecute Samir Khan calls into question why we are fighting a war against al-Qaeda in the first place. What would you say to the people of Charlotte when they know their enemy is in their midst? If it is unacceptable bigotry to feel outrage against Samir Khan, there is no use for outrage against anything, and that includes national security. And that also includes topics leftists deeply care about.

10/16/2007 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

An intelligence campaign is ultimately governed by a strategy without which it is impossible to value choices. The ultimate goal of warfare is ultimately finish the enemy and in that sense the enemy networks will not be allowed to go on forever.

But there are timing issues and I think they are much more complex than similar ones in the past. I am reminded in particular of Walter Krueger's observation that in a limited war the purpose of strategy is to destroy the leader's will to resist. In a total war the object is to destroy an entire people's will to resist.

Jihadi websites are in general a vehicle for raising total war against the West, though some of them are largely operational in nature. But it is true going the other way too. The counter-Jihadi strategy is also aimed (or should be aimed at least) not only at disrupting or discovering certain operational things, but it must ultimately contribute to breaking the will of an entire enemy people -- that subset of Muslims who see themselves in a certain way. In this case our aim should be to persuade them that their goal of subjugating us can never be attained and that there is no alternative but to live in peaceful coexistence in addition to utilizing information warfare for tactical purposes.

To a certain extent I am glad that this aspect of the war has been ignored by the media because there are indications that those active in this field understand these imperatives more clearly than the politicians. But that doesn't obviate the need to create the larger strategy and context. It should be the goal of our strategy in all its aspects not only to defeat attacks, break up cells, etc. but to break the will of of a group of people bent on subjugating us. I believe this can be achieved largely through non-kinetic means, in part by increasing our own self-confidence; in part through politics; in part through communication and occasionally through focused military activity. And in this drama the Wizard War will play its part.

The great thing about Petraeus' achievement in Iraq so far is that it emphatically demonstrates that the combination of politics, information and arms is an actual weapon. Historians may look back and recognize that the contribution of Iraq to combined arms doctrine was to widen the concept of what constitued an "arm". And the principle applies to wider war on terror too. But let's win the war first and write the history later.

10/16/2007 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

wretchard, considering the ideology of American academia, we dare not wait for VT Day to start writing the history.

The study of history is a political act. Any American professional historian who deviates from the party line will be made to suffer for it. Amateur historians will have to preserve the inconvenient truths so that two generations from now when this war's Venona papers are declassified our descendants, those that wish to anyway, can finally understand what happened.

10/16/2007 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

Aristides, you have managed to say in few words what Grim was saying in COIN: The Gravity Well

I know I naturally gravitate to wretchard's hub. Commenting here and linking to my blog gets me hits I wouldn't otherwise get.

10/16/2007 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Always good to give the hypothesis one more test!

10/16/2007 03:45:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

For those who refuse to be a part of Cannoneer's Shameless Self-Promotion:
To: Cannoneer No. 4

I write this from Iraq, near Baghdad, and as a psyop tactical team leader.
We are forbiden from using psyop on Americans.
We are forbiden from mentioning the enemy by name.
There is no means in the government to counter the propaganda of the mainstream media except sites like Free Republic.
Tactically, our ability to accomplish our mission and goals for the supported command is compromised by political correctness, ignorance and a lumbering process for vetting and approving new psyop products. We do what we can.
There isn’t the will within the government to counter the mainstream media…..they are afraid of them. And those that are afraid are the cowards who fail to confront evil and those who passively support it.

10/16/2007 03:50:00 PM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

Shameless? Roger that. But it isn't myself I'm trying to promote.

FReeper Radigan was 40-some ought miles east of me when he posted that. He has since been banned over there.

10/16/2007 05:29:00 PM  
Blogger Teresita said...

So now we are treated to the spectacle of Teresita blaming the Bush Administration for failing to stop the 9/11 attacks and blaming the Bush Administration for attempting to stop the 9/11 attacks.

Since the pre-911 warrantless wire taps didn't do diddly squat to stop the 911 attacks, and since they are clearly illegal, based on the effort to make warrantless wiretaps retroactively legal, we ought to let the current authorization expire and go back to going to a FISA judge to get a wire tap. Alternatively, Bush could pen an Amendment 28 to the Constitution to overturn Amendment 4.

10/17/2007 02:10:00 PM  
Blogger chachapoya said...

"Bush says all they were doing was helping national security in the wake of 9-11. Even scarier than that is there might be enough Democrats who buy that line and put the bill over the top."
Would you be referring to Democrats like Clinton?
Television Broadcast February 27, 2000
STEVE KROFT, co-host:
If you made a phone call today or sent an e-mail to a friend, there's a good chance what you said or wrote was captured and screened by the country's largest intelligence agency. The top-secret Global Surveillance Network is called Echelon, and it's run by the National Security Agency and four English-speaking allies: Canada, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
The mission is to eavesdrop on enemies of the state: foreign countries, terrorist groups and drug cartels. But in the process, Echelon's computers capture virtually every electronic conversation around the world.
How does it work, and what happens to all the information that's gathered? A lot of people have begun to ask that question, and some suspect that the information is being used for more than just catching bad guys.
(Footage of satellite; person talking on cell phone; fax machine; ATM being used; telephone pole and wires; radio towers)
KROFT: (Voiceover) We can't see them, but the air around us is filled with invisible electronic signals, everything from cell phone conversations to fax transmissions to ATM transfers. What most people don't realize is that virtually every signal radiated across the electromagnetic spectrum is being collected and analyzed.
How much of the world is covered by them?
Mr. MIKE FROST (Former Spy): The entire world, the whole planet--covers everything. Echelon covers everything that's radiated worldwide at any given instant.
KROFT: Every square inch is covered.
Mr. FROST: Every square inch is covered.

10/19/2007 12:25:00 PM  

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