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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 12/28/20

Russiagate 2: Listen to the Blatherscheiss Fly

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Connecting the Dots of Hackers
Connecting the Dots of Hackers
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by John Kendall Hawkins

I am he as he is me as we are they and we are all together.

John Lennon, "I Am the Walrus" (1968)

A few weeks ago, superblogger Glenn Greenwald left in a huff-and-puff from The Intercept, a publication he helped found, at the suggestion of billionaire Pierre Omidyar, who wanted to give Greenwald an opportunity to build an ideal media outlet -- without commercial considerations, and devoid of internal or external censorship or political pressure, such as he seemed to be at the mainstream Guardian. Indeed, on the day the Guardian published graphic photos of the slaughter of one of their own servers on which the top secret Greenwald-Snowden revelations were said to be housed, as a way of appeasing the GCHQ, which had threatened to close the paper down -- you knew Greenwald would be leaving.

In October 2004, the New York Times refused to publish a blockbuster piece, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist James Risen, that revealed the extent of illegal domestic wiretapping by the Bush government. Risen would later write -- in The Intercept, where he has moved -- that the story was scratched as a personal favor by an editor to then-NSA head, Michael Hayden, and not for editorial reasons. Though the NYT eventually published the piece more than a year later, long after GW Bush won re-election, and only because Risen informed the newspaper he intended to publish the piece in an upcoming book, the damage had been done. The quashing of the story helped inspire Edward Snowden to Break Good and become a whistleblower, according to Snowden in his memoir, Permanent Record, and Barton Gellman in Dark Mirror.

Greenwald left The Intercept, partly because he believed that it was leaning mainstream and beginning to censor articles -- for political reasons. Specifically, Greenwald was reporting on the Hunter Biden computer that suddenly showed up at a pawn shop in Delaware and which was said to contain new and damaging information about Joe Biden and his son Hunter, with respect to financial dealings overseas. The main source of the newsbreak was the NY Post, and the sender of the information to the Post was Rudy Giuliani -- he of the recent hands-down-his-pants scandal. The Intercept, like most every other major mainstream-media outlet, wanted to see Trump ousted from office (Risen had written a piece that headlined Trump as a "murderer") seemingly by any means necessary. Information on the pawn shop PC was independently corroborated.

Instead of pursuing the information further, The Intercept chose to attack the source (NY Post) and bury the information, something reminiscent of what MSM did after DNC emails revealed Ugly details of inner doings -- at the party level (the bashing of Bernie) and HRC ($125,000 "talks" before Wall St. types) -- when Russians were blamed for a hack without reliable corroboration and then connected the leaks to Assange. In short, The Intercept was becoming like every other MSM outlet, graphically slaughtering its journalistic values (see Guardian above) in order to maintain subscriptions and draw in newbies. Or, at least, that's what Greenwald seemed to be arguing before he left. If so, I agree with him.

More recently, and related to the above, Greenwald is livid because of the way the MSM is sucking up -- yet again -- leaks from the Intelligence Community (IC) that Russians are behind a recent unprecedented hack on government servers, including a nuclear-energy agency. The hacks weren't direct. Many of them came as a result of using Orion, a software product from SolarWinds (which had been compromised at the update level). The national "pearl harbor-like" breach was announced after Kevin Mandia, CEO of FireEye, informed the NSA, who use SolarWinds, that the "hack" had occurred, and, Mandia 'fessed, FireEye, too, had been breached.

Okay, let's pause or slow down. Greenwald wants to know how we know that the Russians did it? Says Who? And how do they know? The MSM is once again relying on the Voice of God -- authoritative whispers from highly placed anonymous sources. We'll come back to these questions shortly.

*SPECULATION SPOILER ALERT* Timing. This election cycle, with voter fraud coming in the ironic form of America actually counting all its votes this time, the Russkie card wasn't played, as anticipated (remember how they kept warning us that the 2016 Russians would be up to again in 2020, and there was nothing our innocence could do about it?). Instead, we have the nasty-turning 'transition period' between presidents, where Trump is a lame duck but still has some moves (see pardons) and Biden gets to preen for a month as the MSM paints the old goat as the Great White Hope (with the same ol same ol to offer). Chances are Trump's looking to do Biden the way he was done by Obama (suddenly, there was a Russian problem Obama could only deal with during the transition period, and which required locking Trump into a foreign-policy posture to frustrate him). Must be a new tradition: GW Bush locked Obama into a TARP bailout of Wall Street. No doubt, at this very moment Trump is being spied on, if for no other reason than to know which pawn shop he brings the White House silverware to so it can be retrieved. Let's hope, for the fun of it, it's the same shop as the Biden PC was dropped at it. Symmetry. *END OF SPECULATION SPOILER ALERT*

Right, now back to Greenwald and his questions. How do we know the Russians did the cyber pearl harbor thingy? We don't know. We are relying on Kevin Mandia of FireEye, who said so, and his buddy from Foundstone days, Richard Bejtlich, FireEye's CSO. We should immediately be skeptical when we learn that investors in SolarWinds sold massive amounts of stock just days before the announcement of the breach, "earning" almost a quarter billion dollars in the sale. It followed almost immediately by the announcement that the CEO would be resigning after 10 years. It all sounds so scammy.

It recalled for me research readings on Mandiant I'd done a decade ago. Kevin Mandia, a product of USAF intelligence training and a cybersecurity veteran at the Pentagon, seems to have gone, as Edward Snowden had, and describes in his memoir, homo contractus. He'd taken his top-secret security clearances, resigning from USAF at a young age, and opened up a shop as a contractor. To cut to the chase, he worked at Foundstone, a cybersecurity company that specializes in network intrusion (like today) and worked with one George Kurtz, its CEO. Mandia was the computer forensic expert there. The company, according to a Fortune magazine piece, was involved in a serious scandal in 2003 -- accused by former workers and Software & Information Industry Association of being flagrant software pirates. In other words, as Greenwald would say, foxes were guarding the hen house.

Writes Richard Behar, the Fortune piece's author, "The use of unlicensed software is a global problem -- estimates of lost revenues range up to $13 billion a year -- but it's rare among companies whose business is safeguarding intellectual property." Kurt Weiss, a former training coordinator, told Behar that it was part of his job to copy software and distribute it to Foundstone employees. Further, Behar writes,

Thousands of FORTUNE 500 executives and government officials--from the FBI and the National Security Agency to the Army, the Federal Reserve, and even the White House--have taken Foundstone's Ultimate Hacking courses, at up to $4,000 per person. Motorola and Bank of America have shelled out more than $300,000 each for Foundstone products, and the company recently installed software to protect the FAA.

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John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelance journalist and poet currently residing in Oceania.

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