NBC Happily Parrots The CIA's Case For Escalating Cyber War With Russia

from the putting-out-fires-by-burning-the-house-down dept

As we’ve been noting there have been growing calls for the Obama Administration to publicly scold Russia for hacking the DNC, and to dole out some kind of righteous punishment for this unseemly behavior. Calls on this front have ranged from launching larger cyber offensives or even a brick and mortar military response. We’ve noted repeatedly how this is stupid for a multitude of reasons, since hacking “proof” is (if the hacker’s any good) impossible to come by, with false-flag operations consistently common.

Despite the obvious dangers of escalation, the U.S. press seems pretty intent on helping the intelligence community justify doing exactly that. Countless outlets are breathlessly passing along the idea that we simply must “retaliate” for Russia’s behavior, willfully ignoring that the United States wrote the book on nation state hacking and lacks the moral high ground to lecture anyone on cybersecurity. As Snowden and other whistleblowers should have made abundantly clear by now, we’ve been hacking allies, fiddling in Democratic elections, creating indiscriminately dangerous malware and worse for decades.

Led by our bad example, we’ve cultivated a global environment in which nation state operators hack one another every second of every day to keep pace with the United States. As such, the idea that the United States is an innocent daisy nobly defending its untarnished honor from uncivilized international ruffians is absurdly, indisputably false, yet this concept sits at 90% of the reporting on this subject. Case in point: eager to get the escalation ball rolling, the CIA last week used NBC to make the case for a renewed cyber-warfare campaign against Russia in the coming months:

According to the full NBC report, the CIA is cooking up a rotating platter of different proposals, most of which involve launching similar hack and leak campaigns intended to embarrass Putin and company:

“The Obama administration is contemplating an unprecedented cyber covert action against Russia in retaliation for alleged Russian interference in the American presidential election, U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News. Current and former officials with direct knowledge of the situation say the CIA has been asked to deliver options to the White House for a wide-ranging “clandestine” cyber operation designed to harass and “embarrass” the Kremlin leadership.”

Again though, if you understand that the NSA and its army of private contractors are covertly probing and attacking countless nations day in and day out (allies and enemies alike), the very idea that we’d announce this single counterattack via god-damned NBC should strike you as transparently theatrical and a bit silly. And as some pointed out, the wording of the story seems to strongly suggest we’ve already obtained plenty of documents that could prove embarrassing to Russia:

Like most news coverage of the Russian hacks, our own responsibility for global cyber war escalation is left entirely unmentioned by a media that fancies itself a truth teller, yet somehow still can’t escape the grip of fevered nationalism when covering militarism and cyber warfare. And you’ll note the only hesitation from most of the government sources quoted in the article is that our “retaliation” won’t be vicious enough:

Sean Kanuck, who was until this spring the senior U.S. intelligence official responsible for analyzing Russian cyber capabilities, said not mounting a response would carry a cost. “If you publicly accuse someone,” he said, “and don’t follow it up with a responsive action, that may weaken the credible threat of your response capability.” President Obama will ultimately have to decide whether he will authorize a CIA operation. Officials told NBC News that for now there are divisions at the top of the administration about whether to proceed.

Good. There should be “divisions.” Escalating our cyber-offensive “strategies” resulted in the conundrum we’re currently enjoying. And escalation here could prove notably fatal to many given our ongoing proxy war with Russia in Syria. But it’s abundantly clear the CIA wants the green light and is getting some resistance from the current administration, encouraging NBC to suggest that escalation could protect the sanctity of the November elections:

“The CIA’s cyber operation is being prepared by a team within the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence, documents indicate. According to officials, the team has a staff of hundreds and a budget in the hundreds of millions, they say. The covert action plan is designed to protect the U.S. election system and insure that Russian hackers can’t interfere with the November vote, officials say. Another goal is to send a message to Russia that it has crossed a line, officials say.”

Again though, there is no “line,” and any ethical or legal lines that do exist, we obliterated years ago. We’ve hacked nations aggressively for decades, and are now fanning our collective faces in indignation at the idea that anybody would dare hack us back. We’ve contributed to escalating cyber-security tensions by being among the most badly behaved nations on Earth, consistently using the resulting threat escalation to justify our ongoing war on encryption, bloated security contractor budgets, and domestic surveillance expansion. It’s a vicious, expensive ouroboros of dysfunction.

We’ve tried escalation as the aggressor, and it consistently makes things collectively, internationally worse, and certainly doesn’t stop us from being the targets of these kinds of attacks. That’s why we’ve noted repeatedly that the smart play here is to focus on defense, instead of letting Putin (and our own security contractors and intelligence community) goad us into more idiotic behavior than ever before.

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Comments on “NBC Happily Parrots The CIA's Case For Escalating Cyber War With Russia”

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NedH says:

NBC Happily Parrots The DNC

NBC is actually parroting the Democratic Party & Hillary Campaign — loudly blaming the Russians for the highly incriminating content of leaked DNC emails… to divert public attention from Hillary’s corruption.

NBC is a de facto branch of the Democratic Party, as are most of the establishment media.

The CIA joined this existing anti-Russian scam because they work directly for corrupt Democrat Obama, who wants Hillary to succeed him.

There is zero hard evidence that the Russians are the bad guys here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Who needs the Russians

when you have interference coming out of the executive branch.

Probably 25% of the exploits being used, derive from software the was INTENDED to be exploited. Unless the Russians have conquered Redmond, it would seem like a gross misallocation of funds to concern ourselves with them at all.

No. You don’t get to spend tax payer money fucking with the Russians. It isn’t your money, and they didn’t do anything you didn’t deserve. Second the executive branch has fucked over the Constitution MORE than the Russians ever could. Stop crying like a child who got his beaten up after taunting the person who kicked his ass.

You lost. You deserved it. Get over it. Stop behaving like a vendictive child.

The only play I can see here, is acting like a weasel to make the weasel running for office look slightly less bad.

Anybody else have any ideas on what the political play is here?

AJ says:

Re: Who needs the Russians

“Anybody else have any ideas on what the political play is here?”

I’ll take a shot at it.

Hillary will probably go straight up epileptic bobble head, run to her van for some pills and a nap, then hold a press conference to tell reporters they are not allowed to air it.

Trump will find the nearest unicycle. Then proceed to peddle around in circles while juggling flaming chain saws and spewing word salad’s that make no sense…

Sound about right?

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

They DID. For example former diplomat Joseph C. Wilson, sent by the CIA to Niger to investigate claims that Iraq had arranged to purchase and import uranium. He debunked the claims.

Bush II, Cheney and Powell lied about it to the country ANYWAY. And when Wilson didn’t take the hint and went public, they outed his wife as a CIA operative and wrecked her career.

That’s the message sent to anyone in the intelligence community who "would have said differently."

AJ says:

“since hacking “proof” is (if the hacker’s any good) impossible to come by,”

By Putin’s own words, they are not denying it was them.


So Russia hacked the DNC.. is any of the information they released fake? I don’t hear the Democrats lining up to say “its all fake, none of this data is real”. Russia is exposing our politicians for the corrupt corporate sheep dogs they are. I would argue they are doing us a service. They didn’t shut down a nuclear power plant, or reverse all the street lights in New York. I don’t hear anyone saying that it put our troops in danger or anyone was killed. They released some potentially embarrassing emails from our politicians to the world. Emails that i would argue should be available anyway.

I don’t know what to think of the actual hacking part.. but I do think the citizens of the U.S. and world are starting to get a peek under the rug of our government and they are not happy about what they are seeing. IMO How they are getting that peek is almost irrelevant.

Chuck says:


There was once a nation, founded by a few “radicals,” on the idea that if you put in a hard day’s work you should reap commensurate benefits. On the idea that all people should be treated equally. On the idea that we are all better off when the lowest among us succeeds.

That nation was the USSR. What, you thought I was talking about America? Well let’s look at the evidence.

During WWII, the Soviets had women in frontline combat service. To this day, while the male record for Most Confirmed Sniper Kills has been broken by more recent snipers than anyone in WWII, the female record remains Ms. Lyudmila Pavlichenko, because to this day, the USSR is still the only army in modern history to give women parity with men in combat.

The US? Nah, they’re not equal, stick them in field hospitals and factories away from the fighting. Draw up some propaganda posters showing them with muscles and call it equality. They’re women, they’ll never know the difference.

In the USSR, the state ran a jobs program (several, actually) that gave priority to the poorest individuals. Due to this, even while the country was suffering an economic depression in the late 1960’s, their unemployment remained under 3%. Do you have any idea how many US Economists would sacrifice their own children to achieve 3% unemployment even under GOOD economic conditions? This is not to say the USSR was a land of plenty – the amount they had to spend importing food (combined with their arms race against the west) kept the country on the edge of bankruptcy for over 45 years. BUT in the USSR, the poor underclass was smaller than it has literally ever been in the US, at least for a few years.

That first ideal I mentioned? That’s communism. It has a LOT more in common with capitalism than most of us Americans care to admit. To be fair, nothing is plainly better about either system. They both have their flaws. However, it should be noted that the primary flaw in communism is in implementation. Mr. Marx decided the best way to achieve his little revolution was to unite the world under a strong man – a dictator – and then, after the entire world had fallen under communism, that guy would leave. He’d just step down and let the tenants of communism and the people govern themselves.

Sadly, for everything Marx understood about governance, he apparently never understood basic human behavior. If you make a man king of the world, you just corrupted him absolutely. Even the Dali Llama would have a hard time voluntarily leaving THAT position. Still, in theory, communism is paradise. The fatal flaw is that Marx’s process will always prevent any communist government from teaching the “step 2” point, thus instead they all turn into dictatorships.

Capitalism, though, is no better. I won’t go into much detail here except to say that it’s a system where every time one person wins, another loses, without exception. A system like that is literally built to fail, at best, half the people within it, and as we see in our nation now, apparently way more than half. Millennials have suddenly decided that income inequality is something they wanna fix? Well you’re a bit late to the party, guys. If you want to fix income inequality, you’re gonna need a time machine, and have to go back and kill Adam Smith before he learned to write. There is no Capitalism without income inequality, plain and simple. It’s literally what the system is made of.

I wrote all that to say this: Putin is a worthless piece of manure, but never denigrate the Russian people. In many ways, they are better at upholding American ideals than even Americans are, and they do not deserve your ire.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Russia

I have always responded to people who keep harping that under ideal circumstances any system that is not purely written in bad faith would work. How is communism distinguishable from any other ideology? Hell, when exactly is idea uniting everything under a dictatorship and then having him leave a “revolutionary” idea? Look at Qin Shi Huang, Alexander, or Augustus. The ideals of Liberalism is to prevent that exact scenario because while some semblance of good have come out of it, no group should ever attempt such a thing on purpose. The fatal flaw of Marx’s plan is that the forlorn conclusion is that it will fail 100% and in the meantime no one is safe, not the bystanders, its believers, nor its enemies.

The end result of Marx’s carelessness is that he is that his ideology responsible for 100+ million dead(conservative estimate) of its own people, before going pass the iron curtain. For reference Hitler could be tied to about 30 million people and about 10-15 million could arguably jointly be shared with Stalin considering the high casualty of the eastern front is believed to be due to the breakdown of ethical ideals of war. Take all atrocities that could be heap on religion and it doesn’t compare to communism. You can view the US in its worse light and still say its does it most fuck up shit is to other countries.

However, if you ignore all its bad point, cock your head sideways, yeah, I guess it could work.

Chuck says:

Re: Re: Russia

Let me start by saying I genuinely can’t tell what you’re saying here. I’m not trying to be rude or sarcastic. I’ve re-read your reply 4 times and other than the fact that you seem to think that Marx is responsible for Stalin agreeing to aid the Allies in WWII, I really can’t tell what you’re saying here. I would simply point out that, had the USSR remained neutral in WWII, the Normandy invasion would’ve almost certainly failed, the Nazi’s likely would’ve taken Britan within 90 days thereafter, and we’d probably either A) all be speaking German or B) have a nuclear bomb memorial in Berlin like the ones in Nagasaki and Hiroshima because that would’ve been the only means we had to defeat the Nazi’s, having failed a conventional invasion. In both cases, the casualties would’ve been several orders of magnitude higher.

That said, I would like to reiterate my earlier point. I am not saying communism is a good system. I’m merely stating the fact – and it is a fact – that communism is a system that is designed such that, when the lowest among us succeeds, we all do. “Rising tides lift all boats” and all that. Capitalism, by its very nature and also completely factually, is designed so that every time one person wins, it is at another person’s expense. Sometimes it’s their business rival. Sometimes it’s their customers. Sometimes it’s their own suppliers. Regardless, no gain or profit is made in a capitalist system without someone, somewhere suffering a loss.

And with that said, I will just reiterate one more thing: my whole point was that the Russian people live up to American ideals better than most Americans do. True, Russian leadership has varied from ineffectual to criminal, but their people, and the way in which those people have tried their best DESPITE their leaders to live up to Marx’s idea, is a far more accurate interpenetration of the inscription at the base of the Statue of Liberty and the more famous sections of our Constitution than anything us Americans have done since at least the early 1800’s. and probably since our founding.

Or simply put, Russians often make better Americans than Americans do.

Anonymous Coward says:

NBC = Nothing But Clinton

the U.S. press seems pretty intent on helping the intelligence community justify doing exactly that

Since the press is just the mouthpiece of the political parties they are just warming the public up to what the Dems want to do. So if Obama doesn’t do it, Clinton will and the sheeple will be used to the idea by then.

Personanongrata says:

Clandestine Cyber Insanity on the Potomac

"The Obama administration is contemplating an unprecedented cyber covert action against Russia in retaliation for alleged Russian interference in the American presidential election, U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News. Current and former officials with direct knowledge of the situation say the CIA has been asked to deliver options to the White House for a wide-ranging "clandestine" cyber operation designed to harass and "embarrass" the Kremlin leadership."

How covert and "clandestine" is this operation if every Tom, Dick, Harry and Sally is spewing forth this vile meme from their gaping maws?

Perhaps the covert/clandestine cyber warriors on the Potomac would have better effect if they run in circles and scream and shout while flailing their arms all about.

This pathetic display is what passes as leadership in DC?

These unhinged loons will be the death of us all.

restless94110 (profile) says:

I like this article, am going to repost it via my Twiter, but….

Can you tell me just one thing?

Lately I hear constantly that the Russians are going to "hack" the election.

What exactly is there to hack? Voting machines are not connected to the Internet. What is there to hack?

And if there was even a chance if they were?

Wouldn’t the smart thing be to just go back to paper ballots?

There. Solved it for ya.

Chuck says:

Re: Re:

Well…paper ballots gave us “hanging chads” and those gave us George Bush for 8 years so I’m not sure that’s a step in the right direction. (Yeah, I know, supreme court actually gave us dubya. But they would’ve never had the opportunity without the hanging chads.)

Voting Machines, nearly all of them, and even some of the machines used to scan paper ballots (in states like mine, Alabama) save their data to a memory card, usually a CompactFlash or other similar card. Those cards are then taken by the local probate judge and tallied – in Microsoft Excel, on a laptop that is most likely connected to the internet and always running Windows.

“Hacking the election” is as simple as targeting the officials in a few key counties to gain control of their laptops. If you change the totals there, sure, we COULD recount all the paper ballots and/or paper trail, but the last time we did that, it took too long and the supreme court overruled the whole damn election. Again, dubya.

One need not infiltrate the companies that make the machines, nor attack a million individual machines. One need only convince 20-30 probate judges – usually older folks who have the computer security knowledge of my dog – to open a malicious link in an email. That’s all it’d take. Then the recall process will fail (because what works to handle 2 million votes in a state recall simply doesn’t scale to a national recall or recount) and then the supreme court gets to vote again.

Which would be, if nothing else, very interesting given the currently vacant 9th seat…

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Not all paper ballots are punch-type ballots. The ones used in MD in the 2000 election involved the "feathers" of an arrow on the left, and the "head" on the right, and the way you marked the ballot was to draw a thick line (with a provided black marker) from the left to the right on the choice you wanted to vote for.

When the "hanging chads" recount problem in Florida started to hit the news after that year’s election, I looked at the MD ballot and thought "they should have used this instead, it would have avoided the problem entirely".

Then of course MD switched over to electronic voting machines (with some kind of paper print-out, I think, although exactly how it’s handled I don’t know anymore), and abandoned that seemingly-superior paper-ballot design anyway…

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