from the putting-out-fires-by-burning-the-house-down dept
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:
"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:
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.