The American Bear


Panetta exposed a classified identity to a movie maker, as well as SIGINT pertaining to the Osama bin Laden raid (perhaps reports on the intercepts the government used to identify the courier?). But rather than being treated like John Kiriakou, for example, Panetta got moved into a position to prevent any release of this information.

Leon Panetta: Sheep Dipping Secrets | emptywheel

In reference to this report, “Probe Finds CIA Honcho Disclosed Top Secret Info to Hollywood" from POGO.

AFP: US needs to keep up drone war against Qaeda: Panetta

The United States will have to keep up an open-ended drone war against Al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan and elsewhere to prevent another terror attack on America, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Leon Panetta said.

The assassination of Al-Qaeda figures in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia with unmanned, robotic aircraft has provoked widespread criticism from human rights groups and some US allies, but Cheney Rumsfeld Panetta said the US campaign has been effective.

Asked if the CIA “targeted killings” should be curtailed in coming years, Cheney Rumsfeld Panetta told AFP in an interview on Friday that there was still a need to continue the drone strikes more than a decade since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

“I think it depends on the nature of the threat that we’re confronting. We are in a war. We’re in a war on terrorism and we’ve been in that war since 9/11.

“The whole purpose of our operations were aimed at those who attacked this country and killed 3,000 innocent people in New York as well as 200 people here at the Pentagon,” said Cheney Rumsfeld Panetta, who is days away from retiring as Pentagon chief.

Before taking over as defense secretary, Panetta oversaw a dramatic increase in drone raids in Pakistan as head of the CIA from 2009-2011.

The CIA drone bombing raids, by Predator and Reaper aircraft armed with Hellfire missiles, have caused an unknown number of civilian casualties and prompted accusations that Washington is carrying out extrajudicial killings in the shadows with no genuine oversight by courts or lawmakers. […]

Panetta, who as CIA director presided over the successful raid that killed Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, said the campaign still needed to be regularly reviewed but did not say he favored turning over the spy agency’s drone war to the military.

Some critics have called for giving the US military authority over the drone air strikes, which would require openly reporting every operation.

“Having said that, we always need to continue to look at it, to make sure we develop the right standards, that we’re abiding by the laws of this country, that we’re doing it in a way that hopefully can be a little more transparent with the American people.”

But Cheney Rumsfeld he said “to protect this country” it was not enough to have operations carried out openly by the military.

Secret action led by the CIA was also needed “when you got those kind of operations where, because of the nature of the country you’re in or the nature of the situation you’re dealing with, it’s got to be covert.”

Will the Apocalypse Arrive Online? How Fear of Cyber Attack Could Take Down Your Liberties and the Constitution | Karen Greenberg

"Last week, Panetta addressed the Business Executives for National Security, an organization devoted to creating a robust public-private partnership in matters of national security. Standing inside the Intrepid, New York’s retired aircraft-carrier-cum-military-museum, he offered a hair-raising warning about an imminent and devastating cyber strike at the sinews of American life and wellbeing. … Yes, he did use that old alarm bell of a ‘cyber Pearl Harbor,’ but for anyone interested in American civil liberties and rights, his truly chilling image was far more immediate. ‘A cyber attack perpetrated by nation states or violent extremist groups,’ he predicted, ‘could be as destructive as the terrorist attack of 9/11.’"

[…] For the moment … let’s pretend that we haven’t been through a decade in which national security needs were used and sometimes overblown to trump constitutional protections. Instead, let’s take the recent cyber claims at face value and assume that Richard Clarke, who prior to 9/11 warned continuously of an impending attack by al-Qaeda, is correct again.

And while we’re not dismissing these apocalyptic warnings, let’s give a little before-the-fact thought not just to the protection of the nation’s resources, information systems, and infrastructure, but to what’s likely to happen to rights, liberties, and the rule of law once we’re swept away by cyber fears. If you imagined that good old fashioned rights and liberties were made obsolete by the Bush administration’s Global War on Terror, any thought experiment you perform on what a response to cyber war might entail is far worse.

Remember former White House Council Alberto Gonzales telling us that, when it came to the interrogation of suspected terrorists, the protections of the U.S. Constitution were “quaint and obsolete”? Remember the argument, articulated by many, that torture, Guantanamo, and warrantless wiretapping were all necessary to prevent another 9/11, whatever they did to our liberties and laws?

Now, fast forward to the new cyber era, which, we are already being told, is at least akin to the threat of 9/11 (and possibly far worse). And keep in mind that, if the fears rise high enough, many of the sorts of moves against rights and constitutional restraints that came into play only after 9/11 might not need an actual cyber disaster. Just the fear of one might do the trick.

Not surprisingly, the language of cyber defense, as articulated by Panetta and others, borrows from the recent lexicon of counterterrorism. In Panetta’s words, “Just as [the Pentagon] developed the world’s finest counterterrorism force over the past decade, we need to build and maintain the finest cyber operators.”

Read on

The Pentagon’s New Plan to Confront Latin America’s Pink Tide | Nick Alexandrov

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was in Uruguay recently, where he spoke of the need to strengthen the southern hemisphere’s police forces. This proposed policy has a precedent, almost unknown in this country, but potentially indicative of what awaits Latin American governments willing to cooperate with their northern neighbor’s defense establishment. In the 1960s, Washington initiated a decade-long training program for Uruguay’s police, helping transform them from a weak, underfunded force into an efficient instrument of repression. The metamorphosis coincided with Uruguay’s descent from democracy to dictatorship, as “the Switzerland of Latin America” became, by the time the U.S. had finished its work, the world’s leader in political prisoners per capita.

Panetta delivered his remarks at Punta del Este, where the Alliance for Progress was launched in 1961. Aimed at raising income levels and promoting land reform in Latin America, President Kennedy’s program reflected his agenda accurately—to about the same extent Obama’s handshake with Chávez heralded a “friendly turn” in U.S.-Latin American relations. Down here on Earth, Obama ensured the current Honduran regime stole the last election successfully. In the fraud’s aftermath, death squads roam the country, murdering human rights lawyers and activists. The Kennedy administration, for its part, oversaw the write-up of a development plan for Uruguay within the Alliance framework, which was effectively discarded upon completion. None of its recommendations were ever carried out, since other matters took priority. In 1962, Kennedy created the Office of Public Safety (OPS), supervised loosely by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and responsible for Uruguay’s Public Safety Program (PSP) from 1964-1974.

The PSP was a training program for Uruguay’s police, who received instruction both in the U.S. and their home country, part of the general effort to combat rising urban terrorism and crime. Or at least that was the authorized rationale. U.S. government documents, meanwhile, tell a different story. Half a year after the program began, for example, USAID officials in Montevideo explained that “Uruguay has enjoyed a relatively peaceful state of security for many years,” and that “[n]o active threat of insurgency exists.” In the 2012 version of this story, Panetta offers drug traffickers and insurgents as the twin dangers necessitating revamped police squads. But if the past is any guide, these claims should be met with extreme skepticism. [continue]

Breaking: Panetta Equating Crude Iranian Cyberattacks with Pearl Harbor, Iran Infiltrated Aramco | emptywheel

On the latest “very serious” cyber-threat/excuse for aggression from Iran (looking for the Lusitania):

[On Sunday], the NYT–serving its role as spokesperson for the Cold War against Iran–confirms what blabby Joe Lieberman told CSPAN last month: the government suspects Iran was behind a series of crude cyberattacks on US banks.

Or to put it differently, Leon Panetta wants us to be more afraid of crude DNS attacks on US online banking sites than he wants us to be of the orders of magnitude greater damage the banks cause all by themselves. Because … Iran!

More interesting is the widely reported speculation we think Iran was behind the more serious attack on Aramco.

The attack under closest scrutiny hit Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company, in August. Saudi Arabia is Iran’s main rival in the region and is among the Arab states that have argued privately for the toughest actions against Iran. Aramco, the Saudi state oil company, has been bolstering supplies to customers who can no longer obtain oil from Iran because of Western sanctions.

The virus that hit Aramco is called Shamoon and spread through computers linked over a network to erase files on about 30,000 computers by overwriting them. Mr. Panetta, while not directly attributing the strike to Iran in his speech, called it “probably the most destructive attack that the private sector has seen to date.”

Until the attack on Aramco, most of the cybersabotage coming out of Iran appeared to be what the industry calls “denial of service” attacks, relatively crude efforts to send a nearly endless stream of computer-generated requests aimed at overwhelming networks. But as one consultant to the United States government on the attacks put it several days ago: “What the Iranians want to do now is make it clear they can disrupt our economy, just as we are disrupting theirs. And they are quite serious about it.”

That’s interesting not because the attack did real damage–it didn’t, because it hit the business, not the production, computers.

Saudi Aramco has said that only office PCs running Microsoft Windows were damaged. Its oil exploration, production, export, sales and database systems all remained intact as they ran on isolated and heavily protected systems.

“All our core operations continued smoothly,” CEO Khalid Al-Falih told Saudi government and business officials at a security workshop on Wednesday.

“Not a single drop of oil was lost. No critical service or business transaction was directly impacted by the virus.”

It’s interesting because the malware was introduced into the Aramco network by an insider.

One or more insiders with high-level access are suspected of assisting the hackers who damaged some 30,000 computers at Saudi Arabia’s national oil company last month, sources familiar with the company’s investigation say.


The hackers’ apparent access to a mole, willing to take personal risk to help, is an extraordinary development in a country where open dissent is banned.

“It was someone who had inside knowledge and inside privileges within the company,” said a source familiar with the ongoing forensic examination.

Once you translate the NYT’s spin, here’s what we’re left with:

+ We’re supposed to treat cyberattacks by Iran as an existential threat, even though they expose Iran’s relative impotence in the cyber sphere.

+ We’re supposed to get panicked about computers here at home because Iran succeeded in human espionage with Aramco.

And while Panetta cries wolf over and over, the banksters and the oil companies continue to do real damage he ignores.

Panetta Misses Underlying Problem with Cyberwhines | emptywheel

We can play a game we often play here at emptywheel with Leon Panetta’s address on cybersecurity last night. For each major attack he discusses or potential threat he envisions, there is an equivalent one that has or could easily happen without the cyber component.

Panetta talks about the Shamoon malware that hit Aramco infecting 30,000 computers.

But even more alarming is an attack that happened two months ago when a very sophisticated virus called Shamoon infected computers in the Saudi Arabian State Oil Company Aramco. Shamoon included a routine called a ‘wiper’, coded to self-execute. This routine replaced crucial systems files with an image of a burning U.S. flag. But it also put additional garbage data that overwrote all the real data on the machine. More than 30,000 computers that it infected were rendered useless and had to be replaced. It virtually destroyed 30,000 computers.

But how did that do more damage than the Richmond Refinery fire and subsequent spike in gas prices, likely caused by a corroded pipe neglected in a recent turnaround? How did that do more damage than the damage BP, Transocean, and Halliburton did when their negligence led to the Deepwater Horizon spill, which still appears to be leaking 31 months later?

Panetta talks about DDS attacks on banks that disrupted customer websites.

In recent weeks, as many of you know, some large U.S. financial institutions were hit by so-called Distributed Denial of Service attacks. These attacks delayed or disrupted services on customer websites. While this kind of tactic isn’t new, the scale and speed with which it happened was unprecedented.

How is this worse than the damage done by repeated flash crashes and other irregularities caused by high frequency trading? To say nothing of the damage done by reckless gambling during the housing crisis, which wiped out trillions of dollars in wealth?

Panetta talks about passenger or transport trains derailing.

They could, for example, derail passenger trains or even more dangerous, derail trains loaded with lethal chemicals.

Apparently Panetta is unaware that trains derail all the time, and even spill dangerous chemicals, often because of operational or maintenance issues.

To some degree we could continue this game indefinitely, always finding an equivalent threat to the imagined or real threat posed by a cyberattack.

But there is a logic to the game: it reveals not only that Panetta is fearmongering while ignoring the reality of equally or more dangerous non-cyber threats.

It suggests that he–and frankly, the rest of government trying to address this problem–misunderstands why corporations are not responding to the serial fearmongering about cyber. If corporations refuse to take obvious precautions against cyberthreats, but also refuse to take obvious precautions against non-cyberthreats, it suggests the problem is not the cyber component in the least.

The problem is that these corporations don’t want to–and in many cases refuse to–take obvious precautions against risk in general. [++]

Pentagon Chief Reveals 'Classified' Cyber Threats ... That You Read in August | Noah Shachtman

"As Foreign Policy recently noted, it’s not easy for Pentagon officials to talk about network defense, much of which the military deems classified. But what often undercuts these officials’ message is that it’s the U.S. — and not some outside adversary — that launched the most damaging cyber attack publicly acknowledged to date. Stuxnet, which helped destroy a thousand Iranian centrifuges, was the work of American and Israeli forces. It’s the fear that a similar sort of strike could be turned on us that keeps many within the Pentagon and intelligence community tossing in their beds. Panetta can keep calling our current state of network security ‘pre-9/11.’ But if you follow the analogy, we’re the ones who are flying planes into buildings.”

It was billed as the first major address by an American Secretary of Defense on cybersecurity — complete with newly declassified information about the nature of the network threat.

In the end, it was another helping of heated rhetoric on cybersecurity from a Pentagon that regularly produces panicky pronouncements. And the classified information? Stuff you could’ve read on our sister blog Threat Level or other cybersecurity sites back in August.

Appearing in New York City before the tuxedo-clad Business Executives for National Security [read: war profiteers, ed.], Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued a familiar warning, that “a cyber attack perpetrated by nation states or violent extremist groups could be as destructive as the terrorist attack of 9/11. Such a destructive cyber terrorist attack could paralyze the nation.”

It’s an alarm he’s sounded before. But in the following sentences of Thursday’s address aboard the retired aircraft carrier U.S.S. Intrepid , Panetta presented what he called new examples “of the kinds of attacks what we have already experienced” — harbingers, if not perfect examples, of a coming catastrophe.

“In recent weeks, as many of you know, some large U.S. financial institutions were hit by so-called ‘Distributed Denial of Service’ attacks. These attacks delayed or disrupted services on customer websites,” Panetta said. “While this kind of tactic isn’t new, the scale and speed was unprecedented.”

He’s right: DDoS attacks aren’t new at all (even if this particular attack did cause some financial institutions’ online banking operations to flutter). But Panetta is off about these strikes’ unprecedented nature.

“These are big, but we’ve seen this big before,” said Neal Quinn, chief operating officer of Prolexic, a firm that specializes in mitigating DDoS attacks. “We’ve seen events this big in the past.”

Panetta then proceeded to describe what was, in his words, “probably the most destructive attack that the private sector has seen to date.” This was a disclosure that senior defense officials billed as a major public unveiling of previously unclassified information.

Panetta described the Shamoon malware, which infected tens of thousands of computers at the Saudi Arabian state oil company Aramco and at Qatar’s RasGas company. “This routine replaced crucial system files with an image of a burning U.S. flag. It also put additional ‘garbage’ data that overwrote all the real data on the machine,” he said.

30,000 machines eventually had to be disinfected before they could be brought back online, making this an extremely serious attack. And the websites for the two energy companies went down for days. But it’s unclear exactly how destructive the infection really was. Aramco and RasGas both said their “core businesses[es] of oil and gas exploration, production and distribution” were unaffected by the malware. If that’s the case, then Shamoon may not have been quite such an apocalyptic moment Panetta described.

None of this is news, if you’ve been paying attention to the steady stream of public pronouncements from security researchers and from the companies themselves — not to mention the coverage of the attacks by reporters on the cybersecurity beat. But senior defense officials said Panetta’s words on Shamoon were, in fact, secret information — until the Pentagon chief took the step of declassifying them.

“To my knowledge, there’s been no one who’s officially acknowledged these attacks. And we have deemed them to this point classified and our knowledge of them to be classified,” a senior defense official, who spoke under condition of anonymity, told reporters before the speech.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is suggesting that a retired Navy SEAL be punished for writing a book giving an insider’s account of the U.S. raid that killed terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. Asked in a network interview if he thinks the writer should be prosecuted, Panetta replied, ‘I think we have to take steps to make clear to him and to the American people that we’re not going to accept this kind of behavior.’

Bin Laden Book: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Hints At Punishment For Ex-Navy SEAL Author

No one can say you haven’t made it clear in the past.

(via theamericanbear)

(via theamericanbear)

Polls consistently show that the U.S. military is now, by far, the most respected American institution. The causal relationship where the media is concerned is ultimately an unanswerable chicken-egg question: is the military so venerated because the U.S. media treats it with religious reverence, or does the media treat it that way because of how venerated it is? Ultimately, that’s a self-perpetuating, re-inforcing dynamic. Whatever else is true, having the military held in such higher esteem than all other American institutions is an obviously dangerous state of affairs for a democracy. Here we have our brave, stalwart, oh-so-adversarial-and-independent media — as usual — doing nothing but bolstering orthodoxies, churning out people-pleasing pap, and running in fear. They fantasize that they are the intrepid challengers to power and market themselves that way, yet nobody is more subservient to institutional power than they are. Glenn Greenwald, Leon Panetta: Macho Renaissance man

Pentagon Chief Admits U.S. Is at War in Pakistan | Spencer Ackerman

Someone finally spills the beans on the not-secret secret.

“We are fighting a war in the FATA, we are fighting a war against terrorism,” said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday, referring to the tribal areas of Pakistan that the U.S. has spent three years bombing heavily. Was that so hard to admit?

For years, it has been. Neither the Bush nor Obama administration has been forthright about the starkest fact of the recent war on terrorism: most of it takes place in western Pakistan. As CIA director and now Pentagon chief, Panetta has been one of the key architects of the accelerated drone-and-commando war the U.S. wages there in what amounts to an open secret. In 2009, the critical year in that acceleration, Danger Room boss Noah Shachtman started pressing the Obama administration for disclosure about a war the U.S. waged in all but name.

It may be late, but at least now it’s happened. The day after the U.S. claimed that its latest drone strike in tribal Pakistan killed al-Qaida’s second in command, Abu Yahya al-Libi, Panetta used the W-word to angrily dismiss the Pakistani government’s complaints about the U.S. infringing on its sovereignty. “We have made very clear that we are going to continue to defend ourselves,” Panetta said in New Dehli. …

"… from an enemy that can only be perpetuated by continually bombing all of the military-age males, or ‘militants’ (with air quotes) and their families in the region," he added, I imagine. "We want to radicalize as many people as possible to ensure that we’ll have to defend ourselves well into the future." [++]

Panetta to encourage India for larger role in war | The Seattle Times

The hits keep on coming:

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has arrived in India where he will encourage leaders to take a more active role in Afghanistan.

India has played a somewhat limited role in the war, largely doing economic development and reconstruction.

U.S. defense officials said Panetta will talk with Indian officials about possibly helping to train the Afghan army and police.

The discussions are likely to roil America’s already tense relations with Pakistan, which has long had a rocky, distrusting relationship with India.

At this point, the only thing that could make US-Pakistan relations any worse would be an actual “boots on the ground” occupation. A cynical person might come to the conclusion that we are trying to create a conflict.

By the way, if you don’t understand Indo-Pakistani tension (and why this is such a slap in the face to Pakistan), check your history. See also Kashmir.

Panetta Vows ‘Enduring Presence’ in Afghanistan |

♪ ♫ “It’s beginning to look a lot like 1984, endless, endless war…” ♪ ♫ (to the tune of It’s Beginning to look a lot like Christmas h/t Jello Biafra):

Speaking today on ABC’s “This Week,” Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta downplayed the 2014 “end” of the Afghan War that every other official seems to by hyping, saying that US ground troops would have an “enduring presence” in the country long after that date.

“We’re not going anyplace. We’re gonna, we have an enduring presence that will be in Afghanistan,” Panetta insisted. President Obama signed a deal at the start of the month to keep US ground troops in Afghanistan through 2024.

Panetta’s comments reflect a bizarre attempt by the administration to have their cake and eat it too on the Afghan War. Officials hype a deal to “end” the war in 2014, even though it did nothing of the sort, when targeting an audience opposed to the war.

Yet with Gov. Mitt Romney slamming the administration for setting a date, Panetta feels perfectly comfortable in trying to outhawk him by insisting that the war isn’t, in fact, going to end. So far this sort of “targeted” message, despite the obvious contradictions in the comments, seems to be getting more common, not less, and interviewers don’t seem interested in getting a straight answer about the matter. [++]