The Blast Shack
by Bruce Sterling / 22 December 2010

{{ Webstock asked Bruce Sterling, who spoke at Webstock ’09, for his take on Wikileaks. }}

The Wikileaks Cablegate scandal is the most exciting and interesting hacker scandal ever. I rather commonly write about such things, and I’m surrounded by online acquaintances who take a burning interest in every little jot and tittle of this ongoing saga. So it’s going to take me a while to explain why this highly newsworthy event fills me with such a chilly, deadening sense of Edgar Allen Poe melancholia. But it sure does. Part of this dull, icy feeling, I think, must be the agonizing slowness with which this has happened. At last — at long last — the homemade nitroglycerin in the old cypherpunks blast shack has gone off.

Those “cypherpunks,” of all people. Way back in 1992, a brainy American hacker called Timothy C. May made up a sci-fi tinged idea that he called “The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto.” This exciting screed — I read it at the time, and boy was it ever cool — was all about anonymity, and encryption, and the Internet, and all about how wacky data-obsessed subversives could get up to all kinds of globalized mischief without any fear of repercussion from the blinkered authorities. If you were of a certain technoculture bent in the early 1990s, you had to love a thing like that. As Tim blithely remarked to his fellow encryption enthusiasts, “The State will of course try to slow or halt the spread of this technology, citing national security concerns, use of the technology by drug dealers and tax evaders, and fears of societal disintegration. Many of these concerns will be valid; crypto anarchy will allow national secrets to be traded freely,” and then Tim started getting really interesting.

Later, May described an institution called “BlackNet” which might conceivably carry out these aims. Nothing much ever happened with Tim May’s imaginary BlackNet. It was the kind of out-there concept that science fiction writers like to put in novels. Because BlackNet was clever, and fun to think about, and it made impossible things seem plausible, and it was fantastic and also quite titillating. So it was the kind of farfetched but provocative issue that ought to be properly raised within a sci-fi public discourse.

Because, you know, that would allow plenty of time to contemplate the approaching trainwreck and perhaps do something practical about it. Nobody did much of anything practical. For nigh on twenty long years, nothing happened with the BlackNet notion, for good or ill. Why? Because thinking hard and eagerly about encryption involves a certain mental composition which is alien to normal public life. Crypto guys — (and the cypherpunks were all crypto guys, mostly well-educated, mathematically gifted middle-aged guys in Silicon Valley careers) — are geeks. They’re harmless geeks, they’re not radical politicians or dashing international crime figures. Cypherpunks were visionary Californians from the WIRED magazine circle. In their personal lives, they were as meek and low-key as any average code-cracking spook who works for the National Security Agency. These American spooks from Fort Meade are shy and retiring people, by their nature. In theory, the NSA could create every kind of flaming scandalous mayhem with their giant Echelon spy system — but in practice, they would much would rather sit there gently reading other people’s email.

NSA, via Google Earth, 10 March 2008

One minute’s thought would reveal that a vast, opaque electronic spy outfit like the National Security Agency is exceedingly dangerous to democracy. Really, it is. The NSA clearly violates all kinds of elementary principles of constitutional design. The NSA is the very antithesis of transparency, and accountability, and free elections, and free expression, and separation of powers — in other words, the NSA is a kind of giant, grown-up, anti-Wikileaks. And it always has been. And we’re used to that. We pay no mind. The NSA, this crypto empire, is a long-lasting fact on the ground that we’ve all informally agreed not to get too concerned about. Even foreign victims of the NSA’s machinations can’t seem to get properly worked-up about its capacities and intrigues. The NSA has been around since 1947. It’s a little younger than the A-Bomb, and we don’t fuss much about that now, either. The geeks who man the NSA don’t look much like Julian Assange, because they have college degrees, shorter haircuts, better health insurance and far fewer stamps in their passports. But the sources of their power are pretty much identical to his. They use computers and they get their mitts on info that doesn’t much wanna be free. Every rare once in a while, the secretive and discreet NSA surfaces in public life and does something reprehensible, such as defeating American federal computer-security initiatives so that they can continue to eavesdrop at will. But the NSA never becomes any big flaming Wikileaks scandal. Why? Because, unlike their wannabe colleagues at Wikileaks, the apparatchiks of the NSA are not in the scandal business. They just placidly sit at the console, reading everybody’s diplomatic cables. This is their function. The NSA is an eavesdropping outfit.

Cracking the communications of other governments is its reason for being. The NSA are not unique entities in the shadows of our planet’s political landscape. Every organized government gives that a try. It’s a geopolitical fact, although it’s not too discreet to dwell on it. You can walk to most any major embassy in any major city in the world, and you can see that it is festooned with wiry heaps of electronic spying equipment. Don’t take any pictures of the roofs of embassies, as they grace our public skylines. Guards will emerge to repress you.

Now, Tim May and his imaginary BlackNet were the sci-fi extrapolation version of the NSA. A sort of inside-out, hippiefied NSA. Crypto people were always keenly aware of the NSA, for the NSA were the people who harassed them for munitions violations and struggled to suppress their academic publications. Creating a BlackNet is like having a pet, desktop NSA. Except, that instead of being a vast, federally-supported nest of supercomputers under a hill in Maryland, it’s a creaky, homemade, zero-budget social-network site for disaffected geeks.

But who cared about that wild notion? Why would that amateurish effort ever matter to real-life people? It’s like comparing a mighty IBM mainframe to some cranky Apple computer made inside a California garage. Yes, it’s almost that hard to imagine. So Wikileaks is a manifestation of something that this has been growing all around us, for decades, with volcanic inexorability. The NSA is the world’s most public unknown secret agency. And for four years now, its twisted sister Wikileaks has been the world’s most blatant, most publicly praised, encrypted underground site. Wikileaks is “underground” in the way that the NSA is “covert”; not because it’s inherently obscure, but because it’s discreetly not spoken about. The NSA is “discreet,” so, somehow, people tolerate it. Wikileaks is “transparent,” like a cardboard blast shack full of kitchen-sink nitroglycerine in a vacant lot.

That is how we come to the dismal saga of Wikileaks and its ongoing Cablegate affair, which is a melancholy business, all in all. The scale of it is so big that every weirdo involved immediately becomes a larger-than-life figure. But they’re not innately heroic. They’re just living, mortal human beings, the kind of geeky, quirky, cyberculture loons that I run into every day. And man, are they ever going to pay. Now we must contemplate Bradley Manning, because he was the first to immolate himself. Private Manning was a young American, a hacker-in-uniform, bored silly while doing scarcely necessary scutwork on a military computer system in Iraq. Private Manning had dozens of reasons for becoming what computer-security professionals call the “internal threat.” His war made no sense on its face, because it was carried out in a headlong pursuit of imaginary engines of mass destruction.

The military occupation of Iraq was endless. Manning, a tender-hearted geek, was overlooked and put-upon by his superiors. Although he worked around the clock, he had nothing of any particular military consequence to do. It did not occur to his superiors that a bored soldier in a poorly secured computer system would download hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables. Because, well, why? They’re very boring. Soldiers never read them. The malefactor has no use for them. They’re not particularly secret. They’ve got nothing much to do with his war. He knows his way around the machinery, but Bradley Manning is not any kind of blackhat programming genius. Instead, he’s very like Jerome Kerveil, that obscure French stock trader who stole 5 billion euros without making one dime for himself.

Jerome Kerveil, just like Bradley Manning, was a bored, resentful, lower-echelon guy in a dead end, who discovered some awesome capacities in his system that his bosses never knew it had. It makes so little sense to behave like Kerveil and Manning that their threat can’t be imagined. A weird hack like that is self-defeating, and it’s sure to bring terrible repercussions to the transgressor. But then the sad and sordid days grind on and on; and that blindly potent machinery is just sitting there. Sitting there, tempting the user. Bradley Manning believes the sci-fi legendry of the underground. He thinks that he can leak a quarter of a million secret cables, protect himself with neat-o cryptography, and, magically, never be found out.

So Manning does this, and at first he gets away with it, but, still possessed by the malaise that haunts his soul, he has to brag about his misdeed, and confess himself to a hacker confidante who immediately ships him to the authorities. No hacker story is more common than this. The ingenuity poured into the machinery is meaningless. The personal connections are treacherous. Welcome to the real world. So Private Manning, cypherpunk, is immediately toast. No army can permit this kind of behavior and remain a functional army; so Manning is in solitary confinement and he is going to be court-martialled. With more political awareness, he might have made himself a public martyr to his conscience; but he lacks political awareness. He only has only his black-hat hacker awareness, which is all about committing awesome voyeuristic acts of computer intrusion and imagining you can get away with that when it really matters to people. The guy preferred his hacker identity to his sworn fidelity to the uniform of a superpower.

The shear-forces there are beyond his comprehension. The reason this upsets me is that I know so many people just like Bradley Manning. Because I used to meet and write about hackers, “crackers,” “darkside hackers,” “computer underground” types. They are a subculture, but once you get used to their many eccentricities, there is nothing particularly remote or mysterious or romantic about them. They are banal. Bradley Manning is a young, mildly brainy, unworldly American guy who probably would have been pretty much okay if he’d been left alone to skateboard, read comic books and listen to techno music. Instead, Bradley had to leak all over the third rail. Through historical circumstance, he’s become a miserable symbolic point-man for a global war on terror. He doesn’t much deserve that role. He’s got about as much to do with the political aspects of his war as Monica Lewinsky did with the lasting sexual mania that afflicts the American Republic. That is so dispiriting and ugly. As a novelist, I never think of Monica Lewinsky, that once-everyday young woman, without a sense of dread at the freakish, occult fate that overtook her. Imagine what it must be like, to wake up being her, to face the inevitability of being That Woman. Monica, too, transgressed in apparent safety and then she had the utter foolishness to brag to a lethal enemy, a trusted confidante who ran a tape machine and who brought her a mediated circus of hells. The titillation of that massive, shattering scandal has faded now. But think of the quotidian daily horror of being Monica Lewinsky, and that should take a bite from the soul. Bradley Manning now shares that exciting, oh my God, Monica Lewinsky, tortured media-freak condition. This mild little nobody has become super-famous, and in his lonely military brig, screenless and without a computer, he’s strictly confined and, no doubt, he’s horribly bored.

I don’t want to condone or condemn the acts of Bradley Manning. Because legions of people are gonna do that for me, until we’re all good and sick of it, and then some. I don’t have the heart to make this transgressor into some hockey-puck for an ideological struggle. I sit here and I gloomily contemplate his all-too-modern situation with a sense of Sartrean nausea. Commonly, the authorities don’t much like to crush apple-cheeked white-guy hackers like Bradley Manning. It’s hard to charge hackers with crimes, even when they gleefully commit them, because it’s hard to find prosecutors and judges willing to bone up on the drudgery of understanding what they did. But they’ve pretty much got to make a puree’ out of this guy, because of massive pressure from the gravely embarrassed authorities. Even though Bradley lacks the look and feel of any conventional criminal; wrong race, wrong zipcode, wrong set of motives. Bradley’s gonna become a “spy” whose “espionage” consisted of making the activities of a democratic government visible to its voting population. With the New York Times publishing the fruits of his misdeeds. Some set of American prosecutorial lawyers is confronting this crooked legal hairpin right now. I feel sorry for them.

Then there is Julian Assange, who is a pure-dye underground computer hacker. Julian doesn’t break into systems at the moment, but he’s not an “ex-hacker,” he’s the silver-plated real deal, the true avant-garde. Julian is a child of the underground hacker milieu, the digital-native as twenty-first century cypherpunk. As far as I can figure, Julian has never found any other line of work that bore any interest for him. Through dint of years of cunning effort, Assange has worked himself into a position where his “computer crimes” are mainly political. They’re probably not even crimes. They are “leaks.” Leaks are nothing special. They are tidbits from the powerful that every journalist gets on occasion, like crumbs of fishfood on the top of the media tank. Only, this time, thanks to Manning, Assange has brought in a massive truckload of media fishfood. It’s not just some titillating, scandalous, floating crumbs. There’s a quarter of a million of them. He’s become the one-man global McDonald’s of leaks. Ever the detail-freak, Assange in fact hasn’t shipped all the cables he received from Manning. Instead, he cunningly encrypted the cables and distributed them worldwide to thousands of fellow-travellers. This stunt sounds technically impressive, although it isn’t. It’s pretty easy to do, and nobody but a cypherpunk would think that it made any big difference to anybody. It’s part and parcel of Assange’s other characteristic activities, such as his inability to pack books inside a box while leaving any empty space. While others stare in awe at Assange’s many otherworldly aspects — his hairstyle, his neatness, too-precise speech, his post-national life out of a laptop bag — I can recognize him as pure triple-A outsider geek. Man, I know a thousand modern weirdos like that, and every single one of them seems to be on my Twitter stream screaming support for Assange because they can recognize him as a brother and a class ally. They are in holy awe of him because, for the first time, their mostly-imaginary and lastingly resentful underclass has landed a serious blow in a public arena. Julian Assange has hacked a superpower.

He didn’t just insult the captain of the global football team; he put spycams in the locker room. He has showed the striped-pants set without their pants. This a massively embarrassing act of technical voyeurism. It’s like Monica and her stains and kneepads, only even more so. Now, I wish I could say that I feel some human pity for Julian Assange, in the way I do for the hapless, one-shot Bradley Manning, but I can’t possibly say that. Pity is not the right response, because Assange has carefully built this role for himself. He did it with all the minute concentration of some geek assembling a Rubik’s Cube. In that regard, one’s hat should be off to him. He’s had forty years to learn what he was doing. He’s not some miserabilist semi-captive like the uniformed Bradley Manning. He’s a darkside player out to stick it to the Man. The guy has surrounded himself with the cream of the computer underground, wily old rascals like Rop Gonggrijp and the fearsome Teutonic minions of the Chaos Computer Club. Assange has had many long, and no doubt insanely detailed, policy discussions with all his closest allies, about every aspect of his means, motives and opportunities. And he did what he did with fierce resolve. Furthermore, and not as any accident, Assange has managed to alienate everyone who knew him best. All his friends think he’s nuts. I’m not too thrilled to see that happen. That’s not a great sign in a consciousness-raising, power-to-the-people, radical political-leader type. Most successful dissidents have serious people skills and are way into revolutionary camaraderie and a charismatic sense of righteousness. They’re into kissing babies, waving bloody shirts, and keeping hope alive. Not this chilly, eldritch guy. He’s a bright, good-looking man who — let’s face it — can’t get next to women without provoking clumsy havoc and a bitter and lasting resentment. That’s half the human race that’s beyond his comprehension there, and I rather surmise that, from his stern point of view, it was sure to be all their fault. Assange was in prison for a while lately, and his best friend in the prison was his Mom. That seems rather typical of him. Obviously Julian knew he was going to prison; a child would know it. He’s been putting on his Solzhenitsyn clothes and combing his forelock for that role for ages now. I’m a little surprised that he didn’t have a more organized prison-support committee, because he’s a convicted computer criminal who’s been through this wringer before. Maybe he figures he’ll reap more glory if he’s martyred all alone.

I rather doubt the authorities are any happier to have him in prison. They pretty much gotta feed him into their legal wringer somehow, but a botched Assange show-trial could do colossal damage. There’s every likelihood that the guy could get off. He could walk into an American court and come out smelling of roses. It’s the kind of show-trial judo every repressive government fears. It’s not just about him and the burning urge to punish him; it’s about the public risks to the reputation of the USA. They superpower hypocrisy here is gonna be hard to bear. The USA loves to read other people’s diplomatic cables. They dote on doing it. If Assange had happened to out the cable-library of some outlaw pariah state, say, Paraguay or North Korea, the US State Department would be heaping lilies at his feet. They’d be a little upset about his violation of the strict proprieties, but they’d also take keen satisfaction in the hilarious comeuppance of minor powers that shouldn’t be messing with computers, unlike the grandiose, high-tech USA. Unfortunately for the US State Department, they clearly shouldn’t have been messing with computers, either. In setting up their SIPRnet, they were trying to grab the advantages of rapid, silo-free, networked communication while preserving the hierarchical proprieties of official confidentiality. That’s the real issue, that’s the big modern problem; national governments and global computer networks don’t mix any more. It’s like trying to eat a very private birthday cake while also distributing it. That scheme is just not working. And that failure has a face now, and that’s Julian Assange. Assange didn’t liberate the dreadful secrets of North Korea, not because the North Koreans lack computers, but because that isn’t a cheap and easy thing that half-a-dozen zealots can do. But the principle of it, the logic of doing it, is the same. Everybody wants everybody else’s national government to leak. Every state wants to see the diplomatic cables of every other state. It will bend heaven and earth to get them. It’s just, that sacred activity is not supposed to be privatized, or, worse yet, made into the no-profit, shareable, have-at-it fodder for a network society, as if global diplomacy were so many mp3s. Now the US State Department has walked down the thorny road to hell that was first paved by the music industry. Rock and roll, baby. Now, in strict point of fact, Assange didn’t blandly pirate the massive hoard of cables from the US State Department. Instead, he was busily “redacting” and minutely obeying the proprieties of his political cover in the major surviving paper dailies. Kind of a nifty feat of social-engineering there; but he’s like a poacher who machine-gunned a herd of wise old elephants and then went to the temple to assume the robes of a kosher butcher. That is a world-class hoax. Assange is no more a “journalist” than he is a crypto mathematician. He’s a darkside hacker who is a self-appointed, self-anointed, self-educated global dissident. He’s a one-man Polish Solidarity, waiting for the population to accrete around his stirring propaganda of the deed. And they are accreting; not all of ‘em, but, well, it doesn’t take all of them.

Julian Assange doesn’t want to be in power; he has no people skills at all, and nobody’s ever gonna make him President Vaclav Havel. He’s certainly not in for the money, because he wouldn’t know what to do with the cash; he lives out of a backpack, and his daily routine is probably sixteen hours online. He’s not gonna get better Google searches by spending more on his banned MasterCard. I don’t even think Assange is all that big on ego; I know authors and architects, so I’ve seen much worse than Julian in that regard. He’s just what he is; he’s something we don’t yet have words for. He’s a different, modern type of serious troublemaker. He’s certainly not a “terrorist,” because nobody is scared and no one got injured. He’s not a “spy,” because nobody spies by revealing the doings of a government to its own civil population. He is orthogonal. He’s asymmetrical. He panics people in power and he makes them look stupid. And I feel sorry for them. But sorrier for the rest of us. Julian Assange’s extremely weird version of dissident “living in truth” doesn’t bear much relationship to the way that public life has ever been arranged. It does, however, align very closely to what we’ve done to ourselves by inventing and spreading the Internet. If the Internet was walking around in public, it would look and act a lot like Julian Assange. The Internet is about his age, and it doesn’t have any more care for the delicacies of profit, propriety and hierarchy than he does. So Julian is heading for a modern legal netherworld, the slammer, the electronic parole cuff, whatever; you can bet there will be surveillance of some kind wherever he goes, to go along with the FREE ASSANGE stencils and xeroxed flyers that are gonna spring up in every coffee-bar, favela and university on the planet. A guy as personally hampered and sociopathic as Julian may in fact thrive in an inhuman situation like this. Unlike a lot of keyboard-hammering geeks, he’s a serious reader and a pretty good writer, with a jailhouse-lawyer facility for pointing out weaknesses in the logic of his opponents, and boy are they ever. Weak, that is. They are pathetically weak.

Diplomats have become weak in the way that musicians are weak. Musicians naturally want people to pay real money for music, but if you press them on it, they’ll sadly admit that they don’t buy any music themselves. Because, well, they’re in the business, so why should they? And the same goes for diplomats and discreet secrets. The one grand certainty about the consumers of Cablegate is that diplomats are gonna be reading those stolen cables. Not hackers: diplomats. Hackers bore easily, and they won’t be able to stand the discourse of intelligent trained professionals discussing real-life foreign affairs. American diplomats are gonna read those stolen cables, though, because they were supposed to read them anyway, even though they didn’t. Now, they’ve got to read them, with great care, because they might get blindsided otherwise by some wisecrack that they typed up years ago. And, of course, every intelligence agency and every diplomat from every non-American agency on Earth is gonna fire up computers and pore over those things. To see what American diplomacy really thought about them, or to see if they were ignored (which is worse), and to see how the grownups ran what was basically a foreign-service news agency that the rest of us were always forbidden to see. This stark fact makes them all into hackers. Yes, just like Julian. They’re all indebted to Julian for this grim thing that he did, and as they sit there hunched over their keyboards, drooling over their stolen goodies, they’re all, without exception, implicated in his doings. Assange is never gonna become a diplomat, but he’s arranged it so that diplomats henceforth are gonna be a whole lot more like Assange. They’ll behave just like him. They receive the goods just like he did, semi-surreptitiously. They may be wearing an ascot and striped pants, but they’ve got that hacker hunch in their necks and they’re staring into the glowing screen. And I don’t much like that situation. It doesn’t make me feel better. I feel sorry for them and what it does to their values, to their self-esteem. If there’s one single watchword, one central virtue, of the diplomatic life, it’s “discretion.” Not “transparency.” Diplomatic discretion. Discretion is why diplomats do not say transparent things to foreigners. When diplomats tell foreigners what they really think, war results. Diplomats are people who speak from nation to nation. They personify nations, and nations are brutal, savage, feral entities. Diplomats used to have something in the way of an international community, until the Americans decided to unilaterally abandon that in pursuit of Bradley Manning’s oil war. Now nations are so badly off that they can’t even get it together to coherently tackle heroin, hydrogen bombs, global warming and financial collapse. Not to mention the Internet. The world has lousy diplomacy now. It’s dysfunctional. The world corps diplomatique are weak, really weak, and the US diplomatic corps, which used to be the senior and best-engineered outfit there, is rattling around bottled-up in blast-proofed bunkers. It’s scary how weak and useless they are. US diplomats used to know what to do with dissidents in other nations. If they were communists they got briskly repressed, but if they had anything like a free-market outlook, then US diplomats had a whole arsenal of gentle and supportive measures; Radio Free Europe, publication in the West, awards, foreign travel, flattery, moral support; discreet things, in a word, but exceedingly useful things. Now they’re harassing Julian by turning those tools backwards. For a US diplomat, Assange is like some digitized nightmare-reversal of a kindly Cold War analog dissident. He read the dissident playbook and he downloaded it as a textfile; but, in fact, Julian doesn’t care about the USA. It’s just another obnoxious national entity. He happens to be more or less Australian, and he’s no great enemy of America. If he’d had the chance to leak Australian cables he would have leapt on that with the alacrity he did on Kenya. Of course, when Assange did it that to meager little Kenya, all the grown-ups thought that was groovy; he had to hack a superpower in order to touch the third rail. But the American diplomatic corps, and all it thinks it represents, is just collateral damage between Assange and his goal. He aspires to his transparent crypto-utopia in the way George Bush aspired to imaginary weapons of mass destruction. And the American diplomatic corps are so many Iraqis in that crusade. They’re the civilian casualties.

As a novelist, you gotta like the deep and dark irony here. As somebody attempting to live on a troubled world… I dunno. It makes one want to call up the Red Cross and volunteer to fund planetary tranquilizers. I’ve met some American diplomats; not as many as I’ve met hackers, but a few. Like hackers, diplomats are very intelligent people; unlike hackers, they are not naturally sociopathic. Instead, they have to be trained that way in the national interest. I feel sorry for their plight. I can enter into the shame and bitterness that afflicts them now. The cables that Assange leaked have, to date, generally revealed rather eloquent, linguistically gifted American functionaries with a keen sensitivity to the feelings of aliens. So it’s no wonder they were of dwindling relevance and their political masters paid no attention to their counsels. You don’t have to be a citizen of this wracked and threadbare superpower — (you might, for instance, be from New Zealand) — in order to sense the pervasive melancholy of an empire in decline. There’s a House of Usher feeling there. Too many prematurely buried bodies. For diplomats, a massive computer leak is not the kind of sunlight that chases away corrupt misbehavior; it’s more like some dreadful shift in the planetary atmosphere that causes ultraviolet light to peel their skin away. They’re not gonna die from being sunburned in public without their pants on; Bill Clinton survived that ordeal, Silvio Berlusconi just survived it (again). No scandal lasts forever; people do get bored. Generally, you can just brazen it out and wait for public to find a fresher outrage. Except. It’s the damage to the institutions that is spooky and disheartening; after the Lewinsky eruption, every American politician lives in permanent terror of a sex-outing. That’s “transparency,” too; it’s the kind of ghastly sex-transparency that Julian himself is stuck crotch-deep in. The politics of personal destruction hasn’t made the Americans into a frank and erotically cheerful people. On the contrary, the US today is like some creepy house of incest divided against itself in a civil cold war.

“Transparency” can have nasty aspects; obvious, yet denied; spoken, but spoken in whispers. Very Edgar Allen Poe. That’s our condition. It’s a comedy to those who think and a tragedy to those who feel, but it’s not a comedy that the planet’s general cultural situation is so clearly getting worse. As I sit here moping over Julian Assange, I’d love to pretend that this is just me in a personal bad mood; in the way that befuddled American pundits like to pretend that Julian is some kind of unique, demonic figure. He isn’t. If he ever was, he sure as hell isn’t now, as “Indoleaks,” “Balkanleaks” and “Brusselsleaks” spring up like so many filesharing whackamoles. Of course the Internet bedroom legions see him, admire him, and aspire to be like him — and they will. How could they not? Even though, as major political players go, Julian Assange seems remarkably deprived of sympathetic qualities. Most saintly leaders of the oppressed masses, most wannabe martyrs, are all keen to kiss-up to the public. But not our Julian; clearly, he doesn’t lack for lust and burning resentment, but that kind of gregarious, sweaty political tactility is beneath his dignity. He’s extremely intelligent, but, as a political, social and moral actor, he’s the kind of guy who gets depressed by the happiness of the stupid. I don’t say these cruel things about Julian Assange because I feel distant from him, but, on the contrary, because I feel close to him. I don’t doubt the two of us would have a lot to talk about. I know hordes of men like him; it’s just that they are programmers, mathematicians, potheads and science fiction fans instead of fiercely committed guys who aspire to topple the international order and replace it with subversive wikipedians.

Enigma machines were used by the Nazis in WWII (unsuccessfully) to ensure world domination.

The chances of that ending well are about ten thousand to one. And I don’t doubt Assange knows that. This is the kind of guy who once wrote an encryption program called “Rubberhose,” because he had it figured that the cops would beat his password out of him, and he needed some code-based way to finesse his own human frailty. Hey, neat hack there, pal. So, well, that’s the general situation with this particular scandal. I could go on about it, but I’m trying to pace myself. This knotty situation is not gonna “blow over,” because it’s been building since 1993 and maybe even 1947. “Transparency” and “discretion” are virtues, but they are virtues that clash. The international order and the global Internet are not best pals. They never were, and now that’s obvious. The data held by states is gonna get easier to steal, not harder to steal; the Chinese are all over Indian computers, the Indians are all over Pakistani computers, and the Russian cybermafia is brazenly hosting because that’s where the underground goes to the mattresses. It is a godawful mess. This is gonna get worse before it gets better, and it’s gonna get worse for a long time. Like leaks in a house where the pipes froze. Well, every once in a while, a situation that’s one-in-a-thousand is met by a guy who is one in a million. It may be that Assange is, somehow, up to this situation. Maybe he’s gonna grow in stature by the massive trouble he has caused. Saints, martyrs, dissidents and freaks are always wild-cards, but sometimes they’re the only ones who can clear the general air. Sometimes they become the catalyst for historical events that somehow had to happen. They don’t have to be nice guys; that’s not the point. Julian Assange did this; he direly wanted it to happen. He planned it in nitpicky, obsessive detail. Here it is; a planetary hack. I don’t have a lot of cheery hope to offer about his all-too-compelling gesture, but I dare to hope he’s everything he thinks he is, and much, much, more.

Bruce Sterling
email : bruces [at] well [dot] com

by Julian Assange

Rubberhose was originally conceived by crypto-programmer Julian Assange as a tool for human rights workers who needed to protect sensitive data in the field, particularly lists of activists and details of incidents of abuse. Repressive regimes in places like East Timor, Russia, Kosovo, Guatamalia, Iraq, Sudan and The Congo conduct human rights abuses regularly. Our team has met with human rights groups an heard first hand accounts of such abuses. Human rights workers carry vital data on laptops through the most dangerous situations, sometimes being stopped by military patrols who would have no hesitation in torturing a suspect until he or she revealed a passphrase to unlock the data. We want to help these sorts of campaigners, particularly the brave people in the field who risk so much to smuggle data about the abuses out to the rest of the world.

Rubberhose (our rubber-hose proof filing system) addresses most of these technical issues, but I’d like to just comment on the best strategy game-theory wise, for the person wielding the rubber-hose. In Rubberhose the number of encrypted aspects (deniable “virtual” partitions) defaults to 16 (although is theoretically unlimited). As soon as you have over 4 pass-phrases, the excuse “I can’t recall” or “there’s nothing else there” starts to sound highly plauseable. Ordinarily best strategy for the rubber-hose wielder is to keep on beating keys out of (let us say, Alice) indefinitely till there are no keys left. However, and importantly, in Rubberhose, *Alice* can never prove that she has handed over the last key. As Alice hands over more and more keys, her attackers can make observations like “the keys Alice has divulged correspond to 85% of the bits”. However at no point can her attackers prove that the remaining 15% don’t simply pertain to unallocated space, and at no point can Alice, even if she wants to, divulge keys to 100% of the bits, in order to bring the un-divulged portion down to 0%. An obvious point to make here is that fraction-of-total-data divulged is essentially meaningless, and both parties know it – the launch code aspect may only take up .01% of the total bit-space. What I find interesting, is how this constraint on Alice’s behaviour actually protects her from revealing her own keys, because each party, at the outset can make the following observations:

We will never be able to show that Alice has revealed the last of her keys. Further, even if Alice has co-operated fully and has revealed all of her keys, she will not be able to prove it. Therefor, we must assume that at every stage that Alice has kept secret information from us, and continue to beat her, even though she may have revealed the last of her keys. But the whole time we will feel uneasy about this because Alice may have co-operated fully. Alice will have realised this though, and so presumably it’s going to be very hard to get keys out of her at all.

(Having realised the above) I can never prove that I have revealed the last of my keys. In the end I’m bound for continued beating, even if I can buy brief respites by coughing up keys from time to time. Therefor, it would be foolish to divulge my most sensitive keys, because (a) I’ll be that much closer to the stage where I have nothing left to divulge at all (it’s interesting to note that this seemingly illogical, yet entirely valid argument of Alice’s can protect the most sensitive of Alice’s keys the “whole way though”, like a form mathematical induction), and (b) the taste of truly secret information will only serve to make my aggressors come to the view that there is even higher quality information yet to come, re-doubling their beating efforts to get at it, even if I have revealed all. Therefor, my best strategy would be to (a) reveal no keys at all or (b) depending on the nature of the aggressors, and the psychology of the situation, very slowly reveal my “duress” and other low-sensitivity keys. Alice certainly isn’t in for a very nice time of it (although she she’s far more likely to protect her data).

On the individual level, you would have to question whether you might want to be able to prove that, yes, infact you really have surrendered the last remaining key, at the cost of a far greater likelihood that you will. It really depends on the nature of your opponents. Are they intelligent enough understand the deniable aspect of the cryptosystem and come up with the above strategy? Determined to the aspect they are willing to invest the time and effort in wresting the last key out of you? Ruthless – do they say “Please”, hand you a Court Order, or is it more of a Room 101 affair? But there’s more to the story. Organisations and groups may have quite different strategic goals in terms of key retention vs torture relief to the individuals that comprise them, even if their views are otherwise co-aligned. A simple democratic union of two or more people will exhibit this behaviour. When a member of a group, who uses conventional cryptography to protect group secrets is rubber-hosed, they have two choices (1) defecting (by divulging keys) in order to save themselves, at the cost of selling the other individuals in the group down the river or (2) staying loyal, protecting the group and in the process subjugating themselves to continued torture. With Rubberhose-style deniable cryptography, the benefits to a group member from choosing tactic 1 (defection). are subdued, because they will never be able to convince their interrogators that they have defected. Rational individuals that are `otherwise loyal'” to the group, will realise the minimal gains to be made in chosing defection and choose tactic 2 (loyalty), instead. Presumably most people in the group do not want to be forced to give up their ability to choose defection. On the other hand, no one in the group wants anyone (other than themselves) in the group to be given the option of defecting against the group (and thus the person making the observation). Provided no individual is certain* they are to be rubber-hosed, every individual will support the adoption of a group-wide Rubberhose-style cryptographically deniable crypto-system. This property is communitive, while the individual’s desire to be able to choose defection is not. The former every group member wants for every other group member, but not themselves. The latter each group member wants only for themself.

* “certain” is a little misleading. Each individual has a threshold which is not only proportional to the the perceived likely hood of being rubberhosed over ones dislike of it, but also includes the number of indviduals in the group, the damage caused by a typical defection to the other members of the group etc.

Cheers, Julian

From: (Timothy C. May)
Subject: The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto
Date: Sun, 22 Nov 92

Cypherpunks of the World,
Several of you at the “physical Cypherpunks” gathering yesterday in Silicon Valley requested that more of the material passed out in meetings be available electronically to the entire readership of the Cypherpunks list, spooks, eavesdroppers, and all. Here’s the “Crypto Anarchist Manifesto” I read at the September 1992 founding meeting. It dates back to mid-1988 and was distributed to some like-minded techno-anarchists at the “Crypto ’88” conference and then again at the “Hackers Conference” that year. I later gave talks at Hackers on this in 1989 and 1990. There are a few things I’d change, but for historical reasons I’ll just leave it as is. Some of the terms may be unfamiliar to you…I hope the Crypto Glossary I just distributed will help. (This should explain all those cryptic terms in my .signature!) –Tim May


The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto
by Timothy C. May

A specter is haunting the modern world, the specter of crypto anarchy. Computer technology is on the verge of providing the ability for individuals and groups to communicate and interact with each other in a totally anonymous manner. Two persons may exchange messages, conduct business, and negotiate electronic contracts without ever knowing the True Name, or legal identity, of the other. Interactions over networks will be untraceable, via extensive re- routing of encrypted packets and tamper-proof boxes which implement cryptographic protocols with nearly perfect assurance against any tampering. Reputations will be of central importance, far more important in dealings than even the credit ratings of today. These developments will alter completely the nature of government regulation, the ability to tax and control economic interactions, the ability to keep information secret, and will even alter the nature of trust and reputation.

The technology for this revolution–and it surely will be both a social and economic revolution–has existed in theory for the past decade. The methods are based upon public-key encryption, zero-knowledge interactive proof systems, and various software protocols for interaction, authentication, and verification. The focus has until now been on academic conferences in Europe and the U.S., conferences monitored closely by the National Security Agency. But only recently have computer networks and personal computers attained sufficient speed to make the ideas practically realizable. And the next ten years will bring enough additional speed to make the ideas economically feasible and essentially unstoppable. High-speed networks, ISDN, tamper-proof boxes, smart cards, satellites, Ku-band transmitters, multi-MIPS personal computers, and encryption chips now under development will be some of the enabling technologies.

The State will of course try to slow or halt the spread of this technology, citing national security concerns, use of the technology by drug dealers and tax evaders, and fears of societal disintegration. Many of these concerns will be valid; crypto anarchy will allow national secrets to be trade freely and will allow illicit and stolen materials to be traded. An anonymous computerized market will even make possible abhorrent markets for assassinations and extortion. Various criminal and foreign elements will be active users of CryptoNet. But this will not halt the spread of crypto anarchy.

Just as the technology of printing altered and reduced the power of medieval guilds and the social power structure, so too will cryptologic methods fundamentally alter the nature of corporations and of government interference in economic transactions. Combined with emerging information markets, crypto anarchy will create a liquid market for any and all material which can be put into words and pictures. And just as a seemingly minor invention like barbed wire made possible the fencing-off of vast ranches and farms, thus altering forever the concepts of land and property rights in the frontier West, so too will the seemingly minor discovery out of an arcane branch of mathematics come to be the wire clippers which dismantle the barbed wire around intellectual property. Arise, you have nothing to lose but your barbed wire fences!


Timothy C. May | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money, | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
408-688-5409 | knowledge, reputations, information markets,
W.A.S.T.E.: Aptos, CA | black markets, collapse of governments.
Higher Power: 2^756839 | PGP Public Key: by arrangement.


“What is BlackNet?”
” — an experiment in information markets, using anonymous message pools for exchange of instructions and items. Tim May’s experiment in guerilla ontology.
— an experimental scheme devised by T. May to underscore the nature of anonymous information markets. “Any and all” secrets can be offered for sale via anonymous mailers and message pools. The experiment was leaked via remailer to the Cypherpunks list (not by May) and thence to several dozen Usenet groups by Detweiler. The authorities are said to be investigating it.”

What Bruce Sterling Actually Said About Web 2.0 at Webstock 09
by Bruce Sterling  / March 1, 2009

{By the garbled reportage, I’d be guessing some of those kiwis were having trouble with my accent. Here are the verbatim remarks.}

So, thanks for having me cross half the planet to be here. So, just before I left Italy, I was reading an art book. About 1902, because we futurists do that. And it had this comment in it by Walter Pater that reminded me of your problems. Walter Pater was a critic and an artist of Art Nouveau. There was a burst of Art Nouveau in Turin in 1902 — because what Arts and Crafts always needed was some rich industrialists. Rich factory owners were the guys who bought those elaborate handmade homes and the romantic paintings of the Lady of Shalott. Fantastic anti-industrial structures were financed by heavy industry.

I know that sounds ironic or even sarcastic, but it isn’t. Creative energies are liberated by oxymorons, by breakdowns in definitions. The Muse comes out when you look sidelong, over your shoulder. So Walter Pater was a critic, like me, so of course he’s complaining. The Italians in 1902 don’t understand the original doctrines of the PreRaphaelites and Ruskin and William Morris! That’s his beef. The Italians just think that Art Nouveau has a lot of curvy lines in it, and it’s got something to do with nude women and vegetables! They’re just seizing on the superficial appearances! In Italy they call that stuff “Flower Style.”

And that’s your problem, too, here in New Zealand. Far from the action here at the antipodes, you people, you just don’t get it about the original principles of Web 2.0! Too often, you’ve got no architecture of participation, sometimes you don’t have an open API! Out here at the end of the earth, you think it’s all about drop shadows and the gradients and a tag cloud, and a startup name with a Capital R in the middle of it!

And that’s absolutely the way of the world… nothing any critic can do about it. People do make mistakes, they interpret things wrongly — but more to the point, they DELIBERATELY make mistakes in creative work. Creative people don’t want to “do it right.” They want to share the excitement you had when you yourself didn’t know how to do it right. Creative people are unconsciously attracted by the parts that make no sense. And Web 2.0 was full of those.

I want you to know that I respect Web 2.0. I sincerely think it was a great success. Art Nouveau was not a success — it had basic concepts that were seriously wrongheaded. Whereas Web 2.0 had useful, sound ideas that were creatively vague. It also had things in it that pretended to be ideas, but were not ideas at all: they were attitudes. In web critical thinking, this effort, Web 2.0, was where it was at. Web 2.0 has lost its novelty value now, but it’s not dead. It’s been realized: it has spread worldwide.

It’s Web 1.0 that is dead. Web 1.0 was comprehensively crushed by Web 2.0, Web 2.0 fell flaming on top of web 1.0 and smashed it to rubble.

Web 2.0 is Wikipedia, while web 1.0 is Britannica Online. “What? Is Britannica online? Why?”

Web 2.0 is FlickR, while web 1.0 is Ofoto. “Ofoto? I’ve never even heard of Ofoto.”

Web 2.0 is search engines and Web 1.0 is portals. “Yeah man, I really need a New Zealand portal! I don’t think I can handle that information superhighway without a local portal!”

What do we talk about when we say “Web 2.0?” Luckily, we have a canonical definition! Straight from the originator! Mr Tim O’Reilly! Publisher, theorist, organizer, California tech guru: “Web 2.0 is the network as platform, spanning all connected devices; Web 2.0 applications are those that make the most of the intrinsic advantages of that platform: delivering software as a continually-updated service that gets better the more people use it, consuming and remixing data from multiple sources, including individual users, while providing their own data and services in a form that allows remixing by others, creating network effects through an ‘architecture of participation,’ and going beyond the page metaphor of Web 1.0 to deliver rich user experiences.”

I got all interested when I heard friends discussing web 2.0, so I swiftly went and read that definition. After reading it a few times, I understood it, too. But — okay, is that even a sentence? A sentence is a verbal construction meant to express a complete thought. This congelation that Tim O’Reilly constructed, that is not a complete thought. It’s a network in permanent beta. We might try to diagram that sentence. Luckily Tim did that for us already. Here it is.

The nifty-keen thing here is that Web 2.0 is a web. It’s a web of bubbles and squares. A glorious thing — but that is not a verbal argument. That’s like a Chinese restaurant menu. You can take one bubble from sector A, and two from sector B, and three from sector C, and you are Web 2.0. Feed yourself and your family! Take away all the bubbles, and put some people there instead. Web 2.0 becomes a Tim O’Reilly conference. This guy is doing x, and that guy is doing y, and that woman is the maven of doing z. Do these people want to talk to each other? Do they have anything to say and share? You bet they do. Through in some catering and scenery, and it’s very Webstock.

Web 2.0 theory is a web. It’s not philosophy, it’s not ideology like a political platform, it’s not even a set of esthetic tenets like an art movement. The diagram for Web 2.0 is a little model network. You can mash up all the bubbles to the other bubbles. They carry out subroutines on one another. You can flowchart it if you want. There’s a native genius here. I truly admire it. This chart is five years old now, which is 35 years old in Internet years, but intellectually speaking, it’s still new in the world. It’s alarming how hard it is to say anything constructive about this from any previous cultural framework.

The things that are particularly stimulating and exciting about Web 2.0 are the bits that are just flat-out contradictions in terms. Those are my personal favorites, the utter violations of previous common sense: the frank oxymorons. Like “the web as platform.” That’s the key Web 2.0 insight: “the web as a platform.” Okay, “webs” are not “platforms.” I know you’re used to that idea after five years, but consider taking the word “web” out, and using the newer sexy term, “cloud.” “The cloud as platform.” That is insanely great. Right? You can’t build a “platform” on a “cloud!” That is a wildly mixed metaphor! A cloud is insubstantial, while a platform is a solid foundation! The platform falls through the cloud and is smashed to earth like a plummeting stock price!

Imagine that this was financial thinking — instead of web design thinking. We take a bunch of loans, we mash them together and turn them into a security. Now securities are secure, right? They are triple-A solid! So now we can build more loans on top of those securities. Ingenious! This means the price of credit trends to zero, so the user base expands radically, so everybody can have credit! Nobody could have tried that before, because that sounds like a magic Ponzi scheme. But luckily, we have computers in banking now. That means Moore’s law is gonna save us! Instead of it being really obvious who owes what to whom, we can have a fluid, formless ownership structure that’s always in permanent beta. As long as we keep moving forward, adding attractive new features, the situation is booming!

Now, I wouldn’t want to claim that Web 2.0 is as frail as the financial system — the financial system that supported it and made it possible! But Web 2.0 is directly built on top of finance. Web 2.0 is supposed to be business. This isn’t a public utility or a public service, like the old model of an Information Superhighway established for the public good. The Information Superhighway is long dead — it was killed by Web 1.0. And web 2.0 kills web 1.0.

Actually, you don’t simply kill those earlier paradigms. What you do is turn them into components, then make the components into platforms, then place more fresh components on top. That is native web logic. The World Wide Web sits on top of a turtle, and then below that is an older turtle, and that sits on the older turtle. You don’t have to feel fretful about that situation — because it’s turtles all the way down.

Now, we don’t have to think about it in that particular way. The word “turtles” makes it sound absurd and scary, like a myth or a confidence trick. We can try another, very different metaphor — as Tim O’Reilly once offered us. “Like many important concepts, Web 2.0 doesn’t have a hard boundary, but rather, a gravitational core. You can visualize Web 2.0 as a set of principles and practices that tie together a veritable solar system of sites that demonstrate some or all of those principles, at a varying distance from that core.”

Okay, now we’ve got this kind of asteroid rubble of small pieces loosely joined. As a science fiction writer, I truly love that metaphor. That’s the web. Web pieces are held by laws of gravity, and supposedly the sun isn’t gonna do anything much. Right? The sun is four and half billion years old, it’s very old and stable. Although the web sure isn’t. Let’s look at a few of these Web 2.0 principles and practices.

“Tagging not taxonomy.” Okay, I love folksonomy, but I don’t think it’s gone very far. There have been books written about how ambient searchability through folksonomy destroys the need for any solid taxonomy. Not really. The reality is that we don’t have a choice, because we have no conceivable taxonomy that can catalog the avalanche of stuff on the Web. We have no army of human clerks remotely able to tackle that work. We don’t even have permanent reference sites where we can put data so that we can taxonomize it.

“An attitude, not a technology.” Okay, attitudes are great, but they’re never permanent. Even technologies aren’t permanent, and an attitude about technology is a vogue. It’s a style. It’s certainly not a business. Nobody goes out and sells a kilo of attitude. What is attitude doing in there? Everything, of course. In Web 2.0 the attitude was everything.

Then there’s AJAX. Okay, I freakin’ love AJAX. Jesse James Garrett is a benefactor of mankind. I thank God for this man and his willingness to look sympathetically at users and the hell they experience. People use AJAX instead of evil static web pages, and people literally weep with joy. But what is AJAX, exactly? It’s not an acronym. It doesn’t really stand for “Asynchronous Java and XTML.” XTML itself is an acronym — you can’t make an acronym out of an acronym! You peel that label off and AJAX is revealed as a whole web of stuff.

AJAX is standards-based presentation using XHTML and CSS. AJAX is also dynamic display and interaction using the Document Object Model. AJAX is also data interchange and manipulation using XML and XSLT; AJASX is also asynchronous data retrieval using XML-http request. With JavaScript binding everything. Okay, that was AJAX, and every newbie idiot knows that Web 2.0 is made of AJAX. “AJAX with JavaScript binding everything.” JavaScript binding everything — like the law of gravity, like there’s a sun somewhere. Okay, that sounds reassuring, but suppose something goes wrong with the sun. Sun were the guys who built JavaScript, if you recall. That sounds kind of alarming… because Sun’s JavaScript, the binder of AJAX, is the core of the Web 2.0 rich user experience.

JavaScript is the duct tape of the Web. Why? Because you can do anything with it. It’s not the steel girders of the web, it’s not the laws of physics of the web. Javascript is beloved of web hackers because it’s an ultimate kludge material that can stick anything to anything. It’s a cloud, a web, a highway, a platform and a floor wax. Guys with attitude use JavaScript.

There’s something truly glorious about this. Glorious, and clearly hazardous, bottom-up and make-do. I’m not gonna say that I will eat my own hat if the Internet doesn’t collapse by 1995. Guys say that — Metcalfe said it — he had to eat the damn hat. That doomsayer, man, he deserved it. He invented Ethernet, so what did he ever know about networking.

What I have to wonder is: how much of Javascript’s great power is based on an attitude that Javascript is up to the job? Duct-taping the turtles all the way down. I certainly don’t want to give up Javascript — but is Sun the center of the web 2.0 solar system? Sun’s not lookin’ real great right now, is it? That is our solid platform, our foundation? Can you have Javascript without a sun? Duct-tape in the dark?

eBay reputations and Amazon reviews. “User as contributor.” Are “user” and “contributor” the right words for the people interacting with Amazon? Let’s suppose there’s a change of attitude within Amazon; they’re going broke, they’re desperate, the stock price has cratered, and they really have to turn the screws on their users and contributors. Then what happens? This is a social attitude kinda held together with Javascript and duct tape, isn’t it? I mean, Amazon used to sell books. Right? You might want to talk to some publishers and booksellers about the nature of their own relationship with Amazon. They don’t use nice terms like “user and contributor.” They use terms like “collapse, crash, driven out of business.”

The publishing business is centuries old and bookstores have been around for millennia. Is Amazon gonna last that long? Are they a great force for our stability? Are we betting the farm on the Web 2.0 attitude of these guys?

Blogs — “participation not publishing.” Okay, I love my blog. Mostly because there’s never been any damn participation in it. My blog has outlived 94 percent of all blogs every created. I’ve got an ancient turtle of a blog. I may also have one of the last blogs surviving in the future, because the rest were held together with duct tape and attitude. Try going around looking for a weblog now that is literally a log of some guy’s websurfing activities. Most things we call “blogs” are not “weblogs” any more. Even MY ancient writer-style blog isn’t quite a weblog. My blog isn’t participatory, but it’s got embedded videos, FlickR photos, links to MP3s.

You can go read my blog from four years ago. Five years ago. Still sitting there in the server. Absolutely consumed with link-rot. I’m blogged to stuff that has vanished into the ether, it’s gone into 404land. It had “granular addressibility,” just like Tim recommends here, but those granules were blown away on the burning solar wind.

Not that I’m the Metcalfe prophet of doom here — there were more granules. Sure. I got supergranules. I get granules direct from Tim O’Reilly’s tweets now, I get 140-character granules. And man, those are some topnotch tweets. Tim O’Reilly is my favorite Twitter contact. He is truly the guru. I don’t know anybody who can touch him. I also know that the Fail Whale is the best friend of everybody on Twitter. He’s not a frail little fail minnow, either. The Fail Whale is a big burly beast, he’s right up there with the dinosaurs.

Let me throw in a few more Web 2.0 oxymorons here because, as a novelist, these really excite me. “Web platform,” of course — that one really ranks with ‘wireless cable,’ there’s something sublime about it…

“Business revolution.” Web 2.0 was often described as a “business revolution.” Web 1.0 was also a business revolution — and it went down in flames with the Internet Bubble. That was when all the dotcom investors retreated to the rock-solid guaranteed stability of real-estate. Remember that?

Before the 1990s, nobody had any “business revolutions.” People in trade are supposed to be very into long-term contracts, a stable regulatory environment, risk management, and predictable returns to stockholders. Revolutions don’t advance those things. Revolutions annihilate those things. Is that “businesslike”? By whose standards?

“Dynamic content.” Okay, content is a stable substance that is put inside a container. It’s stored in there: that’s why you put it inside. If it is dynamically flowing through the container, that’s not a container. That is a pipe. I really like dynamic flowing pipes, but since they’re not containers, you can’t freakin’ label them!

“Collective intelligence.” Okay, there is definitely something important and powerful and significant and revolutionary here. Google’s got “collective intelligence.” I don’t think there’s a revolutionary in the world who doesn’t use Google. Everybody who bitches about Google uses Google.

I use Google all the time. I don’t believe Google is evil. I’m quite the fan of Sergey and Larry: they are like the coolest Stanford dropouts ever. I just wonder what kind of rattletrap duct-taped mayhem is disguised under a smooth oxymoron like “collective intelligence.” You got to call it something — and “collective intelligence” is surely a lot better than retreating to crazed superstition and calling it “the sacred daemon spirits of Mountain View who know everything.”

But if collective intelligence is an actual thing — as opposed to an off-the-wall metaphor — where is the there there? Google’s servers aren’t intelligent. Google’s algorithms aren’t intelligent. You can learn fantastic things off Wikipedia in a few moments, but Wikipedia is not a conscious, thinking structure. Wikipedia is not a science fiction hive mind. Furthermore, the people whose granular bits of input are aggregated by Google are not a “collective.” They’re not a community. They never talk to each other. They’ve got basically zero influence on what Google chooses to do with their mouseclicks. What’s “collective” about that?

Talking about “collective intelligence” is like talking about “the invisible hand of the market.” Markets don’t have any real invisible hands. That is a metaphor. And “collective intelligence” doesn’t have any human will or any consciousness. “Collective intelligence” isn’t intelligently trying to make our lives better, it’s not an abstract force for good.

“Collective credit-card fraud intelligence” — that is collective intelligence, too. “Collective security-vulnerabilities intelligence” — that’s powerful, it’s incredibly fast, it’s not built by any one guy in particular, and it causes billions of dollars of commercial damage and endless hours of harassment and fear to computer users.

I really think it’s the original sin of geekdom, a kind of geek thought-crime, to think that just because you yourself can think algorithmically, and impose some of that on a machine, that this is “intelligence.” That is not intelligence. That is rules-based machine behavior. It’s code being executed. It’s a powerful thing, it’s a beautiful thing, but to call that “intelligence” is dehumanizing. You should stop that. It does not make you look high-tech, advanced, and cool. It makes you look delusionary.

There’s something sad and pathetic about it, like a lonely old woman whose only friends are her cats. “I had to leave my 14 million dollars to Fluffy because he loves me more than all those poor kids down at the hospital.” This stuff we call “collective intelligence” has tremendous potential, but it’s not our friend — any more than the invisible hand of the narcotics market is our friend.

Markets look like your friend when they’re spreading prosperity your way. If they get some bug in their ear from their innate Black Swan instability, man, markets will starve you! The Invisible Hand of the market will jerk you around like a cat of nine tails. So I’d definitely like some better term for “collective intelligence,” something a little less streamlined and metaphysical. Maybe something like “primeval meme ooze” or “semi-autonomous data propagation.” Even some Kevin Kelly style “neobiological out of control emergent architectures.” Because those weird new structures are here, they’re growing fast, we depend on them for mission-critical acts, and we’re not gonna get rid of them any more than we can get rid of termite mounds.

So, you know, whatever next? Web 2.0, five years old, and sounding pretty corny now. I loved Web 2.0 — I don’t want to be harsh or dismissive about it. Unlike some critics, I never thought it was “nonsense” or “just jargon.” There were critics who dismissed Tim’s solar system of ideas and attitudes there. I read those critics carefully, I thought hard about what they said. I really thought that they were philistines, and wrong-headed people. They were like guys who dismissed Cubism or Surrealism because “that isn’t really painting.”

Web 2.0 people were a nifty crowd. I used to meet, interview computer people… the older mainframe crowd, Bell Labs engineers and such. They were smarter than Web 2.0 people because they were a super-selected technical elite. They were also boring bureaucrats and functionaries. All the sense of fun, the brio had been boiled out of them, and their users were hapless ignoramus creatures whom they despised.

The classic Bell subset telephone, you know, black plastic shell, sturdy rotary dial… For God’s sake don’t touch the components! That was their emblem. They were creatures of their era, they had the values of their era, that time is gone and we have the real 21st century on our hands. I am at peace with that. I’m not nostalgic. “Even nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.”

Web 2.0 guys: they’ve got their laptops with whimsical stickers, the tattoos, the startup T-shirts, the brainy-glasses — you can tell them from the general population at a glance. They’re a true creative subculture, not a counterculture exactly — but in their number, their relationship to the population, quite like the Arts and Crafts people from a hundred years ago.

Arts and Crafts people, they had a lot of bad ideas — much worse ideas than Tim O’Reilly’s ideas. It wouldn’t bother me any if Tim O’Reilly was Governor of California — he couldn’t be any weirder than that guy they’ve got already. Arts and Crafts people gave it their best shot, they were in earnest — but everything they thought they knew about reality was blown to pieces by the First World War.

After that misfortune, there were still plenty of creative people surviving. Futurists, Surrealists, Dadaists — and man, they all despised Arts and Crafts. Everything about Art Nouveau that was sexy and sensual and liberating and flower-like, man, that stank in their nostrils. They thought that Art Nouveau people were like moronic children.

So — what does tomorrow’s web look like? Well, the official version would be ubiquity. I’ve been seeing ubiquity theory for years now. I’m a notorious fan of this stuff. A zealot, even. I’m a snake-waving street-preacher about it. Finally the heavy operators are waking from their dogmatic slumbers; in the past eighteen months, 24 months, we’ve seen ubiquity initiatives from Nokia, Cisco, General Electric, IBM… Microsoft even, Jesus, Microsoft, the place where innovative ideas go to die.

But it’s too early for that to be the next stage of the web. We got nice cellphones, which are ubiquity in practice, we got GPS, geolocativity, but too much of the hardware just isn’t there yet. The batteries aren’t there, the bandwidth is not there, RFID does not work well at all, and there aren’t any ubiquity pure-play companies.

So I think what comes next is a web with big holes blown in it. A spiderweb in a storm. The turtles get knocked out from under it, the platform sinks through the cloud. A lot of the inherent contradictions of the web get revealed, the contradictions in the oxymorons smash into each other. The web has to stop being a meringue frosting on the top of business, this make-do melange of mashups and abstraction layers.

Web 2.0 goes away. Its work is done. The thing I always loved best about Web 2.0 was its implicit expiration date. It really took guts to say that: well, we’ve got a bunch of cool initiatives here, and we know they’re not gonna last very long. It’s not Utopia, it’s not a New World Order, it’s just a brave attempt to sweep up the ashes of the burst Internet Bubble and build something big and fast with the small burnt-up bits that were loosely joined.

That showed more maturity than Web 1.0. It was visionary, it was inspiring, but there were fewer moon rockets flying out of its head. “Gosh, we’re really sorry that we accidentally ruined the NASDAQ.” We’re Internet business people, but maybe we should spend less of our time stock-kiting. The Web’s a communications medium — how ’bout working on the computer interface, so that people can really communicate? That effort was time well spent. Really.

A lot of issues that Web 1.0 was sweating blood about, they went away for good. The “digital divide,” for instance. Man, I hated that. All the planet’s poor kids had to have desktop machines. With fiber optic. Sure! You go to Bombay, Shanghai, Lagos even, you’re like “hey kid, how about this OLPC so you can level the playing field with the South Bronx and East Los Angeles?” And he’s like “Do I have to? I’ve already got three Nokias.” The teacher is slapping the cellphone out of his hand because he’s acing the tests by sneaking in SMS traffic.

“Half the planet has never made a phone call.” Boy, that’s a shame — especially when pirates in Somalia are making satellite calls off stolen supertankers. The poorest people in the world love cellphones. They’re spreading so fast they make PCs look like turtles. Digital culture, I knew it well. It died — young, fast and pretty. It’s all about network culture now.

We’ve got a web built on top of a collapsed economy. THAT’s the black hole at the center of the solar system now. There’s gonna be a Transition Web. Your economic system collapses: Eastern Europe, Russia, the Transition Economy, that bracing experience is for everybody now. Except it’s not Communism transitioning toward capitalism. It’s the whole world into transition toward something we don’t even have proper words for.

The Web has always had an awkward relationship with business. Web 2.0 was a business model. The Transition Web is a culture model. If it’s gonna work, it’s got to replace things that we used to pay for with things that we just plain use. In Web 2.0, if you were monetizable, it meant you got bought out by the majors. “We stole back our revolution and we sold ourselves to Yahoo.” Okay, that was embarrassing, but at least it meant you could scale up and go on. In the Transition Web, if you’re monetizable, it means that you get attacked. You gotta squeeze a penny out of every pixel because the owners are broke. But if you do that to your users, they will vaporize, because they’re broke too, just like you; of course they’re gonna migrate to stuff that’s free.

After a while you have to wonder if it’s worth it — the money model, I mean. Is finance worth the cost of being involved with the finance? The web smashed stocks. Global banking blew up all over the planet all at once… Not a single country anywhere with a viable economic policy under globalization. Is there a message here? Are there some non-financial structures that are less predatory and unstable than this radically out-of-kilter invisible hand? The invisible hand is gonna strangle us! Everybody’s got a hand out — how about offering people some visible hands?

Not every Internet address was a dotcom. In fact, dotcoms showed up pretty late in the day, and they were not exactly welcome. There were dot-orgs, dot edus, dot nets, dot govs, and dot localities. Once upon a time there were lots of social enterprises that lived outside the market; social movements, political parties, mutual aid societies, philanthropies. Churches, criminal organizations — you’re bound to see plenty of both of those in a transition… Labor unions… not little ones, but big ones like Solidarity in Poland; dissident organizations, not hobby activists, big dissent, like Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia.

Armies, national guards. Rescue operations. Global non-governmental organizations. Davos Forums, Bilderberg guys. Retired people. The old people can’t hold down jobs in the market. Man, there’s a lot of ‘em. Billions. What are our old people supposed to do with themselves? Websurf, I’m thinking. They’re wise, they’re knowledgeable, they’re generous by nature; the 21st century is destined to be an old people’s century. Even the Chinese, Mexicans, Brazilians will be old. Can’t the web make some use of them, all that wisdom and talent, outside the market?

Market failures have blown holes in civil society. The Greenhouse Effect is a market failure. The American health system is a market failure — and most other people’s health systems don’t make much commercial sense. Education is a loss leader and the university thing is a mess. Income disparities are insane. The banker aristocracy is in hysterical depression. Housing is in wreckage; the market has given us white-collar homeless and a million empty buildings. The energy market is completely freakish. If you have no fossil fuels, you shiver in the dark. If you do have them, your economy is completely unstable, your government is corrupted and people kill you for oil. The human trafficking situation is crazy. In globalization people just evaporate over borders. They emigrate illegally and grab whatever cash they can find. If you don’t export you go broke from trade imbalances. If you do export, you go broke because your trading partners can’t pay you…

Kinda hard to face up to all this, especially when it’s laid out in this very bald fashion. But you know, I’m not scared by any of this. I regret the suffering, I know it’s big trouble — but it promises massive change and a massive change was inevitable. The way we ran the world was wrong.

I’ve never seen so much panic around me, but panic is the last thing on my mind. My mood is eager impatience. I want to see our best, most creative, best-intentioned people in world society directly attacking our worst problems. I’m bored with the deceit. I’m tired of obscurantism and cover-ups. I’m disgusted with cynical spin and the culture war for profit. I’m up to here with phony baloney market fundamentalism. I despise a prostituted society where we put a dollar sign in front of our eyes so we could run straight into the ditch.

The cure for panic is action. Coherent action is great; for a scatterbrained web society, that may be a bit much to ask. Well, any action is better than whining. We can do better. I’m not gonna tell you what to do. I’m an artist, I’m not running for office and I don’t want any of your money. Just talk among yourselves. Grow up to the size of your challenges. Bang out some code, build some platforms you don’t have to duct-tape any more, make more opportunities than you can grab for your little selves, and let’s get after living real lives. The future is unwritten. Thank you very much.



“Sunshine Press (WikiLeaks) is an non-profit organization funded by human rights campaigners, investigative journalists, technologists and the general public. Through your support we have exposed significant injustice around the world—successfully fighting off over 100 legal attacks in the process. Although our work produces reforms daily and is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the 2008 Economist Freedom of Expression Award as well as the 2009 Amnesty International New Media Award, these accolades do not pay the bills. Nor can we accept government or corporate funding and maintain our absolute integrity. It is your strong support alone that preserves our continued independence and strength.”

WikiLeaks whistleblower site in temporary shutdown / 1 February 2010

WikiLeaks, a whistleblower website that allows people to publish uncensored information anonymously, has suspended operations owing to financial problems. Its running costs including staff payments are $600,000 (£377,000), but so far this year it has raised just $130,000 (£81,000). WikiLeaks has established a reputation for publishing information that traditional media cannot. The website claims to be non-profit and relies on donations. A statement on its front page says it is funded by “human rights campaigners, investigative journalists, technologists and the general public”.

Original documents
WikiLeaks does not accept money from governments or corporations. A list of names and addresses of people said to belong to the British National Party (BNP) was posted on the site in October 2009. WikiLeaks also published e-mail exchanges involving US politician Sarah Palin after her account was hacked. The site claims to have information about corrupt banks, the UN and the Iraq war that it is unable to publish while funds remain low.

While it has won awards for its work from the Economist and Amnesty International, WikiLeaks has also fought more than 100 legal challenges. “WikiLeaks has established a good name for itself and broken some good stories,” Julian Petley, chair of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, told BBC News. “One of the reasons why WikiLeaks is so useful is that it’s able to put original documents up – unfiltered by comment and editorial.” Investigative journalist Paul Lashmar said he had been “startled” by the effectiveness of WikiLeaks in publishing suppressed information.

However he thought that the funding issue would not be easily resolved. “(Web) users aren’t interested in how the people behind sites make their money,” he said. “The problem for the self-funding model is that sites like WikiLeaks will not find it easy to attract funding through advertising. “At some point people who care about free speech will realise that free speech has to be funded, otherwise it’s not free.”

Dig deep for Wikileaks
BY Emily Butselaar / 29 January 2010

Wikileaks, the whistleblowers’ home, has been temporarily shut down while its management tries to raise funds. Its tremendous success has meant the site has often struggled under the volume of users. It has faced down governments, investment banks and the famously litigious Church of Scientology but paying its operating costs (circa $600,000) has proved its undoing. As of today instead of reading government secrets and details of corporate malfeasance all visitors to the site will see is an appeal for cash. Anyone who cares about freedom of expression should dig deep.

Wikileaks, with its simple “keep the bastards honest” ethos, aims to discourage unethical behaviour by airing governments’ and corporations’ dirty laundry in public, putting their secrets out there in the public realm. The site won Index on Censorship’s 2008 freedom of expression award because it’s an invaluable resource for anonymous whistleblowers and investigative journalists.

Among Wikileaks’ recent triumphs are its publication of top-secret internet censorship lists. The blacklists from Australia, Thailand, Denmark and Norway demonstrate exactly how censorship systems are abused to suppress free expression. The Thai list featured sites criticising the country’s royal family and the Australian blacklist turned out to include a school canteen consultancy. Despite its child porn mandate, less than half of the Australian blacklist were linked to paedophilia. Also on the list were satanic and fetish sites, anti-abortion websites, and sites belonging to a kennel operator and a dentist. Publication highlighted the lack of transparency in the process and gave impetus to the “No Clean Feed” campaign which opposes the Australian government’s internet filter proposals.

But Wikileaks is not just a tool for journalists, it allows ordinary Kenyans to read a confidential report detailing the billions their former president allegedly siphoned from the country’s coffers. Its repository includes controversial military documents including the US rules of engagement in Iraq and an operating manual issued to army officers in Guantánamo Bay. It has put corporations on notice that the costs of unethical behaviour are immeasurable in PR terms because it amplifies the Streisand effect, the social media phenomenon that punishes those who use the courts to suppress or censor information, by ensuring it has a much wider reach.

Some have dismissed the site as a snooper’s charter. Many were outraged by its publication of Sarah Palin’s hacked emails which included private email addresses and Palin’s family photographs. These critics tended to overlook that the emails also provided clear evidence that Palin was using private email accounts for state business.

Wikipedia democratises news and information, allowing the public to access secret information that once would have been limited to the chateratti. Had the Trafigura case occurred five years earlier, most journalists would have been able to access the secret report at the heart of the case, but Wikileaks enables everyone to read it. The superinjunction taken out by Trafigura was so comprehensive that of 293 articles about the suppressed report, only 11 dared to link to it or told the public where they could access it. If Wikileaks didn’t exist, it is possible that Trafigura’s management may have clung to their injunction.

For fear of compromising its integrity Wikileaks doesn’t accept funding from corporations or governments. Instead, it relies on the public. If you want to read the exposés of the future, it’s time to chip in.


“ Wikileaks has probably produced more scoops in its short life than the Washington Post has in the past 30 years ” — The National, November 19. 2009

“To concentrate on raising the funds necessary to keep us alive into 2010, we have reluctantly suspended all other operations, but will be back soon. We have received hundreds of thousands of pages from corrupt banks, the US detainee system, the Iraq war, China, the UN and many others that we do not currently have the resources to release. You can change that and by doing so, change the world. Even $10 will pay to put one of these reports into another ten thousand hands and $1000, a million. We have raised just over $130,000 for this year but can not meaningfully continue operations until costs are covered. These amount to just under $200,000 PA. If staff are paid, our yearly budget is $600,000.

The Sunshine Press (WikiLeaks) is an non-profit organization funded by human rights campaigners, investigative journalists, technologists and the general public. Through your support we have exposed significant injustice around the world—successfully fighting off over 100 legal attacks in the process. Although our work produces reforms daily and is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the 2008 Economist Freedom of Expression Award as well as the 2009 Amnesty International New Media Award, these accolades do not pay the bills. Nor can we accept government or corporate funding and maintain our absolute integrity. It is your strong support alone that preserves our continued independence and strength.

If you are interested in contributing to our mission using another payment method or with a shares, property, bonds, a grant, matched contribution, bequest, interest free loan, or have any other questions, please write to

Wikileaks is currently overloaded by readers. This is a regular difficulty that can only be resolved by deploying additional resources. If you support our mission, you can help us by integrating new hardware into our project infrastructure or developing software for the project. Become patron of a WikiLeaks server or other parts of our technology, adding more pillars to the stability and balance of the WikiLeaks platform. Servers come trouble-free and legally fortified, software is uniquely challenging. If you can provide rackspace, power and an uplink, or a dedicated server or storage space, for at least 12 months, or software development work for WikiLeaks, please write to

Individuals or organizations wishing to donate lawyer time write to We provide unique legal challenges in an ongoing fight for global justice and freedom of speech. If you support our mission, join our legal team to help defend those values.

WikiLeaks would like to thank the following 18 steadfast supporters (unordered):
Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press (RCFP)
The American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE)
The Associated Press – world wide news agency, based in New York
Citizen Media Law Project – Harvard university
The E.W Scripps Company – newspapers, TV, cable TV etc.
Gannett Co. Inc – largest publisher of newspapers in US, including USA Today
The Hearst Corporation – conglomerate which publishes the San Francisco Chronicle
The Los Angeles Times
National Newspaper Association (NNA)
Newspaper Association of America (NAA)
The Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA)
The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ)
Public Citizen – founded by Ralph Nader together with the California First Amendment Coalition (CFAC)
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
The Project on Government Oversight (POGO)
Jordan McCorkle, the University of Texas

“ … serves as an uncensorable and untraceable depository for the truth, able to publish documents that the courts may prevent newspapers and broadcasters from being able to touch. ” — In praise of… Wikileaks – The Guardian, October 20, 2009

The Economy of Wikileaks / January 4, 2010

Wikileaks is a global platform for Whistleblowers, in which internal documents can be published. The idea is that arcane knowledge becomes common knowledge and the world a better place. The project could play in the same league as success stories like Wikipedia or Indymedia. After a highly acclaimed lecture at the 26th Congress of the Chaos Computer Club in Berlin, I had the opportunity to interview Julian Assange, the most prominent Wikileaks-character on how to finance such a website. The question seems to be pressing.

Q. At the moment [update Jan 21: and still today] has an unusual appearance. The website is locked down in order to generate money. How did you decide in favor of this tough step?
A. In part, this is a desire for us to to enforce self-discipline. It is for us a way to ensure that everyone who is involved stops normal work and actually spends time raising revenue. That’s hard for us, because we promise our sources that we will do something about their situation.

Q. So, you strike?
A. Yes, it’s similar to what unions do when they go on strike. They remind people that their labour has value by withdrawing supply entirely. We give free and important information to the world every day. But when the supply is infinite in the sense that everyone is able to download what we publish, the perceived value starts to reduce down to zero. So by withdrawing supply and making our supply to zero, people start to once again perceive the value of what we are doing.

Q. Do you urgently need money?
A. We have lots of very significant upcoming releases, significant in terms of bandwidth, but even more significant in terms of amount of labour they will require to process and in terms of legal attacks we will get. So we need to be in a stronger position before we can publish the material.

Q. In mainstream media as well as in non-commercial media there are two important questions. What does it cost? And how is it financed? Would you please first describe the cost side …
A. By far the biggest cost is people. That’s also a cost that scales with operations. The more material we go through, the more the management and labour costs are. People need to write summaries of the material and see whether it’s true or not. In the moment everyone is paying himself, but that can’t last forever.

Q. How big is the core team of WikiLeaks?
A. There are probably five people that do it 24 hours a day. And then there are 800 people who do it occasionally throughout the year. And in between there is a spectrum.

Q. How do you and the other four guys who work full time without salaries finance living costs?
A. I have made money in the Internet. So I have enough money to do that, but also not forever. And the other four guys, in the moment they are also able to self-finance.

Q. Was Wikileaks your idea as many assumed?
A. I don’t call myself a founder.

Q. Nobody really knows about the founders, says Wikipedia …
A. Yes. This is simply because some of the people in the initial founding group are refugees, refugees from China and other places. And they still have family back in their home countries.

Q. So at the moment the labour costs are still hypothetical, but the big costs that you really have to pay bills for are servers, office, etc.?
A. On the bandwidth side, the backing is costly as well when we get big spikes. Then there are registrations, bureaucracy, dealing with bank accounts and this sort of stuff. Because we are not in one location, it doesn’t make sense for us to have headquarters. People have their own offices across the world.

Q. What about cost for lawsuits?
A. We don’t have to pay for our lawyer’s time. Hundred of thousands or millions dollars’ worth of lawyer time are being donated. But we still have to pay things like photocopying and court filing. And so far we have never lost a case, there were no penalties or compensations to pay.

Q. So all in all, can you give figures about how much money Wikileaks needs in one year?
A. Propably 200 000, that’s with everyone paying themselves. But there are people who can’t afford to continue being involved fulltime unless they are paid. For that I would say maybe it’s 600 000 a year.

Q. Now let’s talk about revenues, your only visible revenue stream is donations …
A. Private donations. We refuse government and corporate donations. In the moment most of the money comes from the journalists, the lawyers or the technologists who are personally involved. Only about ten percent are from online donations. But that might increase.

Q. At the bottom of the site is a list of your “steadfast supporters”, media organisations and companies like AP, Los Angeles Times or The National Newspaper Association. What do they do for you?
A. They give their lawyers, not cash.

Q. Why do the they help you? Probably not out of selflessness.
A. Two things: They see us as an organisation that makes it easier for them to do what they do. But they also see us as the thin end of the wedge. We tackle the hardest publishing cases. And if we are defeated, maybe they will be next in line. In other words: If goes down as a result of a legal action, the same precedence can be used to take down the next day or the German Spiegelonline.

Q. My explanation was that maybe they do it because they know that what you do is actually their job, but they don’t have the money to do it.
A. Maybe. The cost per word in investigative journalism is high. We make it a little bit cheaper for them. If you can bring these costs per word down you can get more words of investigative journalism and publish even in a company that wants to maximize profit, because we do some of the expensive sourcing. And there is another really big cost, namely the threat of legal action. We take the most legally difficult part, which is not the story, but usually the backing documents. As a result there is less chance of legal action against the publisher. So we help them to bring their costs per word in investigative journalism down.

Q. You need to motivate two groups of people, in order to make the site run, the whistleblowers and the journalists. What are the motivations for whistleblowers?
A. Usually they are incenced morally by something. Very rarely actually they want revenge or just to embarrass some organisation. So that’s their incentive, to satisfy this feeling. Actually we would have no problem giving sources cash. We don’t do that, but for me there is no reason why only the lawyers and the journalists should be compensated for their effort. Somebody is taking the risk to do something and this will end up benefiting the public.

Q. But then the legal problem would become much bigger.
A. Yes, but we’re not concerned about that. We could do these transfer payments to a jurisdiction like Belgium which says, that the authorities are not to use any means to determine the connection between the journalist and their source. And this would include the banking system.

Q. On the other hand, you experiment with incentives for journalists. This sounds weird at first. Why do you have to give them additional incentives so they use material you offer them for free?
A. It’s not that easy. Information has value, generally in proportion to the supply of this information being restricted. Once everyone has the information, another copy of the information has no value.

Q. But nearly every journalist in the U.S. has daily access to the material of a news agency like AP.
A. The material of AP is ready to go straight into the newspaper. Our material requires additional investment. So when we release an important leak, it requires an important, intelligent journalist who is politically well connected. Those journalists have significant opportunity costs. Okay, they want to spend their time on 200 pages. In order for that to be profitable they need to make sure that they will come out with an exclusive at the end. But if it is perceived to be something of interest, it is probable that also other people will be working on it at that moment. And when they publish is unpredictable. That produces the counter-intuitive outcome that the more evidence there is of some scandal and the more important the scandal, the less likely it is that the press will write about it. If there is no exclusivity.

Q. In Germany you made an exclusivity deal with two media companies, with Stern and Heise. Are you satisfied with these kind of deals?
A. We have done this in other countries before. Generally we have been satisfied. The problem is that it takes too much time to manage. To make a contract, and to determine who should have the exclusivity. Someone can say, oh, we will do a good story. We are going to maximize the political impact. And then they won’t do it. How do we measure this?

Q. You want to make sure that if you give them the exclusivity that they really do what they promise to do …
A. Yes. One thing that can’t be faked is how much money they pay. If you have an auction and a media organisation pays the most, then they are predicting, that they will benefit the most from publishing the story. That is, they will have the maximum number of readers. So this is a very good way to measure who should have the exclusivity. We tried to do it as an experiment in Venezuela .

Q. Why Venezuela?
A. Because of the character of the document. We had 7 000 e-mails from Freddy Balzan, he was Hugo Chavez’s former speech writer and also the former ambassador to Argentinia. We knew that this document would have this problem, that it was big and political important, therefore probably no one would write anything about it for the reason I just said.

Q. What happened?
A. This auction proved to be a logistical nightmare. Media organisations wanted access to the material before they went to auction. Consequently we would get them to sign non-disclosure agreements, chop up the material and release just every second page or every second sentence.That proved to distracting to all the normal work we were doing, so that we said, forget it, we can’t do that. We just released the material as normal. And that’s precisely what happened: no one wrote anything at all about those 7 000 Emails. Even though 15 stories had appeared about the fact that we were holding the auction.

Q. The experiment failed.
A. The experiment didn’t fail; the experiment taught us about what the burdens were. We would actually need a team of five or six people whose job was just to arrange these auctions.

Q. You plan to continue the auction idea in the future …
A. We plan to continue it, but we know it will take more resources. But if we pursue that we will not do that for single documents. We will instead offer a subscription. This would be much simpler. We would only have the overhead of doing the auction stuff every three months or six months, and not for every document.

Q. So the exclusivity of the story will run out after three months?
A. No, there will be exclusivity in terms of different time windows in access to the material. As an example: there will be an auction for North America. And you will be ranked in the auction. The media organisation which bids most in the auction would get access to it first, the one who bids second will get access to it second and so on. Media organisations would have a subscription to Wikileaks.

Q. They would have timely privileged access to all Wikileaks documents that are relevant for North America …
A. Yes. Let’s imagine there are only two companies in the auction. And one pays double what the other one pays. And let’s say the source says they want the document to be published in one month’s time. So there is a one month window where the journalists have time to investigate and write about the material. The organisation that pays the most for it gets it immediately, so therefore they would be able to do a more comprehensive story. Then the organisation that pays half as much gets it half the time later, they get the documents two weeks later. And then after one month they both publish.

Q. That sounds promising. Wouldn’t then the financial problem be solved?
A. It depends on how many resources the auction itself takes. And media themselves don’t have so much money at all. But all in all I think we only would have to have a few bid cases per year, that would be enough to finance it.


YOU Submit a document for us to publish and, inorder to maximize its impact, distribute amongst our network of investigative journalists, human rights workers, lawyers and other partners.

WE will publish and keep published the document you submitted, provided it meets the submission criteria. Your data is stored decentralized, encrypted and as a preserved historic record, accessible in full by the public. The information you submit will be cleaned by us to not be technically traceable to your PDF printing program, your word installation, scanner, printer. We also anonymize any information on you at a very early stage of the WikiLeaks network, and our services neither know who you are nor do they keep any information about your visit. We will never cooperate with anyone trying to identify you as our source. In fact we are legally bound not to do so, and any investigation into you as our source is a crime in various countries and will be prosecuted.

Wikileaks plans to make the Web a leakier place
BY Dan Nystedt / October 9, 2009, the online clearinghouse for leaked documents, is working on a plan to make the Web leakier by enabling newspapers, human rights organizations, criminal investigators and others to embed an “upload a disclosure to me via Wikileaks” form onto their Web sites. The upload system will give potential whistleblowers around the world the ability to leak sensitive documents to an organization or journalist they trust over a secure connection, while giving the receiver legal protection they might not otherwise enjoy. “We will take the burden of protecting the source and the legal risks associated with publishing the document,” said Julien Assange, an advisory board member at Wikileaks, in an interview at the Hack In The Box security conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Once Wikileaks confirms the uploaded material is real, it will be handed over to the Web site that encouraged the submission for a period of time. This embargo period gives the journalist or rights group time to write a news story or report based on the material.

The embargo period is a key part of the plan, Assange said. When Wikileaks releases material without writing its own story or finding people who will, it gains little attention. “It’s counterintuitive,” he said. “You’d think the bigger and more important the document is, the more likely it will be reported on but that’s absolutely not true. It’s about supply and demand. Zero supply equals high demand, it has value. As soon as we release the material, the supply goes to infinity, so the perceived value goes to zero.” The final act will be for Wikileaks to publish the material on its Web site after the story has been written and the embargo period lapsed. “We want to get as much substantive information as possible into the historical record, keep it accessible and provide incentives for people to turn it into something that will achieve political reform,” said Assange.

Wikileaks is also working on ways to make the material it receives easier to search through. The problem Wikileaks often runs into is how to present the material it’s been given and how to make it easier to sift through for vital information, said Assange. “At the moment, for example, we are sitting on 5GB from Bank of America, one of the executive’s hard drives,” he said. “Now how do we present that? It’s a difficult problem. We could just dump it all into one giant Zip file, but we know for a fact that has limited impact. To have impact, it needs to be easy for people to dive in and search it and get something out of it.” In three years on the Web, Wikileaks has published over 1.2 million sensitive documents.

The famous whistle-blower site just blew its own whistle, leaking the e-mail addresses of dozens of its financial supporters.
By Robert X. Cringely / February 23, 2009

Live by the leak, die by the leak. Apparently that’s the motto at, the whistle-blowing site that provides one-stop shopping for stuff other folks really don’t want you to see. Wikileaks made headlines last year when it published documents accusing Swiss bank Julius Baer of money laundering and other activities not-entirely-on-the-up-and-up. The bank sued, inspiring some laughably lame attempts to shut the site down and generating even more bad PR. About a month later the site published various “secret documents” for the Church of Scientology. The site has also been instrumental in documenting torture at Abu Ghraib, human rights protests in Tibet, and civilian casualties in Afghanistan.

But Wikileaks is now dangling by its own petard, after someone in its fundraising arm sent out an e-mail shilling for donations but put the addresses of its 58 recipients on the “To:” field instead of “Bcc:”. Someone quickly submitted the e-mail to the Wikileaks foundation as a “leaked” document, presumably to test just how devoted Wikileaks is to its own mission. Egg meet face. To its credit (and probably to some donors’ horror) the site posted the document in full, including all 58 email addresses. Many of them feature aliases like “eekameeka” and “phantom 7266,” while other less fortunate folks included what appear to be their real names and work email addresses. But even a pseudonymous address can yield a lot of information about someone if they use it to sign onto multiple sites across the Web.

Nothing wrong with giving money to a site that exists to promote freedom of the press. But now one question becomes whether organizations that got pwned by Wikileaks will start harassing the site’s donors, if only to shut off the money spigot. The bigger question is, how can you trust Wikileaks to protect whistle-blowers’ identities when it can’t protect its own donors? Wikileaks claims it’s better at protecting the sources of its information, even if it’s not so hot at protecting the sources of its funding. In a comment posted on Wired’s Threat Level blog, organization spokesdude Jay Lim says:

“…while definitely not good form, the mistake was a missed shortcut made by one of our admin people and is not related to the efforts or systems involved in source protection.”
If I’m someone who could lose my job because I posted secret information to Wikileaks, I would find this statement cold comfort.

Really, Wikileaks was hosed regardless of what it decided to do; if your whole schtick is exposing the unvarnished unredacted truth, you can’t suddenly start making exceptions for yourself. But this dumb mistake is likely to cost it contributions, both monetary and otherwise.

Will Wikileaks Drown in Its Own Red Ink?
Robert Cringely / Feb 4, 2010

We have interrupted our nonstop coverage of Apple iPad mania to bring you this important word about the freedom of information — more specifically, I’ve written about Wikileaks several times over the last few years, in part because it’s a classic example of why the Internet is such an extraordinary telecommunications tool. Wikileaks is usually described as a “whistleblower” site, but it’s really more of a safe haven for secrets that need to be exposed — kind of like a Swiss bank, only in reverse, so it’s kind of fitting that a Swiss bank is one of its most famous targets. But instead of shielding people who are trying to hide their assets, it exposes them. Thanks to the nature of the Net, confidential sources can make those secrets public without putting their own necks on the chopping block. (Admittedly, these sources sometimes break the law or their legal agreements by doing so. And Wikileaks sometimes exposes information — like personal email addresses — of people who’ve done nothing wrong. It’s far from perfect.)

Through its work, Wikileaks has exposed money-laundering banks, brainwashing cults, repressive governments, corporate scofflaws, butter-fingered politicos, and all other manner of bad actors. Not surprisingly, the org has been sued by its deep-pocketed targets, harassed by the authorities, and attacked by DDoSers. Now it faces the biggest obstacle of all: money — or, rather, a lack thereof.

Today Wikileaks announced it has been forced to suspend its operations due to a lack of funds. That sound you hear is champagne glasses clinking in the boardrooms at Bank Julius Baer, at the Scientology HQ in St. Petersburg, Fla., in the government halls of Beijing, and in other elite locations around the globe.  I can understand why the wiki’s donor pool dried up. About a year ago, Wikileaks sprung a leak itself and accidentally emailed a list of its financial patrons, some of whom probably would have preferred to remain anonymous. That email was then submitted to Wikileaks, which dutifully posted it like any other document it receives from anonymous sources.  Now it’s seeking donations from the public to stay afloat, as well as technical resources (like servers and storage space) and legal expertise. Its supporters have started a Facebook group (numbering about 1,200 members at press time), and other journos besides yours truly are spreading the good word.

Why support Wikileaks?
Because investigative journalism is on a respirator, and the prognosis isn’t good. For one thing, this kind of reporting is expensive. You need publications that can afford to pay a professional reporter, or a team of them, to dig into a story for months or even years without any promise that they’ll end up with something worth publishing. Those stories might involve the use of a private detective, and they will almost always require the services of a team of attorneys to vet the copy carefully and defend the story later in court, if required. None of that stuff comes cheap.

Still, investigative reporting was how major news dailies and dozens of glossy mags made their bones back in the day. Now the number of publications that can continue to fund this kind of reporting have been whittled down to a handful, and most of those are teetering on the brink. These days it’s all about how fast you can publish a story online — even when it bears little resemblance to reality as defined by most people — and how much Google loves you as a result. There aren’t a lot of rewards for reporting and reflection there. Sure, the blogosphere can occasionally step in and break a story, just like a blind pig occasionally stumbles across an acorn. But only for the most brain-dead simple stuff — like the wrong font used in a typewritten letter. Most investigative breakthroughs involve detailed painstaking work, deep understanding of a topic, and the ability to earn the trust of a wide range of confidential sources who are willing to put their jobs and possibly their lives at risk just by talking to you.

Those things are not generally available to obsessive-compulsive pajama-wearing typists who may or may not be using their real names. And they certainly won’t be without resources like Wikileaks, which levels the information playing field for everyone, professional and amateur journos alike. So it’s your choice. You can spend $10 on a couple of lattes and a kruller, or you can spend it on keeping information flowing just a little more freely around the world. I know which one I’d pick. If Wikileaks goes down, will something new rise to take its place?

Wikileaks Meets Its Minimum Cash Goal
BY Kim Zetter / February 4, 2010

The whistleblowing site Wikileaks has apparently raised the money it needs to continue operating for the time being, according to a message the organization sent out Wednesday night on Twitter. “Achieved min. funraising [sic] goal. ($200k/600k); we’re back fighting for another year, even if we have to eat rice to do it,” read the tweet, without specifying whether it had raised the full $600,000 or just $200,000.

The site announced last December that it was ceasing day-to-day operations to focus on raising money. It said contributors could still send documents and tips through its anonymous submission tool. Last week, it was ceasing operations indefinitely because it had raised only $130,000 of the $200,000 it needed to maintain base operations annually. The site says it requires $600,000 to operate if it pays its staff of technologists and curators who sift through submissions to provide context for documents and other information valuable to its users. The announcement page, beginning with: “We protect the world — but will you protect us?” has not changed, except to add that Wikileaks “will be back soon.”

“We have received hundreds of thousands of pages from corrupt banks, the U.S. detainee system, the Iraq war, China, the UN and many others that we do not currently have the resources to release,” the pages reads. “You can change that and by doing so, change the world. Even $10 will pay to put one of these reports into another 10,000 hands and $1,000, a million.”

The site takes donations through PayPal, Moneybookers and TipiT, as well as checks and bank transfers. Its online TipiT tipjar indicates it has raised $31,000 using that method. Donors to its tipjar leave such messages as: “Keep scooping us — we’re very grateful for your persistence.” “Keep up the good work, shining light in dark places.” “You may be the most important resource on the net in the long term.”

The site was formally launched in 2007 as an online clearinghouse for anonymous submissions of documents, images and other data. It has received awards from Amnesty International and has been praised by media groups and others for giving whistleblowers and political dissidents a forum to expose corruption and suppression and foster transparency.

It’s run by the Sunshine Press, said to be supported by anonymous human rights activists, investigative journalists, technologists and members of the general public around the world. The site has scooped mainstream media outlets a number of times in obtaining documents and information on controversial topics that have then become the source of mainstream media stories.

In 2007, the site published a 238-page U.S. military manual detailing operations of the Defense Department’s Guantánamo Bay detention facility. It also posted a manual for operating the CIA’s rendition flights, which involved undocumented detainees who were kidnapped in various locations and flown to countries outside the United States for interrogation and torture.

Wikileaks was among the first to publish data from Sarah Palin’s private Yahoo e-mail account after a Tennessee judge tried to shutter Wikileaks by ordering its U.S. host to take it offline after a Cayman Islands bank complained that the site was publishing proprietary documents. The judge reversed his decision a week later following criticism of numerous groups that said the judge’s decision constituted prior restraint, a violation of the First Amendment.





Did Bush’s Terrorist Surveillance Program Really Focus on American
BY Scott Horton  /  January 22, 2009

For the last several weeks, Michael Hayden, the former CIA director
who previously led the NSA, has been sweating bullets. In recent press
meetings he was a bundle of worries, regularly expressing worries
about “prosecutions.” Fear of the consequences of criminal acts has
been a steady theme for Hayden. In her book The Dark Side, Jane Mayer
reports that in 2004 Deputy Attorney General James Comey was “taken
aback” by Hayden’s comments when he was let in on the details of the
program that Hayden ran at NSA. “I’m glad you’re joining me, because I
won’t have to be lonely, sitting all by myself at the witness table,
in the administration of John Kerry.”

Last night on MSNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” we learned
that Hayden is concerned about more than just allegations that
detainees in CIA custody were tortured. Former NSA analyst Russell
Tice, a source for the New York Times disclosure of details of the
program, appears to offer further details on the program. He reports
that under Hayden the NSA was looking at “everyone’s” communications—
telephone conversations, emails, faxes, IMs—and that in addition to
suspect terrorists, the NSA was carefully culling data from Internet
and phone lines to track the communications of U.S. journalists. This
was done under the pretense of pulling out a control group that was
not suspect. But Tice reports that when he started asking questions
about why journalists were sorted out for special scrutiny, he found
that he himself came under close scrutiny and was removed from
involvement in the program. He found that he had come under intense
FBI surveillance and his communications in all forms were being
monitored. After expressing severe doubts about the operations of the
NSA program, both Deputy Attorney General Comey and former Assistant
Attorney General Jack Goldsmith both believe they also came under
intense surveillance. Both decided to leave the Bush Administration
after these developments.

If Tice’s allegations are correct, then Hayden managed a program which
was in essence a massive felony, violating strict federal criminal
statutes that limit the NSA’s domestic surveillance operations. While
a number of media outlets reported that Hayden’s activities were
“vindicated” by a recent FISA court ruling approving the NSA
surveillance program, that view is completely incorrect. The FISA
court ruling dealt only with the implementation of a program under the
newly amended FISA following Hayden’s departure.

NSA Whistleblower: Grill the CEOs on Illegal Spying
BY Kim Zetter  /  January 26, 2009

Former National Security Agency analyst Russell Tice shed new light on
the Bush administration’s warrantless domestic spying last week when
he told MSNBC that the NSA blended credit card transaction records
with wiretap data to keep tabs on thousands of Americans.

But Tice didn’t say where the credit card information, and other
financial data, came from. Did the agency scoop it in as part of its
surveillance of U.S. communications backbones, or did financial
companies give up your records in bulk to the NSA?

The distinction is significant. Telecommunication companies, such as
AT&T and Verizon, are embroiled in lawsuits over their alleged
cooperation with the government’s warrantless surveillance. If credit
card companies and banks also provided information without a warrant,
it’s conceivable they could face a courtroom challenge as well.

I spoke with Tice extensively in the spring of 2006. With Bush still
in power, the whistleblower was considerably more taciturn than on
television last week. But looking back through the transcript of my
interviews now, in the context of his new revelations, it seems clear
that Tice was saying that credit card companies and banks gave the
same kind of cooperation to the government that phone companies did.

“To get at what’s really going on here, the CEOs of these telecom
companies, and also of the banking and credit card companies, and any
other company where you have big databases, those are the people you
have to haul in to Congress and tell them you better tell the truth,”
he said at the time. “Because anyone in the government is going to
claim executive privilege.”

The New York Times broke the story in 2006 that the NSA obtained
access to financial records in the international SWIFT database. But
that database mostly involves wire transfers of money in and out of
the U.S., not domestic transactions. Tice’s comments reveal that the
agency may have obtained bulk data on domestic credit card
transactions as well from U.S. financial institutions — all without a

I spoke with Tice for a story about a secret room at an AT&T facility
in Bridgeton, Missouri that had the earmarks of an NSA data mining

Shortly after Mark Klein, a retired AT&T employee in San Francisco,
came forward with information about a secret room in a San Francisco
building that appeared to be providing the NSA with a real-time data
feed, two sources who once worked for the company told me about a
similar room in the company’s Bridgeton facility that appeared to be
doing the same kind of data mining at a much greater level. Bridgeton
is the network operations center for AT&Ts broadband services.

I turned to Tice for more details. Tice had already publicly
identified himself as one of the sources the New York Times had used
for its 2005 story on the government’s warrantless wiretapping. Tice
warned me at the start of our conversation that he believed our phone
call was being monitored by the FBI and that there were a lot of
things he wouldn’t be able to discuss, on the advice of his lawyer.

Tice had been in the intelligence community since 1985. He entered the
Air Force after finishing college, and went to work in signals
intelligence. After leaving the military, he worked as an intelligence
contractor, then was employed by the Defense Intelligence Agency
before taking a job with the NSA.

His unclassified resume hides all of this history. “[It says] I deal
with space systems. Space communications, all kinds of space weenie
stuff. If it deals with outer space I’m your man,” he said.

Do you have any connection to outer space stuff? I asked.

“I watch Buck Rogers.”

What follows are excerpts from my interviews with Tice, beginning with
his explanation of one way the NSA’s data mining could operate.

Tice: Say you’re pretty sure you’re looking for terrorists, and you’re
pretty sure that the percentage of women terrorists as opposed to men
is pretty [small]. So you just filter out all female voices. And
there’s a way to determine whether the signature of the voice is male
or female. So, boom, you get rid of 50 percent of your information
just by filtering there. Then from your intelligence work you realize
that most terrorists never talk more than two minutes. So any
conversation more than two minutes, you immediately filter that out.
You start winnowing down what you’re looking for.

Q: Without really knowing what it is you’re looking for?

Tice: Right. And if you can develop a machine to look for the needle
in the haystack and what you come out with from having the machine
sift through the haystack is a box of straw, where maybe the needle’s
in there and maybe a few bonus needles, then that’s a whole lot better
than having humans try to sift through a haystack.

Secretroom1_f_2 Q: Presuming that the NSA is collecting data in San
Francisco or data mining, what happens to the data after it’s
collected? If they find actionable material in the data does the NSA
pass it on to the FBI?

Tice: The NSA avoids sending anything to the FBI if they can help it.
If there is a criminal element or activity in the data it has to be
determined whether it’s passed to the FBI, or Homeland Security, as it
happens to be these days. When I was in the business, we all knew that
the FBI leaked like a sieve. So we were very hesitant to take
advantage of the FBI on anything because you were liable to see it on
the news the next day. The FBI will compromise anything to get a
conviction. But in the intelligence community you don’t think that
way. We’re more than willing to let a criminal go to protect
classified information. . . .

Q: But would the info be passed to the FBI if it involved terrorists
and national security?

Tice: Yes, they would. And if it’s some big mob thing, they would also
give it to the FBI, but tell them to come up with some other way as to
how they got the information.

Q: Why would the agency need to be so secretive about the AT&T rooms?

Tice: The big reason why they would put the San Francisco operation at
such a high classification level is to hide the fact that they’re
breaking the law and to hide the fact that they’re breaking the NSA’s
own policy. It should be [the sort of project] that any NSA analyst
should be able to walk in and have access to. But to cloister it away
where only a few people know about it means that it’s something they
don’t want anyone to know about. …

Say we’re doing that same sort of deal overseas against a
foreigner. … More than likely anyone in NSA could potentially have
access to that information. It wouldn’t be compartmentalized. So if we
set up that same scenario, even covertly in some frame room in
Bucharest or something, anyone at NSA with a TS/SCI clearance could
potentially look at intelligence reports from information garnered
from that particular collection point. So all of a sudden that same
thing is being used here in the states and it’s being put into a
special SAP program — Special Access Program. … They’re extremely
closely held programs that are super-duper clearance nonsense. It’s
what I specialized for the last eleven years or whatever.

Q: So you’re saying that San Francisco and this other room [in
Bridgeton] reek of “super-duper” secrecy?

Tice: Yes, it reeks of SAP. Potentially. For NSA to do what they
did … it means that they knew that it was illegal and the reason
they put this super high clearance on it was because they were
protecting their own hides to keep anyone within NSA from finding out
that it was going on. …

Let me tell you, the biggest sweat that happened at NSA happened when
John Kerry almost got elected president [in 2004], because they were
concerned they were all going to be thrown in jail. They were all
wiping sweat off their forehead when he lost. That’s the scuttlebutt.

Q: Is it correct to say that, if the NSA is doing what Mark Klein says
they are doing, that this would be a departure from the NSAs mission?
Meaning that this would be the first time since 1978 or so when FISA
was passed that it was engaging in this kind of activity?

Tice: That’s correct. This would be an entirely new business for them,
especially since FISA.

If you look at USSID 18, the NSA’s bible on how it operates, the
number one commandment of the NSAs ten commandments is You Shall Not
Spy on Americans. So when this was brought up, I assume by [former NSA
Director Michael] Hayden, he knew that what he was proposing was a
violation of the fourth amendment and of USSID 18. And everyone at NSA
knows this, too, because it’s drilled into our heads over and over

To get at what’s really going on here, the CEOs of these telecom
companies, and also of the banking and credit card companies and any
other company where you have big databases, those are the people you
have to haul in to Congress and tell them you better tell the truth.
Because anyone in the government is going to claim executive

I just hope in the long run that … at some point that the American
people wake up and that this stuff is dealt with. Right now … do you
know the adage about the frog in the water? That’s what we’re dealing
with here. The American people are the frog in the tepid water, and
the temperature is slowly being turned up. And we’re about to become
frog soup, and the American people don’t know what’s happening.

Aristotle said that the biggest danger to democracy is not insurgency,
it’s apathy. And I think that’s what we’re seeing right now. To a
large extent it’s politicians doing CYA and doing everything they can
to make sure that people don’t know what’s going on. But to another
extent, it’s the populace who is more concerned about Janet Jackson’s
breast jumping out of her dress at the Super Bowl as opposed to what’s
really important in this world. Who cares about Britney Spears having
her baby on her lap or all that nonsense that you see on TV?

I’ve done my constitutional duty. I’ve done what I had to do. That’s
all I’ll say. Let the chips fall where they may. I’m out of the game.
I’ve fallen on my sword.




In a New History of NSA, Its Spies’ Successes Are [Redacted]
BY Siobhan Gorman  /  November 14, 2008

For much of its history, the government’s most-secretive intelligence
agency sought to conceal its very existence. So it was a surprise last
year when university researchers persuaded the National Security
Agency to hand over a top-secret, 1,000-page account of its Cold War

George Washington University plans to release the report today, giving
historians a rare look inside the agency that gathers intelligence
through eavesdropping. But one thing appears to be missing: Many of
its biggest successes.

Not wanting to reveal too much, NSA blanked out sensitive chunks of
the account that, according to intelligence experts, appear to
chronicle espionage breakthroughs. What remains makes it appear that
the world’s largest ear has been a bit deaf.

According to the declassified report, government eavesdroppers
generated half of their intelligence reports just after World War II
from listening in on the French. Code breakers missed a key tip-off in
the Cuban Missile Crisis. The report also suggests that, for the most
part, the government couldn’t crack high-grade Soviet communications
codes between World War II and the 1970s.

“This was a perfect opportunity for NSA to put its best foot forward,”
says Matthew Aid, an intelligence historian who pressed the agency to
release the report and plans to publish his own NSA history next year.
“Instead what you’re left with is a fair to middling picture of this

The report’s author, Thomas R. Johnson, declined to say how the edited
history compares with the original version. But intelligence experts
say it’s common for failures to become more public than successes
because such breakthroughs can be too good to reveal. Even making
older successes public may reveal sources, hint at continuing
intelligence efforts, or hurt diplomatic relations. When NSA
declassified the government’s World War II code-breaking activities,
it faced criticism from State Department colleagues who were upset the
U.S. had spied on allies, says Mr. Aid, a visiting fellow at the
National Security Archive at George Washington University.

NSA, once dubbed “No Such Agency,” was created in a secret executive
order in 1952 to intercept electronic communications through
eavesdropping. It wasn’t until 16 years later that its power to
eavesdrop on foreigners was established in public law.

On three separate occasions, the agency set out to write its history,
but it aborted each effort because it was too overwhelming. In 1992,
NSA tapped Mr. Johnson to take another crack at it. “Even when I came
to the agency in 1964, there was this culture that we were so secret
that no one would ever get into our affairs,” Mr. Johnson said in an
interview that NSA officials arranged and attended.

He spent more than six years writing the report, divided into four
intelligence eras, that draws on his 34 years in government
eavesdropping around the world. When friends asked him when they would
read it, the 68-year-old would say: “We’ll all be dead before this is

In 1998, he completed the report before retiring from NSA the next
year. All of its pages were stamped “TOP SECRET UMBRA,” using agency
jargon that signified it was particularly sensitive.

The most revealing portions of the history hint at U.S. failures to
crack Soviet communications after a day in 1948 the agency dubbed
“Black Friday,” when the Soviets changed their communications codes.
The following year, the NSA’s predecessor, the Armed Forces Security
Agency, inherited from the military services “a Soviet problem that
was in miserable shape,” Mr. Johnson wrote, in reference to cracking
Soviet codes.

U.S. intelligence agencies were surprised to discover the Soviets
exploded a nuclear device in September 1949, the history says. They
were again caught off guard four years later when the Soviets
detonated a hydrogen bomb. Some government officials believed the
effort to decode Soviet communications “was hopeless and should not be
funded,” Mr. Johnson wrote.

NSA also fought internecine battles with its sister agencies,
especially the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA didn’t inform NSA
Director Lt. Gen. Ralph J. Canine about its effort in the mid-1950s to
tap East German and Soviet cables, dubbed the Berlin Tunnel, the
history says.

In a photo from 2006, a workstation bears the National Security Agency
logo inside the Threat Operations Center inside the Washington suburb
of Fort Meade, Md.

In the lead-up to the Cuban Missile Crisis, NSA and military spies
missed the Soviets transferring a battery of offensive missiles to
Cuba. That “marked the most significant failure” by government
eavesdroppers to warn national leaders since World War II, Mr. Johnson

Bobby Ray Inman, a retired admiral and former director of NSA during
the late 1970s, says the history doesn’t acknowledge the successful
tracking of Soviet ships that were heading toward Cuba. During the
late 1970s, “there were several access breakthroughs that provided
some extraordinary insights,” he says.

Hinting at those successes, the declassified history says that as NSA
entered that period, it made significant advances in unlikely
circumstances. “Even with decreased money, cryptology was yielding the
best information that it had produced since World War II” by that
time, Mr. Johnson wrote.

In 1979, NSA successfully warned of the Soviet invasion of
Afghanistan, and White House postmortems called it an intelligence
success. In the 1980s, he wrote, the NSA used “lots of shiny new toys
to very telling effect.

“After years of struggle, it was now possible to predict with some
clarity and speed the intentions of the major antagonist. It had been
a long walk from Pearl Harbor,” the history says.

The report also offers a glimpse inside the offices of the mysterious
agency. In 1954, at its unairconditioned and overcrowded headquarters,
then in Arlington, Va., NSA had a hot-weather policy that allowed
employees to leave work “when conditions became fairly unbearable,”
Mr. Johnson wrote. The agency drew a chart listing the heat and
humidity combinations that permitted employees to leave, starting at
95 degrees. In colder months, employees’ metal badges proved “ideal
for scraping ice off windshields,” he wrote.

After Mr. Johnson turned in the report, it remained under wraps at the
NSA. He mentioned it to Mr. Aid, the historian, after meeting him at
an intelligence conference in Canada.

In 2006, Mr. Aid joined forces with George Washington University’s
National Security Archive and filed a request to get the report. The
agency handed over Mr. Johnson’s first three volumes the following
year, except for about 75 to 100 pages that it deemed too sensitive.
“I was stunned,” Mr. Aid says. “Clearly this history was meant for
internal consumption only.”

Eager to get a copy after it was handed over to the university, Mr.
Johnson called a friend at NSA. But she wouldn’t give it to him. “She
said, ‘I’m not sure we want to do that because then you’ll be talking
on the record about this, so I’m looking into it,’ ” Mr. Johnson says.
He didn’t hear back and ended up getting a copy from Mr. Aid.

Historians are working to get their hands on a fourth volume that Mr.
Johnson wrote about the NSA. Mr. Johnson says it includes “a couple of
instances” during the 1980s where “somebody really made a bad error
here and should have been fired. “I hope it will come out,” he says
about the fourth volume. “It’s still classified.”

Secret Agency Man
The new NSA is decentralized, privatized, and coming to a “data
center” near you. Author James Bamford catches up with his old nemesis
BY Lee Gardner  /  11/5/2008

Not long after U.S. Air Force Major General* Michael Hayden learned he
was going to be named the director of the National Security Agency in
1998, he and his wife went out on a date. The Haydens lived in Seoul,
South Korea, where he was stationed with the United Nations Command,
and they decided to take in a movie at the local U.S. army base. The
feature presentation that evening happened to be Enemy of the State, a
then-new Hollywood thriller that depicted the highly secret, enigmatic
NSA as a ruthless organization that used its array of electronic
surveillance devices to peer into every corner of the private lives of
Americans and murdered those who stood in its way, including a

As Hayden told journalist James Bamford during an interview in 2000,
“Other than the affront to truthfulness, it was an entertaining
movie.” Hayden went on to explain that he appreciated Enemy of the
State for its deeper message: “the evils of secrecy and power.”

Hayden’s words came back to Bamford in 2005 after the New York Times
broke the story that the NSA under Hayden had been conducting
widespread eavesdropping on the conversations of Americans
communicating overseas, a practice expressly outlawed by the 1978
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act but controversially put in
motion by the Bush Administration in the wake of the terrorist attacks
of September 11.

Bamford was, and remains, very likely the person who knows the most
about the NSA outside the NSA itself. He is the author of 1982’s best-
selling The Puzzle Palace, the first extensive investigation into the
electronic-spying agency headquartered at Fort Meade, Maryland; when
he interviewed Hayden he was working on a best-selling sequel, 2001’s
Body of Secrets. As Bamford notes during a recent telephone
conversation, he had no plans to write a third book about the NSA. But
when the Times’ “warrantless eavesdropping” story broke, he got back
to work.

Bamford’s new book, The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11
to the Eavesdropping on America (Doubleday), presents an account of
the drastic and ominous shift in the agency’s mission and tactics over
the past seven years. After detailing the NSA’s failure to follow up
on the clues it had about the September 11 terrorists entering the
United States, Bamford recounts Hayden’s quick capitulation to the
Bush Administration’s request for an illegal surveillance dragnet and
the fallout from the Times story, including persistent attempts to
continue the program and indemnify the participants that were only
resolved with the passage of the FISA Amendments Act this past July.
(Hayden left the NSA in 2005; he is currently the director of the
Central Intelligence Agency.)

The revelations don’t stop there. The Shadow Factory discusses the
National Business Park, a complex near Fort Meade that’s crammed with
private companies that now earn millions to do much of the NSA’s
highly classified work. Among the private companies winning contracts
with the agency are Narus and Verint, firms with ties to Israeli
intelligence that sell surveillance equipment to the NSA, and also to
countries such as Vietnam and China, which use it to crack down on
dissidents. Bamford wraps up with the agency’s growing interest in
gathering and mining communications data, which includes building a
massive new 470,000-square-foot “data warehouse” in San Antonio that,
as Bamford observes, “may eventually be able to hold all the
information in the world.”

Low-key but voluble, 62-year-old Bamford spoke with the Current’s
Times-Shamrock sister publication, Baltimore City Paper, from his home
in Washington, D.C.

Q: How did you first get interested in the NSA and start writing about
A: I was in the Navy for three years, and then [thanks to] the GI Bill
I went to college and law school. After graduating from law school, I
wasn’t that interested in practicing law. I wanted to get into
writing, and one of the areas I was kind of interested in was
intelligence. There had been lots of books written about the CIA, and
there wasn’t really much I could contribute, but no one had ever done
a book on NSA, which I’d heard about but didn’t really know too much
about. I thought that might be something I could do that no one else
had done.

Q: When you started writing your book in 1979, wasn’t the NSA’s
existence still more or less officially unacknowledged by the
A: It was officially acknowledged in the late ’50s, early ’60s as the
result of a couple of spy scandals, but for a number of years they
[used] a cover story in terms of what they did — this sort of
gobbledygook double-talk about “keeping America’s communications
secure.” They didn’t really talk about their eavesdropping or code-
breaking role. That started coming out later on in the ‘60s, but by
the time I began writing about them in the late ’70s, they were still
pretty much in the closet. There had been a couple of articles about
them, but not really very much. It was sort of like exploring a lost
continent, since very few people had gone some of the places I went in
terms of finding documents or finding people or finding information
about the agency.

Q: Did you get any pushback from the agency when you started writing
about it? After all, it’s supposed to be top secret.
A: I had a difficult time. My advance was fairly small, I was living
in Massachusetts, I didn’t really know anyone in intelligence, and I
hadn’t written anything before. And I was going up against NSA.

One of the things I was good at in law school was research, so I
thought maybe I’d try using the Freedom of Information Act. The
problem with that was, NSA is really the only agency excluded from the
act. If you sent them an FOI request, they would just send you a
letter back saying under [Section 6 of the National Security Act] we
don’t have to give you anything, even if it’s unclassified.

But I found this place, the George C. Marshall Research Library in
Lexington, Virginia, and William F. Friedman, one of the founders of
the NSA, had left all his papers there. When I got down there, I found
the NSA had gotten there just before me and gone through all of his
papers, and taken a lot his papers out and put them in a vault down
there and ordered the archivist to keep them under lock and key. And I
convinced the archivist that that wasn’t what Friedman wanted, and he
took the documents out and let me take a look at them.

Among the documents was an NSA newsletter. These are things the NSA
puts out once a month. They’re fairly chatty, but if you read them
closely enough you can pick up some pretty good information about the
agency. … When I was reading one of the newsletters, there was a
paragraph that said, “The contents of this newsletter must be kept
within the small circle of NSA employees and their families.” And I
thought about it for a little bit, and I thought, hmm, they just
waived their protections on that newsletter — if that’s on every
single newsletter then I’ve got a pretty good case against them. If
you’re going to open it up to family members, with no clearance, who
don’t work for the agency, then I have every right to it. That was a
long battle, but I won it, and they gave me over 5,000 pages worth of
NSA newsletters going back to the very beginning. That was the first
time anyone ever got a lot of information out of NSA.

We made this agreement where I could come down and spend a week at
NSA, and they gave me a little room where I could go over the
newsletters and pick the ones I wanted. So I got all that information
and spent about a week at NSA. And finally they really wanted to
delete some names and faces, and I said you can do that, but there
ought to be some kind of quid pro quo. The quid pro quo was that I get
to interview senior officials and take a tour of the agency. And that
was what really opened it up.

It wasn’t the NSA you see today — it was much different. They just
thought no one would ever try to write about NSA, and they didn’t
think I would have any luck, because who am I? I’m just some guy up in
Massachusetts with no track record.

Q: What was the agency’s reaction once the books came out?
A: They threatened me with prosecution twice when the first book came
out. And then when the sequel came out in 2001, they went to the
opposite extreme and had a book-signing there. Body of Secrets was
fairly favorable, because they had changed their ways after ’78 — they
weren’t doing domestic eavesdropping anymore. It seemed like they’d
learned their lesson and were obeying the law.

That phase of my relationship with NSA ended on December 16, 2005.
That’s when the New York Times broke the story about their domestic
eavesdropping. I had been telling people [the NSA is] obeying the law
now and they would never go back on that, and here they were the whole
time, doing that ever since 2001. And that’s when the ACLU asked me to
join their class-action lawsuit as a plaintiff against NSA. So I went
from getting dinner invitations to the director’s house and Christmas-
party invitations to being on the other side of a lawsuit. It’s a love-
hate relationship, and it’s been going on a long time.

Q: When I told people I was going to be interviewing you about the
NSA, some of them made jokes about the agency listening in on the
phone call. I think a lot of Americans, correctly or not, halfway
believe that the agency actually does such things. Do you?
A: I never claimed that NSA eavesdrops on domestic-to-domestic
communications, so I wouldn’t worry too much about this [call]. As I
point out in the book — and this comes from a number of people on the
front lines with the earphones and all that — after 9/11 and the
warrantless eavesdropping program got started, they have been
eavesdropping on Americans calling Americans [overseas, or to or from

One of the people I talked to worked four years before 9/11 in the
same place, and she was saying [before 9/11] when they came across an
American they would immediately turn off the computer and move on to
the next call. It’s called “minimization” — you don’t keep a record of
it, you don’t transcribe it, you don’t record it, unless you have a
warrant from the Foreign Intelligence court. But after 9/11 she says
they weren’t doing any minimization. They’d pick up Americans calling
Americans and they’d actually listen to those conversations, they’d
transcribe some of them, and they’d all be recorded and stored — for
eternity for all I know.

Q: So people’s paranoia about the NSA listening in on phone calls, at
least inside the United States, is unfounded?
A: Unless there’s stuff I don’t know, which is quite possible, there’s
never been domestic-to-domestic [telephone or e-mail surveillance].
Most of what they do is foreign country to foreign country or U.S  to
a foreign country or a foreign country to the U.S. But think of how
many communications there are to or from Americans [internationally]
in terms of email, telephone calls, faxes, and everything. The world
has shrunk a great deal. And that was the problem [with the
warrantless eavesdropping] — they were picking up a huge amount of
American communications but no Al-Qaeda, and certainly no Americans
talking to Al-Qaeda, which is what President Bush said this was all
about. This was Americans talking to Americans. What they were
intercepting is the Inmarsat satellite, and most of the people who had
satellite phones in the Middle East were reporters, military people,
aid workers, that kind of thing. [My source] thought they were wasting
their time. She didn’t join the Army to listen to bedroom talk between
soldiers and their wives.

Q: Another aspect of the warrantless eavesdropping program had to do
with communications between foreign nationals in other countries that
nonetheless pass through the United States that the NSA wanted access
to, right?
A: There’s so much information that flashes between ISPs in the United
States like Google, Yahoo, and AOL, and there are so many large nodes
for the transfer of internet communications that the U.S. plays a huge
role in the thing.

Say you’re in Madrid and you send an email to Tehran and it’s 10 a.m.
in Madrid. There’s a good chance that’s gonna go from Madrid to New
York to Tehran instead of, say, Paris, because at 10 in the morning
there’s a huge amount of traffic passing through those European hubs,
and at the same time its about 5 in the morning on the East Coast [of
the United States], so it’s very quiet, and it’s also cheaper. The
computer would automatically reroute that communication. This is a
foreigner talking to a foreigner, and the only U.S. nexus is that for
a millisecond this communication bounces in and out of an internet
hub. This was a problem. (Editor’s note: The FISA law prevented the
NSA from accessing such communications without a warrant but, at the
urging of the Bush Administration and with the permission and
cooperation of telecommunications companies, it tapped into fiber-
optic cables anyway.)

Q: It’s strange to think about the NSA as this agency engaged in all
this highly secret, super-technical, and, in this case, illegal
activity, but at the same time think of it as the place you’ve
described as having office Christmas parties and softball games and
all the other mundane stuff that goes along with working in a big
government agency. What’s the culture of NSA like?
A: It’s hard for me to generalize, since I know a select group of
people there, but the NSA is a very insular agency. People have
secrecy drummed into them. I’ve talked to a lot of NSA people who say
they feel very uncomfortable going to parties with a lot of non-NSA
people, because the subject will come up of Iran or Iraq, and they
have to either drift out of the conversation or say very little. A lot
of time they get nervous when they contribute something because they
may not be sure whether it’s something they read in Time magazine or
something they read in a top-secret memo or something. Or if they read
it in Time magazine and they say it, whether someone will report it
because they think they’re giving up a secret. So at least the people
I’ve talked to in the past tended to keep in their small employee-type

Q: Well, one of the first things people tend to ask someone they just
met at a party is “What do you do?”
A: Yeah, and in the area around NSA, in the past it was “Department of
Defense.” So if they say Department of Defense and you’re in Laurel,
Maryland, you know they’re working for the NSA. If it was just
neighbors, maybe people could say NSA, but if they didn’t know who was
there, I think they would try not saying anything or saying something
generic like “I work for the government” or “I work for the Department
of Defense” and hope it wouldn’t go any further than that.

Q: I’m struck by the fact that you sound genuinely surprised and
upset, still, about the warrantless eavesdropping program.
A: Well, I was very surprised. I had defended the agency in a number
of places.

Q: But, as you write in The Shadow Factory, the agency had been caught
spying on Americans before in the ’70s with Project Shamrock.
A: I agree, but I didn’t know the people back then. I knew the people
this time. I trusted that Hayden was going to follow the law. I talked
to a lot of people there, and that was the impression I got. The
mid-’70s was the worst time in NSA’s history, the first time a
director had to sit in front of an open hearing of Congress and get
blasted and humiliated, and all these horror stories came out about
eavesdropping on all the telegrams entering and leaving the country
[as part of Project Shamrock]. The FISA court got set up as a new
safeguard, the buffer between NSA and the public. Everyone I talked to
from then on said those were the horror days, we don’t want to relive
them, we’re going to keep as far from the edge as possible.

I didn’t think that was going to change after 9/11 — you still had the
[FISA] court there, you still had laws, the Constitution. That’s why
when I read the reports and talked to people who indicated that they
had decided to bypass the court … I mean, that’s illegal. There is
no other word for it. The FISA act says if you want to eavesdrop on
what they call a “U.S. person,” you get a warrant from the FISA court.
You don’t bypass it. That’s a felony. You can get five years in

I’ve written more than anyone else on the agency and, you know, it’s
no big deal, I just go on with the next day like the day before, but
when I find out that this agency that I’ve been saying would never do
these things is doing them, yeah, it’s a shock and a disappointment, a
disappointment in the people that you didn’t think were going to do

The people I did have respect for were [Deputy Attorney General] Jim
Comey, even [Attorney General John] Ashcroft, and Bob Mueller, the
head of the FBI. They, plus people under them, came within a day of
resigning over this whole thing. And that’s standing up for moral
principles, and I would have much preferred that General Hayden would
have stood up to Cheney or whomever and said that’s illegal, I can’t
do that, I can’t carry out that order so I’m going to have to resign.
It’s scary to think that someone puts a little pressure on you and you
say, OK, that’s fine, we’ll go ahead and bypass the law.

They could have gone to Congress. Congress would have given them
anything they wanted in those days. But it’s the arrogance of power
when you decide you’re not even going to do that. You’re just going to
do it because you feel like doing it, because you’re the person who’s
going to save the world. That’s how tyrannies get to be tyrannies,
because people think they’re above the law.

Q: One of the interesting, and disturbing things about the warrantless
eavesdropping as you describe it in the book is that the NSA started
getting this increased level of access and raking in more and more
communications but seemed to get little usable information out of it
A: The problem is that NSA was never designed for what it’s doing. It
was designed after World War II to prevent another surprise attack
from another nation-state, particularly the Soviet Union. And from
1945 or ’46 until 1990 or ’91, that’s what its mission was. That’s
what every piece of equipment, that’s what every person recruited to
the agency, was supposed to do, practically — find out when and where
and if the Russians were about to launch a nuclear attack. That’s what
it spent 50 years being built for. And then all of a sudden the Soviet
Union is not around anymore, and NSA’s got a new mission, and part of
that is going after terrorists. And it’s just not a good fit. They
missed the first World Trade Center bombing, they missed the attack on
the U.S.S. Cole, they missed the attack on the U.S. embassies in
Africa, they missed 9/11. There’s this string of failures because this
agency was not really designed to do this. In the movies, they’d be
catching terrorists all the time. But this isn’t the movies, this is

The big difference here is that when they were focused on the Soviet
Union, the Soviets communicated over dedicated lines. The army
communicated over army channels, the navy communicated over navy
channels, the diplomats communicated over foreign-office channels.
These were all particular channels, particular frequencies, you knew
where they were; the main problem was breaking encrypted
communications. [The NSA] had listening posts ringing the Soviet
Union, they had Russian linguists that were being pumped out from all
these schools around the U.S.

Then the Cold War ends and everything changes. Now instead of a huge
country that communicated all the time, you have individuals who hop
from Kuala Lampur to Nairobi or whatever, from continent to continent,
from day to day. They don’t communicate [electronically] all the time
— they communicate by meetings. [The NSA was] tapping Bin Laden’s
phone for three years and never picked up on any of these terrorist
incidents. And the [electronic] communications you do have are not on
dedicated channels, they’re mixed in with the world communication
network. First you’ve got to find out how to extract that from it,
then you’ve got to find people who can understand the language, and
then you’ve got to figure out the word code. You can’t use a Cray
supercomputer to figure out if somebody’s saying they’re going to have
a wedding next week whether it’s really going to be a wedding or a

So that’s the challenge facing the people there. So even though I’m
critical about them for missing these things, I also try in the book
to give an explanation as to why this is. It’s certainly not because
the people are incompetent. It’s because the world has changed.

I think the problem is more serious than people realize. I talked to
the people at Fort Gordon [in Georgia], which is the main listening
post for the Middle East and North Africa. What was shocking to me was
the people who were there were saying they didn’t have anybody [at the
time] who spoke Pashtun. We’re at war in Afghanistan and the main
language of the Taliban is Pashtun.

The answer here is to change our foreign policy so that we don’t have
to depend on agencies like NSA to try to protect the country. You try
to protect the country by having reasonable policies so that we won’t
have to worry about terrorism so much. It’s just getting harder and
harder to find them.

Q: I think most Americans know about NSA and have some general idea
what it’s about, but I was surprised to read about the National
Business Park, where there’s been this huge boom in private
contractors doing NSA work since September 11.
A: That came as a huge surprise to me. I’ve watched NSA grow since
1979, and it really came as a shock to me when I saw the National
Business Park and how huge it’s grown. What it is is all the private
contractors doing what NSA used to do. You see Booz Allen [Hamilton]
and Titan and General Dynamics, and then you look at the [local]
newspaper and see all these companies advertising for intercept
operators and network analysts. This agency, which used to be
dedicated to having employees who would work there for 30 years, now
is outsourcing so much. I have a statistic in there that in 2001 the
NSA had 55 contracts with private firms and in 2005 it had 7,197. If
you turn this into a huge [private] industry, and at the same time
you’re deregulating the industry — if you look at the financial
industry you see the problems you get into when you start
deregulating, and that’s what they’ve done here. They’ve deregulated
eavesdropping. There are no rules, and the people who are doing it
aren’t even really accountable — they’re just employees of private
companies. It gets very worrisome.

These are things that are out there to find, but it seems so few
people are out there looking. Congress seems to be paying no
attention. Even before 9/11, Congress seemed very reluctant to
criticize NSA or put restraints on NSA. It seemed like Congress was
resisting the Administration’s push last spring. In February, the
temporary [Protect America Act] ran out and the Bush administration
was pushing very hard to have this new FISA law passed, and the House
resisted it until July. They finally buckled in July when they
realized the election was about four months away, because they’re all
afraid of being accused of being weak on terrorism. But I wonder how
many of them really knew much about NSA or the things they were voting
for. The only way you’re going to know it is to go to a special room
where there was classified information, and they couldn’t take notes,
and have to sit there and read it, and how many of them are gonna do

Q: We’re talking before the presidential election, but I’m curious
what you think might change in regard to the NSA under McCain or
Obama, the latter of whom somewhat surprisingly voted for the FISA
Amendments Law.
A: What’s interesting is that Obama seemed to have a lot of
disagreements with the changes in the FISA Act early on, and he even
threatened to filibuster early on against the legislation the way it
[was] written. But then he compromised and voted for it in the end —
he said sometimes you’ve gotta compromise, we need something and this
is the best we can do. The question is whether you’re gonna stand up
for principles when the times get tough or always just compromise. I
think if he could have applied enough pressure they could have
reworked it. Right now the FISA court is pretty well neutered. I don’t
know where that goes.

I don’t think McCain would make much of a change when it comes to NSA.
It’s a question of where Obama’s gonna go. You can see his heart is in
the right place; he says the right things when these issues come up.
But the question is, down the road, is he going to give into political
pressure and compromise away some of the things people are voting for
him for, or is he gonna stand up?

Q; So where does the NSA go from here? Some of the stuff in the last
section of The Shadow Factory reads like science-fiction — data-mining
and artificial intelligence.
A: Right now they’re at a point where they’ve got enormous amounts of
money, but they don’t seem to be getting much out of it. They’re
getting hugely into this data-mining — look at that building they’re
building down in San Antonio. And this is an agency that missed all
these terrorist incidents, so what is this for? Is it good money after

The thing I worry about is when you do have so few people watching NSA
and so few restrictions on data-mining that they just get carried away
with it. That’s why they’re building that huge facility in San
Antonio. Not only to store data, which you probably only need about 75
people for — Microsoft, which is building a very similar facility only
a few miles away that’s almost exactly the same size, they only have
75. The NSA’s going to put 1,400 people in there. The only reason you
need that many people is if you’re not just going to keep the routers
humming, is if you’re actually going to dig into all the data in
there. And what’s in there could be what I’m looking at on my computer
right now, or web searches I’ve been making, or what books people are
buying from Amazon or what websites they’re visiting. Those are the
things that worry me.

Q: But, as we discussed, the NSA isn’t allowed to eavesdrop on
domestic communications.
A: The restrictions are much less on data communications. The FISA act
only really applies to phone communications or email.

When Congress was looking at the NSA back in the ’70s, when the only
thing [the agency] could do is listen to your hard-line telephone in
your house, [Senator] Frank Church said that he didn’t want the
country to go over into the abyss that was there if we ever let this
agency get out of control, and that was back then. Look at today, when
your every thought, almost, gets transmitted into electrons at one
point, either walking down the street talking on a cell phone or
sending an email or web-searching. Thirty years ago they didn’t have
access to mail, ’cause it was in envelopes, and they couldn’t watch
what books you pulled out of the library or look at what magazines you
flip through at the newsstand. Now they get to all that stuff by
watching your web searches and what sites you visit.

Q: Even with everything you know about the NSA, do you ever think to
yourself, I worry too much about this stuff?
A: I’m not a very paranoid person. I couldn’t have written all these
books if I was paranoid. But what bothers me is that there’s this huge
agency out there, and there are so few people who know how it works
and pay any attention to it. Look at the 9/11 Commission report, for
example. They spent all this time looking at the CIA, and they spent
no time looking at the NSA. That’s just par for the course.
Journalists, everybody, seem to avoid looking at it because it’s
surrounded by this wall of secrecy, and it’s highly technical.

I think the thing that bothers me most was how easy it was to take
this huge agency and turn it against the law. How easy it was, how few
people knew. If it wasn’t for two reporters from the New York Times,
we still might not know about it, if you think about it that way.





The Fed Who Blew the Whistle : Is he a hero or a criminal?
BY Michael Isikoff  /  Dec 22, 2008

Thomas M. Tamm was entrusted with some of the government’s most
important secrets. He had a Sensitive Compartmented Information
security clearance, a level above Top Secret. Government agents had
probed Tamm’s background, his friends and associates, and determined
him trustworthy.

It’s easy to see why: he comes from a family of high-ranking FBI
officials. During his childhood, he played under the desk of J. Edgar
Hoover, and as an adult, he enjoyed a long and successful career as a
prosecutor. Now gray-haired, 56 and fighting a paunch, Tamm prides
himself on his personal rectitude. He has what his 23-year-old son,
Terry, calls a “passion for justice.” For that reason, there was one
secret he says he felt duty-bound to reveal.

In the spring of 2004, Tamm had just finished a yearlong stint at a
Justice Department unit handling wiretaps of suspected terrorists and
spies—a unit so sensitive that employees are required to put their
hands through a biometric scanner to check their fingerprints upon
entering. While there, Tamm stumbled upon the existence of a highly
classified National Security Agency program that seemed to be
eavesdropping on U.S. citizens. The unit had special rules that
appeared to be hiding the NSA activities from a panel of federal
judges who are required to approve such surveillance. When Tamm
started asking questions, his supervisors told him to drop the
subject. He says one volunteered that “the program” (as it was
commonly called within the office) was “probably illegal.”

Tamm agonized over what to do. He tried to raise the issue with a
former colleague working for the Senate Judiciary Committee. But the
friend, wary of discussing what sounded like government secrets, shut
down their conversation. For weeks, Tamm couldn’t sleep. The idea of
lawlessness at the Justice Department angered him. Finally, one day
during his lunch hour, Tamm ducked into a subway station near the U.S.
District Courthouse on Pennsylvania Avenue. He headed for a pair of
adjoining pay phones partially concealed by large, illuminated Metro
maps. Tamm had been eyeing the phone booths on his way to work in the
morning. Now, as he slipped through the parade of midday subway
riders, his heart was pounding, his body trembling. Tamm felt like a
spy. After looking around to make sure nobody was watching, he picked
up a phone and called The New York Times.

That one call began a series of events that would engulf Washington—
and upend Tamm’s life. Eighteen months after he first disclosed what
he knew, the Times reported that President George W. Bush had secretly
authorized the NSA to intercept phone calls and e-mails of individuals
inside the United States without judicial warrants. The drama followed
a quiet, separate rebellion within the highest ranks of the Justice
Department concerning the same program. (James Comey, then the deputy
attorney general, together with FBI head Robert Mueller and several
other senior Justice officials, threatened to resign.) President Bush
condemned the leak to the Times as a “shameful act.” Federal agents
launched a criminal investigation to determine the identity of the

The story of Tamm’s phone call is an untold chapter in the history of
the secret wars inside the Bush administration. The New York Times won
a Pulitzer Prize for its story. The two reporters who worked on it
each published books. Congress, after extensive debate, last summer
passed a major new law to govern the way such surveillance is
conducted. But Tamm—who was not the Times’s only source, but played
the key role in tipping off the paper—has not fared so well. The FBI
has pursued him relentlessly for the past two and a half years. Agents
have raided his house, hauled away personal possessions and grilled
his wife, a teenage daughter and a grown son. More recently, they’ve
been questioning Tamm’s friends and associates about nearly every
aspect of his life. Tamm has resisted pressure to plead to a felony
for divulging classified information. But he is living under a pall,
never sure if or when federal agents might arrest him.

Exhausted by the uncertainty clouding his life, Tamm now is telling
his story publicly for the first time. “I thought this [secret
program] was something the other branches of the government—and the
public—ought to know about. So they could decide: do they want this
massive spying program to be taking place?” Tamm told NEWSWEEK, in one
of a series of recent interviews that he granted against the advice of
his lawyers. “If somebody were to say, who am I to do that? I would
say, ‘I had taken an oath to uphold the Constitution.’ It’s stunning
that somebody higher up the chain of command didn’t speak up.”

Tamm concedes he was also motivated in part by his anger at other Bush-
administration policies at the Justice Department, including its
aggressive pursuit of death-penalty cases and the legal justifications
for “enhanced” interrogation techniques that many believe are
tantamount to torture. But, he insists, he divulged no “sources and
methods” that might compromise national security when he spoke to the
Times. He told reporters Eric Lichtblau and James Risen nothing about
the operational details of the NSA program because he didn’t know
them, he says. He had never been “read into,” or briefed, on the
details of the program. All he knew was that a domestic surveillance
program existed, and it “didn’t smell right.”

(Justice spokesman Dean Boyd said the department had no comment on any
aspect of this story. Lichtblau said, “I don’t discuss the identities
of confidential sources … Nearly a dozen people whom we interviewed
agreed to speak with us on the condition of anonymity because of
serious concerns about the legality and oversight of the secret
program.” Risen had no comment.)

Still, Tamm is haunted by the consequences of what he did—and what
could yet happen to him. He is no longer employed at Justice and has
been struggling to make a living practicing law. He does occasional
work for a local public defender’s office, handles a few wills and
estates—and is more than $30,000 in debt. (To cover legal costs, he
recently set up a defense fund.) He says he has suffered from
depression. He also realizes he made what he calls “stupid” mistakes
along the way, including sending out a seemingly innocuous but fateful
e-mail from his Justice Department computer that may have first put
the FBI on his scent. Soft-spoken and self-effacing, Tamm has an
impish smile and a wry sense of humor. “I guess I’m not a very good
criminal,” he jokes.

At times during his interviews with NEWSWEEK, Tamm would stare into
space for minutes, silently wrestling with how to answer questions.
One of the most difficult concerned the personal ramifications of his
choice. “I didn’t think through what this could do to my family,” he

Tamm’s story is in part a cautionary tale about the perils that can
face all whistleblowers, especially those involved in national-
security programs. Some Americans will view him as a hero who (like
Daniel Ellsberg and perhaps Mark Felt, the FBI official since
identified as Deep Throat) risked his career and livelihood to expose
wrongdoing at the highest levels of government. Others—including some
of his former colleagues—will deride Tamm as a renegade who took the
law into his own hands and violated solemn obligations to protect the
nation’s secrets. “You can’t have runoffs deciding they’re going to be
the white knight and running to the press,” says Frances Fragos
Townsend, who once headed the unit where Tamm worked and later served
as President Bush’s chief counterterrorism adviser. Townsend made
clear that she had no knowledge of Tamm’s particular case, but added:
“There are legal processes in place [for whistle-blowers’ complaints].
This is one where I’m a hawk. It offends me, and I find it incredibly

Tamm understands that some will see his conduct as “treasonous.” But
still, he says he has few regrets. If he hadn’t made his phone call to
the Times, he believes, it’s possible the public would never have
learned about the Bush administration’s secret wiretapping program. “I
don’t really need anybody to feel sorry for me,” he wrote in a recent
e-mail to NEWSWEEK. “I chose what I did. I believed in what I did.”

If the government were drawing up a profile of a national-security
leaker, Tamm would seem one of the least likely suspects. He grew up
in the shadow of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. Tamm’s uncle, Edward Tamm, was
an important figure in the bureau’s history. He was once a top aide to
Hoover and regularly briefed President Franklin Roosevelt on domestic
intelligence matters. He’s credited in some bureau histories with
inventing (in 1935) not only the bureau’s name, but its official
motto: Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity. Tamm’s father, Quinn Tamm, was
also a high-ranking bureau official. He too was an assistant FBI
director under Hoover, and at one time he headed up the bureau’s crime
lab. Tamm’s mother, Ora Belle Tamm, was a secretary at the FBI’s
identification division.

When Thomas Tamm was a toddler, he crawled around Hoover’s desk during
FBI ceremonies. (He still remembers his mother fretting that his
father might get in trouble for it.) As an 8-year-old, Tamm and his
family watched John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural parade down Pennsylvania
Avenue from the balcony of Hoover’s office, then located at the
Justice Department.

Tamm’s brother also served for years as an FBI agent and later worked
as an investigator for the 9/11 Commission. (He now works for a
private consulting firm.) Tamm himself, after graduating from Brown
University in 1974 and Georgetown Law three years later, chose a
different path in law enforcement. He joined the state’s attorney’s
office in Montgomery County, Md. (He was also, for a while, the
chairman of the county chapter of the Young Republicans.) Tamm
eventually became a senior trial attorney responsible for prosecuting
murder, kidnapping and sexual-assault cases. Andrew Sonner, the
Democratic state’s attorney at the time, says that Tamm was an
unusually gifted prosecutor who knew how to connect with juries, in
part by “telling tales” that explained his case in a way that ordinary
people could understand. “He was about as good before a jury as
anybody that ever worked for me,” says Sonner, who later served as an
appellate judge in Maryland.

In 1998, Tamm landed a job at the Justice Department’s Capital Case
Unit, a new outfit within the criminal division that handled
prosecutions that could bring the federal death penalty. A big part of
his job was to review cases forwarded by local U.S. Attorneys’ Offices
and make recommendations about whether the government should seek
execution. Tamm would regularly attend meetings with Attorney General
Janet Reno, who was known for asking tough questions about the
evidence in such cases—a rigorous approach that Tamm admired. In July
2000, at a gala Justice Department ceremony, Reno awarded Tamm and
seven colleagues in his unit the John Marshall Award, one of the
department’s highest honors.

After John Ashcroft took over as President Bush’s attorney general the
next year, Tamm became disaffected. The Justice Department began to
encourage U.S. attorneys to seek the death penalty in as many cases as
possible. Instead of Reno’s skepticism about recommendations to seek
death, the capital-case committee under Ashcroft approved them with
little, if any, challenge. “It became a rubber stamp,” Tamm says. This
bothered him, though there was nothing underhanded about it. Bush had
campaigned as a champion of the death penalty. Ashcroft and the new
Republican leadership of the Justice Department advocated its use as a
matter of policy.

Tamm’s alienation grew in 2002 when he was assigned to assist on one
especially high-profile capital case—the prosecution of Zacarias
Moussaoui, a Qaeda terrorist arrested in Minnesota who officials
initially (and wrongly) believed might have been the “20th hijacker”
in the September 11 plot. Tamm’s role was to review classified CIA
cables about the 9/11 plot to see if there was any exculpatory
information that needed to be relinquished to Moussaoui’s lawyers.
While reviewing the cables, Tamm says, he first spotted reports that
referred to the rendition of terror suspects to countries like Egypt
and Morocco, where aggressive interrogation practices banned by
American law were used. It appeared to Tamm that CIA officers knew
“what was going to happen to [the suspects]”—that the government was
indirectly participating in abusive interrogations that would be
banned under U.S. law.

But still, Tamm says he was fully committed to the prosecution of the
war on terror and wanted to play a bigger role in it. So in early
2003, he applied and was accepted for transfer to the Office of
Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR), probably the most sensitive
unit within the Justice Department. It is the job of OIPR lawyers to
request permission for national-security wiretaps. These requests are
made at secret hearings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance
Court, a body composed of 11 rotating federal judges.

Congress created the FISA court in 1978 because of well-publicized
abuses by the intelligence community. It was designed to protect the
civil liberties of Americans who might come under suspicion. The
court’s role was to review domestic national-security wiretaps to make
sure there was “probable cause” that the targets were “agents of a
foreign power”—either spies or operatives of a foreign terrorist
organization. The law creating the court, called the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act, made it a federal crime—punishable by
up to five years in prison—for any official to engage in such
surveillance without following strict rules, including court approval.

But after arriving at OIPR, Tamm learned about an unusual arrangement
by which some wiretap requests were handled under special procedures.
These requests, which could be signed only by the attorney general,
went directly to the chief judge and none other. It was unclear to
Tamm what was being hidden from the other 10 judges on the court (as
well as the deputy attorney general, who could sign all other FISA
warrants). All that Tamm knew was that the “A.G.-only” wiretap
requests involved intelligence gleaned from something that was
obliquely referred to within OIPR as “the program.”

The program was in fact a wide range of covert surveillance activities
authorized by President Bush in the aftermath of 9/11. At that time,
White House officials, led by Vice President Dick Cheney, had become
convinced that FISA court procedures were too cumbersome and time-
consuming to permit U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement agencies to
quickly identify possible Qaeda terrorists inside the country.
(Cheney’s chief counsel, David Addington, referred to the FISA court
in one meeting as that “obnoxious court,” according to former
assistant attorney general Jack Goldsmith.) Under a series of secret
orders, Bush authorized the NSA for the first time to eavesdrop on
phone calls and e-mails between the United States and a foreign
country without any court review. The code name for the NSA collection
activities—unknown to all but a tiny number of officials at the White
House and in the U.S. intelligence community—was “Stellar Wind.”

The NSA identified domestic targets based on leads that were often
derived from the seizure of Qaeda computers and cell phones overseas.
If, for example, a Qaeda cell phone seized in Pakistan had dialed a
phone number in the United States, the NSA would target the U.S. phone
number—which would then lead agents to look at other numbers in the
United States and abroad called by the targeted phone. Other parts of
the program were far more sweeping. The NSA, with the secret
cooperation of U.S. telecommunications companies, had begun collecting
vast amounts of information about the phone and e-mail records of
American citizens. Separately, the NSA was also able to access, for
the first time, massive volumes of personal financial records—such as
credit-card transactions, wire transfers and bank withdrawals—that
were being reported to the Treasury Department by financial
institutions. These included millions of “suspicious-activity
reports,” or SARS, according to two former Treasury officials who
declined to be identified talking about sensitive programs. (It was
one such report that tipped FBI agents to former New York governor
Eliot Spitzer’s use of prostitutes.) These records were fed into NSA
supercomputers for the purpose of “data mining”—looking for links or
patterns that might (or might not) suggest terrorist activity.

But all this created a huge legal quandary. Intelligence gathered by
the extralegal phone eavesdropping could never be used in a criminal
court. So after the NSA would identify potential targets inside the
United States, counterterrorism officials would in some instances try
to figure out ways to use that information to get legitimate FISA
warrants—giving the cases a judicial stamp of approval.

It’s unclear to what extent Tamm’s office was aware of the origins of
some of the information it was getting. But Tamm was puzzled by the
unusual procedures—which sidestepped the normal FISA process—for
requesting wiretaps on cases that involved program intelligence. He
began pushing his supervisors to explain what was going on. Tamm says
he found the whole thing especially curious since there was nothing in
the special “program” wiretap requests that seemed any different from
all the others. They looked and read the same. It seemed to Tamm there
was a reason for this: the intelligence that came from the program was
being disguised. He didn’t understand why. But whenever Tamm would ask
questions about this within OIPR, “nobody wanted to talk about it.”

At one point, Tamm says, he approached Lisa Farabee, a senior counsel
in OIPR who reviewed his work, and asked her directly, “Do you know
what the program is?” According to Tamm, she replied: “Don’t even go
there,” and then added, “I assume what they are doing is illegal.”
Tamm says his immediate thought was, “I’m a law-enforcement officer
and I’m participating in something that is illegal?” A few weeks later
Tamm bumped into Mark Bradley, the deputy OIPR counsel, who told him
the office had run into trouble with Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the chief
judge on the FISA court. Bradley seemed nervous, Tamm says. Kollar-
Kotelly had raised objections to the special program wiretaps, and
“the A.G.-only cases are being shut down,” Bradley told Tamm. He then
added, “This may be [a time] the attorney general gets indicted,”
according to Tamm. (Told of Tamm’s account, Justice spokesman Boyd
said that Farabee and Bradley “have no comment for your story.”)

One official who was aware of Kollar-Kotelly’s objections was U.S.
Judge Royce C. Lamberth, a former chief of the FISA court. Lamberth
tells NEWSWEEK that when the NSA program began in October 2001, he was
not informed. But the then chief of OIPR, James Baker, discovered
later that year that program intelligence was being used in FISA
warrants—and he raised concerns. At that point, Lamberth was called in
for a briefing by Ashcroft and Gen. Michael Hayden, the NSA chief at
the time. Lamberth made clear to Ashcroft that NSA program
intelligence should no longer be allowed in any FISA warrant
applications without his knowledge. If it did appear, Lamberth warned,
he would be forced to rule on the legality of what the administration
was doing, potentially setting off a constitutional clash about the
secret program.

Lamberth stepped down as chief FISA judge when his term ended in May
2002, but Kollar-Kotelly asked him to continue as an adviser about
matters relating to the program. In early 2004, Kollar-Kotelly thought
something was amiss. According to Lamberth, she had concerns that the
intelligence community, after collecting information on U.S. citizens
without warrants, was again attempting to launder that intelligence
through her court—without her knowledge. She “had begun to suspect
that they were back-dooring information from the program into” FISA
applications, Lamberth tells NEWSWEEK. Kollar-Kotelly drew the line
and wouldn’t permit it. “She was as tough as I was,” says Lamberth,
who had once barred a top FBI agent from his court when he concluded
the bureau hadn’t been honest about FISA applications. “She was going
to know what she was signing off on before she signed off … I was
proud of her.” (Kollar-Kotelly declined to speak with NEWSWEEK.)

Unbeknownst to Tamm, something else was going on at the Justice
Department during this period. A new assistant attorney general, a law
professor named Jack Goldsmith, had challenged secret legal opinions
justifying the NSA surveillance program. (The controversial opinions,
written by a young and very conservative legal scholar named John Yoo,
had concluded that President Bush had broad executive authority during
wartime to override laws passed by Congress and order the surveillance
of U.S. citizens.) James Comey, the deputy attorney general, had
agreed with Goldsmith and refused to sign off on a renewal of the
domestic NSA program in March 2004. Attorney General Ashcroft was in
the hospital at the time. The White House first tried to get an
extremely ill Ashcroft, drugged and woozy, to overrule Comey, and
then, after he refused, President Bush ordered the program to continue
anyway. Comey, in turn, drafted a resignation letter. He described the
situation he was confronting as “apocalyptic” and then added, “I and
the Justice Department have been asked to be part of something that is
fundamentally wrong,” according to a copy of the letter quoted in
“Angler,” a book by Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman.

Tamm—who had no knowledge of the separate rebellion within the ranks
of the Justice Department—decided independently to get in touch with
Sandra Wilkinson, a former colleague of his on the Capital Case Unit
who had been detailed to work on the Senate Judiciary Committee. He
met with Wilkinson for coffee in the Senate cafeteria, where he laid
out his concerns about the program and the unusual procedures within
OIPR. “Look, the government is doing something weird here,” he recalls
saying. “Can you talk to somebody on the intelligence committee and
see if they know about this?”

Some weeks passed, and Tamm didn’t hear back. So he e-mailed Wilkinson
from his OIPR computer (not a smart move, he would later concede) and
asked if they could get together again for coffee. This time, when
they got together, Wilkinson was cool, Tamm says. What had she learned
about the program? “I can’t say,” she replied and urged him to drop
the subject. “Well, you know, then,” he says he replied, “I think my
only option is to go to the press.” (Wilkinson would not respond to
phone calls from NEWSWEEK, and her lawyer says she has nothing to say
about the matter.)

The next few weeks were excruciating. Tamm says he consulted with an
old law-school friend, Gene Karpinski, then the executive director of
a public-interest lobbying group. He asked about reporters who might
be willing to pursue a story that involved wrongdoing in a national-
security program, but didn’t tell him any details. (Karpinski, who has
been questioned by the FBI and has hired a lawyer, declined to
comment.) Tamm says he initially considered contacting Seymour Hersh,
the investigative reporter for The New Yorker, but didn’t know where
to reach him. He’d also noticed some strong stories by Eric Lichtblau,
the New York Times reporter who covered the Justice Department—and
with a few Google searches tracked down his phone number.

Tamm at this point had transferred out of OIPR at his own initiative,
and moved into a new job at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He says he
“hated” the desk work at OIPR and was eager to get back into the
courtroom prosecuting cases. His new offices were just above
Washington’s Judiciary Square Metro stop. When he went to make the
call to the Times, Tamm said, “My whole body was shaking.” Tamm
described himself to Lichtblau as a “former” Justice employee and
called himself “Mark,” his middle name. He said he had some
information that was best discussed in person. He and Lichtblau
arranged to meet for coffee at Olsson’s, a now shuttered bookstore
near the Justice Department. After Tamm hung up the phone, he was
struck by the consequences of what he had just done. “Oh, my God,” he
thought. “I can’t talk to anybody about this.” An even more terrifying
question ran through his mind. He thought back to his days at the
capital-case squad and wondered if disclosing information about a
classified program could earn him the death penalty.

In his book, “Bush’s Law: The Remaking of American Justice,” Lichtblau
writes that he first got a whiff of the NSA surveillance program
during the spring of 2004 when he got a cold call from a “walk-in”
source who was “agitated about something going on in the intelligence
community.” Lichtblau wrote that his source was wary at first. The
source did not know precisely what was going on—he was, in fact,
maddeningly vague, the reporter wrote. But after they got together for
a few meetings (“usually at a bookstore or coffee shops in the shadows
of Washington’s power corridors”) his source’s “credibility and his
bona fides became clear and his angst appeared sincere.” The source
told him of turmoil within the Justice Department concerning
counterterrorism operations and the FISA court. “Whatever is going on,
there’s even talk Ashcroft could be indicted,” the source told
Lichtblau, according to his book.

Tamm grew frustrated when the story did not immediately appear. He was
hoping, he says, that Lichtblau and his partner Risen (with whom he
also met) would figure out on their own what the program was really
all about and break it before the 2004 election. He was, by this time,
“pissed off” at the Bush administration, he says. He contributed $300
to the Democratic National Committee in September 2004, according to
campaign finance records.

It wasn’t until more than a year later that the paper’s executive
editor, Bill Keller, rejecting a personal appeal and warning by
President Bush, gave the story a green light. (Bush had warned
“there’ll be blood on your hands” if another attack were to occur.)
BUSH LETS U.S. SPY ON CALLERS WITHOUT COURTS, read the headline in the
paper’s Dec. 16, 2005, edition. The story—which the Times said relied
on “nearly a dozen current and former officials”—had immediate
repercussions. Democrats, including the then Sen. Barack Obama,
denounced the Bush administration for violating the FISA law and
demanded hearings. James Robertson, one of the judges on the FISA
court, resigned. And on Dec. 30, the Justice Department announced that
it was launching a criminal investigation to determine who had leaked
to the Times.

Not long afterward, Tamm says, he started getting phone calls at his
office from Jason Lawless, the hard-charging FBI agent in charge of
the case. The calls at first seemed routine. Lawless was simply
calling everybody who had worked at OIPR to find out what they knew.
But Tamm ducked the calls; he knew that the surest way to get in
trouble in such situations was to lie to an FBI agent. Still, he grew
increasingly nervous. The calls continued. Finally, one day, Lawless
got him on the phone. “This will just take a few minutes,” Lawless
said, according to Tamm’s account. But Tamm told the agent that he
didn’t want to be interviewed—and he later hired a lawyer. (The FBI
said that Lawless would have no comment.)

In the months that followed, Tamm learned he was in even more trouble.
He suspected the FBI had accessed his former computer at OIPR and
recovered the e-mail he had sent to Wilkinson. The agents tracked her
down and questioned her about her conversations with Tamm. By this
time, Tamm was in the depths of depression. He says he had trouble
concentrating on his work at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and ignored
some e-mails from one of his supervisors. He was accused of botching a
drug case. By mutual agreement, he resigned in late 2006. He was out
of a job and squarely in the sights of the FBI. Nevertheless, he began
blogging about the Justice Department for liberal Web sites.

Early on the morning of Aug. 1, 2007, 18 FBI agents—some of them
wearing black flak jackets and carrying guns—showed up unannounced at
Tamm’s redbrick colonial home in Potomac, Md., with a search warrant.
While his wife, wearing her pajamas, watched in horror, the agents
marched into the house, seized Tamm’s desktop computer, his children’s
laptops, his private papers, some of his books (including one about
Deep Throat) and his family Christmas-card list. Terry Tamm, the
lawyer’s college-age son, was asleep at the time and awoke to find FBI
agents entering his bedroom. He was escorted downstairs, where, he
says, the agents arranged him, his younger sister and his mother
around the kitchen table and questioned them about their father.
(Thomas Tamm had left earlier that morning to drive his younger son to
summer school and to see a doctor about a shoulder problem.) “They
asked me questions like ‘Are there any secret rooms or compartments in
the house’?” recalls Terry. “Or did we have a safe? They asked us if
any New York Times reporters had been to the house. We had no idea why
any of this was happening.” Tamm says he had never told his wife and
family about what he had done.

After the raid, Justice Department prosecutors encouraged Tamm to
plead guilty to a felony for disclosing classified information—an
offer he refused. More recently, Agent Lawless, a former prosecutor
from Tennessee, has been methodically tracking down Tamm’s friends and
former colleagues. The agent and a partner have asked questions about
Tamm’s associates and political meetings he might have attended,
apparently looking for clues about his motivations for going to the
press, according to three of those interviewed.

In the meantime, Tamm lives in a perpetual state of limbo, uncertain
whether he’s going to be arrested at any moment. He could be charged
with violating two laws, one concerning the disclosure of information
harmful to “the national defense,” the other involving “communications
intelligence.” Both carry penalties of up to 10 years in prison. “This
has been devastating to him,” says Jeffrey Taylor, an old law-school
friend of Tamm’s. “It’s just been hanging over his head for such a
long time … Sometimes Tom will just zone out. It’s like he goes off in
a special place. He’s sort of consumed with this because he doesn’t
know where it’s going.”

Taylor got a few clues into what the case was about last September
when Agent Lawless and a partner visited him. The FBI agents sat in
his office for more than an hour, asking what he knew about Tamm. The
agents even asked about Tamm’s participation in a political lunch
group headed by his former boss, Andrew Sonner, that takes place once
a month at a Rockville, Md., restaurant. “What does that have to do
with anything?” Taylor asked.

Agent Lawless explained. “This kind of activity”—leaking to the news
media—”can be motivated by somebody who is a do-gooder who thinks that
something wrong occurred,” Lawless said, according to Taylor. “Or it
could be politically motivated by somebody who wants to cause harm.”
If it was the former—if Tamm was a “do-gooder”—the government could
face a problem if it tried to bring a case to trial. The jurors might
sympathize with Tamm and “you’d face jury nullification,” said
Lawless, according to Taylor, referring to a situation in which a jury
refuses to convict a defendant regardless of the law.

Just this month, Lawless and another agent questioned Sonner, the
retired judge who had served as a mentor to Tamm. The agents wanted to
know if Tamm had ever confided in Sonner about leaking to the Times.
Sonner said he hadn’t, but he told the agents what he thought of their
probe. “I told them I thought operating outside of the FISA law was
one of the biggest injustices of the Bush administration,” says
Sonner. If Tamm helped blow the whistle, “I’d be proud of him for
doing that.”

Paul Kemp, one of Tamm’s lawyers, says he was recently told by the
Justice Department prosecutor in charge of Tamm’s case that there will
be no decision about whether to prosecute until next year—after the
Obama administration takes office. The case could present a dilemma
for the new leadership at Justice. During the presidential campaign,
Obama condemned the warrantless-wiretapping program. So did Eric
Holder, Obama’s choice to become attorney general. In a tough speech
last June, Holder said that Bush had acted “in direct defiance of
federal law” by authorizing the NSA program.

Tamm’s lawyers say his case should be judged in that light. “When I
looked at this, I was convinced that the action he took was based on
his view of a higher responsibility,” says Asa Hutchinson, the former
U.S. attorney in Little Rock and under secretary of the Department of
Homeland Security who is assisting in Tamm’s defense. “It reflected a
lawyer’s responsibility to protect the rule of law.” Hutchinson also
challenged the idea—argued forcefully by other Bush administration
officials at the time—that The New York Times story undermined the war
on terror by tipping off Qaeda terrorists to surveillance. “Anybody
who looks at the overall result of what happened wouldn’t conclude
there was any harm to the United States,” he says. After reviewing all
the circumstances, Hutchinson says he hopes the Justice Department
would use its “discretion” and drop the investigation. In judging
Tamm’s actions—his decision to reveal what little he knew about a
secret domestic spying program that still isn’t completely known—it
can be hard to decipher right from wrong. Sometimes the thinnest of
lines separates the criminal from the hero.






The New Thought Police:
The NSA Wants to Know How You Think — Maybe Even What You Think
BY James Bamford

The National Security Agency (NSA) is developing a tool that George
Orwell’s Thought Police might have found useful: an artificial
intelligence system designed to gain insight into what people are

With the entire Internet and thousands of databases for a brain, the
device will be able to respond almost instantaneously to complex
questions posed by intelligence analysts. As more and more data is
collected—through phone calls, credit card receipts, social networks
like Facebook and MySpace, GPS tracks, cell phone geolocation,
Internet searches, Amazon book purchases, even E-Z Pass toll records—
it may one day be possible to know not just where people are and what
they are doing, but what and how they think.

The system is so potentially intrusive that at least one researcher
has quit, citing concerns over the dangers in placing such a powerful
weapon in the hands of a top-secret agency with little accountability.

Getting Aquaint
Known as Aquaint, which stands for “Advanced QUestion Answering for
INTelligence,” the project was run for many years by John Prange, an
NSA scientist at the Advanced Research and Development Activity.
Headquartered in Room 12A69 in the NSA’s Research and Engineering
Building at 1 National Business Park, ARDA was set up by the agency to
serve as a sort of intelligence community DARPA, the place where
former Reagan national security advisor John Poindexter’s infamous
Total Information Awareness project was born. [Editor’s note: TIA was
a short-lived project founded in 2002 to apply information technology
to counter terrorist and other threats to national security.] Later
named the Disruptive Technology Office, ARDA has now morphed into the
Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA).

A sort of national laboratory for eavesdropping and other spycraft,
IARPA will move into its new 120,000-square-foot home in 2009. The
building will be part of the new M Square Research Park in College
Park, Maryland. A mammoth two million-square-foot, 128-acre complex,
it is operated in collaboration with the University of Maryland.
“Their budget is classified, but I understand it’s very well funded,”
said Brian Darmody, the University of Maryland’s assistant vice
president of research and economic development, referring to IARPA.
“They’ll be in their own building here, and they’re going to grow.
Their mission is expanding.”

If IARPA is the spy world’s DARPA, Aquaint may be the reincarnation of
Poindexter’s TIA. After a briefing by NSA Director Michael Hayden,
Vice President Dick Cheney, and CIA Director George Tenet of some of
the NSA’s data mining programs in July 2003, Senator Jay Rockefeller
IV, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote a
concerned letter to Cheney. “As I reflected on the meeting today,” he
said, “John Poindexter’s TIA project sprung to mind, exacerbating my
concern regarding the direction the administration is moving with
regard to security, technology, and surveillance.”

Building “Hal”
The original goal of Aquaint, which dates back to the 1990s, was
simply to develop a sophisticated method of picking the right needles
out of a vast haystack of information and coming up with the answer to
a question. As with TIA, many universities were invited to contribute
brainpower to the project. But in the aftermath of the attacks on
9/11, with the creation of the NSA’s secret warrantless eavesdropping
program and the buildup of massive databases, the project began taking
on a more urgent tone.

In a 2004 pilot project, a mass of data was gathered from news stories
taken from the New York Times, the AP news wire, and the English
portion of the Chinese Xinhua news wire covering 1998 to 2000. Then,
13 U.S. military intelligence analysts searched the data and came up
with a number of scenarios based on the material. Finally, using those
scenarios, an NSA analyst developed 50 topics, and in each of those
topics created a series of questions for Aquaint’s computerized brain
to answer. “Will the Japanese use force to defend the Senkakus?” was
one. “What types of disputes or conflict between the PLA [People’s
Liberation Army] and Hong Kong residents have been reported?” was
another. And “Who were the participants in this spy ring, and how are
they related to each other?” was a third. Since then, the NSA has
attempted to build both on the complexity of the system—more essay-
like answers rather than yes or no—and on attacking greater volumes of

“The technology behaves like a robot, understanding and answering
complex questions,” said a former Aquaint researcher. “Think of 2001:
A Space Odyssey and the most memorable character, HAL 9000, having a
conversation with David. We are essentially building this system. We
are building HAL.” A naturalized U.S. citizen who received her Ph.D.
from Columbia, the researcher worked on the program for several years
but eventually left due to moral concerns. “The system can answer the
question, ‘What does X think about Y?'” she said. “Working for the
government is great, but I don’t like looking into other people’s
secrets. I am interested in helping people and helping physicians and
patients for the quality of people’s lives.” The researcher now
focuses on developing similar search techniques for the medical

Thought policeman
A supersmart search engine, capable of answering complex questions
such as “What were the major issues in the last 10 presidential
elections?” would be very useful for the public. But that same
capability in the hands of an agency like the NSA—absolutely secret,
often above the law, resistant to oversight, and with access to
petabytes of private information about Americans—could be a privacy
and civil liberties nightmare. “We must not forget that the ultimate
goal is to transfer research results into operational use,” said
Aquaint project leader John Prange, in charge of information
exploitation for IARPA.

Once up and running, the database of old newspapers could quickly be
expanded to include an inland sea of personal information scooped up
by the agency’s warrantless data suction hoses. Unregulated, they
could ask it to determine which Americans might likely pose a security
risk—or have sympathies toward a particular cause, such as the antiwar
movement, as was done during the 1960s and 1970s. The Aquaint robospy
might then base its decision on the type of books a person purchased
online, or chat room talk, or websites visited—or a similar
combination of data. Such a system would have an enormous chilling
effect on everyone’s everyday activities—what will the Aquaint
computer think if I buy this book, or go to that website, or make this
comment? Will I be suspected of being a terrorist or a spy or a

Controlling brain waves
Collecting information, however, has always been far less of a problem
for the NSA than understanding it, and that means knowing the
language. To expand its linguistic capabilities, the agency
established another new organization, the Center for Advanced Study of
Language (CASL), and housed it in a building near IARPA at the M
Square Research Park. But far from simply learning the meaning of
foreign words, CASL, like Aquaint, attempts to find ways to get into
someone’s mind and understand what he or she is thinking.

One area of study is to attempt to determine if people are lying
simply by watching their behavior and listening to them speak.
According to one CASL document, “Many deception cues are difficult to
identify, particularly when they are subtle, such as changes in verb
tense or extremely brief facial expressions. CASL researchers are
studying these cues in detail with advanced measurement and
statistical analysis techniques in order to recommend ways to identify
deceptive cue combinations.”

Another area of focus explores the “growing need to work with foreign
text that is incomplete,” such as partly deciphered messages or a
corrupted hard drive or the intercept of only one side of a
conversation. The center is thus attempting to find ways to prod the
agency’s cipher-brains to fill in the missing blanks. “In response,”
says the report, “CASL’s cognitive neuroscience team has been studying
the cognitive basis of working memory’s capacity for filling in
incomplete areas of text. They have made significant headway in this
research by using a powerful high-density electroencephalogram (EEG)
machine acquired in 2006.” The effort is apparently directed at
discovering what parts of the brain are used when very good
cryptanalysts are able to guess correctly the missing words and
phrases in a message.

Like something out of a B-grade sci-fi movie, CASL is even trying to
turn dull minds into creative geniuses by training employees to
control their own brain waves: “The cognitive neuroscience team has
also been researching divergent thinking: creative, innovative and
flexible thinking valuable for language work. They are exploring ways
to improve divergent thinking using the EEG and neurobiological
feedback. A change in brain-wave activity is believed to be critical
for generating creative ideas, so the team trains its subjects to
change their brain-wave activity.”

Obama’s Black Widow
BY Nat Hentoff  /  23 December 2008

Thanks to Bush and Obama, the National Security Agency now knows more
about you. Barack Obama will be in charge of the biggest domestic and
international spying operation in history. Its prime engine is the
National Security Agency (NSA)-located and guarded at Fort Meade,
Maryland, about 10 miles northeast of Washington, D.C. A brief glimpse
of its ever-expanding capacity was provided on October 26 by The
Baltimore Sun’s national security correspondent, David Wood: “The
NSA’s colossal Cray supercomputer, code-named the ‘Black Widow,’ scans
millions of domestic and international phone calls and e-mails every
hour…. The Black Widow, performing hundreds of trillions of
calculations per second, searches through and reassembles key words
and patterns, across many languages.”

In July, George W. Bush signed into law the FISA Amendments Act of
2008, which gives the NSA even more power to look for patterns that
suggest terrorism links in Americans’ telephone and Internet
communications. The ACLU immediately filed a lawsuit on free speech
and privacy grounds. The new Bush law provides farcical judicial
supervision over the NSA and other government trackers and databasers.
Although Senator Barack Obama voted for this law, dig this from the
ACLU: “The government [is now permitted] to conduct intrusive
surveillance without ever telling a court who it intends to spy on,
what phone lines and e-mail addresses it intends to monitor, where its
surveillance targets are located, why it’s conducting the surveillance
or whether it suspects any party to the communication of wrongdoing.”
This gives the word “dragnet” an especially chilling new meaning.

The ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer, director of its National Security Project,
adds that the new statute, warming the cold hearts of the NSA,
“implicates all kinds of communications that have nothing to do with
terrorism or criminal activity of any kind.” Why did Obama vote for
this eye-that-never-blinks? He’s a bright, informed guy, but he wasn’t
yet the President-Elect. The cool pragmatist wanted to indicate he
wasn’t radically unmindful of national security-and that his previous
vow to filibuster such a bill may have been a lapse in judgment. It

What particularly outraged civil libertarians across the political
divide was that the FISA Amendments Act gave immunity to the
telecommunications corporations-which, for seven years, have been a
vital part of the Bush administration’s secret wiretapping program-
thereby dismissing the many court cases brought by citizens suing
those companies for violating their individual constitutional
liberties. This gives AT&T, Verizon, and the rest a hearty signal to
go on pimping for the government. That’s OK with the Obama
administration? Please tell us, Mr. President.

Some of us began to see how deeply and intricately the telecoms were
involved in the NSA’s spying when-as part of an Electronic Frontier
Foundation lawsuit-it was revealed by a former AT&T technician, Mark
Klein, that he had found a secret AT&T room in which the NSA was
tapping into the telecom giant’s fiber-optic cables. On National
Public Radio on November 7, 2007, he disclosed: “It’s not just AT&T’s
traffic going through these cables, because these cables connected
AT&T’s network with other networks like Sprint, Qwest [the one firm
that refused to play ball with the government], Global Crossing,
UUNet, etc.”

What you should know is that these fruitful cables go through “a
splitter” that, as Klein describes, “just copies the entire data
without any selection going on. So it’s a complete copy of the data
stream.” Under the new FISA Amendments Act, there are no limits on
where this stream of data can be disseminated. As in the past, but now
with “legal” protection under the 2008 statute, your suspicious
“patterns” can go to the FBI, Homeland Security, the CIA, and state
and local police that are also involved in “fusion centers” with the

Consider the enormous and bottomless databases that the government-and
its NSA-can have a ball with. In James Bamford’s The Shadow Factory
(Doubleday)-a new book that leads you as far as anyone has gone into
the bowels of the NSA-he notes: “For decades, AT&T and much of the
rest of the telecommunications industry have had a very secret, very
cozy relationship with the NSA.” In AT&T’s case, he points out, “its
international voice service carried more than 18 billion minutes per
year, reaching 240 countries, linking 400 carriers, and offering
remote access via 19,500 points of presence in 149 countries around
the globe.” Voilá! Also, he notes: “Much of those communications
passed through that secret AT&T room that Klein found on Folsom Street
in downtown San Francisco.”

There’s a lot more to come that we don’t know about. Yet. In The
Shadow Factory, James Bamford quotes Bush’s Director of National
Intelligence Mike McConnell as saying that this wiretapping program
was and is “only one program of many highly secret programs approved
by Bush following the attacks on 9/11” (emphasis added). McConnell
also said of the NSA’s nonstop wiretapping: “This is the only aspect
of those various activities whose existence has officially been

Come on, Mike. Bush acknowledged the NSA’s flagrant contempt of the
First and Fourth amendments only after The New York Times broke the
story in December 2005. When the Times executive editor, Bill Keller,
first decided to hold the explosive story for a year, General Michael
Hayden-the former head of the NSA who is currently running the CIA-was
relieved because he didn’t want the news to get out that “most
international communications pass through [these telecommunications]
‘switching,'” Bamford reports. It would blow the cover off those
corporate communicators. Now, AT&T, Verizon, et al., don’t have to
worry, thanks to the new law.

There are increasing calls, inside and outside of Congress, for
President Obama to urge investigations by an independently bipartisan
commission-akin to the 9/11 Commission-to get deeply into the many
American and international laws so regally broken by Bush and his
strutting team. But there is so much still to find out about the NSA’s
“many highly secret programs” that a separate commission is sorely
needed to probe exclusively into the past and ongoing actions of the
Black Widow and other NSA lawless intrusions into our privacy and

President Obama could atone for his vote that supported the FISA
Amendments Act of 2008 by appointing such a bipartisan commission
composed of technology experts who are also familiar with the
Constitution. Bamford says that the insatiable NSA is “developing an
artificial intelligence system designed to know what people are
thinking.” Here come the thought police!

BLACK WIDOW,0,7827877.story
Spying NSA’s failures : Bamford looks into the mistakes made by the
secretive agency protecting the nation
BY David Wood  /  October 26, 2008
Review of The Shadow Factory By James Bamford

The bad news in James Bamford’s fascinating new study of the National
Security Agency is that Big Brother really is watching. The worse
news, according to this veteran journalist, is that Big Brother often
listens in on the wrong people and sometimes fails to recognize
critical information, like the fact that terrorists are gathering and
plotting an attack. When it does find a critical nugget like that, it
occasionally files it away somewhere and doesn’t tell anybody.

This is a tale of bad news, told by a master whose two previous books
on the NSA, The Puzzle Palace (1982) and Body of Secrets (2001), laid
bare some of the machinations of the world’s largest and most
technologically sophisticated spy agency. In brisk and colorful
narrative, The Shadow Factory details the agency’s failure on Sept. 11
(the hijackers, on whom the NSA had been eavesdropping for 18 months
without sharing the intelligence with the FBI or CIA, were camped out
late that summer virtually on the NSA’s doorstep, in Laurel).

Bamford whisks the reader through the NSA’s embarrassing failure to
figure out that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction and
through the distressing post-Sept. 11 years when the agency
demonstrated both technical gee-whizzery and brash law-breaking. The
book is certain to raise questions about whether the NSA, with
headquarters in those huge, foreboding structures just off the
Baltimore-Washington Parkway on Fort Meade Road, ever can operate
effectively and efficiently – and legally.

Bamford convincingly argues that the agency, grown from a few creative
code-breakers into a vast network of sensors, wiretaps, robo-
eavesdroppers, secret data-miners and storage bunkers, broke the law
and spied on Americans and nearly got away with it. His detailed
descriptions of secret underground fiber-optic wiretaps and
clandestine operations centers persuasively describe the NSA’s
expanding reach.

Yet Bamford might have acknowledged that reporting on a complex
organization whose effectiveness requires secrecy is an inherently
incomplete work: Its successes are unknown. Surely, the NSA has done
valuable work in identifying and tracking terrorists, achievements not
noted by Bamford.

The book is “a disservice” to the NSA employees who seek to protect
the nation while safeguarding Americans’ privacy, an agency
spokeswoman, Judith A. Emmel, said in a statement. Of course, the
agency’s eavesdroppers and analysts are motivated, hard-working
people, often forward-deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Army Sgt.
Trista Leah Moretti, an NSA cryptologist killed in a mortar attack in
southern Iraq on June 25, 2007, is the most recent entry on the
agency’s Memorial Wall.

The NSA’s former director, Michael Hayden, once described the NSA’s
eavesdroppers as “people who … go shopping in Glen Burnie and their
kids play soccer in Laurel. And they know the law. They know American
privacy better than the average American, and they’re dedicated to

But as history has proved time and time again, dedicated and well-
intentioned people can be overwhelmed by the imperatives of the
institution within which they work. Can the NSA itself be trusted, in
secret, to make the fine judgment calls between protecting Americans
and spying on them?

Bamford’s history is not reassuring. It was Hayden, after all, who
authorized Operation Highlander. It siphoned all phone and e-mail
traffic off the Inmarsat satellite communications system used by
American troops, the Red Cross, the U.N. and journalists, including
those at The Baltimore Sun, to call home from Iraq. NSA analysts
listened in on and recorded “incredibly intimate personal
conversations,” one analyst told Bamford, who said she was shocked and
distressed (her story has been corroborated by some of her NSA
colleagues and disputed by others). On any given day, Bamford writes,
the NSA had been spying on as many as 500 Americans at home and 7,000

Even now, he writes, the NSA has “the capacity to make tyranny total
in America. Only law ensures that we never fall into that abyss.”
Despite Bamford’s burning distrust of the agency, he got and shares
astonishing access to No Such Agency, as the NSA is sometimes known.
Here, courtesy of the eavesdroppers, is Osama bin Laden’s phone
number: 00-873-6825-0533 (surely disconnected by this time).

Most convincingly, Bamford guides the reader through the NSA’s
greatest challenge: staying ahead of the explosive growth in volume
and types of communications. Voice traffic alone increases 20 percent
a year. Digital cell phones and fiber-optic cables vastly complicate
the eavesdroppers’ job. Today, the NSA’s colossal Cray supercomputer,
code-named the “Black Widow,” scans millions of domestic and
international phone calls and e-mails every hour. That’s harder than
it sounds: For purposes of speed and encryption, many of these
communications are transmitted in fragments. The Black Widow,
performing hundreds of trillions of calculations per second, searches
through and reassembles key words and patterns, across many languages.
Storing all this data, Bamford reports, is already an enormous
headache for the NSA.

But the larger and more disturbing issue is not so much collecting all
that data, but analyzing, digesting and using it. “Our ability to
collect stuff,” a senior NSA official acknowledged to Bamford, “far
outstrips our ability to understand what we collect.”

Apps for Democracy: 2 Days Left to Compete
BY Ellen Miller

“The District has been getting major kudos for its IT projects and
which are well-deserved. DC’s data catalog, for instance, has tons of
open data feeds (more than its share about crime, alas), and provides
real-time data from multiple agencies. The District puts it online to
act as a catalyst to encourage agencies to operate more responsively
and timely.

Vivek Kundra, Washington, D.C.’s chief technology officer, launched a
contest (with substantial financial prizes!) titled Apps for
Democracy. DC is looking for useful Web applications using the
District government’s data catalog. The winning designers who create
the best widgets, Google Maps mash-ups, iPhone apps, Facebook apps,
and other digital utilities will split $20,000 in $2,000 to $100
allotments. If interested, you’ll have to work fast. The deadline for
submissions is tomorrow (Wednesday November 12th).”

Vivek Kundra
email :

District of Columbia Launches Open Innovation Challenge
October 15, 2008

Today the District of Columbia Chief Technology Office of the Officer
(OCTO) announced “Apps for Democracy,” an initiative to develop new
software applications to make the DC government’s data more accessible
and useful for the general public and the government. Register for the
contest at

The District collects and maintains vast stores of data on every
aspect of government operations, from government contracts to crime
statistics to economic development and much more. The District has
already organized and published this data in a real-time data catalog
at The new initiative will solicit the best
and most cost-effective ways to package and present this data for easy
viewing, analysis, and repurposing by the public.

Technology developers are invited to compete in creating applications
for popular consumer technologies like iPhones, Facebook, Map Mashups
and others. Developers must use open source programming. The contest
is open to the general public and will run for a month from October 14
through November 14, 2008. The District will host a kick-off on
October 16 and will conduct five open “Innovation Labs” each weekend
to help contestants find collaborators. The contest will conclude on
November 13 with an awards ceremony to unveil the winning
applications. Additional contest details and guidelines for entries
can be found at

The contest will serve as a catalyst to visualize the District’s data
so it will be useful to the citizens of DC, improving their quality of
life; foster innovation in the DC technology community resulting in
startup formation and growth; solve the technology challenges of OCTO
through more cost effective open collaboration; and work towards a new
model for government/private sector cross collaboration that can be
utilized repeatedly to solve our challenges and serve as an example
for other governments.

“The Apps for Democracy contest is part of our drive toward digital
democracy in the nation’s capital,” said District CTO Vivek Kundra.
“Especially in these difficult economic times, it’s crucial to the
government’s mission to find more efficient and impactful methods for
delivering an even higher level of service for a fraction of the cost.
We are ushering in a new age of participatory democracy, one in which
technology is developed by the people for the people.”

DC’s Apps for Democracy: Helping Coders Help the Man (with one small complaint)
BY Matthew Burton / October 24, 2008

“Because this is timely, I reserve the right to say some presumptuous/
incorrect things that I never would have said had I had time to think
it over, as I usually do when I post things here. The Washington, DC
Chief Technology Officer just launched a project called Apps for
Democracy, a contest to create apps with DC’s data catalog.

I love this project. DC doesn’t get much revenue to work with, so this
project makes a lot of economic sense–the tools they will get out of
this contest would, through the standard contracting route, cost about
40 times the $20,000 in prize money they’re giving away. But the
economics, I’m guessing, is what sold the mayor on the project. I bet
the initial motivation was much different: the CTO’s office
understands that the public will create better tools, and more
quickly, than government contractors can. They know that the benefits
of opening their data far outweigh the speculated, yet unproven,

Also, I can tell the CTO likes to experiment. That’s really gutsy,
because an inevitable byproduct of experimentation is failure. This is
why most bureaucrats hate experimentation and would prefer to coast:
sure, you won’t make progress by doing things the same way, but at
least you can’t screw up!

This CTO (Vivek Kundra is his name) gets it. This is exactly the kind
of stuff a CTO should be doing. There are rumblings of such a position
being created under a presumptive President Obama. If it happens, I
hope they use Apps for Democracy as a model for this title: more
technology, less chief officer. Technology is about experimentation,
not red tape. A new bureaucratic position should have an eye for
counteracting the increased bureaucracy it will inevitably engender.
Projects that delegate power to the public are a great way to do that.

I’m excited about Apps for Democracy, but I have some reservations,
which I voice below. As a segue, here are a few possibilities for app
* Use the Speed Detector GIS data to build an iPhone app that
alerts drivers to their presence (though that won’t go over well with
the mayor’s budget office)
* Use the Bicycle Lane and Bike Routes GIS data to build a Google
or Yahoo! Maps mashup that creates cycling-friendly directions
* Use the Trails, Trails NPS, and Crime Incidents data to create
safe jogging routes
* Mash any public safety data–Crime Incidents, Juvenile Arrests,
etc–with a SIMILE timeline to spot trends
* Use that same public safety data to spot correlations between
incidents and the proximity of other facilities; for example, maybe
juvenile arrests near banks spike in June, while arrests near current
construction projects spike in December. (Whether the revelations
would be valuable, we cannot say. But I’m sure sociologists and
criminologists would find it interesting.)
* Use any number of the tourism- and transportation-oriented data
files to make the ultimate online day planner for

I guess some of those ideas are decent. The problem is, I’m just a
citizen. So most of my ideas are for public-facing tools. Only one or
two would improve District operations. Public-facing tools are great,
and the project is accepting them, but is that really the spirit of
this project? I see it differently. The goal here is to help
government, and I imagine Kundra is hoping people will create tools
that do that. As the CTO, his job is to “develop and implement the
District’s IT infrastructure” and provide “technology solutions to
improve services.” What he really wants are tools that help the DC
Government do its job better. This project can yield a slew of neat-o
iPhone apps, but remember: projects like Apps for Democracy ultimately
happen because of the possible budget savings, and if the project
doesn’t deliver on that front by cutting internal IT costs, there may
not be an Apps for Democracy ‘09. So he has to deliver at least one
great new tool for the inside.

What to build, what to build…there are surely countless opportunities
for improving DC’s systems and data management. The problem is,
people like me don’t have the good ideas, because we don’t experience
the day-to-day frustrations of the problems we’d be fixing. We don’t
understand the environment. We don’t know what’s lacking.

The most beneficial tools will probably never be thought of by the
general public. People with no understanding of municipal water
systems can’t (or don’t) ponder ways to revolutionize the DC Water
Authority. Even more important, even if I did have the idea, I would
have little incentive to build it on my own. Unless I understand the
good that will come from creating that tool, I’m not going to spend
time on it. Someone at the Water Authority needs to say, “We need a
tool that will do X, Y, and Z, and it would help us because _____.”
The _____ is the most important part. I’d love to help DC, but only if
I know I’m helping. That’s why there needs to be a way for DC
employees to share ideas with developers. Has this project been
promoted to District employees? The project site is not targeted at
them: it grabs the attention of tech firms and indy developers, but
there’s no mention of the end user. Do they have a forum for voicing
ideas? Whip up a way for those developers to team with District
employees so we can put together something that really changes your
business. What do you say, Mr. Kundra?

UPDATE 10/25 : After posting this, I sent an email to Apps for
Democracy project manager Peter Corbett to tell him about it. He wrote
back in less than an hour saying he’d already read it:

I just read that, Matt and it’s a really good post. I just sent it
to Vivek. We have up for collaboration purposes
and I suggested to Vivek that he broadcast to that we need
ideas from them about what they need built!

I often complain that although the federal government is finally
abandoning clunky enterprise software for more modern Web tools, their
procurement model has not changed: they still rely on the slow,
expensive, clunky contracting route instead of trying the more agile,
release early-release often approach that makes Web tools great in the
first place. But the speed and content of Peter’s response, and his
allowing me to post it here, are all signs that this is a much
different DC software project. I like it.”

Related: Why I Help “The Man,” and Why You Should Too

Mayor Fenty Announces Three National Awards for the Office of the
Chief Technology Officer
NASCIO honors bring OCTO award count to 10 in 2008
September 29, 2008

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty announced today the National Association of
State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) has honored the Office of
the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) with three national information
technology (IT) awards. The new honors bring the District’s total IT
awards to 10 in 2008.

NASCIO named OCTO the winner of its Recognition Award in the IT
Project and Portfolio Management Category, an award for state
initiatives that develop governance processes, policies and systems
for the efficient management of IT investments from concept, funding,
implementation and operation to retirement.

The award-winning project was the “stock market model” developed by
Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Vivek Kundra for managing the
District’s IT investments. Kundra’s innovative idea was to manage IT
projects as a portfolio of stocks, with each project as a company, its
team as the management, its schedule and financial status captured in
market reports and customer satisfaction as the market reaction. By
applying these stock-market practices to government technology, Kundra
was able to identify problem projects early and either switch managers
or kill the projects, freeing resources for more promising
initiatives. Earlier this year Kundra was honored for his ground-
breaking stock market model by both the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium,
which recognized Kundra among outstanding IT innovators, and by
InfoWorld Magazine, which named Kundra among the nation’s top
25 CTOs.

NASCIO also awarded OCTO its Recognition Award in the Government to
Business Category. This award recognizes innovative applications that
reduce business costs for regulatory compliance, help companies
establish and grow a business, or improve day-to-day government-to-
business interactions.

OCTO’s winning project was its Certified Business Enterprise (CBE)
online Resource Center. District CBEs are businesses certified by the
District’s Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD)
to participate in the District’s contracting program. The program
directs spending to District-based businesses to create local jobs,
strengthen the local economy, and increase the District’s tax base. To
maximize participation and benefits from the program, DSLBD needed a
user-friendly, comprehensive online certification and contract
compliance application. OCTO developed the application in consultation
with DSLBD, the District’s Office of Contracts and Procurement (OCP)
and the Office of the City Administrator (OCA). The result was a
application that:
* Allows qualified business owners to submit online applications
for CBE certification;
* Enables DSLBD to process the applications via the District’s
* Provides a transparent and efficient process to verify agency
compliance with CBE participation requirements;
* Tracks prime contractor payments to subcontractors to verify
compliance with CBE participation plans; and
* Provides outreach tools to inform the CBE community about
upcoming business opportunities, training classes and DSLBD/District
business events.

The site has enhanced agency and prime contractor compliance with
District CBE requirements, it has dramatically increased the accuracy
of DSLBD data and it has improved the efficiency of certification
processing and compliance tracking.

The third NASCIO award OCTO won was the Recognition Award in the
Government to Citizens category for governmental applications that
provide innovative and/or more efficient services to citizens. OCTO
won the award with its CapStat “Building A City That Works” website.
The site supports CapStat, a cross-agency accountability program
launched by District Mayor Fenty. The Mayor and City Administrator
hold regular meetings with agency directors to review agency
performance data, assign action items, and hold the managers

The CapStat website is central to the program. CapStat meetings are
recorded by video and broadcast on the site. The site offers
performance data from CapStat sessions as well as agency performance
reports. It is updated after each session to provide links to full-
length session videos, resulting action items, and a revised schedule
of upcoming topics. The site offers data catalogs and live feeds on a
wide variety of District performance measures, such as violent crimes,
service requests, permits, and many more. An interactive map
illustrates the reports and shows, for example, where each crime
occurred or which buildings received permits. By providing the
detailed data District leaders need to assess agency performance and
hold managers accountable, and by creating a vehicle for the District
to share all of this data with the public, the CapStat website has
played a vital role in delivering on Mayor Fenty’s commitment to
transparency and accountability in District government.

“For my administration, improving services for citizens and ensuring
accountability and transparency in government are paramount goals,”
said Mayor Fenty. “These important awards from NASCIO, along with
many other recognitions OCTO has received in the past two years,
testify to the key role technology plays in meeting our objectives for
the District.”

“I’m honored by these awards that reflect the evaluation of our peers
around the country,” said District CTO Kundra. “We have assembled some
of the smartest and hardest working people at OCTO so the District can
lead the nation in innovation and service delivery.”

From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]



lèse-majesté, lese majesty:
is a French phrase (literally meaning “injured majesty”) that is
pronounced either lez MAZH-es-TAI or lez MAJ-es-tee and is spelled
usually with the grave and acute accents. Today it means “an offense
against a sovereign” or, more generally, any slight or insult that
wounds someone’s dignity. [See FOREIGN PHRASES.]

Kleptocracy (sometimes Cleptocracy) (root: Klepto+cracy = rule by
thieves) is a pejorative, informal term for a government so corrupt
that no pretense of honesty remains. In a kleptocracy the mechanisms
of government are devoted to taxing the public at large, or using
their control of government processes in order to amass substantial
personal fortunes for the rulers and their cronies (collectively,
kleptocrats), or to keep said rulers in power through redistribution


a synopsis of Chapter 14: From Egalitarianism to Kleptocracy
by Jared Diamond, speaking on levels of societal organization

“The band has 5 to 80 people, are usually related by blood, typically
nomadic, have 1 language and ethnicity, have egalitarian government
with informal leadership, no bureaucracy, no formal structures for
conflict resolution, no economic specialization (e.g., Bushmen,

The tribe has hundreds of people, often fixed settlements, consist of
kin-based clans, still 1 ethnicity and language, have egalitarian or
“big-man” government, informal and often difficult conflict resolution
problems (e.g., much of New Guinea, Amazonia).

Chiefdoms have thousands of people, have 1 or more villages possibly
with a paramount village, have class and residence relationships,
still 1 ethnicity, have centralized often hereditary rule, include
monopoly and centralized conflict resolution, justify kleptocracy and
a redistributive economy (requiring tribute), have intensive food
production, early division of labor, luxury goods, etc…. (e.g.,
Polynesia, sub-Saharan Africa, etc.)

States have over 50,000 people, have many villages and a capital, have
class and residence based relationships, 1 or more languages and
ethnicities, centralized government, many levels of bureaucracy,
monopolies of force and information, have formalized laws and judges,
may justify kleptocracy, have intensive food production, division of
labor, pay taxes, public architecture, etc.

Kleptocrats maintain power by disarming the populace and arming the
elite, making the masses happy by redistributing the tribute, keeping
order and curbing violence (compared to bands and tribes), promoting
religion and ideology that justifies kleptocracy (and that promotes
self-sacrifice on behalf of others), building public works, etc.

States are especially good at developing weapons of war, providing
troops, promoting religion (fanaticism) and patriotic fervor that
makes troops willing to fight suicidally.  States arise not just from
the natural tendency of man (as Aristotle suggested), but by social
contract, in response to needs for irrigation (“hydraulic theory”),
and regional population size.  The large populations require intensive
food production, which contributes (1) seasonal workers for other
purposes, (2) stored food surpluses which feed specialists and other
elite, (3) sedentary living.  Increased opportunities in states for
conflicts forces the development of laws.  The processes by which
states form virtually never include voluntary merger, but rather (1)
merger under threat of force (e.g., the Cherokee Indian federation),
or (2) merger by conquest (e.g., the Zulus)–when population density
is high, the defeated men are often killed and the women taken in

Jared Diamond
email : jdiamond [at] geog [dot] ucla [dot] edu


‘I am re-reading Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond and just
finished his chapters on kleptocracy, which is, broadly, “A government
characterized by rampant greed and corruption” [from the Greek
kleptein, to steal].

Specifically, Diamond is describing the ruling class of a nation state
that transfers tribute from producers to an elite (p. 276-277, Norton
trade paperback, 2003). I was struck by Diamond’s “four solutions,”
the ones that rulers have used to gain popular support while still
maintaining power (and riches)…and how much his model could be applied
to the world’s current crop of humongously compensated CEOs.

I’m as capitalistic as any businessman. I work hard for my earnings
and don’t – mainly – begrudge others’ higher salaries. But there’s a
parallel between what Diamond’s ruling kleptocrats have done
historically and what a number of C-level executives do with their

So very briefly, I’m putting down Diamond’s four solutions, and a
corporate interpretation of each.

Disarm the populace and arm the elite. – Well, think about what the
corporations do to “disarm” their employees, like fostering dependence
on healthcare benefits; and their stockholders, like forbidding them
to ask pointed questions during shareholders’ meetings. Corporations
arm their elites with similar (but smaller) executive compensation
packages and privileges.

Make the masses happy by redistributing much of the tribute received.
– How about slightly better returns on share price, or bonuses for
workers, or giving substantially to charity? Hmmm? Aren’t these ways
of “sharing the wealth,” but not very much of it?

Use the monopoly of force to promote happiness. – In other words, the
company will fire your keister if you question its behavior. Isn’t
that what happened to several of the Enron whistle-blowers? Or, the
company will move offshore, depriving the community of much-needed
jobs (which keep employees and their families happy).

Construct an ideology or religion justifying kleptocracy. – This one’s
pretty easy if you presume that capitalism is the reason and the
justification. But since I am a capitalist myself – without the hefty
salary – I would rather offer the “ideology of corporate entitlement,”
which has been heavily displayed by Enron, HealthSouth, and a few
other companies: we’re the best, so we deserve to be able to treat you
like peasants.” This kind of attitude runs throughout a given
organization…every employee feels the same way, no matter how little
he or she is involved in corporate management.

None of this is new. Wasn’t it Al Capp who coined the phrase more than
50 years ago, “What’s good for General Motors is good for the USA?” Or
was this from the musical version?’

‘After defining kleptocracy, author Jared Diamond says that the issue
with a kleptocracy is always how to maintain it. After all, this
system of government involves a small but powerful elite exploiting a
large population. (Sadly, I am growing convinced that America
abandoned democracy for corporate kleptocracy some time ago.) Diamond
says there are four solutions to the problem of how a kleptocracy can
maintain itself. Of likely interest to you, here is #4:

“The remaining way for kleptocrats to gain public support is to
construct an ideology or religion justifying kleptocracy” (p. 277).

Religious impulses almost certainly predate civilization. However, it
appears that most kleptocracies, starting with small chiefdoms and
extending through modern national governments, have recognized the
utility of religion. Superstitious beliefs may have originated as
methods for explaining confusing natural phenomena, but it seems that
they may persist today largely because of their role in justifying
kleptocracy. Without state sponsorship through the ages, the type of
organized religion we have today would not have been possible.

Diamond does not explicitly apply this to modern politics (at least
not in what I have read so far), but I can’t resist doing so. When I
examine contemporary American politics, I see the Republican party
talking the loudest about their religiosity. Why? Because their
policies are the most kleptocratic (i.e., they favor the wealthy at
the expense of the poor). In fact, they have few qualms about
exploiting the poor and even blame them for being poor! The need to
publicly announce their religion has been less necessary for Democrats
because their policies provide a more significant benefit to the
masses. Remember I said that Diamond gives four solutions to the
problem of maintaining a kleptocracy? #2 involves the redistribution
of wealth through popular public programs, and this describes the

The points I’m making here are not new. They have been made repeatedly
throughout historical and political literature. And yet, they are not
brought up often enough in modern political discourse. While we
continue to criticize Republican efforts to merge church and state,
let us also expose why they need religion so much.’

‘Diamond sees social structure, a kleptocracy, as ultimately a factor
intrinsic to growing, settled, agricultural populations. He sees it as
inevitable. The best the oppressed can do, in Diamond’s opinion, is to
oust one group of kleptocrats for hopefully a more benevolent group of
kleptocrats; and the big questions of history were determined largely
by environmental, geographic and techological factors, not even
individual human agency. For Diamond, if you develop a settled,
agricultural society… you are inevitably headed towards an
exploitive state.

Obviously, this is a problematic view for anarchists.

I actually studied Marx’s ethnographic notebooks, and Engels. I read
Morgan. I focused in on the Iroquois, the primary example Marx, Engels
and Morgan use for a stateless communist society of
“barbarians” (though Morgan over emphasizes “the hunt” and thus makes
“savages” out of the Iroquois at the point in their history of their
lowest population in the 1800s).’

‘The obvious corollary of this theory is that most successful modern
societies are, in fact, kleptocracies. The key is to use the four
methods to gain popular support in order to redistribute as much
wealth to the ruling class as the populace will support. If the ruling
class takes too much, it will be overthrown by a new ruling class
(which’ll do ditto).

So, is the US a kleptocracy? Of course, it is! Is that bad? Well, it
depends on who you are in society, and whether the kleptocracy is
efficient and fair over the long term.’

Our President’s Statement on Kleptocracy

“For too long, the culture of corruption has undercut development and
good governance and bred criminality and mistrust around the world.
High-level corruption by senior government officials, or kleptocracy,
is a grave and corrosive abuse of power and represents the most
invidious type of public corruption. It threatens our national
interest and violates our values. It impedes our efforts to promote
freedom and democracy, end poverty, and combat international crime and
terrorism. Kleptocracy is an obstacle to democratic progress,
undermines faith in government institutions, and steals prosperity
from the people. Promoting transparent, accountable governance is a
critical component of our freedom agenda.

At this year’s G-8 meeting in St Petersburg, my colleagues joined me
in calling for strengthened international efforts to deny kleptocrats
access to our financial systems and safe haven in our countries;
stronger efforts to combat fraud, corruption, and misuse of public
resources; and increased capacity internationally to prevent
opportunities for high-level public corruption. Today, I am announcing
a new element in my Administration’s plan to fight kleptocracy, The
National Strategy to Internationalize Efforts against Kleptocracy,
which sets forth a framework to deter, prevent, and address high-
level, public corruption. It identifies critical tools to detect and
prosecute corrupt officials around the world, so that the promise of
economic assistance and growth reaches the people.

Our objective is to defeat high-level public corruption in all its
forms and to deny corrupt officials access to the international
financial system as a means of defrauding their people and hiding
their ill-gotten gains. Given the nature of our open, accessible
international financial system, our success in fighting kleptocracy
will depend upon the participation and accountability of our partner
nations, the international financial community, and regional and
multilateral development institutions. Together, we can confront
kleptocracy and help create the conditions necessary for people
everywhere to enjoy the full benefits of honest, just, and accountable

2007/09/05  /  The United States, World’s First Corporate Kleptocracy

“When Ronald Reagan said, “…government is not the solution to our
problem; government is the problem,” many people thought it would
usher in a new era of fiscal responsibility, but to the contrary,
taxes decreased, government spending increased, and the national debt
went through the roof. In fact, it took 6 of 8 years of the Clinton
administration to turn those deficits into surpluses, and then only by
virtue of the fact that the economy boomed in the 90s. But now, with
the Bush oligarchy coming to an end, we see what really became of the
Reagan’s legacy. The GOP has turned our nation into the world’s first
fully functional ‘Corporate Kleptocracy’, a government/corporate
partnership whose goal is acquire as much of the nation’s wealth as

In a traditional kleptocracy, the government directly extends the
power and wealth of the ruling class through taxes and the looting of
wealth in natural resources. The United States is no longer rich in
resources but is rich in the productivity of its workers. Our country
is also rich in geo-political influence and military might. And so we
find the Bush Administration, at almost every turn, advancing policies
that indirectly transfer wealth to the powerful by:

1) Removing regulations on, curtailing oversight of, or blocking
corrective action against predatory industries. Example: Enron and the
gaming of California’s electrical markets with FERC blocking
corrective action after the fact.

2) Creating geo-political instability designed to enhance the profits
of particular industries. Example: The Iraq War with it’s direct and
indirect benefits for the defense and petroleum industries.

3) Actively supporting inefficient, but highly profitable, corporate
service delivery systems instead of more efficient government systems.
Examples: Private insurer health care and mandatory non-governmental
retirement financing

4) Supporting predatory laws that amount to non-tax “taxes” that favor
corporations over individuals. Examples: Bankruptcy reform, medical
savings accounts, privatized social-security

5) Massive politicization of the regulatory (EPA, OSHA), investigative
(DoJ, FBI, BATF, Customs), military, and judicial functions of
government, thereby ensuring compliance that supports the other four

Sort of makes you feel like Neo in The Matrix, doesn’t it? Not a
battery…a wealth creation machine for corporations. The proof in the
stats. Real income for the majority of Americans has not increased in
7 years while corporate profits have ballooned and are, for certain
industries, at historic highs. Productivity continues to climb while
wages fall, even during a period of low inflation.

One wonders how long such a system can last since most kleptocracies
fail, bloodily, when there is no more wealth to loot. The powerful
leave, and poor fight each other for what’s left.”






Kleptocracy and Divide-and-Rule: A Model of Personal Rule
‘Many developing countries have suffered under the personal rule of
‘kleptocrats’, who implement highly inefficient economic policies,
expropriate the wealth of their citizens, and use the proceeds for
their own glorification or consumption. The incidence of kleptocracy
is a serious impediment to development. Yet how do kleptocrats
survive? How can they apparently exploit the entire citizenship of
countries and not foment successful opposition? In this research we
argue that the success of kleptocrats rests on their ability to use a
particular type of political strategy, which we refer to as ‘divide-
and-rule’. Members of society need to cooperate in order to depose a
kleptocrat. A kleptocrat, however, may defuse such cooperation by
imposing punitive rates of taxation on any citizen who proposes such a
move, and redistributing the benefits to those who need to agree to
it. Thus kleptocrats can intensify the collective action problem by
threats that remain off the equilibrium path. In equilibrium, all are
exploited and no one challenges the kleptocrat because of the threat
of divide-and-rule. The divide-and-rule strategy is made possible by
the weakness of the institutions in these societies, and highlights
the different nature of politics between strongly- and weakly-
institutionalized polities. We show that foreign aid and rents from
natural resources typically help kleptocratic rulers by providing them
with greater resources to buy off opponents. Kleptocratic policies are
also more likely to arise when opposition groups are shortsighted and
when the average productivity in the economy is low. We also find that
greater inequality between producer groups may constrain kleptocratic
policies because more productive groups are more difficult to buy

Daron Acemoglu
email : daron [at] mit [dot] edu


“The answer is a kind of corruption of the political process. Or
better, a “corruption” of the political process. I don’t mean
corruption in the simple sense of bribery. I mean “corruption” in the
sense that the system is so queered by the influence of money that it
can’t even get an issue as simple and clear as term extension right.
Politicians are starved for the resources concentrated interests can
provide. In the US, listening to money is the only way to secure
reelection. And so an economy of influence bends public policy away
from sense, always to dollars.

The point of course is not new. Indeed, the fear of factions is as old
as the Republic. There are thousands who are doing amazing work to
make clear just how corrupt this system has become. There have been
scores of solutions proposed. This is not a field lacking in good
work, or in people who can do this work well.

But a third person — this time anonymous — made me realize that I
wanted to be one of these many trying to find a solution to this
“corruption.” This man, a Republican of prominence in Washington,
wrote me a reply to an email I had written to him about net
neutrality. As he wrote, “And don’t shill for the big guys protecting
market share through neutrality REGULATION either.”

“Shill.”  If you’ve been reading these pages recently, you’ll know my
allergy to that word. But this friend’s use of the term not to condemn
me, but rather as play, made me recognize just how general this
corruption is. Of course he would expect I was in the pay of those
whose interests I advanced. Why else would I advance them? Both he and
I were in a business in which such shilling was the norm. It was
totally reasonable to thus expect that money explained my desire to
argue with him about public policy.

I don’t want to be a part of that business. And more importantly, I
don’t want this kind of business to be a part of public policy making.
We’ve all been whining about the “corruption” of government forever.
We all should be whining about the corruption of professions too. But
rather than whining, I want to work on this problem that I’ve come to
believe is the most important problem in making government work.

And so as I said at the top (in my “bottom line”), I have decided to
shift my academic work, and soon, my activism, away from the issues
that have consumed me for the last 10 years, towards a new set of
issues: Namely, these. “Corruption” as I’ve defined it elsewhere will
be the focus of my work. For at least the next 10 years, it is the
problem I will try to help solve.

I do this with no illusions. I am 99.9% confident that the problem I
turn to will continue exist when this 10 year term is over. But the
certainty of failure is sometimes a reason to try. That’s true in this

Nor do I believe I have any magic bullet. Indeed, I am beginner. A
significant chunk of the next ten years will be spent reading and
studying the work of others. My hope is to build upon their work; I
don’t pretend to come with a revolution pre-baked.

Instead, what I come with is a desire to devote as much energy to
these issues of “corruption” as I’ve devoted to the issues of network
and IP sanity. This is a shift not to an easier project, but a
different project. It is a decision to give up my work in a place some
consider me an expert to begin work in a place where I am nothing more
than a beginner.”

Lawrence Lessig
email : lessig [at] lessig08 [dot] org / lessig [at] pobox [dot] com


“Following the good practice of others, and following suggestions of
inconsistency by others, I offer the following disclosure statement.

How I make money
I am a law professor. I am paid to teach and write in fields that
interest me. Never is my academic research directed by anyone other
than I. I am not required to teach any particular course; I am never
required or even asked by anyone with authority over me to write about
a particular subject or question. I am in this important sense a free

Business Attachments
I have no regular clients. I am on board of a number of non-
profits, including EFF, FSF, PLOS, Software Freedom Law Center,
FreePress, PublicKnowledge, MusicBrainz, and Creative Commons.

I serve on no commercial boards. I don’t take stock-options to
serve on boards or advisory boards.

The Non-Corruption (NC) Principle
It is a special privilege that I have a job that permits me to say
just what I believe, and not what I’m paid to say. That freedom used
to be the norm among professionals. It is less and less the norm
today. Lawyers at one time had a professional ethic that permitted
them to say what they believe. Now the concept of “business conflicts”
— meaning, a conflict with the commercial interests of actual or
potential clients — silences many from saying what they believe.
Doctors too are hired into jobs where they are not allowed to discuss
certain medical procedures (See, e.g., Rust v. Sullivan). Researchers
at “think tanks” learn who the funders are as a first step to deciding
what questions will be pursued. And finally, and most obviously, the
same is true of politicians: The constant need to raise money just to
keep their job drives them to develop a sixth sense about what sorts
of statements (whether true or not) will cost them fundraising

With perhaps one exception (politicians), no one forces
professionals into this compromise. (The exception is because I don’t
see how you survive in politics, as the system is, without this
compromise, unless you are insanely rich.) We choose the values we
live by ourselves. And as the freedom I have to say what I believe is
the most important part of my job to me, I have chosen a set of
principles that limit any link between money and the views I express.

I call these principles “non-corruption” principles because I
believe that behavior inconsistent with these principles, at least
among professionals, is a kind of corruption. Obviously, I don’t mean
“corruption” in the crudest sense. Everyone would agree that it is
wrong for a global warming scientist to say to Exxon, “if you pay me
$50,000, I’ll write an article criticizing global warming.” That is
not the sort of “corruption” I am talking about.

I mean instead “corruption” in a more subtle sense. We all
understand that subtle sense when we look at politicians. We don’t
recognize it enough when we think about lawyers, doctors, scientists,
and professors.

I want to increase this recognition, even at the risk of
indirectly calling some of my friends “corrupt.” Norms are uncertain
here. I hope they change. But until they change, we should not condemn
those with differing views. We should engage them. I intend this to be
the beginning of that engagement.

So, the NC principle:
The simple version is just this: I don’t shill for anyone.

The more precise version is this: I never promote as policy a
position that I have been paid to advise about, consult upon, or write
about. If payment is made to an institution that might reasonably be
said to benefit me indirectly, then I will either follow the same
rule, or disclose the payment.

The precise version need to be precisely specified, but much can
be understood from its motivation: “Corruption” in my view is the
subtle pressure to take views or positions because of the financial
reward they will bring you. “Subtle” in the sense that one’s often not
even aware of the influence. (This is true, I think, of most
politicians.) The rule is thus designed to avoid even that subtle

But isn’t disclosure always enough?
Some would say this principle is too strict. That a simpler rule
— indeed the rule that governs in most of these contexts — simply
requires disclosure.

I don’t agree with the disclosure principle. In my view, it is too
weak. The best evidence that it is too weak is the United States
Congress. All know, or can know, who gives what to whom. That hasn’t
chilled in the least the kind of corruption that I am targeting here.
More generally: if everyone plays this kind of corruption game, then
disclosure has no effect in stopping the corruption I am targeting.
Thus, in my view, it is not enough to say that “Exxon funded this
research.” In my view, Exxon should not be directly funding an
academic to do research benefiting Exxon in a policy dispute.

What the NC principle is not
The NC principle is about money. It is not about any other
influence. Thus, if you’re nice to me, no doubt, I’ll be nice to you.
If you’re respectful, I’ll be respectful back. If you flatter me, I
doubt I could resist flattering you in return. If you push causes I
believe in, I will likely push your work as well. These forms of
influence are not within the scope of the NC principle — not because
they are not sometimes troubling, but because none of them involve
money. I mean the NC principle only to be about removing the influence
of money from the work of a professional. I don’t think there’s any
need to adopt a rule to remove these other influences.”

‘Recent thoughts:
* kleptocracy – associated with state and the necessary
redistribution that comes with high specialization, population and
population density. Teaches one to devalue things that have value
(e.g. time, health, relationships etc.) and to value things that have
little real value (e.g. name brands, popularity, etc.) Derives power
from the fears and insecurities of the citizens. Stands in opposition
to more egalitarian societies of the past (recent and distant), in its
class divisions and allowance of slavery
* megaklept – a tool of the kleptocracy that takes your money/time
and gives you nothing in return (e.g. insurance companies,
* gigaklept – a tool of the kleptocracy that leaves you in worse
condition than before you interacted with it (e.g. the tobacco
* kleptocrat – an agent of the kleptocracy
* major kleptocrat – an agent of the kleptocracy that imposes
kleptocratism on others, often against their will (e.g. my uncle who,
without anyone’s permission, gave me a perm when I was three years
* minor kleptocrat – an unwitting agent of the kleptocracy. (e.g.
parents who let their children watch way too much TV)
* kleptovision – the TV. A very powerful tool of the kleptocracy.
* kleptonet – the internet, when used as a tool of the

Hypothesis – those that are slaves to the kleptocracy are often
unhappy and their joi de vivre would return if they began to emerge
from and limit their interaction with the kleptocracy.

Goal – to eliminate all interaction with gigaklepts and minimize
interaction with megaklepts in an effort free oneself from the global
kleptocracy and decrease its wide-ranging power.

Challenge – to find ways to minimize the power of the kleptocracy in
one’s life.

Root out the kleptocrats at

Definitions (and some words) by Althea Grant and Karama Neal. Inspired
by Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond.’
email : karama [at] alum [dot] emory [dot] edu





Secret Report: Corruption is “Norm” Within Iraqi Government
BY David Corn  /  08/30/2007

As Congress prepares to receive reports on Iraq from General David
Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and readies for a debate on
George W. Bush’s latest funding request of $50 billion for the Iraq
war, the performance of the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-
Maliki has become a central and contentious issue. But according to
the working draft of a secret document prepared by the U.S. embassy in
Baghdad, the Maliki government has failed in one significant area:
corruption. Maliki’s government is “not capable of even rudimentary
enforcement of anticorruption laws,” the report says, and, perhaps
worse, the report notes that Maliki’s office has impeded
investigations of fraud and crime within the government.

The draft–over 70 pages long–was obtained by The Nation, and it
reviews the work (or attempted work) of the Commission on Public
Integrity (CPI), an independent Iraqi institution, and other
anticorruption agencies within the Iraqi government. Labeled
“SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED/Not for distribution to personnel outside
of the US Embassy in Baghdad,” the study details a situation in which
there is little, if any, prosecution of government theft and sleaze.
Moreover, it concludes that corruption is “the norm in many

The report depicts the Iraqi government as riddled with corruption and
criminals–and beyond the reach of anticorruption investigators. It
also maintains that the extensive corruption within the Iraqi
government has strategic consequences by decreasing public support for
the U.S.-backed government and by providing a source of funding for
Iraqi insurgents and militias.

The report, which was drafted by a team of U.S. embassy officials,
surveys the various Iraqi ministries. “The Ministry of Interior is
seen by Iraqis as untouchable by the anticorruption enforcement
infrastructure of Iraq,” it says. “Corruption investigations in
Ministry of Defense are judged to be ineffectual.” The study reports
that the Ministry of Trade is “widely recognized as a troubled
ministry” and that of 196 corruption complaints involving this
ministry merely eight have made it to court, with only one person

The Ministry of Health, according to the report, “is a sore point;
corruption is actually affecting its ability to deliver services and
threatens the support of the government.” Investigations involving the
Ministry of Oil have been manipulated, the study says, and the “CPI
and the [Inspector General of the ministry] are completely ill-
equipped to handle oil theft cases.” There is no accurate accounting
of oil production and transportation within the ministry, the report
explains, because organized crime groups are stealing oil “for the
benefit of militias/insurgents, corrupt public officials and foreign

The list goes on: “Anticorruption cases concerning the Ministry of
Education have been particularly ineffective….[T]he Ministry of Water
Resources…is effectively out of the anticorruption fight with little
to no apparent effort in trying to combat fraud….[T]he Ministry of
Labor & Social Affairs is hostile to the prosecution of corruption
cases. Militia support from [Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr] has
effectively made corruption in the Ministry of Transportation
wholesale according to investigators and immune from prosecution.”
Several ministries, according to the study, are “so controlled by
criminal gangs or militias” that it is impossible for corruption
investigators “to operate within [them] absent a tactical [security]
force protecting the investigator.”

The Ministry of the Interior, which has been a stronghold of Shia
militias, stands out in the report. The study’s authors say that
“groups within MOI function similarly to a Racketeer Influenced and
Corrupt Organization (RICO) in the classic sense. MOI is a ‘legal
enterprise’ which has been co-opted by organized criminals who act
through the ‘legal enterprise’ to commit crimes such as kidnapping,
extortion, bribery, etc.” This is like saying the mob is running the
police department. The report notes, “currently 426 investigations are
hung up awaiting responses for documents belonging to MOI which
routinely are ignored.” It cites an episode during which a CPI officer
discovered two eyewitnesses to the October 2006 murder of Amer al-
Hashima, the brother of the vice president, but the CPI investigator
would not identify the eyewitnesses to the Minister of the Interior
out of fear he and they would be assassinated. (It seemed that the
killers were linked to the Interior Ministry.) The report adds, “CPI
investigators assigned to MOI investigations have unanimously
expressed their fear of being assassinated should they aggressively
pursue their duties at MOI. Thus when the head of MOI intelligence
recently personally visited the Commissioner of CPI…to end
investigations of [an] MOI contract, there was a clear sense of
concern within the agency.”

Over at the Defense Ministry, the report notes, there has been a
“shocking lack of concern” about the apparent theft of $850 million
from the Iraqi military’s procurement budget. “In some cases,” the
report says, “American advisors working for US [Department of Defense]
have interceded to remove [Iraqi] suspects from investigations or
custody.” Of 455 corruption investigations at the Defense Ministry,
only 15 have reached the trial stage. A mere four investigators are
assigned to investigating corruption in the department. And at the
Ministry of Trade, “criminal gangs” divide the spoils, with one
handling grain theft, another stealing transportation assets.

Part of the problem, according to the report, is Maliki’s office: “The
Prime Minister’s Office has demonstrated an open hostility” to
independent corruption investigations. His government has withheld
resources from the CPI, the report says, and “there have been a number
of identified cases where government and political pressure has been
applied to change the outcome of investigations and prosecutions in
favor of members of the Shia Alliance”–which includes Maliki’s Dawa

The report’s authors note that the man Maliki appointed as his
anticorruption adviser–Adel Muhsien Abdulla al-Quza’alee–has said
that independent agencies, like the CPI, should be under the control
of Maliki. According to the report, “Adel has in the presence of
American advisors pressed the Commissioner of CPI to withdraw cases
referred to court.” These cases involved defendants who were members
of the Shia Alliance. (Adel has also, according to the report,
“steadfastly refused to submit his financial disclosure form.”) And
Maliki’s office, the report says, has tried to “force out the entire
leadership of CPI to replace them with political appointees”–which
would be tantamount to a death sentence for the CPI officials. They
now live in the Green Zone. Were they to lose their CPI jobs, they
would have to move out of the protected zone and would be at the mercy
of the insurgents, militias, and crime gangs “who are [the] subjects
of their investigations.”

Maliki has also protected corrupt officials by reinstating a law that
prevents the prosecution of a government official without the
permission of the minister of the relevant agency. According to a memo
drafted in March by the U.S. embassy’s anticorruption working group–a
memo first disclosed by The Washington Post–between September 2006
and February 2007, ministers used this law to block the prosecutions
of 48 corruption cases involving a total of $35 million. Many other
cases at this time were in the process of being stalled in the same
manner. The stonewalled probes included one case in which Oil Ministry
employees rigged bids for $2.5 million in equipment and another in
which ministry personnel stole 33 trucks of petroleum.

And in another memo obtained by The Nation–marked “Secret and
Confidential”–Maliki’s office earlier this year ordered the
Commission on Public Integrity not to forward any case to the courts
involving the president of Iraq, the prime minister of Iraq, or any
current or past ministers without first obtaining Maliki’s consent.
According to the U.S. embassy report on the anticorruption efforts,
the government’s hostility to the CPI has gone so far that for a time
the CPI link on the official Iraqi government web site directed
visitors to a pornographic site.

In assessing the Commission on Public Integrity, the embassy report
notes that the CPI lacks sufficient staff and funding to be effective.
The watchdog outfit has only 120 investigators to cover 34 ministries
and agencies. And these investigators, the report notes, “are closer
to clerks processing paperwork rather than investigators solving
crimes.” The CPI, according to the report, “is currently more of a
passive rather than a true investigatory agency. Though legally
empowered to conduct investigations, the combined security situation
and the violent character of the criminal elements within the
ministries make investigation of corruption too hazardous.”

CPI staffers have been “accosted by armed gangs within ministry
headquarters and denied access to officials and records.” They and
their families are routinely threatened. Some sleep in their office in
the Green Zone. In December 2006, a sniper positioned on top of an
Iraqi government building in the Green Zone fired three shots at CPI
headquarters. Twelve CPI personnel have been murdered in the line of
duty. The CPI, according to the report, “has resorted to arming people
hired for janitorial and maintenance duty.”

Radhi al-Radhi, a former judge who was tortured and imprisoned during
Saddam Hussein’s regime and who heads the CPI, has been forced to live
in a safe house with one of his chief investigators, according to an
associate of Radhi who asked not to be identified. Radhi has worked
with Stuart Bowen Jr., the Special Inspector General for Iraq
Reconstruction, who investigates fraud and waste involving U.S.
officials and contractors. His targets have included former Defense
Minister Hazem Shalaan and former Electricity Minister Aiham
Alsammarae. And Radhi himself has become a target of accusations. A
year ago, Maliki’s office sent a letter to Radhi suggesting that the
CPI could not account for hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses
and that Radhi might be corrupt. But, according to the US embassy
report, a subsequent audit of the CPI was “glowing.” In July, the
Iraqi parliament considered a motion of no confidence in Radhi-a move
widely interpreted as retaliation for his pursuit of corrupt
officials. But the legislators put off a vote on the resolution. In
late August, Radhi came to the United States. He is considering
remaining here, according to an associate.

Corruption, the report says, is “one of the major hurdles the Iraqi
government must overcome if it is to survive as a stable and
independent entity.” Without a vigorous anticorruption effort, the
report’s authors assert, the current Iraqi government “is likely to
loose [sic] the support of its people.” And, they write, continuing
corruption “will likely fund the violent groups that our troops are
likely to face.” Yet, according to the report, the U.S. embassy is
providing “uncertain” resources for anticorruption programs. “It’s a
farce,” says a U.S. embassy employee. “There is a budget of zero
[within the embassy] to fight corruption. No one ever asked for this
report to be written. And it was shit-canned. Who the hell would want
to release it? It should infuriate the families of the soldiers and
those who are fighting in Iraq supposedly to give Maliki’s government
a chance.”

Beating back corruption is not one of the 18 congressionally mandated
benchmarks for Iraq and the Maliki government. But this hard-hitting
report–you can practically see the authors pulling out their hair–
makes a powerful though implicit case that it ought to be. The study
is a damning indictment: widespread corruption within the Iraqi
government undermines and discredits the U.S. mission in Iraq. And the
Bush administration is doing little to stop it.

For Iraq’s Oil Contracts, a Question of Motive
BY Peter S. Goodman  /  June 29, 2008

From the first days that American-led forces took control of Iraq, the
conquering army took pains to broadcast that it was there to liberate
the country, not occupy it, and certainly not to cart off its riches.
Nowhere were such words more carefully dispensed than on the subject
of Iraq’s oil.

As they surveyed facilities in the weeks after Saddam Hussein’s
government fell, American officials said they were merely advising
Iraqis on how to increase production to finance the democratic nation
being erected across desert sands that, conveniently, held the third-
largest oil reserves on earth.

Many critics of the invasion derided that characterization. In Arab
countries and among some people in America, there was suspicion that
the war was a naked grab for oil that would open Iraq to multinational
energy giants. President Bush had roots in the Texas oil industry.
Vice President Cheney had overseen Halliburton, the oil services
company. Whatever else happened, such critics said, energy players
with links to the White House would surely wind up with a nice piece
of the spoils.

Behind those competing conceptions was a fundamental reality that
forms the wallpaper for American engagement in the Middle East: oil,
and its critical importance to the American economy, has for decades
been a paramount interest of the United States in the region. Almost
everything the United States has tried to do there — propping up
autocrats or seeking democracy, fighting terrorism or withstanding
Soviet influence, or, in this case, toppling the dictator Saddam
Hussein — could affect the availability of oil for American markets
and therefore entailed some calculation about it.

Today, the question hanging over Iraq is whether its natural endowment
will be used to help create a sustainable new state, or will instead
be managed in ways that reward the cronies and allies of the country
whose army toppled Mr. Hussein. Or perhaps both at the same time.

That basic question was yanked back to the fore recently when word
emerged from Baghdad, in a report in The New York Times, that the
Iraqi oil ministry was close to awarding contracts to service its oil
fields to some of the largest Western oil companies. While relatively
small, these contracts could serve as a foot in the door for much more
lucrative licenses to explore widely for Iraqi oil.

Some 40 companies from around the world had jockeyed for the
contracts, but they were being awarded without competitive bids, the
report said. Those about to land the deals — Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP
and Total — had held oil rights in Iraq before Mr. Hussein
nationalized the fields and kicked them out more than three decades
ago. They all came from countries that had either been stalwart allies
of the Bush administration or — in the case of France, which is home
to Total — had lately increased their support for the American-led
campaign to isolate Iran.

Just as striking were the companies that failed to capture a foothold:
the Russian oil giant Lukoil, which had signed a deal to exploit a
huge field in southern Iraq while Mr. Hussein was still in power, only
to see it revoked just before he fell, and Chinese firms with their
own claims. Before the 2003 invasion, the Russian and Chinese
governments had lent muscle on the United Nations Security Council
toward fending off American-led sanctions aimed at the Hussein

Iraqi officials said the no-bid deals reflected nothing more than
pragmatic stewardship. Iraq needs to get more oil out of the ground to
finance reconstruction, they said, and the oil giants getting the
contracts have the skill to make that happen.

But those most suspicious of the Bush administration’s motives fixed
on the contracts as validation. They accused the administration of
pulling strings and shelving concerns about preserving Iraqi
sovereignty, in favor of expedient deal-making in a time of exploding
oil prices. “There does seem to be pressure from American officials
brought on the Iraqi oil ministry to favor friendly countries and
punish unfriendly countries,” said Michael T. Klare, a political
scientist at Hampshire College and author of the recent book “Rising
Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy” (Henry Holt).
“That’s the way it has to look to an outsider.”

In the days after word of the deals leaked out, three senators,
including Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat, demanded that the
Bush administration somehow cancel the contracts, arguing that they
would damage American credibility.

The White House disowned any role and said the senators were being
hypocritical. Here they were, in effect, accusing the administration
of orchestrating the deals, while calling for orchestration to make
them disappear. “Iraq is a sovereign country,” the White House
spokeswoman, Dana Perino, told reporters. “It can make decisions based
on how it feels that it wants to move forward.”

Sovereignty has been a subject wrapped in thorns ever since American-
led forces drove Mr. Hussein from his palace. Arguments over who
really makes decisions in Iraq, and for whose benefit, cut to the
heart of the very point of the war.

This tension has often hamstrung American efforts, making it difficult
for those on the ground to act decisively. When looting swept across
the country after Mr. Hussein’s government fell, American and British
forces traced their failure to crack down against civilians in part to
a reluctance to be seen as strong-armed occupiers. But their inaction
instead aroused the disgust of many Iraqis when the looters dismantled
much of the nation. Oil has been a more delicate area. Any future
Iraqi government would clearly need hefty oil revenues, and that
requires significant modernization.

In the early days after the Americans took over in May 2003, I drove
with a team from the United States Army Corps of Engineers in Kirkuk
to meet with the head of the North Oil Company, one of two state-owned
giants. The Americans were keen that North Oil hire a private security
firm to guard local installations.

On the way over, the American commanding officer reminded his men that
they were there as advisers, and should treat the Iraqi executive with
deference. But within minutes the Americans were haranguing the
company chief for moving too slowly. Later, the Americans vented about
how much easier things would be if they were simply running the show.
“I like to think of us as really nice conquerors,” one of the
Americans said.

The Pentagon dispatched Phillip J. Carroll, a former head of Shell’s
operations in the United States, to advise the Iraqi oil ministry.
Among critics of the war, it was assumed that Mr. Carroll was there to
make sure that Mr. Hussein’s allies would be walled out of the future
Iraqi oil business while the United States and its friends got the
choice opportunities.

Mr. Carroll dismissed such talk when I spoke with him shortly after he
arrived in Baghdad, but he signaled that the shelf life of any
contract dating back to Saddam might be brief. “There will have to be
an evaluation by the ministry of those contracts and a determination
of whether they were made in the best interests of the Iraqi people,”
Mr. Carroll said.

Five years later, the Iraqi oil ministry is about to hand out secretly
negotiated contracts to a few companies that Saddam Hussein removed,
while excluding firms from the countries that had better relations
with the dictator.

In an interview last week, Mr. Carroll said he assumed critics would
assert unsavory motives, but he said that missed the point. “These
companies are long familiar with Iraq and have wonderful technology
and loads of money,” he said. “The Iraqis could develop their own
skills by learning from the international oil companies.” But energy
experts argue that Iraq is one of the easier places on earth to summon
oil from the ground, making the pedigree of the companies less

No oil law has yet been agreed upon concerning how the oil royalties
will be shared among Iraq’s factions. So, as the Bush administration
enters its final months, much about the future of Iraq’s oil remains a
mystery — expect for which companies will get the first shot at the
rewarding business of extracting more of it.





Mugabe Victory in Zimbabwe Elections a ‘Joke’
BY Louis Weston & Peta Thornycroft  /  June 30, 2008

HARARE, Zimbabwe — President Mugabe was last night sworn in to a sixth
term as president of Zimbabwe, extending his 28 years in power after
officials proclaimed he had been re-elected by a landslide.
Maintaining the fiction that the vote was a contested poll, the
Zimbabwe Election Commission said that Mr. Mugabe received 2,150,269
votes — or more than 85% — against 233,000 for Morgan Tsvangirai, the
leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change who won the
first round in March.

Between the two polls Mr. Mugabe’s Zanu-PF movement launched a
campaign of violence against the opposition in which at least 86
people were killed, and Mr. Tsvangirai pulled out of the election.
“This is an unbelievable joke and act of desperation on the part of
the regime,” the MDC’s spokesman, Nelson Chamisa, said. “It qualifies
for the Guinness Book of Records as joke of the year. Mugabe will
never win an election except when he’s contesting against himself.”

Prayers at the inauguration were led by an Anglican ally who broke
away from the church, Nolbert Kunonga. “We thank you Lord for this
unique and miraculous day,” he said. “You have not failed our leader.”
Mr. Mugabe waved a Bible as he recited “so help me God,” to cheers
from his supporters.

Mr. Tsvangirai was invited to the event but declined. “The
inauguration is meaningless,” he said. “The world has said so,
Zimbabwe has said so. So it’s an exercise in self-delusion.”
Ambassadors in Harare were conspicuous by their absence from the

Although Mr. Mugabe offered to hold talks with the opposition the
absence of the word “negotiations” was noticeable and analysts said he
intends to remain in office as long as possible. “It is my hope that
sooner rather than later, we shall as diverse political parties hold
consultations towards such serious dialogue as will minimize our
difference and enhance the area of unity and co-operation,” Mr. Mugabe

Election observers from the Southern African Development Community
said that the poll failed to reflect the will of the people. Almost
400,000 Zimbabweans defied the threat of violent retribution by Mr.
Mugabe’s thugs to vote against him or spoil their ballot papers,
official results released on yesterday show.

According to the Zimbabwe Election Commission’s figures, the turnout
of 42% was almost exactly the same as the first round. But many
polling stations were virtually deserted throughout election day.
Papers were spoiled. With 21,127 votes in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second
largest city and an opposition stronghold, Mr. Mugabe lost to the
combined total of 13,291 votes for Mr. Tsvangirai and 9,166 spoiled

Only a few independent observers were accredited for the election. And
the Zimbabwe Election Support Network — which mounted the most
comprehensive monitoring exercise in the first round — pulled out in
protest. Consequently, no unbiased verification of the figures is
possible and the true tallies may never be known.

For weeks, Zanu-PF militias have terrorized Zimbabweans, warning them
they will launch Operation Red Finger, which will target anyone whose
digit is not marked with ink to show that they cast a vote. They will
also target anyone who checks show to have backed Mr Tsvangirai.

Militias force some to vote for Zimbabwe’s Mugabe
BY Cris Chinaka  /  June 27, 2008

HARARE — Many Zimbabweans boycotted their one-candidate election on
Friday but witnesses and monitors said government militias forced
people to vote for 84-year-old President Robert Mugabe in some areas.
The vote, held despite a storm of condemnation from inside and outside
Africa, was denounced as a sham by Western powers and opposition
leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Tsvangirai, who won the first round on March 29, pulled out of the
poll a week ago and took refuge in the Dutch embassy because of state-
backed violence he said had killed almost 90 of his supporters. He
told a news conference millions of people were staying away from the
polls despite intimidation. “What is happening today is not an
election. It is an exercise in mass intimidation with people all over
the country being forced to vote,” Tsvangirai said.

A witness in Chitungwiza town, south of Harare, told Reuters voters
were forced to hand the serial number of their ballot paper and their
identity details to an official from Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party so he
could see how they voted. The Zimbabwe Crisis Coalition rights group
said village heads had “assisted” teachers to vote in some rural areas
after forcing them to declare they were illiterate.

Turnout was low in urban areas where Tsvangirai’s Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) is traditionally strong. But it was not clear
how many voters went to the polls in rural districts that are
difficult for independent journalists to visit. State television
denounced foreign media reports of low turnout. It showed long queues
in rural and semi-rural constituencies and said voters ignored appeals
to abstain.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, a monitoring group, said its
observers reported that traditional leaders forced people to vote in
most rural areas. It said the poll would not reflect the will of the
people. ZESN also reported militias and traditional leaders were
noting the names of voters and asking for the serial numbers of their
ballot papers as they left polling stations. ZESN said before the vote
it could not deploy properly because of intimidation of its monitors.
Tsvangirai had urged people to abstain but said they should vote if
they were in danger.

Turnout was much lower in many areas than in parliamentary and
presidential elections in March, when people queued from the early
hours. Tsvangirai won that poll but fell short of the majority needed
for outright victory. The G8 group of rich nations lambasted Zimbabwe
for going ahead with the run-off and the United States said the U.N.
Security Council may consider fresh sanctions next week. Tsvangirai
said pro-Mugabe militias had threatened to kill anybody abstaining or
voting for the opposition. Voters had their little finger dyed with
purple ink. “There is no doubt turnout will be very low,” said Marwick
Khumalo, head of monitors from the Pan African Parliament. Another
African election monitor, who asked not be to named, said turnout was
low except in some ZANU-PF strongholds.

Mugabe voted with his wife at Highfield Township, on the outskirts of
Harare. Asked how he felt, he told journalists: “Very fit, optimistic,
upbeat,” before being driven away. The African Union is optimistic it
can solve the Zimbabwe crisis. “I am convinced we will sort it out and
that our credibility will be maintained,” AU Commission chairman Jean
Ping said during a foreign ministers meeting in Sharm el Sheikh,
Egypt, ahead of an AU summit next week.

Tsvangirai said he understood South African President Thabo Mbeki
planned to recognise Mugabe’s re-election. But he said it would be a
“dream” to expect his MDC to join a national unity government with
Mugabe’s ZANU-PF. Mbeki, the designated regional mediator in Zimbabwe,
has been widely criticised for a soft approach towards Mugabe despite
an economic crisis that has flooded South Africa and other countries
with millions of refugees.

Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu, often seen as South Africa’s moral
conscience, said Mbeki must join other African leaders in declaring
Mugabe illegitimate if he claimed victory. Calling Zimbabwe’s crisis a
“sad tragedy,” Archbishop Tutu said Mbeki should admit his diplomatic
approach had failed. “Everybody would support him if he now turned the
screws on his colleague Mr Mugabe. I know he would be doing it
reluctantly,” Tutu told Reuters television.

In the affluent Greendale suburb of Harare in the morning there were
scores of people queuing for bread at a shopping centre but only 10 at
a polling station nearby. “I need to get food first and then maybe I
can go and vote … I heard there could be trouble for those who
don’t,” said Tito Kudya, an unemployed man. Mugabe has presided over
an economic collapse accompanied by hyperinflation, 80% unemployment,
food and fuel shortages. A loaf of bread costs 6-billion Zimbabwe
dollars, or 150 times more than at the time of the first round of

A middle-aged man waiting for a bus said it was dangerous to talk
about politics. “Your tongue can cost you your teeth,” he told
Reuters, adding that he would vote. Analysts said Mugabe was pressing
ahead with the election to try to cement his grip on power and
strengthen his hand if he was forced to negotiate with Tsvangirai. A
security committee of the Southern African Development Community
(SADC) called earlier this week for the vote to be postponed, saying
Mugabe’s re-election could lack legitimacy.

But Mugabe, who thrives on defiance, remained unmoved and said he
would attend an AU summit to confront his opponents. Mugabe says he is
willing to sit down with the MDC but will not bow to outside pressure.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Japan that Washington
would raise the issue of further sanctions at the U.N. Security
Council. The European Commission described the run-off as “a sham.”

Zimbabwe’s Tipping Point?
By Roger Bate  /  June 27, 2008

“As I write, a few Zimbabweans are at the polls, some brought
forcibly, to vote in a meaningless election with only one candidate,
dictator Robert Mugabe. Mugabe’s party, ZANU PF, is vainly keeping up
the pretence that democracy exists in Zimbabwe — a fiction that not
even neighboring states are still willing to believe. The normally
vacillating UN has condemned Mugabe’s attempts to rig another election
now that Zimbabwe’s trading partners, Russia and China, have been
persuaded to add their voices; the Mugabe regime probably only has
weeks left.

On Wednesday, three members of the Southern African Development
Community (SADC), Swaziland, Angola, and Tanzania, urged Zimbabwe to
postpone today’s election, acknowledging that conditions in the
country would not permit it to be free and fair. Even the previously
silent South African ruling party, the African National Congress,
issued a statement noting that given “the ugly incidents and scenes
that have been visited on the people of Zimbabwe . . . a run-off
presidential election offers no solution to Zimbabwe’s crisis.” While
he did not mention Mugabe by name, former South African president
Nelson Mandela, speaking at a private dinner in London, cited the
“tragic failure of leadership” in Zimbabwe.

Mugabe’s downfall is long overdue, but he may also take down South
Africa’s president in the process. Thabo Mbeki’s inability to put any
pressure on Mugabe over the past eight years of election rigging and
violence has left his reputation in tatters. Dubbed Thabo “What
Crisis?” Mbeki, he seems to have lost any hope of the international-
diplomacy role he desired upon retiring as South African president
next April.

The fallout for those doing business with the regime is already
starting, too. Angry protestors are today gathering in Munich outside
the headquarters of Giesecke and Devrient, the company which is
printing the money used to prop up Mugabe’s regime. G&D printed
trillions of Zimbabwean dollars in February and March (432,000 sheets
of banknotes were sent to the government-controlled Reserve Bank of
Zimbabwe each week, equivalent to nearly Z$173 trillion (U.S. $32

Cato Institute analyst Stephen Hanke says that the Zimbabwean
government was “financing most of its spending” through money printed
and lent by the RBZ. As inflation deepened and tax revenues dried up,
the government demanded that RBZ print more and more money. G&D
enabled this to happen. This money was used to bribe the army prior to
the March election. The German Minister for Development, Heidemarie
Wieczorek-Zeul, told German radio this morning that she was demanding
that the company stop doing business with the Mugabe regime.

In Britain, pressure is building on Barclays Bank, which has affiliate
offices in Zimbabwe, to shut down operations there. According to a UK
treasury official, the bank has received hundreds of complaints and is
losing numerous valuable bank accounts. Furthermore, Anglo American —
the South African–British mining firm — which has new platinum
investments in Zimbabwe, was told by the British Government that it
was being monitored for any breach of existing sanctions. Like many
businesses, Anglo American argues (with little justification) that its
involvement benefits the Zimbabwean people. It may employ local
people, but all the revenue goes to the treasury — which provides hard
currency for the regime.

Most importantly, the Zimbabwean opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) has warned EU firms that licenses permitting foreign
companies to operate would be “revisited” when Mugabe is finally
overthrown. Roy Bennett, the MDC Treasurer, who spent many months in
jail for pushing a ZANU PF politician in 2006, says that all
“companies need to be careful because their rights will be
scrutinized.” He also warned that a future MDC government would not
repay recent loans to the Mugabe regime — a veiled threat to the
Chinese, North Koreans, and Malaysians who have financed weaponry and
military training for Mugabe’s army.

Universal Tobacco of Richmond, Virginia, also operates subsidiaries in
Zimbabwe. Like many businesses, they have faced difficult decisions
about remaining in the country, citing the employment of hundreds of
local people (in a country with 80 percent unemployment) as a key
reason not to leave. Unlike Anglo American, they employ many locals
and more of their activities reach the poor. When I interviewed
company officials some time ago about their tobacco processing
operations in Zimbabwe, the company defended its role — but said that
they were closely monitoring the situation. If the company wants to
operate in Zimbabwe, they’d better talk with opposition leaders soon —
waiting till Mugabe goes will be too late. The opposition wants
companies like Anglo American, Barclays, and Universal Tobacco to pull
out now — to remove the few solvent parts of a collapsing economy,
driving Mugabe to sue for a political resolution — and if the
companies don’t, they will be punished by a future MDC Government.

The saying, “It’s always darkest before the dawn” is applicable to
today’s Zimbabwe. For the millions suffering the privations of
Mugabe’s kleptocracy, it is as gloomy as it could be — but their
prospects could brighten in only a matter of weeks. It is up to
regional leaders and business leaders to ensure that is the case.”

[Roger Bate is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise

The African Union has an historic chance at its summit in Egypt to
unite against Robert Mugabe and chart a brighter future for his
country  /  June 28, 2008

Before Robert Mugabe voted yesterday, his enforcers had guaranteed him
a victory of sorts by murdering at least 90 people in his name. They
burned a six year-old boy alive in his home, along with his pregnant
mother. Another woman was found horribly dismembered in her kitchen.
Her crime: to have been married to an opposition councillor. Ten
thousand people have been injured. Two hundred thousand have been

The repugnant image of Zimbabwe’s dictator casting a ballot in his one-
candidate re-election insults the memory of his victims. It compounds
the suffering of their families and challenges the whole of Africa to
condemn him out of hand at last, to isolate him and to end his
country’s nightmare by hastening his departure from power.

Africa’s better leaders have a chance to shed their inhibitions and
start this process almost at once. Mr Mugabe has vowed to attend the
Africa Union summit at Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt on Monday, there to
confront anyone brave enough to denounce him and “see if those fingers
would be cleaner than mine”. His point is well taken. Too many AU
member states are still pernicious kleptocracies with little to boast
of by way of democracy. From the Republic of Congo to the summit’s
host country, led by the repressive Hosni Mubarak, misrule is the

But there are exceptions that keep hope alive. Ghana, Botswana,
Namibia and South Africa enjoy rankings comparable with some of the
EU’s newer members in a global survey of democratic institutions.
Botswana and South Africa beat Slovakia and Greece in international
corruption rankings. In Africa as elsewhere, there is a clear,
positive correlation between strong democratic credentials and strong
economic growth rates, and the countries that lead these tables are
leading a growing chorus of denunciation of the terror that Mr Mugabe
is inflicting on his people.

Without waiting for the lead offered by Nelson Mandela in London this
week, President Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia said that for Zimbabwe’s
neighbours to stay silent on its suffering would embarrass them and
the entire continent. Botswana has given warning that it may not
recognise the result of an election from which Morgan Tsvangirai was
forced to withdraw for fear of further butchery of his supporters. The
ANC has declared itself “deeply dismayed” by the violence (even if
South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki has yet to see reality), and
Tanzania’s President has called the AU’s silence so far on Zimbabwe

These statements come late. Mr Mugabe’s wilful destruction of his
country started eight years ago. But Africa is finally taking a stand
and deserves recognition for it.

The AU must now heed Tanzania’s warning and go much farther, by
refusing to recognise either yesterday’s blood-soaked parody of an
election or the regime that will claim a spurious mandate for more
power as a result of it. For the bleak truth is that Zimbabwe’s plight
eclipses every green shoot of good governance elsewhere in Africa. In
the land of the six billion-dollar loaf, rampaging paramilitaries and
remorseless Zanu (PF) “re-education” teams have turned the fertile
heartland of southern Africa into a vortex of misery that is
destabilising the entire region.

The AU’s duty in the next 48 hours is clear. Zimbabwe’s neighbours in
the South African Development Community (SADC) have an even more vital
role. They must unite to isolate Mr Mugabe and his inner circle. With
their help, the world can tighten sanctions, targeting the few dozen
men with the blood of so many on their hands. Without it, the shame
that Mr Mugabe has heaped on his country will only spread.

Comment: intervention in Zimbabwe is the only solution
The idea that Mugabe will cave in to sanctions or diplomatic pressure is absurd
David Aaronovitch  /  June 24, 2008

Maybe this time,” sang Lord Malloch-Brown on the Today programme
yesterday. “Something’s bound to begin. It’s got to happen, happen
sometime. Maybe this time I’ll win.”

Well, all right, I am – like postmodernist scholars – decoding the
metatext. What the Minister of State for Africa, Asia and the UN
actually said was that the mood around the world had so turned against
Robert Mugabe and his various cronies that their combined diplomatic
effort would bring him down.

Till now, Lord Malloch-Brown allowed, there had only been a “fairly
limited set of measures” taken against the Zimbabwean President. This
was changing. The Australians were kicking out the kids of Zanu (PF)
officials being educated in Oz. The EU would be freezing bank
accounts. The African Union and the Southern African Development
Community would not be recognising Mr Mugabe’s imminent second-round
election theft thus delegitimising him, and the UN would “force in”
election observers to monitor that second-round (from which Morgan
Tsvangirai had already withdrawn) or – in a manner unspecified –
“force some change of government”. These were “powerful steps – as
long as you accept that there are pressures short of military action”.

Perhaps, I thought, his lordship simply knows something we don’t about
back-channels and internal divisions in Mugabe’s apparat. Because,
unless you regard the recent burnings, rapes, beatings, murders,
threats, arrests, starvings and raids as some kind of exotic preamble
to negotiation, then what seems clear is that the Zanu (PF) military-
security group has no intention of allowing any transfer of power to
an elected opposition, no matter what a whingeing world says about it.

Or am I missing a clue, cleverly hidden in the present repression? If
so, it seems that Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic
Change missed it too when he took refuge in the Dutch Embassy in
Harare on Sunday night. Recalling Bosnia, one can only hope that the
Dutch keep their embassies safer than they did their UN safe havens.

This obduracy on the part of the Zimbabwean junta is not so
incomprehensible. The regime represents that astonishing phenomenon,
the ideo-kleptocracy, which believes that its enrichment and
corruption is a historically necessary reversal of colonialism. “The
people of Zimbabwe,” one senior Zanu (PF) minister said yesterday,
“have declared war against any force that would recolonise Zimbabwe”;
and that would take away his money, power, foreign assets, yachts and
mistresses and – at best – slap him in chokey for the rest of his

What might embolden him is the record. He might reflect that, over
nearly 30 years, he and his comrades have repeated the same essential
pattern of behaviour, each time taking Zimbabwe’s people on another
downwards journey, and have got away with it over and over and over
again. For most of my adult life we have witnessed the incremental and
inevitable destruction of a nation, almost in slow motion. After
initially ignoring the repression and violence, we have for two
decades applied the same strategies of pressure, minor sanction,
condemnation, talks, aid and buck-passing, only to enjoy the same
flickering hopes, to bemoan their subsequent betrayal and to start

Right from the beginning it was all there, in Mugabe’s 1980 revelation
that he believed in a one-party state. It was evident in his 1982-83
suppression of the Ndebele-based opposition of Joshua Nkomo using the
notorious 5th Brigade trained by North Koreans; in the 20,000
resulting deaths and the use of starvation as a political weapon; in
the intimidation of the opposition by Zanu (PF) “youth brigades”
during the 1985 elections; in the 1987 absorption of Nkomo’s Zapu and
Mugabe’s extolling of “one single, monolithic and gigantic political
party”. But we didn’t take too much notice, because there were no
whites involved.

And then the farm grab started, ostensibly redistributing white land
to the poor, and in fact giving it to the ideo-kleptocrats, in whose
hands it became barren. It was all there, this time for the whites:
the roving groups of thugs, the murders and the round-ups. The same
with the stolen election of 2000. The same with the stolen election of
2002. The same with the stolen election of 2004. Each time there were
hopes that maybe the ageing Mugabe would mellow, or that his party
would bring down the curtain and begin to compromise and each time it
all got worse. We chucked him out of the Commonwealth, he macheted a
few more opponents, we refused to shake his hand, he killed another
opposition election worker.

We believed – understandably – in the crucial role of South Africa.
South Africa, led by Thabo Mbeki, in turn believed in quiet diplomacy,
in secret talks, in dignified exits that might be delayed by
incautious condemnations, in governments of national unity between the
raped Opposition and their rapers. Several times President Mbeki, who
dislikes Mugabe intensely, would manage to get the Zimbabwean leader
into talks about this or that aspect of an imaginary future – land
settlement, development, whatever – only to have Mugabe renege the
instant the two men were back in their own capitals.

And what do we imagine now? That Zambia’s crossness, Angola’s
criticism (only a few weeks after that country passed on Chinese
weapons to the armed forces of Zimbabwe) and Botswana’s rather valiant
anger will persuade the Harare murderers that the game is up,
especially now we are investigating freezing their European assets?
Again, one asks, do the diplomats know something we don’t, and that
the historical record fails to suggest? Is there some Zimbabwean
Admiral Dönitz or Juan Carlos, waiting to arrange the transition? Why
aren’t we just as likely to get Mugabe’s Heydrich, Emerson Mnangagwa,
the Joint Operations Command strongman?

“Military intervention,” said one BBC person yesterday, expressing the
views of the consensus, “is not a realistic option.” It might be
better if it was. How many South African or British soldiers would it
take to unseat the junta and disperse the Zanu (PF) “veterans”, who
are now veterans only of whipping and gouging defenceless people, or
raping women without the slightest chance of resistance?

Instead, the suffering people of Zimbabwe (life expectancy, 37) get
what the Foreign Secretary called yesterday “the worst rigged election
in African history”.


A Bad Man In Africa
BY Matthew Sweet  /  Mar 16, 2002

North of the Zambezi, they have long known about the suppression of
free speech, about the bloody redistribution of land along racial
lines, about politicians happy to employ armed – and sometimes
uniformed – mobs to kill their opponents. They are practices imported
to this region, along with the railways, by the British.

Unlike the African press, the Western media rarely invoke the name of
Cecil John Rhodes: nearly a century after his death – on 26 March 1902
– his name is more associated with Oxford Scholarships than with
murder. It’s easier to focus on the region’s more recent, less Anglo
white supremacists: Ian Smith, for instance, who – despite his
Scottish background – seems cut from the same stuff as those Afrikaner
politicians who nurtured and maintained apartheid farther south.

But it was Rhodes who originated the racist “land grabs” to which
Zimbabwe’s current miseries can ultimately be traced. It was Rhodes,
too, who in 1887 told the House of Assembly in Cape Town that “the
native is to be treated as a child and denied the franchise. We must
adopt a system of despotism in our relations with the barbarians of
South Africa”. In less oratorical moments, he put it even more
bluntly: “I prefer land to niggers.”

For much of the century since his death, Rhodes has been revered as a
national hero. Today, however, he is closer to a national
embarrassment, about whom the less said the better. Yet there are
plenty of memorials to him to be found. In Bishop’s Stortford, his
Hertfordshire birthplace, St Michael’s Church displays a plaque. The
town has a Rhodes arts centre, a Rhodes junior theatre group, and a
small Rhodes Museum – currently closed – which houses a collection of
African art objects. In Oxford, his statue adorns Oriel College, while
Rhodes House, in which the Rhodes Trust is based, is packed with
memorabilia. Even Kensington Gardens boasts a statue – of a naked man
on horseback – based on the central feature of his memorial in Cape

But his presence is more strongly felt – and resented – in the
territories that once bore his name. Delegates at the Pan Africanist
Congress in January argued that “the problems which were being blamed
on [President Robert] Mugabe were created by British colonialism,
whose agent Cecil Rhodes used armed force to acquire land for
settlers”. He is the reason why, during the campaign for the
presidential election in Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s Zanu-PF described its
enemies – white or black – as “colonialists”; why, when Zimbabwe
gained full independence in 1980, Rhodes’s name was wiped from the
world’s maps.

The prosecution case is strong. Rhodes connived his way to wealth in a
lawless frontier culture, then used that fortune to fund a private
invasion of East Africa. He bought newspapers in order to shape and
control public opinion. He brokered secret deals, issued bribes and
used gangs of mercenaries to butcher his opponents, seizing close to a
million square miles of territory from its inhabitants. Although he
did this in the name of the British Empire, he was regarded with some
suspicion in his home country, and when it suited him to work against
Britain’s imperial interests – by slipping pounds 10,000 to Parnell’s
Irish nationalists, for example – he did so without scruple.

Rhodes was born in the summer of 1853, the fifth son of a parson who
prided himself on never having preached a sermon longer than 10
minutes. A sickly, asthmatic teenager, he was sent to the improving
climate of his brother’s cotton plantation in Natal. The pair soon
became involved in the rush to exploit South Africa’s diamond and gold
deposits – and unlike many prospectors and speculators who wandered,
dazed and luckless, around the continent, their claim proved fruitful.

When Rhodes began his studies at Oriel College, he returned to South
Africa each vacation to attend to his mining interests – which, by his
mid-thirties, had made him, in today’s terms, a billionaire. By 1891,
he had amalgamated the De Beers mines under his control, giving him
dominion over 90 per cent of the world’s diamond output. He had also
secured two other important positions; Prime Minister of the British
Cape Colony, and president of the British South Africa Company, an
organisation that was formed – in the manner of the old East India
companies – to pursue expansionist adventures for which sponsoring
governments did not have the stomach or the cash. The result of his
endeavours produced new British annexations: Nyasaland (now Malawi),
Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

Rhodes imprinted his personality on the region with monarchical
energy: dams, railway engines, towns and anti-dandruff tonics were all
named after him. But his expansionist zeal was not always matched at
home in Britain. “Our burden is too great,” Gladstone once grumbled.
“We have too much, Mr Rhodes, to do. Apart from increasing our
obligations in every part of the world, what advantage do you see to
the English race in the acquisition of new territory?” Rhodes replied:
“Great Britain is a very small island. Great Britain’s position
depends on her trade, and if we do not open up the dependencies of the
world which are at present devoted to barbarism, we shall shut out the
world’s trade. It must be brought home to you that your trade is the
world, and your life is the world, not England. That is why you must
deal with these questions of expansion and retention of the world.”

At around the same time, Henry John Heinz was outlining a comparable
manifesto: “Our field,” he pronounced, “is the world.” By 1900, his 57
varieties were available in every continent. Global capitalism and
imperial expansion developed in collaboration; shared aims,
aspirations, patterns of influence. Today, most of the world’s
political empires have been dissolved and discredited, but the routes
along which capital moves remain the same. After Rhodes came Nestle,
Coca-Cola, BP, McDonald’s, Microsoft.

In 1896, Rhodes’s name was linked with the Jameson Raid – a disastrous
(and illegal) attempt to annex Transvaal territory held by the Boers,
and a principal cause of the South African War of 1899- 1902. His
reputation in Britain accrued a lasting tarnish. A defence of his
character, published in 1897 and co-authored by the pseudonymous
“Imperialist”, offers an insight into the charges against him:
“Bribery and corruption”, “neglect of duty”, “harshness to the
natives” and the allegation that “that Mr Rhodes is utterly
unscrupulous”. His lifelong companion Dr Leander Starr Jameson – a
future premier of the Cape Colony and the leader of the ill-fated raid
– added a postscript insisting that some of Rhodes’s best blacks were
friends: “His favourite Sunday pastime was to go into the De Beers
native compound, where he had built them a fine swimming bath, and
throw in shillings for the natives to dive for. He knew enough of
their languages to talk to them freely, and they looked up to him –
indeed, fairly worshipped the great white man.”

Did anyone buy this stuff? After Rhodes’s fatal heart attack on 26
March 1902, the death notices were ambivalent. News editors across the
world cleared their pages for obituaries and reports of public grief
in South Africa, but few wholehearted endorsements of his career
emanated from London. “He has done more than any single contemporary
to place before the imagination of his countrymen a clear conception
of the Imperial destinies of our race,” conceded The Times, “[but] we
wish we could forget the other matters associated with his name.”
Empire-builders such as Rhodes, the paper said, attracted as much
opprobrium as praise: “On the one hand they are enthusiastically
admired, on the other they are stones of stumbling, they provoke a
degree of repugnance, sometimes of hatred, in exact proportion to the
size of their achievements.” Jameson and “Imperialist”, it seems, had
not succeeded in rehabilitating their mentor.

But the story of Rhodes’s posthumous reputation is just as complex and
contentious as that of his life and career. And curiously, his
sexuality was one of the main battlegrounds. In 1911, Rhodes’s former
private secretary Philip Jourdan wrote a biography of his late
employer in order to counter “the most unjust libels with reference to
his private life [which] were being disseminated throughout the length
and breadth of the country”. Despite the aggressive romantic
attentions of a Polish adventuress and forger named Princess Catherine
Radziwill, Rhodes was indifferent to women and gained a reputation for
misogyny. His most intense relationships were with men – his private
secretary Neville Pickering, who died in his arms; Jameson, whom he
met at the diamond mines in Kimberley where, the doctor recalled, “we
shared a quiet little bachelor establishment”; and Johnny Grimmer, of
whom Jourdan (defeating the purpose of his memoir) said: “He liked
Johnny to be near him… The two had many little quarrels. On one
occasion for a couple of days they hardly exchanged a word. They were
not unlike two schoolboys.”

Rhodes’s excuse for remaining single was the one used today by members
of boy bands: “I know everybody asks why I do not marry. I cannot get
married. I have too much work on my hands.” Instead, he accumulated a
shifting entourage of young men, known as “Rhodes’s lambs”. It’s
probable that these relationships were more homosocial than
homosexual, but that didn’t stop the gossips or biographical
theoreticians. In 1946, Stuart Collete suggested Rhodes was “one of
those who, passing beyond the ordinary heterosexuality of the common
man, that the French call l’homme moyen sensual, was beyond
bisexuality, beyond homosexuality and was literally asexual – beyond
sex. It appears to have had no literal meaning to him except as a
human weakness that he understood he could exploit in others”. The
same biographer wove these comments into an analysis of Rhodes’s
appeal to another set of posthumous acolytes: the Nazis.

As the 20th century moved on, Rhodes’s memory became increasingly
attractive to extreme (and eventually moderate) right-wing opinion.
Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West (1918) hailed him as “the
first precursor of a Western type of Caesar – in our Germanic world,
the spirits of Alaric and Theodoric will come again – there is a first
hint of them in Cecil Rhodes”.

It’s easy to see why Spengler, and later Hitler, were fans. Asked by
Jameson how long he would endure in memory, Rhodes replied: “I give
myself four thousand years.” To the journalist WT Stead he said: “I
would annex the planets, if I could. I often think of that.” When, in
1877, he first made his will, he urged his executors to use his
fortune to establish a secret society that would aim to redden every
area of the planet. He envisioned a world in which British settlers
would occupy Africa, the Middle East, South America, the Pacific and
Malay islands, China and Japan, before restoring America to colonial
rule and founding an imperial world government. “He was deeply
impressed,” Jameson recalled, “with a belief in the ultimate destiny
of the Anglo-Saxon race. He dwelt repeatedly on the fact that their
great want was new territory fit for the overflow population to settle
in permanently, and thus provide markets for the wares of the old
country – the workshop of the world.” It was a dream of mercantile
Lebensraum for the English: an empire of entrepreneurs, occupying
African territories in order to fill them with Sheffield cutlery, Tate
& Lyle’s Golden Syrup and Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls.

But it was Rhodes’s Alma Mater that did most to brighten his prestige.
In 1899, Oxford University, an institution with a long and continuing
history of accepting money from morally dubious millionaires, agreed
to administer a more cuddly and less clandestine version of the
“Imperial Carbonari” of the 1877 will: the Rhodes Scholars. In 1903,
the first names were selected. A group of men fitted for “manly
outdoor sports”, who would display “qualities of manhood, truth,
courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for the protection of the weak,
kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship” – men such as Bill Clinton,
the CIA director Stansfield Turner, the first Secretary General of the
Commonwealth Sir Arnold Smith, and the Nato Supreme Commander Bernard

By 1936, ML Andrews was praising Rhodes’s “vision of world peace, to
be brought about by the domination of the English-speaking nations”.
In the same year the Gaumont-British film company produced the
hagiographic movie, Rhodes of Africa. Two years later, the little
Rhodes Museum was founded in Bishop’s Stortford. When it reopens next
year, children will, for a fiver, be able to sign up as one of
“Rhodes’s Little Rhinos”.

A 1956 children’s book, Peter Gibbs’s The True Book About Cecil Rhodes
– one of a series that also profiled Marie Curie, Captain Scott and
Joan of Arc – is the best example of how, in the mid-20th century,
Rhodes was reclaimed as a national hero. More unalloyed in its
enthusiasm for Rhodes than any comparable 19th-century text, it makes
for queasy reading. Especially, perhaps, if you were voting in
Zimbabwe last weekend. Southern Rhodesia, it reports, is now “tamed
and civilised and cultivated, and many thousands of white people have
settled there, and made it their home. Today there are beautiful
modern towns; homes, gardens, parks, towering blocks of offices and
flats; factories, railways and airports. It is a new and thriving
country of the British Commonwealth, where but recently only savages
and wild animals dwelt. And it started from the dreams of one young
Englishman – Cecil Rhodes”.

When natural resources are a curse
BY John Kay  /  Financial Times  /  12 November 2003

It is in human, rather than natural resources, that the origins of
material prosperity are to be found. John describes why natural
resources may be a burden rather than a blessing for some developing

Saudi Arabia has more natural resource wealth per head than any large
nation in the world. But it is a troubled country, whose potential
instability is held in check by an increasingly fragile autocracy. It
is as much a target for terrorism as the US, and more vulnerable.

For centuries, natural resources were believed to be the bedrock of
national prosperity. Expeditions were launched and wars fought to
obtain silver, gold and diamonds, to find Lebensraum and to secure oil

Yet prosperity today is not based on natural resources. The World Bank
has prepared estimates of the value of such endowments – oil and other
minerals, forests, agricultural land – for most big economies. Only a
few rich countries such as New Zealand and Canada have resources in or
on the ground whose value exceeds a year’s industrial production.
European countries such as Germany and Belgium generate income every
two or three months greater than the entire value of their resource

Jeffrey Sachs, the economist, has found that among poor countries
ownership of resources depresses growth rather than stimulates it.*
Abundant resources are a problem, not a benefit. Resource discoveries
attract gamblers, crooks and opportunists, from Francisco Pizarro and
Robert Clive to Cecil Rhodes, and it is not by such people that great
businesses and disinterested governments are built.

Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness was the result of his discovery of
the horror unleashed in the Congo by the plundering of its assets. The
curse of Mr Kurtz lingered in the Congo even after the Belgians pulled
out. The country was immersed in a civil war that ended only when one
of the nastiest kleptocracies in recent history seized power. When
Joseph Mobutu’s regime collapsed, the country’s infrastructure was in
ruins, its mines were idle and the money that commercial lenders and
the World Bank had disgracefully continued to provide for 20 years had
been dissipated through foreign bank accounts.

The once-poor countries that have grown explosively in post-colonial
decades – such as South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore – are
exceptionally poor in natural resources, as is Japan.

Those countries where stable if undemocratic political structures have
maintained control of resources, as in Saudi Arabia, have been better
off. But they have still enjoyed little economic growth. In an economy
distorted by oil wealth it is impossible for the basic manufacturing
industries that represent the first stages of economic development to
come into being. Wages and exchange, boosted by resource exports, are
too high. In the most prosperous oil states, even jobs in service
industries are filled by immigrants.

Imperialism was largely motivated by the search for resources.
Colonialism ended, and territorial expansions petered out, because the
cost of these adventures exceeded their benefits. It is no accident
that one of the world’s richest countries – Switzerland – is also one
of its most inward-looking. Few resources. No empire, no wars, just
ever-increasing wealth.

The distribution of natural resources remains a source of
international instability, but for different reasons. Resources have
been discovered in countries that have neither the political nor the
economic institutions to handle them. Lucky are those countries – such
as Canada, Australia and New Zealand – where the discovery of
resources coincided with the import of cultures and political systems
to cope with them. Lucky is Botswana, almost the only poor country in
which good government and diamond mines have brought prosperity to
many. But the luckiest of all are those countries such as Norway and
Iceland that made large resource discoveries when they already enjoyed
developed economic and political institutions. It is in human, rather
than natural, resources that the origins of material prosperity are to
be found.

* J. Sachs and A. Warner, Natural Resource Abundance and Economic

The Curse of Riches  /  BY Geoffrey Wheatcroft  /  Nov 3, 2007
on DIAMONDS, GOLD AND WAR by Martin Meredith Simon & Schuster, pp.
569, ISBN 9780743286183

“When the second half of the 19th century began, South Africa was
barely even a geographical expression, as Metternich had
contemptuously called Italy. It certainly wasn’t a country, but merely
an ill-defined area which included two Boer republics, the Transvaal
and the Orange Free State, two British colonies, the Cape and Natal,
and a number of African principalities. The British had acquired the
Cape from the Dutch during the Napoleonic wars not quite in a fit of
absence of mind, but with little enthusiasm, and although the Cape of
Good Hope itself was of great strategic importance, commanding the
passage to India and the Far East, James Stephen of the Colonial
Office unpresciently called the lands of the interior ‘the most
sterile and worthless in the whole Empire’.

Everything was changed by geology, or by its accidental interaction
with human history. Just as it’s a random fact of life, but full of
significance for all of us, that Shiites, although only a one-in-five
minority among Muslims as a whole, happen to sit on top of most of the
world’s oil, so a capricious Providence decided to place most of the
world’s diamonds and gold beneath the bush and desert south of the
Tropic of Capricorn.

How this changed the whole course of South African — and to no small
extent world — history is the enthralling story told by Martin
Meredith in Diamonds, Gold and War.

First came the rush to Griqualand, where immensely rich diamond pipes
were found in 1871. Diggers flooded in and created a vast patchwork of
little claims. After feuding and rebellion, a few men, led by Cecil
Rhodes, Alfred Beit and Barney Barnato, gradually established control
of the mines, while the British ruthlessly acquired what had been a
disputed territory. The diamond town was now named Kimberley, for the
Colonial Secretary of the time (which is why American girls are still
called, at third hand, after the Norfolk village whence the Wodehouse
family took their title).

If the diamonds had lain in a debatable land, the immense gold field
discovered in 1886 did not. ‘The ridge of white water’ —
Witwatersrand — belonged to the Transvaal, or South African Republic,
a statelet of sorts created by Dutch-speaking Boers escaping
northwards from British rule. Incomers came in large numbers to the
Rand and its new boom town called Johannesburg, which was soon
producing an immense output of gold, and which was soon also in a
state of unarmed revolt against the Transvaal.

But there was a fascinating difference between these two mining
business, of which Meredith could have made more. In both cases a
cartel was established, but with diametrically opposite purposes.
Although Kimberley fuelled the great new fashion for engagement rings,
the demand for diamonds was essentially artificial, and with such a
limitless and easily mined supply the price fluctuated wildly, often
plunging downwards. And so the answer for the mine owners was monopoly
in the strict sense of a sellers’ market, controlling production and
thus keeping up the price.

By contrast, from the early 18th century until the Great War the price
of gold was fixed by the gold standard. The Rand was incomparably the
greatest gold field ever found in terms of quantity, but its quality
was very poor, so that in order to make the field payable, as mining
managers say, costs had to be controlled by means of monopsony, a
buyers’ market for the crucial commodity of labour, whose price could
be kept down. It is not too much to say that from these financial and
geological facts the whole history of modern South Africa flows.

Throughout the 1890s the Randlords, the mine owners, chafed under the
regime of Paul Kruger. In 1895 Rhodes promoted the disgraceful Jameson
Raid with the help of the brutally unprincipled Joseph Chamberlain,
now Colonial Secretary.

Far from learning restraint from the failure of the Raid, Chamberlain
sent out as High Commissioner Alfred Milner, a different brand of
villain, who colluded with Rhodes to bring about the Boer war in 1899.

Meredith gives one of the best accounts I have read of how this was
done, a scoundrelly business which has few parallels in British
history, apart from the way we were taken into the Suez escapade and
the present Iraq war, and which no Englishman can read to this day
without a sense of shame.

Militarily disastrous to begin with, morally calamitous at the end,
the Boer war earned this country deep hatred throughout the world. But
the way in which the British dealt with South Africa after the war was
almost worse in terms of its longer effects.

The wretched Milner tried to encourage large British immigration,
supposing that a balance of three to two British to Boer among the
white population would provide safety but that ‘if there are three
Dutch to two of British, we shall have perpetual difficulty’ (he was
right about that), while his oppressive and insulting treatment of
those Dutch inflamed feeling, and may even have stimulated the growth
of Afrikaans as a literary language.

In his eagerness to restore the mines to profitability, Milner
fatefully allowed the introduction of dirt-cheap Chinese indentured
labourers, with awful consequences both human and political. ‘Chinese
slavery’ destroyed any British claim to moral superiority, although
the haughty Milner could do no more than respond petulantly about
‘perpetual faultfinding, this steady drip, drip of deprecation, only
diversified by occasional outbursts of hysterical abuse’. Then the
black majority were deprived of almost all such rights as they had
enjoyed before, a job thoroughly done by the time Meredith’s book ends
with the creation of the Union of South Africa in 1910. What was
called apartheid after 1948 was different in degree rather than kind
from the previous system.

Much of this story, and plenty of the anecdotes, will be familiar to
those of us who have read or indeed written books on the subject, but
Martin Meredith has made good use not only of recent scholarly work
but also of contemporary sources, some of which were unknown to me.
The illustrations are also excellent, though why on earth is there no
list of them after the contents page? He offers no striking new
interpretation, but tells the story lucidly so that the reader can
draw his own moral. It was the Boer war that inspired Kipling’s phrase
‘no end of a lesson’, but those words might be used of the whole story
of South Africa since that day nearly 140 years ago when a few shiny
pebbles were picked up besides a dry watercourse in Griqualand.”

Diamonds – A Blessing or Curse?
By Michael Russell  /  May 30, 2007

“Diamonds should be known as the ‘misery stone’ because of the over-
importance we have placed on them since the Great Hole of Kimberly was
formed in the nineteenth century. Throughout history, diamonds have
always attracted attention and with the discovery of every large new
stone a ‘story’ or tale spread around that gem and so the legends

During the Colonial times, Cecil Rhodes and Charles Rudd founded “De
Beers”, a company created to mine and market diamonds; and no other
business has enjoyed so much protection from the crown and successive
governments since then. This created a diamond monopoly for that
business and at one stage it accounted for over 80% of the world’s
supply and trade in diamonds.

No other company or business has enjoyed such protectionism as De
Beers and its right to trade in raw or uncut diamond gem stones in
both South Africa and on the world markets. It was only by the late
nineteen eighties that its iron-like grip on the market started to
loosen. However, as the past shows they will not be laying down their
so-called ‘divine right’ to trade in diamonds very easily.

In South Africa today it is still a criminal offence for anyone to
trade the raw uncut stones without going though De Beers. There is an
entire police department known as the Diamond and Gold Squad whose
sole purpose is to uncover and prosecute people who want to, or are
trying to, do this. Would this situation exist in the United States or
any country that values the individual’s right to pursue their chosen
path to business success? Of course it would not be tolerated!

Because of the grip this company wanted to have on the entire market
the diamond has become one of the most overpriced commodities around.
Its artificially high price has attracted some of the most notorious
and greedy minded people in the world and it has been used to fund
wars all over the African continent.

At one time or another “blood diamonds” (which is what the illegally
mined stones became known as) have funded dictators, coups and rebels
alike in central and West Africa over the last 20 years. Great
publicity was made about these diamonds and the world was encouraged
not to support or buy them at all. However, how do you stop people
trading in things one can pick up like a bit of dirt and then turn
around and get thousands of dollars for it?

One can’t!  De Beers – or the Central Selling Organization (CSO is the
marketing arm of the company) – has been behind some very successful
sales and marketing campaigns over the last 5 decades, starting with
the well known marketing slogan “a diamond is forever!”

Now with the advent of laboratory made artificial gemstones where you
can now purchase a “diamond” made in the lab at 5% of the cost of the
real stone and not be able to tell the difference, there are some
people predicting the end of the diamond as we know it. We don’t
believe this will happen if this De Beers has its way and keeps alive
just a few of the tales that have accompanied this precious stone in
becoming the most talked about stone in history!”


Fact Sheet: National Strategy to Internationalize Efforts Against

Today, The President Unveiled His National Strategy To
Internationalize Efforts Against Kleptocracy, Pledging To Confront
High-Level, Large-Scale Corruption By Public Officials And Target The
Proceeds Of Their Corrupt Acts. This Strategy Is A New Component Of
His Plan To Fight Corruption Around The World. Public corruption
erodes democracy, rule of law, and economic well-being by undermining
public financial management and accountability, discouraging foreign
investment, and stifling economic growth and sustainable development.

* Kleptocracy Is A Threat To The Governments And Citizens Of Both
Developing And Developed Countries. Corruption by senior officials in
executive, judicial, legislative, or other official positions in
government can destabilize whole societies and destroy the aspirations
of their people for a better way of life.

The President’s National Strategy To Internationalize Efforts Against

This New National Strategy Builds On The President’s Commitment Made
With The G-8 Leaders At Their Recent Summit In St. Petersburg. At the
G-8 summit, President Bush committed to promote legal frameworks and a
global financial system that will reduce the opportunities for
kleptocracies to develop and to deny safe haven to corrupt officials,
those who corrupt them, and the proceeds of corrupt activity.

* The Strategy Has As Its Foundation In The President’s
Proclamation, Made In January 2004, To Generally Deny Entry Into The
United States Of Persons Engaged In Or Benefiting From Corruption.

* The Strategy Advances Many Of The Objectives In The National
Security Strategy By Mobilizing The International Community To
Confront Large-Scale Corruption By High-Level Foreign Public Officials
And Target The Fruits Of Their Ill-Gotten Gains.

* The Strategy Reaffirms The President’s Commitment To Ensure That
Integrity And Transparency Triumph Over Corruption And Lawlessness
Around The World, Expand The Circle Of Prosperity, And Extend
America’s Transformational Democratic Values To All Free And Open

Specifically, The Strategy Promotes Our Objectives By Committing To:

* Launch A Coalition Of International Financial Centers Committed
To Denying Access And Financial Safe Haven To Kleptocrats. The United
States Government will enhance its work with international financial
partners, in the public and private sectors, to pinpoint best
practices for identifying, tracing, freezing, and recovering assets
illicitly acquired through kleptocracy. The U.S. will also work
bilaterally and multilaterally to immobilize kleptocratic foreign
public officials using financial and economic sanctions against them
and their network of cronies.

* Vigorously Prosecute Foreign Corruption Offenses and Seize
Illicitly Acquired Assets. In its continuing efforts against bribery
of foreign officials, the United States Government will expand its
capacity to investigate and prosecute criminal violations associated
with high-level foreign official corruption and related money
laundering, as well as to seize the proceeds of such crimes.

* Deny Physical Safe Haven. We will work closely with
international partners to identify kleptocrats and those who corrupt
them, and deny such persons entry and safe haven.

* Strengthen Multilateral Action Against Bribery. The United
States will work with international partners to more vigorously
investigate and prosecute those who pay or promise to pay bribes to
public officials; to strengthen multilateral and national disciplines
to stop bribery of foreign public officials; and to halt bribery of
foreign political parties, party officials, and candidates for office.

* Facilitate And Reinforce Responsible Repatriation And Use. We
will also work with our partners to develop and promote mechanisms
that capture and dispose of recovered assets for the benefit of the
citizens of countries victimized by high-level public corruption.

* Target And Internationalize Enhanced Capacity. The United States
will target technical assistance and focus international attention on
building capacity to detect, prosecute, and recover the proceeds of
high-level public corruption, while helping build strong systems to
promote responsible, accountable, and honest governance.

The President’s Announcement Builds On Established U.S. Leadership In
The International Fight Against Corruption. The U.S. actively supports
development and implementation of effective anticorruption measures in
various international bodies and conventions. In addition to the G-8,
we have promoted strong anticorruption action in the:

* UN Convention Against Corruption
* OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and the OECD Working Group on
* Financial Action Task Force (FATF)
* Council of Europe Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO)
* OAS Mechanism for Implementing the Inter-American Convention
Against Corruption
* Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum’s Anticorruption and
Transparency (ACT) Initiative
* Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) “Governance for
Development in Arab States” (GfD) Initiative.


From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]

Help EFF Examine Once-Secret FBI Docs / July 11, 2007

“We’ve already started scouring newly-released documents relating to
the misuse of National Security Letters to collect Americans’ private
information. But don’t let us have all fun – you, too, can dive into
the docs and help uncover the truth about the FBI’s abuse of power.
All 1138 pages are freely downloadable (with searchable text) from
EFF’s website, and we’ll be posting a new batch every month.

We’ve had over 8000 downloads so far, and the blogosphere is starting
to light up with feedback and analysis of the documents, which were
disclosed after EFF sued the government under the Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA) earlier this year. Over at Wired, Threat Level
reports that much of the mischief at the FBI seems to be emanating
from a mysterious “Room 4944”, and this anonymous blogger is asking
questions about who knew what when.

The whole point of sunshine laws like FOIA is to help the public hold
the government accountable, and it’s great to see individuals
exercising their right to know.

EFF received these documents as the result of a FOIA request made
through our FLAG project. We ask that you please mention EFF if you
use these documents in any way. We’re a nonprofit organization, and
our funding for this project depends on showing that our work is
important and relevant. For more information about these documents or
EFF’s FLAG project, please contact EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann
at marcia(at)”


In March, the Justice Department’s Inspector General revealed that FBI
agents had sent a flurry of fake emergency letters to phone companies,
asking them to turn over phone records immediately by promising that
the proper papers had been filed with U.S. attorneys, though in many
cases this was a complete lie.  More than 60 of these letters were
made public today as part of a FBI document dump in response to a
government sunshine lawsuit centered on the FBI’s abuse of a key
Patriot Act power.

The most striking thing about these expedited letters (.pdf) (made
public via the Electronic Frontier Foundation) is that they all use
the same pathetic, passive bureaucratese:  “Due to exigent
circumstances, it is requested that records for the attached list of
telephone numbers be provided.”

So far they seem to all be coming from the same office: the
Communications Analysis Unit which looks to be located in Room 4944 in
FBI Headquarters.  The “exigent letters” also refer almost exclusively
to a “Special Project” and the only name on any of the letters is
Larry Mefford.

Mefford was no rookie FBI agent. Mefford was the Executive Assistant
Director, in charge of the Counterterrorism/Counterintelligence
Division. In English, that means he was in charge of preventing
another terrorist attack domestically.

What does that mean?  Well, Mefford’s name is on documents that
requested personal information on Americans.  Some of those requests
included information known to be false to the agents signing them.
That’s a federal crime, according to one former FBI agent.

What was this “Special Project” in the Communications Analysis Group?
What exactly were they doing that would require “expedited” letters
that sometimes requested more than 2 pages of phone numbers from phone
companies?  In the immortal words of the Butch Cassidy, who are those

The documents also show that these “exigent letters” — essentially
end runs around the rules set up to keep the FBI from trampling on
citizens rights — weren’t devised by some rogue Jack Bauer-style
agent.  The form letters originated from inside FBI Headquarters and
in some cases, bear the name of a senior level FBI offiicial who
should have been aware of the letters’ legal grey status and
possibility for abuse.

The FBI is fully aware of the power handed to it by Congress’s passage
of the Patriot Act.  Indeed, as early as November 28, 2001, every
field office was warned by the Office of the General Counsel that:

   “NSLs are powerful investigative tools in that they can compel the
production of substantial amounts of relevant information. However,
they must be used judiciously. […]  In deciding whether or not to re-
authorize the broadened authority, Congress certainly will examine the
manner in which the FBI exercised it.  Executive Order 12333 and the
FCIG require that the FBU accomplish its investigations through the
“least intrusive ” means.  Supervisors should keep this in mind when
deciding whether or not a particular use of NSL authority is
appropriate.  The greater availability of NSLs does not mean that they
should be used in every case.”

From the looks of the audits coming out, that seems to be one memo FBI
agents dutifully ignored.  And perhaps rightfully so, since Congress
didn’t bother to challenge Alberto Gonzales’s knowingly false
statements to Congress about the FBI’s use of these powers before they
made them permanent.