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US Readies Cyberwar, Virtual Flag Terrorism

Webster G. Tarpley
TARPLEY.net
March 15, 2010

Google is now preparing to leave China as a result of this company’s stubborn refusal to obey Chinese laws. Google is in effect demanding extraterritoriality and immunity to the legal norms of the host nation, a claim which goes back to the unequal treaties imposed by foreign imperialists, notably the British, on China starting in the 19th century. It is not surprising that the Chinese response to this arrogant interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state has been stern.

We must also recall that Google was founded with the help of the US intelligence community, and is now acting as a virtual arm of the US National Security Agency, the electronic espionage department of the US government. Google-NSA’s arrogance and hypocrisy are unbearable, especially when we bear in mind the countless times that Google search engines have been used to suppress exposés of the US governments false flag operations, most notably 9/11, and other sensitive topics.

There are two sides to the conflict between Google-NSA and China. One is the Great Cyberwall erected by the Chinese government against attempts by the US-UK to capitalize on ethnic and social tensions inside China to launch a color revolution, CIA people power coup, or postmodern putsch. The other aspect is Google’s claim that hackers working for the Chinese government raided Google’s e-mail servers. The second charge has been formally denied by the Chinese.

Even as Google prepares to shut down its Chinese operations, something larger and more sinister is looming. The US Wall Street-controlled media are gearing up to educate the public about imminent cyberwarfare and cyber-conflict. We can sense that Andrew Marshall, the Pentagon’s infamous octogenarian Yoda of the Office of Net Assessment, is playing a key role behind the scenes. This effort was formally launched in May 2009 by none other than Obama, who announced a buildup of US cyberwar assets, illustrating his project with the claim that his own campaign websites had been hacked during the 2008 campaign, prompting him to seek the assistance of FBI, CIA, NSA and the rest.

One highlight of this US propaganda campaign has been a two-hour docudrama special recently repeated several times on CNN on Feb. 20-21, simulating a massive cyber attack on the United States, starting with cell phones and then taking over into computers.[1] The impact of this attack is to shut down telephone communications, followed by airports and rail services, and finally to knock out most of the US electrical power grid, causing panic and chaos. The simulation is presented in the form of a meeting of the National Security Council while the US is under attack. Several protagonists of the 9/11 cover-up were among the starring players, including Jamie Gorelick (playing the US Attorney General), John Negroponte (playing the Secretary of State), and Michael Chertoff (in the role of the National Security Council Director).

Another important sign of the times is a Feb. 28 op-ed in the Washington Post by Admiral Mike McConnell, who headed up the NSA under Clinton, and is now a top executive for Booz Allen Hamilton, one of the military consulting firms which claims to have the greatest expertise in matters of cyber warfare.[2] Admiral McConnell’s basic idea is that cyber war is now upon us, and that the US must respond using the experience of the Cold War as the relevant model.

The results of this campaign of preparatory propaganda can be summed up under four basic points.

One is the relentless exaggeration of what cyber warfare can actually do in its present state. The public is now expected to believe that computer viruses and denial of service attacks can be used to shut down phone service, cripple airports, prevent trains from running, sabotage nuclear reactors, and paralyze power grids over the quasi-totality of the United States. Many of these claims were launched in relatively obscure articles by CIA officials or Wall Street Journal writers. It is not at all clear that cyber warfare can do what these interested parties are alleging. Rather, the best intelligence estimate right now is that we are in the presence of a new wave of cynical and demagogic fear mongering, similar to the weapons of mass distraction charges made by the neocons against Iraq during the buildup of war hysteria in 2002-2003. The idea that cyber warfare can shut down electrical grids very likely belongs in the same category with Tony Blair’s ludicrous charge that Saddam Hussein had the ability to strike London in 45 minutes. It was a fantastic lie.

A second Leitmotiv is the transposition of the terminology and mindset of the Cold War and nuclear confrontation into the modern cyber arena. The CNN simulation works towards refurbishing notions of deterrence, retaliation, and first strike, dressing them up in the trendy jargon of the computer age. Notions of preventive attack and preemptive attack are also being revamped. One big difference which the propagandists do not point out is that, while nuclear war was considered an unthinkable last resort by most government officials, the new propaganda portrays cyberwarfare as not unthinkable at all, but something that can be indulged in with relative impunity.

Very important legal questions arise in this context. Does a cyber attack constitute an armed attack? Can a cyber attack be casus belli, grounds for issuing a declaration of war? Is escalation from computers to bombs legal? Can a cyber attack represent a threat to international peace and security for the purposes of the United Nations charter? Can a cyber attack be used to invoke article V of the NATO treaty, which calls for common defense?

A third aspect of the current media blitz is that a new cast of enemies is being groomed and brought onstage, even as the shadowy adversaries of yesterday are relegated to a less prominent position – at least as far as cyber-aggression is concerned. In the CNN simulation, there is some discussion of a possible role of “Al Qaeda” and “bin Laden” in the ongoing attack. But this idea is brusquely and almost scornfully dismissed with the reply that those guys are known to live in caves, and therefore could hardly have the equipment necessary to carry on cyber warfare, even though they might desire to do so. For the CNN producers and their intelligence community consultants, the targets are clear: Russia (specifically the city of Irkutsk), China, and Sudan are the three countries mentioned as sources of the cyber attacks shutting down the US economy. With this, we have gone far beyond the narrow confines of the Middle East to target the largest country in the world, the largest country in Asia, and the largest country in Africa. The new target list involves two great powers, and not simply Iraq or Iran. We can see bigger and more lunatic adventures being prepared by the US scenario writers.

The fourth unmistakable overtone of the current propaganda barrage is the danger we can sum up under the heading of virtual flag terrorism. The world of cyber warfare is so opaque and recondite for the average person, and solid confirmation of claims so hard to come by, that rogue bureaucrats in the US and British governments will be able to a surge virtually anything with little fear of being refuted. Google accuses China of hacking without offering any convincing proof, and China denies the charge. What is the average person to believe? What prevents hackers in league with invisible government rogue moles at the NSA from deliberately attacking US facilities, and then blaming it on China, thus ginning up a major international provocation with little risk of being caught?

If millions of people are plunged into the dark, if trains and airliners crash, if other disasters occur, it is child’s play to issue a communiqué blaming hackers in the service of the Russian, Chinese, Sudanese, the Iranians, or other governments. The governments accused can certainly issue denials, but it is not clear how such a charge could be convincingly refuted.

The CNN simulation includes a discussion of the difference between location and attribution, meaning that the mere fact that an attack is launched from the country’s territory does not mean that the government is responsible. “Location is not attribution,” intones Secretary of State Negroponte at one point. But we can already hear the voice of the inevitable neocon warmonger asserting à la Bush that no distinction must be made between the servers spreading a destructive virus and the government whose territory harbors those servers. For the neocon, location and attribution are sure to be the same. This opens the possibility of starting a conflict by infiltrating physical provocateurs onto the territory of the targeted nation, and letting them launch a cyber attack from there. Even easier, so-called botnets of captive computers commandeered by trojans and related viruses can be used to launch the attack.

It goes without saying that the beltway bandits and Pentagon contractors are eager to cash in on the lucrative contracts that are now in the offing. More broadly, cyber warfare can be used as a great alibi for purposes of avoiding civil liability in the age of underfunding and asset stripping. When we have the next crash in the Washington DC metro, the management and the National Transportation Safety Board can ignore decades of underfunding and simply blame everything on Russia, China, and the Sudan, and tell the families of the victims to go and sue those governments. It is therefore time to begin a campaign of counter-inoculation of international public opinion against this new set of ominous lies which is being foisted off on the world.

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDWEM2jM7qY&feature=related – the entire program is available in 9 parts on youtube.
[2]http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/25/AR2010022502493.html

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