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Mon, 06 Feb 2023
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Puppet Masters


(Virtually) Face to Face: How Aaron Barr Revealed Himself to Anonymous

© ArsTechnica
Stian Elkeland

Aaron Barr, CEO of security company HBGary Federal, spent the month of January trying to uncover the real identifies of the hacker collective Anonymous - only to end with his company website knocked offline, his e-mails stolen, 1TB of backups deleted, and his personal iPad wiped when Anonymous found out.

Our lengthy investigation of that story generated such interest that we wanted to flesh out one compelling facet of the story in even more detail. In a sea of technical jargon, social media analysis, and digital detective work, it stands out as a truly human moment, when Barr revealed himself to Anonymous and dialogued directly with senior leaders and "members" of the group.

The encounter began on February 5. Barr had managed to get his work written up in a Financial Times story the day before, and now strange traffic was pouring in to HBGary Federal. With his research done and his story in print, Barr needed only to work up some conference slides and prepare for a meeting with the FBI, which had been tracking Anonymous for some time. So Barr ditched the covert identities he had been using to watch the group, and on February 5 he approached a person on Facebook whom he believed was the powerful CommanderX.


IMF calls for dollar alternative

New York -- The International Monetary Fund issued a report Thursday on a possible replacement for the dollar as the world's reserve currency.
dollar graph

The IMF said Special Drawing Rights, or SDRs, could help stabilize the global financial system.

SDRs represent potential claims on the currencies of IMF members. They were created by the IMF in 1969 and can be converted into whatever currency a borrower requires at exchange rates based on a weighted basket of international currencies. The IMF typically lends countries funds denominated in SDRs

Bad Guys

House passes Patriot Act rule, clears way for passage

patriot act
© Robert W. Thompson 2008

The House passed a rule Thursday setting up a second vote to extend Patriot Act surveillance authorities until Dec. 8.

The new rule clears the way for the legislation to be passed by just a simple majority, after the same bill failed to win a two-thirds majority under a suspension of House rules earlier in the week.

In the suspension vote, more than two dozen Republicans bucked their leadership and joined Democrats to sink the extension.

In floor debate preceding Thursday's vote on the rule, Democrats jabbed Republicans for dropping the first vote and protested the "closed rule" for the second vote, which prevents amendments.

Rep. Sheila Jackson (D-Texas) said Republicans were practicing "unique trickery" by calling the bill back for a second vote.

"We have a right to have a voice and that voice has already been expressed," said Lee. "What more needs to be said?"

Some Democrats said they would have proposed an amendment that extended the law for only 60 days. But in many ways the floor discussion mirrored the debate earlier in the week.


Pentagon official: US could send troops to fight Mexican "insurgency"

The second-highest civilian official in charge of the US Army warned Monday that US troops may have to intervene in Mexico to combat what he termed an "insurgency".

The remarks, made by US Undersecretary of the Army Joseph Westphal at a security forum in Utah, drew an immediate rebuke from the Mexican government. Mexico's Interior Department issued a statement Tuesday saying it "categorically rejects" the US official's assertions.

"It is regrettable that this official makes statements ... that do not reflect the cooperation that the two governments have been building," the statement added.

The statement disputed the characterization of the armed conflict in Mexico as an "insurgency," stressing, "Organized crime is seeking to increase its illegal economic benefits through trafficking of drugs and people, homicide, kidnapping, robbery, extortion and other crimes. They are not groups that are promoting a political agenda."

In his remarks at the University of Utah's Hinkley Institute of Politics, Westphal described Latin America and Mexico in particular as one of Washington's "blind spots" in terms of national security. "As all of you know, there is a form of insurgency in Mexico with the drug cartels that are right on our border," he said.

He added, "This isn't just about drugs and about illegal immigrants. This is about, potentially a takeover of a government by individuals who are corrupt."


Statement of President Barack Obama on Egypt


The Egyptian people have been told that there was a transition of authority, but it is not yet clear that this transition is immediate, meaningful or sufficient. Too many Egyptians remain unconvinced that the government is serious about a genuine transition to democracy, and it is the responsibility of the government to speak clearly to the Egyptian people and the world. The Egyptian government must put forward a credible, concrete and unequivocal path toward genuine democracy, and they have not yet seized that opportunity.

As we have said from the beginning of this unrest, the future of Egypt will be determined by the Egyptian people. But the United States has also been clear that we stand for a set of core principles. We believe that the universal rights of the Egyptian people must be respected, and their aspirations must be met. We believe that this transition must immediately demonstrate irreversible political change, and a negotiated path to democracy. To that end, we believe that the emergency law should be lifted. We believe that meaningful negotiations with the broad opposition and Egyptian civil society should address the key questions confronting Egypt's future: protecting the fundamental rights of all citizens; revising the Constitution and other laws to demonstrate irreversible change; and jointly developing a clear roadmap to elections that are free and fair.

We therefore urge the Egyptian government to move swiftly to explain the changes that have been made, and to spell out in clear and unambiguous language the step by step process that will lead to democracy and the representative government that the Egyptian people seek. Going forward, it will be essential that the universal rights of the Egyptian people be respected. There must be restraint by all parties. Violence must be forsaken. It is imperative that the government not respond to the aspirations of their people with repression or brutality. The voices of the Egyptian people must be heard.


US: Republicans Turn on the Patriot Act

© Unknown
Washington, DC - Why did 26 House Republicans vote to block reauthorization of the Patriot Act? The Bush-era law, which gives the government broad surveillance powers, has been hated by the lefties and libertarians for years. Ahead of the vote, Rep. Dennis Kucinich said it would be the Constitution-loving "Tea Party's first test." Well, did they pass?

Maybe? During the last fall's election campaign, the Tea Party talked a good game about freedom and respect for America's founding documents, and libertarian Rep. Ron Paul--one of only three Republican congressmen to oppose the Patriot Act in 2001--is considered a founding father of the movement. But of the 26 Republicans who voted down the bill--which allowed the secret FISA court to continue granting roving wiretaps, warrants for all kinds of records (library, medical, etc.), and warrants to monitor someone without evidence he's working for some kind of foreign entity--only eight were freshmen. In fact, 44 of the 52 members of the Tea Party caucus voted for the extension. Plus, two of the nays were establishment Republicans weighing Senate campaigns.

So if the dreaded Big Brother bill wasn't temporarily slayed for the sake of civil liberties (and it was temporary--Republicans will surely bring it up again under different rules so only a simple majority is needed to pass it), why did so many vote against it? It might have more to do with the guy in the White House and the defeat of many moderates in the midterms. As Geoff notes at Ace of Spades HQ, last year, the extension passed fairly easily--in part because almost two-thirds of Democrats voted for it, as did 94 percent of Republicans. This year, 89 percent of Republicans voted for it, while just 35 percent of Democrats did so. Maybe some GOP n00bs just don't trust Obama with all that hopey changey wiretappy stuff.

Alarm Clock

UK: Propaganda Alert! Counter-terrorist training exercise days before 7/7 was 'entirely a coincidence'


One of the London tube trains that was bombed. The floor of one of the trains was blown upwards, entirely inconsistent with the official claim that the bombs were in backpacks inside the trains
Police completed a terror training exercise which envisaged an attack on London's transport network just days before the 7/7 atrocity, an inquest heard today.

During the 'table top' drill, officers were asked to respond to imaginary bombings at Waterloo, Embankment and St James's Park Underground stations.

But there was absolutely no intelligence at the time to suggest such an attack was imminent, the hearing was told.

Instead, the scenario drawn up by a detective chief superintendent was designed to see how the force would cope if police were prevented from getting to work.

Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison agreed that a potential attack on the Underground was a 'very real contemplation' for the Metropolitan Police at the time.

But he insisted the force had no specific information indicating suicide bombers were on the brink of perpetrating the worst single terrorist atrocity on British soil

Comment: London Bombings - The Facts Speak For Themselves

Wall Street

Egypt takes aim at Al-Jazeera for protest coverage

© Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera logo
Cairo - The Egyptian government has made clear it believes a chief culprit stoking the anti-government protests roiling the country is pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera.

Security forces have detained, and later released, at least nine Al-Jazeera correspondents since the protests erupted last month. Authorities have banned its Arabic and English language channels from broadcasting and revoked the press credentials of all of its journalists. The channel has continued to report despite the restrictions.

Pro-government thugs set the Qatar-based network's Cairo offices ablaze last week, along with the equipment inside, as part of a broad pattern of attacks on journalists covering the unrest.

The network has won accolades from many around the globe for its near round-the-clock coverage of the unprecedented unrest in Egypt, and seen a spike in interest in its report from U.S. viewers. But it has collided head-on with Egyptian authorities, who have sought to portray the broadcaster - the Arab world's most popular - as a malevolent force fueling the unrest.

Egypt's newly appointed vice president, Omar Suleiman, told Egyptian newspaper editors on Tuesday that "certain satellite channels" are provoking the protesters and insulting Egypt.

Evil Rays

Propaganda Alert: Terror Threat Most Heightened Since 9/11, Napolitano Says

The threat of terrorism is at "its most heightened state" since the 9/11 attacks nearly a decade ago, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said today.

"The terrorist threat facing our country has evolved significantly in the last ten years -- and continues to evolve -- so that, in some ways, the threat facing us is at its most heightened state since those attacks," she said before the House Homeland Security Committee.

Her comments were a sobering reminder that the potential of another attack is real and growing, most notably from individuals radicalized inside the United States, despite elaborate security measures implemented by the government since 2001.

"One of the most striking elements of today's threat picture is that plots to attack America increasingly involve American residents and citizens," Napolitano said, referring to so-called homegrown terrorists fueled by the Internet and connections with operatives overseas.

Star of David

Without Fail! US to ensure Israel security amid Egypt unrest

US Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg

Washington - The United States will work to ensure that turmoil in Egypt does not create "new dangers for Israel or the region," a top US diplomat said in prepared testimony to a key congressional committee.

"One constant in a changing region is our unwavering support for Israel's security," Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg said in a written statement to the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.

"Where Israel has already made peace, we will work with focus and vigor to preserve and deepen it and to make clear that we count on governments that have made peace with Israel to sustain their commitments," he said.