Archives for September 2010

Preemptive strikes or preemptive revenge in Waziristan?

Newsweek reports:

For weeks now, as missiles from American drones have snuffed out their leaders and terrorized their recruits in the remote mountains of Pakistan’s North Waziristan area, Al Qaeda fighters have kept their spirits up by telling each other they were about to have their revenge. “It’s like they’ve just been waiting for news, as if they were all excited about something big about to happen in the West,” says an Afghan Taliban intelligence officer known to Newsweek who operates as a liaison between his organization and Al Qaeda. For security reasons he would not allow his name to be published. The source said one senior Qaeda activist told him that Europeans and Americans think “our minds and bodies are in the mountains of the [Pakistan] tribal areas, but soon we will carry out a visible offensive with long-term consequences in their own Western homes and cities.”

Reports out of Britain overnight suggest that more than bravado may be at work here: according to anonymous sources cited by Sky News foreign-affairs editor Tim Marshall, intelligence agencies have uncovered terrorist plans to launch simultaneous commando-style attacks in Germany, France, and Britain that would be reminiscent of the slaughter in Mumbai almost two years ago. Such attacks have been a major concern of Western police forces because they require no special weaponry — just guns, training, and a will to die fighting.

Marshall says that the dramatic increase in drone attacks over the last few weeks is intended to disrupt the plot against European targets. One drone strike reportedly killed the head of Qaeda operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, known as Shaikh Fateh, just last Saturday. Marshall quoted his sources telling him the Qaeda plot was in an “advanced but not imminent stage” and that intelligence agencies had been tracking the operatives “for some time.” The implication is that the onslaught of drone attacks, especially in the last month, has succeeded in thwarting the plot.

If the plot is not at an imminent stage, one wonders why the Eiffel Tower has been evacuated twice this month. But whether imminent or advanced, the logic behind the response to the threat — escalating drone attacks in Pakistan — ought to hinge on where these Qaeda commando teams are now located.

ABC News reports on intelligence gathered from a suspected German terrorist who is now being held at Bagram airbase near Kabul. “The captured German reportedly said several teams of attackers, all with European passports, had been trained and dispatched from training camps in Waziristan and Pakistan.”

If they’ve already been dispatched, what’s the point of launching drone attacks on these training camps now? Is this about thwarting terrorism or about adopting a combative posture? A way of saying: we’re not doing nothing; we’re doing something. It might not work, but we sure as hell won’t take this lying down.

Or maybe it’s what might be called preemptive retribution — a foretaste of what will happen after a major al Qaeda attack.

As Bob Woodward’s new book reveals, “if a Pakistani-based terrorist ever managed to strike inside the United States, the CIA had a ‘retribution plan’ to strike at least 150 camps in Pakistan.”

Retribution is another name for revenge and the inchoate rationale that drives revenge is the desire to eliminate the enemy.

Who did we get today,” White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel would ask, as though a finite list of drone targets could be whittled down to zero — even while the director of the CIA warned him that this could go on forever.

Almost a decade after 9/11, the mere fact that a retribution plan with 150 targets could be drawn up, is a clear indication of a failed strategy.

Of course this elimination strategy is doomed because it confuses human bodies with the ideas and sentiments that animate them. The bodies can be destroyed but the spirit moves on to animate another combatant. Indeed, the drone can best be seen as the worst kind of force multiplier — one that invigorates the enemy and boosts support among the local population.

As Stephen Farrell astutely noted after being able to observe the Taliban while he was held captive last year, as much as anything else the significance of the drone is not its destructive power but what it signals: the absence of foreign soldiers.

The US commands the sky over Waziristan because it dare not occupy the land.

As for whether a terrorist attack in France is actually imminent, the raised level of alertness prompted by official warnings has been matched by a raised level of suspicion.

Opposition figures and pundits alike have loudly speculated that the troubling pronouncements are actually a ruse to turn attention away from scandals that have implicated government members and from growing protest against pension reform. French media have even suggested that President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose approval ratings are in the doldrums, has borrowed the tactic of the well-timed terrorism scare from the playbook of former U.S. President George W. Bush.

“The French people aren’t duped,” says Socialist Party official and former presidential candidate Ségolène Royal in a remark typical of the skeptics. “The fight against terrorism is a serious and discreet effort, incompatible with sudden alert announcements — made, by chance, as protests surge. There’s an element of stagecraft in this that’s out of line and even dangerous.”

The lesson of the last decade should be that what governments do to prevent terrorism matter less than what they do afterwards.

Thus far, local horror has been a reliable catalyst for global folly.


Robert Wright’s bright idea

Robert Wright has discovered a third way to Middle East peace.

There’s always something seductive about a third way — the way between extremes; the way free of dogma traversed by pragmatists with flexible minds.

Wright’s third way breaks the impasse on the road to a two-state solution by co-opting the one-state solution as a means to mobilize Israeli centrists — Jewish moderates whose worst nightmare would be to live in a state where they shared equal rights with Palestinians.

It’s a strange political landscape where a revulsion for the dismantling of an ethnocracy makes someone a centrist, but I suppose that’s because all “center” really means is the portion of the political spectrum where the largest numbers can be found.

Even so, the center usually has an understated vanity which is that it sees itself as the wellspring of moderation. It’s where people don’t stay up late at night, pay most of their taxes, don’t take illegal drugs and don’t take too much interest in politics.

This is the silent majority whose voice doesn’t get heard because they’re too civil — or, truth be told, too comfortable.

“For a peace deal to happen, Israel’s centrists need to get jarred out of their indifference. Someone needs to scare these people,” Wright says.

And what’s the scariest thing they could face? A one-state solution.

Of course a one-state solution isn’t particularly scary if it’s unlikely to happen and so Wright envisages the Palestinians — as usual the Palestinians are merely supporting actors in this Middle East drama — mobilizing to form an internationally supported non-violent movement demanding just one thing: the right to vote.

The more successful this movement becomes, the more eager Israel’s “centrists” will become in pursuing the only means that could thwart the dreaded prospect of equality.

And so, just in the nick of time, the two-state solution would ride to the rescue and save the Jewish state.

As for the mass movement that coalesced around the compelling idea of equality in a pluralistic secular democracy — they’ll happily give up that idea, knowing it was just a pipe dream, and settle for a Palestinian state which, who knows, could even include East Jerusalem.

Whatever keeps the Zionists happy…


Obamanation by Lowkey

Lowkey, a 24-year-old British musician, poet, playwright and political activist of English and Iraqi descent, in an interview on RT News, describes “Obamanation” by saying:

It was an examination of America’s role in the world. The main purpose of the song was to draw the American people’s attention to the way in which they are perceived by the rest of the world. Because I think they very much live in a bubble — I’m somebody that has travelled the United States quite thoroughly, and the media in the United States, by and large, does not actually show what is really going on and people have genuine grievances with United States foreign policy. Whether a person thinks those military bases should exist or not [earlier in the interview, Lowkey referred to the 1,000 US military bases located around the world], I think it would be very hard to disagree that those military bases represent the building of empire and the expansion of empire. And I am not anti-American, I am anti-empire.


Iran’s blogfather: 19 years in jail for speaking his mind

For anyone blogging in the US or most other democratic countries, it’s easy to take freedom of speech for granted. The case of Hossein Derakhshan, an Iranian-Canadian blogger who was just sentenced to 19 years in prison, is a salutary reminder of the dangers individuals face when simply voicing their thoughts in a country like Iran. Earlier reports that he might get a death sentence are believed to have been a way to make his actual sentence appear in some way lenient.

At IPS, Omid Memarian writes:

Arrested in October 2008, Derakhshan had been charged with “cooperation with hostile states” and “propagating against the regime”, among other counts, the site said. In addition to the lengthy prison term, he was fined and banned from membership in political parties and work in the media for a period of five years.

“We are shocked,” one of Derakhshan’s relatives told IPS on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case and fears of a backlash by security forces. “We never expected this to happen. Even according to Iranian laws, he has not done anything to deserve such a harsh sentence.”

Neither the family nor Derakhshan’s lawyer was aware of the sentence until it appeared on Mashreq’s website. His relative told IPS that Derakhshan did say that after two years in prison, “My state of uncertainty has finally ended,” referring to his long detention without any progress in his case.

Mohammad Ali Mahdavi, Derakhshan’s lawyer, told IPS that the verdict still has not been announced even to him. “I’m waiting for the official announcement to start working on the defence bill for the appeals court,” he said, adding, “I prefer to defend my client rather than bringing the case to the media as it might endanger the fate of the case at this phase.”

Judge Abolqasem Salavati is amongst three judges who are well-known for issuing long and harsh sentences for political prisoners, particularly the post-election detainees. His rulings have included the death sentence and numerous long-term prison sentences.

“I believe that first of all, the charges are totally unfounded, and the verdict demonstrates the injustice that many people have been talking about all these years,” Nikahang Kowsar, an award-winning Iranian cartoonist and blogger based in Toronto, where Derakhshan used to live, told IPS.

“Hossein wasn’t a very nice guy to many of us,” Kowsar said. “He criticised many journalists, bloggers and activists for being critical of the Iranian regime and ridiculing Iran’s leaders. He called us ‘agents of neo-liberalism’ or ‘enemies of Iran’ and tried to portray us as the ones willing to sell our nation to the West, but he was absolutely entitled to express his mind.”

Derakhshan, also known as Hoder, has been dubbed Iran’s “Blogfather” for his role in promoting blogging among Iranians via his popular website,

Immediately following the reform era in 1999, Derakhshan was a technology and internet columnist for one of the reformist newspapers in Tehran. In 2000, he moved to Canada and continued his work as a full-time blogger in Toronto.

In 2006, Derakhshan traveled to Israel as a Canadian citizen, a trip that caused a huge controversy in Iran and abroad, as Iranian law forbids Iranian citizens from traveling to Israel.

“We have a saying in Iran: ‘There is freedom of speech in Iran, but there is no freedom after speech in Iran’,” said Kowsar. “His captors are willing to make an example of him for others,” he added.

Derakhshan’s former wife, Marjan Alema was interviewed on Canadian television earlier today:


Does every disaster present an American diplomatic opportunity?

Did the Washington Post‘s David Ignatius really travel all the way to Pir Sabak, west of Islamabad in flood-devastated Pakistan, just to ask the villagers there what they think of America?

When I arrived, villagers were erecting a big tent to serve as a mosque — even before they had built a school for their kids. When I asked what they thought about America, they had no criticisms. “We are in a time of need, and we are looking for help from anywhere,” said Mohammed Ali, a white-bearded man who was helping raise the canvas mosque.

The U.S. military has been working hard to provide flood assistance, but most of that is invisible to Pakistanis. They read about American drone attacks but not about helicopters bringing food supplies. That lack of recognition upsets U.S. officials, but they haven’t been able to change it.

On a day’s tour of the northern flood zone, I saw posters for Turkish, British and other European relief groups, but not one sign of American help. That’s a missed opportunity. These people still need help desperately, and they will remember those who visibly provided it.

I guess if USAID takes Ignatius’ message to heart, they might start producing multi-lingual labeling for aid packaging. But as the Post columnist learned, those in desperate need don’t care too much about where the help comes from.

As for what changes perceptions, it’s a shame Ignatius wasn’t in Pir Shabak a month ago during the visit by Baroness Warsi, Britain’s first Muslim minister and Chairwoman of the Conservative Party.

Just imagine if the US government could send a Muslim woman cabinet level official on a diplomatic mission to a Muslim country — or for that matter, on a trip to Florida or Tennessee!

While men like Imam Feisal Rauf are struggling to win acceptance for Muslims within American society, Sayeeda Hussain Warsi can speak confidently as a Muslim feminist and British political leader who exemplifies what it means to create a modern pluralistic society.


Military overstretch means lives lost


Breaking the siege on Gaza

The Viva Palestina Convoy 5 is now crossing Turkey. Follow it on Twitter.


Israel adopts non-violence with tasers and insults to a Holocaust survivor

If many Israelis thought the approach of the Mavi Marmara flotilla looked like an imminent attack by a Turkish armada, a British-flagged catamaran carrying nine Jewish activists on their way to Gaza surely posed no threat to the Jewish state — or did it?

The IDF couldn’t take any chances and so as the Irene approached Gaza early today, Israeli commandos intercepted the latest waterborne menace and took over the boat, thankfully without killing anyone.

“The boarding of the yacht was without incident, and no violence of any kind was used by neither the passengers on board nor the Israel naval forces,” the IDF Spokesperson blog declared.

Haaretz told a somewhat different story:

Israeli activist and former Israel Air Force pilot Yonatan Shapira saying that there were “no words to describe what we went through during the takeover.”

Shapira said the activists, who he said displayed no violence, were met with extreme IDF brutality, adding that the soldiers “just jumped us, and hit us. I was hit with a taser gun.”

“Some of the soldiers treated us atrociously,” Shapira said, adding that he felt there was a “huge gap between what the IDF spokesman is saying happened and what really happened.”

Meanwhile, Yossi Levy, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman who has been carefully trained in the Avigdor Lieberman school of diplomacy encapsulated the government’s position in a string of insults.

The Foreign Ministry expressed its anger against the Israelis and Jews who took part in the sail. According to a ministry official, “They poured fuel into the bonfire of hatred against Israel worldwide. We don’t expect Israelis to be patriotic, but they should definitely not act as Hamas followers.”

The official criticized former pilot Yonatan Shapira and the Holocaust survivor who took part in the flotilla.

“This former pilot, who has joined the ranks of Hamas and sprays hateful graffiti [“Free Palestine“] on the walls of the Warsaw Ghetto, is not a pilot but an astronaut. A Holocaust survivor who sanctifies the name of the Jews’ murderers and takes time to justify those who don’t accept Israel’s right for sovereignty has probably not learned anything from the terrible past.”

Reuben Moscowitz begged to differ as he expressed disbelief that “Israeli soldiers would treat nine Jews this way. They just hit people.”

“I as a Holocaust survivor cannot live with the fact that the State of Israel is imprisoning an entire people behind fences,” Moscowitz said, adding that “it’s just immoral.”

“What happened to me in the Holocaust wakes me up every night and I hope we don’t do the same thing to our neighbors,” Moscowitz said, adding that he was comparing “what I went through during the Holocaust to what the besieged Palestinian children are going through.”


“Who did we get today?”

Bob Woodward’s new book, Obama’s Wars, reveals that the White House was so enamored with the CIA’s drone missile campaign in Pakistan, that chief of staff Rahm Emanuel would regularly call the CIA director, Leon Panetta, asking, “Who did we get today?”

Emanuel may have been posing the question because, like President Obama, he shares a perverse thrill in remote killing. Or, he might have asked because Predator warfare turns out to be far less accurate than it proponents would like us to believe.

A legal dispute that was being hammered out in a Boston court this summer, revealed that in its haste to deploy drones, the CIA was willing to use location analysis software that could result in strikes that would be as much as 42 feet off target!

That’s the difference between aiming at one house and destroying the house next door.

Leaving aside the question about how accurate ones intelligence might be about who is inhabiting either house, or the legal issues of what constitutes the battlefield and what can justify extrajudicial killing, or the moral issue of defining innocent bystanders as “collateral damage” — this looks like a case of not being able to shoot straight.

The Register reports:

The CIA is implicated in a court case in which it’s claimed it used an illegal, inaccurate software “hack” to direct secret assassination drones in central Asia.

The target of the court action is Netezza, the data warehousing firm that IBM bid $1.7bn for on Monday [Sept 20]. The case raises serious questions about the conduct of Netezza executives, and the conduct of CIA’s clandestine war against senior jihadis in Afganistan and Pakistan.

The dispute surrounds a location analysis software package – “Geospatial” – developed by a small company called Intelligent Integration Systems (IISi), which like Netezza is based in Massachusetts. IISi alleges that Netezza misled the CIA by saying that it could deliver the software on its new hardware, to a tight deadline.

When the software firm then refused to rush the job, it’s claimed, Netezza illegally and hastily reverse-engineered IISi’s code to deliver a version that produced locations inaccurate by up to 13 metres [42 feet]. Despite knowing about the miscalculations, the CIA accepted the software, court submissions indicate.

This report comes on the heals of an earlier report which revealed that the military’s use of unencrypted communications channels in Iraq allowed militants to view live video images being transmitted by drones. As the Wall Street Journal reported in December:

Militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor U.S. military operations.

Senior defense and intelligence officials said Iranian-backed insurgents intercepted the video feeds by taking advantage of an unprotected communications link in some of the remotely flown planes’ systems. Shiite fighters in Iraq used software programs such as SkyGrabber — available for as little as $25.95 on the Internet — to regularly capture drone video feeds, according to a person familiar with reports on the matter.

Given that President Obama has authorized as many drone attacks since the end of March as his predecessor did in the previous four years, and given that in Pakistan there is a widespread belief that these attacks indiscriminately kill innocent people, and given that this perception is fueling a deepening hatred of America, one might imagine that revelations about the weaknesses of the drone program would result in a serious reexamination of its value.

On the contrary, the CIA is now intensifying its campaign of missile attacks and launched more drone strikes this month than at any time in the previous six years.

(For more background on the Geospatial story, see this report.)


An interview with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal

Sharmine Narwani interviews Hamas political bureau chief, Khaled Meshaal (part two):

Palestinian resistance group Hamas has beaten some unusual odds to survive today: Israel’s unlawful siege of Gaza has crippled the coastal strip’s economy and left Hamas scrambling to govern a restless population living under increasingly desperate conditions. Its officials and members are targeted by Israel and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) for detention, torture and extrajudicial killings. Pro-US Arab leaders undermine it at every turn, partly to satisfy American demands, partly because they fear the widespread popularity of any moderate Islamist resistance group among their own populations.

Classified by the US as a “terrorist” organization, Hamas has spent the past year battling armed Salafist extremists who want to enforce Islamic law in the Gaza Strip and who view the Hamas leadership as too weak-willed to challenge Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

It is ironic that Hamas today is criticized for being hardline — and liberal too. Militant — and not militant enough. Islamist — and not Islamist enough. Iranian stooges — and US pawns, both.

I expected to see some of these contradictions in Khaled Meshaal, head of Hamas’ political bureau, when I interviewed him in Damascus recently. What I discovered instead is that, like a select crop of leaders we are seeing in the Middle East today, Meshaal refuses to be seen through one lens only. A real challenge for US policymakers with their unidimensional approach to regional politics.

The former high school physics teacher convincingly argues that the New Middle East is one where nations need to keep their “options open.” He rejects a regional status-quo where countries stay in “blocs” unthinkingly, and vehemently argues against the notion that Mideast democracy and reform cannot advance unless foreign intervention ends.

Khaled Meshaal: Look at a country like Qatar – it has good relations with the United States, used to have a degree of relations with Israel until the Gaza War, and is considered to be a moderate and liberal state. Qatar’s foreign policy is being formed by the views of its leader, the Emir. The situation in the region created a belief, for a country like Qatar, that if it wants to have a role in the region, it has to open up its options in all directions. The one who keeps himself away from the relevant elements in the region, he won’t be relevant himself. In Qatar you have this leadership – someone who is smart and courageous like the Emir. He understands and realizes full well the aspirations and the mood of his own people and the people of the region. So he adopts those issues and causes which are popular among his constituencies, among those nations – which works well if those issues are already close to his own beliefs and his own interests.

Keeping in mind that other Arab countries have for decades been unable to present a successful model that is attractive for others to adopt, this new regional state model has thrived in recent years. These countries – Qatar, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Turkey – share some common elements, but they are not identical to each other. They each have their own modus operandi and interests. Something these nations do share, however, is the self-desire to develop this new trend, but at the same time to remain open – not closed or bound – to enjoying options.

Sharmine Narwani: Not dogmatic, as in the past…

KM: …ah yes, not like that. Why should we be dividing ourselves into two blocs – either being against America and the West, or acquiescing 100% to them?

The people in the region, they are looking for leadership to match their own aspirations and ambitions. In a way we need a model where democracy is there, internal reform, successful economy, justice at the social level – and at the same time, there is independence in their political decisions, away from acquiescing to the threats of Israel – and not being a proxy to foreign, American and Western policies. We do not want to wage a war against the world. Or to sever relations with countries. So the nations and the people of the region want a state model based on self respect – without any enmity with the world. [Read the rest of the interview here.]

The first part of this interview can be read here.

On Monday, Meshaal called on the Palestinian acting president Mahmoud Abbas to end talks with Israel after Prime Minister Netanyahu failed to extend the settlement slowdown which expired on Sunday. Early Monday morning, bulldozers were clearing ground to construct new homes for Jewish settlers in the West Bank.


20 per cent of US soldiers returning from Iraq suffer from post traumatic stress disorder

Channel 4 News (UK) reports:

America’s decade long “war on terror” has been deployment heavy, with little time at home in between.

That experience is translating into some worrying figures at America’s largest military base, Fort Hood, in Texas – home to 60,000 troops, one tenth of the US army. Channel 4 News was given exclusive access to the base, to look at their new arrangements for dealing with soldiers bearing the psychological and physical scars of war.

In the past six months at Fort Hood, soldiers have had 10,000 counselling sessions. Some 6,000 servicemen and women there are on anti-depressants, 1,400 on anti-psychotics.

It is a battle on the home front the US military never planned for. And it is scrambled to come up with the right kind of help for those soldiers who so desperately need it. There are now 36 of these so called “Warrior Transition Units” on bases across the US, currently caring for 9,000 soldiers.

The army says there are centres of excellence, designed to offer appropriate care within a military structure, to soldiers with complex, serious, physical and mental health problems. But the units have also been called warehouses for despair, where soldiers are overmedicated, and roughly treated.


Expanding secrecy and diminishing privacy in Obama’s America

The US government might not have enough evidence to issue an arrest warrant for a US citizen but it claims the right to kill such a person and to keep secret its reasons for doing so.

The U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi is now on the CIA and Joint Special Operations Command capture-or-kill list of suspected terrorists. He is not however on the FBI’s most-wanted terrorist list and has not been indicted. It is believed that he is being hunted down and that he will be killed, if his exact whereabouts become known, but even if that is the case, this “does not foreclose Anwar al-Aulaqi’s access to the courts,” claim Barack H Obama, Robert M Gates and Leon E Panetta, the defendants in a federal case brought by Aulaqi’s father.

Nasser al-Aulaqi has an old-fashioned conception of justice and believes his son has a right to due process and not be subject to a summary execution.

As Glenn Greenwald points out:

[W]hat’s most notable here is that one of the arguments the Obama DOJ raises to demand dismissal of this lawsuit is “state secrets”: in other words, not only does the President have the right to sentence Americans to death with no due process or charges of any kind, but his decisions as to who will be killed and why he wants them dead are “state secrets,” and thus no court may adjudicate their legality.

At the very same time that this administration is pushing to expand the boundaries of state secrecy and extra-judicial power it also wants to restrict citizens’ rights to privacy as it seeks sweeping new regulations for the internet that would provide the government with the means to access all electronic communications.

The New York Times reports:

Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.

In the post 9/11 national security culture, arguments in favor of the expansion of government power are invariably framed in terms of enhancing the security services’ ability to track down “bad guys.” But as the article notes, enhanced surveillance capabilities will also create opportunities of others.

Several privacy and technology advocates argued that requiring interception capabilities would create holes that would inevitably be exploited by hackers.

Steven M. Bellovin, a Columbia University computer science professor, pointed to an episode in Greece: In 2005, it was discovered that hackers had taken advantage of a legally mandated wiretap function to spy on top officials’ phones, including the prime minister’s.

“I think it’s a disaster waiting to happen,” he said. “If they start building in all these back doors, they will be exploited.”

The Greek case — sometimes referred to as the Greek Watergate — is interesting for several reasons. As the Times in another report today on the Stuxnet attack notes, “The level of skill needed to pull off the [Greek] operation and the targets strongly indicated that the culprit was a government.”

Indeed, the list of targets alone makes it hard to imagine that this was anything other than an intelligence agency-run operation. The phones bugged included not only those of the Greek prime minister and his wife but also, IEEE Spectrum reported, those of:

…the ministers of national defense, foreign affairs, and justice, the mayor of Athens, and the Greek European Union commissioner… Others belonged to members of civil rights organizations, peace activists, and antiglobalization groups; senior staff at the ministries of National Defense, Public Order, Merchant Marine, and Foreign Affairs; the New Democracy ruling party; the Hellenic Navy general staff; and a Greek-American employee at the United States Embassy in Athens.

Given the context of the then-upcoming 2004 Athens Olympics which were widely regarded as a potential target for a major act of terrorism, it seems quite likely that this was a CIA-run operation.

Since we live in what is still widely regarded as the “freest” nation on earth, as the Obama administration quietly moves to expand its powers, we should have no doubt that the national security culture that is being established here as a new normal, will also serve as a model for other nations that will justify even more extreme restrictions on civil liberties by virtue of the similarities these measures bear to the American way.

The architecture of world government is not being crafted at the United Nations but behind closed doors at the NSA and the CIA. The people we should be most afraid of are the people who promise to make us feel safe.


Iran confirms Stuxnet found at Bushehr nuclear power plant

An AFP report earlier today reveals that the Stuxnet malware has been found at Iran’s nuclear power plant at Bushehr. (All the blockquotes below are from the AFP report.)

Iranian officials confirm that 30,000 industrial computers in Iran have been hit by Stuxnet yet deny that Bushehr was among those infected.

That might be what Iranian officials believe, but whether it’s a belief based on fact is another matter.

As we get further into this report, it becomes apparent there is a high probability both that Bushehr has been penetrated and that the malware may still be active.

Siemens said its software has not been installed at the plant, and an Iranian official denied the malware may have infected nuclear facilities.

Siemens might not know that its software was installed at the plant, but thanks to a UPI photograph, we know that Bushehr control systems do indeed run on Siemens’ WinCC SCADA system. The warning shown below says: “WinCC Runtime License: Your software license has expired. Please obtain a valid license.”

This is what Ralph Langner, a German industrial security expert, saw as a red flag indicating that the plant is vulnerable to a cyber attack.

“This virus has not caused any damage to the main systems of the Bushehr power plant,” Bushehr project manager Mahmoud Jafari said on Iran’s Arabic-language Al-Alam television network.

“All computer programmes in the plant are working normally and have not crashed due to Stuxnet,” said Jafari, adding there was no problem with the plant’s fuel supply.

The official IRNA news agency meanwhile quoted him as saying the worm had infected some “personal computers of the plant’s personnel.”

And no infected personal computers have been hooked into the plants control system?

As indicated in this photograph showing Russian contractors inside Bushehr, the path from a personal computer to the plant’s control system is short and direct.

As for the fact that Bushehr’s control system has not crashed, the fact that the project manager cites this as evidence that the system is malware-free suggests that he does not understand how Stuxnet is designed. Stuxnet monitors process conditions and until those conditions have been met, everything should work fine. This is not like a virus that slows down an operating system.

Given the inside knowledge that Stuxnet’s creators required, it seems quite likely that the moment they would want it to kick into action — assuming that Bushehr was the intended target — would be a moment at which a catastrophic system failure could be attributed to a flaw in the facility’s construction, design or operation. A failure, for instance, as the plant approaches its intended full operational generation capacity. The 1000 megawatt plant is expected to have reached only 40% capacity by the end of December.

Telecommunications minister Reza Taqipour said “the worm has not been able to penetrate or cause serious damage to government systems.”

Again, this statement suggests a lack of understanding about Stuxnet’s highly targeted design and the fact that it is designed not to cause damage elsewhere.

Mahmoud Liayi, head of the information technology council at the ministry of industries said:

…industries were currently receiving systems to combat Stuxnet, while stressing Iran had decided not to use anti-virus software developed by Siemens because “they could be carrying a new version of the malware.”

“When Stuxnet is activated, the industrial automation systems start transmitting data about production lines to a main designated destination by the virus,” Liayi said.

“There, the data is processed by the worm’s architects and then engineer plots to attack the country.”

If this is the official consensus, Iranian facilities such as Bushehr are as vulnerable now as they were before anyone knew about Stuxnet. Liayi’s statement suggests that Stuxnet is being viewed as a tool of espionage designed to facilitate rather than execute sabotage.


Bush White House security adviser: Israel likely source of cyber attack on Iran

(Updated below)

In an interview on Bloomberg TV, Richard Falkenrath suggested that Israel is the most likely source of the Stuxnet malware which seems designed to cripple industrial facilities in Iran.

Falkenrath is currently the Deputy Commissioner of Counter-Terrorism for the NYPD and held several positions in the George W Bush White House including Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Homeland Security Advisor.

The Associated Press says that experts from Iran’s nuclear agency met this week to discuss how to combat the Stuxnet attack on Iranian facilities, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.

Iran’s Mehr News Agency adds:

The director of the Information Technology Council of the Industries and Mines Ministry has announced that the IP addresses of 30,000 industrial computer systems infected by this malware have been detected, the Mehr New Agency reported on Saturday.

“An electronic war has been launched against Iran,” Mahmoud Liaii added.

“This computer worm is designed to transfer data about production lines from our industrial plants to (locations) outside of the country,” he said.

He also announced that a working group composed of representatives from the Communications and Information Technology Ministry, the Industries and Mines Ministry, and the Passive Defense Organization has been set up to find ways to combat the spyware.

Graph shows concentration of Stuxnet-infected computers in Iran as of August. Source: Symantec

Eugene Kaspersky, co-founder and chief executive officer of Kaspersky Lab, says that the creation of Stuxnet marks the beginning of the new age of cyber-warfare.

Speaking at the Kaspersky Security Symposium with international journalists in Munich, Germany, Kaspersky described Stuxnet as the opening of “Pandora’s Box.”

“This malicious program was not designed to steal money, send spam, grab personal data, no, this piece of malware was designed to sabotage plants, to damage industrial systems,” he said.

“I am afraid this is the beginning of a new world. [The] 90’s were a decade of cyber-vandals, 2000’s were a decade of cybercriminals, I am afraid now it is a new era of cyber-wars and cyber-terrorism,” Kaspersky added.

Among industrial security experts who are convinced that Iran is the target of the Stuxnet attack, a debate has opened up around which facility the malware was designed to strike.

Frank Rieger, a German researcher with GSMK, a Berlin encryption firm, suggests that the Natanz enrichment facility looks like the most likely target. He laid out his reasoning to the Christian Science Monitor.

Stuxnet had a halt date. Internal time signatures in Stuxnet appear to prevent it from spreading across computer systems after July 2009. That probably means the attack had to be conducted by then – though such time signatures are not certain.

Stuxnet appears designed to take over centrifuges’ programmable logic controllers. Natanz has thousands of identical centrifuges and identical programmable logic controllers (PLCs), tiny computers for each centrifuge that oversee the centrifuge’s temperature, control valves, operating speed, and flow of cooling water. Stuxnet’s internal design would allow the malware to take over PLCs one after another, in a cookie-cutter fashion.

“It seems like the parts of Stuxnet dealing with PLCs have been designed to work on multiple nodes at once – which makes it fit well with a centrifuge plant like Natanz,” Rieger says. By contrast, Bushehr is a big central facility with many disparate PLCs performing many different functions. Stuxnet seems focused on replicating its intrusion across a lot of identical units in a single plant, he says.

Natanz also may have been hit by Stuxnet in mid-2009, Rieger says. He notes that “a serious, recent, nuclear accident” was reported at that time on WikiLeaks, the same organization that recently revealed US Afghanistan-war documents. About the same time, the BBC reported that the head of Iran’s nuclear agency had resigned.

Lending some credence to the notion that Stuxnet attacked more than a year ago, he says, is the International Atomic Energy Agency’s finding of a sudden 15 percent drop in the number of working centrifuges at the Natanz site.

Even though Natanz would seem like a logical target to choose if the objective of the attackers was to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program, Rieger’s inference — that the halt date preventing Stuxnet spreading means the attack had to take place before July 2009 — is questionable, for at least two reasons.

Firstly, given that the designers had a very specific target, their aim is likely to have been to penetrate that target while trying to limit the proliferation of the malware and thus reduce the risks of the operation’s exposure.

Secondly, code for one of the four zero-day vulnerabilities that the worm exploits was only added in March 2010 — well after the halt date. The fact that the code was being modified at that time suggests that it had yet to perform its function.

As previously reported, another German industrial security expert, Ralph Langner, has speculated that the Bushehr nuclear reactor is the most likely target. He bases this theory on various pieces of circumstantial evidence.

Firstly, it is known that Bushehr uses the Siemens SCADA systems that Stuxnet targets and that access to these systems available to Russian contractors working on the facility would allow the malware to be installed through USB memory sticks.

Secondly, photographic evidence shows that the facility had very weak cyber security.

A journalist’s photo from inside the Bushehr plant in early 2009, which Langner found on a public news website, shows a computer-screen schematic diagram of a process control system – but also a small dialog box on the screen with a red warning symbol. Langner says the image on the computer screen is of a Siemens supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) industrial software control system called Simatic WinCC – and the little warning box reveals that the software was not installed or configured correctly, and was not licensed. That photo was a red flag that the nuclear plant was vulnerable to a cyberattack, he says.

“Bushehr has all kinds of missiles around it to protect it from an airstrike,” Langner says. “But this little screen showed anyone that understood what that picture meant … that these guys were just simply begging to be [cyber]attacked.”

The picture was reportedly taken on Feb. 25, 2009, by which time the reactor should have had its cybersystems up and running and bulletproof, Langner says. The photo strongly suggests that they were not, he says. That increases the likelihood that Russian contractors unwittingly spread Stuxnet via their USB drives to Bushehr, he says.

“The attackers realized they could not get to the target simply through the Internet – a nuclear plant is not reachable that way,” he says. “But the engineers who commission such plants work very much with USBs like those Stuxnet exploited to spread itself. They’re using notebook computers and using the USBs to connect to one machine, then maybe going 20 yards away to another machine.”

Langner also cites international concern about the Bushehr reactor becoming operational.

This is a somewhat weaker strand of his argument. After all, the existence of this Russian-fueled reactor was widely seen as a demonstration of the fact that Iran could, it it chooses, have a civilian nuclear energy program without any need for a uranium enrichment program.

There is however another argument that can be made in which Bushehr becomes the target of cyberwarfare, even if it might not be a vital node in Iran’s nuclear program. In this scenario, Stuxnet would not be designed to perform its function until the reactor becomes fully operational. At that point, the malware would not simply stop the reactor working — it would trigger a Chernobyl-type nuclear meltdown.

Why would the attackers want to precipitate such a catastrophic event?

  • In the hope that such an “accident” would make the Iranian government look unfit to safely operate any kind of nuclear program.
  • To undermine Iranian domestic support for the program.
  • To alienate Iran from its Gulf neighbors who would be exposed to the fallout.

When John Bolton was last month melodramatically counting the days left for Israel to launch a missile strike on Bushehr, it was ostensibly because once the plant was fueled the Israelis would no longer be willing to risk the lives of so many in the region. With Gulf shipping lanes also closed down for an indeterminate period after an Israeli strike, the global economic impact would be severe.

On the other hand, in the event that Israel struck but did not fire a single missile and could not be shown to be responsible, the results of its own cost-benefit analysis — vastly different from that of the US — might make a devastating cyber attack on Bushehr seem well worth the risk.

In an analysis of Israel’s expanding cyberwarfare capabilities, Scott Borg, director of the US Cyber Consequences Unit, which advises various Washington agencies on cyber security, told Reuters last year that an Israeli attack on an Iranian nuclear facility could employ “malware loitering unseen and awaiting an external trigger, or pre-set to strike automatically when the infected facility reaches a more critical level of activity.”

The decision by Iranian authorities to announce that they have an ongoing investigation on how to thwart Stuxnet, suggests that they may now also be reassessing the risks of bringing Bushehr online as a fully operational facility.

Postscript: Even though discussion on the whole subject of Stuxnet’s purpose and origin is at this point highly speculative, some readers may view my suggestion that the goal is to cause a Chernobyl-type disaster to be a particularly wild conjecture. Maybe it is, but here’s a little more of my thinking on why that would be a plausible objective.

There is little reason to doubt that Israeli leaders from across the political spectrum are serious in their stated objections to Iran’s nuclear program. (Whether those objections correspond with Iran’s genuine nuclear ambitions is another question, as is the question of whether a nuclear-armed Iran would actually pose an existential threat to Israel.)

Among analysts inside and outside Israel there is a broad consensus that military action aimed at crippling Iran’s nuclear facilities would accomplish no more than cause a setback of a few years in the program. The same applies to sabotage.

Given the broad national support the nuclear program has, there is also reason to doubt that regime change would necessarily result in Iran’s enrichment program being scrapped.

What those who fear a nuclear-armed Iran hope to see is a credible political shift as a result of which Iran’s nuclear intentions are no longer in doubt and are demonstrably peaceful. (Which is to say, an ideal end-state similar to the one adopted by South Africa when it chose to abandon nuclear weapons — an ironic comparison of course, given that it was Israel that helped South Africa become a nuclear-armed state.)

For that reason, coercion (through sanctions) and military force are both potentially counterproductive in that pressure generally produces resistance.

On the other hand, the desired outcome might be reached if the Iranians through their own volition came to the conclusion that the costs of nuclear development outweighed the benefits. A catastrophic “accident” might be instrumental in bringing about a change of perspective through which for Iran as a nation, nuclear power lost most of its appeal.

Needless to say, if such an accident was exposed to be the result of an Israeli cyber attack, the plan would dangerously backfire.

Do intelligence agencies come up with such reckless plans? All the time.

Inveterate gamers will no doubt see another possibility here — that Stuxnet is part of a psy-ops plan designed to provoke a greater fear of catastrophic damage than it can actually cause. Possibly, but to identify and then exploit four Windows vulnerabilities suggests that the creators of this malware were willing to employ every possible resource at their disposal. In other words, they were seriously intent on doing damage — not just provoking fear.


The Siddiqui sentence: 86 years for pointing a weapon

The details of a bizarre incident at an Afghan National Police facility in Ghazni, eastern Afghanistan, on July 18, 2008, are still in dispute. Even so, the woman at the center of the story will probably spend the rest of her life in jail.

Without any evidence being produced that she had fired a shot from a gun she reportedly grabbed while being held under arrest, Dr Aafia Siddiqui, an MIT-educated Pakistani neuroscientist, was convicted of attempted murder in February. On Thursday, District Court Judge Richard Berman sentenced the 38-year-old to 86 years in prison. In response, protesters took to the streets in Pakistan.

The jury found that Siddiqui acted without premeditation. But in a four-hour sentencing hearing, Judge Richard Berman repeatedly termed her acts premeditated. Her defense lawyers argued for a minimum sentence of 12 years, saying that Siddiqui is severely mentally ill.

Needless to say, the case now goes to appeal.

Defense attorney Charles Swift said that government authorities never made available the U.S. military reports on the incident. He said the report, which was declassified by the government after it was published this year on the WikiLeaks website, does not mention Siddiqui as having fired the gun. It said only that she pointed a weapon. He said he believes there was a further in-depth investigation of the incident by the military that has also been withheld from the defense.

“I think there’s real concern over the government’s obligation to turn over exculpatory evidence,” he told reporters. “And I don’t blame the prosecution in this case. What I’ve found in national security cases like this is they have as big a battle trying to get evidence as anyone does. But the United States, to do justice, has to do it credibly and has to produce all the documents. And that’s one of three or four huge ongoing appellate issues.”

If Charles Swift sounds like a familiar name it’s because he has the rare distinction of having stood up and successfully defended his country while its Constitution faced attack from the Bush administration. In Hamdan vs Rumsfeld, Swift won a major victory for the rule of law.

The case of Dr Siddiqui exposes a moral fallacy that has haunted America throughout the war on terrorism. It is this: that injustice is something that can only be done to the innocent.

We have abandoned what used to be the universally recognized foundation of a just legal system: that it treats the guilty and the innocent with fairness and impartiality.

(For fascinating background on the Siddiqui case, read Declan Walsh’s November 2009 report in The Guardian.)


The myth of Israeli democracy

Johann Hari interviews Gideon Levy: “the most hated man in Israel — and perhaps the most heroic.”

Any conversation about the region is now dominated by a string of propaganda myths, [Levy] says, and perhaps the most basic is the belief that Israel is a democracy. “Today we have three kinds of people living under Israeli rule,” he explains. “We have Jewish Israelis, who have full democracy and have full civil rights. We have the Israeli Arabs, who have Israeli citizenship but are severely discriminated against. And we have the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, who live without any civil rights, and without any human rights. Is that a democracy?”

He sits back and asks in a low tone, as if talking about a terminally ill friend: “How can you say it is a democracy when, in 62 years, there was not one single Arab village established? I don’t have to tell you how many Jewish towns and villages were established. Not one Arab village. How can you say it’s a democracy when research has shown repeatedly that Jews and Arabs get different punishments for the same crime? How can you say it’s a democracy when a Palestinian student can hardly rent an apartment in Tel Aviv, because when they hear his accent or his name almost nobody will rent to him? How can you say Israel is a democracy when? Jerusalem invests 577 shekels a year in a pupil in [Palestinian] East Jerusalem and 2372 shekels a year in a pupil from [Jewish] West Jerusalem. Four times less, only because of the child’s ethnicity! Every part of our society is racist.”

“I want to be proud of my country,” he says. “I am an Israeli patriot. I want us to do the right thing.” So this requires him to point out that Palestinian violence is – in truth – much more limited than Israeli violence, and usually a reaction to it. “The first twenty years of the occupation passed quietly, and we did not lift a finger to end it. Instead, under cover of the quiet, we built the enormous, criminal settlement enterprise,” where Palestinian land is seized by Jewish religious fundamentalists who claim it was given to them by God. Only then – after a long period of theft, and after their attempts at peaceful resistance were met with brutal violence – did the Palestinians become violent themselves. “What would happen if the Palestinians had not fired Qassams [the rockets shot at Southern Israel, including civilian towns]? Would Israel have lifted the economic siege? Nonsense. If the Gazans were sitting quietly, as Israel expects them to do, their case would disappear from the agenda. Nobody would give any thought to the fate of the people of Gaza if they had not behaved violently.”

He unequivocally condemns the firing of rockets at Israeli civilians, but adds: “The Qassams have a context. They are almost always fired after an IDF assassination operation, and there have been many of these.” Yet the Israeli attitude is that “we are allowed to bomb anything we want but they are not allowed to launch Qassams.” It is a view summarised by Haim Ramon, the justice minister at time of Second Lebanon War: “We are allowed to destroy everything.”

Read the complete interview.


Beyond the brink of a diplomatic fiasco

After coming away from a dinner hosted by American Jewish leaders for Mahmoud Abbas, Roger Cohen comes away “convinced the United States is on the brink of a diplomatic fiasco.”

Less than a month after President Obama put the imprimatur of a White House ceremony on renewed Israeli-Palestinian talks, the negotiations are close to breakdown. If that happens, as Netanyahu and Abbas know, Obama would look amateurish.

The two leaders need the United States, an incentive to avoid humiliating Obama. But with just a couple of days to the expiration Sunday of an Israeli freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank, both sides are digging in. Despite Obama’s public plea to Netanyahu — “It makes sense to extend that moratorium” — the Israeli government seems to have rejected a formal extension.

That would be a terrible mistake. Obama should fight it until the last minute. His international credibility is on the line.

Cohen regards Netanyahu’s decision on whether he will call for a three-month extension of the settlement “freeze,” “a test case of Israeli seriousness about peace.”


This is how serious the settlement freeze has been so far.

In the third quarter of 2009, before the restrictions were imposed last November, there were 2,790 settlement homes in various stages of construction, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics. The number rose to 2,955 in the last quarter of 2009, reflecting a last-minute surge of housing starts in the days leading up to the freeze.

In the first quarter of 2010, with the freeze in full effect, the number stood at 2,517.

That means that even months into the halt, the number of homes under construction had declined by only about 10 percent.

So, the continuation of a modest slow down in settlement expansion for three months will prove Netanyahu’s serious about peace?

Who knew peace could come be promised that easily?


Stuxnet: the Trinity test of cyberwarfare

Russian technicians work at Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran

On August 5, I reported on the strong evidence that Iran had become the target of a state-sponsored cyber attack.

At that point it was already understood that the Stuxnet computer worm was almost certainly targeting Iran since that was the location of 60% of the computer systems affected. Moreover, since the worm targets Siemens SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) management systems that control energy utilities, and since its design strongly suggested that it had been created for sabotage, it seemed likely that the specific target was Iran’s nuclear program.

A German team of industrial cyber security experts who have analyzed the way the worm operates now claim that it may have been designed to attack the newly operational Bushehr nuclear reactor.

Ralph Langner envisages that the highly sophisticated attack would have required a preparation team that included “intel, covert ops, exploit writers, process engineers, control system engineers, product specialists, military liaison.”

The Christian Science Monitor reports:

Since reverse engineering chunks of Stuxnet’s massive code, senior US cyber security experts confirm what Mr. Langner, the German researcher, told the Monitor: Stuxnet is essentially a precision, military-grade cyber missile deployed early last year to seek out and destroy one real-world target of high importance — a target still unknown.

“Stuxnet is a 100-percent-directed cyber attack aimed at destroying an industrial process in the physical world,” says Langner, who last week became the first to publicly detail Stuxnet’s destructive purpose and its authors’ malicious intent. “This is not about espionage, as some have said. This is a 100 percent sabotage attack.”

On his website, Langner lays out the Stuxnet code he has dissected. He shows step by step how Stuxnet operates as a guided cyber missile. Three top US industrial control system security experts, each of whom has also independently reverse-engineered portions of Stuxnet, confirmed his findings to the Monitor.

“His technical analysis is good,” says a senior US researcher who has analyzed Stuxnet, who asked for anonymity because he is not allowed to speak to the press. “We’re also tearing [Stuxnet] apart and are seeing some of the same things.”

Other experts who have not themselves reverse-engineered Stuxnet but are familiar with the findings of those who have concur with Langner’s analysis.

“What we’re seeing with Stuxnet is the first view of something new that doesn’t need outside guidance by a human – but can still take control of your infrastructure,” says Michael Assante, former chief of industrial control systems cyber security research at the US Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory. “This is the first direct example of weaponized software, highly customized and designed to find a particular target.”

“I’d agree with the classification of this as a weapon,” Jonathan Pollet, CEO of Red Tiger Security and an industrial control system security expert, says in an e-mail.

Langner’s research, outlined on his website Monday, reveals a key step in the Stuxnet attack that other researchers agree illustrates its destructive purpose. That step, which Langner calls “fingerprinting,” qualifies Stuxnet as a targeted weapon, he says.

Langner zeroes in on Stuxnet’s ability to “fingerprint” the computer system it infiltrates to determine whether it is the precise machine the attack-ware is looking to destroy. If not, it leaves the industrial computer alone. It is this digital fingerprinting of the control systems that shows Stuxnet to be not spyware, but rather attackware meant to destroy, Langner says.

Langer speculates that Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant may have been the Stuxnet target. He also writes: “The forensics that we are getting will ultimately point clearly to the attacked process — and to the attackers. The attackers must know this. My conclusion is, they don’t care. They don’t fear going to jail.”

If Bushehr was indeed the target, it may have presented itself first and foremost as a target of opportunity. From the point of view of governments with an interest in sabotaging Iran’s nuclear program, Bushehr would not be the most attractive target, but access provided to Russian contractors may have made it the easiest target.

Last September, Reuters reported: “Israel has been developing ‘cyber-war’ capabilities that could disrupt Iranian industrial and military control systems.”

So let’s assume that using Stuxnet, Israel has indeed launched the world’s first precision, military-grade cyber missile. What are the implications?

1. Iran has been served notice that not only its nuclear facilities but its whole industrial infrastructure is vulnerable to attack. As Trevor Butterworth noted: “By demonstrating how Iran could so very easily experience a Chernobyl-like catastrophe, or the entire destruction of its conventional energy grid, the first round of the ‘war’ may have already been won.”

2. The perception that it has both developed capabilities and shown its willingness to engage in cyberwarfare, will serve Israel as a strategic asset even if it never admits to having launched Stuxnet.

3. When it comes to cyberwarfare, Israel ranks as a major global power. It’s own tiny infrastructure makes it much less vulnerable to attack than is the sprawling infrastructure of the United States. It’s highly developed military IT industry means that it not only has great domestic human resources but that Israeli IT specialists, through research and employment, have the best possible access to most of the leading development facilities and vendors around the world.

4. As a cyber arms race takes off, we should not imagine that it will be like other arms races where power resides more in capabilities than in the use of those capabilities. “Whereas nuclear weapons have been used twice in human history, cyber weapons are employed daily and there is therefore an existential need to create some form of regulatory system that allows more than implicit deterrence,” says Robert Fry.

5. If AQ Khan demonstrated the ease with which a nuclear proliferation network can operate, the fact that the raw material upon which cyberwarfare is based is arguably the most easily transferable object on the planet — computer code — means that in certain ways the era of cyberwarfare may prove to be more dangerous than the nuclear era.

6. In the strategic landscape of cyberwarfare the most dangerous player may turn out to be a small but highly developed fortress-state that feels threatened by much of the rest of the world; that neither trusts nor is trusted by any of its allies; that sees its own stability enhanced by regional instability; that has seen its own economic fortunes rise while the global economy suffers; and that views with contempt the notion of an international community.