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FTR #1078 Surveillance Valley, Part 4: Tor Up (Foxes Guarding the Online Privacy Henhouse, Part 1.)

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This broadcast was recorded in one, 60-minute segment.

Introduction: Continuing this series, we begin a dive into the meat of the vitally important book from which the program takes its title.  Yasha Levine’s summation of the inextricable nature and symbiosis between the Internet, the tech firms and the so-called “privacy community” include:

  1. The Internet is a weapon, developed for counter-insurgency purposes.
  2. Big Tech firms network with the very intelligence services they publicly decry.
  3. Big Tech firms that data mine their customers on a nearly unimaginable scale do so as a direct, operational extension of the very surveillance function upon which  the Internet is predicated.
  4. The technologies touted by the so-called “Privacy Activists” such as Edward Snowden and Jacob Applebaum were developed by the very intelligence services they are supposed to deflect.
  5. The technologies touted by the so-called “Privacy Activists” such as Edward Snowden and Jacob Applebaum–such as the Tor Internet function and the Signal mobile phone app– are readily accessible to the very intelligence services they are supposed to deflect.
  6. The organizations that promote the alleged virtues of Snowden, Applebaum, Tor, Signal et al are linked to the very intelligence services they would have us believe they oppose.
  7. Big Tech firms embrace “Internet Freedom” as a distraction from their own willful and all-embracing data mining and their ongoing conscious collaboration with the very intelligence services they publicly decry.

After detailing the history of the development of the Internet by the national security establishment, Levine presents the story of the development of the Tor network.

Key points of analysis and discussion:

  1. Tor’s Silicon Valley backing: ” . . . . Privacy groups funded by companies like Google and Facebook, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Fight for the Future, were some of Tor’s biggest and most dedicated backers. Google had directly bankrolled its development, paying out generous grants to college students who worked at Tor during their summer vacations. Why would an Internet company whose entire business rested on tracking people online promote and help develop a powerful privacy tool? Something didn’t add up. . . .”
  2. Not surprisingly, Tor does not shield users from orgiastic data mining by Silicon Valley tech giants: ” . . . . Tor works only if people are dedicated to maintaining a strict anonymous Internet routine: using only dummy email addresses and bogus accounts, carrying out all financial transactions in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, and never mentioning their real name in emails or messages. For the vast majority of people on the Internet—those who use Gmail, interact with Facebook friends, and shop on Amazon—you reveal your identity. These companies know who you are. They know your name, your shipping address, your credit card information. They continue to scan your emails, map your social networks, and compile dossiers. Tor or not, once you enter your account name and password, Tor’s anonymity technology becomes useless. . . .”
  3. Silicon Valley’s support for Tor is something of a “false bromide”: ” . . . . After all, Snowden’s leaked documents revealed that anything Internet companies had, the NSA had as well. I was puzzled, but at least I understood why Tor had backing from Silicon Valley: it offered a false sense of privacy, while not posing a threat to the industry’s underlying surveillance model. . . .
  4. Tor is, in fact, financed by elements of the very same intelligence community and national security establishment that supposedly frustrated/”locked out” by Tor! ” . . . . But as I analyzed the organization’s financial documents, I found that the opposite was true. Tor had come out of a joint US Navy—DARPA military project in the early 2000s and continued to rely on a series of federal contracts after it was spun off into a private nonprofit. This funding came from the Pentagon, the State Department, and at least one organization that derived from the CIA. These contracts added up to several million dollars a year and, most years,  accounted for more than 90 percent of Tor’s operating budget. Tor was a federal military contractor. It even had its own federal contracting number. . . This included Tor’s founder, Roger Dingledine, who spent a summer working at the NSA and who had brought Tor to life under a series of DARPA and Navy contracts. . . .”

Widely regarded as a champion of Internet freedom and privacy, the Electronic Frontier Foundation helped finance Tor and championed its use.

Key elements of discussion and analysis of the EFF/Tor alliance include:

  1. EFF’s early financing of Tor: ” . . . . . . . . In 2004, [Roger] Dingledine struck out on his own, spinning the military onion routing project into a non-profit corporation called the Tor Project and, while still funded by DARPA and the Navy, began scratching around for private funding. He got help from an unexpected ally: the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which gave Tor almost a quarter million dollars to keep it going while Dingledine looked for other private sponsors. The EFF even hosted Tor’s website. . . .”
  2. The EFF’s effusive praise for the fundamentally compromised Tor Project: ” . . . . ‘The Tor Project is a perfect fit for EFF, because one of our primary goals is to protect the privacy and anonymity of Internet users. Tor can help people exercise their First Amendment right to free, anonymous speech online.’ EFF’s technology manager Chris Palmer explained in a 2004 press release, which curiously failed to mention that Tor was developed primarily for military intelligence use and was still actively funded by the Pentagon. . . .”
  3. The EFF’s history of working with elements of the national security establishment: ” . . . . In 1994, EFF worked with the FBI to pass the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, which required all telecommunications companies to build their equipment so that it could be wiretapped by the FBI. In 1999, EFF worked to support NATO’s bombing campaign in Kosovo with something called the ‘Kosovo Privacy Support,’ which aimed to keep the region’s Internet access open during military action. Selling a Pentagon intelligence project as a grassroots privacy tool—it didn’t seem all that wild. . . .”
  4.  In FTR #854, we noted that EFF co-founder John Perry Barlow was far more than a Grateful Dead lyricist/hippie icon: ” . . . . Indeed, in 2002, a few years before it funded Tor, EFF cofounder [John] Perry Barlow casually admitted that he had been consulting for intelligence agencies for a decade. It seemed that the worlds of soldiers, spies, and privacy weren’t as far apart as they appeared. . . .”
  5. EFF’s gravitas in the online privacy community lent Tor great credibility: ” . . . . EFF’s support for Tor was a big deal. The organization commanded respect in Silicon Valley and was widely seen as the ACLU of the Internet Age. The fact that it backed Tor meant that no hard questions would be asked about the anonymity tool’s military origins as it transitioned to the civilian world. And that’s exactly what happened. . . .”

In FTR #’s 891 and 895, we noted the primary position of the Broadcasting Board of Governors in the development of the so-called “privacy” networks. The BBG is a CIA offshoot: . . . .  The BBG might have had a bland sounding name and professed a noble mission to inform the world and spread democracy. In truth, the organization was an outgrowth of the Central Intelligence Agency. . . . The bulk of the BBG is no longer funded from the CIA’s black budget, but the agency’s original cold War goal and purpose—subversion and psychological operations directed against countries deemed hostile to US interests—remain the same. The only thing that did change about the BBG is that today, more of its broadcasts are taking place online . . . .”

After documenting Radio Free Europe’s growth from the Nazi/Vichy run Radio France during World War II and RCA’s David Sarnoff’s involvement with the Transradio Consortium (which communicated vital intelligence to the Axis during the war), the program highlights the involvement of Gehlen operatives in the operations of Radio Free Europe, the seminal CIA broadcasting outlets.

The BBG (read “CIA”) became a major backer of the Tor Project: ” . . . . . . . . It was Wednesday morning, February 8, 2006, when Roger Dingledine got the email he had been badly waiting for. The Broadcasting Board of Governors had finally agreed to back the Tor Project. . . . Within a year, the agency increased Tor’s contract to a quarter million dollars, and then bumped it up again to almost a million just a few years later. The relationship also led to major contracts with other federal agencies, boosting Tor’s meager operating budget to several million dollars a year. . . .”

Yasha Levine sums up the essence of the Tor Project: ” . . . . The Tor Project was not a radical indie organization fighting The Man. For all intents and purposes, it was The Man. Or, at least, The Man’s right hand. . . . internal correspondence reveals Tor’s close collaboration with the BBG and multiple other wings of the US government, in particular those that dealt with foreign policy and soft-power projection. Messages describe meetings, trainings, and conferences with the NSA, CIA, FBI and State Department. . . . The funding record tells the story even more precisely. . . . Tor was subsisting almost exclusively on government contracts. By 2008, that included  contracts with DARPA, the Navy, the BBG, and the State Department as well as Stanford Research Institute’s Cyber-Threat Analytics program. . . .” 

Next, we begin chronicling the career of Jacob Appelbaum. A devotee of Ayn Rand, he became one of Tor’s most important employees and promoters. . . . . Within months of getting the job, he assumed the role of official Tor Project spokesman and began promoting Tor as a powerful weapon against government oppression. . . . Over the next several years, Dingledine’s reports back to the BBG [read “CIA”–D.E.] were filled with descriptions of Appelbaum’s successful outreach. . . .”

Introducing a topic to be more fully explored in our next program, we note Appelbaum’s pivotal role in the WikiLeaks operation and his role in the adoption of Tor by WikiLeaks: ” . . . . Appelbaum decided to attach himself to the WikiLeaks cause. He spent a few weeks with Assange and the original WikiLeaks crew in Iceland as they prepared their first major release and helped secure the site’s anonymous submissions system using Tor’s hidden service feature, which hid the physical location of WikiLeaks servers and in theory made them much less susceptible to surveillance and attack. From then on, the WikiLeaks site proudly advertised Tor: ‘secure, anonymous, distributed network for maximum security.’ . . . . Appelbaum did his best to be Assange’s right-hand man. He served as the organization’s official American representative and bailed the founder of WikiLeaks out of tough spots when the heat from US authorities got too hot. Appelbaum became so intertwined with WikiLeaks that apparently some staffers talked about him leading the organization if something were to happen to Assange. . . . Assange gave Appelbaum and Tor wide credit for helping WikiLeaks. ‘Jake has been a tireless promoter behind the scenes of our cause,’ he told a reporter. ‘Tor’s importance to WikiLeaks cannot be underestimated.’ With those words, Appelbaum and the Tor Project became central heroes in the WikiLeaks saga, right behind Assange. . . .”

1. This segment of our series on Surveillance Valley takes up the development and operations of the Tor Project–the development of a supposedly secure Internet network.  Tor is, in fact, financed by elements of the very same intelligence community and national security establishment that supposedly frustrated/”locked out” by Tor!

Key points of analysis and discussion:

  1. Tor’s Silicon Valley backing: ” . . . . Privacy groups funded by companies like Google and Facebook, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Fight for the Future, were some of Tor’s biggest and most dedicated backers. Google had directly bankrolled its development, paying out generous grants to college students who worked at Tor during their summer vacations. Why would an Internet company whose entire business rested on tracking people online promote and help develop a powerful privacy tool? Something didn’t add up. . . .”
  2. Not surprisingly, Tor does not shield users from orgiastic data mining by Silicon Valley tech giants: ” . . . . Tor works only if people are dedicated to maintaining a strict anonymous Internet routine: using only dummy email addresses and bogus accounts, carrying out all financial transactions in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, and never mentioning their real name in emails or messages. For the vast majority of people on the Internet—those who use Gmail, interact with Facebook friends, and shop on Amazon—you reveal your identity. These companies know who you are. They know your name, your shipping address, your credit card information. They continue to scan your emails, map your social networks, and compile dossiers. Tor or not, once you enter your account name and password, Tor’s anonymity technology becomes useless. . . .”
  3. Silicon Valley’s support for Tor is something of a “false bromide”: ” . . . . After all, Snowden’s leaked documents revealed that anything Internet companies had, the NSA had as well. I was puzzled, but at least I understood why Tor had backing from Silicon Valley: it offered a false sense of privacy, while not posing a threat to the industry’s underlying surveillance model. . . .
  4. Tor is, in fact, financed by elements of the very same intelligence community and national security establishment that supposedly frustrated/”locked out” by Tor! ” . . . . But as I analyzed the organization’s financial documents, I found that the opposite was true. Tor had come out of a joint US Navy—DARPA military project in the early 2000s and continued to rely on a series of federal contracts after it was spun off into a private nonprofit. This funding came from the Pentagon, the State Department, and at least one organization that derived from the CIA. These contracts added up to several million dollars a year and, most years, and, most years, accounted for more than 90 percent of Tor’s operating budget. Tor was a federal military contractor. It even had its own federal contracting number. . . This included Tor’s founder, Roger Dingledine, who spent a summer working at the NSA and who had brought Tor to life under a series of DARPA and Navy contracts. . . .”
  5. Far from frustrating intelligence surveillance, Tor augments that effort! ” . . . . Tor, as well as the larger app-obsessed privacy movement that rallied around it after Snowden’s NSA leaks, does not thwart the power of the US government. It enhances it. The disclosures about Tor’s inner workings I obtained from the Broadcasting Board of Governors have never been made public before now. The story they tell is vital to our understanding of the Internet; they reveal that American military and intelligence interests are so deeply embedded in the fabric of the network that they dominate the very encryption tools and privacy organizations that are supposed to be in opposition to them. There is no escape. . . .”

Surveillance Valley by Yasha Levine; Public Affairs Books [HC]; Copyright 2018 by Yasha Levine; ISBN 978-1-61039-802-2; pp. 212-214.

. . . . My problems had begun when I started digging into the Tor Project. I investigated Tor’s central role in the privacy movement after Edward Snowden presented the project as a panacea to surveillance on the Internet. I wasn’t convinced, and it didn’t take long to find a basis for my initial suspicions.

The first red flag was its Silicon Valley support. Privacy groups funded by companies like Google and Facebook, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Fight for the Future, were some of Tor’s biggest and most dedicated backers. Google had directly bankrolled its development, paying out generous grants to college students who worked at Tor during their summer vacations. Why would an Internet company whose entire business rested on tracking people online promote and help develop a powerful privacy tool? Something didn’t add up.

As I dug into the technical details of how Tor worked, I quickly realized that the Tor Project offers no protection against the private tracking and profiling Internet companies carry out. Tor works only if people are dedicated to maintaining a strict anonymous Internet routine: using only dummy email addresses and bogus accounts, carrying out all financial transactions in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, and never mentioning their real name in emails or messages. For the vast majority of people on the Internet—those who use Gmail, interact with Facebook friends, and shop on Amazon—you reveal your identity. These companies know who you are. They know your name, your shipping address, your credit card information. They continue to scan your emails, map your social networks, and compile dossiers. Tor or not, once you enter your account name and password, Tor’s anonymity technology becomes useless.

Tor’s ineffectiveness against Silicon Valley surveillance made it an odd program for Snowden and other privacy activists to embrace. After all, Snowden’s leaked documents revealed that anything Internet companies had, the NSA had as well. I was puzzled, but at least I understood why Tor had backing from Silicon Valley: it offered a false sense of privacy, while not posing a threat to the industry’s underlying surveillance model.

What wasn’t clear, and what became apparent as I investigated Tor further, was why the US government supported it.

A big part of Tor’s mystique and appeal was that it was supposedly a fiercely independent and radical organization—an enemy of the state. Its official story was that it was funded by a wide variety of sources, which gave it total freedom to do whatever it wanted. But as I analyzed the organization’s financial documents, I found that the opposite was true. Tor had come out of a joint US Navy—DARPA military project in the early 2000s and continued to rely on a series of federal contracts after it was spun off into a private nonprofit. This funding came from the Pentagon, the State Department, and at least one organization that derived from the CIA. These contracts added up to several million dollars a year and, most years, accounted for more than 90 percent of Tor’s operating budget. Tor was a federal military contractor. It even had its own federal contracting number.

The deeper I went, the stranger it got. I learned that just about everyone involved in developing Tor was in some way tied up with the very state that they were supposed to be protecting people from. This included Tor’s founder, Roger Dingledine, who spent a summer working at the NSA and who had brought Tor to life under a series of DARPA and Navy contracts. I even uncovered an old audio copy of a talk Dingledine gave in 2004, right as he was setting up Tor as an independent organization. “I contract for the United States Government to build an anonymity technology for them and deploy it,” he admitted at the time. . . .

2. Far from frustrating intelligence surveillance, Tor augments that effort! ” . . . . Tor, as well as the larger app-obsessed privacy movement that rallied around it after Snowden’s NSA leaks, does not thwart the power of the US government. It enhances it. The disclosures about Tor’s inner workings I obtained from the Broadcasting Board of Governors have never been made public before now. The story they tell is vital to our understanding of the Internet; they reveal that American military and intelligence interests are so deeply embedded in the fabric of the network that they dominate the very encryption tools and privacy organizations that are supposed to be in opposition to them. There is no escape. . . .”

Surveillance Valley by Yasha Levine; Public Affairs Books [HC]; Copyright 2018 by Yasha Levine; ISBN 978-1-61039-802-2; pp. 223-234.

. . . . If Tor was truly the heart of the modern privacy movement and a real threat to the surveillance power of agencies like the NSA, why would the federal government—including the Pentagon, the parent of the NSA—continue to fund the organization? Why would the Pentagon support a technology that subverted its own power? It did not make any sense.

The documents in the box waiting on my doorstep contained the answer. Combined with other information unearthed during my investigation, they showed that Tor, as well as the larger app-obsessed privacy movement that rallied around it after Snowden’s NSA leaks, does not thwart the power of the US government. It enhances it.

The disclosures about Tor’s inner workings I obtained from the Broadcasting Board of Governors have never been made public before now. The story they tell is vital to our understanding of the Internet; they reveal that American military and intelligence interests are so deeply embedded in the fabric of the network that they dominate the very encryption tools and privacy organizations that are supposed to be in opposition to them. There is no escape. . . .

3. Widely regarded as a champion of Internet freedom and privacy, the Electronic Frontier Foundation helped finance Tor and championed its use.

Key elements of discussion and analysis of the EFF/Tor alliance include:

  1. EFF’s early financing of Tor: ” . . . . . . . . In 2004, [Roger] Dingledine struck out on his own, spinning the military onion routing project into a non-profit corporation called the Tor Project and, while still funded by DARPA and the Navy, began scratching around for private funding. He got help from an unexpected ally: the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which gave Tor almost a quarter million dollars to keep it going while Dingledine looked for other private sponsors. The EFF even hosted Tor’s website. . . .”
  2. The EFF’s effusive praise for the fundamentally compromised Tor Project: ” . . . . ‘The Tor Project is a perfect fit for EFF, because one of our primary goals is to protect the privacy and anonymity of Internet users. Tor can help people exercise their First Amendment right to free, anonymous speech online.’ EFF’s technology manager Chris Palmer explained in a 2004 press release, which curiously failed to mention that Tor was developed primarily for military intelligence use and was still actively funded by the Pentagon. . . .”
  3. The EFF’s history of working with elements of the national security establishment: ” . . . . In 1994, EFF worked with the FBI to pass the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, which required all telecommunications companies to build their equipment so that it could be wiretapped by the FBI. In 1999, EFF worked to support NATO’s bombing campaign in Kosovo with something called the ‘Kosovo Privacy Support,’ which aimed to keep the region’s Internet access open during military action. Selling a Pentagon intelligence project as a grassroots privacy tool—it didn’t seem all that wild. . . .”
  4.  In FTR #854, we noted that EFF co-founder John Perry Barlow was far more than a Grateful Dead lyricist/hippie icon: ” . . . . Indeed, in 2002, a few years before it funded Tor, EFF cofounder [John] Perry Barlow casually admitted that he had been consulting for intelligence agencies for a decade. It seemed that the worlds of soldiers, spies, and privacy weren’t as far apart as they appeared. . . .”
  5. EFF’s gravitas in the online privacy community lent Tor great credibility: ” . . . . EFF’s support for Tor was a big deal. The organization commanded respect in Silicon Valley and was widely seen as the ACLU of the Internet Age. The fact that it backed Tor meant that no hard questions would be asked about the anonymity tool’s military origins as it transitioned to the civilian world. And that’s exactly what happened. . . .”

  Surveillance Valley by Yasha Levine; Public Affairs Books [HC]; Copyright 2018 by Yasha Levine; ISBN 978-1-61039-802-2; pp. 227-228.

. . . . In 2004, [Roger] Dingledine struck out on his own, spinning the military onion routing project into a non-profit corporation called the Tor Project and, while still funded by DARPA and the Navy, began scratching around for private funding. He got help from an unexpected ally: the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which gave Tor almost a quarter million dollars to keep it going while Dingledine looked for other private sponsors. The EFF even hosted Tor’s website. To download the app, users had to browse to tor.eff.org, where they’d see a reassuring message from the EFF: “Your traffic is safe when you use Tor.”

Announcing its support, the EFF sang Tor’s praises. “The Tor Project is a perfect fit for EFF, because one of our primary goals is to protect the privacy and anonymity of Internet users. Tor can help people exercise their First Amendment right to free, anonymous speech online.” EFF’s technology manager Chris Palmer explained in a 2004 press release, which curiously failed to mention that Tor was developed primarily for military intelligence use and was still actively funded by the Pentagon.

Why would the EFF, a Silicon Valley advocacy group that positioned itself as a staunch critic of government surveillance programs, help sell a military intelligence communications tool to unsuspecting Internet users? Well, it wasn’t as strange as it seems.

EFF was only a decade old at the time, but it already had developed a history of working with law enforcement agencies and aiding the military. In 1994, EFF worked with the FBI to pass the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, which required all telecommunications companies to build their equipment so that it could be wiretapped by the FBI. In 1999, EFF worked to support NATO’s bombing campaign in Kosovo with something called the “Kosovo Privacy Support,” which aimed to keep the region’s Internet access open during military action. Selling a Pentagon intelligence project as a grassroots privacy tool—it didn’t seem all that wild. Indeed, in 2002, a few years before it funded Tor, EFF cofounder [John] Perry Barlow casually admitted that he had been consulting for intelligence agencies for a decade. It seemed that the worlds of soldiers, spies, and privacy weren’t as far apart as they appeared.

EFF’s support for Tor was a big deal. The organization commanded respect in Silicon Valley and was widely seen as the ACLU of the Internet Age. The fact that it backed Tor meant that no hard questions would be asked about the anonymity tool’s military origins as it transitioned to the civilian world. And that’s exactly what happened. . . .

7aIn FTR #’s 891 and 895, we noted the primary position of the Broadcasting Board of Governors in the development of the so-called “privacy” networks. The BBG is a CIA offshoot: . . . .  The BBG might have had a bland sounding name and professed a noble mission to inform the world and spread democracy. In truth, the organization was an outgrowth of the Central Intelligence Agency. . . . The bulk of the BBG is no longer funded from the CIA’s black budget, but the agency’s original cold War goal and purpose—subversion and psychological operations directed against countries deemed hostile to US interests—remain the same. The only thing that did change about the BBG is that today, more of its broadcasts are taking place online . . . .”

  Surveillance Valley by Yasha Levine; Public Affairs Books [HC]; Copyright 2018 by Yasha Levine; ISBN 978-1-61039-802-2; pp. 230-233.

. . . .  The BBG might have had a bland sounding name and professed a noble mission to inform the world and spread democracy. In truth, the organization was an outgrowth of the Central Intelligence Agency. . . .

. . . . The bulk of the BBG is no longer funded from the CIA’s black budget, but the agency’s original cold War goal and purpose—subversion and psychological operations directed against countries deemed hostile to US interests—remain the same. The only thing that did change about the BBG is that today, more of its broadcasts are taking place online . . . .

7b. In our long series of interviews with Jim DiEugenio about his masterwork Destiny Betrayed, we highlighted veteran intelligence officer Walter Sheridan’s broadcast hatchet job on New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison’s investigation of the JFK assassination. The TV hit piece was broadcast on the NBC network.

In our discussion of the Sheridan broadcast, we noted the efforts of RCA chief David Sarnoff in resurrecting the Nazi-run Radio France station and presiding over its conversion to Radio Free Europe, precursor to the BBG. (RCA is the parent company of NBC, which aired the Sheridan broadcast.) In resurrecting Radio France and midwiving its conversion to Radio Free Europe, Sarnoff, who is Jewish, was building on profound and treasonous Axis connections he maintained during the war.

Key points of analysis and discussion include David Sarnoff’s successful efforts to restore and expand the Nazi Radio France Station and re-brand it as “Radio Free Europe.” (Radio France was taken over by the Nazis and the Vichy puppet regime, and then sabotaged as the Third Reich withdrew from France. ” . . . . In 1944, Sarnoff worked for the complete restoration of the Nazi destroyed Radio France station in Paris until its signal was able to reach throughout Europe. It was then retitled Radio Free Europe. He later lobbied the White House to expand the range and reach of Radio Free Europe. At about this point, Radio Free Europe became a pet project of Allen Dulles. Sarnoff’s company, Radio Corporation of America, became a large part of the technological core of the NSA. . . . Robert was president of RCA, NBC’s parent company, at the time Sheridan’s special aired. David was chairman. . . .”

Destiny Betrayed by Jim DiEugenio; Skyhorse Publishing [SC]; Copyright 1992, 2012 by Jim DiEugenio; ISBN 978-1-62087-056-3; p. 255.

. . . . It is relevant to note here that General David Sarnoff, founder of NBC, worked for the Signal Corps during World War II as a reserve officer. In 1944, Sarnoff worked for the complete restoration of the Nazi destroyed Radio France station in Paris until its signal was able to reach throughout Europe. It was then retitled Radio Free Europe. He later lobbied the White House to expand the range and reach of Radio Free Europe. At about this point, Radio Free Europe became a pet project of Allen Dulles. Sarnoff’s company, Radio Corporation of America, became a large part of the technological core of the NSA. During the war, David’s son Robert worked in the broadcast arm of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the CIA. Robert was president of RCA, NBC’s parent company, at the time Sheridan’s special aired. David was chairman. . .

7c. In Trading with the Enemy, Charles Higham chronicled the deep involvement of David Sarnoff with the Transradio Consortium, which joined the Axis nations with the Western Allies in a telecommunications cartel that provided vital–and lethal–intelligence to the Axis during the war.

Key points of analysis and discussion include:

  1. Sarnoff’s RCA was part of the Transradio Consortium, something of a broadcast cartel melding Axis and Western Allied broadcast establishments: ” . . . . RCA was in partnership before and after Pearl Harbor with British Cable and Wireless; with Telefunken, the Nazi company; with Italcable, wholly owned by the Mussolini government; and with Vichy’s Compagnie Generale, in an organization known as the Transradio Consortium, with General Robert C. Davis, head of the New York Chapter of the American Red Cross, as its chairman. In turn, RCA, British Cable and Wireless, and the German and Italian companies had a share with ITT in TTP (Telegrafica y Telefonica del Plata), an Axis-controlled company providing telegraph and telephone service between Buenos Aires and Montevideo. Nazis in Montevideo could telephone Buenos Aires through TTP without coming under the control of either the state-owned system in Uruguay or the ITT system in Argentina. Messages, often dangerous to American security, were transmitted directly to Berlin and Rome by Transradio. Another shareholder was ITT’s German ‘rival,’ Siemens, which linked cables and networks with Behn south of Panama. . . .”
  2. Transradio Consortium was the vehicle for lethally treasonous communications during the war: ” . . . . But the public, which thought of Sarnoff as a pillar of patriotism, would have been astonished to learn of his partnership with the enemy through Transradio and TTP. The British public, beleaguered and bombed, would have been equally shocked to learn that British Cable and Wireless, 10 percent owned by the British government, and under virtual government control in wartime, was in fact also in partnership with the Germans and Italians through the same companies and proxies. . . . Simultaneously, the Transradio stations, according to State Department reports with the full knowledge of David Sarnoff, kept up a direct line to Berlin. The amount of intelligence passed along the lines can scarcely be calculated. The London office was in constant touch with New York throughout the war, sifting through reports from Argentina, Brazil, and Chile and sending company reports to the Italian and German interests. . . .”

  Trading with the Enemy: An Expose of the Nazi-American Money Plot 1933-1949 by Charles Higham; Delacorte Press [HC]; Copyright 1983 by Charles Higham; ISBN 10-0440090644; 13-978-0440090649; pp. 104-107.

. . . . In South America, Sosthenes Behn was in partnership (as well as rivalry) with an even more powerful organism: the giant Radio Corporation of America, which owned the NBC radio network. RCA was in partnership before and after Pearl Harbor with British Cable and Wireless; with Telefunken, the Nazi company; with Italcable, wholly owned by the Mussolini government; and with Vichy’s Compagnie Generale, in an organization known as the Transradio Consortium, with General Robert C. Davis, head of the New York Chapter of the American Red Cross, as its chairman. In turn, RCA, British Cable and Wireless, and the German and Italian companies had a share with ITT in TTP (Telegrafica y Telefonica del Plata), an Axis-controlled company providing telegraph and telephone service between Buenos Aires and Montevideo. Nazis in Montevideo could telephone Buenos Aires through TTP without coming under the control of either the state-owned system in Uruguay or the ITT system in Argentina.

Messages, often dangerous to American security, were transmitted directly to Berlin and Rome by Transradio. Another shareholder was ITT’s German “rival,” Siemens, which linked cables and networks with Behn south of Panama.

The head of RCA during World War II was Colonel David Sarnoff, a stocky, square-set, determined man with a slow, subdued voice, who came from Russia as an immigrant at the turn of the century and began as a newspaper seller, messenger boy, and Marconi Wireless operator. . . .

. . . . After Pearl Harbor, Sarnoff cabled Roosevelt, “All of our facilities and personnel are ready and at your instant service. We await your command.” Sarnoff played a crucial role, as crucial as Behn’s, in the U.S. war effort, and, like Behn, he was given a colonelcy in the U.S. Signal Corps. He solved complex problems, dealt with a maze of difficult requirements by the twelve million members of the U.S. armed forces, and coordinated details related to the Normandy landings. He prepared the whole printed and electronic press-coverage of V-J day; in London in 1944, with headquarters at Claridge’s Hotel, he was Eisenhower’s inspired consultant and earned the Medal of Merit for his help in the occupation of Europe.

Opening in 1943 with a chorus of praise from various generals, the new RCA laboratories had proved to be indispensable in time of war.

But the public, which thought of Sarnoff as a pillar of patriotism, would have been astonished to learn of his partnership with the enemy through Transradio and TTP. The British public, beleaguered and bombed, would have been equally shocked to learn that British Cable and Wireless, 10 percent owned by the British government, and under virtual government control in wartime, was in fact also in partnership with the Germans and Italians through the same companies and proxies. . . .

. . . . Simultaneously, the Transradio stations, according to State Department reports with the full knowledge of David Sarnoff, kept up a direct line to Berlin. The amount of intelligence passed along the lines can scarcely be calculated. The London office was in constant touch with New York throughout the war, sifting through reports from Argentina, Brazil, and Chile and sending company reports to the Italian and German interests.

7d. Relying on Gehlen “org” personnel and alumni, Radio Free Europe built effectively up from fascist foundations to corresponding functional reality:

Surveillance Valley by Yasha Levine; Public Affairs Books [HC]; Copyright 2018 by Yasha Levine; ISBN 978-1-61039-802-2; p. 232.

. . . . In some cases, the  stations, especially  those targeting Ukraine, Germany, and the  Baltic States, were staffed by known Nazi collaborators and broadcast anti-Semitic propaganda. . . . 

8. The BBG (read “CIA”) was a major backer of the Tor Project: ” . . . . . . . . It was Wednesday morning, February 8, 2006, when Roger Dingledine got the email he had been badly waiting for. The Broadcasting Board of Governors had finally agreed to back the Tor Project. . . . Within a year, the agency increased Tor’s contract to a quarter million dollars, and then bumped it up again to almost a million just a few years later. The relationship also led to major contracts with other federal agencies, boosting Tor’s meager operating budget to several million dollars a year. . . .”

Surveillance Valley by Yasha Levine; Public Affairs Books [HC]; Copyright 2018 by Yasha Levine; ISBN 978-1-61039-802-2; pp. 228-229.

. . . . It was Wednesday morning, February 8, 2006, when Roger Dingledine got the email he had been badly waiting for. The Broadcasting Board of Governors had finally agreed to back the Tor Project. . . .

. . . . The Broadcasting Board of Governors, or BBG, seemed to offer a compromise. A large federal agency with close ties to the State Department, BBG ran America’s foreign broadcasting operation: Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and Radio Free Asia. It was a government agency, so that wasn’t ideal. But at least it had an altruistic-sounding mission:  “to inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.” Anyway, government or not, Dingledine didn’t have much choice. Money was tight and this seemed to be the best he could line up. So he said yes.

It was a smart move. The initial $80,000 was just the beginning. Within a year, the agency increased Tor’s contract to a quarter million dollars, and then bumped it up again to almost a million just a few years later. The relationship also led to major contracts with other federal agencies, boosting Tor’s meager operating budget to several million dollars a year. . . .

9The essence of the Tor Project: ” . . . . The Tor Project was not a radical indie organization fighting The Man. For all intents and purposes, it was The Man. Or, at least, The Man’s right hand. . . . internal correspondence reveals Tor’s close collaboration with the BBG and multiple other wings of the US government, in particular those that dealt with foreign policy and soft-power projection. Messages describe meetings, trainings, and conferences with the NSA, CIA, FBI and State Department. . . . The funding record tells the story even more precisely. . . . Tor was subsisting almost exclusively on government contracts. By 2008, that included  contracts with DARPA, the Navy, the BBG, and the State Department as well as Stanford Research Institute’s Cyber-Threat Analytics program. . . .” 

  Surveillance Valley by Yasha Levine; Public Affairs Books [HC]; Copyright 2018 by Yasha Levine; ISBN 978-1-61039-802-2; pp. 237-238.

. . . . The correspondence left little room for doubt. The Tor Project was not a radical indie organization fighting The Man. For all intents and purposes, it was The Man. Or, at least, The Man’s right hand. Intermixed with updates on new hires, status reports, chatty suggestions for hikes and vacation spots, and the usual office banter, internal correspondence reveals Tor’s close collaboration with the BBG and multiple other wings of the US government, in particular those that dealt with foreign policy and soft-power projection. Messages describe meetings, trainings, and conferences with the NSA, CIA, FBI and State Department. There are strategy sessions and discussions about the need to influence news coverage and control bad press. The correspondence also shows Tor employees taking orders from their handlers in the federal government, including plans to deploy their anonymity tool in countries deemed hostile to US interests; China, Iran, Vietnam, and, of course, Russia. . . .

. . . . The funding record tells the story even more precisely. . . . Tor was subsisting almost exclusively on government contracts. By 2008, that included  contracts with DARPA, the Navy, the BBG, and the State Department as well as Stanford Research Institute’s Cyber-Threat Analytics program. . . . 

10. Next, we highlight the career of Jacob Appelbaum, the American WikiLeaker. This supposed “progressive” is a devotee of Ayn Rand.

   Surveillance Valley by Yasha Levine; Public Affairs Books [HC]; Copyright 2018 by Yasha Levine; ISBN 978-1-61039-802-2; p. 239.

 . . . . Like most young libertarians, he was enchanted by Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, which he described as one of his favorite books. “I took up this book while I was traveling around Europe last year. Most of my super left wing friends really dislike Ayn Rand for some reason or another. I cannot even begin to fathom why, but hey, to each their own,” he wrote in his blog diary. “While reading The Fountainhead, I felt like I was reading a story about people that I knew in my everyday life. The characters were simple. The story was simple. What I found compelling was the moral behind the story. I suppose it may be summed up in one line . . . Those that seek to gather you together for selfless actions, wish to enslave you for their own gain.” . . . .

11. Appelbaum went to work for the Tor Project and did much to foster use of the network: . . . . Within months of getting the job, he assumed the role of official Tor Project spokesman and began promoting Tor as a powerful weapon against government oppression. . . . Over the next several years, Dingledine’s reports back to the BBG [read “CIA”–D.E.] were filled with descriptions of Appelbaum’s successful outreach. . . .”

   Surveillance Valley by Yasha Levine; Public Affairs Books [HC]; Copyright 2018 by Yasha Levine; ISBN 978-1-61039-802-2; pp. 240—241.

. . . . And in 2008, Appelbaum finally got his dream job—a position that could expand with his giant ego and ambition.

In April of that year, Dingledine hired him as a  full-time Tor contractor. He had a starting salary of $96,000 plus benefits and was put to work making Tor more user-friendly. He was a good coder, but he didn’t stay focused on the technical side for long. As Dingledine discovered, Appelbaum proved better and much more useful at something else: branding and public relations. . . .

. . . . Within months of getting the job, he assumed the role of official Tor Project spokesman and began promoting Tor as a powerful weapon against government oppression. . . .

. . . . Over the next several years, Dingledine’s reports back to the BBG [read “CIA”–D.E.] were filled with descriptions of Appelbaum’s successful outreach. “Lots of Tor advocacy,” wrote Dingledine.  “Another box of Tor stickers applied to many laptops. Lots of people were interested in Tor and many people installed Tor on both laptops and servers. This advocacy resulted in at least two new high bandwidth nodes that he helped the administrators configure.” Internal documents show that the proposed budget for Dingledine and Appelbaum’s global publicity program was $20,000 a year, which included a public relations strategy. “Crafting a message that the media can understand is a critical piece of this,” Dingledine explained in a 2008 proposal. “This isn’t so much about getting good press about Tor as it is about preparing journalists so if they see bad press and consider spreading it further, they’ll stop and think.” . . . .

12. Next, we discuss Appelbaum’s networking with Julian Assange, and how that liaison led to Tor being used for the allegedly secure, anonymous WikiLeaks operation.

” . . . . Appelbaum decided to attach himself to the WikiLeaks cause. He spent a few weeks with Assange and the original WikiLeaks crew in Iceland as they prepared their first major release and helped secure the site’s anonymous submissions system using Tor’s hidden service feature, which hid the physical location of WikiLeaks servers and in theory made them much less susceptible to surveillance and attack. From then on, the WikiLeaks site proudly advertised Tor: ‘secure, anonymous, distributed network for maximum security.’ . . . . Appelbaum did his best to be Assange’s right-hand man. He served as the organization’s official American representative and bailed the founder of WikiLeaks out of tough spots when the heat from US authorities got too hot. Appelbaum became so intertwined with WikiLeaks that apparently some staffers talked about him leading the organization if something were to happen to Assange. . . . Assange gave Appelbaum and Tor wide credit for helping WikiLeaks. ‘Jake has been a tireless promoter behind the scenes of our cause,’ he told a reporter. ‘Tor’s importance to WikiLeaks cannot be underestimated.’ With those words, Appelbaum and the Tor Project became central heroes in the WikiLeaks saga, right behind Assange. . . .”

Surveillance Valley by Yasha Levine; Public Affairs Books [HC]; Copyright 2018 by Yasha Levine; ISBN 978-1-61039-802-2; pp. 242—243.

. . . . Jacob Appelbaum and Julian Assange had met in Berlin sometime in 2005, just as the mysterious Australian hacker was getting ready to set WikiLeaks in motion. . . .

. . . . Appelbaum decided to attach himself to the WikiLeaks cause. He spent a few weeks with Assange and the original WikiLeaks crew in Iceland as they prepared their first major release and helped secure the site’s anonymous submissions system using Tor’s hidden service feature, which hid the physical location of WikiLeaks servers and in theory made them much less susceptible to surveillance and attack. From then on, the WikiLeaks site proudly advertised Tor: “secure, anonymous, distributed network for maximum security.” . . . .

. . . . Assange was suddenly one of the most famous people in he world—a fearless radical taking on the awesome power of the United States. Appelbaum did his best to be Assange’s right-hand man. He served as the organization’s official American representative and bailed the founder of WikiLeaks out of tough spots when the heat from US authorities got too hot. Appelbaum became so intertwined with WikiLeaks that apparently some staffers talked about him leading the organization if something were to happen to Assange. But Assange kept firm control of WikiLeaks, even after he was forced to go into hiding at the Ecuadorian embassy in London to escape extradition back to Sweden to face an investigation of rape allegations.

It’s not clear whether Assange knew that Appelbaum’s salary was being paid by the same  government he was trying to destroy. What  is clear is that Assange gave Appelbaum and Tor wide credit for helping WikiLeaks. “Jake has been a tireless promoter behind the scenes of our cause,” he told a reporter. “Tor’s importance to WikiLeaks cannot be underestimated.”

With those words, Appelbaum and the Tor Project became central heroes in the WikiLeaks saga, right behind Assange. . . .

Discussion

One comment for “FTR #1078 Surveillance Valley, Part 4: Tor Up (Foxes Guarding the Online Privacy Henhouse, Part 1.)”

  1. Peter Thiel created news a couple days ago when he suggested during a speech at the National Conservatism Conference that Google should be investigated for possible treason over what Thiel describes as Google’s decision to cooperate with the Chinese government but not the US government and the infiltration of Google’s executive board by the Chinese government. Thiel’s charges were made in the context of a discussion about the potential military applications of AI and the nation-state AI race created by this potential military use and a reference to the parallel stories of Google agreeing to work with the Chinese government in building a censored search engine at the same time Google ended a contract with the US Department of Defense that allowed the DOD to use Google’s artificial intelligence tools to analyze drone footage. So it’s going to be interesting to see how Google responds. Not just a response defending itself from Thiel’s charges but also a response hitting back at Palantir.

    What unpleasant things about Palantir and Thiel might Google decide to start talking about? We’ll see, but it looks like Thiel is itching to start a Silicon Valley Defense Contractor fight. Presumably part of the motive is to gain advantage in the bidding wars for national security AI government contracts.

    But given that Thiel’s comments happened on Sunday, the same day President Trump’s high-profile pre-announced multi-city mass deportation ICE raids of undocumented immigrants started, it’s worth keeping in mind that part of the motive for Thiel’s decision to pick a fight with Google may have involved preemptively deflecting attention away from the role Palantir plays in providing mass databases of immigrants for ICE. Palantir’s software is used to build profiles on immigrants by merging databases from multiple sources including DHS and the FBI. So it’s going to be interesting to see if Google ends up finding a way to publicly bring up Palantir’s role building immigrant databases for ICE.

    But as the following article makes clear, Palantir isn’t the only Silicon Valley contractor building large comprehensive databases about people for the US government. The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Biometric Identity Management is replacing its biometric analysis platform. The current system, called the the Automated Biometric Identification System, or IDENT, is a database of biometric data and biographical data collected by government agencies, including the Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection, Secret Service and other DHS agencies. IDENT is billed as allowing officials to quickly identify suspected terrorists, immigration violators, criminals and anyone else included in their databases. So it’s worth keeping that mass biometrics could be part of any current of future mass immigration raids. The capability is already there in IDENT, and now that system is getting an upgrade.

    The planned new biometrics system, the Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology System, or HART, will expand on those capabilities with tools that can identify individuals based on DNA, palm prints, scars, physical markings and tattoos.

    Northrop Grumman won a $95 million contract to develop the first two stages of the HART system but that contract will expire in 2021. The government is going to be soliciting bids for the next phase of development, so that’s going to be a bidding war to watch since the winner is going to get to get access to that massive biometric database.

    DHS can also access the State Department’s Consular Consolidated Database of 500 million passport, visa, and expat records, along with the databases of “several foreign governments as well as state, local, tribal and territorial law enforcement agencies.” In addition, DHS shares its biometric database with other government agencies like the DOD and FBI, so the HART database is going to draw information in from more than just the DHS’s agencies and then shared with more than just DHS.

    There’s another aspect of HART that’s going to be contracted out and the contractor has already been selected: while IDENT was hosted on government-run servers, the new HART system will be hosted on Amazon’s cloud for government services (the “GovCloud”), which should make accessing it much easier for all sorts of agencies. As the article notes, Amazon already provides cloud services for sensitive information for the CIA, DOD, NASA, and other federal agencies. So at this point we can be confident that Amazon is going to be really, really, really good at identifying specific individuals for the foreseeable future:

    NextGov

    DHS to Move Biometric Data on Hundreds of Millions of People to Amazon Cloud

    By JACK CORRIGAN
    JUNE 19, 2019

    The Homeland Security Department is looking to upgrade the software it uses to analyze biometric data on hundreds of millions of people around the globe, and it plans to store that information in Amazon’s cloud.

    The agency’s Office of Biometric Identity Management will replace its legacy biometric analysis platform, called the Automated Biometric Identification System, or IDENT, with a new, more robust system hosted by Amazon Web Services, according to a request for information released Monday.

    IDENT essentially serves as an enterprisewide clearinghouse for troves of biometric and biographic data collected by the Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection, Secret Service and other Homeland Security components. The system links fingerprint, iris and face data to biographic information, allowing officials to quickly identify suspected terrorists, immigration violators, criminals and anyone else included in their databases.

    In total, IDENT contains information on more than 250 million people, a Homeland Security spokesperson told Nextgov.

    According to the solicitation, Homeland Security is in the process of replacing IDENT with the Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology System, or HART. The new system will include the same biometric recognition features as its predecessor, and potentially additional tools that could identify individuals based on DNA, palm prints, scars, physical markings and tattoos.

    Whereas IDENT stores records in government-run data centers, the Homeland Security solicitation states “HART will reside in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) FedRAMP certified GovCloud.” Further, “biometric matching capabilities for fingerprint, iris, and facial matching will be integrated with HART in the Amazon Web Services GovCloud.” Amazon Web Services will also store HART’s biometric image data.

    Amazon Web Services’ GovCloud US-East and US-West regions are data centers specifically built by the company to house some of the government’s most restricted information. AWS is no stranger to hosting sensitive government data, having already claimed the CIA, Defense Department, NASA and other federal agencies as customers in part because of perceived security improvements over government legacy systems.

    When reached for comment, an AWS spokesperson referred inquiries to DHS.

    In 2018, Northrop Grumman won a $95 million contract to develop the first two stages of the HART system, and its contract is set to expire in 2021. The department plans to use responses to the latest solicitation to inform its strategy for further developing the platform, the DHS spokesperson said.

    Specifically, officials are asking vendors for ideas on how to build those multiple identification functions into the new system, while leaving room to add any new recognition “modalities” as they arise. Officials also want input on developing a handful of general reporting, analytics and search tools, as well as desktop and mobile web portals where Homeland Security employees can access the system.

    In addition to the hundreds of millions of records stored locally in its IDENT system, Homeland Security can also access swaths of biometric information housed at other agencies.

    According to the solicitation, the agency shares biometric data and technology with the Defense Department and the FBI, which can access some 640 million photos for its own facial recognition operations. Officials also said they can tap into the State Department’s Consular Consolidated Database—which contained nearly 500 million passport, visa and expat records as of 2016—as well as the databases of “several foreign governments as well as state, local, tribal and territorial law enforcement agencies.”

    The government’s use of biometric technology, particularly facial recognition, has come under sharp scrutiny in recent months. Members of the House Oversight Committee have expressed broad bipartisan support for reining in the use of biometrics at agencies like the FBI, and on Monday, a group of lawmakers raised concerns about CBP’s expanding facial recognition program.

    ———-

    “DHS to Move Biometric Data on Hundreds of Millions of People to Amazon Cloud” by JACK CORRIGAN; NextGov; 06/19/2019

    “Whereas IDENT stores records in government-run data centers, the Homeland Security solicitation states “HART will reside in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) FedRAMP certified GovCloud.” Further, “biometric matching capabilities for fingerprint, iris, and facial matching will be integrated with HART in the Amazon Web Services GovCloud.” Amazon Web Services will also store HART’s biometric image data.

    Well, let’s hope Amazon’s GovCloud doesn’t get hacked. And keeps its GovCloud employees happy.

    when it comes to future mass deportation ICE raids, it sounds like the HART system will be central to that since it will allow officials to quickly identify suspected immigration law violators:


    IDENT essentially serves as an enterprisewide clearinghouse for troves of biometric and biographic data collected by the Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection, Secret Service and other Homeland Security components. The system links fingerprint, iris and face data to biographic information, allowing officials to quickly identify suspected terrorists, immigration violators, criminals and anyone else included in their databases.

    In total, IDENT contains information on more than 250 million people, a Homeland Security spokesperson told Nextgov.

    According to the solicitation, Homeland Security is in the process of replacing IDENT with the Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology System, or HART. The new system will include the same biometric recognition features as its predecessor, and potentially additional tools that could identify individuals based on DNA, palm prints, scars, physical markings and tattoos.

    You have to wonder if Palantir’s database of profiles on immigrants will be incorporated into the HART system. You also have to wonder if Palantir is going to get access to the system. Based on Palantir’s business model is seems like exactly the kind of database Palantir would get access to. And that points towards one of the other big questions for this planned system: we know government agencies outside of DHS will be able to access it. But how about all the Silicon Valley contractors working for the government like Palantir, Google, and all the rest. Will they also get to access HART as part of their government work? If so, we should probably expect more than just Amazon to get really, really, really good at identifying people, including people targeted for politicized mass deportations.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 16, 2019, 12:34 pm

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