On Sunday June 12 the New York Times ran an exclusive story about a new State Department funded “Stealth Internet” to aid dissidents living under oppressive regimes. Since that release the coverage has exploded and sent the State Department into damage control mode. Due to the heightened media interest in the program the State Department did something that I have never seen them do; they held a press conference in which the officials speaking on behalf of the Department were not to be named. Journalists were told they could not identify the representatives and to refer to them as “State Department Official One” and “State Department Official Two” (Full transcript here)
Rather than blow over smoothly the Times piece, as well as other stories, caused an immediate uproar. In our follow up investigation (Government Stealth Internet Part 1) it was revealed that TOR was previously created by the Naval Research Laboratory and its security failed writ large; regimes were able to exploit the security holes to round up dissidents. Hence the hasty efforts by the State Department to replace it. Plus we know better. In this instance we saw ahead of the New York Times piece; earlier this month the Navy once again was looking to fill “cyber executive fellowships”.
Taking questions over the phone State Department Official One immediately rejects the notion that this new project is about “cloak and dagger” or “James Bond”. The Times did not make such a claim, nor did our follow up investigation. As a matter of fact our narrative strictly focused on the failure of their previous attempts and drew the conclusion that a new effort was obviously needed. As State Dept Official One confirms “we are watching the need for this kind of support play out in real time as we look across the Middle East.” But they had TOR. It was promoted by the State Department and affiliate programs. So if something more is needed now then obviously TOR was was not sufficient. This proves our claim from part one.
But when asked about issuing grants for developing these circumvention technologies a member of the press asks what type of vetting is done in order to make sure the right group(s) get the proper funding. “You don’t want terrorists.”, states the journalist, “So you’d have to draw the line somewhere, I suppose.” In which State Department Official One responds “By law we can’t-obviously by law we are restricted in our funding and we do have to make sure that its not a terrorist” However, their previous technology (TOR) was used to detain, torture, and murder (in some cases) dissidents.
“Terrorists”, as defined by the US Government were not the perpetraitors in these instances but rather regime officials. State Department Official One goes on to explain that they do have a “negative screen” of sorts for these programs but “no positive screen”. In other words, any group that defines itself in positive terms can be a recipient of this technology. Once again, governments, in the near future, may fall into this category; much like the Mubarak regime was defined by US government standards.
As much as we wish this debacle would end here it does not. New programs as recent as this past winter were funding and training Tunisian activists. As our readers know, Tunisia, until this revelation seemed spontaneous. In fact, most pundits already knew that the Egyptian revolution was planned but cited the Tunisian revolution as purely coincidental; possibly fueling Egyptian activists to finally take to Tahrir Square. It wasn’t spontaneous. It was all planned; every bit. By admission of unnamed State Department Officials we now learn that they (Tunisians) were trained as well. Stay tuned for part 4.
- Government Stealth Internet Part 2: Who is creating it, and how dangerous are they? (yourdaddy.net)
- New Government Stealth Internet-Because the last one failed (yourdaddy.net)
- Stealth Internet-State Dept freaks out (ameristroika.wordpress.com)
- New Government Stealth Internet-Because the last one failed (via YourDaddy’s Politics) (wdednh.wordpress.com)
- Muslim Brotherhood Egypt: State Dept Funds from 2007 (ameristroika.wordpress.com)
- U.S. sponsors Internet-in-a-suitcase to circumvent censors (nytimes.com)
- US Underwrites Internet Detour Around Censors – New York Times (news.google.com)
- U.S. Underwrites Internet Detour Around Censors (deurainfosec.com)
- U.S. bankrolls ‘shadow’ Internet for dissidents abroad: report (canada.com)
- Secret US effort aims to help dissidents – report – Reuters (news.google.com)