I am not sure whether being called a cybergeek spy is a good or a bad thing. I am also not sure what this appeared in or when, but I found it on the net in electronic form.
A Brave New World Order
Tomorrow’s Cybergeek Spies
by Rob Walters
Francis Bacon said that knowledge is power. In the information age, this translates to “Knowledge is War.”
Robert David Steele is a self-proclaimed soothsayer for this new paradigm of national defense, and specializes in counter-intelligence. His organization, Open Source Solutions (OSS, Inc.), has been lobbying the public, media, government and covert intelligence to update their way of thinking.
Steele has worked for the U.S. Dept. of State in El Salvador, Panama and Venezuela, and served three tours in Washington as the desk officer for Central America. For the U.S. Marine Corps, Steele was a managment analyst for the National Foreign Intelligence Office, later working as an assistant to the Chief of Staff for Command, Control, Communications, Computing and Intelligence (C4I).
OSS, Inc. chartered as a non profit educational lobby for smart American spies, media and academia, wishing to set a national policy for more efficient and cognitive information management. Today, though, the group also hires itself out.
According to Steele’s model, collective intelligence is the best form of security for a population. Until now, the ruling wisdom was tightly held by a small elite group. That is because the agricultural and industrial revolutions segmented knowledge among various classes of leadership, and this hierarchy has remained stagnant for centuries. The info age instead taps each and every brain, transforming the pyramid into a brainy hive.
The worldwide field of play for war and intelligence has reshaped and shifted dimension upon meeting the microchip. Historically, holding onto turf was important to countries — a result of the agricultural revolution. Intelligence consisted of army coordinates and directions, food supplies, weather. Later, industrialization made tactics and weapons paramount, C3I taking techno factors into consideration. Spies broke codes, intercepted radio, stole rocket and a-bomb secrets.
Lately, Steele forewarns, challenges of the Third Wave, or information age, are already upon us. We now need to acquire and retain knowledge. Command, control and communications has met its match, the computer. Turf and techno figure much less in the new era. Today, info is king — it defines wealth and defies space, time and energy. Hackers rule the world through C4I, or its strategic disruption.
Countries and corporations have found themselves drowned in a universe of data — changing so rapidly, exponentially, and without notice, that superior knowledge is necessary to prevail. One wrong move and entire continents can become crippled.
National security can, and sometimes does, hinge on tiny facts, in the right hands, at the right time, under the right circumstances. These facts can be worthless without knowing how to apply the data constructively. Such an environment, facing the world today, necessitates a rapid system of information management. In modern intelligence, classified secrets have become nearly obsolete because critical information must move very rapidly; secrecy protocols pose a fatal delay factor.
“The pace of war is so fast these days, that security has become an albatross,” Steele stated at a recent OSS convention of intelligence experts. Qutoing a Navy wing commander from the Gulf War, “If [intelligence] is 85% accurate, on time, and I can share it, that is a lot more useful to me than a compendium of Top Secret Codeword information that is too much, too late, and requires a safe and three security officers to move it around the battlefield.”
Intelligence is processed info, and needs a purpose. It is data tailored to an outward design, in whatever form most useful to the agent’s customer. While covert agencies submit classified reports to policy makers regarding national issues, mainstream media usually gets the same point across quicker, cheaper, and with greater overall comprehension.
Cable News Network, as the Gulf War illustrated, seems a more reliable model than traditional intelligence systems used by powerful countries. So the spy community is opening a few doors doors to emulate CNN. And what do we find revealed? More CNN!
Statistics show that 80% of all “intelligence” consists of public material. And, from the ocean of open source data available, the intelligence community collects just ten percent, putting a mere one percent to proper use.
Attributing the above statistics to Steele, as intelligence, first requires assessing and analyzing his qualifications; the statistic is info, and knowing who Steele is, and how that info pertains to a question helps define, or redefine, “intelligence.”
More and more, it has become obvious to covert military intelligence agencies that media organizations such as Cable News Network, working alongside commercial information databases and unorganized media such as internet newsgroups, are better appraised on issues and situations overall than they are.
The CIA defines “open source” material as “any information that may be used in an unclassified context without compromising national security or intelligence sources and methods.” Recognizing modern needs to outgrow the covert mentality, the CIA formed the Community Open Source Program Office (COSPO) to share open source information (OSINF) between various and sundry secret agencies. COSPO helps OSINF reach its destination quicker and cheaper, removing the heavy top secrecy burden. Their “World Factbook” CD-ROM is one example.
Thus, OSINF is a more tactical form of C4I. “Do not send a spy where a schoolboy can go,” says the COSPO mission statement. Christopher C. Straub, Lt. Col., Ret., U.S. Army, the Minority staff director of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, agrees. “Defenders of the status quo say the public doesn’t want to know the secrets anyway. If so, who is reading all the news stories on intelligence, many containing apparent leaked secrets, and why are editors putting these stories on the front page? Secrecy breeds distrust,” he said.
To meet ends, COSPO spins off more groups, such as the National Foreign Intelligence Program (NFIP), designed to “maintain a robust worldwide collection capability,” and INTELINK to “provide an architecture and infrastructure to facilitate communication and information distribution within the Intelligence Community and beyond, at the unclassified level, to support open source activities.”
All this requires some redefinitions of traditional terms. Among the newspeak vocabulary are revised meanings for “war” and “intelligence.” The first is expanded to include electronic and economic attacks on a population; the second weeds out useless info “noise” from unanalyzed data. The implications of these small changes are far from subtle.
Steele goes on record stating his view that the *Central* Intelligence Agency is doomed. “The way in which it is now organized and managed is so ineffective and inconsistent with the realities of today, that it must inevitably join the mammoths in the tar pit. That is not to say that we do not require its capabilities” In its place, according to Steele and his networked companions, the “cloak & dagger” wing of the CIA should be transformed into a “Clandestine Services Agency (CSA),” enjoying “complete non-official cover.”
To facilitate these reforms, OSS, Inc. has launched a World Wide Web site (www.oss.net) containing a plethora of documents which should have been national secrets before the advent of COSPO. Included, an Intelligence Handbook several hundred pages in length. Steele’s site is hyperlinked to the National Military Intelligence Association (NMIA), which itself branches off to web sites run by several dozen covert government agencies. This information prepares agents for the 21st-Century.
Which is exactly Steele’s point, for the internet links not only computers together, but also millions of human brains. He sees America’s most precious resource as the nation’s collective intelligence — a Howlitzer of economic strategy, ability and competitiveness, matching a complex and rapidly changing world. Thus, the term “open sources” means not so much declassification of national secrets, as it does encompassing more Americans into the “intelligence community.” One of the major adaptions intelligence requires, in Steele’s opinion, is to “redefine itself so that the ‘community’ encompasses the entire distributed intelligence of the Nation,” and “develop a much more extensive network of analyst-operators.”
Once accomplished, overall national intelligence becomes a collective national knowledge base, or “smart nation.” Agencies presently use open sources, but ought to better use these reources as the I-way grows in size and dimensions. “Quite literally, everyone becomes a collector and producer of intelligence,” Steele explains.
This transformation, from closed to open intelligence communities, needs to be organized. “It is essential that the government have a national information strategy, and that it nurture distributed centers of excellence,” Steele stressed.
“The hidden rule is that the people on the top can specify what the people down below need to know, and that is no longer possible in big, complex, fast changing situations,” agree Heidi and Alvin Toffler, authors of “War and Anti-War: Survival at the Dawn of the 21st Century.” Steele adds, “the community must now begin the process of nurturing distributed networks which are unwitting or benignly willing, and most assuredly not ‘under control.'”
This big electric stepbrother, slated for management by a National Information Foundation (NIF), won’t come into being without public support. “The intelligence community cannot harness the distributed intelligence of the Nation. Only the people and their government of the whole can reinvent intelligence.”
The whole world is being reinvented regardless, intelligence included willy-nilly. With globalization through communication, consolodation and treaties, national borders are blurring. Future power blocks are expected, due to computers, to be set more along cultural and ideological parameters rather than geophysical constraints.
American culture, hitherto ambiguous from its traditional melting-pot, appears to be gellifying online. An Information Continuum has sprung up on the internet, linking together previously isolated parts of national and world cultures. It consists of schools, libraries, business mainframes, commercial databases, media, government, law enforcement, hackers and covert agencies.
According to David Bender of Washington’s Special Libraries Association, something phenomenal is taking place online. “People are hooking up to the Internet in droves. If the pace continues, everyone on earth will be connected by 2001,” he figures.
“Today, the Internet is more than a technology. It is more than a community. It is a culture. As the Internet has transcended its defense industry roots and information industry boundaries, it has become an international pop phenomenon,” Bender concluded. This is good news for America’s spy agencies — challenged with cold peace, bad publicity and budget cuts. Bender noteed how the internet’s versatility “transforms librarians from passive catalysts to information resource experts who create information products on demand.”
This shiny new beast, the Info Continuum, needs to be utilized to economic advantage, and protected from outside attack, according to the cyberlobbyists. We are looking at nothing less than the birth of infowar, they say.
Unfortunately, due to a historically closed Anglo-American model of intelligence, the west lacks an electronic counter-intelligence capability worthy of the name, nor the most basic economic counter-intelligence capabilities. Steele has identified four modern “warrior classes,” three of which America is sorely unprepared to handle. The new threats include “direct action” terrorists working individually, and charismatic religious leaders who operate from the pulpit over television airwaves.
Alack, there exist at least ten weak spots in America’s C4I network vulnerable to attack. As a testimony to the power of open sources, Steele has publicly disclosed these locations. One is a phone switch in Culpepper, Virginia which controls the D.C. municipal grid. “It is both a political and an economic mistake to classify the C4 threat, for it prevents public and legislative understanding of the magnitude of the threat, and the urgent need for concerted action across both government and private sector lines.”
Strange alliances are being made. The Hacker community for one has embraced American covert agencies in a mutual quest for open sources. In return, high level officials are rewarding hackers for disclosing holes in the U.S. technonet. In short, hackers are now considered a national asset, and are beginning to receive proper recognition. “If there is a target of the hacker movement it is corporate America, especially the telephone companies,” notes Matthew G. Devost of the Department of Political Science, University of Vermont, Burlington. Ma Bell is a target because hackers rely on their service to access cyberspace. “The United States government has a vested interest in not providing them with another target, especially if that target is the government itself,” Devost warns.
Hackers are dangerous to challenge, even for the CIA, but most mean no harm by their internet escapades. “You build atomic weapons, you wage wars, you murder, cheat and lie to us and try to make believe that it’s for our own good, yet we’re the criminals,” accused one anonymous cyberpest. “My crime is that of outsmarting you — something you will never forgive me for.” Asked Devost, “Why should the United States government trust hackers? No trust is necessary, we are not offering the hackers anything that they don’t already have, except recognition for their ability to discover security flaws.” Indeed, the hacker community has reached out to national intelligence agencies, offering to combat enemy computer systems. Steele is considered an honored guest at underground hacker convocations, and lobbied against the Clipper Chip with them.
DeVost pointed out numerous past threats posed to American national security, most notably the worm virus created by Robert Morris, son of an NSA official, which crippled the internet several years ago; and the West German hacker Markus “Hunter” Hess, who stole military secrets and was caught by a tenatious American astronomer named Cliff Stoll, detailed in Stoll’s book entitled “The Cuckoo’s Egg.” Bulgaria is said to operate factories producing computer viri more rapidly than America can generate vaccine software to combat. Alarm bells have been sounded as a result.
Then there is espianoge — both military and economic. Spies existed before Christ, but most of them were really travelers and merchants. For instance, tea was stolen from China, and porcelain from England, by merchants. Marco Polo, an adventurer, brought back pasta to Italy from the orient. This activity is now deemed economic warfare in today’s hyper-competitive globe. What will be stolen from America, and can America swipe anything herself?
National decisions such as these, made in electronic warfare are often classified. The stakes are so high that almost anything goes to protect superpower interests. Rules are being bent to accomodate the rapid rate of change in geoinformational politics. “You cannot get the job done by following the book. You have to work around the book. So that subverts the book,” indicated the Tofflers. “In geo-politics, it’s often easier to classify controversial policies or else just never write them down,” chimed Neil Munro of Washington Technology. “The draft presidential policy [on “Information Assurance”] is mostly classified and may never be completed… how can such a deception-policy be written in peacetime without generating cries of outrage from the Paladins of the first amendment and the public-spirited members of the fourth estate?”
Big stepbrother indeed, for those disclosures bring “cold war,” or “war is peace” paradigms to a whole new level. War and peace simultaneously, oscilating at hyper speed. Friend one nanosecond, enemy the next — or both at the same time — whether or not you are truly loyal “love is hate,” as Orwell put it. “We are moving from a brute force to a brain force economy; a new system for the creation of wealth,” the Tofflers declare. Cyberslavery? To quote Alan Campen, former Director of Command and Control at the DOD, “An ounce of silicon in a computer may have had more effect than a ton of uranium… knowledge came to rival weapons and tactics in importance,” recalling the Gulf War, where disinformation was used by government to gain public support.
A two-edged sword, perhaps. Enemies within, and without. One angry citizen with enough brains can cripple America any number of ways — or revolutionize it: Bob Roberts or Max Khomeni. As ideas flow back and forth, thought-crimes, infowar offenses, ideas, cybertreasons, universal encryption, and other new threats can take the form of viri, software, spiritual ideas, legislative catch-22’s, or otherwise. Literally anything can happen in the mind-space of a nationally networked brain-hive, and probably shall. Cyberdemocracy, mob.net, mind control and virtual slavery.
Will it become treason to state that J. Edgar Hoover wore a dress? And how does Steele’s future figure into other “national security” secrets, such as those Kennedy assasination clues sealed till 2010? What happens when the internet hits China; a virtual Tienneman Square uprising, or America’s downfall?
Moreover, how can today’s covert intelligence be trusted tomorrow, in light of recent press disclosures regarding CIA drug imports, arms for Contras, and the October Surprise? If 80% of intelligence currently comes from media, these reports must be deemed valid. Agencies such as CSA might already exist with classified names — completely unaccountable, a parallel government. The 20% “closed source” community appears to completely control this new national intelligence “brain-hive.” But is Steele even real, or is he a Max Headroom fabrication?
“I think that if I were asked to single out one specific group of men, one category, as being the most suspicious, unbelieving, unreasonable, petty, inhuman, sadistic, double-crossing set of bastards in any language, I would say without hesitation: ‘the people who run counterespionage departments,'” wrote Eric Ambler in “The Light of Day.” Ivan C. Smith, a counter-intelligence officer for the FBI, notes Ambler’s accusation is “perhaps only slightly overstated.”
This article appears in the debut issue of IF Magazine