ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Stealing the Network

The following is part of my "technology" expertise I guess. No politics involved. So for you people looking for Rovian conspiracies in how Tony Snow parts his hair, you won't find anything below. Go ahead and skip on down to Saint's excellent post on the Iraqi Surrender Group.

As some of you know, I'm a Network Security Analyst for a major computer services firm. As such, I read a lot of "security" books. I just finished a really good one, Stealing the Network: How to Own an Identity. It's part of a series of books, all with a rather unique perspective. Rather than detailing attack methods or tools, it takes real-life examples and applies them to a fictional storyline. Even if your not that technical, you can follow along and see how the nature of computer security works. If you think computer hacking is guessing peoples passwords by using their birthday, their dogs names, etc., this book would show you how wrong you are.

I bring all this up because in this latest edition is a section at the end that outlines the real issues with computer crime. And specifically with making the "big score". And getting away with it.

Specifically, the author outlines a scenario that was presented to a friend of his. As a security auditor his friend discovered a flaw in a rather important computer. This computer was responsible for transferring a large amount of money between itself and other banks via the EFTS (Electronic Funds Transfer system). Around 4 billion dollars.

As you can imagine, if that sort of amount of money went missing, it would draw a lot of attention. The thought experiment he outlines is how one would get away with the theft of such an amount of money. You'd have to leave the country, you'd have to leave your friends and family, you would never be able to trust anyone, and in the end, you'd probably never even be able to spend it, since any lavish lifestyle is likely to draw attention to yourself and result in incarceration. You'd have to be able to change identities many times, you'd have to arrange for drop accounts in various banks around the world. And you'd have a hard time spending any of it.

In any case, I recommend the book, even for "non-techies", although it does have a hefty price tag for a work of fiction.

Two other books I can recommend are from famed hacker Kevin Mitnick. The Art of Intrusion, and The Art of Deception, detail the skill that Kevin was famous for. Social Engineering.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: Brian

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The ISG: Empowering the Terror Masters

While Michael Ledeen thinks the ISG's Report has a silver lining (in that it brings Iran into focus as our primary problem in the Middle East), I think that if someone wasn't already aware of this prior to the report's release last week, they're either a fool, an idiot, or perhaps a diarist at DailyKos.

Frankly, there are clear signs that the ISG report has emboldened Iran and its partner in terror, Syria. First, we have Iran hosting a conference that questions the facts surrounding the Holocaust:

Holocaust Conference Begins in Iran
Dec 11, 4:43 PM (ET)
By NASSER KARIMI

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran hosted Holocaust deniers from around the world Monday at a conference examining whether the Nazi genocide took place, a meeting Israel's prime minister condemned as a "sick phenomenon."

The 67 participants from 30 countries included former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and Holocaust skeptics who have been prosecuted in Europe for questioning whether 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis or whether gas chambers were ever used.
[...]
The two-day conference was initiated by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in an apparent attempt to burnish his status as a tough opponent of Israel. The hard-line president has described the Holocaust as a "myth" and called for Israel to be wiped off the map. Earlier this year, his government backed an exhibition of anti-Israel cartoons in a show of defiance after Danish cartoons caricaturing Islam's Prophet Muhammad were published in Europe, raising an outcry among Muslims.

While President Tom may have questioned Holocaust facts in the past, he wouldn't have hosted a conference on it.

Meanwhile, in the fledgling and struggling democracy that is Lebanon, Hezbollah (Syria's proxy) is pushing to be included in the government or it will overthrow the current leaders:
Crowds flood Beirut to pressure government
By SAM F. GHATTAS and ZEINA KARAM, Associated Press Writers Sun Dec 10, 7:16 PM ET

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Hundreds of thousands of Hezbollah members and their allies flooded central Beirut on Sunday demanding changes in the government's makeup as soldiers strung more barbed wire around the offices of the Western-backed premier.

Buoyed by the big turnout after a week of street protests, the pro-
Syria opposition gave Prime Minister Fuad Saniora an ultimatum of a "few days" to accept its demand to form a national unity government with a big role for Hezbollah or face an escalating campaign to oust him.

And instead of discussing whether we should be talking to Iran or not, reversing our calls for regime change in Iran, and putting the Palestinian "Right of Return" in a semi-official document for the first time ever, we should be supporting these courageous students who had the cojones to heckle President Tom:
Iran students heckle Ahmadinejad
Dec 11 8:03 AM US/Eastern

Iranian students have disrupted a speech by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a prestigious Tehran university, setting fire to his picture and heckling him.

"Some students chanted radical slogans and inflamed the atmosphere of the meeting" at the Amir Kabir University, said the semi-official Fars news agency on Monday, which is close to Ahmadinejad.

"A small number of students shouted 'death to the dictator' and smashed cameras of state television but they were confronted by a bigger group of students in the hall chanting: 'We support Ahmadinejad'," it said.

It was the latest in a series of student demonstrations in recent days, the first time in least two years that such protests have taken place on this scale at Iranian universities.

Ahmadinejad responded by describing those students chanting the slogans as an "oppressive" minority.

It is dangerous to give legitimacy to radical and irrational regimes. It was dangerous to allow the Nazis to host the Olympics in the 1930s... and then to negotiate with them after giving them legitimacy. And if you don't believe that official positions or statements have impacts on opposition movements within countries, you must read Natan Sharansky's book, The Case for Democracy.

And keep in mind that it was recently reported that Iran is now supporting and attempting to influence Al-Qaeda by grooming its next generation of leaders. If our response to 9/11 was to not make a distinction between the terrorists and those who harbor them, is it such a wise idea to open negotiations with Iran? Or is it now our policy to negotiate with terrorists?

The Iraq Study Group Report is emboldening our enemies and disheartening our allies.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Mark Steyn on the Iraq Study Surrender Group Report

Regular readers know that I abhor the ISG report in all its silliness. Well, Mark Steyn puts the finishing touches on this piece of crap which is being hailed by the MSM as our "only way" to "move forward in Iraq."

ISG must stand for, uh, Inane Strategy Guesswork
December 10, 2006

BY MARK STEYN Sun-Times Columnist

Well, the ISG -- the Illustrious Seniors' Group -- has released its 79-point plan. How unprecedented is it? Well, it seems Iraq is to come under something called the "Iraq International Support Group." If only Neville Chamberlain had thought to propose a "support group" for Czechoslovakia, he might still be in office. Or guest-hosting for Oprah.

But, alas, such flashes of originality are few and far between in what's otherwise a testament to conventional wisdom. How conventional is the ISG's conventional wisdom? Try page 49:

"RECOMMENDATION 5: The Support Group should consist of Iraq and all the states bordering Iraq, including Iran and Syria . . ."

Er, OK. I suppose that's what you famously hardheaded "realists" mean by realism. But wait, we're not done yet. For this "Support Group," we need the extra-large function room. Aside from Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Kuwait, the ISG -- the Iraq Surrender Gran'pas -- want also to invite:

". . . the key regional states, including Egypt and the Gulf States . . ."

Er, OK. So it's basically an Arab League meeting. Not a "Support Group" I'd want to look for support from, but each to his own. But wait, Secretary Baker's still warming up:

". . . the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council . . ."

That would be America, Britain, France, Russia, China. A diverse quintet, representing many distinctive approaches to international affairs from stylish hauteur to polonium-210. Anybody else?

". . . the European Union . . ."

Hey, why not? It's not really multilateral unless there's a Belgian on board, right? Oh, and let's not forget:

". . . the Support Group should call on the participation of the United Nations Secretary-General in its work. The United Nations Secretary-General should designate a Special Envoy as his representative . . ."

Indeed. But it needs to be someone with real clout, like Benon Sevan, the former head of the Oil for Food Program, who recently, ah, stepped down; or Maurice Strong, the Under-Secretary-General for U.N. Reform and godfather of Kyoto, who for one reason or another is presently on a, shall we say, leave of absence; or Alexander Yakovlev, the senior procurement officer for U.N. peacekeeping, who also finds himself under indictment -- er, I mean under-employed. There's no end of top-class talent at the U.N., now that John Bolton's been expelled from its precincts.

So there you have it: an Iraq "Support Group" that brings together the Arab League, the European Union, Iran, Russia, China and the U.N. And with support like that who needs lack of support? It worked in Darfur, where the international community reached unanimous agreement on the urgent need to rent a zeppelin to fly over the beleaguered region trailing a big banner emblazoned "YOU'RE SCREWED." For Dar4.1, they can just divert it to Baghdad.

Oh, but lest you think there are no minimum admission criteria to James Baker's "Support Group," relax, it's a very restricted membership: Arabs, Persians, Chinese commies, French obstructionists, Russian assassination squads. But no Jews. Even though Israel is the only country to be required to make specific concessions -- return the Golan Heights, etc. Indeed, insofar as this document has any novelty value, it's in the Frankenstein-meets-the-Wolfman sense of a boffo convergence of hit franchises: a Vietnam bug-out, but with the Jews as the designated fall guys. Wow. That's what Hollywood would call "high concept."

Why would anyone -- even a short-sighted incompetent political fixer whose brilliant advice includes telling the first Bush that no one would care if he abandoned the "Read my lips" pledge -- why would even he think it a smart move to mortgage Iraq's future to anything as intractable as the Palestinian "right of return"? And, incidentally, how did that phrase -- "the right of return" -- get so carelessly inserted into a document signed by two former secretaries of state, two former senators, a former attorney general, Supreme Court judge, defense secretary, congressman, etc. These are by far the most prominent Americans ever to legitimize a concept whose very purpose is to render any Zionist entity impossible. I'm not one of those who assumes that just because much of James Baker's post-government career has been so lavishly endowed by the Saudis that he must necessarily be a wholly owned subsidiary of King Abdullah, but it's striking how this document frames all the issues within the pathologies of the enemy.

And that's before we get to Iran and Syria. So tough-minded and specific when it comes to the Israelis, Baker turns to mush when it comes to Assad assassinating his way through Lebanon's shrinking Christian community or Ahmadinejad and the mullahs painting the finish trim on the Iranian nukes. Syria, declare the Surrender Gran'pas, "should control its border with Iraq." Gee, who'dda thunk o' that other than these geniuses?

Actually, Syria doesn't need to "control its border with Iraq." Iraq needs to control its border with Syria. And, as long as the traffic's all one way (because Syria's been allowed to subvert Iraq with impunity for three years), that suits Assad just fine. The Surrender Gran'pas assert that Iran and Syria have "an interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq." This, to put it mildly, is news to the Iranians and Syrians, who have concluded that what's in their interest is much more chaos in Iraq. For a start, the Americans get blamed for it, which reduces America's influence in the broader Middle East, not least among Iran and Syria's opposition movements. Furthermore, the fact that they're known to be fomenting the chaos gives the mullahs, Assad and their proxies tremendous credibility in the rest of the Muslim world. James Baker has achieved the perfect reductio ad absurdum of diplomatic self-adulation: he's less rational than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

If they're lucky, this document will be tossed in the trash and these men and women will be the laughingstocks of posterity. But, if it's not shredded and we embark down this path, then the Baker group will be emblematic of something far worse. The "Support Group" is a "peace conference," and Baker wants Washington to sue for terms. No wonder Syria is already demanding concessions from America. Which is the superpower and which is the third-rate basket-case state? From the Middle Eastern and European press coverage of the Baker group, it's kinda hard to tell.

I fear that with the support from the inside-the-bubble/MSM media and the back-biting of the Dems in Congress, Bush will lose enough of his vision and actually try to implement some of what passes for "a way forward in Iraq" in this idiotic report. As with the 9/11 commission recommendations, the press and the Left will continue to ask what points have been implemented and for those that have not yet been implemented, why not?

I mean, our foreign policy is supposed to be determined by former fixers, former Indiana congressmen, former Bimbo-eruption diffusers, and former Supreme Court justices, right? If the panel has spoken, then we must blindingly follow!!! THE ELDERS HAVE SPOKEN!!!

Of course, the Pentagon and State Dept reports are due out shortly as well and I hope they're given as much coverage as this piece of crap. and I hope that the State's report is actually constructive, instead of trying to protect its turf and expand its power base. (The way to us win in Iraq is not through politics & diplomacy, but through military force and IRAQI politics.)

This will be one of the first indications as to whether my prediction regarding the final two years of W's administration: if he pays more heed to the Iraq Study Group Report than he does to the Pentagon report, welcome to the Harriet-Miers-Presidency.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler