Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 15, 2020

Trump Authorized CIA To Wage Cyberwar On Iran And Others

Recently there have been a number of incidents in Iran where unexplained fires or explosion have destroyed some infrastructure:

Since June, fires or explosions have erupted at six factories and other facilities, two of them military in nature—the Parchin missile-production plant and the Natanz nuclear site.

There was an explosion of a gas tank near a missile assembly facility in Khojir, some trouble at a transformer station near Tehran and some other incidents. Most remarkably was an explosion and fire at the centrifuge assembly facility in Iran's nuclear complex in Natanz.

While the incident in Natanz certainly smells of active sabotage the other incidents, like a recent explosion of gas cylinders at a hospital, look more like plain old accidents.

Someone is amplifying a number of rather normal accidents that occur in any large industrialized country in an attempt to sow fear and uncertainty in Iran.

Today a fire broke out on a shipyard in Bushehr. Some Twitterati immediately speculated that it was part of the incident chain and related it to Iran's nuclear reactor near that city.

Such speculation is nonsense. Fires on shipyards break out all the time. Just ask the U.S. Navy who's USS Bonhomme Richard has now been burning for three days after a fire broke out during yard maintenance. That fire turned a one billion dollar ship into 40,000 tons of feedstock for a blast furnace. Today's yard fire in Iran slightly damaged seven laid up dhows (vid), small civilian freight ships build from wood and used for coastal traffic in the Persian Gulf.

Israel has indirectly claimed responsibility for the Natanz incident:

[A] Middle Eastern intelligence official with knowledge of the episode said Israel was responsible for the attack on the Natanz nuclear complex, using a powerful bomb. A member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps who was briefed on the matter also said that an explosive was used.

I have my doubts about such self serving Israeli claims. It is more likely that the CIA has its fingers in these games.

There is a rather intense CIA program being run against Iran. Trump has not only appointed the aggressive Michael D'Andrea, the 'Prince of Darkness', to head the CIA's Iran Mission Center but he gave the CIA wide ranging new powers to run cyber attacks against the country:

The Central Intelligence Agency has conducted a series of covert cyber operations against Iran and other targets since winning a secret victory in 2018 when President Trump signed what amounts to a sweeping authorization for such activities, according to former U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

The secret authorization, known as a presidential finding, gives the spy agency more freedom in both the kinds of operations it conducts and who it targets, undoing many restrictions that had been in place under prior administrations. The finding allows the CIA to more easily authorize its own covert cyber operations, rather than requiring the agency to get approval from the White House.
The “very aggressive” finding “gave the agency very specific authorities to really take the fight offensively to a handful of adversarial countries,” said a former U.S. government official. These countries include Russia, China, Iran and North Korea — which are mentioned directly in the document — but the finding potentially applies to others as well, according to another former official. “The White House wanted a vehicle to strike back,” said the second former official. “And this was the way to do it.”

This was another stupid step taken by the current administration. Letting the CIA run an unsupervised war against the basic infrastructure of other countries will likely come back to haunt it:

The finding has made it easier for the CIA to damage adversaries’ critical infrastructure, such as petrochemical plants, and to engage in the kind of hack-and-dump operations that Russian hackers and WikiLeaks popularized, in which tranches of stolen documents or data are leaked to journalists or posted on the internet. It has also freed the agency to conduct disruptive operations against organizations that were largely off limits previously, such as banks and other financial institutions.

Another key change with the finding is it lessened the evidentiary requirements that limited the CIA’s ability to conduct covert cyber operations against entities like media organizations, charities, religious institutions or businesses believed to be working on behalf of adversaries’ foreign intelligence services, as well as individuals affiliated with these organizations, according to former officials.
The CIA has wasted no time in exercising the new freedoms won under Trump. Since the finding was signed two years ago, the agency has carried out at least a dozen operations that were on its wish list, according to this former official. “This has been a combination of destructive things — stuff is on fire and exploding — and also public dissemination of data: leaking or things that look like leaking.”

Such loose definition of allowed targets will inevitably lead to operations that should be out of bounds.

The big danger here is that all sides can play such games. The U.S. does not have a monopoly or even a large advantage in waging cyber wars. It is in fact more vulnerable than others. Edward Snowden provided proof that the NSA is unable to protect its own secrets. Wikileaks published Vault 7, the CIA's own secret cyber attack tool collection. If even the NSA and the CIA can not protect their systems one can only imagine how bad the security situation is in private institutions like U.S. banks, media organizations, charities, religious institutions or businesses.

If the CIA targets such institutions in other countries counter attacks on similar U.S. entities become legitimate.

The CIA's operations like the Natanz explosion only increase instability. Iran has more facilities where it can assemble its centrifuges. The attack will not hinder its progress in enrichment technologies. But the explosion created suspicion in Iran that the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who visit these facilities, are U.S. directed spies. In consequence Iran may limit their access to its nuclear sites. That again would decrease the knowledge about what Iran is or is not doing in its nuclear facilities.

That should not be in anyone's interest.

Posted by b on July 15, 2020 at 17:17 UTC | Permalink

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Digital Spartacus

I sell a bit of tooling for lathes and milling machines. A small factory not far from me broke a brand new Sandvik tool as soon as it touched the work piece. Its a well known brand and usually top quality, but this one had slipped through quality control. The broken section had very large grain structure and had obviously become too brittle during heat treatment. The tool cost him $180 and they would not replace it on warranty. I sold him the same tool for $25 That was a few years ago and he has never had a problem. Carbide inserts - Sandvik around $160 a pack so I give him few of mine to try. He was using them in a CNC machine for production runs and he found they machined two to three times as many components as the Sandvik inserts, so now he buys mine at around $45 a pack.

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Jul 16 2020 18:10 utc | 101

Digital Spartacus @99--

Thanks for your reply! Yes, the bluster is part of Trump's reelection strategy. To understand why, I suggest watching this Renegade Inc episode, "Angernomics," which at 28 minutes I consider short. In truth, all the USA's problems have domestic roots, but that truth can't be allowed to breathe, thus we have an Axis of Evil to blame for it all. Here's the red meat from Ritter:

"Admiral Brown’s bluster disguises the reality that missiles such as the DF-21 and DF-26, which are referred to as “anti-access/area denial” weapons (AA/AD), represent a new face of maritime warfare that makes the US carrier battle group obsolete.

"This is reflected in new guidance issued by the Commandant of the Marine Corps for the marines to restructure its amphibious strike capability to reflect this new reality. 'Visions of a massed naval armada nine nautical miles off-shore in the South China Sea preparing to launch the landing force…are impractical and unreasonable,' General David Berger noted. 'We must accept the realities created by the proliferation of precision long-range fires, mines, and other smart-weapons, and seek innovative ways to overcome those threat capabilities.'"

It's the above and other aspects of being outwitted by Russia, China and Iran in weapons development combined with a self-inflicted lack of foresight as Ritter alludes to that's reduced the Outlaw US Empire's ability to that of Paper Tiger; but we mustn't forget the huge assist given by the Rentier Class of Financial Parasites who destroyed the USA's strategic infrastructure for a Few Dollars More.

Posted by: karlof1 | Jul 16 2020 18:22 utc | 102

karlof1 @102

Thanks for the Ritter link. He has some interesting blind spots considering that he is positioned to see a bit more than some of the rest of us, but those blind spots are not important to the points he made in that article. I do hope his analysis of the US is correct in this case and that the dog won't bite, because that dog is barking frantically right now.

The thing about barking dogs, though, is that if they think they have no alternative and they think they are cornered they will bite regardless of how unlikely that bite is to do them any good. Dogs are not good at heavy thinking, and neither are Trump and Pompeo.

Posted by: William Gruff | Jul 16 2020 19:02 utc | 103

I just googled Trump relative anti-Trump book and near the top of the search result was an review entitled "We Read Mary Trump's Book on Donald Trump So You Don't Have to."
It's written by someone called Chris Taylor whom I assume was one of The Chaser's War On Everything media gang in Oz in the early Noughties - competent specialists in Political Satire of the rib-tickling variety.

Long story short - He thinks it was published in haste, badly written and betrays the basic principles of an autobiographical work by not disclosing details of her own life. There's lots of almost interesting stuff but nothing that hasn't already been deduced by Trump's OTHER critics.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jul 16 2020 19:12 utc | 104

karlof1 @ 102 and Gruff @ 103

In one of the comments of the Ritter piece, someone suggests how ludicrous it seems that the systems China has been working on have been known to everyone, for going on twenty years or so, and that the Marines are just acting on it now. Dogs have also been known to chase and bite their own tails.

Posted by: Digital Spartacus | Jul 16 2020 19:17 utc | 105

Peter, it seems a lot of companies may be resting on past laurels.

Posted by: Digital Spartacus | Jul 16 2020 19:18 utc | 106

Digital Spartacus @105

The F-35 program and nuke modernization efforts sucked the air out of the room. Active conflicts all around the world are also putting a bit of pressure on the US military's resources. Also, while the Fed can seemingly print endless sums of US dollars, they cannot print competent engineers. As well funded as the US military is, the Navy is still crashing its ships when just sailing them around because they are stretched so thin for training and staffing.

It ain't easy being an imperial hegemon in that empire's dying days!

Posted by: William Gruff | Jul 16 2020 20:28 utc | 107

@ William Gruff | Jul 16 2020 20:28 utc | 107

they cannot print competent engineers

Hear, hear.

This has been going on since at least the eighties of the last century.

I could have written a longish rant, but I'll suffice with a reference to Industrial Disease by the Dire Straits (an otherwise somewhat crappy but slick mainstream band of yesteryear, but they did get some bits of the sign of the times right in 1982)

Posted by: Lurk | Jul 16 2020 21:37 utc | 108

Somewhere in Iran, there is a bookshelf full of well-thumbed books like Secret War by R V Jones and others of that ilk. The Iranians most likely have a clear understanding of every little black operation the British ran against the Germans and there were many. I would guess that many of the CIA operations of the last 75 years are based on those British ops. It is highly likely that many of these "incidents" are false flag ops. by the Iranians to see what the opposition are up to. And after the Iranians penetrated CIA operations in Iran to the extent that the British did with German spy operations against the UK (they picked up every single one of them), it's unlikely that the CIA managed any further successful spy operation against Iran. So my best guess, the Iranians are running circles round the CIA and Mossad, and the NSA only gets to hear what the Iranians want them to hear.

Posted by: Ghost Ship | Jul 16 2020 22:05 utc | 109

@ Ghost Ship | Jul 16 2020 22:05 utc | 109

Probably the same holds for Russia and China, which might very well explain the concerted level of hatred directed at these three from all of the influencing tools in the western elites' arsenal.

Posted by: Lurk | Jul 16 2020 22:44 utc | 110

Ghost Ship and Lurk

I have run onto a few different incidences now where Soviet Union received intelligence not from spies or closet commies but from people who wanted the Soviet Union to be able to defend itself from attack. One in particular was the nuclear bomb. It was the scientists themselves that designed the bombs in the Manhattan Project that sent information to the Soviet Union which allowed hem to quickly build and test fire their own bomb.

I believe a lot of that sort of thing will be going on today with the US leadership sinking into insanity. Not only will US and five-eyes have try and find actual spies, but there will be people, perhaps like Manning and Snowden that will give target countries advance warnings of US and five-eye plans.

Russia - It appears to have very good intel as they are always prepared for what the US throws at it with a counter plan that puts the US in the worst position.

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Jul 16 2020 23:39 utc | 111

Who leaked this info about CIA's secret war? And why now?

This "news" seems designed to prompt a response from Iran and other countries.

Who might want to "get this party started"? IMO Israel/Netanyahu is at the top of that list.

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And I guess I'll be the one to point out that the wide-ranging 'Presidential finding' seems authorize any action that CIA deems justified - even bio-weapons. So this "news" adds to the suspicions regarding Ft. Detrick.


Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jul 17 2020 1:03 utc | 112

Posted by: Digital Spartacus | Jul 16 2020 16:53 utc | 93

Same for the incessant whining from the Anglo hypocrites about Chinese gobbling up their real estate, while downplaying the fact it was the sheer greed of the former that allowed it.

Evasion of responsibility is the #1 industry in the Anglosphere.

Posted by: J W | Jul 17 2020 1:58 utc | 113

@113 J W - "Evasion of responsibility"

Interesting that you put it in words that way - very accurate I think. It strikes me that this exactly matches the corporate dynamic, where externalizing costs onto everything outside of the corporation is part of the profit-making process.

I wonder to what extent the industrial process dictates the sociological process? I suspect huge correlations.

Posted by: Grieved | Jul 17 2020 4:15 utc | 114

J W @Jul17 1:58 #113

Yeah. Consider how Trump decried Bolton's warmongering. Now we learn that Trump had authorized CIA to conduct a covert war. No doubt that pleased Bolton and other necons.

But Trump pretends that he's some kind of peacenik compared with Bolton.

And I won't hold my breathe waiting for mea culpas from the trolls and fools that insisted that "Trump hasn't started a war".

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The rot runs deep.

John McCain and the neocons were "never Trump". Yet Trump has given them everything they might've hoped for. Just as Nobel-prize winning Obama also did what he was told.

'Cause these "populist outsiders" have actually been establishment con men supported by a compliant media.


Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jul 17 2020 4:44 utc | 115

@William Gruff | Jul 15 2020 18:39 utc | 11

Basically, the biggest impact of letting the CIA go wild like this is that it will encourage more people, institutions, and countries to ditch Microsoft products. That is a very good thing.

Dumping Microsoft is good and has been good since the news broke about the NSAKEY feature built into MS-DOS.

The CIA is not the NSA, but I think the biggest danger (for Americans) of unleashing the CIA is that the agency might start doing dirty tricks at home. More likely, they are probably already operating illegally at home, and Trump's directive simply gives them legal cover to do it even more. The CIA may be completely out of control; it even has its own sources of funding independent of the US government (see the book "The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade" by Alfred McCoy; that was decades ago, before the agency's undoubted profits from the Afghanistan bonanza and the current opiate epidemic).

Posted by: Cyril | Jul 17 2020 5:29 utc | 116

JW 113

Here in OZ, anglo based multinationals are the biggest international buyers of our country, yet everyone whinges because they think China is buying everything.
Instead of taking aim at our politicians who would sell their own mother, they get cranky at the Chinese who buy just a little of whats on offer.
Me - I'm pissed off that our kids have to compete with international investors for a home or a farm and that comes back to the politicians that are selling everything out from under our kids.

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Jul 17 2020 7:07 utc | 117

I recall many years ago when I read a book by Axelrod on game theory and the Tit-for-Tat strategy was touted as optimal. I noticed that the bridge to real life with a lot of noise and a lot of room for interpretation was speculative but the strategy still made sense. I consider Russia's strategy under Putin is to adhere to tit-for-tat principles where possible.
Giving the CIA full rein is the furthest you can get from Tit-for-Tat: you get this violent paranoid psychopath who eagerly sees devious actions from the opponent everywhere and then strikes back ten times harder. So the worst speculations of Russiagate are taken at face value and the US instantly does the same and ten times worse.
That goes quite a bit further than the standard pattern of accusing others of what you are already doing themselves - because it sounds so credible.
The CIA analysts may be alright but the action branch is selected for having sociopathic qualities. They are supposed to lie and cheat but not so much that they would instantly betray national interests.

Posted by: Tuyzentfloot | Jul 17 2020 7:16 utc | 118

I could go further. Tit for tat can have a mixture of concern for the system and concern for the self.
I consider it a quality of Putin himself that he shows concern for the global system in addition to taking in account Russians concerns, the concerns of his own 'crowd' and even just his own concerns. Which I guess is a compliment of sorts. It is in stark contrast with ideologies and attitudes which minimize all sense of responsibillity such as 'it is good if everyone ruthlessly and strictly pursues their own interests just like a smart psychopath and somehow everything will be better off', or 'if it makes money the system has proven it to be good so I can just focus on making money at the expense of everything else'.

Posted by: Tuyzentfloot | Jul 17 2020 7:29 utc | 119

Schmoe | Jul 16 2020 0:28 utc | 45:

True. But did you notice that the UK's ban will begin on 2027? IMO, they're stalling. I suspect most countries are giving lip service but plan on dragging it out.

Digital Spartacus | Jul 16 2020 13:16 utc | 78:

Canada stupidly backed themselves into a corner. Their only option now is to wait for the storm to pass by dragging out the extradition hearing; even Pompeo made a note of it. It's going to be interesting to see what Canada does next as they've lost their bid for a seat at the big boy's table (UNSC). Reading articles of Ottawa's reaction to the loss was a bit amusing. "Lessons will be learned." LOL They've should have known that Freeland's action against Venezuela and towing the Empire's lies would cost Canada dearly. And now, they're pushing the narrative that Russia (APT29) is hacking virus vaccine trials in the US and UK. SMH

Posted by: Ian2 | Jul 17 2020 7:33 utc | 120

- more on tit-for-tat: it does not address dominance. The mafia don strategy of being highly intolerant of insubordination , with very asymmetrical retaliation, can be stable in itself. It can be relatively peaceful in certain conditions: complete dominance with modest dissatisfaction. In the perifery, with players not under full control it is devastating. When the dominance declines it is more devastating until there is a transition to tit-for-tat.

Posted by: Tuyzentfloot | Jul 17 2020 7:44 utc | 121

Fellow Brechtian barflies:

Please don't buy in the least into the Trumpite demonization and disinformation about Antifa. (I'm looking at you Blue Dotterel.) If you want to learn what Antifa is really about (standing up to the growing fascist threat in the U.S. and other countries), I recommend a 2017 book, "Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook" by a young history professor, Mark Bray. I heard him speak shortly after the awful events in Charlottesville.

Posted by: JPM | Jul 17 2020 15:52 utc | 122

Nothing to see here!

Just days after it is revealed that CIA has been authorized to conduct a covert war against USA enemies: Google Will Ban Ads On Sites Publishing "Debunked" Coronavirus Theories

According to CNBC "banned claims would include conspiracy theories like vaccines being attempts to genetically modify the population, that Bill Gates created Covid-19 or that the disease was a bioweapon created in a Chinese lab."

So this action by Google is depicted as supporting China's cover-up. But it seems just as likely, if not more so, that it supports a USA cover-up, as I mentioned yesterday:
Jackrabbit @Jul17 1:03 #112
And I guess I'll be the one to point out that the wide-ranging 'Presidential finding' seems authorize any action that CIA deems justified - even bio-weapons. So this "news" adds to the suspicions regarding Ft. Detrick.


Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jul 17 2020 18:33 utc | 123

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