[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] D [/yt_dropcap]aniel Ray “Dan” Coats is the new Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) appointed by President Trump – a designation everyone was awaiting since last January. The DCI is a rather controversial figure in the wide and too much fragmented world of the US intelligence agencies.
The Director of Central Intelligence is a post created in 2004 after the evident failure of the main US intelligence services on September 11. Nevertheless it was often opposed by the CIA and NSA Directors who sometimes blocked every news flow from Langley to the DCI office – as happened in 2009 when Leon Panetta was the CIA Director.
Dan Coats was a member of the House of Representatives from 1981 to 1989 and later replaced Dan Qayle as Senator from Indiana – a Senate seat he held until 2016, by always working for the Select Committee on Intelligence.
After temporarily retiring from the Senate, Dan Coats served as US Ambassador to Germany from 2001 to 2005.
It is also worth recalling that Coats has been officially banned from travelling to Russia due to his heavy mockery and witticism about Putin and, above all, for his requesting much harsher sanctions against Russia for its annexation of Crimea.
However, what is particularly interesting for us is the work carried out by Coats at King & Spalding, the largest law firm for companies and public institutions, founded 130 years ago in Atlanta, Georgia.
Said law firm works for over 50% of the companies included in the Fortune 100 ranking and has over 900 lawyers and attorneys working in 19 branches throughout the United States.
In 2016 King & Spalding earned over 3.702 million dollars from its lobbying activities with representative institutions and government.
It is reported to be among the top ten lobbying organizations in the United States and, in the list of the “National Law Journal Survey”, King & Spalding is among the US top 50 influencers, i.e. structures of political and strategic influence.
Said law firm represented the Lockheed Martin in 2007 and has currently over 191 clients including Boeing.
It is a law firm which does not only deal with litigation. Thanks to its influence, it literally creates and drafts – as it has done also recently for Saudi Arabia – the rules it will later discuss, on behalf of its clients, in the most appropriate legal forums and institutions.
King & Spalding carries out all the lobbying activity for Saudi Arabia in the United States.
The clients of Dan Coats as a partner of King & Spalding include not only the abovementioned Lockheed Martin, for which he had the F-22 project and some arms sales abroad funded, but also the private equity firm “Cerberus Capital Management”, led by John W. Snow, former Secretary of the Treasury under George H. Bush’s Presidency.
Currently Cerberus’ portfolio amounts to 100 billion Us dollars and the firm operates both in the secondary market of securities and in the real estate sector.
Furthermore, Cerberus’ foreign investments are directed by Dan Qayle, former US vice-President with George H. Bush and Dan Coats’ predecessor as Senator from Indiana.
The aforementioned “private equity” firm also owns DynCorp, a private security company operating as a contractor for the US government.
DynCorp’s most recent contracts include the maintenance of logistical equipment and the military ground transmission network in Kosovo, as well as the aircraft management in some US Air Force bases.
In addition, and this is particularly interesting for us, DynCorp also works in the intelligence field, with training and certification programs for US public agencies. It also carries out data collection and independent analysis of said data on the ground, which it later provides to said agencies in exchange for consideration.
The privatization of intelligence services – a terrible future for State security – has already taken place, at least in the United States.
Finally, it is also worth noting that DynCorp owns GeoEye, an operator of earth observation satellites, almost entirely.
In 2013 GeoEye merged with DigitalGlobe.
Building and launching imaging satellites means gain a comparative advantage, in economic terms, to check trade flows across the world. It also means to gain a comparative advantage, in geological terms, to study and predict the development of oil or mineral resources, and in agricultural terms, to forecast the link between crops and global weather phenomena.
Moreover, Dan Coats has been selected to represent the interests of the Ad Hoc Coalition for Fair Pipe Imports from China, a lobby and advocacy group of US steel producers against steel imports from China.
Coats also worked for the Lithuanian Achema Group, a group of companies mainly dealing with fertilizers which also owns a small but important media empire in its own country.
The new DCI also lobbied for the purchase of industrial training programs from the German Festo Group in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kosovo and Afghanistan.
In short, which direction will the US intelligence privatization take during Trump’s Presidency?
Just take a look at the most recent appointments.
The appointment of Joe Hagin, the deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, directly implies an important role for the company he founded, namely the Command Consulting Group (CCG).
David Cohen, the former CIA Deputy Director for Operations, is a partner of CCG, a company whose founders also include Steve Atkiss, former Chief of Staff of the US Customs and Border Protection and Ralph Basham, former Head of the “United States Secret Service” (USSS), which is the structure in charge of protecting the US President, Vice-President and high-ranking government officials.
CCG also owns the Command Global Services (CGS), which led the operations designed to investigate and audit into Muammar Gaddafi’s financial reserves.
That specific activity was led by Charles Seidel, a former official of the CIA Directorate of Operations.
Currently Seidel chairs the Middle East unit of the Patriot Defense Group (PDG), founded by former CIA agent Todd Wilcox.
There is also the old and powerful private intelligence company Booz Allen Hamilton, which has been collecting, processing and analyzing data for the DCI and the major military officers and US government officials for at least thirty years – although we do not know to what extent it is close to the new US President.
In Trump’s era, we must also study the future of CSRA Inc. – which has developed and manages the NSA whole classified data internal system and carries out intelligence support actions for the US Commands in Europe and Africa – as well as the future of SAIC, a military contracting company which has entered the lucrative privatized intelligence business by buying SCITOR, a company which is well-established in the Pentagon secret satellite system.
In this strange picture of US privatized intelligence services, reference must also be made to CACI International, which hit the headlines for having supplied the staff for the interrogations at the Abu Ghraib prison. Recently said company has bought the National Security Solutions and the Six3 Intelligence Solutions, which provided the targeting against the Taliban to the NATO forces in Afghanistan, and will shortly supply intelligence to the US forces arriving in Syria.
The staff used by these private agencies is huge: Booz Allen has 12,000 employees, including analysts and operatives, while CACI international has 10,000 employees. As a whole, all private intelligence agencies – including human intelligence (HUMINT) and signals intelligence (SIGINT) – deploy approximately 50,000 people.
The total number of people used by the Department of Defense (DoD) amounts to 1.4 million, including 770,000 civilian employees, while the private contractors working for the US DoD employ approximately 750,000 people for intelligence and other military activities.
In Iraq, in mid-2016, there were 2,485 contractors compared to 4,087 US military staff.
In Afghanistan, the US military staff envisaged for this year is around 8,000, but the “civilian” contractors will be at least 26,500.
According to some American journalists, approximately 70% of the budget for national intelligence is destined to private contractors and, with Trump’s Presidency, much of cybersecurity will be in private hands.
Hence if it is thought that intelligence is just a mere collection of individual sensitive and rare empirical data – as often happens in the US intelligence community – some privatization may be useful, considering the greater intrinsic flexibility of private companies compared to public bureaucratic structures.
Conversely, if we believe that intelligence services must not only collect – and use for media purposes – sensitive data which could not be acquired otherwise, but must mainly analyze said data with a strategic and geopolitical mind and perspective, the privatization of intelligence is both dangerous and useless.
Furthermore, if we rightly think that intelligence is a primary function of national interest, this privatization of intelligence services can be harmful because, also in this sensitive sector, a private enterprise wants above all to maintain and preserve its business indefinitely.
Moreover, “terrorism” is such a phenomenon as to provide material for an equally endless search of data and hotbeds.
Nevertheless, if we do not rethink, in a creative way, the cultural and political relationship between Islam and the West, between peaceful countries in the Muslim region and the “sword jihad” – and, finally, if we do not do wage credible “cultural wars” – jihadist terrorism will recur, according to the Hegelian category of “bad infinity.”
These are activities which cannot be entrusted to contractors, but rather to a political and strategic elite capable of rising up to future challenges and possibly not interested in making huge and quick profits.
As a Sunni Imam told to an agent of our intelligence services, “let us see one of your great men and we will be convinced you are right.”
US Conducting Biological Experiments Near Russia’s Borders
Two statements, almost simultaneously released by the Russia’s Foreign and Defense Ministries, once again raised the issue which, although rarely mentioned, is considered a “silent threat.”
On September 25, Vladimir Yermakov, director of the Foreign Ministry’s Department of Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, told the media that Russia will not allow biological experiments to be carried out on its borders by the Americans. He was commenting on a statement earlier made by Georgia’s former State Security Minister Igor Giorgadze about biological experiments on people allegedly carried out by the US.
Giorgadze has long been in opposition to Georgian authorities and is a well informed man too. Speaking at a news conference in Moscow, he appealed to none other than US President Donald Trump with a personal request to investigate the activities of the Richard Lugar laboratory outside Tbilisi, where he said they are conducting experiments to study the effects of biological weapons on people. Giorgadze said that he has documents confirming the conduct of such experiments. He also provided data confirming the death of dozens of people as a result of those experiments.
The Richard Lugar Research Center for Public Health opened in 2011 as part of a US government program. According to experts familiar with the matter, the center is openly studying biological threats with the help of military program being implemented by biologists of the US Army Medical Research Unit – Georgia (USAMRU-G) and private contractors. These private companies are not accountable (sic!) to the US Congress and can circumvent US laws due to … the lack of direct control.
Only US citizens with security clearance and diplomatic immunity have access to this biological laboratory.
Commenting on the Lugar Center’s activities, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that it had learned about “scandalous facts and documents pointing to serious violations by the American side of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction, ratified by the United States in 1972.”
The Ministry’s statement also noted that during experiments on Georgian citizens of a drug produced by the company owned by former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, 24 people died in December 2015, and later 49 more. It noted that so many deaths are not recorded even during large-scale epidemics in infectious diseases hospitals.
Our statements did not go unnoticed in Washington. The Pentagon denied these accusations outright. But how?! A Pentagon spokesman, Eric Pahon, dismissed them as “an invention of the imaginative and false Russian disinformation campaign against the West” and “obvious attempts to divert attention from Russia’s bad behavior on many fronts.”
“The United States does not develop biological weapons at the Lugar Center,” he added, confusing the old name of the Center with the new one.
“Does not develop…” Well, Then why are dozens of people in Georgia dying at this very Center? Maybe the Yankees are not really developing biological weapons there, just bringing biological weapons there and testing them? If so, then we should talk about “development,” not “testing.”
How could Pentagon counter that?
Their logic is really strange too. They argue that Russia cannot be trusted because it is “misbehaving” – the ultimate example of Anglo-Saxon egotism used since the colonial times where anything that is not coming from them is “not good.”
The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), which is in charge of US military programs at the Lugar Center in Georgia, conducted field tests with an unknown substance near the Russian border. In the spring of 2017, local residents complained about some “white powder” being sprayed by an UAV near the Georgian border.
According to the author of this news, the DTRA has access to the border between Russia and Georgia under a military program called “Georgian Land Border Security Project.” All work pertaining to this project was entrusted to a private company, Parsons Government Services International. DTRA has contracts with Parsons for similar “border security” projects in Lebanon, Jordan, Libya and Syria – an impressive geography… As for the Russian-Georgian border, the Parsons’ contract with the Pentagon is believed to be worth $9.2 million.
During last year’s meeting of the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights, President Vladimir Putin said that “biological material is collected throughout Russia from people of different ethnic groups living in different parts of the Russian Federation. This is being done purposefully and professionally. Why are they doing they do this? We are an object of a great deal of interest…”
Caught red-handed, the Americans had nothing else to do than admit this with a representative of the Air Force Training Command, Bo Downey, telling RIA Novosti that they were collecting Russians’ biological material to “study the musculoskeletal system” and that this work ” was not intentional.. He acknowledged that the Center for Molecular Studies of the 59th Medical Air Group is engaged in this research to “identify various trauma-related biomarkers.”.
“Not intentional”? They are telling these tall tales just as the US Air Force has announced an open tender for the supply of 12 samples of RNA molecules and synovial tissue of Russians! According to the terms of the tender, “donors must be citizens of the Russian Federation, Caucasians, without injuries of the musculoskeletal system and have tested negatively for HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and syphilis.”
And why are they collecting these samples in Russia? They could have been conducting such experiments at home, in the US. Or maybe Americans all suffer from HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and syphilis?
Do they realize how stupid they look when they deny all this even when caught red-handed and confronted with hard facts?
Looks like the Yanks are testing our genotype to determine the kind of injuries that would be most critical for people living in different parts of Russia. Otherwise, why show so much care about the population of a country which has been unequivocally declared by the Trump administration as America’s “military adversary”?
This “silent” danger has taken the form of a network of such laboratories the US has set up along the entire length of the Russian border. No one can defeat Russia with military force even though many people have tried this over the past centuries. Therefore, they have created a system of undermining this country from the inside with the help of information war, by provoking internal conflicts and now with the threat of epidemics and pandemics.
According to the official website of the DTRA’a regional Eurasian office in Georgia (headquarters), they have already established their “footholds” in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. (The DTRA Eurasia office of the United States of Georgia has a number of countries. The budget of this Eurasian network is estimated at over $2 billion. And, of course, the Pentagon is justifying its biological expansion in Eurasia by “noble goals” – purportedly “to assist national scientific personnel in protecting the population from diseases, identifying deadly viruses and neutralizing them.”.
Faced with all these hard facts, the Americans have been forced to make excuses.
Responding to media accusations, including in the US, Blake Bekstein, a program manager for Insect Allies, which is part of general bio-weapon development, said that he “does not agree with the conclusions,” although in an interview with The Washington Post he admitted that a number of technologies developed as part of the program may have a “dual purpose” and can be used both for defense and attack.
Meanwhile, by so doing, the West is preparing a new large-scale provocation against Russia. In the pipeline is a new mechanism of “sanctions for the proliferation and use of chemical weapons.” They are also going to blame Russia for “illegal use” of such weapons by removing sanctions for such “use” from UN jurisdiction and actually “privatizing” them.
First published in our partner International Affairs
Why China will win the Artificial Intelligence Race
Two Artificial Intelligence-driven Internet paradigms may emerge in the near future. One will be based on logic, smart enterprises and human merit while the other may morph into an Orwellian control tool. Even former Google CEO Eric Schmidt has foreseen a bifurcation of the Internet by 2028 and China’s eventual triumph in the AI race by 2030.
In the meantime, the US seems more interested in deflecting the smart questions of today than in building the smart factories of tomorrow. Nothing embodies this better than the recent attempt by MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) and the Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) to create an AI-based filter to “stamp out fake-news outlets before the stories spread too widely.”
But what exactly constitutes fake news? Does it include media-colluded lies over Iraqi possession of weapons of mass destruction in 2002? Or the egregiously fraudulent Nurse Nayirah testimony a decade earlier? Will the binary logic of “either you are with us or against us” be used to certify news sources?
According to US President Donald J. Trump, fake news is a 24/7 specialty of the CNN, Washington Post and just about every other US mainstream media. The author agrees with Trump on this note. As a futurist, he relies heavily on credible news sources. The CNN and WaPo therefore rarely feature on the trusted list. At the same time, the author squarely blames Trump for the ongoing US-China trade war.This raises several questions: How will MIT’s AI filtration system treat editorial divergences in the same publication? Will they all be feathered and tarred as “fake news” once a threshold – 150 articles according to the new system – is crossed? How will it evaluate analytical gems in the unregulated alternative media and open source fora? Will social media evidences, planted and generated by a critical mass of trolls, be machine-aggregated to determine true news?
It is also disturbing to note that this digital commissariat is being partly developed by Qatar – a nation that has been routinely singled out for its human rights abuses, use of slave labour, rampant anti-Semitism, runaway fake news and support of jihadi terrorism. While Qatar and the US media have incessantly accused Syria of wielding chemical weapons, experts from MIT and the UN have adduced otherwise.How will such contradictory reports be treated in the future as more Gulf Arab money pour into MIT and its cohort research institutions?
The future of US artificial intelligence and its emerging technologies is overwhelmingly dependent on foreign talent drawn from Asia and Eastern Europe. This is unsurprising as 44 million US citizens are currently saddled with a staggering $1.53 trillion in student loans – with a projected 40 percent default rate by 2023.
The US student loan bubble is expanding in tandem with the rising un-employability of young Americans. Fake news overload naturally leads to pervasive intellectual stupefaction. US policy-makers will ignore this ominous trend, just as they ignore the perennial national slide in global indices that measure the quality of life, education and human capital yields. Can the human mind – incessantly subjected to politicized fairy tales and violent belief systems – be capable of continual innovation? It is of course easier to blame an external bogeyman over a purely internal malaise. Herein lies the utility of fake news; one that will be filtered by a digital nanny and policed by thousands of ideologically-biased fact-checkers. Funded, of course, by the US deep state!
Somehow no known form of intelligence – artificial or otherwise – has impressed US policy-makers on the national security dimensions of the immigrant-citizen digital divide. High-achieving immigrant communities, for example, may be targeted by irate citizens during a period of intense economic distress, precipitating a reverse brain-drain to their countries of origin.
Even otherwise, the children of highly-skilled naturalized immigrants face a variety of discriminatory practices when they come of age. The most notorious of this is the “Asia fail” in take regimen at vaunted US universities where, smart second-generation Asian Americans are routinely sacrificed on the altars of artificial diversity and multiculturalism. In future, a digital panoptic on may selectively reject meritorious applicants based on “inappropriate” social media posts made a lifetime ago. Any litigation-unearthed bias in the admissions process can be blamed on a technical glitch. Or on the Russians!
Forget about merit! The prevalent imperative is to develop next- generation rubber-stampers for the privileged 0.1%.
Just like the Internet, the middle classes of a rump US-led Greater Eurabia and a China-led world may have separate trajectories by 2030. With China experiencing a middle class boom and record numbers of STEM graduates, AI is poised to boost the quantity and quality of a new generation of digital scientists.
At the same time, the search algorithms of Google, YouTube, Facebook and its cohorts are making it harder for individuals to access critical open source data and analyses. The convenient pretext here is “fake news” and the need to protect society from misleading information. Why think… when a state-led AI Commissar can do the thinking for you? Ironically, the West routinely charges China for this very practise. How is it possible then for China to develop rapidly and become a leader in AI? In the core Asian societies, the art of “constructive criticism” incentivises erudition, knowledge and a face-saving approach. Knowledge is also unfettered by ideology or provenance.
The US, on the other hand, is hopelessly trying to find a balance between its ideological dictates, visceral populism and next-generation knowledge. Talent and AI are sacrificed in the process. According to Google’s Eric Schmidt, “Iran…produces some of the smartest and top computer scientists in the world. I want them here. I want them working for Alphabet and Google. It’s crazy not to let these people in.”
It is even crazier to think that a smart society can be moulded by AI-mediated claptrap and news filters. This is why China will win the AI race, and Asia will prevail in the Internet of Ideas (IoI).
Non-State Actors in Today’s Information Wars
Rivalries and confrontations between states in the information space are a feature of today’s international relations. Information is becoming one of the priority instruments in fighting for global domination.
We agree with experts who believe that there exist two principal forms of information warfare, technological and psychological, the former targeting information systems and communication channels and the latter, people’s minds and public opinion.
We can detect a trend toward growing non-state involvement in information wars. There are various interconnected reasons for this.
One of them is the latent character of information warfare: governments launching information attacks are careful to keep them undetected or to try to gloss over their own involvement if such attacks are detected. Another reason is that it is difficult to find out who carried out the information attack and what the objective was. Yet another reason are resources that some Internet users and associations of users apply to conduct for cross-border attacks.
International terrorist and extremist organizations make extensive use of information and communication technology (ICT) for propaganda and recruitment.
A report for 2017 by Group-IB, one of the leading international companies dedicated to the prevention and investigation of high-tech crimes, speaks of “state-sponsored hackers” as well as “financially motivated” ones. Geopolitical disputes between nations “are being accompanied by an increase in cyber espionage and sabotage campaigns,” the report says.
Investigative reporters and individual civic activists have recently been forming powerful international associations, which mainly owe their emergence to the global information and communication resources of the Internet. However, they are often drawn into information wars because of powerful effects their investigations may have.
Global media remain the most influential source of information, and therefore they inevitably get drawn into information wars.
Media, especially state-financed media organizations, predominantly act as agents of governments in information wars.
American NGOs are widely known for their key role in organizing “color revolutions” over the past two decades. They worked with opposition parties and their youth units, with central government elites, and with local government bodies. They also supported media groups and Internet resources that were involved in subversive activities and local NGOs that later organized protests.
Prestigious international NGOs publish reports assessing specific developments or containing development ratings for various countries in specific fields. Such reports are powerful vehicles for influence.
Commercial organizations that take part in information wars mainly do so indirectly, under outsourcing agreements, fulfilling tasks such as monitoring the information space and cyber intelligence, and information security tasks, including defense of critical facilities in information infrastructures.
It has been a trend for a few decades for governments to hand over some of their military and security functions to commercial organizations, which has manifested itself best in the emergence of private military corporations. It would be logical to expect the emergence of private companies organizing information offensives, both technological and psychological, on a commercial basis, which would mean commercializing information warfare.
First published in our partner International Affairs
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