The Last Chance to Defeat China and Win Back the Cyber Domain?

Two months ago, when Zooming In did a story on Huawei and global 5G deployment, Huawei was poised to take control of much of the world’s cyber domain. We talked about the national security implications of that prospect. And we observed the U.S. efforts to raise awareness of that risk. Two months later, when we did another story on this topic, we realized the world knows Huawei a lot better through these efforts, but Huawei’s momentum has not stopped. In fact, Huawei and China are playing a grander game. They have a brilliant strategy that is working well with the very nature of a crony capitalism. Can this battle still be won by the free world? And what does it take to win? Let’s find out in this edition of Zooming In.
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At William Barr Hearings, Mueller Probe in Focus

In response to questions, Mr. Barr said he viewed Mr. Mueller as a fair-minded investigator who would treat the president fairly. “I don’t believe Mr. Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt,” Mr. Barr said, contradicting Mr. Trump’s favorite description of the special counsel’s investigation.

.. Mr. Barr told Ms. Feinstein his memo was “entirely proper.” He was concerned by news accounts of Mr. Mueller’s investigation into whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice, he said, and thought such a theory “would have a chilling effect going forward over time.”

Mr. Barr said he expressed his concerns to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein over lunch before putting them in writing. “He did not respond and was sphinx-like in his reaction, but I expounded on my concerns.”

.. The nominee also said he had expressed similar concerns to Justice Department officials regarding the prosecution of Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) on bribery allegations, saying, “I thought the prosecution was based on a fallacious theory.” That case ended in a hung jury.

.. Likely to be of particular concern to Democrats is Mr. Barr’s disclosure Monday night that he had sent the memo to a wider group of Trump lawyers than was previously known, including Jay Sekulow, Marty and Jane Raskin and Pat Cipollone, a former Justice Department colleague who is now White House counsel. Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, have said Mr. Trump should withdraw Mr. Barr’s nomination given his views in the letter.

.. “I distributed it broadly so that other lawyers would have the benefit of my views,” he said.

On the Mueller probe more broadly, Mr. Barr said in prepared remarks: “I will not permit partisan politics, personal interests or any other improper consideration to interfere with this or any other investigation.” He will add: “On my watch, Bob [Mueller] will be allowed to complete his work.”

.. If Mr. Barr is confirmed, it would bring together a forceful advocate of executive power with a president who has shown no problem wielding that power in unconventional ways. Mr. Barr previously served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush… As a high-ranking Justice Department official in the late 1980s, Mr. Barr advised that a president has the authority to use the military without congressional support, a position that helped underpin the invasion of Panama and later the deployment of troops to Somalia. He urged Mr. Bush to pardon six Reagan administration officials involved in the Iran-Contra matter in 1992; Democrats want to grill him on his reasoning at the time and how he would react to potential pardons of Trump aides who have been convicted in the Russia probe.

In his first stint as attorney general, from 1991 to 1993, Mr. Barr pushed tough-on-crime policies and took a hard-line approach to immigration, which could come into sharper focus as senators ask him about Mr. Trump’s push for a wall along the U.S. southern border.

.. Mr. Barr spent more than 25 years in the corporate world since serving as attorney general, developing a reputation as an aggressive lawyer who forcefully represented his clients. He served as the top lawyer for the telecommunications company that became Verizon Communications Inc., and he later worked on behalf of other large companies in private practice.

Thomas Middleditch of ‘Silicon Valley’ on Doing Verizon Ads and Flying His Own Plane

Awkwardly funny moments just seem to follow Mr. Middleditch, 35, a wide-eyed actor from the small Canadian city of Nelson, British Columbia, wherever he goes.

.. Richard Hendricks’s defining attribute may be his gracelessness. Do you share any of that with him?

Hey, man, I’m smooth. I’m cool as a cucumber, baby.

.. It’s not as if I’ve never been awkward myself. I’m a big gamer, so I’ve had access to that type of personality. I used to go to these LAN parties, that was before high-speed internet. The only way you could get lag-free gaming was to haul these huge computers to people’s houses. There was always some guy who was potentially on the spectrum, who knew everything about troubleshooting all the network issues and was crucial to the whole thing.

.. Ten, 15 years ago, if you were on a successful TV show or in a movie, and you did a commercial, everyone would go, “Oh, his career’s over.” But now, it’s the opposite. Studios look at it and go, this major corporation put a ton of money behind this person — he must be marketable. You get your sellout money and a nod from studios.

.. Can you text and fly?

You can. Honestly, when everything is on autopilot, there’s nothing else to do. My writing partner and I took our script and got work done while we were flying.

Google’s true origin partly lies in CIA and NSA research grants for mass surveillance

Two decades ago, the US intelligence community worked closely with Silicon Valley in an effort to track citizens in cyberspace. And Google is at the heart of that origin story. Some of the research that led to Google’s ambitious creation was funded and coordinated by a research group established by the intelligence community to find ways to track individuals and groups online.

The intelligence community hoped that the nation’s leading computer scientists could take non-classified information and user data, combine it with what would become known as the internet, and begin to create for-profit, commercial enterprises to suit the needs of both the intelligence community and the public. They hoped to direct the supercomputing revolution from the start in order to make sense of what millions of human beings did inside this digital information network. That collaboration has made a comprehensive public-private mass surveillance state possible today.

.. It is a somewhat different creation story than the one the public has heard, and explains what Google cofounders Sergey Brin and Larry Page set out to build, and why.

.. The intelligence community wanted to shape Silicon Valley’s supercomputing efforts at their inception so they would be useful for both military and homeland security purposes. Could this supercomputing network, which would become capable of storing terabytes of information, make intelligent sense of the digital trail that human beings leave behind?

.. the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA) had come to realize that their future was likely to be profoundly shaped outside the government. It was at a time when military and intelligence budgets within the Clinton administration were in jeopardy, and the private sector had vast resources at their disposal. If the intelligence community wanted to conduct mass surveillance for national security purposes, it would require cooperation between the government and the emerging supercomputing companies.

.. To do this, they began reaching out to the scientists at American universities

.. There was already a long history of collaboration between America’s best scientists and the intelligence community, from the creation of the atomic bomb and satellite technology to efforts to put a man on the moon.

.. Silicon Valley was no different. By the mid 1990s, the intelligence community was seeding funding to the most promising supercomputing efforts across academia, guiding the creation of efforts to make massive amounts of information useful for both the private sector as well as the intelligence community.
They funded these computer scientists through an unclassified, highly compartmentalized program that was managed for the CIA and the NSA by large military and intelligence contractors. It was called the Massive Digital Data Systems (MDDS) project.

.. MDDS was introduced to several dozen leading computer scientists at Stanford, CalTech, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Harvard, and others in a white paper that described what the CIA, NSA, DARPA, and other agencies hoped to achieve.

.. the program’s stated aim was to provide more than a dozen grants of several million dollars each to advance this research concept. The grants were to be directed largely through the NSF so that the most promising, successful efforts could be captured as intellectual property and form the basis of companies attracting investments from Silicon Valley.

.. Today, the NSF provides nearly 90% of all federal funding for university-based computer-science research.

.. The research arms of the CIA and NSA hoped that the best computer-science minds in academia could identify what they called “birds of a feather:” Just as geese fly together in large V shapes, or flocks of sparrows make sudden movements together in harmony, they predicted that like-minded groups of humans would move together online.

.. Their research aim was to track digital fingerprints inside the rapidly expanding global information network, which was then known as the World Wide Web. Could an entire world of digital information be organized so that the requests humans made inside such a network be tracked and sorted? Could their queries be linked and ranked in order of importance? Could “birds of a feather” be identified inside this sea of information so that communities and groups could be tracked in an organized way?

.. The primary objective of this grant was “query optimization of very complex queries that are described using the ‘query flocks’ approach.” A second grant—the DARPA-NSF grant most closely associated with Google’s origin—was part of a coordinated effort to build a massive digital library using the internet as its backbone.

.. Human beings and like-minded groups who might pose a threat to national security can be uniquely identified online before they do harm. This explains why the intelligence community found Brin’s and Page’s research efforts so appealing

.. The two intelligence-community managers charged with leading the program met regularly with Brin as his research progressed, and he was an author on several other research papers that resulted from this MDDS grant before he and Page left to form Google.

The grants allowed Brin and Page to do their work and contributed to their breakthroughs in web-page ranking and tracking user queries. Brin didn’t work for the intelligence community—or for anyone else. Google had not yet been incorporated. He was just a Stanford researcher taking advantage of the grant provided by the NSA and CIA through the unclassified MDDS program.

.. The MDDS research effort has never been part of Google’s origin story, even though the principal investigator for the MDDS grant specifically named Google as directly resulting from their research: “Its core technology, which allows it to find pages far more accurately than other search engines, was partially supported by this grant,” he wrote. In a published research paper that includes some of Brin’s pivotal work, the authors also reference the NSF grant that was created by the MDDS program.

NSF likewise only references the digital libraries grant, not the MDDS grant as well, in its own history of Google’s origin.

.. But the grant from the intelligence community’s MDDS program—specifically designed for the breakthrough that Google was built upon—has faded into obscurity.

Google has said in the past that it was not funded or created by the CIA. For instance, when stories circulated in 2006 that Google had received funding from the intelligence community for years to assist in counter-terrorism efforts, the company told Wired magazine founder John Battelle, “The statements related to Google are completely untrue.”

Did the CIA directly fund the work of Brin and Page, and therefore create Google? No. But were Brin and Page researching precisely what the NSA, the CIA, and the intelligence community hoped for, assisted by their grants? Absolutely.

.. Brin’s breakthrough research on page ranking by tracking user queries and linking them to the many searches conducted—essentially identifying “birds of a feather”—was largely the aim of the intelligence community’s MDDS program. And Google succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

.. most people still don’t understand the degree to which the intelligence community relies on the world’s biggest science and tech companies for its counter-terrorism and national-security work.

.. in the most recent reporting period between 2016 and 2017, local, state and federal government authorities seeking information related to national security, counter-terrorism or criminal concerns issued more than 260,000 subpoenas, court orders, warrants, and other legal requests to Verizon, more than 250,000 such requests to AT&T, and nearly 24,000 subpoenas, search warrants, or court orders to Google. 

.. the Patriot Act legal process has now become so routinized that the companies each have a group of employees who simply take care of the stream of requests.

.. In this way, the collaboration between the intelligence community and big, commercial science and tech companies has been wildly successful. When national security agencies need to identify and track people and groups, they know where to turn – and do so frequently. That was the goal in the beginning. It has succeeded perhaps more than anyone could have imagined at the time.

Donald Trump’s Multi-Pronged Attack on the Internet

It’s about to get worse: President Trump’s F.C.C., under the leadership of its fiercely deregulatory chairman, Ajit Pai, wants to let these companies become even more powerful by letting them do whatever they want and allowing them to merge with one another.

.. pushed Congress to erase rules that would have constrained these companies from using and selling our sensitive online information.

And he is getting ready to wipe out the classification of high-speed data services as a utility — even though, without this legal label, the F.C.C.’s authority to require these five companies to treat their customers fairly will be fatally undermined.

Mr. Pai is responsible for a sector that accounts for a sixth of the American economy. But even that is an understatement: Everything we do, from manufacturing to governance, requires reliable, inexpensive, world-class data transmission.

.. Perhaps the most immediate concern is the commission’s so-called net neutrality rule .. Mr. Pai has put dismantling this structure at the top of his agenda.

.. It’s not just that the existing giants want free rein over their customers. They also want even greater scale and even greater involvement in content as well as distribution

  • .. Comcast bought NBCU
  • .. AT&T, which already swallowed up DirecTV, wants to buy HBO’s and CNN’s programming through an $85 billion merger with Time Warner.
  • .. Verizon already bought AOL, is about to absorb Yahoo

.. Other countries — South Korea, Sweden, even China — have made the widespread adoption of universal, inexpensive, high-speed data transmission a priority.

.. understand that markets, if left to their own devices, won’t deliver this benefit to all citizens.

With Washington’s Blessing, Telecom Giants Can Mine Your Web History

Congress’s repeal of FCC privacy rules could be data boon for Verizon, Comcast, AT&T

What if your telecom company tracked the websites you visit, the apps you use, the TV shows you watch, the stores you shop at and the restaurants you eat at, and then sold that information to advertisers?

In theory, it’s possible, given the stance Washington is taking on online privacy.

.. Undoing the rules, which had been adopted last fall by the Federal Communications Commission but hadn’t gone into effect, is a boon to Verizon Communications Inc.,VZ -0.09% Comcast Corp. CMCSA +0.32% and AT&T Inc., T +0.45% which are all in the process of building data-driven digital ad businesses to complement the broadband, wireless and TV services they offer.

.. The telecom providers had argued the rules put them at a competitive disadvantage to online ad giants Google and Facebook, which generally aren’t regulated by the FCC.

.. But online advertising executives say telecom providers potentially have access to more powerful data than the two tech powerhouses. Their networks — both wired and wireless — could give them a window into nearly everything a user is doing on the web.

.. “ISPs like Verizon can now start building and selling profiles about consumers that include their friends, the news articles they read, where they shop, where they bank, along with their physical location,”

.. If a consumer uses the same telecom provider for wireless, broadband and TV service, the provider could, in theory, track the majority of that consumer’s online behavior and media consumption.

.. &T’s defunct Internet Preferences program collected web-browsing data from some home broadband customers and charged subscribers who wished to opt out of collection an additional $29 a month.