In Mengele’s shadow – full-spectrum dominance from the US

Full spectrum dominance is a US military definition – who else could come up with such a frank and brutal term? – meaning total control over a battlefield, encompassing physical force in land, sea, air and space, as well as over communications and psychological channels. It’s a frightening and huge notion.

The US has been gradually chipping away at its aim for decades and it’s getting closer by the day. For all practical purposes it’s already there.

Clandestine military research and development is far ahead of the technology which has been declassified to the public. That’s one of the reasons for classification in the first place.

Take the case of the SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance jet which was first flown by the US in December 1964.

It’s a stunning piece of machinery, even by today’s standards, capable of flying at three times the speed of sound (2,200 miles per hour) at altitudes of up to 85,000 feet. It still holds the world record for the fastest air-breathing, manned aeroplane.

When it was first in use there was literally nothing in the world that could match or assault it.

It outperformed every missile, jet and weapon in the world and was often used to shuttle diplomats and undercover agents into and out of places they weren’t supposed to be.

This machine was declassified in the ’90s, around 30 years after its first flight, when it was still the highest-spec publicly known aircraft.

It’s a far cry from the realm of conspiracy theory speculation to say that the US air force would not have declassified and decommissioned the Blackbird without having an even better operational successor already up its sleeve.

So what is yet to come? We can only imagine, though it’s clear that the operating limits of the Blackbird will be greatly exceeded in a way that would seem improbable to the layman.

The most advanced projects generally come from Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), the broad and secretive organisation responsible for developing packet switching – the infrastructure upon which the internet relies – artificial intelligence, computers capable of receiving direct input from a human brain and other ideas from the sphere of science fiction.

Slightly lower tech but equally impressive are plans to completely control weather conditions in-theatre.

According to a USAF document which was put together in the ’90s and which detailed the desired-for technologies available to the military in 2025, techniques to gain such control include microwave scintillation of air and vapours as well as chemical intervention.

This last technique was famously applied by Beatle Paul McCartney before a show in St Petersburg. Atmospheric Technologies Agency was hired to take dry ice into the atmosphere to overseed and disperse nearby clouds in order to avoid dampening the occasion.

And it worked – you don’t get on the wrong side of Macca.

While rock stars are known for ostentatious displays of power, the military are usually a little more discreet, though far more effective in their chest-puffing.

The naive days of blindly supporting military work as a necessary force for good are long gone and some of the more sinister practices which were previously imagined have actually been exceeded in their darkness.

Take the example of the undeniably nasty CIA-run Project Artichoke, declassified in recent years, which sought to “get control of an individual to the point where he will do our bidding against his will and even against fundamental laws of nature, such as self-preservation.”

It has been all but acknowledged by the conductors of such experiments that the subjects were unaware, though all would be unwilling or incapable of comprehension in the aftermath.

This and other projects involved doping subjects with powerful hallucinogens, toxic substances, torture practices and psychological bombardment.

But we know that that sort of thing would never be allowed to happen these days…

Of course, there have been even more primitive and barbaric experiments made on unsuspecting patients of domestic hospitals.

The list of radioactive and chemical experiments alone made on patients, prisoners and servicemen in the US is intimidating.

In the ’40s Vanderbilt university experimented on nearly 1,000 expectant mothers by tricking them into consuming radioactive iron, resulting in cancers in both them and their children, some of whom died as a consequence.

In the ’50s at the Medical College of Virgina, burn victims were deliberately burned and treated to injections of radioactive phosphorus 32, with some concentrations being up to 50 times what is deemed a safe dose.

Fallout from nuclear bomb testing in the Nevada desert resulted in somewhere between 1,000 and 21,000 deaths – a wide margin of error, of which even the lowest estimates are terrifying.

There is a wealth of literature on the US history of clandestine crimes against humanity available to those who are interested, and much of it resembles the death camp horrors of nazi Josef Mengele and friends.

Where the global military industrial complex is headed next is difficult to be certain, but full spectrum dominance is certainly priority number one, however it’s achieved.

It may seem futile to resist the ambitions of such a devastatingly efficient machine, but it would be deeply unwise not to.

Inside Darknet

In early 2012 the CIA’s public website was taken down by Anonymous, the hacktivist group responsible for similar attacks on PayPal, MasterCard, Visa, Amazon and others.

The attack methodology — known as DDoS, or distributed denial of service — is a very old one and relies on brute computing power rather than delicate snooping and penetration techniques.

Certain corners of the press ignorantly trumpeted this assault as an example of the new frontier of digital terrorism, a threat to national security and an attack on the core operating infrastructure of the CIA.

It was actually, as one witty observer pointed out, more a case of “someone tore up a poster hung by the CIA.”

The agency’s corporate-looking site serves little purpose in the day to day operations of the agency beyond dishing out press releases and propaganda.

The operative communications are handled on secure military networks which are completely isolated from the public site, and they are for more hardened and robust.

The distinction between these networks is useful in understanding a scary hidden world of digital activity called the Deep Web or Darknet.

While most internet users merrily tweet and Facebook each other and endlessly debate freedom of speech and internet legislation on the sanitised regular — or Surface — web, there is a parallel community operating in the Deep Web.

This is a secure, private and entirely unregulated other world which can only be connected to using dedicated software.

Even the omniscient behemoth of Google doesn’t index or crawl the Deep Web — or at least it doesn’t say it does.

Anonymity is provided by the onion protocol, a multi-layer encryption system which reliably obscures the origin of internet traffic via a huge network of voluntarily-operated computers, or nodes.

Traffic is randomly routed across this network in such a way as to leave no trace of the route the data has taken. Only operators of these nodes can see a limited set of information about such routes.

Users establish an anonymised connection to the system via proven secure methods and are then able to explore this invisible Aladdin’s cave of misconduct and secrecy.

Uses include exchange of all manners of contraband including controlled and prescription drugs, extreme and illegal pornography, bomb-making and guerilla warfare manuals and materials, sensitive and stolen-to-order data of all stripes and even the genuine commission of murder.

The going rate for a hit is around £20,000, with half paid up front and the rest on completion of the murder. Clients are asked to provide as much information about the personal lives, families, distinguishing features and habits of their mark, as well as recent photos and places of work.

High profile targets cost more to whack, but they’re certainly not ruled out.

These hit men are very real and often the product of training by military special forces, with many providing a just vague enough resume of wars served in and credentials as green berets and the like. They also don’t appreciate journalists asking them questions about their work.

This is a modern version of Murder Inc for the busy, wired professional who occasionally needs someone rubbing out.

The trade of drugs represents a major proportion of Deep Web traffic.

Admirably specific descriptions of every drug imaginable — hundreds of cannabis strains, LSD, 5MeO-DMT, Valium, you name it — are presented with friendly, clear and professional instructions for payment and transaction protocol on the largest of these drug trading platforms, the historically consciously named Silk Road.

Refunds and returns policies are conspicuously absent. Paypal is not an option.

Upon completing payment you can expect your galaxy of multi-coloured uppers, downers, screamers or laughers to arrive via a reputable international courier to the destination of your choice.

As Mitch Hedberg said, “I love my Fed-Ex guy ’cause he’s a drug dealer and he doesn’t even know.”

Much in the way that early adopters of the Polaroid camera quickly realised that the photo lab technician needn’t know about your lewd holiday snaps, so the Deep Web is also home to a vast repository of frighteningly extreme pornography, including incest, child abuse, scat and snuff.

Even more terrifying are the enterprising souls who makes such material to order.

Thanks to the digital detachment of the onion these black markets can operate with near impunity from law enforcement, for now at least.

Of course any intelligence agency worth its salt would set up as many of its routing nodes as possible in order to build an incomplete but still useful picture of such illicit transactions, and that’s exactly what the CIA and NSA are alleged to be doing.

The size of the Deep Web is very difficult to calculate, such is its architecture, but the most conservative estimates put it at around twice the size of all of the content indexed by Google, and the more generous figures suggest it’s closer to 500 times that.

The incessant crowing about internet censorship, freedom of expression and copyright violation which populates the media columns is rendered entirely redundant by the existence of this hidden system.

If you want to get up to no good and get away with it, then you could start in worse places than the Deep Web.

Printing the future: rapid prototyping and society

Open Source Ecology is a project which aims to provide blueprints for to build civilisations. Don’t worry — this isn’t flat-pack imperialism, nor is it woolly, idealist fantasy.

The project has set out a list of 50 machines — ranging from agriculture and building applications to laser cutters, automatic cow milkers and tractors — which the group has designed from the ground up and then shared its material lists, assembly directions and instruction manuals, all for free, online.

With these machines and a little graft, a settlement can establish itself as practically self-sufficient organism, complete with solar power, clean water and, crucially, the ability to repair equipment as it breaks and to fabricate more tools.

The key to this remarkable self-repairing ability is 3D printing and rapid prototyping. These are relatively new technologies — for the non-military public, that is — which take digital mock-ups and computer-aided design (CAD) drawings and accurately process them into physical objects.

3D printing is based on the principle of additive polymer layers — a digital, three-dimensional design is broken down into layers, much in the same way as a digital photograph is broken into row upon row of pixels, each containing a single piece of data which determines hue and luminosity. Combined in the correct order, these pixels form an image.

The 3D printing principle takes this one step further, adding another vertical dimension and extending colour and brightness information with material data — resin, metal and even glass.

A rapid prototyping machine then takes these layers of information and physically prints them, feeding the object powdered or pellet-sized materials from an infinitely feedable hopper and fusing them into a solid with a laser — sintering — or with glue binders, similar to traditional inkjet printers. This aspect also allows control of the cyan-magenta-yellow-black inks, meaning pieces can be made in full colour.

Currently the technology is at a point at which resin and metals can be used to produce simple objects, but it doesn’t take too much imagination to envision when this will be developed to produce high-precision artefacts with complex, interlocking parts which can be relied upon for critical applications.

Some companies are currently selling consumer units which come supplied with blueprints of the printers themselves, which means that you can build self-replicating versions of these machines.

You need only open up your computer to get an idea of where this could be headed. Printed circuit boards are made with 2D printers and acid baths on resin/metal plates, and the stunning complexity and power which such circuit boards offer us cannot be overstated.

Scaling this up into a third dimension affords possibilities which conventional fabrication can’t even come close to. Imagine, for a low-tech, boutique example, a ceramic coffee cup internally riddled with copper filaments and an RFID chip similiar to those found in passports and Oyster cards.

Such a cup would be able to intelligently inform a similiarly wired coffee maker when its contents are nearly consumed or approaching undrinkably cold, and thus requesting a fresh round of coffee be brewed, including selecting the correct brand of coffee and proportion of milk and sugar as ascertained by the smart cup.

Of course, making perfect coffee is not going to set the world alight, nor will it democratise manufacture and local economic control — a key factor in social empowerment — but enabling communities to replace critical machinery and components independently will.

Architects have been extensively exploring new ways to build cities. In the early days of rapid prototyping, some forward-thinking individuals envisaged entire buildings being printed in this fashion, with only raw materials needing to be fed into these enormous machines.

But to print a building in this way would require printers many times larger than the building itself — a clearly impractical approach in space-starved modern cities.

Rather than building from the outside in, a more innovative method is to establish tracks upon which nanobots can run, again only requiring raw materials.

These miniature, autonomous machines — approximately a millionth of a metre wide — would zip around the tracks assembling the building according to the nanobots’ built-in instructions, which is a blueprint of the entire building.

And much like our intelligent coffee cup, this building would be free of the constraints of traditional bricks and mortar construction. Such an edifice could be laced with circuitry to provide high-speed internet connectivity, light-sensitive windows, solar panels and much more.

From third-world villages to the most advanced cities in the world, rapid prototyping can democratise design and manufacture, putting control back in the hands of those who choose to sieze it.

Similar printing technologies are also preparing to reset the Big Pharma monopoly. Using basic chemical initiators and digital instructions, a properly modified printer can manufacture medicine free from the constraints profit-hungry drug corporations.

Once again, it’s simply the availability of instructions which flattens the arcane hierarchy of wealth equalling health.

One day a person in need of insulin would simply download a file from their doctor and within 20 minutes would have a week’s supply of the drug, freshly manufactured in their own home from basic raw ingredients. Make no mistake — this is life-saving, world-changing stuff.

But the incessant and desperate march of copyright owners to lock down the internet and the free passage of information is a threat to these emerging, powerful technologies.

The world is approaching a point at which it’s connected enough to start repairing and improving itself, but the monopolisation of information is one of the points which we need to defend most fiercely.

Projecting the future of human endeavour and its marriage to technology is famously perilous. With the benefit of hindsight, such predictions can be laughably off-key, but we can be certain that what’s to come is stranger than we’re yet ready to suppose.

Rubberhosing Assange

The unique saga of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s attempted extradition to the US via Sweden on two charges of sexual assault represent a modern retelling of the oldest smear techniques known to “the dark arts” of politics – character assassination via sexual techniques.

Since a European Arrest Warrant was issued against Assange for an alleged sexual assault in Sweden in 2010, a circuitous chase has ensued which has ultimately led to the tech activist taking up residence in the Ecuadoran embassy in London.

While it seemed that his back was truly against the wall following his rejected appeal against extradition, his plea for asylum in Ecuador is perhaps his shrewdest – and potentially most fruitful – move yet.

By officially pinning his colours to Ecuador’s mast he has taken a dubious charge – for which Britain-Sweden extradition wouldn’t usually even be considered – and pushed it into the domain of international diplomacy.

Since the Ecuadoran embassy is a guest of Britain, the US cannot technically intervene or capture Assange without exploding the situation into a full-blown diplomatic incident or, at worst, an act of war.

Since WikiLeaks released a large collection of classified US diplomatic cables in 2010 – provoking the ire of the US departments involved and setting in motion that country’s fervour to extradite him – the whistleblowing organisation has also published a swathe of internal emails from global intelligence firm Stratfor, which reveal in detail the callous and dangerously autonomous nature of this enormous meta-government.

Among myriad fascinating and damning snippets are instructions for how to handle and manipulate intelligence sources, including “you have to take control of him. Control means financial, sexual or psychological control.”

Sound familiar? Attempts have been made to manoeuvre Assange into physical and psychological control with a sexual blackmail flavour. An old and effective trick indeed.

In a flourish of poetic irony, Stratfor has also extensively analysed Assange’s ongoing business and it’s clear that it is not likely to be donating to the Wikileaks survival fund any time soon.

In one such message Stratfor’s Sydney watch officer Chris Farnham asks CEO George Friedman: “Is it possible to revoke someone’s citizenship on the grounds of them being a total dickhead? I don’t care about the other leaks but the ones he has made that potentially damage Australian interests upset me. If I thought I could switch this dickhead off without getting done I don’t think I’d have too much of a problem.”

The very fact that WikiLeaks has exposed information pertaining to an intelligence investigation of its own organisation speaks volumes about the web of far-reaching sources that Assange sits Moriarty-like in the middle of.

The cat and mouse game which has unfolded so unpredictably over the last two years has reached a crucial point which reveals the depth of Assange’s long-term planning.

One of the first elements of this rabbit hole story fell into place in the ’90s when the Wikileaks founder co-developed rubberhose cryptography (RC), a type of digital encryption specifically designed with holders of dangerous secrets in mind.

RC essentially enables more than one password to be used on a piece of encrypted data, so that one password will reveal a certain set of information – for example, classified material and sensitive data – and another password will yield another set of innocuous encrypted information – say, family photos or instructions for reassembling a Mini Cooper. The name rubberhose concerns a persuasion tool traditionally used during “interviews” with subjects who are inclined toward silence.

This is a hi-tech/low-tech hybrid which defeats both aggressive brute force password-cracking methods, as used by the CIA et al, as well as the more brutal methods of information extraction, including aggressive social engineering and torture – techniques also employed by similar groups.

Assange and WikiLeaks have employed this exact methodology in their “insurance file,” an encrypted 1.4GB file – released in 2010 and distributed globally many thousands of times via digital torrent networks, essentially the same infrastructure which operates the Pirate Bay, this file could contain over a million documents – forming another essential element in the long-term WikiLeaks strategy.

A handful of media outlets have erroneously reported that the encryption on this file has been broken. This is not the case, but rather a result of sloppy or even wilfully misleading journalism.

Do we need reminding of the stranglehold the corporate world and parties concerned with taking Wikileaks down have on public opinion via the media? I hope not.

This file provides the key to the terse, chess-like nature of Assange’s evasion of black imprisonment, outright rendition or plain old murder. Should any of these occur, a trusted third party, or parties, will release some or all of the keys associated with this file, making the plain text information within available for anyone who has downloaded it.

On February 22 2012 a second insurance file was released, again with military-grade encryption, but this time weighing in at an enormous 64GB.

Whether the keys to these documents will ever be made public is unclear. Such a release may not even be in the interest of WikiLeaks or Assange, but the important fact is that their enemies – the US Department of Defence, investment banks, intelligence agencies and who knows who else – are made aware that this digital carrot is very much being dangled.

If these US bodies, and others, have received the passwords from Wikileaks then they will be aware of what is at stake, and may well be enacting damage limitation measures as we wait for the ongoing rigmarole of Assange’s extradition, or otherwise, to run its course.

The idea that WikiLeaks may already have given these keys to US law enforcement is an interesting one – they already have the material as it was theirs in the first place. WikiLeaks need only demonstrate that they have and can release it at the drop of a hat in order to put their king in check.

Under US law there is no key disclosure legislation, which means that a person may legally hold encrypted material without being required to give up its passwords. Of course this doesn’t rule out the use of torture to gain access to these secrets.

What this information is exactly can only be speculated, but suffice to say that it will be explosive and damaging enough to the figures of global power that it’s better for them to keep Assange alive.

This article first appeared in the Morning Star.