Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Who Was Behind the Cyberattack on Sony?

Who Was Behind the Cyberattack on Sony?


The cyberattack on Sony Pictures unleashed a torrent of alarmist media reports, evoking the image of North Korean perfidy. Within a month, the FBI issued a statement declaring the North Korean government “responsible for these actions.” Amid the media frenzy, several senators and congresspersons called for tough action. Arizona Senator John McCain blustered, “It’s a new form of warfare that we’re involved in, and we need to react and react vigorously.” President Barack Obama announced his administration planned to review the possibility of placing North Korea on the list of states sponsoring terrorism, a move that would further tighten the already harsh sanctions on North Korea. “They caused a lot of damage, and we will respond,” Obama warned darkly. “We will respond proportionally, and we’ll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose.”

In the rush to judgment, few were asking for evidence, and none was provided. Computer security analysts, however, were vocal in their skepticism.

In its statement, the FBI offered only a few comments to back its attribution of North Korean responsibility. “Technical analysis of the data deletion malware used in the attack revealed links to other malware that the FBI knows North Korean actors previously developed,” it reported, including “similarities in specific lines of code, encryption algorithms, data deletion methods, and compromised networks.” The FBI went on to mention that the IP addresses used in the Sony hack were associated with “known North Korean infrastructure.” Tools used in the attack “have similarities to a cyberattack in March of last year against South Korean banks and media outlets, which was carried out by North Korea.”

The major problem with the evidence offered by the FBI is that it is self-referential, all of it pointing back to the 2013 attack on South Korean banks and media that was carried out by the DarkSeoul gang. At that time, without supplying any supporting evidence, the United States accused North Korea of being behind DarkSeoul. In effect, the FBI argues that because the U.S. spread the rumor of North Korean involvement in the earlier attack, and some of the code is related, this proves that North Korea is also responsible for the Sony hack. One rumor points to another rumor as ‘proof,’ rendering the argument meaningless.

The logical fallacies are many. To date, no investigation has uncovered the identity of DarkSeoul, and nothing is known about the group. The linking of DarkSeoul to North Korea is purely speculative. “One point that can’t be said enough,” emphasizes Risk Based Security, “is that ‘attribution is hard’ given the nature of computer intrusions and how hard it is to ultimately trace an attack back to a given individual or group. Past attacks on Sony have not been solved, even years later. The idea that a mere two weeks into the investigation and there is positive attribution, enough to call this an act of war, seems dangerous and questionable.”

Consider some of the other flaws in the FBI’s statement. The IP addresses that were hard-coded in the malware used in the Sony hack belonged to servers located in Thailand, Poland, Italy, Bolivia, Singapore, Cypress, and the United States. The FBI implies that only the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK – the formal name for North Korea) could have used these servers. The Thai port is a proxy that is commonly used in sending spam and malware. The same is true of the Polish and Italian servers. All of the servers used in the Sony attack have been previously compromised and are among the many computers that are widely known and used by hackers and spam distributors. Anyone with the knowhow can use them.

Whether or not these machines were used is another matter. Hackers often use proxy machines with phony IP addresses to mislead investigators. No hackers use their own computers to launch an attack. Vulnerable systems are hijacked in order to route traffic. For the FBI to point to IP addresses either reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of cybersecurity or a cynical attempt to deliberately mislead the public.

The Sony hack also bears similarities with the 2012 Shamoon cyberattack on computers belonging to Saudi Aramco. Those responsible for that attack have never been identified either, although the United States accused Iran without providing any evidence. Using the FBI’s logic, one could just as easily argue that the Sony hack was the work of Iran. One groundless accusation is used to buttress another. As evidentiary matter, it is worthless. It should also be recalled that in 1998, the United States blamed Iraq for the Solar Sunrise hack into Defense Department computers, only for it be ultimately revealed that it was the act of a few teenagers.

Nor do the similarities in code between the Sony hack and the earlier Shamoon and DarkSeoul attacks indicate a shared responsibility. Malware is freely available on the black market. Hackers operate by purchasing or borrowing, and then tweaking commonly available software, including both illegal and legal components. Code is shared among hackers on forums, and malware is assembled by linking various elements together.

One of the components used in the Sony cyberattack was the RawDisk library from EldoS, a commercial application that allows direct access to Windows hardware bypassing security. Anyone can legally purchase this software. There is nothing to tie it to the DPRK.

“There’s a lot of malware that’s shared between different groups, and all malware is built on top of older malware,” reports Brian Martin of Risk Based Security. “They’re also built on top of hacking tools. For example, you’ll find lots of malware that uses pieces of code from popular tools like Nmap. Does that mean that the guy who wrote Nmap is a malware author? No. Does it mean he works for North Korea? No.”

Robert Graham of Errata Security regards the evidence offered by the FBI as “complete nonsense. It sounds like they’ve decided on a conclusion and are trying to make the evidence fit.” Graham adds: “There is nothing unique in the software. We know that hackers share malware on forums. Every hacker in the world has all the source code available.”

Trojan-Destover, the malware used in the Sony cyberattack, included at least six components utilized earlier by Shamoon and DarkSeoul. “Even in such damaging scenarios, the cyber attacker’s tools are reused,” points out Sariel Moshe of CyActive. “For them, if it worked once, tweak it a bit and it will work again. The attack on Sony demonstrates quite clearly that this method works quite well.” Indeed, while Shamoon and DarkSeoul are the most commonly mentioned predecessors to the Sony hack, it is thought that this software has been used on several occasions in the past against multiple targets.

The software utilized in the Sony cyberattack is atypical for a nation state. “It’s a night and day difference in quality,” says Craig Williams of Cisco’s Talos Security Intelligence and Research Group. “The code is simplistic, not very complex, and not very obfuscated.”

Four files used in the attack were compiled on a machine set to the Korean language. That fact proves nothing, notes computer security analyst Chris Davis. “That is pretty weak evidence. I could compile malware code that used Afrikaans and where the timestamp matched JoBerg in about five seconds.” Any reasonably competent hacker would change the language setting in order to misdirect investigators. Had North Korean conducted this attack, it certainly would have taken the basic step of changing the language setting on the machine used to compile code.

What about North Korean resentment over Sony Picture’s tasteless lowbrow comedy, The Interview, which portrays the assassination of DPRK leader Kim Jong-un? It is doubtful that Americans would find themselves any more amused by a foreign comedy on the subject of killing a U.S. president than the North Koreans are by The Interview.

Among the emails leaked by the cyberattack on Sony was a message from Bruce Bennett of the Rand Corporation. Bennett was a consultant on the film and opposed toning down the film’s ending. “I have been clear that the assassination of Kim Jong-un is the most likely path to a collapse of the North Korean government,” he wrote, adding that DVD leaks of the film into North Korea “will start some real thinking.” In another message, Sony CEO Michael Lynton responded: “Bruce – Spoke to someone very senior in State (confidentially). He agreed with everything you have been saying. Everything.” Lynton was also communicating with Robert King, U.S. Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues in regard to the film.

The Western media portray North Korean reaction to The Interview as overly sensitive and irrational, while U.S. officials and a Rand Corporation consultant saw the film as having the potential to inspire the real-life assassination of Kim Jong-un. The scene of Kim’s assassination was not intended merely for so-called ‘entertainment.’

The mass media raced to attribute the Sony hack to the DPRK, based on its reaction to the Sony film. A closer look at the cyberattack reveals a more likely culprit, however. The group taking responsibility for the hack calls itself ‘Guardians of Peace’, and in one of the malware files the alternate name of ‘God’sApstls’ is also used. In the initial attack, no reference was made to the film, nor was it mentioned in subsequent emails the attackers sent to Sony. Instead, the hackers attempted to extort money: “Monetary compensation we want. Pay the damage, or Sony Pictures will be bombarded as whole.”

In an interview with CSO Online, a person represented as belonging to Guardians of Peace said the group is “an international organization…not under the direction of any state,” and included members from several nations. “Our aim is not at the film The Interview as Sony Pictures suggests,” the hacker wrote, but mentioned that the release of a film that had the potential of threatening peace was an example of the “greed of Sony Pictures.”

For two weeks following the cyberattack, the media harped on the subject of North Korean culpability. Only after that point did the Guardians of Peace (GOP) make its first public reference to The Interview, denying any connection with the DPRK. Yet another week passed before the GOP denounced the movie and threatened to attack theaters showing the film.

It appears that the narrative of North Korean involvement repeated ad nauseam by the media and the U.S. government presented a gift to the hackers too tempting to pass up. The GOP played to the dominant theme and succeeded in solidifying the tendency to blame the DPRK, with the effect of ensuring that no investigation would pursue the group.

For its part, the Obama Administration chose to seize the opportunity to bolster its anti-North Korea policy in preference over tracking down the culprits.

There are strong indications that the cyberattack involved one or more disgruntled Sony employees or ex-employees, probably working together with experienced hackers. The malware used against Sony had been modified to include hard-coded file paths and server names. System administrator user names and passwords were also hard-coded. Only someone having full access with system administrator privileges to Sony’s computer network could have obtained this information.

The GOP could have hacked into the Sony system months beforehand in order to gather that data. But it is more likely that someone with knowledge of Sony’s network configuration provided the information. Arguing against the possibility that critical information had been siphoned beforehand through a hack, cybersecurity expert Hemanshu Nigam observes, “If terabytes of data left the Sony networks, their network detection systems would have noticed easily. It would also take months for a hacker to figure out the topography of the Sony networks to know where critical assets are stored and to have access to the decryption keys needed to open up the screeners that have been leaked.”

The most likely motivation for the attack was revenge on the part of current or former Sony employees. “My money is on a disgruntled (possibly ex) employee of Sony,” Marc Rogers of CloudFlare wrote. “Whoever did this is in it for the revenge. The info and access they had could have easily been used to cash out, yet, instead, they are making every effort to burn Sony down. Just think what they could have done with passwords to all of Sony’s financial accounts.”

Nation states never conduct such noisy hacking operations. Their goal is to quietly infiltrate a system and obtain information without detection. Sony had no data that would have been of interest to a nation state. Computer security blogger The Grugq wrote, “I can’t see the DPRK putting this sort of valuable resource onto what is essentially a petty attack against a company that has no strategic value.”

It would have been reckless for a North Korean team to draw attention to itself. Cybersecurity specialist Chris Davis says, “All the activity that was reported screams Script Kiddie to me. Not advanced state-sponsored attack.” Davis adds, “Well, the stupid skeleton pic they splashed on all the screens on the workstations inside Sony…is not something a state-sponsored attack would do…Would ANY self-respecting state-sponsored actor use something as dumb as that?” The consensus among cybersecurity experts is clear, Davis argues. “The prevalent theory I am seeing in the closed security mailing lists is an internet group of laid off Sony employees.”

Following his cybersecurity firm’s investigation, Kurt Stammberger of Norse echoes that view. “Sony was not just hacked. This is a company that was essentially nuked from the inside. We are very confident that this was not an attack master-minded by North Korea and that insiders were key to the implementation of one of the most devastating attacks in history.”

“What is striking here is how well they knew to exploit Sony’s vulnerabilities,” reports Nimrod Kozlovski of JVP Labs. “The malware itself is not creative or new; there are plenty of actors that could have manifested this particular attack.” The hackers “knew more about the company, Sony, and its vulnerabilities than they knew, or needed to know, about hacking.”

As an indication of the hacker’s real motivation, it should be noted that the first communications focused on a different issue than the Sony film. The content of an email sent by the GOP to the IDG News Service refers to Sony’s restructuring, in which thousands of employees lost their jobs: “Sony and Sony Pictures have made terrible racial discrimination and human rights violation, indiscriminate tyranny and restructuring in recent years. It has brought damage to a lot of people, some of whom are among us. Nowadays, Sony Pictures is about to prey on the weak with a plan of another indiscriminate restructuring for their own benefits. This became a decisive motive for our action.” In an email to The Verge, the GOP wrote, “We want equality. Sony doesn’t…We worked with other staff with similar interests to get in.”

Seeking to diffuse tensions, North Korea proposed to conduct a joint investigation with the United States into the Sony cyberattack. Predictably, the United States quickly rebuffed the offer. National Security Council spokesman Mark Stroh arrogantly responded, “If the North Korean government wants to help, they can admit their culpability and compensate Sony for the damages this attack caused.” North Korea can hardly be expected to accept blame for an act it did not commit. But getting to the truth of the matter was the farthest thing from the Obama Administration’s mind. Similarly, U.S. officials are ignoring requests from cybersecurity experts to be allowed to analyze the Destover code. “They’re worried we’ll prove them wrong,” Robert Graham concludes.

The Obama Administration’s outrage over the Sony attack contains more than a small measure of hypocrisy. It was the United States that launched the Stuxnet attack that destroyed many of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges. According to a Washington Post article published in 2013, the United States conducted 231 cyber operations throughout the world two years before. The National Security Agency, as is now well known, regularly hacks into computer networks, scooping up vast amounts of data. The GENIE program, the Post reported, was projected to have broken into and installed implants in 85,000 computers by the end of 2013. It was reported that GENIE’s next phase would implement an automated system that could install “potentially millions of implants” for gathering data “and active attack.” According to former deputy of defense secretary William J. Lynn III, “The policy debate has moved so that offensive options are more prominent now.”

Contrast the mild treatment the media gave to the recent large-scale hacks into Target, Home Depot and JP Morgan, in which millions of credit cards and personal information were stolen, with the coverage of the cyberattack on Sony Pictures. It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that political considerations are driving the media furor over the latter case.

After six years in office, the Obama Administration has yet to engage in dialogue or diplomacy with North Korea. It prefers to maintain a wall of hostility, blocking any prospect of progress or understanding between the two nations.

Already, North Korean websites have been targeted by persistent denial of service operations. Whether the attacks were launched by a U.S. government cyber team or independent hackers inspired by media reports is not known. In any case, President Obama has already promised to take unspecified action against the DPRK. Actual responsibility for the Sony attack is irrelevant. Backed by media cheerleading, U.S officials are using the cyberattack as a pretext to ratchet up pressure on North Korea. Any action the Obama Administration takes is likely to trigger a response, and we could enter a dangerous feedback loop of action/counteraction.

Gregory Elich is on the Board of Directors of the Jasenovac Research Institute and the Advisory Board of the Korea Policy Institute. He is a member of the Committee to Defend Democracy in South Korea and a columnist for Voice of the People. He is also one of the co-authors of Killing Democracy: CIA and Pentagon Operations in the Post-Soviet Period, published in the Russian language.

Gregory Elich is on the Board of Directors of the Jasenovac Research Institute and the Advisory Board of the Korea Policy Institute. He is a member of the Committee to Defend Democracy in South Korea and a columnist for Voice of the People. He is also one of the co-authors ofKilling Democracy: CIA and Pentagon Operations in the Post-Soviet Period, published in the Russian language.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Nana's Christmas Rant "Christmas & the New Age Movement"

Nana's Christmas Rant

xmas traffic accident

Well, the holiday season is upon us and here we go again. I must admit that 2014 was one hell of a year for everybody on Planet Earth. We got mass extinctions of animals and humans, executions of guilty and innocent, carnage, disease, plummeting gas prices along with Pres. Obama's approval ratings, terrorists so nondescript that they weren't sure what to call them, more wars and occupation that you can shake a stick at, scandals of the seedy kind, and various weather anomalies that boggle the mind. It has been a war of truth and lies and truth and more lies and confusion to boot with the common phrase being, "I don't know what to believe anymore."

The so-called alternative media has stuck its fingers into the corporate pie and are now mouthing so much disinfo you have to take out your ouji board to determine who is moving things around. We have had so many false flag announcements about the coming apocalypse it makes your head spin, as the checkerboard trails cross the skies, the denials of Mon"santan"o, the cover-ups on Mars, the loose change falling of Tower 7 and 3d Holograms you can cuddle with. I mean, we have practically seen it all except the missing MH370.

We have had a herd of celebs take their last breaths and mourn the lost of a woman who openly proclaim Michelle Obama as a tranny! There is so much more that I could list here but it would detract from my original reason for this post.

I guess I have a bone to pick with the so-called NEW AGERS! I don't understand  how they can continue to persist in the most commercialized cycle of insanity that hits this planet every year moving into the so-called New Year. Now, I am not pointing a finger at ALL of them, so let me just say MOST OF THEM!

All year round we get the love and light spew. We get the "we are awakening" or the "awakening is upon us" or the "Guardian Forces" and the "Ashtar Command" are helping us, or even we are "moving into the 4-5th dimensions." How do we do all that and still celebrate Christmas?

Channelers Alert! 

If you are channeling, and particularly if you are channeling "Jesus" or Sanada as some call him, how in the world do you celebrate Christmas? Do you mean to tell me that he is not telling you the truth about this holiday? Do you mean to tell me that he is encouraging you to go out and purchase a tree and various other odds and ends so that you can celebrate his birth? Did he not tell you the true story, the whole shebang, the real deal about all this? If he did not, then who, pray tell are you channeling?

I have subscribed to various "Love and Light" blogs and websites. I have also subscribed to various UFO stuff on the internet. So I thought the above picture was quite apropos for my rant today. Seriously, as Mr. Claus is traversing through the inner and outer planes surely, even he knows the TRUTH ABOUT CHRISTMAS. He has to be multi-dimensional to be in all those places around the world at one time, wouldn't you think? How come ain't nobody channeling Santa Claus?? He is real, right?

But I digress. My real rant is how unnerving it is to receive "Season's Greetings", "Merry Christmas" etc., etc., etc. from these so-called "New Agers". Don't they know that it's all a hoax, at best and quite fabricated? If they are contacting "Ancient Aliens" and/or "Mary" haven't they been told that this is a bunch of boulderdash to just grab people's money?

Well, I am seriously questioning these folks now. It was bad enough that they had folks running helter-skelter over 2012. But here we are 2 years later and they have not deterred in their participation in this horrendous disinformation campaign called Christmas. As spiritual beings, they should know the truth and as beings of integrity, they should live by it. Otherwise, these 50 million channelers are just in it for the money. What other reason could there be? They have to be politically correct and keep in touch with their constituency. That is, if they step too far away from the status quo, they may lose their bread and butter, fine cars and nice houses and expensive seminars that they invite folks to come to to ASCEND.


If people are truly ascending, channeling and talking to ET's how can they participate in this massive disinfo campaign and call themselves true leaders of the movement? I am beginning to seriously question the authenticity of the so-called ASCENSION movement when I see ASCENDED MASTERS, not pulling the coat tail of their followers and telling them to stay away from the tripe. Or, do these so-called ASCENDED MASTERS have a hidden agenda? It just makes you wonder. Where are they during the times when we are sold a huge hypnotic bill of goods, that keeps us treading for another year and/or lifetime, trying to keep our heads above water on a Prison Planet such as this one. If these folks are willing to defy all logic and participate in this scheme of disenfranchisement, then it certainly makes anything they say after the said, 'New Year' holiday, dubious and base.

These people, have played on the heart strings of the masses for decades if not longer than that. I assume the so-called NEW AGE movement has been going on for more than 50 years from checking out the print date on many of these materials. These folks have been giving information about the Sun, the moon, the stars, the galaxies, the other worlds, the other worldlies, the inner earth, magnetosphere, the comets, asteroids and errantly massive dustballs and light/space ships, orbs, etc. and they have not come to the conclusion that Christmas is disinfo. How is that possible?

Maybe I will answer my own question....

They are not really channeling anything. 
They are not channeling beings of high integrity.
They are not listening to whomever they are channeling.
They are reticent to change things in their personal lives for fear of losses.
They don't want to upset the boat.
They are liars.
They are all frauds.

Believe me, I am inclined to believe all of the above but most inclined to believe the last one. If these folks are truly contacting these entities and they are not adjusting their lifestyles accordingly then something is really and truly wrong with the so-called NEW AGE movement.

Sony Propaganda

The Mighty Wurlitzer Plays On
Sony Propaganda

A few days ago both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal cited anonymous officials who claimed that North Korea was responsible for the recent cyberattack on Sony. These agenda-setting elements of the press conveyed the information without question, despite the fact that the evidence provided has been (as journalist Kim Zetter put it) flimsy. Contemplating the corresponding headlines is instructive.

As I wrote in the Times back in September of 2014, sophisticated anti-forensic technology is actively being developed by both American intelligence services and private sector companies. To think that other countries aren’t doing the same is naive. False flag attacks are standard spy tradecraft.

Furthermore high ranking, ostensibly credible, national security officers like Keith Alexander, James Clapper, and John Brennan have demonstrated the tendency to lie to the American public. Not small innocent lies but rather colossal brazen lies. Lies regarding essential constitutional rights. Why, pray tell, should we trust what we’ve been told by officials?

Your author contacted Zetter to offer the proverbial high-five and she voiced her frustration about the utter lack of skepticism by reporters like Sanger and Perlroth. Blind acceptance is part of the miracle of modern propaganda. As Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman described in their classic text Manufacturing Consent the large multinational corporations that constitute the mainstream press are able to frame debate and control the acceptable boundaries of public discourse by leveraging an apparatus which burns through literally hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

Of course this isn’t the only instance in which the stalwarts of the corporate media have botched their job as society’s watchdogs. Anyone following what’s happening over in Ukraine will also notice an astounding groupthink on behalf of the press corp. What’s painted as Russian expansion is really a NATO expansion. Putin is responding to Western incursion. Even an establishment figure like Henry Kissinger admits as much (and when a guy like Kissinger starts making sense it’s a sign that something is seriously amiss).

Asia Pacific

U.S. Said to Find North Korea Ordered Cyberattack on Sony

North Korean Role in Sony Hack Presents Quandary for U.S.

All of this underscores the role of modern propaganda as an incredible tool of social control, a textbook application of the science of coercion. The public is so distracted with celebrity gossip, mindless entertainment, wildly inflated alleged national security threats, and empty consumption that they fail to recognize the unraveling of our social fabric. Officials hyperventilate over an obscure contingent of jihadists while disregarding far greater, but less spectacular, threats.

Sadly the countervailing ideologies and organizations that served to keep capitalism in check in the aftermath of World War II have dwindled. Hence the plutocrats who funded the neoliberal revolution have a captive audience and they’re free to kick and beat the rest of us with relative impunity, while sanctioned policies like Quantitative Easing and offshoring allow them to swallow up nearly all economic gains.

And to think that former NSA director Keith Alexander had the audacity to claim that Chinese cyber espionage entailed the greatest transfer of wealth in history? Never mind the trillions spent on the self-perpetuating military conflict in the Middle East.

As inequality grows and the global climate becomes less habitable, the immiseration of the average Joe will inevitably lead to mobilization. The ruling class is well aware of what happened to French aristocrats in the eighteenth century. To save themselves from a similar fate they will switch the cogs of the Mighty Wurlitzer into high gear to give voice to popular discontent and subsequently co-opt emerging movements. That’s how fascism normally works. Mass interception will also be employed to identify activists and independent thinkers who see through the deluge of clever propaganda. Likewise a militarized police force guided by programs like Garden Plot will be waiting in the wings as a last resort.

When this juncture is reached, where a critical mass of people are angry enough to take action, the likelihood of a positive outcome will depend in part upon people acquiring access to alternative sources of accurate information. In this way organizations can foster accountability and properly apply the sustained pressure necessary to alter large systems. Looking out over a media landscape flooded by corporate money and an endless series of murky deep-pocketed foundations, a modest reader–funded outfit in Petrolia, California, is an encouraging sign: Season’s Greetings CounterPunch.

Bill Blunden is an independent investigator whose current areas of inquiry include information security, anti-forensics, and institutional analysis. He is the author of several books, including The Rootkit Arsenal and Behold a Pale Farce: Cyberwar, Threat Inflation, and the Malware-Industrial Complex. Bill is the lead investigator at Below Gotham Labs.

Sony Propaganda » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

Anti-Police Organizing in the Wake of Ismaaiyl Brinsley’s Death

Anti-Police Organizing in the Wake of Ismaaiyl Brinsley’s Death


Cop Killer Ismaaiyl Brinsley Had Pocket Full of $100 Bills – But No Job or Home

Remember how the 9/11 attack led people to cancel or pull back from anti-globalization protests?  It appears a similar dynamic could be at work as a shocking event challenges and divides a growing and effective movement making serious headway.  Like anti-globalization protests before it, the anti-police brutality/ policing movement is going through its own birth pangs as the tactics debate (when is property violence appropriate?) and issues such as how to foreground anti-black racism (#BlackLivesMatter vs. #AllLivesMatter) have taken center stage in the multifaceted and large scale resistance efforts underway.

Saturday, December 20th, was a big day for movement news.  While Minnesota’s Mall of America protest had people occupying space in the US’s largest mall to demand an end to police violence, half way across the country in Brooklyn, two police officers were shot and killed by a young black man who had ostensibly posted on social media before the shootings about his intention to “put wings on pigs”, citing revenge for the deaths of Brown and Garner as motive.  The accused shooter, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, shot himself dead on a nearby subway platform after shooting the officers.  As of Sunday afternoon, there is little information and much speculation about the accused murderer’s life (including that the murders were part of a counter-intelligence plot to discredit the movement and justify extreme force).  Much is uncertain, but it’s certain that the NYPD is already using this to suppress protest, repress entire communities, and further foment divisive public relations–especially with NYC Mayor deBlasio.  How can recent police union behavior and statements be considered anything but a naked admission of a police force’s own extra-legal/ paramilitary ambitions?

At this writing we do know a few things for certain: the corporate state’s policing apparatus will do everything in its power to use this event as a further call to arms against protesting U.S. residents and communities of color.  They will attempt not only to discredit a growing direct action-based movement, but also to aggressively attack protest groups and individuals they have been trying to get their hands on anyway.  If Ismaaiyl Brinsley had been arrested  and charged with the killing of two police officers in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, clearly the anti-policing movement would be having very different debates and discussions.  Now, in his death, many people righteously struggle to contextualize his motives or opportunistically use his actions for their own political reasons.

Not that probing Brinsley’s motives is entirely irrelevant–he shot a woman, possibly an ex-girlfriend, before the officers, for example– but the movement can hurt itself by participating in the posthumous quasi-legalistic media charade of “nailing down” his motives or state of mind.  (This activity already inculcates participants in the state’s judgmental logic of condemnation/ exoneration–echoing media character assassinations of murder by police victims like Brown and Martin.)   What if he was acting in concert with counter-intelligence forces? What if Mao’s little red book was in Brinsley’s pocket?  What if he was an active member of a local Cop Watch group?  What if he was a well-known local homeless man struggling with mental illness and addiction?

Initial activist reactions offer a range of responses: some grapple with the delicate issue of expressing compassion about the shooter’s life, death, and family; some timidly, or not so timidly, tiptoe around self-defense concepts and a deep understanding of the extreme nature of “revolutionary suicide”; some routinely denounce Brinsley’s actions–acting as guardians of the “real non-violent movement” against  “unstable violent outsiders”; some have decided that was a police action he got entangled in.  Then there’s those (new to the issue white activists, I am talking to you) who may have been active and supportive of the anti-police brutality movement, but will use this as an excuse to pull back.  (Controversial events function as a movement’s filtering process, losing people who are too challenged to keep fighting and were just waiting for a chance to fold anyway.)

If there’s anything I am reminded of by this event, it’s the power of social movements, and anti-racist struggles in particular.  For me, there is a connection between the cop murders and the movement.  Before you jump down my throat insisting that I am “feeding the cops’ ideology” by saying this–hear me out, please, and don’t take my statements out of context.  Since the drug war and mass incarceration/ deportation practices, many black and brown lives have been destroyed.  You don’t have to be a front lines long term activist to have strong opinions about policing and institutional racism in America, and feel hopeless in the face of it, too.  Frustration and anger is woven into the everyday fabric of people’s lives, and this includes individual consciousness, rhetoric, and self-understanding.  Add to this an endless flow of social media, news commentary, and live feeds of protests and demonstrations all over the U.S.  Some people may not be able to attend protests for various reasons (work, childcare, transportation, not living close to one, or a shy demeanor) but social media offers a strong way to feel emotionally connected to events since Ferguson began.

This access and ability to connect is both reason for the movement’s effectiveness and a reason to prepare for more controversial actions taken up by individuals in the name of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, or against violent police generally. (And then there’s always police counterinsurgency activities…)  In a large, multifaceted, international movement such that the Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!/ anti-policing movement has become, no one can ultimately judge who’s a protestor or a non-protestor, who cares or doesn’t care, about “the issues”. (Who has an authentic political consciousness gauge and where can I get one?) We can only state if we support certain actions as part of strategies our organizations or ideologies endorse.

I believe, from what I understand about Brinsley’s biographical facts and his presumed state of mind before the murders, he understood himself as a target of racist policing.  Go figure: young, black, and male in the U.S. A. But, As Dr. Johanna Fernandez wrote in CounterPunch, he could have also been acting in concert with authorities to execute a state plot to discredit the movement.  We will never know the facts here, and it shouldn’t deflect from our understanding of institutionalized racism, anyway.

Whether or not Brinsley acted alone or in concert with the state, his life had a truly tragic end.  If we admit understanding or empathy with people espousing extreme tactics — even cop murder — to express oppositional feelings, are we only throwing the police state, and its rabid NYPD, another reason for street level preemptive attack? (As if it ever needed a reason.  We’ve clearly seen over the decades, if the state doesn’t have a reason to justify aggression it’ll make one up.)  What about attempts to understand how social pressures like racist policing and mass incarceration damage people–like Ismaaiyl Brinsley? If we deny a careful consideration of the incalculable impacts movements can have, which include tapping into very real frustrations/ psychological dynamics leading individuals to act alone or as police agents, we sacrifice any potential unity than can be derived in a process of self-reflection and greater political awareness. Collective analysis may not lead to the unity of a shared position, but it could lead to an “agree to disagree” unity or a commitment to explore unpopular perspectives.  Something beyond simple condemnation or exultation is called for here.

It’s a daunting situation and the corporate state wins again if we play into the terms of engagement it always sets by the very nature of its power.  If Ismaaiyl Brinsley had survived and faced his accusers in court, we would see the movement split around “just” court procedures and outcomes.  Some would want him evaluated to qualify for mental health rehabilitation services, some would want him routinely punished, and some would call for his freedom, with an understanding his actions were committed under extreme duress due to the pernicious police state apparatus (a kind of “black rage” defense– if you will.)  From the looks of his social media posts, he knew he was probably going to die Saturday.

I shudder to think about what the state would do to Brinsley, and how the movement would split around his “just” punishment and desirable “rehabilitation.” (How are we going to rehabilitate psychotic racist police?  Any ideas?)  We would have to painfully endure a real trial of the Left’s anti-policing/ abolitionist positions. Instead, we are left to grapple with three dead bodies, many unanswered questions, and a big question mark about our ability to buoy the turbulence of building and sustaining a mass movement, focused specifically on the deep and festering wound of racist police violence, in the age of social media activism.
On Tuesday police Commissioner William Bratton said Ismaaiyl was carrying $100 bills in his pocket.
But he had no job or home.
The Yeshiva World reported:

If we are going to posthumously speculate on Ismaaiyl Brinsley’s life, dare I suggest we use the very commitment to institutional analysis and human compassion that has served as a foundation of the Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!/ anti-policing movement–and previous anti-racist movements– since its inception?  As the saying goes, let’s “keep our eyes on the prize.”

Michelle Renee Matisons, Ph.D. has  written for Counterpunch, Black Agenda Report, Z Magazine, Mint News Press, the NJ Decarcerator, Rethinking Schools, Alternet, and other publications. She can be reached at michrenee@gmail.com.

Anti-Police Organizing in the Wake of Ismaaiyl Brinsley’s Death » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

Friday, December 12, 2014

Undercover Cop Pulls Gun and Threatens Oakland Police Brutality Protesters | Alternet


LOL, these assholes, sorry my bad language, but if they are trying to have an American Spring, they are really doing it all wrong. That stuff worked in the Middle East. 

People here have seen them do it over there, so now they are very suspicious and are ready with easy social media access to tell all. 

What part of retarded do they not understand? Even switching sides is retarded. LOL, now they can go from breaking the law to keeping the law, when they were just seen tearing up shit??? I'm sorry, but sometimes 4 letter words says it all!!

Undercover Cop Pulls Gun and Threatens Oakland Police Brutality Protesters | Alternet

(Editor's Note: This report has been updated with new developments at 8.30 PM PST on Thursday).
A white undercover California Highway Patrol (CHP) detective pulled a gun and threatened protesters at Wednesday night’s march to end racist policing and police brutality in Oakland, California.
He was seen losing his cool and pointing the gun at protesters and a photographer before other uniformed police arrived to arrest a black protester, as can be seen on numerous videos of the incident on the Twitter feeds, #berkeleyprotest and #oaklandprotest.
The incident was photographed and posted to storify.com and #oaklandprotest, where it quickly went viral. These Twitter feeds have been documenting the ongoing East Bay protests following the two grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City, in which white officers who killed unarmed black men escaped facing charges.
Late Thursday, the Los Angeles Times extensively quoted California Highway Patrol Chief Avery Browne discussing the incident, where Browne concluded that "no one has provided any evidence that the officers were inappropriate in what they did."
Browne recounted his chronology of the event. He said the gun-pointing detective was one of several undercover cops posing as demonstrators at Wednesday's march in Oakland. He the detective said a fellow undercover officer had been "attacked" by protesters. He said the detective who pulled the gun told him, "Chief, I didn't know if I was going to make it out of this thing alive."
That line of defense--that a police officer is entitled to use deadly force while doing his job if he fears for his life--is the standard in law that absolves police officers from facing charges for harm caused by excessive force. That was seen as the legal linchpin that allowed two grand juries to exonerate the white officers who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in Staten Island.
The protests across the country demand, among other things, that this standard protecting police who lose control and use excessive force must be changed. They say, as the LA Times' report indicates, that police who too quickly rely on deadly weapons know that they can say those magic words--they feared for their lives--and escape accountability.
The CHP Browne made another telling admission to the LA TImes, saying that many undercover officers were spooked by protesters who recognized that they were cops and called them out in front of other protesters. The Times wrote:
"The CHP and other law enforcement agencies have been using plainclothes officers to observe and gather information about the protests, and Browne said tensions have risen among officers as several protesters have posted pictures of themselves on social media claiming to be armed with handguns, rocks and explosive devices.
"Despite Wednesday's incident, Browne said he will continue to deploy plainclothes officers to gather intelligence from protesters. Officers have also been creating Twitter accounts, on which they don't identify themselves as police, in order to monitor planned demonstrations."
This video, posted by WeCopWatch on YouTube on Thursday, identified two other undercover Oakland police officers who posed as protesters and were unmasked by marchers. However, there is nothing in that exchange that can be described as threatening.
The Oakland incident comes after police in nearby Berkeley rioted this past Saturday night, lunging into the crowd and using smoke bombs, nightsticks and tear gas to disperse a crowd of several hundred protesters. That confrontation led the Berkeley police to reconsider their tactics during protests on the following nights.
But as the protest marchers crossed into other police jurisdictions, closing several interstate highways, other police agencies, such as the California Highway Patrol, said they would respond forcefully.
This latest development shows that police are not changing their use of excessive force as the protesters have been demanding. It is a sobering reminder of how entrenched police policies and practices are, which is one reason that the protests are continuing.
 Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).