Security Concerns

It is standard practice for new military recruits to receive training on classification of information, the handling of classified information and general security practices.  In respect to their assignments the subject of unit/operational communications security (comsec) also addressed within each of the services.

Unfortunately recent experiences in which Russian forces captured private information from the personal cell phone transmissions of military personnel – and then harassed them by sending back versions of that same information – suggest that there is a grave lack of wireless security in respect to personal equipment (including tablet, laptop, cell phone and even gaming device) use. Wireless communications of any sort can disclose an amazing amount of operational military information.

That’s bad enough – but recent news shows that a lack of understanding of communications security can be dangerous at the highest levels of government. As I noted in a recent post, many people in DC still have not grasped the means by which information warfare is conducted on the internet and in social media. Equally concerning is that they may well have no comprehension of exactly how exposed their personnel cell and wireless network usage has become.

To that extent I was sad to see CSI Cyper go off television a season or two ago, the series did a great job of illustrating a host of exposures I’m virtually sure that many folks in Washington don’t appreciate. There is absolutely no doubt that cell phone and wireless networks are increasingly under constant attack by intelligence services of all stripes.

Most recently that threat has become so overriding that the government has even gone public, warning that cellphone-site simulators and other sophisticated wireless surveillance equipment is most definitely being used in Washington D.C.

https://www.usnews.com/news/technology/articles/2018-04-03/apnewsbreak-dhs-finds-suspected-phone-spying-in-washington

I have no clue as to whether or not Congresspersons, staff or even Cabinet level officers have been briefed or trained on communications security related to their cell phones and wireless devices. What I do know is that the issue has been a very real one for past Presidents and that their advisors and staff have had serious challenges in getting them to use secure equipment and adhere to security protocols.

The extent to which that issue could become more dangerous is also reflected in a recent news article.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/23/politics/donald-trump-cell-phone/index.html

During a period of numerous international negotiations and constantly increasing information warfare, communications security in Washington D.C. becomes as important as it is with military forces engaged in operations in hostile territory. The concern is how many people in senior leadership truly internalize that in an era of “untethered” wireless communications.

 

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Hoover and MLK

During our recent Coast to Coast show one of the subjects that came up, as it routinely does, was Hoover’s obsession with MLK – due to MLK’s taking the FBI to task for not inserting itself into the racial violence in the south. That is a subject we deal with at some length in Killing King and it is clear that Hoover directed a literal personal vendetta against King.

Other than his ire with anyone making negative remarks about the Bureau, the only real piece of information that fed Hoover’s vendetta – and gave it any legs at all – was the fact that one of MLK’s early associates, a legal advisor and fund raiser had admittedly been politically a communist in earlier years.  That fact was made known to King but he considered it ancient history and refused to totally disassociate himself from a long time friend and someone who was clearly a civil rights supporter.

Hoover used that piece of information extensively against MLK, over a number of years. Its certainly true that he developed what can only be thought of as a hatred for King and that he directed a number of extremely dirty tricks at MLK.  On the other hand, its important to know that many of those same dirty tricks were directed at a number of other individuals and by 1968 had become standard FBI practices in targeting a wide range of individuals and groups, from racial agitators to anti-war protesters.  To fully appreciate how broad such campaigns became, I would encourage the reading of a great work on those excess, Spying on America.

If you were not involved in protests in the late 1960s it may shock you, if  you were you may not be at all surprised.

What often does not get discussed however is the extent to which Hoover’s obsession was becoming self defeating by 1968.  Stu and I have reviewed a series of anti-King FBI documents related to the upcoming Poor People’s March on Washington as well as reports and memorandum Hoover was circulating to various agencies and senior administration officials. It becomes clear that the warnings were so repetitive and the smears so obvious that Hoover was literally beginning to be ignored – his prejudices were just to obvious and his tirades to blatant.

The FBI tactics that were being prepared to oppose the Washington march even sound trivial – including renting all the buses in certain areas so no transportation would be available to the march organizers. As an illustration of how Hoover was beginning to be ignored, even his request to tap the phones at MLKs march headquarters was rejected by the Attorney General.

All in all, the take away from all the documents and correspondence is that Hoover himself remained obsessed with King, but at other senior levels of FBI leadership, the concerns being expressed were much more about the violence being advocated by other black leaders and activists groups, not about King and his peaceful protest initiatives.

Announcements

Two pieces of news to share, one short term and the other a bit further out.

First, my friend Stu Wexler and I will be on the Coast to Coast radio show late Monday night/early Tuesday morning. The good news is that we go on first – so if you can make it up to midnight Central time you can listen live. Its more of a stretch for the east cost and easy for the folks out west.  If  you can’t make it up that late, it will be archived.

Stu and I will be interviewed on the MLK assassination and our new book Killing King.  I’m anticipating it will be lively.  The link for the show schedule is here:

https://www.coasttocoastam.com/show/2018/04/16

The second piece of news is that Creating Chaos is now in the last  stages of publication. The final proof is ready and I have about a week to go through it again and perhaps add a minor about of verbiage to update certain areas of contemporary events. We want to make it as absolutely current as possible at the time of publication – certainly a challenge in today’s news world.

Most importantly, the book is also available for pre-order now, with some significant discounts.  It will initially come out as an ebook in June and then it will be released in paper this September. That’s a bit of a reverse but it gets it out in circulation as early as possible, which is important to me and to the publisher, especially given many of its implications in regard to current events. .

You can find it at the publisher’s site for pre-order and it is up on Amazon as well. The publishers link is below.

http://www.orbooks.com/catalog/creating-chaos-by-larry-hancock/

 

Congressional Miss?

I’ve only been able to hear a sampling of the committee interviews with Zuckerburg but it seems to me that most of the dialog is totally missing a very large point by focusing only on personal data being collected and abused.

If you step back a bit you have to admit that the value add for most social network sites of any stripe – the free ones that is – lies in the extent to which they can provide you with content that is especially meaningful to  you.  That means people you want to connect with, topics you want to follow, products you would be interested in or even products you might like to buy.

To be able to do that the service has to collect information on  you beyond just the basics. And it has to make that information or at least some level of targeted access available to people who will pay for it. Ideally there would be a virtual wall between your personal information and the folks who want to reach  you, facilitated by the social media site. Of course such virtually walls are readily breached and hey, lots of folks already have your personal information including  your credit history and all your shopping information by direct hacking of  your credit bureau, bank, insurance company or retailer – that’s just reality.

Yet Zuckerburg’s Congressional interviews to date have almost totally focused on data theft, including his own.

They have not focused on Facebook – or others – as true media companies, companies which need to have a plan to either shield you from bad actors trying to get information to you (not from  you) or at a minimum give you some insight into the type of information  you are encountering (is it advertising, who is it coming from, was it vetted to any level, is it coming from somehow with a history of bad practices).

In the olden days there was a quaint idea that your media might differentiate fact from opinion, news from editorial and everything else from advertisements (we marketing types tried our best to sneak around that with advertorials and other more devious tactics of course).  But generally the media accepted some responsibility (subliminal messages were removed from movies, a sad day for sales of candy and sodas).

So…has Congress completely missed the issue of information going out via Facebook and others…and the possible need to regulate that…or did I miss it in the few hours of testimony I heard.  If it didn’t get better than that I begin to wonder what sort of staffers they have developing questions for them.

Radicalization

Given the chaos of domestic news these days, its difficult for a good many issues to penetrate the media for any period of time. One of those issues is the extent to which the internet is being used for domestic radicalization and incitement to violence.

Certainly I’m not ignoring the foreign aspects of the information warfare being waged within social media, but with the launch of Killing King on the anniversary of MLK’s assassination, Stu and I were both surprised to find virtually a total lack of interest in its implications related to contemporary acts of violence.

Given that, I though I would post a couple of excerpts from the one interview (VICE Magazine) we did where that subject was addressed.  I’ll put in the full interview link after those excerpts:

How do you think the white supremacist moment we’re in right now, with Trump and the Alt Right, compares to what went on back then in the late 60s?

Larry Hancock: What’s happening now is an enabling thing. Whenever these folks are able to get broad attention, as we saw during the 1960s, more recruiting happened. In 1967, the White Knights recruited young people. They used these people basically as their terrorist foot soldiers. They were young, relatively naive, and easily manipulated. It was the groups of older, more experienced radicals who actually were able to recruit young people like this and send them out on major terror attacks.

I’m afraid that’s exactly what we’re seeing now. If you look at the connections of some of the recent church shootings and school shootings, you will find that these are young people who have been radicalized by the same sort of racist, nativist network that has the same footprint that it did back in the 1960s.

Stuart Wexler:

There’s this giant continuum of Klan violence from the time the Klan was formed in the later 19th Century until the present. Wesley Swift’s influence on white supremacy is so profound that it’s now in the ether of what the white supremacist movement breathes. Specifically the focus on a race war. This wasn’t something that you saw as part of the motivation for racial violence before the 1960s. But in 1968, that’s what we believe motivated the people to kill King, and in 2016, virtually everybody who commits these racist acts, people like Dylann Roof, they’re talking about race war. That’s because Wesley Swift’s Christian Identity ideas, over a period of five decades, filtered into the white supremacist movement. Even the groups that say they’re not Christian Identity or that broke away from Christian Identity, this notion of a race war is very profound.

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/evqbyp/the-strange-tangled-web-of-assassination-plots-against-mlk

For those who might be skeptical that such groups still exist or are increasingly active – and that acts of violence result from their influence –  you might check these two links:

https://www.adl.org/blog/florida-white-supremacist-group-admits-ties-to-alleged-parkland-school-shooter-nikolas-cruz

https://www.adl.org/blog/new-mexico-school-shooter-also-fixated-on-violence-against-jews

 

Sample Killing King

I’ve spoken about our new book, Killing King,  here previously so I’m not going to repeat that other than to say that the book represents some eight years of research on the conspiracy that actually assassinated MLK Jr.  It represents brand new research, explores leads only superficially examined by the FBI, identifies new sources and new suspects and is unlike anything  you have read previously (unless you read The Awful Grace of God).

This new edition takes our study much deeper, with new documents which were not available previously and most importantly with some new names and connections, especially in connection to the money behind the plot, where it was raised and how it was moved – and connecting those names to James Earl Ray.

The book also deals with the reasons why this story has not emerged up to this point in time.

Enough said, if you want to sample the book and get a feel for its direction, the first chapter is available for free viewing now, courtesy of CrimeReads.  You can find it at:

http://crimereads.com/the-dixie-mafias-plot-to-kill-martin-luther-king-jr/

Weaponizing News

Current events continue to lead me to focus on and attempt to alert people to the extent that news stories are being altered and hoaxed for use as actual political weapons via the internet. While most of the current news coverage has to do with the extent to which Facebook’s demographic data collection was – and probably still is – being used by Russian actors in both the 2016 elections and ongoing efforts to divide and fragment the American public, there are a lot more weapons available than the Facebook data. And those tools are available to both individuals and activist groups who are taking advantage of them to do exactly the same thing the Russian political warfare is doing, dividing and fragmenting the American public for political purposes.

One of the things that has emerged from actual studies of the Russian information warfare is the danger of short term messaging; by short term I don’t mean the sort of Facebook campaigns which used structured political messaging in literally tens of thousands of targeted ads but rather the power of tweets, retweets, hashtags and other instant messaging systems.  The speed at which those tools allow weaponized news to go viral is amazing, and totally outpaces not only fact checking but the possibility that news sources may make mistakes and then recant. The recantations never, ever, catch up with the false news.

We witnessed an example of that this weekend when a series of doctored news items concerning Parkland shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez “ripping up the U.S. Constitution” went viral on social media. The story and images involved were totally false – but easily planted using what are called “free speech outlets”, which offer no checking of information and simply serve as a conduit for anything sent though them. In this instance it appears to have begun with a “doctored” animation placed on GAB (an ultra-conservative outlet) and then forwarded via Twitter. Within a matter of minutes the original tweet had been retweeted 1,500 times and liked 2,900 times. In time GAB was forced to acknowledge that the original was a fake but of course the damage had already been done and all those wanting to believe such a thing had no doubt internalized it as confirmation of their own views.

Long before the truth could catch up the story had crossed platforms and was appearing on websites and blogs. Adam Baldwin immediately tweeted the totally false story to 270,000 of his followers. And the story was added to an extended campaign already targeting Gonzalez, largely fed via 4Chan – an outlet routinely used by Russian trolls. That campaign accused her of being an illegal alien but also included anti-Semitic attacks on her and her family. If that doesn’t seem to make sense, it doesn’t have to, these sorts of campaigns feed off hate, and neither consistency nor rationality are required. And of course the story was also posted to Reddit’s pro-Trump page r/The Donald and widely shared by conservative news figures.

For more details on the Gonzalez information warfare check:

https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/26/us/emma-gonzalez-photo-doctored-trnd/index.html

If you are not familiar with “open” comment/news sites such as 4chan take a look at these links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4chan

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/8chan

Bottom line for me is that the weaknesses of Facebook are now known. There are some remedies and to some extent its use in information warfare to date has been more as a tool for actors with lots of money, implanting structured campaigns. That makes them a bit easier to at least track.

The sort of hate campaigns seen in the Gonzalez incident can be triggered by a single individual, or optimized by a handful of people – or bots. It’s the tweets, shares, retweets and shamefully unchecked repetition that makes them so dangerous.  In that regard the internet is not to blame, it the internet users. And so far, even with all the recent news, there is no sign that those users are becoming any more alert or responsible in their usage – that is truly scary.

Where do you get your news?

A week or so I was seated for a jury duty call and one of the questions asked during the juror interrogatory was literally that – where do you get your news, and specifically do you get it from Facebook or social media.  In that instance the attorney was particularly concerned about jurors prejudicing themselves with information on the crime being tried, on the defendant, literally by taking it on their own initiative to investigate the case for themselves online.

It was a good question, a real concern and of course has much broader implications. It’s also something I address in considerable detail in my book Creating Chaos on political warfare which will be coming out in late summer/early fall.   I was thinking about doing a post on this subject late last week, especially when the topic of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica came up in the news, both of which receive a good deal of attention in the final chapters of the book. Fortunately I was doing my research before Facebook removed certain of their advertising materials, featuring the capabilities of their demographic targeting, and its use in political messaging. A year ago that was something for them to tout – much of that is gone now – especially after the recent exposure of those its profiling capabilities and the impact it’s had on their stock.

The very thing that makes social media so addictive – its ability to track your preferences and guide you to materials which match them (not just in books, shopping, music, dating, etc) and so attractive for marketing (products, politics, messages, and for that matter hate) is what makes it so financially attractive in a business sense.  Having worked in marketing and advertising for a couple of decades, I personally experienced the escalation in reader/viewer targeting which began in print, moved on to the broadcast media and then to the internet.

The goal was always to target your message as finely as possible, both geographically and demographically. The more information a given media collected and made available to the advertiser the better – it allowed messages to be finally tailored and delivered specifically to those who would be most likely to actually welcome them.  And “advertorials” where viewed as an especially  positive tool, providing facts to educate the reader/viewer while still promoting your product or service.  The only limitation was that it was all very expensive because even the best options for slicing and dicing target groups were relatively limited in either print or broadcast media.

The fact that Facebook, or any social media outlet, can collect information for user profiling is both a service and an exposure, initially everybody loved it including American political parties…until the Russians jumped in with their own agenda and poisoned the well.  My own caution here is that much of the current angst about purported academics sharing profile information collected on Facebook for commercial purposes is way too focused.

You should take a look at all your social media and research how it makes money from marketing and advertising (including not just ad clicks but page views), and think about how it could be in business without that. I have friends who happily used the customized marketing features of Facebook for their own purposes but now are concerned that “bad people” do the same thing with very loaded and nasty messaging.

Think about it a minute, do you set up your own social messaging selections only to track what you prefer in terms of news, excluding all others? Do you just follow the hashtags that excite you?  Do you complain about people that only watch FOX, or MSNBC or perhaps RT…and then intentionally build walls about your own news choices?  Digital communications of all forms have created the ability to customize the world we all see each day, which means they also tempt us into a process very similar to operant conditioning.

The Russian internet messaging is very skillful in the use of operant conditioning, providing both positive and negative reinforcement to its targeted demographics…telling you both good things and bad things, and channeling that information through people and sources you have shown a tendency to trust though your own preferences.  It can be a very addictive process, ideal for religious and political recruiting as ISIS demonstrated and as a variety of nativist and racist groups are demonstrating in both the United States and Europe…check out the Florida school shooter’s conditioning experience as an example.

Bottom line, be very careful where you get your news – and don’t think the only worry is Facebook.  Still, for a bit more on its specific problems, you might want the check out the following links:

https://theintercept.com/2018/03/14/facebook-election-meddling/

https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2018/03/suspending-cambridge-analytica/

http://money.cnn.com/2018/03/19/technology/cambridge-analytica-scientist-aleksandr-kogan/index.html

JFK Records Release Update

I haven’t posted on this topic for some time but everyone should know that there some very serious researchers following what did – and what didn’t – happen with the scheduled release last year. In particular, my friend Rex Bradford has been examining the releases in terms of what was supposed to be made public, and what has not been. This is technical work and demands an extreme level of background in terms of the various official statements about the types and quantities of records to be released, as compared to what is actually occurring.

In a recent conference call, Rex updated the members of the Mary Ferrell Foundation Board on his research, we discussed issues and agreed that it was necessary to officially go on record with the national records archivist as to what we perceived as open issues. A letter was developed and today it was transmitted to NARA. We think the letter is objective and highlights issues as well as what needs to be done to address them.

You can find the letter on the Foundation web site at the following link; for those who are interested, I hope you find it informative:

https://www.maryferrell.org/pages/Featured_Letter_to_Archivist_March2018.html

 

Killing King – The Difference

 

Stu Wexler and I are both happy that our new book Killing King should be available during the next few weeks; it is available now on Amazon for pre-order:

https://www.amazon.com/Killing-King-Racial-Terrorists-Assassinate/dp/1619029197/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Pre-publication reviews always raise author anxiety levels but fortunately we have received very positive write-ups from respected sources such as Kirkus, Booklist and Publishers weekly. Publishers Weekly went so far as to give us a starred review, which is exciting for any new book:

https://www.publishersweekly.com/9781619029194

Now if you have read or are familiar with our earlier work; The Awful Grace of God, obvious questions are why another book on the King assassination and what’s different about it.

The simple answer is that it takes a great deal of time to obtain information via FOIA and as part of our research we literally had to wait years to get certain materials, some of which opened up entirely new leads. Stu largely carried the ball in that effort and as our research continued we found that we could flesh out certain areas – such as the convoluted process by which the White Knights actually attempted to first patsy and then kill one of their own to divert attention from their involvement.

We also discovered new connections between where the money for the final bounty offer was raised – in Atlanta – and the mechanics (meaning the cut-outs, covers and connections) between several of the individuals, including Ray, in what was an evolving plot.

Once you get your head around the fact that the same people had been trying to kill Dr. King for years, you face up to the fact that it involved several sub-plots and many different people over that time and it is in no way simple and straight forward.

My contribution was convincing Stu that we finally had enough detail to essentially write more focused book, more of a true crime story than the broader historical study that you find in The Awful Grace of God.  Killing King is more focused, more detailed, and a deeper view into the plots and players.

It’s definitely a frightening story and as a side note it helps get across the point that the type of thinking involved, the types of groups involved and the way in which they connect older, seasoned members with easily influenced young people  is still a very contemporary concern – as we have seen in several brutal Church and school shootings over the last couple of years.