Daily Archives: July 19, 2017
By Evan Blake
13 July 2017
In recent years, the multinational corporation Amazon has risen to become the preeminent online retail giant and the fourth most valuable company in the world. One of Amazon’s most significant business contracts, which has largely been kept hidden from the public since it was finalized in October 2013, was a $600 million deal for Amazon Web Services (AWS) to build a private computing cloud for the 17 American intelligence agencies known collectively as the “intelligence community” (IC).
The deal initiated Amazon’s ever-deepening integration with the American state, and implicates the company in the international war crimes, mass spying and repressive operations carried out by the spy agencies of American imperialism. Similar to the Krupp company, which supplied arms to the German military during World Wars I and II, Amazon today provides the technological scaffolding for the wars waged by American imperialism.
Since reaching its deal with the CIA, Amazon’s stock value has more than tripled from $319.04/share to $993.80/share today. In the process, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has amassed roughly $55.9 billion, becoming the world’s second-richest person with a current net value of $85.3 billion.
Through the contract, known as the Commercial Cloud Service or C2S cloud, the company forged links to all 17 IC agencies. The cloud securely stores large portions of the internet and telecommunications data accumulated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); eight agencies of the Department of Defense, including the National Security Agency (NSA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the intelligence wings of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps; the Office of Intelligence and Analysis and Coast Guard Intelligence of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); and the Intelligence Branch of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), to name the most prominent agencies of the IC.
Amazon runs the C2S cloud privately, behind the IC’s firewall, enabling the IC agencies to securely share data with each other, separate from the internet at large. The C2S cloud is a major component of the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise (IC ITE) program initiated by then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in 2011. According to Clapper, the goal of the program is to “improve the ability to securely and efficiently discover, access, and share information” within the IC. Along with the Amazon-built cloud, the NSA constructed its own private cloud to store the swathes of data it continually collects. The two clouds work in complementary fashion, and are gradually replacing the isolated data centers used by each of the 17 IC agencies.
While the specific contents of the data shared between the IC agencies is classified and thus hidden from the public, it is undoubtedly used for all sorts of criminal operations. In a June 2015 speech, Clapper declared, “we have hundreds of millions of records in the cloud from the big six agencies [the CIA, NGA, FBI, NSA, NRO, and DIA] and others.”
In April 2016, Beth Flanagan, a leading official at the NGA, revealed that data from IC ITE was used to accuse the Syrian government of carrying out the August 2013 chemical weapons attack in Ghouta. These allegations were exposed as a trumped-up lie by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, whose arguments were substantiated by a separate investigation by the United Nations. Nevertheless, the Obama administration almost enacted full-scale war against Syria, using these false allegations as a pretext.
The sharing of data—facilitated by Amazon—enables scenarios to take place where the CIA, NSA, NGA and the Air Force collaborate to identify, precisely locate and carry out the drone assassination of anyone deemed to be a “terrorist,” including American citizens. Thanks to Amazon, the spy agencies can now more seamlessly conspire to carry out bloody military campaigns, such as the military assault on Mosul, or secretly orchestrate the Saudi-led war against Yemen. They are no doubt using such technology to simulate and prepare for the long-planned wars against North Korea, Iran, China and Russia, which threaten to coalesce into a new, catastrophic World War between nuclear-armed powers.
“One of the most important technology procurements in recent history”
In mid-2012, the CIA began conducting negotiations with AWS, IBM and an unnamed third corporation to decide which company would win the 10-year, highly lucrative contract to create the private cloud for the IC, which had to be capable of analyzing 100 terabytes of raw data at a time, an immense figure.
In February 2013, the CIA secretly selected Amazon as the winning bidder. IBM filed a bid protest, claiming they had offered a lower price than Amazon, but in October 2013, the US Court of Federal Claims sided with Amazon, which then began to build the C2S cloud infrastructure. The cloud became operational in the summer of 2014, with then-CIA chief information officer Doug Wolfe praising it as “one of the most important technology procurements in recent history.”
Last month, current CIA CIO John Edwards declared in a speech at AWS’ Public Sector Summit, “It’s the best decision we’ve ever made… It’s the most innovative thing we’ve ever done… It is having a material impact on both the CIA and the IC.”
There were a number of factors that led the CIA to partner with Amazon, one of which was their ability to save money in the long-term. While $600 million is an enormous sum, at that point the IC was spending upwards of $8 billion annually to store and analyze the billions of pieces of metadata, phone and internet records, and other information that it was collecting en masse on its self-built servers, as noted in documents leaked by Edward Snowden.
Amazon’s cloud-based server offered a means to significantly reduce these costs, as it had a unique ability to scale up or down to meet the storage, computing and analytics needs of the IC at a given time. Amazon would also incorporate any innovations or improvements devised by their engineers, which happen on an almost daily basis, directly into the C2S cloud.
Another advantage that AWS had over IBM and the third bidder was its commercial cloud marketplace, which is a place for vendors to sell software infrastructure and other online products to customers. Amazon’s commercial cloud marketplace was established in mid-2012 and rapidly grew over the following year during its bidding with the CIA.
The marketplace allows customers to test software products and developer tools before committing to a purchase. This appealed to the IC, which was tired of having spent large sums of money on inferior products. After signing the C2S cloud contract, the IC gave Amazon the green light to build a classified cloud marketplace solely for the IC, which went live in April 2016.
A third, highly significant reason that the IC transitioned to cloud-based computing and selected Amazon as their contractor stemmed from the increased need for internal security after recurring leaks made by whistleblowers, especially the cables obtained by Chelsea Manning and published by Wikileaks.
Throughout 2010, Wikileaks released the Afghan War Logs and Iraq War Logs, exposing the war crimes committed against those countries’ populations, as well as a dossier of US State Department diplomatic cables provided by Manning that exposed the US government’s foreign intrigues dating back to the 1960s, known as Cablegate. Clapper’s launching of the IC ITE initiative came the following year, in direct response to the evident weakness of the IC’s security systems.
Explaining how she walked away with immense amounts of government data, Manning wrote that she encountered “Weak servers, weak logging, weak physical security, weak counter-intelligence, inattentive signal analysis… a perfect storm.”
Centralizing data storage onto the private IC ITE clouds—using the advanced encryption methods developed by AWS and the NSA—enables the IC to prevent massive leaks from within. One of the security measures provided by the clouds is the ability to meta-tag all data with information, including where it came from and who is authorized to see it. Analysts are now only able to access data if they have the authorization. Further, if an analyst attempts to download large amounts of data, as done by Manning and Snowden, the cloud automatically flags this activity, halting it and notifying security personnel. Officials have claimed that if the current IC ITE measures had been in place in 2010 and 2013, Manning and Snowden would not have been able to walk away with troves of data.
Amazon, war propaganda, and the suppression of free speech
This is the second in a two part series, read part one here.
Prior to and during the C2S contract negotiations process, Amazon demonstrated its willingness to collaborate with the IC to stifle growing opposition to American imperialism and its spy agencies. In November 2010, AWS deliberately crashed WikiLeaks’ website after the organization began publishing the Cablegate documents.
After WikiLeaks had already published the Afghan and Iraq War Logs, numerous politicians had denounced the organization, with some calling for the execution of Assange. Right-wing Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman, who was instrumental in forming the Department of Homeland Security and served as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee from 2007 to 2013, publicly called upon Amazon and other companies to sever ties with WikiLeaks, declaring, “No responsible company, whether American or foreign, should assist WikiLeaks in its efforts to disseminate these stolen materials.” Amazon dutifully complied, cutting off the public’s access to WikiLeaks’ web page.
In response, WikiLeaks tweeted: “WikiLeaks servers at Amazon ousted. Free speech the land of the free—fine our $ are now spent to employ people in Europe.”
Amazon’s sabotage of WikiLeaks forced the organization to find a new server provider, and demonstrated to the state Amazon’s readiness to crack down on those opposed to the government’s criminality. This nefarious use of its power to control Internet communications no doubt piqued the interest of the CIA, which two years later would include AWS as a bidder for its private cloud contract.
In the summer of 2013, two months after Snowden’s first revelations of massive spying by the American government, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos purchased the highly influential newspaper the Washington Post for $250 million.
After winning the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service in 2014 for its coverage of the Snowden leaks, in 2016 the Post became the first newspaper to call for the criminal prosecution of its own source. In an article headlined “No pardon for Edward Snowden,” the Post Editorial Board denounced those calling for Snowden’s pardon and demanded that he stand trial on espionage charges.
During the 2016 election campaign, the Post endorsed Hillary Clinton, the military and intelligence community’s favored candidate. Since the election of Trump, the Post has been one of the leading outlets engaged in a hysterical campaign of anti-Russia propaganda, intended to force the Trump administration to shift its foreign policy orientation toward continuing the drive to war with Russia begun under Obama. They have served as a direct conduit for the CIA and other intelligence agencies, repeatedly releasing sensationalist “breaking news” stories citing anonymous intelligence officials, in an attempt to stampede public opinion behind the right-wing campaign against Trump.
Undoubtedly, AWS’s undermining of WikiLeaks, combined with Bezos’s purchase of the Post and the increasing dominance of Amazon as a multinational corporation, influenced the CIA’s decision to award the C2S contract to the company. The company was recognized as a willing and competent ally in the fight to suppress free speech and democratic rights.
Cementing ties between Amazon and the military
In September 2013, while the Court of Federal Claims was determining whether the CIA would need to re-open the bidding competition between Amazon and IBM, AWS went ahead and posted more than 100 job listings for engineers possessing the highest security clearance offered by the US government, “Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information.”
The jobs were listed for an AWS center in Herndon, Virginia, a 20-minute drive from CIA headquarters. Last month, Amazon announced that it will be locating its new AWS East Coast corporate campus at One Dulles Tower in Herndon, and are expected to employ up to 1,500 tech workers at the campus. The company situates most of its data centers in the northern Virginia area, through which an estimated 70 percent of global Internet traffic flows.
Further developing its connections to the state, in 2015 Amazon partnered with the Department of Defense (DoD) to create a program titled “AWS Military Fellowship,” in which active-duty military personnel spend time working for Amazon. The company currently has at least three soldiers working at AWS.
In its statement announcing the program, Amazon wrote that it is intended to “build a unique cadre of officers who understand not only the profession of arms, but also the nature of the strategic problems facing the DoD, and the organizational and operational opportunities made possible by revolutionary changes in information and other technologies. These officers will be at the forefront of transforming defense strategy, military forces, and the supporting infrastructure.”
In March 2016, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter visited Amazon headquarters in Seattle, “as part of a West Coast swing aimed at strengthening ties between the Department of Defense (DoD) and the tech community,” according to an Amazon blog post on Carter’s visit.
Carter first met with the AWS Military Fellowship employees, then held a meeting with Jeff Bezos and other key figures in AWS leadership, “to discuss innovation topics and ways to strengthen military exchange programs and partnerships with the technology industry,” the report notes. Reports also suggest that there were discussions of expanding the Pentagon’s use of AWS cloud-computing technologies.
During his West Coast tour, Carter also announced the formation of the Defense Innovation Advisory Board, which would be headed by Carter and Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Alphabet, the parent company of Google. In July 2016, Bezos was invited to join the board, whose purpose is to further integrate leading figures from the technology sector with the military. It is a component of the broader “Third Offset Strategy,” which seeks to maintain the global supremacy of the American military over potential rivals, in particular Russia and China.
Announcing the program, Carter declared that the board is “charged with keeping DoD imbued with a culture of innovation in people, organizations, operations, and technology … and also to ensure that we’re always doing everything we can to stay ahead of potential adversaries.”
Over the past year, the board has met with leading figures in the military, including at the headquarters of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida. In early January, the board voted to approve 11 recommendations to enhance the military in areas ranging from strengthening cybersecurity for advanced weapons to increasing funding for artificial intelligence research.
During the 2016 election campaign, Bezos made mild criticisms of Trump, who accused the Post of being a “fake news” outlet. Since Trump’s inauguration, however, the two have reconciled their differences, with Trump appointing Bezos to the American Technology Council that he formed in May. Bezos and the 18 other tech executives on the council met cordially with Trump in June.
The fight against Amazon requires a struggle against imperialism
The integration of Amazon with the state and its spy agencies typifies a broader trend of modern capitalism, in which all of the major corporations closely collaborate with their respective governments and facilitate imperialist war abroad. This is one of the defining features of imperialism.
Under the catch-all justification of protecting “national security,” a euphemism for upholding the global interests of the American capitalist class, the military-intelligence apparatus has carried out unremitting atrocities abroad and erected the infrastructure for a police state within the US. Since its contract with the IC in 2013, Amazon has directly facilitated these behind-the-scenes machinations.
As Lenin noted in the Preface to his 1917 work State and Revolution, written during World War I and in the midst of the Russian Revolution, “The imperialist war has greatly accelerated and intensified the transformation of monopoly capitalism into state-monopoly capitalism. The monstrous oppression of the laboring masses by the state—which connects itself more and more intimately with the all-powerful capitalist combines—is becoming ever more monstrous. The foremost countries are being converted—we speak here of their ‘rear’—into military convict labor prisons for the workers.”
Amazon exemplifies these characteristics described by Lenin. While collaborating with the spy agencies to wage war abroad, Amazon subjects its workforce in the US and around the world to brutal sweatshop working conditions.
As the International Amazon Workers Voice (IAWV) has reported, the company pushes its workers to their utmost limit, causing widespread workplace injuries and even fatalities. It tracks employees’ movements and enforces ever-increasing productivity requirements, creating conditions at Amazon warehouses that increasingly resemble the “convict labor prisons” described by Lenin.
The struggle to put an end to class exploitation and war are inseparably connected. There can be no fight against war without a fight against its root cause, capitalism and its division of the world into rival nation states. The resources squandered on imperialist war and the spy agencies, and the immense wealth accumulated by figures like Bezos, must be seized by the working class and redirected to provide for social needs, not private profit or the destruction of foreign countries.
orignal source https://www.wsws.org
The House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) yesterday, including legislation that would require the Air Force to create a new branch of the military called the ‘Space Corps’ by the beginning of 2019. The Space Corps would replace the Air Force’s current space departments and receive more funding as well as its own command.It was a major step for those in favor of creating a sixth military branch, but the Space Corps is still far from reality. The Senate Armed Services Committee’s current markup of the NDAA, a $696 billion measure, does not include the Space Corps, but rather creates a new officer to oversee space defense in the Pentagon, according to a summary of the bill acquired by Space News.The creation of a Space Corps is also opposed by Air Force leadership and Secretary of Defense James Mattis along with the Trump administration. The White House issued a statement about the NDAA this past week that said space defense needed to be addressed, “the creation of a separate Space Corps, however, is premature at this time.”The Senate’s current version of the NDAA seems to agree. Rather than creating an entirely new military branch, the Senate bill would create a new Chief Information Warfare Officer (CIWO) in the Defense Department to oversee “cybersecurity and cyber warfare, space and space launch systems, electronic warfare, and the electromagnetic spectrum.” The Senate bill would also require the head of Air Force Space Command to serve for six years, rather than two or four years.
When he was head of GCHQ, Robert Hannigan said some pretty clueless things about the Internet and encryption. For example, in 2014, he accused tech companies of ‘facilitating murder’, and joined in the general demonization of strong crypto. Last year, he called for technical experts to work more closely with governments to come up with some unspecified way around encryption. Nobody really knew what he meant when he said:”I am not in favor of banning encryption. Nor am I asking for mandatory back doors. … Not everything is a back door, still less a door which can be exploited outside a legal framework.”Now, speaking to the BBC, he has clarified those remarks, and revealed how he thinks governments should be dealing with the issue of end-to-end encryption. As he admits:”You can’t uninvent end-to-end encryption, which is the thing that has particularly annoyed people, and rightly, in recent months. You can’t just do away it, you can’t legislate it away. The best that you can do with end-to-end encryption is work with the companies in a cooperative way, to find ways around it frankly.”
‘Slap In the Face’: DeVos Under Fire for Including Fringe Men’s Rights Group in Sexual Assault Talks
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is under fire on Thursday as she holds three meetings on campus sexual assault—including one where she’ll hear from a fringe “men’s rights” group with a history of harassing sexual assault survivors and placing the blame for sexual and physical violence on victims.The “listening sessions” are aimed at assessing the Obama administration’s expanded protections for students who are sexually assaulted on campus. In 2011 the Department of Education introduced guidance for Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, requiring schools that receive federal funding to quickly investigate complaints of sexual assault and offer protections to survivors, and banning schools from retaliating against those who file sexual assault complaints.In her confirmation hearing earlier this year, DeVos would not commit to upholding Title IX guidance. Since being confirmed DeVos has reportedly ignored requests for meetings with survivors’ advocacy groups including the National Women’s Law Center, SurvJustice, and the Victim Rights Law Center.
The United States presents itself to the world as a beacon of liberty and a proponent of human rights around the world, ready and willing to stand up for and defend the downtrodden. Florida Senator Marco Rubio recently said that the world looks to the U.S. as an example of democracy. This myth is not believed outside of the United States’ borders, and decreasingly within. There is simply too much evidence to the contrary.The U.S. has been at war for over 220 of its 241 year history. During that time, it has shown a complete lack of respect for the human rights of both the citizens of the nations against which it wages war, and its own soldiers. We’ll take a look at examples from recent history, and see how the U.S. continues these barbaric practices today.