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US Military Shuts Down CIA's Terrorist Honey Pot 213

Posted by kdawson
from the cyberwar-shambles dept.
Hugh Pickens sends in a Washington Post story about how US military cyber-warriors attacked and shut down a CIA-backed intelligence gathering site. "US military computer specialists, over the objections of the CIA, mounted a cyberattack that dismantled an online 'honey pot' monitored by US and Saudi intelligence agencies to identify extremists before they could strike, after military commanders said that the site was putting Americans at risk. The CIA argued that dismantling the site would lead to a significant loss of intelligence, while the military (in the form of the NSA) countered that taking it down was a legitimate operation in defense of US troops. 'The CIA didn't endorse the idea of crippling Web sites,' said one US counterterrorism official. The agency 'understood that intelligence would be lost, and it was; that relationships with cooperating intelligence services would be damaged, and they were; and that the terrorists would migrate to other sites, and they did.' Four former senior US officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the creation and shutting down of the site illustrates the need for clearer policies governing cyberwar."
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US Military Shuts Down CIA's Terrorist Honey Pot

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  • Bah (Score:5, Funny)

    by mrsteveman1 (1010381) on Friday March 19, 2010 @11:07AM (#31537932)

    Mommy and Daddy are fighting

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Aphoxema (1088507) *

      Don't let mommy brush your hair when she's mad at daddy.

    • Re:Bah (Score:5, Interesting)

      by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Friday March 19, 2010 @11:13AM (#31538108)
      More like the left hand and the right hand can't agree on what they need to do (or should be doing).

      I'm sure both sides have legitimate reasons for their positions, but it would seem like this type of thing could (and should) be avoided ... and kept quiet too. I'm going to go check out their Facebook pages and see who's got the most Fans.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Anyone wanna bet they're just shutting down this one, which may have been "leaked" already somehow and that they're really pretending to stop a monitored honeypot when in fact, they terrorists "leaving for other sites" are leaving for the new, improved honeypots?

        Kind of like how the US was happy to let people think Area-51 tests were UFOs since the Rooskies, who wouldn't believe it, would nevertheless think the US had built some hot shit?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Runaway1956 (1322357)

        Army, of course.

        The Marines are looking for a few good men.
        The Navy is an adventure.
        Those who don't make the cut, just be all that they can be, in the Army.

        No mention of the CIA in any recruiting posters I've seen.

      • Re:Bah (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Rich0 (548339) on Friday March 19, 2010 @01:20PM (#31540570) Homepage

        Isn't that the reason we have one person who is the head of the entire executive branch?

        If the CIA wants one thing, and the DoD wants something else, why don't they just ask the president to make a call?

        Or is the idea of cutting through bureaucracy so repugnant to government workers that the concept of just having somebody make a decision is completely alien?

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      For some reason the first thing that came to mind was this [wd8das.net] famous battle scene.

  • by Mitchell314 (1576581) on Friday March 19, 2010 @11:07AM (#31537934)
    The US military mounted a cyberattack against the CIA? (disclaimer: did not read TFA)

    At least they weren't desperate enough to resort to sending a DMCA take down notice.
    • by corbettw (214229)

      Wasn't there a story a few days about CIA officers launching precision assassination attacks against military targets due to anti-anti-terrorist operations? I'm thinking today is a Bad Day(tm) to work at the Pentagon.

    • Did this involve that Huffington Post censorship of Jesse Ventura?

      Thought so.....

  • Well, at least the honeypot becomes more credible to real terrorists now...
  • by jwietelmann (1220240) on Friday March 19, 2010 @11:20AM (#31538284)
    I can't exactly recall, but wasn't there an article or two on Slashdot a while back about how perhaps it was better to allow known terrorist network sites to continue to operate, rather than to shut them down and have us not know where the terrorists communicate anymore?
    • I can't exactly recall, but wasn't there an article or two on Slashdot a while back about how perhaps it was better to allow known terrorist network sites to continue to operate, rather than to shut them down and have us not know where the terrorists communicate anymore?

      Yes, but there is also something to be said for keeping the terrorists on the move even on the internet. It gets in the way of their ability to coordinate. However, if we inflict too much interruption they will find ways that aren't easy to monitor or interrupt. It requires a balance on our part.

      Part of me wonders if the CIA is whining because they had this source of information that has been taken away and now they need to find other sources.

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      The only case I see where this would be a good strategy is just before a physical military operation. If you shut down one website, they'll manage to resume communication somehow, but it will take a few days. If you shut down the website jointly with other actions, it has the benefit of disorganizing the enemy.

      If you don't have an operation planned, it sounds more clever to keep it online and keep the hand on the plug.
  • by Chrisq (894406) on Friday March 19, 2010 @11:22AM (#31538342)

    US military computer specialists, over the objections of the CIA, mounted a cyberattack that dismantled an online 'honey pot' monitored by US and Saudi intelligence agencies to identify extremists before they could strike, after military commanders said that the site was putting Americans at risk.

    Reading between the lines, someone in the military had a brilliant idea on how to find people liable to be extremists. "Lets make our own extremist site", they said. "Just to make sure we get them all we'll make it really fan the flames of Jihad, and tell Muslims why they should join in". What happens. A few people who would be terrorists come a long ... fine. A large number of moderates come along and leave comments like "you're a disgrace to Islam" and move on.. fine. But a sizeable number of Muslims who are not extremists hit the site and become radicalised by it. Some continue to use the site, but some inevitably find other "real" sites. Someone does an analysis and says "Look, the number of people being radicalised by us who we lose track of is now larger than the number of people who are already radical who come along and get tracked". The military intelligence guys say "what do you mean doing no good, we have dozens of people here talking about extremist acts, and we only lose track of a quarter of them!", totally missing the point that they now have a dozen untracked extremists, and three dozen who are currently tracked whereas without the site they would have had half a dozen untracked ones!

    • by copponex (13876) on Friday March 19, 2010 @11:37AM (#31538672) Homepage

      Yeah. One would almost assume it would be easier to switch to alternative sources of energy, bring our troops home, spend a fraction of the military budget on protecting our airliners and ports, and stop sponsoring military dictatorships in the middle east with arms and money.

      But, they'd still hate us for our freedom! Or something...

      • by RobVB (1566105)

        Yeah. One would almost assume it would be easier to switch to alternative sources of energy, bring our troops home, spend a fraction of the military budget on protecting our airliners and ports, and stop sponsoring military dictatorships in the middle east with arms and money.

        Clearly, you don't understand politics.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by carp3_noct3m (1185697)
        It's not about them hating our freedom, its about US hating our own freedom. Corporatocracy is the disease of America. Imperialistic Capitalism is just as evil as Dictatorship. (Capitalism can still work, just take the imperialism out)
    • by jwietelmann (1220240) on Friday March 19, 2010 @11:41AM (#31538766)
      The entire premise for your argument that the honeypot is a stupid idea rests on an assumption that if the CIA didn't operate a jihadi site, all those same site visitors wouldn't be going to any number of other jihadi sites instead.

      That seems pretty far-fetched.
    • US military computer specialists, over the objections of the CIA, mounted a cyberattack that dismantled an online 'honey pot' monitored by US and Saudi intelligence agencies to identify extremists before they could strike, after military commanders said that the site was putting Americans at risk.

      Reading between the lines, someone in the military had a brilliant idea on how to find people liable to be extremists. "Lets make our own extremist site", they said. "Just to make sure we get them all we'll make it really fan the flames of Jihad, and tell Muslims why they should join in". What happens. A few people who would be terrorists come a long ... fine. A large number of moderates come along and leave comments like "you're a disgrace to Islam" and move on.. fine. But a sizeable number of Muslims who are not extremists hit the site and become radicalised by it. Some continue to use the site, but some inevitably find other "real" sites.

      Someone does an analysis and says "Look, the number of people being radicalised by us who we lose track of is now larger than the number of people who are already radical who come along and get tracked". The military intelligence guys say "what do you mean doing no good, we have dozens of people here talking about extremist acts, and we only lose track of a quarter of them!", totally missing the point that they now have a dozen untracked extremists, and three dozen who are currently tracked whereas without the site they would have had half a dozen untracked ones!

      What impressive baseless speculation!

    • by gtall (79522)

      And totally missing from your argument is that the site is a CIA site, they're, like, civilian.

    • by mpe (36238)
      The military intelligence guys say "what do you mean doing no good, we have dozens of people here talking about extremist acts, and we only lose track of a quarter of them!", totally missing the point that they now have a dozen untracked extremists, and three dozen who are currently tracked whereas without the site they would have had half a dozen untracked ones!

      It's quite possible that without the "site" you'd have at least four dozen untracked ones. Since it's not like this honey pot is the only place t
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by O('_')O_Bush (1162487)
      It also makes the assumption that they were fanning the flames of the Jihad in the first place, and not simply providing guides on how to inflict damage.

      How to make an IED.
      How to create deal with a hostage situation.
      How to fly a plane.
      Where to purchase a dirty bomb.

      All of that is good honeypot material without promoting any radicalized viewpoints.

      I think the biggest harm is that now several sources of media are trumpeting that there are honeypots in the first place. If terrorists didn't realize that before,
      • It's been fairly public knowledge for a while, ever since they pinched those guys a few months back (not the penis PETN guy, a couple months before that).

    • by dave562 (969951)

      You missed one major point. The CIA isn't doing the radicalizing. They are providing a forum for others who are radical to espouse their views. To make a physical world analogy, it would be like the CIA setting up a "Jihadi Mosque" and hiding cameras and microphones in it. Then they open the doors and see who shows up, who they talk to, and what they talk about.

      If anything I'd encourage them to expand the program. I'd encourage them to bring in linguists and psychologists and people with backgrounds in

  • Disturbing (Score:5, Funny)

    by RealErmine (621439) <commerce@ w o r d h o le.net> on Friday March 19, 2010 @11:24AM (#31538374)
    None of this addresses the need for security of our strategic honey reserves.
  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Friday March 19, 2010 @11:25AM (#31538398) Journal

    "Once DoD went to the extent of saying, 'Soldiers are dying,' because that's ultimately what the command in Iraq, what Centcom did, it's hard for anyone to push back," one former official said.

    But some experts counter that dismantling Web sites is ineffective -- no sooner does a site come down than a mirror site pops up somewhere else. Because extremist groups store backup copies of forum information in servers around the world, "you can't really shut down this process for more than 24 or 48 hours," said Evan F. Kohlmann, a terrorism researcher and a consultant to the Nine/Eleven Finding Answers Foundation.

    Those quotes summarize why they did it and why it was ineffective.
    Welcome to the internet, where information never dies.

    • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary&yahoo,com> on Friday March 19, 2010 @11:38AM (#31538710) Journal

      "Once DoD went to the extent of saying, 'Soldiers are dying,' because that's ultimately what the command in Iraq, what Centcom did, it's hard for anyone to push back," one former official said.

      But some experts counter that dismantling Web sites is ineffective -- no sooner does a site come down than a mirror site pops up somewhere else. Because extremist groups store backup copies of forum information in servers around the world, "you can't really shut down this process for more than 24 or 48 hours," said Evan F. Kohlmann, a terrorism researcher and a consultant to the Nine/Eleven Finding Answers Foundation.

      Those quotes summarize why they did it and why it was ineffective.
      Welcome to the internet, where information never dies.

      It just, you know, pines for the fjords.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by blueskies (525815)

      "Once DoD went to the extent of saying, 'Soldiers are dying,'

      This is such a stupid quote by the DoD. If they don't want soldiers to die, pull them all out of Iraq. They goal has never been to have no soldiers die, because you can't go to war unless you are ready to lose soldiers. The question should always be are those soldiers' deaths being "spent" on achieving the current military goal.

      It's never a question of soldiers dying, it's a question of HOW many soldiers are dying to achieve a specific aim. S

      • by blair1q (305137)

        There's a big difference between soldiers dying because they are accomplishing a dangerous mission, and soldiers dying because they are being ambushed.

        "Saving tens of soldiers' lives now might have cost them hundreds of lives later."

        More likely it won't work out that way. It will just be more expensive to get to the terrorists who were being tracked by the honeypot site.

        But, I expect NSA and CIA argued over the relative casualty cost, couldn't come to a clear consensus as to the relative effect, and NSA en

        • by dave562 (969951)

          So really, you and I aren't even going to get into the ballpark on what the numbers really were. Just keep commuting to work, eating junk food, watching televised karaoke, and jacking off in safety while the "professionals" continue to perpetuate history's mess.

          Fixed that for you.

        • by Rich0 (548339) on Friday March 19, 2010 @01:14PM (#31540482) Homepage

          There's a big difference between soldiers dying because they are accomplishing a dangerous mission, and soldiers dying because they are being ambushed.

          There's a difference between merchant ships being sunk because they're accomplishing the dangerous mission of ferrying cargo across the North Atlantic during WWII, and ships being sunk because they are being ambushed by U-Boats.

          Under your rationale, the allies should have made use of Enigma/Ultra intelligence to defend any target of any value, without regard to preserving the secrecy of the Ultra project.

          In reality, many sailors went to the bottom whose lives could have been saved if the intelligence source were sacrificed. However, I don't know ANYBODY who would argue that the allies would have been better off if they saved a few ships in 1943 at the cost of the Germans switching to an unbreakable encryption system.

          Soldiers dying in ambush are no different from soldiers dying taking out a fixed objective where the enemy positions are known. In the end, they are sons and brothers and husbands and fathers, whose loss is a terrible cost which should only be incurred for the greatest need.

          However, it is a betrayal to save the lives of a few now at the cost of many more later, or at the cost of the mission. If the lives of a few soldiers is more important than the mission, then we shouldn't be putting them in harm's way in the first place.

          This is hardly something new to war. There has been countless debate over things like the decision after the Normandy breakout in WWII France to allow the Germans to retreat instead of cutting them off at a likely cost of many deaths from friendly fire. It is easier to let the war go on an extra six months or whatever and grind through an extra few hundred thousand people than to deal with accusations that your actions killed a few thousand of your own soldiers.

          Sometimes in war playing it safe costs more lives than it saves.

      • The question should always be are those soldiers' deaths being "spent" on achieving the current military goal.

        +5 Rationally Callous, you heartless, dispassionate, reasonable bastard!

  • You can't..... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by budword (680846) on Friday March 19, 2010 @11:26AM (#31538446)

    You can't fix stupid. Truer words were never said. Explains quite a bit about our fine Government too.

  • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Friday March 19, 2010 @12:02PM (#31539194)
    This is the domestic equivalent of what Pakistan just did recently when they arrested the 2nd highest man in the Taliban, who had not only been talking with the UN, but was scheduled to meet with Karzai in the next few months. Short term thinking and infighting hurting long term strategic goals. So what if some of the extremists left the website that had been set up? If we know all their information, can we just follow them to their new site? I'm sure the CIA had operatives planted in the website who befriended some of the regular visitors. Just like with any other forum/website, when someone leaves, they generally try to get their friends from the site to move with them to the new site, or at the very least let them know where they are going. Taking down this website only made us lose the potential capability to identify and infiltrate other extremist websites that are growing in popularity and membership.
    • by ftobin (48814) *

      If we know all their information, can we just follow them to their new site? I'm sure the CIA had operatives planted in the website who befriended some of the regular visitors.

      The costs associated with a shake-up can be expensive. Assuming we had plants, the value of their established relationships would reasonably lessen as a result of the transition to a new site, due to suspicion among members.

      Taking down this website only made us lose the potential capability to identify and infiltrate other extremist

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by corbettw (214229)

      We just need to find out why those extremists were leaving the site for others. Was it the banner ads? The trolls? Or did the lack of decent comment threading just annoy too many would-be suicide bombers?

  • by fnj (64210) on Friday March 19, 2010 @12:34PM (#31539748)

    With all the collective intellect of slashdot users, hasn't it even occurred to a single one of you geniuses that maybe, just maybe, this news is a bit of disinformation that has been spread deliberately to obscure some kind of real reorganization/shakeup that is taking place? Huh? I doubt in the extreme that the DOD has gone to war with the CIA, or that they are this blatantly making like the Keystone Kops.

    • I doubt in the extreme that the DOD has gone to war with the CIA, or that they are this blatantly making like the Keystone Kops.

      Why not? Outside of the fantasy world Tom Clancy novels, both agencies are notoriously corrupt and incompetent.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pla (258480)
      Huh? I doubt in the extreme that the DOD has gone to war with the CIA, or that they are this blatantly making like the Keystone Kops.

      I know, right? Because, y'know, not like we had enough information to absolutely stop 9/11 from happening if only TweedleDee had shared his pie with TweedleDum...

      I have a reasonably high level of confidence that either agency has their shit reasonably together. I have zero confidence that two organizations, both of whom encourage extreme distrust of everyone outside the
  • by blair1q (305137)

    After 9/11, the clear cause of the breakdown in security was determined to be that government agencies had grown insular. The overwhelming impetus for creating the Department of Homeland Security (a name that still creeps out my NaziDar®) was to integrate these agencies, to make them share information and goals.

    You mean GW Bush didn't even get the super-spook agencies to cooperate?

    Did that fucktard do ANYTHING right?

    • by Improv (2467)

      I'm no fan of BushJr, but this might be something so difficult that even a reasonably competent president would've had a very tough time (and a highly competent one might have to spend a lot of time and effort to pull it off).

      It's still boneheaded that "just do it" means of resolving the disagreement won out over "let's discuss this" or "let's go up the chain of command until we find someone with joint authority and they decide". When there's a disagreement between state police and federal police over legal

  • ... was seducing an enemy agent.

    *sigh* This is why we can't have nice things.

  • by dave562 (969951) on Friday March 19, 2010 @12:50PM (#31540064) Journal

    I'm going to rehash an argument that I used a few months ago when there was a news story about the FBI running a similar operation to monitor and prosecute criminals involved in credit card fraud. In that case, a few people argued that the FBI was aiding the badguys by giving them a forum to swap their k0d3z in. They completely ignored the fact that the bad guys would do it any way. If they weren't using the FBI forum, they'd be using another, unmonitored forum to trade the exact same information.

    The same situation is going on with this CIA jihadist "honey pot". The jihadists are going to use the internet to discuss what they want to discuss. Our government has two choices. They can either facilitate the information exchange and by doing so, tap into it.. or they can attempt to take down the sites where the discussions are taking place. In the former case they gain useful intelligence. In the latter case they end up playing whack-a-mole and are constantly one step behind the bad guys.

    The biggest challenge that the government faces in the "War on Terror" (and for the record, I'm against it. However I do realize the inescapability of it at the current time.) is gathering good intelligence. There simply aren't enough American citizens, or people friendly to the American government who have the necessary linguistic skills and social connections to infiltrate "terrorist" networks. Given the lack of human resources necessary to engage "the enemy" with, the government needs to come up with other ways to monitor what is going on. The honey pot that was just taken down was one of those monitoring tools.

    Whoever authorized the take down of the site should be stripped of authority and questioned. They obviously aren't playing for the right team.

    • by Anomalyst (742352)
      Since we are re-hashing, please note the appropriate reference to this imbecilic endeavor is "TWAT" (The War Against Terror).
      KTHXBYE
      • by dave562 (969951)

        I like that acronym. I will be sure to incorporate it into any future rants on the subject.

  • by JRHelgeson (576325) on Friday March 19, 2010 @01:44PM (#31540948) Homepage Journal

    There is a long history here that needs to be taken into consideration... This undermining of our own efforts is nothing new. This has to do with the disparate directives given to different government agencies.

    It used to be that the government intelligence agencies had to protect paper documents, "eyes only", and the biggest threat were photocopiers and miniature cameras... not any more.

    I wrote about this transformation many years ago.
    From my post:

    HumInt/SigInt:
    Human Intelligence, CIA
    Signal Intelligence, NSA

    The English have been masters at the spy trade for centuries. In WWII, the United States felt that it should get into the act and turned to the English for guidance.

    With their tutelage, the CIA became a formidable tool against the Soviet threat throughout the cold war. We had clearly defined enemies with clearly defined borders. Gathering intelligence became a methodical science... then, once the Soviet Union collapsed, the clearly defined enemies with clearly defined borders went with it.

    The growth of the internet created an atmosphere wherein information and 'intelligence' became a commodity. Then the emergence of an enemy that is not only difficult, if not impossible, to clearly define but who also operates entirely without borders. The polar opposite from what the CIA were trained to do.

    Not only has this rule-set reset turned the CIA upside-down, it has rendered it all but useless. The UK isn't doing much better either. The problem is that western society itself is at odds with the rules required to make an effective spy agency. Our open government(s), free access to information, laws against spying on citizens and so forth are what both protect our civil liberties as well as create the environment in which our enemies can plot against us.

    The CIA knew about al Qaeda operators operating in the USA prior to 9/11, yet did nothing to notify the FBI. This is because of the opposing nature of each agency. The CIA finds a criminal and wants to string them along to see what intelligence they can uncover by monitoring them. When the FBI finds a criminal, they want to string them up. From the CIA perspective, the FBI sure knows how to screw up an investigation and destroy your intelligence network. (In this case, it was the DoD that took down the honeypot.)

    The CIA is now dysfunctional to the point of uselessness. In fact, there isn't a single effective spy agency in the western world. The current battle we're fighting and the enemy we face is one that cannot be defeated by military might, it is a war that MUST be fought using intelligence.

    So, the administration turned to the only other agency with experience in gathering and monitoring enemies. It also happens that this agency is experts at SigInt, as opposed to the HumInt. The problem is that the NSA is forbidden by law from spying on American Citizens, UNLESS they are monitoring overseas communications. This exception has always been allowed, no warrant necessary. There is no law that states that I have the constitutional right to conspire with enemies overseas.

    No other nation even comes close to the SigInt capabilities of the NSA...

    It is imperative that the NSA get on top of this nations information security. A staggering number of government agencies are still not even behind firewalls! There is so much bureaucratic stagnation that nothing meaningful has been done to secure this nations governmental infrastructure.

    Finally, they are putting an agency in charge that actually *knows* something about security. I applaud this effort wholeheartedly.

    Regards,

    Joel Helgeson

  • Oh..., The dark malevolent cracker-humor of it all %~?
    Folks, this had me chuckling a few minutes, at work, but paranoia set-in (I stopped laughing).

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