Clown Espionage Feed

Joseph A. Cafasso: A Call for Information

Cafasso in Outfoxed (2004)

Cafasso in Outfoxed (2004) about 34 minutes in.

I am interested in receiving information concerning the life and activities of former Fox News Military & Counterterrorism Editor Joseph A. Cafasso aka Joe Cafasso, Jay Cafasso, Gerry Blackwood, Gerard Pal Blackwood, Jay Mosca, J. Mosca, James Mosca, Joseph Mosca, Jay Anthony, Tom Adams, Jake Adams, Robert Stormer, Robin Storm, Rob Stormer, Bob Stormer.

He stole my computer and owes me about twenty grand.

Of particular interest are:

  • other known aliases
  • information concerning debts & unpaid financial obligations
  • incidents involving computer equipment or credit cards
  • medical conditions
  • employment history
  • documentation such as photographs, videotapes, audiotapes
  • transcripts or other documentation concerning public events he attended
  • documents he presented

Information can be provided to me via the comment section below, or via email to

UPDATE: Many thanks to those of you who have written to me already. Your help is much appreciated.

Cafasso as Jay Mosca

Cafasso as Jay Mosca

Good News! Let's send the reporter flowers!

UPDATE, September 2008: Cafasso's latest known aliases are Robin Storm aka Robert Stormer; he's also on dating sights as Shipdude -- "Sailing into your arms... or is it went aground on your front lawn?" -- and probably another 15 aliases on 10 other sites.

UPDATE, Feburary 1, 2009: I have confirmed reports that Joseph A. Cafasso is in jail in Indiana after failing to show up for a court appearance. There are a number of mostly minor charges against him. The most significant of them is "giving false information" to a cop: My understanding is that it took a while, after Cafasso was pulled over for allegedly speeding, for him to admit to law enforcement that his name was Jospeh Cafasso and not Robert Stormer.

I have some hopes that the various charges will stick and that this information shows up on any future criminal background checks on the man. As far as I know, none of the charges against carry enough heft to put him away for any significant period of time. But one can hope.

UPDATE, Feburary 2, 2009: The Northwest Indiana & Illinois Times' police blotter reports that Cafasso was arrested on Thursday, January 22, 2009. It lists the reason for his arrest as "Failure to appear, theft," but I am so far unable to confirm that a theft charge exists, though I would be delighted if that were the case.

Meanwhile, HERE (via Picasa) is his spiffy logo for his fake corporation "Subsea Marine." (Gotta love the use of clip art!)

For independent visual confimation of Cafasso's appearance, consult Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, available from Amazon: book or DVD.

UPDATE, Feburary 3, 2009: I am please to report that Cafasso is still in jail! (I checked.) After several years of wanting to see him go to jail, I am finding this very uplifting.

UPDATE, Feburary 4, 2009: Cafasso in the news!  The Northwest Indiana & Illinois Newspaper, February 4, 2009.

Woman learns beau is apparent con artist

CHESTERTON | A 63-year-old Tefft, Ind. woman, whose son lives in Chesterton, told Chesterton police on Monday a man she met through an online dating service claimed to be Robert Stormer, but really was Joe Cafasso, a con artist of such renown he is mentioned on a Wikipedia Web page.

Chesterton police are involved in the case because they took possession of a computer the woman and her son wanted to get rid of because one of Cafasso's enemies apparently wants it.

Police reports state Cafasso took over some of the woman's finances. The investigation into Cafasso continues.

And meanwhile -- oh, joy! -- Cafasso is still in jail!

UPDATE, Feburary 7, 2009: The Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana has a new article out on Cafasso's arrest, this one mentioning his rival Jack Idema.

The woman, who resides in Tefft, in northeastern Jasper County, met "Stormer" about a year ago through an online dating service. They later moved in together. According to the police report, he took control over some of the woman's finances before she learned he was a fraud.

According to the Chesterton police report, the woman and her son believe that Cafasso built a case against a man named Jack Idema, who also has a Wikipedia page.

The police report continues: "Idema is allegedly a Special Forces soldier who went rogue and tortured people in Afghanistan without approval from his superiors. He was jailed in a military prison for this and he blames Cafasso for his troubles."

Police say Idema knew about Cafasso's laptop. Idema contacted the Chesterton man through a phone search and told him he wanted the computer.

So he and his mother brought it to Chesterton Police.

(See note on Jack Idema and his cult followers below.)

Meanwhile, I am pleased to report that Cafasso remains in jail.

UPDATE, February 19, 2009: The Chesterton Tribune, in Chesterton, Indiana, has run an article on Cafasso's arrest.

The subject, who identified himself as Robert Stormer, 58, advised Cauffman that he did not have his Rhode Island-issued driver's license with him. Cauffman stated that when he ran the name Robert Stormer, it “came back not on file” in both Indiana and Rhode Island. Cauffman further stated that when he ran the Social Security number provided by Stormer, it returned to a 13-year-old Rhode Island girl.

Although the subject repeatedly insisted that his name is Robert Stormer and that there must be a problem with the computers, he eventually admitted to being Joseph Cafasso, 52, Cauffman stated. A second computer check listed his driver’s license in Rhode Island as suspended.

“During this conversation he stated he was hiding from members of the CIA and FBI along with several other stories,” Cauffman stated.

Always, always tell the cop who has pulled you over that you are hiding from the FBI! Cafasso deserves some kind of prize for that one.

UPDATE, February 20, 2009: New article -- FBI now investigating 'spy' arrested at Dunes, Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana, February 20, 2009.

UPDATE, February 24, 2009: Cafasso is still in jail! They've had him for more than a month now! Yay!

UPDATE, February 27, 2009: Cafasso is still in jail.

UPDATE, March 1, 2009: There are two new news stories out, both from the Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana:

The second one has Cafasso's Indiana mug shot. Enjoy!

Joseph A. Cafasso, Jr. mug shot, 1/22/09

What I found most interesting in the text of the articles is the interview with Cafasso's sometime side-kick, the minister John Johnson:

Cafasso has declined requests for an interview by the Post-Tribune, but he reportedly has talked to Ello, and to John Johnson, a Tucson, Ariz., minister who said he met Cafasso in the early 1990s when [Johnson] was selling marine equipment and Cafasso was working for a marine salvage company in New York.

The two stayed in touch over the years, with Johnson gathering that Cafasso had an engineering degree and may have been in the Delta Force, an elite military unit. Johnson said he never thought to question Cafasso, who attended Johnson's wife's funeral in 1999 and has remained in occasional contact. That year, Johnson had dinner at a Washington, D.C., restaurant, with Cafasso and a man who was a retired CIA officer.

"I don't know anything about his military experience, I don't know how you confirm that," Johnson said. "But it's pretty hard to fool the CIA."

In 2006, [Johnson] said Cafasso was using the name "Jay" and occasionally a last name of "Black or Black-something," to avoid followers of Jonathan Idema. Idema was accused of operating an illegal prison in Afghanistan who also had apparently wildly overstated his military experience, and reportedly believes he was wronged by Cafasso. . . .

Johnson put Cafasso in touch with a church in Mendenhall, Miss., where Cafasso would spend several weeks working with the congregation and even helping the church secure a $250,000 grant.

"He didn't make a dime," said Johnson. "He got roof over his head and what passed for food. And he worked incredibly hard."

But Cafasso clashed with church leaders, who eventually found the Times article and the many anti-Cafasso sites on the Internet. Cafasso left town soon after. Church leaders and Mendenhall Police Chief Bruce Barlow did not return calls from the Post-Tribune.

Johnson said he would not hesitate to recommend Cafasso to another church, and he worries about why DNR officers seemed intent on investigating Cafasso. "Knowing the guy, I just don't want to see him get the shaft," Johnson said.

Just how many of Cafasso's victims does Johnson have to hear from and about before he wouldn't provide Cafasso with a reference? When I tried to talk to him about the man, he hung up on me. 

I certainly hope the FBI is evaluating the finances of Mendenhall Ministries during Cafasso's tenure as Director of Development. As I recall, there were allegations that money had disappeared, and Johnson has done nothing about Cafasso except cover for him. From my brief correspondence with Johnson some time ago, it was my impression that Cafasso borrowed $4,000 $2,000 from him and never paid it back, but Johnson doesn't get that he was ripped off, apparently. I just hope that Johnson doesn't bail him out.

And the Reverend would still recommend even now

UPDATE, March 25, 2009: Cafasso is still in jail.

UPDATE, April 14, 2009: Cafasso is still in jail.

NOTE: For the record, I have no connection with the various Jack Idema-connected attack blogs devoted to the subject of Cafasso. They display an alarming lack of empathy for both Cafasso's targets and his family and have a history of harassment of both. These sites are, to the best of my knowledge, administered and primarily authored by a strange woman named Lynn Thomas aka "Cao" aka "Caoilfhionn" who, by day, works as a Process Re-Engineering Analyst for Allstate Insurance in Northbrook, Illinois, and by night is a far-rightwing blogger & conspiracy theorist. She has harassed me over the Internet for a number of years, including writing endless harassing nonsense about Terry Bisson, an author my husband publishes, because she spotted a photo of him standing next to me. While some of the information on her many interconnected sites is true, I cannot recommend them. 

The Guam Customs Channel Was Apparently for Jerry Yingling (former Airport Executive Manager) and Lieutenant Pete Daga (former acting Airport Police Chief)

This is part of an ongoing series on unauthorized cameras and listening devices found in the Customs area of the Guam Airport.

Safariscreensnapz116Regular readers will recall the unclaimed spy equipment that was found a while back in the Customs area of the Guam Airport. (See my March 3rd, Unauthorized Surveillance Cameras in Guam Airport: Who Was Watching The Customs Channel?.) There was an inquiry into just who was watching Guam Customs, and the report is now out, though it raises at least as many questions as it gives answers: KUAM: Report on Airport's listening equipment released

A collaborative investigation conducted by Pacific Security Alarm and private investigator Greg Hall answered three questions posed by the Guam International Airport Authority: Who installed the audio and video system in the Guam Customs area? When was the system installed? And who was playing Big Brother on Customs?

According to the report submitted to GIAA and Customs officials today, the investigations found answers to those questions and the answers pointed to former Airport executive manager Jerry Yingling and former acting Airport Police chief Lieutenant Pete Daga.

Seven cameras and seven microphones were found inside the Customs screening area at the Airport, purchased and installed by Sunny Electronics and general manager John Wilson. According to the investigator's interview with Daga, the equipment was purchased for two reasons - for security purposes following September 11, 2001 and because of numerous complaints about Customs officers stealing from arriving passengers.

Customs director Rick Blas doesn't buy the justification. He told KUAM News, "When you look at some of these documents submitted as review, these documents indicate they were purchased as far back as April 30, 2001. So where do they get off saying it was all done in the interest of security at the Airport?"

Also stated Blas, "They used the people's money to purchase [this] equipment. Things that weren't quite necessary as they claim to be."

The investigator points out that the camera and audio systems weren't the only things purchased. In fact, there are invoices showing monitoring equipment had also been purchased. Hall indicates in his report that through the investigation he learned the surveillance was being monitored by Yingling and Daga in their personal offices. While Yingling declined to comment on the findings, Blas maintains the cameras and microphones were all part of an ongoing turf war at the time between Customs and the Airport.

"Something done like this is an attack on law enforcement," he said. "This is why people like Pete Daga have no business in law enforcement. These people have jeopardized the lives of my officers who do go out in the general public, do surveillance work and they also do controlled buys. They must be held accountable one way or another."

The investigator also indicates that he interviewed Yingling about the equipment. Hall was told the systems were purchased around the time of the 9/11 attacks and during a time when he, as Airport manager at the time, had received death threats and threats to his staff. Yingling told the investigator the systems were to be placed throughout the Airport to prevent a repeat of the Seventh-Day Adventist Clinic shootings or any terrorist threats. Despite invoices stating otherwise, Hall concluded the audio/video system was installed in July 2002.

So who was watching and listening all Customs movement? Hall explained to GIAA officials, "It was intended for chief Daga and general manager is possible they did watch and listen, however there is no direct evidence that indicates they actually did."

I'm not up on the legal fine points, but it seems to me that surreptitiously monitoring inspections held by U.S. Customs in the a secured area of an airport is probably illegal. So what did they want to know bad enough that they'd want to break the law to find out? Was this information for their own consumption? Or were they monitoring for third parties?

KUAM reports that "Customs director Rick Blas plans to file criminal charges against former Guam International Airport Authority executive manager Jerry Yingling and former GIAA police chief Lieutenant Pete Daga" for "unlawfully intercepting communication of his staff and passengers."

MEANWHILE, Airport Manager Jess Torres weighs in:

Current GIAA Executive Manager Jess Torres said he has not finished reviewing the inch-thick report yesterday but expected to do so today.

"I realize the sensitivity of the report, and yes, Mr. Daga is still my employee here," he said.

"But as far as (possible disciplinary action) I don't want to jump the gun on that one. I'll review it and talk to the people that I need to talk to and then whatever action needs to be taken, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it."

Recall that Torres is the guy who LOVES Manila,  loves it so much that he was apparently accepting very frequent subsidized trips because he could get such deals there on personal grooming services. (While he's there, he probably gets to commiserate with the Philippine airport managers who have a few problems involving customs of their own.)


  • The Associated Press reports that Japan wants to explain their estimate that Tokyo should pay $26 billion to move 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam:

    Surprised by the cost, Japan will ask the United States to explain its estimate that Tokyo will pay some $26 billion for the realignment of the U.S. military here, a top government official said Thursday.

    U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Richard Lawless made the estimate on Tuesday, shocking some Japanese officials.

    Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said Japan would seek a clarification from Washington. The Lawless comment came days after the two countries agreed that Japan would pay some $6 billion to help move 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam.

    "We need to ask the U.S. side which items are included," Abe said. "This amount is not the result of any agreement, and we have not received any request from the U.S. to shoulder this amount."

    Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Thursday that he did not know how the Americans arrived at that estimate, and that the government would not impose a tax increase to pay for the realignment.

    The number has drawn considerable attention in Japan, since it would amount to more than 60 percent of the country's entire annual defense budget of $42 billion.

  • The Washington Times reported in March: Pentagon 'hedge' strategy targets China

    The Pentagon is moving strategic bombers to Guam and aircraft carriers and submarines to the Pacific as part of a new "hedge" strategy aimed at preparing for conflict with China, Pentagon officials said yesterday.
        Peter Rodman, assistant defense secretary for international security affairs, told a congressional commission that the response to the emerging military threat from China is part of the White House national security strategy made public yesterday.

    (I dunno. This week, it looked like the biggest conflict Bush was heading for with China was whether he or Chinese President Hu Jintao were going to get to drink that last of the champagne.)

Consider Philippine Coup Plotter Gregorio Honasan as Played by Peter Sellers

Safariscreensnapz112Funniest thing I read all day: from the LA Times, Philippines' Top Fugitive Is 'a Very Slippery Guy.' This sounds straight out of a Peter Sellers Inspector Clouseau movie:

Although his handsome face is well known throughout the country, he is proving hard to catch. Police have organized a nationwide manhunt, set up a hotline and offered a reward of $100,000 for information leading to his capture, but to no avail. . . .

Traveling one day by bus while dressed as a woman, Honasan found his fellow passengers giggling at him, and he feared he had been recognized. But it turned out he had forgotten to shave that morning and his fellow passengers believed him to be a careless transvestite.

By the way, has a survey where their readers voted for their favorite Insepctor Clouseu Pink Pather disguises: Hunchback (Wait till you see the full effect with the heump !) ; Dentist (There is only one man who could have pulled the wrong tooth ... ha ha ha ... It's Clouseau ha ha ha ... KILL HIM ha ha ha ...KEEELLL HIM! ...); Salty Sea Dog (Jist an old salty sea deawg here pump'n up de bird'n..); Toulouse LeTrec (Special Delivery...A Behm. Where you expecting one?), etc. . .

MEANWHILE, while we're being extremely earnest, I thought I'd note in passing that following last week's letter from Former President Ford in which he pardoned spoke out in support of Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush showed up in person to kiss Betty Ford.

Taking the Plame Wars to a Whole New Level

Now HERE's a news article that caused me to create a new tag: What were you thinking? The Chicago Tribune seems to be trying to outdo Bob Novak. Not content to out one CIA agent, they're trying to collect the whole set, or at least want us to think that's what they've done. (This reminds me a bit of the fake reports that Google Earth was being used to spy on our troop positions.) What were they thinking, anyway?

Here's the spin du jour: Forget Scooter Libby, the CIA has bigger problems. The pocket watch swings back and forth. You're getting sleepy, very sleepy: Forget Scooter Libby. Forget Scooter Libby. Got it?

Larry C. Johnson has a really good post on the subject that I'm going to mirror in it's entirety.

Well, the theater of the absurd that tries to pass for journalism has gone to new lows with a goofy story in today's Chicago Tribune. The article, Internet Blows CIA Cover claims, "It's easy to track America's covert operatives. All you need to know is how to navigate the Internet."

Oh really? Okay Mr. Crewdson (the author of this nonsense). Please search the internet and identify 100 CIA officers for me. Go ahead. Give it a shot. Oh, I forgot, first you need a name. You do not just enter a random name and come up with a flashing sign that says, "this guy is CIA". So really what you are saying is that if I tell you someone works for the CIA you can do a search and find out that someone, who is a private consultant, once worked for the U.S. State Department? In other words, you first have to be tipped off to look at a particular person.

Well, Valerie Plame was safe until the White House pointed reporters in her direction. Even if Crewdson's assertion that Valerie's cover was "thin" (it was not), what we know for a fact is that her neighbors did not know she worked for the CIA. Only those who had a need to know knew.

Crewdson insinuates, but doesn't demonstrate, that a simple search of the internet enables one to easily identify CIA employees. The true story is more complicated. Crewdson's searches were conducted after the names of individuals and companies appeared in the news. He searched on those names and found links to the U.S. Government. Nowhere on the internet will you find a list of undercover folks that says, "they really work for the CIA". Crewdson is right about one point, the CIA has done a lousy job of developing effective cover positions. But that is a failure of leaders like Tenet rather than officers, such as Valerie Plame.

But here is what is really fascinating. Crewdson says he identified 2600 CIA officers but, out of concern for national security, declined to out them. Thank you Mr. Crewdson. At least you understand that blowing someones cover, even a thin one, would be an act of treason. I am in favor of having Crewdson give Bob Novak a lesson in journalistic ethics and responsibility.

There is no such thing as ironclad cover. Whether Valerie Plame's cover was thin or deep, the basic fact remains--she was an undercover intelligence officer and expected senior government officials to protect this secret. Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, and Dick Cheney, who learned that she was a CIA officer, were obligated to protect that secret. Instead, they betrayed Valerie and helped destroy an intelligence network that was devoted to trying to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. That's the real story that true Americans should be fretting over.

I share Johnson's scepticism that the Chicgo Tribune's reporters have done what they claim. If they really had, they wouldn't have published the article. (And the scenario seems to come from an alternate universe in which the printed phone book was never invented.) But it does seem that this takes the Plame Wars to a whole new level in which our intelligence agents are now to be outed in bulk and not individually. While the agency is not staffed entirely by perfect angels, and while I enjoy a good outing as much as the next blogger, if we are to have intelligence services at all, this kind of political operative gamesmanship has got to stop.

Guam Airport Spying Update

From an ongoing series on unauthorized cameras and listening devices found in the Customs area of the Guam Airport.

From Public funds will determine who's monitoring GIAA's monitors

Thousands of dollars in taxpayers money will now be used to determine exactly who was monitoring the monitors at the Guam International Airport Authority. Through its preliminary investigation, the agency's executive manager, Jess Torres, confirms it was the Airport that paid for the installation of the security cameras by way of an aviation security grant after 9/11.

It was done so for added security measures by Pacific Security Alarm. Although he hasn't totaled up exactly how much was spent on installing the security devices, Torres estimates tens of thousands were spent. The preliminary investigation also revealed that one particular camera led straight to Torres' office. When asked how he felt knowing the monitors were monitoring one of the biggest monitors - himself - Torres stated he has nothing to hide.

"I feel deeply concerned because for all I know, even my office was bugged," he shared. "But then again on a personal basis, if they were trying to zero in on me to listen to my conversation, they are welcome to do that. If they want to photograph me on how I do my business, they are welcome to that because I have nothing to hide."

What "bugs" Torres is the idea of bugging him without his knowledge. But then again, we're back to the question of what's wrong with having monitors monitor the monitors. (After all, even the monitors need monitoring.)

Consequently, GIAA hired the team of Pacific Security Alarm and private investigator Greg Hall at a price tag that Torres says should not exceed $25,000 and should not take more than about two weeks to settle. Torres says the $25,000 that taxpayers will have to shell out will determine "where these wires are going to, who's listening to them, if they are indeed listening to them. If some of these cameras are still active or the listening devices because I'm not in the position to make that determination."

Secure Computing, Smart Filter, & the Female Breast

MbThis is part of a series on Secure Computing and SmartFilter. The image to the right is via the Got BreastMilk? Project.

Following the New York Times story Popular Web Site Falls Victim to a Content Filter, concerning Secure Computing's product SmartFilter blocking BoingBoing,  I wrote the following letter to Tomo Foote-Lennox, of Secure Computing, who is apparently the guy in charge of deciding what is smut and what isn't. He claims to be a defender of the interests of children:

In an e-mail message to Xeni Jardin, another of Boing Boing's chiefs, Tomo Foote-Lennox, a director of filtering data for Secure Computing, asked why the bloggers were starting a war. "We discussed several ways that you could organize your site so that I could protect the kids and you could distribute all the information you wanted," Mr. Foote-Lennox wrote.

One of the BoingBoing posts that Secure Computing used to justify classifying involved a shot showing a cat attempting to nurse on a woman's breast: Japanese TV show about cat that loves human milk. The image was very blurry and involved less actual nudity than your average shot of an Oscar-night dress. As a very experienced nursing mother, my hunch was that nursing, not an interspecies relationship, nor the expanse of cleavage, was at issue. So I wrote to Secure Computing's Censor-in-Chief to ask about this issue.

Nursing_1Regular readers of this blog are aware that I write with some frequency about breastfeeding issues, and may even be aware that when BBC Radio needed a Representative of American Womanhood to talk about nursing in public, they picked me. I have spent hundreds of hours nursing in public and have nursed on most major airlines and even nursed from the podium while doing public speaking. This is not a political stance, but rather a matter of pure practicality. The BBC pitted me against a man who said over and over that Public nudity is not socially acceptable, in the context of arguing that a nursing mother (Margaret Boyle-White) who refused to stop when confronted by UK police should have been arrested. I was followed on the program by Scottish MP Elaine Smith, who had introduced the bill recently passed at the time of the program making it an offense to stop mothers breastfeeding in public. (Preventing a woman from breastfeeding is already illegal in the State of New York.)

So I wrote the following letter to Foote-Lennox, to try to tease out whether what I suspected was true:

Dear Thom Foote-Lennox:

I am writing to express concern about your remarks concerning BoingBoing in the New York Times. As a long time BoingBoing reader, I am quite certain that it is by no stretch of the imagination a porn site. But I am also a nursing mother, so I am also concerned about what exactly causes you and your company to draw the conclusion the the nursing cat post was porn.

Nursing is not a sexual act. While there exist adults who sexualize children and the activities of children such as nursing, that is not what is going on in that image. The nursing cat seems to me simply a stand-in for a breast pump. Breast engorgement is a real phenomenon and dealing with it is a practical, not a sexual problem.

So what exactly about the nursing cat is sexual?


Kathryn Cramer
Pleasantville, New York

He replied:

We never called it porn.  We have categories for pornography, but we rated this as nudity.  Some of our customers want to limit the viewing of nude pictures in their schools or offices.  We give them the ability to make that choice.

- Tomo

I wrote back:

So a site that, say, depicted public breast feeding would make your list as nudity?


He replied:

Look at our categories on our web site.  Medical diagrams (women nursing cats on television don't count) are rated as nudity if they are explicit, but also as health, educational or consumer information.  Many elementary schools choose to block all nudity, but high schools usually exempt health and education, meaning if it is health or education, you ignore any other category it may have.

- Tomo

I wrote back:

You are aware that in some countries where women are not even allowed to expose their faces in public, it is socially acceptable for women to bare their breasts to feed their infants, yes?


It strikes me when I read his replies that, first of all, my basic intuition is correct. It was exposing the human breast in the context of nursing that was perceived as sexual and inappropriate, not the surreal twist given it by Japanese TV.

Nursey_1When breastfeeding in public for those hundreds of hours (sometimes even in elementary schools [gasp!]; always with at least one child present), I utterly failed to to provide health, educational, and consumer information. Here's voice-over I forgot to give: You know, dear, using breastmillk as eye-drops works as well for clearing up pink-eye as commercial pharmaceuticals! And it works pretty well in clearing up ear infections when used as ear drops as well! I assumed you knew. You did know that, didn't you? Mothers: always remember to educate the public while nursing in public, lest your public nursing be taken as some kind if sexual act!

Secondly: here I am talking to the Internet Censor-in-Chief for the US Military and their overseas contractors and for three countries (Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar), and he has this oddly sexualized idea of breastfeeding. He's just this guy, and he's entitled to his personal quirks, but exactly how did this situation evolve to put him in charge of deciding what is sexual and what is not? What is porn and what is not? What he was giving me was distanced by being a description of how software works, but was really very close to the rantings of that strange little man the BBC pitted me against who just kept repeating "nudity is not socially acceptable."

Combining this with questions about the legitimacy of Secure Computing's claims to have found vast quantities of porn on some sites, I conclude that the awarding of these sweeping contracts to them was really quite premature, even if you accept the idea that the military and three whole countries need their Internet censored (which I don't). What exactly qualifies this guy to evaluate what is and is not nudity, porn, inappropriate, etc.? Did he have some special training? Even Justice Potter Stewart was reduced to trying to define porn by saying "I knowing when I see it." Secure Computing offers much more than a definition: multiple categories of inappropriate material, each with their own definition. So just where does this guy Tomo get off telling the world exactly the manner in which the female breast may and may not be displayed on the Internet?

What I think we have here is censorship practiced as a kind of fetishism: Secure Computing employees read the Internet with a dirty mind and then have their way with it based on what they read into what they see.

Guam: "If Rick Blas doesn't know that something's going on at his agency, something's wrong."

More on Guam and the spying equipment found in the customs area of the airport there:

KUAM: Former TSA chief calls for federal investigation of Rick Blas

Local customs and quarantine director Rick Blas called on the assistance of his federal counterpart to assist in the investigation of about surveillance equipment found hidden in various security sensitive areas at the Guam International Airport Authority, as numerous wireless cameras and listening devices were found during a sweep of the Customs screening and airport offices yesterday.

While officials still have no concrete answers on who installed the devices or where they are transmitting to, there's a new twist in the investigation as the former Transportation Security Administration director has called for a federal inquiry into Blas.

While Blas is trying to determine the identity of Big Brother - identifying precisely who installed surveillance cameras and listening devices throughout the customs screening area - former TSA federal security director Adolph Sgambelluri is requesting a federal investigation into the cameras and Blas. Sgambelluri declined to do an interview today but tells KUAM, "If Rick Blas doesn't know that something's going on at his agency, something's wrong."

The former TSA official says several years ago he became aware of an investigation alleging Customs officers were interrogating passengers coming off flights from the Philippines. Sgambelluri claims the interrogations were done without probable cause. He maintains the feds and TSS had nothing to do with the installation of surveillance equipment at the airport.

KUAM News asked whom he believes installed the cameras - Sgambelluri maintains it was Blas himself.  . . .

In the meantime, unnamed sources from the Airport tell KUAM News that after September 11, 2001, the Federal Aviation Administration mandated the agency install more security cameras around the facility. At the FAA's instruction, the Airport installed numerous cameras within its facilities, but sources could not say where those cameras were installed.

Wouldn't it be fun if those cameras turned out to have something to do with Jack Abramoff's big checks he was throwing around in Guam? What a made-for-TV movie that would make!

See Pacific News Daily last week: Lawyer explains lobbyist checks

A California attorney, whose office received more than $400,000 in payments from the Superior Court of Guam for now disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, said he was told that most of the payments needed to be in $9,000 checks to comply with local court procurement rules.

UPDATE 3/6: KUAM News this morning reports that a "federal aviation security grant allowed for the enhancement of security measures" at the airports, but they still haven't established that whatever was up with the security cameras etc in customs was legit.

Unauthorized Surveillance Cameras in Guam Airport: Who Was Watching The Customs Channel?

GuamThere's a suggestive news story just out of Guam from Pacific News Daily: FBI takes airport spy devices

FBI agents have taken custody of mini-surveillance cameras and listening devices found Thursday at the island's airport as part of a joint investigation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Several listening devices and at least three small cameras were found after the Guam Department of Customs and Quarantine received a tip from U.S. Customs, said Guam Customs Director Rick Blas. The devices were concealed in the area where customs agents check arriving passengers and their bags.

At least two of the cameras were "live," or in operation, when they were discovered, Blas said, adding that local officials do not yet know where the camera signals were going. . . .

Guam Customs Director Rick Blas yesterday said he believes the equipment was installed during the term of former airport Executive Manager Gerald Yingling. Blas, who was customs chief at the time Yingling ran the airport, said he recalled people working in the same areas where the devices were found Thursday.

Yingling yesterday said there were cameras installed at the airport during his tenure after the 9-11 terror attacks. At the time, he said, the Federal Aviation Authority told the airport to "beef up security at the airport" and the airport had several cameras installed around the facility.

Yingling yesterday said he did not know if the devices found on Thursday were the same ones. Yingling said he didn't know the make of the cameras that were installed. He also did not know who installed them and where they were placed at the airport.

Current airport Executive Manager Jess Torres has said that old work orders on file at the airport will be examined to determine who authorized and paid for the placement of the cameras and listening devices. Torres said the devices discovered Thursday were not authorized under his watch.

So. What's up with this? Who would want to monitor what was happening in US Customs inspections in Guam? Probably the private sector, I would guess. And probably someone with goods passing through customs. Smugglers? Or?

Guam_apt_ext_nightBut OK, say smugglers want to do this. How do they gain access to secure areas in the first place to plant the surveillance equipment? Hmm.

See also KUAM News: Surveillance equipment discovered at Customs office

For the last year, the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency has heard rumors about being under surveillance. Officials say it was merely speculation, that is until today when a thorough sweep was made in the customs airport offices and screening area.

Customs and their federal counterpart found numerous surveillance items, including cameras and listening devices, in places they thought were secure. Now officials are concerned that they may have violated the civil rights of thousands of passengers and their employees.

Looking at a small, pin-sized, non-intimidating object, you probably wouldn't think too much of what it contains. To a layperson, it merely looks like a small panel for some electrical wires, but the small pinhole in the center is actually a camera. This is just one of many found during a sweep of the Customs' airport offices this morning. Director Rick Blas says he was shocked with the findings, wondering who would go to such great lengths to keep an eye on his agency. "You would think that we would be safe in our homes, but as we found out this morning that is not the case," he said.

Apparently for an undetermined amount of time, Big Brother has been watching Customs officers conducting daily business at the Guam International Airport, from screening passengers, entering and exiting their offices, to cameras inside the break room and surrounding each secondary search area. During this morning's sweep officials found numerous items that looked like switches in the screening area at the Airport, but Blas confirms they weren't switches at all; in fact, they were listening devices.

Poking around for images, I found this lovely historical postcard of Vice President Spiro Agnew's arrival at the Guam Airport.


The airport is having a logo design contest (deadline tomorrow). Maybe one should do a design that involves bugs. Something sort of retro, maybe early-Nixionian. They had bugs back then, too, didn't they?

(See also my follow-up post.)

Kenya: The Standard Is Back Online

The East African Standard, a paper attacked during yesterday's media shutdown in Kenya, is back online and back in business. They have an impressive video of the masked men who attacked CCTV in Kenya taken by security camera, which is available for viewing. I'm going to try to arrange to mirror it so we don't suck up all their bandwith; it is well worth watching.


Guns & Christianity in Uganda

WaldronAlex of Yorkshire Ranter has just emailed me a link to my kind of blog post from  Bartholomew's notes on religion: US Christian Right Activist in Ugandan Jail over Illegal Guns. Anyone have any idea what's up with this? This seems like a narratively interesting situation if there ever was one. I know that certain segments of the American evangelical far right have a sweet tooth for the idea of mercenaries in Africa. I wonder if this situation has anything to do with the evangelical mercenary fetish.

Could face terror charges

Strange news from Uganda. The Kampala Monitor reported two days ago that

police in Kampala are holding an American national who was allegedly found with four illegal guns and 184 rounds of live ammunition. Police Spokesman Assuman Mugenyi told journalists at a press conference at Kibuli Police headquarters yesterday that Dr Peter E Waldron was arrested at about 8pm on Monday.

Waldron, 59, works as an Information Technology consultant for the Ministry of Health and has been living in Uganda since 2002. He was arrested at his home in Kisugu near International Hospital after a tip off.

Documents found on him indicate that Waldron is also an advisor to the President of Rocky Mountain Technology Group, Contact America Group Inc and Founder of City of Faith Ministries in Kampala.

(Actually, according Waldron’s website that should be “Cities of Faith Ministries”)

Apparently three men were seen near Waldron’s home dropping a bag; when a passer-by asked them what they were up to, he had a gun waved at him for his trouble. This rather unfortunate move led to an alarm being raised, and a hostile crowd forming:

They pleaded with the mob not to lynch them saying they would show them where more guns were hidden. "The suspects led the police to Waldron's house in Kisugu and on conducting a search, two more SMG rifles were recovered with 94 rounds of ammunition in a wardrobe in his bedroom and copies of The Africa Dispatch newsletter," he said. One of the men who were arrested was a Congolese national.

The Monitor also reports that

…Some of the pictures in the magazine show Waldron with diplomats in the High Court during the trial of [Dr Kizza] Besigye.

This raised the spectre of terrorism at the high court; however, a Reuters report says that this was incorrect:

Police mistakenly identified Waldron on Tuesday as being in a picture taken at the trial of opposition candidate Kizza Besigye and this, they said, was proof of a terrorist threat.


But on Wednesday they said they had been mistaken and the man in the picture was a senior diplomat, not the suspect.

This is a bit curious, given that Waldron’s appearance is somewhat distinctive (he has a large moustache). Reuters also provides some extra information:

An American evangelical and IT consultant, arrested in Uganda with assault rifles this week, planned to set up a political party, police said on Wednesday.

… Major-General Kale Kayihura, Inspector General of Police, told a news conference Waldron was suspected of links to a group in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and "planned to set up a political party here based on Christian principles."…

See also Jesus' General: Faith-based covert ops? 

Dr Peter E Waldron of Cities of Faith Ministries is the latest victim of Christian persecution in Africa. The former GOP operative, ex-President of The Save The Family Foundation, and member of the secretive Council for National Policy was arrested recently in Uganda for selling illegal "SMG rifles" (sub-machine guns).

Although such persecution is not unusual in Africa, this is the first case involving an arms dealer of the Lord. It is unclear whether Dr. Waldron was operating under a faith-based covert operations grant. There is no record on the Central Intelligence Agency website of anyone receiving such funding.

Just what is it about elections in places with fragile democracies that seems to draw the secretive American nutcases, anyway?

On his web site, Waldron explains his plan for Uganda: he plans to change the place through the miracle of branding (as in products, presumably, not irons). Exactly why he needed weapons to accomplish this is a bit mysterious.

CAG's got a blog!

I just discovered this morning that the strange, secretive private intelligence company Consultants Advisory Group (CAG) has a blog. I'm trying to figure out how to stuff it and mount it properly to be hung on my wall.

I have a letter in to UN Legal inquiring about the relationship between MINUSTAH and CAG. The CAG site (including blog) is sitting on a Yahoo server in Sunnyvale, CA, near as I can tell.

VEIL Technology: Four Patents & an Application

Cory Doctorow GoH speechAfter hearing Cory Doctorow's terrific guest of honor speech at Boskone, an updated version of his Microsoft DRM speech, I have become interested in finding out about this VEIL technology which is in proposed legislation (Digital Transition Content Security Act, HR 4569) intended to "plug the analog hole" aka the "a-hole." (This rhetoric reminds me of the joke about why the asshole is the body's most important organ. Someone in this process forgot to hire a writer.)

What made my little ears prick up at the discussion of VEIL is the unreasonable secrecy surrounding the technology. It is summarized nicely at Freedom to Tinker:

VeilagreementI emailed the company that sells VEIL and asked for a copy of the specification. I figured I would be able to get it. After all, the bill would make compliance with the VEIL spec mandatory — the spec would in effect be part of the law. Surely, I thought, they’re not proposing passing a secret law. Surely they’re not going to say that the citizenry isn’t allowed to know what’s in the law that Congress is considering. We’re talking about television here, not national security.

After some discussion, the company helpfully explained that I could get the spec, if I first signed their license agreement. The agreement requires me (a) to pay them $10,000, and (b) to promise not to talk to anybody about what is in the spec. In other words, I can know the contents of the bill Congress is debating, but only if I pay $10k to a private party, and only if I promise not to tell anybody what is in the bill or engage in public debate about it.

Worse yet, this license covers only half of the technology: the VEIL decoder, which detects VEIL signals. There is no way you or I can find out about the encoder technology that puts VEIL signals into video.

DevicesThis secrecy screams SCAM to me, and regular readers of this space know that I have been finding certain kinds of secrecy and scams entertaining of late. So I'm taking a look. Koplar Communications International, home of VEIL technology, seems to be a real company with a real address and real execs and all that (unlike certain companies I've lately looked into). But the response Freedom to Tinker got to their inquiry is just wrong wrong wrong. And in my experience, when you find something like that and start picking at the threads, things get interesting pretty quickly.

So lets pick at threads. I mean, it's not like a technology to be used this widely for consumer applications ought to be classified, is it? This sort of thing is supposed to be open for public debate, i.e. debate by the public.

Here's the opening of the VEIL Wikipedia entry:

Video Encoded Invisible Light (VEIL) is a technology for encoding low-bandwidth digital data bitstream in video signal, developed by VEIL Interactive Technologies. VEIL is compatible with multiple formats of video signals, including PAL, SECAM, and NTSC. The technology is based on a steganographically encoded data stream in the luminance of the videosignal.

The Veil Rights Assertion Mark (VRAM or V-RAM) is a DRM technology combining VEIL with a broadcast flag. It is also known as "CGMS-A plus Veil" and "broadcast flag on steroids."

This morning, I added some listings of the patents plus an application probably associated with this to the Wikipedia entry. (There was one there; I added a few more.)

(There also seem to be some Australian patents I haven't looked into yet.) What do we make of this? As Alex points out in correspondence, t certainly seems possible that the key to this isn't in the patents at all; rather it is in the proposed legislation making it mandatory. Techies, help me out here!

I think I understand the implications of this last one. If we were all chipped like dogs, then the screens could regulate their content based one whomever is standing nearby. Imagine that!

TedtvI cast around a bit looking into the company and its CEO. He strikes me as the very Ghost of Television Past, echoing the ideas about how the digital revolution experience could become ever-so-much more like your television. My favorite piece on Koplar is in Business Week and discusses the toy applications of the technology. I LOVE the last line:

Toys and TVs threaten to become intertwined as never before.

Pariseurodis5The implications of all this remind me of my one and only visit to Disney. I went on the "It's a Small World After All" ride full of dancing dolls in international costumes. When we came out of the tunnel, there was a little sign that said, You're never far from a Bank of America!

Who knew that the ride was more Futuristic than Epcot?

And meanwhile, Freedom to Tinker has another really fine post up on the subject: Analog Hole Bill Requires “Open and Public” Discussion of Secret Technology.

Pick at those threads! This is gonna be fun.

RfidA FURTHER THOUGHT ON THE PATENT APPLICATION: If you assume that the user is chipped and not just the devices, the implications of a mandatory VEIL standard combined with embedding device positional data in video signals are absolutely Phildickian. What appears on the screen of your computer is a video signal, so control of that signal should be understood as control of the reality coming in through the computer, tailored to a specific user or set of users in proximity to the device.

Why assume that the user is chipped? Because, first of all, human RFID is already on the table. The graphic to the right is swiped from the Wikipedia RFID entry. The section of the entry on Human RFID ends:

Cincinnati video surveillance company now requires employees to use VeriChip human implantable RFID microchips to enter a secure data center.

Is it a plausible scenario that this might become widespread? Extrapolate a mandatory system for controlling video signals which can tell how close you are to a device and can read your RFID chip. Great system for keeping kids out of online smut, yes?

Now, what other pieces of consumer electronics might also read this chip as, say, part of the consumer-level watermarking process? Can we extrapolate as part of an extended VEIL system the possibility of video cameras watermarking your video and photos with the IDs of everyone nearby when something was recorded ? I don't see why not.

Am I being unfair to a technology evolved to make your favorite cartoon character toys interact with the television? If this were just about toys, yes. But it's not. It's about mandating a potentially repressive standard in the US for which the entertainment industry will provide munificent R&D money. Then, using its international leverage, the US can force these  technologies down the throats of every repressive government in the world where, to paraphrase William Gibson, the street will find its own uses.

But with all the surrounding secrecy of the VEIL technology, there is also no particular reason to believe that it would really function at the most basic level advertised, securing "content" for "content providers" and defending it against "piracy." So again, we need to take a close look at what those patents actually describe.

Also, I think we need to interrogate the notion of the "piracy" of "intellectual property": it seems too me that what may potentially happen to the Internet bears a much closer resemblance to "hijacking on the high seas or in similar contexts; taking a ship or plane away from the control of those who are legally entitled to it" than a bunch of kids sharing music with their friends. If this all goes through and the Internet is transformed, who are the REAL pirates?

MEANWHILE, a reader provides a defense-related link: Koplar registered with the Defense Contracting Command as an "interested party" in bidding on the Iraq Media Network.

TOP DONORS TO THE CAMPAIGNS OF HR 4569's SPONSORS: This info comes from, which explains how to read these charts:

This chart lists the top donors to this member of Congress during the election cycle. The organizations themselves did not donate, rather the money came from the organization's PAC, its individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals' immediate families. Organization totals include subsidiaries and affiliates.

The strong presence of entrenched media and entertainment industries is present in both charts below.




I wonder if either of the sponsors or ANY of the big donors are actually familiar with the super-secret technical specs of VEIL. (Bet they aren't! How 'bout it guys? Does anyone who does not actually work for Koplar know the specs? Let's see some hands.) There is something unpleasantly consistent about a proposal to use a secret technology to suppress the release of information. I have the suspicion that those supporting this have bought into the idea that they personally don't need to know the details.

At present, the status of HR4569 is listed as "Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary."

Meanwhile, the EETimes reports that someone named David Birch has had a very entertaining outburst at a 3GSM World Congress panel. (I'm going to ignore the gender rhetoric because of the general validity of the point.)

In a rant that awoke all the participants in this end-of-the-day session, Birch of Consult Hyperion, a U.K.-based independent IT consultancy, reminded the panel of mobile operators, device-makers and standards developers that the telecommunications industry is at least 15 times larger than the Hollywood "content" industry. Yet, Hollywood is prevailing in its demands for embedded technologies designed to prevent illegal sharing of music and video by mobile phone users.

"Why are you such a bunch of big girls?" asked Birch. "Why don’t you tell the content owners to just get stuffed?"
. . .

The panelists, nonplussed by Birch's outburst, left it to Willms Buhse, vice chair of the Open Mobile Alliance to attempt a response. He said that the imbalance between Hollywood’s size and its power was a matter of glamour, and its effect on public policymakers.

Citing the comments of an unnamed professor, Buhse said, "With any politicians who make laws, you’re going to do much better with Christina Aguilera than you are with a handset."

IMG_0239.JPGI say for the record that, speaking as a thin blonde content provider (and a girl), I heartily support the idea that politicians and the tech industry should tell megacorporate entertainment to get stuffed.

(Via arstechnica.)


I've been looking at the site trying to find statements from the bill's sponsors on what the heck they think they're doing. Here is Sensenbrenner's press release from December 16, 2005:

House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-Wis.) today introduced legislation strengthening intellectual property protections by securing analog content from theft. The use of devices to convert analog content into digital versions which can easily be uploaded onto the Internet is a significant technical weakness in content protection. H.R. 4569, "The Digital Transition Content Security Act of 2005," is cosponsored by Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.).

Chairman Sensenbrenner stated,"This legislation is designed to secure analog content from theft that has been made easier as a result of the transition to digital technologies. Although many of those who convert analog content into digital form are not engaging in any illegal conduct, there are a good number of criminals who take advantage of existing weaknesses in legislation and technology to obtain copyrighted content and then redistribute for profit at the copyright owner's expense. This practice is nothing short of theft."

"There is no doubt that pirating intellectual property can be a profitable criminal activity. Just this week, a software pirate pled guilty in Alexandria, Virginia to making $20 million in sales of counterfeit intellectual property. New technologies have made the widespread redistribution of copyrighted content significantly easier," added Chairman Sensenbrenner. Ranking Members Conyers said, "As one of our most successful industries, it is important that we protect the content community from unfettered piracy. One aspect of that fight is making sure that digital media do not lose their content protection simply because of lapses in technology. This bill will help ensure that technology keeps pace with content delivery."

H.R. 4569 mandates the use of two technologies to limit and frustrate redistribution of video content. This legislation builds upon existing law by mandating the detection and response to two separate technologies that work together to defeat pirates. The two technologies are the Content Generation Management System - Analog (CGMS-A) and Video Encoded Invisible Light (VEIL).

The legislation would require that devices that convert analog content pass through the CGMS-A and VEIL content protection signals contained in the original version. To ensure that the technology used does not become outdated, the Patent and Trademark Office is authorized to conduct ongoing rulemakings to update the technology.

"I urge all interested parties to continue to negotiate to see if a private sector solution can be fully developed to secure analog content from theft. This issue is simply too important for parties to avoid negotiations. Nonetheless, I look forward to working on this legislation next year," Chairman Sensenbrenner concluded.

I also found something from Conyers from April 2005:

Content owners and the high-tech industry should be commended for responding to consumer demand for digital music. For years, consumers have been clamoring for access to digital content. Because content protection technology and content owners had not caught up with the Internet, music lovers turned to illegal download sites like Napster and Kazaa for digital content.

We had heard that, if the content industry would just create a legal avenue for obtaining digital music, consumers would embrace it. The premonition was largely true. The record industry and high-tech worked together to develop digital content protection, to clear the rights needed to get music online, and to get music on the Internet. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, the response to legitimate digital content has been overwhelming: in 2004, only twenty-four percent of music downloaders had tried legitimate download sites; in 2005 to date, the number jumped to forty-three percent.

It is probably safe to say that the reason for this overwhelming response is the late 2003 launch of Apple iTunes. In business for a little over a year, iTunes has sold a record-breaking 300 million songs through its online store. Other download sites, like Napster and Rhapsody, are gaining speed by offering alternatives such as monthly subscription services instead of just downloads and allowing transfers to numerous digital music players. No matter how you view it, the marketplace is working.

Digital piracy existed long before legitimate services like iTunes came onto the market and, unfortunately, it likely will continue no matter how much easier the songwriters, recording artists, and record labels make it to obtain music digitally.

Here's the thing: There is really a whole lot more at stake here than whether record labels or film studios live or die. The Internet offers utopian possibilities borne of a kind of transparency that the world has never before experienced, transparency that can save lives and make for better governments worldwide. And through DRM initiatives we are being asked to part with those possibilities for the sake of record companies and film studios. I don't think so. No. Here in the 21st century, things are going to be different and better.

Here is the membership list for the House Committee on the Judiciary, where HR 4569 sits currently. Let's kill it:


Coverage of the hearing Thursday 11/03/2005 - 2:45 PM on Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property Oversight Hearing on "Content Protection in the Digital Age: The Broadcast Flag, High-Definition Radio, and the Analog Hole" is available HERE. Included is a link to a webcast of the hearing and pdfs of the testimony.  The witnesses at the hearing were:

  • Honorable Dan Glickman, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)
  • Mitch Bainwol, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)
  • Gigi B. Sohn, President, Public Knowledge
  • Michael D. Petricone, Vice President, Government Affairs, Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) on behalf of CEA and the Home Recording Rights Coalition.

I have been letting the sound of the hearing wash over me while I do other things. Ten years ago, publishers started demanding of authors electronic rights in contract negotiations for no additional compensation. The authors had very little leverage with which to resist. My personal reaction, listening to the entertainment executives complaining in the Anelog Hole hearing about the potential for uncompensated "creators" (by which they mean corporations) is Cry me a river! I don't know how the details of this were worked out in film and music, but in print publishing, the very digital rights that it is claimed need protection were demanded of authors by over-powerful corporations over the author's collective objections, in large part without additional compensation. Was that piracy?

But -- regardless of whether pushing authors into the position of involuntarily surrendering their digital rights a decade ago was piracy -- the whole issue of exactly how corporations will be compensated for administering the creative properties under their control pales into insignificance when considered in the context of the loss of worldwide transparency the industry proposals would entail.

Cyber Storm?

I have been combing through the reports on the Department of Homeland Security's war game "Cyber Storm" looking for any accounts of how they actually handled the blogger "problem" in the simulation. I haven't found one. Anyone know of a good account?

But following some of my recent adventures, I could write a handbook on What Not to Do when dealing with a blogger. Someone should give me a consulting gig. But, being me, I'll probably write it up and give it away for free, as is my usual practice.

I'm curious about what courses of action were pursued in the simulation, because I'm pretty sure some of it would make my What Not to Do list. (Suggestions for such a list are welcome.)

UM. SPEAKING OF WHAT NOT TO DO: We in Pleasantville understand that everyone up to and including Dick Cheney realizes that sitting Vice Presidents should not shoot people by accident and so have not been making merciless fun of our Vice President.

Nonetheless, we find outselves unable to resist this graphic entitled Ten Ways Dick Cheney Can Kill You  (via BoingBoing).

Ten ways Dick Cheney can kill you

(See also the Liberal Avenger.)

Dimbulb Psyops Trolls

In the comment section of my most recent Top Cat Marine Security post, I've had two strange trolling incidents today, both involving condescending sexist comments.

The first instance ( was someone positing with a fake name and a fake email address with the name of a company known to have aviation contracts with the CIA. The company in question does not have a domain name nor do they have an employee of that name. I suspect I was meant to look into this and fall into fits of paranoia at the possible CIA connection. Nice try.

The second ( was someone posting as "John Young" of, a site that hosts documents that governments want to suppress. It didn't seem like something the real John Young would write. I picked up the phone and called him. Sure enough. He didn't write that. that is fraud, you know.

NOTE TO TROLL: The real John Young takes real exception to his name being used this way.

Add to the troll list.

A Response to MINUSTAH's February Report on Haiti to the UN Security Council: Get CAG Out of Haiti

This is part of an ongoing series on Consultants Advisory Group.

ScrMINUSTAH's just-published report to the UN Security Council begins:

Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), which expires on 15 February. After a very bad month for both MINUSTAH and Haiti in January the Council will also be looking to bolster the electoral process, reinvigorate MINUSTAH and encourage a reduction in violence.

Recent Developments
Haiti's presidential elections were postponed for the fourth time in late December on the grounds that technical difficulties were unresolved and that insecurity was hampering the electoral process. The Council, increasingly concerned at the performance of the Transitional Government, adopted a presidential statement on 6 January, urging the quick announcement of another election date no later than 7 February. Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council subsequently declared 7 February as the date of the first round of elections, with a run-off on 19 March if necessary. The official transfer of power to a newly elected leader is scheduled for 29 March.

In January:

  • The security situation deteriorated dramatically, with many kidnappings and assassinations as well as the death of two UN peacekeepers.
  • Sectors of the local business community mounted a campaign to discredit MINUSTAH. The campaign was condemned by the UN Secretary-General.
  • MINUSTAH's Force Commander, General Urano Bacellar of Brazil, committed suicide.

WimhurstSince MINUSTAH's David Wimhurst has accused me of participating in the alleged campaign to discredit MINUSTAH, I'll throw in my two cents.

MINUSTAH has involved itself in some capacity with Consultants Advisory Group, a company

If MINUSTAH wishes to pretend that rumors of CAG's activities are part of a campaign by others to discredit MINUSTAH, here are two important action items:

  1. Stop providing CAG with Internet access via IP#, which (though they use it more sparingly than in the past) they continue to make use of. And . . .
  2. Get CAG out of Haiti.

I have no idea of whether the business community there is trying to bring down any unfair criticism on MINUSTAH's head. But just days ago, MINUSTAH's David Wimhurst refused to answer my questions about CAG, choosing instead to threaten me with UN legal action.

No good purpose can be served by a United Nations organization associating itself with an outfit with the furtive habits of CAG. If MINUSTAH continues to associate with and cover for CAG, they are discrediting themselves.

A Response to MINUSTAH's David Wimhurst

This is part of an ongoing series on Consultants Advisory Group.

After having been provided with the email address of David Wimhurst of MINUSTAH in Haiti yesterday morning, I sent Wimhurst a polite note asking him if I might submit to his office questions concerning Consultants Advisory Group. The response I received from him -- not befitting an employee of a "Communications and Public Information Office" -- was intended to intimidate me. I was duly intimidated. But now I've had a good night's sleep and I'm over it.

The main purpose of this post is to discuss the two slides Wimhurst submitted to me as the "originals" by way of claiming the PowerPoint presentation in my possession has been doctored. I will address that presently. [Note that Wimhust submitted only two slides, not an entire presentation that might be compared to the one in my possession.]

Part 1: Addressing WImhurst’s Questions

First, however, I will attempt to address the questions Wimhurst claims I must answer. In the course of his unprofessionally rude and threatening letter, which I will show him the mercy of not publishing for the moment, what he seems to demand is any evidence in my possession that the PowerPoint presentation downloadable from my web site was altered by anyone for the purpose of undermining the UN operations in Haiti. Let me say unequivocally, for the record, that there is no evidence whatsoever in my possession that anyone doctored the PowerPoint presentation for the purpose of undermining the UN operations in Haiti. None. Zip. Zero. Sorry to disappoint.

HOWEVER, there is an abundance of evidence in my possession, much of it unpublished, that the Consultants Advisory Group is an amateurish operation which changes its story whenever convenient; an outfit that makes the Keystone Cops look like pros.

As nearly as I can tell, CAG's Valerie Sendecki initiated communications with me last month for the purpose of finding out how I learned of CAG and their connection to Top Cat Marine Security. Despite Sendecki's claims to have had lunch with Jordan Sage and later to have had her arrested and deported, my current thinking is that access to Sage's email account was gained by keystroke logging on UN-owned computers and that Sendecki and co. never knew her identity. What they had access to was her correspondence and her address book. My suspicion is that someone found Mariely Puello's name and phone number in Jordan Sage's email account and used the name to create a gmail account under her name.

The Mariely Puello, whose phone number appears in the email I received, is not the author of the letter I was sent. How do I know this? She doesn't have the English skills. When I called her number and got her on the phone, we were unable to have a conversation. She and I have no common language. A third party has contacted me on her behalf and explained her situation, but it is frustrating because I am unable to converse or correspond with her. From what I understand, while she was visited by some police, she has nothing to do with the sending of the PowerPoint presentation. I'm told that she is a very good girl and that she is terrified. Further, Sendecki could not have had her detained in Haiti as Sendecki claimed, because Puello was not in Haiti at the time. There is no reason to expect that Puello even knows the identity of "Jordan Sage," even if she has corresponded with that person. Other than Valerie Sendecki's claim to have lunched with Sage, no one has yet come forward to say they know her. The name was not contained in the email address under which "Sage" wrote and is, I suspect, an alias.

CAG may well, as they claimed, have had a few people in Haiti arrested. But if their intel was based on keystroke logging, CAG has no way of knowing if they arrested the right ones.

So. Why do I think access to Jordan Sage's account was obtained by keystroke logging? Because otherwise CAG's whole clown circus of incompetent psyops operatives would not be after information that should already be in their possession. It is my belief that CAG's operatives have not been candid with their employer about the full extent of their attempts to do damage control on my discovery of their existence. Inasmuch as I have any evidence that a document might have been altered, this evidence suggests that it was an inside job conducted in the interests of CAG.

Interestingly absent from Wimhurst’s letter is any hint that he is aware that I provided the “Puello” letter plus the PowerPoint presentation to two other people immediately upon receipt. It is my strong impression that CAG has communicated to Wimhurst neither the identities of these two people nor the contents of CAG’s communications with them. Wimhurst would be much more uncomfortable involving the UN legal office in this affair if he had received full disclosure from CAG.

MEANWHILE, I hear through the grapevine that CAG's Jay Fullerton claims Sendecki has resigned. If Wimhurst were receiving full disclosure, Fullerton would also need to resign.

Part 2: Thinking with Bullets

TufteA few years ago, Edward Tufte published a book entitled The Cognitive Style of Power Point which I have been meaning to read some time. While I am a heavy user of both Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel, until I got an enormous hard drive I used to routinely throw PowerPoint off my hard drive because I think it is a mostly useless and actively pernicious program.

Here’s a little snip of how summarizes Tufte’s objections to PowerPoint and the reactions to them:

Another reason for PowerPoint's sudden spike in notoriety is that the program finally caught the attention of Edward R. Tufte, a professor of information design at Yale University. Often referred to as the world's leading guru of information design, Tufte's books – The Visual Display of Information, Envisioning Information, and Visual Explanations – redefined the art of presenting information in visual form (charts, tables, graphs, etc.). No one knows more about effective data design, and no one in the field is more respected.

So when, in March 2003, Tufte published a 23-page denunciation of PowerPoint entitled "The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint," many people who had never before taken PowerPoint seriously began paying attention. It was Tufte who brought NASA's now infamous PowerPoint slide to the public's attention. It was Tufte's work that emboldened The New York Times to suggest that information manipulation via electronic slides may have helped Secretary of State Colin Powell make his case to the United Nations for declaring war on Iraq. And it is Tufte, in his 23-page screed, who uses such words as stupid, smarmy, incoherent, witless, medieval and dementia to describe the trivializing effect of PowerPoint slides on pure, defenseless data. Tufte doesn't stop short of calling PowerPoint evil – he does call it evil, most visibly in an excerpt published in Wired last year succinctly titled "PowerPoint is evil." Indeed, the photo on the pamphlet's cover is of a 1956 Russian military parade in which a statue of Stalin is depicted saying, "Next slide, please."

If there is something right with PowerPoint, it is the program's ability to combine either images and text, or a sequence of bulleted items, in order to make an argument.

The UN-restricted PowerPoint presentation I was provided with initially seems to make several layers of argument, a couple of which I am unhappy with. Though the authoring info on the document listed the author as “pkf” and the company as “UN,” the implicit narrative voice is that of CAG; one of the document’s arguments is how useful CAG is making itself. Though perhaps composed on UN computers, my sense is that the docment's author works for CAG.

Now, let us turn to the two slides provided by Wimhurst which he claims are the “originals.”

Slide 1: What might the point of this slide be?  


It seems to be lacking a point, but I’ll have a go at it: For those of you Peace Keepers fresh off the plane, Waaf Jeremie and Cite Soleil are on the coast, not in the mountains, and the coastline between them is completely surrounded by WATER!

Click. Next slide, please!

Slide 2: This page is a little sparse, too. Um, and why bullet something that’s all alone on the page?


I’ll have a go at the voiceover: And men, remember, when creating PowerPoint presentations for military use, it’s very important to leave plenty of room to allow space for others to add their thoughts, so be sure to push the text as high up as you can. Also, the resulting expanse of blue will subliminally remind your audience that the Haitian coastline is completely surrounded by WATER!


Look. Um. Wimhust. This is embarrassing. Are these really the originals from an actual PowerPoint presentation? The best face I can put on this is that these are the materials from which a final presentation might have been made, not the final presentation itself. It is also possible that these really are slides from a real presentation. But if that is the case, the presentation’s author is incompetent to use the program and perhaps should explore some other mode of communication.

This does not prove that the presentation I was emailed was in fact presented or that its contents mean what they appear to. But the incompleteness of Wimhurst's "originals" does call into question the plausibility of the only actual information I have received from MINUSTAH.

In Wimhurst's one communication to me his prose style suggests his background is in yelling at people in uniform, not in answering questions. Who hired this Wimhurst guy, anyway?  What I find most peculiar about Wimhurst's letter to me is that he seems to take the attitude that CAGs Clown Crew had already said what he had to say to me by proxy and that he had nothing further to add. Were Sendecki-Fullerton-Reuther really speaking for Wimhurst?

(Thanks for the support, Alex!)

UPDATE 2/2/06: Rereading our exchange, I note that in my email to Wimhurst I specifically expressed concern that CAG " may be under contract to the Brazilian Peacekeeping Forces and may have been using their office computers." It occurred to me this morning that Wimhurst's reply that he had "no intention of answering any of [my] questions" was in fact Wimhurst declining comment on

  1. Whether CAG is under contract to Brazilian Peacekeeping Forces, and
  2. Whether CAG is using the office computers of the Brazilian Peackeepers.

All right then. He has no comment. I'll probably revisit that subject in a subsequent post.

Noriegaville News: "Shadowy Panama Company Illegally Runs Black-Ops in Haiti"

This is part of an ongoing series on Consultants Advisory Group.

Well. Dutch reporter Okke Ornstein, who lives in Panama and reports on business news there for the news site, Noriegaville News,  took an interest in my writings about the Consultants Advisory Group. He contacted me and asked me questions, so I answered them. He contacted CAG, and I gather from his article that they were less forthcoming than I was. The result of this research is his article, Shadowy Panama Company Illegally Runs Black-Ops in Haiti, posted to the Noriegaville News site last night.

So. One thing I learn from Ornstein's article is that CAG had a good reason for pulling its supposed Panama City address off its web site and having the site go "UNDER CONSTRUCTION." The address they listed was on the seventh floor of a three-storey building. (Guess they needed to go back and construct four more floors. That should take them a while.)

Another thing I learn from Ornstein's article is that were CAG to be an authentic Panama corporation -- which they may or may not be -- whether they are doing what I think they are or what they claim they are, it looks to be illegal under Panamanian law. (I am in touch with Rogelio Cruz Rios to sort out whether CAG, S.A. has anything to do with the Sendecki-Fullerton-Reuther ops going on in Haiti.) And also, Ornstein remarks that were any Top Cat Marine Security boats to be built in Panama, or copy-cats of TCMS boats, it would be illegal under Panama law to export such patrol boats to Haiti.

Interesting stuff.

ALSO, following the revelation that the IP address was shared by "David Reuther" trolling in my comment section,  "CAG Haiti" denouncing me in comment sections across the blogosphere, and some bored and homesick Brazilian Peace Keepers in Port au Prince, I made some direct inquiries as to whether could be an IP used by the UN Brazilian Peace Keeping Forces, and whether Valerie Sendecki, Jay Fullerton, and David Reuther of CAG were using the office computers of Brazilian Peace Keepers to post their blog comments. I do not yet have a definitive answer to that question. But stopped its relentless visits to my site yesterday afternoon.

Who exactly are Sendecki, Fullerton, and Reuther? I don't really have enough info about Sendecki, though I suspect that "Sendecki" is not her last name on her passport. Inquiries concerning her supposed military record are not back yet. Googling "Jay Fullerton" along with intelligence yields the bio of a guy with  a military intelligence Special Forces background who, if you dig deeper, seems to have lived in Fayetteville, NC, around the same time as Jonathan Keith "Jack" Idema (this last bit is probably pure coincidence). There is a "David Reuther" who has given speeches claiming to be a retired FSO; when I inquired of the David Reuther who was posting comments in my comment section whether he was the same guy, he replied:

Two of the things I learned in 32 years of government service:
"Do not look a gift horse in the mouth."
"Always have a plausible denial handy."

This oracular pronouncement sounds more like the answer of a retired CIA agent than a retired FSO. Who can tell? David Reuther, the retired government servant, has also complained in print that retired FSOs just don't make enough money. Back when I was the wife of a US Foreign Service Officer, we were not exactly rolling in dough, so I'm sure his complaint about his remuneration in retirement is legitimate. Nonetheless, it appears to me that our man Reuther was hurting for money not long ago.

I would be interested to receive pictures of any of these people.

Finally, I guess I should add that I have no opinions on the relative merits of Haitian presidential candidates, and that in general, in the grand scheme of things, I have a vaguely positive opinion of the United Nations and its efforts in the larger world as a whole. My focus is and has been on the role of private military and security companies. I believe that PMCs can have a legitimate role in international peacekeeping. But only legitimate companies can have a legitmate role, and legitimate companies have valid addresses and identifiable management teams and verifiable corporate registrations. A company which lacks all three has no place in Haiti right before the elections.

(Thanks Dan, Jonathan, Matt, and Cory!)

UPDATE: I was furnished the email address of David Wimhurst of MINUSTAH by a journalist and I wrote to him and asked to submit a list of questions. I specifically mentioned my concern that CAG was using Brazilian Forces office computers. He sent back a letter intended to intimidate me, specifically declining to answer my questions. He sent along two slide from a PowerPoint document that he claims are the "unaltered" versions of the screen shots posted on my site. I have asked whether "David Reuther" was acting on Wimhurst's behalf in any capacity when Reuther wrote to me.

Gee, I feel so naïve. I thought the purpose of press offices was to answer questions. Guess not in Haiti.

UPDATE: See A Response to MINUSTAH's David Wimhurst.

The Consultants Advisory Group™ (CAG) Web Site in History

This is part of an ongoing series on Consultants Advisory Group.

December 6, 2005: The domain name is registered.

Consutants Advisory Group page, December 13th, 2005, 9:33 PMDecember 13, 2005: The CAG web site touts the corporate security clearances and credit rating, but gives no address or phone number. I ridicule them for their lack of transparency.

CAG web page, January 20th, 2006, 10:10AMJanuary 20, 2006: The CAG web site has dropped claims of security clearances and credit ratings and has added an address in Tampa and an address in Panama plus a "message center" phone number. Under scrutiny, both street addresses seem to be some form of message center. On January 18th, I had published a post which began, "I seem to have uncovered a strange little black ops organization that's spying in Haiti and elsewhere. "

January 26, 2006: Following inquiries as to the corporation's relationship to former Panama Attorney General Rogelio Cruz Rios, the CAG web site goes "Under Construction." (For those with press credentials who would like to hear their side of things, their now-missing message center phone number, which is I think is a number in Tampa, is (813)315-6493.)

CAG web page 1/26/06, 4:09 PM

UPDATE, 1/27/06: Here is a screen shot from the Panama Public Registry of the listing for CAG, S.A.:

CAG,S.A. Panama registration, screen 1

Even if Rogelio Cruz Rios were the registrar of their corporation, it may mean nothing. I find it really curious that CAG would rather pull info off their web site than answer questions about their association with him. If CAG has a different registered corporate name in Panama than CAG, S.A. then presumably they could say so. And even if this is he right name, the nature of the relationship could mean little. So why go "UNDER CONSTRUCTION"?

[2/2/06: Note that the trademark sign disappears with this version of the page and does not reappear; I checked the US Patent and Trademark database and found no trademark listing for "Consultants Advisory Group," though it seems possible that they hold a trademark on the name in some other country.]

January 29, 2006: Here we go again. The only problem is, that corporate name does not seem to be present in the Panama Public Registry. Hmmm. (Why can't they back down? If the name isn't in th regsitry, it isn't in the registry.)

CAG's new page, January 29, 2006, 5:35 PM

February 1, 2006: Back to PÁGINA BAJO CONSTRUCCIÓN. This time without details.


Why are these guys so wedded to the corporate name? Have they been using it as a tax shelter on their US tax returns or something? I can't think of any other explanation.

Consultants Advisory Group™ (CAG): A Security Company Born Every Minute?

Following the New Orleans disaster, a lot of us were wondering where all that money for "homeland security" went, since not much securing of the homeland seems to have taken place. I think I'm beginning to understand.

Consutants Advisory Group pageHave a look at this:

Consultants Advisory Group (CAG) specializes in:

  • Anti-Terrorism & Terrorism Incident Response;
  • Special Agency Services and Representation;
  • Strategic Intelligence Management;
  • High Risk Operations Management;
  • Risk & Crisis Management;
  • Business Continuity Management (BCM);
  • Emergency & Disaster Management;
  • NFPA 1600 2004 Compliance Audits.

CAG provides services under North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) classifications:

541611    General Management Consulting Services
541618    Other Management Consulting Services
561210    Facilities Support Services

CAG consistently delivers creative and enduring total business solutions.  CAG enjoys the highest possible credit rating and is capable of servicing classified contracts.

So how long has this venerable company, boasting of the highest possible credit rating and the capability of servicing classified contracts been around?  I'll have you know, its been around an entire week!

Though they don't give their address on their web site, a whois lookup provides some interesting information: Whois lookup

So are these guys with the great credit rating and the security clearances really sharing a P O Box with any number of phishing schemes and other dubious businesses in EmeryVille, California? Or do they just have really bad taste in domain registration privacy services? (For you Panix customers, the registering ISP is Melbourne IT, the company that approved the Panix domain hijacking. As a Panix customer who lost a couple of days of email over that, I have to wonder why Melbourne IT is still in business.)

EmeryvilleSo, is CAG really located in glamorous EmeryVille? Or not? (I suppose it would be wretched excess to mention that the site graphics are clip art.)

How many more of these dubious security companies are there, anyway?

UPDATE: I have had a correspondence with a representative from CAG who has the affect of someone with a background in sales. CAG Internacional, S.A. is a Panama City, Republic of Panama registered corporation and is staffed exclusively with former military and "agency" personnel. It has no public address ostensibly because it is "a virtual company, a model developed by the Harvard Business School." CAG wishes to be perceived as a "management consulting" company, not a security or private military company. They claim to be receiving no moneys from US government sources:

CAG is not a recipient of any US public funds so we are entitled to privacy as anyone else is.  How could our work be against the best interest of the United States?

Though I had made no mention of Top Cat in our exchange, my CAG correspondent volunteered that CAG is not selling Top Cat Marine Security's predator style Cobra boats to Haiti, but only recommending their purchase.

As far as I know, neither Top Cat nor CAG are registered with or licensed by the Department of State to export items covered the US Munitions list, as the boats in question are. I was not informed who the intended export broker was to be.

The subject of Top Cat having been raised, I asked two of my unanswered questions to which I thought my correspondent might know the answer: Who are the executives of Top Cat? Who owns it? My CAG correspondent replied:

That is not public information.

I find it extremely interesting that there seems to be a whole emergent little industry of companies like Top Cat and CAG for whom the very concept of transparency is an abomination.

A relevant quote from another topic:

At the least, a dummy company ought to create the appearance of activity, with an office and a valid mailing address, he said. "A cover that falls apart on first inspection isn't very good. What you want is a cover that actually holds up . . . and this one certainly doesn't."

Drying Google Earth in the Microwave, or Do the Bad Guys Really Have an Eye in the Sky?

There have been a couple of odd news articles about Google Earth recently.  From CNET, Innovations battle natural calamities discusses using Google Earth with natural disasters. Amusingly enough,  the reporter from CNET doesn't seem to  be aware that Google Earth has already been used to help with natural disasters. (See my Katrina, Pakistan Earthquake, and Google Earth archives.)

And then there's the somewhat loopy story from The Register, Al-Qaeda probes enemy on Google Earth. My first reaction was, well, duh. Then I read the actual story. It is entirely based on a multiply forwarded email:

It's preceded by the following which gives some cause for suspicion:

It [the email] was forwarded by a reader in the Navy, Mike, who in turn got it from a friend of his in the Marines. You may have seen it making the rounds already. The review of the weapons are one recently returned Marine's opinion [name removed to protect his identity] and does not necessarily mean a consensus has formed. If you scroll to the end you'll also see an assessment of our enemy's capability as well as those of our allies.

However, the email is plausible enough.

I'm not a journalist, but I have to ask: What kind of journalism is that?  This seems more like the kind of thing one checks out on Snopes, not runs as an article. The key claim is this:

5) Bad guy technology: Simple yet effective. Most communication is by cell and satellite phones, and also by email on laptops. They use handheld GPS units for navigation and Google earth for overhead views of our positions. Their weapons are good, if not fancy, and prevalent. Their explosives and bomb technology is TOP OF THE LINE. Night vision is rare. They are very careless with their equipment and the captured GPS units and laptops are treasure troves of Intel when captured.

And the reporter from CNET was not the only one to pick it up. PCPRO did it too.  Here seems to be the entire piece, but again, no author is given, and it may just be a presentation of the circulating email.

Eye in the Sky by Philip K. DickGoogling "and Google earth for overhead views of our positions" produces 272 results, and that cuts out some which are formatted a little differently. In the majority of its appearances, it is presented as fact. And it's all the rage on the rightwing blogs where it is frequently referred to as "the truth" or as "intel," though it even appears in a diary at Daily Kos.

In only one instance in my quick skim through the Google hits did I see someone question the veracity. Someone pointed out that Google Earth images are not real-time and so it is actually impossible for Google Earth to show Al Qaeda "our positions" unless we've been holding those positions for an awfully long time, as seems to be the case with those secret CIA jails. I saw a Google Earth picture of one of those in The Washington Post, I think.

Actually doing what is described would involve making Google overlays out of current satellite images or aerial photos, which would either involve major purchases that no one would approve from the companies or governments holding the satellite imagery, or else using planes to take aerial photographs—and then the big story would not be that Google Earth was used by Al Qaeda, but that Al Qaeda had recognizance planes up in the sky taking pictures of our positions.  Google Earth just makes viewing the pictures a little easier once you've got them; despite the Washington Post's claim to the contrary, it is not an omniscient Eye in the Sky.

I had a look at how the phrase fared on Blogpulse:


What happened right before our phrase makes it onto the chart? Hint: That was the peak of the buzz surrounding the CIA's secret jails. So, um, who are we really, and what are these positions that people shouldn't be looking at? Hmm?

Now Google Earth is a very useful tool, and it would stand to reason that underground organizations would find it just as useful as I do. What I don't understand is why real journalists who are paid to do this sort of thing can't be bothered to get some real evidence before putting this claim in their articles. Perhaps they might also want to write about the grandmother of a friend of my friend who was in a bit of a hurry and so tried to dry her poodle in the microwave . . . And did you know that Al Qaeda is now using these exploding poodles in Iraq?

My suspicion is that what we have here is a piece of high-grade astroturf, which is to say an honest-to-God work of propaganda. (I thought they weren't supposed to write propaganda for the domestic market. I thought that was supposed to be illegal.)

MEANWHILE, Wired reports that the CDC is looking into using computer gaming as a way to better train people how to respond in case of an avian flu pandemic. (Via Declan Butler.)

P.S.: The book is by Philip K. Dick, copyright 1957. So the concept of the Eye in the Sky  isn't merely phildickian. It's Phil Dick's.

Who Is that Somber Man in the Clown Suit?

There's a delightful story from the AP this morning, Spies under the big top?, concerning a lawsuit by PETA against the owners of the Ringling Brothers for using ex-CIA agent to spy on them. I thought this was a pretty weird news story all around. I mean, why wouldn't Ringling Bros. use whatever security firm they use worldwide to deal with a few scary cat ladies? (I'm presuming that aging 007s aren't their usual crew, but then I don't get to go the circus much.)

I googled around about it. Wow. Is the truth ever stranger than fiction. Salon ran a two-part series in 2001 by Jeff Stein. Part 1, The Greatest Vendetta on Earth:

Why would the head of Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey hire a former top CIA honcho to torment a hapless freelance writer for eight years?

And Part 2, Send in the clowns. And if that weren't over-the-top enough, a year later there was an interesting article in the Columbia Journalism Review: Investigations: The scary circus:

Strange things started happening to Jeff Stein's phone late last summer. Right after he'd finish with a call the phone would ring again, but there'd be nobody there. There were odd clicks on the other end of the line, as if someone were listening in and then hanging up. He'd call for his voice mail and get redirected to another number. He'd come home to find a number on his caller ID that would turn out to be disconnected. Stein called a friend at the phone company and described the situation. "Sounds to me like you're tapped," confided his friend.

At the time, Stein, a longtime investigative reporter in Washington who has covered the intelligence community for such publications as GQ and Talk, had just completed a two-part, 9,000-word story involving former spies, break-ins, subterfuge, wiretaps - and that fine pillar of family entertainment, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. His subsequent phone troubles, he thinks, are not unrelated.

Two weeks ago, there was a story by Washington Post reporter Richard Leiby, giving a further update on the lawsuit by the writer, Jan Pottker, upon whom the spooks-for hire were initially sicced: Send In The Clowns:

It was like something out of “The Truman Show,” says Pottker, a petite, soft-featured woman of 57. “I’ll never get the years back that they were in my life.” Then, her voice rises in anger: “They had no right to interfere with my life.”
. . .
Claiming invasion of privacy, fraud and infliction of mental distress, Pottker and Fishel seek more than $60 million in actual and punitive damages.

(See also CBS News in 2003.)

Killerklowns05Now that I've thought my quota of impossible things, I think I'll have breakfast. Somebody like Neil Gaiman should do a comic book of this whole misadventure.