Former CIA Chief: Obama’s War on Terror Same as Bush’s, But With More Killing

Photo: Wikipedia

President Barack Obama has closely followed the policy of his predecessor, President George W. Bush, when it comes to tactics used in the “war on terror” — from rendition, targeted killings, state secrets, Guantanamo Bay to domestic spying, according to Michael Hayden, Bush’s former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency.

“But let me repeat my hypothesis: Despite the frequent drama at the political level, America and Americans have found a comfortable center line in what it is they want their government to do and what it is they accept their government doing. It is that practical consensus that has fostered such powerful continuity between two vastly different presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, when it comes, when it comes to this conflict,” Hayden said Friday while speaking at the University of Michigan.

The comments come two months before the Nov. 6 elections, where Obama, a Democrat, faces off for re-election against GOP challenger Mitt Romney. And Hayden’s remarks give credence to what many who cared about the topic had already realized: Obama largely mirrors Bush when it comes to the war on terror.

Hayden, who oversaw the CIA’s use of torture techniques against detainees and the expansion of the NSA to illegally spy on American citizens, admitted to an initial skepticism of Obama. He also publicly criticized the administration in 2009 for making public the Bush-era legal memos that attempted to re-define torture as “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

But Hayden, in a nearly 80-minute lecture posted on C-Span, said Obama came to embrace Bush’s positions. Both Bush and Obama said the country was at war. The enemy was al-Qaida. The war was global in nature. And the United States would have to take the fight to the enemy, wherever it may be, he said.

“And yet, you’ve had two presidents, the American Congress, and the American court system, in essence, sign up to all four of those sentences,” Hayden said.

Moments later, Hayden added:

“And so, we’ve seen all of these continuities between two very different human beings, President Bush and President Obama. We are at war, targeted killings have continued, in fact, if you look at the statistics, targeted killings have increased under Obama.”

He said that was the case because, in one differing path between the two presidents, Obama in 2009 closed CIA “black sites” and ratcheted down on torturing detainees. But instead of capturing so-called “enemy combatants,” President Obama kills them instead, Hayden said.

“We have made it so politically dangerous and so legally difficult that we don’t capture anyone anymore,” Hayden said. “We take another option, we kill them. Now. I don’t morally oppose that.”

Obama’s kill list has even included American citizens.

Hayden noted Obama campaigned on promises to close the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, and to bring more transparency to government.

Obama failed to close Guantanamo and continued the use of the often-cited “state secrets” defense in court cases challenging the government’s policies on the war on terror.

“Despite a campaign that was based on a very powerful promise of transparency, President Obama, and again in my view quite correctly, has used the state secrets argument in a variety of courts, as much as President Bush,” Hayden said. He noted that he appreciated Obama’s invocation of the state secrets privilege, as Hayden himself was named as a defendant in some of the cases.

Hayden also noted that Obama, as an Illinois senator in 2008, eventually voted to legalize President Bush’s once-secret warrantless spying program adopted in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. The measure also granted America’s telecoms immunity from lawsuits for their complicity in the spy program.

The law authorizes the government to electronically eavesdrop on Americans’ phone calls and e-mail without a probable-cause warrant so long as one of the parties to the communication is believed outside the United States. The communications may be intercepted “to acquire foreign intelligence information.”

“The FISA Act not only legitimated almost every thing president Bush had told me to do under his Article II authorities as commander in chief, but in fact gave the National Security Agency a great deal more authority to do these kind of things,” Hayden said.

The law, now known as the FISA Amendments Act, expires at year’s end. The Obama administration said congressional reauthorization was the administration’s “top intelligence priority,” despite 2008 campaign promises to make the act more privacy-friendly.

As for the election, Hayden indicated it may not matter, at least when it comes to anti-terrorism policy. He seemingly confirmed that the rock band the Who was correct when it blurted “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

Hayden, who said he was an adviser the Romney presidential campaign, said Romney would largely follow Obama’s same path, too, if Romney was elected.

“If we’re looking forward,” Hayden said, “I actually suspect there is going to be some continuity between a President Romney and and his predecessor, too, if that came to pass.”

FatCow Running Over Six Years Out of Date Version of phpMyAdmin

One of the most basic measures for keeping websites secure is to keep software running the website up to date, this is something that web hosts know and tell their customers. Unfortunately, many web host don’t seem to feel that they need to heed their own advice and run out of date software on their servers. This put their clients at risk of being hacked though exploitation of a known vulnerability in that software. Their use of outdated software also a warning sign that they may not be handling the rest of the security properly as well.

When we do work on a client’s website we do a check of what version of some common software (PHP, MySQL, phpMyAdmin, etc.) is running of the server. This is partly so that we can see how well web hosts are doing at keeping that software up date and also so that we can alert the clients when severely out of date software is in use. We continue to see that in many cases web hosts’ servers are running out of date versions of that common software, with known security vulnerabilities. The good news is that for most part we are seeing that the software is less out of date then it has been in the past. That made something we saw while checking a FatCow server in the past few days stick out. The server was using phpMyAdmin 2.8.0.1. That version was released on March 8 of 2006 and the next version, 2.8.0.2, was released eight days later. If over six years out of date hasn’t been the most out of date we have ever come across, it at least the most out of date we have seen in a long time.

phpMyAdmin provides a page that provides a listing of all security announcements for the software (something that other software developers should also be providing). Based on just the announcements for 2006 and 2007, the version of phpMyAdmin FatCow is using probably contains 16 serious severity security issues and 1 considered “quite dangerous”.

Apple Device IDs Leaked by Anonymous Traced to App Developer Blue Toad

Photo: Wired

Those Apple device IDs that an Anonymous offshoot claimed to have hacked from an FBI agent’s computer in March appear to have actually originated just weeks ago from the hack of a little-known app development company in Florida.

Thanks to some stellar sleuthing by a computer security consultant, the source of the Apple device IDs leaked to the internet by AntiSec last week has been traced to an application developer called Blue Toad.

David Schuetz, a security consultant with Intrepidus Group, described his method for tracking the IDs to Blue Toad in a blog post on Monday.

Schuetz said he searched for device IDs that made multiple appearances in the database and connected those IDs to the device names that the owners had created for their devices. Among those names, the words Blue Toad and BT appeared four times. More in-depth analysis helped Scheutz trace several of the devices to what appeared to be employees of Blue Toad.

Blue Toad, a developer of applications for magazine publishers and others, acknowledged to NBC that there is a “98 percent correlation between” the dataset of nearly 1 million Apple UDID’s released by AntiSec and a database of UDIDs that Blue Toad maintains. The company’s CEO said that their database had been hacked “in the past two weeks,” which differs from the timeline during which AntiSec claims it obtained the data last March.

Blue Toad did not rule out the possibility, however, that AntiSec was telling the truth when it said it stole the data from the laptop of an FBI agent.

Blue Toad CEO Paul DeHart told NBC that it was possible that “the data stolen from his company’s servers was shared with others, and eventually made its way onto an FBI computer.”

An Apple UDID is a 40-character alphanumeric string that is unique to each Apple device.

The hacker group AntiSec released a file containing nearly 1 million of the device IDs last week, saying they had obtained the IDs from an FBI computer they had hacked.

The hackers said they actually stole 12 million IDs, including personal information, from the hacked FBI computer, but released only 1 million in an encrypted file published on torrent sites.

In a lengthy post online, the hackers wrote that they had stolen the data last March, after they hacked into a laptop belonging to an FBI agent named Christopher K. Stangl from the Bureau’s Regional Cyber Action Team and the New York FBI office’s Evidence Response Team.

The hackers said the IDs were stored in a file on Stangl’s desktop that was named “NCFTA_iOS_devices_intel.csv.”

The FBI, however, denied that the laptop of an FBI special agent had been hacked, and also insisted that the Bureau never possessed a file containing the data the hackers released.

“The FBI is aware of published reports alleging that an FBI laptop was compromised and private data regarding Apple UDIDs was exposed,” the Bureau said in a statement. “At this time there is no evidence indicating that an FBI laptop was compromised or that the FBI either sought or obtained this data.”

Street Artist Spared Jail in Obama ‘Hope’ Poster Flap

Photo: Courtesy of The Associated Press

Street artist Shepard Fairey has been handed a $25,000 fine, 300 hours of community service and two years of probation for destroying evidence in his high-profile copyright case with The Associated Press over the iconic Obama “Hope” poster.

Fairey claimed in court he based his abstract graphic rendition on an AP photo of Obama seated next to actor George Clooney. But he later admitted he actually used a solo shot of Obama from the same 2006 event, and had destroyed and fabricated evidence to support his story, which led to a criminal contempt charge.

Photo: Courtesy of The Associated Press

U.S. District Judge Frank Mass of New York said Friday that Fairey’s behavior was a “public disgrace” and that “the public is likely to be reminded of your misconduct,” he said, noting the journalists in the courtroom.

Fairey faced a maximum six-month term for his criminal contempt charges.

Prosecutors urged the court to impose “some term of imprisonment.”

The artist settled out of court last year with the wire service without resolving the underlying legal issue: whether Fairey had a fair-use right under copyright law to produce the graphic based on an AP photo snapped of then-Sen. Barack Obama at the National Press Club in 2006.

Despite the settlement, neither side gave ground on their legal opinions. The AP said that Fairey infringed its works with a “form of computerized paint by the numbers.” And Fairey maintained he transformed the AP’s image enough to constitute a fair use of the work under copyright law.

Though both photos at issue were shot by the same AP photographer, the fact that the solo shot of Obama was the source of the “Hope” image was important because the more one transforms a copyrighted work, the stronger the argument that the resulting art constitutes fair use.

“The damage to my own reputation is dwarfed by the regret I feel for clouding the issue of the fair use case. I let down artists and advocates for artist’s rights by distracting from the core fair use discussion with my misdeeds,” the artist said in a statement. “The decision today will, I hope, mark an ending to what, for me, has been a deeply regrettable chapter. But the larger principles at stake — fair use and artists’ freedom – are still in jeopardy, and I hope we will remain vigilant in depending on the freedom of expression.”

The AP claimed Fairey generated $400,000 in sales of the image, which adorned websites, posters, stickers, shirts and buttons at the time of Obama’s presidential election.