Mueller Indictments; Why We’re Mad; Walter Lippman’s Democracy

The pdf of the indictment can be downloaded here.  Although the trolling itself was conducted under the cover of a visible public company, several items of KGB tradition also appear.

An  “illegal” is a Russian operative who assumes a fictitious identity in the target country, complete with a fictitious nationality. In the past, one fictitious identity was used to enter the target country, and then discarded. A second identity was used in residence. During the Cold War, KGB agents spent a lot of time combing graveyards for IDs that could be recycled.

The most recent illegals ring, busted in 2010, was made notorious in the media by Anna Chapman. This time, “illegal” was modernized.  Russian operatives visited the U.S. using their true identities. Once here, they used traditional spy craft to engage in the modern form of identity theft.

We begin with a set of questions for a worksheet. Fill in tentative answers, and read all the way to the end. Then have another look at the worksheet.

  • What is the overall state of our relations with Russia? Sergei Lavrov often used the word “partner”, which seems a little deceptive. This Russian Embassy link is provides an example of the word in context. Quoting,  “However, our American partners refuse to discuss these embarrassing issues…”

Your multiple-choice is: a) partner, b) rival; c) adversary, d) enemy. But Facebook lets us “un-friend” people. (CNN) Nikki Haley said. “Russia is not our friend.” Is Russia e) an “unfriend”?

  • The election hacks did not occur in isolation. There is increasing suspicion that in Cuba, Russia permanently damaged the health of American diplomats by assault with a novel weapon. Should this be confirmed by U.S. intelligence, will it inevitably force the conclusion that we are in a state of low intensity, “hybrid war” with Russia? Are there circumstances such that we could we let this pass as “water under the bridge”?

(NPR) What Was Russia’s Role In 2016 U.S. Election? 2 Former KGB Officials Weigh In samples some interesting Russians, close enough for insightful perceptions, but distant from the Kremlin, yet tolerable enough to the Kremlin to survive in Russia. Both appear to be dissident patriots, with viewpoints that are different from ours, but not intentionally deceptive.

Quoting ex KGB Colonel Gennady Gudkov, “In fact, Putin and his entourage are absolutely not interested in bad relations with America. They’re scared of that,” Gudkov said. “But the circumstances are such that they can’t help but use anti-Americanism to strengthen their grip on power.”

Alexander Lebedev, also ex-KGB, who has already exported a good amount of his wealth from Russia, but afraid to leave Russia to be denied reentry, said, “It’s only fair to treat it as a phenomenon where all the major countries are using all the resources they can to influence others to follow their goals,” he said. “So why should it be one-sided – that the Americans are always right, and the Russians are always wrong?”

Vladimir Frolov defines a red line. Quoting, “When intelligence-gathering went to an influence operation, that was crossing the red line…”

  • So does interpreting the election hacks as an act of aggression depend solely on our perceptions of the gravity, or also  the Russian perception of the same? Does it matter that the tools of espionage, under the direction of Russia, were used to enhance the operation?

The “sonic attacks” have yet to be factored into American anger with Russia. But our answers to the above questions could be influenced what psychology calls “floating anger”, an emotion searching for attachment to a cause. It could be that we are angry about our new vulnerability. Simply put, before social media came about, the influence of the election hacks could not have been accomplished. Even at the height of communist infiltration, in the years preceding and following World War II, the Russians lacked the capacity for influence of this magnitude. Now they have it with the press of “Enter.”

Walter Lippmann figured this out in 1922, with the publication of Public Opinion. He grapples with the fact that democracy works, even though many issues are beyond the comprehension of the average citizen. Recently, I mentioned Lippmann to a Columbia journalism teacher, who, surprisingly, was not familiar with him. This paragraph, published in 1922, reflects today’s problem (Wikipedia,  additional boldface):

That the manufacture of consent is capable of great refinements no one, I think, denies. The process by which public opinions arise is certainly no less intricate than it has appeared in these pages, and the opportunities for manipulation open to anyone who understands the process are plain enough. . . . [a]s a result of psychological research, coupled with the modern means of communication, the practice of democracy has turned a corner. A revolution is taking place, infinitely more significant than any shifting of economic power…. Under the impact of propaganda, not necessarily in the sinister meaning of the word alone, the old constants of our thinking have become variables. It is no longer possible, for example, to believe in the original dogma of democracy; that the knowledge needed for the management of human affairs comes up spontaneously from the human heart. Where we act on that theory we expose ourselves to self-deception, and to forms of persuasion that we cannot verify. It has been demonstrated that we cannot rely upon intuition, conscience, or the accidents of casual opinion if we are to deal with the world beyond our reach.

Lippmann proposed that public opinion was molded by elites. Such was his reputation that his public persona survived his attack on the myth of democracy. If he was correct, he explains our new vulnerability. Social media has destroyed the hierarchy of the elites, replacing it with  random, and lateral structures.

In 1955, in Public Philosophy, Lippmann repudiated much of Public Opinion, arguing that the elites are destroying democracy. Perhaps both points are true. Thomas Jefferson thought we should have a revolution every 19 years.

But if democracy is a fiction, it is a very useful one. By all measures, the democracies are the most humane governments on the planet. All attempts to supplant their imperfection with the “perfection” of the dictator’s “revelation” have failed.

Now social media purveyors are attempting to patch the vulnerabilities exploited by malign, lateral connections. This corporate limitation on the purest form of democracy cannot be denied. But what else  can we do? We still have the best serviceable democracy. We’ll keep rolling a long. And after a while, maybe we’ll lose some of the anger.

Keep on truckin’.




School Shootings; Parkland, Florida; What is Patriotism?

There was a time,  before America became divided, when mass shootings were rare. A period of cultural unity and quiet occupied the space between successes of the civil rights movement, and before the erosion of the standard of living and the stress of terrorism. Perhaps the period between1972 and 9/11 will be recognized as our golden age.

With our division, there has come a change in the meaning of patriotism, which has multiple meanings to different people. The linkage between gun purchases and which party is in power suggests that a new idea of freedom has taken hold. Confidence in government to uphold civil liberty has been replaced by  the freedom to kill.

The most obvious kind of patriotism is devotion to national unity, symbolized by a national flag. But there was a time when the other form of patriotism, devotion to our fellow citizens, was the higher calling. Then, respect for the flag was  transcended by the civil right to desecrate it.  People were more important than symbols.

There is a spiritual war in America right now.  It’s about who owns the ideal, with the right to define it. The flag-wavers are now in ascendance. If they win, they get to define America in terms of a piece of dyed fabric.

Anyone who has read a little history, and understands that people change slowly over centuries, knows where that leads.

CNN: US personnel suffered ‘symptoms resembling brain injury’ in Cuba; New Weapon Design

This article sketches another design for an ultrasound weapon.

CNN: Study: US personnel suffered ‘symptoms resembling brain injury’ in Cuba. Quoting,

The report found “audible or sensory phenomena” were from an unknown source but came from a specified direction. In conclusion, the authors say their study raises “concern about a new mechanism for possible acquired brain injury from an exposure of unknown origin.”

I’ve written extensively about this. You could start with Senate Hearings on Havana Sonic “Attacks”. Further articles are accessible through this link. Quoting further,

“We actually don’t think it was the audible sound that was the problem,” said Dr. Douglas Smith, another of the study’s authors….We think the audible sound was a consequence of the exposure,” added Smith, who is the director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Brain Injury and Repair.”

That’s right. The audible component was not responsible. It’s just a byproduct of nonlinear mixing of ultrasonic components.

In order to overcome skepticism of a practical ultrasound weapon, I wrote a six-part series on the design of such a weapon, beginning with  Havana Sonic Attack Weapon — Let’s Build It! Part 1.  Although I attempted to anticipate Russian capabilities, my design does not necessarily resemble the actual weapon. There are probably six ways from Sunday to design one. My design is a didactic example, separating  the problem into easily digestible pieces.

Fragments of the victims’ experience suggest possible deployment of more than one design. Quoting, “One patient said they heard two short 10-second pulses,…” , differing in duration from all the other reports. Was this divergence the result of:

  • Immediate dysfunction of the auditory nerve?
  •  Efficient, active nulling of the audible mixing product by the weapon?
  • Delivery of tremendous power in a short interval, differing with the long duration of exposure of the other patients, requiring less power?

Given Russia’s relative strength in hydrodynamics and weakness in electronics, a Russian design might be even less electronic and more mechanical. So here’s another design. Unlike  the “Let’s Build It” series, it isn’t going to help the typical reader of this blog understand what is going on. But physicists will understand immediately:

  • The ultrasound generators are arrayed around a cavity filled with gas under high pressure. The pressure increases the “characteristic impedance” of the gas, so the generators can couple better.
  • The gas could be a non-ideal gas-law “gas”. Instead of PV=NRT, it has a triple point near room temperature. A Freon, perhaps.
  • Multiple coupled cavities can be used for impedance matching.
  • The frequencies of the sound generators are adjusted to random correlation, so the mixing products are “white”. This doesn’t help with power, but the combination still contains peaks.  Goal: sigma that exceeds Gaussian.
  • My first design used piezo transducers to generate ultrasound. The actual weapon may use ultrasonic gas whistles, or cavitation coupled to resonance. For high power, the gas whistle could be powered  by deflagration, or detonation slowed to subsonic by a “gas capacitor.” For longer duration with less peak power, gas could be pumped or stored in an accumulator.

The above design is not a good explainer, but it fits well with Russian capabilities. It could have been built by the 1950’s.




Who is behind the Olympics Cyber Attack?

Edit 2/13: As Occam’s Razor (see Wired article) points increasingly towards Russia, keep the below discussion handy as a template for future complexities of North Korean tactics.

Reuters: Games organizers confirm cyber attack, won’t reveal source. A theory has attraction that, in other circumstances, would have all the hallmarks of conspiracy insanity.

South Koreans have a unique psychological susceptibility for their lost half, exceeding even that of West Germans during the Cold War. The vulnerability  has seen multiple uses by the North in the past, gaining aid and development from the South, which was diverted to the elite, or to funding the weapons programs of the North.

South Korea lives in denial. Two notable examples are:

  • Sinking of the Cheonan, The conclusion that a North Korean torpedo had sunk the ship could not be formally reached, even though torpedo parts with North Korean markings were found  under the sunken vessel.
  • The Kaesong Industrial Region, a special economic zone north of the DMZ, funded by South Korea, has been closed since 2/2016. A special panel chose to reject the presidential conclusion that wages paid to workers in the zone were diverted to  North Korea’s nuke program.

Quoting via Wikipedia,

The head of the panel Kim Jong-soo said, "The presidential office inserted the wage-diversion argument as major grounds, yet without concrete information, sufficient evidence and consultations with related agencies, mainly citing defector testimonies that lack objectivity and credibility...

Does Kim Jong-soo really expect North Korea to open up to Price-Waterhouse-Cooper? Defectors are the #1 source of information about this uniquely closed off country.

To South Koreans, North Korea is like the phantom limb of the amputee, never seen but perpetually a source of feeling. What North Korean strategist could ignore the precedent and practicality of exploiting this  sentimentality to undermine? Yet North Korea, isolated by another iron curtain, must not allow punctures by romantic approaches of the South. Analogously, reunification was never a dream of the GDR leadership. It came in the nightmare of collapse.

This suggests that North Korea seeks to manipulate the political landscape of the South, but without the annoying, cloying embrace of the great aunt you’ve never seen before. The public displays of the Olympics have the crowd swaying thrum of a national romance. All that is required is to convert the romance to an object of fear, but by actions perceptible only to South Korea’s leadership.

A hack by North Korea accomplishes this. It converts a feel-good love-fest, dangerous to the North, into a warning about political stability.

The major news sites tend to use hackneyed headlines. One of their favorites is, “So-and-so sends a message to so-and-so.” The body of such an article typically tries to decode the hidden-in-plain-view message.  Hack writing  fills up column inches, without being provably wrong in the short term.

But in this case, the headline “King-Jong-un Sends a Message to South Korea” has a significant chance of correctness.  It could make a nice article. The message:

Look at what we can do to you if you let the U.S. strike and/or support sanctions without relief. We can turn your government over at will. We can divide you against  yourself.

Division is the currently fashionable, deniable weapon of foreign affairs.


Nunes Memo

Reuters: Explosive memo released as Trump escalates fight over Russia probe. PDF download here.

The press seems disinclined to lay a finger on the heart of the controversy, so here it is. This is nonpolitical analysis. If you’re interested in a break from politics, read on. Quoting,

a) Steele was suspended and then terminated as an FBI source for what the FBI defines as the most serious of violations –an unauthorized disclosure to the media of his relationship with the FBI in an October 30, 2016 Mother Jones article by David Corn…

In this case,  Steele as a source simply means that he was under contract to the FBI to collect from, curate, and pay informants for information.  But why does unauthorized disclosure constitute such a serious violation? There is a specific reason. If the Russians know he is a source with a formal relationship with the FBI, it’s worth their trouble to

  • Contaminate the pool of sources by insertion of false information, which, it appears, they did. Very early on, a fan-fiction group recognized some of their authorship in Steele’s submissions. Neither that group, nor Steele, were necessarily aware of it. 
  • Discover Steele’s legitimate sources, particularly inside Russia, and sanction or liquidate them.

The Russians would be an easy guess for the fan-fiction, because insertion of blatantly false information discredits the whole pile. But Steele himself, with strong negativity about Trump, cannot be completely excluded.

Espionage is a highly intellectual game, a hall of mirrors, in which every lie turns back on itself to contradict the truth. Almost all raw information, save that of a few Cold War super spies, is of low quality. Steele’s information is just typical of the game. If you want to understand this better, take a break from politics and read John le Carrés Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, or Body of Lies by David Ignatius.

When Steele was professionally employed, he was an “intelligence officer”, which means  that he developed sources, and collected from them.  In retirement, Steele became a middleman with his former sources.  But he made two mistakes:

  • Abandonment of the key  stricture of his former profession: silence.
  • Expressed negativity about a Trump presidency, which may have influenced  his collections.

These failings do not imply that all of the sources he collected from are worthless. Steele was the conduit to  numerous, unnamed people, with independent reputations, whose identities must forever remain top secret.  Only meticulous correlation, curation, and judgement can decide the value, what Mike Pompeo calls “exquisite truth”. This is the province of the analyst.

The challenge for the Democrats is that the greater truth of the matter lies not in Steele himself, but in his sources. (Daily Beast) Fusion GPS claims that Kremlin tried to purge their sources. The lives of sources who are still healthy, and would be crucial to a Dem rebuttal, would be put at unacceptable risk by the declassification process.

Of Christopher Steele’s clandestine world, only Steele himself, already a public figure, is immune to added risk from the Nunes memo, which is why Steele’s name alone appears in it.

Very clever, Representative Nunes.

CNN: Attack by drones with explosives raises alarm

CNN video: Attack by drones with explosives raises alarm.

The video misleads. Crucially, at 2:05, James Carafano states, “All these things are radio controlled.”

Cheap commercial drones are programmed by the factory to listen for the signal of a controller. But anybody who can hack firmware can take that feature out.

Expensive U.S. military drones, which are not intended for kamikaze use, have behaviors that enhance the chance of safe recovery if the controlling signal is lost. They cannot be fooled by false instructions, because the control stream is encrypted.  (Some readers may recall adversary eavesdropping in Afghanistan. That was of the video stream, from the drone camera to base, for which encryption was neglected. The enemy could see, but  could not control.)

The drones used in the attacks on Russian bases had advanced control circuitry that relied on two radios:

  • GPS, which is a form of one-way radio, where the receiver tells the drone autopilot where it is. You have it, you use it, you know what it is.
  • Link to a human controller, who can override the autopilot, operating paddles to move the control surfaces and throttle of the drone. The link is not encrypted, so if it is active, it can be hijacked by ECM ( jamming, electronic countermeasures.)

Subject to clarification, that the Russians  were able to crash some of the drones electronically suggests that both GPS and the controller link were active.

Drones were used by ISIS in defense of Mosul. Those drones did not have GPS. They were guided visually by ISIS controllers a few hundred yards away. They were brought down by U.S. countermeasures,  by jamming or inserting false commands into the human control link.

But there is, and always will be a form of navigation/control that cannot be jammed:  dead reckoning. The crudest approximation always works to some degree. Ancient mariners used it when they could not see the sky. You use it yourself  when the light goes out. So let’s pretend we’re a drone. This is what we do when the two radios, GPS and control link, go bonkers:

If we were moving towards our destination with such-and-such a heading and speed, keep moving the same heading and speed, and by your watch, you’ll know when you’re over it. Then dive.

I have no interest in offering refinements to the above.

Reports indicate that the drones used in the Russia attack did not have the smarts to deal with tampering of the radio signals. Lack of sophistication has been the hallmark of ISIS, because individuals who self-select terror are not the brightest specimens of humanity. But neither is it particularly hard to do.

So our desire for a rigorously proactive defense is thwarted. The current drones can be misdirected by GPS jamming, or caused to crash by tampering with the control signal. With help from a rogue state, this may not always be so.

One bright spot: Of all the possible targets of a directed-energy weapon, lightweight drones are the softest. The low energy required to deform or ignite  plastic or wood makes a man-portable laser feasible.


Senate Hearings on Havana Sonic “Attacks”

Today, (CNN) Senate holds hearing on Cuba ‘sonic attacks’

Here’s a link to previous articles. Since that time, the FBI has (ABC) come to doubt. But the Russian research involved exposure over weeks, at much lower thresholds than noted by Western sources. Did the F.B.I. consult “Effects of Ultrasonic Noise on the Human Body – A Bibliographic Review”, or set up a similar long term experimental facility?

The NY Post has the most clearly audible sound, as part of a video with spectrum display.  Points:

  • If  development of medical conditions, involving white matter brain damage  by  U.S. and Canadian diplomats, was contemporaneous with exposure to this noise,  the association  strongly indicates the operation of a purposeful, specialized device, not the accidental byproduct of some appliance that needs service.
  • If the recording device was a cellphone, or anything other than a specialized laboratory microphone-→amplifier-→digitizer, it adds artifacts to the record. Too much may be lost to reconstruct the gadget.
  • The audible noise of the recording cannot be the cause of harm. The audible noise is a byproduct, a trace left by ultrasonic noise as a result of nonlinear mixing. This is because high intensity audible noise causes extreme pain, the kind that makes you get up and move away, fast. Ultrasonic noise evades most of it. The lobster boils to death in the pot, but feels nothing.

(IEEE) Was a Sonic Weapon Deployed in Cuba dismisses the feasibility of weaponized ultrasound, citing (pdf) Acoustic Weapons—A Prospective Assessment: Sources, Propagation, and Effects of Strong Sound . But this is contradicted by the Russian references provided in Havana Sonic Attacks — Addendum for techies only.

Still, let’s look at some alternate explanations:

  • A “toxin” theory has bee proposed. Quite a number of botanicals consumed by humans contain neurotoxins, such as BMAA.
  • Various neurotropic viruses, such as Zika, cause white matter damage.
  • They were all sick before they took up residence in Cuba (C’mon!)

But for these to fit, they must also cause auditory parasthesia, changing the sensation of innocuous sound to noxious sound.

A few consumer appliances  can make high frequency, or ultrasonic noise, particularly if they are slightly broken:

  • An old fashioned television, which can be ruled out immediately.
  • A light dimmer.
  • A defective compact fluorescent light bulb, a  CCFL. But rare, and multiple locations were affected.
  • A high frequency inverter, found in backup power systems. But one that makes noise is rare, and multiple locations were affected.

If the quality of the recordings provided to the Office of Naval Research is sufficient, it can be determined if the spectra

  • match a consumer appliance.
  • match industrial machinery.
  • has an intricate, purposeful structure, which strongly implies a weapon.
  • is an ambiguous fit for the above.

One of the two spectral displays I’ve seen, not the one in the NY Post video, shows a sharply defined “comb structure”. It has the purposeful signature of a weapon.

The argument for a weapon hinges on Russian research:

35. Il’nitskaia AV, Pal’tsev IuP. [Combined
action of ultrasonics and noise of standard
parameters]. Gig Sanit. 1973;(5):50–3. In

36. Roshchin AV, Dobroserdov VK. [Reactions
of the human auditory analysor to the effect
of high frequency acoustic oscillations].
Gig Tr Prof Zabol. 1971;15(12):3–7.

But how ludicrous to think they could be involved in any way. I’ll lay money Greenland’s independence movement is behind it!





Intel9's world view