According to the great-grandson of John D. Rockefeller, nephew of banker David Rockefeller, and former Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller the internet represents a serious threat to national security. Rockefeller is not alone in this assessment. His belief that the internet is the “number one national hazard” to national security is shared by the former Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell and Obama’s current director Admiral Dennis C. Blair.
Senator Jay Rockefeller pontificates on the threat to national security posed by the internet.
“It really almost makes you ask the question would it have been better if we had never invented the internet,” Rockefeller mused during the confirmation hearing of Gary Locke (see video), Obama’s choice for Commerce Secretary. He then cites a dubious figure of three million cyber “attacks” launched against the Department of Defense every day. “Everybody is attacked, anybody can do it. People say, well it’s China and Russia, but there could be some kid in Latvia doing the same thing.”
Jay Rockefeller’s comments reveal an astounding degree of ignorance – or if not ignorance, outright propaganda. Since the September 11, 2001, attacks the government has cranked up the fear quotient in regard to cyber attacks and so-called cyber terrorism, a virtually non-existent threat except in the minds security experts and politicians. In the years since the attacks, not one real instance of real cyberterrorism has been recorded.
“Cyberattacks on critical components of the national infrastructure are not uncommon, but they have not been conducted by terrorists and have not sought to inflict the kind of damage that would qualify as cyberterrorism,” writes Gabriel Weimann, author of Terror on the Internet. “Nuclear weapons and other sensitive military systems, as well as the computer systems of the CIA and FBI, are ‘air-gapped,’ making them inaccessible to outside hackers. Systems in the private sector tend to be less well protected, but they are far from defenseless, and nightmarish tales of their vulnerability tend to be largely apocryphal.”
“Psychological, political, and economic forces have combined to promote the fear of cyberterrorism,” Weimann continues. “From a psychological perspective, two of the greatest fears of modern time are combined in the term ‘cyberterrorism.’ The fear of random, violent victimization blends well with the distrust and outright fear of computer technology.”
“The sky is not falling, and cyber-weapons seem to be of limited value in attacking national power or intimidating citizens,” notes James Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Such a threat is overblown, Lewis explains. He notes that “a brief review suggests that while many computer networks remain very vulnerable to attack, few critical infrastructures are equally vulnerable.” In other words, Rockefeller’s example of a kid in Latvia with a laptop posing a serious “hazard” to national security is little more than sensationalistic propaganda.
So-called cyber terrorists are far less of a threat than government. China and Australia have recently imposed draconian censorship on internet freedom. Brazil, Denmark, Canada, Finland, Ireland , Italy, Israel, the United Kingdom, the United States, and many other countries also impose nominal censorship on internet freedom. Urgent calls to restrict the medium in various ways through legislation and government action have increased over the last few years (for more detail, see Internet Censorship: A Comparative Study).
However, the real threat to internet freedom is currently posed by IT and ISP corporations, not the government.
As Alex Jones explained last June, large corporate ISPs are now in the process of imposing bandwidth caps and routing traffic over their networks and blocking certain targeted websites. For instance, in 2005 AOL Time-Warner was caught blocking access to all of Jones’ flagship websites across the entire United States. Other instances of outright censorship include the UK ISP Tiscali blocking subscribers from reaching material on the 7/7 London bombings and Google’s continued and habitual censorship of 9/11 material and Alex Jones’ films on the ever-popular YouTube. There are many other instances as well. (See Censoring the Internet: A Collection of Essential Links on Infowars.)
Jay Rockefeller’s warning about virtually non-existent and largely absurd cyberterrorism reveals increasing government nervousness and apprehension about the medium as a whole, especially as the internet grows by leaps and bounds as an alternative news and activism medium. On numerous occasions over the last few years alternative websites have posted articles exposing government crime, articles the corporate media has largely ignored. During the Bush years, the internet served as a vital resource for information on everything from torture and the destruction of civil liberties to the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, information the corporate media was often unable or unwilling to carry.
For instance, earlier this month Infowars broke a story concerning the Missouri Information Analysis Center and its effort to profile Libertarians and Ron Paul supporters as terrorists. The story was subsequently picked up by the corporate media (although Alex Jones and Infowars did not receive attribution).
As more corporate media outlets fail — as evinced by several high profile newspapers going out of business recently — and more people flock to the internet to get their news and information, the government will increasingly employ fear tactics designed to portray the medium as a refuge for terrorists, pedophiles, and other miscreants.
It appears the Obama administration is attempting to micromanage this effort. Last week CNet “obtained a summary of a proposal from Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) that would create an Office of the National Cybersecurity Advisor, part of the Executive Office of the President. That office would receive the power to disconnect, if it believes they’re at risk of a cyberattack, ‘critical’ computer networks from the Internet.” As well, the effort would put the White House National Cybersecurity Advisor in charge of coordinating cyber efforts within the intelligence community and within civilian agencies.
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