Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Drums of cyberwar: North Korea's cyber-WMDs

People ask me if today's NYTimes story changes my opinion that North Korea didn't do the Sony hack. Of course it doesn't. Any rational person can tell that the story is bogus. Indeed, such stories hint the government is hiding something.

The story claims the NSA has thoroughly hacked North Korea since 2010, and that's what enabled the US government to tell who was responsible for the Sony hack. But if this were true, then we hacked first, starting the cyberwar,  meaning we had no justification for Obama's sanctions. But, if the story is false, then again sanctions against North Korea aren't justified, because we don't have the proof our government claims. True or false, this New York Times story means the U.S. sanctions against North Korea aren't justified.

The reason this story is nonsense is that it's not journalism. It relies almost entirely on anonymous sources in the government. These aren't anonymous whistle-blowers who fear retaliation, but government propagandists who don't want to be held accountable. The government exploits the New York Times, promising them exclusive breaking news in exchange for them publishing propaganda. This allows government to have a story that is simultaneous true and false, whichever way serves their purpose best.

This isn't some paranoid fantasy I have about the New York Times. It's what their own ombudsman said a few weeks ago criticizing a previous article by this same author. The Society of Professional journalists criticize anonymous sources in their Code of Ethics, and in another paper more clearly criticize this "Washington game" of anonymity. There is even a Twitter bot (@NYTAnon) that tracks these sorts of stories. Every rational person knows that using anonymous government sources are bad ethics spouting the government official story -- that they are no better than the sorts of stories that ran in PRAVDA, the official Soviet newspaper.

Some people compare this DRPK-cyberwar propaganda with the Iraq-WMD propaganda. It turns out that this is indeed an appropriate comparison. David Sanger, the author of the above cyber story, has been the chief Washington correspondent for the New York Times for over 20 years. SourceWatch, a site that tracks those who influence government policy, blames Sanger along with Judith Miller for hyping WMDs as a justification for the Iraq war. SourceWatch may be referring to stories like this one naming anonymous sources that laid the groundwork for Colin Powell's famous presentation at the U.N. Sanger is nowadays widely criticized for hyping the Iran-WMD threat.

I'm not trying to be difficult here, finding arbitrary reasons to reject evidence that doesn't fit my conclusion. I've always been critical of Washington D.C. stories citing anonymous government sources pushing cyber-legislation, cyber-war, and other cyber-policy. It's all dishonest and evil. This latest story is not credible -- and most any (non-Washington) journalist will confirm this.


Richard Steven Hack said...

And Sanger not only pimped the Iraq War, he's been doing the exact same thing over the utterly non-existent "Iran nuclear weapons program" for which there isn't a scrap of evidence that hasn't been debunked by independent journalists and expert nuclear inspectors outside of the IAEA (which according to Wikileaks cables has been thoroughly politicized by Washington.)

As I put it on Twitter: The FBI cannot be trusted. The NSA cannot be trusted. And the New York Times cannot be trusted. Period.

dre said...

The same Judith Miller who was jailed for failing to disclose who leaked Valerie Plame's identity during the federal grand jury probe?

When a source is encouraged to disclose classified information, it's no longer journalism but instead espionage, which violates anti-corruption laws.

f16089f2-a0e1-11e4-8607-9ff44403fca1 said...

But if this were true, then we hacked first, and the Sony hack is retaliation

That does not follow. It's only retaliation if NK knew about it. I may have read too quickly, but I see no claim in the NYT piece that they did.