Bang a Gong! (update on WikiFreaks)

Symbol of Falun Gong

“The way alien beings get human beings to shake free ofthe gods is to mix the races, causing human beings to become rootless people, just like the plant hybrids people make nowadays. South Americans, Central Americans, Mexicans and some people in South East Asia – all of these races have been mixed. None of this can evade the gods’ eyes. Alien beings have made rather extensive preparations for overtaking human beings.”
-Li Hongzhi, Leader of Falun Gong

“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”
-George Orwell, 1984

The material contained in this post hits on two seemingly disparate themes that have been constant in my work over the past few years.

1. The cyber-libertarian mythos that hackers are always “several steps ahead of the Feds” and that “Information wants to be free” is just that: mythos. First, let’s tackle the “information wants to be free” notion. It’s a sentence that begins debunking itself by the second word, and finishes the job by the fifth word, a fairly amazing English language accomplishment, if not a philosophical one. Bits and bytes don’t “want” anything. And they certainly have no concept of freedom. But if they mix enough LSD into their coding sessions, I guess “cypherpunks”  can convince themselves of anything! As for “always steps ahead of the Feds”, that is often the case in a technical sense. However, the Feds can catch up quickly with their massive funds, technology, and most  importantly the literal army of busted geeks who flip and cut a deal to avoid long Fed prison sentences. Getting ahead of the Feds in terms of  code is one thing, STAYING ahead of them is a completely different deal.

2. The notion that governments use dangerous mind-control cults to achieve political agendas.  This is not a popular notion and one I’ve certainly spent a fair amount of time and energy arguing with people about. However, NOTHING is more blatant and proves my point more deeply than Falun Gong. This is a scary, racist, homophobic, UFO cult, yet one that operates with the 100% blessing and support of the US Government. Openly. Emphatically. Even San Francisco, supposedly a bastion of gay freedom, has honored Falun Gong for its “resistance” to the Chinese government despite it’s toxic anti-gay belief system.

How do these two things intertwine? Keep reading!

First, let’s take a look at the “Tor Project”. I first started hearing about this when I was researching WikiLeaks and one of it’s leaders, Daniel Domscheit-Berg (aka “Daniel Schmitt”) as he was touting Tor.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tor_%28anonymity_network%29

…Tor is a system intended to enable online anonymity, composed of client software and a network of servers which can hide information about users’ locations and other factors which might identify them. Use of this system makes it more difficult to trace internet traffic to the user, including visits to Web sites, online posts, instant messages, and other communication forms.[5] It is intended to protect users’ personal freedom, privacy, and ability to conduct confidential business, by keeping their internet activities from being monitored.[6] The software is open-source and the network is free of charge to use.

Sounds groovy! And who is behind this wonderful gift of “network servers which can hide information about users’ locations and other factors which might identify them”, thus helping, WikiLeaks style, to battle the great all-seeing eye of the US Military-Industrial Complex?  The Naval Research Lab! But, of course, there is a myth build up around Tor, just like the Internet itself, that this is something that “escaped the government labs for the benefit of anti-American hipsters everywhere!” I call bullshit.

http://www.usenix.org/events/sec04/tech/dingledine.html

Roger Dingledine and Nick Mathewson, The Free Haven Project; Paul Syverson, Naval Research Lab
Abstract
We present Tor, a circuit-based low-latency anonymous communication service. This second-generation Onion Routing system addresses limitations in the original design by adding perfect forward secrecy, congestion control, directory servers, integrity checking, configurable exit policies, and a practical design for location-hidden services via rendezvous points. Tor works on the real-world Internet, requires no special privileges or kernel modifications, requires little synchronization or coordination between nodes, and provides a reasonable tradeoff between anonymity, usability, and efficiency. We briefly describe our experiences with an international network of more than 30 nodes. We close with a list of open problems in anonymous communication.

Tor is not viewed by its creators as something to be used for people to “free themselves” from global capitalism, or “big gubmint”, or the Military-industrial complex, or the Illuminati, or whatever your particular bugaboo of political choice is.  It’s a WEAPON.

And what is to stop a law enforcement or intel org from hitching onto Tor and getting a peak at what passes through it? Nothing!

http://www.securityfocus.com/news/11447/2

Tor hack proposed to catch criminals
Robert Lemos, SecurityFocus 2007-03-08

The Tor network–a distributed system of computers that anonymizes the source of network traffic–has a slew of beneficial uses: Human-rights workers, the military and journalists all use the system. However, the anonymity of Tor has also attracted seedier elements as well: digital pirates, online criminals and, quite possibly, child pornographers.

Now, one security researcher aims to make the distributed network less of a haven for the shadier side of the Internet.

HD Moore, the lead developer of the Metasploit Project, has created a rough set of tools that allows anyone operating a Tor server to attempt to track the source of network data. Moore originally created the software to block file sharers from eating up his computer’s bandwidth, but soon targeted potential child pornographers who appeared to be using the network, he said.

“I don’t want my network connection to be used to transfer child pornography or pictures of child models,” Moore wrote in an e-mail to SecurityFocus on Thursday. “I don’t want my server confiscated by law enforcement because of some Tor user who thinks they are anonymous.”

…Unsurprisingly, Moore’s actions have stirred up controversy. Tor operators have criticized the project as endangering the vast majority of legitimate Tor users to pursue a smaller number of bad actors.

“This is a general-purpose attack tool–there’s no reason it can’t be just as useful for identifying the IPs of misconfigured Tor users looking for information on democracy in China, or for the nearest VD clinic, or for information on how to run for office, or whatever,” said one poster to the Onion Routing Talk (OR-Talk) mailing list. “Snoops everywhere should be pleased.”Shava Nerad, executive director of the Tor Project, agreed that any technique that could be used by law enforcement to track down criminals, could also be used by authoritarian regimes to track down democracy activists or by the United States’ enemies to track down the military intelligence officers that use the network. “Mr. Moore’s solution will not solve the problem he is trying to solve, and in the process, he will hurt a lot of people that he should be helping,” Nerad said.

…The attack also relies on the attacker’s ability to have its server become an exit node for the Tor network. Exit nodes are key servers that act as the drop point for encrypted data cells from the Tor network, which are translated into unencrypted network packets and sent out to the Internet. Responses are processed by the same server, translated back into data cells, and sent through the Tor network back to the user.

…Moreover, anyone who implement’s Moore’s tools could be violating federal wiretap laws, Bankston said.For his part, Moore intends to turn the tools over to law enforcement for their own use, he said. “I agree that evidence collected in this fashion may not be admissible in court, but my end goal is to provide a software package to law enforcement, not stream evidence directly to the agencies,” the researcher said in an e-mail to SecurityFocus.

….The Tor Project has already taken steps to inform its users. On Thursday, the project added a warning to its documentation and further outlined what users need to do to protect their anonymity online. “Tor by itself is NOT all you need to maintain your anonymity,” the site read. “There are several major pitfalls to watch out for.”

The list of threats is not small: misconfigured applications, using any of a number of browser plugins, visiting sites that have set cookies, and a lack of encryption from the Tor network to the destination server.If nothing else, the list underscores that, in the digital world, anonymity is not easy.

No, it is not easy. And remember the words of John Young of Cryptome, the predecessor of WikiLeaks, which I quoted extensively from in “WikiFreaks”.

“There is none that is not superficial and illusory. Security and/or privacy policy for the Internet and digital communication are unbelievable. Digital communication should be seen as a spying machine. The Internet is a magnificently appealing means to gather data on its bewitched users — for harvesting by governments, commerce, institutions and individuals, but especially by the providers of Internet services, distribution systems and equipment.”

“CNET: Wikileaks pledges to maintain the confidentiality of sources and stressed that in the presentation over the weekend. Do you offer your contributors the same guarantee?
Young: No. That’s just a pitch. You cannot provide any security over the Internet, much less any other form of communication. We actually post periodically warnings not to trust our site. Don’t believe us. We offer no protection. You’re strictly on your own.

We also say don’t trust anyone who offers you protection, whether it’s the U.S. government or anybody else. That’s a story they put out. It’s repeated to people who are a little nervous. They think they can always find someone to protect them. No, you can’t. You’ve got to protect yourself. You know where I learned that? From the cypherpunks.

So Wikileaks cannot protect people. It’s so leaky. It’s unbelievable how leaky it is as far as security goes. But they do have a lot of smoke blowing on their site. Page after page after page about how they’re going to protect you.

And I say, oh-oh. That’s over-promising. The very over-promising is an indication that it doesn’t work. And we know that from watching the field of intelligence and how governments operate. When they over-promise, you know they’re hiding something. People who are really trustworthy do not go around broadcasting how trustworthy I am.”

I would suggest that the same quality of “over-promising” applies not only to WikiLeaks, but to Tor as well. Next, let’s get back to Falun Gong and the beliefs of Dear Leader Li Hongzhi.  Yes, this is hosted by the Chinese government. Naturally, they have the most vested interest in nailing Falun Gong. However, once one understands what Falun is about, who can blame them? Also, I have never found that they misrepresent Li Honzhi’s viewpoints. He is quite consistent in his insanity.

 

"Are there any queers in the theater tonight?"

http://www.chinaconsulatechicago.org/eng/zt/z83/t624200.htm

LI ON THE GAYS

Question: Why is homosexuality considered immoral?

Teacher: Think about it, everyone: Is homosexuality human behavior? Heaven created man and woman. What was the purpose? To procreate future generations. A man being with a man, or a woman with a woman – it doesn’t take much thought to know whether that’s right or wrong. When minor things are done incorrectly, a person is said to be wrong. When major things are done incorrectly, it’s a case of people no longer having the moral code of human beings, and then they are unworthy of being human.

…Some people who have sinned can have their karma eliminated through the death of the physical body and suffering, and then they’ll be free of that karma when they reincarnate. Their livesdon’t really die and they reincarnate again. But the karma that some people have accrued is too much, in which case the fundamental elements of their existence will be implicated and destroyed. Homosexuals not only violate the standards that gods set for mankind, but also damage human society’s moral code.

Li on Interracial Marriage

…Li Hongzhi, the founder of Falun Gong holds that the offspring of cross-race marriage or the “hybrid” is a rootless and aberrant race which marks the extreme morality corruption of human beings in the world today. He says the half-breed – “mongrel” is a plot of aliens. He further explains that the half-breed is a plot of aliens aiming at sabotaging the link between human being and paradise. “The aliens mix up different human races and keep them away from gods,” Li said in Switzerland. He also enumerated 10 kinds of “evils”: the half-breed, gays and lesbians, computer users, tradition disrupters, democracy adherents as well as “science worshipers,” etc.

“In the reincarnation process it is the main soul that reincarnates, whereas what has mixed blood is the flesh body. Different gods created their own different peoples, and in history those gods have all along been taking care of the people they themselves created. White people are white people, black people are black people, and people of the yellow race are people of the yellow race. Any ethnicity in the world is a race that corresponds with the heavens. After mixing blood people no longer have their correspondence to the gods in the heavens.

LI ON THE ALIEN CONSPIRACY

“(Alien beings) want to steal it. They saturate all domains of humankind with science to make human beings firmly believe in science and rely on it. When human beings’ thoughts and way of existence are completely assimilated to theirs, they just have to replace people’s souls and humans will become them, and they will eventually replace the human race…this science was set up by aliens. Their purpose was to unify human beings and simplify their thoughts to the point of being as uniform asmachines. And they unified knowledge to make it easy for them to later on control and replace human beings. Furthermore, they’ve chosen a few nationalities as the vanguards of their future, total control ofhumankind. Japan is the vanguard that drives technology. The United States is the vanguard in breaking away from all ancient cultures on earth. The cultures of even the most ancient and closed-off nations haven’t been able to escape. The whole world is being impacted by America’s modern culture. England was the vanguard in the manufacture of machinery during the early stages, and Spain was the vanguard for mixing the human races. The way alien beings get human beings to shake free ofthe gods is to mix the races, causing human beings to become rootless people, just like the plant hybrids people make nowadays. South Americans, Central Americans, Mexicans and some people in South East Asia – all of these races have been mixed. None of this can evade the gods’ eyes. Alien beings have made rather extensive preparations for overtaking human beings.”[13]

I consider this final piece the coup de grace on the notion of “internet freedom” being anything other than a psyop.  In fact, the folks in charge of these kinds of psyops are so arrogant that they can blab about it at length at their tech mouthpiece of choice: Wired Magazine!  After all, they’re for “freedom”. Aren’t you? I have to admit, though, as much as I have misgivings about Wired, I can’t imagine trying to sort out this mess with Tor and WikiLeaks without their articles! They’ve been indispensable.

http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/11/ff_firewallfighters/3/

…Huang has hunched shoulders and a round face thatched with bushy black hair; his bashful mien occasionally retreats into a nervous giggle. He’s no charismatic revolutionary.

Love how the Wired author cracks on the guy’s physical appearance. Sidenote: writer of piece is actor Brendan Fraser’s brother! Just thought I’d toss that in. For the hardcore researcher, Fraser played Ed Lansdale in the brilliant “Quiet American” about the early days of the Vietnam War. Man, I love small details like that…

But by 2002, he had assembled a dozen like-minded Falun Gong-practicing colleagues. In the small garage attached to his four-bedroom bungalow, they developed a digital weapon for their compatriots back in China: a program designed to foil government censorship and surveillance. Dubbed UltraSurf, it has since become one of the most important free-speech tools on the Internet, used by millions from China to Saudi Arabia.

A separate group of Falun Gong practitioners, it turned out, was working on something similar, and in 2006 the two groups joined forces as the Global Internet Freedom Consortium. Most GIFC members spend their days as cubicle-bound programmers and engineers at places ranging from Microsoft to NASA. But off the clock, at night and on weekends, they wage digital guerrilla warfare on the Chinese government’s cyberpolice, matching their technical savvy, donated computers, and home-office resources against the world’s second-largest superpower. Again and again, Beijing has attacked the firewall-beating programs; again and again, the scrappy band of volunteers has defeated those attacks.

The victories don’t come easily. Huang quit a lucrative job to devote all his time to the cause. He has drained almost all of his savings. He had to sell his home and move his family into a rental, where he now works out of a spare room, making ends meet with freelance consulting gigs. Most days he sits in an armless swivel chair, bent over computers set up on a folding table. But there is one major consolation. “More and more people are using our technology,” he says. “And that’s the force that will tear down the Great Firewall

…. Pulling out a few others at random, we see that somebody in Beijing visited Dolce & Gabbana’s site, somebody in Turkey hit Facebook, and somebody in the United Arab Emirates spent quality time at ShemaleTubeVideos .com. We check out that site, and Huang grimaces at some biologically baffling photos. “We don’t want to spend our money supporting that,” he says. In a hard-to-miss irony, the GIFC tools block access to many video sites, especially pornographic ones. That’s partly because their network lacks the bandwidth to accommodate so much data-heavy traffic, but also because Falun Gong frowns on erotica.

So the New World of Internet Freedom will be Free… unless it isn’t.  Hey, man, we want our shemaletube videos!

…The fact that administrators like Huang can see data about where users are coming from and going to, however, makes privacy fundamentalists leery of the GIFC tools. They favor similar software like Hotspot Shield and Tor, which can’t gather user data. Logs could be hacked into or turned over to US law enforcement—something Xia and Huang say they’d do if ordered by a court. “I know plenty of people in China who don’t like what their government does to the Falun Gong, but they don’t want to entrust their data to the Falun Gong either,” says Rebecca MacKinnon, a New America Foundation fellow specializing in global Internet policy and human rights. Xia and Huang insist their logs are secure and, in any case, are deleted after a couple of weeks at most. They keep them for that long, they say, to analyze the traffic for signs of interference or surveillance.

Which happens all the time. “UltraSurf and Freegate are blocked very aggressively in China,” says Hal Roberts of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. “In response, they’ve gotten into a very sophisticated arms race.”

Those money woes are among the reasons Tian and Huang, along with a couple of smaller Falun Gong-affiliated outfits, established the nonprofit GIFC. Together, they figured, they had a better shot at getting some real money from the world’s biggest free-speech funder: the US government. As computer geeks who speak English as a second language, GIFC members aren’t exactly skilled Beltway operators. They have, however, attracted some key allies—most important, a pair of well-connected conservative true believers for whom battling the world’s last great Communist autocracy is the highest calling. The first is Mark Palmer, a onetime speechwriter for Henry Kissinger and the Soviet-relations point person in President Reagan’s State Department. Today he’s a pro-democracy advocate in DC. “I was amazed at what they’d done with chewing gum and baling wire,” he says.

Palmer knows that simply routing around firewalls won’t end Internet censorship. But he believes circumvention tools can play a critical role. “If you ask dissidents from the Soviet days what were the best things the West did to help them, they all say Radio Free Europe and the BBC made an enormous difference. They were ways for them to get information and communicate with one another,” he says. “The Internet is the modern version of those programs, but of course it goes much further.”

Palmer brought in Michael Horowitz, a Reagan administration official who has since become a freelance paladin on a head-spinning range of issues, from the persecution of Christians in Muslim countries to prison rape and sex trafficking. The pair set about putting the group on the capital’s radar. It was a tough sell at first; Falun Gong has a bit of a nutty, Scientology-like reputation, especially in Washington, DC, where it’s a visible presence. They’re the guys in yellow T-shirts outside the Chinese embassy, waving gruesome pictures of torture victims and yowling crazy-sounding allegations about Communist officials harvesting the organs of imprisoned Falun Gong members.

Note that writer Beiser simply mentions their “reputation” and their conspiracy theories. No mention of their UFO beliefs, swastika symbol, racism, or homophobia.  Because Beiser, as a “Huffington Post liberal” himself, knows that kind of stuff won’t fly with Wired readers, most of whom are either liberal or libertarians on social issues.

“Their eagerness to persuade you about how bad their situation is makes them their own worst PR enemy,” Horowitz says. “Sometimes they overstate things because they’re so anxious to get coverage.” But the religious-freedom angle got traction with pols who supported Horowitz’s crusade for Christian-minority rights. Among other things, he secured a Senate subcommittee hearing for GIFC member Shiyu Zhou, a Rutgers computer science professor. With $50 million, Zhou testified, the GIFC could attract and serve 23 million users in China. “Imagine the possibilities,” he continued, “of the Pope being able to conduct an interactive worship service with millions of Chinese Catholics, or members of this committee being able to conduct seminars in democracy with tens of thousands of Iranian students.”

A handful of Communist-hating members of Congress were persuaded. In 2008, they passed a bill appropriating $15 million to efforts to defeat firewalls in “dictatorships and autocracies.” But the State Department gave almost all of the money to a group that mainly trains journalists abroad. “The goddamn State Department just pissed that money away,” the normally diplomatic Palmer fumes. “I’m virtually certain the reason was fear of Beijing.” He and Horowitz maintain that the State Department doesn’t want to anger China by funding a Falun Gong-related organization.

….Though that cause has always been the GIFC’s main motivation, its biggest public relations coup came last year in Iran. The group wasn’t doing a thing to promote its tools there, but somehow they started spreading rapidly in 2008. The Voice of America helped develop a Farsi interface for the programs, and by year’s end they had as many users in Iran as in China—between half a million and a million daily. Then came the chaotic green movement protests surrounding the June 2009 election. “People were using circumvention tools to find out where the demonstration routes were, download posters, and repost news on their own sites,” says Iranian-American cyber activist Cameran Ashraf. Freegate and UltraSurf were especially popular, and the tsunami of Iranian traffic overwhelmed the GIFC servers. “A lot of us worked through the night to get the servers back online,” Zhou says. “We understood the Iranians’ pain.” They were up the next day, but since then the GIFC has had to impose limits on traffic from Iran to keep its cobbled-together network from being overwhelmed. Unfortunately, that forces some users to wait hours for a connection.

Please note that I’m not necessarily opposed to the USG backing efforts like this with Iran, or even with China, though I think working with Falun Gong is a very different thing than backing Iranian democrats. However, I am opposed to the veil of illusion that many “cypherpunk” types are operating under in regards to things like WikiLeaks and Tor.

Nonetheless, the performance of the group’s tools that summer won them plaudits from members of Congress and columnists at The New York Times and The Washington Post. The hype about the “Twitter revolution” helped firewall-busting pick up momentum as a cause in Washington. “Nations that censor the Internet should understand that our government is committed to helping promote Internet freedom,” secretary of state Hillary Clinton said last January. The US is “supporting the development of new tools,” she added, “that enable citizens to exercise their rights of free expression by circumventing politically motivated censorship.”

Bingo. That is why Wikileaks is still online.  I wrote nearly all of this material months before the “Social Media Revolutions” supported by the U.S. and the West broke out. I feel that these developments have increased the relevance of this post. Not to brag or anything…

A few months later, the State Department promised $1.5 million in funding for the GIFC. That’s peanuts by Washington standards, of course. The budget for Voice of America alone is more than $200 million. Nonetheless, Palmer says, the fact that the US government is now funding the GIFC gives the group a certain legitimacy and an acknowledgment that its tools work. That will be important in the months ahead, when the Feds decide who will get a portion of the $30 million in Internet freedom funding that Congress has approved for this fiscal year.

More money could let the GIFC expand its server network enough to lift the cap on Iranian traffic and accommodate millions more users. It could also let it hire programmers to develop Mac, Linux, and iPad versions of UltraSurf and Freegate. And it could allow Alan Huang to quit his consulting gigs and do battle full-time with the censors. “Sometimes,” he says, “I joke that Falun Gong may not be a religion, but Internet freedom has become a religion for me.”

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~ by psychedelicdungeon on February 16, 2011.

5 Responses to “Bang a Gong! (update on WikiFreaks)”

  1. This is interesting – I hadn’t even heard of Falun Gong. Some of your research is lucid and comes to very logical conclusions.

    I am not convinced everything is a conspiracy. There comes a time when someone generates enough energy or publicity to become a threat. Then a theory of conspiracy becomes plausible. An organisations which is a front for government psyops is something which eventually will come to light. Let’s be honest – the feds aren’t very smart. They’ve dropped the ball on a number of occasions, which has given many of us horrors aplenty. I think you give these guys too much credit! Secondly, history has been written and printed in paper for many years now. Those that challenged the status quo have had to do so on a very low level or their message would not get past the editors/censors. We are only just beginning to see the ‘freedom’ from non-authoritarian sources. The church and the state cannot stop alternatives sources from coming to light.

    Anyway, isn’t it enough that we have a vast history of monetary greed which has stifled civilisation as far back as when records began? We surely need no conspiracy when the truth is so apparent. I’ve always argued this fact to conspiracy nuts and – although I enjoy and am informed by some of the more imaginative suggestions – I prefer to keep my goals more tangible.

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