jerryking + russians   4

Why is America so bad at information wars?
JULY 18, 2018 | Financial Times | Gillian Tett.

In his new book Messing With the Enemy, Clint Watts, a former FBI agent, describes this exchange as the first “international-terrorist-versus-counter-terrorist Twitter battle”......One way to make sense of today’s extraordinary cyber battles with the Russians is to look at how jihadi groups developed such campaigns years earlier — not least because this oft-ignored parallel shows how the US government has done a poor job fighting its enemies in cyberspace. “America sucks at information warfare,” Watts laments. “Absolutely sucks.”.....US officials attempted to fight back against Isis’s social media campaigns. Watts reveals that in 2013 while at the FBI — and later as a security consultant — he engaged in a long Twitter duel with American-born terrorist Omar Hammami. Other US intelligence groups tried to develop psychological-operations campaigns to fight the extremists. Some of the experimental techniques used to profile social media users were later deployed in the ad-tech industry by companies such as Cambridge Analytica.

However, the US military was simply too bureaucratic, slow moving and rule-laden to match its enemies. And the country that seemed to learn the most from the social media extremists was Russia: Watts describes how he inadvertently witnessed Russian-backed groups populating American social media from the autumn of 2015 onwards, copying some of the tactics of the Islamists....Watts’s proposed remedy is just as startling: he believes that US government agencies are now so ill-equipped to fight in these type of social media wars that it is time for non-government groups to take the lead instead.....many leading figures in Silicon Valley furtively express similar views. Indeed, some appear to be quietly funding civilian “volunteers” to do exactly what Watts suggests: namely, hunt for ways to counter Russian attacks by infiltrating enemy cyber groups.

Who knows whether this type of grass-roots action will work, or how widespread it might be — everything is deeply murky in the arena of cyberspace and information wars.
Gillian_Tett  information_warfare  U.S.  security_&_intelligence  Twitter  al-Shabab  books  cyber_warfare  Russians  hackers  Russia  disinformation  persuasion  trolls  politics  delegitimization  destabilization  deception  infiltration 
july 2018 by jerryking
A chilling portrait of the world's mafias
August 14, 2017 | Financial Times | Book review by John Lloyd of

Mafia Life: Love, Death and Money at the Heart of Organised Crime, by Federico Varese, Profile Books £14.99

Two of the most chilling observations in this learned, fluent book is, first, that the mafias “put themselves forward as institutions of government, ultimately in competition with the legitimate state”. Second, that “mafias thrive in democracies”.

Totalitarian regimes, such as the Italian Fascists, suppressed the mafia almost to extinction; democracy restored, they grew again. Only now — with massive policing, greater ease of sentencing, increased surveillance and pentiti — is the Sicilian mafia facing, if not extinction, then severe reduction. But the Neapolitan Camorra and above all the Calabrian ’Ndrangheta across the straits of Messina have grown and grow still. Calabresi families are rich on the proceeds of the heroin trade from the container port of Gioia Tauro (unfortunately Varese doesn’t say much about them here).

Mafia life is often short and usually tense. The Russian vory v zakone (thieves-in-law), spawned in Soviet prison colonies, live more than any other by their own law, spurning contact with state and police, vicious in their feuds. The Japanese Yakuza, who like to trace their lineage back to the samurai (Varese thinks their origins are in late-19th-century gamblers), settle scores with a sword....
Mafias sometimes side with, and are used by, states. The Hong Kong Triads, facing pro-democracy demonstrations in 2014, took the side of the Chinese authorities in confronting the young demonstrators — and gained some credit with Beijing. Where mafia are powerful, as the drug cartels in Mexico and the Wa heroin refiners in Myanmar’s Shan and Kachin regions (said to process 45 per cent of world supply), they create their own “states” with laws, social provision and a savage punishment code.
organized_crime  drug_cartels  globalization  institutions  book_reviews  books  Japanese  Russians  Italians  mafia  gangs  viciousness 
august 2017 by jerryking

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