It was July 10, 1971 and we were in the heart of the cold war. The U.S. was running a super secret satellite spying operation code-named Hexagon. This was long before the days of digital cameras and Google earth. Spy photos were stored on Kodak film and when the time came for them to be sent back to earth, they were jettisoned from the satellite via a capsule called a Hexagon recovery vehicle. Unfortunately, on this particular day things went very wrong. The parachute carrying the RV didn’t deploy correctly and literally tore off at the swivel. The RV hit the surface of the ocean at 2600 g’s and sank in 16,000 feet of water. This is just a piece of a riveting story that can be found in newly declassified CIA documents. What follows is a story of a rescue mission that reaches record depths and is mingled with excitement and disappointment.
According to the CIA “Memorandum for the Record“, it was decided to bring in the Navy for a recovery attempt. This was no easy task. There were several challenges outlined in the memorandum:
a. The ability to locate the impact area accurately. b. The amount of damage caused by the impact and the corrosive effects from sea water. c. No object of this size had been actively searched for and located by sonar. d. The Trieste II had not gone below 10,000 feet.
Three recovery attempts were made. The first failed attempt was November 3, 1971. The second failed attempt was November 30, 1971. The third attempt was a little more successful. On April 25, 1972, the Trieste II successfully found and grasped the RV capsule. Unfortunately, due to the pressure changes while rising to the surface, the film basically shredded and they were only able to recover a remnant. The end result was not ideal but the CIA remained pretty optimistic despite the circumstance. It appears what the Navy was able to accomplish in the midst of much turmoil proved to be an encouraging turn of events. The memorandum ends with the following.
In summary, the significance of the objective of recovering the film for intelligence use was considerably reduced after the 1202 mission, and the motivating force became the demonstration of the capability to effect a deep sea recovery. This was successfully accomplished with the recovery of the two film stacks on the third dive. All of the men involved remained enthusiastic and determined throughout the many frustrations and are to be commended for their fine efforts.
Below, I have included a photo gallery with some of the amazing underwater photos from the recovery effort.
There is a certain faction of people who are paranoid about privacy. They use Tor networks to surf the web, a Google or Facebook account is a big no-no for them, and they like to move in and out of the Internet without a trace, like clockwork. These people are not necessarily hackers or anything, but they take their privacy very seriously. As privacy controls become more intrusive, these paranoid people exist to cry “privacy breach” every time a privacy change is made, exercising just-in-time control.
Constant monitoring attempts by the Government have given rise to a famous line-
Big brother is watching you.
Big Brother here is a fictional character from George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-four. Today, the line is being used as a symbol of mass surveillance and abuse of government power. There is no doubt about monitoring attempts and constant supervision of our online activities. Nevertheless, what happens with all the data that governments capture as part of this monitoring?
The various federal and intelligence agencies of the US are not able to handle the amount of data they monitor everyday, and the signs are showing in CIA’s recent urge for a software revolution. Reuters US quotes CIA’s top Technology Officer, saying,
The old way of contracting for proprietary software inhibits flexibility, postponing the CIA’s chance to take advantage of emerging capabilities early on, Hunt said. He added that this made it harder to keep up with “big data” at a time that such challenges are growing while federal agencies are tightening their belts for deficit reduction.
As it turns out, the CIA is having problems analyzing the massive amount of data it sniffs from various sources. To make amends to the situation and match the budget deficit, it recently told its software vendors to gear up, and get ready for a new business model. Hereupon, the CIA wants to pay for software services on a usage basis, rather than contracting the entire development of a product to a vendor.
The online hacker collective Anonymous declared a major hit yesterday, when the @YourAnonNews Twitter account announced the takedown of the CIA website. The successful takedown was announced with a “CIA tango down” message in a typical Anonymous style. The website was restored shortly afterwards, and there was no operation associated with the takedown. In short, this takedown was uncalled for and had no motive.
Last month, Anonymous took down the websites of the FBI and the Justice Department using the DDoS technique. It was their largest DDoS ever, and saw over 5000 participants. However, this takedown of CIA was motiveless, and has not been tagged with any ongoing operation so far. Apart from the CIA, the Alabama government website was also taken down, to protest against its harsh immigration laws.
However, the confusing news is that although YourAnonNews reported the takedown, they came back to give another message saying, “We’d remind media that if we report a hack or ddos attack, it doesn’t necessarily mean we did it…FYI”.
Last year around June, the Anonymous splinter group LulzSec took down CIA website and claimed responsibility for it. It was their claim to fame in the notorious hacktivism world.
Anonymous is being taken seriously by law enforcement agencies across the world, and they are attempting to join hands against Anonymous. A few days ago, FBI set up a conference call with the Scotland Yard to discuss this matter. However, Anonymous leaked both the email setting up the call, and a voice transcript of the entire seventeen-minute call.
This should serve as a point of reflection for the FBI. Anonymous is a merry band of hackers. However, if Anonymous can drop in on your conversations, how safe are they from other governments? This raises serious security concerns.
In a brutal and continuous attack, a hacker group going by the name of LulzSec have been causing havoc in the web world. Earlier this month, LulzSec had taken down high profile sites such as Sony Developer Network and Sony Pictures.
Since then they have hacked several other high profile websites including gaming servers and more. Quite recently, @LulzSec have become quite active on Twitter and have been posting details about their exploits and asking users for suggestions for future hack targets.
In a day today, they have managed to bombard the FBI with calls and taken down the CIA website CIA.gov. The group who are behind this are anonymous (not be be confused with the group "Anonymous"), but their exploits are definitely creating quite a flutter within security circles.
This is definitely not the last time we are going to hear about @LulzSec, it is going be a long road aheadâ€¦
Julian Assange has finally managed foolproof insurance so that the US government cannot want him dead now. He has threatened to name key Arab leaders with CIA ties, a move that will seriously jeopardize American efforts and strongholds in the Middle East.
According to this report from Business Insider, the CIA Arab ties were claimed by Assange in an Al-Jazeera interview. He has also claimed that there are files waiting and set to leak automatically in case Assange is captured or killed. If the leak happens, there can be massive turmoil in world politics. Political ties will break and many American secret operatives in the Middle East will be compromised.
After this move, Julian Assange has been condemned as dangerous by even more people since the documents that will be released in case of his capture are critical for security. Assange has also revealed some fact on Arab leaders saying,
We have more files dealing with defense issues of Central Europe, but I or my staff didn’t have the time to go through all of them. What is being published by the five media partners of WikiLeaks are publishing only those details which they think are interesting for their readers. There are some Arab officials who are stealing’ oil of their countries. We need these media partners to focus more on this issue.
Julian Assange and his website, Wikileaks has become a phenomenon on the Internet. He has released numerous documents and videos over the last four years, the scale of which is unmatched with all other leaks combined.
He refuses to call himself a journalist though; his investigative journalism has made him a saga. All this heroism has however, got him in trouble with the US and he is on the top wanted list of CIA. They want to question him for posting a video of an American helicopter shooting and killing several Iraqi civilians and two Reuter’s journalists.
He has limited his movements out of Sweden and remains secretive about it. He has however, developed a likeness for Iceland where journalism is libel-free.
What if publishing a document would threaten national security? “This phrase is so abused. Dick Cheney justified torture with it. Give me an example.” What about the movement of US troops? Would he publish a document that jeopardised their safety? “We’d have to think about it.” So that’s a yes? “It’s not a yes. If that fit into our editorial criteria which it might, if it was an extremely good movement then we’d have to look at whether that needed a harm minimisation procedure. We’d be totally happy to consider jeopardising the initiation of a war, or the action of war. Absolutely.”
Currently, Assange stays at a safe house. When being asked about his safety, he said,
Is it in the CIA’s interest to assassinate me? Maybe. But who would do it? Isn’t he brave to appear in public? Courage is an intellectual mastery of fear. It’s not that you don’t have fear, you just manage your risks intelligently.
Never heared of Wikileaks earlier? Have the taste of a Wikileaks controversy here.
Update: Here is a surprise interview of Assange by Chris Anderson: