in the cloud, ordinary ‘secret’ data will be treated like SCE (sensitive compartmented information)

Amazon and the CIA #1: Amazon cashes in on war crimes and mass surveillance
Evan Blake, WSWS, Jul 13 2017

In recent years, the multinational corporation Amazon has risen to become the preeminent online retail giant and the fourth most valuable company in the world. One of Amazon’s most significant business contracts, which has largely been kept hidden from the public since it was finalized in Oct 2013, was a $600m deal for Amazon Web Services (AWS) to build a private computing cloud for the 17 intelligence agencies known collectively as the “intelligence community” (IC). The deal initiated Amazon’s ever-deepening integration with the state, and implicates the company in the international war crimes, mass spying and repressive operations carried out by the spy agencies of Pindosi imperialism. Similar to the Krupp company, which supplied arms to the German military during WW1 & WW2, Amazon today provides the technological scaffolding for the wars waged by Pindo imperialism. Since reaching its deal with the CIA, Amazon’s stock value has more than tripled from $319.04/share to $993.80/share today. In the process, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has amassed roughly $60b, becoming the world’s second-richest person with a current net value of $85b. Through the contract, known as the Commercial Cloud Service or C2S cloud, the company forged links to all 17 IC agencies. The cloud securely stores large portions of the internet and telecommunications data accumulated by the CIA and eight agencies of the DoD, including the NSA, DIA, NGA, NRO and the intelligence wings of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps; the Office of Intelligence and Analysis and Coast Guard Intelligence of the DHS, and the Intelligence Branch of the FBI, to name the most prominent agencies of the IC. Amazon runs the C2S cloud privately, behind the IC’s firewall, enabling the IC agencies to securely share data with each other, separate from the internet at large. The C2S cloud is a major component of the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise (IC ITE) program initiated by then-DNI Clapper in 2011. According to Clapper, the goal of the program is to “improve the ability to securely and efficiently discover, access, and share information” within the IC. Along with the Amazon-built cloud, the NSA constructed its own private cloud to store the swathes of data it continually collects. The two clouds work in complementary fashion, and are gradually replacing the isolated data centers used by each of the 17 IC agencies. While the specific contents of the data shared between the IC agencies is classified and thus hidden from the public, it is undoubtedly used for all sorts of criminal operations. In a June 2015 speech, Clapper declared:

We have hundreds of millions of records in the cloud from the big six agencies [CIA, NGA, FBI, NSA, NRO and DIA] and others.

In Apr 2016, Beth Flanagan, a leading official at the NGA, revealed that data from IC ITE was used to accuse the Syrian government of carrying out the Aug 2013 chemical weapons attack in Ghouta. These allegations were exposed as a trumped-up lie by Seymour Hersh, whose arguments were substantiated by a separate investigation by the UN. Nevertheless, the Obama administration almost enacted full-scale war against Syria, using these false allegations as a pretext. The sharing of data facilitated by Amazon enables scenarios to take place where the CIA, NSA, NGA and USAF collaborate to identify, precisely locate and carry out drone assassinations. Thanks to Amazon, the spy agencies can now more seamlessly conspire to carry out bloody military campaigns such as the military assault on Mosul, or secretly orchestrate the Toad war against Yemen. They are no doubt using such technology to simulate and prepare for the long-planned wars against NK, Iran, China and Russia. In mid-2012, the CIA began conducting negotiations with AWS, IBM and an unnamed third corporation to decide which company would win the highly lucrative 10-year contract to create the private cloud for the IC, which had to be capable of analyzing 100 TB of raw data at a time, an immense figure. In Feb 2013, the CIA secretly selected Amazon as the winning bidder. IBM filed a bid protest, claiming they had offered a lower price than Amazon, but in Oct 2013, the Court of Federal Claims sided with Amazon, which then began to build the C2S cloud infrastructure. The cloud became operational in the summer of 2014, with then-CIA chief information officer Doug Wolfe praising it as “one of the most important technology procurements in recent history.” Last month, current CIA CIO John Edwards declared in a speech at the AWS Public Sector Summit:

It’s the best decision we’ve ever made! … It’s the most innovative thing we’ve ever done! … It is having a material impact on both the CIA and the IC!

There were a number of factors that led the CIA to partner with Amazon, one of which was their ability to save money in the long-term. While $600m is an enormous sum, at that point the IC was spending upwards of $8b/yr to store and analyze the billions of pieces of metadata, phone and internet records, and other information that it was collecting en masse on its self-built servers, as noted in documents leaked by Edward Snowden. Amazon’s cloud-based server offered a means to significantly reduce these costs, as it had a unique ability to scale up or down to meet the storage, computing and analytics needs of the IC at a given time. Amazon would also incorporate any innovations or improvements devised by their engineers, which happen on an almost daily basis, directly into the C2S cloud. Another advantage that AWS had over IBM and the third bidder was its commercial cloud marketplace, which is a place for vendors to sell software infrastructure and other online products to customers. Amazon’s commercial cloud marketplace was established in mid-2012 and rapidly grew over the following year during its bidding with the CIA. The marketplace allows customers to test software products and developer tools before committing to a purchase. This appealed to the IC, which was tired of having spent large sums of money on inferior products. After signing the C2S cloud contract, the IC gave Amazon the green light to build a classified cloud marketplace solely for the IC, which went live in Apr 2016. A third, highly significant reason that the IC transitioned to cloud-based computing and selected Amazon as their contractor stemmed from the increased need for internal security after recurring leaks made by whistleblowers, especially the cables obtained by Chelsea Manning and published by Wikileaks. Throughout 2010, Wikileaks released the Afghan War Logs and Iraq War Logs, exposing the war crimes committed against those countries’ populations, as well as the State Dept diplomatic cables provided by Manning that exposed intrigues dating back to the 1960s. Clapper’s launching of the IC ITE initiative came the following year, in direct response to the evident weakness of the IC’s security systems. Explaining how she walked away with immense amounts of government data, Manning wrote:

There were weak servers, weak logging, weak physical security, weak counter-intelligence, inattentive signal analysis … a perfect storm.

Centralizing data storage onto the private IC ITE clouds, using the advanced encryption methods developed by AWS and the NSA, enables the IC to prevent massive leaks from within. One of the security measures provided by the clouds is the ability to meta-tag all data with information, including where it came from and who is authorized to see it. Analysts are now only able to access data if they have the authorization. Further, if an analyst attempts to download large amounts of data, as done by Manning and Snowden, the cloud automatically flags this activity, halting it and notifying security personnel. Officials have claimed that if the current IC ITE measures had been in place in 2010 and 2013, Manning and Snowden would not have been able to walk away with troves of data.

Amazon and the CIA #2: War propaganda and the suppression of free speech
Evan Blake, WSWS, Jul 14 2017

Prior to and during the C2S contract negotiations process, Amazon demonstrated its willingness to collaborate with the IC to stifle growing opposition to American imperialism and its spy agencies. In Nov 2010, AWS deliberately crashed WikiLeaks’ website after the organization began publishing the Cablegate documents. After WikiLeaks had already published the Afghan and Iraq War Logs, numerous politicians had denounced the organization, with some calling for the execution of Assange. Joe Lieberman, who was instrumental in forming the DHS and served as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee from 2007 to 2013, publicly called upon Amazon and other companies to sever ties with WikiLeaks, declaring:

No responsible company, whether Pindosi or foreign, should assist WikiLeaks in its efforts to disseminate these stolen materials.

Amazon dutifully complied, cutting off the public’s access to WikiLeaks’ web page. In response, WikiLeaks tweeted:

WikiLeaks servers at Amazon ousted. Free speech the land of the free— fine our $ are now spent to employ people in Europe.

Amazon’s sabotage of WikiLeaks forced the organization to find a new server provider, and demonstrated to the state Amazon’s readiness to crack down on those opposed to the government’s criminality. This nefarious use of its power to control Internet communications no doubt piqued the interest of the CIA, which two years later would include AWS as a bidder for its private cloud contract. In the summer of 2013, two months after Snowden’s first revelations of massive spying by the government, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos purchased the WaPo for $250m. After winning the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service in 2014 for its coverage of the Snowden leaks, in 2016 the Post became the first newspaper to call for the criminal prosecution of its own source. In an article headlined “No pardon for Edward Snowden,” the WaPo Editorial Board denounced those calling for Snowden’s pardon and demanded that he stand trial on espionage charges. During the 2016 election campaign, the WaPo endorsed Hillary Clinton, the military and intelligence community’s favored candidate. Since the election of Trump, the WaPo has been one of the leading outlets engaged in a hysterical campaign of anti-Russia propaganda, intended to force the Trump administration to shift its foreign policy orientation toward continuing the drive to war with Russia begun under Obama. They have served as a direct conduit for the CIA and other intelligence agencies, repeatedly releasing sensationalist “breaking news” stories citing anonymous intelligence officials, in an attempt to stampede public opinion behind the right-wing campaign against Trump.

Undoubtedly, AWS’s undermining of WikiLeaks, combined with Bezos’s purchase of the WaPo and the increasing dominance of Amazon as a multinational corporation, influenced the CIA’s decision to award the C2S contract to the company. The company was recognized as a willing and competent ally in the fight to suppress free speech and democratic rights. In Sep 2013, while the Court of Federal Claims was determining whether the CIA would need to re-open the bidding competition between Amazon and IBM, AWS went ahead and posted more than 100 job listings for engineers possessing TS/SCI clearance at an AWS center in Herndon, Virginia, a 20-minute drive from CIA HQ. Last month, Amazon announced that it will be locating its new AWS East Coast corporate campus at One Dulles Tower in Herndon, and are expected to employ up to 1,500 tech workers at the campus. The company situates most of its data centers in the northern Virginia area, through which an estimated 70% of global Internet traffic flows. Further developing its connections to the state, in 2015 Amazon partnered with the DoD to create a program titled “AWS Military Fellowship” in which active-duty military personnel spend time working for Amazon. The company currently has at least three soldiers working at AWS. In its statement announcing the program, Amazon wrote:

It is intended to build a unique cadre of officers who understand not only the profession of arms, but also the nature of the strategic problems facing the DoD, and the organizational and operational opportunities made possible by revolutionary changes in information and other technologies. These officers will be at the forefront of transforming defense strategy, military forces, and the supporting infrastructure.

In Mar 2016, according to an Amazon blog post:

Sec Def Ashtray Carter visited Amazon headquarters in Seattle, as part of a West Coast swing aimed at strengthening ties between the DoD and the tech community. Carter first met with the AWS Military Fellowship employees, then held a meeting with Jeff Bezos and other key figures in AWS leadership, to discuss innovation topics and ways to strengthen military exchange programs and partnerships with the technology industry.

Reports also suggest that there were discussions of expanding the Pentagon’s use of AWS cloud-computing technologies. During his West Coast tour, Carter also announced the formation of the Defense Innovation Advisory Board (DIAB), which would be headed by Carter and Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Alphabet, the parent company of Google. In Jul 2016, Bezos was invited to join the board, whose purpose is to further integrate leading figures from the technology sector with the military. It is a component of the broader “Third Offset Strategy” which seeks to maintain the global supremacy of the Pentagon over potential rivals, in particular Russia and China. Announcing the program, Carter declared:

The DIAB is charged with keeping DoD imbued with a culture of innovation in people, organizations, operations, and technology … and also to ensure that we’re always doing everything we can to stay ahead of potential adversaries.

Over the past year, the board has met with leading figures in the military, including at the headquarters of CENTCOM & SOCOM in Tampa, Florida. In early January, the board voted to approve 11 recommendations to enhance the military in areas ranging from strengthening cyber-security for advanced weapons to increasing funding for artificial intelligence research. During the 2016 election campaign, Bezos made mild criticisms of Trump, who accused the WaPo of being a “fake news” outlet. Since Trump’s inauguration, however, the two have reconciled their differences, with Trump appointing Bezos to the Pindosi Technology Council that he formed in May. Bezos and the 18 other tech executives on the council met cordially with Trump in June. The integration of Amazon with the state and its spy agencies typifies a broader trend of modern capitalism, in which all of the major corporations closely collaborate with their respective governments and facilitate imperialist war abroad. This is one of the defining features of imperialism. Under the catch-all justification of protecting “national security,” a euphemism for upholding the global interests of the capitalist class, the military-intelligence apparatus has carried out unremitting atrocities abroad and erected the infrastructure for a police state within Pindostan. Since its contract with the IC in 2013, Amazon has directly facilitated these behind-the-scenes machinations. As Lenin noted in the Preface to the 1917 work The State and Revolution, written during WW1 in the midst of the Russian Revolution:

The imperialist war has greatly accelerated and intensified the transformation of monopoly capitalism into state-monopoly capitalism. The monstrous oppression of the laboring masses by the state, which connects itself more and more intimately with the all-powerful capitalist combines, is becoming ever more monstrous. The foremost countries are being converted — we speak here of their ‘rear’ — into military convict labor prisons for the workers.

Amazon exemplifies these characteristics described by Lenin. While collaborating with the spy agencies to wage war abroad, Amazon subjects its workforce in the US and around the world to brutal sweatshop working conditions. As the International Amazon Workers Voice (IAWV) has reported, the company pushes its workers to their utmost limit, causing widespread workplace injuries and even fatalities. It tracks employees’ movements and enforces ever-increasing productivity requirements, creating conditions at Amazon warehouses that increasingly resemble the “convict labor prisons” described by Lenin. The struggle to put an end to class exploitation and war are inseparably connected. There can be no fight against war without a fight against its root cause, capitalism and its division of the world into rival nation states. The resources squandered on imperialist war and the spy agencies, and the immense wealth accumulated by figures like Bezos, must be seized by the working class and redirected to provide for social needs, not private profit or the destruction of foreign countries.

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