Ex-CIA official to address government-wary hackers

BOSTON Tue Jul 23, 2013 5:36pm EDT

The Executive Board of the Korean Peninsula Energy Developement Organization (KEDO) including Joseph DeTrani (L) of the United States, Sun-Sup Chang (2nd L) of South Korea, Katsunari Suzuki of Japan (R) and Jean Pierre Leng (2nd R) of the European Union, talk at the start of a routine meeing in New York, May 20, 2004. REUTERS/Peter Morgan

The Executive Board of the Korean Peninsula Energy Developement Organization (KEDO) including Joseph DeTrani (L) of the United States, Sun-Sup Chang (2nd L) of South Korea, Katsunari Suzuki of Japan (R) and Jean Pierre Leng (2nd R) of the European Union, talk at the start of a routine meeing in New York, May 20, 2004.

Credit: Reuters/Peter Morgan

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BOSTON (Reuters) - A former CIA official and a retired Air Force general will address next week's Def Con hacking convention, which for the first time asked federal officials to steer clear because of anger over alleged government spying.

Joseph DeTrani, a long-time CIA official who served as a U.S. envoy in talks with North Korea regarding its nuclear activities, will open the hackers' conference on August 2 with a speech about weapons of mass destruction and cyber technology. Former Air Force General Robert Elder, who created one of the U.S. military's first cyber units, will speak the following day.

Def Con founder Jeff Moss said the two had been invited long before his July 11 request that federal officials stay away from the convention to defuse tensions over the U.S. mass surveillance programs leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Moss said that having former U.S. officials at the conference could be useful to the hacking community because they are uniquely placed to help explain the government's position on the surveillance programs.

"Being former, not current, they might be able to speak more freely and offer a more nuanced perspective," said Moss, who is known in hacking circles as The Dark Tangent.

"They would probably offer more credible perspective that people are not going to just dismiss out of hand and say ‘Of course you are going to say that. That's your job,'" he said in an interview.

Def Con - short for Defense Condition, in military speak - has since 1992 been bringing together people with a common interest in software, computer architecture, and any high-tech system that can be hacked. It typically attracts a small contingent of officials from the CIA, NSA, FBI, and military among hackers, researchers, security workers, activists and others. The conference this year is expected to draw 15,000 people.

DeTrani told Reuters that after his speech he will address surveillance programs, if asked.

"Everything I've heard about these programs is that they were authorized with oversight. From what I know Americans were not spied upon," he said. "Hopefully nobody throws marshmallows at me and says ‘You wacko, go back to North Korea.'"

DeTrani stepped down as a senior advisor to the Director of National Intelligence in May 2012, ending more than three decades in government, the bulk of the time at the CIA.

His speech will be followed by several panels led by critics of government surveillance. The American Civil Liberties Union is holding a Friday afternoon session on "NSA surveillance and more." Representatives of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group that has filed lawsuits against the NSA over surveillance programs, will review "the year in digital civil liberties."

Elder, who is currently an engineering professor at George Mason University, plans to talk about applying lessons from military operations to protecting computer networks.

He said that while he knows nothing more about the Snowden case than what he has read in the paper, he expects the issue will come up. "I expect there to be some tension," he said.

(Reporting by Jim Finkle; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Gunna Dickson)

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Comments (6)
Aretino wrote:
Hackers are angry about spying! In other news, Irony has been officially declared dead.

Jul 23, 2013 4:25pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
SKYDRIFTER wrote:
It’s already been officially admitted that Americans were illegally “spied upon.”

No intelligent and reasonable person assumed otherwise – also being certain that the activity was illegal, corrupt and unstoppable – or subject to any legitimate investigation and/or prosecution. The “Echelon” program was known to be in use, long ago.

That doesn’t mean that “true Americans” shouldn’t protest to any legally possible extreme.

While there are always going to be dangerous ‘stupid wannabes’ who are totally unsophisticated, the hard fact is that the “True Bad-guys” (including the drug cartels) use sophisticated communication technology which can be readily identified and ‘broken-out’ of any ‘regular’ data.

Thus, it’s too easily possible to cast out any ‘true American’ data; favoring the identification and collection of ‘encrypted’ data being uniquely collected – and analyzed/decrypted (if possible). Why can’t the ‘government’ take what they can use & pass on the rest?

If any entity wants to (alternately) take advantage of ‘in-plain-sight’ communication; there is no way possible to stop that – short of an informant. That leaves the arbitrary capture of ‘regular’ “American” data and/or communication nothing less than a powerful “New Gestapo” practice; awaiting anyone whom the ‘government’ wants to control or destroy.

The data-driven take down of Gen. Petraeus, as head of the CIA, is as powerful as any example anyone can ask for. Hey, America, take a bloody clue!

The common citizen who gets picked-up on the ‘government’ radar doesn’t stand a chance – speaking from bitter personal experience of more than ten years ago. Facts and truth are easily rendered impotent or non-pertinent; all it takes is the psycho-babble of “Plausible Assertion” and “Plausible Denial.”

All of the effort in this current “I Spy” ‘government’ data gathering will become a far greater ‘generic’ pool of information for the ‘government’ agencies to draw from (prostitute) – whether factually existing criminal information or 100% manufactured ‘information’ – no one on the defensive will be able to sort fact from fiction, within the remaining lifetime of any ‘targeted’ individual or group.

Orwell didn’t leave the world a warning; he inadvertently created a blueprint!

Jul 23, 2013 4:32pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
AlkalineState wrote:
“Ex-CIA.”

Yeah, right. That’s what all spies call themselves. Former spies. “Let’s get to know each other. I’ll come to your convention and tell you everything I know and you guys can tell me everything you know.”

‘Ex-CIA.’ Like an American businessman in Colombia. Good one.

Jul 23, 2013 5:15pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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