The Schizophrenia of the Deep State


A few days ago Dan Greer, the chief information security officer at In-Q-Tel, gave a keynote address at Black Hat USA[1]. According to the company’s web site In-Q-Tel is a non-profit, but it’s a special sort of non-profit. It offers venture capital funding on behalf of the “intelligence community” (read government spies). During his presentation Greer proposed, among other things, that the U.S. government bolster internet security by dominating the market for zero-day vulnerabilities.

Zero-days are basically flaws, unpatched bugs, in software and hardware which attackers can leverage to compromise a computer and covertly gain access. Think of a zero-day vulnerability like an unlocked door recessed back in an obscured alleyway of an otherwise secure home.

Greer’s recommendation goes like this: using its buying power the United State government could act like a hi-tech billionaire who’s snatching up real estate in Silicon Valley and wade out into the digital black market to outbid all of the other buyers. By driving up prices American security services would corner the market on zero-day vulnerabilities.

On an aside this strategy would also make zero-day middle-men like the Grugq extremely wealthy[2]. Anyway, according to Greer’s reasoning the government would then disclose the aforementioned unpatched bugs to hi-tech companies so that they could fix their products and shrink the attack surface available to intruders.

Conflicting Directives

There’s a problem with this scheme. Behind closed doors, where officials feel comfortable enough to be honest, elements of the intelligence community confess that they aren’t actually interested in bolstering Internet security. In fact, according to documents provided by Ed Snowden, spy agencies are intent on doing the exact opposite[3]:

“Classified briefings between the agencies celebrate their success at ‘defeating network security and privacy …’”

Please understand that hi-tech subversion is a pillar of the NSA’s global surveillance apparatus. It’s how they monitor people and defeat privacy measures like Tor[4]. Subversion empowers spies. Are we to assume that U.S. intelligence having engaged in an extensive industry-wide campaign to insert backdoors in software and hardware[5], and sitting on a mountain of zero-day vulnerabilities which it exclusively owns, will abruptly make an about face and completely disarm?blunden

After all of the lies: about imaginary WMDs, about torture, about warrantless wiretaps, about spying on Senators. After all the death and destruction[6], there’s no reason to believe that the Deep State would act in the public’s interest and voluntarily yield this sort of power. No sir.

Echoes of the Financial Collapse

In the aftermath of the 2008 financial meltdown the United States government intervened to bail out the banks. The average American ultimately paid for the short-term unenlightened self-interest of banking executives who handed out loans to anyone who could breathe[7]. Well, because doing so was wildly profitable[8]. The current bailout mindset offers bankers an implicit subsidy[9] as the entire industry now recognizes that large banking houses can socialize their risk while keeping whatever profits they make to themselves[10]. In a nutshell mega-banks are fragile by design.

Technology is also fragile by design. The costs associated with the security lapses that arise from zero-day vulnerabilities are paid for by the victims. These same costs are viewed as a negative externality by the companies that sell hi-tech products. Vendors make money by adding features and selling new products. Well, because doing so is wildly profitable. Think about it. They aren’t in business to do the right thing, they’re in business to make money[11].

Assuming for the moment that the public were somehow able to marshal the raw political impetus needed to put an end to the NSA’s sweeping campaign of mass subversion, we’d still have to worry about accidental bugs and the market forces that encourage them.

But why, pray tell, should the public be held responsible for sloppy engineering? Why should we bear the cost of shoddy hi-tech design just as the American public paid for the banker’s screw-ups? Rather than have the victims of bad security pay for zero-day exploits, why not redirect the cost of security incidents back onto vendors so that they have incentives to get it right? Society as a whole is being exposed to risk and therefore regulation (i.e. via liability) is necessary. The never-ending stream of zero-days clearly shows that the market cannot deal with this problem on its own.


Sadly, regulating the banks has been wishful thinking ever since executives and their operatives in D.C. rolled back Glass-Steagall during Bill Clinton’s tenure in the White House. Witness also the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 which left the financial market for derivatives largely unregulated. Put bluntly, the banks have the resources and power to reward those who serve them[12]. A similar dynamic holds in the domain of hi-tech. For example, in 2013 Google spent more lobbying on the beltway than Lockheed Martin or Boeing[13].

So is it surprising that major players in both industries have considerable links to intelligence services? Former LAPD detective Michael Ruppert declared “The CIA is Wall Street. Wall Street is the CIA.” A look into the origins of the CIA reinforces this notion[14]. Likewise, thanks to Ed Snowden[15] and WikiLeaks[16], we know that companies like Google have gladly clambered into bed with government spies. CIA officer John Stockwell observed that:

“The CIA and the big corporations were, in my experience, in step with each other. Later I realized that they may argue about details of strategy – a small war here or there. However, both are vigorously committed to supporting the system.”

Poor cyber security is rooted in zero-day vulnerabilities, accidental and intentional. Yet disarming the intelligence services and implementing meaningful regulation within the hi-tech sector will oblige massive political shifts. In both cases such efforts will run up against profound sources of influence outside the government, oligarchic factions that convey their mandates through the Deep State.

Bill Blunden is an independent investigator whose current areas of inquiry include information security, anti-forensics, and institutional analysis. He is the author of several books, including The Rootkit Arsenal , and Behold a Pale Farce: Cyberwar, Threat Inflation, and the Malware-Industrial Complex. Bill is the lead investigator at Below Gotham Labs.



[1] Kim Zetter, “CIA Insider: U.S. Should Buy All Security Exploits, Then Disclose Them,” Wired, August 6, 2014, http://www.wired.com/2014/08/cia-0day-bounty/

[2] Nicole Perlroth and David Sanger, “Nations Buying as Hackers Sell Flaws in Computer Code,” New York Times, July 13, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/14/world/europe/nations-buying-as-hackers-sell-computer-flaws.html?pagewanted%253Dall

[3] James Ball, Julian Borger, and Glenn Greenwald, “Revealed: how US and UK spy agencies defeat internet privacy and security,” Guardian, September 5, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/05/nsa-gchq-encryption-codes-security/print

[4] Bill Blunden, “Mass Subversion is a Reality,” Counterpunch, July 24, 2014, http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/07/24/mass-subversion-is-a-reality/

[5] Michael Riley, “U.S. Agencies Said to Swap Data With Thousands of Firms,” Bloomberg, June 15, 2013, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/print/2013-06-14/u-s-agencies-said-to-swap-data-with-thousands-of-firms.html

[6] http://costsofwar.org/article/civilians-killed-and-wounded

[7] Martin Smith, “The Untouchables,” Frontline, January 22, 2013, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/business-economy-financial-crisis/untouchables/transcript-37/

[8] Yves Smith, “How the Banks Put the Economy Underwater,” New York Times, October 30, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/31/opinion/31smith.html

[9] Matt Taibbi, “Secrets and Lies of the Bailout,” Rolling Stone, January 4, 2013, http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/secret-and-lies-of-the-bailout-20130104

[10] Gretchen Morgenson, “Big banks Still a Risk,” New York Times, August 2, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/03/business/big-banks-still-a-risk.html

[11] George Smith, “Keith Alexander Really IS a Pariah,” Escape from WhiteManistan, August 2, 2014, http://dickdestiny.com/blog1/?p=18406

[12] David Corn, “Hillary Clinton’s Goldman Sachs Problem,” Mother Jones, June 4, 2014, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/06/hillary-clintons-goldman-sachs-problem

[13] http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/top.php?showYear=2013&indexType=s

[14] Peter Dale Scott, “The Deep State and the Wall Street Overworld,” Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, March 10, 2014, http://japanfocus.org/-Peter_Dale-Scott/4090

[15] Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill, “NSA Prism program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others,” Guardian, June 6, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/06/us-tech-giants-nsa-data/print

[16] http://search.wikileaks.org/gifiles/?viewemailid=1121800


Bill Blunden is a journalist whose current areas of inquiry include information security, anti-forensics, and institutional analysis. He is the author of several books, including “The Rootkit Arsenal” andBehold a Pale Farce: Cyberwar, Threat Inflation, and the Malware-Industrial Complex.” Bill is the lead investigator at Below Gotham Labs and a member of the California State University Employees Union, Chapter 305.

November 26, 2015
Joseph Grosso
The Enduring Tragedy: Guatemala’s Bloody Farce
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Imperial Myths: the Enduring Lie of the US’s Origin
Ralph Nader
The Joys of Solitude: a Thanksgiving!

Joseph G. Ramsey
Something to be Thankful For: Struggles, Seeds…and Surprises
Dan Glazebrook
Turkey Shoot: the Rage of the Impotent in Syria
Andrew Stewart
The Odious President Wilson
Colin Todhunter
Corporate Parasites And Economic Plunder: We Need A Genuine Green Revolution
Rajesh Makwana
Ten Billion Reasons to Demand System Change
Joyce Nelson
Turkey Moved the Border!
Richard Baum
Hillary Clinton’s Meager Proposal to Help Holders of Student Debt
November 25, 2015
Jeff Taylor
Bob Dylan and Christian Zionism
Dana E. Abizaid
Provoking Russia
Oliver Tickell
Syria’s Cauldron of Fire: a Downed Russian Jet and the Battle of Two Pipelines
Patrick Cockburn
Trigger Happy: Will Turkey’s Downing of Russian Jet Backfire on NATO?
Robert Fisk
The Soothsayers of Eternal War
Russell Mokhiber
The Coming Boycott of Nike
Ted Rall
Like Father Like Son: George W. Bush Was Bad, His Father May Have Been Worse
Matt Peppe
Bad Policy, Bad Ethics: U.S. Military Bases Abroad
Martha Rosenberg
Pfizer Too Big (and Slippery) to Fail
Yorgos Mitralias
Bernie Sanders, Mr. Voutsis and the Truth Commission on Greek Public Debt
Jorge Vilches
Too Big for Fed: Have Central Banks Lost Control?
Sam Husseini
Why Trump is Wrong About Waterboarding — It’s Probably Not What You Think
Binoy Kampmark
The Perils of Certainty: Obama and the Assad Regime
Roger Annis
State of Emergency in Crimea
Soud Sharabani
ISIS in Lebanon: An Interview with Andre Vltchek
Thomas Knapp
NATO: This Deal is a Turkey
November 24, 2015
Dave Lindorff
An Invisible US Hand Leading to War? Turkey’s Downing of a Russian Jet was an Act of Madness
Mike Whitney
Turkey Downs Russian Fighter to Draw NATO and US Deeper into Syrian Quagmire
Walter Clemens
Who Created This Monster?
Patrick Graham
Bombing ISIS Will Not Work
Lida Maxwell
Who Gets to Demand Safety?
Eric Draitser
Refugees as Weapons in a Propaganda War
David Rosen
Trump’s Enemies List: a Trial Balloon for More Repression?
Eric Mann
Playing Politics While the Planet Sizzles
Chris Gilbert
“Why Socialism?” Revisited: Reflections Inspired by Einstein’s Article
Charles Davis
NSA Spies on Venezuela’s Oil Company
Michael Barker
Democracy vs. Political Policing
Barry Lando
Shocked by Trump? Churchill Wanted to “Collar Them All”
Cal Winslow
When Workers Fight: the National Union of Healthcare Workers Wins Battle with Kaiser
Norman Pollack
Where Does It End?: Left Political Correctness
David Macaray
Companies Continue to Profit by Playing Dumb
Binoy Kampmark
Animals in Conflict: Diesel, Dobrynya and Sentimental Security
Dave Welsh
Defiant Haiti: “We Won’t Let You Steal These Elections!”
November 23, 2015
Vijay Prashad
The Doctrine of 9/11 Anti-Immigration