Thank you America and its Allies for damaging our countries and collecting the spoils.. We the people and our Nations pay the price..
Do you remember the Safe-Cyber instructions they taught you in the mandatory Computer Ed class (operated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology)? First you fire up your Secured Computing Device (SCD) and its hardware token authenticator.
Then you enter the six-digit algorithmically generated password displayed (a new one flashes every 60 seconds) and are asked to supply your biometric identifier. You place your thumb on the built-in fingerprint pad, click, and wait for the Internet connection to begin. But it doesn’t.
Instead, the screen goes black for a second before the dreaded words appear: “Malware has been detected on this SCD. As mandated by federal law, it has been placed in quarantine.” Then the machine shuts down.
This is not just conjecture, but an imminent scenario. Policies, such as the White House proposed “National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace,” which will transform the character, culture and freedom of the Internet, are already in place. The 20 cybersecurity-related bills introduced in the Senate in 2011, and the dozen introduced in the House of Representatives, have wound their way through committees and, according to Senator Harry Reid, are scheduled to be voted on in the first quarter of 2012. Almost all of them, with the blessing of the White House, would make the Department of Homeland Security the overseer of private-sector networks.
Considering the apocalyptic rhetoric coming from Washington and the ranks of cybersecurity experts – echoed by media reports that portray every picayune data breach as Armageddon – it would appear that the vulnerability of the Internet has been underplayed for many years.
In the Internet’s start-up decades, both industry and government were committed to establishing an atmosphere of trust that would draw the public into conducting more and more digital business. Though data breaches, theft of trade secrets, identity theft and bank robbery have been a fact of Internet life since its beginnings, there were few laws requiring disclosure. Banks and credit card firms ate their losses as a cost of doing business, and the giant corporations kept mum rather than roil the public. Recently, the pendulum has swung in the other direction and a raucous alarm has been sounded regarding the great danger posed by the Internet.
The Nation is at a crossroads. The globally-interconnected digital information and communications infrastructure known as “cyberspace” underpins almost every facet of modern society and provides critical support for the U.S. economy, civil infrastructure, public safety, and national security. This technology has transformed the global economy and connected people in ways never imagined. Yet, cybersecurity risks pose some of the most serious economic and national security challenges of the 21st century. The digital infrastructure’s architecture was driven more by considerations of interoperability and efficiency than of security. Consequently, a growing array of state and non-state actors are compromising, stealing, changing, or destroying information and could cause critical disruptions to U.S. systems. (White House Cyberspace Policy Review, 2011)
While there may be other factors behind the current wave of cybersecurity alarmism, we have identified three major forces: The Government, the Cybersecurity-Industrial complex, and the so-called “Hacktivists.”
The Hacktivists LulzSec and Anonymous, the most-publicized of the hacktivists, along with a growing community of ad hoc cyberactors, have had a multi-faceted impact on the cybersecurity environment that goes far beyond the number of hackers at work or the amount of actual damage their exploits have inflicted.
They have skillfully publicized their outsized, headline-ready cyberintrusions. Their attacks, which are something other than the garden variety cybercrime, have compromised the web assets of Sony, the CIA, Fox News, the Church of Scientology, Bank of America and many more. Beyond the financial damage and security breaches, they’ve created a public relations nightmare forcing these major institutions to go public with what they would otherwise go to great lengths to conceal.
As a result, attention has been focused on the inadequacies of Internet security. If organizations as large, powerful and security-conscious as these are vulnerable, who then is safe? Not only have the targets been breached and embarrassed, consumer trust in the Internet has also been shaken.
These high profile, anarchic Internet exploits – compounded by the role of social media in evading and undermining government control of the political and media arena (Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, etc.) – have intensified government efforts to clamp down on the Internet … while providing the media with scary cyber-stories to further that agenda.
The Government The US government agenda to control the Internet is at least a decade old. Just three months after the Bush White House created the Department of Homeland Security, it issued “The National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace.” The document begins:
My Fellow Americans:
The way business is transacted, government operates, and national defense is conducted have changed. These activities now rely on an interdependent network of information technology infrastructures called cyberspace. The National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace provides a framework for protecting this infrastructure that is essential to our economy, security, and way of life.
In the past few years, threats in cyberspace have risen dramatically. The policy of the United States is to protect against the debilitating disruption of the operation of information systems for critical infrastructures and, thereby, help to protect the people, economy, and national security of the United States.
Nearly a decade later, the basic message from the White House sounds much the same, if louder and more urgent. But there is a big difference. President Obama, and the rest of the Beltway insiders, have now formally defined cyberspace as a “strategic national asset.”
On the face of it, this appears to be a reasonable approach for a world that has become, in a relatively short time, totally dependent on digital resources. Unfortunately, it is an approach that provides a straight path to the militarization of the Internet and the loss of liberty that will follow. It is an approach that will elevate the most common forms of cybercrime (bank robbery, credit card theft) to the high-alert status of a cyberwar attack.
This government mindset will lead to the same abrogation of individual rights in cyberspace as the National Defense Appropriations Act of 2012 has codified in “Battlefield America.”
Given the integrated nature of cyberspace, computer-induced failures of power grids, transportation networks, or financial systems could cause massive physical damage and economic disruption. DoD operations – both at home and abroad – are dependent on this critical infrastructure. As military strength ultimately depends on economic vitality, sustained intellectual property losses erode both U.S. military effectiveness and national competitiveness in the global economy. Cyber hygiene must be practiced by everyone at all times; it is just as important for individuals to be focused on protecting themselves as it is to keep security software and operating systems up to date. (Department of Defense Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace, July 2011)
Many Internet experts and cybersecurity professionals have deemed 2011 “The Year of the Hack,” in recognition of the unending stream of headlines related to data breaches and thefts. We believe that – aside from any real uptick in cybercrime or cyberwarfare skirmishes – this perception is the result of the government’s determination to soften up the public to meekly accept an upcoming barrage of Internet regulation. It is a digital-age version of the tried and true fear mongering that is always employed to further empower the president and further enrich the military/industrial and Homeland Security complex. The government says it’s not fear mongering, just education.
The national dialogue on cybersecurity must begin today. The government, working with industry, should explain this challenge and discuss what the Nation can do to solve problems in a way that the American people can appreciate the need for action. People cannot value security without first understanding how much is at risk. Therefore, the Federal government should initiate a national public awareness and education campaign informed by previous successful campaigns. (White House Cyberspace Policy Review, 2011)
The Prominence of the Non-military Aspects of Warfare. Non-military means of warfare, such as cyber, economic, resource, psychological, and information-based forms of conflict will become more prevalent in conflicts over the next two decades. In the future, states and non-state adversaries will engage in “media warfare” to dominate the 24-hour news cycle and manipulate public opinion to advance their own agenda and gain popular support for their cause. (“Global Trends 2025,” National Intelligence Council, 2008)
The Money Card A key point being used to “educate” the public is the putative astronomical monetary loss caused by cybercrime in all its forms. There is, of course, no way to ascertain the validity of these numbers or even to figure out just what kind of losses are included in the estimates, which are generally arrived at by the large cybersecurity corporations. Some loss-figures appear to include the fall in a company’s stock price that usually follows revelation of a major hack (but doesn’t adjust that figure when the stock price climbs back up), as well as adding in an arbitrary sum attributable to time lost in recovery.
The largest global estimate of money lost to cybercrime currently floating around – as totted up by McAfee, the world’s largest cybersecurity company and endorsed by the White House – is $1 trillion a year. Symantec Corp., another cybersecurity giant, calculates the annual toll of global cybercrime to be about $388 billion. For dramatic impact, Symantec notes that figure is greater than the black market in marijuana, cocaine and heroin combined. Either of those (wildly divergent) sums is impressive, but do they mean anything? Or are they just part of a government “education campaign modeled on previous successful campaigns,” such as selling the public on the certainty of WMDs in Hussein’s Iraq?
Far from being broadly based estimates of losses across the population, the cyber-crime estimates that we have appear to be largely the answers of a handful of people extrapolated to the whole population. A single individual who claims $50,000 losses, in an N = 1000 person survey, is all it takes to generate a $10 billion loss over the population. One unverified claim of $7,500 in phishing losses translates into $1.5 billion.
Our assessment of the quality of cyber-crime surveys is harsh: they are so compromised and biased that no faith whatever can be placed in their findings.
There has long been a shortage of hard data about information security failures, as many of the available statistics are not only poor but are collected by parties such as security vendors or law enforcement agencies that have a vested interest in under- or over-reporting. (“Sex, Lies and Cyber-crime Surveys,” Microsoft Research)
The Cybersecurity-Industrial Complex The fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) surrounding cyberspace has helped turn cybersecurity into an enormously profitable business, worth between $60 and $100 billion a year, depending on who’s providing the statistics. The sector is expected to grow 10 percent annually for at least the next five years. You don’t have to attribute any ethical lapses in the cybersecurity industry to recognize that it, like the government, has a great interest in “educating” the public in cybersecurity awareness.
Security experts say that it is virtually impossible for any company or government agency to build a security network that hackers will be unable to penetrate. (Reuters, 27 May 2011)
“I am convinced that every company in every conceivable industry with significant size and valuable intellectual property and trade secrets has been compromised (or will be shortly), with the great majority of the victims rarely discovering the intrusion or its impact …. In fact, I divide the entire set of Fortune Global 2,000 firms into two categories: those that know they’ve been compromised and those that don’t yet know.” – Dmitri Alperovitch, Vice President of Threat Research for McAfee
The military-industrial complex of the Cold War era has morphed into the cybersecurity-military/industrial-Homeland Security complex of the Cyber War era … to which there is no end in sight. With the cybersecurity industry creating the technology required to stem the very cyberattacks they are in charge of discovering and monitoring, we face an endless cyberarms race that will undoubtedly be fed on exaggerations of the virtual menace and our vulnerability to it.
On the heels of the fear and hysteria will come the firm push for strict control and regulation of the Internet. It will be championed by government and industry as the necessary response to cyberwar, cyberterrorism, and cybercrime which, since cyberspace is considered a “strategic national asset,” are essentially all the same.
The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) for instance, which is scheduled for a vote in 2012, will take a page from the National Defense Appropriation Act of 2012. In order to protect the rights of copyright holders to profit from their intellectual property, SOPA would permit the dissolution of due process and open the door wide to censorship and the denial of the right to free speech. The bill, supporters suggest, is not just about recovering the billions lost to bootlegged movies and music, rather, it’s about protecting the military strength that ultimately depends on economic vitality.
We agree with The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has called SOPA the most extreme, anti-Internet, anti-privacy, anti-free speech copyright proposal in US legislative history. It is, however, only one of many legislative proposals likely to be steamrollered through Congress in the coming year.
Computer security expert Eugene Kaspersky, co-founder of Kaspersky Labs, envisions the “passportization” of the Internet. In his opinion, to access critical online services, such as banking or electronic voting, “it should be made mandatory to log-on only with the use of a unique personal identifier [for example, a token – a sort of cyber-passport] and establish a secure authoring connection.”
Microsoft has proposed what it calls a “public health model” for the Internet. Cybercitizens would be required to have a “clean bill of health,” make their computers open to inspection, and, if contaminated by a virus or other malware, be prepared for quarantine.
President Obama’s National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace is pushing for development and public adoption of Internet user authentication systems that will function as a driver’s license for the cyberhighway.
Government control of the flow of information will strike a blow against Internet anonymity and the free speech it has made possible. Driver’s license, bill of health, passport, whatever you call it – it’s all about the ability to track and control the individual. Today, traffic in copyrighted digital material is the criminal behavior supposedly under attack; tomorrow, it will be the ability to speak out against corrupt government.
Hello, Big Brother.
Trendpost: The demand for ever-more effective cybersecurity tools to counter the ever-more inventive depredations of cybercriminals and cyberwarriors will be with us far into the foreseeable future. Clearly, this situation will create many jobs, both for the formally educated and the creative hacker. In addition, The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education – established to provide cyber-awareness training to students in Kindergarten through post-graduate programs – will need many specialized teachers.
Somewhat farther along on the timeline, there is a high likelihood that the manufacture of cyber-components will be repatriated to the US. The 2011 Department of Defense’s “Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace” notes: “The majority of information technology products used in the United States are manufactured and assembled overseas. The reliance of DoD on foreign manufacturing and development creates challenges in managing risk at points of design, manufacture, service, distribution, and disposal.”
A high probability exists that 2012 will bring revelations about contamination in the global IT hardware and software supply chain and proof that computer components are providing our “enemies” with entry to critical networks or transmitting sensitive information to them. This will turn the DoD’s security concern into a hot imperative.
|Protesters affiliated with Occupy Wall Street demonstrate during an Occupy the Courts protest outside Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse on January 20, 2012 in New York City|
Anonymous promised that after hacking the intelligence firm Stratfor, called by some a “shadow CIA,” they’d prove that they were more than just a consulting firm.
Now it looks like the private company worked along with law enforcement in attempting to bring down the Occupy movement.
In some of the latest pieces of correspondence made public, however, information that many had already suspected about the role law enforcement played in infiltrating the Occupy Wall Street movement is brought to light. In an exchange of emails between Stratfor executives that has been published by hackers involved in the matter, employees of the firm go back-and-forth with one another in detail over information that Texas law enforcement supplied the firm after investigating an Austin Occupy meet-up.
In the emails, Strafor employees discuss intel about the Occupy movement that was supplied to them by a “Texas DPS agent,” or an officer within the ranks of the Lone Star State’s Department of Public Safety. The DPS is a state-wide law enforcement agency that investigates suspicious activity and allegations of terrorism within Texas. The question of why state law enforcement shared that email with a private intelligence firm is open to interpretation, but certainly suggests that attempts to understand and perhaps undermine the local OWS chapter was more than just a minor operation.
According to the documentation, which includes correspondence from late 2011, Stratfor employees discuss both Occupy Austin and the Deep Green Resistance, or DGR. While DGR is not directly affiliated with Occupy Wall Street, it is a similar movement — to a degree — that encourages environmental activism that isn’t present in more mainstream campaigns. In a press release, the DGR attacks both Texas authorities and Strafor for their newly revealed roles.
“Deep Green Resistance condemns the surveillance and infiltration of activist groups by law enforcement and private corporations and calls on activists and their allies to expose and protest this violation of all of our constitutional rights,” the group says in a statement published Thursday.
Rachel Meeropol, a staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, adds that she is outraged over how Stratfor and the DPS were in cahoots over infiltrating Occupy Austin.
“Law enforcement sharing information about local activism with private intelligence firms should be a huge scandal,” writes Meeropol in Thursday’s statement. “Privately funded surveillance and infiltration of activist groups is especially chilling, as time and again we see such corporations operate as if they are above the law and accountable to no one.”
In the emails, Stratfor staffers discuss how one of their own men went undercover to an Occupy Austin General Assembly and attempted to gain insight into how the group operates. Stratfor’s Scott Stewart writes that the movement is considered by some to be “a terrible threat to corporations,” but adds, “in reality, due to the history of anarchists, animal rights, anti-war and anti-globalization protesters, companies are well prepared for such hippy hijinks.” As the Occupy movement continues to thrive more than three months after Stewart shared such words with other Stratfor employees, it is clear that that isn’t the case.
In a separate email sent a month later in November, Korena Zucha of Stratfor writes that a Texas DPS agent has shared information about both movements. In it, Deep Green is linked with Occupy Austin, which DGR shrugs off as speculation. Representatives for DGR believe that the correspondence suggests that surveillance of both groups was ongoing.
In the back-and-forth, Stratfor staffers suggest that sources within Occupy Austin describe some of the DGR members as crazy, to which one adds, “that bothers me, because these Occupy people will tolerate just about anything.”
Stratfor’s Marc Lanthemann, who signs his email as a “Watch Officer” for the firm, suggests that coordination between the DGR and Occupy movement could have dire consequences. Lanthemann writes in one email that he thinks Deep Green is an “eco-terror group is focused on creating a situation where violent confrontation will be the ultimate outcome.”
“It doesn’t require an agent to get simple facts correct. Both of these assertions are just plain false,” responds DGR.
A few months ago as you can see from the first date on his messages befriended me on Facebook, I get a lot of requests and added him. After I did he sent me the first message. I didn’t reply to it for two reasons, firstly Iw as very busy and secondly I don’t give out that kind of information to people that I do not know personally or have dealings with, you just don’t know who they are not matter what they tell you on Facebook!
What I want or should I say would like is for you to read everything and give me your opinion.
Here are his messages and my answer
Elliot Collier lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA.
• Al-Rashid 8/March/2011
Mr Yahia, I hope this message finds you and is not dismissed by an assistant. My name is Elliot Collier; back in 2005 and 2006 I lived at the former Al-Rashid training facility in Baghdad described in your book (I was not a soldier). I am writing to inquire if you would be willing to provide some basic information about the facility such as former uses of the various buildings and things of that nature. If so I have several maps I can send for reference. I appreciate you taking the time to read this, I am a big fan of your books and blog, and I would be honored to have your assitance in this matter. Sincerely, Elliot Collier PS: I have also sent a request through your website via Mr. Rolls.
After I posted a photo on my Facebook page and on Twitter that I received from a Solider in the American Army today, he sent me this message.
I’m ashamed of you Mr. Yahia. I sympathized with your past experiences, but even still, how can you of all people attack America like this without pause? You know better than anyone that the actions of certain leaders, agencies, or persons are not a reflection of their country. Look at the atrocities committed by Iraqis, Afghanis, Iranians, and other people in the middle east; yet you are not posting pictures of their soldiers with dead bodies or slamming their governments. Why are you not outraged about insurgents decapitating civilians? Why are you not protesting Al-Jazira for broadcasting these murders? These pictures and videos do exist… why are you not posting them and condemning the terrorists? Why are we not to assume all Iraqis are murderous, barbaric monsters because of what Uday did? You criticize the US for invading Iraq but might I remind you if we hadn’t Saddam would still be in power, and Uday would still be alive. You claimed it was Iraq’s war to fight and the US shouldn’t have been involved, but do you really think anything would have happened? Who would have stepped up to challenge his power? I will admit war crimes were committed, on both sides; but these are not the actions of a whole people. I spent a year being shot at (by whom?) in Iraq yet never fired a shot myself. We were all taught to take the diplomatic approach first. I have befriended many Iraqis and even assisted several in immigrating to the United States. Does this place me in the same lot as the man in that picture because of our birthplace? Not all Americans are evil, just as not all Iraqis are terrorists. You cannot judge a country based on the perverse actions of a few deranged individuals (which again, exist on BOTH sides). Your hatred and negativity is what is preventing you from finding asylum in another country. Who would want a man who continually spouts off hatred at every government he does not agree with? Yes, you’ve been through some terrible situations that I personally cannot even imagine, but positive actions will carry you a lot further in life. You claim that out of you, Saddam, and Uday, you were the only one left standing… but are you? You claim to support peace, but nothing you do supports this claim. You are a bitter, resentful man that has no future if you don’t follow your own teachings and start practicing tolerance and not hatred. You are different than Uday… but are you any better?
Here is my answer to Mr. Collier.
I am ashamed of you Mr. Collier. To spout off at me with no regard or understanding of what I am saying to you or the world except your own vision, that I am attacking all the people in America. If you had truly read anything that I have written you would know that I continually repeat that I am not against American people, but I am most definitely against American foreign policy.
You say that you have been shot at yet did not return fire, that is because you are not a soldier, but I ask the question what were you doing in Iraq? Why would you risk your life in a barbaric country like Iraq, if it were not for the love of your country or maybe the huge wage that you were being paid to be there, I guarantee it was not because you loved Iraq, the Iraqi people or wanted to see us a free nation. Ask yourself this, how can we be a free nation when we were invaded by a foreign force without provocation?
Yes, it was for Iraqi people to depose Saddam, how can you tell me that we would not have had an “Arab Spring” ? Who would have thought that Mubarak would have been brought down by his own people? I cannot say the same for Libya as we all know foreign hands were a part of that also.
If America had not invaded and Saddam was still in power there would not be Sunni on Shia killings, people would not be being beheaded, murdered or paid to change their name from Sunni to Shia, Under Saddam no matter how much I hated his regime, people had electricity, clean water and medicines, the only time that they did not was under sanctions, yet another weapon used by foreign hands against the people of Iraq.
You accuse me of being bitter etc. I am not bitter, I am telling the truth, just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean that I am wrong and maybe you should take your own advice. As for the people you helped to Immigrate to America, well done to you I hope that they make you proud.
As for Al-Jazeera TV if you don’t know who is behind them and paying their wages ask your government. All of these insurgents and militias were made after America invaded.
Ask yourself this, if I had posted a picture of Iraqis standing with “job well done” smiles outside of a car with dead Americans inside how would you feel?, no matter what your politics or feeling for your government? Why is it that every other life has more value and is entitled to more feelings of outrage than an Iraqis?? Also if I had posted that type of picture you would have accused me of being a supporter of the insurgents, so really it’s a no win situation for me isn’t it? the best example would have been the photos that were put on the internet of insurgents who had killed Mercenaries in Fallujah, what did the American army do to Fallujah? They fired everything legal and illegal at it until it was not much more than powder in the ground, anyone who survived will see generations of their children disfigured and deformed from the chemical weapons that were used and until now Fallujah has the highest cancer level in Iraq. Those mercenaries were not even American or legally attached to the US forces. So again many were killed for a few.
So I stay true to myself Mr. Collier no matter what you think of me.
If you want to tell me that Iraq is safer today under the puppets that have been installed by America and it is not controlled by Iran then I think you need to take a step back and let yourself see things clearly.
Where do you think that I get these photos? I get them from other Americans who disagree with what is going on with their own people but are not in a position to do anything about it.
This is a quote from your message above:
Firstly I am not seeking asylum, I have lived 20 years in the west and what I am seeking is Citizenship which I am entitled to by law. I do not spout off hatred at governments and even if I did what about freedom of speech or is that only for Western people? And if so, what is the point of bringing Democracy to the middle east if we are not truly allowed to practice it? Your words prove that anyone who had some sort of authority in Iraq be you a soldier/fireman etc (because let’s face it anyone who went to Iraq had authority over the Iraqi people) believes that anyone who had an opinion different to your American one is wrong! You see what I have learned in my 20 years in the West is that it is fine to criticize dictators, despots and tyrants but not democracies, which is strange because that is truly what democracy is all about isn’t it? So, although I understood perfectly well before, I am thankful that somebody finally said it out loud. It is more than clear now why people like Uday’s pimps, murderers from militias etc have attained Citizenship in the West, they are able to put their heads down and say Yes, yes, yes, that is until they get the citizenship and then you see them on Arabic TV (because after years they still can’t speak the language of their new country) saying things like “Uday was a Martyr” and “down with America”. What you see is what you get with me, I am not two faced.
As I said earlier, I HOPE THE IRAQIS THAT YOU HELPED TO IMMIGRATE TO THE US DO YOU PROUD.
Good day Sir.
Update: On July 6, 2010, Private Bradley Manning, a 22 year old intelligence analyst with the United States Army in Baghdad, was charged with disclosing this video (after allegedly speaking to an unfaithful journalist). The whistleblower behind the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg, has called Mr. Manning a ‘hero’. He is currently imprisoned in Kuwait. The Apache crew and those behind the cover up depicted in the video have yet to be charged. To assist Private Manning, please see bradleymanning.org.
5th April 2010 10:44 EST WikiLeaks has released a classified US military video depicting the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad — including two Reuters news staff.
Reuters has been trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act, without success since the time of the attack. The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-sight, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers. Two young children involved in the rescue were also seriously wounded.
The military did not reveal how the Reuters staff were killed, and stated that they did not know how the children were injured.
After demands by Reuters, the incident was investigated and the U.S. military concluded that the actions of the soldiers were in accordance with the law of armed conflict and its own “Rules of Engagement”.
Consequently, WikiLeaks has released the classified Rules of Engagement for 2006, 2007 and 2008, revealing these rules before, during, and after the killings.
WikiLeaks has released both the original 38 minutes video and a shorter version with an initial analysis. Subtitles have been added to both versions from the radio transmissions.
WikiLeaks obtained this video as well as supporting documents from a number of military whistleblowers. WikiLeaks goes to great lengths to verify the authenticity of the information it receives. We have analyzed the information about this incident from a variety of source material. We have spoken to witnesses and journalists directly involved in the incident.
WikiLeaks wants to ensure that all the leaked information it receives gets the attention it deserves. In this particular case, some of the people killed were journalists that were simply doing their jobs: putting their lives at risk in order to report on war. Iraq is a very dangerous place for journalists: from 2003- 2009, 139 journalists were killed while doing their work.
Tired of those run-of-the-mill biopics and staid Iraq war dramas that avoid sensationalism out of respect for their subjects? Want a peek into the orgiastic, debauched, ultra-violent underbelly of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq? Director Lee Tamahori brought all that and more to an unsuspecting audience — and conjured his own comparisons to David Fincher’s The Social Network, naturally — with The Devil’s Double, the guiltiest thrill of Sundance 2011.
Based very, very loosely on the life of Latif Yahia, an Iraqi lieutenant enlisted to double for Saddam’s out-of-control elder son Uday, The Devil’s Double stars Dominic Cooper (Mamma Mia!) in a bravura dual performance as both the monster and his innocent stand-in. Forced into indentured servitude under pain of torture and threats to his family, and transformed into a perfect doppelganger through plastic surgery and mimicry lessons, Cooper’s stoic Latif watches disapprovingly as Uday rapes and murders his way through life in a coke-fueled psychopathic haze, a pistol-waving, sex-obsessed, wild-eyed, magnetic thug with a penchant for schoolgirls and no interest in becoming the responsible heir apparent to his stern, menacing father. Whenever Uday is incapacitated or lazy, he sends Latif to make speeches to the troops; eventually, when Latif has had enough, he takes Uday’s favorite mistress (Ludivine Sagnier) as his own. The two men are brothers in Uday’s perverse way of thinking, and the only way Latif will ever escape his enslavement is in death.
Though he plays fast and loose with the facts, Tamahori claims to get the most important details right: The well-documented horrors of life inside the palace walls, where even honored guests and confidantes of Saddam were in danger of Uday’s explosive, violent rage; Uday’s proclivity for abusing his power to kidnap, rape, and murder young girls. (A brief scene in which Latif comes across the sight of two Saddams playing tennis is a comically bizarre break from the brutality.) The Devil’s Double is a portrait of a monster, no doubt, and yet the movie indicates he’s nothing in comparison to his father.
That sense for the corruption and danger that hung in the air during the Hussein family regime is what lingers most, even after Tamahori’s tale flies off the rails and enters almost legendary WTF? status. First comes the melodramatic love triangle, brought to the edge of campiness by Ludivine Sagnier’s anti-subtle turn as the sultry minx Sarrab (perhaps the film’s most egregiously ridiculous bit of non-ethnic casting, but hey). Then there’s the bombastic lovers’ escape, in which Sarrab and Latif literally ride off triumphantly on horseback. But nothing compares to how Tamahori ends it all by channeling his own James Bond past, transforming the epic-scale gangster pic into an all-out spy actioner, slo-mo shoot-outs and sexy hero shots and all. (Or, as an astute writer pal put it, “It’s a real life version of Medellin.”)
Tamahori took the stage after his Sundance premiere to answer a lot of questions. Portraying Latif Yahia’s story in its factual details was never the plan, for starters. “I’m not a great fan of truth in film,” he explained, lauding Michael Thomas’s “odd and twisted” screenplay.
Though many of the scenes of torture, rape, and killing in the film came from actual documented events, the real Uday’s crimes “are all worse than we possibly could have portrayed.” (Tamahori sent a ripple through the crowd when he suggested, unflinchingly, that the unruly, power-hungry children of despots across the world should be lined up against a wall and shot.)
And finally, the first person to compare Lee Tamahori’s The Devil’s Double to The Social Network was, of course, Lee Tamahori. While Fincher pulled a digital facelift to allow his two Winklevii to share the screen, Tamahori and star Cooper (whose impressive turns as Uday and Latif are like night and day) used a variation on the technique to shoot the film’s many Latif-Uday scenes, filming a master shot in one character first, then editing for sound and throwing Cooper back in to play the second part in the same day.
Will Tamahori’s The Devil’s Double earn Social Network-level plaudits when it’s eventually released? (A deal with Lionsgate is reportedly close.) Probably not. The material’s just too insane. But let’s be real: That’s exactly why it will appeal to many. Because as much as The Devil’s Double is about the innocent man who lived to tell the tale, it’s the most revealing, rape-y, torture-filled, excessively gaudy inside look at Iraq’s unstable family of thugs that we’re likely to ever get. The film itself falls prone to the sensory indulgences of its maker, but at a certain point it no longer matters whether that’s by design or not.
The studio has closed a deal for North American rights on Lee Tamahori’s widely admired thriller, ending several days of conversations between the film’s representatives and multiple suitors.
Lionsgate is understood to have agreed to a substantial seven-figure MG and p&a commitment and is planning a significant theatrical release and awards campaign centred on British talent Dominic Cooper’s breakout role as Uday Hussein and his body double Latif Yahia. Ludivine Sagnier also stars.
Paradigm Motion Picture Group and CAA jointly handled North American rights and Corsan international sales head Pascal Borno closed a deal with Icon for Australia and New Zealand at the festival.
Lionsgate beat several rival bids and entered exclusive negotiations with the representatives in the small hours of Wednesday . As first reported on Screendaily, Relativity and Summit both circled the project but did not pursue it aggressively. Several other buyers are believed to have come in with bids.
Corsan head Paul Breuls produced The Devil’s Double with Catherine Vandeleene, Michael John Fedun and Emjay Rechsteiner.
By Matt Patches , Special to Hollywood.com
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
In 2010, Dominic Cooper made a big splash opposite Carey Mulligan in the Oscar-nominated An Education. The role showed off his suave, dapper side, but in his latest film, the Sundance debut The Devil’s Double, Cooper really sinks his teeth into a role (or in this case, roles) and pushes himself to the extreme.
The Devil’s Double tells the story of Latif Yahia, an Iraqi military officer recruited to become the fiday, or body double, of Saddam Hussein’s tyrannical son Uday. Cooper plays two distinct roles in the film: the conflicted Latif, who struggles to take on his new job, and the murderous party animal Uday. The film is insane, to put it lightly, and the crazed tone is in part to Cooper’s disappearance into the two men’s stranger-than-fiction world.
I read it, with the understanding that someone else had the part that it might fall through. I read it knowing that it had been around for many, many years, many directors had been attached, It was a script that stuck in my head. I was fascinated by how little I knew of something that affected so much of my life and the world, and ultimately, it was this mad gangster movie and the opportunity for an actor to play both those roles.
I was unsure about the person I heard doing the part at the time, it didn’t make sense to me. I managed to get into a room with Lee [Tamahori, director] and I auditioned for hours with him. I brought into the room something I thought this person was and who the other person was, and next thing I knew…I was doing it. It was the most exciting moment in the work I’ve done so far.
Were there resources to help you better understand how this world operated? To give insight into living out both Latif and Uday’s lives?
No, there was nothing to like that. The difficulty for me was to understand and have compassion for this person, which I think you have to do when you’re playing someone. When you’re inhabiting someone, looking through their eyes and understanding their complexities.
With this guy, I couldn’t. I couldn’t understand him – he was a madman, a berserk man that needed help. Everything he did was disgusting and atrocious. It wasn’t necessarily about him, they became more fictional characters. I think that was important for me and Lee both to kind and reach a point and use this as an incredible story but we don’t know what they said we don’t know the relationship they had. We’re making a film. And this is not meant to be stooped in the real truth. Lee said the only truth in this film is that the US got him. That’s the one fact that we know of this story.
That’s evident in the film. You’re constantly wondering what’s real because the tone jumps from gritty realism to over-the-top, often comedic levels. Uday is executing these insane operations and one minute you’re laughing, the next, you’re horrified. How did you balance the tones of the film?
That’s why you need to be in the hands of a genius like Lee, with this kind of material. An actor doesn’t know that. That’s why I have to rely on him for the tone and sensibility of the piece. I don’t know what he’s going for. I can kind of get a vague understanding. I didn’t know he was making a outrageous, horrific gangster film. What I knew is that he made the most stunning debut film with Once Were Warriors, and I knew that, if any one can handle that kind of material and those people, and can understand how those gangsters type tribal people. then he is the person to do it. And my job is to come up with something that fitted with that environment. And although sometimes humorous because you’re so baffled and amazed that this human exists.
Were there moments where you wanted to pull back but Lee pushed you to go further?
I think it was a matter of bringing it down. He kept me very still, that was very helpful. It was his actual energy on set that was so inspiring. It was a short shoot, relatively cheap, and we had a lot to do. Technically it was difficult because of the doubling up of the scenes.
What was the process of shooting two roles in one scene? Were you constantly repeating the setups and blocking?
Yes, and that was why you only really got three takes on anything. Some people like to go on and do take after take, I couldn’t do that. There wasn’t time. It wasn’t stressful, I loved it. And you watched him and he had to create a new environment. It would be like…Lee wasn’t allowed to use this position or camera angle. And he was completely reconfiguring his ideas and I always think that creates the most creative inspired work and its constantly moving. Watching him with the amount of decisions he had to make, [laughs] I kind of felt my job is kind of easy.
What challenges did you face embodying two separate roles, bouncing between characters on a whim?
I needed to make one who is watching it believe it is two different people no matter how much reconstructive surgery one of them had had and how much they needed to look the same which they did, it was difficult to decide who was who. I needed them to be clearly two different people, I got help from my wonderful dialect coach, I got help with the make-up lady. It was about making a vocal difference and physical difference and the way in which the two characters thought differently.
Oh, definitely. The one that Latif had to transform into. I wanted here to be an intricate difference in the way he went to perform as Uday. I wanted him to be slightly different still. Not quite succeeding whole heartily in becoming him – there was still something holding him back. That’s why when you see him practicing in the mirror there’s still this tentativeness about him. He was not a showman, not an actor. There was no reason he should have been able to manipulate who he is. He did it to the best of his ability and I needed that to be clear.
What’s next for you? Anything in the can?
My Week With Marilyn with Kenneth Branagh. And Captain America.
That must have been a bit bigger than what you were accustom to.
It was massive – and intriguing.
You play Howard Stark in the film, a character with a wealth of comic mythology. What does your role in the actual film entail?
He moves the story along. He transforms him into Captain America. He’s Iron Man’s dad! He was a playboy, it was fun. How much he winds up in the film, who knows. But I hope he has an affect on it.
The story of Uday is told through the eyes of a man forced to bear witness to this regime-sanctioned psychotic, Latif Ahmed, who became Uday’s body double.
Cooper ably plays both roles – the former, who charges through each scene on the verge of hysteria and/or violence. And the other, a quiet observer who seethes through the depravities he must silently accept, lending every scene an underpinning of morality. (Resistance would have meant death to his family, torture for him.)
Before the screening began I ran into an agent who described it a “Three Kings meets Scarface meets Goodfellas.”
That about hits it. Back in 2003, on the day that Uday and his younger brother Qusay were murdered, I wrote an essay about the stories that swept through Baghdad about them, having recently returned from a reporting stint in Iraq. (It’s still posted )
At the time I wrote: “Doesn’t anyone see a television movie in this?”
Director Lee Tamahori did see a movie in it; and some critics and buyers who saw the film felt that it played too much like television – melodramatic and unidimensional.
But on second glance, the story gives us a moral center in Latif and a context for thinking about the consequences of our foreign policy – not just the 2003 invasion, but the choice not to topple Saddam back in 1990, and our support of that regime through the Iran-Iraq conflict.
Those decisions helped create this monster. Uday and his brother were finally hunted down and shot. But it took until 2003, and the terror they wrought on their own people was no small price for the residents of this ancient land.
As Tamahori said in the q&a after the premiere screening this weekend, “There’s not much of a message here other than: Despots have children that run out of control and we should put them up against the wall and shoot them.”
Count on this one getting bought, and appearing in theaters some time this year.
Undeniably fascinating as a visit to a world you’d never have wanted to have come near in real life — that of the Hussein family’s inner sanctum — the film falls crucially short by not providing a window into the mind of the man who was coerced into acting as his double. Dominic Cooper’s riveting double performance and the lurid, beyond-“Scarface” sensationalism are the main selling points for a film to which it will still be difficult to lure a wide public.
A drunken, drug-fueled, gun-toting, short-tempered party boy, torturer, rapist and murderer, Uday, with unlimited funds at his disposal and never properly reined in by his disapproving father, would routinely cruise schools in his Porsche or Ferrari, pick up 14-year-old girls, have his way with them and then have their bodies dumped by a roadside. On a whim, he’d drop by a wedding ceremony and demand to defile the bride on the spot. Intensely psychotic, he threw endless bacchanalian parties, reveled in torture videos and avoided anything resembling official responsibilities.
He was widely despised, of course, and, as with his father, it was thought advisable that he have a double to cover for him, throw off potential attackers and so on. In the late 1980s, toward the end of Iraq’s long war with Iran, it was the misfortune of army lieutenant Latif Yahia to be handpicked to fill the job, the full dimensions of which would have been hard to foresee.
With the fate of his family held over him if he declines, Latif undergoes plastic surgery and dental work to enhance the resemblance, learns to match Uday’s higher-pitched voice and vocal patterns, acquires a double of his wardrobe and is installed in a life of luxury, including a selection of women, while always being on call if needed. Mostly, he’s just another member of Uday’s sinister entourage, passed off humorously as Saddam’s “third son” (curiously little is seen of the dictator’s actual other son, Qusay).
Guided through his paces by a wise old mentor, Munem (Raad Rawi), Latif clearly disapproves of Uday and his sleazy lifestyle, but there’s nothing he can do except sullenly go along. Unfortunately, director Lee Tamahori and screenwriter Michael Thomas (“The Hunger,” “Scandal”) aren’t able to make Latif the viewer’s confidant, to effect a viewer’s personal connection to his strange odyssey; instead, one is simply left a spectator at a Roman circus.
One way to supply this would have been a Latif voice-over, perhaps in the style of Ray Liotta’s in “GoodFellas.” Another would have been a deeper, more revealing liaison between Latif and Sarrab (Ludivine Sagnier), Uday’s main squeeze, who dares to launch a relationship with his double. Given that there can be no secrets in this world, how this affair is allowed to continue is never explained, but a more intimate connection between the two might have provided the lacking human dimension.
When the U.S. steps in to aid Kuwait, Uday rails against the enemy but sends Latif to the front to rally the troops instead of going himself. Outrage follows outrage until, finally, Latif manages an escape, leading to a dramatic climax that ends the film well before Uday’s death during the American invasion years later.
Tamahori makes sure there’s never a dull moment, although the succession of mindless disco parties, coke snorting, assaults on helpless women, psychotic rants and unmotivated violence has a cumulative deadening and depressing effect that is never leavened by an artistic vision or historical take on the grim spectacle. Although energetic and visually and aurally dynamic, this feels like a job of work rather than something more ambitious and felt from the inside.
With shooting in Iraq impossible, the filmmakers found an unexpectedly effective substitute in Malta. Having just worked on Green Zone, production designer Paul Kirby has done a terrific job creating both the grand exteriors and ornately vulgar interiors of the Hussein regime, an effect elaborated by Anna Sheppard’s costume designs and Sam McCurdy’s cinematography. Christian Henson’s score and various source music choices are effective at generating a dark, turbulent mood.
In utter command of both roles, Cooper differentiates between the two beautifully, suggesting Latif’s necessarily restrained natural cockiness and seething resentment at his lot in life while letting out all the stops as the mercurial Uday. He’s really the whole show, although it’s too bad the script restrained him from further illuminating Latif’s inner self.
The film doesn’t mention that, in real life, Uday and Latif had been schoolmates and that their close resemblance had been noted since youth. Furthermore, the third act particulars of Latif’s escape and subsequent events seem to have been fabricated out of whole cloth. Latif’s autobiography was published in 1997 but only became an international best seller after 9/11.
VENUE: Sundance Film Festival, Premieres
PRODUCTION: Corsan, Corrino, Statccato production
CAST: Dominic Cooper, Ludivine Sagnier, Mimoun Oaissa, Raad Rawi, Philip Quast, Khalid Laith
DIRECTOR: Lee Tamahori
SCREENWRITER: Michael Thomas, based on the life story of Latif Yahia
PRODUCERS: Paul Breuls, Michael John Fedun, Emjay Rechsteiner, Catherine Vandeleene
EXECUTIVE PRFODUCERS, Harris Tulchin, Arjen Terpstra
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: Sam McCurdy
PRODUCTION DESIGNER: Paul Kirby
COSTUME DESIGNER: Anna Sheppard
MUSIC: Christian Henson
EDITOR: Luis Carballar
SALES: Corsan World Sales
No rating, 108 minutes