From the HBGary Emails: the Tree of Oppression, the Apple of Surveillance

Posted on 24/02/2011 by


I have successfully searched AnonLeaks for every email containing “COIN” and “ROMAS”. A few hundred emails later, my opinion of the US government and is incestuous corporate allies has, perhaps remarkably, fallen even lower. I hope to recover a few of the brain cells which ran screaming from my brain before I go to sleep. They are presently hiding somewhere behind the refrigerator, and I would hate for them to miss the booze I’m going to drink after I’m done writing this; I can think of no other cure for an overdose of the HBGary stupids.

Before I get to the fun, though, I’d like to share an epic easter egg: Aaron Barr is a whiny little hypocritical bitch who don’t got good grammar. Yes, we already knew this, but I found proof. Quote [with my comments]:

…every time I come out to Colorado and have lunch with people that I hired, grew professionally [as in cloned?], and developed personal friendships with, some of the leadership locally come down on them for meeting with us [sic].  I believe this is completely unprofessional and borderline harassment.  The current immediate leadership need [sic] to get past whatever animosity or chip [integrated or otherwise] that remains with them, as their approach is severely effecting [sic] many peoples [sic] moral [sic]. People are being criticized for having friendships with us, so much so that other people are afraid to talk with us for fear of the criticism. Thats [sic] just not right.  There is friendship and business and some need to be able to separate the two and better understand the nature of competitive business.

And quote again:

The NG [Northrup Grumman] local leadership followed a few employees to lunch across the street. Those employees were meeting with Ted. When they got back they were lectured and harassed about talking with us, how that might be perceived. They know we are actively recruiting and they are using fear and intimidation on their employees. Unbelievable.

The irony escapes him. I repeat, Aaron Barr is a whiny little hypocritical bitch: it’s okay when he suggests attacking Glenn Greenwald, but god forbid anyone should do the same to his bar buddies. Quoth the Barr:

I follow one law.

What a loser. Anyway, enough lulz, down to business. I wish to re-address the topic of yesterday’s post: HBGary, Apple, and Counter Intelligence.

I’ve confirmed that the ‘COIN’ mentioned in HBGary emails does indeed stand for Counter Intelligence, thanks to the Non-Disclosure Agreement sent to HBGary by TASC. The COIN project is at the behest of ‘the US Government’, commonly referred to as ‘the customer’; this is revealed by the Teaming Agreement between HBGary and TASC. According to this email, the COIN project was coming out of the Department of Defence, and that the incumbent contractor is SAIC, potentially in cooperation with Northrup Grumman. However, this email suggests that “the government isn’t happy with Booz”, which is most likely Booz Allen Hamilton.

The COIN project was apparently ongoing, and its development contract under a recompete, when HBGary first became interested. According to the Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative (COTR,) as quoted by Aaron Barr, the COIN contract was work around $25 million on 2 Nov 2010, perhaps resulting in up to 10 full-time employees (FTEs.) However, it seems that COIN was actually discontinued by ‘the customer’ and rebranded as ROMAS. Aaron Barr bragged that he came up with the name, stating:

An interesting note, ROMAS (right spelling) is a name I gave internally to NG [Northrup Grumman] for our work for this customer. ROMAS is the name of a middle eastern spider. 😉 I thought I was pretty clever. I am glad they are going to continue to use the name.

Is he giving us a big fat hint? Probably. He’s dumb enough to do so: a romas spider is one of these unlovely critters, which are also known as camel spiders. I have no idea right now about what was going through his mind, but if anyone can hammer a hypothesis together, feel free to share!

At any rate, ROMAS (ex-COIN) apparently became two separate Requests For Proposals (RFPs) or contracts from ‘the customer’: one for ‘development’ and one for ‘MOE/infrastructure’. I assume MOE here stands for Measure Of Effectiveness, although as this is the US government we’re talking about, it could be ‘Money Over Everything’, as in spending as much as possible. According to Aaron Barr, “MOE = web analytics, semantic analysis, surveys”, so take that as you will.

Last but not least, I’m pleased to bring you the complete list of participating corporations, as of 19 July 2010, in the HBGary ROMAS fail parade, Wikipedia pages given where available:

– TASC (PMO, creative services)
– HB Gary (Strategy, planning, PMO)
Akamai (infrastructure)
Archimedes Global (Specialized linguistics, strategy, planning)
Acclaim Technical Services (specialized linguistics)
Mission Essential Personnel (linguistic services)
Cipher (strategy, planning operations)
PointAbout (rapid mobile application development, list of strategic
Google (strategy, mobile application and platform development – long
list of strategic partners)
Apple (mobile and desktop platform, application assistance -long list
of strategic partners)

Please be certain to add these companies to your official boycott list. If you don’t have one, time to start! Other good names to add are PayPal, Bank of America, Visa, MasterCard, Palantir, Berico, Hunton & Williams, and Wal-Mart (because it’s just evil.)

Now, the correct question you should be asking me at this point is, “what the hell is ROMAS?” To which, I must sadly confess I found no immediately obvious evidence with which to answer that question. From here on is postulation, so take this with a grain of salt.

The FBI ran a programme known as COINTELPRO, which stood for Counter Intelligence Programme. This was a group with a very specific motive: “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” those groups which the FBI (namely, J. Edgar Hoover, with or without pantyhose) deemed subversive and/or unAmerican. The list of those groups is pretty extensive; the Wikipedia article is well worth the read. However, consider this quote from the Church Committee, formed to investigate COINTELPRO:

Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic society even if all of the targets had been involved in violent activity, but COINTELPRO went far beyond that…the Bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the national security and deter violence.

Why on earth would the US government ever discontinue such an effective and well-thought-out programme to bully, bludgeon, and blacklist every single citizen into silent docility? I can think of no reason, especially during today’s ‘War on Terror’. Logically, in my humble opinion, although the name COINTELPRO is only a historical moniker, the concept and methods live on, and indeed have been added to as technology allowed. The suckpuppet armies, for instance, fit quite neatly into the COINTELPRO concept: disrupt online conversation as one would disrupt a real-life meeting. Indeed, ROMAS (ex-COIN) was mentioned in the ‘HBGary Federal Pipeline’, along with ‘persona management’, aka suckpuppets.

In short, I posit that over the last thirty years COINTELPRO evolved into COIN. Look at it generally as a tree: COINTELPRO is the trunk, and COIN is a branch. It’s difficult to say how big a branch, but it is likely fairly sizable, given that Google and Apple are involved. ROMAS is a more shadowy critter: given that there are no emails — which I can find — dealing with a more concrete vision of ROMAS, it is probably best to assume the branch has narrowed, just to error on the side of caution. On the other hand, ROMAS might be a code-word-classified programme, which suggests that the branch, in fact, got bigger.

COIN is by no means the entirety of the branches off of this vile tree. There are many more which are unknown, a fact which should disturb everyone, whether or not one lives in the US. For example, I posit there is the branch with which Microsoft is involved, given that this COIN branch has an Apple hanging from it. ROMAS might still have the Apple, but it might not; that does not matter, as Apple will be involved somewhere in the process.

In fact, Apple is probably far more deeply involved than anyone might suspect. They have (or perhaps had) an employee named Andy Kemp, whose official title is Homeland Defence/National Programmes. He emailed Barr an article about a data-mining Apple app, and he has Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmentalised Information (TS/SCI) clearance. Additionally, he has a habit of writing more enigmatically than Aaron Barr:

I’ve been requested to be phoenix by a senior member at ODNI – someone That [sic] I don’t say no to.

ODNI is the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. To spell it out, Apple has a ‘Homeland Defence’ guy who is at the beck and call of a Class-A1 spook. A phoenix is a creature which is born again in the flames of its own death; Kemp is perhaps saying that he had been requested to “die and be born again”. This is most likely in a professional sense, wherein he leaves a career at Apple and becomes a specialist in the service of the ODNI or some other intelligence agency of the US government.

Do you own an Apple? It might be ROMAS-enabled.

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Posted in: Analysis