Yoani Sánchez: Pentagon babe

xsRosa Miriam Elizalde has finally pointed out what never occurs to Time magazine or Grupo Prisa. Or maybe it has occurred to them – they just can’t bring themselves to admit it.  That blog by the blocked Cuban blogger/whiner ain’t no ordinary blog. Lots o’ cash behind it.

There are other translations of this floating around on the Internet.  Just not as good.

Cyber-command and Cyber-dissidents, More of the Same

Rosa Miriam Elizalde

English Translation: Machetera

Havana – The news has gone around the world.  The Obama administration is putting the final touches on a new cyberspace army.  First the Wall Street Journal and then the New York Times reported that the objective of this cyber-command is to guarantee the security of U.S. military computer networks threatened by the intrusion of hackers, particularly those linked to countries such as China and Russia.

Victims are being offered a single pill in which to swallow the fantasy of an external enemy and the details of the homicidal weapon used to kill it (a cyber-command that will keep watch over the planet and eventually enter into action).  As Tom Burghardt, of Global Research [1] put it, the United States is using the subterfuge of cyber-security as a pretext for cyber-war, a project forged by the North American hawks before September 11, 2001 and one that began to come together in 2003, when a secret document [2] signed by Donald Rumsfeld, the ex-Secretary of Defense, was leaked, in which the order was given to create this special Command.

Since then, the military has been greasing the arsenal in order to hack into servers, engage in internet espionage, buy cyber-mercenaries, attack laws in order to criminalize citizens in the name of the war on terrorism, twist the arms of telecommunications companies and even launch – in March of 2003, in Iraq – an electronic bomb, which disabled all electronic systems at once.

The unprecedented thing then was not the creation of this army, but the actions of electronic warfare, which previously were split among 10 Pentagon operations and other centers of intelligence, as well as the Air Force, which began to function in a single direction, in order to extend Bush’s holy war – “Either you’re with us or you’re with the terrorists” – not only against countries but against businesses, groups and individuals who would begin to be hunted like rabbits via the great nervous system of the global era.

For some bureaucratic reason that has not been revealed, the shadowy National Security Agency (NSA) is in charge of the Cyberspace Command.  However, in 2003, the Cyberspace Command was introduced under the umbrella of the Air Force and would become an independent army in October, 2008, with a $2 billion operational budget for its first year.

Air Force General Robert Elder, who in November of 2006 was head of the Command, explained the reason for this new offensive deployment in cyberspace, at a press conference: “The cultural change is that we’re going to treat it [cyberspace] as a warfighting domain, and we’re going to actually focus attention and put priority on doing things in cyberspace,” he said.

In fact there’s nothing new, either in the Command or the self-promotion of the new Pentagon head who follows the same path as his predecessors in the Bush administration, nor in the offensive launched by the warlords.  It’s the same strategic version for repression and subversion that the U.S. government has been implementing for decades, simply re-calibrated for a new era; the information era, whose spinal column is the Internet.

Get Out of the Way, That’s My Spot

USA Today realized in March of 2007 that one of the favored strategies of cyber-war was already in practice: [4] pirate attacks against Internet sites that bothered the Bush administration, for which the Air Force’s Investigation Laboratory had $40 million dollars to spend.

But since then, the jewel in this offensive was the concentration on the creation of websites and cyber-dissidents putting forward the rhetoric of liberation for the North American troops in order to justify their bellicose actions.

This same publication realized some time later, in May of 2008, that the Pentagon “is creating a worldwide network of foreign language news websites, including a site in Arabic for Iraqis, and it hired local journalists in order to write stories on current events and other features that might promote the interests of the United States and messages against insurgents.” [5]

The daily added that “The news sites are part of a Pentagon initiative to expand ‘Information Operations’ on the Internet.”  It reported that websites built by the Pentagon included the Iraqi www.mawtani.com, the Balkan portal www.setimes.com and www.magharebia.com, for the Maghreb region.

What was the common denominator for all these publications, according to USA Today?

  • They were written by local journalists hired to write stories in line with the Pentagon’s objectives.
  • Military personnel or contractors edit the stories to make sure they are compatible with these objectives.
  • The journalists are paid for their published stories.

And of course, the sites are highly discreet, in order to conceal the web hosters and domain registries, as well as the money trail for the payment of translators, journalists and technical personnel.  USA Today announced the preparation of similar websites for Latin America, in particular, a portal that would be managed by the Southern Command, whose name and characteristics would remain anonymous.

Strange Coincidences

A simple exercise in comparing the domain registries for these websites revealed by USA Today, and another which enjoyed a fair amount of publicity in the first months of 2008, reveals the following results:

Domain Name: setimes.com
Date Created: 1 Oct. 2002
Expiration Date: 1 Oct. 2009
Last Update: 2008-08-05
Server name:
dns1.carpathiahost.com
dns2.carpathiahost.com
IP address: 66.117.39.197
IP location: Unknown server, Virginia, USA
Domain registered to: Domains by Proxy, Inc. GODADDY.COM, INC

Domain Name: magharebia.com
Date Created: 2004-10-13
Expiration Date: 2010-10-13
Last Update: 2006-07-17
Server name:
dns1.carpathiahost.com
dns2.carpathiahost.com
IP address: 66.117.39.197
IP location: Unknown server, Virginia, USA
Domain registered to: Domains by Proxy, Inc. GODADDY.COM, INC

Domain Name: mawtani.com
Date Created: 2007-08-16
Expiration Date: 2010-08-16
Last Update: 2006-07-28
Server name:
ns53.domaincontrol.com
ns54.domaincontrol.com
IP address: 193.179.58.35
IP location: U-turn A.s Ustecky Kraj, Czech Republic
Domain registered to: Domains by Proxy, Inc. GODADDY.COM, INC

Domain Name: mawtani.com
Date Created: 2003-09-8
Expiration Date: 2009-09-8
Last Update: 2008-7-4
Server name:
ns1.bluehost.com
ns2.bluehost.com
IP address: 69.89.26.116
IP location: Orem, Utah (USA) Bluehost Inc.
Domain registered to: Domains by Proxy, Inc. GODADDY.COM, INC

Another common element, not revealed by USA Today, is that the domains are in the hands of the GoDaddy domain registry, which characterizes itself as offering these services to preserve the anonymity of the buyer.  It charges a premium for this of course.  The owner of and sole investor in this company is Bob Parsons, an enormously rich ex-Marine and Vietnam vet and enthusiastic defender of extreme methods for “softening up” terrorists. [6]

GoDaddy has a long history of closing sites belonging to its clients without previous notification, and like other North American domain registries, it cannot offer registrations to businesses or people linked to countries which appear on the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) blacklist.  Cuba is on the list.

Electronic commerce or the sending of remittances is prohibited by OFAC.  In fact in March of 2007, the U.S. government, through OFAC [7] ordered the closing of 80 web sites belonging to a foreign tour operator whose owner lives in Spain and does business in the U.K.  Without further notice, the ENOM registry blocked 80 domain names belonging to this tour operator, including some sites dedicated to purely cultural exchange, such as www.cuba-hemingway.com.

However, GoDaddy, which also has legal orders to close domains linked with Cuba and does so without a second thought, maintains a supposed Cuban website for the rock group Porno para Ricardo.  It’s a rabidly anti-governmental group, and money can be sent through the website to “buy musical instruments” for its members.  The Cuban-ness of the website is suspect, because like others dedicated to Internet propaganda against the Cuban government, it’s not administered on the island, its servers are not in Cuban territory, it doesn’t use Cuban domains, its owners don’t appear to be in the Caribbean, and the sophisticated administrative tools and services offered at this website – with its payment gateway and electronic money transfer via credit cards – could not possibly be administered by a truly independent Cuban journalist without Washington’s political support and financing.

Add to this the overwhelming publicity campaign for this and other sites for “dissident” Cubans in Internet search engines, a campaign that also cannot be done from Cuba.  Google won’t allow it, out of compliance with the marching orders of the U.S. blockade against Cuba.  In other words, if no-one here in Cuba can use a credit card to carry out a publicity campaign using Google Adwords [8], will the directors of the famous search engine help track the money as it courses through the Internet, promoting these kinds of websites and creating the stars of worldwide cyber-dissidence?

Cyber-Dissidents

Military academics offer another extremely important variable in the information war waged on the Internet.  In order to turn prejudices into real facts, they should be filtered through a personal perspective, preferably accompanied by pictures and other evidence which prove that the witness can be found where the story takes place.

Military Review,[9] the Pentagon’s official magazine, has dedicated extensive analysis to the importance of blogs and cyber-dissidents in this strategy.  They serve to offer a face and anecdote to a rhetoric that corresponds to the political designs of the North American military for each region in conflict, particularly those where Internet use is on the rise.

Just as they themselves have built websites, the experts in the information war have created cyber-dissidents a la carte.  A very controversial case was that of the Iraqi blogger Salam Pax, who during the U.S. invasion was mysteriously able to keep his anti-Saddam and anti-Bush blog running.  There’s evidence of suspicious cyber-dissidents in Yugoslavia, China, Vietnam, Iran, and Syria.

In regard to Cuba, the meteoric rise of the blogger Yoani Sánchez comes to mind, meeting as she does, all the conditions required by the Pentagon experts.  The design of her blog follows various fallacies: the name of the host site: http://www.desdecuba.com suggests that all its Internet connection efforts come from Cuba.  However, the server is hosted in Germany, registered to Josef Biechele – who is this man?  Why does she never mention this generous sponsor?  She enjoys administrative resources that are not within the reach of any ordinary blogger, much less a Cuban one, who does not have the local administrative resources for a blog and must put up with an extremely slow connection in order to connect with international blogging platforms such as Blogger and others.

The technical support for this site, which is dedicated practically exclusively to her blog is a custom configuration, that at current market prices costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.  The marketing strategy, through Google and other digital and traditional media is major league.

The blog’s content is manipulative.  The blogger calls for demonstrations using Twitter, social networks and other versions of Internet 2.0 that are barely used in Cuba, a country with extremely limited bandwidth and weak Internet facilities, because for one thing, its entire Internet connection is via satellite.  The U.S. blockade has prohibited Cuba from accessing electronic commerce and digital technologies via an undersea cable, for more than a decade.  Those in Cuba who connect at a rate of 30-40 Kbps can barely manage to check their email and dedicate themselves to priorities that are light years away from Yoani’s die-hard negativism.

To whom then, does this woman who obviously has no readers in Cuba, speak?  Is she speaking to the Cubans or to an audience outside Cuba, bombarded by a prejudiced discourse that she is trying to highlight?  Is her objectivity guaranteed by the fact that she is privileged to be here?

She claims to be apolitical, not committed to any system, and yet, the description that the creators of her blog use to identify her site say that http://www.desdecuba.com is a “Politically independent magazine.  It offers a view different from that offered by the Cuban government.”  Among her scribblings, the worn-out political theses used over the years by the State Department to put Cuba on all the blacklists, seasoned by a 1950’s esthetic and the stereotype of Havana in ruins, are ways of giving the worst possible impression in the least space possible.

Lately she hasn’t even bothered to hide her ultra-rightwing excesses, something that surely must be catching the attention of her handlers, since it is far from the role she is supposed to play.  It’s becoming more a blog that Luis Posada Carriles [10] might write, rather than one that might be expected from a pacifist blogger, a likely candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.  For example, a post dedicated to the “night of the long knives that will befall the island” adheres explicitly to the license to kill attitude that comes out of Miami every now and then:

People waiting, with a stick or a knife under the bed, for the day that they can use them.  Entrenched hatred against those who ratted them out, who denied them a better job or prevented their youngest child from studying at the university.  There are so many waiting for the possible chaos that would give them the time necessary for revenge, that one would wish not to have been born at this time, when one can only be a victim or victimized, when so many yearn for the night of the long knives. (Yoani Sánchez, April 24, 2009)

If the logic of the North American strategy is followed, the face that anti-Cuban discourse has today – whether that of a woman or anyone else – is the least important element.  She and those who will follow are preparing the terrain for an escalation that allows them to continue to impose their pre-determined point of view on an audience of more than a billion Internet users who get their most of their information there.  As well, it is a way of winning space to influence Cubans who because of the development and efforts to educate thousands of children and teenagers in digital technology, will be increasingly connected to the Internet.

The strategy of using the Internet for political intervention has been underway for at least five years, with a crescendo in recent months, culminating with the recent measures announced by the Obama administration.  He inherited from Bush the decision to redirect financing for subversion against Cuba in the arena of telecommunications.  That this announcement was nothing new was confirmed in the piece published by Paul Richter on May 7, 2008 in the Los Angeles Times: [11]

“U.S. Agency for International Development, which oversees the program, is trying to persuade Central European and Latin American nongovernmental groups to join U.S. organizations in applying for its grants.  A chief goal, officials say, is to spend most of the $45-million budget on communications equipment, such as cellphones and Internet gear, that possibly could be smuggled into Cuba to increase its people’s exposure to the outside world.”

Could part of these funds have been allocated to technical support and the disproportionate marketing of Cuban “cyber-dissidence”?  Which European institutions are receiving this U.S. government money?  Did the Spanish Prisa group’s prize for the Cuban blogger come out of this?  Is it coincidence that Prisa, Yoani’s main marketer in Europe also owns Noticias 24, the Venezuelan opposition blog that is the most aggressive against Chávez?

Whatever the answer is, there’ll be more of the same.  Not the Cyberspace Command, nor the Internet, nor the prefabricated cyber-dissdents, nor the politically designed collaboration meant to annihilate Cuba’s government.

[1] Burghardt, Tom (2009): “The Pentagon’s Cyber Command: Formidable Infrastructure arrayed against the American People”. En Global Research, April 26, 2009. http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=13354

[2] Rumsfeld, Donald (2003): Information Operations Roadmap, United-States National Security Archive, October 30, 2003. http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB177/info_ops_roadmap.pdf (PDF 2,3 Mb)

[3] Wood, Sara (2006) “New Air Force Command to Fight in Cyberspace.” American Forces Press Service. U.S. Department of Defense, November 3, 2006.

[4] Michaels, Jim (2007): “U.S. Military Beefs Up Internet Arsenal.” USA Today, March, 28, 2007.

[5] Eisler, Peter (2008): “Pentagon launches foreign news websites.” USA Today, May 1, 2008.

[6] In June of 2005, Parsons generated a huge controversy when he stated in his blog that the U.S. interrogation methods being used at Guantánamo “are incredibly mild. All of the prisoners receive regular medical attention.” Parsons, Bob (2005): “Close Gitmo? No Way,” June 19, 2005

[7] The so-called Torricelli Law or Authorization and National Defense Law for fiscal year 1992 authorized Cuba to connect to the Internet via satellite, with the condition that every megabyte would have to be purchased from U.S. businesses or their subsidiaries and approved by the Treasury Department.  It established limits on these contracts and set extraordinary sanctions – fines of $50,000 for each violation – for those who facilitated either within or outside the United States, electronic commerce or the slightest economic benefit to Cuba.  This has been rigorously applied and little by little, OFAC has gone about expanding the blacklist like crazy.  In April of 2004, OFAC informed Congress that of its 120 employees, four had been assigned to track the finances of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, while almost two dozen were assigned to enforce the blockade against Cuba.  It admitted that the Internet was used as a fundamental source to follow payments.  In Obama’s recent announcements [on Cuba policy] the subject of electronic financial transfers was not even mentioned.  In other words, here as well, the blockade remains intact.

[8] Google Adwords is a way for Google to sell advertising under its control.  They are ads which come up as relevant to whatever search is being done by the user.  For example, if the user looks for “Cuba” on the right hand side or above the indexed pages, there will be ads referencing “Cuba.”  Google charges the advertiser for each click on the ad.

[9] There are numerous examples in this magazine theorizing about the war of information and the use of so-called new technologies.  Recommended reading: “Partnering with the Iraqi media” Military Review, July/August 2008. http://usacac.army.mil/CAC/milreview/English/JulAug08/DeCarvalhoEngJulAug08.pdf

[10] Luis Posada Carriles, Cuban-born Venezuelan citizen.  An admitted terrorist, responsible for the downing of a civilian airliner which killed 73 passengers, as well as a series of bombs that exploded in Cuban hotels during the 1990’s and killed an Italian tourist.  Posada Carriles lives in Miami.

[11] Richter, Paul (2008): “Cuba USAID Program Gets Overhaul” Los Angeles Times, May 7, 2008. http://articles.latimes.com/2008/may/07/world/fg-uscuba7

Machetera is a member of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, translator and reviser are cited.  This article is also available at Tlaxcala.

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12 responses to “Yoani Sánchez: Pentagon babe

  1. this Article is nice

  2. I really liked your post.

  3. I remember reading snippets from Yoani Sanchez’s blog last time the awards were being handed out. At the time I was amazed how many Latin America blogs they were honoring that seemed to have a right-wing, anti-Castro, anti-Cuba slant. In fact, more than half of the half-dozen or so blogs on the list matched that persuasion (including one that was clearly anti-Chávez Venezuelan, though purporting to be mainly about economics). Yoani’s carefully vague, “non-partisan” tone (affected for the benefit of the awards voters, no doubt) didn’t fool me one bit. I’ve visited actual Cuban websites–even their official news sites, presumably lodged on the island’s best servers, are slow to load, and not so slick! The whole thing did not pass the sniff test, and now I know why. Excellent job of exposition from the author, and kudos on this translation!

  4. Matt Dubuque

    I’ ve learned over the years that phrases such as “independent” and “non-partisan” media, newspapers, blogs, etc. are merely corporate media code words for “radical IMF free market jihadis”.

    This “independent” blog of Yoani Sanchez is no exception.

    Their goal is to make over Cuba in the image of their capitalist IMF showpiece, Haiti.

    And overwhelming majority of Cubans don’t want to go that route.

  5. Yep, “independent” is becoming something of a code word for “not really, heh heh”.

    Meanwhile, here’s another article on Yoani and who hosts her blog:

    http://www.radiomundial.com.ve/yvke/noticia.php?24267

    Apparently her cyber-sugardaddy also hosts some neo-Nazis and far-rightists denounced by the German Greens. Coincidence?

  6. A whois search with networksolutions brings this:
    http://www.networksolutions.com/whois-search/desdecuba.com

    Whois Server Version 2.1 at whois.tmagnic.net

    Database contains ONLY .COM, .NET, .TV, .CC domains.

    Owner Contact:
    Yoani Sanchez

    Sta.Ma- Soledad Torres Acosta 2
    Madrid, 28004, ES

    Punycode Name: desdecuba.com
    Unicode Name: desdecuba.com

    Admin Contact
    Yoani Sanchez

    yoani.sanchez@gmail.com
    Sta.Ma- Soledad Torres Acosta 2
    Madrid, 28004, ES
    phone: +34 918298497

    Technical Contact
    Hostmaster Strato Rechenzentrum
    Cronon AG Professional IT-Services
    hostmaster@cronon-isp.net
    Emmy-Noether-Str. 10
    Karlsruhe, D-76131, DE
    phone: +49 72166320305

    Zone Contact
    Hostmaster Strato Rechenzentrum
    Cronon AG Professional IT-Services
    hostmaster@cronon-isp.net
    Emmy-Noether-Str. 10
    Karlsruhe, D-76131, DE
    phone: +49 72166320305

    Record expires on: 2010-01-25 11:25:07

    Domain servers in listed order:

    docks08.rzone.de
    shades01.rzone.de

    The previous information has been obtained either directly from the registrant or a registrar of the domain name other than Network Solutions. Network Solutions, therefore, does not guarantee its accuracy or completeness.

    Show underlying registry data for this record

    Current Registrar: CRONON AG BERLIN, NIEDERLASSUNG REGENSBURG
    IP Address: 1.1.1.1 (ARIN & RIPE IP search)
    IP Location: -(-)
    Record Type: Domain Name
    Server Type: Apache 1
    Lock Status: ok
    Web Site Status: Active
    DMOZ 1 listings
    Y! Directory: see listings
    Secure: No
    E-commerce: No
    Traffic Ranking: 4
    Data as of: 22-Apr-2008

  7. The interesting thing that stands out from this search is the host for the desdecuba site.

    http://www.cronon-isp.net/index.html takes you to the page at Cronon that deals with their ISP services. I realize that in Europe, ISPs didn’t develop the same way as they did in the USA, but have a look at that page and tell me if it resembles anything that an ordinary consumer, or in this case, blogger, would use. Where is the menu? The pricelist? The terms? The features? Why, it would seem that you have to write this “Professional IT-Services” company and ask. And like the old joke about the menu with no prices, if you must ask, then you probably can’t afford it.

    If Cronon has no interest in marketing, then it must rely on serendipity or recommendations. It makes you wonder a bit about their client list. Bernie Madoff would love it.

  8. Bina, you essentially stated you were surprised at how many Latin American blogs sing praises of Yoani’s radical right wing jihadi views.

    For me, I recall many years ago how the meme “politically correct” was launched and exploited so as to shape our views towards celebration of the hard right free markets at the point of a gun agenda.

    Back then, nobody wanted to be politically correct…. later that would be equivalent with the newly characterized curse word “liberal”.

    Along similar lines, the psyops folks in military intelligence and The Rendon Group are heavily sponsoring right wing blogs that are supposed to represent “democratic” views, the voice of “ordinary citizens” speaking truth to power.

    This of course is nonsense. These “bloggers” are simply tools in support of radical jihadi free marketeers in their attempt to celebrate “economic man” who makes ALL his decisions STRICTLY on false economic criteria alone, but who can’t dance, who can’t make love and who frankly, can’t think critically either.

    For me, this is all part and parcel of the same process, from the gibberish about being “politically correct”, supporting the interests of “taxpayers” and the recruitment of illiterate jihadis as bloggers in the third world in furtherance of the cause of imposing free markets at gunpoint.

    For me this is all part and parcel of the same process

  9. The irony is, it’s now the right-wingers who are the politically correct ones. There’s a distinct whiff of orthodoxy about everything they write. Stalin would be proud.

  10. Bina, yep, I agree!

    Matt

  11. Internationalista

    Please, see this interesting article I encountered, referenced on a European anti-Cuba site. It might be worth translating it in English, preferably with a by-line:

    http://operacionliborio.blogspot.com/2009/02/ivette-leyva-martinez-el-muro-de-la.html

    The writer appears to be a journalist for the Nuevo Herald.
    Interesting to read that apparently the Cuban dissidents aren’t achieving anything, don’t get any support from the Cuban people, are permanently feuding about their foreign funds and the news the ‘independent journalists’ are sending out is regularly inaccurate. (What’s new ?) But, the article concludes, thank god we have a new fresh wind that’ll change everything: Yoani and Gorki !

    Somehow, the writer seems to miss out on the issue that Yoani’s blog is translated in multiple languages, as if Spanish wouldn’t be enough to reach the ‘oppressed’ Cuban people; Cubans have a relative low web access; while the contents of her moaning and complaining articles are pretty irrelevant to people having to live in the ‘squalor’ she regularly describes and appears to be clearly aimed at readers abroad.
    Therefore, it would appear to be highly questionable whether she’ll ever be the ‘Joan of Arc, leading the Cuban people to democracy’. But heck, at least she’s the last straw to give some credibility about the existence of at least some kind of ‘an opposition against Castrism’.

    (Given my limited knowledge of the Spanish language, I always wonder about that definition. I regularly wonder if it implies that any person who decides to support Cuba would by this definition automatically be ‘Castrated’ ? ;-) )

  12. Internationalista

    Some additional information:
    As I mentioned before, I’m not a native Spanish speaker but I do read German and the website of cronon-isp.net clearly states that “it’s aimed at companies and businesses who require customized IT-solutions and individual support”. That doesn’t sound like a simple Bloghosting ISP which is normally employed by bloggers, even within Europe.

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