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A Cryptologic Mystery

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Did a broken random number generator in Cuba help expose a Russian espionage network?

I picked up the new book Compromised last week and was intrigued to discover that it may have shed some light on a small (and rather esoteric) cryptologic and espionage mystery that I've been puzzling over for about 15 years. Compromised is primarily a memoir of former FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok's investigation into Russian operations in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election, but this post is not a review of the book or concerned with that aspect of it.

Early in the book, as an almost throwaway bit of background color, Strzok discusses his work in Boston investigating the famous Russian "illegals" espionage network from 2000 until their arrest (and subsequent exchange with Russia) in 2010. "Illegals" are foreign agents operating abroad under false identities and without official or diplomatic cover. In this case, ten Russian illegals were living and working in the US under false Canadian and American identities. (The case inspired the recent TV series The Americans.)

Strzok was the case agent responsible for two of the suspects, Andrey Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova (posing as a Canadian couple under the aliases Donald Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley). The author recounts watching from the street on Thursday evenings as Vavilova received encrypted shortwave "numbers" transmissions in their Cambridge, MA apartment.

Given that Bezrukov and Vaviloa were indeed, as the FBI suspected, Russian spies, it's not surprising that they were sent messages from headquarters using this method; numbers stations are part of time-honored espionage tradecraft for communicating with covert agents. But their capture may have illustrated how subtle errors can cause these systems to fail badly in practice, even when the cryptography itself is sound.
See the rest of this (rather long) entry...

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kbrint
7 hours ago
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Neat!
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Liza Minnelli on Sharks

jwz
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kbrint
33 days ago
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Beautiful! Like you've never seen before, folks! Believe me!
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A round-up of the slow motion coup via USPS

jwz
1 Comment and 2 Shares
We are watching the election being stolen, right now, and fuck-all is being done about it.

Trump Can Do More Than Attack Post Office Funding. He's Mounting A Legal War Against Mailed Ballots.

Starving the Postal Service of funding is just one tool at the president's disposal to slow or stop the counting of ballots sent by mail. Trump's campaign and the Republican National Committee are already engaged in litigation to prevent voters from easily casting absentee or mail-in ballots. In Pennsylvania, they are trying to block the implementation of ballot drop boxes ― curbside boxes where voters can drop their absentee ballots to be picked up by election officials. In California, the RNC tried to stop the mailing of ballots to all voters, but failed. And the Trump campaign is also challenging a new Nevada law that would mail ballots to all active voters.

Trump administration figures are also discussing potential executive actions that could curb mail-in balloting in an effort to undermine democratic elections, according to Politico. These include directing the Postal Service not to deliver mailed ballots and ordering state officials to stop counting absentee ballots on Election Day, even though the president doesn't have legal authority to do either of these things.

The plot is simple: Trump hopes to emerge from Election Day with a slim lead, but with millions of absentee ballots still left to count. Then he will fight tooth and nail to stop those ballots, which he has long painted as "fraudulent," from ever being counted. [...]

Polls already show that Democratic Party voters will likely cast a high proportion of provisional ballots. An ABC/Washington Post poll conducted in July found that 51% of Democrats plan to cast their vote by absentee ballot in November compared to 20% of Republicans. A Marquette University Law School poll found a similar split among voters in Wisconsin, a key swing state.

This means that Trump could come out ahead on Election Day with millions, or tens of millions, of absentee and provisional ballots still left to count.

Internal USPS Documents Outline Plans to Hobble Mail Sorting:

The United States Postal Service proposed removing 20 percent of letter sorting machines it uses around the country [...] The vast majority of them were delivery bar code sorters (DBCS), the type that sort letters, postcards, ballots, marketing mail and other similarly sized pieces. [...]

Motherboard also viewed documents from the same region that laid out detailed plans to reroute mail to sorting facilities further away in order to centralize mail processing even if it moves the mail across further distances. To the union officials, the result of these plans was clear: "This will slow mail processing," one wrote in large font. [...]

"Donald Trump made clear that he is dismantling the Postal Service so he can steal the election by making it harder to vote by mail," said Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, a signatory of the letter. "Removing 20 percent of the Postal Service's sorting and processing equipment looks like another part of his plan to bulldoze a vital American institution just to cling to power."

"The Trump Administration is launching an all-out war on the U.S. Postal Service," said West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, another letter signatory. "Several weeks ago we learned they had unexpectedly announced closures of several West Virginia post offices. Then we learned of their plans to change the regulations surrounding the first class mail and election mail. Now we're hearing reports that the post office is removing sorting machines and reducing capacity a few months before an election where we'll see more mail-in ballots than ever before. This is insane."

USPS tells Pennsylvania it can't deliver mail ballots on time:

The U.S. Postal Service has warned Pennsylvania that some mail ballots might not be delivered on time because the state's deadlines are too tight for its "delivery standards," prompting election officials to ask the state Supreme Court to extend the deadlines to avoid disenfranchising voters. [...]

Some counties set up drop boxes in the primary election so voters could hand-deliver their ballots without relying on the mail. But the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee have sued the state to block drop boxes from being used in November.

DingusJMcGee:

See, up until just two months ago, every letter carrier, clerk, mail handler, truck driver, etc, worked under one pretty simple philosophy: every piece, every address, every day. Everyone in the chain of custody for mail made sure every piece got as far along in the system as it could, and if it made it to my hands, in my office, it was getting delivered. That's how I've done it for my career, how the guys who have been doing it for forty years have always done it, and that's literally how Ben Fucking Franklin's guys did it. You can almost hear Aaron Sorkin's orgasm as he punches up the Bradley Whitford speech about the majesty of it all.

But two months ago is also when that abruptly stopped. After a couple hundred years, it just...stopped. [...]

You know that old motto-that-isn't-actually-our-motto? The whole "Neither rain, nor snow..." spiel about getting the mail to you? We actually took that pretty damn seriously. Like I said, I've worked the better part of a decade for this agency, and I can count on zero hands how many times I've personally withheld delivery of mail without a goddamn good reason. I've jumped fences, climbed walls, MacGyver'd my way past broken locks, outrun dogs, split my pants in a downpour and gone for another five hours anyway, all because maybe, very possibly, I was holding something important to someone that they'd been waiting on.

jfricker:

No everyone, Amazon can not deliver ballots. They are a tiny operation compared to USPS. 2019 deliveries:

Amazon 2.5b
FedEx 3b
UPS 4.7b

USPS 142.6b

Save the USPS, save the country.

Meanwhile, rather than impeaching the Postmaster General, or deposing these people under oath, or even issuing subpoenas, the House has gone back on vacation for a month.

andmichaelgreen:

TRUMP: I am illegally defunding the Post Office so less people can vote.
DEMOCRATS: *fewer

hordie:

TRUMP: I'm defunding the post office to disenfranchise voters and win re-election.
PELOSI: *tweets photo of Democrats solemnly kneeling with hands on a mailbox*

How To Vote In The 2020 Election: A state-by-state guide to voting in the age of COVID-19.

Previously, previously, previously, previously.

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kbrint
40 days ago
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Fewer.
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Why hold elections in non-swing states?

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A Facebook Mask Karen (his profile picture is at least 50 percent face covering) highlighted “Coronavirus creates election worker shortage ahead of November” (Politico): “Local election authorities typically rely on older volunteers, who are dropping out in higher numbers over coronavirus fears.”

This prompted me to wonder why we would have an election at all here in Maskachusetts. Most candidates will he running unopposed. For the remainder, the outcome is already known. Why have people gather to infect each other when there is nothing to be decided?

Readers: What is the point of a November election in one-party states such as California, New York, et al.? If #BecauseEmergency is sufficient reason to cancel what used to be Constitution rights that had some value (e.g., the rights for young healthy people to receive an education, assemble and socialize, go to work, etc.), why isn’t #BecauseEmergency sufficient reason to cancel a valueless right (to vote in a non-primary election in a non-swing state)?

If we insist on some kind of count, we could do it safely with a drive-by inspection of lawn signs. Every “Hate Has No Home Here” sign can be counted as a vote fore Joe Biden:

Anyone who has the temerity to place a Donald Trump on a lawn in our town will typically find that the neighbors correct the mistake within a few days. Votes for Trump cannot therefore be via a sign with the hated dictator’s name on it. Maybe a yard sign like this would be sufficiently subtle?

Readers: What is the point of holding the November election in the states that overwhelmingly favor one party?

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kbrint
43 days ago
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State and local elections anyone?
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Pandemic Response Update

jwz
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"Authorized by the Department for Sacrificing School Teachers to the Great Bull God to Make Line Go Up"

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kbrint
54 days ago
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George Carlin

jwz
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Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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kbrint
59 days ago
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