Friday, February 4, 2011

The view from Minint

La ciber policia en Cuba from Coral Negro on Vimeo.

A link to this remarkable video was sent to Yoani Sanchez by one of her commenters, she says. She posted it on her blog; it’s 53 minutes long, and well worth a look – it’s apparently an Interior Ministry briefing on U.S. strategies and operations toward Cuba.

“Viva el Cubaleaks!” Yoani says; you can read her comments on it here.

I’m sure someone will write about this at some length, or make a transcript. Meantime, here are a few highlights:

  • The briefer explains how many of President Obama’s policies are similar to those of President Bush.

  • He claims that President Obama’s telecommunications policy openings are a “façade.”

  • He explains that U.S. strategy is to go beyond the traditional dissidents who engage in politics face-to-face (“in the park,” he says, figuratively) and now to use the Internet and social networking to spread counter-revolutionary ideas in cyberspace.

  • He discusses and illustrates how USAID contractor Alan Gross set up “BGANS” satellite communications technology. BGANS equipment creates wi-fi networks with high-speed connections to the Internet. If I heard him correctly, they serve all within reach of their signal (i.e. they don’t require a password), showing computer users that they are connected to the Internet. He said Gross was not the only party setting up these networks. Minint does not like these networks.

  • He refers to a big mistake (“una metedura de pata gigantesca”) on the part of Gross’ employer, in posting a statement on the Internet that explains his contracting relationship. Minint saved a copy.

  • He explains that as a further step in the strategy, with the independent Internet access established, there is an effort to reach Cubans through groups such as alumni associations and other social connections, and then to send political messages.

  • He claims that the USAID contractor Creative Associates is operating Cuba programs from Costa Rica.

  • He gives honorable mentions to Yoani, the International Republican Institute, Raices de Esperanza, the counter-revolutionary Ernesto Hernandez Busto of Penultimos Dias, and others.

There’s lots more, including a discussion of the way Twitter is used by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and, separately, by his intelligence service – examples of constructive uses of these communications technologies.

What I wonder is how long before someone says it’s all a manipulación, that Cuba’s interior ministry doesn’t leak, and that Minint wanted this presentation to be seen.

Herald story here.


Anonymous said...

Phil, I'm very puzzled by this:

"What I wonder is how long before someone says it’s all a manipulación, that Cuba’s interior ministry doesn’t leak, and that Minint wanted this presentation to be seen."

It doesn't surprise me. I agree with you that such a comment would come at any time. In fact, I'm one among many prone to think that way. But I wonder what is your position about that. Do you see it as a classical conspiracy theoretical stance or something quite plausible? Don't forget that presentations like the one about the demotion of Lage and Roque which was broadcast several times hasn't leaked. This shows that they have the ability to avoid leaks.
I find that the logic of the presentation is quite straigtforward. No matter if one doesn't share the goals.


Anonymous said...

yeah, the cynical aspects of all things cuba, interesting perspective from MinIt. American policy still has such an affect on Cuban strategy, as of course it would. ANd to those who say Cuba is not under siege, they no not what they speak of.

Anonymous said...

Telephone and Internet communications can be monitored by the Ministry of Interior. Apparently satellite communications can not.

This is why this program should be continued even if the population of Cuba is granted access to the internet.

But if this access is not granted, a program such as this is one of the only ways of providing it and providing all Cubans increased access to information from abroad.

Therefore such programs should be continued.

I believe that before these programs could be truly efficient, a way ahas to be found to increase the range of wifi communications. One km is not enough to be able to provide internet service to most cities in the island.

There is also some doubt in my mind whether the application of triangulation techniques to the transmissions of telephone and email signals through satellite communications would allow the microlocation of this technology.

To be continued

Anonymous said...

I also have my doubts as to the practicality of using social networks for opposition activity.

True, as the security official states, these networks permit the very rapid mobilization of the population for political protests.

But as Egypt showed, under critical conditions,(given the non existence of satellite communications) the internet can be turned off rendering this advantage useless.

Moreover, under normal conditions, the list of friends in the sites of opposition figures can be a great aid for MININT ivestigators seeking to detect and repress existing or potential dissidents.

It would be better for dissidents to communicate anonymously through blogs and forums.

At any rate it is reassuring to see that new technologies and approaches are being used with increasing success to influence the population of the island and that this is admitted by the MININT officials themselves.

Pantaleon Paticruzado

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Peters,

Talking about location techniques, how vulnerable would these satellite technologies be to rudimentary techniques such as these.

When some dissident is talking though the satellite ground transmitter the MININT would use several laptops mounted on cars to locate the points on which the wifi link is lost.

From all such points a one km radius would be drawn on the map and the MININT would search all the buildings in the immediate area in which such radii intersect.

Would it be really possible to use the technology in question with an efficient counterintelligence service such as the Cuban?

I believe that this is the way forward but not being an electrical engineer, I have my doubts that the existing technology would do the trick.

It would be good to get an expert opinion.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Peters,

I really do not understand how this whole bgan thing was going to be implemented,

If this Cuban State Security official who spoke with the assurance of a computer nerd was not bullshitting us, everytime a bgan satellite modem is installed, you automatically provide internet computer access to everyone a kilometer or a kilometer and a half around with Wi Fi connections and also enabled satellite phone calls from blackberry phones anywhere in this radius.

If this is so, why, instead of trying to place the satellite modems in Cuban territory, are they not placed inside foreign embassies and consulates in the Havana area so that the Ministry of Interior can not get at them?

This would allow friendly foreign governments to provide internet hook ups for everyone having a computer who lives in most areas of Havana.

The same thing could be done from foreign consulates in other cities througout the island.

This would allow not only navigation and email access but also computer to computer and computer to phone voice calls through messenger services without requiring blackberry services.

This would help to open up the island the world and would be perfectly legal since such modems would be placed in buildings under foreign jurisdiction.

There would also be no need for any foreign technicians to go around and explain how to hook up wi fi connected computers to the internet since the whole process would be automatic and training and instructions could be explained in Spanish on line without putting anyone under the risk of being arrested by Cuban security services.

Mr. Peters, or other persons, please tell me if I am missing something?

Have I misunderstood the Cuban MININT nerd's video presentation?

Is hooking up to the internet through satellite communications as simple as this guy makes it out to be?

If it is this simple, why hasn't it been done already?

Moreover this program coupled with ample supplies of CD's nd flash drives could flood the island with music, movies, news and books from abroad.

It seems weird that we had to find out about these opportunities from a Cuban Minint spokesperson and not from the Cuban American opposition figures in Miami.

If all this turns out to be true, it makes me wonder about the intelligence and creativity of the leaders of the right wing Cuban opposition in the US.

PP to be continued

Anonymous said...

It seems to me somebody screwed up on the implementation of what is in reality a very simple project.

There is no necessity to complicate things and set up satellite modems in Cuban territory to allow the Cuban Ministry of Interior to have access to them and arrest whoever has them in and confiscate the modem and all other satellite equipment.

The satellite modems could be safely set up in foreign embassies and consulates where non Cuban technicians could take care of their installation and maintenance.

Cubans already possess the computers and the wi fi network installations that would be needed to set up internet access.

This would allow them to passively access the Internet if they were inside the km or km and a half range of the satellite modem.

Moreover, since they had no part in enabling the internet hook up they could not be prosecuted for it.

The necessary training on how to install wi fi equipment and to be able to receive the wi fi signals from the satellite modem did not need a foreign technician to go to Cuba to risk arrest in providing it, it could be safely provided through web sites in the Internet.

There would also be no need to distribute blackberries or bgan kits and thus increase the probability of MININT detection, arrests and equipment confiscation.

Once satellite internet service was provided, phone calls could be made through Internet messenger service by both computer to phone or computer to computer connections!

Even encryption services like PGP could be used since the Cuban security services would not be able to identify who would be sending messages!

A simple no frills, bare bone,inexpensive implementation would suffice to make all this possible.

All that was necessary was to install the satellite modems, pay for the service, create the necessary web sites to provide whatever training and information and to provide sufficient Cd's and flash drives to set up a successful black market for music, videos, books and news throughout the island.

The whole thing was screwed up because some aid agency began to complicate things by planning for elaborate unnecessary services to inflate the fee it was going to charge the US budget!

The instinct of making a killing at the expense of the US taxpayer won the day!

Nobody considered the increased security risks that all these inflated services created.

With the amount of information that I presently have, it seems to me that the arrest of Alan Gross and all the resulting brouhaha was totally unnecessary and could have been avoided if logical security considerations would have been met.

Here as in many other things the KISS principle should have been adhered to.

I certainly hope that when all this mess is over, the final result will not be the abandonment of a very viable system to penetrate Cuban communications.

It could have been highly successfull if they would have just followed the simple principle of installing satellite modems in foreign embassies and consulates (which would have been perfectly legal) and where the Cuban Ministry of Interior does not have any jurisdiction.

If this mess was the result of some agency's effort to increase its profits, that agency should be disciplined as well as the government official(s) who supervised and authorized the whole imbroglio.

I am shocked that my taxpayer's money was being wasted in this manner and that a successful penetration of Cuban communications has been delayed through sloppy implementation and sheer ineptitude!

Pantaleon Paticruzado

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr.Peters,

This had to be a leak not a manipulation!

What would the MININT gain from this leaking this conference if the only logical conclusions that can be derived from listening critically to the Cuban Security nerd is that:
1- The Cuban authorities have absolutely no way to stop satellite internet connections from entering the country.
2- If this program would have been implemented intelligently a great number of Cuban computer owners with wi fi connection would have been connected to the Internet long ago.

The video was probably a training material for persons working on internet censorship and was probably copied in a flash drive and smuggled out by someone with access to computers.

It was probably leaked by a graduate from the school of computer sciences who has been trained to carry out internet censorhip or to use the internet for propaganda purposes and who is a secret sympathizer of freedom of information.

The guy had sufficient insight to know that the propaganda the security nerd was dishing out was hiding the evident fact that the MININT could not stop the method from being set up and that once set up it could be tremendously effective.

Higher education develops critical thought and, in furthering it, all totalitarian systems seeking talented and educated defendants inevitably develop its own secret opponents.

Once developed critical thought inevitably is used to analyse social conditions and turns against totalitarism.

The implicit message of the whole video is: "Go ahead the Cuban government has no way of stopping it!"

In truth, if someone would not have screwed up and sent Alan Gross to the abbatoir this promising program could already be active in Cuba,

Now its implementation has been held up until he is released from imprisonment.

Sooner or later it will be applied but the surprise factor will no longer be with it and the Cuban government has been given a considerable period to try to find adequate countermeasures.

What a wonderful opportunity has been wasted!

Pantaleon Paticruzado

Anonymous said...

It is delightful and enlightening to see so many cyberrevolutionists. Darned, it is so easy. Imagine, all you need is connectivity and add a little bit of water, some sugar, listen to a boleto and coño the whole of Cuba is to have a standard of living like the US [not Detroit, of course]. And with FACEBOOK everywhere then we could have democracy as in Arizona and elections like in Ohio. One twit: free healthcare is gone. Two twits: free education is replaced with vouchers. Three twits, no more feathebedding and real made in the good usa unemployment. I can imagine the Santiago, Cienfuegos and Mayabeque cartels competing with the Zetas.