Researchers – Barrett Brown, Asher Wolf, Justin Ferguson as well as investigators from Darker Net – have been contemporaneously looking into the links between TrapWire, Abraxas, Ntrepid, Cubic Corporation and (more recently) Tartan from different directions, but have come to more or less the same conclusion: that not all these links are about financial ownership, though there is a perceivable web that connects these companies via personal contacts at senior level and an implied sharing of knowledge and expertise. Below is a summary of what is known to date about the linkages that Darker Net has found, as well as two scenarios on how knowledge-sharing between these organisations might work in practice (or otherwise).
2. TrapWire (which runs global surveillance systems using CCTV linked to its database, TrapWire Net) was previously owned by Abraxas Applications (which in turn was owned by Abraxas Corporation but sold off when Cubic Corporation merged with Abraxas)
3. Ntrepid (which runs ‘sock puppet’ fake Twitter accounts to spread disinformation) was assigned to the shareholders of Abraxas Corporation as part of the merger between Cubic Corporation and Abraxas
4. Some of the expertise relating to Anonymizer (a so-called anonymous email system) was migrated to Ntrepid as part of the deal in 2010 when Cubic Corporation took over Abraxas Corporation, though many of the staff working on Anonymizer stayed on with Abraxas
5. Tartan (which specialises in targeting protesters, including Occupy and anarchists) is a subsidiary of Ntrepid
6. Stratfor entered a partner agreement in 2009 with Abraxas Applications (which at the time owned Trapwire) to contribute to TrapWire
7. Cubic Corporation and TrapWire share their senior board directors and officers with Abraxas Dauntless (also owned by Cubic Corporation). The person who appears to link all these companies together is ex-CIA executive, Richard Hollis Helms: here is a Tartan-style mapping of his network.
1. Some of the staff who were involved with Anonymizer prior to the merger between Cubic Corporation and Abraxas Corporation moved to Ntrepid: are they working there on the same Anonymizer, too, or were their skills applied to develop the Tartan programme?
2. A 2010 Tax Return by Cubic Corporation showed that they wholly owned Ntrepid. However it is not clear if that is still the case today, or whether ownership is more obtuse – i.e. via Cubic Corporation shareholders.
3. The functions of Abraxas Dauntless are unclear.
C. Scenario One
Given the personnel links between the companies listed above it is not inconceivable that there is a sharing of knowledge and expertise. Moreover, there may well be informal data sharing between the companies. There have been no denials from any of these companies that this is not true. On this basis, we present the following scenarios:
A group of four political protesters in Oakland, California, are preparing for a demonstration. One of them – call him Bill – reports to the FBI via private surveillance company, Densus. Bill is keen to implicate the rest of the group in an action that could get them arrested: he provides equipment and other materials and keeps his contacts in the FBI in the loop. Individuals in the group have been using Facebook and Twitter and other social networking channels to communicate with each other about the demonstration but are unaware of Bill’s plans. Their postings and messages are captured and fed into a database run by Tartan, which then passes on what has been analysed to TrapWire. Each individual is identified by Tartan as a ‘node’ who forms part of this particular group, which in turn, via individuals within that group, are connected to other groups in Oakland and to groups elsewhere. Two of the individuals with the Oakland group still use a nyms email from Anonymiser and their messages are also captured, then passed on to the Trapwire Net database. CCTV cameras are monitoring their movements and, again, this footage is fed into the TrapWire database, which uses facial recognition technology to confirm who they are. Their transportation movement on the Oakland transit system is also recorded via their Cubic owned smart cards. All this information is then compiled and analysed further before being passed on to the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative, the National Clandestine Service, local Fusion Centre and the FBI (which then updates their mole, Bill, in the Oakland group). On the way to the demonstration, the four individuals (including the FBI agent provocateur) are stopped and in the boot of the vehicle they are travelling in is found incriminating evidence: the four are arrested and charged with conspiracy (though the FBI agent is later released and he disappears into a new identity).
D. Scenario Two
In the same city, another four protesters are getting ready to join the demonstration. One of them is new to the group, but has been ‘vetted’ by the others and they are satisfied he can be trusted. Each member has either refrained from referring to their political interests on Twitter or Facebook or has a dummy account for this purpose. When using computers they use Tor and a VPN to disguise who they are. They do not use phones to communicate their political interests either. On the day of the demonstration they travel to it by taxi, which they have booked via a phone booth. They pay for the taxi ride by cash. On arrival at the demonstration they don masks. They take part in the demonstration but avoid arrest. They return home the same way they came. They were further helped in their avoidance of arrest by the downing of CCTV cameras, hacked by the local Anonymous group.
Note: the above two scenarios could apply to any city in the world where TrapWire and/or Cubic and/or Tartan, or their respective equivalents, and Government surveillance agencies with similar technologies, are in place – New York, London, Sydney, Moscow, etc…
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