Monday, May 24, 2021

GEORGE FLOYD - On Anniversary of His Death

"George Floyd died last year.  Here’s what has changed since thenPBS NewsHour 5/23/2021


SUMMARY:  This week marks one year since George Floyd, an unarmed Black man was killed by then police officer Derek Chauvin, who held his knee on Floyd for nearly nine minutes.  His death, recorded on video by a bystander, sparked widespread protests globally, and reignited the Black Lives Matter movement and conversations around race.  NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro joins to reflect on the past year.


"How piecemeal police reform is setting the stage for national changePBS NewsHour 5/23/2021


SUMMARY:  The death of Ronald Greene, a Black man who died in Louisiana in 2019 after a police chase is under scrutiny after newly released police body camera footage shows he was choked and beaten by troopers -- a starkly different picture from what the police had shared.  Phillip Atiba Goff, co-founder and CEO of the Center for Policing Equity, and professor of African-American studies and psychology at Yale University joins to discuss the issues on renewed calls for police reform.

OPINION - Brooks and Capehart 5/21/2021

"Brooks and Capehart on Israel-Hamas cease-fire, Jan 6 commissionPBS NewsHour 5/21/2021

SUMMARY:  New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart join Amna Nawaz to discuss the week in politics, including cease-fire in the Middle East and the Senate’s chances of establishing a commission to look into the Jan 6 insurrection.

Amna Nawaz (NewsHour):  From the impact of the Mideast cease-fire on U.S. policy, to a potential commission looking into the January 6 Capitol attack, it's a good time for the analysis of Brooks and Capehart.

That's New York Times columnist David Brooks, and Jonathan Capehart, columnist for The Washington Post.

Good to see you both.  Welcome back.  Happy Friday.

David, I want to start with you.

The President was just speaking at the White House, actually, and was asked about this latest cease-fire, asked also if there's been a shift in Democratic Party politics when it comes to the approach in Israel.

This is what he had to say:  "There is no shift in my commitment to the security of Israel, period."

David, what do you make to have the way the President has handled these last 11 days and this cease-fire?

David Brooks, New York Times:  I think he's handled it pretty well.  He's kept the U.S. out of being the center of the story.  He's learned from some of the mistakes we made in 2014, ending that Gaza war.

He was pressured to lean on Bibi and Israel to do the cease-fire or to condemn them publicly.  But, if he does that, then Bibi has to push back.  So it actually delays the cease-fire, just so Bibi can show his independence.  And if he does that, Hamas thinks, oh, Israel — U.S. is leaning on Israel, so Hamas gets more aggressive.

So, this was a case in which being a little passive and doing things in private was much more effective than they would have been to do anything in public.  And so I think the administration was wise, basically, to handle it as they did.

Amna Nawaz:  Jonathan, he was asked that question, though, because there's been growing pressure from within the party, right, from progressives like Bernie Sanders and others, to do more, in the way of standing up for the human rights of Palestinians.

But if you take a quick look at where the country is today, I want to point to some quick numbers we looked up from Gallup.  This is from a February poll, so it's before this latest conflict.  But it does show that 75 percent of Americans do have a favorable opinion of Israel.  That is up in the last 20 years by 10 points.

That same poll, though, when you're looking at the number of people saying who they think the U.S. should put more pressure on, 35 percent now think that the U.S. should put more pressure on Israel.  That number is also up; 44 percent say they should put more pressure on Palestinians.

Are you seeing any of that, Jonathan, show up in the Biden approach?

Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post:  Well, I think — I would love to see what a poll would show today.

I think that the bombing, the Israeli Defense Forces' bombing of that high-rise building in Gaza that also housed international news organizations was a pivot point in all of this, where the private conversations that were happening took on even more urgency, and then forced the President to go even more public in terms of putting pressure on the Israeli government to do something to curb the violence.

But where — when it comes to the Democratic Party and the forces pulling back and forth, I bring up that pivot point, because Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, who is the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is known in Washington as being a stalwart ally, if you will, within the United States Senate, supporter of Israel and Israel's right to defend itself.

After that bombing of that building in Gaza, Senator Menendez put out a statement that caught the White House by surprise and a lot of people by surprise by condemning or raising very serious questions about what Israel had done.

And so I think that made it possible for President Biden to be a little more, how shall we say, forceful in his conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Amna Nawaz:  Well, David, let me ask you more broadly about President Biden's approach, not just on this one issue.

You had a good chunk of time to sit down with him for a fascinating interview.  It's the subject of your latest column that's called "Has Biden Changed?  He Tells Us."

And, in it, you write right at the top:  "What happened to Joe Biden?  Many people thought he was a moderate incrementalist, but now he's promoting whopping big legislative packages that make many on the progressive left extremely happy.  The answer seems to be, it's complicated."

David, tell us about that conversation with him.  How is it complicated?

Jonathan Capehart:  Oh.

Amna Nawaz:  Oh, I believe we have lost the connection with David Brooks.  We will try to get him back in just a moment.

In the meantime, Jonathan, let me bring you back in here.

Jonathan Capehart:  Sure.

Amna Nawaz:  You have certainly read this column.

Jonathan Capehart:  Yes.

Amna Nawaz:  It's a long assessment of where President Biden is and faces this criticism of no longer being a moderate incrementalist many accused him of.

What do you make of it?

Jonathan Capehart:  Well, David's column was terrific, in being able to sit down with the President, particularly this President, who he wears everything on his sleeve.

And I have been on a phone call between the President and opinion writers, including — including David, so I have — I can pretty much imagine how that conversation went.

Look, I think President Biden is sort of the President who — the man who is meeting the moment.  A lot of people wonder whether progressives have pulled the party farther to the left or are pushing the party farther to the left.  And I counter that.

And I think President Biden, by doing what he's doing, it's really that the party is catching up to the country.  You tick off any issue and ask where the American people are — and let's just take raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.  The American people want that done.

The Democratic Party has been pushing for that for a long time.  The President now, the President of the United States, Joe Biden, is pushing for that.

And so the beauty of David's column and what I loved about it is that it takes sort of the policy issues that we're talking about now, whether it's the American Jobs Act — the American Jobs Plan, the Families Plan, the American Rescue Plan, and broadens it out in the way that only — that David famously does to the 35,000-foot level and shows that Joe Biden — it's the last line in the column — Joe Biden hasn't changed.  It's just that he's gone bigger.

The price tags on these things that he's pushing have gone bigger than what he pushed for when he was in the Senate for 36 years.  The policies that he championed when he was Vice President, with President O — yes, with President Obama.

So, I don't know if it's right to call President Biden incrementalist.  I think he is incrementalist when it suits his purposes to get something done right away.

But I think, if you look at everything that he's trying to do, he's going big.  And he's going big because the problems facing the country are large, but, also, he views it to the international prism, which I think David puts in his column, because of his time on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that the problems that America is facing, they are impacting not just America at home, but America's standing abroad.

Amna Nawaz:  For anyone wondering why David Brooks isn't weighing in on his own column, we just lost the connection with him.  We are trying to bring him back into the conversation.  And we will do so as soon as that connection is reestablished.

But, Jonathan, while I have you, I also wanted to talk about this vote on the potential commission to look into the January 6 Capitol attack.  There was a proposal that came before the House.  They voted on it.  It passed there; 35 Republicans, 35 Republicans joined Democrats to back that commission.

Did that number surprise you?

Jonathan Capehart:  Well, Amna, here's the thing that surprised me.

It's — what surprises me is that it was only 35.  Leave aside the politics of everything of why it was just 35.  This — the January 6 commission should not be a partisan issue.  This should be a patriotism issue.

What happened on that day was horrifying, people trying to rush the Capitol, invading the Capitol, while the United States Congress was certifying a free and fair and legitimate, a small-D democratic election, certifying the election, and making it official that Joe Biden would be the president of the United States.

Those people tried to stop that.  The people who voted against the commission, the other Republicans who voted against the commission, they were there that day.  How they could not vote to approve a commission that would look into what happened, so that we find out what happened, but also so that we can learn things that we could do to ensure that it doesn't happen again, the fact that they voted — only 35 Republicans have voted for it, I think, is a shame.

Amna Nawaz:  I need to ask you as well, Jonathan, because this is right now with the Senate.  Ten Republicans there would need to back it for that commission to move forward.  Do you see that happening?

Jonathan Capehart:  I'm really having a hard time seeing that happening.

I mean, if memory serves, seven Republicans voted with the Democrats to vote to come to convict then-President — well, at that point, he was former President Trump, during impeachment.  I don't see where the other three votes to get to 10 come from.  That's assuming that those seven vote for the commission.

Amna Nawaz:  Jonathan Capehart joining us tonight.

I apologize to David Brooks.  Tonight's Brooks and Capehart is mostly just Capehart.


Amna Nawaz:  But, Jonathan, it's always good to talk to you.  Thanks for being here.

Jonathan Capehart:  Great to see you too.  Thanks.


"The bigger battle at stake in the Apple and Epic Games showdownPBS NewsHour 5/21/2021


SUMMARY:  The high stakes court battle between Apple and Epic Games, the maker of the globally popular video game Fortnite, is nearly over.  Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stand Friday to defend the company's app store against monopolization charges.  Lisa Desjardins and Reuters reporter Stephen Nellis dive into the antitrust trial that could have big implications for Apple, other smartphones and apps.

VIEW FROM SOUTH KOREA - Denuclearizing North Korea

"South Korea’s foreign minister on US role in denuclearizing North KoreaPBS NewsHour 5/20/2021


SUMMARY:  President Joe Biden is expected to meet Friday with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in.  The two leaders are at very different points of their terms.  Biden newly-elected, and Moon in his final year.  They are expected to discuss progress on North Korea, and discuss tense U.S.- China relations.  Amna Nawaz gets the details from South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong.

IMMIGRANTS - US Immigrant Workers

"The US has a ‘thirst’ for immigrant workers.  Why do so many struggle to get legal status?PBS NewsHour 5/20/2021


SUMMARY:  President Joe Biden has said that changing immigration law remains an important piece of his agenda.  But the path to new legislation is complex and hardly clear.  One of the biggest flashpoints in this debate are questions about undocumented workers and their role in the economy.  Paul Solman dives into those questions for his latest report for "Making $ense."

CAPITOL INSURRECTION - Looming Over Congress

"How the shadow of the Jan. 6 riot still looms large over CongressPBS NewsHour 5/19/2021


SUMMARY:  The U.S. House on Wednesday moved to form a commission to examine the January 6 attack on the Capitol.  The violent pro-Trump riot resulted in widespread injury, deaths, and damage to the building itself.  Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins was in the building that day, and has been reporting on how its shadow looms large over the Capitol.  She joins Amna Nawaz to discuss the latest.

RACE MATTERS - Dark-Skinned Immigrants

"How colorism haunts dark-skinned immigrant communitiesPBS NewsHour 5/19/2021


SUMMARY:  The death of George Floyd last year has shone a spotlight on what it means to be Black, and especially, to be dark-skinned in America.  Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro has our report from Minnesota, home to a growing population of African and other immigrants.  It is part of our continuing series "Race Matters", and Fred’s series, "Agents for Change."

RACIST HISTORY - The American Medical Association

"Examining the American Medical Association’s racist history and its overdue reckoningPBS NewsHour 5/18/2021


SUMMARY:  The national calls to action over racial justice have brought new awareness of past injustices in many parts of our society, including the fields of science and medicine.  Yamiche Alcindor speaks to Dr. Aletha Maybank the American Medical Association's chief health equity officer, about the organization's racist history, how it plans to reckon with it, and the intersection of race and medicine.

NATIVE AMERICANS - America's National Parks

IMHO:  Answer is YES!

"Should Native Americans control national parks?  Examining an argument for reparationsPBS NewsHour 5/17/2021


SUMMARY: Trekking to and through a national park is one of the joys of an American summer.  As COVID restrictions lift, millions are expected to explore the great outdoors.  Now, a provocative article examines the deeper history of how these parks came to be — and their complicated legacy.  Stephanie Sy reports.

AMERICA AT STAKE - Slow March to theocracy

Theocracy, Noun (countable and uncountable, plural theocracies)
Government under the control of a state-sponsored religion.
Like using State law to force others to follow a religious belief like 'human life begins at conception.'

"Is the Supreme Court looking to overturn Roe v Wade?  Here’s what one expert thinksPBS NewsHour 5/17/2021


SUMMARY:  The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear arguments in a major abortion case that could roll back limits on abortion laws cemented by the landmark reproductive rights case Roe v Wade.  In its term beginning October, the court will consider a Mississippi state law banning abortions after 15 weeks.  John Yang discusses the matter with Mary Zieglar from Florida State University College of Law.

COVID-19 - Last Week

"An emergency room physician weighs in on CDC’s relaxed masking, distancing guidelinesPBS NewsHour 5/17/2021


SUMMARY:  Ever since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased mask recommendations substantially for fully vaccinated adults, there's been a wide range of reaction — including some outright confusion, anxiety and criticism — over how this will play out.  William Brangham reports on those concerns and brings some perspective from emergency room physician Dr. Megan Ranney.



"How the pandemic disrupted the lives of American studentsPBS NewsHour 5/17/2021


SUMMARY:  It's been an incredibly difficult school year for millions of educators and students in America.  Some had to put their education on hold and their health at risk.  “Disrupted: How COVID-19 Changed Education” [video link] is a special from Student Reporting Labs — our youth journalism program for teens.  Student reporter Yeonseo Seok from Westview High School in San Diego, California, previews the special.



"‘Vaccine passports’ may be critical for equity, but polarization could undermine effortsPBS NewsHour 5/17/2021


SUMMARY:  Despite good progress on vaccinations in the U.S., the Biden administration and most officials are weary of requiring "vaccine passports" to prove inoculation.  William Brangham discusses the related concerns with Dr. Georges Benjamin the executive director of the American Public Health Association, and Lawrence Gostin a professor of global health law at Georgetown University Law Center.



"4 ways the US can help stem COVID deaths globallyPBS NewsHour 5/21/2021


SUMMARY:  While the pandemic's toll is easing in the U.S., COVID-19 still has a deadly grip on many other countries.  The estimated global death toll remains around 13,000 people a day, and the World Health Organization's new estimates are far higher.  William Brangham discusses them with Dr. Monica Gandhi an infectious diseases and global medicine specialist at the University of California, San Francisco.



"In memory of 5 wonderful people lost to COVID-19 in the USPBS NewsHour 5/17/2021


SUMMARY:  Each week, PBS NewsHour pauses to remember five Americans lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, and shares memories and highlights from their lives.


PERSONAL COMMENT: As I said in the past, the Never Ending War between Israel and Palestinians will never end UNTIL the Palestinian People tell their governments to stop AND the People of Israel tell their government to stop.  No one outside, no outside government, can really do anything.  Although outside governments can make things worst.

"Families faced with death, destruction amid Israeli-Hamas conflict in GazaPBS NewsHour 5/17/2021


SUMMARY:  The battle between the Israeli military and Hamas militants has now entered a second week, as calls mount for an immediate cease-fire.  So far, the violence has killed more than 200 Palestinians in Gaza, and another 10 people in Israel.  That comes as the United Nations estimates more than 38,000 Palestinians have been forced to flee the airstrikes.  Stephanie Sy reports.



"Palestinians strike to protest Israeli military action in Gaza, but no cease-fire in sightPBS NewsHour 5/18/2021


SUMMARY:  John Yang reports on the ongoing crisis in the Middle East as calls for a ceasefire are ignored and destruction spreads as Palestinian rocket fire and Israeli artillery attacks continue on day nine with no let-up in sight.



"Egypt indicates a truce agreement between Israeli and Hamas forcesPBS NewsHour 5/19/2021


SUMMARY:  Israel and Hamas forces in Gaza may be edging closer to a cease-fire after 10 days of open war.  Egyptian mediators say there's a truce agreement, in principle.  A top Hamas official said he expects fighting to stop in a day or two.  Pressure to end the conflict built today, with 227 Gazans and 12 Israelis killed so far.  John Yang reports.



"Can Biden walk the line between support for both Israel and Palestine?PBS NewsHour 5/19/2021


SUMMARY:  For decades, the U.S. has supported Israel, backing up its defense policy and supplying tens of billions of dollars in aid and weapons.  Now, some within the Democratic party are questioning that support, and challenging President Biden's handling of the Gaza conflict.  John Yang speaks to Daniel Brumberg, director of democracy and governance studies at Georgetown University about the matter.



"A look at the US role and reaction to cease-fire in the Middle EastPBS NewsHour 5/20/2021


SUMMARY:  A cease-fire is at hand in the war between Israel and Hamas.  Word of the truce came Thursday from Israel, and Hamas quickly agreed.  If it holds, it would end 11 days of fierce fighting that killed at least 230 Palestinians and 12 Israelis, and wrecked Gazan cities.  John Yang begins the report, and Yamiche Alcindor joins Amna Nawaz to discuss the Biden administration's role and reaction.



"A look at the humanitarian crisis wrought by Israel-Hamas warPBS NewsHour 5/20/2021


Correction:  In this segment, we referred to Refaat Alareer as “Refaat Aljareer” on first mention.  We also mistakenly referred to Diana Mushtaha as attending the University of Houston, instead of the University of Texas.  NewsHour regrets the errors.

SUMMARY:  John Yang reports on life on the ground for Palestinians and Israelis caught in the crossfire of war, and how US pressure on the region’s leaders has affected civilians, and Middle Eastern immigrant communities in the US.



"Both Israel and Hamas claim victory after truce, bringing prospect of peace into questionPBS NewsHour 5/21/2021


SUMMARY:  The shooting has stopped, but the war of words goes on as Israel and Hamas offered sharply different appraisals Friday of who won and who lost their fourth conflict in just over a dozen years.  John Yang reports on day one of the ceasefire.



"The fragile ceasefire between Israeli forces and Hamas seems to be holdingPBS NewsHour 5/22/2021


SUMMARY:  The cease-fire between Israeli forces and Hamas held for a second day.  Meanwhile, Gazans returned to their homes to survey the damage as UN humanitarian relief officials said rebuilding health facilities was a high priority because of the coronavirus pandemic.  NPR correspondent Daniel Estrin joins to discuss.

U.S. NAVY - Fleet Exercises

"Biggest Navy Exercise in a Generation Will Include 25,000 Personnel Across 17 Time Zones" by Gina Harkins, 5/21/2021

Tens of thousands of sailors and Marines will participate in the biggest U.S. naval exercise in a generation to test how the services will fight across vast distances as they prepare for possible conflict with China or Russia.

Aircraft carriers, submarines, planes, unmanned vessels, and about 25,000 personnel will participate in Large Scale Exercise 2021 [LSE], which will begin in late summer.  The massive exercise will span 17 time zones with sailors and Marines in the U.S., Africa, Europe and the Pacific joining.

Live forces will participate in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

"LSE is more than just training, it is leveraging the integrated fighting power of multiple naval forces to share sensors, weapons, and platforms across all domains in contested environments, globally," said Adm. Christopher Grady, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces, told in an email.

The exercise, he added, will be the first in a series "that will continue to push the envelope of what it means to be the superior maritime force."

The Navy and Marine Corps are working more closely after decades of missions focused on the Middle East.  As competition for influence builds with China and Russia, the Department of the Navy is shifting its focus from a largely land-based fight against terror groups to deterring aggression.

Three dozen units will participate in physical portions of the large-scale exercise, while more than 50 will join the exercise remotely, said Lt. Cmdr. Tabitha Klingensmith, with U.S. Fleet Forces Command.  Participating units will include personnel from all three Marine expeditionary forces and sailors from the Navy's Second, Third, Sixth, Seventh and Tenth fleets.

While the U.S. has held big naval exercises like Bold Alligator and Rim of the Pacific, Klingensmith said the training events are growing in scope and complexity.  Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday has referred to the upcoming large-scale exercise as the biggest naval training event in a generation.

That's because combining live and virtual participants "will expand the playing field beyond what has ever been achieved in live-only exercises," Klingensmith said.

"LSE 2021 will use technologies similar to what you see in virtual video gaming environments to expand the number of participants by linking commands and units around the globe virtually, thereby increasing the number of players, real and synthetic, to better replicate the realistic scale of scenarios the Navy and Marine Corps team is likely to face in the future," she added.

The sailors and Marines participating will test several concepts they're likely to encounter in a possible conflict with China.  Scenarios will test the sailors and Marines' ability to conduct distributed operations; expeditionary advanced-base operations; littoral operations in a contested environment; and command and control in a contested environment.

"We've been applying warfighting concepts like Distributed Maritime Operations ...  to fleet battle problems at the strike group level to rapidly advance organizational learning," Grady said.  "LSE 2021 is important because we will apply those lessons learned at-scale to further our employment of synchronized, integrated operations across all domains globally, to ensure we remain the superior maritime force in a high-end fight."

The Navy and Marine Corps are finalizing details on the exercise, but Klingensmith said they plan to incorporate at least one unmanned platform -- the Autonomous Littoral Connector, a surface vessel that can provide logistics support from shore to ship.

That's traditionally a Navy mission, she said, but during the exercise it'll be under the command and control of the Marine Corps.  The 2021 updates to Commandant Gen. David Berger's Force Design Plans for the Marine Corps call for that service to -- in partnership with the Navy -- explore developing "littoral maneuver groups" to operate the future light amphibious warship.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the number of time zones involved in the exercise.

HELD FOR RANSOM - Colonial Pipeline and U.S. Infrastructure

"The Colonial Pipeline Ransomware Hackers Had a Secret Weapon: Self-Promoting Cybersecurity Firms" by Renee Dudley and Daniel Golden, ProPublica 5/24/2021

This story was co-published with MIT Technology Review.

On Jan 11, antivirus company Bitdefender said it was “happy to announce” a startling breakthrough.  It had found a flaw in the ransomware that a gang known as DarkSide was using to freeze computer networks of dozens of businesses in the U.S. and Europe.  Companies facing demands from DarkSide could download a free tool from Bitdefender and avoid paying millions of dollars in ransom to the hackers.

But Bitdefender wasn’t the first to identify this flaw.  Two other researchers, Fabian Wosar and Michael Gillespie, had noticed it the month before and had begun discreetly looking for victims to help.  By publicizing its tool, Bitdefender alerted DarkSide to the lapse, which involved reusing the same digital keys to lock and unlock multiple victims.  The next day, DarkSide declared that it had repaired the problem, and that “new companies have nothing to hope for.”

“Special thanks to BitDefender for helping fix our issues,” DarkSide said.  “This will make us even better.”

DarkSide soon proved it wasn’t bluffing, unleashing a string of attacks.  This month, it paralyzed the Colonial Pipeline Co., prompting a shutdown of the 5,500 mile pipeline that carries 45% of the fuel used on the East Coast, quickly followed by a rise in gasoline prices, panic buying of gas across the Southeast and closures of thousands of gas stations.  Absent Bitdefender’s announcement, it’s possible that the crisis might have been contained, and that Colonial might have quietly restored its system with Wosar and Gillespie’s decryption tool.

Instead, Colonial paid DarkSide $4.4 million in Bitcoin for a key to unlock its files.  “I will admit that I wasn’t comfortable seeing money go out the door to people like this,” CEO Joseph Blount told The Wall Street Journal.

The missed opportunity was part of a broader pattern of botched or half-hearted responses to the growing menace of ransomware, which during the pandemic has disabled businesses, schools, hospitals and government agencies across the country.  The incident also shows how antivirus companies eager to make a name for themselves sometimes violate one of the cardinal rules of the cat-and-mouse game of cyber-warfare: Don’t let your opponents know what you’ve figured out.  During World War II, when the British secret service learned from decrypted communications that the Gestapo was planning to abduct and murder a valuable double agent, Johnny Jebsen, his handler wasn’t allowed to warn him for fear of cluing in the enemy that its cipher had been cracked.  Today, ransomware hunters like Wosar and Gillespie try to prolong the attackers’ ignorance, even at the cost of contacting fewer victims.  Sooner or later, as payments drop off, the cybercriminals realize that something has gone wrong.

Whether to tout a decryption tool is a “calculated decision,” said Rob McLeod, senior director of the threat response unit for cybersecurity firm eSentire.  From the marketing perspective, “You are singing that song from the rooftops about how you have come up with a security solution that will decrypt a victim’s data.  And then the security researcher angle says, ‘Don’t disclose any information here.  Keep the ransomware bugs that we’ve found that allow us to decode the data secret, so as not to notify the threat actors.’”

Wosar said that publicly releasing tools, as Bitdefender did, has become riskier as ransoms have soared and the gangs have grown wealthier and more technically adept.  In the early days of ransomware, when hackers froze home computers for a few hundred dollars, they often couldn’t determine how their code was broken unless the flaw was specifically pointed out to them.

Today, the creators of ransomware “have access to reverse engineers and penetration testers who are very very capable,” he said.  “That’s how they gain entrance to these oftentimes highly secured networks in the first place.  They download the decryptor, they disassemble it, they reverse engineer it and they figure out exactly why we were able to decrypt their files.  And 24 hours later, the whole thing is fixed.  Bitdefender should have known better.”

It wasn’t the first time that Bitdefender trumpeted a solution that Wosar or Gillespie had beaten it to.  Gillespie had broken the code of a ransomware strain called GoGoogle and was helping victims without any fanfare, when Bitdefender released a decryption tool in May 2020.  Other companies have also announced breakthroughs publicly, Wosar and Gillespie said.

“People are desperate for a news mention, and big security companies don’t care about victims,” Wosar said.

Bogdan Botezatu, director of threat research at Bucharest, Romania-based Bitdefender, said the company wasn’t aware of the earlier success in unlocking files infected by DarkSide.  Regardless, he said, Bitdefender decided to publish its tool “because most victims who fall for ransomware do not have the right connection with ransomware support groups and won’t know where to ask for help unless they can learn about the existence of tools from media reports or with a simple search.”

Bitdefender has provided free technical support to more than a dozen DarkSide victims, and “we believe many others have successfully used the tool without our intervention,” Botezatu said.  Over the years, Bitdefender has helped individuals and businesses avoid paying more than $100 million in ransom, he said.

Bitdefender recognized that DarkSide might correct the flaw, Botezatu said.  “We are well aware that attackers are agile and adapt to our decryptors.”  But DarkSide might have “spotted the issue” anyway.  “We don’t believe in ransomware decryptors made silently available.  Attackers will learn about their existence by impersonating home users or companies in need, while the vast majority of victims will have no idea that they can get their data back for free.”

The attack on Colonial Pipeline, and the ensuing chaos at the gas pumps throughout the Southeast, appears to have spurred the federal government to be more vigilant.  President Joe Biden issued an executive order to improve cybersecurity and create a blueprint for a federal response to cyberattacks.  DarkSide said it was shutting down under U.S. pressure, although ransomware crews have often disbanded to avoid scrutiny and then re-formed under new names, or their members have launched or joined other groups.

“As sophisticated as they are, these guys will pop up again, and they’ll be that much smarter,” said Aaron Tantleff, a Chicago cybersecurity attorney who has consulted with 10 companies attacked by DarkSide.  “They’ll come back with a vengeance.”

At least until now, private researchers and companies have often been more effective than the government in fighting ransomware.  Last October, Microsoft disrupted the infrastructure of Trickbot, a network of more than 1 million infected computers that disseminated the notorious Ryuk strain of ransomware, by disabling its servers and communications.  That month, ProtonMail, the Swiss-based email service, shut down 20,000 Ryuk-related accounts.

Wosar and Gillespie, who belong to a worldwide volunteer group called the Ransomware Hunting Team, have cracked more than 300 major ransomware strains and variants, saving an estimated 4 million victims from paying billions of dollars.

By contrast, the FBI rarely decrypts ransomware or arrests the attackers, who are typically based in countries like Russia or Iran that lack extradition agreements with the U.S.  DarkSide, for instance, is believed to operate out of Russia.  Far more victims seek help from the Hunting Team, through websites maintained by its members, than from the FBI.

The U.S. Secret Service also investigates ransomware, which falls under its purview of combating financial crimes.  But, especially in election years, it sometimes rotates agents off cyber assignments to carry out its better-known mission of protecting Presidents, Vice Presidents, major party candidates and their families.  European law enforcement, especially the Dutch National Police, has been more successful than the U.S. in arresting attackers and seizing servers.

Similarly, the U.S. government has made only modest headway in pushing private industry, including pipeline companies, to strengthen cybersecurity defenses.  Cybersecurity oversight is divided among an alphabet soup of agencies, hampering coordination.  The Department of Homeland Security conducts “vulnerability assessments” for critical infrastructure, which includes pipelines.

It reviewed Colonial Pipeline in around 2013 as part of a study of places where a cyberattack might cause a catastrophe.  The pipeline was deemed resilient, meaning that it could recover quickly, according to a former DHS official.  The department did not respond to questions about any subsequent reviews.

Five years later, DHS created a pipeline cybersecurity initiative to identify weaknesses in pipeline computer systems and recommend strategies to address them.  Participation is voluntary, and a person familiar with the initiative said that it is more useful for smaller companies with limited in-house IT expertise than for big ones like Colonial.  The National Risk Management Center, which oversees the initiative, also grapples with other thorny issues such as election security.

Ransomware has skyrocketed since 2012, when the advent of Bitcoin made it hard to track or block payments.  The criminals’ tactics have evolved from indiscriminate “spray and pray” campaigns seeking a few hundred dollars apiece to targeting specific businesses, government agencies and nonprofit groups with multimillion-dollar demands.

Attacks on energy businesses in particular have increased during the pandemic — not just in the U.S. but in Canada, Latin America and Europe.  As the companies allowed employees to work from home, they relaxed some security controls, McLeod said.

Since 2019, numerous gangs have ratcheted up pressure with a technique known as “double extortion.”  Upon entering a system, they steal sensitive data before launching ransomware that encodes the files and makes it impossible for hospitals, universities and cities to do their daily work.  If the loss of computer access is not sufficiently intimidating, they threaten to reveal confidential information, often posting samples as leverage.  For instance, when the Washington, D.C., police department didn’t pay the $4 million ransom demanded by a gang called Babuk last month, Babuk published intelligence briefings, names of criminal suspects and witnesses, and personnel files, from medical information to polygraph test results, of officers and job candidates.

DarkSide, which emerged last August, epitomized this new breed.  It chose targets based on a careful financial analysis or information gleaned from corporate emails.  For instance, it attacked one of Tantleff’s clients during a week when the hackers knew the company would be vulnerable because it was transitioning its files to the cloud and didn’t have clean backups.

To infiltrate target networks, the gang used advanced methods such as “zero-day exploits” that immediately take advantage of software vulnerabilities before they can be patched.  Once inside, it moved swiftly, looking not only for sensitive data but also for the victim’s cyber insurance policy, so it could peg its demands to the amount of coverage.  After two to three days of poking around, DarkSide encrypted the files.

“They have a faster attack window,” said Christopher Ballod, associate managing director for cyber risk at Kroll, the business investigations firm, who has advised half a dozen DarkSide victims.  “The longer you dwell in the system, the more likely you are to be caught.”

Typically, DarkSide’s demands were “on the high end of the scale,” $5 million and up, Ballod said.  One scary tactic: If publicly traded companies didn’t pay the ransom, DarkSide threatened to share information stolen from them with short-sellers who would profit if the share price dropped upon publication.

DarkSide’s site on the dark web identified dozens of victims and described the confidential data it claimed to have filched from them.  One was New Orleans law firm Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann.  “A big annoyance is what it was,” attorney Phil Wittmann said, referring to the DarkSide attack in February.  “We paid them nothing,” said Michael Walshe Jr., chair of the firm’s management committee, declining to comment further.

Last November, DarkSide adopted what is known as a “ransomware-as-a-service” model.  Under this model, it partnered with affiliates who launched the attacks.  The affiliates received 75% to 90% of the ransom, with DarkSide keeping the remainder.  As this partnership suggests, the ransomware ecosystem is a distorted mirror of corporate culture, with everything from job interviews to procedures for handling disputes.  After DarkSide shut down, several people who identified themselves as its affiliates complained on a dispute resolution forum that it had stiffed them.  “The target paid, but I did not receive my share,” one wrote.

Together, DarkSide and its affiliates reportedly grossed at least $90 million.  Seven of Tantleff’s clients, including two companies in the energy industry, paid ransoms ranging from $1.25 million to $6 million, reflecting negotiated discounts from initial demands of $7.5 million to $30 million.  His other three clients hit by DarkSide did not pay.  In one of those cases, the hackers demanded $50 million.  Negotiations grew acrimonious, and the two sides couldn’t agree on a price.

DarkSide’s representatives were shrewd bargainers, Tantleff said.  If a victim said it couldn’t afford the ransom because of the pandemic, DarkSide was ready with data showing that the company’s revenue was up, or that COVID-19’s impact was factored into the price.

DarkSide’s grasp of geopolitics was less advanced than its approach to ransomware.  Around the same time that it adopted the affiliate model, it posted that it was planning to safeguard information stolen from victims by storing it in servers in Iran.  DarkSide apparently didn’t realize that an Iranian connection would complicate its collection of ransoms from victims in the U.S., which has economic sanctions restricting financial transactions with Iran.  Although DarkSide later walked back this statement, saying that it had only considered Iran as a possible location, numerous cyber insurers had concerns about covering payments to the group.  Coveware, a Connecticut firm that negotiates with attackers on behalf of victims, stopped dealing with DarkSide.

Ballod said that, with their insurers unwilling to reimburse the ransom, none of his clients paid DarkSide, despite concerns about exposure of their data.  Even if they had caved in to DarkSide, and received assurances from the hackers in return that the data would be shredded, the information might still leak, he said.

During DarkSide’s changeover to the affiliate model, a flaw was introduced into its ransomware.  The vulnerability caught the attention of members of the Ransomware Hunting Team.  Established in 2016, the invitation-only team consists of about a dozen volunteers in the U.S., Spain, Italy, Germany, Hungary and the U.K.  They work in cybersecurity or related fields.  In their spare time, they collaborate in finding and decrypting new ransomware strains.

Several members, including Wosar, have little formal education but an aptitude for coding.  A high school dropout, Wosar grew up in a working-class family near the German port city of Rostock.  In 1992, at the age of 8, he saw a computer for the first time and was entranced.  By 16, he was developing his own antivirus software and making money from it.  Now 37, he has worked for antivirus firm Emsisoft since its inception almost two decades ago and is its chief technology officer.  He moved to the U.K. from Germany in 2018 and lives near London.

He has been battling ransomware hackers since 2012, when he cracked a strain called ACCDFISA, which stood for “Anti Cyber Crime Department of Federal Internet Security Agency.”  This fictional agency was notifying people that child pornography had infected their computers, and so it was blocking access to their files unless they paid $100 to remove the virus.

The ACCDFISA hacker eventually noticed that the strain had been decrypted and released a revised version.  Many of Wosar’s subsequent triumphs were also fleeting.  He and his teammates tried to keep criminals blissfully unaware for as long as possible that their strain was vulnerable.  They left cryptic messages on forums inviting victims to contact them for assistance or sent direct messages to people who posted that they had been attacked.

In the course of protecting against computer intrusions, analysts at antivirus firms sometimes detected ransomware flaws and built decryption tools, though it wasn’t their main focus.  Sometimes they collided with Wosar.

In 2014, Wosar discovered that a ransomware strain called CryptoDefense copied and pasted from Microsoft Windows some of the code it used to lock and unlock files, not realizing that the same code was preserved in a folder on the victim’s own computer.  It was missing the signal, or “flag,” in their program, usually included by ransomware creators to instruct Windows not to save a copy of the key.

Wosar quickly developed a decryption tool to retrieve the key.  “We faced an interesting conundrum,” Sarah White, another Hunting Team member, wrote on Emsisoft’s blog.  “How to get our tool out to the most victims possible without alerting the malware developer of his mistake?”

Wosar discreetly sought out CryptoDefense victims through support forums, volunteer networks and announcements of where to contact for help.  He avoided describing how the tool worked or the blunder it exploited.  When victims came forward, he supplied the fix, scrubbing the ransomware from at least 350 computers.  CryptoDefense eventually “caught on to us ... but he still did not have access to the decrypter we used and had no idea how we were unlocking his victims’ files,” White wrote.

But then an antivirus company, Symantec, uncovered the same problem and bragged about the discovery on a blog post that “contained enough information to help the CryptoDefense developer find and correct the flaw,” White wrote.  Within 24 hours the attackers began spreading a revised version.  They changed its name to CryptoWall and made $325 million.

Symantec “chose quick publicity over helping CryptoDefense victims recover their files,” White wrote.  “Sometimes there are things that are better left unsaid.”

A spokeswoman for Broadcom, which acquired Symantec’s enterprise security business in 2019, declined to comment, saying that “the team members who worked on the tool are no longer with the company.”

Like Wosar, the 29-year-old Gillespie comes from poverty and never went to college.  When he was growing up in central Illinois, his family struggled so much financially that they sometimes had to move in with friends or relatives.  After high school, he worked full time for 10 years at a computer repair chain called Nerds on Call.  Last year, he became a malware and cybersecurity researcher at Coveware.

Last December, he messaged Wosar for help.  Gillespie had been working with a DarkSide victim who had paid a ransom and received a tool to recover the data.  But DarkSide’s decryptor had a reputation for being slow, and the victim hoped that Gillespie could speed up the process.

Gillespie analyzed the software, which contained a key to release the files.  He wanted to extract the key, but because it was stored in an unusually complex way, he couldn’t.  He turned to Wosar, who was able to isolate it.

The teammates then began testing the key on other files infected by DarkSide.  Gillespie checked files uploaded by victims to the website he operates, ID Ransomware, while Wosar used VirusTotal, an online database of suspected malware.

That night, they shared a discovery.

“I have confirmation DarkSide is re-using their RSA keys,” Gillespie wrote to the Hunting Team on its Slack channel.  A type of cryptography, RSA generates two keys: a public key to encode data and a private key to decipher it.  RSA is used legitimately to safeguard many aspects of e-commerce, such as protecting credit numbers.  But it’s also been co-opted by ransomware hackers.

“I noticed the same as I was able to decrypt newly encrypted files using their decrypter,” Wosar replied less than an hour later, at 2:45 a.m. London time.

Their analysis showed that, before adopting the affiliate model, DarkSide had used a different public and private key for each victim.  Wosar suspected that, during this transition, DarkSide introduced a mistake into its affiliate portal used to generate the ransomware for each target.  Wosar and Gillespie could now use the key that Wosar had extracted to retrieve files from Windows machines seized by DarkSide.  The cryptographic blunder didn’t affect Linux operating systems.

“We were scratching our heads,” Wosar said.  “Could they really have fucked up this badly? DarkSide was one of the more professional ransomware-as-a-service schemes out there.  For them to make such a huge mistake is very, very rare.”

The Hunting Team celebrated quietly, without seeking publicity.  White, who is a computer science student at Royal Holloway, part of the University of London, began looking for DarkSide victims.  She contacted firms that handle digital forensics and incident response.

“We told them, ‘Hey listen, if you have any DarkSide victims, tell them to reach out to us, we can help them.  We can recover their files and they don’t have to pay a huge ransom,’” Wosar said.

The DarkSide hackers mostly took the Christmas season off.  Gillespie and Wosar expected that, when the attacks resumed in the new year, their discovery would help dozens of victims.  But then Bitdefender published its post, under the headline “Darkside Ransomware Decryption Tool.”

In a messaging channel with the ransomware response community, someone asked why Bitdefender would tip off the hackers.  “Publicity,” White responded.  “Looks good.  I can guarantee they’ll fix it much faster now though.”

She was right.  The next day, DarkSide acknowledged the error that Wosar and Gillespie had found before Bitdefender.  “Due to the problem with key generation, some companies have the same keys,” the hackers wrote, adding that up to 40% of keys were affected.

DarkSide mocked Bitdefender for releasing the decryptor at “the wrong time…., as the activity of us and our partners during the New Year holidays is the lowest.”

Adding to the team’s frustrations, Wosar discovered that the Bitdefender tool had its own drawbacks.  Using the company’s decryptor, he tried to unlock samples infected by DarkSide and found that they were damaged in the process.  “They actually implemented the decryption wrong,” Wosar said.  “That means if victims did use the Bitdefender tool, there’s a good chance that they damaged the data.”

Asked about Wosar’s criticism, Botezatu said that data recovery is difficult, and that Bitdefender has “taken all precautions to make sure that we’re not compromising user data” including exhaustive testing and “code that evaluates whether the resulting decrypted file is valid.”

Even without Bitdefender, DarkSide might have soon realized its mistake anyway, Wosar and Gillespie said.  For example, as they sifted through compromised networks, the hackers might have come across emails in which victims helped by the Hunting Team discussed the flaw.

“They might figure it out that way — that is always a possibility,” Wosar said.  “But it’s especially painful if a vulnerability is being burned through something stupid like this.”

The incident led the Hunting Team to coin a term for the premature exposure of a weakness in a ransomware strain.  “Internally, we often joke, ‘Yeah, they are probably going to pull a Bitdefender,’” Wosar said.

Monday, May 17, 2021

U.S. MILITARY - Space Force Whistle Blower Fired

IMHO Matthew Lohmeier should be rewarded for exposing a truth, especially in the recent exposure of active military participating in the Capitol Insurrection.  Truth should never be sacrificed for image, that's a Trump idea.

"Space Force CO Who Got Holiday Call from Trump Fired Over Comments Decrying Marxism in the Military" by Oriana Pawlyk, 5/15/2021

A commander of a U.S. Space Force unit tasked with detecting ballistic missile launches has been fired for comments made during a podcast promoting his new book, which claims Marxist ideologies are becoming prevalent in the United States military.  A commander of a U.S. Space Force unit tasked with detecting ballistic missile launches has been fired for comments made during a podcast promoting his new book, which claims Marxist ideologies are becoming prevalent in the United States military.

Lt. Col. Matthew Lohmeier, commander of 11th Space Warning Squadron at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, was relieved from his post Friday by Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting, the head of Space Operations Command, over a loss of confidence in his ability to lead, has exclusively learned.

"This decision was based on public comments made by Lt. Col. Lohmeier in a recent podcast," a Space Force spokesperson said in an email.  "Lt. Gen. Whiting has initiated a Command Directed Investigation on whether these comments constituted prohibited partisan political activity."

Lohmeier's temporary assignment in the wake of his removal was not immediately clear.

Earlier this month, Lohmeier, a former instructor and fighter pilot who transferred into the Space Force, self-published a book titled "Irresistible Revolution: Marxism's Goal of Conquest & the Unmaking of the American Military."

"Irresistible Revolution is a timely and bold contribution from an active-duty Space Force lieutenant colonel who sees the impact of a neo-Marxist agenda at the ground level within our armed forces," a description of the book reads.

Lohmeier sat down last week with L. Todd Wood of the podcast "Information Operation," hosted by Creative Destruction, or CD, Media, to promote the book.  He spoke about U.S. institutions, including universities, media and federal agencies including the military, that he said are increasingly adopting leftist practices.  These practices -- such as diversity and inclusion training -- are the systemic cause for the divisive climate across America today, he said.

From his perspective as a commander, Lohmeier said he didn't seek to criticize any particular senior leader or publicly identify troops within the book.  Rather, he said, he focused on the policies service members now have to adhere to align with certain agendas "that are now affecting our culture."

Regarding Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, he said, "I don't demonize the man, but I want to make it clear to both him and every service member this [diversity and inclusion] agenda, it will divide us, it will not unify us."

Austin on Feb 5 ordered all military services to observe one-day stand-down on extremism in the ranks.  As part of his stand-down, Lohmeier said, he was given a booklet that cited the Jan 6 riot at the Capitol as an example of extremism, but did not mention the civil disobedience and destruction of property that took place following the death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis last May.

He also took issue with "the Pentagon spokesperson," seeming to allude to Press Secretary John Kirby.  Lohmeier claimed Kirby said "there are too many white pilots," amid an ever-increasing pilot shortage.

"If you want to provide that kind of messaging to your already struggling pilot force, you can already expect to see further retention problems," he said.

In a statement Friday, Kirby denied ever saying such a thing about a surplus of white pilots, and pointed to Austin's comments made last week during his first press conference about the importance of increased diversity programs.

"This department has an open door to any qualified American who wants to serve," the defense secretary said May 6.  "Diversity throughout the force is a source of strength.  We can't afford to deprive ourselves of the talents and the voices of the full range of a nation that we defend."

Lohmeier told he had consulted with his chain of command, public affairs and legal counsel about his plans to publish a book and its contents.

"I was apprised of the option to have my book reviewed at the Pentagon's prepublication and security review prior to release, but was also informed that it was not required," Lohmeier said in an email.

"My intent never has been to engage in partisan politics.  I have written a book about a particular political ideology (Marxism) in the hope that our Defense Department might return to being politically non-partisan in the future as it has honorably done throughout history," he said.

The book is available on Amazon, on Lohmeier's website and Barnes & Noble.

The book ranked No. 2 under Amazon's "Military Policy" section this week.

Promoting His Book While on Active-Duty

Prior to transferring into space operations, specifically space-based missile warning, Lohmeier spent over 14 years in the Air Force.  His Air Force career included instructor pilot training on the T-38 Talon jet and time flying the F-15C Eagle, according to biographical information listed on his book cover.  He graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2006.

He moved into the Space Force in October 2020.  The following month, then-President Donald Trump called Lohmeier and other members of the Space Force for the branch's first Thanksgiving holiday.

Lohmeier told Wood, the podcast host, that the beginning chapters of his book explore the history and foundation of the United States and how critical race theory -- a study of how race and racism impact or are impacted by social and economic power structures and institutions -- plays a role.

"The diversity, inclusion and equity industry and the trainings we are receiving in the military ...  is rooted in critical race theory, which is rooted in Marxism," Lohmeier said, adding it should be seen as a warning sign.

In the segment, Lohmeier said his book is not political, and is meant to alert readers to the increasing politicization of today's armed forces, some of which he said he'd seen or experienced firsthand.

There are Defense Department policies that spell out all the nuanced do's and don'ts surrounding politics or political discourse for active-duty service members, said Jim Golby, a senior fellow at Clements Center for National Security at the University of Texas at Austin who specializes in civil-military relations and military strategy.

For a self-published work, policies that may apply include DoD Directive 1344.10 and associated guidelines discussing political activity in uniform.  According to the services' standards, personnel may express their views freely, but they are still expected to uphold their branch's core values both on and off duty.

"Those are fairly broad and would not prevent publication, but might impose some minor limitations on content," Golby said Friday.  Also, policies associated with a service member's security clearance or policy-related access, are usually covered by an Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) or a clearance read-in agreement, Golby said.

The Defense Office of Prepublication and Security Review, for example, requires all current, former, and retired Defense Department employees, contractors, and military service members -- whether active or reserve -- who have had access to DoD information, facilities, or who signed an NDA to "submit DoD information intended for public release to the appropriate office for review and clearance."

DoD information can include "any work that relates to military matters, national security issues, or subjects of significant concern to the Department of Defense in general, to include fictional novels, stories and biographical accounts of operational deployments and wartime experiences," according to the office.

Subject matters about hobby-like activities, such as cooking, sports, gardening, crafts, artwork, are unlikely to be reviewed pre publication since it is not associated with an author's work with the Pentagon.

Still, "the line on what is a 'military matter' or 'subject of significant concern' is not entirely clear, and likely only comes into play if someone is discussing personal experiences in the military and not outside research or personal political opinions," Golby added.  "And again, that is primarily related to sensitive positions where you have access to classified or sensitive information."

'We Don't Have a Voice Anymore'

While a major, Lohmeier attended the Air Command and Staff College, where he published "The Better Mind of Space."  The paper explores the U.S. military's role in space beyond geosynchronous Earth orbit.

In the "Information Operation" podcast, Lohmeier said his fascination with Marxism began after that, when he was pursuing his second master's degree in philosophy in military strategy at Air University's School of Advanced Air and Space Studies.

"All my interactions with senior leaders in the Air Force and in the Space Force have been very positive; they care a great deal about their people [and] the lethality of the force," Lohmeier said during the 34-minute interview.

However, leaders may be afraid if they don't get on board with diversity training, they will face scrutiny, "or might not get promoted," he said, adding that liberal ideas are welcomed whereas ideas from more conservative voices are criticized or silenced.

Lohmeier advised any new service member, from enlisted to officer, to reject critical race theory if they see it being taught in the ranks, because it too is a form of extremism by the definitions outlined in DoD Instruction 1325.06, "Handling Dissident and Protest Activities Among Members of the Armed Forces."

Golby, an Army veteran, said Lohmeier's advice to the junior ranks potentially undermines good order and discipline, or DoD policies aimed toward diversity and inclusion.  "Or maybe both," he said.

Lohmeier told Wood he has received many messages of support from active-duty members on the book's release.

"[They're saying], 'Thank you, thank you, thank you for speaking up -- because we don't have a voice anymore," he said.