Your Daily Newt: Saddam Hussein’s Hacker Army

Saddam Hussein, computer hacker (artist's rendering)<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/cat.mhtml?lang=en&search_source=search_form&version=llv1&anyorall=all&safesearch=1&searchterm=computer+hacker&search_group=&orient=&search_cat=&searchtermx=&photographer_name=&people_gender=&people_age=&people_ethnicity=&people_number=&commercial_ok=&color=&show_color_wheel=1#id=81825655&src=e146ca07f7dce3dd16f9e8a62e9b7c97-1-42">gualtiero boffi</a>/Shutterstock; <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Iraq,_Saddam_Hussein_%28222%29.jpg">Iraqi News Agency</a>/Wikimedia Commons


As a service to our readers, every day we are delivering a classic moment from the political life of Newt Gingrich—until he either clinches the nomination or bows out.

Newt Gingrich was speaking candidly when he told a New York Times reporter in 1995, “I don’t do foreign policy.” But that didn’t stop his mind from occasionally wandering over to the national security realm. In Gingrich’s 1995 college course—funded mostly by donors to his political action committee—he used the work of his futurist mentors, Alvin and Heidi Toffler, as a starting point for discussing America’s precarious place in the world. Specifically, Gingrich warned of a horror scenario in which Saddam Hussein trained a hacker army to cause civil unrest by issuing 500,000 American Express cards and then charging absurd fees:

There are implications of the emerging Third Wave information age for the world system and for national security. That’s part of why I mentioned Toffler, Alvin and Heidi’s book, War and Anti-War, because you’ve got to think about, you know, what would have happened if Saddam Hussein had hired 10 hackers at the beginning of ‘Desert Shield’ and had decided to electronically try to break down American system? Not killing people, not setting off bombs, but, for example, issuing 500,000 new American Express cards. Or simply charging absurd fees. Breaking down telephone systems. Sending signals to turn off Georgia power company’s electric plant. I mean, how much damage could you do on the information side?

Which raises the question: If Saddam Hussein had tried to destroy the American economy by charging absurd fees on credit cards…would we have even noticed?

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.