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How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations – The Intercept

How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations – The Intercept.

By 24 Feb 2014, 6:25 PM EST289
Featured photo - How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy ReputationsA page from a GCHQ top secret document prepared by its secretive JTRIG unit

One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction. It’s time to tell a chunk of that story, complete with the relevant documents.

Over the last several weeks, I worked with NBC News to publish a series of articles about “dirty trick” tactics used by GCHQ’s previously secret unit, JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group). These were based on four classified GCHQ documents presented to the NSA and the other three partners in the English-speaking “Five Eyes” alliance. Today, we at the Intercept are publishing another new JTRIG document, in full, entitled “The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations”.

By publishing these stories one by one, our NBC reporting highlighted some of the key, discrete revelations: the monitoring of YouTube and Blogger, the targeting of Anonymous with the very same DDoS attacks they accuse “hacktivists” of using, the use of “honey traps” (luring people into compromising situations using sex) and destructive viruses. But, here, I want to focus and elaborate on the overarching point revealed by all of these documents: namely, that these agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself.

Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums. Here is one illustrative list of tactics from the latest GCHQ document we’re publishing today:

 

 

Other tactics aimed at individuals are listed here, under the revealing title “discredit a target”:

 

 

Then there are the tactics used to destroy companies the agency targets:

 

 

GCHQ describes the purpose of JTRIG in starkly clear terms: “using online techniques to make something happen in the real or cyber world”, including “information ops (influence or disruption)”.

 

 

Critically, the “targets” for this deceit and reputation-destruction extend far beyond the customary roster of normal spycraft: hostile nations and their leaders, military agencies, and intelligence services. In fact, the discussion of many of these techniques occurs in the context of using them in lieu of “traditional law enforcement” against people suspected (but not charged or convicted) of ordinary crimes or, more broadly still, “hacktivism”, meaning those who use online protest activity for political ends.

The title page of one of these documents reflects the agency’s own awareness that it is “pushing the boundaries” by using “cyber offensive” techniques against people who have nothing to do with terrorism or national security threats, and indeed, centrally involves law enforcement agents who investigate ordinary crimes:

 

 

No matter your views on Anonymous, “hacktivists” or garden-variety criminals, it is not difficult to see how dangerous it is to have secret government agencies being able to target any individuals they want – who have never been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crimes – with these sorts of online, deception-based tactics of reputation destruction and disruption. There is a strong argument to make, as Jay Leiderman demonstrated in the Guardianin the context of the Paypal 14 hacktivist persecution, that the “denial of service” tactics used by hacktivists result in (at most) trivial damage (far less than the cyber-warfare tactics favored by the US and UK) and are far more akin to the type of political protest protected by the First Amendment.

The broader point is that, far beyond hacktivists, these surveillance agencies have vested themselves with the power to deliberately ruin people’s reputations and disrupt their online political activity even though they’ve been charged with no crimes, and even though their actions have no conceivable connection to terrorism or even national security threats. As Anonymous expert Gabriella Coleman of McGill University told me, “targeting Anonymous and hacktivists amounts to targeting citizens for expressing their political beliefs, resulting in the stifling of legitimate dissent.” Pointing to this study she published, Professor Coleman vehemently contested the assertion that “there is anything terrorist/violent in their actions.”

Government plans to monitor and influence internet communications, and covertly infiltrate online communities in order to sow dissension and disseminate false information, have long been the source of speculation. Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein, a close Obama adviser and the White House’s former head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, wrote a controversial paper in 2008 proposing that the US government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-”independent” advocates to “cognitively infiltrate” online groups and websites, as well as other activist groups.

Sunstein also proposed sending covert agents into “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups” which spread what he views as false and damaging “conspiracy theories” about the government. Ironically, the very same Sunstein was recently named by Obama to serve as a member of the NSA review panel created by the White House, one that – while disputing key NSA claims – proceeded to propose many cosmetic reforms to the agency’s powers (most of which were ignored by the President who appointed them).

But these GCHQ documents are the first to prove that a major western government is using some of the most controversial techniques to disseminate deception online and harm the reputations of targets. Under the tactics they use, the state is deliberately spreading lies on the internet about whichever individuals it targets, including the use of what GCHQ itself calls “false flag operations” and emails to people’s families and friends. Who would possibly trust a government to exercise these powers at all, let alone do so in secret, with virtually no oversight, and outside of any cognizable legal framework?

Then there is the use of psychology and other social sciences to not only understand, but shape and control, how online activism and discourse unfolds. Today’s newly published document touts the work of GCHQ’s “Human Science Operations Cell”, devoted to “online human intelligence” and “strategic influence and disruption”:

 

 

 

 

Under the title “Online Covert Action”, the document details a variety of means to engage in “influence and info ops” as well as “disruption and computer net attack”, while dissecting how human beings can be manipulated using “leaders”, “trust, “obedience” and “compliance”:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The documents lay out theories of how humans interact with one another, particularly online, and then attempt to identify ways to influence the outcomes – or “game” it: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We submitted numerous questions to GCHQ, including: (1) Does GCHQ in fact engage in “false flag operations” where material is posted to the Internet and falsely attributed to someone else?; (2) Does GCHQ engage in efforts to influence or manipulate political discourse online?; and (3) Does GCHQ’s mandate include targeting common criminals (such as boiler room operators), or only foreign threats?

As usual, they ignored those questions and opted instead to send their vague and nonresponsive boilerplate: “It is a longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters. Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the Secretary of State, the Interception and Intelligence Services Commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee. All our operational processes rigorously support this position.”

These agencies’ refusal to “comment on intelligence matters” – meaning: talk at all about anything and everything they do – is precisely why whistleblowing is so urgent, the journalism that supports it so clearly in the public interest, and the increasingly unhinged attacks by these agencies so easy to understand. Claims that government agencies are infiltrating online communities and engaging in “false flag operations” to discredit targets are often dismissed as conspiracy theories, but these documents leave no doubt they are doing precisely that.

Whatever else is true, no government should be able to engage in these tactics: what justification is there for having government agencies target people – who have been charged with no crime – for reputation-destruction, infiltrate online political communities, and develop techniques for manipulating online discourse? But to allow those actions with no public knowledge or accountability is particularly unjustifiable.

MLK’s spirit rises: 2014 Worldwide Wave of Action for Truth, Justice, Freedom (1 of ?) Washington’s Blog

MLK’s spirit rises: 2014 Worldwide Wave of Action for Truth, Justice, Freedom (1 of ?) Washington’s Blog.

The 2014 Worldwide Wave of Action (and here) begins ~April 4 on the anniversary of Martin King’s assassination by the US government (civil court trial verdict), with this operation completing ~July 4.

Purpose of this operation:

There are suggested actions here for your consideration how you can lead/participate in your own best way.

Why do this? As bullet-pointed above, let’s look at just a few areas of OBVIOUS US 1% oligarchic crimes that anyone who cares to see can easily confirm as factually accurate:

  • US wars began by “Big Lies,” 
  • Debt we’re told is “money” and bankster looting, 
  • US assassinations of President Kennedy and Dr. King, 
  • Allowing a million children to die every month from preventable poverty,
  • “Coverage” of corporate media to hide these crimes. 

US wars began by “Big Lies”: Current US wars were thrust upon trusting US military and families with lies known to be false as they were told. The 1% continue their mockery of veterans by allowing their growing homelessness and suicides, despite obvious solutions available for everyone’s full-employment and health care. This continues a long history of lie-began US Wars of Aggression since theUS invaded Mexico; despite Abraham Lincoln’s powerfully accurate rhetoric of President Polk’s lies to steal half of Mexico at the expense of US military and Mexican civilian lives. The most decorated US Marine general in his day also warned all Americans of this fact of lie-started wars for 1% plunder. TheseUS-led wars have killed ~30 million since World War 2 alone; more than killed by fascist Nazis.

Debt we’re told is “money” and bankster looting: 1% US “leaders” in economic management from government and finance/banking cause trillions in damages to our families every year in OBVIOUS lies:

  1. They tell us debt is “money” in Orwellian psychopathic viciousness. Adding more debt, as these mechanics can only do, will only and always increase the debt. This “monetary system” also guarantees total debt is perpetual and unpayable, making the 99% permanent debt-slaves to 1% asset-holes (documentation hereherehere). The mechanics and mathematics of only being able to add negative numbers to existing negative numbers is certain and simple.
  2. Government Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFRs) have literal multiple trillions in surplus taxpayer assets, as they fraudulently claim deficits “forcing” austerity upon the 99%. For example, California’s own CAFR proves a ~$16 billion claimed budget deficit is absolutely refuted by ~$100 billion in liquid surplus funds and ~$500 billion in claimed investments (explanation and complete documentation here, television interview to explain here, documentation of official lies to keep this information hidden here).
  3. They lie in omission by keeping obvious solutions secret: including government directly paying for all public goods and services with debt-free money created by government (and here). Several models (and here) of cost-free government are known, beginning with Benjamin Franklin’s pamphleton colonial Pennsylvania operating its government without taxes to Thomas Edison explaining debt-free money with Henry Ford in a 1921 summer media tour.

In fact, government could (and should) be the employer of last resort for infrastructure (hard – like roads, and soft – like health care, education). Such a structure would provide full-employment, the best infrastructure we can imagine, and falling prices because infrastructure creates more economic output than the infrastructure investment cost (documentation hereherehere).

US assassinations of President Kennedy and Dr. King: President John Kennedy and Dr. Martin King, Jr. were assassinated by a US oligarchy, with  those crimes “covered” by corporate media. If you’re not aware of these powerful histories, it’s time you learned. The conservative academic standard for historical consideration is that if there is powerful evidence that we cannot refute, then we hold that evidence within our explanation of what happened. In both “official” narratives of these assassinations, the evidence linked makes those narratives impossible to have happened.

Allowing a million children to die every month from preventable poverty: I worked to help create two UN Summits for heads of state for ending poverty. The investment cost is less than 1% of the developed nations’ income, with outcomes of saving a million children’s lives each month from horrific deaths, reducing population growth rate, and supporting environmental resources. There is no academic or political argument against the investment  and effectiveness of the known solutions. But what we receive is ongoing lies of omission and commission from our 1% oligarchy and corporate media to keep the powerful facts hidden from the public. Full documentation here.

“Coverage” of corporate media to hide these crimes: You may wish to consider this expert testimony of 30+ Emmy journalist, Bill Moyers. “Corporate media” are six corporations that “cover” OBVIOUS crimes centering in war and money by a 1% US oligarchy. They lie by commission and omission (full explanation and documentation hereherehere), with propaganda techniques obvious upon inspection.

Your response? Whatever you find best, go for it.

Will this operation be successful? Yes, in so far that it seems our best action to take at this time. As human guests on this beautiful yet dominated planet, our roles are limited. We can only do what we can imagine in good-faith effort to help build a brighter future.

Dr. King’s spirit is with us (and others), if that helps you tell the simple truth of your own spiritual commitment. Perhaps you’ll give Martin two minutes of your time to hear him here.

But perhaps you simply have no other choice but to act for this planetary upgrade, or live further under its psychopathy.  Perhaps this famous quote makes sense to you now:

“Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

  – George Santayana, The Life of Reason, Vol. 1.

We Are Legion: Anonymous’ Presence in the U.S. Military | A Lightning War for Liberty

We Are Legion: Anonymous’ Presence in the U.S. Military | A Lightning War for Liberty.

 

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