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

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Western Whites DON'T UNDERSTAND the mentality, DNA and Modus Operandi of
their "fellow whites".

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https://theintercept.com/2014/02/24/jtrig-manipulation/

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

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."

Glenn Greenwald



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 Guardian in 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”:

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.

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