CSA Spooks Foreign & Domestic: Part 1

I tend to steer clear of this subject as I think it can be a little distracting. However, I’ve wanted to look at security service [Foreign & Domestic] involvement in the CSA internet ‘movement’  for a while now and I think Glenn Greenwald’s article, posted here in full, is a very good place to start.

Capture

Glenn Greenwald is a journalist, constitutional lawyer, and author of four New York Times best-selling books on politics and law.

HOW COVERT AGENTS INFILTRATE THE INTERNET TO MANIPULATE, DECEIVE, AND DESTROY REPUTATIONS by Glenn Greenwald

Originally from The Intercept

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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:

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

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

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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).”

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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:

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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”:

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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”:

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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:

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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.

Documents referenced in this article:

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This is posted in full originally from The Intercept

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30 Comments

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30 responses to “CSA Spooks Foreign & Domestic: Part 1

  1. Pingback: CSA Spooks Foreign & Domestic: Part 1 | Alternative News Network

  2. Myers

    I remember reading this when first published, as one of the more disturbing aspects of activities documented in the Snowden files.
    It’s must be so cheap to do, compared with other forms of spycraft such as broadcasting, print media, group infiltration or ‘theatre’.

    I have never spent much time in Cheltenham, but wonder that it must be a strange town, what with so many there spending their days snooping and deceiving. But then again, there’s no reason to think that the JTRIG crew are geographically based at GCHQ – they could be anywhere online I guess.

    If they aren’t busy muddying the waters of CSA matters (“for the interests of national security and stability” etc.), I’ll eat my hat.

  3. LJMT

    @ Myers.

    How strange that anyone could think they were acting for “national security and stability” whilst not thinking that all the nation’s young children should be first in line to have their security and stability protected. And indeed the world’s children too. Shows they employed too many abnormal people who don’t care about nor comprehend normal families to start with.

    • Andy Barnett

      That’s the one thing that gives me hope – that most people everywhere are fundamentally decent human beings, who wouldn’t dream of supporting a system that seeks to cover-up (and so facilitate) sexual abuse of vulnerable children. That some of them clearly do suggests cowardice of the highest order.

    • Sabre

      It’s not strange when you properly understand ‘National Security’ and ‘Stability’. We seem to believe that we are all partners in the Nation, unless you are a dyed in the wool egalitarian you may believe yourself a very junior partner the egalitarians of course believe themselves to be equal partners. The truth is that you and I are encouraged to believe that we are partners, we are to do our bit, but the contract is deficient the offer and acceptance are there but we are denied the consideration.

      National Security, as the term suggests, secures the Nation we very often benefit from this security but it is to be remembered that our benefit is coincidental and is most definitely not a prerequisite. It is of course a prerequisite to secure those individuals and corporations that have a significant interest in the Nation.
      Stability, of course is needed to protect those that do have significant interests from harsh unplanned for changes.

      You and I are to be productive, we are to consume, we are to pay our taxes, fight the wars and obey the laws. Our children are of little consequence, un cared for children are of less if any consequence in the great scheme of things.

      • Anon

        $Deity preserve us from bent lawyers and Chocolate soldiers.
        National Security begins with our children.

  4. dpack

    the common tactics of stage magic applied to spooky deception is traditional,jasper maskelyne was a notable enthusiast of such means of deception.
    that the online world is subject to black ops,smoke and mirrors etc etc should not surprise anyone.these things have been done in a variety of theaters.

    if the deceptions can be identified and the nature of the “trick”exposed it not only clears the smoke and covers the mirrors but can lead to the “assistants”becoming seen for what they are.

  5. Sabre

    No one should be surprised, except possibly at the ingenuity and extent of the methods.
    Why the shock? Imagine that you are ‘the master of the universe’ or one of them, would you tolerate your Mid East policy being fucked over by the great unwashed taking you at your word and organising boycotts, strikes, Twitter campaigns, Internet campaigns re supply stunts for the Palestinians or barricading of oil depots just because they believe they are ‘free’ to do so?

    Would you tolerate some jumped up maverick mp deciding to represent his constituents and the electorate generally by asking awkward questions on the floor of the house that are likely to derail months or years of careful commercial negotiation on the way to multi billion dollar deals?

    If you are honest and objective the answer is a resounding and unconditional NO !

  6. Sabre

    Bear in mind that some if not all of the spooks that ‘come over from the dark side’ may well be still on duty !

  7. Reblogged this on DR Laverty and commented:
    Need to read

  8. Laverty+rapist= see above

  9. rich

    Glen is an absolute hero, a fearless journalist, a brilliant writer, and one of the bravest people I know. It’s great to see him introduced to a wider audience here that otherwise may never have heard of him

  10. dpack

    we should also remember that as well as direct attacks upon decent folk who pose a threat there are times when the creation of seemingly independent and honestly motivated groups can provide valuable assets so long as their efforts can be directed to further one’s overall strategy.

    the road to madness is long .

    • I think that is a very good point.

      In part two I want to look at this. You’ll notice that I’ve said ‘Foreign and Domestic’. Without saying too much I think ‘Domestic’ involvement in UK CSA has been broadly passive but there are belligerent ‘Foreign’ elements not so passive.

      • dpack

        “domestic” might well have traditionally been mostly passive and opportunistic in terms of blackmail/reward but by the early 1960’s there does seem to be indications that a more active approach in both control of functionaries and to develop the strategy of tension was developed in the uk (and other nato group areas ).#

        it might seem rather extreme to connect this to the escalation of the cold war but having “control”of a significant number of those with positions of influence would be advantageous.
        that advantage might have been redirected to less war (at least locally)and more profit motive over a few decades .

        a strange but true slight aside is an american citizen is much more likely to be shot by a toddler than by a terrorist (dont ask about the 9000 a year killed in rta’s ).in a world where that sort of information is subversive it makes sense to have proper control of one’s “establishment”.

  11. chrisb

    Expect individual bloggers and organisations to be set up with the aim of accusing large numbers of totally innocent people with child sex abuse. The aim? To make the campaign to bring actual paedophiles to justice appear like a witch hunt and to surround the guilty with so many innocent people that they disappear from view.

    • I think the machinations of ‘them’ is, and, indeed ARE rather more subtle than that.
      …I recognise a lot of the tactics in the above documents, as being perpetrated on pretty-much inviolable (there’s that word again) targets.

  12. dpack

    think global and apply that to local is probably sensible .

    aggressive and belligerent is not the exclusive territory of “enemies” “friends” and “cousins” can also be dangeroos .

    imho the players over the last century or more are not nations.

    i often think “citizen” but the reality is usually “subject”
    perhaps “slave”or”consumer”would be a more accurate title to describe most folk.

  13. I’ve shared fabricated documents previously. Here’s more. I’ve definitely attracted the attention of those mentioned above. I know why. Question is do you believe me?
    https://drlaverty.wordpress.com/2015/05/01/uncovered-creative-fabrications/

  14. I agree…the idiots acting like CSA spooks are pretty talentless, appearing to be one-trick ponies…with few resources and even less technical expertise.
    Q:why are the trolls on CSA always so smug?
    Q: If they were put in an office, what kind of office would best suit their organisation?
    Q: Where are the most ‘real’ spooks recruited from – as is known?

    I believe that even just trying to answer these Q’s will give a better idea of the mind-set and organisation of the troll-teams I believe operate, not just on CSA debate, but on many other ‘newsworthy’ debates also.
    I also believe that just by using brute logic, we can find at least one instance of a troll team, and one instance of a path of destruction by another… these examples can be held up as specimens – thereby giving the hounds a scent of the spoor.

  15. Reblogged this on adeybob's Blog and commented:
    The explosive documents herein are virtually a handbook for the plague of a troll team I have seen rip through #Paedobritain, Icke’s The People’s Voice, and Spivey’s Blog…documents also that describes the constant I call £.
    Very good data…room for much extrapolation.
    I do have to ‘dumb it down’ to suit the McCann Debate model, and the other models mentioned above…which suggest that the trolls being hunted in the Adeybob blog are little more than thugs trained by a thug trainer with some knowledge of the procedures as outlined in the enclosed documents.
    Follow my logic, and we’ll find the answer.
    More of my logic will be revealed in Part 2 of the explanation of the formula on my twitter profile – to be published soon.

  16. dpack

    “It is inconceivable that a secret arm of the government has to comply with all the overt orders of the government.”
    “Deception is a state of mind and the mind of the State.”
    ―James Jesus Angleton

    http://r.duckduckgo.com/l/?kh=-1&uddg=http%3A%2F%2Fspartacus-educational.com%2FSSangleton.htm

    history perhaps but if one fails to learn from it etc etc

    his” prediction” made me consider the” balkan mission” personnel as perhaps more relevant to global and therefore also to local than i previously did.

    the modern gamesters that seem to have been using such crude tools as those reported above,at both a strategic training and operational level,are standing on the shoulders of giants but they do seem rather wobbly and visible while they do it .

  17. Would be interesting if your source could also look at destructive civilians who appear to do bidding of security services; my experience is that often those with mental health vulnerabilities are encouraged to take an active part in trashing the integrity of political activists.

    I wonder what research there is on brain washing – met a pharmacist recently who said he wouldn’t advise taking statins or metformin – he too was suspicious about drugs handed out to vast swathes of the population.

    Is anyone researching in this area?

  18. dpack

    the recent edits to neave’s wiki page are interesting and seem to be relevant in this thread.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airey_Neave
    so far this seems to be under the radar

    at the mo the official dickie /ira narrative is being strongly promoted in the msm,both chas and jerry are being presented as playing along with that legend on the current visit (although the “pira done it “interpretation has little internal logic and seems mostly at odds with the facts).

    understanding context might help establish the truth of a variety of details.

  19. dpack

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-northamptonshire-32824951

    the fat man had quite a few spooky get out of jail free moments over 40 years if various folk are telling the truth.
    this is as close to an “official” confirmation of one example as we have been given so far.