The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operation
Western intelligence agencies manipulating and controling 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. These agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself.
- Inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets.
- using social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable.
JTRIG in clear terms: “using online techniques to make something happen in the real or cyber world,” including “information ops (influence or disruption).”
“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.
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:
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.
The Suppression of information that should be public; where it essentially elevates U.S. officials into publication partners by engaging in protracted “negotiations” with them over what can and cannot be published; and especially where it means news organizations knowingly allow government officials to lie by withholding the actual facts.
For all the NSA stories published over the last eight months all around the world, the U.S. government was notified prior to publication (usually very shortly prior) by the news organizations’ editors (never, to my knowledge, by the journalists, at least not by me). News organizations do this for two reasons.
The first is legal: the U.S. Government insists that the publication of classified information, especially that which relates to “communications intelligence”, is a felony (see 18 U.S § 798), so every media lawyer vehemently argues that allowing the government an opportunity to make the case for why something shouldn’t be published is necessary to show a lack of criminal intent, i.e., to avoid criminal prosecution even while publishing top secret documents; the other is journalistic: it makes sense that journalists making choices about what to publish and what to say about documents would want more, rather than less, information when deciding.
I can’t speak for what The Washington Post or New York Times have done, but for the NSA articles on which I’ve worked – at the Guardian and with more than a dozen media outlets around the world – the government has argued in most cases that the story and accompanying documents should not be published. And in almost every single case – 99% if not more – those arguments have been rejected in their entirety and the stories and documents were published anyway. In fact, for the dozens and dozens of stories and documents on which I’ve worked, I can only recall a single case where anything the government said resulted in anything being withheld that we had decided to publish, and that was a trivial aspect of one part of one document which, unbeknownst to us, could have revealed the identity of an NSA employee (the Guardian and New York Times, without my involvement, both withheld some details on their story about NSA/GCHQ compromising of encryption standards, though primarily – as I understand it – because publishing the handful of compromised standards we knew about would mislead people into believing the other compromised standards (the vast majority of which weren’t revealed by the documents) were safe).
In every single other case, the government’s arguments for non-publication were rejected, usually because they were vague and unpersuasive. So while it’s true that the government’s input has been permitted prior to publication – just as journalists seek the input of anyone about which they’re writing – Lake is correct that in most cases (in my experience, almost all) that official input demanding suppression was rejected, exactly as it should have been.
To this day the U.S. government doesn’t know the full extent of what Snowden revealed or whether more documents that have yet to be published in the press have made their way into the hands of Russian or Chinese intelligence agencies.
It’s been rather amazing to watch not only the standard roster of government-loyal American journalists, but also those who fancy themselves some sort of cynical critics, uncritically regurgitate the government’s evidence-free assertion that Snowden took and then gave to journalists 1.7 million documents. It amazes me because: (1) anyone at this point who is willing to equate evidence-free government assertions with Truth is drowning in some extreme levels of authoritarianism, by definition; and (2) the government clearly has no idea what Snowden took, as report after report has made crystal clear.
If you are thinking about exposing government, look at what we did to Chelsea Manning or Tom Drake and think twice. That’s why it’s been so vital – and, for the U.S. national security state, so devastating – that Edward Snowden has remained out of their grasp.
Recall how House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers and former CIA/NSA chief Mike Hayden “joked” at a hearing that Snowden should be put on the U.S. government’s “hit list” and murdered. Last month, BuzzFeed quoted several anonymous Pentagon and intelligence community officials as they laid out their fantasies for how they would like to murder Snowden (“Going back to his flat and he is casually poked by a passerby. He thinks nothing of it at the time starts to feel a little woozy and thinks it’s a parasite from the local water. He goes home very innocently and next thing you know he dies in the shower”). Former CIA chief James Woolsey said “he should be hanged by his neck until he is dead” if convicted of treason, while former UN Ambassador John Bolton revealed an even more detailed fantasy: “My view is that Snowden committed treason, he ought to be convicted of that, and then he ought to swing from a tall oak tree.”
Not only does this underscore the warped pathologies among the glorious leaders of America’s National Security State, but it also highlights the inanity of believing that these kinds of people can and should be trusted with invasive spying powers to be exercised in the dark.
Clapper has gone around the country over the last month branding journalists as “accomplices” for the crime of reporting on the NSA without the slightest regard for the effects that this thuggish behavior has on those journalists, their families, and the news-gathering process.
Act of either deliberately overt contempt for the public or pathological self-delusion since Barack Obama advocated a legalized system of “preventive detention” in 2009 while he stood in front of the U.S. Constitution at the National Archive. Someone may want to explain to Clapper that a primary impetus for that Constitution, and for the American Revolution generally, was hatred of the King’s “general warrants” whereby people could be subject to searches without a whiff of evidence of wrongdoing.