Gibberish papers discovered and withdrawn »« Femen comes to the US

The NSA and GCHQ are criminal enterprises

Glenn Greenwald has an important new piece out at The Intercept that says that the NSA and the GCHQ are launching attacks on individuals and targets who have nothing to do with terrorism and in the process are committing acts that would be criminal and severely prosecuted if done by anyone else. They manipulate social media for this purpose.

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.

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.

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?

The US government has long been practicing the black arts of destroying its political enemies using character assassination by spreading outright lies. These have been exposed on occasion in the past, COINTELPRO being the most famous example.

What these new documents reveal is that far from past exposure leading to government reforms, it has just made them more covert and it took an Edward Snowden to be able to dig deep enough to find the incontrovertible evidence and bring it to light.

Oddly enough, there has been a controversy that the moderators at Reddit have deliberately spiked this important story. I don’t know much about Reddit and readers may be able to fill in on what is going on.

Comments

  1. noastronomer says

    Personally I believe that the NSA and GCHQ have a tidy little arrangement between them. The NSA is not (legally) allowed to spy directly on US ‘persons’*, but they can spy on UK citizens. Vice-versa for GCHQ.

    In that way, anytime the NSA has a question about Mano Singham it can just ask GCHQ for the answer. The NSA can also answer “No” to the question “do you keep information about US citizens?”.

    Mike
    * via Wikipedia

  2. wtfwhateverd00d says

    Oddly enough, there has been a controversy that the moderators at Reddit have deliberately spiked this important story. I don’t know much about Reddit and readers may be able to fill in on what is going on.

    To be precise, if it is not appearing in one subreddit, the most appropriate people to ask would be the moderators of that one subreddit. If it is not appearing site wide, it would be the admins of the entire reddit site.

    A search of reddit in the past 24 hours shows the story is (now??) appearing along with stories about its censorship.

    My very quick scan did not see it appearing in the larger world news related reddits that one might think it should appear at.

    Yes, reddit DOES censor. Yes, reddit admins ARE biased. Finding they were deliberately censoring this story would be very surprising, especially since it is a futile and wasted effort. Their censorship usually plays out in far more subtle ways, like claiming they believe in free speech but banning and show banning people with no explanation.

  3. wtfwhateverd00d says

    Here is techdirt covering the reddit censorship:

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140226/11344026358/reddit-mods-bury-glenn-greenwalds-story-gchqnsa-use-internet-to-destroy-reputations.shtml

    My skim of their article suggests they also see it not as censorship from reddit site admins, but censorship for one reason or another from subreddit moderators.

    Again, that’s not to say reddit itself doesn’t censor, it does. Just that this behavior seems more like emergent behavior from the subreddit mods.

    Now, I think it is completely reasonable to speculate that the mods of various important subreddits have been infiltrated/are influenced by/are paid by/ … various entities like the Government, Foreign Governments, Corporations, Political Interest Groups like Feminists, or even other competing websites like Something Awful or Anonymous

  4. Dunc says

    Personally I believe that the NSA and GCHQ have a tidy little arrangement between them. The NSA is not (legally) allowed to spy directly on US ‘persons’*, but they can spy on UK citizens. Vice-versa for GCHQ.

    Yes, that exactly how it works. “Intelligence sharing” is very deeply embedded in both of these organisations, to the extent that they are essentially fully integrated. As former UK ambassador Craig Murray has explained:

    I am astonished that still none of our pusillanimous media has published the simple fact that NSA and GCHQ share ALL intelligence reports with each other. Every member of the House of Commons who has ever been in the most junior ministerial position knows this – that amounts to hundreds. So do at least fifty thousand current or retired civil service and military personnel. So do the majority of senior journalists.

    [...]

    In fact GCHQ do not have to ask, and NSA do not have specifically to initiate. US citizens are included in the UK Prism operation, and UK citizens are included in the US Prism operation, and the swapping of resulting intelligence reports is an automatic process. So the UK takes the view it is not breaching the guidelines about spying on its own citizens as it is not REQUESTING the NSA to do anything, and vice versa.

    Source: Lack of Intelligence

    Mano: If you’re not already reading Craig Murray, I would highly recommend that you start. He was a senior UK diplomat for many years, until he was posted to Uzbekistan and began to raise serious questions about the systematic use of torture by the Karimov regime, at which point the FCO destroyed his career with a series of false allegations. His extensive diplomatic experience gives him a very interesting perspective on many subjects. He’s also written a couple of very interesting books: “Murder In Samarkand”, which discusses his time in Uzbekistan, and “The Catholic Orangemen of Togo (And Other Conflicts I Have Known)”, which discusses his time in central Africa. (Mr Murray was one of the key figures involved in negotiating the ceasefire which ended the civil war in Sierra Leone.)

  5. Mano Singham says

    @Dunc,

    Thanks for reminding me about Murray. I read his stuff some years ago but he dropped off my radar.

  6. jonP says

    the US government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-”independent” advocates to “cognitively infiltrate” online groups and websites

    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.

    Uh Oh. They could be any one of us. We can play: guess which one of us is the covert agent sent to “cognitively infiltrate” Prof Singham’s blog.

    It’s not me. I promise.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>