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How GCHQ Uses Online Deception to Discredit Hacktivists

Glenn Greenwald reports on more documents from Edward Snowden’s cache, this batch on how GCHQ uses online deception and other tactics to discredit hacktivists and possibly other political activists:

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. […]

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).

Full Story: The Intercept: How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations

What’s more, the GCHQ admit in one of the docs that this activity has nothing to do with terrorism or even national security.

See also:

Obama advisor suggests “cognitive infiltration”

DARPA Looks to “Counteract” Propaganda in Social Networks

U.S. Drone Assassination Program Uses the NSA’s Cell Phone Data to Locate Targets

Here’s Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Schahill’s first article for The Interceptor, the first publication from eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s new media company:

The National Security Agency is using complex analysis of electronic surveillance, rather than human intelligence, as the primary method to locate targets for lethal drone strikes – an unreliable tactic that results in the deaths of innocent or unidentified people.

According to a former drone operator for the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) who also worked with the NSA, the agency often identifies targets based on controversial metadata analysis and cell-phone tracking technologies. Rather than confirming a target’s identity with operatives or informants on the ground, the CIA or the U.S. military then orders a strike based on the activity and location of the mobile phone a person is believed to be using.

The drone operator, who agreed to discuss the top-secret programs on the condition of anonymity, was a member of JSOC’s High Value Targeting task force, which is charged with identifying, capturing or killing terrorist suspects in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

His account is bolstered by top-secret NSA documents previously provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. It is also supported by a former drone sensor operator with the U.S. Air Force, Brandon Bryant, who has become an outspoken critic of the lethal operations in which he was directly involved in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen.

Full Story: The Interceptor: The NSA’s Secret Role in the U.S. Assassination Program

If you’re feeling like doing something about it, don’t forget that today is The Day We Fight Back (see my coverage here).

See also:

Democracy Now interview with Greenwald and Schahill about the article and about First Look.

After 30 Years of Silence, the Original NSA Whistleblower Looks Back

A Hard Look At the Non-Profit Behind Glenn Greenwald’s New Publication

After 30 Years of Silence, the Original NSA Whistleblower Looks Back

Great article from a couple weeks back by Adrian Chen about Perry Fellwock, the original NSA whistleblower:

He was tasked with analyzing Soviet air force activities. Though the American public at home was terrified by the Soviet threat, Fellwock said his access to raw intelligence made him feel safer—even if he had once anxiously tracked a flight of nuclear-armed Russian bombers heading straight toward Istanbul, pulling a U-turn just short of the line that would have set off a nuclear war.

“I thought we were keeping World War III from happening, I really thought that was what our job was,” Fellwock said. “Because we knew everything that was going on, and as long as we knew everything that was going on, there was a possibility of preventing everything.”

Fellwock’s faith in his mission was shaken within a year. In 1967, the Six-Day War between Israel and a number of neighboring Arab countries erupted. Israeli forces attacked an NSA spy ship, the U.S.S. Liberty, while it was on an eavesdropping mission off the coast of Egypt. Thirty-five crew members were killed, and 171 wounded.

Israel claimed that in the fog of war it had misidentified the ship as Egyptian. But James Bamford, in his book Body of Secrets, has made a strong case that the IDF knowingly attacked the spy ship in order to cover up their massacring of hundreds of Egyptian POWs in a nearby town. Whatever the case, the incident sparked outrage within the NSA, especially after Lyndon Johnson’s administration covered it up so as not to embarrass the U.S.’s strongest ally in the Middle East.

For Fellwock, the intrigue surrounding the Liberty incident opened up new, dark possibilities. “It made begin to wonder what the heck is going on in the world,” he said. “This is not the way things are supposed to be.“

Having glimpsed the chaos of a war the U.S. wasn’t even a party to, Fellwock began to wonder about the ongoing American war in Vietnam. In 1968, his curiosity overcame his aversion to combat and he volunteered for Vietnam. “I had to find out why things were going this way,” he said.

Full Story: Gawker: After 30 Years of Silence, the Original NSA Whistleblower Looks Back

We shouldn’t be protecting ourselves. We should be protecting each other.

Tim Maly on self-defense in the security state:

“Protect yourself.”

This may well be the defining motto of our times. No one is to be trusted; it’s a dangerous world out there and if you can’t be bothered to take basic steps…

Well, everyone gets what’s coming sooner or later.

The watchword is self-reliance. They’re coming to take what’s yours, so you’d better be ready. Federate your email, buy a generator, make sure you’ve got good locks, and for God’s sake, carry a handgun. There are monsters in the streets and some idiot is arming them.

But how to defend against the errors of the masses unwilling to take care of themselves? Every message in my outbox is in some fool’s inbox; plain as day, as if I’d sent it straight to PRISM myself. NSA-proof? Not without a massive shift of collective action undertaken by a society of people who’ve spent the past decade or so dumping as many photos, feelings, and fantasies online as time and bandwidth would allow. Why not? I certainly did. It’s nice to have friends.

Full Story: Weird Future: NSA-Proof Your Email! Consider your Man Card Re-Issued. Never be Afraid Again.

NSA and Raytheon Team-Up for Cybersnooping Project

Nuclear Power Plant in  Limerick, Pa.

A piece I wrote for RWW today:

The Wall Street Journal reports, citing unnamed sources, that the NSA is launching a program to help protect critical infrastructure – including private enterprises – from cyber attacks. According to the paper, defense contractor Raytheon has received the contract for the project, which would rely on a series of sensors to detect “unusual activity suggesting an impending cyber attack.” This follows the Lieberman-Collins bill passing committee in the Senate.

The Orwellian nature of the name was alledgedly not lost on Raytheon: The Wall Street Journal claims to have seen an internal Raytheon e-mail saying “Perfect Citizen is Big Brother.”

ReadWriteEnterprise: Do Private Enterprises Need the NSA to Protect Them From Cyber Attacks?

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