How stable is China? What are people discussing and thinking in Pakistan? To answer these sorts of question, the U.S. government has turned to a rich source: social media.
The Associated Press reports that the CIA maintains a social-media tracking center operated out of an nondescript building in a Virginia industrial park. The intelligence analysts at the agency’s Open Source Center, who other agents refer to as “vengeful librarians,” are tasked with sifting through millions of tweets, Facebook messages, online chat logs, and other public data on the World Wide Web to glean insights into the collective moods of regions or groups abroad. According to the Associated Press, these librarians are tracking up to five million tweets a day from places like China, Pakistan and Egypt.
The Pentagon is asking scientists to figure out how to detect and counter propaganda on social media networks in the aftermath of Arab uprisings driven by Twitter and Facebook.
The US military’s high-tech research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), has put out a request for experts to look at “a new science of social networks” that would attempt to get ahead of the curve of events unfolding on new media.
The program’s goal was to track “purposeful or deceptive messaging and misinformation” in social networks and to pursue “counter messaging of detected adversary influence operations,” according to DARPA’s request for proposals issued on July 14.
The Guardian lists some of the CIA’s Psy Ops plots:
According to the Washington Post’s security blog, some of America’s spooks believed that shooting a fake video of Saddam cavorting with a teenage boy might destabilise his regime in the runup to the US-led invasion in 2003. “It would look like it was taken by a hidden camera. Very grainy, like it was a secret videotaping of a sex session,” the Washington Post quoted one former CIA official as saying. […]
But that did not stop a CIA video being shot of a fake Osama bin Laden sitting around a camp fire, drinking booze and boasting of his own gay conquests.
The video apparently used some of the CIA’s “darker skinned” employees as extras playing the terror chief’s henchmen. It does not seem to have been released.
The Report also cites the “fall of the Dutch Government over its troop commitment to Afghanistan” and worries that — particularly if the “bloody summer in Afghanistan” that many predict takes place — what happened to the Dutch will spread as a result of the “fragility of European support” for the war. As the truly creepy Report title puts it, the CIA’s concern is: “Why Counting on Apathy May Not Be Enough” […]
The Report seeks to provide a back-up plan for “counting on apathy,” and provides ways that the U.S. Government can manipulate public opinion in these foreign countries. It explains that French sympathy for Afghan refugees means that exploiting Afghan women as pro-war messengers would be effective, while Germans would be more vulnerable to a fear-mongering campaign (failure in Afghanistan means the Terrorists will get you). The Report highlights the unique ability of Barack Obama to sell war to European populations. […]
It’s both interesting and revealing that the CIA sees Obama as a valuable asset in putting a pretty face on our wars in the eyes of foreign populations. It is odious — though, of course, completely unsurprising — that the CIA plots ways to manipulate public opinion in foreign countries in order to sustain support for our wars. […]
All of this has made WikiLeaks an increasingly hated target of numerous government and economic elites around the world, including the U.S. Government. As The New York Times put it last week: “To the list of the enemies threatening the security of the United States, the Pentagon has added WikiLeaks.org, a tiny online source of information and documents that governments and corporations around the world would prefer to keep secret.” In 2008, the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Center prepared a secret report — obtained and posted by WikiLeaks — devoted to this website and detailing, in a section entitled “Is it Free Speech or Illegal Speech?”, ways it would seek to destroy the organization. It discusses the possibility that, for some governments, not merely contributing to WikiLeaks, but “even accessing the website itself is a crime,” and outlines its proposal for WikiLeaks’ destruction as follows:
One idea someone on Slashdot came up with is using Freenet to submit stories to Wikileaks, which could be then be mirrored on the regular web, helping insure the security and anonymity of contributors and assuring the availability of the information.
History remembers Benito Mussolini as a founder member of the original Axis of Evil, the Italian dictator who ruled his country with fear and forged a disastrous alliance with Nazi Germany. But a previously unknown area of Il Duce’s CV has come to light: his brief career as a British agent.
Archived documents have revealed that Mussolini got his start in politics in 1917 with the help of a £100 weekly wage from MI5.
For the British intelligence agency, it must have seemed like a good investment. Mussolini, then a 34-year-old journalist, was not just willing to ensure Italy continued to fight alongside the allies in the first world war by publishing propaganda in his paper. He was also willing to send in the boys to “persuade” peace protesters to stay at home.
It’s worth noting (mainly because few have bothered to note it, or to understand and appreciate the significance of the matter) that one of the “Recommendations” of a lengthy Technical Report prepared by the Air Force’s flying saucer study, Project Grudge, way back in August 1949, states: “That Psychological Warfare Division and other governmental agencies interested in psychological warfare be informed of the results of this study.”
The Department of Defense’s official definition of psychological warfare is: “The planned use of propaganda and other psychological actions having the primary purpose of influencing the opinions, emotions, attitudes, and behavior of hostile foreign groups in such a way as to support the achievement of national objectives.”
As the above Grudge revelations show, way back when in the formative years of Ufology, certain players were looking to understand how the subject could be used psychologically.