Why do I distrust our government so much? Because I have experienced, first-hand, their untrustworthiness, and their slanders.
One example: When I became involved in volunteer communications to assist families and on-the-scene rescuers following the horrendous 2010 earthquake in Haiti, many loved ones said my reports were the best information they could get anywhere. Informants on the ground paid me the highest compliment when they reported that leaders in Haiti believed I had to be in Port Au Prince or Petionville, given the detail I provided (that was a testimony to how good my sources were, honestly).
It reached the point where government sources started spreading lies about what I was writing, to discourage rescue team members from speaking with me. Finally, they instructed contractors that anyone caught disseminating information to me would be blacklisted from all future work with the U.S. government—they threatened people’s livelihoods.
In other words, what I was doing was an embarrassment to the State Department and others, and they did all they could to discredit me and threaten my sources to prevent me from helping families learn all they could about their missing loved ones.
So, when I see documents like this, it doesn’t take any strain at all for me to believe they’re authentic. Many in the government identify their enemies as American citizens who actually believe in freedom.
From the Intercept: “How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations.”
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.
If you ever read a “victim’s testimony” about someone I’ve allegedly harmed. Or come across an essay or email in my name that puzzles you. Or if you hear charges of some grave sin or crime I’m supposed to have committed, just ask me.
Read this document, and be ready for chills up your spine: changing online pictures, creating false documents, spreading lies… what could possibly make such government actions legitimate and necessary.