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Psychology: A New Kind of SIGDEV
February 25, 2014 6:08 AM   Subscribe

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.
posted by the young rope-rider (137 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite

 
AKA - Project FORRESTAL. Remarkably similar to the methods used by Scientology as well.
posted by longbaugh at 6:15 AM on February 25


gotta love this slide.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:19 AM on February 25 [2 favorites]


I do like that one, but the one that comes a bit later could easily be adapted into a sort of spot-the-troll bingo card.
posted by jquinby at 6:22 AM on February 25 [6 favorites]


I know a certain blue website that's been very effectively wasting the time of a large group of potential left-wing activists for about 14 years now.
posted by Optamystic at 6:26 AM on February 25 [23 favorites]


Always Be Cointelpro-ing
posted by thelonius at 6:29 AM on February 25 [15 favorites]


Dear government, I have had an interesting life and have learned many things. Allow me to share a bit of wisdom:

The way you try to get what you want is more important than getting what you want.
posted by freecellwizard at 6:30 AM on February 25 [21 favorites]


Jeez, aside from the honey-trap the NSA apparently raids people in exactly the same way as your average chan mob.
posted by postcommunism at 6:30 AM on February 25 [4 favorites]


fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy)

man... it feels like every week there's another person who i thought was doing good revealed to be a secret badguy. (The world of online discourse, in my circle anyway, is so polarized it's always kinda ok vs. evil satan spawn badguys.)

One tenet my circle holds is that the voice of those whose voices have been marginalized and ignored should be listened to. To the extent that disagreeing with a first hand story accusing someone in "power" of wrongdoing feels morally unjustifiable. Because even if Person X didn't actually do this to Person Y, it fits in my worldview that someone else might have to someone else.

I guess what I'm saying is, the fact that I am even asking questions like this further corrupts my faith in my peer group and my ability to take action. I mean, the agencies could "leak" a document claiming that they were faking text messages I get, even if they weren't, just to make me more paranoid and trust my comrades less. So, well played, I guess? Either way, I lose.
posted by rebent at 6:31 AM on February 25 [4 favorites]


Protip: If you are a hactivist agency, a news source, or a government agency trying to infultrate various systems, include "cyber" in your PowerPoint custom dictionary before taking a screen shot of your slide. Custom dictionaries are there for a reason.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:34 AM on February 25 [6 favorites]


Critically, the “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 or, more broadly still, “hacktivism”, meaning those who use online protest activity for political ends.

Hahahaha Oh man.

It's like we've forgotten the 60s and 70s (when government agencies regularly used spycraft and reputation-destruction to bring down domestic organizations they saw as a threat).

Not criticizing this article - criticizing the pose that there was ever a period when the government used the CIA against a "customary roster" of clear bad guys.
posted by muddgirl at 6:35 AM on February 25 [10 favorites]


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
Thank goodness there's some oversight.
posted by postcommunism at 6:38 AM on February 25 [4 favorites]


This is my surprised face.

Do you like it?
My section chief says it's really convincing

posted by fullerine at 6:55 AM on February 25 [17 favorites]


> Remarkably similar to the methods used by Scientology as well.

I thought of Stormfront and their online uh, 'activism' and mantras and etc.. Scientology is a better comparison though.
posted by postcommunism at 6:55 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


[Comment and ensuing derail removed. If your off-topic swipe is removed please don't try to slip it in under the radar by reposting it as a coy allusion, thank you.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:02 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


I wonder which memes were invented by GCHQ?
posted by Joe Chip at 7:03 AM on February 25 [4 favorites]


They probably started b3ta so anything Caturday related is in fact a GCHQ ploy to calm down the citizenry.
posted by longbaugh at 7:04 AM on February 25 [2 favorites]


Maybe I'm drunk on bitcoiny tears this morning but if you are actually surprised by this then you are too naive to be on the internet.
The overheads would be trivial and the potential candidates have already self-selected themselves by working for your organisation.
In fact the whole thing was probably started when some mid management spook shoulder surfed while their young assistant trolled the shit out of early SA or something.
posted by fullerine at 7:08 AM on February 25 [4 favorites]


I saw a term on the bingo board jquinby linked to that mentioned the Haversack Ruse - which is pretty hilarious and very internet worthy.

The Haversack Ruse was an effort to trick Turkish/German forces to redeploy for attack against Gaza instead of an attack where the forces wanted to strike. In order to orchestrate this, there was a haversack (satchel) crammed with a missive indicating the birth of a baby. They let the guy ride into no mans land, get shot at, drop the satchel, and then in a grandiose effort made people think that the troops in that area were frantically searching for the satchel - and not actually just building up troops. They delayed and delayed, and the Germans and Turks redeployed to Gaza, and then all this buildup of troops swarmed into Beersheeba. Now ultimately this might have been solved by this little bit of trickery or it was the thousands of opiate laced cigarettes the British dropped on the Turkish troops in the lead-up to the siege of Jerusalem - their actual goal.

Now the best part of it though is this - and I'll quote it because its awesome:
"This was the central problem with the haversack ruse: it was deeply embedded in intelligence folklore, the source of many after-dinner anecdote, but there was precious little proof that it had ever actually worked."

posted by Nanukthedog at 7:16 AM on February 25 [6 favorites]


I'm imagining some asshole troll on Reddit delivering a mot juste which sends his 14 year old target into a tizzy only to find a pop-up message on his screen saying, "NSA: Your skillz are impressive. Meet us at the Denny's on Route 40 in 15 minutes if you want to see how deep the rabbit hole goes."
posted by codacorolla at 7:19 AM on February 25 [9 favorites]


To help make sense of some of the short-hand: Dissemination Control Markings (a 2 page PDF).
posted by filthy light thief at 7:25 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


I just want to know how many agents Mefi rates. Do any of them bother to register/comment, or do they just take notes?
posted by emjaybee at 7:27 AM on February 25 [2 favorites]


> if you are actually surprised by this then you are too naive to be on the internet.

As someone said just a bit upthread this is apparently of a piece with anti-activist operations in the 60s and 70s. But a big part of what's frightening here is seeing evidence that resources, techniques, and rules of engagement intended for use at an international level in response to an existential threat (state vs. state) are in fact being used on an interpersonal level in response to political threats (state vs. random internet person). And that this is apparently not a few special cases but business as usual, complete with the boring details of internal training and power point slides.

Yes, I am surprised by that.
posted by postcommunism at 7:35 AM on February 25 [19 favorites]


We submitted numerous questions to GCHQ, including: (1) Does GCHQ in fact engage in “false flag operations” where material is posted to the Internet and falsely attributed to someone else?; (2) Does GCHQ engage in efforts to influence or manipulate political discourse online?; and (3) Does GCHQ’s mandate include targeting common criminals (such as boiler room operators), or only foreign threats?

These are the questions that really need to be answered. It's not surprising the NSA/ETC has developed a possible strategy for doing this, but if they're actually engaging in it we need to know and it needs to stop. How we get answers about that I have no idea.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:40 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


I just want to know how many agents Mefi rates. Do any of them bother to register/comment, or do they just take notes?

Hah! Think you can trick us into answering that question so easily?
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:40 AM on February 25 [15 favorites]


Gotcha copper!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:42 AM on February 25 [3 favorites]


I'm imagining some asshole troll on Reddit delivering a mot juste which sends his 14 year old target into a tizzy only to find a pop-up message on his screen saying, "NSA: Your skillz are impressive. Meet us at the Denny's on Route 40 in 15 minutes if you want to see how deep the rabbit hole goes."

This would make /r/theredpill even more weird and disturbing.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:43 AM on February 25 [3 favorites]


If you're a cop you have to say so in this thread starting now.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:43 AM on February 25 [19 favorites]


I remember reading a passage somewhere from Philip K. Dick, the substance of which was: the world really is becoming more like a Phil Dick novel. (In this case perhaps: A Scanner Darkly.)
posted by grobstein at 7:46 AM on February 25


emjaybee: Well, we had a few for a while until y2karl outed them. dhoyt, jenleigh, hall of robots, and highsignal.
posted by Freen at 7:50 AM on February 25 [7 favorites]


Two other things referenced on the slides:

Hofstede Dimensions
Cialdini
posted by jquinby at 8:00 AM on February 25 [5 favorites]


Call me crazy but I have always wondered if something like this was behind the rise of the 9/11 Truth movement, which seemed to appear with amazing message control on Blogspot forums all over the Net. Suddenly all these people were talking about jet fuel. I even had an encounter in Second Life with a voluptuous avatar who showed up to ask me about Building 7.

It seemed almost as if someone had a software tool for spreading this stuff to comment sections instantly. In many places hard opposition to the Afghanistan war and talk of pipelines and Saudis and the foreign policy questions raised by Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" were now replaced with debates about building physics, sucking up a lot of that energy that might have gone towards looking at proven scandals.
posted by steinsaltz at 8:01 AM on February 25 [13 favorites]


"The FBI hasn't posted in this thread yet. Watch closely for the removal of this sign."

I'm anxious to see more of the presentation that includes those "Discredit a target" and "Discredit a company" slides. Because, hell yes, GCHQ admitting to actively editing and falsifying a person's social media information in addition to harassing their friends and colleagues comes as an actual surprise to me.

Never buy into the "you shouldn't be surprised" argument because at least now we can focus on which people and business relationships are deemed worthy of state interference, instead of wasting time in flame wars about whether or not the interference goes on in the first place.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 8:14 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


Yes, I am surprised by that.
Really? The CIA drew up plans and probably destabilised The Labour Government of the 1970s. The actual elected government of their major ally.
Outside of warfare, it has never been about response to an existential threat but always political.
posted by fullerine at 8:15 AM on February 25 [2 favorites]


Yes, I am surprised by that.

Really? The CIA drew up plans and probably destabilised The Labour Government of the 1970s. The actual elected government of their major ally.
Outside of warfare, it has never been about response to an existential threat but always political.
posted by fullerine at 8:15 AM on February 25 [+] [!]


though it was the Cold War (and the island of Britain being US Aircraft Carrier #1) , and significant elements in the CIA and MI5 apparently seriously believed that a British Prime Minister was a Soviet agent.
posted by Bwithh at 8:24 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


Instead of adding 'cyber' to your custom dictionary, better to search-and-replace cyber with 'computery'.

Then add computery to your custom dictionary.
posted by anthill at 8:24 AM on February 25 [6 favorites]


steinsaltz, I already made a bumper sticker for that purpose. "Alex Jones is an Inside Job". There actually are conspiracy nuts (There's some right-wing nazi type shit I saw once a few years ago, in particular) who think Alex Jones is part of THE MAN and there to discredit the REAL movement. There are Alex Jones fans who think that Icke is part of THE MAN and there to discredit the REAL movement. It's all firing inside the wagon circle, really...
posted by symbioid at 8:25 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


Now the best part of it though is this - and I'll quote it because its awesome:
"This was the central problem with the haversack ruse: it was deeply embedded in intelligence folklore, the source of many after-dinner anecdote, but there was precious little proof that it had ever actually worked."

posted by Nanukthedog at 7:16 AM on February 25 [3 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


That doesn't mean the Haversack ruse wasn't effective - it's just that because of all the double and triple and quadruple guessing and deeply multi-layered psyops on both sides in an intelligence struggle, it's very difficult to know for sure whether an enemy response is their real reaction or not even when your elaborate deception seems to have been highly successful.

See this New Yorker piece on British WWII intelligence operations (similar to the Haversack ruse): http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2010/05/10/100510crat_atlarge_gladwell?currentPage=all
posted by Bwithh at 8:30 AM on February 25




I'm imagining some asshole troll on Reddit delivering a mot juste which sends his 14 year old target into a tizzy only to find a pop-up message on his screen saying, "NSA: Your skillz are impressive. Meet us at the Denny's on Route 40 in 15 minutes if you want to see how deep the rabbit hole goes."


Greetings, starfighter...
posted by ocschwar at 8:31 AM on February 25 [13 favorites]


AKA - Project FORRESTAL. Remarkably similar to the methods used by Scientology as well.
posted by longbaugh at 6:15 AM on February 25 [+] [!]


I'm not seeing the connection here. Where do the GCHQ slides propose gaslighting people to the point of desperate insanity and suicide? because I don't see it, and not in Greenwald's commentary either.
posted by Bwithh at 8:32 AM on February 25


According to this month's Wired, we are going to start seeing more private clouds as people stop using public services, creating two kinds of Internets, a public space and private. Sort of like a return to the BBS days where a "BBS" is a pc in someone's home running all sorts of lightweight social media apps that only certain people are allowed to join.
posted by stbalbach at 8:33 AM on February 25 [6 favorites]


> Call me crazy but I have always wondered if something like this was behind the rise of the 9/11 Truth movement,

The thought has occurred to me - though my general consensus is that it arose naturally because of the "surprise factor" of having WTC 1, 2 and 7 collapse. (When I ask, "What exactly would the advantage of having the buildings collapse when flying planes into them would almost certainly ruin them completely and force them to be demolished anyway?" I get met by a deafening silence...)

More recently, I strongly suspect that a lot of the newer conspiracy ideas that are spreading are being spread deliberately.

Consider the "Sandy Hill was a false flag" idea. Now, this is far more crazy than the 9/11 conspiracies - because it requires thousands of people to be in on this conspiracy, it requires the complete invention then disappearance of a bunch of children - and for what? The answer is always "Gun control" - but there wasn't even a serious attempt to bring in gun control after Sandy Hill!

But this comes up constantly in the conspiracy theory world, seemingly always brought up by new individuals.

IF someone were wanting to discredit the whole area, it'd be hard to find a theory that was simultaneously more stupid and more offensive than that one.


As for people being paid to comment on Metafilter... We have a vague idea of the budgets and manpower of at least two sovereign states with respect to "social media" manipulation. I'd say that even the most conservative individual would have to concede that there are at least a hundred paid shills on the Internet.

If you had a hundred paid shills and wanted to influence public opinion, would you assign one of them to Metafilter - particularly considering that each shill must be covering multiple sites? My answer would be, "Definitely, yes." It's one of the few places where you get fairly rational, well-worked-out arguments - lots of liberals and progressives chatting, but in an apolitical environment.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:33 AM on February 25 [8 favorites]


That's right kids, some people are paid to troll Metafilter and they don't have to hide it from their boss.
Somewhere, ParisParamus is crying.
posted by fullerine at 8:38 AM on February 25 [15 favorites]


> That's right kids, some people are paid to troll Metafilter

We can't be sure without real corroboration. But if I had to bet, that's the way I'd bet - given the limited information we know more or less for sure.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:40 AM on February 25 [2 favorites]


I assume 100 is extremely conservative.
Do you have any idea how many unemployable posh kids the British public school system turns out every year.
posted by fullerine at 8:41 AM on February 25 [2 favorites]


> That's right kids, some people are paid to troll Metafilter

EARN BIG MONEY PETTING KITTENS IN YOUR OWN HOME!!!
posted by Trochanter at 8:44 AM on February 25 [9 favorites]


On the bright side, to the very limited extent that there is a bright side, this slide suggests that these are not competent people. People who make slides as unreadable as that do not actually know very much about human psychology.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:44 AM on February 25 [5 favorites]


If you're a cop you have to say so in this thread starting now.

Ha! Nice try, FBI.
posted by Noms_Tiem at 8:51 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


> I assume 100 is extremely conservative.

If you're going to argue something that seems on the surface so crazy as, "Metafilter has paid shills on it", you need to use conservative assumptions.

> People who make slides as unreadable as that do not actually know very much about human psychology.

Just because there's a pointy-haired boss making bogus charts does not mean that said boss's underlings aren't competent manipulators.

More to the point, they don't have to be good people people - they just have to be disruptive of anyone who might make progress against them.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:51 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


On the bright side, to the very limited extent that there is a bright side, this slide suggests that these are not competent people. People who make slides as unreadable as that do not actually know very much about human psychology.

If someone's slide-making skills were in any way correlated to their competence then NASA would have been closed years ago when all their employees died of starvation trying to figure out how to get out of the parking lot.
posted by Jairus at 8:52 AM on February 25 [13 favorites]


I don't get why everyone is so upset about this. Aren't they doing this in order to keep us all safer? We should be thanking them if anything.
posted by charred husk at 8:54 AM on February 25 [6 favorites]


> If you had a hundred paid shills and wanted to influence public opinion, would you assign one of them to Metafilter - particularly considering that each shill must be covering multiple sites? My answer would be, "Definitely, yes."

Heck no. Reddit and HuffPo alone have much bigger userbases. I love metafilter, but it's not exactly a big player when it comes to setting the tone for stories of the day. Nor is it as easily gamed.

I mean, I personally might, so that I could have an excuse to read it during the workday like I already do. But otherwise it seems like a terribly low ROI.
posted by postcommunism at 8:55 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


Metafilter is a lot easier to game than Reddit or HuffPo by a very wide margin.
posted by Jairus at 9:00 AM on February 25


This is one of those times where I'm out of synch with the universe again isn't it.
The idea that the security services do not have operatives on most of the major sites strikes me as the crazy thing.

Also, MeFI would have had them from very early on.
The membership of this place in the beginning was a veritable who's who of the hatethisphrase Web 2.0 and blogging movements.
It would've been self-evident it would be somewhere that needed to be at least monitored.
posted by fullerine at 9:05 AM on February 25 [5 favorites]


You know I really wish the theory behind self regulating communication and control systems were actually as ubiquitously popular a topic as the constant misuse of the prefix-adjective "cyber" would lead a naive systems theorist to believe it is.
posted by idiopath at 9:05 AM on February 25 [3 favorites]


> Heck no. Reddit and HuffPo alone have much bigger userbases.

With 100 people, each covering multiple roles, you would assign zero of those roles to Metafilter?

Reddit would certainly be more important - but consider the disposability of Reddit's threads. People actually go back and read Mefi.

The lack of a voting system also makes it easier to make an impact here by simply being forceful and writing a lot.

(I should add that I am, in fact, a real and searchable person, even from my profile. :-D)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:08 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


It's interesting how a conversation about "does mefi have plants" has derailed into a conversation about weather reddit or huffpo is more important.

Kinda... convenient, isn't it?
posted by rebent at 9:11 AM on February 25 [4 favorites]


> Kinda... convenient, isn't it?

The miserable thing about this idea is that it leads you to doubt everyone, when statistically almost everyone is in fact a legitimate person...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:15 AM on February 25 [4 favorites]


Kinda... convenient, isn't it?

Too bad we don't have a part of the site for talking about the site itself, often used for discussing policy and etiquette questions with the mods and other users, making feature requests, or asking questions about the site itself.

/I keed, I keed
posted by zombieflanders at 9:25 AM on February 25


Coincidentally, DemocracyNow did a story this morning about how this happens in real life. Activist groups in Tacoma, Washington were infiltrated and spied upon by a member of the Fort Lewis Fort Protection Service. They allege the following:

- That the infiltrator attempted to entrap an activist by attempting to persuade him to purchase and learn to shoot guns
- That the infiltrator submitted to an activist zine an article written from the POV of the 9/11 hijackers, and expressing sympathy for them
- That police set up a camera across the street from a community center in order to record the comings and goings of activists
- That the following agencies, in addition to the Army, Coast Guard, and Olympia Police Department spied on the activists:
"Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office, Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, Tacoma Police Department, Lakewood Police Department, Ft. Lewis Police Department, 504th Military Police Division, Aberdeen Police Department, The Evergreen State College Police Department, the Lacey Police Department, the [Tumwater] Police Department, the Seattle Police Department, the King County Sheriff’s Office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Protective Service, other Divisions of the Department of Homeland Security, Naval Investigative Services, Air Force Intelligence (which has created a special PMR SDS taskforce at McGwire Air Force Base in New Jersey), The Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Seattle Joint Terrorism Taskforce, as well as the previously discussed civilian employees of the City of Olympia."
- That activists were listed as domestic terrorists and a violent threat because of their activism, arrests, and civil disobedience.

It looks like the Army is trying to brush this off as the work of one bad apple. The original meaning of the saying was that "one bad apple spoils the whole bunch", and it is evident from the long list of agencies associated with the investigation.

Anyway. If a fraction of these allegations are true, I don't know why it would be implausible to believe that the same type of behavior takes place online. That said, as politically liberal as our userbase skews, no one uses Metafilter to plan nonviolent acts of civil disobedience. So I would be surprised if anyone is paid to mess with us.
posted by compartment at 9:26 AM on February 25 [5 favorites]


Also, MeFI would have had them from very early on.
The membership of this place in the beginning was a veritable who's who of the hatethisphrase Web 2.0 and blogging movements.
It would've been self-evident it would be somewhere that needed to be at least monitored.


Ever wonder about all those cat posts? December 14th, 2013: Metafilter ponders "Do cats love us back?" Instead of discussing the AP taking heat for exposing a Robert Levinson as a rogue CIA Agent. Similarly no one picked up on the other rogue CIA plan, clearly visible on the blue that day: Snow in Cairo. Really CIA? Those of us in the know are aware of all your weather domination plans.

The Levinson story was mentioned on December 12, 2013, while a crack team of CIA operatives spread stories on the Williams-Sonoma Catalog and Merry Clickmas.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:26 AM on February 25 [2 favorites]


I'm not! I'm totes a sentientity from a null IP address. Neither the NSA nor mefites got a damn thing on me.
posted by symbioid at 9:27 AM on February 25


> With 100 people, each covering multiple roles, you would assign zero of those roles to Metafilter?

I honestly wouldn't assign those roles in the first place. I mean, total speculation on my part, but it seems so far like the NSA works first and foremost with huge systems and tons of data, after crunching which humans then take more specific next steps; hiring shills seems really, really inefficient by comparison. Look at the two 'Discredit' slides in the OP: both of those describe something much more intense and intimate (and frankly, something which is a bigger problem) than writing apologetics on popular websites. (I'm aware the bit about Sunstein I quoted above sorta contradict this.)

The popular websites do that all by themselves anyway. Not everyone who has a risible opinion was paid for it. Most folks are sincere.
posted by postcommunism at 9:33 AM on February 25


Am I the only one who is extremely curious about why the word "Magic" appears on multiple slides?
posted by overeducated_alligator at 9:34 AM on February 25 [2 favorites]


Am I the only one who is extremely curious about why the word "Magic" appears on multiple slides?

Because they just re-used a template from their power-point breaking down their Magical Hack deck?
posted by drezdn at 9:37 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


That said, I am interested to see specifics of what they mean by pushing stories on facebook and twitter. I just can't imagine it's individual posters.
posted by postcommunism at 9:41 AM on February 25


See I'd think they'd be more of a blue-and-black style player, maybe supplement with some artifact creatures.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 9:42 AM on February 25 [2 favorites]


I just can't imagine it's individual posters.

It need not be. "Trending" is just a function of a database query. Whether the query is against actual data is not something we are privy to.
posted by Mooski at 9:44 AM on February 25


When living in the Outer Hebrides for five years, I spent much of my spare time chatting to the locals. Many good words of advice, metaphors and analogies were obtained. The one that has stuck in the head more than any other, and has been proven over and over, is:

"Everything in life is information warfare."
posted by Wordshore at 9:46 AM on February 25 [7 favorites]


So which one of you is it? Les, why did your car start by itself? I’ve seen you sitting up at night working on your computer, what were you doing?
posted by bongo_x at 9:48 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one who is extremely curious about why the word "Magic" appears on multiple slides?

I assume it is because performance magic is a profession that has long been deeply interested in techniques of deception and misdirection. Teller had a good talk posted here about it a while back.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:53 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


HEY FELLOW LEFTISTS ITS ME ANOTHER LEFTIST LIKE YOU
I SURE HATE THE STATE AND LOVE [[HACTIVISM]]
ANYONE WANT TO DO A COMPUTER DDOS OF A BANK WHICH I ALSO HATE?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:53 AM on February 25 [12 favorites]


Perhaps some of the people on the team there are really big fans of Mark Pesce... and "Cybermagick". The idea of magic as using words to program an individual... NLP and networked occultism. It just PROVES that Icke is right and there are Satanic minions casting black magic networking spells across the population via UN control, and you thought Icke was just joking!
posted by symbioid at 9:55 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


> performance magic is a profession that has long been deeply interested in techniques of deception and misdirection.

It shows up close to Anthropology and Psychology in that one slide, so I would guess they're talking more about gaming belief systems than slight of hand. Could be both.
posted by postcommunism at 9:57 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


So what is a legitimate target then? Occupy? Greenpeace? Any activism going beyond a politely-worded letter to one's congressman/MP?
posted by acb at 10:09 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


I absolutely believe that the 9/11 Truthers are the result of a psyop. They needed to cover up the fact that they (meaning, the Bush administration and the intelligence community) royally fucked up. So they spread conspiracy theories that are unlikely on their face to increase the signal to noise ratio. The people saying "9/11 was the result of a colossal intelligence and executive failure, and the people responsible should be fired and possibly prosecuted for criminal negligence" could be drowned out by and/or lumped in with the "9/11 was an inside job" nutters. And it worked.

"If THEY can get you asking the wrong questions, THEY don't have to worry about the answers." -Thomas Pynchon
posted by vibrotronica at 10:21 AM on February 25 [4 favorites]


It shows up close to Anthropology and Psychology in that one slide, so I would guess they're talking more about gaming belief systems than slight of hand.

Surely, but I was thinking of close up magic of the kind e.g. Derren Brown does, not pulling a coin from behind someone's ear, so it's a matter of degree rather than kind.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:38 AM on February 25


"It is thus clear that, as Sullivan said, 'No holds were barred,' although some holds were weighed more carefully than others. When the willingness to use techniques which were concededly dangerous or harmful to the targets is combined with the range of purposes and criteria by which these targets were chosen, the result is neither "within bounds" nor "justified" in a free society."
posted by gorbweaver at 10:39 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


vibrotronica: "If THEY can get you asking the wrong questions, THEY don't have to worry about the answers." -Thomas Pynchon

I wondered last summer about the timing of the US government's decision to finally acknowledge the existence of Area 51, and its subsequent coverage -- not to say trumpeting -- in numerous mainstream news outlets. I don't suppose it had anything to do with a deliberate effort to draw public attention away from the Snowden information and direct it instead to a much sillier kind of conspiracy theorizing. No, of course not.
posted by FrauMaschine at 10:42 AM on February 25


Magic was the codename for the allied code breaking activities against the Japanese cyphers in WWII, so knowing the limited imagination of the US intelligence community, somebody probably thought it hilarious to reuse it.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:54 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


I have real world experience of this. I used to conduct design research among users using ethnographic methods and many of these terms and the process feels familiar. and just because... I was teh first to link to this in the comments of a different thread ;p as it gave me some validation for my recent experience.

Agents are inserted into critical areas deemed important to security. Agriculture, and thus, food security, happens to be one of them. Right now, Africa is seen as a wide open market for GMO seeds and the rest of that nonsense. So killing off projects right before they manifest, in the last minute, is a good way to ensure that conflicting ideologies don't occur. Oh and people in the field (design) used to say that I could do magic ;p


I have the sense to retire from active fieldwork and have now subsumed myself into playing with my hobby tumblr for google ad revenue instead. What? Me worry? excuse my emoticons.
posted by infini at 10:57 AM on February 25


this slide suggests that these are not competent people

In my experience, slides like that are meant to confuse and bewilder the audience, leaving them more likely to trust you when you step in and say "but don't worry about all that, I understand and here's what it means." So maybe they do understand psychology, and they're using it internally as well.
posted by echo target at 12:01 PM on February 25 [7 favorites]


Not that I approve of these goings on in any way, but feel compelled to note that corporations have been doing similar and/or related things for some time. Forever, pretty much. Governments, too, in the pre-Internet era.

But this is my home. Sniff. So I'm feeling super happy and upbeat now that everybody's in the game except, you know, the actual public. Sigh.
posted by Bella Donna at 12:11 PM on February 25


All this is disturbing and scary and terrible and makes us all wonder whether that troll in whatever heated computery discussion we've been having was really a layabout jerk or actually our own federal government declaring we can't have a nice internet.

But a strong argument can also be made here that this is all a gigantic waste of tax money. I mean, even beyond the gigantic waste that the NSA already is. Because our government is paying professional trolls. Just, wow.
posted by JHarris at 12:15 PM on February 25 [4 favorites]


That said, as politically liberal as our userbase skews, no one uses Metafilter to plan nonviolent acts of civil disobedience.

That ends now: Next Tuesday, I'm considering walking across the street while the DON'T WALK signal is lit.

Mwa ha ha ha!
posted by JHarris at 12:19 PM on February 25 [1 favorite]


(1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets

It seems wasteful and redundant to establish a program to do what Huffpo and TMZ can do all by themselves.

As for people being paid to comment on Metafilter

I don't doubt that this possible. In any involved discussion of some politically-charged controversial topic, I usually tend to assume that at least one participant is speaking more as a representative than as an individual. I wouldn't be surprised at all to learn that there have been or still are members here who are paid to advocate or obfuscate on behalf of some campaign or group or party or even government. But it's a lot less clear to me how effective such advocates are at producing real world results or how different (rhetorically speaking) a paid advocate is from a true believer.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:08 PM on February 25 [3 favorites]


More seriously --

I'd guess that Metafilter is off their radar if only because our userbase is so much smaller than that of 4chan or Reddit. Which is why it's up to us to carry forth Anonymous's torch! Quickly everyone, to the nearest large city, to stop up sewers, reverse street signs, and steal everyone's left shoe!
posted by JHarris at 1:14 PM on February 25


(And to think I started that comment with "more seriously.")
posted by JHarris at 1:14 PM on February 25 [2 favorites]


The quickest way to defuse any Metafilter discussion is to start posting jokey comments. Not suggesting JHarris is a mole.
posted by anemone of the state at 1:16 PM on February 25 [2 favorites]


Hmm. I wonder if I should apply for a job there. It'd beat delivering pizza.

Really though, there is this incredibly humorous aspect to all this. To think the NSA cares that much about trolling. If recoiling in horror at their activities isn't doing the job fast enough, let's point out how stupid this all is, and laugh at them instead.
posted by JHarris at 1:23 PM on February 25


That ends now: Next Tuesday, I'm considering walking across the street while the DON'T WALK signal is lit.

But timing it so it’s only a couple of steps before it changes to WALK. Don’t want to get crazy.
posted by bongo_x at 1:28 PM on February 25


Really though, there is this incredibly humorous aspect to all this. To think the NSA cares that much about trolling.

Then again, the presence of trolls in just about any internet discussion is enough to keep me out of it. I personally try pretty hard to make sure to only comment when I feel I have something worth adding to the discussion, especially here. So while it may be humorous, it's also efficient & effective.
posted by antonymous at 2:45 PM on February 25 [1 favorite]


The intelligence community does not manipulate social media, and specifically does not engage with the Metafilter community.

Thank you for your interest in this matter.
posted by NSA at 2:47 PM on February 25 [12 favorites]


Quickly everyone, to the nearest large city, to stop up sewers, reverse street signs, and steal everyone's left shoe!

It's nice to live on an island with no large cities.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:00 PM on February 25 [2 favorites]


Here's the transcript of the "Inside the Army Spy Ring" Democracy Now piece that compartment mentioned upthread.
posted by stagewhisper at 4:44 PM on February 25


activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable

And why not? Same philosophy Snowden took to heart.

to destroy the reputation of its targets

Yep, that works too.

It's just that some people have the balls to do it out in the open and take the consequences like a man.
posted by Twang at 5:19 PM on February 25


no one uses Metafilter to plan nonviolent acts of civil disobedience.

Just nonviolent acts of cat disobedience.
SShhhhh.
posted by Twang at 5:26 PM on February 25


Split the NSA in Two, Says Security Firm Embroiled in NSA Scandal
posted by homunculus at 6:06 PM on February 25 [1 favorite]


Bruce Schneier: Breaking Up the NSA
posted by homunculus at 6:08 PM on February 25 [1 favorite]


Why AT&T’s Surveillance Report Omits 80 Million NSA Targets
posted by homunculus at 7:24 PM on February 25 [1 favorite]


It'd be really interesting to look at the posts on a given message board and tally the average sentiment during 9 AM - 5 PM EST vs other times of day ...
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:26 PM on February 25 [2 favorites]


Metafilter most certainly has "double agents", to the point of anyone suggesting otherwise is suspicious him/her self. Metafilter may not have that many users, but they are influenced by the site and are themselves more likely to be influential, not to mention that their viewpoints tend to tilt away from the official government line. The slides make clear that the goal of the NSA/GCHQ cabal is not to keep us safe from the TERRISTS, but mass surveillance and influencing/manipulating public opinion. No way they would ignore a target like Metafilter.

It's nothing I can put a finger on, but it sometimes seems like there is a certain shift of tone in on-the-blue comments. Some recent defense of telecoms not being that bad comes to mind. So does the too easy dismissal of stories like this one itself as being "nothing new", or the cynicism that meaningful change can be brought about in the general barrage of bad news. Just saying (and certainly most would be innocent). That does fit in exactly with the goals and methods listed in the slides.

Whoever they are, the trolls assigned to Metafilter must be good. Mefites generally being more knowledgeable and sophisticated than average, the trolling would have to be fairly subtle - a real intellectual spy vs. spy situation. I wonder who is smiling to him/her self while reading this? Metafilter Challenge: Find Them!

I also agree that definitely many of the wilder conspiracy theories are misinformation plants, but I'm sure there are two camps, the other one vehemently denying possibility of any conspiracy. Not to get into a conspiracy theory derail or to advocate for any one, but they are historically known to have happened so the possibility can't always be entirely dismissed out of hand (except for the loonier ones of course). The pincer movement works perfectly, again as outlined in the slides, so that many are afraid to even entertain the notion.

As we know and they know, once the Pandora's box of suspicion and confusion is opened, nothing can ever be quite the same.
posted by blue shadows at 11:41 PM on February 25 [3 favorites]


I swear to God news like this is making it really hard to even get out of bed in the morning.

It's obvious on it's face that the continued existence of the NSA, et al. is inimical to the continued existence of a democratic republic. Therefore the agencies involved must be immediately shut down and everyone responsible barred from federal employment. The fact that I haven't heard anything even remotely like this, not even a suggestion that there need to be investigations, from anyone who should be saying these things is deeply troubling.

Of course, then I read something like Mike Lofgren's article Essay: Anatomy of the Deep State on Bill Moyers' website…

Sic transit gloria Civitatum Foederatarum.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:47 PM on February 25 [2 favorites]


I wonder who is smiling to him/her self while reading this? Metafilter Challenge: Find Them!

J'accuse...!
posted by jquinby at 4:53 AM on February 26


RobotVoodooPower : weekends are pretty telling too.
posted by 3mendo at 5:18 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


It'd be really interesting to look at the posts on a given message board and tally the average sentiment during 9 AM - 5 PM EST vs other times of day ...
How would you differentiate between comments secretly advocating for the surveillance state, pushing the discourse further and further to the right and Americans?

So sorry, couldn't resist
posted by fullerine at 5:35 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


I doubt this requires outing our local fascists and/or conspiracy nuts as NSA, CIA, FBI, etc. plants bent on wasting our time or making us look bad, respectively. Imho, we've always needed more efficient responses to bullshit artists, not longer ones. And jokey retorts provide exactly that sort of more efficient callout because (a) they're shorter, saving readers time, and (b) they indicate the bullshit need not be treated seriously, saving respondents time.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:39 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


the trolls assigned to Metafilter must be good. Mefites generally being more knowledgeable and sophisticated than average, the trolling would have to be fairly subtle

You can see here how two fundamental errors lead to a third.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:54 AM on February 26 [6 favorites]


How much of the recent push towards "open" innovation, open startups, open development and open sharing of research has its roots in opening things up all the way, across the world.
posted by infini at 9:12 AM on February 26


They're Watching You On Email, On Reddit, On The Phone, At The Mall. What Are You Going To Do?
posted by homunculus at 10:46 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


The slides make clear that the goal of the NSA/GCHQ cabal is not to keep us safe from the TERRISTS, but mass surveillance and influencing/manipulating public opinion. No way they would ignore a target like Metafilter.

I wouldn't be surprised if they've checked out MeFi, but I doubt they would consider it worth their time to try to influence opinion here. The site is not that big and it would require too much effort.

But it also wouldn't surprise me if they stick around to check out the links.
posted by homunculus at 11:26 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


Interesting bit about the Faraday cage.
posted by infini at 11:39 AM on February 26


And we thought we had a cabal: Reddit Censors Big Story About Government Manipulation and Disruption of the Internet.
posted by gingerest at 6:59 PM on February 26 [3 favorites]


If there would be anywhere to put a mole on the social web to keep stories from spreading, it would be as a moderator on /r/news/.
posted by anemone of the state at 7:34 PM on February 26


Reddit Mods Bury Glenn Greenwald's Story On GCHQ/NSA Use Of Internet To 'Destroy Reputations' (techdirt)
posted by jeffburdges at 7:42 PM on February 26 [4 favorites]


I don't know what the deal with Reddit is because I'm not that familiar with the rules of r/news, for example, so I don't know how out of character this is in terms of deletions on that subreddit, but I'll note that this story isn't on the Guardian site (yet?) either... or most other news sites that I'm seeing – but I point out the Guardian, particularly, since one can hardly assume they are involved in a cover-up. I would hope it's more likely that news sites are trying to verify the info first. Is this crazy wrong on my part? I literally have no idea.

At any rate, it is up at r/news now.
posted by taz at 2:39 AM on February 27


bwithh - sorry for the late reply - this section from the wikipedia article I linked is what I refer to

Columnists Drew Pearson and Walter Winchell led a press campaign—which many would today find libelous—against Forrestal to make him appear paranoid. But official evaluations of his psychiatric state never mentioned paranoia. One of Pearson's most spectacular claims was that at Hobe Sound, Florida, shortly before he was hospitalized, Forrestal was awakened by a siren in the middle of the night and ran out into the street exclaiming, "The Russians are attacking." No one who was there that night confirmed this claim. Captain George Raines, the Navy doctor in charge of Forrestal's treatment, called it an outright fabrication.

Sorry I couldn't link straight to it but it was towards the bottom of the link.
posted by longbaugh at 3:21 AM on February 27


The latest scoop from the Guardian: GCHQ intercepted webcam images of millions of Yahoo users worldwide
posted by KatlaDragon at 7:42 AM on February 27 [3 favorites]


btw, I love how shocked and disappointed they seem to be to discover what people are doing with their webcams:

Sexually explicit webcam material proved to be a particular problem for GCHQ, as one document delicately put it: "Unfortunately … it would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person. Also, the fact that the Yahoo software allows more than one person to view a webcam stream without necessarily sending a reciprocal stream means that it appears sometimes to be used for broadcasting pornography."
posted by KatlaDragon at 7:47 AM on February 27 [2 favorites]


Soon... the NSA and GCHQ will infiltrate your condoms.

"We really wanna know...what's happening down there?"
posted by infini at 9:00 AM on February 27


taz, sometimes I think the r/news mods delete some stories just so that the controversy *is* the news. I imagine that the mods sit around and decide one story a month to intentionally bury.
posted by rebent at 9:37 AM on February 27


The reddit censorship is pretty typical, unfortunately. The issue is simple - each subreddit has a set of moderators who are simply the people who first created the group, or their designated successors, and you simply cannot challenge their decisions in any way.

Now, you'd think the up/down voting mechanism would be perfectly sufficient, but no, not at all. And since it's not obvious when a post or comment is removed, and there's no negative consequences at all, it happens a huge amount.

There are lists of these you can get. Here's a subreddit which lists highly upvoted posts that were deleted by moderators.

Sometimes it's quite funny. As I write this, the top post on that subreddit is "TIL: Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury's novel about the dangers of censorship, was printed in a censored form from 1967 to 1979."

I think r/pyongyang is a spoof - but they relentlessly censor and expel anyone who says anything that doesn't fawn over the ruling Kim family.

I was also amused to discover that r/anarchism moderators heavily censor posts - and are proud of it! - censoring almost anything that's against their very specific, formalized view of anarchy.

What's sadder is that some of the largest groups are censored for specific topics. r/worldnews, which has over 5,000,000 subscribers, ruthlessly censors any post that's even slightly critical of Israel, or any post that presents Palestinians in a good light.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:27 PM on February 27 [5 favorites]


Neelie Kroes speech today at the cyber security conference in Brussels is worth a read.

A secure online network for Europe

The revelations of Snowden came as a shock to many. But in a sense they were a blessing in disguise and a wake-up call. And that is just what we need right now. At the very moment where we are making the transition to a data-driven economy and society, these revelations could not have been more timely. We can use these insights to ensure a more secure online world, and a competitive advantage for European industry.
posted by infini at 4:54 AM on February 28


I'm so happy that Twitter provides a more censorship resistant channel than internet forums.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:13 AM on February 28


Very interesting update on the reddit censorship, from Salon. Summary: "It isn't news, but commentary, so we have to take it down."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:13 AM on February 28


What's interesting is that the /r rules essentially amount to "reinforce the status quo of the power elite." All writers have an ideology, it's just that when it's the one accepted by the power elite, it's accepted as received wisdom.
posted by wuwei at 8:29 AM on February 28 [2 favorites]


Just raise hell about every Fox News story until they ban Fox News too.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:28 AM on February 28


> Just raise hell about every Fox News story until they ban Fox News too.

Yeah, but that won't work. The moderators don't care if you raise hell or not...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:19 PM on February 28


So let’s be clear about this: individuals, groups, and private companies accused of no crime are having their reputations destroyed, their private lives exposed and their financial affairs disrupted by a government-orchestrated smear campaign extending all across the globe.

Raimondo's latest column on antiwar.com

posted by bukvich at 6:54 PM on February 28 [2 favorites]


Richard Nixon would have loved the internet. This was his modus operandi. With the internet, the tactics are much more capable of grave damage. Seems that the book "1984" really described this process....question really is how to process a campaign of disinformation when under attack?
posted by OhSusannah at 9:34 PM on March 2 [1 favorite]


question really is how to process a campaign of disinformation when under attack?

Applying critical thinking and logic, even while simultaneously allowing logic to make leaps based on intuitive knowledge of what just doesn't make sense, regardless of its purported logical flow. Key to ensuring that relationships are not damaged is being able to pull back into one's core senses and then working outwards from that point.

If only the logical structure and what is obvious are taken at face value, then you're screwed. It is really the ability to look beyond the obvious that helps identify the disinformation and its probable sources.
posted by infini at 2:03 AM on March 3 [2 favorites]


See Poul-Henning Kamp's FOSDEM Keynote NSA operation ORCHESTRA: Annual Status Report.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:49 PM on March 3


Metafilter most certainly has "double agents" [...]

I think you underestimate the number of actual defenders the NSA has, particularly in government circles.

More generally: what can easily seem like consensus opinion — even universal consensus — in a very particular demographic (sub/urbanites with postsecondary degrees active on online forums) is unlikely to be quite as universally held in the wider world. And even if 99% of people in general agree on some particular point, the remaining 1% is still a hell of a lot of people, probably more than it's feasible for the NSA to ever hire, and some of them are going to know how to use computers. On an Internet site where anyone can sign up (well, anyone with five bucks), you're going to get outliers.

So that person who just must be a paid shill for the NSA, or Big Oil, or Monsanto, or whatever, is a lot more likely to just be earnestly disagreeing with you for their own reasons than to actually be a double agent.

Of course, you can never tell. On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog NSA agent.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:33 PM on March 3


I'd wager some /r/news moderators take U.S. government money or favors, ditto many professional journalists supporting them. Around here, any NSA shills might actually spend their time pumping distractions, and maybe making good causes look bad, rather than whitewashing fascism directly.

We've a historical model in the CIA's cold war cultural programs that appears quite advanced :

- Abstract expressionism ala Jackson Pollock was promoted by the CIA's Congress for Cultural Freedom to "to place the United States in the forefront of global art and devalue socialist realism."

- Gloria Steinem worked for the CIA from nearly two years before becoming involved in feminism. I'd imagine feminist theory "beat the communists" without endangering American economic interests, like abstract expressionism, and proved useful in derailing undesirable socialist groups.

Are the NSA's cultural assets as clueful as Poul-Henning Kamp suggests? No clue. Just don't assume they're mindless shills either.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:27 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


The Young Turks : How The Government Can Destroy Your Reputation
posted by jeffburdges at 2:38 AM on March 4


Reddit GM Erik Martin talks about the site’s unlikely success and its new live-reporting feature
posted by homunculus at 12:11 PM on March 4


Abstract expressionism ala Jackson Pollock was promoted by the CIA

Some of the best work the CIA's ever done, too. Pity they didn't spend more time promoting the arts and less time toppling governments.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:38 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


Yahoo UK Moves To Dublin To Escape Surveillance; UK Asks It To Stay... For The Spies
posted by jeffburdges at 7:34 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]


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