Patterico's Pontifications

2/27/2014

Glenn Greenwald on Internet Deception . . . By the British Government

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:51 am

Glenn Greenwald writes about Internet deception (yes, those six words prompt some thoughts, don’t they? — more on that in this post) by a branch of the British government, and a document called “The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations.”

Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG [Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group, a secret unit of the GCHQ or Government Communications Headquarters] 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.

As long-time readers know, I have been a target of this type of activity. There has been, for years, a seemingly coordinated campaign to discredit me and other critics of Brett Kimberlin conducted by Neal Rauhauser and other shadowy pro-Kimberlin figures, including all manner of false accusations, portraying aggressors as victims, false comments attributed to me, and the like. It doesn’t feel great that it’s being done by non-government actors — but then again, if I were a target of government actors carrying out similar operations, I think that would be much worse.

Dirty tricks campaigns by governments are nothing new — COINTELPRO is a well-known word here in the U.S. — but to the extent that they are carried out by any government supposedly respectful of civil liberties, they are a matter of great concern. We have already learned that government is tracking people’s online activity to embarrass them — and if they do it to Muslims with extremist views today, they could do it to you tomorrow. The same goes for Internet deception and tactics to discredit people who are deemed government enemies.

SHIFTING GEARS: That said, the idea of Glenn Greenwald decrying Internet deception is rather rich. Long-time readers of this site also know that I published a long post in 2006 that laid out evidence that Greenwald was engaged in sock puppetry. If you haven’t read it before, please do so now. It’s long, but entertaining, mostly thanks to the use of visual images of sock-puppets created by the wonderful Wuzzadem site.

The evidence in the post included: IP addresses shared by Greenwald and some of his more vocal commenters; certain stock themes and phrases that appear in Greenwald’s writing and that of the sock puppets, many of whom shared similar-sounding names (such “Ellison,” “Rick Ellensburg,” and “Thomas Ellers”); the ability of those sock puppets to “pre-gurgitate” (a word coined by Ace of Spades) points that would later be made in Greenwald’s columns; and much more.

Sockmous1
For your information, Mr. Greenwald has written a New York Times bestselling book on executive authority, broken a story on his blog about wiretapping that led to front-page stories on most major newspapers in the country, and Russ Feingold read from my blog…

Greenwald defended himself in a piece that attacked all his critics as homophobes (I support gay marriage) and implied that the comments were written by his boyfriend. The Brazilian boyfriend would have to have used several characteristic phrases and concepts also used by Greenwald — but here is a point that is often overlooked: even if the boyfriend did write all the comments, Greenwald still almost certainly acted deceptively. As I noted in that 2007 post, there was a sock-puppet named Ryan who posted the following comment on Riehl Word View:

I e-mailed Greenwald yesterday about this, pasted BumperStickerist’s accusations, and asked Greenwald if it was true. This is what I just received in response:

“Thanks for sending that.

I worked at Wachtell, Lipton as a Summer Associate after my second year at NYU, as a pre-Bar Associate during my entire third year at NYU and once I graduated, and then as a practicing Litigation Associate once I was admitted to the New York Bar.

Anyone who says that I did not practice law there after I passed the bar is lying — and deliberately so, I would think, since nobody who says such a thing could possibly have any basis for knowing that.

In any event, I can’t imagine what point anyone thinks they’re making. Wachtell is known to be the most selective law firm in the country. What point do they think they’re making, exactly?”

You people are morons, seriously. You run around claiming things without having any idea if there true. And then when you get exposed as liars, you slink away and repeat the next lie.

The IP address for the comment from “Ryan” was the same IP address used by Greenwald himself to spam my site with numerous angry comments railing about my supposed dishonesty. If “Ryan” was the boyfriend (using the same IP address and markedly similar language as Greenwald himself), then the boyfriend “emailed” Greenwald, got a response, and published that response in a comment from Greenwald’s IP address. It is difficult to believe that Greenwald was unaware that this was happening, and it does not seem particularly above-board to allow the boyfriend to portray himself (under multiple false names) as a disinterested defender of Greenwald’s.

BACK TO THE CURRENT ARTICLE ON GOVERNMENT DECEPTION TACTICS: I am also disturbed by Greenwald’s acceptance of the loony theory that DDoS attacks on web sites are protected by the First Amendment:

No matter your views on Anonymous, “hacktivists” or garden-variety criminals, it is not difficult to see how dangerous it is to have secret government agencies being able to target any individuals they want – who have never been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crimes – with these sorts of online, deception-based tactics of reputation destruction and disruption. There is a strong argument to make, as Jay Leiderman demonstrated in the Guardian in the context of the Paypal 14 hacktivist persecution, that the “denial of service” tactics used by hacktivists result in (at most) trivial damage (far less than the cyber-warfare tactics favored by the US and UK) and are far more akin to the type of political protest protected by the First Amendment.

If someone conducts a DDoS attack on Greenwald’s or Leiderman’s site, I have a feeling that the view that this is First Amendment activity will change rather drastically.

All this deception and bogus argumentation by Greenwald is not just amusing. It means you have to take any of his articles with giant shakerfuls of salt.

That said, if what he is reporting is true, it is concerning. Smear tactics are bad when carried out by anyone, and are especially concerning when carried out by government agents.

 

Sockpuppet
Good DAY, sir!

 

UPDATE: The beginning of this post originally read:

Glenn Greenwald writes about Internet deception (yes, those five words prompt some thoughts, don’t they? — more on that in this post)

JD kindly changed “five” to “six” because, um, there were six words. I guess I ran out of toes when trying to count them this morning . . .

UPDATE: I published the Greenwald takedown in 2006, not 2007. Thanks to aunursa. How many simple things can I get wrong in one post? I am going for a record, apparently.

39 Responses to “Glenn Greenwald on Internet Deception . . . By the British Government”

  1. Ding.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  2. I’m pretty sure I am the target of this kind of activity too, in a minor way. I’ll write about something, and then I’ll have a wave of Twitter followers related to it in some fashion.

    Christopher Cantwell wrote about experiencing this phenomena too. Incidentally, we were writing about quite different things. He wants a violent overthrow of the government which I think is loony, if only because most people can’t be roused to think or read a blog post, must less that, but more fundamentally, I see no reason to believe that it would improve things.

    To my mind, the main problem with loss of liberty is technological advancement itself and I don’t see governments refraining from using those capacities to the max, and mixing them with their own brand of evil, the power to write laws and use force, to cement their power and authority and control.

    But anyhoo, I absolutely believe the troll army phenomena is real.

    Former Conservative (6e026c)

  3. Ah, Glenn Greenwald. Kind of forgotten about him, hadn’t we? And I guess that’s the entire point, isn’t it?

    JVW (709bc7)

  4. Government Social Media Bots Exposed


    Of course, that’s not good enough for the government. Even this tiny little bit of dissent, is a bit too much for the most powerful government in the history of mankind to tolerate. As far back as 2011, a story came out that the US Air Force was seeking an “Online Persona Management Service”. One capable of allowing a single user to simultaneously manage “a number of different online persons from the same workstation and without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries” that are “replete with background, history, supporting details, and cyber presences that are technically, culturally and geographically consistent”. Even seeking to game geolocation systems and include “a user friendly application environment to maximize the user’s situational awareness by displaying real-time local information.”.

    Worth a read.

    Former Conservative (6e026c)

  5. Gad, I do remember the Greenwald SockPuppet post. I laughed so hard at the childishness of the “Ellensburg, Ellers, etc.” defenses. Great job Pat in exposing his “sockpuppetry”.

    Bill M (c8f413)

  6. Glenn Greenwald writes about Internet deception (yes, those five words prompt some thoughts, don’t they? — more on that in this post)

    Pretty sure that was six words, not five :)

    Chuck Bartowski (11fb31)

  7. Interesting bit there, gary, at #2.
    For example, while some would think that the great effort Obama has gone to in order to protect his past records suggest that he has things to hide (I believe the more obvious and straightforward Occam’s razor approach), others especially in the conservative camp say that he has no great astounding thing to hide (maybe bad grades, etc.) and that he has continued to protect his info just to give his political enemies something to fuss about and “look foolish” so Obama can hold them up for ridicule, making it seem that they are too goofy to be believed.
    Now that latter idea reveals an astounding bit of disinformation work if there ever was one. The problem is, to my mind it is still unclear which is closer to the truth and which is the deliberate disinformation!

    I think the real solution is both hard and easy, not glamorous yet the stuff of legend:
    thousands if not millions of individuals around the world willing to take a stand for the truth as they know it.
    For example, I think they whole recent to-do about the proposed FCC study and censorship-intimidation move came about because one of the FCC commissioners went out of his way to go public with the info, instead of letting it be just another one of dozens of things the MSM is letting slide. One can only imagine what hell he is going to get from the IRS, FBI, ATF, DHS, OSHA, and the local humane society (any inappropriate use of dog carriers?) for doing this.
    Hopefully the Koch brothers have job openings for people who have destroyed their political and public service careers by going public with important information.

    The most dangerous thing about all of this is, how many people on line would ever even begin to consider they are being actively manipulated?

    MD in Philly (f9371b)

  8. But, but, but … I thought they couldn’t put it on the internet if it weren’t true. Wouldn’t that violate the Terms of Service of the hosting sites, a crime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act? Where’s Eric Holder on this? Why aren’t there indictments, and requests for extradition of the offending Brits for trial in the United States?

    nk (dbc370)

  9. But, but, but … I thought they couldn’t put it on the internet if it weren’t true. Wouldn’t that violate the Terms of Service of the hosting sites, a crime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act? Where’s Eric Holder on this? Why aren’t there indictments, and requests for extradition of the offending Brits for trial in the United States?

    +1

    To start with, that’s funny, and I thought of that too, although not in such amusing terms. But yeah. Goes back to what I say about government, is that it’s legalized evil and hypocrisy.

    Former Conservative (6e026c)

  10. Between the internet, special effects software, and the advent of 3D printers, “seeing is believing” will take on a whole new meaning.
    Epistemology will have powerful brand new illustrations
    Kafkaesque will become a household word.
    “I think, therefore I have been deceived”.

    MD in Philly (f9371b)

  11. Seriously, Greenwald needs to be indicted for espionage. He should not be allowed to hide behind the Pentagon Papers’ “I’m a journalist and Snowden is my source”. He is Snowden’s accomplice in the dissemination of classified information and the Pentagon Papers’ nonsense should be re-examined. I don’t know what special protections British law gives to journalists but, as recently restated in the Ninth Circuit, in America they enjoy no more First Amendment freedom than anybody else.

    nk (dbc370)

  12. The wording of the Espionage Act is such that to be guilty a person must either:

    1) Intend to harm the national security of the United States, which is more or less interpreted as working for a foreign power.

    2) Actually harm the security of the United States.

    IIRC, The Espionage Act covers releasing to the general public only the subcategory of classified information whose release harms the security of the United States (as opposed to handing it over to another power, where it doesn’t have to meet that test.)

    Sammy Finkelman (7072ea)

  13. Sock Puppet Thursday?
    IP Freely or maybe
    Prince Albert in can?

    Colonel Haiku (c1bfa3)

  14. No, not really.

    I’m nk, just making a point.

    Colonel Haiku (dbc370)

  15. Despite that the internet is useful;

    https://twitter.com/Gral_Vivas_P

    narciso (3fec35)

  16. Smear tactics are bad when carried out by anyone, and are especially concerning when carried out by government agents.

    Tell it to NOLA DA Jim Garrison, Paula Jones, Linda Tripp, Ken Starr, Justice Thomas, Andrew Breitbart, or Sarah Palin.

    ropelight (ff1611)

  17. narciso “Cass Sunstein advocates cognitive infiltration of groups”

    This must be some of that libertarian paternalism nudging he advocates.

    pst314 (ae6bd1)

  18. yes, that must be it,

    narciso (3fec35)

  19. Apparently, the Greenwald story is being repeatedly pulled from reddit by the usual gang of politicized moderators.

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

    Kevin M (dbcba4)

  20. I laughed for a long time when I saw Greenwald whining about NSA/GCHQ sock puppets.

    I may still be laughing actually.

    SPQR (768505)

  21. you would think they would give him credit,

    narciso (3fec35)

  22. UPDATE: The beginning of this post originally read:

    Glenn Greenwald writes about Internet deception (yes, those five words prompt some thoughts, don’t they? — more on that in this post)

    JD kindly changed “five” to “six” because, um, there were six words. I guess I ran out of toes when trying to count them this morning . . .

    Patterico (9c670f)

  23. I removed a comment from the thread that did not meet this site’s standards for civility.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  24. Smear tactics are bad when carried out by anyone, and are especially concerning when carried out by government agents.

    Comment by ropelight (ff1611) — 2/27/2014 @ 10:33 am

    Tell it to NOLA DA Jim Garrison, Paula Jones, Linda Tripp, Ken Starr, Justice Thomas, Andrew Breitbart, or Sarah Palin.

    Jim Garrison was someone who engaged in smear tactics – using a grand jury. He indicted someone for plotting the murder of Predident Kennedy.

    Sammy Finkelman (7072ea)

  25. specifically he was trading in Soviet dezinformatya, among other things,

    narciso (3fec35)

  26. Ken Starr, Clarence Thomas, Andrew Breitbart and Sarah Palin were indeed smeared in different ways.

    Linda Tripp’s privacy was violated.

    Linda Tripp wasn’t attacked at all at first for a few years.

    She had witnessed something about Vincent Foster – maybe how he suddenly became upset – something that did not tally with the White House story.

    She may not even have known what it was that she knew that was so important.

    Bill Clinton wanted to keep her under control, so, even though she was originally a Bush employee, he kept her on, but just exiled her to an obscure office in the Pentagon, giving her a $20,000 raise in the process..

    But then later, he exiled Monica Lewinsky to the exact same office!!

    Oops!!

    He outsmarted himself!

    Sammy Finkelman (7072ea)

  27. Even afer the Monica Lewinsky case broke, she stayed on the payroll. She thought she would stay on later, but Clinton fired her the day before he left office.

    Anyway, first it was revealed that she had once been arrested for shoplifting, and maybe could have lied on her security clearance form, except that there was no way within the law for all this to have become known.

    She later sued the federal government and settled in 2003 for a one-time payment of more than $595,000, a retroactive promotion, retroactive pay at the highest salary for 1998, 1999, and 2000, a pension, and clearance to work for the federal government again, as well as maintaining her right to remain part of a class action lawsuit against the government.

    Maryland prosecuted her for taping someone without their knowledge, Maryland being one of the states where that is illegal, although Maryland case law holds it is only illegal if you know it is, and ignorance of the law is indeed a defense!

    The case was dropped because of the immunity agreement with Kenneth Starr, and because a Maryland judge ruled that Monica Lewinsky’s testimony (that she had not known she was being taped) was tainted and unusable because she had admitted she lied under oath and that lying was part of her life, and so she was sort of disqualified as a witness.

    After she was fired, the Clinton Administration people said she was a political appointee (of Clinton’s!) and had to submit her resignation, and that those who did not, were fired.

    Once Clinton was out of office, leaving her in the job would not maintain any kind of a hold on her.

    Sammy Finkelman (7072ea)

  28. Sammy. Chill.

    SPQR (768505)

  29. Patterico: Your post is dated 2006, not 2007.

    aunursa (7014a8)

  30. Thanks for the update. I really appreciate the efforts you have made for this blog

    IT solutions Vancouver (7c894c)

  31. Greenwald did not meet Reddit’s standards? Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Ha! Ha! [Help, I can't stop laughing.]

    nk (dbc370)

  32. UPDATE: I published the Greenwald takedown in 2006, not 2007. Thanks to aunursa. How many simple things can I get wrong in one post? I am going for a record, apparently.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  33. Greenwald is doing incredibly important reporting … about the government doing the same sorts of things he used to do.

    Odd.

    Former Conservative (6e026c)

  34. Greenwald did not meet Reddit’s standards?

    Reddit does a lot of censorship, such as for example those who are AGW speptics … I wouldn’t necessarily interpret it the way you did. It could well be government trying to shape the discourse.

    I have experienced what I suspect are shill accounts, politically motivated at least, but more probably government on some level. I thought that before Greenwald, Cantwell, etc., wrote about it.

    Former Conservative (6e026c)

  35. I’m not sure whom I’m laughing at, FC. To say I have no respect for Reddit would be an understatement. I trolled some subreddits for a time, but my stomach could stand only so much. It’s mostly pretty disgusting.

    nk (dbc370)


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