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.
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.
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.