Just a quick source for anyone who wants to download a collection of (some of) the information leaked by Edward Snowden.
Just a quick source for anyone who wants to download a collection of (some of) the information leaked by Edward Snowden.
I know I missed it.
The Guardian, some time ago, reported that the National Security Agency (NSA) targeted political activists and environmentalists for specific surveillance. According to The Guardian, this domestic spying was motivated in part by the risk of domestic unrest due to climate change. In 2006, the NSA stated:
“Environmental destruction, whether caused by human behavior or cataclysmic mega-disasters such as floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, or tsunamis. Problems of this scope may overwhelm the capacity of local authorities to respond, and may even overtax national militaries, requiring a larger international response.”
Climate change is controversial, but we know one thing: the NSA is concerned about it.
How risky is it to use the words “bomb,” “plague,” or “gun” online? That was a question we posed, tongue in cheek, with a web toy we built last year called Hello NSA. It offers users suggested tweets that use words that drawn from a list of watchwords that analysts at the Dept. of Homeland Security are instructed to search for on social media. “Stop holding my love hostage,” one of the tweets read. “My emotions are like a tornado of fundamentalist wildfire.”
It was silly, but it was also imagined as an absurdist response to the absurdist ways that dragnet surveillance of the public and non-public Internet jars with our ideas of freedom of speech and privacy.
And yet, after reading the mounting pile of NSA PowerPoints, are all of us as comfortable as we used to be Googling for a word like “anthrax,” even if we were simply looking up our favorite thrash metal band? Maybe not.
According to a new study of Google search trends, searches for terms deemed to be sensitive to government or privacy concerns have dropped “significantly” in the months since Edward Snowden’s revelations in July.
“It seemed very possible that we would see no effect,” MIT economist Catherine Tucker and digital privacy advocate Alex Marthews write. “However, we do in fact see an overall roughly 2.2 percentage point fall in search traffic on ‘high government trouble’-rated search terms.”
Here is the abstract:
This paper uses data from Google Trends on search terms from before and after the surveillance revelations of June 2013 to analyze whether Google users’ search behavior shifted as a result of an exogenous shock in information about how closely their internet searches were being monitored by the U. S. government. We use data from Google Trends on search volume for 282 search terms across eleven different countries. These search terms were independently rated for their degree of privacy-sensitivity along multiple dimensions. Using panel data, our result suggest that cross-nationally, users were less likely to search using search terms that they believed might get them in trouble with the U. S. government. In the U. S., this was the main subset of search terms that were affected. However, internationally there was also a drop in traffic for search terms that were rated as personally sensitive. These results have implications for policy makers in terms of understanding the actual effects on search behavior of disclosures relating to the scale of government surveillance on the Internet and their potential effects on international competitiveness.
Marthews, Alex and Tucker, Catherine, Government Surveillance and Internet Search Behavior (March 24, 2014). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2412564 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2412564
The NCIS siblings take this one step further by placing the entire nation in jeopardy on a regular basis. The two shows have offered numerous plots involving weapons of mass destruction in the hands of lavishly financed Iranian, Pakistani, or Russian evildoers.
This is how entertainment media manipulates public sentiment. Both homicide and terrorist attack are some of the most feared, but least likely to happen events.
The moderators at the giant r/news reddit (with over 2 million subscribed readers) repeatedly killed the Greenwald/Snowden story on government manipulation and disruption of the Internet … widely acknowledged to be one of the most important stories ever leaked by Snowden.
There was a time when this would have sounded like a conspiracy theory. Now based on the recent Snowden/Greenwald revelation we know, at the very least, these tactics are on the table.
The man everyone knew as “John Jacob” was in fact John Towery, a member of the Force Protection Service at Fort Lewis. He also spied on the Industrial Workers of the World and Iraq Veterans Against the War. A newly made public email written by Towery reveals the Army informant was building a multi-agency spying apparatus. The email was sent from Towery using his military account to the FBI, as well as the police departments in Los Angeles, Portland, Eugene, Everett and Spokane. He wrote, “I thought it would be a good idea to develop a leftist/anarchist mini-group for intel sharing and distro.” Meanwhile, evidence has also emerged that the Army informant attempted to entrap at least one peace activist, Glenn Crespo, by attempting to persuade him to purchase guns and learn to shoot. We speak to Crespo and his attorney Larry Hildes, who represents all the activists in the case.
Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept has released the latest Edward Snowden leak: a Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) slide show, from the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), titled The Art Of Deception: Training for A New Generation of Online Covert Operations. This information demonstrates how GCHQ has gone beyond spying and beyond focusing on threats to national security. Terrorism is no longer the focus. Instead, GCHQ has adopted tactics designed entrap, defame and derail. From Greenwald, How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations:
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.
Slide 47 from the leak. This is not threat-finding. It is an attack plan. According to Greenwald:
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.
Any shred of optimism regarding the NSA, GCHQ and the “Five Eyes” has gone out the window. The mission has little to do with terrorism and security. They are openly discussing attacking individuals and engaging in corporate espionage. You are not going to stop the next Bin Laden by changing his FaceBook photo or sending mean text messages to his friends. These are tactics specifically used to harm individuals who do not align themselves with government interests.
The leaks illustrate psychological techniques to infiltrate and disrupt groups, disseminate false information, ruin reputations, and misdirect the flow of information on the Internet. We’re not talking al-Qaeda and child pornography on the Darknet. We’re not talking about people who have been charged with any crime. And certainly not about a military target in a war zone. This is about stifling the average man and woman.
But these GCHQ documents are the first to prove that a major western government is using some of the most controversial techniques to disseminate deception online and harm the reputations of targets. Under the tactics they use, the state is deliberately spreading lies on the internet about whichever individuals it targets, including the use of what GCHQ itself calls “false flag operations” and emails to people’s families and friends. Who would possibly trust a government to exercise these powers at all, let alone do so in secret, with virtually no oversight, and outside of any cognizable legal framework?
Imagine if it were you: an animal rights activist, an anarchist, environmentalist, Second Amendment activist, a member of a militia or an “extreme” religious group, an Orthodox Jew or a Southern Baptist, a homosexual, a tax protester, or a member of an unpopular political party. You become the target. And you find people are spreading lies about you on the Internet, harassing your family, sabotaging your business relationships and attempting to entrap you. All the tactics revealed in these leaks.
And then you find it that it was not just people — it was your own government. You were being attacked by the government you pay for with your taxes. They are spreading false information and attempting to disrupt your work. And you have never committed a crime. In fact, you have never even been charged with a crime. The entire campaign against you is extra-judicial. You have been deemed a domestic enemy of the state.
And you have no recourse, because the government has decided you are the enemy. You cannot fight it in a court, report it to an authority with oversight, open a lawsuit or even confirm for certain that you are a target.
One classified document from Government Communications Headquarters, Britain’s top spy agency, shows that GCHQ used its surveillance system to secretly monitor visitors to a WikiLeaks site. By exploiting its ability to tap into the fiber-optic cables that make up the backbone of the Internet, the agency confided to allies in 2012, it was able to collect the IP addresses of visitors in real time, as well as the search terms that visitors used to reach the site from search engines like Google.
What this means: if you visited WikiLeaks.org your IP may have been logged and stored by GCHQ. Your IP address is assigned by your ISP. This is the company that you pay, with your credit card or bank account, to use the Internet in your home. You are now in the system. Take heed, those who have nothing to hide. It has been confirmed. We’re on a list.
According to the documents released by Snowden, The Pirate Bay and Anonymous collectives may have also been targeted. Needless to say, The Pirate Bay has absolutely nothing to do with terrorism. This is the world’s most advanced spy agency enforcing corporate interests and monitoring individual habits: the television shows, movies, books, games and pornography you download.
If the NSA and GCHQ are collecting the IP information en masse of all visitors to subversive websites, as well as torrent habits from The Pirate Bay, this may allow a revealing profile to be built of you. Yes, you. Not Mr. Jihad in Pakistan, but Sally Student and Mrs. Soccer Mom in Pleasantville, USA.
The full 40 page leak can be found at Greenwald’s new media outlet The Intercept. (Psychology: A New Kind of SIGDEV.)
I have never been a fan of conspiracy theories. I don’t think that the US government killed J.F.K., nor that the World Trade Center was the result of a government controlled demolition. I don’t believe in chemtrails, nor that fluoride is poisoning my precious bodily fluids. Imagine my surprise when Snowden’s leaked documents, which largely have to do with psychological operations, sound exactly like many of the things conspiracy theorists have been saying.
For example, they reveal that GCHQ is profiling Mac versus Windows users, as well as Firefox, Chrome and Explorer users, based on the Five Factor Model of personality. This may be used to blend in among, or infiltrate, subversive elements by the use of mirroring, mimicry, and accommodation. Not my words — these are from the leaked files. What they imply is that, by profiling the psychological traits of individuals based on operating system choice, browser usage and, of course, websites visited, intelligence may be able to learn more about targets. Perhaps even blend in among them. Particular websites targeted, according to the documents, are Blogger, FaceBook and YouTube.
This has a chilling effect. Knowing this one must ask: if someone expresses agreement with you on a subversive issue, such as anti-state activism or NSA spying, do they really agree or is this an intelligence operative engaging in — as the leak states — mirroring, mimicry, and accommodation to gain your trust.
Again, it sounds like crazy conspiracy theory talk. And yet there it is.
Most of the information from Greenwald and Gallagher regarding this leak focuses on: the bulk collection of IP addresses, state desire to prosecute WikiLeaks, and state desire to classify WikiLeaks as a “malicious foreign actor.” There is little discussion of the bulk psychological profiling. Here are the three frames that I find most interesting:
This is the based on the Five Factor Model of personality — the theory, roughly, that individual personalities consist of varied levels of extroversion, conscientiousness, neuroticism, agreeableness, and openness to experience. The idea may be that by understanding the personality traits of unknown or anonymous individual targets it will be easier to identify, infiltrate or manipulate said targets. For example, the Internet Explorer user may be more susceptible to manipulations that play off of his or her higher conscientiousness. The Firefox user may be more susceptible to ploys involving his or her greater neuroticism.
I am skeptical as to how much information this alone can provide, or how useful it would be. But that seems to be the general idea.
Here is the next:
This follows a slide of a FaceBook page that has been blacked out. According to the leaked documents, the NSA is able to monitor FaceBook “likes” in real time. The slide show does not describe each slide in depth. All we know is that this is in the context of FaceBook and real-time monitoring of “likes.” This is my guess: by viewing what articles, comments or information a target on FaceBook “likes” this provides a degree of certainty of the target’s profile. As a result, disclosure of who the target is, what the target’s beliefs, feelings or thoughts are, and so on.
This is the next slide. It describes the psychological basis and application of an infiltration technique. What I mean by this is gaining the confidence or trust of a target for intelligence purposes. This could be used to enter into the group or the subculture. It could also be used to gain information about the target. We have four levels of “feeling out” the target: superficial, intimate, personal and core. The core, being accepted into the group or gaining the desired information, is the goal.
Above, top left, explains the psychological basis for how this is done: mirroring, mimicry and accommodation. This is psychological terminology you may be familiar with. These concepts largely involve liking, rapport building, and persuasion. Mirroring, for example, occurs naturally when two people are attracted to one another. Research has shown that people naturally mirror the postures, facial expressions and tone of those they like. Intentional mirroring and mimicry can be techniques to build rapport or persuade. For a bit more information on mimicry and mirroring from Psychology Today: Mimicry and Mirroring Can be Good… or Bad.
Accommodation is an idea popularized by Jean Piaget in his model of child cognitive development. It is the change in mental concepts to integrate new ones. However, the term may be used here simply as an additional rapport-building technique. In this context, accommodation is similar to reciprocity. These are also persuasion and rapport building techniques.
And there it is: traditional spycraft. The harvesting of bulk data is used to locate potential targets may be new, but old fashioned psychological manipulation is still what gets you through the door.
Meanwhile, in the Land of the Free…
The Press Freedom Index of 2014 has seen the United States of America fall 13 places to rank 46th out of the 180 countries surveyed. The United States continues to suffer due to post 9/11 legislation curbing press freedom, including legal restrictions on the Freedom of Information Act. The United Kingdom is also down three places, to 33rd. Examples of new restrictions on press freedom in the United Kingdom include the harassment of Glenn Greenwald and his partner David Miranda as well as the raiding of The Guardian headquarters.
Persecution of whistleblowers Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden contributed to the major decline in the ranking of the United States. And journalist Barrett Brown, who faces over one hundred years in prison for leaking documents from private intelligence company Stratfor, is another example of the severe restrictions faced by journalists in the USA cited by Reports Without Borders.
It only takes a few harsh punishments to create a chilling effect whereby individuals self-censor due to the fear of government pressure or persecution. “Environment and self-censorship” is one of the criteria used in the methodology used by Reporters Without Borders to generate the rankings for the Press Freedom Index. Paraguay, like the United States of America, also fell 13 places due to strong pressure upon journalists to self-censor.
Countries similar to the United States in press freedom:
44. Papua New Guinea
46. United States of America
The top 5:
African countries with more press freedom than the United States:
Cape Verde (#24)
South Africa (#42)
This may come as a surprise — it may seem unbelievable — to many Americans. The vast majority of US citizens have never left their own country (although only one third of Americans own a passport, only 3.5% travel overseas) and have been taught from a very young age that the United States of America is one of the, if not the, most free country on the planet. For individuals who are accustomed to curbed freedoms and only hear through second-hand stories how “unfree” the rest of the world is, these results may cause a great deal of cognitive dissonance. The same phenomenon can be observed in the recent Win/Gallup End Of Year Survey that found although most of the world’s citizens view the United States of America as the greatest threat to peace, American citizens view Iran as the world’s greatest threat. The beliefs of Americans largely reflect the American narrative.