25 February, 11:44

Disrupt, degrade, deceive: Western agents taught to infiltrate internet and destroy reputations

Disrupt, degrade, deceive: Western agents taught to infiltrate internet and destroy reputations

Agents within the US-led global intelligence network are reportedly taught how to subvert and destroy their opponents on the web. This is according to Glenn Greenwald’s report which is based on the leaks of former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

The British journalist blew the lid off dirty tricks used to temper with online discourse to possibly affect both the cyber and real world in a series of publications that disclosed four classified documents which Britain’s GCHQ submitted to the “Five Eyes” nations of the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

According to these papers, teams of highly trained web experts were trained “to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet” and “to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable.”

The article also helped to drag into the light GCHQ’s previously hushed-up undercover JTRIG agency, or Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group, which stood behind the documents.

The guidelines titled “The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations” flesh out tactics that can be used to discredit and humiliate the target, including “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 different forums.

One of the tactics is commonly known in the spy world as “honey trap” and involves luring people into compromising situations using sex. Some other techniques include changing the target's photo on a social media webpage and emailing or texting "colleagues, neighbors, friends etc."

As far as companies go, the Five Eyes cyber brigade was taught to “leak confidential information to companies/the press via blog; post negative information on appropriate forums; stop deals/ruin business relationships.”

According to the leaked docs, JTRIG's ultimate purpose is to use “online techniques to make something happen in the real world or cyber world.” The online covert actions follow the “4 D's,” which are "deny, disrupt, degrade, deceive."

“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,” Greenwald wrote.

The journalist stressed that Western surveillance agencies vested themselves with the power to deliberately ruin people’s reputations and disrupt their online political activity even though they have been charged with no crimes.

When reached for comment by The Intercept, GCHQ replied that all its work is carried out “in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorized, necessary and proportionate.”

Voice of Russia, The Intercept

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