The Conspiracy Theory Is True: Agents Infiltrate Websites Intending To "Manipulate, Deceive, And Destroy Reputations"

Tyler Durden's picture

In the annals of internet conspiracy theories, none is more pervasive than the one speculating paid government plants infiltrate websites, social network sites, and comment sections with an intent to sow discord, troll, and generally manipulate, deceive and destroy reputations. Guess what: it was all true.

And this time we have a pretty slideshow of formerly confidential data prepared by the UK NSA equivalent, the GCHQ, to confirm it, and Edward Snowden to thank for disclosing it. The messenger in this case is Glenn Greenwald, who has released the data in an article in his new website,, which he summarizes as follows: "by publishing these stories one by one, our NBC reporting highlighted some of the key, discrete revelations: the monitoring of YouTube and Blogger, the targeting of Anonymous with the very same DDoS attacks they accuse “hacktivists” of using, the use of “honey traps” (luring people into compromising situations using sex) and destructive viruses. But, here, I want to focus and elaborate on the overarching point revealed by all of these documents: namely, that these agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself." Call it Stasi for "Generation Internet."

Greenwald's latest revelation focuses on GCHQ’s previously secret unit, the JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group).

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. Here is one illustrative list of tactics from the latest GCHQ document we’re publishing today:

Other tactics aimed at individuals are listed here, under the revealing title “discredit a target”:

Then there are the tactics used to destroy companies the agency targets:

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.

The title page of one of these documents reflects the agency’s own awareness that it is “pushing the boundaries” by using “cyber offensive” techniques against people who have nothing to do with terrorism or national security threats, and indeed, centrally involves law enforcement agents who investigate ordinary crimes:

Greenwald's punchline is disturbing, and is sure to make paradnoid conspiracy theorists crawl even deeper into their holes for one simple reason: all of their worst fears were true all along.

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.


The broader point is that, far beyond hacktivists, these surveillance agencies have vested themselves with the power to deliberately ruin people’s reputations and disrupt their online political activity even though they’ve been charged with no crimes, and even though their actions have no conceivable connection to terrorism or even national security threats. As Anonymous expert Gabriella Coleman of McGill University told me, “targeting Anonymous and hacktivists amounts to targeting citizens for expressing their political beliefs, resulting in the stifling of legitimate dissent.” Pointing to this study she published, Professor Coleman vehemently contested the assertion that “there is anything terrorist/violent in their actions.”

At this point Greenwald takes a detour into a well-known topic: Cass Sunstein. Who is Cass Sunstein? Recall: "Obama Picks Cass Sunstein (America’s Goebbels?) To Serve On NSA Oversight Panel."

Government plans to monitor and influence internet communications, and covertly infiltrate online communities in order to sow dissension and disseminate false information, have long been the source of speculation. Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein, a close Obama adviser and the White House’s former head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, wrote a controversial paper in 2008 proposing that the US government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-”independent” advocates to “cognitively infiltrate” online groups and websites, as well as other activist groups.


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, one that – while disputing key NSA claims – proceeded to propose many cosmetic reforms to the agency’s powers (most of which were ignored by the President who appointed them).

But while until now there was speculation that Sunstein's policies had been implemented, there was no proof. That is no longer the case:

... 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?

What is perhaps most disturbing is the level of detail these modern day Stasi agents engage in, paradoxically proposing social subversion without realizing they themselves would be susceptible to just that. And all it would take is one whistleblower with a conscience:

Under the title “Online Covert Action”, the document details a variety of means to engage in “influence and info ops” as well as “disruption and computer net attack”, while dissecting how human being can be manipulated using “leaders”, “trust, “obedience” and “compliance”:

The documents lay out theories of how humans interact with one another, particularly online, and then attempt to identify ways to influence the outcomes – or “game” it:

Greenwald's conclusion is spot on:

These agencies’ refusal to “comment on intelligence matters” – meaning: talk at all about anything and everything they do – is precisely why whistleblowing is so urgent, the journalism that supports it so clearly in the public interest, and the increasingly unhinged attacks by these agencies so easy to understand. Claims that government agencies are infiltrating online communities and engaging in “false flag operations” to discredit targets are often dismissed as conspiracy theories, but these documents leave no doubt they are doing precisely that.


Whatever else is true, no government should be able to engage in these tactics: what justification is there for having government agencies target people – who have been charged with no crime – for reputation-destruction, infiltrate online political communities, and develop techniques for manipulating online discourse? But to allow those actions with no public knowledge or accountability is particularly unjustifiable.

So the next time you run into someone in a chat room or a message board who sounds just a little too much like a paid government subversive... it may not be just the paranoia speaking. For the full details "why not", read the formerly confidential slideshow below.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Acet's picture

All I know is that often enough some pretty insightful articles are almost immediately followed by a serious amount of anti-semitic posts or some really inane conspiracy theories.

It's almost as if somebody was polluting the first page to scare away anybody who got a link and came to check it, but is not an habitual frequenter of this site.

StychoKiller's picture

Meh, sorry, but mining for Truth involves moving a lot of overburden...

pods's picture

Nice.  Like the proper use of overburden.  :)

Basically any mining analogies.


antidisestablishmentarianismishness's picture

Well now we finally have an explanation for that.   99% of the people commenting on ZH are govt agents.  All this time I had assumed they were just paranoid jackasses but it turns out it was all an act.

Uncle Remus's picture

Ever wonder why lots of good comment threads on prescient articles seem to break down into moronic shit throwing?

You mean besides the public "education"?

john39's picture

Assange is a fake. An intelligence asset. The rape allegation was meant to make him appear legitimate. I don't buy snowden either. Remember the snowden character from catch 22. The use of this name is no accident. Yes much true information has been disclosed. But ask yourself, what truly horrible lies is this partial disclosure being used to conceal?

Very evil people are currently in control of most of this world.

Tim_'s picture

"Whether it’s provided I can’t speak to until it’s been reported because it would be classified and I prefer that journalists make the distinctions and the decisions about what is public interest and what should be published" (Source).

"I don’t want to pre-empt the editorial decisions of journalists but what I will say is there’s no question that the US is engaged in economic spying" (Source).

"However, as I’ve said before I prefer for journalists to make those decisions in advance, review the material themselves and decide whether or not the public value of this information outweighs the sort of reputational cost to the officials that ordered the surveillance" (Source).

disgustipated's picture

Snowden, Greenwald, Assange, Scahill...all agency shills imo

Raging Debate's picture

Disgustipated - All I can say about Assange and Snowden is it takes balls to be a moderate in this world at this particular time.

Squiddly Diddly's picture

"Hey NSA. ....Where the hell is my check???"

We only pay in Bitcoin.

Johnny Cocknballs's picture

6. Snowden is quite possibly a limited hangout operation. Tarpley is a frustrating mix of batshit crazy and insightful, but I'd suggest that he may be right on this one.  It may hinge on to what extent you think the corporate media is 'free' and uncoordinated. The extent to which the MSM covers the same stories, in the same basic way, and avoids covering the same stories, should suggest a high degree of cohesion between outlets.

7. Greenwald is, conceivably, the same sort of perfect deception that Obama is for TBTB looking to continue Bush policies without most noticing. Greenwald is far too intelligent to have agreed to this link between Snowden's revelations and Pollard. True, he released the info about the raw data from NSA going to Israel... but the rest of the MSM, including, famously, the NYT, "chose" not to cover that story at all because it wasn't 'surprising' or 'important.'   The fact that it is raw data makes it incredibly newsworthy - and virtually no MSM covered it?  That doesn't happen without intra-organizational cohesion and heavy pro-Israel influence and/or control.  So few people probably know about it, but he gets credit for his honesty and fearlessness as to Israel. Note that he may have started out with the best of intentions, but they "got to him."  Just a theory.  




logicalman's picture

You lost me at •Etc.

Interestingly GCHQ is the child of Bletchley Park and Enigma.

At the end of WW2, the Brits grabbed all the Enigma machines they could lay their hands on and gave them away to friendly governments as a means of 'secure' communication. The thing is, they cracked Enigma pretty much completely in 1941, but sold it knowing full well they could read all communication using it pretty much like the daily newspaper. (slight hiccough in, I think 1943 when an extra wheel was added, but given the concept was figured out, it was just a case of hard work  to get back in)

That's why the cracking of Enigma was kept 'Top Secret' for 40 years.

Sneaky bastards are everywhere!

Bananamerican's picture

"Sneaky bastards are everywhere!"
But mostly at, or near, the "top"

dow jones 20000's picture

how the hell do you think they got there in the first place?

Greenskeeper_Carl's picture

I too would like to go on record stating I support everything our NSA and banker overlords are doing....

emersonreturn's picture

i agree completely, it cannot be said often enough----FreeFrancisSawyer


freedom of speech and the essential fight club debate,

IcantstopthinkingaboutNINJAs's picture

That man had a name.


His name was Francis Sawyer.



fonestar's picture

We don't need Francis Sawyer.  We have fonestar now.

TeamDepends's picture

Shouldn't you be defending your reputation over on the Bitcoin Worth Less Than A Tulip Now thread?

HyBrasilian's picture

fonestar ~ you finally made me laugh :-)

smlbizman's picture

you got em all fooled chief....juciy fruit?

viahj's picture

the tilda gives him away ;-P

tmosley's picture

Why do you pretend to be an idiot when you talk to fonestar?  You come up with the most idiotic arguments just to try to get any kind of dig at him, apparently not realizing how stupid it makes you look.

Mt. Gox is not bitcoin.  Mt. Gox is COMEX.

Ness.'s picture

Who?  Fuck fonestar.  He's a piker.  A shill.  A rube with an stated agenda.  


~any of you [homos] touch me!?  And I'll kill ya~



AlaricBalth's picture

Fonestar, I served with Francis Sawyer. I knew Francis Sawyer. Francis Sawyer was a friend of mine. Fonestar, you're no Francis Sawyer.

angel_of_joy's picture

Fonestar is just a phony star...

Flakmeister's picture

Maybe Francis will find his personal Rudolf Hess and you will be able to buy his worldview in a book....

Francis did himself in, no one with that much hate can hold it in, it comes out eventually...

BigJim's picture

Oh yeah? You've demonstrated on a number of occasions how much you hate the truth, but you're still here.

GetZeeGold's picture



Kansas is going to be incinerated in 2 weeks.......and YOU DON'T CARE!!!


When that happens....please apologize to Flak.


Flakmeister's picture

More like 60 years...

Don't apologize to me, apologize to your kids and grandkids...

(Though the thought of some you precreating is downright scary).....

MarsInScorpio's picture





This dustbowl, same as the last dustbowl, both preceding the next dustbowl.




Anyone who has looked at the very long-term temps (thousands of years) knows it's all just a cycle . . . we are where we were before, and where we will be again.



Flakmeister's picture

This is exactly the kind of of bullshit that deniers repeat to themselves so they can feel better...

Here is thousands of years, 800,000 to be precise

Point out the cycle that is currently driving things...

Flakmeister's picture

An pray tell what truth would that be....

Not the one where every climate scientist except those with past/present funding from fossil fuel interests would have us accept?

janus's picture

shouldn't you be wallowing about in some 3-star hotel, half-drunk, groping a middle-aged masseuse?


acetinker's picture

I could be wrong, but I firmly assert that God loves a smartass.

Rock On Roger's picture

We can always throw the fucking electronic thing in the toilet.

I wonder if NSA spies on pencil and paper?


Stack On

weburke's picture

They HOST the websites !  prison planet, ect, are run by ............... the same team they allegedly oppose. Which again is why there is just no point to imagine you can make a change. WHY they stir up the citizenry is to corral into  boxes. think rush limbaugh is an outsider? hannity? LEVIN???? no way.  there are none. There are plenty of guys with guns, and ammo, but, they will NOT be shooting anyone in charge. WHo is in charge? They are unidentified. The bullets are just to shoot your neighbors and criminals that have no political power. It is long since over. dont fight them. it is over.

john39's picture

If they didn't fear us, they wouldn't need to go through all this trouble. The key lies in developing the power of discernment and the use of intuition.

phaedrus1952's picture

... the use of intuition.

One of my all time favorite brainiacs - Carl Jung - was the only prominent psychology guy who claimed that our 'psyches' actually have six paths of information gathering ... the five physical senses and intuition.  

Well said, John.

Johnny Cocknballs's picture

To learn who rules over Alex Jones, find out who Alex Jones can not criticize...

but who owns/manages his home station, terrestrial network, satellite network, and many if not most of his advertisers.

A Christian who never mentions Christ

a 9/11 Truther who never mentions the Israeli connections...

a 2nd amendment advocate who appears on TV to be a dangerous, out of control extremist.

Isn't it obvious what his role is?



RaceToTheBottom's picture

Alex Jones is a waste of time.  Even listening enough to analyze him is falling prey to the smell of his waste.  He does not exist.

Ignatius's picture

"...running things right in the first place..."  --  BlackChicken

Their intention is to steal and rule, not to 'run things right'.

At this point they're way ahead.

There are people who spend more time thinking about our lives than we do.  There are people who spend more time thinking about your life than you do. Think about that.

cynicalskeptic's picture

But what happens when they've stolen everything there is to steal fre' oom the proles and have to start stealing from each other?  - Will there be 'only one or is there 'honor among thieves' where they've already agreed to how the loot is split?

Would be fun to see the final infighting among the 0.01% but I don't see it happening.