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.
Son of Captain Nemo's picture

Big brother is watching, and trolls are on the internet....I was hoping for a bit moar....

Sit tight.  As long as Obama doesn't start WWIII with Russia in the next few moths we probably have 999,500 of the 500 documents Glenn Greenwald has already released courtesy of "Mr. PayPal's" stash.

scaleindependent's picture



What else were you hoping for from Snowden? Really?  

The launch codes for ICBM's?





I think you soured out... and I think I know why. 


MeMongo's picture

Can you say "HASBARA"  Good vee--dee I knew you could!

Tim_'s picture

Every jew is a potential spy. Every jew is a potential saboteur. Every jew is a potential assassin. They are called sayanim.

By Way of Deception by Victor Ostrovsky

"The Mossad - believe it or not - has just 30 to 35 case officers, or katsas, operating in the world at any one time. The main reason for this extraordinarily low total, as you will read in this book, is that unlike other countries, Israel can tap the significant and loyal cadre of the worldwide Jewish community outside Israel. This is done through a unique system of sayanim, volunteer Jewish helpers" (p. xi).

"Sayanim — assistants — must be 100 percent Jewish. They live abroad, and though they are not Israeli citizens, many are reached through their relatives in Israel" (p. 86).

"There are thousands of sayanim around the world. In London alone, there are about 2,000 who are active, and another 5,000 on the list" (p. 86).

"One thing you know for sure is that even if a Jewish person knows it is the Mossad, he might not agree to work with you — but he won't turn you in. You have at your disposal a nonrisk recruitment system that actually gives you a pool of millions of Jewish people to tap from outside your own borders. It's much easier to operate with what is available on the spot, and sayanim offer incredible practical support everywhere" (p. 87).

"The one problem with the system is that the Mossad does not seem to care how devastating it could be to the status of the Jewish people in the diaspora if it was known" (p. 87).

Flakmeister's picture

My, I never knew we had a bigoted asshole of such impeccable credentials in our midst. You clearly have been at it for a while...

Do you own an original first edition of "The Protocols of the Zionist Elders"?

Johnny Cocknballs's picture

Pollard grew up with what he called a “racial obligation” to Israel, and made his first trip to Israel in 1970, as part of a science program visiting the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. While there, he was hospitalized after a fight with another student. One Weizmann scientist remembered Pollard as leaving behind “a reputation of being an unstable troublemaker, the worst case of this kind in the history of the summer camp”. After completing high school, Pollard attended Stanford University, where he completed a degree in political science in 1976. While there, he is remembered by several of his acquaintances as boasting that he was a dual citizen of the United States and Israel and claiming to work for the Mossad and to have attained the rank of colonel in the Israel Defense Forces. None of these claims were true.


"every jew" certainly goes way too far, but then so does your selective outrage.

The US does not have legions of Palestinian or Arab versions of Richard Perle, Alan Dershowitz, Doug Feith, Bill Kristol, or the dually loyal Jews who infested the Office of Special Plans to lie us into a war on Iraq, for Israel, in accordance with position papers they had written - for Israel, and which were the Likudnik progeny of the Oded Yinon plan, accepted by far-right Zionism. Which, Flake, is both unequivocally racist and megalomaniacal even when merely secular Jewish nationalism, but especially odious and frightening and purposefully deceptive when married to Jewish religious myth.  A million people died, largely because of a Zionist 5th Column and their confederates in the media.


Fuck you, Flake.

Open your eyes.

Flakmeister's picture

They are wide open, which is why I see you for exactly what you are...

Johnny Cocknballs's picture

No, Flake - you see only what you expect to see, and discount the rest.


Not only am I a more intelligent a thinker than you imagine, I am a more intelligent thinker than you can imagine.

I am also more honest.


If I actually could have hate for the set of all X, I'd simply say so.  

verbot's picture

his name is tyler....our name is tyler your name is tyler name is tyler... we are tyler....get the idea that true protection of life and liberty is in building local community? now we just define broad easy rules of society...hmmm. where is thomas jefferson's hemp stash when we really need it... first a big sheet of vellum and some quill pens and ink.. 

oh is that right?? already been done?? couple hundred years ago ya say??? darn and i had a great opening line all made up... guns? you mean folks had guns at one time!?


thanks ZH turning up the deep thought lately...

GetZeeGold's picture



his name is tyler


You were just here last this a test sir?

TeamDepends's picture

francis was no agent.  You, on the other hand....

Tim_'s picture

Joseph Stalin's Reply to an Inquiry of the Jewish News Agency in the United States

"In the U.S.S.R. anti-semitism is punishable with the utmost severity of the law as a phenomenon deeply hostile to the Soviet system."

"Under U.S.S.R. law active anti-semites are liable to the death penalty."

Flakmeister's picture

How long have you been paid by the GRU, or are you a "company" man...

I guess Solzhenitsyn was full of it?

johngerard's picture

But Sunstein knows what is best for you. Don't you see that? He's a hardcore leftist, and is therefore morally superior and more intelligent than you.

Which part of that don't you understand?

garyw's picture

Just search Google for HB Gary and read about them on wikipedia. My Ron Paul site was hacked by a personna Each computer has multiple IP numbers and personnas. Taken over by the US Air Force. Just a needle in the hay stack of snooping by the NSA

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

Aaaannndd..., they're here!

ghengis86's picture

and have some shitty power point slide templates.  i've used a few of the above in my own sleep-inducing presentations, though nothing quite as elementary on how to troll (although they do have some fancy looking graphics!)



aVileRat's picture

Man, e-James Bond had better be a far more skilled trainer in the black ops of Trolling than PPT. That blue on blue pitch book chart of social media vectors + clipboard filler slides? horrible.



Boxed Merlot's picture

power point slide templates...



I remember seeing a version of slide 44 on a government agency's business card.  A picture of 3 gears, each engaged with one another.  The bright engineer of that set up actually thought it would convey a productive device, displaying co-operative interaction.  In reality it said more about the true uselessness and impediment to progress of the agency than anyone could have dreamed of.

Kirk2NCC1701's picture

Yup! And "By their friuts shall ye know them":

The TDs work their nuts off to produce a quality product, which is why we owe the blog side an equally hi level of posts.

Those who habitually add Noise or Derail, are degrading the overall level, as you have to go through tons of fluff or crap to get to decent posts. Ditto for low-brow posts. Sorry, I'm a snob that way.

Nothing wrong with a controversial or provocative remark, but hopefully it adds enough value to move the yardsticks forward.

seek's picture

Yeah, they've been around a long time, though I do think they stepped up their game the past year or so.

This is one of the reasons I never accept "relationship requests" here. It's happened a half dozen times, and it's always someone where I have no fucking clue who they are.

I'm pretty sure if a handful of the IT-ish people here on ZH had access to IP address logs on users, we'd have a field day exposing the disinformation agents and the companies they work for.

Greenskeeper_Carl's picture

I admit I know very little about this kind of thing, so this may be a stupid question but: couldn't the TD's, who would have access to that type of thing, get rid of those profiles relatively easily if they wanted to. It took a little bit of waiting to get a log in here, why is that if not to make sure it's an actual person? And also, when people like Francis sawyer get banned, if they enjoy arguing with people on here enoug to do so much of it, what's stopping them from making a new gmail account and setting up a new account? Cuz it would be pretty fuckin obvious if he was still around. I would appreciate any of y'all's answers because I am pretty curious about it

seek's picture

Assuming there was a discernable pattern and they wanted to make the effort, I'm sure the TDs could do this. The flip side is that the longer the sockpuppets post, the more exposed they become, so there's probably some value in letting them run free.

As far as I know, the login thing is to kill spammers. Not that it doesn't happen, but real spamming on ZH is a rare, rare thing.

Nothing is stopping Francis 2.0 from setting up a new account under a different IP, but if the same postings reappeared, the outcome would be the same. It's also possible if the TDs knew something via the IPs, they could discuss exposure.

For what it's worth, there are other forums that are likely honeypots where if you discuss certain things, you will get zapped instantly, so ZH's high tolerance for crap actually lends credibility. (Hint: say "tavistock" on godlikeproductions and you're gone. GLP and abovetopsecret also both went down during the federal government budget shutdown to the minute when the federal websties went offline. This rabbit hole is deep.)

Greenskeeper_Carl's picture

Don't think I've ever been to those sights, but I def won't now. Good to know. How could they be that fucking a vinous though. Seeing as how only like 17% of the govt actually shut down, you would think that would be one of the last things that would shut down.

Greenskeeper_Carl's picture

Don't think I've ever been to those sights, but I def won't now. Good to know. How could they be that fucking a vinous though. Seeing as how only like 17% of the govt actually shut down, you would think that would be one of the last things that would shut down.

macbone's picture

FS lives!!! But he can't be his own sweet self for the obvious reason that he would be spotted in about 12 seconds. But don't be depressed. There are apparently many other anti-Semites willing to take his place. They're just not as entertaining as he could be. And that's the thing about banning. Are we all just screen names and avatars? Or personalities and belief systems, "prejudices" if you will, that can be spotted a mile away if anyone bothers to look closely enough. FS does lurk around from time to time, but it can't be much fun for him as he can't be himself, or at least his online self. And as for the people who think MBD was a gov't troll, man that's a whole other galaxy of cluelessness.

And if there are spies here? Spy away you limp dick cocksuckers.... Your day is coming no matter what kiddie games you play...

edb5s's picture

Milliondollarbonus, you've been outed!

rehypothecator's picture

Shhh!  He's one of us.  He's the covert agent designed to trick government informants into thinking that ZH'ers are just peachy with the status quo.  They'd never, ever, suspect that he was being sarcastic.  

logicalman's picture

I'd like to, but I keep being reminded.


SgtShaftoe's picture

Of course they're doing it.  It's good to have proof though.  So, Tyler / ZH admins.  Could you please pull together a list of troll accounts, do an IP mapping and profile the browser and other information for analysis???  It would be interesting to see an anonymized data set to see what we're dealing with. 

Can a fingerprint be generated?

Are they using TOR, or some sort of VPN service, or are they out in the open?

Come on guys.  Do the world some help.  If you need help or ideas, contact me.  This could be interesting. 

VD's picture

agents would mask their IP or even misdirect it (to poss innocent parties), so that's a futile request...

SgtShaftoe's picture

Browsers can be fingerprinted, and other tricks can be used to unmask hosts.  Check out BEEF (Browser exploitation framework).

VD's picture

i promise you the NSA, when need be, exploit the exploitation and misderect when necessary..

superflex's picture

says the .gov troll lol

I agree that Cass is an assmaggot of the devil.

SgtShaftoe's picture

The NSA uses code written by Booz Allen, LM, GD, NG, etc.  There will be problems.  They may be powerful, but they're not omnipotent.  I'm sure there's some element of sloppiness. 

If you haven't looked before, go check out Bruce Schneier's site.  For a couple months, he's been floating each NSA tool and discussing how they can be broken, detected, etc.  This would make a great collaboration.  ZH should contact Bruce and ask him to post a challenge to identify these bastards. 

VD's picture

those are the codes that can be referenced, but what about codes that no one is yet aware of?

logicalman's picture

A one-time pad in trained hands is theoretically uncrackable.


A lot of work, but hey, if it's worth it.......

SgtShaftoe's picture

Dude, come on.  They're the government.  MI6 from James Bond was fiction, not reality. 

Johnny Cocknballs's picture



build your own browser.

0b1knob's picture

The people using Tor or a VPN are probably real (not spy) people.   The spooks can easily fake any sort of real address.

Arkadaba's picture

Out the serial downvoters!

Robot Traders Mom's picture

Yeah, even my sweet-ass website that gets 2 viewers a day is even blocked at the DoD... 

Fidel Sarcastro's picture

DUDE!  I laugh EVERY time i see ur avatar: Robot Trader's Mom!!   LMFAO (again) 

maskone909's picture

Twitter is full of em. I wonder how much they get paid to spam bammercare? I asked one of the trolls but they wouldnt break character

john39's picture

A lot of that shit is AI. They even have AI machines doing telemarketing now. Some of them are pretty damn creepy.

Boxed Merlot's picture

they wouldnt break character...



...So there is life after being a Disney charactor in the park.