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.

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Squid-puppets a-go-go's picture

finished reading all that, ZH Trolls? Over to you now, 

....aaaaand GO!

ceilidh_trail's picture

Ananonymous Harry Wanger blogging MillionDollarBonus kinda infiltraitors?

i_fly_me's picture

The first rule of Online Covert Action is: you don't talk about Online Covert Action.

Chupacabra-322's picture

What a circle jerk.

Moe Hamhead's picture

I just read that Sonny Liston took a dive... and now this!!  I'm crushed!

buzzsaw99's picture

it's been blatantly obvious from the beginning

Josh Randall's picture

I have a couple LinkedIn Groups and they get hammered by requests to join by blatant Sock Puppets -there usually is an easy way to spot these Mr socko's - just look for the people with only one job listed or those whom type in all lowercase, Oh ya, or Criminal Justice majors -- keep wading through the crap

Berspankme's picture

Cass Sunstein aka Mr Samantha Power is a douchebag. Feel free to rebut

Emergency Ward's picture

SunSwine is a filthy slut and a neo-con progressive that eats young children.  The psychopaths he works for are worse.

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

Cannot rebut the truth about Cass Sunstein and Valerie Jarrett.

dexter_morgan's picture

Valerie Jarret - most powerful woman hardly anyone has heard of. What a scummy entourage bath house brings with him.

john39's picture

more accurate to say, what a scummy president this cabal of evil shitbags put into power.

GetZeeGold's picture



Valerie Jarret....aka....Madam President.

Bill D. Cat's picture

Dude makes a wicked ham sando .

superflex's picture

Anybody who down arrows this...

Dewey Cheatum Howe's picture

They used to call this stalking and it is supposed to be punishable under law...

A Lunatic's picture

That was way back in the days when we had law.......

The Gooch's picture

Don't shoot 'til you see the blue of their skinny pants!

PoorMan429's picture

Big brother is watching and actively trying to influence the conversation.  Shocker. Would you go down without a fight?

I see zombies everywhere.  On the lirr.  Walking down 7th Ave.  The government trolls are probably 40% of the uniques of zh.  They are probably bored with the lack of critical thinking they find. They probably have think tanks Trying to figure out ways to fight an adversary who doesn't know they're in a fight and wouldn't care if they did. 


We're/they're all Fucked.  Grow a garden. Enjoy the sunshine and family while you can. dirt naps for everyone eventually  


logicalman's picture

The closer I get to the 'nap' the less I give a fuck!


Bill D. Cat's picture

Sockpuppets , who knew ?

superflex's picture

I knew Flak was a plant!  lulz

dexter_morgan's picture

Not sure about Flakey being a plant, I think more likely he/or she is a late 20's dude living in momma's basement just stirring shit up whenever he can. His form of entertainment maybe.......

john39's picture

with a serious hard on for the global warming scam.   all these guys have one signature issue they just can't leave alone. 

Flakmeister's picture

Better to know a lot about something as opposed to nothing about everything as seems the case with you...

BTW, you forgot, oil, NG and energy in general...


The Working Group II (WGII) contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability will be considered in Yokohama, Japan, on 25-29 March 2014. One month.

Tick Tick Tick

Flakmeister's picture

Clearly, you ain't a True Detective...

I'll give you a hint, google Flakmeister...

Should be obvious who the real one is....

nmewn's picture

lol...tell me something I don't know.

I've been called a global warming denier, a rabbi, a shill, a globalist and a white supremacist razzzist all on one thread, its quite an accomplishment...ROTFL!!!

Kirk2NCC1701's picture

In that case, will you please decide what you are? ;-)

nmewn's picture

I'm vacillating between full blown anarchist and smaller government type right now. And I'm not sure I'll respect myself in the morning whichever way it goes ;-)

Hulk's picture

Rabbi nmewn, just what the fuck is a nmewn anyway ???

adeptish's picture

nmewn?, nmewn?, anyone?...

nmewn's picture

Its shorthand for enemy within. I thought of it in the context of when I traded a lot, how the emotions of fear & greed were working on my mind, for good & bad.

Now to anyone who knows what it means (as I don't trade like I used to), it can mean many different things to many different people, under all sorts of circumstances...from the fantastical to the real.

Which is still kinda cool, for a screen name, some people thought I was Japanese for a long

Greenskeeper_Carl's picture

I hear you on that one. I go back and forth. "What's the difference between a libertarian and an anarchist? About 6 months..."

Ghordius's picture

anarchism is a broad family of political points of view. I had a lot of fun lately listening to a debate between eastern european anarcho-capitalists and western european anarcho-syndacalists - you could have thought they were from Mars and Venus, respectively

meanwhile libertarian thought as such has a strong American cultural component, and seems to resonate only in the UK. at the same dabate a couple of guys said something very interesting about that, that I can only summarize as: "Libertarians seem to believe that you can strip the state from it's legislative and executive branches and nevertheless keep a sound, functioning judicative up and running". and that was the kindest remark - besides "useless" - they had for libertarians

I don't mind the trolls and the agents on a blog like ZH. what freaks me out is the true believers that don't evah change their opinion even when faced with new facts

and the old nihilists. young men are entitled to feel nihilistic, from time to time

NemoDeNovo's picture

WOW, you got me beat by one, Nice Job!!!

G.O.O.D's picture

Out of all this covert lying and media runiation along with red sates blue states and black vs white etc. what do these idiots hope to gain?

Radical Marijuana's picture

Not much of a surprise ...

just another confirmation.

BullyBearish's picture

What a F&*King WASTE of money and brainpower...power really does absolutely corrupt!

Greenskeeper_Carl's picture

That crossed my mind too. Using money taken from productive people to do this, most of which we borrow anyway. Unbelievable.

centerline's picture

Who the fuck cares?  (rhetorical question)

Think for yourself.  Enough of the truth is evident regardless of the noise.  And screw the details... that is where idiots get distracted.

This is fight club folks.  Bring the .GOV trolls.  Makes for a better comments section.  Game on.

new game's picture

at the bowling alley we would fight for shits and grins. bloody nose black eye and moar beer. all good fun.

love to put a gob stooge in the mix!

Eahudimac's picture

Right on brother. Trolls are easy to spot here. And they are a lot of fun to decimate.

logicalman's picture

Please look up where the word 'decimate' comes from.

I want 'em all gone, not just 10%

Hulk's picture

You will notice a strange phenomenom amongst people who don't know what the fuck they are doing and can't even identify problems, let alone solve them. And that is, they will do everything except what matters. They will spy on folks, paint the walls, install new carpet, etc, etc. Ii have seen this over and over in my illustrious career...

Urban Redneck's picture

05:00 and I wake up to a troll infestation... what a way to start the morning.

There are too many central banks, printing too much money, for too many governments, funding too many .gov shills on all sides. It would have been nice- as long as they were disclosing shit, to disclose what the rest of the world was up to, since it's probably more of the same.

But (as far as I know) only the US is capable of such blatant and grotesque Powerpoint abuse. The trolls and the Powerpoint Rangers both need to be removed from the public payrolls. Doesn't anyone write memos and reports anymore? Or has going 140 characters without a severe case of graphic incontinence become a skill worthy of a Senate confirmation hearing among the taxpayer funded desk-jockey class?

Edit: Coffee works wonders for typos (as well as computer screens).

OldPhart's picture

*sigh* 9:35 meeting I run,, for the employees reporting to me...full report on daily changes to a/r, a/p, bank deposits, eft, and a/r aging balance...along with recognizing birthdays and other company news of the day with some sorry assed humor thrown in.

Yes, there are still a few of us that actually write memos and reports.

Mike in GA's picture

Government is too big, period.  It's only getting bigger.It will not shrink on its own.  We the people will have to march on and occupy DC, shutting down the seat of power, in order to effect change.  When the hell is that ever gonna happen?  OK, sorry. Back to TeeVee..."bring me a beer, Honey!"

G.O.O.D's picture

Create more jobs, hire a troll for the .gov and give him 85 grand a year with all the bennies and retirement @40 w/full do i sign?