Government infiltrating websites to ‘deny, disrupt, degrade, deceive’

According to some of the newest Edward Snowden leaks as reported on by Glenn Greenwald on Monday, government spies are infiltrating websites in an effort to persuade public opinion and discredit opposition.

The documents from the GCHQ (the British equivalent of the NSA), titled “The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations,” were given to the NSA and leaked by Snowden. They reveal that the GCHQ is involved, through a unit known as JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group), in “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.”

Further, according to Greenwald, “these agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself.”

The goals of the JTRIG program are “(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.”

They do this through the use of several tactics, as listed by a slide from the documents: “Infiltration Operation,” “Ruse operation,” “Set Piece Operation,” “False Flag Operation,” “False Rescue Operation,” Disruption Operation” and “Sting Operation.”

Another slide lists ways to “discredit a target”: “Set up a honey-trap,” “Change their photos on social networking sites,” “Write a blog purporting to be one of their victims,” “Email/text their colleagues, neighbours, friends, etc.”

There’s also a slide on how to discredit a business: “Leak confidential information to companies/the press via blogs etc,” “Post negative information on appropriate forums,” “Stop deals/ruin business relationships.”

A further slide lists the definition of the effects of the agency’s activities: “Using online techniques to make something happen in the real or cyber world.” This includes two categories: “Information Ops (influence or disruption)” and “Technical disruption,” along with the four D’s: “Deny/Disrupt/Degrade/Deceive.”

Greenwald also points out that these tactics are not just used for counter-terrorism, but “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,” writes Greenwald.

While the idea that government has paid people, known as shills, to post in message boards and other websites in an effort to disrupt conversations has long been believed by conspiracy theorists, this would seem to confirm that it’s happening.

There have been similar reports in the past of the government attempting to influence public opinion through the Internet.

As Greenwald mentions in his article, Cass Sunstein, Obama’s former science czar, wrote in a paper that the government should employ people to “cognitively infiltrate” groups including “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups.” His main target was conspiracy theorists. He further proposed making it illegal to be a conspiracy theorist.

9 Knock-Out Knits

Knits are like a winter fashion rite of passage. Those in the know about style say you need at least one in your closet. You can go subtle with a knitted accessory — such as gloves, a hat or scarves — or opt for a larger piece, like a sweater dress or a statement cardigan, worn here by “Real Housewives” personality Kyle Richards. Knits are as cozy as they are fashionable and can be styled dozens of ways. Make sure whatever you buy fits well and is structurally sound so it lasts for years.

Knit Pullover

Singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding wears this quintessential winter knit pullover with a pair of black shorts for a youthful vibe. Jene Luciani, a nationally acclaimed fashion and style expert, says this look is right on trend, and also suggests pairing a pullover knit with leggings, shimmering tights, tweed shorts or jeans.

Knit Jacket

The tossed-over-the-shoulder knit jacket worn by British model Alice Dellal is a timeless garment that’s universally flattering. “This is a versatile piece you’ll wear all the time, especially in a neutral color like this one,” noted Luciani. “She could have come straight from work, worn it buttoned up over the dress in the office, and then taken it off to reveal some tasteful cleavage for the evening out.”

Knitted Scarf

“A scarf is a winter weather essential, but fashion-wise it’s meant to be an accent piece, so you want to make sure it does just that,” advised Luciani. She says that while this scarf — worn by singer-songwriter Carly Rae Jepson — is a knock-out knit, it should be paired with either no hat or a smaller hat for better balance.

Curve-Hugging Knit Dress

Curves abound in this flattering knit dress worn by model Kyle Bax. “It’s really accentuating all her best assets without looking too tight,” said Luciani. “She’s completely smooth too, which tells me she has the right undergarments underneath — very important with a knit dress.”

Knit Beret

“I love a knit beanie cap with flowing locks and side-swept bangs peeking out,” said Luciani about singer-songwriter Brooke White’s knitted beret. “She’s also wearing the cap right at the crown, which is proper placement.” This chic placement shows off her face.

Cropped Knit Sweater

German actress Hannah Herzsprung stands out in this purple Chanel cropped knit sweater. Luciani said she loves bright colors in the winter and suggests not shying away from them. For a variation on this look, try a “button-down cardi with the marbled effect and stay in the color scheme of the skirt,” she advised.

Sequined Knit Cardigan

“I love a good metallic, especially around the holidays,” said Lucini of German singer-songwriter Bahar Kizil’s sequined knit cardigan. The sequins punch up an otherwise drab garment. “This sweater hits just above her hips, which still shows her shape, and she wears it open, so it shows off the sheer top underneath.”

Sheer Layered Knit Sweater

Ashlee Simpson pairs an oversize sheer knitted sweater with an undershirt and leggings. Luciani said the proportions here are good — baggy on top and fitted on the bottom — but cautioned to be wary of this look if you’re curvy since it can hide your shape and add pounds. She recommends this look for petite women, in particular.

Cropped Knit Cardigan

“No one does casual-chic quite like Katie Holmes,” said Luciani of the actress. “I love the leathery waxed look to the pants paired with the perfectly proportioned cardi and cream shell underneath.” When re-creating this look, keep things in a neutral color scheme like Holmes does and make sure every piece fits well.