Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The New Stasi

"Our friends in Moscow call it 'dezinformatsiya'. Our enemies in America call it 'active measures,' and I, dear friends, call it ‘my favorite pastime'" - Rolf Wagenbreth (Director of disinformation operations at the Stasi)

Edward Snowden can now be safely named the patron saint of 'conspiracy theorists' everywhere. The disclosures he provided at enormous risk to his freedom and life have proved not only to be unquestionably in the public interest, but also vindication for whistleblowers and skeptics who have long averred that governments spy on every aspect of the lives of ordinary citizens to an extraordinary degree, demonstrating that Noam Chomsky was indeed correct when he said: 'The worst enemy of any government is its own population'.

This is illustrated in the most insidiously devastating disclosure so far, published today in Glenn Greenwald's The Intercept. In it we discover that the until recently secret GCHQ JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group) unit created, among others, a training document called 'The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations' and presented it to the NSA and other partners.

Other recent documents covered in partnership with NBC news detailed a host of 'dirty tricks' used by British spies to "'destroy, deny, degrade and disrupt' enemies by 'discrediting' them, planting misinformation and shutting down their communications". Tactics include 'releasing computer viruses, spying on journalists and diplomats, jamming phones and computers, and using sex to lure targets into honey traps'.

The newly published JTRIG document details state efforts to, in the words of Greenwald, "control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, [compromise] the integrity of the internet itself".

From the article:

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.


More from the article:

[] 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?

Then there is the use of psychology and other social sciences to not only understand, but shape and control, how online activism and discourse unfolds. Today’s newly published document touts the work of GCHQ’s “Human Science Operations Cell”, devoted to “online human intelligence” and “strategic influence and disruption”[.]


Although these tactics have long been suspected and alleged, it is nonetheless profoundly shocking to see the proof in powerpoint slides that our governments, endlessly passing themselves off as beacons of democracy while criticising other nations for suppression of human rights and free speech, are engaging in tactics indistinguishable from those of the Stasi.

The Stasi (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit) was the official state security service of East Germany, an entity long reflexively condemned by Western establishment figures as evil, anathema to democracy. The tactics of the Stasi included the following:

Spying on the population by means of a vast network of citizen informants.

Combating opposition using various (overt and covert) measures including psychological destruction of dissidents (Zersetzung, which literally means 'decomposition').

One division, Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung, conducted both espionage and covert operations in foreign countries.

Specific tactics included:

Officers posted to all major industrial plants.

One tenant in every apartment building designated as a watchdog.

Spies reporting every relative or friend who stayed the night at another's apartment.

Holes drilled in apartment and hotel room walls through which Stasi agents filmed citizens with special video cameras.

Schools, universities, and hospitals extensively infiltrated.

Information gathered about dissident movements frequently used to divide or discredit members.

Zersetzung tactics involved the disruption of a victim's private life, such as breaking into homes and moving furniture, removing pictures from walls or replacing one variety of tea with another. Other practices included purposely incorrect medical treatment, smear campaigns including sending falsified compromising photos or documents to the victim's family, denunciation, provocation, wiretapping, bugging, mysterious phone calls or unnecessary deliveries. In most cases, victims had no idea the Stasi were behind this, and many thought they were losing their minds, with some committing suicide.

Overseas activities of the Stasi included the running of at least one brothel, with entrapment used frequently against married men and homosexuals and disinformation campaigns like Operation Infektion, in which the Stasi helped the KGB spread the idea that the HIV/AIDS virus was developed in the United States, still believed to be true by millions even today.

[Note: a more comprehensive list of international Stasi activities can be found here].

The similarities are blatantly clear: the use of knowledge of private lives to embarrass or destroy reputations of perceived enemies through the use of smear campaigns, disinformation and honey traps. The only difference is that what was once only possible by use of a vast network of informants is now made easy via the utilization of modern technology. Such tactics might be acceptable to members of the public if used against real enemies of society such as dangerous criminals or terrorists, but as Greenwald makes clear, the targets of these measures are ordinary people:

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.


Even a brief glance through the powerpoint slides is enough to make the jaw of a citizen in a 'democracy' drop to the floor. Slide highlights include:

'The 4 D's: Deny/Disrupt/Degrade/Deceive'

'Gambits for Deception'

'Question: Can I Game this?'

The slides also include social interaction diagrams that make Gustave Le Bon's work on crowd psychology look simplistic, with specific factors listed that keep groups together and ones that push groups apart: for example, it is suggested that agents could exploit competition and ideological differences within, say, a Facebook group made up of members who are critical of corporate power and hegemony in order to create tension and strife.

Greenwald concludes:

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.

While previous Snowden disclosures have been utterly damning, this document alone is more than sufficient evidence that our governments and agencies are not only wildly out of control with entitlement and power, but that they are in fact actively and aggressively harmful to ordinary citizens and basic concepts of freedom: privacy and expression. Here is clear proof, written in the very own words of secret agencies funded through taxes that we all pay, that our own governments view not terrorists or criminals as their primary enemy, but instead their own populations: specifically those citizens who are actively aiming to re-establish democracy and the rule of law, the small minority who have fought past the myriad layers of distraction and deception all around them to see the truth.

How different are the slides detailed here to the actions and mindset of the Stasi, an agency hated by all right-minded people? It is yet more evidence - with proof becoming freshly available on a daily basis - that we do not live in democracies, but instead a global corporate dictatorship that requires in order to endure control and distraction of the populace.

After German reunification, the surveillance files that the Stasi had maintained for millions of East Germans were laid open, so that any citizen could inspect their personal file on request. Will it one day be the case that citizens of our era will have the same luxury, or will we allow the infiltration of our privacy and freedom to deepen until its absence is clear to even the most deluded and distracted among us?

Written by Simon Wood

Twitter: @simonwood11

1 comment:

  1. Hi guys I'm Stephen O Neill I'm from Ireland not the UK ,but the implications of my situation are universal. Google "Satellite mind reading technology" and try Gang Stalking and also "Electronic Harassment" of Targeted Individuals (which I am). I at one stage years ago 2008 I moved to the UK Londen to escape harassment in Ireland ,but the British Stasi just took over the COVERT herassment. In the end there was no point in me remaining in England and I had to return home.

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