Special ReportDuncan Campbell has spent decades unmasking Britain’s super-secretive GCHQ, its spying programmes, and its cosy relationship with America’s NSA. Today, he retells his life’s work exposing the government’s over-reaching surveillance, and reveals documents from the leaked Snowden files confirming the history of the fearsome ECHELON intercept project. This story is also published simultaneously today by The Intercept, and later today we’ll have video of Duncan describing ECHELON and related surveillance matters.
Ross McNutt has a superpower — he can zoom in on everyday life, then rewind and fast-forward to solve crimes in a shutter-flash. But should he?
In 2004, when casualties in Iraq were rising due to roadside bombs, Ross McNutt and his team came up with an idea. With a small plane and a 44 mega-pixel camera, they figured out how to watch an entire city all at once, all day long. Whenever a bomb detonated, they could zoom onto that spot and then, because this eye in the sky had been there all along, they could scroll back in time and see – literally see – who planted it. After the war, Ross McNutt retired from the airforce, and brought this technology back home with him. Manoush Zomorodi and Alex Goldmark from the podcast “Note to Self” give us the low-down on Ross’s unique brand of persistent surveillance, from Juarez, Mexico to Dayton, Ohio. Then, once we realize what we can do, we wonder whether we should.
At this point, most Americans have acknowledged — and many have de facto accepted — that the government can access our personal data. And sometimes it takes a personal case to understand just how intimate that snooping can get.
What we haven’t known — and couldn’t quite tell from the 2013 Snowden leak — are the technological details of that surveillance. Nor have we understand how pervasive that technology had become, at even the most local of levels.
Today, we understand quite a bit more thanks to one man in particular. His name is Daniel Rigmaiden, and while he’s not exactly the knight-in-shining-armor type (he’s a convicted felon who spent years building an almost-air-tight tax fraud scheme), he is the one who figured out how the government tracks us using our cell phones, despite their best efforts to keep it hidden: the Stingray.
This week, we’ll tell his story on our show. It’s the first full telling since the drama went down.
Daniel Rigmaiden served more than five years in jail for tax fraud. He spent of that time figuring how, exactly, the government figured out it was him.
(Courtesy of Daniel Rigmaiden)
On a partner episode with Radiolab, we’re telling another, related story from a very different angle: the sky.
We think these podcasts will change the way you look at your phone, whether you’re an incredibly savvy tax fraudster or someone who just happens to notice when your phone mysteriously drops to the 2G network in the middle of a big city.
In the biggest public release of documents from the DOD’s propaganda office I recently received over 1500 pages of new material. Just under 1400 pages come from the US Army’s Entertainment Liaison Office: regular activity reports covering January 2010 to April 2015. Another over 100 pages of reports come from the US Air Force’s office, covering 2013.
1. We live in an age with no central creed. A world without a unifying vision.
2. The technology we currently use to communicate with unprecedented ease-it is already beginning to shape rather than merely deliver our messages. Currently, this technology refuses to recognize certain words. Soon it will refuse to record or transmit those words. Soon after, technology will replace our words with language it deems an improvement. As the written word goes, so will go speech and thought.
3. Without expression through other avenues, impulses will find release through violent, destructive acts.
4. Future social engineering will be instantly and easily instituted through communication technology. Our crimes will report themselves. Each crime will serve as its own confession.
5. At that point all messages will become the same message. Nothing new will ever be said. Power will become fixed in society.
6. A leader will emerge because no one wants to live as his or her own master. Everyone wishes for a mentor, a stern accounting which will hold us to a higher standard than any of us dare to hold ourselves. For left to our own reasonable aspirations, we will evolve to fulfill the paltry dreams of a child. The tepid dreams instilled within us by those already in power. Our ideal leader will push us beyond our own timid goals. That leader will drive each person to attain a power of his or her own.
7. People consist of those who hold back, day after day, waiting for the perfect idea to execute-to risk devoting their time and energy to depicting. Versus those who are always ready and watching for the next opportunity to develop their skill at communicating with others. The first group might eventually find that perfect idea, but when the opportunity arrives their skills will be weak, forgotten, or never acquired. For those who wait, their perfect idea will die unborn.
8. Inspiration comes to those who show themselves ready to act upon it. The people who daily use every invitation to express, to communicate-they will become lightning rods which both attract ideas and conduct them for useful purpose.
9. Self-expression has become our largest consumable commodity: greeting cards, flowers, jewelry, music, all gifts. A dozen heavily marketed events dictate when we exchange these symbols and when we express predetermined emotions. A host of products are always waiting to demonstrate our love, gratitude, congratulations, sympathy, best wishes. Always justifiable purchases. Failure to exchange symbols accordingly constitutes an antisocial act.
10. Thus power lies in expressing what others no longer have the ability to express. Greater than monetary power, the fully expressed, skillful communicator will not be limited to the forms of expression available in the marketplace.The skillful communicator must bring to public attention until-now-unrecognized feelings, shared by many but voiced by none. Such an artist will articulate the hearts of people and become their voice.
11. Nerve plays as large a role as skill in creativity. Nerve and awareness both. The suppressed deny their feelings, or fear expressing them, or lack the skills to do so. Therefore all three of those traits must the creative person cultivate: awareness, nerve, and skill.
12. With the skill to organize and present ideas-with such effectiveness that they occur fully intact in the minds of others-with that skill comes the ability to conceive of increasingly greater ideas and to also transmit those in a way that makes them useful and appealing.
13. No idea will be yours unless it visits you first. No idea you initially see on television will be your idea. No idea you discover in a film will be yours.
14. Only the most unrefined sources will yield the raw material for new ideas. You must train yourself as someone ready to record.You must trust your own judgment to keep or discard. Be able to retrieve fragments if they relate to some new detail of information. Identify patterns, even though their elements might occur years apart. Piece together these fragments until they convey an unmistakable message.
15. Fight Club is the battle of the fully expressed person, Tyler, against the fully suppressed Sebastian. How you are in executing this homework assignment predicts how you perform in life. Will you be someone who merely consumes the narrative or someone who actively expands and participates in it? Do you express yourself fully and effectively, or do you purchase a surrogate means of expression made by some machine, a commoditized gesture which reduces your most intimate human interactions to empty rituals?
16. The creators applaud those people whose work you see in this section.They are the ones who boldly seize this opportunity to practice and prove their ability.
Internal memo from secretive British spy unit exposes how GCHQ and NSA used human psychological research to create sophisticated online propaganda tools
With never-before-seen documents accompanied by new reporting on Monday, The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman are offering a more in-depth look than ever into how a secretive unit of the UK’s GCHQ surveillance agency used a host of psychological methods and online subterfuge in order to manipulate the behavior of individuals and groups through the internet and other digital forms of communication.
According to the reporting, the latest documents, which were leaked to journalists by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden,
demonstrate how the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), a unit of the signals intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), is involved in efforts against political groups it considers “extremist,” Islamist activity in schools, the drug trade, online fraud, and financial scams.
Though its existence was secret until last year, JTRIG quickly developed a distinctive profile in the public understanding, after documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the unit had engaged in “dirty tricks” like deploying sexual “honey traps” designed to discredit targets, launching denial-of-service attacks to shut down internet chat rooms, pushing veiled propaganda onto social networks, and generally warping discourse online.
Among the most troubling revelations is a 42-page internal JTRIG memo that describes in detail how the elite unit developed, maintained, and apparently sought to expand its “scientific and psychological research into how human thinking and behavior can be influenced” in order to increase its ability to “manipulate public opinion” via online tools like email, social media, video, discussion forums, and other platforms.
“Are they real?” That’s the question people usually ask when they hear for the first time of the “Citigroup Plutonomy Memos.” The sad truth is: Yes, they are real, and instead of being discussed on mainstream media outlets all over America and beyond, Citigroup was surprisingly successful so far in suppressing these memos, using their lawyers to issue takedown-notices whenever these memos were being made available for download on the internet.
So what are we talking about? In 2005 and 2006, several analysts at Citigroup took a very, very close look at the economic inequalities within the USA and other countries and wrote two memos which were addressed to their very wealthy customers. If there is one group of people who need to know the truth about what is really going on within the society and the economy, minus the propaganda, then it’s businesspeople who have a lot of money to invest, and who want to invest wisely.
So Citigroup did their duty and published two explosive memos, which should have become mainstream news, but eventually did not. The first memo is dated October 16, 2005 (35 pages) and is titled:“Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances.”
Next time you gossip or brag about cheating on your partner, check under the table. Group’s stunt highlights extent of the real NSA as the debate continues
Next time you’re at a bar in the East Village, say, congratulating yourself on having tricked your roommate, bitching about your friend’s accent or sharing your partner’s sex secrets, check under the table for listening devices. Wags claiming to work for the NSA as one of “many third-party contractors, albeit pro-bono and unofficial” are collecting your conversations.
A group calling themselves We Are Always Listening says it has placed recording devices across New York and – just like their real NSA counterparts – they have plans to start snooping on people in Germany too.
The stunt aims to highlight the extent of the NSA’s domestic surveillance program as the debate over whether or not to renew the Patriot Act rages on. In a conversation with the Guardian the “agents” said they have been careful not to release “anybody’s first and last names”, although there were two names in one of the tracks on the site Friday afternoon.
The Chinese government is currently implementing a nationwide electronic system, called the Social Credit System, attributing toeach of its 1,3 billion citizens a score for his or her behavior. The system will be based on various criteria, ranging from financial credibility and criminal record to social media behavior. From 2020 onwards each adult citizen should, besides his identity card, have such a credit code.
Corporations and governments have co-opted the idea of the ‘social’ for their own ends. Is there anything we can do about it?
Imagine walking into a coffee shop, ordering a cappuccino, and then, to your surprise, being informed that it has already been paid for. Where did this unexpected gift come from? It transpires that it was left by the previous customer. The only snag, if indeed it is a snag, is that you now have to do the same for the next customer who walks in.
This is known as a “pay-it-forward” pricing scheme. It is something that has been practised by a number of small businesses in California, such as the Karma Kitchen in Berkeley and, in some cases, customers have introduced it spontaneously. On the face of it, it would seem to defy the logic of free-market economics. Markets, surely, are places where we are allowed, even expected, to behave selfishly. With its hippy idealism, pay-it-forward would appear to go against the core tenets of economic calculation.
But there is more to it than this. Researchers from the decision science research group at the University of California, Berkeley have looked closely at pay-it-forward pricing and discovered something with profound implications for how markets and businesses work. It transpires that people will generally pay more under the pay-it-forward model than under a conventional pricing system. As the study’s lead author, Minah Jung, puts it: “People don’t want to look cheap. They want to be fair, but they also want to fit in with the social norms.” Contrary to what economists have long assumed, altruism can often exert a far stronger influence over our decision-making than calculation.
Such findings are typical of the field of behavioural economics, which emerged in the late 1970s. Like regular economists, behavioural economists assume that individuals are usually motivated to maximise their own benefit – but not always. In certain circumstances, they are social and moral animals, even when this appears to undermine their economic interests. They follow the herd and act according to certain rules of thumb. They have some principles that they will not sacrifice for money at all.
It seems that this undermines the cynical, individualist theory of human psychology, which lies at the heart of orthodox economics. Could it be that we are decent, social creatures after all? A great deal of neuroscientific research into the roots of sympathy and reciprocity supports this. Optimists might view this as the basis for a new political hope, of a society in which sharing and gift-giving offer a serious challenge to the power of monetary accumulation and privatisation.
But there is also a more disturbing possibility: that the critique of individualism and monetary calculation is now being incorporated into the armoury of utilitarian policy and management. One of the key insights of behavioural economics is that, if one wants to control other human beings, it is often far more effective to appeal to their sense of morality and social identity than to their self-interest.
This is symptomatic of a more general shift in policy and business practices today. Across various fields of expertise, from healthcare to marketing, from military training to finance, there is rising hope that strategic goals can be achieved through harnessing the power of the “social”. But what exactly does this mean? As the era of social democracy recedes further into the past, the meaning of the term is undergoing a profound transformation. Where once the term implied something concerning society or the common good, increasingly it refers to a technique of psychological intervention on the individual. Informal social connections and friendships are being rendered more visible and measurable. In the process, they are being turned into possible instruments of power.
Glenn Greenwald, a journalist, constitutional lawyer, commentator, and author of three New York Times best-selling books on politics and law, has been working with NBC News in publishing a series of articles on how covert government agents infiltrate the Internet to “manipulate, deceive, and destroy reputations.”
In this shocking piece, Greenwald publishes a copy of a spy training manual used entitled: “The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations.” Greenwald writes that agencies like the NSA are “attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself.” Greenwald writes:
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.
While this kind of counter-intelligence activity may not sound surprising given the objectives of spy agencies going after terrorists, what disturbs Greenwald (and many others) is that the discussion regarding these techniques have been greatly expanded to include the general public:
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.
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.
And while these leaked documents concern the British spy agency, Greenwald is quick to point out that the Obama administration has actually been open and forward about using such techniques in the U.S.:
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).