Originally published October 28 2014
NSA spies actively work to destroy journalists through the Internet, leaked documents reveal
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) Documents made available earlier this year by former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden reveal that Britain's top spy agency, in conjunction with the National Security Agency, conspired to feed journalists and others misinformation, in a bid to discredit them and to implement a series of "dirty tricks" for use against nations, hackers, terrorist groups and others.
Such tricks, NBC News and The Intercept reported, include the release of computer viruses, as well as spying on journalists and diplomats, jamming computers and phones, and using sex to lure targets into so-called "honey traps."
The report continued:
Documents taken from the National Security Agency by Edward Snowden and exclusively obtained by NBC News describe techniques developed by a secret British spy unit called the Joint Threat Research and Intelligence Group (JTRIG) as part of a growing mission to go on offense and attack adversaries ranging from Iran to the hacktivists of Anonymous.
The documents, which came from presentations developed in 2010 and 2012 for spy conferences sponsored by the NSA, reveal that the agency's real goals were to "destroy, deny, degrade [and] disrupt" enemy targets by "discrediting" them, spreading disinformation and hampering communications.
Worry over the 'integrity' of the Internet
Both of those presentations provided details about "Effects" campaigns that are separated into two broad groups: cyber attacks and propaganda operations. The latter campaigns utilized concepts of mass messaging, deception and "pushing stories" through social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
Also, JTRIG incorporates "false flag" operations, in which British agents conduct operations over the Internet that are designed to look like they were done by Britain's adversaries.
Glen Greenwald, a journalist for Britain's The Guardian newspaper to whom Snowden provided the most information, said disclosure of the operations was important to preserve the "integrity" of the online world.
"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," he wrote at The Intercept, a site that he founded to disclose much of Snowden's materials.
Other operations undertaken by British intelligence and the NSA include DDoS -- Distributed Denial of Service -- attacks; these are aimed at flooding a site or chat room with traffic so that others cannot access it.
Civil libertarians in Britain, mindful of the government's right to protect itself, nevertheless questioned the operations.
Eric King, a lawyer who teaches IT law at the London School of Economics and is chief of research at Privacy International, a British civil liberties advocacy group, told NBC News that it was "remarkable" that London believed it had a right to hack computers. He said none of the United Kingdom's agencies possessed "clear lawful authority" to do so.
"[Britain's spy agency] has no clear authority to send a virus or conduct cyber attacks," said King. "Hacking is one of the most invasive methods of surveillance." He added that British cyber spies had launched offensives without "legal safeguards" and with no public debate, though London has often criticized other countries, such as Russia, for practicing cyberwarfare.
'All journalists are generally vulnerable'
As for the targeting of journalists, the 2010 presentation talked of a potential operation that would employ a tactic called "credential harvesting," in which journalists would be selected to spread certain (mis)information. NBC News reported further:
According to intelligence sources, spies considered using electronic snooping to identify non-British journalists who would then be manipulated to feed information to the target of a covert campaign. Apparently, the journalist's job would provide access to the targeted individual, perhaps for an interview.
The documents did not provide specifics about whether journalists would even be aware of what they were being used for -- to funnel certain types of information to specific targets.
This, too, rankled civil rights advocates.
Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said details of the credential harvesting should be a "wake up call" to journalists that intelligence agencies are monitoring their activities -- both their reporting and their communications.
He added that governments are putting journalists at risk when they use even one for intelligence purposes.
"All journalists generally are then vulnerable to the charge that they work at the behest of an intelligence agency," Simon told NBC News.
Sources told NBC News that the journalist operation was never put into practice, but given the lies and misinformation -- purposeful? -- surrounding the NSA and the British intelligence agencies, no one can be certain.
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