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Government Spies On Innocent People Via Webcams, Laptops, Xbox

Latest Snowden Leak confirms story Infowars first broke EIGHT YEARS AGO

Steve Watson
Infowars.com
February 27, 2014

The latest revelation concerning mass government spying confirms an issue that Infowars has been covering for close to a decade. British and American governments are spying on people in their own homes via web cams, laptop microphones and devices such as the X-box.

The London Guardian has the details in a report based on information leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The British surveillance agency GCHQ, with help from the NSA, actively spied on nearly 2 million Yahoo users via webcams built into their computers. The documents show that the agency intercepted millions of images as part of a secret program codenamed OPTIC NERVE.

The report also states that Americans were almost certainly targeted as part of the bulk collection of data, and that there is no law to prevent such activity in Britain.

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The documents show that images were collected from webcams at regular intervals, one image every five minutes, and were used by the spy agency to trial automated facial recognition programs.

The Guardian describes the process as “eerily reminiscent of the telescreens evoked in George Orwell’s 1984.”

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The documents dub the practice as “bulk access to Yahoo webcam images/events”, and spies working at GCHQ compared it to a police database of mugshots. “Face detection has the potential to aid selection of useful images for ‘mugshots’ or even for face recognition by assessing the angle of the face,” the papers read. “The best images are ones where the person is facing the camera with their face upright.”

Essentially, the spy agency appear to have been building a huge digital database containing the faces of Yahoo users.

The documents advise employees at GCHQ on how to use the system, noting “[I]f you search for similar IDs to your target, you will be able to request automatic comparison of the face in the similar IDs to those in your target’s ID”.

In one presentation contained within the documents, more technologically advanced systems, such as iris recognition cameras, are discussed as potential surveillance tools. The paper even chillingly states “think Tom Cruise in Minority Report”.

The documents state that Yahoo users were specifically singled out because “Yahoo webcam is known to be used by GCHQ targets”.

The papers also note that a large quantity of the data collected contained nudity or sexually explicit imagery. The spy agency seemingly made no effort to prevent the collection of such images.

Yahoo described the practice as “a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy,” and strenuously denied having any knowledge of the program.

Infowars first reported in 2006, EIGHT YEARS AGO, that innocent people were being spied on through their computers. We specifically described the practice as Minority Report style technology, as the GCHQ had done.

We have since covered the issue consistently, warning that “Hundreds of millions of Internet-active Americans will all be potential targets for secret surveillance.”

Of course, some quarters dismissed our reports as “conspiracy theories”, while worried internet users questioned whether the reports were accurate.

The GCHQ program was seemingly not limited to Yahoo user web cams either. Another presentation within the leaked internal papers discusses the capabilities of the Xbox 360′s Kinect camera, saying it generated “fairly normal webcam traffic” and that it was being evaluated as a potential surveillance tool.

We have also documented the potential use of Xbox for surveillance purposes, noting that Skype calls made on the devices can be intercepted. We have also warned that the ‘always on’ camera of the new Xbox One, which is so powerful it can see through clothing, is wide open to abuse by hackers and government agencies.

According to the leaked documents, the OPTIC NERVE program began as a prototype in 2008 and was still active in 2012. There is no indication that the program has been deactivated.

Security expert Bruce Schneier writes that this latest revelation highlights how there is no distinction between actively spying on a person and what he called “Eavesdropping by algorithm”, in other words, automated computer surveillance. The NSA and the Obama administration have attempted to argue that what they are doing cannot be called “spying” or even “collecting” data, because when the data is gathered, a person is not looking at it. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper still uses this explanation to claim he never lied to Congress when he answered ‘no’ to the question “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

The fallout from the OPTIC NERVE program, the creation of facial recognition databases, and the fact that spooks provably looked at images of people, even NAKED images of people, highlights the fact, Schneier argues, that the “NSA’s definition of ‘collect’ makes no sense whatsoever”, and that our governments are indeed actively spying on us.

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Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.

How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations

By 24 Feb 2014, 6:25 PM EST
Featured photo - How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations A page from a GCHQ top secret document prepared by its secretive JTRIG unit

One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction. It’s time to tell a chunk of that story, complete with the relevant documents.

Over the last several weeks, I worked with NBC News to publish a series of articles about “dirty trick” tactics used by GCHQ’s previously secret unit, JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group). These were based on four classified GCHQ documents presented to the NSA and the other three partners in the English-speaking “Five Eyes” alliance. Today, we at the Intercept are publishing another new JTRIG document, in full, entitled “The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations”.

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.

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:

GCHQ describes the purpose of JTRIG in starkly clear terms: “using online techniques to make something happen in the real or cyber world”, including “information ops (influence or disruption)”.

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. There is a strong argument to make, as Jay Leiderman demonstrated in the Guardian in the context of the Paypal 14 hacktivist persecution, that the “denial of service” tactics used by hacktivists result in (at most) trivial damage (far less than the cyber-warfare tactics favored by the US and UK) and are far more akin to the type of political protest protected by the First Amendment.

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.”

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 newly created NSA review panel announced 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 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”:

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:

We submitted numerous questions to GCHQ, including: (1) Does GCHQ in fact engage in “false flag operations” where material is posted to the Internet and falsely attributed to someone else?; (2) Does GCHQ engage in efforts to influence or manipulate political discourse online?; and (3) Does GCHQ’s mandate include targeting common criminals (such as boiler room operators), or only foreign threats?

As usual, they ignored those questions and opted instead to send their vague and nonresponsive boilerplate: “It is a longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters. Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the Secretary of State, the Interception and Intelligence Services Commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee. All our operational processes rigorously support this position.”

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.

Snowden Claims: NSA Ties Put German Intelligence in Tight Spot

The German foreign intelligence service knew more about the activities of the NSA in Germany than previously known. “They’re in bed together,” Edward Snowden claims in an interview in SPIEGEL. The whistleblower also lodges fresh allegations against the British.

For weeks now, officials at intelligence services around the world have been in suspense as one leak after another from whistleblower Edward Snowden has been published. Be it America’s National Security Agency, Britain’s GCHQ or systems like Prism or Tempora, he has been leaking scandalous information about international spying agencies. In an interview published by SPIEGEL in its latest issue, Snowden provides additional details, describing the closeness between the US and German intelligence services as well as Britain’s acquisitiveness when it comes to collecting data.

In Germany, reports of the United States’ vast espionage activities have surprised and upset many, including politicians. But Snowden isn’t buying the innocence of leading German politicians and government figures, who say that they were entirely unaware of the spying programs. On the contrary, the NSA people are “in bed together with the Germans,” the whistleblower told American cryptography expert Jacob Appelbaum and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras in an interview conducted with the help of encrypted emails shortly before Snowden became a globally recognized name.

Snowden describes the intelligence services partnerships in detail. The NSA even has a special department for such cooperation, the Foreign Affairs Directorate, he says. He also exposes a noteworthy detail about how government decision-makers are protected by these programs. The partnerships are organized in a way so that authorities in other countries can “insulate their political leaders from the backlash” in the event it becomes public “how grievously they’re violating global privacy,” the former NSA employee says.

Intensive Cooperation with Germany

SPIEGEL reporting also indicates that cooperation between the NSA and Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the BND, is more intensive than previously known. The NSA, for example, provides “analysis tools” for the BND to monitor signals from foreign data streams that travel through Germany. Among the BND’s focuses are the Middle East route through which data packets from crisis regions travel.

BND head Gerhard Schindler confirmed the partnership during a recent meeting with members of the German parliament’s control committee for intelligence issues.

But it’s not just the BND’s activities that are the focus of the interview with Snowden.

The 30-year-old also provides new details about Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). He says that Britain’s Tempora system is the signal intelligence community’s first “full-take Internet buffer,” meaning that it saves all of the data passing through the country.

Data Remains Buffered for Three Days

The scope of this “full take” system is vast. According to Snowden and Britain’s Guardian newspaper, Tempora stores communications data for up to 30 days and saves all content for up to three days in a so-called Internet buffer. “It snarfs everything in a rolling buffer to allow retroactive investigation without missing a single bit,” Snowden says.

Asked if it is possible to get around this total surveillance of all Internet communication, he says: “As a general rule, so long as you have any choice at all, you should never route through or peer with the UK under any circumstances.”

In other words, Snowden says, one can only prevent GCHQ from accessing their data if they do not send any information through British Internet lines or servers. However, German Internet experts believe this would be almost impossible in practice.

Metadata Provide Orientation in Sea of Data

The attempt to conduct total data retention is noteworthy because most of the leaks so far in the spying scandal have pertained to so-called metadata. In the interview, Snowden reiterates just how important metadata — which can include telephone numbers, IP addresses and connection times, for example — really are. “In most cases, content isn’t as valuable as metadata,” Snowden says.Those in possession of metadata can determine who has communicated with whom. And using the metadata, they can determine which data sets and communications content they would like to take a closer look at. “The metadata tells you what out of their data stream you actually want,” Snowden says.

It is becoming increasingly clear to recognize the way in which surveillance programs from the NSA and GCHQ — including Prism, Tempora and Boundless Informant — cooperate. The metadata provides analysts with tips on which communications and content might be interesting. Then, Snowden says, with the touch of a button they can then retrieve or permanently collect the full content of communications that have already been stored for a specific person or group, or they can collect future communications. But a person can also be “selected for targeting based on, for example, your Facebook or webmail content.”

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