Vulgus vult decipi

Last October, Glenn Greenwald announced that he was going to stop writing for the Guardian newspaper; this, after spending the summer reporting the Snowden revelations. To quote Greenwald: “As many of you know, I’m leaving the Guardian in order to work with Pierre Omidyar, Laura Poitras, Jeremy Scahill and soon-to-be-identified others on building a new media organization” (here). The organisation Greenwald’s talking about is called called First Look Media, and there’s ongoing controversy about it; but before I go into all that, Greenwald’s latest piece for The Intercept (which is published by First Look Media) comes from the information he was given by Edward Snowden. Amongst other things, Greenwald’s article states:

Western intelligence agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself.

Tactics they boast of using to achieve these ends are: ‘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.

These surveillance agencies have vested themselves with the power to deliberately ruin people’s reputations and disrupt their online political activity.

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 e-mails to people’s families and friends.

It’s a very detailed article and is called How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations.

In response to Greenwald’s article, the hacker and activist Jacob Appelbaum tweeted a link to a translation of a Stasi document on ‘decompostion measures’ for destroying political activists (here), which has a disturbing similarity to the GCHQ stuff that Greenwald outlines. Shortly after the Greenwald article appeared, the Guardian published an expose called Optic Nerve: millions of Yahoo webcam images intercepted by GCHQ, which is yet another nail in the coffin of a fledgling concept we call ‘democracy’. What GCHQ are doing is, of course, totally illegal (all the stuff about ‘gathering intelligence’ and ‘combating terrorism’ is complete rubbish. The spooks don’t exist to serve the people, they exist to serve the ruling classes). The British Government has been claiming that it can conduct this kind of surveillance under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). It’s an ill-defined law, badly drafted (these sort of laws are always ‘badly drafted’, despite the fact that lawmakers have teams of legal experts to help them with the wording), and by any definition does not allow for this sort of unregulated surveillance. The European Court of Human Rights thinks so, too, since they are allowing a RIPA case against the British government to be brought before them (here).

Getting back to the controversy I alluded to at the start of this post, to set-up First Look Media, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras entered into a $250 Million business partnership with Pierre Omidyar, who’s the billionaire owner of the PayPal Corporation. Paypal are one of the companies who allegedly co-operated with the National Security Agency (NSA), by giving access to their customer’s data (along with other big names such as Google, Microsoft and Apple). In response to a recent article in Boiling Frogs Post, Greenwald Tweeted:

“I don’t doubt PayPal cooperates with NSA – that this is in the docs that we’ve been paid to withhold are total lies”

Whatever you might think about Greenwald’s integrity, there is no doubt that he’s made an awful lot of money out of the Snowden stuff (he’s also done film and book deals). Here’s a recent interview, in which he defends himself:

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