GCHQ unit involved in manipulating citizens’ behavior via internet – report

(RT) – When not busy with counterterrorism operations, a secretive unit of the UK’s GCHQ spy agency reportedly helps traditional law enforcement and is engaged in manipulating public opinion via the internet, new documents reveal.

Documents published by the Intercept demonstrate the
way the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), whose
existence only came to be revealed by the former NSA contractor
Edward Snowden, has been “involved in efforts against
political groups it considers ‘extremist’, Islamist activity in
schools, the drug trade, online fraud and financial scams.”

According to the Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman,
“particularly revealing” is a 2011 42-page report document entitled ‘Behavioral
Science Support for JTRIG’s Effects and Online HUMINT [Human
Intelligence] Operations’ and detailing JTRIG’s activities.

Among them is “Providing spoof online resources such as
magazines and books that provide inaccurate information (to
disrupt, delay, deceive, discredit, promote distrust, dissuade,
deter or denigrade [sic]/degrade)”; “setting up spoof trade sites
(or sellers) that may take customer’s money and/or send customers
degraded or spoof products (to deny, disrupt, degrade/denigrade
[sic], delay, deceive, discredit, dissuade or deter”; “sending
spoof e-mails and text messages from a fake person or mimicking a
real person (to discredit, promote distrust dissuade, deceive,
deter, delay or disrupt.”

The report states that the surveillance unit “currently
collaborates with other agencies,”
including the
Metropolitan police, Security Service (MI5), Serious Organised
Crime Agency (SOCA), Border Agency, Revenue and Customs (HMRC),
and National Public Order and Intelligence Unit (NPOIU). The key
JTRIG objectives, cited in the report, range from “providing
intelligence for judicial outcomes”
and monitoring of
“domestic extremist groups such as the English Defence League
by conducting online HUMINT
” to “deterring, disrupting
or degrading online consumerism of stolen data or child porn.”

Although the British spy unit has been purported by officials to
be involved in international intelligence in places like Iran,
Afghanistan and Argentina, “the closest the group seemed to
get to home was in its targeting of transnational ‘hacktivist’
group Anonymous,
” the Intercept reported.

An August 2009 JTRIG memo entitled ‘Operational Highlights’ and
cited by the Intercept reportedly “boasts of ‘GCHQ’s first
serious crime effects operation’ against a website that was
identifying police informants and members of a witness protection
” Another operation, according to the site, focused
on an online forum which allegedly “used to facilitate and
execute online fraud.
” GCHQ’s support has also been credited
with helping “to assist the UK negotiating team on climate
change,” according to the report.

“Beyond JTRIG’s targeting of Anonymous, other parts of GCHQ
targeted political activists deemed to be “radical,” even
monitoring the visits of people to the WikiLeaks website,”

The Intercept reported, adding that “GCHQ also stated in one
internal memo that it studied and hacked popular software
programs to ‘enable police operations’ and gave two examples of
cracking decryption software on behalf of the National Technical
Assistance Centre, one ‘a high-profile police case’ and the other
a child abuse investigation.”

Documents leaked by Snowden revealed that JTRIG’s secretive activities descended to
some particularly ‘dirty tricks’ like deploying sexual ‘honey
traps’ to discredit targets, launching denial-of-service attacks
to shut down internet chat rooms, pushing veiled propaganda onto
social networks and warping online discourse, just to name a few.

This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license.