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Greenwald: How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive and Destroy Reputations
Glenn Greenwald's The Intercept & Guardian UK ^ | February 24, 2014 | Glenn Greenwald

Posted on 02/24/2014 5:29:21 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet

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 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).

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.


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Front Page News; Government; Russia
KEYWORDS: agents; antiamerican; antimilitary; betrayal; betrayusaallies; casssunstein; chelseamanning; china; cia; covert; deception; disinformation; dod; edwardsnowden; espionage; g42; gchq; glenngreenwald; infiltration; intel; internet; kgb; manipulation; mi6; moscow; ncr; opsec; pfcbradleymanning; pfcmanning; putin; sigint; signals; sitrep; smear; smeartactic; snowden; surveillance; topsecret; traitor; traitorbait; traitors; traitorshero; trolls; usaf; usarmy; usmarines; usn
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1 posted on 02/24/2014 5:29:21 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

LOVE!!!!


2 posted on 02/24/2014 5:31:24 PM PST by mgist (.)
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To: 2nd amendment mama

Ping!


3 posted on 02/24/2014 5:32:25 PM PST by basil (2ASisters.org)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Throughout my 30’s and beyond I began to bemoan what I identified as a growing lack of respect for truth.


4 posted on 02/24/2014 5:36:32 PM PST by gorush (History repeats itself because human nature is static)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

bookmark


5 posted on 02/24/2014 5:38:11 PM PST by manic4organic (It was nice knowing you, America.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

bump


6 posted on 02/24/2014 5:41:10 PM PST by To Hell With Poverty (Ephesians 6:12 becomes more real to me with each news cycle.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Thanks Vet, I intended to post a link.
Kinda explains why 0bama is pushing 0bama phones on to everyone.
Kinda explains why the 0bama campaign continually sent out e-mails asking for 2 or 3 dollars
Kinda explains why 0bama is SO hungry for meta data.
Kinda explains how 0bama won the last election.
Kinda explains why the IRS demands so much from Tea Party groups.
Etc., Etc., Etc.....


7 posted on 02/24/2014 5:42:13 PM PST by Steven Tyler
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Bump


8 posted on 02/24/2014 5:43:01 PM PST by Incorrigible (If I lead, follow me; If I pause, push me; If I retreat, kill me.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

PS, the necessary discussion is how to push back against a Government using these tools, and how do citizens protect themselves

Some Politicians have a lot of splainin to do


9 posted on 02/24/2014 5:44:03 PM PST by Steven Tyler
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

In other words,The Formalization of Lying.

Take 10 billion tax dollars, add it to 10,000 spooks in 100 competing agencies, et viola: income for PowerPoint for the next 100 years.


10 posted on 02/24/2014 5:47:43 PM PST by Talisker (One who commands, must obey.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
I'm as high tech as they come, for former military cooks, but by the second slide with bubbles and arrows, I tend to drag out a baseball bat.

/johnny

11 posted on 02/24/2014 5:50:30 PM PST by JRandomFreeper (Gone Galt)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

This is old news.
We that have been around for a long time know that no matter what you say and anything you post to back up what you talk about, it’s never enough.

The namecalling and the double speak just goes around in circles.
Those that are just believers pickup what the neo-coms spew and repeat it like a tape recorder


12 posted on 02/24/2014 5:50:58 PM PST by South Dakota (shut up and build a bakken pipe line)
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To: Talisker
income for PowerPoint for the next 100 years.

True.

But one baseball bat to the overhead projector brings meetings back to the simple basics that can be scrawled on a white-board.

/johnny

13 posted on 02/24/2014 5:52:26 PM PST by JRandomFreeper (Gone Galt)
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To: ASA Vet; Nachum

Ping!


14 posted on 02/24/2014 5:53:04 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet (I will raise $2M for Sarah Palin's next run, what will you do?)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet; COUNTrecount; Nowhere Man; FightThePower!; C. Edmund Wright; jacob allen; ...
Who's laughing now?

Aluminum Foil Hat photo tinfoil_hat.jpg

Nut-job Conspiracy Theory Ping!

To get onto The Nut-job Conspiracy Theory Ping List you must threaten to report me to the Mods if I don't add you to the list...

15 posted on 02/24/2014 5:58:13 PM PST by null and void (<--- unwilling cattle-car passenger on the bullet train to serfdom)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet; Fred Nerks

Wow. I’ll have to study that tomorrow.

FN - relevant to your comments about propaganda and lies...


16 posted on 02/24/2014 6:05:22 PM PST by little jeremiah (Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point. CSLewis)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
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?

Why?
Because they can, any suspicion they have of you is proof of your guilt.

17 posted on 02/24/2014 6:06:21 PM PST by OneWingedShark (Q: Why am I here? A: To do Justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with my God.)
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To: LucyT

Ping!


18 posted on 02/24/2014 6:07:07 PM PST by Slings and Arrows (Richard Warman censors free speech.)
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To: Talisker

Notice how the word “behaviour” is spelled in the British way. Of course, they could be trying to distract us.


19 posted on 02/24/2014 6:11:07 PM PST by cradle of freedom
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Bump


20 posted on 02/24/2014 6:15:34 PM PST by MrBambaLaMamba (Obama - "I will stand with the Muslims")
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

The good news is that government work groups specialize in creating incredibly indecipherable charts and graphs, present them to each other, nobody understands a damn thing but everybody nods shrewdly in approval. But they had a meeting, so they “worked”.


21 posted on 02/24/2014 6:19:32 PM PST by DariusBane (Liberty and Risk. Flip sides of the same coin. So how much risk will YOU accept?)
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To: Slings and Arrows; Brown Deer; null and void; Velveeta; Rushmore Rocks; Oorang; Myrddin; ...
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Argh.

Thanks, Slings and Arrows.

22 posted on 02/24/2014 6:19:41 PM PST by LucyT
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

As long as they don’t TROLL here on FR........


23 posted on 02/24/2014 6:27:47 PM PST by G Larry
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
Every time I try to get involved with a real-world group there is always one keeper of odd knowledge that undermines and eventually destroys the group. Makes me wonder.
24 posted on 02/24/2014 6:36:07 PM PST by Excellence (All your database are belong to us.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Remember, all this comes from a British red. He is an enemy of America. The only question left is, is he working for someone or some nation.

Phil Agee and Mark Hosenball did this in the 1970’s/80’s before being kicked out of England.

Know your history!


25 posted on 02/24/2014 6:37:45 PM PST by MadMax, the Grinning Reaper
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To: Excellence
Every time I try to get involved with a real-world group there is always one keeper of odd knowledge that undermines and eventually destroys the group. Makes me wonder.

Keeper of Odd Knowledge?
And how does that work to undermine?

26 posted on 02/24/2014 6:47:54 PM PST by OneWingedShark (Q: Why am I here? A: To do Justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with my God.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

This would be a better story if it named someone who has been targeted with this technique.


27 posted on 02/24/2014 6:53:19 PM PST by old curmudgeon
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To: old curmudgeon

No specific instances where the “honey trap” was successfully employed is mentioned, but a so-called “Royal Concierge” program took advantage of hotel reservation systems to track the physical location of foreign diplomats and issue “daily alerts to analysts working on governmental hard targets.” Royal Concierge then attempts to manipulate the reservation so the diplomat in question stays at a hotel friendly to the GCHQ’s SIGINT (signal-intelligence) program. Others are tracked so they can be monitored in-person.

http://rt.com/news/gchq-sex-dirty-tricks-snowden-116/


28 posted on 02/24/2014 6:58:39 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet (I will raise $2M for Sarah Palin's next run, what will you do?)
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To: musicman

BFLR


29 posted on 02/24/2014 7:00:42 PM PST by musicman (Until I see the REAL Long Form Vault BC, he's just "PRES__ENT" Obama = Without "ID")
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

its late in the evening and I want to go through this post and try understand what the point is. So I’ll ping myself for tomorrow. Ping!


30 posted on 02/24/2014 7:24:49 PM PST by Ticonderoga34
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To: null and void

Sinai Desert and the ‘Haversack Ruse’[edit]

Meinertzhagen was frequently credited with a surprise attack known as the Haversack Ruse in October 1917: during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign of the First World War, according to his diary, he let a haversack containing false British battle plans fall into Ottoman military hands, thereby bringing about the British victory in the Battle of Beersheba and Gaza.[21] The incident and attack are depicted in the 1987 film The Lighthorsemen. “Near the end of 1917, having participated in no battles, he was ordered back to England for reassignment [and] found office duty as dreary as ever.”[22] It was also the inspiration for a scene in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles in which Indy is present when the briefcase with the “plans” is captured.

Though Meinertzhagen’s participation in this ruse has been discounted (he may have neither planned nor executed it), his stories of the ruse themselves would have a major impact on events in the Second World War. According to Garfield, it appears the idea was that of Lieutenant-Colonel J. D. Belgrave and the rider was Arthur Neate. It inspired Winston Churchill to create the London Controlling Section, which planned countless Allied deception campaigns during the war, and such operations as Mincemeat and diversions covering D-Day were influenced by the Haversack Ruse.[23]


31 posted on 02/24/2014 7:35:49 PM PST by BenLurkin (This is not a statement of fact. It is either opinion or satire; or both.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

I like the Disrupt tips.

I just hate being ignored.


32 posted on 02/24/2014 7:41:37 PM PST by sickoflibs (Obama : 'Any path to US citizenship for illegals HERE is a special path to it ')
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To: null and void

Ocean-Personality-Assessment

http://www.testsonthenet.com/atctests/Ocean-Personality-Assessment-Specimen1.htm


33 posted on 02/24/2014 7:43:51 PM PST by BenLurkin (This is not a statement of fact. It is either opinion or satire; or both.)
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To: cradle of freedom

I didn’t read much of it, but GCHQ is a British agency: “The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is a British intelligence agency responsible for providing signals intelligence (SIGINT) and information …..”(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GCHQ).

That is why the spelling is British.


34 posted on 02/24/2014 7:45:54 PM PST by expat1000
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
This reminds me of what Cass Sunstein planned for Democrat activists to do...

Obama czar proposed government 'infiltrate' social network sites

35 posted on 02/24/2014 7:53:49 PM PST by AuditTheFed
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To: null and void

If they can get you to distrust everything, then they will be the only ones with the ‘truth’


36 posted on 02/24/2014 7:55:03 PM PST by Nifster
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To: G Larry
As long as they don’t TROLL here on FR........

They DO.

It's been very effective too.

As the article makes clear, it's not just disinformation. Many good Freepers have left because they could not stand the personal attacks.

Stupid and/or extreme comments (and articles) have also been posted in order to provide examples that can be used to discredit FreeRepublic. This has also worked.

You may even notice the site runs slow sometimes...

It's a wonder FreeRepublic is still around.

37 posted on 02/24/2014 7:56:07 PM PST by EternalHope (Be ready.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Reminds me of dissecting frogs in high school biology. I liked the part of applying electrical current to make the frog’s foot wiggle, but I don’t see that part in the digram. Guess I’ll need to experiment at the next delphi meeting.


38 posted on 02/24/2014 8:00:28 PM PST by sergeantdave
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To: null and void

6 key principles of influence by Robert Cialdini[edit]
1.Reciprocity – People tend to return a favor, thus the pervasiveness of free samples in marketing. In his conferences, he often uses the example of Ethiopia providing thousands of dollars in humanitarian aid to Mexico just after the 1985 earthquake, despite Ethiopia suffering from a crippling famine and civil war at the time. Ethiopia had been reciprocating for the diplomatic support Mexico provided when Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935. The good cop/bad cop strategy is also based on this principle.
2.Commitment and Consistency – If people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment because of establishing that idea or goal as being congruent with their self-image. Even if the original incentive or motivation is removed after they have already agreed, they will continue to honor the agreement. Cialdini notes Chinese brainwashing on American prisoners of war to rewrite their self-image and gain automatic unenforced compliance. See cognitive dissonance.
3.Social Proof – People will do things that they see other people are doing. For example, in one experiment, one or more confederates would look up into the sky; bystanders would then look up into the sky to see what they were seeing. At one point this experiment aborted, as so many people were looking up that they stopped traffic. See conformity, and the Asch conformity experiments.
4.Authority – People will tend to obey authority figures, even if they are asked to perform objectionable acts. Cialdini cites incidents such as the Milgram experiments in the early 1960s and the My Lai massacre.
5.Liking – People are easily persuaded by other people that they like. Cialdini cites the marketing of Tupperware in what might now be called viral marketing. People were more likely to buy if they liked the person selling it to them. Some of the many biases favoring more attractive people are discussed. See physical attractiveness stereotype.
6.Scarcity – Perceived scarcity will generate demand. For example, saying offers are available for a “limited time only” encourages sales.


39 posted on 02/24/2014 8:01:01 PM PST by BenLurkin (This is not a statement of fact. It is either opinion or satire; or both.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

If these people are so smart, are they smart enough to stop and wonder if hell is real?


40 posted on 02/24/2014 8:04:13 PM PST by reasonisfaith ("...because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved." (2 Thessalonians))
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

We are good at zotting trolls: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/3126569/posts


41 posted on 02/24/2014 8:48:03 PM PST by GraceG
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

The word that popped out in that slide for me was "Magic", does the government really actually believe in "Magic"....

That right there scares the hell out of me...

42 posted on 02/24/2014 8:52:46 PM PST by GraceG
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To: EternalHope

[ They DO.

It’s been very effective too.

As the article makes clear, it’s not just disinformation. Many good Freepers have left because they could not stand the personal attacks.

Stupid and/or extreme comments (and articles) have also been posted in order to provide examples that can be used to discredit FreeRepublic. This has also worked.

You may even notice the site runs slow sometimes...

It’s a wonder FreeRepublic is still around. ]

Agent #7594930 do we need to increase your Daily Soma Dosage, you are beibng paranoid again.

Signed,
Agent #78472912


43 posted on 02/24/2014 8:54:44 PM PST by GraceG
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To: DariusBane

[ The good news is that government work groups specialize in creating incredibly indecipherable charts and graphs, present them to each other, nobody understands a damn thing but everybody nods shrewdly in approval. But they had a meeting, so they “worked”. ]

It is only their incompetence that will save us in the end...


44 posted on 02/24/2014 8:59:04 PM PST by GraceG
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To: GraceG

I doubt that the government believes in magic, but if a targeted individual or group does it’s a powerful lever with which to influence them.


45 posted on 02/24/2014 9:05:17 PM PST by Slings and Arrows (Richard Warman censors free speech.)
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To: GraceG

Yes they do. And so do I, but it’s not what you think. It’s parapsychology, cryptozoology, séances, mind control, far-seeing and a host of other things they’ve been working on for centuries and centuries. For instance: I have to laugh when people say alchemy is “disproven” and long gone. If only. I was in the intelligence field for years, so this isn’t just out of some book.


46 posted on 02/24/2014 9:08:42 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet (I will raise $2M for Sarah Palin's next run, what will you do?)
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To: old curmudgeon

You mean someone like free republic. It’s been done!
They spend years posting and gaining our trust then ......


47 posted on 02/24/2014 9:09:23 PM PST by hoosiermama (Obama: "Born in Kenya" Lying now or then or now)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

And needful to make these schemes work is an ever more stupefied population which cares less and less about truth as time goes on.

There’s something the population can DO about that, however, and it isn’t on these charts anywhere.

Believe in God again.

And indeed God is letting these lies pile up until we finally get sick enough of them to go looking for the Truth, not just the truth, but the Truth again.


48 posted on 02/24/2014 9:11:15 PM PST by HiTech RedNeck (Embrace the Lion of Judah and He will roar for you and teach you to roar too. See my page.)
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To: G Larry

“As long as they don’t TROLL here on FR.”

Sheesh, I do hope you’re kidding?


49 posted on 02/24/2014 9:12:36 PM PST by theneanderthal
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To: hoosiermama

And then they troll out.

Well, except sometimes I wonder about folks who have really gone off the deep end with something theological. I wonder if they are trying to disrupt Christian unity.


50 posted on 02/24/2014 9:12:58 PM PST by HiTech RedNeck (Embrace the Lion of Judah and He will roar for you and teach you to roar too. See my page.)
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