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[liberationtech] some things never change

Eugen Leitl eugen at
Wed Nov 27 01:08:20 PST 2013

(Just who is a radicalizer, these days, in which we have bona
fide dissidents who are persecuted for fighting for our freedoms?)

Top-Secret Document Reveals NSA Spied On Porn Habits As Part Of Plan To
Discredit 'Radicalizers'

Posted: 11/26/2013 11:20 pm EST  |  Updated: 11/26/2013 11:48 pm EST

FOLLOW: NSA Documents, edward snowden, Edward Snowden Nsa, Nsa Muslim Porn,
Nsa Muslim Radicals, Nsa Muslims, Nsa Porn, Nsa Scandal, Nsa Surveillance,
Politics News

WASHINGTON -- The National Security Agency has been gathering records of
online sexual activity and evidence of visits to pornographic websites as
part of a proposed plan to harm the reputations of those whom the agency
believes are radicalizing others through incendiary speeches, according to a
top-secret NSA document. The document, provided by NSA whistleblower Edward
Snowden, identifies six targets, all Muslims, as “exemplars” of how “personal
vulnerabilities” can be learned through electronic surveillance, and then
exploited to undermine a target's credibility, reputation and authority.

The NSA document, dated Oct. 3, 2012, repeatedly refers to the power of
charges of hypocrisy to undermine such a messenger. “A previous SIGINT" -- or
signals intelligence, the interception of communications -- "assessment
report on radicalization indicated that radicalizers appear to be
particularly vulnerable in the area of authority when their private and
public behaviors are not consistent,” the document argues.

Among the vulnerabilities listed by the NSA that can be effectively exploited
are “viewing sexually explicit material online” and “using sexually explicit
persuasive language when communicating with inexperienced young girls.”


The Director of the National Security Agency -- described as "DIRNSA" -- is
listed as the "originator" of the document. Beyond the NSA itself, the listed
recipients include officials with the Departments of Justice and Commerce and
the Drug Enforcement Administration.

"Without discussing specific individuals, it should not be surprising that
the US Government uses all of the lawful tools at our disposal to impede the
efforts of valid terrorist targets who seek to harm the nation and radicalize
others to violence," Shawn Turner, director of public affairs for National
Intelligence, told The Huffington Post in an email Tuesday.

Yet Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties
Union, said these revelations give rise to serious concerns about abuse.
"It's important to remember that the NSA’s surveillance activities are
anything but narrowly focused -- the agency is collecting massive amounts of
sensitive information about virtually everyone," he said.

"Wherever you are, the NSA's databases store information about your political
views, your medical history, your intimate relationships and your activities
online," he added. "The NSA says this personal information won't be abused,
but these documents show that the NSA probably defines 'abuse' very

None of the six individuals targeted by the NSA is accused in the document of
being involved in terror plots. The agency believes they all currently reside
outside the United States. It identifies one of them, however, as a "U.S.
person," which means he is either a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident. A
U.S. person is entitled to greater legal protections against NSA surveillance
than foreigners are.

Stewart Baker, a one-time general counsel for the NSA and a top Homeland
Security official in the Bush administration, said that the idea of using
potentially embarrassing information to undermine targets is a sound one. "If
people are engaged in trying to recruit folks to kill Americans and we can
discredit them, we ought to," said Baker. "On the whole, it's fairer and
maybe more humane" than bombing a target, he said, describing the tactic as
"dropping the truth on them."

Any system can be abused, Baker allowed, but he said fears of the policy
drifting to domestic political opponents don't justify rejecting it. "On that
ground you could question almost any tactic we use in a war, and at some
point you have to say we're counting on our officials to know the
difference," he said.

In addition to analyzing the content of their internet activities, the NSA
also examined the targets' contact lists. The NSA accuses two of the targets
of promoting al Qaeda propaganda, but states that surveillance of the three
English-speakers’ communications revealed that they have "minimal terrorist

In particular, “only seven (1 percent) of the contacts in the study of the
three English-speaking radicalizers were characterized in SIGINT as
affiliated with an extremist group or a Pakistani militant group. An earlier
communications profile of [one of the targets] reveals that 3 of the 213
distinct individuals he was in contact with between 4 August and 2 November
2010 were known or suspected of being associated with terrorism," the
document reads.

The document contends that the three Arabic-speaking targets have more
contacts with affiliates of extremist groups, but does not suggest they
themselves are involved in any terror plots.

Instead, the NSA believes the targeted individuals radicalize people through
the expression of controversial ideas via YouTube, Facebook and other social
media websites. Their audience, both English and Arabic speakers, "includes
individuals who do not yet hold extremist views but who are susceptible to
the extremist message,” the document states. The NSA says the speeches and
writings of the six individuals resonate most in countries including the
United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Kenya, Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia.

The NSA possesses embarrassing sexually explicit information about at least
two of the targets by virtue of electronic surveillance of their online
activity. The report states that some of the data was gleaned through FBI
surveillance programs carried out under the Foreign Intelligence and
Surveillance Act. The document adds, "Information herein is based largely on
Sunni extremist communications." It further states that "the SIGINT
information is from primary sources with direct access and is generally
considered reliable."

According to the document, the NSA believes that exploiting electronic
surveillance to publicly reveal online sexual activities can make it harder
for these “radicalizers” to maintain their credibility. "Focusing on access
reveals potential vulnerabilities that could be even more effectively
exploited when used in combination with vulnerabilities of character or
credibility, or both, of the message in order to shape the perception of the
messenger as well as that of his followers," the document argues.

An attached appendix lists the "argument" each surveillance target has made
that the NSA says constitutes radicalism, as well the personal
"vulnerabilities" the agency believes would leave the targets "open to
credibility challenges" if exposed.

One target's offending argument is that "Non-Muslims are a threat to Islam,"
and a vulnerability listed against him is "online promiscuity." Another
target, a foreign citizen the NSA describes as a "respected academic," holds
the offending view that "offensive jihad is justified," and his
vulnerabilities are listed as "online promiscuity" and "publishes articles
without checking facts." A third targeted radical is described as a
"well-known media celebrity" based in the Middle East who argues that "the
U.S perpetrated the 9/11 attack." Under vulnerabilities, he is said to lead
"a glamorous lifestyle." A fourth target, who argues that "the U.S. brought
the 9/11 attacks on itself" is said to be vulnerable to accusations of
“deceitful use of funds." The document expresses the hope that revealing
damaging information about the individuals could undermine their perceived
"devotion to the jihadist cause."

The Huffington Post is withholding the names and locations of the six
targeted individuals; the allegations made by the NSA about their online
activities in this document cannot be verified.

The document does not indicate whether the NSA carried out its plan to
discredit these six individuals, either by communicating with them privately
about the acquired information or leaking it publicly. There is also no
discussion in the document of any legal or ethical constraints on exploiting
electronic surveillance in this manner.

While Baker and others support using surveillance to tarnish the reputation
of people the NSA considers "radicalizers," U.S. officials have in the past
used similar tactics against civil rights leaders, labor movement activists
and others.

Under J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI harassed activists and compiled secret files
on political leaders, most notably Martin Luther King, Jr. The extent of the
FBI's surveillance of political figures is still being revealed to this day,
as the bureau releases the long dossiers it compiled on certain people in
response to Freedom of Information Act requests following their deaths. The
information collected by the FBI often centered on sex -- homosexuality was
an ongoing obsession on Hoover's watch -- and information about extramarital
affairs was reportedly used to blackmail politicians into fulfilling the
bureau's needs.

Current FBI Director James Comey recently ordered new FBI agents to visit the
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington to understand "the dangers in
becoming untethered to oversight and accountability."

James Bamford, a journalist who has been covering the NSA since the early
1980s, said the use of surveillance to exploit embarrassing private behavior
is precisely what led to past U.S. surveillance scandals. "The NSA's
operation is eerily similar to the FBI's operations under J. Edgar Hoover in
the 1960s where the bureau used wiretapping to discover vulnerabilities, such
as sexual activity, to 'neutralize' their targets," he said. "Back then, the
idea was developed by the longest serving FBI chief in U.S. history, today it
was suggested by the longest serving NSA chief in U.S. history."

That controversy, Bamford said, also involved the NSA. "And back then, the
NSA was also used to do the eavesdropping on King and others through its
Operation Minaret. A later review declared the NSA’s program 'disreputable if
not outright illegal,'" he said.

Baker said that until there is evidence the tactic is being abused, the NSA
should be trusted to use its discretion. "The abuses that involved Martin
Luther King occurred before Edward Snowden was born," he said. "I think we
can describe them as historical rather than current scandals. Before I say,
'Yeah, we've gotta worry about that,' I'd like to see evidence of that
happening, or is even contemplated today, and I don't see it."

Jaffer, however, warned that the lessons of history ought to compel serious
concern that a "president will ask the NSA to use the fruits of surveillance
to discredit a political opponent, journalist or human rights activist."

"The NSA has used its power that way in the past and it would be naïve to
think it couldn't use its power that way in the future," he said.

Arguments for which radicalizers are being targeted:

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