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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

GCHQ secret unit involved in domestic internet manipulation - report

A secretive unit of the UK’s GCHQ intelligence agency reportedly helps traditional law enforcement with domestic spying and online propaganda, recently published documents reveal.

Documents recently published by the Intercept show how a secretive unit of the GCHQ, called the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), has been involved in domestic operations when not busy with counterterrorism operations abroad.

A 42-page report from 2011, entitled ‘Behavioral Science Support for JTRIG’s Effects and Online HUMINT [Human Intelligence] Operations,’ which details JTRIG’s activities, has recently been made public. It describes how the unit uses tactics to manipulate public opinion based on scientific and psychological analyses.

Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman, who released the report, suggest that the targets of these manipulations are “traditionally the province of law enforcement rather than intelligence agencies.”

The report states that the JTRIG works with such agencies as 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 GCHQ unit collaborates with the agencies, “providing intelligence for judicial outcomes,” monitoring “domestic extremist groups such as the English Defence League by conducting online HUMINT,” “denying, deterring or dissuading” criminals and “hacktivists,” and “deterring, disrupting or degrading online consumerism of stolen data or child porn.”

Meanwhile, GCHQ spreadsheets recently published by the Intercept show that the spy agency provides intelligence to the Bank of England, the Department for Children, Schools and Families, departments dealing with agriculture and whaling activities, government financial divisions, as well as police agencies and law enforcement agencies to improve “civil and family justice.”


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 program.” 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.

The Global Template for Collapse: The Enchanting Charms of Cheap, Easy Credit

Cheap, easy credit has created moral hazard and nurtured magical thinking throughout the global economy.

According to polls, the majority of Greek citizens want the benefits of membership in the euro/EU and the end of EU-imposed austerity. The idea that these are mutually exclusive doesn't seem to register.

This is the discreet charm of magical thinking: it promises an escape from the difficulties of hard choices, tough trade-offs, the disruption of vested interests and most painfully, the breakdown of the debt machine that has enabled the distribution of swag to virtually everyone in the system (a torrent to those at the top, a trickle to the majority at the bottom, but swag nonetheless).

If we had to summarize the insidious charm of magical thinking, we might start with the overpowering appeal of using credit to ease all difficulties.

Need money to fund various healthcare/national defense rackets? Borrow the money. Need to keep people employed building ghost cities in the middle of nowhere? Borrow the money. Need to keep buying shares of the company's stock to push the value of each share ever higher? Borrow the money.

The problem with cheap, easy credit is Cheap, easy credit destroys discipline. Thelifetime costs of debt taken on to fund bridges to nowhere, healthcare/national defense rackets, ghost cities, stock buybacks, etc. are never calculated. Theopportunity costs are also never calculated.

When credit is costly and hard to get, marginal borrowers can't get loans and nobody dares borrow at high rates of interest for low-yield, high-risk schemes.When credit is costly and hard to get, what doesn't pencil out doesn't get funded.

When credit is cheap and easy to get, every scheme and racket gets funding because hey, why not? The cost is low (at the moment) and the gain might be fantastic. But even if the gain is unknown, the kickback/campaign contributions make it worthwhile even if the scheme fails.

Professional economists are duty-bound to claim national economies are not merely extensions of households. But this is just another falsity passed off assophisticated truth by a profession that is being discredited by the reality of its failed policies, failed theories and failed predictions.

Since human psychology remains the dominant force in all economics, the household and national economies can only differ in scale.

In the 1970s, credit was scarce and hard to get. Young workers qualified for a $300 limit credit card, and it took careful management of that responsibility (always paying on time, etc.) to get a meager increase to $500. Mortgage rates were high (10%+) and your income and household balance sheet were scrutinized before any lender took a chance on lending you tens of thousands of dollars to buy a house. After all, the bank would be stuck with the losses if you defaulted.

Then came financialization. Banks could skim the profits from originating loans and offload the risk of default onto towns in Norway, credulous pension funds and other greater fools.

And if a default threatened the bank--for example, Greece in 2011--the bank simply bought political power and shifted the debt onto taxpayers. "The ATMs will stop working," the bankers threatened their political flunkies in Congress in 2008, and the bought-and-paid-for toadies in Congress and the Federal Reserve obediently shifted trillions of dollars in private liabilities and sketchy debt-based "assets" such as mortgages onto the taxpayers and the Fed balance sheet.

Here is the debt in 2009--mostly owed to private banks and bondholders:

Here is the debt in 2015--almost all was shifted onto the backs of taxpayers:

Ask yourself this: if you could shift risk and losses to the taxpayers, how would that affect your investing/gambling? Wouldn't you take much higher risks, knowing that losses would not fall to you but to abstract taxpayers? Of course you would, and this is the essence of moral hazard--the disconnect of risk and consequence.

Cheap, easy credit has created moral hazard and nurtured magical thinking throughout the global economy. The heart of magical thinking is that consequences have been disappeared or shifted onto others by financial enchantment.

The interest on the debt will be paid by growth.

We will make so much money on this investment/gamble, paying off the debt will be easy.

This bet can't lose because the Fed/People's Bank of China/ECB/Bank of Japan etc. will never let the market decline.

When I write about the Martian Central Bank issuing quatloos to save Earth's bankrupt financial system, we know it's a joke: the Martian Central Bank and the quatloo do not exist.

French Economy In “Dire Straits”, “Worse Than Anyone Can Imagine”, Leaked NSA Cable Reveals

Earlier today Wikileaks released a 

new batch of NSA intercepts 

among which one in particular stands out: an intercepted communication which reveals that then French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici believes the French economic situation was far worse, as of mid-2012, than perceived.

Specifically, Moscovici who served as French finance minister until 2014 and then became European commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, used some very colorful language, i.e., the French economic situation was “worse than anyone [could] imagine and drastic measures [would] have to be taken in the next two years”. 

Needless to say, no drastic measures were taken. In fact, no measures at all were taken because thanks to the ECB’s “whatever it takes” 2012 intervention and subsequent QE, pushed French yields to record low levels making the need for any reform moot (a la Greece, until the whole circus exploded).

He remarks about that the situation with the automotive industry was more critical than a pre-retirement unemployment supplement known as AER, which he also thought wouldn’t have had a severe impact on elections (while senator Bourquin thought would have driven voters to right-wing National Front).

Moscovici’s conclusion was that “the situation is dire” although the finance minister ignored warnings that without a “pre-retirement unemployment supplement known as the AER… the ruling Socialist Party will have a rough time in the industrial basin of the country, with voters turning to the rightwing National Front.”

Moscovici disagreed. Fast forward 3 years, and not only did French unemployment just hit an all time highconfirming that the economic situation has indeed never been more dire…

… but the frontrunner for the next French president is none other than National Front’s Marine Le Pen, who will no doubt seize this memo as further proof of the terrible economic state of the country and leverage it even more to her benefit, and add even more fuel to the Frexit fire. As a reminder, Le Pen now prefers to be called Madame Frexit because as she warned last week, when she becomes president, unless the Eurozone yields to her demands, France will be the next country out of the monetary project effectively ending the Eurozone. For more read “Forget Grexit, “Madame Frexit” Says France Is Next: French Presidential Frontrunner Wants Out Of “Failed” Euro.”

Here is the intercept (link):

French Finance Minister Says Economy in Dire Straits, Predicts Two Atrocious Years Ahead (TS//SI//NF) (TS//SI//NF) The French economic situation is worse than anyone can imagine and drastic measures will have to be taken in the next 2 years, according to Finance, Economy, and Trade Minister Pierre Moscovici.

On 19 July, Moscovici, under pressure to reestablish a preretirement unemployment supplement known as the AER, warned that the situation is dire. Upon learning that there are no funds available for the AER, French Senator Martial Bourquin warned Moscovici that without the AER program the ruling Socialist Party will have a rough time in the industrial basin of the country, with voters turning to the rightwing National Front. Moscovici disagreed, asserting that the inability to reinstitute the AER will have no impact in electoral terms, besides, the situation with faltering automaker PSA Peugeot Citroen is more important than the AER.

(COMMENT: PSA has announced plans to close assembly plants  and lay off some 8,000 workers.)

Moscovici warned that the 2013 budget is not going to be a “good news budget,” with the government needing to find at least an additional 33 billion euros ($39.9 billion). Nor will 2014 be a good year. Bourquin persisted, warning that the Socialist Party will find itself in a situation similar to that of Socialist former Spanish President Zapatero, who was widely criticized for his handling of his country’s debt situation. Moscovici countered that it was not Zapatero whose behavior the French government would emulate, but rather Social Democrat former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

(COMMENT: Schroeder, chancellor from 1998 to 2005, was widely credited with helping to restore German competitiveness. He favored shifting from pure austerity measures to measures that encourage economic growth and advocated a common EU financial policy.)


French diplomatic

And the pdf


This article was posted: Tuesday, June 30, 2015 at 5:58 am