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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1997 > Nov > Nov 15

Are 'We' Being 'Watched'?

From: Eric Howarth <erich@bud.peinet.pe.ca>
Date: Sat, 15 Nov 1997 14:20:59 -0400 (AST)
Fwd Date: Sat, 15 Nov 1997 21:12:28 -0500
Subject: Are 'We' Being 'Watched'?

Pentagon Trolls the Net/UFO Groups Targeted!

"Pentagon Trolls The Net" By David Corn

Internet users beware; Pentagon snoops are taking an interest in
your cyber communications. Last summer, Charles Swett, a policy
assistant in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for
Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, produced a report
that assessed the intelligence value of the Internet for the Defense
Department. His study discovered the obvious: By monitoring computer
message traffic and alternative news sources from around the world,
the military might catch "early warning of impending significant
developments." Swett reports that the "Internet could also be used
offensively as an additional medium in psychological operations
campaigns and to help achieve unconventional warfare objectives." A
striking aspect of his study is that there is one sort of Internet
user who attracts a large amount of attention from Swett: cyber-
smart lefties.

The thirty-one-page, unclassified study is mostly cut and dry. Much
of it describes what the Internet is and what can be found within
its infinite confines. Swett lists various "fringe groups" that are
exploiting the Internet: the white-supremacist National Alliance,
the Michigan Militia, Earth First, and People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals (PETA). He highlights MUFON--the Mutual UFO
Network--which uses the Internet to disseminate information on "U.S.
military operations that members believe relate to investigations
and cover-ups of UFO-related incidents." MUFON computer messages,
Swett notes, "contain details on MUFON's efforts to conduct
surveillance of DoD installations." The report does not suggest that
the computer communications of MUFON and these other groups should
be targeted by the military--though X Filers will be forgiven for
wondering if something sinister is afoot.

What Swett apparently finds of greater interest than MUFON and the
"fringe groups" is the online left. A significant portion of the
report is devoted to the San Francisco-based Institute for Global
Communications, which operates several computer networks, such as
PeaceNet and EcoNet, that are used by progressive activists. I.G.C.
demonstrates, he writes, "the breadth of DoD-relevant information
available on the Internet." The paper refers to I.G.C. conferences
that might be considered noteworthy by the Pentagon, including ones
on anti-nuclear arms campaigns, the extreme right, social change,
and "multicultural, multi-racial news." Swett cites I.G.C. as the
home for "alternative news sources" that fill gaps in the mainstream
media.(It might be good for Pentagon analysts to read I.G.C.
dispatches from Holland's Peace Media Service.) Yet he seems to say
that one can  also track the left around the world by monitoring
I.G.C.: "Although [I.G.C.] is clearly a left-wing political
organization, without actually joining I.G.C. and reading its
message traffic, it is difficult to assess the nature and extent of
its members' actual real-world activities."

Swett's paper presents the world of opportunity awaiting a cyber-
shrewd military and intelligence establishment. The Pentagon and
intelligence services will conduct "routine monitoring of messages
originating in other countries" in the search for information on
"developing security threats." That means overseas e-mail, like
overseas phonecalls, will be intercepted by the electronic
eavesdroppers of the National Security Agency or some other outfit.
The data will be fed into filtering computers and then, if it
contains any hot-button words, forwarded to the appropriate analyst.

"Networks of human sources with access to the Internet could be
developed in areas of security concern to the U.S." (But bureaucrats
rest assured; "this approach"--using computer-assisted spies--"could
never replace official DoD intelligence collection systems or
services.") The Internet "can also serve counterintelligence
purposes" by identifying threats to the Pentagon and U.S.
intelligence activities. As an example, Swett refers to a message
posted in a discussion group for "left-wing political activists"
that repeated an A.P. article about an upcoming U.S. Army Special
Operations Command training exercise at an empty Miami Beach hotel.

Another growth area is the dirty tracks department. Noting that
government officials, military officials, business people, and
journalists all around the world are online, Swett envisions
"Psychological Operations" campaigns in which U.S. propaganda could
be rapidly disseminated to a wide audience. He adds, "The U.S. might
be able to employ the Internet offensively to help achieve
unconventional warfare objectives." Swett does not delve into
details on how the Internet could serve such a mission. But he
tosses out one possibility: communicating via the Internet with
political and paramilitary groups abroad that Washington wants to
assist while "limiting the direct political involvement of the
United States." Imagine this: contras with computers.

Swett does point to a few potential problems. The Internet is
chockfull of chit-chat of no intelligence value. Retrieving useful
nuggets will require monumental screening. He also predicts that one
day video footage of military operations will be captured by
inexpensive, hand-held digital video cameras operated by local
individuals and then up-loaded to the Internet. Within minutes,
millions of people around the world will see for themselves what has
happened--which could lead to calls for action (or calls to
terminate action) before government leaders have had a chance to
react and formulate a position. Such a development, he observes,
"will greatly add to the burden on military commanders, whose
actions will be subjected to an unprecedented degree of scrutiny."
And opponents of the Pentagon might try to exploit the Internet for
their own devilish ends: "If it became widely known that DoD were
monitoring Internet traffic for intelligence or counterintelligence
purposes,  individuals with personal agendas or political purposes
in mind, or who enjoy playing pranks, would deliberately enter false
or misleading messages." The study ends with a series of vague
recommendations--all to be carried out "only in full compliance with
the letter and the spirit of the law, and without violating the
privacy of American citizens."

The Swett paper is "refreshingly candid," says Steven Aftergood of
the Federation of American Scientists, who placed a copy of the
document on the FAS web site on government secrecy, where it is
being downloaded about twenty times a day (at
http://www.fas.org/pub/gen/fas/sgp/). The I.G.C. staff is amused by
Swett's interest. "We must be doing something right," notes George
Gundrey, program coordinator of I.G.C.'s PeaceNet. "But it is
interesting that all of his [I.G.C.] examples are the most left-wing
items [on the network]."

Swett's study is not the first of its kind. Under the rubric of
"information warfare," other Pentagon outfits and military
contractors have studied how to use computer networks to collect
public information, disseminate propaganda, politically destabilize
other governments, and plant computer viruses into the information
systems of foes. (The latter task is particularly foolhardy.
Deploying viruses into cyber-space--even if targeted against an
enemy--would likely pose a danger to the United States, since this
country is more networked than any other.) But Swett's office--the
Pentagon's dirty tricks shop--is a newcomer to this scene, according
to David Banisar, a policy analyst for the Electronic Privacy
Information Center. Banisar's group has been helping international
human rights groups use encryption to protect their global e-mail,
"so the spooks don't listen in"

It is natural that the national security gang will try to infiltrate
and use a communication medium like the Internet to its advantage.
What is most troubling about Swett's paper is its preoccupation with
left-of-center travelers in cyberspace and domestic political
activities. In the appendix, Swett reproduces four examples of
notable e-mail. One (written by progressive activists Richard
Cloward and Frances Fox Piven) calls for 100 days of protest in
response to the Republican's Contract with America, another
announces plans for a demonstration at the 1996 G.O.P. convention in
San Diego, the third relays to lefties information on the U.S. Army
exercise at the Miami Beach hotel, and the last is a communiqu=82 from
the Zapatistas of Mexico. Swett's use of these cyber dispatches can
be explained one of two ways. Either the left has made much more
progress in cyber-organizing than the right and "such fringe groups"
as PETA, or Swett, true to institutional tradition, is overwrought
about the use of the Internet by a certain parties. In any case, the
would-be watchers in the defense establishment ought to be watched
closely--especially if Swett's report reflects broader sentiment
within the Pentagon.
**** John Pike Federation of American Scientists    
http://www.fas.org/pub/gen/fas/ CyberStrategy Project          
http://www.fas.org/pub/gen/fas/cp/ Intelligence Reform Project       
http://www.fas.org/pub/gen/fas/irp/ Military Analysis Network        
http://www.fas.org/pub/gen/fas/man/ Space Policy Project          
**** From "Pentagon Trolls the Net" by David Corn, The Nation, 4
March 1996 The preceding was an article from The Nation magazine
(March 4, 1996) that reports on a Pentagon study on how the military
can exploit the Internet.

The Pentagon paper suggests using the Internet for the routine
interception of global e-mail, for covert operations and propaganda
campaigns, and for tracking domestic political activity,
particularly that of the left. The article was written by David
Corn, the Washington editor of The Nation. If you have any comments
or leads for follow-up stories, please contact him at

202-546-2239/ph 202-546-1415/fx dacor@aol.com

To subscribe to The Nation, a magazine of politics and culture, call
- 800-333-8536.
Eric Howarth: erich@cycor.ca

Life is 10% fate, 90% of what you make of fate

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