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5 Eyes’ cyberwarfare: Snowden

Written By: - Date published: 7:55 am, February 9th, 2014 - 59 comments
Categories: blogs, democracy under attack, news, spin, Spying, uk politics, us politics - Tags:

I picked up on this via a tweet doing the rounds this morning, originating with one from Glenn Greenwald.   The focus is a slideshow leaked by Edward Snowden used for a top secret spy conference in 2012. The tweet claims this indicates implicates involvement of all the 5 Eyes branches, meaning it includes the GCSB.

While the techniques of cyber warfare were particularly used against the group anonymous, the use of blogs for circulation of (mis)information could be used against any online group/blog. [Edit: the attacks on Anonymous are indicated in another slideshow amongst the Snowden documents on the NBC site; also reported on in an NBC article part written by Greenwald, as mentioned in this BBC article]

The NBC News investigation reports on the GCHQ leaked documents:

Both PowerPoint presentations describe “Effects” campaigns that are broadly divided into two categories: cyber attacks and propaganda operations. The propaganda campaigns use deception, mass messaging and “pushing stories” via Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and YouTube. JTRIG [Joint Threat Research and Intelligence Group] also uses “false flag” operations, in which British agents carry out online actions that are designed to look like they were performed by one of Britain’s adversaries.

The documents indicate well planned efforts to manipulate journalists and spread misinformation through the news media.

The 2010 presentation also describes another potential operation that would utilize a technique called “credential harvesting” to select journalists who could be used to spread information. According to intelligence sources, spies considered using electronic snooping to identify non-British journalists who would then be manipulated to feed information to the target of a covert campaign. Apparently, the journalist’s job would provide access to the targeted individual, perhaps for an interview. The documents do not specify whether the journalists would be aware or unaware that they were being used to funnel information.

The executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Joel Simon, said that the revelation about “credential harvesting” should serve as a “wake up call” to journalists that intelligence agencies can monitor their communications. Simon also said that governments put all journalists at risk when they use even one for an intelligence operation.

“All journalists generally are then vulnerable to the charge that they work at the behest of an intelligence agency,” said Simon.

The journalist operation was never put into action, according to sources, but other techniques described in the documents, like the Ambassadors Reception computer virus and the jamming of phones and computers, have definitely been used to attack adversaries.

Most of the targets seem to be those outside the 5 Eyes countries (although it does make it look like English language countries targeting the rest of the world).  However, given the shift in the GCSB’s focus from physical threats to “economic” threats, there’s no telling where such methods have been used since the slideshows of 2010 and 2012.



59 comments on “5 Eyes’ cyberwarfare: Snowden”

  1. One Anonymous Bloke 1

    Certainly makes the Assange honey-trap theory more plausible.

    PS: I see Peter Aranyi at the Paepae has reached the same conclusion.

    • Disraeli Gladstone 1.1

      Yes, let’s dismiss the possibility of sexual assault because we all love Julian Assange.

      Fuck. It’s like the wake-up call concerning sexual violence and the Roastbusters didn’t happen. Can we not dismiss the voices of the potential victims just because we like the potential offender?

      • One Anonymous Bloke 1.1.1

        Um, nope, I didn’t say any of that, and I still think Assange should go and face the charges against him.

      • Chooky 1.1.2

        @ Disraeli Gladstone…was it really “sexual assault”?….seemed more like a trumped up charge of ‘refusing’ to wear a condom…

        (for what it is worth……imo Assange is innocent … having watched the documentaries carefully on him …..and of course they were out to get him!…for sure he was naive to have sexual relations with unknown women in his political situation( if i recall correctly one of those women had connections with the CIA?) …….and i dont blame him for not wanting to face the charges if they were trumped up in the first place )

    • Anne 1.2

      Certainly makes the Assange honey-trap theory more plausible.

      Very plausible. Suspected as much when the story of his assignations and the subsequent complaints became public. Someone I used to know tried to set me up – albeit in a different way and for different reasons of course- so I know how easy it can be to fall into a trap.

  2. andy (the other one) 2

    Key & GCSB are running a hard propaganda campaign about our 5 Eyes involvement and Dot Com.

    GCSB aged out Dotcom data, really! A major case and figure in NZ and you accidentally aged off the data, too cute. Sorry they are not that incompetent.

    I think there is a link between Snowden conspicuously having not released anything about New Zealands involvement in 5 eyes activities, and the DotCom saga here.

    Snowden has released damaging info on 4 of the 5 eyes partners, why not us? Key has already tried to front foot this issue, by claiming to know what will eventually come out, and he pre primes the pump by mentioning Fiji and the Pacific.


    I think Snowden is holding back info to double down on the disaster that is the Dotcom case. Snowden started leaking June 2013, had all other partners done by December. Dotcom was due befor the courts in April, subsequently moved out to July (I think).

    Check this timeline, we are noticeable in absence of any leaks.


    DotCom has shown that he is very capable of embarrassing our Government and its Agencies, I would say he the ability to reach out to Snowden to create a Big Bang of a leak.

    Note: its a bit of a conspiracy theory, but all this stuff is to weird for it not to be interlinked. Yes Man landed on the moon and chem trails are not a thing….

    • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1

      It could also be explained by Snowden releasing the stuff in order of juiciness and us not having done anything that juicy.

      Dotcom said he could prove Key lied before Snowden broke cover, didn’t he?

      • Jim in Tokyo 2.1.1

        Snowden has claimed several times that he is no longer in possession of the documents and insists that they were all turned over to partnered journalists before he stepped on the plane to Russia. If we take Snowden and Greenwald at their word, then it is not accurate to say that Snowden is the one dictating the pace or focus of the revelations.

        So we might hazard a guess and conclude that either NZ journalists are still waiting in line to receive relevant vetted info from first-tier journos like Greenwald, or alternatively NZ investigative journos (I’m think of one in particular!) might already have the relevant documents and are playing the long game.

        If the documents have made it to NZ, then any delay could be simply in order to work up background and verify the stories (ie responsible journalism). Alternatively, the plan might be to feed Key more rope, a strategy that’s worked pretty well in the US. Or possibly someone with a solid understanding of the local situation is holding the story back to create maximum impact and political havoc by timing revelations with the either the KDC extradition hearings and / or the election.

        In any case it’s going to be fascinating to see how the local media handle this. In Australia, Abbott has gone ballistic and essentially threatened to de-fund the ABC for ‘unaustralian behaviour’ as punishment for breaking the Indonesian Spying story based on Snowden material…

    • Anne 2.2

      Didn’t Dotcom admit later last year that he had been in communication with Snowden? I recollect a journalist asking him and he said “yes” or words meaning the same thing.

      I think it was John Key who brought up the subject of Dotcom when answering questions on any potential security leaks the other day. He would have a broad idea what’s in the leaked docos, but he won’t have the details and therein might lie a very interesting story. I almost have the impression he’s trying to dampen down hot-spots in advance which suggests he’s far more worried than he claims!

      • One Anonymous Bloke 2.2.1

        Dotcom said he had proof in Nov., 2012. Snowden didn’t jump until May 2013.

        • Anne

          Yes. That’s my memory too, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a communication (or two) between Dotcom and Snowden since May 2013. The proof Dotcom was originally talking about would have come from a different source.

      • veutoviper 2.2.2

        “I almost have the impression he’s trying to dampen down hot-spots in advance which suggests he’s far more worried than he claims!”

        That is my impression also, Anne.

        Re your comment Dotcom being in touch with Snowden, “admit” is probably not the right word (not a criticism!). From memory, Dotcom has been very open on Twitter for a long time of his support for Snowden and has given the impression that there has been communication. Whether that was directly between the two or indirectly through intermediaries (eg lawyers etc) is unclear.

    • Chooky 2.3

      thanks andy ( the other)…. that second link is a real eye opener!


      at least they cant get into your brain yet …….. and us chooks can still go away and have a private gossip in the bushes

  3. greywarbler 3

    It’s not WW2, but now we all need to be involved in code breaking in ‘peacetime’. I’m thinking of a good name for a new subdivision.
    Q. Where are you living now? A. Oh Bletchley Park, it’s a nice suburb. But I’ve heard strange things about it. They say a lot of spooks live there.

  4. Colonial Viper 4

    1972: CIA reclassifies “political dissidents” as “international terrorists” in order to allow hostile and oppressive programmes to continue.

    Seems like not much has changed.


  5. Tanz 5

    Key is rich beause he is dishonest, no one makes a fortune like that by being a decent bloke.
    Smiling assassin. He really acts like some sort of barmy king, in my view, our worst PM in all our history, even worse than Muldoon. At least Rob was down to earth and kind.

    • Meg 5.1

      Rob Muldoon was a drunk and a very nasty bully/ abusive man.

      To describe him as kind, is outright ignorance of the mans character.

      • RedLogix 5.1.1

        Not entirely Meg. Muldoon was a complex character, he could be all those things, a domineering bully with a bad case of short-man’s syndrome – but equally it has to be said that he was a New Zealander at heart. His batch at Orewa (I actually stayed in it for a week one Christmas as a boy) was an exceedingly plain kiwi affair. And while he could be nasty and overweaning, he wasn’t burdened with an entitled sense of arrogance and out of touch with ordinary people.

        It could be said that while Muldoon was good at politics; politics was probably not good for him. He finished up a rather lonely figure, yet he was the last of the old-school conservatives that you could have a beer and a useful conversation with so long as there was mutual respect. He was more than anything else a great Kiwi nationalist.

        It’s not useful to create a cartoonish, one-dimensional caricature of your opponents. That’s always a direct route to fatally underestimating them.

        • Meg

          I disagree completely.

          Even his wife said he was “hard” man to get along with.

          He bullied his mp’s destroyed the countries economy to the point of bankruptcy, was vicious towards his enemies, petty – he was not a nice fellow. I don’t disagree he loved his country, but he was an arrogant, bullying drunk.

    • Naki Man 5.2

      “Key is rich because he is dishonest, no one makes a fortune like that by being a decent bloke.”
      It is very obvious that you have no understanding of currency trading at all. You know nothing about the man.This is one of the most pathetic comments I have seen on here.

      • McFlock 5.2.1

        his colleagues called him the “smiling assassin” because he was so nice about firing all those people… /sarc

      • srylands 5.2.2

        “no one makes a fortune like that by being a decent bloke.”

        Right so only “bad” people make lots of money? Fascinating world view you have.

        • RedLogix

          A close and very trusted friend of mine has been a lawyer most of his life. He’s definitely not your usual lawyer stereotype – suffice to say his advice to me was “the bigger you are, the bigger the skeleton in your closet”. Direct quote.

          Now I’m happy to say that I have also had the privilege of working for or knowing some people who have very definitely earned their good fortune, but there is no doubt in my mind that the vast majority of people you see occupying the over-sized heaps in the flash burbs got there by dint of some dodge.

          Or exploitation of some social or legal privilege. Or tax rort. Or they really are drug dealers….of one sort or another.

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          Trust the clueless to not have a clue

          While [clueless wingnut bigots] stereotypes suggest that poor people are more likely to lie and steal, new research finds that it’s actually the wealthy who tend to behave unethically. In a series of experiments — involving everything from dangerous driving to lying in job negotiations and cheating to get a prize — researchers found that, across the board, richer people behaved worse. But, rather than class itself, the authors suggest that it’s views about greed that may largely explain the difference.


        • tricledrown

          Libor was underway when john Key was in charge of money trading at Merrill Lynch ,Irelands branch of Merrill Lynch was closely alifned and involved in the hugefraud perpetrated on Ireland by Merrill Lynch.
          Spylands Merrill Lynch’s Ponzi scheme of printing $38 dollars for every dollar on deposit.
          Was in place and centered on the currency trading army of Merrill Lynch when John Key was in charge.

  6. Tanz 6

    wrong post, that was meant for the welfare fraudsters post, sorry.

    • Chooky 6.1

      lol….got your point though

      Rob was a wee bit of a socialist ….certainly not a Neo Lib…the last in the National Party of NZ for NZers ( Winnie is true to this tradition)…wasn’t too good over the Springbok Tour and could get a bit mean when on the Gin….

      • freedom 6.1.1

        To this day I [naively?] believe Rob Muldoon was working for the betterment of New Zealand as a whole, and was not focused as John Key openly is, on the profit margins of multi-national interests.

        • Anne

          No, he wasn’t focused on neo-lib or multi-national interests, but as a 26 year old Muldoon told my father he was going to be Prime Minister one day. He said it with such determination my father smartly scuttled out of his way. He was focused on power and that came before everything. If, in the course of having power, he did something that was going to be for the betterment of NZ that would be a bonus. In my view his most notable achievement was the CER agreement with Australia.

        • Tanz

          Well said. I so agree with that. Key cares not one jot for the welfare of Kiwis or for New Zealand as a whole. Self interested and full of himself. Surely the voting public are waking up to him, at last. Surely. The fawning MSM are a problem.

  7. Bill 7

    I don’t mean to appear to be nitpicking.

    But NBC saying they had previously released documents showing that JTRIG had targeted ‘Anonymous’ can’t be said to mean that the techniques of cyber warfare were particularly used against the group anonymous...

    I’d actually be quite surprised if that was the case.

    • weka 7.1

      How do you mean?

      • Bill 7.1.1

        First sentence in the second paragraph of the post (italics in previous comment) doesn’t appear to be based on any evidence or claim.

        • karol

          Bill I was this morning also looking at a BBC report on the same slideshow. They particularly focused on the DDOS attack on Anonymous, and linked it with info in the slidesshow on the NBC site. I thought there was enough in the NBC link to indicate that.

          The BBC article:

          Documents from the whistle-blower published by NBC indicate UK cyberspies used a denial of service attack (DoS) in 2011 to force a chatroom used by the Anonymous collective offline.

          A link to the slide show is embedded in this part of the article.

          Further down the BBC article says this:

          The latest documents are published alongside an article part-written by Glenn Greenwald.

          The last extract links to this article part written by Greenwald


          A secret British spy unit created to mount cyber attacks on Britain’s enemies has waged war on the hacktivists of Anonymous and LulzSec, according to documents taken from the National Security Agency by Edward Snowden and obtained by NBC News.

          The blunt instrument the spy unit used to target hackers, however, also interrupted the web communications of political dissidents who did not engage in any illegal hacking. It may also have shut down websites with no connection to Anonymous.

          According to the documents, a division of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British counterpart of the NSA, shut down communications among Anonymous hacktivists by launching a “denial of service” (DDOS) attack – the same technique hackers use to take down bank, retail and government websites – making the British government the first Western government known to have conducted such an attack.

          Edit: Actually, the hacktivist/Anonymous slideshow is differnt from the cyber-offensive one. But both are ont he NBC site about the Snowden documents. My mistake – apologies. Added an edit to the post on this.

          • Bill

            I know the leaks referred to Anonymous being targeted. My point is that nothing in the links indicates that they were the principle/main target – which is what I read your sentence as stating.

            • karol

              OK. I understand. I think I probably meant notably or significantly in using “particularly”. I guess, I was following the reports that focused quite a bit on the targeting of Anonymous. The slideshow on cyper-offensives, focused more on the targeting of non-5 Eyes countries, especially Afghanistan.

              I mentioned Anonymous because that is getting to look more like the use of cyberwarfare on opponents closer to home.

              I’ll strike out the word particularly.

              • weka

                I was confused by Bill’s comment. I didn’t take ‘particularly’ to mean primarily. I just took it to mean of note (given who Anonymous are). I can see the ambiguity too though.

  8. blue leopard (Get Lost GCSB Bill) 8

    @ Karol

    A correction is required: The short description in the main page of The Standard for this article refers to ‘Eric’ Snowden.

    • karol 8.1

      Thanks, bl. Goodness knows where “Eric” came from. Tried correcting it from little tablet in a work break – and still it was wrong (“Eward”) Fixed now. My tablet is too fiddley for editing posts.

  9. tricledrown 9

    5 eyed fuckwits liks shitlands not commenting on his employer funny that.
    Key and Cronies are part of 5 eyes they are undermining denocracy in our country bringing us back to economic feudalism.
    If your not a billionaire you don ,t count .
    Their job is to suckin as many middle class mugs into their lair.
    And disenfrachise the poor completely.

    Favorite line is they don,t know real poverty.
    Yet our Prime minister was a product of the once worlds best welfare system.
    Now he is just another very dangerous 5 eyed liar
    Who is trying to put together a 5 headed monster to get back into power at any cost means fair but mainly foul.

    • srylands 9.1

      I understood precisely zero % of that rant.

      • Paul 9.1.1

        Then go away.

        • srylands

          I just showed it to 3 people and none of them understood it either. “The job is to suckin as many…”


          • srylands

            “a five eyed liar”?

            • tricledrown

              5pylands so self discriptive you must have pressed the wrong button.
              Your job discryption is to demoralize disrupt distract cynically.
              You are failing in your job so sack yourself their are plenty of better paying jobs in panty wasterland.

          • Paul

            Must be at the same iq level as yourself.
            You’re on the wrong site. You need to be able to form a coherent argument backed up by evidence, not a repetitive line of puerile drivel.

          • Murray Olsen

            Four of you not being able to understand it despite your joint application of intellect suggests that while it takes more than one swallow to make a summer, four idiots will never make one semi-intelligent being.

  10. fambo 10

    Good point by Jim in Tokyo. It’s extremely unlikely Snowden would be in a position to act freely now he is in Russia. At the very least he would be under constant survelliance (ironic). He would no doubt have understood this before he went there. So he likely ha a proxy acting on his behalf outside Russia or is being allowed to act on his own initiative under their watchful eye.

  11. tricledrown 11

    suckitup shitlands Go back to spyland 5 eyed fuckwit.

    [lprent: That is pointless abuse. Don’t repeat it. ]

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