‘Adversarial Actors, Home and Abroad’

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Yves here. Tom Neuburger sets forth examples of how the US is expanding its definitions of who its enemies are….after potentially having included President Kennedy as one. This posture looks like an effort to indoctrinate law enforcement officials and the press to view the world through a paranoid, adversarial lens.

By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at God’s Spies

I want to put three thoughts in front of you, drop three stones in the slipstream of your mind. Perhaps you’ll see the ripples as they cross, note their interaction, hear what their crossing says.

The future this article previews isn’t new, just newly forgot.

Domestic ‘Terror’ from the Activist Left

First, from ace investigator Lee Fang (parts of this piece are subscriber-only):

DHS and FBI Depict Vegan Activists as Potential Domestic Terrorists

Imagine a young woman named Jane who recently adopted a vegan lifestyle after learning about factory farming in college. She discusses animal welfare and begins attending protests.

For most, Jane’s experiences sound remarkably benign.

But for the Department of Homeland Security, the young woman is following a “path of potential radicalization,” according to new documents released through a public records request.

The scenario was one of several depicted in a violence prevention workshop from the DHS Office for Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention, a division of the agency that works to counter domestic terrorism.

Jane’s supposed path towards violence — as featured in the DHS workshop — is composed of little more than everyday experiences that many Americans take as they embrace activism.

In the workshop scenario, Jane reacts with anger when discussing animal cruelty and mentions that she joined a group that has “a reputation for holding controversial protests.” She had not only become “an animal lover,” but had become “militant about food and animal rights, and other issues like testing.”

Note the “workshop.” This is a report of a DHS workshop on domestic terrorism, where new threats may come from, and what to do. The source doc is here; you can probably guess the rest of what it says. If not, Fang lays it out.

Here’s the cover portion of the document and summary-first remarks:

Can you see where this is headed? If you do, you’re not alone.

The ‘Foreign-Domestic Switcheroo’

The second stone drops here. Does what you read above touch what’s below?

Through a complicated set of leaks (described here), we find “that the Aspen Institute hosted a ‘Hack-and-Dump Working Group’ exercise in the summer of 2020 titled, ‘Burisma Leak,’ which predicted with uncanny accuracy an upcoming derogatory story in the New York Post about Hunter Biden’s lost laptop.”

Here’s a link to the Aspen Institute document in question. In it we find the following. First, from the Executive Summary (emphasis mine):

Once a promise of free expression and the democratization of information, the Web and its many channels are now polluted with mis- and dis-information, bots, abuse, lies, and conspiracies – sometimes planned by adversarial actors from home and aboard.

Then, from the section about dealing with “Reporting and Promoting Hack-and-Dumps”:

As we countdown to election day, the risk of a major hack and dump of documents aimed at undermining a candidate or party grows more acute. How can news organizations put provenance front and center? What happens when fabricated documents are released alongside genuine (stolen) content? How can social feeds avoid serving as promoters of foreign or other adversarial entities? Aspen Digital is convening Platform Trust and Safety leaders, cybersecurity reporters, journalism ethicists and First Amendment attorneys to develop and adopt new norms guidelines for publication and coverage of hacked documents.

Note that the Aspen Institute is not just a think tank. It’s where the elites’ 2020 discussion over moderation of hacked content was happening.

Now consider what “promoters of foreign or other adversarial entities” means? The only other adversarial entity that isn’t foreign is … domestic. Can you trust, given what’s above, that this designation — “other adversarial entities” — is reserved just for Proud Boy types?

About this, Matt Taibbi writes (emphasis mine):

First of all, this notion that there may be fabrications mixed in with real content is a suggestion that pops up somewhere in nearly every one of these leak stories, even if all the material proves to be real (old friend Malcolm Nance did the job in 2016 in suggesting the Podesta leaks were “riddled with forgeries”). More importantly however, that last line is a great example of what former cybersecurity official and Foundation for Freedom Online head Mike Benz calls the “foreign-domestic switcheroo.”

It’s the basic rhetorical trick of the censorship age: raise a fuss about a foreign threat, using it as a battering ram to get everyone from congress to the tech companies to submit to increased regulation and surveillance. Then, slowly, adjust your aim to domestic targets. You can see the subtlety: the original Stanford piece tries to stick to railing against “disinformation” and information from “foreign adversaries,” but the later paper circulated by Aspen slips in, ever so slightly, a new category of dubious source: “foreign or other adversarial entities.”

These rhetorical devices are essential. It would be preposterous to form (as Stanford did) an “Information Warfare Working Group” if readers knew the “war” being contemplated was against domestic voices. … But if you start by focusing on Russians and only later mention as an afterthought “other adversarial entities,” you can frame things however you want, from espionage to warfare. As reader O’Neill correctly pointed out, “they are now getting close to being explicit about the fact that their motivation for suppressing news is to fight domestic political adversaries.”

You don’t have to be a lover of these sources to hate what’s you’ve just found out. And I think it’s reasonable to fear, even if you fear Trump more than God herself, what our security agencies do with domestic power.

Regime Change

The last stone dropped in the pond is the oldest one. Before most of you were born, the halls of power fully understood that our security agencies, birthed in the Soviet threat, were fully capable — even tasked with the job — of making sure the global world was a safe American playground.

The list of American-led coups in other countries is long as your leg and both arms. Start here to see most of it. Do these agencies act domestically as they do abroad? The FBI sure does. But what about the CIA and the rest of the alphabet community?

Here’s what Robert Kennedy, the man who was murdered on his way to the 1968 nomination, thought of the murder that felled his brother Jack in 1963 (via The Hill, emphasis mine):

[Robert] Kennedy Jr. said the first call his father, former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, made after learning his uncle had been shot was to a CIA desk officer.

My father said to him, ‘Did your people do this?’” Kennedy Jr. told Fox News’s “Hannity” on Monday.

“His next call was to [Enrique Ruiz-Williams], who was one of the Cuban Bay of Pigs leaders who had remained very, very close to our family and to my father,” he continued. “My father asked him the same question.”

Kennedy Jr. said his father then called John McCone, the head of the CIA, and asked him to come to the family’s house.

“When I came home [from] Sidwell Friends School, my father was walking in the yard with John McCone, and my father was posing the same question to him, ‘Was it our people who did this to my brother?’” he said. “It was my father’s first instinct that the agency had killed his brother.

The Hill later tags this story as a “conspiracy theory,” no doubt to distance itself from both charge and source. But the underlying report is nonetheless true, or RFK Jr. is lying.

Ripples In the Pond

What do these data points sum to? I’ll leave it to you. If you love the FBI as some today do, would you love them still if they thought their remit included squelching you and your kind, not just Trump and his, using control of media as their tool?

As I’ve said before, it’s appropriate to fear what a Trump, or worse, a DeSantis — who unlike Trump, who loves adoration and cash, truly loves power — would do if power were given them.

Is it therefore not also appropriate to fear these agencies?

After all, their goals won’t always align with what’s broadly called “the left.” Their goals have never aligned with ours in the past. And unlike Republicans, who are only halfway to their goal, these agencies have power now, and practice using it.

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  1. Ignacio

    Amongst the three stones thrown here the first one is the more telling. It would be a good personal exercise to ask oneself: who is being paranoid here? It is me or it is this group of people that seem so interested in security? The document with the title “Domestic Terrorist Threats & Actions to Combat” sounds quite paranoid by itself. Those apparent threats are to be identified pre-emptively with that National Preparedness Goal. Examples they provide and, according to this post even little vegan Janet might be pre-emptively considered a threat, apparently. That looks quite paranoid. So far, “white supremacists”, whatever they are, are top on the list.

    Another way of analysing paranoia vs reality based analysis would be to check whether the tools that are provided to fight the threats are consistent with the objectives or if this involve creating a weird environment in which we try to feel safe. The proverbial guy with the tin foil hat. The DHS aims to prevent the threat by “reducing the likelihood of individuals radicalizing” and the tools at their disposal would be: sharing information, increasing spending, training to identify indicators of radicalization and last but not least “leveraging the [online] Partners”. None of these tools look appropriate to “prevent radicalization” though might as much serve to identify targets or potential enemies. The tools do not align with the proposed objectives and looks like the DHS has already the tin foil hat very well in place.

    Paranoid indeed.

    1. Not Again

      So far, “white supremacists”, whatever they are, are top on the list.

      The Democrats’ definition of “white supremist” is “anyone who didn’t vote for Joe Biden in 2020.”
      I hope that clears it up for you.

  2. griffen

    Designed to keep everyone in line, and if one dares to step out of line all heck will break loose. I don’t trust many of these politicians at the national level, and increasingly more questioning the authority of otherwise wise persons on the Supreme Court, by example. I should add, seemingly wise persons on the Supreme Court. Seemingly devoted career agents in the 3 letter agency coterie. I’m sure plenty are good and well-intentioned after all.

    This isn’t Orwell, it’s exponential. To quote for many reasons, the film Aliens: I don’t know which species is worse.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      “Seemingly devoted career agents … good and well-intentioned” — rather than the movie Aliens, the movie Brazil comes to mind.

    2. digi_owl

      Funny how many films ragged on big business back in the 80s-90s, But more and more of them are being retconned to be about anything other than…

      1. griffen

        I tend to believe there were really talented writers and writing teams back in those days. Look at the teams behind Caddyshack or Trading Places or Ghostbusters, by example. Netflix has a series on certain films from the late ’70s to late ’80s, pretty interesting how near to the brink popular films were (yes, including Aliens). Many of these teams were really invested.

        And instead, today we get writing and a big budget template for more of those schlock films such as Guardians 3 or Fast and Furious X or coming soon, Indiana Jones! And I love Indy, I mean Henry Jr.

  3. John R Moffett

    Organized crime rings need to keep things under wraps, and finks are one of the biggest problems endangering their plans. So it is vital to silence any potential finks, both inside and outside the crime ring. Funny that our government seems to act in precisely the same fashion.

  4. davejustdave

    As I near the end of a moderately long life – my 76th birthday is in sight, next month, and I am fairly confident of getting there, although no one is promised tomorrow – I become more convinced that the difference between a criminal organization of thieves and murderers, and a legitimate government, is one of degree, not of kind. I highly recommend the 2010 film Winter’s Bone, with Jennifer Lawrence in her breakthrough lead role, which shows the co-existence of two coercive regimes in the same territory – law enforcement and drug dealing.

    1. griffen

      Live long and continue to prosper, as the phrasing goes. There is a lot to recommend about that film, and the stark contrast in tone when the film is compared to the glamorous trappings of the Kardashians or whomever. Harry and Meghan too. The Lawrence character is forced to navigate those waters, and perhaps the dream to escape is entering the military. I recently began watching Hillbilly Elegy, am about 50% of the way through it, and that movie might equal the dark undertones of Winter’s Bone (abusive family past, dependencies, being supportive of a flawed loved one).

      1. Ignacio

        What brings my attention to that film, as described by one film critic in Spain, is that the waters to be navigated are the difficult and scarce in opportunities “rural waters” so it is touching a topic which is nearly universal in rural land and relatively unexplored by urbanite film-makers.

        I would strongly recommend a recent film from Morocco “Le Bleu de Caftan” by Mariam Touzane that has made me reconcile with a (small) part of the film industry. This is an urban story.

  5. BeliTsari

    God knows, we’d all posted, unremittingly, how Obama’s unleashing an Espionage Act, aimed specifically at the Left, “minority,” refugee & labor incarceration, silencing ALL dissent, was the perfect Hedley LaMarr grift?

    “The Act also outlawed false statements intended to interfere with military operations; attempts to incite insubordination or obstruct the recruitment of troops; and false statements promoting the success of America’s enemies. Those charged with violations were subject to a $10,000 fine and twenty years imprisonment.”


  6. Carolinian

    Maybe RFK senior should have called up somebody he and his brother tried to assassinate–oh, say Fidel Castro–and asked if Castro had anything to do with it.

    RFK jr needs to be talking about Biden, not the sixties, if he wants to be taken seriously. Of course the press are going to bait him about CT to make sure he isn’t taken seriously. Whether Chomsky is right that “it doesn’t matter” who killed JFK there are plenty of suspects other than the CIA if one wants to go there.

    1. John R Moffett

      The CIA’s Allen Dulles (of “The Devil’s Chessboard” fame) was almost certainly behind the JFK assassination, and everything our government has done and said since then have been a pack of lies built upon a foundation of treachery and deceit. Until that terrorist crime by a division of our own government is fully outed and dealt with, we will all be living in a land of lies and fabrications. Why do you think they keep saying they can’t release the CIA records for reasons of “national security” if something that happened in the 1960s is not important today.

      So thank you RFK for bringing this critical US crime up in public. It’s about time for crying out loud.

      1. Carolinian

        Funny how, after all these years, there’s no proof that Dulles done it (unless you have some?).

        True you did say “almost” certainly. I think RFK has left off the almost although he did say he wasn’t entirely certain that the CIA also killed his father. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll vote for him in the primary.

        But I don’t think he’s helping himself with this. We get plenty of almost from the Democrat other side. David Talbot of Salon and The Devil’s Chessboard is almost certainly on that other side since he was once a big Bill Clinton booster (the new Kennedy, according to him).

        But we need a sanity side now and we need the facts. No “almost.” IMO

    2. ThirtyOne

      “What made Kennedy’s assassination even harder for Fidel to swallow was the fact that, at the time of the murder, he and Kennedy were working on a relaxation of tensions between the two countries through a network of go-betweens. These included TV newscaster Lisa Howard, American diplomat William Attwood, and French journalist Jean Daniel. The last was with the Cuban leader when he got the news of Kennedy’s death. Castro immediately realized that what the two leaders had been working on, a development of friendly relations, was now dead. And in this speech, Castro discusses how regressive forces in America most likely killed Kennedy and then planned to blame it on Cuba.”

      Castro’s speech after the JFK asassination:

      1. Carolinian

        So Kennedy had decided not to kill him after all? Perhaps Oswald didn’t get the message.

        I’m not proposing my own CT but I do have considerable skepticism about the Oliver Stone “the world would have been different theory” re the Kennedys. Hersh of course is on the opposite side when it comes to JFK hagiography and says that Vietnam expert Ellsberg agrees with him. All of that water is pretty far under the bridge.

  7. The Rev Kev

    There seem to be an awful lot of actors who want to bring in a censorship regime. Of course, to do this you would need to watch everything that a person says or does so you would need to invest even more into the surveillance regime. Come to think of it, I saw a short video of Klaus Schwab talking at a conference and saying that what we all have to have is ‘total transparency’. What he meant was that all our lives would be totally open for scrutiny and inspection – but not his of course. But it seems here that the Democrats have aligned with the establishment to bring in this regime to put down their political enemies whom they see as whites. Good thing that that is not divisive that-

    https://www.reddit.com/r/Canada_sub/comments/13hqz45/klaus_schwab_talks_about_transparency_its/ (29 secs)

  8. TomDority

    It’s the FBI from it’s beginnings.. from Hoover thru McCarthy and undeterred since and, I assume, to some future.
    “The Federal Bureau of Investigation” by Max Lowenthal – describes it all.

    “The word is about, there’s something evolving, Whatever may come, the world keeps revolving… They say the next big thing is here, That the revolution’s near, But to me it seems quite clear That’s it’s all just a little bit of history repeating.” written by Alex Gifford and originally performed by English electronic music duo Propellerheads

    1. Carolinian

      Hoover though was in many ways bipartisan (although a Republican) and cared about the Bureau’s reputation and power. When his misdeeds were exposed by the press he drew back.

      Now no exposing by the press and no caring. Arguably both FBI and CIA should go but we are long past that.

  9. Questa Nota

    Down here at ground level, there are a few more concerns.
    First, who will be doing the day-to-day review of potential suspects?
    Second, what type of oversight and transparency are involved?
    Is any of that auditable, and sunsetted?

    People in this social media era are rightfully concerned that the suspect review may be done at whim, based on what they have seen with the social media platforms. Like that New Yorker cartoon, where on the internet nobody knows you’re a dog. Those dogs zoomed in on a person’s life, took a nanosecond to say, Book’em Dan’o and moved onto the next citizen target. Maybe the reviewer of your case stubbed a toe, spilled coffee and unleashed a string of epithets prior to settling in for a session of, er, keeping the world safe for, well, something.

    If you have ever tried to get some faceless, nameless bureaucrat, or even just Bob at the call-center to make any changes, your frustration and suspicion are warranted. Not only can you Not Fight City Hall, you can’t even get there from here. A bad Kafka story lived out repeatedly.

    Who stands up for people? Rare few in Congress.

  10. David in Friday Harbor

    When I started out as a lawyer in criminal justice 40 years ago, one of the first things that I was taught by the Vietnam-era judges and even cops was to never trust the FBI.

    The Democrats are not the “left.” They represent a wing of the Military-Industrial klepto-pluto-kakistocracy who can only cling to their wealth, power, and privilege by repressing dissent.

    I’m glad that Neuberger, generally a font of conventional wisdom, has woken up and smelled the coffee!

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