Feeds

NSA spied on 'radicalisers' porn surfing so as to discredit them, reveals Snowden

Ninety per cent of people surf porn, ten per cent are liars

High performance access to file storage

The NSA spied on the porn-surfing habits of firebrand Muslims as part of a plan to discredit "radicalisers", it has emerged.

A top-secret NSA document, leaked by fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden, identifies six Muslim targets as examples of how personal proclivities determined through electronic surveillance can be used to undermine a target's credibility and reputation by uncovering evidence of hypocrisy. The details are revealed by journo Glenn Greenwald, Snowden's initial media contact, who has moved from working with the Guardian to The Huffington Post on this occasion.

"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 October 2012 document argues.

Activities by the targets (whose names and locations have been redacted by HuffPo) included “viewing sexually explicit material online” and “using sexually explicit persuasive language when communicating with inexperienced young girls”. Revealing this sort of behaviour is among the most fruitful means to discredit targets among their own community, according to the leaked strategy document which was put together by the NSA director's office and circulated to officials within the Departments of Justice and Commerce and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Intelligence officials acknowledged the tactic was in their counter-jihadist playbook. None of the six individuals targeted by the NSA is accused in the document (at least) of direct involvement in terrorist plots. The document suggests that, based on separate signals intelligence data, the six targets only have varying levels of loose affiliation or contact with any extremist or militant Jihadist group. The targets are instead allegedly involved in helping to recruit young Muslims to the terrorist cause via YouTube, Facebook and other social media websites.

Embarrassing sexually explicit information was gleaned through online surveillance of two of the suspects, according to the leaked document.

"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 HuffPo in an email.

An appendix to the leaked document lists the radical arguments advanced by each surveillance target alongside personal "vulnerabilities" that might undermine their credibility if exposed.

One target's radical 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."

It's unclear whether the potentially embarrassing information was ever leaked or used to apply pressure on the persons of interest targeted by the snooping - perhaps with the intent of getting them to flip as informants rather than publicly to discredit them.

The tactic of using potentially embarrassing information to undermine targets is not new or surprising. It was used in part as justification for federal surveillance against targets such as civil rights leaders such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, labor movement activists and others back in the 60s and 70s - as HuffPo also notes. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
OpenSSL Heartbleed: Bloody nose for open-source bleeding hearts
Bloke behind the cockup says not enough people are helping crucial crypto project
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
Heartbleed exploit, inoculation, both released
File under 'this is going to hurt you more than it hurts me'
Bad PUPPY: Undead Windows XP deposits fresh scamware on lawn
Installing random interwebs shiz will bork your zombie box
Experian subsidiary faces MEGA-PROBE for 'selling consumer data to fraudster'
US attorneys general roll up sleeves, snap on gloves
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.