The CIA honeypot Wikileaks mirror that wasn't

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Yesterday, I posted an item referencing a reddit thread and a widely-retweeted Google search string referencing a purported "CIA wikileaks mirror honeypot" that revealed itself as likely having been set up by the CIA. It wasn't. It was some guy's joke or something.

I'm traveling with wonky mobile internet, and in the process of attempting to update the post with a clarification late last night in a sleep-depped state, I screwed up. The post was deleted. There is no conspiracy here, and no reason to believe the CIA is setting up fake Wikileaks mirrors (though, not a bad idea, amirite?).

However, I can tell you this, no joke: I'm traveling in Texas, in an area with a high Muslim population. Last night, I saw ads on the hotel TV for the CIA. Clandestine services recruitment ads. I googled around, and apparently these are part of a broad campaign that began in 2009, to recruit more Arab-Americans. I can't find the actual ad I saw last night, but here are earlier examples from the same campaign. You may also want to fire up Tor, disable cookies, and take their personality quiz.

No, neither of those have anything to do with a misleading Reddit thread, or me screwing up a blog post. But! The TV ads were so bad (even the aspect ratio was messed up), I thought, yeah, I could believe.

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  1. Mistakes are the way of things. You get extra slack for being people who actually give a fuck about transparency. :)

    I’m really curious about the CIA personality test. I doubt there’s enough anonymity protection in the whole world to make me take it, though…

  2. I’m glad to see an explanation for the unexpected retraction of the article (I suspected this is what happened, but it is good to be sure). Agree the criticism of the CIA’s media department is an odd side comment. I know you wouldn’t do this, but to me it comes across trying to make up for political disappointment of the last article being wrong by finding a new criticism to replace it. “The CIA isn’t as incompetent in the way I thought. BUT! They are still incompetent! They make bad TV ads!.” What does that have to do with anything? :-)

  3. I took the quiz, because I’m not afraid of them. At least one person at the CIA has a sense of humor.

    They obviously know what they’re doing, too, since the test determined I was an Impressive Mastermind.

    1. I was disappointed that “kidnapping innocents for torture” wasn’t on the list, as that happens to be my favorite pasttime.

  4. Angela, I’ll take one for the team, as I have no particular fear of the CIA and will happily browser their website without anonymization or encryption.

    The quiz is as stupid as it sounds. It’s main purpose is to be a vehicle for dispelling myths about the CIA: (edited for length)

    Myth 1-You’ll Never See Your Family and Friends Again.
    Myth 2-Everyone Drives a Sports Car with Machine Guns in the Tailpipes.
    Myth 3-You Have to be Superhuman in Every Way.
    Myth 4-A Glamorous Lifestyle Awaits You.
    Myth 5-Hardly Anyone Ever Makes it Through the Background Check
    MYTH #6-You Might Have To Spy On Family.
    MYTH #7-If You Don’t Speak A Foreign Language, Forget About It.
    MYTH #8-Only Those Who Have Been US Citizens For Generations Can Get A Job Here.
    MYTH #9-Your Family Will Never Know Where You Are.
    MYTH #10-You’ll Get To Use Lots Of Secret Gadgets.

    The other part of the ‘quiz’ is a series of questions from pre-teen girl sites like:

    “Which activity would you like your mission to include: A. Rock climbing B. Dining on haute cuisne C. Surfing the waves D. Shopping on Rodeo Drive E. Reading a best-selling novel

    After ten questions (one for each myth… they are presented in parallel, ) they tell you are a ‘high risk adventurer’ or whatever (that’s what I got with random selection) and a statement to the effect that no matter what the result was, there’s a fulfilling career opportunity for you at the CIA.

  5. “Some guy’s joke or something” isn’t terribly specific. Presumably once you have less-wonky internet access you will post the whole story?

    1. “We actually delete posts all the time, mostly because they’re dupes of other ones.”

      “Other ones”?
      I remember when we called them ” the Soviets”.

      I guess people are more uncertain of things nowadays.

  6. I think there’s a bigger conspiracy going on regarding TV ads. Not just the CIA ones (though I saw one a couple days ago in SoCal and I agree, it was pretty bad).

    At least half of the commercials on these days – probably more, but I don’t pay close attention to commercials – are lacking in basic technical competency. Among the worst is when the ad was shot in HD (and is widescreen), but the station plays an SD letterboxed version, so you get a little wide rectangle in the center of your huge screen showing the ad. Generally if you have your TV and cable/satellite box set up correctly, the ads shouldn’t play at the wrong aspect ratio, which is a relief. The chances that any average TV is set up correctly are pretty small these days, of course. But that can’t be blamed on the ad producer or the station.

    Anyway, if I were the advertiser and saw how badly my commercial was being displayed – on expensive popular channels at prime viewing times – I’d be outraged. These days, there should be no excuse for not showing a proper resolution (at least 720p which will upscale fine) copy of the ad with good audio quality, proper aspect ratio, etc.

    Cheap production values is one thing (and you’d think the CIA could do better in that regard), but basic technical incompetence should be inexcusable.

    1. Incorrect aspect ratio is a problem that afflicts cable systems, satellite/dish systems, and production of video at all levels. Anytime a signal is handed off between providers, there is ample opportunity for things to be screwed up.

      Even when a receiving unit is set up properly, it cannot always adjust when a hotel uses a video scaler in line before it gets to a room. (This does happen.) It also doesn’t help that many hotels do not allow you to adjust the incoming typically analog signal via cable to be anything but zoom and stretched (hardware lockout) on the monitor.

      Our PBS affiliate in the SF Bay area always cuts off their Title Safe area when going to 4:3 aspect now. Seriously annoying to not be able to read titles on any of the content. Strangely it doesn’t affect their bumpers, so it is *something* they are doing before it leaves the station for distribution. This happens regardless of hotel or home when on an SD device.

      Oh, and while HD is the new standard, plenty of folks still use their perfectly functional SD kit. Many hotels, in particular, have not bothered to update distribution systems in their facilities when adding fancy looking new monitors. This results in crap looking tv and sighs from travelers just looking for some news or distraction. Many home setups that have higher end analog sets that hook up to cable don’t necessarily have a compelling reason to switch over to HD, whether 720p or 1080i/p, especially when you have to buy yet another box/converter/gadget that doesn’t appear to do anything more than what you already have.

      To the rest of this thread: the CIA recruits and advertises. They do look for people that can work within specific areas of intellectual or cultural expertise, hence the targeted advertising that Xeni noted.

  7. haha, psytek had fun at your expense.
    He just used 301 redirects to make his mirror appear to be cia.gov.

    I’m really seeing a lot of haxxor wannabes with this whole thing.

  8. FWIW –and not saying this is what happened here –I hope posts don’t get deleted when someone realizes they dun goofed up; mistakes happen, hoaxes happen, people fall for them and we can all learn from those occasions, making us collectively more savvy in the future. It ain’t like yr gonna get backtraced or something.

    To the point of this entry, The Man’s been recruiting like this in heavily Arabic neighborhoods in Chicago for years.

  9. Well, it is hard to judge of an organization which operates wholly in secret.

    But regardless of that, in my view, the CIA are just another den of foreign spies.

    But being a foreign national myself, what other view of the CIA would it be reasonable for me to hold?

  10. actually.. it doesn’t matter. the “proof” was wrong.

    maybe psytek.net is run by the cia or any other mirror.
    i wouldn’t be surprised.
    – probably the fastest way to get updates.
    – possibly a way to put false documents into distribution,
    making mirrors unreliable

    the later might be a clever attempt to undermine WL mirrors credibility.
    not stupid DDoS, arrest Assange or shutting servers down.

  11. The real conspiracy is that the rumor itself was put out there by the CIA, just to make curious onlookers wonder if they’re being put on a watchlist just for looking at the documents.

  12. This may sound like complete brownnosing, but I’m impressed that Xeni copped to her error, and didn’t try to blame anyone else for it. Makes me want to read more of her stuff, with the addition of a trust factor.

    The trust, internet and epistemological questions that all this raises illustrate another aspect of Alvin Toffler’s observation that it’s not that things are changing faster, it’s the rate of change that’s increasing, too. The amount of information that we absorb is increasing, and the rate (and engagement level) of incoming information is faster and deeper, too. (Look at how frequently people watch and use video clips, a more engaging and deeper experience than reading text.)

    It ain’t the mistake, it’s the holding on to it. Xeni corrected herself, and felt obligated to set things right publicly. That’s how you stay sane in this world.

  13. RE: A high Muslim population… in Texas?

    What metro area if I dare to ask?

    Houston, Dallas and Austin all have a good amount of Muslims and Arabs.

  14. Well I admit I swallowed it and got pretty antsy when the post was deleted but it also fooled Xeni and she’s smart so I don’t feel too bad.

  15. I saw the CIA ad on TV during the 6 o’clock news on Channel 11 (Houston). I was in town visiting family (I grew up here) and I had no idea!

    Right after an item about a car bomb in Stockholm.

  16. anutherwun, your knowledge of television and video is impressive. We may be able to use someone like you. Are you interested in traveling to Pakistan, Afghanistan, or certain neighborhoods of Paris? Do you have any experience with surreptitious entry, covert communications, or web hosting?

  17. I live in Dearborn, MI which has the highest concentration of Arab Americans outside of the “Mid-East” and the CIA has been crumping up here for A LONG TIME. The annual Arab American Festival we’ve got always has a CIA tent. Dearborn is perfect for CIA recruitment, high population of Arabic speakers and an even higher unemployment rate.

  18. When I saw the first post on this in my RSS and then it went to a 404, knowing Boing Boing as I do, I immediately thought ‘the information turned out to be inaccurate’ not ‘the information was suppressed by somebody in the org for political reasons’. Glad my faith was well-placed.

  19. this is kind of out of topic:

    I can’t help but the see the picture as liquified earwax spewing out of Winnie’s ears and into the jar. It’s not just me right?

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