GCHQ psychological operations squad targeted Britons for manipulation

The once-secretive, now-notorious Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group ran its online propaganda and manipulation operations at home as well as abroad.

JTRIG's domestic operations used fake accounts to "deter," "promote distrust" and "discredit" in political discussions on social media, uploaded fake book/magazine articles with "incorrect information," hacked websites, set up ecommerce sites that were fraudulent operations designed to rip off their adversaries and so on. They relied on psychological research on inspiring "obedience" and "conformity" to inform their work.

Most of the groups targeted by JTRIG are ones I have little time for -- Islamic extremists, neo-Nazis, etc -- but the right way for a state to intervene in political debates isn't through secret misinformation campaigns. The philosophies of these groups are laughable on their face, and it's alarming to learn that the UK establishment's go-to rebuttal for ideas this dumb is to create fake newspaper articles. If that's how debate works at Eton and Oxbridge, it's no wonder Prime Minister's Question Time is such a clownshow.

JTRIG’s domestic and law enforcement operations are made clear. The report states that the controversial unit “currently collaborates with other agencies” including the Metropolitan police, Security Service (MI5), Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), Border Agency, Revenue and Customs (HMRC), and National Public Order and Intelligence Unit (NPOIU). The document highlights that key JTRIG objectives include “providing intelligence for judicial outcomes;” monitoring “domestic extremist groups such as the English Defence League by conducting online HUMINT;” “denying, deterring or dissuading” criminals and “hacktivists;” and “deterring, disrupting or degrading online consumerism of stolen data or child porn.”

It touts the fact that the unit “may cover all areas of the globe.” Specifically, “operations are currently targeted at” numerous countries and regions including Argentina, Eastern Europe and the UK.

JTRIG’s domestic operations fit into a larger pattern of UK-focused and traditional law enforcement activities within GCHQ.

Controversial GCHQ Unit Engaged in Domestic Law Enforcement, Online Propaganda, Psychology Research [Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman/The Intercept]