The CIA and NSA Want You to Be Their Friend on Facebook

February 16th, 2010

Don’t break out the foil, the U.S. News & World Report article states, because the spooks are telling you up front, here we are. Oh sure. What this shit-for-brains article doesn’t explore is how many hundreds or thousands of full time, professionally run honeypots, black propaganda outlets, sock puppets/trolls/shills etc. are operational on Facebook.

See: EFF Sues CIA, DOJ, Others Over Facebook Surveillance:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation sued the CIA, the US Department of Defense, Department of Justice and three other government agencies on Tuesday for allegedly refusing to release information about how they are using social networks in surveillance and investigations.

The not-for-profit internet rights watchdog group formally asked more than a dozen agencies or departments in early October to provide records about federal guidelines on the use of sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr for investigative or data-gathering purposes, according to the lawsuit.

The requests were prompted by published news reports about how authorities are using social networks to monitor citizen activities and aid in investigations. For example, according to the lawsuit, government officials have: used Facebook to hunt for fugitives and search for evidence of underage drinking; researched the activities of an activist on Facebook and LinkedIn; watched YouTube to identify riot suspects; searched the home of a social worker because of Twitter messages regarding police actions he sent during the G-20 summit; and used fake identities to trick Facebook users into accepting friend requests.

So, how many intelligence assets are operating in a covert capacity on Facebook?

At minimum, the answer is more than zero. As an upper end estimate, I would venture a guess that, because of compartmentalization, the executive echelons of spookdom don’t even know how many Facebook pages and users their various divisions, special access programs and cutouts are running.

Of course, one might argue that Facebook IS an intelligence asset, a giant sensor, that distributes analysis and archival tasks to remote nodes. In, Feds Push for Tracking Cell Phones, I wrote:

Focusing on the network operators misses the point. The beam splitters don’t discriminate; they send a copy of everything, every single bit, to Uncle. So, sure, the carriers don’t want to spend money on archiving all of that surveillance data, but what is the state doing with its copy of the stream?

The answer is: We have almost no idea, and the Obama regime is determined to make sure that it stays that way.

What proof do I have that beam splitters are installed—on Facebook fiber—that are sending a copy of everything to Uncle? None. But consider this, from the Guardian:

The third board member of Facebook is Jim Breyer. He is a partner in the venture capital firm Accel Partners, who put $12.7m into Facebook in April 2005. On the board of such US giants as Wal-Mart and Marvel Entertainment, he is also a former chairman of the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA). Now these are the people who are really making things happen in America, because they invest in the new young talent, the Zuckerbergs and the like. Facebook’s most recent round of funding was led by a company called Greylock Venture Capital, who put in the sum of $27.5m. One of Greylock’s senior partners is called Howard Cox, another former chairman of the NVCA, who is also on the board of In-Q-Tel. What’s In-Q-Tel? Well, believe it or not (and check out their website), this is the venture-capital wing of the CIA. After 9/11, the US intelligence community became so excited by the possibilities of new technology and the innovations being made in the private sector, that in 1999 they set up their own venture capital fund, In-Q-Tel, which “identifies and partners with companies developing cutting-edge technologies to help deliver these solutions to the Central Intelligence Agency and the broader US Intelligence Community (IC) to further their missions”.

The US defence department and the CIA love technology because it makes spying easier. “We need to find new ways to deter new adversaries,” defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in 2003. “We need to make the leap into the information age, which is the critical foundation of our transformation efforts.” In-Q-Tel’s first chairman was Gilman Louie, who served on the board of the NVCA with Breyer. Another key figure in the In-Q-Tel team is Anita K Jones, former director of defence research and engineering for the US department of defence, and – with Breyer – board member of BBN Technologies. When she left the US department of defence, Senator Chuck Robb paid her the following tribute: “She brought the technology and operational military communities together to design detailed plans to sustain US dominance on the battlefield into the next century.”

Now, consider the network analysis of Facebook that a researcher was able to carry out from the outside:

As I’ve been digging deeper into the data I’ve gathered on 210 million public Facebook profiles, I’ve been fascinated by some of the patterns that have emerged. My latest visualization shows the information by location, with connections drawn between places that share friends. For example, a lot of people in LA have friends in San Francisco, so there’s a line between them.

Looking at the network of US cities, it’s been remarkable to see how groups of them form clusters, with strong connections locally but few contacts outside the cluster.

I’m not even capable of thinking up the kinds of analysis that would be possible by having total access to Facebook data. However, again, while I’m just guessing, if U.S. Intelligence didn’t have entire divisions, roomfuls of people, dedicated datacenters and other infrastructure, etc. for dealing exclusively with network (and other types of) analysis of Facebook data, I would be very, very surprised.

But, no need for tinfoil, gentle citizen. Move along. These are just recruiting tools. Nothing to see here.

Via: U.S. News & World Report:

The online social-networking service Facebook works for finding old classmates or arranging happy hours, so why not use it to help recruit the next generation of spies? That’s what’s happening now in cyberspace, as the country’s intelligence community turns to such sites to attract a wider range of résumés.

The CIA now has its own Facebook page, as does the hush-hush National Security Agency, which vacuums up the world’s communications for analysis. Both invite Facebook members to register and read information about employment opportunities. It’s part of a larger, multiyear hiring push to boost the size of the U.S. intelligence community.

But should the country’s secret spy agency be encouraging potential hires to publicize their interest in the intelligence field? Apparently, it’s not a concern. In the first place, since the groups are not directly moderated, it is impossible to control who registers as a member. Some may enroll on the site out of curiosity. And, of course, none of those who show interest are yet officers in the clandestine service.

Even so, once they are on the CIA payroll, employees face no prohibition against keeping social-networking accounts or pages. “While agency officers are not, as a rule, prohibited from maintaining a page on Facebook, they are made aware of precautions to take if they choose to do so,” says CIA spokesman George Little.

But the Facebook posting shouldn’t necessarily cause a run on tinfoil hats. The pages aren’t designed to surreptitiously gather information about those who visit the site, as fearful skeptics allege. In reality, says the CIA, they are flashy recruiting posters, “used strictly for informational purposes.”

Comment note: The MIT page about tinfoil helmets is old and off topic. Don’t be a jackass by submitting it here. Better yet, go over to the U.S. News site and make yourself useful over there.

3 Responses to “The CIA and NSA Want You to Be Their Friend on Facebook”

  1. bloodnok Says:

    If the NSA, CIA or any other arm of govt intelligence wants access Facebook’s data, they’ll already have it. Most of the data is borderline public anyway (in terms of what the site will give away). I would surprise me if there wasn’t a Facebook API for the three-letter organisations to dump out user details and associations. Either that or storage replicated to the govt side. That’s the way I’d do it.

  2. oelsen Says:

    Damn! Even when I constantly remind myself that it would be utterly unethical, I drool myself over this kind of data. It’s so full of self-constructing beautiful patterns, some hidden, some plain in front of the observer documenting outside reality and forming a new one at the same time.

    I hope they “freeze” a lot of snapshots for future references. In no other time of history that would have been possible to reconstruct. Maybe future generations can learn from those conserved data.

  3. Larry Glick Says:

    I wonder if the Three-Letter Agencies realize just how much people are screwing with them. I know of people who have sent out thousands of gigabytes of 128 bit encrypted garbage just to get them to use thousands of hours of processor time to decrypt messages such as “Mary had a little lamb.” If they want to spy on us, we might as well play their game!

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