Social networks and the mass media on the service of CIA

  15 April 2013    Read: 594
Social networks and the mass media on the service of CIA
Social networks are gaining growing importance in a modern society
Social networks are gaining growing importance in a modern society, and therefore, it is not surprising that their commercial value is following the trend while discussions are broadening on the role and the place of this institute in modern civilization.

It is not incidental that Facebook`s market value is around 7 billion dollars. Russian network "ВКонтакте” with 50 million active users is slightly behind it. Nearly one billion people share daily information on people they know, preferences, future plans, views on certain events in politics and society. We are talking about every seventh inhabitant of the Earth. Every user absolutely voluntarily shares private information. So long as Facebook or Google use that information to generate personal advertisement according to individual needs of the user the price for average users to access the services seems adequate. What happens when those companies` activities go beyond advertisement? What if Facebook information falls into wrong hands - state institutions and intelligence services? I guess this is the case today, isn`t it?

April 2006, the Facebook was hardly two years old when it received financial backing of 27 million USD. Investment company called "Greylock Partners” was indicated among the investors, continuing to be among the top 10 shareholders of Facebook today. The company is an influential player in the Silicon Valley; other than Facebook it has shares in LinkedIn, Instagram and Dropbox.

Howard Cox who has been with the company for over 40 years happens to be one of the most experienced employees. Years long expertise in the capacity of investor makes him an industry veteran. He has held various positions on the board of the company for past 4 decades. He is also on the board of In-Q-Tel, CIA`s venture capital firm. Interestingly, for several years the CIA has had a special division in place to monitor social networks around the world. Its official name is – the "Open Sources Center”. It largely employs hackers and linguists. The primary objective: collection, filtration and analysis of information from social networks as well as local online fora and media. Reports are submitted to the White House. Linguists and hackers are capable of filtering millions of posts in Twitter alone and detecting information no one would even imagine. The center was established after the events of 9/11, officially tasked with "combating terrorism” of course.

Notably, this is what Julian Assange, the founder of infamous "Wikileaks”, had to say about global networks, the likes of Google, Yahoo and Facebook, in particular, accusing them of conspiring with the CIA: "Facebook is the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented. Here we have the world`s most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations and the communications with each other, their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible to U.S. intelligence”. According to Assange, Facebook, Google, Yahoo – all of these major American companies have custom built interfaces for the intelligence community. And it`s not about retrieving address to deliver a court subpoena. The very interface is designed to be used by the American intelligence services”. "Everyone should understand that when they add their friends to Facebook, they are doing free work for United States intelligence agencies in building this database for them”.

Michael Noer, Executive Editor of the Forbes Magazine, said: "What the CIA failed to do in 60 years, Zuckerberg has done in seven: knowing what 800 million people — more than 10 percent of the world`s population — think, read and listen to, plus who they know, what they like and where they live, travel, vote, shop, worship”.

Undoubtedly, the social networks have changed the world. Just like other human inventions they have brought about opportunities and threats. And just like in the past, some will benefit from it while the others encounter the risks. The difference lays in the ability to skillfully employ the instruments that help to control this sphere, such as competitive intelligence. CIA cooperation with Western mass media outlets is another subject.

CIA – Media

Engaging mass media is a special field of CIA activity. Office for Special Projects established in the 1950s was tasked with influencing both American and foreign media. As of the 1950s employees of American news outlets were regularly recruited by the CIA. Internal procedures of relations between the CIA and American media were described in 1977 article by Carl Bernstein in the "Rolling Stone” magazine titled "The CIA and the Media”: "More than 400 American journalists in the past twenty‑five years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to documents on file at CIA headquarters. Some of these journalists` relationships with the Agency were tacit; some were explicit… Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners… Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work…”

Author insisted that the "CIA`s use of the American news media has been much more extensive than Agency officials have acknowledged publicly or in closed sessions with members of Congress”.

In recent years they have become more complex and sophisticated. We are dealing with a vast propaganda network that includes some government agencies. Media disinformation became official. Lies and fabrications are less disguised than in the 1970s. American media became a megaphone of American foreign policy. Disinformation is regularly "embedded” into the news stream of leading daily newspapers, journals and television channels.

As of 2001, American media assumed a new role in supporting the "global war on terror” and covering up of the U.S. sponsored military crimes. In the wake 9/11 terrorist attacks then the U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld established an Office of Strategic Influence or the "Disinformation Office” as dubbed by the critics: "Defense Department announced that it was a necessary step as they were gearing up to disseminate false stories in foreign countries in an effort to influence public opinion in the world”.

For instance, let us take the ICIJ specializing on investigations (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists) that recently released a report on offshore companies of number of prominent politicians around the world. "Leak of some 2.5 million classified documents on some 120 thousand companies registered on Virgin Islands, Cook Islands and other offshore "havens” lead to disclosure of information on biggest figures in politics and business” reads an article on the American ICIJ`s website.

Documents analyzed by the journalists of nearly 40 international media outlets, including "BBC”, "The Guardian”, "Le Monde” and "The Washington Post” shed light upon money transfers and business ties between corporations and individuals from more than 170 countries and territories for the past three decades.

According to the article the leak could have an effect of an "exploding bomb” because previously such information would have been classified and obtaining knowledge of transactions and beneficiaries almost unreal. By various estimates the offshore accounts may hold some 20 trillion USD while the origins of some are pretty shady. At first glance nothing hints on ICIJ report being a covert CIA operation. However, given the close and institutional ties of media with the American intelligence agencies the issue must be viewed as the CIA orchestrated psychological war. By the way, "The New York Times” never denied its close collaboration with the CIA, their ties were considered valuable. The paper and the central intelligence body have a long history of friendship. Thanks to Arthur Sulzberger, paper`s publisher, 10 CIA employees were granted a "cover” in the newspaper from 1950s until 1966a as a part of general policy of the "NYT” – rendering comprehensive assistance to the CIA. Sulzberger was known for his close ties with Allen Dulles.

One senior CIA official that attended some meetings once said: "Level of contact was of the strongman speaking to another one”. "There was an arrangement that we were really going to help each other. Issue of "covers” was discussed several times. Decision was that subordinates would manage the affairs. The leadership did not need the details, it had to be verisimilar”. Undercover CIA employees served as out-of-staff correspondents abroad or clerks in "NYT`s” foreign bureaus. Most of them were Americans along with few foreigners. CIA officials cited two reasons why cooperation with the "New York Times” was closer and more comprehensive compared to others. The paper had the largest network of journalist staff abroad and leadership of both organizations shared close personal relationship.

Thus, CIA`s position in the general system of American propaganda is clearly defined. It is tasked with "black” and "shady” propaganda the diapason of which is quite extensive. Apart from the press office within the CIA itself, clandestine services are charged with mass media related political, psychological and subversive operations.

Z.R.

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