Smearing Snowden and WikiLeaks In The Name Of Anonymous

The WikiLeaks and Snowden smears are getting more disingenuous by the day.

In the latest attack on what is without doubt the most significant media organization in the world—WikiLeaks—a far less consequential publisher—The Daily Kos—has managed to squeeze an entire article out of one Twitter rant by what they describe as a “quasi-official Anonymous Twitter account” – @YourAnonCentral, also known as YAC.

In doing so, The Daily Kos is the latest to demonstrate that there is nothing more intellectually insubstantial than the recent trend of quasi-journalists slapping together an entire quasi-article about someone having had a moan on Twitter.

Poorly-investigated and deficiently-sourced, their article fails to dig any deeper than the surface contents of the singular thread, trusting that it contains sufficient reference points that no one will invest the time or effort to look into the matter any further.

Unfortunately for them, we have.

The 25-tweet diatribe their article is based off can be read here and is dissected tweet by tweet at the bottom of this page. But first, let’s look a little deeper into the opinions and attitudes espoused by @YourAnonCentral, and give you the story that The Daily Kos didn’t.

YAC doesn’t just hate Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. He also has it in for Edward Snowden.

The animosity isn’t restricted to silly memes or playing favorites among whistleblowers. It extends to pronouncements that blatantly violate the basic principles and beliefs of the Anonymous movement.

The idea that an Anonymous account would be openly calling for the prosecution of a whistleblower and advocating that they be subjected to “law and punishment” with “no exceptions” is not only contrary to the ideological premise of the collective, but is frankly extreme in its audacity and hypocrisy.

For an account claiming to be a part of a movement whose members have been aggressively hunted by law enforcement agencies, to advocate throwing a whistleblower to the dogs, is flabbergasting.

But their vitriol doesn’t end there. Since July 2014, YAC has been waging an unrelenting smear campaign against the pillars of the activism community.

Major Anonymous accounts like @AnonymousVideo, tweeting content from Thomas Drake to YAC, go without amplification or acknowledgement.

Other old school Anonymous accounts like @AnonSwedeninfo get acidic responses from YAC…

Or are completely ignored when they attempt to share relevant content with them:

Sputnik News noted the disparity between the positions of @YourAnonNews and YAC, on Snowden:

YAC’s smears against Snowden are completely baseless. Even the most cursory knowledge of his revelations and activity easily dispels them. Take for example, the following tweet:

In their desperation to discredit him and hoping that any mud will stick, Snowden’s detractors routinely contradict each other’s narratives. While some deride him for having spoken out about NSA spying on Chinese university students while still in Hong Kong, YAC audaciously claim that he has never cared about non-US citizens. Yet by the time of their above tweet, in October 2015, Snowden had spoken via video conference in a whole host of non-US countries, about revelations specific to those citizens, including but not limited to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Germany and others.


Of course, if you wanted further proof of how far YAC have been barking up the wrong tree, you need only look at their own historical tweets, which disprove their more recent ones:

Time and time again, YAC stumbles over its own opinion and contradicts its own messaging. For example, they cast aspersions on radical leftists and Russian-based media organisations, despite having a long history of sharing information from precisely those sources.

At various times they accuse Snowden of being both aligned with US government and the Russians. Likewise, with WikiLeaks.

They accused WikiLeaks of being beholden to other foreign governments:

…yet make bizarre attempts to associate WikiLeaks staff with being pro-US government – specifically claiming that they have “ties to the US military and intelligence”:

The attempt to portray WikiLeaks as being an agent of the US military-industrial complex is followed by, three months later, a switch of course to complain that WikiLeaks only exposes US war crimes:

In aggregate, it seems that they don’t care who WikiLeaks or Snowden is or isn’t working for, they are only trying to cause the maximum possible damage to their reputations, as seen by the posting of skewed opinion polls such as the following, which do not provide any dissenting option.

Glenn Greenwald is another frequent victim of attempts to detract from those doing the most significant and visible work to circulate revelations from the Snowden archives.

Accusations that The Intercept has not released enough documents, or with the speed that many would like, are commonplace. However, YAC chose the precise day that Greenwald and The Intercept had just come out with further major revelations, in order to attack them about it. Ultimately serving as a distraction from the information that had just hit the public arena.

Rather than analyzing and amplifying the documents that they claimed to be so eager to see released, YAC just tore chunks out of those doing the actual work instead.

Things didn’t always used to be this way. A trip down memory lane reveals that at a certain point, there was a seismic shift in YAC’s position.

Going back through YAC’s tweets in reverse-chronological order, there was a clear delineation between the original stances of the account, with its reversed positions and open hostility.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the old YAC:

So what happened? How did YAC go from an account covering Occupy-related media and sharing pro-whistleblower content and leaks, in neatly laid out well-sourced tweets, to what appears to be an angry and aggressively anti-Snowden/WikiLeaks admin?

In the course of investigating this story I discovered the below tweet from fellow ex-Occupier and WRC journalist, Cassandra Fairbanks.

Suddenly, it all clicked. The concise news-style presentation of the early YAC tweets is likely attributable to Cassandra’s efforts. I reached out to her and asked for her take on what happened.

We Are Change: Cassandra, the @YourAnonCentral account shared a lot of great work throughout the Occupy movement and had a really effective tweet style with a focus on info-sharing, up until June of 2014. Since then it devolved into what appears to be one person’s endless rant against pillars of the activism world like Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks. Can you tell us how this occurred?”

Cassandra Fairbanks: “That’s about when I left YAC. I had been using it to promote WikiLeaks and Snowden stuff, but we had massive internal disagreements so I quit. The main person running the account was using it as a tool to promote the person they were dating (@georgieBC) who had personal issues with Wikileaks even though she had previously ran WikiLeaks Central, which was essentially a fan site.”

YAC’s anti-Snowden tweets have very little uptake and the threads routinely feature dissenting opinions by readers that are puzzled by the maliciousness on display. Likewise, the malevolent nature of the specific accusations leveled at WikiLeaks by YAC that were picked up by the Daily Kos, did not escape notice.

So let’s break down the 25 YAC tweets, referenced by The Daily Kos in the article “Anonymous Squeals On WikiLeaks and Julian Assange

Tweets 1-2/25: YAC tweets at @Khannoiseur, an anti-Trump, anti-WikiLeaks journalist, that they find his conspiracy theory that Julian Assange is being blackmailed by Putin “fascinating and quite in line with reality” and “would like to touch on the subject, given that we have somewhat of an insight into the matter.

Tweet 3/25: YAC describes Julian Assange as a “fascist ideologue“, without any reference or source.

Tweets 4-5/25: YAC says that the attributes commonly associated with WikiLeaks including supporting “human rights, gov’t transparency, and open government” are “not in line with Assange’s politics”.

YAC then sets about trying to ascribe those qualities to people who have ceased working for WikiLeaks in the past, in an attempt to effectively strip WikiLeaks of its identity.

Tweets 6-7/25: YAC claims that WikiLeaks ability to receive leaks was dependent upon someone who had departed the organization. YAC says “the software developer behind it (leak platform) left the project. We assume he is still writing software.”

The “software developer” in question may be Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who volunteered full-time for WikiLeaks in 2009. In this annotated transcript of the film “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks,” an unauthorized biography by filmmaker Alex Gibney, WikiLeaks points out that

…in 2007 WikiLeaks uncovered billions of dollars’ worth of corruption in Kenya, a leak that made front pages around the world, and is widely viewed to have changed the results of the Kenyan 2007 Presidential Election. In 2008 WikiLeaks defeated the largest private Swiss bank in US courts after revealing its Cayman Islands trusts, costing the bank hundreds of millions as it cancelled its scheduled US IPO. However these leaks pre-date Domscheit-Berg’s substantive involvement.”

If the leaks pre-date Domscheit-Berg’s involvement, the idea that Domscheit-Berg was the sole engineer of the WikiLeaks platform—or so crucial that his departure crippled the technological functioning of the organization—is counter-intuitive. Meaning that in fact, the claims made by YAC in these tweets are demonstrably false.

But in fact, they are worse than merely slanders of WikiLeaks. They are an attempt to form a revisionist history that seeks to raise the profile of someone—Domscheit-Berg—who was not merely a disgruntled former volunteer. He was without doubt, a saboteur.

Here is why I can say that with such confidence: Domscheit-Berg didn’t merely beef with WikiLeaks or Julian Assange. He didn’t merely sell-out by writing a book slamming them and selling the movie rights to Dreamworks. He did much, much worse. By all accounts, he deliberately destroyed evidence of war crimes and other corporate transgressions and withheld documented proof of such that were entrusted to him.

From this open letter by Guatemalan Human Rights lawyer Renata Avila:

I gave WikiLeaks some documents detailing proof of torture and government abuse of a Latin America country. The documents were only in hard copy. I entrusted those valuable documents – the only copy available – to Wikileaks because of the expertise of the people running it, their procedures and the mechanisms they used to maximize impact when published. I did not intend to give such material to Mr. Domscheit-Berg personally, as was made clear to him by me at the time. My intention was to give it to the platform I trusted and contributed to; to WikiLeaks. The material has not been published and I am disturbed to read public statements by Mr. Domscheit-Berg in which he states that he has not returned such documents to WikiLeaks.” – Renata Avila

Avila describes being present at Domscheit-Berg’s home when he was toasting journalist Heather Brooke with champagne. Brooke later stated: ““one of [Assange’s] disaffected colleagues gave me a full set of the US diplomatic cables that Assange was planning to use in his next publication.”

These were, of course, files supplied to WikiLeaks by Chelsea Manning. Of Domscheit-Berg’s attitude towards Manning, Renata Avila notes:

After the arrest of Bradley Manning became public, I asked Mr. Domscheit-Berg how I could help the young soldier, but he did not appear to be interested. He was on holiday. I sent him contact details of human rights workers I thought would be able to support Manning, which he said he forwarded on to someone else. He never followed it up. I was under the impression that he didn’t care or that someone else must have the situation well in hand. It was only after he was suspended from WikiLeaks that he became outspoken about Manning.” – Renata Avila

The comments section on Avila’s post is well worth reading, to begin to understand the full extent of the betrayals by Domscheit-Berg, referred to as DDB.

OpenLeaks, DDB’s project to springboard off WikiLeaks, was a spectacular failure that resulted in his temporary expulsion from the Chaos Computer Club.

Slashdot sums it up:

Then of course, there’s another tiny problem with the theory of DDB being the technical brains behind the WikiLeaks leaks submission platform.

It turns out he wasn’t actually a developer, a programmer, a computer scientist or a software architect. Nor did he invent, design, build or maintain the platform. He just did a really effective job of sabotaging and temporarily compromising it.

WikiLeaks also confirmed that Domscheit-Berg made off with the “internals” of up to 20 neo-Nazi organizations.

Tweets 8-9/25: YAC alleged that WikiLeaks “copied the publish everything leak platform” concept from‘s John Young. Then YAC alleges that Cryptome “left” WikiLeaks but still adheres to the principle. According to Young, Cryptome curate their content and do not simply publish everything. Nor do they guarantee the authenticity of the documents they publish or offer any protection to their sources. According to the Wikipedia page for Cryptome, Young says their organisation does not believe in “context“, “verification, authentication” or “background“. Additionally, unlike WikiLeaks, they have complied with official requests for removal of content.

Cryptome has a long established history of obscuring events related to the security of their website with conflicting statements.

Given the massive disparities between the two organizations, not the least of which is their core modus operandi, it is hard to decipher precisely what it is YAC now accuse WikiLeaks of copying from them. The function of receiving documents? That’s what journalists do. Cryptome might have been an early influence for WikiLeaks but they did not invent journalism.

Of WikiLeaks, Young said in a 2010 interview with The Observer:

So after joining WikiLeaks in 2006, publicly trashing it in 2007, printing its internal communications and then doing mainstream media interviews about the project he had abandoned after discovering years later that it had become successful regardless, John Young is a WikiLeaks “member”, “insider”, “devotee” and “critic”.  Take from that what you will.

This is, of course, the same John Young who claimed to Vocative in July 2014 that Cryptome would be imminently publishing the Snowden documents that had been withheld from the public. He described the leak of the full archive as inevitable. It has yet to eventuate.

Tweets 10-11/25:  These tweets are virtually meaningless. YAC says that WikiLeaks postures itself as anti-war and then attributes that stance to Chelsea Manning. Then anomalously states that Chelsea still holds these beliefs. As if WikiLeaks prior to 2010 wasn’t anti-war, when it clearly was, or as if WikiLeaks is somehow pro-war. The assertion is such a lame duck that it’s not even worth taking the time to debunk. Look at what they were releasing prior to 2010, and what they have since, and the writing is on the wall.

Tweets 12-13/25: YAC’s attempts to insinuate that WikiLeaks is usurping the achievements of others, with a complete lack of context, continues. Swiftly moving on to Iceland, invoking the terms ‘open government‘ and ‘transparency‘ then raising the IMMI (Icelandic Modern Media Initiative), brainchild of Iceland’s Pirate Party leader Birgitta Jonsdottir. What YAC fails to mention is how events in Iceland came to the head that they did. The tide of public dissent that the Pirate Party was able to ride to prominence came about from leaks published by WikiLeaks, exposing gross corruption on the part of Icelandic bankers.

Their supposition that WikiLeaks was not involved in IMMI at a fundamental level is also factually incorrect. In the original video of Birgitta and Julian Assange speaking about IMMI at the 2010 Logan Symposium, the truth couldn’t be any more clear, or any more different than YAC portrayed it.

The reason why I am here is that early this year me and a group of people including WikiLeaks started to work on a proposal for the Icelandic Parliament tasking the Icelandic government to create sort of a reversal ideology of a tax haven, where they pick good legislation around the world to create secrecy, we want to pick the best possible legislation from around the world to create transparency…

…when I heard this idea, originally the idea about IMMI was introduced by Julian Assange and Daniel Schmitt at a conference in Iceland in December last year, where I was also speaking. Coming from a background of being an activist, a journalist and a writer and a pioneer on the internet, I immediately understood the importance of this.” – Birgitta Jonsdottir

The video is well worth the watch so here it is:

Tweets 14-16/25: YAC says that WikiLeaks only “supported human rights, horizontal governance and was a megaphone for those at risk… based on their (@wikileaks) Twitter feed from 2010 to 2012. News tweeted by @Wikileaks then was based on work of @GeorgieBC.” Once again, this is a ridiculous statement. WikiLeaks interest in human rights both pre and post dates Georgie’s admittedly excellent work on @WLCentral, which for a time was a brilliant and regularly lauded contribution to the WikiLeaks platform.

WikiLeaks’ most significant achievement in acting as “a megaphone for those at risk” has been in the establishment and undertakings of the Courage Foundation, which is a unique, groundbreaking organization acting to defend, promote and represent the best interests of some of the world’s most high-risk, high-profile and fiercely persecuted whistleblowers and journalists. Courage was established long after WLCentral was discontinued.

Therefore the idea that their interest in either of the aforementioned principles was somehow bestowed upon them by a departed third party is frankly, disingenuous.

With regards to horizontal governance, it is true that GeorgieBC has done some really innovative, thorough and challenging thinking and writing on that topic and made many proposals through her personal blog and elsewhere. However, YAC is clearly no expert on how WikiLeaks currently operates or is structured behind the scenes.

The proof is in the pudding really and whatever WikiLeaks are doing, they are doing it right. The stats are long since in – they were the most impactful and significant media organisation on social media during the recent U.S. election. They sport an unblemished record of relentless publishing. It is simply sour grapes to deny them the credit they are due for having achieved so much, in such dire and drastic circumstances as having intelligence agencies, particularly those of the West, set against their success and continued livelihood at every turn. Yet they have triumphed regardless.

Tweets 17-18/25: YAC bizarrely suggests that Jeremy Hammond having leaked the GIFiles from Stratfor was the sum total of WikiLeaks work against ‘corporate tyranny’. But their established record of publishing huge leaks on (not to mention confronting in court and winning against) corporates goes back to 2007 and stretches to the current day. As a campaigner against the TPPA I can tell you that WikiLeaks consistent publishing and analysis of the TPPA, TISA and TTIP texts was hugely consequential in helping to grow the movements against those ‘trade’ agreements – which were not trade agreements at all, but corporate coup d’etat undermining national sovereignty for the benefit of the bottom lines of giant transnational conglomerates – and that is just the most recent example. To swing the pendulum all the way back, it was 2007-2008 when WikiLeaks first took on banks and won.

Tweet 19/25: People thought @Wikileaks wanted to support the weak against the powerful. That was , not Julian Assange.” What else is there to do but shake one’s head at this inanity? Compared to the entire might of the Western Empire and its military-industrial complex, WikiLeaks *was* the weak. They are quite literally David vs Goliath and they have delivered time and time again. The false dichotomy between Anonymous and Julian Assange is a deliberate attempt at divide and conquer. The vast majority of Anonymous supports WikiLeaks and Assange and always has. Their genesis is from the same community. They cannot be separated just by someone with a Twitter account who desperately hopes they can be. When Assange’s internet was cut by Ecuador in 2016, what happened? Vast swathes of the connectivity of the East Coast of America (and elsewhere) was taken down in retaliation. No matter how much B.S. YAC circulates to the contrary, YAC cannot break solidarity between hackers just because they wish it were so.

Tweet 20-25/25: Bereft of any actual evidence and not having posted a single source link in the entire 25-tweet diatribe, YAC resorts to ad hominems. Assange is this, Assange is that. It is well known that The WikiLeaks Party was infiltrated, just as its parent organisation had been repeatedly in the past, and then smeared for supporting neo-Nazis, just as Anonymous itself was once smeared as supporting neo-Nazis. Just as Occupy was smeared as supporting neo-Nazis, just as any significant activism movement or group supporting any kind of radical change is hauled into the exact same smear because it is a known tactic of the state to do so. According to YAC, somehow Julian’s support of the First Amendment of the US Constitution is also bad – despite Birgitta Jonsdottir having expressed exactly the same admiration for it in the above video.

None of the people who have ever been involved in @Wikileaks have changed…

Well, the people involved in @YourAnonCentral have definitely changed and it sure as hell wasn’t an improvement.

By Suzie Dawson


We Are Change investigative reporter Suzie Dawson is one of the most accomplished independent New Zealand journalists on the international stage. She specialises in writing about whistleblowers, intelligence agencies and technology.

Proof of Life: Julian Assange Hosts Live Video Reddit AMA To Silence His Critics

Countless bizarre conspiracy theories that Julian Assange was abducted for rendition by the CIA, or is dead, seem to have been finally laid to rest.

In a Reddit Ask-Me-Anything (AMA) on Wednesday, Assange appeared in live video on Twitch, where he answered questions from Reddit users. He also replied to some others via text.

The Assange-is-dead theory is not a new one. Questions as to his whereabouts have arisen periodically, ostensibly circulated by concerned fans. But the larger implications of it casting a shadow of doubt over the integrity of WikiLeaks’ operations is hard to ignore.

Meanwhile, Assange has in fact made several video appearances in recent months, and close friends and family members confirmed having met with him in person.

In a transcript of his AMA answers, Assange addressed exactly this, describing it as ‘social proof‘:

“…in relation to whether I’m alive or kidnapped. If you look at people like John Pilger, for example, long-term friend of mine, runs my defense fund, is a famously brave investigative reporter, my lawyers, close friends, people like Lauri Love, the Ecuadorian government. If you think about the number of people who would actually have to conspire and the amount of work that would have to be done to produce these false images is too many. That’s a social proof.” – Julian Assange

Yet seemingly no standard of proof is sufficient for the most ardent proof-of-life conspiracists, who even today made ridiculous assertions such as that the scarf Assange was wearing was a CGI depiction.

The conspiracy theories being circulated have been described as ‘black propaganda’ designed to undermine the organisation and distract from its work.

WikiLeaks supporters have been equally frustrated by the outlandish theories.

Courage beneficiary Lauri Love has similar advice for supporters:

Here lies the crux of the issue: what Assange is actually being put through always seems to fall by the wayside for the proof-of-lifers who claim to be concerned for him.

For this is the world we live in: one where the world’s most accomplished publisher can be subjected to, as the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled, “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” and all we are supposed to do is sit around on Reddit arguing about whether he is dead or not.

While our heroes suffer in public, the provably corrupt are holding lavish dinner parties, unimpeded.

Reddit is, of course, the famous progeny of another revered figure – The Internet’s Own Boy, Aaron Swartz. While vast swathes of the conjecture that abounds there, particularly since its corporate buy-out, both bore and exasperate, if not outright obfuscate, there is still a few gems:

All jokes aside, Assange is alive, still has refuge, is still working, contributing and surviving to fight another day.

This is one instance where I’m really pleased to be able to say: “I told you so!

By Suzie Dawson

We Are Change investigative reporter Suzie Dawson is one of the most accomplished independent New Zealand journalists on the international stage. She specialises in writing about whistleblowers, intelligence agencies and technology.

Hidden Gems In The Snowden Files: Part Two

In this series we divulge fascinating nuggets of information found hidden within the Snowden files that were not reported by corporate media and are not yet widely known.

In August 2016, The Intercept published it’s second bulk release of files from the Snowden archives, 263 documents from SIDtoday, the newsletter of the Signals Intelligence Directorate of the National Security Agency.

It is an internal publication of bite size proportions, averaging just over a page per article. Predictably upbeat and celebratory in nature, the general themes are news bulletins on:

  • HR: awards, promotions and vacancies
  • Compliance & oversight
  • Theatres of NSA operations and “customers” (other agencies)
  • Employee safety including mental health
  • Events, meetings, trainings and employee profiles

The following is a set of unique findings from analysing the second batch of SIDtoday files.

1. Rather than it being strange, as many suggested, that Snowden moved from CIA to the NSA, the exchange of human resources between the agencies seems common.

In fact, the SIDtoday files lay waste to the theory that the CIA and NSA are in competition with each other, or that they aspire to usurp each other’s roles and resources. The documents consistently depict the agencies working in partnership as the left and right hands of the executive.

One specialises in collecting the information and the other specialises in acting on it.

Multiple documents announce appointments from senior executives on down to analysts moving between one agency and the other. As revealed in the last part of this series, the CIA even gave service awards to over 100 NSA employees.

This document refers to “a retired NSA senior executive with significant CIA experience” and details NSA staff members attending classes at the CIA which the then Director of the CIA participated in.

The tone of the class was set on the first full day of presentations with a discussion led by the Honorable George J. Tenet, DCI.”

2. Bloated overstatement over the historical significance of the Iraq War effort is rife in SIDtoday.

In a document titled “Driving History, the NSA likens its participation in the Iraq War to the cracking of the Enigma code in World War II.

The publication claims that history will see the “role of NSA in the global war on terrorism… in a similar light” to the cryptographic breakthrough that SIDtoday says won World War II for the Allies.

Several documents assert how great it is that ‘democracy’ has been brought to Iraq. Thirteen years on it is clear that the actual historical record on the conflict is a far cry from what the NSA had predicted it would be. The Iraqi ‘theater’ remains, of course, an unmitigated disaster.

3. “Analysts want to see data the way the user saw it“, says one document, explaining the concept of a “native view” of data being viewed in the same environment as the target experienced it, as if through their eyes. It states a need to enhance this view with easy access to analytical tools.

4. Multiple documents in the cache brag about NSA’s contributions to ‘capture-and-kill’ operations in Iraq.

This document in particular states that NSA analysts on the ground in Baghdad “witnessed the importance of ‘translating’ SIGINT for the tactical commanders to help them understand how the SIGINT could serve as the basis for military operations.

It continues: “in the last six months, tactical units have captured, killed, or wounded tens of thousands of insurgent forces in Iraq..

The documents are littered with references to analysts being spread out in various locations around the world and the agency aspires to “evolve into an expeditionary SIGINT force.”

5. Post-Patriot Act Intelligence-sharing hubs known as Fusion Centers have existed on American soil since at least 2006.

If you type “Fusion Center” into Wikipedia, the search result in the drop-down has a blurb which reads: “Fusion Centers are owned and operated by state and local entities. They are not a product of, or under the control of the Federal Government.”

However, this SIDtoday document reveals that there are in fact fusion centres operated by the military, specifically the NSA. There is a specific reference to one being in Baghdad.

More, there is another reference to a mobile Fusion Center being established at the Olympics and partially staffed by an (expeditionary) 8-man NSA team.

This raises hugely significant questions. Such as:

  • Did the very concept of Fusion Centers come from the military?
  • Why does Wikipedia insist in its description of them that Fusion Centres operating on U.S. soil are non-military and not Federal entities if the very concept is from the military, as is a portion of the data?
  • Is this because it is illegal for the military to operate on US soil? If so, are they not in fact participating in the ventures anyway, by feeding them information collected at military facilities by military resources?

6. There is perhaps no greater insight into the psyche of an ‘expeditionary’ NSA staff member than that found within this document. It was authored by a female NSA staffer who was deployed to Iraq:

I’m in the military, we kill people and blow things up. It’s our job.”

7. When friends are enemies and enemies are friends: in the days of Obama’s ‘Pivot To Asia’ it’s hard to imagine that Chinese military officers would be hanging out in the halls of the Pentagon but according to this Snowden document, they were in 2003.

8. Many companies are hesitant to hire spouses or family members of existing employees. The NSA is apparently the opposite. In this document, a second-generation NSA employee tells a story of a co-worker having three parents (mother, father, step-father) and a sibling all working at the agency.

This article is part of a series so keep an eye out for more fascinating insights from the Snowden docs. To read Part One please click here.

This series would not be possible without the obviously immense amount of work invested by staff at The Intercept in preparing the Snowden files for release – you can read their report on the May 2016 SIDtoday files by clicking on this link.

Thanks to the awesome Twitter account @HelpSnowden for creating the header graphic used in this article.

By Suzie Dawson

We Are Change investigative reporter Suzie Dawson is one of the most accomplished independent New Zealand journalists on the international stage. She specialises in writing about whistleblowers, intelligence agencies and technology.

Hidden Gems In The Snowden Files: Part One

In this series we divulge fascinating nuggets of information found hidden within the Snowden files that were not reported by corporate media and are not yet widely known.

Last May, The Intercept published it’s first bulk release of files from the Snowden archives, 166 documents from SIDtoday, the newsletter of the Signals Intelligence Directorate of the National Security Agency.

It is an internal publication of bite size proportions, averaging just over a page per article. Predictably upbeat and celebratory in nature, the general theme is news bulletins on:

  • HR: awards, promotions and vacancies
  • Compliance & oversight
  • Theatres of NSA operations and “customers” (other agencies)
  • Employee safety including mental health
  • Events, meetings, trainings and employee profiles

Some of the reference terms inspire deeper digging. An early but unexplained reference to the ‘Target Office of Primary Interest (TOPI)’ led me to search the term. According to an extremely edifying article on


So these are the people who were famously revealed to have been spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s cellphone, among others.

There are other interesting references that appear in the SIDtoday files, which are from 2003.

The NSA was already perturbed about the consequences of ‘today’s information overload‘, suggesting that analysts already had more data than they knew what to do with. However this doesn’t appear to have put a damper on the ‘Collect It All‘ mentality on display a decade later.

The following is a set of unique findings from analysis of the first batch of SIDtoday files.

1. There is an oblique reference to ‘Transformation 2.0‘ which in the context it is placed in, reads as if it is some kind of NSA strategic directive or change management program.

It is followed by talk of allowing people in other agencies with ‘unique expertise‘ to access data that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to, by having them ‘swim upstream‘.

2. The Director of Central Intelligence gives out Denial and Deception Awards‘. Over 100 NSA employees were on the awards list.

3. As far back as 2003, the U.S. relationship with Turkey was ‘seriously weakened and the U.S. was ‘unlikely to champion Turkey’s cause with Europe‘.

4. The files show an obsession with controlling the flow of information to congressional overseers and adherance to established protocols for responding to requests from them. These seem to be largely budget related. In a document titled ‘SIDs Interactions With Congress: Setting The Budget‘ there is a reference to a 761-page ‘Congressional Budget Justification Book’ for the 2004 fiscal year, and an explanation of budget ‘markups‘.

In a document titled ‘SIDs Interactions With Congress: Communications‘ there is a reference to opportunities ‘to influence the markups‘ in the budget and it is stressed that Congress should hear both ‘good news as well as bad news…from us before they read it in the paper’. Bad news includes power outages that have resulted in degradation of service or security breaches at field stations‘ which in theory means that Congressional overseers learned about the Snowden leaks before reading them in the Washington Post or The Guardian.

5. In ‘Profile: SIGINT Legislative Affairs‘ this is expanded upon. The writer states that the Signals Intelligence Directorate must be ‘proactive with Congress‘ in ‘providing notifications‘ and that the Legislative Affairs office will advise ‘affected offices‘ of any ‘funding impacts‘ and ‘will assist you with preparing reclamas to adverse funding language‘. Reclamas are, to paraphrase Merriam Webster, requests for reconsideration of a policy directive or decision. Use of the term is prevalent within military circles and related organisations.

The document says that all communications with Congressional overseers should adhere to ‘The 5 c’s‘, namely ‘candid, complete, correct, consistent, corporate‘.

6. In ‘Crisis Support For Employees SIDtoday incongruously states in back-to-back sentences that employees can seek help with obtaining weapons training and with potential employee suicides, from the same department.

7. As early as November of 2003, SIDtoday was announcing that ‘elements of‘ the exit strategy for Iraq (referred to in the document as ‘phase IV’) were ‘already underway‘. In the document titled ‘Post-War Iraq Plan‘ key responsibilities mentioned include ‘maintaining domestic security’, ‘watching for efforts to undermine the nascent Iraqi government’, and ‘uncovering war criminals’. These tasks are stated to have been ‘complicated by much broader international participation’.

8. Sometimes it is easy to forget just how far back this type of spying goes. In a document titled SID Support To POW Rescue, particularly, that of Jessica Lynch, there is a reference to SIGINT reporting (on the location of an Iraqi General Hospital) dating back to 1979. Of course, the history of the NSA goes back even further – formally, to 1952 but in its historical forefather was in its earliest incarnation established in 1917.

This article is part of a series so keep an eye out for more fascinating insights from the Snowden docs.

This series would not be possible without the obviously immense amount of work invested by staff at The Intercept in preparing the Snowden files for release – you can read their report on the May 2016 SIDtoday files by clicking on this link.

Thanks to the awesome Twitter account @HelpSnowden for creating the header graphic used in this article.

By Suzie Dawson

We Are Change investigative reporter Suzie Dawson is one of the most accomplished independent New Zealand journalists on the international stage. She specialises in writing about whistleblowers, intelligence agencies and technology.

Say Her Name: Serena Shim, Truth-teller

The mainstream media don’t want you to say Serena Shim’s name.

We live in a world where we are taught deference to money, power and fame. The price of that deference is self-censorship, acquiescence, conformity and therefore complicity.

But there is a breed of people who refuse to sell their humanity for the baubles of power and who instead rise to speak truth to and about it.

Their common characteristics are courage and a willingness to accept personal jeopardy and sacrifice in the service of others and of the greater good.

We call them by many names: whistleblowers, journalists, activists, visionaries, pioneers.


It is said that every truth goes through four stages. At first it is ignored. Then it is ridiculed. Then it is vehemently opposed but ultimately it is accepted.

No truth-teller better exemplifies this progression than the American journalist Serena Shim.

The once controversial truths that cost Serena her life are now accepted as common knowledge by the very mainstream media who refused to embrace them or support her when she was risking her life in service to her profession and to the world.

The loss of Serena is impossible to quantify. The personal cost to her family who lost their sister, daughter, mother is horrendous but the cost to humankind is also profound.

Truth-tellers are the guardians of democracy. When we sit by idly as we lose them, it is to the detriment of ourselves.

Serena’s story has inspired a new generation of journalists all around the world: in this way, she continues to serve.

Although Serena has been stolen from us, countless others are rising to take her place.

This time, we must protect them.

This time, we must speak with them.

Two years on from Shim’s untimely death, the pain is still fresh and the wound of her passing still open.

This has been exacerbated by the mountain of disinformation swirling around Serena’s final days, the failure of the American government to acknowledge her killing, their refusal to investigate it and the official disregard for her family’s attempts to achieve justice for Serena.

Our of respect for the significance of her work, Serena has been honoured in the Arab American National Museum, which is affiliated with the Smithsonian. However, there has been a general academic neglect of her case by organisations that are supposed to protect and advocate for journalists as well as an almost blanket silence among the corporate US mainstream media.

The rare exception has been two articles by Fox News; one in 2014 and a follow-up this year.

Early coverage by Press TV and Russia Today, who had references to Shim’s killing in a number of their shows, and who also queried the State Department directly at a White House briefing, have been unsuccessful in securing any meaningful response from the US government.

The injustice has led thousands of people the world over to attempt to investigate her death, themselves.

Many alternative and independent media outlets have also picked up the torch.

This publication has repeatedly looked into the case, and Luke Rudkowski’s video about Serena Shim has had over 600,000 views.

As public awareness of Serena Shim continues to grow, the day may yet come where she achieves the acknowledgement and accolades that she deserves for her commitment to truth and her sacrifice.

This week I had the honour of interviewing Serena Shim’s mother, Judith Poe.

I asked about what the grassroots efforts and initiative of people on social media have meant to her family; about Serena’s legacy and what they are really hoping to achieve going forward. We also talked about the ever-changing geopolitical situation in Turkey, how life is for people who are still on the ground there and what justice could really look like, in the case of the political murder of Serena Shim.

Judith, you are the mother of a heroic truth-teller and OpSerenaShim has really lionised your daughter’s courage and her life. How does it feel to know that people all over the world look up to Serena?

It should be a given that she should take her place in history. The world should look up to her as she was a role model for women and children and had more strength than most that I know. Hopefully the next generation of journalism will have her integrity as the current status quo does not. To me that’s not something we should have had to fight for. It should have been headlines throughout the world. It should have been known.

Serena made a conscious decision to become a journalist. She used journalism as her vehicle to help people. Just because Serena was on assignment for PressTV, the establishment portrayed the truth she reported – that a US & Nato ally was arming, funding and providing sanctuary to ISIS – as a conspiracy theory. Recently it has become well established fact. If she hadn’t been with PressTV the truth never would have become known. The mainstream media covering up the circumstances of her death is indicative of precisely why she worked with PressTV. She had the smarts, the looks, the presence, she could have gone anywhere. But she knew that the mainstream outlets would not report the truth. She often complained that editors were editing the truth and in fact hiding the truth, across the board.

We knew her whole life that the world would one day come to know her, that she would make a difference in the world. We had thought she would enter government but she bulldozed into journalism when she realised that was her vehicle to do good for the people – to be the voice of the people.

In what ways have you seen the movement to seek justice for Serena Shim grow, since her passing?

Everything about the movement to bring awareness to Serena’s work, to her life, to her murder is through Anonymous. All credit goes to Anonymous. Even the reporters that have done reports about her, did that as a result of Anonymous bringing her story to light. There is more awareness of her murder now than when she was murdered. I get more contacts now of condolences, from people who never realised prior who she was or why she was murdered. I probably get 20 condolences a day of people saying “I just heard, I just realised…” I get contacted by freelance journalists and independent media. We get a lot of people in the States and a lot of support from Christians and from Jewish people who feel deeply impacted by Serena’s life.

What are the specific objectives that you would like to achieve with the campaign?

For her work to continue. While we would like her murderers to be brought to justice, Operation Serena Shim is a movement and it is not solely directed at finding out who killed her because I believe that there are many nations that have blood on their hands. It’s for other journalists to have the integrity that she had – to realise that you have to speak the truth although sometimes there are consequences and yes, she paid the ultimate price.

Turkey just seems crazy now. In 2012 there were over 100 journalists in prison there – the number now may be into the thousands. What is the key contributing factor to the decline in press freedoms in Turkey?

Now it’s worse, but even in 2012 Serena Shim reported that Turkey was the biggest prison camp for journalists. In my opinion we’re not waiting for World War III, we’re in World War III. War is business and business is good. The world is at war. This is not just a Middle Eastern problem. That’s what everyone is focusing on, but this is a global war.

Do you think the past treatment of journalists was a direct enabler of the purges of civil society that are now occurring there?

Yes, because we allowed it to happen so it has only escalated.

What is the general feeling among Serena’s friends and colleagues? In what ways were their lives affected by her death?

Serena’s story was considered taboo amongst journalists. Fear turns journalists into sheep. There were some exceptions. It has been said that Lebanese journalist Helen Thomas knocked on the door and Serena Shim picked up the torch and ran with it. Now Helen Thomas is looking directly at Serena Shim in the Arab American Museum – two American journalists from Detroit.

There has been a ton of disinformation circulated about Serena’s death – much of it by those who are likely responsible for it. What are the key myths surrounding her passing that you would like cleared up?

There is no truth period as to how she died. She did not die in the car accident and they were not hit by a cement truck. Serena’s driver sustained only a broken nose from the airbag and has stated that it was an 18-wheeler that ran them down.

What can those reading this article do to honour the life of Serena Shim?

Do your duty for humanity the same as she did. We’re at war, do your part. How is it going to end? When is the evil going to end? How did we reach a point where there is more evil than good in the world? How did we reach a point where the fear is so instilled in the masses that they have become dysfunctional and blinded? You can only play deaf, blind and stupid for so long.

I’m a firm believer that the self-induced coma is something that people have to come out of themselves. It’s the fear that has been instilled in people that has got us to this point. Speak out even if you are scared. Even though there are reasons to be scared. If we didn’t do things because we were scared, none of us would do anything! There wouldn’t even be the few of us that do a little something! People are controlled by fear. Knowledge is power. I don’t want to give a lot of cliches but we shouldn’t have to fear repercussions for telling the truth. We shouldn’t fear speaking out or becoming whistleblowers.

The story of Serena Shim’s life is a book as yet unwritten, a feature film as yet unscreened. It is impossible for me to present the full picture in this format, or do justice to it.

Serena is the voice of conscience sitting on the shoulder of every real journalist. Fortifying our courage at every turn.

We can each only do justice to her story, by living our own.

By digging deep and when it really counts, finding that little piece of Serena in all of us.

By Suzie Dawson

To support the effort to spread awareness about Serena, read and amplify the information shared on #SerenaShim, #AnonIntelGroup and @OperationSerena.

We Are Change investigative reporter Suzie Dawson is one of the most accomplished independent New Zealand journalists on the international stage. She specialises in writing about whistleblowers, intelligence agencies and technology.

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