Privatized intelligence operations have become a favored practice of the U.S. and other Western governments, but the tactics of so-called spies for hire are often unethical and possibly illegal
Decades ago, philosopher Marshall McLuhan predicted a future world war fought using information. While World War I and World War II were waged using armies and mobilized economies, “World War III [will be] a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation,” McLuhan said, a prophecy included in his 1970 book of reflections, Culture Is Our Business.
We are now seeing this information war play out in real time. Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s indictment on Friday of 13 Russian nationals who allegedly attempted to “sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election” can be seen as the culmination of the intelligence community’s efforts to ferret out trolls engaging in “Information Operations” against the United States. But in some cases, this may be the product of the West’s own Information Operations – often utilizing private “intelligence” companies, or “spies for hire.”
In parts one and two of this series, we looked at the private companies serving the deep state. We have seen how the top levels of the deep state interact with smaller companies and individual actors.
This is the world the predators that the government helped create and sustains through contract work thrive in.
Unlawful Combatants in the Hybrid War
Unmasking the shadowy PropOrNot outfit was a small part of showing how immoral people are using gray areas in the law to harass law-abiding citizens and strip them of their rights, income, and right to a free press through McCarthyite smear tactics. Because they haven’t been challenged, they have no problem crossing the line into criminality.
What alternative media outlets that have been attacked by criminal groups like PropOrNot don’t know is there are laws and policies in place that protect civilians, journalists, and publications.
What is needed to stop the criminal actions of the Russian troll hunters is to demand current laws are enforced and that Congress closes up the remaining gray areas of law and policy spies for hire are exploiting to destroy lives.
As you read this, understand there are no caveats. What’s needed is for people who are willing to stand up for themselves and each other to do so. Legal action is what’s needed. If Congress won’t provide more protections or the laws that are in place won’t be upheld, lawsuits are the first line of defense against this onslaught. Violence will only insulate the criminals from responsibility for their crimes.
Read more by George Eliason
- Outsourcing Intel: How Intel-for-Hire Undermines U.S. Intelligence
- The New Threat Posed by Privatizing America’s Intelligence Agencies
- Putting Names to the Shadowy Figures Behind 2017’s Biggest Fake News Story
When spies for hire attack civilians or suppress their free speech rights by mounting Information Operations against civilians, they are crossing the line into illegality.
In part two, inherently governmental actions were defined as governing, policing, policy, military activity, and intelligence work. This was further defined as activities requiring government personnel to be legitimate. When any of these activities are done extra-legally, the protections given civilians and government authorities under the law are stripped too.
According to the Federal Register, “[i]t is the responsibility of the combatant commander to ensure that the private security contract mission statements do not authorize the performance of any inherently Governmental military functions, such as preemptive attacks, or any other types of attacks. Otherwise, civilians who accompany the U.S. Armed Forces lose their law of war protections from direct attack if and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities.”
In terms of international law, guidelines in this area are set out by the Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare, which was prepared by an international group of experts on behalf of NATO. This document spells out:
- Cyber and online operations responsibility
- Cyber and online authority
- Cyber and online restrictions
- Legalities, legal limits, and defines terrorist operations by laying the groundwork for legal action
According to Rule 26.9 of the Tallinn Manual, “Virtual Online communities and people expressing opinions do not qualify as combatants.”
It is important to note that cyber and online operations are both parts of this in the definitions of legal and illegal target choices. The manual defines lawful and unlawful combatants by what they are doing or attempting to do as well as their official authority to do so.
Tallinn Manual rules that are applicable to the spies for hire attacking civilians were designed to set rules for official military actions. The reason for their applicability in this situation is simple. When unlawful combatants attack civilians, civilians have the right to defend themselves and their properties. Civilians also have a right to restitution for damages.
Rule 30 of the Tallinn Manual defines a cyber attack as a non-kinetic attack reasonably expected to cause damage or death to persons resulting from the attack. If the attacker mistakenly calls civilians lawful targets, the attack on civilians still occurred. It is a crime. This is an important consideration considering how interconnected the internet has made people.
The only part that requires further definition is the word damage. People’s ability to make income can be damaged. Reputations can be irrevocably damaged.
Tallinn Manual Rule 33 states: “If there is doubt to the status of a person, that person is to be considered a civilian and not targetable.”
This is very important going forward. It shifts the burden of responsibility to the attacker for any damages done to people. If the attacker cannot meet the legal definition of status and show governmental authorization, then it is unlawful.
According to Rule 35.5, “Gathering information for the military makes you a combatant. Journalists are prohibited targets. Once an attack is made, the retribution is legal and does not necessarily need to be in kind. A cyber attack can be met with conventional weapons.”
Rule 35.5 means that all the corporations, companies, and “one man intel operations” working outside the direct oversight of Blue Badge ODNI agency supervisors against civilians are acting as terrorists.
Rule 41 describes cyber weapons broadly as the means to carry out cyber war by use, or intended use of cyber “munitions” designed to cause damage, destruction, or death to its targets. The breadth of the rule is required because of the wide array of possible attacks through cyber means.
Spies for hire can use the software legally on U.S. citizens that may have to be labeled munitions when they export it to client states that also use it on U.S. citizens labeled “Russian trolls.” Pentagon contractors are developing lethal cyber weapons. Do you think only the military will have access to it under the current laws?
Thinking the Unthinkable
First, let’s establish that it’s common for spies for hire to assume they can take on inherently government authority and powers. Andrew Weisburd started working with the Ukrainian government publicly in January 2015, just as they announced their IO army and Myrotvorets (PeaceKeeper) which bore his signature Russian troll hunter methodology early on. Myrotvorets will become important later in the article.
According to Weisburd‘s February 26, 2015 definition of what he is doing: “I‘m just trying to do my part to help make bad things happen to bad people who are in the service of the Kremlin. And for the record, I’m not an army of one. I’m more like a one-man intelligence service.”
Weisburd’s statement and his actions over the last two decades put him squarely in the realm of unlawful combatant. But does he know what he is doing is illegal?
How about Bellingcat’s principal, Eliot Higgins, or Joel Harding?
Joel Harding developed Ukraine’s official Information Policy in 2015. He developed a cyber containment strategy for Russian media that has to be the most effective ever mounted. Crowd the Russian media out of the world’s mainstream and keep them talking amongst themselves while social media, internet, and TV news barriers were being erected to control the news and information Ukrainians see and think about.
Because of this Russians have been kept from influencing Ukrainian media, news, or people through social media this entire time.
What do people like Joel Harding, Andrew Weisburd, Clint Watts, or Eliot Higgins think about your rights? Your worth?
As Harding once wrote in regards to a question about the world’s billion-plus Muslims who do not condone violence, “The vast majority of peaceful people are irrelevant because they did not influence or stop those who committed those acts of atrocity.”
It is this type of absolutist, black-and-white thinking, which dismisses the “the vast majority of peaceful people” as “irrelevant,” that we are dealing with in the spies-for-hire community.
Spies for hire assume authority that falls under inherently government responsibilities. They consider most of the population to be insignificant, which is why they have no problems turning Americans into “Russian agents” and line items on their invoice.
Once you’ve made it on to their radar, you might find yourself receiving threatening messages such as this one that I received from Joel Harding:
“It’s been fun following you!” he wrote. “I hope you’re having fun in Donbas. So sorry NovoRossiya is being dissolved. http://toinformistoinfluence.com/2014/10/12/novorossiya-fail/
I’ve been looking forward to you publishing some more articles. But I’m curious, two months and nothing? Did you change names?”
He continued: “I know your bandwidth there is limited, this is probably costing you many Russian rubles. Oh yeah, I hear they don’t take Ukrainian Hryvnia. The good news is that Luhansk and Donetsk will both remain with Ukraine, Russia can’t afford it.”
“By the time you return to the West, I should be in Kyiv, waiting for you,” he concluded. “You have a date with the SBU.”
The SBU is the Security Service of Ukraine, the main law-enforcement agency in the area of counterintelligence activity, which has been implicated in torture.
Harding, like every other person working for the Ukrainian government that is attacking U.S. and Western journalists, websites, and readers who leave comments on social media are not the volunteers or “concerned citizens” they claim to be.
This is important to establish because according to the Tallinn Manual, being volunteers excludes you from responsibility for some aspects of an illegal combatant activity.
If Harding never received a penny from the Ukrainian government directly (he was hired), he was still paid through the company he advertises on his website. He used to have a contact form that bragged about how they would destroy your corporate competition using these means and that they were state to state capable.
Harding helped NATO STRATCOM Centres of Excellence (COE) Latvia off the ground at the same time he was helping set up the Ukrainian Information Ministry. He wrote Ukraine’s Information Policy in 2015-2016. Harding’s IOTA Global, which offers services in “PsyOps, Media Operations, Key Leader Engagement and CIMIC as well as Operational Planning, Target Audience Analysis and Measurement of Effect” according to its LinkedIn profile, announced they were working with both STRATCOM COE and the Ukrainian government. If you look at the comments, the COE leadership appear to be gushing with emotion.
“We are delighted to have been working with the NATO Centre of Excellence for Strategic Communication, Latvia, (2015) in delivering capacity building training, in Kiev, to representatives from the Ukrainian government. Ukraine is faced with a number of challenging issues, not least the ongoing territorial dispute with Russia,” according to one comment. “IOTA Global and its partner company, SCL Ltd, were contracted by the Canadian Government earlier this year to assist the NATO COE in its vital work. This included the delivery of a 9-week intensive Target Audience Analysis course, using the Behavioural Dynamics Institute (BDi) advanced TAA methodology (TAA), to train 20 students from 11 NATO nations.”
This is important because, for the last three years, Harding has been working to destroy news and websites that disturb his narrative building and information operations. GlobalResearch.ca has been an ongoing focus for him and the other unlawful combatants named here the entire time.
Joel Harding harnessed practitioners, companies, countries, and NATO in his fight to take down GlobalResearch.ca
“GlobalResearch.ca,” Harding wrote on his blog. “Remember that name, put it on your ‘bad’ list and spread the word. They are despicable, vile, the opposite of journalists.”
According to the Globe and Mail, NATO Center of Excellence for Strategic Communication, Latvia is going after GlobalResearch.ca and their reasoning parrots Joel Harding’s.
“At its headquarters in Riga, StratCom researchers consider globalresearch.ca to be a link in a network that reposts such stories,” according to the Globe and Mail article. Donara Barojan, who does digital forensic research for the NATO COE claimed that Global Research uses techniques to boost stories’ Google ranking “and create the illusion of multisource verification.” She admitted though that they do not have proof that Global Research is connected to any government.
This focus and constant barrage have taken its toll on www.globalresearch.ca because the same people who are attacking them are trusted fact check sources for Google, which affects the site’s ranking.
This is a clear-cut case of unlawful combatants steering the ship at NATO to settle imagined grievances. Spies for hire committing illegal actions are also teaching NATO, DOD, ODNI agencies, and foreign counterparts how to go about their business. They are giving them the criteria to find enemies and engage them.
On its own, or with other websites, Global Research has the ability to counter this with a lawsuit. The apparent attack by NATO COE, Latvia is at the instigation of Joel Harding. A lawsuit could include him, Andrew Weisburd, Clint Watts, Hamilton 68 Dashboard, Bellingcat, the Canadian government, as well as others involved including NATO and every country with a part in the NATO Center of Excellence.
Spies for Hire Attack Teenagers
Are terrorists allowed to put American kids on their kill lists? If they are, watch out! Are your kids are next?
Joel Harding wrote the information policy for Ukraine. Myrotvorets is what it led to right away. This is the first product of the information policy, Ukraine’s infamous kill site. Ukraine maintains the right to kill anyone on listed on it, anywhere in the world, any time they choose to. And the Ukrainians use this to find and murder people who talk, post article links in social media, or write articles they don’t like.
Andrew Weisburd started his kremlintrolls.com website at the same time Myrotvorets came online. He taught the Ukrainians how to catch entire networks so they could be put on the list.
Eliot Higgins and Aric Toler of Bellingcat taught the Ukrainians to find the people in the networks that are on the kill list at Myrotvorets.
Ronnie Miller was 17 years old when he was put on this list. He’s never been to Ukraine before. Three out of four of these unlawful combatants are Americans working for a foreign country that is attacking Americans in the United States!
Miller was interviewed by a couple websites about this. Curiously, it never reached the mainstream news. One question out of Ronnie Miller’s interview with Donbass News Agency particularly stands out:
DONi: Do you feel safe in your own nation expressing your views about Donbass?
Ronnie Miller: This nation of mine preaches for freedom of the press, information, and the ability to formulate an opinion. What I support isn’t a threat to National Security. What Islamic extremists preach, is. I don’t feel safe, nor threatened. It is most definite that I am being watched or on a list of some sort. However, I am in no threat of being taken away or bribed to stay quiet.
It sounds like Ronnie Miller didn’t skip civics class and is expecting his government to honor Constitutional protections.
Instead of protecting its citizens, the U.S. government is sending weapons and instructors to the government that is putting American citizens on kill lists.
Ron Miller should consider a lawsuit against the illegal spies for hire who put him – whether directly or indirectly – on a kill list with a foreign government.
Here’s a fun fact. If you are out driving a car without insurance in a state that requires it and you get hit- it is still your fault. You weren’t supposed to be there. The spies for hire are not supposed to be able to call American kids “terrorists.” Since the UWC and UCCA both fund Myrotvorets through donations and supplied the nationalist ideology that wants to kill 17-year-old Americans, they could be sued too.
Previously, we discussed the method of operation that is used, which is staying within the developed narrative of “Russia will attack! Russia is attacking! Russia has attacked!”
What happens when spies for hire fall out of the narrative or need to get rid of each other? There is only so much of the pie to go around.
The images above and below are proof that the methodology behind the Hamilton 68 Dashboard – which purports to track Kremlin propaganda online – is severely flawed. The decidedly anti-Kremlin Bellingcat was flagged by Hamilton 68 as pro-Kremlin, indicating amusing levels of information fratricide among Bellingcat principals and Andrew Weisburd, Clint Watts, J.M. Berger, and Michael Chertoff.
Weisburd knows he needs to clear it up, try to get the egg off his face now that he’s been exposed publicly, and get the story back on point.
Eliot Higgins’ claim to fame was pronouncing Syria’s president Assad guilty of gassing his own people. The U.S. government that wants to oust Assad can’t use his story, however, because it has no facts to back it up. The U.S. government’s official position is that there is no proof.
The screenshot above is mindblowing to me. Andrew Weisburd once again admitting that his Russians aren’t Russian at all. He’s trying to cover up for his Hamilton 68 Dashboard only set on catching tweets from a few accounts that aren’t even trolls.
Both Weisburd and Higgins (a British national) agree that award-winning journalist Vannessa Beeley, who reports from Syria for 21st Century Wire must be stopped before:
- She destroys their narrative. They cannot prove Assad used gas on the Syrian people. But if she is allowed to continue, the proofs from Syria that she is providing might go mainstream soon. Beeley has been at the forefront of the story showing the ties between the White Hats and ISIS.
- She might influence policy people around American president Donald Trump and change Syria policy.
What is clear is Andrew Weisburd will try to bring this up to congressional representatives who listen to him and further destroy civil rights and the First Amendment. Eliot Higgins cannot survive being wrong about the on the ground realities in regions he is supposed to be an expert on for too much longer.
The spies for hire are purposing an Information Operation to rope in U.S. policy at the executive level and rescue Donald Trump and the State Department from any facts that might get in the way of their narrative. Left to their own, they may succeed.
Vannessa Beeley’s reputation as a journalist and ability to gain access to do her work and disseminate the reports she does depends on her credibility. People who are trying to usurp the authority of government are declaring her to be an Information Operations agent. This is beyond slander.
The U.S. federal government could not get away with doing this – literally working to get a journalist censored.
However, spies for hire like Clint Watts, Andrew Weisburd, Jonathon Morgan, JM Berger, the Hamilton 68 Dashboard, the German Marshall Fund of the USA, The Alliance for Securing Democracy, Michael Chertoff, Eliot Higgins, Aric Toler, Bellingcat, The DFR Lab, Atlantic Council, UWC, and the UCCA can be enlisted to brand Vanessa Beeley as a traitor to the United Kingdom and a foreign agent.
Yet, these are all in violation of Tallinn Rule 33 and 35A which prohibit targeting people you can’t identify clearly and attacking journalists. Targeting Beeley is a criminal act on their part.
Once again the spies for hire have usurped government powers illegally.
If you look at Weisburd’s @webradius Russian Influence Spy Ring, it is populated by tens of thousands of people living in the United States who voted against Hillary Clinton.
This is what spies for hire do for partisan politics, money, or the company they work for. For some, nothing more than their own warped sense of satisfaction watching another human beings life twist in the wind. Many are ultra-nationalist and if you don’t agree with them, you will be made an enemy of the state. Malignant parts of the deep state getting out of hand.
I’ve given people that play in the private sector, government, and policy a lot of exposure because they attack innocent people, journalists, and news and opinion websites.
From 2015, “Peppy Escobar and Steven Lendman are both “active measures” agents for writing about John Kerry, the State Department, RT bashing, and of course Ukraine. Blog Talk Radio host Dr. Rick Staggenborg both a veteran and peace activist is labeled a Russian propagandist.
Professor Michel Chossudovsky and every journalist and activist who publishes at GlobalResearch.ca is on the the list including Paul Craig Roberts and Robert Parry, who are considered Russian active measures agents in the Ukraine war and every “agendized news event” they write on. Tyler Durden, connected writers, and journalists are Russian propagandists. Deena Stryker, an editor at OpEdNews is noted because of her PressTV interview for saying the US is engaged in a propaganda war.
All conspiracies aside it wouldn’t feel right without adding Alex Jones and Michael Rivero. Harding developed what seems to be a fixation about Jones and company a few years back. It’s not that he hates Jones’ news sites any more than the others, but it is personal. Joel Harding’s favorite nephew rates Jones take on international events as more credible than what Harding has to say.
After writing my 5th or 6th article about what Weisburd, Watts, and Harding were doing, Harding and his growing work group were considering what to do about me. The friend he mentions is Andrew Weisburd who I had just exposed planning to attack a major opinion site.
“I still engage with Pro-Russian Trolls on a daily basis,” Harding wrote on his blog in November 2015. “I’ve had reporters write bad stories about me on Russian Proxy ‘News’ sites. I currently have a vehemently rabid anti-Western, especially anti-American, troll trying to smear a group of Russian troll chasers I work with. He also published several stories blaming us for all his woes.”
He continued: “The difference is I have been professionally trained on how to mess up somebody’s life, permanently and forever. Yeah, we were trained in Special Forces more on weapons, explosives, communications, intelligence, operations, tactics, and medicine, but being trained in Unconventional Warfare does give one an advantage when one desires to get nasty.”
Imagine being so brazen you could publish that threat on a public website. Andreas Umland, who is supposed to be a leading academic, didn’t think it was wrong to republish that threat on my life on his own blog.
The intelligence community cannot police itself anymore. It is out of control. If you don’t see a clear and present danger it’s because you are part of the problem that needs to be cleaned up.
My goal as a journalist is and has always been to ensure that the facts get out from Donbass. I think I’ve done that and will continue to do so. I am a firm believer that only the facts and realities of a situation can help. If you know the facts about what is going on in Lugansk People’s Republic (LNR) and Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) you won’t support the deviant and murderous Ukrainian Nationalist politic that Andreas Umland does. Unless of course, you think it’s okay to murder 17-year-old Americans, destroy freedom, justice, and the free press. And perhaps like Umland, you think it’s okay to murder me.
My goal is to do my part and help America re-establish her commitment to justice for all the people, law, and civility. I hope I’m doing that. But don’t get up and react for me. If you don’t do it for you, there is no future left to worry about.
Top Photo | Christiaan Colen/flickr)
George Eliason is an American journalist that lives and works in Donbass. He has been interviewed by and provided analysis for RT, the BBC, and Press-TV. His articles have been published in the Security Assistance Monitor, Washingtons Blog, OpedNews, the Saker, RT, Global Research, and RINF, and the Greanville Post among others. He has been cited and republished by various academic blogs including Defending History, Michael Hudson, SWEDHR, Counterpunch, the Justice Integrity Project, among others.