By George Eliason, an American journalist living in Ukraine.
Have you ever wanted to put somebody on a no-fly list because they were black, white, Christian, Muslim, liberal or conservative. Maybe because they believed in fundamentalist family values, or claimed black lives matter, or cops lives matter? Or maybe just because you just felt like it for your own reasons?
Come on, you know you’ve always wanted to put Sarah Palin supporters, Obama policy supporters, John McCain, or human rights activists on terrorist support lists so they can be investigated.
Have you written your opinion on anything in a comment, facebook post, tweet, liked something or shared anything on the internet over the last 14+ years?
It’s not a joke, you are on somebody’s list and as soon as you become a potential cash cow, you are going on all the lists they can get you on. It’s part of how they get paid.
The other part of how they earn their income directly correlates to how much of your life they can destroy. In literal terms:
- Get you fired from your job
- Get your bank to close your accounts
- Harass your employer, family, and friends, church, synagogue, or mosque
- Put you on terrorist investigation lists and no Fly lists
- Ruin your reputation
The best part is you will never know they were there. If this sounds like tin-foil hat conspiracy talk, tell that to the thousands of people in America and around the world that this has been done to over the last 14 years.
If you live in the US, Canada, Europe, or anywhere with an internet connection this isn’t a possible threat you could face, it’s the reality you live in.
Freelancing Hate for Hire
In the wake of 9/11 a new industry emerged that quickly developed into personal NSA-style intrusive stalkers. These are people with no background in intelligence, law, law enforcement, or security. They aren’t connected to any State or agency like the FBI, CIA, or NSA.
Early on after September 11th, 2001 these people quickly became aware of what is known as OSINT (Open Source Intelligence) tools. They use different software and programs that data mine information exhaustively. They are not the designers of the various software. Their claim to fame is turning that software on to look at you and hack your life.
Freelancers work for whoever will hire them and early in the last decade they found plenty of work hunting potential terrorists. Even though law enforcement rarely agrees with their assessments, the freelancers still have to deliver the terrorists to get paid.
Many of them started circumventing the law and taking due process away from US and EU citizens in the name of the War on Terror at the behest of foreign governments, people, PACs, or companies that hired them.
Between 2002 and 2011, just one of these operators did everything listed above to thousands of US citizens after the FBI stated categorically that the people on his lists were not terrorists. They were US citizens expressing their 1st Amendment Rights under the Constitution, writing comments, in forums, articles, and of course, social sharing including Facebook likes.
This needs to be understood against the backdrop that the OSINT industry including ethical- hacking is both good and necessary. Much of the most invasive software developed was supposed to alarm people how easy it had become for anyone to stalk, track, or destroy their lives.
Some of the new software was designed to give the 99% recourse because the laws governing this are gray or nonexistent and protections aren’t there. Because this goes way beyond the Snowden disclosures, perhaps we should have listened.
Pride and Prejudice
Before going further it is necessary to address both pride and prejudice as being central to the reason that these things are going on. In a democracy of any form the only thing that makes it work is equal law. The purpose of this article isn’t to debate why the Twin Towers fell or who did it. It certainly isn’t to justify any reason or cause of terrorism.
Because societies allowed legal and gray area precedence to be set based on prejudice, all of us fell victim to the precedence of law and lack of law we set. Society has gone beyond Orwell’s 1984. Historians will look back on the time Western societies resembled “The Trial” by Josef Kafka.
Weisburd’s victims were never formally accused. Now we aren’t. They were never provided evidence of their guilt. Now no one is. They were never able to face their accusers. We didn’t know they even exist. Now we are always guilty because of prejudice built through media manipulation. And we always agree because we are never told the guilty party is us.
Guilt by the loosest associations was enough and is enough today. We are not being tried by recognized courts. If it was the government out to get us we would at least have some veneer of legal protections. We are being tried by freelancers that get paid to hate us.
The Guardian made the point in November 2014 with “Our choice isn’t between a world where either the good guys spy or the bad guys spy. It’s a choice of everybody gets to spy or nobody gets to spy.” So said the security luminary Bruce Schneier at BBC Future’s World-Changing Ideas Summit in October…With so many cheap or free tools out there, it is easy for anyone to set up their own NSA-esque operations and collect all this data. Though breaching systems and taking data without authorisation is against the law, it is possible to do a decent amount of surveillance entirely legally using open-source intelligence (OSINT) tools.”
From 2003 until present, the story of this one OSINT practitioner shows how quickly the jump from citizen activist to private intel operator could morph into an online campaign that dwarfs Joseph McCarthy’s Anti-American Activities Committee activities in scope.
According to powerbase.info Andrew Aaron Weisburd started the Society for Internet Research (will be important in a later article) and www.internethaganah.com after the attack on the Twin Towers and as a reaction to the 2000 Camp David Accords when Yasser Arafat rejected the agreement. The website had the taglines “Online Counter-Insurgency,” “Confronting Islamist terrorists and their supporters online” and “Defending Israel and the Jewish people.”
Within a short period of time, he started collaborating with Israeli retired Colonel Reuven Erlich and the Israeli Intelligence and Information Center. More than likely it was through him that Weisburd was initially immersed in real OSINT tools.
After starting in 2002, Weisburd was already gaining media attention as early as January 2003. With no prior education and only a few months of web trolling experience, he was already touted as an expert by regional and national media.
Looked at progressively, the articles which were written like promotional pieces give very damning warnings from law enforcement, security, and the national intelligence community that the situation described above was very likely already starting. Weisburd very proudly admits that is how he operates. During this period, Weisburd spent his time at politically radical Islamic websites and forums looking for terrorists. The most famous catch he was almost known for is “Irhabi 007.” The terrorist was caught, tried, and sentenced in spite of Weisburd, rather than with his help. If you don’t provide real evidence police can’t do anything.
The most important development was that Weisburd was perfecting the use of specific tools that are now his trademark. In his own words during media interviews he started using Al Qaeda’s methods and tactics. Weisburd geo-locates people he decides are terrorists and then destroys them.
In January 2003 the Chicago Tribune wrote an article that shows the early methods Weisburd adopted. Weisburd stated that www.internethaganah was made up of US and Israeli counter-terrorism and internet experts. He would later backtrack from this.
The featured website he dismantled supposedly belonged to Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian terrorist group. According to the article “The group is the latest target of Internet Haganah, which, according to Weisburd, has helped shut down 65 terrorism-related Web sites in the U.S. and overseas by contacting government officials and firms like Hostway.” Hostway, a large internet provider almost immediately shut the website down.
The problem with this in the age after 9/11 is that the US government was very active hunting terrorists at home and if the claim was true within that time frame the FBI should have jumped on the information. When the journalists contacted the FBI for their take on the site the response was “The site is not illegal in any way [nor does it condone] illegal activity,” said FBI spokesman Frank Bochte in Chicago. “We cannot be the Orwellian thought police. If it is mere words and nothing beyond that, there’s nothing we can do.“
What was the overwhelming proof of supporting terror in the article? “It talks about the “Zionist” rope over American leaders and lists 45 Jews in top positions of U.S. government. A photo gallery features the burning of the American flag, and one section is called “Know Your Enemy.”
Internet Haganah’s original banner stated it all. The new terrorist hunter definition included anyone that spoke against Israel, for Palestinians rights, or a two State solution.
By April, 2004 Weisburd claimed he had taken down 420 Jihadist websites by targeting the internet service providers in “Politics: Activists Crusade Against E-Jihad.” Note that it isn’t in conjunction or assisting any law enforcement investigations.
In 2005 he clarified who and what his experts and expertise was in a Washington Post article. According to the article- Weisburd said he and his supporters are responsible for dismantling at least 650 and as many as 1,000 sites he regards as threatening, especially Islamic radical sites.
“I’m sort of like a freelance investigator,” Weisburd said. Like the foes they pursue, online crusaders like Weisburd are adept at using the Internet’s unique characteristics — its anonymity, speed and ability to reach across nation-state boundaries. Some work alone and in secret; others like Weisburd have managed to put together well-organized operations that run almost like companies. Their causes can vary widely, be it stopping spam or holding large corporations accountable for poor products or service. There are groups that investigate murders and those that fight terrorism and other crimes.
The activists often operate at the boundaries of what is legal and illegal. For his part, Weisburd insists that he uses only legal means to go after his targets. A posting on his site explains that in fighting crime he does not think it proper to commit one, but he admits he cannot always control the actions of those who help him.”
At this point, Weisburd had a few thousand like minded followers working with him. When you consider that there are thousands of operators like him the damage they can do goes exponential.
In the UK, a partner of Weisburd’s Glen Jenvey also shares the same mentor. Jenvey fabricated stories in media about terror plots, falsified and planted evidence, falsified testimony of “terrorist activity” by using online sock puppets, hacking accounts and posting as the account owner, as well as setting up entrapment scams. Is it a wonder law enforcement and intelligence agencies look down on them?
In the same Washington Post article that lionizes him “Weisburd said an analyst from a federal agency recently wrote him a scathing letter calling him a “grave threat to national security” because his work was interfering with its investigations.
Marshall Stone, a spokesman for the FBI, said that while the agency encourages citizens to report alleged wrongdoing, it believes any attempt to stop criminals should be left to the government…Without due process, evidence could be tainted and become unusable in court cases or, worse, targets could be condemned as guilty when they are really innocent, said Paul Kurtz, executive director of the Cyber Security Industry Alliance, a coalition of tech company chief executives. “When we all become ‘law enforcement officers’ justice becomes very blurry,” he said…
Weisburd quickly listed the discovery in his daily log of offensive and dangerous sites, alerting his supporters. A few days later, Ekhlaas experienced an unusual surge in activity, the hallmark of a hacker attack, forcing the company hosting the site to take it down…In one case, Weisburd identified an Atlanta-based Web provider that appeared to be hosting a site that advocated attacks against the United States and its Western allies. The provider, however, seemed to be ignoring requests to remove it. So some Weisburd supporters figured out which church the owner went to and got his personal cell phone number and began lobbying him non-stop until he took down the site.”
Even with expert opinion from an Intelligence agency, the FBI, and the director of the Cyber Security Alliance pointing at the problems “operators” like this were causing law abiding citizens and complicating real intelligence work freelancers like this found an open field to work in.
In a 2007 CNN interview he further clarified his methodology“Aaron Weisburd, founder of Internet Haganah and director of the Society for Internet Research, is a fighter on the frontline in this new type of warfare. Weisburd, who works out of his Carbondale, Illinois home, describes his organization as a “global non-governmental ad-hoc intelligence network” which he’s modeled after al Qaeda’s network.”
Who were and are the dangerous terrorists Aaron Weisburd targets? Should we thank him?
During the period of 2002-2005 Weisburd and his associates learned their craft on Indymedia websites. Indy Media started out as a news service providing grass roots coverage of the Seattle WTO protests in 1999 and describes itself as “The Independent Media Center is a network of collectively run media outlets for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate tellings of the truth. We work out of a love and inspiration for people who continue to work for a better world, despite corporate media’s distortions and unwillingness to cover the efforts to free humanity.”
Indy Media is a loose collection of local political activists, journalists, and human rights activists with locations around the US and abroad. They are not Al Qaeda, IGIL, Azov, or any other recognizable terrorist-related groups.
According to these activists that later built local chapters of the “Occupy Movement”-“Weisburd has not merely “dismantled” websites. He has harassed individuals engaged in perfectly legal online dissent, threatened their family members, harassed their employers, and harassed their web hosts. He regularly uses lies, disinformation and threats to accomplish these goals. Weisburd decides what is “threatening.” He considers all effective dissent threatening. Many of Weisburd’s “foes” are innocent Americans exercising their right to free speech. Making any kind of equivalence between these innocent Americans and Weisburd is absurd. In fact, Weisburd is the biggest menace to the Internet.”
“…As well, they did NOT stay within the PUBLIC boundaries of what Mr. Weisburd claimed on his website are their procedures. Joel Dutterman of Erie, PA who owned a company we were hosted with has been threatened over one hundred times in one weekend when Weisburd called for Mr. Dutterman to be “pressured” to stop hosting us. He said that he did not wish to die and was threatened with death and told he was violating the law by hosting us. He said that at no time did any branch of Law Enforcement contact him. It was all people calling him and threatening his life and safety over the weekend…”
Even this statement is supported by the CNN article. Weisburd states coldly that if he thinks you are helping Al Qaeda he will report you to associates that “may or may not be law enforcement. While he won’t hurt you, if you don’t go quietly, they might.
Weisburd is the creator of Internet Haganah, a self-proclaimed “global open-source intelligence network dedicated to confronting Internet use by Islamist terrorist organizations, their supporters, enablers and apologists.” In other words, he’s an Internet vigilante… His group either contacts the Internet Service Providers that may be unwittingly hosting sites connected to terrorist organizations or simply posts the offending URLs on Internet Haganah (haganah.org.il)–and trusts that their thousands of Net-savvy readers will use less civil tactics, like denial of service attack (a massive flood of Web traffic designed to overwhelm a Web site) to oust terror sites from the Web.
How long does it take him to vett a suspect? How long did the decision take to ruin the lives of US, UK, and EU citizens? In the 2005 interview with the Washington Post Weisburd stated even though he doesn’t speak Arabic, it only takes a few words or images to determine a particular website needs to be taken down. “I understand enough of what they say to know they are my enemy, and that’s all I need to know,” Weisburd said.”
Weisburd’s progression shows that he has consistently scaled up his operation. Starting with dismantling a few dozen websites in the beginning, within a short amount of time he was dismantling hundreds of peoples lives. That over time became thousands of people’s lives.
How many thousands or tens of thousands has Weisburd’s group put on terrorism-related lists? How many employers didn’t want to be called “terrorist supporters” for having workers that had opinions this freelancer’s employers didn’t like? How many people will never know why all those things happened to them?
Today Weisburd and associated groups are targeting over 200,000 in America alone. Part 2 of this article series will show who the freelancers are targeting, why, and how they are doing this. If you have an opinion about anything, they are targeting YOU.