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Snowden: An exercise in disinformation

SEE ASLOOur Man In Iceland: ‘Snowden was bound for Reykjavik’

21st Century Wire

Over the past week, many have embraced Edward Snowden as a ‘hero’, including a vast majority of people who purport to be in the ‘alternative media’ – all of whom would usually question what the mainstream news corporations present to them.

Numerous questions and concerns have been raised, albeit by a vocal minority, about the reality of what Snowden represents. Those who would usually be the ones to join this vocal minority in search for real answers, namely the aforementioned majority of alternative media personalities, appear to have been duped into jumping onto the latest staged bandwagon hero, along with large numbers of a naïve general public.

Edward Snowden’s leaks and scandals can be explained as a highly sophisticated, disinformation project of the highest order. Disinformation being defined as false information deliberately, and covertly, spread in order to influence public opinion (Merriam-Webster, 2013).

Historian Dr. Webster Tarpley (2013) has already noted that in 1620 a Venetian intelligence official recommended ‘saying something good about a person or institution while pretending to say something bad’. Tarpley provides the example of ‘criticizing a bloody dictator for beating his dog – the real dimensions of his crimes are thus totally underplayed’. So, we should be against the bloody dictator beating his dog, but ought to be more concerned with the more substantial crimes the ‘bloody dictator’ is known for. The scandals provided by Snowden are of an equivalent standard to the example of the dictator beating a dog. While we should be against unwarranted spying, this new scandal looks to distract us from the greater, and significantly more important, context of global affairs that are currently focused on Syria.

Snowden can be described here as an actor in a ‘limited hangout’ operation. Limited hangouts are described as when an intelligence agency resorts ‘to admitting, sometimes even volunteering, some of the truth while still managing to withhold the key and damaging facts in the case’ (Marchetti, 1978). This coincides with the first of Tarpley’s (2013) three conceptual identifiers for a limited hangout operation – the revelation of little information that is actually new. Simply put, Snowden has told us that the NSA is spying on emails and telephone calls (Drury and Robinson, 2013), along with revelations that international super powers spy on one another (Chen, 2013). While this may be shocking to some, these revelations can hardly be detailed as ‘new’ or ‘ground-breaking’. Snowden has simply provided a name, PRISM, for what has already been understood to be going on for some time. This is somewhat similar to how Julian Assange of Wikileaks rose to fame after providing the graphic video for an already acknowledged incident. These new slivers of information can, however, be particularly impactful as Marchetti (1978) notes, ‘the public is usually so intrigued by the new information that it never thinks to pursue the matter further’. Not pursuing Snowden further may have disastrous consequences for world peace and security.

For the press, it all makes perfect sense on the surface, and the surface is where the press operates. A deeper look, however, reveals the full picture…

The second conceptual identifier Tarpley (2013) provides for recognising a limited hangout operation is that the actors involved, Snowden and Assange for example, will become ‘instant media darlings’. A naïve view would suggest that this occurs due to the magnitude of information the person is presenting. Reality would show that when providing a critique of controversial issues that truly matter to the ‘Wall Street centered US ruling class’ (Tarpley, 2013), such a 9/11, that these critics are slandered, attacked and denigrated. It is also interesting to note that these limited hangout actors have themselves participated in the attacking of 9/11 truth activists. Assange has provided the most scolding attack stating ‘I’m constantly annoyed that people are distracted by false conspiracies such as 9/11’ (Bell, 2010). Glenn Greenwald, who brought Snowden forward, is not interested in veering from the official 9/11 story and instead focuses on ‘blowback’ being the cause of terrorism (Greenwald, 2013). Norman Solomon, a former U.S. State Department asset who is now supporting Snowden, ‘was notorious ten years ago as a determined enemy of 9/11 truth’ (Tarpley, 2013). The magnitude of the 9/11 issue is reflected in the authoritative status of those who question the official story such as: Andreas von Bülow, the former secretary of state for the German Federal Ministry of Defence, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former president of Iran. It must be asked why these ‘whistle-blowers’ seem so vehemently opposed to the issue of questioning the biggest elephant in the room per say – 9/11, and why they never have any new information to reveal regarding the event. They all appear to agree with the establishment, that they proclaim to be fighting against, on what is arguable the most important and controversial event in recent history; which provides much cause for concern.

These concerns are somewhat amplified when the characteristics of Snowden are looked at in detail. Naomi Wolf (2013) has stated that during his interview he looked like ‘someone who had learned his talking points’ and his message promoted fears that an oppressive government would want to instil in other would-be whistle-blowers; such as the idea that you will lose everything by standing up against it, in effect, demonstrating the omnipotent capacity of said government. Doubts have also been raised about whether Snowden had the ability to wiretap the president and shut down the NSA in a few hours, as he has claimed (Rappoport, 2013). These claims might be attributed to Snowden’s apparent narcissistic tendencies, most evident in modelling photographs and an online biography of his that have now been published (Reilly, 2013). Snowden is known to have enlisted in the U.S. Army in May 2004 where he wanted to fight for freedom in a Special Forces unit. Tarpley (2013) states that this ‘shift from militarist to civil libertarian remains unexplained and highly suspicious’, a conclusion that is substantiated by the other added character concerns.

One can also judge a man by the company he keeps and in Snowden’s case that means Wikileaks (Shane and Savage, 2013). Before shooting into mainstream fame, Wikileaks received an endorsement from Cass Sunstein suggesting that ‘they have immense potential’ (Sunstein, 2007). This should be of immediate concern to anyone looking for legitimacy in leaked information, as Sunstein is the author of a 2008 paper where he advocated the ‘main policy idea’ and ‘promising tactic’ of using ‘cognitive infiltration’ to disrupt and break up ‘ideological and epistemological complexes’ that investigate and promote anti-government conspiracy theories. He notes that ‘direct government rebuttals…will prove ineffective’ and therefore external government ‘allies’ will need to be used (Sunstein, 2008). Assange appears to fit perfectly into the role of an external government ‘ally’. His attack on 9/11 conspiracy theories, as documented earlier, appears to be an example of Sunstein’s ‘cognitive infiltration’ tactic in action as the information he ‘leaks’ looks to distract from greater areas of inquiry. Now that the organization is said to be working with Snowden, more questions of his legitimacy are inevitably raised. It’s also worth noting that the founder of Cryptome and mentor of Assange, John Young, denounced Wikileaks in 2007 as a CIA front (Tarpley, 2013).

Tarpley’s third and final identifier for a limited hangout operation is when they are used to prepare large covert operations, which in the case of Snowden would be to advance an attack on Syria. This is evident from a number of key points. The first being that Snowden’s initial revelations came on the same day that Qusayr, a crucial rebel stronghold, fell to the Syrian army; enraging British and French imperialist warmongers. Here we must remember the critical contextual point that Obama has refrained from an all out attack on Syria; something that those in London and Paris have been pushing for heavily over the past few months. Snowden’s revelations triggered what Tarpley (2013) described as ‘a firestorm of criticism’ specifically aimed at Obama. The London Guardian does not only publish the new ‘scandal’ that caused this uproar, but they also like to point out how it is causing damage to Obama by putting his approval rating at ‘its lowest point since last November’s election’ and has caused a ‘collapse in trust’ (Enten, 2013). Attacking Obama pushes him to a point where he must conform to the will of the establishment, to attack Syria outright, or be ousted.

For further evidence of The Guardian’s push for war in Syria, we can find an article titled ‘A Political Ploy: The Guardian Editors Swallow US Claims On Syrian WMD’ (Edwards, 2013). It documents the stunning comments from Guardian editors including: ‘that use (of Chemical Weapons) is an outrage and is against international agreements. It adds to the charge sheet against the Assad regime’. The article’s author states that these are ‘among the most shocking comments we have ever seen in the Guardian’, that they ‘endorse the latest claims on Syria’ and that ‘the Guardian editors are on-message, on-side and boosting war propaganda’. We can now understand why The Guardian would use Snowden to attack Obama as a means to fulfil the agenda, which they support, of a more open war against Syria.

IMAGE: The international press campaign against the Assad regime is currently in its second year.

It is possible to provide a real world example for another limited hangout operation that has prepared similar attacks by looking to none other than Wikileaks. As an organisation, they have never destroyed the career of a British, American or Israeli politician, but instead a laundry list of people that ‘bears a striking resemblance to the CIA enemies’ list’ (Tarpley, 2013). Their attack against Assad of Syria, through a somewhat pathetic email-sex scandal (Taher and Slater, 2012), should make it immediately clear whose interests they represent: the same ones who also control the direction of The Guardian. With both The Guardian and Wikileaks supporting Snowden, we can almost be certain of whose interests he too represents: those who are aiming for war. Therefore, the armies of dupes currently attacking Obama for what Snowden has revealed, many of who should know better, are in actual fact facilitating the establishment’s agenda for a wider war in Syria by weakening the anti-open war president.

While this is in no way seeks to aggrandise or apologise for Obama, the fact that he has not initiated a wider war in Syria must be recognised as a positive policy direction. We can see a similar direction during the attack on Libya where Obama officials refused to call the attack a ‘war’, they instead insisted on calling it ‘kinetic military action’ (York, 2011). To add to this anti-open war course, Obama’s actions against Iran do not include bombing runs and tactical nuclear strikes, but instead, methods of economic warfare that look to make Iran’s currency, the Rial, useless (Klimasinska and Katz, 2013). Articles are now emerging stating that ‘Obama needs to act now on Syria’ from those who clearly understand what Snowden represents: the manufactured opportunity to fulfil the agenda of war with Syria. They state that ‘lives have been lost, and battlefield gains the insurgents enjoyed six months ago have been squandered’ thanks to Obama not acting sooner (Doran and O’Hanlon, 2013). Are we really going to allow this new limited hangout operation to bring us into another war?

It is disappointing that so many are unable to understand the complexities of the disinformation, and limited hangout capacity, that Snowden symbolizes. But what is more worrying is the fact that many should simply know better when it comes to such matters. What is particularly interesting is how it was broadcast that Ed Snowden had been a supporter of, and donor to, libertarian Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign. The use of the name ‘Ron Paul’ appears to be an indispensable tool for ensnaring the support of the libertarian audience, an audience that is substantial in both physical size and influence particularly in the alternative media. Do libertarians have an almost childlike trust in anyone who supports Ron Paul? Would they allow this to blind themselves from the reality of a situation? It appears so, and also that the cunning minds behind the Snowden limited hangout are well aware of this. To what degree could this phenomenon be truly exploited? This is surely the question on the minds of those with nefarious intentions for future disinformation and limited hangout campaigns.

While we must be against warrantless spying, we must recognise the wider global context in which such scandals are presented to us. Remember the analogy of the brutal dictator beating the dog. This new limited hangout operation must be exposed as such in order to alleviate pressure on Obama, who is evidently attempting to maintain his Peace-Prize-Winner image. Hopefully, that can reverse the current trend of forcing both him, and the world, into yet another unnecessary conflict. Snowden is, at best, a fool who was deceived into his current position. At worst, he may be said to be a double agent who is fully aware of the wider consequences of his ‘leaks’. Interestingly enough, Snowden recently came out and stated that Britain’s ‘GCHQ (the NSA of the UK) is worse than the US’ (McDermott, 2013). Is this an attempt to shake the claims that Snowden is in fact a British sponsored limited hangout agent? Possibly. It would appear, therefore, as if we are on the right track. Following this line of enquiry may not only pull us away from war, but also remove many people from a state of what can currently only be termed as terminal naïveté or gullibility.


Bell, M. (2010) ‘Wanted by the CIA: Julian Assange – Wikileaks founder’ in Belfast Telegraph: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/features/wanted-by-the-cia-julian-assange-wikileaks-founder-28548843.html

Chen, T. (2013) ‘Snowden Alleges U.S. Hacking in China’ in The Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324577904578562483284884530.html

Doran, M. and O’Hanlon, M. (2013) ‘Obama needs to act now on Syria: Column’ in USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/06/23/michael-doran-and-michael-ohanlon-on-syria-column/2450419/

Drury, I. and Robinson, M. (2013) ‘US senators demand ‘traitor’ NSA whistleblower be extradited from Hong Kong to face trial in America after he reveals why he exposed online spy scandal’ in Daily Mail Online: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2338534/Edward-Snowden-speaks-NSA-contractor-leaked-details-surveillance-scheme-reveals-himself.html

Edwards, D. (2013) ‘A Political Ploy’? The Guardian Editors Swallow US Claims On Syrian WMD’ in Global Research: http://www.globalresearch.ca/a-political-ploy-the-guardian-editors-swallow-us-claims-on-syrian-wmd/5339614

Enten, H. J. (2013) ‘Obama’s approval takes a hit over NSA leaks’ in The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/19/obama-approval-hit-nsa-leaks

Greenwald, G. (2013) ‘Andrew Sullivan, terrorism, and the art of distortion’ in The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/25/andrew-sullivan-distortion-terrorism-woolwich

Klimasinska, K. and Katz, I. (2013) ‘Useless Rial Is U.S. Goal in New Iran Sanctions, Treasury Says’ in Bloomberg: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-06-06/useless-rial-is-u-s-goal-in-new-iran-sanctions-treasury-says.html

Marchetti, V. (1978) The Spotlight

McDermott, K. (2013) ‘’GCHQ is worse than US’, says whistleblower Edward Snowden as he claims British spies are collecting huge amounts of data from internet and phone calls’ in Daily Mail Online: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2346310/GCHQ-worse-US-says-whistleblower-Edward-Snowden-claims-British-spies-collecting-huge-amounts-data-internet-phone-calls.html

Merriam-Webster (2013) ‘Disinformation’ in Merriam-Webster: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disinformation

Rappoport, J. (2013) ‘NSA scandal: the deepest secret of the Ed Snowden operation’ in Jon Rappoport’s Blog: http://jonrappoport.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/nsa-scandal-the-deepest-secret-of-the-ed-snowden-operation/

Reilly, J. (2013) ‘Whistleblower Edward Snowden smuggled out secrets with an everyday thumb drive banned from NSA offices’ in Daily Mail Online: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2341451/Whistleblower-Edward-Snowden-smuggled-secrets-everyday-thumb-drive-banned-NSA-offices.html

Shane, S. and Savage, C. (2013) ‘WikiLeaks Says It Is Working to Negotiate Asylum in Iceland for Snowden’ in The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/20/world/europe/wikileaks-says-it-is-working-to-negotiate-asylum-in-iceland-for-snowden.html?_r=2&

Sunstein, C. (2007) ‘A Brave New Wikiworld’ in Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/23/AR2007022301596.html

Sunstein, C and Vermeule, A. (2008) ‘Conspiracy Theories’ in Harvard University Law School
Public Law & Legal Theory Research Paper Series

Taher, A. and Slater, R. (2012) ‘Assad’s mystery woman who ‘loves him’ is getting PhD from top UK university thanks to Syrian despot’s sponsorship, leaked emails reveal’ in Daily Mail Online: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2170368/Wikileaks-Emails-reveal-Assad-mystery-woman-UK-university.html

Tarpley, W. G. (2013) ‘How to identify CIA limited hangout op?’ in Press TV: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/06/18/309609/how-to-identify-cia-limited-hangout-op/

Wolf, N. (2013) ‘My Creeping Concern that the NSA Leaker Edward Snowden is not who he Purports to be…’ in Global Research: http://www.globalresearch.ca/my-creeping-concern-that-the-nsa-leaker-edward-snowden-is-not-who-he-purports-to-be/5339161

York, B. (2011) ‘White House: Libya Fight is Not War, It’s Kinetic Military Action’ in Fox News: http://nation.foxnews.com/libya-war/2011/03/23/white-house-libya-fight-not-war-its-kinetic-military-action



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