There are a few Twitter accounts that are, generally speaking, always good for some provocative discourse that I keep up with regularly. Of these handfuls of accounts, I include that of former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor turned eternal man on the run Edward Snowden.
Known for blasting NSA secrets wide open and then bouncing in a seemingly never-ending effort to evade decades of jail time here in the United States, Mr. Snowden now enjoys the hospitality of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who recently approved his citizenship. Being on the run has not stopped this thorn in the intelligence community’s side from poking intrigue on the Twittersphere.
Recently he unearthed and dusted off an old video from the 1980s of former CIA officer Frank Snepp. What could be so interesting in this interview? Let’s find out.
The entire thing is much longer, but *entirely* worth the watch. The government sued Snepp in a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled intelligence workers had to submit any statement for censorship, even those unrelated to secrets.https://t.co/FHruDGp2lH
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) November 7, 2022
We live in a world where political parties and mainstream media outlets like to scream about how the other side is peddling disinformation and misinformation. It turns out the Central Intelligence Agency has been operating in the disinformation space for decades.
Frank Snepp was a CIA officer during the Vietnam War and was one of the last members to be evacuated from Saigon. Mr. Snepp had authored a book that entailed some of the non-secret work he had done while with the CIA titled ‘Decent Interval,’ which ruffled the feathers of those in the Agency.
His subsequent interview post-publication largely surrounded his role in Vietnam. As we learn in this interview, one of his many jobs was to get journalists to publish disinformation. He explains how there would be various reasons to plant disinformation in mainstream media at the time, including persuading Congress to provide or approve more aid to support the war effort.
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Perhaps the most interesting part of the interview is his explanation of how he would convince journalists to publish these “half-truths,” as he called them.
"I am, as an ex-CIA agent, opposed to the disinformation activities in which I was involved. I admit that I was involved, and I think it served no useful purpose. Propagandizing the American public or Congress is not the CIA's job."
—Frank Snepp https://t.co/shyAKE8SJt
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) November 8, 2022
It wasn’t as easy as just going up to a journalist and telling them to publish some shenanigans; knowingly publishing something false was a career-ending move back in those days, at least getting caught doing it, that is. So Mr. Snepp would have to “target” respected journalists of major outlets and build a relationship.
It would start by socializing with them and gaining their confidence by first providing them with some actual truths to publish. Then, once it was established that he was a ‘trusted source,’ he could begin sprinkling some possibly ‘non-true data’ otherwise known as disinformation, hoping it would get published.
All to influence American foreign policy. When asked how successful he was at getting disinformation planted into news stories, Mr. Snepp estimated he had a 70% to 80% success rate.
The question that I found the most interesting was when he was asked which outlets could be trusted to have factual reporting versus his disinformation. The answer was any journalist who didn’t rely on the CIA or the government for their information.
The problem is that now most of those journalists don’t belong to the mainstream media outlets but to small independent outlets like this one or are citizen reporters.
1983: CIA Officer Frank Snepp Discusses circulating disinformation (Fake News) In Major Newspapers.
This has intensified with the advent of Big Tech.
This methodology was first effectively used by the Nazis in WWII and adopted by western agencies.pic.twitter.com/eKkNfgDSNG
— Arun Pudur 🇮🇳 (@arunpudur) November 8, 2022
So as I hinted at, there was a bit of drama regarding publishing Mr. Snepp’s book. The CIA and the United States government were very upset that some of these embarrassing, albeit not secret, facts were out for the American people to ingest.
Naturally, they took Mr. Snepp to court, and the case made it to the highest court in the land. But, unlike the Pentagon Papers, which for those of you that are hazy on your history, was a report regarding the justification for U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War that was leaked to the New York Times and published, Mr. Snepp lost his case.
These institutions broke Watergate, the Pentagon Papers and many other stories.
I don’t recall them saying that releasing the Nixon tapes or the underlying paper would “bolster conspiracy theories.” pic.twitter.com/hrAbxqsRYg
— stevemur (@stevemur) November 8, 2022
The Supreme Court ruled regarding the Pentagon Papers that the New York Times was cleared of wrongdoing because they were protected under the free speech and free press clause. However, that same court did not side with Mr. Snepp.
Instead, they declared that he should have submitted his book to the U.S. government for review even though no secrets were published in the book. This decision has made it so that every government employee must submit any public writings to the U.S. government for pre-censorship.
As Mr. Snepp says in the interview, “One of the victims of the Vietnam War was the First Amendment.”
They Wrote the Book
So why does an interview from my birth year, 1983, have any relevance today in 2022? Because the point that Mr. Snowden is trying to make is that the same government that claims to be trying to protect us from disinformation has been peddling disinformation and perfecting its skill for decades.
They literally wrote a manual on how to master the art of disinformation in the government titled ‘Strategical Psychological Warfare’ published shortly after World War II. So if you think they aren’t using this unique weapon today, think again.
When former President Donald Trump first started his spat with the famed intelligence agency, even Senator Chuck Schumer admitted that this was probably a terrible idea telling Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, saying “you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you…”
Apparently, even if you are the duly elected leader of the ‘free’ world. Journalist Alan MacLeod earlier this year lamented on Facebook’s employment of ex-CIA employees to be in charge of content moderation, arguing “It might be great to have security from Chinese hackers or Iranian bloggers, but it’s not security from the enormous agencies in Washington, who of course are trying to influence the internet as well.”
So who do we believe if we can’t trust our own government and mainstream media? That’s really up to you, dear reader.
Do you continue to believe everything you read or see by ‘trusted journalists,’ or do you start questioning the story and expanding your sources?
Now is the time to support and share the sources you trust.
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