Pentagon program hunts those who ‘embarrass’ its generals: Intercept
The Intercept reports how a special unit in the Pentagon is responsible for protecting high-ranking officers' reputations on social media.
According to documents obtained by The Intercept and released Saturday, a secret team of the Pentagon is now entrusted with defending its high-ranking officers not just from assassination and other bodily injury, but also from unfavorable representations on social media.
The Intercept reports that a dedicated team in the Pentagon is in charge of preserving and defending high-ranking officers' reputations on social media.
While the US Army Protective Services Battalion is responsible for overseeing protection regarding "assassination, kidnapping, injury, or embarrassment," documents show that this now includes surveilling social media for "direct, indirect, and veiled" threats, as well as pinpointing "negative sentiment" about officials like the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley.
The program is described as “a reliable social media threat mitigation service” with an “Open-Source Web-based toolkit with advanced capabilities to collect publicly available information (PAI).”
Information is not only gathered from Twitter's "firehose" but also from 4Chan, Reddit, YouTube, VK, Discord, Telegram, and more.
The information is also acquired from private contractors like Dataminr, as well as smartphone apps and advertisers.
This would be combined with accurate cellular location data for near-exact pinpointing of the locations of those who make comments as simple as disparaging tweets about current and former officials.
The Intercept adds that the complete information dump - including CCTV feeds, radio stations, personal records, and even webcams - would be available via a "universal search selector."
The paper highlighted the requirement for a two-way stream, requiring the contractor to preserve the "anonymity and security needed" by "using various egress points globally to mask their identity."
Additionally, SEWP Solutions LLC was given the contract for being the only business capable of "tunnel[ing] into specific countries/cities like Moscow, Russia or Beijing, China and come out on a host nation internet domain.”
The procurement document states that it does not want the Pentagon to advertise its interest in violating the online and perhaps physical privacy of persons it considers risks to the reputation of retired and current generals. It is labeled "Controlled Unclassified Information"/FEDCON, indicating that it is not intended for public viewing.
The disclosure that the national security state is seeking even more invasive capabilities has enraged privacy activists.
According to Ilia Siatitsia of Privacy International, “Expressing ‘positive or negative sentiment towards a senior high-risk individual’ cannot be deemed sufficient grounds for government agencies to conduct surveillance operations, even going as far as ‘pinpointing the exact locations of individuals."
"The ability to express opinions, criticize, make assumptions, or form value judgments – especially regarding public officials – is a quintessential part of a democratic society," Siatitsa told The Intercept.