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Paul Hair is a national security expert and an author. He writes under his own name and as a ghostwriter. Connect with him at http://www.liberateliberty.com/. Contact him at paul@liberateliberty.com.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Snowden, Greenwald, and Media Mislead on the Intelligence Community and Virtual Worlds

The cover page of a brief on IARPA interest in virtual worlds.
IARPA published this brief on its website, open for
public inspection by anyone who cares to view it.
Editor’s Note: The author of this SCI article bases his assessments off the general premises of the legacy media articles (i.e. that virtual worlds interest the IC). He has not read the government documents that the media outlets have published since those documents remain classified by the U.S. government. The author also has no knowledge of the veracity of the particular details or allegations that the media articles discuss and he does not address them in any way. His article is based solely on the fact that the government has long openly acknowledged its interest in virtual worlds and he questions why the media, tech industry, and gamers have not previously raised concern about this.

Virtual worlds interest the Intelligence Community (IC). That’s the news coming from the latest leak of classified material that’s part of the Russian-backed subversion and espionage operation that Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, and the Media continue conducting against the U.S.

But this “news” isn’t news at all.

The New York Times, ProPublica, and The Guardian published their latest stories as if they were revealing to the world that virtual worlds interest the IC. They failed to make clear that the IC has long acknowledged the basic (and unclassified) information regarding its interest in virtual worlds.

The online version of WIRED published, “U.S. Spies Want to Find Terrorists in World of Warcraft,” during February 2008. WIRED published its story based on unclassified information that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) published about its data mining activity. A version of that data mining report remains available on the ODNI website.

Furthermore, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA—a component of the ODNI) explicitly acknowledges its interest in virtual worlds with an entire program about it. The program and related documents are readily available to everyone. The specific program is called, “Reynard,” and one of the documents is a 50-page, “Reynard Proposers Day,” PDF that provides a wealth of information.

Page 6 of a brief on IARPA interest in virtual worlds.
IARPA published this brief on its website, open for
public inspection by anyone who cares to view it.
The ProPublica article was the only one of the three to note this. However, the author’s article only noted it in the fourth-to-last paragraph of his article—and only by way of a link to the Reynard program on the IARPA website. The text of the ProPublica article does not explicitly mention the Reynard program and anyone reading it without clicking on the link likely would infer that ProPublica is referring to a classified piece of material when the author writes about it.

The New York Times article repeats the same ProPublica paragraph in its article but does not link to the Reynard program, leaving the reader without any indication that the referenced material is unclassified information long disclosed by the IC.

The Guardian article makes no mention that the IC has long acknowledged its interest in virtual worlds.

(It is possible that one or more of the news agencies included the unclassified information elsewhere—including with the cache of classified documents they released which this author did not read. However, the articles should have made clear that the IC has long revealed the basics of its interest in virtual worlds.

Debate will continue over the proper role of the IC in the nation and what activities are both appropriate and worthwhile. But it remains to be seen if anyone will question why there hasn’t been such a strong level of concern over the IC and virtual worlds long before now since the IC has long made the basic (and unclassified) information publicly available.

It also remains to be seen if politicians, pundits, bloggers, private citizens, alternative media outlets, the tech industry, and gamers will begin to examine the motives and veracity of Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, and the Media as they continue conducting a Russian-backed subversion and espionage campaign against the U.S.

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