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A Scoop That Was Not a Scoop: The ‘Spying on Gamers’ Story Is Old News

Posted on | December 11, 2013 | 20 Comments

You perhaps saw the headlines:

Spies Infiltrate a Fantasy Realm of Online Games
New York Times

Xbox Live among game services targeted
by US and UK spy agencies

The Guardian

World of Spycraft: NSA and CIA Spied in Online Games
Pro Publica

Don’t believe the Greenwald/Snowden media fanboy hype, says Paul Hair at The Security and Culture Intelligencer:

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 TimesProPublica, 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.

How is it that a program which was first reported by Wired more than five years ago should suddenly be treated as front-page news?

Many of my blogger friends on the Right have joined the media’s breathless enthusiasm for Edward Snowden’s leaks: “Obama’s spying on us! Big government out of control!” Excuse me for courting unpopularity by dissenting from that viewpoint. The work done by our intelligence agencies is both necessary and necessarily secretive, and we seem to be entering an era like the mid-1970s, when Watergate-era revelations created a widespread hostility toward the CIA, the FBI and the entire concept of “national security.”

I’m one of the few journalists who has consistently regarded Snowden skeptically. See my June article at Viral Read, “Who Is Edward Snowden? Background on NSA Leaker Emerges.”

America has real enemies, and don’t expect me to applaud the willful disclosure of the classified means by which we keep track of America’s enemies. It is one thing to denounce specific abuses — which, admittedly, the government tried to conceal — but there is no need to buy into the mindset of the Left, which cheers every new “leak” because the leaks hurt America and the Left hates America. Paul Hair again:

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.

You can follow Paul Hair on Twitter.


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  • scarymatt

    New or old, this particular activity doesn’t shock me. It certainly seems likely that some malefactors could try to hide in the noise generated by “legitimate” activity on these games.

    Though I do wonder how effective it is and whether we’re wasting money pursuing it.

  • Good Stuff

    Most of this stuff was cover after the USA Patriot Act

    Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001

  • Wombat_socho

    In EVE-Online, Goonfleet/Goonswarm (the alliance of players recruited from the forums) have long been accused of being CIA agents or tools of the KGB, depending on who you ask. On the other hand, one of the Goons’ more amusing hobbies for a while was something called Jihadswarm…

  • Adjoran

    Snowden remains a murky character; it is still unexplained how someone with his lack of credentials managed such clearances and who helped him amass the trove of info he stole.

    But of Greenwald there is much known and confirmed. It is proven beyond doubt that he is a liar and a poser, a leftist who hates America with passion. We know he is perfectly willing to deceive his readers at any point if he sees something to be gained by it, including mere personal ego-tripping.

    Anything which has Greenwald’s involvement at any level should be viewed with the highest degree of skepticism.

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  • richard mcenroe

    Frankly, I never thought the American public appreciated my sacrifice when I came home from my tour spying on Leisure Suit Larry….