I declared a day of Twitter silence today when I saw what was done to John Schindler, the Naval Academy professor and former NSA analyst (@20committee) because I wanted to emphasize that when someone like him is bullied and maneuvered into silence by evil forces, we are all partly silenced, too, if we interacted with him, responded, or re-tweeted or "favorited".
But as some have noted, maybe instead at a time like this you need to speak up all the more.
Let me start out by expressing my unconditional solidarity with John Schindler -- what has happened to him is what could happen to any of us who are Putin critics and Snowden skeptics. Be warned.
I don't know John Schindler personally and have never met him -- and it may turn out at that in real life, behind his role as a most excellent and valuable public intellectual on Twitter, he's some kind of Anthony Weiner type.
I think it's more than likely these pictures are fake, or there is an elaborate and staged set-up here, but it doesn't matter if in fact there was some bad judgement here in reality.
I don't care. If you've ever been to Second Life or Chat Roulette or in fact many places on the Internet, you know that it is a fact of our modern life that some men show their dicks online. It's like some hard-wired evolutionary thing. I don't know why some do and some don't; I think some do it under stress. Whatever. If it is not done to harass men, women or especially if it does not involve minors, it's hard to see why anyone should be prudish about it or call for "action". I don't find it attractive and I think probably most women find it a turn-off, but perhaps there is a sub-set that finds it legitimate. It doesn't matter.
What matters here is that I believe Schindler was set up. That he was watched for a long time, and ways were found to target his weaknesses and silence him. You have to judge missions by their outcomes. This one was accomplished. He has not only deleted his invaluable Twitter account, he has posted a notice -- changed at least once -- on his blog that he is taking a break from social media -- and apparently that now includes his blog. It might be permanent, knowing how these things go. I hope not.
For me, Schindler was the most important person online criticizing Snowden. That's because not only did he have the credential of being a well-versed Russian expert and particularly knowledgeable about provokatsiya or Soviet/Russian tradecraft, he was formerly an NSA analyst himself so he had actual knowledge of how espionage with the Russians works. Few do, who are also in public.
It was always a marvel to me that someone who was young, from a generation that didn't know the Soviet Union and the Cold War, could understand so perfectly what we learned first-hand in the field -- the elaborate and cunning methods by which Russian intelligence disinforms, distracts, subverts, lies -- and often by telling even partly the truth.
Some people, particularly Schindler's incessant hecklers, were put off by his occasional brandishing of his PhD or his knowledge, or his swagger -- which seems of a piece with dick pics. They were seldom put off by the worse swagger of some of his worst hecklers among the ABD and aspiring journalist set. It doesn't matter. None of that detracted from the impressive and persuasive body of his work, which stands, and will continue to stand and I hope will be added to again when he emerges from this scandal.
What none of the journalists covering this story so far seem to grasp is that Schindler was under assault constantly by not only leftwingers or libertarians who didn't like his views, but by hackers and pro-Kremlin troll accounts.
One of his most persistent enemies was an account that first appeared a few years ago using the name "Mr. X" on various blogs, then on Twitter used various other names which were banned, and recently has used the handle @OpHatchAct2.
That persona -- who could be one person or a group of persons -- is the very same person who has harassed me for a year on Twitter, in separate blogs made just for that purpose, and in emails.
One of the things this creep has accomplished by invading a group of Kremlin and Snowden critics online has been to turn them against each other with suspicion -- and now some people have claimed *I'm* this persona, which is, of course, ridiculous. I've noted multiple times that I'm happy to cooperate with any campus police or federal authorities on any investigation of this persona who has been more than a nuisance to a group of us; he has been an ominous, organized threat of the type that only comes from resourced operations like a state.
If before, I thought he was just a crank, maybe hooked up to those networks of psychopaths who harass people they think are neo-cons online, I don't think that any longer. That's because after a period of silence he's been heavily active again in recent weeks as the criticism of Putin escalates over his war on Ukraine. The more violence Putin instigates in Ukraine, the more some of us have criticized the Kremlin, the more the Kremlin propaganda machine cranks up to lie about things like refugees and "white phosphorus" -- and the more then the pro-Kremlin trolls attack us in all kinds of unseemly ways. A whole rash of posts have gone out online calling me a Nazi-loving CIA neo-con hack blah blah -- there's a lot of "chatter" now on these networks.
Perhaps it's no accident, comrades that last night while working I got an email in my box from this creature which said basically "That's not me on Twitter doing that to Schindler". In fact, it was one of the most sane communiques from this persona who works hard at appearing like a crazy Tea Party maniac obsessed with the Hatch Act and nailing Schindler on it -- funny, that.
I looked on Twitter at saw the outrages. And I saw that it was the account @Currahee88 "Lesley" which is now deleted. I figured either she was hacked or drunk. She was tweeting what purported to be screenshots of private conversations between her and Schindler -- clearly with a vindictive aim.
"Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," I thought to myself -- it seemed like this groupie of Schindler's may have ultimately been rejected, even if he contemplated a fling, and that explained the behaviour.
My own experience with Currahee led me to wonder about her real motives and real personality from the get-go. That's because months ago, even as I saw her suck up to Schindler and other people in his circles, she would turn on me like a junk-yard dog, criticizing my take on hackers and Snowden. That is, on the one hand, she purported to be a conservative groupie and a critic of Snowden and Assange herself, except...not always consistently on every point, and sometimes deliberately stirring up trouble.
I've seen this behaviour pattern loads of times on Twitter, and @dj3petros has been defining it very well on his blog Ukraine@war -- all of a sudden, you get somebody on Twitter who "wants to be your friend" and seems to live to re-tweet your every thought, but then after some period of time, they turn on you over some technicality, some minor difference, and keep flogging it. Seemingly you are fighting the same battle in the trenches, against Putin, yet suddenly, this person has some bone to pick with you that seems irrelevant. They heckle for days on end on non-essentials. Sound familiar? It's a classic psy-ops method.
Currahee88's relentless heckling at the time made me wonder: a) is this really a female or yet another story of a man online posing as a woman and behaving particularly viciously b) what's her game here? But I blocked her and ignored her for much of the time, occasionally only seeing her in re-tweets by credulous males.
Except, does "Lesley" even exist, and is she not a comely 20- or 30-something online with her bosom showing and coquettish and flattering remarks all day aimed at certain men commenting on Russia and intelligence -- but some 50-year-old chain-smoker named Ivan sitting at a desk at the FSB?
Such is the nature of online life and persuasiveness of personas that it had not occurred to me that "Lesley" might not even exist at all. But that issue was raised on Twitter by RevMagdalene a person knowledgeable about hackers, in response to Ashera_Wolf, the queen of the crypto parties, who herself coincidentally is retiring from online life once again -- she frequently takes breaks after major operations, I've seen in the past, as when she was investigated for enabling the Anonymous accounts that hacked the Boston police.
Odd, that. Maybe related, I actually think not. And I couldn't find any evidence that "Lesley" exists in real life, as a Google search of her photo shows nothing and the name doesn't seem to exist at the university said to be outed by what was claimed to be a spear-phishing expedition of OpHatchAct2's mail -- for which he blames Schindler. Schindler denies it.
It's puzzling because at times it seemed as if the "Fake Schindler" parody account @5150Committee was the same person as OpHatch2, but OpHatch2 claims it is a separate person.
Of course people like this lie; of course they confuse and commit subversion and diversion. That's what they do. And this "they" could be the actual Russian intelligence services, or various "plausible deniability" hacker groups, related to WikiLeaks or Anonymous or spinoffs who have either nudged into such attacks, or who are exploited, or who outright collude. These are all obviously things that are hard to investigate and take the resources of more than just an amateur blogger.
There's another curious thing about the mass Schadenfreude now on Twitter about Schindler -- from the very people who claim to be privacy advocates and who encrypt themselves to avoid their own privacy being compromised, ostensibly. Hypocrites, all, whose ideology and actions I exposed in my book Privacy for Me and Not for Thee.
Some of the same accounts have appeared in other operations I've seen go down online.
For example @caulkthewagon is the very account that emerged to take up the very vocal and voluble defense of Sarah Kendzior in her latest strange escapade, that involved incriminating a radical leftist magazine with the charge of supporting rape threats, and starting the sort of ruckus only she can start on Twitter and the Internet in general, pressing on all the trigger buttons of the politically-correct pearl-clutchers there.
I see other accounts, now deleted, that took part in the anti-Schindler operation, and have popped up in dialogues with others in the past.
Then I've found one hugely troubling and odd coincidence.
Let me say this: this sort of investigation is above my pay grade as a volunteer blogger without tools, but I hope the appropriate investigators are going hard on this and going fast -- because the tweets are getting deleted as we speak. They need to see all the interactions, networks, RTs, etc. etc. around Schindler. In that sense, it's regrettable his account is deleted because that makes it hard to investigate.
I'm pretty convinced, looking over the wreckage on Twitter, that this was a calculated and planned set-up, staged for months. Whether it was totally fabricated out of whole cloth with everything about it faked, or whether it exploited some weakness or stress of John's to amplify something he did with poor judgement thinking it would stay in private -- it's immaterial.
I've written in defense of people who are even my worst enemy, like Peter Ludlow, when it seems they are a victim of a politically-motivated witch-hunt and ultra-feminist hysteria.
So of course I'm going to speak out in defense of John Schindler, who I viewed as an online friend, even if I didn't know him in real life. He's far more of a sterling character.
I hope his university and even the NSA itself and any other relevant parties investigate this thoroughly.
But keep in mind, any of you in the Newly-Acquired Conscience Society about sending gross pictures online like Anonymous and pro-Kremlin hecklers do routinely, that this is a victimless crime, except for John and his family who have experienced the full "life ruination" effects, as Anonymous calls it.
I hope his university will close ranks behind him and restore him, and face down this evil attack, just as I hope the leaders of Europe close ranks around Radek Sikorski, also under attack this week in Poland over an embarassing leaked conversation which wouldn't have been said in the same way if public.
This could happen to any of us. In fact, it will happen to any one of us next, and we have no idea what private comments, what pictures, what acts that we don't even remember or think about or even see as anything bad might be dredged up and publicized to harass and ruin us.
Once again, I have to point out the sheer evil and pernicious nature of the Snowden Operation unleashed by Snowden himself, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Jacob Appelbaum. They have not come up with a single goddamn individual case of civil liberty violations. Not one. Not a single credible case that shows the NSA had some systemic or systematic practice of violating civil rights deliberately, in harm of someone not a targeted suspect, or in harm of someone targeted wwho shouldn't have been.
The only things that happen are cases like Schindler -- and his private text messages fabricated or leaked if they are real. Privacy for me and not for thee...