Conspiracy theorists will always have an angle on any event that occurs. And it’s usually a good listen… for the first few minutes anyway, until they just lose you in their twisted plot. But hearing about the government’s “secret” machinations and shady dealings is funny, till it’s proven to be true. Remember when nobody believed that governments were “peeking” over your shoulder, accessing your emails, text messages and calls?
Edward Snowden and the big NSA reveal soon changed that, but were many individuals concerned? Yes… for about a week, but since then, most people have just shrugged it off. The government managed to convince everyone that snooping was for the greater good. After all, you wouldn’t want them to miss another 9/11 plot, would you?
But it turns out, the government’s intelligence gathering is basically limitless; there are absolutely no boundaries. Everything about everyone is scraped and filed away. Another more disturbing fact is how they use the info they scrape. Based on the volume of data, government agencies tend to make snap decisions based on perceived “patterns”, like the frequent stop-and-search of a young Muslim who has left the country a few times. Or the tracking of people’s adult entertainment viewing habits to use in discrediting them.
Alphabet agencies are known for their use of dirty tricks to “get their man”; but we bet even you didn’t think they’d stoop this low. Here are ten times they totally did.
10. Criminals Get A Free Pass
To gain the trust of their informants, government agencies give them a free pass to keep committing crimes. In some cases, the criminals have been ordered to actually do so. In a report submitted to the Justice Department in 2012, the FBI admitted that it gave informants permission to break the law over 5, 000 times in 2011 alone. Tracing these crimes, the Justice Department found that the FBI, through its informants, was responsible for about 10% of the criminal cases prosecuted in federal court in 2011.
Notorious recipients of this “free pass” have included mobster James Bulger who ran a crime ring while working with them in the 1970s, and mafioso Gregory Scarpa who actually did wet work for the FBI.
In 2009, jobless ex-con David Williams was informed that his kid brother was hospitalized for treatment for liver cancer. Williams needed to raise money for his treatment, but as an ex-drug dealer and ex-con, getting a job wasn’t really an option. He was approached by James Cromitie who told him that he could make $250,000, if he helped carry out a terrorist attack. Assured that the attack would only be staged and nobody would get hurt, Williams agreed to the plan just so he could raise the money.
But the man in charge of the “plot” was an FBI informant named Maqsood a.k.a Shahed Hussain. Maqsood had spent eight months recruiting Cromitie to plant bombs at a synagogue in the Bronx. When the gang arrived to carry out the attack, they were immediately arrested on terror charges and sentenced to 25 years in prison for the “failed terror plot.”
Maqsood’s role in the plot eventually emerged and the entire thing has now been pegged a classic case of entrapment. The FBI is accused of inventing terrorist plots to lure gullible targets, and the accused are currently seeking appeals.
8. The Extent of Tapping
When Snowden blew the lid on the NSA’s spying activities, everyone was outraged, but very few could grasp the sheer extent of this tapping. The NSA went as far as paying Britain’s GCHQ $100 million to “secure access to and influence over Britain’s intelligence gathering programs.” Some of the intel gathered and passed on reportedly caused GCHQ staff to express concern about “the morality and ethics of their work, given the level of deception involved.”
Using something called a man-in-the-middle attack, the NSA could intercept a message between two people and change the contents before delivery. While most people heard about XKEYSCORE, the program that analyzed emails, online chats and browsing histories, how many times did you hear about Nosey Smurf? This program allowed listeners to take over your computer’s microphone and record conversations. What about Gumfish which takes over your webcam and can be used to record film or take photographs, or Grok which logged the keystrokes entered into a device.
7. GPS Tracking
Not content with high tech tapping of your smart devices, the FBI has also been guilty of “tapping” vehicle,s too. In 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit passed a law allowing government agents to sneak onto your property and put a GPS device in your car. This would have sounded like something out of a B-rated spy flick, until San Jose college student, Yasir Afifi, found one under his car in October 2010. Initially thinking it was a bomb, it was soon identified to be a tracking device sold exclusively to law enforcement agencies.
He had been under surveillance for up to six weeks, simply because he was the son of Aladdin Afifi, an Islamic-American community leader. Before he could sell the device on Craigslist, FBI agents turned up at his home and requested that he give it back. He gave it back, but sued the agency in 2011. The fallout from the case led to a 2012 Supreme Court ruling that mandated a warrant before bugging a suspect’s vehicle.
6. The Fake Vaccination Drive
While hunting Osama bin Laden, the government hatched a plot worthy of a Jason Bourne movie. They had narrowed his suspected location to a section of Pakistan, even down to a particular compound in Abbottabad. The CIA were almost certain bin Laden was holed up in there, but needed definite proof before a raid could be carried out.
To be 100% sure, they enlisted the services of a Pakistani doctor to organize a bogus vaccination drive in town. They injected thousands of kids in the area, making sure to start from the less-affluent sections of town to make the drive seem authentic. They eventually got to the more affluent sections and soon obtained DNA from bin Laden’s children; their presence helped confirm his presence.
The knock-on effect of this ruse was widespread. The doctor who arranged the “drive” was jailed for 33 years. Since then, organizations that carry out legitimate vaccinations have reported friction to their vaccination drives.
5. An FBI “Virus”
Everyone knows you should be careful about those dodgy emails advertising sexy singles and cheap Viagra. Click one and you could be downloading a trojan to your device, or an FBI tracker. In 2007, the Seattle FBI created a dummy Seattle Times web page to trap a bomb-threat suspect.
Two bomb threats had been called into Timberline High School in Lacey, Seattle, causing a panicked evacuation. The FBI had a suspect but needed to find their location. The fake “story” contained an email link, which downloaded a tracking program on the suspect’s computer. With the program broadcasting their IP address, the FBI swooped in and arrested a 15-year-old suspect. The paper was outraged at this involuntary co-opting, but the bureau defended its actions by claiming they didn’t use a “real Seattle Times article.”
4. Under Covers Everywhere
It’s no secret that undercover stings work. So governments like to use undercover agents who pose as business people, students, even drug dealers, to get close to their targets. While money is often used as a motivator, sex has also been used to get people to trust the undercovers.
An activist, Eric McDavid, was recently released after nine years in prison for “conspiracy to blow up the Nimbus Dam”. Six months before he was arrested, he had fallen for an undercover female FBI informant, who kept prodding him to take violent action against government targets. She led him on with promises of a consummation of their romantic relationship. All he got was a 9 year sentence.
Across the pond, English police officer Bob Lambert, posed as activist Bob Robinson for two years, to infiltrate an animal liberation network. The officer had sexual encounters with many of the female activists and even managed to father a son before his cover was blown.
3. Hold the Phone
While some businesses like the Seattle Times were legitimately of their image being used, some other businesses gladly work with the government. Take your phone records; did you know that since 2007, AT&T has been passing customer data to the DEA’s Hemisphere Project? Everything from calls to location of said calls; the program even taps callers who are not AT&T’s direct customers, but who had simply dialed AT&T’s customers. The database is reported to record up to four billion calls EVERY DAY.
Before you feel any sympathy for the company, they are getting paid for this ‘co-operation’. Which is more than can be said for Yahoo, who had to give up user data or face a daily fine of $250, 000 from the NSA!
2. Bribing the Taliban
We’ve seen the government splash the cash; buying intel from GCHQ and the phone companies, but what about the terrorists we are supposed to be fighting? A 2010 report by the U.S Army reported that the USA gave cash to Afghan warlords, in an operation named Warlord Inc. The $2.16 billion contract, involved the use of eight civilian trucking firms to transport American supplies to combat outposts and bases throughout Afghanistan. But these firms were all owned by known warlords and any payments made, eventually made their way into their fight against the Coalition.
Where cash didn’t work, the CIA have come up with many other incentives. Everything from free dental work to school supplies, but one ‘gift’ seemed to get requested for over and over. Popping a Viagra helped many of the Afghan warlords satisfy their harems. One warlord was so thrilled that he not only gave the CIA detailed info on the Taliban; he also gave them a free pass to do whatever they liked in his region!
1. The Honey Trap
In what must be the most brazen form of entrapment ever, the DEA took to social media to set a honey trap for suspected drug dealers. Now, what do you need to open a Facebook account? An email address and a cool profile picture, right?
Well, the email address proved to be the hardest part, as they simply used the name and picture of a New York woman, Sondra Arquiett. Arquiett had been arrested in 2010 and convicted of minor drug offenses. While her phone was confiscated, her selfies and other information was taken from her cellphone. These were used to set up a convincing Facebook profile which the DEA used to reach out to other people connected to the investigation. Arquiett found herself re-christened Sondra Prince and the profile was even used to reach out to a known fugitive.
She sued the government in 2013, for putting her life at risk of reprisals. In January 2015, the Justice Department reached a $134,000 settlement with Arquiett.