Jon Webb's Blog

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Wikileaks and the "poisoned channel"

There is a technique in counter-intelligence called the "poisoned channel." It works like this. Your enemy has a communications channel -- they communicate with the public, or another party. You can counter this in various ways. One is to set up your own channel, pretending to be your enemy. People have no way to tell if your channel or that of your enemy is real. You can interfere with their messages, cause them to lose credibility, and so on. Another way is to take control or partial control of your enemy's channel. You can inject messages into it. Your messages can serve your own purposes, and your enemy and others will believe them.
In the case of Wikileaks, Pfc. Manning, when he downloaded hundreds of thousands of documents from the intelligence web site, may well have been detected. When an intelligence service detects and intrusion like this, they may well decide to hang back and find out what's going on. He then sent the information to Wikileaks, which is apparently a loose coalition of people around the world, which gathered, edited, and posted his stolen information.
There are multiple ways that this information could have been posioned. Pfc. Manning may have been compromised. His transport of information to Wikileaks could have been interfered with. Wikileaks itself may include U.S. intelligence operatives. The Wikileaks servers may have been hacked and information inserted.
Note that the result of the Wikileaks affair has not been entirely to the discredit of the United States. First of all, there appears to be unanimity of Iran's neighbors that Iran is a threat and many of them think we should invade. This serves the purposes of U.S. foreign policy. Iran apparently believes it is thought of as a thread (they recently issued a statement assuring their neighbors that they are not) and this may affect their behavior. Even if one of the nations implicated as speaking against Iran know they were misquoted, they do themselves no good denying it -- and they believe the others think Iran should be invaded. It is a strangely fortunate outcome, don't you think?
A poisoned channel requires smart people, and one thing the Obama administration is is smart. Hillary Clinton is a smart woman. The State Department and U.S. intelligence services employ many smart people, who are normally quite good at keeping secrets. The "poisoned channel" is a well enough known technique that even I know about it.
Think about it.


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