We present here a collection of documents filched from the archives at the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) by Edward Snowden relating to the NSA’s spy ops in the world of online games like World of Warcraft and Second Life.
When this story first broke, many commentators ridiculed the notion that the NSA would waste taxpayers’ money by trolling these virtual-reality games. The spin doctors from the US Government and the capitalist news media tried successfully to make it seem as though the NSA was just on a wild goose chase for terrorists who were using virtual worlds as a cover for global organization of terrorist networks – pretty far-fetched stuff.
In fact, the NSA and other US Government spy agencies studying these websites are engaged in very intensive studies of human behavioral patterns in order to be better able to manipulate people in the real world. The NSA’s activities in places like Second Life – like their massive global data collection and mining activities – have very little to do with terrorism and a LOT to do with maintaining capitalist class rule all over the world by profiling and targeting political activists who organize opposition to the machinations of the capitalist class. The primary purpose of NSA spy ops is to develop techniques for quickly stripping away the layers of anonymity any prudent citizen of the world would attempt cloak themselves with online who is an active opponent of the United States capitalist class. The idea is to enable the US intelligence community to quickly identify key activists in times of national crisis in order to neutralize them as the nuclei of successful revolutionary opposition to the US capitalist class. Having stripped away a target’s online and telephonic anonymity, the NSA can turn over the identity and location of anyone deemed to be a threat to the maintenance of the capitalist status quo to the appropriate police or military authorities. That this methodology is useful in targeting terrorists is tangential to the real goal, which is to prevent the rise of organized political opposition to the capitalist system anywhere in the world. That is why the NSA’s spy operations are not tailored to target only terrorists: in the eyes of the numerically tiny US capitalist class, any citizen of the world can become a “terrorist” threat to their continued and increasingly difficult-to-maintain control of the world’s political and economic systems.
These documents reveal that the NSA is seeking the collaboration of behavioral psychologists studying human behavior in virtual worlds and how that behavior relates to and reveals how these same people behave in the real world. The people they are specifically targeting in Second Life and World of Warcraft are citizens who are either political opponents of the US Government or employees of key institutions, corporations and foreign governments whom the US Government seeks to influence, manipulate or destroy. By observing the behavior of the targeted persons in the virtual world, the US Government can seek to find out what “makes these people tick” so they can be more successfully manipulated in the real world.
Several of the documents reveal the vast amount of insight into a human being’s psyche that is obtainable by observing how a person behaves using an avatar in a virtual world setting. The same attributes that attract a targeted person in the virtual world, it has been discovered, will also attract them in the real world. By studying them in the virtual world, where their inhibitions are dropped to a significant degree, the spy agencies can see deep into the “soul” of a target, and can utilize those insights to craft any number of psychological warfare operations to recruit or derange and destroy that person in the real world. Major US defense contractors like Lockheed have ongoing research projects studying human behavior in the popular online virtual worlds. This is not the least bit frivolous on the part of the US Government: it is teaching the spies how to utilize modern scientific methods of behavior modeling and modification to effect desirable (to the capitalist class) changes in the real world. This is the kind of Big Brother mind control operation that the US Government has always sought, since the days of the CIA’s MKULTRA program.
The longer the workers of the world allow the capitalist classes of the world to stay in power, the more ominous these spy operations will become. The working people of the world have to organize to overthrow the capitalist class and its greed-based economic system and replace it with an egalitarian socialist economic system where this kind of mind-control bullshit will not be tolerated. The longer we wait to do something about this, the harder it will be to reverse the massive inroads that the capitalists have made into clamping a lid on political opposition to their increasingly despotic class rule.
Workers of the Woeld, Unite!
This document is a much more detailed exposition on the REYNARD program. Interestingly, the document asserts that the REYNARD program’s intensive studies of human behavior carried out surreptitiously in online games like “World of Warcraft” and “Second Life” “was conducted under the oversight of human subjects protection Institutional Review Boards. The Government received only data analysis and summary reports that excluded any personally identifiable information.” But of course, it has long been the case that in cases of studies of human subjects where it is even possible that physical or mental harm can be caused by the study, the only ethical way to “protect” human experimental subjects is first of all to obtain their fully informed CONSENT to participate in the study. This was not even attempted by these researchers.
“Facts about the program, which ended in 2012, include:
• The program studied approximately 15,000 players from 9 countries in 12 MMOGs and VWs
• The research found objective behavioral indicators for over a dozen RW characteristics, such as gender and age
• RW characteristics could be predicted from VW behavior with a high degree of accuracy (>75%)
The Reynard program concluded that individuals’ online behaviors are highly consistent with who they are offline. This contradicts the view of other experts, who claim that individuals explore alternative ways of behaving when interacting online.”
This document outlines US defense contractor Lockheed-Martin’s successful proposal for participation in the REYNARD program. Lockheed asserts that its program will develop such capabilities as “sentiment and tone of discourse analysis” and will “identify salient clues of behaviors indicative of: gender; approximate age; economic status; ideology; degree of influence and culture.”
NSA GAMES PAPER: “Exploiting Terrorist Use of Games & Virtual Environments”
This document is the NSA’s raison d’etre for targeting virtual reality games, which thay call “Games and Virtual Environments (GVEs): “GVEs are an opportunity! We can use games for: CNE exploits, social network analysis, HUMINT [HUMan INTelligence – IWPCHI] targeting, ID tracking (photos, doc IDs), shaping activities, geo-location of target, and collection of comms. It has been well documented that terrorists are OPSEC [OPerations SECurity – IWPCHI] and tech saavy and are only getting more so over time. These applications and their servers however, are
trusted by their users and makes an connection to another computer on the Internet, which can then be exploited. Through target buddylists and interaction found in the gaming and on gaming web sites, social networks can be diagramed and previously unknown SIGINT [SIGnals INTelligence; covers all types of electronic communications – IWPCHI] leads and
connections and terrorists cells discovered. GVEs can contain on-line presence indicators, geolocation, and ID tracking can be gleaned and used in apprehension operations.”
We believe that it is more useful to look at all the references to “terrorists” and “terrorism” in NSA and similar agencies’ propaganda and documentation as the cover story which is intended to obscure the identities of their actual target populations, which are, as we stated above, far more diverse, numerous and threatening to the capitalist class than the relatively small numbers of “professional terrorists” in the “real world”: the working class and its political leadership.
Stanford Research Institute (SRI) International: “When DoomJezter Met AngelBlossom: Virtual World Language Use and Real World
SRI International is the cutout organization that the US Department of Defense uses to funnel money to the Tor Project. This doesn’t provide much of a cover for Tor’s DoD sugar daddies: SRI has always derived the majority of its funding from the Pentagon. In fact, in the 1970’s, anti-Vietnam War activists at Stanford drove SRI off campus because of its nefarious activities on behalf of US imperialism’s brutal war against the Vietnamese workers and peasants. According to Wikipedia, in 2010, 67% of SRI’s funding came from the Pentagon.
Here, SRI is conducting research for the US Air Force Research Laboratory in a project called VERUS (Virtual Environment Real User Study) in which “SRI is exploring online gaming systems and virtual environments to better understand links between online gamers and their real-world activities, and to understand their avatars’ group dynamics within virtual worlds. The research goals go well beyond enhancing the entertainment value of online games. The work will also help enhance virtual environments for teaching and learning, professional training, and collaboration.”