I’ve got an article in today’s Observer about how British intelligence services are applying psychological science in their deception and infiltration operations.
Unfortunately, the online version has been given a headline which is both frivolous and wrong (“Britain’s ‘Twitter troops’ have ways of making you think…”). The ‘Twitter troops’ name was given to the UK Army’s ‘influence operations specialists’ the 77th Brigade whom the article is not focused on and whom I only mention to note their frivolous nickname.
Actually, the piece focuses on GCHQ’s Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group or JTRIG whose job it is to “discredit, disrupt, delay, deny, degrade, and deter” opponents mainly through online deception operations.
Some of the Snowden leaks have specifically focused on the psychological theory and evidence-base behind their operations which is exactly what I discuss in the article.
Controversially, not only were terrorists and hostile states listed as opponents who could pose a national security threat, but also domestic criminals and activist groups. JTRIG’s work seems primarily to involve electronic communications, and can include practical measures such as hacking computers and flooding phones with junk messages. But it also attempts to influence people socially through deception, infiltration, mass persuasion and, occasionally, it seems, sexual “honeypot” stings. The Human Science Operations Cell appears to be a specialist section of JTRIG dedicated to providing psychological support for this work.
It’s a fascinating story and there’s more at the link below.
Link to article on psychological science in intelligence service ops.