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The Facebook team that tried to swing Nicaragua’s election is full of US spies

A tacit agreement between the government and Facebook appears to have been made: you can keep the profits, but we control the message. As such, a cynic might wonder what functional difference there is between Facebook and the national security state.

by Alan Macleod 

Part 2 - Facebook as security-state beard

Perhaps even more worrying from a freedom-of-speech viewpoint is who made the decision at Facebook. The 11-page report detailing the company’s supposed evidence of inauthentic behavior has just two contributors: Luis Fernando Alonso and Ben Nimmo, individuals with deep and long-lasting ties to Western military intelligence. 
 
According to his biography on LinkedIn, Alonso was, until last year, working for Booz Allen Hamilton, a shadowy corporation situated in the area around Washington, D.C. colloquially known as “Raytheon Acres.” The national security state farms out much of its most controversial work to the firm, which is technically a private company (and therefore not subject to the same oversight and scrutiny as public agencies). Edward Snowden, for instance, actually worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, not the NSA. Before that, Alonso directly worked for the government at the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, a Department of Defense-controlled institution that trains top military and intelligence leaders.

Nimmo’s background is equally spooky. Between 2011 and 2014, he served as NATO’s press officer, moving the next year to the Institute for Statecraft, a U.K. government-funded propaganda operation aimed at spreading misleading information about enemies of the British state. The Institute for Statecraft established a secret network of journalists across Europe who were used to push anti-Russia and pro-establishment talking points, all in coordination.

In 2019, Nimmo played a key role in downplaying the bombshell news that the Conservative government was quietly negotiating to sell off key parts of Great Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) to foreign plutocrats. When the Labour Party publicized this information just days before the election, Nimmo jumped into action, immediately announcing, without evidence, that the documents in question “closely resemble … a known Russian operation.” His supposedly expert conjecture — together with help from allied journalists in the Integrity Initiative — allowed the story to become “Labour’s links to Russia” rather than “Tories privatizing the NHS in secret,” helping the Conservatives make huge electoral gains.

Nimmo also became a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, NATO’s semi-official think tank.

Facebook — now officially called “Meta” — is extremely secretive about who actually works at their intelligence department. Nowhere can one find a list of names of key figures. However, going back through months of reports and blog posts for names reveals a veritable revolving door between big tech and big government. In short, Facebook is strewn with spies.

For example, a document published in May, entitled “The State of Influence Operations, 2017-2020,” lists five author names in addition to Nimmo’s, at least four of whom have long histories as senior agents in the national security state.

In order, they are:

    Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Security Policy: Gleicher spent two and a half years at the White House as the National Security Council’s Director of Cyber Security Policy. Before that he also spent five years at the Department of Justice.

    David Agranovich, Head of Security Communications: Agranovich worked for more than six years in a senior role at the Department of Defense, before, in 2017, moving on to become the Director for Intelligence for the National Security Council at the White House.

    Olga Belogolova, Influence Operations Product Policy Manager: The most academic of the authors, Belogolova teaches cybersecurity and influence operations to students at Georgetown University, an institution notorious as America’s spy school. Before that, she worked at the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs and on Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian policy at the Office of the Secretary of Defense. She has also served on several working groups at government- and military-funded think tanks like The Center for New American Security, The Center for Strategic and International Studies, and The Atlantic Council.

    Mike Torrey, Threat Intelligence Analyst: From 2010 until 2018, Torrey was a high-level CIA agent, specializing in cyberwarfare against China. Before that, he worked as a global network intelligence analyst for the NSA.

Of the six authors listed, only one, Margarita Franklin, comes from a non-governmental background.

Looking further into Facebook’s official blog, Mike Dvilyanski is described as the company’s Head of Cyber Espionage Investigations. From 2005 until 2018, Dvilyanski was an FBI agent in Washington and New York City, rising to the rank of Supervisory Special Agent, leading teams investigating cyberwafare.

Another official Facebook report from April was authored by the company’s Technical Threat Investigator, Michael Flossman, who spent nearly six years in the Australian Department of Defense.

In 2018, Facebook announced a partnership with The Atlantic Council, whereby it gave an undisclosed amount of control over users’ news feeds to the group, allowing it to help them decide what posts users saw and which ones were suppressed. Given that the council’s board features a plethora of military generals, former cabinet members, and no fewer than seven former CIA directors, this is tantamount to state censorship on a global level. A tacit agreement between the government and Facebook appears to have been made: you can keep the profits, but we control the message. As such, a cynic might wonder what functional difference there is between Facebook and the national security state.

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