The FBI Issued Warning To Law Enforcement Agencies After Being Duped By A Satirical 'Paid Protester' Website
from the our-nation's-best-and-brightest-I-guess dept
The federal government’s “Fusion Centers” — overseen by the DHS — continue to provide us with the least bang for our federal buck. DHS officials have told Congress that the real purpose of the centers — supposedly designed to gather intelligence about threats to the country — is to generate conversations about terrorism. And those conversations are meant to portray the DHS as useful and worthy of continued funding.
Officials behind the false claims told Senate investigators that such reports weren’t meant to be “finished intelligence” and that despite their report’s inaccuracies and sloppy wording they considered it to be a “success.”
“[It did] exactly what it’s supposed to do – generate interest,” DHS officials told Senate investigators.
That’s really not something we need. The country has plenty of terrorism awareness already. It doesn’t need to have its time and money wasted on half-baked reports written by apparently half-baked DHS officials. Nor does it need the combined forces of federal and local law enforcement generating “leads” from citizens who are more racist than terrified, and pretending these bigoted assertions are useful intelligence. From this so-called “intelligence,” DHS components (along with their local partners) head out into the field to violate rights and privacy. All this does is generate antipathy and waste tax dollars.
Apparently, government agencies will believe almost anything anyone tells them. How that’s going to fight a war on terror is anyone’s guess. A long-dormant satirical site recently became the focus of Fusion Center intel gathering, most likely thanks (at least in part) to some helpful citizens whose heads the joke sailed over.
A satirical website offering “rioters” for $99 each — with a “Car/Dumpster fire upgrade option available” — was cited by the FBI as evidence that “violent agitators” were being paid to cause mayhem in the early days of the George Floyd protests. Anti-terrorism agencies known as Fusion Centers, including the one in Maine, spread the bogus warning to local police departments, likely contributing to increased tension and conflict between officers and demonstrators in the streets.
A Situational Information Report by the FBI’s San Antonio Division, dated June 3, states: “unidentified individuals discussed various websites for payment to agitate and commit violent acts.” Payments to “violent agitators” were made “anonymously via Bitcoin” and “were rumored to be managed by members of Antifa.” The report claims “targets and locations were also discussed on the websites.”
The website, Protestjobs.com, was created in 2017 in response to conspiracy theories about George Soros funded paid protesters disrupting Trump events. After some initial popularity, the site receded into the internet background. But its popularity surged again after the George Floyd protests began, as theorists once again sold themselves on the idea that widespread civil unrest was actually the result of paid protesting.
The site’s recent popularity generated articles at BuzzFeed and Reuters, both of which pointed out the site was satirical. Its popularity among conspiracy theorists resulted in a Snopes post debunking the notion that the site was actually offering paid protesters to whoever wanted to buy them.
We would expect debunkings like this to fail to persuade conspiracy theorists. What we wouldn’t expect is for the nation’s top investigative agency to do zero due diligence before informing other government agencies about this supposedly dangerous site.
Yet that same day, June 3, the FBI office in Texas was taking Protest Jobs deadly serious. Its report states: “The company offers a variety of protest packages that include, but are not limited to, proving spray paint artists, broken storefront windows, and car and dumpster fire upgrade options.”
The official warning sent to local cops in early June by the Maine Information and Analysis Center (MIAC) and other Fusion Centers linked to that report and said it “discusses the use of various websites for payment to individuals who agitate and commit violent acts during protests.”
Look, we understand securing the nation is a round-the-clock job. And it’s not an easy one. But when civil liberties and privacy are on the line — as they always are when there’s a Fusion Center in operation — we would prefer to see our intelligence gathering public servants be a bit more intelligent. The FBI being duped by a clearly satirical website is a horrible look, especially as the agency continues to increase its involvement in the national security arena. Its history of rights violations is already lengthy and disturbing. But now it’s operating in an area with less oversight, laxer rules, and more deference from courts. It’s only a matter of time before terror warriors end up ruining someone’s life because they didn’t get the joke.