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.

Filed Under: dhs, fake news, fbi, fusion centers, protesters, warnings


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 27 Jul 2020 @ 9:47am

    Good old confirmation bias

    They saw something they wanted to be true, so they accepted it at face value and treated it as true.

    “[It did] exactly what it’s supposed to do – generate interest,” DHS officials told Senate investigators.

    'Bigfoot terrorizes local bakery before being driven off by reborn Elvis' would also 'generate interest', be just as honest, and just as useful. Falling for an obvious joke only generates 'interest' in the sense of 'why is the public paying money for an agency staffed by people that stupid and/or eager to believe anything that fits what they already think is true?'

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 27 Jul 2020 @ 10:11am

    If there weren't some actual "outside agitators" going around the country committing acts of violence (not protest) for their own excuses (fun, money, influence, psycho, ...), this would be even more funny of a joke.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Jul 2020 @ 10:14am

      Re:

      Yes, but the unfunny part is the fact they've fallen for this joke twice. This points to a high likelihood that we have multiple government agencies that are incapable of learning from past mistakes. That's rather scary instead of funny.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 27 Jul 2020 @ 11:00am

        Re: Re:

        That's rather scary instead of funny.

        Oh it gets worse, as there's an even more worrisome possible explanation in that they 'keep falling for that stuff' not because they're stupid but because it benefits them to do so.

        Want to crack down on some uppity protesters but can't figure out a way to do so? Simply find someone claiming that the protesters are being paid and/or are a violent gang and presto, you've got your justification for a few arrests/surveillance of first amendment activity.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Koby (profile), 27 Jul 2020 @ 11:43am

        Re: Re:

        ...they've fallen for this joke twice...

        I've always viewed this as excellent satire. If some people can't figure out if it's real or not, then it's perfect. It must straddle the line between believability and the outlandish. Well done.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Canuck, 27 Jul 2020 @ 11:01pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          You're an idiot, Koby.

          Federal idiots falling for the fake website doesn't make it well done.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 29 Jul 2020 @ 12:12am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "If some people can't figure out if it's real or not, then it's perfect."

          How about "people who are heavily motivated to use the fake as a political hatchet?"

          There's nothing "good" about the FBI falling for a fairly obvious fake out of sheer ineptitude. There's even less good if they chose to "fall" for the fake because it suits a given political narrative which simply isn't true.

          Now, for me if I'm shown a website which says "Good money for performing <borderline criminal act>" even as a private citizen who is NOT a professional investigator, then I still have enough brain cells to knock together to realize that someones may be trolling me.

          At the very least I wouldn't embarrass myself by running to the boss and screaming "I've got a GREAT idea for marketing!" which is the equivalent of what the feds did here.

          Realize, Koby, that these hamfisted stooges are being well paid - by your tax dollars - to sit around and demonstrate that they're the kind of guys the private sector wouldn't trust enough to retain as janitorial staff.
          The job they're ostensibly hired for, is to be the best of the best in criminal enforcement but what they keep showing is an act only worthy of a third-rate clown fumbling his bucket and ladder.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Tanner Andrews (profile), 30 Jul 2020 @ 12:15am

      good news; was: Re:

      If there weren't some actual "outside agitators" going around the country committing acts of violence

      You are in luck. Our rich, but not very bright, Uncle up in Washington is sending outside agitators, sometimes termed ``storm troopers'', to cities across the nation. Some of them reportedly tear-gassed the mayor of a Pacific coast city in order to make it clear who they think is in charge.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Nick-B, 27 Jul 2020 @ 11:05am

    Typo in title.

    "Satirial" is obviously trying hard to be "Satirical". Insert Just-how-I'd-expect-a-paid-Soros-shill-site-to-spell joke here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    NoahVail (profile), 27 Jul 2020 @ 11:25am

    HeadlineSmasher: Satirist finds it's easy to get LEO to believe that thing they most want to believe.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 27 Jul 2020 @ 11:35am

    I suppose we should direct them to the Onion next.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 27 Jul 2020 @ 12:33pm

    To much and to late..

    what does a Bored, nothing to do, Police agency do, when there isnt anything to DO??
    I think that the 3 agencies created , DHS, ICE, ???, seem to be redundant.

    What do they do? they try to do Other agencies jobs. And really, I still think these 3 agencies, are Paid for private corps.
    Already had notices of a BORED FBI, and they getting impressionable teens to PUSH A BUTTON.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Norahc (profile), 27 Jul 2020 @ 12:38pm

    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.”

    &gt;“[It did] exactly what it’s supposed to do – generate interest,” DHS officials told Senate investigators.

    I suppose the FBI needs it as a starting point for their "Create-A-Random-Terrosist-Out-Of-Nothing" program. The CARTOON program has a 100% success rate of pushing ordinary citizens into fictional terrorism plots with real world sentences and convictions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 27 Jul 2020 @ 1:16pm

    Good to know our LEOs are all Chief Wiggums.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 27 Jul 2020 @ 10:53pm

    Top... Men....

    Its a pity they've lost their way this badly, but its hard to do the job when you are always jumping at shadows while ignoring actual threats & you serve at the beck and call of the toddler in chief who will demand you pull @Jack from his house for questioning b/c a mean thing trended that hurt his feelings.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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