Britain’s Trick for Catching Terrorists: Sexual Honey Traps

New Snowden documents reveal the U.K. is “catfishing” terrorists to snare its enemies online.

NFL linebacker and catfishing victim Manti Te'o. 
National Journal
Dustin Volz and Alex Brown
Add to Briefcase
Dustin Volz and Alex Brown
Feb. 7, 2014, 9:34 a.m.

Manti Te’o, meet James Bond.

Brit­ish spies are se­du­cing en­emy tar­gets on­line, new doc­u­ments from Ed­ward Snowden show, a tac­tic known as a “honey trap” in in­tel­li­gence circles but bet­ter known by the ci­vil­ian term “cat­fish­ing.”

That rev­el­a­tion is part of sev­er­al top-secret slideshows that were leaked to NBC News by the former NSA con­tract­or, ex­pos­ing a host of “dirty tricks” usd by the Brits to snare rival op­er­at­ors.

The present­a­tions (avail­able here and here) de­tail the var­ied tac­tics of a Brit­ish spy unit know as Joint Threat Re­search and In­tel­li­gence Group, which in­cludes com­puter hack­ing, co­ordin­ated sur­veil­lance of journ­al­ists and dip­lo­mats, and the afore­men­tioned set­ting of “honey traps.” The meth­ods re­flect a grow­ing de­sire “to go on of­fense and at­tack ad­versar­ies ran­ging from Ir­an to the hackt­iv­ists of An­onym­ous,” re­ports NBC News.

Presen­ted to NSA agents dur­ing cyberes­pi­on­age con­fer­ences, the slides jus­ti­fy the pro­grams as be­ing able to “des­troy, deny, de­grade, [and] dis­rupt” tar­gets by “dis­cred­it­ing” them via these un­usu­al, strictly un-cy­ber meth­ods, which sound more like something out of a de­tect­ive noir flick.

NBC News ex­plains:

Spies have long used sexu­al “honey traps” to snare, black­mail, and in­flu­ence tar­gets. Most of­ten, a male tar­get is led to be­lieve he has an op­por­tun­ity for a ro­mantic re­la­tion­ship or a sexu­al li­ais­on with a wo­man, only to find that the wo­man is ac­tu­ally an in­tel­li­gence op­er­at­ive. The Is­raeli gov­ern­ment, for ex­ample, used a “honey trap” to lure nuc­le­ar tech­ni­cian Mor­de­chai Vanunu from Lon­don to Rome. He ex­pec­ted an as­sig­na­tion with a wo­man, but in­stead was kid­napped by Is­rael agents and taken back to Is­rael to stand tri­al for leak­ing nuc­le­ar secrets to the me­dia.

The ver­sion of a “honey trap” de­scribed by Brit­ish cy­ber spies in the 2012 Power­Point present­a­tion sounds like a ver­sion of In­ter­net dat­ing, but in­cludes phys­ic­al en­coun­ters. The tar­get is lured “to go some­where on the In­ter­net, or a phys­ic­al loc­a­tion” to be met by “a friendly face.” “¦ A “honey trap,” says the present­a­tion, is “very suc­cess­ful when it works.”

Oth­er activ­it­ies ex­posed in the Snowden doc­u­ments in­clude DDoS (dis­trib­uted deni­al-of-ser­vice) on­line at­tacks on gov­ern­ment web­sites and the hack­er group An­onym­ous and plans to ma­nip­u­late for­eign journ­al­ists to spread in­form­a­tion to tar­gets. The coun­terter­ror­ism pro­gram at times bordered on the ju­ven­ile, swap­ping so­cial me­dia pho­tos and tex­ting as­so­ci­ates neg­at­ive in­form­a­tion about tar­gets.

The dis­clos­ures are just the latest show­ing Brit­ish spy agents at­tempt­ing to edu­cate their Amer­ic­an coun­ter­parts on their modes of gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance. Last month sim­il­ar Power­Point present­a­tions were ex­posed show­ing how the Brit­ish gov­ern­ment mon­itored You­Tube in real time and col­lec­ted data from Face­book and Twit­ter.

What We're Following See More »
Obama: Michelle Will Never Run for Office
17 minutes ago
North Dakota Pipeline Protests Turn Violent
2 hours ago

The protest over the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline turned violent overnight as the police and National Guard sought to remove the protesters, surrounding them with assault vehicles and officers in riot gear. The law enforcement officers used pepper spray and fired bean bags for more than six hours. In response, the protesters "lit debris on fire and threw Molotov cocktails in retreat." One woman pulled out a gun and fired at officers, narrowly missing before being arrested. The protesters claim the pipeline would be constructed on land belonging to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

House Leadership Elections Slated for Nov. 15
2 hours ago

The House has scheduled leadership votes for Nov. 15, the day after members return from their election recess. "Since mid-September, members of the House Freedom Caucus have weighed whether they should ask leadership to push back the elections so they can see how House Speaker Paul Ryan performs at the end of the year," but leaders don't seem inclined to grant their request.

Feds Announce Rapid GDP Growth in Q3
2 hours ago

Gross domestic product "expanded at a 2.9% annual clip from July through September. That’s a marked improvement from the first half of the year when the U.S. grew just barely over 1%." The robust numbers make it more likely that the Federal Reserve hikes interest rates at its next meeting.

Oregon Militiamen Found Not Guilty
2 hours ago

"A federal jury on Thursday found Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan Bundy and five co-defendants not guilty of conspiring to prevent federal employees from doing their jobs through intimidation, threat or force during the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The Bundy brothers and occupiers Jeff Banta and David Fry also were found not guilty of having guns in a federal facility." In a strange "coda" to the decision, Bundy's attorney Marcus Mumford was tackled and tasered by marshals in the courtroom as he argued that Bundy should be free to go.


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.