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
Alex Brown and Dustin Volz
Add to Briefcase
Alex Brown Dustin Volz
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.

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