Among the standard operating procedures and the accepted practices for intelligences officers, agents and almost all associated personnel, other than directors and spokes-people, of the world’s intelligence agencies, is one that bans said personnel from maintaining and possessing personal pages on social media sites, dating sites, employment sites and the like.
The security concerns and opportunities for compromising agents, operations, unknowingly providing hostile counter-intelligence organizations and agents with valuable data (among major concerns), are so many and so wide-ranging, that if any trained intelligence officer, agent, operative or support personnel were to do something like posting their special training on the web, they would be stepping so far out of the bounds of accepted practice that they would be instantly disciplined, and perhaps have their heads examined.
The above is true for almost any country in the world, except of course if you work for the intrepid ASIO, the Australian Security Intelligence Organization. Currently the word “intelligence” in their name may be a matter for debate, but regardless, let us not get off the point.
According to the Herald hundreds, that’s right “hundreds” more than 200 to be exact, of former and present “spies” have placed information regarding their employment on-line on sites such as: “LinkedIn, other professional networking sites and social media including Facebook and Twitter”.
The information they have disclosed is so far ranging and potentially damaging for the ASIO and so potentially valuable for “foreign intelligence” that I am cautious as to taking it all at face value. As with all intelligence operations and activities, nothing happens by accident and there is always a huge level of duplicity in any activity they engage in, leading me to believe the whole “data display” may be a carefully planned operation by Australian Counter Intelligence Operations.
According to the Herald some of the information that was disclosed includes the following: fact of employment in top secret bodies such as the Defense Signals Directorate and the Defense Intelligence Organization, location of employment in specific “secret” facilities, overseas operational theater postings, intelligence liaison with other country’s agencies, linguistic skills, specific areas of work, expertise in specific information technology systems, special counter-terrorism training, telecommunications experience, aerospace ties, access to 'special compartmented intelligence' programs and much more.
According to computer forensics experts and information security professionals the information is a gold-mine that can be used by foreign intelligence, particular those engaged in social engineering, the practice of manipulating people into revealing targeted and “secret” information.
For the layman the fact that Raytheon may have secret departments operating in Australia, that the Defense Signals Directorate, RAAF's No. 3 Telecommunications Unit, the Royal Australian Navy's Shoal Bay Receiving Station, Britain's Communications Headquarters in Gloucestershire, GCHQ's Composite Signals Station, the US National Security Agency, and an Australian Defense Satellite Communications Station, cooperate closely and employ each other’s personnel, may seem like something worth knowing but for the “real” intelligence officer, these facts are already open knowledge.
What is dangerous is that if the posting are in fact genuine, and I for one am extremely skeptical, they open up personnel, their friends, present employers, families and all acquaintances, for targeting by every kind of group imaginable, from those involved in industrial espionage, to foreign counter-intelligence operatives and even terrorist groups.
If we undertake to analyze the “surprising” release of the information under the premise that nothing occurs accidentally, then we can look at what is actually being thrown out there like chum in shark infected waters, and more importantly what is not, and attempt to reach an “intelligent” conclusion as to the motivations and the real reasons for the release of the information.
We could start by attempting to determine if these “over 200 individuals” are actually real. Can we prove they are? Or are they cleverly engineered “bots” that will attract “targets” interested in “secrets”. In this case could Australian counter intelligence be so desperate to actually find some work that they are attempting to create it themselves?
If these 200 are in fact real, is it possible they are involved in disinformation or in actually culling their own contacts and targets. For example I might tell the world I can program a nuclear war-head and then wait to see who bites and reel in anyone who is interested in actually doing that. An intelligence victory is had, or another example I could say I work for the NSA in Department “M” and wait to see who shows an interest. Using such reactions and more importantly “non-reactions” to such intelligence is part of what counter intelligence is all about.
If we assume this is a counter-intelligence operation then we can take the whole game to the next level and engage in “counter-counter-intelligence”. For example analyze the information that is “not” being revealed such as: after a causal look at some of the “information” there was no reference to “Russia” or “Russian”.
Are we then to assume that the entire ASIO has no Russia Department? Of course not! But we can ascertain that they have no interest in widening their Russian operations or attracting Russian individuals, a fact from which many conclusions can be reached, one of which might be that they already have someone on the inside of Russian Intelligence, for example. This is more or less pure counter-intelligence.
Another example might be putting out information that intelligence operatives specialize in information technology system “A”, which might then have the less than intrepid hostile agency, going into over-drive to try to crack “A”. All the while ASIO is building defenses for system “B” which is currently vulnerable.
So my little piece of advice, if you are approached by one of these “more than 200” just ignore them, do not interact with them. Real intelligence officers and specialists rarely need social media and web sites to find employment if they are in good standing. And if they pretend not to be, it may be a cover and a ruse. Don’t buy into it.
Lastly according to the Australian Defense Department's own security directives: ''... when engaged in online forums … personnel must exercise professional judgment to ensure no information breaches operational security'', since there is no huge outcry and mass arrests are not taking place, we could assume no security protocols were broken and all of the information is either planted or of no real importance, further evidence that a foul game is afoot.