Segretti’s legacy lives on

segrettiDoes anyone remember Donald Segretti who uttered this immortal line:

Don’t tell me anything and I won’t know.

He was Nixon’s dirty tricks man for C.R.E.E.P., which sounded like something in a Bond film.

Potted bio:

Segretti’s involvement in the “Canuck letter[2] typifies the tactics Segretti and others working with him used, forging a letter ascribed to Senator Edmund Muskie which maligned the people, language and culture of French Canada and French Canadians, causing the soon to be Democratic presidential candidate Muskie considerable headaches in denying the letter and having to continue dealing with the issue.

Many historians have indicated over the years that Muskie’s withdrawal from the Presidential primaries, and the disastrous Iowa primary loss to George McGovern that precipitated it, were at least partly the result of Segretti and some of the other “Ratfuckers” creating so much confusion and false accusations that Muskie simply could not respond in any meaningful way.

In 1974, Segretti pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor counts of distributing illegal (in fact, forged) campaign literature and was sentenced to six months in prison, actually serving four months.

One notable example of his wrongdoing was a faked letter on Democratic presidential candidate Edmund Muskie‘s letterhead falsely alleging that U.S. Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, a fellow Democrat, had had an illegitimate child with a 17-year-old; the Muskie letters accused Senator Hubert H. Humphrey of sexual misconduct as well.[3]

After testimony regarding the Muskie letters emerged, Democrats in Florida noted the similarity between these sabotage incidents and others that involved stationery stolen from Humphrey’s offices after Muskie dropped out of the race.

A false news release on Humphrey’s letterhead “accused Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D-N.Y.) of being mentally unbalanced” and a mailing with an unidentified source mischaracterized Humphrey as supporting a controversial environmental measure that he actually opposed.[3]

In the 1976 film about Watergate, All the President’s Men, Segretti was played by Robert Walden, who downplayed the dirty tricks he had undertaken as “Nickel-and-dime stuff . . . stuff. Stuff with a little wit attached to it.”

And so to today and closer to home:

Apparently, the UK’s version of the NSA is way ahead of the NSA on that. A new report by Glenn Greenwald and others at NBC, based on Snowden documents, shows that the GCHQ has an entire program dedicated to these kinds of attacks.

Now, there is some reasonable argument to be made that this is part of basic espionage protocol, but generally speaking that’s supposed to be the mandate of the actual spy agencies (in the US, that would be the CIA, in the UK MI5 or MI6).

When it moves over into organizations like the NSA and GCHQ, which are supposed to be more about merely collecting and analyzing “signals intelligence” rather than “offensive” attacks, it becomes increasingly questionable.

And yet, the GCHQ seems positively giddy about its ability to go online and mess with people and companies. For example, a presentation shows that they will mess with people’s social networking accounts, and leak info to friends, colleagues and neighbors

As GCHQ says in the presentation, this is all part of the strategy to “destroy, deny, degrade and disrupt” those they wish to target. And some of it involves directly spying on journalists, something that the various intelligence agencies keep claiming they don’t do.

Yet, in part of the presentation they explain how they can use a journalist to get to a target:

The 2010 presentation also describes another potential operation that would utilize a technique called “credential harvesting” to select journalists who could be used to spread information. According to intelligence sources, spies considered using electronic snooping to identify non-British journalists who would then be manipulated to feed information to the target of a covert campaign. Apparently, the journalist’s job would provide access to the targeted individual, perhaps for an interview. The documents do not specify whether the journalists would be aware or unaware that they were being used to funnel information.

This is not unrelated to the post earlier this morning where humble functionaries of a certain mental bent try to score brownie points with those above. It’s not quite like the bratpack in the City and Wall Street – Leeson et al – but there’s certainly a sort of beat-the-system ultra-cleverness about these people in their moment in the sun.

And people do get hurt.

If you watch Cameron and the way he leans side-on, delivering his witticisms at PMQ, that’s his concept of politics. The actual nitty-gritty of people’s lives being blighted by his actions does not cross his mind, it’s not germane in the glare of the lights and before the cameras.

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