This is a very good article. Just a bit less than three years ago I wrote a white paper on HBGary’s Team Themis which got circulated around Capitol Hill. I gave a copy of this paper to Barrett Brown, it made it into the public eye from there, and I’ve had endless grief ever since.
You end up on the receiving end of these tactics, it will ruin every personal and professional relationship you have. People who haven’t been subjected to it themselves will instantly flee and fellow activists tend to oscillate between trust and paranoia. Anyone with the temperament to stand up to this sort of thing will get fitted with a snitch jacket as the last resort – those who can avoid trouble *must* be receiving some sort of covert assistance. Try to explain coping strategies to your peers and you’ll get labeled a paranoid.
If you believe you are facing such moves the most important coping strategy is to slow down 20% and make yourself a timeline of key events. You will find this to be a revelation – your memory of cause/effect is your biggest weakness. Keeping some sort of card file or notebook that reminds you of who connects to whom is the next most important strategy. Things get murky after that, there are a lot of paths to sharpening your ability to separate reality from spin.
The solution to this really has to be legislation, because maybe one in a hundred can adapt to such tactics and continue to be effective. Aaron Swartz killed himself, Barrett flipped out completely, and I’ve watched a number of other less well known people hit the skids because they lost the ability to discern between fiction and reality. I went through a big bout of that myself in late 2012, it’s not a fun way to live.
Snowden’s leaks are providing validation for those who have been targeted, they’re providing us a roadmap of what should not be allowed. But I doubt the U.S. Congress or the British Parliament have the stones needed to actually clean it up. This sort of thing is so endemic that it’s influencing elections and no politician wants to risk a confrontation.
Actually, libel is a civil matter, and when dealing with intentional deception it’s like dealing with a guerrilla army. You need 10x the budget the opponent has just to stay even, which is why activists and movements get crushed. Anyone with a spark of leadership ability gets ruined before they realize what is being done to them.