Monday, March 24, 2014

"Trusted Agents Only" - One Aim of Joint DHS/FEMA Exercise is to Counter Dissent

(March 28 - this is a revised version)

DHS/FEMA National Exercise Program  Capstone Exercise 2014  

Scenario Ground Truth

Leaked Homeland Security documents obtained by Infowars, via Stewart Rhodes at Oath Keepers, reveal details of a joint DHS/FEMA national exercise set to take place this week, one of the components of which revolves around an effort to counter online dissent by a group called "Free Americans Against Socialist Tyranny," which is disgruntled at the imposition of martial law after an earthquake in Alaska. 

The document is intended for “U.S. Department of Homeland Security Trusted Agents Only” and is “disseminated only on a
need-to-know basis.” Even the role players involved in the exercise itself are prohibited from seeing the files.
The exercise is designed to evaluate readiness in preparation for a catastrophic incident, natural disaster or major act of terrorism. Some of the scenarios which will be in play during the exercise include a series of earthquakes, tsunamis and a nuclear weapons accident.
On page 125 of the document, a scenario is outlined whereby a group calling itself “Free Americans against Socialist Tyranny” responds to “The U.S. Northern Command mission of Defense Support to Civil Authorities” (or the imposition of martial law) by launching a protest campaign on social media and potentially engaging in cyber attacks.
According to the scenario, the campaign is driven by suspicion that “the government is responsible for the Alaska earthquake and a “hacktivist” manifesto.”
The complete document can be found on Scribd.

Excerpts: (emphasis added)

6.1 Cyber Operations
The Cyber operations Joint Master Scenario Events List and other exercise injects will be developed, maintained, and delivered using the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network with “placeholder events” in unclassified JOINT MASTER SCENARIO EVENTS LIST for visibility. If you have questions on cyber operations contact the appropriate North American Aerospace Defense Command –Northern Command White Cell Controller; the number can be found in the Control Cell Phonebook.
Background information to support cyber play:

The U.S. Northern Command mission of Defense Support to Civil Authorities has led to increased activity by some anti-government organizations. Currently, the most vocal organization is Free Americans against Socialist Tyranny; using social media, they advertise anti-U.S. rhetoric focusing on the Department of Defense as well as to recruit like-minded individuals to join their “cause”.
While some Free Americans against Socialist Tyranny members are capable of conducting adverse cyber operations, the greatest threat is current government employees sympathetic to their cause. It is believed that there are employees within US Northern Command, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, National Guard, and Defense Information Systems Agency that may support Free Americans against Socialist Tyranny doctrine based on individual comments on social media sites. Free Americans against Socialist Tyranny sympathizers may include both former and current members of the military with training on satellite communications, computer network defense, network operations, as well as military command and control. Recent reductions in force and early separation requirements have raised concern for disgruntled military and Department of Defense civilians. Based on the possible insider threat, the below capabilities could be compromised or targeted during military operations:
  • Critical commercial and Department of Defense Information Networks communications infrastructure, especially concentration points or nodes, to amplify confusion and “decapitate the enemy control”.
  • The North American Aerospace Defense Command –Northern Command networks and information technology infrastructure that support command operations
  • Critical infrastructure and single points of failure within the affected region
  • U.S. Northern Command plans and responses to events such as those for Defense Support to
    Civil Authorities response
  • Means of communications to other agencies. Mark these communications means for later
    attack, exploitation, and deception or denial of use. 

Additionally, this targeting affects personnel using the Network Effects Emulation System. Cyber security assessments do, however, indicate the possibility that North American Aerospace Defense Command –Northern Command personnel sympathetic to Free Americans against Socialist Tyranny have targeted "pre-selected systems" on the North American Aerospace Defense Command –Northern Command Non-classified Internet Protocol Router and SIPR Secret Internet Protocol Router Network enclaves.
Some cyber activities will be visible to all participants via the “WNN” or Social Media SIMDECK sites. These activities will include accusations that the government is responsible for the Alaska earthquake and a “hacktivist” manifesto. (page 125)
Cyber attacks are expected throughout the exercise by members of anti-­‐ government organizations, such as Free Americans Against Socialist Tyranny and individuals sympathetic to their cause. (page 5)


  1. You have obviously failed to read and/or understand the document and the program it is part of. The Capstone exercise is conducted every two years as a part of the National Exercise Program, which is required to complete the National Preparedness Report. This document essentially creates a detailed fictional disaster scenario that DHS/FEMA must respond to.
    There is nothing in the document regarding the imposition of martial law, that is simply your fear-mongering. Nor is there is anything in the document about countering online dissent. Rather, it is about preventing and responding to cyber attacks on the government by an outside group, possibly with inside help.
    The program itself and the basic outline of the exercise was never "need to know". However, the leaked document was distributed on a need to know basis and not given to the players. That is hardly surprising. Each participant was only given a part of the information in the document, and one aspect of the test was being able to figure out the whole story. If you gave all of the participants the answers to the test ahead of time it wouldn't give you very good results.

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    I think it is quite clear that one of the aims of the exercise is to develop ways to counter dissent and combat cyber attacks by domestic or foreign groups.

  3. Well, you are quite correct that one of the aims of the exercise is to develop strategies to combat cyber attacks. That is one of the stated goals of the exercise.
    Do you have any facts that would support your claim that "it is clear" that the exercise was also aimed at developing ways to counter dissent?

  4. @Anonymous,

    I have edited the posting for the sake of clarity; please see the revised version.

    I think it is clear that dissent via social media and other venues would be closely monitored to root out activists and sympathizers who might organize various cyber activities; i.e. denial of service and other "hacking" etc. Such intensified monitoring would tend to dampen dissent.

  5. You still claim that "one of the components of which revolves around an effort to counter online dissent". The imaginary scenario that was created involves an online group with an avowed intent to hack the government, and reason to believe that they could do so. Under those circumstances monitoring their online presence is not only reasonable, it is necessary. There is nothing in these documents that suggests that there would be any attempt to counter online dissent. It is hard to imagine that under the scenario given that the "Free Americans" group wouldn't assume that the government is monitoring their postings, so it is unlikely that actual monitoring would stifle their dissent. Even if your assumption that the government monitoring might tend to stifle their dissent, that is a LONG way from your claim that this "is an effort to counter online dissent". The effort is to prevent hacking of government computers and communication systems.
    Capstone is FEMA/DHS's biggest "test" which is used to satisfy Congress that they can keep us safe as long as we continue to give them lots of money. All of the documents involved, all of the events during the test, all of the successes and failures will be documented, cataloged and distributed to every member of Congress and every bureaucrat in DHS/FEMA. These "leaked" documents are not classified and those that were deemed "need to know" prior to the exercise were in the hundreds, if not thousands of people, and after the events the full document is seen my many thousands of people. Do you really think that DHS/FEMA is going to include black ops in all of this? Don't you think that at least a few member's of Congress would be more than happy to blow the whistle if something like this were done?
    There are plenty of government activities that we should be worried about. This isn't one of them. These "leaked documents" do not suggest that the government is planning to stifle your dissent or enact martial law.
    However, I have notified DHS of your postings and asked them to keep an eye on you. (Just kidding, of course.)

  6. Anonymous - You make some interesting points and have made an important contribution to our understanding of the exercise. See you at the camp!

  7. See you there John. I will be the guy without a name tag.


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