Hack of U.S. Army Colonel Spawns Online Syria War Conspiracy

Rumors of war crimes now speed around the globe at the speed of light

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In the byte-and-pixel hall of mirrors that is the Internet, rumors are easy to start and impossible to stop. The latest: that the U.S. Army may have played a key role in the massacre of some 1,400 Syrians, including more than 400 children, in that chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus Aug. 21.

The Army confirmed Thursday morning that the email account of a recently-retired Army intelligence colonel was hacked. Army officials believe the hacker(s) involved wrote the emails that have triggered reports of U.S. involvement. “But if you read the emails, you can tell they weren’t written by an O-6 [colonel] working in G-2 {intelligence],” one says. “They look like they were written by a third-grader.” The Army’s Criminal Investigation Command began looking into the case Wednesday.

Regardless of how much smoke has been spread about an alleged U.S. role in the chemical-weapons attack, Pentagon officials insist there is no fire. “It’s beyond preposterous to suggest that the United States had anything to do with what was, in fact, the Syrian regime’s brutal deployment of chemical weapons on its own innocent civilians,” Pentagon spokesman George Little says.

But with the right attitude, lingo, data, anonymous online drop-boxes, disclaimers, names and emails — some of which might even be real — silicon sorcerers can spin a tale that can sound plausible to outsiders and those eager to believe.

This post seems to be the source of the latest tall tale now bouncing around the Internet:

I’ve hacked colonel Anthony Jamie MacDonald mail he is intelligence US Army Staff boss. First I hacked his Link3dIn account and got access to his mail through it then.

Among mail Mayhem like Amazon mails I’ve found his correspondence with his colleague Eugene Furst. He congratulates Col. with success and gives a link to the Washington Post publication about chemical attack in Syria on August 21. Furst also mentions it was “well staged”. Holy shit. I was shocked my eyes refused to believe it. Bloody bastards they “staged” a chemical attack.

Then a friend of Anthony MacDonald’s wife Jennifer writes she was shocked seeing on TV the children died after chemical attack in Syria. Jennifer answers she saw the story but Tony calm her down saying children were alive and the scene was staged.

This kind of stuff is catnip for conspiracy buffs — Anthony MacDonald does, in fact, exist (he retired in July from the Army, where he worked in intelligence) and his purported emails have been showing up in recent days on websites of legitimate media like the Telegraph newspaper in Britain:

The media has spread new proofs of the U.S. intelligence involvement to chemical attack near Damascus. Hacker got access to U.S. intelligence correspondence and published U.S. Army Col. ANTHONY J. MACDONALD’s mail. Macdonald is General Staff Director, Operations and Plans Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence the Army Staff. It’s about chemical attack in Syria.

The post, like all conspiracy theories, polarizes readers:

“The fakery here is so obviously bad as to make me wonder if it’s done by the US to discredit the Syrians,” says one.

“The increasing involvement of the administration in the middle east post the arab spring gives creditability to this story,” counters another.

Of course, the Telegraph post appears to be — tough to be too certain in this realm — just an outside poster replicating a post from a website called Godlike Productions, dedicated to “UFOs, Conspiracy Theorists [and the] Lunatic Fringe,” and not put there by anyone from the newspaper. But to conspiracy buffs, it now carries the paper’s imprimatur.

The Big Lie — Adolf Hitler’s term — can almost seem like The Truth if repeated often enough. And this tale is spreading:

“While the U.S is on the verge of attacking Syria for allegedly using chemical weapons on its people, a hacker going with the handle of ‘€Wagn3r’ has came forward with bunch of email conversations between U.S military officials calling the chemical attack a `staged operation’,” reports one website.

“A hacker by the name of €Wagn3r claims to have hacked approximately 20 members of the Pentagon and some of their spouses. In their emails US Colonels utilize a high number of military acronyms which, when looked, up point to a conversation about intelligence budgets and how to fund operations. The correspondence indicates the US government was the most probable sponsor of the latest chemical attack in Syrian Ghouta,” says another.

“The new evidence seem to confirm that the U.S. military intelligence was involved in the recent chemical attack in suburbs of the Syrian capital, Damascus (August 21). According to the report, a hacker has managed it to get access to the U.S. intelligence correspondence as well as to private emails of the General Staff Director, Operations and Plans Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence the US Army Staff, Col. Anthony J. MacDonald. The leak was published and it seems that Houston the US military intelligence has a problem now,” a third reads.

Of course, skeptics note there are gaps in these theories big enough to fly a cruise missile through. But the key one is this: it doesn’t pass the “human nature” test. Given the scrambling and rollbacks, the unred lines and dented credibility the Obama Administration has exhibited over the past two weeks, why would it want such an attack to occur? Can anyone possibly believe that the U.S. is in a better place internationally now than it was Aug. 20? Were this rumor to be true, Obama would be subject to impeachment. The U.S. military officers involved would be facing life in the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., if not capital punishment.

Yet the revelations of NSA contractor Edward Snowden buttress the sense that the U.S. government is all-knowing and can do anything. That, of course, is why the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq went so swimmingly, with so little cost in blood or treasure. It’s plain that someone with some degree of technical sophistication is behind this latest example of Internet trouble-making. The so-called Syrian Electronic Army, a mysterious pro-Assad outfit that has been reportedly involved in all kinds of mischief, perhaps with Iranian help, is a key suspect.