Is a ‘Shadow Government’ Seeking a Coup Against President Trump?

A documentary produced by InfoWars correspondent Millie Weaver titled ShadowGate was released and went viral this week. The video has been taken off of many platforms, but continues to appear online on websites including Facebook. The video covers a wide range of topics and conspiracy theories during its 1 hour and 24 minutes running time. Many of the claims are not possible to truly fact check as they are presented with anecdotal evidence, if any evidence at all—things like MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski being a government asset, the Black Lives Matter protests being incited through government psychological operations, and the Deep State working against both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election with an end goal of a Pence presidency. However, a number of claims that Weaver and her sources make are contradicted by readily available evidence, and some items offered as evidence of conspiracy are misinterpreted or misrepresented.

“ShadowGate” is what Weaver has dubbed a conspiracy theory about a “shadow government” seeking to carry out a “coup” against President Donald Trump. The central claim of the video is that a network of government contractors is manipulating the government and general public as a part of a plot to create a surveillance state, take down President Donald Trump, and for members to enrich themselves (among other things). Weaver has two sources for the documentary: Patrick Bergy, who claims to be a cybersecurity expert and former Army psychological operations program developer, and Tore Maras-Lindeman, who goes only by her first name in the documentary and claims to be a linguist with the Navy and an intelligence contractor. As other factchecks of ShadowGate have pointed out, neither of their backgrounds has been verified. 

The “Shadow” in the title of the video refers to ShadowNet, a computer program Bergy calls an “IIA weapon.” IIA stands for Interactive Internet Activities, which Bergy, Tore, and Weaver present as something particularly nefarious, used by the government to control people, but the term is so loosely defined by Weaver and her sources that they use it to refer to everything from disseminating misinformation to celebrities endorsing politicians to polls that failed to accurately predict a Trump victory—though the polls were, in fact, generally accurate, and the results fell within the normal range of error historically seen in polls.

Examples of ShadowNet being used are given, though the basis Bergy and Tore give for these examples are generally speculative or based on anecdotal and inherently unprovable evidence. Bergy at one point, for example, says that in 2014, he “recognized Black Lives Matter movement during the Michael Brown riots is being influenced by IIA.” He does not explain further as to what specific actions were taken to manipulate the protesters to incitement, and said only that “a colleague of mine in South Korea did a trace route on it, trace-routed the source of the, what I believe to have been IIA, to Ukraine.” He did not explain what precisely was being traced. Weaver noted that in her interview with Bergy, he further claimed that “the contiguous release of the Obama Phone with an unlimited data plan played a significant role in fostering the Ferguson riots using IIA.” “Obama Phone” refers to a federal program called Lifeline that provides phone discounts, not phones themselves, to low-income subscribers. 

Bergy also suggested that the federal government “came out with the Obama Phone” shortly after the Smith-Mundt Act was updated “to allow for the influence, dissemination of propaganda to Americans.” Lifeline has, in fact, existed since the Reagan administration and was updated to include discounts for cell phones under President George W. Bush, and the term “Obama Phone” was coined in 2009, three years before the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act was passed. The Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 authorized the federal government to communicate information about the United States and American ideals abroad, and was updated in 2012 to better reflect how information is shared in the internet age. The updated act does not allow for the “dissemination of propaganda to Americans,” but states that materials created by the U.S. government for use abroad can be made available in the United States “upon request.”

Weaver alleged that the NSA’s mass trove of American citizens’ data has been shared with “private servers controlled by private intelligence and cybersecurity contractors, AKA The Analysis Corporation, Global Strategies Group, and Canadian Global Information.” (There is no company by the name “Canadian Global Information,” though there is a company based in Canada called CGI that is a global information technology company.) As proof that private corporations had access to NSA servers, Tore says: “How do you think we found, through facial recognition of the FBI, the Belgian bomber? Why would we have their facial recognition data?” The very article flashed across the screen as she’s talking provides an answer: The FBI didn’t provide facial recognition data, it merely provided the Belgian government with facial recognition software.

Tore also asserted that the DoJ gave CGI, which she describes as a “Canadian intelligence compan[y,” “access to the Mueller investigation.” Tore claims this was accomplished through a contract worth “over $40 million in waste management,” which she further claimed is just code for “paper shredding.” CGI is an information technology company that provides its clients with “information technology outsourcing, infrastructure, application management, system integration, and consulting services.” It is headquartered in Canada, but has offices in many other countries. The contract Tore referred to was between the Department of Justice and the head office of the United States locations of CGI. The company does work in the defense and intelligence industries, but that is just one part of the company’s operations. It also is contracted by businesses and organizations working in many other industries, including banking, communications, insurance, and transportation

Government contracts are classified through a numerical code system called the North American Industry Classification System. The CGI contract in question was worth $42.5 million and fell under code 56: “Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services.” This, however, is just a general category, and the CGI contract was further subcategorized as a code 561210: “Facilities Support Services.” Government contracts also have a Product or Service Code, and the CGI contract bears the code “R699: SUPPORT- ADMINISTRATIVE: OTHER.” Additionally, rather than “waste management,” the contract states that CGI’s major program was “MAIL MANAGEMENT WAREHOUSE AND RELATED SUPPORT SERVICES.” There is nothing to connect the contract to the Mueller investigation aside from a coincidence in dates: the CGI contract lasted from October 1, 2017 until September 30, 2018, overlapping with the Mueller investigation, which started when Mueller was appointed on May 17, 2017 and lasted until he submitted his report to Attorney General Bill Barr March 22, 2019.

Tore also promoted the conspiracy theory that Seth Rich, a DNC employee, was murdered as a part of a cover-up after leaking DNC emails. The Mueller investigation determined that Russian hackers, not Rich, were the source of the leak. 

Not content to merely allow her interview subjects to promulgate falsehoods, Weaver offered up a few of her own. She claimed, for example, that “[General James] Jones and co. are running the ‘defund the police’ influence operation simply because they are in a position to benefit by offering an alternative solution that is already in line with the Green New Deal agenda.” There is no proof to suggest that Jones, or anyone else, secretly incited the “defund the police” movement, and the solution that Millie refers to is a patent Jones holds that she briefly, and misleadingly, discusses. The patent is titled “Systems and Methods for Electronically Monitoring Employees to Determine Potential Risk” and explains how employees’ behavior as captured in social media, criminal background, and financial history can be used to assess how risky a hire an employee is. It’s unclear how this would be used to replace police. 

These are just a few examples of the blatant misinformation to be found in ShadowGate that speak to the level of research and verification that went into the creation of the “documentary.” It relies on a combination of outright falsehoods and unverifiable claims to promote a conspiracy theory about an evil cabal of government contractors for which there is no true evidence.

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