In 2008, Harvard professors Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule proposed that the government should engage in “cognitive infiltration” of citizen groups that seek the truth about 9/11. The proposal was that government operatives, whether anonymous or otherwise, should infiltrate and disrupt the groups. They wrote,
“Government agents (and their allies) might enter chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine percolating conspiracy theories by raising doubts about their factual premises, causal logic or implications for political action. “
The following year, this anti-Constitutional stance was rewarded when Sunstein was made director of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Members of the 9/11 Truth Movement responded with detailed criticism.
Of course, the idea of infiltrating a grassroots action group, to disrupt and defame its members, was not new. The FBI program called COINTELPRO was a widely reported example after it was revealed in the early 1970s to have infiltrated citizen groups seeking civil rights and peace. After being revealed, COINTELPRO techniques continued at the FBI and elsewhere in government.
Since 9/11, journalists have noted that government infiltration of political groups is no longer a rare exception but is the norm. The goals of such infiltration are to destabilize and prevent citizen dissent by creating a negative public image for the target group and conflict within the group. Infiltration is easy when it comes to a grassroots movement like 9/11 Truth. That is, you cannot just claim to be a 9/11 Commission member or an employee of a government agency but anyone can say they are a truth seeker. The beauty of this for government operatives is that they can control both sides of the conversation.
To make a significant impact, however, an infiltrator needs to quickly move into a position as a leading voice for the movement. One way in which this was done, even before Sunstein’s proposal, was through a social variant of the physical principle called the “gravitational assist.” The physical principle leverages the movement and gravitational pull of a moon or planet to slingshot a spacecraft into a higher velocity trajectory by moving the path of the spacecraft near the larger body. The social variant is when a brief association with a leading voice in a group lends someone credibility that they would otherwise not have.