Edward Snowden sounds alarm over Pentagon ‘disinformation’ campaign report

Edward Snowden criticized the findings of a recent Reuters investigation, which reported that the Pentagon launched a secret campaign to “sow doubt about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines” abroad.

The report, released on Friday, says the campaign targeted the Philippines in an attempt to counter China’s influence. According to Reuters, “through fake internet accounts aimed at impersonating Filipinos, the military’s propaganda efforts turned into an anti-vaccine campaign” in the spring of 2020 through mid-2021, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The news agency identified more than 300 accounts on X, formerly Twitter, that participated in a campaign to spread theories that the Chinese Sinovac vaccine was not successful in countering the effects of the Corona virus. “Almost all of them were created in the summer of 2020 and centered around the slogan #Chinaangvirus — Tagalog for China is the virus,” Reuters reported. One post read: “From China – PPE, face mask, vaccine: fake. But the coronavirus is real.”

Snowden is a vocal critic of “fake news” and its spread on social media. The Justice Department charged a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor with espionage in 2013 after thousands of top-secret records were leaked, exposing the agency’s surveillance of private citizens’ information.

Edward Snowden speaking remotely at WIRED25: WIRED celebrates its 25th anniversary – Day 2 on October 14, 2018 in San Francisco, California. On Friday, Snowden republished a Reuters investigation that concluded that the Pentagon was involved in…


Philip Farone/Getty Images for WIRED25

He remains a polarizing figure, with some praising his work as a whistleblower exposing surveillance and intelligence-gathering practices, while others say he has threatened national security and is a traitor. Since the leak, he has lived in Russia and obtained Russian citizenship in 2022.

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In X’s post on Saturday morning, he reshared the Reuters article with the caption “Holy f—.” He started a thread, with the next post reading, “This will be taught in history classes.”

A third post on the Snowden thread shared a screenshot of the end of the investigation, saying: “V Unclassified strategy document Last year, top Pentagon generals wrote that the US military could undermine adversaries like China and Russia using “disinformation spread via social media, false narratives disguised as news, and similar subversive activities.” [to] Weakening societal trust by undermining the foundations of government.

“If the government is breathing the word ‘disinformation’ again,” Snowden wrote, “every journalist in the room had better turn their back on the platform. They are stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from taxpayers (at least!) to poison the Internet.”

Reuters wrote that this disinformation campaign began during Donald Trump’s presidency and continued once President Joe Biden took office, as the last administration attempted to separate itself from the campaign.

“The Biden White House issued a decree in the spring of 2021 banning anti-vaccine efforts, which also disparaged vaccines produced by other competitors, and the Pentagon began an internal review,” Reuters found.

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Newsweek I reached out to the Pentagon via email for comment on Saturday. Newsweek Snowden sent a message to his X account for comment on Saturday.

A Defense Ministry official acknowledged to Reuters the existence of the program but declined to provide details to the news agency.

A Pentagon spokeswoman told Reuters that the US military “uses a variety of platforms, including social media, to counter these malicious attacks targeting the United States and its allies and partners.” She said China had begun a “disinformation campaign to falsely blame the United States for the spread of Covid-19.”