“Q Anon”: An FBI Psyop?

A man holding up a “Q” sign at a rally of Trump supporters (Pennsylvania, August 2018)

Published: January 2021
Updated: August 2021

A recent Reuters investigation might indicate that “QAnon” was in fact an FBI cyber psyop.

The “QAnon” phenomenon has generally been regarded as a hoax or prank, originated by online message board users in late October 2017, that got out of control. The “QAnon” persona was preceded by similar personae, including “FBI anon”, “CIA anon” and “White House insider anon”.

“QAnon” originally called himself “Q clearance patriot”. Former CIA counterintelligence operative Kevin M. Shipp explained that an actual “Q clearance leaker” – i.e. someone possessing the highest security clearance at the US Department of Energy, required to access top secret nuclear weapons information – would have been identified and removed within days.

However, in November 2020 Reuters reported that the very first social media accounts to promote the “QAnon” persona were seemingly “linked to Russia” and even “backed by the Russian government”. For instance, the very first Twitter account to ever use the term “Q Anon” on social media had previously “retweeted obscure Russian officials”, according to Reuters.

These alleged “Russian social media accounts”, posing as accounts of American patriots, were in contact with politically conservative US YouTubers and drew their attention to the “QAnon” persona. This is how, in early November 2017, the “QAnon” movement took off.

But given the recent revelations by British investigator David J. Blake – who for the first time was able to conclusively show, at the technical level, that the alleged “Russian hacking” of the DNC was a cyber psyop run by the FBI and FBI cyber security contractor CrowdStrike – the Reuters report might in fact indicate that “QAnon” was neither a hoax nor “Russian”, but another FBI cyber psyop.

Of note, US cyber intelligence firm New Knowledge, founded by former NSA and DARPA employees and tasked by the US Senate Intelligence Committee, in 2018, with investigating alleged “Russian social media operations” relating to the 2016 US presidential election, was itself caught faking a “Russian social media botnet” in order to influence the 2017 Alabama senate race.

Moreover, in 2019 it was revealed that FBI agents were active on 8chan, the message board used by “QAnon”, posing as US patriots and redirecting attention towards alleged “Russian interference”.

In 2020 it was revealed that one of the first persons to be involved in “QAnon” – and the only person to later “admit” to have been “behind QAnon” – had previously “infiltrated” several US social movements, including Occupy, Anonymous and Unity4J (Assange), after getting out of jail in 2010. To this day, it remains entirely unknown who has been financing this mysterious person.

Interestingly, the very first “QAnon” message appeared on October 28, 2017 – just one day before Special Counsel and former FBI Director, Robert Mueller, announced his first “Russian collusion” indictment against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. One of the claims of “QAnon” was that the Mueller investigation was somehow part of Trump’s “plan” against the “deep state”.

In January 2021, after Trump had lost the 2020 presidential election, references to “QAnon” once again featured prominently during the “storming of the US Capitol”. However, several lines of evidence indicate that the “storming of the Capitol” was in fact led by FBI “agents provocateurs”.

If the “QAnon” persona – similar to the Guccifer2.0 “Russian hacker” persona played by an FBI cyber security contractor – was indeed an FBI psychological operation, its goal may have been to take control of, discredit and ultimately derail the supporter base of US President Trump. In this case, the “QAnon” movement may have been a modern version of the original FBI CoIntelPro program.

However, some aspects appear to speak against a possible FBI operation. Most importantly, both Trump and Trump’s first National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn, repeatedly referred to “QAnon” in direct or indirect ways. Thus, “QAnon” may have been a psyop by Trump strategists, possibly run by Israeli cyber contractors, that eventually failed and backfired.

Postscript

Contrary to some media claims, the person or people behind the “QAnon” persona have never been identified. Some media speculated that James Watkins, the owner of the 8chan/8kun message board, on which “Q” was posting his messages, might be “Q” or might be linked to “Q”, but Watkins denied this. In September 2020, the owner of QMap, a website aggregating “Q” messages, was identified as a Citigroup employee, but again no actual link to “Q” could be established.

In May 2021, researchers from British investigative group Bellingcat published a time-zone metadata analysis of images found in Q posts. The analysis showed that most of the images were posted from within the US Pacific time zone (which includes California), while some images were posted from within the UCT+8 time zone (which includes the Philippines).

Interestingly, the above mentioned person who “admitted” to have been “behind QAnon” is known to have traveled between California and the Philippines in 2016. The Philippines also happens to be the location of 8chan founder James Watkins, as well as one of the locations of the Israeli cyber psyops contractor (PsyGroup/WhiteKnight) that was in contact with Trump strategists.

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