STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.
Did government contractors play a role in carrying out a "coup against President Trump" as claimed in the "ShadowGate" video? No, that's not true: There's zero evidence to support the claim, a variation on the oft-debunked myth that Trump is fighting a deep state. A "whistleblower" exaggerated his role in developing a program that he falsely claimed was then used to do everything from spur protests to frame Trump. His claims are "wildly fictitious and irresponsible," according a spokesman for Dynology, the company where he worked.
The claim was made in a video that appeared in a Facebook post (archived here) on August 15, 2020. The video, titled "ShadowGate," was made by Millicent "Millie" Weaver, who goes by the name "Millennial Millie." It appeared alongside text that read:
PRIVATE CONTRACTORS ARE HIRED BY YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS TO DO THE DIRTY UNCONSTITUTIONAL WORK , THEY DON'T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT.
This is what the post looked like at the time of writing:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Mon Aug 17 19:52:39 2020 UTC)
The 82-minute video begins with a short narration by Weaver. She asks:
What if I were to tell you that a small group of government contractors were hired by government officials to frame the Trump campaign, set him up for the Russia collusion investigation, provided witnesses for the impeachment hearings and provided administrative support services to the Department of Justice during the Mueller investigation?
And what if it just so happened that this same group of contractors are behind the fake news in mainstream media, influence operations on social media and the civil unrest nationwide, pushing the Defund the Police movement?
Later, Weaver adds:
Both parties are equally guilty of covering up what should turn out to be an even bigger scandal -- ShadowGate -- the tactical and operational role the shadow government played behind the scenes carrying out the coup against President Trump.
Despite the bombshell nature of its claims, the video does not successfully support them.
As evidence, the video includes interviews with just two people, "Tore" and Patrick Bergy, both of whom are identified as people who worked as contractors "within the shadow government."
Tore is described as an intelligence contractor and linguist with the U.S. Navy. Bergy allegedly worked in cybersecurity for the U.S. Army and as a contractor for a company called Dynology. Lead Stories confirmed from a source who worked with Bergy that his job at Dynology did not involve developing software. A spokesman for the company said:
Mr. Bergy worked for Dynology on a Department of Defense contract supporting the military in Iraq over a decade ago. We are aware of the 'documentary' and Mr. Bergy's assertions that are as wildly fictitious and irresponsible as one could contrive.
In the video, Bergy said that he worked on contracts for the Department of Defense, "for the development of the capabilities for interactive internet activities." Here's Bergy:
The ShadowNet was the commercial version of an IIA weapon -- IIA being interactive internet activities -- that's the military nomenclature for what basically you've heard being described for the last three or four years with all the fake news, the fake news journalists and fake stories, fake dossier. All these things are attributes, characteristics of IIA, which is social media psychological warfare. We began that really in 2007, right after the policy guidelines first came out.
Various images scrolled as he spoke. One looked like an official flyer or website explaining ShadowNet. Another showed the 2007 Department of Defense (DoD) policy.
The montage is typical of the video, which uses a combination of stock footage and official-looking documents to make its points. Often, though, the images are irrelevant to the arguments and don't match the sinister-sounding music that's played beneath them.
For example, there's nothing secret about the DoD policy on IIA. It says nothing about "psychological warfare." (You can read the full guidance here.) Also, ShadowNet, as its described in the image, is hardly a "weapon." It creates a "sandbox" for secure, anonymous access to the internet. (You can read more about the platform here.)
The video, via Bergy, attributes IIA as being behind recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations and describes certain news personalities, such as Gillian Turner and Mika Brzezinski, as "IIA assets." When asked whether he thought IIA had been used against Trump, Bergy said:
Absolutely, through the Russian dossier ... It was built. It was a product. It was used as a weapon as part of an influence operation.
Again, he offers no proof for his sweeping claims beyond speculation.
And speaking of speculation, Bergy recently suggested that authorities arrested Weaver because of her work exposing the deep state. They did not. According to The Plain Dealer, Weaver was arrested August 14 on charges of robbery and domestic violence in Portage County, Ohio. At the time of writing, a GoFundMe page had raised close to $170,000 for Weaver, who is a contributor to InfoWars.
NewsGuard, a company that uses trained journalist to rank the reliability of websites, describes Infowars.com as:
A far-right website run by radio host Alex Jones that has reported that 9/11 was orchestrated by the U.S. government and the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax, among other falsehoods.
According to NewsGuard the site does not maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability. Read their full assessment here.
Lead Stories has covered conspiracy theories about the deep state before. Here are some recent articles:
- Fact Check: NO Evidence That 'Deep State,' China Use COVID-19 For Population Control And To Derail President Trump
- Fake News: President Trump Did NOT Reveal He Is In Fact Q
- Fake News: JFK Jr. Is NOT Alive And Will Not Replace Vice President Pence as Donald Trump's 2020 Running Mate
- Fake News: Donald Trump Did NOT Tweet: 'We Need A Civil War To Fight The Deep State Of Dems'
2020-08-18T19:07:22Z 2020-08-18T19:07:22ZAdds quote from Dynology spokesman