On 3 AUG 20, an independent documentary landed on the internet and quickly went viral. The documentary, ShadowGate, was a production from an InfoWars correspondent, Millie Weaver, and her husband, Gavin Wince. ShadowGate and its producers quickly found themselves trying to find a home for the film due to it being banned from various platforms including YouTube, although it was available on Weaver’s own website. When the dust settled, ShadowGate was immensely popular, due in no small part to the banning of it which helped generate curiosity.
Many of the allegations presented in ShadowGate have been debunked by other researchers and fact-checking organizations. Alex Jones and his InfoWars organization was so incensed by the allegations in ShadowGate – allegations that placed Jones’ long-time friend Roger Stone at the center of a conspiracy to take down President Trump – that Jones fired Weaver within days of ShadowGate’s release.
For the best breakdown of the documentary, we recommend listening to the Knowledge Fight podcast, which spent three and a half hours going over every detail of ShadowGate, resulting in a podcast that is more than twice the runtime of the documentary itself.
The first Knowledge Fight podcast about Shadowgate is found HERE. You can copy and paste the following URL into your browser if you prefer that method:
Other media organizations, in a push by major media to fight disinformation, also fact-checked and debunked ShadowGate. Two of the first to do so were Politifact and USA Today.
Politifact performed a fact-check of the documentary on 15 AUG 20, stating:
“What’s also clear here: while the ShadowGate video makes incredible claims about the government, they amount to an unfounded conspiracy theory that recasts recent major news events — like Black Lives Matter demonstrations, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and news coverage that’s unflattering to the president — as the product of secret meddling by the U.S. government.
“The theory is baseless. Black Lives Matter protests arose from anger and grief over police killings of unarmed black men. Mueller didn’t find evidence that Trump knowingly conspired with the Kremlin. And news coverage that scrutinizes the president and his actions isn’t “fake news” courtesy of some government contractors, but simply journalism.
“We rate these claims Pants on Fire.”https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/aug/17/facebook-posts/viral-shadowgate-video-makes-sweeping-unfounded-cl/
On 18 AUG 20, Matthew Brown of USAToday posted a fact-check of ShadowGate, stating:
“The video gets key facts wrong about nearly every event it mentions. It falsely links the coronavirus pandemic; Ferguson, Missouri, and George Floyd protests; Mueller investigation, and several actions of the Obama administration in a sweeping and contradicting conspiracy theory.”https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/08/18/fact-check-shadowgate-spreads-misinformation-major-events/5601742002/
The Twitter account @PokerPolitics (Poker and Politics) did their own entertaining segment-by-segment breakdown of ShadowGate on 18 AUG 20 that can be viewed at THIS THREAD.
Despite the negative attention, ShadowGate continues to be a popular work that is still shared and posted on various conspiracy-related websites and alternative social media like Telegram and Gab to this day.
As a conspiracy debunker and disinformation researcher, I could not avoid watching ShadowGate as part of my normal activities. In fact, I watched it multiple times over the course of several weeks as I tried to make sense of the many incoherent claims found within it. During those viewings, one thing struck me as different from the rest of the production: Patrick Bergy.
Patrick Bergy’s story is interesting in and of itself. Enlisting in the U.S. Army at thirty-nine years of age, after graduating from training, at forty, he deployed to the Global War On Terror, completing a tour in Afghanistan. He then returned to civilian life and continued his career as an IT manager and software engineer. It was in this capacity that he was employed by Government Contractors where he deployed overseas several more times, including time in active war zones.
Billed in the ShadowGate documentary as a whistleblower, Bergy spins a tale about major government contractors creating various software solutions for use by U.S. and allied forces in the Global War on Terror; software that manipulates the targeted population and applies varying levels of psychological warfare on enemy forces. This collection of software tools, according to Bergy, is called ShadowNet. Shadownet, again according to Bergy’s interviews, was used by Psychological Warfare units and other Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) intelligence elements and was supported by various Military Contractors such as Dynology, Bergy’s former employer.
What struck me as odd about Bergy’s interview in ShadowGate was that I believed what he was saying. I saw no signs of deception in his interview segments. I came away from ShadowGate with the clear assumption that Bergy was telling the truth. The same cannot be said about the rest of ShadowGate but I felt confident that Bergy was giving an honest interview. That, or he was a very skilled liar. At a minimum, he believed what he was saying to be true. As an investigator who was trained in behavioral analysis and the detection of deception during interviews, my reaction to his interview segments continued to puzzle me.
In fact, it bothered me so much that I eventually decided that it was time for me to look into this particular conspiracy theory myself. Private messages and emails were sent.
“Ah, yes. ShadowNet. I worked in the [REDACTED] that used ShadowNet and his description is accurate.”The Confidential Source
In the interim between hearing Bergy’s interviews and finally taking steps to investigate, as I encountered intelligence community professionals during my regular activities, I would occasionally ask about Mr. Bergy’s allegations. On most occasions, they would just shake their head and frown, or they would say, probably honestly so, that they weren’t familiar with any such program.
Several conspiracy debunkers and other assorted researchers had made statements to the effect that they didn’t believe Bergy’s story. He was described as “weird” and possibly “unhinged” from reality. I always thought this was an unfair depiction of Bergy but I stayed out of the online conversation.
Recently, there was drama surrounding Patrick Bergy and his contacts with Lin Wood, the now famous lawyer involved in various activities in the post-2020 election environment. Bergy was trying to reach Wood and wanted to pass along some information to the lawyer. During this time, anti-Bergy internet trolls began inundating Lin Wood with messages on his Telegram channel claiming that Bergy was “Insane” or “Unstable” or “Violent” and that Wood should be afraid that Bergy intended to do Wood harm. It all seemed very strange to me because this was not the impression I had of Mr. Bergy from his public interviews and podcasts. Yes, he does make some wild, unproven claims while he speaks off-the-cuff during his podcasts and he does occasionally get very heated in his language, but a lunatic seeking to do violence to Lin Wood? I couldn’t see it.
I reached out to Mr. Bergy and over several days we conducted an informal interview via private messages. I explored his statements about ShadowNet more deeply, took notes, and told him I would attempt to confirm his allegations, if possible.
I asked around with my contacts around the country – Journalists, active and retired military personnel, and cyber security experts were asked if they had encountered anything like what Bergy was describing. A day later, I contacted a friend and former Special Forces soldier who has many contacts in various disciplines including Psychological Warfare and Clandestine Intelligence operations. I’ve known this person for several years and I know them to be a person of integrity. I trust them.
“Do you know [REDACTED]?”Former Special Forces source
It is uncommon for me to write a report without naming names and putting faces to those names. It isn’t how I do my research or write my articles. I have to make an exception here. I do this to protect my sources in this case because of the sensitive nature of their past and current work, as well as the sensitive nature of the subject matter. Neither will I be explaining in detail how and why ShadowNet was used. I will protect the sources as well as the Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP) of those still in the fight as they track down terrorists across the globe. This will be disappointing for some but I hope I have built a level of trust with my long-term readers and they will accept that, in this case, I feel it is necessary. It is.
The Psychological Warfare subject matter expert (SME) introduced to me has impeccable credentials. I verified his identity as well as his military history. If I were to mention his name, there’s a good chance some readers, especially military veterans, would know who he is. He spent thirty years in the Active Duty U.S. Army and most of that time was spent in Psychological Warfare Operations.
AND HE CONFIRMED EVERYTHING BERGY CLAIMED
Not only did my contact know of ShadowNet, he had worked with the program for several years and had used it during actual operations against enemy forces and terrorist organizations. He was unhesitating in his confirmation. He also confirmed Bergy’s story regarding which government contractors were involved in the development and refinement of ShadowNet.
Probably most disturbing was my source’s final confirmation – the fact these private companies retained access to, and use of, ShadowNet after completing their contracted work on behalf of the U.S. Government. This is the cyber and psyops warfare equivalent of a military contractor creating a new kinetic weapon and, after helping the military use it, being told, “You can go ahead and keep those hypersonic missiles. Feel free to use them if you want.”
“His [Bergy’s] assertion the contractors behind ShadowNet took that program with them into the civilian world is fact.”[Emphasis added]PsyOps SME
At the core of Bergy’s allegations is his contention that he, due to his experience working with and refining ShadowNet, is able to see the evidence of its use against the American civilian population. In much the same way an interrogator believes they can see a dishonest statement, Bergy believes he can see ShadowNet out in the wild, no longer constrained by military or other government oversight.
Bergy believes ShadowNet was used during the 2008 Presidential elections. He also alleges that ShadowNet, whether by that name or some other moniker, was used to foment chaos among the U.S. population and that chaos resulted in numerous destructive riots across the country the last few years. He believes ShadowNet, or some new iteration/variation of it, is manipulating social media and influencing the minds of our citizens. He believes ShadowNet has been deployed with News Media organizations in order to push specific narratives designed to create strife between our citizens.
Of course, there is no way to verify those specific claims. It could simply be a tremendous fear he has, a form of paranoia, or he could absolutely be right. There is just no way to know at this point. Powerful people would have to come forward and admit to these activities. We all know what a rare occasion that is. More likely, it will remain a mystery.
As far as the USSOCOM ShadowNet’s existence, use, and eventual migration out of the military environment and into the civilian world is concerned, Patrick Bergy’s claims have been verified by experts who worked with the system and were intimately familiar with the overall program.
On 26 JUL 19, NationalGuard.mil, the official website for the United States National Guard forces, posted an article titled, “91st Cyber Brigade completes rollout of ShadowNet” Although the content of the article speaks of a ShadowNet, there was no mentioned of it in the ShadowGate documentary. Predating the documentary by more than a year, I found it odd that this particular nugget of information was not a part of the documentary. Here is how the National Guard describes their ShadowNet.
“ShadowNet is a custom-built private cloud based out of the brigade’s data center in Fairfax, Virginia, that uses VPN connectivity to provide its aligned units with 24-hour, seven-days-a-week remote access to critical cyber training at both the collective and individual levels. The brigade successfully integrated its three other cyber protection battalions – the 123rd, 124th, and 126th Cyber Protection Battalions – into the ShadowNet platform last January.”https://www.nationalguard.mil/News/Article/1918133/91st-cyber-brigade-completes-rollout-of-shadownet/
Based on the seemingly unrelated descriptions provided for the Cyber Brigade ShadowNet and the ShadowNet used by USSOCOM personnel, we cannot assume these platforms are the same program. Many conspiracy theorists did make that assumption once word of the 91st Cyber announcement spread throughout conspiracy theory spaces. Those theorists openly declared that the National Guard announcement provided verification of the ShadowGate documentary and that the article confirmed their previous allegations.
Not so, says my subject matter expert.
“Someone may have picked up the term and used [the name] ShadowNet for the Cyber platform. When I was working SMEX (Social Media Exploitation), the Cyber Security platform was called, ‘The VTA’ (Virtual Training Area)”
“USSOCOM’s ShadowNet was used for clandestine activities against terrorist organizations. They aren’t the same thing.”PsyOps SME.
It is possible that the USSOCOM ShadowNet, Bergy’s ShadowNet, was renamed to something else, which freed up the name, allowing the Cyber command to adopt it and apply it to its unrelated cloud network.
It is also important to note that Cyber Security operations and Psychological Warfare Operations are not the same discipline. A piece of software used for the purposes described by my sources would probably have little value to a cyber security organization whose mission differs entirely. Securing the military’s networks from cyber attack, or potentially attacking enemy networks as an offensive action, although incredibly important and critical, just isn’t the same sort of psychological warfare actions taken against hostile enemy forces, terrorist organizations, and populations we hope to influence to our side instead of working with our enemy.
The clear exception would be in the event the Cyber Command is given offensive missions or is asked to help track hostile network activity. Since the USSOCOM ShadowNet suite is known to have been several programs working together, it is possible one or two aspects of that overall program became useful for cyber security forces and was implemented into their own network. Locating enemy forces’ server networks was one aspect of the original ShadowNet program, as confirmed by both Bergy and my PsyOps SME. Any aspect of the USSOCOM ShadowNet making its way into the 91st Cyber Brigade’s online training environment would only be speculation.
I made contact with the 91st Cyber Brigade’s Public Affairs Office and provided them with a list of important questions that would lay this naming issue to rest between the USSOCOM and 91st Cyber versions of ShadowNet. After following the required instructions, a week passed and no word came from the Virginia National Guard PAO office. I believe that is enough time to allow for a response. If and when the PAO sends their official statement, it will be added to this story as an update.
Are former contractors “renting out” or selling access to powerful psychological warfare tools designed to track and influence enemy forces? Are those tools being employed against civilian populations via social media and news feeds? Are elections being manipulated in some way by nefarious agents with access to these tools?
Those are questions we should ask. Am I convinced of it myself? Not entirely. Is it possible? Perhaps.
But I do now know that up to those final questions, Patrick Bergy has been right the entire time. I’ve researched it, verified it, and double-checked it. My sources are unimpeachable if they choose to speak out publicly. When asked, the sources say they do not know the answers to those final questions. What they do say, however, is nearly as important.
“His [Bergy’s] assertions of making it [ShadowNet and its derivatives] available to political campaigns in order to influence elections COULD be true.”PsyOps SME. Emphasis theirs.
That is the story of the story I never expected to write. A story about a viral conspiracy theory that, at least within the context of the subject covered here, turned out to be true. Hopefully those researchers who have been ignoring and ridiculing Patrick Bergy give it a read. They owe him an apology.
We are waiting an official statement from the 91st cyber security PAO office. At the time of publishing, the Public Affairs Office had not responded to our request for information. When and if they do, the information they provide will be added to this article as an update.