According to his company profile, Bill Nickless is “a senior research scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, with over 20 years of experience in experimental systems engineering and cyber security research.” PNNL is a Department of Energy National Laboratory managed by their Office of Science, but operated by the Battelle Memorial Institute, a private nonprofit science and technology firm. What sort of sci/tech does Nickless do for them? His specialty, according to his profile, is cooperative research on “cyber security issues — particularly those that revolve around managing the adversarial relationships endemic to cyberspace.”
What does that mean? First, it means that Nickless works for a very high-level part of the national security state with enormous contracts, immense power, and access to federal resources, so there are in fact potential abuses here. Second, what he does should not be confused with ‘persona management,’ but it may involve aspects of ‘social engineering.’ In the world of social media, there are countless ‘adversarial relationships’ to study, because whole communities can get into competition: Reddit hates 9gag, rival Minecraft guilds scorch and destroy entire virtual worlds, and fake anti-bullying websites engage in petty conflicts with Kate Gosselin critics. “Managing” these relationships could mean anything from experimenting on their environment to see what happens to actively pushing an agenda to affect the outcome of an online ‘scene.’
Yet as near as I can tell from his public activities, Nickless must study how to argue with people on the internet. Specifically, Nickless ‘maintains adversarial relationships’ on behalf of the Kimberlin Kooks through his Twitter account and blog, pushing their agenda. My question is whether he uses his position at a government laboratory to boost that message by harassing private citizens.
A brief history of kooks with keyboards
For those of you just joining us at BU, a sidebar: Brett Kimberlin is a nonprofit activist and former federal prisoner whose efforts to call attention to the shady, rapetastic shenanigans of right wing douchenozzle James O’Keefe attracted the attention of Mandy Nagy, lately of Breitbart.com, who found and cribbed some crazy-obsessive blog posts written about him by a schizophrenic man named Seth Allen. Kimberlin sued Allen in 2011 to get Google to remove his libelous screeds, whereupon a Breitbart groupie named Aaron Walker inserted himself in matters, eventually assaulting Kimberlin in a Maryland courthouse. Walker, who had been trying to get other people killed by jihadis through his blog, lost his job when his real name was revealed in the wake of his assault. A few weeks later, the hate finally seized up Saint Andrew Breitbart’s heart and killed him, whereupon many of his bereaved followers adopted Walker’s deranged cause against Kimberlin to assuage their grief with a campaign of hate. The result was an endless parade of ridiculous conspiracy theories, failed lawsuits against this website as well as Kimberlin, a complex provocateur campaign, and any number of tea party internet detectives making total fools of themselves. Kimberlin is currently suing the whole kit and caboodle for turning his family into a Benghazi-level fake scandal across the wingnutosphere.
That is an extremely condensed version of a very tangled, extremely silly, and incredibly stupid story about people convincing themselves of things that aren’t true to rationalize the kind of behavior they would ordinarily condemn. For instance, uber-kook William Hoge is still trying to get a former BU blogger named Bill Schmalfeldt — currently declining from terminal Stage V Parkinson’s Disease — put in jail for the “crime” of tweeting at him by using a Maryland law meant to protect victims of domestic violence. Hoge remains convinced that Schmalfeldt blogged here on Kimberlin’s behalf, but in fact the two men never spoke or met until Hoge and Walker tried to sue them together. (The case was laughed out of court.)
‘Watching the Felon’
How did Nickless find these kooks? He may have hooked up with Hoge through ham radio, as both of them are licensed amateur operators. Or he might have met SPLC-listed hater Robert Stacy McCain through church, as he and his wife are also Seventh Day Adventists. According to his LinkedIn page, Nickless has built at least one website for an SDA church in Washington state, where he lives and works. Or perhaps he discovered the saga of Kimberlin when he logged onto a right wing site somewhere to mutter about his guns. Whatever the story, Nickless’s Twitter account is a study in Kimberlin-obsession: he follows, and is followed by, just about every Kimberlin Kook who is still on Twitter.
In fact, his entire social media trail seems to be kook-connected. Nickless is one of just ten people with Aaron Walker in their G+ circles, for instance: the others include blogging lawyer Ken White, aka Popehat, and infamous con artist and felon Paul Lemmen. Only eleven living people have the “Watching the Felon” G+ account in their circles; Nickless is one of them. The account is exclusively used to repost material from the “BK Watch” blog, a perpetuation of previous fabricated narratives (‘Brett Kimberlin has gotten away with nuclear proliferation, unicorn-exploitation, and chupacabra-ranching for too long! We must end his international reign of terror!’) which appears to be run by an Indianapolis-area freelance writer named Leslie Lynnton Fuller. Dianna Deeley, grants administrator for the William G. Irwin Charity Foundation, may be another
sucker financial backer for the defendants in Kimberlin’s federal lawsuit.
Given a chance, Nickless can regurgitate every single thing he’s heard about Brett Kimberlin from this vicious little cult — and then swear that it’s all true, especially the dumbest parts. These are the friends for whom Nickless maintains his ‘adversarial relationships’ in cyberspace: creepy stalkers and sadists, weirdos, fraudsters, fake military contractors, and the
suckers right wing funders who love them. So let us now examine his ‘adversarial’ behavior.
How dare you anonymously disagree with Bill Nickless!
This is what Nickless recently said in his odd little blog at nonick.org, which I do not recommend you visit:
Anonymous coward thug puppets are not human. Treat them like mosquitoes carrying malaria, rats carrying the plague, and worms devouring a corpse. You can’t burn anonymous cowardly puppets with real fire, but you should feel nausea, revulsion and disgust with every online interaction.
How else would you deal with a creature that, upon contact, injects you with a poison that makes you depressed and stupid?
Personally, I deal with such creatures by using the “mute” and “block” functions provided by Twitter. It’s how I ignore the lunatics he calls friends — but what do I know? I’m not a “scientist” like Nickless:
Identifying anonymous cowardly puppets can be tricky. Not all anonymous online identities are cowardly puppets; good people sometimes need varying degrees of anonymity to usefully contribute online.
Fortunately it’s much easier to pick out the anonymous thug puppet. Simply look for online behaviors that would be socially unacceptable in real life; say, the grocery store, workplace, or public park.
In which @BillNickless starts following me, I notice I cannot read his page, and I block him back. What a fucking weirdo.
— Matt Janovic (@MJanovic) January 19, 2015
The way this works out in practical terms is that Nickless supports the anonymity of kooks who tweet deranged nonsense about Brett Kimberlin, but not the anonymity of Twitter users who dare to question the bizarre, strained narratives of Kimberlin Kooks. Nickless accuses the latter group of “gaslighting” the public on behalf of the evil Kimberlin.
Above is an example of Nickless regurgitating a major theme of Hoge, whose most ridiculous legal filings have all whiningly accused his enemies of leaving hurtful anonymous comments in his blog, waaaaaahhh!
@WhoIsNumberNone is also a longtime reader of this website, underscoring how the community here at BU has always been a primary target of this childish behavior. Another recipient of Nickless’s attention is @Xcitizen10, a conservative who objected to the steady stream of falsehoods and kookery in 2012, eventually defecting from the Kooks over their efforts to get Kimberlin arrested by the FBI (yes, that has happened, and more than once). Xcitizen has since become a high-value target for the kooks, on whose behalf Nickless categorizes him as an “anonymous cowardly puppet.”
Lately, both of these persons have received special attention from Nickless, some of whose tweets to them are time-stamped during work hours. One of his targets tells me they have evidence that Nickless has been trying to identify them for professional and/or legal harassment. Which finally brings us to the most important question in all of this:
Is Bill Nickless trying to get fired?
While reading his fourteen year-old post about becoming a concealed carry weapon (CCW) holder, it occurred to me that Nickless may be suffering from depression.
It’s no longer safe for me to get truly angry with people. When you have weapons readily available—and know how to use them—you need to realize that your unchecked emotions might have serious, permanent consequences! Also, when people know that I own and carry weapons, they may be more easily frightened of any (seemingly) erratic or out-of-control behavior.
Being a teetotaler already is good. Consuming alcohol while carrying a weapon is very much a bad idea.
If I ever start feeling depressed, it’s important for me to see a doctor or counselor. That’s obviously the right thing to do anyway, but a depressive episode could be fatal to someone with weapons around.
[…] Many stories I read about people who have engaged in combat with the government have gone out of their way to attract the attention of law enforcement and the criminal justice system, and/or have fallen prey to sting operations. Objectively speaking, these people may have the truth and right on their side. But the actions that got these people into their situations are often on the hairy edge of legality, and their speech can be nothing short of incendiary. Again, I want to be a person who is unambiguously responsible and law-abiding. At this time I see no need to gamble with my life, liberty, or property to prove a point about my natural or constitutional rights.
“At this time” he sees no need to gamble on proving points about his rights?
In all likelihood, PNNL is paying Nickless to research passwords and other cybersecurity issues, not to play internet detective. His name is on published papers dealing with network traffic and dataflows, the integrity of systems, and bulk analysis. Yet PNNL is in the business of developing security technologies for government agencies — “high-impact, science-based, practical solutions to our clients to prevent and counter acts of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” to quote their website — and that potentially makes them just the latest high-level national security firm to get embroiled in Kimberlin kookery. NC4 founder Aubrey Chernick reportedly gave Breitbart millions of dollars, for example, while Kimberlin’s name came up along with Glenn Greenwald’s on the list of people that ‘security firms’ HBGary Federal, Palantir, and Berico Technologies (known collectively as Team Themis) set out to destroy on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce.
In an exchange on Twitter Tuesday night, Nickless (sort of) denied using his access to federal or corporate resources to empower his weird hobby and seemed to want me to contact his employer for comment concerning this story. That’s normal journalistic practice, but the Kimberlin Kooks are a special bunch of people. Witness Aaron Walker, another CCW holder who turned his office into a Brett Kimberlin hater’s shrine and ignored the work he was paid to do, then spent the following three years climbing on a cross and fundraising over his martyrdom after his employer fired him.
So instead of taking any action that might tend to foster an ‘adversarial relationship,’ I’m finishing this informational post with a sincere attempt at persuasion: get help, Mr. Nickless. You’re running with a bad crowd and you don’t look happy.