To add to DJClayworth's excellent answer, I dug in a little deeper and was inherently interested in the bit about the US Air Force interested in bids for Persona Management Software (which coincidentally I first discovered existed by reading his answer). The Air Force has since taken the bid down but the DailyKo's has appeared to have saved the relevant information:
Source: DailyKOs NOTE: Not an unbiased source so only considering relevant facts
Solicitation Number: RTB220610
Added: Jun 22, 2010 1:42 pm
Modified: Jun 22, 2010 2:07 pmTrack Changes
0001- Online Persona Management Service. 50 User
Licenses, 10 Personas per user. Software will allow 10 personas per
user, replete with background , history, supporting details, and cyber
presences that are technically, culturally and geographacilly
consistent. Individual applications will enable an operator to
exercise a number of different online persons from the same
workstation and without fear of being discovered by sophisticated
adversaries. Personas must be able to appear to originate in nearly
any part of the world and can interact through conventional online
services and social media platforms. The service includes a user
friendly application environment to maximize the user's situational
awareness by displaying real-time local information.
0002- Secure Virtual Private Network (VPN). 1 each VPN provides the ability for
users to daily and automatically obtain randomly selected IP
addresses through which they can access the internet. The daily
rotation of the user s IP address prevents compromise during
observation of likely or targeted web sites or services, while hiding
the existence of the operation. In addition, may provide traffic
mixing, blending the user s traffic with traffic from multitudes of
users from outside the organization. This traffic blending provides
excellent cover and powerful deniability. Anonymizer Enterprise
Chameleon or equal 0003- Static IP Address Management. 50 each
Licence protects the identity of government agencies and enterprise
organizations. Enables organizations to manage their persistent online
personas by assigning static IP addresses to each persona.
Individuals can perform static impersonations, which allow them to
look like the same person over time. Also allows organizations that
frequent same site/service often to easily switch IP addresses to
look like ordinary users as opposed to one organization. Anonymizer IP
Mapper License or equal
0004- Virtual Private Servers, CONUS. 1 each
Provides CONUS or OCONUS points of presence locations that are setup
for each customer based on the geographic area of operations the
customer is operating within and which allow a customer?s online
persona(s) to appear to originate from. Ability to provide virtual
private servers that are procured using commercial hosting centers
around the world and which are established anonymously. Once
procured, the geosite is incorporated into the network and integrated
within the customers environment and ready for use by the customer.
Unless specifically designated as shared, locations are dedicated for
use by each customer and never shared among other customers.
Anonymizer Annual Dedicated CONUS Light Geosite or equal
0005- Virtual Private Servers, OCONUS. 8 Each Provides CONUS or OCONUS
points of presence locations that are setup for each customer based
on the geographic area of operations the customer is operating within
and which allow a customer?s online persona(s) to appear to originate
from. Ability to provide virtual private servers that are procured
using commercial hosting centers around the world and which are
established anonymously. Once procured, the geosite is incorporated
into the network and integrated within the customers environment and
ready for use by the customer. Unless specifically designated as
shared, locations are dedicated for use by each customer and never
shared among other customers. Anonymizer Annual Dedicated OCONUS Light
Geosite or equal
0006- Remote Access Secure Virtual Private Network.
1 each Secure Operating Environment provides a reliable and protected
computing environment from which to stage and conduct operations.
Every session uses a clean Virtual Machine (VM) image. The solution
is accessed through sets of Virtual Private Network (VPN) devices
located at each Customer facility. The fully-managed VDI (Virtual
Desktop Infrastructure) is an environment that allows users remote
access from their desktop into a VM. Upon session termination, the VM
is deleted and any virus, worm, or malicious software that the user
inadvertently downloaded is destroyed. Anonymizer Virtual Desktop
Infrastructure (VDI) Solution or equal.
Contracting Office Address:
2606 Brown Pelican Ave.
Place of Performance:
Performance will be at MacDIll AFB, Kabul, Afghanistan and Baghdad, Iraq.
MacDill AFB , Florida 33679
The result of this being brough to light from hacked emails by Anonymous also brought forth some more dirty laundry about plans for a similar smear campaign against WikiLeaks in retaliation for leaked documents between Bank of America and law firm Hunton & Williams.
The leaked emails detail a supposed business proposal by HBGary to
assist Bank of America's law firm, Hunton & Williams, in a dirty
tricks campaign aimed at discrediting WikiLeaks in the run-up to the
expected publication of confidential bank documents. The leaked
documents detail supposed plans to dig up dirt and apply pressure to
key WikiLeaks supporters as well as proposals to submit false
documents in a bid to discredit the whistle-blowing website.
Ok, so we know a good deal about this one particular company and some of their ethically dubious involvement in reputation management products and services. We have solid proof that the US Air Force and thus probably other areas of the US government are interested in such things. We also have alleged smoking gun leaked emails that Bank Of America was planning such a smear campaign as well (however in BoA's defense, Anonymous can hardly be considered credible, they very well could have altered the leaked emails)
Other links in DJClayworth's answer suggest these practices are common in foreign governments. The question still remains if one or more US political parties or special interest funded political organizations have also been engaged in such astroturfing campaigns which frankly if they are then they are doing a superb job of keeping it under wraps. I will continue to look and edit if I find evidence to support this.