Posted Oct 04, 2011
"Since August, investigators with the Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have monitored the online efforts of activists to bring demonstrations to Wall Street." -- NYT 9-26-2011
It's easy to write some critical theory noise about asymmetrical emergent rhizomes, and it's easy to wish the #Occupy movement was more clearly defined. Jagged edges are good, though: there's no reason it has to be simple. Media training makes soundbites easy to digest, but "easy to digest" only leads to "quickly forgotten" here in the age of Cognitive Overload. Bottom line: as an exercise in non-violent democracy, the #Occupy movement has been a fascinating success so far.
Despite the clear communication, advance planning and the public nature of the event, most people still have no idea what is happening. Spectators who lament the poor organization of the Wall Street protest probably don't know about the test run on September 1st, 2011. Seventeen days later, the operation was officially launched. When Wall Street failed to surrender within 24 hours, most observers declared the whole thing a failure and moved on.
David Karpf eulogized it like so: "Anarchists and radical organizers have a bit of collective amnesia with regards to the “Battle of Seattle.” The kids in black bandanas were only a very small part of the coalition that shut down the city in October, 1999. Their acts of childish violence against a Starbucks may have become the lasting public image of the event, but they were hardly representative. The bulk of that anti-globalization protest was composed of labor unions, environmentalists, and other organized progressives...The culture jammers are practicing activism-as-public-art. The community organizers are practicing activism-as-public-process. Both have their place, but we rarely spell out the differences. And they’ll lead you in very different directions."
Clearly they're doing something right. Wall Street remains occupied, two weeks later, with a steady stream of celebrity guests and spectacle-worthy abuses of power. The protest has also taken on a larger scale as an open source movement around the country. This is more fascinating and more powerful than the Wall Street action itself: the moment when a movement catches fire.
It's important to decentralize quick, because a single location would be too easy to co-opt and control. In NYC, police essentially make arrests at will and are clearly making those decisions based on a strange political logic. Law enforcement attempts at containment have been a SNAFU circus so far, whether that's because of byzantine red tape complications or just internal disagreements remains to be seen. Still, Anthony Bologna provided a whole week of headlines, and for any protest action, the police are a strategic asset. The media, on the other hand, are a strategic threat.
Lawrence O'Donnell and Dylan Ratigan are not allies, they are a predator species. They are also incredibly helpful. Modern reality is fractally packed with double binds like this, and no movement can sustain the analysis paralysis of evaluating every opportunity for hidden traps. The immediate future is going to make a lot of people very uncomfortable, and that's a good thing.
There's a lot being written right now about "selling out" and "getting co-opted" but #Occupy might prove too slippery and too strong for that Nixon-era smear campaigning. Besides: do you say No to Susan Sarandon? What are we to make of change agents like Hazem Sayed showing up to the campfire? He bought a lot of headlines for just $900 bucks, back in the dark ages of March 2011, when he bribed his way to the front of the line for an iPad2 at a media-saturated "Launch Event" -- it worked then, too:
Terrence O'Brien"Intrigued by the man who was willing to pay so much money just to get to the front of the line, reporters began lining up to talk to Sayed, who wasted no time plugging his company, [whatever], and its latest app, [whatever]"
Now he's hyping up Vibe, a "smartphone messaging platform" that posts anonymous messages to localized lists. These messages can be set to disappear minutes or hours later, allowing for real time communication about police actions and logistics problems. Sayed made the tech news again for flying out to the Wall Street occupation with flyers about his free application. It's a beautiful application of stigmergy -- the ordering principle that keeps ant hills running like armies. No matter what you might think of Sayed's marketing intentions, his model is a smart one for protest situations and his technology has proven useful.
There's going to be a lot of odd contributions like that. Expect more assistance from the Grey Zone -- self-promoters, ideological lunatics, shady billionaire types -- as any serious national movement gets off the ground. That's going to be unavoidable. Or at least, just as unavoidable as internet commentators declaring the movement "dead" because someone suspect gets involved. What if Adnan Khashoggi is caught writing checks? I think that the #Occupy movement can and will survive that...and no matter what, it will certainly be a weird year from here.
There's a lot being written right now about what the #Occupy movement must do. What it should be, where it all needs to go. Yet somehow, everything that looked like a mistake at first has unfurled into an advantage. All any single #Occupy cell needs to do is hold their ground for another night, and plan to make tomorrow bigger and better. It's easy to write a sneering caricature of a Tea Party rally, but it's interesting to note how many reporters wrote mocking hit pieces on the Wall Street crowd that all wound up being completely different. It's hard to get a bead on where the consensus is -- but the occupation itself is the whole message. Nobody on Wall Street is confused about what it means, at least.
Anonymous vs. Anonymize
The Anarchists sing beautiful songs, but make no mistake: there is a management team in the mix.
Malcolm Sacks: "I'm hesitant to say that it's non-hierarchical, that there's no leadership, because I do really think that there's a core of people – the media and press team – who are doing a lot of the organising and shaping the public image. We tried to talk to one of the media folks about the problem of there not being people of colour, and the problem of people of colour not necessarily feeling comfortable participating, and there was resistance on their part to acknowledge that. They deflect criticisms by saying, 'if anybody want's to get involved they can get involved. If they want to be represented, they just come and they can do it too.' I think it's denying the real power dynamics that are at play now."
"I Am the 99%" is powerful stuff, and it's also a heavy responsibility. There are a huge amount of voices to be taken into account to justify rhetoric like that. Building consensus is a whole different box of tools than organizing protests, it's true. That doesn't necessarily mean that some folks in Topeka, Kansas need to read up on Saul Alinsky in order to start a local #Occupy chapter. The room for mutation is a big part of what makes this phenomenon so interesting. As Burroughs croaked: "Any number can play."
Still, giving advice on "building successful movements" is dishonest. It all boils down to the same tautologies in a numbers game -- the further your movement spreads, the more leverage you'll have. That's not unlike Wall Street's advice for the unemployed and foreclosed: the key to making more money is just increasing your monthly income. There's a lot of free advice out there, and none of it is much more helpful than that.
#Occupy will become what it will. All that's left is waiting and watching and holding the square.
Because we always quote McLuhan here:
PLAYBOY: How does such environmental programing, however enlightened in intent, differ from Pavlovian brainwashing?
McLUHAN: Your question reflects the usual panic of people confronted with unexplored technologies. I’m not saying such panic isn’t justified, or that such environmental programing couldn’t be brainwashing, or far worse — merely that such reactions are useless and distracting. Though I think the programing of societies could actually be conducted quite constructively and humanistically, I don’t want to be in the position of a Hiroshima physicist extolling the potential of nuclear energy in the first days of August 1945. But an understanding of media’s effects constitutes a civil defense against media fallout.
James Angleton | 7 Types of Ambiguity
Posted Sep 25, 2011
"Deception is a state of mind--and the mind of the state." - James Jesus Angleton
As the CIA's own website has the cunning arrogance to tell me: "...observers of the intelligence scene find James Angleton endlessly fascinating." Too true. Personally, though, what interests me the most is that with a small mountain of information available, none of it is believable. The man himself simply isn't there.
Vanished in a turn of phrase. Angleton is all fiction, these days. From Hollywood bastardization to the weird channeled communications with Michael Ledeen, ARTIFICE remains an inscrutable wall of impeccable forgeries. Largely, this is thanks to the CIA's enviable position as the primary author of it's own history.
"Counterintelligence is one of the most thankless jobs in spy craft. Its practitioners think the unthinkable, examining each operation, recruit or defector for the possibility that it may be a deception. Counterintelligence agents also try to recruit agents who work for hostile intelligence services, hoping to confuse opponents with cleverly packaged false information." - NYT 5/12/87
It is unknown at this time, for instance, whether James Angleton was really a devoted fan of James Joyce, or just wanted to cultivate that kind of image. It is worth noting that he himself prefered being simply James Angleton. His full name was evoked, over and over, by John Birch vintage right wing researchers to emphasize his suspect roots -- no different from the careful enunciation of Barack Hussein Obama today. It got picked up by less extremist researchers like Mae Brussell and Robert Anton Wilson, perhaps because of how acutely poetic the cadence of his full name sounds on paper...and today it sticks with him.
James Angleton was writing French poetry and hadn't even arrived at Yale yet when 7 Types of Ambiguity was published in 1930. According to the legend of James Angleton, though, his eventual discovery of that book was life-changing. The book is forceful, the work of a young, brash intellectual who wrote the thing at 22 years old and celebrated his first publication by drinking himself into a sex scandal that got him banished from Cambridge. As legends go, that's definitely a good start by William Empson.
I suspect it's also a good start on understanding Angleton's disjointed body of work. I'm betting that his early years were real enough. I'm betting that he did read Finnegans Wake several times over, he did recieve several D's and F's while he was at Yale, and was profoundly influenced by Empson, as taught through the lens of professors Norman Holmes Pearson and Maynard Mack. I believe the story about James Angleton discovering his lifelong insomnia at Yale, too.
James Angleton led a long, strange life, though. There is entirely too much to be said about his legacy and legend, so I'm using Empson's book as a tool for orchestrating all this noise. A story in seven holographic slices, guided by questions of applied strategy, organization design, and unintended consequences.
Who has the time today to pursue the 10,000 networks that Angleton wove himself into? In fact, quite a few authors have devoted decades to exactly that, so I'm in no rush to replicate their work here. This is not about who James Angleton was so much as what James Angleton had to be.
1a. Comparative Metaphor
"Testing is a continuous process." - F M Begoum, Observations on the Double Agent
Counterintelligence work is insane. Let's start there. Critics who approach Angleton's work as merely "paranoid" are missing every available lesson on the buffet table. His job was paranoid. How he pursued it is an education.
"Russian spy schools know all about the CIA’s use of lie detectors in personnel screening and could be presumed to have no trouble at all training infiltrators to outwit the machine. There is some ground to believe that Communist agents still are operating in American intelligence organizations and perhaps there are more of them than ever." - Stefan T. Possony, 1964
Who do you trust? Angleton was tutored by Kim Philby and Kim Philby turned out to be a traitor. As origin stories go, it doesn't get much more cinematic than that.
Kim Philby was an MI6 man, specializing in sabotage and counterintelligence. Philby and Angleton were drinking buddies, having extended martini lunches and cracking fabulously intelligent jokes. Philby would later write of Angleton, "he was one of the thinnest men I have ever met and one of the biggest eaters." Angleton never talked about Philby much.
The circumstances of Kim Philby's downfall would make for either a boring movie or a living nightmare. The man had titanium nerves, despite spending most of his career self-medicating with alcohol. He was part of a Russian spy ring that became known as the Cambridge Five, and it all fell apart in horrifying slow motion. It was 1949 when their covers began to unravel, yet Philby didn't resign from MI6 for another two years. He spent three more years in limbo before finally being cleared in 1955 by Harold Macmillan. It wouldn't be until 1962 that he was finally exposed.
World War II had a lot of strange endings, though. Ezra Pound spent a few weeks living like a farm animal and getting his brain fried in the cages of Pisa. One of his critics -- an MP who supervised and escorted him around Italy -- rendered his verdict thus: "he is an intellectual 'crackpot' who imagined that he could correct all the economic ills of the world and who resented the fact that ordinary mortals were not sufficiently intelligent to understand his aims and motives." So many great intellectuals are like that: constipated and doomed. Rewind about 5 years, though, and you'll find Ezra Pound in New Haven, Connecticutt, being introduced by our protagonist, who arranged for him to come and read. Pound was treated like visiting royalty and maintained a correspondence with Angleton for years afterwards. Angleton learned a great deal about the world from Ezra Pound.
Especially the lesson about staying out of cages.
In the aftermath of V-Day, Angleton was hard at work networking his way through post-war Italy. Pound was en route to an asylum and Mussolini was a swinging corpse, but Angleton had HUMINT raw material to spare in those heavy days. He helped manage two programs to get highly-trained (and connected) Nazis out of Europe, or at least out of Israel's reach. One through the US Military, the infamous Operation Paperclip, and the other through the Vatican itself. He made a lot of introductions on behalf of Israel during those years, too, and built the core relationships that would keep him in charge of the CIA's Israel desk no matter who got nominally appointed in the decades to come.
Staying ahead of the curve -- every curve, really -- was Angleton's ultimate pursuit. The eye of the pyramid is a position that places huge demands on the operator. Between finite time and exponential complexity, Angleton was faced with steep transaction costs for every piece of information he processed. However, he had to weigh that against the equally steep security risks inherent in adding personnel or allowing his data stream to be filtered.
Allen Dulles and James Angleton agreed on a foundational principle: counter-intelligence, properly pursued, has to be proactive -- they inverted the Nazi OODA loop where CI agents were the cleanup crew. Instead Angleton became a ghost in the system, wired into the center of a Panopticon rendered in paperwork. He operated ahead of the conventional intel process, monitored all internal communications, and used a vast network extending far outside the official CIA to keep tabs on the entire Langley establishment. From raw SIGINT to Special Operations, Angleton was an invisible supervisor.
Most importantly, Angleton controlled the flow of NSA intercepts into the CIA and micro-managed the only team that was given access to this valuable raw feed: they were called Staff D.
Everyone is a suspect. Everyone. It's easy for Normal Folks to dismiss the John Nash nightmare of Game Theory betrayal as "paranoid" from a safe, domestic distance, but what Nash outlined was a very real dilemma for counter-intelligence agents of any nation. The pursuit of "intelligence" places an inhuman burden on the secret police.
Despite all his tactical advantages, Angleton was still faced with an essentially impossible mission: Omniscience.
"The simple fact is that if Angleton wanted something done, it was done" - Tom Mangold
Angleton is perhaps best understood as the Patron Saint of Homeland Security. Compartmentalized secrecy, zero accountability, and access to everything. Yuri Nosenko spending almost 4 years in solitary confinement, undergoing beta version Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, was most definitely a precursor for the current situation in Guantanamo Bay and hundreds of other secret prisons around the world.
Then again, that's just a cheap literary device. It's unfair to the nuances of the truly Angletonian theory of Counterintelligence to presume that he would approve of a rush job as sloppy as DHS turned out to be. Consider the recent headlines declaring that over four million US citizens have classified clearances, and over a million of those are private contractors.
Angleton liked recursive loops. Within the Countertintelligence desk, Angleton ran an additional secret team named SIG -- Special Investigative Group. This alone is a beautifully pure illustration of Hagbard Celine's First Law: secret police within the secret police within the secret police. This kind of total freedom from scrutiny was essential to the proper practice of Power. "It is inconceivable that a secret arm of the government has to comply with all the overt orders of the government," he once remarked, and that simple binary trap was the source for most of Angleton's headaches.
To Angleton, Counterintelligence was clearly an artform, yet today it's practiced more like an ISO 9000 certification. The Black Arts have been templated and Taylorized into something so foolproof that any MBA can make it happen.
Consider Kenneth Senser, ex-CIA, ex-FBI, and currently running the counterintelligence division of Walmart Global Security, a group called the Analytical Research Center. As a matter of corporate rountine, he maintains a network of informants, disinformation agents and agent provocateurs within the ranks of the "Anti walmart Movement." All network and company computer activity is monitored via CoreView, some shit-simple automated surveillance software from Raytheon's Oakley Networks lab. He manages a staff of nearly 400.
Kenneth Senser routinely busts Walmart executives around the world, but actual law enforcement is hardly part of the Angleton Theory. Allen Dulles and James Angleton agreed on another foundational principle: counter-intelligence, properly pursued, was an esoteric pursuit that tolerated petty crimes in pursuit of cardinal sins. Clearly, everything from drug dealing to genocide qualified as petty crime in the face of the Communist threat.
For decades, when people went looking for power, they ran into James Angleton. Which is not to say they ever so much as saw the man -- just that they wound up on his radar screen and probably never knew how exposed they were. He occupied the crossroads between the Vatican, the Mafia, the Mossad, Shin Bet and the CIA. Like all espionage masters, he understood that secrets were best kept, period...best used for leverage, milked for intel, and only exposed as a regrettable last resort.
One of Angleton's greatest assets was his patience. He mastered the discipline that Bonaparte learned from French secret police pioneer Johseph Fouche: "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake." Where most agents would have made moves, Angleton was content to let operations unfold for decades, letting infiltrators live out their entire lives in secret service. James Angleton waited. He routinely ran operations so convoluted even insiders would find them too absurd to be real.
Before the convenient epithet of Conspiracy Theorist was in common usage, smug realists in the US, UK and Soviet intelligence community would label such intricate paranoia "Angletonian." The man didn't just become a legend, he became an adjective. Few among us could aspire to reach such heights.
"Literature must in some sense be believable, whereas experiences of human beings in fact develop beyond all powers of conjecture. Thus Social Literature is conventional, while History exceeds all limitations of common sense." - Albert North Whitehead
When US Army Sergeant Robert Lee Johnson got caught spying for the KGB, he'd been doing it for over a decade. Despite all of the hard work of Army Counterintelligence, Johnson only got exposed because his wife decided to turn him in. Years later, Johnson would find himself bleeding to death on the US Penitentiary floor in Lewisburg, PA. In one of those non-believable plot twists, he was stabbed by his own son.
James Angleton had nothing to do with Robert Lee Johnson, yet the Johnson case itself would later become a central detail in Great Mole Hunt. The top minds in the National Security State agonized for years over two Soviet defectors, Yuri Nosenko and Anatoliy Golitsyn. One of the key data points was Robert Lee Johnson, so Angleton collected information on the case. To call it obsessive would be pulp cinema: it was simply his job.
Jay Lovestone was a life-long Communist activist and organizer, who really started to shine in the early 1930's, when he pulled together a fragmented US Communist demographic into a cohesive party platform. He organized almost a dozen national worker's Unions, funded hundreds more on the local level, and became a powerful figure at the AFL/CIO until his retirement. He was reporting directly to James Angleton the entire time, keeping tabs on the movement as he worked his way to the top. History has no way of determining if Lovestone saw himself as an infiltrator or if Angleton had compromised him somehow, but when the "Lovestone Empire" spy ring was revealed, it dealt a serious blow to the organized Left in the United States.
As it turned out, the Lovestone Empire was anything but: just a small team, one of hundreds of covert networks tucked into the counterculture. Once Operation CHAOS got uncovered in the 70's, the American public finally caught a glimpse at how tremendous the scale of activist infiltration really was.
The entire project was overseen by Angleton himself, designed as a small labyrinth of frequently overlapping, strictly compartmentalized projects. Several of them, notably MERRIMAC and Project 2, were tasked with the long-term infiltration of "domestic antiwar and radical organizations." The budget was in the millions, the agents were in the thousands and the network is ongoing.
Most of the agents were never exposed. Which is perfect; the ideal outcome to ensure maxmium FUD. The resulting feedback cycles of accusations and paranoia have been crippling the international social justice movement ever since.
Which is not to declare any victories for James Angleton. The greatest adversary of any progressive movement is simply human nature. Also, most CIA conspiracy narratives paint the agency as far more powerful than operational reality permits. Espionage work is difficult because the raw material is volatile, hard to measure accurately and impossible to predict. Human beings are buggy technology, so Angleton had to keep a fairly massive rolodex and travel in circles far afield from the Ivy League bubble of Langley.
As he slyly said to Seymour Hersh: "A mansion has many rooms." Even a basic tour of Angleton's mansion is absurd, in terms of sheer diversity, and in terms of heavy implications for hidden history. George DeMohrenschildt, Reinhard Gehlen, E. Howard Hunt, Roger Hollis, Frank Wisner, Klaus Barbie, Luigi Gedda, Ted "Blond Ghost" Shackley, Raymond Rocca...at every turn, another great damn book waiting to be written.
Angleton encouraged extremes. This is reflected in his legacy, where authors either pile on praise or denounce him as a criminal, but in either narrative he remains The Mastermind. This strategy of tension, more than 20 years after his death, rages on. Still: out here in the information vaccuum created by CI/SIG, it's altogether too easy to give Angleton more credit than the man deserves. In the absence of evidence, his legacy grows into a fiction the second you start to contemplate it.
One area where Angleton is surely afforded too much credit: his "Theory of Counterintelligence," which was very much WWI era technology and 100% British, too. Angleton's operation was essentially the template laid down by the original Coordinator of Information, Bill Donovan. Even here at the beating heart of Angleton's legacy, there's nothing there.
Angleton was not born into a normal life. He grew up in the network that would later become the P2 Lodge, where Italian fascism and Vatican intellectuals overlapped, the piously militant bloodlines traced by the Knights of Malta. He inherited his Italian network, but he surely earned his connections with British and Israeli intelligence. The trajectory of his career makes it clear Angleton was more than fortunate, he was a natural. Still, some authors call it genetic...
Doug Henwood: "Intelligence ran in Angleton's blood; his father, James Hugh Angleton, headed the National Cash Register franchise in Italy; in the course of visiting NCR's European operations, he set up his own amateur spy operation, which was of benefit to the United States when the war broke out. Angleton père was a Mason, and a professed admirer of Italy and Germany in the 1930s."
Angleton is deeply mysterious, but that's a projected image, a studied pose. It's worth considering that Angleton made himself scarce because in person, the puppet master was socially awkward and downright transparent. As Amos Manor would later observe: "...he was fanatic about everything. He had a tendency toward mystification."
Despite that, Angleton made it a point to appear when and where it really mattered. He understood that his longevity within the agency depended on his direct involvement with contacts. Despite the culture of cut-outs, Angleton built his espionage network on personal relationships, and he defended these relationships from scrutiny by rendering them state secrets.
Despite the analytical (and critical) bent of Angleton's approach to uncovering spies within the ranks, later decades would bring a more qualitative touch to the process. In 1990, the CIA wrapped up Project Slammer, a long-term study in the motivational psychology of traitors and moles. Their conclusions were stark: "Heavy drinking, drug dependence, signs of depression or stress, extramarital affairs and divorce could be warning signs of a security problem." In the aftermath of cases like Aldrich Ames and Jonathan Pollard, investigations turned up simple behavioral cues that were ignored by co-workers
Consider Jeffrey Carney, desperate to get caught, stuck in a bad movie: "I was ostensibly trying to further my education and get the big picture," Mr. Carney said. "I was putting my nose in books where I didn't belong...talking to people, gathering information from conversations. It was actually very obvious, I felt. Somebody should have noticed. I took a huge document and another huge document with me, went across the hall into an unsecured room, laid the documents out on the table, secured everything, and had my camera ready, and started photographing..I was walked in on two times while I was photographing. . . . My face went red as a beet because my blood pressure was unbelievable, and the people went, 'Oh, excuse me, I didn't know you were busy.' And they turned around and walked out."
Internal culture is just as dangerous as any external threat. Angleton couldn't help but view the domestic press as an enemy -- he didn't even trust most of the CIA. His job description forbade it. He was engaged in a starkly simple game where most of the world was his adversary.
5e. Fortunate Confusion
"We’ve arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces." - Carl Sagan
Word salad. There is no history here, only leftovers. Today's generation knows James Angleton by different names: Matt Damon, Michael Keaton, or The Cigarette Smoking Man. The Narrative is always a study in why men do horrible things in the name of noble goals.
The myth of James Jesus Angleton is only this: that he had to exist. Even agency history concedes his paranoia and ultimate failure. He is justified, legally and historically, by the principle of national security. As his champions with high clearance levels can always claim, it's what we don't know that proves Angleton right. Thanks to his heroism, we will never know how much we should be thanking him for. There's also other interpretations. When it came to Angleton's artistic legacy, most of his fiercest critics were his own colleagues by the end.
William Colby: "I determined a long time ago I had to get rid of him, and the question was how. I found several hundred people in there. I honestly couldn't figure out what the devil they were doing...I couldn't find that we'd identified any penetrations. And I concluded his work had hampered our recruitment of real agents. We weren't recruiting any because of the negative effect of the super-suspicion."
James Angleton has every legacy: take your pick. MKULTRA controller and sad paranoid headcase. The Mafia consigliere, the Vatican agent, the Company man. He is a true believer and a cynical manipulator, the ultimate insider and the stereotypical outsider. Angleton's keywords have all been woven into the UFOlogy mythos that centers around the Majestic 12 documents. It is remarkable how many key players in the JFK Assassination got written into that whole script: David Ferrie, Fred Crisman, Art Lundahl, John Paisley, and the fabulously unreal Gordon Novel, who rode out the 80's doing counterintelligence work for Larry Flynt, of all people.
Further memetic noise comes from Michael Ledeen, a careful student of Gladio and the Strategy of Tension, and one of the Great Architects behind both Team B and The Vulcans. In his column for the American Enterprise Institute and on several other blogs, he will regularly publish conversations with Angleton's ghost, channeled via Ouija board. I am sure there are already conspiracy forums unpacking the intricacies of Angleton's opinions on Osama Bin Laden.
I mention all this only in the interest of applied physics. The event horizon of history is about to close on Angleton's legacy as pop culture continues to digest him into the Spectacle and his last living accomplices, victims and witnesses finally die. It's a new day in America.
6f. Invented Interpretations
"Angletons principal concern was not with "moles" per se, but with the inherent vulnerability of intelligence services to systematic deception. To him, "moles" were a means to this end if, and only if, they were in a position to provide timely feedback to an adversary about what channels his intelligence service were monitoring and how it is was interpreting the data it was intercepting. With such a feedback loop in place, he believed perfect deception was possible." - Edward Jay Epstein
Strangely, effective Counterintelligence operations are totally indistinguishable from normal life. People of all ideological backgrounds are quite industrious at foiling their own plans, exposing their own secrets, derailing their own investigations...it is significant that a useful idiot can be every bit as effective as an actual trained asset. Gallows humor in the control room as the masters of the universe play cards and smoke cigars. And wait.
Consider the case of Oswald Le Winter. The man is apparently real, a professor and poet, but his primary occupation would appear to be running disinformation on orders from the CIA. At least, that's what he says. He has claimed to be a NATO liason officer for the Gladio program and a former agent of the CIA, and troublingly, he has also claimed that he's targeted journalists with deliberate disinformation "leaks" in campaigns that lasted for years and paid $100,000 per gig. His testimony is an integral part of the BBC's Timewatch trilogy on Gladio, yet even by his own admission, he was working to disrupt investigations into both the murder of Olof Palme and October Surprise saga.
Oswald Le Winter is an article unto himself, and only a single asset, one of hundreds feeding mystery meat into the sausage grinder of History. The CIA doesn't write history -- that kind of naked power is crude, too lowbrow for the Yale crowd. Angleton reached out to several authors in order to help sculpt his own legacy through selective leaks. This was years after he'd begun planting conflicting narratives through agents like Le Winter, Ledeen, or assets like William F. Buckley and Dr. Leary. This was years after he'd finished planning his countermeasures for the key vulnerabilities in his record. He never forgot the last lesson of Ezra Pound.
So most of what we know about Angleton was carefully orchestrated and scripted by the man himself. In all probability, this includes most of the "dirt" and apparently incriminating data points.
"Actually, I didn't know whether to believe Angleton at all." - Stephen Jay Epstein
No final word on Angleton's legacy, of course. The final consideration is that Angleton himself was a mole: one of his own disciples concluded as much. As for a final verdict on his technique, history appears to be on the Kingfisher's side. Epstein makes a good case, though it does boil down to the Broken Clock Principle. The existence of any moles in the FBI and CIA would be enough to validate Angleton -- surely that's setting the bar on intellectual achievement a little too low, even by American standards. And let's not forget, despite his pivotal role in US history James Angleton was very much an Italian.
"Persons having the deepest and most legitimate insights into intelligence matters are most scrupulous in their trusteeship of such knowledge and that the penchant for sensational revelations is the near monopoly of the charlatans and pretenders who scavenge along the flanks of the intelligence enterprise." - Frank Wisner
While most accounts end with Angleton leaving the Agency in various stages of defeat on Christmas Eve, 1975, even Langley will cheerfully admit that ARTIFICE was re-activated pretty much as soon as Ronald Reagan got elected back in November 1980. The call came from Willam Casey, who was the next Director of Central Intelligence and getting his team up to speed for the transition. All that Jimmy Carter, Stansfield Turner transparency crap was being liquidated through out the chain of command. Operation Cyclone was kicking back into high gear, and Angleton returned as a consultant. Whether this position was active counterintelligence work, or just a pension gig to keep the old master on campus, I will leave the guesswork to you.
Curiously, Angleton may be his own worst critic. Joseph Trento insists that James Jesus Angleton confessed and Confessed and I haven't seen these quotes disputed yet. If genuine, they're fucking remarkable:
"You know how I got to be in charge of counterintelligence? I agreed not to polygraph or require detailed background checks on Allen Dulles and 60 of his closest friends. They were afraid that their own business dealings with Hitler’s pals would come out. They were too arrogant to believe that the Russians would discover it all. You know, the CIA got tens of thousands of brave people killed. We played with lives as if we owned them. We gave false hope. We - I - so misjudged what happened."
"Fundamentally, the founding fathers of U.S. intelligence were liars. The better you lied and the more you betrayed, the more likely you would be promoted. These people attracted and promoted each other. Outside of their duplicity, the only thing they had in common was a desire for absolute power. I did things that, in looking back on my life, I regret. But I was part of it and I loved being in it... Allen Dulles, Richard Helms, Carmel Offie, and Frank Wisner were the grand masters. If you were in a room with them you were in a room full of people that you had to believe would deservedly end up in hell. I guess I will see them there soon."
"...the poem is not good in spite of but especially because of its moral confusions, which ought to be clear in our mind when you are feeling its power. I think it horrible and wonderful; I regard it as like Aztec or Benin sculpture, or to come nearer home the novels of Kafka, and am rather suspicious of any critic who claims not to feel anything so obvious." - William Empson, Milton's God
Down Here in the Cave
Posted Sep 17, 2011
"The Central Intelligence Agency owns everyone of any significance in the major media." -- William Colby
That's a hell of a quote, and like most of the classic admissions of guilt in conspiracy literature, it's completely fabricated. Too late: it's in the lexicon now. The Conspiratainment Complex doesn't do "corrections." That's just not now that particular network was wired.
Data points are fragile things. The more you examine your assumptions, the more your assumptions will fall apart under examination. If you research any given subject in depth, you get an appreciation for how much noise human beings introduce into every signal we touch. After awhile, it gets deafening.
Nobody writes about facts these days...least of all journalists. The human species traffics in Narratives. Fox Narrative, MSNBC Narrative, Narrative Gingrich and Narrative Chomsky. Even numbers tell stories, these days. US, 1980: total population 225 million, prison population 500k. US, 2010: total population 305 million, prison population 2.4 million. A movie in every sentence: watch it and weep.
September 11th, 2001 was exactly like every other day in history: it's difficult to really account for. Any measurement of that day's events is a complex timeline of several thousand data points...at least. The sources and accuracy of these data points are secondary to their role as plot devices.
We evaluate each data point in terms of how well it fits in with other pieces to tell us a story that makes sense. It has to make sense, doesn't it?
Although the science of perception management is far more exact than you're willing to think, you're in luck: their success is their own greatest problem. This is the biggest challenge that Pentagon Information Operations Officers face: somehow getting a coherent message out of the global brand known as America. 18 year old Mormons from Indiana are in the streets of Islamic nations being asked about gay marriage and military support for Israel. Also, being shot at. Naturally, ten years after being attacked by a group of mostly Saudi Arabian terrorists we find ourselves spending billions on the military occupation of Agfhanistan and Iraq.
Television media would be a far more potent tool for brainwashing if there were only one channel. Instead, it's an omnidirectional pinball machine of conflicting but equally effective brainwashing. The human brain is a learning machine, and this world-changing asset remains our greatest weakness. Face to face, in social situations, in large crowds, persuasion is ridiculously easy -- crude, even. It's a simple enough game, but the problem is everyone is playing. From local preachers to rock stars to think tanks to bloggers to whatever the hell passes for "Celebrities" here in the dark ages -- everyone is making their Pitch. Simultaneously. After awhile, it gets deafening.
Between Israel, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, you now have five differrent national intelligence agencies with a vested interest in covering up their own ongoing operations, and compromising the operations of their rivals. The links to ISI, to the Mossad, to Saudi Princes, all seem bizarre and sinister when you're trying to fit them into a puzzle they may not even belong to. There is a deafening amount of noise surrounding the hijackers and their financing, and I would wager that most of that noise is from covert programs that had nothing to do with the actual attacks that day. Attempts to take dozens of conflicting stories, multiple layers of conflicting disinformation, and make it all fit into a single story always seem to wind up sounding completely insane.
That's by design. Welcome to the wilderness of mirrors. To those of you still trying to connect those dots, well, this beer is for you. Any major operation, here in the Information Age, inevitably becomes a Susurluk Moment for all the clandestine lifeforms who happened to be under the same rock. These security breaches are nothing new. There are detailed countermeasures in place in preparation for ugly accidents like this. A successful covert operation is actually not about the deed itself, it's about managing and controlling the aftermath. This is what separates Special Operations from a straightforward military attack.
So any formulation of 9/11 Narrative, from the official story to the most holographic UFOlogist strains known to mankind, can only sound like a movie script. A badly plagarized movie script, at that. Given the cast of characters, that's inevitable. How can you stitch Mohammed Atta, Colleen Rowley, Philip Zelikow, Wallace Hilliard, Mayo Shattuck III, Cass Sunstein, Mahmood Ahmed, Lee Hamilton, Steve Butler, Siebel Edmonds, Randy Glass and Francesco Cossiga into something that sounds normal enough to be understandable and convincing? Intelligence operatives are exceptional people leading remarkable lives -- most of us just go to work. As Gary Sick observed:
"Such characters are a researcher's nemesis; they are meant to be. When the CIA or other intelligence agencies need to hire a "contractor," who may be required to carry out taks that are potentially dangerous and of questionable legality, they look for three things: a specific and useful skill (a knowledge of money-laundering, perhaps); a romantic streak that glorifies both the secrecy and the risk; and a propensity for exageration and trouble."
Those of us who do believe in conspiracy theories have one feature in common with those of us who don't -- we're all pretty pleased with ourselves. Despite the odds, we've all managed to figure out the truth, and somehow we all manage to be humble about it, too.
Once you've seen a couple hundred thousand arguments about What Really Happened On September 11, 2001, you'll realize that none of it matters. Which is not to say it's meaningless. Minds change, and that's a beautiful thing. The problem is, there's over seven billion minds, and even a cursory consideration of the scale involved makes it clear how little you and I actually matter. That number is hovering awfully close to zero. We're all actively involved in the computation of reality on behalf of a Superorganism that remains invisible and unkowable to us.
Call me arrogant, but fuck that. That seems like a real waste of our capabilities.
Truly, we live in marvelous times. The view from down here in the cave is nothing short of spectacular and everyone wants to talk about it.
We are spectators. Spectators having arguments.
Of course you have reasons for believing whatever you believe: so do I. So does everyone you disagree with. Every addict has a thriving portfolio of justifications and evasions.
We couch it in terms like "education" and "activism" but really, we're desperate for validation. We just want other people to agree that we're right. It's important that we admit, often, that we are not. And it's highly probable that we can't be. Ever.
Then again...so what, right? We're still here, waking up every day. Pour some liqour out for the fallen soldiers, known and unknown, conscripted and covert. Whatever you believe, take it seriously and make damn sure your dots are actually connected. Think differently, folks. Aim high, be all that you can be. Just do it.
Life in an Occupied Country
Posted Sep 09, 2011
"Politics will eventually be replaced by imagery. The politician will be only too happy to abdicate in favor of his image, because the image will be much more powerful than he could ever be." -- Marshall McLuhan
For the past month, I've been pursuing a new obsession: tracing the historical contours of the single largest and most powerful demographic force in United States politics. Despite all the media hype about Red States and Blue States, our American Democracy is completely defined by something else altogether -- the lobby known as Big Apathy.
Everyone I speak to feels strongly that our political process is broken. On this much, Bill Moyers, Noam Chomsky and the Tea Party are all on the exact same page. Why is voter turnout so low in the United States? There's no need to belabor the question with an essay: a majority of Americans just see no point in voting. They don't believe it matters. Put simply, they don't vote because they know better.
Everyone wants to insert a Narrative here, but this is an ecosystem. Be wary of easy answers. Mike Lofgren wrote an excellent essay last week, "Goodbye to All That," and sure enough, he's got a Narrative to sell you, too. It's instructive:
"The United States has nearly the lowest voter participation among Western democracies; this, again, is a consequence of the decline of trust in government institutions - if government is a racket and both parties are the same, why vote? And if the uninvolved middle declines to vote, it increases the electoral clout of a minority that is constantly being whipped into a lather by three hours daily of Rush Limbaugh or Fox News. There were only 44 million Republican voters in the 2010 mid-term elections, but they effectively canceled the political results of the election of President Obama by 69 million voters."
It's a compelling case, so it's instructive to point out he's probably wrong.
One strange constant you'll find in all the opinion polling data on "non-voters" is they're more likely to be satisfied with government, overall, than actual voters. Weird, right? 25% of non-voters claim to be "basically content with federal government," compared to 16% of 2010 voters. A recent Pew study posed the question "Can you trust the government in Washington to do what is right?" 73% of non-voters answered either "Some of the time" or "Never." By comparison, 76% of voters gave the same answers. So clearly, Big Apathy represents a consensus so huge that it reaches into the ranks of Democratic and Republican alike, fusing into a super-majority force for total stasis and constant, impotent bitching.
However, it's hard to place much faith in demographics as a precise science. Copywriting and marketing deals with broad strokes, so your typical Pew or Rasmussen numbers are at least good enough to guess with. Of course, guessing never won a war, and so serious demographic data becomes a valuable trade secret. Karl Rove doesn't dick around with four-figure sample groups - he goes wide and he goes deep.
Which leads us to another, more insidious factor: the 21st Century Ressurrection of Jim Crow. Karl Rove doesn't just do opinion polls, Karl Rove builds 1:1 maps and engages in data-mining projects so byzantine the NSA sends him interns. He does this because he's engaged in a decades-long plan to permanently increase the ranks of Big Apathy. It's important to stress that Karl Rove is far from alone, and he gets invoked here as a symptom, not a cause.
Since 1965, white folks have been steadily losing their majority status, dropping from 89% of the US population back in 1965 to around 65% of the US population today. Every step of the way, the GOP's permanent establishment has been working overtime to make sure that ethnic minorities and urban poor aren't eligible to vote.
From scrubbed registration lists to "challenging" voters on election day, the perpetual Block the Vote campaign has become more overt in the past decade. (The War on Drugs represents a parallel campaign to disenfranchise voters, even more blatantly targeted at minorities.) Up next is the state-level barrage of Koch-funded "Voter ID" initiatives. There's big money behind reducing the population of eligible voters, and big money gets impressive results.
The United States Elections Project is a superb resource for raw numbers, but this particular paragraph is some unintentional dark poetry:
"Voter turnout rates presented here show that the much-lamented decline in voter participation is an artifact of poor measurement. Previously, turnout rates were calculated by dividing the number of votes by what is called the “voting-age population” which consists of everyone age 18 and older residing in the United States (the yellow line to the right). This includes persons ineligible to vote, mainly non-citizens and ineligible felons, and excludes overseas eligible voters. When turnout rates are calculated for those eligible to vote, a new picture of turnout emerges, which exhibits no decline since 1972 (the green line to the right)."
In other words, once you take into account the fact we're systematically denying millions of people the right to vote, those voter turnout numbers look several percentage points better! Yes, a bright, shining new day for Democracy. Here's how to really read their graph: simply observe that the gap between the yellow and green line has been growing larger every four years.
Money corrupts politics - of course - but I'm not convinced money is the real problem here. Perhaps language is. It's absurd for pundits, professors or PR professionals to talk about "fixing" or "restoring" our dysfunctional "Democracy" when history makes it plainly clear that the United States of America was never intended to be much of a Democracy at all. The most serious problems with the political process here in 2011 are design features that are centuries old now.
Simple: the Electoral College system means that our Presidents are chosen by 538 votes. This is significant because statistically, individual votes truly do not matter. It is difficult to argue with cynics when math itself is on their side. From James Madison to Walter Lippmann, the architects of modern American politics have been openly suspicious and disdainful of direct Democracy since the first Constitutional Convention.
How about you? If you think that America is broken, how do you fix it? If you don't trust politicians and you don't believe you have any other options, where does that leave you? More importantly, where does that leave us? What does is really mean when a clear majority of the United States believe they cannot trust their government?
When it comes to that point -- to "What now?" -- we mostly throw up our hands in despair, or we change the subject.
Let's change the subject. The man you see above is Elmo Burns Roper, Jr and his life story weaves together everything we've discussed so far. Roper was born in 1900 and he networked himself into the financial, political and military power bases of a growing United States. He spent over a decade working with Henry Luce, the mythic architect of the American Century, and then joined the OSS with the blessing of Wild Bill Donovan himself. His real legacy, though, was his public opinion polling company, The Roper Center.
When the torch was passed at The Roper Center, it was given to Everett Ladd. "You will decide for yourself what the record shows," he would often repeat to his readers, but yet his writing offers only fully cooked conclusions. Everett Ladd and Elmo Roper are never in the objectivity business. They made a fuss about scientific polling, for sure, but the data has always been subservient to the Narrative. Really innovative pollsters don't just generate spreadsheets, they tell stories and become a part of the political machine, a media priesthood with colorful charts. Ladd was rewarded for his innovations with a long and distinguished career, a parade of Fellowships from Guggenheim to Ford to Rockefeller.
Everett Ladd, in turn, created an accidental protege when he inspired a young Scott Rasmussen, who was in the process of dropping out of the University of Connecticutt in 1975. It would be a decade before Rasmussen graduated college but his time with Professor Ladd changed his life. Today, Rasmussen is a political celebrity, an outspoken Tea Party cheerleader, and one of the most vocal media pundits on life in an occupied country:
"Just 17% of likely US voters think the federal government today has the consent of the governed. Sixty-nine percent (69%) believe the government does not have that consent. Fourteen percent (14%) are undecided. We are united in the belief that our political system is broken, that politicians are corrupt and that neither major political party has the answers." He can also do subtlety: "The gap between Americans who want to govern themselves and the politicians who want to rule over them may be as big today as the gap between the colonies and England during the 18th century."
Desperate times make for strange alliances. How else are we to rebuild consensus? Where is there a "national conversation" that isn't a screaming match? How much are we willing to let go of our own beliefs in order to make strategic compromises? Can we assemble a meaningful power base when 64% of the US population has less than $1000 saved up? What are the leverage points available to the over-educated and under-employed?
Semantics, Mere Semantics
Then again, forget langauge, of course money is the problem. Wasn't it always? If we're going to think about our United States as an occupied country, aren't we talking about the fact that Class Warfare is long since over and the top 1% won it all?
More importantly, how can we remind people that facing this reality is not a death sentence but a necessary beginning? How can we import Swaraj to America? As Ghandi correctly observed, "Independence begins at the bottom." Well...here we are. My generation is completely defeated. Does that make us a lost cause, or raw material?