Afghan officials say Taliban commander killed
A year after a Nigerian man allegedly tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner, officials say they have made it easier to add individuals' names to a terrorist watch list and improved the government's ability to thwart an attack in the United States.
The failure to put Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on the watch list last year renewed concerns that the government's system to screen out potential terrorists was flawed. Even though Abdulmutallab's father had told U.S. officials of his son's radicalization in Yemen, government rules dictated that a single-source tip was insufficient to include a person's name on the watch list.
Since then, senior counterterrorism officials say they have altered their criteria so that a single-source tip, as long as it is deemed credible, can lead to a name being placed on the watch list.
The government's master watch list is one of roughly a dozen lists, or databases, used by counterterrorism officials. Officials have periodically adjusted the criteria used to maintain it.
But civil liberties groups argue that the government's new criteria, which went into effect over the summer, have made it even more likely that individuals who pose no threat will be swept up in the nation's security apparatus, leading to potential violations of their privacy and making it difficult for them to travel.
"They are secret lists with no way for people to petition to get off or even to know if they're on," said Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.
440,000 on list
Officials insist they have been vigilant about keeping law-abiding people off the master list. The new criteria have led to only modest growth in the list, which stands at 440,000 people, about 5 percent larger than last year. The vast majority are non-U.S. citizens.
"Despite the challenges we face, we have made significant improvements," Michael E. Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said in a speech this month at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "And the result of that is, in my view, that the threat of that most severe, most complicated attack is significantly lower today than it was in 2001."
The master watch list is used to screen people seeking to obtain a visa, cross a U.S. border, or board an airliner in or destined for the United States.
The standard for inclusion on it remains the same as it was before - that a person is "reasonably suspected" to be engaged in terrorism-related activity. But another senior counterterrorism official, who like some others would speak only on the condition of anonymity, said that officials have now "effectively in a broad stroke lowered the bar for inclusion."
Timothy Healy, director of the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center, which maintains the master list, said the new guidelines balance the protection of Americans from terrorist threats with the preservation of civil liberties. He said the watch list today is "more accurate, more agile," providing valuable intelligence to a growing number of partners that include state and local police and foreign governments.
Each day there are 50 to 75 instances in which a law enforcement official or government agent stops someone who a check confirms is on the watch list, a senior official at the Terrorist Screening Center said. Such "positive encounters" can take place at airports, land borders or consular offices, or during traffic stops.
The official recounted an incident two years ago in which a state trooper pulled over a truck driver for a traffic violation.
The driver appeared nervous, was traveling to several states, had three cellphones and plenty of food in his truck, and made several calls during the stop. The trooper was able to confirm through a call to the Terrorist Screening Center that the man was on the watch list. It turned out, the official said, that an FBI case agent had an open al-Qaeda-related investigation on the truck driver.
The names on the watch list are culled from a much larger catch-all database that is housed at the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean and that includes a huge variety of terrorism-related intelligence.
From its inception in 2005, the database, the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE, was plagued by technical difficulties.
In 2008, the counterterrorism center undertook a multimillion-dollar upgrade to streamline and more fully automate the database so that only one record exists per person, no matter how many aliases that person might have.
Those improvements should reduce errors and free up analysts for more pressing tasks, said Vicki Jo McBee, the counterterrorism center's chief information officer.
The new system will also ease the sharing of fingerprints and iris and facial images of people on the watch list among screening agencies, McBee said. And rather than sending data once a night to the Terrorist Screening Center's watch list, which can take hours, the new system should be able to update the list almost instantly as names are entered, McBee said.
Deployment has not been smooth. TIDE 2, as it is called, failed readiness tests and missed a December launch deadline. But now, McBee said, all tests have been passed and the system will be launched in January.
Meanwhile, the National Counterterrorism Center has developed a 70-person pursuit group to investigate "sleeper" terrorism threats, with four teams examining the regional hotbeds in Africa; in Yemen and the Arabian Gulf; in Pakistan and Europe; and in the United States. A fifth picks up the rest of the world.
"We try to look at the unknowns, the terrorists lurking in the dark that you don't know about, like the Abdulmutallabs of the world," said an official familiar with the group.
The teams, which include analysts from the CIA, FBI, Defense Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency, might take a tip about a suspect flying to the United States on a certain route, then study travel records to see whether they can find travelers who match the pattern.
They also mine Internet sites for clues, in "a careful, legal way," the official said. For instance, though analysts had not identified Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistan-born Connecticut man, before his May attempt to blow up a car in Times Square, a pursuit team delineated his network of associates in the United States in part by gleaning details from social networking sites, she said.
Much of the pursuit group's work is filtering out irrelevant information.
"We get a huge kick out of" handing a lead to the FBI, the official said. "But . . . the ruling-out is almost as important as the actual finding of leads."
Ahlberg joins us to describe how Recorded Future does what it does and what it might mean. He says they're constantly pulling information from everything from government reports to news media to Twitter and blogs. They look at where politicians are traveling, where bombs have gone off.
Ahlberg says that the breakthrough is in semantics. The ability to search for the presence of words has, of course, been around for many, many years. But he says his company is able to scan for meaning as well. So it's not just what's being said but what it all means.
Recorded Future has already had some success in predicting things like the bond market. As for big events, Iran getting nuclear weapons for instance, they're not able to point to a date but they are able to point to when the Internet thinks Iran will get a nuclear weapon.Also in this show, the wonderful/terrible new patent by Amazon that lets you return horrible gifts before you ever receive them
If briefings could win wars, Gen. David Petraeus would already be finished in Afghanistan. Here's what his masterful presentation looked like in Kabul this month - and then some hard questions for him to answer.
The general's aides come in first, carrying six wooden easels as if they're setting up an art display. Next come the charts, four feet tall, displaying an array of information as densely woven as a spider's web. And then into the room sweeps Petraeus, greeting his audience in a manner at once genial and pugnacious.
I've seen Petraeus give many briefings over the years, and it's a bit like watching a magician at work. Even though you've seen the trick before, and you know the patter, you still get mesmerized. He has the ability to make people believe the impossible might be doable, after all. He pulled it off in Iraq, and it's just possible he's on his way again in Afghanistan. But this time it will be a stretch.
The Afghanistan campaign plan, in classic Petraeus fashion, comes at the problem from every direction: It's top-down, in building the Afghan army, and bottom-up, in training tribal militias known as Afghan Local Police. It's about military power, especially the deadly night raids by U.S. Special Operations Forces, and it's also about making governance work in this corrupt and feeble country.
The most interesting chart in Petraeus's recent briefing was one called "Village Stability Operations," which showed how Special Forces teams are securing the remote mountain valleys north of Helmand province. This year, the United States has found local pockets where the village elders resented the Taliban - and sent in the Green Berets to organize local resistance.
The campaign plan is so dispersed that it's easy to miss what's happening. There's no big "battle of Kandahar," for example. Instead, U.S. soldiers are clearing the Taliban-infested belts around the city and establishing scores of little combat outposts with Afghan forces. The idea is to keep expanding these "security bubbles" until the Taliban is driven from the population centers.
Like any war, this one is ultimately about willpower, and America has an advantage in Petraeus, one of the strongest-willed people you could hope to meet. But this winner's psyche is not sufficient. History shows that three variables are crucial in countering an insurgency: a real process of reconciliation, no safe havens for the enemy and a competent host government. None are present in Afghanistan.
So here are a few questions for Petraeus to ponder at year-end. I've collected them from strategists inside and outside the government who hope for success but worry that time is short:
l How can the United States create more incentives for the Afghan government to take control? Is there some way to create a "ratchet effect" so that every time the Afghans muster another 10,000 troops - and we take out a like number - there's a benefit that Afghans can feel?
l How can the United States make "reconciliation and reintegration" move faster? Who can drive the process with the manipulative passion of a Henry Kissinger? (Petraeus could fit that bill.) Should the preconditions for Taliban participation be altered?
l How can the Pakistan angle be squared? Can we involve the Pakistanis more directly in reconciliation efforts? Should we take their advice and negotiate with their friends in the Haqqani network? Can we divert some of the nearly $100 billion annual budget for Afghanistan to buy peace in the tribal areas?
l How can the CIA be used better? The Afghan war began as a CIA paramilitary action. Maybe it should end that way, too. Pakistani officials say they have allowed the CIA to open a new base in Quetta. Can more joint U.S.-Pakistani covert operations be launched in Baluchistan and the tribal areas?
l How can the United States deal better, behind the scenes, with the puzzle of Afghan President Hamid Karzai? Should we squeeze him? Ignore him? Dump him?
Petraeus's campaign plan, to use a simple analogy, is the equivalent of mending a broken, old chair - gluing it back together and holding it in place with a series of clamps. But nobody can say how long the U.S. "clamps" will remain in place, how long it will take the "glue" of transition to dry or how rotten is the Afghan "wood." Those are the uncertain variables that Petraeus must hedge against, even as he keeps pushing for success.
The president made his displeasure clear. This year, he has Mr. Brennan on speed dial.
The communications upgrade — Mr. Obama now has “more diverse and reliable secure voice capability in his vacation residence, with the best possible quality available,” said Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser traveling with him — is just one example of how the memory of the attempted bombing last Christmas Day hangs over the presidential Hawaiian escape. Mr. Obama and his advisers, still smarting over the criticism they received for the seemingly flat-footed response, have gone into overdrive to prepare for what counterterrorism experts say is a heightened threat this holiday season.
In recent weeks, concerns about terrorism in Europe have spiked, with intelligence officials reporting increased chatter about threats. Two weeks ago, the British arrested 12 men in three cities in connection with suspected plots, including a possible attack on the American Embassy in London. There have been arrests in Spain and alarms in Germany over reported threats of an attack. Dutch authorities arrested 12 Somalis last weekend, and American counterterrorism officials are on higher alert in part because of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric whose English-language online broadcasts are inspiring extremists in this country.
Against that backdrop, the White House has made substantive and public relations changes to Mr. Obama’s vacation, adopting what Juan C. Zarate, a counterterrorism expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, calls a strategy of “taking no chances and assuming the worst.”
It was no accident that Mr. Brennan called President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen on Christmas Eve; intelligence experts believe the man accused in the bomb plot last Christmas, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, trained in Yemen and obtained explosives there. The White House said Mr. Brennan reminded Mr. Saleh of “the importance of taking forceful action” against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the militant Islamist network.
Mr. Brennan has been in daily contact with senior leaders from the federal agencies responsible for monitoring terror threats, and he talks frequently with British, French and German counterparts, officials said. On Sunday, he convened a conference call with Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary, and other top officials. Mr. Rhodes and Nick Rasmussen, a senior counterterrorism specialist, participated and later briefed the president.
Mr. Rasmussen’s presence in Hawaii is further evidence of the stepped-up response. The director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Michael Leiter, who last year faced criticism — unjustly, the White House said — for taking a ski vacation with his young son, stayed in Washington this week. So did Mr. Brennan. Traveling officials, like Thomas E. Donilon, the national security adviser, who is vacationing in Idaho, and his chief of staff, Denis McDonough, in Chicago with family, have access to secure videoconferencing facilities.
“I think what you are seeing is a now-experienced White House which understands that there really is no vacation from the world in which we live,” said Michael Chertoff, who was homeland security secretary to President George W. Bush.
Part of it is presidential image-making, with an eye on politics. David Rothkopf, who advised President Bill Clinton on national security and is now with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said of Mr. Obama, “I think politically he is very aware that, come 2012, one of the Republican tropes will be that he’s not tough enough on security, and I think he sees that as an area of potential exposure.”
So the White House has been taking pains to spotlight its work. Mr. Brennan, who had a standing invitation to address the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, spoke on Dec. 17 about Yemen. He said the Obama team would be monitoring not only Al Qaeda, but also “looking at those smaller scale, sort of low-level types of terrorist attacks that are sometimes more difficult to detect.” He made clear he did not relish the memory of last year.
“I was starting to make dinner last Christmas when I got a call from the White House Situation Room that there was somebody on a plane that was landing for Detroit with a bit of an issue,” Mr. Brennan said.
For any president, staying on top of security threats while traveling is a complicated technological endeavor. Mr. Bush spent most of his vacation time at his ranch in Crawford, Tex. His closest advisers, including his traveling national security expert, stayed in converted trailers on the property. A separate trailer was turned into what is known as a SCIF — a secure, compartmented information facility — that allows for top-secret, classified communications.
As a renter, Mr. Obama cannot install a permanent SCIF; he has a temporary one, as do his advisers in their Waikiki Beach hotel, about a 30-minute drive from here. He would not be the first president to take issue with the quality of his communications outside the White House Situation Room, said Frances Fragos Townsend, who was President Bush’s counterterrorism adviser.
“It’s difficult to have a multiparty teleconference at the top-secret level; every time you add someone, the quality of the sound goes down because of the encryption,” Ms. Townsend said. “If multiple people try to talk, it can sound all garbled. I promise you, a president gets very frustrated very quickly.”
During a press conference on December 22, President Obama was asked about the difficulties his administration has encountered in trying to close Guantanamo. The president explained (emphasis added):
Obviously, we haven’t gotten it closed. And let me just step back and explain that the reason for wanting to close Guantanamo was because my number one priority is keeping the American people safe. One of the most powerful tools we have to keep the American people safe is not providing al Qaeda and jihadists recruiting tools for fledgling terrorists.
And Guantanamo is probably the number one recruitment tool that is used by these jihadist organizations. And we see it in the websites that they put up. We see it in the messages that they're delivering.
President Obama and his surrogates have made this argument before, but they have provided no real evidence that it is true. In fact, al Qaeda’s top leaders rarely mention Guantanamo in their messages to the West, Muslims and the world at large.
No journalist in attendance had the opportunity to challenge President Obama’s assertion. The president should have been asked: If Guantanamo is such a valuable recruiting tool, then why do al Qaeda’s leaders rarely mention it?
THE WEEKLY STANDARD has reviewed translations of 34 messages and interviews delivered by top al Qaeda leaders operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan (“Al Qaeda Central”), including Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri, since January 2009. The translations were published online by the NEFA Foundation. Guantanamo is mentioned in only 3 of the 34 messages. The other 31 messages contain no reference to Guantanamo. And even in the three messages in which al Qaeda mentions the detention facility it is not a prominent theme.
Instead, al Qaeda’s leaders repeatedly focus on a narrative that has dominated their propaganda for the better part of two decades. According to bin Laden, Zawahiri, and other al Qaeda chieftains, there is a Zionist-Crusader conspiracy against Muslims. Relying on this deeply paranoid and conspiratorial worldview, al Qaeda routinely calls upon Muslims to take up arms against Jews and Christians, as well as any Muslims rulers who refuse to fight this imaginary coalition.
This theme forms the backbone of al Qaeda’s messaging – not Guantanamo.
To illustrate this point, consider the results of some basic keyword searches. Guantanamo is mentioned a mere 7 times in the 34 messages we reviewed. (Again, all 7 of those references appear in just 3 of the 34 messages.)
By way of comparison, all of the following keywords are mentioned far more frequently: Israel/Israeli/Israelis (98 mentions), Jew/Jews (129), Zionist(s) (94), Palestine/Palestinian (200), Gaza (131), and Crusader(s) (322). (Note: Zionist is often paired with Crusader in al Qaeda’s rhetoric.)
Naturally, al Qaeda’s leaders also focus on the wars in Afghanistan (333 mentions) and Iraq (157). Pakistan (331), which is home to the jihadist hydra, is featured prominently, too. Al Qaeda has designs on each of these three nations and implores willing recruits to fight America and her allies there. Keywords related to other jihadist hotspots also feature more prominently than Gitmo, including Somalia (67 mentions), Yemen (18) and Chechnya (15).
Simply put, there is no evidence in the 34 messages we reviewed that al Qaeda’s leaders are using Guantanamo as a recruiting tool. Undoubtedly, “Al Qaeda Central” has released other messages during the past two years that are not included in our sample. Some of those messages may refer to Guantanamo. And some of the al Qaeda messages provided by NEFA, which does a remarkable job collecting and translating al Qaeda’s statements and interviews, may be only partial translations of longer texts.
However, the messages we reviewed also surely include most of what al Qaeda’s honchos have said publicly since January 2009. These messages do not support the president’s claim.
A closer look at the 3 out of 34 messages in which “Al Qaeda Central” actually referred to Guantanamo reveals just how weak the president’s argument is. Even in these messages al Qaeda is far more interested in other themes.
In a February 17, 2010 message entitled, “The Way to Save the Earth,” Osama bin Laden made an offhand reference to Guantanamo. But it is hardly a prominent feature of the terror master’s message. As bin Laden makes clear in the opening lines, his main concern is climate change.
“This is a message to the whole world about those who cause climate change and its dangers – intentionally or unintentionally – and what we must do,” bin Laden said. Bin Laden blames the “greedy heads of major corporations” and “senior capitalists” who are “characterized by wickedness and hardheartedness” for the supposed deleterious effects of global warming.
Bin Laden does refer to Guantanamo, but it is brief and in the context of a rambling passage. In the surrounding sentences, bin Laden criticizes America for waging war in Iraq for oil, incorrectly claims that America and her allies have “killed, wounded, orphaned, widowed and displaced more than 10 million Iraqis,” and calls President Obama’s acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize “an extreme example of the deception and humiliation of humanity.”
If bin Laden’s February 17th message is evidence that al Qaeda is using Guantanamo as a recruiting tool, then it is also evidence that al Qaeda is using climate change and President Obama’s Nobel to earn new recruits.
The other two messages in our sample that refer to Guantanamo do not fare much better when any amount of scrutiny is applied.
In a message dated September 15, 2010, Ayman al Zawahiri focuses most of his critique on Muslim governments and especially the Pakistani government. There is a single reference to Guantanamo and it is a throwaway line in which Ayman al Zawahiri repeats the myth that America has desecrated the Koran at Gitmo. Referring to NATO, Zawahiri asks rhetorically, “And aren’t they the forces which humiliated the noble Qur’an in Guantanamo, Iraq and elsewhere?” There is no other mention of Guantanamo in the 12-page translation provided by NEFA.
In an August 5, 2009 tape entitled, “The Facts of Jihad and the Lies of the Hypocrites,” Ayman al Zawahiri mentioned Guantanamo five times. The August 5th tape comes closest to validating the president’s theory of jihadist recruitment and yet it still falls way short. Words related to “Iraq” and “Afghanistan” appear more than 70 times each. The words “Israel” and “Israelis” appear 39 times. And the word “Zionist” appears another four times—in the context of the aforementioned imagined American-Zionist conspiracy against the Muslim world. (According to Ayman al-Zawahiri, by the way, Obama is himself a participant in this conspiracy.) And the words “Jew,” “Jewish,” and “Jewishness” appear another 12 times.
Last week, President Obama cited jihadist propaganda as his chief reason for closing Guantanamo. But as the analysis above makes clear, it is not true that Guantanamo is the terror network’s “number one recruitment tool.” Even if it were, al Qaeda would just move on to another pretext for its terror once Gitmo is closed.
There is no good reason for an American president to cite jihadist propaganda in defense of his policy decision. By that standard, if President Obama must close Guantanamo, then he must also withdraw all American forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as move to end the “Zionist-Crusader” conspiracy against Muslims elsewhere around the world.
Need to penetrate the closed circle of a terrorist cell? Then, it’s time to recruit like terrorists do: Pick out the outcasts and prey on their numerous, numerous anxieties.
In 2005, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service put together a tip sheet for the FBI on how to run sources inside extremist organizations — even though it didn’t appear to have a lot of experience actually recruiting terrorist sources. An ideal source, it noted, was the same for counterterrorists as for terrorists: someone disciplined, capable of keeping secrets, and highly motivated.
Based on its interviews with Guantanamo detainees, NCIS found additional patterns within terrorist organizations. Often, they’re people with low self-esteem who turn to religious extremism after experiencing a crisis. That makes them ripe for savvy agents to exploit.
The best snitches, NCIS argued, have some kind of anxiety about their identities. Western converts to Islam fit the bill, as do Muslims living in or educated in Western countries. That’s true, not just because “there have been a number of successful operations using converts of Western ethnicity” — demonstrating their value to terror groups — but because they’ll feel like they’ve got the most to prove.
But that also means they’ll feel apprehensive about putting their fellow extremists in the cross hairs of law enforcement. Not to worry, NCIS instructs: “That ambivalence is often best managed by developing a strong relationship with the source by activating his core motivation to ’stop the killing’ and bring peace to the world, including the Muslim world.” More irony: Terrorist groups like al-Qaeda recruit their own adherents by stressing the dignity and peace that the Muslim world will enjoy after they kill enough Westerners to lay the Americans low.
Once recruited, a snitch can be expected to repeatedly freak out. “For the source to be successful, he will be making commitments to the target group as he becomes a more trusted brother. The source will feel the pull of the fundamental human need to be valued and validated.”
A good agent has to talk his source through the guilt of betrayal: Let him know “that there is an open line of communication with the Special Agent to discuss this issue.” It doesn’t make any sense to pretend that the source isn’t snitching.
It may seem obvious, but well-adjusted people don’t join terrorist groups. It’s the “anxious,” those with a “need for belonging/affiliation,” those with a “relatively low … level of assertiveness,” with low-self esteem who see themselves as “disorganized and undisciplined … incapable, lackadaisical, and unreliable.” They join terror groups to belong, and suspect they’re not doing the right thing — thereby opening up the door to betraying the organization.
Except that there’s a big absence in the NCIS guidelines: They don’t cite examples of successful terror-cell penetrations. The field guidelines are drawn from NCIS’ interrogations at Guantanamo Bay. Detainees could be more or less compliant than free members of terror cells — they could either be hardened terrorists or people desperate to get their freedom back, or both — but they’re not the same thing. The document has an appendix filled with case studies. But they’re all case studies of al-Qaeda’s successful recruitment.
Then there’s the pop sociology. The document doesn’t take the most nuanced view of Islamic cultures. “Embedded within the Arabic culture is a normative acceptance of conspiracy theories.” Um, OK. “Persons from Middle Eastern and Arabic cultures often prioritize their social image and the harmony of relationships over directness or sincerity.” Whoever wrote that must never have attended a Christmastime family gathering.
The purpose of all of this is to orient the Special Agent in a cultural context, since “without knowing the history embedded in the adversary and source’s mindset, it becomes more difficult to interpret and manage his behavior, motivation, and intentions during the operation.” Uh-oh.
The FBI and the rest of the counterterrorism community haven’t had much trouble finding would-be terrorists inside the United States. It rolled up Najibullah Zazi before Zazi could attack the New York City subway. “Jihad Jane” boasted on the internet about wanting to kill a Swedish cartoonist who drew the Prophet Muhammed as a dog, making her an easy target.
And just last month, it arrested Mohamed Osman Mohamud before he could bomb an Oregon Christmas-tree lighting. The FBI has recently faced accusations of entrapping would-be terrorists by encouraging them to go through on their bomb-filled fantasies — which, at the very least, is another way of recognizing that it’s gotten rather good at finding Americans on the verge of extremism.
Two memos from 1954 and 1955 dredged up by Cryptome show the CIA thinking through post-hypnotic suggestion in extensive, credulous detail. How, for instance, to pass a secret message to a field operative without danger of interception?
Encode it in a messenger’s brain, an undisclosed author wrote in 1954, so he’ll have “no memory whatsoever in the waking state as to the nature and contents of the message.” Even if a Soviet agent gets word of the messenger’s importance, “no amount of third-party tactics” can pry the message loose, “for he simply does not have it in his conscious mind.” Pity the poor waterboarded captive.
But the counterintelligence benefits of hypnosis are even greater.
Picture this course of action, the memo’s author proposes: Hypnotize a group of “loyal Americans” to the point of inducing a “split personality.” Outwardly, they’d appear to be “ardent Communists,” who will “associate with the Communists and learn all the plans of the organization.” Every month, CIA agents will contact them, induce a counter-hypnosis, and these Manchurian Candidates will spill. (Meanwhile, Communist Party meetings on the Lower East Side of Manhattan were open to the public.) While admittedly “more complicated and more difficult,” the agency’s hypno-enthusiast wrote, “I assure you, it will work.”
That’s the level of assurance the memos’ authors provided. A 1955 follow-up openly sneered at the “cautious pessimism” and “congealed pig-headedness” of “academic experts in hypnotism,” waving it away with a pitch to dabble in hypnosis “in a way no laboratory worker could possibly prove.” Indeed, the memo concludes, the CIA had already made some headway: Narcotics were iffy choices for inducing intelligence-useful trances, but on the whole, “drug-assisted hypnosis is essential in CIA work.”
The agency’s mind-control experts gave up some helpful tips, according to the 1955 memo. It’s easier “to hypnotize large numbers of people” than individuals” — alas, there’s no useful elaboration on that point — and in no circumstance can the hypnotizer fail to get a subject to snap out of his trance.
Still, responsible mind-control advocates could scarcely avoid presenting the potential drawbacks of their own courses of action. Since there’s no rigorous scientific way of determining “what limits ‘belief’ may be changed by hypnosis,” that means a “double-think Orwellian world of hypnosis, while unlikely, is not utterly fantastic.”
As it turns out, successful mind control could get out of hand rapidly. Who would have thought?
The CIA’s aborted experiments in hypnosis are long-documented. (There was a pretty good National Geographic Channel exploration of them not long ago.) Its impulses to master the human mind led to the mass LSD tests called MK-ULTRA, which became the subject of acrimonious congressional inquiries.
And three years ago, the CIA’s document dump of its so-called “Crown Jewels” of decades-old secrets went into further detail about its hypnotism fetish.
But in case you find yourself unmoved by the disclosures, consider that you have no foolproof way to determine that you aren’t yourself the subject of mental conditioning.
One of the many benefits of hypnosis, the 1955 memo notes, is a resistance to Commie brainwashing. “Hypnosis may be able on the one hand to pre-condition a subject against the pressure” of enemy influence, it asserts, “or after the fact to help undo the damage.” How do you know they haven’t gotten to you, too?
Check out the full memos:CIA Hypnotism 1954
LONDON - Nine of the 12 men arrested last week in Britain on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack against targets including the U.S. Embassy were charged Monday with conspiracy to set off explosions and testing potential bombs.
A U.S. State Department spokesman confirmed Monday that the U.S. Embassy in London was on the list of potential targets. "Our folks in London are aware of this, are working quite closely with British authorities, and appreciate the high level of cooperation that we have with them," said department spokesman Mark Toner. He added that embassy officials were taking "suitable security precautions."
Another potential target was the London Stock Exchange, the BBC reported.
The charges added to worries in Europe over reported preparations for a terrorist strike during the holiday season. Public concern was triggered by a warning in October from U.S. intelligence agencies, and further heightened by a string of recent terrorism-related incidents in European cities. Some incidents were linked to Islamic militants, while others were allegedly the work of European anti-government radicals.
Adding to the jitters, police in Rome said they had defused an explosive parcel Monday outside the Greek Embassy - the third such incident in a week. On Thursday, an Italian anarchist group said it was responsible for parcel bombs that exploded at the Chilean and Swiss embassies in Rome, injuring two staff members. Italian police said the Greek Embassy bomb was similar to the earlier devices.
In the Netherlands on Friday, 12 men of Somali origin were detained in Rotterdam on suspicion of plotting terrorism-related offenses. Five were released without charge, and seven were detained for further investigation.
Earlier this month, a Swedish man of Iraqi origin blew himself up on a busy shopping street in Stockholm, slightly injuring several passersby.
Against that background, British police said, they moved quickly to prevent the British plot from getting off the ground.
"I have today advised the police that nine men should be charged with conspiracy to cause explosions and with engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism with the intention of either committing acts of terrorism, or assisting another to commit such acts," Sue Hemming, head of the Crown Prosecution Service counterterrorism division, said in a statement.
The suspects - two from London, three from the Welsh capital of Cardiff and four from Stoke-on-Trent, a town in central England - continued to be held in custody after a hearing in a London court Monday. They are next scheduled to appear in court Jan. 14.
The suspects, some of whom were said to be of Bangladeshi origin, were accused of plotting an explosion "of a nature likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property in the United Kingdom," between Oct. 1 and Nov. 20, the West Midlands police said in a statement.
Between Oct. 1 and Dec. 20, the day of the arrests, the suspects were preparing for acts of terrorism, "researching, discussing, carrying out reconnaissance on, and agreeing [to] potential targets," the statement said.
British media reports said the suspects, ages 19 to 28, were targeting British landmarks, including the Houses of Parliament, and reported that the plot was related to al-Qaeda.