Friday, September 18, 2009

The Russians Are Coming!

In the 1950s Soviet espionage was rampant as the Russians had infiltrated every aspect of American society from the White House to the State Department to the military and even the old OSS .

The Russian intelligence agencies battled it out with their western counterparts as the red scare of the 1950s set in to the American mindset. One very intriguing aspect of this spy war is that even though the FBI knew who many of these Soviet agents were, they could not be prosecuted because of how they were unmasked. You see, the Army Security Agency (predecessor to the NSA) was actively breaking the Soviet code under a top secret program knows as the Venona Project. The project decryptions helped the FBI track down and break up a number of Soviet espionage rings, but some of these spies avoided prosecution because the incriminating evidence collected was too classified to reveal in a court of law. It was better to let these spies walk away free then to risk compromising the existence of the Venona Project.

How does this apply to Ufology? Well let's consider the following hypothetical scenario: A foreign intelligence agency approaches a prominent UFO researcher and promises to finance their research in exchange for any information found, knowing that some of the data provided may actually relate to new exotic American military aircraft. Now let's say that American Counter-Intelligence is not very happy and would really like to put this prominent UFO researcher in the same jail cell as Gary McKinnon for compromising national security. How could they possibly prosecute in a court of law without revealing their interest in the UFO researcher and Ufology in general? Such is the dilemna of the intelligence agencies who use the UFO phenomenon for their own purposes. Depending on which end of the information game your side plays on, you either reap the reward or get bit in the ass. Realizing that prosecution is not a possibility, the losing player will probably opt for using the researcher as a conduit for disinformation instead, effectively making the researcher an unwitting pawn on a chess board of rival intelligence agencies.

Silly really, but the game has been played too long and the intelligence agencies are in too deep to stop now. So the game continues with each successive move of a game piece more elaborate than the previous. However there is no check mate in this game, because it has been played for more than 60 years with no winner, although it was put on hold when cold war tensions eased. With the resurgence of tense relations between Russia and the United States, the game is back in play, and Ufologists are once again faced with being manipulated as pawns in a game that is not of their choosing. While terrestrial hands exchange game pieces, the phenomenon itself flies overhead untouched and out of reach.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Principles of Deception

If there is any common thread running through the fabric of modern Ufology, from hoaxed experiences, to forged documents to the baseless distractions of modern UFO myths, it is the thread of deception. Follow it forward and it leads you to where someone else wants you to go. Follow it backwards to the source and you will most likely find a dead end. Try and avoid it and you will find it tightly interwoven with the phenomenon itself.

Why the hall of mirrors? Well if we account for the human element in all of this, we normally can narrow it down to two motivating factors, money and information control. There are those in Ufology that see the hand of monetary gain behind every UFO hoax, forged document or sideshow, while others see the sinister hand of the intelligence agencies trying to control our perceptions and beliefs.

Since both factors can be inter-played in a given scenario, maybe we should start by understanding information control first, because it is the more elaborate of the two. Con artists and charlatans have been around forever but normally are sloppy, as their goal is to make a quick buck. However, the deception weavers in the employ of an intelligence agency, wish to make up your mind (or the perceived enemy's), a task that is far more difficult than getting you to part with your money, and have only since WW2 practiced their craft with the sophistication necessary to be effective. Ufology is ripe for the picking by either flavor of liar but those that practice the craft of information control have the upper hand, and probably employ on occassion the common con artist and charlatan to assist in their exploitation.

While doing some research for a MUFON sponsored workshop in 2007, I found a very interesting document titled the Principles of Deception. I was enthralled with its message because it discusses a proven formula for information control. The seven principles for effective deception are:

  • Control all key channels of information
  • Good Intelligence “feedback” on deception operations
  • High-level and centralized control over deception planning
  • Practice sound deception techniques
  • Subordinate deception to strategic and operational objectives
  • Maintain adequate secrecy
  • Provide sufficient time for deception execution
The interesting thing about these principles is that they can be applied to any operation large or small with the same effectiveness. So regardless if the deception operation is to cover up extraterrestrial visitation or to cover up exotic new stealth aircraft, the same seven principles can be employed. By keeping these principles in mind, you essentially put yourself in the shoes of the deceiver, and can attempt to reverse engineer the deception based on your observations.

Atomic Bomb scientist and maligned UFO researcher Leon Davidson, for example, believed that the CIA was behind most of the UFO sightings of the 1940s and 1950s, an unpopular viewpoint in Ufology in those days. However, if the principles of deception were being employed from the very beginning of a cover-up, what does that say about where Ufology was focusing its efforts? In other words, for deception to be effectively perpetrated, the deceivers need to get Ufologists running in the opposite direction than where the truth lies.

I am not stating that Leon Davidson's theory of CIA fabrication is the ultimate truth because the completely opposite viewpoint that espouses the extraterrestrial hypothesis is equally suspect. So rather than try and match a theory to the phenomenon, perhaps we should match the deceiver to the deceived through the keen eyes of observation, keeping in mind the principles of deception, in an effort to eliminate the human element from the equation. Once the deceiver's role is exposed, what we are left with is just the phenomenon itself and true research can begin.

Principles of Deception

“I make the adversary see my strengths as weaknesses and my weaknesses as strengths while I cause his strengths to become weaknesses and discover where he is not strong . . . I conceal my tracks so that none can discern them; I keep silence so that none can hear me.”

Sun Tzu
The Art of War, c. 500 BC

The following was paraphrased from: Second World War Deception, Lessons Learned for Today’s Joint Planner by Donald J. Bacon, Major, USAF, Air Command and Staff College Wright Flyer Paper No. 5

Seven major factors for effective deception efforts:

  • Control all key channels of information
  • Good Intelligence “feedback” on deception operations
  • High-level and centralized control over deception planning
  • Practice sound deception techniques
  • Subordinate deception to strategic and operational objectives
  • Maintain adequate secrecy
  • Provide sufficient time for deception execution

    Control all key channels of information

    Strategists still have to identify the most appropriate means of conveying
    deception stories to the adversary and to ensure that all the various channels of intelligence accessible to the adversary convey information consistent with those stories. The deception story has to be sent while the truth has to remain hidden. Consequently, deception planners need to either exploit or deny critical channels of information available to the adversary.

    Good Intelligence “feedback” on deception operations

    Deception planners need intelligence to identify adversary perceptions, channels of information, and susceptibility to deception. Planners also need methods to gather feedback.

    High-level and centralized control over deception planning

    During World War 2 the various organizations the British, Americans, and Soviets developed all provided high-level and centralized control of deception operations. This ensured that deception and operational plans were cohesive and that the various governmental elements portrayed the same deception stories.

    This principle of centralized control must be a bedrock for today’s joint deception planning. Strategic and operational deception planning must be centralized and located high within the combatant command organization, and those plans should be coordinated with the National Security Council. This will ensure all instruments of power are integrated into deception planning, and all actions are consistent with the deception story. High-level centralized planning ensures that critical information, which otherwise might remain compartmentalized, can be shrewdly exploited for deception purposes.

    Practice sound deception techniques

    Exploiting adversary perceptions and expectations will remain critical in future deception operations. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) underscored this point in 1980 when it reported an analysis of a 131 battles that showed deception operations will be successful, defined as attaining surprise, 96 percent of the time when the deceiver exploits the adversary’s preexisting beliefs.

    Conditioning. It is human nature to base expectations on what has been seen in the past, even if those past experiences represent only a small sample size.

    Intelligence “windfalls” are subject to close scrutiny and are not usually believed. “Targets” are increasingly apt to believe a deception story the more they have to work at finding it. This premise is best stated by Charles Cruickshank, a historian on World War II deception. “The perfect deception plan is like a jigsaw puzzle. Pieces of the information are allowed to reach the adversary in such a way as to convince him that he has discovered them by accident.”

    Subordinate deception to strategic and operational objectives

    Meeting strategic and operational goals should be the aim of all deception. Deception must not be done just for the sake of doing deception. It must be closely integrated into operational and strategic planning to ensure that the actual and deception objectives are cohesive.

    Today’s strategists need to realize that deception may have unintended consequences that could hinder future operations. The best way to minimize this risk is to integrate deception planning at the beginning of strategic and operational planning.

    Maintain adequate secrecy

    Successful deception requires demanding that security be based on a strict “need to know” philosophy. Both the actual and the deception plans are symbiotic and, therefore, both must be vigorously protected.

    Although security is critical to deception, there has to be some coordination between key agencies to execute deception plans. Too much security can cause deception operations to be ineffective.

    This conclusion illustrates the dilemma between coordination and compartmentalization - the premise behind “need to know” policies - and shows that a careful balance between the two must be found.

    Provide sufficient time for deception execution

    Deception operations need to be planned and executed far in advance of actual operations. Last minute stories are hard to convey to the adversary without creating suspicion.

    Much time is required to send elements of the story to the adversary and for the adversary to piece those elements together to form a picture. Deception requires forethought and methodical planning and execution.


    These deception factors provided what Barton Whaley described in his analysis of deception theory when he said, “The ultimate goal of stratagem is to make the adversary quite certain, very decisive, and wrong.”

    Deception should be incorporated and integrated into all three levels of war to be most effective. Strategic, operational, and tactical level deception operations must be cohesive and, as Colonel Clarke stated in 1942, should be viewed as “different instruments that play in a single orchestra for which there is only one conductor.”

    The bottom line here is that deception can not be left at the combatant command level and below. Deception objectives must be supported at levels above the combatant commands to provide unity of effort. The supported commander in chief must coordinate a strategic level deception strategy with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and with the National Security Council. It is only at this level that future US deception efforts can match the successes of Allied deception operations in the Second World War.

    Exploiting Preexisting Beliefs Works Best. Although Joint Pub 3-58 alludes to the importance of knowing the adversary’s perceptions and in creating deception stories that are plausible, it does not adequately stress the importance of exploiting preexisting
    beliefs. Donald Daniel and Katherine Herbig, two experts and authors on military deception, observe that deceptions “which slant the target’s mind-set in directions he is predisposed to take have a higher probability of convincing him than those which run against the grain of his expectations and assumptions.” Furthermore, they note that the stronger a target’s predispositions, the “more a target will ignore information inconsistent with them.”