Ongoing Research

Next week is “November in Dallas”, the last in what has been a decades long series of the JFK Lancer research conferences. Attendees will be treated to a great deal of new research, not only in regard to the JFK assassination but also relating to both the murders of RFK and MLK.  It will be intense but it’s always been immensely education for me.

As for myself, I’ll be participating in a number of sessions and panels, on both JFK and RFK but my major effort will be presenting the ongoing research that David Boylan and I have been conducting in regard to Gene Wheaton. That research involves the names he provided to the ARRB as to individuals who had been associated with and trained people who themselves had direct knowledge of a conspiracy against JFK and the attack in Dallas.  Given that Wheaton was simply directing attention towards individuals who could have provided details on the Dallas attack, it becomes extremely challenging to move beyond those individuals he did identify.

What we do know is that the remarks Wheaton heard came during reminiscences between former CIA paramilitary personnel and their Cuban exile associates. That gives us a definitive starting point – and the hundreds of new pre and post Bay of Pigs CIA personnel and operational documents that David has been researching have provided us a level of detail on those individuals that I could hardly have imagined a few years ago.

We can now literally trace the assignments, missions and the movements of several new individuals of interest (who previously were only peripherally known) from early in 1960 through 1966 and on from the U.S. to both Nicaragua and even the Congo.  We know what their specialties were (whether it be black belt karate, sharp shooting or piloting certain types of aircraft).  Better yet we know which CIA officer trained which group of exiles and who ran their individual missions into Cuba both before and after the Bay of Pigs.

Perhaps most importantly we know more details of a select group of exile paramilitary personnel who operated together, who trusted each other, and who were “off the grid” during the last half of 1963, largely due to their recruitment for a brand new anti-Castro project that would bring them all together off shore (primarily in Nicaragua) by early 1964.

And it was Nicaragua, the Contra military effort against the Sandinista government, and ultimately the secret war under Reagan/North/Secord that brought several of them back together again. Together again in the 1980s, all working in logistics and military support across Central America, including the creation of covert supply channels and air operations to provide weapons and military materials that Congress had banned.  And together in conversations heard by Gene Wheaton, conversations involving   their former trainer and mission commander in anti-Castro operations, Carl Jenkins.

It would be those particular anti-Castro alumni who would come together to have the late night conversations and tell the war stories that Gene Wheaton head.  To reminisce about missions, including ones intended to kill Fidel Castro in sniper attacks, and about the people who had been involved in those missions – people who had gone on to use their training against an American president who they reviled for betraying their cause.

To say that the story is deep and complex is putting it mildly, just sketching it out in an hour long presentation in Dallas will be a challenge.  We will be making a monograph available to further detail our work to this point but to some extent that simply highlights the complexity of the context in which the conspiracy itself evolved.  As Wheaton himself noted, it was clear from what he heard that the basic story of the attack was simple and the motives of those in the tactical team were straight forward, but that there was a something more in play for those “above” them.

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The Roots of American Anti-semitism

My friend and co-author Stu Wexler has just had an OpEd published that everyone should read.  We have warned about the dangers of anti-semitism embedded in the ultra right movements in several of our books – unfortunately events are repeating themselves mush as we had feared.  Attacks on black churches, on Synagogues…its all part of a pattern that repeats itself and you can never assume its gone away.

It re-surges whenever hate is inflamed and enabled. If you want a true understanding for how deeply its embedded, take the time to read Stu’s article and share it freely:

https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/273831/the-roots-of-american-anti-semitism?fbclid=IwAR2HWaLpjA5h6GK7o1RysERV5A8OnayCTLAEZb-i2ajBDz3VIgbPnpYIed4

 

Fake News

If anyone had wondered if the Russian political warfare was continuing – it is, as the following articles reveal.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/20/politics/russian-interference-propaganda/index.html

https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/19/politics/elena-alekseevna-khusyaynova-russia-charged/index.html

The good news is that Deb is continuing her series, providing some excellent practical advice on how to deal with it:

Deb Galentine series / Part 3:

The conclusion of the last post queried, “How are we to know who to believe, who to trust, where to get the correct information, and how to avoid or stop the propaganda?”  I could write a door-stop worthy book on those questions alone, but I’ll attempt to condense some suggestions here. If readers have other suggestions, please share so we can all learn from each other.

The most useful tool for avoiding propaganda is to not access it from propaganda venues.  The largest purveyor of propaganda, the Internet, naturally contains the largest targeted groups— social media users. Social media outlets with the largest user bases, listed in order from the most to fewer users, are as follows: Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Instagram, QQ, QZone, Doujin/Tik Tok, Sina Weibo, Twitter, Reddit, Baidu Tienba, Skype, LinkedIn, Viber, Snapchat, LINE, Pinterest, and Telegram.  Currently approximately 2.5 billion people use some form (or forms) of social media, every platform being a propaganda target.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/272014/global-social-networks-ranked-by-number-of-users/

Pew Research claims that 62% of adults in the USA read news on social media, most often via Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter.

http://www.journalism.org/2016/05/26/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2016/

Some social media sites carry more propaganda than others and up until Congress held oversight hearings, social media sites showed little concern for vetting the content they published. After buyers paid up (whether it be in US dollars or rubles masquerading as American money from Russian PayPal accounts), they could post most anything they wanted so long as they didn’t violate the TOS agreements of each platform. Lying is not a TOS violation on any social media platform.

Common sense might tell us that social media is not the best place for acquiring our news, but if we insist on doing so then we must learn to check the sources of that news. Credible news sites require professional journalistic integrity; the reporting must be accurate, fair, and thorough. It must show respect for the subjects and people included in reports. The journalist and the publishing unit must be as independent as possible, free from conflicts of interest.  Journalists must be transparent and accountable; they must be able to admit their mistakes and correct them.

https://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp

Every credible news source publishes site information about who they are including their physical addresses, contact numbers and email addresses, information about their journalists and editors, if there’s a parent company and who it is.  In other words, the more information a new site carries about itself, the better. Look for an “About” page.  If you read, “This site is for entertainment purposes,” you’re on the wrong site for credible news. News consumers need to know who is feeding their brains.

Check out your local newspapers. These are the journalists who watch and report on the news that is most likely to directly impact you, personally. If you find that their biases (either left or right) hold too much sway over their work, try a different hometown newspaper in a nearby city or even across the country. Many have noteworthy national reputations for quality reporting.

Look for award-winning newspapers. Every year since 1971, the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDN) has honored “outstanding achievements in broadcast and digital journalism with the Edward R. Murrow Awards.” Their Code of Ethics stands as their determining criteria for issuing awards of excellence. Browse their site to find the best of the best:

https://rtdna.org/content/edward_r_murrow_awards#prev

Most local newspapers and award-winning newspapers have digital websites where readers can access at least some of the news for free. If you like what you’re reading, subscribe. To attain a well-rounded base of news, subscribe to two or three different sources. It’s important to support quality news reporting.

Read NPR— National Public Radio. A small amount of your tax dollars (and hundreds of marathon pledge drives, corporate underwriters, educational institutions, etc.) pay for it and these people are some of the most dedicated and self-sacrificing journalists in the business.  If you find stories that you’d like to discuss with your social media friends, post them on Facebook or Twitter.  It’s often better to bring credible news to the platforms than it is trying to find credible news on the platforms. And if you enjoy NPR, send them a regular donation, please.

This article lists some of the best credible news sites on the Internet today:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/berlinschoolofcreativeleadership/2017/02/01/10-journalism-brands-where-you-will-find-real-facts-rather-than-alternative-facts/#40d58ebde9b5

It’s not necessary to completely abandon social media platforms in pursuit of excellence in news reporting.  Keep in mind that most of all these outlets have Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages as well.  If you want to fact check information you don’t trust, go to these sites:

https://www.factcheck.org

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/

https://www.politifact.com

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/factcheck

The more honest and truthful news people read, the less swayed they become by propaganda. Propaganda not only shreds the truth, it makes people lose trust and doubt themselves. As we learn more solid facts and see the world as it is, the more inclined we are to share that information.

However, when we see propaganda shared by others, we must all muster the courage to point it out.  Most of us have been guilty at one time or another of posting something to social media that isn’t quite right or is simply a raging piece of propaganda. At those times it’s desirable to have good friends (or family) around to point it out or to put it in context.  The best way to avoid the embarrassment of posting fake stuff is to fact-check it first.

Memes are often the most offending vector of false quotes.  Toss those quotes into a Google search and almost instantaneously, you’ll find out if it’s correct.  If it’s true and you like it— go ahead and post it.  But if you amplify a message that is untrue, you become an unwitting propagandist and you help make the Internet a more treacherous place for all of us to try to navigate.

Avoiding propaganda may take a bit of effort at first, but the more it’s done, the easier it becomes.  (If you stick with AP or Reuters you’ll rarely go wrong; these are the wire services that other reporters use.) Amplifying factual news articles helps drown out propaganda.

Keep in mind that propaganda can be a lot more fun, in some strange ways, than honest journalism, especially for those who embrace drama. Propaganda touches us emotionally.  It can make us furious, happy, depressed, sad, joyful, and angry.  That is by design— propaganda appeals to the emotions.  When you become emotional, you can’t think as clearly.  Emotional involvement allows propaganda to seep into our minds easier.

Honest, credible journalism appeals to the intellect, so we all must know how to think.  And that leads me to education. The most important gift of any democracy is educating its people.  Without education, democracy dies. Uneducated people with no understanding of how to think are the perfect subjects for propaganda and dictatorships.

When my children were young, I bought them a record featuring Steve Allen.  It was titled “How To Think,” and it turned out to be one of the best items I ever bought— for them as well as for myself.  Originally recorded in 1962, it’s now quite dated. It’s a little cheesy and sexist. But the information it imparts is just as timely now as it was then.

In 1962, our country faced the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Luckily, we had leaders who knew how to think so that we got through that tense standoff without blowing the world apart. Would we be so lucky now?  Do we have leaders who know how to think?  In response to those questions, I think we might not and we don’t.

One of the myriad good qualities of the Internet is the ability to save and categorize important items so that search tools can find them. Someone who knows how to think uploaded Steve Allen’s “How To Think” recording to YouTube and in so doing, a gift from the past can today remind us and teach our children important lessons that we can use to save our democracy.

(Unfortunately, time can take a toll on vinyl so there some skipping that occurs in these recordings from time to time. This album can be found on eBay sometimes, if you’d like your own copy.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWzTYRoIO0c&list=PL1Nm_eNkTsnPtOqqcXlcLhjYDFNUz4yBq&index=2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZmDCwhSZKA&list=PL1Nm_eNkTsnPtOqqcXlcLhjYDFNUz4yBq

Here are the 9 Rules of “How to Think.”  I added the 10th.

  1. Calm your emotions.
  2. Understand the difference between fact and opinion.
  3. Look for the evidence before making up your mind. (Scientific)
  4. Don’t kid yourself. Tell the truth to yourself, as well as to others.
  5. Understand the difference between the Concrete and the Abstract.
  6. Use words carefully. Be tolerant. Don’t jump to conclusions.
  7. Remember that no two things are ever the same. Within each group resides individuals.
  8. Don’t be afraid to change your mind. Be open to new information.
  9. Much truth is relative.
  10. Grow a sense of humor.

As the saying goes, “If you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”  We can fight social media propaganda, if we all work together.

 

 

Bring in the Rogues

 

There is a lot I could say about the murder of a Saudi reporter in his own nation’s foreign embassy.  But it would be venting and of little consequence. So I’m going to dial down on what I’ve learned in a couple of decades of actually studying political assassination and bring that forward as a sanity check for any discourse on the subject.  I’ve learned a lot from a deep dive into the history of the CIA’s political assassination entanglements, of both the American and Soviet use of the tactic in Europe following World War II, and of the Russian proclivity for foreign political assassination after the Communist revolution.

But strange as it may seem, perhaps the most relevant historical example for what appears to be developing in Saudi Arabia comes from two examples, one contemporary and one some decades ago. If you have Shadow Warfare I would refer you to chapters 17 which deals with the tactics involved (Targeted Infrastructure Warfare) and 16 (Maintaining Anti-Communist Regimes) which deals with the American motive for ignoring what was going on at the time across the Southern Cone nations of South America.  That was a broad move towards authoritarianism and dictatorship so agonizing that it led to targeted political assassinations across Europe and inside the United States itself. And it was all effectively ignored by the Nixon regime simply because the rabid anti-Communist policies of the states involved aligned with the American interests and policies of that time.

Hint – if you mentally substituted “anti-Iranian” policies for “anti-Communist policies” you already know where this is going.

The more contemporary example would be the Putin regime targeting of regime opponents, ranging from expat oligarchs and intelligence officers to reporters, across Europe.  I probably should have written in more detail about that in Creating Chaos but while Putin’s domestic record was pretty clear it was less obvious that he would feel enabled to the point that he would export assassination as he is doing now, I was definitely behind the curve on that one.

To cut to the chase, the most common form of political assassination has almost involved surrogates. Following the Soviet revolution, the Communist party had fanatic follows around the globe and on occasion called on them the help move Russians overseas – a Spanish communist was used to eliminate Trotsky inside Mexico.

https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/trotsky-assassinated-in-mexico

During the Cold War, American intelligence generally turned to surrogates such as revolutionaries, resistance movement members or exiles for political assassination. Surrogates provide deniability and the common CIA response (as documented by the Church Committee) was that a CIA surrogate might have done the killing, he might have been in contact with American intelligence officers and he might even have used weapons or explosives provided by them. He might even have attended training which included assassination techniques or been given an assassination training manual (two were produced over the years) but nobody gave him the order to murder anyone.

If it happened he and his associates had simply gone “rogue”. In a common example of mirroring, the KGB used the same tactics, however they added the twist of handing off political assassination to their Eastern European partners and East Germany or some other bloc nation’s service carried it out at their own risk.

What differentiates those practices – which carried at least an artificial level of deniability – from today’s murders, is that it appears that the Saudi and Russian regimes have become so emboldened that they actually are using their own people carry out attacks.  And then they simply stonewall, essentially defying condemnation or even sanctions. Sufficient facts have already emerged to make that statement for both Russian attacks in Britain and the Saudi attack in Turkey.

khashoggi.htmlhttps://www.cnn.com/2018/10/16/middleeast/khashoggi-saudi-pompeo-intl/index.html

In fact in both instances the attacks have been so blatant that even the standard “rogue agent acting on their own” becomes a hard sell.  But as the Condor era murders showed, sometimes effectively terrorizing your own citizens and eliminating a free press, even from operating overseas, can be worth the risk. It also must be noted that while surrogates can sometimes exceed their orders, when your own people are involved – whether it’s in kidnapping, interrogation, torture, or murder – what they do has to be within the parameters of their mission brief.

As an example, following 9/11 many CIA officers were stunned by the new orders requiring them do to rendition and essentially participate in torture.  Yet they were shown a Presidential directive stating they were to take any and all actions necessary to get information or eliminate threats.  Given that cover they did not go rogue, they carried out their mission.

Bottom line, if you use your own people engage in clearly illegal international actions, they expect to go home, they do not expect to be punished for completing their mission and they do not expect to be turned over to any foreign power.   Surrogates might go rogue, but your own people go home, eventually. And they are given the assurance that if worst comes to worst, they will ultimately not suffer for completing their mission.  Because, if they do, you soon run out of people for such missions.

So far it appears that the American President and the Saudi King are both prepared to “bring in the rogues” in respect to the murder in Turkey, just as Nixon and Kissinger were quite willing to ignore the Condor assassinations and the death squads in the southern cone – in pursuit of their own “strategic goals”.

No doubt it will all serve Trump as well as it did Nixon, as to serving the nation – we all know how well that worked out in developing trust and positive relationships with virtually all our Latin American neighbors (actually it worked quite well with the dictatorships, not so much with the rest).

Its also important to remember that when any nation or group of nations goes down this path – an always tempting one for autocrats – matters generally escalate quickly. In this case, Saudi and its regional allies may well be jelling into a reincarnation of the Condor Alliance in the South America.  That risk is made clear in the following news item:

http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/24264/uae-contracted-an-american-hit-squad-to-kill-political-figures-and-more-in-yemen

 

 

Social Media and Democracy

Deb Galentine prepared the following as her response to a question from Anthony but rather than simply posting it as a reply I wanted to give it more attention. Deb is also working on the third piece in her ongoing series on contemporary political warfare.

………………………………..

Hi, Anthony.  I want to thank you for taking the time to comment here on Larry’s blog. Larry’s response & his book cover your inquiries well.  I’ll try to confine my response to the realm of social media as it might apply to movement away from democracy.

The virtual world, cyberspace, has not functioned democratically since it went public & became a capitalistic venture. I see the evolution of the Internet’s spawn such as social media as the ongoing reflection of the embracement of authoritarian control.

In February 2004 when Facebook debuted on the ‘Net, it gained instant popularity with high school and college students. But it wasn’t until Facebook decided to sell itself to everyone, young and old alike, that it really took off. Today, it dominates the Internet as the #1 social media site in the world. “As of the second quarter of 2018, Facebook [claimed] 2.23 billion monthly active users.”  Experts place Facebook’s estimated value at around $500 billion.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/264810/number-of-monthly-active-facebook-users-worldwide/

The handful of Harvard students who created Facebook originally intended their invention to be a kind of Who’s Who on their campus. Within months, the student saw earning potential and  “thefacebook” (as it was then named) began carrying advertisements. Since then, Facebook has evolved into a globally targeted advertising company, the product being its users.

Here’s where this all becomes dicey for democracy.  Advertisers study Facebook users for everything they can ascertained about them; the more advertisers know about them, the more specifically they can target them.  Advertisers find all information, no matter how minute it might seem, priceless.

However, people who embrace democracies have always valued their privacy.  One of the first individual rights to disappear under authoritarian rule is the right to individual privacy.  Even so, Facebook managed to convince users that the public display of their most private information served to enhance their own popularity. Facebook made the surrendering of privacy on the Internet trendy and cool.

Facebook insists new users sign up with real names and information (although millions break that rule by establishing fake accounts).  Facebook asks for telephone numbers “to guarantee access to accounts.”  Coders designed the Facebook app interface to suggest to cell phone users that they should upload their cell phone contacts to Facebook because doing so would make it easier for them to find their friends. This is true.  It also gives all that information to Facebook.

They’ve constructed their platform to make inputting copious amounts of private information a social norm. (If everyone does it, it’s OK.) Users lists all places they’ve lived, occupations, momentous occasions, relatives, important dates, relationship status, children, spouses, schools attended, degrees earned, hobbies, favorite TV shows, books, and movies.

Facebook finds users’ emotions revenue-enhancing; information brokers pay well for this data. Towards that end, Facebook built-in emoticons for every feeling a user might be massaging for the moment; friends have learned to become offended if other users display no emotions towards their posts, photos, and comments.  Users train each other to emote freely and openly.

The platform encourages users to find, join and list special interest groups on their “timelines.”  Users can add friends to groups without their permissions. Users can buy and sell almost anything on Facebook, while Facebook keeps a record of ever keystroke users input.  Even if someone decides not to post a comment after composing it, Facebook logs what they keyed in on the platform.

The concept of “Checking-in” became fashionable; go to a movie, the beach, a restaurant, shopping, the hairdresser, the airport, a new city or country— and “check in,” which means posting the information to notify the world exactly where you are located! While they are there, users can post reviews on Facebook to inform the community. By calling it a “community,” Facebook lends itself the image of a safe, small town where everybody is simply a friend who hasn’t yet been met.

People take photos of the food they consumed for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks. They splash photos of their children all over the pages of this vast wilderness without understanding that the meta-data in those photos could give tech-savvy pedophiles the exact coordinates of their children’s whereabouts.

Overall, across the platform, Facebook normalized the devaluation of privacy.  The platform taught people that privacy is over-rated; that to be friendly, we cannot be private; that knowing everything about everyone is OK.

At the same time, all this information became available to advertisers— and to anyone else who would pay for it (or freely lift it or steal it) including political campaigns, propagandists, social scientists studying users without permission, employers, law enforcement, criminals, and intelligence circles. In the background, Facebook watches, catalogues, stores, dissects, ranks, quantifies, and reports Facebook user activities. They know where users were before logging on to Facebook; they know where they go when they leave.  Facebook can access the mics and cameras on users’ computers and cell phones.

When people become accustomed to giving up so much of their privacy so easily— surrendering the rest of their rights becomes less noticeable. Social media is training people to devalue freedom.  Social media trains its users to function at ease under autocratic rule.

 

 

 

JFK Lancer Update

Debra Conway and I had the opportunity to spend two hours talking about JFK Lancer’s work and its November in Dallas conference with Chuck Ochelli on his show Friday evening. You  can find the show at this link.

https://ochelli.com/november-jfk-conference-2018/

The discussion went over a good deal of the history of JFK Lancer and most especially of Debra’s years of work – in particular all of her personal outreach and facilitation which brought together so many people in research – and established the foundation for so much collaboration.

If you listen to the interview you will gain a good appreciation for how many researchers got their start with Debra’s efforts – of course that includes me as well.

During the course of the show, Debra announced that after two decades, JFK Lancer will be continuing its work in publishing and making research materials and new research available via the Lancer WEB site. However the 2018 November in Dallas will be the last research conference hosted by JFK Lancer.

The good news is that the 2018 conference is going to be exceptional, both in terms of speakers and activities. I’m really happy that it will provide a fitting conclusion to the November in Dallas conference series.  You can see the speaker list and detailed schedule at this link:

http://jfklancer.com/Dallas2018/index.html

If you haven’t been and you always thought about coming…now is the time to do so.  Its an experience that should not be missed.

 

JFK Lancer Conference Update

If you have not participated in a JFK Lancer conference, or if you have not done so recently, you definitely need to make it this year. As in prior years, our focus is always on new research and this year we will addressing the most recent studies and findings on not only the JFK assassination, but also the murders of RFK and MLK – material presented by the most active researchers still involved in all three cases.

After having been involved with the conferences for almost two decades, two things always strike me. First, it is truly amazing how far we have come in the years following the first generation researchers, themselves limited to the Warren Commission materials, and the plodding release of paper documents via FOIA and NARA requests. The amount of information now visible after decades of FOIA work, the JFK Records Act, the work of the ARRB, and ongoing NARA records releases is stunning. Beyond that, in the RFK and MLK assassinations, FOIA work as well as the archiving of researcher collections and deep data mining in both police and FBI files has produced leads which simply were not visible in the first decades.

This year’s presentations include:

Bill Kelly and Rex Bradford on the JFK document releases

David Mantik and Mike Chesser on the JFK X-Rays
and wound interpretation

John Orr with Larry Schnapf on new 3D trajectory
modeling in Dealey Plaza

John Hunt on LAPD obfuscation and the real RFK crime
scene evidence

Krishna Sheney on research access to the sixth floor
museum archives and oral histories

John Newman on Framing RFK in the Castro Assassination

Carmine Savastano on “Other Suspects” in the RFK
conspiracy
Larry Hancock on the Wheaton names and the Dallas
assault team

Bill Simpich on Dallas Police Department suspects

Russ Baker on Hiding the Proof / We Want the
Records

Jim Jenkins and William Law “At the Cold Shoulder
of History" - the Bethesda autopsy

Gary Murr  A Small Arms Dealer and the Death 
of a President

Stu Wexler      MLK – the real conspiracy

Hubert Clark and William Law “Betrayal;
A JFK Honor Guard Speaks”

Malcolm Blunt and Alan Dale "Tennent 'Pete' Bagley: A
                Remembrance”
John Newman   The Kennedy's, King, and the Race Issue

Aldo Mariotto   The Texas Trip – Johnson’s Agenda

Ralph Ganis  Otto Skorzeny and the JFK Assassination

This is a line up that that would be hard 
to match in terms of both scope and depth of
expertise. I only wish the first generation researchers
could have the opportunity to see the results
of their pioneering efforts. 

They can't be with us in Dallas this year, you can. I
hope to see a great many of us their with us this
November.   

The Political Propagandists

I’m happy to be able to post Deb Galentine’s next piece on political warfare.  Its vitally important to understand how the various elements of social media are now being used as weapons, not to simply to create discord but more importantly to magnify it to the point of direct confrontation and even violence.

We have had years of warnings about the threats related to viruses, malware, hacks, etc. Now its time for a serious heads up in regard to the threats you encounter in the world of social media.

………………….

The Political Propagandists

Who are the “Political Propagandists” on social media that we keep hearing so much about today? Where do they live? Are they paid?  Who pays them?  What’s their goal?

These are the questions our government, our journalists, our intelligence agencies, and we ourselves have been grappling with since a concerted effort to undermine our nation’s democratic principles first surfaced for the USA via the 2016 election.  Even today, we don’t have all the answers to all the questions but our intelligence agencies appear to have come to a good understanding of the most dangerous and troubling aspects of interference in the election. What they have learned may be astonishing for many of us, but to the CIA— it’s familiar territory.

The United States has interfered in foreign elections since the formation of the Central Intelligence Agency in 1947. After WWII, our government determined that the United States would see to it that other governments would adhere to democratic principles— or at the very least, to principles that served U.S.A. interests even if it meant dealing with brutal dictators. In the 50’s, the CIA was instrumental in overthrowing governments (for example, Nicaragua & Iran) and supporting assassinations & violent coups in other countries around the globe to facilitate regime changes or to build nations more to our country’s liking.

To advance their efforts, CIA used a boatload of tools & techniques including political propaganda*— information composed of false or misleading messages meant to promote a specific political point of view. Propaganda requires a sender (the propagandist) and a receiver (the target— a pliable audience).  CIA propagandists sent their messages in myriad forms.  Before the Internet, they often used newspapers, both foreign and American.  Many American newspaper editors willingly cooperated with CIA Cold War efforts since the risk always included nuclear warfare; publishers and editors saw their cooperation as patriotic.  Foreign newspapers could be friendly assets, infiltrated, or tricked into reporting as needed.

CIA also employed the use of pamphlets and posters as well as radio and television messages all intricately laced with propaganda. They used any means available for getting their party line into the minds of their target audiences. They hired psychiatrists for myriad reasons including the construction of effective and appealing disinformation.  CIA targeted the citizens of whatever government they were attacking with this psychological warfare— along with their known enemies. Typically, CIA also targeted US citizens to gain national support for our government’s efforts.

But in the 2016 election, the onslaught didn’t come from the CIA.  Malcolm Nance, US Intelligence operative with 36 years’ experience and an expert in Russian cyber warfare, stated on “Hardball with Chris Matthews” (9/20/2018) that the citizens of the United States & our government were attacked as part of “a wide-ranging cyber warfare influence operation designed to break the American election process & to put Donald J. Trump into power. More than to just get Donald Trump into office (that was just one result that they wanted) … it was to break Hillary Clinton’s campaign, divide the Democratic Party, fundamentally change the American system of government, and push it away from where it was— a Democratic Constitutional Republic to what we’re leaning towards today— which is an Autocracy.”  Nance agrees with the rest of the US Intelligence community which maintains that Russia waged the attack against the United States under the direct orders of former KGB Agent & now President of Russia, Vladimir Putin.

Russian operatives employed every available means of cyberwarfare including hacking into Senate and Congressional email accounts, the Pentagon’s computer systems, and the Democratic National Committee’s as well as the Republican National Committee’s computers and servers. They stole whatever they could find including research, software, cyber tools, documents and emails. Additionally, we now know that Russian hackers infiltrated voter databases in several states managing to go as deep as voter information.

Robert Mueller’s Indictment of 12 Russian Agents:

http://cdn.cnn.com/cnn/2018/images/07/13/gru.indictment.pdf

While most Americans demonstrate awareness that massive amount of evidence support our Intelligence agencies’ contentions that Russia attacked our most cherished institutions with cyber-warfare, only a small number of Americans appear to understand that Russia has been engaging in these kinds of activities for decades targeting all Western democracies before they attacked the United States.  Intelligence agencies in the UK, Denmark, Australia, & the US found evidence of Russian meddling in the elections of not only the USA, but also Ukraine, France, Mexico, Austria, Germany, the UK, Italy, Norway, Greece, Estonia, Finland— up to at least 27 countries since 1991.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/01/05/russia-has-been-meddling-in-foreign-elections-for-decades-has-it-made-a-difference/?utm_term=.b565c3aa809c

For trafficking propaganda, Russia focuses largely on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. These platforms comprise three of the largest targets for Russian disinformationists in their World-Wide Cyber War.  Information spreads like wildfires on these platforms, and it still to this day remains virtually unchecked.  The largely anonymous nature of social networks provides propagandists with the necessary hiding places from which to use their multiple fake identities with their fake locations.

The “Internet Research Agency” located at 55 Savushkina Street, St Petersburg, Russia bears the distinction of being the most well-known and publicized Russian propaganda outlet, or troll farm. The true location (IP addresses) of trolls working out of 55 Savushkina Street lie hidden behind proxy servers that workers turned on first before beginning work on their daily assigned tasks.  To be hired as Internet trolls, Russian workers needed to display strong written English language capabilities. They agreed to work 12 hour shifts so that Russian trolls would cover online communities 24 hours a day; the pay of around $800 a month made it seem worthwhile.

They worked in three to six member teams.  One team member would start a topic on a social media platform, another would then post a comment on the topic, the third would come along to start an argument, and so on.  Every day they were handed a series of tasks & topics to complete for each of their online identities. They learned to post several mundane comments about their daily lives to lend the appearance of real people. These posts would be interlaced with political propaganda & controversial memes which were either geared to influence political thinking against US political candidates or the US government or in favor of beautiful Russia or a Far-Right Wing candidate their wished to promote. The funding for Russia’s several propaganda outlets came from the Russian government.

Some sources indicate that thousands of propaganda bloggers worked from their homes in Russia but evidence of this is sketchy, so far.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/02/putin-kremlin-inside-russian-troll-house

 

Russian propaganda outlets also operated socialbots, “socbot,” or simply bots. Bots aren’t real people but real people do operate them to some extent; someone must program them and set them in motion.  The goal of Bots is to disrupt the free exchange of ideas— and they operate at remarkable speeds. Estimates of Bot activity on Twitter, which is the platform most useable by Bots, runs at about 15% of the total traffic volume, but confirmed statistics remain elusive. Bots can amplify Twitter hashtags, thereby convincing people that a topic is important.

Since the 2016 election, Twitter has become more proactive about disrupting & eliminating Bot activity. However, an ongoing problem for some Twitter users—the fast thinkers and typists— is that Twitter’s system sometimes mistakes speedy real people for Bots.  During the 2016 campaign season, Twitter suspended my daughter for 48 hours for that very reason; they picked up on the speed of her posts & judged that she had to be a Bot.

Cyborgs, humans who amplify their posts using software to automate posts, were all over Twitter and Facebook during the 2016 campaign and election and they are now ramping up their efforts once again— along with the trolls and the Bots— for the October US midterm elections.

The goal for the Russian trolls and the bots and the cyborgs and the bloggers remains the creation of chaos, division, and disharmony. They spread their propaganda 24/7 throughout the Internet using social media, websites, blogs— even via comments on news articles. They toss pieces of propaganda around the Internet anywhere and everywhere.  Once again, they are reaching fever pitch ahead of our midterm elections.

But they are not the only ones using propaganda on the Internet.  Others who submit US propaganda— false or misleading political information designed to sway options in favor of the bearer— include the Alt-Right, White Supremacists, Nazis, 4-Channers, Republicans, Democrats, the RNC, the DNC, and sites masquerading as “news” sites. Even candidates and campaign workers engage in organized propaganda efforts from time to time.  Most of these groups have at some time or another utilized their own trolling efforts, bots, and cyborgs to agitate for and against various stances and certain candidates.  As such, we Americans must realize that when we engage in these activities, we become Putin’s warriors—facilitating his Cyber War— by creating more chaos, more division, and more hostilities from the inside.

So, how are we to know who to believe, who to trust, where to get the correct information, and how to avoid or stop the propaganda?  I’ll write about that next time.

______________________________

Adrian Chen wrote the definitive story on the Internet Research Agency for “The New York Times,” published 6/7/2015:

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/07/magazine/the-agency.html

*Propaganda takes many forms beyond the political.  For example, advertisers use it all the time to try to get us to purchase their products. But for these purposes, I will be focusing on political propaganda.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Operation 40

 

While Deb prepares her next post in her series on internet  political warfare, I’m continuing to slog on with the development of two new monographs. I’ve also been working with Bill Simpich on the “crypt busting” exercise several of us are engaged in to add to the Mary Ferrell CIA crypt data.

https://www.maryferrell.org/php/cryptdb.php

Most recently we wrestled with Operation 40 – which while a CIA operation in support of the Cuba project, did not carry its own unique crypt. On the other hand, a variety of Cuban exile personnel recruited for the project did participate and crypts such as AMMOT, AMFAST and possibly even AMCHEER can be related to that operation.

Matters are further complicated due to the fact that certain of those personnel continued service with the CIA following the disaster at the Bay of Pigs.  In particular the AMOT personnel show up in the Cuban Intelligence service later established at JMWAVE and some AMOT’s were even assigned to work at a secondary station in Mexico City – a “virtual station” compartmentalized from the regular CIA station within the American embassy in the city.

If that were not confusing enough, there were undercurrents of secondary agendas within Operation 40 even during the formation of the Cuban Brigade. And in later years certain Operation 40 personnel went their own ways, becoming involved in drug smuggling and apparently in a certain amount of extortion and blackmail within the Cuban exile community – reportedly using stolen or copied personnel files assembled from counter intelligence activities performed in advance of the landings.

Officially the Operation 40 mission of the Brigade intelligence and security personal was to be assisting the consolidation and administration of liberated areas while neutralizing local communists, Castro regime cadre and other potential threats to a new civil government. In line with that mission “black lists” were developed in advance of the landings, identifying individuals of all stripes considered to be a threat.

However even before the Brigade left on its mission, rumors were circulating that leftists or socialist exile fighters and leaders were also to be neutralized (read imprisoned or executed) during the invasion. That concern was exacerbated by a series of training camp confrontations and conflicts between Brigade personnel.

All of which leaves us with an officially identifiable mission for Operation 40 but apparently some very real contemporary concerns that there were secondary intentions among some of its personnel, possibly even endorsed by certain of its CIA trainers and paramilitary advisors.

As the actual landings unraveled on the beaches, the majority of the personnel intended for the operation were unable to land and were returned to Florida. Some continued on in JMWAVE maritime missions, some were taken into the new JM/WAVE Cuban Intelligence Service supporting the ongoing Cuba projects and others ended up going their own ways.

Over the years certain of those “others” would add to the confusion and “Operation 40” began to be used by some writers as a generic term for all sorts of illegal and questionable acts by Cuban exiles, extending well through the 1960s and even the 1970’s.

Beyond Operation 40 and crypt work, for those interested, another of my recent interviews is now available on the internet.  It was a good, solid interview covering questions in regard to both the JFK and MLK assassinations.

https://ontheodd.com/the-jfk-assassination-update/

Political Propaganda

This is the first in a series of posts that Deb Galentine has offered to provide and it not only establishes the context for the series but provides a call to action. These are days in which we need to accept that there are facts within the current chaos but its our duty to discern them. That requires work, the last thing in the world anyone should be doing is re-posting or retweeting information without vetting it.  Active measures propaganda is a reality, from multiple sources – accept it, deal with it, denial of that fact is a form of surrender.  I’ll be continuing with interim posts on historically familiar subjects, leaving Deb to lead you through the social media warfare that has become part of daily life in the early 21st Century.

………………..

I offer sincere thanks and appreciation to Larry Hancock for this blog, for his books, and for his dedication to truth in history.  In this age of “Alternate Facts,” we depend on people like Larry who spend their lives digging for historical accuracy just as surely as we rely on our Free Press to accurately report current events every day.  Democracy requires truth, and truth dies in darkness.  Truth thrives in the light of free, logical, and rational thought, and the free exchange of ideas.

Some of the darkest days of our country occurred when our political system buried or obscured truth.  Consider the 1960’s and ’70’s during the Vietnam War when our governments’ guiding mantra became “Winning the Hearts and Minds of the Vietnamese People.”

“Winning hearts and minds”— making people think what governments need people to think— wasn’t a new idea in the ’60’s. In 1933, Adolph Hitler appointed Paul Joseph Goebbels his Reich Minister of Propaganda. Goebbels proved himself one of the greatest purveyors of biased and misleading political information. He controlled and censored all information outlets— books, film, literature, art, music, news— and he preached hate against all targeted groups, including Jews, Gypsies, Black people, Gays, millions of whom were exterminated. Still, Goebbels helped Hitler capture the hearts and minds of the German people who adored and supported Hitler and the pride he gifted them through his ethno-nationalism brand of governing.

After WWII and during the Cold War, our own government fought for the hearts and minds of We the People of the United States of America to fortify our nation against the doomsday weapon that our government created— the Nuclear Bomb. Our leaders devised a detailed and systematic program, overseen by psychiatrists and the newly-created CIA, to make Americans so fearful of the USSR (“The Red Menace”) and their possession of nuclear weapons that we would cheer the spending of millions upon millions of dollars to dot the US landscape with “defensive” nuclear warheads. School children learned the “duck and cover” routine and regularly practiced it to the tune of air raid sirens. Our government-produced propaganda gilded the effort by painting nuclear war as dangerous, but survivable.  https://youtu.be/IKqXu-5jw60

Families built fall-out shelters in backyards.  Those who couldn’t foot the bill for underground living lined their basement shelves with canned goods, water, and toilet paper in preparation for the sure-to-come nuclear winter. The US government regularly pumped black and white Civil Defense films to our televisions.  Their intent was to create fear. They succeeded.

A 1950’s Civil Defense film:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcTxipBP2Kk

Many of the children who grew up under the threat of the mushroom cloud learned not to expect to live past the age of thirty, especially when the Vietnam War saw the draft reinstituted.  This fear prompted the youth during the late 1960’s and early ‘70’s to develop a philosophy of “Tune In, Turn On, and Drop Out.” They had been so marinated in fear, cynicism, and disillusionment, many of them abandoned hope for tomorrow. Drugs helped them escape their fears, even if only temporarily.  Propaganda frequently produces unexpected negative consequences.

Winning the hearts and minds of the American people to spend massive amounts of money on excessive defense measures didn’t end in the ‘70’s.  President Ronald Reagan made exceptional use of the Hollywood-produced film “The Morning After” (1983) to bolster his propaganda about the enormous threat emanating from the USSR:  https://youtu.be/Iyy9n8r16hs

The movie intended to portray Nuclear War as an unwinnable and disastrous extreme. However, Reagan used the movie to advance his case for his Star Wars Defense Initiative meant to thwart a nuclear strike from the USSR by destroying their missiles in the air before reaching our country.

All around the globe, propaganda has served as a useful tool for those who desire to spin world views.  Nicaragua. 1986:  “The Sandinista Regime …has [pushed] its main propaganda themes:  The United States is a military aggressor, the opposition is illegitimate, and the Sandinistas are committed to political pluralism.” (“The Nicaraguan Externals Propaganda Apparatus: Diminishing Returns,” 1986.  An Intelligence Assessment, Central Intelligence Agency, Sanitized Release, 11/18/2011.  https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP97R00694R000600520001-7.pdf )

The perpetrators of propaganda leave the average person trying to decide who relays the facts— those identified as propagandists or those who point accusing fingers at so-called propagandists. In other words, “How do we know who tells us the truth?”

Sorting through today’s mind-boggling array of political propaganda makes everyone’s heads hurt.  Without all the information in hand, we sometimes find ourselves feeling as if we are wandering through dark mazes filled with racial nonsense, chaos, half-truths, disinformation and distrust. In defense, we carry our own shields of pre-conceived ideas and personal biases before us.

While we think we know what we believe, we may become confused. We begin to doubt who or what to believe.  We may distrust what we thought we knew.  Or, we may cling steadfastly to what we thought to be true, no matter what evidence we find presented to the contrary. We argue. Discussions grow contentious. We fight.  And we tend to fight and bicker a whole bunch on “Social Media”— the newest, latest, greatest tool of the most accomplished propagandists the world has ever produced.

The accomplished propagandists use active measures specifically designed to create the fighting, the division, and the chaos that we’ve all witnessed (or been a part of) on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms. Their goal in these battles (infighting that they typically cause) remains winning our hearts and minds over to what they want us to believe; they want us to distrust what we believe to be true about ourselves, our country, our government and each other.

They want us to be afraid— afraid of each other, our government, the people next door.  They want us to be afraid of gun owners or so afraid that we believe we should purchase a gun. They want us to eventually become so confused and over-burdened by all the noise and hostility and fear and chaos that we cease to care. Being too much to cope with, we tune out to calm ourselves. We learn not to watch what’s going on in the news, in our government, our country, our cities, our churches, our schools, our streets, and maybe even our homes.

Once we reach that point, they win. Therefore, our number one tool remains— Resistance. We must do everything within our power to resist efforts to make us fearful, to doubt who we are and that in which we believe. We must resist believing that for which there are no verifiable facts.

Dr. Sarah Kendzior, expert on Russia, authoritarian regimes and their use of the Internet in undermining public trust and manipulating the media, wrote an important essay shortly after the 2016 election. I urge you to read it and consider doing as she recommends to remain strong and alert.   https://thecorrespondent.com/5696/were-heading-into-dark-times-this-is-how-to-be-your-own-light-in-the-age-of-trump/1611114266432-e23ea1a6

Today’s propagandists have embraced and improved upon Joseph Goebbels’ techniques. They use the Internet in previously inconceivable ways. They’re crafty. Difficult to detect. Persuasive. And they can be quite charming.

So, you might want to know “Who are They?”

“They” are what I’ll write about with my next posting.