It appears that I’ve gotten momentarily ahead of my editor on Shadow Warfare – either that or she is taking a short course in extreme meditation and karma rebuilding before proceeding. We were moving at a pretty fast pace so she certainly deserves it.  In any event, that gives me a short time to catch up on a couple of things and one of them is to post on something I see more and more – the lack of background and context in most current articles such as covert warfare and the marginally related subjects of domestic and foreign surveillance.  No I’m not going to go into the Snowden thing in any detail here but to date the articles I’ve read seem to give little history on the subject and none of them differentiate between something that was all too common in the 60’s and 70′, the move beyond simply surveillance to proactive disruption of groups and the blatant attempts to actually destroy careers and even marriages of individuals based simply on their positions on certain social and political issues of the times.

Anyone who has followed that subject of surveillance knows that it has been a constant in American national security, Bamford gives a very good history of it in Puzzle Palace. If you want to see it way in the past take a look at the WWI era or go back to the Civil War when there was no NSA or CIA but there certainly were the Pinkertons.  Or go even further and check out George Washington and the Culper Ring.  Of course one might think that both surveillance and disruption might be at their heights during revolutions or wars but that’s not necessarily so, all you have to do is check out the FBI’s CONTELPRO programs, which started in 1956.  None of the current columnists seem to even have heard of the FBI programs that moved to extreme disruption over some three decades and involved incredibly illegal activities ordered by Mr. Hoover himself (or conducted to please him, hard to tell sometimes) –  if you think I exaggerate read James Davis book “Spying on America”.  After that you will most likely shudder for a good bit and certainly have a better appreciation of surveillance vs disruption….it makes the current dialogs about “metadata” pale a good bit in comparison.

But let’s back off the domestic front and move to the international angst over the NSA and call monitoring of our allies…  Now those folk who read SWHT all the way through including its appendices should not have been all that surprised about that subject – and if anyone in the international diplomatic or security community truly was….well that would be hard to believe, perhaps they were out sick during training that day?   If you have SWHT you might refresh your memories by rereading the Kirknewton affair and the remarks on p. 365-367, and no Snowden is not the first NSA deploy to go public (amazingly the others ended up in Russia as well) talking about our eavesdropping on foreign embassy and diplomatic personnel….or for that matter on foreign commercial companies, even “commodities” made it onto the watch list.  For a more detail and an update on that take a look at Echelon:

Now I’m not going into PRISM but if you thought it was something new in concept, nope.  If you thought it was something new in scope, maybe but only because data mining has become so advanced.  In fact my last issue of Information Week talks about how prevalent it is in corporate America and its great potential for projecting individual customers purchasing behavior, shopping habits, product usage etc.  Come to think of that I didn’t see that mentioned in any of the recent columns or editorials either?

– its probably just me being a history geek but I’m thinking about offering “back-story” training classes for the media folks,  Larry











About Larry Hancock

Larry Hancock is a leading historian-researcher in the JFK assassination. Co-author with Connie Kritzberg of November Patriots and author of the 2003 research analysis publication titled also Someone Would Have Talked. In addition, Hancock has published several document collections addressing the 112th Army Intelligence Group, John Martino, and Richard Case Nagell. In 2000, Hancock received the prestigious Mary Ferrell New Frontier Award for the contribution of new evidence in the Kennedy assassination case. In 2001, he was also awarded the Mary Ferrell Legacy Award for his contributions of documents released under the JFK Act.

9 responses »

  1. Winston Smith says:

    Another great post Larry. Snowden’s revelations about the extent of spying and intelligence sharing were not new to me, having studied this to a certain degree, This has been sanctioned since the 1940’s under the ‘five eyes’ intelligence sharing agreement between the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand- the ‘Anglosphere’ so to speak. Im sure you probably know of this already Larry but for anyone else, go search it. There is a very interesting article on the fact that even amongst academic scholars, this agreement has barely been mentioned.

    I’m also not surprised that the mainstream media pundits don’t seem to be aware of most of this prior to Snowden. They are generally bought and paid for, as detailed by Bernstein’s Operation Mockingbird article. The fact that you now have mainstream journalists saying both Snowden and Greenwald should be prosecuted for whistleblowing/reporting on the illegal actions of government not the government itself, I find astounding. Can you *imagine* Woodward and Bernstein being prosecuted in the 70’s for uncovering Watergate? That is what it amounts to today. Sadly I think we are entering a very disturbing time where regardless of whether you are on the right or left, each successive government is more authoritarian and is eroding more and more of our civil liberties. I dread to think where we will end up.

    I think ‘back story’ classes for the presstitute media is a fantastic idea. Can you please start with Rachael Maddow, Bill O’ Reilly, Max Holland and Piers Morgan?

    • Hi Winston. Gosh I’ll zip off a note to Bill and Max immediately. Piers appears to be tied up and and I’m not sure about Rachel. I’m afraid Bill didn’t deal well with our last session on JFK and Max and I don’t quite see eye to eye on all things Cuban….grin. I’ll definitely ask my publisher to shoot them all copies when Shadow Warfare comes out next year – surely that will do the trick.

      I’m afraid that one of the things we face with the media is the popular inability to require – or demand – anything beyond what amounts to sound bytes and never, never to demand repetitive coverage of an evolving story. That means there is just no space or context for back story so everything becomes current, context is last year, maybe last administration and done. Newspapers used to assign a reporting team to a series of investigative stories that would run for months and flush out new information along the way, now you get one story, then the internet takes over and what happens after that maybe should be flushed…but isn’t, sigh.

      I’ve added the following link, it appears to give a reasonably good appraisal of what information was and was not compromised, good background reading:

      As a side note, my own view is that if Snowden had been sophisticated enough to really think about the impact of what he was doing, he would have tried to hook up with a good investigative media team, get some Congressional immunity on the side and go for the real domestic issue story. Being a bit conservative, I truly wish he had not taken his laptops along with all the data that truly could compromise both the good with the bad in terms of NSA operations. I may not be a fan of certain domestic practices – but I’m also pretty conservative in regard to counter terrorism and counter intelligence and I as the old saw goes, there is the bath water and then there is the baby.

  2. Harry Morgan says:

    I recently body of secrets the first account to date of its scope. I never felt so marginalized as an American. We are taught to beleive our experiment with Democracy exeeds in success any thing on earth. The actions of the Nsa over 60 years makes flawed our education sys. For teaching our ecceptionalism in a biblical
    Context an insult to America and the rest of the world.

    • Harry, I personally find our democratic experiment to be exceptional in design – partially because like a really good engineering design, it has a variety of self adjustment mechanisms built into it which means that while it periodically goes off course, over the long term it seems to “center” itself. Of course over the short term (which for such a system can be years) it can get really nasty. If you want to find some immense violations of Constitutional liberties, look at Lincoln’s behavior during the civil war. The McCarthy era was truly far worse than most people now can fathom, with many sections of the public taking it at their own initiative to blacklist, harass and persecute target groups – Hollywood being a prime example. If anybody thinks Loyalty Oaths went away, I still take one every time I’m elected to the local school board, its a state law.

      I guess what I was trying to say in my previous post is that I think citizens, not to mention the media and columnists, need some real historical context in discussing these issues. It seems to me that everybody tends to think that current times are “the worst of times”, which is simply not true – well it may be for Congressional sanity but that’s another story and I think a more serious fear. The country as a whole seems to have become more and more fearful, I see the same sort of fear and trauma touted now by the idea of one Iraqi (or Iranian for that matter) atomic weapon is too fearful to be tolerated — when I was growing up we managed to deal with the literal nightmare that the Soviets had 14,000 without actually going to war. And that sort of fear tends to drive everyone nuts…and into overreaction in national security. Now you have the Congressman who passed the NSA legislation complaining that the NSA took it too far so its all their fault…so what happened to his oversight, did he forget to ask what they were doing. It reminds me of the Senate leader who was briefed over and over on the secret war in Laos, even going there himself, and then when it came a popular issue, he turned around and decried CIA secrecy…when they had briefed him a dozen times.

      In any event, I’ve managed to remain an optimist, even after years of work writing Shadow Warfare, if that didn’t get me down I’m probably incurable… Larry

  3. James Stubbs says:

    Our current crop of jounalists and their outlets are remarkably blank on American political and security history. I remember why those firewalls between agencies was erected. They needed to be modified over time, but the reason for them was valid.

  4. James Stubbs says:

    Sorry, “were erected”.

    • Jim, they absolutely are, in fact its embarrassing to watch the commentary on contemporary national security activity, clandestine and covert action because very few of the media folks have any real history or longer term perspective at all. That has been very clear with their “analysis” of Syria. I know its a vain hope but that is one of the reasons I spend 3 years writing Shadow Warfare. It is a detailed study of some 70 years of covert and clandestine operations covering not only the practices and tactics but the decision making process itself, including the impact of President’s personalities and that of their major advisers.

      The problem is that it will be virtually impossible to get the attention of the people that need to know that history, much less get them to read a 500 page plus book. Its conceivable that if they did some might cease making the same mistakes over and over because with that breadth you can see the fundamental errors and also see the things that do work. You also get a good feel for the unanticipated consequences that are generally not part of the operational decision making.

      – in any event, its coming very early next year and they will have a resource if we can only make them aware of it, Larry

      • James Stubbs says:

        That sounds like an absolutely fascinating work. I’ll keep a close watch so I can snap up a copy. I read The Awful Grace of God. That was a history I was aware of, but not the extent of it. I lived in Atlanta when the NSRP and friends blew down the Jewish synagogue just down the street from my father’s office building, 1958 if I recollect. I remember the hatred and violence of the White Knights and their allies. It made enough of an impression of discontent and violence on me that, when I heard that JFK had been assassinated, it was the first thing that jumped into my mind. I remember telling the kid next to me that it didn’t surprise me, and it was that extremist violence in America at the time that I was thinking of.

      • Jim as far as Stu and I can tell, some of the NSRP folks had very definite plans to go after JFK ….somebody else just got there first…sigh. We spent a good deal of time with Ed King of the Mississippi Democratic Freedom Party….actually the White Knights tried to bomb his hose but got the wrong address. It was very interesting to find out that Ed took a lot of the White Knights very seriously as a threat but never really understood how deadly serious Stoner and the NSRP were.

        I’m going to start posting more frequently on Shadow Warfare starting in November, after six weeks with two structural and continuity editors its in copy edit now. We are looking to galleys in November and availability in Jan/Feb if all goes well. It is on Amazon now in preorder status, the only thing wrong was that the Amazon info shows 350 pages while our current projections are more on the order of 550. I certainly can guarantee it will be current as well, we cover contemporary war on terror operations and some very likely covert operations in Libya and Syria right up to this month. We have tried exceptionally hard to be balanced in the treatment and let the facts spake for themselves, with as little polemic as possible.

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