Since I’ve spent the last few weeks revisiting areas of the JFK assassination, it’s time for me to return to more contemporary interests and affairs – turning my attention back to an area that Stu Wexler and I explored in Shadow Warfare. If anyone has any outstanding JFK questions or a topic you want addressed, post a comment and I’ll do my best. However current affairs are calling and if nobody has any requests that’s where I will be going.

 

“Hybrid Warfare” is one of the buzzwords being tossed around in relation to what the Russians have been doing in Eastern Europe, SW Asia and now North Africa during the last two to three years. It also applies to the practices they have initiated against the American political system and as importantly – to them – the deconstruction of traditional American global alliances.  If such a strong statement surprises you, then you did not read my posts on information warfare last fall (leading up to the election) or perhaps you think such charges are simply political whining or paranoia.  I assure you they are neither and I’ll be exploring that in my ongoing posting.

 

If you read Surprise Attack, it should be no “surprise” (I don’t know if that’s a bad pun or not, most of my puns are unintentional).  It became clear while I was researching Surprise Attack that Russia under a resurgent Putin was dramatically changing.  I detailed that at some length in the final chapter and laid out what I thought were developing trends – which unfortunately proved to be far too accurate.  I would have preferred to be wrong.  In the interim there have been lots of articles about a return to the Cold War, Cold War 2.0 etc., but I’m pretty sure that is way off the mark.  What’s going on is not about parity, or even deterrence. It’s not about returning Russia to Super Power status.

What it is really about is creating chaos in international affairs, leveling the playing field and deconstructing traditional alliances to create a free a global free for all. Putin (and the KGB political warfare groups of the past) thrives on chaos and random action and the creation of tensions – does that sound vaguely familiar. Where have we seen that recently, yes we have, you can fill in the blank yourself – the clue is “think domestic politics”. Or better yet think about the stated political agendas of President Trumps most influential advisor.

 

So what does all that have to do with Hybrid Warfare, actually a great deal and that is where I will be going. In reality, Hybrid Warfare is a return to deniable warfare, with the same fundamental tactics but simply different tool sets. Stu and I coined the term “shadow warfare” to describe deniable military operations using non state actors and deniable surrogates – think military contractors, think Black Water.  But it also involved the use of very real military and intelligence personnel in extremely low profile operations, some military, some political action – think JSOC and the very special task forces around the globe, originally a concept tested in Iraq and Afghanistan but extended fair beyond that in following years.

 

What we didn’t explore was the information warfare side of that, largely because it was not something the US was doing in contemporary times – not that we hadn’t done it before, especially in the immediate post war years. For over two decades the CIA carried out information warfare (psychological warfare in those olden days) and political action in Europe, SW Asia and Latin America.  Unfortunately the tables have now turned and it’s being played from the other direction, particularly in Eastern Europe and now domestically against the U.S.  It’s a very sophisticated specialty, and a very cunning and indirect one.

 

Which leads me back to the title of this article, and the subject of much dialog in Washington DC over the weekend and no doubt this coming week.  Check the following for what I mean.

 

http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/19/politics/tom-cotton-fbi-russia/index.html

 

Do I expect to find actual evidence of collusion between Russian operatives and the Trump campaign in terms of some sort of planning on how to win the election, tactics to influence voters or to leak information?  No, not at all. That would be the worst sort of tradecraft on the Russians part, they have never been that unskilled.

Information warfare (psychological warfare) is far more subtle, and far more manipulative. Which is actually the scary part….I don’t think the current administration is nearly sophisticated enough to know when they are being manipulated; they do have intelligence assets that could educate them but it’s pretty clear they are not listening to them (which may in itself be the result of some absolutely brilliant information warfare).

 

It’s not a pretty picture, but I’ll do what I can to paint at least parts of it in coming posts.

Update:  Further details emerging in the committee hearings offer a great illustration of how manipulation can occur without what might be legally called “collusion” – the White House response also illustrates the risk of denial.  Check out the following, its a virtual lesson in covert Russian political action, played by true professionals.

https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2017/03/20/intelligence-committee-leader-offers-outline-mysterious-russia-trump-associate-contacts/UIsBsDZwmJ2ODBSpN2KZOO/story.html

http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/21/politics/rex-tillerson-nato-meeting/index.html

 

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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.

12 responses »

  1. Peter Johnsen says:

    What weight and meaning do you place on Oswald’s statement in one of his early interrogations, witnessed by Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig when he said “Everybody will know who I am now”?
    I consider it to be such an important and relevant thing to say. Do you think he realised that he had perhaps blown his cover when he identified Mrs. Paine’s station wagon?
    Craig’s characterisation of that one statement in his 1971 video interview is particularly relevant in this regard.
    Please stay with JFK and keep up the great work you do.

    • That does seem like such a significant statement (especially for the prosecution if you think of it as related to motive) that its surprising that nobody recorded it at the time, or mentioned it afterwards other than Craig. Without corroboration I’ve always been unable to go too far with it – but my guess would be that if he did say it that it was at a point when he was virtually in a state of shock and it confirms that fact that at least on one level Oswald was voluntarily being used as an intelligence source (dangle in my terms) to various target groups – by the FBI at a minimum. We know he had been asked to report on contacts in one of his very early FBI meetings, he had done so in New Orleans and my suspicion is that he was still playing that role in Dallas. How much of it was simply in his own mind and how much encouragement or direction he was getting is open to debate.

      I could also speculate that Oswald was not at all involved in the attack on the President, he knew that and was confident that he was being held and harassed because he worked at the TSBD, had been in Russia etc – in fact he did say that in public. He may have had no idea to what extent he had been set up or that the system was going to quickly settle on prosecuting only him. At that early point in time he may been jolted just enough that his first concern was that his covert role would no longer be possible (angry rather than worried), the he had become so well known that he would be exposed. It seems to have taken him some time to realize exactly how much trouble he was in.

      In a sense such a remark would be very consistent with his public statement as to why he was being held; the problem is why in the world would Craig be the only one to bring up a statement that so easily could be twisted towards the motive of self promotion and a twisted desire for fame. Seems almost to good not to go on record?

      • For those who read the Collusion post, please check the following update. This is an emerging story and will prove to be very educational. The problem of course is that good political action leaves only a few scattered prints (David Phillips, a legend within the CIA for psych warfare and political action was praised by co-workers for never having left prints on his political action projects). Unfortunately the contemporary story appears to be largely an official stance of denial – and if you deny the possibility you seriously handicap yourself in dealing with the reality.

        Update: Further details emerging in the committee hearings offer a great illustration of how manipulation can occur without what might be legally called “collusion” – the White House response also illustrates the risk of denial. Check out the following, its a virtual lesson in covert Russian political action, played by true professionals.

        This is really important stuff and critical to our nation; if it makes sense to you please share it.

        Update: Further details emerging in the committee hearings offer a great illustration of how manipulation can occur without what might be legally called “collusion” – the White House response also illustrates the risk of denial. Check out the following, its a virtual lesson in covert Russian political action, played by true professionals.

        https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2017/03/20/intelligence-committee-leader-offers-outline-mysterious-russia-trump-associate-contacts/UIsBsDZwmJ2ODBSpN2KZOO/story.html

        http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/21/politics/rex-tillerson-nato-meeting/index.html

  2. Matt Kenny says:

    Larry,
    I’d be curious what thoughts you might have on the rise of the notion of the ‘Deep State.’ This question is less about early morning tweets and more about the subject of your books. What is your take on the phrase ‘Deep State?’ Furthermore, what do you make of Trump/Bannon’s handling of the NSC?
    It seems to me that there are several versions of the term ‘Deep State’ out there. I’m sort of shocked to see the label take the trajectory it has in the media (just saw a Michael Weiss article on it at the Daily Beast). In watching the dialogue unfold I can’t help but feel the term as I understood it is undergoing a mutation.
    One version is Bannon’s sort of scapegoat/conspiracy ‘Deep State.’ Another would be Peter Dale Scott’s use of the term, which rose out of his deep politics framework. Scott’s analysis seems less conspiratorial than systemic. Shadow Warfare and Surprise Attack seemed to me to be a description of an aspect the Deep State. The systems you describe modified and informed my sense of Scott’s ‘Deep State.’ Recently I have been reading former NSC staffer Bruce Riedel’s work (which I highly recommend if you haven’t read it) – Reidel renders the NSC’s mission quite clearly and between your work and his, I am troubled by the Trump team’s reformatting of the NSC. As scary as he is, I manage to find Bruce Reidel comforting!
    Bannon seems to be using his sense of the ‘Deep State’ to justify some radical revisions in the way that the White House crafts foreign policy. The State Department…oy! It seems clear from previous posts you are tracking this closely.

    Hope this finds you well,
    Matt

    I think I might be done with the term ‘deep state…’

  3. Matt Kenny says:

    I’ll try not to use ‘it seems to me’ so much in the future…. 😉

    • Matt, the Deep State question is an excellent one and I will definitely include at least one full blog post on that in the series I have in mind. As to Bannon and the NSC, while it annoys me that Trump would bring him into a forum which was originally designed to be only for cabinet level principals. Still, I have to be honest and say that different Presidents have certainly structured the NSC participation to reflect who they personally wanted in the dialog. Having Bannon as a NSC participant is certainly not unique (I doubt Trump even knew what it meant when he was added to the list), heck you might see Ivanka show up next. The real issue is who runs things in meetings with the President is not there and that is normally the Natl Security Advisor – especially since Trump is not going to show up that often and has no use for information from the intelligence community. If it turns out Bannon ends up somehow being empowered to run the NSC and speak for the Office of the President when Trump is not there we are in huge trouble.
      To be relatively brief, before a full scale blog on it, I think the use of “Deep State” has morphed into something very different and very damaging…especially as used by Stone and Bannon. Then again anything those two touch is dangerous to the nation and the Constitution I swore an oath to defend and I have no hesitance in saying that.

      To me Deep State should refer to what Eisenhower originally referred to as the Military Industrial Complex, basically an alliance of corporate interests with the power to manipulate the government for their own benefit. That describes a power center which could use insider contacts and lobbyists to form public policy. The strange thing is that Ike did not realize that he was also being manipulated by another Deep State special interest group, that of the Eastern Establishment financial and international affairs community. Given that the MIG was largely southern and west coast that leads you to the classic Yankee – Cowboy war theme of the sixties. I think what we have simply seen is the fragmenting of the Yankee-Cowboy cliques into even more Deep State players as lobbying (and PACS) have grown so huge within the beltway. Big Pharma and Big Insurance have as much clout today as the MIG had in the fifties. As the social life net grew, so did their potential power.

      My suspicion is that the current use of Deep State is either a purely defensive political play inside the Trump Administration and the Congressional Majority, or in some instances a diversionary Congressional move to shift attention from the real Deep State corporate players who actually attempt to control the political decision making (and budgets) regardless of which party is in power. You can spot them easily enough, they donate to both parties.

  4. Matt says:

    Much appreciated!

  5. Anthony M says:

    Hello
    This is an exceptionally significant issue and thanks for your continuing focus on it as well as a range of important areas of historical enquiry such as JFK.

    I do not pretend to be an expert in any of this, so this is just current thoughts and questions and may well be well off the mark (in fact I sincerely hope they are).

    I agree with you that Russia has taken hybrid warfare to a new level and developing effective counter measures is a major challenge. Consider however how potentially vulnerable Russia is itself. A concerted move towards renewable energy sources (and diversification of supply such as fracking in the UK) could seriously damage Russia (amongst others, of which more later) and weaken it’s influence in Eastern Europe together with reducing its capacity to sustain its military capability and even threatening the stability of the regime. Even current sanctions will begin to damage Russia’s oil and gas production in coming years as they need to bring on Arctic fields.

    Russia could be dealt with and I suspect the centre ground in Europe will hold against the far right too. My major concern is how what seems to be a faction fight within the US administration will play out in terms of US foreign policy.

    Areas such as the role of the SIG and the degree of influence groups such as those that believe in a ‘fourth turning’, the nationalist-religious right or isolationists have in the administration are of considerable interest amongst others…

    TBC…

  6. Anthony M says:

    Just to continue, I guess one of the points I’m trying to understand myself is the extent to which, to be effective, Russia’s hybrid strategy against the west needs to be designed around our own weaknesses and divisions and the extent to which this is done opportunistically or has been developed deliberately (i.e. collusion in the latter case)

    Regardless of if there was conscious collusion or not the unusual policy positions taken during the campaign by President Trump created a sense for many that Russia is now seen as a natural ally and it is only within that perception that Russia’s actions could have such corrosive effects on the confidence many (including myself) have in the motivations of the President and some of his key advisers.

    What I am not sure about is if this situation has been opportunistically exploited by Russia, consciously created with conscious collusion or somewhere in between.

    That is why I am so interested in understanding the aspirations of the different groups in the administration. I am not sure if this is all about creating a ‘fourth turning’ (heaven help us… setting up a Sunni-Shia war in the Middle East and increasing US dominance of the global oil market whilst breaking up multi-lateral organisations such as the EU that could challenge the US and containing China) or if there are other explanations including the Manchurian Candidate or Russia playing an opportunistic game rather well.

    I do hope this doesn’t sound totally paranoid (although I do really hope I am wrong).

    • Anthony, I think the starting point is to appreciate that there is not a “Russian” strategy per se, instead there is a “Putin” agenda which has evolved from his personal effort to restore himself to power in Russia. If you have Surprise Attack I would recommend the final chapter to you, which essentially discusses Putin’s return to domestic power through leveraging the Russian military-industrial complex and the Russian oligarchs, particularly the oil and gas magnates.

      This gets quite complex and the context changes dramatically over the course of a decade and more – from Putin first doing a dramatic nuclear weapons disarmament agreement to his current touting of Russian nuclear capability and the actual return of tactical nukes as a battlefield option for the Russian military. To regain personal power Putin pulled Russia back from incipient democracy to a nativist (not just nationalist), leader-focused regime – based strictly on brilliantly playing a Western threat. It is truly amazing to look at the emergence of that world view, one which portrayed NATO and the US as an existential threat to Russia itself.

      My take is that Putin feels that undermining existing international military and economic alliances and partnerships will level the playing field for Russia. Destabilization is a preferred Putin tactic since it offers novel opportunities (the Crimea, Syria and now Libya show how relatively small forces but well equipped and trained forces – which Russia has now – can have an influence beyond their size). In short, chaos serves him as an enabler and he can move from option to option, quickly shifting forces to targets of opportunity and then following up only on success has always been a Russian military strategy.

      Both nationalism and nativism serve the Putin agenda, anything that breaks alliances and moves all his opponents to act for themselves individually is a good thing. To that extent, Bannon’s nativism and Trump’s America First populism turn out simply to be a perfect match for what Putin’s wants, both create chaos, in military alliances and financial dealings. If Putin can set other nations against each other in trade wars, it only presents opportunities. And it’s working brilliantly. If Trump does it for him, so much the better.

      In that view no formal collusion is necessary. Putin and the Trump administration are walking the same path, its American for itself and Russia for itself and surely they should be friends with each other – and if not friends, at least well placed individuals can be business partners. Strengthening relations has to be good doesn’t it? Hitler and Stalin felt that way at one point in time as they divided up Eastern Europe…

      Of course this is just my view, but with that view it’s very important to isolate what Trump/Bannon and some of Trump’s former Russian associated advisors are doing – which is pursuing their own political/financial agenda – from what Putin is doing. Putin is simply encouraging and enabling them because they are deconstructing alliances and enabling chaos, which is his agenda. So in regard to your final question, I would vote for exploitation over collusion.

      And its especially easy to exploit a target when its practices are familiar, the following article illustrates certain similarities between Putin and Trump that would quickly fall out of the basic profiling any good intel agency would do on a foreign leader.

      http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/22/opinions/the-white-house-is-looking-like-the-kremlin-opinion/index.html

      • Anthony M says:

        Thanks for your very thoughtful and thought provoking reply.

      • You are most welcome Wayne, your questions as well as Matt’s are helping jell some things that have been circulating in my mind for some time and I think I’m almost at the point of being forced into the research and writing to do a sequel to Shadow Warfare. Not sure if I can find a publisher but its probably something that my conscious will drive me to undertake….sigh.

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