US expertise in psychological operations was developed during Word War II with assistance from the British who helped establish the Office of Strategic Services, which later became the Central Intelligence Agency of the Unites States, or CIA. The CIA has been the US main lead in psychological operations ever since. The basic techniques in manipulation and control are set out below. You will note parallels to Russian methods discussed previously.
Subversion and Control of Mass Media
The key text books on US domestic and external psychological operations with particular reference to the mass media are by Professor Noam Chomsky. They are:
- Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, Edward S Herman and Noam Chomsky, 1988, 2002. See the full documentary here.
- Necessary Illusions: Thought Control on Democratic Societies, Noam Chomsky, 1991
- Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda, 2Ed, Noam Chomsky, 1991, 1997, 2002
These texts are thorough, scholarly, densely referenced and thoroughly researched. Some pre-date the internet but are nevertheless well worth reading because the essential methods of manipulation remain unchanged.
Some of these techniques of mass opinion manipulation through the manipulation of mass media were briefly revealed when Operation Mocking Bird was made public. The operation exposed the CIA’s main techniques of:
- recruiting sympathetic journalists and media owners to slant news or place articles; and
- funding front organisations including student and cultural organisations and magazines.
In reality, the operation never ended and the same techniques are used within the US and target countries – both allies, enemies, and potential rivals. The CIA’s methodology of manipulating news media is explained by former German journalist, the late Mr Ulfkotte who was himself recruited to plant fake news stories for the CIA.
Effective psychological operations require an in-depth knowledge of their intended audience. This can be achieved through mass population profiling and mass surveillance. In addition to media manipulation, subversion, and coups, the US intelligence community runs long-term programs to effectively put the entire world under surveillance. These include mining ‘big data’ from Google and Facebook and other social media, the NSA PRIMS Program which effectively compiles everyone’s internet history, GPS tracking via hand held devices, and the bugging of homes and individuals via smart televisions and hand held devices together with malware to access the world’s personal, governmental and corporate computer networks. As noted by RAND Corp in relation to Russian operations, an understanding of the target audience allows the propagandist to adapt their message to multiple different audiences, and to more effectively drown-out, discredit or subvert alternative voices.
Destabilisation – Dissent Groups and NGOs
Exacerbating cultural, religious and ethnic conflict within target countries is a key tool in fragmenting target countries. This may extend to arming dissident groups. Obvious examples include supporting Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan to overthrow a Soviet friendly government. This same technique was then used against the Russian Federation in Chechnya and more recently against the government of Syria.
US officials have even suggested that Siberia is not part of Russia, and consistently refer to Crimea as though it were an independent country rather than a contested area that has for most of the last three centuries belonged to Russia. This is the equivalent of suggesting that Alaska and Texas are not part of the United States and should be liberated in order to host Russian or Chinese military bases. A more famous example of arming dissident groups is the support of the Contra’s military group in Nicaragua during the 1980’s.
While the CIA and allied organisations have invested vast resources into arming dissident groups, they have arguably had more success with ‘soft coup’ colour revolutions in which dissenting groups are provided with non-lethal aid. Funding dissident NGO groups in target countries for the purpose of destabilisation, coupled with media messaging to control the public narrative, aims to bring the society to a state of chaos or demoralisation. At that point, the current leadership can be overthrown and a leader chosen from outside the country can take power. This was in effect the strategy employed in Ukraine.
The Russia friendly commentariate alleged that the US has made strident and unsuccessful efforts to adopt the same policy in Russia, namely, funding civil society NGOs to undermine the official power structure. The Russian government has responded by banningand otherwise restricting numerous NGOs including some clearly opposed to the current President. In this context there appears to be overlap between the desire of the Russian government to prevent external subversion, and a destire to take control of the civil society more broadly.
3P Training does not have a list of US supported NGOs in Russia but in your materials is a list of over eighty NGOs in Europe funded from the United States courtesy the Soros Open Society Foundation. This list was provided to DC Leaks:
The sheer number and scope of these organisations is staggering and this is only one list from one organisation with almost certain links to the US intelligence community.
If social destabilisation and media control fail to mobilise sufficient opposition to remove a government the alternative is to support a military coup. A relatively recent blatant example is the coup against then President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Significantly, this coup received effectively no media coverage in Australia and very little elsewhere.
Torture, Kidnapping and Assassination
The policy of kidnapping and torturing, sometimes to death, suspected Islamic radicals picked up off the streets of Europe or the Middle East has received a lot of recent attention. However this is only a recent manifestation of a long-standing policy which was (and likely still is) practiced extensively in Latin America. So entrenched is this policy that the US government has since 1946 run a training academy for military, police and assassins from numerous Latin American dictatorships and US backed regimes, now located at Fort Benning Georgia. The ‘School of the America’s’ has been integral to the torture, rape and kidnapping of Nuns, civil society workers, trade unionists, intellectuals and other dissenters for decades. Congress continued to approve funding even after torture manuals were leaked to Amnesty International, but the school got a cosmetic course unit in ‘human rights’ and a name change in 2001 to the euphemistically named ‘Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Co-operation’. See further in your materials. It is worth noting here that while there was much MSM commentary of President Obama’s failure to close the interogation facility at Guantanamo Bay there was little or none on his failure to close the School of the Americas.
Within the United States itself, the FBI ran programs to destabilise and discredit or misdirect dissident groups through the 1960s and 1970s. These were known as COUNTERINTELPRO or ‘counter intelligence program’, which sometimes included assassination. The most recent manifestation of this known to 3P Training is the attempted assassination of environmental activists Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney.
The manuals referenced in your materials deal narrowly with the science of interrogation. However the broader and more important psychological aspect of State sponsored kidnapping and torture is of course to instil sufficient fear as to alter the behaviour of the target population – principally the will to resist.