The NSA's Ragtime Surveillance Program and the Need for Leaks

A new book reveals details about the NSA’s Ragtime surveillance program:

A book published earlier this month, “Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry,” contains revelations about the NSA’s snooping efforts, based on information gleaned from NSA sources. According to a detailed summary by Shane Harris at the Washingtonian yesterday, the book discloses that a codename for a controversial NSA surveillance program is “Ragtime”—and that as many as 50 companies have apparently participated, by providing data as part of a domestic collection initiative.

Deep State, which was authored by Marc Ambinder and D.B. Grady, also offers insight into how the NSA deems individuals a potential threat. The agency uses an automated data-mining process based on “a computerized analysis that assigns probability scores to each potential target,” as Harris puts it in his summary. The domestic version of the program, dubbed “Ragtime-P,” can process as many as 50 different data sets at one time, focusing on international communications from or to the United States. Intercepted metadata, such as email headers showing “to” and “from” fields, is stored in a database called “Marina,” where it generally stays for five years.

About three dozen NSA officials have access to Ragtime’s intercepted data on domestic counter-terrorism, the book claims, though outside the agency some 1000 people “are privy to the full details of the program.” Internally, the NSA apparently only employs four or five individuals as “compliance staff” to make sure the snooping is falling in line with laws and regulations. Another section of the Ragtime program, “Ragtime-A,” is said to involve U.S.-based interception of foreign counterterrorism data, while “Ragtime-B” collects data from foreign governments that transits through the U.S., and “Ragtime-C” monitors counter proliferation activity.

The whole article is interesting, as is the detailed summary, but I thought this comment was particularly important:

The fact that NSA keeps applying separate codenames to programs that inevitably are closely intertwined is an important clue to what’s really going on. The government wants to pretend they are discrete surveillance programs in order to conceal, especially from Congressional oversight, how monstrous they are in sum. So they’ll give a separate briefing on Trailblazer or what have you, and for an hour everybody in the room acts as if the whole thing is carefully circumscribed and under control. And then if somebody ever finds out about another program (say ‘Moonraker’ or what have you), then they go ahead and offer a similarly reassuring briefing on that. And nobody in Congress has to acknowledge that the Total Information Awareness Program that was exposed and met with howls of protest…actually wasn’t shut down at all, just went back under the radar after being renamed (and renamed and renamed).

He’s right. The real threat isn’t any one particular secret program, it’s all of them put together. And by dividing up the programs into different code names, the big picture remains secret and we only ever get glimpses of it.

We need whistleblowers. Much of the information we have about the NSA’s and the Justice Department’s plans and capabilities—think Echelon, Total Information Awareness, and the post-9/11 telephone eavesdropping program—is over a decade old.

Frank Rieger of the Chaos Computer Club got it right in 2006:

We also need to know how the intelligence agencies work today. It is of highest priority to learn how the “we rather use backdoors than waste time cracking your keys”-methods work in practice on a large scale and what backdoors have been intentionally built into or left inside our systems….

Of course, the risk of publishing this kind of knowledge is high, especially for those on the dark side. So we need to build structures that can lessen the risk. We need anonymous submission systems for documents, methods to clean out eventual document fingerprinting (both on paper and electronic). And, of course, we need to develop means to identify the inevitable disinformation that will also be fed through these channels to confuse us.

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration’s mistreatment of Bradley Manning and its aggressive prosecution of other whistleblowers has probably succeeded in scaring any copycats. Yochai Benkler writes:

The prosecution will likely not accept Manning’s guilty plea to lesser offenses as the final word. When the case goes to trial in June, they will try to prove that Manning is guilty of a raft of more serious offenses. Most aggressive and novel among these harsher offenses is the charge that by giving classified materials to WikiLeaks Manning was guilty of “aiding the enemy.” That’s when the judge will have to decide whether handing over classified materials to ProPublica or the New York Times, knowing that Al Qaeda can read these news outlets online, is indeed enough to constitute the capital offense of “aiding the enemy.”

Aiding the enemy is a broad and vague offense. In the past, it was used in hard-core cases where somebody handed over information about troop movements directly to someone the collaborator believed to be “the enemy,” to American POWs collaborating with North Korean captors, or to a German American citizen who was part of a German sabotage team during WWII. But the language of the statute is broad. It prohibits not only actually aiding the enemy, giving intelligence, or protecting the enemy, but also the broader crime of communicating—directly or indirectly—with the enemy without authorization. That’s the prosecution’s theory here: Manning knew that the materials would be made public, and he knew that Al Qaeda or its affiliates could read the publications in which the materials would be published. Therefore, the prosecution argues, by giving the materials to WikiLeaks, Manning was “indirectly” communicating with the enemy. Under this theory, there is no need to show that the defendant wanted or intended to aid the enemy. The prosecution must show only that he communicated the potentially harmful information, knowing that the enemy could read the publications to which he leaked the materials. This would be true whether Al Qaeda searched the WikiLeaks database or the New York Times‘….

This theory is unprecedented in modern American history.


If Bradley Manning is convicted of aiding the enemy, the introduction of a capital offense into the mix would dramatically elevate the threat to whistleblowers. The consequences for the ability of the press to perform its critical watchdog function in the national security arena will be dire. And then there is the principle of the thing. However technically defensible on the language of the statute, and however well-intentioned the individual prosecutors in this case may be, we have to look at ourselves in the mirror of this case and ask: Are we the America of Japanese Internment and Joseph McCarthy, or are we the America of Ida Tarbell and the Pentagon Papers? What kind of country makes communicating with the press for publication to the American public a death-eligible offense?

A country that’s much less free and much less secure.

Posted on March 6, 2013 at 1:24 PM67 Comments


paul March 6, 2013 1:38 PM

So under this prosecutorial theory, anyone generating a classified report at a time during which their agency was believed to harbor a mole would be committing a capital crime. Hmm.

alan woodwad March 6, 2013 1:50 PM

It will be interesting to see how the Manning defence team use further evidence of a widespread torture network that implicates Petraeus and other senior figures. We need to remember Manning’s role in releasing documents that revealed
this disgusting practice – without him it’s possible that little effort would have been made by reporters to uncover the US military involvement.

General David Petraeus and ‘dirty wars’ veteran behind commando units implicated in detainee torture

somebody March 6, 2013 2:42 PM


What is a person to do. You realize that you, me, and everyone else like us has a target painted on our backs. When people in the security community start being “disappeared”, or dissidents, critics of the government and the like, what are we going to do?

They’ve already started murdering people, their kids and pets for publishing information. Check out the story of Phillip Marshall – former CIA DEA pilot.

When are people going to really start speaking out en masse? When drones start killing US citizens in Kansas? Holder and Brennan already stated that they can kill US citizens in the US sitting at a Starbucks.

You are all on that list, it’s just a matter of how close to the top you are. If you are reading this, you are the resistance…

Simon March 6, 2013 3:06 PM

This is very dark and the implications serious. Does it follow that the federal gov’t can be expected to do anything and everything to stop new technology that they cannot control?

Just asking…

weneedhelp March 6, 2013 3:20 PM

Simon, and Bruce,

The US is not controlled by politicians. There has been a coup and nobody noticed. CIA / NSA director Hayden admitted that the US is now run and led by the Intelligence agencies (below). Your politicians are only there for optics.

Simon March 6, 2013 3:37 PM

Well, it’s not a piece of graph paper with so many dots you can just connect them anyway you wish to produce a drawing you think you see. It helps to read authors’ prefaces and introductions so you know what their intentions are, which is not necessarily to publish a call-to-arms.

For example, the public may want to find a boogie-man in all this, some one person or small group we can just string up and after that the world returns to normal. But in fact, do we really understand what is happening? Are there emergent forces that are bringing about this and that which nobody really intended? Several years ago I read Nixon and Kissinger, it was about those years, and it was really good and I learned a lot. But the really valuable thing I came away with, was an understanding that, all the stuff people were saying back then, NONE of them were right. Not the war protesters, not the Chiefs of Staff, not the Washington Post. They were all right about something, but they were all wrong. And so now, after everybody blamed Bush for all gov’t wrongdoing ever committed, some are now saying Obama is worse and oversees the biggest and most invasive out-of-control intelligence community ever. What in the world am I supposed to think? For that matter, how do I know what these authors tell is accurate? Hell, now they’re saying Mother Theresa was not so nice after all. What next?

weneedhelp March 6, 2013 4:13 PM


You don’t need to analyze the entire ocean to determine sea water is wet and salty. There are plenty of people now and in the past that should under the law be tried for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and treason.

If Nuremberg trials were held now using the same standard for US present and past officials, half of those in government would probably be hanged or in prison.

Facts are facts. Murder is murder. It’s not really debatable. These people should be tried under a fair and public court of law.

Lurker March 6, 2013 4:40 PM

How is the military getting around the constitutional limitations on treason charges here? Its pretty restrictive (with good reason). Certainly, they seem to lack the requisite “two witnesses to the same overt act”. To say nothing of it failing to meet the definition of the crime.

Are they arguing that the constitution doesnt apply here (on account of being a military tribunal, but while ianal, I recall the supreme court still has appelate jurisdiction, so…), that they can call it something slightly different and ignore the restriction, or is it so obscure nobody is even thinking about it?

Winter March 7, 2013 4:09 AM

I do not think that the USA is run by the intelligence services. Because running a country involves income tax, road construction, primary school curriculum etc.

This looks much more like the USA is falling apart with nobody in charge. Bureaus, federal departments, large companies, and complete sections of the economy (eg, banks) are “self-governed” without anyone actually “in-charge”.

This looks a lot like the power structure in Japan and China. (See “The Enigma of Japanese Power” by Karel Van Wolferen).

Nobody March 7, 2013 7:08 AM

… on the comments, ‘the US is under a coup’ and such…

I think there is a strong danger in crying wolf. In security, crying wolf is a highly effective way to bring down people’s defenses. How else could the wolf come and kill, if there were not many false alarms first put out?

The punishment Bradley Manning has faced has been too harsh. However, there is not as much international condemnation behind this, as say, you would find with a baby killer — or Swartz’ suicide.

The reason for this is that Manning was not just a whistleblower, but he went ahead and dumped an enormous amount of other files as well which had no immoral act about them. He dumped every secret thing he could.

Had he just kept to releasing facts that exposed immorality — no problem. He would have the moral fulcrum behind him. But, he went way beyond this.

No amount of evangelism for him can change that fact. No government on earth can condone employees dumping all of their private data. No individuals can condone someone dumping all of their private data. To condemn his punishment is to say that they would be okay if someone came along and dumped all of their secrets online. So, if you are not a hypocrite, you can not get very worked up about this.

Should there be whistleblowers? Yes. Should there be safeguards for whistleblowers? Yes. But is Manning is the best case example of this? No. No, there are plenty of whistleblowers who are very brave and very exact. They show they are moral people who are discrete and can keep authorized and reasonable secrets by their activity. They do not release everything. They release what is immoral which they are exposing.

We have a lot of those. Hopefully, we will continue to. Anyone studying the excesses of the NSA or CIA is very aware of this.

As for the US having had a “coup”, that is an old, paranoid line without any evidence. It is about as absurd as saying the moon is made of cheese. Some people can want to believe that. And people will believe what they want to believe despite how much they have to twist the truth to do it.

Because it gives them excuses. For immorality. The very same immorality they are “empowered” to condemn with this Manning case.

Everybody March 7, 2013 7:55 AM


You are obviously welcome to your opinion, but the logic of your argument is fundamentally flawed. Vis à vis your analogy of “crying wolf”, logically this is a false analogy, there is no correlation between a citizen citing concerns with their government and your “crying wolf”. Coincidentally, in your analogy you also state your conclusion first and you appeal to ignorance with the “how else could”. Also, you correlated the citizens’ voiced concern with “crying wolf” and as you stated therefore helping the wolf. So, I simply submit…Why would a citizen spout “paranoid line”(s) in an effort to aid the wolf? The circular reasoning conundrum implicated by this is astounding, and does not lend itself to your argument. I think your true motivation is showcased in, “No government on earth can condone employees dumping all of their private data”, emphasis on your assertion of government PRIVATE data. Furthermore, the only argument you offer against “‘the US is under a coup’ and such” is to shout it down as “absurd”, yet you offer no facts or logical premise supporting your statement. I would like to think that in a forum such as this, your argument would be more reasoned, especially when targeted at another’s opinions.

MikeA March 7, 2013 10:07 AM

I will not comment on the morality of whistleblowers and those who would squelch them, but I was interested in one aspect of Nobody’s comment. Making the touchstone of “valid whistleblowing” be “Only the most relevant evidence of malfeasance is exposed” is a pretty high bar. I don’t know about you folks, but I have trouble curating my own archives, and I know, or at one time knew, the purpose and general contents of every file. If a whistleblower had to curate all material in situ before smuggling it out, simple activity audits (which should have been in place anyway) would flag it.

Putting on my “security” hat, I think that argues for exactly that sort of activity audit, as well as making me ask “Why would a private need to copy such masses of data, and why was he allowed to?”

Putting on my “concerned citizen” hat, I have wonder what infected needles might be hiding in the average government haystack. If, every worker is effectively restricted in what they can view, the ability to “connect the dots” is impaired for both would-be whistleblowers and would-be discoverers of “real crimes” (that is, ones that the bosses were not directly involved in).

999999999 March 7, 2013 11:21 AM

Other people have said it better:
“People who don’t have freedom don’t want facts”

“To know them means to eliminate them. Consequently, the military aspect is secondary to the police method. I know we are not fond of this word, but it is the only word that indicates exactly the type of work that we must perform. We must make the necessary investigations in order to proceed from one vertex to another in the entire pyramid. The reason for this work is information. The method is interrogation. And interrogation becomes a method when conducted in a manner so as to always obtain a result, or rather, an answer. In practice, demonstrating a false humanitarianism only leads to the ridiculous andto impotence. I am certain that all the units will understand and react accordingly. However, success does not depend solely on us. We need to have the Casbah at our disposal. We must sift through it … and interrogate everyone. And here is where we find ourselves hindered by a
conspiracy of laws and regulations that continue to be operative, as if Algiers were a holiday resort and not a battleground. We have requested a carte blanche. But it is very difficult to obtain. Therefore, it is necessary to find an excuse to legitimize our intervention, and make it possible. It is necessary to create it ourselves –this excuse. Unless our adversaries will think of it themselves, which seems to be what they are doing.” – Battle of Algiers 1966

As you all know, none of this is news. The idea of total information on the population was enacted in small towns everywhere in the world where everyone knows everyone and everyone is involved in everyone’s business all the time. The surveillance systems in the western world would be the busybodies in this metaphor.
The thing about information: it wants to be free. The hubris of the people who designed this system…is staggering. I welcome the massive information gathering. I welcome the militarization of the police. I welcome the lack of subtlety by the perpetrators of these offenses. They heighten the need for better cryptography on the personal scale. They create a whole market for anonymous electronic transactions for “mainstream” people (not just the “bad” people). It breaks the argument of “you have nothing to worry about If you have nothing to hide”.
This is more of a privacy issue than crypto but if we bring it back to Alice and Bob:
A&B are under constant surveillance by forces unknown. So in this case it is impossible for them to coordinate the code without being caught out. There needs to be a meeting outside the area of watchfulness. This has created a secondary market by those able to provide such locations – virtual or in real life. Unregulated crypto software is lucrative. IP spoof methods, while illegal, are gaining popular approval.
There is no conspiracy. No one is in charge.

weneedhelp March 7, 2013 11:39 AM

Nobody, MikeA, et al:

There has indeed been a coup. All the empirical evidence points to that very fact. Any rational person who has the courage to look at facts and follow the trail can reach no other conclusion. It’s not exactly a secret in Washington. If you spend enough time there with knowledgeable people and a few drinks reality starts to set in. The 9-11 story is falling apart. Respected scientists, engineers and pilots have released indisputable peer-reviewed research:
At best, the US government was complicit, at worst…

As for whistleblowers, they’re being carefully and deliberately prosecuted and thrown in cages to discourage any copy cats. John Kiriakou was prosecuted and sentenced for exposing the existence of the extraordinary rendition program, in which “detainees” were snatched off of European streets and sent to secret prisons where they were raped with bottles, and boiled alive. Meanwhile the people who conducted these operations remain in the shadows.

Within the ranks of the US military a nervous fear twisted with anger and betrayal builds, one that once was only whispered about: War, restoration of justice. tabs are displayed proudly in the barracks and battlefields of Afghanistan. Senior officers are having discussions about an empire gone rogue, what-if’s, logistics, troop strength and lines drawn in sand. We are but a few precious steps away from a war on our own shores. Hope and pray it doesn’t come to that, that justice will be restored, investigations conducted, and that government criminals be prosecuted – maintaining peace.


weneedhelp2 March 7, 2013 11:40 AM


They Thought They Were Free:

“What no one seemed to notice,” said a colleague of mine, a philologist, “was the ever widening gap, after 1933, between the government and the people. Just think how very wide this gap was to begin with, here in Germany. And it became always wider. You know, it doesn’t make people close to their government to be told that this is a people’s government, a true democracy, or to be enrolled in civilian defense, or even to vote. All this has little, really nothing, to do with knowing one is governing.

“What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.

“Uncertainty is a very important factor, and, instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows. Outside, in the streets, in the general community, ‘everyone’ is happy. One hears no protest, and certainly sees none. You know, in France or Italy there would be slogans against the government painted on walls and fences; in Germany, outside the great cities, perhaps, there is not even this. In the university community, in your own community, you speak privately to your colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, ‘It’s not so bad’ or ‘You’re seeing things’ or ‘You’re an alarmist.’

“And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can’t prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don’t know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. You are left with your close friends, who are, naturally, people who have always thought as you have.

Jonathan March 7, 2013 5:55 PM


Your security hat might wish to read Manning’s recent statement to the court-martial on what it is and how he did it. As a researcher/analyst/librarian who was expected and encouraged to make use of all the information and databases at his disposal, and one with an unreliable network connection at that, legitimate access patterns, such as making a backup of a distant database for internal, authorized, local use, would be hard to distinguish from illegitimate ones, such as copying a data DVD offline in passing and without supervision while making legitimate use of it.

Julian Assange has pointed out that a system that doesn’t trust its own cannot get its work done efficiently, and that the managerial reflex response to a system not getting its work done efficiently is typically not to loosen restrictions and supervision.

Your concerned citizen hat might be further concerned to know we already have the Sensitive Compartmented Information program, presumably for just that reason.

Nobody March 7, 2013 6:16 PM


Occam’s razor says that there simply was a lapse of security, which was bound to happen when you have rivers of classified but not super secret data which require a very wide audience and so many inlets and outlets. Security controls were lacking.

Manning was a second generation military kid. He was from a small town in Oklahoma. Who would have thought he would have gone “Pentagon Papers”?

Not as fun as creating an elaborate conspiracy theory out of this, but the likely truth.

Nobody March 7, 2013 6:49 PM


“Also, you correlated the citizens’ voiced concern with “crying wolf” and as you stated therefore helping the wolf. So, I simply submit…Why would a citizen spout “paranoid line”(s) in an effort to aid the wolf?”

Is not this what every conspiracy theorist should know? Is this not what every conspiracy theorist should have pinned to their lapel and worn on their finger?

Slander is at the heart of the fruition of every movement of tyranny. There is always an enemy for the fanatic.

If you look at any tyrannical group, be it a national group or a small peer group — there will be the crying of wolf against their adversaries.

They will go from one target to the next, until everyone is dead.

Some of their charges will be true. Most of them are not.

“Crying wolf” is, effectively, slander. It is a lie of the worst sort. It is a lie designed to appeal to people’s sense of right and wrong. It is the crime of bearing false witness, and the accuser’s point is to destroy their enemies.

I can understand why this grave error can be overlooked. People have a strong tendency to be flippant about the judgments they make on other people. Hypocrisy is easy. Gossip is a powerful social fuel.

By condemning others wrongly, by focusing on some external enemy, the internal enemy is missed. It is basic scapegoating behavior. People can indulge in excessive errors through this behavior while having the appearance of none… because they put all of their own errors on some fictional scarecrow they make out of totally innocent people.

This is why, when you consider genocides and other worst deeds of these cults and regimes you see the worst focus is on their crimes against those people who were demonized.

The innocent people cruelly tortured and murdered by the Catholic Church were innocent. The innocent people burned and hanged by the Protestants were innocent. The Jews were innocent of the crimes the Nazis used against them to propel their horrible actions.

These stories just go on and on.

If your government is secretly a malicious cabal, then what does that mean? You can break the law with impunity! They are the criminal, not you!

You then find yourself in the middle of an exciting revolution against a justifiably wicked foe.

How exciting.

You can peer group your self with fellow revolutionaries, some of whom are longing to become part of the new leadership.

They do not care about justice or truth. They are in it for their egos.

How ironic, then. The wolves hide all the better in sheep’s clothing by claiming innocent sheep, real sheep, are the true wolves.

Nobody March 7, 2013 7:32 PM


Sure, there is a conspiracy. There is a global conspiracy that spans the course of history. Underneath that conspiracy are countless little spiderwebs of smaller conspiracies. Around those spiderwebs are countless other spiderwebs of conspiracies.

How one reacts to these things depends on one’s perspective. It is a matter of scale.

People are born and raised living on a very, very small scale of things. They live in a world that allows nothing larger then “so high”. Which is very, very small. In, as the saying goes, ‘the larger scheme of things’.

There is, I would suggest, a very good reason for this. You should relish these moments now of facing your own leviathans and behemoths. Because this day will pass, when you eventually realize as huge as they are… they are really nothing. There are far bigger monsters then even they.

Mark March 7, 2013 8:02 PM

The coup was November 22, 1963, not 9/11.

JFK vowed to scatter the CIA into a thousand pieces and the CIA scattered JFK into a thousand pieces.

There’s good claims and silly claims about 9/11 complicity. Suppressed warnings and overlapping wargames have solid evidence. Sorry I’m not a fan of the so-called architects and engineers group and their science fiction stories. It’s protocol to cover up government scandals with disinformation that looks real (and contains bits of truth) to cover up real evidence. Making 9/11 “truth” dependent on alleged missiles and demolition theories has been an enormous diversion.

Mark March 7, 2013 8:05 PM

If you want some comic relief, I recommend re-viewing Terry Gilliam’s dystopian masterpiece BRAZIL, which predicted (more or less) where we are headed.

You could call it Monty Python and the Department of Homeland Security. has some reviews

HowIlearnedtoloveTyranny March 7, 2013 8:20 PM

About three years after the death of President John F. Kennedy, it became a matter of official CIA policy to denigrate anyone who disagreed with the Warren Commission conclusion of Oswald as the lone gunman. So, the agency ordered its “media assets” to label anyone who disagreed with the Big Lie as a “conspiracy nut.” Ever hear Corporate McPravda say anything nice about Jim Garrison or Oliver Stone?

Here’s background:

How the CIA Killed History

by Ace R. Hayes
(May/June 1997 issue)
From the Portland Free Press

Editor’s note: Three decades ago (4 January 1967), the CIA produced adocument (#1035-960), “Countering Criticism of the Warren Report.” This document was partly declassified under an FOIA, September 1976. It is the blueprint for employing “CIA media assets” to smear critics of the Warren Commission. The justification for this perversion of truth, justice and democracy was clearly stated: “Just because of the standing of the Commissioners, efforts to impugn their rectitude and wisdom tend to cast doubt on the whole leadership of American society.”


Read this CIA document 1035-960 here:

Countering Criticism of the Warren Report

The term “conspiracy nut” soon evolved into “conspiracy theorist” as code for “psychotic,” “paranoid” or “kook.” Consider how quickly that label, once pinned on a person, prevents any further consideration of the person’s rhetoric, writings or discoveries.

So people who wonder why the “government” doesn’t give two figs for finding out who killed President Kennedy.

That’s what Allen Dulles, J Edgar Hoover, and their stooges and sub-stooges in Congress and the White House worked to do. And to think so many today continue their work, spreading lies. The hell with such people.

Here’s a bit of real work by David Talbot. The editor of, Talbot’s a more accomplished journalist, writer, researcher and an all-around better source than Kos ever will be.

read the rest here:×4086438

Anon March 7, 2013 10:12 PM

If it was up to me, Bradley Manning would face a swift and public execution to deter future traitors to our country. Leaking classified to the press is inherently immoral and such immorality should be punished accordingly.

David March 7, 2013 10:23 PM

” The idea of total information on the population was enacted in small towns everywhere in the world where everyone knows everyone and everyone is involved in everyone’s business all the time. ”

Except that now it’s asymmetrical.

We can’t put the genie back in the bottle; that’s a waste of time. What we should be fighting for is parity — the right to watch the watchers, to see all the government databases’ contents, and to have access to all the camera feeds. That’s the way out of represssion in this age of TIA.

Clive Robinson March 7, 2013 11:15 PM

@ Nobody,

How ironic, then. The wolves hide all the better in sheep’s clothing by claiming innocent sheep, real sheep, are the true wolves

Hmm an iteresting twist on “The meek shall inherit the earth”.

The logical conclusion is that man is not a socialy stable creature in part, and this part will always attack society. Which brings us back to the Hawks and the Doves, the trouble is spotting a hawk before it becomes fledged and dangerous. For this you in effect “need a poacher to catch a poacher” but as you know poachers are in effect criminals, can you ever trust them? Which in turn brings us to “who watches the watchers”…

In the UK currently we have two problems with our police forces that are currently in the public eye. The most current is the use of infiltration officers or agent provocotours depending on your view point who have gone native or rouge. The second is senior officers and their relashionships with the Murdoch Press Empire (News International being the parent for those outside of the UK).

In neither case did the officers concerned hold themselves to or were they held to a level of ethics and moral behaviour that majority of society would accept. And it is now being established that those with oversight of these individuals were not only aware of their activities but by lack of applying authority were at the moral level complicit. Thus it is unsurprising that any punishment is ever likely to be metered out to the offenders…

As was once observed about “good men” they only have to look away, but what is a “good man”?

I for one do not know and I guess it largely depends on your position within and viewpoint of society in general. Thus perhaps it’s not the morals and behaviours of the hawks that should be of concern but the morals and behaviours of the doves.

Interestingly psychologists generaly only study the “authoritarians” such as leaders with sociopathic tendencies not the followers who might also have sociopathic tendencies. Those rarities that do study the followers have some interesting conclusions that you might find of interest and a few days ago I put up a link to a free book written by one such researcher on one of the friday squid pages ( ) asking Bruce if he had read the book, as I certainly found it an interesting read.

Clive Robinson March 8, 2013 1:00 AM

As a very generalised view of life it can be considered in one of two states at peace or at war.

When at peace it is generaly not desirable to have “someone in charge” as they tend to try and drag society in a direction it is not actually going.

However when at war it is generaly desirable to have “someone in charge” as this provides clear and quick direction.

At a lower level the same applies to very much all human society, where you can see things as times of stability and times of change. When there is stability society is very fragmented and each fragment is responsible for it’s self within a generalised framework of morals etc. At times of change individuals and small fragments cannot cause the constraint of generalised framework to change in response to their needs, thus they start to form larger factions usually untill there are two main contenders thos who do not want change and those who do.

Thus the reality is society is never realy stable, it moves all the time, the rate of change is dependent on the members of society and the framework within which they function.

Provided the members of society all move in aproximatly the same direction and at a similar speed then the framework moves with them and you have stability within society. When the members of society don’t all move in the same direction and speed then increasing numbers find the framework to be constraining and they push at it and social cohesion breaks down and the framework becomes broken and rapid change occurs. Usually the pace of change quickly stops and a new framework is established and the apparent stability is resumed.

Now the problem with the framework is it’s a kind of lowest common denominator on what the majority of society have in common. As such it’s a problem unless codified because people will always say that somebody is transgressing their view of the framework, so we have laws.

But laws are by and large rigid and immobile and prohibitory in nature with alloted punishments for breaches. And as such act as a constraint on society, thus they need to be continuously revised.

But the revision is the problem who decides and why?

Well it should be by the members of society in what we call “democracy”, unfortunatly for various reasons we have alowed ourselves to be conned out of the right and have had “representational democracy” impossed on us.

Now the problem with representatives is that they are supposed to represent opinion, but who’s opinion… With the best will in the world it is not going to align with what the members of society want so as individuals and factions they will make representation to the representatives.

This means that as the representative is resource constrained you get a competition of opposing opinions… and this is where most of the ills of politics and society end up and not unexpectedly corruption chicanary and the worst of bestial tribalism come to the fore.

Not a good system…

But it gets worse those laws need to be enforced and this needs resources and these resources form societies in their own right and they form the governmenttal bureaucracies and they likewise suffer the member/framework issue and as they only survive by growing they add extra competition for the representatives time…

So a bad system gets worse…

The various factions within the bureaucracies become not just tribal but distinctly hostile to each other and this leads to “turf wars”. The problem is all wars need resources and they have to come from somewhere. Thus a steadily increasing fraction of a bureaucracies allocation of resources is taken from it’s actual duties and spent on turf wars…

So the system gets even worse…

But you remember that C word “corruption” well it can be viewed as another revenue stream or as a hidden source of resources. Well guess what you find it throughout bureaucracies as well as amongst representatives…

So where does the corruption come from?

Well by definition it can only come from those with excess wealth or the power to command excess wealth.

So finally the answer to who is incontrol in society in “peace time” is those with the money who know how to buy power.

By similar reasoning you can also show they are in charge during times of war, but actually less so as they are generaly to busy making profit.

This is not new, it’s been known for centuries and every so often society tires of the yolk this plutocratic patronage places on them and civil war breaks out and as was seen with the French Revolution tyranny usually follows for some time.

The question then becomes how do we stop the cycle repeating endlessly?

Well one way is to stop the corruption, but no solution has ever been found for this, nor if you care to think about it, is it every likely to happen (people generaly don’t vote for their own execution and extinction of their line).

People have tried true democracy but this for various reasons has failed to scale in the past which is how we ended up with the corruptible representative system in the first place.

Perhaps we could try changing the hidden problem which is codifing the framework of society. If we could do this then perhaps we could change the need for the problems it has spawned…

Unfortunatly such ideas are usually (and incorrectly) called anarchy and this is regarded as the ultimate scary political vision more so than terrorism. It’s painted in very black terms as the break down of the very fabric of society and order and thus not even talked about except how scary it is in “here be dragons terms”. However a little thought will make most people realise that this is a very self serving view of the politicians and bureaucracies and one that is actually known to be false.

Nobody March 8, 2013 5:43 AM


  1. Brazil is one of my favorite movies. That and My Name is Nobody, hah hah hah.
  2. I can’t agree or disagree with your assessment that “the coup happened in 1963”.

If there was a conspiracy there, and there is a lot of evidence for that… this does not mean there was literally a coup. Nor that it was a small portion of a larger conspiracy that is conscious. It just means there were elements in power at the time who could pull off a successful and well executed hit.

The same is true for these other events that people have called into question, to varying degrees: the London bus bombing, or 911, and many other things.

The “coup” of the JFK assassination, however, would just mean – on the face – that LBJ took power, a man Kennedy chose.

It would also mean, most likely, there were and maybe still are pockets of government with shadowy power to pull such a thing off… though most of these men are dead now, and very likely the cabal would have been pretty small.

And… they very likely would have done it thinking they were actually serving God and government.

But Obama, Osama, Bush Jr, Bush Sr… all working knowingly and willingly for the very same secret, manmade, man sustaining evil cabal?

There are a lot of pockets of power in Washington and elsewhere seems like the more likely answer. There are a lot of special interest groups.

Nobody March 8, 2013 5:56 AM

David, et al:

On “the government should have no secrets”.

Every person and every organization has secrets. Organizations are not so much unlike individuals. Individuals have secrets. What we call our intimate thoughts and parts, for one.

I am all for “that which is whispered in secret being shouted from the rooftop”. But, I do not think that sort of sentiment means that everyone has to walk around naked.

The apache helicopter attack video — very good secret to dump. The diplomatic cables where American diplomats gave their true opinions meant to be internal only on their countries they served at? That sort of thing should remain internal only.

Personally, I think Manning should get a slap on the wrist. The real culprit here was the authorities who let this security lapse happen. They should be motivated and strive to fix the problems. Manning was simply a loose cannon in a shaky phase in his life. He was not thinking nor acting clearly. He did not have truly evil intentions, he was unstable.

I can get why, however, some in government could be outraged and call for his head. They are for the whole concept of “kill one, warn a thousand”, as Bruce recently brought up. I disagree with that sort of mindset, though I do agree it is something which can work.

The question is: at what cost? Everyone is guilty. Everyone is a hypocrite.

Nobody March 8, 2013 6:24 AM

@Clive R

Good thoughts & you are a man who has clearly done his homework.

And, yes, the same thought struck me on the ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ statement when I said it. Which may either go to say there really is a ‘collective unconscious’, or there really is a ‘spirit world’, or both is true at the same time.

Point being getting out of the subjectivity of our own environments is extremely difficult. Even if we are global trotters, be it physically, or intellectually through reading and thinking, we are still limited by the larger environment of planet earth… by our peer groups… and by our overall language.

We can not know what we do not know, is another way to put it.

What I am trying to say is I think the likely “solution” to the world’s problems is not A nor B. It could be a letter entirely outside of our existing alphabet, for instance.

As nutty as all of that can sound, consider how nutty the world is. Anarchy, for instance, of even the 19th century actually really did have some sound elements to it.

But, the word changed. Like so many words. It became corrupted. There were those who utilized the word in a purely evil context, and those who kept to using the word in a pacifist concept. What anyone can hate to admit is both forces helped change the world for the better… even if we can condemn the outrages of how that was done.

So, Nietzche, the great purveyor of “blasphemy” really was right. So was Crowley. And St Francis. 🙂

Morality is an aspect of language which can confine us so completely, we can not see our way out of it.

Which besides coming down to “beyond good and evil” or “do what you wilt is the whole of the law”… really simply comes down to the good, ole morals of simply challenging at all times the problem of static legalism versus dynamic legalism. Living versus the dead.

And, for me, anyway, this all does really boil down to hope in this ever growing “information age” including the ever growing pit of the leviathan of “total information awareness” against the behemoth of “complete darkness”… of complete security and so comfort and complete freedom and so unease.Of the dynamism of the judgment of the populace versus the rigid constraints and stupidity of the mob.

Nobody March 8, 2013 7:15 AM


I have found the most compelling argument for the JFK assassination is “Family of Secrets”.

While I find that a very compelling book which makes the case, the fact is no one really knows. And even such a best selling, well praised book such as that… is simply relying on a lot of circumstantial evidence.

Intelligent, malicious and benign forces are all around us. It well could be argued that the rule of physics “to ever force there is an equal and opposite reaction” is also a rule in social dynamics, global politics, and the dark psychology of human beings.

The problem there can be it can be very difficult to discern what manner of force is hitting what, and for what reason. We might generalize with labels like “benign” or “malicious”, but really it can be impossible to know.

All too often what happenings in the dark world of our perceptions is we end up believing what we want to believe even if we really, really try hard to be as completely objective as we can be.

So, it is very possible that the government forces condemning conspiracy theories were just people in power with their fingers in their ears and their hands over their eyes. They probably knew nothing even if there was some conscious conspiracy, but they did not want to believe that anyway.

There is also the strong tendency of human beings to bend to power. For instance, when these FBI agents were shown super secret cell phone tapping powers, or when government agents are shown “what the NSA can really do”… they can strongly be unconsciously extorted to be very pro-‘whatever cabal may or may not be there’ both out of fear of exposure and loss of power… and out of lust of power that if they tote the line they, too, may become participants in The Conspiracy.

But, even if there is a vast, conscious conspiracy roving from parent to child through generations, outliving all participants… even they themselves are trapped by dark forces beyond their own understanding, and compelled to face the “down” of their “up” some time or another.

Everybody March 8, 2013 9:46 AM



I simply say to you that your apparent lack of logic is astounding, and a prime paradigm of what trolling is. I can not in good conscience reply to your response and tell myself that anything is being accomplished. I will however, say that anyone whom denies what their own eyes can see is guilty of very poor situational awareness.

Nobody March 8, 2013 10:15 AM


Denies what “one own eyes see”? You have not even made a point, except in response to my post. Which only dealt with it externally. On the “logic” of it.

I take it your nick is in response to mine, as I used this yesterday or the day before. Which would mean your own opinion was “somebody”, above mine.

Which opinion basically is: the drones are coming to Kansas. We are the resistance.

Which probably means as I am hotly denying The Conspiracy, I am a part of it.

Problem is: I am not hotly denying “The Conspiracy”. I just Do Not Know. And neither do you.

What have my eyes seen that I do not believe? Probably quite a bit.

But I have seen quite a bit. Enough to laugh off even the worst case scenarios. If there is some super secret, uber gigantic cabal working for evil in the US government… you really think that is as big and bad as it gets?

All this post-apocalyptic imagery you cling to, only without any kind of victory possibility? Just poor stragglers against the coming robot army? The zombie hordes in suits?

That is one thing that gets me about post-apocalyptic and apocalyptic scenarios: it is all bad without actually any “apocalypse” in the original sense of the word.

Even in the very worst case scenario: small bands against the vast mindless hordes? And? What a story.

How exciting. What a life.

Enough to make a thousand movies.

Thetransitiontofreefall March 8, 2013 10:51 AM

@clive robinson and nobody

Granted there is truly nothing new under the sun. The human desire for wealth and power has been with us since the beginning. Along the line wise people have developed imperfect structures to mitigate these problems and desires, Hammurabi code, Magna Carta, and the US Constitution being the latest and most developed.

All of these people that have committed these crimes, JFK assassination, Gulf of Tonkin –, and 9/11 were simply derivations of criminals grasping at power and wealth at the end of a gun. It is fractal and there are webs within webs. However, these criminal activities cover-ups are unraveling and are illustrating to people the true nature of who is really controlling the US government and many governments of the West. It’s fascism, and it’s starting to fail. When fascism begins to unravel, the state inevitably relies on the monopoly on violence to retain power, money and their freedom.

This is required watching:

Everybody March 8, 2013 12:56 PM


I am equal parts perplexed and confounded by your blatant ignorance, even more so by your propensity for expounding upon it. Your powers of deduction prove to be as flawed, or even more so, than your logic. My opinion is stated under “Everybody”, in an albeit vain attempt to get you to step back and logically analyze the situation. You have displayed resolute motivation to NOT view anything from other than your single vantage point, thereby robbing you of perspective…I simply submit your posts as evidence of this. My initial post was a simple statement as to the still standing flaws in your argument. After your secondary post, I realized that you are not motivated to actually consider that questioning the government’s actions may be good citizenry. Likening questioning one’s government to lunacy or anything of the sort is in and of itself: either a defensive response because you are afraid of the truth that the question might reveal, or a convenient mechanism utilized by that government to destroy the credibility of the questioner. Still untouched by these is the question and truth of the matter, as with your arguments they do not touch upon either. Your argument is seemingly simply to dismiss the question as unfounded so there is no need to seek an answer. My point in my second post, that you misquoted and claimed was not made, still stands true. If you deny what you see, your perceptions are different from reality by default, thereby negating your situational awareness. Shouting down questions to the governments actions in an ever louder and less logical voice does nothing to further your argument. You can have the last word, which by all indications is all you seem interested in. Just please, quote me correctly because it is all too easy to scroll up on the screen and copy and paste. As with all things security, situational awareness is paramount. @Nobody, we can just agree to disagree….you can have a good ‘un and the last word.

Moderator March 8, 2013 1:46 PM


you can have a good ‘un and the last word.

Please stick to this, since your exchange with Nobody is getting nowhere.

And to everyone remaining in this thread: pick one name and stick to it, or I’m going to start deleting comments. If your arguments are good, you shouldn’t need imaginary friends to help you make them.

Nobody March 8, 2013 3:57 PM


I think we will have to agree to disagree here. I disagree that that speaker is talking from experience about conspiracies and what they look like in practice or how they are practically maintained, and I disagree that he is talking about how real authority operates or what that is like.

Bluntly, because I do not think you will agree here but may consider this some time in the future: the people who know best what a conspiracy is like, what it looks like, what it takes to maintain them are those who have been in them and maintained them successfully against aggressive adversaries.

This really does not include drug subcultures or basically public revolutionary movements ridden with undercovers.

Some fiction gets it right, but usually because it is based on real material, the author was previously [or currently] engaged in real material, or they have an advisor engaged in real material or was engaged in such material. And even then, they are always going to embelish.

Best person to catch a thief is a thief. Same thing goes with conspiracies. Best way to get solid opinions about potential conspiracies are spies, undercovers, and others who have been a part of successfully maintained conspiracies.

These guys? No.

But there are real conspiracies and real threats people should be considering in their government. Many are not malicious at all, except towards malicious entities.

Nick P March 8, 2013 6:22 PM

@ Nobody

“Best way to get solid opinions about potential conspiracies are spies, undercovers, and others who have been a part of successfully maintained conspiracies.”

I agree that it’s advantageous. However, it’s not totally required. I have [limited] covert op experience. I’ve read plenty of fiction and nonfiction on conspiracy, covert operations, espionage, hacking, etc. Imho, even better is that I know the tactics that can be used at each level of an operation. Doing some operations mainly gave me an idea of what noticeable stuff happens in mid-operation and what people think after a successful one.

The point of my post is that conspiracy happens quite a bit and is too easily dismissed. The anti-conspiracy side has done great writeups, including on this blog, on patterns in false conspiratorial thinking. The problem is that I haven’t seen much written for the other side: spotting real conspiracy situations. The amount of disinformation and complexity that the Internet adds to the situation for popular events might require several papers to address in and of itself.

I keep thinking I should write such a paper. It would explain things to look out for, issues in identification, and how rules of thumb in ordinary investigations/analyses often don’t apply. I’d give examples from real conspiracies and events that are claimed to be conspiracies. There’s a few both my reason and experience leads me to believe were totally setups, but that isn’t the status quo.

So, I keep thinking about writing the paper. However, write a paper supporting a “conspiracy theory” you become a “conspiracy theorist.” It doesn’t help reputation in writing or consulting unless it’s one’s target market. I’d also rather not totally cross the line with my government and get myself straight in their crosshairs. I’m still considering my options about this.

Any opinions on this from anyone?

Nick P March 8, 2013 6:24 PM

@ Moderator

I saw your post after I posted the comment above. My bad. Hopefully it still has value as it’s intended to be constructive.

Nobody March 9, 2013 11:25 AM


Oh, I see. Not surprising. I am only peripherally following the story.

Did he actually leak anything damaging at all, in your opinion?

Nobody March 9, 2013 11:58 AM

Nick P:

I believe the moderator was talking about a very specific situation, you can read above if you want, but I would not bother…

“The problem is that I haven’t seen much written for the other side: spotting real conspiracy situations. The amount of disinformation and complexity that the Internet adds to the situation for popular events might require several papers to address in and of itself.”

Sounds like a very interesting project you could engage in. You could use open source material or fictionalize your experiences to hide them and use a pseudonym.

You are very right, that is a very underexposed area. Bruce has pushed out a book here or there that touches the subject.

And it is both an area that people who have such experience have a tendency to compile in their head without ever being able to say to anyone… and something that a large audience would find very interesting.


But what I find is really interesting about that vantage point you and people like your self have…. living fake lives, working at fake companies or fake divisions of real companies…. and probably what the audience would like…. and why this sort of thing is so popular in fiction:

Because that vantage point is living not a “fake” life, but a real life, just in circumstances that separate you from the thin veil of bs every person on the planet deals with.

People say things like “all the world’s a stage”, or “everything is vanity”… but they quickly get lost in the vanity and “realness” of it all. They are not constantly shifting gears between the fakeness and the realness and so entirely forced to be hyperconscious of those deep truths.

And they can say they are skeptical about politicians or what they hear in the news… but not really.

Then there are the even deeper truths, like how and why not to get too caught up in the world… or why one should be extremely careful about judging by appearances — even if those appearances really, deeply seem to spell out something. ^_^

Nick P March 9, 2013 12:41 PM

@ Nobody

“People say things like “all the world’s a stage”, or “everything is vanity”… but they quickly get lost in the vanity and “realness” of it all. They are not constantly shifting gears between the fakeness and the realness and so entirely forced to be hyperconscious of those deep truths.

And they can say they are skeptical about politicians or what they hear in the news… but not really.”

Quite true. We joke that they’re sheep because, like sheep, they just go with the flow. Any introspection of the situation is too brief to have a real impact on their perspective. Honestly, I’ve had to fight almost nihilistic thinking plenty of time because taking the big picture in with plenty of detail is truly disturbing. It really forces you to explicitly decide who and what you are going to trust, why, etc. Same for things like purpose. It also shows you when you’re acting on faith or just guessing, which people do more than they care to admit to themselves.

I think the veils help the average people establish comfort zones that their peace, happiness, pride and sanity are based on. These end results are more important to most people than truth itself. So, truth gets pushed aside. Plus, the kind of thinking that can spot real conspiracies can corrupt the rest of the mind into trusting nothing or worrying way too much. Many people don’t care for that. The conclusion of these points is that most people wouldn’t care to see what’s really there. They might go nuts.

So, if I wrote the paper, it would be for investigators, intellectuals, paranoids, etc. These people routinely try to pierce the veil of many subjects. They try to find the truth, although sometimes biased toward certain hypotheses. They welcome more tools and tactics to accomplish this. However, with regards to conspiracy, it’s always muddy and fuzzy if it’s executed well. The thing people don’t like is that it eventually comes down to rules of thumb, circumstances, few to no concrete facts, people’s statements, and other things that are hard to tie together. Probably one of the reason “rational” people dodge them.

I’ve told someone before a conspiracy has two goals: the goal it was created to accomplish and deniability. Accomplishing the second is easier if the first is made nonobvious and the steps to achieve it secret/deniable. There are ways to do this that leave outsiders with anything from nothing at all to bare glimpses of what was really happening. That’s enough to succeed. A bonus is the glimpses are incomplete and reports on them will reflect this. The holes in such claims can be used (often are) to discredit the investigations.

Note: For governments or long-term schemes, fait accompli (as Greene discusses it) is one of the most successful ways to achieve both goals of a conspiracy.

Moderator March 9, 2013 3:12 PM

I believe the moderator was talking about a very specific situation

Yes, to be clear, in that part of my comment I was addressing a person named Everybody and not, you know, everybody. Allowing pseudonyms does have a few drawbacks….

Nobody March 12, 2013 4:55 PM

“When Polyphemus asks for Odysseus’ name, promising him a guest-gift if he answers, Odysseus tells him “Οὖτις”, which means “no one”, “nothing”.[2] Being drunk, Polyphemus thinks of it as a real name and says that he will eat “Nobody” last and that this shall be his guest-gift—a vicious insult both to the tradition of hospitality and to Odysseus. With that, Polyphemus crashes to the floor and passes out. Odysseus, with the help of his men, lifts the flaming stake, charges forward and drives it into Polyphemus’ eye, blinding him. Polyphemus yells for help from his fellow cyclopes that “Nobody” has hurt him. The other cyclopes think Polyphemus is making a fool out of them or that it must be a matter with the gods, and they grumble and go away”

Big grin Yeah… that is a good one.

Nobody March 12, 2013 6:45 PM


Thanks, very deep stuff, and very true.

I think we, as human beings, deal with alternate realities well enough if it is in our dreams, our fantasies, or something we see from a distance.

Perhaps we read about it in a book, or watch a show on it.

We can step in, we can step out, and that is it.

But if the reality that one is headed towards is vastly stranger from the reality society keeps… then the passage one takes is a very perilous one, indeed.

Many end up with their reality broken up into a puzzle they can not put back together.

Many truly go mad, others settle and end up wounded people who usually do not even know they are wounded. They stopped before getting there. That is their sin.

“Crazy” is a very wide term, and to live a double life means one life is “crazy” (not normal) and the other life is normal. The two have to be separated. Dancing between the two is difficult do do, but must be done.

Those who have stopped or gotten stuck on the road, I think invariably, what comes from their mouth is crazy. The two realities are not separated.

There is an enormous process involved in doing so.

You have to learn – much by trial and error – what is okay to say to normal society, what you can get by with saying to normal society or within normal society’s hearing distance, and what you should never say to normal society.

For the crazy person deeply stuck, all of that hope is gone. For the person who has put together a lot of the pieces – enough to continue to exist as someone in normal society – they will have various theories they are stuck on. But they will not be satisfied. And it shows.

One thing I find fascinating is if they would complete the picture, complete the puzzle, they would no longer be in that very dark state.

And “dark” is a very good word there.

I say all of this knowing that I find in myself a tremendous propensity towards believing what I want to believe. And, a tremendous propensity to find a resting place.

Life is full of mystery and surprises.

Especially these days.

Nobody March 13, 2013 1:40 AM


Having thought about this, on “indicators”, I can not think of anything that might be an indicator or indicators for any serious conspiracy.

I mean by serious infrastructure groups that are long term and filled with lifers.

Sure, there may be personal indicators — if you think like a cop and have done undercover work your self. But that requires being up close and personal, and even if anyone lets down their guard, it is too easy to put it up again.

It is far too easy to manage belief. When someone gets on the radar, it is far too easy for this to be known and for them to get off the radar. Even for the most hardened, skeptical cops.

We see this everyday. People lose faith in others. They were fooled, and then they lose faith because of something they say or do.

You can suspect they are simply re-establishing cover. But the mind can only bend so far.

Priests are a good example. Pastors, whatever. People can buy into one for years and then when their affair comes out, they lose faith entirely.

This happens on murder cases all the time. They have the suspect, their radars are booming loud at them. They have to let them go. And they disappear.

They get drowned by all the other suspects and all the other evidence.

A murder suspect is not a professional spy. A murder suspect is someone who is operating out of base human motives.

A lifer spy, if they are on anyone’s radar, that can be detected by others. If that is detected, then they are isolated. Even worse, maybe far worse, a lifer is not always doing something. They may spend years doing what appears to be nothing.

It is too easy to flank surveillance. And it is too easy to flank management. (If the conspiracy makes it there. [Or started there.])

Then, there are the targets. Any target will be a zebra. They will not be unintentional zebras. They would be intentional zebras. Their whole job is to keep the other team’s eye on the ball.

(RSA, zebra speech.)

What happens then with these cops? They become The Nightstalker. The guy with the camera who would always find monsters and try and report on them. Or that reporter who tried to prove “the Hulk” was real. It is too easy to control who is discredited.

Worse, all the while, if cops ever stumble onto anything, they want to keep it super secret until they figure out what they are dealing with. Then, they want to use this information. Get more people. Map out the infrastructure. Figure out how they create their false backgrounds and disguises. See what their objectives are.

All of that takes time they very often do not have.

If there is an embarrassment, they forget about it. Why air dirty laundry when you can keep it secret for a “good” reason?

And if anyone gets any moles. Maybe they are triple agents. If books are ever written by enterprising journalists — maybe those books are written to beef up the conspiracy. And throw in some nonsense to make it implausible at the same time.

Did anyone ever do a background check on those journalists?

Talk to their friends in High School?

Prove they are real?

How do they know their school records are even the same? They could be talking to Agent JoJo, thinking Agent JoJo was Jane Jones the person went to school with. Because they had a yearbook photo.

Which the conspiracy controlled.

I saw one case where someone had fifty childhood photos that had alterations in them. The kids did not look like the adults. Yes, that would raise suspicion, eventually. But by the time anyone actually gets to proving this…. all they have is one person who seems very suspicious. And maybe had too much time on their hands and a copy of photoshop.

All that time spent — no results.

Look at the Kennedy assassination. Conspiracy all over it. Especially after the fact. Which is kind of funny. More evidence comes out. Yet, somehow, it all leads nowhere. Except to really compelling scapegoats. Political scapegoats who had no ties to it whatsoever, but whom the writers knew the audience would be interested in.

Because people cling to their bias over truth, down to the core. They will not and can not walk through that wall of crazy to get to the otherside. If they do…? They may find themselves alone.

Or not.

Nobody March 13, 2013 1:54 AM

Oh, shoot, one more thing. I once had a friend tell me a story about someone they knew who was under investigation by a foreign country (okay, China). They knew the guy was a spy, they were somehow sure of that. But, they did not know what agency.

They go, “FBI, NSA, CIA — loser who uses crazy tactics – CIA”.

Which means ANY loser who says and does crazy things could be justified by their radar.

Now that kind of standard is slick. But, they do not have to prove anything, just justify all that non-evidence is real evidence so they don’t have to go back to China and can get tons of funding.

But, the fact is if someone acts too much like an unprofessional, they just may be a professional.


Like half the population on the internet, lol.

Doc March 13, 2013 3:01 PM

Bruce, how can you say “the Obama Administration’s mistreatment of Bradley Manning” ?? He’s still alive and being given a fair trial, what more could you want? He is not a newspaper reporter, he was a US Army Soldier who had taken an oath which he clearly broke with extreme prejudice. Manning deserves to be tried as a traitor. As far as Im concerned, the fact that Bradley Manning is still consuming oxygen means we have been far TOO fair to him. He should have been executed as a traitor long ago. His exfiltration of data has cost lives and lots of tax $$$.

Nick P March 13, 2013 3:03 PM

@ Nobody

“Having thought about this, on “indicators”, I can not think of anything that might be an indicator or indicators for any serious conspiracy.”

The main indicator is mistakes. In the pre-Cellphonecam and pre-Internet eras, slip ups weren’t as big a deal. Now, they can be recorded or reported, then published far and wide. Also, conspiracies usually happen in a faction or group. There’s often a group that has an opposite interest or competes with them. That group will try to sabotage their efforts, expose them, take a counter pose, or somethign similar. Members of conspiring groups might confess in various ways, although usually long after success of the event. Even a stale confession might help if it was a long-term plan that’s ongoing or whose gains can be challenged in court.

Each of these have happened to at least one group.

Post-event analysis is where detections usually happen. With the US government, you must watch what they say. If they’re full of it, they’ll loose track of their lies. If it’s not a covert agency, then there are often honest people that resist or complain publicly. Or retire suddenly. Discrepencies between the story and video, eye witnesses, or coroner reports can be clues. Sudden destruction of key evidence just before a Congressional or other investigation can be a clue. I say this because, secrecy prone as they are, they usually just lock stuff up in an archive. Rapid destruction is an exception. One other is counters from subject matter experts about an event: if their story is physically impossible or highly unlikely, something else probably happened. It sounds basic but the media misses it all the time.

So, there’s quite a few things to look out for. Of course, post-event analysis doesn’t help a person actively targeted, now does it? Well, it actually can. Let’s say a person was part of an event, in an organization, etc. Then, the signs I mentioned start cropping up and dirty things start happening. They have some options at that point. They might only be important if they talk or draw public attention. They can mostly wash their hands of the whole thing by shutting their mouth. If they’re likely to be targetted, they have a few options: blow the lid on the thing… somehow; identify and go to war with the conpsirators; prepare a graceful loss. The latter depends on how they are to be targetted. If it’s their business, maybe they sell out to retire or move into a new area. If it’s their life, they might want to move out of the country. That the options are bleak is a reflection of the situation itself.

“Worse, all the while, if cops ever stumble onto anything, they want to keep it super secret until they figure out what they are dealing with. Then, they want to use this information. Get more people. Map out the infrastructure. Figure out how they create their false backgrounds and disguises. See what their objectives are.”

Even worse, they often can’t get this information because they have no power over those they’re investigating. The supposed legal authority amounts to “may I have this information that disrupts your operations?” Not many cases closed by that method.

“If books are ever written by enterprising journalists — maybe those books are written to beef up the conspiracy. And throw in some nonsense to make it implausible at the same time.”

This is a recurring problem. Identifying which people are least likely to be full of crap is an art rather than a science. Plus, the people being informed will usually mix information from good and bad sources. When they find out one is bad, they feel burned as you mentioned before. Then, they don’t trust any of the sources and write it off as paranoid or too much work.

“I saw one case where someone had fifty childhood photos that had alterations in them. The kids did not look like the adults. Yes, that would raise suspicion, eventually. But by the time anyone actually gets to proving this…. all they have is one person who seems very suspicious. And maybe had too much time on their hands and a copy of photoshop.”

Weird. An even easier case that illustrates your point was a piece of propaganda I saw. It was a picture made to show popular support for the speaker. There had to be 50-100 people there excitedly looking on. However, it was the same 5-6 soldiers photoshopped into a crowd. There was a group of three, a pair, and maybe a few others. I objectively measured facial features, coloration, insignia, and (unusual) spacing between them. All of it was identical. Many people accepted this evidence when I showed it to them and it was something easy. However, there was still quite a number of people who couldn’t fathom it, it was still circulating doing its job on the net, and it managed to stay on a government web site for quite some time. It might still be there. If anti-conspirators couldn’t stop that, what is their hope of effectively exposing a major national conspiracy and getting conspirators tried? Even while having evidence against the specific people involved, it seems an arduous task to accomplish.

“Look at the Kennedy assassination. Conspiracy all over it. Especially after the fact. Which is kind of funny. More evidence comes out. Yet, somehow, it all leads nowhere. Except to really compelling scapegoats. Political scapegoats who had no ties to it whatsoever, but whom the writers knew the audience would be interested in.”

Indeed. It does fall under my “physically impossible claim” and “caught on video by passerby” detection clues. His brother’s death was an even clearer one if eye witnesses, destruction of evidence by police and coroner’s reports are taken together. (And if those are accurate.) These are also in my conspiracy clue list. So for two cases, they exposed a conspiracy and some hints as to who might be involved. They didn’t do more than that, but at least they justify a fully independent investigation. And those occasionally get people.

“But, the fact is if someone acts too much like an unprofessional, they just may be a professional.
Like half the population on the internet, lol.”

Yeah. It proves almost nothing. We saw what that kind of thinking accomplished during the Cold War and post-9/11 DHS “report your neighbor” periods. Everyone was a potential enemy. How many real enemies caught that way? Zero to few. How many good people harassed or tarnished? Way too many. So, the main strategy would be good OPSEC, accounting and investigations. Government and high risk organizations are supposed to be doing this anyway. I just don’t see it happening and so the conspiracies will continue to flourish in their secrecy and ease of operating.

Nick P March 13, 2013 3:21 PM

@ Doc

“who had taken an oath which he clearly broke with extreme prejudice. Manning deserves to be tried as a traitor. As far as Im concerned, the fact that Bradley Manning is still consuming oxygen means we have been far TOO fair to him.”

Ok, I’ll bite. Let’s apply that standard universally to people in office who swear to defend the United States, uphold the Constitution, etc. and betray the oath to our detriment. So, those people are traitors and we execute them all…

…and then there are almost no recent Presidents, TLA’s heads, or Congressmen left alive. I don’t know if the American people’s psyche could take that .

Clive Robinson March 13, 2013 4:34 PM

@ Nick P,

Did you finish that pdf book from the Canadian Prof I posted a link to the other Friday?

Well you might just recognise a “test subject” of those under researched types…

Clive Robinsson March 13, 2013 4:37 PM

@ Doc,

I’m assuming you are a regular church attende?

Tell me why are you asking that a man’s life be taken it’s not in modern Christian teachings to do so.

But tell me do you think that Scotter Libby should have been pardoned and ifso why?

Clive Robinson March 13, 2013 5:38 PM

@ Nobody, Nick P,

With regards conspiracy theories and the people behind them.

The first thing you have to remember is that there is always one more perspective than the number of people watching any given event. And none of those watching actually see what realy happened.

The human mind and it’s view point’s are extreamly susceptible to change by perceived peer comment. I’ve mentioned this before when indicating how to lie by telling the truth.

Then lets be honest forensic evidence is usually just a guess based on previous experiance, it’s almost never actually science. That is forensics is about arguing from an effect to one of very many causes many of which could be equally probable in reality or in peoples minds.

Thus it’s easily possible to take the evidence and witnesses from an event and just by asking questions in a particular way change the probability of the cause in other peoples minds.

Thus I often find it amazing that we don’t have more conspiracy theories. I guess it’s because there are so many news stories most people actually take no notice of them in a way that causes them to consider what they are being told…

I guess experiance has taught me to be more cautious and in effect disbelieve almost everything I’m told and to try to make my own mind up on what little primary evidence becomes available.

You’ve both mentioned JFK well the simple fact is we know the chain of evidence was broken with regards to the bullet so it’s game over at that point it’s all window dressing and viewpoint opinion from that point in. And what happened from that point in aproached compleate farce that called into question the competence of all those involved.

So yes plenty of meat for conspiracy theory, as well as being a complete comedy of errors.

The one thing I can say is that from the point of view of being a person having to take a shot I would not have chosen the book repository window as my chosen point…

As for a list of likely suspects to order the hit, well it’s a long long list the Kennedy’s might have been popular with the common voter, but as for the respective arms of the establishment they had ruffled way way way to many feathers.

Which is why there is the joke about the man on the grassy knoll looking just like Jimmy Hoffer…

Nick P March 13, 2013 6:20 PM

@ Clive Robinson

“Did you finish that pdf book from the Canadian Prof I posted a link to the other Friday?

Well you might just recognise a “test subject” of those under researched types…”

I was actually in a car wreck recently. Worse, it was during a financial crunch and the insurance company is playing games. So, it’s been a bit hectic for me without much time for reading.

That said, I did download it and plan to read it soon. I did a “find” on it looking for types and didn’t see the section you were talking about. What page is the “test subject” on?

Clive Robinson March 14, 2013 12:32 AM

@ Nick P,

I was actually in a car wreck recently. Worse, i was during a financial crunch and the insurance company is playing games. So, it’s been a bit hectic for me without much time for reading

Hey buddy sorry to hear that, I hope you are OK yourself.

As you know I’ve a great deal of sympathy for people that end up having to visit the medical proffession.

Like you I’m a bit short on “productive” reading time at the moment I am unfortunatly back “under the Drs & Nurses since getting Noro Virus right at the end of last year it kind of blasted me off my perch and it’s been a slow descent back to the bad old days of being scooped up in public places having keeled over and waking up in an ambulance or “resus” 🙁

Mind you it has it’s funny sides, the weekend befor last I was visiting folks and became ill they kindly got me to A&E (I think you call it ER in the US). So there I am sitting there grey as a ghost, shaky and getting steadily colder when my name is called, only I don’t hear it. Anyway the folks I’m with get me on my feet and I stager of to see the triage nurse. Only I don’t remember anything untill quite some time later.

Apparently I made it as far as the triage nurses room where I slumped ont the gurny not the seat she was pointing to, I then went very grey my head went back and I slid to the floor having passed out. Apparently the nurse hit the “crash cart” button and the team came hurtling out of resus and through the waiting room to the triage room. Any way me having got in the prone possition face down on the floor the blood must have started returning to my head and apparently I started responding to verbal commands.

Now you probably remember I’m very tall and very broad and yes not as fit or as slim as I was ten or fifteen years ago. Any way apparently three or four of the team got me sitting in a wheel chair and started pulling me through the waiting area towards what I’m told was “majors”. Apparently my legs were just hanging and my heals bumping along the floor when I again apparently blacked out and slid out the chair onto the floor in the waiting area. Apparently I was making good Sat Night entertainment for those in the waiting room. Apparently they somehow got me back into the wheelchair and this time decided that resus was where I was going to go to.

Anyway I come too as they are trying to get blood out of me which even at the best of times is difficult. Apparently the first thing I did was drum my heals with the pain which just made the problem worse. Anyway they eventually started to get variouss fluids in me and as expected the colour returned and I became a little more cohearent. Turns out that due to my low state I’d copped to another gastro intestinal infection of the sort they don’t want you in hospital with… so rather than stick me in a normal ward…

Apparently they still cann’t operate on the problem and although it’s nearly killed me umpteen times all they do is start putting various blood products in me and patch me up for the next episode… So currently I’ve been sentanced to “bed rest” which for me might as well be a jail sentance I hate it that much.

J.D. Bertron March 14, 2013 11:53 AM


Wow man. I bet you enjoy those body searches for nail clippers at airports, they must make you feel safer from attack by the insurgents that are everywhere.

You need help. People like you feel great about their governments until the day you get accused of something you didn’t do, of thinking the wrong way, of not worshiping the right doctrine. You have a profound misunderstanding of freedom.

Sure there are people who will jump on the opportunity to see government conspiracy anywhere they look. But freedom has nothing to do with yours (small) or these people’s (irrational) expectations at any one time. It has everything to do with equality and reciprocity.

Nick P March 14, 2013 1:27 PM

@ J.D. Berton

Your post was like a strawman built on other strawmen. Nobody and I have been discussing how clues might leak out of real conspiracies. We also have a tangent going about the effect of being in them or leading double lives. Who is talking about “insurgents” popping up everywhere?

“People like you feel great about their governments until the day you get accused of something you didn’t do, of thinking the wrong way, of not worshiping the right doctrine.”

You have evidence of that or is it just ad hominem off the top of your head?

“But freedom has nothing to do with yours (small) or these people’s (irrational) expectations at any one time. It has everything to do with equality and reciprocity. ”

So says you. I say freedom is a subjective term defined by individuals or a group. The Constitution and our laws, for instance, are a compromise of many competing groups’ interests. Our standards of freedom are similar. There is no one definition, one group, one anything that decides what it means and how it’s implemented.

Of course, your examples of bad ways to think about freedom…

“People like you feel great about their governments until the day you get accused of something you didn’t do, of thinking the wrong way, of not worshiping the right doctrine.”

…are exactly the kinds of things our Constitutional protections (called “freedoms” in Bill of Rights) are supposed to protect us from. Freedom of speech, for example, aims to protect people’s unpopular speech. Due process counters false accusations, while fifth amendment supports that. Freedom of religion to negate the importance of what we’re “worshiping.” And so on.

Saying it’s just about abstract terms like equality or reciprocity is entirely inaccurate.

Nobody March 16, 2013 11:49 AM

@J.D. Bertron

It sounds like my vague way of talking on these subjects has caused you to fill in the blanks and so you have ended up responding to matters I do not believe.

I do have criticisms and concerns about that government.

I consider that government to be very suspicious in some of their dealings.

Nobody March 16, 2013 2:58 PM


‘People won’t notice the gorilla in the film even if it is pointed out to them.’ [eg, ref: ]

I have been in that situation my own self far too many times to be able to sit back and comfortably say, “I would notice the gorilla in the film, and gee whiz, why don’t those clueless people notice that”.

For instance, in the situation I was talking about with photoshopped pictures — some of the pictures changed were of me and I did not notice this until a friend of mine pointed this out.

And that is just one example in my own life, of which there are countless other examples. A great many things I have had go on right in front of my own eyes that I missed.

I actually had an enormous series of revelations like the above which went on recently. This, despite the fact, that I am an extremely detail oriented person with an uncanny memory who is extremely open minded.

That said, I am probably this way (detail oriented and with an uncanny memory) exactly because of this sort of thing.

What I have seen in my own self by retrospective analysis is that I unconsciously processed these inconsistencies correctly, but consciously I did not.

I think, then, this is the normal reaction of people.

I have found there to be some “truisms” here. For one, if the situation its’ self is very obvious, but the inference of it means something that “does not make sense” — people will not notice, consciously, the incongruencies.

They will, however, notice it unconsciously: which may leave them pacing, having running thoughts, having insomnia, alcohol problems, unexplainable aggression, migraines, and other issues.

For instance, with the “photoshop” situation I was talking about — someone could do that, technically. But who, on earth, would expend that level of resources to do so? It does not make sense. It is much too big for people’s minds to accept.

They do not logically work that out. They just fuzzily accept it as their unconscious mind sees it and never even get to the point to where they would say to themselves, “This can not be the case, because this would mean there exists an agency that has technical capacities and resources I can not fathom”.

So they see what they want to see, with their unconscious mind shielding them from the rest of the equation.

And people who are involved can side step all of that. They can supply plausible explanations that fit your preconceived notions. Even people not involved can do this, because they will react in the same way and want to say, “Look, there is a simpler explanation”.

A good “for instance” for me is what I have seen go on in front of video cameras at conferences. I do not know that someone from the host (or foreign country) watches those videos, but it would make sense if they did. They can be spy havens, depending, of course, on the subject matter of the conference.

Yet, what I have seen go on in front of those cameras is not from those host countries nor any potentially interested foreign country.

It probably would appear to be the case. After all, if they did a little digging they would probably end up going, “Oh, CIA” or “Oh, FBI”, and leave it at that — even if they themselves are CIA or FBI.

In the cases I am thinking of, however, it is not CIA and it is not FBI — but to an external observer from those agencies they would think it is. Because that is where some background legends intentionally point to.

How is this done: for one, you can have a number of people with extremely difficult to research backgrounds. So, you look at the ones with far easier to research backgrounds. Which will you end up following the trail of first? The ones with the easier to research backgrounds, of course.

Then, just leave what appears to be clumsily hidden breadcrumbs that says “CIA” or “FBI”, and in some cases, both.

Because they had to dig even to figure that out, because they had to work to figure that out — they will rather believe they are “smart” and “in the know” and leave it at that “simple” explanation then to dig any further.

If they did not have to dig, if they did not have to expend a lot of effort, they would be less inclined to believe the lie they ended up believing.

Because to keep an unknown out there, mentally, would drive them crazy. If not FBI, if not CIA, then who on earth could this be?

I realize the situation I am talking about sounds extremely far fetched. But that is the point and part of the defense of it all.

What is inferred here is also far fetched. There are far simpler explanations by inference, much less on the details themselves.

One is that I am some paranoid creating conspiracies where there are none. Two is that I am lying about the above stories just for fun. Three is that I these things really are “FBI” or “CIA” and I am aware of a “situation” where I am intentionally throwing smoke on it to protect friends and co-workers. Four is that it is actually something else and I am taunting and wondering if no one actually did see these things. Five is I am a paranoid seeing conspiracies where there are none, and have no experience except for my own imagination.

Five and more levels of “simpler explanation” by inference alone.

Five or more levels of “simpler explanations on inference”, not even to begin to mention the many levels of direct statements which have many other levels of “simpler explanations”.

Fact is: the human mind can only take so much and process so much data. Mentally and emotionally we constantly “complete the picture”.

The tendency for anyone trained at (experienced at) such odd matters will constantly go to Occam’s Razor. It is a different animal altogether that is willing to leave blanks unfilled and unknowns scoped out as “unknown”.

Very honestly, or very up front, I will say, the above situations are true, and it simply is the case that I do not care, nor does anyone I know care. Coworkers read this blog, this is not the work of some secret whistleblower or loose cannon.

It is very bizarre to create so many security hurdles where the secret you are protecting is not one which can be exposed because it is “too big”.

It is too big for people’s minds to handle, too big for organizational minds to handle, too big for the media to handle….

^^ Okay, fine, I am a seasoned fan of mind bending science fiction, and all of the above is BS just for illustrative purposes. ^^ Sorry. Bad of me.

Nobody March 16, 2013 4:42 PM

@ Clive Robinson

Yep, all very good points.

I have seen in my own self an astounding capacity for self-deception.

What I found was that I would cling to one meta-explanation or another, ignoring how ludicrous it would become until it got to the absolute breaking point.

I was completely oblivious then, or was I? I forensically go back and try to piece together every little radar buzz I had go off, every beginning down the wrong road, every signpost that I missed pointing in the right direction…

I did not know then when I was correct or wrong, or did I?

I considered myself a man who goes by faith on evidence, yet I would stumble down pathways of pure guesses ignoring the evidence.

As I was so right then, and was so wrong, how can I ever be sure when I am so right again? And that, too, can be a cop out.

Or not.

Nobody March 16, 2013 5:37 PM

@Clive Robinson

My viewpoint on the various posters expressing viewpoints I disagree with is “I do not know if they really believe this”.

They might not believe it and simply be making a rhetorical point.

They might not believe it, knowing on some level it is a lie, and simply parroting it for their own chosen authorities.

They might simply be parroting some viewpoint seen out there in the wild.

One commonality is they are unwilling to expose their reasoning methodology behind it. And they are unwilling to expose their evidence.

With you, NickP, or MikeA, for instance, you guys are willing to expose your thinking methodology and evidence. So, I find your reactions believable.

(There are likely others, but you three simply stand out to me on this thread.)

So, then, I accept you three as peer SMEs.

As such, however, do I know you guys believe what you state you believe and so should take what you say at face value? I think that is the whole point. There is no face value. People have to figure out what the truth is on their own by their own evidence.

Nick P March 16, 2013 10:55 PM

@ Nobody

“With you, NickP, or MikeA, for instance, you guys are willing to expose your thinking methodology and evidence. So, I find your reactions believable.
(There are likely others, but you three simply stand out to me on this thread.)
So, then, I accept you three as peer SMEs.
As such, however, do I know you guys believe what you state you believe and so should take what you say at face value? I think that is the whole point. There is no face value. People have to figure out what the truth is on their own by their own evidence.”

Well, I appreciate it. You google our names with the “” tag you’ll see plenty consistency. The exception being views that change over time w/out malicious reasons.

I think that spook types would call me “ideological.” I’m not the type to be bought. I BS only if necessary. Usually details or events, not ideas or beliefs. I’m too genuine for my own good, to be honest. I always say if i was selfish or amoral I’d have been a billionaire.

I’ll respond to the other post when I have time. I’m doing some St Paddy’s Day celebration for probably the next 48 hours. 😉

Clive Robinson March 17, 2013 8:58 PM

@ Nobody,

One commonality is they are unwilling to expose their reasoning methodology behind it. And they are unwilling to expose their evidence

There maybe good reason for this over and above what you identify and the old “gut feeling” methodology..

As Nick P, notes we and other people who do explain are seen as “ideological” or similar down to “Persons in particular”, and the words are used not in their literal sense but more as a distinquisher such as calling people “foreigners” or “hispanics”, “gypsies” etc. However we do get a lot of things done that most others can not (mainly because they have feelings not reasonings).

If you look at a workplace most people don’t realy want an explination as to why they just want action that they can if required distance themselves from. That is they are avoiding responsiblity, and you have to ask why? well,

When the boss says, “We have a problem…” you know darn well it means “I’m making this go away and you are the sap…”. Further when they’ve described the problem (usually badly) and then say “What do you think?” they realy don’t want to talk about the problem but which sap it’s going to get landed on. If you are smart, you say something along the lines of “Well I’ve heard Johnston has experiance in this area…” in which case you’ve passed the buck otherwise all the boss want’s to hear is “I’ll deal with it”.

Because if the boss knew enough to solve the problemm they would give somebody specific guidence to do so.

You start telling the boss how to solve the problem you might as well slash your wrists career wise, your likelyhood of promotion or payrise is considerably less than termination…

Not just because by telling him you make him look stupid and ineffectual but because you are obviously not a team player…

As was once succinctly put by Scot Adams of Dilbert fame, the first rule of corporation managment is “Never be in the same room as a decision.”.

It’s one of the reasons managment committees apoint subcommittees or set up working groups or outsource it to consultants.

Douglas Adams of Hitch-Hikers fame described an effect as “Somebody Elses Problem” and how it could be used to make things invisable. Like all good comedy ideas it has at it’s center a painful germ of truth.

To behave in other ways makes you an “ideological person” where “person” has a similar meaning to “problem” or a domesticated beast of burden that diggs it’s heals in known as an Ass.

As I’ve said before the master plan for a career in corporate managment is something like,

1, Take a few serious risks to become noticed to get up the first couple of rungs.
2, Then delegate serious risks and take low risks to get a few more rungs up.
3, Then delegate all risks to other chancers on the up. And schmooz your way up a few more rungs.
4, Then when sufficiently senior take outrageous long term risks with high PR value and jump ship before risk starts to bite.

Step four is the doozy as they say, it works like this, You get a senior job and make an announcment you are going to do X to make Y savings/profit for the shareholders / investors. You give it lots of publicity but little else initialy. You network like crazy to find your next career step outside of your current organisation as well as hyping the idea. You then as interest starts to bite throw lots of “action creating resources” in and based on the good publicity if you managed the hype correctly the share price etc will rise in expectation, at this point you jump to your new job, and the project becomes “somebody elses problem”.

Now if the project you’ve left behind delivers you claim the success for setting the foundations and setting clear direction etc. If it fails or does not do as well as you would like you claim it was due to the poor managment of those that followed you for changing the game plan etc. Either way you win.

Mad as this might appear it’s exactly what you see going on, especialy with regards to politicaly related activities. The trick is to make the politicos look good for a few weeks or months after that you and they have moved on and the press and public are worrying about something else.

Finaly once you are in a sufficiently senior position you can do one of several things. Firstly go in for boardroom group think. Secondly become a director for many organisations taking money but doing little other than make noise and then groupthink. Become a Governmental or think tank advisor witha biit of consulting on the side Or you can become a criminal such as those found at the top of the likes of Enron and other institutions such as the Koch Brothers or of more recent notoriety in the financial sector who new sufficiently well in advance how to stop themselves getting prosecuted.

The important thing to remember is not what you can do but what you can make people belive you can do based on what you have supposadly achived before. The fact that you are dam all use in actually running an organisation has nothing whatsoever to do with it. After you clear around 75,000USD basic nobody can tell what your real value to an organisation is, it’s all about image and self belief.

Now I know there are going to be a few people who disagree with the above, and they will find a few specific counter points (I can find one or two myself) but just look at things in general and keep an open mind 😉

One of the ways you can tell the most senior of consultants is because they never actually solve problems, they present you with methods by which you can do…

There’s two reasons for this, firstly if they solve your problem where’s the repeate business? Secondly they cann’t fail because it’s you not using the methodology correctly…

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