1944 OSS Sabotage Manual

It makes for interesting reading.

Someone noticed that parts of it read like standard modern office procedures.

EDITED TO ADD: I originally called this a CIA manual, but the CIA had not been formed yet. And, yes, I seem to have blogged this before -- in 2010.

Posted on June 10, 2016 at 9:54 AM • 23 Comments


zJune 10, 2016 10:39 AM

Pages 28 and 29 are worth printing out and distributing at the next managers' meeting.

arfnarfJune 10, 2016 10:39 AM

It would be interesting to come up with a modern day set of guidelines for this kind of activity. For example: make sure to copy as many people as possible on all emails. Make sure to click OK on all pop-up warning messages with out reading them. Make sure to open all attachments. Make sure to call support before trying obvious remedies like rebooting your computer.

I'm sure we can come up with many many suggestions....

wiredogJune 10, 2016 10:41 AM

"Don't order new working materials until your current stocks have been virtually exhausted, so that the slightest delay in filling your order will mean a shutdown."

So "Just In Time" delivery was invented by the OSS as atactic to be used against the Axis?

zJune 10, 2016 10:48 AM


1.) Software Development

a.) Write proprietary code full of vulnerabilities

b.) Ensure that as as large of a market share as possible requires this code to run

c.) Periodically fix known vulnerabilities as an act of good faith, possibly while introducing new ones

d.) Oh no! We just described Adobe!

LambertJune 10, 2016 11:12 AM

I'm surprised there's no mention of biological techniques. Hide hornet's nests and rats in the U-boat factory or wherever. Take away all the tissues and soap at the office when colds are going around, while insisting contagious employees come in to work.

Clive RobinsonJune 10, 2016 11:20 AM

@ Lambert,

Take away all the tissues and soap at the office when colds are going around, while insisting contagious employees come in to work.

Scott Adams of Bilbert fame noted that such methords were the only legal way "To use Weapons of Mass Destruction" against yot "Cow orkers"...

ConfuzzledJune 10, 2016 1:28 PM

For a moment there you had me wondering why the CIA finally came out with the fact that they have been polluting GitHub repositories since 1944!

Jorn HollJune 10, 2016 2:08 PM

Hate to say it, but this document is an obvious fake. Three issues immediately jump out: it is not written on a 1944-era typewriter (it was created on a word processor); it is not written on the 1944 OSS letterhead (which was high on page, centered, and used a separate all caps font); and "Wild Bill" consistently signed documents using only his last name.

Gerard van VoorenJune 10, 2016 2:17 PM

@ z,

d.) Oh no! We just described Adobe!

Have you seen the latest Adobe Reader? At work I have to use it. It has some sort of polished Windows 10 "look and feel" but it's really buggy, ridiculously slow and it probably leaks like a colander. For a pdf reader this is just too much. And btw it is constantly asking to push the pdf up to their *cough* secure *cough* cloud.

End of rant.

ianfJune 10, 2016 2:35 PM

@ Jorn Holl – it's on the cia.gov website, what purpose would it serve if it was a FAKE? Clearly, at worst it's some kremlinological attempt to rewrite the past, a post-event disinformation, but 70 years in the making? Your objection of this not being typed on a 40s typewriter, but typeset (why "word processed?") are moot – clearly, a manual of this weight would be carefully prepared in advance to printing, not merely mimeographed.

Clive RobinsonJune 10, 2016 3:35 PM

@ ianf,

it's on the cia.gov website, what purpose would it serve if it was a FAKE?

When IC org has a moto of "In God we trust" with the unofficial rider of "All others we check, tourture and kill" you take what you see at first sight...

Man are you a trusting soul...

Have you ever read "The Anarchists Cook Book"? Have you ever tried doing something from it? Ever met someone who has?

Unless they or you are extreamly lucky, what body part did you/they contribute to the God of misplaced trust?

I suspect that the original had much more interesting items in it, for the SOE operatives. That is this latter copy would be sanitized of certain techniques for the sake of plausable deniability at the least. Plus if a copy did make it out of the organisation it would do limited damage. But due to the way it's written suggests it's the "Desk Jockey" / "for 'others' training" version, and the NOBUS "Field Operative" version is still restricted.

IC orgs tend not just to be compartmentalized, they also tend to have layers of "half truths", and they rarely let "methods and sources" information out even to managment or analysts within their own organisations.

Jorn HollJune 10, 2016 4:00 PM

On page 31, in a document purportedly created in january 1944, just after the tehran conference and pre-normandy by 5 months, when operation overlord was just beginning to take shape, it is assumed that the person under discussion is within a nazi-controlled area, and should be instructed (by who?) to be as "irritable" as possible when dealing with the Gestapo. Are you kidding me? All of your people behind enemy lines would be quickly eliminated.

Nile June 10, 2016 6:42 PM

Charlie Stross noticed this, a week or two ago; and he invited the genteel and scholarly readers of his blog to contribute suggestions, drawn from modern business practices, to bring the OSS Manual up-to-date:

Charlie Stross: Updating A Classic

It would be immodest and improper for me to recycle my ideas from another site: but if you really want to find them, it's the thread that ends with Charlie and the phrase "I think I'm going to hide under the bed and gibber now".

The short version is: do not put a sociopath in charge of software-driven performance management.

For your reference, I work in IT, on the trading floor of a bulge-bracket back, and my background is the interesting end of management consultancy.

Terry ClothJune 11, 2016 8:51 AM

Following links from this blog entry, I came across a page that seems to be the prescription for many (most?) of our cyber-security problems---technology that treats the user ``lovingly'': Loving Technology

Sounds good to me. Of course, implementing it would meet most of the goals of the manual we're discussing...

JLalJuly 13, 2016 5:46 PM

Who wrote it?

I read it was thrown away after May-June 1945. It was deemed as a laughable comic book when some of the SS and Gestapo intelligence agents talked about it in NyC. Before they all started brainstorming a new post-war CIA.

Lots of documentaries about it.

WaelNovember 5, 2016 1:36 AM

Nebulous techniques. Have a feeling it was written by an English person. Since when did the US use centimeters as a unit of length? Or was the manual given to Europeans?

I thought sugar in the gas tank was an urban legend! Apparently not...

And, yes, I seem to have blogged this before -- in 2010.

Hmm. Medicine must be working :)

Clive RobinsonNovember 6, 2016 3:43 PM

@ Wael,

You are showing your age again,

Have a feeling it was written by an English person. Since when did the US use centimeters as a unit of length?

Or in this case the lack of it.

Back in 44 it was only some of the Continental Europeans that used centimeters, the English along with their old colonies --including the US-- still used "Imperial Measurements".

The "English" did not "decimalise" bit by bit until the 1970's and later.

In fact due to SI Units the US started to use decimal measurments in greater numbers than the English, prior to the English and still do for that matter.

Aarguably the switch from the old Pounds Shillings and Pence (LSD not an English invention) to decimal currancy has caused quite a bit of harm to British minds.

Because having to think in 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1/12 1/20 1/40 1/80 and 1/240 and the various coin sizes including farthings, ha'pennies, pennies, thru'penny bits, tanners, shillings, two bobs, half crowns, crowns and ten bob notes to make change etc made teaching "clock mathmatics" oh so much easier. And don't get me started on rods, poles, perches, chains, fathoms, cables and all sorts of other measurments like quarts, firkins, tunns and other less known measures such as barlycorns (still used for shoes) and grains as well as the difference between Imperial and Troy ounces.

Oh and the one measure of all to slay all the measures of man through their stomachs, by their wives and cooks. The "egg" which is used for volume, mass and length measures in the kitchen, before man had even come up with the idea of using the length of a kings foot or similar (even if he was a giant of a man).

If you look up a sponge recipe you get akward sounding measurments. But if I said "the weight of four eggs in butter flour and sugar" it would make more sense, especially as the old style kitchen weighing machine "The scales" frequently had no weights to hand. You would put four eggs in one side and weigh the flour, tip that in a bowl, likewise the sugar and then the butter in another, cream the butter and sugar, crack in and mix the eggs one by one untill smoth, finally sifting in the flour and folding in so there are no lumps. Pour the mixture into well buttered four egg length diameter by two egg width high cake tin and bake...

If you were poor you could avoid using butter and eggs by a basic bread dough of four egg weight of strong flour a pitch of salt an egg size piece of levened (sour) dough and an egg weight of the kidney fat (lard) from a well fattened pig and around six egg weights of warm water. When kneeded and proved you then add two egg weights of soaked dried mixed fruits and a further four egg weights of lard and sugar into a paste which you then fold into the dough as part of the knock back, put in a well floured tin and allow to rise befor cooking to make a lardy cake or similar (which would give you two or three times the keeping time of butter). Similar tea breads and cakes can be made this way by varying the egg weights of the ingredients and the type of liquid (tea, milk, malt beer, and other infusions of what we would now call herb / berry / flower teas).

WaelNovember 6, 2016 4:20 PM

@Clive Robinson,

Or in this case the lack of it....

Lack of coherence on my side. Finally had to do the "humanitarian" thing to my cat and buried him last night. Will get back later when I'm in a better mood. Still have five left.

WaelNovember 6, 2016 8:00 PM

@Clive Robinson,

If you were poor you could avoid using butter and eggs... kidney fat (lard) from a well fattened pig

I won't use lard - I'd rather use car engine oil ;)

Interesting history of units! Once upon a time someone told me "no work in slugs" :)

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