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So, the game was to intentionally engage in “perception management” such that the American people would believe the value that had been assigned to things, including stocks, property, money, investments, mutual funds, banks, companies, products, vehicles, whatever.

Then, so long as the “experts” were paraded before us telling us what to believe and “framing” the negative events for us, we would maintain “confidence” in the guesstimated and often exaggerated values. And, therefore we would for the most part, continue to spend and spend and spend and borrow and borrow and borrow. For every dollar borrowed, we would continue to essentially pay a privately collected tax (in interest payments) on every dollar and dime spent, to the benefit of what?

But, what difference did that make to the “investors”, most of which have been institutional players (some 80% or more) and hedge fund managers? They had to have known the truth whether they said so or not. And, their idea of things is certainly not set by the news or the financial section of the Wall Street Journal. What does their “confidence” rely upon and how was it manipulated intentionally for the purposes of “perception management”? Did that happen because their information was coming directly from CEOs of banks and large corporations? Or do they subscribe to analysis rather than doing their own?

Surely their news is not being found on the cable news financial shows. And, how could they, pouring over charts and facts, have missed the pervasive and obvious facts that the values were artificially “marked up,” over leveraged, at some point converted to illiquid “assets,” losing market share for their primary business models and possibly even insolvent?

That seems like something fairly noticeable and even obvious throughout a great many sectors of the economy. The experts, pundits, fund managers, brokers, traders, bankers, economists, analysts, financial investment houses and executives had to have known the destructive capacity of these facts which could ultimately undermine entire segments of the US and Global economy. Is it just that it didn’t matter?

Or were they literally looking at whatever their three favorite indices had suggested and using that to make a guess projected from what they knew had happened two years ago? Were these indices using current numbers, or were they, as many other statistics “fudged” by publishing only partitioned number groups, inconsistently mixing numbers from different time periods, “mixing apples and oranges,” dividing negative results into inherently separated categories and charts, leaving out undesirable results, etc.?

Didn’t any of these qualified and educated “experts” in the financial arenas, whose advice, knowledge, skills and intelligent use of the facts has been relied upon for the investment of billions and billions of dollars, ever give any attention to the integrated qualities of economics or did they not understand it? When they were in college and in continuing their education thereafter in these financial industries, didn’t they give their attention to the principles of business and economics or was that just something for the eggheads to ever need and not something worthy of their time?

Or, did the financial experts, politicians, bankers and other members of the financial free-for-all actually know and intentionally perpetrate lies to cover it up and in hopes of maintaining a false sense of “confidence” such that they could continue to profit? And, what now? Are they still working to do that because they believe that given enough time their ideas of what these arbitrary values should be, will be restored? Have they noticed at the current moment in history, things have changed?

– cricketdiane, 03-21-09


Perception Management used by financial industry and experts – to instill false confidence unfounded in facts


Perception management

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Perception management is a term originated by the U. S. military. The U. S. Department of Defense (DOD) gives this definition:

Actions to convey and/or deny selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning as well as to intelligence systems and leaders at all levels to influence official estimates, ultimately resulting in foreign behaviors and official actions favorable to the originator’s objectives. In various ways, perception management combines truth projection, operations security, cover and deception, and psychological operations.[1]

The phrase “perception management” has often functioned as a “euphemism” for “an aspect of information warfare.” A scholar in the field notes a distinction between “perception management” and public diplomacy, which “does not, as a rule, involve falsehood and deception, whereas these are important ingredients of perception management; the purpose is to get the other side to believe what one wishes it to believe, whatever the truth may be.”[2]

Perception management was also known as public diplomacy in the Reagan Era; however, some people also argue perception management is now an accepted part of international strategic influence.

The phrase “perception management” is filtering into common use as a synonym for “persuasion.” Public relations firms now offer “perception management” as one of their services. Similarly, public officials who are being accused of shading the truth are now frequently charged with engaging in “perception management” when disseminating information to media or to the general public.

Although perception management operations are typically carried out within the international arena between governments, and between governments and citizens, use of perception management techniques have become part of mainstream information management systems in many ways that do not concern military campaigns or government relations with citizenry. Businesses may even contract with other businesses to conduct perception management for them, or they may conduct it in-house with their public relations staff.

As Stan Moore has written, “Just because truth has been omitted, does not mean that truth is not true. Just because reality has not been perceived, does not mean that it is not real.” [3]


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Perception Management and the U.S. Department of Defense

Deception and sleight of hand are important in gaining advantages in war, both to gain domestic support of the operations and for the military against the enemy. Although perception management is specifically defined as being limited to foreign audiences, critics of the DOD charge that it also engages in domestic perception management. An example cited is the prohibition of viewing or photographing the flag draped caskets of dead military as they are unloaded in bulk upon arrival in the U.S. for further distribution, a policy only recently implemented.The DOD also describes perception management as an intent to provoke the behavior you want out of a given individual.[4] During the Cold War, the Pentagon sent undercover US journalists to Russia and Eastern Europe to write pro-American articles for local media outlets.A similar situation occurred in Iraq in 2005 when the US military covertly paid Iraqi newspapers to print stories written by US soldiers; these stories were geared towards enhancing the appearance of the US mission in Iraq[5]

The U.S. Air Force has used perception management with UFO/ET events by dropping flares and claiming it was a “misperception of their training activity”. Years ago in Gulf Breeze Florida similar techniques were used where a fake UFO model was planted in a house. [6]

Domestically during the Vietnam War, the Pentagon exaggerated communist threats to the United States in order to gain more public support for an increasingly bloody war. This was similarly seen in 2003 with the government’s embellishment of the threat and existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.[7]

More recently, the U.S. government has used perception management techniques to promote the belief that weapons of mass destruction were indeed being manufactured in Iraq, and that Iraq had aided and assisted the Al Quaeda terrorists responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks upon the World Trade Center. These “facts” were, in part, the government’s justification for invading Iraq and beginning the war. A man named John Rendon has been very influential in creating the conditions necessary to justify the war in Iraq. Rendon’s firm, the Rendon Group, has had close ties with the U.S. government ever since 1991, when the CIA hired the firm to help “create the conditions for the removal of Hussein from power.” [8]

Perception management includes all actions used to influence the attitudes and objective reasoning of foreign audiences and consists of Public Diplomacy, Psychological Operations (PSYOPS), Public Information, Deception and Covert Action.[9] The Department of Defense describes “perception management” as a type of psychological operation. It is supposed to be directed at foreign audiences, and involves providing or discarding information to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning in a way that is favorable to the originator of the information. The main goal is to influence friends and enemies, provoking them to engage in the behavior that you want. DOD sums it up: “Perception management combines truth projection, operations security, cover and deception, and psychological operations.” [10]

The US military has demonstrated using perception management multiples times in modern warfare, even though it has proven to take a hit to its credibility among the American people. In 2002, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld disbanded the Pentagon’s Office of Strategic Influence. This office had been organized to provide false news items to unwitting foreign journalists to influence policymakers and public sentiment abroad. The Pentagon was criticized to create and to use a perception management office to influence foreign states at the time.[11]

More recently, the DOD has continued to pursue actively a course of perception management about the Iraq War. “The Department of Defense is conscious that there is an increasingly widespread public perception that the U.S. military is becoming brutalized by the campaign in Iraq.Recognizing its vulnerability to information and media flows, the DoD has identified the information domain as its new “asymmetric flank.”” [12]

Perception Management by the U.S. government

The U.S. government already has checks in place to dissuade perception management conducted by the state towards domestic populations, such as the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, which “forbids the domestic dissemination of U.S Government authored or developed propaganda…deliberately designed to influence public opinion or policy.” [13]

Perception management can be used as a propaganda strategy for controlling how people view political events. This practice was refined by U.S. intelligence services as they tried to manipulate foreign populations, but it eventually made its way into domestic U.S. politics as a tool to manipulate post-Vietnam-War-era public opinion. For example, in the early 1980s, the Reagan administration saw the “Vietnam Syndrome” -a reluctance to commit military forces abroad- as a strategic threat to its Cold War policies. This caused the administration to launch an extraordinary effort to change people’s perception of foreign events, essentially by exaggerating threats from abroad and demonizing selected foreign leaders. The strategy proved to be really successful.[14]

Beginning in the 1950s, more than 800 news and public information organizations and individuals carried out assignments to manage the public’s perception for the CIA, according to the New York Times. By the mid-80s, CIA Director William Casey had taken the practice to the next level: an organized, covert “public diplomacy” apparatus designed to sell a “new product” — Central America — while stoking fear of communism, the Sandinistas, Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, and anyone else considered an adversary during the Ronald Reagan presidential administration. Sometimes it involved so-called “white propaganda,” stories and op-eds secretly financed by the government. But they also went “black,” pushing false story lines, such as how the Sandinistas were actually anti-Semitic drug dealers. That campaign included altered photos and blatant disinformation dispersed by public officials as high as the president himself. [10]

The term “perception management” is not new to the lexicon of government language. For years the Federal Bureau of Investigation has listed foreign perception management as one of eight “key issue threats” to national security, including it with terrorism, attacks on critical U.S. infrastructure, and weapons proliferation among others. The FBI clearly recognizes perception management as a threat when it is directed at the U.S. by foreign governments.[15]

Perception Management in Business, Marketing and Advertising

Businesses shape the perceptions of the public in order to get the desired behaviour and purchase patterns from consumers. The best medium for businesses to affect the perceptions of the public is through marketing.

Marketers understand this very well. To get people to buy products, marketers must create a need and manage the perception of the public so that they feel the product will fulfill that need. This is not the same thing as manipulation, where businesses create something people don’t need, and marketers convince them that they do need it. Good perception management is to the benefit of the consumer, as it fulfills more of their needs, and to the benefit of the business, as it increases their revenue.[16] The decision making process in relation to the future is an element of business that has a great effect on the company’s future. If the company is too risky, this leads to underperformance, and a missed opportunity. If the company takes to many risks, it is likely that there will be a large amount of losses. Ultimately if this amount of risk taking leads the perception of the company to exceed the boundaries of logic and fact, the company will most likely fail based on their poor perception.[17]

The communication gaps that exist in international business can lead to misunderstandings. Perception management helps to prevent the complex emotional characteristics of communication from changing the original interpretation of the message.[18]

Perception Management in Fashion

Perception management is a robust component in the fashion industry. Fashion stylists are responsible for providing perception management in the branding of products, and in creating the public persona of both individuals, businesses, and brands, through means of wardrobe, appearance, and communication skills. [19] As with any product, perception management influences purchasing decisions. According to one analyst, “In the external environment, the offerings of competitors, with which a customer compares a product or service will change, thus altering his perception of the best offer around. Another point is that the public opinion towards certain issues can change. This effect can reach from fashion trends to the public expectation of good corporate citizenship.” Other effects of perception management in fashion include that “a commonplace strategy to circumvent the loss of exclusivity associated with high market share is to leverage the brand by introducing new related brands. This is very efficient with fragrances or fashion brands.”[20]

Perception Management and Celebrity

Public relation firms are now offering services to celebrity clients in perception management or reputation repair. It is a new tool for public firms. It lets large firms pour huge resources to the public by website. The web help public relations executives to reach out the news media and it offer ways to link the public relations people and news media. For example, firms provide direct email addresses of some business journalists.[21] A new trend in perception management is athletes signing with major public relation firms. Well-known agencies, such as William Morris and competitor Creative Artists Agency, recently started attracting huge sports stars. Alex Rodriguez joined the company after his alleged affair with Madonna, during the summer of 2008. He is following in the footsteps of Serena Williams, Kevin Garnett, and Vince Young, who are all represented by the William Morris agency.[22]

Perception Management and Universities

A research article in the journal Disability & Society gives an account of students with hidden disabilities and their experience with the behavior of their peers when their disability is revealed. These students actively manage the perception of others because the awareness of their disability “altered the behavior of others towards them.”[23]

Perception Management and Terrorism

Typical counter-terrorism (CT) thinking focuses on the violence, or it’s associated threat, to identify and exploit associated avenues for meaningful response and reaction. [24]

Perception Management in Politics

“Perception management” – also known as “public diplomacy” – is a propaganda strategy for controlling how a target population views political events. For example, George W. Bush has misled the public about a policy in order to “protect” the American public. After the Vietnam-War era the administration launched an extraordinary effort to influence how the American people perceived overseas events, essentially by exaggerating threats from abroad and demonizing selected foreign leaders.[25] In the years of the Regan/Bush administration the government saw a lot of reluctance to commit military forces abroad. They used many tactics to change the outlook of peoples thoughts about oversea issues. Warfare experts from the CIA and the Army Special Forces were included in this plan. They accomplished this by pushing issues about the events in South America and Leftist right issues in Nicaragua and Afghanistan [26]

Perception Management in Media

The U.S. Military had been accused of manipulating the media in Iraq in order to achieve their pro-war goals, by secretly paying Iraqi journalists to publish stories written by U.S. soldiers. According to the article “The Man Who Sold The War” by James Bamford in the recent edition of Rolling Stone magazine, John Rendon and his Rendon Group, the leader in strategic field of perception management, was awarded 16 million contract from the Pentagon “to target Iraq and other adversaries with propaganda.[27]

The Chinese government had been controlling media to exercise “mind control” and manipulate public opinion on its citizens. All Chinese media, including newspapers, periodicals, news agencies, TV stations, broadcasting, the movie industry and art performances, are categorized and managed as “mouthpieces” of the ruling Communist Party. [28]

“Mind control” includes “indoctrination from kindergarten to college through officially compiled textbooks, as all teachers are categorized as ‘educators of CCP’ (The Chinese Communist Party). According to Qinglian He, a former Chinese government propagandist and now a senior researcher at Human Rights in China, by exercising “mind control”, the Chinese government has mislead the Chinese population from the values of human rights and democracy, and also from the truth. </ref> “China’s ‘perception management’ agenda controls all media,” World Tribune, August 10, 2007.</ref>

Perception Management and Cognition

The objective of this seedling project is to investigate the feasibility of enhancing the quality of human decision-making in complex and uncertain situations and under time pressure. The specific focus is to characterize the principles underlying the augmented cognition systems and to develop techniques that alleviate natural human attentional limitations in the management of uncertainty using dynamic visualization techniques.” [29]


Perception Management in Athletics

See also

spin (public relations)

public diplomacy


Brand management

emotional intelligence

Customer Relationship Management



opposition research

Smith-Mundt Act


  1. ^ Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, Joint Publication 1-02, 12 April 2001 (As Amended Through 17 December 2003)
  2. ^ Goldman, Emily O. (2004). National Security in the Information Age: Issues, Interpretations, Periodizations. Routledge (U. K.). ISBN 0-7146-5600-3. , p. 149
  3. ^ citation needed.
  4. ^ reference needed.
  5. ^ Daragahi, Borzou, and Mark Mazzetti. “U.S. Military Covertly Pays to Run Stories in Iraqi Press.” Los Angeles Times 30 Nov. 2005: A1.
  6. ^ Komarek, Ed. May 14th, 2008. “UFOs and Perception Management, You are the Target”. <http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/61734>.
  7. ^ Shanker, Thom and Schmitt, Eric. “Pentagon Weighs Use of Deception in a Broad Arena”. 13 December 2004.
  8. ^ Bamford, James (2005). “The Man Who Sold the War.” Rolling Stone. Retrieved 20 Nov, 2008.
  9. ^ Lieutenant-Colonel Steven Collins, “Mind Games”, IWS-The Information Warfare Site, Retrieved November 20, 2008
  10. ^ a b Greg Guma. “The Evolution of Perception Management Tactics”. Retrieved November 20, 2008.
  11. ^ Schmitt, Eric. Dec 5th, 2003. “Pentagon & Bogus News: All is Denied”. New York Times
  12. ^ Analytica, Oxford. “Perception Management.” Forbes. 5 July 2006. retrieved 20 Nov. 2008 <http://www.forbes.com/2006/07/04/haditha-iraq-tribunal-cx_0705oxford.html>.
  13. ^ “Pentagon Sued for Records on Propaganda, PSY-OPS and ‘Perception Management’ Targeting U.S. Civilians.” (2005, March 4) Judicial Watch, Inc: Washington D.C.
  14. ^ Parry, Robert. “Bush’s Perception Management Plan”. November 18, 2004., Global Exchange
  15. ^ Martemucci, Matteo G. “Regaining the High Ground: The Challenges of Perception Management in National Strategy and Military Operations”. 17 June 2007.
  16. ^ Smith, B. (1994) “Perception Management,” The Empire Club of Canada Speeches 1994-1995: http://www.empireclubfoundation.com/details.asp?FT=yes&SpeechID=1270
  17. ^ Vance, Beaumont. “Perception and meltdowns.(RISK MANAGEMENT).” Risk & Insurance 18.12 (Oct 1, 2007): 20(1).
  18. ^ Tang, Tony, “Viewpoint: Perception Management Crucial for International Business,” Wisconsin School of Business, September 2006.
  19. ^ Miller, Susan W. Fashion Stylist. August 18, 2006.
  20. ^ Dagmar Recklies, “Understanding and Managing Customer Perception,” University Press, July 2006.
  21. ^ Sreenath Sreenivasan. “New Tools for Public Relation Firms”. March 31, 1997.The New York Times.
  22. ^ Brooks Barnes, “Rodriguez Signs with Hollywood Talent Agency,” NY Times, July 2008.
  23. ^ FM.;FK., “Out of the Disability Closet: strategic use of perception management by select university students with disabilities,” Disability & Society, 18(1) January 2003 , pp. 35-50(16)
  24. ^ Gressang, D. S. , 2004-03-17 “Perception Management and Counter-terrorism: Leveraging the Communicative Dynamic” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, Le Centre Sheraton Hotel, Montreal, Quebec, Canada Online <.PDF>. 2008-10-10 from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p73614_index.html
  25. ^ Robert Parry. November 18,2004. Bush’s “Perception Management” Plan. consortiumnews.com. Last accessed November 20,2008.
  26. ^ http://www.globalexchange.org/countries/americas/unitedstates/democracy/2731.html
  27. ^ Time Leslie (2005. The U.S. Military and the Age of ‘Perception Management’. CommonDreams.org News Center
  28. ^ http://www.worldtribune.com/worldtribune/WTARC/2007/ea_china_08_10.asp>
  29. ^ Dylan Schmorrow,Augmented Cognition,n.d.

Further reading

  • The Corporation – a book and film which looks at how corporations operate, each of which includes a chapter titled “Perception Management” as it is practiced by corporations.

External links

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Opposition research

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Opposition research (often referred to as oppo) is:

  1. The term used to classify and describe efforts of supporters or paid consultants of a political candidate to legally investigate the biographical, legal or criminal, medical, educational, financial, public and private administrative and or voting records of the opposing candidate, as well as prior media coverage. The research is usually conducted in the time period between announcement of intent to run and the actual election; however political parties maintain long-term databases that can cover several decades. The practice is both a tactical maneuver and a cost-saving measure.[1]
  2. Opposition research may also refer to illegal or unethical means of gathering potentially damaging information on candidates, such as accessing credit reports, wiretapping, theft of files, hacking computer files, and interviewing ex-spouses.
  3. “Vulnerability studies” occur in the ‘prebuttal’ phase of campaign development, when a candidate’s political consultants will amass files of potentially damaging information on their own clients, to prepare pre-emptive strategies for rebuttal at a later date.
  4. Research conducted, at the request of an incumbent office-holder, often by the same staff who conducted campaign research, against political opponents or dissenters. The Hatch Act of 1939 prohibits the use of public office for partisan political advocacy, but often the same staff who once researched private information about opponents are placed in positions of proximity to confidential government files.
  5. Research on the activities of opponents conducted on behalf of advocacy groups, political action committees, churches, labor unions, management of corporations, or sports teams, [2]as well as private individuals. Opposition researchers may work exclusively for one candidate or many, one group, or many groups that share ideologies and financial interests, or the highest bidder. Opposition research has also played a role in confirmation of nominees to the Supreme Court, and other presidential appointments.
  6. Demographic research into the habits, behavior, and histories of voters likely to cast ballots for opponents, as a tool for voter suppression.[3]


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Origins and history

  • In the 1st century B.C., Cicero is said to have gathered information that was damaging to opponents and using it in attacks against them. He accused one political opponent, Cataline, of murdering one wife to make room for another. He attacked Mark Antony in speeches known as the Philippics, eventually prompting Antony to chop off his head and right hand and display them at the Roman Forum.[4]
  • Opposition research also has its origins in military planning, as evident in such ancient texts as The Art of War, published in the 5th century B.C. by Sun Tzu. This manual for warriors describes the necessity for understanding an opponent’s weaknesses, for using spies, and for striking in moments of weakness.
  • In 18th century England, opposition research took the form of scandalmongering pamphlet wars between the Whig and Tory parties. Writers such as Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Swift, and Henry Fielding participated, often writing under assumed names.[5] This tradition of robust attack was replicated later in the American colonies, when writers such as Thomas Paine or Benjamin Franklin conducted opposition research and published their results.
  • The first appearance of the phrase “opposition research” in the New York Times occurred on December 17, 1971, in an article that describes the infiltration of the Edmund Muskie presidential campaign by a female Republican volunteer: “…an article appeared in a Washington newspaper describing the ‘opposition research’ program at Republican headquarters…”[6]
  • Opposition research became systematized in the 1970s when Ken Khachigian, in the Nixon Administration suggested that the GOP keep files on individuals as insurance against future races, rather than “scramble” in an ad hoc fashion race by race.[7]

Methods in the United States

Opposition research differs immensely depending on the size and funding of a campaign, the ethics of the candidate, and the era in which it is conducted. Information gathering can be classified into three main categories: open-source research enabled by the Freedom of Information Act, covert operations or “tradecraft, ” and maintenance of human systems of informants. Increasingly, data-mining of electronic records is used. Information is then stored for future use, and disseminated in a variety of ways.[8]

A local election sometimes has a staff member dedicated to reading through all of the opponents’ public statements and their voting records; others initiate whisper campaigns that employ techniques of disinformation or “black ops” to deliberately mislead the public by advancing a pre-determined “narrative” that will present the opponent in a negative light.

Another technique is to infiltrate the opposition’s operations and position a paid informant there. “Gray propaganda” techniques are often used to release damaging information to news media outlets without its source being identified properly, a technique inherited from disinformation tactics employed by intelligence agencies such as the OSS during World War II.[9]

Yet another technique is to position information or personnel within media outlets. Often the information is video footage gathered in campaign-funded “tracker programs” wherein videographers use candidates’ itineraries to track them and record as many remarks as possible, since anything they say can and will be used against them, as was the cased in former Senator George Allen’s “macaca moment.”[10]

“Far from being detached observers, reporters constantly call oppo staffs looking for tidbits and sometimes trading information,” wrote three reporters, Matthew Cooper, Gloria Borger, and Michael Barone, for U.S. News & World Report in 1992.[11]

File-sharing between operatives of political parties is quite common. In the 2008 presidential election, a dossier of opposition research against Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin was posted in its entirety on a political blog site, Politico.com. The file was compiled by the staff of her opponent in the 2006 Alaska gubernatorial race, Tony Knowles.[12]

“Oppo dumps” are used by political campaigns to systemtatically supply files of damaging information to press outlets, including matters of the public record, video footage from party archives and private collections, as well as private intelligence gathered by operatives. Many prime time television and radio news commentaries rely on this supply of party-generated material because it is free, and therefore more cost-effective than paying investigative reporters.[13]

Congressional and presidential opposition research is often conducted by or funded by a political party, lobbying group, political action committee (PAC), or a 527 group that coalesces around a certain issue. In the U.S., both the Republican and Democratic parties employ full-time “Directors of Research” and maintain databases on opponents. In recent years the task of opposition research has been privatized in many areas. Full time companies with permanent staff specializing in media productions or “grassroots” operations have replaced volunteers and campaign officials. Political media consultants may also opt for astroturfing techniques, which simulate wide popular appeal for a candidate’s platform.
Candidates and incumbents who benefit from opposition research often choose to remain uninformed about their campaign’s operations and tactics, to insure plausible deniability should criminal charges be brought against researchers.

In U.S. presidential elections

  • Opponents of Andrew Jackson in the 1824 and 1828 presidential elections unearthed his marriage records to imply that he was an “adulterer” for marrying Rachel Robards before she was legally divorced from her first husband. Jackson had married her in 1791 on the strength of a statement from her husband that he had divorced her; Jackson had two wedding ceremonies, the not-recognizable one of 1791 and the legally corrective one of 1794. His political opponents used this information decades later against him, and he fought many duels over his wife’s “honor.” Rachel Robards died before Jackson took office in his first term; he maintained that the stress of the opposition had killed her.[14]
  • In preparation for Ronald Reagan’s debate with President Jimmy Carter in the presidential race 1980, Reagan’s campaign staff acquired under mysterious circumstances a 200-page briefing book, including information on Carter’s strategy, which staffers David Stockman and David Gergen had used to prepare Reagan. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department investigated to see how the information had been obtained by the Reagan camp. Two law professors filed suit in federal district court in Washington to request a special investigation, based on the 1978 Ethics in Government Act.[16] Carter’s staff believed the book to have been stolen from the White House, but the inquiry did not uncover any credible evidence that any law had been violated. The House of Representatives conducted its own investigation, and concluded in a 2,314 page report that the Reagan staff had two copies of the book, one from Reagan’s campaign director William J. Casey, future head of the Central Intelligence Agency.[17] James A. Baker III attributed the acquisition of the documents to Casey, who claimed to know nothing about them, and an analysis of Carter campaign documents found in the “Afghanistan” files of Reagan aide David Gergen indicated they came from three White House offices: the National Security Council, Vice President Walter Mondale and Domestic Adviser Stuart Eizenstat.[18] Many years afterward, Carter himself stated in a PBS interview that the book had been taken by columnist George Will, but Will denied it, calling Carter “a recidivist liar.”[19]
  • Lee Atwater is considered to be the “father” of modern aggressive “oppo” techniques. Atwater, who honed his style working for the South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, worked for the Republican National Committee in the 1988 presidential campaign, for which dozens of volunteers staffed three shifts around the clock to feed the then-burgeoning 24-hour news cycle. On Atwater’s watch, the now-infamous “Willie Horton” ads crafted by Floyd Brown turned voters away from Michael Dukakis and towards George H. W. Bush, although Atwater and Bush were protected by plausible deniability in the incident. Academic research into the Bush archives decades later revealed that a Bush staffer, Candice Strother, had released a dossier of information on Willie Horton to Elizabeth Fediay, of the non-profit group that contracted for the ad.[20] Willie Horton was an African-American convicted murderer released on a weekend furlough during Governor Dukakis’s tenure, who escaped and committed a brutal rape in Maryland, also stabbing his victim’s husband.[21] Atwater is also credited with originating “push polls” and “whisper campaigns” that use disinformation strategies to alienate voters from opponents. A biography of Atwater, quotes him as saying in an interview toward the end of his life that he regretted some of his less ethical techniques[22]
  • In the 1992 presidential campaign, Republicans reported that they spent $6 million on a “state of the art (opposition research) war machine” to investigate Bill Clinton, who was running against George H. W. Bush. In the same election, the Clinton campaign paid more than $100,000 to a private investigator to look into allegations about Clinton’s womanizing, investigating more than two dozen women.[23]
  • In the 2000 presidential election, longtime opposition researcher and Nixon loyalist Roger Stone was recruited by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III to oversee the recount of the disputed Presidential election in Miami-Dade County in 2000. Stone is credited with organizing the street demonstrations and eventual shut-down of the recount in that pivotal county.[24]
  • In the 2004 presidential race, Chris Lehane, a Democratic opposition researcher attracted notoriety and built a reputation not for deploying his skills against Republican opponents, but for using them against other Democrats in the primary races. Working for retired Army general Wesley Clark, Lehane sought to establish a media “narrative” that Howard Dean was hypocritical and dishonest, based on surveys of his administrative archive as governor of Vermont.[25]
  • A protege of Atwater’s, Karl Rove, is considered to be the “architect” of George W. Bush’s election to the governor’s office in Texas, and to the presidency in 2000 and 2004. In the 2000 race, Rove is credited with masterminding the push poll that initiated the “John McCain has a black love child” whisper campaign in South Carolina.[26] Anonymous telephone pollsters, upon determining that a voter was pro-McCain, asked the question, “Would you be more or less likely to vote for John McCain if you knew he had fathered a black child out of wedlock?” The question was not overt slander, but it prompted the president of Bob Jones University to launch his own internet campaign against McCain, and succeeded in crippling the trust of voters McCain had attracted. The Bush camp knew, as the general public did not, that in reality, John McCain is the adoptive father of a dark-skinned Bangladeshi refugee who was rescued by his wife Cindi.[27]
  • Though the Democratic National Committee continues to fund a research department, after the 2008 presidential election, the New York Times reported that “The legacy of the Democratic National Committee itself is hardly clear going forward. Mr. Obama effectively subsumed all the responsibilities in his campaign: fund-raising, voter turn-out and opposition research.[28]

Opposition research by the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government

  • Franklin Roosevelt Administration: In 1940, the White House accidentally taped a conversation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt instructing a lower level aide to disseminate a rumor about his opponent Wendell Willkie having an extramarital affair: “We can’t have any of our principal speakers refer to it, but the people down the line can get it out.”[29]
  • Johnson Administration: In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson sent 30 FBI agents to the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, N.J., to avert assassination attempts, and to monitor his political rival Robert Kennedy and civil rights activists. Johnson later also placed his Republican challenger, Barry Goldwater, under FBI surveillance, with a federal wiretap.[30]
  • Nixon Administration: During the Richard Nixon administration, White House staffers compiled lists of names of political opponents, journalists who had criticized Nixon, and artists and actors (such as Jane Fonda and Paul Newman) who had dissented with Nixon policy, especially on the subject of Vietnam, with the intent of prompting Internal Revenue Service investigations. The full extent of Nixon’s surveillance of private citizens solely on the basis of their dissent was not known until years after Nixon was forced to resign, as former staff members such as Charles Colson and John Dean began to disclose details.[citation needed] Nixon’s Enemies List is the informal name of what started as a list of President Richard Nixon’s major political opponents compiled by Charles Colson, written by George T. Bell [1] (assistant to Colson, special counsel to the White House) and sent in memorandum form to John Dean on September 9, 1971. The list was part of a campaign officially known as “Opponents List” and “Political Enemies Project.” The official purpose, as described by the White House Counsel’s Office, was to “screw” Nixon’s political enemies, by means of tax audits from the IRS, and by manipulating “grant availability, federal contracts, litigation, prosecution, etc.”[31]
  • Reagan Administration: In 1984, during the Ronald Reagan presidency, the Republican National Committee formed The Opposition Research Group, with its own budget of $1.1 million. These staff amassed information on eight Democratic presidential candidates based on data from voting records, Congressional Record speeches, media clippings and transcripts, campaign materials, all of which was stored on a computer for easy access. In this way Reagan was able to track inconsistencies and attack them. This original data base evolved into a network that linked information gleaned by Republicans in all 50 states, creating a master data base accessible to high-ranking Republican staff, even aboard Air Force One.[33]
  • Clinton Administration: During the Bill Clinton administration, the “Filegate” scandal erupted when White House staffers said to be acting on the directions of First Lady Hillary Clinton improperly accessed 500 FBI files compiled for security checks of Reagan and Bush staffers in previous administrations. Craig Livingstone, said to be hired by Mrs. Clinton with dubious credentials, resigned amid public outcry. In testimony under oath during the Kenneth Starr special prosecutor’s investigation, Mrs. Clinton stated that she had neither hired Livingstone nor improperly perused the files.[34]
  • George W. Bush Administration: Two former opposition researchers for the RNC appointed to Justice Department posts, Timothy Griffin and Monica Goodling, were implicated in efforts to use data collected on Democratic-appointed federal attorneys as ground for dismissal. See Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy. See also Karl Rove.
  • Also during this administration, CIFA (Counterintelligence Field Activity) , an intelligence gathering arm of the Pentagon was disbanded in 2008, after investigations into the bribery activities directed at Duke Cunningham revealed that the U.S. government kept a sizeable database of information about 126 domestic peace activist groups, including Quakers, about 1,500 “suspicious incidents” including peace demonstrations outside armed forces recruiter offices, even though the groups posed no specified threat to national security. The program was known as Talon. About two years elapsed between the program’s disbanding and the Post report. The Washington Post quoted an unnamed “official” as saying,”On the surface, it looks like things in the database that were etermined not to be viable threats were never deleted but should have been,” the official said. “You can also make the argument that these things should never have been put in the database in the first place until they were confirmed as threats.”[35]
  • Barack Obama Administration: In February 2009, Shauna Daly, a former opposition researcher for the Democratic National Committee was appointed as a researcher for the White House’s Office of Legal Counsel. Daly was Obama’s deputy research director during the presidential campaign, spent much of the cycle rebutting viral online attacks on Obama’s character and biography under the rubric of “Stop the Smears.” Shortly thereafter, amid speculations that she would be conducting research against political opponents, she was reassigned as Research Director to the DNC. Politico.com reported on February 27, 2009 that “the counsel’s office — which doesn’t face the sort of rapid-response demands that were common in the late Clinton years — doesn’t plan to fill the research post.”[36] The American Spectator reported on its “Washington Prowler” blog that Daly was posted in the White House Counsel’s Office for “about a month,” and thus had access to “reams of Bush administration documents related to such things as the firing s of U.S. Attorney, the use and internal debate over the USA PATRIOT Act, FISA and the Scooter Libby and Karl Rove investigations. The “Prowler” quoted “a DNC staffer” as saying, “She realized that she could do more with all the material she saw outside of the building than inside where she’d be bound by the rules and legalities of the White House Counsel’s Office. Now she isn’t. She’s good at what she does; her time at the White House means we’ve got a mother load (sic) of material that will have Republicans scrambling. At least that’s what we hope.”[37]

Opposition research and the U.S. Supreme Court

  • In 1916, after President Woodrow Wilson nominated Louis Brandeis for the Supreme Court, “concerned” citizens seeking to block his confirmation offered information that Brandeis was a “radical Zionist,” even though he was not a practicing Jew. Brandeis aggressively outmaneuvered his detractors by mounting his own opposition research efforts, including a carefully constructed chart that exposed the social and financial connections of the group, mostly from Boston’s Back Bay, and including Harvard president Lawrence Lowell, as well as a group headed by former President William Howard Taft and a host of American Bar Association past presidents. Brandeis sent the chart to Walter Lippman at the New Republic who penned an editorial condemning “the most homogeneous, self-centered, and self-complacent community in the United States.” Brandeis was confirmed after four months of hearings, in a Senate vote of 47-22.[38]
  • After President George W. Bush nominated Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Boston Globe reported that Republican conservative advocacy groups were conducting opposition research against her: “Groups are circulating lists of questions they want members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to ask Miers at her confirmation hearings. The activists’ thinly veiled hope is that Miers will reveal ignorance of the law and give senators a reason to oppose her.”[39] Miers later withdrew her name from consideration for the court.
  • On July 7, 2005, soon after the resignation of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the Democratic National Committee gathered and ciruclated information on the “anti-civil rights” and “anti-immigrant” rulings of Samuel A. Alito, Jr., by then nominated by President George W. Bush to replace her. Upon inspection, the documents were revealed to have been amended by Devorah Adler, research director for the DNC. Alito’s “record” had been pointedly altered to present him in a negative light. While the incident was not unusual, it received publicity in prominent places because it drew attention to the “meta-data” that is often unwittingly stored in documents that are altered and forwarded electronically.[40]

Opposition research conducted by U.S. states

See Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission.

In State Elections

During Lamar Alexander‘s 2002 campaign for the U.S. Senate, Alexander’s campaign staff received an anonymous mailing of a photograph of opponent Bill Clement obviously serving as a board member of a failed bank whose owners had been imprisoned for bank fraud. When the Alexander campaign raised the issue of Clement’s financial ties with the convicted felons, Clement denied any connection. When the Alexander campaign produced the photograph as evidence, Clement claimed his role was only an informal advisory one.[41]

Opposition Research and Mass media ethics

  • In 1992, Floyd Brown headed up the Presidential Victory Committee, which backed the candidacy of George H. W. Bush. CBS Evening News reported that Floyd Brown was observed to be in the company of NBC news producer Ira Silverman as they stalked the family of Susan Coleman, a former law student of Bush’s opponent Bill Clinton. Coleman had committed suicide, and Brown was attempting to disseminate a rumor that she had had an affair with Clinton. Brown and associate David Bossie reportedly stalked the family of a suicide victim. In April 1992, 30 news organizations received “an anonymous and untraceable letter” by fax “claiming Clinton had had an affair with a former law student who committed suicide 15 years ago.” Floyd Brown attempted to link Clinton to the 1977 suicide of this, “emotionally distraught young woman, seven-months pregnant,” Susan Coleman.[42] The Bush-Quayle campaign eventually filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Brown, seeking to distance itself from his tactics.[43][44] The group had filed its intent to air the ad with the Republican Party, and Bush’s campaign director James A. Baker III, who waited 25 days before responding to the letter, after the ad had been airing continuously. Brown has said of the incident, “If they were really interested in stopping this, do you think they would have waited that long to send us a letter?”[45] The practice of using tips from sources such as Brown was examined in 1994 by Howard Kurtz, media analyst for the Washington Post. Kurtz surveyed the major networks, Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and other influential media outlets, and found varying levels of “use” of Brown’s “information” on David Hale as a witness in the Whitewater controversy. At this time, Brown confirmed that he had been the source of four mainstream media “stories” that had received attention from the Columbia Journalism Review because they bore striking resemblance to the opposition research being disseminated by Citizens United.[46] In 2008, Floyd unveiled a new attack ad against Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, on the Fox News network, while also appearing as a “real estate investor” commenting on the mortgage fraud crisis.[47]

Opposition research and public opinion in the United States

The Atwater-Rove style drew sharp scrutiny and criticism, and opened a new venue for study of executive management style, as scholars sought to examine to what extent incumbent politicians who used “black ops” to gain power would also deploy the same staff and techniques to maintain power and control once they are elected. The public now weighs a candidate or organization’s viability by how they conduct their campaigns, and to many voters, a negative campaign means that if elected, that candidate will possibly transfer “oppo” research into retaliatory operations against dissenters.

  • Polls conducted by Pew in the days after the 2004 presidential election indicated that 72% of voters perceived a dramatic increase in negative campaign tactics, and that only about 30% felt they were justified.[48]
  • In the race for the 2008 presidency, opinion polls seem to indicate that negative campaigns based on opposition research-based disinformation tends to backfire as it causes voters to “tune out” of election media coverage. Poll results from the Pew Charitable Trust in April 2008 show that 50% of voters thought presidential campaigning is “too negative,” up from 28% in February of 2008.[49]
  • In the 2006 election cycle, a Virginia senator, George Allen, was unseated because of videotape of the senator calling a videographer/opposition researcher as “macaca” or monkey. The name was considered to be an ethnic slur, and Allen’s campaign could not overcome the damage when the incident was broadcast widely in mainstream media and on the internet.[50]

Political infighting and Opposition Research

  • In the spring of 2007, Roger Stone, a political consultant in the employ of New York state senator Joseph Bruno, was forced to resign after leaving threatening phone messages on the answering machine of the 85-year-old father of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, alleging that Spitzer’s campaign finances were conducted improperly.[51] In November of that same year, Stone sent a letter to the FBI detailing Spitzer’s sexual preferences with prostitutes and sexual props, right down to his black calf-length socks.[52] Stone was considered to be an authoritative source because he frequented the same prostitutes as a client himself. A subsequent Justice Department investigation produced evidence that ultimately led to Spitzer’s resignation as governor. Joseph Bruno, Stone’s client, has been a longtime political enemy of Eliot Spitzer.

Opposition Research and Activism

  • Opposition research is a necessary component of “grassroots” activist groups. Research on corporate or poltical opponents may enable activist groups to target neighborhoods from which to increase their numbers, to refine their focus or “target,” to pinpoint the target’s vulnerabilities, to reveal hidden sources of funding or little-known connections, to investigate scare tactics, and to augment a legislative initiative.[53]

In athletics


  • “When they do surveys on the most reviled professions, lawyers, HMO managers, advertisers, members of Congress, used car salesmen and Barry Bonds’ nutritionist top the list. It’s always been my opinion, though, that the only reason opposition researchers aren’t on that list is that few people know we exist.” Jason Stanford, December 4, 2007[54]
  • “Opposition research, if it’s true, is probably 5 or 10 times more effective than paid media.” James Pinkerton quoted in Center for Public Integrity’s “Dirty Politics,”
  • “Research is a fundamental point. We think of ourselves as the creators of the ammunition in a war. Research digs up the ammunition. We make the bullets… It’s an amazing thing when you have topline producers and reporters calling you and saying ‘we trust you…we need your stuff.'” (Tim Griffin, in Digging the Dirt, BBC documentary on opposition research, 2000.)
  • “When oppo goes transparent, it might shrivel.” (Jonathan Alter, Newsweek, November 13, 2007)
  • “Being a nerd helps; if you hunger to work with people, look elsewhere.” (Gary Maloney, Campaigns & Elections, 2006)
  • “What’s garbage today is gold years later… the trick is to catalog it, retrieve it, and connect the dots.” (Director of Intelligence Project, Southern Poverty Law Center, U.S. News & World Report, September 6, 1999.)
  • “Candidates will be in a fund raising frenzy to try and raise enough cash to cover the television outlets in multiple population centers of all those states. They will be spending a great deal of time in studios preparing positive life story spots with appeal to each such population center. They will be spending more time in studios with attack ads on the other candidates based on the findings of continuing “opposition research.” Who got drunk? Who used drugs? Who had an affair? Who has been married multiple times and what do their exes have to say about them? Who has made a bunch of money in some quick turnaround deal that can be made to look fishy? Who has had an illegal alien mow their lawn or watch their kids, or clean their house, etc. No candidate will have enough time to present themselves to those population centers as a “real” human being with “real” ideas and a “real” set of core beliefs and principles that resonate with those voters. Some, probably most, will come across as opportunistic attack dogs who simply want the power of the presidency by persuading voters to simply deny the prize to everyone else.” Jerry Fox, “The Primary Symptom is Insanity,” Townhall.com, February 14, 2007.
  • “[Y]ou have to plant a lot of seeds in the spring and the summer so you can capitalize on it. If you have a story that’s going to hit in the middle of September, middle of October, what you really want to do is build several things that come off of the story so that it’s not just a one-day hit. If the story runs on the front page of a major paper, you also want to set it up so that it hits some of the television morning shows, and from there you want to have surrogates out the next day, so that you get a second hit. On the third day, ideally, you have some additional information you’ve been holding back that you can feed into it, another round of stories. On the fourth or fifth day you try to hold your candidate back from saying anything, so that eventually, when he does say something about the issue, you get another round of stories. If you do it all effectively, you can basically wipe out a guy’s entire week. He’ll spend the entire week responding to a story that showed up on a Monday.” Chris Lehane, quoted in Atlantic Monthly, June 2004.


  1. ^ Stephanie Mencimer, “Dirty Politics,” Center for Public Integrity, May 30, 2008.
  2. ^ Lee Staples, Roots to Power: A Manual for Grassroots Organizing, 2nd ed. (Westbury, CT: Praeger, 2003).
  3. ^ Avni Patel, “‘Tis the Season of Election Dirty Tricks: Scaring Student Voters,” ABC News, Oct. 6, 2008.
  4. ^ Victor Kamber, Poison Politics, New York: Insight Books, 1997, p.9.
  5. ^ Kamber, p.11.
  6. ^ James M. Naughton, “A Republican Spy in Muskie’s Ranks Is Unmasked and Sent Out into the Cold, New York Times, December 17, 1971, p. 26.
  7. ^ Stephanie Mencimer, “Dirty Politics,” Center for Public Integrity, May 30, 2008.
  8. ^ John J. Pitney, The Art of Political Warfare, Norman OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000, pp. 120-139.
  9. ^ Pitney, p. 108.
  10. ^ Stephanie Menicimer, “Dirty Politics,” Center for Public Integrity, May 30, 2006.
  11. ^ Matthew Cooper, Gloria Borger, and Michael Barone, “Dirty Tricks? Cheap Shots? Says Who?” U.S. News & World Report, July 6, 1992, p. 41.
  12. ^ Ben Smith and John Bresnehan, “Documents Detail Palin’s Political Life, Politico.com, Sept. 2, 2008.
  13. ^ Megan McArdle, “Prime Time for Oppo Dumps,” Atlantic Monthly, March 31, 2008; Michael Scherer, “The Matt Drudge Primary: How Professional Political Operatives Secretly Control the News You Read About the 2008 Campaign,” Salon.com, May 14, 2007.
  14. ^ \Remini, Robert Vincent (2001). The Life of Andrew Jackson. HarperCollins, 17–25.
  15. ^ Quoted in Harold Holzer, ed. The Lincoln-Douglas Debates, New York: HarperCollins, 1994, p. 17.
  16. ^ Associated Press, “Special Prosecutor Sought in Briefing Book Case,” October 26, 1983.
  17. ^ Brandon Rottinghaus, et al, “Debategate,” Presidential Studies Quarterly, September 1, 2006.
  18. ^ Ed Magnuson, “I Never Knew There Was Such a Thing,” Time, July 11, 1983.
  19. ^ George Will, “Briefing Book Baloney,” Washington Post, August 11, 2005; Page A23
  20. ^ Tali Mendelburg, The Race Card, Princeton University Press, 2004, p. 141.
  21. ^ “A Beloved Mug Shot For the Bush Forces,” New York Times, Oct.3, 1988, p. A22.
  22. ^ John Joseph Brady, Bad Boy: The Life and Politics of Lee Atwater (1997), ISBN 0-201-62733-7.
  23. ^ Dennis Johnson, No Place for Amateurs, 2nd edition. New York: Routlege, Taylor, and Francis Group, 2007, p. 78.
  24. ^ Jeffrey Toobin, Too Close to Call,
  25. ^ Joshua Green, “Playing Dirty,” The Atlantic Monthly, June 2004
  26. ^ “Karl Rove’s Black Love Child,” The Nation, January 14, 2008
  27. ^ Richard H. Davis, “The Anatomy of a Smear Campaign,” Boston Globe, March 21, 2004.
  28. ^ “Dean Steps Down as DNC Chair,” New York Times, November 10, 2008.
  29. ^ Franklin Roosevelt, quoted in John J. Pitney, The Art of Political Warfare, p. 109.
  30. ^ Pitney, p. 126.
  31. ^ “List of White House ‘Enemies’ and Memo Submitted by Dean to the Ervin Committee,” Facts on File, Watergate and the White House, vol. 1, pages 96-97.
  32. ^ ref>http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/newswar/preview/documents.html
  33. ^ J.M Bayer & J. Rodota, “Computerized Opposition Research,” Campaigns & Elections, 6, p. 26-27.
  34. ^ George Lardner Jr. and Susan Schmidt, “Livingstone Resigns, Denying Ill Intent,” Washington Post, Thursday, June 27, 1996; Page A01.
  35. ^ Walter Pincus, “Pentagon Will Review Database on U.S. Citizens, Washington Post, December 15, 2001.
  36. ^ Ben Smith, Politico.com, February 7, 2009.
  37. ^ “The Washington Prowler,” The American Spectator, March 2, 2009, 6:09 a.m.
  38. ^ Michael Boudin, “Justice Brandeis: The Confirmation Struggle and the Zionist Movement,” Yale Law Journal, Vo. 85(no. 4) March 1976, pp. 591-596.
  39. ^ Charlie Savage, “Guess Who’s Doing Opposition Research Against Harriet Miers?” Boston Globe, 2005.
  40. ^ Tom Zeller, Jr., “Beware Your Trail of Digital Fingerprints,” New York Times, November, 7, 2005.
  41. ^ Erik, Schellzig (Associated Press) “Opposition Research is ‘Dark Art’ for Campaigns,” Jackson, Tennessee, Sun, August 31, 2008.
  42. ^ CBS Evening News, 7/13/92
  43. ^ Thomas Ferraro, “Bush Files FEC Complaint Against ‘Willie Horton’ Creator,” United Press International,July 15, 1992.
  44. ^ Dennis W. Johnson, No Place for Amateurs, New York: Routlege,Taylor & Francis, 2007,p. 83-84.
  45. ^ Anthony Lewis, “Abroad at Home; Willie Horton Redux, New York Times, February 26, 2000.
  46. ^ Howard Kurtz, “Muckrakers and the Mudslinger: Should Media Treat Floyd Brown Seriously?” Washington Post, April 19, 1994.
  47. ^ Neil Cavuto and Your World, Fox News, April 1, 2008; April 23, 2008.
  48. ^ Pew Research Center, “Voters Liked Campaign 2004, But Too Much Mudslinging,” November 11, 2004
  49. ^ Pew Research Center for People and the Press, “More Americans View Campaign as Too Negative,” http://www.pew.org, April 24, 2008.
  50. ^ Jack Bass, “In Dixie, Signs of a Rising Biracial Politics, New York Times, May 11, 2008.
  51. ^ New York Times, “Political Consultant Resigns After Allegations of Threatening Spitzer’s Father,” April 23, 2007, p. 1.
  52. ^ Murray Weiss, “Two on One” vs. Spitzer,” New York Post, April 24, 2008, p. 1.
  53. ^ Lee Staples, Roots to Power: A Manual for Grassroots Organizing, 2nd ed. Westbury, CT: Praeger, 2003, pp. 227, passim.
  54. ^ Jason Stanford, “The Dirt: Opposition Research,” The Texas Blue, December 4, 2007.

See also

External links

  • The Atlantic- Playing Dirty
  • [1]Sample candidate dossier A
  • [2]Sample candidate dossier B
  • [3]Sample candidate dossier (self-conducted)
  • [4]Digging the Dirt, BBC documentary about 2000 presidential race and Hillary Clinton senatorial race
  • [5]Do-It-Yourself site for Opposition Research
  • [6]American Association of Political Consultants Code of Ethics
  • [7]Campaigns & Elections, political research journal
  • [8] opposition researcher’s blog that discusses Sun Tzu’s Art of War
  • [9] Youtube footage of Karl Rove and the “state of the art” opposition research data storage system in the 1972 Nixon re-election campaign
  • [10] sample of opposition research released by the Obama 2008 campaign
  • [11] Willie Horton ad, 1988.
  • [12]opposition researcher’s professional blog
  • [13] “Dirty Politics,” a 4-part series originally podcast by Center for Public Integrity; includes profile of an opposition research operative




From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Federal Bureau of Investigation
Common name Federal Bureau of Investigation
Abbreviation FBI
Seal of the Federal Bureau of Investigation

COINTELPRO (an acronym for Counter Intelligence Program) was a series of covert and often illegal projects conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation aimed at investigating and disrupting dissident political organizations within the United States. The FBI used covert operations from its inception, however, the formal COINTELPRO operations took place between 1956 and 1971.[2] The FBI motivation at the time was “protecting national security, preventing violence, and maintaining the existing social and political order.”

According to FBI records, 85% of COINTELPRO resources were expended on infiltrating, disrupting, marginalizing, and/or subverting groups suspected of being subversive,[3] such as communist and socialist organizations; the women’s rights movement; people suspected of building a “coalition of militant black nationalist groups” ranging from the Black Panther Party and Republic of New Afrika to “those in the non-violent civil rights movement” such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and others associated with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Congress of Racial Equality, and other civil rights groups; a broad range of organizations labelled “New Left“, including Students for a Democratic Society, the National Lawyers Guild, the Weathermen, almost all groups protesting the Vietnam War, and even individual student demonstrators with no group affiliation; and nationalist groups such as those “seeking independence for Puerto Rico.” The other 15% of COINTELPRO resources were expended to marginalize and subvert “white hate groups,” including the Ku Klux Klan and National States’ Rights Party. [4]

The directives governing COINTELPRO were issued by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who ordered FBI agents to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” the activities of these movements and their leaders.[5][6]



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COINTELPRO began in 1956 and was designed to “increase factionalism, cause disruption and win defections” inside the Communist Party U.S.A. (CPUSA). However, the program was soon enlarged to include disruption of the Socialist Workers Party (1961), the Ku Klux Klan (1964), the Nation of Islam, the Black Panther Party (1967), and the entire New Left socio-political movement, which included antiwar, community, and religious groups (1968).It also included groups Mexican activist groups and groups seeking Independence for Puerto Rico such as:the Nationalist Party,Movimiento Pro Independencia,FUPI and the Young Lords. A later investigation by the Senate’s Church Committee (see below) stated that “COINTELPRO began in 1956, in part because of frustration with Supreme Court rulings limiting the Government’s power to proceed overtly against dissident groups…”[7] Congress and several court cases[8] later concluded that the COINTELPRO operations against communist and socialist groups exceeded statutory limits on FBI activity and violated Constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and association.

The program was secret until 1971, when an FBI field office in Media, PA was burglarized by a group of left-wing radicals calling themselves the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI. Several dossiers of files were taken and the information passed to news agencies, many of which initially refused to publish the information. Within the year, Director Hoover declared that the centralized COINTELPRO was over, and that all future counterintelligence operations would be handled on a case-by-case basis.[9]

Further documents were revealed in the course of separate lawsuits filed against the FBI by NBC correspondent Carl Stern, the Socialist Workers Party, and a number of other groups. A major investigation was launched in 1976 by the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities of the United States Senate, commonly referred to as the “Church Committee” for its chairman, Senator Frank Church of Idaho. However, millions of pages of documents remain unreleased, and many released documents are entirely censored.

In the Final Report of the Select Committee COINTELPRO was castigated in no uncertain terms:

“Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic society even if all of the targets had been involved in violent activity, but COINTELPRO went far beyond that…the Bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the national security and deter violence.”[7]

The Church Committee documented a history of FBI directors’ using the agency for purposes of political repression as far back as World War I, through the 1920s, when they were charged with rounding up “anarchists and revolutionaries” for deportation, and then building from 1936 through 1976.

Range of targets

In an interview with the BBC‘s Andrew Marr, MIT professor of linguistics and political activist Noam Chomsky spoke about the purpose and the targets of COINTELPRO saying, “COINTELPRO was a program of subversion carried out not by a couple of petty crooks but by the national political police, the FBI, under four administrations…by the time it got through, I won’t run through the whole story, it was aimed at the entire new left, at the women’s movement, at the whole black movement, it was extremely broad. Its actions went as far as political assassination.” [10]

According to the Church Committee:

While the declared purposes of these programs were to protect the “national security” or prevent violence, Bureau witnesses admit that many of the targets were nonviolent and most had no connections with a foreign power. Indeed, nonviolent organizations and individuals were targeted because the Bureau believed they represented a “potential” for violence — and nonviolent citizens who were against the war in Vietnam were targeted because they gave “aid and comfort” to violent demonstrators by lending respectability to their cause.
The imprecision of the targeting is demonstrated by the inability of the Bureau to define the subjects of the programs. The Black Nationalist program, according to its supervisor, included “a great number of organizations that you might not today characterize as black nationalist but which were in fact primarily black.” Thus, the nonviolent Southern Christian Leadership Conference was labeled as a Black Nationalist-“Hate Group.”
Furthermore, the actual targets were chosen from a far broader group than the titles of the programs would imply. The CPUSA program targeted not only Communist Party members but also sponsors of the National Committee to Abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee and civil rights leaders allegedly under Communist influence or deemed to be not sufficiently “anti-Communist”. The Socialist Workers Party program included non-SWP sponsors of antiwar demonstrations which were cosponsored by the SWP or the Young Socialist Alliance, its youth group. The Black Nationalist program targeted a range of organizations from the Panthers to SNCC to the peaceful Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and included every Black Student Union and many other black student groups. New Left targets ranged from the SDS to the InterUniversity Committee for Debate on Foreign Policy, from Antioch College (“vanguard of the New Left”) to the New Mexico Free University and other “alternate” schools, and from underground newspapers to students’ protesting university censorship of a student publication by carrying signs with four-letter words on them.

Examples of illegal surveillance contained in the Church Committee report:[11]

— President Roosevelt asked the FBI to put in its files the names of citizens sending telegrams to the White House opposing his “national defense” policy and supporting Col. Charles Lindbergh.

— President Truman received inside information on a former Roosevelt aide’s efforts to influence his appointments, labor union negotiating plans, and the publishing plans of journalists.

— The Kennedy Administration had the FBI wiretap a Congressional staff member , three executive officials, a lobbyist, and a Washington law firm. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy received the fruits of an FBI “tap” on Martin Luther King, Jr. and a “bug” on a Congressman, both of which yielded information of a political nature.

— President Johnson asked the FBI to conduct “name checks” of his critics and members of the staff of his 1964 opponent, Senator Barry Goldwater. He also requested purely political intelligence on his critics in the Senate, and received extensive intelligence reports on political activity at the 1964 Democratic Convention from FBI electronic surveillance.

The Cointelpro documents disclose numerous cases of the FBI’s intentions to stop the mass protest against the Vietnam War. Many techniques were used to accomplish the assignment. “These included promoting splits among antiwar forces, encouraging red-baiting of socialists, and pushing violent confrontations as an alternative to massive, peaceful demonstrations.” One 1966 Cointelpro operation attempted to redirect the Socialist Workers Party from their pledge of support for the antiwar movement.[12]

The FBI claims that it no longer undertakes COINTELPRO or COINTELPRO-like operations. However, critics claim that agency programs in the spirit of COINTELPRO targeted groups like the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador,[13] the American Indian Movement,[2][14] Earth First![15], the White Separatist Movement[16], and the Anti-Globalization Movement.[citation needed]


According to attorney Brian Glick in his book War at Home, the FBI used four main methods during COINTELPRO:

  1. Infiltration: Agents and informers did not merely spy on political activists. Their main purpose was to discredit and disrupt. Their very presence served to undermine trust and scare off potential supporters. The FBI and police exploited this fear to smear genuine activists as agents.
  2. Psychological Warfare From the Outside: The FBI and police used myriad other “dirty tricks” to undermine progressive movements. They planted false media stories and published bogus leaflets and other publications in the name of targeted groups. They forged correspondence, sent anonymous letters, and made anonymous telephone calls. They spread misinformation about meetings and events, set up pseudo movement groups run by government agents, and manipulated or strong-armed parents, employers, landlords, school officials and others to cause trouble for activists.
  3. Harassment Through the Legal System: The FBI and police abused the legal system to harass dissidents and make them appear to be criminals. Officers of the law gave perjured testimony and presented fabricated evidence as a pretext for false arrests and wrongful imprisonment. They discriminatorily enforced tax laws and other government regulations and used conspicuous surveillance, “investigative” interviews, and grand jury subpoenas in an effort to intimidate activists and silence their supporters.
  4. Extralegal Force and Violence: The FBI and police threatened, instigated, and themselves conducted break-ins, vandalism, assaults, and beatings. The object was to frighten dissidents and disrupt their movements. In the case of radical Black and Puerto Rican activists (and later Native Americans), these attacks—including political assassinations[who?] — were so extensive, vicious, and calculated that they can accurately be termed a form of official “terrorism”.

The FBI also conducted more than 200 “black bag jobs“,[17][18] which were warrantless surreptitious entries, against the targeted groups and their members.[19]

In 1969 the FBI special agent in San Francisco wrote Hoover that his investigation of the Black Panther Party (BPP) revealed that in his city, at least, the Black nationalists were primarily feeding breakfast to children. Hoover fired back a memo implying the career ambitions of the agent were directly related to his supplying evidence to support Hoover’s view that the BPP was “a violence-prone organization seeking to overthrow the Government by revolutionary means”.[20]

Hoover was willing to use false claims to attack his political enemies. In one memo he wrote: “Purpose of counterintelligence action is to disrupt the BPP and it is immaterial whether facts exist to substantiate the charge.”[21]

In one particularly controversial 1965 incident, civil rights worker Viola Liuzzo was murdered by Ku Klux Klansmen who gave chase and fired shots into her car after noticing that her passenger was a young black man; one of the Klansmen was acknowledged FBI informant Gary Thomas Rowe.[22][23] Afterward COINTELPRO spread false rumors that Liuzzo was a member of the Communist Party and abandoned her children to have sexual relationships with African Americans involved in the civil rights movement.[24][25][26] [27] FBI informant Rowe has also been implicated in some of the most violent crimes of the 1960s civil rights era, including attacks on the Freedom Riders and the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.[28] In another instance in San Diego the FBI financed, armed, and controlled an extreme right-wing group of former Minutemen, transforming it into a group called the Secret Army Organization which targeted groups, activists, and leaders involved in the ant-War Movement for both intimidation and violent acts.[29][30][31][32]

Hoover ordered preemptive action….”to pinpoint potential troublemakers and neutralize them before they exercise their potential for violence.”[5] [33]

Illegal surveillance

The Final report of the Church Committee concluded:

“Too many people have been spied upon by too many Government agencies and too much information has been collected. The Government has often undertaken the secret surveillance of citizens on the basis of their political beliefs, even when those beliefs posed no threat of violence or illegal acts on behalf of a hostile foreign power. The Government, operating primarily through secret informants, but also using other intrusive techniques such as wiretaps, microphone “bugs”, surreptitious mail opening, and break-ins, has swept in vast amounts of information about the personal lives, views, and associations of American citizens. Investigations of groups deemed potentially dangerous — and even of groups suspected of associating with potentially dangerous organizations — have continued for decades, despite the fact that those groups did not engage in unlawful activity. Groups and individuals have been harassed and disrupted because of their political views and their lifestyles. Investigations have been based upon vague standards whose breadth made excessive collection inevitable. Unsavory and vicious tactics have been employed — including anonymous attempts to break up marriages, disrupt meetings, ostracize persons from their professions, and provoke target groups into rivalries that might result in deaths. Intelligence agencies have served the political and personal objectives of presidents and other high officials. While the agencies often committed excesses in response to pressure from high officials in the Executive branch and Congress, they also occasionally initiated improper activities and then concealed them from officials whom they had a duty to inform.
Governmental officials — including those whose principal duty is to enforce the law –have violated or ignored the law over long periods of time and have advocated and defended their right to break the law.
The Constitutional system of checks and balances has not adequately controlled intelligence activities. Until recently the Executive branch has neither delineated the scope of permissible activities nor established procedures for supervising intelligence agencies. Congress has failed to exercise sufficient oversight, seldom questioning the use to which its appropriations were being put. Most domestic intelligence issues have not reached the courts, and in those cases when they have reached the courts, the judiciary has been reluctant to grapple with them.”[34][35]

Reports that COINTELPRO tactics continue

While COINTELPRO was officially terminated in April 1971, suspicions persist that the program’s tactics continued informally.[36][37] Critics have suggested that subsequent FBI actions indicate that post-COINTELPRO reforms in the agency did not succeed in ending the program’s tactics.[38] The Associated Press reported in November 2008 that documents released under the FOIA reportedly show that the FBI tracked the late Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author David Halberstam for more than two decades.[39] A review by The Washington Post shows that Maryland activists were wrongly labeled as terrorists in state and federal databases by state police’s Homeland Security and Intelligence Division from 2005 to at least early 2007. [40]

“Counterterrorism” guidelines implemented during the Reagan administration have been described as undercutting these reforms, allowing a return to earlier tactics.[41] Some radical groups accuse factional opponents of being FBI informants or assume the FBI is infiltrating the movement.[42]

Several authors have accused the FBI of continuing to deploy COINTELPRO-like tactics against radical groups after the official COINTELPRO operations were ended. Several authors have suggested the American Indian Movement (AIM) has been a target of such operations.

A few authors go further and allege that the federal government intended to acquire uranium deposits on the Lakota tribe’s reservation land, and that this motivated a larger government conspiracy against AIM activists on the Pine Ridge reservation.[2][14][43][44][45] Others believe COINTELPRO continues and similar actions are being taken against activist groups.[45][46][47]

Caroline Woidat argued that with respect to Native Americans, COINTELPRO should be understood within a historical context in which “Native Americans have been viewed and have viewed the world themselves through the lens of conspiracy theory.”[48]

Other authors note that while there are conspiracy theories related to COINTELPRO, the issue of ongoing government surveillance and repression is nonetheless real.[49]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d “Quick Facts”. Federal Bureau of Investigation. http://www.fbi.gov/quickfacts.htm. Retrieved on 2008-08-07.
  2. ^ a b c Churchill, Ward, and Jim Vander Wall, (1990), The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI’s Secret Wars Against Domestic Dissent, Boston: South End Press, pp. xii, 303.
  3. ^ Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, THE FBI, Yale University Press, 2008, p. 189
  4. ^ Various Church Committee reports reproduced online at ICDC: Final Report, 2A; Final Report,2Cb; Final Report, 3A; Final Report, 3G. Various COINTELPRO documents reproduced online at ICDC: CPUSA; SWP; Black Nationalist; White Hate; New Left; Puerto Rico.
  5. ^ a b COINTELPRO Revisited – Spying & Disruption – IN BLACK AND WHITE: THE F.B.I. PAPERS
  6. ^ A Huey P. Newton Story – Actions – COINTELPRO“. PBS. http://www.pbs.org/hueypnewton/actions/actions_cointelpro.html. Retrieved on 2008-06-23.
  7. ^ a b “Supplementary Detailed Staff Reports on Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans”. United States Senate. http://www.icdc.com/~paulwolf/cointelpro/churchfinalreportIIIa.htm. Retrieved on 2006-08-14.
  8. ^ See, for example, Hobson v. Wilson, 737 F.2d 1 (1984); Rugiero v. U.S. Dept. of Justice, 257 F.3d 534, 546 (2001).
  9. ^ A Short History of FBI COINTELPRO, retrieved July 13, 2007.
  10. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oG24vg8js4o&feature=related
  11. ^ http://www.icdc.com/~paulwolf/cointelpro/churchfinalreportIIa.htm
  12. ^ Blackstock, Nelson. COINTELPRO: The FBI’s Secret War on Political Freedom.(1975). page 111. Pathfinder, New York.
  13. ^ Gelbspan, Ross, (1991), Break-Ins, Death Threats, and the FBI: The Covert War Against the Central America Movement, Boston: South End Press.
  14. ^ a b Ward Churchill and James Vander Wall, Agents of Repression: The FBI’s Secret Wars against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement, 1988, Boston, South End Press.
  15. ^ Karen Pickett, “Earth First! Takes the FBI to Court: Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney’s Case Heard after 12 Years,” Earth First Journal, no date.
  16. ^ The Railroading of Matt Hale by Edgar J. Steele
  17. ^ Alexander Cockburn; Jeffrey St. Clair (1998). Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press. Verso. pp. 69. ISBN 1859841392. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=s5qIj_h_PtkC&printsec=frontcover.
  18. ^ FBI document, 19 July 1966, DeLoach to Sullivan re: “Black Bag” Jobs.
  19. ^ http://www.icdc.com/~paulwolf/cointelpro/churchfinalreportIIIf.htm, retrieved August 14, 2005.
  20. ^ FBI document, 27 May 1969, Director FBI to SAC San Francisco, available at the FBI reading room
  21. ^ FBI document, 16 September 1970, Director FBI to SAC’s in Baltimore, Detroit, Los Angeles, New Haven, San Francisco, and Washington Field Office available at the FBI reading room
  22. ^ Gary May, The Informant: The FBI, the Klu Klux Klan, and the Murder of Viola Luzzo, Yale University Press, 2005
  23. ^ http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/30/AR2005063001422_pf.html
  24. ^ Joanne Giannino. “Viola Liuzzo”. Dictionary of Unitarian & Universalist Biography. http://www25-temp.uua.org/uuhs/duub/articles/violaliuzzo.html. Retrieved on 2008-09-29.
  25. ^ Kay Houston. “The Detroit housewife who moved a nation toward racial justice”. The Detroit News, Rearview Mirror. http://web.archive.org/web/19990427180231/http://www.detroitnews.com/history/viola/viola.htm.
  26. ^ Mary Stanton, FROM SELMA TO SORROW: The Life and Death of Viola Liuzzo, University of Georgia Press, 2000
  27. ^ http://www.plantingseedsmedia.com/violaliuzzo.html
  28. ^ Gary May, The Informant: The FBI, the Klu Klux Klan, and the Murder of Viola Luzzo, Yale University Press, 2005
  29. ^ http://www.chomsky.info/books/responsibility01.htm
  30. ^ http://osdir.com/ml/culture.discuss.cia-drugs/2005-10/msg00404.html
  31. ^ http://crca.ucsd.edu/~esisco/friendlyfire/A1972.html
  32. ^ http://www.start.umd.edu/data/tops/terrorist_organization_profile.asp?id=4258
  33. ^ http://www.opednews.com/articles/J-Edgar-Hoover-personally-by-Michael-Richardson-090123-327.html
  34. ^ “Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans Book II, Final Report of the Select Committee to Study Governmmental Operations with respect to Intelligence Activities United States Senate (Church Committee)”. United States Senate. http://www.icdc.com/~paulwolf/cointelpro/churchfinalreportIIa.htm. Retrieved on May 11 2006.
  35. ^ “Tapped Out Why Congress won’t get through to the NSA.”. Slate.com. http://www.slate.com/id/2135325/. Retrieved on May 11 2006.
  36. ^ David Cunningham. There’s Something Happening Here: The New Left, the Klan, and FBI. University of California Press, 2005: “However, strong suspicions lingered that the program’s tactics were sustained on a less formal basis—suspicions sometimes furthered by agents themselves, who periodically claimed that counterintelligence activities were continuing, though in a manner undocumented within Bureau files.”; Hobson v. Brennan, 646 F.Supp. 884 (D.D.C.,1986)
  37. ^ Bud Schultz, Ruth Schultz. The Price of Dissent: Testimonies to Political Repression in America. University of California Press, 2001: “Although the FBI officially discontinued COINTELPRO immediately after the Pennsylvania disclosures “for security reasons,” when pressed by the Senate committee, the bureau acknowledged two new instances of “Cointelpro-type” operations. The committee was left to discover a third, apparently illegal operation on its own.”
  38. ^ Athan G. Theoharis, et al. The FBI: A Comprehensive Reference Guide. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999: “More recent controversies have focused on the adequacy of recent restrictions on the Bureau’s domestic intelligence operations.. Disclosures of the 1970s that FBI agents continued to conduct break-ins, and of the 1980s that the FBI targeted CISPES, again brought forth accusations of FBI abuses of power — and raised questions of whether reforms of the 1970s had successfully exorcised the ghost of FBI Director Hoover.”
  39. ^ SEE: Associated Press. FBI tracked journalist for over 20 years. Toronto Star. Nov 07, 2008. http://www.thestar.com/News/World/article/533203 Retrieved November 23, 2008. SEE: Associated Press. Report: FBI kept file on writer David Halberstam. November 07, 2008. http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5gHBk0Wtol8FN8SMpFQIYL5CPxXfwD94AF32O0 Retrieved November 23, 2008. QUOTE: “The FBI tracked the late Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author David Halberstam for more than two decades, newly released documents show
  40. ^ SEE: “Many Groups Spied Upon In Md. Were Nonviolent”, by Lisa Rein and Josh White. Washington Post. Nov 19, 2008; Page B01. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/18/AR2008111803487.html Retrieved November 28, 2008.
  41. ^ Bud Schultz, Ruth Schultz. The Price of Dissent: Testimonies to Political Repression in America. University of California Press, 2001: : “The problem persists after Hoover….”The record before this court,” Federal Magistrate Joan Lefkow stated in 1991, “shows that despite regulations, orders and consent decrees prohibiting such activities, the FBI had continued to collect information concerning only the exercise of free speech.”
  42. ^ Mike Mosedale, “Bury My Heart,” City Pages, Volume 21 – Issue 1002 – Cover Story – February 16, 2000
  43. ^ Weyler, Rex. Blood of the Land: The Government and Corporate War Against First Nations.
  44. ^ Matthiessen, Peter, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, 1980, Viking.
  45. ^ a b Woidat, Caroline M. The Truth Is on the Reservation: American Indians and Conspiracy Culture, The Journal of American Culture 29 (4), 2006. Pages 454–467
  46. ^ McQuinn, Jason. “Conspiracy Theory vs Alternative Journalism”, Alternative Press Review, Vol. 2, No. 3, Winter 1996
  47. ^ Horowitz, David. Johnnie’s Other O.J., September 1, 1997. FrontPageMagazine.com.
  48. ^ Woidat, Caroline M. The Truth Is on the Reservation: American Indians and Conspiracy Culture, The Journal of American Culture 29 (4), 2006. Pages 454–467
  49. ^ Chip Berlet, “The X-Files Movie: Facilitating Fanciful Fun, or Fueling Fear and Fascism? Conspiracy Theories for Fun, Not for False Prophets,” 1998, Political Research Associates, http://www.publiceye.org/conspire/x-files.html; Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons, 1998, “One key to litigating against government prosecution of dissidents: Understanding the underlying assumptions,” Parts 1 and 2, Police Misconduct and Civil Rights Law Report (West Group), 5 (13), (January–February): 145–153; and 5 (14), (March–April): 157–162. Also available in revised form online: [1].

Further reading


  • Blackstock, Nelson (1988). Cointelpro: The FBI’s Secret War on Political Freedom. Pathfinder Press. ISBN 0-87348-877-6.
  • Carson, Clayborne; Gallen, David, editors (1991). Malcolm X: The FBI File. Carroll & Graf Publishers. ISBN 0-88184-758-5.
  • Churchill, Ward; Vander Wall, Jim (2001). The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI’s Secret Wars Against Dissent in the United States. South End Press. ISBN 0-89608-648-8.
  • Cunningham, David (2004). There’s Something Happening Here: The New Left, The Klan, and FBI Counterintelligence. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-23997-0.
  • Davis, James Kirkpatrick (1997). Assault on the Left. Praeger Trade. ISBN 0-275-95455-2.
  • Garrow, David (2006). The FBI and Martin Luther King, Jr. (Revised ed.). Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-08731-4.
  • Glick, Brian (1989). War at Home: Covert Action Against U.S. Activists and What We Can Do About It. South End Press. ISBN 0-89608-349-7.
  • Halperin, Morton; Berman, Jerry; Borosage Robert; Marwick, Christine (1976). The Lawless State: The Crimes Of The U.S. Intelligence Agencies. ISBN 0-14-004386-1.
  • Olsen, Jack (2000). Last Man Standing: The Tragedy and Triumph of Geronimo Pratt. Doubleday. ISBN 0-38549-367-3.
  • Perkus, Cathy (1976). Cointelpro. Vintage.
  • Theoharis, Athan, Spying on Americans: Political Surveillance from Hoover to the Huston Plan (Temple University Press, 1978).


  • John Drabble, “The FBI, COINTELPRO-WHITE HATE and the Decline of Ku Klux Klan Organizations in Mississippi, 1964–1971”, Journal of Mississippi History, 66:4, (Winter 2004).
  • John Drabble, “The FBI, COINTELPRO-WHITE HATE and the Decline Ku Klux Klan Organizations in Alabama, 1964–1971”, Alabama Review, (January 2008).
  • John Drabble, “To Preserve the Domestic Tranquility:” The FBI, COINTELPRO-WHITE HATE, and Political Discourse, 1964–1971”, Journal of American Studies, 38:3 (August 2004): 297-328

U.S. Government reports

  • U.S. Congress. House. Committee on Internal Security. Hearings on Domestic Intelligence Operations for Internal Security Purposes. 93rd Cong., 2d sess, 1974.
  • U.S. Congress. House. Select Committee on Intelligence. Hearings on Domestic Intelligence Programs. 94th Cong., 1st sess, 1975.
  • U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Government Operations. Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Hearings on Riots, Civil and Criminal Disorders. 90th Cong., 1st sess. – 91st Cong. , 2d sess, 1967–1970.
  • U.S. Congress. Senate. Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities. Hearings — The National Security Agency and Fourth Amendment Rights. Vol. 6. 94th Cong., 1st sess, 1975.
  • U.S. Congress. Senate. Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities. Hearings — Federal Bureau of Investigation. Vol. 6. 94th Cong., 1st sess, 1975.
  • U.S. Congress. Senate. Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities. Final Report — Book II, Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans. 94th Cong., 2d sess, 1976.
  • U.S. Congress. Senate. Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities. Final Report — Book III, Supplementary Detailed Staff Reports on Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans. 94th Cong., 2d sess, 1976.

External links




Cynthia McKinney article regarding COINTELPRO on CounterPunch.

U.S. Government reports

Final Report of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities. United States Senate, 94th Congress, 2nd Session, April 26 (legislative day, April 14), 1976. [AKA “Church Committee Report”]. Archived on COINTELPRO sources website. Transcription and html by Paul Wolf. Retrieved April 19, 2005.

  • Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans, Book II
I. Introduction and Summary
II. The Growth of Domestic Intelligence: 1936 to 1976
III. Findings

(A) Violating and Ignoring the Law
(B) Overbreadth of Domestic Intelligence Activity
(C) Excessive Use of Intrusive Techniques
(D) Using Covert Action to Disrupt and Discredit Domestic Groups
(E) Political Abuse of Intelligence Information
(F) Inadequate Controls on Dissemination and Retention
(G) Deficiencies in Control and Accountability
IV. Conclusions and Recommendations
  • Supplementary Detailed Staff Reports, Book III



US Government At Work

US Government At Work


Information Awareness Office

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Information Awareness Office seal

The Information Awareness Office (IAO) was established by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in January 2002 to bring together several DARPA projects focused on applying information technology to counter asymmetric threats to national security. The IAO mission was to “imagine, develop, apply, integrate, demonstrate and transition information technologies, components and prototype, closed-loop, information systems that will counter asymmetric threats by achieving total information awareness“.

Following public criticism that the development and deployment of these technologies could potentially lead to a mass surveillance system, the IAO was defunded by Congress in 2003, although several of the projects run under IAO have continued under different funding.[1][2]



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[edit] History

Diagram of Total Information Awareness system, taken from official (decommissioned) Information Awareness Office website (click to enlarge)

The IAO was established after Admiral John Poindexter, former United States National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan and SAIC executive Brian Hicks approached the US Department of Defense with the idea for an information awareness program after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.[2]

Poindexter and Hicks had previously worked together on intelligence-technology programs for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. DARPA agreed to host the program and appointed Poindexter to run it in 2002

The IAO began funding research and development of the Total Information Awareness (TIA) Program in February 2003 but renamed the program the Terrorism Information Awareness Program in May that year after an adverse media reaction to the program’s implications for public surveillance. Although TIA was only one of several IAO projects, many critics and news reports conflated TIA with other related research projects of the IAO, with the result that TIA came in popular usage to stand for an entire subset of IAO programs.

The TIA program itself was the “systems-level” program of the IAO that intended to integrate information technologies into a prototype system to provide tools to better detect, classify, and identify potential foreign terrorists with the goal to increase the probability that authorized agencies of the United States could preempt adverse actions. As a systems-level program of programs, TIA’s goal was the creation of a “counterterrorism information architecture” that integrated technologies from other IAO programs (and elsewhere, as appropriate). The TIA program was researching, developing, and integrating technologies to virtually aggregate data, to follow subject-oriented link analysis, to develop descriptive and predictive models through data mining or human hypothesis, and to apply such models to additional datasets to identify terrorists and terrorist groups.

Among the other IAO programs that were intended to provide TIA with component data aggregation and automated analysis technologies were the Genisys, Genisys Privacy Protection, Evidence Extraction and Link Discovery, and Scalable Social Network Analysis programs.

On August 2, 2002, Dr. Poindexter gave a speech at DARPAtech 2002 entitled “Overview of the Information Awareness Office”[3] in which he described the TIA program.

In addition to the program itself, the involvement of Poindexter as director of the IAO also raised concerns among some, since he had been earlier convicted of lying to Congress and altering and destroying documents pertaining to the Iran-Contra Affair, although those convictions were later overturned on the grounds that the testimony used against him was protected.

On January 16, 2003, Senator Russ Feingold introduced legislation to suspend the activity of the IAO and the Total Information Awareness program pending a Congressional review of privacy issues involved.[4] A similar measure introduced by Senator Ron Wyden would have prohibited the IAO from operating within the United States unless specifically authorized to do so by Congress, and would have shut the IAO down entirely 60 days after passage unless either the Pentagon prepared a report to Congress assessing the impact of IAO activities on individual privacy and civil liberties or the President certified the program’s research as vital to national security interests. In February 2003, Congress passed legislation suspending activities of the IAO pending a Congressional report of the office’s activities (Consolidated Appropriations Resolution, 2003, No.108–7, Division M, §111(b) [signed Feb. 20, 2003]).

In response to this legislation, DARPA provided Congress on May 20, 2003 with a report on its activities.[5] In this report, IAO changed the name of the program to the Terrorism Information Awareness Program and emphasized that the program was not designed to compile dossiers on US citizens, but rather to research and develop the tools that would allow authorized agencies to gather information on terrorist networks. Despite the name change and these assurances, the critics continued to see the system as prone to potential misuse or abuse.

As a result House and Senate negotiators moved to prohibit further funding for the TIA program by adding provisions to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2004[6] (signed into law by President Bush on October 1, 2003). Further, the Joint Explanatory Statement included in the conference committee report specifically directed that the IAO as program manager for TIA be terminated immediately.[7]

[edit] IAO research

IAO research was conducted along five major investigative paths: secure collaboration problem solving; structured discovery; link and group understanding; context aware visualization; and decision making with corporate memory.

Among the IAO projects were:

[edit] Genisys

Genisys aimed at developing technologies which would enable “ultra-large, all-source information repositories”.[8]

Vast amounts of information were going to be collected and analyzed, and the available database technology at the time was insufficient for storing and organizing such vast quantities of data. So they developed techniques for virtual data aggregation in order to support effective analysis across heterogeneous databases, as well as unstructured public data sources, such as the World Wide Web. “Effective analysis across heterogenous databases” means the ability to take things from databases which are designed to store different types of data — such as a a database containing criminal records, a phone call database and a foreign intelligence database. The World Wide Web is considered an “unstructured public data source” because it is publicly accessible and contains many different types of data — such as blogs, emails, records of visits to web sites, etc — all of which need to be analyzed and stored efficiently.[8]

Another goal was to develop “a large, distributed system architecture for managing the huge volume of raw data input, analysis results, and feedback, that will result in a simpler, more flexible data store that performs well and allows us to retain important data indefinitely. “[8]

[edit] Evidence Extraction and Link Discovery

Evidence Extraction and Link Discovery (EELD) development of technologies and tools for automated discovery, extraction and linking of sparse evidence contained in large amounts of classified and unclassified data sources (such as phone call records from the NSA call database or bank records).[9]

EELD was designed to design systems with the ability to extract data from multiple sources (e.g., text messages, social networking sites, financial records, and web pages. It was to develop the ability to detect patterns comprising multiple types of links between data items or people communicating (e.g., financial transactions, communications, travel, etc.).[9]

It is designed to link items relating potential “terrorist” groups and scenarios, and to learn patterns of different groups or scenarios to identify new organizations and emerging threats.[9]

[edit] Scalable Social Network Analysis

Scalable Social Network Analysis (SSNA) aimed at developing techniques based on social network analysis for modeling the key characteristics of terrorist groups and discriminating these groups from other types of societal groups.[10]

Jason Ethier, of Northeastern University said the following in his study of SSNA:

The purpose of the SSNA algorithms program is to extend techniques of social network analysis to assist with distinguishing potential terrorist cells from legitimate groups of people … In order to be successful SSNA will require information on the social interactions of the majority of people around the globe. Since the Defense Department cannot easily distinguish between peaceful citizens and terrorists, it will be necessary for them to gather data on innocent civilians as well as on potential terrorists.

Jason Ethier[10]

[edit] Human Identification at a Distance (HumanID)

Diagram (from official IAO site) describing capabilities of the “Human Identification at a Distance (HumanID)” project[11]

The Human Identification at a Distance (HumanID) project developed automated biometric identification technologies to detect, recognize and identify humans at great distances for “force protection”, crime prevention, and “homeland security/defense” purposes.[11]

It’s goals included programs to:[11]

  • Develop algorithms for locating and acquiring subjects out to 150 meters (500 ft) in range.
  • Fuse face and gait recognition into a 24/7 human identification system.
  • Develop and demonstrate a human identification system that operates out to 150 meters (500 ft.) using visible imagery.
  • Develop a low power millimeter wave radar system for wide field of view detection and narrow field of view gait classification.
  • Characterize gait performance from video for human identification at a distance.
  • Develop a multi-spectral infrared and visible face recognition system.

[edit] Effective Affordable Reusable Speech-to-text (EARS)

Effective Affordable Reusable Speech-to-text (EARS) to develop automatic speech-to-text transcription technology whose output is substantially richer and much more accurate than previously possible. EARS was to focus on everyday human-to-human speech from broadcasts and telephone conversations in multiple languages. [12] It is expected to increase the speed with which speech can be processed by computers by 100 times or more.[13]

The intent is to create a core enabling technology (technology that is used as a component for future technologies) suitable for a wide range of future surveillance applications.[12]

[edit] Bio-Surveillance

Bio-Surveillance to develop the necessary information technologies and resulting prototype capable of detecting the covert release of a biological pathogen automatically, and significantly earlier than traditional approaches.[14]

[edit] Wargaming the Asymmetric Environment (WAE)

Wargaming the Asymmetric Environment (WAE) focused on developing automated technology capable of identifying predictive indicators of terrorist activity or impending attacks by examining individual and group behavior in broad environmental context and examining the motivation of specific terrorists.[15]

[edit] Futures Markets Applied to Prediction (FutureMAP)

Futures Markets Applied to Prediction (FutureMAP) was intended to harness collective intelligence by researching market-based techniques for avoiding surprise and predicting future events. The intent was to explore the feasibility of market-based trading mechanisms to predict political instability, threats to national security, and other major events in the near future.[16]

[edit] Babylon

Babylon to develop rapid, two-way, natural language speech translation interfaces and platforms for the warfighter for use in field environments for force protection, refugee processing, and medical triage.[17]

[edit] Genoa / Genoa II

Genoa and Genoa II focused on providing advanced decision-support and collaboration tools to rapidly deal with and adjust to dynamic crisis management and allow for inter-agency collaboration in real-time.[18][19] Another function was to be able to intelligently make estimates of possible future scenarios to assist intelligence officials what to do[13], in a manner similar to the DARPA’s Deep Green program which is designed to assist Army commanders in making battlefield decisions.

[edit] TIDES

Translingual Information Detection, Extraction and Summarization (TIDES) developing advanced language processing technology to enable English speakers to find and interpret critical information in multiple languages without requiring knowledge of those languages.[20]

Outside groups (such as universities, corporations, etc) were invited to participate in the annual information retrieval, topic detection and tracking, automatic content extraction, and machine translation evaluations run by NIST.[20]

[edit] Communicator

Diagram (from official IAO site) describing capabilities of the “Communicator” project

Communicator was to develop “dialogue interaction” technology that enables warfighters to talk with computers, such that information will be accessible on the battlefield or in command centers without ever having to touch a keyboard. The Communicator Platform was to be both wireless and mobile, and to be designed to function in a networked environment.[21]

The dialogue interaction software was to interpret the context of the dialogue in order to improve performance, and to be capable of automatically adapting to new topics (because situations quickly change in war) so conversation is natural and efficient. The Communicator program emphasized task knowledge to compensate for natural language effects and noisy environments. Unlike automated translation of natural language speech, which is much more complex due to an essentially unlimited vocabulary and grammar, the Communicator program is directed task specific issues so that there are constrained vocabularies (the system only needs to be able to understand language related to war). Research was also started to focus on foreign language computer interaction for use in supporting coalition operations.[21]

Live exercises were conducted involving small unit logistics operations involving the United States Marines to test the technology in extreme environments. [21]

[edit] Components of TIA projects that continue to be developed

Despite the withdrawal of funding for the TIA and the closing of the IAO, the core of the project survived.[22] Legislators included a classified annex to the Defense Appropriations Act that preserved funding for TIA’s component technologies, if they were transferred to other government agencies. TIA projects continued to be funded under classified annexes to Defense and Intelligence appropriation bills. However, the act also stipulated that the technologies only be used for military or foreign intelligence purposes against foreigners.[23]

TIA’s two core projects are now operated by Advanced Research and Development Activity (ARDA) located among the 60-odd buildings of “Crypto City” at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, MD. ARDA itself has been shifted from the NSA to the Disruptive Technology Office (run by to the Director of National Intelligence). They are funded by National Foreign Intelligence Program for foreign counterterrorism intelligence purposes.

One technology, now codenamed “Baseball” is the Information Awareness Prototype System, the core architecture to integrated all the TIA’s information extraction, analysis, and dissemination tools. Work on this project is conducted by SAIC through its Hicks & Associates, consulting arm that is run by former Defense and military officials and which had originally been awarded US$19 million IAO contract to build the prototype system in late 2002.[24]

The other project has been re-designated “TopSail” (formerly Genoa II) and would provide IT tools to help anticipate and preempt terrorist attacks. SAIC has also been contracted to work on Topsail, including a US$3.7 million contract in 2005.

[edit] Media Coverage

The first mention of the IAO in the mainstream media came from New York Times reporter John Markoff on February 13, 2002.[25] Initial reports contained few details about the program. In the following months, as more information emerged about the scope of the TIA project, civil libertarians became concerned over what they saw as the potential for the development of an Orwellian mass surveillance system.

On November 14, 2002 the New York Times published a column by William Safire in which he claimed “[TIA] has been given a $200 million budget to create computer dossiers on 300 million Americans.”[26] Safire has been “credited” with triggering the anti-TIA movement.[27]

[edit] Concerns and criticism

Extensive criticism of the IAO has come from across the political spectrum, from neo-luddite anarchists to right-wing constitutionalists.

Critics believe that massive information aggregation and analysis technologies are a grave threat to privacy and civil liberties. Many fear that allowing a government to monitor all communications, and map social networks will give them the ability to target dissenters or political threats. Critics claim that this concern is not unfounded, citing COINTELPRO and other government programs that targeted peaceful political activists in the U.S. Programs such as those the IAO funded would greatly enhance their ability to identify, track, infiltrate, and target such groups. Such a system of surveillance is a necessary component of a strong totalitarian state.

Proponents believe that development of these technologies is inevitable and that designing systems and policies to control their use is a more effective strategy than opposition.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ “Total/Terrorism Information Awareness (TIA): Is It Truly Dead?” (in English). Electronic Frontier Foundation (official website). 2003. http://w2.eff.org/Privacy/TIA/20031003_comments.php. Retrieved on 2009-03-15.
  2. ^ a b Harris, Shane (Feb. 23, 2006). “TIA Lives On” (in English). National Journal. http://nationaljournal.com/about/njweekly/stories/2006/0223nj1.htm. Retrieved on 2009-03-16.
  3. ^ Overview of the Information Awareness Office
  4. ^ Search Results – THOMAS (Library of Congress)
  5. ^ http://www.information-retrieval.info/docs/tia-exec-summ_20may2003.pdf
  6. ^ Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2004, Pub. L. No. 108–87, § 8131, 117 Stat. 1054, 1102 (2003)
  7. ^ 149 Cong. Rec. H8755—H8771 (24 September, 2003)
  8. ^ a b c “Genisys” (in English). Information Awareness Office (official website). http://infowar.net/tia/www.darpa.mil/iao/Genisys.htm. Retrieved on 2009-03-15.
  9. ^ a b c “Evidence Extraction and Link Discovery” (in English). Information Awareness Office (official website — mirror). http://infowar.net/tia/www.darpa.mil/iao/EELD.htm. Retrieved on 2009-03-15.
  10. ^ a b Ethier, Jason. “Current Research in Social Network Theory” (in English). Northeastern University College of Computer and Infomation Science. http://www.ccs.neu.edu/home/perrolle/archive/Ethier-SocialNetworks.html. Retrieved on 2009-03-15.
  11. ^ a b c “Human Identification at a distance” (in English). Information Awareness Office (official website — mirror). http://infowar.net/tia/www.darpa.mil/iao/HID.htm. Retrieved on 2009-03-15.
  12. ^ a b “EARS” (in English). Information Awareness Office (official website — mirror). http://infowar.net/tia/www.darpa.mil/iao/EARS.htm. Retrieved on 2009-03-15.
  13. ^ a b Belasco, Amy (January 21, 2003). “EFF: Memorandum Regarding TIA Funding” (in English). Electronic Frontier Foundation. http://w2.eff.org/Privacy/TIA/belasco-memo.php. Retrieved on 2009-03-15.
  14. ^ BSS
  15. ^ WAE
  16. ^ FutureMap
  17. ^ Babylon
  18. ^ “Genoa” (in English). Information Awareness Office (official website). http://infowar.net/tia/www.darpa.mil/iao/Genoa.htm. Retrieved on 2009-03-15.
  19. ^ “Genoa II” (in English). Information Awareness Office (official website). http://infowar.net/tia/www.darpa.mil/iao/GenoaII.htm. Retrieved on 2009-03-15.
  20. ^ a b “TIDES” (in English). Information Awareness Office (official website — mirror). http://infowar.net/tia/www.darpa.mil/iao/TIDES.htm. Retrieved on 2009-03-15.
  21. ^ a b c “Communicator” (in English). Information Awareness Office (official website). http://infowar.net/tia/www.darpa.mil/iao/Communicator.htm. Retrieved on 2009-03-15.
  22. ^ Wanted: Competent Big Brothers, Newsweek, 8 February 2006, retrieved 27 July 2007
  23. ^ The Total Information Awareness Project Lives On, Technology Review, 26 April 2006, retrieved 27 July 2007
  24. ^ TIA Lives On, National Journal, 23 February 2006, retrieved 27 July 2007
  25. ^ Chief Takes Over at Agency To Thwart Attacks on U.S. – New York Times
  26. ^ You Are a Suspect
  27. ^ Big Brother …

[edit] Further reading

[edit] External links

Information Awareness Office

[edit] Media coverage

[edit] Academic articles

[edit] Critical views (established sources)

[edit] Critical views (less well recognized)

[edit] Proponent views



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A radome at RAF Menwith Hill, a site with satellite downlink capabilities believed to be used by ECHELON.

ECHELON is a name used in global media and in popular culture to describe a signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection and analysis network operated on behalf of the five signatory states to the UK-USA Security Agreement (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, known as AUSCANZUKUS).[1] It has also been described only as the software system which controls the download and dissemination of the intercept of commercial satellite trunk communications.[2]

The system has been reported in a number of public sources.[3] Its capabilities and political implications were investigated by a committee of the European Parliament during 2000 and 2001 with a report published in 2001,[4] and by author James Bamford in his books on the National Security Agency of the United States.[2]

In its report, the European Parliament states that the term ECHELON is used in a number of contexts, but that the evidence presented indicates that it was the name for a signals intelligence collection system. The report concludes that, on the basis of information presented, ECHELON was capable of interception and content inspection of telephone calls, fax, e-mail and other data traffic globally through the interception of communication bearers including satellite transmission, public switched telephone networks (which carries most Internet traffic) and microwave links. The committee further concluded that “the technical capabilities of the system are probably not nearly as extensive as some sections of the media had assumed”.[4]

Bamford describes the system as the software controlling the collection and distribution of civilian telecommunications traffic conveyed using communication satellites, with the collection being undertaken by groundstations located in the footprint of the downlink leg.



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[edit] Organization

UKUSA Community
Map of UKUSA Community countries with Ireland

New Zealand
United Kingdom
United States

The UKUSA intelligence community is assessed by the European Parliament to include the signals intelligence agencies of each of the member states – the National Security Agency of the United States, the Government Communications Headquarters of Britain, the Communications Security Establishment of Canada, the Defence Signals Directorate of Australia, and the Government Communications Security Bureau of New Zealand. The EP report concludes that it seems likely that ECHELON is a method of sorting captured signal traffic, rather than a comprehensive analysis tool.[4]

[edit] Capabilities

The ability to intercept communications depends on the medium used, be it radio, satellite, microwave, cellular or fiber-optic.[4] During World War II and through the 1950s, high frequency (“short wave”) radio was widely used for military and diplomatic communication[5], and could be intercepted at great distances.[4] The rise of geostationary communications satellites in the 1960s presented new possibilities for intercepting international communications. The report to the European Parliament of 2001 states: “If UKUSA states operate listening stations in the relevant regions of the earth, in principle they can intercept all telephone, fax and data traffic transmitted via such satellites.”[4]

The role of satellites in point-to-point voice and data communications has largely been supplanted by fiber optics. As of 2006, 99 percent of the world’s long-distance voice and data traffic is carried over optical-fiber.[6] The proportion of international communications accounted for by satellite links is said to have decreased substantially over the past few years in Central Europe to amount to between 0.4 and 5%.[4] Even in less developed parts of the world, communications satellites are used largely for point-to-multipoint applications, such as video.[7] Thus the majority of communications cannot be intercepted by earth stations, but only by tapping cables and intercepting line of sight microwave signals, which is possible only to a limited extent.[4]

One approach is to place intercept equipment at locations where fiber optic communications are switched. For the Internet, much of the switching occurs at a relatively small number of sites. There have been reports of one such intercept site, Room 641A, in the United States. In the past, much Internet traffic was routed through the U.S. and the UK; this is less true today, with, for example, 95 percent of intra-German Internet communications being routed via the DE-CIX Internet exchange point in Frankfurt in 2000.[4] Thus for a worldwide surveillance network to be comprehensive, either illegal intercept sites would be required on the territory of friendly nations or cooperation of local authorities would be needed. The report to the European Parliament points out that interception of private communications by foreign intelligence services is not necessarily limited to the American or British foreign intelligence services.[4]

Most reports on ECHELON focus on satellite interception, with no credible evidence for other capabilities.[8]

[edit] Controversy

Reportedly created to monitor the military and diplomatic communications of the Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc allies during the Cold War in the early sixties, today ECHELON is believed to search also for hints of terrorist plots, drug dealers’ plans, and political and diplomatic intelligence. But some critics claim the system is also being used for large-scale commercial theft, international economic espionage and invasion of privacy.

British journalist Duncan Campbell and New Zealand journalist Nicky Hager asserted in the 1990s that the United States was exploiting ECHELON traffic for industrial espionage, rather than military and diplomatic purposes.[9] Examples alleged by the journalists include the gear-less wind turbine technology designed by the German firm Enercon[10][11] and the speech technology developed by the Belgian firm Lernout & Hauspie.[12] An article in the Baltimore Sun reported in 1995 that French aerospace company Airbus lost a $6 billion contract with Saudi Arabia in 1994 after the NSA reported that Airbus officials had been bribing Saudi officials to secure the contract.[13][14]

In 2001, the Temporary Committee on the ECHELON Interception System recommended to the European Parliament that citizens of member states routinely use cryptography in their communications to protect their privacy.[4]

Bamford provides an alternate view, highlighting that legislation prohibits the use of intercepted communications for commercial purposes, although does elaborate on how intercepted communications are used as part of an all-source intelligence process.

[edit] Hardware

According to its website, the National Security Agency is “a high technology organization… on the frontiers of communications and data processing”. In 1999 the Australian Senate Joint Standing Committee on Treaties was told by Professor Desmond Ball that the Pine Gap facility was used as a ground station for a satellite based interception network. The satellites are claimed to be large radio dishes between 20 and 100 meters across, parked in geostationary orbits. The original purpose of the network was to monitor the telemetry from 1970s Soviet weapons, air defense radar, communications satellites and ground based microwave communications.[15]

[edit] Name

The European Parliament’s Temporary Committee on the ECHELON Interception System stated: “It seems likely, in view of the evidence and the consistent pattern of statements from a very wide range of individuals and organisations, including American sources, that its name is in fact ECHELON, although this is a relatively minor detail.”[4] The U.S. intelligence community uses many code names (see, for example, CIA cryptonym).

Margaret Newsham claims that she worked on the configuration and installation of some of the software that makes up the ECHELON system while employed at Lockheed Martin, for whom she worked from 1974 to 1984 in Sunnyvale, California, USA and in Menwith Hill, England, UK.[16] At that time, according to Newsham, the code name ECHELON was NSA’s term for the computer network itself. Lockheed called it P415. The software programs were called SILKWORTH and SIRE. A satellite named VORTEX would intercept communications. An image available on the internet of a fragment apparently torn from a job description shows Echelon listed along with several other code names.[17]

[edit] Ground stations

The 2001 European Parliamentary (EP) report[4] lists several ground stations as possibly belonging to or participating in the ECHELON network. These include:

[edit] Likely satellite intercept stations

The following stations are listed in the EP report (p.54 ff) as likely to have a role in intercepting transmissions from telecommunications satellites:

[edit] Other potentially related stations

The following stations are listed in the EP report (p.57 ff) as ones whose roles “cannot be clearly established”:

[edit] See also

[edit] Further reading

  • Bamford, James; The Puzzle Palace, Penguin, ISBN 0-14-006748-5; 1983
  • Hager, Nicky; Secret Power, New Zealand’s Role in the International Spy Network; Craig Potton Publishing, Nelson, NZ; ISBN 0-908802-35-8; 1996
  • Bamford, James; Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency , Anchor, ISBN 0385499086; 2002
  • Keefe, Patrick Radden Chatter: dispatches from the secret world of global eavesdropping; Random House Publishing, New York, NY; ISBN 1-4000-6034-6; 2005
  • Bamford, James; The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America, Doubleday, ISBN 0385521324; 2008

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ “AUSCANNZUKUS Information Portal”. auscannzukus.org.. http://auscannzukus.org/intro.asp. Retrieved on 2008-03-27.
  2. ^ a b Bamford, James; Body of Secrets, Anchor, ISBN 0-385-49908-6; 2002
  3. ^ One of the earliest was a New Statesman article entitled Someone’s Listening in 1988
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Schmid, Gerhard (2001-07-11). “On the existence of a global system for the interception of private and commercial communications (ECHELON interception system), (2001/2098(INI))” (pdf – 194 pages). European Parliament: Temporary Committee on the ECHELON Interception System. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+REPORT+A5-2001-0264+0+DOC+PDF+V0//EN&language=EN. Retrieved on 2008-03-27.
  5. ^ The Codebreakers, Ch. 10, 11
  6. ^ “NSA eavesdropping: How it might work”. http://news.com.com/NSA+eavesdropping+How+it+might+work/2100-1028_3-6035910.html. Retrieved on 2006-08-27.
  7. ^ “Commercial Geostationary Satellite Transponder Markets for Latin America : Market Research Report”. http://www.marketresearch.com/map/prod/1117944.html. Retrieved on 2006-08-27.
  8. ^ For example: “Nicky Hager Appearance before the European Parliament ECHELON Committee”. April 2001. http://cryptome.org/echelon-nh.htm. Retrieved on 2006-07-02.
  9. ^ “Nicky Hager Appearance before the European Parliament ECHELON Committee”. April 2001. http://cryptome.org/echelon-nh.htm. Retrieved on 2006-07-02.
  10. ^ Die Zeit: 40/1999 “Verrat unter Freunden” (“Treachery among friends”, German), available at archiv.zeit.de
  11. ^ Report A5-0264/2001 of the European Parliament (English), available at European Parliament website
  12. ^ “Amerikanen maakten met Echelon L&H kapot”. [1]. 2002-03-30. http://www.daanspeak.com/Hypocratie09.html. Retrieved on 2008-03-28. (Google’s translation of the article into English).
  13. ^ “BBC News”. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/820758.stm. Retrieved on 2006-08-27.
  14. ^ “Interception capabilities 2000”. http://www.cyber-rights.org/interception/stoa/ic2kreport.htm#Report. Retrieved on 2006-08-27.
  15. ^ Commonwealth of Australia, Official Committee Hansard (9 August 1999). JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON TREATIES, Reference: Pine Gap.
  16. ^ Elkjær, Bo; Kenan Seeberg (1999-11-17). “ECHELON Was My Baby”. Ekstra Bladet. http://cryptome.org/echelon-baby.htm. Retrieved on 2006-05-17. “Unfortunately, I can’t tell you all my duties. I am still bound by professional secrecy, and I would hate to go to prison or get involved in any trouble, if you know what I mean. In general, I can tell you that I was responsible for compiling the various systems and programs, configuring the whole thing and making it operational on main frames”; “Margaret Newsham worked for the NSA through her employment at Ford and Lockheed from 1974 to 1984. In 1977 and 1978, Newsham was stationed at the largest listening post in the world at Menwith Hill, England…Ekstra Bladet has Margaret Newsham’s stationing orders from the US Department of Defense. She possessed the high security classification TOP SECRET CRYPTO.”
  17. ^ “Names of ECHELON associated projects – image without any context”. http://www.ladlass.com/intel/archives/images/menwith.jpg. in “Interception Capabilities 2000 – PART 1”. 2003-12-18. http://www.ladlass.com/intel/archives/006457.html. Retrieved on 2006-08-27.
  18. ^ According to a statement by Terence Dudlee, the speaker of the US Navy in London in an interview to the German HR
    US-Armee lauscht von Darmstadt aus (German), hr online, 1 Oct 2004

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ADVISE (Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight, and Semantic Enhancement) is a research and development program within the United States Department of Homeland Security Threat and Vulnerability Testing and Assessment (TVTA) portfolio. It is reported to be a massive data mining system [1] with the ability to store one quadrillion data entities. The data can be everything from financial records, phone records, emails, blog entries, website searches, and any other electronic information that can be put into a computer system. This information then would be connected to any given American citizen and assess the probability that he or she is a terrorist.

The exact scope and degree of completion of the program is unclear. ADVISE is in the 2004-2006 Federal DHS Budget as a component of the $47 million TVTA program.

The program was officially scrapped in September 2007 after the agency’s internal Inspector General found that pilot testing of the system had been performed using data on real people without required privacy safeguards in place.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

TALON (database)

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TALON (Threat and Local Observation Notice), is a database maintained by the Air Force after the September 11th terrorist attacks. It was authorised for creation in 2002 by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, in order to collect and evaluate information about possible threats to U.S. servicemembers and civilian workers in the US and at overseas military installations. [1]The database included lists of anti-war groups and people who have attended anti-war rallies.[2] TALON reports are collected by various US Defense Department agencies including law enforcement, intelligence, counterintelligence and security, and are analyzed by a Pentagon agency, the Counterintelligence Field Activity. CIFA has existed since 2004, and its size and budget are secret. [3]

On August 21, 2007, the US Defense Department announced that it would shut down the database, as the database had been criticized for gathering information on peace activists and other political activists who posed no credible threat, but who had been one topic of this database due to their political views. [4] The department is working on a new system which would replace TALON, but for the time being, information on force protection threats will be handled by the FBI’s Guardian reporting system. [1]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b Defense Department to Close TALON System, by Sergeant Sara Wood, US Army, American Forces Press Service, 8/21/07.
  2. ^ Pentagon to Shutter Anti-Terrorism Database, npr.org
  3. ^ Pentagon to suspend anti-terror database, by Robert Burns, Associated Press, 8/21/07.
  4. ^ Criticized database to be shuttered, by Jim Mannion, Agence France Presse, 8/21/07.

[edit] External links

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My note –

If these techniques were in use all this time and applied to the financial industry, to large corporations, the stock markets, the investment markets and used by bankers, is that what actually caused the financial meltdown? At a point, could they have even discerned the truth from the available facts or not?

And, I just keep wanting to say that anyone using the word “confidence” at this point and whining that it needs to be restored and that it is all based on “confidence” ad nauseum – would not be accepted as sound of mind if it was their job that was recently lost and a foreclosure notice was sitting in their hands with a demand for payment eight times higher than what it should be after the mortgage reset.

If it was affecting their opportunities to have two dimes to rub together and those wouldn’t even buy a phone call somewhere in their life, I would guess they wouldn’t stand there in that situation and make a pretense about “confidence” making the difference between reality and perceived value and what is what and whether the economy is really in trouble or not.

As I said before, have they noticed that things have changed regardless of the words they use to describe it? These changes can’t be “framed” nor managed by perception management techniques because massive numbers of human lives are being affected directly by them.

It won’t cause even one person to believe that what they are experiencing in the real world isn’t really that way and isn’t as bad as it actually is, simply because some financial “expert” on cable news said the numbers don’t really mean what they are showing to anyone that looks at them.

I don’t even care what flavor these people are anymore. It doesn’t matter if they are Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal, lazy or stupid, fat or happy, positioned to get the most profit from the situation that had ensued or positioned to target the most profit from it now – they screwed it up and now they need to fix it.

I’m sick and tired of watching the Republicans stonewall and undermine any efforts to do anything different than they already have it “fixed up” to suit themselves and their friends’ interests, even though the cost of that is a massive and pervasive failure of our economy and the destruction of huge numbers of individual lives and potentials.

The degree to which “conservatives” have put their hands into everything to force each of us to live as it would suit their ideologies is disgusting, especially considering its unethical and immoral applications into a society based on freedom, individual rights, religious tolerance, free market capitalism, and equality of opportunities, rights, freedoms and future potentials.

Its as if it is no more than a game to them to be won at any cost even where and when they know they are wrong about something. And, since there are never any real consequences to them, their belief that it is only a game and how they assert themselves and apply their ideologies in it, never changes, even when it is destructive to the American people and those around the World that are subjected to its applications.

I don’t disagree with these ideologies. I disagree with the applications of them in denial and destruction of every human right and dignity guaranteed by the Constitution. I also know of the “unintended” consequences of what has been done in the ways it has been done across America throughout my adult life.

It has undermined the productivity and potential of my nation that I love dearly, destroyed the lives of several generations of Americans, their family members and their children, and decimated the possibilities of this day for great magnitudes of individuals across the United States and across the World, right now, today.

How many future days it has robbed from all of us as well, remains to be seen. But, it has genuinely robbed all of us and each of us literally for many days, months and years yet to be lived.

– cricketdiane, 03-21-09