American technical contractor and former CIA employee Edward Snowden (file photo)
The operations of secret intelligence agencies aiming at the manipulation of public opinion generally involve a combination of cynical deception with the pathetic gullibility of the targeted populations.
There is ample reason to believe that the case of Edward Joseph Snowden fits into this pattern. We are likely dealing here with a limited hangout operation, in which carefully selected and falsified documents and other materials are deliberately revealed by an insider who pretends to be a fugitive rebelling against the excesses of some oppressive or dangerous government agency.
But the revelations turn out to have been prepared with a view to shaping the public consciousness in a way which is advantageous to the intelligence agency involved. At the same time, gullible young people can be duped into supporting a personality cult of the leaker, more commonly referred to as a “whistleblower.” A further variation on the theme can be the attempt of the sponsoring intelligence agency to introduce their chosen conduit, now posing as a defector, into the intelligence apparatus of a targeted foreign government. In this case, the leaker or whistleblower attains the status of a triple agent.
Any attempt to educate public opinion about the dynamics of limited hangout operations inevitably collides with the residue left in the minds of millions by recent successful examples of this technique. It will be hard for many to understand Snowden, precisely because they will insist on seeing him as the latest courageous example in a line of development which includes Daniel Ellsberg and Julian Assange, both still viewed by large swaths of naïve opinion as authentic challengers of oppressive government.
This is because the landmark limited hangout operation at the beginning of the current post-Cold War era was that of Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon papers, which laid the groundwork for the CIA’s Watergate attack on the Nixon administration, and more broadly, on the office of the presidency itself. More recently, we have had the case of Assange and Wikileaks. Using these two cases primarily, we can develop a simple typology of the limited hangout operation which can be of significant value to those striving to avoid the role of useful idiots amidst the current cascade of whistleblowers and limited hangout artists.
In this analysis, we should also recall that limited hangouts have been around for a very long time. In 1620 Fra Paolo Sarpi, the dominant figure of the Venetian intelligence establishment of his time, advised the Venetian senate that the best way to defeat anti-Venetian propaganda was indirectly. He recommended the method of saying something good about a person or institution while pretending to say something bad. An example might be criticizing a bloody dictator for beating his dog - the real dimensions of his crimes are thus totally underplayed.
Limited hangout artists are instant media darlings
The most obvious characteristic of the limited hangout operative is that he or she immediately becomes the darling of the controlled corporate media. In the case of Daniel Ellsberg, his doctored set of Pentagon papers were published by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and eventually by a consortium totaling seventeen corporate newspapers. These press organs successfully argued the case for publication all the way to the United States Supreme Court, where they prevailed against the Nixon administration.
Needless to say, surviving critics of the Warren Commission, and more recent veterans of the 9/11 truth movement, and know very well that this is emphatically not the treatment reserved for messengers whose revelations are genuinely unwelcome to the Wall Street centered US ruling class. These latter are more likely to be slandered, vilified and dragged through the mud, or, even more likely, passed over in complete silence and blacked out. In extreme cases, they can be kidnapped, renditioned or liquidated.
Cass Sunstein present at the creation of Wikileaks
As for Assange and Wikileaks, the autumn 2010 document dump was farmed out in advance to five of the most prestigious press organs in the world, including the New York Times, the London Guardian, El Pais of Madrid, Der Spiegel of Hamburg, and Le Monde of Paris. This was the Assange media cartel, made up of papers previously specialized in discrediting 9/11 critics and doubters. But even before the document dumps had begun, Wikileaks had received a preemptive endorsement from none other than the notorious totalitarian Cass Sunstein, later an official of the Obama White House, and today married to Samantha Power, the author of the military coup that overthrew Mubarak and currently Obama’s pick for US ambassador to the United Nations. Sunstein is infamous for his thesis that government agencies should conduct covert operations using pseudo-independent agents of influence for the “cognitive infiltration of extremist groups” - meaning of those who reject in the establishment view of history and reality. Sunstein’s article entitled “Brave New WikiWorld” was published in the Washington Post of February 24, 2007, and touted the capabilities of Wikileaks for the destabilization of China. Perhaps the point of Ed Snowden’s presence in Hong Kong is to begin re-targeting these capabilities back towards the original anti-Chinese plan.
Snowden has already become a media celebrity of the first magnitude. His career was launched by the US left liberal Glenn Greenwald, now writing for the London Guardian, which expresses the viewpoints of the left wing of the British intelligence community. Thus, the current scandal is very much Made in England, and may benefit from inputs from the British GCHQ of Cheltenham, the Siamese twin of the NSA at Fort Meade, Maryland. During the days of his media debut, it was not uncommon to see a controlled press organ like CNN dedicating one third of every broadcast hour of air time to the birth, life, and miracles of Ed Snowden.
Another suspicious and tell-tale endorsement for Snowden comes from the former State Department public diplomacy asset Norman Solomon. Interviewed on RT, Solomon warmly embraced the Snowden Project and assured his viewers that the NSA material dished up by the Hong Kong defector used reliable and authentic. Solomon was notorious ten years ago as a determined enemy of 9/11 truth, acting as a border guard in favor of the Bush administration/neocon theory of terrorism.
Limited hangouts contain little that is new
Another important feature of the limited hangout operation if that the revelations often contain nothing new, but rather repackage old wine in new bottles. In the case of Ellsberg’s Pentagon Papers, very little was revealed which was not already well known to a reader of Le Monde or the dispatches of Agence France Presse. Only those whose understanding of world affairs had been filtered through the Associated Press, CBS News, the New York Times, and the Washington Post found any of Ellsberg’s material a surprise.
Of course, there was method in Ellsberg’s madness. The Pentagon papers allegedly derived from an internal review of the decision-making processes leading to the Vietnam War, conducted after 1967-68 under the supervision of Morton Halperin and Leslie Gelb. Ellsberg, then a young RAND Corporation analyst and militant warmonger, was associated with this work. Upon examination, we find that the Pentagon papers tend to cover up such CIA crimes as the mass murder mandated under Operation Phoenix, and the massive CIA drug running associated with the proprietary airline Air America. Rather, when atrocities are in question, the US Army generally receives the blame. Politicians in general, and President John F. Kennedy in particular, are portrayed in a sinister light - one might say demonized. No insights whatever into the Kennedy assassination are offered. This was a smelly concoction, and it was not altogether excluded that the radicalized elements of the Vietnam era might have carried the day in denouncing the entire package as a rather obvious fabrication. But a clique around Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn loudly intervened to praise the quality of the exposé and to lionize Ellsberg personally as a new culture hero for the Silent Generation. From that moment on, the careers of Chomsky and Zinn soared. Pentagon papers skeptics, like the satirical comedian Mort Sahl, a supporter of the Jim Garrison investigation in New Orleans and a critic of the Warren Commission, faced the marginalization of their careers.
Notice also that the careers of Morton Halperin and Leslie Gelb positively thrived after they entrusted the Pentagon papers to Ellsberg, who revealed them. Ellsberg was put on trial in 1973, but all charges were dismissed after several months because of prosecutorial misconduct. Assange lived like a lord for many months in the palatial country house of an admirer in the East of England, and is now holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. He spent about 10 days in jail in December 2010.
Assange first won credibility for Wikileaks with some chum in the form of a shocking film showing a massacre perpetrated by US forces in Iraq with the aid of drones. The massacre itself and the number of victims were already well known, so Assange was adding only the graphic emotional impact of witnessing the atrocity firsthand.
Limited hangouts reveal nothing about big issues like JFK, 9/11
Over the past century, there are certain large-scale covert operations which cast a long historical shadow, determining to some extent the framework in which subsequent events occur. These include the Sarajevo assassinations of 1914, the assassination of Rasputin in late 1916, Mussolini’s 1922 march on Rome, Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933, the assassination of French Foreign Minister Barthou in 1934, the assassination of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945, in 1963 Kennedy assassination, and 9/11. A common feature of the limited hangout operations is that they offer almost no insights into these landmark events.
In the Pentagon Papers, the Kennedy assassination is virtually a nonexistent event about which we learn nothing. As already noted, the principal supporters of Ellsberg were figures like Chomsky, whose hostility to JFK and profound disinterest in critiques of the Warren Commission were well-known. As for Assange, he rejects any further clarification of 9/11. In July 2010, Assange told Matthew Bell of the Belfast Telegraph: “I’m constantly annoyed that people are distracted by false conspiracies such as 9/11, when all around we provide evidence of real conspiracies, for war or mass financial fraud.” This is on top of Cass Sunstein’s demand for active covert measures to suppress and disrupt inquiries into operations like 9/11. Snowden’s key backers Glenn Greenwald and Norman Solomon have both compiled impressive records of evasion on 9/11 truth, with Greenwald specializing in the blowback theory.
The Damascus road conversions of limited hangout figures
Daniel Ellsberg started his career as a nuclear strategist of the Dr. Strangelove type working for the RAND Corporation. He worked in the Pentagon as an aide to US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. He then went to Vietnam, where he served as a State Department civilian assistant to CIA General Edward Lansdale. In 1967, he was back at RAND to begin the preparation of what would come to be known as the Pentagon papers. Ellsberg has claimed that his Damascus Road conversion from warmonger to peace angel occurred when he heard a speech from a prison-bound draft resister at Haverford College in August 1969. After a mental breakdown, Ellsberg began taking his classified documents to the office of Senator Edward Kennedy and ultimately to the New York Times. Persons who believe this fantastic story may be suffering from terminal gullibility.
In the case of Assange, it is harder to identify such a moment of conversion. Assange spent his childhood in the coils of MK Ultra, a complex of Anglo-American covert operations designed to investigate and implement mind control through the use of psychopharmaca and other means. Assange was a denizen of the Ann Hamilton-Byrne cult, in which little children that were subjected to aversive therapy involving LSD and other heavy-duty drugs. Assange spent his formative years as a wandering nomad with his mother incognito because of her involvement in a custody dispute. The deracinated Assange lived in 50 different towns and attended 37 different schools. By the age of 16, the young nihilist was active as a computer hacker using the screen name “Mendax,” meaning quite simply “The Liar.” (Assange’s clone Snowden uses the more marketable codename of “Verax,” the truth teller.) Some of Assange’s first targets were Nortel and US Air Force offices in the Pentagon. Assange’s chief mentor became John Young of Cryptome, who in 2007 denounced Wikileaks as a CIA front.
Snowden’s story, as widely reported, goes like this: he dropped out of high school and also dropped out of a community college, but reportedly was nevertheless later able to command a salary of between $120,000 and $200,000 per year; he claims this is because he is a computer wizard. He enlisted in the US Army in May 2004, and allegedly hoped to join the special forces and contribute to the fight for freedom in Iraq. He then worked as a low-level security guard for the National Security Agency, and then went on to computer security at the CIA, including a posting under diplomatic cover in Switzerland. He moved on to work as a private contractor for the NSA at a US military base in Japan. His last official job was for the NSA at the Kunia Regional SIGINT Operations Center in Hawaii. In May 2013, he is alleged to have been granted medical leave from the NSA in Hawaii to get treatment for epilepsy. He fled to Hong Kong, and made his revelations with the help of Greenwald and a documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras. Snowden voted for the nominally anti-war, ultra-austerity “libertarian” presidential candidate Ron Paul, and gave several hundred dollars to Paul’s campaign.
Snowden, like Ellsberg, thus started off as a warmonger but later became more concerned with the excesses of the Leviathan state. Like Assange, he was psychologically predisposed to the world of computers and cybernetics. The Damascus Road shift from militarist to civil libertarian remains unexplained and highly suspicious.
Snowden is also remarkable for the precision of his timing. His first revelations, open secrets though they were, came on June 5, precisely today when the rebel fortress of Qusayr was liberated by the Syrian army and Hezbollah. At this point, the British and French governments were screaming at Obama that it was high time to attack Syria. The appearance of Snowden’s somewhat faded material in the London Guardian was the trigger for a firestorm of criticism against the Obama regime by the feckless US left liberals, who were thus unwittingly greasing the skids for a US slide into a general war in the Middle East. More recently, Snowden came forward with allegations that the US and the British had eavesdropped on participants in the meeting of the G-20 nations held in Britain four years ago. This obviously put Obama on the defensive just as Cameron and Hollande were twisting his arm to start the Syrian adventure. By attacking the British GCHQ at Cheltenham, Britain’s equivalent to the NSA, perhaps Snowden was also seeking to obfuscate the obvious British sponsorship of his revelations.
Stories about Anglo Americans spying on high profile guests are as old as the hills, and have included a British frogman who attempted an underwater investigation of the Soviet cruiser that brought party leader N. S. Khrushchev for a visit in the 1950s. Snowden has also accused the NSA of hacking targets in China -- again, surely no surprise to experienced observers, but guaranteed to increase Sino-American tensions. As time passes, Snowden may emerge as more and more of a provocateur between Washington and Beijing.
Limited hangouts prepare large covert operations
Although, as we have seen, limited hangouts rarely illuminate the landmark covert operations which attempt to define an age, limited hangouts themselves do represent the preparation for future covert operations.
In the case of the Pentagon papers, this and other leaks during the Indo-Pakistani Tilt crisis were cited by Henry Kissinger in his demand that President Richard Nixon take countermeasures to restore the integrity of state secrets. Nixon foolishly authorized the creation of a White House anti-leak operation known as the Plumbers. The intelligence community made sure that the Plumbers operation was staffed by their own provocateurs, people who never were loyal to Nixon but rather took their orders from Langley. Here we find the already infamous CIA agent Howard Hunt, the CIA communications expert James McCord, and the FBI operative G. Gordon Liddy. These provocateurs took special pains to get arrested during an otherwise pointless break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in the summer of 1972. Nixon could easily have disavowed the Plumbers and thrown this gaggle of agent provocateurs to the wolves, but he instead launched a cover up. Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, equipped with a top secret security clearance from the Office of Naval Intelligence, then began publicizing the story. The rest is history, and the lasting heritage has been a permanent weakening of the office of the presidency and the strengthening of the worst oligarchical tendencies.
Assange’s Wikileaks document dump triggered numerous destabilizations and coups d’état across the globe. Not one US, British, or Israeli covert operation or politician was seriously damaged by this material. The list of those impacted instead bears a striking resemblance to the CIA enemies’ list: the largest group of targets were Arab leaders slated for immediate ouster in the wave of “Arab Spring.” Here we find Ben Ali of Tunisia, Qaddafi of Libya, Mubarak of Egypt, Saleh of Yemen, and Assad of Syria. The US wanted to replace Maliki with Allawi as prime minister of Iraq, so the former was targeted, as was the increasingly independent Karzai of Afghanistan. Perennial targets of the CIA included Rodriguez Kirchner of Argentina, Berlusconi of Italy, and Putin of Russia. Berlusconi soon fell victim to a coup organized through the European Central Bank, while his friend Putin was able to stave off a feeble attempt at color revolution in early 2012. Mildly satiric jabs at figures like Merkel of Germany and Sarkozy of France were included primarily as camouflage.
Assange thus had a hand in preparing one of the largest destabilization campaigns mounted by Anglo-American intelligence since 1968, or perhaps even 1848.
If the Snowden operation can help coerce the vacillating and reluctant Obama to attack Syria, our new autistic hero may claim credit for starting a general war in the Middle East, and perhaps even more. If Snowden can further poison relations between United States and China, the world historical significance of his provocations will be doubly assured. But none of this can occur unless he finds vast legions of eager dupes ready to fall for his act. We hope he won’t.