Suffragette Surveillance

March 12, 2014 § Leave a comment


Suffragettes Evelyn Manesta and Lillian Forrester, Manchester Prison, 1913 (image: BBC, National Archives)

Efforts to extend suffrage to women throughout the 19th century in several English-speaking countries began bearing fruit around the turn of the 20th century. New Zealand granted women the vote in 1893, Australia nine years later; the 19th Amendment passed in both the U.S. House and Senate in 1919, following several individual state initiatives. Numerous societies were formed and conventions held to that end as momentum grew, meeting various successes and defeats, including both the resistance of those, mostly men, determined to maintain the status quo, as well as the support of other prominent men such as John Stuart Mill. Efforts were mostly peaceful. In 1897, British women organized into these advocacy groups, known as ‘suffragists,’ coalesced to form the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). The government’s failure to acknowledge their activities, however, led to radicalization on the part of certain women: the movement arrived at a turning point in 1903, when Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Christabel and Sylvia formed the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), vowing to pursue more aggressive measures to force the issue. The Daily Mail first referred to them as ‘suffragettes‘ in 1906, coining the term to differentiate them from their milder and less militant counterparts, the ‘suffragists.’ Their motto, “Deeds not words,” indicated their intention to engage in direct actions of civil disobedience, including vocal protests, disruption of political meetings, women chaining themselves to railings and tax resistance, later evolving into the destruction of property, arson and the occasional smashing of windows (“Phyllis North, whom I identified as Joyce Lock, otherwise Olive Wharry … unlawfully and maliciously did commit damages upon the windows of the Criccieth Post office, the property of H.M. The King, doing damage to the amount of £11-8-0…”)—the ensuing arrests garnering more attention to their cause.


Suffragettes on hunger strike are threatened with force-feeding (image: National Archives)

The relation between Scotland Yard and these women—a game of “cat and mouse” between the police and these political subversives, considered to be a threat to the political order—was significant for several reasons, not the least of which was giving rise to an early instance of state photographic surveillance (covert photography), as reported by the BBC’s Dominic Casciani. Several Suffragettes also engaged in hunger strikes, continuing the civil disobedience while inside prison, adding to an atmosphere of “[i]ndignation and passionate protest,” during which some underwent repeated force-feedings. In 1871, prisons had begun photographing inmates for identification purposes, and this relatively young technology was put to use for surreptitiously monitoring the women. Scotland Yard—which bought its first camera for the occasion—employed a Mr. A. Barrett, who, unknown to them, “sat quietly in a van, snapping away as the women walked around Holloway Prison’s yards.” At the same time, detectives compiled ID lists of suspects to help suppress the more dramatic and militant actions.

Suffragettes Scotland Yard

ID sheets of Suffragettes were prepared for Scotland Yard officers (image: BBC, National Archives)


Manchester Suffragette Evelyn Manesta refuses to pose for the camera—note the arm (image: BBC, National Archives)

Suffragettes refused to cooperate in other ways, including resisting attempts to have them pose for photography sessions, requiring coercion—and trickery—on the part of authorities. In Manchester Prison, a guard was needed to restrain known “window-smasher” Evelyn Manesta from behind for the camera, resulting in the awkward image of a woman standing with a man’s arm draped around her neck. Upon official instructions, the problematic appendage was then artfully erased from the image by the photographer, the sanitized version duly reproduced for circulation.


Scotland Yard memo on two Suffragettes—note the missing arm on Manesta, to the right (image: National Archives)


Are Animals Conscious? I Dunno—Are We?

March 8, 2014 § 2 Comments

A study published by University of Lethbridge Department of Psychology professor Jennifer Mather in 2008 proposed, in summary, that “cephalopod molluscs may have a form of primary consciousness”—that they are “heavily dependent on learning in response to both visual and tactile cues,” “may have domain generality and form simple concepts” and seem “aware of their position, both within themselves and in larger space, including having a working memory of foraging areas in the recent past.” A 2013 study by Mather and Michael J. Kuba summarized that the cephalopod brain “does not just have centralization of the molluscan ganglia but also contains lobes with ‘higher order’ functions such as storage of learned information.” The decentralized nervous system, “particularly in the arms of octopuses, results in decision making at many levels”; the cephalopod “is first and foremost a learning animal, using the display system for deception, having spatial memory, personalities, and motor play. They represent an alternative model to the vertebrates for the evolution of complex brains and high intelligence, which has as yet been only partly explored.”

At first glance, the question of animal consciousness struck me as an odd one; assuming they are not lifeless automatons, or robots programmed to perform a certain limited set of functions, how in fact could they not be conscious in some way, shape or form? This depends, of course, on how we define it, but the idea of “consciousness” as it’s normally understood may be a relic of outdated philosophical thinking, and will have to be revised in light of more rigorous scientific research. Katherine Harmon Courage asks an appropriate question in the Scientific American online blog: “should we humans really be surprised that ‘consciousness’ probably does not only exist in us?” The correct question, it seems to me, is not whether other animals are conscious, but rather what types of consciousness they exhibit—and what are the factors that limit the “consciousness” of both humans and other animals, genetic or otherwise. To pretend that humans (Homo sapiens—”wise man”) are the unique repository of this quality, this “privileged state of subjective awareness,” seems more revelatory of the need to set ourselves apart from the rest of nature rather than an objective inquiry into the matter. The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, signed in July 2012 [PDF], states that the research on consciousness is “rapidly evolving,” the accumulation of new data requiring “a periodic reevaluation of previously held preconceptions in this field.” It states further that “neural circuits supporting behavioral/electrophysiological states of attentiveness, sleep and decision making appear to have arisen in evolution as early as the invertebrate radiation, being evident in insects and cephalopod mollusks (e.g., octopus),” citing evidence that “human and non-human animal emotional feelings arise from homologous subcortical brain networks”:

The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.

Christof Koch, chief scientific officer of the Allen Institute of Brain Science, stated in 2012 that “[e]xactly how organized brain matter gives rise to images and sounds, lust and hate, memories, dreams and plans, remains unclear.” I suppose one could carry out the mental experiment of an extra-terrestrial being visiting our fair planet sometime in the near or distant future (assuming we haven’t ruined it by then), and asking the same question about us: “are they conscious?”


Update (March 11): Related to questions of consciousness, a recent article from New Scientist (reprinted in the Washington Post) addresses the question of whether or not certain invertebrates feel pain in some way comparable to humans, and consequently if they are capable of suffering. Researcher and professor Robert Elwood emphasizes that direct comparisons with humans are not always appropriate; denying that crabs, for instance, feel pain because they don’t have the same biology as us “is like denying they can see because they don’t have a visual cortex.” Again, this type of reasoning would depend on narrowly defining these capacities, such as seeing, as seeing like a human—that is, there would be no other possible way of seeing, “seeing” being a uniquely human property or behavior. The article also makes the distinction between learned behaviors—arising as a result of experiencing pain, remembering it and acting in order to avoid it—and simple reflexes, which may be unconscious and automatic responses to stimuli. Experiments with crustaceans revealed “prolonged and complicated behavior, which clearly involves the central nervous system,” as opposed to insects, suggesting that insects have had no evolutionary need or constraints to experience pain in the same way.

Importantly, the article qualifies suffering as a subjective experience, and therefore “private to each individual, leaving us only with educated guesses” as to how it is actually lived—the implications being that there is ultimately no way of fully understanding how another organism suffers, except by way of observation and experimentation. One difficulty arising from this, it seems to me, is that certain results/behaviors can be wrongly interpreted as “learned,” or conscious, when they are in fact reflexive, and vice versa.

The United States condemns, blah, blah…

March 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

Crimea has a complicated history, we are told—a peninsula repeatedly subject to the machinations of outside powers—and those who believed “the forces of Western-style democracy had prevailed over Yanukovych’s Kremlin-led repression” were bound to be frustrated. Russia’s exports of oil and natural gas, on which several countries in the region are partly dependent, surely go some way in providing leverage. Putting aside the fact that “Western-style democracy” is undefined here, we could question whether or not it is actually a good thing—and whether or not we indeed do have something called “democracy” in the West, beyond a “useful rhetorical line,” and if so, what shape it is in (some would say pretty bad). We could consider what Thomas Carothers, State Department legal advisor under Ronald Reagan, wrote regarding the particular conception of democracy among U.S. government planners, who envisage it “as something like an off-on switch in which the holding of elections and the coming to power of an elected government was the crucial transition from off to on,” where formal institutions are privileged over substance (see Carothers, In the Name of Democracy: U.S. Policy Toward Latin America in the Reagan Years, 1991):

The institutions of U.S. democracy are equated with the ideas and principles behind them. Thus, for example, the idea of a representative government has become identified with a three-part government consisting of executive, legislative, and judiciary branches with the former two elective and the third not. The U.S. version of democracy has come to be thought of by Americans not merely as one of many possible versions, but the very essence of democracy itself. As a result, when the United States sets about to try to promote democracy in a foreign country, it tends not to think about how the general ideas and principles of democracy might take form in that society but to assume that the other country should devote itself to establishing the institutional configuration the United States associates with democracy. 

tank Sochi mascots Russia intervention Crimea

Furry friends mean well! (image:

As with most conflicts, we have been subjected to a barrage of propaganda from both sides, some announcing a reemergence of the Cold War, some networks cheering the feisty freedom fighters of Euromaidan, slinging their rocks at the Russian Goliath, while Kremlin outlets like RT (Russia Today) would have you believe that President Putin just wants everybody to get along, as he orders his Black Sea fleet at Sevastopol to join in the humanitarian intervention underway in Crimea, thereby protecting defenseless ethnic Russians from the hordes of raving brutes roaming the streets… The usual jingoist loudmouths and foreign policy “intellectuals,” who have a talent for not noticing when their own country commits some awful atrocity, have suddenly discovered the evils of military intervention, this time the wrong flavor; severe, doctrinaire Marxists have uncovered the imperialist, neoliberal plot fomenting revolt to usher in another phony “color revolution.” It is true that the recent uprising has had its share of unsavory characters (as well as pseudo-fascist groups), if we can believe the reports, but it is typically the most aggressive and violent elements who tend to seize opportunities like this—and on whom television cameras and photographers tend to focus their attention—to the detriment of the rest of the population, which may have legitimate grievances. It is also true that anyone who orders troops into an area should have to explain himself.

We were also told that funds from the U.S., funneled through Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) such as USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), may have contributed to the political crisis by supporting various political opposition groups and front organisations, as well as promoting the usual teams of “experts” and businessmen who are “developing a vision” for Ukraine, one slogan at a time. This would be nothing new, of course, as the U.S. has since the 1950s worked to extend its influence abroad by funding and promoting various political and cultural activities, propagating values and ideas which further its interests, both overtly and covertly. Shaping perceptions through propaganda has been another component of that broader effort, Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) being obvious examples; RFE/RL is broadcast presently from its headquarters in Prague to 21 countries in 28 languages, including 14 affiliates in Iraq, 17 in Afghanistan, 55 in Serbia, 43 in Kosovo and 16 in Ukraine. It would indeed be surprising if the U.S. weren’t trying to influence the politics of a country like Ukraine, as such has been the norm throughout the post-WWII era. As the U.S. government wished to conduct certain anti-Communist activities covertly, these radios initially operated as projects of ostensibly independent committees—cover organisations—to conceal the extent of government involvement. RFE was initially a project of the National Committee for a Free Europe (NCFE—later the Free Europe Committee), a corporation established in 1949, mostly funded and directed by the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) within the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); RL the vehicle of the non-profit organization American Committee for Liberation of the Peoples of Russia, Inc. (AMCOMLIB—later the Radio Liberty Committee), a “front” based in New York City used by the CIA as part of its Project QKACTIVE [PDF].

State Department Policy Planning Staff Director George Kennan drafted a 30 April 1948 memo [PDF] to the National Security Council outlining his ideas for establishing a policy for what he called “organized political warfare.” Political warfare took two possible forms—overt and covert. Viewing it as “the logical application of Clausewitz’s doctrine in time of peace,” he broadly defined it as “the employment of all the means at a nation’s command, short of war, to achieve its national objectives,” entailing “such overt actions as political alliances, economic measures (as ERP), and ‘white’ propaganda to such covert operations as clandestine support of ‘friendly’ foreign elements, ‘black’ psychological warfare and even encouragement of underground resistance in hostile states.” Kennan claimed that U.S. planners had been “handicapped” by the notion of “a basic difference between peace and war,” a conception of war as “a sort of sporting context outside of all political context,” rather than recognizing a broader struggle which continued both “in and out of war.” Several projects were proposed to support the activities of Soviet émigrés, among which: the creation of a public organization to sponsor selected refugee committees and “outstanding political refugees,” particularly “enabling selected refugee leaders to keep alive as public figures with access to printing presses and microphones”—these leaders would “act as foci of national hope and revive a sense of purpose among political refugees from the Soviet World,” provide inspiration for “continuing popular resistance,” and “serve as a potential nucleus for all-out liberation movements in the event of war”; sustaining underground movements behind the “Iron Curtain” through “remote and deeply concealed official control of clandestine operations,” with funds channeled through private organizations acting as intermediaries; support for indigenous anti-Communist elements within Soviet countries, again though private intermediaries; and preventive “direct action” in non-Soviet countries, such as anti-sabotage activities. Similarly, Soviet expert Robert F. Kelley recognized that Russian political refugees represented “a tremendous weapon of political warfare” against the Soviet Union in a May 1949 memo [PDF]. He recommended the formation of a central organization to coordinate anti-Communist activities, provided with clandestine radio facilities to broadcast programs into Soviet countries. An October 1949 memo [PDF] outlines the relationship between the CIA/OPC and the NCFE—the purpose of the NCFE being to offer support to the “political and intellectual leaders” who have come to the U.S. “seeking the freedom denied them in their own lands,” with the OPC providing direct policy guidance and funding. These leaders were to be aided in their efforts “to keep alive among their fellow citizens in Europe the ideals of individual and national freedom,” notably through radio, press and other media, as well as establishing a network with other “like-minded European leaders” in the U.S. and abroad.

By 1951, a “political center” of Russian émigrés based in West Germany was being established in view of organizing radio programs and publications to be directed at the Soviet Union, as well as political activities and a research institute, outlined in a memo [PDF] from OPC Deputy Director (Plans) Frank Wisner. The overall objective of the Radio Liberty broadcasts, according to a March 1952 OPC policy paper [PDF], was “to deepen and widen the gulf between the peoples of the Soviet Union and their Communist rulers”; the broadcasts “should seek to increase … the tensions which exist in the Soviet Union and sow the seeds of dissaffection where it does not now exist,” while encouraging non-cooperation and obstructionism among the population. Of paramount importance was that the broadcasts, emanating from Russian émigrés “who enjoy freedom abroad,” not appear to be the machinations of a foreign power, but the genuine appeals of “fellow countrymen.” Major objectives were the “destruction of the Soviet government’s monopoly of information” and its “monopoly of intellectual education and guidance”; the “destruction of the myth of the inevitable victory of Communism”; touting the superior aspects of Western culture, as well as encouraging defection. Another 1953 memo [PDF] gives similar but more specific guidance and themes. As of 1953, RFE was broadcasting from Munich and Portugal to Soviet satellite countries, while RL also broadcast from Munich. Both RFE and RL were funded and overseen by the CIA until 1971, when they became overt operations; they were merged into RFE/RL, Inc. in 1976. (see document collection at the Wilson Center pertaining to Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty in the Cold War International History Project)

A June 1953 report to President Eisenhower from the Committee on International Information Activities judged “psychological activities” not separate from the “main body of diplomatic, economic, and military measures by which the United States seeks to achieve its national objectives,” but rather “an ingredient of such measures.” Propaganda was considered “most effective when used as an auxiliary to create a climate of opinion in which national policy objectives can be most readily accomplished,” its objective “seeking to arouse in [foreign peoples] an understanding and a sympathy for the kind of world order which the United States and other free nations seek to achieve.” These examples illustrate some principles still active today; “exporting democracy” is but one tool in a large palette of measures at the state’s disposal, which complement and reinforce each other. Washington, however, as the leading global military interventionist since World War II—with ample wreckage to prove it—has very few lessons to give on the virtues of restraint and moderation. Over time, though, one lesson has been fairly clear: Only we—and our clients—get to act like hoodlums; everyone else plays by the rules. In that spirit, this March 1 statement from Secretary of State John Kerry expressing his disapproval of the Russian incursion into Crimea—to be considered in light of not-so-distant past events—will impress you with its brazenness, if you don’t die laughing:

The United States condemns the Russian Federation’s invasion and occupation of Ukrainian territory, and its violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity in full contravention of Russia’s obligations under the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, its 1997 military basing agreement with Ukraine, and the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. This action is a threat to the peace and security of Ukraine, and the wider region.


Update (March 5): To substantiate claims of U.S. intervention in Ukraine since WWII, as but a small sampling, a 2011 study by professors Richard Breitman and Norman J. W. Goda, Hitler’s Shadow, contains some information on CIA and British MI6 operations involving Ukraine during the post-war era. Under the direction of the National Archives, the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group (IWG), established by the 1998 Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act [P.L. 105-246], has declassified around 8 million pages of documents since 1999; these records, particularly from the CIA and the Army Intelligence Command, provided source material for Breitman and Goda’s excellent study [PDF]. Chapter five concentrates on the Allied cooperation with the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) under Stephen Bandera, founded in 1929, and exiled proponents of the underground government, Foreign Representation of the Supreme Ukrainian Liberation Council (ZP/UHVR).

Initially throwing in their lot with the Germans, OUN leaders were housed in occupied Krakow in 1939. Bandera’s deputy Jaroslav Stetsko trained with the Gestapo; Ukrainian battalions under German command moved into East Galacia (western Ukraine)—where 12,000 Jews were murdered in pogroms at the start of the war—and auxiliary police units engaged in “anti-partisan” operations, often targeting Jews. Ukrainians from the auxiliary units and members of the OUN/B joined the ranks of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), a guerrilla organization engaging in terror operations, formed to engage “all political and ethnic enemies including Germans and Soviets.” Although its leaders were imprisoned in 1941 by the Germans and eventually held in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp because of their militant nationalist tendencies—threatening the Nazis, who wished to consolidate their control over Ukraine—the OUN/B (Bandera) wing of the OUN was an openly fascist organization whose ideology merged with that of the Nazis: the territory was to be ethnically cleansed of “impure” (non-Ukrainian) elements in the drive for national independence. Stetsko lamented from Lwów in 1941 the “undeniably harmful and hostile role of the Jews, who are helping Moscow to enslave Ukraine,” supporting “the destruction of the Jews and the expedience of bringing German methods of exterminating Jewry to Ukraine…”; historian Yehuda Bauer wrote that Bandera loyalists “killed all the Jews they could find”; OUN/B leader Mykola Lebed proposed in 1943 to “cleanse the entire revolutionary territory of the Polish population,” which they did, killing as many as 10,000 Poles in a single day in 1943; according to Moshe Maltz, Bandera loyalists were “literally hacking Poles to pieces,” whose bodies could be seen “with wires around their necks, floating down the river Bug.” Asserting his authority over the Ukrainian émigré community after his release from Sachsenhausen, Bandera formed the Foreign Section OUN (ZCh/OUN) in 1946, a group which routinely engaged in terror and intimidation against its political opponents; plans envisaged a dictatorship formed in exile which would establish control over Ukraine, once liberated.

Bandera loyalists quickly developed an effective network of recruiting agents among the postwar displaced person camps of the American, British and French zones. Owing to their generally anti-Communist stance, U.S. Army Counterintelligence Corps (CIC) agents used them to identify Soviet spies, who had penetrated UPA refugee groups. The UPA foresaw “an end to communism within the very near future,” hoping to eventually “fight either as front shock troops or gain in their old capacity, as guerilla fighters behind the Russian lines”; Bandersts similarly portrayed themselves as the “heroic Ukrainian resistance against the Nazis and the Communists,” a struggle “misrepresented and maligned” by “Moscow propaganda.” Although the CIA discouraged collaboration with Bandera and his organization, considering him “a political intransigent of great personal ambition” and “politically unacceptable to the US Government,” MI6 saw them as potentially useful for “engaging in clandestine operations in the Soviet Union other than those of a purely intelligence-gathering character,” and assisted in inserting them into western Ukraine to gather intelligence. He was seen as “a professional underground worker with a terrorist background and ruthless notions about the rules of the game. … No better and no worse than others of his kind…” West German intelligence (BND) similarly reported that it was receiving “good [foreign intelligence] reports on the Soviet Ukraine” through its collaboration with him, until his assassination by a Soviet agent in 1959.

The U.S. collaboration with Lebed—considered by the CIC a “well-known sadist and collaborator of the Germans” and a “ruthless operator” by the CIA—was more fruitful; he was personally protected from Soviet extradition requests and resettled in New York, where he was eventually granted U.S. citizenship. Lebed’s group was seen as more “moderate” and stable, of utility for intelligence and resistance activities behind Soviet lines. The CIA—whose authorities were expanded under NSC 10/2 in June 1948 to include covert operations such as “subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance movements, guerrillas and refugee liberation groups, and support of indigenous anti-communist elements in threatened countries of the free world”—began providing funds, supplies, training and facilities, as well as parachute drops into Ukraine under the codename CARTEL, later AERODYNAMIC:

AERODYNAMIC’s first phase involved infiltration into Ukraine and then exfiltration of CIA-trained Ukrainian agents. By January 1950 the CIA’s arm for the collection of secret intelligence (Office of Special Operations, OSO) and its arm for covert operations (Office of Policy Coordination, OPC) participated. Operations in that year revealed “a well established and secure underground movement” in the Ukraine that was even “larger and more fully developed than previous reports had indicated.” Washington was especially pleased with the high level of UPA training in the Ukraine and its potential for further guerrilla actions, and with “the extraordinary news that … active resistance to the Soviet regime was spreading steadily eastward, out of the former Polish, Greek Catholic provinces. …

Beginning in 1953 AERODYNAMIC began to operate through a Ukrainian study group under Lebed’s leadership in New York under CIA auspices, which collected Ukrainian literature and history and produced Ukrainian nationalist newspapers, bulletins, radio programming, and books for distribution in the Ukraine. In 1956 this group was formally incorporated as the non-profit Prolog Research and Publishing Association. It allowed the CIA to funnel funds as ostensible private donations without taxable footprints. To avoid nosey New York State authorities, the CIA turned Prolog into a for-profit enterprise called Prolog Research Corporation, which ostensibly received private contracts. Under Hrinioch, Prolog maintained a Munich office named the Ukrainische-Gesellschaft für Auslandsstudien, EV. Most publications were created here. The Hrinioch-Lebed organization still existed, but its activities ran entirely through Prolog.

Prolog recruited and paid Ukrainian émigré writers who were generally unaware that they worked in a CIA-controlled operation. Only the six top members of the ZP/UHVR were witting agents. Beginning in 1955, leaflets were dropped over the Ukraine by air and radio broadcasts titled Nova Ukraina were aired in Athens for Ukrainian consumption. These activities gave way to systematic mailing campaigns to Ukraine through Ukrainian contacts in Poland and émigré contacts in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Spain, Sweden, and elsewhere. The newspaper Suchasna Ukrainia (Ukraine Today), information bulletins, a Ukrainian language journal for intellectuals called Suchasnist (The Present), and other publications were sent to libraries, cultural institutions, administrative offices and private individuals in Ukraine. These activities encouraged Ukrainian nationalism, strengthened Ukrainian resistance, and provided an alternative to Soviet media.

In 1957 alone, with CIA support, Prolog broadcast 1,200 radio programs totaling 70 hours per month and distributed 200,000 newspapers and 5,000 pamphlets. In the years following, Prolog distributed books by nationalist Ukrainian writers and poets. One CIA analyst judged that, “some form of nationalist feeling continues to exist [in the Ukraine] and … there is an obligation to support it as a cold war weapon.” The distribution of literature in the Soviet Ukraine continued to the end of the Cold War. …

Prolog’s leaders and agents debriefed travelers on their return and shared information with the CIA. In 1966 alone Prolog personnel had contacts with 227 Soviet citizens. Beginning in 1960 Prolog also employed a CIA-trained Ukrainian spotter named Anatol Kaminsky. He created a net of informants in Europe and the United States made up of Ukrainian émigrés and other Europeans travelling to Ukraine who spoke with Soviet Ukrainians in the USSR or with Soviet Ukrainians travelling in the West. By 1966 Kaminsiky was Prolog’s chief operations officer, while Lebed provided overall management.

In this guise, AERODYNAMIC was one of the most effective CIA operations in approaching disaffected Soviet citizens. In the 1960s Prolog’s leaders provided reports on Ukrainian politics, dissident Ukrainian poets, individuals connected with the KGB as well as identities of KGB officers, Soviet missiles and aircraft in western Ukraine, and a host of other topics. Official Soviet attacks on the ZP/UHVR as Banderists, German collaborators, American agents, and the like were evidence of Prolog’s effectiveness, as were Soviet crackdowns on Ukrainian writers and other dissidents in the mid to late 1960s. By that time Prolog influenced a new Ukrainian generation. By 1969 Ukrainians traveling from the USSR were instructed by dissidents there to take informational materials on Soviet repression in Ukraine only to ZP/UHVR personnel. Travelers to Ukraine even reported seeing ZP/UHVR literature in private homes. Prolog had become in the words of one senior CIA official, the sole “vehicle for CIA’s operations directed at the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and [its] forty million Ukrainian citizens.” …

Lebed retired in 1975 but remained an adviser and consultant to Prolog and the ZP/UHVR. Roman Kupchinsky, a Ukrainian journalist who was a one-year-old when the war ended, became Prolog’s chief in 1978. In the 1980s AERODYNAMIC’s name was changed to QRDYNAMIC and in the 1980s PDDYNAMIC and then QRPLUMB. In 1977 President Carter’s National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski helped to expand the program owing to what he called its “impressive dividends” and the “impact on specific audiences in the target area.” In the 1980s Prolog expanded its operations to reach other Soviet nationalities, and in a supreme irony, these included dissident Soviet Jews. With the USSR teetering on the brink of collapse in 1990, QRPLUMB was terminated with a final payout of $1.75 million. Prolog could continue its activities, but it was on its own financially.

—h/t @jeffkaye

Camouflage, Concealment and Deception

March 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

In the late 1950s under the Eisenhower administration, amid the distrust of the Soviet Union, space age competition sparked by the 1957 orbiting of the Sputnik-1 satellite and U.S. military/intelligence bureaucratic rivalries, was born Project CORONA, an aerial reconnaissance program. The program involved the launching into orbit a reconnaissance satellite to acquire imagery intelligence on the Soviet Union—for instance, any evidence of ongoing construction tied to an intercontinental ballistic missile program (ICBM). In other words, after being launched it would take photographs while in orbit and send the images back to Earth, giving Washington access to imagery of large swathes of territory, including remote regions otherwise difficult to access. Efforts originally resided within the Air Force: in 1946, General Curtis E. LeMay envisioned the uses of an orbital satellite; a decade later the Air Force issued General Operational Requirement No. 80 in 1956, establishing guidelines for an advanced reconnaissance satellite, resulting in the Weapon System 117L (WS-117L) program. As part of this program, contractor Lockheed was to develop a “video read-out” satellite, intended to produce scans of photographs which would then be transmitted to Earth (SENTRY/SAMOS); a sub-project developed a film recovery system involving capsules sent to Earth. In 1958, President Eisenhower, particularly fond of clandestine and covert activities, transferred the sub-project, film recovery system, to a team led by CIA Deputy Director (Plans) Richard M. Bissell, Jr., where it could be pursued and funded in secret. CORONA, a joint effort pursued by the Advance Research Projects Agency (ARPA), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the U.S. Air Force, and assisted by private firms, thus continued covertly a program begun by the Air Force, as the true intentions could not be made public [PDF]. This, and subsequent programs, known under the code names LANYARD, ARGON, GRAB, POPPY, GAMBIT, HEXAGON and QUILL, placed several satellites into orbit throughout the 1960s with a series of cameras with varying capabilities, designated KH-1, KH-2, etc. (KH = keyhole)

The activities surrounding the program could not be totally concealed from the public, however, as the firing of launch vehicles into orbit tends to attract attention; its existence therefore not only needed to be kept from adversaries, but also from the domestic population, necessitating the creation of cover stories. Credible explanations were necessary to assuage the curiosity of both the press and the public in order to maintain the “security” of Project CORONA. A 1958 memo [PDF] from Bissell summarizing a plausible cover story explained that the “desired concealment” could only be achieved by “first developing and then giving appropriate circulation to a logical account of the nature and purpose of the series differing from the true purpose.” Such a strategy required that a “minimum amount of information be released,” as denying the press any details “will not only invite a penetration effort on the part of the opposition but create an air of mystery and encourage damaging speculation.” CORONA could be portrayed as an activity serving “a number of legitimate scientific and technical purposes,” which, though possibly “contributing to the development of military technologies,” were not “military in character”; false, or decoy, payloads were to be carried on certain launches “so as to ‘live out’ the cover story.” Any involvement on the part of the intelligence community (IC) was to be concealed.

CORONA satellite imagery CIA Bissel

From a November 5, 1958 memo from CIA Deputy Director (Plans) Richard M. Bissell, Jr. detailing outlines of a cover story for the CORONA project. (image:

Dissociated from the military WS-117L program, CORONA was to be known publicly as “DISCOVERY,” a project devoted to “the development of hardware ultimately usable for either military or peaceful scientific purposes,” investigating technical problems which would “advance the state of the art in pilotless space operation.” Several launches in the DISCOVERY series were to carry “biomedical payloads to test environmental conditions in the upper atmosphere,” contributing to the NASA/ARPA “Man-In-Space” program. A March 1959 memo [PDF] from Bissel summarizing the development of the project restated the need for “security” and secrecy surrounding CORONA: “Specific ostensible missions are being defined for each flight and data will be accumulated ostensibly resulting from the DISCOVERY flights to be furnished on an unclassified basis or with low classification to interested persons.” In 1961, projects CORONA, SAMOS and others were brought under the newly-created National Reconnaissance Program (NRP), consisting of “all satellite and oversight reconnaissance projects,” including “all photographic projects for intelligence, geodesy and mapping purposes, and electronic signal collection projects for electronic signal intelligence and communications intelligence.” These were consolidated under a covert (unacknowledged) organization, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO)—whose existence was admitted only in 1992—with staff drawn from both the CIA and the Department of Defense (DoD), responsible to the U.S. Intelligence Board. The need for alternative explanations remained: NRO was to develop “suitable cover plans and public information plans, in conjunction with the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Public Affairs, to reduce potential political vulnerability of these programs.” [PDF]


“We own the night”: Mission emblem reportedly for August 2000 LACROSSE/ONYX 4 satellite launch (image:

What’s more natural than to conceal these activities, the disclosure of which would jeopardize vital national security interests? Moreover, they understood that in order to keep a secret from one’s adversaries, the domestic population also had to be kept in the dark, as revealing the truth to the U.S. population would be tantamount to revealing it to the Russians as well—unacceptable. Moving to 1983, President Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 108 [PDF] on October 12, pronouncing the need to respond to the Soviet doctrine of maskirovka, which called for “camouflage, concealment and deception” surrounding defense-related programs; measures designed to mislead or deceive included “concealment, simulation, diversionary actions and disinformation.” U.S. planners were concerned that the Soviet Union “may be attempting to deceive the West regarding the intent and purpose of basic policies, e.g., arms control.” Clearly, outwitting such perfidy required a more “aggressive and focused” intelligence program, devoting training and resources to countering Soviet attempts at obfuscation. The document was to be handled through TALENT-KEYHOLE control channels—a compartmented security designation to protect material/intelligence obtained from manned aircraft overflights and reconnaissance satellites—meaning the implementation likely included the development of new techniques of satellite surveillance.

These concerns, along with Soviet anti-satellite capabilities, impelled the development of alternative projects, among which LACROSSE (later ONYX), a series of radar imaging reconnaissance satellites, first launched in 1988, and Misty, a series of stealth (difficult to detect) electro-optical reconnaissance satellites, possibly derived from KH-11 Block 3 satellites (codenamed CRYSTAL), first launched in 1990. Misty, guarded under a highly secret and compartmented designation, was designed to be less vulnerable to various types of detection, possibly through the use of an inflatable, “signature suppression” shield (although its existence could not be kept secret from certain amateur satellite enthusiasts). The successor to ONYX—which, according to the leaked FY2013 National Intelligence Program budget [PDF] has been de-orbited—is another radar imaging satellite known under the name TOPAZ, for which five satellites were apparently planned before transitioning to Block 2. Although these systems were developed in response to Cold War necessities, it should not be surprising that they, or their derivatives, can still be of use—after all, the world is still a dangerous place. Among the various other satellite systems within the National Reconnaissance Program budget, we find the expenditures for an Evolved Enhanced CRYSTAL System (costing $1.55 billion for FY2013), and the TOPAZ (1-5) and TOPAZ Block 2 (collectively costing $192.5 million for FY2013):


Adieu, Maestro

March 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

Over the years, I’ve grown to love and appreciate flamenco. I had the pleasure of working the sound during a concert by Juan Carmona in Aix-en-Provence years ago, and was impressed by the levels of musicianship, technique, rigor, emotion and physicality which could all coincide in one music, as something rare. Paco helped develop what is known as the “New Flamenco,” incorporating sophisticated harmonic colors from jazz and other musics, while maintaining structures resulting from a long-established tradition—as well as popularizing the cajón from South America, an instrument whose timbre marries perfectly with the acoustic guitar, as if it had always been a part of flamenco. But then, that’s normal; the work of a master, like Paco, or J.S. Bach or Miles Davis, has an inevitable quality to it, a tendency to present itself as the most natural—or the only—way of going about it, so that doing it any other way seems almost inconceivable. There are people who find flamenco too harmonically uniform, or dislike aspects of a certain stereotypical or clichéd idea of it, but these types of complaints often come from those who are simply not listening well enough. Although it has a life of its own, as an oral tradition, flamenco can be more broadly situated among the different styles of music—fusions with local cultures, really—created by communities (in Spain, gitanos) resulting from the voyages of the various Roma, or Romani (still colloquially known by the inaccurate label [or exonym] “Gypsies”) throughout Europe and North Africa—popularized in recent decades by filmmakers such as Tony Gatlif. Like most orally transmitted music, what it may lack in some qualities it compensates for elsewhere, and the various complexities and subtleties can only be noticed when one becomes familiar with it. But this is not something to discuss as much as it is to be heard.

Paco de Lucía (1947 – 2014)

Getting a Piece of the Land

March 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

Human Rights organization Al-Haq has posted a Virtual Field Visit into the E1 Area of the West Bank. It shows, as can only be properly shown with a map, the encroachment of Israeli colonies into the West Bank from East Jerusalem, extended into the Ma’ale Adumim settlement, and following a salient directed east which would eventually bisect the West Bank. The project—although these developments date mostly from the 1990s, when settlement construction was accelerated—has been pursued in one way or another since the creation of the state of Israel, whose early Zionist leaders intended for the population to expand to the Jordan River, as well as possibly into the Sinai. Whatever refugees resulted from the 1948 ethnic cleansing (nakba) would assimilate elsewhere, or “would be crushed,” while most of them “would turn into human dust and the waste of society, and join the most impoverished classes in the Arab countries.” The military occupation resulting from the 1967 war made this realizable, if under less than ideal circumstances, by a military presence enabling Israel to control and partially subdue the population, as well as gaining access to precious water resources in the form of aquifers. A separate entity serving as a Palestinian state has always been rejected by most political leaders, demonstrated by the 1989 peace initiative, in which it is stated clearly that “Israel opposes the establishment of an additional Palestinian state in the Gaza district and in the area between Israel and Jordan” (meaning Jordan is already considered a “Palestinian” state). Despite several peace plans, including in 1971 from Egypt (rejected by the U.S. and Israel) and numerous United Nations resolutions condemning the occupation, the basic strategy of establishing “facts on the ground” while time passes has not changed. The narrator of the video states that “[i]f the plans for construction in E1 continue, Palestine would effectively be divided into three cantons of the upper West Bank, lower West Bank, and Gaza”:

The E1 area stretches across 22,000 dunums of confiscated Palestinian land and also provides a vital passage joining the northern and southern sections of the West Bank, as well as Jerusalem. The closure of this passage would effectively cut the West Bank into two. Construction in the E1 area, combined with restrictions imposed by the Annexation Wall and the Oslo Accords, creates a clear obstacle to a self-sufficient economically viable Palestinian State.

In addition to military, intelligence and economic ties between the U.S. and Israel, ideological affinities exist, possibly because of historical parallels. On 7 September 1783, George Washington addressed a letter to James Duane in which he discussed the fate of the indigenous population inhabiting the land to be gradually taken over by European settlement. Always eloquent, Washington explains how the tribes were to be dispossessed, if the use of force was to be avoided:

As the Country, is large enough to contain us all; and as we are disposed to be kind to them and to partake of their Trade, we will from these considerations and from motives of Compn, draw a veil over what is past and establish a boundary line between them and us beyond which we will endeavor to restrain our People from Hunting or Settling, and within which they shall not come, but for the purposes of Trading, Treating, or other business unexceptionable in its nature. 

In establishing this line, in the first instance, care should be taken neither to yield nor to grasp at too much. But to endeavor to impress the Indians with an idea of the generosity of our disposition to accommodate them, and with the necessity we are under, of providing for our Warriors, our Young People who are growing up, and strangers who are coming from other Countries to live among us. …

At first view, it may seem a little extraneous, when I am called upon to give an opinion upon the terms of a Peace proper to be made with the Indians, that I should go into the formation of New States; but the Settlemt of the Western Country and making a Peace with the Indians are so analogous that there can be no definition of the one without involving considerations of the other. for I repeat it, again, and I am clear in my opinion, that policy and oeconomy point very strongly to the expediency of being upon good terms with the Indians, and the propriety of purchasing their Lands in preference to attempting to drive them by force of arms out of their Country; which as we have already experienced is like driving the Wild Beasts of the Forest which will return us soon as the pursuit is at an end and fall perhaps on those that are left there; when the gradual extension of our Settlements will as certainly cause the Savage as the Wolf to retire; both being beasts of prey tho’ they differ in shape. 

Thomas Jefferson, writing to Henry Dearborn on 28 August 1807, on believing that certain tribes on the western frontier were moving towards hostility against settlers, thought that the Americans “should immediately prepare for war in that quarter, & at the same time redouble our efforts for peace”:

That sufficient stores of arms, ammunition & provision be deposited in convenient places for any expedition which it may be necessary to undertake in that quarter, and for the defence of the posts & settlements there; & that the object of these preparations be openly declared, as well to let the Indians understand the danger they are bringing on themselves, as to lull the suspicion of any other object. …

…that, at the same time, as we have learnt that some tribes are already expressing intentions hostile to the US. we think it proper to apprise them of the ground on which they now stand, & that on which they will stand; for which purpose we make to them this solemn declaration of our unalterable determination; that we wish them to live in peace with all nations as well as with us, and we have no intention ever to strike them or to do them an injury of any sort, unless first attacked or threatened; but that learning that some of them meditate war on us, we too are preparing for war against those, & those only who shall seek it: and that if ever we are constrained to lift the hatchet against any tribe, we will never lay it down till that tribe is exterminated, or driven beyond the Missisipi

Writing to John Adams on 11 June 1812, Jefferson compared and contrasted the characters of various tribes in a discussion on anthropological aspects of the indigenous population:

…that nation, consisting now of about 2000. warriors, & the Creeks of about 3000. are far advanced in civilisation. they have good Cabins, inclosed fields, large herds of cattle & hogs, spin & weave their own clothes of cotton, have smiths & other of the most necessary tradesmen, write & read, are on the increase in numbers, & a branch of the Cherokees is now instituting a regular representative government. some other tribes were advancing in the same line. on those who have made any progress, English seductions will have no effect. but the backward will yeild, & be thrown further back. these will relapse into barbarism & misery, lose numbers by war & want, and we shall be obliged to drive them, with the beasts of the forest into the Stony mountains.

Everything Is a Remix, part XXIV

January 7, 2014 § 2 Comments

Although originality is certainly a virtue, I see a problem with the fact that artists are often accused of “ripping off” other artists by copying and incorporating portions of their songs in their own work. Not only does popular music—and music in general—depend largely on choosing between elements of an already existing repertoire of themes, techniques and ideas, it could be argued that part of the artistry is the ability to cleverly incorporate and rearrange these elements in new ways to create something novel and uniquely personal. After all, if one was required to reinvent the wheel with each song, or book, there would be very few songs to listen to, or books to read, and the distinction between being influenced by someone and outright copying them is not necessarily so clear—the point at which an idea is modified so much that it becomes another distinct idea is not so clear either. If ideas can be “stolen,” then most of us are thieves on some level. Furthermore, music, as one human activity among many, like language, is subject to inherent limitations resulting from our inborn capacities (genetic makeup), and so we should expect to see what are basically unlimited variations on a finite set of abilities—we should not expect humans, in other words, to begin producing “non-human” music. Even though we all have certain inherent capacities which are more or less the same, no one creates in a vacuum, and most human activities are a result of a collaboration, whether direct or indirect. In fact, it could even be said that this blog post itself is a remix of an idea which inspired me in the first place to write on the topic (of course, this apparent similarity is merely a coincidence).

R.L. Burnside Delta Blues 1969

Album “Mississippi Delta Blues – Vol. 2” released by Arhoolie in 1969 (thanks to Stefan Wirz [])

For example, according to the presentation on R.L. Burnside’s 1969 release on Arhoolie (recorded in 1967), his track “Skinny Woman” is based on Yank Rachell’s 1934 recording of “Gravel Road Woman.” In what might be its earliest recorded form, we can locate a version of “Gravel Road Woman” interpreted by Yank Rachell & Dan Smith. Musically, they are similar in the way that many Delta Blues songs are similar, but not recognizably so, and Burnside simply seems to have used the idea and lyrics of the song as an inspiration for his own creation, most notably the repetitive melodic motif in the bass. Burnside’s song was later covered, with different lyrics, by the Black Keys under the title “Busted,” released in 2002. Moving to Scottish musician Bert Jansch, who was himself influenced by American folk and blues singers, “Blackwater Side,” itself based on the traditional folk song “Down by Blackwaterside,” was released in 1966, three years before Burnside’s album—the song incorporates a motif very similar to Burnside’s “Skinny Woman” but was released before it, raising the question of who exactly influenced whom, if at all. Led Zeppelin, whose tendency to lift the songs of bluesmen/women for their own purposes is well-documented, released their—or rather, Jimmy Page’s—version of the song in 1969 under the title “Black Mountain Side,” thereby barely concealing the origins of the piece.

This all brings us to four observations of interest: 1) Although a song may be “based on” another, it can sound rather different, 2) Unoriginal ideas may still result in good music, 3) When copying, it is not the lack of originality which is insulting, as much as it is the failure to acknowledge where one’s ideas come from, and 4) Even though one may not even be aware of the provenance of one’s ideas, they may still be virtual copies of other ideas.

Yank Rachell & Dan Smith: Gravel Road Woman (released 1934)

Bert Jansch: Blackwater Side (released 1966)

R.L. Burnside: Skinny Woman (released 1969)

Led Zeppelin: Black Mountain Side (released 1969)

The Black Keys: Busted (released 2002)