HUMINT, Surveillance, and Destroying People

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the principles used in stage magic, especially card tricks, is to alter the audience’s perception of the order in which things happened chronologically. That is, by making things seem as if they happened in a different order the magician, or in this case covert operative/harasser, can also alter the perception of causality. I’ll repeat the example rather than linking to it.

A stage magician knows the value, suit, and location of one card. He gets a volunteer to choose a card. Once chosen, he calls out the one he knows and looks at the one chosen after doing so. Now he knows two cards. He repeats this as many times as desired but ends the process by choosing the card he already knows last. Then he places that card in the first position. It appears as though he called out the handful of cards in order, even though he did not.

Now imagine all your interests and the subjects of your emails and phone calls as the cards. In this case, several things have changed. First, though you are vaguely aware from reading that mass surveillance is occurring…

{Quick sidebar: I would note a recent tweet from Snowden reveals that there are many people who do not know his name. Ah, to be so blissfully ignorant of what is happening around me. Again.}

Though you are vaguely aware of mass surveillance, you don’t get to see the magician. Further, you likely don’t recognize any reasons why, even if at least three intelligence agencies have all of your emails and phone calls, why they would bother to do anything with it. In short, optimism bias and humility prevent you from accepting it as a possibility. That’s fine for our purposes. We’ll use someone who is aware instead.

Someone who has already been subject to what on its surface is nonsensical cloak and dagger harassment, for whatever actual reason. I’ll get to a few possible ones later in the post.

Imagine that person. That person, when attempting to keep some semblance of normalcy, will try to engage in things like other “normal” people. Music, pop culture, current events, TV, movies, etc. I’ll also get to why removing the desire to do this is so critical to the covert operatives involved. In short, it takes away things that prevent the target from giving in to “learned helplessness” and “persistent adversity,” two terms used by the CIA psychologists who designed the torture program by reverse engineering the torture resistance program, SERE.

Imagine all the words and terms are in a computer. A database. Imagine it looks, because we humans require visualizations of data in order to grasp ideas, like the word cloud at left if you are reading this on the desktop version, or at bottom if the mobile one.

All of your interests and concerns are in there. The things you recommend to other people on Twitter and Facebook.

Then, later, you discover that something bad happened to someone involved with one of those interests or similar. How you find out is likely another thing to be discussed, but find out you did.

It was easy. They already knew what you did, so they merely need a computer to note the news regarding your interest and then decide to place it in front of your nose if the news is bad.

Assuming again, you’re a person who has already seen their unfair share of abuse from system run amok. The urge is to think that you’re recommendation one way or another was somehow connected to what happened.

Now assume a bit more. Assume that, because these other people, these celebrities, are also under surveillance–because we all are–that it becomes easy for an intelligence organization to know that a celebrity is ill before the general public does. As noted elsewhere, I am fairly certain similar was done with an earthquake in Virginia, where the big one made the initial news but it wasn’t until much later that, “Oh, by the way, it was preceded by 48-72 hours of tremors” got reported as well.

Alters perception. Alters perceived causality.

Right. Who are some of these targets? The start of another long Twitter thread that still grows now and again.


Okay that explains part of it. Who next? Random people because they present more of a challenge than those dealing with mental illness and yet there is no motive for it happening. Remember, we’re still talking about training at this point.


Now, why is cutting the target off from anything enjoyable so important? In order to make their lives a living hell to the point they “give up” and become whatever it is you want them to be, up to and including mass murderers and terrorists or to simply disrupt activists, alternative business sectors that make bigger, older ones feel threatened.

You should probably read that thread. Lots of goodies beyond the paper, which I’ll also link up below.


Anthony Stahelski, “Terrorists Are Made, Not Born,” Central Washington University, 2004.

New link:–not-born-stahelski



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