Monday, June 30, 2008

APA & CIA Study Deception to Help Undercover Police

I've written before about the July 2003 American Psychological Association/CIA/Rand Corporation workshop on deception that looked at, among other things, the use of drugs and sensory overload to "overwhelm the senses" and break down those imprisoned by state agencies.

But it turns out there was another workshop held roughly a year later, on Interpersonal Deceptive Practices, a "RAND Project sponsored by CIA Behavioral Sciences Staff." APA Science Policy staff were key participants in the meeting, which was aimed at helping law enforcement and intelligence agencies in their "undercover" work (among other things). The funding was part of a $500,000 grant authorized by Congress for the National Science Foundation and the Office of Science and Technology Policy to produce "not less than two workshops on the coordination of Federal Government research on the use of behavioral, psychological, and physiological assessments of individuals in the conduct of security evaluations."

Here's the skinny on the 2004 workshop:
On June 24th, Science Policy staff attended a day-long meeting designed to forge collaborations between operational staff working in the intelligence community and scientists conducting research on interpersonal deception. Generously funded by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the meeting was held near RAND headquarters in Arlington, VA and was facilitated by RAND policy analyst Scott Gerwehr. Gerwehr provided a conceptual framework for the meeting while Susan Brandon, Assistant Director of Social, Behavioral and Educational Sciences for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy [and former APA "Senior Scientist] and APA Science Policy Director Geoff Mumford concentrated on the logistics of inviting the particpants [sic] representing, the FBI, US Secret Service, CIA, DoD, Department of Homeland Security, UK Ministry of Defense, New Scotland Yard, and the UK Home Office as well as a long list of academic institutions.

Gerwehr's notion was essentially the reverse of a previous workshop conducted as a joint CIA/RAND/APA exercise on the theme of detecting deception....

Provided with that background, presentations were grouped thematically with Scott serving as facilitator throughout: 1) Interpersonal deception & deception detection: operational challenges; 2) Technological advances; behavioral challenges; 3) Empirical & ethical challenges.
The following is taken from Gerwehr's own introduction to the 2004 workshop (bold emphases added):
There is a long and robust record of scientific investigation into detecting interpersonal deception (highlights include De Paulo et al, 2003; Vrij, 2000; Zuckerman et al, 1981; Ekman & Friesen, 1969).... However, despite the significant amount of scientific work on detecting deception, there is astonishingly little on conducting interpersonal deception.... Those professions or vocations that feature interpersonal deception as a central component of the job (e.g., undercover police work) frequently have little written doctrine on how to deceive, and even more rarely have subjected that doctrine to rigorous scientific inquiry. This project aims to 1) systematically comb through the existing scientific literature for guidance on effectively practicing interpersonal deception, 2) survey a wide-variety of professionals who practice deception, in order to compile a broad knowledge base containing "best practices" of conducting deception, 3) identify gaps or untested hypotheses regarding the practice of deception in both the scientific literature and professional knowledge base, and 4) formulate a "road map" of scientific experimentation to address shortcomings, inaccuracies, and gaps in existing doctrine on deceiving....

Individuals who professionally practice deception (e.g., smugglers, undercover cops) may have a great deal of explicit and implicit information about what variables are key, what methods work and don't work....

For effective interpersonal deception there may be some generalities common to a number of fields (e.g., acting, undercover work, smuggling, unscrupulous sales or con artistry). In your opinion, for effective interpersonal deception:

-- What, if anything, do you need to know ahead of time about the audience?
-- How do you find out the critical information about the audience?
-- What audience traits/states are "showstoppers"?
-- Does it matter to you how many audience members there are?
-- What aspects of the milieu would you like to control?
-- What milieu features are "showstoppers"?
-- What milieu features do you capitalize on?
-- How much time is the appropriate amount of time to effectively deceive? Would you rather have more time or less time in any given situation (i.e., operate more or less quickly than the "usual")? If the answer is "it depends", then depends on what?
-- What are the critical variables about yourself necessary to ensure deception?
-- What do you do/not do with your: Hands? Eyes? Posture? ...?
-- What, if anything, is it important to keep in mind while deceiving? Objective? Story? Character?
-- How important is the style or tone of your speaking?
-- How important is the actual content?
-- How do construct the narrative? What are the key choices you have to make?
-- What is the right mix of truth, falsehood, and omission? How does this change with the objective? Audience? Environment?
-- Does the deception have to be perfect to be effective? What % is enough?
[Excuse me, I know it's the middle of the article, but I have to go take a shower right now. Be right back. *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***]

I'm sure undercover cops and agents are very excited that the scientists that gobble up government research money are now turning towards a scientific examination of their craft. Given the attendance at the meeting by members of the CIA, FBI, Scotland Yard, and other police agencies, the emphasis will be on what helps cops plant undercover spies in anti-war and other government opposition groups, like the "teams of undercover New York City police officers" that the New York Times reported "traveled to cities across the country, Canada and Europe to conduct covert observations of people who planned to protest at the [2004 GOP] convention"; or the Fresno peace group who was infiltrated by "an agent working for the Fresno Sheriff’s Department and local anti-terrorism unit"; or the two Oakland, California undercover police who infiltrated a local antiwar group in 2006; or the "widespread" undercover surveillance of activists in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as revealed by scores of documents released to the ACLU under Freedom of Information Act requests.

The implantation of undercover agents, in addition to agents provocateurs, into government opposition groups has a long and checkered history, both in the U.S. and abroad. It was a specialty of the FBI anti-radical program, COINTELPRO, and use of such surveillance was a major operation by military intelligence during the 1960s (bold emphasis added).
In July 1969, the Department of Defense opened a new war room in the basement of the Pentagon. Staffed by some 180 people and packed with all the latest equipment -data processing machines, closed circuit television, teletype networks, elaborate situation maps-the new operation was a marvel of military technology.... This was not a regular command center but a very special operation-a "domestic war room," the headquarters of the Directorate for Civil Disturbance Planning and Operations. It was the coordinating center for the Pentagon's domestic war operations.

The office, now known as the Division of Military Services, played a central role in the military's widespread intelligence operations against the American people, a sweeping campaign of civilian surveillance which ultimately affected more than 100,000 citizens. In the fall of 1968, there were more Army Counter-Intelligence Analysis Branch personnel assigned to monitor domestic citizen protests than were assigned to any other counter-intelligence operation in the world, including Southeast Asia and the Vietnam War.' In the later part of the 1960s and early 1970s, 1,500 army plainclothes intelligence agents with the services of more than 350 separate offices and record centers watched and infiltrated thousands of legitimate civilian political organizations. Data banks with as many as 100,000 entries each were maintained at intelligence headquarters at Fort Holabird, Maryland, and at Fourth Army headquarters at Fort Sam Houston, Texas....

The growth of the army intelligence bureaucracy paralleled the growth of dissident protest movements through the 1960s. Military intelligence undercover agents focused on the civil rights movement of the early 1960s, and then moved to the New Left anti-Vietnam War coalitions of later years. No political gathering, no matter how small, was considered insignificant. No distinction was made between groups preaching violent action and those advocating peaceful dissent. Even the most established and nonviolent groups such as the NAACP and the American Friends Service Committee became targets of military surveillance.

With the exception of the FBI, the military intelligence services collected more information on American politics in the sixties than any other federal agency.... The attitude pervading these army operations was best stated by Robert E. Jordan III, general counsel to the army: "the people on the other side were essentially the enemy. The army conducted a de facto war against all citizen protest, legitimate and illegitimate, violent and peaceful, white and black."
In its quest to serve the National Security State as the best providers of supposed scientific support, the American Psychological Association has prostituted itself right into the heart of the worst kind of secretive and anti-democratic government activity that exists in our society. One wonders what kind of individuals do this kind of work? And for those who believe that CIA and Rand and APA are interested in infiltrating Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, consider only the information above. It's not that the police or government groups don't sometimes operate to protect the nation or its citizens from harm. What's at stake here is the irrefutable proof that they so often turn their weapons, both figuratively and literally, upon those same citizens when they are in political opposition to the government.

But, for instance, don't the FBI make "sting" arrests on some bad criminals? No doubt they do, or they have, but I don't think these are the kinds of arrest scenarios these folks have in mind, having only a year earlier speculated on ways to break down or psychologically overwhelm a detainee -- via drugs or sensory overload.

Perhaps some members of APA will read this and ponder, as they ready for the next convention of APA this August in Boston. Or maybe, they will wonder why, after months and months, their organization cannot still bring themselves to call for a closure of the torture chambers at Guantanamo? No, most likely they will congratulate themselves for all the "progress" the organization has made, with such progress measured in toothless resolutions and the amount of government research gold piling up for psychologists to spend on projects such as the one described above.

1 comment:

jmulick said...

Thanks for this article. You have done a very nice job with it.

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