DARPA looking to master propaganda via ‘Narrative Networks’

October 20, 2011 by Bob Yirka report

DARPAEnlarge

(PhysOrg.com) — Sometimes you just don’t know whether to laugh, cry or be alarmed when hearing about what the boys in secretive back rooms are doing in the name of antiterrorism, or homeland security, or whatever else they wish to call it. This time it seems, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the semi-secret agency charged with coming up with new and cool ways to protect the citizens of the United States from foreign bad guys, wants to hire someone to figure out how vulnerable some people are to “narratives” (oral stories, speeches, propaganda, books, etc. that cause people to think) and then, supplant such messages with “better” messages to head off the path that for such people might lead them to becoming a terrorist.

 

Called the “Narrative Networks” project, DARPA has released a solicitation for research proposals by those that have both the know-how and the technology to implement such a program, which is divided into two parts. The first part would involve analyzing what happens to people when they hear or see a message. It’s thought that certain messages or images actually cause a change in the brain to accommodate the new ideas.

The second part of the study, quite naturally, would involve developing a means for taking advantage of what is learned in the first part. Or, in other words, to come up with a way to find out who is vulnerable to messaging, and then to blast them with a message that would overwrite any undesirable brain changes that occurred as the result of that person being subjected to “bad” messages, so that they would behave themselves.

At first blush, such a program would appear to be scary as all get out; after all, if our government gets its hands on technology that could reprogram people who have come to feel things the government doesn’t like, it seems like a really good way to control them, including its own population. On second thought though, as reality starts to kick in, it appears that while some research in this area might bear some fruit, it’s highly doubtful that any such program would meet with much success. After all, governments (and other entities) have been trying to figure out how to brainwash people for thousands of years with very little to show for their efforts.

On the other hand, the folks at DARPA seem to think that new advances in technology might have changed the game a little bit. New types of brain scans can, for example, can actually show a brain being changed due to a received message. And new highly sophisticated electronic sensing devices are able to pick up even the slightest nuances in facial expressions. If the two technologies could be brought together, the thinking goes, perhaps people could be scanned without their knowledge and found to be either vulnerable to messaging or already changed in some way by messaging from a suspect source. In such case, they could be targeted for specialized messaging that has been shown through research to be effective in overriding what has occurred in their unknowing noggins.

Each phase is supposed to go for 18 months though there doesn’t appear to be any component of the project that calls for publicly publishing results found or describing product deliveries after completion.

© 2011 PhysOrg.com

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NBCOsama, Obama, And Us: A Shocking Display Of Propaganda

By  on May 4, 2012

When I got an email announcing an exclusive from NBC about the raid that, we’re told, resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden, I dared raise my hopes. The last time a major media organization, the New Yorker, had promised us the inside story about what really happened on that day in early May, 2011, we got a major bit of disinformation.

But, being an optimist, I set my TV to record the hour on NBC’s newsmagazine show, Rock Center, and went out to dinner. When I returned, I settled in and began watching.

I heard the dramatic music, and listened to correspondent Brian Williams’s dramatic intro. Then I began waiting for answers. I waited. And waited. The answers never came. Can you believe an entire hour (or about half an hour plus endless ads) and not one interesting revelation? Can you believe that almost the entire thing dealt with how people in the White House felt that day, what kind of chairs they sat in, etc, and almostnothing on the details of the raid or the disposition of the body? Even the details that sounded vaguely interesting, like the fact that the chopper that crashed was some kind of new, secret craft, were already known long ago.

I got a feeling that the whole thing had been carefully rehearsed, and then I thought: Why would the White House give NBC an exclusive, “first-time” look inside the White House Situation Room? Well, in part because it’s just a room with chairs and flat screen TVs—absolutely nothing interesting. But why even offer this purported exclusive insight into the raid? Because it was nothing of the sort. Because it was propaganda to make these people look good, to quell reasonable doubts about what really happened that day, and to get the president and his team re-elected.

That’s it. If you would like to judge this yourself, be my guest. Here’s the show, blessedly without most of the ads:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking newsworld news, and news about the economy

Did you see Williams asking any of the scores of questions one might ask: about how no one in that crashed helicopter was hurt; about whether Osama was armed, and if not, then why he had to be killed instead of captured and interrogated for the valuable information he could offer; about how and why the SEALs’ headcams purportedly failed at the critical moment and prevented the White House group from seeing what was going on; about why the body had to be thrown in the sea—and before proper DNA verification was possible; about the wildly conflicting accounts of what took place and the White House’s failure to this moment to explain; about…I could go on and on. But we’ve already laid all that out—you can read those questions here 

Probably the only interesting thing in the entire report was that Vice President Biden fingers a rosary bead when he’s nervous—or maybe that they ordered in pizza while waiting for the raid.

The lesson that NBC is kind enough to offer seems to be this: We’re further than ever from having public officials who level with us, and we’re further than ever from having large news organizations that….do actual journalism. (On a tenth of Brian Williams’ salary, WhoWhatWhy could field a whole team of real journalists who ask real questions.)

Oh, and one more lesson—that all those people must think we’re really, really, stupid.

Hope NBC reports this as an in-kind donation to the Obama campaign.

The NDAA’s section 1021 coup d’etat foiled

One brave judge is all that lay between us and a law that would have given the president power to detain US citizens indefinitely.

by Naomi Wolf

Tangerine Bolen

Activist and reporter Tangerine Bolen, a plaintiff in the case against the NDAA, speaking to the media after a New York judge enjoined section 1021 of the law. Photograph via Fromthetrenchesworldreport

On Wednesday 16 May, at about 4pm, the republic of the United Statesof America was drawn back – at least for now – from a precipice that would have plunged our country into moral darkness. One brave and principled newly-appointed judge ruled against a law that would have brought the legal powers of the authorities of Guantánamo home to our own courthouses, streets and backyards.

US district judge Katherine Forrest, in New York City’s eastern district, found that section 1021 – the key section of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) – which had been rushed into law amid secrecy and in haste on New Year’s Eve 2011, bestowing on any president the power to detain US citizens indefinitely, without charge or trial, “facially unconstitutional”. Forrest concluded that the law does indeed have, as the journalists and peaceful activists who brought the lawsuit against the president and Leon Panetta have argued, a “chilling impact on first amendment rights”. Her ruling enjoins that section of the NDAA from becoming law.

In her written opinion, the judge noted that she had been persuaded by what the lead plaintiffs – who include Pulitzer prize-winner Chris Hedges of the Nation Institute, editor Jennifer Bolen of RevolutionTruth, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, co-founder of Occupy London Kai Wargalla, Days of Rage editor Alexa O’Brien, and the Icelandic parliamentarian and WikiLeaks activist Birgitta Jónsdóttir – had argued. In their testimonies (in court and by affidavit), these plaintiffs compiled a persuasive case that they had “standing” to sue because it was reasonable for them to worry that they could conceivably could be detained indefinitely under the section 1021 law because their work requires them to have contact with sources the US government might assert were “terrorists” or “associated forces” of al-Qaida.

The key claim made by the plaintiffs – of which Judge Forrest was persuaded – was that the language in section 1021 is so vague that it could sweep up anyone. The law fails to define or specify what “associated forces” or the concept of “substantial support” actually mean.

I attended the hearing as a journalist supporting the plaintiffs, providing by affidavit examples from my own experience of how the NDAA’s section 1021 had already affected my reporting. (Princeton professor Dr Cornel West and I are also standing by to become plaintiffs, if called upon, in the next round.) I was also there to read in court Birgitta Jónsdóttir’s disturbing testimony: she had been advised by her own government not to attend the hearing in person because the US government would not give Iceland a written assurance that it would notdetain her under the NDAA if she did so. US federal agents have already confiscated her Twitter account and personal bank records.

The back-and-forth between Judge Forrest and Obama administration‘s lawyers that goes to the heart of the judge’s ruling was stunning to behold. Forrest asked frepeatedly, in a variety of different ways, for the government attorneys to give her some, any assurance that the wording of section 1021 could not be used to arrest and detain people like the plaintiffs. Finally she asked for assurance that it could not be used to sweep up a hypothetical peaceful best-selling nonfiction writer who had written a hypothetical book criticizing US foreign policy, along lines theater the Taliban might agree with. Again and again (the transcript from my notes is here), the two lawyers said directly that they could not, or would not, give her those assurances. In other words, this back-and-forth confirmed what people such as Glenn Greenwald, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the ACLU and others have been shouting about since January: the section was knowingly written in order to give the president these powers; and his lawyers were sent into that courtroom precisely to defeat the effort to challenge them. Forrest concluded:

“At the hearing on this motion, the government was unwilling or unable to state that these plaintiffs would not be subject to indefinite detention under [section] 1021. Plaintiffs are therefore at risk of detention, of losing their liberty, potentially for many years.”

The government’s assertions become even more hellishly farcical. Forrest further observed:

“An individual could run the risk of substantially supporting or directly supporting an associated force without even being aware that he or she was doing so. In the face of what could be indeterminate military detention, due process requires more.”

This upholding of the US constitution and the rule of law is a triumphant moment, but a fragile one: Judge Forrest has asked Congress to clarify the language protecting America’s right to trial and the first amendment’s protections on speech and assembly. And now, Thursday, Representatives Adam Smith (Democrat, Washington) and Justin Amash (Republican, Michigan) have presented an amendment to Congress an amendment that does just that. Those who vote against it therefore will be voting clearly, and without any ambiguity, for stripping Americans of their constitutional rights and reducing them to the same potential status as “enemy combatants” and Guantánamo prisoners. The House thus votes for or against the power handed to the executive by the NDAA to hold any of us, anywhere, forever, for no reason. There can be no hiding from this; the lawyers defending the administration’s position made that perfectly clear.

What truly disturbed me in that courtroom was the terrible fragility of all the checks to power that are supposed to be in place to protect us against such assaults on democracy. Many senators, including my own, Chuck Schumer, had sent out letters to their own worried constituents flat-out denying our fears about what section 1021 does. No major news media organisations attended the original hearing (except Paul Harris of the Guardian and Observer). The trial and the NDAA itself have been so inadequately reported by mainstream outlets that I keep running into senior editors and lawyers who have never heard of it. I recently cornered one southern Democratic senator at an event and asked him why he had voted to pass the NDAA. He asked what my objection was.

“It allows the president to detain Americans without charge or trial,” I pointed out. His aides had assured him this was not the case, he replied. “Have you read the bill?” I asked. “It’s 1,600 pages,” he replied.

This darkness is so dangerous not least because a new Department of Homeland Security document trove, released in response to a FOIA request filed by Michael Moore and the National Lawyers’ Guild, proves in exhaustive detail that the DHS and its “fusion centers” coordinated with local police (as I argued here, to initial disbelief), the violent crackdown against Occupy last fall. You have to put these pieces of evidence together: the government cannot be trusted with powers to detain indefinitely any US citizen – even though Obama promised he would not misuse these powers – because the United States government is already coordinating a surveillance and policing war against its citizens, designed to suppress their peaceful assembly and criticism of its corporate allies.

The lawyers for the government have endless funds (our tax dollars); the plaintiffs’ lawyers all worked pro bono; the plaintiffs themselves paid their own way to make their case. Yet, by these slender means, what was essentially a coup in two paragraphs has been blocked from advancing under cover of ignorance and silence to becoming the supreme law of the land. But should our democracy hang by such a tenuous thread that it relies on the sheer luck that this case was heard by a courageous judge with a settled belief in the constitution of the United States?

THE 9/11 MYTH: State Propaganda, Historical Revisionism, and the Perpetuation of the 9/11 Myth

In the immediate wake of President Obama’s May 1, 2011 announcement of the alleged extrajudicial killing of Osama bin Laden by US military forces, a struggle reemerged over the official 9/11 myth that major journalistic outlets have been complicit in perpetuating over the past decade. The corporate media’s reaction to the robust skepticism over bin Laden’s assumed execution suggested a great deal about the extent to which they are locked in to upholding the broader 9/11 parable and serving the Anglo-American political-economic establishment and status quo.

After Obama’s statement on bin Laden’s fate citizen journalists and activists employing blogs and social media posed questions that should have been asked by professional journalists—specifically pointing to the need for further evidence supporting the president’s claims and the Obama administration’s curiously inconsistent description of events. Many cited reports and commentary by mainstream news outlets, such asCBSCNN, and The New York Times, quoting government sources that bin Laden was in failing health and likely died in December 2001. Nevertheless, once a lie has been put in to motion and accepted as truth by the intellectual class it often becomes a de facto reality the broader society is obliged to endure, for better or worse.

In 2005 author and media critic Normon Solomon contacted the Washington Post to inquire whether its reporting of the 1964 Tonkin Gulf incident alleging the North Vietnamese attacked US ships was ever retracted. Though later proven false, the reports were carried as front page news in US papers and figured centrally in the Congressional passage of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution formally initiating the Vietnam War. Solomon eventually caught up with one especially pertinent Post staffer. “’I can assure you that there was never any retraction,’ said Murrey Marder, a reporter who wrote much of the Washington Post‘s coverage of August 1964 events in the Gulf of Tonkin. He added: ‘If you were making a retraction, you’d have to make a retraction of virtually everyone’s entire coverage of the Vietnam War.’”

A similar dynamic is at play in defending the 9/11 myth. Yet today public skepticism more forcefully presents itself as an unmanageable chorus of disbelief through the internet. Nevertheless, following the lead of official spokespersons when such sources should be vigorously scrutinized, the so-called free press continues its willful immersion in a false historical reality. In so doing it condemns much of society to a constant forgetting and continued existence in a government-devised milieu impervious to conventional reason and logic.

Journalistic outlets exercising true independence and not beholden to maintaining the official 9/11 story would have likewise exhibited skepticism at Barack Obama’s claims, especially in light of the administration’s clearly contrived attempts at selling the event, such as photos of cabinet members allegedly watching it via satellite. Instead, journalists became part of the dutiful cheering section, attacking detractors’ assertions as “conspiracy theories”.

In keeping with a tradition of largely superficial reportage of 9/11 and its aftermath, many stories derided what professional journalists themselves should have been forcefully demanding: more proof of the operation’s authenticity and outcome. In fact, this skepticism is exactly what a variety of bloggers and like alternative news outlets offered.

When such assertions can’t be easily suppressed they must be ridiculed. A LexisNexis search yields over 100 stories and opinion pieces appearing in major newspapers and wire services for the week of May 2, 2011 dismissing criticisms and calls for further evidence as “conspiracy theories”. In light of the following one must ponder whether the national media’s output would differ significantly if the US government exercised direct control over them.

“The White House was facing mounting pressure Monday night to release concrete evidence that Osama bin Laden had been assassinated, after conspiracy theories began to circulate suggesting he may have survived the attack.” –Canwest News Service, May 2, 2011.

“[W]hile the watery grave may help diminish bin Laden’s status as a martyr to his followers, it was already fueling conspiracy theories; as the administration resisted releasing even photographs of the slain terrorist leader on Monday, a predictable haze of myth and rumor has already, inevitably, begun to rise around him.” –Politico.com, May 2, 2011.

“While much of America celebrated the dramatic killing of Osama bin Laden, the Sept. 11 conspiracy theorists still had questions. For them and a growing number of skeptics, the plot only thickened.”—Washington Post, May 2, 2011.

“Osama bin Laden had scarcely drawn his last breath when the conspiracy theories sprouted: Where’s the body? Where are the photos of the corpse? Why didn’t they take him alive? The theorists demanded.”—Atlanta Journal Constitution, May 3, 2011.

“Less than 48 hours after the White House announced the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and his burial at sea, ‘conspiracy theories’ are racing across the planet.”—Christian Science Monitor, May 3, 2011.

“As blogs hummed with allegations that the Obama administration had faked the middle-of-the-night raid, the Bin Laden ‘death hoax’ threatened to replace questions about President Obama’s citizenship as the latest Internet rumor to go viral.”—Los Angeles Times, May 3, 2011.

“The news that Osama bin Laden was killed by an American military raid ordered by President Obama is too far from the narrative of those who desperately cling to the twisted notion that our president is a passive, hate-America-first, subversive Al-Qaeda sympathizer, if not operative.”—Palm Beach Post, May 3, 2011.

“The White House says Osama bin Laden is dead and buried deep under the Arabian Sea. But conspiracy theorists in Pakistan, the United States and other countries insist that like Elvis, he’s still in the room.”—Toronto Star, May 4, 2011.

“Like clockwork, the death of Osama bin Laden has ushered in another round of conspiracy theories. The al-Qaida leader’s body may be beyond the reach of his followers’ veneration as it rests on the sea floor, but the lack of a corpse in custody has offered proof of a conspiracy to those inclined to doubt the official narrative.”—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 4, 2011.

“The decision not to release photographs of Osama bin Laden’s corpse and the way the White House has changed its account of how he died has prompted conspiracy theories about his death. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these theories have proliferated across the web.”—UK Guardian, May 6, 2011.

When the world’s most powerful journalistic institutions resort to name calling there is something seriously amiss in the broader intellectual climate. Much like 1964, it involves a conscious betrayal of the historical record and the attendant consequences of such.

The conspiracy theory/theorist soubriquet is reflexively feared by professional journalists and academics alike who believe (with some justification) their reputations will be undermined by such thought crimes against the state. Thus, like an instrument that would easily be at home in the most extreme totalitarian regimes, intellectual workers self-discipline themselves as the “conspiracy theory” mechanism determines the trajectory and parameters of public discourse, dissent, and recollection.

Intellectual cowardice is reinforced by a set of circumstances whereby even if alternative accounts questioning the official line are exhaustively researched and documented with credible information and sources, mobilization of the “conspiracy theory” label by state censors and their journalistic accomplices will render the counter-arguments suspect. And, in an on-the-go culture where citizens are heavily reliant for information on headlines and sound-bites versus deliberate analysis, such lines of reasoning are destined for the memory hole.

Obama Information Czar Cass Sunstein Confronted on Cognitive Infiltration of Conspiracy Groups

In a rare public appearance, The Obama Administration’s Information Czar Cass Sunstein gave a lecture at the NYU Law School in NYC yesterday, prompting Luke Rudkowski of WeAreChange to attend. Watch as Luke confronts Sunstein multiple times on an academic paper he co-authored back in 2008 entitled “Conspiracy Theories” in which he called for cognitive infiltration of conspiracy groups by the government.

Obama and Romney Are Both Ignoring the Real Issue with Killing Bin Laden

The anniversary of Bin Laden’s death is big news.

Obama is bragging about how he whacked Bin Laden, accusing Romney of being too soft to take out bad guys.

Romney supporters accuse Obama of “spiking the football” and inappropriately showing off to score political points.

Both sides are missing the big picture.    Specifically, we noted last year:

I’m as happy as the next red-blooded American that Bin Laden is dead.

For more than a decade, the government has said that Bin Laden is the world’s worst terrorist, a terrorist kingpin, the head of the worst terrorist group in the world.

But if we captured and interrogated him, he could have spilled a lot of beans which would help prevent future terrorist attacks.

Right?

But as the Atlantic reports today:

There’s one option the administration appears to have never seriously considered: taking bin Laden alive.

***

The administration had made clear to the military’s clandestine Joint Special Operations Command that it wanted bin Laden dead, according to a senior U.S. official with knowledge of the discussions. A high-ranking military officer briefed on the assault said the SEALs knew their mission was not to take him alive. ***

And Gareth Porter reported yesterday that the U.S. didn’t even consider capturing Bin Laden as part of its Afghanistan war strategy:

The absence of any military planning to catch bin Laden was a function of Bush’s national security team, led by Vice-President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, which had firmly opposed any military operation in Afghanistan that would have had any possibility of catching bin Laden and his lieutenants.Rumsfeld and the second-ranking official at the Pentagon, Paul Wolfowitz, had dismissed CIA warnings of an al Qaeda terrorist attack against the United States in the summer of 2001, and even after 9/11 had continued to question the CIA’s conclusion that bin Laden and al Qaeda were behind the attacks.

Cheney and Rumsfeld were determined not to allow a focus on bin Laden to interfere with their plan for a U.S. invasion of Iraq to overthrow the Saddam Hussein regime.

Even after Bush decided in favour of an Afghan campaign, CENTCOM commander Tommy Franks, who was responsible for the war in Afghanistan, was not directed to have a plan for bin Laden’s capture or to block his escape to Pakistan. [Background.]

We tortured a bunch of innocent farmers, children, grandparents and reporters … supposedly to get information about Bin Laden. But it doesn’t seem like the government was very interested in actually interrogating Bin Laden himself.

We pointed out the next day:

The Christian Science Monitor reports today:

Some US military intelligence officials also lament that bin Laden was not taken alive – and privately wonder whether concerns about the political “headaches” involved in trying detainees may have led the Obama administration to favor killing rather than capturing the architect of 9/11.

The opportunity to glean valuable intelligence from the leader of a powerful terrorist organization was lost, says retired Army Col. Stuart Herrington, a military intelligence specialist who interrogated generals under the command of Saddam Hussein and evaluated US detention operations at Guantánamo.

It is a misconception that ideologues don’t talk, he says. “The opinion that, ‘Oh, he’s such a fanatic, he won’t tell us anything’ – that’s uninformed blathering by people who don’t understand the business,” Herrington adds.

The Christian Science Monitor article also confirms that torture doesn’t work to produce actionable intelligence, and points out that even Bin Laden could have been made to talk if other interrogation techniques were used.

***

The ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee. – Senator Chambliss – says that the executive order stated that Bin Laden should be killed ….

As we noted in 2008, Bin Laden was useful to the U.S. as a prop in the so-called war on terror:

Former deputy national intelligence officer for transnational threats, a 23-year senior CIA analyst, who “drafted or was involved in many of the government’s most senior assessments of the threats facing our country [and who] devoted years to understanding and combating the jihadist threat”, writes today in the Washington Post that the neocons have whipped us into an irrational fear of the terrorism. In reality, “Osama bin Laden and his disciples are small men and secondary threats whose shadows are made large by our fears” and our leaders.

This is no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. The BBC produced a documentary called The Power of Nightmares in 2005 that showed that politicians were greatly exaggerating the terrorist threat for political ends.

Indeed, we noted in 2009:

A United States Congressman claims that the Bush administration intentionally let Bin Laden escape in order to justify the Iraq war.

***

Many people claim that Bin Laden died a long time ago. According to Israeli intelligencePakistani intelligence, and other sources, Bin Laden is dead.

According to video experts and and top Bin Laden experts, recent Bin Laden videos are fake.

So if Bin Laden is alive, American leaders have to explain why they have repeatedly chosen not to pull the trigger.

And if he is dead, they have to explain why they are claiming that he’s alive and authenticating his videos.

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