The Counter-deception Blog

Examples of deceptions and descriptions of techniques to detect them. This Blog encourages the awareness of deception in daily life and discussion of practical means to spot probable deceptions. Send your examples of deception and counter-deception to colonel_stech@yahoo.com.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

 

Is military incompetence adaptive?

Is military incompetence adaptive? An empirical test with risk-taking behaviour in modern warfare
Dominic D.P. Johnsona, Richard W. Wranghama, Stephen Peter Rosenb

Evolution and Human Behavior 23 (2002) 245–264

Abstract: In battles, opponents exhibit positive illusions in both believing they can win. With great costs of failure and uncertain success, this represents extreme risk-taking behaviour. Conflict may be expected if one side is cornered, a sacrificial pawn in an overall war strategy, or demanded into action by politicians. However, in many cases even patently weaker forces fight despite nonviolent options. This is ‘‘military incompetence’’, a failure in the assessment of winning probability. Previous explanations (stupidity, psychological deviance and cognitive constraints) have been rejected.

Recently, Wrangham [Evol. Hum. Behav. 20 (1999) 3.] proposed that such risk-taking could be adaptive through one of two effects:
(1) Performance Enhancement through exaggerated resolve or
(2) Opponent Deception by bluffing.

Although adaptive if they confer a tendency to win, both processes promote risk-taking behaviour and are therefore potentially responsible for military incompetence. These hypotheses can be distinguished because the Performance Enhancement hypothesis predicts positive illusions in any type of conflict. In contrast, the Opponent Deception hypothesis predicts them in battles but not in surprise attacks, where lack of communication disables any bluff.

We conducted a test of these hypotheses using data collected by the US Historical Evaluation Research Organisation, mainly from the Arab–Israeli and Second World Wars. The Opponent Deception hypothesis is supported over the Performance Enhancement hypothesis, but other explanations are not ruled out.

In general, many wars began with Positive Illusions about how quickly they could be fought and won. There has been an ‘‘unrealistic overconfidence in rapid victory which has characterized so many military adventures. . .it was a notable feature of the Boer War, of the First World War, of the Second World War and even, through what was by now a quite extraordinary incapacity to profit from experience, of the Suez crisis and Bay of Pigs fiasco’’ (Dixon, 1976, p. 45). We can now add Vietnam, the Falklands, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Somalia, Rwanda, Chechnya and the Congo as examples of Positive Illusions in the ability to achieve military aims quickly and with relative ease.

Our analyses of battles from recent history provide some support for the hypothesis that Positive Illusions exist in accordance with the Opponent Deception hypothesis. Positive Illusions may or may not be adaptive any longer in human conflict, but as a persisting trait they could certainly explain the prevalence of risk-taking behaviour in warfare and be responsible for military incompetence.

Obviously, conflicts in our evolutionary past differ in many respects to ‘‘modern’’ warfare (defined as post-gunpowder, say) and since about 1870 commanders no longer have a direct overview of the battlefield (Cohen & Gooch, 1990; van Creveld, 1985). However, there is no reason to expect that Positive Illusions would have disappeared, because modern warfare is relatively recent and because incompetent commanders (away from the front) are unlikely to be selected out of the population as a result of their mistakes.


 

PSYOP, Public Affairs, and Pentagon Deceptions

Interesting developments. The Pentagon is reportedly intentionally violating the “truth principle” that traditionally guided both PSYOPS and military Public Affairs, as well as challenging the basic beliefs in those two professions that obvious lies and mis –representions are counter-productive. Obviously deceptive PSYOP and PA cause "blowback," the information operations equivalent of pissing directly into a strong wind.

While neither PSYOP nor PA claims to "tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth," both make the greatest possible efforts not to flat-out lie. The Pentagon seems to be trying a different approach--out-right deception and a far more prapaganda-like treatment of the media.

Also worth noting: Douglas Feith is reportedly running this. [see Douglas Feith--What has the Pentagon's third man done wrong? Everything.]

According to several Pentagon officials, the strategic communications programs at the Defense Department are being coordinated by the office ofthe Undersecretary
of Defense for policy, Douglas J. Feith.

General Tommy Franks had some interesting things to say about Mr Feith--in Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack, Franks called Feith "the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth." [http://slate.msn.com/id/2099277/]

LA Times December 1, 2004
THE NATION
PR Meets Psy-Ops in War on Terror
The use of misleading information as a military tool sparks debate in the
Pentagon. Critics say the practice puts credibility at stake.
By Mark Mazzetti
Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON - On the evening of Oct. 14, a young Marine spokesman near
Fallouja appeared on CNN and made a dramatic announcement.
"Troops crossed the line of departure," 1st Lt. Lyle Gilbert declared, using
a common military expression signaling the start of a major campaign. "It's
going to be a long night." CNN, which had been alerted to expect a major
news development, reported that the long-awaited offensive to retake the
Iraqi city of Fallouja had begun.
In fact, the Fallouja offensive would not kick off for another three weeks.
Gilbert's carefully worded announcement was an elaborate psychological
operation - or "psy-op" - intended to dupe insurgents in Fallouja and allow
U.S. commanders to see how guerrillas would react if they believed U.S.
troops were entering the city, according to several Pentagon officials.
In the hours after the initial report, CNN's Pentagon reporters were able to
determine that the Fallouja operation had not, in fact, begun.
"As the story developed, we quickly made it clear to our viewers exactly
what was going on in and around Fallouja," CNN spokesman Matthew Furman
said.
Officials at the Pentagon and other U.S. national security agencies said the
CNN incident was not an isolated feint - the type used throughout history by
armies to deceive their enemies - but part of a broad effort underway within
the Bush administration to use information to its advantage in the war on
terrorism.

The Pentagon in 2002 was forced to shutter its controversial Office of
Strategic Influence (OSI), which was opened shortly after the Sept. 11
attacks, after reports that the office intended to plant false news stories
in the international media. But officials say that much of OSI's mission -
using information as a tool of war - has been assumed by other offices
throughout the U.S. government.
Although most of the work remains classified, officials say that some of the
ongoing efforts include having U.S. military spokesmen play a greater role
in psychological operations in Iraq, as well as planting information with
sources used by Arabic TV channels such as Al Jazeera to help influence the
portrayal of the United States.
Other specific examples were not known, although U.S. national security
officials said an emphasis had been placed on influencing how foreign media
depict the United States.
These efforts have set off a fight inside the Pentagon over the proper use
of information in wartime. Several top officials see a danger of blurring
what are supposed to be well-defined lines between the stated mission of
military public affairs - disseminating truthful, accurate information to
the media and the American public - and psychological and information
operations, the use of often-misleading information and propaganda to
influence the outcome of a campaign or battle.
Several of those officials who oppose the use of misleading information
spoke out against the practice on the condition of anonymity.
"The movement of information has gone from the public affairs world to the
psychological operations world," one senior defense official said. "What's
at stake is the credibility of people in uniform."
Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said he recognized the concern of many
inside the Defense Department, but that "everybody understands that there's
a very important distinction between information operations and public
affairs. Nobody has offered serious proposals that would blur the
distinction between these two functions."
Di Rita said he had asked his staff for more information about how the Oct.
14 incident on CNN came about.
One recent development critics point to is the decision by commanders in
Iraq in mid-September to combine public affairs, psychological operations
and information operations into a "strategic communications" office. An
organizational chart of the newly created office was obtained by The Times.
The strategic communications office, which began operations Sept. 15, is run
by Air Force Brig. Gen. Erv Lessel, who answers directly to Gen. George W.
Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.
Partly out of concern about this new office, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, distributed a letter Sept. 27 to the Joint
Chiefs and U.S. combat commanders in the field warning of the dangers of
having military public affairs (PA) too closely aligned with information
operations (IO).
"Although both PA and IO conduct planning, message development and media
analysis, the efforts differ with respect to audience, scope and intent, and
must remain separate," Myers wrote, according to a copy of the letter
obtained by The Times.
Pentagon officials say Myers is worried that U.S. efforts in Iraq and in the
broader campaign against terrorism could suffer if world audiences begin to
question the honesty of statements from U.S. commanders and spokespeople.
"While organizations may be inclined to create physically integrated PA/IO
offices, such organizational constructs have the potential to compromise the
commander's credibility with the media and the public," Myers wrote.
Myers' letter is not being heeded in Iraq, officials say,
in part because
many top civilians at the Pentagon and National Security Council support an
effort that blends public affairs with psy-ops to win Iraqi support - and
Arab support in general - for the U.S. fight against the insurgency.
Advocates of these programs said that the advent of a 24-hour news cycle and
the powerful influence of Arabic satellite television made it essential that
U.S. military commanders and civilian officials made the control of
information a key part of their battle plans.
"Information is part of the battlefield in a way that it's never been
before," one senior Bush administration official said. "We'd be foolish not
to try to use it to our advantage."
And, supporters argue, it is necessary to fill a vacuum left when the
budgets for the State Department's public diplomacy programs were slashed
and the U.S. Information Agency - a bulwark of the nation's anticommunist
efforts during the Cold War - was gutted in the 1990s.
"The worst outcome would be to lose this war by default. If the smart folks
in the psy-op and civil affairs tents can cast a truthful, persuasive
message that resonates with the average Iraqi, why not use the public
affairs vehicles to transmit it?" asked Charles A. Krohn, a professor at the
University of Michigan and former deputy chief of public affairs for the
Army. "What harm is done, compared to what is gained? For the first year of
the war, we did virtually nothing to tell the Iraqis why we invaded their
country and ejected their government. It's about time we got our act
together."
Advocates also cite a September report by the Defense Science Board, a panel
of outside experts that advises Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, which
concluded that a "crisis" in U.S. "strategic communications" had undermined
American efforts to fight Islamic extremism worldwide.
The study cited polling in the Arab world that revealed widespread hatred of
the United States throughout the Middle East. A poll taken in June by Zogby
International revealed that 94% of Saudi Arabians had an "unfavorable" view
of the United States, compared with 87% in April 2002. In Egypt, the second
largest recipient of U.S. aid, 98% of respondents held an unfavorable view
of the United States.
The Defense Science Board recommended a presidential directive to
"coordinate all components of strategic communication including public
diplomacy, public affairs, international broadcasting and military
information operations."
Di Rita said there was general agreement inside the Bush administration that
the U.S. government was ill-equipped to communicate its policies and
messages abroad in the current media climate.
"As a government, we're not very well organized to do that," he said.
Yet some in the military argue that the efforts at better "strategic
communication" sometimes cross the line into propaganda, citing some recent
media briefings held in Iraq. During a Nov. 10 briefing by Marine Lt. Gen.
John F. Sattler, reporters were shown a video of Iraqi troops saluting their
flag and singing the Iraqi national anthem.
"Pretty soon, we're going to have the 5 o'clock follies all over again, and
it will take us another 30 years to restore our credibility," said a second
senior Defense official, referring to the much-ridiculed daily media
briefings in Saigon during the Vietnam War.
According to several Pentagon officials, the strategic communications
programs at the Defense Department are being coordinated by the office of
the undersecretary of Defense for policy, Douglas J. Feith.


 

Iran Nuclear Hypotheses Confirmation?

Over nine months ago, our Counter-Deception research team used a modified form of Heuer's "Analysis of Competing Hypotheses" method [http://www.cia.gov/csi/books/19104/art11.html] (specially adapted to counter-deception analysis) to hypothesize about what open source intelligence seemed to suggest about Iranian nuclear programs.

We found the evidence supported an hypothesis that Iran might manipulate data and evidence provided to the IAEA and western intelligence to deceptively convince the US that Iran was set on building an Iranian nuclear weapon (as a possible deterrent to the US), while also concealling evidence to allay the fears of the rest of the world (thus forestalling UN Security Council action against Iran. In effect, we hypothesized that Iran intended to isolate the US from the rest of the world.

[A white paper on our Iranian thought experiment (“gedanken”) is available on request.]

This statement by the chief Iranian negotiator, typically ambiguous about Iranian nuclear intentions, seems consistent with the our counter-deception model’s hypothesis of Iran’s possible perception management objectives.

On Tuesday, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rohani, sought to paint Iran's agreement - which headed off possible UN Security Council sanctions - as a temporary step that is a major diplomatic victory over the US. Iran "has not renounced the nuclear fuel cycle [and] will never renounce it,'' he told reporters. "We have proved that ... we are capable of isolating the United States."

The main objective of the Iran Gedanken was to demonstrate a realistic application of the counter-deception business process to a real, ongoing problem, and not to predict or forecast Iranian goals and intentions. However, as we continued to update the “Iran Nuclear Dossier,” and our model, we found the hypotheses developed in the thought experiment continued to provide a good fit to the open source evidence as it was collected, and the model seemed to be helpful in assessing the possibility that Iran was conducting intentional ongoing perception management operations with its nuclear program.

from the December 02, 2004 edition - http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/1202/p04s01-wome.html

Why Iran wants its own nuclear deterrent
By Dan Murphy Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

CAIRO - Iran's declaration Tuesday that suspension of nuclear enrichment is only temporary shows how far European powers and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) remain from substantially slowing Iran's move toward a nuclear bomb.
The problem, analysts say, is the apparent belief of Iran's leaders that the benefits of obtaining a nuclear bomb now outweigh the drawbacks. With President Bush having branded them "evil" and with US forces deployed in Iraq to their west and Afghanistan to their east, the Iranians seem to be gambling that their best interests lie in having their own nuclear deterrent.
The Europeans - Britain, Germany, and France - are unable to provide Iran with what it wants most: a guarantee against US military action.
Without that, analysts say, Iran is likely to continue a diplomatic game of alternating concessions and declarations of nuclear intent until there's direct engagement by the US.
"They've been attacked by [weapons of mass destruction] in the past and the international community not only did nothing, but turned a blind eye," says Rob Malley, director of the International Crisis Group's Middle East and North Africa project. "They're in a regional environment where other countries have nuclear capacity, and they're surrounded by countries with a strong US military presence, so they feel finding their own independent means of deterrent is critical."
The issue of national pride for Iran also looms large in discussions of a nuclear weapon.
"They see themselves of the France or Great Britain of the Persian Gulf," Mr. Malley says. "They feel they should have the bomb."
Malley argues that the only diplomatic solution would require that the US come to the table and "create the sense that [Iran is] no longer under siege and that their regime is not threatened."
On Tuesday, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rohani, sought to paint Iran's agreement - which headed off possible UN Security Council sanctions - as a temporary step that is a major diplomatic victory over the US.
Iran "has not renounced the nuclear fuel cycle [and] will never renounce it,'' he told reporters. "We have proved that ... we are capable of isolating the United States."
The US has been skeptical of the accord, saying it amounts to little more than a first step.
"The Iranians agreed to suspend - but not terminate - their nuclear-weapons program. Our position is that they ought to terminate their nuclear weapons program," President Bush said.
Sam Gardiner, a retired US Air Force colonel who used to teach at the National War College, recently conducted a simulation for The Atlantic Monthly about American military options against Iran as it moves towards a nuclear bomb.
The assessment of the team he put together was that the use of force would not work, or would come at too high a cost.
"The thing I think people don't realize is how much leverage the Iranians have over us right now,'' says Mr. Gardiner. "We have limited military options particularly when we're in Iraq. Iran has the leverage to make things go very badly for us there."
Other analysts point to Iran's ties to Hizbullah, and the chance the terror group could be used as a proxy to strike out at Israel in the event of an attack.
The ICG's Malley says the best bet now is for the US to use the current interlude - assuming the temporary halt in uranium enrichment is confirmed by the IAEA - to get involved and put offers on the table that address many of Iran's concerns.
He says that probably will not be enough for Iran to give up its hopes of obtaining a nuclear weapon, but may help rally members of the international community behind the US to consider other options.
"If you don't have the feeling that a good faith effort was made, therefore you want be able to coalesce a group of countries against Iran,'' he says. "Before you get to something more drastic you need to exhaust diplomacy, or you're going to get into a go-it-alone situation again."
Even sanctions now are a weak option, with Iran's important role in the global oil market.
Analysts suspect the country has had a windfall of $20 billion over budgeted oil revenue this year, thanks to high prices caused by the war in Iraq.
Mr. Gardiner says Iran's ability to drive prices even higher could do severe damage to the developed economies.


 

Iran's Uranium Ploy

Iran seems to have been following a “build and bluff” tactic wrt nuclear fuel cycle development. Some building, some bluffing, with the throttle adjusted by the concessions obtained.

Similar policies were followed by the Germans in the 1930s (air and submarine capabilities) and the Soviets in the 1950s (the so-called “bomber and missile gaps”).

Denial, deception and perception management play large roles in such tactics.

December 6, 2004 NYTimes.com
Iran Hints It Sped Up Enriching Uranium as a Ploy
By NAZILA FATHI

TEHRAN, Dec. 5 - Iranian officials have hinted in recent days that they sped up their enrichment of uranium in the past year to put Iran in a better position to negotiate with the West.
In a rare admission, Sirous Nasseri, a member of Iran's negotiating team with three European countries over its nuclear program, was quoted Sunday in the daily newspaper Shargh as saying that Iran had mastered the nuclear fuel cycle since last year, when it came under international pressure to abandon its uranium enrichment program.
"We are in a better negotiating position for political work than last year," the daily quoted him as saying.
Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's former ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, told students at Ferdowssi University in Mashhad on Wednesday that the government of President Muhammad Khatami had, for the first time, allocated money and facilities to make "advanced centrifuges" for uranium enrichment, Shargh also reported.
Iran has taken the position that its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes, though it has pursued technology that could easily be converted to weapons production. The United States has accused Iran of secretly trying to make nuclear weapons and has urged its allies on the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear monitoring agency, to send Iran's case to the Security Council.
The agency opted for a gentler approach and issued a mildly worded resolution after Iran agreed in talks with the three European nations - France, Germany and Britain - to suspend its uranium enrichment activities. In return Iran expects rewards, including economic benefits, political and security cooperation with Europe and help with nuclear technology.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Sunday that Iran was not obliged to allow United Nations inspectors to visit military sites said to be involved in secret nuclear weapons work, but that it was willing to discuss the issue, Agence France-Presse reported.
"It is not a matter of unlimited commitments and unlimited inspections," said the spokesman, Hamid Reza Asefi. "We will act in accordance with" the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.

Despite statements by Iran's leaders that their nuclear program has wide public support, reaction among Iranians to the agreement to suspend nuclear activities has been muted.
Except for a protest outside the British Embassy in Tehran, for which about 200 members of a militia force were bused in, no noticeable protest has occurred.
Frustrated by more than two decades of isolation and eight years of war with Iraq, many Iranians indicate that they would rather avoid confrontation with other countries. They say their priorities are an improved economy and more political and social freedom.
"The government could spend the $12 billion it has spent over a nuclear program for development of the country," said Karim Bozorgmehr, 32, an English teacher. An analyst in Tehran, who had done surveys on the subject but who said he feared retaliation if his name was published, said a majority of people he approached viewed the government's nuclear ambition with skepticism, saying the government was seeking nuclear capacity as a deterrent and as a way to consolidate its power.
"The clerics want to get hold of the bomb to rule for another 50 years," said, Reza, 36, a civil servant, who, fearing retaliation, would agree to be identified by only his first name.
News of the United Nations agency's resolution last week helped Iran's economy, in which important sectors like real estate and the stock market had slumped over fears that the nuclear dispute could result in a military confrontation with Israel or the United States.
"People were in a wait-and-see situation," said Saeed Leylaz, a journalist and an analyst in Tehran. "The decline in the economy and the soaring unemployment led to discontent among people. Iranian society is not ready for any kind of confrontation, and this put pressure on the government to reach a deal with Europe."
Iran began its nuclear program before the Islamic revolution in 1979 with aid from the United States, Germany and France. But the world has been suspicious of the nuclear program of Iran's Islamic government.

 

Connect the Dots? Jigsaw Puzzle?

People have cautioned me to avoid the phase “connect the dots” when describing counter-deception, because it drives Intelligence Community people crazy. Others in the IC use the jigsaw puzzle as an methaphor for analysis; one IC organization even uses the jigsaw puzzle as its logo. [Which one, I leave as a counter-denial exercise to our readers.]

This quote describes how a master deception planner from World War II [Brigadier Dudley Clarke] saw the question, and so the quote is more than an historical curiosity:

[World War II Allied Deception-master] Dudley Clarke kept on his office wall a “careless talk” poster showing a swastikaed hand fitting together a jigsaw puzzle with the caption “Bits of careless talk are pieced together by the enemy.” (Actually, the common mosaic and even commoner “jigsaw” analogies are inexact. It [intelligence analysis] is a process of connect­ing dots, discerning a pattern or Gestalt, having more in common with crossword puzzles—or, indeed, with reading Rorschach blots—than it has with jigsaw puzzles.) An intelligence officer … deduces the enemy’s capabilities and intentions and other relevant information from a rumor here, an ob­servation there, a captured document somewhere else. …
The art of implementing a deception consists in knowing the enemy’s methods, breaking your story into bits and pieces, and feeding him those bits and pieces through selected channels and according to a precise timetable, designed to lead him to draw the desired conclusion for himself. Some pieces may be very significant; others may be “merely corroborative detail, to add artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative,” to quote from The Mikado.

Thaddeus Holt, The Deceivers: Allied Military Deception in the Second World War, Scribner, 2004, p. 78.

For my contribution to the analogy / methaphor debates, see http://counterdeception.blogspot.com/2004/10/puzzling-thru-crossword-counter.html

PS: Xmas shopping tip--Holt's book should be in the library of every true fan of deception and counter-deception. I keep my copy right at hand--one can always learn from the masters.

 

Tapping the Messenger

First step before killing the messenger? Motive: the messenger was right about Iraq and the White House and its Intelligence minions were quite wrong--that's called spite.

If they know we tap, how sure can anyone be of the meaning of what is being said?
In Vienna, where the IAEA has its headquarters, officials said they were not surprised about the eavesdropping. "We've always assumed that this kind of thing goes on," IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said. "We wish it were otherwise, but we know the reality."
"They know."
"We know they know."
"They know you know."
"We know they know we know."
"They know you know they know."
"We know they know we know they know."
"They know you know they know you know."
"What?"
Peter Ustinov
Romanoff and Juliet

washingtonpost.com
IAEA Leader's Phone Tapped
U.S. Pores Over Transcripts to Try to Oust Nuclear Chief
By Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 12, 2004; Page A01

The Bush administration has dozens of intercepts of Mohamed ElBaradei's phone calls with Iranian diplomats and is scrutinizing them in search of ammunition to oust him as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, according to three U.S. government officials.
But the diplomatic offensive will not be easy. The administration has failed to come up with a candidate willing to oppose ElBaradei, who has run the agency since 1997, and there is disagreement among some senior officials over how hard to push for his removal, and what the diplomatic costs of a public campaign against him could be.
Although eavesdropping, even on allies, is considered a well-worn tool of national security and diplomacy, the efforts against ElBaradei demonstrate the lengths some within the administration are willing to go to replace a top international diplomat who questioned U.S. intelligence on Iraq and is now taking a cautious approach on Iran.
The intercepted calls have not produced any evidence of nefarious conduct by ElBaradei, according to three officials who have read them. But some within the administration believe they show ElBaradei lacks impartiality because he tried to help Iran navigate a diplomatic crisis over its nuclear programs. Others argue the transcripts demonstrate nothing more than standard telephone diplomacy.
"Some people think he sounds way too soft on the Iranians, but that's about it," said one official with access to the intercepts.
In Vienna, where the IAEA has its headquarters, officials said they were not surprised about the eavesdropping.
"We've always assumed that this kind of thing goes on," IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said. "We wish it were otherwise, but we know the reality."
The IAEA, often called the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency, coordinates nuclear safety around the world and monitors materials that could be diverted for weapons use. It has played pivotal investigative roles in four major crises in recent years: Iran, Iraq, North Korea and the nuclear black market run by one of Pakistan's top scientists.
Each issue has produced some tension between the agency and the White House, and this is not the first time that ElBaradei or other U.N. officials have been the targets of a spy campaign. Three weeks before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the Observer newspaper in Britain published a secret directive from the National Security Agency ordering increased eavesdropping on U.N. diplomats.
Earlier this year, Clare Short, who served in British Prime Minister Tony Blair's cabinet, said British spies had eavesdropped on U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's calls during that period and that she had read transcripts of the intercepts.
The NSA, which is responsible for collecting and decoding electronic communications for the U.S. government, had no information to provide on the ElBaradei intercepts. The CIA refused to comment.
ElBaradei, 62, an Egyptian diplomat who taught international law at New York University, is well-respected inside the United Nations, and many of the countries that sit on the IAEA board have asked him to stay for a third term beginning next summer.
To block that, Washington would need to persuade a little more than one-third of the IAEA's 35-member board to vote against his reappointment.
But even some of the administration's closest friends, including Britain, appear to be reluctant to join a fight they believe is motivated by a desire to pay back ElBaradei over Iraq. Without clear support and no candidate, the White House began searching for material to strengthen its argument that ElBaradei should be retired, according to several senior policymakers who would discuss strategy only on the condition of anonymity.
The officials said anonymous accusations against ElBaradei made by U.S. officials in recent weeks are part of an orchestrated campaign. Some U.S. officials accused ElBaradei of purposely concealing damning details of Iran's program from the IAEA board. But they have offered no evidence of a coverup.
"The plan is to keep the spotlight on ElBaradei and raise the heat," another U.S. official said.
But another official said there is disagreement within the administration, chiefly between Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John R. Bolton, who aides say is eager to see ElBaradei go, and outgoing Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, over whether it would be worth diverting diplomatic capital that could be better spent on lobbying the board to get tougher with Iran.
In September, Powell said ElBaradei should step aside, citing a term limit policy adopted several years ago in Geneva by the top 10 contributors to international organizations.
"We think the Geneva rule is a good rule: two terms," Powell told Agence France-Presse. "It's not been followed in the past on many occasions, more often than not, but we still think it's a good, useful rule." Powell said he discussed it personally with ElBaradei, who decided he would stay on if the board wanted him.
"However this effort is justified by the administration, the assumption internationally will be that the United States was blackballing ElBaradei because of Iraq and Iran," said Robert Einhorn, who was assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation until 2001.
Several months ago, the State Department began canvassing potential candidates, including Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, two Japanese diplomats, two South Korean officials and a Brazilian disarmament expert.
But the South Koreans and Brazil's Sergio Duarte are now considered to be problematic candidates because both countries are under IAEA investigation for suspect nuclear work. Downer, who is not willing to challenge ElBaradei, still remains the administration's top choice. The deadline for submitting alternative candidates is Dec. 31.
"Our original strategy was to get Alex Downer to throw his hat in the ring, but we couldn't," one U.S. policymaker said. "Anyone in politics will tell you that you can't beat somebody with nobody, but we're going to try to disprove that."
That strategy worked once before when the administration orchestrated the 2002 removal of Jose M. Bustani, who ran the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a U.N. organization based in The Hague. Bustani drew the administration's ire when he tried to involve his organization in the search for suspected chemical weapons in Iraq.
The administration canvassed the organization's board and then forced a narrow vote for his ouster. A successor was found three months later, and there was little diplomatic fallout from the administration's maneuver, mostly because the OPCW has a fairly low profile and its members wanted to avoid being drawn into the diplomatic row leading up to the Iraq war.
But John S. Wolf, who was assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation until June, said such action comes at a cost and makes it harder for the United States to keep the world's attention focused on pressing threats.
"The net result of campaigns that others saw as spiteful was that even where the U.S. had quite legitimate and proven concerns, the atmosphere had been so soured that it wasn't possible to recoup," Wolf said.
Gareth Evans, a former Australian foreign minister who now heads a high-level panel on U.N. reform, said that ElBaradei has been excellent in his job and that Washington would be making a mistake to challenge him:
"If they think they can get anyone who could have better handled the complex and difficult issues surrounding North Korea, Iran and other controversies, they are not understanding the world right now."

© 2004 The Washington Post Company


 

Gallery owner admits art fraud

Counter-deception clue:

"Mr Sakhai and Mr Sandjaby even sold originals years after selling the forgeries, leading one painting to be apparently on sale at different auction houses twice in one month."


US gallery owner admits art fraud
BBC News 12/14/2004

An art dealer has pleaded guilty to selling forgeries of paintings of Renoir, Chagall, Modigliani and Gaugin.
Ely Sakhai, 52, owner of New York's Exclusive Art gallery, faces several years in jail, must forfeit 11 original artworks and pay back $12.5m (£6.5m).
Gallery office manager Houshi Sandjaby, 70, also admitted being part of the scheme, which went on for 15 years.
The pair bought authentic paintings then hired artists to make highly detailed copies, which were sold on.
The gallery made copies of works including Renoir's Jeune Femme S'Essuyant and Chagall's Les Maries au Bouquet de Fleurs, which were sold to galleries in Tokyo and Taipei.

Auction sales
The forgeries even included replicated markings on the backs of canvases, forged certificates of identity and frames made to look older.
Mr Sakhai and Mr Sandjaby even sold originals years after selling the forgeries, leading one painting to be apparently on sale at different auction houses twice in one month.
Mr Sakhai has agreed to serve between three and four years in jail as part of a deal that will see him repay the fees and give up the paintings.
He could have faced 20 years otherwise. Mr Sandjaby could serve up to five years. They will be sentenced in July 2005.


 

Saddam planned Iraqi insurgency

Since counter-insurgency was not part of Plan A (and there wasn’t a Plan B), the fact that the Intelligence Community largely missed this Iraqi “war plan” seems to be yet another intelligence failure (YAIF).

(Jim Lo Scalzo for USN&WR)

Nation & World USN &WR 12/20/04
Seeds of Chaos

The Baghdad Files: A trove of secret intelligence reports shows how Saddam Hussein planned the current insurgency in Iraq Long before the invasion that toppled his regime was even launched

In the fall of 2002, several months before the United States and its allies invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein dispatched more than 1,000 security and intelligence officers to two military facilities near Baghdad where they underwent two months of guerrilla training, according to a secret U.S. military intelligence report. Anticipating his defeat, intelligence reports show, the Iraqi dictator began laying the foundation for an insurgency as Washington worked to convince the United Nations and allies around the world that Saddam had to go.
The insurgency that has gripped much of Iraq the past 19 months wears many faces and has many different actors. But Baath Party operatives linked to Saddam, along with Sunni extremists from both inside and outside Iraq, have played a central role in resisting U.S.-led forces and the creation of a new democratic government in Baghdad. Although Saddam and many of his relatives and top aides have been captured or killed, American intelligence officials and others say that his supporters remain a formidable foe. “I believe that Saddam regime elements are still playing a significant role in the insurgency,” says Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official who recently returned from a fact-finding mission to Iraq. “Of course, there are many other insurgents--radical Islamists supported by Iran, for example--but most certainly, Saddam planned his insurgency long before we invaded Iraq.”
Until now, it hasn’t been clear how Saddam created his guerrilla force or what role he played in directing attacks against U.S. troops and allied forces on the ground. But classified intelligence reports, reviewed by U.S. News, provide the clearest picture yet of his role in planning and carrying out an insurgency before he was captured in his “spider hole” last December, near his hometown of Tikrit. They also detail the roles some key regime aides have played in the insurgency.
The reports cover the period July 2003 through early 2004; they are based on interviews with Iraqis and other sources throughout Iraq, including fighters captured by U.S.-led forces. Most of the reports were prepared by U.S. analysts and military intelligence officers, although they also include assessments by British intelligence officials. The reporting organizations include the CIA; the Defense Intelligence Agency; the Iraq Survey Group, which was dispatched to Iraq to hunt for weapons of mass destruction; the Coalition Provisional Authority, the caretaker government in Iraq until last June; and various American military commands and units on the ground.
Although many of the raw intelligence reports are uncorroborated, interviews with current and former government officials indicate that information linking Saddam to early planning of an insurgency was right on the money. In his public report issued in October, Charles Duelfer, the chief weapons inspector for the Iraq Survey Group, suggested that Saddam was planning an insurgency as the U.S.-led invasion neared in March 2003. Duelfer wrote: “In Saddam’s last ministers’ meeting . . . just before the war began, he told the attendees at least three times, ‘Resist one week, and after that I will take over . . .’ There are indications that what Saddam actually had in mind was some form of insurgency against the coalition.”

[Full article at: http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/041220/usnews/20baghdad.htm]

 

AOL Fraud Fines--> $.5 Billion

US to charge AOL with fraud
From correspondents in Washington16dec04
© The Australian

MEDIA giant Time Warner Inc will pay fines of $US210 million ($277.81 million) under an agreement with the US government to be announced today to settle charges that its America Online unit inflated revenue, a Justice Department official said.Time Warner is also expected to pay about $US300 million ($396.88 million) more to settle charges with the Securities and Exchange Commission related to its buyout of a stake held by Germany's Bertelsmann AGin AOL Europe, a source familiar with the matter said.
Time Warner in the third quarter took a reserve of $US500 million ($661.46 million) to cover expected legal costs related to government probes into AOL's accounting practices.

 

Stupidity Trumps Fraud

But fraud also trumps the stupid.

It's Time to Take Your SOX Off

By Paul Kocourek, Jim Newfrock, and Reggie Van Lee

More shareholder value has been wiped out in the past five years as a result of strategic mismanagement and poor execution than was lost in all of the recent compliance scandals. A Booz Allen Hamilton analysis of 1,200 firms with market capitalizations of more than $1 billion found that the poorest performers -- the 360 companies that trailed the S&P 500 between 1999 and 2003 -- destroyed almost seven times more value through strategic missteps than by compliance failures. Fully 87 percent of value destruction was attributable to such failures as management ineffectiveness in reacting to competitive pressures or forecasting customer demand, or operational blunders, such as cost overruns and M&A integration problems.
These findings suggest that even in the face of Sarbanes-Oxley, to manage for growth, companies must design a robust and integrated strategic planning process built on a broad understanding of all risks to the business.

To read the full article:
http://www.strategy-business.com/resilience/rr00014


 

Red Violins--Red Faces

This list occasionally publishes interesting stories of deceptions in the arts and the arts of deception.

The value we place on art makes deception in the arts a perennial fact of life, and (as the review at the end of the Times piece reflects) a perennial source for fiction as well.

The NJ Case has every earmark of the classic con—they might as well have called the package deal, “The Sopranos:”

"The instruments were appraised at $50 million, a number trumpeted by the orchestra in a lust for publicity to "put itself on the map," the report said. The appraisal was a major source of the problem. It was made by Mr. Axelrod's main violin dealer. According to the report, the orchestra obtained informal opinions from other appraisers, although more complete valuations were not carried out because of the expense and because Mr. Axelrod was pressing for a quick sale. That was a mistake, it said."

“All’s well, that ends well”? Perhaps, but with violins, and New Jersey, you never know.

December 18, 2004 NYTimes.com
Report Faults Orchestra Officials on Deal for Rare Instruments
By DANIEL J. WAKIN

Officials at the New Jersey Symphony, driven by a fear of sabotaging a deal to purchase a rare string collection for its players, deceived their board and the public over the instruments' value, according to an internal report released yesterday.
But the report put a stamp of approval on the $18 million purchase of 30 violins, violas and cellos. It said the price was fair for a "spectacular and unique collection" that will adorn New Jersey and set the orchestra apart from its giant rivals in New York and Philadelphia. While acknowledging that the deal was not nearly as spectacular as the orchestra had made it seem, the authors said they would still support it.
"Good intentions, terrible process, good outcome," Bill Baroni, an author of the report and a member of the New Jersey State Assembly, said in summarizing the episode at a news conference.
The report, by Mr. Baroni and two other members of the orchestra's board, none of whom had played any role in the transaction, was commissioned after questions were raised about the authenticity of some of the instruments last summer. The collection's seller, Herbert J. Axelrod, a philanthropist and pet-care magnate, has been indicted on an unrelated tax fraud charge, casting additional shadows on the transaction.
It portrayed a board inexperienced in such large-scale, sophisticated purchases manipulated by a publicity-minded and shrewd negotiator, Mr. Axelrod.
"A financially challenged symphony based in Newark, N.J.," the report said, "trying to buy 30 rare instruments from a quirky but generous millionaire with an all-volunteer group represented a once-in-a-lifetime deal in all respects."
The purchase of the instruments, mostly made before 1750 by masters like Stradivari, Guarneri and Guadagnini, was announced in January 2003 with great fanfare. It was also credited with luring the noted conductor Neeme Jarvi to the orchestra as music director.
The instruments were appraised at $50 million, a number trumpeted by the orchestra in a lust for publicity to "put itself on the map," the report said. The appraisal was a major source of the problem. It was made by Mr. Axelrod's main violin dealer. According to the report, the orchestra obtained informal opinions from other appraisers, although more complete valuations were not carried out because of the expense and because Mr. Axelrod was pressing for a quick sale. That was a mistake, it said.
At the time, the orchestra's appraisers put the value of the collection at between $15.3 million and $26.4 million. An instrument committee established to pursue the deal told the full board only about the upper-end appraisal, the report said - another error.
"Many on the board were not even aware of that fact and were only aware of the seller's publicity that kept referring to a $50 million collection," the report said.
The report said doubts about the original Axelrod appraisal were hidden because the committee felt that if such word got out, Mr. Axelrod would be embarrassed and back out of the deal. That decision was wrong, the report said. The committee also worried that Mr. Axelrod would back out of forgiving a $4 million loan toward the purchase that he had given the orchestra.
At the same time, Mr. Axelrod was pressing for a fast deal, saying other potential buyers were keenly interested in the collection. Those claims later turned out to have been false. Members of the committee saw those accounts of other potential buyers as a negotiating tactic, but other board members took the claims at face value, the report said.
"Given the size of the transaction, there was too much concern to avoid conflict with the seller," the report said, "and not enough to ensure that the board understood what it was getting for the money it was investing."
When asked why the board did not check out the competition, Simon Woods, who became the orchestra's president in April, said: "I think that's a great question. What I'm trying to do now is start a new era of transparency and accountability."
In the end, Mr. Axelrod forgave $1 million and donated $1.1 million toward the collection's purchase. He thus ended up receiving only $15.9 million - not far from the lowest evaluation, Mr. Woods said in an interview. The report recommended valuing the collection on the orchestra's books at $18 million. Mr. Woods said management agreed with that in principle but was waiting to hear the opinion of the orchestra's auditors.
The report gives a sense of the lust over the instruments when their purchase was being considered. Boston has the Pops and Tanglewood, the leadership felt, the Philadelphia Orchestra has its famed string sound, Chicago has its brass sound, "but New Jersey would have 'all those Strads,' " the report recounted. Even now, the report recommended a public relations campaign to spread the word about the collection.
The committee also withheld information about refitting and changes to some instruments over the centuries, or different opinions about their authenticity, because the most important thing was the "exceptional musical quality of the collection as a whole" and what was called the instruments' playability. That, too, in hindsight, was a mistake, the report said.
It said the board, and even members of the instrument committee, were not told about rumors that federal authorities were investigating Mr. Axelrod for inflating the value of other gifts of rare string instruments.
Mr. Axelrod pleaded guilty on Dec. 8 to one count of tax fraud in a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, who promised not to go after him for any crimes relating to the string collection sale.
The report did not single anyone out by name, laying most of the blame on the instrument committee. Its members included Dr. Victor Parsonnet, the orchestra board's chairman, and Lawrence Tamburri, the orchestra's president at the time, who has since moved on to run the Pittsburgh Symphony. Along with six other board members, the committee had two musicians, the principal violinist, Eric Wyrick, and the principal cellist, Jonathan Spitz.
Mr. Tamburri declined to speak with a reporter. He issued a brief statement through the the Pittsburgh Symphony praising the New Jersey orchestra for investigating the purchase but did not address its criticisms.
"While the report found flaws in the process, it concluded that the opportunity to acquire such valuable instruments was in the best interest of the organization," he said.
When Mr. Wyrick was asked about failing to inform the full board about the collection's valuation or doubts about provenance, he said he was not involved in discussing how to disseminate the committee's information.
"We knew the collection was a sound collection, and we were very savvy about the pitfalls, and what's a normal violin deal," he said. "A normal violin deal is fraught with mystery and tough decisions to make. You follow your advisers as best you can and make a tough decision."
As for not knowing about Mr. Axelrod's background, he said: "Should I re-evaluate my belief in the instrument because Mr. Axelrod has been found to have done some illegal business? I can't. He has nothing to do with the instrument as far as I'm concerned."
"The instrument is great," and so was the deal for the orchestra, he added.
The members of the review panel took great pains to describe the difficulty, contradicting opinions and vagaries in valuing old string instruments. It quoted the founder of Sotheby's musical instruments department, Graham Wells, as saying, "The violin trade has always been corrupt."
In an appendix, the report gave the opinions of Mr. Axelrod's appraiser and of the orchestra's experts, and past descriptions for each instrument. Supplementing the evaluations were musicians' words of praise for the instruments, as if to support the orchestra's longstanding argument that no matter what the details, the violins, violas and cellos sound beautiful and make a big difference in the orchestra's sound.

…and fiction (now playing on HBO)

The Red Violin

Canadian director Francois Girard, best known for his inventive Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, again uses music as an inspiration in his new film, which is ostensibly five short films about a fabled violin. This beautiful, visually lush, and breath-takingly romantic epic tells the story of a fabulous violin, the last creation of master builder Nicolo Bussoti, and follows the instrument across three continents.
The film opens in 17th century Italy, where Bussoti (Carlo Cecchi) creates the violin as a lasting legacy for his beautiful young wife, who died during childbirth. Supposedly possessed by his wife's soul, the magnificent violin plays haunting music that inspires all who come in contact with it, and it becomes an object of obsession for all who cross its path. Over the centuries the violin passes across Europe to England, and then on to China, where it narrowly escapes destruction at the height of the Cultural Revolution. The 300 year old instrument then finds its way to a famed Montreal-based auction house, where it is put up for sale.
The thread that links all the various stories is the auction itself. This key sequence is replayed several times, from the different perspectives of the various interested parties who have come to bid for the violin, which brings an element of suspense to proceedings.
Girard has written the film in collaboration with Canadian writer/director/actor Don McKellar (Exotica, etc), who plays a small role here as an antiquities expert called in to help verify the violin's authenticity. However, not all the strands of this multi-layered narrative dealing with lust, greed and the enduring power of love and music, are successful. Subsequently, the film is a little uneven. The modern day scenes in particular lack a sense of passion and beauty.
Girard has assembled an impressive international cast to breathe life into the story and the characters, but many of them play small roles. Samuel L Jackson lends dignity to his ambivalent role as an expert called in to trace the provenance of a shipment of rare violins due to be auctioned. He becomes obsessed with the famed red violin of history when he discovers it amongst the collection. Jason Flemyng (from Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, etc) and Greta Scacchi steam up the screen as a flamboyant nineteenth century English musician and his demanding and jealous mistress. Christoph Koncz is memorable as Kaspar Weiss, a young child prodigy.
The film has been beautifully shot by cinematographer Alain Dostie, and the stunning visuals are further enhanced by John Corigliano's compositions. Francois Seguin's production design is also impressive and brings alive the 17th century European settings.
Copyright © 1998 Greg King

 

KPMG and Fannie Mae: Auditors' Blues

“Greed is good, greed is right, greed works.” Gordon Gekko, “Wall Street”

"If you look at all the instances of negative publicity and lawsuits, all of them are occurring for pre- Enron activity," said Arthur W. Bowman, the editor of an accounting industry newsletter. "Today, KPMG would probably stand up and tell Fannie Mae you can't do that."

Sure.

December 17, 2004 NYTimes.com
THE AUDITOR
The Latest in a String of Setbacks for KPMG

By ERIC DASH
The Securities and Exchange Commission's announcement on Wednesday night that Fannie Mae had violated accounting rules was the latest blow to the company, whose top executives had long maintained that its methods were in compliance.
But the announcement was also an embarrassment for the company's independent auditor, KPMG, which had raised questions about Fannie Mae's practices but continued to sign off on the company's statements.

The S.E.C.'s chief accountant found that Fannie Mae's accounting practices "did not comply" with two requirements for recording gains and losses on derivatives contracts, which the company used to hedge against the risk of interest rate swings.
While Fannie Mae said that it would comply with the S.E.C.'s decision, which could wipe out as much as $9 billion when it restates its earnings, the company's executives had previously argued that the accounting rules had room for a different interpretation and often consulted with KPMG when there was a concern about compliance.
KPMG, which had previously stood by Fannie's financial results, said in a statement yesterday that it accepted the company's decision to follow the S.E.C.'s directions with respect to prior financial reports. The firm also said that it accepted the S.E.C.'s findings on a complex derivatives accounting rule, known as FAS 133, "as the final arbiter of GAAP."
"It should have a jarring effect on KPMG, but the quiet undertone shared by all of the Big Four accounting firms is, 'this too shall pass,' " said Allan D. Koltin, president of PDI Global Inc., a Chicago-based consultancy that works with many large accounting firms.
The decision on Fannie Mae is the latest setback for the accounting firm. In recent years, KPMG has been at the center of several high-profile financial scandals and has settled a number of lawsuits without admitting wrongdoing.
In October, KPMG agreed to pay $10 million to settle S.E.C. charges that the firm and four of its accountants did not properly audit the financial statements of
Gemstar-TV Guide International.
Earlier that month, KPMG's American and Belgian business units agreed to pay $115 million to settle shareholder claims of accounting malpractice that arose from the collapse of Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products, a Belgian speech-recognition software company.
Last year, KPMG paid more than $200 million to settle lawsuits stemming from its audits of
Rite Aid and Oxford Health Plans.
The firm is also under investigation by a federal grand jury in Manhattan looking into the sale of tax shelters. And it remains entangled with the S.E.C. over
Xerox, whose books it audited while executives there committed securities fraud.
But the firm's swift action to dismiss partners and clean up practices in other cases has allowed it to survive, accounting analysts said. While the KPMG name may now be more frequently in the news, they said, its practices were in line with the rest of the industry during the late 1990's.
"If you look at all the instances of negative publicity and lawsuits, all of them are occurring for pre- Enron activity," said Arthur W. Bowman, the editor of an accounting industry newsletter. "Today, KPMG would probably stand up and tell Fannie Mae you can't do that."


Wednesday, December 01, 2004

 

Deception in the arts: Frayn's "Democracy"

It is perhaps too soon to proclaim Frayn the Aeschylus of our time, but to me his work suggests the same depth and effect—the essence of the human tragedy set at the center of our social context.

Oh. I just love this headline: A Torn Land of Torn Hearts Lost in a Mist of Deception

November 19, 2004 NYTimes.com
THEATER REVIEW 'DEMOCRACY'
A Torn Land of Torn Hearts Lost in a Mist of Deception

By BEN BRANTLEY


You can start salivating now. After many months of serving the theatrical equivalent of half-thawed TV dinners, Broadway has finally delivered a juicy gourmet's banquet of a play.
Michael Frayn's "Democracy," which opened last night at the Brooks Atkinson Theater, is one of those rare dramas that don't just dare to think big but that fully translate their high aspirations to the stage, with sharp style and thrilling clarity. For New York theatergoers who have endured the recent spate of dutiful revivals and misconceived star vehicles, watching Mr. Frayn's gripping study of the fraught glory years of Chancellor Willy Brandt of West Germany and the spy who loved him is like riding a wave after dog paddling in shallow waters.
Now the idea of a play about German parliamentary politics may not sound terribly seductive in the weary wake of the recent American presidential elections. Who at this point, you may reasonably ask, would want to sit through a detailed account of campaigning and vote tallying in a foreign country some 30 years ago?
But remember that Mr. Frayn and his long-time collaborator Michael Blakemore, this production's inspired director, are the same men who brought crowd-wowing sex appeal to nuclear physics with the Tony Award-winning "Copenhagen." Aided by a precisely coordinated ensemble of 10 actors, they work a similar magic on the arcana of governing a country made up, as the play puts it, of "11 separate democracies tied up in a federation like ferrets in a bag."
It may take you 15 minutes or so to become oriented to the rules and players on this fragmented political field. But soon enough you're likely to find yourself echoing the sentiments of a government functionary named Günter Guillaume (Richard Thomas), caught up in the surge of tension and relief afforded by an aborted attempt to unseat Brandt (James Naughton), the play's charismatic center. "Never mind football!" he exclaims. "Try parliamentary democracy!"
As with practically everything else in "Democracy," these words assume a multisurfaced shimmer when you consider them in context. The bespectacled, innocuous-seeming Guillaume has, you see, two masters: the Social Democratic Party, which has just come to power in West Germany when the play begins in 1969, and East German intelligence. Guillaume is, on one level, that faithful standby of espionage potboilers - the spy who winds up falling for the very person he is spying on. But nothing about "Democracy" can be tagged with a simple label.
Guillaume, it evolves, suffers from a tendency that also afflicts his employers (on both sides), his colleagues, his countries (East and West) and, as Mr. Frayn has it, democracy itself: he is hopelessly, confoundingly divided. So, of course, is Brandt, in ways that assume the monumental proportions of classic tragedy. As befits a play that zestfully trafficks in parodox, "Democracy" turns out to be a wholehearted study of the mysteries of the divided human heart.
This production arrives in New York under the auspices of the National Theater of Great Britain, which first staged the show in London a year ago. I saw it with its British cast, an impeccable crew led by the magnificent Roger Allam as Brandt, and I was nervous when I heard that American actors would be taking over in New York.
But that was to underestimate the sorcery of Mr. Blakemore and his subtle, sharp-witted design team, which includes Peter J. Davison (sets), Neil Alexander (sound) and especially Mark Henderson (lighting). I'm delighted to report that "Democracy" does indeed still progress with the tense momentum of a closely fought soccer match. And the ensemble is as well oiled and brightly polished as the one in London.
Admittedly, the pivotal roles of Brandt and Guillaume are not as perfectly cast as they were in London. Judging by photographs, Mr. Allam and Conleth Hill, who played Guillaume, looked uncannily like their real-life counterparts. And as the womanizing, mesmerizing, fatally conflicted Brandt, Mr. Allam gave a performance that may never be equaled. His Brandt seemed to have absorbed every camera flash that had stroked his skin, and he appeared both tragically ennobled and trapped by this glittering public surface.
Mr. Naughton, a Tony winner for the musicals "City of Angels" and "Chicago," lacks this apotheosizing presence. His irony is less cosmic than worldly, and his deep, satiny radio announcer's voice automatically attaches distancing quotation marks to many of Brandt's lines. Unlike the shorter, more squat Mr. Hill, who was able to embody the characterization of Guillaume as a greasy meatball, Mr. Thomas cannot help cutting a romantic figure onstage. He waves his feelings as if they were a bright pennant.
Yet despite these deficiencies, Mr. Naughton and Mr. Thomas (and, lest we forget, their ringmaster, Mr. Blakemore) more than hold our interest in the shifting, ambivalent course of their characters' relationship, which ultimately leads to the undoing of both men. Mr. Naughton, who assumes depth as the show goes on, is flawless in embodying the fabled Brandt's wordless public gestures, which, appropriate to a play that celebrates ambiguity, are its most resonant.
And Mr. Thomas ultimately proves himself an invaluable guide to the labyrinthine world onstage. Guillaume is the narrator of "Democracy," relating his experiences not directly to the audience but to his East German controller, Arno Kretschmann (Michael Cumpsty, in superb, smarmy form), who hovers on the periphery of the action. "I'm blind, I'm deaf," Kretschmann tells Guillaume. "You're my eyes, my ears." Mr. Thomas executes this function with an irresistible intensity that captures the probing, perpetually astonished curiosity of the play itself.
For there is no feeling of clinical retrospect about "Democracy." Even though Mr. Frayn is interpolating from a mass of recorded facts, the play always seems to be surprising itself, much as the moody, changeable Brandt is always surprising his colleagues. More than any contemporary dramatist I can think of, Mr. Frayn has a commanding grasp of the overlapping patterns of history and of individual personality. But he is also a virtuoso in suggesting the fluidity of those patterns, at creating the illusion that they are assuming their forms spontaneously as you watch.
Not that "Democracy" is a mimetic slice of life. Its characters speak in a heightened, witty, metaphor-driven language that bears roughly the same relationship to politicians' gossip that Joseph L. Mankiewicz's script for the movie "All About Eve" did to theater chitchat.
Mr. Blakemore matches the playwright's tone of voice with a crisply choreographed and exuberantly, elegantly theatrical production that makes splendid use of Mr. Davison's appropriately two-tiered set. (There is one luscious coup de théâtre that takes the characters from ecstatic election night revelry to a hung-over morning after.)
In practical terms, Mr. Blakemore's greatest achievement may be in sustaining clarity while conveying the prism of points of view described by one of Brandt's aides: "Everyone looking at everyone else. Everyone seeing something different. Everyone trying to guess what everyone else is seeing."
Every member of the supporting cast fulfills his duties with zeal and discipline, from Julian Gamble, as Brandt's damningly observant bodyguard, to Robert Prosky, as a wily, devoutly Christian politician and former Communist. It is clear that none of these characters is to be trusted. Each, in his own way, is duplicitous.
But it is Mr. Frayn's point that everyone, even the most inflexible- seeming among us, is a squirming knot of contradictions. Which is exactly what makes people so worthy of study for this playwright. Brandt's response when he hears that Guillaume may be an enemy agent might be the voice of Mr. Frayn: "The merest possibility that Guillaume is not what he seems makes him infinitely more tolerable."
The miracle of "Democracy" is that it traces this idea of multiplicity on so many equally satisfying levels: within Brandt, who speaks often of the different identities he has assumed throughout his life and agonizes over roads not taken; within every man who works for him; within the mongrel divided nation that was Germany in the early 1970's.
And while you may well draw specific parallels to contemporary figures and events (Bill Clinton as Brandt, anyone?), it's this play's infinite open-endedness that makes it such a treasure. With "Copenhagen" and "Democracy," Mr. Frayn has singlehandedly rejuvenated the biographical drama by making its boundaries porous, so that against the odds it feels as universal as it does particular.
"I am large," says Brandt, quoting Walt Whitman. "I contain multitudes." So, improbably but gloriously, does "Democracy."


 

"The Bomb in My Garden" Wasn't

Truth in book reading department. Obeidi’s memoir has been greatly abused by defenders of the White House claims on Iraq WMD intentions. The book’s title is itself, deceptive—there were no bombs in any gardens.

For example, this USNews editorial gist of the book is misleading (as is the editorial), but such highly selective quotesmanship and wholesale misrepresentation of this book are quite common:

Saddam's strategic objective was quite simple--to end the
sanctions so he could reconstitute his banned weapons programs. This has been
confirmed by Saddam's chief nuclear guru, Mahdi Obeidi, in a book called The
Bomb in My Garden. Under orders from Qusay Hussein, Obeidi buried a huge barrel
in his back garden that contained the components of an actual centrifuge for the
enrichment of uranium, in addition to printed instructions and other information
on the subject. Obeidi wrote in the New York Times, "Iraqi scientists had the
knowledge and the designs needed to jump-start the [nuclear weapons] program if
necessary. And there is no question that we could have done it so very
quickly."

By Mortimer B. Zuckerman “The real truth about Iraq” USNews.com
11/1/04
www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/041101/opinion/1edit.htm

October 31, 2004 NYTimes.com
'The Bomb in My Garden': Science Fiction
By JACOB HEILBRUNN

THE BOMB IN MY GARDENThe Secrets of Saddam's Nuclear Mastermind. By Mahdi Obeidi and Kurt Pitzer. 242 pp. John Wiley & Sons. $24.95.

MAHDI OBEIDI is an unusual penitent. A gifted Iraqi scientist, he led the effort to provide Saddam Hussein with a nuclear bomb. Now, in ''The Bomb in My Garden,'' written with Kurt Pitzer, an experienced journalist, Obeidi explains why he failed. His memoir is not an instructive guide to Iraq's quest for the bomb. It is an indispensable one. Expertly organized and packed with telling vignettes, it is never less than riveting. Not a member of Hussein's camarilla but in close contact with it, Obeidi draws on his experiences to depict a regime that became the premier consumer of its own propaganda. For from the beginning, it was clear that Iraq's bomb program was unlikely to succeed.
Obeidi, born in 1944, received much of his early scientific training in the United States. A talented mathematics student, he landed a five-year scholarship from the Ministry of Education for study at the Colorado School of Mines when he was 18. After earning a master's degree in petroleum-refining engineering, he returned to Iraq and joined the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission when it was set up. By 1976, he was in charge of materials research and, on a grant partly paid for by the United Nations, spent four months apprenticing in the Italian nuclear program. ''The Italians were very kind and allowed me almost unrestricted access to their facilities and reactor designs,'' he writes. He would discover similar kindness from scientists from a host of countries in coming years.
When Hussein seized power in 1979, Iraq pushed ahead even more aggressively with its nuclear program. Construction on a 40-megawatt French reactor at Tuwaitha was almost complete, but as the final components arrived, Obeidi noticed that the aluminum piping leading to the reactor was pitted. His warnings were ignored, the project went ahead and Saddam presented 20 automobiles to his top scientists. Obeidi didn't get one. He learned an ''enduring lesson that day,'' he says. ''It was taboo for a scientist to raise issues that were inconvenient to Saddam's government.'' Fortunately, in a daring raid on June 7, 1981, eight Israeli F-16 fighter jets bombed and destroyed the reactor.
The bombing prompted Hussein to embark on a more covert program. After Obeidi redeemed himself with a successful scientific experiment, Hussein's son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, tapped him to head a program that relied on using a gas centrifuge to enrich uranium. No expense was spared: when the scientists complained about the poor quality of their meals, a courier arrived hours later with a sack of cash to hire a private caterer. But the regime's draconian demands for overnight results were counterproductive. After an oil centrifuge rotor the scientists were experimenting on cracked under extreme pressure because they hadn't carried out sufficient research, Obeidi profusely apologized to Kamel, who, he writes, ''only stared at me with a look of such menace that I instinctively took a step backward.''
Obeidi regrouped and focused on building a state-of-the-art magnetic centrifuge. The Reagan administration, then cozying up to Hussein as he battled Iran, turned a blind, or at least a sleepy, eye toward his nuclear ambitions. Obeidi went on a shopping spree, using a mixture of front companies, bribes and sheer charm, to procure the necessary parts, information and, above all, technical support. Within 18 months, Obeidi had created what he calls ''very likely the most efficient covert enrichment program in history.'' But nothing could propitiate his masters: during his sole meeting with Hussein, who, after silently staring at him in the eyes for two minutes, a juvenile trick he used to unnerve his interlocutors, inquired about actual results, Kamel interjected, ''Dr. Mahdi is a very humble man who hates to boast. He believes that results will be shown within the next few months.'' Outside, one of Hussein's advisers screamed at Obeidi: ''Why didn't you tell the president what he wanted to hear? . . . You should be more afraid to disappoint him now than to disappoint him later!''
Hussein's invasion of Kuwait finished off his nuclear program. As Iraq was relentlessly bombed, Obeidi, intent on saving the remnants of his work, was reduced to burying a copy of centrifuge designs and four components in his backyard near his favorite lotus tree.
It was an abrupt end to a program supposed to help restore Iraq to its past greatness. As United Nations inspectors swarmed across the country, Hussein went to great lengths to destroy his stocks of illegal weaponry and hide his projects. Once the United Nations established the oil-for-food program, Hussein was reluctant to jeopardize his black- market contracts by reviving his weapons programs and instead lived in a complete fantasy world about his military capabilities: even as war loomed, Obeidi says, ''the sense of denial was so great that as late as December, I was overseeing a 10-year development plan.''
Though Obeidi vividly portrays this phantasmagoric world, it's unclear how much credence we should place in his assertions that he proceeded only in the spirit of scientific inquiry and out of fear for his family's safety. Like almost everyone in Iraq, he presents himself as a victim of the regime, and his reflections about his complicity with it are at best perfunctory. Still, it would be a mistake to inquire too closely into his motives. Hussein's threats were hardly idle, and after the second gulf war, Obeidi voluntarily handed over the documents and parts he had secreted in his backyard to United States intelligence.
His small hoard revealed how little importance Hussein had come to attach to a program he once saw as the key to greatness. Had Hussein been less reckless, Obeidi might well have ended up as Iraq's version of Pakistan's A. Q. Khan, celebrated as a national hero for fashioning a nuclear bomb. Instead, Obeidi lives with his family in an undisclosed location in the United States and denounces the inexorable spread of the technology that he once tried to harness.

Jacob Heilbrunn writes editorials for The Los Angeles Times.

 

50 Optical Illusions

Chris Elsasser pointed out a very nicely designed and informative website:

50 Optical Illusions & Visual Phenomena (Visual Illusion · Optische Täuschungen)
by
Michael Bach

http://www.michaelbach.de/ot/index.html

 

PR Meets PSYOP in War in Iraq

Interesting developments…violating long-standing PSYOPS and Public Affairs “truth principle” traditions, and the well-established concept that obvious lies and mis–representions are counter-productive to long-term PSYOP and PA goals.

False US PSYOP campaigns during the Vietnam War were somewhat successful against North Vietnam, making the NVN believe there were US-SVN espionage and subversion groups active in NVN. The net effect of these PSYOP efforts however, were greatly enhanced NVN counter-espionage and counter-intelligence operations, to the extent that all US and SVN agents in the North came under NVN control, capture, or elimination. The US PSYOP helped motivate NVN to conduct an outstanding double-cross operation against us. [See Richard H. Shultz, Jr., The Secret War Against Hanoi : The Untold Story of Spies, Saboteurs, and Covert Warriors in North Vietnam.]

NB: "According to several Pentagon officials, the strategic communications programs at the Defense Department are being coordinated by the office ofthe undersecretary of Defense for policy, Douglas J. Feith" ...described by General Tommy Franks, retired CENTCOM Commander, as "getting a reputation around here as the dumbest guy on the planet."

LA Times 1 Dec 2004
THE NATION
PR Meets Psy-Ops in War on Terror
The use of misleading information as a military tool sparks debate in the Pentagon. Critics say the practice puts credibility at stake.
By Mark Mazzetti
Times Staff Writer

December 1, 2004

WASHINGTON - On the evening of Oct. 14, a young Marine spokesman near
Fallouja appeared on CNN and made a dramatic announcement.

"Troops crossed the line of departure," 1st Lt. Lyle Gilbert declared, using
a common military expression signaling the start of a major campaign. "It's
going to be a long night." CNN, which had been alerted to expect a major
news development, reported that the long-awaited offensive to retake the
Iraqi city of Fallouja had begun.

In fact, the Fallouja offensive would not kick off for another three weeks.
Gilbert's carefully worded announcement was an elaborate psychological
operation - or "psy-op" - intended to dupe insurgents in Fallouja and allow
U.S. commanders to see how guerrillas would react if they believed U.S.
troops were entering the city, according to several Pentagon officials.

In the hours after the initial report, CNN's Pentagon reporters were able to
determine that the Fallouja operation had not, in fact, begun.

"As the story developed, we quickly made it clear to our viewers exactly
what was going on in and around Fallouja," CNN spokesman Matthew Furman
said.

Officials at the Pentagon and other U.S. national security agencies said the
CNN incident was not an isolated feint - the type used throughout history by
armies to deceive their enemies - but part of a broad effort underway within
the Bush administration to use information to its advantage in the war on
terrorism.

The Pentagon in 2002 was forced to shutter its controversial Office of
Strategic Influence (OSI), which was opened shortly after the Sept. 11
attacks, after reports that the office intended to plant false news stories
in the international media. But officials say that much of OSI's mission -
using information as a tool of war - has been assumed by other offices
throughout the U.S. government.

Although most of the work remains classified, officials say that some of the
ongoing efforts include having U.S. military spokesmen play a greater role
in psychological operations in Iraq, as well as planting information with
sources used by Arabic TV channels such as Al Jazeera to help influence the
portrayal of the United States.

Other specific examples were not known, although U.S. national security
officials said an emphasis had been placed on influencing how foreign media
depict the United States.

These efforts have set off a fight inside the Pentagon over the proper use
of information in wartime. Several top officials see a danger of blurring
what are supposed to be well-defined lines between the stated mission of
military public affairs - disseminating truthful, accurate information to
the media and the American public - and psychological and information
operations, the use of often-misleading information and propaganda to
influence the outcome of a campaign or battle.

Several of those officials who oppose the use of misleading information
spoke out against the practice on the condition of anonymity.

"The movement of information has gone from the public affairs world to the
psychological operations world," one senior defense official said. "What's
at stake is the credibility of people in uniform."

Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said he recognized the concern of many
inside the Defense Department, but that "everybody understands that there's
a very important distinction between information operations and public
affairs. Nobody has offered serious proposals that would blur the
distinction between these two functions."

Di Rita said he had asked his staff for more information about how the Oct.
14 incident on CNN came about.

One recent development critics point to is the decision by commanders in
Iraq in mid-September to combine public affairs, psychological operations
and information operations into a "strategic communications" office. An
organizational chart of the newly created office was obtained by The Times.
The strategic communications office, which began operations Sept. 15, is run
by Air Force Brig. Gen. Erv Lessel, who answers directly to Gen. George W.
Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

Partly out of concern about this new office, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, distributed a letter Sept. 27 to the Joint
Chiefs and U.S. combat commanders in the field warning of the dangers of
having military public affairs (PA) too closely aligned with information
operations (IO).

"Although both PA and IO conduct planning, message development and media
analysis, the efforts differ with respect to audience, scope and intent, and
must remain separate," Myers wrote, according to a copy of the letter
obtained by The Times.

Pentagon officials say Myers is worried that U.S. efforts in Iraq and in the
broader campaign against terrorism could suffer if world audiences begin to
question the honesty of statements from U.S. commanders and spokespeople.

"While organizations may be inclined to create physically integrated PA/IO
offices, such organizational constructs have the potential to compromise the
commander's credibility with the media and the public," Myers wrote.

Myers' letter is not being heeded in Iraq, officials say, in part because
many top civilians at the Pentagon and National Security Council support an
effort that blends public affairs with psy-ops to win Iraqi support - and
Arab support in general - for the U.S. fight against the insurgency.

Advocates of these programs said that the advent of a 24-hour news cycle and
the powerful influence of Arabic satellite television made it essential that
U.S. military commanders and civilian officials made the control of
information a key part of their battle plans.

"Information is part of the battlefield in a way that it's never been
before," one senior Bush administration official said. "We'd be foolish not
to try to use it to our advantage."

And, supporters argue, it is necessary to fill a vacuum left when the
budgets for the State Department's public diplomacy programs were slashed
and the U.S. Information Agency - a bulwark of the nation's anticommunist
efforts during the Cold War - was gutted in the 1990s.

"The worst outcome would be to lose this war by default. If the smart folks
in the psy-op and civil affairs tents can cast a truthful, persuasive
message that resonates with the average Iraqi, why not use the public
affairs vehicles to transmit it?" asked Charles A. Krohn, a professor at the
University of Michigan and former deputy chief of public affairs for the
Army. "What harm is done, compared to what is gained? For the first year of
the war, we did virtually nothing to tell the Iraqis why we invaded their
country and ejected their government. It's about time we got our act
together."

Advocates also cite a September report by the Defense Science Board, a panel
of outside experts that advises Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, which
concluded that a "crisis" in U.S. "strategic communications" had undermined
American efforts to fight Islamic extremism worldwide.

The study cited polling in the Arab world that revealed widespread hatred of
the United States throughout the Middle East. A poll taken in June by Zogby
International revealed that 94% of Saudi Arabians had an "unfavorable" view
of the United States, compared with 87% in April 2002. In Egypt, the second
largest recipient of U.S. aid, 98% of respondents held an unfavorable view
of the United States.

The Defense Science Board recommended a presidential directive to
"coordinate all components of strategic communication including public
diplomacy, public affairs, international broadcasting and military
information operations."

Di Rita said there was general agreement inside the Bush administration that
the U.S. government was ill-equipped to communicate its policies and
messages abroad in the current media climate.

"As a government, we're not very well organized to do that," he said.

Yet some in the military argue that the efforts at better "strategic
communication" sometimes cross the line into propaganda, citing some recent
media briefings held in Iraq. During a Nov. 10 briefing by Marine Lt. Gen.
John F. Sattler, reporters were shown a video of Iraqi troops saluting their
flag and singing the Iraqi national anthem.

"Pretty soon, we're going to have the 5 o'clock follies all over again, and
it will take us another 30 years to restore our credibility," said a second
senior Defense official, referring to the much-ridiculed daily media
briefings in Saigon during the Vietnam War.

According to several Pentagon officials, the strategic communications
programs at the Defense Department are being coordinated by the office of
the undersecretary of Defense for policy, Douglas J. Feith.




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