Saturday, September 25, 2010

Paul Linebarger

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Joseph B. Smith Portrait of a Cold Warrior – Second Thoughts of a Top CIA Agent (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1976) P. 59.

...“As far as psychological warfare is concerned, it’s a brand new field. We are all learning. You remember it was one of Hitler’s strongest weapons. The Communists depend on it a lot to. We figure that if we analyze what they’re doing and study the countries in our area closely, we can beat them at their own game.”

“Oh yes, another thing,” she added, “We won’t be able to spare you for any clandestine tradecraft training. That would take another three months. We need you now. You’ll have to learn the business on the job. I’m afraid.”

“Well,” she added as an afterthought, “we will be able to help you with psychwar. Paul Linebarger, our consultant, is one of the few real experts and he gives evening seminars for us. We’ll try to get you into one of them after you’ve settled in.”

...One important contingency to consider in case a situation worsened rapidly and a take over by the Communist guerrilla armies appeared imminent was the operational effectiveness of assassination of the leaders of these groups.

For example, in Indochina, would the Viet Minh fall apart if Ho Chi Minh were assassinated? He appeared to be the soul of the movement. The evidence indicated that he was the one man nearly all Vietnamese respected and his efforts had provided the decisive cohesion that held the Communist cause together. If he were removed, wouldn’t this one death perhaps save the lives of many?

This was the key point on which discussions of assassination turned, the same kind of reasoning that led to the dropping of the first atomic bomb. An assassination meant the death of one person. If the situation is one of armed combat, killing is an accepted activity. Maximum accomplishment via minimum violence became a primary consideration.

Thus assassination was always a contingency action to be included in the plans, though approval would have to come from the National Security Council before any assassination was attempted. Another practical problem was where to find the assassins. The reading of case studies of the successful assassinations by Soviet secret service counterparts, such as the killing of Trotsky, wasn’t much help because the Soviets service exercised a control over its agents we could not impose, certainly not on Asians. That left only criminals and cranks to be considered for recruitment to perform this service...P. 75...

All this was far in the future and far less important to me in the early winter of 1952 than the fact that I got the chance to attend Paul Linebarger’s seminar in psychological warfare. Linebarger had served as an Army psychological warfare officer in Chungking during the war. He had written a textbook on the subject in 1948

In 1951 he was serving as the Far East Division’s chief consultant. He also served as the Defense Department in the same capacity, giving advice on U.S. psychwar operations in Korea, and he was professor of Asian politics at the School for Advanced International Studies of the John Hopkins University. His book by this time had gone through three American editions, two Argentine editions and a Japanese edition.

He was far from a textbook warrior, however. He best described himself when he wrote the introduction to his book, “Psychological warfare involves exciting wit sharpening work. It tends to attract quick-minded people – men full of ideas.” His wits scarcely needed sharpening, and he was never at a loss for an idea.

The seminars were held in eight weeks, every Friday night at his home. Going to Paul Linebarger’s house on Friday evenings was not only an educational experience for those who attended the seminar, it was also an exercise in clandestinity. Learning covert operational conduct was considered part of the course. Each seminar was limited to no more than eight students. They were told to pose as students from the School of Advanced International Studies, to go to Paul’s via different routes, and to say they were attending a seminar on Asian politics. Senator McCarthy had alerted everyone to the possibility that Communist operators might be expected to turn up at almost any place in Washington. The School of Advanced International Studies had its campus in Washington, but over in Baltimore at the main campus of John Hopkins University, Owen Lattimore, the expert on Asian geography, held sway. McCarthy had called Lattimore the principal agent of Communist China in the United States.
Although no one called Paul Linebarger the principle agent of Chiang Kai-shek, his father had been Sun Yat Sen’s legal advisor and Paul never hid his full devotion to the Chinat cause. The feeling of the clash of mysterious powers was abroad in the cold winter nights around Paul’s house. It could just be possible that some Communist surveillant might follow one of the students up Rock Creek Park to 29th Street. They might even be operating from the Shoreham hotel, a few blocks away. We had been thoroughly indoctrinated in the fear of Communist subversion....It would be difficult to say whether it was the political atmosphere in general, the office routine of the day just closed, or the drawn drapes in Linebarger’s living room, but students at the seminar met in an appropriately conspiratorial mood tht raised the level of their appreciation of their subject.

The mood was fitting if not essential to an understanding of the material. The first point that Linebarger made was that the purpose of all psychological warfare is the manipulation of people so that they are not able to detect they are being manipulated. Wartime psychwar had been a matter of undermining the enemy civilian and military will to continue the fight. The audience, in brief, was very clearly defined. Determining just who it was they wanted to manipulate and for what ends was also pretty clear to the OPC personnel. Their targets were the Communists and their allies. Having this firmly in mind, any methods of manipulation could be used, especially “black propaganda.”

Black propaganda operations, by definition, are operations in which the source of the propaganda is disguised or misrepresented in one way or another so as not be attributable to the people who really put it out. This distinguishes black from white propaganda, such as news bulletins and similar statements issued by one side in a conflict extolling its successes, of course, or other material just as clearly designed to serve the purposes of its identifiable authors.

During World War II black propaganda operators had a field day. German black operations against the French consisted of such enterprises as sending French soldiers letters from their hometowns telling them their wives were committing adultery, or were infected with venereal diseases, giving away mourning dresses to women who would wear them on the streets of Paris, or intercepting telephone communications in the field and giving confusing or contradictory orders.

Paul Linebarger’s was a seminar in black propaganda only. One reason for this was that the United States already had an overt propaganda agency as part of the cold war apparatus. In those days this was run directly by the State Department, but in 1953 it would become formalized into the United States Information Agency and become an independent government agency responsible for worldwide United States propaganda operations. Furthermore, the view of the state of affairs in the world was that was the fundamental assumption of all OPC activities was that the United States was faced everywhere with an enemy that was using an untold array of black psychwar operations to undermine the nations of the world in order to present us with a fait accompli one fine morning when we would wake up to find all these countries under Communist control. Hence, it was vital to understand all about such operations from a defensive standpoint if nothing else. There was, however, something else. This was an attitude produced by the mixture of ancient wisdom that a good offense is the best defense, and the spirit of the times that made the existence of conspiracy seem so real. It was good to feel that we were learning how to beat the Communists at their own game.

Paul Linebarger loved black propaganda operations probably because they involved the wit-sharpening he liked to talk about. Also, he was so god at them that his was one of the inventive minds that refined the entire black operations field into shades of blackness. Linebarger and his disciples decided that propaganda that was merely not attributed to the United States was not really black, only gray. To be called black it had to be something more. Furthermore, they divided gray propaganda into shades of gray. So-called light gray was defined as propaganda that was not attributed to the United States government, but instead, for example, to a group that was known to be a friendly source. Medium gray or “gray gray” was the term LInebarger used for propaganda that was attributed to a neutral source or, in any case, to one that was not suspected to be about to say anything friendly concerning the United States or its national or international policies. Dark gray was the term for propaganda attributed to a source usually hostile to the United States. This left the term black propaganda for a very special kind of propaganda activity. Black propaganda operations were operations done to look like, and carefully labeled to be, acts of the (Communist) enemy.

Not only was the attribution given the source of the propaganda activity used as a criterion for defining what kind of propaganda it was, but equally important was the kind of message used. Gray activity involved statements or actions that supported U.S. policies. Black propaganda operations, being attributed to the enemy, naturally did not. In fact, black propaganda, to be believable, supported the enemy’s positions and openly opposed those of the United States.

Gray propaganda was considered to be useful because it added strength to our side by putting praise of the United States or, at least a reasonably stated understanding of U.S. positions, in the mouths of those whom the world at large would not identify as U.S. spokesmen giving out the official line. In one sense, gray propaganda is a close cousin of the endorsement in a commercial advertising campaign. Where the Clandestine Services came in was in the role of sponsor – but a sponsor that was not supposed to be known to anyone who heard or read the endorsement of the U.S. government’s policy product...

Mostly however, we followed our mentor through a series of actions that were to be attributed to various of our Communist enemies……Saying that the Communists were evil was merely talk. Doing something evil, disguised as Communists, would have real credibility.

Linebarger was always careful to point out that to have a chance of success, these black operations must be based on good solid information about how the Communists Party we proposed to imitate actually conducted its business... [Communists Huks in the Phillipines used as an example].

It may seem curious, but it did not bother anyone at the seminar to be blithely engaged in planning a forgery, although no one there had ever been arrested for any serious crime. Otherwise they would not have been there. They would not have been granted the necessary security clearance to have gained employment by the Clandestine Services. The finer points about forgery, however, were actually the most fascinating to this group: how to obtain authentic paper, how to be sure to use the same kind of typewriter that Huk orders were usually written on, and of course, how to be certain to use the proper language that would make our work indistinguishable from the real thing. These were the topics examined with the most minute care.

Linebarger undertook a kind of group therapy approach to try to show us that tricking someone into believing that black is white comes naturally to everybody and is something that is practiced from childhood.

“Look,” he began, “can’t you remember how you fooled your brothers and sisters and your father and mother? Try to remember how old you were when you first tricked them.”

This got the class confessional under way. Soon people began recalling how they had stolen their brother’s and sister’s favorite toys…..As the stories progressed from grade school to high school and college capers, the tales of manipulation of parents and peers grew darker, if not black to the point of Linebarger’s definition of black operations. Everyone had either forged the time of return from when coming back to a dormitory after hours or forged parents’ signatures to bad report cards, or used false credentials to buy a drink when under age.

We found these exchanges so interesting that we decided to open each evening’s session with twenty minutes of confessions. They undoubtedly helped us to study the art of falsifying Communist documents with the high enthusiasm we all developed.
After listening to these recitals for a couple of weeks, Linebarger asked, “Haven’t any of you done anything more exciting than figure out ways to have your drinking and sexual adventures? I know none of you as in a psychwar outfit during the war, but has anyone done anything more nearly operational?

To everyone’s surprise Boston Blackie, our group anti-hero and skeptic was the one who replied....“...there was a referendum in Massachusetts on the question of birth control information...Then one of the priests got an idea. He suggested that we explain to the parishioners that if the voters approved the change in the law and permitted birth control information to be legally disseminated, this would mean that they would have to get a written permit from the government if they wanted to have a baby...

Linebarger thought this was an excellent story. He beamed, “I wish we had access to Church records for the past thousand years, we’d have so many case histories that we would be sure to find something to fit all our needs in Asia right now. The Catholic Church didn’t last this long as an unalternable institution without giving God’s will some assistance.

“I want you all to go out and get a copy of David Maurer’s classic on the confidence man. It’s called The Big Con, and it’s available now in a paperback edition,” Paul continued. “That little book will teach you more about the art of covert operations than anything else I know.”

“Your job and the confidence man’s are almost identical. The point of our little confessionals has been to show you what I mean by that statement. I’m happy to say I think you’ve been getting it...”

“Of course, your motives and those of the confidence men are different. He wants to fleece his mark out of his money. You want to convince a Chinese, a Filipino, and Indonesian, a Malay, a Burmese, a Thai, that what you want him to believe or do for the good of the U.S. government is what he thinks he himself really believes and wants to do.”

“Maurer’s book will give you a lot of ideas on how to recruit agents, how to handle them and how to get rid of them peacefully when they’re no use to you any longer. Believe me, that last one is the toughest job of all.”

We were all soon avidly reading The Big Con. The tales it told did, indeed, contain a lot of hints on how to do our jobs. For me one sentence seemed to sum it all up beautifully, “The big-time confidence games,” wrote Maurer, “are in reality only carefully rehearsed plays in which every member of the cast except the mark knows his part perfectly.” * [ David W. Maurer, The Big Con (New York: Pocket Books, 1949), p. 102.]

Besides this course reading, exchanges of experiences, development of model situations, study of Communist propaganda, especially its style and content with an eye to copying them, Paul taught by the oldest method, precept. His injunction was to follow the example of proven successful practitioners.

He had two leading operational heroes whose activities formed the basis for lessons he wanted us to learn and whose examples he thought we should follow. One was Lt. Col. Edward G. Lansdale, the OPC station chief in Manila, and the other was E. Howard Hunt, the OPC station chief in Mexico City. Both of them had what he called “black minds,” and the daring to defy bureaucratic restraints in thinking up and executing operations. He had a number of stories to tell about the exploits of both. He was particularly fond of Lansdale, whom he claimed had “invented” the Philippine Secretary of Defense, Ramon Magsaysay, around whom he built a plan of action that was slowly but surely bringing the Huk uprising to an end. His esteem for Hunt lay in his admiration for what he considered Hunt’s great ability to invent a clever way to thwart the Communists in their efforts to achieve success in the everyday affairs of life. He had a favorite Lansdale story and a favorite Hunt story to illustrate what he admired in each, and to demonstrate two widely different kinds of black operations. Lansdale’s was somewhat complex and required the support of a number of people and pieces of equipment. Hunt’s was disarmingly simple.

Lansdale ordered a careful study of the superstitions of the Filipino peasants, their lore their witch doctors, their taboos and myths. He then got hold of a small aircraft and some air-to-ground communications gear. He would fly the aircraft over areas where Huks were known to be hiding and broadcast in the Tugalog language mysterious curses on any villagers who designed to give the Huks food and shelter...

Linebarger’s Howard Hunt story was much less heavy. It also fitted better Linebarger’s definition of a black operation. No one had quite the heart to ask him whether the Filipino spirits to whom the curses were attributed were Communists, as his definition of black propaganda would require, and, if so, were they cursing their own team, the Huks.

Linebarger liked to stress that his Hunt story was a good example of how to cause the Communists a lot of grief on a low budget. Hunt learned that a Communist front in Mexico was planning a reception to honor some Soviet visitors. Drinks, refreshments, and a lunch were planned for the event. Hunt got hold of an invitation. He then went to work with a friendly printer and printed up three thousand extra invitations, which he had widely distributed.

On the day of the reception, Hunt got the desired results. Before the reception was a quarter underway, the Communists had run out of food and drink…..The cause of the Soviet-Mexican friendship was definitely damaged, at least for a while.

A note of caution that Linebarger added to these discussions of black operations sounds like a bell down the years. He would explain, after someone had come up with an especially clever plan for getting the Communists completely incriminated in an exceedingly offensive act, that there should be limits to black activities.
“I hate to think what would ever happen,” he once said with a prophet’s voice, “if any of you ever got out of this business and got involved in U.S. politics. These kinds of dirty tricks must never be used in internal U.S. politics. The whole system would come apart.”

I remember there was a nodding of heads when Linebarger delivered this admonition. I do not recall that anyone agreed in a loud, firm voice. Perhaps his remark was thought to be really rather irrelevant. We had more serious business to attend to.
We would say goodnight to Paul in the vestibule of his house, and slip, one by one, out into the night to our cars parked a discreetly different distances from his home. We had just completed another session in the act of confounding our enemies. We were inspired to go back to work the following week and look for fresh opportunities to devise new operations against the Communists.... (P. 86)

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