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Back in May 2007, while researching the activities of the American Psychological Association (APA) in support of the U.S. government's interrogation program, I came across evidence that the APA had engaged in a discussion of torture techniques during a workshop organized by APA and the RAND Corporation, "with generous funding from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)."

The workshop was held at the Arlington, Virginia, headquarters of the privately-held but long linked-to-the-government RAND think tank. APA Director of Science Geoff Mumford acted as liaison to the CIA for the meeting. Susan Brandon, a key APA "Senior Scientist", and former member of the Bush White House's Office of Science & Technology Policy, helped organize the affair, along with psychologist Kirk Hubbard, who was then Chief of the Research & Analysis Branch, Operational Assessment Division of the CIA.

The workshop was titled the "Science of Deception: Integration of Practice and Theory", and it discussed new ways to utilize drugs and sensory bombardment techniques to break down interrogatees. Those are signal techniques of psychological torture long utilized by the CIA and other intelligence agencies and military around the world.

According to the brief APA account:

Meeting at RAND headquarters in Arlington, VA, the workshop drew together approximately 40 individuals including research psychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists who study various aspects of deception and representatives from the CIA, FBI and Department of Defense with interests in intelligence operations. In addition, representatives from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Science and Technology Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security were present.... Following brief introductions and welcoming remarks... workshop participants divided into break-out groups to discuss thematic scenarios....

It was one of the particular "break-out groups" that concerned me. According to APA's Public Policy Office, which publishes an online newspaper called (with perhaps an unconscious taste for irony) "Spin," the workshops covered Embassy "Walk-in" informants, Law Enforcement Threat Assessment, and Intelligence gathering ("What are the dimensions of truth?"). But the workshop on Law Enforcement Interrogation and Debriefing had some shocking language (emphasis added, quoted material from APA Government Relations: Science Policy website):

Law enforcement routinely question witnesses and suspects regarding criminal activity. How do you tell if the individual is telling the truth, lying, or something in between? Acts of omission and acts of commission are both important to identify.

  • How do we find out if the informant has knowledge of which s/he is not aware? How important are differential power and status between witness and officer?

  • What pharmacological agents are known to affect apparent truth-telling behavior?

  • What are mechanisms and processes of learning to lie? Can these be demonstrated within relatively short periods of time (e.g., within a polygraph test session)?....

  • What are sensory overloads on the maintenance of deceptive behaviors? How might we overload the system or overwhelm the senses and see how it affects deceptive behaviors?
  • According to writer, Katherine Eban, who wrote about the APA/RAND/CIA workshop in an August 2007 article at Vanity Fair, SERE-cum-CIA psychologists Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell were attendees at the workshop. Eban elaborated  in a July 30, 2007 interview with Amy Goodman:

    KATHERINE EBAN: ...The attendance list is divided into two parts. One was really academic researchers, and the other one was operational, operational psychologists. So these were a lot of people who were associated with the CIA, some whose identity was so classified that they were only listed by first name in italics. Mitchell and Jessen were there on the list, listed as CIA contractors. And I think without that attendance list, I don't know if we would have been able to put out this article.

    AMY GOODMAN: The CIA funded this APA-RAND conference?

    KATHERINE EBAN: Correct. And one of the main CIA participants and organizers, a man named Kirk Hubbard, told a key participant before the meeting, "Don't ask these psychologists what they do for a living. Don't ask them to identify themselves, because basically their identity is secret and classified."

    AMY GOODMAN: They debated the effectiveness of truth serum and other coercive techniques.

    KATHERINE EBAN: Right. That's correct.

    "Secrecy is the freedom tyrants dream of"

    So, one participant is told not to even reveal names of who attended this CIA/APA/RAND affair. At least one APA member has written to Geoff Mumford and Stephen Behnke (the latter is Director of the APA's Ethics Office) asking for more information on the content of the meeting. To date, they have not bothered to respond.

    The secrecy is not surprising, nor even relatively new. The APA and CIA have a very long history of working together on interrogation techniques, in particular on sensory deprivation and use of drugs like LSD and mescaline in interrogations, and other methods of breaking down the mind and the body of prisoners.

    Use of drugs to influence interrogations, in addition to sensory deprivation, distortion and overload or bombardment were signal techniques in a decades-long interrogation research program that came to be known by its most famous moniker, MKULTRA (although these torture techniques were studied and tested by the CIA even earlier, in its 1950s projects Bluebird and Artichoke). Such techniques were codified by the early 1960s in a CIA Counterinsurgency Interrogation Manual, also known by its codename, KUBARK.

    According to numerous researchers, the CIA, and the psychologists and psychiatrists they contracted to work with them, including many of the top behavioral scientists of their day, experimented with many drugs in their quest to find a "truth" drug that would open up the recalcitrant and expose the liar and the dissembler. The CIA has declassified a paper from its in-house intelligence journal from the early 1960s, "'Truth' Drugs in Interrogation," where they discuss research on drugs for interrogation ranging from scopolamine, amphetamines, and barbiturates to cannabis, LSD, and mescaline. The CIA authors discuss the limitations of using drugs, based on research, and conclude that a special use for drugs may be found in detection of deception.

    (A discussion of CIA research into truth drugs, use of LSD, and other topics is thoroughly discussed in H.P. Albarelli's recently published book, A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA's Secret Cold War Experiments.)

    But the quotes from the CIA/RAND/APA deception workshop are not from 40 years ago. They are from 2003. Evidently the research into using drugs on captured or arrested or incarcerated prisoners or "enemy combatants" has not ended.

    In an article last June, I noted that the current Army Field Manual carries an allowance for use of drugs on certain prisoners which is less restrictive than even John Yoo allowed for in the Bybee memos. For months, the the Pentagon Inspector General has been investigating the use of drugs upon prisoners at Guantanamo and elsewhere, but we have not heard where that investigation is headed, nor when it will be concluded. An email request for more information was not returned.

    It is infuriating that the planning and implementation of torture, such as that which took place under almost public purview--i.e., it was practically bragged about by the APA on its own website--does not lead to a full set of investigations. Psychologists within APA who attempted to bring the issue up were unable to get any answers.

    On November 9, members of Psychologists for an Ethical APA jettisoned its attempts to (for the most part) reform the APA from within, stating on their website that they have "initiated a movement to coordinate a mass resignation from the American Psychological Association (APA) on the part of APA members who are concerned about APA's actions and policies regarding psychologists' participation in interrogations and detention in extra-legal War on Terror prisons, as well as about APA's unresponsiveness to widespread member efforts to change these policies." They set up a petition site to record member's resignation statements, as well. Who can blame them, at this point? (For the record, I resigned from APA in January 2008, citing the APA/CIA/RAND workshop as one reason for leaving.)

    Something very rotten is going on at the heart of American behavioral science, and I'm not talking about decades-old scandals -- I'm talking about right now. Along with collaboration with the CIA and military on possible new abusive interrogation methods, the APA is fighting to keep its links with the military, and to keep psychologists as essential components of their interrogation practice. This is the program behind the Intelligence Science Board's Educing Information (large PDF) report, which was accepted recently by the Obama administration as their new template for interrogation practice. In a future article, I'll discuss how this report was set up by the CIA and military as  a snow job to mask the use of pernicious interrogation methods that include techniques of psychological torture.

    In the meantime, won't someone with political clout open up an investigation of the CIA/RAND/APA meeting that plotted torture?

    Originally posted at Firedoglake

    Originally posted to Valtin on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 08:13 PM PST.

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    Comment Preferences

    •  Tip Jar (37+ / 0-)

      Torture planned in stone's throw from the Capitol... CIA, FBI, behavioral scientists (meaning top academic and operational psychologists and psychiatrists) are involved... who cares?

      We care... don't we?

      War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight, The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade Invictus

      by Valtin on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 08:12:47 PM PST

    •  Wonder if they also made them don ski masks. (7+ / 0-)

      Nice job, as always, Valtin.

      We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.

      by Simian on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 08:22:18 PM PST

      •  Thanks (10+ / 0-)

        LOL re the ski masks.

        This particular meeting has been the subject of quite a bit of investigation over the years, but since the CIA was involved (really, running it), the classified nature of the meeting (although ostensibly not classified) has meant the subject matter and the attendance list are unavailable.

        It's this kind of BS that still exists which encapsulates what is meant when anti-torture activists say there is "no accountability." It's not just top secret classifications by the government. Even members of a civilian professional organization cannot get straight answers... or even any answers, even a "no comment"... from their elected leadership.

        If we don't have something close to a military dictatorship, it's because the military and intel agencies choose to rule from behind the scenes. But rule they certainly do. If not for the judiciary, there wouldn't be any freedom left. The Congress has been pathetic in its avidity re the Executive branch requests, particularly if it has anything to do with National Security.

        War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight, The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade Invictus

        by Valtin on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 08:29:49 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  One of your best diaries (10+ / 0-)

      Glad I went for an LCSW at the University of Illinois instead of a degree in psychology.  I got an excellent background in current research and literature, that was better than that in many MA programs in psychology, and our clinical training was grounded in the rich humanism of early social work practice, that began in the tenements and slums of America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  
      To study the mind, without a grounding in ethics and the values of humanism, is to risk becoming a soulless technician -- someone who can use their knowledge any way they choose, or any way they are asked to employ it.  
      It is important to remember that the American Psychiatric Association and the National Association of Social Workers long ago forbid their members to take part in government interrogations, and roundly denounced the practice.  They stand in contrast to the APA.
      I salute the psychologists who have resigned from their professional organization in protest of its actions in this regard and I would urge them to form a alternative association, based on humanistic values and dedicated to the Hippocratic oath.  

      One cannot deny the humanity of another without diminishing one's own. James Baldwin

      by CarolynC967 on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 08:40:02 PM PST

      •  I have long been impressed with the quality (6+ / 0-)

        of those who work as licensed clinical social workers, and admire the rigor and humanity of their training.

        The attack on ethics in the APA, led by those who are supposed to be in charge of ethics (how diabolical), has contributed mightily to the deterioriation of APA as anything more than a pressure group for government funds. Whatever is science has been bent to the run after the bucks; and if this takes APA to some really dark places, so be it, say the leadership of that organization.

        One walks away from APA covered with muck. After almost two years out of that organization, I can still feel the whiff of stench about me, emanating from close contact with it.

        Be that as it may, there are plenty of good psychologists and practitioners still in APA. These are fairly non-political psychologists who, like many in America, haven't fully grasped the seriousness of what their organization and government has done. Also, there are still those within APA who believe staying in that organization and fighting for change is important. I support them in their quest, though I hold out little hope they will succeed.

        War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight, The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade Invictus

        by Valtin on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 08:48:37 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  That they could talk in an educational setting (9+ / 0-)

      about depriving prisoners of their senses, overwhelming their senses, and using truth serum, is truly horrifying. That people could actually do this shows how broken they were/are as human beings. That they could do this with government sanctions shows how broken the US is a a culture and society.

      Standing with you, my friend, as always,
         for justice and accountability,
                   For Dan,
                   Heather

      PS: Did you get my message about the person coming to your town?

      Planning a March for Accountability

      by Chacounne on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 08:42:59 PM PST

      •  Person coming to my town? (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        whitewidow, Chacounne, maggiejean, EmmaKY

        Could you remind me, as my life as been crazy-hectic of late?

        Btw, I got a chance to meet Andy Worthington while he was on his book-documentary tour. What a wonderful guy, and a fantastic journalist! I feel very lucky I got a chance to share some time with him.

        War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight, The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade Invictus

        by Valtin on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 08:50:35 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Very Cool :) (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Valtin, Lisa Lockwood, adrianrf, EmmaKY

          I'd love to meet him :)

          Condi Rice is coming to your area in May ... needs a quietly planned reception ...

              Hugs,
              For Dan,
              Heather

          Planning a March for Accountability

          by Chacounne on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 08:53:45 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Oh Jeez (5+ / 0-)

            I still remember watching that video of her talking down in her lying way to a Stanford student who confronted her on torture.  

            In general, I stay far away from those types. I confront them with the written word, and leave the demos to others. Maybe it's my age... Of course, I may yet show up to one of these protests.

            These days, if I get any time off, I spend it on articles. I'm getting older, and time is growing short (not for me, per se, but before the torture issue totally passes under the radar), and all extra time is spent on getting my research out on the torture program. I have plenty I have not written, because not enough time.

            Soon, I will document the $millions$ spent researching torture within the SERE program, and how the medical effects of stress are studied in order to utilize the information in DARPA studies to produce the modern super-warrior. I believe such research on "uncontrollable stress" also took place on prisoners, though I have only an inductive theory on this, i.e., circumstantial evidence. -- The reader will judge for themselves.

            War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight, The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade Invictus

            by Valtin on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 09:02:53 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Is this really so different from any science? (8+ / 0-)

      Reading this disturbing account of institutionalized inhumanity, I began thinking of something that has been on my mind a lot recently.  I'm wondering if scientific thinking is, at its core, inhumane.  There can no longer be any doubt that any worthwhile scientific discovery will be applied to the human art of manipulation, control, and murder.  For some reason, I have recently become more sensitized to the cruelty to animals casually described in many of the scientific experiments I read.  Phrases such as, "Experimenters tested whether the missing gene was associated with this disorder in mice," can cover some fairly horrendous dealings.

      My point is that perhaps, a certain kind of mind set, one often thought of as scientific or rational, would accurately be considered an empowerment of evil.  When I imagine the dry discussions and intelligent sounding debates, I am struck by the disconnect between how the participants are thinking of themselves--rational, inquiring, patriotic--and how they are actually being--unconscious, irresponsible, insensitive.

      Oh well, it looks as though I'm just going to ramble rather than making my point plain.  I used to think of these behaviors as aberrations.  I have come to think of the problem of self-destruction and torture as endemic to the species.  On that depressing not, I'll thank you again for your work.

      One brief war is enough to undo the work of centuries. - Henry Miller

      by geomoo on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 08:56:39 PM PST

      •  You raise a very, very important point (6+ / 0-)

        I think you've said something like this in the past, though I'm not sure.

        Of course, this sense of the dual nature of knowledge is encapsulated in our myths and literature -- the Tree of Knowledge, the Faust myth, the Frankenstein tale...

        This is why the issue of ethics is so important, and why, interestingly, the spooks have made sure they got their own people, or pliable tools, into the top echelons of many of the ethics departments and positions.

        For an example of an ethical malefactor in medicine who tried to reform himself, see Alfred McCoy's very interesting writings on Henry Beecher. (You need to sign up for the article, but I think it's free.)

        War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight, The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade Invictus

        by Valtin on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 09:08:18 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks for the recommendation. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          truong son traveler, Valtin, EmmaKY

          I wasn't aware of this tactic.  Perhaps that's what is most disturbing in these terrible times:  not only are powerful people committed to doing evil themselves, but they are also busily blocking the efforts of those who would do good.  I'm going to bookmark that and read it tomorrow.

          I'm not going to write more tonight.  This diary has put me in a dark spirit, and I can find a lot to be concerned about when in such a mood.  But I will say that I never, ever feel total despair in the potential of the human spirit.

          One brief war is enough to undo the work of centuries. - Henry Miller

          by geomoo on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 09:15:03 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  engineer's issues as well (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          truong son traveler, Valtin, xgy2

          after getting my degree the issue of what use were my talents going to paralyzed me,  there was no guidance and little support for the ethics problem.

          It's mind f**kingly difficult, whatever field one works in..

           Thanks for your efforts Valtin.

          I am not a number, I'm a free man!

          by KenBee on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 09:17:57 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Been there (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            truong son traveler, Valtin, KenBee

            I worked on medical devices for many years and I no longer do it for a very good reason - my ethics can't handle it anymore.

            Science and scientific thinking are not inhuman.  On the contrary, they are very human activities.  Whether good or evil?  That is our choice and we all know the difference.

            Die energie der Welt ist constant; die Entropie der welt strebt einem Maximum zu. - Rudolf Clausius, 1865

            by xgy2 on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 09:42:48 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Thank you Valtin. I hope you (7+ / 0-)

      continue to keep this stuff in the forefront.  The whole torture meme is losing steam, even here on Kos.  I know Bloggers Against Torture is still going on (I get emails on the postings) but the urgency seems to be waning.  

      "Politics is not left, right or center ... It's about improving people's lives." -Paul Wellstone

      by maggiejean on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 09:00:47 PM PST

      •  The health care struggle (4+ / 0-)

        sapped a lot of the energy. Also, there is an underlying believe that President Obama wants to do good, and somehow it will all turn out okay.

        Of course, that's not what's happening, and if we can't keep this issue alive, then we will all be in a heap of trouble.

        War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight, The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade Invictus

        by Valtin on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 09:09:44 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  you would think Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck (3+ / 0-)

          would be frightening enough, that a person or two in power might at least wonder to themselves how they (or someone less crazy-appearing but with similar ideology) might wield these powers if they ever managed to get into  a position to do so.

          Even a less crazy Republican will no doubt be quite emboldened next time around, having seen, repeatedly, that we no longer apply laws to our elected officials.

          That is what I try to tell the folks who insist there are more important issues. Each time Republicans are allowed back, they take it a step further than the last time.

          "Come on, Mr. President. Show us America is more than a circus or a market." Bill Moyers

          by whitewidow on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 09:59:43 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Apparently certain people and organizations (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bobdevo, Valtin

      have a vested interest in torture research.

      •  Including, unfortunately, Obama Administration... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Valtin

        does anyone think the bad behavior has ceased completely?
        This story tells me, maybe not.

        "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" Dwight D. Eisenhower

        by bobdevo on Tue Nov 24, 2009 at 04:34:53 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I have a theory on the Obama Administration, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Valtin

          and it relates to your signature line...President Obama is no more in control of the US federal government's bureaucracy and the Congress than President Eisenhower was. I find it most significant, after I've had a chance to think about the issue at some length, that Eisenhower made his most famous speech at the very end of his second term. He was at that point no longer responsible or expected to work together with the Congress and with the bureaucracy, and thus he was much freer to speak his mind. I believe he may have considered it dangerous to his power and to national security for him to have made the same speech earlier in his presidency.

    •  I wasn't aware that (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      truong son traveler, Valtin

      you were in that field. Most people I know that have gone into it have done so in the interest of helping people. I don't know what happened to these people to make them not only stop helping people but actually try to destroy them.

      I get that these people were scared shitless after 9/11 but that was a long time ago. shouldn't they have come to their senses by now?

      •  Let's be clear (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mike S, EmmaKY

        Most people in the field are there to help people, and most of those successfully do help people.

        We are talking of some hundreds of psychologists and psychiatrists, at most, largely in academia, or are administrators of colleges, or have important positions in professional organizations, and lastly, some proportion of military psychologists, who have been involved in the torture. The vast majority of clinicians do what I do: psychotherapy and clinical assessment of the everyday run of individuals suffering from a variety of mental illnesses or transitional stresses and/or relationship or job stress.

        I agree, the whole scared shitless thing over 9/11 has got to end. But I've also learned you can't talk people out of trauma reactions. We need to be honest about them, explain the situation, and try and help people move on. And we've got to hold accountable those who broke laws. It may take quite a social upheaval to get there. But if we don't then we fear something even worse not too far down the line... a collapse of the whole legal-ethical structure under the burden of carrying a lawless government within a government.

        War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight, The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade Invictus

        by Valtin on Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 11:33:25 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Don't expect the Dems to do anything (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      truong son traveler, Valtin

      Don't expect the majority party to do anything.  I just got back from a political discussion and it was pointed out that when the Dems were the minority party they made a lot of noise by bringing up one issue or another and after failing for lack of votes would threaten to do something if they only had a majority.  Now that they have a majority and could do something they do not even introduce the same motions or bills they were hyping.  They talk big when they are the minority but absolutely refuse to do anything when they have the power.  The speaker at the talk had concrete examples, but I have forgotten them.

    •  Maybe some international bodies can make a (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Valtin

      statement on the matter. I don't know if there are any international bodies that are affiliated with or are well respected by the APA, but you might try to get them to make some statements on the matter.  When Obama failed to do anything about the kidnapping in Italy an Italian judge had the authority and prosecuted some 23 CIA officials.  Tomorrow, the Brits will be discussing the legality / illegality of the war in Iraq largely because the Americans failed to do so.  I am sure it will have some affect.

    •  Easier question? Who won't investigate . . . (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Valtin

      Answer: The Obama DOJ, Congress or a Special Prosecutor.

      I guess Spain, Italy or some other country with a functioning justice system will have to do the heavy lifting.

      "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" Dwight D. Eisenhower

      by bobdevo on Tue Nov 24, 2009 at 04:31:41 AM PST

    •  CIA history (0+ / 0-)

      Sadly, I don't believe an investigation will ever be performed in the "light of day".  After reading Weiner's book on the History of the CIA, Senator Levin's committee report by the Army and the APA email discussion in ProPublica, it does look as if this entire APA involvement will be swept under the carpet.  The cast of characters involved in these nefarious acts would bring the many established entities (APA / CIA and USGOV in general) to their collective knees.  Even in a time when the political wars are relatively mute, no one was willing to do anything more than slap a few wrists in the CIA, but into today's political climate, a majority of the citizens of this country would only view this as "political" and be unable / unwilling to actually admit that the country has some really big problems that are not being addressed by any elected official.  A retrospective review of these activities should not be kind, but who will have the audacity to write/publish/promote a scathing  lookback that would actually force a national discussion?

      •  I don't know the answer to your question (0+ / 0-)

        When it comes to historical change, having a guardedly optimistic view is helpful. One doesn't want to greedily anticipate change, only to have their hopes dashed. At the same time, one doesn't want to dismiss the possibility of significant change, as that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

        One never knows beforehand who or what will be the agents of real change. History can throw up some real surprises. No one would have ever thought that the American colonials or the Parisian mob were capable of world changing feats, much less small conspiratorial groups like the Russian Social Democrats, or Mexican peasant bands, or ex-Parisian Vietnamese exiles, etc. Or even a gangly President elected by a minority of the electorate who did everything he could not to challenge the status quo, but ended up leading a second American revolution.

        War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight, The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade Invictus

        by Valtin on Thu Nov 26, 2009 at 12:26:43 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

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