[Dailydave] a wilderness of cybermirrors
rthieme at thiemeworks.com
Wed Dec 24 15:36:55 EST 2014
It is suggested that the English used by the GOP is that of someone
trying to imitate the broken English of a state actor, therefore must be
a non-state actor. But they do not go down another notch to suggest that
it is a state actor emulating a non-state actor to disguise the fact
that it is a state actor.
This "Islands in the Clickstream" essay was written in September 2003
about James Jesus Angleton who got himself lost in that wilderness of
mirrors and applies now more than ever -
Why We Are All Getting a Little Crazy
James Jesus Angleton embodied the inevitable trajectory of a person
committed to counterintelligence. Maybe he got a little crazy at the end
but that might explain why we are all getting a little crazy too.
Angleton was director of counterintelligence for the CIA from 1954 until
1974. Fans of spy fiction might think of him as John Le Carre’s George
Smiley, but that portrait puts a benign and smiling face on the grimace
that counterintelligence practitioners can’t completely hide.
For twenty years, Angleton’s job was to doubt everything. This enigmatic
figure presented puzzles for people to solve in every conversation,
stitched designer lies into every narrative, trusted no one.
The task of counterintelligence is to figure out what the other side is
doing, how they are deceiving us, what double agents they have planted
in our midst. CI is predicated on double deceiving and triple deceiving
the other side into believing fictions nested within fictions, always
leavened with some facts, just enough to seem real.
Counterintelligence is a dangerous game. You have to be willing to
sacrifice pawns to save queens. Those pawns may be loyal agents but
nothing you have told them, no promises or pledges, can stand in the way
of letting them go when you have to, letting them be tortured or killed
or imprisoned for life to protect a plan of action.
Angleton came to suspect everyone. Whenever a mole was uncovered in our
ranks, he believed that he had been allowed to discover that mole to
protect a bigger one, higher up.
You see how the moebius strip twists back onto itself. Every successful
operation is suspect. If you discover double agents in your own ranks,
it is because the other side wanted you to find them. The more important
the agent you uncover, that is how much more important must be the one
you have not yet found.
Example. The Americans built a tunnel under the Berlin wall so they
could tap Soviet military traffic. In fact, a mole working for the
Soviets told them about the taps. But he told the KGB, not the military
whose traffic was tapped. The KGB did not tell the military because then
they might alter the traffic which would signal that the Soviets knew
about the taps. That in turn would mean there was a mole. So to protect
the mole, the traffic was allowed to continue unimpeded.
The Americans, once they knew about the mole, concluded that the
intercepted traffic had been bogus because the operation had been
compromised from the beginning when in fact the Soviets had let the
Americans tap the traffic, saving their mole for future operations.
You get the idea. It’s not that we know that they know that we know but
whether or not they know that we know that they know that we know.
It takes a particular kind of person to do this sort of work. Not
everyone is cut out for distrusting everybody and everything, for
thinking that whatever they accomplish, they were allowed to do it to
protect something more important. Daily life for most people means
accepting the facts of life at face value and trusting the transactions
in which we are engaged, trusting the meaning of words, trusting that
there is firm ground under our feet.
Otherwise we inevitably tend where Angleton tended. Every defector
considered a plant, every double agent considered a triple agent,
everyone in the American network considered compromised. Angleton tore
the agency apart, looking for the mole he was sure the moles he found
I am struck lately by how many plain people, mainstream folks uninvolved
in intelligence work, volunteer that that they distrust every word
uttered by the government or the media. How many treat all the news as
leaks or designer lies that must be deconstructed to find a motive, plan
or hidden agenda. Daily life has become an exercise in
counterintelligence just to figure out what’s going on.
It’s not a question of party politics. This is deeper than that. It’s
about trying to find our balance as we teeter precariously on the
moebius strip of cover and deception that cloaks our public life, that
governs the selling of the latest war, that called the air in New York
clean instead of lethal, that has darkened the life of a formerly free
people who enjoyed constitutional rights as if there’s a mid-day
eclipse. We see our own civil affairs through a glass darkly and nobody
really knows what’s what.
As the envelope of secrecy within which our government works has become
less and less transparent, the projection of wild scenarios onto that
blank space where the truth was once written has become more evident.
But that only makes sense. The inability to know what is true unless you
are a specialist in investigative work makes our feelings of dissonance,
our craziness understandable.
We are all getting a little crazy about now. We are becoming the
confused and confusing person of James Jesus Angleton in a vast
undifferentiated mass, a citizenry treated as if we are the enemy of our
own government. We spend too much time trying to find that coherent
story that makes sense of the contradictory narratives fed to us day and
night by an immense iron-dark machine riding loud in our lives.
It got to be too much and at last they let Angleton go into that good
night in which he had long lived where nothing was what it seemed and
everyone was suspect. So he retired and went fishing. But where can we
go? On what serene lake should we go fish, listening to the cry of the
loons, trailing our hands in the cold water because cold is at least a
fact we can feel, one of the few in a world gone dark and very liquid?
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