[Dailydave] a wilderness of cybermirrors

Richard Thieme 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 
were protecting.

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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