The Invisible Halo of Deception Warfare and Intelligence
“Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception.”
Deception on the Western Front
Deception as a weapon of war is not new; take the case of the Trojan Horse, for example. The Greek Army and its weapons were of little use unless they were inside the gates of Troy. Deception was the key to getting the Greek soldiers inside the city gates. At least in Homer’s epic poem, that is. But what about in actual warfare?
Little known until recently, a unique unit of the military was crucial to helping the Allies defeat the Germans and open the road to Berlin during World War II. This top-secret unit, the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, was charged with causing chaos for the German Military through tactical deception.
In December 1943, the U.S. Army started recruiting artists, sound and radio technicians to form what was affectionately called the Ghost Army. This self-described motley group played a significant role in protecting the actual allied troops.
Particularly so during hazardous advances into German-held territory. The Ghost Army was at its best in saving the lives of thousands of Allied troops following the Normandy invasion and preparing for crossing the Rhine River.
The efforts of the Ghost Army were essential to the Allies, who marched to Berlin and delivered the final blow to the Nazis.
And they accomplished this by creating “dummy units” made up of inflatable tanks, artillery and troop carriers. From the air and ground, they were dead ringers for the real thing.
According to one of the Ghost Army corporals, a couple of Frenchmen happened by on bicycles while two GIs were lifting up one of the inflatable tanks to turn it in the opposite direction.
The cyclists, not knowing the tank was a fake, stared in wide-eyed amazement at the feat they had just witnessed. The corporal advised them in his best French that “The Americans are very strong, oui?”
The sonic specialists were responsible for recording the panoply of sounds related to troop movements. What the German troops heard from up to 15 miles away was the rumbling of tanks, the construction of pontoon bridges, and even the colorful language employed by the Ghost Army.
All done with wire recordings that never skip and 500-pound speakers. Talk about a boom box!
At the same time, the radio “sparkies” were confusing the Germans with misleading radio transmissions. This diversion through the art of deception allowed the Allied troops to be in an entirely different location than where the Germans thought they were.
These brave men were in the business of drawing German fire so that the actual troops could advance, and they did it superbly. In commenting on the value of this off-beat army unit, General Eisenhower said that the deception created by the Ghost Army was one of his most potent weapons on the Western Front.
Spy vs. Spy
Now I will ask you a question, dear reader; your answer is just between you and me. Better yet, your answer is just between you and you. But please, answer this inquiry honestly – we’ll talk about self-deception in next week’s column.
Are you among the majority of Americans who have occasionally fantasized about being a spy (for us, of course) or being a CIA operative? The image of being a secret agent where we cannot even tell our loved ones what we really do for a living does has a certain romantic appeal.
But all of the work in this field is not the stuff of James Bond films. Much time is spent crunching numbers, shaking hands and listening in on wiretaps. But, if you like the whole idea of covert operations in the name of freedom, this may be the career for you.
So, what sorts of deceptive practices might you find yourself involved in – you know, the real down and dirty stuff?
The Honey Trap is a deceptive technique that Hollywood fairly gushes over. Why not? It has all the elements of sex, lies and eventual betrayal. In this piece of tradecraft, it is usually, but not always, the femme fatale who seduces the enemy to extract intelligence.
Mata Hari, a brilliant and exotic Dutch dancer, is a sterling example of the use of female charms to gather military intel. She was a very successful spy for the Germans during the First World War.
But, in 1917, when the French finally caught on to her acts of deception, she took her final bow before a firing squad. So, maybe she wasn’t all that brilliant, after all.
When you want to conduct a military operation and have it blamed on someone else, you initiate the trusty old False Flag ruse. Using uniforms, language and known methods of operation (M.O.) of another entity or group, (preferably your enemy) just blaze away, and wait for the fallout to land on your adversary’s head.
A great way to get intelligence from another entity is to recruit someone within that group or organization. Just set the target up in a compromising situation or appeal to their lust for money or, perhaps, more sordid inclinations and you’ve got them hooked. Now, just reel them in when you need intel.
When this is not possible, you can use the Legend technique to acquire intelligence. You simply send in a credentialed and qualified applicant for a job with the target organization. This is a lot cheaper and less complicated than the recruitment technique described above, plus you know the intelligence is top quality, or “sterling,” as they say.
These are just a few of the strategies used by intelligence agencies. But even with the best efforts, the intelligence you get may not be accurate. As one retired MI5 officer said, “You always have to remember that things get a bit murky in the profession of deception and lies. Two lies become a half-truth, and two half-truths become a whole truth.”
By now, you have probably heard of a Cold War Era secret CIA program called MK Ultra. Considered an illegal program, MK Ultra explored unorthodox interro- gation techniques and ran in various iterations from 1953 until 1973.
This program was designed to enhance interrogation techniques by using psychoactive drugs such as LSD, mescaline, etc.
Another portion of the program dabbled in mind-control techniques, picking up where the Japanese and Nazis left off at the end of World War II. MK Ultra was also alleged to have administered LSD to prisoners, drug addicts, and even CIA employees without their knowledge.
There are several documented deaths linked to the experiments, and it is presumed there are more that were kept secret.
But, an unknown aspect of the overall MK Ultra program came to light in the last couple of decades, and it has to do with the practice of magic. During the early years of the program, the CIA hired a famous magician named John Mulholland to write a training manual on deception.
The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception, as it is titled, taught agents the art of sleight-of-hand. It is easy to see how these skills could be employed to plant bugs, contraband, or even slip someone a “Mickey.”
Although the agency thought that all of the copies of this manual were destroyed in 1973, one eventually surfaced. And one is all it took to make it widely available to the public. You can get your very own paperback copy on Amazon for a mere $11.59 – with 2-day shipping.
In next week’s For Your Consideration, we will conclude this series by exploring some of the more bizarre forms of deception in nature. We will also examine what may be the most improbable form of deception out there; self-deception. Or, maybe not so improbable!