Human Terrain System Suffers Another Casualty

On 15 December 2009, John Stanton reported the following:

“the US Army HTS had suffered a fourth non-fatal casualty. Sgt. Wesley Cureton was wounded and has lost the use of one eye and has suffered from other head trauma. He is currently at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. HTS management apparently felt no need to report the incident publically. When contacted, Robert Mueller, HTS spokesperson, indicated that he had no information on the matter and that “you should go through the hospital” to find out Sgt. Cureton’s status.”

On 12 December 2009, John Stanton reported that Sgt. Cureton (AF1 in Afghanistan) had suffered an injury to his eye caused by shrapnel from a mortar round, about one month ago. He had already suffered a brain injury while in Iraq. HTS has chosen not to report on this matter publicly.

John Stanton has reported on several injuries suffered by HTS employees in Afghanistan and Iraq that, once again, were reported neither in the mainstream media nor on the website of the Human Terrain System. Without confirmation, we are unable to determine exactly how many casualties the program has had in the past three years, beyond the three reported deaths of Bhatia, Suveges, and Loyd.

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8 thoughts on “Human Terrain System Suffers Another Casualty

  1. Maximilian Forte

    Those looking for the “other story” that was previously published about HTS here this week will no longer be able to find it. After further consideration I decided that the main details of the story were inappropriate and a distraction from the main focus of this blog, where HTS is concerned. My apologies to those who posted comments, only to see them deleted.

    Please do not mention details of that “other story” in your comments here, or I will be obliged to either edit or delete those comments. The personal affairs of others should be kept private.

    Thanks for your understanding.

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  3. Steve

    Aww…. I was hoping you’d respond to the anthropology analogy I put forth. Any chance of that? In any case, it was wise to take down the other ‘news’.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Ok, since that comment did not deal with the “other story” in any revealing detail but rather John Stanton’s work, let me post it here and then I can comment.


      It’s hard to take Stanton seriously as a journalist, notwithstanding the opinion of David Price, fine thinker and writer that he is. Unfortunately, Stanton isn’t the muckraking gadfly he seems to think he is. He gets copied on internal correspondence and posts it on the web with some boilerplate marginalia that references his last posting on the subject. If this is the interrogative method he teaches to his high school students, Fox News should thank him now.

      When I was in Afghanistan acquiring propaganda for my DoD masters, I interviewed a lot of Afghan people. What if I went and, oh, I don’t know, posted those interviews on the web? Just slapped ’em up there for all the world to see. Would that make me an anthropologist? Isn’t that what you guys do? Interview people? Get their stories? Short answer: no, it wouldn’t make me an anthropologist. I would need to get permission from my interlocutors, for starters. Practicing the “forms” of anthropology, or one of its field practices, doesn’t make me one, just as Stanton’s laughable gestures toward the “forms” of journalism don’t make him a journalist (my favorite is his deflective, “so and so couldn’t be reached in time for the deadline for this piece”). I have no doubt that the editorial team at Cryptome and Pravda online are fanatics about meeting deadlines.

      Does that mean the aforementioned interviews I conducted are false? Not at all. But are they true, are they good enough for anthropological study? Well…. I’m sure some of the stuff Stanton passes on is true. And some of it is probably utter crap. The problem is you can’t tell the difference in Stanton’s pieces, and Stanton himself can’t seem to, either.

      In my view John Stanton better fits the model of “citizen journalism” than that of a professional journalist. That is not an insult — I don’t think he was trained to be a professional journalist, I don’t believe he has a degree in journalism, nor does he make his living as a journalist. This was an independent, voluntary effort, as a concerned citizen. Therefore, assessing his work as a “journalist” seems to invoke the wrong set of criteria.

      The biggest problems raised by Stanton’s critics have been his methodology and his writing style, for example the constant reference to unspecified “sources.” His writing also needs a great deal of copy editing, and indeed the versions of his articles that appear on this blog (in contrast with those on Pravda and Cryptome) have been copy edited by me.

      Nonetheless, two things stand out. One is that John Stanton has clearly served a purpose for leaks inside HTS and for various whistle blowers. (Some of them post on this blog occasionally as well, under various pseudonyms — something that always surprises me because, surely, they must know that next to going “outside the wire” in Afghanistan this is the closest they will get to enemy territory online.)

      John has thus furnished us with a mountain of details, none of which have been ever denied or contradicted by HTS. Moreover, no professional journalist has proven John wrong, found different evidence, competing evidence, or any evidence beyond the standard bits of authorized representation that make one mainstream media article virtually identical to the next.

      Let me post, from my own deleted comment on the “other story” what David Price says of John’s work:


      “Most journalists find it easy to dismissively look down upon the outlets where journalist John Stanton’s investigative reports on HTS has been published (e.g., Pravda, various online news outlets), but it is not so easy to discount his findings regarding allegations of: systemic HTS sexual harassment, illegal financial practices, fiscal irresponsibility, nonfunctioning reach-back software programs, problems with contractor profiteering, poorly trained personnel working in dangerous settings, incompetence in HTS’ leadership, spy charges against a HTS member, and the circumstances leading up to charges of murder against a human terrain team member. The level of mismanagement reported by Stanton warrants congressional investigations, but so far his coverage has not really grown legs. The elements of my own work that overlap with Stanton’s work find his reporting to be credible. It strikes me as odd that other journalists are not pursuing, or even trying to disprove the scandals that his work has unearthed. Mainstream media should follow-up on Stanton’s work, if they can find information contradicting his sources, so be it; but ignoring the damning evidence Stanton reports while continuing to pump out the same old fluff HTS profile pieces goes beyond just poor journalism, and begins to function as domestic propaganda.”

      So I would think that what is really important now, especially given that John Stanton’s work has dominated the online space of discussions of HTS*, is to deal with the actual substance of what he reports, and not how he reports it or writes it. You are arguing professionalism, and I am arguing facts.

      That HTS has been so totally ineffective in handling John’s work, in not issuing denials, contradictions, or clarifications, has been another outstanding failure on its part — and this is plain to see for all of us. HTS, after all, has on board a crew from the Lincoln Group, that specialized in targeted propaganda using the press, and working ties with Glevum Associates. American taxpayers have involuntarily paid to have these information operations specialists in HTS, or working for HTS, and they can’t produce even the semblance of a half-hearted attempt to counteract John. Given that HTS highly values its public image and has mounted various public relations campaigns in the mass media, especially featuring its lead social scientist as a cool hipster model for young anthros to emulate, then the reluctance to speak to John Stanton’s articles is all the more astounding and damning.

      * See

    1. Maximilian Forte

      It will eventually “die” on Google. That is a copy cached by Google, and there is nothing I can do about it. There are other copies of course, published on Pravda and Cryptome. In my case, I did not want this to continue on my blog specifically.

      I have recommended to John that he revise or remove copies of his article from elsewhere. It’s his call of course. While I don’t think this is related, it seems very unlikely that John will be writing again about HTS.

      By the way, what was in his article is not actually “slander” is it?

      1. Maximilian Forte

        I guess the lack of an answer means that the accuser has no idea of what makes John’s piece “slander.”

        There are other dimensions to that story that I was slow to realize myself. One is that we may now have some insight into other possible reasons why McFate has been always unavailable to speak at the AAA, and has been aloof in the management of HTS according to published reports. Another is the double-standard: that HTS sock puppet known as “Dee”, who last year trolled the Savage Minds blog, made a number of personal attacks against former HTS employees, including Zenia Helbig, Matt Tompkins, and a pair who had been fired for a “sexual dalliance.” I gather that McFate’s own dalliance is subject to lower standards, at higher pay, with less personal risk.

        Incidentally, while I first thought “Dee” was McFate herself (and Dee was very slow to deny it), others tended to recognize Laurie Adler — HTS propagandist — in her shrill bravado, and in the composition of her sentences (much like that of a primary school pupil). If they are right, as I suspect they are, then HTS was allowing/sending one of its own to slander former employees in public.

        So perhaps it’s best that you not rush to talk about “slander.”

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