Revealing the Human Terrain System in Wikileaks’ Afghan War Diary

This is the fourth and final item in my mini-series on Human Terrain Teams as recorded in Wikileaks’ Afghan War Diary. The other articles were:

  1. Human Terrain Teams in Wikileaks’ Afghan War Diary: Raw Data
  2. Wikileaks’ Afghan War Diary: Problems to Note, More to Come on Human Terrain Teams
  3. Human Terrain System in Wikileaks’ Afghan War Diary: Searching for Evidence of the Positive

At the end of the second article, I wrote about the Human Terrain System getting its worst walloping yet as a result of these seemingly banal little records, and I added: “the [HTS] program managers should be going into serious damage control mode right now and preparing their own public statement, given evidence now in plain view right on this screen. They see it, and they know precisely what we mean.” Instead, they seem to be playing it cool, waiting to see who knows what they think they know, and who is willing to be the first to say it, instead of releasing any official statements. Perhaps current senior HTS insiders misunderstood the direction that debate would take, and decided to do this, which is to speak about civilian casualties and the impact on winning hearts and minds, but we are told that Major Robert Holbert, a member of the first Human Terrain Team to serve in Afghanistan, “couldn’t get Army clearance to answer questions Monday” –presumably that means questions beyond those he did in fact answer. It is unfortunate, because he is intimately familiar with what follows.

In Plain View: Getting the Intelligence From HTTs

When a Human Terrain Team (HTT) is mentioned in the records leaked to Wikileaks, how does the report writer know what he or she knows about the HTT? The answer seems simple enough, in a number of instances: a HTT is embedded with a larger military unit, the report writer indicates where the HTT is, what it is doing at a given moment, and what it plans to do. As for what HTTs themselves report, none of these records are HTT reports. Their reports go elsewhere and have an altogether different form–some have been uploaded to this site’s document box (here is one recent example), and you can see new ones being released at Public Intelligence. So when a record indicates what was recorded by a member or members of a HTT, how does the report writer know that, and who are these report writers?

In some instances, the writers of the reports providing HTT information are in military intelligence. They are either S-2, where an S-2 is a battalion or brigade intelligence staff officer (in an Army or Marine Corps battalion or regiment), or they are HUMINT (Human Intelligence) operatives, and you can read about HUMINT in the Counterinsurgency Field Manual and elsewhere.

Before going further, and to better understand the significance of this part, one must keep in mind here the many instances in the American Anthropological Association’s final report on HTS (by the Commission on the Engagement of Anthropology with the U.S. Security and Intelligence Communities) where it was explained that,

“the [HTS] program is housed within a DoD intelligence asset…it has reportedly been briefed as such an asset, and…a variety of circumstances of the work of Human Terrain Teams (HTTs) ‘on the ground’ in Iraq and Afghanistan create a significant likelihood that HTS data will in some way be used as part of military intelligence, advertently or inadvertently” (p. 4).

In a written response to the AAA’s queries, HTS’ Montgomery McFate stated:

“Protection of informant confidentiality is strongly emphasized because insurgent groups may target local Iraqis and Afghanis [sic] if proper measures for securing identity are not maintained. HTTs code their notes, store them securely, and sanitize their information to ensure anonymity and confidentiality.” (p. 33)

Even a recent job ad for a HTS Research Manager states about HTTs: “The teams will not engage in combat missions, nor does it [sic] collect intelligence.”

The AAA report also revealed the following, and I quote from it at length because it has now received further validation from these leaked reports, as we shall see:

The suggestion is that in practice the relationship between unclassified or open data collection and intelligence collection, especially in the field or downrange, is very close and that the two are perhaps hopelessly entangled. Or, as one observer put it, “Everyone talks to everyone else out here.” (p. 38)

Insofar as we are aware, currently there is no known mechanism for “feeding” raw data from HTS to the intelligence community [MF: this must now be revised, given what follows]. At the same time…on the ground the differences between HTS-type data collection and intelligence gathering are unclear within HTTs (p. 38)

While HTS spokespersons have consistently claimed that HTS personnel and data has not been used for the targeting of enemy populations, at least some statements by HTS social scientists support critics claims that HTS data can be utilized for such ends (p. 38)

the likelihood that HTTs can work closely with both military and civilian colleagues but also remain well clear of pressures – either direct or once or twice removed – to generate any cultural intelligence appears low. In fact the HTS public account dissociating it from any and all intelligence gathering runs contrary to a number of accounts from government insiders suggesting that the initial idea for some sort of human terrain program grew out of a growing recognition of the need to build up precisely that aspect of intelligence collection and analysis. (p. 39)

At least one deployed HTS social scientist was in fact physically located in the intelligence fusion center (p. 39)

That some of the records we read were written by intelligence personnel is one issue. More important is how they obtained the information “reported” by HTTs that we read in these reports.

In some cases, what we are reading is information “drawn” from actual, “raw” field notes, internally “leaked” by one or more HTT members to military intelligence. That is the mechanism by which raw data is fed to intelligence, that the AAA’s CEAUSSIC guessed about above. In case anyone is not following, we are dealing with one or more individuals in HTTs in Afghanistan who were intelligence analysts and who, without the knowledge or permission of fellow HTT members, copied their private field notes and put the information into the intelligence stream. This, I must emphasize, is not conjecture on my part, nor simply an “interpretation.” The evidence of this process has left its marks, as inscribed in various places throughout the leaked records provided by Wikileaks. HTS program managers, and their internal “leakers” to military intelligence, must have seen these reports for themselves by now, and see them in plain view, black on white. There is no denying them now, and focusing on John Stanton’s sourcing won’t cut it (and really, never did).

That such an internal spying program existed/exists, can only be with the knowledge and at least the tacit assent of both the higher ups in HTS–it is impossible that McFate and Fondacaro would not have known about it–and the military intelligence branches. This is a very grave violation of the confidentiality of HTT sources and their fieldnotes. It also suggests that the periodic noises that senior managers make about developing ethical guidelines, is meant as propaganda to assuage external critics, and to placate the consciences of its employees. Knowing this now, that this has happened and probably continues to happen, ought to tell those considering joining HTS that they are likely committing  career suicide, and that their best intentions and more noble aims will be subverted. A number of those who have been on the inside of course know about this already, and are aghast at what they are seeing online, but for some it may come as shocking news. The “line” between HTT and HUMINT is not just blurred, it is actively and surreptitiously breached.

This can have extremely grave ramifications, beyond the reputations and careers of HTT members, beyond the irreparably damaged public profile of HTS itself. As we heard already, while Col. Martin Schweitzer’s comments about HTTs helping to reduce lethal operations have received abundant air play in the media–what has apparently not been noticed (unless you watch that video) is the part at the end where he affirms that Special Operations Forces do rely on the products of HTTs. Apparently they can also rely on military intelligence partners to get them what they need, without HTT members having a chance to decide what information to convey and in what shape.

That the leaders of the Human Terrain System sit by silently, as these Wikileaks records unfold in public view, demonstrates a remarkably glacial indifference and stony demeanor.

Identifying Sympathies for the Enemy, Battlefield Interrogations, and HUMINT

On Haqqani’s Trail

“The Haqqani network may be a possible link between this town and Pakistan” was stated in a 31 July 2007 extract from HTT fieldnotes about the village of Kandaw Kalay in the Shwak District. Some will contend this is not targeting: targeting would require the name of the person, his location at a given time, how many civilians are around him, etc. It is targeting an entire village however, as a place of interest for Special Ops. In October of last year, that exact village was targeted in a raid (and one should note that the Wikileaks records did not help us to find that information). (I say “village” with some caution–it is hard to see what that place is from the record’s map location).

For U.S. forces operating in Regional Command East (RC East), tracking Haqqani and his network (noted as HQN in the records) is an obvious matter of urgent interest. Between 2006 and 2008, the Wikileaks records show at least four IED detonations targeting supply trucks in the Shwak District. On 31 August 2007 the report is that the HTT was able to gather the following information: “Hakani has a great influence in their area.” On 06 September 2007, in what is wrongly/misleadingly titled a “HTT Report,” but is instead another instance of lifting HTT members’ fieldnotes and putting them into the hands of intelligence, we read:

“ACM [anti-coalition militia] influence in Gerda Serai: Haqqani himself belongs to the Sultan Khel Tribe. Some of Haqqanis sons and many of his extended relatives are still reside in Gerda Serai. Gerda Serai is without a doubt, a Haqqani network stronghold. The Parangi tribe is also subject to strong Taliban influence, although the Parangi are not believed to share the Talibans ideology. They simply provide shelter and material support. Once OPN Khyber ends, it is believed that HQN and Taliban forces will return to the district in force.”

Channeling Information to Collection Management

Information/intel flow from maneuver unit to CA/PRT to CMA” reads a line from a 25 August 2007 report, referring to a full team consisting of doctors, medics, a veterinarian, linguists, and a HTT, moving with members of Combined Joint Task Force 82 (CJTF-82) and a CMA team (“collection management”). Collection management is defined in the joint intelligence doctrine manual as “the process of converting intelligence requirements into collection requirements, establishing, tasking or coordinating with appropriate collection sources or agencies, monitoring results and retasking, as required” (source1, and see the US Air Force Intelligence Targeting Guide).

Locating Suicide Bombers

On 14 June 2008, a record dealing with a demonstration by Afghans in Zormat, a demonstration that is clearly causing some anxiety for U.S. forces, although we are not told what was the object of the demonstration, just that it was “non-hostile” (though that did not stop an Afghan policeman from killing a demonstrator and wounding five others). In what might have escalated into significant action, a HTT embedded with Task Force Panther is said to have “received reports of possible suicide bombers” around the area of a demonstration taking place in the bazaar.

Battlefield Interrogations

If HTTs are supposed to conduct battlefield interrogations, it’s not in their job descriptions. One wonders what training they receive for what is essentially an intelligence function, with very direct and immediate consequences for those interviewed. On 03 October 2007, Task Force Eagle (C Company) assisted members of the Afghan National Army, and their American mentors in an Embedded Training Team, in a firefight with “anti-coalition militia” that resulted in five wounded ANA troops, and one wounded ETT member. Three ANA trucks, and one ETT armoured vehicle were badly damaged. However, “later in the day, two fighting aged males showed up at FOB Orgun E with gun shot wounds.” They claimed they had been ambushed by the ANA, and apparently claimed to be non-combatants. The suspicious thing about their story is that members of the ETT and the ANA forces “reported there were no civilians at the ambush location.” These two individuals were treated for their wounds, and then escorted to Forward Operating Base Salerno for additional treatment.

What is important to note that is that an intelligence unit, “the Fury S-2 shop,” had the two Afghans interviewed by a HTT.

On 12 August 2009, a HTT found itself under direct fire, alongside combat troops of the 3-71 Cavalry Regiment “Titans” 10th Mountain Division, whose home base is in Fort Drum, New York. Fire came from a fortification that the record writer referred to as a “qalat.” Two F-16s were called in for an airstrike—which does not seem to have occurred. Two civilians, mistaken for enemy combatants, were wounded. One U.S. soldier was also wounded. There were no enemy casualties. We read: “Battle X reports 3/B is having HTT question 15 mams (MF: women?) that were in close vic (MF: vicinity) to burning qalat they took fire from. Also questioning 30-40 males in the village.” A human intelligence (HUMINT) collection team (HCT) was also present and conducting interviews. In fact, the report writes of the HTT and HCT as covering the exact same ground: interviewing the same people, in the same number.

A Revised Job Advertisement for HTS

Taking into account what we now know about the work of Human Terrain Teams, actual job ads for HTS ought to be drastically revised, in the interest of transparency, and to minimize the frequent conflicts in the consciences of their employees that have led many to walk out on the program, and quite a few to act as whistle blowers in their own right. Actual job ads have been revised, since HTS now uses a tool designed for the intelligence community, the TIGR (tactical ground reporting) unit made by Ascend Intelligence, which we previously talked about here. More needs to be said about how fieldnotes are not private and confidential, leaks are built into the program, the work of HTTs is destined for intelligence collectors, analysts, and Special Ops, and that they will be required to do battlefield interrogations, and occasionally expose themselves to grave bodily harm.

A Final Note?

Having said all of this, and speaking only for myself, I really cannot imagine how I would have anything further to write about the Human Terrain System, unless certain individuals decide to come out and speak out in public. John Stanton is likely to have more news reports, and more leaks, and those will get priority placement on this site, more than anything else I might have written. I had planned a few more posts, and have since dumped them: they were itsy-bitsy pieces of what now almost appear to be random trivia, not sewn together to amount to an explanatory and critical narrative as above, and adding little more than mass. As far as I am concerned, this is the turning point, just the beginning, as the head of the snake begins to devour its tail.

While it is true that this is largely “thanks” to Wikileaks and their source(s), there is also a great deal about this release that should provoke intense outrage, for having essentially produced a gigantic hit list, for which I voluntarily but unknowingly paid a sum. The “do no harm” principle has been utterly ignored by Wikileaks. I have much more to say about Wikileaks, not likely to appear on this site however. In the meantime, the only other anthropology blog to have discussed the Wikileaks records (that I know about), is Savage Minds, with another very good article by Zoe Wool at the University of Toronto–see: Raw and Cooked Facts in Wikileaks’ “Afghan War Diaries, 2004-2010.”

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl

24 thoughts on “Revealing the Human Terrain System in Wikileaks’ Afghan War Diary

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Revealing the Human Terrain System in Wikileaks’ Afghan War Diary « ZERO ANTHROPOLOGY --

  2. John Stanton


    Exceptional work Max. You are correct. Many suspected this but could never pin it down. Remember a piece I wrote–seems like centuries ago–that appeared here at ZA and in the Sri Lanka Guardian?
    Even Sri Lankan soldiers knew that HTT’s were planted with Intel types. The military brings this on themselves by playing hide and seek. Anyway, here is the quote from the Sri Lankan individual.

    “You have no sense about the intriguing world of intelligence gathering! I am dead scared of a Peace Corps…Team wanting to help a strategically important country affected by a natural disaster [rather] than a CIA team stationed in [an] embassy or a very safe house. These Peace Corps… Teams consist of academics, experts and intellectuals. They basically are Human Terrain Teams that have ‘social scientists’ who map relationships and create databases of local leaders, economic issues, social problems, castes and political disputes as well as using mapped knowledge and cultural insights to advise military commanders………[from How the LTTE Was Militarily Defeated: A Soldier’s Point of View].

    It will be very interesting to see what the Center for Naval Analyses came up with. If they have not read through the research and reporting, it is likely to read like the old Mad Magazine.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      It may just be a coincidence, but any time I have a piece about HTS, this site gets bombed with tons of spam and sometimes it makes its way into the comments. Just so you know, at last count this site has had 167,000 spam messages. Sorry for being slow to moderate.

      What I find is unbelievable is how HTS has not yet produced any kind of statement on these leaks. I don’t know if they understand how that is irresponsibility of the highest order, especially as their silence indicts them further.

      Anyway, a note to readers: John has a new article out today, and it will be going up soon. Many thanks again John.

      1. Paddy Boylan

        A friend recommended your site and Johns articles about the HTTs, here is a short article I put up on our site describing my experience in Leavenworth as an analyst for the program It is in no way as detailed and informative as your’s or John’s articles but I have purposely remained vague. If you have any specific questions do shoot me an email. Take care and B safe!

  3. David Price

    A thoughtful and devastating assessment of HTS and its links to intel. Your analysis is a great contribution—well done Max (that said, below is a bit of dissent on a single point).

    I do find myself more than a little surprised by your end comments that: “While it is true that this is largely ‘thanks’ to Wikileaks and their source(s), there is also a great deal about this release that should provoke intense outrage, for having essentially produced a gigantic hit list, for which I voluntarily but unknowingly paid a sum. The “do no harm” principle has been utterly ignored by Wikileaks.”

    Journalists, physicists, database archivists, or anti-war activists are not bound by principles to “do no harm” to those appearing in their work. If an investigative journalist is worth their salt: there will be harm. As an anthropologist, I take seriously a commitment to not harm research participants, but I fell no commitment to never harm the interests of everyone I write about, though I most often direct this focus towards those in power (at CIA, PRISP, HTS, ICCAE etc.).

    I was off the grid away in the mountains last week when this story broke, and because I’m hard at work on a large book project on anthropology and the CIA during the cold war and haven’t had time to read much of new Wikileaks documents (and perhaps once I do, I may change my mind), but it seems to me that blaming Wikileaks or Julian Assange for the harm that may come to individuals caught up in the events of the American invasion and occupation seems a mistaken transfer of blame away from the American forces who are responsible for the atrocities of this invasion and occupation. I reserve my anger and outrage at the American State Department and American military’s actions in Afghanistan & those who created these documents; they are the ones who created and maintain this mess that Wikileaks has informed us about.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Thanks David, and I almost missed your comment–while one ugly pornographic message was waiting for approval, yours was put in the spam queue for no apparent reason, where it is hard to find legitimate messages. My apologies for this rotten software.

      I don’t disagree with your perspective, but I don’t see that it’s the job of journalists, physicists, database archivists, or anti-war activists to act as surrogate judge, jury and executioners in producing a list of names of Afghan collaborators that will likely be executed. See:

      Taliban hunt Wikileaks outed Afghan informers – Channel 4 News
      Wikileaks: damage is done say human rights group – Channel 4 News
      Leaked Afghan files ‘put civilians at risk’ – Channel 4 News
      Former MI5 officer: Afghan Wikileaks ‘risk lives’ – Channel 4 News

      If the “do no harm” principle does not apply to journalists, physicists, database archivists, or anti-war activists…then why should it apply to those working in Human Terrain Teams? In my view, this is an absolute principle, that we all agree to respect, or none of us respect it. I especially do not want to see outsiders judging Afghan collaborators.

      In addition, I don’t see how the argument works: this is the fault of the U.S., so Afghan collaborators should be exposed and suffer the consequences? That hardly seems fair.

      Julian Assange, we should note, has done his usual service to clarity and fairness on this topic as well:
      “Mr Assange claims that many informers were ‘acting in a criminal way’ by sharing false information with Nato authorities, that the White House did nothing to help Wikileaks vet the documents despite being asked and that the risk to informants’ lives was outweighed by the overall importance of publishing information.”

      On the one hand, he has unilaterally judged Afghan informants, who may have acted as they did for a thousand different reasons, under all sorts of constraints and pressures, none of which may ever be clear to us. At the very least, they too deserve a trial, not an automatic sentence pronounced by some Australian computer junkie who has never been to Afghanistan. Then his complaint is the White House did nothing to help us with the illegal release of their classified documents–no, really?

      As for the “overall importance of publishing the information,” from whose perspective? Those who will suffer the consequences, which is not just the collaborators and informants (and those mistaken as such), but also their families in case the Taleban should fail to find a given informant? How is it being anti-war, to become an instrument in that war?

  4. David Price

    Hi Max,

    You asked “If the “do no harm” principle does not apply to journalists, physicists, database archivists, or anti-war activists…then why should it apply to those working in Human Terrain Teams?” And to me the answer is that that: because HTT social scientists are acting in capacities as anthropologists (we know that most aren’t, but they are acting in these capacities), and therefore they should be accountable to anthropological codes of ethics. Journalists have very different codes of ethics & ethical responsibilities from anthropologists, and journalists need to be held accountable to these ethics. I’m not trying to niggle over words, but you seem to be concerned about larger moral (as opposed to disciplinary lined ethics) principles of right and wrong—and I was trying to make a point locating what particular ethical principles would most naturally be aligned with Julian or Wikileak’s position.

    Operationalizing what “do no harm” means is complicated; anyone engaged in a political struggle trying to further their own position generally is trying to “harm” (not necessarily physically) others (e.g., if the House Armed Services Committee actually paid attention to what you, John Stanton and others critically write about HTS, your work would “harm” HTS employee’s employment status). Obviously printing documents that could likely lead to the physical harm or death of individuals identified is a whole other level of “harm,” but there is a continuum of harm; it isn’t an absolute.

    This certainly isn’t the first time Wikileaks harmed anyone. Information isn’t neutral. Lots of people’s lives were changed (people fired, prosecutors empowered with documents etc.) with Wikileaks posting of insider bank fraud documents.

    All this said: I have worked with Wikileaks and Julian even before it became a publicly open website and, like the NYT, Spiegel, the Guardian, have in a journalist capacity been given embargoed documents to analyze and write up before posting (one example of this is a piece I did for Anthropology Now on a leaked Special Forces manual “The Army’s Take on Culture” 2010 2(1):57-63—I’ll email you a pdf of this piece); but I don’t know what I would have done if involved in making decisions about these leaked documents. I deal with a lot of declassified documents, and have encountered plenty of instances where mistakes are made in the declassification process, or I’ve been able figure out who redacted people are and I know decisions about what to do are difficult and complicated. I tend to pull back from harm pretty quickly and withhold publication on things that can harm (what seems to me a judge and jury) innocent people. I can think of one incident where I uncovered something very significant that had the possibility of harming (perhaps even physically) a third party and while I could see all sorts of positive things that could come from writing about this; I chose not to. I don’t know if I did the right thing (because I in effect kept quiet about something very bad that had happened), but I thought long and hard about what to do and decided a greater good (as well as a different sort of perhaps lesser harm) would come from silence, so I kept silent. My point here is that ethical decisions rarely deal with absolutes: things are complicated and even notions of “doing no harm” are not straight forward. I take seriously the protestations of our more militarized anthropological cousins who claim that sometimes doing nothing (e.g. not engaging with a screwed up military machine and trying to set it right) could be in itself a form doing harm—I take these arguments seriously, but in the present context I remain unconvinced that even the best meaning anthropologist could divert the American military trajectory. Information isn’t neutral and neither are we.

    Sorry to be so long winded with this; more to say, but I have to unplug and crank on today’s 5,000 word quota. Keep up the good work.

  5. lou

    Did you know that last week a team from HTT was involved in a complex IED attack and NOTHING was reported. Injured was Mike Warren a deputy program manager. There were no casualties but there were many injuries and no report on the severity.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Thanks Lou, a new report from John Stanton is just about to go up. I will link to your comment from that, and also feel free to post any more updates. Given this non-reporting, it seems we need leaked records. HTS owes it to prospective recruits to know what can happen. I was about to say that it is amazing this does not happen more often, given the extreme intensification of violence all over Afghanistan, affective everyone…but maybe it does, and HTS is not reporting it.

  6. Pingback: News: IED Blast Strikes Human Terrain Team, Injuries Reported « ZERO ANTHROPOLOGY

  7. Arthur

    Question: isn’t it possible that a person doing fieldwork in HTS could be completely ethical and code all data perfectly but because the person is being watched his or her military escorts, they will know who his or her informants are regardless? Maybe I’m just dumb but this seems plausible to me. Then later the military could put those informants at risk by targeting them lethally or by detaining them if they were found to be hostile. Military could also open those who are identified as anti-insurgent to collective punishment if a future attack on a threat group could be linked to a previous HTS interview with the threat group’s detractors. These village in conflict zones are small. Everyone really knows everyone’s business, I would imagine. It would not take much much deductive reasoning to figure these matters out or at least arrive at a confident assumption of probability.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Hi Arthur, I am glad to see you again, and I miss the other person–the name escapes me now–with whom you had long exchanges in the past about HTS.

      What struck me about this story was the extent to which it reconciles a wide range of observations, allegations, and interpretations. For example, all HTS people I have corresponded with absolutely attest to having followed ethical procedures, regardless of what HTS did not mandate and did not require. But then others have told the AAA, John Stanton, and myself, that HTTs do intelligence collection, or that the line between their work and that of intelligence people is really blurred in practice. Then there are those that say that HTS information can/has been used for better targeting. Others say none of this is true, it is just about gaining social-cultural knowledge and doing humanitarian work.

      Finally, they are all true, all of these positions can be maintained at the same time, without the contradiction we would expected, precisely because of what you mentioned above. An old anthropological text, by Monica Wilson, was titled Good Company. Maybe the book about HTS can be titled Bad Company. This is not to exculpate all HTT members, especially as some have been the ones actively leaking their own team mates work to intelligence, and they still work with HTS at Fort Leavenworth, training others. That’s why I say that what they did, in spying on other HTT members, was not only known, it must have been encouraged, and it has been rewarded with promotions. That a former corporate spy like McFate is the “senior social science advisor” is very fitting as well.

  8. Arthur

    Well, if what you say is true, then, if the program wanted to correct these misuse of data problems by the research teams, it could by simply having some written “zero tolerance” operating procedures that would be cause for firing people who misused their team-mates’ collected data. Also, HTS would have to seriously inform the Army and all command staff of the limitations to what the teams do and give them the operating procedures. Team members who violate these procedures could be investigated by the command. They could reinforce this in training. Of course, military types might be good at concealing and covering their tracks in ways that civilian researchers who have never had much if any interaction with the military don’t have. That puts the most ethical social scientists at a disadvantage, doesn’t it? Does HTS’s training in ethics cover misuse of data? How sophisticated is their training for ethics?

    1. Maximilian Forte

      This does not seem to be a case of people acting out of lack of sophisticated training in ethics. The only reason why this has not been made into a firing offense, and there is no zero tolerance policy, is due to what John Stanton has been emphasizing for a long time: HTS is an intelligence program, and this is kept disguised from the very civilian social scientists who join it…that is, until they see their fieldnotes on Wikileaks. The higher ups in the program want things to be this way, or, as you say, they would have prevented this and taken action against it. There are persons at Fort Leavenworth right now, who are aware of and angry about this internal leaking of fieldnotes, and there are those who actually did the internal leaking, still employed with HTS.

      1. Paddy Boylan

        Max, did you recieve my last two emails, I wasn’t sure if they would get to you as your email had something “…noreply….” ?
        B’ safe

      2. Maximilian Forte

        Hi Paddy,

        I checked my email and there is nothing in the inbox. Do you want me to try emailing you? I just need to confirm that the email address you supplied is legitimate, often people enter somewhat imaginative ones.



      3. Paddy Boylan

        Max, I love that, imaginative email adress LOL, it is kind of a lengthy address I do admit, I had sent you a letter I wrote to Fondacaro, and one to Mark Solomon of BAE, I guess you didn’t get them, send me a different email address so I can forward them to you, the one i recieved was “ZERO ANTHROPOLOGY []”
        B safe

  9. Pingback: Articles on Wikileaks | Political Activism and the Web

  10. John Allison

    Hi Max,
    Just following up on your article about the intel functions of HTS.
    These are my notes taken in my four-month training with them at Ft. Leavenworth. It should leave the reader with little doubt that your assertion is correct.
    John Allison, November 2009 HTS Social Scientist Cadet, retired.

    What Human Terrain Teams actually do contrasts sharply with the Public Affairs image of HTS. This contradiction is the underlying reason for the constant cultivating of the Stockholm Syndrome pressure, both among the class members and by the contracted instructors. They kept massaging our viewpoints, shaping of our reality, making it clear what our actual roles would be once embedded.

    Here are two groups of excerpts from my class journal to illustrate this mind-shaping. The persons quoted are subcontractors working for Develop Mental Labs, Inc. (Yes, that is really their corporate name.) All are former or current military career officers of the mid-level executive status or above.

    Monday, 10/26 (beginning second week of training)
    Afternoon – Team Composition
    Team leaders tend to be or to have been of the rank of Colonel, Lt. Colonel or Major. Their job is to mould the team into the fit the military unit needs. Human Terrain Analyst, Research Manager, Social Scientist.

    HTT Purpose – “to leverage non-lethal effects.”

    Col X stated, in one of his anti–cult outbursts, loudly asserts that
    “All great historic changes have been brought about by the military through warfare.”

    11/20/2009 Dr. Tom Marks – Global COIN and Analytical Methods for COIN Analysts.
    Marks has been working in Columbia as advisor/contractor. There, he finds, Lack of Strategic Clarity, but also “mission creep”.
    He defines a civil war within Islam, between “extremists” and the accepted “good” part of Islam. (Implying that ‘we’ might exploit it.)

    Also he defines “extremists” within our own USA society’s discussion – exemplified by Noam Chomsky, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda … – comparing them to non-Islamic terrorists in such places as Columbia, Nepal, Phillippines, Somalia … This he calls Mission Creep in the War on Terror; and he sees it as opportunity to remake the world in the way “we” (the USans) want it. You just keep following and killing the Bad Guys until you’ve got them all, everywhere. Then the world will be safe for enterprise, survival of the fittest, and we will all have jobs and security. Simple. Not easy, Lots of tax dollars needed. Don’t expect results for a long time. It’s gonna be a long war.

    In other words, the War on Terror has become the umbrella for getting the Bad Guys anywhere on the earth; guys that They – the NATO global military society – all agree on, like Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, Fidel Castro, Mahmud Ahmadinajad, Daniel Ortega, Kim Jong Il, …. Muslims, socialists, communists, … they are all The Enemy; the Bad Guys.

    The Bad Guys disagree with the assumptions of global capitalism and advocate a different kind of social order. Both socialism and Islam have the interest of the people and the social order as a main purpose; greedy profiteering is frowned upon; and this doesn’t set well with the Tea Party.

    So, it seems that COIN is really about the obliteration of all alternatives to global capitalism.

    The War on Terror morphed from “terrorism” (people using violent means to achieve a political goal) to “Global Insurgency” (a global uprising of peoples). So, Global COIN arose to respond to Global Insurgency.

    “Violent Extremism” then extends to Mission Columbia where “we have been doing this – intimately involved in the war against FARC for at least 40 years.”

    The US Ambassador to Columbia was recently moved to Afghanistan to apply the methods he had developed in Columbia. There, he
    1. Called town hall meetings open to all in small regional areas.
    2. Developed “Councils of Popular Governance”, which then connects to
    3. “Councils of Security.”

    Fundamentals of State Legitimacy
    Those who attended the Councils of Governance and of Security gave legitimacy to the Regime in Control, even if only a minority of the People participated.

    “Insurgency is armed politics.”
    “Terrorism is armed politics that uses violence against innocent populace to shock and awe.” [Hmmm, wasn’t that what US did in Iraq? Aren’t they also doing that in Pakistan and Afghanistan?.]

    Note: Marks is on the faculty at one of a network of military universities that also merge into programs at public and private universities such as University. of Michigan, Harvard, the Naval Academy, Georgetown, University of Nebraska… etc
    He takes time to redefine terms for the COIN rhetoric:

    “In the ‘60s, “revolution” was used as a synonym of “insurgency”.

    “Insurgents are always trying to challenge what is.” (i.e., what has been established and sanctioned by NATO and the USA, such as the current governments of Iraq or Afghanistan. Those who rise up against what the USA recognizes as the valid government are “insurgents”. They are insurgents even if the government that the people are rising up against was established by occupiers, as with the Israelis in Palestinian Territory, where the Israeli armed forces are the effective controlling government within a state – Palestine – even though Palestine has its own elected government. For the purpose of COIN strategy, if the Palestinian people rise up against Israeli troops in Palestinian Territory, the Palestinians will be defined as the “insurgents”)

    Using the “System Restore” Command in Counterinsurgency Strategy

    COIN strategy is committed to maintaining the status quo when we like it. But if, as in Bolivia and Venezuela, we don’t like the status quo, we might define it by what the state was like before the socialist revolution.

    The current state government becomes, or becomes defined as a (hopefully temporary) successful insurgency – Both Evo Morales’ government and Hugo Chavez’s government fit into this as portrayed in the US media and government statements.. The obvious job of the US is to remove that established government of the successful insurgents and restore the rule of the US’s preferred, prior government through some sort of counterinsurgency movement paid for and trained by the Good Guys. In other words, we would train an insurgent movement, but call them “counter-insurgents” because they are trying to restore the system to some past condition that the US approved of.
    [Breaktime, as I logged into my computer, “an invalid argument was encountered”. Hmm, how serendipitous!]

    GWOT = Global War on Terror in COIN-Talk’s acronyms.

    “Insurgency is a social movement that uses violence as a tactic within a method and logic of action.”

    “Terrorism is armed political communication.” (Shock and Awe.)
    “A pure terrorist group attacks The People.”

    Successful mobilization of a popular uprising stems from economic, social and political deficiencies in the current government/economy. Those who seek change approach the population as both the Means and the Battlefield.

    Here’s a cute vignette recorded in class: In order to “debunk” any ideas that revolutionaries are heroes, Dr. Marks uses Tarzan mobilizing the animals of the jungle as equivalent to Che Guevara’s mobilization of the Cuban people, which Marks portrays as organization from the “Top down”.

    Marks pounds his chest and yodels to represent as crude the Cuban uprising. He claims, “It didn’t even work in Cuba. Che cooked the records” (Marks never documents his assertion that “it didn’t work”, and that Che “cooked the books”. I see this type of Psy-Ops as HTS giving us the sheep-dip treatment to disabuse us of any romantic ideas about revolutionary heroes.

    He classifies Mao’s strategy as “bottom up”.

    Marks: “If I say it, and I control media communications, then it is true.”
    [Now, I ask you, is that “bottom up”?]

    Like the Canadian and other main presenters (soldier or civilian, all have had a military career previously) Dr. Marks displays erudition – including personal knowledge and experience, in a rhetoric that creates a comparison in which “our way” is inherently the end goal of proposed transformation of these “Third World” nations ranging from Nepal and Afghanistan to Columbia and equatorial Africa.

    This shows the advertised purpose of HTS as facilitating an understanding of the world of the Afghans is absurd; something doesn’t match up.

    He eagerly “debunks” any positive self-image of those places, all which have insurgent potential (Nepal, …) from the US military ideological perspective.

    He portrays only all the other First World nations – England, France, Spain … – as having had colonial ambition in these places, while the US was only there to provide aid/USAID. He ignores the facts that Gerald Berreman made public in the 1960’s regarding anthropologists working for the CIA along the Tibetan border, and what Louis Dupree was doing at the time I was in Afghanistan; and what is, no doubt, going on there and everywhere today.

    That is to say, counter-intelligence spying by social scientists and other professionals runs through most government and private funding agencies.

    CIA personnel or operatives can be found working in most of the other non-military programs in Afghanistan, or in any nation. They hold staff positions in the USAID, or in US funded programs at Kabul University, at the US embassy, in the US Geological Survey which has an outpost in Kabul, the US Department of Agriculture and many other places, including in-country academic research programs/grants.

    Get this! Marks asserts that all idealistic goals, such as ethnic/linguistic self-determination, universal education, … etc, these are all simply to rouse and recruit the poor exploited masses to get them involved in a violent insurgency; and once the insurgent cadre has gained power, those goals will become only idle words.

    That is what Dr. Marks asserts. Then, of course, there is reality! The record of social change in places like Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia stand in contradiction to this assertion. The ideals in these socialist societies serve as guidelines for the revolution that was born out of the uprising.

    The “revolution” is the actual day-to-day work of raising the standards of education and assuring it to all people; providing housing and sanitation facilities for all people; providing food to all, medical care for all; … these take over the driving force of the government from the grass root people up to the leaders. In several of those nations who not only hold but practice their idealistic goals, the work of carrying them out is its own advertisement that rouses and recruits the masses, the people, now better educated, with more industrial skills, rouses them to respond with energy for carrying out the changes that their parents’ uprising made possible.

    Is the US and NATO getting such a result with the peoples of Afghanistan?

    [Note: As I read back on my thoughts then, I see it this way: This is as though I am writing out my inner dialog arising from each day’s events. The environment in the classroom allows very little opportunity to take detailed notes or to use a camera, of course. So, writing out my thoughts served as a way to contextualize the very controlled social and cultural environment that I observed as I was participating in and being indoctrinated into it.]
    Marks: Metrics have been developed to measure advancement of Tangible (landscape) and Intangible (minds) campaigns. [That way, we put the metrics into our PowerPoint and use it in our pitch for increased program budget.]
    [Note: This is what you will see, later, is Marilyn Mitchell’s rationale for her entire “ethnographic methods” approach – “Metrics”.]

    Classes of Warfare:
    1, Terror; 2. Guerrilla; 3. Main Force; 4. War of Position.

    Assess “the glue” that holds the movement together or holds the state together.

    The Peace Movement designates the government as the Bad Guys.
    Insurgents/Terrorists play by “Big Boy Rules”. [And, we know who is the Big Boy.]

    Dr. Marks takes the same position as Greenberg on West Bank – Israel is the legitimate government, Palestinians are insurgents; in Palestinian Territory!

    He points out that the Maoists in Nepal controlled the narrative. Marks controls the narrative. He leaves out the factor of the Military-Industrial Complex.

    After having said that other nations, but not the USA, had colonial interest in the outcome in Nepal, he then tells us that the US had 500 troops involved – but Lost! Marks was one of the US officers on that mission.

    In the end, as Dwight Eisenhower warned us, the one who wins from war is …
    the Military-Industrial Complex that is the warfare industries linking together both private and government sectors..

    2 February 2010,
    Gordon Obermiller, Marine Colonel, Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) Commander returned from his second AF tour, emphasizes differences from State Department personnel and USAID personnel. He portrays both USAID and State Department as irresponsible and not up to military standards.

    This is actually because both of these compete with the Army for DoD funds for similar functions.

    Obermiller, responding to an Afghan official’s comment that the US does not seem to have the Afghan people’s best interest in mind: “It’s true that we don’t have their (the Afghan people’s) best interests in mind. What we want is a compromise between what they need and what we want.”
    [Note he does not say, “… between what they want and what we want”, which would require good faith consultation to learn what they want. Rather, the US military will decide what they need and then seek a compromise on that to accommodate what the US Army wants.]

    Lee Hockman, retired Colonel, Public Affairs.
    “Don’t defend the HTS program; explain your motivation for being voluntarily in it.”

    They want to help us to express ourselves as HTS members. They will teach us how to do that, the Army Way!.

    Great Quotes by Hockman:
    “In an interview, always work your response to all questions back to one key message; e.g., “We save lives.””

    “Don’t memorize what you are supposed to say. Focus on your personal experience … what you know … with the left and right boundaries [within the approved script]. You will sound more authentic.

    You don’t want to sound scripted.’

    “The enemy doesn’t obsess over whether what they say is true or correct. We shouldn’t either.”

    “The slogan, “winning the hearts and minds of the people” is just a slogan. That objective is not realistic.”

    Hockman differentiates Public Affairs (PA) from Psy Ops (Psychological Operations). PA “informs” while Psy Ops “tries to influence.” But “PA helps to establish conditions [in the mind of the US public] that will lead to confidence in the Army.”

    [So, Public Affairs is Psy-Ops carried out against the US population – domestic counterinsurgency. This was mentioned in David Price’s initial response (above) and comes up later in the Weston Resolve counterinsurgency war-game in Missouri.]

    “We like the embedding of (news) reporters because it forms their (the news reporters’) perspective.”
    [Note: This is also why they like the embedding of the “social scientists”?]

    “Truth is relative. The job is to sell your credibility.”

    “Plausible deniability” is the first escape from blame for collateral damage.
    [Go back and dig your bullets out of the corpses, then tell them you didn’t do it, it was Taliban.]

    “Public Affairs consists of offensive or defensive Information Ops”.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Hi John,

      This is great, and obviously a rare contribution. I suspect this may be lost here, in the comments section. Do I have your permission to post this on the front page of the blog?

  11. Pingback: The Human Terrain System: Global Counterinsurgency, Global Espionage, Global Occupation « ZERO ANTHROPOLOGY

Comments are closed