on deception

A military operation involves deception. Even though you are competent, appear to be incompetent. Though effective, appear to be ineffective. -- Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Deception in war is nothing new. As long ago as 1469 B.C., during the reign of Thutmose III, the Egyptians used trickery and deception to fool their enemies, and pass into Syria through an unguarded route. Homer's tale of the Trojan Horse demonstrates that deception played a role in warfare at the dawn of European history. George Washington's surprise victory at Trenton owed its success to intelligence and military deception. World War II provides numerous examples of the successful use of deception. Electronics, the Internet and the media are all playing significant roles today. Techniques are evolving and changing as new technologies come into use. Deception has been, and will remain, an essential component of military tactics. Library Notes, Vol 31 no. 3, published November 2002 by the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island.

Deception (an "opaque" practice) would seem to be an exception, impediment or outright challenege to the ideology of generalized transparency, which is suspicious of the motives behind any and all uses of masks, disguises, trickery, et al. And yet, the transparent society can find all sorts of uses for deception.

And then there was the Office of Strategic Influence. You may recall that [Department of Defense plan to plant and spread false stories in the press]. And [the reaction to its exposure by The New York Times was] "Oh, my goodness gracious! isn't that terrible? Henny Penny, the sky is going to fall!" I went down that next day and [held a press conference and] said "Fine, if you want to savage this thing, fine: I'll give you the corpse. There's the name [the project was quickly canceled]. You can have the name, but I'm gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done," and I have. -- U. S. Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfield, press conference, 18 November 2002.

Quite obviously, the on-going project of the non-existent Office of Strategic Influence is to deceive everyone, that is, both foe and friend, both the international media (and thus popular opinion in foreign countries) and the domestic media (popular opinion in the USA).

At a time when the peace movement appears to be gaining traction, it is troubling to read the latest e-mail advisory from the FBI's Awareness of National Security Issues and Response (ANSIR) program. A December 4 communication, sent to thousands of "corporate security professionals," warns that "a loose network of antiwar groups" opposed "to possible U.S. military action against Iraq, are advocating 'explicit and direct attack upon the war machine.'" According to the advisory, the week of December 15-21 has been set aside as a "week of action against warmongering." An Internet posting by a group calling itself "Every Day a Circle Day" has "called for attacks on the headquarter facilities and other assets of oil companies and defense contractors, singling out Boeing and Lockheed Martin," claims the FBI e-mail. It also points out that "Department of Defense (DoD) assets also represent potential targets for attack." [...] Other possible targets, says the e-mail, could include "major media companies by 'sanitizing' newspaper vending machines, jamming or hijacking radio and television signals, or attacking broadcast towers and damaging equipment." Does the FBI know more about upcoming activities of the antiwar movement than the antiwar movement itself? Or is its recent communiqu a blatant attempt to scare the public, smear the antiwar movement and discourage antiwar protests? Jason Mark, the Communication's Director at Global Exchange, the Bay Area-based international human rights group, said neither he nor his colleagues had heard of Every Day a Circle Day [...] Activists started getting phone calls from reporters asking if they knew about violent antiwar protests scheduled for the week in question, a query that left them scratching their heads in confusion. -- Bill Berkowitz, 20 December 2002.

Throughout the ages, deception has been carefully defined, thoroughly analyzed and systematically deployed by untold numbers of kings, capitalists, conspirators, presidents, spies and soldiers. "All warfare is based on deception." -- Sun Tzu, The Art of War.

More than a century ago, A.-L. Sardou's Nouveau Dictionnaire des Synonymes Francais defined the nuances which must be grasped between fallacious, deceptive, impostrous, inveigling, insidious, captious; and which taken together constitute today a kind of palette of colors with which to paint a portrait of the society of the spectacle [...] Fallacious [fallacieux], from the Latin fallaciosus, adept at or accustomed to deception, full of deceit: the definition of this adjective is equivalent to the superlative of deceptive [trompeur]. That which deceives or leads into error in any way is deceptive: that which is done in order to deceive, abuse, lead into error by plan intended to deceive with artifice and misleading confidence most calculated to abuse, is fallacious. Deceptive is a generic and vague word; all forms of uncertain signs and appearance are deceptive: fallacious denotes duplicity, deceit, studied imposture; sophistic speech, asseveration or reasoning is fallacious. The word has affinities with impostrous [imposteur], inveigling [seducteur], insidious [insidieux] and captious [captieux], but without equivalence. Impostrous denotes all forms of false appearance, or conspiracies to abuse or injure; for example, hypocrisy, calumny, etc. Inveigling expresses action calculated to take possession of someone, to lead them astray by artful and insinuating means. Insidious only indicates the act of placing traps and entrapping. Captious is restricted to the subtle act of taking by surprise and taking in. Fallacious encompasses most of these definitions. -- Guy Debord, Comments on the Society of the Spectacle 1988.

Deception is opaque; it openly defies transparency, which has become a capitalist imperative and thus a global obsession.

--Radars [operated by the Yugoslav army] confused precision-guided HARM and ALARM missiles [fired by the USA/NATO] by reflecting their electromagnetic beams off heavy farm machinery, such as plows or old tractors placed around the sites. This cluttered the U.S. missiles' guidance systems, which were unable to pinpoint the emitters. Scout helicopters would land on flatbed trucks and rev their engines before being towed to camouflaged sites several hundred metres away. Heat-seeking missiles from NATO jets would then locate and go after the residual heat on the trucks.
--Yugoslav troops used cheap heat-emitting decoys such as small gas furnaces to simulate nonexistent positions on Kosovo mountainsides. B-52 bombers, employing advanced infrared sensors, repeatedly blasted the empty hills.
--The army drew up plans for covert placement of heat and microwave emitters on territory that NATO troops were expected to occupy in a ground war. This was intended to trick the B-52s into carpet-bombing their own forces.
--Dozens of dummy objectives, including fake bridges and airfields were constructed. Many of the decoy planes were so good that NATO claimed that the Yugoslav air force had been decimated. After the war, it turned out most of its planes had survived unscathed.
--Fake tanks were built using plastic sheeting, old tires, and logs. To mimic heat emissions, cans were filled with sand and fuel and set alight. Hundreds of these makeshift decoys were bombed, leading to wildly inflated destruction claims.
--Bridges and other strategic targets were defended from missiles with laser-guidance systems by bonfires made of old tires and wet hay, which emit dense smoke filled with laser-reflecting particles.
--U.S. bombs equipped with GPS guidance proved vulnerable to old electronic jammers that blocked their links with satellites.

Deception or, rather, the suspicion of deception, is a good explanation for the fact that there are so many government and military authorities visiting this website.

Ironically, the transition to wireless comes with its own share of security risks. Some critics say it opens a big flank on the security front by giving criminals an opportunity to tap into the airwaves. Broadcasts using the common 802.11B transmission protocol are vulnerable, says on-line security expert Steve Gibson, president of Gibson Research Corp. in Laguna Hills, Calif. The Hollywood movie scenario of placing a benign Polaroid image in the camera's line of sight may seem like an amusing fiction. But in the digital arena, a skilled hacker could easily perform that type of trick, Mr. Gibson says. It would be possible to "leave a briefcase [near the cameras] with a PC inside it so it can suck in traffic for analysis later," he says. "Or it could suck it in and rebroadcast it on a different channel." Potentially, a hacker could leave a device near or inside a building and tap into the network to see through the camera's eyes. The hacker can then transmit a bogus image to the guards' PC or handhelds to make it appear as though nobody's breaking in, he says. "You wouldn't need to have a physical presence in the area. You could be on a different floor sniffing the traffic and having as much time as you need to break the network's encryption." -- Zack Medicoff, "Smile, you're live on screen with digital video security: Clearer pictures, remote-site access among benefits for companies, law enforcement," 19 December 2002.

In answer to these visits, we have divulged our funding and expenses and our nonexistent relationship with foreign powers.

Easily the most popular videotape of the New York Surveillance Camera Players in action is the 9 November 1998 performance of George Orwell's 1984. During the Room 101 torture scene, two officers from the New York Police Department arrive and say to the videographer, "Can I ask you what you're doin' here?" When she explains the obvious, namely, that she's taping a performance, which is, right then and there, "narrowcasting" on a surveillance monitor that is clearly visible to both the cops and the videographer herself, there are still questions. "Who are they?" one officer wants to know, meaning the ones performing. "They're . . . players," the videographer says, temporarily forgetting the name of the group. One of the cops then says, "What are they doing? -- really." In other words, "What are they really doing?" To him, it must have been a "cover"; the "action" couldn't possibly be what it appeared to be: a coupla people holding up hand-printed signs saying "BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU" in front of a surveillance camera operated by (none other than) the police.

(Surveillance Camera Players, 21 December 2002. Additions made 16 June 2003.)

Contact the New York Surveillance Camera Players

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