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Concealing Crimes of the CIA,
Wikipedia Style

by Bov

Today, a cold Friday morning in December, just after several dozen people have lost their lives to a storm in the Midwest, the cluster of newsboxes on the corner by the coffee shop shows that newspapers are reporting solidly in lockstep as though part of a new wallpaper -- plastering their entire frontpages in headline font sizes normally reserved for natural disasters, with titles like "Playing Dirty," and, "One Strike and You're Out," stories of the 'shocking' new 409-page report revealing steroid use in baseball. One imagines that someone somewhere must be saying, "My god, what a scandal this is for our great nation!" to have such headlines. Last night, on the BBC international news wrap-up, the only US story reported at all was the steroids-in-baseball scandal.

One can't help but wonder momentarily, is this a joke?

In contrast, on the internet today, December 14th, there are a number of opinion pieces about the recently revealed CIA destruction of, what appear to be, torture videotapes from 2002. High-profile writers have written essays, like Naomi Wolf, writing for the Huffington Post, What Is Probably in the Missing Tapes. John W. Dean has written for, The Investigations of the Destruction of CIA Torture Tapes: How An ACLU Lawsuit Might Force the Bush Administration To Reveal What Actually Happened. And Stephanie Nebehay reports for Reuters, UN Rights Envoy Suspects CIA of Guantanamo Torture. There is no mention of steriods or a report on their use in baseball on the popular progressive news blogs and websites.

John W. Dean, in his article, writes:

By my count, there appear to be no less than ten preliminary investigations underway, following the revelation that the CIA destroyed at least two sets of videotapes (containing hundreds of hours of footage) of "advanced interrogation" techniques being employed in terrorism investigations. In fact, every branch of government is now involved. . . . There are three court orders that may have been violated, but one in particular strikes me as a very serious problem for the CIA.

Indeed, the CIA debacle has been the top story on Google for days now. Torture is illegal, afterall, can bring down a war, destroy careers, and now we see that some of our own Congresspeople "even asked the CIA to push harder" on their virtual tour of the CIA's secret torture activities in 2002. The Washington Post states:

For more than an hour, the bipartisan group . . . was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques. . . With one known exception, no formal objections were raised by the lawmakers briefed about the harsh methods. . .

This is a big deal, the real stuff: the US Congress and the US spy agency were willing participants in criminal atrocities, said nothing about it, then destroyed the evidence. And likely it goes even deeper because some suggest that what the victims actually said on those tapes may have been even more important the methods used, while others believe that the torture methods may have gone far beyond waterboarding and probably extended to electrocutions and other horrors.

We can only speculate about why this information has come out at all, and why now. But now that it has, who will take the fall? And how will anyone be implicated in an era where a judge can rule that a government spokesperson can now lie to the public during a catastrophe? Recall that although it is broadly understood that EPA spokesperson Christine Todd Whitman lied to the public when she said that the air at Ground Zero was safe to breathe just after the attacks, a judge ruled that:

Holding Christine Todd Whitman liable will set a dangerous precedent, leaving public officials to worry that their words to reassure the public after disasters will open them up to personal liability.

Like most investigations these days, it's likely that almost no one will be held accountable in the end. An important ingredient for preventing accountability is managing the public perception of the event, both in real time and historically, so that average Americans come to believe that accountability is simply not necessary or forgotten about entirely.

Wikipedia: Appearance of Neutrality

Knowing such realities, I derive a small pleasure from posting the information on Wikipedia's page on the CIA the day that the news first comes out. This is a good feeling for people like myself because for awhile, for years in fact, I was fooled into thinking Wikipedia was what it said it was, a 'free encyclopedia' that 'anyone can edit.' But after I wasted a great deal of time fighting what turned out to be a useless fight on the pages of Wikipedia -- to try to simply post known but generally ignored facts about the unanswered questions of the 9/11/01 attacks -- I realized the truth about Wikipedia, that there is really little that is neutral, like an encyclopedia, about it. I found that each of my edits was fought tooth and nail, or removed silently, weeks or months later. It was an awful and depressing experience, and a difficult fight to walk away from, but ultimately anyone with a job has to.

But a fact like the potentially illegal destruction of videotape interrogation evidence by the CIA seems so far out in the open, now, that it cannot be so easily removed.

Or can it?

When I noticed, in the summer of 2007, that my edits to the Wikipedia page on Rudy Giuliani went unnoticed for days, even weeks -- wholesale additions from the first book critical on him, additions of phrases like "as a millionaire" to some sentences, and additions of "alleged" to the claims of his popularity -- but my edits to a little known "9/11 conspiracy theorist," Jim Hoffman, were erased or changed within just minutes by one of three or four different people, I began to understand what kind of information was vitally important to control. Guliani was a US presidential candidate for the Republican Party. Jim Hoffman was a 9/11 "conspiracy theorist" living in an apartment in a tiny town in California. Was the disproportionate attention to Hoffman's page by Wikipedia editors just a fluke?

The control of information can take many forms, ranging from straighforward suppression to clever misdirection. A more obvious form of control was exemplified by the Warren Commission's sealing of documents, described in 2006 by Miami Herald columnist Robert Steinbeck:

I was 8 years old when President John Kennedy was shot to death in Dallas in 1963. If grace favors me, I'll be 62 when documents related to the assassination are released to the public, and 84 when the Warren Commission's investigative files into the tragedy are finally opened. That's a long time to wait for a chance to evaluate the purported truth. It's a blot on the presumed sophistication of the people of the United States that any aspect of an event so dramatic and shocking should be kept from us.

A more sophisticated form of information control is evident in the framing of unanswered questions of the attacks of 9/11/01 as the baseless claims of anti-Semites, paranoid occultists, and new-age nonsense advocates. The goal is to stigmatize, discredit, and isolate from the mainstream ideas that challenge the official orthodoxy, while avoiding the appearance of an orchestrated campaign.

Wikipedia: Tool of Obfuscation

If the unfolding story of the CIA's use of torture were to be controlled, it would require techniques other than those used to marginalize critics of the official 9/11 story. Newspapers of record had already disclosed that the CIA had admitted to Congressional leaders that it used torture, and that it had destroyed evidence of those crimes. Unlike the 9/11/01 attacks, there was no fundamental question about who sponsored the crimes.

So I went to go post the little tale of the destroyed tapes to the main CIA Wikipedia page, Central Intelligence Agency. At first I was surprised to see that there was no mention at all of the tapes on the main page about the CIA. This page is massive, an article of over 9000 words that wanders through the long and detailed history of the agency in a number of categories, lists of covert operations by location, and a series of historical and contemporary controversies.

But on the day that the destruction of the tapes has come out in the press, with most news headlines screaming about it, I find no text reference at all on the page. Wouldn't you know it? I think to myself. How predictable was that? Only a single link at the bottom of the page references the event, nested amongst a list of other unrelated links. And where the event should have been mentioned, in a section on "Controversies," I find that the CIA page, like the pages of most high-level politician's pages on Wikipedia, has had all criticism of it removed and posted to another page entirely, again, with only a single link on which to find it. Moving the juicy information onto other pages is a subtle but effective means to control it on Wikipedia, and unless you have an army of helpers, you can't really change anything.

But, so be it, this is how they play the game and I know one needs to play it at least little bit. I follow the link over to a page about "controversies," and as I post my little expose, I wonder if anyone will notice this little except about the destruction of films over on this other isolated page about torture and renditions, but at least now someone has said something. I move on, and go about my day. One small thing is done:

On December 6, 2007, the CIA admitted that it had destroyed videotape recordings of CIA interrogations of terrorism suspects involving harsh interrogation techniques, tapes which critics suggest may have documented the use of torture by the CIA, such as waterboarding. The tapes were made in 2002 as part of a secret detention and interrogation program, and were destroyed in November of 2005. The reason cited for the destruction of the tapes was that the tapes posed a security risk for the interrogators shown on the tapes. Yet the department also stated that the tapes "had no more intelligence value and were not relevant to any inquiries". [71] In response, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., stated: "You'd have to burn every document at the CIA that has the identity of an agent on it under that theory." Other Democrats in Congress also made public statements of outrage about the destruction of the tapes, suggesting that a violation of law had occurred. [72]

But little do I know, I have just posted this to a fake page, likely created expressly for the purpose of catching any efforts to post criticisms onto the main page during this important event in the history of the agency. When I post to the page, it has the correct title, but later, the title is altered and misspelled, to read, "Central Intellegence Agency." The joke is on us.

So a couple of days later, with the story still at the top of Google news, I check back to see if anyone has removed my post or maybe added to it, even located as it was far off the main page.

But I find that the page that I had posted on has now been merged into the main page. At first I think - 'well finally, some criticism back on the main page'. But when I do a quick search of the page for "tapes," I find nothing, except the one lonely link at the bottom of the 9000 word page, leading to only a one-line stub of an article. My edit is gone entirely, along with the page it was on.

But I know how to find every edit I've ever made no matter where it is. I go to my user page and follow the links that show my own edit contributions. I find the now-orphaned "Central Intellegence Agency" page, with my edit sitting there on it, and it's life history ending soon afterwards, when it was supposedly merged onto the main page, yet without my edit.

I can't say I'm surprised. And I would joke about it if it weren't just a miniscule sampling of what goes on all around us constantly: propaganda and the manipulation of our perceptions. But so that there is at least some record of this Orwellian incident, I make a note of it on the discussion area on the back of the main CIA page:

No mention of the recent tapes controversy?

I added it to the old separate "controversies" page, but then that disappeared when it merged back to this page . . . somehow. This page is now so huge no one can really read through it without planning on spending their entire evening, but a simple search of "tapes" on the page led only to a link, not even a text mention of this huge event in the history of the organization. I find this interesting that this issue is literally number one on Google news for multiple days in a row, yet nonexistent (if not for myself posting it), on the primary worldwide 'neutral' reference to the CIA. . . . bov (talk) 00:28, 12 December 2007 (UTC)"

When I look again, a day later, the whole section is once again moved off the main page and back onto another page. This time, my edit is still there, but I realize that any mention of this event will simply not be allowed as text on the primary CIA page.

I guess this isn't surprising. After all, Wikipedia has a policy that those posting with IP addresses coming from the CIA are not to be "blocked" from posting. The policy is listed on the page, "Sensitive due to public relations implications." The list includes the CIA, NASA, The House of Representatives, and others, but it is not a long list.

If you block an IP in any of the following ranges, you are required to immediately notify the Wikimedia Foundation Communications Committee. These ranges are allocated to major governmental organizations and blocks of these organizations have political and public relations implications that must be managed by the Foundation's press relations team.

In other words, they openly admit that the CIA has free reign on Wikipedia over everyone else.

When I try to look at the discussion area of the page I originally posted to, I find it only redirects back to the main page - any discussion there is now lost. But they can't get rid of my comment about this on the discussion page of the main page. And when I look there, someone has responded.

Here's what the user with the name "Dirtybutclean" points out, apparently after doing a little research:

You and 'Erxnmedia' edited on a misspelled page, "Central Intellegence Agency," that 'Morethan3words' created . . . I realized what 'Morethan3words' had done and I created a redirect. I am rather concerned why 'Morethan3words' created this misspelled page, maybe he can explain and apologize to you and 'Erxnmedia'. This is the edit right before Morethan3words moved the section
- Dirtybutclean 00:38, 6 December 2007

Are misspellings a CIA technique to hide information? I'm no expert on the agency and perhaps I'm just being paranoid, but I've heard that mentioned before about them. One way to easily hide a webpage is to break the links to it. On Wikipedia this can be done (by Administrators only) by simply changing a page's name -- effectively, the page disappears.

Interestingly, "Morethan3words"explains himself, and then a small discussion ensues with user "Trav".

Despite Trav's thinly veiled distrust of my username, I assure everyone that the misspeling[sic] was completely accidental, I created the page and made the move during my lunch break and didn't have time to check it over. . .
- Morethan3words 06:46, 13 December 2007

Exactly. In this case I was discussing the edits of the page, not the editor. I was concerned that I was being blamed by bov and Erxnmedia for some edits which I was not responsible for. It took me a really, really long time to figure out and correct this misspelled redirect.
- Trav 07:55, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

Actually, to be honest, I'm not sure exactly how the page I created got named that. I see in the history that it was named the misspelled CIA, but I clearly remember naming it "suspected and confirmed operations of the CIA" . . . Not really sure how an article could have its name changed, particularly without it showing up in the log...
- Morethan3words 08:13, 13 December 2007

Maybe they're just playing games. But it's likely we will never know what really happened, just as we don't really know if users "Trav" and "Morethan3words" are different people or the same person -- another open secret about Wikipedia is that the editors and even the Administrators can maintain anonymity. Another symptom of how our world today is different from the past: Encyclopedia Britannica, it seems, had that special something that seems to have been edited out of our reality these days: accountability. (See Nature mag cooked Wikipedia study Britannica hits back at junk science.) Accountability is edited out of our reality these days, literally, on Wikipedia, and semantically in our newsmedia by replacing real news with sordid headlines of the mishaps of television and sports stars.

Consigned to Irrelevance

The offshoot page created to describe the event on wikipedia, 2005 CIA interrogation tapes destruction remained in this form, a single line, until about 10 days after the news was already exposed in mainstream media:

The CIA interrogation tapes destruction of video tapes made by the Central Intelligence Agency during interrogations of Al Qaeda suspects occurred in November 2005, and became public in December 2007.

The inclusion of "(2005)" at the start of the title of this page naturally makes one assume it is old news, just some destroyed tapes from years ago that are of no consequence now. Are there many other years that the CIA has destroyed videotapes? If not, why this convention of including the year? Additionally the single reference on this page goes to a Slate article titled, Ifs and Buts: If the CIA hadn't destroyed those tapes, what would be different? . The article itself contains a good analysis of the situation, but that isn't suggested by the clever title, which implies that nothing would have changed, so don't bother looking.

Finally, on December 17th an anonymous user whose account appeared on Dec 2nd grabbed the text created on one of the torture victim's pages and posted it to fill out this page and later a handful of others added to it. But the only way to get to the page from the main wikipedia page on the CIA is still only through a single link at the bottom. As of this date, the original offshoot criticism page for "Detention, interrogation and rendition practices" is now merged back onto the main page as a section which is only three lines long, and not a single reference to the tapes incident exists on the page.

Operation Mockingbird

The infiltration of the media by the CIA is another open secret, to be found on the internet but not in most other places. Operation Mockingbird, or Project Mockingbird, was an operation in which US print and broadcast media venues were used for propaganda and active intelligence gathering by the CIA in direct violation of law. The 1975 Church Committee investigations had revealed that:

The CIA currently maintains a network of several hundred foreign individuals around the world who provide intelligence for the CIA and at times attempt to influence opinion through the use of covert propaganda. These individuals provide the CIA with direct access to a large number of newspapers and periodicals, scores of press services and news agencies, radio and television stations, commercial book publishers, and other foreign media outlets.

In the late 1960s and 1970s the CIA was, for example, interfering with the publication of a books critical of itself, such as Alfred W. McCoy's The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, describing CIA dealings with the drug traffic in Southeast Asia, and David Wise and Thomas Ross's expose on the CIA, Invisible Government, describing their role in coups in Iran and Guatemala. Apparently the CIA "considered buying up the entire printing of Invisible Government, but this idea was rejected when Random House pointed out that if this happened they would have to print a second edition."

At that time, Bush's father, had recently been appointed as the Director of the CIA just after the Church Committee Hearings and announced his new policy that:

Effective immediately, the CIA will not enter into any paid or contract relationship with any full-time or part-time news correspondent accredited by any U.S. news service, newspaper, periodical, radio or television network or station." However, he added that the CIA would continue to "welcome" the voluntary, unpaid cooperation of journalists.

Just one year later, the scope of the operation came out in the public:

In 1977, Rolling Stone alleged that one of the most important journalists under the control of Operation Mockingbird was Joseph Alsop, whose articles appeared in over 300 different newspapers. Other journalists alleged by Rolling Stone Magazine to have been willing to promote the views of the CIA included Stewart Alsop (New York Herald Tribune), Ben Bradlee (Newsweek), James Reston (New York Times), Charles Douglas Jackson (Time Magazine), Walter Pincus (Washington Post), William C. Baggs (The Miami News), Herb Gold (The Miami News) and Charles Bartlett (Chattanooga Times). According to Nina Burleigh (A Very Private Woman), these journalists sometimes wrote articles that were commissioned by Frank Wisner. The CIA also provided them with classified information to help them with their work.

Are today's news headlines a product of the influence of US intelligence agencies? The clear disconnect between the relevance of world events and the information the US news agencies pump out daily suggests that something other than news gathering is at work. And this is important for Americans to begin to understand and to learn because what we don't know really can hurt us. Today, on Friday, December 14th 2007, those making decisions to headline baseball steroids -- while the real torture of the real individuals we've based our so-called wars on is falling open and spilling into the world's awareness -- are serving no one, really, but the CIA and the Pentagon, by burying their meltdown and the rest of what went on in the world.

So what was the real news today? What's buried inside the pages under the steroids?

* The vote to shift $21 billion in tax breaks for oil companies to renewable energy efforts, like wind, solar and biofuels, failed. It fell short by one vote in Congress. Who was that? There is no mention in the story.

* For the first time in 40 years, a state in the US has decided to abolish the death penalty. Historic, sure, but buried in a sidebar on page A3. This primary hotbutton issue used to manipulate voters during elections has quietly slipped away in the state of New Jersey.

And so on.

Media dilution and redirection from the stories that expose misdeeds of powerful corporations or the US police state, is how the misdeeds are able to happen over and over and over. Even if done simply by oversight, or editorial policy, the slamming of our sports heroes, black actors, evil miner-owners, recovering Hollywood addicts, or the singular promotion of any hyped and hotbutton socially compelling story as front page news, instead, helps only the most powerful. The public is kept in the dark.

The question remains, can Americans wake up in time to see through the fog of Brittany and buried miners before we are brought full circle into the normalization of "shocked and awed" cities being leveled, hidden prisons, torture cells, "enemy combatant" islands, Orwellian surveillance state?

Out of that, the more difficult dilemma emerges -- what will Americans do if when and if they finally see the light?

If the real news is no longer on the front page of our newspapers when it counts, or issued in decrees and investigations from our Congress when it is meaningful, then the real news is going to have to come from us - noticed, researched, published and spread with our own two hands, if we want to ever get out of this mess that those in power in the US have gotten us into.

Selected References

UN Rights Envoy Suspects CIA of Guantanamo Torture by Stephanie Nebehay; December 14, 2007; Reuters

What Is Probably in the Missing Tapes by Naomi Wolf; December 14, 2007; The Huffington Post
Hill Briefed on Waterboarding in 2002, In Meetings, Spy Panels' Chiefs Did Not Protest, Officials Say by Joby Warrick and Dan Eggen; December 9, 2007; Page A01; The Washington Post
DOJ: Don't blame Whitman for 9/11 speech by Larry Neumeister, Associated Press Writer; Updated: 12/10/2007;
9/11 Attacks: Avoiding the Hard Questions by Robert Steinback; February 1, 2006; Miami Herald
Wikipedia 'shows CIA page edits' by Jonathan Fildes, Science and technology reporter, BBC News; Last updated: August 15, 2007; BBC News
Nature mag cooked Wikipedia study Britannica hits back at junk science By Andrew Orlowski in San Francisco; March 23, 2006; The Register
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