“Surveillance Experiments and Unintended Consequences”
When my friends and I walked out of the movie theater after seeing Syriana, we all kind of had the same look on our faces. Even a friend who had (likely still has) a very sort of typical Wall Street mentality, that anything goes and only the profit matters, “too bad, suckers, we got your money” was the bottom line with him, had that look.
We were in part trying to absorb what we’d just seen. We were also, I suspect multitasking deep inside our brains trying to simultaneously find an answer–any answer–to the problems the film seemed to pose and at the same time to find fault with it, to point to a single thing that would undermine the premise so that we would not be up at 2 am still thinking about just how screwed we all are.
I didn’t ask the others, but I was still up at 2 am. It had shown the various slices of what goes on that seemed, really, to match pretty well our experiences. It had also, outside of that, tied covert action to the quest for oil. While it is a no-brainer that that is the case, due to the majority of spy and related genre film and TV, most people only think about the stopping of terrorists and not about the sometimes very twisted reality that runs counter to that and what most of us believe is in our best interests as a people.
Here is where I should probably remind folks, I don’t know where my actions end and outside influence via voice-to-skull and possible other methods begin. That tech exists, there is extensive history regarding the use of drugs to alter behavior, and you know they would use it.
For the most part below, I’m going to explain why I thought I was doing what I was doing at the time. The nightmare described below and how I used it, for example, clearly something exterior and not my idea. I know it may sound like that’s some sort of cop-out. I don’t think I have a problem taking the blame for my mistakes. I have a problem being allowed to live my life and seek justice for illegal actions on the part of my government.
I look forward to the day when the worst thing that happens is I stub my toe, when the biggest worry is I accidentally broke a dish all on my own. That might be as close to normal as I will ever see again in my life. To expect more is to hope that the whole world changes over night.
Around the time I started writing The Wisp, I also took a writing class with a veteran comic writer and editor. Denny O’Neil had written and edited various Batman titles, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman as well, had written Iron Man also, had been one of several mentors for artist and later creator/writer Frank Miller, to name just a few of his accomplishments. Denny would also wind up writing most of the movie-to-book graphic novel adaptations and, I think, the paperback novel ties-ins as well.
There were some interesting conversations. I learned a great deal.
The question of protagonist, antagonist, and how to identify and depict them came up. I recalled a thin paperback I had read many years before. It was two essays on James Bond. The first was by an English “fanboy” who mostly talked about how much he was similar to Bond except where the ladies were concerned. I should probably now, being gay and comfortable about it, go back and read that one closer.
But the second one was the one that posed the interesting question. The writer, a woman, likely a civil rights activist, pointed out that Bond never “did” anything. His job was always to prevent someone else doing something.
That was mostly lost on me as a teenager when I read that. But it was kind of profound in the Winter of 2008.
Was Bond really the protagonist? Sure, usually the villain of the piece wants to destroy something in order to take advantage of the chaos, but what did Bond do? He protected the status quo. Didn’t build anything, merely prevented its destruction.
I think I bit my tongue on pointing out that that’s pretty much what Superman does as well. At least in the iterations that, in my opinion, are true to the Superman meme.
One can argue, easily, I think, either way with Batman. Depends on which Batman you’re talking about. Is he upsetting the status quo (crime) by putting away crooks, or protecting the status quo (justice) by stopping crime? Sin City (and his limited Batman and Robin series) also dealt with that question in the way only Frank Miller truly can.
What if the status quo is bad? Do you back the anarchists? Do you willingly and knowingly upset the apple cart, blow the whistle, protest?
What happens when you discover that, no matter who is in charge, the system protects the system regardless of what the system is doing? Do you as an insider think of your career, consider the system to be synonymous with “your country” even though it is abusing your fellow citizens? Do you look around, see that power is so out of balance that there’s really no hope for those who are going to be trampled underneath, and say, “Sucks to be you” ?
Or do you try to affect change? What happens when you try from the outside, try to do so within the system’s rules and they system ignores you? What happens when your every attempt at a reasonable solution to an unreasonable problem is purposefully thwarted? What happens when the more you try to get things changed, the more screwed you get? Do you pick up a gun? Blow something up? Who would you shoot or blow up if you did? What is the sane reaction to an insane world?
What is a hero?
Most of that debate wouldn’t carry much importance to me at all until two years, three years, then four and five years later. I’d examine some of it, but in the seemingly safe, virtual way of writing a story.
Due to the continued extra energy I’d wind up apologizing to Denny after being unable to shut up for just a few minutes after class. I was discussing The Wisp and I was passionate about it. It was an especially bad run of the mouth.
Before taking the class, I had found online that Smoke House, George Clooney’s production company, had a fax machine. I had gotten so excited about it that I decided to send them some pieces of it. When the screenwriters’ strike happened that only encouraged me more. It might have meant they weren’t reviewing other scripts and be bored enough to take a look at the unsolicited.
There had, even before that, been a strange event. I had received an anonymous email from an address that traced to a domain in Brazil. It stated roughly, “I have reason to think that you are being watched. I’ll send more later when I can.”
I never got more later. Though I thought this must be some kind of new form of spam, I saved that email to the desktop of my work laptop just in case there was more. Several months later, the hard drive on that laptop failed and I lost it. I think there was an attachment, but it had been blank. I examined the binary contents and found only spaces or similar for the most part and no other useful information.
Then, after I started sending the letters and portions of the story (in sort of storyboard form, where the characters and objects were represented not by pictures but by their names), a few other things happened.
I went out to walk the dogs in the morning and had recalled opening the door to the condo apartment with no problems. That same evening when I returned, I found that the lock was practically broken. Though there was no obvious external damage to it, the inner workings were mangled. We had to have the lock replaced within a day or two.
(I note that it seems logical to assume that when professional field agents of law enforcement or the intelligence community enter your home surreptitiously, that they take great care to not make that obvious. Unless, of course, the real or second goal beyond searching or bugging your home is intimidation. Whoever did that was either a bad thief or wanted me to know that they had been there.)
The thought did occur to me that maybe someone had picked the lock. Then I thought that must be ridiculous and set that thought aside for the most part. I did decide that I’d send another letter and then see if anything else happened. In that letter, I likely included something that someone who should not be reading it might find “interesting.” Unfortunately, what I did not consider, was that that same thing might be considered disturbing by the actual addressed recipients at Smoke House. And, I’d wind up repeating that mistake a lot during Squidgate.
On the way to the subway in Brooklyn, I was waiting for the light to change. I was in the street, but there was a parking lane to my right with a van just a few feet from me. To my left, the four-way intersection. A MTA bus was pulling in to the bus stop across the avenue.
A black pickup truck with tinted windows rushed past the bus, swerved in front of it, and was heading right for me. I wound up just standing there.
The thought process was a bit like this:
This isn’t happening, that guy isn’t trying to run me over. But, in the very unlikely case that he is, he doesn’t seem to be going fast enough to kill me. If someone puts me in the hospital, well that’d be some kind of proof, wouldn’t it?
I could only see the driver, a man I believe, in silhouette through the tinted windows. He was wearing sunglasses I think and on his cellphone. At the last second, he swerved back into the street and avoided hitting me by about three feet. He never honked the horn.
I would be thinking about that incident for the next year every time I passed that spot. Eventually, I rationalized it away due to the sewer manhole cover sinking into the street. I’d decide for a while that that had been why he swerved, to avoid hurting his truck. Or because he was on the phone. Or both.
Then, I would later recall, the street hadn’t been like that when it happened. It was a slow process that sinking. Why had he swerved in front of the bus? He could have just kept going and he was still on the phone when he pulled out.
Just before I moved out of New York, the City fixed the sinking manhole. I stopped and chatted with the workers as they finished up and asked them what they thought that they were doing “only” taking a couple of days. They laughed and said that they weren’t ConEd, who we were all thinking was notorious for tearing up a street and leaving it that way for weeks.
However, I was still unconvinced that the government or Blackwater itself or whatever was harassing me, trying to run me over. It seemed ridiculous. NSA monitoring my faxes? Over a comic book? A potential over-the-top superhero movie script? Preposterous!
So, there was another letter. I repeated some of the same kind of stuff. I think in that one I mentioned that I had seen Michael Clayton and that, for me, they would likely send a heroin addicted Special Forces man from Afghanistan rather than what happened to Tom Wilkinson’s character Arthur, who was taken out by some corporate hitmen.
That idea had come to me via another night terror. A man in fatigues had come at me while screaming in the dream (I was apparently in Afghanistan) and I woke up as he got close. He looked kind of like Tex Cobb with red hair and no gap in his teeth; or a picture of a member of Special Forces I’d seen in the Times in an article about the Pentagon complaining about such people “going native”, not shaving and adhering to uniform dress code in deep Afghanistan. That photo had been black and white. However, the man in the nightmare had not looked like either exactly. That’s just to give you an approximate idea what he looked like.
I wondered just as I woke if it had somehow been real. But upon waking up properly I decided that it was just a weird dream. Perhaps it was due to something I had eaten the night before, like Scrooge said about a ghost and mustard and meat.
I decided it would made good fodder for the letter experiment, however. If there was some bizarre government conspiracy over a damn comic book, surely it couldn’t be that serious .
I will add that I was in some amused disbelief. It was like witnessing magic. You did A and B happened even though you couldn’t see the causal relationship. I had to be sure.
A few days after I sent that fax, I went out on my balcony for a smoke. Past the public basketball court out there I saw two men standing on the sidewalk of the next street over. They wore sunglasses. They seemed to be looking at me.
I again thought that ridiculous. However, as soon as it was obvious that I’d noticed them, they got into a car and started their way around the block. I knew then that they were planning to drive by the apartment.
I ran inside and grabbed my camera. I filmed the drive-by .
Now I had a decision to make. I knew nothing of Top Secret America and wouldn’t until after the Washington Post published the expose. Who could it be?
It still seemed completely unbelievable that the United States government, even under Bush, would notice, much less care, about a comic book or movie. That was just crazy to my mind at the time.
They lied, certainly, but resort to covert ops on American soil? Why? They had gotten pretty much everything they had wanted anyway. And gotten away with lying about much of it.
Therefore, the only logical conclusion was that that had been studio security or perhaps private investigators. Therefore, it must have been that I had frightened or worried Smoke House, George Clooney, his people. That had to be the answer.
For all I know, that actually is what happened (though I doubt it, more likely meant to appear that way). But I didn’t blame Clooney. His work in Africa and other causes meant this had to be, from my point of view anyway, merely a misunderstanding. He was a good man in so far as we can know that about celebrities. This couldn’t have been intentionally cruel on his part.
Therefore, I didn’t get angry at all, except a bit at myself. The energy evaporated almost immediately, that very day. Soon after, I fell into a funk. I would not call it a deep depression, but a light one certainly. I also felt foolish.
I had screwed up the closest thing to an introduction to Hollywood as I’d ever had. I decided to just chill for a while, learn from my mistakes. But there were no other story ideas and I thought I had “spent” the only decent one I would ever have.
I’d wonder years later if they had been watching Smoke House’s fax. But that wouldn’t explain the strange email that predates the first contact.
What I did not know until his interview in Rolling Stone in November 2011, was that on the set of Syriana, George Clooney had had at least two bad experiences.
First, one of his dogs had come face to face with a rattlesnake. He killed the snake with a baseball bat, but not before his dog was bit and was dying. As he put it, likely the last thing his dog saw was him killing the snake .
The second was a neck and spinal injury. He had blown spinal fluid out of his nose. It hurt so bad at times that he said considered suicide during the worst three weeks of the pain .
Playing people off against each other, making people blame the wrong party or no party at all, would become a near constant theme as time progressed. That’s another lesson, and one that everyone needs to grasp very, very soon.
Not knowing about those things, I sat around and moped. A friend, in fact my best friend, brought over a book to cheer me up.
He’d been to Barnes & Noble in Brooklyn and picked up two books. He decided to plop one of them on me and he would read the other. The clerk at the store had raved about this science fiction book, that there was nothing in the new section like it at all. It was “hard” science fiction, based on current research and where it might be headed, and was mind-blowing as well.
I looked at the cover. It reminded me of the original Star Trek film, where the enterprise had arrived at V’Ger’s center. I thought that it might be cool.
“It’s got vampires, too,” my pal said.
“Yeah. Clerk said he spends time explaining it scientifically, makes it work.”
I spent the next month or two reading Blindsight by Canadian biologist turned science fiction author Peter Watts . I loved it. Not only were there vampires (explained logically as promised) but the main character was sort of a zombie, or Frankenstein’s monster (which when you think about it, is the same thing using science instead of voodoo). He had had a hemispherectemy. That is, he had half his brain removed. This had actually given him some unique insights, though he had lost part of himself as well. And, there were aliens, first contact and some other odd characters and background.
I’d also have some weird sensations from March ’08 until the Fall of ’08 came around (when the energy returned and that was replaced by other weird sensations), but clearly not due to reading. For one, I occasionally had the desire to hit my right hand with a hammer . The depression was odd as well. I just couldn’t seem to get out from under it. That impulse and the funk seemed to be related.
Once I finished Blindsight, I started seeking out more work by the same author. I was delighted to find that not only had he written and published three prior novels, but that they were all four available for download for free on his website. They were there and distributable under the Creative Commons license .
It would be almost two years before I’d find out that the man who did the voice work for the audio book version of Blindsight had been an actor I knew years before.
I’d known him from the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival.
1 The Martin and Lewis 1955 film Artists and Models featured Lewis dreaming of top secret information that got written into comic books and drew the attention of the US government. Recalling or discovering things like that is sometimes the “punchline” to a PSYOP, or a damn weird coincidence.
2 YouTube, “Top Secret America Intimidation March 22, 2008”, uploaded January 17, 2011:
Of course all you see is a car driving by. Evidence that there was a car, but no evidence that they were on the sidewalk, looking at me, etc. In this case, yes, there actually were people watching my home.
Later, however, 2010 and after, I would start mistaking innocent bystanders for spooks (At least I don’t have any empirical evidence that they were or weren’t spooks, and in today’s paranoid America that is a valid question). As I said, they scuttled my brain. There were days when I felt like I spent most my waking hours sloshing them back into my head followed by sleeping off the emotional exhaustion.
This again brings to mind Lynnae Williams. While I don’t doubt that she can really spot surveillance teams (she had after all been trained to do so) what seems to me to be happening now is that whatever they did to her (and me, and the NJSF intern, and others) causes the “danger” reflex to go off. Unable to explain why one senses this danger or maybe a sense of dread in the pit of your stomach (especially after having already been trained to react to various situations, whether as a trained spy or as a conditioned harassment target in a series of PSYOPs), the brain looks for reasons to explain the alarm and finds something else to explain it. Remember again chapter 6: the unconscious makes the decisions and then the conscious mind guesses as to why. It’s counterintuitive but it’s how it apparently works.
Having been also drugged to lose some sense of proportion, it becomes damn near impossible to believe that to be the case. Your “gut” is telling you something is wrong and it’s damn well served you well in the past so it can’t be wrong now. Conditioning. Re-create the stimulus without the actual situation and you make the target relive an old (frequently traumatic) experience over and over. It is torture as any reasonable person experiencing it would label it, despite the legal definition (more on that in a later chapter).
I’ve been there, done that, now I’m telling you what happened, how it seems to work from the target’s perspective. I can’t tell you the exact details from the operative’s because I haven’t done that.
The question for investigative reporters shouldn’t be whether or not that Lynnae is being stalked by FBI, it’s “What did someone do to her?” And as for “someone,” it seems like a pretty short list of organizational suspects.
As for why, I have a three basic hypotheses. One, as noted previously, it appears that DIA has taken over some or much of CIA’s field activities. Did DIA think that CIA was sending an infiltrator in response to that? Two, was there something that she knew from her time at CIA that CIA didn’t want DIA to know? Three, were some people at one or the other (or even a third place, essentially attempting to frame both or one of the other two) giving us all the finger where sexism and racism are concerned? Lynnae Williams is an African-American Female. We have an African-American President who is a Democrat.
They can do whatever they want now. They can do it practically out in the open so long as they have someone or something else to blame. “9/11, 9/11, 9/11…”
3 Exposay, “George Clooney Battled Rattlesnake”, November 25, 2005:
[Clooney] told Scotland’s Daily Record newspaper: “On my way to Morocco, leaving my house, there was a rattlesnake wrapped around my dog with its teeth in the back of his head.
“I had to get a baseball bat and beat the snake until it let go, but it killed the dog. That was the last thing the dog saw, me beating a snake with a bat.”
Washington Post, “CIA brain experiments pursued in veterans’ suit“, Jeff Stein, November 24, 2010:
In 1961, a top CIA scientist reported in an internal memo that “the feasibility of remote control of activities in several species of animals has been demonstrated…Special investigations and evaluations will be conducted toward the application of selected elements of these techniques to man,” according to “The CIA and the Search for the Manchurian Candidate,” a 1979 book by former State Department intelligence officer John Marks.
Also, the 1977 Senate hearings on MKULTRA, Admiral Stansfield Turner testimony on subprojects including control of animals (and humans), harassment techniques, the use of drugs and hypnotism in combination, and more:
We have attempted to group the activities covered by the 149 subprojects into categories under descriptive headings. In broad outline, at least, this presents the contents of these files. The activities are placed in the following 15 categories:
1. Research into the effects of behavioral drugs and/or alcohol:
17 subprojects probably not involving human testing;
14 subprojects definitely involving tests on human volunteers;
19 subprojects probably including tests on human volunteers. While not known, some of these subprojects may have included tests on unwitting subjects as well;
6 subprojects involving tests on unwitting subjects.
2. Research on hypnosis: 8 subprojects, including 2 involving hypnosis and drugs in combination.
3. Acquisition of chemicals or drugs: 7 subprojects.
4. Aspects of magicians’ art useful in covert operations: e.g., surreptitious delivery of drug-related materials: 4 subprojects.
5. Studies of human behavior, sleep research, and behavioral changes during psychotherapy: 9 subprojects.
6. Library searches and attendance at seminars and international conferences on behavioral modification: 6 subprojects.
7. Motivational studies, studies of defectors, assessment, and training techniques: 23 subprojects.
8. Polygraph research: 3 subprojects.
9. Funding mechanisms for MKULTRA external research activities: 3 subprojects.
10. Research on drugs, toxins, and biologicals in human tissue; provision of exotic pathogens and the capability to incorporate them in effective delivery systems: 6 subprojects.
11. Activities whose objectives cannot be determined from available documentation: 3 subprojects.
12. Subprojects involving funding support for unspecified activities connected with the Army’s Special Operations Division at Fr. Detrick, Md. This activity is outline in Book I of the Church Committee Report, pp. 388-389. (See Appendix A, pp. 68-69.) Under CIA’s Project MKNAOMI, the Army Assisted CIA in developing, testing, and maintaining biological agents and delivery systems for use against humans as well as against animals and crops. The objectives of these subprojects cannot be identified from the recovered material beyond the fact that the money was to be used where normal funding channels would require more written or oral justification than appeared desirable for security reasons or where operational considerations dictated short lead times for purchases. About ???,000 was involved during this period 1953-1960: 3 subprojects.
13. Single subprojects in such areas as effects of electro-shock, harassment techniques for offensive use, analysis of extrasensory perception, gas propelled sprays and aerosols, and four subprojects involving crop and material sabotage.
14. One or two subprojects on each of the following:
“Blood Grouping” research, controlling the activity of animals, energy storage and transfer in organic systems; and stimulus and response in biological systems.
15. Three subprojects canceled before any work was done on them having to do with laboratory drug screening, research on brain concussion, and research on biologically active materials to be tested through the skin on human volunteers.
4 Rolling Stone, “Confessions of a Dirty Mind: George Clooney Talks Sex, Politics and Fame”, Erik Hedegaard, November 24, 2011:
Bottom of page 4.
Contact Music, “Clooney Contemplated Suicide Over Brain Injury”, October 23, 2005:
Where it’s explained that due to the loss of spinal fluid, he suffered brain bruising. The injury occurred during filming of the torture scene where Robert Barnett gets a fingernail pulled out. He had gained weight for the role quickly and that had contributed to the stress on his back and neck.
5 Blindsight, Peter Watts, Tor publisher, October 2006, ISBN-10:0765319640, ISBN-13: 978-0765312181 and 978-0765319647.
6 This appears on the surface to be akin to alien hand syndrome “light”:
HowStuffWorks, “How Alien Hand Syndrome Works”, Charles W. Bryant:
Alien hand syndrome is a rare disorder where one hand functions involuntarily.
Except I never thought “that isn’t my hand” and it wasn’t disobeying. I “felt” as if I would actually hit it (I never did) that it would somehow lessen the depression, the pain. Perhaps it was more akin to self-mutilation. That was weird.
But then so was:
History Commons, “March 8, 1998: Abortion Bomber’s Brother Cuts Off Own Hand in Support of ‘Persecuted’ Brother”:
Did he have alien hand syndrome? Or was he affected by the same kinds of NLWs or substance that I was and this was a side effect? That is not normal behavior, no matter how upset one is. Did he already have issues with that hand and this was how it was resolved?
And there would eventually be another odd side-effect for me: spitting. More on that later in the story.
This made me wonder though, was Rudolph being controlled or manipulated? What about McVeigh? Ivins? Others?
Violence leads to funding and a way to achieve other goals by making people afraid. That’s about as simple as it can be stated. That’s method and motive.