Foreign Internal Defense, Diversion or Drug War?
by John Stanton
The follow-on to the first US Army Human Terrain System program is loosely referred to as HTS: A Phase Zero Intelligence Program. Unfortunately, leadership seems to be reinforcing the caricatures on display in the movie Doctor Strangelove (more below). The responsibility for that is not solely the HTS director's, Colonel Sharon Hamilton. It goes up the chain of command within the US Army and, perhaps, the Office of Secretary of Defense/Intelligence. Throwing $227 million dollars (US) at a damaged program at time when budgets are being squeezed makes little surface sense.
The similarities between the characters in Doctor Strangelove and the personnel in HTS Phase Zero aside, the matter is of the utmost seriousness. On the plus side the word is that CGI, based in Canada and the replacement contractor for BAE Systems, based in the UK, is screening and scrutinizing recruits more thoroughly using established psychological testing protocols and telephone interviews. And there are diligent, hard-working individuals throughout HTS Phase Zero that understand the importance of their mission and produce fine work in spite of the odds.
But various sources have painted a picture of second rate program management and an atmosphere that is polluted secrecy shunning internal or independent auditors. It is cult like in some sense, unaccountable in major respects. The flimsy nature of much of the program's intellectual output has led to speculation that part of the $227 million is being funneled to classified programs elsewhere in the mammoth American national security apparatus. There was even speculation that the Pentagon's new Defense Clandestine Service would use HTS Phase Zero to insert DCS personnel, ostensibly as social scientists, for the purpose of infiltrating into various foreign populations to gather intelligence. But professional intelligence operatives require years of training and that is not HTS Phase Zero's specialty. On the other hand, sticking an operative in an HTS Phase Zero gig for AFRICOM or some other US combatant command may be a probability. These theories arise because no one outside of HTS Phase Zero can figure out what it is and what it is meant to do?
So is it some sort of placeholder program? Are the Pentagon and US Army leadership just plain incompetent or, perhaps, corrupt? Is the $227 million a gift to Canada, to a Canada-based company, for supporting the US war effort? Was it a gift to the British? Will it be to Australia when CGI is done with it?
At any rate, HTS Phase Zero, at least as far as anyone in the USA can tell, has not changed much from its predecessor. Poor decision making remains. For example, the HTS Phase Zero Pilot Program for NORTHCOM saw Teams visit local towns to experiment/question American citizens. Only later did someone apparently inform the program director that the practice might be highly controversial: the apparent extraction of intelligence from private citizens.
A number of sources have provided insights into HTS Phase Zero. Those are listed immediately below.
"There is nothing new to learn about indigenous cultures with respect to why they participate in the drug trade, and attempts to identify key drug operatives or even to engage them, would bring negative publicity from local governments, put those teams in extreme danger, and invite closer scrutiny from congressional oversight committees, not to mention serious ethical and legal implications.
"There is not a single credible academic organization or institution that approves of the Human Terrain System Phase Zero research methodologies. There is not a single [US] Brigade commander who provides any evidence of the effectiveness or use of the research provided by HTS teams. At any one time, at least half of all deployed HTS personnel are on leave, reducing the overall efficiency of each team by 20-50 percent. Not one HTS research product has been subjected to peer-review. They would do better with more linguists and regional or local Subject Matter Experts and HTS provides neither.
Hamilton got spooked last summer when she was informed that the interview training students were conducting in surrounding towns [in the USA] might be interpreted as collecting intelligence on American citizens. Hamilton pulled the plug on that part of training. The quick fix was to use contractors, volunteers, and HTS faculty to role-play people to give the students practice at conducting interviews. This was a disaster in too many ways to cite, but it was subsequently written into the CGI contract to provide up to nine part-time employees who would role-play Brigade staff officers (wearing ACU uniforms in violation of AR 670-1) and local citizens. Can you say "sampling error?" Of course this added to the cost of the contract, and there is no reliable evidence that the training conducted was effective or useful.
An internal report by HTS itself revealed that seven teams are generating about 90% of all the accepted reports....Hamilton directed that a slew of articles be generated for a Military Intelligence Bulletin [available at the Federation of American Scientists Secrecy News site], so that it would appear, that HTS is actually doing something.