“In 1949, L. Wilson Greene, Edgewood Arsenal’s scientific director, typed up a classified report, “Psychochemical Warfare: A New Concept of War,” that called for a search for compounds that would create the same debilitating mental side effects as nerve gas, but without the lethality. “Throughout recorded history, wars have been characterized by death, human misery, and the destruction of property; each major conflict being more catastrophic than the one preceding it,” Greene argued. “I am convinced that it is possible, by means of the techniques of psychochemical warfare, to conquer an enemy without the wholesale killing of his people or the mass destruction of his property.”
In its broad strokes, “Psychochemical Warfare” fit within the evolving ethos at Edgewood: better fighting through chemistry. The first commanding general of the Army’s Chemical Warfare Service had extolled the “effectiveness and humaneness” of gases: they killed quickly, and kept infrastructure intact. Psychochemical warfare certainly promised a form of conflict less deadly than clouds of sarin—even more humane, in that sense, perhaps. But Greene did not want to elevate consciousness; he wanted to debilitate, in ways that would inspire terror. As he put it, “The symptoms which are considered to be of value in strategic and tactical operations include the following: fits or seizures, dizziness, fear, panic, hysteria, hallucinations, migraine, delirium, extreme depression, notions of hopelessness, lack of initiative to do even simple things, suicidal mania.”
Greene drew up a list of chemicals to investigate, ranging from barbiturates to carbon monoxide, and he urged a deeper inquiry into the psychological effects of nerve gas. […]
In the mid-nineteen-fifties, psychochemical warfare was formally added to Edgewood’s clinical research, and approval was granted to recruit soldiers from around the country for the experiments, in a systematic effort called the Medical Research Volunteer Program. The Army assured Congress that the chemicals were “perfectly safe” and offered “a new vista of controlling people without any deaths”—even though early efforts to make weapons from mescaline and LSD were dropped, because the drugs were too unsafe or too unpredictable. […]
Edgewood began reviewing hundreds of chemicals, many provided by pharmaceutical companies. One officer remarked, “The characteristics we are looking for in these agents are in general exactly opposite to what the pharmaceutical firms want in drugs, that is the undesirable side effects.”
— Raffi Khatchadourian in “Operation Delirium: Inside the U.S. Military’s Chemical Weapon’s Tests” (New Yorker, 17 December 2012)
“PSYOPS have been used throughout history to influence attitudes and behaviours of people, leaders and key communicators. The dense and ubiquitous nature of today’s global information environment, coupled with NATO’s involvement in non-Article 5 Crisis Response Operations, have dramatically increased the demand and importance of effective PSYOPS. In today’s Information Age, NATO can expect to operate for an extended period of time in an area where sophisticated, indigenous media compete for influence over the perceptions of local audiences. The organisation, state, or entity more able to effectively influence the understanding of a crisis or conflict, especially managing the perceptions of particular target audiences, will likely be the most successful. PSYOPS are conducted to convey selected information and indicators to governments, organisations, groups and individuals, with the aim of influencing their emotions, attitudes, motives, perceptions, reasoning and ultimately their behaviour and decisions.”
(Excerpt from “Strategic Communications: How NATO Shapes and Manipulates Public Opinion“, a declassified document released on Public Intelligence)
A Californian corporation has been awarded a contract with United States Central Command (Centcom), which oversees US armed operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, to develop what is described as an “online persona management service” that will allow one US serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities based all over the world. […]
The Centcom contract stipulates that each fake online persona must have a convincing background, history and supporting details, and that up to 50 US-based controllers should be able to operate false identities from their workstations “without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries”. […]
Once developed, the software could allow US service personnel, working around the clock in one location, to respond to emerging online conversations with any number of co-ordinated messages, blogposts, chatroom posts and other interventions. Details of the contract suggest this location would be MacDill air force base near Tampa, Florida, home of US Special Operations Command.
Centcom’s contract requires for each controller the provision of one “virtual private server” located in the United States and others appearing to be outside the US to give the impression the fake personas are real people located in different parts of the world.
It also calls for “traffic mixing”, blending the persona controllers’ internet usage with the usage of people outside Centcom in a manner that must offer “excellent cover and powerful deniability”.’
(Source: Fielding, Nick & Cobain, Ian. “U.S. Military Creating Software to Manipulate Social Media“. Guardian, 17 March 2011)