Consult: Brian Snow


An Intelligence Consultation with Brian Snow

November 18, 2008

90-minute teleconference

Transcribed by Jean Maria Arrigo

Corrected by Brian Snow, February 20, 2009

Teleconference Participants:  Jean Maria Arrigo, Ray Bennett, Martha Davis, Jancis Long, Brian Snow

Note:  The transcript has been streamlined a bit.

Transcript of a Civilian Intelligence Consultation with Brian Snow on

Martha Davis’s “Recruiting Research Psychologists

for National Security Applications”

DAVIS: Hello, Martha Davis here.

LONG: Hello, Martha. I just read your piece up on the Casebook [website]. I think it’s very, very interesting, about the recruiting. And the questions, what is ethical in terms of this classified research.

DAVIS: Yes, I think it’s such a hornet’s nest. And I’m hoping that this person tonight should be very, very germane to this.

LONG: I hope so. Sounds like he really tried to get some ethics into the operations he was performing.

DAVIS: What did you read about him? Because I didn’t read anything on him.

LONG: Well, I read in the introduction to the conference call that he was a math and computer scientist at the National Security Agency, and he maintained that the actions of NSA should not put U.S. persons or their rights at risk.

SNOW: Brian Snow joining the call. It sounded like Martha was talking about one of my efforts?

DAVIS: Jancis was.

LONG: We were talking about the kind of net difficult issues that Martha brought up in her paper. And she was saying that she was really looking forward to hearing you tonight, and I said that it sounded as though you had tried to put ethics up front in the work you’d been doing in relation to NSA.

[Jean Maria Arrigo joins the call]

LONG: I had only just read Martha’s paper, so I was talking about how very interesting I thought that was, especially with its relationship to the international issues and things like that.

SNOW: In the indulgence to ethics that I was chasing, I’ve written not a paper, merely one page, with eleven sentences on it.  [Laughter.] 

I’ve been chairing a group for about five years now, trying to develop a draft code for the intelligence community of mission ethics.  [See Appendix.]  When I was  onboard as an NSA employee — when I was a senior — we had to take ethics every year.  It was required. 

ARRIGO:  Really!

SNOW:  Yes, but it was official Department of Defense ethics, which I call fiscal ethics:  do not hire your brother-in-law; do not —

DAVIS:  Oh, it’s like conflict of interest?

SNOW:  Yes.  How to keep other people from getting mad at you.  And But not one word was ever said in that official training about what you could or could not, should or should not, do when executing your mission.

DAVIS:  And the very work that one was doing — Oh, my gosh!

SNOW:  I had a group of ten people to start with.  It expanded to forty.  And now it’s sort of sunk back down to the original ten again.  We’re ready to start running around internal to the Intelligence Community to offer it for use. 

If they don’t like it, we may get more aggressive and go see if oversight bodies would like to ram it down their throats.If we cannot get traction there, we will consider notes to I.C. agency chiefs and oversight bodies. If that does not work, we will consider press releases on our work.


SNOW:  But other than that, we’re having fun.  [Laughter.]

DAVIS:  Did you say something about one page?  I didn’t hear that.

SNOW:  Yes, it’s one page with eleven sentences.

DAVIS:  That’s all it is?  This could be inspirational, Jean Maria.

SNOW:  Look, the Ten Commandments were short and fit on a page.  The [ACM?] ethics fit on one page.

DAVIS:  Not the American Psychological Association!  It runs on page after page, and it’s still unethical.

SNOW:  I know.  I have about ten sets of ethics from different bodies.  Those that, I think, are most useful are what I would call aspirational ethics.  They make you aspire to  do better.  They’re not detailed.  They’re just statements about how you ought to be behaving, whereas prescriptive ethics are closer to regulation, law, and enforceable.  They say, “Don’t do this.  If you do it, do it this way.”  To me, they’re far too detailed.  You don’t go there first, especially with people who haven’t had any ethics at all in the past.  You start with the aspirational stuff:  “Thou shalt not kill.”  The easy statements that can be made short and crisp and aren’t too terribly ambiguous.

The first principle of the ethics code that we’re working with is:  first do no harm to U.S. citizens or to their rights under the Constitution.

DAVIS:  That’s the number one?

SNOW:  Yes.  It’s a short sentence.  All the sentences are short.

ARRIGO:  But very pithy.

Okay, folks, I am not getting Ray Bennett [by telephone], and I know that Bryant Welch cannot be on the call.  So I think we should go ahead and officially begin — we’ve already unofficially begun.  We usually begin with each person giving a brief introduction so we can associate each voice with background.  Everybody knows me.  So let’s start with Brian and then go to Martha, whose case narrative it is, and the Jancis.  When Ray comes on — and I trust that he will — Ray is a veteran army interrogator who retired a couple of years ago, a senior warrant officer interrogator, who is working very closely with us.  I will transcribe the session, and he will condense it considerably and anonymize it—that’s been our procedure — and send it back to you, of course, for your review before we do anything with it.  Okay?

SNOW:  Yes.

ARRIGO:  So why don’t you start by introducing yourself, Brian?

SNOW:.  Okay.  My name is Brian Snow.  (And as others chime in throughout the afternoon, please, each time you speak at least say your first name because my ear is not always good at picking up people by voice only.) 

I taught mathematics and computer science at Ohio University in the late ‘sixties, early ‘seventies.  From there I went to the National Security Agency in 1971, retired in 2006.  While I was there, I worked primarily on the White Hat side, designing cryptographic and communication systems to protect our soldiers in the field.  I was responsible for worked on some nuclear command and control codes that are still in the field and the Minute Man upgrade in the Midwest, and did some other stuff.  Did a lot of systems engineering work, and much of it I cannot talk about, but it was fun.

In my last three assignments I was something called a Technical Director, which is the equivalent of a chief scientist in the commercial world, for major corporate components.  And one of the places was the Information Assurance Directorate, which, by mission description at least, is one half of the agency.  Half of the agency goes around reading traffic around the world to help our military and political leaders.  The other half, the half I was associated with, makes darn sure that nobody else can do to us what we do to them, protecting the communications for our troops and political leaders.  So that’s my brief —

DAVIS:  Giant protections, you mean, of the security operations on the systems.

SNOW:  Yes.  And for the State Department, the Executive Branch, anybody in the government that needs secure communications.  That’s me.

DAVIS:  Okay.  Martha Davis.  I’m a psychologist.  I had a clinical practice, which I’m retired from now.   But my main involvement in this is because of research, which for forty years, but in the last fifteen, forensic topics, particularly deception cues in criminal confessions.  So this experience, both in the research and in the consulting that I did with detectives, brought me to astonishment when I found out about the American Psychological Associations’s policy of enthusiastically endorsing psychologists in detainee interrogations.  I’ve been working with a group that’s been protesting that, and just recently I’ve finished a documentary called Interrogation Psychologists. That’s on the internet.

SNOW:  By the way, could we get each others’ e-mail addresses, or, Jean Maria, would you send out a note later—

ARRIGO:  I will be glad to —

SNOW:  So we can pass on documents.  I would love to have the URL for the documents.

[General agreement for this proposal.]

ARRIGO:  Go ahead, Jancis.

LONG  I’m Jancis Long.  I’m a clinical psychologist.  I’m currently President of Psychologists for Social Responsibility.  I’m very interested in ethical issues in psychology, also in the interface of social and psychological events, and also in the comparison of different nations’ views of whatever issues we’re dealing with, how the view is different when you sit in a different country, as well as when you sit in a different place within that country.

ARRIGO:  Ideally, we would close this call after an hour and a quarter.  After an hour I’ll stop us all and make sure everybody has an opportunity for a last question or comment, if there’s anything we’ve been holding back. 

Brian, I guess you had an opportunity to read the consult —

SNOW:  Both [Martha Davis’s] four-page case study and the boiled-down, eighteen pages on the previous call.

ARRIGO:  Actually, we hadn’t boiled that down very much [then].  The anonymization hasn’t happened yet, so it’s only out to you unofficially. 

I think the general idea, with all this mess psychologists have gotten into, is that — although everybody else is interested in what the psychologist does when he’s two minutes away from the torture of the interrogatee — what we think is that once people get to that point they have very few degrees of freedom of action.  What we are trying to look at is how people come to get involved in systems.  

So Martha’s case starts us off at the beginning of that.  And our previous consultant got us a little bit further into it.  But what we would really like to understand from you, if we can, it what it looks like from the inside, to people who would be contracting with or recruiting academic psychologists to do research.  Well, I guess you wouldn’t be working with psychologists.

SNOW:  I can give you a few brief phrases on that, because we did do a lot of contracting, getting people to build stuff for us.  And I did read the eighteen-page wonder.  I can give a little feel for that that makes it seem a little less venal, but still you have to watch it.  Let me do that first.

When we would go out on contract for something — I’m not sure you’re aware, but there are different flavors of government money.  There’s money that can be spent on far out, new ideas and research, which is primarily [for] graduate students and professors in academia, exercising their minds.  That’s called “6.1 money.”  (I forget how many points there are on the scale).  There are at least three:  6.1, 6.2, 6.3.  And sometimes they refine it.  But the 6.1 money is specifically used just to elicit new ideas:  “What would you like to convince us is fun to think about and work on?”  That’s sort of the grant end of the business, if you will, that you were talking about.

6.2 is research dollars, which is spent on —  The 6.1 money, if you will, it’s all research and development, but that’s the big R, little d.  The phase two, 6.2 dollars, are spent on what I would call little r, big D.  You’ve got a pretty good idea of what you want, but you want to see if it has legs.  Can you get something close to implementation or a beta implementation of it?  And so you fund that with 6.2 dollars.  This is independent of what you’re trying to do.  If you’re trying to support anything new — If it’s really new, nobody’s ever heard of it, you’ve got to get it first, that’s 6.1 money.  If most people are somewhat aware of it but it’s unstructured and not really doing anything, you spend more money to make it grow up.  That’s 6.2 dollars.

Then the 6.3 dollars are, in essence, the pre-commercial build, where all you’re doing is wringing out the fine nits and really revising it and making it, in some sense, marketable.  Or, in military terminology, useable.

DAVIS:  Or would you say operational?

SNOW:  Yes, to fit more with the theme of your previous paper.

So, in some sense, they’re following standard practices even for agencies that never have anything classified at all.  It’s just the way the stuff matures through the government funding pipe.  And it does look more and more like, at the beginning, “just free wheel for us, you know, impress us with your brilliance.”  I spent some money like that when I was in academia and had it.  That’s sort of fun to do.  You get to create the stuff yourself and just apply it.—

BENNETT:  Ray Bennett here.  Sorry for my tardiness.

ARRIGO:  Good, we’re glad you’re here, Ray.  Why don’t you say a word to introduce yourself, and then we will continue.

BENNETT:  Okay.  I’m Ray Bennett.  I’m a retired army interrogator.  Retired two years ago.  And I’m involved in this as the subject-matter expert on interrogation.

ARRIGO:  Brian is describing to us a series of types of government funding.

SNOW:  Ray may be familiar with this:  the 6.1, 6.2, 6.3 dollars?  The early research, the big R, little d funds, then the little r, big D funds to go through development of what appears to be a good idea, where there’s more structure around it.  And then the preproduction bill where there’s polishing and research before it’s sent off to procurement, where they go buy it on literal contract, where they describe line-by-line how you’ll build it and how you’ll make it work.  The research end of it goes through three phases.  I’m showing them that it could map to some extent to the kind of discussion that Martha was having about the kind of stuff that she saw at the APA, and the first conference that she attended that appeared to be very open—

DAVIS:  You mean the 6.1 was the first conference, and you think the second conference with Rand was more 6.2?

SNOW:  Probably.  It could be either way.

DAVIS:  Actually, I think there were mixes of it.  There was some stuff that was ready for market that they were trying to sell the DoD [Department of Defense] that would be 6.3.  There was 6.2 stuff, and there was 6.1, in a couple of cases, with the functional MRI research.

SNOW:  Yes.  These things are typically blended.  The devil is always in the details, when you get down to it.  There’s usually lingering levels of 6.1 work to be done as you ramp up on the 6.2 dollars, etc. 

But there are buckets of money that are available for various things, and you have to treat the money different ways depending on what stage you’re at.  And it does goes through the early exploration, to the more shaded “this is how we want you to go,” to the final “this is the color we want you to paint it,” as it gets more and more detailed on exactly what the requirement was.  The first requirement was simply, “Think good thoughts.”  The second requirement is, “In this area of thought, please make it look useable.”  And the phase three is, “Give me something that will do it that I can actually use to do it.”  That sort of nonsense.

ARRIGO:  What are the proportions of money assigned to each of these three?

SNOW:  It varies by field and by organization.  Some organizations tend to be research-y in the extreme and are always spending at the 6.1 end of it.  And others are in very mature fields where there’s not that much legroom for new stuff and they’re just polishing the stuff that’s lying around.

ARRIGO:  Where would Homeland Security be, would you guess?

DAVIS:  I actually saw that when I was looking at the funding.  They actually distinguished it, now that you formulated it.  There was a lot of 6.2 stuff, and 6.1 in the early years, post 9-11.  

SNOW:  Yes.

DAVIS:  But definitely there appears to be more 6.2 —

SNOW:  As the organization or the need matures, it always drifts toward 6.3 and then to procurement dollars after that, when they have useable stuff they can buy from a vendor who knows how to build it.  So this is a natural, organic progression, having nothing to do with classification.  It’s just the way things work in the government, and, in some sense, in real life.

So it’s not necessarily nefarious, but when [ inaudible] classification is an issue, it gets a little more vague.  And also motivation.  A kitchen knife is a wonderful thing to have.  A pacemaker is a wonderful thing to have; it keeps people alive.  Until you realize that as they keep optimizing them they make it easy for the doctor to tune your up where you don’t have to come in and he doesn’t have to leave his office because he can dial in over the internet to a wireless connection in your home, check how your pacemaker’s been working without cutting you open — it’s a radio frequency signal sent into your chest,  to tune you up.  Now the only drawback to that is, if you happen to have an enemy that hates your guts, all he has to do is listen to that communication path, sitting in a car out front, get the ID [identification] number for your device — and the way they’re designed the ID is part of the transmission, because doctors don’t have a malicious bone in their bodies and don’t think that way — he’ll dial in using the doctor’s ID and the ID of your device, tune it up, put you in fibrillation mode, and kill you.  I’ve probably given you a new example of how —

DAVIS:  Is that a 6.1 example or a 6.3?  [laughing]

SNOW:  No, that’s operational.  It’s already been built.  Of course, they did not build it as a killing device.  It was built, and somebody with malice of aforethought thought this would be wonderful.  “We can do that.”

You have to judge on the intent of the user of the technology.  The technology is almost always neutral.  It can be used for good or bad, or else it’s useless and can’t be used for anything.  There’s a lot of that, too.  It was just a bad idea and shouldn’t have been built to begin with.  Like lead boats; they sink.  And so on, like that.  So you really do have to worry more about the rationale or reason that somebody is doing something rather than the specifics of what it is that they are doing.

The type of work that you were doing for detection of [pauses] —

DAVIS:  Detection of stress and deception cues in criminal confessions —

SNOW:  Yes, deception detection.  It had wonderful values, in many ways.  As you first started with detectives who are good guys trying to fight crime and see if they can elicit information to point them better in how to do the investigations, you know, where to aim the warrants, in what area, so they can go get some stuff that’s good.  But they still use a warrant rather than a rubber hose.  And so on.  This can be used for good stuff. 

And then you find that people can use that later for other, more nefarious purposes in trying to detect what might be viewed as an innocent deception on the part of someone, of something they’re ashamed of that could be turned against them later to turn them into a spy against their country, rather than embarrass them.  The CIA could use such technology to determine what is embarrassing to someone to find leverage over them, for a purpose which, from their own ethic and viewpoint, they are doing an honorable thing.  They are protecting the nation against bad people.  And this guy is a good guy living in a bad nation who needs to be shown the truth, the way, and the light, to have it be a wonderful thing if he’d help us good guys to get those bad guys ruining his country.  He’s not a spy.  He’s not a bad guy.  He’s doing something virtuous.  So you have to pay attention to the psychological games that are used in order to get people to cooperate with you.  I’ve had good friends in the CIA, and I found it interesting that one of the better elicitors of support — I forget the formal terminology they use for it; you probably know it better than I do —

DAVIS:  You mean recruiting —

SNOW:  Yes, a recruitment guy. 

He was a very good recruiter, but he felt a very strong code of ethics on his own part that once they turned them against their own nation and friends, eventually he’d have to pull them out and resettle them in the United States, and he was their friend for life.  He’d go to the weddings of their children.  He’d go to the funerals of their parents.  Even after he retired, he still maintained social contact with those that he had messed up in their earlier lives, because he felt it was his duty.

Now you could say that is a twisted ethic or that is an honorable ethic.  You know, these things all depend on what bucket you’re sitting in and thinking this stuff was honorable or not.  But at least he had his own sense of honor and what he owed to those that he had messed up at some point when they were already in a bad way, to his perception.

DAVIS:  But I’m amazed that he would have the power to arrange their extradition.  I would think that some of these agents don’t have that power.

SNOW:  No, they don’t.  The agents don’t.  But they can define the value of the asset. And someone above them in the chain of command makes the decision that it’s worthwhile to go the effort to extract them and provide them safety.

ARRIGO:  This is Jean Maria.  I want to think about a similar case, only applied to scientists, because this is something that happened to me. 

If, on the inside, they identify a scientist whose work they would like to, say, draw into 6.1 here, but unlike our previous consultant who actually made an application [for funding], when someone is just identified whose work could be of interest and invitations are made, sort of covertly or subtly, where does that fit into they this? 

SNOW:  Like I was talking about before, that all depends on the intent of the person setting it up.  The person being elicited can be elicited in such a way that it sounds wonderful and exactly what he wants to work on.  And there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with this because it’s often dual-use technology.  It’s got good uses as well as bad.  He may not be aware, to his perception.  Now to the guy funding it, because he wants to use it for intelligence purposes elsewhere, he may look very bad to somebody under their filters, but not to himself:  he’s doing good work for the nation.

DAVIS:  Right.

SNOW:  Otherwise, he wouldn’t be doing it.  Most people are not venal.  They may be misled.  They may have other problems.  But they aren’t truly evil at their core.  They try to do, by their own lights or those around them, what they think is good.  And that gets a little grim at times.

ARRIGO:  Looking at Martha’s case or what happened to me, looking at Martha’s case, there would seem to be — I don’t know if we want to use as big a word as “deception,” but certainly “maneuvering” — For instance, if you’re going to have two conferences in a row, it’s generally inconvenient for people, if they pack for a two-day trip, to then suddenly stay a third day.  Events that were planned as well as this one certainly couldn’t have overlooked that, right? 

SNOW:  Is this deception?  This could be a way of running things normally, just to — I’m not trying to defend them, but I’m also trying to state that it doesn’t have to be as consciously venal and, you know, “We’re going to mislead these people.  If only they were given honest statements each time:  “This is what the first conference is about,” and the second one they talked with some people at Rand, they named the place, they did some other things, so you could see that in some sense you were getting a little closer to the fire —

DAVIS:  Right, clearly—

SNOW:  in your own sense and judgment each time.

DAVIS:  And by the way, Jean Maria, I’m not sure that everybody was given the short notice I was.  I had the distinct feeling that they weren’t given the short notice.  I may have been a last-minute addition.  So it’s not like they planned it that way.  And I had no illusions, of course.  I just assumed it was CIA.

What I think is more at issue is that you were saying it depends on the intent and how it’s used.  In the psychologists’ traditional ethics code, you are not supposed to prepare an assessment that you don’t know how it’s going to be used.  You do something and you assume, okay, it’s going to be used for this.

SNOW:  Is it explicitly stated that way? 

DAVIS:  I believe it’s pretty explicit.

SNOW:  I ask because it’s so hard to enforce even in a benign situation.

DAVIS:  It is.  It is.  But you’re supposed to have a good faith, “Well, I’m not just throwing this out into the ether.  This is going for this purpose.  And if I give something that’s confidential, I’m giving it to people who I understand are going to be professional and not abuse it, and I have agreements with....”  There’s a whole set of more transparent rules about what’s going to come of it.   But each of these 6.1, 6.2, 6.3 can be positively or negatively used.  My problem is that my experience with the government — and I have some experience with it — is (a) they have not a clue how it’s going to be used and (b) I’m beginning to feel, frankly, a 75% chance that it’s going to be misused.

SNOW:  Maybe I’m more of a pragmatist.  I’m not sure if I can tell how things will will  be used.  I can make pretty good guesses on the ways that it could be.  You know, you can take a look and use your own experience and your feeling and understanding of human nature.  Can this be used as a sword as well as a steak knife?  That sort of stuff.  And then make your determination:  who is paying me?  Is this a guy that normally builds swords or is this a guy that normally builds steak knives and tries to improve them.  So that you can walk in with the eyes, if not wide open, at least you have a feel or can develop a feel.  And many people are somewhat naive about it.

I have to jokingly tell you a story from mathematics.  [Gottfried Harold] Hardy [b. 1877], who invented something called quaternions.  And he was the type of mathematician who thought that mathematics ought to be pursued solely for the beauty of it in the mind.  And he always thought it was defiling mathematics to find a use for it.  Now someone did not fully understand his stance. He was an old man. He was near death anyway.  And someone ran into his bedroom and said, “Sir, you’ll be so happy.  They just found a use for quaternions!”  Hardy responded “Damn!”  And then he died.  [Laughter.]

DAVIS:  Is this apocryphal?

SNOW:  No, no, no.  Read it.  It’s history.  The words weren’t quite the same.  But he was told near to his death and was very upset, and he died shortly thereafter.... It might have been unrelated.

LONG  I would like to add, I’ve been a psychologist in a court system, and a lot of clinical work.  And I do think that anything that you write down in a system, you don’t know exactly how it’s going to be used, by lawyers, for example, in a court system.  Or by other practitioners who read your report of the patient and may have an entirely different view than you do about how one should treat this.  I’m kind of supporting Brian here in saying you can never know exactly how it’s going to be used.

SNOW:  You can protect yourself a little bit as you’re writing it up, and I’m sure that you did, by writing it in somewhat of a fuller context than might otherwise be merited.  If you thought it could be distorted or used in an inappropriate way, you can put enough ramifying language around it to make clear what your intent was for its use and purpose.

LONG  I think one does.

SNOW:  Your work can always be prostituted no matter how well you write it.  But you keep your own soul clear as to why you were playing in the game at all.

ARRIGO:  There’s another element here, Brian, that we need your understanding on.  It wasn’t just as though Martha was invited in by Rand and the CIA.  It was actually the APA that had arranged this.  So this gets back to your steak knives and swords example.  We think that the APA is making steak knives, right?  So they are the ones who set this up with a sword manufacturer and invite —

SNOW:  Let me try a gedanken [thought] experiment.  Is it possible that the people sitting on the APA Board, could they feel that they could use some of the CIA money to build some good steak knives, and they felt that the CIA would be too damn clumsy and could not successfully turn it into a sword?  “So we’ll take their money and we’ll run, and we’ll get some good funding for this effort done, and we’re not going to be too scared about what they do because they’re probably not as clever and bright as we are and won’t get there fast enough.”

ARRIGO:  Uhh, actually, no.  What they’re doing is lobbying to Homeland Security.  They’re lobbying directly to the military.

SNOW:  Because it’s a pot of money.

DAVIS:  Yes, that’s right.

SNOW:  Money is neutral.  And once you have it in your hand, you use it for what you can.

DAVIS:  We’re trying to figure out their motives, but that’s a somewhat risky thing to do.  In fact, they hoped against hope that it was not being abused.  But they signed up to endorse something with psychologists and were very interested in people who had skills like some of my colleagues and I had.  They signed up for that on the pretext, on the pious hope, or the assumption, but certainly the public statement thereof that what the psychologists were going to be doing in Guantanamo, in these places, which were intelligence gathering operations, what they were going to be doing was going to be steak knives.  It was going to be protecting, making sure it’s effective, and —

SNOW:  Did you really get the feeling from them in any way that these effective techniques were less painful and disturbing for the public —

DAVIS:  that are in fact ethical and safe.  They supported this policy against all other professions, by the way, who did not subscribe to this, and defended it tooth-and-nail.  As the information came in, that the psychologists were, in fact, devising the enhanced interrogation techniques and, in fact, were not even trained to do the good stuff, the American Psychological Association simply denied it.  They just simple said, “Those are bad apples,” or whatever.  So what you have is them sort of making a Faustian deal.  They seemed to have hoped against hope, they have no investment in being involved with torture, they surely don’t want it —

SNOW:  Sure they do.  It’s a possible money source.

DAVIS:  No.  They hoped it was what they thought it should be.  I would say that they were fooling themselves.  They were being us.

SNOW:  And those that were funding them may have been fooling themselves, too, and being used by others or even being used by themselves in some twisted way.

DAVIS:  Right, and they’re being a cover.  They’re allowing themselves, like Faust, to be used as a cover in exchange for the hegemony and the money.

SNOW:  I will agree with you.  I don’t like the word “cover.” It should be transparent.  Whatever they know of the situation should be made fully known to those they try to seduce into helping them.  If there’s some portion that they feel they cannot reveal because it might be damaging to their effort to recruit, that’s an even greater reason for revealing it.

DAVIS:  Is that on your list —

SNOW:  That’s a personal ethic point for me.  That is not —

DAVIS:  Is that on your list of ten —

SNOW:  Not explicitly.  We do have transparency.  We do want full accountability.  Any action must be assigned a specific human actor who recommended it, so we know who to go fire later if it backfires or is determined to have been a wrong thing. 

DAVIS:  So you do feel — There are a number of psychologists who are in hot water now because their research was used for the enhanced interrogations.  And if they happened to have talked with — and then it becomes a question, well, how much did they talk and how much did they know and how much were they actually in cahoots.  But they’re in hot water —

SNOW:  Were they in league with or were they used by?

DAVIS:  That’s right.  Some people say they were in league, and some people say, no, they were just sharing knowledge, it’s open-source knowledge, everybody’s got a right to get it —

SNOW:  The more they polish the cover stories, the more likely they were being nefarious about it all.  If they were clumsy, then it shows a little bit and makes them look guilty, and let’s go hang them.

DAVIS:  Right. And they are getting hanged.

LONG  But not by the military.  They’re getting hanged by psychologists. 

SNOW:  In line with my previous story about the guy trying to be ethical about those that he corrupted, is the military making job offers to all of these people, that “you can come put on a uniform and be a military psychologist and give you a nice long career”?

DAVIS:  It doesn’t appear to be that way.  What it appears to be is, “Let’s meet at a conference, and we just want to hear from you as a one-time consultant, just lecturing on this,” and then —

ARRIGO:  How did it work with Mitchell and Jessen?  Weren’t they retired military psychologists, and then set up a contracting firm that contracted out to the CIA?

DAVIS:  Yes, but I think they were more in with the CIA for so long that I don’t even really think of them as quite separate.  I think they were actually operatives for a while, and then they had their firm, or something.  These contracting things are sort of a minor distinction, aren’t they?  They were essentially working for them so much.

SNOW:  As well as being abused and possibly hung out, how many of them — I don’t mean to be cruel about it — are in the category of — I won’t say they are not ethical but it’s simply not on their horizon to think that way?  They have a concept, an idea, something that they’ve researched that they enjoy, that’s their baby, they like it, they want to see it used.  Here’s an opportunity to have it used.  “Isn’t that wonderful?”  So they become fully compliant, not in the consequences of the action but merely because they’re baby is being used.  And they get sucked in by the pleasure of the technology, and they never reach a plane of analysis where they think about consequence.

DAVIS:  I think that there’s a number on the scale that we’re vaguely outlining here.  It sounds like a kind of five-point scale here.  I think there are a number of people who are in the three and four range.  And I think there’s some like [Canadian neuropsychologist Donald O.] Hebb [1904-1985] who are, historically, of great controversy — this is the fellow who did the research on isolation and sensory deprivation —

SNOW:  Where do you put [German Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels [1897-1945] and [German SS officer and physician] Joseph Mengele [1911-1979]?

DAVIS:  Oooh!  Well, they’re at seven or eight [on her five-point scale].  No, we’re not there.  Actually, we put Mitchell and Jessen over at six to seven.  They get the Mengele Award for this year for psychologists.

SNOW:  Is there such a thing, or are you having fun with language?

DAVIS:  No, people are wishing they could make such an award.  They have threatened to make such an award.

SNOW:  Well, there’s the Darwin Award out there.  You could make them an unofficial — within the profession, just as a way of heaping humiliation upon one’s head.

DAVIS:  If you start to talk this way, the organization gets so up in arms that you’re being unprofessional and not serious, so you don’t have any voice anymore.

BENNETT:  In political discourse, whoever mentions Hitler first loses.  [Laughter.]

SNOW:  I mentioned his henchmen, not him.  [Laughter.]

ARRIGO:  I want to go back to the issue of government funding and the professional associations, whether you know anything about that, Brian, because that’s what’s hard for us here, the roles of our professional association.  For example, Mitchell and Jessen, that Martha was just talking about, they were giving Continuing Education courses with official Continuing Education Credit, accredited by the APA, until not very long ago.  These things are all tangled up with our professional association.

SNOW:  This comes back to Martha’s point though that a key tenet of the ethics for your profession was being aware of the intent of the work, as opposed to just the nature of the work, what you ought to do.  And that really does surprise me as a mathematician.  And I work with engineers and computer scientists, and most of them have no hope of knowing the true intent of the technologies they work on.  They work on them in small little pieces.  And the equations we come up with; are they going to be used to launch bombs or to dig ditches?  You don’t know, necessarily.  It’s just good mathematics, and it’s useable.  It’s useful stuff, and others sort it out.  So, much of the burden you’re carrying — and I mean this gently — you may have the right way and the rest of us need to grow up to that level — but you’re carrying a fairly heavy burden when you try to assess intent as well as efficacy.

DAVIS:  Right.

Can I give another example, Jean Maria?  There is another work, which I believe is DoD [Department of Defense] - funded and part of it quasi-classified on what’s called non-invasive brain stimulation, which is discussed explicitly for helping to make a person who is under interrogation be more amenable to interrogation.  Now I read about this isn a journal issue of Bioethics.

SNOW:  Have you heard about something called MKULTRA?

DAVIS:  Absolutely!  This is the modern version.

SNOW:  The grandchild, yes.

DAVIS:  The grandchild of it.  Right.  And this is going on now, and it’s being discussed in the context of 9-11.  They kept that [MKULTRA] pretty quiet.  This is being discussed as “but, of course,” like it’s legitimate.  No, there is a certain recognition that is has complicated ethical implications.

SNOW:  When you’re playing with the human mind and intentions and passions it’s tough.  I had a similar problem.  I had a neighbor who knew where I worked.  Typically we keep that kind of quiet, to your own staff.  But I was a known public face for NSA.  I was out giving speeches and stuff.  After 9-11 she came up to me and said:  “Brian, I don’t care.  Take my liberties.  Just keep me safe.”  And I looked at her and said: “You don’t know what you’re asking for.  Let me ask you a question.  When you get on an airplane today, they nail the cockpit shut.  Do you feel any safer?  Not that it’s a perfect solution, but at least some avenue for taking control of the airplane has been removed from the bad guy.”  And she said, “Yes.”  I said: “Good.  Remember that.  Now were your liberties impacted in any way at all?”  And she says, “No.”  I say: “Right.  But if the pilot was, it was a term of employment.  He didn’t have to take the job.  But you have the same liberties as you did before.  So get it out of your mind that there’s a trade-off between liberty and safety.  You don’t have to surrender one to get the other.”  It is a [??? 44:47] trade-off for society to do.  And if you go to law enforcement or to intelligence, the only trade that we can take is in that dimension. 

If Yyou go to your political leaders and ask them to make the nation a more appealing nation on the world stage, and perform better there, a lot of pressure is taken off of us, and you didn’t lose any liberty at all.  There are other dimensions you can play in to reduce the fear of threat from the rest of the world.  Too many people get trapped running back and forth on a straight line or in a very narrow choice of options, and they need to open up mentally to other options.  They will feel freer and less threatened if they feel they have other choices than going places they don’t want to go.  Many people get trapped in an either-or situation, and it almost never is.

LONG  That’s one of the key pieces when people argue for torture.  They say, “Well, would you rather have the person tortured or the danger of the bomb going off?” when those aren’t the questions to be argued.

SNOW:  Yes, and [unintelligible 46:45] when we should be getting to the point where the guy never wanted to plant the bomb to begin with.  Spend more money on childhood education so he does not become a sociopath.  And of course you never get rid of all of them, but you can mitigate, you can reduce the number of.

ARRIGO:  I want to get back to the professional associations again.  One worry that some of us have is not that the military or defense establishment went out and snookered psychologists, like Martha, but that the bigger problem might be that the psychologists snookered the defense establishment.  We sent our brilliant funders [fundraisers] into Congress, into the CIA, and all and said: “You must have us.  You need us.”

SNOW:  They oversold it.

ARRIGO:  Yes, they oversold it.  The APA lobbies tremendously.  That task force I was part of, to formulate APA policy — I think I mentioned it to you — we had four people who were doing lobbying for the APA, sitting in on it.  They were never disclosed.  And I think that gives you the idea that they’re really, really interested in accommodating defense policy in order to get these contracts.  We’re not exactly sure where they go to.  But there are millions and millions of dollars of activity up there.

SNOW:  The thing that troubles me as being unethical is not necessarily lobbying for the contracts and that sort of stuff but the lack of transparency.

DAVIS:  That’s right!

SNOW:  That it wasn’t clear, so that other people could make their own independent judgment —

DAVIS:  Exactly.  That is rampant.  That is such a critical problem.  We don’t know really.  We’re getting inklings about what’s being done and who’s doing it, but there’s so much one finds out three years later that they knew three years before.  So there’s no trust left.  And it’s spreading certainly to the intelligence community.  I mean, how do you trust the intelligence community?  [49:12]

SNOW:  There are no allies.  There are only targets.

ARRIGO:  Brian, do you ever work through professional associations or see how that might go?

SNOW:  As a mathematician, yes, but we were a fairly benign bunch at the time I was involved.

ARRIGO:  I meant when you were a Technical Director, if you would be recruiting outside scientists, would you ever have any contact with their professional associations?

SNOW:  No.  There’s always face-to-face, one-on-one seduction, trying to make them think it would be fun to work for us.  We’ve got nice toys.

ARRIGO:  Well, you yourself were in academia and you went into intelligence.  Could you say how that happened?

SNOW:  That’s an interesting story.  I was looking to change positions from one school to another and went to something jokingly called the mathematics meat market, as part of the annual meeting of the AMS, (American Mathematical Society).  There was a room full of tables.  One wall was covered by advertisements from colleges that wanted to hire people.  The other wall was covered with resumès of individuals who wanted work.  And the aspirants looking for jobs would stand at the wall making a list of the places they wanted to interview, and the schools looking for bodies would go read the resumès and make lists of the people they wanted to talk to.  Then each party gave their lists of the people they wanted to talk to the people who ran the event, who fed it all into a computer that did an optimization, trying to line up as many people as they could with those that they wanted to talk to and issued dance cards.  Then you went back the next day and you had eight interviews, four in the morning and four in the afternoon, if you wanted them.

Now I only asked to talk to five schools.  I got my dance card back, I had six dates.  One of them was with NSA.  I’d never heard of the place.  But I sat down and listened to them and talked.  They said:  “The school will call you back and you’ll have a job offer within two months.  It takes us longer, and it will be four- to six-months and you have to fill out this three-inch stack of paper for us, but I think you’d like the work.”  I said:  “Good.  Tell me about the work.”  He said, “I can’t.”  [Laughter.]—I’m cartooning it, clearly.  You should have caught on by now to that. — But I did apply to the agency, and I did apply to some of the other schools, and I also applied to Honeywell Computer Corporation, because I was helping run the computer department as well, I helped build it at Ohio University in the ‘sixties.  Honeywell made me a job offer, and I accepted.  It was two weeks before I was to go to Honeywell.  And I kept calling back saying, “I want to work in the compiler building bunch.”  And they kept saying, “We want you to start in sales,” because I took myself through college as a salesman, as well.  And they liked my ability in that area.  And I kept saying, “No, I want to go be a techie,” and they kept saying, “No, we want you to start in sales.”  And then I got a job offer from the agency.  And they said: “You can have your choice of two of the top tech slots we have in the agency.  Come on in.”  So I called Honeywell back and said, “I really want tech.”  And they said, “Nope, sales.”  And I said, “Nope, I’m not coming.”  And I went to NSA instead.  Probably too long a story, but that’s how it worked.

LONG  Did they give you an idea that you could do a lot of different things, or were they just keeping it completely quiet?

SNOW:  As far as the nature of the work I would be doing, the types of mathematics, the amount of resource I’d have to support the work, that sort of stuff, they were very open.  What was actually used to accomplish what for the nation, that was classified.

DAVIS:  So at that time you were consonant with that.  In other words, you said, “I’m going to work for them and it’s going to be for national security and that’s the way it should be used.”

SNOW:  Well, and they described the two missions.  One mission was supposed to go around and get other people’s secrets from them.  And one mission was supposed to defend us from having our secrets stolen.  I liked that “white hat” role, and they let me work in that.  That was my choice, and they felt they could get good use of me doing that, and I did. 

I often had arguments with the guys on the other side.  In order to get data from around the world, they might want to do something that would make it more difficult to provide protection for the US citizen.  And so we would have arguments internally as to which way would we go.  I told myself that I was effective in that role.

ARRIGO:  Now going back to this meeting, this was an example of the intelligence system using a academic association.  Would it ever happen that colleges that you hadn’t asked to see would put you on their dance card, so to speak?  Could that have happened also? 

SNOW:  Yes.

ARRIGO:  Okay, so it’s an open process.

SNOW:  Yes.  If I ask to see five schools and none of them wants to see me — they’ve asked for other people — I might get a thin card.  They first go through and try to find mutual matches.  “This school wants that guy.  That guy wants that school.  By God, let them talk.”  Then, of course, when all those are assigned, you’ve got about 20% of the assignments still hanging open.  And they say:  “By his range of choices he wants Eastern schools, and here are some Eastern schools he did not ask for, but they’re looking for bodies.  Let toss him into those.”  So it’s to maximize the number of interviews he gets.  They had a very complex process for running the thing.

DAVIS:  You used “white hat” and “black hat.”  “Black hat” is the black arts, the clandestine operations — is that what you mean?

SNOW:  Yes.  The language is pejorative, you’re right.

DAVIS:  It seems to me that one of the things we’re coming up against is that these ethical quandaries are much more rampant in some ways, although I do appreciate the invasions of privacy and surveillance.  But the really messy things that we’re talking about in some cases are “black hat” things, right?  They’re using machines on people to detect deception or taking interrogations in, literally, black sites where’s it’s all clandestine.

SNOW:  The majority of the population would agree with you in this characterization.  But those people working in the “black hat” areas — even though they will call themselves black hat because everybody else does — their own feeling toward the work they do is, at best, gray.

DAVIS:  Yes.

ARRIGO:  So they’re not cynical?

SNOW:  Well, there’s always some percentage that are.  But most of them are highly motivated, and they’re trying to do the best for the nation and think that’s the best way to do it.  “We’ll break a few heads.  We’ll break a few thumbs.  We’ll get the data quicker.  We’ll save our troops.”  And they feel, if not proud about it, they have no qualms whatsoever, especially if they ever get the justification that it actually worked once.

DAVIS:  Right.

SNOW:  Never mind that it has been shown time and time again — I think Ray’s probably talked with you about it — that on average, over all interrogations, it sucks.

Ray can correct me if I’m wrong, but the concern with this torture stuff, in particular, is, if you’re very good at it and you think that that guy knows something, you will eventually get him to tell you exactly what you want him to tell you.


SNOW:  And it may have no relationship to the truth whatsoever.  So it’s really a distorting process.  It is not a good way to get data that can be validated.  You’ve corrupted the soil if you’re looking for any clues with your more subtle deception-noting methodologies where you can map a course of questions that heel closer in and make the guy squirm a bit more, but you don’t have to break his thumbs to do it.  [Pause.]

ARRIGO:  Do you have any sense about what a proper funding relationship would be between security agencies and the American Psychological Association?

SNOW: First, there needs to be a fairly clear sense of what is independent of the agencies and the Association, in the American culture what is legal under law and what we feel the American soul or conscience ought to be supporting.  If that were more clearly enunciated, that would make life a little easier on these issues.  Because all you would need to do after that is to say:  “Any job offer made or any discussion on how we’re going to spend money must be transparent and evaluated against these value systems.”  If the value system supports it, go for it.  If it doesn’t, you’re going to have trouble getting people to sign up for it.  You can still try, if you wish, as long as you’re open, as long as you’re not breaking the law, just breaking values or ethics.  But you’ll have less success.  Fewer people will be responsive.  And pragmatically, in a real-world situation, I don’t think you’re going to get much better than that. 

But the openness is key, that people know what they’re being elicited for, and the people who are talking to you are very honest about the range of the activity and how it maps against current values, as espoused officially by some document somewhere.

ARRIGO:  Well, we’ve had such slipperiness.  An example would be that committee [2005 PENS Task Force] that I told you I was on.  We had, as an unannounced person who was there, an APA staff member whose wife was a BSCT [Behavioral Science Consultation Team] psychologist and working very closely with Army Surgeon General Kiley, who wrote the instructions for the BSCTs.

SNOW:  Most ethics codes, especially in the government fiscal ethics codes, they worry as much about appearance as about facts.  So at least on the surface, the appearances of that are terribly wrong.  Whether it’s actually wrong, in fact, who knows if they talked to each other?  Maybe they hate each other’s guts and it’s just a marriage of convenience.  But the simple visibility of the association with each other and her entailment makes that a troublesome —

ARRIGO:  Well, they put a gag order on us all, so it’s only because I spilled the beans that that came out.  But there was a gag order on us.  And so it seems to me sort of strange —

SNOW:  Yes, I’m being somewhat flippant in responding back to you.  I agree with you on that one.  It doesn’t smell right. 

One of the statements we have in our ethics code we’re trying to get promulgated is:  “Act in such a way that when your actions become known — and they will — your mother and the rest of the nation will be proud of you.”  [Much laughter.]

DAVIS:  Can that be used elsewhere, or do you have that copyrighted?

BENNETT:  I’ve actually made the same argument, the very same argument.

SNOW:  When I’ve been working with young people at the agency, it’s actually one of the more effective sentences that can be used to keep them on what you view as a good path, to avoid defaming the agency and to get the mission done in an equitable way.  You know, because if they get over-eager and they’re going to do something, they’ll say, “Will stand the light of day?”   And that’s the real trouble with the intelligence agencies is that they have secrecy.  It’s required for some of the missions.  You can’t challenge that.  But because they can act in secrecy and because they have large budgets and power, by God, they need ethics.  It makes no sense not to have explicit, formulated standards.

LONG  I would be very interested in what the National Security Agency, as opposed to the military – which I assume is not exactly the same, right?

SNOW:  No, no, we’re not.

LONG  You were not in the military when you were in the NSA?

SNOW:  No. 

There were military officers serving there as part of their military assignment.  They come and get detailed (assigned) for a year or so and then go back to a full-time military job.  The NSA work force is roughly half-and-half: half military, half civilian.

LONG  And the nature of the ethics at NSA, is that what you were calling the fiscal ethics?  Or did they get into substantive stuff at all, as to what people could do, for example in the question of deception?  Did they have any ethics about deception?

SNOW:  Officially promulgated across the whole institution?  No.  Unofficially promulgated in any specific office or branch that was involved in a fair amount of it?  Yes.  But that probably changed when the boss changed.

LONG  Right.  Right.  So it was a different levels in different departments, which is very interesting.

SNOW:  Yes.

ARRIGO:  We’ve got about 15 minutes left now, so let me start with the last questions and comments.  Let’s go:  Ray, Jancis, Martha, me.

BENNETT:  Well, I did join a few minutes late.  I enjoyed the discussion at the beginning.  I can’t remember the exact terminology you used about how things are used in contradiction to how they were originally conceived.  That’s the SERE course training, written all over it.  It was never conceived to be used as an offensive technique, that is, to be used on the offense.  Within the parameters of the SERE training, it was explicitly stated, “This is how can expect the bad guys to behave.”   And then we behaved like that. 

I’m sorry.  I don’t have a question for you.

DAVIS:  I would like to pick up on that actually, Ray.  My question is, if I’m a psychologist developing something like deception analysis, which could have positive uses – The psychologists who are developing that noninvasive brain stimulation thing, if they do it for the CIA, if they’ve got grants and they’ve got government funds which they know which agencies are funding it, or they know which agencies are going to use it — If I were the person developing that instrumentation and I knew the CIA was behind this and had approved it  and was going to adopt it at a 6.3 level, I would have to assume that it was going to be abused.  Because I know that their criterion for what is acceptable for them to do in a black operation is different than anything that would be in my professional back-in-the-states ethics.  Right?  So I don’t see how the factor of knowing what — The people who developed the SERE training, they may have been in a time when the culture of the different armed services that used it, it was inconceivable to them that it would have been reverse engineered.  But it seems to me the lesson is that if it can be reverse engineered somehow it’s going to be reverse engineered, and very quickly. 

Now is that just a post 9-11 cynicism that will all have to be rewired?  Or is that being realistic?  It’s almost impossible for somebody to be in the areas that I’m in, where it could easily be operational, and not assume that it will be abused.  That is a question to you, Brian —

SNOW:  I didn’t know whether that was a question to Ray or to me or to the group at large.

DAVIS:  It is a question to you, because you were saying —

SNOW:  Well, let me be specific.  I’ll try to be brief.  I tend to talk too much at times.

It is a concern.  As I mentioned before, we are human beings.  Now I do believe the huge majority of agency employees throughout the intelligence community are honorable souls striving to do the best they can for the nation and as ethically as they can.  They will always look for the way to induce least pain and get maximal result for the nation.  However, there are also those who are, shall we say, expedient.  For them, secrecy is their shield.  That’s why I’m more intent on the transparency, at least after the fact, or transparency within the secrecy barriers where they can’t hide it in compartments or other sorts of things.  There does need to be accountability, so that eventually when things are revealed they will be revealed by name.  You need that in place.  Not because we’re evil and bad but because we can all be tempted.  It’s to reduce the total number of times that things go wrong.  Until we have that, the number of times things go wrong can get unacceptably high.  You’re the psychologist.  I’m not.  But surely I’m not blowing smoke—

DAVIS:  But you know how little transparency there is, and some more so than others.  Right?

SNOW:  Yep.

DAVIS:  So, by definition now, the conditions are such that, for all intents and purposes, one cannot —

SNOW:  I’ll make two statements.  There have been abuses that horrify me.  I’ll also make the statement that I’m pleased and honored that the number of abuses is surprisingly small given the degrees of freedom we’re allowed.  Those are not contradictory statements.  [Overlapping talk] condition.

ARRIGO:  Let’s go to Jancis.

LONG  Well, I would follow from those last two statements.  If the number of incidents that are really horrifying is surprisingly low, then it makes it very interesting to look at what has made those so horrifying because we can’t just write it off as, “Well, that’s the culture of the agency,” because most people aren’t doing that.  So can you add anything to what you’ve said as to what turns an action into a horrifying action?

SNOW:  Expediency, or to put it another way, ops tempo, the need to do something now before something worse happens.  “Let me do something bad now to avoid the worse that may come later.”

LONG  And this doesn’t happen very often, is that right?  You’re saying that —

SNOW:  It happens all the time.  What is amazing is that it does not lead us to bad action as often as —

LONG  It doesn’t usually lead us to bad actions, even when it would be expedient.  So can we say more thean expediency as to when it becomes bad.  Just as one or two — This is not the whole answer to the question obviously.

SNOW:  This is part of the ethics code I’m working on:  “Expediency is no excuse for malfeasance or malpractice.

DAVIS:  But it would seem that those who say that once some degree of enhanced interrogation or torture or something is allowed, it tends to get out of control.  There’s almost a synergy that happens. 

SNOW:  Yes.

DAVIS:  That would seem to contradict what you just said about being surprised at how rare it is.  Or maybe I didn’t understand.

SNOW:  No, no, no, no.  The fact that it happens at all is horrifying enough.  It all depends on our own emotional way of responding to this sort of stuff. Guantanamo happened.  But I’m glad to say that there are not twenty Guantanamos spread around the world.  There’s only the fifteen you haven’t found yet.  (I’m joking.)

[a groan in background]  I’m sorry.  I have a back spasm and occasionally I have to make funny noises.

SNOW:  I am impressed that most of the people — and we do have psychological screening when people come in, and we do not screen them, as some people do, looking for the evil ones.  We really try to flush the bad apples out.  And I think we do a fairly good job of it because most of us do act in what I would call a very moral way by usual, average, small-town American, God-fearing views — although some of them want to go out and cut throats, too. 

ARRIGO:  I’ll ask my question.  It almost seems that the moral problem [we’re confronting] is a different inside your intelligence agency from outside.  You think of the pressure as expediency, whereas among the researchers outside, it seems to me the pressure is not expediency but career and funding.

SNOW:  That’s an expedient choice for them.  You know, “What am I going to do to make my career better next year or ten years from now?”

ARRIGO:  Yes, but it’s not expediency in this high-ideal sense of national defense and so on.

DAVIS:  In the sense of short cuts, are you saying?

ARRIGO:  In the sense of short cuts, or, as our previous consultant was saying, “Well, we got the grant this time but now next time we have to go do a little bit something else.  We don’t have anything else lined up so we need this grant.”  He wasn’t describing these steps in terms of defense expediency, like Brian is.  It was more in terms of personal outcomes.  It seems to me that there are two different things going on here.

SNOW:  They are different.  But they do go on.  I was a bureaucrat at a high enough level that I usually saw the process flows rather than the individual actions.  When you get down to an individual action, what causes him at his moment or pressure to do something, almost always it is for his own career advantage or self-perceived advantage to him or someone he knows.  He’s human.

ARRIGO:  So that’s what [national defense] expediency looks like at an individual level, you’re saying.

SNOW:  Yes.

ARRIGO:  So that’s what sort of unites those two [levels of analysis]?

SNOW:  Yes.  Now that’s an oversimplification, of course, but it’s a good first-order approximation of reality.

ARRIGO:  Speaking now as a systems person, do you feel that the system is optimal now or whether there’s hope for improvement as it relates to the outside psychologists?

SNOW:  There’s always room for improvement, both inside and outside.  The way you’re describing the psychological organization’s structure, one question is, what’s the average age of those sitting in power in the APA?

ARRIGO:  I think it’s pretty old.  But more to the point is that the people in power keep circulating into HumRRO [Human Resources Research Operations] and into government and back into APA leadership positions.

SNOW:  Understood.  But they’ll eventually die.  Be patient.  Twenty or thirty years is just —

DAVIS:  Well, I think some of the most —

SNOW:  Are they selecting those to follow after them who are in the same mold?


SNOW:  You have to make sure that the selection process is not dependent on the current jobholders.

ARRIGO:  I see:  change the selection process.  That is a very good message to us.

DAVIS:  How do you change it?

SNOW:  It can be done.  Within the agency, we had certain rules in some places.  In some organizations, the boss could not pick his own successor.  The boss was picked by a team from other components in the agency, because that part of the agency had to deliver to the others as their customer, and the customers got to help drive the selection process as well as the internal culture of the institution.

ARRIGO:  Well, if we get our person in for president [of APA], there may be some chance.

SNOW:  Be patient.  Because those who are expedient plan too much for the short range and don’t protect themselves.  Those who take the long view may lose this and lose that along the way, but eventually they’ll get their goal.  It might be fifteen years instead of five, but they’ll get there, whereas the expedient has a glorious three-year run and then has a horrible disaster on his hands and is poisoned for the rest of his career.— There’s justice, after all, in the world somewhere.  [Laughing.]

You’re at the wrong end of the cycle at the current time.  Wait for the pendulum to swing again.

ARRIGO:  Well, APA has basically grown up with defense funding.  World War I put us on the map, and World War II made us a star.  The Cold War was great for us, and Homeland Security was a bonanza; 9-11 was a bonanza for the APA.

SNOW:  In terrorism, especially if we see in a conflict if we end up being too harsh in some directions, it may actually begin to show we have to swing the other way.

LONG  The other [palm? 1:16:06] can be done in the meantime.

ARRIGO:  Yes, but the APA has come out on top for this.  All these soldiers who have PTSD or traumatic brain injuries or whatnot, this is huge businesses for us.  There isn’t anything that isn’t big business for us in it.

LONG  If the government funds their treatment.

SNOW:  It justifies keeping most of the young troops off in wars rather than home.  Usually you get more victims, excuse me, more patients to work on.

DAVIS:  I think that some of the problem is the opposite, that the psychologists are conspiring with the military to not give them diagnosis of PTSD because that would be too draining of the finances.

SNOW:  And it’s harming recruiting. Nobody wants to sign up when they realize almost everybody gets it.

DAVIS:  That’s right.  And they’re giving them diagnoses of pre-army conditions.

SNOW:  Oh, pre-existing conditions.

DAVIS:  That’s right.

ARRIGO:  Yes, characterological disorders and things.

SNOW:  That’s a whole new topic.

ARRIGO:  Well, I think our time is up.

LONG  Well, thank you very, very much, Brian.

SNOW:  I have no idea if this was any help.  And, quite candidly, I was a technologist working with wires, boards, and equations, not with human flesh.

DAVIS:  Right, right.

SNOW:  I really think you need someone in the intelligence community who worked as an ops officer in CIA in foreign sites, who actually had to smell the fear and see the sweat and occasional blood to give you another perspective.

ARRIGO:  Can you refer us to anybody?

SNOW:  The one guy I know, who is a good friend, would not speak, no matter what.  He probably has trouble speaking even with his family.  Their lives tend to — He’s not even sure who the hell he is anymore.  He’s done too many covers.

ARRIGO:  Well, that’s our problem.  But this has been enormously helpful, especially this business at the last of thinking about the selection process at APA.

SNOW:  That’s pragmatic.  Just revamp the process.  Cheer them off to a glorious retirement.  Heap honor on them to make them go out the door quicker. — Now is that ethical?

ARRIGO:  We will get back to you shortly.

LONG  You will circulate the addresses?

ARRIGO:  I will circulate the addresses.  And, Brian, if you will send me the current version of Mission Ethics and Martha, the same thing for your URL for the documentary.  When I get both of those, I will send everything around. 

[Thanks and farewells all around.]


Revision 7.1   October 21, 2008

DRAFT   U.S. Intelligence Community "Mission Ethics"


Intelligence work may present exceptional or unusual ethical dilemmas beyond those of ordinary life. Ethical thinking and review should be a part of our day to day efforts; it can improve the chances of mission success, preserve our alliances, protect our nation's and our agency’s integrity, and protect us from the consequences of bad choices. Therefore, we adhere to the following standards of professional ethics and behavior:

1. First, do no harm to U.S. citizens or their rights under the Constitution.

2. We uphold the Constitution and the Rule of Law; we are constrained by both

the spirit and the letter of the laws of the United States.

3. Expediency is not an excuse for misconduct.

4. We are accountable for our decisions and actions. We support timely, rigorous processes

that fix accountability to the responsible person.

5. Statements we make to our clients, colleagues, overseers and the U.S. public will be true,

and structured not to unnecessarily mislead or conceal.

6. We will resolve difficult ethical choices in favor of constitutional requirements, the truth, and

our fellow citizens.

7. We will address the potential consequences of our actions in advance, especially

the consequences of failure, discovery, and unintended or collateral consequences of


8. We will not impose unnecessary risk on innocents.

9.  Although we may work in secrecy, we will work so that when our efforts become known,

our fellow citizens will be proud of us and of our efforts.


10. We will comply with all international human rights agreements that our nation has ratified.

11.We will insist on clarification of ambiguities that arise between directives or law and the

principles above.  We will protect those within our institutions who call reasonable attention to wrongdoing.

For more information contact:  Brian Snow


            301 854-3255