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The CIA’s 1944 Simple Sabotage Field Manual (2015) (openculture.com)
218 points by HugoDaniel on Aug 9, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 64 comments

Reminds me of Total Resistance[0], written for the Swiss population in case of occupation by Warsaw Pact forces.

Besides the sections on guerrilla warfare tactics, there's also section civil disobedience. Generally this involves workers acting as incompetently as possible:

"Employees in plants and shops

Work slowly. Turn out poor quality goods and produce many rejects. Take a break often. Treat machinery, installations and engines carelessly. Cause excessive waste. Use excessive quantities of water, power, fuel and grease. Take excessive sick leave."

0. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_Resistance_(book)

The Czech people were already one step ahead of this manual. According to Madeleine Albright's book Prague Winter, the Czech factory workers during the WWII occupation by Nazi Germany worked hard at personal peril to ensure that the goods they made for the German war effort were not up to their usually excellent standards of workmanship (excerpt: Or the message found in the casing of an unexploded bomb from Czech factory workers:“Don’t be afraid,” it said, “The bombs we make will never explode.” [1]). Best book I have read in a while albeit a very sad read.

[1] http://www.aspeninstitute.cz/en/article/0-2012-like-a-czech-...

I can't help but find myself wondering - did they write that in every bomb? Wouldn't that be incredibly risky? Also, how did they know that that particular bomb was made by Czech factory workers (was the message in Czech?) And why did they think to cut the case open? As far as I'm aware that was not normal bomb disposal procedure.

I had a Google and found a few more facts:

  * This anecdote comes from Dagmar Simova, Albright's first cousin, who was 12
  * The bomb landed in London, during the Blitz
  * It is implied this particular bomb landed in their neighborhood
What are the odds, that this very singular message throwing the Czechs in a good light, should be discovered through an unusual procedure on a perfectly normal bomb (among thousands) that happened to land in the neighborhood of non other than the cousin of future-famous Czech-American Madeline Albright?

Similarly, one of the other bits of advice for subversives and saboteurs that I've always liked went something like, "Do not dissent, object, or otherwise attempt to reinterpret your orders. Do exactly what you're told to do at all times. Orders from management will often yield contradictory or counterproductive results if followed to the letter."

That gem was from one of the WWII-era OSS manuals as well, if I remember correctly, aimed at French Resistance operatives working in Nazi-controlled factories.

Gotta love malicious compliance.

The CIA did not exist in 1944. It was still OSS: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Office_of_Strategic_Services

That's mentioned in the article.

It would be clearer if the title were changed.

Not really since nobody knows what OSS is.

So something factually incorrect is preferable? And is it not possible to simply expand the acronym? E.g.

"The Office of Strategic Services' 1944 Simple Sabotage Field Manual (2015)"

From the article:

"Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions."

Are you a secret CIA saboteur?

Open Source Software.

Open Sound System

Great, now I have to assume that my team has been infiltrated by a bunch of CIA agents...

...and we have to assume you are a master agent leading a crack team of saboteurs.

A copy of the whole manual on gutenberg.org[0]


>Don't use anonymizers, open proxies, VPNs, or TOR to access Project Gutenberg. This includes the Google proxies that are used by Chrome.

>Don't access Project Gutenberg from hosted servers.

Wow, fuck that.

The Tor restriction is pretty bad.

The hosted servers one I can rather understand and sympathise with, having been woken out of a sound sleep at 3am one too many times result of some hosted-space bot hammering our site and driving us offline.

A policy to institute CIDR-wide firewall rules on first sight tends to ensure sound sleep. Fairness be fucked.

(Vastly better tools for dealing with DoS would be a huge benefit generally, and much as I love Tor, it's really messing up with the Old Way of Resolving Asshats. I haet haet haet Cloudflare's incompetence, but understand why they do what they do. I'm not saying they've got the right answer though -- but again, that problem is hard.)

The PDF can be accessed freely at https://archive.org/details/simplesabotagefi26184gut

OT: Interesting. I'm using a VPN service while at a public cafe waiting for my car to be repaired.

No PDF for you.

On the one hand, I understand. On the other, it seems the Internet is becoming an increasingly differentiated network.

Guess I'll finally have to bite the bullet and set up my own VPN server -- and hope it's in an IP address range that is not overly flagged.

pfSense is good for this; OpenVPN is invariably inconvenient as hell to set up and use, but pfSense's implementation (along with the "client export" plugin that gives you what you need to set up devices, and unaccountably isn't part of the OOTB distribution) minimizes this inconvenience as well as anything I've ever seen - it's still inconvenient as hell, but somewhat less so than doing everything by hand.

>Read the CIA’s Simple Sabotage Field Manual: A Timeless, Kafkaesque Guide to Subverting Any Organization with “Purposeful Stupidity” (1944)

Looks like they took advantage of the theory that "Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice"


The corollary being: if your boss doesn't understand what you do, he's always going to assume you're deliberately sabotaging him. And for most of us, our boss doesn't understand what we do.

Valeris: Four hundred years ago on the planet Earth, workers who felt their livelihood threated by automation flung their wooden shoes called sabots into the machines to stop them. Hence the word sabotage.

Uhura: We are experiencing technical malfunction. All backup systems inoperative.

Chekov: Excellent-I mean, too bad.

Wasn't Valeris the vulcan woman who turned out to be evil at the end?

Evil is subjective. She wasn't on the side of The Federation.

> She wasn't on the side of The Federation

She wasn't on the side of peace between the Federation and the Klingon Empire; her and her co-conspirators within the Federation would surely see themselves as on the side of the Federation, and the pro-peace group as not being on the side of the Federation.

I recently saw a great blog series about sabotage and how to defeat it in the context of projects. Sabotage often happens for personal and political reasons and he lays out clear ways to defeat it.


It is a great read.

I remember a lot of this stuff on the Internet before the internet of books turned into the internet of videos. Oh and 9/11 had an impact.

I agree, fortunately we still have:


This is a complete treasure trove. Going through a select few documents and it is immediately clear to me that there is immense value (and insight) to be extracted for this. Well, there goes the rest of my day.

Cryptome is one of those precious places that are so far from the mainstream, they make institutional counter-culture types squeamish. Some of the material is just paranoia, some is stuff that the mainstream (even the "alt" scene) would rather go LALALACANTHEARYOU even though it's true, and some is hard documentation of popular controversies... The owner IIRC is also a fervent gun-lover (which makes sense, from an American anti-government point of view).

Cryptome is one of those places that continuously test the letter and the spirit of freedom-of-expression laws, a canary of sort, but also a gateway to the rabbit hole of crazy conspiracy theories, and a remnant of the anarchist Internet that was. One day it will go away and we will miss it.

Loompanics Unlimited[1] would have been obliterated well before Cryptome existed if there was any risk at all.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loompanics

The Anarchists Cookbook "2000", those were the days.

Internet trolls are sometimes way more sophisticated than this

You may be interested in this companion piece: https://cryptome.org/2012/07/gent-forum-spies.htm

I imagine the manual has also been updated since 1944 :-)

converted to plain text chapter "(11) General Interference with Organizations and Production"


Now I'm not sure but that would make a great videogame. Just to exorcise reality.

Ooh, I like that, something with a theme of being stuck in some soulless bureaucracy with goals that you morally disagree with, kind of along the same lines as Papers Please.

Depending on how you choose to play it, Papers Please can be that game.

What to do when you realize your CEO is masterfully implementing the "processes" described in the handbook? I left ... any similar experiences?

I'm amused by the CIA's use of the metric system in the manual. If only the rest of the US would follow ...

Even if they didn't otherwise use metric, it would make sense for them to use it here since the ultimate goal was to have the metric-using citizens of Axis-occupied countries carry out the sabotage.

Most (all?) U.S. regulatory agencies also use the metric system.

Maybe that's part of their sabotage plan.

I can swear someone got a copy in 1945, changed the cover to disguise it using some title like "Modern management", and since then it has been used as inspiration tho many management books and guides.

It's incredible how those "tips" from the end of the article resemble some public/private companies that I've worked on.

Is this document tongue in cheek?


Sabotage is a useful technique in wartime. The CIA (the the OSS) investigated something like 15,000 supposed acts of sabotage in the US during WWII. (I don't think they found any that were actual sabotage).

They'd want to promote sabotage in Axis countries, and to prevent sabotage-like activity in allied countries, as much as possible.

The OSS would have been carrying out operations overseas. The FBI would have been investigating sabotage or suspicions of sabotage in the US. The Germans actually landed some agents in the US with plants to blow up this and that, but they were all caught before they could do anything.

You could argue that perfectly loyal American tank and torpedo designers accomplished a lot more than any Axis agent could have hoped for.

And in ww1 the black tom ammo dump in NY harbour was blown up by saboteurs.

It certainly always elicits a lot of "Hurdur this is my company", feels a bit too perfectly written for that reaction to not be satire.

Hah, yes. I thought, "is this a guide to meetings at $company or a sabotage manual?"

This sounds like an manager's handbook today.

make sure you hold daily all hands on deck meetings where everyone is required to listen to what everyone else was doing the last 24 hours.

require all work to be logged in the proper system so that any exceptional productivity will be tempered by time spent updating tickets

The complete guide to success in government.

You think it's just government? Have you worked much in the private sector?

More efficient.

And in private industry.

I'm not sure the CIA document supports this article. He seems to be talking about incompetence while the article is about sabotage

Plausible deniability is a huge factor in convert operations.

If the target can't prove something is intentional, it compounds the damage done, manages risks, etc.

Targeting trust is among the most disruptive attacks you can make.

Take movies with unreliable narrators (say, "Gur Hfhny Fhfcrpgf") as an example. Who or what can you trust?

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