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Simple Sabotage Field Manual (1944) (cia.gov)
182 points by EiZei on Nov 26, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 67 comments



I love the part on organizations & conferences. Seems like I have worked with many agents in the past:

(1) Insist on doing everything through "channels." Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions

(5) When possible, refer all matters to ' committees, for "further study and consideration." Attempt to make the committees as large as possible - never less than five.

I guess Dilbert might be working with the CIA after all.


Dilbert? How about the entire Congress?


Do you really want Congress to be circumventing procedure and expediting decisions?


I was referring to (5) When possible, refer all matters to ' committees, for "further study and consideration." Attempt to make the committees as large as possible - never less than five. http://www.govtrack.us/congress/committees/


I'm aware. Do you really want them to stop meeting in large committees?


Well, you need a driver's license to drive a car. What do you need to run a country? Not common sense I suppose. Take a look at this "Todd Akin Headlines the Daily Show's Congressional Crazy Tour" : http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2012/10/todd-akin-he...


> Well, you need a driver's license to drive a car.

You don't, actually. If that's all it took, we'd never have car crashes.

> What do you need to run a country? Not common sense I suppose.

"Common sense" is a lazy person's way of saying "what I believe". Akin is a fucking wingnut who was happily thrown out of office over his rape comments. Even before that, it's been pointed out that he was placed into committees with the least power because his colleagues weren't impressed by him. How is he even relevant? I'm not really okay with using 1 person as a representative sample of 500 people. It's like saying there was this one American who killed a guy, and therefore all Americans are psychopathic murderers.

More importantly, how does this remotely suggest that committees are an evil that Congress should do without?


Just picking your last question out of context to (re-)state what should be obvious:

Committees are bad, because you will never know what color the bikeshed should be.

You have exponentially many possible interactions between people in a group and any important information will almost surely get lost in the noise. Big committees are a wonderful stage for personal feuds, intrigues and outright sabotage (already in the formation phase).

The results you'll get will mostly be based on lobbying, popularity and whoever barked the loudest, not on benefit, cost, feasibility, let alone constitutionality.

OTOH, I don't really know what would be better. Smaller "committees", more like expert groups, can give better results if the right people are selected. Which is unlikely, given the present state of governments. At the moment it seems as if the best strategy is oversizing and over-bureaucratizing to slow down the process and limit the amount of damage done in that way. Meh. :-/


> OTOH, I don't really know what would be better. Smaller "committees", more like expert groups, can give better results if the right people are selected. Which is unlikely, given the present state of governments. At the moment it seems as if the best strategy is oversizing and over-bureaucratizing to slow down the process and limit the amount of damage done in that way. Meh. :-/

Most utopian schemes end up being conditioned on a lot of very difficult, if not outright impossible, presumptions. I am not claiming that the current system is perfect; it can, without reservation, be improved significantly. The question is how, why that how, and at what cost.

It's worth pointing out, btw, that the SCOTUS is a committee. Congressional committees are weak because their members are elected and, at least superficially, represent real people in a direct manner; their job is to be biased, and this bias makes them vulnerable to non-committee actions like lobbying and popularity contests. That is why you don't get to elect the SCOTUS: precisely to protect them from that weakness. (And also why you don't get to elect any other Presidential appointee; most of them also end up on committees.)


What do you call what goes on on daily basis now?

On a side note, it's a false equivalency to say "Congress"; it's the MO of the Republican party and those who share the frame of mind that is prevalent and represented therein.

When you have a bastardized bi-polar political system from the agricultural era of western history that merely represented a coincidental flame of sanity in the dark and gloomy misery of religious psychopathic fraud, human characteristics and mentalities will polarize. Although not in any way absolute, the reality is that as much as the bumbling, well-intentioned foolishly self-assured enablers end up on one side; the greedy, psychopathic, selfish, heinous, paranoid, and self-righteously sadistic end up on the opposite through a process of attraction and repulsion.

It is the reason why the nation was forged by sacrificing state power plurality as a result of the civil war, and it is what will continue to escalate the present disharmony and possibly lead to quite uncomfortable disruption.


> What do you call what goes on on daily basis now?

I call it "things I'd like to happen less often, rather than more".


then they might actually get something done


You could easily make the argument that's the reason Congress is set up as it is.. when one party controls the senate, and another the house, and another the presidency, you know damn sure nothing is going to get done unless there is broad consensus.

Having one party control everything leads to shenanigans. Trust me, you do not want an agile and fast government.


> "You could easily make the argument that's the reason Congress is set up as it is"

It was a fairly explicit design goal. By setting up Congress so that one house mirrored population and the other mirrored number of states, they basically guaranteed that there would be no substantial legislation passed on the issue of slavery, at least not until a major shift in culture.

In a broader sense, remember that "fast and agile" is another way of saying "changes rapidly". Since government writes the rules you have to operate by, both in your personal and economic life, it's important that those rules not change quickly if the changes are at all controversial.


>Trust me, you do not want an agile and fast government.

You do not want an agile and fast incompetent government, that's for sure.


No, I'd much rather have an agile and fast incompetent government than an agile and fast competent government after looking at who funds the majority of the reelection warchests.


Look guys, none of these have to be mutually exclusive. Agility, speed and competence all exist on a spectrum. Is Congress deliberating on a piece of legislation for an entire year OK? No. Does that mean they should pass it after a day's worth of talks? No. It has to be reasonably quick while still allowing for enough room to iron out the kinks.


> Is Congress deliberating on a piece of legislation for an entire year OK? No.

I'm perfectly okay with Congress deliberating on a piece of legislation for an entire year. Some issues are hard.


I'm not sure what we said that made you think we believe differently. In fact we were arguing over whether or not it is better to have fast & agile combined with competence or incompetence, so we clearly know they aren't mutually exclusive.


I was actually considering the current funding situation a part of the incompetence since it goes against the point of having elected representatives. But yes, with the current system it is both the incompetence and sluggishness that is saving us right now.


"government governs best which governs least"

attributed to Thomas Jefferson.


"And by these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq."

Attributed to Stephen Colbert.


Sure. But the founders weren't fools, they didn't set up an efficient government; they set up a government with a ton of checks and balances -- exactly because an efficient government is a terrible thing.


Which is often worse than them not getting something done.


I've done some of the things in the list with good intentions, but it seems I might have sabotaged myself. It wasn't deliberate sabotage, but I'm told it looked that way. Is there a 'proper' way of proposing a counter-plan or making a suggestion?


The critical step is that your idea be good. So much indirect sabotage is committed by people who cling to a bad idea simply because it's theirs.


Depressing that some people do this stuff and think they're good workers / managers.

Stuff has unintended weird incentives, and that can quickly lead to destructive working practices.

One quick example: Factory workers have to clock in. You want people to be on time (8.00 am), so you say that if they clock in after 08:04 they lose 15 minutes wage.

But what (obviously happens) is the people who arrive at 08:04 don't start work until 08:15 (which is, after all, when they're getting paid from). But the people coming in on time mill around a bit before they start work - they clock in at 07:55 and get to the bench at 08:01; or the clock in at 08:00 and get to the bench at 08:03. So there's a bunch of people milling around, not starting work and distracting other workers and etc etc, just because someone invented a broken disincentive late arrivals instead of just being a better manager and telling people to get to work.

I have countless examples of inadvertent and deliberate sabotage in factory work. (One more quick example. A guy turns up for interview. He has a friend with him. The friend waits in reception, falls asleep; he's really scruffy. The interviewee smells of alcohol. His hobby on his CV is "Enjoying Homebrew". Employing that one semi-functional alcoholic destroyed hundreds of person-hours of work, because people were less restrained when they went to the pub at lunch time. (Also, some other alcoholics stopped being sober.))

I should start a blog, I guess.


>just because someone invented a broken disincentive late arrivals instead of just being a better manager and telling people to get to work.

Or even better: realize that work getting done is what counts, not the exact time your butt hits your seat.

> Employing that one semi-functional alcoholic destroyed hundreds of person-hours of work, because people were less restrained when they went to the pub at lunch time.

What are you saying here? That hundreds of man hours were destroyed because people became a little more laid back? Do you have any evidence to back up that this is really what happened?

Or do you mean people came in totally trashed and actually destroyed equipment? If that's the case I'd blame the manager(s) for letting that happen more than once.


People weren't laid back, they were drunk. This wasn't a pint at lunch; this was three or four pints. Lost time was spread over several things:

1) Late return to work

2) Tipsy / drunk workers taking longer to get stuff done

3) tipsy / drunk workers doing stuff worse, thus needed it to be reworked

4) tipsy / drunk workers not inspecting properly leading to increased returns from customers

5) the occasional broken / lost item (with JIT this can be a considerable delay if it's the right item)

6) occasional broken tools

7) sober workers resentful at drunk workers and at bad management not doing anything about it.

etc etc.

Yep, a lot of this is down to management, but the UK has a poor reputation for the quality of middle management in industry.


I was wondering what kind of place this was that allowed workers to get drunk at lunch. However now that I realize it is in the UK, it makes a bit more sense.

I was talking to my boss once, he worked in London for a while. He once said that the biggest difference between American workers, and English workers is attitude towards alcohol.


Having worked many years in both the UK and the USA I'd say your boss doesn't know what they are talking about. The differences are much more than that, more subtle, more culturally nuanced. In the UK, just as in the US, the idea of several pints of beer at lunchtime is an out dated concept.


>1) Late return to work

I don't care about this one. Butt-in-seat time is an outdated measurement.

2-6) Pretty easy to deal with this: your workers are behaving irresponsibly by coming in drunk and making mistakes. So you terminate them and get people who can deal with alcohol responsibly (I don't mean you can't have a drink at lunch, just be professional and don't get drunk when you're supposed to be working).

> but the UK has a poor reputation for the quality of middle management in industry.

If you find a place that has good middle management let me know and I'll have a look! :)


Dan was referencing specifically a factory setting, butt-in-seat time is not an outdated measure in such a setting.

Drunk/tipsy employees are a safety hazard in such an environment etc.

Do these directly apply to other industries or settings? Depends :)


Fair enough. I made a reasonable but wrong assumption about what kind of business Dan would be talking about.


> Butt-in-seat time is an outdated measurement

I agree. There's a large local aerospace company. What time do the shop-floor workers have to start? 8:42 am.

They enforce it too; fellow workers, bosses, everyone polices that start time.


> realize that work getting done is what counts, not the exact time your butt hits your seat.

In factory work, being on time matters. Because you're taking a widget from the person to your left, adding value by performing some operation on it, and passing it to the person on your right. If you're not there, and there isn't someone who can fill-in, then the assembly line stops and the firm ships no widgets.

Be late often enough, and you get fired.

I'm very glad that software development work isn't like that, btw. I am not cut-out for Taylorism. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Principles_of_Scientific_Ma...


Fair enough, but honestly I think this kind of boring work is on its way out. For now it's shipped to developing countries, but eventually I think this will be 100% robot work. So maybe not completely obsolete globally, but on its way and certainly obsolete for the jobs that most HNers think about.


This is what economists call the Princial-Agent problem.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principal%E2%80%93agent_problem

"Consider a dental patient (the principal) wondering whether his dentist (the agent) is recommending expensive treatment because it is truly necessary for the patient's dental health, or because it will generate income for the dentist. The two parties have different interests and asymmetric information (the agent having more information), such that the principal cannot directly ensure that the agents are always acting in its (the principals') best interests."


To combat sabotage of productivity within an organisation it would likely be necessary to employ techniques that ironically reduce creativity, increase levels of distrust and breed a culture of caution and inaction.

From this perspective one could potentially read this document as being a product of sabotage.

Related topics (within the national security space): polygraph testing at US laboratories, overheads of Special Access Programs


PDF context on cia.gov: "Timeless Tips for 'Simple Sabotage'" https://www.cia.gov/news-information/featured-story-archive/...



This should really be at the top, I couldn't stand reading the original linked.


Reading through that guide makes it seem like my employer's company might be full of CIA operatives. Very uncanny.


This reminds of a chapter or section of an old management textbook I came across once. The section dealt with office politics and the various strategies and tactics one could use to come out on top. The whole thing was written without a trace of embarrassment. I wish I could remember the name of the book.


Are you thinking of Dogbert's Top Secret Management Handbook?

http://www.amazon.com/Dogberts-Top-Secret-Management-Handboo...


Gamesmanship? [1] As made famous in the old film School for Scoundrels? It's a very funny book if you get hold of a copy.

[1] http://www.amazon.co.uk/Practice-Gamesmanship-Winning-Actual...

//edit// Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamesmanship


No this was this very dry and boring management textbook from, I'm guessing, the 70's. As far as I could tell it was meant as a college textbook and this Machiavellian treatise on office politics in the middle was written just as prosaically as the rest.


(b) water and miscellaneous

  (2) Forget to provide paper in toilets


So which books will teach me how to combat "simple sabotage" in my organization?

[edit] I'm referring only to chapter 5, section 11 "General interference with organizations and production."


Many of those items are things that can be performed in plain sight because non-saboteurs could believably be doing them.

For example, if a developer at your organization complains they're held up because their PC has 1 gigabyte of RAM instead of 8, that might be 5.11.c.5 sabotage ('do poor work and blame your tools') or it might be because they legitimately need more RAM to run hefty modern IDEs.

Needless to say, treating requests for better equipment as sabotage when they're legitimate probably isn't going to help your organization. The same could probably be said for most of the activities listed in that section.


Even the CIA does not have smart enough people to do that :)


Why exactly do Enterprisons tend to following this guidelines so precisely? Is this some kind of self-destruction mechanism built into their "dna"?


Everything proceeds from order to chaos unless energy is expended to restore order, once the accumulation of disorder exceeds the organisms ability to repair the damage the organism begins to die until eventually it's life support systems fail.

Rational capitalists know this as the business cycle and that once an organization begins to die the point is not to restore it but to extract as much value from it before it dies. The clueless are essential to this process as they are key to helping the sociopaths extract value from the losers.

Ribbonfarm does an excellent job of outlining organizational life cycles in the Gervais principle series.

http://www.ribbonfarm.com/2009/10/07/the-gervais-principle-o...


More likely it is the other way around -- the OSS choose to use these strategies because they were already prevalent in the organizations.

As for why they were prevalent? CYA. Surely you are not going to fire a manager who insist on inclusivity and following security protocols?


Oh, wow, "Enterprisons." You're quite witty and original, I must say.


I feel like the points under (11) on page 28 and forward is like a character description for Michael Scott/David Brent or any other office-working sitcom character. This is truly comedy gold.


In the field manual they say "Finally, the very practice of simple sabotage by natives in enemy or occupied territory may make these individuals identify themselves actively with the United Nations war effort..." I thought this was published before the UN was founded.

Did the term "United Nations" have a different meaning during WWII? Was it a common term that latter was given to the official organization we know today?


It appears the term was used to describe the Allied powers between 1939 and 1945.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations#History


Amazing. Accurate, and that's tragic on so many levels.


Does anyone know if an 'official' entity is being referred to by the term United Nations on page 2? I suppose it could've been close enough to the end of the war that the wheels were already in motion for the UN..


Dated: 17 Jan 1944

Timeless sabotage-by-committee advise. Comments mention Arab Spring, etc. Am I the only one who noticed this?


C[ompendium] of I[ncompetence] A[ssembled] in one pdf - this volume is a lifetime's collection of "what not to do's". Gives me the heebie-jeebies, especially the note on how to ruin a file. Jeez.

It is so difficult to build things, but so easy to destroy them.


<quote>... creating an unpleasant situation among one's fellow workers, engaging in bickering, or displaying surliness or stupidity.</quote>

OMG... our company is under siege!


So much more with a pet robot...


they should air drop this on North Korea


Really puts in context the arab spring.


What does this have to do with the Arab spring?




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