By Guy Crittenden
Two recent stories in the corporate media provide excellent examples of a propaganda strategy that's popular with the perpetual state and especially surveillance agencies like the FBI, CIA, NSA, MI6, etc. It's called "limited hangout" and while it's deployed all the time, most people have never heard of it — a dangerous situation given its efficacy.
First let's learn what the term limited hangout signifies, then evaluate it through two recent examples.
Wikipedia's short entry on limited hangout or partial hangout is suitable:
"A limited hangout or partial hangout is, according to former special assistant to the Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Victor Marchetti, "spy jargon for a favorite and frequently used gimmick of the clandestine professionals. When their veil of secrecy is shredded and they can no longer rely on a phony cover story to misinform the public, they resort to admitting—sometimes even volunteering—some of the truth while still managing to withhold the key and damaging facts in the case. The public, however, is usually so intrigued by the new information that it never thinks to pursue the matter further."
In other words, deep state agencies (and their proxies in the media) sometimes allow a damaging story to go public — harmful as it might be to the agency's reputation or plans — because it masks a more damaging underlying, deeper truth. Wikipedia cites how a statement by Pope John Paul II regarding sexual abuse by priests was a "modified, limited hangout." The pope admitted the abuse, while protecting senior clergy from prosecution and moving abusive priests to new positions, and that kind of thing.
Now let's look at two examples from US agencies. The first is the FBI's lies and misrepresentations in regard to former campaign worker operative Carter Page. The second concerns the so-called Afghanistan Papers.
Page was tried at the secretive US FISA court with the FBI submitting as evidence documents such as the Steele dossier that the agency knew were false or unreliable. This was central to an almost three-year campaign by the FBI to frame Donald Trump as a candidate — and then as a president — controlled by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The whole idea dates back to the evening of Hillary Clinton's humiliating election loss to Trump (as detailed in the book Shattered), when Clinton aides Robbie Mook and John Podesta hit upon the idea of blaming the loss on Russian interference in the 2016 election. This idea distracted Blue Check Democrats from seriously examining the failures of the disastrous Clinton campaign and the complete corruption of the DNC (exposed by Wikileaks). It also deflected attention from the ironic fact that Clinton's team had reached out to the Russians for dirt on Trump.
The FBI is America's Stazi, not its Keystone Kops.
The strategy resonated with the intelligence community, who picked it up enthusiastically in order to contain Trump and launch a renewed Cold War with Russia. Trump was guided early in his presidency by former executive chairman of Breitbart News Steve Bannon, and had made soundings about going against the intelligence community. The Russiagate deep state conspiracy theory was born, and dominated the 24-hour cable news cycle for almost three years, in the process duping many American liberals into repeating McCarthy-esque smears and supporting the Russiaphobia.
Unfortunately for the FBI, the truth about Russiagate and its debunking eventually emerged via a few alternative media outlets, most notably a series of articles in The Nation by Aaron Maté (a former Democracy Now! staffer who now hosts his own current affairs program Pushback on The Greyzone) and comedian-turned-political analyst Jimmy Dore. An article in Le Monde Maté summarizes many of Maté's findings. The FBI lied repeatedly about Carter Page before the FISA court, and altered documents to support its case. It's most egregious fabrication was changing the word "does" to "does not" in regard to a letter from the CIA, in which that spy agency revealed Page was working for the CIA when Page met with Russian agents. This, along with the flimsy Steele dossier, undermined the whole Russiagate narrative
The depth of the FBI's malfeasance was revealed by the US Inspector General in a report that laid out all the details, the findings of which Glenn Greenwald summarizes in this article from The Intercept. If you think the media would be excited by these bombshell revelations, and would rush report them honestly, you'd be wrong. Remember, most mainstream media (especially MSNBC's Rachel Maddow) was deeply invested in the Russiagate narrative. Instead of reporting the IG's findings, some reported their precise opposite. In this video clip from The Jimmy Dore Show, prominent TV host Lawrence O'Donnell gaslights his audience about the IG's findings and the FBI's despicable actions:
Gaslighting is one thing, but the next video clip shows former FBI Director Jim Comey repeatedly lying in the service of "limited hangout." We can be thankful for this rare example of a mainstream TV journalist — Chris Wallace here — holding the retired director's feet to the fire. It's clear in this interview that the FBI decided, in light of the IG's findings, to promote the story as a matter of incompetence within the agency — managerial problems that can be solved with a bit of staff training and department reorganization — in hopes the public won't look deeply into the real underlying problem, which is that the domestic spy agency went to war with one of the three elected branches of the federal government. This was deliberate statecraft and not "incompetence." The FBI is America's Stazi, not its Keystone Kops.
Another good example of limited hangout is the so-called Afghanistan Papers, which were released by the Washington Post. These papers — and the apparent trouble the newspaper had in obtaining them — sound very exciting, and many in the media and even alternative media have been impressed by their revelations. Even the name "papers" reminds us of previous important whistleblowing disclosures like the Pentagon Papers and the Panama Papers. And the Afghanistan Papers are not without value to critics of the US military. They're a large collection of interviews with soldiers, generals and other participants in the 18-year war (the longest in US history and one of the most expensive). The interviewees reveal the army didn't know what it was doing, often didn't know who the enemy was (the clueless including Donald Rumsfeld); it was essentially a mission whose compass was spinning. The whole occupation has fallen into directionless mission creep and has accomplished little.
If you're impressed with this, and leave things there (as most media have), you've just been misdirected by limited hangout.
Because the Afghanistan Papers, as embarrassing as they are to the Pentagon, cloak a deeper and more disturbing truth, which is that the operation has been hugely successful in its real purpose. The invasion of Afghanistan was never about defeating terrorists like the Taliban or the CIA-created al-Qaida. All that was a fig leaf for an occupation always really about hegemony and control of natural resources. Afghanistan has been central to the Grand Chess Board of geopolitics and imperial domination since Russia and Great Britain fought over it in the 19th century. In addition to the immense strategic value controlling Afghanistan gives the US empire, there's vast wealth to be derived from its huge lithium deposits (which are central to any "green energy economy") and other minerals, plus the poppy fields the US military guards that help the CIA fund its many clandestine operations — including the drug distribution network that journalist Gary Webb attempted to expose, for which he was killed.
Now that you understand what "limited hangout" is, I'll leave you with this excellent documentary from Jim Corbett of The Corbett Report. (I can already hear some people objecting that Corbett is a "conspiracy theorist" and in so doing falling for another CIA psyops, that being promotion of the conspiracy theory term to discredit anyone questioning the findings of the Warren Commission into the JFK assassination.) After you watch this short film, you'll see why the US military and surveillance state would prefer that the public view the Afghanistan mission as one that needed (and still needs) more money and better leadership, instead of asking deep questions about the hegemonic and natural resource benefits of the invasion, which also played a potent propaganda role in covering up the real motivation and actors behind the 9/11 terror attacks. It's worth noting that WashPo routinely engages in disinformation, and is owned by Amazon's Jeff Bezos, who also sits on a Pentagon committee.
Corporate media manufactures consent for war all the time, with major brands like the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, the BBC and even the faux left The Guardian getting in on it. (The Guardian continues to stand by its disgraceful and discredited agitprop about Paul Manafort meeting Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.) The Democrats' impeachment of President Trump is another example of limited hangout, creating the impression the Democrats seriously oppose Trump, when they've approved his judges, his recent sky-high military budget, and reauthorization of the Orwellian Patriot Act (things they wouldn't do if they seriously thought Trump was working for Russia, or wanted America to be anything less than a police state). It's political theatre staged by Washington elites to keep you and I distracted and disempowered. Anyway, watch the Corbett documentary above, and be vigilant for limited hangouts. There are more of them than most people realize.
Environment and business journalist and award-winning book author (The Year of Drinking Magic: Twelve Ceremonies with the Vine of Souls, Apocryphile Press) based in Innisfil, Ontario, Canada and Principal of Crittenden Communication. Contact Guy at firstname.lastname@example.org