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Operation Yellowhammer and Psy-ops

(Contributed)       19 February 2019
 
Recent media coverage of Operation Yellowhammer in the UK has revealed the use of psychological warfare operations (psy-ops) as part of emergency provision for conflict over Brexit.
 
Psy-ops have a long and interesting history. In recent times United States-led military planners have had a preoccupation with their development through social media and apps as a means to control civil populations.
 
It has far-reaching implications for Australia: the UK is central to the Commonwealth which includes Australia; the Five Eyes intelligence networks link the two countries closely with the US, Canada and New Zealand, for western military and security provision.
 
It would therefore be inconceivable that there is not an Australian connection with Operation Yellowhammer.
 
The Operation Yellowhammer psy-ops also reveals a great deal about the mind-set of those responsible for formulating the plan, together with reasons for the behaviour.

The recent Brexit vote has raised fears amongst the British ruling class about a possible breakdown of law and order. It has resulted in revamping previous Cold War military planning with Operation Yellowhammer, including plans to evacuate the Royal family from London to a secret location for their safety. Further operational provision has included the supposed safeguarding of vital medical supplies with 3,000 British troops being placed on standby, 'to ensure medical supplies, such as cancer-fighting isotopes, can bypass port congestion'. (1) The size of the troop mobilisation for the stated reason remains difficult to believe; other factors are far more likely and believable. As the operation has been based on previous planning to handle a Soviet nuclear attack, one major factor for ruling class consideration would obviously be the notion of dealing with 'the enemy within' through repression and detention. 
 
It has, however, been the ruling class use of psy-ops which has raised eyebrows amongst serious people observing developments. News clips of helicopters landing on the roof of the US embassy in Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War, for example, gave the evacuation planning for the Royal family a new mode, conjuring images of war-time fantasies. (2) 
 
The use of the news clips concerned appear, at first glance, ridiculous. It is only when studied in-depth, in the context of psy-ops that their use makes sense.
 
Psy-ops are designed by military planners to distort information, mislead civilian populations and manipulate and channel behaviour. They have a long history. In more recent times, however, US-led military planning has included former Defence Secretary in the Bush administrations, Donald Rumsfeld, being responsible for the creation of the so-called Office of Strategic Influence (OSI). The shadowy Pentagon operation included provision for 'covert operations aimed at influencing public opinion and policy-makers in friendly and neutral nations'. (3)
 
Even the US Congress of the period found the disinformation program too much to handle, and refused official funding. Following the demise of the OSI, Rumsfeld, however, remained defiant and stated 'fine, I'll give you the corpse.....you can have the name, but I'm gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done and I have'. (4)
 
The Pentagon were more successful with their next planned program, the Total Information Awareness Program (TIAP), which did receive some official funding for data mining and profiling. (5) The TIAP, and later Total Information Awareness (TIA), was, not surprisingly, linked to the Pentagon and formed part of the so-called War on Terror. Official media releases from the period also note the Pentagon was planning a vast computer system for troves of personal information with instant access. (6)
 
Despite the official funding for the TIA ceasing in late 2003, the program appeared to continue: secretly within the National Security Agency (NSA); through private, out-sourced organisations.
 
Nearly a decade later, for example, it was noted the TIA was 'quietly thriving' inside the NSA. (7) For all intents and purposes, it is still likely to be doing so: the NSA remains central to US-led defence and security provision.
 
It is also interesting to note, during that period, Rumsfeld was actually planning a parallel espionage network to the CIA, to enable 'clandestine operations abroad'. (8) During the same period US military planning also increasingly became preoccupied with traditional hegemonic positions in the Asia-Pacific region due to the rise of China. Official media releases identified 'Asia as the most likely arena for future military conflict, or at least competition'. (9) Australia was, therefore, increasingly important for US regional military planning with the establishment of triangular diplomatic relations with Japan for regional control.
 
Secondly, private, out-sourced groups to provide financial and other support for TIA-type organisations included shadowy bodies such as the Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL). Their publicity material left little to the imagination: in an official capacity, SCL stated their business included 'military disinformation campaigns' together with capacity to 'influence operations' and use 'mass deception' techniques for the manipulation of public opinion. (10)
 
Two important factors therefore arise about SCL and official linkage to government departments:
    
SCL held military contracts with the US and British governments, which included 'providing training for Britain's 15th Psyops Group (11);                  
   
Their brazen attitude of swashbuckling bravado was presumably linked to SCL being described in official publicity as 'a trusted partner of Britain's Ministry of Defence', which included their listing on 'X lists of companies cleared to have routine access to U.K. secret information'. (12) 
 
SCL official business would appear commissioned at the highest level within the British State, and therefore, gaining access into Commonwealth and Five Eyes networks including Australia.
 
SCL was also closely linked to Cambridge Analytica (CA) and the later scandal which included 87 million Facebook entries being stolen for ulterior motives. Both SCL and CA subsequently folded, but not before they were employed for 'advance work for the pro-Brexit campaign'. (13) Those in control sought to distance themselves from the scandal and unfavourable publicity. In their place, however, another similar organisation arose, Emerdata, officially registered as a Data Processing company, which had no difficulty raising US$19 million from private sources and operated from the same business premises in London. (14) The services they provided were obviously still in demand for those willing to fund the 'business' operations.  
 
Psy-ops, in recent times, has made extensive use of social media and apps, for three significant reasons: they lack security and are readily accessible; users reveal extensive information about themselves and their backgrounds; they can easily be used for manipulative purposes.
 
Psy-ops rely upon the use of personal information to be effective; social media and various apps provide the means of massive intelligence-collecting techniques.
 
The initial contact with social media controllers and their apps are invariably offered on the mass circulation basis through Smart-phones and personal computers, usually without being requested.
 
As early as 2006, Harvard University staff were data mining Facebook for personal information. The following year British researchers linked to the Psychometrics Centre, Cambridge University, had created the My Personality app also from Facebook information. The My Personality app has now data mined over six million Facebook users, each being offered quiz-like questions about their innermost thought and emotional feelings. (15)
 
Other apps, using similar data collection techniques, include The Worry Box, where users log their thoughts and then receive suggestions about planning their lives, raise serious questions about the manipulative agendas of those controlling the systems. (16) There is little doubt whole societies are now vulnerable to manipulation. The official position of the Australian government about the problem has been revealing: they are well aware of the problem of 'social media disinformation'. (17)
 
A recent Australian newspaper editorial, for example, noted: “The opaque algorithm of the digital platforms encourages people to huddle in  information enclaves where their views are not tested by competing arguments or facts.” (18)
     
Due to the close nature of the diplomatic alliance between Australia and the US, it would appear inconceivable decision-makers in Canberra would not be aware of the following:
 
Psy-ops, for governments, rest upon three important criteria:    
    
1. White operations are official government viewpoints, tending to be factually-based,
    
2. Grey operations are designed to be deliberately ambiguous, the source of the information not being readily identifiable,
    
3. Black operations are usually hostile and used for strategic planning, they are invariably deceitful and out-sourced to enable government departments to distance themselves from any political fallout.
 
Both Grey and Black operations, nevertheless, come at heavy costs with far-reaching implications; the logical outcome being once discredited, all other information is treated with extreme caution or automatically discarded. A credibility gap then emerges, where governments face a legitimacy crisis and either fall or rely upon repression to continue.
 
At an official level the Australian government has been unusually quiet about Brexit and the crisis in Britain; nevertheless, they must be monitoring developments due to active involvement with the Commonwealth and Five Eyes intelligence provision. There would obviously be an Australian connection with Operation Yellowhammer although the silence surrounding it is deafening.
 
And returning to the use of old news clips in Britain with images of US helicopters airlifting those involved in supporting the Pentagon-backed neo-colonial administration in Vietnam in 1975 to safety in the US, may reveal the disturbed nature and disposition of the British military planners concerned. They would appear to be displaying behaviour attributed to being both desperate and having lost contact with the everyday reality of ordinary people.
 
But then, having employed Cambridge Analytica to manipulate the outcome of the Brexit referendum, living with the consequences which have undermined much of the traditional influence of the British ruling class and the institutions through which they wield power, must be a mighty uncomfortable position for military planners to find themselves in. (19) Their use of Grey and Black operations paid dividends they never expected.
 
Having also assessed the likelihood of Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters winning office and political power in the forthcoming general elections, and the subsequent crisis facing the ruling Conservative government - and their possible demise, the military planners are attempting to rectify the desperate situation of their own making. The evacuation news clips are, therefore, perhaps best studied in a predominantly symbolic manner for all those who hold traditional class and state power to heart: the puppet Vietnamese ruling class and their middle-class supporters were running away to regroup elsewhere to return for 'US interests' at a future date and time.
 
The use of these news clips under such circumstances, make perfect sense! 
 
Recent developments in Britain, also reveal the legitimacy crisis is well under-way, which all progressive-minded people should regard as a victory for the common-sense of ordinary working people. The Republican Movement could seize upon the opportunities if they so wished, to rid Australia of the remnants of British oppression.
 
An independent foreign policy to distance ourselves from this pantomime is a matter all Australian people should seriously consider.

1.     Brexit plan to evacuate Queen from London, Australian, 4 February 2019.  
2.     Ibid.
3.     Iran-Contra and the Israeli lobby, Ellen Ray and William H. Schaap, Covert Action, the roots of terrorism, (Melbourne, 2003), page 158.
4.     Ibid.
5.     Website: TIA – Wikipedia; and, Threats and Responses, New York Times, 9 November 2002.
6.     New York Times, op.cit., 9 November 2002.
7.     Giving in to the surveillance state, New York Times, 22 August 2012.
8.     Pentagon's parallel spy network revealed, The Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 28 January-2 February 2005. 
9.     Asia moves to forefront of Pentagon planning, The Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 1-7 June 2000.
10.   Website: Wikipedia - Nigel Oakes, Strategic Communications Laboratories.
11.   Roots of Cambridge Analytica, New York Times, International Edition, 24 April 2018.
12.   Ibid.
13.   New York Times, op.cit., 24 April 2018.
14.   Cambridge Analytica, The Daily Mail, 22 March 2018 ; and, Wikipedia – Nigel Oakes, SCL, op.cit.; and, Cambridge Analytica, The Register, 2 May 2018.
15.   Vast troves of data from Facebook unsecured, New York Times, 9 May 2018.
16.   Stress less with these apps, Manila Bulletin, 25 April 2018.
17.   Editorial, Journalism serves democracy, Australian, 14 February 2019.
18.   Ibid.
19.   New York Times, op.cit., 24 April 2018, makes reference to the CA role for the pro-Brexit campaign.

 

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