CIA Manual for Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare

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The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) released this manual during Nicaragua’s civil war in the 1980s. It was originally entitled Operaciones sicológicas en guerra de guerillas and was translated into Spanish, with the author name being “Tayacán”. In the CIA, it was written by someone with the alias John Kirkpatrick. Duane Ramsdell “Dewey” Clarridge, a senior member of the CIA, originally swore that he had nothing to do with the document, but later said that he was fully responsible. The manual was specifically mentioned in The Republic of Nicaragua v. The United States of America, when the International Court of Justice found America guilty of violating international law to not to use force against another state. Creation and writing of this text was part of the lead up to the Iran-Contra affair, and the political fallout that surrounded it.

Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare is based off of previous US Army manuals such as Handbook on Aggressor Insurgent War and Armed Psyop.

This text is the translation into English by Joanne Omang for the Congressional Research Service. Several footnotes have been added, giving definitions of terms and giving basic historical information on some of the people mentioned in the text. The editor has added a brief outline of the historical facts around the writing of this manual.

Some of the topics covered in this book are: Development and Control of the “Front” Organizations, Control of Meetings and Mass Assemblies, Implicit and Explicit Terror, Selective Use of Violence for Propagandistic Effects, Political Awareness and Armed Propaganda, Organizations of Cells for Security, Political Oratory, and Combatant-Propagandist Guerrillas.

Quotes from the book: “Guerrilla warfare is born and grows in the political environment; in the constant combat to dominate that area of political mentality that is inherent to all human beings and which collectively constitutes the “environment” in which guerrilla warfare moves, and which is where precisely its victory or failure is defined. This conception of guerrilla warfare as political war turns Psychological Operations into the decisive factor of the results. The target, then, is the minds of the population, all the population: our troops, the enemy troops and the civilian population. This book is a manual for the training of guerrillas in psychological operations, and its application to the concrete case of the Christian and democratic crusade being waged in Nicaragua by the Freedom Commandos.”

“The purpose of this book is to introduce the guerrilla student to the psychological operations techniques that will be of immediate and practical value to him in guerrilla warfare. This section is introductory and general; subsequent sections will cover each point set forth here in more detail. The nature of the environment of guerrilla warfare does not permit sophisticated psychological operations, and it becomes necessary for the chiefs of groups, chiefs of detachments and squadron leaders to have the ability to carry out, with minimal instructions from the higher levels, psychological action operations with the contacts that are thoroughly aware of the situation, i.e. the foundations.”

“The development and control of “front” (or facade) organizations is carried out through subjective internal control at group meetings of “inside cadres,” and the calculations of the time for the fusion of these combined efforts to be applied to the masses. Established citizens-doctors, lawyers, businessmen, teachers, etc., will be recruited initially as “Social Crusaders” in typically “innocuous” movements in the area of operations. When their “involvement” with the clandestine organization is revealed to them, this supplies the psychological pressure to use them as “inside cadres” in groups to which they already belong or of which they can be members.”

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