In many ways, DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) is the engine of the military-industrial complex, the heart at the center of the Pentagon that keeps America in constant state of weapons innovation and defense spending. Even before the attacks of September 11, 2001, DARPA kept defense contractors lining their pockets; in our post 9/11 surveillance state, DARPA sits at the nexus of corporate war profits, national security, and military innovation.
Cloaked in clandestine secrecy, DARPA has been called the “Oh God Why” branch of the Department of Defense. In the fiscal year of 2015, their requested budget was $2.91 billion, which doesn’t include classified and black budgets. Even still, through Freedom of Information Act requests and intrepid journalism, some of the historical truths and future plans of this nebulous government agency have come to light in recent years.
15. DARPA was responsible for the creation and weaponization of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
Back in 1961, when DARPA was called ARPA, the agency ran a toxicology branch at Fort Detrick, where it spearheaded one of the most controversial weapons programs in U.S. history. Project Agile utilized Agent Orange as a part of their highly classified defoliation and food crop poisoning efforts in the jungles of Vietnam. Their use of Agent Orange, which was manufactured by nine wartime government contractors, including Monsanto, may be responsible for cancer, nervous disorders, and skin cancer in 2.8 million servicemen who returned from Vietnam. The U.S. defoliation program directly killed about 400,000 Vietnamese, caused half a million children to be born with birth defects, and may be the cause of cancer in over 2 million more Vietnamese people.
President John F. Kennedy signed off on DARPA’s costly, deadly and, ultimately, ineffective program.
14. Four nuclear bombs were detonated during the Cuban Missile Crisis
It’s widely believed that nuclear weapons were not used during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Contrarily, with Eisenhower’s test ban failing, the United States actually detonated two nuclear weapons — code-named Checkmate and Bluegill Triple Prime — in space at the height of of tension in October of 1962. Then they tested two more bombs.
ARPA, at the behest of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, launched this effort to test an atmospheric nuclear defense shield known as the Christofilos effect.
13. DARPA ostracized any scientist who discussed ethics or morality with regard to the use of nuclear weapons.
After the horror of witnessing the first hydrogen bomb test, which, in its initial blast had many scientists afraid the atmosphere was catching on fire, Robert Oppenheimer was forced into exile after expressing moral concerns over continued nuclear weapons development. Thereafter, it became official DARPA policy to not discuss ethical issues related to the use of nuclear weapons in warfare.[Source: The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top Secret Military Research Agency.]
12. DARPA scientists drew up plans to nuke the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the Vietnam War.
Then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara called on the Jason scientists — at one time a dominant and prolific division within DARPA — to determine whether it was possible to take out the Ho Chi Minh Trail with nuclear weapons. Military leaders considered the disabling of this important strategic path the preeminent way for the United States to fatally weaken the VietCong insurgency.
However, in this rare instance of restraint, the Jason scientists determined it was impractical to use nuclear weapons for this purpose. They stated:
“At least one TNW [tactical nuclear weapon] is required for each target, and the targets are mostly small and fleeting. A reasonable guess at the order of magnitude of weapons requirements … would be ten per day or 3000 per year.”
11. DARPA developed weapons specifically for the purpose of brutally incapacitating anti-war demonstrators.
At the peak of the anti-Vietnam War fervor in 1968, then-ARPA scientists looked for methods of comprehensively dispersing the crowds that gathered in huge numbers to peacefully protest the war. The research and implementation of these methods included tear gas, phosgene oxide (which can cause temporary blindness), anticholinergics (which block nerve impulses), emetic agents (chemicals that induce vomiting), non-lethal grenades, poisoned tranquilizing darts, lasers, eardrum-shattering loud noises, and tagging (using markings only visible in ultraviolet light) for later apprehension.
“Nonlethal weapons are generally intended to prevent an individual from engaging in undesirable acts,” wrote the authors of a seminal report, which was only recently declassified.
The final crowd control effort, which persists today, sanctioned the upgrading of state police arsenals with military-grade equipment. The Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 created the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA), a federal agency whose sole purpose was to militarize local police forces.[Source: The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top Secret Military Research Agency.]
10. In 2008, the NSA and DARPA collaborated for a covert data mining campaign called Project Reynard, which monitored millions of World of Warcraft users.
Project Reynard came at the first peak of MMO gaming and sought to track the online behavior of 10 million monthly subscribers to the World of Warcraft. This program wasn’t revealed to the public until 2013, when Edward Snowden disclosed top secret documents related to governmental abuses of power.
DARPA scientists configured a Video Analysis and Content Extraction tool, as well as something called Knowledge Discovery and Dissemination, so that Reynard was “automatically detecting suspicious behavior and actions in the virtual world.”
9. DARPA’s anti-polio vaccination campaign exposed millions of Americans to the “cryptic human infection” of monkey virus.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Jason scientists were tasked with biological warfare defense. Their research produced a highly classified controversial vaccination campaign that exposed 98 million people to the “cryptic human infection” of monkey virus, known as Simian virus 40 (SV40).
No one was told of the risk and, even today, rancorous debate over the extent of the danger persists. Scientists have reported that the SV40 virus is found in cancerous human tumors.
Writing on the nature of a stealth virus, or ‘silent loads,’ in biological warfare, one Jason microbiologist wrote:
“The basic idea behind a stealth virus is to produce a tightly regulated, cryptic viral infection, using a vector that can enter and spread in human cells, remaining resident for lengthy periods without detectable harm … [a population could be] slowly pre-infected with a stealth virus over an extended period, possibly years, and then synchronously triggered.”[Source: The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top Secret Military Research Agency.]
8. DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office was controlled by military transhumanist Michael Goldblatt, a McDonald’s employee.
Michael Goldblatt, who believes that humans will end up controlling their own evolution with technology, came to DARPA in 1999 with a vision for military-based transhumanism. His plans included super-soldiers donning exoskeletons and the use of biotech to manufacture pain vaccines and rapid blood clotting for “rapid healing” troops. He also wanted to create the “24/7 soldier,” who requires little to no sleep on the battlefield.
He also happened to have served as chief science officer and vice president of research for McDonald’s.
Notably, in 2012, Cannabis Science appointed Goldblatt to its Scientific Advisory Board.
7. DARPA’S Dark Winter war game simulated a biological terrorist attack and may have contributed to a biowarfare hysteria that paved the way for the Iraq war.
Dark Winter was a fictitious exercise developed by four organizations overseen by DARPA, who wanted to create a hypothetical biological terrorist attack and then assess military reactions to the scenario. The premise, which was pitched to Dick Cheney in 2001, before 9/11, involved a smallpox outbreak in Oklahoma City. The game played out over thirteen days, during which time the disease spread to 25 states and 15 other countries. With no response or vaccine available, a million people die within weeks.
As a result, the Congressional Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism stated,
“To date, the U.S. government has invested most of its nonproliferation efforts and diplomatic capital in preventing nuclear terrorism. The commission believes that it should make the more likely threat — bioterrorism — a higher priority.”
Since Dark Winter, the government has spent more than $60 billion on biodefense. This number, of course, doesn’t tabulate the cost of the war in Iraq, the justification of which was greatly buoyed by fear-mongering over Saddam Hussein’s fictitious chemical and biological warfare capacities.
6. DARPA sponsored biosurveillance program Bio-ALIRT, which collected the medical records of millions of Americans without their knowledge or consent.
Even before 9/11 sent government agencies into Orwellian overdrive, DARPA had been leveraging a surveillance program known as Bio-ALIRT, for Bio-Event Advanced Leading Indicator Recognition Technology. Supercomputers did the job, scanning all available databases of medical records of American citizens.
5. Under the umbrella of a system known as Total Information Awareness, DARPA spearheaded many of the surveillance programs abused by the NSA.
DARPA’s Total Information Awareness concept created a veritable buffet of advanced surveillance and data mining programs, many of which ultimately were folded into NSA’s PRISM. We now know that PRISM culled citizens’ personal data from companies like Microsoft, Google, and Facebook, and was later leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden. Total Information Awareness programs include:
— Evidence Extraction and Link Discovery program (EELD) – Sole purpose is to gather as much information about both terror suspects and average American citizens as possible, using “phone records, computer searches, credit card receipts, parking receipts, books checked out of the library, films rented, and more.” Goal is to assess megadata on 285 million people a day in real time.
— Scalable Social Network Analysis (SSNA) – Program “monitors telephone calls, conference calls, and ATM withdrawals … also sought to develop a far more invasive surveillance technology.”
— Activity Recognition and Monitoring (ARM) – With England’s CCTV surveillance cameras as a model, ARM created a massive database of people going about their everyday lives. Using advanced facial recognition software, the program highlighted any behavior that was outside the realm of a preprogrammed “ordinary,” the definition of which remains classified.
— Deep Exploration and Filtering of Text (DEFT) – Operating on a 28 million dollar budget, this program utilizes advanced computer algorithms to analyze text-based messages in all shapes and forms, from text messages to reports, with the aim being to comprehend “implied and hidden meanings through probabilistic inference.” The full use of DEFT in the United States is classified.
— Nexus 7 – With a classified budget, this particularly murky program studies and tracks social network content. First used in Afghanistan in a defense capacity, when aimed at domestic networks the use of the program is a mystery.[Source: The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top Secret Military Research Agency.]
4. DARPA’S “culture-centric warfare” program conscripted social scientists and anthropologists into the Iraq war as mercenaries.
Operating under the idea that anthropologists would facilitate a more humane war effort, DARPA’S Human Terrain System sought to promote “honorable warfare” in its Iraq counterinsurgency efforts. This lead to the gruesome death of at least one social scientist. On the whole, the program seems to have muddled the already arcane purpose of combat forces in Iraq with a ‘hearts and minds’ type of ideology. It reminded some analysts of internal military propaganda from the Vietnam War.
“After [Human Terrain System] training,” DARPA stated, “soldiers will be able to approach and engage strangers in unfamiliar social environments, orient to unfamiliar patterns of behavior, recover from social mistakes, de-escalate conflict, rigorously practice transition in and out of force situations and engage in the process of discovering and adapting to previously unknown ‘rules of the game’ encountered in social engagements.”
3. DARPA believes the future of war involves animal cyborgs and insect-inspired drone technology.
The Stealthy Insect Sensor Project is part of a long-standing effort to use bees in war, particularly as bomb locators. It started in 1999 and evolved into the development of insect-inspired drones, which are known as micro air vehicles (MAVs). Eventually, DARPA plans for its “biohybrids” to be part animal, part machine cyborgs, which, according to Annie Jacobsen, author of The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top Secret Military Research Agency, will “fly, swim, crawl, walk, run, and swarm.”
The science fueling this futuristic vision is nanobiology. Most of the nanobiology applications DARPA is developing are classified. However, in an interview with Coast to Coast AM, Jacobsen said,
“DARPA has already succeeded in creating a rat that will be steered by remote control by implanting an electrode in its brain.
“And it’s done the same thing with a moth which is really remarkable because the scientists implanted the electrodes in the pupa stage of the moth when it was still a worm! And then it transformed into having wings, and those tiny little micro-sensors transformed with the moth and the DARPA scientists were able to steer that moth.
“Imagine following that idea through — DARPA is moving toward engineering humans for war.”
2. DARPA’s Narrative Networks program developed classified techniques used to manipulate trust in humans.
For its Narrative Networks (N2) program, DARPA collaborated with a CIA agency called the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA) to develop methods of overwriting messages in the human mind. In an article for phys.org entitled “DARPA looking to master propaganda via Narrative Networks,” the program was described as having two parts: first, to understand what happens in the human mind when someone sees or hears a message; second, to figure out how to control how the brain interprets the message.
One researcher described Narrative Networks as an attempt to “detect narrative influence … [for the] prevention of negative behavioral outcomes … and generation of positive behavioral outcomes, such as building trust.”
“The government is already trying to control the message, so why not have the science to do it in a systematic way?”
1. Hunter-killer robots, guided by advanced artificial intelligence, will wage the wars of the future.
Despite the grand mystery of exactly what DARPA is currently working on, which of course is deeply classified, there have been relatively unambiguous signals that it involves artificial intelligence and the outsourcing of military operations to machines. The future of war will see the rise of unmanned autonomous drones, referred to as hunter-killer robots.
In 2011, the Defense Department released a document entitled “Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap,” which laid out a cursory overview of the next couple decades. It unequivocally states there will be fully self-governing autonomous machines … soon. Currently, DARPA is working on creating an artificial brain.
According to the undersecretary of defense Ashton B. Carter in 2010:
“Dramatic progress in supporting technologies suggests that unprecedented, perhaps unimagined degrees of autonomy can be introduced into current and future military systems.”
Perhaps the next great space race is taking place right now in top secret labs all across the world. This time the players include the private sector, too, as Google’s Ray Kurzweil is also trying to create an artificial brain.
Editor’s Note: This article references information from The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top Secret Military Research Agency by Annie Jacobsen. Details not linked to external sources are cited in this book.
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