The secret services of Britain and America -- and perhaps other countries -- employ a disinformation technique which we may call “Look, but do not copy.”
The tactic is simple. Colin Wallace, who used to run the trick when he was attached to the British Army’s psyops unit in Belfast back in the 1970s, called it the “double bubble.” Robin Ramsey, a British writer who has worked closely with Wallace, thus describes the gambit in his book Conspiracy Theories:
Wallace would take journalists, especially foreign journalists with a limited understanding of British politics, into a back room and show them ‘secret documents’ which they could read but not copy. Some of the documents were genuine, some forgeries. We have copies of some of the forgeries.Why do such a thing? Three reasons spring to mind:
1. To bring discredit to a person dupe by this scheme. The double-bubble can be a terrific way of tempting some journalistic irritant into making a fool of himself.
2. To bring discredit to a topic, fact or to an allegation.
3. To place a false fact into the public's consciousness while allowing the government to maintain deniability.
The double-bubble has been employed outside Ireland and the U.K. In fact, we've seen the tactic at work here in the United States. The topic: Unidentified Flying Objects -- UFOs.
In the 1970s, attorney Daniel Sheehan achieved fame when he helped win a lawsuit in the then-notorious Karen Silkwood case. He later formed the Christic Institute to expose American covert operatives who were up to various shadowy enterprises in Central America. Many within the Christic Institute knew that Sheehan had a longstanding, and more-or-less quiet, interest in UFOs. In this interview from five years ago, he revealed the incident which prompted that interest.
Back in 1976, Sheehan was the General Counsel for the Jesuit National Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Through his church, he happened to meet Rosemary Chalk, the Secretary of the National Academy of Science in Washington D.C. When SHeehan mentioned that he had once wanted to be an astronaut (as did most boys of his generation), Chalk arranged an introduction to Marcia Smith, director of the Science and Technology Division of the Library of Congress' Congressional Research Service -- who was heading up a research project into the possibility of extraterrestrial life.
And why was the Library of Congress involved with such a thing? Here's how Ramsey tells it:
Before becoming President in 1976, Jimmy Carter had been Governor of Georgia and, while Governor, had seen a UFO. He had even filed a report of the incident with one of the UFO monitoring groups. Becoming President, Carter went to see the Director of the CIA, George Bush, and asked about UFOs. He was told by Bush that the didn't 'need to know' and would get nothing from the Agency. Bush suggested, however, that Carter approach the Congressional Research Service and ask them to prepare a briefing on the subject.That briefing was the job of Marcia Smith, who asked Sheehan to get access to the Vatican's files on UFOs. The Vatican refused. Sheehan then asked to see some of the classified material that Uncle Sam had. Here's how he tells what occurred (with paragraph breaks added for readability):
Well, she said that she didn't know whether the Air Force and the Department of Defense would agree to release these to the Library of Congress, but she would try. So she contacted them and shortly thereafter she called me and she said, much to her surprise, "They have agreed to do this."As Ramsey notes, the entire episode is absurd. Anyone within the government who wants to make the truth about UFOs known would not pick such a bizarre method of revelation. What would be the purpose of showing pictures of a crashed disc to someone like Sheehan? Why would he be on "need to know" -- even though President Carter was not?
So she gave me a particular date and time and told me that I should go over to the new building at the Library of Congress, which was on the other side of Independence Avenue. I had mentioned before, when asked about this, this building had not even been opened yet. There were no people in it.
I went over there, I believe it was on a Saturday morning and brought my identification. I went to the door, and there was an Executive Protective Service officer at the front door of the library. I showed him my identification. He was a little puzzled because there was nobody in the building; no offices had been opened yet. I showed him my identification, and he made a call. A little bit to his surprise he said, "Yes, you are expected."
So I went in, and he told me what room I was expected to go to. I went down the hall, and went downstairs into the basement looking for this room. I found this place, and there was a room and these two security officers there at the door, and there was actually a third, plainclothed, sitting at a desk to the right of them. As I came in there I showed them all my identification, and they checked some documentation that they had, and said "Yes. I was supposed to be here."
As I started to go in, the man sitting at the desk told me I had to leave my briefcase there. I wouldn't be allowed to take any notes. It turned out I had a yellow pad under my arm, so I set the briefcase down, gave it to him, and I went into the room.
I was in there for some time. There were a bunch of documents there. There was actually a film machine. It was like a little reel-to-reel-kind of a film machine there. I don't know if it was 35mm, or whatever those things were -- so there was actually some little films there.
I looked at some of the films and they were like the classic films that you have seen, sort of far distant shots of strange moving vehicles. So I decided I wasn't making much headway on this, so I began to look into these little boxes, that had these canisters there. There was one of these overhead filmstrip machines that was sitting in the room. I began to take these little canisters out, and open them up, and put the filmstrips in and look through these things. I don't know how many I had gone through. I had gone through several, or at least a few of these boxes, when I hit upon this one canister that had film and pictures. I started going through, turning the little crank and there it was. Again I have told people about this a number of times.
There were these photographs of unmistakable -- of a UFO sitting on the ground. It had crashed, apparently. It had hit into this field and had dug up, kind of plowed this kind of trough through this field. It was wedged into the side of this bank. There was snow all around the picture. The vehicle was wedged into the side of this mud-like embankment -- kind of up at an angle. There were Air Force personnel.
As I cranked the little handle, and looked at additional photos, these Air Force people were taking pictures. In the photograph they were taking photographs of this vehicle. One of the photos actually had the Air Force personnel with this big long tape measure measuring this thing. You could see that they had these parkas on, with little fur around their hoods. You could see that they had the little name tags on their jacket. They were clearly U.S. Air Force personnel.
I was kind-of in this strange state saying: "Here it is!" So I turned the crank for more pictures, and I could see on the side of this craft these, like, little insignias - little symbols. So I turned ahead a couple of pictures to see if there was a closer picture. Sure enough, there was. One of the photos had kind of a close-up picture of these symbols.
The entire episode traces to George Bush the elder. When you take one or two steps back, you can see how this version of the "double bubble" might be used to discredit Sheehan, who was, even then, already establishing himself as the sort of lawyer who might annoy the Central Intelligence Agency.
But if you take three or four further steps back, the real target of the enterprise becomes clear: Jimmy Carter.
I believe that Bush -- using Sheehan and Smith as innocent dupes -- engineered this entire enterprise to make sure that false information reached the new Democratic President. Since everything (ostensibly) ran through the Congressional Research Service, the CIA remained completely unconnected with these events.
The motive: Making sure that Carter (who had pledged to rein in the CIA's covert activites) believed that the Armed Forces had captured a downed flying saucer, and that photographs documented the retrieval.
If Carter had announced the existence of such "evidence" on national television, everyone in the country would have laughed at him -- especially if the Department of Defense convincingly denied that it possessed photographic proof of extraterrestrial visitation. Thus, a handful of fake documents and rigged photos could have helped destroy a President unloved by the CIA.
In a future post, we will discuss other uses of the "double bubble" methodology.