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CIA Red Cell: The CIA's Creative Writing Department

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posted on Feb, 3 2016 @ 10:45 AM
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Inside the CIA Red Cell

I came across this article a few months ago and found it really interesting. It's about the CIA Red Cell a semi-independent unit that:


...is devoted to “alternative analysis,” which includes techniques like “what ifs,” Team A/Team B exercises, and premortem analysis, all of which are used to identify holes in a plan, model an adversary to understand their weaknesses, or consider all of the conceivable ways a plan can fail beforehand. The term “Red Cell” was chosen by Tenet personally; he believed it sounded alluring and conspiratorial.


It came about after 9/11 when it was decided that they needed a way to better asses threats that supplement current analysis at the time.


Previous comparable units had received limited time and freedom to truly think outside the box. As the recently declassified June 2005 CIA Office of Inspector General’s review of pre-9/11 analysis determined, there was only one example of alternative analysis produced by the Counterterrorism Center’s Assessments and Information Group, and its analysts “recall utilizing no alternative analysis, and ‘did not have the luxury to do so.’”


The way the article reads it really shook up the CIA as:


Some senior analysts were, indeed, pissed off that nonexperts were questioning their work, while others later acknowledged they were simply jealous of the freedoms enjoyed by the Red Cell — producing three-page memos bearing titles such as “How Usama Might Try to Sink the US Economy” and “The View from Usama’s Cave,”


They even had diversity problems within the Red Cell too:


One senior CIA analyst, Carmen Medina, thought that the Red Cell was “way too masculine and way too white in its early days,” which “means they were certainly missing out on some developing world perspectives.”


I'm sure some of those folks within the intelligence community wouldn't mind at all getting selected to work in the Red Cell, it kind of seems like 3 months to 2 years of getting paid to be crazy as #.


Analysts generally serve on the Red Cell for a period of three months, working on short-term projects, to the more standard two years before they return to their mainline units within the CIA or other agencies. The reason for this rotational practice is both to keep the Red Cell fresh and also to immerse as many analysts as possible to alternative-analysis techniques. “We wanted to make them atypical in their analytical approaches,” said one senior CIA official.


They even have a blog that members of the intelligence community all participate in to help them come up with even crazier ideas:


More recently, the Red Cell has utilized virtual brainstorming through its classified blog, which draws upon expertise among the broader intelligence community enterprise. Several members claimed that the most memorable products covered issues that they had wrestled with for years but could only write about with the time and freedom provided during their tenure with the Red Cell.


Pretty interesting unit all in all. Considering that the analysis derived from them is meant to supplement traditional analysis and help policy makers be flexible in their decision making. Despite being what is probably bat crap crazy analysis it still has a hit rate of 50/50 with policy makers. Which really makes me think if some of our government bureaucrats think we're under siege by the Reptilians or if they consider the Federation of Light a hostile civilization.




posted on Feb, 3 2016 @ 11:12 AM
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Hmm the name Dick Marcenko comes to mind, check out his story.



posted on Feb, 3 2016 @ 11:19 AM
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a reply to: Brotherman

Just that guys luck. He probably "mildly tortured" some person that was a politicians son or something and felt some type of way about it all.


I can only imagine what those folks that were giving up launch codes thought after the exercise was over.

But it's pretty cool how the CIA has the equivalent for analysis.



posted on Feb, 3 2016 @ 11:23 AM
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a reply to: gpols
The dude as much as a dbag I think he is, had a company called red cell and he used to probe defensive and offensive places to find weaknesses or provide opfor.



posted on Feb, 3 2016 @ 11:30 AM
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a reply to: Brotherman

I read that in the Wiki I looked up about him. He also did a short stint in prison for over charging the government for munitions if I remember what the Wiki said correctly.

The Red Cell in the OP is about the CIA Red Cell which does alternative analysis though. That guy Marcenko was a commander of a Red Cell team that tested military security during his last years of service, too.
edit on 3-2-2016 by gpols because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 3 2016 @ 11:39 AM
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a reply to: gpols
Yeah he over charged for grenades. I was just saying it reminded me of him is all, whether related or not idk. I do know that they have an "office of evil" where they strategize how to commit terror attacks, foil military operations, assassination, and all the most creative and far fetched ways to literally commit evil.



posted on Feb, 3 2016 @ 12:02 PM
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a reply to: Brotherman

I wonder what the qualifications are to get selected to work in a Red Cell type team. In this article they say they even recruit people from outside of analysis which means they could have folks from FBI, NGA, DIA, etc. all participating.

I could see where that kind of exercise could come in handy when they went back to their regular intel jobs. New perspectives at looking at things to solve a murder or something.



posted on Feb, 3 2016 @ 12:21 PM
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a reply to: gpols

Hmmm... I hate many aspects of the CIA, particularly their work undermining left wing groups throughout the world. And I'll probably never forgive their top brass for the civil wars they backed in places like Angola.

With that being said, I would love to do work like this!! I do that kind of brainstorming for free, just to pass the time. I even came up with a plan to end world hunger and a separate one to wipe negativity from humankind (that one got shelved because of, yeah...). I actually think it's completely necessary to have "out of the box" brainstorming groups like this because traditional ways of thinking will always create limits.

So I guess I'm a bit jealous of the people who get/got to do this as a job. I don't think I'd want to do it for too long or to be an official member of the CIA though. But it would definitely be interesting.



posted on Feb, 3 2016 @ 01:04 PM
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a reply to: enlightenedservant

I don't know how anyone knowing about this unit upon joining the CIA couldn't get excited being selected to participate in it. All the different people form different agencies you'd get to develop working relationships with.

I wonder what kind people get selected for the 2 year run vs. the 3 month run though.



posted on Feb, 3 2016 @ 01:07 PM
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a reply to: gpols

The pool isn't just drawn from government employees. Brad Meltzer, an author, participated in a few of these Red Cell planning sessions. They ask anybody from spies to academics to engineers to participate, because each person brings their own knowledge set to the table.



posted on Feb, 3 2016 @ 01:12 PM
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a reply to: Shamrock6

That's cool. I don't think any of what they are working on could really be considered sensitive to security until it's time for the analysts to write and present their report.

Some of the stuff they are working might raise a few eyebrows if it wasn't being conducted by the government though.



posted on Feb, 3 2016 @ 01:57 PM
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a reply to: gpols

Really interesting article. Great find!


To enhance the likelihood its content is read, the Red Cell has incorporated a part-time staffer who specializes in design and graphics and has openly borrowed practices from the publishing world. In 2012, Red Cell members met with staffers from Foreign Policy to learn how the editors capture readers’ interest through catchy headlines, “listicles,” and photographic slideshows. Blake Hounshell, FP’s managing editor at the time, recalled of the discussions: “I didn’t realize that we were in the same eyeballs business, but they wanted to know how our stuff went viral. The techniques that we considered to be ‘click bait’ were what they were most interested in.” One Red Cell product was turned into a graphic novel, as an experiment, but it was never formally distributed. Several of these techniques first adopted by the Red Cell have been utilized to frame and package other mainline analytical products from the intelligence community.





posted on Feb, 3 2016 @ 02:19 PM
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originally posted by: gpols
a reply to: Shamrock6

That's cool. I don't think any of what they are working on could really be considered sensitive to security until it's time for the analysts to write and present their report.

Some of the stuff they are working might raise a few eyebrows if it wasn't being conducted by the government though.

Or used to set people up as though they were planning a terrorist attack, all they would need is to then facilitate equipment and catch them when they think they are working in a think tank group. Just the paranoia in me coming out, cough FBI cough cough*



posted on Feb, 3 2016 @ 02:22 PM
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a reply to: Brotherman

Things didn't torn out well for that frogman,the Brass attacked him for being too effective and exposing their screw ups.
I thought his Airforce One contact was great.



posted on Feb, 3 2016 @ 02:47 PM
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a reply to: Brotherman

I definitely have mixed feelings about that whole entrapment issue, in a lot of those cases it does seem like the folks being setup wouldn't have done what they did had they not been exposed to it in the first place.



posted on Feb, 3 2016 @ 03:06 PM
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a reply to: cavtrooper7
I'm not saying anything about his service, I'm talking about him in general. He is a DB, according to him the navy seals won the Vietnam war and if you aren't a seal then you dont matter. He's a one upper beat my own chest kind of guy.



posted on Feb, 3 2016 @ 05:09 PM
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...is devoted to “alternative analysis,” which includes techniques like “what ifs,” Team A/Team B exercises, and premortem analysis, all of which are used to identify holes in a plan, model an adversary to understand their weaknesses, or consider all of the conceivable ways a plan can fail beforehand. The term “Red Cell” was chosen by Tenet personally; he believed it sounded alluring and conspiratorial.


Sorta sounds like ATS.




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