Monday, February 09, 2015

Identifying Saboteurs in Your Organization: OSS Simple Sabotage Field Manual

Back in 2012, I was at the Tech@State conference listening to the CIA's Sean Dennehy give a presentation about using Intellipedia (a set of wikis for the US intelligence community) to help knowledge-sharing across organizations.

To illustrate what makes inefficient, overly bureaucratic organizations inefficient and overly bureaucratic, he highlighted excerpts from the Office of Strategic Services' Simple Sabotage Field Manual [PDF]. (The OSS was the WWII-era precursor of the CIA. The manual has been declassified and you can also get it from Project Gutenberg):


The manual is a guide for showing how regular people in enemy-occupied nations can commit "simple sabotage." And since it's for regular people, there's no blowing up bridges with high explosives or rappelling down ropes.

Instead, the weapons are the stuff in your pockets... and the tactics are super passive-aggressive.

There's some hands-on stuff -- light arson, slashing tires, sugar in the gas tank. But much of it is indistinguishable from simply being a lazy worker who's doing a bad job: leaving a messy workspace, carelessly breaking tools, and generally being surly, stupid, and non-cooperative.

The amusing bit Dennehy highlighted starts on page 28, where the manual shows the types of behaviors white-collar saboteurs would use to cripple an organization. In your next workplace meeting, and see how many saboteurs you can spot in the room (and if you do spot one, don't bother calling the FBI -- they won't care):

(11) General Interference with Organisations and Production
    (a) Organizations and Conferences
      (1) Insist on doing everything through "channels." Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.

      (2) Make "speeches." Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your "points" by long anecdotes and accounts of per­sonal experiences. Never hesitate to make a few appropriate "patriotic" comments.

      (3) When possible, refer all matters to committees, for "further study and considera­tion." Attempt to make the committees as large as possible — never less than five.

      (4) Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
      (5) Haggle over precise wordings of com­munications, minutes, resolutions.
      (6) Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.
      (7) Advocate "caution." Be "reasonable" and urge your fellow-conferees to be "reason­able" and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.
      (8) Be worried about the propriety of any decision — raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lies within the juris­diction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.

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