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Have CIA Operatives Infiltrated Your Business?

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Do you ever wonder why things don’t get done as quickly as they should?  Do things get lost in the shuffle?  Perhaps you find that you have to more closely supervise the people who are supposed to be doing the work?  Are decisions never made because they are perpetually being discussed?  Does work stop because someone forgot to do something?

If any of these describe the performance of your company, there is a strong likelihood it has been infiltrated by operatives of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) – at least according to the “Simple Sabotage Field Manual” created in 1944 by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to the CIA.

Certainly, some forms of sabotage have a higher risk of getting caught and the consequences are substantial – so most operatives avoid them today.  For instance, most saboteurs will shy away from pyrotechnics, so engineering a blaze is not likely in the plans.  Nor is activating the sprinkler system in a building.  Today’s saboteur knows these acts will be exhaustively investigated, the probability of their getting caught is high, and the punishment severe.

The operatives of today know that subtle disruptions will slow productivity and, if employed widely and enthusiastically, will stop productivity altogether.


  • “The ordinary [employee] very probably has no immediate personal motive for committing simple sabotage. Instead, he must be made to anticipate indirect personal gain…”
  • “Since the effect of his own acts is limited, the saboteur may become discouraged unless he feels he is a member of a large, though unseen, group…”

An operative is not imbedded from the outside as much as they are created from within an organization.  The most likely reason is that the values of the company are different from the values they hold – with the second most likely reason being that they feel slighted, taken advantage of, and not respected.

The primary source of the employees being disenfranchised – or not – will be the employees immediate supervisor.  For even if the employee does not align with the company, the employee will forgive and endure a lot if they respect their supervisor.

The employee – now saboteur – will, at first, subconsciously and incrementally be less productive for the company.  They might take more bathroom breaks.  They might linger over lunch or not work as swiftly and accurately as they once did or to their capability.  This will evolve into more passive aggressive behavior as the resentment builds into contempt and the saboteur finds they are not alone – that many others have the same lack of alignment and ill feelings towards the company.


  • “It should be pointed out to the saboteur where the circumstances are suitable, that he is acting in self-defense against the enemy…”
  • “The saboteur may have to reverse his thinking… Where he formally thought of keeping his tools sharpened, he should now let them grow dull; surfaces that formerly were lubricated now should be sanded; normally diligent, he should be lazy and careless; and so on.”

As the contemptuous feelings in the employee for the company builds, the company has become the enemy and the immediate supervisors the jack-boot thugs whose sole they are under.  Their actions will evolve from the subconscious to the conscious.  Where tasks that were performed almost subconsciously according the expectations, the employee is now actively seeking ways to un-think what has been learned in favor of something that will do damage to the company; double-bonus if it also does damage to the supervisor.

[Job] Safety Measures:

  • “Use materials which appear to be innocent. Matches, pebbles, salts, [mobile phones], and dozens of other destructive agents can be carried or kept in your living quarters without exciting any suspicion.”
  • “Try to commit acts for which large numbers of people could be responsible.”
  • “Do not be afraid to commit acts for which you might be blamed directly… as long as you have a plausible excuse… And be profuse with your apologies. Frequently, you can ‘get away’ with such acts under the cover of pretending stupidity, ignorance, over-caution…”

Our now corrupted employee will make sure to hide his ill feelings and nefarious intent towards the company – at least until and unless they find another job with another company.  After all, they need to survive.  So they will work in the shadows and their actions will be subtle, but effective.  If they get caught, “plausible deniability” will be the phrase of the day.

Their goal is to live to fight another day – and collect a paycheck along the way.

Industrial Production, Manufacturing:

  • “Let cutting tools grow dull…”; “Bits and drills will snap under heavy pressure…”; “Put a press out of order by putting more material in than it is adjusted for”; “Lubrication points and electrical contacts can easily be fouled by normal accumulations of dirt…”; “… cause wear on any machine by uncovering the filter system…”; and so forth.

There are many opportunities to have a negative impact on productivity.  Some of the best would be to cause the equipment to be less productive – all the while looking productive themselves.  If some measurement illuminates a decrease in productivity, it’s easy to blame it on the measurements (perhaps they argue that they have been incorrectly measured or the standard itself is incorrect).  This will precipitate a study, during which everything might be “fixed” for some unknown reason.


  • “Make train [and all other means of travel] as inconvenient as possible…”

Why pay an extra $100 for a direct flight when you can save $100 by having three layovers?  Or maybe you saved a mountain of cash by reserving a no-tell motel near(ish) the conference or meeting.  Even better, double-up the employees so they share the same room.  Of course, you don’t do this for yourself – just for others.

It doesn’t matter that the total trip time is twice as long as the direct flight and the risk of disruption (missed connections, lost bags, and weary and disgruntled employees) is made far greater – the saboteur has saved the company $100 (even much more when the discount accommodations are factored into the equation).

The double-bonus is that the saboteur will get to tell their supervisor during the annual review that their travel spend came in under-budget and they are entitled to that bonus and raise.


  • “… give them wrong [telephone] numbers, cut them off ‘accidentally’…”
  • “… delay transmission and delivery [of messages]…”
  • “Garble [messages].”; “Sometimes changing a single letter in a word – for example, changing ‘minimum’ to ‘miximum’ so that the person receiving the message will not know whether ‘minimum’ or ‘maximum’ is meant.”

The damage done by the saboteur here can be subtle and irritating – perhaps just minor delays and a redundancy of effort.  But it also can be substantial.  Consider; during the War of 1812, Andrew Jackson fought the Battle of New Orleans a full two weeks after the Treaty of Ghent was signed.

General Interference with Organizations and Production:

  • “Insist on doing everything through ‘channels’. Never permit shortcuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.”
  • “Make ‘speeches’. Talk as frequently as possible and at great length.  Illustrate your points by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences.”
  • “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.”
  • “Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.”
  • “Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.”
  • “Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to reopen the question of the advisability of that decision.”
  • “Advocate ‘caution.’ Be reasonable and urge your fellow conferees to be ‘reasonable’ and avoid the haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.”
  • “Be worried about the propriety of any decision – raise the question of whether such action is as contemplated lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.”

I read these and think back on my career.  There was a relationship my company (the reseller) had with a technology provider (the vendor) – I won’t call them out by name, but I referred to them as “Constant Aggravation”.  My primary contact was a person who – in my opinion – suffered from having Napoleon complex – even though he didn’t recognize that he suffered.

He would insist on building large committees so that he could take credit for decisions that were correct and deflect blame for decisions that were wrong.  His talks could be marathon discussions, subtly changing over time as the political winds changed – even outright changing direction and blaming it on other’s misunderstanding of what he originally said.  When receiving an email, he would not discuss the content, but dwell on the wording and presentation.  He believed he was the center of the universe, and god forbid if you didn’t go through him (then on to his minions) for everything.  He was a master saboteur.

Eventually, the relationships ended and I no longer had to endure Constant Aggravation.

Managers and Supervisors:

  • “Demand written orders.”
  • “’Misunderstand’ orders. Ask endless questions or engage in long correspondence about such orders.  Quibble over them when you can.
  • “Do everything possible to delay the delivery of orders. Even though parts of an order may be ready beforehand, don’t deliver it until it is completely ready.”
  • “Don’t order new working materials until your current stocks have been virtually exhausted, so that the slightest delay in filling your order will mean a shutdown.”
  • “In making work assignments always sign-out the unimportant jobs first.”
  • “Make mistakes and routing set parts and materials will be sent to the wrong place in the plant.”
  • “When training new workers, give incomplete or misleading instructions.”
  • “Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.”
  • “Multiply paperwork and plausible ways start duplicate files.”
  • “Multiply the procedures and clearances involved in issuing instructions… See that three people have to prove everything for one would do.”

Carrying on with the theme of what those in leadership roles can do to sabotage the outputs of an organization, the extent and impact is limited only by one’s imagination.  If properly performed, the results of the sabotage can easily be blamed on the incompetence of others whose rank and role is less than that of the leader.

Really, the sky is the limit for the skillful leader-saboteur.

Office Workers and Employees:

  • “Misfile essential documents.”
  • “Tell important callers the boss is busy or talking another telephone.”
  • “Work slowly. Think about ways to increase the number of movements necessary on your job.”
  • “Contrive as many interruptions to your work as you can.”
  • “Pretend that instructions are hard to understand, and asked to have them repeated more than once.”
  • “Do your work poorly and blame it on bad tools, machinery, or equipment. Complain that these things are preventing you from doing your job right.”
  • “Never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skillful worker.”
  • “See that the procedures adopted are as inconvenient as possible for the management, involving the presence of a large number of employees at each presentation, entailing more than one meeting for each grievance, bringing a problems which are largely imaginary, and so on.”

However, you don’t have to be a leader to perpetrate acts of sabotage that are painful – there are many opportunities for the average person to cause considerable disruption and loss within an organization.

Several years ago, I had a couple of relatives working for me at the office, doing basic office functions and answering the telephone.  One day, I was in a conversation with one of my other employees and a call came in for me.  To my shock, the relative answering the phone told the caller that I “was busy; can you call back later?”  They didn’t offer to take a message and didn’t take the name of the caller.  Shocking, but that was standard practice where they had worked in the past – they were trained by a saboteur and became unwitting saboteurs themselves.

General Devices for Lowering Morale and Creating Confusion:

  • “Give lengthy and incomprehensible explanations when questioned.”
  • “Act stupid.”
  • “Be as irritable and quarrelsome as possible without getting yourself in the trouble.”
  • “Cry and sob hysterically at every occasion.”

When confronted, the expert saboteur will use deflection and smokescreens as the best defense.  In doing so, they take the attention off the action they committed and place it elsewhere, even if still on themselves.

As we can see, the CIA offered a how-to manual for those wishing to embark on a career as a saboteur.  And there are many ways saboteurs can cause havoc in your business and many places they can hide – sometimes in plain sight.

So if you see any of these subversive activities in your organization, you can be assured that you have been infiltrated by CIA Operatives whose mission is to sabotage your business.  You need to flush them out and get rid of them…

unless, of course… …you are the master saboteur!

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