Why We Are All a Bit Crazy

by rthieme on January 11, 2015



Why we’re all a bit crazy

James Jesus Angleton embodied the inevitable trajectory of a person committed to counterintelligence. Maybe he got a little crazy at the end but that might explain why we are all getting a little crazy, too.

Angleton was director of counterintelligence for the CIA from 1954 until 1974. Fans of spy fiction might think of him as John Le Carre’s George Smiley, but that portrait puts a benign and smiling face on the grimace that counterintelligence practitioners can’t completely hide.

For 20 years, Angleton’s job was to doubt everything. This enigmatic figure presented puzzles for people to solve in every conversation, stitched designer lies into every narrative, trusted no one.

The task of counterintelligence is to figure out what the other side is doing, how it is deceiving us, what double agents it has planted in our midst. CI is predicated on double-deceiving and triple-deceiving the other side into believing fictions nested within fictions, always leavened with some facts, just enough to seem real.

Counterintelligence is a dangerous game. You have to be willing to sacrifice pawns to save queens. Those pawns may be loyal agents but nothing you have told them, no promises or pledges, can stand in the way of letting them go when you have to, letting them be tortured or killed or imprisoned for life to protect a plan of action.

Angleton came to suspect everyone. Whenever a mole was uncovered in our ranks, he believed that he had been allowed to discover that mole to protect a bigger one, higher up.

You see how the Moebius strip twists back onto itself. Every successful operation is suspect. If you discover double agents in your own ranks, it is because the other side wanted you to find them. The more important the agent you uncover, that is how much more important must be the one you have not yet found.

Example. The Americans built a tunnel under the Berlin Wall so they could tap Soviet military traffic. In fact, a mole working for the Soviets told them about the taps. But he told the KGB, not the military whose traffic was tapped. The KGB did not tell the military because then the military might alter the traffic, which would signal that the Soviets knew about the taps. That, in turn, would mean there was a mole. So to protect the mole, the traffic was allowed to continue unimpeded.

The Americans, once they knew about the mole, concluded that the intercepted traffic had been bogus because the operation had been compromised from the beginning, when in fact the Soviets had let the Americans tap the traffic, saving their mole for future operations.

You get the idea. It’s not that we know that they know that we know but whether or not they know that we know that they know that we know.

It takes a particular kind of person to do this sort of work. Not everyone is cut out for distrusting everybody and everything, for thinking that whatever they accomplish, they were allowed to do it to protect something more important. Daily life for most people means accepting the facts of life at face value and trusting the transactions in which we are engaged, trusting the meaning of words, trusting that there is firm ground under our feet.

Otherwise we inevitably tend where Angleton tended. Every defector considered a plant, every double agent considered a triple agent, everyone in the American network considered compromised. Angleton tore the agency apart, looking for the mole he was sure the moles he found were protecting.

I am struck lately by how many plain people, mainstream folks uninvolved in intelligence work, volunteer that they distrust every word uttered by the government or the media. How many treat all the news as leaks or designer lies that must be deconstructed to find a motive, plan or hidden agenda. Daily life has become an exercise in counterintelligence just to figure out what’s going on.

It’s not a question of party politics. This is deeper than that. It’s about trying to find our balance as we teeter precariously on the Moebius strip of cover and deception that cloaks our public life, that governs the selling of the latest war, that called the air in New York clean instead of lethal, that has darkened the life of a formerly free people who enjoyed constitutional rights as if there’s a midday eclipse. We see our own civil affairs through a glass darkly and nobody really knows what’s what.

As the envelope of secrecy within which our government works has become less and less transparent, the projection of wild scenarios onto that blank space where the truth was once written has become more evident. But that only makes sense. The inability to know what is true unless you are a specialist in investigative work makes our feelings of dissonance, our craziness, understandable.

We are all getting a little crazy about now. We are becoming the confused and confusing person of James Jesus Angleton in a vast undifferentiated mass, a citizenry treated as if we are the enemy of our own government. We spend too much time trying to find that coherent story that makes sense of the contradictory narratives fed to us day and night by an immense iron-dark machine riding loud in our lives.

It got to be too much and at last they let Angleton go into that good night in which he had long lived where nothing was what it seemed and everyone was suspect. So he retired and went fishing. But where can we go? On what serene lake should we go fish, listening to the cry of the loons, trailing our hands in the cold water because cold is at least a fact we can feel, one of the few in a world gone dark and very liquid?

Richard Thieme (thiemeworks.com) is a Milwaukee-based author and professional speaker. He has spoken about security issues for the National Security Agency, the Secret Service, and the FBI and at the security/hacker conference Def Con for 19 years.


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This speech was given at Def Con 22 in Las Vegas in August 2014, the 19th year I spoke at Def Con. A graphic represntations of speakers at Def Con over the year showed that I had spoken there more than anyone else, which means the company of a LOT of greater people.


Video and additional files of
“The Only Way to Tell the Truth is in Fiction: The Dynamics of Life in the National Security State” – my talk at Def Con 22 (2014)



One might (or might not) notice that the first part of the title of the closing keynote for the final HITB Kuala Lumpur last week is the same as my first keynote for Def Con in 1996. I was asked to scan the future and see what blips appeared on radar and this limited overview was aimed at that. Some in the audience at Def Con 4 – who have moved on to significant work in corporate, government, the intelligence community, recall the prediction that they would be thought leaders in the next century. That “long view” which experienced teachers have lets those on the edge of their dotage see possibilities inherent in younger colleagues who do not yet know how powerful and present they will be.

the full description:

Hacking as Practice etc: How hackers frame the pictures in which others live

Radical hacking is a state of mind, an approach to life, the universe, everything, a practice that must be understood with humility, explored with persistence, and mastered with grace and a flair for style.

It begins in the beginning. In Zen we hear of “beginners’ eyes,” which look with no preconceptions and see clearly what is there. That also means – Zen again – that we can distinguish what’s in our own minds, our perceptual apparatus itself, and what’s “out there.” The boundary where those meet, where we half create and half perceive the reality in which we live, is the fertile gray area where radical hacking takes place.

This is why the future of hacking is in a way already there, a mold for possibility that draws us into itself. Those who allow the future to reach back to them and show them the way look like pioneers, creative geniuses, but really, they’re just hackers.

The future does not exist, from another point of view, or it exists, but not in the ways we think it does. It’s not “there” in an objective way, it’s there as a possibility, actualized or made real only when we instantiate it. If that sounds like quantum physics, maybe it is: studies testing ESP have detected hits at a rate greater than chance for the next perception, the next event, suggesting the future is already held in suspension and available to us here and now.


the future as how we hold ourselves here and now as possibilities for action. What we call the future is a range of possibilities and when we choose one, it happens in the eternal now, in the always present now. And all is always now.

possibilities for hacking aligned with these insights based on my experience. They constitute reality. Reality, as Dick said, is that which, when we no longer believe in it, refuses to go away.That zone of hacking that echoes the past but anticipates the future lies on the edges, the edges of social constructions of reality that we share. If we live inside those constructions as if they are “real,” we become sheep among prowling wolves. But if we refuse to believe in our beliefs and hold them lightly and remain open to possibilities, … mastery.

The necessity for mastering radical hacking is a non-trivial imperative of our time. It is mandated by the untimely stories hackers must invent by making and doing and creating which are contrary to the constructed realities of our time, the consensus realities which people believe uncritically. They are untimely because they cause cognitive dissonance and intolerable pain for those who inhabit the consensus, the “userspace” of our digitally reinvented world, which is why the act of hacking requires courage, discipline, the management of one’s ego, and a willingness to go as insane as a shaman, remembering how to return to the village of the present, the village of the damned.

There’s a practical level to all this. Do you want to live in Moscow owned by keepers who never feed their pets for free?

the ghosts of the past are the torchlights that illuminate the future, and hackers worthy of the name live by that light, the torchlight of doubt and chaos.


as Langdon Winner said:

“To invent a new technology requires that society also invents the kinds of people who will use it; older practices, relationships, and ways of defining people’s identities fall by the wayside and new practices, relationships, and identities take root. In case after case, the move to computerize and digitize means many preexisting cultural forms have suddenly gone liquid, losing their former shape as they are retailored for computerized expression.”



Giving terror events less frightening names may ease fears

by Richard Thieme

Acts of terror are primarily intended to 1) degrade trust by a people in the ability of their government to defend and protect them and 2) deliver blows to the economy and bleed critical resources into protecting against attacks.

By that measure, Sept. 11, 2001, was a success. Billions of dollars shifted to the national security enterprise, diverted from other productive uses, and a good chunk were devoted to what Bruce Schneier calls “security theater,” the Transportation Security Administration at airports, for example, showy activities intended to reassure the public that all is well.

In addition, 9-11 triggered a policy that is extraordinarily expensive and not a little controversial: Once it was decided that all attacks must be prevented, and the long coastline of national life, an interface with countless bays and inlets, must be defended in its entirety, that no casualties are acceptable, it became imperative to intercept and process all communications, all the time, all over the world. If one must stop every attack, one must know every plot.

We still don’t know how to debate all that properly. The distinction between foreign and domestic disappeared as the world of digitized information and communications became ubiquitous. That meant that prohibitions against “unreasonable search and seizure” became blurry.

The context of our lives has so changed since that amendment was added to the Constitution that its application is confusing in a world without walls. The FBI, intended as a national police force, has operations all over the world, and the CIA, created for intelligence gathering and covert action in all countries except ours, now operates domestically as well. The implications of the computer revolution made that inevitable — all identities, all structures, all political boundaries, have been transformed.

In this looking-glass world, when is an act of terror not an act of terror?

An act of terror is aimed above all at the mind of society. That mind’s perception of events is as important as the events themselves. Therefore, turning an act of terror into an anomaly, an accident, a criminal act, alleviates the particular fear that follows an act of terror. Accidents happen, after all, it’s an imperfect world, and when they do, we may not like them, but we don’t cower in fear or assail the government for not preventing them.

Shortly after 9-11, I was alerted to two interesting phenomena.

A friend from one of the agencies suggested I take a look at train derailments. I did what I could to do the research and learned that they had increased and often involved toxic payloads such as chemicals. I learned that implements designed to do nothing but derail trains had been stolen from federal yards. Where did I learn this? Exclusively from small local newspapers.

It took digging around to find the stories and soon they disappeared. They never made it into the national media, which might have amplified the stories, imprinting them indelibly on the mind of society as it did after 9-11 with repeated showings of the towers falling, giving the nation post traumatic stress. All of those incidents were ignored or reported as anomalous facts or turned into “accidents.” As a result, they were not “acts of terror,” nary a one, and they vanished from the forgetful mind of society which is in any case so easily distracted.

The second alert from my friend concerned the number of exotic diseases carried by people crossing the Mexican border. “Looks like they’re up,” he said. “Why? I think they’re practicing.”

Keep in mind that even more than dirty bombs, more than cyber attacks, many charged with defending the homeland fear biological attacks above all else. When I am asked what keeps me awake at night, I respond that a senior technologist at CIA told me he can’t sleep. What keeps him up? Reading FISA intercepts that detail the hopes and dreams of terrorists, what they want to do, what they are trying to do. At the top of the list of his nightmares are biological attacks.

My friend was suggesting that some of those apprehended at the border with unusual pathogens in their bodies were trying to be “suicide carriers.” Dying by a sudden explosion of a bomb attached to your body or dying by a disease is sixes to someone committed to being a martyr.

Think of the current enterovirus epidemic or the raging plague of Ebola. Then think of the impact of the spread of such diseases by design, using weaponized pathogens. It’s not easy, but if death can be delayed long enough for carriers to scatter, then spread disease through contact, a suicide carrier will have done his or her job.

I am not suggesting that terror is behind those two outbreaks. I am not suggesting that all train derailments or epidemics are intentional. Let’s not connect dots prematurely, like so many blogs and shout shows. Diseases do happen. We flinch, then wash our hands. We take the next train.

But when such events are intentional, it takes the terror out of terror to characterize them as “natural.” And I am suggesting that such plots are at the top of the list of attacks that would meet the objectives of terror defined above.

So it seems to be a successful strategy to label events with less frightening names. A man beheads a co-worker but of course he did not get the idea from an ISIL tape. A man takes down the air traffic control system but of course it wasn’t “a terror attack” — no, both guys just…snapped.

Move on. Nothing to see here.

And for heaven’s sake, keep spending. Consumer spending is 70% of our economy (a suicidal path by itself in a world that honors production, not consumption), so keep shopping, as President George W. Bush urged after 9-11. Add to debts that will never be paid, and — oh, why go on. It’s all just life, isn’t it? Things just happen to happen.

And, hey — how about those Packers?

Richard Thieme (thiemeworks.com) is a Milwaukee-based author and professional speaker. He has spoken about security issues for the National Security Agency, the Secret Service and the FBI as well as speaking for Def Con 19 years. He recently returned from keynoting conferences in Australia for corporate and government security pr


Remembering Gary Webb Ten Years Later

by rthieme on October 16, 2014

Seeing “Kill the Messenger” reminded me that I wrote this ten years ago. Webb and his example meant a lot to me. But it also prompted an endless echo in my mind. If we don’t tell the truth, then they win, he said, and after they stripped him of his reason to live – more effective than killing him, because the only marks on the body are his own – the left-over human being will do the job for them. The words, “who won? who won? …” echo endlessly down the hallways of time.

I have learned the silence can be as effective as ridicule for “controversializing” a person and shifting the focus from what they say to a false image of who they are. Accompanied by changing what they say to “what we say they said” as they did with Webb, an individual does not have the resources of the “authoritative voice” magnified by those in the media who amplify it for a multiplicity of reasons. (The absurd or ignorant comments made about my recent book written by a team of scholars and dedicated researchers over five years, “UFOs and Government: A Historical Inquiry” and tin-foil-hat wearing accusations are a case in point. Our historical analysis of how the government set policies and executed them over fifty years is supported by nearly one thousand citations, making the data bullet proof, all to government documents and other primary sources. We speculate about nothing – we don’t mention aliens, or interpret in any way the phenomenology of the “thing itself” in ways that continue to baffle our physicists – we simply present a narrative more supported by voluminous corroboration than most “news” – which has resulted in the book being in over 50 university libraries – and it is ignored, muffled by a combination of “they wrote a book about aliens” (not mentioned) and “say nothing, move on.”

For the 21 years I have worked as a writer and professional speaker, I have tried to speak with what someone in an audience in Canberra last month said was “fearless honesty.” That effort, on the margins and the edges, eclipsed by shout shows fighting for shelf space in the narrowing American mind, is all I can do. But when I revisit Gary’s trajectory – the CIA admitted what he said, not what they said he said at the time and savaged him for saying, only ten years later – I am mindful of the loss of innocence his death meant for me, how his words became ironic or tragic, a true “Chinatown moment.” Only ten years were needed for the admission of illegality and criminal activity to be irrelevant. Accountability? To Congress? to “the people?” It went away long ago. The best safest response to knowing that is, as I hear often from audiences –

“I don’t want to know that!”

Because knowing precipitates choices we would rather not make. Not wanting to know is an inevitable predictable response to the magnified power and untouchability of structures we have created.

This is offered in celebration and support of those who tell the truth as best they can, constrained as they are by jobs and families and serious concerns about reputation and career, much less avoiding jail, whether journalists or far-seeing individuals who see the big picture long before others can get it in focus, and are ridiculed for seeing and saying it clearly. It works best to not ask the question, “who wins?” not when a well-meaning colleague then takes us by the arm and gets us home, saying, “It’s Chinatown, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”


“I Knew It Was the Truth and That’s What Kept Me Going”

My Last Talk with Gary Webb


The San Jose Mercury News reports that “Gary Webb, a former Mercury News investigative reporter, author and legislative staffer who ignited a firestorm with his controversial stories, died Friday in an apparent suicide in his suburban Sacramento home. He was 49.”

I was heartsick. Just knowing that Webb was alive was enough to keep me going through difficult nights.

The Mercury News says that “Webb, an award-winning journalist, was … perhaps best known for sparking a national controversy with a 1996 story that contended supporters of a CIA-backed guerrilla army in Nicaragua helped trigger America’s crack-cocaine epidemic in the 1980s. The ‘Dark Alliance’ series in the Mercury News came under fire by other news organizations, and the paper’s own investigation concluded the series did not meet its standards. Mr. Webb resigned a year and a half after the series appeared in the paper. He then published his book, `Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras and the Crack Cocaine Explosion.’

Of course the newspaper did not report that he resigned only after months of commuting to a dead-end assignment 150 miles from his family and home to which he had been exiled. Forced to work so far from his family, Webb grew depressed and made a sane choice.

So he was not a stranger to depression. Conspiracy stories are already suggesting that his suicide was something else, but I know he would want more than anything for solid investigative work to stitch together all of the pieces, that we not impose a pattern prematurely. That’s what he did for his stories and it’s the least we can do for him.

Besides, why kill him now? As I said in my blog-piece three days ago:

Voices of clarity and conscience are effectively controlled and spun into irrelevance rather than silenced. Marginalization is more effective than assassination it leaves no dead heroes as leaders, after all – and there’s no blood.

Webb understood that.

His Dark Alliance series was attacked not for what it said (the CIA initially denied then later admitted there were connections between operatives and drug cartels) but for what attackers claimed it said. Webb expected that kind of distortion and created a web site loaded with primary documents, transcripts and audio tapes of interviews so interested parties could read and hear for themselves what sources had said. It was one of the first times the Web was used to support a mainstream story that way and the site had over a million hits.

But a person can only say “I didn’t say that … I didn’t say that …so many times. The mass mind soon accepts the oft-repeated distortion as reality.

Or as a friend, a political consultant, recently said, “You can’t always change reality but you can always change the facts.”

Or as Joseph E. Levine said, “You can fool all of the people all of the time if the advertising is right and the budget is big enough.”

Or as I said three days ago:

the manipulation of the herd by the substitution of symbols and images largely irrelevant to matters at hand, used so efficiently in the recent election, makes persons of clarity and conscience feel impotent and ineffective.

In May 2000, I was exploring a story with some dark edges to it. I was anxious and needed encouragement to persist. I asked Gary about the consequences of his investigation and its impact on his life. Above all, was it worth it?

“Yes,” he said. “The CIA admitted it. I know it was the truth, and that’s what kept me going. I knew I was right.

He added, “My eyes were wide open. I knew what I was getting into. My kids suffered but I had the paper behind me – I thought.” After his paper withdrew its support, he drew on the energy of people who knew the truth of the streets. “Support came from all sorts of places,” he said. “Especially African Americans.”

And his wife? “She was OK with it,” he laughed. “She was used to me getting death threats.”

Webb joked that colleagues often said he was naive rather than cynical. We agreed that a cynic might be nothing but a disappointed idealist. If we accept reality as it is without expectations to the contrary, we’re never disappointed.

Gary spoke of his work in terms that I used for ministry. He had been mentored by a journalist who taught him that his work was to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Thats what the best bishops taught me too.

I was once asked by Jean Feraca on Wisconsin Public Radio, why are so many of your heroes assassinated?

She rattled off Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, Jesus.

Maybe, I said, assassination is the ultimate form of censorship for those who cant help but tell the truth.

Dark Alliance was Gary Webb’s best shot at doing that.

“You get one chance in a lifetime to do the right thing,” he said. “If you don’t do it, you surrender, and then they win.”

The passion for truth and justice is not a sprint. It’s a long-distance run that requires a different kind of training, a different degree of commitment. Our eye must be on a goal that we know we will never reach in our lifetimes. Faith is the name of believing in the transcendent, often despite all evidence to the contrary.

But what are the options?

Webb knew what he was up against. He said of the CIA, “Richard, these are the worst people on earth that you’re dealing with – they lie, plant stories, discredit and worse for a living and have the resources and the experience.

But somebody’s got to do it [tell the truth]. Otherwise they win.

The choice is to do the work – or surrender.”

And I am grieving for someone who did the work. And never surrendered.

Rest in peace.

RICHARD THIEME is an author and public speaker focused on change, the human side of technology, and the issues that matter to us most. A collection of his work, “Islands in the Clickstream,” was published this year by Syngress Publishing.


by rthieme on October 14, 2014

Apparently Jack Teufel, who comes he is certain from another system, another point space-time as it were, and who will appear in a fictionalized account (to protect the never-innocent, above all himself) called FOAM, has begun to write a blog. It can be found here:




The End of the Greeks! Interesting!


I have been reading a graphic novel about the Greeks. The older ones, as you count years, not the swarthy hairy bumblers of the present day who cannot even calibrate their commerce to the moment or the real. Then they fill the streets with cries and shouts, selfish whining clods upset with the world for not devoting itself to their mama-baby-happiness.

But I digress.

The rationality of Greeks, it went away and the mind of society dissolved into a new way of thinking about things for about a thousand years. Not one single Greek or Greek-like other took on apocalyptic stories because they were so absurd. They didn’t compute. The rational Greeks could not comprehend the absurd, so the 78% of the human brain, as I think about my own human brain and use it for a template to understand others (how else does a human do it, after all? Mirror neurons and all that), that 78% was disengaged, so I infer that those four fifths of the lobes and folds unused by the Greeks were tuned in that detour into the “supernatural” (which is natural) and the “paranormal” (which is normal), tuned to the architectonic structure of something more than space-time and therefore opened the portal to the deep transformational power of that realm … they could not comprehend that. Nor understand the necessity of entering absurd worlds in order to leapfrog tiddlywinkwise the limitations of their “upper-level” thinking.

The challenge then to the one reader reading these words – you! I mean – is to entertain those worlds, enter into the images of those wild-assed imaginative adventures, while at the same time not believing too much in what you must believe in order to do that.

This practice requires a precarious balance on the cusp. That takes practice, yes, looking at where the water goes and not at the rocks. Then you can go where the water goes.

Humans in their twenty-first (ha!) century are on the cusp again. They have been on the cusp before. Many times, in point of fact. They think of it as a fork in the road but it is more like standing at five or six points and having more choices than binary thinking allows. Regardless of what humans choose, this time, if you do not factor in that crazy realm with harlequin colors spattered throughout, in which richer reality resides, then you doom yourselves like the Greeks to a dead-end. You will hit the wall with the kind of splat! with which my graphic novel is filled.

 Splat!  Pow! Wham!


Such creative evocative words from the pens and inks of tale-tellers, emphasis when needed, to make exclamatory points. And yes, I the casual reader from a different system, approve this message.


But why, you may ask, do such thoughts fill my head, even before the first latte or cappuccino of the day? On which I now depend to kickstart my brain?

This is why …



Heidi came by after her massage class. I could smell the scented oil on her hands and reflect with regret that I was not the body on which those hands worked their supple magic. She is learning massage in fact, not as a pretense to bring the lonely client to a come, after which he is lonelier than before. She studies the magical arts of the ancients in order to reiki their major centers even when they don’t know it.

When she bustled into the coffee shop in her blue parka, the furry hood up, her eyes full of light, exuding life and a warmth for which we in this deadly cold city must otherwise wait many months, I felt an updraft, a warm springlike breeze and I smelled the scent of blossoms despite the icy streets outside. That was a new feeling and I log it here for reference. In what you call the “future.”

She told me of an exchange of energies with her sample client that was for once reciprocal. It moved like a loop of infinity, an eight on its side, from her hands through the energies arranged as a body and back through her hands to her brain. That was pretty interesting, in itself. Could she discern the meaning or intent of the energy? I asked. She thought for a pretty little moment, then shook her bleached blonde middle-aged head—young middle-aged, she makes me say, late thirties, we pretend. No, not that I’m aware of, said the woman onto whom I latched from the moment I rose on the steps at the station, tired from my long journey from Utah and beyond. Ah ha, said her new fond friend (that’s me). Then the energy never turned the corner. Never became information, I mean. That is quite a primordial experience, good for building on but not an end in itself.


Uh-huh, she said, as if she understood. Which she could not do, of course, until it does turn into information that she can receive and integrate into her thoughts as best she can. That for some reason made her speak of religions (you see the link with the prior page) and why she can not belong to one. She was ready to confide that the men to whom she like a magnet went boing! sprong! and bounded toward their attracting force, a Lorenz attractor as it were which she could never reach, had used or abused her, one way or another, some with subtlety and guile, playing with her brain, one bad actor more overtly with the back of his dastardly hand, so she was reluctant to enter into systems headed by domineering men like Jesus or Mohammad or Moses, all of whom could be … well, she paused, insufferable, as we were discussing, because they felt so superior to normal human beings like me.

She went on in that vein with energy and vigor for quite some time. But this is what I noticed most.

My body as I mentioned was already trained by her skillful hand to crave and expect sex, to love the rituals she made, building through subtle interaction until I was well inside her spell, every time I saw her. But it was quite a while, sitting there and listening, before I even thought of that. Before I thought of sex, I am saying. Huh! I said to myself. I had fallen into listening, don’t you see, and in my attentive focus, was attuned to my friend Heidi and her alacrity of spirit and her energy and strength and the way her face, so animated, tickled me quite pink. And in that attentiveness, my dick did not even stir, not for a while, as I said, because I was lost in the folds of her soul. Manifesting itself in words and gestures and demeanor, all at once. When I realized that, of course, it sprang to life, but it did not seem right to act on the impulse. Whoa! I said to myself. Because that too was a new thing.

This seems worthy of remarking. It seems important to me as I continue to try to understand humans from within their own frame. A frame I try at the same time to build out into dimensions they cannot comprehend as we interact in a casual manner, spylike so they don’t suspect they are being played, like pulling a single point on the screen slowly with my mouse and watching the rhombus on the monitor change how it defines … everything.

Everything. I am saying. Everything that is.


21 years of ThiemeWorks On September 1 2014

by rthieme on August 19, 2014

On September 1, 1993, the first year it was permitted to engage in commercial enterprises on the then-new Internet, I took a leap of faith and launched ThiemeWorks as a platform for professional speaking, writing, and consulting. 21 years later … have mouth, will travel … still applies.

Unspeakable gratitude for the thousands of partners who have collaborated, cooperated, and provided opportunities. Long may we wave.

















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My topic for Def Con 22 in August. The 19th year at Def Con, beginning with Def Con 4 in 1996.

The Only Way to Tell the Truth is in Fiction: The Dynamics of Life in the National Security State

Over a decade ago, a friend at the National Security Agency told Richard Thieme that he could address the core issues they discussed in a context of “ethical considerations for intelligence and security professionals” only if he wrote fiction. “It’s the only way you can tell the truth,” he said.

Three dozen published short stories and one novel-in-progress (FOAM) later, one result is “Mind Games,” published in 2010 by Duncan Long Publishing, a collection of stories that illuminates “non-consensual realities:” the world of hackers; the worlds of intelligence professionals; encounters with other intelligent life forms; and deeper states of consciousness.

A recent scholarly study of “The Covert Sphere” by Timothy Melley documents the way the growth and influence of the intelligence community since World War 2 has created precisely the reality to which that NSA veteran pointed. The source of much of what “outsiders” believe is communicated through novels, movies, and television programs. But even IC “insiders” rely on those sources as compartmentalization prevents the big picture from coming together because few inside have a “need to know.”

Thieme asked a historian at the NSA what historical events they could discuss with a reasonable expectation that their words denoted the same details. “Anything up to 1945,” the historian said with a laugh – but he wasn’t kidding.

Point taken.

This fascinating presentation illuminates the mobius strip on which all of us walk as we make our way through the labyrinth of security and intelligence worlds we inhabit of necessity, all of us some of the time and some of us all of the time. It discloses why “post-modernism” is not an affectation but a necessary condition of modern life. It addresses the words of an NSA intelligence analyst who responded to one of Thieme’s stories by saying, “most of this isn’t fiction, but you have to know which part to have the key to the code.” This talk does not provide that key, but it does provide the key to the key. It also throws into relief everything else you hear – whether from the platform or in the hallways – inside this conference. And out there in the “real world.”

“Nothing is what it seems.”


New videos posted February 2014

by rthieme on February 23, 2014

 COASTTOCOASTAM – was  on coasttocoastam Saturday April 12  midnight – 2:00 a.m. CDT  discussing “UFOs and Government: A Historical Inquiry” –  audio on youtube at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2R_O18irHus

“UFOs and Government: A Historical Inquiry” – the video

Two versions of a presentation on “UFOs and Government: A Historical Inquiry” by Richard Thieme, a contributing author to the work, celebrated for its robust sourcing and scholastic rigor.

The first is for the bsides 2013 Las Vegas parallel conference. The second is for Def Con 21 a few days later where Thieme spoke for the18th year.




A talk skyped as a closing keynote to Hack in the Box Kuala Lumpur 2013 will be online as soon as it is made available.


An op ed in the Crossroads section of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (February 16 2013) can be found here and at www.thiemeworks.com.




A Confession: Out of the Closet on UFOs

by rthieme on February 16, 2014

An op ed in the crossroads section of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Let me put it to you straight. For 35 years I have been exploring and investigating UFOs and UFOlogy (both the serious endeavor and the silly speculative fare that fills popular culture) and … well, UFOs are real: They fly, they evince technologies we don’t understand, and they have been around for years.

Above all, despite voluminous and overwhelming evidence to support those assertions, to raise this subject as worthy of historical and scientific investigation is to invite ridicule, the shaking of pitying heads, derision and hostility, and embarrassed silence.

Still, I persist in believing, as Francis Bacon said in 1620, that if something deserves to exist, it deserves to be known, not rejected out of hand with prejudice. The scientific method, principles of historical analysis, and an open mind ask that much.

No subject has been more marginalized and maligned than this topic. By “unidentified flying objects” I mean not the many things commonly mistaken for them – balloons, Venus, sprites, ball lightning, secret craft, etc.– I mean anomalous vehicles which for decades have been well documented by credible observers (“Credible people have seen incredible things,” said General John Samford, US Air Force Chief of Intelligence, in 1953), to which our government responded with the formulation and execution of policies in light of genuine national security concerns.

I was recently privileged to be included as contributing editor and writer on a team that produced the book, “UFOs and Government: A Historical Inquiry” over five years. The research/writing team was led by Dr. Michael Swords, a professor of Natural Science (ret.) at Western Michigan University and Robert Powell, a nanotechnologist formerly with AMD. The book is regarded as an “exception” to the dreary field by CHOICE, the journal that recommends works for inclusion in university collections. CHOICE suggested that all university libraries should have it (to date, 45 have it in their collections, including 4 in the U-Wisconsin system, as well as many Wisconsin public libraries). The almost-600 page book is well grounded with nearly 1000 citations from government documents and other primary sources so it is “bullet proof.” There is virtually nothing speculative in it. We document the response of governments from the 1940s forward to events they took quite seriously—and which readers, judging on the evidence and data, will take seriously as well.

A short column can not do justice to the complex narrative, but I can state a few facts.

(1)   Any other domain of inquiry with hundreds of well-documented events would be considered worthy of scientific and historical investigation.

(2)   Well-executed policies carried out with secrecy do not constitute “a conspiracy,” and we are not “conspiracy theorists,” a term used to denigrate investigators of unpopular subjects.  Members of the military and intelligence community, from the early 1950s on, decided to learn as much as they could about UFOs – which they decided did not constitute a direct threat to national security – while at the same time playing down and dismissing reports from the public. The reports themselves were considered to be the primary threat by the CIA.

(3)    The data illuminates phenomena that is global, persistent, and sufficiently similar in small details to invite taxonomic classification as to vehicle types, the physics of force fields which power the objects and ionize the air around it, producing characteristic colors in relationship to speed and power, and diverse kinds of robotic or sentient beings associated with the objects.

(4)   It is an astonishing sociological and psychological event that throughout the twentieth century, reports by credible observers, corroborated on multiple radar sets on the ground and in jets, resulted not in public investigation but in an inability to get our minds around the mere possibility. Instead the subject is literally “unthinkable.”

(5)   One reason it is“unthinkable” is the effective use of ridicule, the mocking of people who made reports or took the subject seriously, and a long silence from official authoritative voices in the face of credible testimony. When I delivered a speech and served on a panel recently at the NSA, I was reminded by a veteran analyst that “the three legs of cover and deception are illusion, misdirection, and ridicule. But the greatest of these is ridicule”—which discredits the person, not the testimony, and the testimony I have heard has come from military and civilian pilots, astronauts, even the intelligence head of a foreign military force. “This is what I saw, and I know what I saw” is what I am told, corroborating the statement in 1947 by Lt. Gen. Nathan Twining that “The phenomena is something real and not visionary or fictitious.”

(6)   My personal exploration began in 1978 when, as a recently ordained Episcopal clergyman in a parish on the edge of an Air Force base, a parishioner, a decorated fighter pilot with all the “right stuff” who retired as a Colonel, told me, “We chase them and we can’t catch them.”

(7)   “UFOs and Government” includes quotations from generals, senior intelligence personnel, and professionals like Hermann Oberth, the father of German rocketry, that affirm the exotic characteristics of the technology that no earthly power could then achieve. As Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell told me, “Richard, if we could do what they can do, they wouldn’t have sent me to the moon in a tin lizzie.”

(8)   We increasingly accept through our own scientific explorations that many earth-like planets likely to harbor life fill our galaxy and galaxies beyond. When we hear that from authoritative voices, we accept it as a probability, but when we examine the evidence of decades of visitation by real explorers, we find it difficult to think in a concrete way that we are not alone, not the top of the food chain, and that others may have been voyaging for thousands of years—as if we are the gold standard of scientific knowledge and our current understanding of physics is the end of all physics.

So I’m out of the closet on a subject. As an older man with a solid track record of delivering insights into likely futures that have pretty much worked out over the years, a man who has spoken for security conferences all over the world (including NSA, the FBI, the Secret Service, the US Department of the Treasury, the Pentagon, etc.), discussing the impact of new technologies, I can say without embarrassment that documented data supports the contention that many historical reports show exactly what they seem to show –anomalous vehicular traffic demonstrating aerodynamic capabilities and propulsion systems beyond the range of our own technology.

So … why do well-intentioned people who know more than I do persist in the pretense that nothing unusual has been going on? That’s a more speculative exploration, one for another time.


Richard Thieme is a Fox Point writer and professional speaker (www.thiemeworks.com). In addition to “UFOs and Government: A Historical Inquiry,” he has written “Islands in the Clickstream (2004)” and “Mind Games (2010)” and contributed chapters to several books.