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1953 CIA Assassination Field Manual


Shanet Clark
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1953 Central Intelligence Agency Guide to Clandestine Murder

[Declassified, 1997]

As published online by the late Frank Olson's family:

DEFINITION

Assassination is a term thought to be derived from “Hashish,” a drug

similar to marijuana, said to have been used by Hasan-Dan-Sabah to induce

motivation in his followers, who were assigned to carry out political and

other murders, usually at the cost of their lives.

It is here used to describe the planned killing of a person who is not

under the legal jurisdiction of the killer, who is not physically in the

hands of the killer, who has been selected by a resistance organization

for death, and whose death provides positive advantages to that

organization.

EMPLOYMENT

Assassination is an extreme measure not normally used in clandestine

operations. It should be assumed that it will never be ordered or

authorized by any U.S. Headquarters, though the latter may in rare

instances agree to its execution by members of an associated foreign

service. This reticence is partly due to the necessity of committing

communications to paper. No assassination instructions should ever be

written or recorded. Consequently, the decision to employ this technique

must nearly always be reached in the field, at the area where the act will

take place. Decision and instructions should be confined to an absolute

minimum of persons. Ideally, only one person will be involved. No report

may be made, but usually the act will be properly covered by normal news

services, whose output is available to all concerned.

JUSTIFICATION

Murder is not morally justifiable. Self-defense may be argued if the

victim has knowledge which may destroy the resistance organization if

divulged. Assassination of persons responsible for atrocities or reprisals

may be regarded as just punishment. Killing a political leader whose

burgeoning career is a clear and present danger to the cause of freedom

may be held necessary.

But assassination can seldom be employed with a clear conscience. Persons

who are morally squeamish should not attempt it.

CLASSIFICATIONS

The techniques employed will vary according to whether the subject is

unaware of his danger, aware but unguarded, or guarded. They will also be

affected by whether or not the assassin is to be killed with the subject.

Hereafter, assassinations in which the subject is unaware will be termed

“simple”; those where the subject is aware but unguarded will be termed

“chase”; those where the victim is guarded will be termed “guarded.”

If the assassin is to die with the subject, the act will be called “lost.”

If the assassin is to escape, the adjective will be “safe.” It should be

noted that no compromises should exist here. The assassin must not fall

into enemy hands.

A further type division is caused by the need to conceal the fact that the

subject was actually the victim of assassination, rather than an accident

or natural causes. If such concealment is desirable the operation will be

called “secret”; if concealment is immaterial, the act will be called

open”; while if the assassination requires publicity to be effective it

will be termed “terroristic.”

Following these definitions, the assassination of Julius Caesar was safe,

simple, and terroristic, while that of Huey Long was lost, guarded and

open. Obviously, successful secret assassinations are not recorded as

assassination at all. [illeg] of Thailand and Augustus Caesar may have

been the victims of safe, guarded and secret assassination. Chase

assassinations usually involve clandestine agents or members of criminal

organizations.

THE ASSASSIN

In safe assassinations, the assassin needs the usual qualities of a

clandestine agent. He should be determined, courageous, intelligent,

resourceful, and physically active. If special equipment is to be used,

such as firearms or drugs, it is clear that he must have outstanding skill

with such equipment.

Except in terroristic assassinations, it is desirable that the assassin be

transient in the area. He should have an absolute minimum of contact with

the rest of the organization and his instructions should be given orally

by one person only. His safe evacuation after the act is absolutely

essential, but here again contact should be as limited as possible. It is

preferable that the person issuing instructions also conduct any

withdrawal or covering action which may be necessary.

In lost assassination, the assassin must be a fanatic of some sort.

Politics, religion, and revenge are about the only feasible motives. Since

a fanatic is unstable psychologically, he must be handled with extreme

care. He must not know the identities of the other members of the

organization, for although it is intended that he die in the act,

something may go wrong. Will the Assassin of Trotsky has never revealed

any significant information, it was unsound to depend on this when the act

was planned.

PLANNING

When the decision to assassinate has been reached, the tactics of the

operation must be planned, based upon an estimate of the situation similar

to that used in military operations. The preliminary estimate will reveal

gaps in information and possible indicate a need for special equipment

which must be procured or constructed. When all necessary data has been

collected, an effective tactical plan can be prepared. All planning must

be mental; no papers should ever contain evidence of the operation.

In resistance situations, assassination may be used as a counter-reprisal.

Since this requires advertising to be effective, the resistance

organization must be in a position to warn high officials publicly that

their lives will be the price of reprisal action against innocent people.

Such a threat is of no value unless it can be carried out, so it may be

necessary to plan the assassination of various responsible officers of the

oppressive regime and hold such plans in readiness to be used only if

provoked by excessive brutality. Such plans must be modified frequently to

meet changes in the tactical situation.

TECHNIQUES

The essential point of assassination is the death of the subject. A human

being may be killed in many ways but sureness is often overlooked by those

who may be emotionally unstrung by the seriousness of this act they intend

to commit. The specific technique employed will depend upon a large number

of variables, but should be constant in one point: Death must be

absolutely certain. The attempt on Hitler’s life failed because the

conspiracy did not give this matter proper attention.

Techniques may be considered as follows:

1. Manual

It is possible to kill a man with bare hands, but very few are skillful

enough to do it well. Even a highly trained Judo expert will hesitate to

risk killing by hand unless he has absolutely no alternative. However, the

simplest local tools are often much the most efficient means of

assassination. A hammer, axe, wrench, screw driver, fire poker, kitchen

knife, lamp stand, or anything hard, heavy and handy will suffice. A

length of rope or wire or a belt will do if the assassin is strong and

agile. All such improvised weapons have the important advantage of

availability and apparent innocence. The obviously lethal machine gun

failed to kill Trotsky where an item of sporting goods succeeded.

In all safe cases where the assassin may be subject to search, either

before or after the act, specialized weapons should not be used. Even in

the lost case, the assassin may accidentally be searched before the act

and should not carry an incriminating device if any sort of lethal weapon

can be improvised at or near the site. If the assassin normally carries

weapons because of the nature of his job, it may still be desirable to

improvise and implement at the scene to avoid disclosure of his identity.

2. Accidents

For secret assassination, either simple or chase, the contrived accident

is the most effective technique. When successfully executed, it causes

little excitement and is only casually investigated.

The most efficient accident, in simple assassination, is a fall of 75 feet

or more onto a hard surface. Elevator shafts, stair wells, unscreened

windows and bridges will serve. Bridge falls into water are not reliable.

In simple cases a private meeting with the subject may be arranged at a

properly-cased location. The act may be executed by sudden, vigorous

[excised] of the ankles, tipping the subject over the edge. If the

assassin immediately sets up an outcry, playing the “horrified witness”,

no alibi or surreptitious withdrawal is necessary. In chase cases it will

usually be necessary to stun or drug the subject before dropping him. Care

is required to insure that no wound or condition not attributable to the

fall is discernible after death.

Falls into the sea or swiftly flowing rivers may suffice if the subject

cannot swim. It will be more reliable if the assassin can arrange to

attempt rescue, as he can thus be sure of the subject’s death and at the

same time establish a workable alibi.

If the subject’s personal habits make it feasible, alcohol may be used [2

words excised] to prepare him for a contrived accident of any kind.

Falls before trains or subway cars are usually effective, but require

exact timing and can seldom be free from unexpected observation.

Automobile accidents are a less satisfactory means of assassination. If

the subject is deliberately run down, very exact timing is necessary and

investigation is likely to be thorough. If the subject’s car is tampered

with, reliability is very low. The subject may be stunned or drugged and

then place in the car, but this is only reliable when the car can be run

off a high cliff or into deep water without observation.

Arson can cause accidental death if the subject is drugged and left in a

burning building. Reliability is not satisfactory unless the building is

isolated and highly combustible.

3. Drugs

In all types of assassination except terroristic, drugs can be very

effective. If the assassin is trained as a doctor or nurse and the subject

is under medical care, this is an easy and rare method. An overdose of

morphine administered as a sedative will cause death without disturbance

and is difficult to detect. The size of the dose will depend upon whether

the subject has been using narcotics regularly. If no, two grains will

suffice.

If the subject drinks heavily, morphine or a similar narcotic can be

injected at the passing out stage, and the cause of death will often be

held to be acute alcoholism.

Specific poisons, such as arsenic or strychnine, are effective but their

possession or procurement is incriminating, and accurate dosage is

problematical. Poison was used unsuccessfully in the assassination or

Rasputin and Kolohan, though the latter case is more accurately described

as a murder.

4. Edge weapons

Any locally obtained edge device may be successfully employed. A certain

minimum of anatomical knowledge is needed for reliability.

Puncture wounds of the body cavity may not be reliable unless the heart is

reached. The heart is protected by the rib cage and is not always easy to

locate.

Abdominal wounds were once nearly always mortal, but modern medical

treatment has made this no longer true.

Absolute reliability is obtained by severing the spinal cord in the

cervical region. This can be done with the point of a knife or a light

blow of an axe or hatchet.

Another reliable method is the severing of both jugular and carotid blood

vessels on both sides of the windpipe.

If the subject has been rendered unconscious by other wounds or drugs,

either of the above methods can be used to insure death.

5. Blunt weapons

As with edge weapons, blunt weapons require some anatomical knowledge for

effective use. Their main advantage is their universal availability. A

hammer may be picked up almost anywhere in the world. Baseball and [illeg]

bats are very widely distributed. Even a rock or a heavy stick will do,

and nothing resembling a weapon need be procured, carried or subsequently

disposed of.

Blows should be directed to the temple, the area just below and behind the

ear, and the lower, rear portion of the skull. Of course, if the blow is

very heavy, any portion of the upper skull will do. The lower frontal

portion of the head, from the eyes to the throat, can withstand enormous

blows without fatal consequences.

6. Firearms

Firearms are often used in assassination, often very ineffectively. The

assassin usually has insufficient technical knowledge of the limitations

of weapons, and expects more range, accuracy and killing power than can be

provided with reliability. Since certainty of death is the major

requirement, firearms should be used which can provide destructive power

at least 100% in excess of that thought to be necessary, and ranges should

be half that considered practical for the weapon.

Firearms have other drawbacks. Their possession is often incriminating.

They may be difficult to obtain. They require a degree of experience from

the user. They [illeg] is consistently over-rated.

However, there are many cases in which firearms are probably more

efficient than any other means. These cases usually involve distance

betweeen the assassin and the subject, or comparative physical weakness of

the assassin, as with a woman.

(a) The precision rifle.

In guarded assassination, a good hunting or target rifle should always be

considered as a possibility. Absolute reliability can nearly always be

achieved at a distance of one hundred yards. In ideal circumastances, the

range may be extended to 250 yards. The rifle shold be a wll made bolt or

falling block action type, handling a powerful long-range cartirdge. The

.300 F.A.B. Magnum is probably the best cartridge readily available. other

excellent calibers are .375 M.[illeg]. Magnum, .270 Winchester, .30 - 106

p.s., 8 x 60 MM Magnum, 9.3 X 62 KK and others of this type. These are

preferable to ordinary military calibers, since ammunition available for

them is usually of the expanding bullet type, whereas most ammunition for

military refles is full jacketed and hence not sufficiently lethal.

Military ammunition should not be altered by filing or drilling bullets,

as this will adversely affect accuracy.

The rifle may be of the "bull gun" variety, with extra heavy barrel and

set triggers, but in any case should be able to group in one inch at one

hundred yards, but 2 1/2" groups are adequate. The sight shold be

telescopic, not only for accuracy, but because such a sight is much better

in dim light or near darkness. As long as the bare outline of the target

is discernable, a telescope sight will work, even if the rifle and shooter

are in total darkness.

An expanding, hunting bullet of such calibers as described above will

produce extravagant laceration and shock at short or mid-range. if a man

is struck just once in the body cavity, his death is almost entirely

certain.

Public figures or guarded officials may be killed withgreat reliability

and some safety if a firing point can be established prior to an official

occasion. The propaganda value of this system may be very high.

b. The machine gun.

Machine guns may be used in most cases where the precision rifle is

applicable. Usually this will require the subversion of a unit of an

official guard at a ceremony, though a skillful and determined team might

conceivably dispose of a loyal gun crow without commotion and take over

the gun at the critical time.

The area fire capacity of the machine gun should not be used to search out

a concealed subject. This was tried with predictable lack of success on

Trotsky. The automatic feature of the machine gun should rather be used to

increase reliability by placing a 5 second burst on the subject. Even with

full jacket ammunition, this will be absolute lethal is the burst pattern

is no larger than a man. This can be accomplished at about 150 yards. In

ideal circumstances, a properly padded and targeted machine gun can do it

at 850 yards. The major difficulty is placing the first burst exactly on

the target, as most machine gunners are trained to spot their fire on

target by observation of strike. This will not do in assassination as the

subject will not wait.

© The Submachine Gun.

This weapon, known as the "machine-pistol" by the Russians and Germans

and "machine-carbide" by the British, is occasionally useful in assassination.

Unlike the rifle and machine gun, this is a short range weapon and since

it fires pistol ammunition, much less powerful. To be reliable, it should

deliver at least 5 rounds into the subject's chest, though the .45 caliber

U.S. weaponshave a much larger margin of killing efficiency than the 9 mm

European arms.

The assassination range of the sub-machine gun is point blank. While

accurate single rounds can be delivered by sub-machine gunners at 50 yards

or more, this is not certain enough for assassination. Under ordinary

circumstances, the 5MG shold be used as a fully automatic weapon. In the

hands of a capable gunner, a high cyclic rate is a distinct advantage, as

speed of execution is most desirable, particularly in the case of multiple

subjects.

The sub-machine gun is especially adapted to indoor work when more than

one subject is to be assassinated. An effective technique has been devised

for the use of a pair of sub-machine gunners, by which a room contailning

as many as a dozen subjectgs can be "purifico" in about twenty seconds

with little or no risk to the gunners. It is illustratrated below.

While the U.S. sub-machine guns fire the most lethal cartridges, the

higher cyclic rate of some foreigh weapons enable the gunner to cover a

target quicker with acceptable pattern density. The Bergmann Model 1934 is

particularly good in this way. The Danish Madman? SMG has a moderately

good cyclic rate and is admirably compact and concealable. The Russian

SHG's have a good cyclic rate, but are handicapped by a small, light

protective which requires more kits for equivalent killing effect.

(d) The Shotgun.... [end of available text]

“Murder is not morally justifiable”

“assassinations in which the subject … is aware but unguarded will

be termed ‘chase’”

“…no papers should ever contain evidence of the operation”

“Blows should be directed to the temple”

Frank Olsons’s body was exhumed and a forensic investigation was

performed in 1994, three years before the CIA’s 1953 assassination

manual (which recommended a blow to the head before dropping the

subject) was declassified and released in 1997.

The 1994 forensic investigation discovered a hematoma over the left

eye of Olson’s skull that had resulted from a blow to Olson’s head.

According to the findings of the forensic team, this blow must have

occurred before Frank Olson exited the window.

“the

contrived

accident is

the most

effective

technique”

“The most

efficient

accident,

in simple assassination,

is a fall of

75 feet or

more onto a hard surface.”

“…no alibi or surreptitious withdrawal is necessary…”

“In chase cases it will usually be necessary to stun or drug the

subject before dropping him.”

“Care is required to insure that no wound or condition not

attributable to the fall is discernible after death.”

“In all types of assassination except terroristic, drugs can be very

effective.”

“If … the subject is under medical care, this is an easy and rare

method.”

.............your tax dollars at work............

Published online by the Frank Olson Legacy Project : frankolsonproject

Edited by Shanet Clark
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Shanet, I spent some time at National Security Archives researching. It's a fine depository of documentation on this sort of thing. I encourage anyone to go there and look through these documents. It's open by appointment I believe.

When I did my presentation in Dallas I included an excerpt from the Counter Insurgency (not sure if this is correct term) manual that came out of PBSuccess.

The page I used was a hand-drawn diagram of how to enter a conference room and execute everyone present as a means to pin blame on someone else. I used it to illustrate how serious this stuff can get.

Just a heads up on a great resource available to researchers.

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Shanet, I spent some time at National Security Archives researching.  It's a fine depository of documentation on this sort of thing.  I encourage anyone to go there and look through these documents.  It's open by appointment I believe.

When I did my presentation in Dallas I included an excerpt from the Counter Insurgency (not sure if this is correct term) manual that came out of PBSuccess. 

The page I used was a hand-drawn diagram of how to enter a conference room and execute everyone present as a means to pin blame on someone else.  I used it to illustrate how serious this stuff can get.

Just a heads up on a great resource available to researchers.

Shant and Chris,

I would take much what is discovered in Document release regarding manuals in Counterinsurgency, Assassination and Covert Ops with a grain of salt. Col. Prouty referred to the 1980's manual on Clandestine Operations in Central America on TMWKK and since segments have been posted by Vernon and others that use terminology that is parrellel but have different meaning than the actual manual that was printed in May of '81. What they quote actually is in contrast with the same terminology of what was actually dispensed at SOA in the summer of '81. I had posted excerpts of this manual prior to Vernon's on Lancer which contradicted what Prouty referred to and what Vernon posted. Much of what is being released is simply a smokescreen as to true operational procedures. And these procedures change through time and need of operation.

Al

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Al

Yes. This was provided for historical background. Procedures change. A ten year interval exists between this manual and Dallas, and that can be seen as a long time--or a short time...I didn't post the circa 1980 SOA manual because it is not really germane to 1963. In this document I am mainly interested in the terminology, "Chase," "Lost," etc., jargon which may help researchers.

JFK was chase, Oswald was lost, etc.

The witnesses who succumbed in the aftermath, their stories may also be better understood through the understanding of this declassified SOP manual.

Always appreciate your posts.

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Al

Yes. This was provided for historical background. Procedures change. A ten year interval exists between this manual and Dallas, and that can be seen as a long time--or a short time...I didn't post the circa 1980 SOA manual because it is not really germane to 1963.  In this document I am mainly interested in the terminology, "Chase," "Lost," etc., jargon which may help researchers.

JFK was chase, Oswald was lost, etc.

The witnesses who succumbed in the aftermath, their stories may also be better understood through the understanding of this declassified SOP manual.

Always appreciate your posts.

Shanet,

What I am saying is not so much the issue of changing of procedures, but to being careful of taking stock in manuals or papers that have been released on clandestine operation procedures. What is being made available may be doctored from the true policy manual/papers as it was in the 1981 manual I referred to.

Al

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