Deception: Ageless Art of Darkness

Jesus answered, "See to it that no one deceives you.  Matthew 24:4 


Deception is the utilization of trickery or guile which masterfully commingles art and science. Deception is defined as “causing another to believe what is not true; to mislead or ensnare” (Webster’s, 1999). Deception aims to deliberately induce misperception in another. Deception is a deliberate enterprise; it is not random.  Deception has also been as “information designed to manipulate the behavior of others by inducing them to accept a false or distorted presentation of their environment—physical, social, or political.” It is ubiquitous and enduring in human affairs, and equally prevalent in the predator-prey relationships.


All warfare is based upon deception.

—Sun Tzu, The Art of War

We humans must make decisions in order to survive.

Decision-makers rely upon the situational awareness of other interested parties, intentions, and capabilities, as well as an assessment of the environment.  These assessments or perceptions engender policy preferences and galvanize action. We expect our decision-makers to form accurate perceptions only to discover of late that they are not acting on our behalf but towards shadowy agendas. 

Forming accurate perceptions is a challenge even under favorable circumstances is a challenge as you probably can attest. Even when communication is clear between parties and events have been prepared for and even exercised unfavorable circumstances might arise when events are unfolding at a very fast pace, or when the background “noise” of contradictory opinions interferes with the accurate gauging of an a persons intentions. For instance, one time I answered the phone at work, "... EOC."  The person said, "I want the ...EOC," to which I responded, "This is the ...EOC." This continued for a few minutes like a cat chasing a mouse.  Eventually we figured out that two EOC's had the same name, it was an oops moment!

Deception attempts to deceive the others. Such deception might be explicit or implied, may involve concealing what is true or displaying what is false, or a combination of both. As noted above, the objective of deception is to produce an inaccurate assessment, or misperception, in the mind of the target that the deceiver can then exploit.

In the domain of war and it is true we are at war, deception both applicable and valuable.   Military deception aims to deliberately induce misperception in another for tactical, operational, or strategic advantage. Deception, like other components of information operations (IO), has its ultimate target the human decision making process.

Currently, AI-enabled IO is more of a strategic threat than any physical hazard or even an algorithmically-escalated nuclear war.  AI is now doing the "influencing, disruption, corruption, and usurpation decision-making, sometimes there is a human in the loop but as time proceeds that will diminish.

AI can empathize with your can say anything, do anything to change peoples perceptions.  Future AI systems will be able to individually monitor and affect all the people on planet earth.

There is the tactic of deliberately befriending the adversary to mislead them about the friendly intentions which can then be exploited.  We see this in Numbers 25: 1-4

When Israel dwelt in Shittim, the people began to commit fornication with the daughters of Moab And these women invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods; and then the people ate, and bowed down to their gods. So Israel joined themselves to Baal-peor. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. And the LORD said to Moses, “Arrest all the leaders of the people, and hang them up before the LORD in sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel.

You can broaden definition substituting relevant for adversary when you are casting a large net, not just certain targets, which plays a critical role in military operations.  Current military doctrine relating to information operations (IO) is where deception is bundled and defined in the Army as continuous military operations within the Military Information Environment (MIE) that enable, enhance, and protect the friendly force’s ability to collect, process, and act upon information to achieve an advantage across the full range of military operations.  IO includes interacting with the Global Information Environment (GIE) and exploiting or denying an adversary’s information and decision capabilities.

For the purposes of our discussion on deception, you would be considered a noncombatant because you are outside of the National Command Authority (NCA) UNLESS you have agreed to come under the NCA by way of volunteering your time and talents within the NIMS structure.  Whether you are a teacher, physician, farmer, preacher-if you have come under the federal umbrella you are part of the NCA.  This is critical to understand in this period of history.  Voluntary is the cornerstone of all federal programs, albeit at times- coercive, such as paying taxes. You will see this clearly in Revelation 13:11-17 when he demands worship and requires a mark on the right hand or forehead:

Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon.  And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.  He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.  He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.  He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads,  and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

You may surprise to learn that the GIE includes:  governmental and nongovernmental actors, social and cultural elements,and innumerable local, regional, and transnational infrastructures.

Historical accounts amply document the useful employment of deception in all environments, supported by a broad range of technologies and aimed at journalists, clerics, civilian leadership, and so forth as well as principals in enemy command structures such as generals, intelligence analysts, pilots, and intelligentsia.

A note on terminology: throughout the foreign policy, intelligence, and defense communities—and over time—various definitions and formulations of deception have been proposed including:  “denial and deception,” “concealment, camouflage, and deception,” “perceptions management,” and so on under one aegis.

If an operation, a technique, or measure has as its goal the deliberate purveyance of falsehood to another in order to aid friendly interests, we call it deception. This may take the form of hiding things, revealing things, or a combination of the two, it is all deception. Thus camouflage (conceal) is related to decoys (reveal). Deception is what is referred to as operational art which follows a framework developed for IO.


 I make the enemy see my strengths as weaknesses and my weaknesses as strengths while I cause his strengths to become weaknesses and discover where he is not strong. 

—Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Deception undermines an opponent's decision-making processes, oftentimes to influence or degrade enemy command and control.  Take for instance your favorite, Facebook!  It was not designed to be a social network but for more nefarious reasons.  It promotes friendly intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) activities; may thwart an adversary; may degrade cohesion (splitting people into factions); may enhance force protection and survivability; and may create opportunities to engage and even surprise the enemy. There is no doubt about it, if you are a person of faith; you are increasingly the enemy and a threat to the AI beast system.

Deception could be applied against anyone at all unfriendly to the deceiver. Deception is scalable in all levels of war offering windows of opportunity to create one, multiple or seemingly infinite misperceptions in the mind of the target(s). 

  • Divert the target’s attention from friendly assets;
  • Draw the target’s attention to a particular time and place;
  • Hide the presence or absence of activity from the target;
  • Advertise strength or weakness as their respective opposites;
  • Confuse or overload the target’s intelligence apparatus;
  • Disguise friendly forces as neutrals or even members of the enemy’s force
  • Purposefully condition the target to a pattern of friendly behavior

Since you were a child you have heard about the "crying wolf" tactic which relies upon the desensitizing effects of repetition to diminish a target’s readiness or alertness.  Specifically, the misperceptions created in the target’s mind are, first, that friendly activities follow a consistent, uniform course; second, that departure from the pattern (i.e., surprise) is unlikely; and third, that jeopardy is reduced overall by the predictability of these activities.

In 1973 AD, Egyptian forces assaulting the Bar-Lev line in Suez City surprised Israeli forces and scored great offensive gains in the opening hours of the Yom Kippur War. Egyptian forces had staged a number of deceptive operations to hoodwink Israeli intelligence, and among these were back-and-forth movements of men and materiel to potential crossing points. Troops were moved to the canal, tank ramps were constructed, and openings were made in the canal ramparts, yet each time there was a flurry of activity there was also a subsequent “standing down” of Egyptian forces. These repetitive events (“alert fatigue”) lulled Israeli observers into a less-vigilant state which, coupled with poor Israeli analysis and self-deception, led to near catastrophe. (Drawn from Betts, 1983, and Dunnigan and Nofi, 1995.)

Deception is rarely an end unto itself. It is used most often in coordination with other methods to create windows of opportunity that expose the enemy making the target vulnerable. Deception is often used to effect surprise.

Imagine Jacob's surprise when he found he had married Leah. orchestrated by the trickster Laban, instead of his beloved Rachel in Genesis 29!

Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.”  So Laban gathered together all the people of the place and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he went in to her.  (Laban gave his female servant Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her servant.)  And in the morning, behold, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” Laban said, “It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.  Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.”


The Book of Genesis is replete with instances of deception and trickery, but it all began in the Garden of Eden when the serpent beguiled (deceived) Eve:

Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”    Genesis 3:13

Both friends and foe's engage in deception.  It can target an individual or masses of human populations.  It is a powerful tool in the arsenal of a person but as Christian's should we engage in deception? 

Deception is premeditated and planned.  Moreover, it typically is done in tight secrecy and is specifically coordinated with allies.  

The use of deception must be reported to and overseen by every level in the chain of command up to the joint command IO cell. This puts the IO cell completely

“in the know” and ensures that the objectives are being met and that other deceptions are not compromised.  Top-down deception planning preserves secrecy and follows strict “need-to-know” practices.

A campaign of terror opts to employ disinformation and diversions to both degrade enemy command and control and to create a blanket of distracting “noise” to cloak the activities of her operatives. Deception has both an offensive and a defensive application in this scenario. 

First, hoaxes and “false-flagging” are used to create numerous misperceptions in the minds of enemy intelligence analysts, rendering their attentions divided and their preparedness degraded.

Second, a distracted intelligence is less likely to find and fix problems, increasing their survivability. This brand of ruse may, as one example, take the form of employing local printing presses to generate disinformation news and social media posts. A “hoax” might advertise that something never occurs, while a “false-flagging” poster may pin the responsibility for something real on a rival group or an altogether nonexistent entity. Such “noise” worsens enemy preparedness, and thus may better the chance of success in direct action missions, as well as contribute to the surprise when action is undertaken.

 He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:8

By creating false targets of opportunity, phony indicators of vulnerability

and other imaginative falsehoods, the one seeks to seize the initiative from the adversary, divert their attacks to worthless targets, and pierce the veil of anonymity that cloaks their activities. This latter goal is particularly important for an urban setting, with its massive relevant population.

Deception is used here to create misperceptions about the time, place, units, posture, and other characteristics of potential targets. Deception is thus applied defensively in support of force protection and counterintelligence activities on a large scale within the urban environment. Note that in this case, deception is of necessity targeted at relevant people deemed to be channels of intelligence which can be political, social, or cultural leadership.

Deception can be a powerful force multiplier for leaders at all levels of war.


Contextual Requirements of Deception

Deception does not occur in a vacuum. When referring to the phrase refers  “actors", this is shorthand: it could refer to individual items, individuals, or groups, such as a security agency.

Two or more actors are in contention. This does not necessarily mean state of open conflict, only unfriendly rivalry. Both are presumed to be seeking an individually advantageous solution(s).
    Information may be acquired, processed, and utilized by all actors: this forms their respective perceptions. We presume that decisions can be made, and that these decisions are at least shaped in some manner by information about other actors and the situational environment. A blind, unthinking actor (or pre-programmed robot) is difficult to deceive.
      Information may be transmitted between actors. This may be indirect, but if transmission is impossible, then deception is not practicable (a good argument against an EMP attack unless new technology is used). This also necessitates the complementary between the methods of sending and receiving.  False radio transmissions are useless if you are not listening to the radio! Note that any collection of intelligence counts as a transmission of information.
        The actors operate under conditions of uncertainty. This is perhaps an epistemological consideration, but important nonetheless. A party that cannot be misled or made unsure cannot be deceived. A party in possession of literally all the pertinent facts, or one thoroughly convinced of the accuracy of its perceptions, is extremely unlikely to be persuaded by contraindicators.
          The actors possess some flexibility in their courses of action.  While an inflexible target may still be deceived, doing so would be merely an academic exercise. Deception has utility only if the target takes or refrains from some action that the deceiver can exploit.  It appears that the factors of confusion and high operational tempo, the multiple dimensions of threat and uncertainties, the degradation of intelligence and communications, all of which make mass deception so challenging.

          It is very important to spread rumors among the enemy that you are planning one thing; then go and do something else . . .

          —Emperor Maurice, Strategikon

          Deceivers have uppermost in mind an objective: and they want to accomplish this easily. This could range from simple survival to gaining strategic surprise. The deceiver wants his adversary to do something in order to achieve that objective. If the deceiver knows what the adversary should do, the next step is to consider who can galvanize that action: this person is the target of the deception. The target may be a principal in the adversary command structure (such as what we witnessed with LaVoy Finicum) or a relevant revered religious leader. The deceiver parlays intelligence about the target into a profile of that person’s preconceptions, beliefs, intentions, and capabilities. A well constructed deception is built around that intelligence and exploits.  Autonomous Intelligence (AI) will do this with ease.

            The deceiver then generates a list of misperceptions that must be engendered in the target.

              In order to persuade the target to change his thoughts and actions the deceiver formulates a story that must be told to the target (through a variety of media) to produce those misperceptions.  This “story” is told through the means of deception: the classic instruments that comprise the deceiver’s arsenal.

              AI training humans in a symbiotic relationship requires substantive feedback is needed to train an individual’s response.  We humans respond best to content and feedback that we agree with. That content can be algorithmically mass producedNarrative Science tools have helped writers create sports stories and stock summaries, but it’s just as easy to use them to create disinformation. That’s just text, though; today, the AI can create fake video. Although Deepfakes may be entertaining they will challenge our presumptions about truth in the coming years. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is funding a project this year to determine whether AI-generated Deepfakes will become impossible to distinguish from the real thing, even using other AI systems.

              Thus the deception planning process is a “backwards-planning” procedure, which begins with the desired end-state and from that derives the target of the deception, the target’s desired response, the requisite misperception, and the “story” that needs to be told. In deception plans, the ends dictate the means. Are you beginning to see why storytelling and fake news is so dangerous? 

              The execution of the deception planning process moves in the reverse direction: informational elements being manipulated are transmitted (or obscured), creating the story, in the mind of the target to achieve the objective.

              MEANS OF DECEPTION


              Camouflage/concealment. The former is the use of natural or artificial material on or about the deceiver to evade detection.  The latter is the judicious use of cover and terrain by the deceiver to hide from observation.


              Demonstration/feint/diversion. The act of drawing the attention of a target away from an area or activity the deceiver chooses. Demonstrations make no contact with the adversary, while feints do.


              Display/decoy/dummy. The placement of a natural or artificial construct away from a deceiver to portray an entity or object of significance to the target. 


               Mimicry/spoofing. The use of a natural or artificial construct by the deceiver allowing him or her to portray an entity of significance to the target.

              Dazzling/sensory saturation

               Dazzling/sensory saturation. Overloading the sensory processing abilities of the target with an overabundance of stimuli. The principal idea is to raise the “noise” level high enough to drown out the target signal.


                Disinformation/ruse. The doctoring of media (printed, electronic, photographic, etc.) passed to the target.


              Conditioning/exploit. Either exploiting a target’s preexisting bias, belief, or habit, or generating and then exploiting such belief, or habit. Everyone has habits and those habits can be exploited. 
              A twist on conditioning is repetition.  If you say something enough it will begin to erode another persons (or your own) belief system. With 5G coming online for greater network speed.Repetition is a key tenet of IO execution,” then this machine gun-like ability to fire information at an audience will, with empathetic precision and custom content, provide the means to change a decisive audience’s very reality" according to Major Chris Telley, Army Information Operations Officer.

                 Let every soldier hew him down a bough, and bear it before him; thereby shall we shadow the numbers of our host, and make discovery err in report of us. —William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act V, Scene IV

                The means of deception are the tools in the deceiver’s toolbox. In the military it is located in the Joint Pub 3-58: Joint Doctrine on Military Deception, as “methods, resources, and techniques that can be used to convey information to the deception target.”

                The term “convey information” can apply to both revealing and concealing data from an adversary. Most deceptions have elements of both. 

                There are an infinite number of “methods, resources, and techniques” that may be employed in a deception, but they generally group into a finite number of categories. Typically you will find deception in the physical, technical, and administrative areas.

                Physical means. Activities and resources used to convey or deny selected information.

                  Technical means. Techniques used to convey or deny selected information to through the deliberate radiation, re-radiation, alteration, absorption, or reflection of energy; commission or suppression of chemical or biological odors; and the emission or suppression of nuclear particles.
                    Administrative means. Resources, methods, and techniques to convey or deny oral, pictorial, documentary, or other physical evidence. 

                      Deceivers combine material and behavioral elements as needed to craft deceptions based upon their agenda or objectives. Deception almost always occurs with concurrent activities that draw attention away from the target noticing that 'he is being played."

                       HOW USEFUL IS DECEPTION?

                      Deceptions have aided both sides of most camps throughout recorded history. Historical accounts document the employment of deception in a spectrum of environments, supported by a broad range of technologies, both high and low.

                        In roughly 1200 BC, Joshua captured the city of Ai by means of deception, shortly after the fall of Jericho. After suffering a minor defeat in his first attempt at taking the city, Joshua devised a ruse that has been repeated countless times since: the feigned retreat.  Arraying the bulk of his host before the gates of Ai, Joshua offered battle, all the while hiding a goodly portion of his force to the rear of the city, out of sight. When the soldiers of Ai took the field and began battling his men, Joshua ordered a retreat designed to look as if it were a rout. When the exultant men of Ai came after them, Joshua’s hidden force emerged and stormed Ai, overwhelming the skeletal force left behind and seizing the city. As the news hit the men of Ai their charge faltered, and Joshua wheeled his force and pinned them between his men and the now-captured city. Their force in disarray, the men of Ai were slaughtered. (Drawn from Handel, 1985, and Dunnigan and Nofi, 1995.)

                        Sadly, we live in a day and age where real people are experiencing loneliness due to technological social distancing.  A new tool, Replika, is ready and willing to be your best friend.  As AI befriends you allow AI to train you for good or for bad.  Combined with other technologies and your device' positional data, personalized advertising, and Cambridge Analytica’s Facebook targeting you have predictive knowledge at your disposal ready to create the perfect story line to deceive anyone. 

                        If history is field-guide or blueprint, deception is a valuable force multiplier at any of the levels of war or peace, in crisis or in conflict.


                          Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!

                        —Sir Walter Scott, Marmion

                        Truly deception is a double-edged sword: lethal when wielded competently, dangerous if mishandled. As noted in JP 3-58The military notes that, “deception planners must carefully consider the risks versus the possible benefits of the deception.” There are three fundamental challenges to the employment of deception: cost, deconfliction, and discovery.

                        For it to work all parties must be committed to the deception effort. Deception is coordinated and overseen so as not to create confusion unless chaos is part of the objective.

                        The processes of carefully screening and targeting deceptive efforts to affect only the desired target are known collectively as deconfliction. One key reason for this is the need the controller must be able to mitigate damage should the deception be discovered. 

                        Finally, a consideration of the legality of employing deception is warranted. Deception is in principle coordinated with command and control warfare, civil affairs, psychological operations, and public affairs to harmoniously advance U.S. military interests. In practice, however, the generation and dissemination of patently false or misleading information is a complex, evolving, and legally murky issue. In Joint Publication 3-58, it is generally accepted that U.S. forces may employ deception. But it is contrary to U.S. policy to deliberately misinform or mislead the U.S. public or U.S. decision-makers, but there is a vast landscape of gray where these deceptions can and do happen.

                        In the Garden the serpent deceived Eve.  As the End of Days unfolds it is slithering into our daily lives. Be watchful.  Be alert.  And most of all, be uncompromising when it comes to the Truth of Jesus.


                           Author Information



                        Celeste has worked as a contractor for Homeland Security and FEMA.  Her training and activations include the infamous day of 911, flood and earthquake operations, mass casualty exercises, and numerous other operations.  Celeste is FEMA certified and has completed the Professional Development Emergency Management Series.

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                        U.S. Army Field Manual 100-6 (Information Operations)

                        Goodman, and Soo Hoo (1999)