Blowback (intelligence)

Blowback (intelligence)

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Blowback is the espionage
Espionage
Espionage or spying involves an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. Espionage is inherently clandestine, lest the legitimate holder of the information change plans or take other countermeasures once it...

 term for the violent, unintended consequence
Unintended consequence
In the social sciences, unintended consequences are outcomes that are not the outcomes intended by a purposeful action. The concept has long existed but was named and popularised in the 20th century by American sociologist Robert K. Merton...

s of a covert operation
Covert operation
A covert operation is a military, intelligence or law enforcement operation that is carried clandestinely and, often, outside of official channels. Covert operations aim to fulfill their mission objectives without any parties knowing who sponsored or carried out the operation...

 that are suffered by the civil population of the aggressor government. To the civilians suffering the blowback of covert operations, the effect typically manifests itself as “random” acts of political violence without a discernible, direct cause; because the public—in whose name the intelligence agency
Intelligence agency
An intelligence agency is a governmental agency that is devoted to information gathering for purposes of national security and defence. Means of information gathering may include espionage, communication interception, cryptanalysis, cooperation with other institutions, and evaluation of public...

 acted—are ignorant of the effected secret attacks that provoked revenge (counter-attack) against them. Specifically, blowback denotes the resultant, violent consequences—reported as news fact, by domestic and international mass communications media, when the actor intelligence agency hides its responsibility via media manipulation
Media manipulation
Media manipulation is an aspect of public relations in which partisans create an image or argument that favours their particular interests. Such tactics may include the use of logical fallacies and propaganda techniques, and often involve the suppression of information or points of view by crowding...

. Generally, blowback loosely denotes every consequence of every aspect of a secret attack operation, thus, it is synonymous with consequence—the attacked victims’ revenge against the civil populace of the aggressor country, because the responsible politico-military leaders are invulnerable.

Originally, blowback was CIA
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

 internal coinage denoting the unintended, harmful consequences—to friendly populations and military forces—when a given weapon is carelessly used. Examples include anti-Western religious fanatics (see Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was the founder of the militant Islamist organization Al-Qaeda, the jihadist organization responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States and numerous other mass-casualty attacks against civilian and military targets...

) who, in due course, attack foe and sponsor; right-wing counter-revolutionaries who sell drugs to their sponsor’s civil populace (see CIA and Contras cocaine trafficking in the US); and banana republic
Banana republic
In political science, the pejorative term Banana Republic denotes a politically unstable country dependent upon limited primary productions , which is ruled by a plutocracy, a small, self-elected, wealthy group who exploit the country by means of a politico-economic oligarchy...

 juntas (see Salvadoran Civil War) who kill American reporters or nuns (see Dorothy Kazel
Dorothy Kazel
Dorothy Kazel was an American Ursuline nun and missionary to El Salvador. On December 2, 1980, she and fellow missionaries Ita Ford, Jean Donovan and Maura Clarke were raped and murdered by members of the military of El Salvador.-Life and work:Kazel was born Dorthea Lu Kazel to Lithuanian American...

).

In formal, print usage, the term blowback first appeared in the Clandestine Service History—Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran—November 1952–August 1953, the CIA internal history of the US’s 1953 Iranian coup d'état. Examples of blowback include the CIA’s financing and support for Afghan insurgents to fight an anti-Communist proxy guerilla war against the USSR in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

; some of the beneficiaries of this CIA support joined al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is a global broad-based militant Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad...

's terrorist campaign against the United States.

In the 1980s blowback was a central theme in the legal and political debates about the efficacy of the Reagan Doctrine
Reagan Doctrine
The Reagan Doctrine was a strategy orchestrated and implemented by the United States under the Reagan Administration to oppose the global influence of the Soviet Union during the final years of the Cold War...

, which advocated public and secret support of anti-Communist counter-revolutionaries (usually the losers of civil wars). For example, by secretly funding the secret war of the militarily-defeated, right-wing Contras
Contras
The contras is a label given to the various rebel groups opposing Nicaragua's FSLN Sandinista Junta of National Reconstruction government following the July 1979 overthrow of Anastasio Somoza Debayle's dictatorship...

 against the left-wing Sandinista government of Nicaragua
Nicaragua
Nicaragua is the largest country in the Central American American isthmus, bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. The country is situated between 11 and 14 degrees north of the Equator in the Northern Hemisphere, which places it entirely within the tropics. The Pacific Ocean...

, which led to the Iran-Contra Affair
Iran-Contra Affair
The Iran–Contra affair , also referred to as Irangate, Contragate or Iran-Contra-Gate, was a political scandal in the United States that came to light in November 1986. During the Reagan administration, senior Reagan administration officials and President Reagan secretly facilitated the sale of...

, wherein the Reagan Administration sold American weapons to US enemy Iran to arm the Contras with Warsaw Pact weapons, and their consequent drug-dealing in American cities. Moreover, in the case of Nicaragua v. United States, the International Court of Justice
International Court of Justice
The International Court of Justice is the primary judicial organ of the United Nations. It is based in the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands...

 ruled against the United States’ secret military attacks against Sandinista Nicaragua, because the countries were not formally at war.

Critics of the Reagan Doctrine note that blowback is inevitable and that such unilateral intervention causes Third World
Third World
The term Third World arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned with either capitalism and NATO , or communism and the Soviet Union...

 civil wars to expand beyond their borders and risks the long-term safety of Americans who may be killed in the resulting violence. Reagan Doctrine advocates, principally the Heritage Foundation
Heritage Foundation
The Heritage Foundation is a conservative American think tank based in Washington, D.C. Heritage's stated mission is to "formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong...

, replied that support for anti-Communists would topple Communist régimes without retaliatory consequences to the United States and help win the global Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

.

See also

  • Boomerang effect
    Boomerang effect
    In social psychology, the boomerang effect is "the theory of psychological reactance that is supported by experiments showing that attempts to restrict a person's freedom often produce an anticonformity "boomerang effect".-Environmentalism:The term "boomerang effect" can be used to describe the...

  • CIA-Osama bin Laden controversy
  • September 11th Attacks
  • French Connection
    French Connection
    The French Connection was a scheme through which heroin was smuggled from Turkey to France and then to the United States. The operation reached its peak in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when it provided the vast majority of the illicit heroin used in the United States...

  • Guatemalan Civil War
    Guatemalan Civil War
    The Guatemalan Civil War ran from 1960-1996. The thirty-six-year civil war began as a grassroots, popular response to the rightist and military usurpation of civil government , and the President's disrespect for the human and civil rights of the majority of the population...

  • Plausible deniability
    Plausible deniability
    Plausible deniability is, at root, credible ability to deny a fact or allegation, or to deny previous knowledge of a fact. The term most often refers to the denial of blame in chains of command, where upper rungs quarantine the blame to the lower rungs, and the lower rungs are often inaccessible,...

  • Office of Public Diplomacy
    Office of Public Diplomacy
    The Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean was an intra-agency propaganda organization established in the United States during the administration of Ronald Reagan...

  • Reagan Doctrine
    Reagan Doctrine
    The Reagan Doctrine was a strategy orchestrated and implemented by the United States under the Reagan Administration to oppose the global influence of the Soviet Union during the final years of the Cold War...



People
  • Chalmers Johnson
    Chalmers Johnson
    Chalmers Ashby Johnson was an American author and professor emeritus of the University of California, San Diego. He served in the Korean War, was a consultant for the CIA from 1967–1973, and chaired the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California, Berkeley from 1967 to 1972...

  • João Goulart
    João Goulart
    João Belchior Marques Goulart was a Brazilian politician and the 24th President of Brazil until a military coup d'état deposed him on April 1, 1964. He is considered to have been the last left-wing President of the country until Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took office in 2003.-Name:João Goulart is...

  • Abdul Qadeer Khan
    Abdul Qadeer Khan
    Abdul Qadeer Khan , also known in Pakistan as Mohsin-e-Pakistan , D.Eng, Sc.D, HI, NI , FPAS; more widely known as Dr. A. Q...

  • Maktab al-Khidamat
  • Mohammad Mosaddeq