The History


  1. IBM – The Jews

(excerpted from IBM And The Holocaust – NY Times)

Mankind barely noticed when the concept of massively organized information quietly emerged to become a means of social control, a weapon of war, and a roadmap for group destruction.  Hitler and his hatred of the Jews was the ironic driving force behind this intellectual turning point. But his quest was greatly enhanced and energized by the ingenuity and craving for profit of a single American company and its legendary, autocratic chairman. That company was International Business Machines, and its chairman was Thomas J. Watson.

Der Führer’s obsession with Jewish destruction was hardly original. There had been czars and tyrants before him. But for the first time in history, an anti-Semite had automation on his side. Hitler didn’t do it alone. He had help.

Solipsistic and dazzled by its own swirling universe of technical possibilities, IBM was self-gripped by a special amoral corporate mantra: if it can be done, it should be done.  The destruction of the Jewish people became even less important because the invigorating nature of IBM’s technical achievement was only heightened by the fantastical profits to be made at a time when bread lines stretched across the world.

So how did it work?

When Hitler came to power, a central Nazi goal was to identify and destroy Germany’s 600,000 Jews.

When the Reich needed to mount a systematic campaign of Jewish economic disenfranchisement and later began the massive movement of European Jews out of their homes and into ghettos, the task was so prodigious it called for a computer. But in 1933, no computer existed.

When the Final Solution sought to efficiently transport Jews out of European ghettos along railroad lines and into death camps, with timing so precise the victims were able to walk right out of the boxcar and into a waiting gas chamber, the coordination was so complex a task, this too called for a computer. But in 1933, no computer existed.

However, another invention did exist: the IBM punch card and card sorting system—a precursor to the computer. IBM using its own staff and equipment, designed, executed, and supplied the indispensable technologic assistance Hitler’s Third Reich needed to accomplish what had never been done before—the automation of human destruction.  People were moved from place to place, systematically worked to death, and their remains cataloged with icy automation.

IBM Germany, known in those days as Deutsche Hollerith Maschinen Gesellschaft, or Dehomag, did not simply sell the Reich machines and then walk away. IBM’s subsidiary, with the knowledge of its New York headquarters, enthusiastically custom-designed the complex devices and specialized applications as an official corporate undertaking.

I was haunted by a question whose answer has long eluded historians. The Germans always had the lists of Jewish names. But how did the Nazis get the lists? For decades, no one has known.

The answer: IBM Germany’s census operations and similar advanced people counting and registration technologies.  IBM  invented the racial census—listing not just religious affiliation, but bloodline going back generations. This was the Nazi data lust. Not just to count the Jews—but to identify them.

People and asset registration was only one of the many uses Nazi Germany found for high-speed data sorters. Food allocation was organized around databases, allowing Germany to starve the Jews. Slave labor was identified, tracked, and managed largely through punch cards. Punch cards even made the trains run on time and cataloged their human cargo.

Many of us have become enraptured by the Age of Computerization and the Age of Information. I know I have. But now I am consumed with a new awareness that, for me, as the son of Holocaust survivors, brings me to a whole new consciousness. I call it the Age of Realization, as we look back and examine technology’s wake. Unless we understand how the Nazis acquired the names, more lists will be compiled against more people.

Only through exposing and examining what really occurred can the world of technology finally adopt the well-worn motto: Never Again.

Edwin Black
Washington DC
October 2000(C) 2001 Edwin Black All rights reserved. ISBN: 0-609-60799-5

2) The Census Bureau – The Japanese

(Excerpted from After Pearl Harbor: The Proper Role of Population Data Systems in Times of War by William Seltzer and Margo Anderson – Amstat Online)

On Sunday, December 7, 1941 the Japanese armed forces attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii precipitating the United States entry into World War II. On Tuesday, December 9, 1941 the Bureau of the Census published its first report on Japanese Americans based on the 1940 Census, “Japanese population of the United States, its territories and possessions,” followed immediately by reports on the “Japanese population by nativity and citizenship in selected cities of the United States” on December 10, and “Japanese population in the Pacific Coast States by sex, nativity and citizenship, by counties” on December 11 [US Census Bureau, 1974: items 1286, 1287, and 1288, respectively].

The operational responsibilities of the WCCA statistical branch, included preparation of all necessary forms and procedures for the registration, temporary detention in Assembly Centers, and transfer to War Relocation Centers of all Japanese (sic) evacuees; the maintenance of adequate individual records through which the movement of each individual and each family would be traced; the maintenance of certain intelligence type records concerning individuals; drafting the details of the logistics of the evacuation movement including preparation of maps of individual evacuation area units by groups (of units) for temporary detention in Assembly Centers, and the regrouping of population for transfer to Relocation Centers; and for the preparation of tables, charts, and maps needed for over-all planning, operation and report purposes.

Throughout late December and January 1942, calls appeared in the press and in the internal government memoranda for the arrest and removal of ‘the Japanese’ from the West Coast.

On February 19, 1942, the President issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized the Western Defense Command to remove Japanese American aliens and citizens from the West Coast.

The declaration of war against Japan on December 8, and on December 11 against Germany and Italy, placed fundamental new challenges on the population data systems of the nation. At a stroke, it turned roughly one million aliens from Germany, Japan and Italy into ‘enemy aliens,’ liable under international law to increased scrutiny, surveillance and possible internment. And after two years of the coverage of war in Europe and Asia, Congressional debate and media coverage about the loyalty of aliens, the devastation of Pearl Harbor inspired fear in many quarters that enemy agents within the country had prepared Germany submarines or Japanese air strikes on additional domestic targets. At this point, all the operative forces within the Bureau appeared to be aligned toward the use of Census Bureau data and expertise against the Japanese Americans on the West Coast. In any event, we could not find a record of even a single voice within the Bureau or its advisory committee raising a doubt about the actions taken.


  • Monday morning, December 8, 1941 the decision to tabulate the “Japanese” using the item on race rather than the item on country of birth, as was done for the Germans and Italians two days later.
  • Balance of December 1941, the failure to reconsider this decision.
  • January 10-11, 1942, the failure of anyone present at the Census Advisory Committee meeting to question the use of small area census data to target Japanese Americans based on their 1940 Census responses or to question the Director’s willingness to provide names and addresses to the military, if requested.
  • February 1942, the decision by the Census Bureau to send Dedrick, a senior division chief, to the West Coast as Bureau staff member to assist an operational program (i.e., the Army’s Wartime Civil Control Administration) and use 1940 Census results to target Japanese American members of the responding public for forced migration and internment.
  • February 1942, the related decision by the Census Bureau to provide Dedrick and the WCCA with mesodata and maps from the 1940 Census down to the block and enumeration district level.
  • January-March 1942, the decision to base the internment on the 1940 Census
  • 1943, the decision by Dedrick to obfuscate in the Army’s final report of the internment, how information from the 1940 Census was used.

Copyright © American Statistical Association

3) FBI – The Palmer Raids – Communists/Anarchists

Excerpted from “ICE Doesn’t Belong In The Intelligence Community” by Matthew Feeney – Cato Institute

In 1919 followers of the Italian anarchist Luigi Galleani sent mail bombs to dozens of prominent public figures, including Attorney General Mitchell Palmer.  Although the wannabe assassins failed to kill any of their intended targets, the bombings sparked the United States’ first “Red Scare.”

Palmer, Assistant Attorney General Francis Garvan, and Bureau of Investigation (BI) director William Flynn met shortly after bombings to decide on a course of action. They concluded that mass deportations were the solution to the Red menace, and made plans for an “Anti-Radical Division.” Garvan knew just the man to run this new agency, a 24-year-old former librarian named J. Edgar Hoover.

Hoover put his librarian skills to use, creating a database that included thousands of notecards that catalogued details related to individuals, publications, and organizations. This intelligence apparatus helped agents carry out the Palmer Raids. These raids resulted in thousands of people being arrested (many without warrants) and hundreds of “radicals” being deported.

BI agents went undercover, and local police set up “Red squads”:

Local police were encouraged to set up their own “Red squads” and share their findings with Washington. Private detective agencies, employed by the struck companies, supplied huge lists of names. Under a variety of pretexts — which included purchase, seizure, and theft — whole radical libraries were obtained. Newspapers were collected “by the bale” and pamphlets “by the ton.” Forty multilingual translators searched foreign-language periodicals for names and inflammatory quotations. Stenographers were sent to public meetings to take down the content of speeches. In Washington one-third of the BI’s special agents were assigned to antiradical work; in the field, over one-half, many of them undercover.

The BI was a law enforcement agency, but it also engaged in extensive domestic intelligence activities. Today the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the BI’s descendant, is one of the 17 agencies that make up the IC.

4) The AUMF and Extraordinary Rendition After 9-11 – Muslims

(Excerpted from Birth of A Debacle – Al Jazeera)

Days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Bush administration started making decisions that led to the official authorisation of torture tactics, indefinite incommunicado detention and the denial of habeas corpus for people who would be detained at Guantánamo, Bagram, or “black sites” (secret prisons) run by the CIA; kidnappings, forced disappearances and extraordinary rendition to foreign countries to exploit their torturing services.

On September 14, 2001, Congress passed the Authorisation to Use Military Force (AUMF), which granted the president the authority to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against those whom he determined “planned, authorised, committed or aided” the 9/11 attacks, or who harbored said persons or groups. The AUMF did not delineate any territorial specificity or geographical limits.
As is common in asymmetrical wars when states fight non-state groups, the need for information about al-Qaeda elevated the importance of gathering “actionable intelligence” through interrogation of captured enemies. But the decision to endorse the use of violent and degrading methods (even before anyone had been taken into custody) was a choice, not a necessity.

Vice President Dick Cheney, who infamously opined in a television interview on September 16 about the need to work the “dark side” and “use any means at our disposal”,  spearheaded the administration’s “war on terror” interrogation and detention policy-making

.On September 17, President Bush signed a memorandum of understanding giving the CIA authority to establish a secret detention and interrogation operation overseas. The Clinton-era rendition programme involving transfer of arrested terror suspects to third countries for trial was revamped as “extraordinary rendition” to permit the CIA to kidnap people from anywhere in the world and disappear them into secret prisons where they could be held as “ghost detainees”, or transferred extra-legally to other states for interrogation.

On November 13, President Bush, citing the AUMF, issued a military order entitled “Detention, Treatment, and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against Terrorism” in which he declared that members of al-Qaeda and others involved in or who provided support for international terrorism could be detained by the US and prosecuted in a new kind of military commission.

The administration devised the label “unlawful enemy combatants” to denote that detainees would be regarded as neither combatants nor civilians under the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Moreover, detainees could be assigned this status on the basis of presidential decree rather than following a status review by a tribunal, which effectively conflated being in custody with an uncontestable presumption of guilt.

By December 2001, Pentagon officials were exploring how to “reverse engineer” SERE (survival, evasion, resistance, extraction) techniques that had been developed during the Cold War to train US soldiers to withstand torture in case they were captured by regimes that don’t adhere to the Geneva Conventions.

The first US detention facility in Afghanistan was a makeshift structure at the Kandahar airbase. It was intended to be a site for quick questioning of prisoners captured from the front, some of whom would then be sent to the “rear” for longer-term questioning and custody. The rear, as decided in December, was 7,000 miles away at the US naval base on the south side of Cuba.

The first shipment of 20 prisoners arrived at Guantánamo on January 11, 2002. Although pictures of the detainees in sensory deprivation gear and stress positions were published by the Pentagon, their identities were classified.

By the end of January, growing numbers were being transferred to Kandahar from Pakistan, allegedly terrorists who had escaped across the border after the start of the bombing or had evaded capture during the battle of Tora Bora in late 2001. Others were arriving from across Afghanistan, captured on the battlefield, rounded up in village sweeps, or sold for bounty by the Northern Alliance.

The Pentagon’s criteria for determining who would be shipped from Afghanistan to Guantánamo included all al-Qaeda personnel; Taliban leaders; non-Afghan Taliban or other types of foreign fighters; and any others who may pose a threat to US interests, may have intelligence value, or may be of interest for US prosecution.

Interrogators were under enormous pressure from the Pentagon for actionable intelligence, including information that would lead to the capture of bin Laden, Mullah Omar and other top al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders. To elicit this information, prisoners were subjected to “counter-resistance” techniques to produce debility, disorientation and dread. Protracted hooding, sleep deprivation, forced nakedness and recurrent cavity searches, position abuse such as chaining and tying them to chairs or hooks on the floor or wall, and manipulation of lighting, sound, temperature, food and medicine, use of dogs, forcible shaving, and death threats became standard operating procedure to persuade captives that resistance was futile.

The critical step in unfettering interrogation operations from legal constraints was made, secretly, on February 7, 2002, when President Bush, acting on the advice of government lawyers, issued a directive to his national security team that the Geneva Conventions were inapplicable to the war on terror. This decision was responsive to anxieties that practices already being implemented with White House approval might lead to future war crimes prosecutions; the February directive sought to establish future immunity through a no-crime-without-law declaration from the commander-in-chief.

The centre of interrogation and detention operations in Afghanistan shifted in May 2002 from Kandahar to the old Soviet airbase at Bagram north of Kabul. Some people brought there had been arrested from as far afield as Europe, Southeast Asia and Africa, and some were transferred from CIA black sites or following extraordinary rendition to other foreign countries. Like Kandahar, Bagram served as a pipeline to Guantánamo.

A senior Arabic-speaking CIA analyst was dispatched to Guantanamo in August 2002 to do an assessment of the detainees. He concluded that at least half and probably a much higher percentage had no ties to or meaningful information about al-Qaeda or the Taliban. A meeting was scheduled with White House counsel Alberto Gonzales to discuss the analyst’s recommendations for a formal review process to determine who should be released and repatriated. But, as Jane Mayer reports in The Dark Side, David Addington, Cheney’s counsel, cancelled the meeting, declaring: “No, there will be no review. The President has determined that they are ALL enemy combatants. We are not going to revisit it.”

In the division of interrogational labor, the CIA was vested with primary responsibility for “high value detainees” (HVDs) – people assumed to be terrorist leaders or planners of 9/11, or to have knowledge about terrorist operations and plots. On March 28, 2002, the first HVD, Abu Zubaydah, was captured in Pakistan and transported to a black site in Thailand. His interrogation led to a showdown between professional Arabic-speaking FBI interrogators who used conventional methods with success and unskilled CIA contractors who were inspired and authorised to use violence. The CIA won, and the FBI stopped cooperating in black site interrogations.

.By mid-summer 2002, some CIA agents were growing anxious about their vulnerability to future prosecution under federal anti-torture laws. In response to the Agency’s questions about legal liability, government lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) produced two memos dated August 1, 2002. One memo interpreted the applicable definition of physical torture to exclude anything less than “the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death”, and opined that cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment would not constitute mental torture unless it caused effects that lasted “months or even years”. The second memo provided legal cover for tactics already in use.

Although these OLC memos were written for the CIA, the White House forwarded them to the Pentagon, which was seeking a solution to military interrogators’ frustrated efforts to get actionable intelligence out of Guantánamo detainees. A three-course menu of reverse-engineered SERE tactics was authorised by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in December 2002.

When top lawyers in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) corps vetted this policy document in early 2003, they wrote memos to Rumsfeld protesting that the use of tactics that contravene the Uniform Code of Military Justice (which enshrines the Geneva Conventions) would expose soldiers to the risk of court martial. The Pentagon solicited a memo from the OLC justifying these methods (dated March 14, 2003), which was used to silence the JAGs’ dissent.