.'4: :Y7".MEMOIRS OF ACIA PSYCHOLOGISTWith the help of handwriting analysis, a test called thePsychological Assessment System and 30,000 personalityfiles,Jim Keehner spent seven years screening CIA agents andrecruits. He's now on the agency's "useless person" listBy Maureen OrthThe young CIA case officers looked intently at theirinstructor. He was holding up a lemon. "I want you to take this lemon," hesaid, "and never let it leave youfor the next three or four days. Smell it, touch it. Tellme your feelings about it. Getto know your lemon like you've never known anotherlemon in your life. This is anorder."The instructor was teaching "Personality Theory."He was a CIA psychologist, an expert called upon to train fresh clandestineoperators in some of the secretarts of intelligence work. The lemon exercise was supposed to measure and improvetheir sensitivity, and the trainees were required toturn in written "contact" reportsseveral days later. It was the usual mix. Some haddeveloped meaningful relationships with their fruits. They rhapsodized for three pagesabout their lemons and hadno trouble picking them out from a bowl of dozens. One nonconformist, however,merely drew a big picture of his lemon and labeledit with a question mark. Still, theinstructor, Jim Keehner, was pleased. "I was tryingto get them in contact with theirfeelings," he explained. "Feelings had been left outof their previous training, whichis all cognitive."In 1968 the CIA hired Jim Keehner as a specialistin the agency's ongoingeffort to increase the psychological skills and awareness of its employees. A CIAcase officer's prime duty is to recruit "agents" amongforeign citizens around theworld, and the agency has a vital interest in any method—no matter how far out—that promises to reveal weaknesses, vulnerabilitiesand psychic pressure points inpossible recruits.The CIA. in fact. has become one of the world's foremost laboratories for unusual psychological techniques. Keehner's office in theagency's Technical Service Division had a mandate to test anything—from hallucinogenic drugs to computerizedhandwriting analysis—that would help case officers manipulate their agents or otherunsuspecting potential agents. Keehner's missionwas to teach other CIA officerst how to bring agents under control. Ironically, thenegative nature of his work looscued his own self-control and brought him to the pointof a complete breakdown. Stillbearing the marks of his shattering experience, Keehner hesitantly agreed to providea portrait of the agency's psychological operations.(C0is7tpNEW TIMES IIq:"
Keehner was in the living room ofhis Georgetown apartment, giving methe CIA's specially designed personalitytest. According to Keehner, the resultsof this test would tell turn my basic genetic formula: whether I was born an extrovert or an introvert, whether I wasmoral or amoral, whether I'd be moreloyal to a person or a cause, even whatsort of torture would be most effectiveagainst me.I tried hard to duplicate the geometric designs on the paper Keehnershowed me. I had to construct the designs using pieces of a plastic buildingblock. A clock on the table next to usclicked away, but I was oblivious."Time!" Keehner called. I managed tocomplete every design, but it took metoo long. I flunked. Keehner seemedoverjoyed. "Oh, you're an F," he said."1 knew you were an F. They're sensitive, creative and clumsy." I was takingthe test so that Keehner might trust me.We had met for the first time only a fewhours before, and most of the timeKeehner was uncomfortable and nervous. "Would a Catholic talk to the Devil?" he asked. "That's what the CIAthinks of talking to the press."But I scored very high on trustworthiness, and that seemed to ease hisconcern. He was also unscientificallybiased in my favor because I had thesame "basic personality formula" as hisformer fiancée. He began to relax, butonly a little.To Jim Keehner, relaxing meanssitting in the window of a "safe house"chain-smoking cigarettes and wonderingwho is watching from outside. He alsochecks for the three-agent team (ABC"surveillance patterns") when he'swalking down the street, and fears thatanything written about him and the CIAwill he subject to instant sabotage by hisformer superiors. His natural wit is almost drowned in a terminal case of paranoia, perhaps because he is aware thathe is an official outcast, a name on theCIA's "useless person" list.It wasn't always so. A small, thin,36-year-old Kentuckian, Keehner spentsix years traveling the world for the CIAwith a packet of suicide pills in his pocket. He never forgot the motto of hisoffice: "Every man has his price." Hisjob was to find the weakest part of a foreign agent's character, his "squeakyboard," and then tell the CIA how tostep on it. He tested European bankers,Near Eastern journalists, Vietnamesefarmers, a Buddhist monk and an African hashish smuggler. He told them hewas testing their aptitude, but he was really charting how their minds worked."We liked some people with lowintelligence who would follow orders,"Keehner said. "Then there were somemean ones, the killers. But basically Itested nondescript middle-class peoplewho did it for the money."Back at CIA headquarters inLangley, Virginia, Keehner reported hisfindings and taught the case officers howto take advantage of them. He also tested the case officers themselves, seekingout their weaknesses so that the agencywould know how vulnerable they wereto enemy spies.In addition to his direct testing,Keehner assessed many potential agentsindirectly, without the benefit of interviews or tests. He used the informationthe CIA collects every year on thousands of unsuspecting foreigners. Nomatter how loyal these people might beto their country, the CIA considers thempotential traitors and labels them either"susceptible" or "vulnerable." Todaythe agency still spends millions to studythem, tap their phones and bug their bed-"No American whoworks for theCIA is a spy,"said Keehner."A spy is aforeign agent whocommits treason"rooms in an effort to lure them or forcethem to become agents. It is not a prettybusiness, and Keehner had to plot howto bring these targets to the breakingpoint."I was sent to deal with the mostnegative aspects of the human condition," he said. "It was planned destructiveness. First, you'd check to see if youcould destroy a man's marriage. If youcould, then that would be enough to puta lot of stress on the individual, to breakhim down. Then you might start a rumorcampaign against him. Harass him constantly. Bump his car in traffic. A lot of itis ridiculous, but it may have a cumulative effect."The CIA recruited Jim Keehnerunder deep cover. He was excited whena high-powered Washington outfit calledPsychological Assessments Associateswanted to interview him. PAA, withoffices in Washington and abroad, is thecover for the agency's psychologists. Itsrecruiters impressed Keehner by tellinghim that if he got the job he would travelthe world testing the aptitudes of business executives for high-level positions.It was August of l%4.During the next nine months,Keehner considered studying for thepriesthood while Psychological Assessments checked him out for a top secretsecurity clearance. Then the companycontacted him in Kentucky, where hewas working in the mental ward of a hospital, and invited him to interview further for what he thought was a glamorous job with a private psychologicalfirm. "They called me in," he remembers, "and said, 'This is the CIA. Do youwant to go on or do you'want to stop?'It's a funny feeling when they tell you—frightening, yet thrilling and shocking."He barely hesitated before saying yes.Visions of dashing spooks danced in hishead.One thing puzzled Keehner aboutthe CIA's final interviews, however."They never once asked me about theVietnam War," he said. Neither did theyprobe his views of morality, not in sevenscreening interviews and not when hetook the CIA's standard lie-detector test.No one from the agency questionedKeehner about American involvement inVietnam, then at its peak. The oversightproved to be significant.Keehner's intensive training inthe clandestine ways of the CIA surprised him. "I was intrigued with spies,"he said. "But as soon as I got to trainingI learned that no American who worksfor the CIA is a spy. Never. A spy is aforeign agent who commits treason and.gives information against his government. In the CIA we act as his helpersand get information for our country.Never call an American a spy." Theneed for secrecy was drilled into himover and over again. He had to sign acontract binding him not to reveal hiswork to anyone.After training, Keehner reportedto the Washington office of PAA, wherehe set out to learn the rudiments.of theremarkable test he would soon administer round the world. Keehner's boss,John Gittinger (now retired), scored amajor breakthrough in measuring personality development about 25 yearsago. Gittinger took the standard IQtest—the Wechsler Adult IntelligenceScale—and converted it to a highly sophisticated tool that can predict behaviorbased on personality types. The elaborate Psychological Assessment System(PAS) uses a series of letters to categorize individual personality traits: "internalizers" and "externalizers" (I and E.NEW TIMES 21
those who see the forest (F, flexibles)and those who see the trees (R, regulated). those who adapt easily (A) and thosewho don't (U). PAS hypothesizes thateveryone is born with a fixed personalityformula that is often modified in earlychildhood and adolescence but never entirely altered.Because of the test's complexityand its bias toward genetic destiny, it hasnot been especially popular in thescientific community. However, somepsychologists who work extensivelywith the PAS readily concede that it canbe effective for the CIA's purposes. "If Iwere getting into the torture business,"says Denver clinical psychologist KeithDavis, "I'd think of the PAS. I use it in apsychological program aimed at helpingpatients. But people skilled in subtle manipulation can use it for negative purposes.""I can be very sneaky myselfabout predicting behavior and personality formulas," says Dr. Charles Krauskopf of the University of Missouri Psychology Department. "We should bethinking about this the same way we'rethinking about nuclear problems and bioengineering. It's not something that willhide under the carpet."Keehner thinks the public oughtto know about many of the techniquesthe CIA uses. "One of the tragedies isthat most CIA research in the basicsciences is never made available to theAmerican public who paid for it," hesays. "My boss, for example, was a nonacademic who carried half his workaround in his head."unadaptable. They follow authorityblindly." China, on the other hand, isIRU (internalized, regulated, unadaptable), just like former-President Nixon."I've never met an IRU I've liked,"says Keehner.In fact, nobody in Keehner'soffice could stand to watch Nixon ontelevision. Out of 15 psychologists inKeehner's office. 14 voted for McGovern, not because they loved McGovernbut because they had all indirectly assessed Nixon. Our former leader faredvery poorly. Trained to spot lying, theCIA psychologists concluded that Nixonlied in public most of the time.In addition to testing, Keehner'soffice often whipped up psychologicalstudies of world leaders. Foreign presidents and their aides had their handwriting scrutinized for signs of psychic imbalance. Keehner worked on the files ofmany foreign officials, but the assessments on the really big enchiladas wereleft to his bosses. Keehner happened tosee Fidel Castro's assessment, and it"If I were gettinginto the torturebusiness," sayspsychologist KeithDavis, "I'd thinkof the PsychologicalAssessmentSystem"noted he had sex with his pants on.Gittinger finally had a monographof his Psychological Assessment Systempublished in The Journal of Clinical Psychology in April of 1973. Today the system is being used in several Americanuniversities and hospitals as an aid in vocational guidance, marriage counseling,correlating personality type with psychosomatic illness and teaching mentalpatients how to play up their strengths.Keehner believes that most people working with the test have no idea of its useby the CIA. And certainly nobody nowusing the PAS outside the agency has access to the 30,000 personality formulasthe CIA has accumulated over the years.Keehner thought the CIA charterstrictly forbade the agency to assessAmerican citizens. so he was surprisedwhen the news broke that the agency hadcompiled a psychological profile on Daniel Ellsberg because of what Keehnercalls a "bureaucratic screw up." "Iguess the Plumbers broke into that officeto get Ellsberg's psychiatric files for theshrinks," he said. "We could have doneit without them. I asked my boss if hewould have assessed Ellsberg, and hetold me that we probably would havedone it if the White House had asked usto."The CIA even goes so far as todub the personalities of entire countrieswith the magic PAS initials. The U.S.,for example, is ERA--"a masculine stereotype"—externally oriented, regulated in behavior and adaptable. The country that most resembles the U.S. is noneother than the U.S.S.R. "The Russiansare EFUs," says Keehner, "like us, butKeehner's office did assess Commander Lloyd Bucher when the Navyspy ship the Pueblo was captured by theNorth Koreans. "We were very involved in trying to figure out how theNorth Koreans might affect the crewpsychologically," said Keehner. "Bucher should never have been commanderof that ship. He was an orphan, you22 NEW TIMESknow. He wouldn't intentionally giveaway anything. But he was not equippedto handle any aspect of the situation hewas in."The CIA assessed Sirhan Sizhanwhen Robert Kennedy wac accacsinRinriand coneltalteLhe was insane. Keehner.Says he knows of no official assessmentIgeliatatevitswaid.LLApaghologirwald on their own and concluded he wasgstikijting.thefaesilieutisy hiniseIL(Que of the CIA employees whoworked on the Oswald materialconfirmedsion.) 'The agency also analyzed lettersfrom American POWs in North Vietnamto see if their handwriting showed theeffects of torture. It did, and some of theprisoners were judged to be hallucinating.The CIA takes handwriting analysis quite seriously. According to Keehner, the agency's sophisticated methodscan work wonders with a simple handwriting sample, to the point of detectingcertain diseases before they are subjectto medical diagnosis. Every New Year'sDay, all the CIA agents in the SovietUnion forward their New Year's cardsfrom Russian friends to CIA headquarters so that the handwriting can beanalyzed and filed away.The agency even spent a half million dollars to build a machine to graphhandwriting by computer. It was supposed to cut down analysis time fromeight or nine hours to four. But the machine never functioned properly. Astaunch believer in handwriting analysis,Keehner says, "If you take the test andwe see your writing, there's no way wecan be wrong about you."The CIA denies it, but Keehnersays it still uses sexual ruses to entrapcollaborators. In 1969 Keehner went toNew York to give the "aptitude test" toan American nurse who had volunteeredfor unofficial night duty. ''We wantedher to sleep with this Russian," he explained. "Either the Russian would fallin love with her and defect, or we'dblackmail him. I had to see if she couldsleep with him over a period of time andnot get involved emotionally. Boy, wasshe tough."Keehner became disgusted withentrapment techniques, however, especially after watching a film of an agent inbed with a "recruitment target." CIAcase officers, many of whom Keehnersays "got their jollies" from such assignments, made the film with a hidden camera. Keehner was not only repulsed bythe practice but also found it quite inef-
fective. "You don't really recruit agentswith sexual blackmail," he says. "That'swhy 1 couldn't even take reading the filesafter a while,. I was sickened at seeingpeople take pleasure in other people'sinadequacies. First of all, I thought itwas just dumb. For all the money goingout, nothing ever came back. We don'trecruit that many people. Most of ouragents are walk-ins, people who are easyto buy anyway."Psychologist Ann Herndon. a former CIA colleague who quit to go intoprivate practice, corroborated Keehner's view of the CIA's ineffectivenessin using blackmail as a recruiting technique. "I never once saw anyone recruited in the work I did," she said. "I saw 70to 80 cases a month. We haven't yet recruited our first Mainland Chinese. andthere are at least 100 people working fulltime on it.""It's pretty much of a game,"Keehner said. "People took pleasure inthe gamesmanship. Everybody waslooking for a promotion."Every morning at 8:30, when JimKeehner reported for work, he passedthe inscription in the marble wall of theCIA's main lobby: "And ye shall knowthe truth and the truth shall make yefree" (John 7:32). Eventually, the wordsbegan to grate on his nerves. He saw it asa symbol of the hypocrisy he felt surrounded by. Also, he became more andmore disturbed by the moral implicationsof his daily work, which was centeredaround the PAS testing system. Keehneroccasionally wondered what would happen if the government decided to test everyone and run their genetic formulasnext to their social security numbers on agiant computer. "There are horrible possibilities," he said. "It's social engineering and we don't know yet if people canbeat the test."His disaffection with the agencyfirst began over the issue of the VietnamWar. His office was divided over thewar, with the younger psychologists opposing and the older ones endorsingAmerican policy to keep communismfrom spreading another inch. Keehneralso disapproved of the military cast thatcame over the agency during its Vietnamoperations. "The agency was alwaysswarming with colonels from the Pentagon," he says. "I couldn't stand thewaste of money being poured into Vietnam."My job was becoming more disgusting to me every day. But I was overwhelmed by the CIA. The first year isconfusion. The second is bewilderment.The third it just kind of dawns on youwhat's happening." Keehner, ever astaunch Catholic, poured out his doubtstwice a month in the confessional to noavail. "Masturbation was a mortal sin."he says. "But when I talked about sexualblackmail and manipulating people, thepriest said it was a grey area. It took a while for Keehner to rebel. But he found solace in attendingsensitivity training sessions generouslyfinanced by the CIA. Touchie-feelietechniques were some of the many methods the agency explored for possible usein psychological assessments. They werestill alive after the CIA had abandonedhypnosis, LSD, truth serums and palmreading. (ESP, says Keehner, is "still upin the air.") Both of Keehner's bossesattended early sensitivity training groupsand found them interesting. They approved of his request to train as a sensitivity group leader, under cover ofcourse.Keehner soon found himself anenthusiastic devotee of group grope. HeOut of 15 CIApsychologists,14 voted forMcGovern. Trainedto spot lying, theyconcludedthat Nixon liedin public mostof the timethought sensitivity sessions not only personally satisfying but also a possiblemeans of reforming the agency. OnMondays he went to Gestalt. On Tuesdays he saw his psychiatrist. OnWednesdays and Fridays he did yoga.On Thursdays he rested. "I was reallycoming into touch with my feelings forthe first time. I started strongly vocalizing my objections to the war at the office.I stopped wearing a tie to work and thatwas against regulations."Rebeling was an entirely new concept to Keehner. He had managed togrow up and go through 14 years of Catholic education without once disobeyinghis parents or his teachers. No doubtthose qualities made him an ideal candidate for the CIA, but the agency obviously forgot to assess the effects of contemporary self-help therapy.In 1971 Keehner was assigned atour
MEMOIRS OF A CIA PSYCHOLOGIST With the help of handwriting analysis, a test called the Psychological Assessment System and 30,000 personality files, Jim Keehner spent seven years screening CIA agents and recruits. He's now on the agency's "useless person" list By Maureen Orth The young CIA case officers looked intently at their instructor.