This has been doing the rounds for a little while, ever since the document appears to have been declassified by the CIA in 2008 – although, when visiting the link, it comes up with a 404 error (page not found)… coincidence? Yes.

“Some of the instructions seem outdated; others remain surprisingly relevant,” says the description of the pamphlet on the CIA’s website. “Together, they are a reminder of how easily productivity and order can be undermined.” (credit: Voltage Control)

Thought I’d share in a blog post, as it resonated HARD – especially some of those agency meetings for the sake of a meeting…

Quick hat tip (ht) to Michelle Goodall for flagging up on a Guild group this week. It made me chuckle, smirk, and think of where some old colleagues are now…

Dilbert by Scott Adams 15th December 2001
Dilbert by Scott Adams 15th December 2001

Who wrote the CIA ‘sabotaging meetings’ guide and why?

Well, it wasn’t actually the CIA.

It was written by the OSS, the predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency, who created it during the run up to the Second World War, to instruct and guide sympathetic Axis citizens to stir up sh*t (technical phrase).

The general idea was to create chaos at the coal face; empower potential allies and equip disgruntled citizens with the tools to disturb and disrupt businesses and organisations, with an apparent aim to cause rumbling difficulties in the economy.

In an eerie way, this rebellious guidance from nearly 80 years ago (!), resonates strongly today – think gerrymandering or deflection.

“Make “speeches” – Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your ‘points’ by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences.

— OSS (CIA) field manual, 1944

The apparently-timeless guidance for simple meeting sabotage from the OSS/CIA manual

Some instructions are out of date, as you’d expect, while others sounded oddly familiar. The section entitled ‘General Interference with Organizations and Productions’ is bang on:

  • Make “speeches” – Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your ‘points’ by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences.
  • Slow it down – advocate caution, avoid haste
  • Where possible refer all matters to committees (never fewer than five) for “consideration”
  • Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
  • Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.
  • Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.

Page 28 of the Simple Sabotage Field Manual:


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