Human Terrain System


Human Terrain System

This is a space created for analysis and disucussion of the 'Human Terrain System', Human Terrain - the movie, and Anthropologists and their part in facilitating the war machine.

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Latest Activity: Sep 11, 2013

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Comment by Amy Francis on May 4, 2011 at 5:12am
The Human Terrain System uses empirical socio-cultural research and analysis to fill a large operational decision-making support gap. This research provides current, accurate, and reliable data generated by on-the-ground research on the specific social groups in the supported unit’s operating environment. This human terrain knowledge provides a socio-cultural foundation for the staff’s support to the Commander’s Military Decision Making Process (MDMP), both in planning and execution. It also enables a more effective rotation of forces through the creation and maintenance of an enduring, socio-cultural knowledge base.


Mission Statement: Recruit, train, deploy, and support an embedded operationally focused socio-cultural capability; conduct operationally relevant socio-cultural research and analysis; develop and maintain a socio-cultural knowledge base, in order to enable operational decision- making, enhance operational effectiveness, and preserve and share socio-cultural institutional knowledge.
Comment by Amy Francis on May 4, 2011 at 5:23am
I am deeply concerned about the installation of Anthropologists in war zones under the Human Terrain System. I am concerned about how ethical this is, the impact on field work in other areas, and how this will impact on Anthropology as an academic discipline.
Comment by Amy Francis on May 4, 2011 at 5:46am

The U.S. military’s HTS project places anthropologists, as contractors with the U.S. military, in settings of war, for the purpose of collecting cultural and social data for use by the U.S. military. The ethical concerns raised by these activities include the following:

1. As military contractors working in settings of war, HTS anthropologists work in situations where it will not always be possible for them to distinguish themselves from military personnel and identify themselves as anthropologists. This places a significant constraint on their ability to fulfill their ethical responsibility as anthropologists to disclose who they are and what they are doing.

2. HTS anthropologists are charged with responsibility for negotiating relations among a number of groups, including both local populations and the U.S. military units that employ them and in which they are embedded. Consequently, HTS anthropologists may have responsibilities to their U.S. military units in war zones that conflict with their obligations to the persons they study or consult, specifically the obligation, stipulated in the AAA Code of Ethics, to do no harm to those they study (section III, A, 1).

3. HTS anthropologists work in a war zone under conditions that make it difficult for those they communicate with to give “informed consent” without coercion, or for this consent to be taken at face value or freely refused. As a result, “voluntary informed consent” (as stipulated by the AAA Code of Ethics, section III, A, 4) is compromised.

4. As members of HTS teams, anthropologists provide information and counsel to U.S. military field commanders. This poses a risk that information provided by HTS anthropologists could be used to make decisions about identifying and selecting specific populations as targets of U.S. military operations either in the short or long term. Any such use of fieldwork-derived information would violate the stipulations in the AAA Code of Ethics that those studied not be harmed (section III A, 1).


In addition to these four points about the activities of anthropologists working in the HTS project itself, the Executive Board has this additional concern:

5. Because HTS identifies anthropology and anthropologists with U.S. military operations, this identification—given the existing range of globally dispersed understandings of U.S. militarism—may create serious difficulties for, including grave risks to the personal safety of, many non-HTS anthropologists and the people they study.


In light of these points, the Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association concludes (i) that the HTS program creates conditions which are likely to place anthropologists in positions in which their work will be in violation of the AAA Code of Ethics and (ii) that its use of anthropologists poses a danger to both other anthropologists and persons other anthropologists study. Thus the Executive Board expresses its disapproval of the HTS program.

In the context of a war that is widely recognized as a denial of human rights and based on faulty intelligence and undemocratic principles, the Executive Board sees the HTS project as a problematic application of anthropological expertise, most specifically on ethical grounds. We have grave concerns about the involvement of anthropological knowledge and skill in the HTS project. The Executive Board views the HTS project as an unacceptable application of anthropological expertise.

The Executive Board affirms that anthropology can and in fact is obliged to help improve U.S. government policies through the widest possible circulation of anthropological understanding in the public sphere, so as to contribute to a transparent and informed development and implementation of U.S. policy by robustly democratic processes of fact-finding, debate, dialogue, and deliberation. It is in this way, the Executive Board affirms, that anthropology can legitimately and effectively help guide U.S. policy to serve the humane causes of global peace and social justice.

American Anthropological Association’s Executive Board Statement on the Human Terrain System Project

October 31, 2007

Comment by Abe Pena on May 10, 2011 at 5:17am

To settle your worries, AAA submitted a formal report to congress assessing and notifying congress and the US militaries that they do NOT endores and will not authorize anthropologists into the HTS program.


I will find the link after I get home. But, the Army is recruiting and implementing athropological techniques and specialties into the socio programs and fields. I was reviewing changes in the MOS ratings and quialifications. They are actually claiming AAA endores the program and that those in the Army training as field unit members in HTS programs and "other related projects" will be able to convert there training into college credit anthropology courses and civilian fields. This is not true, the AAA and international Athropology Foundations refused to endorse the Human terrain system databasing, the Census implementation into the HTS database, the IRS and Credit Union implementation into the Human Terrain & Resource Management database and several local, state and federal law enforcement databases entered into the "International Human Terrain and Resource database (a UN "project").


If you wish to understand the human terrain system database, you should review the models the databases are used in. The Human Terrain Database is only one of many databases being "centralized and shared" in an international data program mandated by the UN. Yet they state even "non-UN" members are mandated to comply with the implementation of the system.


I was former IT, I switched fields due to the ethical issues. I can tell you the fact that untracked, unregulated, access to an international datamining and storage system is not only insecure, but with the implementation of continued removal of indivual rights to person, property, and privacy it is getting to the point of a worldwide internment camp. The fusion center network guidelines mandated the first use of HTS databases. It looked safe and innocent. The data was to be used in city planning and project management but later was used to market and advertise and eventually harrass individuals. Later we found the local police data and employment and credit databases of private companies are ordered by government regulations to submit and authorize access to the databases in real-time. This by-passes the congressional review process and laws requiring cout orders to private databases on citizens. (There are memos and "think-tank" reports from 1999-2010 which discuss this and call it legal subvertion of authority. The same think tanks [Am Iallowed to name them? Cambridge, Standford, SPC were the most common. Total of 19 from 8 repeating think tanks and private foundations.]


I'll add more later. This internet cafe is closing right now.

Comment by Poppy Kohnerova on May 11, 2011 at 4:32pm

The Human Terrain System is an experimental counter-insurgency programme set up in 2004, whereby the US military hired anthropologists to use their training for documenting information about the cultural tendencies of combatants and non-combatants in the terrain they were operating.  These anthropologists were in military fatigues and often carried weapons.  Although it was publically hailed as a humanitarian project, it has been described as military strategy in the form of population control (Gonzalez 2008: 22), building a database of cultural information that then has the potential to be manipulated and militarily exploited.  One can draw meaning even from its title; ‘Human Terrain System’, whereby the programme dehumanizes the population who are the object of study, creating a topography of human life, which can be militarily negotiated - ‘the unusual juxtaposition of words portrays people on a geographic space to be conquered’ (Gonzalez 2008:23).  Gonzalez calls it ‘cultural-centric’ warfare (2008: 23), and it has been heralded in military circles as ground-breaking strategy to improve methods of counter-insurgency.  However, at odds with these claims, this mode of warfare shows no advancement of war strategy from 5th century war theorist Vegitius, when he asserts ‘know your enemy’.  In an endeavour to prevent this exploitation of anthropological training for military matters, the AAA have publicly denounced this programme, deeming it unethical anthropological practice.

Comment by Abe Pena on May 11, 2011 at 10:45pm

This is the interesting thing about the Human Terrain System. It is still highly unheard of by the general public worldwide. But before I go into some personal experience I havewith the topic I am going to include these articles.

- HTS assessment goes missing (This is important because the ARMY told the AAA they cancelled the project after the AAA submitted the nitice of not-endorsing the database systems and specific technquies the Army wished the field anthropologists to use in obtaining the data. The article also shows the program is larger and so are the data parameters and funding into 2012.)

- This is a Promo site to draw unknowing applicants to the HTS fieldwork positions They claim anthropology, yet do not follow the anthropology code of ethics.

- This is the official ARMY HTS info page the recruiters use.

- This is the 2007 AAA official statement on the HTS project. (they refuse to endorse the program.)

- This is a small blog that included the rare mention of some casualties related to the program.

- This includes an assessment and commentary about ones experience in review of the program.

- prior anthropologists discussion/report on the HTS program and impact from media. (The interesting thing is none of the commentators seem to be aware nor mention the ethical and non-endorsement of the program.) This is because the recruiters never tell the members the program is not endorsed nor what the field data is being used for. The post AAA program, now removes field teams from accessing the data, so they won't feel responsible it the collected data was used in DoD decisions against a group of people or region. (The militaries way of complying with the AAA concern the people volunteering information will not be affected.)

- This is another irresponsible link. The man is a field member in the active HTS program. He has a blog. This is the new way they are sending collectng data, since the former program was highly argued against by AAA and foriegn policy officials. This became common after 2007 when the program became known to the public.(It's just PR, and highly unprofessional, it is like being a clinical psychologist and blogging about yur patients.)

- This includes a link in the article to McFates original report that later became the HTS program.


if you have an account or can JSTOR this, it had an interester review of the program, and review of the field teams own impressions of the program.{Some teams members had to speak before congress and other nations' parliaments)

- an earlier commentary about the program by the journal NATURE.

- This is a 2006 report by the Army, which lead to the funding of McFates report that became the HTS program we have currently.

*more articles more detailed and some with direct team member interviews: [good discussion) (Interview of a former team member) Subcription, but some libraries had full article. (This caught our eye's and we bagan noticing the internation Human terrain and resource mangement databases were interconnected. and being used for everything from marketing, census, city planning, school districting,) It was the first article which lead us to discover the DoD was selling access to DoD datanetworks to thrird party affiliates, which would also add customer data to the databases. As former IT this we found incudes IRS, private banking information, buying patterns, and more. [Recall DoD is currently in charge of both IRS and Census servers. "This technically violates the databases privacy and controlled access laws"] This is the SIAC mission statement for the HTS project. (explains in detail most of the programs features.) higly undiscussed issue of HTS field members removing themselves from the project. There are dozens, most are now 404 errors [Thus, someone removing those interviews.] [good book] discusses the observed promotion of recruiting anthropologists into the HTS program. Oddly the book recognized the recruits seem to never look into the AAA 2007 assessment and non-endorsement statement. Most recruits think it is just a field research opportunity, not an intel operation. But the book looks at both the pros and cons from the HTS program. It almost sides with AAA, but prior to publication they had to remove any negative commentaries and a few lines about prior members concerns and observations. "Under national security" because it would hinder field operations and trust. (But it is a good book none-the-less) The author feels by allowing anthropologist into the teams they could add the ethical discussion to the superiors and other team members. Which is why it is a good read on the debate it adds to both sides of the argument. This a current peer review on the HTS program for professional Anthropologists to review and discuss. (I prefer going direct to the journal and reviewing for free, but I am noticing those reviews are not being discussed at meetings, even with strong data and evidence to support arguments.)"I am trying to feel this is a publishing issue, and not someone trying to hide non-supportive discussions and findings on the program." We're not climatologists, we'd never do that!!! this is the 2007 report that brought HTS to most of the publics awareness. (This is the IT team, not only does the field teams feel its going to far, so do the techs.) I am wondering if it's because my insider was a goergia tech alumni which helped me confirm the DHS system in the marketing and US resource management program. (I am former IT, like I mentioned.) I was not kidding when I said "you'll be surprised by the cross-platform, multi-network integrations going on. They even violate federal database policies, since the networks are on a UN network which does not reghulate access, data confirmation statuses, nor user controls." [As former IT this is unsecure because eu, and non-UN members have access to collected data due to NATO and affiliate policies, this in turn give said user full access to collected data, although they can not change data, they can add data. All without confirmation of accuracy of data.] but that is a former field and another discussion all in itself.


Comment by Abe Pena on May 12, 2011 at 5:16am

You may be interested int he expansion and rarely mentione comments about the expansion of Human Terrain teams being deployed in the Philippines, and other asian and pacific nations. You'll find the request for DoD access the university ethnographic databases and archives of interest ans well since the DHS is claiming they have the authority to do so.


here are some related articles"

- Hawai'i study discussing reports of expanded use of HTT in ally nations (Asia/Pacific).

-’s-“other”-human... discusses the other HTT programs. Links lead to discussions related to NATO, EU, and "Private data-management companies" which also use the HTS databases for their data modeling. (deep link surfing will also bring you to an interesting techie issue of autoamated planning and AI implementation for cross-platform integration "those linked files were secured and I don't have membership. But as a former IT and Mechanical engineer it seems interesting.")

- a very rare article detailing better then the congressional briefing of the HTS programs. Highly descriptive of how the datamapping processes are used and integrated.

I will most likely create a related discussion thread on the data-modoling and analysis obtained by the field members of the HTT/HTS. Since I have a background on analysis, and database systems which is related to this thread as much a demographic data is used in city planning and resource management. This is changing since the former data networks are now being labled as regions, not states in the US and other nations.

Comment by Amy Francis on May 18, 2011 at 5:27am
Comment by Amy Francis on May 18, 2011 at 5:29am
Hi there everybody, sorry for my absence, I have been reading the posts and will be back online soon to discuss. Just have to make it through the end of semester here before I can make some time to get back into it. I love that there is discussion in my absence!
Comment by Amy Francis on May 18, 2011 at 5:37am


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