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Pentagon Monitors Body Language of World Leaders

by Brendan McGarry on March 7, 2014

Putin-Obama

The U.S. Defense Department confirmed it runs a program to monitor the body language of world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.

News of the research project, which is called “Body Leads” and run by the Pentagon’s internal think tank known as the Office of Net Assessment, was first reported in an article by Ray Locker of USA Today.

Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby on Friday confirmed the existence of the program, which costs about $300,000 a year. He said it’s designed to help U.S. officials get a better understanding of world leaders’ “decision-making processes.” But, he added, it’s not used to inform any policy decisions.

“Mr. Marshall is an out-of-the-box thinker who likes to study all kinds of issues,” Kirby said during a press conference, referring to the 92-year-old Andrew Marshall, who directs the office and was first appointed to the position during the Nixon administration.

In a recent organizational shakeup, Marshall now reports to Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michael Lumpkin rather than Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Of Marshall’s reports, Kirby said, “Many of them will never go beyond his office.”

The department has no plans to make the documents public, even though they’re not classified, Kirby added. When asked whether they would be released under a Freedom of Information Act request, he said, “We’ll certainly take the request under consideration.”

The director of Body Leads is Brenda Connors, a research fellow at the Naval War College, whose work includes a 2008 report on Putin called, “Movement, The Brain and Decision-making, the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin,” according to USA Today.

So-called movement patterns analysis seeks to analyze an individual’s movements to learn more about their thought process and relative truthfulness, according to the article.

Kirby said the project was initially under the auspices of the State Department, but in 2003 was transferred to the Defense Department for unspecified reasons. Since 2009, it has cost the department about $300,000 a year to run, he said.

Watch for fiscal hawks such as Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who compiles a list of excessive spending known as the “Wastebook,” to inquire about the effort.

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