WASHINGTON — A Pentagon program that analyzes the body movements of world leaders to predict their actions is scheduled to issue a report on an unnamed leader in the fall, military contract records show.
USA TODAY reported Thursday that researchers for the Body Leads project backed by the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment have studied the movements of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Rear Adm. John Kirby, spokesman for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, said Friday the project conducted studies of Putin in 2008 and 2012 but is not studying him now.
Hagel, Kirby said, has not seen the studies of Putin conducted by the team led by Brenda Connors, a research fellow at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I.
"The secretary has not read these reports and … I can tell you for sure they have not informed any policy decisions by the Department of Defense," Kirby said in an afternoon briefing at the Pentagon.
Hagel, Kirby said, "was interested in the press coverage of it, he asked some questions about it this morning, and I suspect he'll be asking more questions about it."
Since 1996, the researchers have examined 15 world leaders, Kirby said, including Putin, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. No Americans have been studied, Kirby said.
Last week, the Pentagon released a plan for the latest round of Body Leads research. The plan detailed how a project psychologist will "utilize recent advances in Body Leads in the analysis of multiple pieces of footage of a world leader to generate a summary publication/deliverable for policy makers."
The goals for the latest research, the contract document shows, include reviewing "interview footage versus recorded speeches," preparing an analysis with "relevance to policy makers" and seeking potential outlets for publication.
The study of the unnamed world leader would use data assembled by Body Leads researchers to allow policy makers to use the principles of movement pattern analysis and "basic neurological patterns" (BNP) to "provide reliable and meaningful insights on the leadership and decision-making style of a given world leader."
Researchers are scheduled to provide a series of reports over the course of the year starting in May and ending in January 2015, the contract document shows.
Movement pattern analysis is the study of an individual's movements to gain clues about how he or she makes decisions or reacts to events. First developed in Great Britain in the 1940s by Rudolf Laban, a Hungarian movement analyst and dance instructor, the practice was expanded after World War II by Laban's protegé, Warren Lamb, a British management consultant.
Lamb and his associates believed each individual has a unique "body signature" consisting of how one body movement links to the next. These "posture/gesture mergers" can lead investigators to learn more about a person's thinking processes and relative truthfulness when matched with what the person says.
The patterns, Lamb believed, were as unique to each person as DNA.
The Office of Net Assessment (ONA) is an internal Pentagon think tank created in 1973 and that been led since its inception by 92-year-old Andrew Marshall, a former National Security Council aide in the Nixon administration. Its allies credit Marshall with anticipating the demise of the Soviet Union, while skeptics sayONA inflates the threat posed by U.S. adversaries, including China.
Marshall, Kirby said, "is an out-of-the-box thinker who likes to study all kinds of issues. Many of them never go beyond his office, and this is one of them."
In December, Hagel announced that ONA would no longer report directly to the secretary of Defense but to a lower-level official.