Last week, Politico and USA Today reported about a secret 2008 Pentagon study which concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s defining characteristic is…autism. The Office of Net Assessment’s Body Leads project asserted that scrutinizing hours of Putin footage revealed “that the Russian President carries a neurological abnormality…identified by leading neuroscientists as Asperger’s Syndrome, an autistic disorder which affects all of his decisions.”
Putin’s spokesman dismissed the claim as “stupidity not worthy of comment.” But it was far from the first time the intelligence community has tried to diagnose foreign leaders from afar on behalf of American politicians and diplomats. The CIA has a long history of crafting psychological and political profiles of international figures, with varying degrees of depth and accuracy. A sampling of these attempts to get inside the heads of heads of state:
In 1943, the Office of Strategic Services, the CIA’s World War II-era predecessor, commissioned Henry A. Murray of the Harvard Psychological Clinic to evaluate Hitler’s personality based on remote observations.
Findings: In an unsparing 240-page assessment, Murray and his colleagues concluded that Hitler an insecure, impotent, masochistic, and suicidal neurotic narcissist who saw himself as “the destroyer of an antiquated Hebraic Christian superego.” Also:
There is little disagreement among professional, or even among amateur, psychologists that Hitler’s personality is an example of the counteractive type, a type that is marked by intense and stubborn efforts (i) to overcome early disabilities, weaknesses and humiliations (wounds to self-esteem), and sometimes also by efforts (ii) to revenge injuries and insults to pride.