Cal Tech And USF Scientists Escape From ‘Black Site’ Prison


PASADENA, CA – Dr. Colin Camerer, Cal Tech professor of business economics, and Dr. Paul Sanberg of the USF College of Medicine, feel lucky to be alive after escaping from an Eastern European “black site” prison. They were reportedly kidnapped and held at this site by unidentified CIA operatives. Rumors of torture are circulating.

Camerer and Sanberg form a team who use real-time MRI brain scanning to prove that, in the face of uncertainty, logic goes out the window, and emotion, anger, and aggression can pour in.

Their nightmare began when their work attracted attention from NSA surveillance, the domestic spy program that the president insists is authorized by the emergency powers passed by Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Camerer and Sanberg’s work indicates that when there is certainty and risk is understood, the brain’s “logic” centers (in the frontal lobes) dominate. However, when people lack information and are faced with uncertainty, the emotional centers (the amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex) kick into high gear.

The two academics’ work shows how the brain views ambiguity with hostility (as the amygdala is closely linked with anger and aggression).

NSA wiretappers took the description of how an uncertain or ambiguous situation becomes seen as an “enemy”, and linked this to the conceptual limitations of the Bush Administration. The USF/Cal Tech research also fitted Washington’s characteristic responses.

Actually, Camerer and Sanberg were focused on academic and other responsibilities, not the limited cognitive powers of the current administration. Neither suspected that their research might be making them targets of a witch-hunt, born of egocentric thought processing.

There were no clear warnings signs before the kidnapping. Afterwards, their old friends from Johns Hopkins remembered strange encounters with nosy people. Colleagues in California and Florida recalled that telephone, cable, and electrical inspections seemed more common than usual. There were several unaccountable underwear modeling shoots around both academics’ offices, but apparently the professors merely thought (at the time) that they were unusually lucky.

Neither scientist had watched enough Harrison Ford movies to imagine themselves in personal danger, and neither went to ground.

In Washington, the signs foretelling action were clearer. Several window panes had to be replaced at the White House, and echoes were heard which sounded like: “I want Harriet, my Social Security savings accounts, port authorities of my choice, my Iraqi oil money and military bases, my wire taps, my abortion bans, creationism in schools, and my stem cell bans. I want people to shuddup about Katrina. And I want ten of my critics’ heads on platters before breakfast each Monday! Why can’t you people just get me what I want??” This was followed by sounds like heels drumming on a carpet.

Camerer and Sanberg are keeping quiet about why they are back at work without any sign of being intimidated. There is no word about how they escaped their prison, and why they are continuing their work as normal. A lucrative book-and-movie deal? An administration back-off on science in exchange for their silence? Or simply academic integrity at its best? Only time will tell.

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