[ISN] Pentagon Readies Efforts to Sway Sentiment Abroad

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Wed Feb 20 2002 - 00:15:06 PST

  • Next message: InfoSec News: "[ISN] Lockstep repairs hacked Web sites with WebAgain"

    Forwarded from: William Knowles <wkat_private>
    February 19, 2002
    WASHINGTON - The Pentagon is developing plans to provide news 
    items, possibly even false ones, to foreign media organizations as 
    part of a new effort to influence public sentiment and policy makers 
    in both friendly and unfriendly countries, military officials said. 
    The plans, which have not received final approval from the Bush 
    administration, have stirred opposition among some Pentagon officials 
    who say they might undermine the credibility of information that is 
    openly distributed by the Defense Department's public affairs 
    The military has long engaged in information warfare against hostile
    nations - for instance, by dropping leaflets and broadcasting messages
    into Afghanistan when it was still under Taliban rule.
    But it recently created the Office of Strategic Influence, which is 
    proposing to broaden that mission into allied nations in the Middle 
    East, Asia and even Western Europe. The office would assume a role 
    traditionally led by civilian agencies, mainly the State Department.
    The small but well-financed Pentagon office, which was established 
    shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was a response to 
    concerns in the administration that the United States was losing 
    public support overseas for its war on terrorism, particularly in 
    Islamic countries. 
    As part of the effort to counter the pronouncements of the Taliban, 
    Osama bin Laden and their supporters, the State Department has already 
    hired a former advertising executive to run its public diplomacy 
    office, and the White House has created a public information "war 
    room" to coordinate the administration's daily message domestically 
    and abroad.
    Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, while broadly supportive of 
    the new office, has not approved its specific proposals and has asked 
    the Pentagon's top lawyer, William J. Haynes, to review them, senior 
    Pentagon officials said.
    Little information is available about the Office of Strategic 
    Influence, and even many senior Pentagon officials and Congressional 
    military aides say they know almost nothing about its purpose and 
    plans. Its multimillion dollar budget, drawn from a $10 billion 
    emergency supplement to the Pentagon budget authorized by Congress in 
    October, has not been disclosed.
    Headed by Brig. Gen. Simon P. Worden of the Air Force, the new office 
    has begun circulating classified proposals calling for aggressive 
    campaigns that use not only the foreign media and the Internet, but 
    also covert operations.
    The new office "rolls up all the instruments within D.O.D. to 
    influence foreign audiences," its assistant for operations, Thomas A. 
    Timmes, a former Army colonel and psychological operations officer, 
    said at a recent conference, referring to the Department of Defense. 
    "D.O.D. has not traditionally done these things."
    One of the office's proposals calls for planting news items with 
    foreign media organizations through outside concerns that might not 
    have obvious ties to the Pentagon, officials familiar with the 
    proposal said.
    General Worden envisions a broad mission ranging from "black" 
    campaigns that use disinformation and other covert activities to 
    "white" public affairs that rely on truthful news releases, Pentagon 
    officials said. 
    "It goes from the blackest of black programs to the whitest of white," 
    a senior Pentagon official said.
    Another proposal involves sending journalists, civic leaders and 
    foreign leaders e-mail messages that promote American views or attack 
    unfriendly governments, officials said.
    Asked if such e-mail would be identified as coming from the American 
    military, a senior Pentagon official said that "the return address 
    will probably be a dot-com, not a dot- mil," a reference to the 
    military's Internet designation.
    To help the new office, the Pentagon has hired the Rendon Group, a 
    Washington-based international consulting firm run by John W. Rendon 
    Jr., a former campaign aide to President Jimmy Carter. The firm, which 
    is being paid about $100,000 a month, has done extensive work for the 
    Central Intelligence Agency, the Kuwaiti royal family and the Iraqi 
    National Congress, the opposition group seeking to oust President 
    Saddam Hussein.
    Officials at the Rendon Group say terms of their contract forbid them 
    to talk about their Pentagon work. But the firm is well known for 
    running propaganda campaigns in Arab countries, including one 
    denouncing atrocities by Iraq during its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
    The firm has been hired as the Bush administration appears to have 
    united around the goal of ousting Mr. Hussein. "Saddam Hussein has a 
    charm offensive going on, and we haven't done anything to counteract 
    it," a senior military official said.
    Proponents say the new Pentagon office will bring much-needed 
    coordination to the military's efforts to influence views of the 
    United States overseas, particularly as Washington broadens the war on 
    terrorism beyond Afghanistan.
    But the new office has also stirred a sharp debate in the Pentagon, 
    where several senior officials have questioned whether its mission is 
    too broad and possibly even illegal.
    Those critics say they are disturbed that a single office might be 
    authorized to use not only covert operations like computer network 
    attacks, psychological activities and deception, but also the 
    instruments and staff of the military's globe- spanning public affairs 
    Mingling the more surreptitious activities with the work of 
    traditional public affairs would undermine the Pentagon's credibility 
    with the media, the public and governments around the world, critics 
    "This breaks down the boundaries almost completely," a senior Pentagon 
    official said.
    Moreover, critics say, disinformation planted in foreign media 
    organizations, like Reuters or Agence France-Presse, could end up 
    being published or broadcast by American news organizations.
    The Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency are barred by law 
    from propaganda activities in the United States. In the mid-1970's, it 
    was disclosed that some C.I.A. programs to plant false information in 
    the foreign press had resulted in articles published by American news 
    Critics of the new Pentagon office also argue that governments allied 
    with the United States are likely to object strongly to any attempts 
    by the American military to influence media within their borders.
    "Everybody understands using information operations to go after 
    nonfriendlies," another senior Pentagon official said. "When people 
    get uncomfortable is when people use the same tools and tactics on 
    Victoria Clarke, the assistant secretary of defense for public 
    information, declined to discuss details of the new office. But she 
    acknowledged that its mission was being carefully reviewed by the 
    "Clearly the U.S. needs to be as effective as possible in all our 
    communications," she said. "What we're trying to do now is make clear 
    the distinction and appropriateness of who does what."
    General Worden, an astrophysicist who has specialized in space 
    operations in his 27-year Air Force career, did not respond to several 
    requests for an interview.
    General Worden has close ties to his new boss, Douglas J. Feith, the 
    under secretary of defense for policy, that date back to the Reagan 
    administration, military officials said. The general's staff of about 
    15 people reports to the office of the assistant secretary of defense 
    for special operations and low-intensity conflict, which is under Mr. 
    The Office for Strategic Influence also coordinates its work with the 
    White House's new counterterrorism office, run by Wayne A. Downing, a 
    retired general who was head of the Special Operations command, which 
    oversees the military's covert information operations.
    Many administration officials worried that the United States was 
    losing support in the Islamic world after American warplanes began 
    bombing Afghanistan in October. Those concerns spurred the creation of 
    the Office of Strategic Influence.
    In an interview in November, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the 
    Joint Chiefs of Staff, explained the Pentagon's desire to broaden its 
    efforts to influence foreign audiences, saying: 
    "Perhaps the most challenging piece of this is putting together what 
    we call a strategic influence campaign quickly and with the right 
    emphasis. That's everything from psychological operations to the 
    public affairs piece to coordinating partners in this effort with us."
    One of the military units assigned to carry out the policies of the 
    Office of Strategic Influence is the Army's Psychological Operations 
    Command. The command was involved in dropping millions of fliers and 
    broadcasting scores of radio programs into Afghanistan encouraging 
    Taliban and Al Qaeda soldiers to surrender. 
    In the 1980's, Army "psyop" units, as they are known, broadcast radio 
    and television programs into Nicaragua intended to undermine the 
    Sandinista government. In the 1990's, they tried to encourage public 
    support for American peacekeeping missions in the Balkans.
    The Office of Strategic Influence will also oversee private companies 
    that will be hired to help develop information programs and evaluate 
    their effectiveness using the same techniques as American political 
    campaigns, including scientific polling and focus groups, officials 
    "O.S.I. still thinks the way to go is start a Defense Department Voice 
    of America," a senior military official said. "When I get their 
    briefings, it's scary."
    "Communications without intelligence is noise;  Intelligence
    without communications is irrelevant." Gen Alfred. M. Gray, USMC
    C4I.org - Computer Security, & Intelligence - http://www.c4i.org
    ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org
    To unsubscribe email majordomoat_private with 'unsubscribe isn' in the BODY
    of the mail.

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Wed Feb 20 2002 - 03:27:19 PST