The evidence is that targeting of independent media and critics of the US is widening.
Take your time and read!
by Greg Guma
Published on Tuesday, June 22, 2004 by United Press International
In the Reagan Era, it was known as public diplomacy. The Bush administration calls it strategic influence. What both terms describe is the U.S. government's ability to influence mass perceptions around the world and, when necessary, at home.
If you don't think it's been going on for years and continues to this very moment, well, then, it's working.
As the Iraq war began, we did get a peak behind the curtain. Word leaked out that a new Pentagon office of strategic influence was gearing up to sway leaders and public sentiment by disseminating sometimes false stories. Facing censure, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld publicly denounced and disbanded it. A few months later, however, he quietly funded a private consultant to develop another version. The apparent goal was to go beyond traditional information warfare with a new "perception management" campaign designed to "win the war of ideas" - in this case, against those classified as a terrorists.
It's actually nothing new. Beginning in the 1950s, more than 800 news and public information organizations and individuals carried out assignments for the CIA, according to The New York Times. By the mid-'80s, CIA Director Bill Casey had taken the practice to the next level: an organized, covert public diplomacy apparatus designed to sell a new product -- Central America -- while stoking fear of communism, the Sandinistas, Gadhafi and others.
Sometimes this involved so-called white propaganda, stories and editorials secretly financed by the government. But they also went black, pushing false story lines.
The U.S. Department of Defense describes perception management as a type of psychological operation. Traditionally, it's supposed to be directed at foreign audiences and basically involves conveying (or denying) information to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning.
The goal is to influence enemies and friends alike, and provoke the behavior you want.
During George Herbert Walker Bush's administration, the scope officially expanded to include domestic disinformation, using the CIA's public affairs office. This operation was charged with turning intelligence failures into successes by persuading reporters to postpone, change, hold, or even scrap stories that could have adversely affected national security interests.
The Clinton era, outlined in Directive 68, was known as the International Public Information System. Again, no distinction was made between what could be done abroad and at home. To defeat enemies and influence minds, information for U.S. audiences would be deconflicted through IPI's work. How appropriately Clinton-esque.
One strategy turned out to be inserting psyop -- the term of art meaning psychological operations -- specialists into newsrooms. In February 2000, a Dutch journalist revealed that CNN and the Army had agreed to do precisely that in Atlanta.
Once you realize that managing perceptions is standard procedure, some news stories take on a different meaning. Last year, for example, a popular storyline about post-war resistance in Iraq was that only a few Saddam loyalists and dead-enders were involved. Meanwhile, the opposition was sending videotaped messages, saying things like, "We are not followers of Saddam Hussein. We are sons of Iraq." More recently, a central assumption has been that, whatever problems we now face, leaving without "winning" would be worse.
Another approach is warping the facts to promote spin. Thus, in January, USA Today could headline a story, "Attacks Down 22 Percent Since Saddam's Capture." Actually, the number of troops killed went up 40 percent during that period, but the U.S. military sources making the news preferred to focus on the number of incidents.
Or just fabricate the news -- from the Al Qaida-Saddam link to WMDs. And when something goes wrong? It's simple: just misplace the blame. Thus, when photos of soldiers humiliating Iraqi prisoners came to light in May, the first line of defense was to call it an aberration -- people somehow operating outside the chain of command -- and ignore reality.
During the first Gulf War, military intelligence officers didn't even need to ask: GIs routinely forced surrendering Iraqis to strip and pose for photos in groups. The new element is sexual humiliation, persuasive evidence that it was a psyop.
According to journalist Seymour Hersh, the abuse was part of a Pentagon operation called Copper Green, which used physical coercion and the sexual humiliation of Iraqis to generate intelligence about growing insurgency. The theory was that some prisoners would do anything -- including spying on their associates -- to avoid dissemination of shameful photos to family and friends. Not exactly the work of a few out-of-control grunts.
To most of the world, the photos from Abu Ghraib prison are evidence of potential war crimes, or at least puncture U.S. pretensions about moral superiority. For those who orchestrated them, however, it was merely a psyop warfare tactic, a more violent form of perception management.
In terms of generating information that could reduce violence, Copper Green didn't work: the insurgency continued to grow. And the un-intended consequences have been enormous. But in the psyop world, this happens so often that there's even a term for it -- "blowback" -- meaning an operation that has turned on its creators. Put another way, you reap what you sow.
Soldier for the Truth: Exposing Bush's Talking-Points War "
by Marc Cooper
Published in the February 20 - 26, 2004 issue of the LA Weekly
In August of 2002, the expanded Iraq desk found new spaces and moved into them. It was told to us that this was now to be known as the Office of Special Plans. The Office of Special Plans would take issue with those who say they were doing intelligence. They would say they were developing policy for the Office of the Secretary of Defense for the invasion of Iraq.
But developing policy is not the same as developing propaganda and pushing a particular agenda. And actually, that's more what they really did. They pushed an agenda on Iraq, and they developed pretty sophisticated propaganda lines which were fed throughout government, to the Congress, and even internally to the Pentagon — to try and make this case of immediacy. This case of severe threat to the United States. "
The domination effect
Since the beginning of the war in Iraq, the US has sought not just to influence but to control all information, from both friend and foe
Thursday January 8, 2004
"Information dominance" came of age during the conflict in Iraq. It is a little discussed but highly significant part of the US government strategy of "full spectrum dominance", integrating propaganda and news media into the military command structure more fundamentally than ever before.
In the past, propaganda involved managing the media. Information dominance, by contrast, sees little distinction between command and control systems, propaganda and journalism. They are all types of "weaponized information" to be deployed. As strategic expert Colonel Kenneth Allard noted, the 2003 attack on Iraq "will be remembered as a conflict in which information fully took its place as a weapon of war".
Nor is information dominance something dreamt up by the Bush White House. It is a mainstream US military doctrine that is also embraced in the UK. According to US army intelligence there are already 15 information dominance centres in the US, Kuwait and Baghdad.
Both the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in this country have staff assigned to "information operations". In future conflicts, according to the MoD, "maintaining morale as well as information dominance will rank as important as physical protection".
Achieving information dominance according to American military experts, involves two components:
first, "building up and protecting friendly information; and degrading information received by your adversary". Seen in this context, embedding journalists in Iraq was a clear means of building up "friendly" information. An MoD-commissioned commercial analysis of the print output produced by embeds shows that 90% of their reporting was either "positive or neutral".
The second component is "the ability to deny, degrade, destroy and/or effectively blind enemy capabilities". "Unfriendly" information must be targeted. This is perhaps best illustrated by the attack on al-Jazeera's office in Kabul in 2001, which the Pentagon justified by claiming al-Qaida activity in the al-Jazeera office. As it turned out, this referred to broadcast interviews with Taliban officials. The various attacks on al-Jazeera in Kabul, Basra and Baghdad should also be seen in this context.
The evidence is that targeting of independent media and critics of the US is widening. The Pentagon is reportedly coordinating an "information operations road map", drafted by the Information Operations Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. According to Captain Gerald Mauer, the road map notes that information operations would be directed against an "adversary".
But when the paper got to the office of the undersecretary of defence for policy, it was changed to say that information operations would attempt to "disrupt, corrupt or usurp" adversarial decision-making. "In other words," notes retired US army colonel Sam Gardiner, "we will even go after friends if they are against what we are doing or want to do."
In the UK, according to Major Nigel Smith of the 15 Psychological Operations Group, staffing is to be expanded and strategic information operations "will take on a new importance" as a result of Iraq. Targeting unfriendly information is central to the post-conflict phase of reconstruction too. The collapse of distinctions between independent news media and psychological operations is striking.
The new TV service for Iraq was paid for by the Pentagon. In keeping with the philosophy of information dominance it was supplied, not by an independent news organisation, but by a defence contractor, Scientific Applications International Corporation (Saic). Its expertise in the area - according to its website - is in "information operations" and "information dominance".
The Saic effort ran into trouble. The Iraqi exile journalists it employed for the Iraq Media Network (at a cost $20m over three months) were too independent for the Coalition Provisional Authority. Within weeks, occupying authority chief Paul Bremer introduced controls on the IMN. He also closed down some Iraqi-run newspapers and radio and TV stations. According to Index on Censorship, IMN managers were told to drop the readings from the Koran, the vox-pops (usually critical of the US invasion) and even to run their content past the wife of a US-friendly Iraqi Kurdish leader for a pre-broadcast check. The station rejected the demands.
But this did not stop Bremer, and further incidents culminated in a nine-point list of "prohibited activity" issued in June 2003. Bremer would reserve the power to advise the IMN on any aspect of its performance, including matters of content and the power to hire and fire staff. Thus, as Index on Censorship notes: "The man in absolute authority over the country's largest, richest and best-equipped media network is also his own regulator and regulator of his rivals, with recourse to the US Army to enforce his rulings."
Attacks on al-Jazeera continue. In September 2003 the Iraq governing council voted to ban reports from al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya on the grounds that they incite violence. As evidence of this, one member of the Iraqi National Congress who voted for the ban, noted that the TV stations describe the opposition to the occupation as the resistance. "They're not the resistance, they are thugs and criminals," he said.
But the Iraqi people appear not to share this view of al-Jazeera. Those with satellite access to al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya are more likely to trust them over IMN. As the experience of IMN shows, achieving dominance is not always a straightforward matter. This is precisely why the strategy for "unfriendly information" is to "deny, degrade and destroy".
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