|Subj:||US PSYOPS Group under new patronage|
|Date:||2/21/02 12:58:24 PM Pacific Standard Time|
|From: APFN@apfn.org (American Patriot Friends
To: email@example.com (APFN Yahoogroups), firstname.lastname@example.org (APFN SMARTGROUP)
From: Dave Muller <email@example.com>
FAIR Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting 112 W. 27th Street
New York, NY 10001
Pentagon Propaganda Plan Is Undemocratic, Possibly Illegal
February 19, 2002
The New York Times reported today that the Pentagons Office of Strategic
Influence is developing plans to provide news items, possibly even false
ones, to foreign media organizations in an effort to influence public
sentiment and policy makers in both friendly and unfriendly countries.
The OSI was created shortly after September 11 to publicize the U.S.
governments perspective in Islamic countries and to generate support for
the U.S.s war on terror. This latest announcement raises grave concerns
that far from being an honest effort to explain U.S. policy, the OSI may be
a profoundly undemocratic program devoted to spreading disinformation and
misleading the public, both at home and abroad. At the same time, involving
reporters in Pentagon disinformation puts the lives of working journalists
Despite the OSIs multi-million-dollar budget and its mandate to
propagandize throughout the Middle East, Asia and Western Europe, even
many senior Pentagon officials and Congressional military aides say they
know almost nothing about its purpose and plans, according to the Times.
The Times reported that the OSIs latest announcement has generated
opposition within the Pentagon among those who fear that it will undermine
the Defense Departments credibility.
Tarnished credibility may be the least of the problems created by the OSIs
new plan to manipulate media-the plan may compromise the free flow of
information that democracy relies on. The government is barred by law from
propagandizing within the U.S., but the OSIs new plan will likely lead to
disinformation planted in a foreign news report being picked up by U.S.
news outlets. The war in Afghanistan has shown that the 24-hour news cycle,
combined with cuts in the foreign news budgets across the U.S., make
overseas outlets like Al-Jazeera and Reuters key resources for U.S.
Any accidental propaganda fallout from the OSIs efforts is troubling
enough, but given the U.S. governments track record on domestic
propaganda, U.S. media should be pushing especially hard for more
information about the operations other, intentional policies.
According to the New York Times, one of the military units assigned to
carry out the policies of the Office of Strategic Influence is the U.S.
Armys Psychological Operations Command (PSYOPS). The Times doesnt
mention, however, that PSYOPS has been accused of operating domestically as
recently as the Kosovo war.
In February 2000, reports in Dutch and French newspapers revealed that
several officers from the 4th PSYOPS Group had worked in the news division
at CNN's Atlanta headquarters as part of an internship program starting
in the final days of the Kosovo War. Coverage of this disturbing story was
scarce (see FAIRs Why Were Government Propaganda Experts Working on News
at CNN? 3/27/00), but after FAIR issued an Action Alert on the story, CNN
stated that it had already terminated the program and acknowledged that it
Even if the PSYOPS officers working in the newsroom did not directly
influence news reporting, the question remains of whether CNN may have
allowed the military to conduct an intelligence-gathering mission against
the network itself. The idea isnt far-fetched-- according to Intelligence
Newsletter (2/17/00), a rear admiral from the Special Operations Command
told a PSYOPS conference that the military needed to find ways to "gain
control" over commercial news satellites to help bring down an
"informational cone of silence" over regions where special operations were
taking place. One of CNNs PSYOPS interns worked in the networks
satellite division. (During the Afghanistan war the Pentagon found a very
direct way to gain control-- it simply bought up all commercial satellite
images of Afghanistan, in order to prevent media from accessing them.)
Its worth noting that the 4th PSYOPS group is the same group that staffed
the National Security Council's now notorious Office of Public Diplomacy
(OPD), which planted stories in the U.S. media supporting the Reagan
Administration's Central America policies during the 1980s. Described by a
senior U.S. official as a "vast psychological warfare operation of the kind
the military conducts to influence a population in enemy territory" (Miami
Herald, 7/19/87), the OPD was shut down after the Iran-Contra
investigations, but not before influencing coverage in major outlets
including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post
The OPD may be gone, but the Bush administrations recent recess
appointment of former OPD head Otto Reich as assistant secretary of state
for Western Hemisphere affairs is not reassuring. It suggests, at best, a
troubling indifference to Reichs role in orchestrating the OPDs deception
of the American people.
Indeed, as the Federation of American Scientists points out, the Bush
Administrations insistent efforts to expand the scope of official secrecy
have now been widely noted as a defining characteristic of the Bush
presidency (Secrecy News, 2/18/02). The administrations refusal to
disclose Enron-related information to the General Accounting Office is
perhaps the most publicized of these efforts; another is Attorney General
John Ashcrofts October 12 memo urging federal agencies to resist Freedom
Of Information Act requests.
In addition, the Pentagons restrictive press policies throughout the war
in Afghanistan have been an ongoing problem. Most recently, Washington Post
reporter Doug Struck claims that U.S. soldiers threatened to shoot him if
he proceeded with an attempt to investigate a site where civilians had been
killed; Struck has stated that for him, the central question raised by the
incident is whether the Pentagon is trying to cover up its actions and
why it wont allow access by reporters to determine what they're doing
here in Afghanistan (CBS, The Early Show, 2/13/02).
Taken together, these incidents and policies should raise alarm bells for
media throughout the country. Democracy doesnt work if the public does not
have access to full and accurate information about its government.
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