Tuesday, February 07, 2006


"Just Assume We're Lying."

Thanks to Avedon Carol and her Sideshow, I read the Information Operations Roadmap prepared in 2003 for Don Rumsfeld. It's important to understand that with Secret/Norforn classification, it is far from the highest level of classification. I assume Rumsfeld meant for or assumed that it would be read by the public, so one must read it straight and meta to get a full sense of it. Here's what the document says: In 2001, "Information Operations" was defined as one of 6 critical DoD goals. In 2004, it was elevated to a core competency. These are corporate terms and they have important meanings. A "critical goal" is simply something you want to do. Ford might have a stronger engine bolt as a critical goal. A core competency is who you are. Mass production is a core competency for Ford. So, to shift something from a "critical goal" to a "core competency" is a big step. What comprises "Information Operations" is not entirely clear. It does include a counterintelligence function to prevent compromise, as well as capabilities to mislead an adversary on the battlefield and interfere with an adversary's communications during battle. These are traditional functions, very much enhanced with Gulf War I, but still fully recognizable as part of defeating an adversary in armed conflict. But for Rumsfeld, "Information Operations" also has a political component called "psyops." Psyops includes psychological terrorism and disinformation. In the past, the CIA did it, often with help from State. Psyops are, in this document, supposed to be distinct from but coordinated with "public diplomacy" (which generally means domestic disinformation, though the USIA might quibble) and "public affairs" (conventional PR). The coordination is another major shift, and the inspiration for the title of the post. Psyops are centered at Ft. Bragg, with ten wholesale outlets, five of which are black and five of which are white. The white systems have a re-broadcast capability for retail delivery (and hence are probably pretty hard to disguise). Retailing through cell phones, PDA, and the Internet is specifically mentioned. White systems could probably do that as well, since re-broadcast "capability" doesn't mean that's all they do. The black stations lack re-broadcast capability and therefore could be of many kinds. For example, coordinating people posting on the Internet, slipping information to paid-off journalists, printing leaflets, and so on. "Information Operations" is huge, with ca. $70 million annually over 5 years being allocated simply for planning. Now, there's a fairly simple and predictable response that adversaries will exhibit toward psyops: they will assume that everything we say is a lie, that any information that tends to make US hegemony seem inevitable is disinformation, and that anyone who has a fresh idea is a US agent. Unfortunately, this is also the response that allies will exhibit. In fact, this is the sort of strategy guaranteed to end up with the entire world treating one as the enemy. And finally, return to the possibility that this is memo represents what Rumsfeld is willing for or wants us to read. Reading this document meta, one would conclude that there is a massive, illegal operation designed to mislead American and foreign opinion, that this report is what is designed to have us think that we know more or less what is going on. The path of official lying is a slippery one, and it doesn't always lead to the benefits its travelers imagine.
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