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Telepolis vom 20.02.
NZZ vom 20.02.
Defense Dept. Divided Over Propaganda Plan
Critics Fear 'Information Operations' Could Backfire, Hurt Pentagon's
By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 20, 2002; Page A10
A Pentagon plan that would involve the U.S. military in overseas
propaganda efforts has divided the Defense Department, officials said
At the center of the controversy is a new Office of Strategic Influence,
created in recent months to more directly influence foreign public
opinion about U.S. military operations. Just what the new office will do
remains unclear, and its tentative plans have not been approved by
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, said one Pentagon official. "There
are some proposals, suggestions and ideas being talked about," he said.
But the official said that even those initial discussions have sparked
widespread concern inside the Defense Department among officials who
feel that the new office, by seeking to manipulate information and even
knowingly dispense false information, could backfire and discredit
official Pentagon statements.
Military public affairs officials have expressed concern to top
officials that the new office, if it continues on its proposed course,
will blur the distinction between intelligence operations and public
relations operations, one defense official said. "You could get guys
from the black world dealing with issues like what to tell kids in
Pakistan," said another official.
But there also is concern in the military that the field of "information
operations" is one of the few areas in which the armed forces have had
major problems during the Afghan war.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
singled out that area for unusual public criticism. "One area in
particular I think we've been slow to get going has been our information
operations campaign," he said in November. "Despite our best efforts, we
took too much time to put together the team, if you will." The result,
he said, was that, "occasionally, we missed the opportunity to send the
Myers did not elaborate on those missed opportunities, but others in the
Air Force were surprised that the media placed so much emphasis on
civilian casualties caused by bombing mistakes. The military was
especially surprised by that emphasis because Air Force planners
believed that they were operating under unprecedented constraints
designed to minimize civilian injuries. They complained to top
commanders that, because of those limits, they frequently missed hitting
al Qaeda leaders, especially in the first three weeks of the Afghan
campaign, which began on Oct. 7.
The dissension at the Pentagon over the new information effort, which
was first reported in yesterday's New York Times, focuses on the
intention of some officials to operate in peacetime as well as wartime.
The military has long tried to influence public opinion in countries at
war under the title of "psychological operations." But the new office
apparently plans to extend such operations into nations in which the
United States is not a combatant.
The division at the Pentagon over the plan is only the latest
manifestation of a long-running battle inside the military between
public affairs officials and the new community of "information
warriors," said retired Col. Virginia Pribyla, a former head of the Air
Force's press desk. "Information war" has been a major growth area in
the military over the past decade, said Pribyla. "The problem is they
don't see anything wrong with not telling the truth," she said.
An additional concern of public affairs officials is that those involved
in the new effort do not have backgrounds that give them expertise in
shaping public opinion. Air Force Brig. Gen. Simon P. Worden, the head
of the Office of Strategic Influence, is an astrophysicist who has
worked extensively in space operations and missile defense.
Worden in turn reports to Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense
for policy, a lawyer whose background is in Middle Eastern affairs and
strategic arms control. Through a spokesmen, Feith declined to be
interviewed for this article.
Worden's office also coordinates its work with retired Army Gen. Wayne
Downing, who has been overseeing the U.S. counteroffensive against
terrorism on the National Security Council. Downing is a former head of
the U.S. Special Operations Command.
But others said that the public affairs officers are overreacting. "I
don't see the great, nefarious plot in this office [of Strategic
Influence] that some people do," said Dan Kuehl, a specialist in
information warfare at the National Defense University. "It just makes
common sense" to use the power of information, he said.
© 2002 The Washington Post
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