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[] FAIR kritisiert Pentagon-Propagandaplan,

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 Pentagon?s 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.
government?s 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 at risk. 

Despite the OSI?s 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
OSI?s latest announcement has generated
opposition within the Pentagon among those who fear that it will
undermine the Defense Department?s credibility. 

Tarnished credibility may be the least of the problems created by the
OSI?s 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 OSI?s 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. reporters. 

Any ?accidental? propaganda fallout from the OSI?s efforts is troubling
enough, but given the U.S. government?s track record on domestic
propaganda, U.S. media should be pushing
especially hard for more information about the operation?s 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.
Army?s Psychological Operations
Command (PSYOPS). The Times doesn?t 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 FAIR?s
?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 was

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
isn?t 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 CNN?s PSYOPS
?interns? worked in the network?s 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.) 

It?s 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 (Extra!, 9-10/01). 

The OPD may be gone, but the Bush administration?s 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 Reich?s
role in orchestrating the OPD?s deception of the American people. 

Indeed, as the Federation of American Scientists points out, ?the Bush
Administration?s 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 administration?s refusal to disclose Enron-related information to
the General Accounting Office is perhaps
the most publicized of these efforts; another is Attorney General John
Ashcroft?s October 12 memo urging federal agencies to resist Freedom Of
Information Act requests. 

In addition, the Pentagon?s 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 won?t ?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 doesn?t work if the public
does not have access to full and accurate
information about its government.

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