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Rumsfeld Kills Pentagon Propaganda Unit
By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, February 27, 2002; Page A21 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld 
emphatically killed the Pentagon's new Office of Strategic Influence, saying 
yesterday that inaccurate news reports had damaged the new propaganda 
coordination office beyond repair.   Rumsfeld defended the office even as he 
buried it. Even though much of the media  commentary was "off the mark," he 
told reporters at the Pentagon, "the office has clearly been so damaged that 
it's . . . pretty clear to me that it could not function effectively, so it's 
being closed down."
Pressed by reporters about whether the office would have disseminated false 
information overseas, as had been reported, Rumsfeld insisted that it 
wouldn't have done so. At any rate, he said, the new office's charter hadn't 
been completed, "so what it was to do was an open question, even today as it 
ends its very short, prominent life."
Rumsfeld added, with characteristic vigor: "The office is done. It's over. 
What do you want, blood?"
The swift demise of the new office, which was created in November to better 
coordinate the military's dissemination of information overseas, represents a 
victory for the military public affairs community and a surprising setback 
for the new "information warfare" specialty.
Military public affairs specialists had worried that the new office would 
blur the line between their work of dealing with the media and the public and 
the "black" world of covert operations, which sometimes involves 
disseminating false information. "I'm sure that the public affairs community 
is having a drink tonight," said one veteran military spokesman.
But specialists in information warfare -- which can cover anything from 
dropping leaflets to hacking into foreign computers -- believed that the 
Pentagon public affairs community had done a poor job in the Afghan war, 
especially in putting U.S. views before foreign audiences.
"It's frustrating for us" to see the office shut down, one officer involved 
in information operations said yesterday. He said the new office was mainly 
involved in what might be called "defense marketing," and that only about 5 
percent of its planned work would have involved covert operations.
One idea under consideration, he said, was to seek to justify U.S. actions to 
the Pakistani public by putting up billboards in that country showing an 
image of the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11 and 
indicating the death toll resulting from that day's terrorist attacks in New 
York, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.
"The lesson is what a lot of us have known for a long time, that truth is 
always the best weapon, and everyone who works for Secretary Rumsfeld knows 
that to be true," said Victoria Clarke, the Pentagon's chief spokeswoman.
Rumsfeld said that the functions of the now-defunct office would be carried 
on by other Pentagon offices. "We'll just have to do it with the offices that 
existed previously," he said.
The public affairs veteran predicted that the propaganda function now would 
be performed by other, lower-profile offices, perhaps by private companies 
working on contract. But the officer involved in information warfare said the 
incident has shaken the confidence of his colleagues and has done some damage 
to their emerging specialty.
At the same briefing yesterday, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint 
Chiefs of Staff, said that, with another 14 people turned over by Pakistan 
over the past two days, there are now about 500 suspected members of al Qaeda 
and the Taliban leadership in U.S. custody, with about 300 being held at the 
U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo, Cuba, and another 194 in captivity inside 
Myers said he expects that the number of captives will continue to increase. 
"We still have a lot of people we've not looked at completely that the 
Afghans and the Pakistanis have," he said.
Rumsfeld indicated that the top U.S. priority in interrogating the detainees 
is to gather intelligence, and then to deal with them in terms of possible 
law enforcement actions. "We are beginning that process now," he said.
He said the U.S. government is "pretty close" to releasing the rules under 
which trials might be held. Most of those rules have leaked already, and they 
generally seem to resemble the U.S. military justice system, legal experts say

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