Army Propaganda Unit Ordered To Illegally Target US Senators With Psy-Ops Propaganda

from the wrong-target,-general dept

Last week, Rolling Stone broke the news that the US Army's team of psy-ops (psychological operations) specialists in Afghanistan were ordered to target their efforts towards visiting US officials rather than Afghanis. This is highly illegal. US law says that any sort of psy-ops/propaganda efforts can only be targeted at foreign citizens:
The incident offers an indication of just how desperate the U.S. command in Afghanistan is to spin American civilian leaders into supporting an increasingly unpopular war. According to the Defense Department's own definition, psy-ops -- the use of propaganda and psychological tactics to influence emotions and behaviors are supposed to be used exclusively on "hostile foreign groups." Federal law forbids the military from practicing psy-ops on Americans, and each defense authorization bill comes with a "propaganda rider" that also prohibits such manipulation. "Everyone in the psy-ops, intel, and IO community knows you're not supposed to target Americans," says a veteran member of another psy-ops team who has run operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. "It's what you learn on day one."
The army does have a public affairs team, who is supposed to help on domestic issues, but their focus is more of a PR type role, rather than overt propaganda and misdirection. However, it appears that some of the top Army brass in Afghanistan made it clear that the psy-ops team was to focus almost exclusively on visiting Americans, rather than influencing locals. The goal was to convince US politicians to keep sending more money and more men. The psy-ops team resisted and complained, but were continually ordered to do so. When the head of the team consulted a lawyer about the issue -- and was told by the lawyer that his concerns appeared valid -- the army retaliated by opening an investigation of the guy, Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes, with what appear to be ridiculously trumped up charges (such as accusing him of using Facebook too much -- something he'd been encouraged to do by his commanders).

And, of course, after all of this, the Pentagon and the Army appear to be working on ways to cover this all up by making it look legit. They've done away with the name "psy-ops," changing it to the bland and vague "MISO" (Military Information Support Operations). Also, a few months later, the entire psy-ops team was told, "effective immediately," that they were being renamed from an "information operation cell" to an "information engagement cell," and told their "sole purpose" was to now do public relations, targeting everyone, including the US. So, basically, after going against the law that forbids propaganda targeted at the US, the Army decided to paper it over by taking the soldiers specifically trained for propaganda and pretending they're just PR people.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Feb 28th, 2011 @ 10:37am

    Oh look, a conspiracy!

    Yay. No nut-brained nonsense about chemtrails or David Icke's lizard people needed, see? Just a good old fashioned government conspiracy to send more young people to die in Asia.

    Huh...where have I heard THAT before? Anyone want to guess whether or not any defense contractors (Bell Helicopter again, perhaps) are involved in this? War is big money, after all....

     

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  2.  
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    Kevin (profile), Feb 28th, 2011 @ 10:51am

    So..

    "The Men Who Stare at Goats" is looking more like a documentary after all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Feb 28th, 2011 @ 10:53am

    Re: So..

    "The Men Who Stare at Goats" is looking more like a documentary after all.


    The book was actually based on fact. The movie... very, very loosely (i.e., barely).

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 10:56am

    Ah, fond memories of MKULTRA...

     

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  5.  
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    JT, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 10:58am

    this story has been busted

    might want to add an update unless you want to look like liberal hacks like gawker...

     

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  6.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Feb 28th, 2011 @ 10:58am

    Re: Re: So..

    "The book was actually based on fact. The movie... very, very loosely (i.e., barely)."

    They should have just coupled this program with MK-ULTRA. That would've worked out well....

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_MKULTRA

    Ain't America grand?

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 11:00am

    Re: this story has been busted

    [Citation needed]

     

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  8.  
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    Donny (profile), Feb 28th, 2011 @ 11:10am

    Anyone else take by the idea

    Of avoiding being accused of using propaganda by...uh, using propaganda and newspeak to convince us it's all above board?

    Also, I can't help but feel that military organisations with bland names MUST be up to something interesting, and trying to divert attention from themselves.

     

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  9.  
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    Steven (profile), Feb 28th, 2011 @ 11:14am

    So... What is the difference between psy-ops and lobbying?

     

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  10.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Feb 28th, 2011 @ 11:18am

    Re:

    Psy-ops uses PCP and LSD. Lobbying is coke.

     

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  11.  
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    Steven (profile), Feb 28th, 2011 @ 11:20am

    Re: Re:

    I think that's coke and hookers. Can't forget the hookers, especially when they're young boys.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 11:21am

    There is sort of a problem with this. Propaganda suggests material that isn't true, PR is the telling of the truth with your slant on it (see Techdirt for style notes).

    The question would be did they use only PR on Americans. Without proof the the contrary, it is hard to say they broke any laws.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 11:29am

    Wikileaks?

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 11:34am

    I find it interesting how a guy named George* uses the term "Newspeak" and now so many people are using it. Is it a conspiracy?


    *George (Tides Foundation, Media Matters, Moveon.org) Soros.

     

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  15.  
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    Jose_X, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 11:45am

    Re: this story has been busted

    Google had this link near the top http://hotair.com/archives/2011/02/28/rolling-stones-shot-at-general-caldwell-misfires/ . I didn't read it carefully, but a commenter sums it up saying that the only psy-ops was the one applied to the interviewer perhaps to get back at him for a different piece he did that got a high-ranking military official removed.

    I expect any human to potentially try to sell things to his/her superiors. Obviously there are many ways to go about doing this. We certainly want honesty here if anywhere (people are dying and opposing players are making preparations to fight back).

    What is striking though is the Hollywood (and perhaps very realistic) image that grunts are trained to follow orders without fail. What kind of respect is that for another human? This means they become a tool of whoever is the one that is actually thinking. I clearly understand why this is done (to fill the ego, with the plausible reasoning that you, the general, should have an extended body with as much power as possible and that those fighting are not equipped to think nearly as well), but a person's life should be viewed as more valuable than that. If you, the fighting soldier, are going to risk limb or try to remove someone else's you should hold yourself responsible and hence better be sure you believe in your subsequent actions.

    Of course, I am not shocked the military does things this way since in practice there is a very large number of grunts that are willing to shoot and might do so under someone else's command if not yours. Demanding strict adherence to following orders is also a way to keep those with doubts about morality working for you (the general) rather than getting in the way.

    The grunt creed contrasts sharply with the higher ups who certainly want to analyze the perceived enemy/foe and figure out how to win that chess game.

    So, since military leaders have to think, does this pose a threat to the President and to the People, much like a thinking soldier like Pvt. Manning might pose to his higher ups? But we can ask the same thing about a thinking and empowered President and Congress posing a threat to the People. In the end, it is nice to try to make one set of decisions and then encourage everyone on down the complex hierarchy to just follow the decision, but this dehumanizes the participants, likely denies the valuable input of many heads, and makes you less likely to think dynamically and adjust quickly. It also makes us potentially very ruthless, yet powerful in many ways. And this attitude escalates from others as well (who'll feel threatened by us) and results in an arms race towards ever more powerful murdering weapons.

    The best approach is to always frown upon violence (ignoring outlets like games and some controlled environments). And the best way to defend against violence from others is to encourage everyone to think and get educated on matters (so as to avoid being exploited and turned against someone else). [Anyway, if you act without having confidence, your chances of failing go up significantly from whatever they'd otherwise be.]

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 12:42pm

    Re:

    Try another George: George Orwell.

     

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  17.  
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    The eejit (profile), Feb 28th, 2011 @ 1:29pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    You also forgot the trough of private humiliation of your lessers.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 1:39pm

    Re: Re: this story has been busted

    I will post the link later, but there are serious questions about the colonel's allegations. For example, there is evidence that the team was told repeatedly NOT to do IO from the beginning of the unit.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 2:13pm

    I agree, don't target US citizens. Save your mind control for the foreigners.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 2:14pm

    Re:

    PR is just another word for propaganda.
    Neither carries any more or less likelihood to be true or false.

    If you really wanted to carve out a difference you might say that whereas propaganda might be used both to make the person , body or organisation look good, it can also be used purely to make others look bad where PR is more commonly associated with just making the person,body or organisation look good and tends to avoid the other.

    But to be honest, even that doesn't hold up.
    Just think back to your last elections, any negative ads were as certainly PR as any of the positive candidate supporting ads.

     

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  21.  
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    JC, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 2:27pm

    Sorry, but I don't consider Rolling Stone to be a credible source of reporting.

     

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  22.  
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    Mike Clouser, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 3:43pm

    End the Wars

    Yesterday.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    O. B. Server, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 4:11pm

    propaganda vs PR

    re: "Propaganda suggests material that isn't true, PR is the telling of the truth with your slant on it"

    Uh, no. People use "PR" when they don't want you to think of "propaganda". Same thing, but a more deceptive label.

    "Edward Bernays, a confidante of President Woodrow Wilson, coined the term 'public relations' as a euphemism for propaganda 'which was given a bad name in the war'. In his book, Propaganda (1928), Bernays described PR as 'an invisible government which is the true ruling power in our country' thanks to 'the intelligent manipulation of the masses'." (John Pilger, 2010, Why are wars not being reported honestly?, UK Guardian.)

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 4:22pm

    Mike, this is looking like a story that is more reporter's fantasy than reality. The denials are thick and fast, and there is very little in the way of supporting materials out there.

    Perhaps you are quick to condemn?

     

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  25.  
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    G Thompson (profile), Feb 28th, 2011 @ 7:10pm

    So if psy-ops/propaganda efforts can only be targeted at foreign citizens

    What the hell is Fox News?

     

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  26.  
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    Chris in Utah (profile), Feb 28th, 2011 @ 9:04pm

    Re:

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    mark, Mar 1st, 2011 @ 12:50am

    Michael Holmes is a douche

    The guy's an idiot, and he's just making shit up. This guy SURRENDERED HIS WEAPON to a Restaurant off base. He violated a lot of other orders, but I was in the army, and did a year in iraq, You just don't do that. Caldwell abolished Psy-Ops when he took over, as it's not needed in a training command. This guy had visions of what he though the should be doing in iraq - and when instead when he ended up just another staff officer, he tries this bullshit. Weak.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2011 @ 5:39am

    Re: Re: Re: this story has been busted

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    Matt Bennett, Mar 1st, 2011 @ 5:41pm

    Huh?

    Am I the only wondering what, exactly, the difference between PR, Psy-ops, and plain old hollering politics is? I mean, if the army has crazy brain'O-ray guns, I don't want those turned on senators either, but I kinda doubt that's what we're talking about.

     

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  30.  
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    Matt Bennett, Mar 1st, 2011 @ 5:41pm

    Huh?

    Am I the only wondering what, exactly, the difference between PR, Psy-ops, and plain old hollering politics is? I mean, if the army has crazy brain'O-ray guns, I don't want those turned on senators either, but I kinda doubt that's what we're talking about.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
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    Matt Bennett (profile), Mar 2nd, 2011 @ 6:06am

    Mike, seriously, time for an update

    Numerous posters have pointed out why the impression the Rolling Stone article, and by extension you, gave is probably wrong. At the very least it makes the information highly suspect, if not disproving it outright, and never mind that I'm sure most of us would agree wired is a lot more credible a source than rolling stone.

    You are showing a consistent liberal bias in your posts, posts that fall outside the technology subjects you pretend to cover. You consistently insist you are not so biased. Do you want to prove that, or not?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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