Friday, January 27, 2006
Pentagon Document Shows 'PSYOP' Messages Boomerang to U.S.
The 78-page document, released Thursday by the National Security Archive, a nonprofit research group, spells out the Pentagon's reasoning for putting greater emphasis on "information operations" as a military tool. It says this should be a core military capability and placed largely in the hands of war-fighting commanders.
"Information, always important in warfare, is now critical to military success and will only become more so in the foreseeable future," it says.
The National Security Archive obtained the document from the Pentagon with a Freedom of Information Act request.
It was classified secret and dated Oct. 30, 2003. It begins with a brief approval note signed by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who called it an attempt to "keep pace with emerging threats and to exploit new opportunities."
The Pentagon has faced a number of "information operations" controversies recently, including questions about a propaganda program that paid Iraqi media to run favorable stories. U.S. military officials in Iraq have defended that as part of their campaign to get the truth out about the war and the rebuilding effort.
The Rumsfeld document, portions of which were blacked out by Pentagon censors before release to the National Security Archive, says the increasing ability of people in much of the world to access information across boundaries makes it more difficult for the U.S. military to target specific foreign audiences.
It says psychological operations -- activities by military teams that use a range of communications systems to disseminate messages intended to influence a target audience abroad -- are restricted by Pentagon policy from targeting American audiences as well as U.S. military personnel and news organizations.
"However, information intended for foreign audiences, including public diplomacy and PSYOP [psychological operations] increasingly is consumed by our domestic audience, and vice-versa," it says.
"PSYOP messages disseminated to any audience except individual decision-makers -- and perhaps even then -- will often be replayed by the news media for much larger audiences, including the American public."
It cited no specific examples.
In releasing the Rumsfeld document, the National Security Archive asserted that the language indicates that "as long as the American public is not 'targeted'" by psychological warfare messages, "any leakage of PSYOP to the American public does not matter."
Larry Di Rita, a senior adviser to Rumsfeld and until recently his chief spokesman, strongly rejected that assertion.
"We feel very confident that we are operating in a manner that is appropriate for the world we're in and that is proper for the anxieties that people have," he said, while acknowledging that the Pentagon has yet to develop detailed doctrine, or written guidelines, to spell out all the limits and restrictions on information operations.
"I reject the premise" of the National Security Archive's interpretation of the Rumsfeld document, Di Rita said.
He said that since the document was signed in October 2003, the Pentagon has learned the importance of creating "firewalls" between the military's psychological warfare operations and its public affairs efforts, which are intended to be truthful at all times. That and other issues were examined as part of a broad, yearlong review of Pentagon priorities and strategies, to be publicly released Feb. 6. "