U.S. Disinformation Agency?

This article below shows that even in the UNclassified world, disinformation is considered a justifiable tactic. The question is: With a topic as invasive and sensitive as mind control using today's no-evidence psychotronic weapons, would governments seek to publish disinformation to cover it up? Given this article, it's not hard to imagine that a major mind control research program can be underway and yet denied by governments.

 




Original link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/19/international/19PENT.html

New York Times
February 19, 2002

Pentagon Readies Efforts to Sway Sentiment Abroad

By JAMES DAO and ERIC SCHMITT

WASHINGTON, Feb. 18    The Pentagon is developing plans to provide
news items, possibly even false ones, to foreign media organizations 
as part of a new effort to influence public sentiment and policy makers 
in both friendly and unfriendly countries, military officials said.

The plans, which have not received final approval from the Bush
administration, have stirred opposition among some Pentagon
officials who say they might undermine the credibility of
information that is openly distributed by the Defense Department's
public affairs officers.

The military has long engaged in information warfare against
hostile nations  for instance, by dropping leaflets and
broadcasting messages into Afghanistan when it was still under
Taliban rule.

But it recently created the Office of Strategic Influence, which is
proposing to broaden that mission into allied nations in the Middle
East, Asia and even Western Europe. The office would assume a role
traditionally led by civilian agencies, mainly the State
Department.

The small but well-financed Pentagon office, which was established
shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was a response to
concerns in the administration that the United States was losing
public support overseas for its war on terrorism, particularly in
Islamic countries.

As part of the effort to counter the pronouncements of the Taliban,
Osama bin Laden and their supporters, the State Department has
already hired a former advertising executive to run its public
diplomacy office, and the White House has created a public
information "war room" to coordinate the administration's daily
message domestically and abroad.

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, while broadly supportive
of the new office, has not approved its specific proposals and has
asked the Pentagon's top lawyer, William J. Haynes, to review them,
senior Pentagon officials said.

Little information is available about the Office of Strategic
Influence, and even many senior Pentagon officials and
Congressional military aides say they know almost nothing about its
purpose and plans. Its multimillion dollar budget, drawn from a $10
billion emergency supplement to the Pentagon budget authorized by
Congress in October, has not been disclosed.

Headed by Brig. Gen. Simon P. Worden of the Air Force, the new
office has begun circulating classified proposals calling for
aggressive campaigns that use not only the foreign media and the
Internet, but also covert operations.

The new office "rolls up all the instruments within D.O.D. to
influence foreign audiences," its assistant for operations, Thomas
A. Timmes, a former Army colonel and psychological operations
officer, said at a recent conference, referring to the Department
of Defense. "D.O.D. has not traditionally done these things."

One of the office's proposals calls for planting news items with
foreign media organizations through outside concerns that might not
have obvious ties to the Pentagon, officials familiar with the
proposal said.

General Worden envisions a broad mission ranging from "black"
campaigns that use disinformation and other covert activities to
"white" public affairs that rely on truthful news releases,
Pentagon officials said.

"It goes from the blackest of black programs to the whitest of
white," a senior Pentagon official said.

Another proposal involves sending journalists, civic leaders and
foreign leaders e-mail messages that promote American views or
attack unfriendly governments, officials said.

Asked if such e-mail would be identified as coming from the
American military, a senior Pentagon official said that "the return
address will probably be a dot-com, not a dot- mil," a reference to
the military's Internet designation.

To help the new office, the Pentagon has hired the Rendon Group, a
Washington-based international consulting firm run by John W.
Rendon Jr., a former campaign aide to President Jimmy Carter. The
firm, which is being paid about $100,000 a month, has done
extensive work for the Central Intelligence Agency, the Kuwaiti
royal family and the Iraqi National Congress, the opposition group
seeking to oust President Saddam Hussein.

Officials at the Rendon Group say terms of their contract forbid
them to talk about their Pentagon work. But the firm is well known
for running propaganda campaigns in Arab countries, including one
denouncing atrocities by Iraq during its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

The firm has been hired as the Bush administration appears to have
united around the goal of ousting Mr. Hussein.  "Saddam Hussein has
a charm offensive going on, and we haven't done anything to
counteract it," a senior military official said.

Proponents say the new Pentagon office will bring much-needed
coordination to the military's efforts to influence views of the
United States overseas, particularly as Washington broadens the war
on terrorism beyond Afghanistan.

But the new office has also stirred a sharp debate in the Pentagon,
where several senior officials have questioned whether its mission
is too broad and possibly even illegal.

Those critics say they are disturbed that a single office might be
authorized to use not only covert operations like computer network
attacks, psychological activities and deception, but also the
instruments and staff of the military's globe- spanning public
affairs apparatus.

Mingling the more surreptitious activities with the work of
traditional public affairs would undermine the Pentagon's
credibility with the media, the public and governments around the
world, critics argue.

"This breaks down the boundaries almost completely," a senior
Pentagon official said.

Moreover, critics say, disinformation planted in foreign media
organizations, like Reuters or Agence France-Presse, could end up
being published or broadcast by American news organizations.

The Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency are barred by law
from propaganda activities in the United States. In the mid-1970's,
it was disclosed that some C.I.A. programs to plant false
information in the foreign press had resulted in articles published
by American news organizations.

Critics of the new Pentagon office also argue that governments
allied with the United States are likely to object strongly to any
attempts by the American military to influence media within their
borders.

"Everybody understands using information operations to go after
nonfriendlies," another senior Pentagon official said. "When people
get uncomfortable is when people use the same tools and tactics on
friendlies."

Victoria Clarke, the assistant secretary of defense for public
information, declined to discuss details of the new office. But she
acknowledged that its mission was being carefully reviewed by the
Pentagon.

"Clearly the U.S. needs to be as effective as possible in all our
communications," she said. "What we're trying to do now is make
clear the distinction and appropriateness of who does what."

General Worden, an astrophysicist who has specialized in space
operations in his 27-year Air Force career, did not respond to
several requests for an interview.

General Worden has close ties to his new boss, Douglas J. Feith,
the under secretary of defense for policy, that date back to the
Reagan administration, military officials said. The general's staff
of about 15 people reports to the office of the assistant secretary
of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, which
is under Mr. Feith.

The Office for Strategic Influence also coordinates its work with
the White House's new counterterrorism office, run by Wayne A.
Downing, a retired general who was head of the Special Operations
command, which oversees the military's covert information
operations.

Many administration officials worried that the United States was
losing support in the Islamic world after American warplanes began
bombing Afghanistan in October. Those concerns spurred the creation
of the Office of Strategic Influence.

In an interview in November, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, explained the Pentagon's desire to broaden
its efforts to influence foreign audiences, saying:

"Perhaps the most challenging piece of this is putting together
what we call a strategic influence campaign quickly and with the
right emphasis. That's everything from psychological operations to
the public affairs piece to coordinating partners in this effort
with us."

One of the military units assigned to carry out the policies of the
Office of Strategic Influence is the Army's Psychological
Operations Command. The command was involved in dropping millions
of fliers and broadcasting scores of radio programs into
Afghanistan encouraging Taliban and Al Qaeda soldiers to surrender.

In the 1980's, Army "psyop" units, as they are known, broadcast
radio and television programs into Nicaragua intended to undermine
the Sandinista government. In the 1990's, they tried to encourage
public support for American peacekeeping missions in the Balkans.

The Office of Strategic Influence will also oversee private
companies that will be hired to help develop information programs
and evaluate their effectiveness using the same techniques as
American political campaigns, including scientific polling and
focus groups, officials said.

"O.S.I. still thinks the way to go is start a Defense Department
Voice of America," a senior military official said.  "When I get
their briefings, it's scary."