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Saturday, December 03, 2005

Story planting in the context of Information Operations 
Ready. Fire. Aim.

That's been the reaction of CENTCOM and the Pentagon to the news that Coalition Forces field commanders have been placing advertorials in the Iraqi news media. Nevermind that the Bush Administration had been caught doing the exact same thing with news columnists in the U.S. media. They're going after the commanders doing their jobs, rather than focusing their attention on the rat who violated OPSEC and leaked details of an ongoing, legal, and as far as I can tell, doctrinal covert information operation.

Just to put this whole "story planting" kerfuffle in perspective, here's the actual doctrine concerning Information Operations at the joint level:

Relevant passages occur in Annex D to Appendix B (Guidance for PSYOP Operations) and page 29 or so and following.

The guidance is very clear: IO operations should be an integral part of planning at all levels - strategic, operational, and tactical, and that IO operations include a PSYOP component, and PSYOP operations should be coordinated with Public Affairs.

The doctrine also makes it clear on page 29 that news media outlets are an increasingly important part of that battlefield.

The doctrine also makes it clear at several points that the general host nation population is a legitimate target for Information Operations. It was ever thus.

The only thing the doctrine prohibits, with regard to working with foreign media, is using the media to print false information. During time of war, all else is fair game.

Is it counterproductive? Only if some asshat violates OPSEC and leaks information about ongoing covert information operation sources, contacts, and methods. That's true for any covert operation.

The individual who deliberately violated OPSEC should be arrested and court-martialed. He has not only compromised US aims, but has endangered the lives of all the media staffers involved as well as their families'.

I don't see anything wrong with working to get the coalition's message out in any way that works, short of intimidating Iraqi news media with threats of force or loss of priviledge for printing negative information about coaltion forces. The practice of voluntary story planting seems to me to be entirely within the doctrinal bounds established by Clinton's Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Shelton.

Where we went wrong is hiring the bastard who leaked the story and giving that rat a secret clearance.

We also went wrong because the effort seems to have originated within Special Operations Command. And Special Ops guys being what they are, they didn't feel the need to coordinate their effort with higher headquarters.

That shit needs to stop. Too many SpecWar nuts think they can operate a shop unto themselves without checking in and coordinating their efforts with conventional shops.

We don't have to micromanage the unconventional approach to war. And the freedom to innovate and the willingness and ability of SpecWar types to do so has always been a great strength. But the left hand must know what the right hand is doing. And in this case, it looks like there was a disconnect between the SpecWar PSYOPS at the tactical and operational level and the joint level IO shop. And so the Pentagon was caught flat-footed because they weren't aware of the IO activities being undertaken by Special Operations command.

So, yeah...the SOC needs to get slapped around a bit.

But it's not because they engaged the Iraqi media in a truthful Information Operations campaign at the tactical and operational level.

Indeed, under the Joint Services Doctrine published way back prior to the Kosovo campaign, they were obligated to do so.

Splash, out

Jason

Update:

Rantingprofs has a similar take here.. So does Betsy's Page, who rightly raises a valuable point: While western journalists, safe in their air conditioned offices can tut-tut about the failure to disclose the advertorials as such - as we generally do in the United States (except when Time Magazine puts another Lord of the Rings movie on the cover), nobody is going to blow up the Time Life building or kill the staff if they run it.

If an Iraqi paper openly runs and identifies content written at the behest of coalition forces, they make targets of themselves, and their staff become marked for death.

Kinda changes the rules a little bit, no?

Comments:
"While western journalists, safe in their air conditioned offices can tut-tut..."

Pay for play?
I can't remember where I heard this, it might have been a spoof, but I think it was in conjunction with the release of her new book that I heard that Mary Mapes arranged a book deal for Bill Burkett so he would come forward with the "secret memos". If true (and I should be trying to fact check this, but I'm not), not only was that "pay for play", but it was also a false story.
 
Every planted story should have a little "truth in advertising" section at the bottom - "my name is General John Abizaid, and I endorsed this message..." =)
 
As far as I know, this "story" was first printed on the front page of the NY Times, in which the article made clear the operation was covert:

The New York Times
December 1, 2005

U.S. Is Said to Pay to Plant Articles in Iraq Papers

By JEFF GERTH and SCOTT SHANE

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30 - Titled "The Sands Are Blowing Toward a Democratic Iraq," an article written this week for publication in the Iraqi press was scornful of outsiders' pessimism about the country's future.

"Western press and frequently those self-styled 'objective' observers of Iraq are often critics of how we, the people of Iraq, are proceeding down the path in determining what is best for our nation," the article began. Quoting the Prophet Muhammad, it pleaded for unity and nonviolence.

But far from being the heartfelt opinion of an Iraqi writer, as its language implied, the article was prepared by the United States military as part of a multimillion-dollar covert campaign to plant paid propaganda in the Iraqi news media and pay friendly Iraqi journalists monthly stipends, military contractors and officials said.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/01/politics/01propaganda.html



Why is the NY Times not feeling any heat for this act of TREASON?

From the US Constitution:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.

http://www.house.gov/Constitution/Constitution.html



Clearly this NY Times article knowingly and intentionally undermines the United States, and provides aid and comfort to our enemies.

Hold these media scum accountable for their actions.
 
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