Wednesday, June 23, 2004

CIA-Owned, CIA-Operated 

Boy, every now and then the Rev. Moon's wholly-owned news service says the darnedest things. From UPI, an "Outside View" commentary by Greg Guma, editor of Toward Freedom, who suggests that the free press may not be quite as free (or even as profit-motivated) as you might have thought -- and by the way, "ff you don't think it's been going on for years and continues to this very moment, well, then, it's working":
As the Iraq war began, we did get a peak behind the curtain. Word leaked out that a new Pentagon office of strategic influence was gearing up to sway leaders and public sentiment by disseminating sometimes false stories. Facing censure, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld publicly denounced and disbanded it. A few months later, however, he quietly funded a private consultant to develop another version. The apparent goal was to go beyond traditional information warfare with a new "perception management" campaign designed to "win the war of ideas" - in this case, against those classified as a terrorists.

It's actually nothing new. Beginning in the 1950s, more than 800 news and public information organizations and individuals carried out assignments for the CIA, according to The New York Times. By the mid-'80s, CIA Director Bill Casey had taken the practice to the next level: an organized, covert public diplomacy apparatus designed to sell a new product -- Central America -- while stoking fear of communism, the Sandinistas, Gadhafi and others.

Sometimes this involved so-called white propaganda, stories and editorials secretly financed by the government. But they also went black, pushing false story lines.

The U.S. Department of Defense describes perception management as a type of psychological operation. Traditionally, it's supposed to be directed at foreign audiences and basically involves conveying (or denying) information to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning.

The goal is to influence enemies and friends alike, and provoke the behavior you want.

During George Herbert Walker Bush's administration, the scope officially expanded to include domestic disinformation, using the CIA's public affairs office. This operation was charged with turning intelligence failures into successes by persuading reporters to postpone, change, hold, or even scrap stories that could have adversely affected national security interests.

The Clinton era, outlined in Directive 68, was known as the International Public Information System. Again, no distinction was made between what could be done abroad and at home. To defeat enemies and influence minds, information for U.S. audiences would be deconflicted through IPI's work. How appropriately Clinton-esque.

One strategy turned out to be inserting psyop -- the term of art meaning psychological operations -- specialists into newsrooms. In February 2000, a Dutch journalist revealed that CNN and the Army had agreed to do precisely that in Atlanta.

Once you realize that managing perceptions is standard procedure, some news stories take on a different meaning. Last year, for example, a popular storyline about post-war resistance in Iraq was that only a few Saddam loyalists and dead-enders were involved. Meanwhile, the opposition was sending videotaped messages, saying things like, "We are not followers of Saddam Hussein. We are sons of Iraq." More recently, a central assumption has been that, whatever problems we now face, leaving without "winning" would be worse.

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