The Pentagon's management of information operations and strategic communications "has systemic problems" and only works on the battlefield "in spite of itself," an internal report has concluded.
After the New York Times published a story about how a Department of Defense employee named Michael Furlong allegedly used Pentagon resources to fund a covert spying ring, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates ordered an internal review of information operations, which the Pentagon defines as "a military function integrating various capabilities to achieve impact in the
information environment." Traditionally, IO has encompassed all overt and covert means of influencing opinions, perceptions, and tactics on the battlefield, whether via operational
security, electronic warfare, military deception, psychological operations, or offensive and defensive cyber-space operations.
A summary of conclusions from that review has been provided to the Atlantic.
It calls for a "rebalancing" of information, and "adjustment and clarity" in authorities -- the DoD's way of saying that few senior managers know what IO is, who does it, or for what purposes. Leadership and oversight exist, the report concludes, but IO is "fragmented at the top." Even though the Pentagon is "plagued with confusion" over information operations, military commanders in the field use it quite effectively, the report concludes.
The report obliquely mentions "some 'jewels' that must be protected," a reference to covert intelligence programs.
The report distinguishes information operations from "strategic communications," defined as a "U.S. government process combining
words and actions to support the strategic narrative," but notes that senior officials often use the two terms interchangeably -- and "wrongfully."
According to the report, the Office of the Secretary of Defense is scrutinizing all of the contracts that the Joint Information Operations Warfare Center, where Furling worked, has taken out. Located at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, the JIOWC is the focal point for the military's information operations activities, which often use contractors. The Pentagon is also trying to determine which JIOWC programs, most of which are highly classified, are better carried out by intelligence units or by other government agencies.
The report calls for Gates to designate an executive agency for information operations and make sure that IO operations have sufficient personnel. It also tasks Mike Decker, Gates's assistant for intelligence oversight, with a full audit of IO contracting procedures.
The conclusions will be interpreted as criticism of the U.S. Strategic Command, which runs information operations, space and nuclear forces, and the cyber command. In aggressively pursuing its vision of IO, STRATCOM managers may have crossed departmental lines. Gen. Stanley McChyrstal, the commanding general of the international security assistance force in Afghanistan, and his intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn, have complained about how STRATCOM operations are not well integrated into the country's overall intelligence strategy for the region.
In 2007, Gates, newly minted as Defense Secretary, joked that the U.S., which had invented public relations, was "miserable at communicating to the rest of the world what we are about as a society and a culture, about freedom and democracy, about our policies and our goals." He called it "embarrassing."
"Strategic communications, information operations and psychological operations have been a mess for years, and we need top commanders to finally focus on this because we're too often getting beat in the battlefield," said a consultant who works on sensitive IO issues and who has seen the report.
During the Bush administration, operational efforts in the war on terrorism were focused on killing the bad guys. Strategic communication was left to political advisers like Karen Hughes, who worked in the State Department. President Obama is even more focused than Bush was on the operational efforts to kill bad guys.
The Pentagon finds it frustrating that Obama's National Security staff believes that the President's speeches and outreach are sufficient basis for an offensive information campaign against Al Qaeda. Indeed, they believe that the lack of strategic guidance for information operations may be one reason why battlefield commanders and Pentagon officials decide to freelance. (The White House doesn't want to plan offensive IO operations.)
The President's National Security Strategy, released two weeks ago, focused heavily on the need for strategic outreach, and Secretary Gates has ordered his planners to focus largely on IO reorganization for the 2012 budget cycle.
Pentagon officials worry that the public perception of chaos in the realm of Information Operations will give Congressional appropriators the chance to cut IO's budget. At a meeting of senior officials in late May, Brigadier General John Davis, the deputy commander of the Joint Task Force-Global Network Operations, described Gates as being "sensitive to budget issues on the Hill," according to the notes of a participant. Gates will prioritize Information Operations in the 2012 budget, Davis said. He also said that U.S. adversaries are quite agile in the IO environment and often "outmaneuver" the U.S. in shaping and influencing opinions.
Pentagon spokespeople did not return emails seeking comment.
A professor of cognitive science argues that the world is nothing like the one we experience through our senses.
As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions—sights, sounds, textures, tastes—are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it—or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion—we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like.
President-elect Donald Trump has committed a sharp breach of protocol—one that underscores just how weird some important protocols are.
Updated on December 2 at 7:49 p.m.
It’s hardly remembered now, having been overshadowed a few months later on September 11, but the George W. Bush administration’s first foreign-policy crisis came in the South China Sea. On April 1, 2001, a U.S. Navy surveillance plane collided with a Chinese jet near Hainan Island. The pilot of the Chinese jet was killed, and the American plane was forced to land and its crew was held hostage for 11 days, until a diplomatic agreement was worked out. Sino-American relations remained tense for some time.
Unlike Bush, Donald Trump didn’t need to wait to be inaugurated to set off a crisis in the relationship. He managed that on Friday, with a phone call to the president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen. It’s a sharp breach with protocol, but it’s also just the sort that underscores how weird and incomprehensible some important protocols are.
A hotly contested, supposedly ancient manuscript suggests Christ was married. But believing its origin story—a real-life Da Vinci Code, involving a Harvard professor, a onetime Florida pornographer, and an escape from East Germany—requires a big leap of faith.
On a humid afternoon this past November, I pulled off Interstate 75 into a stretch of Florida pine forest tangled with runaway vines. My GPS was homing in on the house of a man I thought might hold the master key to one of the strangest scholarly mysteries in recent decades: a 1,300-year-old scrap of papyrus that bore the phrase “Jesus said to them, My wife.” The fragment, written in the ancient language of Coptic, had set off shock waves when an eminent Harvard historian of early Christianity, Karen L. King, presented it in September 2012 at a conference in Rome.
Never before had an ancient manuscript alluded to Jesus’s being married. The papyrus’s lines were incomplete, but they seemed to describe a dialogue between Jesus and the apostles over whether his “wife”—possibly Mary Magdalene—was “worthy” of discipleship. Its main point, King argued, was that “women who are wives and mothers can be Jesus’s disciples.” She thought the passage likely figured into ancient debates over whether “marriage or celibacy [was] the ideal mode of Christian life” and, ultimately, whether a person could be both sexual and holy.
The Daily Show host was measured, respectful, and challenging in his 26-minute conversation with TheBlaze pundit Tomi Lahren.
Tomi Lahren, the 24-year-old host of Tomi on the conservative cable network TheBlaze, feels like a pundit created by a computer algorithm, someone who primarily exists to say something provocative enough to jump to the top of a Facebook feed. She’s called the Black Lives Matter movement “the new KKK,” partly blamed the 2015 Chattanooga shootings on President Obama’s “Muslim sensitivity,” and declared Colin Kaepernick a “whiny, indulgent, attention-seeking cry-baby.” At a time when such charged political rhetoric feels increasingly like the norm, Lahren stands at one end of a widening gulf—which made her appearance on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Wednesday night all the more fascinating.
In his first year at The Daily Show, Noah has struggled to distinguish himself in an outrage-driven late-night universe. He has sometimes seemed too flip about the failures of the country’s news media, something his predecessor Jon Stewart made a perennial target. Noah’s 26-minute conversation with Lahren, though, posted in its entirety online, set the kind of tone that Stewart frequently called for throughout his tenure. The segment never turned into a screaming match, but it also avoided platitudes and small-talk. Lahren was unapologetic about her online bombast and leaned into arguments that drew gasps and boos from Noah’s audience, but the host remained steadfastly evenhanded throughout. If Noah was looking for a specific episodethat would help him break out in his crowded field, he may have finally found it.
They say religious discrimination against Christians is as big a problem as discrimination against other groups.
Many, many Christians believe they are subject to religious discrimination in the United States. A new report from the Public Religion Research Institute and Brookings offers evidence: Almost half of Americans say discrimination against Christians is as big of a problem as discrimination against other groups, including blacks and minorities. Three-quarters of Republicans and Trump supporters said this, and so did nearly eight out of 10 white evangelical Protestants. Of the latter group, six in 10 believe that although America once was a Christian nation, it is no longer—a huge jump from 2012.
Polling data can be split up in a million different ways. It’s possible to sort by ethnicity, age, political party, and more. The benefit of sorting by religion, though, is that it highlights people’s beliefs: the way their ideological and spiritual convictions shape their self-understanding. This survey suggests that race is not enough to explain the sense of loss some white Americans seem to feel about their country, although it’s part of the story; the same is true of age, education level, and political affiliation. People’s beliefs seem to have a distinctive bearing on how they view changes in American culture, politics, and law—and whether they feel threatened. No group is more likely to express this fear than conservative Christians.
A single dose of magic mushrooms can make people with severe anxiety and depression better for months, according to a landmark pair of new studies.
The doom hung like an anvil over her head. In 2012, a few years after Carol Vincent was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, she was waiting to see whether her cancer would progress enough to require chemotherapy or radiation. The disease had already done a number on her, inflating lymph nodes on her chin, collar bones, and groin. She battled her symptoms while running her own marketing business. To top it all off, she was going through menopause.
“Life is just pointless stress, and then you die,” she thought. “All I’m doing is sitting here waiting for all this shit to happen.”
When one day at an intersection she mulled whether it would be so bad to get hit by a car, she realized her mental health was almost as depleted as her physical state.
Hallucinogens may help people break free of destructive thoughts and addiction. Can a “mystical experience” be had legally?
TOWSON, Maryland—Kathleen Conneally had smoked since she was 12, but one day in the spring of 2013, that changed in an instant. Conneally arrived at a lab in Baltimore that looked more like a cozy living room, with a cream-colored couch and paintings of mountains on the walls. She took a pill from a golden goblet and popped it in her mouth. Under the watch of a pair of trained guides, she began to see wild colors, shapes, and ideas. She began, for lack of a better term, to trip.
Conneally was a participant in an addiction study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, who wanted to determine whether the relentless pull of nicotine could be weakened by another drug: psilocybin—the active compound in magic mushrooms.
At the time of this writing, the Powerball jackpot is up to $1.5 billion. The cash grand prize is estimated at $930 million.
In a Powerball draw, five white balls are drawn from a drum with 69 balls and one red ball is drawn from a drum with 26 balls. If you match all six numbers, you win the jackpot. If you match only some of the numbers, you win a smaller fixed prize.
At $2 for each ticket, then, it would be possible to buy every possible ticket for $584,402,676. As a journalist, I don’t have that much money sitting around, but either a consortium of a few million Americans or a large and wealthy institution like a bank could conceivably assemble that level of cash.
A few weeks ago, I was trying to call Cuba. I got an error message—which, okay, international telephone codes are long and my fingers are clumsy—but the phone oddly started dialing again before I could hang up. A voice answered. It had a British accent and it was reading: “...the moon was shining brightly. The Martians had taken away the excavating-machine…”
Apparently, I had somehow called into an audiobook of The War of the Worlds. Suspicious of my clumsy fingers, I double-checked the number. It was correct (weird), but I tried the number again, figuring that at worst, I’d learn what happened after the Martians took away the excavating machine. This time, I got the initial error message and the call disconnected. No Martians.
“A typical person is more than five times as likely to die in an extinction event as in a car crash,” says a new report.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story presented an economic modeling assumption—the .01 chance of human extinction per year—as a vetted scholarly estimate. Following a correction from the Global Priorities Project, the text below has been updated.
Nuclear war. Climate change. Pandemics that kill tens of millions.
These are the most viable threats to globally organized civilization. They’re the stuff of nightmares and blockbusters—but unlike sea monsters or zombie viruses, they’re real, part of the calculus that political leaders consider everyday. A new report from the U.K.-based Global Challenges Foundation urges us to take them seriously.
The nonprofit began its annual report on “global catastrophic risk” with a startling provocation: If figures often used to compute human extinction risk are correct, the average American is more than five times likelier to die during a human-extinction event than in a car crash.