The reaction online to Michael Hastings' new and disturbing expose of the use of "psychological operations" against US senators has been mixed. Ackerman and Shachtman ponder the difference between propaganda and spin. But Steve Clemons saw the proof first-hand:
In January 2010, I participated in a substantive and interesting conference call with Senator Levin when he was returning with Al Franken via Dubai from a CODEL trip visiting Afghanistan. I wrote about it then and was fairly surprised given the skepticism both had previously expressed for Afghanistan that they believed so readily what the military was telling them. It really seemed strange to me. ... Caldwell should be fired. What he did, if Hastings has his details is right, is really outrageous and a further testament to the wobbliness of civilian control over the military in today's world.
James Joyner gets a whiff of Holmes' "axe to grind" and chalks the whole scheme up to generals trying to "put their best foot forward":
[Congressional delegations] are of course going to be presented with propaganda when they visit military headquarters at war. Hell, visitors from the next higher echelon headquarters are treated the same way and always have been even in peacetime garrison situations. It’s not much different from running around and picking up the house before guests arrive at your home.
John Cook isn't sure:
You can read that story as one in which a desperate general tries to use propaganda voodoo to influence American politicians, or you can read it as a story in which a general decides that some psy-ops troops under his command would be better utilized doing routine public relations duties. It's probably a little bit of both, and I suspect that whatever lies were being fed McCain et. al. would still have been lies if it were public affairs officers, rather than psy-ops troops, doing the feeding.
DiA expresses pure disbelief:
It was crazy enough when, as Jane Mayer and others have documented, the CIA took the manuals developed by military trainers for hardening soldiers against the kinds of torture and psychological-manipulation techniques that had been used on Americans by North Korean and North Vietnamese interrogators, reverse-engineered those techniques, and started using them on captives at Bhagram, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Then, when John McCain, who had himself been subjected to those torture and psychological-manipulation techniques in a Vietnamese prison camp, went ahead and endorsed their use by CIA interrogators, I thought the irony could go no deeper. Never underestimate the American military!
Daniel Foster looks back at the Bush administration:
Guidelines erecting a wall between foreign-targeted and domestic targeted “information” and “messaging” by the military have been established by a number of presidents and Pentagon officials, including George W. Bush in a 2002 National Security Presidential Directive that is still classified, and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a 2003 “roadmap” that calls for “boundaries” between domestic and foreign information operations but doesn’t proscribe any activities that aren’t “targeted” at American citizens.
Adam Sorensen concentrates on the cover-up.
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