The Pentagon's Department of Lies

Revolutionary Worker #1141, March 3, 2002, posted at

"In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies."

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald RumsfeldSeptember 2001

"I don't recall that I've ever lied to the press; I don't intend to, and it seems to me that there will not be a reason for it."

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeldsame press conference, September 2001

Millions always suspected it. Now reports from within a secret agency confirm that the U.S. government systematically plants disinformation in the mass media--to build support for itself and isolate those it wishes to destroy.

On February 19, the New York Times reported that the Pentagon's new Office of Strategic Influence (OSI) is "developing plans to provide news items, possibly even false ones, to foreign media organizations" in an effort "to influence public sentiment and policy makers in both friendly and unfriendly countries." The plan would include sending "tips" to reporters via email and other means.

One senior Pentagon official was quoted as saying that the information battle "goes from the blackest of black programs to the whitest of white"--from lies and disinformation to other public opinion campaigns.

The OSI, which was secret before this exposure, is headed by the Air Force's Brigadier General Simon Worden. It is closely advised by the private Washington "communications consultancy"--the Rendon Group. Rendon previously worked for the CIA, the Kuwaiti government and the Iraqi National Congress opposition group--and the massive U.S. disinformation that preceded (and justified the Gulf War) is apparently a model for the expanded operations today.

One example from the Gulf War reveals the kind of thing OSI has in mind: As the U.S. was building up for the Gulf war, great TV publicity was given to a young Kuwaiti woman who testified to a Congressional Committee saying she had seen Iraqi soldiers ripping premature babies out of incubators in Kuwait City. It was later documented that the young woman was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador and that the incubator incident never happened. Millions of people heard the lies, but when the truth finally came out, it was not widely reported.

After September 11, the Bush White House announced that the U.S. government was not being successful enough in "getting its story out" to the rest of the world--especially Muslim countries. A senior Pentagon official told USA Today: "In October, we had our butts handed to us every day in the propaganda war.''

So the OSI was created as part of a massive new U.S. effort at influencing media coverage and public opinion. The OSI was given a multi-million dollar budget. Now, for reasons unknown, its mission has been publicly announced--massive disinformation including within the mass media of U.S. allies' countries in Europe and the Middle East.

The New York Times noted that such OSI operations will inevitably mean that such planted news stories will appear within the U.S. media as well--even though officially it is illegal for the U.S. government to deliberately plant disinformation within its own borders.

One of the units involved in the OSI disinformation operations is the U.S. Army's Psychological Operations Command (PSYOPS).

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) has documented how this unit has worked within the mainstream U.S. mass media over decades. During the 1980s, their agents worked for the National Security Council, planting disinformation to build support for the Reagan-era wars against Nicaragua and rebel forces in El Salvador. The Miami Herald reported that a high U.S. official described this in 1987 as a "vast psychological warfare operation of the kind the military conducts to influence a population in enemy territory."

In the late '80s, White House spokesman Bernard Kalb resigned when it was revealed that the U.S. government had accused Libya's leader Moammar Gadhafi of preparing attacks on the U.S.--knowing that it was not true.

Also in the 1980s, the U.S. government accused the Soviet government of using chemical warfare in Cambodia, in the form of "yellow rain." The chemicals they presented as evidence turned out to be bee droppings.

Dutch and French newspapers revealed in February 2000 that agents of the 4th Psyops group had been working under the cover of "interns" within CNN's Atlanta operations.

In the past, such exposures received very little coverage in the U.S. media, for obvious reasons. The U.S. government officially claimed that "psyops" (psychological warfare of lies and misinformation) was only aimed at the soldiers it was fighting on battlefields. Bush bristled when it was suggested the U.S. may have manufactured or altered videos of Osama bin Laden.

But now their cover stories have been blown away by eager bragging from within the Office of Strategic Influence. When the government sets up a Ministry of Deceit, it usually remembers to call it "the Ministry of Truth." Somebody apparently forgot to tell the Pentagon that disinformation campaigns are supposed to remain secret.

It is no surprise that the Pentagon quickly responded to the New York Times report with frantic damage-control.

Defense Department sources whined that this exposure would weaken U.S. government credibility. One Defense Department official said: "If we get the reputation for spreading false information, then what is anyone to believe and not believe that comes out of this building?"

Victoria Clarke, the official Pentagon press spokeswoman, claimed her public affairs department was not involved with the OSI, calling it "a work in progress." The Pentagon claimed the OSI's program had not yet been officially approved.

"Defense Department officials don't lie to the public," said Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy. "We have an enormous stake in our credibility and we're going to preserve it."

Rumsfeld himself spoke out on February 20: "Government officials, the Department of Defense, this secretary and the people that work with me tell the American people and the people of the world the truth."

Were they lying when they said they planned to lie? Or are they lying now when they deny lying? Decide for yourself.

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