New Pentagon office to spearhead information war
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon has established a new Office of Strategic Influence to market America's war on terrorism outside the United States, a Defense Department official said Tuesday.
The office will set up policies for information operations and warfare that will then be carried out by military specialists to "influence the hearts and minds of the opposition," the official said, adding that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has yet to approve any plans for new information operations.
The office was quietly set up after September 11 as part of the Bush administration's overall effort to reach Islamic populations around the world.
Information operations have been a major part of the military campaign in Afghanistan, with radio broadcasts by Commando Solo airplanes, the U.S. Air Force's airborne radio and TV broadcast mission, and extensive airdropping of leaflets.
Some broadcasts have been received on shortwave radio in the United States. Translators said the messages included suggestions to one-time Taliban supporters that it was hopeless to continue fighting. The signals also gave explicit instructions on how to surrender.
Under law, the Pentagon operation can only work outside the United States. Sources said that it may involve targeting international media but not U.S. media outlets.
Although "information deception" -- deliberately spreading false or misleading information -- is a part of information warfare policy and doctrine, the Pentagon has no specific plans to undertake deceptive operations using the international news media, the official said.
He noted that deliberate misinformation could undermine U.S. credibility abroad. However, any deception effort is likely to be covert, he said.
The notion of information operations and propaganda is controversial. "This is a bowl of wet spaghetti," the official said.
The major problem for the office, he said, will be coordinating with the Pentagon's public affairs operation, the State Department's overseas diplomacy program and the White House's "war room."
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