Pentagon rolls out stealth PR
By Matt Kelley, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON ‹ A $300 million Pentagon psychological warfare operation
includes plans for placing pro-American messages in foreign media outlets
without disclosing the U.S. government as the source, one of the military
officials in charge of the program says.

Run by psychological warfare experts at the U.S. Special Operations Command,
the media campaign is being designed to counter terrorist ideology and sway
foreign audiences to support American policies. The military wants to fight
the information war against al-Qaeda through newspapers, websites, radio,
television and "novelty items" such as T-shirts and bumper stickers.

The program will operate throughout the world, including in allied nations
and in countries where the United States is not involved in armed conflict.

The description of the program by Mike Furlong, deputy director of the Joint
Psychological Operations Support Element, provides the most detailed look to
date at the Pentagon's global campaign.

The three companies handling the campaign include the Lincoln Group, the
company being investigated by the Pentagon for paying Iraqi newspapers to
run pro-U.S. stories. (Related story: Contracts for pro-U.S. propaganda)

Military officials involved with the campaign say they're not planning to
place false stories in foreign news outlets clandestinely. But the military
won't always reveal its role in distributing pro-American messages, Furlong

"While the product may not carry the label, 'Made in the USA,' we will
respond truthfully if asked" by journalists, Furlong told USA TODAY in a
videoconference interview.

He declined to give examples of specific "products," which he said would
include articles, advertisements and public-service announcements.

The military's communications work in Iraq has recently drawn controversy
with disclosures that Lincoln Group and the U.S. military secretly paid
journalists and news outlets to run pro-American stories.

White House officials have expressed concern about the practice, even when
the stories are true.

National security adviser Stephen Hadley said President Bush was "very
troubled" by activities in Iraq and would stop them if they hurt efforts to
build independent news media in Iraq. The military started its own probe.

It's legal for the government to plant propaganda in other countries but not
in the USA. The White House referred requests for comment about the
contracts to the Pentagon, where officials did not respond.

Special Operations Command awarded three contracts worth up to $100 million
each for the media campaign in June. Besides the Lincoln Group, the
contractors are Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) of San Diego
and SYColeman of Washington.

SAIC and Lincoln Group spokesmen declined to comment on the contract. Rick
Kiernan, a spokesman for SYColeman, says its work for Special Operations
Command is "more in the world of advertising."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has emphasized that Washington must
promote its message better. "The worst about America and our military seems
to so quickly be taken as truth by the press and reported and spread around
the world," he said last week.

The Iraq example may cause Arabs to doubt any pro-American messages, says
Jumana al-Tamimi, an editor for the Gulf News, an English-language newspaper
published in the United Arab Emirates.

Placing pro-U.S. content in foreign media "makes people suspicious of the
open press," says Ken Bacon, a Clinton administration Pentagon spokesman who
heads the non-profit group Refugees International.

No contractor for the global program has made a final product, Furlong says.
Approval will come from Rumsfeld's office and regional commanders. Some of
the development work is classified.

"Sometimes it's not good to signal ... what your plans are," he says.

Contributing: Barbara Slavin


€Cost: Up to $100 million per contractor, $300 million total
€Contractors: SYColeman of Washington; Lincoln Group of Washington; Science
Applications International Corp. of San Diego
€Awarded: June 7
€Length: Five years
€Purpose: "For media approach planning, prototype product development,
commercial quality product development, product distribution and
dissemination, and media effects analysis."

Source: Department of Defense

You are a subscribed member of the infowarrior list. Visit for list information or to unsubscribe. This message
may be redistributed freely in its entirety. Any and all copyrights
appearing in list messages are maintained by their respective owners.

Reply via email to