21 December 2005

Behind the Invisible Disinformation Campaign

According to Mr. Mike Furlong, Deputy Director of the Joint Psychological Operations Support Element at the Pentagon, the US military has awarded three five year contracts worth about 300 million dollars "for placing pro-American messages in foreign media outlets without disclosing the U.S. government as the source". The justification for the disinformation campaign is to "counter terrorist ideology and sway foreign audiences to support American policies" 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 three companies that have been awarded the Pentagon contracts are the Lincoln Group and SYColeman of Washington DC and the Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego. Lincoln Group is a small firm created in 2004 as Irqex by Christian Bailey who was a co-chairman of a political group aligned with the Republican Party called Lead 21. The company is currently under investigation for paying Iraqi journalists and news outlets to run pro-American articles ghostwritten under a separate military contract. Science Applications is one of the largest defense contractors with more than $7 billion in revenue last year. The Pentagon awarded Science Applications a no-bid contract in 2003 to run the Iraqi Free Media Program, a network of newspapers as well as radio and television stations and spent $80 million before dropping the program amidst criticism. SYColeman's president is retired Army lieutenant general Jared Bates, who spent six months in 2003 helping to set up the Pentagon's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance that first governed postwar Iraq and awarded the Iraq Free Media Project contract to Science Applications.

What is appalling is that such meticulous, well funded and professionally managed propaganda in foreign countries by the US government is permitted under the US laws. According to the US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, "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." Clearly, the military is launching this propaganda campaign not to counter those "truths" because such refutation is being done openly and with little impact. Radio Liberty, Radio free Europe and other such open channels have operated or are operating to openly "spread good news" on the US. The clandestine campaign is to shift the context of the debate and discussion about the US agenda and its military activities. This campaign marks a confluence of disinformation, deception and misinformation rolled into one. The fact that this campaign is not limited to any specific country or countries suggests that all political movements against the US agenda will be targeted. Journalists and news media will be sought out, cultivated and compromised in an organized manner. What has been disclosed about bribing Iraqi journalists and news outlets by the Lincoln Group will be surpassed given the corruption that permeates the monopoly controlled media these days.

People's forces around the world are creating new journalism to counter the journalism dominated by media conglomerates. The Pentagon initiative only serves notice on the alternate journalists to be more vigilant and redouble their efforts to inform and educate the people - not just against the open misinformation and disinformation of the monopoly media but against the worst form it will take through double agents and agent-provocateurs, paid to be "wolves in sheep's clothing", calling upon people to take a stand against their own interests. A very high level of political awareness and political culture can defeat this campaign by the US.


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