General Orders Probe into Mind Control of Senators
2011 02 25
By Pauline Jelinek and Lolita C. Baldor | YahooNews.com
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan is ordering an investigation into charges that an army unit trained in psychological operations was improperly told to manipulate American senators to get more money and troops for the war.
A senator allegedly targeted said Thursday that he’s confident there will be a review of the facts, but played down the idea that he was manipulated.
The staff of Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, head of the effort to train Afghan security forces, ordered the information operations unit to compile profiles, voting records and other information on visiting lawmakers to leverage in a campaign to get more assistance, said a story Thursday on Rolling Stone’s website. It says the campaign also improperly targeted the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, and others.
Caldwell’s office denied that the command used information operations cell to influence distinguished visitors. But a press statement from Kabul said that the commander of forces in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus would order a probe "based on the information" in the article.
But the episode underscores how murky the dividing line can be between information operations and public affairs officers — one the Pentagon has wrestled with in recent years as it struggled to win the hearts and minds of populations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said Thursday that the probe will look at the actions taken by Caldwell and his staff and determine whether they were inappropriate or illegal.That distinction, he said, depends on the circumstances.
"It just depends on what it is they are doing. It’s the actions not just the assignment," said Lapan. "It all depends on how the information is used. There is no blanket prohibition against having that information provided."
As an example, he said an information operations officer could be asked to look up someone’s biography online. He added that Petraeus will announce who the investigating officer will be, but said it does not necessarily have to be someone of the same or higher rank than Caldwell.
The military cell devoted to what is known as "information operations" believed their mission on arriving in Afghanistan in November 2009 was to assess the effects of U.S. propaganda on the Taliban and local Afghan population, Rolling Stone said, quoting Lt. Col. Michael Holmes, whom it identified as the leader of the five-man team.
Holmes said they resisted the order to compile information on congressional delegations that were visiting there and think of what information "to plant inside their heads." He said they were subjected to retaliation for resisting.
"My job in psy-ops is to play with people’s heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave," Holmes is quoted as saying. "When you ask me to try to use these skills on senators and congressman, you’re crossing a line."
Those singled out in the campaign included Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., Jack Reed, D-R.I., Al Franken, D-Minn., and Carl Levin, D-Mich. Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., of the House Appropriations Committee; the Czech ambassador to Afghanistan; the German interior minister, and a host of influential think-tank analysts, the story said, without identifying the international figures by name.
Levin pointed out Thursday that he has long been in favor of building up Afghan forces.
"For years, I have strongly and repeatedly advocated for building up Afghan military capability because I believe only the Afghans can truly secure their nation’s future," Levin said in a statement. "I have never needed any convincing on this point. Quite the opposite, my efforts have been aimed at convincing others of the need for larger, more capable Afghan security forces, and that we and NATO should send more trainers to Afghanistan, rather than more combat troops."
Article from: news.yahoo.com
Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators
By Michael Hastings | RollingStone.com
The U.S. Army illegally ordered a team of soldiers specializing in "psychological operations" to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war, Rolling Stone has learned – and when an officer tried to stop the operation, he was railroaded by military investigators.
Sen. John McCain walks with Lt. Gen. William Caldwell at Camp Eggers in Kabul, Afghanistan
on January 6, 2009.Senior Airman Brian Ybarbo/U.S. Air Force (AP)
The orders came from the command of Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, a three-star general in charge of training Afghan troops – the linchpin of U.S. strategy in the war. Over a four-month period last year, a military cell devoted to what is known as "information operations" at Camp Eggers in Kabul was repeatedly pressured to target visiting senators and other VIPs who met with Caldwell. When the unit resisted the order, arguing that it violated U.S. laws prohibiting the use of propaganda against American citizens, it was subjected to a campaign of retaliation.
The incident offers an indication of just how desperate the U.S. command in Afghanistan is to spin American civilian leaders into supporting an increasingly unpopular war. According to the Defense Department’s own definition, psy-ops – the use of propaganda and psychological tactics to influence emotions and behaviors – are supposed to be used exclusively on "hostile foreign groups." Federal law forbids the military from practicing psy-ops on Americans, and each defense authorization bill comes with a "propaganda rider" that also prohibits such manipulation. "Everyone in the psy-ops, intel, and IO community knows you’re not supposed to target Americans," says a veteran member of another psy-ops team who has run operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. "It’s what you learn on day one."
When Holmes and his four-man team arrived in Afghanistan in November 2009, their mission was to assess the effects of U.S. propaganda on the Taliban and the local Afghan population. But the following month, Holmes began receiving orders from Caldwell’s staff to direct his expertise on a new target: visiting Americans. At first, the orders were administered verbally. According to Holmes, who attended at least a dozen meetings with Caldwell to discuss the operation, the general wanted the IO unit to do the kind of seemingly innocuous work usually delegated to the two dozen members of his public affairs staff: compiling detailed profiles of the VIPs, including their voting records, their likes and dislikes, and their "hot-button issues." In one email to Holmes, Caldwell’s staff also wanted to know how to shape the general’s presentations to the visiting dignitaries, and how best to "refine our messaging."
Congressional delegations – known in military jargon as CODELs – are no strangers to spin. U.S. lawmakers routinely take trips to the frontlines in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they receive carefully orchestrated briefings and visit local markets before posing for souvenir photos in helmets and flak jackets. Informally, the trips are a way for generals to lobby congressmen and provide first-hand updates on the war. But what Caldwell was looking for was more than the usual background briefings on senators. According to Holmes, the general wanted the IO team to provide a "deeper analysis of pressure points we could use to leverage the delegation for more funds." The general’s chief of staff also asked Holmes how Caldwell could secretly manipulate the U.S. lawmakers without their knowledge. "How do we get these guys to give us more people?" he demanded. "What do I have to plant inside their heads?"
Read the full article at: rollingstone.com
Military Using Mind-Tricks On Congress To Continue War?
Video from: YouTube.com
Fire Lt. Gen. William Caldwell
Video from: YouTube.com
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