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Information Operations Task Force

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The Information Operations Task Force (IOTF) is described as a unit -- "deeper in the Pentagon's bureaucracy" -- which assumed much of the operations of the Office of Strategic Influence after it was shut down in February 2002. According to "Pentagon documents, the Rendon Group played a major role in the IOTF. The company was charged with creating an 'Information War Room' to monitor worldwide news reports at lightning speed and respond almost instantly with counterpropaganda," James Bamford reported November 17, 2005, in Rolling Stone magazine.

In his February 6, 2002, "Posture Statement" before the 107th Congress House Armed Services Committee, General Richard B. Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said "The second aspect of information operations highlighted by the Afghan campaign is the importance of a well-integrated information campaign. To that end, the Department of Defense (DOD) activated an information operations task force focused on winning the information campaign against global terrorism. This task force is committed to developing, coordinating, deconflicting, and monitoring the delivery of timely, relevant, and effective messages to targeted international audiences."

Regarding the demise of the Office of Strategic Influence, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told reporters November 18, 2002: "Fine, you want to savage this thing, fine. I'll give you the corpse. There's the name. You can have the name, but I'm going to keep doing every single thing that needs to be done, and I have." [1]

Controlling the Message

"Among the missions proposed for the Pentagon's Office of Strategic Influence was one to 'coerce' foreign journalists and plant false information overseas. Secret briefing papers also said the office should find ways to 'punish' those who convey the 'wrong message.' One senior officer told CNN that the plan would 'formalize government deception, dishonesty and misinformation'," Bamford wrote.

"According to the Pentagon documents, John Rendon would use his media analysis to conduct a worldwide propaganda campaign, deploying teams of information warriors to allied nations to assist them 'in developing and delivering specific messages to the local population, combatants, front-line states, the media and the international community.' Among the places Rendon's info-war teams would be sent were Jakarta, Indonesia; Islamabad, Pakistan; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Cairo; Ankara, Turkey; and Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The teams would produce and script television news segments 'built around themes and story lines supportive of U.S. policy objectives.'

"Rendon was also charged with engaging in 'military deception' online -- an activity once assigned to the OSI. The company was contracted to monitor Internet chat rooms in both English and Arabic -- and 'participate in these chat rooms when/if tasked.' Rendon would also create a Web site 'with regular news summaries and feature articles. Targeted at the global public, in English and at least four (4) additional languages, this activity also will include an extensive e-mail push operation.' These techniques are commonly used to plant a variety of propaganda, including false information," Bamford wrote.

Baghdad Press Club

Fake News

The Los Angeles Times' Mark Mazzetti and Borzou Daragahi reported November 30, 2005, that, "[a]s part of an information offensive in Iraq, the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written" by American "information operations" troops, which are then "translated into Arabic and placed in Baghdad newspapers ... in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq."

"The operation is designed to mask any connection with the U.S. military. The Pentagon has a contract with a small Washington-based firm called Lincoln Group, which helps translate and place the stories. The Lincoln Group's Iraqi staff, or its subcontractors, sometimes pose as freelance reporters or advertising executives when they deliver the stories to Baghdad media outlets," Mazzetti and Daragahi wrote. "The military's effort to disseminate propaganda in the Iraqi media is taking place even as U.S. officials are pledging to promote democratic principles, political transparency and freedom of speech in a country emerging from decades of dictatorship and corruption."

Military officials who are "familiar with the effort in Iraq" and "spoke on condition of anonymity because they are critical of the effort and were not authorized to speak publicly about it" said that it was "being directed by" the Information Operations Task Force in Baghdad, part of the Multi-National Corps-Iraq commanded by Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines."

Mazzetti and Daragahi wrote the "arrangement with Lincoln Group is evidence of how far the Pentagon has moved to blur the traditional boundaries between military public affairs — the dissemination of factual information to the media — and psychological and information operations, which use propaganda and sometimes misleading information to advance the objectives of a military campaign."

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2005