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February 24, 2011 7:06 AM   Subscribe

Army Psy Ops Units Targeted American Senators
posted by empath (77 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Why would does it seem so revolutionary in this country to simply demand that our country cannot spy or conduct psy ops at all?
posted by lslelel at 7:11 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Impossible. These senators are the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human beings I've ever known in my life.
posted by The Whelk at 7:11 AM on February 24, 2011 [33 favorites]


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.

Oh, they can spin Afghan leaders too.

In a meeting Sunday at the presidential palace in Kabul to investigate reports of multiple civilian deaths in a US operation in Konar province, General David Petraeus deeply offended those present when he suggested that Afghan civilians had deliberately burned their children in an effort to blame US attacks for their injuries.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:15 AM on February 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


Bad general

No promotion


I am a fan of spying, but psy-ops strike me as hilariously ineffective and/or pretentious marketing.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:17 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


[...]the general wanted the IO team to provide a "deeper analysis of pressure points we could use to leverage the delegation for more funds."

Isn't "deeper analysis of pressure points, used to leverage for more funds" just the definition of politics in general?
posted by Rykey at 7:17 AM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Levine, who has a spotless record and 19 service awards after 16 years in the military, including a tour of duty in Kuwait and Iraq, fears that she has become "the collateral damage" in the military’s effort to retaliate against Holmes. "It will probably end my career," she says. "My father was an officer, and I believed officers would never act like this. I was devastated. I’ve lost my faith in the military, and I couldn’t in good conscience recommend anyone joining right now."
posted by notion at 7:18 AM on February 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


Excuse the rant ahead, but I've been reading about the situation in Wisconsin this morning and it has made me angry. Here's the thing: America needs to be taken back: from the Pentagon and its deception operatives, from the big banks and Wall Street executives, from union-busting governors, from insane right-wing media propagandists, from corporate greed, and from lame, equivocating, Democrats-in-name-only. Enough is enough.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 7:21 AM on February 24, 2011 [32 favorites]


...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."

Is this accurate or hyperbole?
posted by sswiller at 7:25 AM on February 24, 2011


Dear Rolling Stone: I appreciate your political reporting. However, why are there huge, bold links to other articles in the middle of this one? They look like section titles. I am confused, and more importantly ANNOYED. And I had to stop reading cause I felt like I was being constantly spammed.
posted by threeturtles at 7:26 AM on February 24, 2011 [10 favorites]


I fucking love Michael Hastings.
posted by enn at 7:27 AM on February 24, 2011


Bad general. No promotion.

Treason doth never prosper: what’s the reason?
Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:34 AM on February 24, 2011 [17 favorites]


What the hell is left if you want to be a whack job conspiracy theorist? I am running out of options here!
posted by srboisvert at 7:34 AM on February 24, 2011 [9 favorites]


<naive>Shouldn't the military focus on executing policy, rather than creating it?</naive>
posted by blue_beetle at 7:35 AM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


threeturtles: However, why are there huge, bold links to other articles in the middle of this one?

Because it's the latest media whizbang tomfoolery and they think they'll keep your wandering attention this way. Time and Newsweek and all the big boys do it so it must be great!

The Emperor of Ice Cream: Here's the thing: America needs to be taken back

Yeah, Howard Beale would've pretty much been shot on the spot these days (instead of the network allowing him to rant for a few weeks to spike the ratings before offing him). Max Schumacher would have been right behind him. And Diana Christensen would have been made the chairman of the network.
posted by blucevalo at 7:36 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll say it: This borders on coup d'etat.
posted by DU at 7:40 AM on February 24, 2011


No, it doesn't. It's a general who thinks he's a politician and has no idea how psychology works and wasted a bunch of money. A coup d'état is a huge stretch.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:43 AM on February 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


Excuse the rant ahead, but I've been reading about the situation in Wisconsin this morning and it has made me angry. Here's the thing: America needs to be taken back: from the Pentagon and its deception operatives, from the big banks and Wall Street executives, from union-busting governors, from insane right-wing media propagandists, from corporate greed, and from lame, equivocating, Democrats-in-name-only. Enough is enough.

Not that this isn't a great sentiment, but this conclusion was reached decades ago. If you have some specific ideas that we should be trying, please share.
posted by odinsdream at 7:44 AM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


"It’s not illegal if I say it isn’t!"

Right on, Colonel Nixon.

This has everything, smear, intrigue. Yes. I'm interested in what was done with Adm. Mullen because Woodward's "Obama's Wars" really put him solidly in the corner of war expansion at all costs.
posted by IvoShandor at 7:44 AM on February 24, 2011


At least the last decade has convinced me that I'm not the crazy one around here.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:45 AM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Isn't "deeper analysis of pressure points, used to leverage for more funds" just the definition of politics in general?

It really sounds more like the definition of blackmail. Do I sigh or do I lol?
posted by elizardbits at 7:47 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Caldwell seemed far more focused on the Americans and the funding stream than he was on the Afghans.

Hey, listen, if your customer is the senate, and your supplier is Iraq's Afghanistan's body count, you have to keep the supply chain lubricated at both ends.
posted by lalochezia at 7:54 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


so the army has a marketing department, so what?
posted by rebent at 7:56 AM on February 24, 2011


As a professional psychology student, soon to be a professional industrial/organizational psychologist, I am frequently upset by the disturbing use of "psy" to mean "voodoo magic"
posted by rebent at 7:58 AM on February 24, 2011


I fucking love Michael Hastings.

Yeah, it's too bad he lost his "access" by writing up that article on McChrystal. Oh, wait.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 8:16 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jim White:

... just one more instance in an ongoing pattern of information manipulation and outright deception on the part of the military in recent years. A few recent examples include the use of retired generals posing as independent military analysts to spout information coordinated by the Pentagon, [and] intentional deception to cover up Special Operations troops digging bullets out of the bodies of pregnant women they killed in a night raid...
posted by Joe Beese at 8:19 AM on February 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


I am a fan of spying, but psy-ops strike me as hilariously ineffective and/or pretentious marketing.

That is what makes them so much fun!
posted by b1tr0t at 8:20 AM on February 24, 2011


I seriously thought this was going to be an Onion piece.
posted by misha at 8:41 AM on February 24, 2011


No, it doesn't. It's a general who thinks he's a politician and has no idea how psychology works and wasted a bunch of money. A coup d'état is a huge stretch.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:43 AM on 2/24
[+] [!]


When uniformed Generals start to see themselves as politicians and start to exert political pressure on real politicians then at the very least you find yourself in a pre-coup stage.

The reason that the US is supposed to have a bright and clear separation between military and politics is because once the Generals start playing political games eventually they realize that they have guns and congress doesn't. Then you have tanks on the White House lawn and that's that.
posted by Avenger at 8:44 AM on February 24, 2011 [23 favorites]



As a professional psychology student, soon to be a professional industrial/organizational psychologist, I am frequently upset by the disturbing use of "psy" to mean "voodoo magic"


Well, there you go: I/O psych majors aren't required to take any classes on voodoo magic to satisfy the degree requirements. Cog psych, on the other hand, you're required to have 12 hours, but it's mostly just theoretical. You don't get the really applied voodoo magic stuff unless you're going for a social psychology degree.
posted by logicpunk at 8:51 AM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


The reason that the US is supposed to have a bright and clear separation between military and politics is because once the Generals start playing political games eventually they realize that they have guns and congress doesn't.

The origins of the military coup of 2012
posted by empath at 8:53 AM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


one man's psy ops is another man's advertising - one man's detection of "hot-button issues" is another man's focus group

the news here isn't that it's done - it's done all the time to all of us - the news here is that some people think it isn't ever and shouldn't ever be done to senators and congresspeople
posted by pyramid termite at 9:01 AM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Clearly, we need to get our hands on some hallucination tablets.
posted by The Whelk at 9:05 AM on February 24, 2011


Yeah, I knew someone who was in psy-ops and as a psychology student, I was appalled at what he thought "psychology" meant.

I'm still not sure how dropping flyers from planes is supposed to win hearts and minds, exactly. More stupid shit the government spends money on.
posted by threeturtles at 9:06 AM on February 24, 2011


I'm glad to see that our military budget, which should never ever be cut, still has the money, time, and energy to mess with borderline pseudoscience.

Are we still having psychics look at major energy bases from afar and guessing that there's maybe a crane there somewhere?
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:06 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, if the military is using psyops, does this mean the Tea Party needs to expand their brains with experimental psychoactive drugs if they're serious about that whole armed revolution thing?
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:09 AM on February 24, 2011


Are we talking psy-ops like leaflet crafting, or are we talking about a more serious kind of psy-op? Like roofies in their drinks and pictures of them in bed naked with Thai Ladyboys flown in for the occasion, oxytocin spiked in their drink before a presentation, fake attacks staged while they are in the theater of operations?
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:11 AM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Eisenhouer was prescient.
posted by jaduncan at 9:15 AM on February 24, 2011


Like roofies in their drinks and pictures of them in bed naked with Thai Ladyboys flown in for the occasion, oxytocin spiked in their drink before a presentation, fake attacks staged while they are in the theater of operations?

That would be making the assumption that these people are competent. Always dangerous.
posted by threeturtles at 9:16 AM on February 24, 2011


Eisenhouer was prescient president.
posted by piratebowling at 9:18 AM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Are we talking psy-ops like leaflet crafting, or are we talking about a more serious kind of psy-op? Like roofies in their drinks and pictures of them in bed naked with Thai Ladyboys flown in for the occasion, oxytocin spiked in their drink before a presentation, fake attacks staged while they are in the theater of operations?

Nope. We're talking wheat-pasting shitty propaganda and coming up with 300 page documents on how to win hearts and minds.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:20 AM on February 24, 2011


Isn't "deeper analysis of pressure points, used to leverage for more funds" just the definition of politics in general?

One point is that miltary psy-ops units are different: They are in some sense a weapon, and in theory use a much more serious version of psychology and manipulation than the civilian versions. Whether that's actually true is beside the basic giant fucking point we don't even talk about anymore:

You're NOT supposed to use the military against your own citizens. Any of them.
posted by freebird at 9:20 AM on February 24, 2011 [15 favorites]


I want this to be investigated by a Federal grand jury rather than be an internal Army investigation.
I don't trust the military to “regulate themselves.”
posted by davel at 9:23 AM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Information Ops (newer name for PsyOps) is propaganda, Public Affairs is spin. The military has people in both. The General in question used his IO people in a Public Affairs role, a big no-no.

Here's an example, it would be ok for an IO team to photoshop a picture to show something that if disseminated to the right people, aided a particular mission statement. Public Affairs could not do that.

What the General asked for wasn't over the line (though it is kind of sketchy), it was who he asked to do it that was incredibly bone headed. Part of Information Warfare includes misdirection and lying. For example, make the enemy think there's going to be an airborne assault here, where in reality the tanks are coming in from over there, and stuff like that. So had he asked his Public Affairs Officer to handle the congressional delegation in this way, no one would blink an eye. They might wonder about his allocation of resources and priorities, and take mental notes to stay clear of this guy in the future, but that's about it.

Using IO gives the impression (warranted or not) that the General was amenable to misleading the congressional delegation for his or the Army's benefit. That is the fundamental issue, no one's saying the General mislead anyone, but he crossed a line that's there to prevent one from getting close to that particular slippery slope.
posted by forforf at 9:35 AM on February 24, 2011 [15 favorites]


Army Psy Ops Units Targeted American Senators

This is news? WWII had propaganda which got re-branded as Public Relations and PR is alive and well.

The people who thought up Operation Northwoods - were they fired and stripped of their bennie packages? How about the guy who pitched "lets fly a U2 low enough to have it shot down by Saddam so we'd have a pretext to invade" - did (s)he get fired and de-pentioned?

Ideas where one arm of the Government lie to its citizens don't seem to have reactions beyond tounge clicking when caught. Why would anyone stop with ideas like Northwoods or cointelpro if there is no punishment?
posted by rough ashlar at 9:39 AM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


What the General asked for wasn't over the line [...], it was who he asked to do it that was incredibly bone headed.

*Who* is asked is a big part of what *defines* the line.

Would it be reasonable for a general to send an aide to ask a bunch of protesters to go home? Probably. Would it be OK if the asking was done through armed soldiers? Less so. Who does the task is meaningful.
posted by freebird at 9:50 AM on February 24, 2011


I'm still not sure how dropping flyers from planes is supposed to win hearts and minds, exactly. More stupid shit the government spends money on.

Maybe the flyers are Groupons?

I'm trying to joke here, but srboisvert and Benny Andajetz are right. Beliefs that at one time would have been considered conspiracy thinking and insane now can't be dismissed so easily. Black sites, mass electronic surveillance, military psy-ops on citizens... The mistrust and conspiracy thinking alone is incredibly destructive to a democracy. When the people don't trust the government, they lose sight of the positive things the government provides. And then we have Wisconsin.
posted by formless at 9:51 AM on February 24, 2011


"I was devastated. I’ve lost my faith in the military, and I couldn’t in good conscience recommend anyone joining right now."

I am glad her career in Psy Ops was productive. Hey, maybe she could work for Rolling Stone or Hollywood. You folks see the massive irony no?
posted by clavdivs at 9:57 AM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Formless -- does this warrant a high enough level of organization to signify conspiracy? I'm not sure it is, but i may be desensitized.
posted by Sweetdefenestration at 10:11 AM on February 24, 2011


See the Hatch Act of 1939.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:32 AM on February 24, 2011


Sorry, I meant conspiracy in the other sense, as in conspiracy theory.
posted by formless at 10:33 AM on February 24, 2011


For those who doubt that this stuff works, this document should be enlightening. It's an analysis of the Information Operations used to sell us the Iraq War, written by a retired Air Force Colonel who used to teach strategy and military operations at the National War College, Air War College and Naval War College.

Truth from These Podia: Summary of a Study of Strategic Influence, Perception Management, Strategic Information Warfare and Strategic Psychological Operations in Gulf II (PDF) by Sam Gardiner, Colonel, USAF (Retired).
posted by scalefree at 10:38 AM on February 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


psy-ops strike me as hilariously ineffective and/or pretentious marketing

They're not, and it's not.
posted by IvoShandor at 10:42 AM on February 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


What the hell is left if you want to be a whack job conspiracy theorist?

Lizard people. Maybe the hollow earth. That's about it, really.
posted by steambadger at 10:43 AM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Don't forget the contrails.
posted by IvoShandor at 10:44 AM on February 24, 2011


It's a general who thinks he's a politician

Generals are politicians.
posted by Gelatin at 11:04 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd say generals have to be very politically savvy in order to a) be promoted, b) get funding and resources for the things they need to do. I can't speak for the history of the military and politics, but certainly in George W Bush's administration, generals that did not enthusiastically support the party line (even when they were taking apolitical opposing viewpoints based on evidence) were shuffled out to be replaced by more compliant people. See, for example, General Shinseki saying a post-war Iraq would need hundreds of thousands of troops, while Rumsfeld was claiming a much lower number: Gen. Shinseki:

Some civilians in government and military officers say General Shinseki’s treatment [by the administration] intimidated other top officers.

“It sent a very clear signal to the military leadership about how that kind of military judgment was going to be valued,” said Kori Schake, the director for defense strategy on the National Security Council staff from 2002 to 2005, now a fellow at the Hoover Institution and a professor at West Point. “So it served to silence critics just at the point in time when, internal to the process, you most wanted critical judgment.”


We're in an era where generals get called, sometimes by the opposing political side, to make public testimony on the Commander in Chief and Secretary of Defense's plans. A general who is not political may get one opportunity to speak in such a forum before being sidelined or asked to retire.
posted by zippy at 11:28 AM on February 24, 2011


So dumb and so illegal. The retaliation is even worse.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:32 AM on February 24, 2011


The uplifting thing here is that at least one officer (and probably many on his staff) did all he could short of mutiny to uphold the law. Hopefully the damage to their careers will be either minimized or undone.

The tough part of being in the military is that the onus is still on the individual service(wo)man to know when to say, "Screw your orders, they're illegal." In a lot of ways, that's probably scarier than combat -- but it's part of the trust you take on when you take that oath and wear that uniform.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:32 AM on February 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


I love the this. It was much better than "Cats". I will refresh again and again.
posted by I love you more when I eat paint chips at 11:40 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think that this has taught us all a very important lesson: your Jedi mind tricks don't work on Al Fucking Franken.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:04 PM on February 24, 2011


It's a general who thinks he's a politician and has no idea how psychology works and wasted a bunch of money. A coup d'état is a huge stretch.

It's only a crime if you succeed in committing a crime. This is why "attempted murder" isn't a crime. I'm like 95% sure about this.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:05 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


your Jedi mind tricks don't work on Al Fucking Franken.

That's because the Force is only a powerful influence over the weak minded.
posted by hippybear at 12:10 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


your Jedi mind tricks don't work on Al Fucking Franken.

/waves hand
"These are not the budget cuts you are looking for..."
posted by 445supermag at 12:15 PM on February 24, 2011


I have no doubt that what he did was unethical and perhaps illegal. Corrupt, yes, ambitious, yes, but he wanted a fourth star, not to overturn the government.

A coup d'état? Please. Focus on the shit he actually did instead of dramatizing. It's dramatic enough within the bounds of reality.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:22 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why would anyone stop with ideas like Northwoods or cointelpro if there is no punishment?

I guess we'll see. Because an investigation of the allegations has begun.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:25 PM on February 24, 2011


General uses his staff to find out what kind of coffee visiting dignitaries like, and what team they support so he can pretend to be totally like them.

Rain is wet.
posted by dougrayrankin at 12:43 PM on February 24, 2011


Rain is wet

So career military officers are ruining their own career by refusing to find out what coffee congressmen drink?
posted by rakish_yet_centered at 12:51 PM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Real security can only be attained in the long run through confusion."

—Hilton Howell Railey.
posted by clavdivs at 3:03 PM on February 24, 2011


Information Ops (newer name for PsyOps) is propaganda, Public Affairs is spin. The military has people in both. The General in question used his IO people in a Public Affairs role, a big no-no.

I'd like to know where the bright line is supposed to exist between propaganda, public relations, and marketing. Whether it's employed by the military, by political figures, or by business, it all boils down to sneaky ways of influencing people by appealing to their emotions rather than their intellect. It very much does work, which is why companies spend so much money on advertising and why the effectiveness of a political campaign depends so heavily on its financing.

Don't misread me; I'm not saying the officers who objected had nothing to complain about. On the contrary - they call into question how a military Public Affairs department (which "should" have been handling the senators) can possibly ethically exist and operate.
posted by Marla Singer at 7:39 PM on February 24, 2011


More and more, Dr. Strangelove looks less surreal, less satirical, and more like a documentary.
posted by Xoebe at 10:00 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dr,Strangelove started life as a deadly serious drama.
posted by The Whelk at 10:04 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because Sen. John McCain, yeah, there's an adamantly stubborn, hard headed unshakable tree stump of a man who you couldn't get to change position with a heavy tractor and a handjob. I think he paints his house a different color if the wind blows out of the west that day.

So we've got to spend millions and hours to... what? Get him on board with what he's already on board with?
Do the canapes add another $7 million in appropriations?
posted by Smedleyman at 12:24 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm still not sure how dropping flyers from planes is supposed to win hearts and minds, exactly. More stupid shit the government spends money on.

Its not the fact that they're dropping flyers. Its whats on the flyers. Its a way of communicating to a lot of people. The most conservative word I can use is "creative" to describe what is on the flyers.

Also, you can probably guess what kind of shit goes on to keep "flyers dropped from an airplane" as a current tactic. I mean they did that back in the day when people didn't have TVs, not many people had radios...and people had never seen an electronic computer. Why are we still doing that?
posted by hal_c_on at 1:53 AM on February 25, 2011


Eisenwhoer?
posted by cookie-k at 9:34 AM on February 25, 2011


‘Illegal Psyop’ Neither Illegal Nor Psyop, General’s Lawyer Ruled
posted by homunculus at 8:54 AM on February 28, 2011


those rocks need another whitewash.
posted by clavdivs at 11:12 AM on February 28, 2011


The military/media attacks on the Hastings article
posted by homunculus at 9:06 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


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