the acknowledged general of such propaganda warfare
November 19, 2005 10:58 AM   Subscribe

The Rendon Group -- covert perception managers using our taxpayer money to start wars. ... the product of a clandestine operation -- part espionage, part PR campaign -- that had been set up and funded by the CIA and the Pentagon for the express purpose of selling the world a war. ... it was hired by the CIA to help "create the conditions for the removal of Hussein from power." Working under this extraordinary transfer of secret authority, Rendon assembled a group of anti-Saddam militants, personally gave them their name -- the Iraqi National Congress -- and served as their media guru and "senior adviser" as they set out to engineer an uprising against Saddam. ... Rolling Stone thoroughly documents the way we pay to be lied into war and one of the people who do it. From Noriega and Panama through to Chalabi, Miller, al-Haideri, Bush, and you.
posted by amberglow (38 comments total)
The Rendon Group responds here. Pretty damning. Methinks this is an example of journalist looking for the "facts" to confirm his existing opinion.

I'm sure the poster would never do that, of course.
posted by docgonzo at 11:25 AM on November 19, 2005

not that damning at all i don't think--and they're paid to lie, so why believe them? What that letter says to me is that they're scared.
posted by amberglow at 11:37 AM on November 19, 2005

and don't forget what they didn't respond to--the INC, Chalabi, al-Haideri, feeding lies to Miller, the whole Iraq thing ...
posted by amberglow at 11:38 AM on November 19, 2005

My favorite part of the "damning rebuttal."

Finally, Mr. Bamford implies that the location of his interview with Mr. Rendon, the menu and the expensive French wine were all of Mr. Rendon's choosing. Readers of Rolling Stone should know that Mr. Rendon was an invited guest to Mr. Bamford's elite Washington club described in the story and that Mr. Bamford ordered the French wine and lamb chops. Mr. Rendon had seafood.
posted by zach4000 at 12:40 PM on November 19, 2005

they're paid to lie, so why believe them?

But then, Bamford is paid to write the kind of articles that Rolling Stone readers want to read, so....
posted by event at 12:44 PM on November 19, 2005

Just a warning, Bamford has been taken to task before about his reporting. In his book on the NSA he used quotes from Israeli soldiers stating they had murdered and buried Egyptian soldiers in a mass grave in the Sinai Peninsula during the Six Day War.

"Consider, first, the statement of Gabi Bron, who today covers the Knesset for Yediot Aharonot, Israel's largest daily. In the book, Bamford says Bron witnessed a massacre of 150 Egyptian prisoners at El Arish, citing a press clipping in which Bron is quoted as follows: "The Egyptian prisoners of war were ordered to dig pits and then army police shot them to death." But the Bron statement refers not to a mass killing of Egyptians but to an isolated incident: the execution of five Palestinian guerrillas who had posed as Egyptian soldiers after killing Israelis. Bamford would have learned this if, instead of relying on a clip, he had actually spoken to Bron, who is easily reachable. "The one hundred and fifty POWs were not shot, and there were no mass murders," Bron told me when I called. "In fact, we helped prisoners, gave them water, and in most cases just sent them in the direction of the [Suez] Canal."

- Michael Oren, The New Republic, 07/23/2001
posted by PenDevil at 12:58 PM on November 19, 2005

so what's the truth? im venturing toward nihilism again...
posted by j-urb at 1:25 PM on November 19, 2005

Read Truth From These Podia by Sam Gardner to understand the systematic deception paid for with your tax dollars. Rendon gets a mention (as does Gardner in the RS article.)

After so much of the pre-war hype has been discredited, some people are still shocked (shocked!) that anyone could possibly accuse the Bush Administration of lying. "Lying" isn't even a strong enough word to fully describe the psyops they performed on the American people to garner support for a war of choice. They waged a well-funded, systematic, and willful campaign of lies upon lies upon lies.

I'll grant them this...with such expensive Kool-Aid, it's no wonder so many found it so tasty. I never had the taste for it, myself.
posted by edverb at 1:31 PM on November 19, 2005

"TRG reviews open source media reports for the Department of Defense and analyzes and charts positive and negative trends very much the same way public opinion researchers analyze polling data."

I talked to these guys at a career fair last year, and while they wouldn't say exactly what they were doing *hint hint* they DEFINATELY gave the impression that they did on the ground news creation and opinion changing stuff in um, problem countries. I won't go so far to say it was out and out propaganda, but you know...
posted by stratastar at 1:42 PM on November 19, 2005

Mr. Bamford ordered the Freedom wine and plo chops. Mr. Rendon had seafood.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 1:45 PM on November 19, 2005

If you don't believe the conspiracy, YOU are part of the conspiracy.
posted by my sock puppet account at 2:07 PM on November 19, 2005 [1 favorite]

- Michael Oren, The New Republic, 07/23/2001
posted by PenDevil at 12:58 PM PST on November 19

I subscribe to TNR, but they aren't exactly known for saying something against Israel.

This is a great post.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 2:17 PM on November 19, 2005

Bush is the CEO president. The modern Republican party idolizes business and corporate behavior to a pathological extreme. Bush went about getting public support for his war the way any businessman would: he marketed it.

But there's the rub. Deception and manipulation are some of the primary tools of the marketers tool box. Whether it is mild deception that can be fobbed off as not wholly dishonest, to outright lying, as the infomercials of late night TV do. Unadulterated truth is not the marketers friend -- even if every word a pitch man says is true, you can rest assured it is only those elements of the truth that will get you to buy the product, not the truths that might dissuade. The manipulation is omnipresent, too. The sexy models that sell guys stuff, tapping into the subconscious and signaling to guys that product X gets you the chicks.

This is exactly how Bush sold his war. The intelligence that suggested Saddam had an active, dangerous program to build WMD was front and center: in the State of the Union address, in the speeches Bush gave, even in the sections of the NIE that were declassified and given to congress for their decision on a use of force. The intelligence that seriously questioned Saddam's WMD capability was not mentioned -- it was left in the classified sections of the NIE that only the Senate Intelligence Committee and Bush's White House could see. Bush played the manipulation game, too. Even though Iraq and 9/11 are wholly unrelated, I bet you can't find a single substantive speech that Bush gave that does not implicitly link the two. Even though the War on Terror™ is completely separate from the action in Iraq, Bush always portrays the two as irrevocably linked. Indeed, any dissent on Iraq is met with statements about terrorists, never mind that the two don't have a lot to do with each other.

That is how Bush sold his war: marketing. Whether or not Bush actually used a PR firm to mold the truth is not all that interesting to me. It's exactly what you would expect from a CEO president, and it's exactly what we got. Unfortunately, it is not all that healthy in a democracy to decide questions of life and death that way.

It is interesting, though, to know if Bush is unique, or whether or not this how the American government leads the people to war. Because it's a stain on democracy, if true.
posted by teece at 2:40 PM on November 19, 2005

good post. but the rendon letter was the damingest goshdamn most damning letter i've ever read that didn't deny anything other than the subject's food of choice, and selected semantical arguments.
posted by yonation at 2:44 PM on November 19, 2005

more on them from Chicago Tribune last week: Firm helps U.S. mold news abroad

and from Judicial Watch, this lovely little operation: ...Judicial Watch is seeking, among other matters; information on a “peace movement” Internet site that reportedly was funded and established by the Pentagon called “Empower Peace.” The site was developed by The Rendon Group, a media consultancy firm the Pentagon has paid more than $40 million dollars to since 2001, and targets participation of American school age children, teachers and schools in what appears to be a “grassroots” peace movement. The Rendon Group’s relationship with the Pentagon has been reported in the New York Times and public relations trade magazines. “Empower Peace” offers “cultural awareness,” interactive web broadcasts between New York and Jordan, as well as Boston and Bahrain, and interaction with school age children of Islamic countries. There is no indication on the site that it is a project of the U.S. Defense Department.

The Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 (22 U.S.C. ' 1461), forbids the domestic dissemination of U.S. government authored or developed propaganda or “official news” deliberately designed to influence public opinion or policy. The Pentagon has made aggressive use of various information warfare techniques, developing new programs and hiring outside media consultants in executing their various missions in the Global War on Terror.

posted by amberglow at 3:36 PM on November 19, 2005

and selected semantical arguments


posted by shmegegge at 3:45 PM on November 19, 2005

Now, I'm against the war, and Bush and I believe that the administration has engineered false controversy and mislead the american people to fight a war on behalf of middle eastern oil interests.


I would just like to point out that, lies or not, the rendon rebuttal does a lot more than question the meal choice. in case others in thread haven't read it.

For the record, the Rendon Group (TRG) had no role whatsoever in making the case for the Iraq war, here at home or internationally. Mr. Bamford's contention to the contrary is flatly untrue.

The Rendon Group does not produce or disseminate false information and has no connection at all with Judith Miller's work.

etc... I'm not inclined to believe a word they say, and I believe they're lying bastards involved in the public deception of americans, but let's at least acknowledge what they said when determining its veracity.
posted by shmegegge at 3:49 PM on November 19, 2005

So, shall we be thankful that the war currently being conducted against us Americans is only one of psyops, disinformation, and bullshit? I miss the good old days of CoIntelPro.
posted by ahimsakid at 4:34 PM on November 19, 2005

teece writes "Bush went about getting public support for his war the way any businessman would: he marketed it."

"From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August." -Andy Card, speaking about what would become Operation Iraqi Freedom
posted by clevershark at 5:17 PM on November 19, 2005

a “peace movement” Internet site that reportedly was funded and established by the Pentagon called “Empower Peace.” The site was developed by The Rendon Group

Wow. They didn't even try to cover their tracks on this one.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:09 PM on November 19, 2005

And following the contact address in that Whois listing, they're involved in Godlike Productions??? WTF?

The Rendon Group - Youth Marketing
Harmony. The Rendon Group, Inc. | 44 Bromfield Street, 8th Floor | Boston, MA 02108 | T: 617.536.6033 | F: 617.536.6409 | E: - 10k -

Godlike Productions -- Forum
hmmmm. "for more than 20 years, TRG has specialized in public relations, ... ...

Renewable Energy Trust
... Project Website, Contact Information, Deliverables. Tricia Raynard, The Rendon Group. (617) 912-3821. ...[PDF]
posted by hank at 6:21 PM on November 19, 2005

"But [Aftergood continues,] there appears to be no verifiable evidence that such a massacre ever took place, and Bamford's description of events at El Arish doesn't hold up. Thus, he attributes to Israeli journalist Gabi Bron a claim that 150 prisoners were executed there. But Bron himself denies that and says 'there were no mass murders.'"

Where Aftergood relied on Oren's selective view of Israeli history, I relied on such news organization as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Jewish Telegraph Agency, and many other respected press organs both in the U.S. and Israel. Below are some examples:

The following is from an article ("ISRAEL REPORTEDLY KILLED POWS IN '67 WAR: HISTORIANS SAY DEATHS OF HUNDREDS OF EGYPTIANS WAS COVERED UP") in The Washington Post on August 17, 1995:

"Israeli soldiers killed hundreds of Egyptian prisoners of war during the 1967 Middle East war - deaths that commanders who are now prominent leaders have known about for years, historians said today. The controversy involves some top politicians, including Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and legislator Rafael Eitan [who also gave us U.S. Navy spy Jonathan Pollard, and then lied about it], a former army chief. The allegations dominated news shows, shocking many Israelis who have long prized the notion that their army maintained high ethical standards throughout decades of warfare with the Arab world and military rule over Palestinians. The Army spokesman, Brig. Gen. Amos Gilad, refused to comment. Rabin, who was chief of staff when some of the 1967 killings allegedly were committed, walked away today when a reporter shouted a related question. His office later issued a statement denouncing the killings and calling them isolated incidents.
"Military historian Aryeh Yitzhaki said today that Israeli troops carried out several mass killings in 1967 in which about 1,000 Egyptian prisoners were slain in the Sinai. Yitzhaki, who worked in the army's history department after the war, said he and other officers collected testimony from dozens of solders who admitted killing POWs. He said a report on the killings submitted to his superiors has been locked in a safe at military headquarters.

"Another Israeli historian, Uri Milstein, said there were many incidents in the 1967 war in which Egyptian soldiers were killed by Israeli troops after they had raised their hands in surrender.

"It was not an official policy, but there was an atmosphere that it was okay to do it," Milstein said. "Some commanders decided to do it; others refused. But everyone knew about it."

The following is from an article ("HISTORIAN ALLEGES POW DEATHS IN 1956, 1967") posted by the Jewish Telegraph Agency on August 17, 1995:

"An Israeli military historian has said he knew of hundreds of Egyptian prisoners of war who were killed during the 1967 Six-Day War by Israel Defense Force troops, including a unit headed by the current Israeli housing minister. Military historian Aryeh Yitzhaki of Bar-Illan University told Israel Radio on Wednesday that the killings involved a crack unit led by now Housing Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. Yitzhaki said the executions of 300 to 400 Egyptian commandos in El Arish was the worse case he knew, given that many of the Egyptians had surrendered. They were killed by members of the Shaked commando unit under the command of Ben-Eliezer, a lieutenant colonel at the time, he said. Ben-Eliezer said he was unaware of any prisoner killings.
"Referring to the Six-Day War, Yitzhaki said not only were the executions known, but a report he prepared in 1968 on the deaths was not released under instructions from higher authorities. Responding to the reports, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said he thought such incidents were exceptions to the norm and that they should be condemned by all."...
Response to charges made in Secrecy News on July 17, 2001.

In his response there, Bamford cites articles written by people other than him quoting people other than Bron on the topic of Israeli massacres of Egyptian POWs. Have Uri Milstein and Aryeh Yitzhaki recanted or their accounts refuted ?

Hmm, Bamford cites these massacre articles in realtion to his acoount of the attack on the U.S.S. Liberty. Regarding said attack he cites several high level American officials. This one was especially telling:

-- Richard Helms, Director of Central Intelligence at the time: "Your chapter on the Liberty was exactly right."

Now talk about damning,. especially considering the source. I wonder what evidence there is to substantiate that Richard Helms did not say that.
posted by y2karl at 6:53 PM on November 19, 2005

The really telling thing about the rebuttal is that it's just that, a public rebuttal/letter to the editor. It seems to me that if Rolling Stone's reporter really did lie, fabricate, misrepresent, etc., then what they would be doing is bringing a libel suit, not writing a polite, vaguely humorous letter to the editor. Who knows? Some of the things in the letter may even be accurate (few reporters get all the facts right in a piece of that size). Nonetheless, libel suits have been brought or threatened for far less. I think what this would seem to indicate is that either the substance of the Rolling Stone article is true or Rendon is concerned about what else might come to light during a lawsuit.

Regardless, none of this surprises me in the least anymore, abhorrent though it is.
posted by jedicus at 8:36 PM on November 19, 2005

Something seems very strange here.

The article says the dinner with Bamford was the first interview Rendon has granted in decades. He's someone who spends his entire life working on public perception and information control. He must have had some specific reasons and objectives for doing this kind of thing.

What were the circumstances of the dinner? How much of the article's information was from that interview, and how much from outside research? Rendon must have known from Bamford's previous work that he'd be ready to go to press with this. And yet Rendon wanted the interview anyway. Why?
posted by H-Bar at 9:27 PM on November 19, 2005

just theorizing, but laura rozen has a post indicating that the OSI was just recently exposed because of a misaddressed email sent by a Rendon employee, and that all the contractors from the group were basically thrown out on their asses.

it's possible that Rendon decided to go rogue; it's probably more likely that since he knew his contract was up and that they'd been exposed, Rendon doesn't have all that much to lose by granting this interview. he probably knows that the administration's under the gun right now, he's not getting any new contracts for a while, and that he has something to gain from the PR; he also probably knows that he's likely to get rehired anyway. guys like that don't just go away and it's unlikely that he's actually in legal jeopardy from any of this, being just a contractor.
posted by spiderwire at 9:50 PM on November 19, 2005

It hardly does justice to James Bamford to call him "Rolling Stone's Reporter". He's done excellent work in documenting the NSA in the past; his books 'The Puzzle Palace' and 'Body of Secrets' are both excellent and give a lot of insight into the agency.
posted by AaronRaphael at 10:04 PM on November 19, 2005

I don't really understand why a Peace Movement website (scarey quotes) is in anyway creating illegal "official news"... In the end, the impression I get is that they're just a government PR firm, nothing more nothing less. And being outed kinda hurts their ability to act as an effective PR firm.
posted by stratastar at 10:06 PM on November 19, 2005

stratastar: And being outed kinda hurts their ability to act as an effective PR firm.

what? first of all, the notion of a DoD funded peace movement website that's obviously intended to defuse the domestic anti-war movement is (a) probably illegal and (b) at the very least, goddamn sketchy. second, the fact that they have to be outed before they can be discredited is the entire problem. that's like saying "well, now that Armstrong Williams was outed, he can't be a paid shill for No Child Left Behind." the whole problem is that he should have had to be outed in the first place, because it's deceptive and really just flat-out wrong for the administration to be contracted out PR agents with taxpayer money to sell partisan programs to the public. additionally, it highlights the fact that if these programs hadn't been outed, they'd still be doing this stuff right now. we, the public, shouldn't have to be calling out the administration for stuff that they shouldn't be doing over and over again, and it of course leads me (and many others) to wonder just how much stuff they've gotten away with so far that they've managed to keep under the radar (especially considering that they managed to keep stuff like the OSI and its descendants out of the public eye for so long, and that's after being reprimanded about it and told to stop.) and on top of all that, the fact that they were doing this to sell a war just boggles the mind. where's the gulf of tonkin outrage here?

what's so hard to understand about this? this is simply not the way our government is designed to work. this is pervasive, covert corruption at the highest levels of the government, designed to short-circuit the public's ability to make rational decisions about policy, which is the bedrock of a stable and fair republican government. it's abhorrent that they've been allowed to get away with this stuff.
posted by spiderwire at 2:40 AM on November 20, 2005

also, i'd like to second AaronRaphael's comment about Body of Secrets -- it's an excellent book, and very even-handed. it's not a tinfoil-hat "oh my god, the NSA knows everything" sort of investigation. it's a comprehensive history of signals intelligence and really left me with a deeper understanding of the Agency and the important purpose that it serves. sure, they're a little scary, but that's what intelligence agencies are like much of the time. it's a good book -- felt like it gave me more understand and respect for the Agency and the difficult and specialized task that they're asked to perform.
posted by spiderwire at 2:44 AM on November 20, 2005

Still, Bamford is no Seymour Hersh. There is an insinuating tone to his article that ultimately works to undermine its believability. The way, for instance, he drops fairly innocuous quotes from sources into paragraphs pre-built to overshadow them with sinister context. That's lousy journalism.
posted by It ain't over yet at 5:58 AM on November 20, 2005

The way, for instance, he drops fairly innocuous quotes from sources into paragraphs pre-built to overshadow them with sinister context.

Those were probably the pull quotes in the original article and they were most likely chosen by the editor.
posted by effwerd at 7:26 AM on November 20, 2005

I want to second edverb's pointer to Truth from These Podia. The author, Sam Gardiner, Colonel, USAF (Rtd.), taught strategy and military operations at the National War College, Air War College and Naval War College. He lays out a clear & compelling case that the Administration & military used Information Warfare techniques in a domestic campaign to influence the American public into supporting the war in Iraq. This guy taught theory of warfare to future American officers, his ideas carry a lot of weight with me.

[note: I'm a longtime Usenet warrior, but this is my first MeFi post. Be kind to me.]
posted by scalefree at 8:02 AM on November 20, 2005

spiderwire: sorry you mistook my comment for stupidity rather than inuredness to what I assumed was standard operations to sell a war that they wanted sold.
posted by stratastar at 8:25 AM on November 20, 2005

I'll second the recommendation of Laura Rozen's web page War and Piece, for more on this. Including:

" ... this is not a denial at all. It is a statement that someone else has issued a denial. (Hey, Rendon doesn't get paid $300 an hour for nothing). ..."
posted by hank at 9:47 AM on November 20, 2005

Is anyone else hitting a point where their apathy is about a mutate into a more stringent, militant form? "I don't care, and neither should you, so knock it off!"

In THIS corner, we have the mainstream media, who have become such whores to advertising dollars that they will run absolutely anything without adequate fact-checking, so long as they think it will move more copy.

And in THIS corner, we have what is possibly the most morally bankrupt presidental administration ever, one which you can catch in a flat-out lie with video evidence and which will STILL not admit to wrongdoing. (and associated corporate ties)

So the press accuses a firm of being evil, and the firm responds with nothing besides "it's not true." Well, you can't prove a negative, so there's technically nothing else the firm needs. But the press has a number of "facts" on their side that may or may not have been made up, but even if they were in fact 100% true, the firm would still lie out their asses to confuse the issue.

And even if I personally were to sort this out and figure out what The Truth is, no one ELSE would know, and if I told them, they'd disbelieve me for the same reasons listed above.

Fuck it. Fuck it all. Let the pigfuckers ruin the world; they'll have to live in it too.
posted by InnocentBystander at 9:48 AM on November 20, 2005

One senior officer told CNN that the plan would "formalize government deception, dishonesty and misinformation."

For more than 20 years now, the senior guiding doctine of the US military has been something called C4I (Command, Control, Communications, Computers & Intelligence). Since 9/11 that's changed & now the senior doctrine is D5E (Destruction, Degradation, Denial, Disruption, Deceit & Exploitation (see JOINT POLICY FOR MILITARY DECEPTION: CJCSI 3211.01C)). Basically this means we've replaced skill at coordinating our own forces with skill at deceiving our enemies. The problem with this is that they've decided that in order to deceive our enemies it's also necessary to deceive our own people. Problem being, of course, that domestic deception isn't compatible with democracy.
posted by scalefree at 10:22 AM on November 20, 2005

or, rather, that they've decided that they have to deceive to implement their chosen policies (war, privatizing SS, enriching cronies, etc)
posted by amberglow at 11:49 AM on November 20, 2005

Let the pigfuckers ruin the world; they'll have to live in it too.

Yeah. And they'll have all they money and the nice houses. Sweet.

stratestar: i'm not saying you're stupid. it wasn't a stupid statement.

what i take issue with is being "inured" to the notion of the government creating fake peace movement in order to blunt legitimate criticisms of a war. infiltrating the peace movement was one of the more fucked up things that happened during vietnam, and to my mind this is significantly more pernicious.

i just disagree with the notion of extending our disillusionment to something that i see as uniquely worse than many of the other PR activities the administration's engaged in previously, that's all.
posted by spiderwire at 1:04 PM on November 20, 2005

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