Oct 30, 2007

German PSYOP: Andi

Germany has unveiled a new initiative as part of the West's counter-Jihadist PSYOP, one aimed at disrupting the indoctrination of young Muslim immigrants.

Creativity is often found in the most unlikely places. Take, for example, a couple of German state domestic intelligence offices charged with tasks such as tracking far-right extremism and terrorist cells. In Baden-Württemberg, they recently constructed a mock Pakistani terror camp for a touring exhibition about Islamism. And their colleagues in North Rhine-Westphalia are no slouches either: they've commissioned a comic book, in which kids talk about Islam, the ideology of Islamism and terrorism. Its hero is a young German named Andi.


Andi has all the accoutrements needed to mark him as your run-o-the-mill hipster kid -- baseball cap, hoodie and messy hair -- and he has a Turkish girlfriend, Ayshe. Her brother -- and Andi's buddy -- Murat, is going through a bit of a crisis because he can't find a position as an apprentice, and he blames his rejection letters on xenophobia. That makes Murat the perfect prey for the strange new kid on the playground, Harun, with his serious demeanor and steadfast belief in what he's been fed from Islamists. Harun, in turn, beats it into Murat's head that he will be discriminated against because of his religion.

Huran takes Murat under his wing, and it's not long before he makes some progress by convincing him that he shouldn't have any infidel friends because Islam forbids it. Basketball is taboo, too. And he also needs to make sure that his sister doesn't go to the movies with Andi.

After a while, Harun even takes Murat to meet his favorite sheik, whose sermons are filled with hatred. His preaching goes along these lines: "God has ordered the Muslim to neither associate with nor befriend the infidel!" Huran also shows Murat radical Web sites showing videos of attacks on coalition forces in Iraq. "But a lot of Muslims get killed in those attacks, too," Murat ventures to comment. "They are all hypocrites and liars!" comes the response of the Jihadist sheik. And even if a Muslim were among the dead, he would have died a martyr. What more could a man want?

Of course, after 38 pages, there is the inevitable happy ending: Murat transforms himself from a potential public enemy number one back into a cheerful chap. And, joy upon joy, an apprenticeship position appears out of nowhere, just to hammer home the moral of the story a little bit further.


It's hard to say whether school kids are going to laugh themselves silly while reading this stuff or if their slippery attention can be held. There will be 170,000 copies of Andi's first adventure and Hamburg is also planning to use them. The second issue in the Andi series is set to hit schools soon.

Oct 29, 2007

A Work in Progress

Deep in the heart of cyberspace, something new called a Network Warfare and Ops Squadron fights battles 24/7 from a building in a nondescript office park here at Lackland Air Force Base.

At one end of the room, a crew monitors the cyberspace highways for the first signs of a hacker infiltration, spreading virus, or network-jamming wave of spam. A second crew rapidly investigates every problem and scrambles other crews to counter each incursion with an armory of specialized software. And all of it is under the watchful eyes of a pyramid of officers and officials that ascends through the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Justice and eventually into the Oval Office.

Every day, every hour, the squadron reacts to myriad trivial or significant attacks on some of the 650,000 computers that allow the Air Force to pay its personnel, manage day care centers, buy fuel, direct fighter-bombers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and launch nuclear-tipped missiles should the order ever come.

But this squadron is very different from the traditional units of leather-jacketed, death-defying pilots soaring through the wild blue yonder. These warriors are mostly office-dwelling private contractors whose skills and actions are bound by a complicated tangle of software and U.S. law rather than the laws of aerodynamics and the limits of physical courage. Yet, these "airmen" play an increasingly important role in the Air Force and the Defense Department, because warfare has spread into cyberspace, just as it long ago spread into air and space.

That's why the Air Force has tapped Maj. Gen. William Lord to assemble the Air Force Cyberspace Command by next October, whose job will be to recruit, equip, and train a new corps of cyber-warriors perpetually ready to protect military networks from whatever threats emerge.

The new command, Lord said, must also prepare for an offensive role -- to infiltrate or wreck enemy networks and to manipulate enemy leaders, should that action ever be ordered by the president. One goal, he said, is to give future presidents the ability to deter cyber-attacks. The ability to say, "We're not going to blow up your cities, we're going to melt your cities," or at least their electronic infrastructures, can help counter cyber-attacks, Lord said. "It doesn't have to be a weapon that ever gets used," he added.


The contractors don't live the regimented lives of military personnel, and they don't wear uniforms. But they all have to pass security and background checks. "We have to entrust them with the keys to all of the information on the networks," said Col. Mark Kross, who commands the 26th Network Operations Group, which includes Grant's squadron.

Lord's emerging Cyberspace Command is expected to include the Lackland operation and other classified programs as well as exotic aircraft, such as the U2 spy plane, EC-135 electronic-eavesdropping aircraft, EC-130E Commando Solo radio-broadcasting plane, and the EC-130H Compass Call radio-jamming aircraft.

Its headquarters will likely consist of several hundred staff overseeing perhaps 20,000 Air Force personnel. They will include software experts, lawyers, electronic-warfare and satellite specialists, and behavioral scientists, Lord said. "You have to reach out to a different kind of recruit," he noted.

Oct 27, 2007

No Love for an Iran Hated Less than U.S.

Nobody loves Iran. A mere fistful of countries love the U.S. Yet far more countries hate the U.S. than hate Iran. And everyone seems to love the EU.

Euroscapian Whuss Power can apparently have its day too.

Hardly rigorous, but perhaps the above is adequate as a teflonish summary of a report/survey recently released by the European Council of Foreign Relations, a newly launched European think tank comprised of a varied collection of Euromenklatura (both shelfed and wriggling) tasked per charter with providing strategic analysis on the European Union's foreign policy performance, and promoting a more coherent and vigorous European foreign and security policy.

Don't miss out on the appended Love/Hate[2-page pdf] and Google Earth approval-overlay graphics.

Oct 26, 2007

Another Tactful Hint

Discussions of U.S. government Strategic Communications in journals and various symposia usually devote earnest attention to the problematic shortcomings of our information campaigns in the operational environment in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The finger of blame is most often pointed in various directions: toward bureaucratic disagreements, toward functional overlap, toward inertia, etc. Essentially, the problem is identified as something that can be remedied by re-arranging the boxes in some organizational chart, or by devoting more attention to minor tweaks of message here and there.

Here at SMC, we have tried at times to tactfully hint that the real difficulty in trying to demonstrate to friends and enemies in the Arab world our competence and the righteousness of our national cause is one of a more intractable type. It is the "you can't unshit the bed" predicament.

When the honeymooning husband tries to impress his new bride by cutting a really awe-inspiring fart and instead soaks the marital mattress with a watery evacuation of fecal material, there is no time for hand-wringing and blame-placing. Our hero has to get up and deal with the situation as it is, not as he would prefer it to be.

And even if he can assure his discomfited wife that everything is jake, he still has the hotel maid to convince.

An article in the new Joint Force Quarterly, The Missing Component of U.S. Strategic Communications (5-page pdf), looks at our influence programs and initially makes a cogent observation:

Why the U.S. Government has had such difficulty conveying its own strategic messages in the current political and social environment, however, is not explained mainly by its failure to develop interagency bureaucratic mechanisms, by interagency rivalry, or even by flawed style. Moreover, failure to create a 24/7 global communications system with appropriately trained public affairs personnel is only symptomatic of the real problem, not causal. Rather, the principal reason is a failure at the national level to find interagency agreement among the various departments and branches of government on the substance of what we want national strategic communications to convey to audiences of interest, and with what sense of urgency. This major flaw is specifically noted in the 9/11 Commission Report with regard to its communications policies: “The U.S. Government must define what its message is, what it stands for.”

Therefore, national-level failure to agree on what the United States stands for (that is, what national values strategic communications should reflect) is the principal impediment to developing a synchronized and effective program of strategic communications.

Unfortunately, the author veers from here into an asinine Culture Wars argument, as if the Muslim world's problem with with the U.S. is that they are more offended by our tolerance of homosexuality, pornography and other "Hollywood values" than they are by the tangible political programs of the United States in the Middle East over the past few decades (not to mention actions of a more recent vintage).

Other abstractions once broadly accepted as important components of the American values system are similarly being challenged, creating uncertainty with regard to national consensus on common values. For example, the assertion by our government that part of our purpose for fighting in Iraq is to help establish personal freedom and protect human dignity is evolving to mean something different than it did two generations ago. Fighting for personal freedom, for many in the United States, may now mean that we as a nation are fighting the insurgents in Iraq for the purpose of legitimizing homosexuality and homosexual marriage as appropriate lifestyles and institutions in the Islamic world as part and parcel of the changes to traditional interpretations of family and marriage that are being championed within America by many agents and interest groups. Assuming that tolerance and acceptance of so-called alternative lifestyles eventually do become a broadly accepted American national value, the problem then becomes how to shape strategic communications messages to persuade a conservative Islamic world that largely eschews homosexuality as a legitimate value, even as they observe the drama of confusing and vitriolic values-based conflicts over this issue in the United States and Western Europe.

Similarly, our government periodically asserts that we are fighting in Iraq for freedom of speech and expression. In practice, the Islamic world frequently interprets this to mean that America is sending combatants to die in the conflict in order to promote the protection and distribution of graphic Internet pornography or to promulgate “Hollywood values” that not only countenance but also promote adultery, infidelity, and promiscuity. Or the Islamic world interprets this as an extension of perceived U.S. devotion to secularism to promote the environment for establishing an ACLU-equivalent organization in Middle Eastern states that will one day aim to remove the Koran -- as well as Allah -- from Islamic public life, public discourse, and public institutions. The above perspective of prospective target audiences for strategic messages noted, the issue before our government then becomes, “Are these in fact accurate representations of the national values that we wish to impart to foreign audiences as justification for fighting in Iraq and elsewhere?”


Strategic communications are the expression of the fruit that grows from the soil of national values. So-called communications that do not convey specific normative expectations rooted in such national values are quickly dismissed as counterfeit by foreign target audiences.

Not by a long shot. That one line does sound kind of sublime, though.

And the author of the Joint Force Quarterly piece is clearly clueless about what is arguably the most effective U.S. PSYOP ever, the series of programs that are collectively termed "Cultural Infiltration." Through these ops, we have successfully influenced (and continue to influence) countless millions of people to admire the United States and desire to emulate our way of living.

The hearts and minds of the Muslim world will be captured or forfeited by the legacy of U.S. kinetic actions, and whether our choices are seen there as justifiable. Not by risible reasoning that they "hate our freedoms" more than they hate us for killing their people.

This business about having to reach a consensus regarding American cultural values is not the fulcrum on which success in Information Operations must pivot. There is no need to alter our national character in order to appease Muslim expectations of propriety, no matter how much this would please some elements domestically. The Culture Wars deke is a partisan domestic propaganda cudgel anyway. The beleaguered hotel maid could tell you that.

We will never be able to reach with words the Allah-intoxicated Islamist any more than reason can prevail upon someone whose unconscious is in the thrall of an activated God archetype anywhere.

For such cases, there are expedient means (not necessarily kinetic) that cannot be openly discussed in a public forum.

Oct 24, 2007

Iraq, the Surge, Partition, and the War: Public Opinion by City and Region

A new Center for Strategic and International Studies report, Iraq, the Surge, Partition, and the War: Public Opinion by City and Region (70-page pdf), extensively mines polling data to see how well the critical COIN objective of winning the "hearts and minds" of the Iraqi people -- the war's center of gravity -- is progressing.

The data in this analysis are provided through the courtesy of the ABC News polling unit. They portray the results of a series of polls, the latest of which was carried out by ABC, BBC, and NHK in August 2007, and published in September 2007, and were designed as part of a national poll on Iraq, and not for the regional and urban purposes presented in this analysis. At the same time, the struggles in Iraq today are ultimately battles for the control of power, force, space, and money where Iraqi perceptions are critical in determining the outcome. The US and its Coalition allies cannot force solutions on the Iraqis, nor can it afford to try to fight a military battle that ignores how Iraqis see US and Coalition forces, the success of the Iraqi government, their overall security situation, trends in the economy, or the course of their daily lives.

Most of the results show a deterioration in the situation since the previous poll in March 2007.. Virtually all show the level of violence and civil conflict is higher than most Iraqi and US government sources like to publicly admit. They also show that most Iraqis see the US and Coalition forces as at least a partial threat, do not trust the US or Coalition, and see their aid efforts as failed or non-existent.

Declining Expectations

As security conditions have worsened, so have expectations for future improvement in the conditions of life -- an especially troubling result, since hopes for a better future can be the glue that holds a struggling society together. In 2004 and 2005 alike, for example, Table One shows that three quarters of Iraqis expected improvements in the coming year in their security, schools, availability of jobs, medical care, crime protection, clean water and power supply. Today only about 23 percent still expect better, down from 40% in March 2007.

Figure One puts this analysis in graphic form, and shows the different trends in the expectations of Arab Sunnis, Arab Shi’ites, and Kurds. The most striking difference over time is the decline in the expectations of Iraqi Kurds. The has also been a less precipitous decline in the expectations of the Iraq Arab Shi’ites. The expectations of Iraqi Arab Sunnis have been so low that little change took place during the course of 2007.

But A Continuing Hope for Unity and the Nation

Yet the results do offer hope in one key area. As the bottom section of Table One shows, most Arab Sunnis and Arab Shiites still want a unified country, and those Arab Shiites who do not want a strong central government instead want federalism with a weaker central government. Only the Kurds have a large percentage (49%) that wants independence, and 51% want a strong central government or federalism. Iraqis do not want sectarian separation, and many still identify themselves as Muslims and not as Sunnis or Shi’ites. Iraqis have not given up on the future of Iraq as a nation.


Iraqi Views of the United States Role in Iraq

One key result of the August 2007 poll is that most Iraqis still do not see the US and Coalition forces as allies or liberators, and the US has failed to win the battle for “hearts and minds.” These results are portrayed in far more detail later in this report, but are presented in graphic form in Figure Two, and may be summarized as follows.

Broad National Trends in Perceptions of the US Role in Iraq

Iraqi views of the US role in Iraq are summarized in Figures Two and Three. The poll result found that Iraqis as a whole divided sharply over whether the United States was right (37 percent), or wrong (63 percent) to invade in spring 2003. Once again, however, there were sharp sectarian and ethnic splits within this total. A total 49 percent of Shiites and 71 percent of Kurds polled endorsed the invasion; but 96 percent of Sunni Arabs said it was wrong.

Figure Two shows that a total of 47% of all Iraqis felt US forces should leave Iraqi immediately. This percentage has been steadily rising, from 35% in March 2007 and 26% in November 2005. In contrast, about one third (34%) of Iraqis felt that US and Coalition forces should stay until security is restored.

Other analysis of the polling results showed that nineteen percent of Iraqis polled blamed either US and coalition forces for the current violence in Iraq, and eight percent blamed George W. Bush personally. Al Qa’ida and foreign jihadi fighters were blamed by 21 percent (far more by Shiites and Kurds than by Sunnis). Indeed, one of the top instances of local violence measured in the poll was “unnecessary violence against Iraqi citizens by U.S. or coalition forces.” Forty-one percent of Iraqis -- including 63 percent of Sunni Arabs -- reported such violence as having occurred nearby.

Figure Three shows there was little overall confidence in US forces: Eighty-six percent of the Iraqis polled in August said that they were not confident in US and UK forces -- 91 percent of Shiites as well as 99 percent of Sunni Arabs. (That fell to about half of generally pro-US Kurds.) In spite of allocating $38 billion in development funds (some $33 billion of which were US funds) Reconstruction is another complaint: Nationwide, 72 percent of Iraqis say post-war reconstruction efforts in their area have been ineffective or nonexistent. Sixty-eight percent of Shiites say so; among Sunnis, it’s 89 percent. (Again, attitudes were different in the Kurdish area, where 45 percent call reconstruction effective, down from 70% in March 2007.)

In the first ABC News poll in Iraq, in February 2004, 51 percent of Iraqis opposed the presence of U.S. forces on their soil. By November 2005 that jumped to 65 percent. In February/March 2007, it was 78 percent, and as of August 2007 it was 79%. More than eight in 10 Shiites (as well as 98 percent of Sunni Arabs) opposed the presence of U.S. and other forces in their country. (Kurds, again, differed significantly: 70 percent support the U.S. presence.) More than seven in 10 Shiites – and nearly all Sunni Arabs – thought the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq was making security worse.

Iraqis Who Think It is Acceptable to Attack US Forces

Figures Two and Four show that the poll found that the number of Iraqis who called it “acceptable” to attack U.S. and coalition forces totaled only 17 percent in early 2004, but that the percentage had more than tripled to 57 percent in August 2007. The main source of this antipathy was disaffected Sunni Arabs, the group that lost power with the overthrow of Saddam. Ninety-three percent of Sunni Arabs called attacks on U.S. forces acceptable. That compared with 50 percent of Arab Shiites (still a large number to endorse violence), and only five percent of Kurds, who’re far more favorably inclined toward the United States. Polls taken in 2004 that found attacks on Coalition forces were approved by roughly 63% percent of Sunni Arabs and 11 percent of Shiites.


Iraqi Views of the Iraqi Government

What is less clear is that the decline in popular approval of the Iraqi government shown in Figure Seven will be reversed in the near term. The number of all Iraqis describing the central government as “bad” rose from 53% in March 2007 to 65% in August 2007. This shift was driven by the fact that the number of all Iraqis describing the central government as “very bad” rose from 26% in March 2007 to 38% in August 2007.

What is particularly disturbing about these numbers is the sharp decline in Sunni approval of the government at a time when political accommodation was a critical priority, a decline in Sunni support that probably reflects internal Shi’ite feuding and a continuing lack of government services, and a decline in Kurdish support that other polls show may reflect a growing popular Kurdish desire for independence and feeling that the central government is too pro-Shi’ite. The unfortunate fact is that the Iraqi central government failed to make progress in serving the interests of any key element of the Iraqi population as well as in national accommodation and reconciliation.

Oct 22, 2007

Iraq, Afghanistan, and Self-Inflicted Wounds

From the slides accompanying a briefing titled Iraq, Afghanistan, and Self-Inflicted Wounds by Anthony H. Cordesman (30-page pdf):

Only Local Allies Can Win Hearts and Minds, Achieve Information Dominance

  • The US can do much to justify its own position and actions, but cannot win at a broader level.
  • The host country and regional actors will dominate the information battle and war of perceptions:
  • The US and UK will never be Muslim states or be able to deal with underlying religious issues.
  • The nations in the Long War have their own cultural, social, and political values and they are not American.
  • Western forces and spokesman will always be seen as outsiders, if not imperialists and occupiers.
  • The credibility of what local governments and security forces say, not Americans, is critical to popular support.
  • Local conciliation and compromise are the key to sectarian, ethnic, and other factional issues.

Enemies become superfluous after enough self-inflicted wounds

Self-Inflicted Wounds in Seeking “Information Dominance”

  • Impossible demands and expectations.
  • Unkept promises. Exaggerated reports of progress.
  • Lack of local government follow-up.
  • Tactical operations that alienate the population; Bull in the China Shop
  • Disregard/lack of language and culture experience.
  • “Christian”and “secular”force.
  • Detainments.
  • Collateral damage.
  • Civilian casualties.
  • Worst case incidents dominate; strategic corporal.
  • Conspiracy theories. Desire to export the blame.
  • Primacy of local and regional media.
  • PAO=Pangloss
  • Ties to Israel.
  • Life is not fair, but it is real.

Oct 20, 2007

John Brown Did Karen Hughes Last Spring

While still engaged in the Karen Hughes turkey shoot, we could do worse than catch up with the shadow of one of the best and the brightest and present the following article penned last spring by éminence gris John Brown, former Foreign Service officer and compiler of the most useful Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review. (I have my rss-functional Nokia N95 feed it to me everywhere I go. That's true love, my lovers all tell me)

“Propaganda of the deed,” a phrase attributed to the Italian revolutionary Carlo Pisacane (1818-1857), has long been associated with the tactics of terrorism. The Bush administration’s image czarina and no. 1 overseas spin-stress, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes, has now provided humankind with an updated version of Pisacane’s term: “diplomacy of deeds.”

To be sure, Ms. Hughes, whose job includes (according to the State Department homepage) providing “the moral basis for U.S. leadership in the world” is not advocating that public diplomacy employ the methods of terrorism. But her focus on deeds suggests that she is not, at heart, interested in the U.S. establishing a dialogue with the world, perhaps the most important function of America’s public diplomacy, which is meant to complement and enrich its traditional diplomacy. Rather, she wants to impress audiences abroad (and flatter US voters) by showing how kind and generous we Americans are in our conservatively compassionate actions to help those not as blessed as ourselves. Meanwhile, she conveniently forgets that public acts of charity are not always appreciated and that the major foreign-policy deeds of the administration she serves has appalled the world for years.

Hughes is not the first person to use the term diplomacy of deeds. A Google search reveals, for example, that Time magazine (March 2, 1959) reported on President Eisenhower’s ”diplomacy by deeds.” But Hughes’s close association of the diplomacy of deeds with public diplomacy can be considered a historical first. Indeed, if history remembers her at all, it may be for her emphasis on, if not infatuation with, these words, which became part of her official vocabulary late last year. In public statements, she stresses that the diplomacy of deeds is one of her most important functions. On December 20, 2006, in a The Washington Times article, she wrote that

At this time of year, when people are called on to care for the hungry, sick and abandoned, Americans should know we are giving the gift of hope to thousands of people whose names we will never know. And I will continue to advocate we do even more, because the diplomacy of deeds serves our own national interests and the people of every nation.

She notes in the same article that

when the people of the world see Americans in action, they respond. After the Navy hospital ship USS Mercy revisited areas of Southeast Asia ravaged by the tsunami last year, polls showed the favorable opinion of the U.S. rose to 87 percent in Bangladesh. When earthquakes devastated Pakistan, American military helicopters rushed emergency relief to thousands of people. The Chinook helicopter quickly became one of the most popular toys in Pakistan and favorable opinion of Americans doubled in polls.

More details on Hughes’s personal contributions to her deeds crusade can be found in an article by Tara Copp in the Austin American-Statesman (February 18, 2007):

Hughes has taken a three-pronged approach: media outreach, exchange and education programs, and what she calls the “diplomacy of deeds” — public service campaigns. …

She’s gone to the Philippines to distribute sewing machines to small businesses and to work with young girls on computers.

She’s launching summer camps for Morocco’s inner city youth, to get them out of slums and into the “beauty of their own country.”

“I believe it is vital to our national security,” Hughes said. “We are never going to win the war against terror in the long run as long as little boys and little girls around the world grow up hating or being taught to hate America.”

Hurricane Karen, as she was known among Republican circles, has a tendency to get carried away with her own saccharine rhetoric. But, in all fairness to her, it certainly can’t be denied that, in many situations, good actions speak louder than words. It’s also very American, some would say, to “do something” rather than babble on and on. And certainly US charitable works, like the charitable works of other nations (we are, after all, not the only country that aids other nations), are often gratefully received by those whose lives are improved by them. It is hard to disagree with Kristin Lord, associate dean of The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, that public diplomacy should “deliver deeds, not just words: Tangible acts most effectively convey the values Americans stand for” (The National Interest, January 19, 2007).

But Hughes’s diplomacy of deeds has severe limitations. First, it cannot automatically be assumed that ostentatious public displays of good deeds (and Hughes certainly makes sure that her actions are covered by the media) are always appreciated by the people for whom they are intended (how many of us love Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez because he declared, in 2005, that “We place at the disposition of the people of the United States in the event of shortages … drinking water, food, … fuel?”). A specialist in public diplomacy, R. S. Zaharna of American University, writes in Foreign Policy in Focus (June 2003) that the United States government tried

to show how the war on terror was not a war on Islam by emphasizing U.S. efforts to help Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. Emphasizing one’s good deeds is a coveted practice in U.S. public relations. Washington officials were naturally confused and offended by apparent Muslim ingratitude. However, for most Muslims, calling attention to one’s charity or good deeds is frowned upon. The Quran admonishes, “cancel not your charity by reminders of your generosity or injury.”

The same thought can also be found in the Bible, a book Hughes must be quite familiar with, given that she is an elder in the Presbyterian Church, a role highlighted in her biography on the State Department homepage. “Charity,” scripture tells us, “vaunteth not itself.”

Second, Hughes’s overseas public service deeds, in the global scope of things, are of small significance, for they are those of an administration that (in the eyes of the world) has committed some of the most horrid deeds of this new century, ranging from an unjustified war of aggression on an impoverished third world country to the establishment of an detainee camp at Guantanamo where prisoners are not granted basic human rights. The true result of the diplomacy of deeds of the Bush administration has not been happy Pakistani kids playing with Chinook helicopters, but the havoc, death and destruction that our forty-third President, already judged by historians as among the worst chief executives ever, has wreaked upon the world, at great cost to American blood and treasure.

Finally, Hughes’s fascination with flaunting her good deeds reflects what has been a major fault of the Bush administration from its very beginning: that it does not really believe in two-way communications with the rest of the world. To be sure, Hughes pays lip service to educational exchanges, which have existed for decades, long before her boss told her to fix America’s disastrous image abroad. But what is turning out to be her unique contribution to public diplomacy — the diplomacy of deeds — strongly suggests that she’d rather make a PR splash with her “goodness” than engage in real, substantive conversations with overseas interlocutors (which could be publicly embarrassing for she may hear what others really think about the policies of her president).

A Bush confidante for years, Hughes is yet another reminder that the current administration is essentially parochial in nature, with little interest in international dialogue. It is driven by an almost fanatical desire to impose its will everywhere, using anything at its disposal, be it sewing machines or smart bombs. Karen’s term for this mania? The diplomacy of deeds.

Oct 19, 2007

The Strategy of Denial

It is ironic that Karen Hughes, Bush's Public Diplomacy czar, stresses "the Diplomacy of Deeds" -- disaster relief, food donations, medicine supplies, etc. -- when the U.S. deeds that matter the most to foreign audiences are of a rather less admirable nature.

When your job requires you to spin activities like torture, renditions, unsuccessful wars, the violation of various domestic and international laws, and a serial inattentiveness to the need for a "decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind", one probably shouldn't make "the Diplomacy of Deeds" the slogan of your campaign.

From an open letter by Sidney Blumenthal to Karen Hughes, Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs:

The genius of your appointment is that the president and his advisors understood ahead of time that they would need your services to repair the nation's reputation. After all, this position has never existed before; and it has never been so drastically needed. While it is true that there have been organizations within the government, such as the US Information Agency, under directors such as Edward R Murrow and John Chancellor, that built libraries and conducted international educational exchanges, the idea of a public diplomacy czar is novel. Having someone to paper over the country's mistakes by telling people what they should think despite the reality would in the past have been considered undemocratic. Form and content, it would have been said, needed to complement each other. But your position is one in which form and content (words and deeds) stand in opposition to each other. Ironically, therefore, your job has never been more important than now.

So far, to be honest, you have earned a reputation for being out of touch, for spouting platitudes without understanding the underlying issues. You are seen as oblivious to the concerns and sensibilities of groups of foreigners with whom you have met. However noble the abstractions of your rhetoric, your speeches are uniformly received as irrelevant propaganda. Even after objective observers have called attention to this pattern, you have done little to adjust. While it would be unfair to put the entire burden of transforming the image of the United States on you, it is a sad fact that your actions have deepened cynicism about American motives. And your inability to change has been consistent with the administration's unwillingness to shift course in the face of demonstrable failure.

If you still wish to succeed, you must finally come to terms with how you and the administration are perceived. Self-awareness is the first step to recovery. Denial has been more than this administration's pervasive state of mind; it has become its prevailing strategy. When other rationales have been shown to be false, hollow or self-undermining, denial has invariably become the last defense. Even when presented with irrefutable facts - there were no weapons of mass destruction, there were no links between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, and torture has indeed been the official policy - the administration resorts to transparent gestures of denial: "We do not torture." But repeating a falsehood does not make it true. As one American president who was a keen student of public opinion put it: "You cannot fool all of the people all of the time." But this truism does not seem to have come to the attention of the White House or of your office. I hope it is not a shock to you that the strategy of denial is not working. It is your job, after all, not only to take into account the considered views of others but to assess objectively what works and what does not. Acknowledging that this persistent reaction is not achieving its goal is essential to learning from failure.


You might also use your acquired skills in diplomacy among your colleagues in the inner circle of the White House. Perhaps you could talk to them about the dangers of politicizing and militarizing fear. They are a group, as Goldsmith has pointed out, consumed with "fear bordering on obsession." When he informed the White House that one of its counter-terrorism programs was illegal, vice-president Cheney's then counsel, David Addington, angrily lashed out, "If you rule that way, the blood of the hundred thousand people who died in the next attack will be on your hands." As Addington demonstrated, when legal artifice falls, bullying takes its place. Fear has become a license for quelling not only political criticism but also the rule of law.

As you know only too well, fear-mongering, though it has worked well politically at home, has backfired abroad, breeding hatred throughout Muslim and Arab lands. Public diplomacy should assuage fear, not fan its flames; enable understanding, not hostility. Perhaps, while you're talking to your colleagues, you might explain that the opinion of the world matters, and that while it might be "soft power", not "hard power" like a piece of military equipment, it directly impinges on global stability.

Oct 17, 2007

Upgrading Authoritarianism in the Arab World - Despots 2.0

A new Saban Center for Middle-East Policy (Brookings) report looks at the methods in which Arab regimes are dealing with the rising political expectations of their citizens.

Upgrading Authoritarianism in the Arab World [40-page pdf]

“Tunisia is our model. Just look at them! They are much more repressive than we are, yet the West loves them. We need to figure out how they do it.” --Syrian political analyst.


What is emerging in the Arab world, ... is a hybrid form of authoritarianism. It combines tried-and-true strategies of the past—coercion, surveillance, patronage, corruption, and personalism—with inno­vations that reflect the determination of authoritar­ian élites to respond aggressively to the triple threat of globalization, markets, and democratization. These ef­forts are aimed at creating and sustaining an emerging “authoritarian coalition,” one that hinges on preserv­ing existing bases of institutional and social support while strengthening ties to or at a minimum buying off, groups that have been regarded by regimes as un­reliable, if not potentially antagonistic.

Five features stand out as defining elements of au­thoritarian upgrading. All of these elements are evident in varying combinations in major Arab states, including Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Syria, Tu­nisia, and Yemen. Indeed, elements of these features are ubiquitous throughout the Arab world, although the particular mix differs from case to case. The five features are:

1. Appropriating and containing civil societies;
2. Managing political contestation;
3. Capturing the benefits of selective economic reforms;
4. Controlling new communications technologies;
5. Diversifying international linkages.


Interestingly, ruling parties have also embraced the technological apparatus associated with elections in established democracies. High-tech “war rooms,” a term that has been imported in English into the po­litical vernacular in places like Egypt, have been estab­lished by the technocratic cadres of ruling parties in recent elections in both Egypt and Yemen. In the Egyp­tian case, the “war room” became the base for massive efforts to identify likely voters, track voter turnout, conduct survey research and focus groups, amass pho­tographs of polling stations throughout the voting to monitor traffic at the polls, and other practices asso­ciated with state-of-the-art election management.


[The] dramatic growth in access to media, telecommu­nications technologies, and the internet is among the most significant and tangible changes of recent decades. Compared to even the relatively recent past, when Arab media were marked by a stultifying, obsequious focus on political leaders, limited and poorly-produced state-approved programming, heavy-handed censorship, outmoded technologies, and tightly regulated access to the outside world, the Arab region has at last begun to experience the media and communications revolutions that for many are emblematic of what it means to be modern. Without question, literate Arab citizens today are more connected to global media flows and have bet­ter access to information about their own countries and the world than any previous generation.


To balance these pressures, Arab regimes are converg­ing on strategies to control and manage public access to new communications technologies along lines that reflect broader patterns of authoritarian upgrading. Governments now accept, however reluctantly, the spread of new communications and media technolo­gies. Arab leaders value the political and reputational gains associated with their self-proclaimed roles as champions of innovation. They also recognize the value of these technologies as steam valves: outlets that mitigate social pressures that might otherwise become politicized. At the same time, virtually every Arab re­gime has built up extensive systems of regulation, sur­veillance, oversight, and coercion that vastly limit the autonomy and privacy of users.

Typically, these systems begin with centralized con­trol of access to internet sites, with close attention to sites that carry political content but also pornography or other material deemed, for whatever reason, to be “inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political and moral values” of a country. Controls also include reg­ulations requiring ministerial approval for opening an internet café; requirements that internet service pro­viders report the names of subscribers to government agencies; holding owners of internet cafés legally liable for their customers’ actions; holding website owners liable for the content of their sites; inspections and monitoring of internet usage by ministry personnel, internal security personnel, or the police; and systems requiring individual users to register for permission to establish internet access accounts from their homes.


As text-messaging grows in importance, regimes are honing their ability to monitor and censor this means of communication, as well. It is entirely like­ly that within the next year the use of text messages to mobilize participants in political rallies—a technique used by leaders of the Kifaya (Enough!) movement in Egypt among others—will no longer be possible.


In broad terms, therefore, what has emerged in the Arab world is a hybrid approach to the management of the internet and new media communications technologies that is characteristic of authoritarian upgrading. Regimes have become more open to and accepting of these technologies. They acknowledge their social, political, and economic benefits. Yet they also assimilate these technologies into authoritar­ian strategies of governance, using them to enhance and upgrade their own capacity to keep tabs on their citizens, and to surround them with a “multi-layered architecture of control.”

Oct 15, 2007

Dual Use Epidemiological Intelligence

Dual Use technology often carries with it the potential for both great good and horrific harm - and lots of fuzziness there in between.

Not too seldom do we hear mention of the Dual Use nature of a particular set of technologies in the context of rogue entities accused of attempting to acquire Faustian asymmetrical advantage over the forces of Good through the Trojan of a benign aim and its enabling technology.

Likewise, intelligence efforts can be of a Dual Use nature and cut many other ways than the strictly ameliorative or prophylactic. An epidemiological intelligence program as described below by excerpts from the recent (Oct 4, 2007) GAO study: Global Health - U.S. Agencies Support Programs to Build Overseas Capacity for Infectious Disease Surveillance [21-page pdf] has the capacity for several aggressive applications.

The GAO suffices to stick to outlining the program's primaries, official aims, and endearing and admirable applications. Good call. There are a thousand Greeks in that belly.

The rapid spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 showed that disease outbreaks pose a threat beyond the borders of the country where they originate. The United States has initiated a broad effort to ensure that countries can detect outbreaks that may constitute a public health emergency of international concern. Three U.S. agencies—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Department of Defense (DOD)—support programs aimed at building this broader capacity to detect a variety of infectious diseases.

The U.S. government operates or supports four key programs (as shown in the graphic below) aimed at building overseas surveillance capacity for infectious diseases. In fiscal years 2004-2006, U.S. agencies obligated approximately $84 million for these programs, which operate in developing countries around the world. Global Disease Detection is CDC’s main effort to help build capacity for infectious disease surveillance in developing countries. The Field Epidemiology Training Programs, which CDC and USAID support, are another tool used to help build infectious disease surveillance capacity worldwide. Additionally, USAID supports CDC and the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Africa in designing and implementing Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response in 46 countries in Africa, with additional technical assistance to 8 African countries. DOD’s Global Emerging Infections Surveillance and Response System also contributes to capacity building through projects undertaken at DOD overseas research laboratories. USAID supports additional capacity-building projects in various developing countries.

For each of the four key surveillance capacity-building programs, the U.S. agencies monitor activities such as the number of epidemiologists trained, the number of outbreak investigations conducted, and types of laboratory training completed. In addition, CDC and USAID recently began systematic efforts to evaluate the impact of their programs; however, because no evaluations had been completed as of July 2007, it is too early to assess whether these evaluation efforts will demonstrate progress in building surveillance capacity.

A Little Birdie Told Them

One has to wonder about this timely warning received by the Kremlin from "several sources outside Russia" in light of the very recent visit to Moscow by Secretary of State Rice and Secretary of Defense Gates:

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has been warned of a plot to assassinate him during a visit to Iran this week.

Russia's Interfax news agency reported that the country's security services had learned suicide bombers and kidnappers were planning to kill or capture Mr Putin on his visit.

Iran dismissed the report as baseless, describing the allegation as "psychological warfare" calculated by Teheran's enemies to undermine Russian-Iranian relations.

A Kremlin spokesman said there were currently no plans to cancel Mr Putin's trip to meet President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday.

"A reliable source in one of the Russian special services, has received information from several sources outside Russia, that during the president of Russia's visit to Teheran an assassination attempt is being plotted," Interfax reported.

Who has the means, motive, and opportunity to pass a message of this nature to one of Iran's international allies?

There are no coincidences.

Oct 14, 2007

Let Slip the Dog of War

French mercenary Bob Denard, British author Frederick Forsyth's source of inspiration for the novel The Dogs Of War, died Saturday in Paris.

Though never confirmed or admitted, many of Denard's exploits are widely assumed to have had the tacit approval of French authorities, who were anxious to maintain French influence in Africa.

The suspicion that he was regarded with leniency in his home country grew stronger in 1993 when a five-year French prison sentence over a failed 1977 coup attempt in Benin was reduced to a suspended sentence.

His final French conviction - for a 1995 coup attempt in the Comoros - also earned him a suspended sentence.

This was later increased by an appeal court to a year in jail with three suspended - but he never served it because of ill health.

In 1999, Denard - then 70 - was tried in connection with the assassination of Comoran President Ahmed Abdallah 10 years earlier. He was cleared.

During a trial on appeal in 2006, a former head of the foreign intelligence service said:

When special services are unable to undertake certain kinds of undercover operation, they use parallel structures. This was the case of Bob Denard.

"Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war."

-William Shakespeare
Julius Caesar, Scene I, Act III

Oct 12, 2007

You Can't Polish a Turd

A concise explanation of why all the time, effort and funds that the U.S. has poured into Iraq war information programs amount to an ultimately futile endeavor:

Successful strategic communication assumes a defensible policy, a respectable identity, a core value. In commercial marketing, the product for sale must be well-made and desirable. The strategic communication stratagem hasn’t been built that can pull a poor policy decision out of trouble. [emphasis added] ...

Crafting the message is a critical factor. This can be hard work, and strategic communication should begin while a policy is being fashioned, not added later. All too often, strategic decisions are made without considering how various audiences will receive them. President John F. Kennedy, as he put his administration together in 1961, asked the preeminent television newscaster of the time, Edward R. Murrow, to become head of the US Information Agency. Murrow reluctantly agreed but set one condition, that he be consulted when decisions were being made, not just when things went wrong. "If you want me to be there on the crash-landings," he is reported to have told the President, "I better be there on the takeoff."

Above excerpt from Strategic Communication by Richard Halloran [11-page pdf] (Parameters, Autumn 2007 issue).

And from a different article in the same issue of Parameters [Propaganda: Can a Word Decide a War? by Dennis M. Murphy and James F. White][13-page pdf], the identical point is made:

Procedurally, the United States must approach strategic communication as an integral part of policy development. To do otherwise will doom the United States to remain on the defensive in the war of ideas, something that has not worked well to date. The resulting communication plans will still be viewed as propaganda by the definition provided at the beginning of this article, but having such a plan in the development process permits strategists to anticipate potentially negative foreign reaction and possesses the proactive ability to explain the policy to all audiences. On the other hand, poor policy will not be salvaged by any message or theme that attempts to explain it. As former Pentagon spokesperson Torie Clarke said, "You can put a lot of lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig."

Oct 11, 2007

Network Technologies for Networked Terrorists: Assessing the Value of Information and Communication Technologies to Modern Terrorist Organizations

From a new RAND study: Network Technologies for Networked Terrorists: Assessing the Value of Information and Communication Technologies to Modern Terrorist Organizations (102-page pdf):

This report analyzes terrorist groups’ use of advanced information and communication technologies in efforts to plan, coordinate, and command their operations. It is one component of a larger study that examines terrorists’ use of technology, a critical arena in the war against terrorism. The goal of the investigation reported here is to identify which network technologies might be used to support the activities that terrorists must perform to conduct successful operations, understand terrorists’ decisions about when and under what conditions particular technologies will be used and determine the implications of these insights for efforts to combat terrorism. ...

Until the past few decades, however, the parochial causes that terrorist groups supported, their poor in-house production capabilities, and their limited psychological knowledge meant that, in general, their skill at propaganda and persuasion was usually of only modest effectiveness— either in generating support among friendly constituencies or in catalyzing political change in adversaries. PLO’s and Hizballah’s discovery that hijacking airliners and staging spectacular attacks could generate intense international interest may be seen as a rough starting point to the age of more sophisticated propaganda techniques. ...

We envision two worrisome possibilities for future terrorist propaganda trends: One is likely; the other less so.

First, as noted in the section on forging identities, we are on the brink of an era in which literally any video image may be falsified. Although techniques are available to verify the fraudulent nature of images, they are neither apparent nor likely to be available for many audiences. Given this capability, a technically savvy group could manufacture realistic video images of the President of the United States (or any other important international figure) speaking any words it wishes to put in his or her mouth and, given the trends in global information flow, could transmit these images far and wide very quickly. The possibilities are ominous: A public health official could be made to speak of a (nonexistent) biological attack, a diplomat made to derogate a friendly state or major religion, and so on. Even if quickly refuted, the effects may linger and could undermine public confidence in subsequent official pronouncements. Such images may also be used to extend the terrorist group’s mass appeal; for example, whether Osama bin Laden lives or dies, he may virtually issue proclamations for many decades.

The second development is perhaps less likely but worth considering: Terrorist groups may jam or even hijack U.S. information operations efforts. For example, if U.S. forces broadcast images of peace talks underway between warring religious factions, the technically savvy terrorist could rapidly create realistic (although fictitious) simulacra that show peace talks breaking down. Or if U.S. forces publish a glossy magazine and disseminate it, the terrorist group could quickly publish a nearly indistinguishable twin that violates local taboos or otherwise alienates the very population the United States is seeking to influence. Although there is nothing at all new about the aforementioned terrorist tactic (the name for this method, coined by social psychologist Robert Cialdini, is poison parasite), what would be new would be the speed and quality with which the copy could be produced and distributed to a wide audience.

In considering truly revolutionary developments in the realm of terrorist propaganda, few things could be more worrisome than terrorists acquiring an ability to hijack major media outlets. By hijack, we mean seize complete control of what the public was watching, irrespective of whether this was accomplished by physical, electronic, or other means. Depending on developments in network technologies both applied by the terrorist and used by media outlets in producing the programming, advances in network technology could enable such a scenario.

If a terrorist group could introduce its own imagery, documents, and narratives into the hijacked outlet, the results could be dramatic. For instance, should terrorists seize control of an evening news program, even if only for minutes, and manage to create the illusion that the mayor of New York City was announcing that the city had suffered a massive chemical attack, it is very likely that substantial disruption would ensue. Even if order were quickly restored, doubts about the veracity of subsequent broadcasts might linger, and the confidence in the political leaders involved in handling the matter might be damaged. Used in conjunction with a physical attack that capitalized on whatever confusion resulted from the media hijacking, the fraudulent information might significantly impede the authorities’ ability to respond to the physical attack—particularly in light of government agencies’ growing dependence on the news media for information and for communicating with the public in such situations. Even without the use of a coincident physical attack, such media hijacking might be used as a weapon to produce lasting effects. For example, a sophisticated campaign of repeated hijackings could conceivably damage public confidence in some nations’ political leaders to the point that people might come to believe that they needed to rely on themselves or militia-like organizations for protection. As with most aspects of the conflict with terrorist groups, the outcome would depend largely on how well the authorities could respond to repeated incidents of this sort, but, if their performance were inadequate, the effects might be so great as to destabilize a city or locality, thus furthering the terrorist group’s aims.

Oct 10, 2007

Red CyberWar Tomorrow - Capitalist CyberInsurgents Now

While we may fret over prospects of a nefariously minded red China cyberattacking the Yahoo out of us tomorrow, there is a growing middle market of domestically based and commercially driven cyberinsurgent (SMC term) entities engaged in personal data theft online and the retailing of such goods to third party cyberinsurgents who deploy these capital goods for further commercialized cyberinsurgent activity.

The U.S. is the country most frequently attacked by commercially driven cyberinsurgents. The U.S. is also where most of these cyberinsurgent attacks originate.

What once perhaps were asymmetric cyberattacks designed to destroy data and collect trophies de chaos have now given way to attacks designed to steal data outright for profit. Not unlike the insurgency raging within Iraq, this cyberinsurgency has progressed to being an amorphous and distributed beast fighting smart and dirty for market share where resources brought to bear against it by the state represent just one more scrapping party (and increasingly marginalized at that) in the maelstrom of market conflict. Settling grudges and collecting scalps simply don't pay enough to keep the production of chaos this long in play.

Based on reports obtained from the FBI, Symantec estimates that commercially driven domestic cyberinsurgent activities, including malicious software development and sales, extortion, and wholesale and retail sales of personal information and credit card data, at present turn over hundreds of millions USD per annum.

As can be said of the technical solutions employed by the IC at large (as Kent's Imperative doth profess), today’s [Cyberinsurgent] activities, even those conducted in the far flung corners of the globe, are more likely to involve commercial off the shelf items and kludged and duct-taped solutions than the things of precision and beauty. To be sure, there is still – and always will be – a certain amount of specialized hardware, and a few new cutting edge platforms. But this new age is a very different one – dominated by Small Stuff, and dual use.

What can and will be said about the resources and strategies needed to counter a commercially driven cyberinsurgency at home? Leave it to Symantec? Time for a domestic cyberCOIN doctrine? Will we need cyberPMCs? Maybe declare a GWOCyT? Rest assured, the odds of knowing somebody adversely, and directly so, affected by commercially driven cyberinsurgents dwarf any reasonable risk of getting bruised by any other spooky entity we're at war with. Or do we perhaps best leave this particular insurgency to the cops and the criminal justice system? Or is this insurgency good for business at large? (Some are) Shallow thoughts tendered for deeper minds to dwell a moment or so upon. Perhaps.

Below are some choice excerpts and conclusions drawn and quartered from Symantec's semiannual Symantec Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR) Volume XII, covering the six-month period from January 1, 2007, through June 30, 2007. According to Symantec, it is based on Symantec data collected from more than 40,000 sensors deployed in more than 180 countries in addition to a database that covers more than 22,000 vulnerabilities affecting more than 50,000 technologies from more than 8,000 vendors. Symantec also reviews more than 2 million decoy accounts that attract e-mail messages from 20 different countries around the world allowing Symantec to gauge global spam and phishing activity.

The latest Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR), Volume XII released today by Symantec Corp. concludes that cyber criminals are increasingly becoming more professional -- even commercial -- in the development, distribution and use of malicious code and services. While cybercrime continues to be driven by financial gain, cyber criminals are now utilizing more professional attack methods, tools and strategies to conduct malicious activity.

During the reporting period of Jan. 1, 2007, through June 30, 2007, Symantec detected an increase in cyber criminals leveraging sophisticated toolkits to carry out malicious attacks. One example of this strategy was MPack, a professionally developed toolkit sold in the underground economy. Once purchased, attackers could deploy MPack's collection of software components to install malicious code on thousands of computers around the world and then monitor the success of the attack through various metrics on its online, password protected control and management console. MPack also exemplifies a coordinated attack, which Symantec reported as a growing trend in the previous volume of the ISTR where cyber criminals deploy a combination of malicious activity.

Phishing toolkits, which are a series of scripts that allow an attacker to automatically set up phishing Web sites that spoof legitimate Web sites, are also available for professional and commercial cybercrime. The top three most widely used phishing toolkits were responsible for 42 percent of all phishing attacks detected during the reporting period.

"In the last several Internet Security Threat Reports, Symantec discussed a significant shift in attackers motivated from fame to fortune," said Arthur Wong, senior vice president, Symantec Security Response and Managed Services. "The Internet threats and malicious activity we are currently tracking demonstrate that hackers are taking this trend to the next level by making cybercrime their actual profession, and they are employing business-like practices to successfully accomplish this goal."

Additional Key Findings

* Credit cards were the most commonly advertised commodity on underground economy servers, making up 22 percent of all advertisements; bank accounts were in close second with 21 percent.

*Malicious code that attempted to steal account information for online games made up 5 percent of the top 50 malicious code samples by potential infection. Online gaming is becoming one of the most popular Internet activities and often features goods that can be purchased for real money, which provides a potential opportunity for attackers to benefit financially.

*Theft or loss of computer or other data-storage medium made up 46 percent of all data breaches that could lead to identity theft. Similarly, Symantec's IT Risk Management Report found that 58 percent of enterprises expect a major data loss at least once every 5 years.

Oct 9, 2007

White House Fingerprints on Bin Laden Tape Exploit

Never has one been presented with a more perfect reveal of the procedure behind the ongoing exploitation for domestic propaganda purposes of the Osama Bin Laden video messages.

The proprietor of the marquee private purveyor of the Al Qaeda tapes sent a sneak preview of a recent release to the White House, and now is complaining that the leaking to the press by the administration has blown her operational arrangements for access to the terrorist group's information products.

Did she think that the tapes (even if legit) have any value to the White House aside from propaganda? She claims that she sent them so that White House officials "could prepare for their eventual release." Unintentional satire maybe, but hilarious nevertheless.

A small private intelligence company that monitors Islamic terrorist groups obtained a new Osama bin Laden video ahead of its official release last month, and around 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, it notified the Bush administration of its secret acquisition. It gave two senior officials access on the condition that the officials not reveal they had it until the al-Qaeda release.

Within 20 minutes, a range of intelligence agencies had begun downloading it from the company's Web site. By midafternoon that day, the video and a transcript of its audio track had been leaked from within the Bush administration to cable television news and broadcast worldwide.

The founder of the company, the SITE Intelligence Group, says this premature disclosure tipped al-Qaeda to a security breach and destroyed a years-long surveillance operation that the company has used to intercept and pass along secret messages, videos and advance warnings of suicide bombings from the terrorist group's communications network. ...

Katz said she decided to offer an advance copy of the bin Laden video to the White House without charge so officials there could prepare for its eventual release.

She spoke first with White House counsel Fred F. Fielding, whom she had previously met, and then with Joel Bagnal, deputy assistant to the president for homeland security. Both expressed interest in obtaining a copy, and Bagnal suggested that she send a copy to Michael Leiter, who holds the No. 2 job at the National Counterterrorism Center.

Administration and intelligence officials would not comment on whether they had obtained the video separately. Katz said Fielding and Bagnal made it clear to her that the White House did not possess a copy at the time she offered hers.

Around 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, Katz sent both Leiter and Fielding an e-mail with a link to a private SITE Web page containing the video and an English transcript. "Please understand the necessity for secrecy," Katz wrote in her e-mail. "We ask you not to distribute . . . [as] it could harm our investigations." ...

[W]ithin minutes of Katz's e-mail to the White House, government-registered computers began downloading the video from SITE's server, according to a log of file transfers. The records show dozens of downloads over the next three hours from computers with addresses registered to defense and intelligence agencies.

By midafternoon, several television news networks reported obtaining copies of the transcript. A copy posted around 3 p.m. on Fox News's Web site referred to SITE and included page markers identical to those used by the group. "This confirms that the U.S. government was responsible for the leak of this document," Katz wrote in an e-mail to Leiter at 5 p.m.

This story is being played as a one-off. That interpretation is accepted at one's own risk.

During the Cold War, a not-inconsiderable amount of time and effort was expended conducting official US government propaganda operations to calm Americans' fears of nuclear annihilation. Ostensibly aimed at reassuring foreign audiences as to U.S. intentions, "Atoms For Peace", etc., had the deliberate objective of helping to relieve anxiety about the bomb domestically.

These days, the White House-approved (and administered) practice is to cultivate the specter of the most vividly imagined terrors from abroad and to trumpet the most hare-brained plots discovered at home.

And when all else fails, they play the Bin Laden card.

Have a look at Michael Tanji's post What Did I Tell You at his journal Haft of the Spear. Drill down while you're at it. All the way down.

Oct 7, 2007


Foliaged SE Asia for the week. Posting will be slow. Hopefully we will survive to be back and slack.

Oct 6, 2007

Madrassa Education Reform Program as Part of GWOT Strategic PSYOP

Today the Pakistan parliament -- itself installed in a corrupt 2002 election -- voted to keep Gen Pervez Musharraf as president.

We need not get into the merits here of Gen. Musharraf (of which there are few), or debate the opinion of some experts who accurately point out that the overall number of fundamentalist Muslims there is insufficient to bring about the nightmare specter of a radical Islamic Nuke-bearing state as the outcome of truly free elections in that country.

Our objective today is to note the failure of our ally Musharraf -- a military dictator -- to effectively do his part to implement an important component of the main GWOT Strategic PSYOP.

The Madrassa Education Reform program in Pakistan is part of our broader attempts in the Islamic world to prevent the spread of radical Islam. Ideally, we could enable the governments in these countries to establish secular schools, thus eliminating the indoctrination of jihadist principles into the young people. We are providing funds in that direction, as well as sponsoring the teaching of English, but in some places secular education is a culturally foreign concept.

In the Summer of 2002, Congress appropriated $100 million in a five year program to make quality education available to a larger percentage of Pakistani children, especially in tribal areas. The religious schools (Madrassas) in Pakistan were identified early on as a problem -- the Koran is the main textbook. Musharraf was made aware of our desire for some ideological housecleaning in those institutions.

Other funds were forthcoming. USAID received $67 million for education reform in Pakistan in 2005 alone. The World Bank has pitched in additional monies.

Our Pakistani strongman faced strong institutional resistance to the plan from some elements of his military, and as a result, said all the right things to the U.S., but has dragged his feet on carrying out the Madrassa reforms. Three "model madrassas" have been created to demonstrate progress to donors.

This Summer, when the funding from the original five year appropriation was subject to renewal, Musharraf violently cracked down on Islamabad's Red Mosque and its adjoining Madrassa.

The attack on the Red Mosque has rejuvenated the radical Islamist madrassas, and Pakistan is now facing a growing insurgency in the tribal areas.

The idea among Pakistanis of Americans dictating the content of religious education is a sensitive subject, and the most radical of the madrassas are said to have ample alternative sources of funding, but more had been expected from the initiative.

Over the last few months, the U.S. encouraged Musharraf to join Benizir Bhutto in a political alliance of convenience. Only a post-election review by the Pakistani Supreme Court stands in his way of another term as president.

Musharraf has pledged to retire from the military as part of the arrangement to stay on as president.

The Madrassa Education Reform program faltered under his military dictatorship. It is difficult to see the prospect for any improvement along those lines under a "civilian" Musharraf government.

Oct 5, 2007

Strategic Communication Plan for Afghanistan

If not for anything else, we pride ourselves in being quarter decent cherry pickers. After all, where meatballs are concerned, results are more important than originality. Found below is one fine cherry snatched from Mountain Runner's orchard of plenty. We should have stolen it to your attention earlier. Enjoy

An interesting document made its way to MountainRunner: DOD's approved Strategic Communication Plan for Afghanistan [pdf] (which I've made searchable) approved by Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England.

In order to augment our ongoing efforts in Afghanistan, the Department of Defense has developed the attached DOD Strategic Communication (SC) Plan for Afghanistan. This SC plan supports and complements NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operations.

This SC plan directs all DoD organizations to begin execution immediately according to their specified duties and responsibilities. The plan is dynamic, and will continue to be updated and modified as Coalition efforts in Afghanistan evolve. To ensure the successful execution of this plan, DoD leaders are requested to provide the appropriate support to the designated lead organizations. Please review the attached SC plan to identify your responsibilities.

The DoD Strategic Communication Integration Group (SCIG) Secretariat stands ready to work with you and your staff on this important effort.

There's a lot in this document, including hits and misses. Addressed only to the DOD members of the Strategic Communication Integration Group, and not the Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, it identifies key elements of strategic communications, including those in which DOD is not the lead.

Oct 4, 2007

From Suicide Bomber to Starbucks - Bob Dylan's Blowin' Odyssey

Folk music perp Izzy Young (Israel Goodman Young) recently re-unearthed an unpublished Bob Dylan lyric from 1963. Izzy originally chanced upon the 2 page lyric back in 1983 when rummaging through his papers and filed it away again only to rediscover it anew a short while ago.

Izzy used to incessantly complain to M1 how Dylan, after achieving fame and notoriety, completely ignored Izzy. This despite the fact (fact according to Izzy) that it was Izzy who first discovered and headlined the young Bob in his Folklore Center down in Greenwich Village back in the wee sixties. Izzy's whining eventually died down as Dylan for some undisclosed reason recently started giving Izzy both the time of day and comps when he visited Stockholm for gigs.

Izzy said that Dylan let him know he could keep the paper the lyrics are machine typed upon - but not the rights to the lyrics. These days Dylan sells his music to Starbucks and Victoria's Secret. Back in the day the best buck was made selling protest songs - like this unearthed diddy about suicide bombing the White House.

Excerpt of GO AWAY YOU BOMB by Bob Dylan (October 2007)
(copyright Special Rider Music)

I want that bomb - I want it hangin' out a' my pocket an' danglin'

On my key-chain - I want it strapped to my belt buckle -

I want it stickin' out a' my boot

I want it fallin' out a' my sock

I wanna wear it on my wedding finger an' I wanna tie it with bandanas

To my head

I want that Bomb -

I want it settin in my mouth like a cigar

I want it stickin from my ears like a carrot

I wanna look in the mirror an' see it in my eyes

I want one in both hands

I want two in both arms

I want that bomb to be hangin' an' hurtin' an' shinin' an' burnin'

I want it glowing and backbiting - and whistling an' side winding

I want it showin' all over my living self

I want it breathin' from every porthole

I want it blowin' from every pore

I want it weightin' me down so I can't even walk right

I wanna get up in the mornin' an scare the day right out a' it's dawn

Then I walk into the White House an' say "DIG YOURSELVE'S".

Oct 3, 2007

The Saudi Propaganda Machine

Saudi Arabia in recent years has been making efforts to assume the position -- occupied for decades by Egypt -- as the Arab world's leading propaganda player (Qatar’s Al Jazeera notwithstanding).

The Saudi influence programs benefited from the same midwifing from abroad that helped bring Nasser's Egyptian information behemoth into being before relations with the U.S. soured in the mid-1950's.

An excerpt from a piece from Arab Media & Society, which is part of The American University in Cairo's Center for Electronic Journalism.

To observe close-up how Saudi media influence operates I’ve chosen an episode from earlier this year... In April Al Jazeera ran an in-depth interview with Heikal [Mohammed Hassanein Heikal, a longtime journalist with privileged access to Arab and foreign leaders] spread over two hour-long programs in which he discussed the regional political situation in light of the tension between Iran and the United States over Iran’s nuclear energy program and Saudi diplomatic efforts to regulate various regional political disputes, notably with the Mecca agreement in February 2007 that established a short-lived Palestinian unity government between Hamas and Fatah. Heikal was direct in his criticism of the Saudi diplomacy led by Prince Bandar bin Sultan, former Saudi ambassador to the United States and intimate friend of the Bush family, in particular the idea that Iran should be considered an Arab enemy, and placed Saudi efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict within a context of providing the United States with a fig leaf for military action against Iran.

Heikal appeared to have hit the mark. Saudi media immediately and comprehensively swung into action to belittle Heikal. The strongest response came in an opinion piece by the editor of the Saudi daily al-Riyadh, Turki al-Sudairy. Al-Riyadh is owned by group of businessmen and thus officially independent, but it is in effect under the control of Riyadh governor Prince Salman. Journalists on the paper say Sudairy was obliged to write his rebuttal. The title of the article sets a tone which is typical of this kind of attack on the credibility of particularly effective critics -- ajir li-ajir, which might be translated as “from one hireling/hired pen, to another.” The implication was that Heikal was paid to throw mud by a channel that is in turn also paid to throw mud. Sudairy accused Heikal of having been an official “state writer” in Nasser’s period, or the leading scribe in the state media who reveals to the masses and the world, through hints or more directly, the thoughts of the leadership. As former editor of al-Ahram, Egypt’s flagship state paper, this he undoubtedly was. But Sudairy said Heikal had subsequently mounted an unsuccessful bid to become Saudi Arabia’s official scribe, before finally finding a new home in Qatar. “Finally, Heikal found an opportunity to be a ‘state writer’ but in a statelet with hardly half a million people, when this mole of a country (habbat al-khal) Qatar made him its clownish official spokesperson … against the kingdom, which I can affirm does not pay him any attention,” Sudairy wrote. “This is Heikal—pay him and he’ll say anything … It’s difficult to accept any information from a hired pen who has not been deterred by the fact that he is now eighty years old. And what makes it worse is that he is a hired pen working for another hired pen.”

Two regular columnists in the Prince Salman family vehicle Asharq al-Awsat also laid into Heikal. Mamoun Fandy, an Egyptian columnist and senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, accused him of arrogance and going beyond the limits of political politesse for attacking the “Arab peace initiative” launched under Saudi sponsorship in March 2007 and describing Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak—a close Saudi ally—of “living in a world of fantasy” in the Sinai tourist resort of Sharm al-Sheikh. Employing humor, Fandy mocked Heikal’s attack on diplomatic envoy Prince Bandar, writing: “If a camel’s leg went lame in Never-Never Land, he [Heikal] would say Prince Bandar bin Sultan was behind it.” Heikal in his Al Jazeera appearance had claimed that he had taken former U.S. Secretary of State William Rogers into his bathroom for secret conversations that could not be picked up by surveillance. Playing on the double meaning of the phrase al-‘ada al-sirriyya (literally, “secret habit” but also a euphemism for masturbation) Fandy wrote: “Heikal practiced the same ‘secret habit’ on his farm at Birqash whenever he wanted to discuss confidential affairs, as he told Al Jazeera, since the Israel Academic Bureau is located in the floor below his apartment in Cairo.”

Finally, Lebanese columnist Samir Atallah wrote a more sober critique of Heikal in another piece in Asharq al-Awsat. “We don’t know how long Heikal will continue writing history from one perspective, repeating the same thing and the same conviction, forgetting that he has a special responsibility since he is not an ordinary historian or journalist but a political and ideological figure from a critical period during the nation’s history,” he wrote. It wasn’t until the last paragraph of the article that it transpired that Attallah was in fact writing to refute Heikal’s criticism of Saudi Arabia. His closing words: “Saudi Arabia entered into conflicts with Nasserist Egypt on its own borders, not the borders of Egypt, and in its own cities not those of Egypt. As for Egypt’s wars with Israel, Saudi Arabia joined them alongside Egypt in a manner that no one understands more than Heikal. Saudi Arabia also helped Egypt in its war of attrition, militarily and economically.”

This is just one example of a phenomenon that consistently repeats itself in the Arab media and in particular with respect to Saudi Arabia. It demonstrates the power of the Saudi media to respond to criticism, its intolerance to criticism, and its use of non-Saudi writers —- the co-opted liberal intelligentsia -- to deliver the counterpunches.


The only major challenge to what Naomi Sakr has called this “Saudi space” (al-fada` al-sa‘udi) comes from Al Jazeera, and to a much lesser degree Hizbollah’s Al Manar television, the London-based newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi and a host of opposition and independent newspapers around the region. This Al Jazeera challenge is considerable and is a major headache for Saudi leaders. While Al Arabiya is displayed in Saudi embassies as Saudi Arabia’s official mouthpiece, Al Jazeera’s correspondents are vindictively denied access to Saudi Arabia and Saudi companies refrain from advertising to avoid the ire of the Saudi government. Reports that Al Jazeera remains the most watched news channel appear to considerably irk Saudi Arabia. A joint University of Maryland and Zogby International poll of viewers in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates in October 2005 found that Al Jazeera was ahead with 65 percent of viewers, followed by a host of Saudi-owned or Saudi-friendly channels—Al Arabiya, with 34 percent, and MBC1, LBC, Abu Dhabi Television and the Egyptian Satellite Channel. Asharq al-Awsat attacked the poll saying it led respondents on by listing Al Jazeera first in the formulation of questions and using a small polling sample in Saudi Arabia. Oddly, though, the article still boasted that “Al Arabiya came first in the poll as the most-watched second choice channel.

In conclusion, Saudi Arabia has made an immense effort to control the flow of information in the Arab world and assure positive coverage of its politics and society, or often to assure no coverage at all. This effort has involved saturating the Arab viewer in Arab and Western entertainment in the form of dramas, quiz shows, comedies, films, and “soft religion” and only as much politics as is necessary. Saudi Arabia’s pan-Arab media empire promotes specific messages which present themselves as “liberal”, “reformist”, “moderate” and “modern”, but they are also conspicuously Washington-friendly and anti-al-Qa‘ida, Hizbullah, Iran or any other body presenting a challenge to the Pax Americana in the Arab world and the governments who form part of that constellation. This media presence has been constantly evolving; it was not until 2003 that the response to Al Jazeera came with Al Arabiya and by this time the pan-Arab media had become a useful tool for the ruling elite to challenge Islamists and promote a limited Saudi domestic agenda of openness which has involved co-opting as many “liberal intellectuals” as possible. While Al Jazeera has been the strongest challenger of this media empire, it will be interesting to see what impact the BBC’s new Arabic television channel, due to start later this year, will have on the scene.

Related story: Saudi Arabia’s Media Influence