Oct 26, 2008

Black & White - All-American Manchurians

Pick the true Manchurian. One can't go further awry than granny did on her 401(k).


As if being Kenyan weren't bad enough, John Ray at Stop the ACLU reports that Obama is also Indonesian according to another birth certificate and that he traveled to Pakistan in 1981 on an Indonesian passport where he no doubt met with members of Al Qaeda.

McShame (and this supplementary)

...but John McCain—there has always been talk, and there’s evidence to suggest that there is truth in this, but it’s in his head, and only he and his psychiatrist, if he has one, know, that he—his reasons are that if the North—if the Vietnamese were to release all the information they have on him, the full text of his confessions, how he lived the details, because there have been stories, again, just rumors, that he was provided with a woman companion, and all kinds of things like that, which are—can’t be considered as fact, because they’ve never been confirmed, and very, very difficult, if not impossible, to confirm.

PS (We wish we knew as much about the AQ mindset that we do of the commy ditto - ergo this lopsided post scriptum. (We're really really old school gals)):

We have had doubts about the story of McCain's "heroism" in "refusing early release" from the North Vietnamese.

AFAWK, when Commies run detention facilities, THEY make the rules. If they thought that giving McCon's early release would have gained them propaganda points, they would have sent him back to daddy CINCPAC. He wouldn't have had any say in the decision, wethinks.

Oct 22, 2008

Fear and Loathing in Iraq

Slipstreaming behind our previous post Holding Pattern - The Iraq Stack, WaPo's Ignatius brings us this incidental:

Iraq hasn't gotten much attention recently in the American presidential campaign, thanks to the reduction in violence there, but U.S. policymakers are increasingly worried about what's ahead.

The negotiations to complete a new status-of-forces agreement for U.S. troops are deadlocked. With a Dec. 31 deadline approaching, Baghdad and Washington seem to be running out of bargaining room. The Iraqis are determined to assert their sovereignty through legal jurisdiction over U.S. forces, while American officials are demanding broad protections from Iraqi law until U.S. troops are gone in 2011.

U.S. officials are warning that if the talks remain stalled, there isn't an easy Plan B, such as a new U.N. Security Council resolution to replace the one that expires at year's end and now provides the legal mandate for American troops.

"I've tried to make clear the consequences of not getting a SOFA agreement," Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told me in a telephone interview yesterday. "The Iraqis should be under no illusion that a rollover of the U.N. resolution would be an easy option." He said the United States would refuse anything but a clean, one-year extension of the current U.N. mandate -- meaning that the Iraqis would lose the gains they have won in the new status-of-forces agreement.

Crocker said he has advised the Iraqis that without some formal mandate, U.S. troops will return to their bases Jan. 1. "Without legal authority to operate, we do not operate," he said. "That means no security operations, no logistics, no training, no support for Iraqis on the borders, no nothing."

Iraq has been regarded as such a success story in recent months that many have forgotten that all the old cleavages still exist -- Sunni vs. Shiite, Kurd vs. Arab, regional autonomy vs. central government. With growing uncertainty about the future of U.S. forces in the country, these tensions are returning with a vengeance.

Mistrust between Kurds and Arabs almost led to a military confrontation in the Khanaqin area northeast of Baghdad in August. The Kurds had moved their pesh merga militia into the mixed Kurdish-Arab area, prompting Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to deploy Iraqi army troops and order the Kurdish forces to leave. Crocker admonished both sides not to make stupid miscalculations, and U.S. commanders warned that they wouldn't come to Maliki's rescue. The overmatched Iraqi army retreated, but the crisis left bitter feelings on all sides.

"The Kurds still see things as a zero-sum game, as does everyone else," grumbles another senior U.S. official who has been deeply involved in the negotiations. Jockeying among the Shiite parties has been especially intense, he says, with none of the Shiite leaders wanting the potential stigma of supporting the SOFA deal.

Iran is waging an aggressive covert-action campaign to derail the agreement, U.S. officials say. The new commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, highlighted Tehran's push last week when he said Iranian operatives had been seeking to bribe Iraqi members of parliament to reject the pact when it comes up for a vote.

This public allegation of Iranian meddling drew a rebuke from Maliki, but U.S. officials say they have recently intercepted Iranian couriers carrying suitcases of money to pay bribes and political subsidies to pro-Iranian parties. It isn't clear whether the United States is mounting a covert effort of its own to counter the Iranian campaign.

The Iranians obviously want to limit U.S. influence in the new Iraq by defeating the status-of-forces agreement and in the process hand America a strategic defeat. But some top U.S. officials think the Iranians have a more fundamental goal in pushing U.S. forces out before the Iraqis are ready to take over -- namely, bringing a final, decisive resolution to the Iraq-Iran war that ended in a 1988 truce. "Now, 20 years later, they have an opportunity to win that war," the official argued.

"My one-word definition of Iraq is 'fear,' " says Crocker. "Everybody is afraid of everybody. They're afraid of the past, present and future. They're afraid of the consequences of signing an agreement. But they should be even more afraid of the consequences of not signing."

Oct 21, 2008

Straight to the Heart - Tête-à-Tête Cyberattacks

Today many hit the internet's WWW for its plethora of social networks, browsing from a distance through server-side catalogs aggregating and organizing the personal profiles of millions.

Tomorrow we will be able to surf and process the profiles of people as we encounter them irl and on the fly: adjacent soccer dads and fellow pedestrians work bound - the bounty will be plenty and immediate. This brown eyed Denny's cashier - I wonder if my dating profile and credit score matches his secret longings for a suave one night stand? (Heck, I even think some of the SMC crew have patents pending for such technology).

Already scenarios are in play that consider the hazards of tête-à-tête cyberhits. A nifty vector of opportunity for assassins and deformed love seekers?

Excerpts below from the report, Pacemakers and Implantable Cardiac Defibrillators: Software Radio Attacks and Zero-Power Defenses [14-page pdf]:

Wirelessly reprogrammable implantable medical devices(IMDs) such as pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), neurostimulators, and implantable drug pumps use embedded computers and radios to monitor chronic disorders and treat patients with automatic therapies.

For instance, an ICD that senses a rapid heartbeat can administer an electrical shock to restore a normal heart rhythm, then later report this event to a health care practitioner who uses a commercial device programmer1 with wireless capabilities to extract data from the ICD or modify its settings without surgery.

Between 1990 and 2002, over 2.6 million pacemakers and ICDs were implanted in patients in the United States; clinical trials have shown that these devices significantly improve survival rates in certain populations. Other research has discussed potential security and privacy risks of IMDs, but we are unaware of any rigorous public investigation into the observable characteristics of a real commercial device. Without such a study, it is impossible for the research community to assess or address the security and privacy properties of past, current, and future devices. We address that gap in this paper and, based on our findings, propose and implement several prototype attack-mitigation techniques.

We assess the security and privacy properties of a common ICD and present attacks on privacy, integrity, and availability. We show that the ICD discloses sensitive information in the clear (unencrypted); we demonstrate a reprogramming attack that changes the operation of (and the information contained in) the ICD; and we give evidence that a battery-powered ICD can be made to communicate indefinitely with an unauthenticated device, thereby posing a potential denial-of-service risk. All of our attacks can be mounted by an unauthorized party equipped with a specially configured radio communicator within range of the ICD.

Attack scenarios. Since health care is a very sensitive and personal subject for many people, we explicitly choose to deviate from standard practice in the academic security research community and do not describe specific scenarios in which an attacker might compromise the privacy or health of a victim. We also do not discuss the potential impact on patients if an adversary were to carry out an attack in vivo. Rather, when discussing attacks we focus solely on the technical properties of those attacks. In addition, in each case where we identify a vulnerability, we propose a solution or technical direction to mitigate it.

Further resources available through the Medical Device Security Center.

Oct 20, 2008

Shift To Shape

Two fine posts (FabMax & Kent's) about smothered writings of deserved heed upon shabby and beckoning ol' walls got us mulling over the divides & gangways between intelligence analysts, prophets, and your regular old soothsaying hacks.

Alerting graffiti (that simultaneously dire and decorative kind) conjectured by all manner a premonitory scribbler abounds: Alien invasion fleets lurking to pounce upon our welfare states from behind the innocent moon. Decadently chateau'd and beak-nosed Rothchildians colluding with coffin-masturbating and creaky old Anglo-satanists for nation-killing and Jesus-ushering global hegemony. Or exploitative street urchins the likes of a Soros or a Lahde publicly accenting Bubble. What the heck is actionable enough to cling to?

Save our souls, Brother - and do tell us before we're all, excuse our French, glass'd, "Which of the millennial incomers is the MIRV and what be the swarm of Siberian-mined aluminum chaff?"

The good analyst but strives to describe a sliver of a moment - now or then.

Prophets haphazardly foresee an amalgamated potpourri of such interconnected moments and invariably get viciously bled and quartered for such un-summoned community service, well rudely ante their utterances are sufficiently Youtube'd for fair chance at corralling abidance.

Soothsayers. Well hey, they're those commonsensical sounding folks with scary pluperfect hair resolutely appearing on CGI'd cable news - and who are almost always wrong in, alas, non-existent retrospect.

Prediction is but for the shaper. Such sculpting animal takes, or leaves, the goodies of the varyingly vying Trinitians under its driven behest and proceeds unflinchingly onwards as myopic molder. Futures made are oft born of steamrolling sows, obliterating difference in fidelity between the considered input of indentured drudge and freelancing druid.

Caught in a cacophony of determined advice, admonition, and analysis, perhaps it's fair to turn deaf ears to courting lips and rear pasty asses t'wards our strong sun and meekly ask, "Who's the shaper now?"

Now a wee diddy`bout oil pricing.

Oil prices seem to be in free-fall. After averaging a staggering $137 a barrel over the first week of July, they were down to $109 a barrel over the final week of August.

Where are prices going next? Who knows? Bearish talk about bubbles bursting and bullish talk about peak oil disguise the fact that the future direction of oil prices is unknown and unknowable. Neither investors nor politicians ought to be betting the economic house on any particular vision of "our energy future."

The fundamental reason for the difficulty associated with forecasting future oil prices is the fact that both demand and supply are relatively inelastic over the short term. That means rather small changes in either can have very large price effects. Hence, those who wish to forecast oil prices are forced to forecast weather patterns, labor relations, gross domestic product (GDP) reports, demographic trends, civil unrest and technological change in all sorts of disparate economic sectors.

Long-run forecasts are no easier to execute. Professor Vaclav Smil of the University of Manitoba has cataloged the vast record of energy forecasts offered by academics, corporations, consultants, trade associations, government agencies, "blue ribbon" commissions, policy activists and "futurists" of all stripes over the past 100 years and finds a "a manifest record of failure." There is simply no reason to believe that mere mortals can foretell oil prices or petroleum market shares in the future, absent some sort of time machine. (Read more)

Oct 14, 2008

Cross-Border Tweaks And Twitters

Though certainly not frantically akin to the complexities inherent U.S. military cross-border excursions into Pakistan, the Turkish situation does perhaps remind us of the interplay such junkets can bring to bear on the complex matrix of perception shaping - for better or worse.

Turkey's AKP government has been engaged in hitherto secretive talks with Iraqi Kurdistan's autonomous regional government (KRG) as part of a new play to come to terms with the PKK's escalating attacks into Turkey from bases inside Iraq - and perhaps more importantly/ realistically as a means of capping Turkish domestic dissatisfaction with how the AKP government is seemingly failing to come to resolving terms with Kurd-related strife.

Simultaneous to the talks, Turkey is conducting cross-border aerial bombardment sorties against PKK bases inside Iraqi Kurdistan and has done so ever since October 3 when a PKK commando unit launched an attack from within Iraq against the border posting of Aktutun, smoking 17 Turkish soldiers.

Ankara seems somewhat set on reaching a cooperation agreement (i.e. a commitment by the KRG to deploy military assets against the PKK, though Kurds aren't exactly known for whacking other Kurds en masse - especially when such internecine action risks coming off as running errands for foreign meddlers) - or at the very least, and perhaps foremost so - Ankara appears adamant in shaping a perception among its domestic audience of evolving a new predisposition towards fielding a wider spectrum of approaches vis-à-vis the pesky Kurd.

By opening up an official dialogue with the Kurds - albeit with Iraqi Kurds - the AKP government hopes to sufficiently quell escalating domestic voices pressuring Ankara to take a more political and culturally accommodating approach to some of the not entirely unreasonable aspirations of their own Kurds - if only to erode the PKK's popular base. The KRG's prime minister Nechirvan Barzani is soon bound for Ankara so perhaps some modicum of sly win-win gambit is gaining traction.

From previously making due with boomeranging out blame across the fence at the Iraqi Kurds for tolerating and supporting the PKK, the AKP government's new maneuver to appease domestic audiences by publicly announcing that dialogue with the Kurds is no longer taboo seems not all that mute . Almost as to underscore quelling intentions, Turkish President Gül is pretty much already on his way to Emerald City to liaise with President Jalal Talabani and Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari - both conveniently Kurds. If nothing deployably pointy comes out of the karsilamas then at least the top level posturing will perhaps work the AKP's way as a placating gesture to shore up the rustling domestic flank.

Iraqi Kurdistan's KRG has also been voicing a change in tone towards the PKK with the likes of a "Hey PKK, `nuff with those riling cross border excursions into Turkey or you'll have to move on elsewhere" or a "Yo Gül, we're always open for a constructive discussion on mutual problems". So far however, it's been all smoke and no neighbourly Ka-boom from the KRG.

Come end of day, one of our less skewed guesses would be that it will take a not so minor doctrinal revolution among the shadow-casters of the deep state establishment before any decisively empowered lurking Turk seriously considers deploying approaches beyond the capacity of what the Neo-Ottoman's old kinetic toolbox has to offer. Public sentiment inside Turkey still has a funny knack of often cascading a little short of what many might feel is far enough.

And now to an article in another day's Today's Zaman

A Turkish delegation headed by Turkey's special envoy to Iraq, Murat Özçelik, had talks with Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani in Baghdad on Tuesday, in a landmark meeting to discuss cooperation against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which launches attacks on Turkey from its northern Iraqi bases.

Speaking after the talks, Turkey's first official contact with the Kurdish leader in recent years, Özçelik declined to make specific comments on the content of the discussions but said he had outlined what could be done in the fight against terrorism, adding that Barzani responded "positively" to Turkey's demands.

The Iraqi Kurds, for their part, said they are ready to work with Turkey to find a solution. "The two sides agreed to turn a new page and continue talks," said Faisal Dabbagh, a spokesman for Barzani. He stated that the Kurdish leader said the terror problem should be resolved through politics and dialogue and that the Kurdish administration was ready to give support in every way.

"This was the first meeting in a long time. The meeting was positive. It was a good step to develop ties," senior Kurdish official Fouad Hussein told the private Cihan news agency.

Turkey notes that there has been a change in the Kurdish administration's rhetoric on Turkey's anti-PKK efforts recently, but complains no visible progress has been achieved in meeting a set of concrete expectations. Ankara expects the Iraqi Kurds to arrest and extradite PKK chieftains, to designate the group a terrorist organization and to close down PKK-linked organizations operating in northern Iraq.

Ankara had refused to talk to the Iraqi Kurds, accusing them of supporting the PKK. Özçelik and the chief foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, Ahmet Davuto?lu, met with Kurdish official Nechirvan Barzani in May, launching an era of dialogue with the Kurdish administration.

Yesterday's talks with Massoud Barzani are a test proving whether dialogue with the Iraqi Kurds could pave the way for cooperation against the PKK, according to Turkish officials.

The Turkish delegation also met with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The meeting in Baghdad underscores the pressure facing the Turkish government to respond forcefully to attacks launched by the PKK from its mountain camps in Kurdish-run northern Iraq. Maliki expressed regret over an Oct. 3 attack that killed 17 Turkish soldiers and said the Iraqi people were "ashamed" that the PKK is using the Iraqi territory to launch attacks on Turkey. He also said this "trouble" should be removed.

The talks in Baghdad come as President Abdullah Gül prepares to visit Iraq. The presidency has denied recent reports in the Turkish media that he has been also invited to Arbil during his stay. Speaking yesterday before traveling to Germany to inaugurate an international book fair, Gül said he is planning to go to Baghdad but declined to comment on details, saying no date has yet been set. "I earlier announced my intention to travel to Baghdad, but work to set a date and a schedule for this visit has not yet started," Gül said.

The level and intensity of future talks are likely to be determined based on the results from yesterday's talks with Massoud Barzani. The government, cautious about the possible failure of talks with Barzani, had avoided top-level meetings with the Iraqi Kurdish leader, expecting him to take more steps to prove his commitment to supporting Turkey's anti-terror efforts. Nechirvan Barzani raised hopes about cooperation against the PKK, calling for dialogue with Ankara to discuss possible cooperation.

Oct 11, 2008

Pass It On - Love Grind Part One

Let us not be such cynics so as to titulate this post Cross-branding Selves. Instead...

Time has long prior to now drawn nigh to near to giving this long pre-meditated post hierurgical wings - only to find us so often as always procrastinating out of true blue fear of doing injustice to the worthy yet woefully bypassed (per way of banal martini-omissionism).

But to heck with such introspective Lutheran incontinence - it gets so fuzzy. Here instead goes a skanky SMC Sally loose with an achingly pregnant and amorous tirade. So batton down and buckle up, Lassie. We think you suspect by now that we're going for the big ugly. Some call it love.

Effwit (and its politically skullduggerous harlot) An outstanding counter-shaded slacker. But hey, hermaphrodite buddy - reign in your compulsive Writ large-isms and you could stumble far beyond yo' anti-oxidatin' green tea-quaffing Embassy Row townhouse commy-subsistence.)

g Kent's- Possibly the best esoteric blog in the Die Wilde Jagd. If only the imperatators could rid themselves of their own occasional, albeit only sub-textual, writ large-isms.

MountainRunner's Matt - There's an eclectic and weird cluster of blogs about Matt that has cornered the market of clean & elegantly detached graphic design. Unfortunately Matt rather recently chose to cross brand his SoCal mug with his otherwise aesthetically pleasing journal - how unfortunate for all but most kind He.

We like to tell ourselves we found Matt before he learned to crawl - and now the clever cat trail-blazes. Pan for gold with us and be richer.

Follow Matt if you're serious 'bout tax-subsidized mindbending - he keeps tabs on the (r)evolving bureaucracy of IO and PD like certainly no other and gasping runner up. At such task, he's both reasonably brave and charitably looking to enhance the regular mediocrity with his absolutely other-enhancing employment. We refuse to punt our dear and massive pool of Eurodollars on the side of any U.S.-led adventurism lest brilliant and willing MountainRunner man is made decisive shotgunner within DoD or State. Wise up, GS'ers.

John Brown's PD Review Thanks - and thanks Tri-pawed.

Hafty - Finally a thinly veiled unromantic - and incomparably qualified iconoclast at that. If you don't get nobody's bitch's cryptics then nobody's bitch's cryptics ain't for you to feed off. Tough luck, Citizen Al-Dorito.

As with all of the above journals, Haft's shack of due irreverence is where a decisive slice of it be at. Don't take our word on that.

Secrecy News What can an inebriated stutterer mutter but: hated by some but always a tenaciously exploitable and delving other. Steve Aftergood can buy us yet another drink any ol' or comin' time. This time though, it's on us - not.

Pass It On - Love Grind Part Two next up.

Oct 10, 2008

Love Me

Under a most quaint plan being considered by the British Government, Afghans would be given handsets and access to the internet to help them gain their own voice.

It follows a growing realization in Washington and Whitehall that the allies are being outflanked by the Taliban in the battle to reach ordinary Afghans.

Sharing video clips is popular in Afghanistan where there are an estimated 6 million mobiles and around half a million internet users.

However, most of the footage is anti-Western propaganda created by the Taliban. It often includes footage of civilians apparently killed in US raids and is widely circulated in the country by phone and internet.

The allies' reputation was particularly damaged by film [YouTube-CNN] of around 90 civilians - many of them children - killed in a US-led bombing raid in August.

The British government's proposal would involve non-governmental organizations distributing mobile phones to Afghans to encourage them to make video diaries.

Devised by an outside consultant, the plan is said by the Foreign Office to "have merit". The BBC reported that the plan, part of a British Government-commissioned report by an outside consultant, would be used to record up to 100 video diaries for a film festival next year.

A spokesman for the UKs Department for International Development (DfID) said: "An external consultant has proposed a scheme but absolutely no decision has been made and it would be wrong to suggest that DfID will fund it."

Whitehall officials (Whitehall officials sounds so logarithmically better than Whitehall Turkeys) have said the aim is to deprive the Taliban of its virtual monopoly on propaganda using new media.

The once media-shy Taliban have gone hi-tech with DVDs, mobile phone messages, ring-tones, emails and a website to publicize their exploits and lambast their Afghan and Western enemies, a think-tank said on Thursday.

The Taliban hanged televisions and music tapes from trees
in an effort to stamp out corrupting Western influences during their hardline Islamist rule of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Their leaders had only one computer, Afghanistan experts say.

But after U.S.-led and Afghan forces toppled the austere movement following the September 11, 2001, attacks, the militants regrouped and relaunched their insurgency in 2005, copying the tactics of roadside and suicide bombs from Iraq.

Now the Taliban have also created a "sophisticated communications apparatus" using the full range of media allowing them to project an "increasingly confident movement", the International Crisis Group (ICG) said in last summer's report Taliban Propaganda: Winning the War of Words?[47-page pdf].

With their own website, magazines, DVDs, audio cassettes, pamphlets and mobile phones, the ICG says, the Taliban are able to capitalize on mistakes made by the government and its allies and reveal their own "inflated tales of battlefield exploits".

Taliban statements emailed to the media talk of killing "puppet terrorists", meaning Afghan security forces, and destroying "occupation tanks" and seizing their arms.

So-called night-letters are delivered to homes warning Afghans against cooperating with the government and international troops, while DVDs, text and video messages are aimed at the more tech savvy.

The ICG said the Afghan government and its allies must try harder to combat weakening public support and alienation caused by arbitrary detentions and civilian casualties which the Taliban are able to exploit through their media.

"Whatever the military benefits of arbitrary detentions, they are far outweighed by the alienation they cause," the ICG said.

A series of air strikes by international forces in Afghanistan in the last month, Afghan officials say, have killed more than 60 civilians.

"The effectiveness of aerial bombardment, even if strictly exercised within the bounds of international law, must be considered against the damage to popular support," the ICG said.

The Taliban, it said, are not going to be defeated militarily and are resistant to outside criticism.

"Rather the legitimacy of its ideas and actions must be challenged more forcefully by the Afghan government and citizens," the ICG said.

Militants should be held to public account for killing civilians and targeting community leaders through open trials, and the Afghan government and its international allies should similarly be bound by the rule of law, the ICG said.

Ultimately, winning popular support is not about telling local communities that they are better off today. It is about proving it.

If Afghan civilians continue to perceive civilian deaths as being directly attributable to our presence & activities within their country and tribal regions then those - per proposed plan - distributed handsets could come back to bite us with a fresh swarm of pesky video snippets. It all sounds rather risky, if not downright desperate, given the present state of affairs in injun country. We assume there is buried within the report a suggestion to track the freebie phones - though such easily unveiled intention in itself could very well be grounds for seeing our phones, and the subcontracty plan, smashed to bits.

Oct 7, 2008

Minding Malfeasant Minds - GWOT IO-Contracts

Propaganda aimed at foreign audiences has at times meandered its way back home to shape a soft domestic mind or two. If we stick to producing a Baquba Idol or a Dancing With The SOI then the chances of such brainwashing blowback should be considered sufficiently negligible so as to be quite forgiveable.

The Defense Department will pay private U.S. contractors in Iraq up to $300 million over the next three years to produce news stories, entertainment programs and public service advertisements for the Iraqi media in an effort to "engage and inspire" the local population to support U.S. objectives and the Iraqi government.

The new contracts -- awarded last week to four companies -- will expand and consolidate what the U.S. military calls "information/psychological operations" in Iraq far into the future, even as violence appears to be abating and U.S. troops have begun drawing down.

The four companies that will share in the new contract are SOSi, the Washington-based Lincoln Group, Alexandria-based MPRI and Leonie Industries, a Los Angeles contractor. All specialize in strategic communications and have done previous defense work.

The military's role in the war of ideas has been fundamentally transformed in recent years, the result of both the Pentagon's outsourced resources and a counterinsurgency doctrine in which information control is considered key to success. Uniformed communications specialists and contractors are now an integral part of U.S. military operations from Eastern Europe to Afghanistan and beyond.

Iraq, where hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on such contracts, has been the proving ground for the transformation. "The tools they're using, the means, the robustness of this activity has just skyrocketed since 2003. In the past, a lot of this stuff was just some guy's dreams," said a senior U.S. military official, one of several who discussed the sensitive defense program on the condition of anonymity.

The Pentagon still sometimes feels it is playing catch-up in a propaganda market dominated by al-Qaeda, whose media operations include sophisticated Web sites and professionally produced videos and audios featuring Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants. "We're being out-communicated by a guy in a cave," Secretary Robert M. Gates often remarks.

But Defense Department officials think their own products have become increasingly imaginative and competitive. Military and contractor-produced media campaigns, spotlighting killings by insurgents, "helped in developing attitudes" that led Iraqis to reject al-Qaeda in Iraq over the past two years, an official said. Now that the insurgency is in disarray, he said, the same tools "could potentially be helpful" in diminishing the influence of neighboring Iran.

U.S.-produced public service broadcasts and billboards have touted improvements in government services, promoted political reconciliation, praised the Iraqi military and encouraged Iraqi citizens to report criminal activity. When national euphoria broke out last year after an Iraqi singer won a talent contest in Lebanon, the U.S. military considered producing an Iraqi version of "American Idol" to help build nonsectarian nationalism. The idea was shelved as too expensive, an official said, but "we're trying to think out of the box on" reconciliation.

One official described how part of the program works: "There's a video piece produced by a contractor . . . showing a family being attacked by a group of bad guys, and their daughter being taken off. The message is: You've got to stand up against the enemy." The professionally produced vignette, he said, "is offered for airing on various [television] stations in Iraq. . . . They don't know that the originator of the content is the U.S. government. If they did, they would never run anything."

"If you asked most Iraqis," he said, "they would say, 'It came from the government, our own government.' "

The Pentagon's solicitation for bids on the contracts noted that media items produced "may or may not be non-attributable to coalition forces." "If they thought we were doing it, it would not be as effective," another official said of the Iraqis. "In the Middle East, they are so afraid they're going to be Westernized . . . that you have to be careful when you're trying to provide information to the population."

The Army's counterinsurgency manual, which Gen. David H. Petraeus co-wrote in 2006, describes information operations in detail, citing them among the "critical" military activities "that do not involve killing insurgents." Petraeus, who became the top U.S. commander in Iraq early last year, led a "surge" in combat troops and information warfare.

Some of the new doctrine emerged from Petraeus's own early experience in Iraq. As commander of the 101st Airborne Division in northern Nineveh province in 2003, he ensured that war-ravaged radio and television stations were brought rapidly back on line. At his urging, the first TV programs included "Nineveh Talent Search" and a radio call-in show hosted by his Arabic interpreter, Sadi Othman, a Palestinian American.

Othman, a former New York cabdriver employed by Reston-based SOS International, remained at Petraeus's side during the general's subsequent Iraq deployments; the company refers to him as a senior adviser to Petraeus.

SOSi has been one of the most prominent communications contractors working in Iraq, winning a two-year $200 million contract in 2006 to "assist in gathering information, conducting analysis and providing timely solutions and advice regarding cultural, religious, political, economic and public perceptions."

"We definitely believe this is a growth area in the DOD," said Julian Setian, SOSi's chief operating officer. "We are seeing more and more requests for professional assistance in media-related strategic communications efforts, specifically in gauging of perceptions in foreign media with regard to U.S. operations."

Defense officials maintained that strict rules are enforced against disseminating false information. "Our enemies have the luxury of not having to tell the truth," Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman told a congressional hearing last month. "We pay an extremely high price if we ever even make a slight error in putting out the facts."

Contractors require security clearances, and proof that their teams possess sufficient linguistic abilities and knowledge of Iraqi culture. The Iraqi government has little input on U.S. operations, although U.S. officials say they have encouraged Iraqis to be more aggressive in molding public support.

The Pentagon is sensitive to criticism that it has sometimes blurred the lines between public-affairs activities and unattributed propaganda. As information operations in Iraq expanded, some senior officers warned that they risked a return to psychological and deception operations discredited during the Vietnam War.

In 2006, the Pentagon's inspector general found that media work that the Lincoln Group did in Iraq was improperly supervised but legal. The contractor had prepared news items considered favorable to the U.S. military and paid to place them in the Iraqi media without attribution. Then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters that his initial reaction to the anonymous pay-to-publish program was "Gee, that's not what we ought to be doing."

On Aug. 21, the day before bids on the new contract were closed, the solicitation was reissued to replace repeated references to information and psychological operations with the term "media services."

Senior military officials said that current media placement is done through Iraqi middlemen and that broadcast time is usually paid. But they said they knew of no recent instance of payment to place unattributed newspaper articles. The officials maintained that news items are now a minor part of the operation, which they said is focused on public service promotions and media monitoring.

But a lengthy list of "deliverables" under the new contract proposal includes "print columns, press statements, press releases, response-to-query, speeches and . . . opinion editorials"; radio broadcasts "in excess of 300 news stories" monthly and 150 each on sports and economic themes; and 30- and 60-minute broadcast documentary and entertainment series.

Contractors will also develop and maintain Web sites; assess news articles in the Iraqi, U.S. and international media; and determine ways to counter coverage deemed negative, according to the contract solicitation the government posted in May. Polls and focus groups will be used to monitor Iraqi attitudes under a separate three-year contract totaling up to $45 million.

While U.S. law prohibits the use of government money to direct propaganda at U.S. audiences, the "statement of work" included in the proposal, written by the U.S. Joint Contracting Command in Iraq, notes the need to "communicate effectively with our strategic audiences (i.e. Iraqi, pan-Arabic, International, and U.S. audiences) to gain widespread acceptance of [U.S. and Iraqi government] core themes and messages."

Lawmakers have often challenged the propriety of the military's information operations, even when they take place outside the United States. The Pentagon itself has frequently lamented the need to undertake duties beyond combat and peacekeeping, and Gates has publicly questioned the "creeping militarization" of tasks civilians traditionally perform.

In 2006, President Bush put the State Department in charge of the administration's worldwide "strategic communications," but the size of the military's efforts dwarf those of the diplomats. State estimates it will spend $5.6 million on public diplomacy in Iraq in fiscal 2008. A provision in the fiscal 2009 Defense Authorization Bill has called for a "close examination" of the State and defense communications programs "to better formulate a comprehensive strategy."

Some inside the military itself have questioned the effectiveness of the defense program. "I'm not a huge fan" of information operations, one military official said, adding that Iraqi opinions -- as for most people -- are formed more by what they experience than by what they read in a newspaper, hear on the radio or see on billboards.

"A lot of money is being thrown around," he said, "and I'm not sure it's all paying off as much as we think it is."
-Hacked & Jacked WaPo

New Army Field Manual for Operations, FM 3-0 - Stability Operations

The Army on Monday will unveil an unprecedented doctrine that declares nation-building missions will probably become more important than conventional warfare and defines "fragile states" that breed crime, terrorism and religious and ethnic strife as the greatest threat to U.S. national security

The Army's new field manual for operations, FM 3-0 [220-page pdf], brings the first major update of Army capstone doctrine since the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

"Today's Army is about half the size it was in 1970, but the U.S. military's involvement around the world has tripled since the collapse of the former Soviet Union," notes the foreword to the TRADOC information pamphlet for FM 3-0 [12-pagepdf]. "The next several decades, according to many security experts, will be an era of persistent conflict that will generate continuing deployments for our Army."

"We must emphasize doctrine as the driver for change," said Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. "You can't cement change in the organization until you adapt the institutions. That change begins with doctrine."

There are several changes in the new operations manual:

• The operational concept and the operational environment

• The stability operations construct

• The information-operations construct

• Warfighting functions

• The spectrum of conflict

• Defeat and stability mechanisms

• Joint interdependence and modular forces

FM 3-0 institutionalizes simultaneous offensive, defensive, and stability or civil-support operations as the core of the Army's doctrine. The concept of full-spectrum operations, first introduced in the 2001 manual, still represents a major shift in Army doctrine - forces must be able to address the civil situation at all times, combining tactical tasks affecting noncombatants with tactical tasks directed against the enemy.

According to some, the FM 3-0 is revolutionary as pertains to the following four specific points in the manual:

• The importance of stability operations is elevated to co-equal with combat (offensive and defensive operations).

• The critical nature and influence of information on operations.

• An operational concept that drives initiative embraces risk and focuses on creating opportunities to achieve decisive results.

• The critical role of the commander in full-spectrum operations, bridging battle command and operational art in leveraging the experience, knowledge and intuition of the commander.

Stability operations are viewed as important - if not more so - than offensive and defensive operations in the new operations manual.

Winning battles and engagements is important but not decisive by itself; shaping the civil situation in concert with other government agencies, international organizations, civil authorities and multinational forces will be just as important to campaign success, according to the new FM.

The new operations manual institutionalizes the need for cultural awareness, which is critical to understanding populations and their perceptions to reduce friction, and prevent misunderstanding, thereby improving a force's ability to accomplish its mission.

Soldiers and leaders must master information. To the people, perception is reality. Altering perceptions requires accurate, truthful information presented in a way that accounts for how people absorb and interpret information with messages that have broad appeal and acceptance. This is the essence of information engagement in the new FM.

But as the Army struggles to define its long-term future beyond Iraq and Afghanistan, some critics within the military warn that the new emphasis on nation-building is a dangerous distraction from what they believe should be the Army's focus: strengthening its core war-fighting skills to prepare for large-scale ground combat.

Critics challenge the assumption that major wars are unlikely in the future, pointing to the risk of high-intensity conflict that could require sizable Army deployments to North Korea, Iran, Pakistan or elsewhere.

Civilian officials and nongovernmental groups voice a different concern: that the military's push to expand its exercise of "soft power," while perhaps inevitable, given the dearth of civilian resources, marks a growing militarization of U.S. foreign policy.

Some nongovernmental organizations raised concerns about the potential blurring of roles when the military carries out relief operations, saying it could compromise their independence and impartiality in the eyes of local citizens, and make relief workers targets of attack.

The organizations also objected to early drafts of the manual that suggested the military had an obligation or right to intervene in fragile states. They referred to humanitarian NGOs as partners of the military. Many NGOs might understandably object to be described as such.

Bureaucratic unrest surrounded the writing of the Army stability manual. Disputes over whether the document should enshrine "democracy" as a goal of stability operations led to that target ultimately being axed.

Jacked & Hacked WaPo & Army.Mil

Oct 6, 2008

Ivan The Slicker

Though we'd be reluctant to call this kind of herding Information Warfare (admittedly, it does ring sexier than a plodding public diplomacy initiative), it is definitely an improvement over the running dog hind leg lackey of American imperialism pontifications by indignant people's spokesmen of old.

TSKHINVALI -- Under the standards of information warfare, it was an easy job by all accounts.

The Kremlin only had to charter a plane, take about 60 foreign and Russian reporters to Beslan, bus them through the nearby Roksky Tunnel to South Ossetia, and stand back.

The journalists did the rest. They were free to speak to whomever they wanted and ask any questions.

The comments that they heard on all sides -- from South Ossetia leader Eduard Kokoity, local officials and ordinary residents -- matched the Kremlin's official line perfectly. Everyone said they had waited for years for Russia to recognize the breakaway Georgian republic of 70,000 people as independent and hoped for a future together.

"We've been waiting for this for 18 years," said Tsiala Gergaulova, a Tskhinvali resident whose 24-year-old son was injured in the Russian-Georgian war last month. "I would like for us to be part of Russia. I believe everybody wants this."

Boris Bagayev, an 85-year-old artist and official with the local administration, said he was more than happy that Moscow had recognized his republic last week. "It gives meaning to my life," he said.

Two weeks after the short but intense war, life in the South Ossetian capital appears to be coming back together. On Monday, damaged government buildings, ruined neighborhoods and a statue with a missing head in a central square stood as grim reminders of the fighting. But the streets were being patched up, reconstruction was being planned, and most children attended their first day of the school year -- just like their peers in Russia.

For the situation to improve further, Kokoity said, the world should recognize South Ossetia and another breakaway Georgian region, Abkhazia, as independent.

"The recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia will stabilize the situation in the Caucasus," the South Ossetian leader told reporters, standing in front of green netting covering the remains of the local parliament building. Russia so far has been the only country to recognize the breakaway republics, although Belarus and Venezuela have expressed support. Western powers have denounced the decision.

Kokoity said the immediate task for his government was to strengthen South Ossetia's independence and then to officially become part of Russia. He urged foreign reporters to ignore criticism from their governments and "listen to the voice of people and common sense."

A Kremlin official supervising the journalists on the trip, Vladislav Petrushin, said the main purpose of the visit was to give the foreign reporters access to the administration led by Kokoity. "We've provided an opportunity to talk. It's not like we've given him a cheat sheet. He said the truth," Petrushin said.

The trip also indicates how far the Kremlin has evolved in communicating with the outside world. When the fighting broke out Aug. 8, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and other senior officials made their case in interviews with major Western media outlets. Top Russian officials, meanwhile, were shown on state television holding meetings. As international sentiment grew in Tbilisi's favor, the Kremlin mounted its own campaign of informational warfare. President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have offered a series of interviews in recent days.

"They've understood they can't neglect communications," said Anthony Orliange, a television reporter with Capa, a production company, on the Kremlin trip to South Ossetia.

"The whole point of me being here is that the Kremlin wants to communicate," said Orliange, who came with a colleague from Paris after receiving their Russian visas in record time. "I didn't have a visa three days ago," he said.

During the war, access to the conflict zone was tightly controlled for foreign reporters. While Monday's visit was vastly different from seeing the war itself, it was still helpful, Orliange said. "I am getting the vibe of this place," he said. "It will change my perspective."

A hacked & jacked The Moscow Times via Johnson's Russia List

Oct 5, 2008

Human Terrain Exploit: Idle Chatting Muslims ;)

[Thailand] Village teashops will no longer be just places for refreshments, as they have now been asked to double as public relations centres for the government.

This move is aimed at disseminating accurate information to the public in the government's drive to promote peace in the deep South.

Pranai Suwannarat, director of the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC), said a network of village teashops has been established by the state in all the 1,320 villages of the three southernmost provinces to bring about an understanding on state efforts to restore peace in the region and keep southerners from being misled by insurgent groups.

Village teashops will also be promoted as communal forums to discuss and exchange information on how to deal with the southern issues.

"Muslim people always like to involve themselves in idle chat at village teashops or coffee shops. Undoubtedly, these shops are seen as a key strategy in the psychological warfare and public relations campaign of the state to try to win over the people," Mr Pranai said.
-Bangkok Post

Oct 2, 2008

Holding Pattern - The Iraq Stack

Caught a BBC interview with General Petraeus on the locker room TV a few weeks ago after swimming a few lazy laps.

To paraphrase what I heard the go-to man for COINy IO say (and also what he somberly didn't say) when I was drying off, the general rather bluntly insinuated that any perceptions of durable surge-precipitated stability in Iraq were but perceptions. Iraq has been but placed in a holding pattern - a state of growling suspended animation, and the present spell of attenuated calamity is better perceived as tenuous, with a half-life demanding nothing less than near immediate efforts of significant strategic resolve and action as decisive misfortunes yet murmur and snarl just beyond the gate.

General Petraeus has certainly bought invaluable time & life for a many with his dexterous application of artful tricks of an esoteric trade and so at least one question perhaps begs asking - for the entry of just what resolving initiative is this time bought? Somewhat apropo, The Christian Science Monitor just dropped this off:

Fresh concern is washing over Iraq of a new wave of insurgent violence as the bands of mainly Sunni Muslim Iraqis trained, armed, and paid by the US military to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq are now coming under the control of a skeptical Shiite-led government.

While the group called the Sons of Iraq (SOI) has been critically important in improving security, the US military and many leaders within the SOI worry that their foot soldiers – many of them ex-insurgents – will simply return to their old ways if they are not paid or brought into Iraq's official security forces.

"If the government doesn't accept them, most will join [insurgent] groups, and they will restart their activities stronger than before," says Khalid Jamal, an SOI leader in Baghdad. "That will make Iraq return to zero."

Keeping the insurgency and sectarian killing at bay is crucial in Iraq's fragile security, where the SOI (known also as the Awakening, or Sahwa in Arabic) are but one reason for the sharp fall in violence. Official figures point to 440 Iraqis killed in September, down from peaks of more than 3,000 a month in 2006.

A spike in attacks in recent days coincides with the end of Ramadan. Two suicide bombs struck Shiite mosques early Thursday, killing at least 24 of the 30 Iraqis who died in attacks.

Recent days have also witnessed an increase in the number of bodies being found in Baghdad, a dozen of which were killed execution-style.

Other pillars of improved security are a standing down of the Mahdi Army militia of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr – widely seen as a result of Iranian pressure on the Shiite firebrand – and the surge of US forces last year that helped enable the ever-growing Iraqi security forces to take control.

The government "affirms its commitment to integrate the members into public life so that they take part in building Iraq," spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement Wednesday, the day US forces nominally handed over control of the 54,000 Sunni fighters in the Baghdad region. Others of the 98,000 Sunnis now on the US payroll, are to gradually come under Iraqi control.

But US officers are nervous that the government will not keep its word when the first salaries are due early November. Some US units have reportedly set aside cash to pay the SOI for a few months, just in case. Many plan to be on hand as Iraqi officials pay the $300 monthly salaries – a bill that comes to more than $16 million for Baghdad.

It's money well spent, US commanders argue, if it limits suicide bombs and other insurgent attacks.

"The commitment the Coalition and government of Iraq has made to the Sons of Iraq is one that we have to honor," says Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq. "It's part of the reason the security situation is where it is today."

That conclusion is echoed in a Pentagon report released Tuesday, which notes a 77 percent drop of violence compared with last year and describes careful handling of the SOI as "critical to providing stable security."

"While security has improved dramatically, the fundamental character of the conflict in Iraq remains unchanged – a communal struggle for power and resources," the Pentagon said in the quarterly report to Congress. Progress remains "fragile, reversible, and uneven."

To reassure the SOI, US officials have extracted promises from the Iraqi government not to arrest members without a warrant nor to issue warrants for crimes that may have occurred more than six months ago.

"We want 100 percent to join the security forces, like the [Kurdish] peshmerga and [Shiite] militias backed by political parties," says Mr. Jamal, the SOI leader. "We are the third power in Iraq after the Americans and Iraqi troops and police. Sahwa created security, and if anything hurts Iraq, we will raise weapons against it."

SOI fighters have often violent histories as insurgents that were overlooked by US forces desperate to bring them on board. The armed groups arose from a 2006 movement of Sunni sheikhs in Anbar Province who turned against the violent tactics of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Top government officials say privately they recognize the need to continue paying the SOI, or risk reinvigorated conflict, even if the guards can't be integrated into the security forces and remain unemployed.

Jamal finds that promise hard to believe.

"The sectarian [Shiite] government is afraid of giving any source of power to the Sunnis," he says. "The Americans were very honest with the Sons of Iraq and help us fight Al Qaeda. They do their real duty and we thank them, but they are in too much of a hurry to transfer the Sahwa file to the government."