Aug 26, 2009

Abu Yahya 's Strategic PSYOP Pointers - Oh STFU, willya´!

It's kinda ignominious when we are encouraged to take Strategic PSYOP pointers from the likes of this odious dude.

Needless to say, all six of the gambits cited here were dreamed up by our side [and hinted at on Swedish Meatballs Confidential] long before 2007.

From Strategic Insights (Summer 2009), Center for Contemporary Conflict -- Naval Postgraduate School.

"Could Al Qaeda’s Own Strategy to Defeat Itself Actually Work?"
by Carl J. Ciovacco

Abu Yahya al Libi’s importance within Al Qaeda and influence on its strategic decisions cannot be overstated. However, in his video titled "Dots of the Letters" released on September 9, 2007, Abu Yahya sabotaged the terrorist organization from within by providing the United States with six of the most potentially effective policy solutions to combat Al Qaeda to date. While not out of swagger or self-defeating tendencies, Abu Yahya offered these policy recommendations to illustrate just how far off the United States has been in its quest to defeat Al Qaeda. [...]

Since his 2005 escape from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, Abu Yahya al Libi’s stock within Al Qaeda has continued to rise. As a member of the infamous "Bagram Four" which escaped U.S. custody, Abu Yahya publically defied and embarrassed the United States and gave hope to his fellow jihadists. Overnight he became the jihadist movement’s Robin Hood. He is young, energetic, intelligent, charismatic, well-spoken, and considered by many to be the future of Al Qaeda.

Further strengthening his resume within the jihadist movement, he, unlike Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri, is trained in religion. Abu Yahya is not only a senior member of Al Qaeda and member of its Shari’a Committee, but he has also been dubbed Al Qaeda’s Defense Minister, Theological Enforcer, and the High-Command’s attack dog. In addition, his numerous appearances on as-Sahab, Al Qaeda’s media entity, ranks second only to Zawahiri.
Abu Yahya’s importance within Al Qaeda and influence on its strategic decisions cannot be overstated. Why then would he personally wheel a Trojan Horse into Al Qaeda Central’s compound in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan? This Trojan Horse arrived eight months ago in the form of a 93 minute video where Abu Yahya laid out how the United States could defeat Al Qaeda. In his video titled "Dots of the Letters," the Libyan provided six steps for the United States to win the war of ideas.

Jarret Brachman at the Combating Terrorism Center, West Point, has offered his insights as to why Abu Yahya has provided the United States with Al Qaeda’s weaknesses. He argues that it was neither out of "goodwill nor self-destructive tendencies." Brachman explains Abu Yahya’s actions as an "explosive cocktail of youth, rage, arrogance and intellect," with the purpose of first, exposing how far behind the United States is in competing with Al Qaeda in the war of ideas and second, dispelling fears from within Al Qaeda that the United States will win the war anytime soon. As one of Al Qaeda’s chief strategists, however, Abu Yahya may now be regretting letting this as-Sahab video get away.


Abu Yayha’s six steps for defeating Al Qaeda are:
  1. Focus on amplifying cases of ex-jihadists who have renounced armed action
  2. Fabricate stories about Jihadist mistakes and exaggerate mistakes when possible
  3. Prompt mainstream Muslim clerics to issue fatwas that incriminate the Jihadist movement and its actions
  4. Strengthen and back Islamic movements far removed from Jihad, particularly those with a democratic approach
  5. Aggressively neutralize or discredit the guiding thinkers of the Jihadist movement
  6. Spin minor disagreements among leaders of Jihadist organizations as being major doctrinal or methodological disputes

Aug 21, 2009

Air Force Used Twitter to Track NY Flyover Fallout

Clunky. Yeah, "Clunky" is right. Geriatric mentation -- even using techno-gimcracks -- is still lame. Glad to hear you are safe and sound, despite all noisome impediments. Have a good visit to the land of wooden shoes and smiles.

Air Force Used Twitter to Track NY Flyover Fallout

As the Pentagon warns of the security risks posed by social networking sites, newly released government documents show the military also uses these Internet tools to monitor and react to coverage of high-profile events.

The Air Force tracked the instant messaging service Twitter, video carrier YouTube and various blogs to assess the huge public backlash to the Air Force One flyover of the Statue of Liberty this spring, according to the documents.
... According to the Air Force One documents released through the Freedom of Information Act, a unit called the Combat Information Cell at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida monitored the public fallout from the April 27 flight and offered recommendations for dealing with the fast-breaking story. ...

A Utah Air National Guard unit, the 101st Information Warfare Flight in Salt Lake City, was also monitoring the social sites. ''To say that this event is being beaten like a dead horse is an understatement,'' reads an April 28 e-mail from the unit to other Air Force offices. ''Has really taken off in Web. 2.0.''

Both the 101st and the Combat Information Cell are attached to the 1st Air Force, which is based at Tyndall and is in charge of guarding U.S. airspace.

Aug 20, 2009

The $5 Million Bar Bill

[Note perhaps how they waited until December 2001 to buy the Russian helicopters. (About a month after the fall of the Taliban)]

On Dec. 4, 2001, five members of a Las Vegas-based charter crew were detained by Russian authorities after they landed without visas in Petropavlovsk. The remote Russian city, located on the Kamchatka peninsula and surrounded by active volcanoes, is nine time zones east of Moscow and cannot be reached by road.

Three days earlier, the privately owned Boeing 737 had left Biggs Army Airfield in Texas, carrying the crew and 16 Americans traveling on tourist visas. The plane, a luxury aircraft outfitted with wood paneling and a three-hole putting green, had been chartered by a small company from Enterprise, Alabama, called Maverick Aviation.

What the plane and its passengers were really doing in Russia in the middle of winter is only hinted at in an appeal filed by two federal prisoners this year. But interviews with those involved in the case reveal a secretive, and sometimes comical, mission to strike back at the Taliban after 9/11 -- a rare glimpse into the CIA's efforts in Afghanistan.

According to unclassified court documents, the group was traveling to a helicopter plant in Siberia, where Maverick Aviation, which was experienced in acquiring Russian aircraft for the US military, was planning to buy two helicopters for a "customer."

Not mentioned: That "customer" was the Central Intelligence Agency.

The CIA needed Russian helicopters because of its clandestine operations in Afghanistan. On Sept. 24, 2001, a Russian-made helicopter loaded with $10 million in cash carried a small CIA team into Afghanistan's Panjshir Valley. Code-named "Jawbreaker," the mission was to cement support among tribal leaders and pave the way for US military operations. It was the first entry of Americans into Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

The aging helicopter, an Mi-17, was the team's only way of getting in or out of the country. Though hardly state-of-the-art, the Russian helicopter had a distinct advantage for the CIA: it allowed the agency to operate relatively unnoticed in an area where Russian equipment left over from the Soviet occupation was commonplace.

There was only one problem: The CIA owned only one Russian helicopter. It needed more, but a clandestine American agency couldn't exactly pick up the phone and call a Russian factory. So it turned to Jeffrey Stayton, then the chief of the Aviation Division at the US Army Test and Evaluation Command and an expert in Russian copters.

Stayton's plan was to find a private American company to buy the helicopters, send a team of people over to pick them up from a plant in Siberia, modify them to CIA standards, and then get them to Uzbekistan, a staging ground for CIA operations into Afghanistan. And they would do it all within a matter of weeks.

Eventually, the team included William "Curt" Childree, whose company, Maverick Aviation, won the contract to buy the helicopters and organize logistics; Army personnel and contractors from El Paso with experience modifying Russian aircraft for use by the US military; and then "six guys from the customer's office," as Stayton put it (a CIA team that included special operations personnel).

That's when things started to get complicated.

In an interview, the pilot, Fred Sorenson, said he thought visas they had ordered would arrive by FedEx by the time the plane landed. When he found out over satellite phone that the papers hadn't arrived, the plane was already descending, so he hid the fact from the crew for fear of a cockpit argument. The team was detained on arrival.

In the end, the visas came, and the crew was released the next day. But when the plane finally made it to Ulan Ude, in Siberia, the crew and passengers faced more challenges. To say merely that it was cold does not capture the Siberian winter, where temperatures that month approached 30 degrees below zero. Even worse, the team was in a Russian hotel with spotty electricity and limited heat.

The charter crew was shocked at the conditions (Siberia, after all, was off the beaten track of their typical VIP clients), but the Army personnel from El Paso also seemed woefully unprepared. None of them had ever been to Russia before -- some had never left Texas -- and the rough conditions shocked them. "I had the sense that I might end up in a Russian jail," Kimberly Boone, a Russian translator for the Army, later recounted in court testimony.

Several members of the team grew sick with flu-like symptoms. There was also a major hitch with the helicopters. According to the factory, there was the equivalent of a mechanic's lien on the helicopters, and they couldn't be released. While Stayton and Childree attempted to negotiate the release from the factory, the Army personnel were told to act like tourists on a winter getaway to Siberia: They visited a Buddhist monastery and shopped for fur coats.

Childree, by then suffering from pneumonia, flew to Moscow to meet with the broker, where he found that a competitor (no one knows for sure who) had apparently offered $30,000 to kill the deal.

After some heated discussions, the helicopters, which cost about $1.6 million each, were released.

Back in Siberia, meanwhile, Stayton was having problems with Brian Patterson, the Army warrant officer in charge of the El Paso team, who, according to multiple people on the trip, was drinking heavily.

Lisa Teuton, a flight attendant for the charter company, recalled several members of the El Paso team drinking and bragging about their work for the CIA. "It just blew me away," said Teuton. "I thought they would have been more professional and more secretive."

The charter crew, fed up with the delays and the conditions, threatened to leave, but the El Paso team was having none of it. According to Sorenson, chief warrant officer Patterson poked him in the shoulder and said: 'If you leave, we'll shoot you down.' "

Patterson laughed when asked about the incident. "I would like to know how I could accomplish that," he said.

That night, while the others were settled in their rooms, the crew surreptitiously checked out of the hotel. They used some of their remaining cash and alcohol to bribe airport personnel not to notify the Army of their departure. With no cash left for additional fuel, and no clearance to fly over China, the aircraft headed toward Japan, as the flight attendants kept watch out the windows to see if they really would be shot down.

The real question was: Did anyone not know it was a CIA trip? The CIA team had traveled under the amusingly obvious cover name of Donovan Aerial Surveys (William "Wild Bill" Donovan is regarded as the father of the CIA). The Russians in Ulan Ude were wondering what a group of private Americans were doing in Siberia in the middle of winter buying helicopters.

"They were very curious the whole time [about] why we were there; they would ask questions: 'What are you doing?' " Joe Perry, a master sergeant on the mission, recalled. "Our rooms were bugged . . . It was just unreal some of the things they were doing."

Relations with the Army team had been bad from the start. Stayton was unhappy with many of them, and the CIA considered them a nuisance. After one final argument, Stayton informed the Army's Patterson that his team was going home immediately on commercial flights. The CIA team would finish the work on the helicopters.

Less than a week later, the two helicopters were packed in an Antonov cargo plane. When Stayton and the CIA personnel left Russia on the evening of Dec. 31, 2001, they had just 30 minutes left on their visas.

From the perspective of the CIA, the mission to Siberia, whatever its quirks, was a success. But the contract, which was administered by Army officials in New Mexico unaware of CIA involvement, quickly attracted scrutiny from the Army Criminal Investigative Division.

Agents found some unusual things. For instance, Army officials paid the most of the $5 million contract in a credit card transaction in an El Paso bar called the "Cockpit Lounge." More troubling, the file was missing signatures; included few of the required supporting documents; and no invoices. When asked by investigators to explain why he allowed so many irregularities to go unnoticed, Edwin Guthrie, the contracting officer, responded: "Sleep apnea."

There were other strange aspects, all related to the CIA's secret involvement. Money allotted to pay expenses associated with mystery "subcontractors" (CIA personnel traveling under fictitious names); helicopters bought by the military being given civilian registration numbers (another quirk of CIA aircraft); and large cash transactions (typical of Russia). "They, the government, really leaned on me," said Childree, noting that provisions, such as support for the CIA personnel, were added on to the contract at the last minute.

Investigators also focused on all the problems that took place on the trip, which the El Paso team blamed on Maverick Aviation and Stayton. "It was a nightmare," recounted Boone, the Russian translator (it was Boone's first trip to Russia).

But John Wilson, whose company also competed for the helicopter contract and was interviewed by law enforcement officials, was surprised that anyone thought the problems were a big deal. Buying helicopters in Russia isn't easy. "I sat there going: Is that all?" he said. "That's a good trip; I mean, really, honestly and truthfully, that was a pretty good trip as far as normal stuff goes."

Continue reading Sharon Weinberger´s article at the New York Post

Aug 18, 2009

Legal Considerations of Online PSYOP - Stay Golden

...thought the whole premise of the article below was kinda quaint -- Legal Considerations of Online PSYOP. Haven't they heard that per recent precedent, USG only needs a lackey staff attorney to craft a reliance memo declaring whatever you want to do to be legal. Stay within the four corners of the dodgy opinion and you are golden.

From "An Ever-Expanding War: Legal Aspects of Online Strategic Communication” by Daniel Silverberg and Joseph Heimann [PARAMETERS -- US Army War College Quarterly -- Summer 2009][17-page pdf]:

The thrust of the IIA [Interactive Internet Activities] policy rests in a delegation of authority from the Deputy Secretary of Defense to the Geographic Combatant Command­ers (and Commander, US Special Operations Command [USSOCOM] when designated as the supported commander) to approve IIA “in sup­port of their operations and public affairs activities.” The significance of this delegation cannot be overstated. Contrary to two decades of practice, the delegation empowers commanders to conduct information operations at their discretion. Previously they had to seek senior-level Department approval. In essence, this means that a Combatant Commander who wishes to blog on an Arab Web site or exchange e-mails with a Muslim commentator may do so without additional approval.


[T]he IIA guidance autho­rizes “actions that shape emotions, motives, reasoning, and behaviors of selected foreign entities.” This phrasing is curious for two reasons.

First, the language is nearly identical to the definition of PSYOP, ex­cept for use of the term “shape” instead of “influence.” Second, contrary to the limitation of media contact to “public affairs personnel,” the pol­icy does not say who may implement communications that shape emo­tions and behaviors on behalf of the Geographic Combatant Commander (GCC). In fact, the policy is silent regarding those most likely to use IIA methods—PSYOP forces—whose historical mission is to influence for­eign audiences via information operations and whose training involves “motivating” behavior and “shaping” emotions. Although the policy would allow PSYOP forces to add IIA to their list of authorized means of disseminating messages to shape a battlespace, it also potentially al­lows other personnel—public affairs practitioners and others—to engage in activities traditionally performed by PSYOP specialists.

The ambiguity regarding who will conduct these shaping activi­ties is legally significant for the following reason: Once one amalgamates the public affairs mission to “inform” with the PSYOP mission to “influ­ence,” the statutory basis to conduct the activity becomes increasingly dubious. A DOD agenda to “shape emotions” may well overlap with the State Department mission to counter propaganda; both programs involve commu­nicating with foreign audiences in order to positively shape their views of the United States. Once DOD separates IIA from psychological operations and removes a requirement that Internet communication be linked to a specific military mission conducted by PSYOP forces, DOD undermines the very authority it has to conduct such activities, Title 10, section 167. Absent the statutory authority of Title 10, the policy itself simply purports to authorize influence operations that are the equivalent of a State Department function.


The policy contains four primary limitations.

First, it requires that all IIA conducted under its authority “will be accurate and true in fact and intent.”

Second, the policy provides that a Geographic Combatant Commander will coordinate IIA with the US ambassador, as appropriate. This caveat could be interpreted in a number of ways. The phrase “as appropriate” possibly means that coordination is necessary only when the GCC assesses that it is. It might also mean that a commander has to coordinate with each ambassador who is ac­credited to a nation impacted by the IIA. If one pursues the latter interpretation, the limitation potentially causes conflict with existing military programs. Legal­ly, a commander assigned a mission from the President or Secretary of Defense to execute a military operation abroad has no obligation to seek the approval of, or even coordinate with, an ambassador. The GCC decides the limits of the mis­sion to “defend the United States” and the times when it is “appropriate” to con­sult with the ambassador regarding how the commander attempts to fulfill the mission (in fact, coordination does occur as a matter of prudence and good prac­tice). A requirement to coordinate with the US ambassador thus imposes a re­striction on commanders that does not exist in traditional military missions.

Third, the policy has an “attribution” provision. Read in conjunc­tion with the statutory provision restricting DOD’s conduct of covert operations, this section simply states a preference for US involvement in IIA to be “openly acknowledged.” The policy offers commanders two ex­ceptions. First, it permits a commander to attribute his or her IIA activities to a “concurring partner nation” if the partner nation and the US chief of mission agree. Second, the policy grants permission to disseminate infor­mation via IIA without “clear attribution” in support of a named operation in the Global War on Terrorism or when specified in a Secretary of Defense-approved Execute Order when attribution is not possible due to “operational considerations.” The policy stipulates that a commander will disclose US attribution “as soon as operationally feasible.” Because a named operation may be geographically broad or nonkinetic, this limitation could empower com­manders to engage in clandestine IIA across a wide geographic area. This lim­itation offers no guidance on where the State Department’s or even possibly the Central Intelligence Agency’s role and authorities intersect with DOD’s in conducting influence operations via the Internet.

Finally, the policy expressly provides that commanders may not delegate the authority granted in the policy. This limitation simply affects who may direct the mechanisms used, and it has no bearing on the under­lying substance of the activity.

The IIA policy grants broad authority to GCCs to use IIA in support of their missions. By not specifying who may engage in “shaping operations” or limiting the geographic scope of such activities, the policy in essence estab­lishes a hybrid PSYOP-public affairs model. The activity is, at a minimum, one of publicity, and likely one of propaganda. Yet the personnel engaging in operations to “shape” the emotions and motives of foreign audiences might not necessarily be PSYOP specialists, and the underlying mission itself—to “shape a security environment”—has little definition.