By Wayne Madsen for www.opinion-maker.org
The selective release of around a quarter million US State Department cables, some of them redacted after screening by corporate media entities such as The New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, and Le Monde, among others, comes at a time when there are calls by governments, including officials of the Obama administration, to restrict information content on the Internet.
In fact, the release of the State Department cables may have served as a digital “9/11,” an event that has spurred on the agenda of neo-conservatives who continue to exercise influence outside and within the Obama administration to bring about total government control of the flow of information in cyberspace.
The CIA has established a Wikileaks Task Force, or “WTF,” at CIA headquarters to examine the effects of the Wikileaks cable release. However, the CIA was relatively unaffected by the Wikileaks releases, but the WTF will, nevertheless, conduct a thorough review and present their findings to senior agency officials. The CIA stated its special task force is made up of seasoned officers.
Neocon agenda for State Dept. benefits from Wikileaks affair
Coincidentally or perhaps not, on September 16, 2009, a private meeting, held under the aegis of the neocon Hudson Institute, was convened in Washington, DC by two neocon figures from the Bush administration, Douglas Feith, the former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, and adviser to the Deputy Undersecretary, Abram Shulsky. Both worked for Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz at the Pentagon and both are leading members of a powerful pro-Israel neocon operational cell in Washington that now works from an interlocked group of non-profit think tanks, including Hudson, the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, among others.
Last March, Feith and Shulsky issued a report based on the conclusions of the private meeting titled “Organizing the U.S. Government to Counter Hostile Ideologies.” The report calls for the creation of a new U.S. Information Agency, possibly with the title “National Center for Strategic Communication,” which would be responsible for conducting information operations, a policy wonk appellation for propaganda, psychological warfare, and disinformation campaigns around the world.
Although the Hudson Institute report’s target ideologies comprised the US and Israeli governments’ usual bogeymen — Iran’s government, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, Hamas, and the Pakistani and Afghani Taliban, the broad brush of “hostile ideologies” could also be applied to anyone who disagrees with the United States or Israel, and that includes a larger potential target list than the aforementioned groups.
In 2008 and 2009, Senator Sam Brownbeck (R-KS) and Representative William “Mac” Thornberry (R-TX) introduced companion legislation; both titled “the Strategic Communication Act,” that would have re-create a U.S. Information Agency apparatus. Although no action was taken on the bills, the incoming and more neocon-leaning Congress may seek to push the legislation.
Brownback’s bill specifically called for the creation of a National Center for Strategic Communication with a director who would answer directly to the president but who would have posted at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world a “Global Communications Corps” that would serve under a directorate and push U.S. propaganda efforts to local governments, media, and other entities. An Information Operations Directorate would take over all U.S. international broadcasting responsibilities from the Broadcasting Board of Governors. A Global Networks Directorate would conduct outreach to non-governmental organizations for “educational and cultural exchanges.”
Neocons cited State Department’s failure in report
In what looks appears to be a made-to-order situation for the neocons, the Wikileaks affair, which has placed pressure on Secretary of State and her department to revamp the way it handles its diplomatic communications, has made the idea of a new US Information Agency more palatable, especially considering the damage to the image of the United States arising from the leak of embarrassing cables. The following from the Feith/Shulsky directly slammed the State Department’s primary role in passing on diplomatic communications:
“The State Department’s failure to deal with the extremist ideology is unsurprising. The Department is not well suited to counter hostile ideologies. In general, State tends to view problems as conflicts over negotiable issues–not ideologies–because ideological problems are more difficult (or impossible) to solve diplomatically. State also lacks an effective operational capability – its primary function is reporting of diplomatic communications.”
And it was exactly State’s primary function, as described by Feith – the reporting of diplomatic communications — that came under attack as a result of the machinations of Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange, an individual who was in contact with Israeli government officials and agreed to limit any fallout for Israel in the release of the State Department cables. The nexus of the interests of Israel, Feith/Shulsky, and Assange converge in the neocon plans for a revamped State Department with a powerful Information Agency second-guessing and trumping U.S. diplomatic officials around the world.
It is clear that Feith and Shulsky are trying to establish a psychological warfare and propaganda entity that they failed to set up within the Pentagon while they were there. The Hudson report states:
“Douglas J. Feith established the Office Of Strategic Influence (OSI) at the Department of Defense in late 2001. Led by Air Force Brigadier General Simon “Pete” Worden, OSI was Designed to conduct operations to counter the Ideology of our jihadist terrorist enemies. The office developed Innovative plans to distribute tens of thousands of satellite Radios and ‘Internet-in-a-box’ laptop computers to Pakistan’s border areas. Worden viewed information as the decisive weapon in the War on Terrorism. Public affairs officials at the Pentagon resisted OSI, however. They saw its existence as an intrusion into their Bureaucratic turf. Perhaps as a result of this dispute, an unnamed Pentagon official reportedly gave a story to the New York Times accusing OSI of planning To plant disinformation in foreign newspapers. Even though the accusation was entirely false, political pressure compelled the shutting down of the office. The OSI episode had a lasting chilling effect on strategic communications efforts at the Department of Defense.”
Feith’s and Shulsky’s pathetic attempt to re-write history is countered by this excerpt from this editor’s book, “Jaded Tasks”:
“When senior White House officials expressed dismay that whoever leaked the story concerning the OSI did a disservice to President Bush while he was in Asia, they failed to check the daybooks and calendars of senior Pentagon officials. It was Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Robert Andrews who first publicly admitted to the existence of the office at a defense industry seminar in Arlington, Virginia on February 7, 2002. Andrews was very clear about the nature of strategic influence when he said it ‘concentrates on delivering messages to targeted audiences… and controlling channels of communications.’
Appearing on Andrews’ panel was Brigadier General Simon (‘Pete’) Worden, the former head of the defunct OSI. Worden had a long history of selling new defense policies to international audiences. While a major, he worked for then-Vice President George Bush in explaining ‘Star Wars’ to a worldwide audience. Before assuming his present job as head of OSI, he was Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz’s communications director. He also awarded a $70,000 per month propaganda contract to the Rendon Group, a public relations firm with longstanding links to the CIA, which worked closely with the U.S. Army’s 4th Psychological Operations Group.
Bush surrounded himself with people who championed disinformation programs. He named as his new counter-terrorism chief, retired Army General Wayne Downing. Downing, in turn, named an old friend, retired Army Colonel Jeffrey Jones, to be the Special Assistant to the President for Strategic Communications and Information. General Worden stated that Jones was charged with integrating ‘strategic influence’ across the U.S. government. Since Jones worked in the National Security Council alongside Bush’s National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, the President was aware about the Pentagon’s plans to conduct disinformation campaigns. If the President was not in on the strategic influence program, such plans should have certainly been known to senior policy makers in the West Wing, including Karen Hughes and Karl Rove, the president’s senior counselors.
Hughes appeared to be unaware of what President Bush’s new homeland security advisors were up to. With the Pentagon having other ideas concerning the feeding of disinformation to the international media, Hughes failed to clear up with her boss her own stated commitment to provide reporters with “the facts.” The information war planners at the Pentagon declared their goals were to interdict and censor news, something the Pentagon called ‘influence operations.’ Worden declared in February 2002 that the Pentagon ‘can control the Internet, the electromagnetic spectrum, radio, and television.’
One of Worden’s colleagues, Lieutenant Colonel Brad Ward, the head of the ‘International Military Information Group,’ a relatively new group within the State Department’s International Information Programs (IIP) Bureau, was even more precise about the Pentagon’s activities. Ward revealed that his group worked with the Voice of America on influence operations. From its base within the State Department, he said the military operated Internet web sites in seven languages directed at select foreign media in targeted countries and ran ‘secondary radio stations’ that broadcasted programs through the auspices of Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs). A more troubling aspect of Ward’s operations was found in his statement that his group assisted in the UN War Crimes Tribunals in The Hague and Arusha, Tanzania to ‘discredit rebel factions.’ Such a revelation threw into question the fairness of the trials.
Ward also admitted other ‘successes’ of his group:
- It worked on the Serbian presidential election campaign to ‘ensure Slobodon Milosevic did not get elected.’
- It operated Internet web sites in seven languages that were password protected but gave select foreign media access in targeted countries.
- It worked with the UN Security Council in certain ‘support missions.’
- Videos illustrating the crimes of Liberian President Charles Taylor were produced in Conakry, Guinea for distribution in Liberia.
- The group was involved in ‘detaining operations’ at Camp X Ray and Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The fact that Ward’s group represented a military PSYOPS component within a State Department bureau that had once been the independent U.S. Information Agency (USIA) should have troubled anyone concerned with receiving untainted news from its own government. It was retiring Senator Jesse Helms, wielding the power of Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, who forced the USIA to come under the State Department’s bureaucratic umbrella in 1997. That move effectively made the entire U.S. public diplomacy apparatus vulnerable to the professional propagandists and deceivers within the military and intelligence community.
More ominously, Ward disclosed that his group would be supplemented by a 20-person Operational Center, which was to draw from CIA and other intelligence personnel. People who live by the maxim ‘when you screw up, you cover up’ thus were able to decide what the U.S. government wrote and broadcasted to foreign audiences. And such propaganda did not stop abroad–when false stories were run by foreign news agencies they were frequently picked up by U.S. media outlets.”
One of the main tasks of Worden’s OSI was to stem the belief held by many, and not merely those in the Muslim world, that Israel was involved or behind the 9/11 attack. With that belief now gaining momentum and facts to back it up, Feith, Shulsky, and their neocon friends are pushing for a larger OSI, this time as a propaganda czar watching over the State Department.
Worden has been rewarded with the job of Director of NASA’s Ames Research Center where he is championing the 100-year Starship Project to travel to and settle other planets. With people like Worden at the helm of such programs, the movie “Avatar” may turn out to be a prequel to what the Pentagon has planned for other planets and their possible inhabitants.
Neocon dream: A return to the Cold War
The Feith/Shulsky report also sees a return to Cold War methods for conducting U.S. diplomacy and cites the covert aid the CIA used in 1948 to interfere in the Italian election, thus preventing the Italian Communist Party from coming to power.
Feith and Shulsky also look to the Internet to replace Cold War-era projects like Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. Their proposals include the following micro-grant program to aid pro-U.S. foreign NGOs: “Organize ways to fund projects through micro-granting, possibly through the Internet.” Micro-grants through NGOs like the Ford Foundation constitute an old CIA influence-peddling program, one that goes back to at least 1965 post-Sukarno Indonesia where President Obama’s mother arranged for micro-grants and loans to pacify Javanese farmers and artisans and woo them away from the Communists and Sukarno leftist nationalists.
Feith and Shulsky identify some NGOs worthy of support from a neo-US Information Agency. They are: Quilliam Foundation (UK), WORDE – World Organization for Resource Development and Education, Wahid Institute (Indonesia), and the American Islamic Congress.
Feith and Shulsky argue for U.S. support for Arab, Iranian, and Indonesian stand-up comics who “already perform stinging political satire but few are well-known and even fewer have outlets, though if they were discovered their listenership could be in the hundreds of millions.” And in a pitch that matches nicely with the ideas proffered by White House Office of Information Regulatory Affairs chief, Cass Sunstein and his “cognitive infiltration” plan for web sites, Feith and Shulsky offer their own contribution to the cause of Internet disruption: “The extremists’ use of internet websites and “chat rooms” to communicate among themselves is a vulnerability that U.S. covert action could exploit. If a covert action operative could pose convincingly as an extremist group representative, for example, he or she could sow dissension and confusion as part of an overall strategy to discredit extremist ideas.”
Obama and Clinton may have drank the neocon Kool Aid on US propaganda effort
There is a possibility that Feith’s and Shulsky’s program is already being adopted, in part, by the Obama administration. In their report, Feith and Shulsky talk in terms of a slush fund called an Innovator’s Fund, to supplement America’s “ideological effort”: “though many ambassadors don’t see ideological work as part of their mission, an Innovators Fund could incentivize embassies to leverage their contacts, resources and technology to contribute to the ideological effort.” In the jaded and cabalistic world of the neocons, only they could refer to a slush fund for bribery as an “Innovator’s Fund.”
Last January, Hillary Clinton hosted a meeting at the State Department with high-tech tycoons to discuss ways they could help advance American diplomacy. Present were Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, and executives from Microsoft. Also present was the president of the CIA-linked Ford Foundation Luis Ubinas. Although Clinton preached “Internet freedom,” the targets for aggressive U.S. diplomacy using high-tech innovations like Twitter, were Iran and Cuba.
And four months after Clinton’s meeting with the high-tech executives and one month after the issuance of the Feith/Shulsky report, in April 2010 it was announced: “The Department of State has entered in a non-exclusive partnership with The Innovators Fund (IF), a new Silicon-Valley based venture capital fund that will launch in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, Russia and Malaysia. The Innovators Fund is being launched in part as a result of President Obama’s June 2009 Cairo speech and its call to action, and in part as a result of a discussion that Secretary Clinton had with leading U.S. technology entrepreneurs and innovators at the Department of State in January 2010, in which the IFs Founder participated.” One of the IF’s supporters was Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist. Other collaborators with the State Department’s Innovators Fund include, in addition to Craigslist, Polaris Venture Partners and Dogpatch Labs (a leading U.S. venture capital fund and its affiliated incubation and mentoring initiative), TomorrowVentures (a leading seed-stage and venture capital effort), Oasis 500 (a leading Jordan-based venture capital effort) and TechStars (a leading mentor-based start-up accelerator program).
The State Department has appointed actor Ashton Kutcher to lead U.S. high-tech “Innovation” delegations to Russia, an announced target of IF propaganda-oriented activities. Kutcher’s only real claim to fame is that he married much older actress Demi Moore. The marriage was conducted in the Kabbalah (from which the word “cabal” is derived) Center of Los Angeles.
The State’s Innovators Fund program appeared to be a direct result of their agreement with the paper written by Feith and Shulsky and the conclusions of the September 2009 “private” conference in Washington. The fact that a new and massive U.S. propaganda operation was hatched in a “private” conference in Washington is further proof that the government has divorced itself entirely from the people it claims to serve- which brings us back to Wikileaks and the leaked cables. Having previously identified the State Department’s diplomatic reporting through its cables as its primary mission, Feith and Shulsky are now seeing their proposal for the overhauling of U.S. public diplomacy by establishing an aggressive propaganda and information operations capability nearing fruit. While Private Manning languishes in a prison cell in Quantico, those neocons who directly benefited from the leak of the State Department cables are ready to see another step toward fascism in the United States — the creation of a U.S. government information program that will inundate the world with propaganda through Twitter, Facebook, Craigslist, web sites, television, radio, and newspapers.
During the Cold War, the US Information Agency was strictly forbidden by law from targeting the American people with propaganda. In the world of the neocons, where down is up and wrong is right, there will be no curbs in the new global information order.
Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist, author and syndicated columnist. He has written
Madsen is a regular contributor on Russia Today. He has been a frequent political and national security commentator on Fox News and has also appeared on ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, and MS-NBC. Madsen has taken on Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity on their television shows. He has been invited to testifty as a witness before the US House of Representatives, the UN Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and an terrorism investigation panel of the French government.
As a U.S. Naval Officer, he managed one of the first computer security programs for the U.S. Navy. He subsequently worked for the National Security Agency, the Naval Data Automation Command, Department of State, RCA Corporation, and Computer Sciences Corporation.
Madsen is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), Association for Intelligence Officers (AFIO), and the National Press Club. He is a regular contributor to Opinion Maker.