A newly declassified document gives a fascinating glimpse into the
US military's plans for "information operations" - from psychological
operations, to attacks on hostile computer networks.
The document says information is "critical to military success"
As the world turns networked, the Pentagon is calculating the military opportunities
that computer networks, wireless technologies and the modern media offer.
From influencing public opinion through new media to designing "computer
network attack" weapons, the US military is learning to fight an electronic
The declassified document is called "Information Operations Roadmap".
It was obtained by the National Security Archive at George Washington University
using the Freedom of Information Act.
Officials in the Pentagon wrote it in 2003. The Secretary of Defense, Donald
Rumsfeld, signed it.
The "roadmap" calls for a far-reaching overhaul of the military's ability
to conduct information operations and electronic warfare. And, in some detail,
it makes recommendations for how the US armed forces should think about this new,
The document says that information is "critical to military success".
Computer and telecommunications networks are of vital operational importance.
The wide-reaching document was signed off by Donald Rumsfeld
The operations described in the document include a surprising range of military
activities: public affairs officers who brief journalists, psychological operations
troops who try to manipulate the thoughts and beliefs of an enemy, computer
network attack specialists who seek to destroy enemy networks.
All these are engaged in information operations.
Perhaps the most startling aspect of the roadmap is its acknowledgement that information
put out as part of the military's psychological operations, or Psyops, is finding
its way onto the computer and television screens of ordinary Americans.
"Information intended for foreign audiences, including public diplomacy
and Psyops, is increasingly consumed by our domestic audience," it reads.
"Psyops messages will often be replayed by the news media for much larger
audiences, including the American public," it goes on.
The document's authors acknowledge that American news media should not unwittingly
broadcast military propaganda. "Specific boundaries should be established,"
they write. But they don't seem to explain how.
"In this day and age it is impossible to prevent stories that are fed
abroad as part of psychological operations propaganda from blowing back into
the United States - even though they were directed abroad," says Kristin
Adair of the National Security Archive.
Public awareness of the US military's information operations is low, but it's
growing - thanks to some operational clumsiness.
Late last year, it emerged that the Pentagon had paid a private company, the Lincoln
Group, to plant hundreds of stories in Iraqi newspapers. The stories - all supportive
of US policy - were written by military personnel and then placed in Iraqi publications.
And websites that appeared to be information sites on the politics of Africa
and the Balkans were found to be run by the Pentagon.
But the true extent of the Pentagon's information operations, how they work,
who they're aimed at, and at what point they turn from informing the public
to influencing populations, is far from clear.
The roadmap, however, gives a flavour of what the US military is up to - and
the grand scale on which it's thinking.
It reveals that Psyops personnel "support" the American government's
international broadcasting. It singles out TV Marti - a station which broadcasts
to Cuba - as receiving such support.
It recommends that a global website be established that supports America's
strategic objectives. But no American diplomats here, thank you. The website
would use content from "third parties with greater credibility to foreign
audiences than US officials".
It also recommends that Psyops personnel should consider a range of technologies
to disseminate propaganda in enemy territory: unmanned aerial vehicles, "miniaturized,
scatterable public address systems", wireless devices, cellular phones
and the internet.
'Fight the net'
When it describes plans for electronic warfare, or EW, the document takes on
an extraordinary tone.
It seems to see the internet as being equivalent to an enemy weapons system.
"Strategy should be based on the premise that the Department [of Defense]
will 'fight the net' as it would an enemy weapons system," it reads.
The slogan "fight the net" appears several times throughout the roadmap.
The authors warn that US networks are very vulnerable to attack by hackers,
enemies seeking to disable them, or spies looking for intelligence.
"Networks are growing faster than we can defend them... Attack sophistication
is increasing... Number of events is increasing."
US digital ambition
And, in a grand finale, the document recommends that the United States should
seek the ability to "provide maximum control of the entire electromagnetic
US forces should be able to "disrupt or destroy the full spectrum of globally
emerging communications systems, sensors, and weapons systems dependent on the
Consider that for a moment.
The US military seeks the capability to knock out every telephone, every networked
computer, every radar system on the planet.
Are these plans the pipe dreams of self-aggrandising bureaucrats? Or are they
The fact that the "Information Operations Roadmap" is approved by
the Secretary of Defense suggests that these plans are taken very seriously
indeed in the Pentagon.
And that the scale and grandeur of the digital revolution is matched only by
the US military's ambitions for it.
Rumsfeld's Roadmap to Propaganda
Secret Pentagon "roadmap" calls for "boundaries"
between "information operations" abroad and at home but provides
no actual limits as long as US doesn't "target" Americans
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book
For more information contact: Kristin Adair /
Thomas Blanton> 202 994 7000
Posted - January 26, 2006
Washington, D.C., January 26, 2006 - A secret Pentagon "roadmap"
on war propaganda, personally approved by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
in October 2003, calls for "boundaries" between information operations
abroad and the news media at home, but provides for no such limits and claims
that as long as the American public is not "targeted," any leakage
of PSYOP to the American public does not matter.
Obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the National Security Archive
at George Washington University and posted on the Web today, the 74-page "Information
Operations Roadmap" admits that "information intended for foreign
audiences, including public diplomacy and PSYOP, increasingly is consumed by
our domestic audience and vice-versa," but argues that "the distinction
between foreign and domestic audiences becomes more a question of USG [U.S.
government] intent rather than information dissemination practices."
The Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, amended in 1972 and 1998, prohibits the U.S. government
from propagandizing the American public with information and psychological operations
directed at foreign audiences; and several presidential directives, including
Reagan's NSD-77 in 1983, Clinton's PDD-68 in 1999, and Bush's NSPD-16 in July
2002 (the latter two still classified), have set up specific structures to carry
out public diplomacy and information operations. These and other documents relating
to U.S. PSYOP programs were posted today as part of a new Archive Electronic
Several press accounts have referred to the 2003 Pentagon document but today's
posting is the first time the text has been publicly available. Sections of
the document relating to computer network attack (CNA) and "offensive cyber
operations" remain classified under black highlighting.
Rumsfeld's Roadmap to Propaganda
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 177
Edited by Kristin Adair
Posted - January 26, 2006
Operations Roadmap, a 30 October 2003 document approved personally by Secretary
of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, "provides the Department with a plan to advance
the goal of information operations as a core military competency" and "stands
as an another example of the Department's commitment to transform our military
capabilities to keep pace with emerging threats and to exploit new opportunities
afforded by innovation and rapidly developing information technologies."
The plan was developed by an oversight panel led by the Deputy Assistant Secretary
of Defense (Resource and Plans) and representatives from the Joint Staff, Office
of the Secretary of Defense, and Special Operations Command, among other organizations.
The Roadmap was personally approved by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
The Roadmap presents as one of its key assumptions the importance of Psychological
Operations (PSYOP), particularly in wartime: "Effectively communicating
U.S. Government (USG) capabilities and intentions is an important means of combating
the plans of our adversaries. The ability to rapidly disseminate persuasive
information to diverse audiences in order to directly influence their decision-making
is an increasingly powerful means of deterring aggression. Additionally, it
undermines both senior leadership and popular support for employing terrorists
or using weapons of mass destruction." The military
defines PSYOP generally as "planned operations to convey selected information
and indicators to foreign audiences to influence the emotions, motives, objective
reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations,
groups, and individuals."
The Roadmap has been cited in the media several times (see James Bamford, "The
Man Who Sold the War: Meet John Rendon, Bush's general in the propaganda war,"
Rolling Stone, November 17, 2005; Stephen J. Hedges, "Media use
backfires on U.S.; Many ask if Pentagon altered information to make case for
war," Chicago Tribune, December 11, 2005.) [see
references], but has not previously been released to the public. The document
calls on DoD to enhance its capabilities in five key Information Operations
(IO) areas: electronic warfare (EW), PSYOP, Operations Security (OPSEC), military
deception and computer network operations (CNO).
In light of recent media coverage of alleged propaganda activities by the military
in Iraq, the Roadmap gives as one of its recommendations the need to "Clarify
Lanes in the Road for PSYOP, Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy." The
U.S. government is legally prohibited from conflating these operations by targeting
PSYOP activities--intended for foreign audiences--at the American public. 22
U.S.C. § 1461 (Smith-Mundt Act), which created the United States Information
Agency (USIA) in 1948, directs that information about the United States and
its policies intended for foreign audiences "shall not be disseminated
within the United States, its territories, or possessions." Amendments
to the Smith-Mundt Act in 1972 and 1998 further clarified the legal obligations
of the government's public diplomacy apparatus and several presidential directives,
NSD-77 in 1983, Clinton's
PDD-68 in 1999, and Bush's
NSPD-16 in July 2002 (the latter two still classified), have set up specific
structures and procedures, as well as further legal restrictions, regarding
U.S. public diplomacy and information operations.
secret Presidential Decision Directive (PDD-68), issued on April 30, 1999,
expanded public diplomacy and public affairs operations beyond USIA and the
Department of State to include all agencies and set out the objective of IPI
"to synchronize the informational objectives, themes and messages that
will be projected overseas . . . to prevent and mitigate crises and to influence
foreign audiences in ways favorable to the achievement of U.S. foreign policy
objectives." (PDD-68 also cautioned against using the new information operations
to influence the American public, but recognized the potential for "backwash"
of IPI information to the United States and so called for coordinated domestic
and foreign public affairs operations to synchronize foreign policy messages.
The newly-released Information Operations Roadmap, with the goal of expansion
and central coordination of Pentagon PSYOP and public diplomacy operations,
also recognizes the legal conundrum presented by the use of overseas propaganda
in the information age. But while the document recognizes the need for boundaries-referred
to as "[l]anes"-between U.S. public diplomacy and foreign propaganda,
it fails to provide any such limits:
"The likelihood that PSYOP messages will be replayed to a much broader
audience, including the American public, requires that specific boundaries
be established for PSYOP. In particular:
The discussion of the relationship between public diplomacy and IO neither cites
the applicable legal restrictions nor institutes specific guidelines, but references
only the "intent" of the U.S. government in "targeting" either
foreign or domestic audiences:
By means of recommendations for enhancing PSYOP capabilities, the oversight panel
directed "improvements . . . to rapidly generate audience specific, commercial-quality
products into denied areas" and a "focus on aggressive behavior modification
at the operational and tactical level of war." Additionally, the Roadmap
cites improved military support to public diplomacy efforts and support for "active
public affairs programs that influence foreign audiences" as vital components
of the new IO strategy.
Note: The following documents are in PDF format.
You will need to download and install the free Adobe
Acrobat Reader to view.
1: Department of Defense, Information Operations Roadmap, October
30, 2003, Secret [Excised].
Source: Freedom of Information Act request
2: Joint Publication 3-53, Doctrine for Joint Psychological Operations,
September 5, 2003.
3: National Security Decision Directive NSDD-77, "Management
of Public Diplomacy Relative to National Security," January 14, 1983.
Source: Freedom of Information Act request.
Reorganization Plan and Report, Submitted by President Clinton to the
Congress on December 30, 1998, Pursuant to Section 1601 of the Foreign Affairs
Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998, as Contained in Public Law 105-277.
Document 5: Presidential
Decision Directive PDD-68, "International Public Information (IPI), April
30, 1999 [Classified].
Source: Summary from Steven Aftergood, Federation of American Scientists, http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/pdd/pdd-68.htm,
citing IPI Core Group Charter, obtained by the Washington Times (Ben Barber,
"Group Will Battle Propaganda Abroad," Washington Times, 28 July 1999).
6: National Security Presidential Directive NSPD-16, July 2002 [Classified].
Source: Summarized in Power Point presentation on Information Warfare, Florida
International University, 2004, http://www.fiu.edu/~apodaca/Information%20Warfare%20Lecture.ppt
James Bamford, "The Man Who Sold the War: Meet John Rendon,
Bush's general in the propaganda war," Rolling Stone, November
17, 2005, available at http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/store/_/id/8798997.
Stephen J. Hedges, "Media use backfires on U.S.; Many
ask if Pentagon altered information to make case for war," Chicago
Tribune, December 11, 2005.
Col. Sam Gardiner (USAF, Ret.), "Truth
from These Podia: Summary of a Study of Strategic Influence, Perception Management,
Strategic Information Warfare and Strategic Psychological Operations in Gulf
II," October 8, 2003, also available at http://www.usnews.com/usnews/politics/whispers/documents/truth_1.pdf.
Ltc. Susan L. Gough, "The
Evolution of Strategic Influence, U.S. Army War College Strategy Research Project,"
April 7, 2003, also available at http://www.fas.org/irp/eprint/gough.pdf.