Up to $100m campaign enlists balls, bumper stickers in terror fight.
The task order for a stealth global propaganda campaign ordered by the U.S.
Special Operations Command and carried out by a Washington-based defense contractor
with scant experience reveals that the Defense Department has pursued a more
aggressive international "information" campaign than previously realized.
The contract awarded to the Lincoln Group -- the firm which planted false news
stories in the Iraqi media -- was obtained through the Freedom of Information
Act by activist blogger Michael Petrelis (Petrelis
Files) and provided to RAW STORY. While
the program has been reported on before, the contract has never been made public
Perhaps the most striking element of the contract is the emphasis on psychological
operations and its open-ended scope. Valued at up to $100 million, the five-year
Lincoln Group contract allows the U.S. military to deploy strategic messages --
not bound by truth -- in any non-combat theater across the globe.
When a Pentagon official was asked about the program late last year, he remarked,
"While the product may not carry the label, 'Made in the USA,' we will
respond truthfully if asked."
The Lincoln Group deal is one of three made with U.S. firms to assist Special
Forces in psychological operations worldwide, according to previous media
reports. The Special Forces' solicitation for proposals outlines the complex
calculus required of the contractor to manipulate the opinion of "foreign
audiences" to "garner support for US Government (sic) policies and
Sophisticated psychological campaign
Sophisticated psychological warfare, or "psyops," is high on the
list. Lincoln was tasked not only with creating messages that blend in with
local environments, but also with using advanced corporate techniques -- including
market research and focus groups -- to engender support for American objectives
"Based on market research and analysis, develop and/or validate proposed
themes, symbols, and messages that will elicit responses from the recipients
that achieve stated goals and objectives."
In other words, citizens of countries worldwide -- even those of U.S. allies
-- could be the unwitting target of a U.S. information campaign. No longer foreigners,
targets are simply dubbed "recipients."
And Lincoln's Pentagon propaganda isn't just newspaper articles -- as it was
in Iraq. Novelty items, including bumper stickers and balls, are a key arsenal
in the Pentagon's information war on terror.
"Contractor must possess or have access to resources and facilities to
include but not be limited to recording studios, film studios, voice/actor personalities,
language translators, and novelty item (sic) (t-shirts, balls, bumper stickers,
etc.) production as required."
Focus groups are key.
"Prototype products must include pretesting with proposed foreign audiences,
or surrogates, to ensure they resonate culturally and convey the themes and
messages required to meet stated goals and objectives," the request for
Contract omits safeguards, transparency
Michael Petrelis, the San Francisco-based blogger who filed the requests, said
he felt the contract was notable more for what was left out of the contract
than what was in it, noting their were few boundaries for what was acceptable
and unacceptable -- such as whether psychological operations can plant false
Indeed, the contract itself says the contractor should be allowed "maximum
"The management objective is to allow the contract maximum flexibility
to facilitate planning, development, coordinating and excuting of media approach,
product development and distribution," the contract notes. "Another
objective is to maintain clear government visibility into the program schedule,
performance, and risks."
That being said, it lays out no system for informing the American taxpayer
of what campaigns have taken place, or any measure of their effectiveness. The
Lincoln Group's subversive operations in Iraq -- which planted newspaper articles
favorable to the U.S. occupation -- only came out as a result of reporting by
the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times.
"Where's the repository for whatever they created?" Petrelis asks.
"Not spelled out in that contract."
No reporting has identified what activities the Lincoln Group has engaged in
in other countries. The company has come under fire for alleged inexperience
in such campaigns and ties to the Bush campaign apparatus. A Chicago Tribune
article reported that Lincoln's
PR workers in Iraq "included three Republican operatives who helped run
the Bush campaign in Illinois and had no apparent experience in Iraq."
A corollary document released by the National Security Archive last week revealed
the Pentagon's "roadmap" for foreign propaganda campaigns, which raised
new concerns that potentially fictive information campaigns have polluted the
document, titled "Information Operations Roadmap," Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged that information planted by the Pentagon abroad
was increasingly returning to American shores and being "consumed by our
And while it calls for "boundaries" between psyops and the American
news media, it offers no such restrictions between the potentially fictional
campaigns and the foreign press.
According to the military definition of psyops, its goals include manipulating
emotional and objective reasoning -- suggesting that the information campaigns
are not limited to objective truth.
defined 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
Petrelis emphasizes, as he has with previous documents copied to RAW
STORY, that filing FOIA requests is the duty of citizens seeking to understand
the complexities of the American democracy.
"Let's not forget how important it is for us to keep asking for documents
and filing FOIAs," Petrelis remarked. His blog, Petrelis Files, is at http://petrelisfiles.com/.
Excerpts from the documents follow. Or, download them all in PDF format
Read from Looking Glass News
Rumsfeld's Roadmap to Propaganda