Pentagon orders urgent review of after its global scheme is compromised US Psy-Ops exposed: Washington isn't concerned about morals, it's worried about getting caught
A bombshell Washington Post investigation has revealed that the Pentagon is conducting a sweeping audit of how it conducts clandestine information warfare, after a variety of social media accounts, which its operatives used to target foreign audiences in elaborate psychological warfare efforts, were exposed.
The accounts violated platform rules and were eventually busted by researchers and the social networks they weaponized.
US defense policy advisor Colin Kahl is reported to have demanded that every Pentagon division engaged in psychological operations online provides a full account of their activities by October, due to high-level concerns that attempted manipulation of audiences overseas by the Department of Defense have significantly overstepped the mark. Bombshell court filing suggests the FBI knew 'Russiagate' was a fraud in January of 2017, but it kept up its pressure on Trump Read more Bombshell court filing suggests the FBI knew 'Russiagate' was a fraud in January of 2017, but it kept up its pressure on Trump
Those fears were apparently stoked by the release of a landmark report in August by social media analytics firm Graphika, and the Stanford Internet Observatory, which found that over the past five years, hundreds of accounts disseminating pro-Western narratives - such as a recent propaganda blitz that advanced anti-Russia narratives, including criticism of the Kremlins imperialist war in Ukraine - were likely being run by the Pentagons Centcom unit.
Centcom is responsible for military operations of every sort across 21 countries in the Middle East, North Africa and Central and South Asia. According to Graphikas report, among the accounts taken down was a fictional Persian-language news outlet that shared content reposted from US state-run propaganda platforms Voice of America Farsi and Radio Free Europe.
One account was found to have posted content claiming that relatives of deceased Afghan refugees had reported bodies of their loved ones being returned from Iran with missing organs. The obvious purpose of the exercise was to prevent Afghans fleeing to the neighboring country. Quite why isnt clear, although a defense official told the Washington Post that such activity would absolutely be a violation of doctrine and training practices.
Strikingly, the newspaper also independently learned that in 2020, Facebook permanently banned fake accounts, created by Centcom to counter claims that COVID19 may have escaped from US biological weapons lab Fort Detrick. In other cases, the accounts even promoted information deemed by fact-checkers to be false. RT FILE PHOTO: Military Personnel stand guard outside the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick. © Olivier DOULIERY / AFP
Sometimes, the Pentagon went to the extent of using deep fake tech to create artificial personas, in the belief that what appears to be, say, an Afghan woman or an Iranian student might be more persuasive than if they were openly pushed by the US government. Leaked documents expose Ukrainian attempts to destabilize Russia and draw NATO into a full-scale war with Moscow Read more Leaked documents expose Ukrainian attempts to destabilize Russia and draw NATO into a full-scale war with Moscow The only problem is you got caught
The audit ordered by Kahl is sweeping and comprehensive. He wants to know what types of operations have been carried out, who theyre targeting, what tools are being used and why military commanders have chosen those tactics, and how effective they have been.
The Post without irony frames concerns about the Pentagons psychological warfare tactics as being related primarily to these efforts compromising Washingtons purported moral high ground globally, with a nameless diplomat quoted as saying:
Generally speaking, we shouldnt be employing the same kind of tactics that our adversaries are using
We are a society that is built on a certain set of values. We promote those values around the world and when we use tactics like those, it just undermines our argument about who we are.
Residents of the Global South - including many of the countries that fall under Centcoms purview - might bat an eyelid at talk of values." Given how the US has operated in their countries through overt intervention and clandestine meddling for decades. RT FILE PHOTO: Joint US military and civilian officers monitor TV and computer screens at headquarters for Northcom's Domestic Wing Center. © Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images
So, what actually accounts for the sudden surge of internal concern about the excesses of Pentagon psychological warfare operations? Clues are littered elsewhere in The Posts report. For example, one peculiar passage notes that representatives of Facebook and Twitter directly contacted the Pentagon to warn them theyd been busted.
As far back as Summer 2020, David Agranovich, Facebooks Director of Global Threat Disruption, who himself spent six years at the Pentagon then served as Director for Intelligence at the elite White House National Security Council, got in touch with his former coworkers to warn them that if Facebook could sniff them out, so could US adversaries.
His point was, Guys, you got caught. Thats a problem.
Clearly, senior staff at major social networks consider their platforms being weaponized for information warfare purposes to be thoroughly acceptable, as long as its US military and intelligence operatives doing it, and they dont get burned in the process. On what other occasions Facebook, Twitter et al have provided American spies with helpful pointers on improving their opsec and concealing and conducting their nefarious activities more effectively, and how, is an open question. Dont tread on me
Even more revealingly, The Post also notes that legislation ratified by Congress in December 2019 unbridled the Pentagon to manage clandestine psychological operations which it was previously prohibited from engaging, leading highers to get really excited and very eager to utilize these news authorities as a result. Defense contractors were equally eager to land lucrative classified contracts to enable clandestine influence operations. Exposed: The vast pro-Ukrainian 'bot army' designed to influence Western policy makers Read more Exposed: The vast pro-Ukrainian 'bot army' designed to influence Western policy makers
In the process, the US militarys cloak-and-dagger tactics may have crossed into what the CIA has claimed as its covert authority, which led Langley to become perturbed. While The Post doesnt acknowledge it, this was undoubtedly the Pentagons undoing.
Spying agencies are notoriously protective of their respective beats. Squabbling between the CIA and NSA is a well-known, perpetual phenomenon, and friction, distrust, and disputes over which was in charge of what has been blamed for some of the intelligence failures that allegedly led to 9/11.
Another entity encroaching on its turf would note be tolerated by Langley - so it would be understandable if the CIA, which celebrated its 75th birthday on 18 September, felt it necessary to throw its new rival under the bus for its own purposes.
Graphika, which exposed the Pentagons online manipulation operations, is an extremely well-connected firm, having conducted high-level work for numerous government agencies. It would be easy for Langley to point its researchers in the right direction, or at least leave a trail of breadcrumbs for them to follow. Another Afghanistan in the making? How a fully-fledged war between two ex-Soviet states could threaten stability in Central Asia Read more Another Afghanistan in the making? How a fully-fledged war between two ex-Soviet states could threaten stability in Central Asia
In December 1963, former US President Harry S. Truman, who created the Agency when he signed the National Security Act of 1947 into law, expressed grave concerns about what it had mutated into.
Hed originally envisaged an effective newswire service, providing the Oval Office with regular information to inform foreign policy decisions, but had quickly become disturbed that the quiet intelligence arm of the President had quickly been diverted from its original assignment, and grown into an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the government.
Noting that this has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas, Truman urged for the CIA to be reined in, and returned to his original vision. His entreaties were ignored - today, the Agency is, in many ways, the true government of the US. And even the almighty Pentagon isnt safe.