Talking about OPSEC

OPSEC is an important topic in DOD when discussing blogs, but what about email?  Apparently not so much… from the the UK’s Telegraph:

A tourist information website promoting a small Suffolk town has had to shut down after it received a barrage of thousands of classified US military emails.

Sensitive information including future flight paths for US Presidential aircraft Air Force One, military strategy and passwords swamped Gary Sinnott’s email inbox after he established, a site promoting the tiny town of Mildenhall where he lives, the Anglia Press Agency reports.

As well as Mr Sinnott and his neighbours, Mildenhall is home to a huge US Air Force base and its 2,500 servicemen and women, and the similarity in domain names has led to thousands of misdirected emails from Air Force personnel. Any mail sent to addresses ending would have ended up in Mr Sinnott’s mailbox.
Now military bosses have blocked all military email to the address, and persuaded him to close down his site to end the confusion. He is giving up ownership of the address next month.

Mr Sinnott said: "You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff that I have been receiving – I wonder if they ever had any security training. When I told the Americans they went mental. 

I got mis-sent e-mails right from the start in 2000 but even after I warned the base they just kept on coming. At one stage I was getting thousands of spam messages a week.  I was getting jokes and videos and some of the material was not very nice – people were sending stuff without checking the address.

"But then I began to receive military communications from all over the world – a lot containing very sensitive information."

Is this any more humorous considering the Air Force’s blog blocking?

New Media and the Air Force

While the Army attempts to embrace New Media, the Air Force fears it.  News from their efforts to constrain the inputs to their knowledge workers:

Does the Air Force get it?  Did they not learn from the Army’s foray into blocking blogs?  Apparently not.  But then the Air Force sees a different future.

Continue reading “New Media and the Air Force

Understanding Information Effects

From the ink-still-wet FM 3-0, the new manual everyone’s talking about that raises the importance of stabilization (and here) and information.  The introductory quote from Chapter 7, Information Superiority (culturally I understand the selection, but it conveys internally and externally the wrong thing):

Be first with the truth. Since Soldier actions speak louder than what [public affairs officers] say, we must be mindful of the impact our daily interactions with Iraqis have on global audiences via the news media. Commanders should communicate key messages down to the individual level, but, in general, leaders and Soldiers should be able to tell their stories unconstrained by overly prescriptive themes. When communicating, speed is critical—minutes and hours matter—and we should remember to communicate to local (Arabic/Iraqi) audiences first—U.S./global audience can follow. Tell the truth, stay in your lane, and get the message out fast. Be forthright and never allow enemy lies to stand unchallenged. Demand accuracy, adequate context, and proper characterization from the media.
Multinational Corps–Iraq
Counterinsurgency Guidance 2007

The manual makes great strides in shaping the future of information effects in American foreign policy, namely security policy.  Putting information on target will increasingly be more important than putting steel on target, especially when dealing with the asymmetric adversary that cannot – and does not need to – need match the military or economic power of the United States and her allies. 

Speaking with LTG Caldwell yesterday, I asked him about the cultural rifts between public affairs and other information teams.  This was his response:

…we had a discussion with[Army Public Affairs] in there about PA, its relationship to IO, how it all fits together, the importance of the fact that information engagement is what has to synchronize both public affairs and information operations. It is absolutely imperative that the two are working and aware of what the other one is doing. And they have been synchronized. And so it’s in the engagement area that we, in fact, are doing that. There is a clear difference and distinction: whereas public affairs is there to inform, information operations is there to influence foreign audiences. So there is a clear delineation between the two, but at the same time, it’s imperative that they are complementary with each other.

The manual does help in this regard.  But this is the Army’s doctrine and while it’s felt elsewhere, even in part written with collaboration of other services (excepting the Air Force?), it does not change the institutional divides. 

This manual makes strides in elevating both the importance of stabilization operations and the importance of perceptions.  The effectiveness of information campaigns today will more often dictate a victory than how well steel is put on a target. Putting information on target is more important when dealing with the asymmetric adversary that cannot – and does not need to – need match the military or economic power of the United States and her allies.

However, more must be done across the board. 

More later.

Good luck, Welcome Back, Hope we get it right this time, and condolences

A quick mash-up of four posts…

First, following AM’s lead, Good Luck to Phil Carter who’s taking his NY bar exam this week. 

Second, Henrik, the Draconian Observer, returns to the blog after much offline writing and gives us an interesting link to a CRS report Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2007.

Third, Mark, der Pundit mit Zen, shares a Lexington Green post noting a RUSI report that "has the air of a call to arms reminiscent of Kennan’s X Article or the Iron Curtain speech."  I hope Kennan’s memo isn’t misinterpreted this time.  (Speaking of "with Zen", interesting headline: "Do you want fries with that Zen?")

Fourth, Lurch of Main and Central has died.  Lurch left his mark on this blog with his valuable observations, will be missed.  There are no details at the family’s request.

AFRICOM: DOA or in Need of Better Marketing? No and Yes. (Updated)

image Like Mark Twain’s "death" in 1897 (he died in 1910), reports of AFRICOM’s demise may be exaggerated.  Concerns that AFRICOM hasn’t been thought out or is unnecessary aren’t supported by the actions and statements of those charged with building this entity.  However, based on the poor marketing of AFRICOM, these concerns are not surprising.

I attended USC’s AFRICOM conference earlier this month and between panel discussions and offline conversations, I came away with a new appreciation (and hope) for the newest, and very different, command. 

This is not like the other Combatant Commands (one DOD representative said they dropped "Combatant" from the title, but depending on where you look, either all the commands include "Combatant" or none of the commands do).  Also unlike other commands, AFRICOM is "focused on prevention and not containment or fighting wars."  This is, as one speaker continued, is a "risk-laden experiment" that is like an Ironman with multidisciplinary requirements and always different demands (note: thank you for not saying it’s a marathon… once you’ve done one marathon, they’re easy, you can "fake" a marathon… Ironman triathlons are always unpredictable.).  The goal, he continued, was to "keep combat troops off the continent for 50 years" because the consensus was, once troops landed on Africa, it would be extremely difficult to take them off. 

Continue reading “AFRICOM: DOA or in Need of Better Marketing? No and Yes. (Updated)

Food insecurity in Iraq

Briefly, World Food Program’s report on food insecurity in Iraq came out yesterday.  See the details here.

Why are they food insecure?

Decades of conflict and economic sanctions have had serious effects on Iraqis. Their consequences have been rising unemployment, illiteracy and, for some families, the loss of wage earners. Iraq’s food insecurity is not simply due to a lack of production of sufficient food at the national level, but also a failure of livelihoods to guarantee access to sufficient food at the household level. The results of this study suggest that food insecurity in Iraq is a result of many chronic factors and their complicated interactions, amongst which are the following:

Weak infrastructure: as a result of conflict, which has destroyed much of Iraq’s infrastructure in many sectors. Water and sanitation in particular continue to undermine the community’s ability to recover. An estimated 22 percent in extremely poor districts are dependant on water tankers and vehicles as a main source of drinking water compared to 4 percent in the better-off districts. In addition 18 percent depend on streams, rivers and lakes for their water supplies in the poorer areas compared to 8 percent in the better-off districts.

What are the key elements of reconstruction and stabilization?  Not Big Army, but door to door neighborhood checks on electricity delivery, water availability, and trash pickup. 

See also:

Iraq Perceptions Not Wrong Just Out of Date

From Dipnote:

John Matel serves as Team Leader of the Al Asad Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team in Iraq.
Public perceptions of Iraq are not wrong; they are just out of date. Media coverage of Iraq has dropped in almost perfect correlation with progress made toward peace and stability. As a result, the picture persists from pre-surge 2006 but it is not 2006 anymore. It is post-surge in Anbar Province where a significantly more secure Iraq exists rebuilding, learning, governing, producing and starting to make huge strides along the road to prosperity.

Yes, and?  What are you going to do about it?  What can you do about perception overcoming fact?  Probably go on DoD’s Blogger Roundtable because, besides Dipnote, there really aren’t any channels for you to use to get your word out…

When riding a dead horse, you should dismount

Infer what you wish from this shamelessly stolen borrowed set of options to the question: When riding a dead horse, what do you do?

1.Buy a stronger whip.

2.Assert “This is the way we always have ridden this horse.”

3.Arrange to visit other sites to benchmark how they ride dead horses.

4.Provide additional training to increase riding ability.

5.Outsource to private contractors to see if they can ride the dead horse cheaper.

6.Harness several dead horses together to increase the speed.

7.Declare that, as the dead horse does not have to be fed, it is less costly, carries lower overheads, and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line of the economy than do some other horses.

8.Commission a study to identify ways to improve dead horses through incremental enhancements, such as adding wheels.

9.Rewrite the expected performance requirements for all horses.

10.Promote the dead horse to a supervisory position.

Or, as Ted Knicker’s presentation on public diplomacy goes, follow tribal wisdom "passed on from generation to generation, [that] says that when you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount."

Rethinking nationalism

A quick post spurred by a conversation today that hit on a topic of interest.

What is nationalism?  A way of grouping people together for a common purpose and common cause.  Nationalism as we typically understand it today is based on late 18th and 19th century ideas that, in the western Gramscian experience, shaped nations for the benefit of the state. 

To understand how to engage a foreign audience, it is important to understand their grammar.  In other words, what are the nouns and verbs they use and why.  Do they, make oblique (to us) references to landmark events?  If so, why?  Is the verb choice intentionally active or passive?  How do we navigate this "rugged" landscape? 

When looking at the "Arab Mindset", are there more reference points that might have common ground with our own?  Are some groups really vying for a new form of nationalism not based on how we in the west interpret it but yet conforming to the original conceivers of it.

Is the quote below a useful description of the nationalism some people seek?

A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.


Not directly related, but interesting discussion:

By the way, Joseph Stalin wrote the above definition.

The Clean Team: cleaning the image

In the Washington Post about the six Gitmo prisoners to be tried over 9/11: 

The Bush administration announced yesterday that it intends to bring capital murder charges against half a dozen men allegedly linked to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, based partly on information the men disclosed to FBI and military questioners without the use of coercive interrogation tactics.

The admissions made by the men — who were given food whenever they were hungry as well as Starbucks coffee at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — played a key role in the government’s decision to proceed with the prosecutions, military and law enforcement officials said.

FBI and military interrogators who began work with the suspects in late 2006 called themselves the "Clean Team" and set as their goal the collection of virtually the same information the CIA had obtained from five of the six through duress at secret prisons.

To ensure that the data would not be tainted by allegations of torture or illegal coercion, the FBI and military team won the suspects’ trust over the past 16 months by using time-tested rapport-building techniques, the officials said.

Such decadence.  No wonder people fear us

H/T Noah


Three Upcoming Conferences (Updated)

There are two three upcoming conferences this week that might interest you.  All should be interesting.  Hopefully at least one of them will be useful. 

The first conference is Stability Operations and State Building: Continuities and Contingencies in Tennessee February 13-15, 2008.  This part of the conference description threw me:

…we will look at theoretical, intellectual, and moral foundations of state-building as derived from the Age of Enlightenment, ethical norms, and religious values from various societies… we will examine contemporary practices as related to us by serving military officers.

This sounds like a colonial mindset even when throwing in "various societies."   Will they truly look at the socio-political-economic structures of target territories and will local systems take primacy over our "superior" systems? 

That said, a friend is presenting at paper at the conference.  Read it and read a discussion about it at Small Wars Journal. 

Tom Barnett and John Robb will be bookending the Valentine’s Day session with Tom in the morning, 8-9:30a, and John in the evening, 8-8:40p.

The second conference is The Challenges of Integrating Islam: Comparative Experiences of Europe and the Middle East at GWU’s Elliott School in DC.  Friend of MountainRunner Marc Lynch announced this event on his blog today:

The morning panel looks at the headscarf issue in Turkey, while the lunch address is being given by Jakob Skovgaard-Peterson, director of the Danish-Egypt Dialogue Institute (which must be one of the most thankless jobs in the world, but one which must offer some interesting perspectives on inter-faith relations).  Two outstanding anthropologists are slated to speak as well:  Jon Anderson (American University) and John Bowen (Washington University – St. Louis).   I’ll be rushing over from a morning workshop across town to speak at the 1:45 panel.  I was slated to talk about "The social and the political: Islamist views of reform", but now I’m planning to work up some remarks on the fascinating controversy which has erupted in the UK over remarks by Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, over the application of sharia law in Great Britain. Stay tuned.  

The third conference is Public Diplomacy: Reinvigorating America’s Strategic Communications Policy at the Heritage Foundation tomorrow, February 13, noon – 1:30p.

Strategic communication has long been essential to furthering American foreign policy goals, especially during times of war. Recently, the government has taken numerous steps to improve its wartime strategic communication capacity. However, it is evident that the current system is not working as well as during the Cold War, and the United States still lacks an integrated public diplomacy strategy capable of bolstering America’s image overseas. This panel will address the efficacy of the current administration’s strategy and give recommendations for the next administration, whether it is Democrat or Republican.

I won’t be at any of these.  If you go, I’d appreciate sharing your thoughts on the events.

Comic Book Hero Spreads Counterterrorism Message

Stew Magnuson at National Defense wrote a short article on an apparently successful PSYOP product. 

The comic book focuses on Ameer, who left his home island to work overseas, but returns to find it racked with violence. Ameer is a practitioner of kuntao, which is a local form of martial arts. Like Zorro or Batman, he dons a mask and vows to protect the downtrodden and innocent victims of terrorists.

The Philippines military are also portrayed in a positive and heroic light while the villains are the terrorists or “bandits.” The creators were careful to accurately illustrate the Sulu region, and use character names, clothing and mannerisms that reflect the culture of the Tausug ethnic group. There are versions in English and in the local dialect.

It depicts real events that took place on the islands and at neighboring Basilan — specifically the Sulu Co-Op bombing in March 2006, which killed five and injured 40 and the Basilan hostage crisis when members of the Abu Sayyaf Group took school children and used them as human shields against Filipino troops.

Psychological Operations, now apparently known at Military Information Support Team (MIST), focused on all the details to create a quality product that seems to be successful.

It was important that the series be reproduced on high-quality paper as slick as any graphic novel found in U.S. bookshelves, he said, because that shows respect to the culture.

Lopacienski said there is anecdotal evidence of the comic book’s popularity. When some areas missed delivery due to security concerns, children “were ripping out the pages and trading them like baseball cards,” he said.

It’s worth a read and worth studying from not just a PSYOP point of view but a public diplomacy & strategic communications POV.  The difference being……

(H/T SWC… might be a discussion there as well)

Pressure and Aggression No Longer Guarantee the Achievement of our Goals – We Must Consider ‘Culture-Building’

imageSo says the Iranian Intelligence Ministry through its new public service announcement promoting Iranians to report suspicious activity.  MEMRI has the transcript and the PSA that ran last week. 

The video intends to scare Iranians of American soft power that purportedly seeks to undermine the regime from within using cultural warfare, which has been "on the back burner in Iran for years."  The U.S. cabal, headed by a CGI John McCain, a "senior White House official" who "orchestrates numerous conspiracies" against Iran, is told a plan to make use of leading cultural figures and that a lot has already been achieved through international scientific conferences. 

The story is simple: be afraid of engaging with foreigners, watch for suspicious activities of your friends and neighbors and your son, who is willing to betray his country for a chance to visit the U.S. There are a few scratch-your-head and go "huh?" in this 4min+ commercial, but hey, we’re not the target audience. 

By the way, only the Americans are CGI.  Apparently they couldn’t get McCain, George Soros, Gene Sharp ("theoretician of civil disobedience and velvet revolutions"), and Bill Smith to agree to be filmed for this.  Maybe they were respecting the Writer’s strike.  The rest of the PSA is live action with non-union actors.

Reminds me of counter-communist propaganda of the 1950s.  Not quite as campy though.

IMG00128 IMG00129

See also: