Recommending terminology: DHS and NCTC docs are available

The Investigative Project on Terrorism has the original Department of Homeland Security and National Counter Terrorism Center documents encouraging changing the terminology in the “War on Terror.” 

Here’s the DHS report, dated January 2008: Terminology to Define the Terrorists: Recommendations from American Muslims (searchable PDF, 5.5mb).

Here’s the NCTC report is an executive summary of the DHS report above, dated 14 March 2008: Words that Work and Words that Don’t: A Guide for Counterterrorism Communication (searchable PDF, 1.4mb).

A long time ago I had a boss tell me something, pay attention to the listening you’re creating.  These recommendations follow that same dictum.  It’s not what you say, but what they hear that matters. 

I have only skimmed them, so no deep remarks now except that to repeat these are long overdo.  haven’t read them yet, so no remarks I haven’t had a chance to read yet.  I am, as always, interested in your observations and comments.

H/T Counterterrorism Blog

A time to be flip: Psychology of the Spectacle, Sputnik in the Post-9/11 Era

Laika, the world's first space traveler, aboard the Sputnik II space capsule before her November 1957 launch into death and immortality. (Credit: AP)Very briefly, say it isn’t so:

Hollywood and our office of civil defense fed this fear. Montages in Sputnik Mania attest to the proliferation of apocalypse films, and clips from government advertisements include messages recommending that individuals build shelters and build them right [away].

I thought we never propagandized our own… never… Smith-Mundt made sure of that, right?  Didn’t it? 

On a serious note, read from the Global Media Project:

When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, “the first man made object ever to leave the atmosphere and successfully orbit the earth” on October 4th 1954, America reacted with fervor ( It was the height of the cold war and this bold display of Soviet strength struck terror in the hearts of political and military strategists who saw in the rocket “an intercontinental ballistic missile that could potentially carry a nuclear bomb.” On the Monday following Sputnik’s launch, “political and military leaders appeared in print, on the radio and on TV, telling [the American people] that Sputnik was a threat to [their] security [and] that it was launched as an aggressive attack.” Sputnik, they said, was “the first shot in a cold war that could quickly become very hot” (Sputnik Mania).

Missing is the impact of the “CNN Effect” (yes, CNN didn’t exist and yes, I agree the “Effect” in our time is less than advertised, but you get the point…): the leadership initially felt the launch was a non-issue.  It was only after pressure from the media and Congress did the propagandizing begin.

(h/t Tim at Ubiwar)

Interesting: Modeling Crowd Behavior

 Briefly, Arizona State University’s School of Geographical Sciences has an interesting tool to model crowd behavior.  This has interesting use in other areas

There are two adaptations to this that I’d find most cool.  Change the information input (car bomb / explosion causing the stampede) to be more subtle and over time (i.e. information and misinformation campaigns).  Track physical and ideological movement.  I know of some work in this space already, but this could build upon them. 

Second, use these environments to test human interfaces with unmanned systems, both autonomous the teleoperated (remote controlled).  That, to my knowledge, has not been done.  I talked to some folks about doing this last year….

American Public Diplomacy Wears Combat Boots

image “American Public Diplomacy wears combat boots” is the opening sentence in my forthcoming chapter (written last year)in the yet to be released Public Diplomacy Handbook, co-edited by Nancy Snow and Phil Taylor.  Recent “revelations” have reinforced this point and highlight a systemic problem with how the State and Defense Departments can and do approach information activities.  And no, this isn’t about Barstow’s Hidden Hand.

The USA Today’s Peter Eisler wrote about several Defense Department news sites that have been up for a while.  Triggering this appears to be that CENTCOM has finally joined EUCOM and AFRICOM in sponsoring targeted news services in the languages of the target geography.  Other commands will follow suit as part of the Trans-Regional Web Initiative

Despite the protests of some, which I’ll get into below, this is neither illegal or unethical.  It is, however, indicative of a greater systemic problem within the U.S. government problem. 

In the past, as requirements dictated, a radio station, newspaper, or language service to enhance an existing outlet was stood up when a new audience needed to be included (or USIA personnel were tasked for what is seemingly now a quaint notion of a human interface).  Back in the day when there was a real ideological / information war going on (i.e. before detente), this was done through various radio services, USIA and, in some way part, the State Department. 

These sites are (likely) run from as Public Affairs functions and are thus dedicated to “news” and “facts”.  There may be, and hopefully is, input from the Information Operations folks to help narratives, which Eisler indicates is happening through the request and selection of articles to be posted.  The sites focus on themes — “promoting democracy, security, good government and the rule of law” — and do little on the creation of narratives, which is most obviously done through the editorial pages, which these sites do not have. 

Today, as this blog has oft, and not singularly, said, State’s inability, or limited ability, to participate in the war of information creates a void the Defense Department has been forced to fill.  This isn’t just an issue of resources, but the result of bureaucratic culture and structure limits.  In State, the Public Affairs mandate is to “help Americans understand the importance of foreign affairs”, thus making Public Diplomacy own such an effort.  Both State’s Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy are under a singular individual, who yet to be confirmed.  What about the Broadcasting Board of Governors?  Hardly.  RFE/RL?  No, for a variety of good reasons, they’re not configured to snap-on new services or to do so in this manner.  No, USIA used to provide this capability to the U.S., but no longer.  In the absence to counter misinformation and overt propaganda, truth news services are going online by Defense. 

The criticism the USA Today article is based on the provenance of these sites.  The transparent concerns are mired in concerns that Defense is sponsoring these sites more than anything. 

Journalism groups say the sites are deceptive and easily could be mistaken for independent news.

“This is about trying to control the message, either by bypassing the media or putting your version of the message out before others (and) … there’s a heavy responsibility to let people know where you’re coming from,” says Amy Mitchell, deputy director at the Project for Excellence in Journalism. A disclosure on a separate page “isn’t something most people coming to the site are likely to see.”

Ms. Mitchell’s issue hinges on her first point.  The media’s fear that they’ll be bypassed and not have the ability to control a message is deep.  It is, to her, the traditional media’s responsibility to disseminate its version of the news.  Is it clear where Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty or Fox News is “coming from” without a history of reading?  Where is the About page indicating the mission of Fox News anyway?

As for the other criticism,  

The websites suggest a pattern of Pentagon efforts to promote its agenda by disseminating information through what appear to be independent outlets, says Marvin Kalb, a fellow at Harvard University’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy.

I’m not exactly sure what the Pentagon’s agenda is, but this does suggest a pattern that of needs that are not being fulfilled by any other organization, needs that used to be addressed by an ability the United States, through a variety of machinations, deemed unnecessary. 

My criticism of the sites is that they aren’t focused enough.  Sites that support multiple languages for multiple audiences frequently, as they should, re-order (emphasize & de-emphasize) the information as the audiences likely have different interests and priorities.  For example, look at how the headlines change at the French Foreign Ministry’s website based on the selected language (language options — French, English, German, Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese — are available in the top-left of the page). 

As the military further entrenches itself as our public diplomats, despite its protests,  and an increasing number of the world’s population shapes their opinion of the United States through the actions of soldiers, sailors, Marines, and Secretaries of Defense in new and traditional media,  it makes sense that they would sponsor news services.  They shouldn’t, and they’ll probably be the first to admit it, but who else will do it? 

Another chance to raise Smith-Mundt: Is the State Department and President Bush “legitimizing” the actions of the enemy by continuing to use “jihadi”?

Briefly, you probably already know that the State Department approved the change in terminology recommended by the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC), which in turn was based on a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report, “Terminology to Define the Terrorists: Recommendations from American Muslims.” 

Yesterday, Jeffrey Imm, at Counterterrorism Blog, notes the State Department Country Reports on Terrorism 2007, released this week, wasn’t updated to reflect the new lexicon. 

…it is apparent that these new guidelines are not being reflected in the State Department annual terrorist report and in comments from President Bush.

In the April 2008 State Department Country Reports on Terrorism 2007 released today, anyone can clearly see the use of the terms “jihad”, “jihadist”, “jihadi”, “mujahedin / mujahadin”, “caliphate”, “Islamist” — as nouns describing enemy terrorist activity and ideology (not just in the titles of Jihadist groups’ names).

Such usage can been easily found in the Microsoft Word version of the State Department report:
– “jihad”: pages 63, 75, 81, 107, 126, 127, 174, 187, 272
– “jihadi(s)”: pages 10, 93, 94, 103, 107, 122
– “jihadist”: pages 116, 117, 120, 121
– “Islamist”: pages 17, 52, 62, 75, 87, 93, 95, 122, 188, 271, 291

These references are clearly describing State Department counterterrorist analyst descriptions of enemy terrorist individuals, activity, and ideology. For example, such phrases in the annual State Department terror report as: “promoting jihad and recruiting potential suicide bombers” (p. 75), “a recruitment network for foreign jihadis” (p. 93), “recruiting jihadists to fight” (p. 117), “numerous cells dedicated to sending Jihadi fighters” (p. 122), “AQ leadership has called for jihad against UN forces” (p. 174) — don’t sound like a view of “jihad” as a “spiritual struggle”.

Moreover, in President Bush’s April 28 press conference, he referred to the enemy as “jihadists” – to an assembled press corps that never asked him a single question about the remark.

In last week’s reported NCTC memorandum and DHS report on the proper terminology in describing the enemy, the NCTC is quoted stating that “[n]ever use the terms ‘jihadist’ or ‘mujahedeen’ in conversation to describe the terrorists…calling our enemies ‘jihadis’ and their movement a global ‘jihad’ unintentionally legitimizes their actions.” As described in last week’s article on this subject, I pointed out that this viewpoint challenges many of the key passages in the 9/11 Commission Report.

This raises a (humorous) question that Imm asks:

Does the NCTC and DHS now think that the State Department and President Bush are “legitimizing” the actions of the enemy by using such terms?

Why is this humorous?  A motivating factor behind Smith-Mundt was the fear that the State Department would undermine the President and the United States by being too soft or even sympathetic to the enemy propaganda.  Between this example, which is somewhat excusable for reasons of the bureaucracy but still should have been prevented, and Senator Tom Coburn preventing the confirmation of Jim Glassman as Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, is it any wonder we need to revisit Smith-Mundt?  So much of what brought about the Act sixty years ago is repeating itself today.

I recommend reading Jeffrey Imm’s whole post, The Continuing Debate Over “Jihadists” As The Enemy, that includes a discussion on why nouns and verbs are so important.  See also Jim Giurard’s post on the same here.

UPDATE: For the original DHS docs, see this post (h/t CT Blog).

(H/T Steve at COMOPS)

GOOOOOOD MORNING IRAQ! Engaging the people with more than foot patrols, on the air in Iraq

Radio Station coverage in Iraq Noah Schachtman at Danger Room has a brief post on the transformation of a unit from traditional warfighting to being effective at counterinsurgency.  I’ll be brief as well, but not as brief as Noah, who gives the heads on an Army Times article ‘Our unit is the transformation’: Unexpected mission leads battalion to be a constant presence on the streets of Tikrit.

The second caller of the day sounded drunk. He demanded to know why the Americans had not built new schools or hospitals.

Turns out, he also was blind.

he began losing his sight five years earlier and couldn’t find a doctor.

“Now I can’t see a camel,” he told Lt. Col. Rick Rhyne, who was sitting in a cramped radio studio along with an interpreter and the show’s host, a gregarious fellow known only as Mr. Lebanon.

The blind caller blamed his failed eyesight on the U.S. presence. Rhyne, commander of the 1st Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, told the caller about the new construction and other activities coalition forces had provided that were aimed at improving lives of the locals.

The article gives some good examples of the value of personal contact and the product of building trust at the tactical level.

There is payback on the morale of our forces as well:

Pfc. Ellis Branch, also a member of the engineer unit, actually wants to be in the city.

“I like it a lot better. I can’t stand sitting in one truck for more than 10 hours up and down [Main Supply Route] Tampa,” he said. “Being boots on ground feels like you’re accomplishing something.”

One last comment: a dollar says LTC Rhyne won’t, even if scheduled, appear at the DoD Blogger’s Roundtable. 

Subtitle for this post: America’s public diplomacy wears combat boots…