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New Hope for Defending Democracy

Congress, judiciary and the mass media no longer provide constitutionally mandated checks and balances; they are largely extensions of Executive power.

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The latter  refers to "actions taken to affect adversary information and information systems while defending one's own information and information systems."

But Hastings learned in Iraq and Afghanistan that there was no real distinction between information operations directed at foreign or domestic audiences. Referring to General William Caldwell's attempts to gain more funding for training Afghan troops, Hastings reported that "despite his own statements that information operations are for 'foreign audiences', he'll assign a team of American information operation specialists to target the U.S. public. The IO team, which had received training in conducting psychological operations, is tasked with convincing visiting senators and other VIPs to give Caldwell more funds." (4)

The concept of "information operations" is the most accurate one to describe Executive Branch officials' communications with the American people as well. When Dick Cheney  appeared on "Meet the Press" to warn of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, ties to al Qaeda and to claim the U.S. would be greeted as liberators, he was conducting information operations designed to build support for the Bush invasion and occupation of Iraq. It did not even occur to him to think in terms of "lies" or "truths."

Hastings reported that the U.S. military employs spends $4.7 billion a year to employ 27,000 "information operation specialists"—the equivalent of the army's largest division—as well as private P.R. firms. (5) Yes, a whole division of troops is deployed not to fight the "enemy," but to manipulate the American public.

The other Executive agencies—the CIA, NSA, FBI, Departments of Homeland Security, State and Defense—spend billions more to convince Americans to fund them. Every day Executive Agencies send out countless messages on an hourly basis, through briefings of journalists, press releases, press conferences, congressional testimony, appearances on radio and TV, etc., designed to build public support for its activities.

Overall, these information operations in the U.S. seek to 1) build a positive image of Executive actions—claims of military success, captures or kills of terrorists, turning Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) assassins into heroes, etc. 2) sell its main product, "protection." The Executive sells "relief from fear," seeking to convince a fearful post-9/11 public that is protecting them despite the massive evidence that it is not; and 3) to "attack adversary information" emanating from U.S. journalists, liberal Members of Congress and whistleblowers which reveals truths that Executive officials fear could reduce public support for their funding and activities.

Anatomy of Two Information Operations: From a Remote Afghan Village to the White House

Nothing more embodies the Executive's Information Operations than JSOC. We have already noted Jeremy Scahill's report describing how JSOC assassins cold-bloodedly murdered a pro-American Afghan police chief and four other family members, and then dug the bullets out of the bodies of three mothers they had murdered to try and cover up their crimes. (6)

Since they dug the bullets out of these bodies while still on the scene, they clearly knew almost immediately that they had made a mistake. But they placed hoods and shackles on seven surviving family members, took them to prison, mistreated them and finally released them after three days. They then issued a series of press releases falsely claiming they had taken fire, that "insurgents" had killed the three women in an "honor killing," been killed by knives rather than bullets, that JSOC commandoes were "heroes" who had tried to rescue them.

Eventually a British reporter named Jerome Starkey published the truth in the  Times of London . McChrystal's press team then declared the story "categorically false," and attacked Starkey personally claiming he was not a "credible journalist." Finally, as the entire pro-American province was up in arms about the murders, JSOC was forced to admit they had killed the women but continued to falsely claim the unarmed men at the dance had shown "hostile intent." And, Scahill reports, he has now spent three years fruitlessly trying to obtain internal military reports on the incident. The cover-up has continued until today.

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