Intelligence: Silencing Success

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September 19, 2005: There's a war going on in the U.S. Department of Defense, between the Information Warriors, and the OPSEC (Operational Security) traditionalists. It goes like this. Many American military successes in Iraq and Afghanistan are being kept secret because of traditional attitudes towards OPSEC (keeping the enemy from knowing what you are up to). But troops on the spot, especially the Special Forces, realize that the rules of OPSEC have changed in the age of cell phones and the Internet. You snatch an al Qaeda big shot in Iraq, and his buddies are going to know about it real quick. The OPSEC advocates (generally senior intel officers in the Pentagon, and the intel "establishment") will respond that it is still important to keep the bad guys in the dark about how their boy was taken down. That's because whatever tricks were used to pull that off, could be used again. But not so if the terrorists know details, and have time to come up with countermeasures. The Information Warriors, who want more of these successes publicized, point out that you don't have to describe every detail of these operations. All you have to do is release information that the terrorists are going to get anyway, and usually before the American public. Indeed, most Americans have little idea just how successful their troops have been in Iraq and Afghanistan, for all their operations are distorted by reporters who only want to do stories about failures or missed opportunities.

The Information Warriors also point out that misleading details, of how U.S. troops pulled some operations off, could be released, in order to confuse the enemy. This suggestion gets Pentagon lawyers and political advisors a tad hysterical. We can't have the Pentagon feeding the enemy deceptive information via the mass media. This, despite the fact that the enemy does it all the time, and that the practice has been in use for thousands of years. It works. The downside exists in some mythical world that no one has ever lived in. But the political problems are real, so you have to deal with it and step very carefully when it comes to military deceptions involving the mass media. .

The result of all this is something of a stalemate. The troops have tried to fight back via their blogs, but there the Pentagon OPSEC traditionalists have come out on top as well. Troops with blogs have been ordered to be careful, or else. The Information Warriors are trying to convince the senior brass, but this is a slow and time consuming process. Meanwhile, many victories go unreported, making the enemy look more formidable than they actually are.

 


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