US Military Psy-Ops and You


Richard Moore

Original source URL:


August 12, 2007
Welcome to the Jungle: US Military Psychological Operations and You
By Heather Wokusch

"...the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being 
incapable of any other." - Benjamin Franklin, 1787

They say that if you drop a frog into a pot of boiling water it will immediately
jump out, but that if you raise the pot's heat gradually, the frog won't react.

The US public has been on a slow boil since 2001. This administration's 
rollbacks have been so consistent and so egregious that it's no surprise many 
Americans feel apathetic.

And that begs the question: What exactly would it take to get the US public 
spurred into action?

Sentient World Simulation (SWS) may have an answer. It's a computer-based 
project designed to "generate alternative futures" and no surprise, the US 
Defense Department is actively involved.

According to one of the project's developers, Purdue University professor Alok 
Chaturvedi, "SWS will consist of a synthetic environment that mirrors the real 
world in all it key aspects - Political, Military, Economic, Social, 
Information, and Infrastructure." The goal is to copy each person on earth into 
the SWS parallel universe, and then see how they respond to external events such
as natural disasters or political upheavals.

The concept paper Chaturvedi co-authored additionally notes, "SWS provides an 
environment for testing Psychological Operations (PSYOP)," to help the military 
"develop and test multiple courses of action to anticipate and shape behaviors 
of adversaries, neutrals, and partners."

To anticipate and shape behaviors of adversaries, neutrals, and partners.

Blurring the lines between military and civilian Psychological Operations is 
nothing new. In 1989, US forces in Panama blasted Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the
Jungle" into the Vatican Embassy during negotiations for the handover of General
Manuel Noriega, and from 1998-1999, US military PSYOP personnel interned at both
CNN and NPR.

More recently, a 2003 Pentagon document called Information Operations Roadmap 
detailed the US military's approach to exploiting information in order to "keep 
pace with warfighter needs and support defense transformation." Personally 
approved by former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, the document was declassified in 
2006 and covers everything from the Pentagon's plans for Computer Network Attack
("We Must Fight the Net") to beefing up the use of Psychological Operations ("We
Must Improve PSYOP") to manipulating information through means including: 
"Radio/ TV/Print/ Web media designed to directly modify behavior and distributed
in theater supporting military endeavors in semi or non-permissive environment."

While The Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 forbids US propaganda intended for foreign 
audiences from being used domestically, Information Operations Roadmap 
acknowledges that "information intended for foreign audiences, including public 
diplomacy and PSYOP, increasingly is consumed by our domestic audience and 

The 2003 Pentagon document adds, "the distinction between foreign and domestic 
audiences becomes more a question of USG [U.S. government] intent rather than 
information dissemination practices."

Perhaps that's why a top US general ordered public affairs to be joined with 
combat PSYOP into one "strategic communications office" in Iraq in the summer of

Domestically, it doesn't help that SWS and other developments in military 
Psychological Operations are accompanied by rollbacks in the right to dissent 
and bipartisan support of government surveillance of American citizens.

Makes you wish our cyberspace clones could tell us how best to fight the Matrix.

At the very least, we must become more vigilant about the ongoing use of 
military PSYOP and misinformation ­ the Pat Tillman case is a perfect example. 
Holding the Defense Department and media accountable for every mislead regarding
the Bush administration's military adventurism is more important than ever.

Action ideas:

1. For a great database on the Bush Administration's misleads about Iraq, see 
Rep. Henry A. Waxman's, "Iraq on the Record."

2. One Defense Department group particularly especially interested in these 
topics is The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Its Information
Exploitation Office, for example, is focused on "shaping the battlespace before 
conflict" and its site is filled with snappy computer graphics reminiscent of 
militaristic video games. Taxpayer dollars hard at work.

3. For media watchdog groups, check out Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting 
Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting and Media Matters for America.

4. Had enough? E-mail, call or write the White House, Congress or state and 
local government here.

Heather Wokusch is the author of The Progressives' Handbook: Get the Facts and 
Make a Difference Now series. To contact Heather, visit

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