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Information Warfare: Pro-U.S. Information Must Prevail

'The U.S. military must be able to perform the following three fundamental information warfare missions:

1. Protect its own information systems,
2. Attack and influence the information systems of its adversaries, and
3. Leverage U.S. information to gain decisive advantage'.

From: The Unintended Consequences of Information Age Technologies by Dr. David S. Alberts hosted at the US National Defence University, Washington DC.
'The Nature of Future War'

Information Warfare Articles

14May02 - Yellow Times - Welcome to the Information War

12May02 - Chicago Tribune - U.S. pays PR guru to make its points

16Apr02 - TV news is biased against Palestinians says study

11Mar02 - NBC - Electronic war in the Afghan Skies

Propaganda: Nobody Does It Better Than America

11Oct01 - BBC Radio 4 Today - A War on Truth?


1880's - UK spies used dirty tricks to link Parnell with terrorism

Disabling websites that publish information the US military don't like including Joint Vision 2020 etc.

Welcome to the Information War

Printed on Tuesday, May 14, 2002

By Matthew Riemer - - Columnist

The question on the mind of every responsible journalist as of late (indeed, on the mind of every responsible individual, period) is: Has the media officially become the public relations arm of the United States government? And: Have we lost freedom of the press?

Why does our daily news come from some Pentagon briefing room or from some White House spokesperson - fully spun, packaged and pre-interpreted? And more importantly, why does no one care, either professional journalists or average citizens, or worse yet, even notice?

Has it been going on too long? Have Americans become incredibly gullible and apathetic, paralyzed by luxury and convenience to the point of self-destruction? Have we lost the capacity for individual thought accompanied by the awe we feel towards "experts," who treat us like children incapable of analysis? Have we grown to distrust ourselves and lost confidence in our own intellectual capacity? These are all reasons.

When the "war on terrorism" began in early October, the U.S. government severely restricted journalists from entering Afghanistan to cover first-hand the events taking place there in the field. Instead they opted for frequent, well-organized press conferences, only to be attended by journalists of choice, where people like General Tommy Franks, Rear Admiral John Stufflebeam, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made sure that the reporters got it right.

This was euphemized as being a service to the press, a manifestation of an informationally advanced and enlightened world, or, the next generation in war reporting. No more reporters nervously whispering into their dicta-phones about the horrors of war, or its thrills, while being led around on the front lines.

The apparent reason for this tyrannical information control is really that of public opinion control. Information that makes the U.S. look bad or reveals mistakes (civilian deaths, bombing of Red Cross facilities, oratory blunders, conflicting reports, etc.), whether by the president himself or that of a lone bombing mission, is transformed so as not to resemble its former self or is, quite simply, omitted.

Information that makes the U.S. look good (supports their efforts) is magnified and overemphasized. Statistical information is etched in stone and written in blood if released by the Pentagon, but not "independently verified" if released by a non-Pentagon source and hence thrown out as hysterical anti-American propaganda contrived by people who hate freedom.

Whatever happened to on-the-spot reporting and investigative journalism whose primary aims were to serve the public interest by providing "the story"? Whatever happened to tough questions? Now all we have are staged Q&A sessions designed to provide zero information about anything actually relevant. More ass kissing goes on than questioning.

A reporter might even get thrown out of a press conference or fired for asking "inappropriate" questions - as happened to a reporter who happened to ask George H.W. Bush a tough question several years back.

One only has to turn to their daily newspaper to see the painful truth. A recent article in the Boston Globe (2/20/02) highlights this ever-popular phenomenon quite well. In an article entitled "A tattered al-Qaeda seen with new tentacles" by Anthony Shadid, almost all of the fifteen paragraphs are direct quotes from, or paraphrases of, some government official, usually "speaking on condition of anonymity."

In fact, only three paragraphs aren't directly attributed to government sources and only once is an actual, traceable, human being named with regard to this information - Peter Chalk, terrorism analyst, in paragraph fifteen. In addition, the article contains the sketchiest of information, bordering on being comical at points, and completely fails to convey any kind of new, interesting, or valuable information to a knowledgeable reader beyond the speculation of anonymous "officials."

In the first paragraph we're told: "Al-Qaeda…will probably fracture into far-flung networks that operate on their own and blend into murky underworlds that make them more difficult to track…" Obviously, al-Qaeda is now fractured (or could become fractured) following the massive bombardment of Afghanistan.

"[F]ar flung networks" is resoundingly vague. "[M]urky underworlds" is straight out of a bad Hollywood script. (Where exactly are the non-murky underworlds?) And we can assume that al-Qaeda is "difficult to track" based upon the success of September 11 and that they will become "more difficult to track" since they are now the focus of the world's most extensive man hunt ever by the United States. One might imagine they'd lay low for a while. To top it all off, this non-insightful vagueness is preceded by "probably," as if to emphasize the statement's complete meaninglessness.

We then learn in paragraph two that: "…they [al-Qaeda] will still pose a danger, a U.S. defense official said on condition of anonymity." Wow! This person really goes out on a limb here. I hope they don't get fired for that comment. It was probably a good idea that they kept their identity a secret. Scandalous!

In paragraph three, more cute obscurities: " 'It's going to be more of a franchise-type thing.' "

Paragraph four reads, "Already, there are signs that networks are still viable…and possess the logical know-how for attacks, the official added." Why wouldn't networks still be viable - that would imply that they were completely destroyed or destroyed to the point of being inoperative or no longer dangerous? Not all "cells" were in Afghanistan anyway. And why would these long-time, extensively trained groups fueled by religious and nationalist zealotry no longer "possess the logical know-how for attacks" just because some of their members were killed or captured in Afghanistan and a few other places? Maybe they've forgotten what a bomb is or how to use it?

In the next paragraph, though the source is an Arabic-language news agency, the information is still hilariously simple. We read: "…groups within the al-Qaeda network…are trying to reconstitute themselves after the Afghanistan campaign." That's funny, I thought al-Qaeda was just going to give up, roll over and die. Have they suddenly stopped hating America? Again, individuals risking it all with their bold predictions.

The article concludes with more speculation: "The trails [al-Qaeda's] may prove more difficult for law enforcement to track, as well, he said - a point echoed by other analysts." So we have anonymous analysts echoing another anonymous analyst about the fact that a "terrorist mastermind" and his "cells," who have eluded police, military, and intelligence agencies from multiple countries for decades, while pulling off intricate terrorist attacks all over the planet, are difficult to track and may become even more difficult to track. I thought they were easy to track. I thought that's why the U.S. government and its various intelligence agencies thwarted the September 11 attacks so easily. What's worse is that this is the second time in the article this empty and obvious statement is made.

Upon finishing the article one realizes that the entire text was a string of completely obvious and meaningless statements, attributed almost exclusively to anonymous government officials and analysts that make no attempt whatsoever to actually relay valuable information concerning a certain subject. There' no real flow or chronology to the article, as it seems more accurately like a collection of "safe" generalizations about al-Qaeda and the likelihood of their continued existence.

In another Globe article, from March 4th, entitled "Six Nations join U.S. in fierce offensive," fourteen out of the nineteen paragraphs are quotes or paraphrased quotes from military officials. In this case several of the sources are Afghan - albeit friendly forces fighting alongside coalition troops. This article also affords us the luxury of actually citing individuals or agencies attributed to the various information. (This I thought was standard procedure in journalism.)

Among "U.S. and Afghan officials," "U.S. Central Command," "officials," "Afghan officials," and "Afghan commanders" we actually hear from real people in the form of Central Command spokesman Major Ralph Mills, Abdul Matin (an Afghan commander), Wazir Khan (spokesman for an Afghan commander), and Raza Khan (an Afghan fighter). So this article is a little better. Less direct quoting from Pentagon sources along with greater diversity of sources.

At this point it must be emphasized that these two examples are on the highly inexcusable end of the scale of bad journalism (in terms of percentage of paragraphs that are direct quotes and identification of sources). However, they do represent trends in the corporate media with regard to war reporting. This said, most articles do approach these bleak statistics - reflecting the media's servitude to government. If one begins studying the news with this amount of scrutiny, similar statistics will be found almost across the board, whether it be in the Globe, the New York Times, or the Washington Post.

This kind of reporting raises many obvious concerns: who are our sources and what is their relationship to the reported event (Will they benefit from what is/isn't included? Are they financially affected by what's reported?); how many different sources are used or called upon to create both a thorough and objective report (Are all sides being represented?); does the diversity of sources reflect the availability of sources or simply what the reporter has chosen to include or omit; how speculative is the article (one need not turn to national news agencies for vague and obvious predictions); and is the information being provided, and subsequently reported, actually information, in the sense of new, detailed or semi-detailed data, that could not be accessed elsewhere being presented for the first time?

Said questions when combined with the above analysis should be cause for alarm considering that the very agency who is so often the source of our information is potentially a conglomerate of professional liars. Please consider the following information as provided by the New York Times ("Pentagon Readies Efforts To Sway Sentiment Abroad" 2/19/02):

"The Pentagon is developing plans to provide news items, possibly even false ones, to foreign media organizations as part of a new effort to influence public sentiment and policy makers in both friendly and unfriendly countries, military officials said.

"The plans, which have not received final approval from the Bush administration, have stirred opposition among some Pentagon officials who say they might undermine the credibility of information that is openly distributed by the Defense Department’s public affairs officers.

"The military has long engaged in information warfare against hostile nations - for instance, by dropping leaflets and broadcasting messages into Afghanistan when it was still under Taliban rule.

"But it recently created the Office of Strategic Influence, which is proposing to broaden that mission into allied nations in the Middle East, Asia and even Western Europe." [My emphasis]

This indicates that the Pentagon is in the process of creating the so-called Office of Strategic Influence (OSI), whose job it will be to, as the headline puts it, "sway sentiment abroad" through an information campaign possibly including false news (disinformation), otherwise known as lies. This campaign would not only be carried out in enemy countries, but also in friendly ones. Perhaps even as friendly as Western Europe. The article goes on to say that,

"Little information is available about the Office of Strategic Influence, and even many senior Pentagon officials and Congressional military aides say they know almost nothing about its purpose and plans. Its multimillion dollar budget, drawn from a $10 billion emergency supplement to the Pentagon budget authorized by Congress in October, has not been disclosed.

"One of the office's proposals calls for planting news items with foreign media organizations through outside concerns that might not have obvious ties to the Pentagon, officials familiar with the proposals said." [My emphasis]

While it’s not surprising to read that "little information is available about the [OSI]," it's somewhat comforting to know that even "senior Pentagon officials…know almost nothing…" considering that the taxpayers know nothing. Or is it? Maybe that's a sign as to its super secrecy? Or are they lying? Or what the hell is really going on? One would not necessarily expect Joe American to know the details about the OSI, but one would surely expect top military people to know.

The article concludes on this note: "O.S.I. still thinks the way to go is start [sic] a Defense Department Voice of America," a senior military official said. "When I get their briefings, it's scary."

Luckily, amidst a wave of criticism from all angles the Pentagon decided to scrap the idea, evidently to remain credible. But what's to say the plan has been scrapped at all? What if that's just the first piece of disinformation?

What's "scary" about this near unbelievable report is the fact that the government agency that has complete control over all information as relevant to any aspect of the war, as well as being the only source of such information for the domestic corporate press, was/is attempting to create an office whose main purpose will be to convince foreigners that America's way is the right way (even at times when it's obviously the wrong way) through extensive propaganda and disinformation.

Many obvious and legitimate questions instantly arise. Although the report only mentions foreign sentiment, surely domestic sentiment is just as important for the continued support of U.S. imperialist efforts? (Though thankfully the American press and public still have enough decency left to make the idea of publicly announcing the intent to "sway domestic sentiment" wholly unacceptable.) Has the Pentagon lied in the past? Will they lie in the future and to what extent?

Moreover, if the Administration's efforts are noble, righteous and just why the need for disinformation - especially in Western Europe? Wouldn't disinformation "planted" abroad eventually make it back home by slowly seeping in unmonitored via the congested information-rich Internet? Is there really a difference between information that's planted abroad and of that planted at home? How could the press or the citizenry distinguish between information and disinformation? Would reporters ask before a press conference what kind it was going to be? When does fact end and fiction begin? What's real anymore in today's age of the information war?

To highlight one of the above questions - if the war on terrorism is just, naturally flowing from all moral, ethical, and humanitarian touchstones, then why the need for an elaborate $10 billion office of lies and propaganda to convince people of this?

The answer, obviously, is that it's not just and that there's plenty of evidence out there that suggests this; since responsible human beings may feel compelled to report and explore this, the Pentagon feels the need to crush those efforts. Therefore, as time has gone on and the U.S. comes under considerable domestic and foreign criticism for its handling of the war, the Pentagon feels the need to influence people with lies because the truth is no longer strong enough. The complicity of the press is all but outrageous with regard to such a threat to the very foundation of journalism and objective reporting.

Isn't this actually what the Enron debacle is about? They manipulated a situation to the benefit of themselves and to the detriment of others. They fabricated and/or omitted accounting information relative to the company's financial strength (which needs to be portrayed accurately to inform investors and Wall Street) to create an environment in which individuals (investors and employees) would gobble up the company's stocks and employees would feel comfortable with having their retirement plans' well-being shackled to the success or failure of the company itself.

Since the factual information regarding the financial strength of the company was such that investors would be cautious and employees would be concerned about depending so much on Enron stock for their 401(k)s the company simply planted disinformation to sway sentiment in their favor. It's ironic and fairly telling that the techniques recently espoused by the Pentagon have already seen extensive use by Enron.

Wouldn't it be great if you or I could apply that same logic to our own lives? Imagine if because we did poorly in college or because we lacked certain job experience that disinformation could be planted on our resume to strategically influence our potential employer? Wouldn't it be great if we could plant disinformation on our credit report so as to sway banking sentiment to give us that big loan that we don't really deserve?

When we get pulled over for speeding we could tell the police officer that our mother is dying at a nearby hospital and maybe we wouldn't get a ticket. What if anytime we couldn't get what we wanted we simply lied so that we could - just like governments and businesses do? Well, most likely, as well as becoming rather despicable human beings, we'd also be arrested and then thrown in jail by a fairly incredulous judge who may even ask how we thought we'd get away with such nonsense, all this lying and all.

So to summarize - instead of having a governmental system displaying clear divisions between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches with a corresponding and effective checks and balances tool, we now have a system featuring blurry distinctions between the governmental branch (perpetuator of war), the media branch (supporter of war), and the big business branch (profiteer of war), accompanied by zero checks and balances. In addition to the fact that this "government" operates in what might as well be complete secrecy, they've now publicly admitted that they're willing to lie to the world to achieve their primary goal of keeping the war machine rolling.

[Matthew Riemer has written for years about a myriad of topics, such as: philosophy, religion, psychology, culture, and politics. He studied Russian language and culture for five years and traveled in the former Soviet Union in 1990. In addition to his work with, he's also maintaining, as well as being in the midst of a larger autobiographical/cultural work. Matthew lives in the United States.]

Matthew Riemer encourages your comments: encourages its material to be reproduced, reprinted, or broadcast provided that any such reproduction must identify the original source: Internet web links to are appreciated.

U.S. pays PR guru to make its points

Firm's Pentagon work is lucrative, and top secret

By Stephen J. Hedges - Washington Bureau - Published May 12, 2002

WASHINGTON -- When U.S. troops go into a war zone, John Rendon is rarely far behind.

He was in Panama in 1989 for the brief invasion that toppled strongman Manuel Noriega. He was in Kuwait when allied forces took it back from Saddam Hussein in 1991, making sure that citizens had little American flags to wave for the conquering troops and television cameras. He has worked in Haiti and in the Balkans, and is now fully engaged in the war against terrorism.

But John Rendon is not a military officer, government adviser, diplomat, spy or journalist. He is, to use his own words, "an information warrior and a perception manager."

Rendon makes images, manipulates scenes and manages news. He advises politicians and spreads propaganda.

Rendon and his public-relations firm, The Rendon Group, have many clients, but none bigger--or more loyal--than the U.S. government.

Shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Pentagon gave Rendon a $100,000-a-month contract to track foreign news reports and offer advice on media strategy. Rendon also worked for the Defense Department in the Balkans, according to a Pentagon spokesman.

The State Department, Central Intelligence Agency and foreign governments also have turned to Rendon in recent years for help in relaying and shaping messages for the mainstream, according to government officials and federal records. Rendon has beamed radio broadcasts into hostile countries, helped design leaflets for distribution in war-torn areas, and designed Web sites and run PR campaigns to give the U.S. spin on world events.

When the Pentagon earlier this year wanted to create an Office of Strategic Influence to spread its own version of the news in foreign lands, it asked Rendon for advice.

President Bush ultimately nixed the office after a storm of protest over reports that it planned to spread false information through foreign news outlets. But the controversy raised even more questions about the government's need to pay someone to manage its image, and about the man hired to do the job.

Over two decades of navigating Washington's inner circles, Rendon has built a unique business. While maintaining his political and public-relations credentials, he also has channeled his energies and staff into the murky bog of intelligence and defense work.

In the course of that career, Rendon has garnered contracts worth millions of dollars, a good bit of it, government sources say, from classified work. "I have a feeling that The Agency helped make him, filled his coffers," said one former senior CIA official.

The Rendon Group's current Pentagon work is just one part of a multifront, multimedia assault the Bush administration is waging against terrorism. While propaganda, war and presidents have always gone together, the Bush White House is especially attuned to the public-relations side of military conflict.

Last fall, the White House named advertising executive Charlotte Beers undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, and she is developing a full-fledged campaign to sway minds abroad. And the administration has been quick to send top officials to appear on Al Jazeera, the Arabic television station.

"Our own government propagandizing its position--it's not like it didn't happen before," said John R. MacArthur, publisher of Harper's Magazine and author of "Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War." "But this is a sophisticated, mass-market approach to it."

Rendon's admirers say he's perfect for that job.

"He is very knowledgeable, a chess player in the sense that he understands how the bad guys think," said Chuck de Caro, a National Defense University lecturer.

Hard to judge effectiveness

Others in the public-relations business say the secretive work of The Rendon Group, or TRG, makes it difficult to judge its effectiveness.

"They're very closemouthed about what they do," said Kevin McCauley, an editor at O'Dwyer's PR Daily. "They do media monitoring, getting an image of how the U.S. is perceived in the Muslim world. And they're big into video news releases. It's all cloak-and-dagger stuff."

While Washington's public-relations firms usually relish attention, Rendon keeps a low profile. He declined to be interviewed for this story and won't discuss his government-paid work. The company's Web site did offer an expansive list of clients and activities, but for unknown reasons it is no longer available on the Internet.

Rendon's view of his business, however, can be gleaned from his numerous talks to college groups and think tanks.

"I am an information warrior and a perception manager," he told a group at the U.S. Air Force Academy in February 1996.

That wasn't always Rendon's calling. He came to Washington from Massachusetts with President Jimmy Carter, and a colleague described him as a logistics specialist who made the campaign run on time. He then became political director of the Democratic National Committee.

With Carter out of office in 1981, Rendon and his brother, Rick, formed a political consulting business. In 1985, the Rendons went international with a new client, the Christian Democratic Party on the tiny Caribbean island of Aruba.

By 1989, TRG was wading into the civil strife in Panama, where Guillermo Endara, a soft-spoken attorney, had emerged as the opposition candidate challenging the sword-waving, tough-talking Noriega. Endara, who eventually became Panama's president, said Rendon advised him on how to act with crowds and on television.

"He tried to help me with the common things of campaigns," Endara said. "He made emphasis on how I should give interviews, how I should speak when I go out to the voter."

Endara was less certain about who paid for Rendon's work, though he said payments were made through the Dadeland Bank in Miami. Carlos Rodriguez, a party leader, was then a partner in the bank. Press reports at the time noted that the U.S. government openly contributed $10 million to the Panamanian opposition, but it's not clear whether any of that money made it to Endara.

According to The Rendon Group's promotional materials, Rendon's company would offer similar services five years later to Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the embattled Haitian president who in 1994 returned to reclaim the post he lost in a 1991 military coup. Ira Kurzban, Haiti's general counsel, said Aristide's government paid Rendon directly from an account in Washington.

In May 1991, then-President George Bush signed a "finding" that gave the CIA authority to conduct covert operations to undermine Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. But many in the administration were lukewarm about the order, and the CIA faced the challenge of carrying out an edict that did not seem to have real support inside the Bush White House, or in the administration of his successor, Bill Clinton.

"The feeling was, `The White House isn't behind it, there's a lot of money, what do I do with this money?'" a former CIA officer said. "There was a lot of money to spend."

A good bit of that money went to The Rendon Group, which was hired by the CIA in 1991, according to former CIA officials and Iraqi opposition groups.

One of Rendon's chief contacts at the CIA then was Linda Flohr, then a CIA covert operations veteran and now a top anti-terrorism official at the White House's National Security Council. At one point, Flohr actually left the CIA and took a contract job with Rendon before returning to the government.

TRG quickly ramped up its covert effort to vilify Hussein. The company found office space on a street called Catherine Place in London, near Buckingham Palace. Its propaganda included a regular anti-Hussein radio program beamed into Iraq, an exhibit of photos displayed throughout Europe that depicted victims of Iraq's military regime, and video feeds for newscasts that included burning oil wells. Several front organizations were formed, including one called the Coalition for Justice in Iraq.

Spending draws concern

But CIA officials became concerned about Rendon's spending, knowledgeable sources say. CIA auditors were assigned to investigate, arranging with Rendon to enter his offices at night because most TRG employees were not supposed to know they were working for the CIA.

While The Rendon Group's contract remains classified, a former employee confirmed that the terms were generous. TRG was paid an annual management fee and 10 percent of the entire contract price, which remains classified. CIA officials involved in the work said it was between $20 million and $40 million. The government, the employee said, also covered all overhead costs.

"It was nothing but gravy," said the former Rendon employee. "And in this particular case, we had a very expensive program going."

Former CIA officials familiar with Rendon's work would not discuss specifics but said those terms were generally accurate. Frederick Hitz, then CIA inspector general, confirmed Rendon's accounts came under review but declined to disclose the investigation's results, which he said were classified.

Rendon's government business, though, continued apace. TRG found new work at the Pentagon and State Department, both embroiled in budding military action in Kosovo. The Defense Department hired Rendon to run the Balkan Information Exchange, a news-driven Web site. The U.S. Agency for International Development awarded TRG a $400,000 contract to promote privatization, according to USAID records.

The Rendon Group has since grown out of its simple brick townhouse into a modern suite of offices near Washington's Dupont Circle. Two years ago, Rendon and his wife, Sandra Libby--the firm's chief financial officer--bought a $1 million house in Washington's elegant Kalorama neighborhood, according to public records.

When the Sept. 11 attacks occurred, the Pentagon's office of Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence offered TRG a four-month, $400,000 contract that has since been extended indefinitely.

Lt. Col. Ken McClellan, a Pentagon spokesman, said TRG's work includes monitoring news reports abroad and devising possible responses, such as broadcasting messages to select populations in Afghanistan or composing language on leaflets.

Until February, TRG had done the job with its customary low profile. Then came word that it was advising a new Pentagon operation, the Office of Strategic Influence. TRG's duties there, according to a Pentagon source familiar with the new office, were going to be the same as its earlier Defense Department work--collecting foreign news reports from 79 countries and shaping responses.

Though Rendon's assignment at the Office of Strategic Influence was short-lived, his work with the Pentagon, a Defense Department source said, will continue for the foreseeable future.

TV news biased against Palestinians, says study,4273,4394734,00.html

Matt Wells, media correspondent - Guardian

Tuesday April 16, 2002

British television news is routinely biased towards the Israeli view of the conflict, according to academic research.

As a result of lobbying by the Israeli government's public relations machine and the difficulties of explaining a complex story in ratings-driven bulletins, few people can understand the roots of the story, the Glasgow Media Group suggest.

Young people in particular are unaware of key elements of the conflict. In a sample of 300 questioned by the researchers, only 9% knew that Israel was the occupying force.

When the intifada began in 2000, a team led by Professor Greg Philo of Glasgow University examined 3,536 lines of text transcribed from 89 news bulletins. Only 17 lines were devoted to the conflict's history.

Consequently, he said, the Israeli side was favoured, because attacks were portrayed as responses to Palestinian acts.

Writing in today's Guardian, he adds: "A news journalism which seeks neutrality should not endorse any point of view, but there were many departures from this principle."

The broadcasters deny bias. Roger Mosey, BBC head of television news, said: "I don't believe there's any institutional bias towards one side or other in the Middle East conflict."

ITN said: "We've been covering this conflict fairly and impartially for more than half a century. We are not in the business of providing a daily history lesson.",4273,4394734,00.html

11Mar02 - NBC - Electronic war in the Afghan skies

Special forces unit beams down message to Taliban, al-Qaida

Air Force special operations members broadcast messages to Taliban and al-Qaida fighters from the skies over Afghanistan.

By Bob Arnot - MSNBC - OVER AFGHAN AIRSPACE - March 11 2002

"Taliban and al-Qaida fighters, we know where you are hiding," said a voice over frequency 850. "Taliban and al-Qaida fighters, you are our targets." During the most intense combat undertaken by American troops so far in the Afghan war, the United States Air Force is conducting an electronic combat mission.

"We're shooting electrons, not bullets," said an electronic warfare specialist, a Master Sergeant nicknamed D.J., who requested that his real name not be used.

While the U.S. Air Force has air superiority over Afghanistan, it's using highly specialized aircraft to achieve information superiority as well.

This is the brave new world of information warfare. The plane, called Commando Solo II and attached to the 193d Special Operations Wing of the Pennsylvania National Guard, operated without fighter escorts from a classified forward base of operations. Its altitude and route are also classified.

The broadcasting platform can transmit on AM, FM and short-wave frequencies. It's also an airborne TV station capable of using any of the four worldwide television standards. Until recently, these electronic combat missions were considered "black ops", so secret, the crew was forbidden tell their wives or children about them. Commando Solo II's mission was the first electronic warfare combat flight on which journalists were permitted to travel.

Big Payload

The plane, the oldest Hercules aircraft in the Air Force inventory, is crammed with electronic gear, making it one of the heaviest C-130s still flying.

Six 1,000-watt and three 10,000-watt transmitters occupy the back half of the airplane. The front half contains dozens of electronic instruments manned by an electronic warfare officer and three electronic communications specialists.

Once over Afghan airspace, a conical device, or drogue, is lowered over 300 feet from the bottom of the aircraft. D.J. pulls out a minidisk and drops it into a standard commercial minidisk player. He pushes a play button to begin broadcasting a greeting in Dari and Pashto, the main languages in Afghanistan. Then four minutes later, a broadcast is beamed down in Arabic, targeted at al-Qaida fighters.

Then, over a speaker system in D.J.'s console, fast-paced local music is played.

"Music has not been heard for years. It has huge psychological impact," said the mission control chief, identified as Maj. John. The music was followed by a carefully crafted statement about the legitimacy of the Afghan government.

Other messages suggested that Taliban fighters surrender because Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban's supreme leader, and Osama bin Laden have themselves fled the battle. The goal is to destroy the enemy's willingness to fight, Maj. John said. The message is heard on the ground throughout much of Afghanistan.

U.S. Army detachment commander Capt. Mark Mauri was with the 4th Psychological Operations group onboard the plane. Mauri, a special forces veteran, said, "We don't do actual propaganda, we use the truth."

Hitting the Heartstrings

Psychological Operations, known as PsyOps, use country studies, intelligence reports, the current situation on the battle field and knowledge of the local population to shape their message.

The broadcasts are targeted to "hit the heartstrings" of fighters who have family and loved ones back home, Mauri said. One radio script begins: "Attention soldiers of the Taliban! You do not have to risk your lives."

Hard-core al-Qaida and Taliban fighters also hear: "Osama bin Laden has abandoned you ... because he has no concern for your life ... his life is more important than yours ... he does not care if you die ... he hides in safety waiting for your death. You are dying only for a man who has abandoned you."

Do these messages work? Military officials point to the 1991 Gulf War, when an estimated 90,000 Iraqis, in interviews conducted by U.S. military intelligence, said they surrendered as a direct result of PsyOps messages.

       The same officials say scores of Taliban now held at a U.S. detention facility in Guantanimo Bay in Cuba say they surrendered after hearing PsyOps transmissions. Broadcasts are supplemented by leaflets dropped on the enemy by military planes.

       Special operations officials said their information warfare enhances the effectiveness of U.S. and coalition forces on the ground. They call it a “force multiplier.”

“If we get a thousand Taliban on the ground to surrender, that’s a 1,000 fewer Taliban that American forces will have to fight,” said Mauri.

After an 8-hour tour of duty, the Commando Solo II returned to its classified base as preparations are made for the next day’s flight.

       Bob Arnot is MSNBC’s special foreign correspondent.

Propaganda: Nobody Does It Better Than America

Paul Weber

Over the years, I have had the privilege of meeting and having discussions with people who came to America from countries known for their adherence to totalitarianism: China, Russia, and former east European satellites of the Soviet Union. When we discussed how the state managed to control public opinion under totalitarianism, these people would usually produce a weary, knowledgeable, cynical smile and point out that propaganda in those countries was really done quite incompetently. If you really want to know propaganda, they said, you need to study American propaganda technique. According to them, it is, undeniably, the best in the world.

"How can that be?" I asked, honestly puzzled.

Propaganda in those countries was too obvious, they told me. As soon as you read the first sentence you knew it was a bunch of propaganda, so you didn’t even bother to read it. If you heard a speech, you knew in the first few words that it was propaganda, and you tuned it out.

"But," I then queried, "How do you know when it’s just propaganda?"

The expatriates explained that bad propaganda uses obvious terminology that anyone can see through. Anyone hearing the phrase "capitalist running dogs", knows he’s listening to incompetent propaganda and tunes it out. Lousy propaganda, these knowledgeable but jaded individuals would tell me, appeals to an abstract theory, to a rational thesis that can be disproved. Even though communists had total control of the press, the people just tuned it out (except for those who were the most mentally defective). Most people, they assured me, just went about their lives as best they could, paid lip service to the state, and just tried to keep out of the way of the secret police. But hardly anyone really believed the stuff. The result, after many decades of suffering, was the eventual collapse of the old order once The Great Leader expired, whether his name was Brezhnev, Mao, or Tito.

American propaganda, however, is much cleverer. American propaganda, they patiently explained, relies entirely on emotional appeals. It doesn’t depend on a rational theory that can be disproved: it appeals to things no one can object to.

American propaganda had its birth, so far as I can tell, in the advertising industry. The pioneers of advertising—a truly loathsome bunch—learned early on that people would respond to purely emotional appeals. Abstract theory and logical argument do nothing to spur sales. However, appeals to sexiness, to pride of ownership, to fear of falling behind the neighbors are the stock in trade of advertising executives. A man walking down the street with beautiful women hanging on his arms is not a logical argument, but it sure sells after-shave. A woman in a business suit with a briefcase, strolling along with swaying hips, assuring us she can "bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, but never let you forget you’re a man" really sells the perfume.

Let’s take a moment and analyze the particular emotions that this execrable ad appealed to. If you guessed fear, you win the prize. Women often have a fear of inadequacy, particularly in this confused age when they are expected to raise brilliant kids, run a successful business, and be unfailingly sexy, all the time. That silly goal—foisted upon us by feminists and popular culture—is impossible to reach. But maybe there’s hope if you buy the right perfume! Arguments from intimidation and appeals to fear are powerful propaganda tools.

American advertising and propaganda has been refined over the years into a malevolent science, based on the assumption that most people react, not to ideas, but to naked emotion. When I worked at an ad agency many years ago, I learned that the successful agencies know how to appeal to emotions: the stronger and baser, the better. The seven deadly sins, ad agency wags often say, are the key to selling products. Fear, envy, greed, hatred, and lust: these are the basic tools for good propaganda and effective advertising. By far, the most powerful motivating emotion—the top, most-sought-after copy writers will tell you, in an unguarded moment—is fear, followed closely by greed.

Good propaganda appeals to neither logic nor morality. Morality and ethics are the death of sales. This is why communist propaganda actually hastened the collapse of communism: the creatures running the Commie Empire thought they should appeal to morality by calling for people to engage in sacrifice for the greater good. They gave endless, droning speeches about the inevitably of communist triumph, based on the Hegelian dialectic. Not only were they wrong: their approach to selling their (virtually unsellable) theory was not clever enough. American propagandists (we can be jingoistically proud to say) would have been able to maintain the absurd social experiment called communism a little longer. They would have scrapped all the theory and focused on appealing images. Though the Commies tried to do this through huge, flag-waving rallies, the disparity between their alleged ideals and the reality they created was just too great.

One tyrant who did take American propaganda to heart was Adolph Hitler. Hitler learned to admire American propaganda through a young American expatriate who described to him, in glowing detail, how Americans enjoyed the atmosphere at football games. This American expatriate, with the memorable name of Ernst "Putzi" Hanfstängl, told the Führer how Americans could be whipped up into a frenzy through blaring music, group cheers, and chants against the enemy. Hitler, genius of evil as he was, immediately saw the value in this form of propaganda and incorporated it into his own rise to power. Prior to Hitler, German political rhetoric was dry, intellectual, and uninspiring. Hitler learned the value of spectacle in whipping up the emotions; the famed Nuremberg rallies were really little more than glorified football halftime shows. Rejecting boring, intellectual rhetoric, Hitler learned to appeal to deeply emotional but meaningless phrases, like the appeal to "blood and soil." The German people bought it wholesale. Hitler also called for blind loyalty to the "Fatherland," which eerily echoes our own new cabinet level post of "Homeland" Security.

If you study Nazi propaganda, you will be struck by how well it appeals to gut-level emotions and images—but not thought. You will see pictures of elderly German women hugging fresh-faced young babies, with captions about the bright future the Führer has brought to German. In fact, German propaganda borrowed the American technique of relying, not so much on words, but on images alone: pictures of handsome German soldiers, sturdy peasants in native costume, and the like. Take a look at any American car commercial featuring rugged farmers tossing bales of hay into the backs of their pickups, and you’ve seen the source from which the Nazis borrowed their propaganda techniques.

The Germans have a well-deserved reputation for producing a lot of really smart people, but this did not prevent them from being completely vulnerable to American-style propaganda. Amazingly, a nation raised on the greatest classical music, the profoundest scientists, the greatest poets, actually fell for propaganda that led them into a hopeless, two-front war against most of the world. Being smart is, in itself, no defense against skilled American propaganda, unless you know and understand the techniques, so you can resist them.

American politicians learned, early in the twentieth century, that using emotional sales techniques won elections. Furthermore, they learned that emotional appeals got them what they wanted as they advanced towards their long-term goal of becoming Masters of the Universe. From this, we get our modern lexicon of political speech, carefully crafted to appeal to powerful emotions, with either no appeal to reason, or (better yet) a vague appeal to something that sounds foggily reasonable, but is so obscure that no one will bother to dissect it.

Franklin Roosevelt understood this, which is why he called for Social Security. Security is an emotional appeal: no one is against security, are they? Roosevelt backed up his campaign with a masterful appeal to emotions: images of happy, elderly grandparents smiling while hugging their grandchildren, with everything in the world going right because of Social Security. All kinds of government programs were sold on the basis of appealing images and phrases. Roosevelt even appealed to America’s traditional love of freedom, spinning that term by multiplying it into the new Four Freedoms, including Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear. Well, what heartless human being could possibly be against that? The Four Freedoms were promoted with images of parents tucking their children cozily into bed, and a happy family gathered around a Thanksgiving dinner, obviously free from want. The campaign was also based on that most powerful of all selling emotions: fear. If you don’t support Social Security, the ads suggested, you will live your last years in utter destitution.

Putzi Hanfstängl, viewing Roosevelt’s evil brilliance from Nazi Germany, was probably jealous.

American advertising executives learned the value of presenting a single image or slogan, and repeating it over and over again until it became ingrained in the public’s consciousness. Thus we are all aware that Ivory Soap is so pure that it floats: a point that has been repeated for the better part of a century. I’m not sure why I should be impressed that a bar of soap floats, but on the other hand, it’s not intended that I think that far. Politicians now sell their programs the way the advertising creeps sell soap: they dream up a slogan and repeat it over and over again. Thus we get empty slogans like The New Frontier, The New World Order (that one was poorly chosen; it sounds too much like an actual idea), or Reinventing Government (an idea that everyone should favor, except that the idea behind it really means Keeping Government the Same, only no one is supposed to think that far). Empty grandeur sells political products.

Both German and American politicians carried the use of banners to new heights. Flags are impressive emotional symbols, particularly when waved by thousands of enthusiastic people: it’s a rare individual who can resist the collective enthusiasm of thousands of his fellow human beings, cheering about their collective greatness. Putzi Hanfstängl understood this, advising Hitler to fill his public spectacles with not just a few, but countless thousands of swastika flags. The swastika, too, was a brilliant stroke of advertising and propaganda: it has become, in the public consciousness, the official emblem of Nazism, even though it had nothing to do with Germany. In fact, swastikas were used by ancient Hindus and American tribes, but I’m not aware of it being used by anyone in Germany prior to Hitler.

Now observe how Americans in the current crisis have taken to displaying huge flags on their cars. Flags are not rational arguments; they are instruments for whipping up the Madness of Crowds. Observe how many Americans have, with a straight face, called for a constitutional amendment to outlaw flag desecration, oblivious to the obvious contradictions such an amendment would have with the rest of the Constitution. But again, if you learn nothing else about propaganda, learn that it must not appeal to rationality.

Politicians don’t just use warm, fuzzy images to sell us on the road to tyranny. They also need emotional appeals to intimidate their enemies. Thus the small percentage of the population that really does use thought and reason more than emotion must be demonized. Roosevelt managed this with some masterful propaganda strokes. Those who opposed him were Isolationists, and Malefactors of Great Wealth! (The gut-level emotion appealed to here is envy.) Roosevelt thus showed himself to be an early master of what former California Governor Jerry Brown called "buzz words"; that is, words intended to silence counter-argument by appealing to unassailable emotional images. No one is for Isolation, and almost everyone reacts to an appeal to hate anyone who has a lot of money. The latter appeal, of course, had great power during the Great Depression, which Roosevelt managed to maintain for the entire length of his presidency, all the while blaming others for its evils. Was this guy an evil genius, or what?

The propaganda cleverness used in successfully branding anti-war people as Isolationists is breathtaking. After all, a rational person (ah, keep in mind, that’s not a common individual) realizes that those who oppose war are the exact opposite of isolationists. The Old Right at the time called for peaceful, commercial relations with all nations, based on neutrality in foreign affairs. If anything, those who oppose war and meddling in other countries’ affairs are the opposite of Isolationists as they really stand for open, profitable relationships with other countries. The people who stand for such ideas do not "sell" them by means of strictly emotional appeals, so they tend to lose the propaganda wars. When Roosevelt succeeded in whipping the country up into a war-frenzy after steering us into the Pearl Harbor fiasco, the Old Right realized their opposition to the war was hopeless.

The role of the government propaganda camps known as public schools cannot be discounted in all this. Schools are not so much centers of learning as they are behavior conditioning camps in which children are taught to be unquestioningly obedient to authority. Since reason and morality are the death of propaganda, schools busy themselves with systematically stunting students’ ability to reason and think in moral terms. Because the government owns the propaganda camps, it’s not surprising that the beneficiary of the propaganda is almost always the government. Americans accept obvious absurdities because they were drilled into their heads, year after year, in the government propaganda camps until they became true and unquestionable. Thus, everyone knows Roosevelt got us out of the Great Depression, even though the worst depression years were precisely those in which he and his party controlled every branch of government. Everyone knows Lincoln was a great president because he saved "government by the people" and freed the slaves, even though he became a war tyrant and only freed the slaves when it was politically convenient to do so. Wilson, everyone knows, made the world "safe for democracy", evidently by instituting a draft and getting America involved in a European war that was fought for reasons no one to this day can fathom. When minds are young and pliable—government experts understand this principle—you can fill them with nonsense that is practically impossible to root out. Laughable falsehoods in effect become true because everyone knows them to be true.

Advertising executives learned, early on, that companies could not be too obvious in using their propaganda. If their agenda could be clearly seen, then it could also be rejected. The answer to this problem was the American propaganda technique of the "independent expert" and the "guy on the street." One of these appeals to our timidity before authority, and the other to our smugness when dealing with someone at or below our perceived social level. Of course, these two techniques are really just two sides of the same coin. In product advertising, sports heroes and celebrities are used to sell corn flakes because no one would listen to the president of Kellogg telling us why corn flakes are so good. In selling detergent, plain-looking housewives are preferable to sexy models because they look just like us. In political propaganda, "experts" are often trotted out to tell us, in convoluted, circular reasoning, why minimum wage laws are really good for us, why a little bit of inflation is good, or why we just can’t rely on the free market for something so crucially important as education. Or, using the "guy on the street" approach, we are told to support idiotic wars because the common soldiers ("our boys"), cannot function unless they know we stand united behind them. If the rare sensible person tries to argue against war, he is accused of making things harder for "our boys."

This brings us to the latest iteration of masterful American Propaganda: the War on Terrorism. Any attempt to explain why the terrorists (crazed as they obviously were) felt motivated to attack the World Trade Center is looked on as "siding with the terrorists." Indeed, Ashcroft and Bush have said, in so many words, that if you don’t support them in everything they do, you stand with the terrorists. Ashcroft and Bush have evidently studied their propaganda lessons from World War II, when Roosevelt silenced all opposition by accusing anyone who stood against him of undermining the war effort. Anyone who suggests we should not risk World War III by invading the Middle East is alternately accused of siding with the terrorists, of slandering the memory of those who died, or (of course) of not "standing by our boys" in times of great need. It’s easy to feel alienated in a nation of flag-wavers singing patriotic hymns. The fact that they are marching lockstep to a world in which the government will monitor their e-mail, snoop into their bank accounts, and eventually throw them in jail for voicing opposition doesn’t seem to bother them one bit.

Now, most libertarians or otherwise thoughtful people will react with dismay when told that most of their fellow human beings react so unthinkingly to sock-you-in-the-gut emotional propaganda. Unfortunately, most people are not capable of really thinking things out. Most people really do buy perfume because of the emotional imagery. Most people really do believe the "independent expert", whether in politics or buying a car. Most people want to go with the crowd, or follow the leader. To do otherwise requires independent thought and the willingness to be ostracized, which is an unbearable psychological burden for many.

If you want to take heart, remember that the Vietnam War ended because a few people just continued to speak against it, despite the overwhelming government propaganda for it. The fact that a lot of the anti-war protesters were motivated by the wrong reasons (support of commies), doesn’t matter in light of the fact they were able to turn the tide. They were right, even if for the wrong reasons. If advocates of freedom continue to speak against the creeping tyranny that our masters justify on the phony grounds of the War on Terrorism, we might just be able to prevent the transition from Republic to Empire. The thing about propaganda is that, once it is exposed for what it is, no one listens anymore. People tune it out, just as the slaves in Russia and China learned to tune out their official propaganda.

Paul Weber’s novel, Transfiguration, is available at

11Oct01 - BBC Radio 4 Today - A War on Truth?

by Andrew Gilligan - October 11

When they said it was going to be a different kind of war, they may also have had the war of information in mind. With no independent journalists on the ground it is arguable that the temptation to mislead the public is even greater in this war than in any of its predecessors.

For the last 200 years foreigners have been coming to Peshawar to press their ears up against the all too often closed wall of Afghanistan. It's not difficult to see why. There’s plenty of Afghan frontier atmosphere here - smugglers’ bazaars, donkey carts in the streets, all that sort of thing.

But there's not such a good supply of reliable information. Con men claiming to have connections with the Mujahedeen are around every corner. In the 1980s the CIA famously wasted a fortune here backing the wrong horse in the fight against the Russians and now, with the total closure of Afghanistan to Westerners, the scope for misinformation by both sides in this conflict has never been greater.

We saw this, in a small way, with the story of the first civilian casualty of the bombing to make the difficult journey from Afghanistan. It's a trip that involves negotiating a closed border, usually by bribing the Pakistani guards. So not many have yet made it. There's no doubt that Mohammed Raza, from a village near Jalalabad, suffered a neck injury from flying shrapnel. I saw Mr Raza and I talked to the doctors treating him. But the stories of the relatives who brought him across the border to the hospital in Peshawar differed rather drastically.

Ali Ahmed, Mr Raza's cousin, told us that he'd been one of 40 people injured in his village alone including many children. Three people he said had been killed in the same attack. They tried to take him to the hospital in Jalalabad but the scene was "catastrophic", with panic stricken women and children and no medicine to be had. The streets of Jalalabad, said Mr Ahmed, were full of frightened people and normal life was on hold.

Mohamed Samadi, Mr Raza's uncle, made the same journey but for him it seemed to be an entirely different trip. "Nobody else had been injured in Mohammed Raza's village", said Mr Samadi, "apart from some very minor cuts and bruises". The streets of Jalalabad were calm and everything was going on exactly as normal. "Is this the best the Americans can do?" Mr Samadi asked, "we went all through 10 years with the Russians and it was much worse than this." A clue to Mr Samadi's political allegiance might come in his praise for the Taliban authorities’ handling of the situation.

The Taliban aren't really into spin-doctoring as such, but pro-Taliban factions in Peshawar, do appear to be trying to control the information flow. When we tried to interview some fruit traders who'd come across the border, we were chased away by Taliban sympathisers. Yet the near invisibility of the war in Afghanistan will work to the advantage of the US military alliance too. Peter Almond was formerly Defence Correspondent of the Daily Telegraph and is now Chairman of the Defence Correspondents' Association. He says the absence of western journalists from the combat zone gives both sides the opportunity to draw whatever picture of events serve their purposes best. "This is one of the first, if not the first time, that the media hasn't had anybody on the other side. There were people in Baghdad, in Belgrade, who could be taken to attack sites. But in this conflict we have to get all our information from the Pentagon and the MoD. There is no way that we can independently report."

Almond says that Ministry of Defence officials try to avoid lying to journalists - "They don't want to be caught out telling untruths...but as a senior officer has told me, 'my objective is to win and if it means lying to you, I'll do it.'"

Even in wars which weren't so hidden from view, there have been consistent attempts to mislead. On the first day of the Kosovo airstrikes an RAF spokesman told reporters that the operation had "run on rails." It soon turned out that the RAF had failed to drop a single bomb. During the Falklands War, the then Permanent Secretary of the MoD, Sir Frank Cooper, told journalists that there would not be a D-Day style landing. Two days later there was. Most famously, General Norman Schwarzkopf, persuaded the international press - and the Iraqis - that his retaking of Kuwait would come from the sea, thus distracting the enemy from his real plans and probably saving many lives, both allied and Iraqi.

The military analyst Colonel Mike Dewar makes the distinction between lies of embarrassment (such as "run on rails") and lies of deception designed to confuse the enemy, which he says are a classic and vital part of any military campaign. "So a few journalists get their stories wrong. What is that against saving possibly hundreds or thousands of lives?" he says.

The man with the job of mediating between the military's demands and those of the press is Martin Howard, the MoD's Director General of Corporate Communications. I put it to him that in a largely secret, special forces war, such as we now expect to take place in Afghanistan, the MoD need not tell us about anything it does not want to - including failed operations and British deaths. Howard insisted that Britain would be honest about casualties and failures "subject to reasons of operational security." A rather important caveat. "If there's no reason to keep it from you, we won't keep it from you," he said The problem is that many in the military will have no difficulty thinking of reasons to keep things from us.

The test of all this will come when military mistakes are made, and from Washington at least, the spin has already begun: an artful, half-suggestion by Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, that this week's death of the 4 UN workers in Kabul was caused by Taliban anti aircraft fire falling back to earth. Militarily that is almost preposterous. There may not be donkey carts and carpet salesmen in the Pentagon briefing rooms, but they can be every bit as much the scene of con-artistry as the bazaars of Peshawar.


Jan/Feb00 - The Press and Journal, Aberdeen

Soaring at 5,000 miles per hour through the night sky these unidentified flying objects could be a 21st century addition to NATO's airforce. Radar stations at Prestwick, West Freugh and RAF Buchan may have tracked their movements as they fly between secret airbases and the Norwegian Fjords, but the Ministry of Defence and the US Air Force deny they even exist.

Nic Outterside investigates

ALMOST invisible to radar, the F-117 Stealth fighter is one of the most sophisticated warplanes ever built.

But for seven years the US Government denied that the top-secret aircraft - nicknamed Nighthawk - existed.

Then, in 1991, 40 Stealth fighters were suddenly deployed for action in the Gulf War.

Ranging the night skies over Baghdad on 1,270 missions the Nighthawks struck the most heavily defended Iraqi targets to stunning effect.

Now from the cloak of X-Files denial comes a Stealth successor: more powerful, blacker, faster and even more secret.

Under the codename Project Aurora - which may be a wrap for several secret aircraft - the planes are classified within the US defence department's black programme - one whose existence is not admitted by the authorities.

Experts claim experimental and prototype Aurora aircraft are using Scotland, the skies above the North Sea and the wilderness areas of far-Northern Europe as their testing ground.

Bill Sweetman, former technical editor for Jane's Information Group and an author of three books on Stealth technology claims the areas are ideal proving ranges.

"It certainly keeps them out of the eyes and ears of the US observers," he said.

He claims that after 17 years the US defence department is reaching the latter stages of trialing space-age military aircraft capable of astonishing speeds.

"There continues to be a huge black hole in what we know the Pentagon has spent money on," he told the Press and Journal.

"In 1999 black projects accounted for £12.1billion of USAF research expenditure - that is almost 40% of the £32billion research and development budget."

Advanced secret aircraft developed at highly classified Government facilities in the Nevada Desert almost certainly include both manned and unmanned hypersonic jets designed to perform strategic reconnaissance and other less conventional missions for the US Air Force and its NATO allies.

A number of these aircraft have been seen and heard by ground-based and airborne observers in the western USA and in northern Europe during the past 10 years.

Based on more than 60 eye-witness reports there appears to be at least three distinct types of vehicle:

One is a "triangular-shaped quiet aircraft" observed with a fleet of Stealth fighters several times between 1989 and 1995. This may be a demonstrator or prototype of the much vaunted McDonnell Douglas A-12.

Another is a high speed aeroplane characterised by a very loud, deep rumbling roar, reminiscent of heavy-lift space rockets. In flight it makes a pulsing sound and leaves a segmented vapour trail.

The final contender is a high altitude jet that crosses the night sky at extremely high speed and at altitudes in excess of 50,000 feet. It is usually observed as single bright light but no engine noise or sonic boom is heard.

Observations are augmented by many reports of low-pitched, rumbling sonic booms.

In one seven month period a small team of observers in California logged at least 30 sonic booms believed to be produced by the same unknown aircraft.

Claims have surfaced that booms from Aurora test flights are responsible for sudden avalanches in Norway and an earthquake in the Netherlands as well as unexplained radar blips, eerie noises and isolated UFO sightings in Scotland.

Reporters from Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten say they have received numerous complaints of sudden bass-like booms from isolated fishing communities and farmsteads between Trondheim and Narvik, followed by sudden avalanches of snow.

They say that recently released information suggests that a 1986 avalanche in the Troms area of northern Norway, which killed 16 NATO soldiers, may have been triggered by early tests of a secret supersonic jet.

The P and J understands that Norwegian Government officials are now concerned about Aurora flights, damage caused by sonic booms and the lack of consultation from their US NATO allies.

An Oslo-based Government spokesman said they were carrying out long-standing research into the causes of avalanches and they were aware of the concern over test flights by military aircraft from the UK.

"We always receive a number of complaints from people over low-flying aircraft and sonic booms - and it is probably true that some sonic booms cause avalanches," he added.

However, he refused to comment on the existence or activities of the Aurora.

Dutch scientists have meanwhile blamed the secret jet for causing a sudden earth tremor which jolted the north coast of the Netherlands.

A North-east RAF base recently traced a very fast radar blip across the North Sea. But when the incident was reported to RAF Buchan, superior officers denied all knowledge of it.

Oceanic Air Traffic Control at Prestwick also tracked fast-moving radar blips. It was claimed by staff that a "hypersonic jet was the only rational conclusion" for the readings.

Experts claim the Aurora has probably flown out of RAF Machrihanish airfield in Argyll while hi-tech tracking equipment at Benbecula, RAE West Freugh in Galloway and Fylingdales monitor its progress.

There have been reports of unidentified night-time aircraft noises from Machrihanish for a number of years.

But with the Kintyre base now downgraded to a care and maintenance position, experts are puzzled about the location of the Aurora's new European test base.

Maryland journalist Lee Hickling has studied Aurora sightings in great detail.

"The information currently available shows Scotland and the North Sea are used extensively for the testing of these aircraft," he said.

Mr Hickling, who for nine years covered science and manned space for the Gannet Newspapers Washington bureau, added: "I believe it is extremely likely that the aircraft - test beds for hypersonic engine and control technology - would be unmanned, because human bodies could not stand the G forces generated by manoeuvres at hypersonic speed."

But last night Bill Sweetman said high speed - such as at Mach 7 or 8 - would not exclude manned aircraft. "It is only when you manoeuvre an aircraft at that speed that G forces come into play," he said.

Mr Sweetman said the development of the Aurora within the US defence department's "black projects" was a natural progression from the Stealth fighter, which first flew in 1982.

"They would not have sat still for 17 years," he said.

"The evidence is strong that high speed propulsion and aerodynamics are at the cutting edge of this new development and the long runways at Groom Lake (USA) and Machrihanish would be ideal to fly the plane from."

He said the skeleton staff at the "care and maintenance" RAF Machrihanish would be a perfect cover for further trialing of Aurora aircraft.

"One of the missions of high altitude supersonic aircraft was to operate over the North Atlantic as a reconnaissance strike system against the Soviet Northern Fleet and it would be natural to continue that test range despite the end of the cold war."

The ultimate in aerodynamics the aircraft could reach anywhere in the world in three hours, he claimed.

However an MoD spokesman said last night: "There are no United States Air Force prototype aircraft based at British airbases and no authorisation has been given by Her Majesty's Government to the USAF - or any other US body - to operate such aircraft within or from the United Kingdom.

A spokesman for the US defence department denied any knowledge of Aurora or "Deep Black" aircraft. Mr Sweetman said it was natural for British and US military spokesman to deny the existence of the plane.

"Put it this way," he said, "In 1988 the US Air Force had 50 F-117 Stealth aircraft operating in Nevada and still denied they existed."

Britain framed Irish hero with 'jubilee plot' to murder Victoria

A new book exposes how UK spies used dirty tricks to link Parnell with terrorism. Kamal Ahmed reports

Sunday May 12, 2002 - The Observer,6903,714087,00.html

It is a story of intrigue to equal anything by John le Carré. A new book says that the British Government colluded in an assassination attempt against Queen Victoria in order to undermine the Irish republicanism with dirty tricks.

In one of the most remarkable examples of a 'black operation' ever revealed, Fenian Fire, by Christy Campbell, says that Ministers were so concerned about the rise of 'Home Rulers' in the 1880s it used secret service agents to infiltrate and support republican terrorist organisations.

Ministers believed that the 'plot' to kill the Queen, revealed with great drama during Victoria's golden jubilee, would fatally undermine Charles Stewart Parnell, the charismatic Irish nationalist leader, in Westminster and destroy the republican movement.

It is is thought to reveal one of the first examples of British 'black ops', schemes which governments use to undermine their enemies. Other examples of the dark art include the Zinoviev letter, a forged note allegedly from the Communist International backing the Labour Government 'leaked' to the Daily Mail on the day before James Ramsay MacDonald stood for re-election in 1924, and the work of Colin Wallace, the government information officer who planted stories in the press about links between Labour and IRA supporters in the 1970s.

The book picks its way through the tortuous events of late Victorian Britain using previously unreleased confidential files and secret service documents. Coded communications between intelligence officials and the Government at the time have also been revealed.

Campbell, an author and historian, is best known for his highly praised book The Maharajah's Box. Fenian Fire is set to throw new light on the Government's relationship with republican forces at a time when Britain was facing its first significant terrorist threat.

During the 1860s and 1870s, Irish-American groups launched a series of attacks across London, most infamously killing six people in an attack in Clerkenwell. The Home Office, the House of Commons and Scotland Yard were all targeted.

With the country in a state of near panic, police revealed evidence of a plot to kill the Queen a few days before a golden jubilee service of thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey in 1887. Victoria was due to attend along with most of her family and most of the Cabinet.

The police said that the plot, as audacious in its target as the 1605 Gunpowder Plot, had been hatched in New York by the Fenian Brotherhood, Clan na Gael, an Irish-American secret society.

Campbell's book, to be published by HarperCollins next month, says that by the time it was revealed to an astonished and fearful public the Government was not only aware of it but had actively supported it.

Intelligence officials based in Dublin and London used the Fenian Brotherhood to stir up violence against British targets. Known republican sympathisers were hired by the Foreign Office to play a leading role in the attacks.

When the bombing plot was revealed, the press jumped on the story, dubbing it the Jubilee Plot.

The Government immediately ordered an inquiry and six months later, with the campaign seemingly neutered, two Americans were arrested and sentenced to long periods in prison for conspiracy to commit terrorist acts. The developments appeared to be a vindication of the British state's methods of handling terrorism and was highly damaging to Parnell.

But Campbell's book reveals that the leader of the Jubilee Plot was a British agent who had been hired with the sanction of the Conservative leader, Lord Salisbury, the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary.

'General' Francis Millen, a Fenian Brotherhood figure who had mysteriously man aged to escape back to New York despite one of the biggest police operations Britain had ever seen, was well known to the British secret service.

He had been recruited in Mexico City a few years earlier. In a letter from the Gov ernment's consul in Mexico, Salisbury was told that 'XXX', the code for Millen, was ready to start his first operation. The Foreign Office paid his salary.

The Times was the unwitting stooge in the affair, publishing sensational accounts accusing Parnell of condoning the crime. The 'evidence' was later exposed as a forgery and when Millen was offered £10,000, a huge amount in the 1880s, to return to Britain and testify about what the Government knew of the plot, he was found dead in New York.

Government Ministers believed that the imaginary plot to assassinate Victoria would fatally undermine Charles Stewart Parnell, right, the charismatic Irish nationalist leader, and destroy the republican movement.,6903,714087,00.html

Black ops, stings and intrigue

Sunday May 12, 2002 - The Observer,6903,714088,00.html


TARGET Labour Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald.

THE STING One of the most infamous examples of disinformation peddled by the intelligence services, the Zinoviev letter was published by the Daily Mail on the eve of the general election. Purported to have been written by Grigori Zinoviev, president of the Soviet Union's Comintern, the international Communist organisation, it called on British Communists to mobilise 'sympathetic forces' in the Labour Party. A study by the Foreign Office in 1999 revealed that Stewart Menzies, a future head of MI6, whose allegiances 'lay firmly in the Conservative camp', sent the letter, almost certainly forged, to the Mail . MacDonald lost the subsequent general election.


TARGET German military command.

THE STING The Royal Navy took a man who had died of natural causes and, after dressing him in Special Services clothing and planting fake documents, dropped him over the side of a submarine patrolling off the coast of Sicily. The documents 'revealed' that the Allies were planning landings in the area, in the hope that Germany would concentrate its forces there rather than in Normandy where the landings were going to take place.


TARGETS The IRA; leading politicians in Northern Ireland.

THE STING During the first half of the decade, Colin Wallace, a government information officer, was used to pass forged and doctored documents to the press about the accuracy of IRA weapons and to smear Labour politicians, notably Harold Wilson and Northern Ireland Secretary Merlyn Rees. The most famous was a forged document which was 'sent' to Rees by the American Congress thanking him for his 'generous donation on behalf of the Labour Party for the Occupied Six Counties of Ireland'.,6903,714088,00.html

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