by Adam Brookes
January 27, 2006
A newly declassified document gives a
fascinating glimpse into the US military's plans for "information
operations" - from psychological operations, to attacks
The document says that
information is "critical to military success".
on hostile computer networks.
As the world turns networked, the Pentagon is calculating the military
opportunities that computer networks, wireless technologies and the modern
media offer. From influencing public opinion through new media to designing
"computer network attack" weapons, the US military is learning to fight an
document was signed off by Donald Rumsfeld
The declassified document is called "Information
Operations Roadmap". It was obtained by the National Security
Archive at George Washington University using the Freedom of Information
Act. Officials in the Pentagon wrote it in 2003.
The Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld,
The "roadmap" calls for a far-reaching overhaul
of the military's ability to conduct information operations and electronic
warfare. And, in some detail, it makes recommendations for how the US armed
forces should think about this new, virtual warfare.
Computer and telecommunications networks are of
vital operational importance.
The operations described in the document include a surprising range of
military activities: public affairs officers who brief journalists,
psychological operations troops who try to manipulate the thoughts and
beliefs of an enemy, computer network attack specialists who seek to destroy
All these are engaged in information operations.
Perhaps the most startling aspect of the roadmap is its acknowledgement that
information put out as part of the military's psychological operations, or
Psyops, is finding its way onto the computer and television screens of
"Information intended for foreign audiences,
including public diplomacy and Psyops, is increasingly consumed by our
domestic audience," it reads.
"Psyops messages will often be replayed by the news media for much
larger audiences, including the American public," it goes on.
The document's authors acknowledge that American
news media should not unwittingly broadcast military propaganda.
"Specific boundaries should be established,"
they write. But they don't seem to explain how.
"In this day and age it is impossible to
prevent stories that are fed abroad as part of psychological operations
propaganda from blowing back into the United States - even though they
were directed abroad," says Kristin Adair of the National
Public awareness of the US military's information operations is low, but
it's growing - thanks to some operational clumsiness.
Late last year, it emerged that the Pentagon had paid a private company, the
Lincoln Group, to plant hundreds of stories in Iraqi newspapers. The stories
- all supportive of US policy - were written by military personnel and then
placed in Iraqi publications. And websites that appeared to be information
sites on the politics of Africa and the Balkans were found to be run by the
But the true extent of the Pentagon's information operations, how they work,
who they're aimed at, and at what point they turn from informing the public
to influencing populations, is far from clear.
The roadmap, however, gives a flavor of what the US military is up to - and
the grand scale on which it's thinking. It reveals that Psyops personnel
"support" the American government's international broadcasting. It singles
out TV Marti - a station which broadcasts to Cuba - as receiving such
It recommends that a global website be established that supports America's
strategic objectives. But no American diplomats here, thank you. The website
would use content from "third parties with greater credibility to foreign
audiences than US officials".
It also recommends that Psyops personnel should consider a range of
technologies to disseminate propaganda in enemy territory: unmanned aerial
vehicles, "miniaturized, scatterable public address systems", wireless
devices, cellular phones and the internet.
'Fight the net'
When it describes plans for electronic warfare, or EW, the document takes on
an extraordinary tone. It seems to see the internet as being equivalent to
an enemy weapons system.
"Strategy should be based on the premise
that the Department [of Defense] will 'fight the net' as it would an
enemy weapons system," it reads.
The slogan "fight the net" appears several times
throughout the roadmap.
The authors warn that US networks are very vulnerable to attack by hackers,
enemies seeking to disable them, or spies looking for intelligence.
"Networks are growing faster than we can
defend them... Attack sophistication is increasing... Number of events
US digital ambition
And, in a grand finale, the document recommends that the United States
should seek the ability to "provide maximum control of the entire
US forces should be able to,
"disrupt or destroy the full spectrum of
globally emerging communications systems, sensors, and weapons systems
dependent on the electromagnetic spectrum".
Consider that for a moment.
The US military seeks the capability to knock out every telephone, every
networked computer, every radar system on the planet. Are these plans the
pipe dreams of self-aggrandizing bureaucrats? Or are they real?
The fact that the "Information Operations Roadmap" is approved by the
Secretary of Defense suggests that these plans are taken very seriously
indeed in the Pentagon.
And that the scale and grandeur of the digital revolution is matched only by
the US military's ambitions for it.