Information Warfare 101

Disinformation is information disseminated primarily by intelligence organizations or other covert agencies designed to distort information, or deceive or influence United States decisionmakers, United States forces, coalition allies, key actors, or individuals by indirect or unconventional means.  It is a form of propaganda directed toward decisionmakers to confuse them into making incorrect decisions.  Disinformation can cause rifts in coalitions by playing off historical ethnic, racial, and cultural biases of coalition partners.  Adversaries can direct disinformation indirectly, such as through third—party communications broadcasts.

US Army Field Manual 3—13
Information Operations: Doctrine, Tactics, Techniques, Procedures

The laser—like focus of the American media and much of the Democratic Party's leadership on the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib Prison is remarkable.  There is an abundance of critically important and visually rich news originating in Iraq, from the increasingly successful military operations in Fallujah and Karbala to the horrific videotape of Nicholas Berg's beheading.  Long before any details of the origins of the Abu Ghraib situation are clear, newspaper headlines, television newscasts, and magazine covers tell us that the important question is whether or not Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld should be fired.

A close reading of documents and facts already made public strongly suggests that, in addition to a war on radical Islam, the SecDef and his boss, President George W. Bush, are fighting an internal war. This internal war is against opponents within the United States Government, who seek to divert attention and blame from their own failures to carry out their duties, and their own bending of the rules governing the treatment of prisoners. Like all internal wars, the details are crucial, and many important points remain hidden from public scrutiny.  Nevertheless, an emerging pattern of cover—up and possible set—up of others makes sense, in the context of the larger struggles defining the occupation of Iraq, and the war which led to it.

The visible—to—date actions of a few soldiers, and the evident gross negligence on the part of their immediate commanders, have caused a predictable reaction on the part of the mainstream media.  Only an anti—American, leftist press could make the swift jump in logic from enlisted MP prison guards right up the chain of command to the Secretary of Defense.  The lame attempt to monger another 'My Lai' type of scandal is translucent, if not fully transparent, to most thinking observers of press behavior.

To the media's consternation, a solid majority of the American public want Donald Rumsfeld to remain as SecDef.  President Bush did the right thing by strongly backing Secretary Rumsfeld, and in so many words, admonishing the press that their efforts to target the Secretary for elimination will fail.

That the SecDef was the target of this information campaign is indisputable, but the high level of synchronization involved in the unauthorized release of classified information and the transfer of hundreds of digitized photos to the mainstream media needs a closer examination.  Even the Military Times, the Gannett—owned conglomerate that publishes the Army, Navy and Air Force Times, said

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld set the tone for the prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq by refusing to give captives rights due prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. 

This is a very quick and simplistic response on the part of military weeklies that normally are very deliberate in providing information on such matters of importance as criminal charges against soldiers, or publishing scathing editorial opinions on a sitting Secretary of Defense.

A criminal investigation and the rights of soldiers have already been compromised, and the chain of command now has to deal with this ongoing information warfare campaign.  But who would conduct such a campaign other than our adversaries in the War on Terror?  Surely, our own media would not be so obvious as to openly cooperate with the likes of insurgents and foreign fighters?  I think not.  But Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba's leaked investigative report provides some tantalizing hints of what might lie below the surface.

What jumps out of the Taguba report is what is at the top of the first page: that it is plainly classified as SECRET/NO FOREIGN DISSEMINATION (NOFORN).  This aspect has obviously been glossed over by media figures on the Pentagon beat, as if the next Army general officer promotion list was 'leaked' a week early.  On Monday of this week, Jim Miklaszewski, on Imus in the Morning, even went so far as to place the blame for unauthorized disclosure of a classified document on the suspicion of a Pentagon cover—up.  Miklaszewski essentially said that all of the sub—paragraphs of the report were marked unclassified (U), except for approximately 8 to 10 paragraphs that were marked Secret/Noforn (S/NF) or Secret (S).  He argued that the report could have been released much earlier with the classified paragraphs redacted, and that the report would have conveyed the same information as the classified version.  As detailed later, these classified paragraphs actually point to some of the key actors in this campaign.

As an experienced Pentagon reporter, Miklaszewski surely understands the difference between authorized and unauthorized disclosure, and simply leaking an official document.  The lowest enlisted person in the military would get hung out to dry if he or she released a classified document without a declassification statement, and without determining who had a 'need to know.'  Clearly, when soldiers' reputations and careers are at stake because of an ongoing criminal investigation, Mr. Miklaszewski does not have a need to know the details contained either in the report, or the photo or video evidence.  Whoever disclosed this classified document and the photos knows that he or she is subject to prosecution under provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).  It would require a very foolish, or a very powerful and well—connected party, to believe that they could get away with this sort of disclosure.  To date, the press is singularly uninterested in the question of who did the leaking.

Fortunately, the report itself describes the chain of custody of the foundation documents leading to the report.

(U) The US Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID), led by COL Jerry Mocello, and a team of highly trained professional agents have done a superb job of investigating several complex and extremely disturbing incidents of detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib Prison.  They also uncovered numerous photos and videos portraying in graphic detail detainee abuse by Military Police personnel on numerous occasions from October to December 2003.

Due to the extremely sensitive nature of these photographs and videos, the ongoing CID investigation, and the potential for the criminal prosecution of several suspects, the photographic evidence is not included in the body of my investigation.  The pictures and videos are available from the Criminal Investigative Command and the CTJF—7 prosecution team [emphasis mine].

Therefore, we learn that the Army CID had conducted an investigation starting possibly as early as October of 2003, and that the incriminating photos and videos were held in the proper legal channels within Army CID and the CJTF—7 Staff Judge Advocate.  It is clear that the trail to the source of the unauthorized release of the photos and videos should start at these two agencies.  Unfortunately, it seems that a major subordinate command of the US Army, the CID, and Lt. Gen Sanchez' headquarters have been compromised.  The report also presents some more critical elements in the timeline of events.

In the middle of the original CID investigation, on November 19, 2003, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, Commanding General, CJTF—7, issued Fragmentary Order (FRAGO) number 1108, which read in part:


Maj. Gen. Taguba's comments on this FRAGO clarify what this order meant:

(U)  Although not supported by BG [Brigadier General] Karpinski, FRAGO 1108 made all of the MP units at Abu Ghraib TACON [tactical control] to the Commander [Colonel Thomas Pappas], 205th MI Brigade.  This effectively made an MI [military intelligence] Officer, rather than an MP [military police] Officer, responsible for the MP units conducting detainee operations at that facility.  This is not doctrinally sound due to the different missions and agendas assigned to each of these respective specialties.

It is also clear in Taguba's report, that this ambiguous command arrangement in no way exonerates BG Karpinski or the soldiers of the 800th MP Brigade from the serious charges levied against them as a result of this investigation.  However, it does point to a key element that is just now receiving attention in the media.  That is, intelligence agencies, including the mysterious Other Government Agencies (OGAs), were in positions to order the MPs to 'set the conditions' for interrogation.  It is not a coincidence that these people are also among the experts at information warfare.

The first classified paragraphs of Maj. Gen. Taguba's report show how an initial visit to the detention system by Maj. Gen. Miller (who is now the new commander of the CJTF—7 prison system) from August 31 to September 9, 2003 resulted in recommendations to improve 'actionable intelligence' gained from the detainees.

(S)  MG Miller led a team of personnel experienced in strategic interrogation to HQ, CJTF—7 and the Iraqi Survey Group (ISG) [emphasis mine — this the group responsible for finding Saddam's WMD] to review current Iraqi Theater ability to rapidly exploit internees for  actionable intelligence.  MG Miller's team focused on three areas:  intelligence integration, synchronization, and fusion; interrogation operations; and detention operations.

Some of Maj. Gen. Miller's specific recommendations (S/NF)  included:

  •  CJTF—7 dedicate and train a detention guard force subordinate to the Joint Interrogation Debriefing Center (JIDC) Commander that 'sets the conditions for the successful interrogation and exploitation of internees/detainees.'
  •  that establishment of the Theater Joint Interrogation and Detention Center (JIDC) at Abu Ghraib (BCCF) will consolidate both detention and strategic interrogation operations and result in synergy between MP and MI resources and an integrated, synchronized, and focused strategic interrogation effort.
  • It is not known when exactly these recommendations were actually adopted by the MPs and the OGAs (the CIA, DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency], and the ISG) at Abu Ghraib.  What is known is that Coalition troops were under an increasing number of attacks from insurgents and foreign fighters, with no solid information from intelligence agencies and MI units on their organization, depth, and operational patterns.  In addition, the ISG claimed it had not found any significant hard evidence on Iraq's WMD programs or actual weaponry.  The new head of the ISG at the time, Dr. David Kay, scrapped the original list of locations where evidence of programs or weapons were thought to be, and concentrated instead on interrogation of scientists.

    In all candor, many of the problems experienced by the Coalition were unfairly laid at the feet of 'intell.'  Nevertheless, OGAs like the Iraqi Survey Group, showed up in the theater of operations unprepared to fulfill their mission, conducted poorly coordinated operations, and therefore hoped interrogation of Iraqi scientists could make up for their deficiencies.  In any event, Taguba's report notes the final result of putting intelligence agencies in control of Abu Ghraib:

    (S/NF)  The various detention facilities operated by the 800th MP Brigade have routinely held persons brought to them by Other Government Agencies (OGAs) without accounting for them, knowing their identities, or even the reason for their detention.  The Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center (JIDC) at Abu Ghraib called these detainees 'ghost detainees.'  On at least one occasion, the 320th MP Battalion at Abu Ghraib held a handful of 'ghost detainees' (6—8) for OGAs that they moved around within the facility to hide them from a visiting International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) survey team.  This maneuver was deceptive, contrary to Army Doctrine, and in violation of international law [emphasis mine].

    The American people now find themselves faced with a collection of posed and formulaic photos and videos, and a 'leaked' classified report that the mainstream media supposedly just happened upon in the course of routine investigative journalism.  The seamless public relations events presented to the American public in sequence are remarkable.  For example, in the space of 10 days, CBS' 60 Minutes II shows the 'leaked' photos, BG Karpinski does the morning news show rounds with her lawyer, the Senate convenes a special hearing to grill Secretary Rumsfeld about the prison abuse, a SECRET/NOFORN report appears on the world wide web, and the media quickly call for Rumsfeld's resignation.

    If my suspicions are correct, I've got to hand it to the media and our intell guys.  This was a great piece of work.  Almost nobody is even thinking to ask about the role of the OGAs.  All attention has been diverted to the SecDef, and if he is forced out, there will be nobody who will want to look back and ask embarrassing questions about who else might have unclean hands.

    But what would motivate our own people to conduct such a campaign, and why 'introduce' these materials to the media about an event that members of Congress already knew about?  The report answers part of that question when Maj. Gen. Taguba recommends:

    That an inquiry UP [under provisions] AR [Army Regulation] 381—10, Procedure 15 be conducted to determine the extent of culpability of Military Intelligence personnel, assigned to the 205th MI Brigade and the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center (JIDC) regarding abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib (BCCF).

    So the immediate concern of the OGAs is to obviously divert attention from their role in the abuse scandal, but targeting the SecDef would seem to be an extreme measure, especially since there is a Combined Joint Task Force Commander, Lt. Gen. Sanchez, the Coalition Forces Land Component Commander, Lt. Gen. McKiernan, and the CENTCOM (theater) Commander, General Abizaid, who all should figure prominently in this entire mess.  The focus on Secretary Rumsfeld is rooted not only in the leftist mainstream media hatefest of GW, it also involves a longstanding bureaucratic turf war about who was, and is 'right' about Iraq, and an inter—agency fight about the conduct of reconstruction efforts.

    What is shocking is that some of the people who work in the very agencies that are charged with conducting operations to support the war and protect American lives, appear to have lowered themselves to the level of terrorist enablers, just to prove they are right, and the President and his national security team are wrong.  More disturbing, is that a few will apparently 'fight' the efforts of our own country in the mission to secure democracy in Iraq.

    The internal battles of the intelligence community and the State Department, and their battle with the Bush administration have been well documented.  Yet, there were several events in the March to early May 2004 timeframe that from the perspective of the OGAs, would reveal their low level of competency, their hidden agenda, and their lack of resolve to accomplish the mission.

    Just as Maj. Gen. Taguba was presenting his findings to Lt. Gen. McKiernan in early March, the first of two articles  appeared on The American Thinker questioning the ISG's preparation and methodology concerning their approach to finding evidence of WMD programs, and the weapons themselves.  What was suspected, but not confirmed until the Taguba report, was that Iraqi scientists were being detained for questioning without having to account for their 'incommunicado' status to either family members or to the CPA.  Even if the operation of the JIDC (Joint Interrogation Debriefing Center) had been on the level, what did the ISG believe to be the validity of information gained from these frightened scientists without any corroborating documentation, or the haphazard nature of the entire search effort?

    Then, on April 26, just two days before the initial batch of photos were shown on CBS, Kenneth Timmerman of Insight on the News published his stunning article, Saddam's WMD Have Been Found.  Drawing on actual ISG reports and other corroborating information, Timmerman presented the detailed findings of weaponry and evidence of WMD programs, and rightfully concludes that Saddam Hussein was, in fact, in violation of all of the UN resolutions relating to banned substances and delivery systems.  That the media would lose the 'Bush lied about WMD' issue from their leftist arsenal by not reporting the significance of the evidence in Iraq is, given their agenda, understandable.  What is most disturbing is the revelation that one of our own intelligence agencies has been downplaying or ignoring significant evidence obtained by our forces in the field.

    In early May, as the heat was being turned up on Rumsfeld about the prison scandal, a series of articles appeared on the efforts of the CIA and the State Department to deliberately smear a key ally in the effort to bring democracy to Iraq.  David Frum, in the National Review Online, chronicles the information campaign by CIA and State whereby they 'leaked' a false story to Newsweek's Mark Hosenball.  Long known to be opposed to Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress, these two US agencies have obstructed the DoD—backed Chalabi and the INC from taking a key role in securing and rebuilding Iraq.  The leaked story even went so far as to say Chalabi 'has become too close to Iran's theocratic rulers,' all the while refusing to acknowledge that Iran has any part in the recent uprisings in Iraq.  This disinformation effort was so blatant, that on 3 May, the Iraqi National Congress made a statement that denounced the 'CIA—orchestrated smear campaign.'  INC spokesperson Entifadh Qanbar also stated that 'Newsweek has confirmed to us that US intelligence officers known to be hostile to the INC were the source of their story.'

    Timing is everything in any military operation, and is just as critical in an information warfare campaign.  And, as events show, March through the beginning of May have not been kind to some OGAs and the State Department.  That the US media virtually bypasses three layers of senior command in the theater of operations, and directly targets the Secretary of Defense is also telling.  Obviously, the OGAs, the State Department, and the media must think that Secretary Rumsfeld is a very effective leader in the War on Terror — and they're right.  Stopping him continues to be their top priority.

    President Bush, his defense chief, and his national security advisors are to be commended for staying the course in Iraq and in the War on Terror.  Mistakes have, and will be made from time to time.  The President has told all Americans that the fight will be long and difficult, but I don't think GW or the American public were prepared for the intense level of opposition from some members of the home team.

    Douglas Hanson is our military affairs correspondent