The document says information is "critical to
As the world turns networked, the Pentagon is calculating the military
opportunities that computer networks, wireless technologies and the modern media
From influencing public opinion through new media to designing "computer
network attack" weapons, the US military is learning to fight an electronic war.
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, signed it.
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,
The document says that information is "critical to military success".
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 enemy
All these are engaged in information operations.
The wide-reaching document was
signed off by Donald Rumsfeld
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 ordinary
"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 Security Archive.
Public awareness of the US military's information operations is low, but it's
growing - thanks to some operational clumsiness.
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
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 Pentagon.
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.