Tom Ricks's Inbox

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Here, in a study published in June 2006 by the military's Joint Special Operations University, two "information warfare" specialists mull over how the U.S. armed forces and intelligence agencies might influence opinion overseas through foreign bloggers:

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. . . [I]t may be easy for foreign audiences to dismiss the U.S. perspective with "Yes, but you aren't one of us, you don't really understand us."

In this regard, information strategists can consider clandestinely recruiting or hiring prominent bloggers or other persons of prominence already within the target nation, group or community to pass the U.S. message. . . . Sometimes numbers can be effective; hiring a block of bloggers to verbally attack a specific person or promote a specific message may be worth considering. On the other hand, such operations can have a blowback effect, as witnessed by the public reaction following revelations that the U.S. military had paid journalists to publish stories in the Iraqi press under their own names. People do not like to be deceived, and the price of being exposed is lost credibility and trust.

An alternative strategy is to "make" a blog and blogger. The process of boosting the blog to a position of influence could take some time, however. . . .

There will also be times when it is thought to be necessary, in the context of an integrated information campaign, to pass false or erroneous information through the media . . . in support of military deception activities. . . . In these cases, extra care must be taken to ensure plausible deniability and nonattribution, as well as employing a well-thought-out deception operation that minimizes the risks of exposure.

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Tom Ricks is The Post's military correspondent. This feature aims to give readers a snapshot of the conversations about Iraq, Afghanistan and other matters that play out in Ricks's e-mail inbox. Have an interesting document? Send it to TheInbox@washpost.com


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