Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Are we ready for an anti-Daesh Influence Campaign Task Force?

The UK based Quilliam organization (www. recently published an exhaustive report entitled: “Documenting the Virtual ‘Caliphate’” which can be downloaded from their website. The 50 page + report provides a month long  snapshot of Daesh propaganda between 17 July and 15 August 2005. Which consists of 1,146 “separate propaganda events”.

It is generally believed that Daesh is winning the propaganda and influence war. This report was developed because Quilliam believed before there is any hope of countering this influence onslaught, much less overcoming it, it is critical to understand the deeper nature of their propaganda efforts.

The report offers 10 key conclusions. The essence of some of these is quoted below:

1.     “This is an exceptionally sophisticated information operation campaign, the success of which lies in the twin pillars of quantity and quality. Given this scale and dedication, negative measures like censorship are bound to fail.”

2.     While consistent overall, the Daesh brand shifts according to events.

3.     Over half of the effort is aimed a depicting the utopia existence under the ‘caliphate’.

4.     “Economic activity, social events, abundant wildlife, unwavering law and order, and pro-active, pristine ‘religious’ fervour form the foundations of Islamic State’s civilian appeal. In this way, the group attracts supporters based on ideological and political appeal.“

5.     The military is generally shown during offensives or in stasis.

6.     Military attacks with mortars and rockets are shown even though they are not part of any actual offensives. Rather the intent is to show a perpetual offensive.

7.     Control of the population in their current AO – discouraging rebellion and dissent seems to be a major theme.

8.     “The quantity, quality and variation of Islamic State propaganda in just one month far outweighs the quantity, quality and variation of any attempts, state or non-state, to challenge the group. All current efforts must be scaled up to achieve meaningful progress in this war.’

9.     The global desire to find a panacea counter-narrative to undermine the Islamic State brand is misplaced. Categorically, there is no such thing. Those engaged in the information war on the ‘caliphate’ must take a leaf out of the group’s own media strategy book and prioritise quantity, quality, variation, adaptability and differentiation. Most importantly, though, it must be based upon an alternative, not counter, narrative.

It seems to me that a multinational effort is required that can cut across national boundaries, employs commercial, military and diplomatic expertise. This task force should be part of an international organization, which, along with its members could provide personnel and funding for the long haul that will be required to deal with this challenge.

It appears to me that a NATO lead makes the most sense mainly because it is an existing multi-national organization that has appropriate membership and expertise. Set along the lines of a Combined Joint Influence Task Force, this new organization would of necessity focus on cyber media, but would also be able to employ more traditional media such as television, radio and print whenever it made sense to do so.

Diplomatic (Public Diplomacy) participation at the highest level and liaison across embassies in the region and elsewhere would be another key element needed for successful execution.

This is a ‘stalking horse’ in the sense that my purpose is to stimulate input from Blog readers. Comments eagerly awaited.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Is Media “Support” A MISO Mission?

On September 22, 2105 the Altlanticist ran an article “Western Media Must Fight Russia’s Letha Propaganda More Aggressively” (see: which is also the photo source.)

The thesis of the article is that Russia controls its media in a way that puts a pro-Russia spin on events that amounts to a “major global propaganda effort”.  Muzzling media is often a two edged sword. On one hand you can try to silence critics, but on the other you risk alienating freedom of the press advocates and incur their wrath on the global stage.

A key point made by the article is: “It is possible that democratic tools and the standard requirements for balanced journalism are simply incapable of dealing with virulent state-generated propaganda.”

Does it make sense for the US to harness its influence assets (meaning State Department Public Diplomacy and MISO) as a means to try and counter balance Russian efforts?

One could argue that since most media is now digital, resources in the form of content or funding could be channeled to key digital media outlets that support US policy and goals and which could help in a counter  Russian propaganda campaign.

Of course since this type of resourcing is not military in nature, but more in the diplomatic realm, State would have to be in the lead and MISO could be tasked on a project basis to help generate needed content and/or to provide monitoring and analysis of Russian propaganda as well as content recommendations.

This would appear to be a win-win situation because:
1.     MISO personnel could bring needed language skills.
2.     The work would be valuable training for MISO personnel.
3.     MISO personnel would be subcontractors to the Department of State who remains in the lead.

Such media support could be extended to other areas as well such as ISIS. The name of the game being to counter negative propaganda, because unanswered propaganda becomes more believable over time without regard to its lack of truth.

Reader input invited.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Focused Cyberattacks as PSYOP

One of my many lives is that of Corporate Attorney. I serve as General Counsel for TAL Global, an international consulting firm ( The July issue of Corporate Counsel Magazine (see: featured an article entitled: “When Bloggers Attack and Companies Fight Back” (The website for the target is pictured below:

The article describes how a false Blog entry spiraled upward to negatively impact a successful business. Among the key points made in the article was how the initial attacks were by little known Bloggers and how initial attacks were allegedly paid for by someone with a grudge to settle against the target. These postings were then picked up by legitimate media and rebroadcast in a fashion.

One of the key points is that “Howe (the CEO of the Company) is still fighting to get the posts removed from the Internet, even though he has proved that the information in them was fabricated.“

It is also important to point out that this cyber influence tactic would be very useful in the world of Public Diplomacy where the Blogsophere and the media are more of a factor than tactical MISO where the AO may have a high illiteracy rate or where the Internet may not be a factor in daily operations.

The message for the MISO and Cyber Command community is clear. Cyberinfluence or CyberPSYOP if you prefer is an exceptionally cost-effective weapon that can be employed to manipulate the media and influence behavior. Given that MISO is the province of the SOF and the USAR and Cyber Command is yet another intermediate entity, this begs the question – are we training as we are already fighting?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

FM 22-5 or Drill and Ceremonies As PSYOP

PSYActs can take many forms. Those involving imagery are generally the most powerful. One of the more interesting PSYActs recently took place in Beijing. On September 8, 2015 Diplomat Magazine published article about the parade at:

The article contends that the parade was held for a number of reasons:
1.     It shows that Xi Jinping is the undisputed leader of China.
2.     Ordinary Chinese people have a very positive attitude toward their military.
3.     To show the world that China has a wide array of modern missiles.
4.     The Chinese wanted to show that they are not a threat to other countries by announcing the reduction of their forces by 300,000.
5.     South Korea and Russia showed they support the PRC.

Today’s post is not about this parade, it’s about PSYActs and how the military performs them intentionally or unwittingly.

One of my favorite good examples is the British Army in Bosnia. While I was the Deputy Commander of the Combined Joint Information Campaign Task Force (CJICTF) I visited the Multi-national Division (MND) HQ. As an American soldier in the NATO Force I was dressed sort of as a Mutant Ninja Turtle with my flak vest and helmet. The British on the other hand wore soft caps and no body armor.

The PSYAct comes into play when there is a need to convey to an audience that you are serious and they need to comply. The Americans didn’t have very many non-lethal alternatives while the British simply could upgrade their protection with Body Armor and Helmet. This act alone often had the desired effect.

A more recent military PSYAct is was when the US military drove convoys through Europe in March 2015 (see: Photo Source for kids and armor.

A key point is that CDR at all level need to consider the intended and likely unintended consequence of actions from the psychological perspective as well as the kinetic one.

Additional Photo Source:

Friday, August 28, 2015

National Military Strategy: Implications for MISO and Influence Operations

 The latest US National Military Strategy (NMS) was published in June 2015 (, which is also the photo source.) Conceptually it is derived from the National Security Strategy (NSS) released in February 2015 and which can be found at:

Those of us with military experience know that ‘stuff’ rolls down hill and the impact of strategic documents is a good example. However, it is often hard to figure out what the direct impacts will be – impacts to be felt within the next couple of years.

The NMS mentions a number of nation states: Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, etc. However, it is clear that the emphasis is on non-state actors, especially Violent Extremist Organizations (VEO).

Here are a couple of quotes WRT VEO.

“But it (the NMS) also asserts that the application of the military instrument of power against state threats is very different than the application of military power against non-state threats. We are more likely to face prolonged campaigns than conflicts that are resolved quickly…that control of escalation is becoming more difficult and more important…and that as a hedge against unpredictability with reduced resources, we may have to adjust our global posture.”

“In this complex strategic security environment, the U.S. military does not have the luxury of focusing on one challenge to the exclusion of others. It must provide a full range of military options for addressing both revisionist states and VEOs. Failure to do so will result in greater risk to our country and the international order.”

Violent Extremist Organizations (VEOs) are taking advantage of emergent technologies as well, using information tools to propagate destructive ideologies, recruit and incite violence, and amplify the perceived power of their movements. They advertise their actions to strike fear in opponents and generate support for their causes.”

The NMS then goes on to identify 3 National Military Objectives:
1. Deter, deny, and defeat state adversaries.
2. Disrupt, degrade, and defeat violent extremist organizations.
3. Strengthen our global network of allies and partners.”

Accomplishing these objectives will require a versatile, resilient and flexible force. From an influence operations perspective, this means seamlessly reinforcing information objectives across all forces and media. This implies that all of the services, the PAO and others in the mix are all in synch and orchestrated to support the CDR’s influence objectives.

One of the glaring issues is the cyber influence world. LTG Cardon, the CG of the Army’s Cyber Command has proposed that his agency be the proponent for influence in the cyber realm (see:

The article quotes Cardon’s simplistic vision: “Under Cardon's vision, Signal Corps officers would manage communications systems, public affairs staff would oversee information operations and develop social media applications, and military intelligence units would collect and record top-secret data for the Army Cyber Command.”

These comments strike me as intelligence indicators that the responsibility for directing and carrying out the influence war is murky at best. Anyone who has ever worked with Public Affairs knows that they are very cautious about working with other influence organizations for fear of ‘contaminating’ their position.

As the new leaders at the Joint Chiefs level come into place and the Presidential election starts to come into focus, we can only expect more turmoil and less continuity.

As Lou Costello once said: “Who’s on 1st ?”

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Trolls to replace PSYOPers?

It’s no secret that many governments have discovered the importance of social media. One on-line article attracted my attention (see: Intelligence officials were quoted as having said: “There is a concern that social media campaigns orchestrated by overseas powers could distort open-source intelligence gathering”.

During disasters, much like combat, there ‘s a fog as to what is really going on. In my role as a Red Cross volunteer I’ve learned to appreciate how ‘tweets’ can be a barometer of public perception of a disaster. The amount of tweets rises and falls in line with the public’s perception of the severity of the event.

It’s also probably fair to say that there is some sort of ‘bandwagon’ effect whereby lots of tweets and social media activity spurs even more. If a government (or non-state actor) were able to distort the frequency and content of social media to the point where they were actually shaping it, this would be a great for them.

It could be a double play in the sense of they have distorted the truth and secondly are able to influence more people to think or behave in their direction.

The article emphasizes how the Russians were able to impact social media after the MH17 crash in the Ukraine.

The implication for the PSYOP/MISO community is clear. There needs to be a balance between ‘new’ and ‘old’ influence mechanisms. Unfortunately the tendency in today’s world is for the US government to classify anything and everything that is cyber, just as they did for SIGINT a half-century ago.

 MISO requires synergistic ways and means. Cyber and traditional influence operations must work seamlessly together to reinforce each other. Social media influence will continue to be pivotal. Hopefully cyber influencers will be able to work well with their military counterparts and others to optimize the use of influence operations as a national power.

Photo Source:

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Influence Operations and the Treatment of Journalists

The NY Times of August 10, 2015 ran an OpEd “The Pentagon and the Wartime Press”, when I went on line to give y’all a URL reference, I couldn’t help but notice that the on-line title was “The Pentagon’s Dangerous Views on the Wartime Press” (see:; which is also the photo source).

The source, Law of War Manual can be found at:

The OpEd is concerned with the US DOD treatment of journalists. It is more or less implied that journalists provide a vital and Constitutionaly protected service by informing US citizens about what their military is doing.

While I haven’t read the Manual, I will make the assumption that the Manual is trying to provide ‘guidance’ for OPSEC purposes, not to muzzle the press.

We all realize that careless reporting, like careless use of Social Media can have dire consequences in combat and it’s always useful to have a source to help justify actions.

Unfortunately I have to characterize the Gray Lady’s piece as a knee jerk, out of context, arm-waving diatribe.

However, the point of this posting is not to critique the piece, but rather cause a pause in the ‘community’.

Our world is outside the US. MISO take place outside the US and are addressed to foreign audiences. Of necessity foreign audiences include foreign journalists.

Public Affairs is the lead organization for working with foreign media and there is absolutely no question that this is the case. MISO often needs to optimize foreign media support for the CDR’s goals and operations.

MISO often functions as an advertiser in foreign media and can retain writers and journalists in foreign markets to develop work in foreign media that supports the CDR. In some cases this may rise to the level where MISO becomes the champion of selected foreign media to help them get the support they need to tell our story.

One of the elements missing in the OpEd is that most overseas operations are not undertaken by the US alone. General McChrystal noted 46 countries taking part in Afghanistan. Not having deployed recently – I look to y’all to advise whether or not the US rules for journalists was the SOP for Coalition forces and to comment on whether the Coalition partners all followed the US rules or if they took certain liberties either with their own national media or ‘favored’ foreign media.