Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Does Cyberwar Mean Cyber PSYOP/MISO?

The NY Times of 25 April 2015 ran “US Cyberattacks Target ISIS in a New Line of Combat” featuring the CDR of Cyber Command and DIRNSA (pictured at right) (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/25/us/politics/us-directs-cyberweapons-at-isis-for-first-time.html?_r=0 which is also the photo source)

The article focuses on the cyber mission of disrupting enemy communications and sowing distrust among potential recruits because their communications with the terrorist group are no longer secure.

The use of cyber can be thought of as an extension of President Obama’s philosophy of avoiding the use of troops on the ground and of favoring special operations of all flavors.

The article goes on to describe how these attacks are supposed to be targeting the money trail and by the use of cyber Military Deception (MILDEC). The article then goes on to discuss the balance between the action and the revelation of sources and capabilities.

Conspicuously absent, at least in my opinion, were CyberPSYOP specifics. No one can deny that the Cyberattacks will have a psychological impact and are therefore PSYActs – but what about cyber oriented campaigns designed to hamper recruitment? When the article talks about ‘jumbling’ does it mean altering websites or Social Media to change the message from recruiting to warning the reader to stay away?

What about specific cyber ‘leaflets’, e-mails, SMS, Tweets and other messages aimed at altering the behavior of the target?

Clearly now that the cyber cat is out of the bag, these kinds of actions would seem more than appropriate – if not necessary ones.

If any of y’all out there see any articles describing CyberPSYOP/MISO – please send the links my way!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Muppets and The Taleban

The April 11, 2016 New York Times ran an article “New Muppet Helps Give Afghan Girls Role Model” (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/12/world/asia/afghan-sesame-street-introduces-zari-a-muppet-and-role-model-for-girls.html?_r=0, which is also the photo source).

“Zari” pictured at right will be appearing on “Baghch-eSimsim” or Sesame Garden in Afghanistan. The new character is being introduced to provide a role model for girls in a country not exactly known for its ‘equal opportunity’.

I’m a big fan of Sesame Street, my kids grew up on it and I consider the Puppet Museum in Atlanta as one of my favorite places. I also believe that we acquire many of our values and habits while we’re kids, so the concept of using entertainment to convey messages and values makes a great deal of sense.

In fact, two years ago I did a posting on Palestinian children’s programming (see: http://psyopregiment.blogspot.com/2013/04/early-influence-is-hard-to-overcome.html).

Going back to Afghanistan for a moment – who is watching? According to the INTERNEWS project (http://data.internews.org/af-media/, the map source) 45% of the country owns a TV set, in a country where illiteracy is pegged at 41%.

It should also be noted that there is a spillover factor to adult viewership as well. We could speculate that these 25 minute programs are aired during the day and that most of the adults home at that time are women giving Zari a twofer in empowerment messaging.

It would be interesting to see if these programs are watched and if they have any long-term effects. If anyone has any research or references in the area of the influence of children’s programming – I’d appreciate the pointer.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

UAV’s and Propaganda

Last night my wife and I saw “Eye in the Sky” with Helen Mirren (see: http://www.wired.com/2016/04/eye-in-the-sky-modern-war-film/) .

The film does a nice job of dramatizing the decision making behind the go/no-go decision for an attack. The scenario is set in Kenya, an ally. Helen Mirren, as a British Colonel has been tracking a British national who was radicalized, her husband and two new suicide bomber recruits.

The plot leads all of the suspects to be in the same house at the same time in a militia controlled slum. The drama is moved along by having the audience identify with a local young (12?) girl who is selling bread outside the house.

Mirren’s staff calculates a 65% certainty that the girl will be killed in a missile strike.

Action goes back and forth until the two new suicide bombers are fitted with vests and explosives. Ultimately Mirren forces her targeting officer to lower his Collateral Damage Estimate (CDE) to 45% which she believes will turn the no-go into a go.

Part of the arguments center on the propaganda value of the strike. The diplomats argue that killing the one girl gives the propaganda victory to the enemy while allowing the suicide bombers to strike a soft target and cause extensive carnage would give the allies the propaganda victory.

While there was a flying cockroach like recon drone taking footage of the suicide bombers getting their vests – and of course everything was recorded, no mention was made of the need to justify the strike using that video.

Worth your time and probably a good write off as a business expense!

Photo Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOqeoj669xg

Monday, March 28, 2016

Must Read Wired Article - Why ISIS is Winning the Social Media War - April 2016

Why ISIS is winning the Social Media War – Brendan I. Koerner
Wired Magazine, April 2016

Wired magazine ran a very interesting and must read article for PSYOP professionals addressing the why and how ISIS has turned itself into a media and branding machine.

I couldn’t find the article on line for some reason – it’s worth buy the magazine this month just for this article!

Here are some key points:

  • Daesh “has long taken pride in its flair for developing content that is innovative and repugnant in equal measure.” P 78
  • The shrewd use of digital media was integral to ISIS’ lightning-fast expansion in 2013 and 2014” p 80
  • The videos serve many purposes besides recruitment. Videos produced on ride alongs with death squads have “helped persuade police and soldiers in other cities to melt away rather than resist when they heard that ISIS forces were on the march.” P 81
  • “social media has lowered the bar of entry for recruits” p 81
The article concludes “ We must resist the distorting effects of the media “media halo” that the Islamic State has built for itself, while never forgetting the considerable power of our own.”

Photo Source: Wired Magazine pages 76 & 77, April 2016

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Can Irrational Leadership Help PSYOP Campaigns?

We all know that to be effective PSYOP must be based on truth.

In watching the pandemonium we call the Presidential election process, I’ve been wondering – would MISO/PSYOP be easier if the enemy believed your nation’s leader was irrational?

I recognize that this is a strange premise – not unlike the basis for the Broadway show “The Producers”. In the show Leo Bloom, an accountant convinces Max Bialystock a washed up producer that unscrupulous producers could make more money from a show that flopped than from a show that was successful. His theory was that if the show goes belly up the investors would not be looking for any of their money back so that the Producers could keep that money.

Returning to the case of irrational leaders – would a PSYOP campaign claiming that a potential catastrophic event will happen be more credible if the audience believed that the country’s leader would actually go through with it without regard to the rational consequences?

Turning to a very good example of irrational leadership, Kim Jong Un. Would we be more inclined  to believe that he would launch a nuke than we would one being luanched by a less ‘erratic leader’? I dare say that the media, at least ,pays attention to everything that the Supreme Leader says and scrutinizes it afterwards.

This is clearly not the case with Park Geun-hye, the President of the Republic of Korea to the South who is a more traditional head of state.

Consider this as our election season continues to unfold.

(Photo Source: http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2015/02/kim-jong-un-north-korea-understanding)

Friday, March 18, 2016

State Department to Lead New Global Counterterrorism Communications Office

The White House issued an Executive order on March 16, 2016 establishing the Global Engagement Center (GEC) “which shall lead the coordination, integration, and synchronization of Government-wide communications activities directed at foreign audiences abroad in order to counter the messaging and diminish the influence of international terrorist organizations, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), al Qa'ida, and other violent extremists abroad”

Here are a couple of highlights of GEC’s responsibilities taken from the Executive Order:

1.     coordinating, integrating, and synchronizing all public communications of the United States Government directed toward foreign audiences abroad in order to counter the messaging and diminish the influence of international terrorist organizations and other violent extremists abroad;
2.     identifying, engaging, employing, or acquiring the best available talent across the U.S. and from global private sectors, academia, and elsewhere to support the Center's mission;
3.     identifying shortfalls in any U.S. capabilities in any areas relevant to the Center's mission and implementing or recommending, as appropriate, necessary enhancements or changes; and
4.     (developing, supporting, and sustaining networks of governmental and non-governmental partners, to provide original content and disseminate messaging products to foreign audiences abroad and to create, develop, and sustain effective positive alternative narratives consistent with U.S. policy objectives.
The order also indicates that other departments are to cooperative in this venture.

What does this mean to the MISO Community?

For one thing it’s recognition of a worldwide communications challenge that needs to be globally managed. It also properly recognizes that communications outside the US is a diplomatic job and puts the onus where it belongs.

Conceptually at least this may mean an opportunity for members of the MISO community to be loaned out for TDY to help out. This may also mean that appropriate MIST teams may find themselves engaged with a fledgling entity.

In any event, it looks like a reasonable way to approach a growing challenge. 

Why the Gecko? Well GEC seemed to lend itself to the acronym and the linkage - after all, many people had quite a bit of fun with the swap of PSYOP for MISO. (Photo Source: www.geico.com)

Friday, March 11, 2016

PSYOPing Convoys – Any Suggestions?

 Normally my postings are in ‘transmit mode, that is I’m sending information and/or opinion and analysis. Today’s posting is a bit different. I’m asking for some suggestions.

Recently I was working a CPX where the scenario called for non-kinetic measures to be applied against a convoy to encourage them to turn around before kinetic measures were taken. The scenario was written before I arrived on the scene so all I could realistically do is to work with what was given.

Small country wherein an Army officer had the loyalty of several brigades. One of those brigades was slated to move from its home location to the capital city as a part of an attack to dislodge the government.

The scenario I was given said “there were leaflets on the ground”, etc.

Other facts included that this particular army had no anti-aircraft capability other than small arms and RPGs. The convoy had only one route along the MSR.

My op was pretty simple. Rotary wing aircraft dropped leaflets on the convoy’s route with some of them actually falling over the vehicles (remember this is make believe).

Of course the convoy continued on until a couple of F18s took out the lead element.

I’ll be replaying this scenario in the near future and would appreciate any suggestions from the field.