Monday, October 16, 2017

PSYOP For Good


From 11 – 15 October 2017 I served as a Public Affairs Manager for The Red Cross out of the Disaster HQ in Sonoma, CA. My time was divided into working with the media, managing the team’s efforts, drafting messages and documents along and, of course, ‘other duties as assigned’.

It turns out that PSYOP soldiers make pretty good Red Cross volunteers. The combination of ability to work under pressure, living in less than ideal circumstances and the skills of our profession make for a great combination.

I urge all of my colleagues to go to www.redcross.org/volunteer to explore opportunities to serve the community.

Some observations:
1.     Disasters bring communities together.
The outpouring of local and Event Based Volunteers (EBV) was incredible. The Red Cross received over 10,000 applications from EBV in the first week and was able to put over of 500 of them to work.

2.     Social Media Is The Jungle Drum of the 21st Century
FaceBook and Twitter were the main lines of communication. Fire Departments, Law Enforcement, traditional media, groups and individuals all took to Social Media to find out what was going out and/or to express themselves.

3.     Incorrect and negative information seems to travel faster than good news.
There is apparently a great deal of truth behind ‘misery loves company’. It must be human psychology – but bad news seems to go viral much more quickly than positive news.

4.     Broadcasters tend to take Sundays off.

5.     The public still does not understand the nature of the military
Today’s military enjoys more popularly and support than the military force has in years. Our long-term commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq have garnered a place of honor and respect for our military force in the eyes of the American Public. The California National Guard has been supporting the rescue and relief efforts in many ways from manning security posts to directing traffic.

Yet some members of the public are concerned about soldiers ‘with machine guns’ are walking around. (Of course the weapons in question are not ‘machine guns’ but M16s or M4s).

Community service is a rewarding and satisfying way for military personnel to harness their skills and experience to make their communities a better place. Consider how you might get involved.

(Photo source: The author.)

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Smart Toys: New PSYOP Vector?



I’m attending www.cosac.net, an information security conference outside of Dublin where I'll be delivering a presentation on SCADA Lessons Learned and the IoT. One of today’s speakers gave an outstanding presentation on Smart toys to include their potential vulnerabilities.


The speaker addressed classes of threats with an emphasis on nation states and sexual predators as the most likely and most dangerous. I envisioned another scenario, one where a specific geographic area, say in the Middle East, is controlled by a jihadist terrorist group. In this case it strikes me that it would be relatively easy to do some research and find toys that can be hacked to transmit jihadist propaganda.

Alternatively, we were told that some toys can transmit conversations in their presence that are in turn monitored for ‘key words’ related to sexual abuse. Jihadists could use the same technical capabilities to ferret out those who are disloyal to them and/or engaged in acts typical of infidels.

Reader comments invited and encouraged!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

PSYOP Training A Battlefield Multiplier Against Extremists


Busy week on my end, getting ready to start two new on-line class on 2 October, supporting the Red Cross, working a large set of client projects and getting ready to head to London and www.cosac.net.

Thanks to Strategic Communications and Public Diplomacy “Seen on the Web” (#85), September 16, 2017 for the article triggering today’s post.

MISO personnel are working with the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UDPF) to help them learn the non-kinetic skills needed to conduct successful influence campaign. (See: http://bit.ly/2yAhB8d, which is also the photo source).

The MISO element of Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) conducted a four-phase course to the UDPF. The phasing is interesting on it’s own:
1.     Phase 1 – US led and US assisted.
2.     Phase 2 – U.S. taught and UPDF assisted.
3.     Phase 3 – UPFD taught and US assisted.
4.     Phase 4 – UPFD taught and UPDF assisted. US personnel serve as observers, controllers and trainers.

The article quotes Maj. Allan Kitanda, UDPF Psychological Operations staff officer, who said that the U.S. contribution to the mission of neutralizing and containing VEOs like al-Shabaab and Boko Haram has been “immense.” He asserted that the U.S. government’s participation in cultivating the UDPF’s psychological operations is critical in preserving civility amid necessary kinetic forces used by AMISOM to battle VEOs.

The article also notes:
“Most recently, Soldiers of the 346th Tactical Psychological Operations Company (Airborne), out of Columbus, Ohio, have been facilitating the third phase of the program for UPDF members at the Uganda Senior Command and Staff College.

“We increase AMISOM capabilities by certifying UPDF instructors on MISO, thereby creating a self-sustaining program in the UPDF,” said Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Hurst, the tactical detachment’s noncommissioned officer in charge. “We use a training program that takes the UPDF from being trained by U.S. forces to being trained by their own forces.”

According to Hurst, the goal upon reaching phase four, “is to have the UPDF be self-sustaining and able to teach and implement psychological operations in support of AMISOM, as well as other operations against violent extremist organizations.”

It’s gratifying to see the Reserve PSYOP force in play for an appropriate, challenging and important mission.

Monday, September 11, 2017

MISO Malpractice: The Latest Leaflet Debacle



Apparently it was amateur hour in the leaflet production campaign in Afghanistan. The http://bit.ly/2gYdTkw) was dropped in Afghanistan in early September 2017 broke some of the most basic rules by quoting the Quran. (see: http://nyti.ms/2eSdknQ, which is also a photo source). 
leaflet

IN addition to the suicide bomber noted above, additional reaction is shown in the picture at left (photo source: http://nyti.ms/2eSdknQ). At issue was the use of words from the Quran in a leaflet. Frankly, you would have to be living in a cave for the last 16 years if you didn’t realize that the Islamic faith takes their Holy Book and their Prophet far more seriously than other religions.

The Charlie Hebdo killings in 2015 (see for example: http://nbcnews.to/2xgTmxG) and the 2012 incident where US troops burned the Koran (see: http://bit.ly/2wlsGb4) are only two of the incidents that serve as very good bad examples and should have put everyone on notice of what to expect.

Know your audience is the first rule of PSYOP/MISO and of course any influence operation. The blatant ignorance displayed by the leaflet creators and those in the approval chain should be considered MISO malpractice.

The FindLaw Legal dictionary defines malpractice as: “negligence, misconduct, lack of ordinary skill, or a breach of duty in the performance of a professional service (as in medicine) resulting in injury or loss” (See: http://dictionary.findlaw.com/definition/malpractice.html)

If these leaflets were created by an outside contractor, this type of malpractice should be considered a material breach of their contract.  The contract should be terminated immediately and consideration should be given to litigation for damages to the Coalition campaign and reputation.

As for the notion of yet more cultural training – it strikes me as playing training whack a mole. When military personnel deploy they go through a pre-deployment training and certification. Current deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan must have training on Islamic traditions and protocol to include role-playing situations designed to illustrate the right and wrong ways to work in theater.

There is simply no excuse for this type of ineptitude, especially in our longest running AO!


Thursday, September 7, 2017

FaceBook – the Not So Secret Influence Tool

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I admit I’m somewhat of a FB junkie. I’m on the site at least a couple of times a day.

And, like most of us, I have read about how the Russians purportedly influenced the US election by amplifying the views of  the ‘right’. An example I read today was a September 6, 2017 article in the NY Times “Fake Russian Facebook Accounts Bought $100,000 in Political Ads” (see: http://nyti.ms/2eJpGyw) addresses one facet of the Russian campaign.

I frankly didn’t get the importance of FB as an influence medium until August 30, 2017 when I was asked to be the Red Cross spokes person (I’ve been a Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer for years) at the San Francisco ABC Affiliate’s Day of Giving in support of people effected by Hurricane Harvey.

In addition to taking donations and pledges over the phone, my job would be to be a Red Cross voice if needed on camera. Since the last time I had been in a TV studio was in 1997 in Pale, Bosnia, I was rather looking forward to it.

The actual ‘shooting’ schedule for the news was somewhat of a moving target, but I was told that we would be doing a segment on FaceBook Live.

Imagine my surprise when I was escorted to the FaceBook Live control room at the station. During the telethon I was fortunate enough and delighted to be on FBLive with Spencer Christian, one of the station’s key weather people.  (Photo source this week: FaceBook shots take by the Author)

Unlike ‘real’ TV interviews that require heavy cameras, FB Live needs only a phone. Of course, having a quality microphone dramatically improves the overall quality of the experience by raising the caliber of the sound.

For those of us in the PSYOP/MISO world, this underscores the importance of the Internet as an influence medium. It also means that we need to always be on the lookout for people that can be effective and credible spokespeople.

An unfortunate downside is that tactical CDR at all levels may assume that they are PSYOP experts and take to the airwaves themselves. History has shown that this is generally not a good idea, but as we have discussed on the POVA page on FaceBook and elsewhere, there is not too much you can do other than damage control.

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Now, more than ever, we need to pay more attention to Social Media and its role in our respective influence campaigns. As always, reader input invited!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

PSYOP is Sensory – Ask Iran!


I have been teaching on-line for American Military University since 2008. During that time I have had to take many professional development courses about how people learn.

There are those who learn by sight (visual learners), some by touch (kinesthetic) and those who learn by sound (audio). The best way to impart education is by a combination of senses to appeal to the widest group of learners and reinforce the message.

Apparently this concept is not lost on Iran as noted in a NY Times article from August 27, 2017, “Iran Retools Its Propaganda With Rap Videos”(See: http://nyti.ms/2iHiBDF; which is also the photo source).

Iran now also seems to believe that chanting is not nearly as powerful as rapping and the You Tube is mightier than the sword seem to be corollaries as well.

The article notes that the raps don’t appeal to everyone, but there doesn’t seem to be any question that they are effective for the target group. Terrorists typically target young people between 18 and 26. (see Huffington Post at: http://bit.ly/2wT5xkP).

Appealing to multiple senses and personifying the message are proven techniques for education and marketing. Our adversaries are very capable of adapting. As technology advances, removing yet more barriers to mass communication, MISO/PSYOP will have to continue to adapt as well.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Cuban Sonic Weapon Aimed at US Embassy?


On Monday, June 5, 2017 I posted “Is it time to retire Loud Speakers in Favor of LRAD?” More recently there have been a number of articles concerning hearing and other medical problems being experienced by employees of the US Embassy in Cuba. You can find one such article from Task & Purpose at: http://bit.ly/2ivTmEh.

I am in no way saying that a Long Range Acoustical Device (LRAD) was or could have been used to create these medical issues. One expert quoted in the article was quoted as saying that there are no devices that could possibly create the systems of hearing loss, mild traumatic brain injury, nausea, etc. from an acoustic device. The expert felt that since there are no such devices that can cause acoustical damage without being herd, this was a non-story.

Another article in the UK based Guardian says “16 people were affected by unexplained problems at Havana embassy” (See: http://bit.ly/2gcQwDy, which is also the photo source)

Sources say that the ‘incidents’ started in September 2016 and ended this April.

Thus far there is no firm resolve as to what caused the medical issues or even if there was a common cause. However, wouldn’t be interesting to ‘infect’ foreign citizens in your country as a means of discouraging their presence? Could you also employ stories about such incidents as propaganda encouraging foreign citizens to stay home?

All of this would be great fodder for Social Media whether true or not and of course from a PSYOP or counter propaganda perspective, we don’t care if it’s true, only the impact.