Monday, September 9, 2019

Radio is More Important Than You Think!

On September 7, 2019 I sat in a window less room – no, it wasn’t a SCIF. It was the Radio Room for my local Red Cross Chapter. For the first time ever, the region was conducting a test to see which chapter could communicate with other chapters.

This experience helped my belief that radio is often overlooked and that while Social Media may dominate mindshare, there are other ways to communicate and influence. Radio has served three major roles.

1.     Radios in Emergencies
While the above noted test was in the planning stages for a while, I could help but think of the timing of this test with two other interesting radio developments. The first was the importance of Ham Radio in communications and supporting relief efforts associated with Hurricane Dorian hitting the Bahamas (see: Ham Radio has long been an important communications resource during emergencies. For background you can check out the Domprep Journal article “Ham Radio in Emergency

2.     Radios as a Secret Message Medium
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was very active in WWII broadcasting and information and as revealed in article on 3 September 2019, they also had an important role in transmitting instructions via ‘personal messages. (See:, which is also a photo source). This particular article details how the BBC used music and coded messages to transmit instructions across Europe from Poland to France. For example, the article noted that “On the night of 5 June 1944, the eve of D-Day, the phrase "Berce mon coeur d'une langueur monotone" or "cradle my heart with a monotonous languor" signaled the invasion was about to begin.”

3.     Radios As an Influencer

On September 7, 2019 the NY Times also ran an article: Radio Free Europe (RFE) Is Set to Be Revived in Hungary (see: which is also a photo source). This article actually focuses on the US Agency for Global Media.

While the Agency is independent and not subject to political influence. Here’s a look at them in their own words:
·      The mission of United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM) is to inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.
·      The Agency’s mission is reinforced by those of the individual broadcasters that are overseen by USAGM.
·      USAGM networks are news leaders, uncovering stories left untold in environments that lack press freedom. Major media often pick up or cite our networks’ news coverage. We serve 345 million in 100 countries and 60 languages every week.
·      Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s mission is to promote democratic values and institutions by reporting the news in countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established. Our journalists provide what many people cannot get locally: uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate.
·      Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) is a private, nonprofit, multimedia broadcasting corporation that serves as a surrogate media source in 26 languages and in 23 countries, including Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and Ukraine. (see:, another photo source)

While Social Media continues to dominate people’s thoughts, let’s not forget that there are other means of influence that should not be overlooked or taken for granted.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Army Cyber wants counter propaganda capabilities down to Bde! Isn’t that PSYOP?

At the recent AFCEA TechNet Trade show in Augusta the CDR of Army Cyber Command, LTG Stephen Fogarty made a bold move to reshape his nascent cyber commandos into an IO force to be integrated down to the BDE level (see:, which is also a photo source).

The BCT is the new key maneuver element and that echelon does indeed make sense. However, one wonders how support could be provided down to the field elements and how amateurs with a modicum of hacking knowledge, some COTS and an internet connection can be restricted from doing their own thing.

We have already seen Division CDR turn into PSYOP officers dropping their own leaflets from their own heliocopters.

I have maintained that the Cyber Dudes, like their kinetic counterparts, are more interested in shooting electrons (read that Distributed Denial of Service, DDOS, etc.) then they are in the influence space.

In taking a page from the Air Force, whose prowess at leveraging current events into budget dollars is legendary, LTG Fogarty wants to capitalize on the publicity surrounding Russian disinformation efforts.

He feels that the BDE is the right echelon for the IO focal point because it is the lowest level where there’s a SCIF that could house the cleared personnel, systems and networks needed for that work. Down into the article, there is a mention that “ARCYBER is also collaborating with Army Special Operations, which runs psychological operations (formally known as Military Information Support Operations, MISO)”.

Another article, this one from c4isrnet is “ A new name – and focus – for Army Cyber Command” (another photo source). That article quotes LTG Fogarty as saying: that he needed to integrate the ‘information environment’ which includes the cyber domain – which encompasses electronic warfare, information operations, signal and intelligence – as well as space, psychological operations, public affairs, military deception and operational security.

Interestingly enough this is likely to involve more stars than a Planetarium on a good night. None other than the CG of TRADOC, GEN Paul funk chimed in quoted as saying that: “Our application of information dominance is too narrow, ……It is underdeveloped and lacks coordinated direction.”

Clearly the CG of US Cybercommand, GEN Paul M. Nakasone (also the Director of NSA), Commander, USSOCM, General Richard D. Clarke and LTG Francis M. Beaudette, CDR, Army Special Operations Command not to mention LTG Charles D. Luckey, Chief of the Army Reserve and CG, USAR Command. All of these GO’s have a dog in the fight.

Speaking of dog, what part of the dog’s anatomy do you think PSYOP will be? Does it look like a new branch, a hybrid of cyber and PSYOP is in the future?

The term ‘above my pay grade’ comes to mind.

Friday, August 16, 2019

PSYOP and Fried Chicken!

Most of us in the PSYOP Community have spent time at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, or as it is some times called “The Center of the Universe”. During out stints there we availed ourselves of legendary Southern Cuisine. While some favored Fried Chicken or catfish and hush puppies, I was a Waffle House fan.

What does this have to do with PSYOP? Well, up until this afternoon I would have said “nothing”. But thanks to the NY Times print edition of August 16, 2019 I learned that the UK is using takeout chicken boxes as an influence delivery vehicle. (see:, which is also a photo source).

Concerned with the just under 43,000 offenses committed with a knife (remember guns are very hard to come by in Britain so the knife is the weapon of choice) in the year ending 30 September 2018. In April 2018 ran an article “British Politicians Declare War on Knives”. (see:, which is also a photo source). This concern was partially driven by the fact that the murder rate in New York City was lower than London’s.

 In the latest attempt to control knife attacks, the British government opted for a takeout chicken box campaign. More than 300,000 chicken boxes are part of the campaign being distributed by about 200 outlets in England and Wales.

The messages on the boxes are statements from convicted knife attackers and are designed “help reduce the numbers of young people carrying knives”. Critics label it as “explicitly racist, or at best, unfathomly stupid”.

It is implied of course that the majority of offenders are great fans of fried chicken!

We have seen PSYOP messages on leaflets, posters, soccer balls, dropped from bombs and balloons and delivered by simple radios – I’m pretty sure this is the first food/PSYOP campaign.

Having said all this, let’s step back for a moment. Did the British government do its homework? Did the establish that there is a relationship between their message delivery vehicle (the medium) and the target audience? Have they established MOE?

I’m guessing no to most of the above. Does this mean that food/PSYOP wouldn’t work in another place at another time to accomplish different goals? No, it doesn’t, but I may never look at Colonel Sanders again the same way.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Is PSYOP Ready to Support Civil Authority Information Efforts?

Doctrinally  PSYOP/MISO forces are authorized to provide support to Civil Authorities in time of emergency. The doctrine is found in Joint Publication 3-28 Defense Support of Civil Authorities 29 October 2018 ( Chapter V, Section 6 Public Affairs c. CAIS (on page V-11)“Psychological operations (PSYOP) forces can be employed domestically for CAIS under direction and authority of a designated lead federal agency (LFA) or civil authority. When executing CAIS activities, PSYOP forces are restricted by policy and SecDef guidance to only broadcasting and disseminating public information. When authorized for employment in this manner, PSYOP forces utilize their media development, production, and dissemination capabilities to deliver public or other critical information during domestic emergencies. Their mission is strictly to inform, and all CAIS efforts should be coordinated with ongoing military and LFA PA efforts. The LFA is the approval authority for all products conveying the lead agency messages.” (Reference: Chapter V V-12 JP 3-28)

Thus far, PSYOP forces have had only limited experience in these matters. For a look at how support was rendered after Hurricane Andrew, here’s the link to SGM (R) Friedman’s story:

My perspective on the issue comes from my position working for a NGO. During the past few years I have had the opportunity to deploy as a Red Cross Public Affairs Officer (PAO). In particular I provided PAO support during the San Jose Flood (February 2017), the Santa Rosa Fire (October 2017), The Mendocino Complex Fires (August 2018) and the Camp Fire (December 2019).

In the following paragraphs I’ll cover some of the issues surrounding the information environment in disasters based on my personal experience.
Let me emphasize that my work here was totally Red Cross work, there was absolutely no military connection whatsoever except my hat. I found that most people relate very well to retired military.

San Jose Flood of 2017

The San Jose Mercury News, “San Jose mayor: Clear ‘failure’ led to record flooding” ( see:; the source for the map is the City of San Jose, CA.)  What made this particular disaster unique was the fact that it impacted two entirely different ethnic communities, the Latino community and the Vietnamese community. Each of these communities had their own broadcast, print and social media outlets. Working with them required an understanding of the underlying culture and language as well as a knowledge of their particular community was impacted.

Mendocino Complex Fires

Lake County has had a great deal of experience with wild fires. The graphic shows the almost 350,000-acre area burned by the Mendocino Complex Fire. (source: Clear Lake is the body of water dead center of the map.

Community radio was a highly trusted medium. My Red Cross Boss asked me to investigate the nature of information being broadcasted by 88.1FM. KPFZ ( from Lakeport, CA (on the southeast end of Clear Lake. As you can see, it was right in the heart of the area impacted by the fire. With studios in downtown Lakeport, CA they have a diverse programming portfolio and are highly trusted, in particular they appeared to be the most highly regarded by residents of Red Cross Shelters.

My role was to be the Red Cross Ambassador on live, unscripted ‘talk radio”.

The Camp Fire

The deadliest fire in California history accounted for 85 fatalities. That fire started on November 8, 2018. I arrived there just before Christmas. While my role in the previous disasters was more direct since the recovery effort was just beginning, the Camp Fire was different. My role was to provide PAO support to the 700 or so residents of the Red Cross Shelter at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico.

There was very little media interest by the time I arrived in late December. My role was more of a catalyst for the media. For example, I helped the Chico based Enterprise Record understand the rules of interviewing people in Red Cross facilities and helped their reporter and photographer during the researching and interviewing.

Chico Enterprise Record, “An evacuee’s Christmas: Just another day“ see:, which is a photo source.

Interestingly enough I was engaged through the Red Cross National HQ to work with the advance planning for a major article for Vogue magazine. One of their staff came out a couple of weeks prior to the scheduled shoot. I gave him a detailed guided tour of the facility and made sure he understood the nature of the rules for shelters and protecting resident and volunteer privacy. The article appeared in early March at  “This Side of Paradise” (see:, another photo source)

As you can see, there are some very significant challenges working to support Civil Authority Information efforts. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that the PSYOP/MISO force has had sufficient training and exposure to be able to just jump right into these kinds of missions.

Reader comments are of course very welcome!

Photos are identified with sources, those that are not are the author’s personal photos and subject to Copyright protection.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

It’s Not The Headline That Should Get Your Attention: AI and Cyber Influence

Sometimes it’s not the headline that should cause concern, but the text. Lately I have been doing quite a bit of research in the area of Cyber Influence. So when I saw an article “New research generates deepfake video from a single picture” (see:, which is also a photo source), I was naturally intrigued.

Apparently, it is relatively easy to create a fake video of a subject when there is a great deal of footage of that subjects. This is the case of “creepy video amalgams of Donald Trump and Nick Cage”(see:, another photo source)

This technique would seem to work most of the time from a PSYOP perspective since government leaders are often a subject and in the case of ‘generic’ images, file photos or other widely available material would be a good source.

However, this particular article concerns a technique that the Samsung AI research team (more about this in a moment) called “one-shot learning. In essence faces have key features or landmarks which the software “can then use as anchors when creating deepfake videos of new targets”. If you are a real geek and are interested in the details, you can check out their paper “Few-Shot Adversarial Learning of Realistic Neural Talking Head Models” at, another photo source.

Talk of technology is all well and good and should be noted and understood. However, what I found to be the most interesting aspect of the article was the note in passing “Samsung Research’s Moscow-based AI lab”

Samsung of course is a Korean chaebol or family-controlled companies. You can learn more about “Money, Power and Family” in a NY Times Feb. 17, 2017 article which you can find at: (another photo source).

As a Brooklyn born, former Military Intelligence Officer who is also an attorney, I’m a bit skeptical by nature, so it struck me as rather interesting that the team publicly exploring and reporting on this kind of research is based in a nation state (Russia) that is well known for using cyber influence to impact other nations in a variety of ways.

If this is their public information, one wonders what is being held back. There is also the ever-present money motivation of global for profit organizations – will they sell their technology to anyone? Is that appropriate given the intended use? Looks Cyber Influence is the digital wild west out there.

Reader comments also invited.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Drones Drop Anti-Semitic Flyers in Sacramento

Drones were used to drop Anti-Semitic flyers on at least two targets in Sacramento. One target zone was an Ariana Grande concert (see:, which is also a photo source). 

There was coverage by a local TV stations and by the Sacramento State Newspaper, the State Hornet (see: and local TV station KTVU (see: also a photo source) 

The Hornet reported “A drone dropped flyers featuring swastikas and anti-media sentiments over Sacramento State’s annual “Bites on the Bridge” Farm-to-Fork dinner held Friday on the Guy West Bridge. Flyers were also dropped near the Golden 1 Center on Friday, where hundreds were gathered waiting to enter the stadium for an Ariana Grande concert.
Not all of the flyers had the same design – one flyer featured several anti-media statements placed over a red X and phrases like “stop the TV whore takeover” and “the press is the enemy,” and another flyer featured a swastika.”

Social Media and more sophisticated kinds of technology based PSYOP tend to dominate the news. It is important to remember that there is always room for some good old-fashioned leaflet drops.

While it would be hard to tell if the actual content of the leaflets was positively received by anyone who picked them up, it is fair to say that the impact of all the media coverage might have yielded the perpetrator media coverage for his vile efforts than the actual leaflets themselves.

Technology is proving to be a great leveler in the PSYOP world as more and more groups and individuals are employing various kinds of technology for their own ends. We may see more of this type of PSYOP as organizations beef up physical security for events as a response to the epidemic of shooting incidents.

Friday, April 19, 2019

When Tactics Are Restrained – Resort to Grand Strategy

Japan’s Constitution was written after WWII in such a way as to comfort the victorious allies that Japan would no longer be an international military power. The Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) have been slowly evolving into a force that can address threats abroad as well as threats to their Homeland.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has taken steps to broaden the rules of engagement for the SDF. The Economist of April 17, 2019 had an article: “A new front: Japan’s Self-Defence Forces are beginning to focus on China”. (see: which is also a photo source).

Among the ‘psyacts’ undertaken by the SDF is country’s largest warship, the Izumo (see:, another photo source). The article covering the vessel showed that the Chinese indeed were paying attention. “On 25 March 2015, the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) commissioned the JS Izumo (DDH-183), lead ship of her class and the largest surface combatant of the JMSDF. Designated as a helicopter destroyer, the Izumo-class was built as an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) platform. With this new ship reinforcing the Japanese arsenal, the Chinese quickly considered the ship as a “war potential“, claiming that she was an “aircraft carrier in disguise“. The ship indeed bears a strong resemblance to an aircraft carrier, just like the previous HyĆ«ga-class.

Other steps include the capabilities of their F-35 and dramatic increases in cyber warriors from 150 to 500 over the next five years according to the Economist.

Of course, the article also points out that according to one Western diplomat “Japan has not fired a shot in anger in seven decades”. From a PSYOP perspective, it’s pretty clear that the Chinese are sitting up and taking notice whether or not Japan’s newly invigorated SDF ever fires a shot or takes a casualty. After all, isn’t that why PSYOP is all about?