Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tibet is All A Twitter – But For the Wrong Reasons

I have often talked about “cyber psyop” or cyber influence. The notion of using traditional techniques in the cyber medium. The NY Times on July 22, 2014 ran an article on July 22, 2104, It’s Another Perfect Day in Tibet! (see:, which is also the photo source).

The article talks about the Chinese competent Twitter poster, Tom Hugo (That's Tom's picture above.) Seems Tom is actually a figment, he’s not real, but his Twitter pages are real – real good examples of how PSYOP can be used in cyber space.

Tom and many of his colleagues are the progeny of the PRC’s propaganda machine designed to shape he news in the way the PRC government feels the news ought to look like. The bogus sites were found by a “Free Tibet” group. While there is no direct evidence that the government of the PRC is behind the efforts, most experts concede it would be difficult to point out any others who would benefit from tis type of campaign.

The people in these social media efforts are generally commercial images. Tom Hugo for example is a Brazilian model. Like their PSYOP counterparts in other times and places, there are no MOE on the PRC efforts.

The PRC may have banned Twitter, FaceBook and YouTube in their own country, but it is apparent they recognize how important these social media sites can be for influence purposes.

It would not be a giant leap to see this kind of influence operations extended to Military Deception (MilDec) operations where details of future deployments, or unit readiness are ‘leaked’ via social media postings.

Hopefully all y’all are enjoying your summer. On a travel note, I had a chance to visit the Disney Family Museum at the Presidio of San Francisco and enjoyed it. Here are a couple of Walt’s efforts in WWII. These photos were taken by the author.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Middle East: PSYOP’s Ultimate Battlefield

One of the unique facets of PSYOP is that it can be employed at all organization levels from strategic to tactical. Nowhere is this more evident that the Middle East. While one could probably argue that there was more than a little early Middle Eastern PSYOP involving a snake, an apple and a garden – there is no doubt that PSYOP is a key element of conflicts in the Middle East.

At the Strategic level, heads of state take steps they know will not directly effect their adversaries, but would position them more favorably in the court of world opinion. One such PSYACT took place when Israel unilaterally accepted the short-lived “Truce” announced early this week brokered through Egypt. Israel announced that they would abide by the truce knowing that Hamas couldn’t go along with the truce without losing face among its own people and appearing to be weak in dealing with its enemy.

Given the small size of Israel, what might have been operational level influence efforts turn out to be more tactical ones. Leaflets and SMS warning Gaza residents of impending attacks and urging them to flee are tactical in nature. Yet the act itself could be considered operational or strategic because of the way it would show the international community that Israel is really the good guy here because it is seeking to avoid collateral injury and death to civilians.

The efforts on both sides offer some best practices:
1.     Images coupled with music are a good combination and reinforce each other.
2.     All influence channels have to work together. While it is fair to say that neither Israel’s Defense Force (IDF) or the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) or Hamas do not have the separation of Public Affairs and MISO that the US and others have, during active conflict all elements need to work together.
3.     Knowing the communications landscape is key. Use of SMS is vital in densely populated areas.
4.     Traditional techniques may have side effects. While one may debate the use of leaflets as a MISO tool, there can be no doubt of the psychological effect of thousands of pieces of paper streaming down from aircraft. The implication is control of the sky and ability to drop more lethal ordnance from aircraft.
5.     Language is key. You use your language, your enemy’s language and English to reach the world media.
6.     While Internet exposure may not impact tactical operations, the internet facilitates global influence.

The Middle East conflicts are an on-going laboratory for PSYOP and MISO.

Readers should be aware of these activities and store them away for training or other lessons learned activity. If there are readers who speak either Arabic or Hebrew, I’d appreciate knowing how the English differs from those two languages.

As always, reader comments encouraged.


Hamas Propaganda Videos:
Video pushing Beer Sheeva Evacuation:
Iron Dome is a "failed project," Israel is concealing death toll:

Propaganda Song against Egyptian President Sisi Surfaces on Hamas Forum:

Israeli Counter-Propaganda:

Hamas' Actions Match Its Words

IDF Leaflets Over Gaza:

Gaza: Israel Warns Targets by SMS And Phone To Leave Before Bombing

NY Times article on Recruiting Foreign Fighters for Syria:
Gaza: Israel Warns Targets by SMS And Phone To Leave Before Bombing

Photo Source:

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Everyone Needs Training

Like many old soldiers, I often think back to my military duty days. A of couple vignettes still stand out in my mind. The first was at Camp Parks, CA one year when I was commanding an Army Security Agency (ASA) Company on Annual Training. For those of you not military historians, ASA was the part of Military Intelligence that dealt with SIGINT and EW. We were on a two week AT when some NCOs approached the Company 1SG and me and asked “Sir, how can we jam radios when the troops don’t know how to work them?”

A second instance took place about a year later at Fort Hunter Liggett during another AT exercise. I was sound asleep when the CQ woke me up. “Sir, the BC is on the field phone and wants to talk to you now!” I stumbled out of bed to learn that the unit missed its radio check, so I had to amble down to the radio and do it myself.

The point is that basics are important. I have been a Red Cross volunteer on and off for a number of years. My specialty was Public Affairs. Ever since I passed my Ham Radio license test in November I’ve been retraining in the networking, computer operations and radio communication specialty. This week finds me in San Diego (there are worse places to be) for three days of hands on training.

The highlight of Day 1 was learning how to set up a VSAT dish and being able to connect to it as a means of getting out to the Internet. We also learned about setting up switches, VOIP phones and wireless access points. Azmith, aps and elevation are all components of the process.

These are hard skills on finite hardware and software. So, how does one go about staying fully competent in PSYOP/MISO which is a mix of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills.

I’d offer a couple of suggestions. First of all, be aware of the news and see if you can figure out the next sh*thole where troops will be deployed.

Try to experience different cultures. Find ethnic neighborhoods and look around and enjoy a meal at a local place or a coffee/tea.

Stay abreast of the latest in technology. My battle scars from Windows and my relative successes with Apple pushed me over into the world of IMac and MacBookAir, not to mention iPhone and iPad. Each of these technologies requires practice and labor intensive organization. Working with photos, videos and social networking sites also requires a fair bit of effort.

I must admit that I was given a Samsung phone to set up as home work this evening and while I got some stuff done, I couldn’t get passed the incomprehensible instructions for e-mail authentication so that aps could be loaded.

There is no end to what you can do to keep sharp. The key is to consistently do something challenging.

Photo Source: The author

Monday, June 30, 2014

Social Media MISO – Tactical, Strategic, Hybrid or Wave of The Future?

We’ve all heard the phrase “The Strategic Corporal”. We’ve taken it to mean that a comparably junior soldier can perform an act that has a global strategic impact. Perhaps the same can be said for Social Media.

The NY Times 28 June 14 article, “Iraq’s Sunni Militants Take to Social media to Advance Their Cause and Intimidate” (see:  was a follow-up to a conference call I attended on Friday.

The topic was not the importance of Social Media as a MISO tool, but the issues of how these campaigns should be planned an implemented. On one hand, anyone, anywhere can access and engage in social media. Many of us are somewhat addicted to Facebook to let everyone else know what we are doing and to vicariously experience what are friends are doing.

Access is ubiquitous. Smart phones, tablets, kiosks and, of course, computers all are portals into social media. Does this mean that social media operations can be run in ‘reach-back’ mode where a centralized resource can globally execute social media MISO?

Or is it more prudent to have the forward deployed MISO CDR orchestrate the campaign employing local and reach-back resources?

Given the far-flung and fast moving nature of actions across the spectrum of conflict, perhaps the right answer is ‘none of the above’. Perhaps the right answer is to develop an evolving and dynamic doctrine and set of social media ROE that recognizes the need and resources required for social media MISO and apportions them up and down the chain of command.

We should also recognize that there might be times where our enemies will deny Internet access into their territory, but will actively employ social media operations internally. For example, if ISIS should be able to extend their control to include the ability to turn off outside world access, it would follow that they would do this for their areas. They would continue to provide this access for their own PSYOP as a core tenet of their influence strategy.

Social media MISO are also indicative of the shotgun wedding that is occurring between CNO and influence operations. The blending of these two disciplines is accelerating so that any future operations will more than likely require both in the assessment and execution phases.

Force providers and doctrine developers need to appreciate this and move with haste to develop the framework for future ops – because the future is already here.

Friday, June 20, 2014


There has been no shortage of military excitement lately with much of it centered on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The map appearing at right is from the Washington Post (see:

I think it does a nice job of putting much of the current state in the Middle East into perspective. While it doesn’t break down the ethnic borders separating Kurds, Sunni and Shia, it shows that Syria border’s Iraq and that Iraq serves as a buffer between Syria and Iran.

The map also shows the logical sense behind considering the actions in Syria and Iraq as one AO.

President Obama is still mulling over what major actions to take.

As I stated in my last post, my money was on UAVs because they can be targeted precisely with good intelligence (hence the recent order for deploying Special Operations). Foreign Policy noted “Obama said – (special forces) will work alongside Iraqi military forces in special intelligence centers, using drone video feeds and spy satellite photographs to track and attack ISIS fighters. They'll also be in a prime position to help carry out U.S. airstrikes the moment Obama orders them”

Where does that leave MISO?

Well – for one thing cyber influence should be under way and likely there should be ample mobile phone targets in the AO as well. They key question is what do you want the target to do? What is the desired effect?

My goal would be to try and put the enemy off their game. Not necessarily waste my time or bandwidth trying to get them to surrender, but for them to constantly look over their shoulder for that Predator or for more accurate fire from the Iraqi military because they have better intelligence and more confidence.

Have we gone so far as to provide the Iraqi force with some rudimentary MISO capabilities and training? If so, how is it working out?

I’ll leave you with this parting thought:

Shifting gears a bit, assuming for the moment that the active MISO force is not starting to get stretched by new commitments in Africa, Asia and Latin America, have we, as a community, been smart enough to figure out how to harness the power of the Reserve MISO force to bolster the overall capability posture?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Iraq - Deja Doo Doo!

One of my esteemed MI colleagues, a former FAA Air Marshall, Green Beret/MI Colonel and collector of Pierce Arrow antique cars used to say “Deja Doo Doo” which means I have seen this sh*t before.

And so it goes with Iraq. The crack Iraqi military, after years of training, blood, sweat and treasure seems to be no better off than they were at the start of OIF. President Obama is now in a position he doesn’t like to be – making a quick decision that might involve military force.

Historically the President first reaches for airstrikes. The theory is that this avoids ‘boots on the ground’ and today’s very smart weapons can theoretically pinpoint enemy targets with great accuracy and minimal prospects for collateral damage.

Unfortunately the decision will not be so simple this time. My impression is that we have a roving asymmetric, insurgency like force in an urban AO who is easily able to blend in with the population. Key will be their ability to avoid SIGINT vulnerabilities and sufficient deception operations to avoid UAS and smart bombs.

Where does that leave MISO?

If it were me, I’d pick some specific targets, annihilate the crap out of them and then mount a ‘you can run, but you cannot hide’ campaign. While I’m clearly not on the ground, it seems to me that the fighters in Iraq are seasoned WRT to the Syrian theater. The use of overwhelming high tech American weaponry may be enough to motivate them to retreat across the border.

This may also be a time to leverage mobile phone MISO, EW and other technological means that would disrupt the enemy’s chain of command.

Looking forward to reader input.

Photo Source:

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Anatomy of An Election

Anatomy of An Election

Yesterday, 2 June 2014 was a Gubernatorial Primary here in California. For reasons that I don’t quite remember, I decided to be an election volunteer. I was designed as a Substitute Clerk and was assigned to a small precinct co-located in a church with another precinct.

The polls were open from 0600 to 2000. During that time we processed a grand total of 57 live voters. All used two page ballots each about 11” by 17” long. Not one person (even in Silicon Valley) used the voter machine. We also collected over 100 absentee ballots.

The whole experience harkened me back to Sarajevo in 1997 when the Combined Joint Information Campaign Task Force (CJICTF) had to re-print ballots for Bosnian election because the local contract printer had printed the ballots just as the samples looked. Meaning each line had a placeholder like “AAAAA” or “BBBBB” rather than the actual candidate names.

In reflecting on the two elections and recent events in Afghanistan, I thought it appropriate to offer some observations from an organizational perspective.

First – a bit about my day yesterday.

Starting at the bottom.

Clerks and a Precinct Inspector (PI) are the two levels of individuals at a polling place. The PI reports to a Field Inspector (FI) who manages between 8 and 12 precincts. All of these people are volunteers. Clerks are paid $95 for their service and inspectors receive stipends of $150 to $180. If you’re interested you can check out:

The polls are totally manned by volunteers. Judging from my personal experience, there are no qualifications or test to be the PI. This is a big mistake, as you’ll see as I continue on.

I was a Substitute Clerk. I took a 3 hour Election Training Class which was well done because it was mostly hands on. The Election Officer’s Manual (in my photo) is very much by the numbers and easy to follow.

Assigned Clerks and PIs report to their polling places on Monday night at a designated time to set up the polls. Controlled items such as the ballots, official forms and voting machines are not set up at this point and are still secured until Election Day Morning. These teams report to their polling places at 0600 on election day.

All substitutes report to the Registrar of Voters (ROV) office at 0600 on Election Day.  It took the ROV over 3 hours to get me an assignment and there had to be over 100 people still to be assigned when I left at about 0905.

My precinct had 1 PI who was in her first election. Her line of work was that she was a home health aide. She couldn’t even figure out how to work the official precinct cell phone. There were two other works with 5 years or more experience, one other new guy and me.

The day went by slowly but we were able to process all 57 voters without incident. Close-up was a bit of a fire drill. All of the forms, machines and supplies came in either cases or bags or cases. Each container had a label indicating what went where. Some had to be sealed, others did not.

The two experienced workers counted the ballots and filled out the forms related to that paperwork. The other guy and I tallied and shut down the voter machine, which we then packed. We also dismantled the polling booths/tables. In all it took about an hour and 20 minutes to pack things up.

The PI took a two-hour lunch without apology while the workers only got an hour. She was also overwhelmed by the sheer mass of materials and the multiple steps involved in closing the polls. She essentially stood by bewildered while the rest of us did the work.

I loaded the PI’s car with the ballots, cartridge from the voting machine and other controlled items that had to be returned. IAW protocol followed her car with the ballots to the drop off point where ROV people would unload the car.

Here are my thoughts as far as MISO operations. These are some key things that MISO personnel need to bear in mind:

1.     Impressions are everything. Elections and the people running them have to come across as competent, transparent and honest.
2.     Polling places must be run in a consistent and nonpartisan manner. Polling station managers must be able to work with other people of all kinds and have the management skills to orchestrate the logistical issues with trust and aplomb.
3.     Polls are open and must be secure.
4.     Observers or poll watchers are allowed to observe and observe. In the case of the State of California there is a Roster Index which shows who has voted. The purpose would appear to be to allow poll watchers to call those who have not voted and encouraging them to vote for their candidate.
5.     There may also be Election Observers who are from nongovernmental or community based agencies who are there to observe that the election process is running IAW State and Federal Laws.
6.     Observers and watchers are not allowed to interfere with the election process, permanently remove any posted Indexes, handle any ballots or act as replacements for the Election Officers (Clerks and PI).
7.     Languages are key. Ballots and instructions need to be clear and that they need to take into account the languages of the population. We had ballots in English, Spanish, Tagalog, Chinese and Vietnamese. Next year California will add Hindi, Khmer, Korean and Japanese.
8.     Processing can be cumbersome as long as it is easy to follow, transparent and embodies multiple checks and balances.
9.     Ballots must be printed in plenty of time before the election so that any issues can be dealt with prior to Election Day.
10. Chain of custody and security of ballots as well as the sanctity of the election process must be maintained at all times.
11. The counting and reporting function must also be similarly transparent, trusted and reliable as well.

Hopefully this will provide some useful perspective and since nothing ever goes away on the Internet – it will always be there if you need it.

Reader input invited as always.