Friday, September 7, 2018

Facebook Emerges As Major Weapons System in Libya


The NY Times article in the September 4, 2018 print version was “Libyan Fighters Wilde   Screens” (see: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/04/world/middleeast/libya-facebook.html, which is also a photo source).
Facebook Like a Weapon”. The online version headline was: “A Face book War: Libyans Battle on the Streets and on

Facebook has become not only a bully pulpit for “boasts, taunts and chilling threats”, and a source of ‘fake news’ and hate. In addition to its role in cyber influence, Facebook is also an intelligence source wherein enemy forces provide detail information on how to locate and destroy potential targets.






Pages attributed to terrorist leaders can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100021143453079.

While Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg defended her company’s efforts to the Senate Intelligence Committee (see for example: https://techcrunch.com/2018/09/05/highlights-from-the-senate-intelligence-hearing-with-facebook-and-twitter/) Facebook continued to serve as an information conduit for arms dealers (here’s what Facebook considers a firearm: https://www.facebook.com/help/1225342300814365?helpref=faq_content) and misinformation. The company’s efforts to remove content that violates its principles such as organizations or people who are involved in organized violence are noteworthy they are the 21st century equivalent of cleaning the Augean stables. (Get the book on iTunes at: http://www.freeappalliance.com/app/298860/the-augean-stables-by-sona-and-jacob-books)

There have been many analyses of the conflicts in Libya. You can read one of them at: http://bit.ly/2wWNV5o. Libya remains a fertile ground for conflict and crime. This is yet another proof point for the power and versatility of social media.

Social Media is clearly a battlefield multiplier and ‘we’ need to insure that our cyber


influence force is the most capable in the world and that we can also apply Counter Intelligence and Counter Propaganda tools to help advance our goals and objectives.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Microsoft Discovery of Russian Republican Hacking: Revealing or Marketing?


The NY Times and other publications ran a story “New Russian Hacking Targeted Republic Groups, Microsoft Says” (see: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/21/us/politics/russia-cyber-hack.html, which is also a photo source.) Digging a bit I found an original source from Microsoft see: http://bit.ly/2Mp5wgT, another photo source).

The lead for that story is “We are taking new steps against broadening threats to democracy” which is an entry in Microsoft on the Issues, The Official Microsoft Blog. That entry replete with informative hotlinks, addresses how the US general election in 2016 and the May 2018 French presidential elections were tampered with.

Microsoft goes on to describe that “Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) successfully executed a court order to disrupt and transfer control of six internet domains created by a group widely associated with the Russian government and known as Strontium, or alternatively Fancy Bear or APT28.”

As a software superhero, Microsoft is using its powers only for good and will provide Microsoft AccountGuard, “state-of-the-art cybersecurity protection at no extra cost to all candidates and campaign offices at the federal, state and local level, as well as think tanks and political organizations we now believe are under attack. The technology is free of charge to candidates, campaigns and related political institutions using Office 365.” (Emphasis added by the Blog Writer)

Interestingly enough, a search of the Microsoft website for “AccountGuard” (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/search/result.aspx?q=AccountGuard) pulls up only two results, neither of which relates to the product noted above. Check out the screenshot.

What does this all mean? There are two key takeaways:

1.     Stronger security can be a marketing advantage if properly used to buoy a product’s perceived level of security. Microsoft is facing increasing competition from Google’s G-Suite as large organizations, especially government organizations and schools move away from Office.
2.     The Russians have clear guidance on the purpose of cyber influence. They understand how to blend and bend technology to alter the information people see and to influence their votes.

As to the second point, it appears to me that the US has adopted a version of Henry Stimson’s “Gentlemen don’t read each other’s mail” which effectively killed SIGINT by hobbling our Cyber Influence efforts because “Nations don’t interfere with the politics of other nations to support their own goals and objectives”.




Monday, August 13, 2018

PSYOP Support to California Wildfires


I was deployed as a Red Cross Public Affairs Officer as a part of the relief efforts at the Mendocinco California Complex Fires. This was the largest wildfire in California history. As of 7 AM today, 12 August 18, the fire burned 344,890 acres, destroyed 147 residences, damaged 13 more and still threatens 1,025 structures (see: http://www.fire.ca.gov/current_incidents/incidentdetails/Index/2175).
 
Here’s the bottom line up front: local media, especially FM radio is the most trusted source of information and Social Media is a cesspool.

In walking through the Red Cross shelters I learned that the most popular source of information was KPFZ radio from Lakeport, CA (see: http://kpfz.org/). One evening I called in as the Red Cross Public Information Officer. I was on the air for 15 minutes of live call radio. At the time the fire was still quite active and we had 6 shelters running which accommodated over 500 people on the evening of 4 August.

Listeners were candid and overall were somewhat surprised to have information straight from the source. The next day I went to the station and spent 45 minutes live fielding questions and I called in a couple of times since.

I was interviewed by three different TV crews from two different San Francisco’s TV channels and did a number of phone interviews, including the NY Times. You can see my quote in the article at: https://nyti.ms/2Mikvs5.

While I was working with the ‘traditional’ media, my colleagues were dealing with Social Media, primarily FaceBook. Unfortunately my experience last week confirmed what we already know. Anyone can say anything, and perhaps more importantly, they will be believed by more people than you would expect without any regard to the truth or even the plausibility of what’s said.

One of the Red Cross Shelters was at the Twin Pine Casino, a facility run by the Pomo Indians in Middletown, CA (see: www.twinpine.org). This meant that not only were the Federal, State and County governments involved, but tribal government as well.

While I won’t speculate on why government officials visit, but you can get a feel for their popularity in this picture of Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA).

This posting represents the essence of my week – if you have specific questions, or topics you would like me to explore, let me know. For those of you who are interested, you can read the DoD doctrine in JP 3-28 Defense Support of Civil Authorities, 31 July 2013 (see: http://bit.ly/2P2vaFT)


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Thursday, August 2, 2018

POVA Reunion/POA Rendezvous - What Did You Miss?





My wife and I had the pleasure of spending July 19 – 22 in Cleveland along with our brothers and sisters across the PSYOP Community. I thought it appropriate to write this week’s Blog posting on the event for the benefit of those of you who couldn‘t make it.

First of all we learned that the PSYOP Regiment has a Commandant. In ‘the olden days’, we always thought of the Commandant as the Commanding Officer of the training center or school we were attending. Colonel Robert Curris, former 4th POG CDR is our current Commandant residing at SWC or more properly the US Army Special Operations Center of Excellence.

His role as lead of our Regiment is to shepherd the branch in such a way as to provide the optimal force to support the national defense mission. This includes the critical areas of training and doctrine among others.

It was more than enlightening to learn what was going on in PSYOP today from someone who is making it happen. Make no mistake there are ongoing challenges across the force particularly in recruiting and fighting the cyber influence battle, however, the Regiment continues to move forward.

I was also able to rekindle some old friendships with colleagues from the 2nd PSYOP Group who I haven’t seen in 20 years (to be kind). As is the case with most military friendships, connections were renewed instantly and it was good to catch up.

We expanded our horizons by learning about PSYOP from the Australian perspective from Derrill de Heer, a life member of POVA. (who you can learn more about at: https://www.unsw.adfa.edu.au/australian-centre-for-the-study-of-armed-conflict-and-society/mr-derrill-de-heer)

POVA’s progress is nothing short of remarkable. We have over 400 active members with almost 150 life members across the US active, reserve and veteran force along with a growing number of international members.

The PSYOP Association (POA) hosted an educational half day program and launched their new Mobile App which you can get at: https://webapp.mobileappco.org/m/POAAPP and checkout their website at: http://psyopassociation.org/

POA also extended an invitation to Cleveland’s Vietnamese community who were very well represented at the event as well.

We also took advantage of seeing some of the sights in Cleveland such as the world famous Rock and Roll Hall of Fame including a tour of Johnny Cash’s bus and a lunch cruise on Lake Erie on the Nautica Queen.

See you at Fort Bragg in 2020!

Friday, July 13, 2018

PSYOP Paper That Talks!


Defense One ran article in June 2018 about a new procurement by USSOCOM. According to the http://bit.ly/2NQdvkb)) which described a high tech ‘paper’ that played a 30 second message.

article (which you can see at:

The prototype demonstrated at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (www.sofic.org) had a writable area between 4 and 6 square inches. SOCOM is looking for suppliers who can provide paper that can “be printable “in the field [to be] deployed or scattered across designated areas to broadcast information as well as provide feedback to assist in MISO planning and analysis.” The technology behind the talking paper is impressive and you can learn more at: http://bit.ly/2LevJd4

Way back in December 2014 none other than the New Yorker magazine thought: “Graphene may be the most remarkable substance ever discovered. But what’s it for? (see: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/12/22/material-question, which is also a photo source) If you are thinking of investing in graphene stocks, check out this May 2017 article: https://www.nanalyze.com/2017/05/graphene-stocks-update/, which of course may be out of date and is another photo source.

While advancing the technology behind the trusty leaflet should be applauded, I wonder just how useful this technology would be. In a previous posting I believe I mentioned the notion of using the same technology as today’s greeting cards – a cheaper, COTS alternative which would appear to accomplish the same objective – that is delivering sound to those who can presumably not read.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume the technology works and that you can create a 30 second message on a paper that’s the thickness of 4 pages – so what!

1.     How much effort is required?
2.     Will the ‘field’ really be able to make use of the technology as easily as the classic Rizzo leaflet?
3.     Will it work?
a.     Will the target actually listen to it?
b.     Will it be credible?
c.      Can a one shot deal have any impact at all?
4.     How much will it cost?
5.     Would the money be better spent elsewhere – say on harnessing COTS or Printerest like social media?

I’ll leave the answers to your summer thinking. Have fun at the beach.

If you are going to the POVA Reunion next week in Cleveland – introduce yourself!

If you’re not and your PSYOP professional, you’re missing quite the opportunity.

Check out: http://www.usapova.com/upcoming-events/

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

It may be a foreign language to you – but not to them!



One of my favorite jokes about foreign languages goes like this:

Q: What do you call someone who speaks three languages?
A: Tri-lingual

Q: What do you call someone who speaks two languages?
A: Bi-lingual

Q. What do you call someone who speaks one language?
A: American

The PRC understands that to influence others you need to do so in their own language. While this may seem pretty simple, it’s not easy to do. The Economist magazine of June 16, 2018 ran an article “National shall preach Xi unto nation” (see: https://econ.st/2KdrUJ0, which is also the photo source).

The article recounts how the PRC “is spending billions on beefing up its foreign-language news media”. Meanwhile, last week I recounted how the Senate Armed Services Committee couldn’t understand why SOCOM’s humble Global Messaging Platform came under scrutiny. The meager millions spent on that program seem like chump change in comparison.

The article notes that the Voice of China is now broadcasting in 65 languages up about 50% from the 43 languages broadcasted a decade ago.

The China Global Television Network (CGTN) appears to be well sourced and ambitious. They’re targeting CNN and no doubt the BBC as well. The article noted that CGTN is planning on setting up a new broadcasting center in Chiswick, a mere 6.5 miles from London.

The mission of CGTN as given to them by Xi Jingping: “tell China stories well”.

It should be noted that this mission is also carried out by newspapers including the Hong Kong based China Daily. Print is matched to an online counterpart for example take, a look at: http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/

Results seem to be mixed. It appears to be harder to get the “China story” across in ‘developed’ countries than elsewhere. According to the article, “A survey in 2016 of youth from 18 African countries found that, of those who had watched CGTN, 63% had liked the channel and only 14% had a negative view.”

The message is pretty clear, you need a ‘whole of government’ and a ‘whole lot of money’ if you want to play the global influence game.




Monday, June 18, 2018

Senate Committee Lacks Confidence in SOCOM Social Media Capabilities



The Senate Armed Services Committee has a lack of confidence in SOCOM’s ability to address the enemy in cyber space influence operations. The Committee’s Report to Accompany Senate Bill 2987 (all 654 pages_ can be found at: http://bit.ly/2I1lyWS). )

Buried on page 266 is sec.1033, Limitation on use of funds for United States Special Operations Command Global Messaging and Counter-Messaging platform. Key portions of this section are shown below:

“Specifically, the committee believes the MISO enterprise remains too focused on tactical activities using traditional media and has not evolved to adequately counter adversary messaging through social media and other modern forms of communication. The committee notes that the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) ‘‘Web Ops’’ capability was established to counter online propaganda of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and is the predecessor to the proposed SOCOM GMCM platform. Despite the existence of a military information support military occupational specialty for decades, the MISO enterprise played only a minimal, supporting role in the activities of the CENTCOM Web Ops platform. The committee believes this situation is symptomatic of broader deficiencies in the MISO enterprise. Therefore, the recommended provision requires the Secretary of Defense to conduct a review of the doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel and facilities applicable to military information support capabilities with a goal of improving the capabilities of the MISO Enterprise to more effectively operate in the information environment against both state and non-state actors”.

Here's my assessment:

On a high level, there is quite a bit going on, much of it centered on the spectacular lack of success of US DOD influence (especially cyber influence) efforts. Recently the JCS elevated information to a joint function (see: https://www.rmda.army.mil/records-management/docs/SECDEF-Endorsement_Information_Joint%20Function_Clean.pdf) which has resulted in serious implications for several DOD communities such as Public Affairs, CyberCom and of course MISO.

In parallel with this movement are separate initiatives in each of the services to develop their own influence (MISO) capabilities.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has latched on to SOCOM who has the lead for MISO and would likely to be responsible this lack of success. The Committee wants to be sure that any further allocation of funds is warranted. Tagging this particular project is just one element of machinations going on at the highest levels.

There are several factors at play here.
1.     DOD MISO is quite diluted as it goes across the force.
2.     There are no visible results from any digital/cyber MISO efforts.
3.     The MISO force is not synergistic. The Army still has an artificial split between the AC and the RC even though doctrine flows from SWC. It’s sort of a doctrinal “Animal Farm: where the AC is more equal.
4.     Non-state actors in particular have been able to harness an asymmetrical advantage by using the Internet for recruiting, communications, etc. ISIS in particular.
5.     SOCOM has not done a very good job of shepherding the influence resource across the force.
6.     CyberComm, is the land of the geeks and is totally divorced from the influence force. In essence you have the campaign/message/theme people isolated from the digital delivery experts and also unable to direct the use of digital weaponry as an influence tool.
7.     Congress doesn’t seem to realize that the amount that they have allocated is not very much to accomplish the mission they have assigned.

I could go on, but you get the idea. It appears that the Senate wants to see a detailed review of what SOCOM is doing from a MISO perspective, how that relates to what the combatant commanders are doing and how it interfaces/impacts/relates to other government influence efforts, chiefly the Department of State. And, it wants this review before any more funds should be allocated to those efforts.

Let’s all stayed tuned and don’t be shy about contacting your Senator if you’re so inclined.

 Photo Source: https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/