Thursday, March 27, 2014

MISO: Into the Dark with Special Ops?

According to Time Magazine’s website on 27 Mar 2014, Special Operations Forces were seeking geospatial data on places where data was hard to come by. (see

The article references a Statement of Work (SOW), which can be found at:

The initial data set is described as: Jordan, Djibouti, Burma (Myanamar), Honduras, Iran, Morocco, Nigeria, Trinidad & Tobago, Burkina Faso, S. Sudan, N. Korea and China’s Guangdong province.

Among the data sought is:
Media outlet locations and coverage (IId)
GSM tower locations
Internet café locations and ownership information

At first I was tempted to put on my MI hat to figure out how this particular list of countries came about. Of course, that would have caused me to wonder why there would be geospatial gaps in places you might consider our metaphorical backyard such as Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago.

Nevertheless, I am going to avoid that temptation and consider what are the MISO/PSYOP aspects involved. I’m sure that I have posted about the lack of good media related data I found when I served in Bosnia and how the traditional CJ2 channels were of no help either. I reasoned that because there was no commercial interest in the country, advertisers would be scarce and logically there wouldn’t be a need for data related to media to bolster a non-existent advertising marketplace.

A logical starting point for MISO planning would be to determine what military operations would likely be conducted (if any) and to what extent these operations might require MISO support. Alternatively a MISO planner would have to consider which of these countries would not likely host military operations, but where the influence battle might be fought in the civilian media.

Alternatively, it would be prudent to consider which of these countries might be the site of violence and loss of government control to the point where a NEO or humanitarian/disaster relieve operation may be appropriate.

No matter what your view, these are exciting times to ponder the future of MISO, especially in what the Special Ops calls ‘dark’ places and I often refer to as “off Broadway”

Reader input invited as always.
Photo Source:

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Time for PSYOP ferret flights?

A mainstay of the Cold War was the ferret flight. The ferret flight was designed to smoke out the enemy's likely actions in the event of an air attack. Aircraft would flight towards the border which would trigger radars, anti-aircraft defenses and other responses. Of course, the aircraft would never leave friendly airspace and would turn around once they had come close enough to accomplish their mission.

For those of you that missed the Cold War, it looks like you have the chance to be a part of Cold War Version 2.0. Instead of Stalin or Khrushchev we have the  more cagey, but no less ruthless Mr. Putin. Unlike the others Mr. Putin can boast an intelligence background which may figure into his decision making process and perhaps American him more formidable because of it.

Putin also has the advantage of facing a contemplative oriented rather than an action prone US President.

Like his predecessors, Mr. Putin doesn't seem to fear economic sanctions and is also quite keen on adapting the latest weaponry to include cyber.

To be sure Putin is a strong guy and he is probably not the best influence target. What do we know about those around him? Do we believe that there are others that covet his power? Is there a portion of the population of Russia that can influence his future actions? Are there ways to alter the influence landscape in Crimea?

Given the use of "militias" in the Crimea and Ukraine, how should we craft MISO tactics against them? In addition to the need for newly minted Russian linguists, what other Cyrillic based languages need to be a part of recruiting and the DLI funnel?

Perhaps one of the most salient challenges would be to come up with a way to test new options without risking the lives of those behind the newly reinforced Iron Curtain. We also need to hone MISO doctrine aimed at paramilitary forces, which, as in Crimea, are a hallmark of Russian forces and most of those nations in their sphere of influence.

We are often accused of being ready to fight the last war, in the case of Cold War II, we should be better prepared, because we are certainly forewarned.

Photo Source:
From left to right, characters made famous in the Bullwinkle the Moose Cartoons - Boris Badenov, Natasha Fetale and Fearless Leader

Monday, March 10, 2014

Cyber PSYOP and the Crimea

The Russian invasion of the Crimea and the turmoil in Ukraine are all over the news. This most recent aggression seems to be following the pattern set in Georgia and other countries perceived to rightly belong in the Russian sphere of influence.

A tried and true Russian tactic is to control all communications one way or another. By one way or another I mean through people such as managing the state controlled media or via old fashioned kinetic action as described in the Feb 28, 2013 article “Telecom services sabotaged in Ukraine’s Crimea region” (see: which is also the photo source)

NATO to include the US appears to have ruled out military action, however the notion of Cyber influence in this particular case seems to have a great deal of merit.

One of the advantages of being an Armchair Colonel is that you can ponder almost anything with detachment. Given the demographics of the Ukraine, one would think that if the intended audience was the Ukrainian population, then a cyber-campaign focusing on mobile phones would be in order.
Multiple sources claim that there are about 60 million mobile phones and 12 million land line phones used in the Ukraine. Presumably these totals reflect devices bought from carriers within the country and do not reflect devices brought in by travelers and others. The CIA Factbook showed 7.7 million Internet users back in 2009. Given the above it would appear that cyber PSYOP would be appropriate.

From an infrastructure perspective, there is only one land-line provider in Crimea, Ukretelcom  (see  Wikipedia lists 7 Mobile phone companies of Ukraine (see AT&T’s website says that they work through a number of carriers: Beeline, Kyvivstar, Life, MTS and Ukrtelecom. Verizon’s website says that Voice, Data, Messaging, Picture and video are available from Ukraine.

However, perhaps a more intriguing audience would be the invading force themselves. Like soldiers from anywhere, these troops want to stay in touch if they can so it is likely that they have brought their own mobile phones. If so, they might represent a more lucrative influence target.

A campaign working either audience could consist of a family of SMS messages with a predetermined pace and repetition factor. Alternatively, barraging (similar to SPAM) of appropriate ISPs (assuming they’re up and functioning) could be another avenue of influence attack. One could adopt a combination of SPAM and phishing tactics to accomplish the influence goals.

From an intelligence perspective, if the commercial networks are down due to Russian aggression, perhaps there is a network of Ham radio operators who are able to communicate to the outside world and provide the eyes on view.
Reader contributions encouraged.