Friday, November 21, 2014

False Tweets = Cyber PSYOP

I’ve posted about cyber influence before. When an event happens that confirms or reinforces some of what I’ve concluded I like to post that reference as well. Anti-virus vendor Sophos publishes an almost daily blurb called “Naked Security”. The November 20, 2104 editions featured an article “Hackers Blamed For Unusual Tweets..” (see: which is also the photo source.)

The substance of the article is: “TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson and Colombian militia group FARC may not have much in common, but this week they were linked by headlines blaming hackers for potentially embarrassing Twitter messages.”

The article addresses how hackers can take over a Twitter account and broadcast their own content to the detriment of the target. In some cases the hacker will identify themselves either directly or indirectly by virtue of the message, in others the hacker is content with remaining unidentified.

These attacks can be broadly staged such as against governments or large companies, or they can be tightly focused on particular individuals.

Depending on the nature of the target, more harm may come from the publicizing of the attack rather than those who follow the target’s tweets. The Twitterverse (if there is such a word) is a community of followers and perhaps some analysts, but IMHO is not indicative of the general public.

In some locations Twitter users are likely to be younger, perhaps more affluent and perhaps more educated. Also I suspect there is a higher density of media types involved as well.

Reader comments appreciated.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Comics: The Real Super Heroes of Middle Eastern Influence?

Many of us will admit that ‘comics’ were a big thing in our lives at one point or another. Today’s comic reader is more likely to be a 20 or 30 or even 40 something than they are to be a teenager especially if we are talking about the Middle East.

The Economics of November 8, 2014 ran an article “Laughing at the humorless” (see:, which is also the photo source) which addressed how the “region’s comics have long used subtle satire to criticize their authoritarian regimes, yet with little success in effecting change.

The Middle East is certainly nothing to laugh at, especially these days. Much of the cultural and sociological norms there remain a mystery to Western audiences even those charged with influencing the region.

It strikes me that comics can be an effective way to gradually influence behavior. If I could wave a magic wand I would create a credible lead character whose trials and tribulations are captured in comics that are easily related to by a Middle East audience.

We talk about videos going viral and getting hundreds of thousands of views, I wonder if support to rising comic authors makes sense as a logical part of US Middle East influence efforts.

Comments are very much encouraged.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

MISO and the American Embassy: Two Peas In The Same Pod?

As many of my loyal readers know, I have been participating as the IO SME in a number of exercises which project me into the role of MISO Task Force CDR and PSYOP Evangelist. On the iteration which ended today I had the good fortune of working “an old hand” from the Department of State who provided invaluable assistance and guidance with this post.
The ‘influence war’ is fought with all of the instruments of national power. For MISO this means we must work very closely with the  Department of State’s Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs whose major efforts “include public diplomacy outreach, which in turn includes communications with international audiences, cultural programming, academic grants, educational exchanges, international visitor programs, and U.S. Government efforts to confront ideological support for terrorism. The Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs oversees three of the State Department’s bureaus -- Educational and Cultural Affairs, Public Affairs, and International Information Programs -- as well as the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications.  The State Department has some of their own acronyms, and the shorthand for the Under Secretary and the three bureaus is “R.”  With Foreign Service officers in the Political, Economic, Consular, and Management “cones.” Public Diplomacy officers also participates in foreign policy development.” (See: 
State’s concept of Public Diplomacy bridges public affairs, advocacy, and influence – with an eye both on short- and long-term effects.  Among themselves, Public Diplomacy officers wrestle with old and new concepts, including “evaluation,” “metrics,” “branding,” “narrative,” “storytelling, and “messaging,”
At first glance many of the functions and programs of Public Diplomacy look like they parallel MISO missions, so it makes logical sense for the two organizations to work together in a synergistic way. Some Embassy Public Affairs Sections host Military Information Support Teams.  While MIST may deploy with their own specific mission set (such as counter drug operations), doctrinally the MIST works for the Embassy PAO in the Public Affairs Section.
In some Embassies, Public Affairs Sections have offices in buildings without access to classified communications.  (Most of their work is public, open, and unclassified.)  Given that a MiST may require access to military communication channels, teams may spend time both in the Public Affairs Section and the office of the Defense Attache (DAO or DATT), and there is occasional tension from the arrangement.  Still, MISO personnel work as part of the Embassy team. This means that MISO personnel need to understand the Embassy’s organization and roles and be comfortable working outside the military chain of command.  Some personal “diplomacy” helps MIS teams work on programs that mesh with Public Diplomacy’s goals.
Military Information Support Teams (MIST) often work with Embassy personnel to provide research and other resources in a peacetime environment. They can meet with students, media, or other groups helping to augment a typically short staffed information section.  A MIST has its own travel budget, and it can draw on many resources (e.g. funding, Reachback, in place contracts, etc.) to implement a project or a communication program.  During operations MISO can supplement the Embassy in a number of ways. The can facilitate research on issues and audiences, and they can develop what Public Diplomacy people call “programs.” 
Assignment to a MIST can benefit MISO personnel by exposing them to the diplomatic world, the full range of U.S. departments and agencies that form a Country Team, and offering a complementary perspective on influence operations.