Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Counterintelligence & PSYOP

We often talk about the symbiotic relationship between PSYOP/MISO and intelligence. We know that we have to perform Intelligence Preparation of the Influence Battlefield (IPIB) and that this requires a combination of intelligence sources and work products.

General intelligence can yield information about the target area, demographics, terrain, weather, etc. Media specific intelligence can compare alternative media such as broadcast (tv/radio), print (newspapers/magazines) and social media to determine the audience composition of each and to suggest what combination of media would be the best for the mission at hand.

Not much thought seems to be given to the relationship between counterintelligence and PSYOP.

The August 20, 2016 edition of the Economist ran an article “Driving away the shadows” (see:, which is also the photo source.)

From a MISO perspective the relevant paragraph in the article states: “Other parts of the programme have grown, too. In 2015 social-media snoopers removed 55,000 pieces of propaganda, 22% more than in 2014. The government’s counter-propaganda was viewed 15m times, compared with 3m times in 2014. A typical example features interviews with the parents of British IS fighters, interspersed with scenes of Syrian devastation.”

 The term ‘social-media snoopers’ is interesting not just because of the catchy name, but because of the function. One could argue that these ‘snoopers’ are PSYOP analysts whose job it is to spot and remove enemy propaganda. Is that an intelligence or PSYOP function? Removal of enemy propaganda would logically reduce its effectiveness (as suggested by data in the article) and could also be seen as a way to bolster OPSEC as well.

In any event, it would appear that CI and PSYOP/MISO are closely related. This relationship is no doubt strengthened because of the use of Social Media for enemy propaganda and the real time interaction it generates.

The article also stands for the old saying that ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ meaning that good CI (and positive influence of course) can be part of a comprehensive program designed to thwart recruitment efforts.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Forget the Internet – You Need People To Stop ISIS Recruitment

Lawfare, an on-line site publication had an article on August 16, 2016, “To Stop ISIS Recruitment, Focus Offline” (see: The article seems counter to the popular believe that the Internet is the major recruiting source for ISIS.

There is no doubt that the Internet can provide information, act as a communications medium, and serve as a refuge for some. It can also be a communications medium where views and information are exchanged. The article states “A review by the Program on Extremism of the 100 ISIS-related legal cases in the United States shows that, with rare exceptions, friends, families, and romantic partners tangibly influenced the radicalization process.”

The level of influence from person to person contacts is probably higher than that in the virtual world. The article and others point to live social interaction as a starting point for relationships that grow into support and recruiting efforts.

The Islamic community in Minneapolis, the subject of the article, has been profiled in other articles such as the CBS Evening News, November 19, 2015 (, which is also the photo source).

A key tread is the isolating felt by youth in the community. Isolation can be assuaged through friendships made over basketball or other social activities. Once the individual’s trust is earned, then the recruiting can begin in earnest perhaps starting with propaganda videos and Internet activities.

The impact of the Internet should not be doubted. Here’s another piece first published by CNNMoney on September 30, 2014 (see: which does a nice job addressing the Internet side.

Reader comments encouraged.

I’m also looking for any feedback on the use of MISO Companies to support BCTs rather than MISO Companies supporting divisions.



Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Cultural Knowledge 101 – Vital to PSYOPers

NFL Summer training camps always begin with the fundamentals. I came across an article in the July 31, 2016 print edition of the NY Times, “When ‘Yes’ Means Not A Chance”, it appears on-line as “How to Deal With A Foreign Colleague Who Can’t Say No” (see:, which is also the photo source).

The essence of the article is that you need to be familiar with local culture and customs no matter where you go. The article addresses some basic concepts such as “on time”, which in many cultures, means whenever it happens.

The article touches on graft and corruption as an every day fact of life in many places and how the notion of ‘law and order’ doesn’t necessarily mean that at all.

The need for cultural familiarity, to include nuances and little known ‘rules’ is a critical element in the success or failure of localizing products from a far off location.

I worked for Symantec for many years in Corporate Marketing. Corporate was the keeper of the brand and the source of global campaigns and marketing materials. However, each region needed to not only pick and chose what was appropriate for their market and their audiences, but how to modify the corporate piece so that it would be effective.

As your team hits the practice field – maybe you should too.

A very special ‘shout out’ to my brothers and sisters attending the POVA meeting in Fayetteville – I’m with you in spirit.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Sarcasm Is Not A Good Approach To Tackle ISIS

As many of you know, as a native Brooklynite, I have been often accused of being sarcastic. Over the years I’ve learned that sarcasm can be a sharp weapon of humor, but not a general-purpose approach.

I believe successful sarcasm is steeped in nuance and must be tailored to a particular situation. It came as somewhat of a surprise to me that the State Department was employing sarcasm in their influence campaign as detailed in a NY Times article of Friday, July 29, 2016 (see: U.S. Drops Snark in Favor of Emotion to Undercut Extremists at:; which is also the photo source.) which is also the photo source.)

The article goes on to describe the approach to influence those who might leave their native countries to fight on behalf of ISIS. Media include: Facebook Instagram and Twitter. The article notes that there is also a need to distance the message from the source. That it is very likely that any message which appeared to come from the US government would be discarded out of hand.

The viewer or reader was more often ‘annoyed at its smug sarcasm rather than appalled at the horrific images on the screen’ according to the article. This comment resonates with me because the target audience has a mental picture of their personal assessment of ISIS where even horrific images purportedly portraying them would not move the influence needle.

Perhaps another error in judgment with the sarcastic approach is that one size or in this case, one message does not fit all. Research cited in the article and a dose of common sense would seem to indicate, that while there are common threads of motivating factors, the mix influencing each individual would differ significantly.

The influence missions is a difficult one and the disparity of the audience in terms of geography may very well be just as varied as the reasons that influence them.

One thing though is for sure -  the sarcastic approach is not working here.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Fighting ISIS With Humor!

It must be ISIS day today. Even though I just posted the Twofer entry, I couldn’t resist passing along this article from the Economist.

In my earlier posting I noted that there were a number of forces at play:

1.     The use of offensive cyber weapons against a non-traditional enemy.

2.     The employment of cyber influence along with traditional Military Information Support Operations (MISO).

3.     The execution of a coordinated set of operations involving both.

4.     Injection of other resources be they COTS, contract, mercenary or volunteers.”

According to a July 14th article from the Economist “Fighting Islamic State with laughter and a listening ear “ (see:, which is also the photo source) The administrator of the effort, who wished to remain anonymous for obvious reasons claimed that the effort is run by “claims that it is run by a group of volunteer activist lawyers, journalists and graphic designers from across the Arab world (including some in IS-held territories).”, or #4 on my list above.

The article states: “The Bighdaddy show, a collection of short videos satirising IS, is named after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, IS’s leader.”

According to the article it’s a regional effort on Social Media. Of course, there are no Nielsen ratings for Social Media.  I’m not an Arabic speaker, so I can’t comment on whether or not nuances of the language are appropriate, but I am of the opinion that these kinds of efforts are likely to be more effective than those that are produced beyond the area.

An ISIS Twofer As Today’s Posting

There is no doubt that ISIS is one of our primary threats today. Part of the challenge is that they are an international, non-traditional threat and unlike nation states – do not play by any rules.

It’s no secret that ISIS has become adept at employing technology to achieve their nefarious goals. At the moment it appears that our rule book isn’t working and that we are playing catch-up on two fronts: propaganda and cyber.

An excellent background article, “Inside the surreal world of the Islamic State’s propaganda machine.” appeared in November of last year. The article gives the reader an inside view of the ISIS propaganda machine. “(see:, which is also a photo source). “

Fast forward to 7/15/16 and we come across the article “U.S. military has launched a new digital war against the Islamic State” (see: which describes the efforts of Cyber Command to engage the enemy digitally.

Juxtaposing the two articles seems to give the edge to our adversary. The two articles leave you with the impression that the enemy has maintained the high ground in propaganda while the US is playing catch-up in dealing with the cyber battlefield and the digital influence war.

Of course, there is the on-going cat and mouse game where each party doesn’t really want to reveal how successful they may have been or if and how their enemy has negatively impacted their efforts. Yet it makes logical sense to step back for a moment.

I have always believed that ‘you train as you fight’. Unless you have trained and exercised to accomplish a task you are not likely to be very good at it.

There are several parallel efforts at work here:

1.     The use of offensive cyber weapons against a non-traditional enemy.

2.     The employment of cyber influence along with traditional Military Information Support Operations (MISO).

3.     The execution of a coordinated set of operations involving both.

4.     Injection of other resources be they COTS, contract, mercenary or volunteers.

One wonders how training is preparing our force to engage and dominate these battles.


Friday, July 15, 2016

Can International Law be a theme for MISO?

The Economist published an on-line article from their 16 July 16 Print edition, “The South China Sea – Courting Trouble” (see:; which is also the photo source.)

The upshot of the article  is that “the Permanent Court of Arbitration, an international tribunal in The Hague, has declared China’s “historic claims” in the South China Sea invalid”. The details of the case are not necessarily important here, and you can read about them in the article or elsewhere.

From a MISO perspective, let’s say you’re in a conflict where a case has gone to this venue or another respected international jurisdiction and the verdict came down on your side. Does this make it a great theme for MISO?

You might be tempted to jump to the conclusion that a respected international venue would certainly be a great justification and MISO theme. However, like many things legal related – it depends.

If your audience is one that respects international law and that court in particular and/or the audience is more or less in favor of your argument, then it just might work.

Unfortunately if your audience doesn’t believe that the court is fair or if the audience is  blatantly and perhaps irrationally opposed to your point of view , then your “international law argument” is not likely to be very effective.

If you run the campaign anyway, you might convince some people, but more likely you will provide fodder for the adversary.

Reader input encouraged!