Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Can You “PSYOP” An Individual?

PSYOP is generally employed by a military force against a group target in a defined geographic AO. The use of PSYOP against individuals is rare and reserved only for very high value targets where the stakes are quite high. The world of fiction has portrayed PSYOP against individuals in a number of ways. Among my favorites was the original Mission Impossible TV series which employed specially selected people with particular talents, not to mention disguises, drugs, theater, electronics and whatever else was required to alter the perception and decision making of the target.

In some ways it worked like CSI in reverse. Instead of starting with a dead body and figuring out what happened prior to the victim’s death, the Team started with the desired results in mind and performed the backwards planning to orchestrate the scenario to get to the desired results.

There was one episode where the evil doer de jure was convinced that a nuclear holocaust had just occurred. The MI Team built a mock-up of a wasteland around the periscope that the target used to observe what was going on outside. While I don’t exactly remember the outcome, I do remember thinking that was pretty cool.

Moving into the 21st Century – is it possible to “PSYOP” an individual by altering his perception of his environment and events around him to the point where his behavior moves in the desired direction or his decision making capability is severely hampered?

In thinking about the problem, one would have to consider the information and influence environment around the target, as much as the target itself. Given that the target’s actions are a function of the sum of all influences, it is important to determine what influences can be realistically altered or influenced and those that cannot.

For example, it would be difficult to subvert a target in a rural environment where communication is strictly via trusted messenger.

Alternatively, urban targets are typically inundated by information – face to face, television, radio, Internet, news papers, magazines, etc. PSYOP could be performed by controlling what is received by altering the genuine or providing false broadcasts or publications. However, would it be possible to exert enough control to get the desired results?

Another dimension of individual PSYOP in today’s world is the cyber dimension. In this case cyber means the information technology (IT) infrastructure used by the target as well as the Internet itself. CNO might prove effective in altering the effectiveness of decisions by changing the nature of ‘facts’ and information available to the target. CNE operations could be designed to employ computer crime techniques such as salami slicing to alter data in such a way to change the framework upon which decisions would be made. Drastic CNO could be employed perhaps in conjunction with EW to denigrate the information technology (IT) used by the target to the point where it is useless.

Regardless of the target it should be obvious from even this short posting that “PSYOPing” individuals require meticulous planning and significant resources. It also requires an in depth understanding of the target and its environment and an opera

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