Last updated: March 24, 2010 - 7:21am
[Commentary] It has become commonplace since Sept. 11, 2001, to speak of the "war of ideas" between Muslim extremists and the West. But there has been too little attention paid to the U.S. military's mobilization for this war, which is often described by the oxymoronic phrase "information operations."
To populate this information "battle space," the military has funded a range of contractors, specialists, training programs and initiatives -- targeted on the hot wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the broader zone of conflict in the Middle East and Central Asia. Gen. David Petraeus, the Centcom commander who oversees that region, has been one of the military's most vocal proponents of aggressive information operations. The potential problems were highlighted on March 14, when the New York Times revealed that a Pentagon official from the "strategic communications" realm had funded contractors to gather intelligence in Afghanistan. Last week also brought a report by The Post's Ellen Nakashima that the military, in an offensive information operation, had shut down a jihadist Web site that the CIA had been monitoring for intelligence purposes. In both cases, it seemed the military was wandering into the covert-action arena traditionally reserved for the CIA.
This murky area should be marked with a flashing yellow warning light, meaning: "Slow down!" The United States should be careful about encouraging, in effect, the militarization of information -- and it should be especially cautious when these efforts bleed into the intelligence world. We are a nation that has prospered uniquely from open, untainted information flows. As I watch the covert contractors get their arms around this topic, it makes me nervous.
- Congressional Committees Raise Concerns Over Pentagon's Strategic Communications
- Pentagon May Have Mixed Propaganda With PR
- US and China engage in cyber war games
- FCC Focuses On Big-Picture Ideas At Broadband Workshop
- The Calm Before the Storm
- Test alert by Verizon leads to confusion in NJ
- Political Advertising Enlisted in War for Women
- Misinformation campaign targets USA TODAY reporter, editor
- Despite New Policy, Pentagon Still Wary of the 'Tubes
- US lags in propaganda war: Rumsfeld
- Cyberwar Nominee Sees Gaps in Law
- Comcast Cites Martin’s ‘War On Cable’ To Appeals Court
- Media, Pentagon Spar Over Control of Information
- Dismantling of Saudi-CIA Web site illustrates need for clearer cyberwar policies
- Pentagon warning on China cyberattacks