The Pentagon acknowledged in a newly declassified document that the US public is increasingly exposed to propaganda disseminated overseas in psychological operations.
But the document suggests that the Pentagon believes that US law that prohibits exposing the US public to propaganda does not apply to the unintended blowback from such operations.
"The increasing ability of people in most parts of the globe to access international information sources makes targeting particular audiences more difficult," said the document.
[The Pentagon document] calls for 'boundaries' between information operations abroad and the news media at home, but provides for no such limits and claims that as long as the American public is not 'targeted,' any leakage of PSYOP to the American public does not matter.
National Security Archives
"Today the distinction between foreign and domestic audiences become more a question of USG (US government) intent rather than information dissemination practices," it said.
Called the "Information Operations Roadmap," the document was approved by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in October 2003.
It was made public by the National Security Archives, a private non-profit research group which obtained it through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The document said that psychological operations, or "psyops," are restricted by Pentagon policy and executive order from targeting US audiences, US military personnel and news agencies and outlets.
"However, information intended for foreign audiences, including public diplomacy and PSYOP, increasingly is consumed by our domestic audience and vice-versa."
In a press release, the National Security Archives said the document "calls for 'boundaries' between information operations abroad and the news media at home, but provides for no such limits and claims that as long as the American public is not 'targeted,' any leakage of PSYOP to the American public does not matter."
Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita vehemently denied that the Pentagon was unconcerned about possible blowback.
"I reject the premise of this release which is, 'Hey if it bleeds back we're okay with it.' We're not okay with it," he said.
DiRita said that, with the exception of "battlefield deception," psychological operations used to influence foreign publics were based on factual, accurate information.
He said that the Pentagon has sought to erect "firewalls" between psychological operations that aim to "influence" foreign publics and public affairs, which "inform" the press and the US public.
But he acknowledged that the distinction between the two has become blurred.
"It's an important distinction to understand, but increasingly in the world we're in it's a distinction that deserves scrutiny," he said.
Disclosures last month that US military psychological operations units were secretly planting paid-for stories with the Iraqi press through a contractor brought some of those issues to the surface.
General George Casey, the US commander in Iraq, is reviewing the results of an investigation into the case, but officials have said that the disclosures have so far prompted no changes.
Copyright © 2006 AFP