Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The PR that midwife'd the war

Just an update to my earlier post on The Rendon Group. Amy Goodman conducted an in-depth interview with James Bamford on Monday. Bamford wrote a piece in Rolling Stone on The Rendon Group--the PR group hired by the CIA to sell every American war since Panama (with the exception of Somalia). The transcript of Goodman's Democracy Now interview is available (as is the video & mp3 segment).
Bamford also expanded on Rendon's role in "media mapping" and the early days of the Pentagon's "Office of Strategic Influence":
JAMES BAMFORD: Well, it’s a very interesting area, this media mapping. And basically, what it is, is [Rendon was] directed to take a close look at the actual reporters who were reporting the news and analyze them. What is their slant? What is their bias? What is the background for these people? What makes that very worrisome is that there was another group that was set up by the Pentagon, Office of Strategic Influence, and that was eventually closed down, but one of the things –
AMY GOODMAN: Forced to because it became public?

[click "Read on, MacDuff!" to continue reading]
JAMES BAMFORD: That's right, when it became knowledge, and one of the aspects was that they were going to plant phony stories in news organizations around the world, and when you plant a phony story in a news organization anywhere in the world today, I mean, it’s immediately accessible to people in the United States. So, it would have had a very bad blowback effect.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, I remember when Rumsfeld closed it. He said, ‘Yeah, we may change the name, but it doesn't mean we have to stop doing what we are doing.’
JAMES BAMFORD: Exactly. And a lot of people believed that it sort of disappeared and then emerged secretly again someplace else in the Pentagon.
AMY GOODMAN: Would you say that was Douglas Feith's organization?
JAMES BAMFORD: Yes, Feith, Douglas Feith, the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy set up that organization.
AMY GOODMAN: And it’s now being investigated.
JAMES BAMFORD: Yes, that's right, and again, as soon as the – I think it was The New York Times came out with the story on it. And as soon as that happened, it was within weeks that Donald Rumsfeld closed it down, at least said he closed it down, or at least took that name away from it. But one of the aspects of that was to actually look very secretly at these journalists around the world, and that’s what’s worrisome, when you do media mapping. How far do you go? And what are you going to do with the journalists? And at the time, the Pentagon was claiming that Al-Jazeera was aiding the enemy, aiding the Iraqi government – actually, I'm sorry, aiding the insurgency and so forth. So, it’s a very dangerous situation when you have part of the U.S. government acting secretly to do something about foreign media that may end up deceiving U.S. media back in the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, you write, “The secret targeting of foreign journalists may have had a sinister purpose. Among the missions proposed for the Pentagon's Office of Strategic Influence was one to coerce foreign journalists and plant false information overseas, secret briefing papers also said that the office should find ways to punish those who convey the wrong message. One senior officer told CNN the plan would formalize government deception, dishonesty and misinformation.” Punish, coerce, how?
JAMES BAMFORD: Well, I don't know. That's as far as the information we have been able to obtain has come out. But when you talk about ‘punish’ and ‘coerce’, I mean, they’ve got very, I think, ominous definitions to them. How do you punish and coerce a foreign journalist? So, the Office of Strategic Influence was closed down. Whether that aspect of it was also done away with, nobody knows at this point. John Rendon, during the interview, said his office, or his company, was not involved with the Office of Strategic Influence.
The NY Times reported the emergence of the Office of Strategic Influence, shortly after 9/11. The outcry over a 'Voice of America' aimed at Americans themselves created an outcry and the name was rescinded. In November 2002, US Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said:
I went down that next day and said fine, if you want to savage this thing fine I'll give you the corpse. There's the name. You can have the name, but I'm gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done and I have.

[Thanks to The Center for Cooperative Research for the NYT & DOD links]. Former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith was responsible for setting up both the Office of Strategic Influence & the Office of Special Plans. The latter was tasked with stovepiping all of the 'intelligence' that Cheney wanted and was the only 'intelligence' agency to insist on that ridiculous Al Qaeda/Saddam/911 link. Kristina Borjesson does an excellent job tracing the history of Cheney's Iraq-intel abuse.


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