Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Three-star General Orders PSYOPs on Members of Congress

Lieutenant General William Caldwell

Hoping to have an exclusive as he had with his "The Runaway General" article that led to General Stanley McChrystal, commander of United States forces in Afghanistan, to resign, Rolling Stone’s Michael Hastings has written his new scoop, “Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators.”

The article exposes a "Psychological Operations" military team ordered by Lt. General William Caldwell, commander of Afghanistan’s NATO Training Mission, to influence visiting dignitaries, diplomats and American Senators into providing more resources for the war. The team was lead by Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes responsible for Information Operations (IO), a component of psychological operations (PSYOP). IO makes use of technology, focusing on human-related aspects of information use, including social network analysis, decision analysis and the human aspects of Command and Control.

Lt. Colonel Holmes accuses Lt. General Caldwell of illegally (allegedly a violation of the Smith-Mundt Act ) ordering him to use his unit’s capabilities to compile profiles of visiting dignitaries. He told Fox News, Caldwell wanted to know what visiting Senators, Representatives and others wanted from him. “What is it that we can tell them that will get them to give us more resources, more people, more money ... make them vote our way in Congress.” Holmes said that the General wanted to know how to shape his presentations and how best to "refine our messaging"; “… to find out what dignitaries ‘did for us’ and what ‘we need to do next time in order to make things better.’"

However, basic public relations do not become PSYCOPs simply because the officer assigned to perform that task is from IO.

What developed is because of his exaggerated role perception Holmes became discontent. As Holmes told Rolling Stone reporter Hastings, "[his] job in psy-ops is to play with people’s heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave.”

Furthermore, Pentagon spokesman, Marine Col. Dave Lapan said that Holmes assignment was not illegal. IO officers do not have any “special firewalls.”

And, it seems, Holmes evidently isn’t familiar with the common business practice of profiling your client. Or, that it’s not unusual in business, politics, or the military to direct professionals to perform duties and special projects that may be outside of their job description. Caldwell assigned Holmes to perform duties that were essentially public relations, but not perceived as dignified as PSYOP and therefore played on his ego.

Without a doubt, it would be unacceptably irresponsible of Lt. General Caldwell not to know all that it was ethically possible to know about the person with whom he was to have an interview. He does need background assessments in order to know” how to shape his presentations” …this is not an uncommon prerequisite. It would be surprising if dignitaries in anticipation of meeting with General Caldwell did not expect him to be prepared, which means he would need their profiles and other information to make a persuasive and enlightened presentation.

This seems to be a story where Lt. Colonel Holmes had an ax to grind, and a reporter, Michael Hastings, motivated to repeat his previous success with a like article, both exploiting each other’s circumstances to enhance their own self-interest. However, in this case, the reporter failed to be skeptical, to check his source by using multiple sources, to make sure he understood his sources bias before publishing.


Michael Hastings, The Runaway General,

Michael Hastings, Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators,

Wikipedia contributors. Psychological Operations (United States). Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. February 25, 2011, 06:42 UTC. Available at: Accessed February 26, 2011.

Jennifer Griffin and Justin Fishel contributed to this report, Military Officials Dispute Claim Army Unit Was Directed to Manipulate Senators,