Army Ordered Psych Team to Manipulate Senators

Sought to gain war support through propaganda techniques: Rolling Stone
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Feb 24, 2011 7:25 AM CST
U.S. Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, the commander of NATO’s mission to train Afghan policemen and soldiers Kabul, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb, 12, 2011.   (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

(Newser) – In an illegal effort to build support for the war, a top US general in Afghanistan ordered troops trained in "psychological operations" to manipulate visiting lawmakers, reports Michael Hastings for Rolling Stone. Over a four-month period last year, Gen. William Caldwell reportedly pushed the psy-ops team to focus their work on lawmakers—the list of targets included John McCain, Joe Lieberman, and Sen. Carl Levin, who was a key backer of Caldwell’s request last month for another $2 billion to train Afghan troops. But when the leader of Caldwell's "information operations" unit tried to oppose the plan, he later found himself the subject of a military investigation accusing him of unrelated inappropriate conduct.

"My job in psy-ops is to play with people’s heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave," said IO leader Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes. "I’m prohibited from doing that to our own people." (Rolling Stone notes that federal law explicitly prohibits the military from practicing psy-ops on its own citizens, and every defense authorization bill features a "propaganda rider" that bars such manipulation.) Holmes says Caldwell wanted his team to provide a "deeper analysis of pressure points we could use to leverage the delegation for more funds." He says the general’s chief of staff wanted to know how Caldwell could secretly manipulate lawmakers without them knowing, asking him, "How do we get these guys to give us more people? What do I have to plant inside their heads?" Caldwell "categorically denies" the claim, says a rep. Click to read the entire piece, which certainly isn't Hastings' first piece to make waves.

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