Friday, April 4, 2008

U.S. Military "clandestinely recruiting or hiring prominent bloggers"?

This story is NOT getting the attention it deserves.

Noah Shachtman, writing for the Danger Room over at Wired, reports:
A study, written for U.S. Special Operations Command, suggested "clandestinely recruiting or hiring prominent bloggers"....

This 2006 report for the Joint Special Operations University, "Blogs and Military Information Strategy," offers a third approach -- co-opting bloggers, or even putting them on the payroll. "Hiring a block of bloggers to verbally attack a specific person or promote a specific message may be worth considering," write the report's co-authors, James Kinniburgh and Dororthy Denning.
The JSOU report makes fascinating reading, with lots of quite readable discussion about the influence of blogs, and statistical studies of their netwide distribution structure. I recommend it. It's also free to distribute publicly -- thank you, U.S. taxpayer!

The report explains its thesis, with appropriate political caveats to those consumers of such material, thusly:
Information strategists can consider clandestinely recruiting or hiring prominent bloggers or other persons of prominence... to pass the U.S. message. In this way, the U.S. can overleap the entrenched inequalities and make use of preexisting intellectual and social capital. Sometimes numbers can be effective; hiring a block of bloggers to verbally attack a specific person or promote a specific message may be worth considering. On the other hand, such operations can have a blowback effect, as witnessed by the public reaction following revelations that the U.S. military had paid journalists to publish stories in the Iraqi press under their own names. People do not like to be deceived, and the price of being exposed is lost credibility and trust.

An alternative strategy is to “make” a blog and blogger. The process of boosting the blog to a position of influence could take some time, however, and depending on the person running the blog, may impose a significant educational burden, in terms of cultural and linguistic training before the blog could be put online to any useful effect. Still, there are people in the military today who like to blog. In some cases, their talents might be redirected toward operating blogs as part of an information campaign. If a military blog offers valuable information that is not available from other sources, it could rise in rank fairly rapidly.
This report should be a wake-up call that the powers that run this country intend to game the Internet. The entire idea is redolent of the CIA's Operation Mockingbird. Begun in the late 1940s, OM's purpose was to dominate the mainsteam U.S. and foreign press via CIA payoffs and influence. In 1977, Carl Bernstein famously reported that Mockingbird journalists included Joseph and Stewart Alsop (New York Herald Tribune), Ben Bradlee (Newsweek), James Reston (New York Times), Charles Douglas Jackson (Time Magazine), Walter Pincus (Washington Post), William C. Baggs (The Miami News), Herb Gold (The Miami News) and Charles Bartlett (Chattanooga Times). (You can read much of Bernstein's article here.)

The entire notion of a free press is made a true mockery when its practitioners are bought and paid for by the same government that they are supposed to be monitoring independent of the state. The U.S. government is starting to look more and more like a Stalinist state. The old Soviet Union, too, spoke of being democratic and free, when everyone knew it was a sham. U.S. democracy is exposed as a false flag operation. According to Ctron over at Daily Kos, one of these new "bought" blogs already exists. (I don't know if it is or isn't; the reader will have to judge for him or herself.)
It is called "Iraq, The Model"; it has been in existence since November of 2003. It is "supposedly" run by someone in Iraq.
The Internet is supposed to give democratic expression a new and wide open playing field. But take a close look, and watch your freedom being gobbled up. The government is targeting the military bloggers first, but its clear that it's politics, and not just military secrets, that obsess these totalitarian-minded "patriots."

I close with more from the report (text in bold are my emphases, but the entire thing is frightening as hell):
If assessment of the information environment indicates the presence of blogging activity, the next step is to look at the bloggers and their audiences, determine the blogs’ functions (per Nardi et al.43), and construct a preliminary analysis in terms of the metrics (blog visits and incoming links and references) and indicators of quality and credibility (design, utility, accuracy, and currency) identified earlier.

Questions that must be answered include:

How large is the blogging community?
Who are the bloggers? And what are their positions and status within their communities and within the country as a whole (their general public roles and reputations)?
Who is the target community or audience for each blog?
Do the blogs address issues of social and political importance to the community they serve?
What biases are observed in each blog? Do they reinforce or challenge the biases of their audience?
Do any bloggers invite and engage in free and open interaction with their audience?

Answering these questions will require appropriate responses from intelligence agencies at all levels....

Analysts working with blog intelligence must have access to the operational disciplines that they support; the closer the better. We recommend the creation of small special operations units with operational authority and integrated intelligence collections and analysis to conduct blog-based operations....

In order to act and react efficiently in managing bloggers and blogs, the intelligence specialists and planners who have the knowledge should be the ones running the actual blog. Or, in cases where indigenous bloggers and their blogs have been identified and recruited, the blog operations cell should also house the case officer managing the asset, having done the work to cultivate and recruit him or her....

Some of the possible techniques we have explored in our discussion of the military use of blogging require a certain degree of subtlety, finesse, and yes, covert action. By giving military blog-based operations to the Intelligence and Special Operations communities, these uses become less risky and more feasible. However, military operations must necessarily remain only a part of a larger effort. Given the current state of U.S. and international law, and the distribution of the necessary authorities among many (often competing) government agencies, any future conduct of influence operations through the blogosphere will require a truly integrated interagency approach, and thus belongs properly at the national level as a part of an overarching Strategic Communications effort.

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