Fwd: Rumsfeld Says He May Drop New Office of Influence

From: Wade T.Smith (wade_smith@harvard.edu)
Date: Mon Feb 25 2002 - 13:02:27 GMT

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    Rumsfeld Says He May Drop New Office of Influence



    ASHINGTON, Feb. 24 The Pentagon may eliminate a new office intended to
    influence public opinion and policy makers overseas, Defense Secretary
    Donald H. Rumsfeld said today. Proposals from the new agency, the Office
    of Strategic Influence, have caused an uproar in Congress and elsewhere
    in the government.

    Its director, Brig. Gen. Simon P. Worden of the Air Force, has proposed
    that the office coordinate activities ranging from public press releases
    to secret "information warfare" in friendly as well as unfriendly
    countries, military officials said. In the past, such secret operations
    included the spreading of inaccurate or misleading information.

    Mr. Rumsfeld today reiterated comments he made last week after The New
    York Times reported the office's existence and proposed activities: he
    said the military would not be permitted to tell lies to promote American
    policies or views. But he said today that the disclosures about the
    office's potential activities may have doomed its credibility.

    "The person who's in charge is debating whether it should even exist in
    its current form, given all the misinformation and adverse publicity that
    it's received," Mr. Rumsfeld said on the NBC News program "Meet the

    Distancing himself from the office, which reports to Douglas J. Feith,
    the under secretary of defense for policy, Mr. Rumsfeld said he would
    leave its fate in the hands of his top lieutenants. He said he had "never
    even seen the charter for the office."

    But the office's assistant for operations, Thomas A. Timmes, a former
    Army colonel and psychological operations officer, said at a recent
    industry conference that General Worden had briefed Mr. Rumsfeld on the
    purpose and goals of the office at least twice, and that Mr. Rumsfeld had
    given his general support.

    The office, which has a secret multimillion-dollar budget and a staff of
    about 15, had started planning its activities and coordinating with the
    National Security Council, the State Department and other federal

    Top aides to Mr. Rumsfeld have confirmed that he supported the broad
    mission of the Office of Strategic Influence, but they said he had not
    approved any of the classified proposals that were circulating at lower
    levels of the Pentagon, the ones that have stirred up heated internal

    "We're into the frustrating part of ironing out differences within our
    family," Colonel Timmes told those attending the conference, on Feb. 8 in
    Arlington, Va.

    The new office was formed after the Sept. 11 attacks to coordinate
    disparate information operations geared toward assisting the military
    overseas. Administration officials, including Mr. Rumsfeld, have voiced
    concern that the United States was losing public support overseas for its
    war on terrorism, particularly in Islamic countries.

    "The Afghan people were being told that the food rations we were dropping
    were poison, and they weren't," Mr. Rumsfeld said on the CBS News program
    "Face the Nation," adding: "And the Taliban and the Al Qaeda were lying
    about it, and we needed to find ways to tell these people of Afghanistan
    that they could eat that food. Millions of these were dropped."

    Mr. Rumsfeld continued, "There are lots of things that we have to do to
    direct people where they can get humanitarian assistance. So we need to
    be in the business of communicating that kind of information. But this
    department is not in the business of misinforming people."

    Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company

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