WASHINGTON — Remember the Pentagon Office of Special Plans that helped collect dubious intelligence that led to the war in Iraq? Or the program where the Pentagon secretly briefed military analysts to promote the Iraq war?
Meet the would-be Office of Strategic Deception.
In a little-noticed report earlier this month, the Defense Department’s powerful Defense Science Board recommended creation of an entity designed solely for “strategic deception” against US adversaries.
“Specifically,” the report reads (pdf), “we recommend that the Secretary [of Defense] task both the Under Secretaries of Defense for Policy and Intelligence, and the Joint Staff, working with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, to create a tiger team to lay out courses of action and a way ahead for establishing a standing strategic surprise/deception entity. Once the initial work has been completed, all parts of the interagency should be brought into this effort.”
“Strategic deception has in the past provided the United States with significant advantages that translated into operational and tactical success,” it continues. “Successful deception also minimizes U.S. vulnerabilities, while simultaneously setting conditions to surprise adversaries.”
Deception is a common war-time tactic nations use to gain a leg up on their enemies, but as Wired notes, the Pentagon apparently believes the United States must begin engaging in strategic tricks even before it wages war against another country.
“Deception cannot succeed in wartime without developing theory and doctrine in peacetime,” the DSB report reads. “In order to mitigate or impart surprise, the United States should [initiate] deception planning and action prior to the need for military operations.”
And such attempts at strategic trickery must occur at virtually every stage in the United States’ dealings with other nations, the Pentagon’s science board says.
“Denial and deception efforts will be included from the onset, factors into both intelligence and response research and development activities at every stage, including war gaming.”
The DSB report was first flagged by InsideDefense.com.
In 2003, New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh highlighted the Office of Special Plans, a closely guarded cabal that did an end-run around the Pentagon to collect purported intelligence suggesting that Saddam Hussein had ties to al Qaeda and weapons of mass destruction.
“They call themselves, self-mockingly, the Cabal—a small cluster of policy advisers and analysts now based in the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans,” Hersh wrote. “In the past year, according to former and present Bush Administration officials, their operation, which was conceived by Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, has brought about a crucial change of direction in the American intelligence community. These advisers and analysts, who began their work in the days after September 11, 2001, have produced a skein of intelligence reviews that have helped to shape public opinion and American policy toward Iraq. They relied on data gathered by other intelligence agencies and also on information provided by the Iraqi National Congress, or I.N.C., the exile group headed by Ahmad Chalabi.
“According to the Pentagon adviser, Special Plans was created in order to find evidence of what Wolfowitz and his boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, believed to be true—that Saddam Hussein had close ties to Al Qaeda, and that Iraq had an enormous arsenal of chemical, biological, and possibly even nuclear weapons that threatened the region and, potentially, the United States,” Hersh added.
Late last year, Raw Story’s Brad Jacobson revealed evidence that directly tied the activities undertaken in the military analyst program under President George W. Bush — where analysts were briefed to promote the Iraq war — to an official US military document’s definition of psychological operations. Such propaganda that is only supposed to be directed toward foreign audiences.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, who remains a spokesman for the Pentagon today, told Raw Story the program was intended only to “inform.”
Whitman said he stood by an earlier statement in which he averred “the intent and purpose of the [program] is nothing other than an earnest attempt to inform the American public.”