Tags: Pentagon | Close | 'Influence' | Office

Pentagon to Close 'Influence' Office

Saturday, 23 February 2002 12:00 AM

"The office has clearly been so damaged it could not function, so it is being closed down," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld said other offices would fulfill the functions of the office, including deception of enemy forces and monitoring and countering propaganda.

The office was conceived by Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith in November as a place to counter Taliban propaganda. But as the office took shape, controversial possible missions leaked to the press, including a proposal that the office secretly plant false news stories in the foreign media, provoking an outcry on opinion pages.

"What it was to do was an open question even as it ends its short, prominent life," Rumsfeld said.

"It's over. It's done. What do you want, blood?" he joked.

He said Feith decided on his own to close the office in a meeting with Rumsfeld on Tuesday.

Feith created it, according to Rumsfeld, to exert civilian control over the military's information operation office on the Joint Staff. That military office was working directly with the White House and the State Department in crafting information campaigns.

"Feith felt there ought to be a civilian office to monitor that activity," Rumsfeld told reporters at a Pentagon press conference.

Rumsfeld would not concede that the office hurt Pentagon credibility. "If it has, we'll rebuild it," he said.

At a breakfast with reporters Feb. 20, Feith said the Pentagon would not abandon its effort to use information to its advantage on the battlefield but said the scope of the office had not yet been determined.

"We have an enormous stake in our credibility, and we're going to preserve that, but we're not going to give up on the obvious usefulness of managing information of various types for the purpose of helping our armed forces accomplish their mission," he said.

The office was not just controversial in the press. It also had enemies in the Pentagon, where some military and civilian officials worried that even the hint of impropriety in the office tainted the entire Defense Department's reputation for honesty.

The New York Times reported Monday that the White House was unaware of the Office of Strategic Influence until word of it leaked into the press.

Stephen J. Hadley, the deputy national security adviser, called senior Pentagon officials to express concern about the office's reported activities, the Times said.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent a letter inquiring about the purpose of the office to Rumsfeld on Friday.

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The office has clearly been so damaged it could not function, so it is being closed down, Rumsfeld said. Rumsfeld said other offices would fulfill the functions of the office, including deception of enemy forces and monitoring and countering propaganda. The office was...
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2002-00-23
Saturday, 23 February 2002 12:00 AM
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