The U.S. military’s propaganda activities — known formally and euphemistically as “information operations” — has this week faced serious accusations of targeting Americans, a major infraction. According to USA Today, military personnel (or contractors) apparently took to the web to unleash a vitriolic, and embarrassingly transparent, smear campaign against two of the paper’s staff members. Why? Because they published a damning investigation of the military’s dubious propaganda campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
USA Today reported on Thursday evening that a reporter and an editor, Tom Vanden Brook and Ray Locker, respectively, had been victims of a web campaign intent on damaging their professional reputations. Though the paper couldn’t confirm who was behind the attack, they’ve got their suspicions: It started shortly after the two staffers kicked off an investigation of the Pentagon’s own propaganda contractors.
The military has been quick to deny involvement in any smear campaign. “We’re not aware of any participation in such activities, nor would it be acceptable,” Lt. Col. James Gregory, a Pentagon spokesperson, told the paper.
On the off-chance that the smear campaign was the work of some random troll unconnected to the Pentagon, that would be merely a massively toolish thing to do. But if the amateurish initiative really was the work of Pentagon staffers or contractors, it’s a flagrant attack on freedom of the press and possibly illegal, since “information operations” are never supposed to target Americans.
Gawker has identified the purported culprit, and it turns out the same company reportedly owed at least $4 million in federal taxes when the contracts were awarded. Stripes reportedon April 16 that “The tax problems of the military’s top propaganda contractor in Afghanistan would not have prevented the Pentagon from awarding it multimillion-dollar contracts. Oh, dear!
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has his hands full these daysbut surely, he can easily be persuaded to add one more?
Headgear, headwear or headdress is the term for any element of clothing worn on one’s head for a variety of purposes — for protection, fashion, social convention or religious purposes. And our foreign service has bunches of this:
US Embassy India
Former US Ambassador to India, Tim Roemer wearing a colorful turban during a visit to Jodhpur (Photo from US Embassy India/Flickr)
US Mission Japan
FSO Margot Carrington (aka "Amerikan Omaru") during her Kabuki Diplomacy in Fukuoka, Japan. Wearing her hair in a yakkoshimada. (Photo screen grab from YouTube)
US Mission Afghanistan
Former US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry during a provincial trip. Shown in the photo wearing a Lungei (Photo from US Embassy Kabul/Flickr)
Unidentified woman in a red scarf included in a photo set of Ambassador Olson's trip to Paktika Province. (Photo from US Embassy Kabul/Flickr)
Dr. Laura Tedesco, archaeologist, U.S. Embassy Kabul, checks out the ongoing excavation at the Towers of Ghazni (Bahlan Shah Minar) in Ghazni, Afghanistan on Wednesday, October 26, 2011. She's shown in the photo wearing a bullet proof vest and what looks like a black Kevlar bullet proof ballistic helmet (Photo from US Embassy Kabul/Flickr)
U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker checks on construction at the new U.S. Consulate in Herat, Afghanistan on Thursday, August 25, 2011. Shown here wearing a construction hard hat. (S.K. Vemmer/Department of State)
Public Affairs Officer Donna Welton wearing a gorgeous headscarf listens to the speakers during inauguration of the LLC in Maimana on January 31, 2012. (Photo from US Embassy Kabul/Flickr)
Ambassador Richard Olson, the Coordinating Director for Development and Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy Kabul wearing a Lungei (or headdress that is worn by men) during a visit to Paktika, Afghanistan. The Turban is a symbol of honor and is respected everywhere it is worn; it is a common practice to honor important guests by offering them one to wear. (Photo from US Embassy Kabul/Flickr)
US Mission Pakistan
Dr. Marilyn Wyatt, with her husband, US Ambassador to Pakistann Cameron Munter participated in an interfaith dialogue on at Faisal Mosque's International Islamic University. She's shown above wearing a long, multi-purpose scarf (a dupatta?) that is essential to many South Asian women. (Photo from US Embassy Pakistan/Flickr)
Ambassador Cameron Munter during a tour of a complex of three newly-inaugurated schools in KP Province. The schools were rebuilt with U.S. government support after their destruction in the 2005 earthquake. He is shown here wearing a pakol, a soft, round-topped men's hat, typically of wool worn by many all over Pakistan and Afghanistan. (Screen grab from YouTube video)
William Martin, US Consul General in Karachi wearing a traditional Sindhi Cap and Ajrak cloth. A Cap and Arjak Day is celebrated by the people of Sindh, province of Pakistan to express their loyalty to the Sindhi culture and it's cultural symbols. (Photo from USCG Karachi/FB)
U.S. Consul General Carmela Conroy gets ready to enter the vulture compound for feeding time, complete with head and dress cover. (Photo taken during the Earth Day Celebration in April 2011 at the ‘Vulture Conservation Center’ in Changa Manga. (Photo from USCG Lahore/FB)
Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of USAID with a cap and ajrak, during the launch of the USAID funded National Reading Program at Government Girls Primary/Secondary School in Sultanabad, Karachi (Photo from USCG Karachi/Flickr)
U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary R. Clinton and her delegation observe a moment of silence at the shrine of Sufi Saint Shah Abdul Latif Kazmi, Bari Imam, near Islamabad.U.S. Secretary of State's Visit to Shrine of Sufi Saint Bari Imam, Islamabad, 29 October 2009. (State Dept. photo via US Embassy London/Flickr)
US Embassy Switzerland
United States Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein Donald S. Beyer Jr (2nd from right) wearing a red hard hat visits the CERN LHC Large Hadron Collider. CERN, also the birthplace of the Internet. Photo taken in the CMS Cavern with an analogue camera due to strong magnetic field. (Photo from US Embassy Bern/Courtesy of CERN)
US Embassy Marshall Islands
Ambassador Campbell with program manager Ken Taggart from the Waan Aelon in Majel, Canoes of the Marshall Islands program. Shown in the photo with the traditional floral headress. (Photo from US Embassy Majuro/FB)
US Embassy Cameroon
US Embassy Micronesia
Ambassador Peter Prahar provides remarks at the Pacific Partnership 2011 Closing Ceremony on July 14. Shown here wearing a floral headress popular in the islands (Photo from US Embassy Micronesia/FB)
US Embassy Malaysia
Via US Embassy Malaysia: "On September 28, 2011, Ambassador Paul Jones reached the hearts and minds of more than 700 Orang Asli (indigenous people) in Rompin, Pahang. He was accompanied by Malaysian Ambassador to the U.S., Dato’ Sri Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis. Students, teachers and village elders greeted Ambassador Jones and delegation at the entrance of the Sekolah Kebangsaan Kedaik. This was followed by a welcoming greeting by the village head, Boo Hsuan who then presented them with traditional headgear and sashes made from coconut leaves." (Photo from US Embassy Malaysia website)
US Mission China
Consul General Linda Donahue shows Monkey and Pig (with respective mask and hat) how easy it is to use the new DS-160 online visa application form. (Photo from US Embassy Beijing/Flickr)
US Embassy Lebanon
U.S Ambassador Jeffrey D. Feltman greets American evacuees (wearing protective headgears) as they board U.S. Marines helicopter which will take them from the grounds of the U.S. Embassy in Aukar at the northern edge of the capital Beirut in Lebanon to Cyprus on Tuesday, July 18, 2006. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian via militaryphotos.net)
Maj. Gen. John Toolan dances (in full Afghan gear) during a farewell dinner for distinguished members of the Afghan governmental and police forces and II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) senior officers on March 8. (Photos by Chief Petty Officer Leslie Shively)
Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s not, but neither last … we hope you enjoy this round-up.