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.
Read in full here.
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 reported on 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 days but surely, he can easily be persuaded to add one more?
- Meet the Pentagon Contractor That Ran a Disinformation Campaign Against Two USA Today Reporters [Smears] (gawker.com)
- USA Today Journalists Become Victims Of ‘Reputation Attack’ After Reporting On Pentagon Propaganda (thinkprogress.org)
- Reporters Slammed By Mysterious Propaganda After USA Today Psy Ops Story (businessinsider.com)
- Pentagon defends millions to contractor despite unpaid taxes (stripes.com)