Strategic Influence Office 'Closed Down,' Says Rumsfeld
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 26, 2002 The Office of Strategic Influence will be closed, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said today.
"I met with Undersecretary (of Defense for Policy) Doug Feith this morning, and he indicated to me that he's decided to close down the Office of Strategic Influence," Rumsfeld told Pentagon reporters.
The OSI, under Feith's purview, was created last November to aid U.S. efforts to influence countries overseas to help or at least support the war against global terrorism. The office has been under criticism since a New York Times report that the office would plant false press releases in foreign media outlets to manipulate public opinion.
The media have asserted that such false stories -- or disinformation -- could eventually find their way into American news reports. Such a scenario, Rumsfeld has said in recent days, would be entirely contrary to DoD's policy on the dissemination of information to the public.
The secretary remarked on the "many stories about this office, and commentary, some portion of which has contained inaccurate speculation and assertions, that the office could become involved in activities that the department, in fact, has not done, is not doing and would not condone."
OSI, Rumsfeld remarked, "clearly was so damaged that it's pretty clear to me that it could not function effectively.
"So, it's being closed down," he said.
DoD has performed information operations missions targeted to Afghans, Rumsfeld noted, adding, "We will continue to do that in the future." The department defines information operations as "actions taken to affect adversary information and information systems while defending one's own information and information systems."
"We've told people where they can get humanitarian assistance, we told people about the difference between cluster bomb packages and food packages," the secretary remarked.
Asked by a reporter if disinformation is a DoD activity, Rumsfeld answered: "It most clearly is not."