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Defense Will Not Lie to Public, Feith Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20, 2002 – When Defense Department officials speak to the public, they tell the truth, said Defense Undersecretary for Policy Douglas Feith.

Feith spoke Feb. 20 to a group of defense writers in Washington. He said despite the reports about the Office of Strategic Influence,

Deception Has a Place in War

By Jim Garamone

The Defense Department often tries to deceive enemies, and in just two classic cases the results were victory and the saving of countless lives.

During World War II, the Allies planning the D-Day invasion of Europe invented a "bodyguard of lies" that hid the true plans from the Germans while tricking them into making mistakes. The Germans wanted to believe the Allies would invade by the shortest sea route, from Dover, England, to the Pas de Calais, France. The Allies did what they could to convince the Germans they were right, from inflating armies of rubber tanks and trucks in the Dover countryside to "letting it be known" Gen. George Patton was heading a huge army forming in southern England.

A more contemporary example of deception was during the Gulf War. The very presence of a large Marine assault force off Kuwait was enough to start rampant, public speculation as to the Marines' role and U.S. intentions. It was more than enough to lead Iraq to keep troops in Kuwait. Meanwhile, allied troops moved west and executed the left hook maneuver that defeated Saddam Hussein's army in 96 hours.

"Defense Department officials don't lie to the public. We are confident that the truth serves our interests in the broadest sense of our national security and specifically in this war."

"Information operations" do not have to be untruthful, either. "One of the major things we did during the Cold War was bring true information through the Iron Curtain," Feith said.

Feith said the United States has been advertising rewards in Afghanistan -- those are "information operations." So, too, were the Commando Solo radio broadcasts that told the Afghan populace what to expect, warned people about unexploded ordnance, and told them that humanitarian rations could be eaten.

But there are operational and tactical uses of information. "We have an interest in the enemy not knowing, not being confident, about what we are going to do," Feith said. "There are all kinds of ways of affecting enemies' perceptions of what our armed forces are doing that don't involve Defense Department officials lying to the public."

Feith said defense officials are forming the mandate of the Office of Strategic Influence. They are addressing the proper way to conceive information operations -- and they will do so in a way that "protects the purity, the veracity, the accuracy of the public affairs work done by the department and other agencies of the government," he said.

"It's important that people really be clear on this point," he said. "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 missions."

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