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The Military Sci-Fi

Army Psy Ops Units Targeted American Senators 391

Weezul writes "The US Army illegally ordered a team of soldiers specializing in 'psychological operations' to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war. An officer who tried to stop the operation was railroaded by military investigators. (see also the Hatch Act of 1939)."
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Army Psy Ops Units Targeted American Senators

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  • Too late (Score:2, Insightful)

    by atari2600a ( 1892574 )
    We gave up any meaningful right when we signed the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, & any remaining freedoms with the PATRIOT Act of 2001, so what say you, puny civilians?
    • Re:Too late (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 24, 2011 @12:55PM (#35301434)

      We gave up any meaningful right when we signed the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, & any remaining freedoms with the PATRIOT Act of 2001, so what say you, puny civilians?

      Holy cow are you people starting to sound like broken records. Is this the answer to all questions? The Federal Reserve Act?! What is wrong with our schools?

      • Re:Too late (Score:5, Insightful)

        by atari2600a ( 1892574 ) on Thursday February 24, 2011 @01:07PM (#35301548)
        Put on your tinfoil hats, cause this is how it works: The rich elite that control the central banks finance the politicians that run the military that invade the land of the sand people to take their oil to benefit the bankers that have conveniently invested in the most wasteful forms of energy because waste means profit through cyclical consumption & designed obsoletance which is the same reason you can't clean the fucking fan so it runs out of warrantee so you end up having to run to the store to buy another one because it's broken so open the door get on the floor everybody walk the dinosaur.
      • Re:Too late (Score:5, Funny)

        by h4rm0ny ( 722443 ) on Thursday February 24, 2011 @01:17PM (#35301680) Journal

        Holy cow are you people starting to sound like broken records. Is this the answer to all questions? The Federal Reserve Act?! What is wrong with our schools?

        The US school system used to be one of the best. But it was never the same after the Federal Reserve Act of 1913.

        • Re:Too late (Score:4, Informative)

          by mooingyak ( 720677 ) on Thursday February 24, 2011 @01:44PM (#35302072)

          I managed not to snort while laughing, but it took effort.

    • We (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Please stop using the term "we" to describe the actions of the elite few at the top of the pyramid.

    • Re:Too late (Score:5, Insightful)

      by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <> on Thursday February 24, 2011 @01:10PM (#35301584) Homepage Journal

      uhhh... i hear you on the patriot act, but you do realize that the fed was brought into existence not because of some retarded senator palpatine style freedom destroying plot, which seems to be the way you think, but because people were sick of banking panic after banking panic laying waste to the economy and people's lives and financial well being: []

      and although i'd really love to hear your john birch society conspiracy theories about the fed, i'm sorry, but i have an appointment with economic reality and psychological stability that i really must keep, adieu

      • Re:Too late (Score:5, Insightful)

        by babblefrog ( 1013127 ) on Thursday February 24, 2011 @01:17PM (#35301678)
        Didn't work, did it? The panics of 1930-1933 were the worst yet.
        • Re:Too late (Score:5, Insightful)

          by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <> on Thursday February 24, 2011 @01:36PM (#35301902) Homepage Journal

          yes, so we got the FDIC added, along with the glass steagall act banking protections... which were underminded starting with reagan, legislated around further through clinton, and gutted under bush ii (hey SEC: stop doing your job, there's no guy pulling off a giant ponzi scheme, naaah). leading to, surprise! the crash of 2008

          anything else i can help you with?

          • The Republican Congress in the 80s under Reagan found that Glass Steagall was useful and resisted the banking industry lobby that wanted it repealed. Gutted by Clinton and congressional Republicans(with major Democratic support). The Garn-St Germain act(savings and loan deregulation) was narrow and had broad bipartisan support. I wouldn't say S&L dereg undermined Glass Steagall at all(Congress reaffirmed its support in Glass-Steagall after S&L dereg), and Reagan approved increasing the amount the
        • by toastar ( 573882 )
          Meh, We Go through cycles, The fed is the third bank of the united states. If we abolish it, I'm sure we'll see what will happen with the 4th bank of the united states sometime in my lifetime.
          Something to note, While the fed was crated before the depression, The Fed was significantly weaker origination than it was today. It wasn't until after the crash that the treasury department was banned from touching monetary policy. .

          Anyhow it seems like the FDIC really has made good old fashioned bank runs a thing
          • Chase took away credit score monitoring and then raised rates and fees on everything and then raised them some more. Free credit score report every month was the only reason to have a relatively high rate WaMu card in the first place. You're correct that there wasn't a bank run and no one lost all of their money. It is ignorant to say that people didn't get screwed when WaMu became Chase and that everyone didn't get screwed by less competition in the banking industry after every bank created new fees and ri
      • Re:Too late (Score:5, Funny)

        by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) on Thursday February 24, 2011 @01:17PM (#35301686) Homepage Journal

        people were sick of banking panic after banking panic laying waste to the economy and people's lives and financial well being:

        Good thing they put a stop to that, then!

        • Re:Too late (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Austerity Empowers ( 669817 ) on Thursday February 24, 2011 @03:06PM (#35303326)

          Thus far in my life, I have never gone to the bank and asked to make a withdrawal of money I had in account, and been denied. I think this is nearly unheard of. My great-grandmother told us some different stories (before and after 1913). My parents do not in their lifetime recall having been denied, nor did my grandmother who was born somewhere around 1928 (though during her early years it must certainly have been common, she would have been too young to recall it).

          In my lifetime I recall 3 major economic downturns, each worse than the last, during which I personally experienced temporary devaluation of my investments, and generally slower growth than I might have expected based on prior data. In spite of this, all my investments are worth more than what I put in to them, even right now, though I do expect when dealing with "investments" that I may lose money. If I didn't want to lose money I wouldn't "invest", I'd put it in an insured bank account, or not trusting that, buy non-perishable commodities and try to hide them around the house.

          So though I suspect your comment was snarky, I think we did put a stop to that. The question is have we let enough safeguards erode such that our overall economic stability might return us to my great-grandmothers time of bank panics and shortages.

      • Re:Too late (Score:5, Interesting)

        by chill ( 34294 ) on Thursday February 24, 2011 @01:25PM (#35301788) Journal

        Except we had the First Bank of the United States and the Second Bank of the United States, which were essentially central banks and they didn't help.

        And the Fed not only didn't help avert the Great Depression, they admitted to making it worse thru over contraction of the monetary supply.

        Considering the number of recessions, the modern name for bank panic, after the creation of the Fed, what exactly is your argument? They certainly haven't either slowed down or flattened out the severity of any, including the current, the ones in the 1980s and all the ones past.

      • So you no longer wonder why it is that a country that has a sovereign right to print money and has a printing press is over 12 TRILLION dollars in debt? And why that same country just created TRILLIONS for the banks to cover their stupidity? Maybe there was a better way to handle the crises you speak of. Check this out: [] A quote:The Fed makes money ex nihilo, pulling it out of thin air rather than taking it from its coffers. Then, it pushes the money into the economy by bu
        • Re:Too late (Score:4, Insightful)

          by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Thursday February 24, 2011 @01:36PM (#35301910) Journal

          The Fed shares only a small part of the blame.

          1. Dual mandate of price stability and employment--came from Congress, and pulled the Fed out of areas where it's equipped to act.

          2. A more regressive tax structure, started under Reagan.

          3. Massive, unnecessary wars started by GWB.

          4. Well meaning, but in retrospect ill advised government efforts to encourage home ownership. Also not something the Fed did.

          If you're blaming the Fed, it's like blaming the tail for wagging the dog. Some people even go so far as to argue that the ability to print money causes wars. If you look at history, you see that the war comes first, then they turn to money printing. The gold standard does NOT keep people honest, honestly! As soon as government has a reason, they immediately trash the gold standard. As one author put it, "the gold standard is as good as the paper it's written on".

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by scot4875 ( 542869 )


          All money was created out of thin air. (well, out of a cotton/paper pulp, ink, and some printing presses, but I digress)

          All money is only worth what other people are willing to give you in exchange for it. All gold is only worth what other people are willing to give you in exchange for it. What's the difference? With gold-backed currency, people are trading pieces of paper that they believe might be able to get them some amount of gold to other people who value the piece of paper that may be wor

      • One thought that crossed my mind as I was reading this thread. Our Supreme Court writes up their rulings along with their lines of thought, their analysis, the precedents, etc. They do so in great detail. They do so with in-depth analysis. Why not require all elected officials that are responsible for passing laws that vote yes or no, and those that abstain, including the President, to write up their decisions in as an in-depth way as the Supreme Court. And this information should be published in the s

    • We gave up any meaningful right when we signed the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, & any remaining freedoms with the PATRIOT Act of 2001, so what say you, puny civilians?

      What's really interesting here, is that we're not seeing the usual Big Gov't vs puny civilian story, but rather Big Gov't division A vs. Big Government to such an extent. It's one thing for, say, Bernanke to elaborate some nice rhetoric to the congress in order to explain his printing money "for the good of society". But to amass a small psychological army (no pun intended) to purposefully brainwash the congress? Now that's scary....

      • There was no congress; the bill was signed into law on christmas eve when most where at home with their families.
  • Lobbyists? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 24, 2011 @12:39PM (#35301234)

    So basically the army used its soldiers as lobbyists?

    • Well one of the points that Lt. Colonel makes in the article is that they have rules that restrain themselves from using propaganda against American civilians. So I guess, in that sense, they're not really lobbyists.
    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      That is an interesting point. These troops are experts at getting people to see what you want to see. To put it another way they are experts at being persuasive. They sound more like really good public affairs officers than anything else.
      So the question is this.
      If they where not ordered to lie to the senators.
      If they didn't drug them, deprive them of sleep, or blast them with heavy metal music 24/7.
      Was there any wrong doing?
      Simple answer seems yes since he Officer in question asked the JAG and got an ans

  • by Marc_Hawke ( 130338 ) on Thursday February 24, 2011 @12:39PM (#35301236)

    Psy-Ops? Isn't that what Dr Horrible's, (I mean Neil Patrick Harris) character was assigned to in Starship Troopers?

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Thursday February 24, 2011 @12:41PM (#35301256) Journal

    What are the chances anyone will serve time for this crime?

    • by jd ( 1658 )

      It depends on whether it can be blamed on someone who sounds important but doesn't really do anything any more. In politics, it is better to seem like you're doing something than to actually do something.

  • by astrodoom ( 1396409 ) on Thursday February 24, 2011 @12:48PM (#35301332)
    He asked them to provide him with background on the politicians and a methodology to get them to support the war. This guy did less than McDonalds does to sell a big mac, and the guy who "blew the whistle" has an overinflated view of his "skills and training".
    • by Hojima ( 1228978 ) on Thursday February 24, 2011 @01:22PM (#35301736)

      Actually, it's more like conning than selling. Do you actually think that they are required to tell the truth when coercing them? Also, one of the biggest proponents of the 11 billion that the country has pissed away was influenced by the unit, so I'm assuming it may have had at least a little impact. What's also scummy about this is that he explicitly used a unit meant only for the enemy on US citizens (which is EXACTLY what the law says NOT to do). On top of that, in order to can his case, they ruined the career of a female major under him, saying she had inappropriate relationships with him.

  • Did we not read the linked Wiki page? Applicability to U.S. military personnel [].

    However there is an order basically stating the same thing. I don't know if this means the military can cheat their own order, though.

    • "The Hatch Act of 1939 is a United States federal law whose main provision is to prohibit federal employees (civil servants) from engaging in partisan political activity."

      I think it's a little bit of a stretch to call "requesting more resources to do your job" a "partisan political activity." The things that usually fall under that are stuff like campaigning for a presidential candidate or something.

  • by chemicaldave ( 1776600 ) on Thursday February 24, 2011 @12:51PM (#35301374)

    According to Holmes, the general wanted the IO team to provide a "deeper analysis of pressure points we could use to leverage the delegation for more funds." The general’s chief of staff also asked Holmes how Caldwell could secretly manipulate the U.S. lawmakers without their knowledge. "How do we get these guys to give us more people?" he demanded. "What do I have to plant inside their heads?"

    It might not be ethical, but how is this different than organizations that lobby congress? This seems blown up. Would it be ok if instead of being called "Psy-Ops" they were called "Public Relations?"

    • See, the fact that they call it "Psy-Ops" instead of "Public Relations" is a pretty good argument that they're not very good at it.

    • by Rich0 ( 548339 ) on Thursday February 24, 2011 @01:00PM (#35301472) Homepage

      It might not be ethical, but how is this different than organizations that lobby congress?

      Well, in terms of being unethical, it clearly isn't any different from organizations that lobby congress. I'm not sure how that makes it OK.

      Your honor, I realize I killed that guy in cold blood, but people with more influence than I get off on technicalities all the time, so you should let me go too...

      However, if it makes you feel better, I'm fine with banning lobbyists as well.

    • Generally speaking, the purpose of PR is to make people feel good about an organization. Psy-Ops does that kind of work ("winning hearts and minds," to use a phrase popular in a previous failed guerilla war) but they also try to scare the shit out of other people. The general idea is to convince neutrals that you'd make a good ally, allies that you're steadfast and capable, and enemies that you're invincible and the best thing they can do is surrender right now. That last bit may be the ultimate goal of

    • Other organizations that lobby Congress aren't trained in psychological operations and federally barred from using that training on American citizens.
    • by Hatta ( 162192 )

      Do you really think that it's appropriate for the military to lobby congress with public funds in what is supposed to be a civilian democracy?

    • It might not be ethical, but how is this different than organizations that lobby congress? This seems blown up. Would it be ok if instead of being called "Psy-Ops" they were called "Public Relations?"

      I would suggest that a military Psy-Ops organization's list of available actions should include Lying. A military PR group interacting with the the sponsoring populace and governing body should not be allowed to lie.

      The reason being that the military is civilian controlled. They don't get to set policy. Atte

  • Civil Rule (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Thursday February 24, 2011 @01:02PM (#35301496) Homepage Journal
    The US Constitution is not as formally human right center as some other constitutions, but the one thing it does do is solidly center the rule on a civilian government. The only standing military force that has any constitutional legitimacy is the Navy. The president controls all military operations, and the military essentially has no rights at all. All military rights are centered on the people, who have the freedom to defend themselves from a a priori corrupt military.

    The civilian government is defined by three co-equal branches of government, which, many forget, incudes the judiciary who have all rights to govern as any other branch of government. They may not be directly elected, but so was the case of the executive branch when the Constitution was written.

    The problem is that the Military has become too big for it's britches. They think they matter, they think that they can throw temper tantrums and not follow orders and directive from the civil rulers simply because they do not want to. They think that somehow their confort is more important than the comfort of the taxpayers that fund their livelihoods. Sure they have a tough and dangerous jobs, but they made a choice. Many of us had made equivalent choices. The military is voluntary, if one person is not willing to the job they are paid to do, then some one else will. Hell, we have people who are willing to earn the money they are paid but are prevented to do so due to bigotry.

    We have to fund the people who protect us. The fact that we have a tax cut exactly when our solider were dying due to lack of equipment is something this country is never going to live down. Anyone who voted to send our troops into battle then voted to not fund them has an issue with basic human decency. OTOH, the military has to respect civilian rule even if they don't agree with it. They do not have the freedoms of a civilians to effect rules.

  • Oh noes! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ScentCone ( 795499 )
    Officer: Jones, I want you to be the guy from your unit that talks to the Senators when they mingle with troops to get a feel for things.
    Jones: Why me? I'm psy-ops, and I'm not supposed to do any Jedi mind tricks on US citizens.
    Officer: You also happen to be the most articulate person in the unit, and have an actual understanding of how to communicate a position based on local experience and observations, and even know what the word "rhetoric" actually means when someone wants to know your boiled-down opi
    • The sad part is that this sort of investigative journalism should be getting published by the New York Times or Washington Post or CNN. Instead, it's been relegated to places like Rolling Stone.

      It's also fair to say that anyone who's been reading Matt Taibbi's coverage of the financial crisis in Rolling Stone has at least as good a picture of what's really going on as somebody who listens to Larry Kudlow on CNBC.

    • Of course the military wants more soldiers and money, that's the nature of the forces. However, what's at issue here is were these soldiers lying to the Congress in order to get their way?

      I don't find it that difficult to believe that when Senators showed up, the military gives them a finely crafted Potemkin village of happy Afghans and maps showing the Taliban all in retreat. Anyone who watches BBC or Al Jazeera English [] knows that's just not the case.

    • Re:Oh noes! (Score:5, Informative)

      by djmurdoch ( 306849 ) on Thursday February 24, 2011 @01:56PM (#35302282)

      But that's not how it went. The Psy-Ops guys were asked to study the dignitaries in order to find our how to manipulate them, and to sit in on meetings with them without identifying their role. They weren't asked to show off how articulate they were.

    • by PhxBlue ( 562201 )

      Officer: You also happen to be the most articulate person in the unit, and have an actual understanding of how to communicate a position based on local experience and observations, and even know what the word "rhetoric" actually means when someone wants to know your boiled-down opinion about a complex, topic.

      That's what the installation public affairs officer is for.

  • ... its back to handing out hookers and blow.

  • If anyone had ever asked me "what is the magazine least likely to be read by a Slashdotter" is, I think I'd have picked Rolling Stone.

  • How is this any different from a commander including a room full of water-damaged equipment during a congressional visit, to highlight the need for funding roof repairs in a critical facility that is too old to get maintenance/upkeep funding through normal procedures?

    Really, the military can't fund or equip itself so whenever the people who DO fund and equip the military come by for a visit, you can bet your ass that the military commander will attempt to tell his story to the visitors. This is the way it

  • How is this news?? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tolvor ( 579446 ) on Thursday February 24, 2011 @02:10PM (#35302534)

    This PsyOps division engaged in heavy persuasion sounds like what everyone else does everyday. Lets see...

    "compiling detailed profiles of the VIPs, including their voting records, their likes and dislikes, and their "hot-button issues."
    Okay. To some degree this is what a lot of people do before a romantic date. You try to find out what the other person will like by checking their Facebook page, checking with mutual friends, and maybe floating a few vague questions to the date. People going to a job interview does their back research on the president of the company, the company history, and any industry issues so that they appear professional, competent, and knowledgeable. How can it be wrong for the army to do the same commonsense action?

    "deeper analysis of pressure points we could use to leverage the delegation for more funds." "What do I have to plant inside their heads?"
    So what? This is called management. Anyone that has ever been given a job performance warning or given one to an employee has had the same thing. The message is clear. You will do better. You will work harder, longer, and smile while doing it. You are lucky to have a job, and we can fire you. The police are training on how to give clear voice commands to keep order. Mothers constantly work with just this technique to train their children not to do what's fun like hurting the family pet, breaking furniture, and generally dangerous behavior (no, you WILL NOT jump backwards down the stairs. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!? Good. Now TELL ME what you WON'T DO.) Is the article seriously expect the army not to use the most basic management techniques?

    "CIA to put together background dossiers on congressional opponents"
    Yep, and employers routinely run background checks on all job candidates. Drunk driving, sorry, no job for you. Bad debt means you are irresponsible and untrustworthy.

    "exploiting new technologies like blogging and Wikipedia"
    Companies now monitor all social media sites. I know of one that has software key loggers on all company computers to get the blog passwords and monitor the content. Any negative posting about the company and the person is fired within three weeks for general performance issues (including the use of non-work related blogging on company computers). This is not illegal. Should it be illegal for the army to do the same?

    "Holmes learned that he was the subject of an investigation, called an AR 15-6"
    Yep, and hopefully Holmes will be thrown in prison. In business this is called either insider trading (in finance), or ethical misuse of corporate information (business). It is a felony and there have been a lot of people that have gone to jail for it (ex, Martha Stewart). In the military Bradley Manning (Wiki leaks) has been facing military court martial for basically the same thing. Apparently Holmes feels he special and that he is immune from investigation for exposing serious military intelligence.

    "After being reprimanded, Holmes and his team were essentially ignored for the rest of their tours in Afghanistan"
    Yes, that sounds about right. Who in their right minds pays attention to a general screw-up? In relationships that break up the people remain separated and generally ignore each other afterward. People that are fired are escorted carefully to the door and then forgotten (and replaced). If you switch from one bank to a different bank you don't keep going to the previous bank to make sure they are doing okay. This is only common sense. Holmes is indeed very special.

    "there is no way to tell what, if any, influence it had on American policy."
    Little to none, certainly not illegal or even questionable.

  • by Bobfrankly1 ( 1043848 ) on Thursday February 24, 2011 @02:28PM (#35302794)
    These are not the funds you are looking for.
  • by Frangible ( 881728 ) on Thursday February 24, 2011 @10:27PM (#35308634)
    LTC Holmes was under investigation for misconduct -- going AWOL, abusing his position for profit, and surfing the web playing Facebook games instead of working. (a real REMF) Then after this comes to light, he suddenly started raising other allegations.

    He's a Forward Support Team Chief from the 71st Theater Information Operations Group. The FST is NOT a "PSY-OPS" (sic) team. The General simply asked him to prepare some background information on people who were visiting-- there's nothing illegal about that, and he should've done his job.

    Rolling Stones uses ridiculous language and implications to create the illusion that "PSYOP" are a bunch of Sith who go around using Jedi Mind Powers on the weak-willed to compel them to do their bidding. Here's what they actually do: drive around in Hummer, play loud music, and say really mean things about the Taliban's moms on a loudspeaker.

    So exactly what would a PSYOP operation on a congressman entail? A couple tactical speaker monkeys following them around in a Hummer, playing loud music, and insulting their mother. It's not the kind of thing that gets you more funding, eh?

You will never amount to much. -- Munich Schoolmaster, to Albert Einstein, age 10