McChrystal’s Employment of Military Deception
The master of deception pretending to care about civilians
By now, since the New York Times is grudgingly going along with Jerome Starkey’s blockbuster reporting on US Special Operations Forces murdering pregnant Afghan women and manipulating the evidence in an attempt to hide their crimes, it should be painfully obvious to even the most disinterested observer that US forces, and especially US Special Forces, engaged in deception on this case. What I want to point out in this post is that the deception employed here is not a rare, unexpected development, but is instead a designed feature of how our Joint Special Operations Command forces operate under the command of General Stanley McChrystal. Although McChrystal is no longer head of JSOC after assuming command of all forces in Afghanistan, I consider JSOC still to be under his control since his hand-picked aide, William McRaven, is now in command.
Consider the deceptions we can lay unequivocally at McChrystal’s feet. In this article in The Nation, we find evidence that McChrystal played a large role in the coverup of the Pat Tillman death and that he played a personal role in the hiding of Camp NAMA (a secret prison site in Iraq) from the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Another deception that is still being investigated relates to the "suicides" at Guantanamo in 2006. Scott Horton pointed out that the secret Camp No at Guantanamo could well have been under JSOC control. The head of JSOC at that time was Stanley McChrystal. Of special relevance is the report that the throats of the prisoners were missing when their bodies were sent to the families for burial. That seems awfully similar to the action of digging bullets out of bodies with knives. In both cases, bodies were cut up to remove incriminating evidence.
Deception flows easily from JSOC because deception is one of its tasks. Here is Senate testimony from 2003 from Lieutenant General Bryan D. Brown:
Information operations and information warfare will likely play an increasing role in 21st Century warfare. What role do you envision for U.S. SOCOM in overall U.S. information operations?
Special operations forces are very aware of the significant role Information Operations (IO) plays in today’s and in future conflicts. In fact, USSOCOM made IO one of the command’s core tasks in 1996. USSOCOM units have successfully employed IO core capabilities in both OEF and OIF, and IO continues to be embedded throughout SOF operations. However, USSOCOM continues to play a very significant role in PSYOP. As you know, USSOCOM owns the preponderance of the Department’s PSYOP forces and capabilities, including the EC-130 Commando Solo radio and TV broadcast aircraft. Due to the high demand for PSYOP forces, USSOCOM is in the process of growing its PSYOP force structure by adding two active duty regional companies and four reserve component tactical companies. This year the command also proposed an Advanced Technologies Concept Demonstration (ACTD) aimed at improving PSYOP planning tools and long range dissemination into denied hostile areas. In addition, USSOCOM is creating a 70 person Joint PSYOP Support Element, to provide dedicated joint PSYOP planning expertise to the Geographic Combatant Commanders, Strategic Command, and the Secretary of Defense.
Under what circumstances would the Commander, U.S. SOCOM, conduct information operations as a supported combatant commander?
USSOCOM became the lead for the war on terrorism IO planning after September 11th, 2001. In this new capacity, USSOCOM leads collaborative planning, coordination, and when directed, execution of IO. USSOCOM envisions IO supporting surgical, limited duration, counterterrorism missions, as well as, long range planning to develop coordinated, trans-regional strategies against terrorists and their supporters. Due to Strategic Command’s new Unified Command Plan responsibilities in regard to global IO, USSOCOM is working very closely with Strategic Command to insure mutual IO and PSYOP support and continuity.
Remember the recent news about Michael Furlong going a bit overboard on hiring contractors for Information Operations? Here is an interesting snippet from the Washington Post coverage:
Based in Lackland Air Force Base, Tex., the Joint Information Operations Warfare Center is the 435-person lead unit that "plans, integrates and synchronizes information operations in direct support of joint forces commanders . . . across the Defense Department," according its mission statement. Those operations may include "psychological operations . . . and military deception," according to a 2006 publication from the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Because senior military officers have had little experience in those areas, they frequently have relied on private contractors.
After a bit of digging, I found an excerpt from that 2006 Joint Chiefs publication on military deception. What I find interesting in the excerpt is this bit:
The functions of MILDEC include:
a. Causing ambiguity, confusion, or misunderstanding in adversary perceptions of friendly critical information, which may include: unit identities, locations, movements, dispositions, weaknesses, capabilities, strengths, supply status, and intentions.
Was a deception operation put in place to cover the murders of the pregnant Afghan women? Could it have been justified on the basis that admitting the incorrect targeting of this innocent household would reveal a weakness in intelligence gathering for JSOC?
The excerpt of the document even has this illustration of how deception operations are meant to operate:
Glenn Greenwald documented today the creation and dissemination of the false story of the murders of the Afghan women. I find Glenn’s description to match pretty closely the deception process described in the illustration. Without Jerome Starkey piercing the veil of deception, the operation most likely would have worked.