November 18, 2011

CENTCOM Countering Extremist Propaganda Online

This is an interesting turn for CENTCOM. Given the paranoid mindset of many in the Muslim world, though, I wonder just how effective these counter-propaganda efforts can be when those doing it are up front about their relationship to the U.S. military?

Say something pro-US on some of these websites and you'll be branded a "liar", a "traitor", a "Zionist", or a "spy". Do it in the name of the U.S. military and remove all doubt.

It seems to me a far better strategy would be to secretly employ these people to counter false Islamist propaganda. The real problem with this kind of secrecy is the reaction the left and the media to it. But I'm not sure the solution here is "transparency". No, I think the solution is making sure the secret is kept.

Here's a tidbit:

In recent months, Mr. Safavi and his teammates spotted posts that included doctored photographs of Osama bin Laden purporting to prove that Al Qaeda’s leader had not died in an American commando raid. They turned up blogs stating that the Pentagon was accelerating war plans for invading many Muslim nations, and others amplifying Taliban accusations that American troops rape with impunity across Afghanistan.

Mr. Safavi works as part of the Digital Engagement Team, established in 2008 by the military’s Central Command to “counter extremist ideology, promote cultural awareness and explain U.S. interests,” said Maj. David E. Nevers, the team’s chief officer, who must approve all responses before they are posted on foreign-language Web sites.

Interesting, and I really do wish the team well, I'm just not very hopeful that they'll be able to counter the message.

But there is some hope from other agencies and groups working on similar projects:

The government’s expanding efforts in computer-network warfare, offense and defense are among the most secret enterprises carried out by the military and intelligence community. To counter the adversary’s use of the Internet, American cyberwarriors have hacked into extremist chat rooms to sow confusion, or to inject poisonous code to take down militant Web sites. Sometimes, they choose not to act, but silently track the online movements of jihadists to learn their plans.
So, keep up the efforts online jihadis. You're really saving us a lot of work.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 11:51 AM | Comments |