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Deception II: Good on a cold day

I might have been to hasty on my previous post on Pentagon's considerations on deceiving the public. Deception is also a necessary weapon of war.

Today my lecturer in Intelligence and International Security mentioned this article by Michael Schrage in the Washington Post about the capture of Al-Qaeda computer-whizz Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan. The capture was highly publicised in various media outlets and a subsequent storm of intelligence officers claiming that the publicity had ruined a good double-agent situation arose. But Michael Schrage points to the fact that it might all just have been a deception, trying to deceive Al-Qaeda cells and leaders into doing anomalous things that might make it easier to track them down.

He writes:

"Disinformation may not guarantee a victory, but it surely buys time, just as it did for the Allies in Operation Fortitude. Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower had the incomparable luxury of knowing how successful their deceptions were, thanks to the Bletchley Park cryptanalysts who had cracked the codes of Germany's high command. But even without such intimate knowledge of the current enemy, U.S., British and European intelligence agencies would be fools to give al Qaeda sympathizers any accurate impression of what they know. Media disinformation is thus as much a defensive shield as an offensive weapon.

Though the idea of disinformation makes free societies uncomfortable, it's likely that most Americans would understand if the government withheld some information about its counterterrorist operations, since putting it all out there would give terrorists too much knowledge of our vulnerabilities. Conversely, outright propaganda and wag-the-dog scenarios utterly bereft of fact would undermine both security and credibility. "

And I very much agree.

I quess you could discern here between an epideitic and a deliberative use of deception. The epideitic is propagandistic disinformation over a broad bank where you try to blur the entire societal and military situation on the "War against Terror" - where the deliberative is more tactical and operational deception, to gain or work towards a specific strategic objective.

Schrage suggests that the best way to deal with deception is to admit that it is used openly. I somewhat agree but here we just run into that strange apparition that is the "War against Terror" - because is it a war, a real war, or what? Shouldn't we limit our use of massive deception to war-situations? This really shows some of the inherent dangers of the strange definition entailed in the "War against Terror." War is peace, remember?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well there's no denying that "The war on terror" is a massive discursive generator and legitimizer of many ignoble deeds. However it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which a country like the US is not "at war" to some extent. Since WW II The United States has been at war most, if not all, of the time (and incidentaly they have also in this period been the biggest economic and cultural power on the planet). Consequently disinformation has been the norm for decades - I think I can say without sounding too paranoid - and yes war has been peace.
This of course leads to a revaluation of the terms "war" and "peace", a subject far too big for the present context. However I share your concern that the countries of the free world will gradually sink into a state of permanent martial law, unable to discern between necesarry security measures and war mongering. And this calls for epideictic rhetoric aimed at preserving the values of personal integrity, liberty, democracy, etc. without shortcircuiting to a clash of civilizations and the accompanying vocabulary of conflict, mistrust and inevitability. Any sugestions on worthy (contemporary or historic) models for imulation anyone?


22/12/04 15:11

Blogger munkholt said...

"War is peace, remember?"

You should read Barbelith.

29/12/04 20:49

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is Barbelith?

7/1/05 13:04


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