Category Archives: Old Media

Like a Blind Hog . . .

. . . even the NY Slimes finds an acorn every once in a while, then they bury it on page B3 of the Sunday edition.

“. . . bloggers and hundreds of ordinary people stepped into the role of citizen journalists and shared their experiences, cellphone photos and videos online.
There was a whole army of people who did the job of reporters, sharing what was happening on the streets,”

This whole army of uncredentialed, ununionized, amateur people doing the jobs professional reporters used to do are Civilian Irregular Information Operators.

The last survivors of the Old Media are migrating online and attempting to recruit New Media types whose writing styles and ideological outlook don’t clash too much with the dead tree edition.

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Filed under Info Warriors, Old Media

The Jawa Report: Screw the Media: Honoring American Soldiers While the Media is Busy Covering Charlie Sheen

The Jawa Report: Screw the Media: Honoring American Soldiers While the Media is Busy Covering Charlie Sheen.

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Filed under Heroes, Old Media, The Forgotten War

Anonymous Planning Media War in Support of Manning

Anonymous Planning Media War in Support of Manning.

“The Internet is a weapon. It’s already weaponized, and those of us who know how to use this weapon have the advantage. I know who else was involved in turning [Manning] in. I’m not sure what to do on that yet, but we’re speaking among ourselves abut [sic] that,” self-styled Anonymous spokesman Barrett Brown told Steve Ragan of The Tech Herald.

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Filed under G-2, Info Warriors, IW, Moonbats, Old Media

Rolling Stone’s Decapitation Campaign Takes Another Head

In the end, there can be only one.

Once is an accident.
Twice is coincidence.
Three times is enemy action.

McCrystal was no accident.
Caldwell is no coincidence.
LTC Holmes, enjoy your new career, sir, and may you live in interesting times.


The perpretrators of this mess were FA30 folks(who are coordinators and not trained practitioners of PSYOP) and not MOS 37 (who are PSYOP/MISO folks operating under the authority given by USC Title 10 Section 167j). This whole debacle just goes to show how broken, disjointed, and confusing our Strat Comm, PD, IO, influence, PSYOP, MISO, etc efforts are. Truly sad.

Posted by Anonymous | February 24, 2011 6:22 PM

Information Operations (IO) teams are often multi-disciplined, but they are certainly not endowed with mystical powers that give the ability to control people’s minds. LTC Holmes, the IO officer quoted in the article is either confused, misquoted, unaware of what PSYOP should or should not do, incapable of dealing with the media or all of the above.

Labeling all PSYOP personnel as “propaganda people” is not only unfair and untruthful but also borders on slander. This type of quote surely reveals how little the Rolling Stone really knows about PSYOP in the first place and that they are more interested in readership and web clicks (which of course lead to more advertising money – duh) than in reporting actual news. Posted by Lawrence Dietz at 12:43 PM


Filed under Idea War, Lawfare, Morale Operations, Old Media, PSYOP, The Forgotten War

Donald Rumsfeld Condemns False Newsweek Story on Koran Flushing: You Can’t Apologize to the Dead |

Donald Rumsfeld Condemns False Newsweek Story on Koran Flushing: You Can’t Apologize to the Dead |

Seventeen dead in Jalalabad, killed by kinetic reaction to an enemy Psychological Operation widely disseminated by enemy sympathizers in the Counter Insurgent’s media.

Nobody killed over it at KAF, but other problems were caused that had to be dealt with.

Newsweek was pushing Taliban propaganda.  But for some reason it is not politically correct to call them traitors.

SecDef talks to Rush 2006/04/18

The lie’s been around the world 15 times by the time we even get our boots on.  2006/05/10

Today’s conflicts are not only won on the battlefield, but through the use of websites and blogs, over the airwaves and on the front pages of our newspapers. 2007/11/19

Rumsfeld’s victory: a retrospective look at our de facto flytrap strategy in Iraq Sunday, December 16, 2007

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Filed under Old Media, PSYOP, The Forgotten War

Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion: Operation Demoralize Is Working

Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion: Operation Demoralize Is Working.

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Filed under Electronic Counter Media, Morale Operations, Old Media

A Media Guide For the Journalistically Challenged

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Filed under Electronic Counter Media, Old Media, Pamphleteers

A Comment So Good It Deserves Its Own Post

Never heard of clive crook.  Don’t read The Atlantic.  But Richard Fernandez  has, and cfbleachers had this to say about that:

I’m afraid we will be handing down a shell of what we have been given. Once, the vast majority of citizens of this land would bust their vest buttons, swelling up with pride in the accomplishments of this land of ours, would stand shoulder to shoulder in building her, keeping her safe, and would defend her honor against all comers.

Today, the entirety of our mass communication empire is entrenched against her. They slander her at every turn. They tear at the flesh of her virtue. They espouse the propaganda of her sworn enemies. And, against our countrymen who try to stand shoulder to shoulder in her defense, they spout filthy lies, hurl invective and spray venom, call them racist, xenophobic, stupid, lacking in nuance, and dream of throwing them through a plate glass window.

Crook is a thief of our honor. How dare he call people he does not know…bigots? On what grounds?

These cretins have stolen our ability to obtain facts about virtually every key topic necessary to self-govern this land of ours. They say we cling bitterly to religion and the Constitution. They have created a distorted caricature of who we are as a people and what we are as a nation.

The fact that he is godless, does not mean that those whose lives are faith-based are somehow “less” than he…if so, in what way? He deigns to spew venom on folks who acted in a respectful manner, recited the pledge, sang the National Anthem…why? Because this is the “wrong” kind of patriotism?

Maybe, just maybe…the left has their panties in a bunch because we honored men and women in the military…and there is always that bubbling hatred and rage beneath the surface. Or was it the religious undertones, which also bubbles up the bile of any good venom spewing leftist? If you want to get them in full froth…COMBINE a little piety with a little thanks to the troops. Just don’t stand near any plate glass windows…or stained glass windows for that matter.

What they have infused instead, is a self-loathing element into our national conscience, replacing healthy self-reflection with kneejerk blame and vacuous apology for our very existence.

They have crushed the voice of faith based folks, essentially silencing them out of existence within their communication empire and from that lofty tower…they question morals from the perch of High Hedonism in the morning, in the afternoon they issue smug and pedantic homilies about tolerance of repressive 4th Century belief systems that are antithetical to all they claim to stand for and against, and by evening they spit on the flag and grind their heels on the notion of truth and the American way, all the while trumpeting how they have no use for God,…He being beneath their self-congratulatory perfection. They are the Messiah THEY have been waiting for, after all.

Who are these people and why do they have such influence over our daily lives? Who let them choose the narrative of our nation and why have we adopted their lexicon?

They are not “mainstream”, not representative of mainstream thought, morals, ethics, or of virtually anything American in nature or belief.

They are not “liberal”, far from it. They are intolerant, abusive, narrow-minded and closed off from divergent points of view. They call people “bigots” with impunity…people they don’t know. Does anyone else see the irony in that?

They are not “progressive”. They are stuck in a decade, four or five decades removed and incapable of recognizing, much less adapting to…the changes in modern society.

And worse, they not only do not believe in American exceptionalism, they don’t believe in American rugged individualism, they don’t believe in American liberty, American freedoms, American patriotism, American pride, or the basic goodness of the American people.

Not only have they stolen our mass communication system and soiled our information stream, they plot to keep facts from us. And, they “install” through distortion and deception the candidates who adhere to their treachery and treason. Our own government, currently in place…calls those who advocate for small government…”teabaggers”, a sexual slur befitting a delinquent adolescent mindset.

They call 70% of the nation “Islamophobes” because their instinct to stand shoulder to shoulder against a mosque that has all the earmarks of being a shrine to the mass murder of our countrymen, in a declared war against us. NOBODY is saying that any one religion may not worship in friendship and in peace in this land. Yet, the Ft. Hood massacre, the Christmas day bomber, the attempt at Times Square…these were not raging Presbyterians. The jihad is not being advanced by Methodists.

Is self-preservation bigotry? Since when? Is love of country, jingoism? Since when? Is belief in God, imbecility? Since when?

NO, they don’t get it. They don’t want to get it. They want you to lose it instead.

So many good people are finally waking up to what has been done to them, and their country, and by whom, and why. Now what are they going to DO about it?


Filed under Idea War, Morale Operations, Old Media

Militia = Nazi – Old and Moldy Propaganda

The Reno, NV Gazette-Journal has a website upon which they posted yesterday, Citizen militia wants to protect the U.S. from smugglers and drug runners (watch video report) which if you read the accompanying text is a fairly straightforward regurgitation of a story from last April about Arizona’s Cochise County Militia, then the text encourages the reader to watch a video which has nothing to do with Cochise County, or Bill Davis, but does have a fat Nazi in ACU’s that KPNX NBC Channel 12 in Phoenix AZ wants to make the face of Civilian Irregular Border Protection Auxiliaries.

This is conflation.

It works.

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Filed under BorderOps, Idea War, IW, Old Media, PSYOP

Mr. Brokaw, the news media simply cannot be trusted to tell the truth.

Media Malpractice: Tom Brokaw’s World Implodes

Americans have learned the hard way that there was and is a serious effort by some of the most powerful figures in American journalism to quite deliberately keep Americans from making “informed decisions” by denying them accurate information. By ignoring major news stories. By not reporting stories that were or are at variance with liberal politics


. . . across five decades of American journalistic history, the instinct of many Old Media institutions — specifically including NBC and the New York Times — has been to deliberately withhold the truth. To quite deliberately use their journalism skills and tools to misrepresent those whose politics they do not favor.

The money quote:

What once was a considerable reservoir of trust and respect has been drained bone dry.


Filed under Old Media

When the leader of the free world is complaining about a posting on the former governor of Alaska’s Facebook page, he’s got problems

The thrill is gone for Obama and the media


Filed under Old Media

Guardians of Wardak

A slow road to self-reliance

Gleaned these nuggets for your consideration:

The goal is to field 1,200 Guardians in Wardak province, but only 1½ districts have completed recruitment, producing 243 volunteers.

In part, this is because the Taliban is still active in parts of Wardak, and families fear they will be targeted if their sons join. Provincial council members complain that the lightly armed Guardians are vulnerable to attack. Some still have old Czech rifles that jam if they aren’t cleaned repeatedly. Hardier AK-47s are coming.

The Czech Vz58 design is 11 years newer than the AK-47. I have been curious since I first heard about it why the AP3 were being issued Vz58’s.  Possibly the Czech PRT in Logar had something to do with that.  Arming them with an uncommon weapon could have been a symbol of special worthiness, a visual signal that these aren’t your run of the mill raggedy ass militia.  No doubt the Vz58 requires operator maintenance and cleaning, just like most other infantry small arms in use by armies, police forces, paramilitaries and militias throughout the world.  I shot my first deer with a Mk III Short Magazine Lee Enfield pretty much identical to what Afghan riflemen used to shoot before they acquired AK’s and gave up marksmanship for spray and pray imshallah.  It had to be cleaned, and oiled, and patches run through the bore after firing.  Some of that surplus .303 was corrosive.  Their grandfathers could maintain bolt action rifles but Vz58’s are beyond their capability?

The Basic Rifle Marksmanship trainers didn’t sell the virtues of the weapon.

Also, there is a growing lack of trust between Guardians and their Special Forces mentors in the province of Nerkh, caused by an incident last month in which three Guardians were killed and three injured by a roadside IED.

The six young volunteers I met, all from Nerkh, were eager to talk about this episode. They claim their colleagues were killed after being “forced” by U.S. Special Forces operatives to accompany them on patrol, even though the Afghans were banned from leaving their assigned villages.

The Special Forces lead adviser and other U.S. military officials told a different story – that the three were killed while returning home from an assignment to protect a community meeting. Several provincial officials, including the Nerkh district chief, Mohammad Hanif Hanifi, dispute this version and corroborate the Guardians’ story.

So there is  a Nirkh PPF that trained, graduated and commenced operations beneath the media radar.  Apparently a half district worth.  Which may be all they get if  the story about being forced by SF to go out on patrol becomes the accepted wisdom in the bazaar. 

If they are not allowed to patrol outside their villages, why do they have trucks? 

If there really is a lack of trust between the Nirkh Jezailchis and their Paramilitary Mentoring Team, pull that team and plug another team in there.  If it’s all BS then smack down the tellers of tales and Charlie Mike.

Was this the straw that broke McKiernan’s back?


Filed under IW, Old Media, PSYOP, The Forgotten War

Mass Media Motivated Murder

Two good entries at Strategy Page worth passing on:

Adolph Hitler Fan Club

Mass murder has long been a grisly feature of human history. But the speed and extent of such massacres accelerated in the 20th century, with the spread of electronic mass media. First radio, then television and now the Internet, made it possible to more quickly spread and intensify the hatred and dehumanization of the victims necessary to get mass killings started.

As I was reading this I thought of the push to shut down talk radio. The programs I listen to would have to be shut down before the Politically Incorrect could be successfully dehumanized, demonized, rounded up and purged.

Penetrating Palestinian Propaganda Ploys

Israel found that over two-thirds of the Palestinian dead were men of military age (18-35). They also found that most of the “children” were teenage males, and some have been found memorialized in Palestinian web sites as “martyred fighters.” That means they were armed and on the payroll. Moreover, Hamas openly uses younger kids as lookouts and messengers. Lots of these “fighters” got killed simply because they deliberately placed themselves in the combat zone, or were sent there by their adult commanders. Thus over 70 percent of the Palestinian dead were working for Hamas, and most of them were armed.

Much bogus BS was put out during the last Gaza War. I’ve been rooting for the Israelis since 1967, but there seems to be a whole lot of Americans who have been mindfu Continue reading

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Filed under Old Media, PSYOP

No Zayawalat Jezailchis

Ex-Taliban headmen in one of the main villages of Jalrez District, Wardak Province, fighting the Afghan Public Protection Program.

In Recruiting Afghan Militias, U.S. Faces Test .

All those NGO Euroweenies who were fussing and whining about arming Pashtun militias should be happy.

Time for the Pashtuns to decide which Armed Groups they want to fall in with. Supportive or Opposition? Choose wisely, Mirwais. Your life depends on it.

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Filed under IW, Old Media, The Forgotten War

I Would Have Rather Been Wrong

Checked my stats this morning.  Incoming traffic from Mudville Gazette.  A comment I made over there two  years ago generated that traffic.

The Abu Ghraib story was turned into a brilliant psychological operation that very effectively undermined the American people’s support for the war and adversely affected kinetic operations, and ultimately led to Congressional defeat last week, i.e., partial regime change.

al Qaeda’s victory was only possible because of the enthusiastic support of the Main Stream Media.

Without domestic counter-psyops, we are doomed to repeat this scenario.

Posted by Cannoneer No. 4 at November 15, 2006 08:00 AM

I was about 28 miles west of Abu Graib when I made that comment.

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Filed under Idea War, Old Media, PSYOP

The Taliban have good relations with journalists and they are giving them any kind of help and information

The Afghan government and warlords empowered by the West are a greater threat to the country’s media than the Taliban, local journalists say.

Afghanistan media in grip of warlords, government

What you think you know about Afghanistan is based on what, exactly?
“Listening to the local voices” isn’t always such a great idea.
The indig journos aspire to be just like ours.

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Filed under Old Media, PSYOP, The Forgotten War

What MICHAEL in MI Said

. . . over at Blackfive that 99% of the US mass media may as well be the enemy needed to be said.

And PA needs to hear it.


Filed under Old Media

The American Public as Center of Gravity

SWJ has the latest Military Review up, and among the articles is The Truth is Out There: Responding to Insurgent Disinformation and Deception Operations by Cori E. Dauber. Read the whole thing. Some of the best parts:

 Many insurgent groups in Iraq have a real need to impact U.S. public opinion. For them to accomplish their goals, the U.S. has to withdraw from Iraq. The question was, how to accomplish that. What do they think is our center of gravity? Al-Qaeda knows that the U.S. left Vietnam and has interpreted that to mean that if it creates unacceptable casualty rates and exerts enough pressure, America will leave other theaters as well.8

However, the Iraqi insurgents understand they cannot succeed only through their own efforts on the battlefield. Colonel Tovo notes:
I would say that at least for Iraq it’s almost always been a media fight. . . . When you look at insurgent movements in history, clearly there are some [insurgencies] that thought they could win militarily. But in the end, really the center of gravity is always the people. You’re always fighting a battle for the hearts and minds of the people, so Idon’t think it has changed with the rise of the internet and cameras everywhere. It’s just easier for insurgents to reach the people. But even when you go back to Algeria,…the media is certainly present, but it’s much less ubiquitous on the battlefield. They’re still looking to get the biggest IO[information operations] effect out of every event.…That’s the same with a lot of insurgencies, although Iwould say the thing about the one we’re fighting now is that there’s much more of an information component and much less of a military component. So whereas you look at the Vietnamese model where truly they thought that they would wear us down and somewhat beat us on the battlefield (although they did not), Ithink the insurgents in Iraq clearly don’t think they have any hope of beating us militarily. It’s purely a fight for influencing the population [and] the U.S. population to lose heart and will, influencing the other international actors to drop support for the U.S. effort. So I’d say the information component has grown in importance over time.9

 The Internet, meanwhile, is a door that swings both ways. For the first time insurgents can now monitor the way their efforts are covered in the American press—almost in real time—from thousands of miles away. This is not only the first war fought with unlimited, global access to their audience, it is also the first war fought as the global press has moved online. Even the smallest newspapers now have an online presence, and television networks all stream their coverage on their own websites, to greater or lesser degrees. Insurgents can watch the way their efforts are covered for the audiences they hope to influence and adapt strategies if they do not like what they see. At the same time, they know the Western press carefully monitors their own websites—even if they are designed and maintained predominately to recruit new members or mobilize existing support. Thus, they can use their web presence as a ready conduit through the press to the American audience. 

The result is the first war in which virtually every attack is filmed by the enemy for propaganda purposes.10 So many IED attacks on convoys, suicide bombings, executions of hostages, and sniper attacks on Soldiers are filmed that it is often suggested the attacks are being staged to provide material for filming. As Susan B. Glaser and Steve Coll of The Washington Post wrote of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s organization in Iraq: “[n]ever before has a guerrilla organization so successfully intertwined its real-time war on the ground with its electronic jihad, making Zarqawi’s group practitioners of what experts say will be the future of insurgent warfare, where no act goes unrecorded and atrocities seem to be committed in order to be filmed and distributed nearly instantaneously online.” They continue, “Filming an attack has become an integral part of the attack itself.”11

 David Kilcullen, a counterinsurgency expert who advised General Petraeus, notes the “‘information’ side of al-Qaida’s operation is primary; the physical is merely the tool to achieve a propaganda result.”12 Lieutenant Colonel Guild adds: “A U.S. Soldier does a pre-combat inspection, he checks and makes sure he’s got his bullets, his water, all that stuff. Well, our enemy is doing that, those pre-combat checks [but they] include making sure that the video guy is there with the camera, with batteries, to either courier that video to some safe house or to get it uploaded to some web site, make sure that…that message gets out. And it’s ingrained. . . . [It] would be unusual if they did not do it.”13

These “duck-blind” videos clearly serve an internal purpose for these groups, but we are missing something critical if we only analyze them from the perspective of the role they play as part of a system of persuasion between the Islamists and their constituents. The videos are also intended, and used, as a way to communicate with and persuade the American audience. Such communication is possible because American news networks, unable to obtain regular combat footage any other way, have systematically downloaded this material and integrated it into their news reports, often quite seamlessly, for years.

Sometimes the segments are used with visual and aural cues indicating they were taken from a terrorist or insurgent site, although the cues are rarely sufficient given that no effort has ever been taken to explicitly address that this is a normal journalistic practice.14 CNN, CBS, and NBC have begun to superimpose the words “INSURGENTVIDEO” on at least some of the material, similar to the graphic all networks use when showing material received from the Department of Defense (usually something along the lines of “DOD FILEFOOTAGE”.) This practice seems to be a perfectly acceptable solution if the networks apply it consistently, and throughout the length of any footage acquired from terrorist or insurgent sites, which does not seem to be the case at present for any network.15 (Applying this solution inconsistently might be worse than not applying it at all, because viewers might believe that whenever the graphic is missing, the footage must by definition not come from insurgent sources.)

There should be no mistake about this. Terrorists and insurgents shot this footage of attacks staged for the explicit purpose of providing propaganda for filming. Perhaps more important, terrorists and insurgents edited the footage, even if network personnel subsequently re-edited it. It is propaganda material, not news footage. As Ben Venzke puts it, the “videos are a form of follow-on psychological attack on the victims and societies the group is targeting. They are designed to amplify the effects of attacks.”16
The insurgents themselves are now the press’s primary source of news footage when it comes to the vital issue of attacks on American military personnel in Iraq. This means the authenticity of the footage is of vital importance, because it played a critical role in shaping the American public’s view of the war. 



Yep.   Our own American Main Stream Old Media is the vector for spreading propaganda pathogens undermining the will of the people to prosecute the war.  They have been willing and eager accomplices since the invasion of Iraq.  How many Americans would be alive today if video of Humvees blowing up had not been turned in to show business?

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Filed under Morale Operations, Old Media, PSYOP

“The war has gone on longer than a lot of news organizations’ ability or appetite to cover it,”

Deebow sez:

“Ability” most likely means, with viewer-ship continuing to drop like a stone and Advert revenue being spent in markets and on media that people actually watch and see; the Old Media likely have a great deal less money to spend to cover the bar tabs and security details for the propagandists who run around Iraq looking for the next “victim” of US Forces.

“Appetite” turns out to mean that without car bombs going off every hour, or any operations where US Forces can be shown “oppressing” the populace; that they have no “appetite” to broadcast anything related to the Victory narrative.

The “profession” of journalism has earned the contempt in which it is now held by so many.

Relentless, destructive critique of MSM persons and publications is among the most important tasks of bloggers, commenters, and tipsters of the Resistance.


Filed under Old Media

Does your conscience bother you? Tell the truth

Much of what you think you know to be true is not.  Your perceptions have been managed by people who work very hard at getting you to think and feel and believe in ways favorable to their objectives.  This has been going on in an organized, scientific fashion since WWI, but in 1973 they stepped it up several notches, and overthrew a sitting President.  Watergate was a coup d’etat.  Woodward and Bernstein became the heroes that all the journos wanted to grow up to be.  But they were chumps. I never did like those guys. Even as a teenager the jackals pulling down Nixon failed to impress me.

George Friedman at Stratfor, on  The Death of Deep Throat and the Crisis of Journalism

Mark Felt died last week at the age of 95. For those who don’t recognize that name, Felt was the “Deep Throat” of Watergate fame. It was Felt who provided Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post with a flow of leaks about what had happened, how it happened and where to look for further corroboration on the break-in, the cover-up, and the financing of wrongdoing in the Nixon administration. Woodward and Bernstein’s exposé of Watergate has been seen as a high point of journalism, and their unwillingness to reveal Felt’s identity until he revealed it himself three years ago has been seen as symbolic of the moral rectitude demanded of journalists.

In reality, the revelation of who Felt was raised serious questions about the accomplishments of Woodward and Bernstein, the actual price we all pay for journalistic ethics, and how for many years we did not know a critical dimension of the Watergate crisis. At a time when newspapers are in financial crisis and journalism is facing serious existential issues, Watergate always has been held up as a symbol of what journalism means for a democracy, revealing truths that others were unwilling to uncover and grapple with. There is truth to this vision of journalism, but there is also a deep ambiguity, all built around Felt’s role. This is therefore not an excursion into ancient history, but a consideration of two things. The first is how journalists become tools of various factions in political disputes. The second is the relationship between security and intelligence organizations and governments in a Democratic society.

Watergate was about the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington. The break-in was carried out by a group of former CIA operatives controlled by individuals leading back to the White House. It was never proven that then-U.S. President Richard Nixon knew of the break-in, but we find it difficult to imagine that he didn’t. In any case, the issue went beyond the break-in. It went to the cover-up of the break-in and, more importantly, to the uses of money that financed the break-in and other activities. Numerous aides, including the attorney general of the United States, went to prison. Woodward and Bernstein, and their newspaper, The Washington Post, aggressively pursued the story from the summer of 1972 until Nixon’s resignation. The episode has been seen as one of journalism’s finest moments. It may have been, but that cannot be concluded until we consider Deep Throat more carefully.

Deep Throat Reconsidered

Mark Felt was deputy associate director of the FBI (No. 3 in bureau hierarchy) in May 1972, when longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover died. Upon Hoover’s death, Felt was second to Clyde Tolson, the longtime deputy and close friend to Hoover who by then was in failing health himself. Days after Hoover’s death, Tolson left the bureau.

Felt expected to be named Hoover’s successor, but Nixon passed him over, appointing L. Patrick Gray instead. In selecting Gray, Nixon was reaching outside the FBI for the first time in the 48 years since Hoover had taken over. But while Gray was formally acting director, the Senate never confirmed him, and as an outsider, he never really took effective control of the FBI. In a practical sense, Felt was in operational control of the FBI from the break-in at the Watergate in August 1972 until June 1973.

Nixon’s motives in appointing Gray certainly involved increasing his control of the FBI, but several presidents before him had wanted this, too, including John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Both of these presidents wanted Hoover gone for the same reason they were afraid to remove him: He knew too much. In Washington, as in every capital, knowing the weaknesses of powerful people is itself power — and Hoover made it a point to know the weaknesses of everyone. He also made it a point to be useful to the powerful, increasing his overall value and his knowledge of the vulnerabilities of the powerful.

Hoover’s death achieved what Kennedy and Johnson couldn’t do. Nixon had no intention of allowing the FBI to continue as a self-enclosed organization outside the control of the presidency and everyone else. Thus, the idea that Mark Felt, a man completely loyal to Hoover and his legacy, would be selected to succeed Hoover is in retrospect the most unlikely outcome imaginable.

Felt saw Gray’s selection as an unwelcome politicization of the FBI (by placing it under direct presidential control), an assault on the traditions created by Hoover and an insult to his memory, and a massive personal disappointment. Felt was thus a disgruntled employee at the highest level. He was also a senior official in an organization that traditionally had protected its interests in predictable ways. (By then formally the No. 2 figure in FBI, Felt effectively controlled the agency given Gray’s inexperience and outsider status.) The FBI identified its enemies, then used its vast knowledge of its enemies’ wrongdoings in press leaks designed to be as devastating as possible. While carefully hiding the source of the information, it then watched the victim — who was usually guilty as sin — crumble. Felt, who himself was later convicted and pardoned for illegal wiretaps and break-ins, was not nearly as appalled by Nixon’s crimes as by Nixon’s decision to pass him over as head of the FBI. He merely set Hoover’s playbook in motion.

Woodward and Bernstein were on the city desk of The Washington Post at the time. They were young (29 and 28), inexperienced and hungry. We do not know why Felt decided to use them as his conduit for leaks, but we would guess he sought these three characteristics — as well as a newspaper with sufficient gravitas to gain notice. Felt obviously knew the two had been assigned to a local burglary, and he decided to leak what he knew to lead them where he wanted them to go. He used his knowledge to guide, and therefore control, their investigation.

Systematic Spying on the President

And now we come to the major point. For Felt to have been able to guide and control the young reporters’ investigation, he needed to know a great deal of what the White House had done, going back quite far. He could not possibly have known all this simply through his personal investigations. His knowledge covered too many people, too many operations, and too much money in too many places simply to have been the product of one of his side hobbies. The only way Felt could have the knowledge he did was if the FBI had been systematically spying on the White House, on the Committee to Re-elect the President and on all of the other elements involved in Watergate. Felt was not simply feeding information to Woodward and Bernstein; he was using the intelligence product emanating from a section of the FBI to shape The Washington Post’s coverage.

Instead of passing what he knew to professional prosecutors at the Justice Department — or if he did not trust them, to the House Judiciary Committee charged with investigating presidential wrongdoing — Felt chose to leak the information to The Washington Post. He bet, or knew, that Post editor Ben Bradlee would allow Woodward and Bernstein to play the role Felt had selected for them. Woodward, Bernstein and Bradlee all knew who Deep Throat was. They worked with the operational head of the FBI to destroy Nixon, and then protected Felt and the FBI until Felt came forward.

In our view, Nixon was as guilty as sin of more things than were ever proven. Nevertheless, there is another side to this story. The FBI was carrying out espionage against the president of the United States, not for any later prosecution of Nixon for a specific crime (the spying had to have been going on well before the break-in), but to increase the FBI’s control over Nixon. Woodward, Bernstein and above all, Bradlee, knew what was going on. Woodward and Bernstein might have been young and naive, but Bradlee was an old Washington hand who knew exactly who Felt was, knew the FBI playbook and understood that Felt could not have played the role he did without a focused FBI operation against the president. Bradlee knew perfectly well that Woodward and Bernstein were not breaking the story, but were having it spoon-fed to them by a master. He knew that the president of the United States, guilty or not, was being destroyed by Hoover’s jilted heir.

This was enormously important news. The Washington Post decided not to report it. The story of Deep Throat was well-known, but what lurked behind the identity of Deep Throat was not. This was not a lone whistle-blower being protected by a courageous news organization; rather, it was a news organization being used by the FBI against the president, and a news organization that knew perfectly well that it was being used against the president. Protecting Deep Throat concealed not only an individual, but also the story of the FBI’s role in destroying Nixon.

Again, Nixon’s guilt is not in question. And the argument can be made that given John Mitchell’s control of the Justice Department, Felt thought that going through channels was impossible (although the FBI was more intimidating to Mitchell than the other way around). But the fact remains that Deep Throat was the heir apparent to Hoover — a man not averse to breaking the law in covert operations — and Deep Throat clearly was drawing on broader resources in the FBI, resources that had to have been in place before Hoover’s death and continued operating afterward.

Burying a Story to Get a Story

Until Felt came forward in 2005, not only were these things unknown, but The Washington Post was protecting them. Admittedly, the Post was in a difficult position. Without Felt’s help, it would not have gotten the story. But the terms Felt set required that a huge piece of the story not be told. The Washington Post created a morality play about an out-of-control government brought to heel by two young, enterprising journalists and a courageous newspaper. That simply wasn’t what happened. Instead, it was about the FBI using The Washington Post to leak information to destroy the president, and The Washington Post willingly serving as the conduit for that information while withholding an essential dimension of the story by concealing Deep Throat’s identity.

Journalists have celebrated the Post’s role in bringing down the president for a generation. Even after the revelation of Deep Throat’s identity in 2005, there was no serious soul-searching on the omission from the historical record. Without understanding the role played by Felt and the FBI in bringing Nixon down, Watergate cannot be understood completely. Woodward, Bernstein and Bradlee were willingly used by Felt to destroy Nixon. The three acknowledged a secret source, but they did not reveal that the secret source was in operational control of the FBI. They did not reveal that the FBI was passing on the fruits of surveillance of the White House. They did not reveal the genesis of the fall of Nixon. They accepted the accolades while withholding an extraordinarily important fact, elevating their own role in the episode while distorting the actual dynamic of Nixon’s fall.

Absent any widespread reconsideration of the Post’s actions during Watergate in the three years since Felt’s identity became known, the press in Washington continues to serve as a conduit for leaks of secret information. They publish this information while protecting the leakers, and therefore the leakers’ motives. Rather than being a venue for the neutral reporting of events, journalism thus becomes the arena in which political power plays are executed. What appears to be enterprising journalism is in fact a symbiotic relationship between journalists and government factions. It may be the best path journalists have for acquiring secrets, but it creates a very partial record of events — especially since the origin of a leak frequently is much more important to the public than the leak itself.

The Felt experience is part of an ongoing story in which journalists’ guarantees of anonymity to sources allow leakers to control the news process. Protecting Deep Throat’s identity kept us from understanding the full dynamic of Watergate. We did not know that Deep Throat was running the FBI, we did not know the FBI was conducting surveillance on the White House, and we did not know that the Watergate scandal emerged not by dint of enterprising journalism, but because Felt had selected Woodward and Bernstein as his vehicle to bring Nixon down. And we did not know that the editor of The Washington Post allowed this to happen. We had a profoundly defective picture of the situation, as defective as the idea that Bob Woodward looks like Robert Redford.

Finding the truth of events containing secrets is always difficult, as we know all too well. There is no simple solution to this quandary. In intelligence, we dream of the well-placed source who will reveal important things to us. But we also are aware that the information provided is only the beginning of the story. The rest of the story involves the source’s motivation, and frequently that motivation is more important than the information provided. Understanding a source’s motivation is essential both to good intelligence and to journalism. In this case, keeping secret the source kept an entire — and critical — dimension of Watergate hidden for a generation. Whatever crimes Nixon committed, the FBI had spied on the president and leaked what it knew to The Washington Post in order to destroy him. The editor of The Washington Post knew that, as did Woodward and Bernstein. We do not begrudge them their prizes and accolades, but it would have been useful to know who handed them the story. In many ways, that story is as interesting as the one about all the president’s men.

Consider some alternate history.  What would 2008 be like had Nixon served out his second term?  Saigon wouldn’t have fallen.  No Killing Fields of Cambodia.  No Jimmy Carter.  Maybe no Ronald Reagan, either.  No two decade recovery from defeat.  No Powell Doctrine.  No Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.  No mujahadeen.  No Osama bin Laden.  No Al Qaeda.   Thanks, Main Stream Media.  I hope when the Washington Post dies  they leave some headstone or monument upon which I can gleefully void my bladder.

My respects to Cyber Guerilla Chieftain Richard Fernandez, whose comments section brings me half the hits this obscure little blog ever gets. 

UPDATE 200812300444: All the FBI’s Men

This is a perfect example of how a narrative can arise and influence our interpretation of history and inspire people to act. Woodward/Bernstein became the archetype of the modern journalist. The noble investigative journalists pursuing the truth and bringing down a corrupt president. How many people became journalists to live out their “All The President’s Men” fantasy? How many times have we heard journalists lecture us on how important they are because they are holding public officials accountable and speaking truth to power? Journalists have used Watergate as a justification for publishing leaks, including classified information while keeping sources secret from the public. Knowing that Mark Felt was Deep Throat reveals the Woodward and Bernstein legend to be a lie. Contrary to what we have believed for several decades, this was a story about how Woodward, Bernstein and Bradlee knowingly participated in a black ops mission to bring down a president. Woodward and Bernstein owe their fame and careers to the fact they they were chosen by the secret policeman to play a role in his operation.


Filed under Idea War, Morale Operations, Old Media