Thursday, December 02, 2004

Deceiving CNN

CNN is repeatedly reporting that the Marines probably used them to disseminate incorrect information that the attack on Fallujah was underway, when it didn't actually start for another three weeks. The Marines knew (as CNN acknowledges) that CNN's report on the beginning of the attack would be seen by the enemy inside the city. Presumably, the Marines wanted to observe enemy defensive preparations, keep them off-balance, etc.

Of course, CNN is shocked, shocked! They've demanded an explanation from the Pentagon, and the Secretary of Defense has assured CNN that it isn't U.S. policy to deceive the press, the Pentagon is investigating, and so on. I suspect what actually happened is someone in Iraq, perhaps below general officer level, decided to use CNN as a direct channel to the enemy as part of a deception plan.

Let's think about this. CNN is a direct channel to the enemy, as are other satellite television news broadcasts. For the price of cheap satellite TV equipment, the enemy gets good intelligence. In fact, it's probably their best source. And CNN seeks information about U.S. operational plans, unit identifications, troop dispositions, movements, equipment, and morale. Then they insist they have the unfettered right to broadcast any information they can get their hands on when and as they please.

Counterintelligence and deception operations are designed to protect and enhance the effectiveness of military operations. Counterintelligence operations find and shut down sources of enemy intelligence. Deception operations thicken the fog of war, from the enemy's viewpoint, by hiding or distorting the facts of military operations. So, since CNN is an important source of intelligence for the enemy, why shouldn't it be shut down? Or, since CNN is a reliable direct channel to the enemy, why shouldn't it be used to pass them deceptive information?

Remember that CNN, like the rest of the U.S. mainstream media, operates as though they have no obligations to anything so mundane as their country. Bernie Shaw, once a main CNN talking head, famously refused to be debriefed by the U.S. government after his return from Iraq in 1991. The debriefing was sought because Shaw had been present in Baghdad (along with CNN's infamous Peter Arnett) when the war began. Shaw's refusal was based on his belief that as a reporter he could not take sides.

In effect, Shaw's status as a reporter was more important to him than being a U.S. citizen, even though he had information that might have been valuable to his country and might have saved U.S. lives. What's worse, CNN and the media elites saw nothing wrong with his position.

Contradictions abound. The basis for CNN's attitude is the U.S. Constitution and it's guarantee of a free press. But as far as they're concerned, that freedom carries no obligations, and they can report anything they wish, when they wish, with whatever emphasis they wish to give it.

So where does that leave us? I don't think the U.S. government should deceive the press. But we must understand that they can't be trusted, and we should not let them collect and report information of value to the enemy. While the recent practice of "embedding" reporters with military units isn't a bad idea, there should be more restrictions. One of them should be an agreement that reports will be approved by the military before they are published or broadcast.

Is that censorship? Yes, and so what? If the press wants the kind of privileged and protected access the military is now giving them, they should accept some responsibility and submit to controls. Otherwise, they should be restricted from combat zones where their reporting could do damage.


Blogger Gindy said...

I have to comment twice today. I happened to catch some of Wolf Blitzer talking about this issue today. He was incensed (I think that is the word). Although, the commentators seemed a little concerned, they accepted what happened. Blitzer didn't seem to want to grasp what happened at all.

12:52 PM, December 02, 2004  
Blogger Kevin said...


My position on this is that if they want to report like they do, then they must sometimes be duped like this. It is sort of the same as the Rather "Memogate," the news today doesn't provide information they just report data.

You bring a good point, the terorist don't need a CIA if they get better information from CNN.


6:32 PM, December 02, 2004  
Blogger Zelda said...

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This is an excellent post. You have a great site as well. I'm honored to be on your blogroll. I'll put you on mine right now.

10:25 PM, December 02, 2004  
Blogger MaxedOutMama said...

Tom, a truly great post.

CNN allowed itself to be used as a propaganda arm by Saddam Hussein - why object now? Is it more disgraceful to be caught broadcasting what you thought was the truth and wasn't or to have to acknowledge that FOR YEARS you didn't broadcast the truth and knowingly broadcast lies due to fear of harassment of your staff?

Talk about being caught with your journalistic pants down! I think they're angry for one reason only - that they fear the terrorists (oops, sorry, "insurgents") will take out their anger at being duped on CNN reporters. In other words, CNN has one country - itself and its own interests. Obviously, given their own confession about how they reported Iraq in Saddam Hussein's time, they can't claim that they are worried about their journalistic integrity.

The man, woman or unit who thought the CNN strategy up should be given a medal, IMO. It couldn't have happened to a nicer network.

3:12 AM, December 03, 2004  
Blogger Don said...

Being a military man, I have no problem with the military using the media on occasion to conduct psy ops. I must stress, on occasion. The media today believe they are immune from all war and thus do not "take sides." I think this mentality started during the Vietnam War. I believe, but I have to check it, the media willingly went along with some deceptive operations in WWII to throw off the Nazis and Hitler. The whole D-Day operation would have been much more difficult and may have failed outright if not for the huge deception plan of putting Patton in charge of a phantom Army. The Germans thought Patton (the Allied's best General in the German Army brass' mind and the very reason he was used in the deception) would land in the Pas-de-Calis region. What would have CNN ( and the netural press) done there? Report to the world "hey, there are rubber tanks and dummies being used?" That would have been just great, getting even more soldiers killed on D-Day.

3:44 AM, December 04, 2004  
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