Defense Department News Briefing

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld

Wednesday, February 20, 2002
(Media availability in Salt Lake City, Utah.)


Q: Mr. Secretary, there have been reports about the Office of Strategic Influence. Can you give us your comments about whether the Pentagon should be issuing disinformation to foreign press, and any comments?

Rumsfeld: Well, the Pentagon is not issuing disinformation to the foreign press or any other press.

Q: Will they be?

Rumsfeld: No. The United States of America has long had policies with respect to public information, and we have policies where certainly we make a practice of assuring that what we tell the public is accurate and correct. And if in any event somebody happens to be misinformed and say something that's not correct, they correct that at the earliest opportunity.

The Department of State of the United States of America has an Office of Public Diplomacy, I believe it's called. The Joint Staff has an Office of Information Operations. And the office called SOLIC [Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict] has the office you're referring to, of Strategic Influence.

If you think about it, in the Afghan conflict, for example, or the war on terrorism, we dropped millions of food rations for starving people in Afghanistan. They were in yellow packets, and they were dropped from aircraft. And the Taliban and the al Qaeda were lying to people and telling the Afghan people that in fact that it was poisoned food. It was not poisoned food; it was wonderful food. It was culturally appropriate food. So we have an information operation where we explained -- dropped leaflets explaining to the Afghan people that it was very good food.

There was also a problem where there was same -- similar-colored packets that had some bomblets in them, and we dropped leaflets explaining the difference. And we have a Commando Solo, which is a radio ship aircraft that flies over and drops -- we drop leaflets, for example, offering rewards for the capture of various al Qaeda. And all of that is part of this strategic influence or information operations. The word "deception" is an interesting one because it would be wrong to use the word in any context other than a strategic or tactical deception. For example, if the Special Forces of the United States were getting ready to (whoop laughter) -- Oh, we got some partisans here! Way to go! Let's all do it for the Special Forces! (Audience whoops; isolated off-mike yelled statement; Secretary Rumsfeld laughs).

If they're getting ready to undertake a direct action against an al-Qaida stronghold someplace in Afghanistan, and they want to come in from the west, they may very well do things that will lead the people in that enclave to think they're coming in from the north instead of from the west. And that would be characterized as tactical deception.

And if you think back to World War II -- well, you're too young -- (Laughter.) But I can think back to World War II, and if you remember the Normandy invasion. Prior to the Normandy invasion, General Eisenhower had a great deal of activity that led the Germans to believe they were actually going to land at Calais. Now they didn't land at Calais, but they never lied to the world and said they were going to land at Calais. What they did do is they did a whole series of activities that led people -- the Germans -- to believe they might land at Calais. And that would be called strategic influence or information operations.

So it seems to me that what people have to understand about this is very clear: number one, government officials, the Department of Defense, this secretary and the people that work with me tell the American people and the people of the world the truth. And to the extent anyone says anything that at any time proves to have been not accurate, they correct it at the earliest possible opportunity. And I've read some of these articles that are floating around, and my advice is to think of it the way I've just described it: That's the way it works. That's the way it has worked. That's the way it will work in the future.


Q: In the new war against terrorism, to what extent will the Office of Strategic Influence be doing any kind of different tactic in the way of deception, as you describe? Will there be any change?

Rumsfeld: I think I've answered that question fully. I think I've answered it correctly. I even think I've answered it pretty well. (Laughter.) And I don't know how I could elaborate on it.

Q: Is there anything additional that they're going to be doing that they weren't doing before, because of the new demands of the war on terrorism?

Rumsfeld: Well, that's a good question. In a major conflict like World War II or even Desert Storm, things are kind of clear. There are enemy forces here, and there are allied coalition forces there, and there are lines. That's not the case in the war on terrorism. Here we have cells of terrorists in 40, 50, 60 countries across the globe. Even in Afghanistan, notwithstanding the fact that the Taliban no longer rules that country, there are pockets of al Qaeda and Taliban that still exist. It's a very dangerous place to be. People are still getting killed.

And so we do have to think of it in a different way. How it will play out over time I don't know. And our goals are really rather clear. Our goals are to stop terrorists from going around the world killing innocent people. One way to do that is to catch them. That's hard to do, because they're well-financed, they're well-trained, they've been through a process that is very disciplined in terms of how you kill people and how you do that, how you go out killing innocent people. That's what they're trained to do.

On the other hand, our goal also is to gather information, and we're being very successful with that. We're collecting an awful a lot of intelligence information. And the goal is to prevent them doing it, and we've got them on the run, all across the globe. They are not doing well. They are finding it harder to raise money. They're finding it harder to recruit people. They're finding it more difficult to retain the people they have recruited. They're finding it more difficult to communicate. And they're finding it harder to move between countries. There's much greater security. And that means that the number of terrorist incidents that will occur in the period ahead, while not -- but we -- no one can suggest it'll be zero. Indeed, one could almost predict there will be additional terrorist acts, simply because there are so many of them out there. But there will be fewer than there otherwise would have been. And if we keep at it, and if we keep being successful at it, I think eventually we'll create an environment that's so inhospitable to terrorists that it will be dramatically reduced. And certainly given the nexus between terrorist networks and weapons of mass destruction, it is just urgent that we do the best possible job to gain the kinds of intelligence so that we can stop these folks before they use those considerably more powerful weapons.