Defense Department News Briefing

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld

February 21, 2002

Secretary Rumsfeld: [...]

I'd also like to comment a bit on these recent reports on information operations. Government officials, the Department of Defense, this secretary, this general, and the people who work with us tell the American people and the media and, indeed the world, the truth. If anyone says something that proves not to have been accurate, they have a responsibility to correct that at an early opportunity, and they do. We've tried and will continue to try to do our best to get the truth out as soon and as fully as is possible.

The Department of Defense does not now and has no plans to conduct any disinformation campaigns or to promulgate false or inaccurate or misleading information to domestic or foreign audiences. Any suggestion to the contrary would not be correct.

The so-called Office of Strategic Influence was created in November of 2001 to assist in fashioning policy regarding the military aspects of information operations. The charter of the office is under development. Consistent with the Defense Department policy, under no circumstance will that office or its contractors, for that matter, knowingly or deliberately disseminate false information to the American or to foreign publics. The office will focus on helping our forces perform missions that are appropriate.

In the war on terrorism, for example, we dropped millions of food rations to starving people in Afghanistan. They were in yellow packets, and they were dropped from aircraft. The Taliban and the al Qaeda conducted an organized disinformation campaign, falsely telling starving Afghan people that the United States was dropping poisoned food. It was most certainly not poisoned food. So we had an information operation in which we dropped leaflets explaining to the Afghan people that the food was in fact good and was, as a matter of fact, also culturally appropriate and that they should not be concerned about the misleading information they were receiving.

Other projects have included activities such as the so-called Commando Solo aircraft, which broadcasts radio messages to the people in Afghanistan -- messages to encourage enemy forces to surrender; the advertising of rewards for information that leads to the capture of terrorists, weapons of mass destruction material or other items of interest that merit such a reward or bounty; announcements regarding the availability and location of humanitarian assistance; and warnings about dangers of unexploded ordnance or military equipment, and the like.

These are important activities. They're critical to our efforts. And this office is an attempt to better organize these types of activities.