from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2007, Issue No. 92
September 17, 2007

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Psychological operations (PSYOP) -- military programs that seek to influence the attitudes and shape the behavior of a target audience -- have the potential to increase the effectiveness of the armed forces they support while minimizing violent conflict. But the U.S. military is not notably good at conducting such programs.

To achieve their objective, PSYOP practitioners should ideally have a clear understanding of the values and thought processes of their audience (as well as their own), and they should have a credible and compelling message to deliver. These have often been lacking.

According to a 2004 Army evaluation of PSYOP activities during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, "it is clear that on the whole, PSYOP produced much less than expected and perhaps less than claimed."

Two newly disclosed Army publications provide insight into Army PSYOP planning and procedures.

"Psychological Operations Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures," U.S. Army Field Manual FM 3-05.301, December 2003 (a revision was issued in August 2007) (439 pages, 6.2 MB):

"Tactical Psychological Operations: Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures," U.S. Army Field Manual 3-05.302, October 2005 (255 pages, 11.2 MB):

These documents have not been approved for public release, but copies were obtained by Secrecy News.

A related document that was previously disclosed by Secrecy News is "Psychological Operations," U.S. Army Field Manual 3-05.30, April 2005:

In the worst cases, poorly executed PSYOP activities are not merely futile but may actually be counterproductive.

In 2003, a U.S. information operations officer produced posters picturing Saddam Hussein as Homer Simpson and other figures of ridicule. "The posters enraged Iraqis and led to conflict that resulted in casualties for U.S. forces," according to a 2005 study of PSYOP lessons learned.

See "Review of Psychological Operations: Lessons Learned from Recent Operational Experience" by Christopher J. Lamb, National Defense University Press, September 2005:


Attorneys for Khaled El-Masri, who was allegedly subjected to "extraordinary rendition" by the Central Intelligence Agency, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the dismissal of his lawsuit against the Agency last year on asserted "state secrets" grounds.

If the petition is granted, the Court's review has the potential to alter the judiciary's handling of "state secrets" claims generally.

"The proliferation of cases in which the government has invoked the state secrets privilege, and the lack of guidance from this Court since its 1953 decision in Reynolds, have produced conflict and confusion among the lower courts regarding the proper scope and application of the privilege," the petitioners argued.

See Petition for Certiorari, May 30, 2007:

The government replied last week that the petition is an "extravagant request" to overturn "settled precedents" and should be rejected. See Government's Opposition to Petition for Certiorari, September 2007:

The historical and legal background of the controversy over use of the state secrets privilege was examined most recently by legal scholar Louis Fisher in "The State Secrets Privilege: Relying on Reynolds," Political Science Quarterly, Fall 2007 (, subscription required).

A critical view of state secrets policy was presented by journalist Barry Siegel in "State-Secret Overreach," Los Angeles Times, September 16:


Recently updated reports of the Congressional Research Service that have not been made readily available to the public include the following.

"U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces: Background, Developments, and Issues," updated September 5, 2007:

"U.S.-China Nuclear Cooperation Agreement," updated September 6, 2007:

"Venezuela: Political Conditions and U.S. Policy," updated September 4, 2007:

"Liberia’s Post-War Recovery: Key Issues and Developments," updated August 30, 2007:

"Australia: Background and U.S. Relations," updated August 8, 2007:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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