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United States27 February 2002

The Bush administration shuts down the OSI

Update - 27 February 2002

On 26 February, Donald Rumsfeld announced that the Office of Strategic Influence (OSI) would be shut down. The US Defense Secretary refused to confirm that the use of disinformation had been considered. He stressed that the Defense Department did not, had not, and would not use disinformation.

26 February

image 85 x 82 (JPEG) On 25 February, US president George W. Bush declared that he was not in favor of the OSI. According to White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, "the President would be troubled by any office that does not as a matter of public policy disseminate the truth and the facts." He added that president Bush knew nothing of the OSI project until it was revealed in the press the previous week. On 24 February, the Pentagon had stated that it was seriously considering the possibility of eliminating this office. Donald Rumsfeld had asked his under-secretary Douglas Feith to "determine its future". "The Pentagon does not lie to the American people. It does not lie to foreign audiences," said Donald Rumsfeld.

21 February

image 72 x 100 (GIF) In a letter sent to Donald H. Rumsfeld, United States Secretary of Defense, Reporters Without Borders (RSF - Reporters sans frontières) expressed its preoccupation about the Pentagon’s plan to use disinformation and propaganda to attempt to improve the perception of American military operations overseas. "Such a decision can only ruin the image of the United States, and discredit information provided by the Secretary of Defense," said Robert Ménard, general secretary of RSF. "How can the United States explain its use of propaganda and disinformation after they strongly denounced the ’propaganda’ of Osama bin Laden and the media that broadcast it?" asked Robert Ménard.

On 20 February, Donald Rumsfeld rejected the possibility that the Pentagon use disinformation but did not rule out the use of "tactical manipulation" in the war against terrorism. RSF asked Donald Rumsfeld to take a clear stance by categorically rejecting the use of propaganda of any kind.

According to information obtained by RSF, in an interview published on 19 February by the newspaper The New York Times, high-level Pentagon officials stated that the Office of Strategic Influence (OSI), an office of the Defense Department, had proposed providing false information to foreign media. According to The New York Times, these projects were "part of a new effort to influence public sentiment and policy makers in both friendly and unfriendly countries." The article said that the OSI had proposed "a broad mission ranging from ’black’ campaigns that use disinformation to ’white’ public affairs that rely on truthful news releases." The OSI was created just after September 11 to launch a media campaign to influence international public opinion. According to Bryan Whitman, Defense Department spokesman, the OSI’s mission was based on a thorough Pentagon study. In late September, Donald Rumsfeld promised that neither he nor his aides would lie to the press. In late November, he called for a free flow of military information, with no censorship nor propaganda. The administration was worried that the war on terrorism might be perceived overseas, and especially in the Middle East, as a war against Islam.

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