|NMU||WASHINGTON, D.C.||Newsgathering||Mar 1, 2002|
Pentagon terminates propaganda office before it begins work
- Defense officials shutter The Office of Strategic Influence amid claims that one of the department’s goals might be to disseminate false information to the foreign press.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Feb. 26 that the Pentagon was ending the brief existence of the Office of Strategic Influence because of reports that the agency might deliberately feed foreign media inaccurate information.
The New York Times, which first broke the story about the office’s existence, said Rumsfeld rejected allegations that the Pentagon would be engaged in propaganda operations aimed at the international press. The paper also reported that Rumsfeld closed the office because news reports had ruined the office’s reputation, making it too difficult for it to properly function.
“What it was to do was an open question, even today as it ends its very short, prominent life,” Rumsfeld said.
Rumors that the Pentagon was considering the use of “outside contractors, including public relations firms” in order to ensure that its role remained in the shadows led to “a firestorm of protests” from the industry, according to a report published on the PR Newswire.
Kathy Cripps, president of the Council of Public Relations Firms, said in a statement that the idea “that public relations companies be retained to mislead the media by serving as the Pentagon’s surreptitious messengers of misinformation was patently offensive.”
She added: “It is reassuring that common sense has prevailed and that the credibility and reputation of the United States government are not being put at risk by a plan that would almost surely backfire.”
The Office of Strategic Influence was established shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to help spread the United States’ position in regards to the war on terrorism in other countries, especially those in the Middle East.
© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press