Rumsfeld: Federal Propaganda Arm Not Quite Dead Yet

Anyone remember the Office of Strategic Influence? It was an idea floated by Donald Rumsfeld for an agency within the Pentagon whose express purpose would be to feed misinformation and propaganda to the press and populations of countries we didn’t like. When the public erupted in outrage over this little idea, Rumsfeld quickly backed down and killed OSI dead.

Or did he?

Now it’s coming out that maybe he didn’t. In a recent press conference, a reporter from the Federation of American Scientists asked Rumsfeld a question about the recent flap over the appointment of Admiral John Poindexter, a disgraced Iran-Contra conspirator, to head the Pentagon’s new “Total Information Awareness” program. Rumsfeld’s response to the question is revealing:

“… And then there was the office of strategic influence. You may recall that. And ‘oh my goodness gracious isn’t that terrible, Henny Penny the sky is going to fall.’ I went down that next day and said fine, if you want to savage this thing fine I’ll give you the corpse. There’s the name. You can have the name, but I’m gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done and I have.”

So, in other words, he placated his critics by closing the office named “Office of Strategic Influence” — but gave its functions to another (unnamed) agency! Clever boy, Don, you win this week’s game of Bureaucratic Infighting. But it’s more than a little unnerving to know that a public outcry for the government to stop doing something is taken by the government as a reason to just hush it up, instead of as a reason to actually stop!

(Thanks to The Register for the pointer.)