Military Officials Dispute Claim Army Unit Was Directed to Manipulate Senators - Jennifer Griffin and Justin Fishel, FOX News.
"... Holmes was disgruntled because his original assignment to influence Afghans was no longer needed when Caldwell took up the training command. Holmes apparently thought he was supposed to use "psychological operations" to find the Taliban and "turn them," according to the officer. But that wasn't what Caldwell's command wanted of him..."
"Holmes reportedly spent much of his time on Facebook setting up a strategic communications firm called SyzygyLogos with the woman with whom he was accused of having an improper relationship in Afghanistan, Maj. Laural Levine. Holmes denies that charge..."
Army: Gen. Caldwell's Accuser Had No Psy-Ops Training - Julian Barnes, Wall Street Journal.
An Army officer who accused a top general in Afghanistan of using "psychological operations" against visiting lawmakers in an article in Rolling Stone magazine was not trained in the military specialty, Defense Department officials said.
The U.S. Army's Special Operations Command announced Friday that their special warfare center has no record of training Lt. Col. Michael Holmes in "psychological operations." ...
.. a military officer who served with Lt. Col. Holmes and under Gen. Caldwell said the accusation is baseless, and that the officer was specifically told not to use information operations techniques...
Rolling Stone's War on Our Troops - Washington Times editorial.
... Mr. Hastings primary source is Lt. Col. Michael Holmes, the head of the information operations (IO) unit who is portrayed in the cliched role of the selfless whistleblower bucking the system. But according to information obtained by The Washington Times, Lt. Col. Holmes is better characterized as a disgruntled soldier who had been caught engaging in alleged improprieties and is using the liberal anti-war press to strike back...
A humdrum staff-support job apparently was not what Lt. Col. Holmes had in mind when he deployed. Our second source said, "[Holmes and Levine] weren't happy about it because they wanted to float around Kabul on their own." When Lt. Col. Holmes was ordered by his superiors to do work he considered beneath him, such as looking up the biography of a visiting dignitary, he "used the 'I am an IO trained person I cannot do that' [argument]." Apparently, that's how some think "an Army of one" is supposed to work...
U.S. Army May Have Used PSYOP Against Senators. How is That Different from PR? - Anna Mulrine, Christian Science Monitor.
According to Rolling Stone, a general asked a psychological operations specialist to help him get inside the heads of visiting senators. The military asks, was he trying to manipulate the Congressional delegation or just be a good host?
... The problem, say some senior military officials, is the often-complex distinctions between PSYOP specialists and public affairs officers, who routinely prepare background dossiers on visiting officials. The distinctions are further blurred, they add, by an increasingly media-savvy American military eager to influence "hearts and minds" both abroad and at home...
Not the Stuff of Bud Light Lime - Galrahn, Information Dissemination.
... Are you kidding me? A disgruntled Lt. Col. who normally does information operations in the Facebook fan club of Caldwell's social software shop gets assigned staff work for VIP visits, and the article frames that assignment to Holmes - leveraging his opinion of being assigned what he considers work beneath his keyboard skill set - as a crime? Yep, and that context is reinforced by the author...
Sorry folks, but I don't see this as the stuff of Bud Light Lime. The only allegation being made is that Caldwell dared to ask this Holmes and his internet nerds to research and plan for a visit by VIPs for the purposes of briefing and prepping Caldwell for the visit, and the intent was so that Caldwell would be prepared to communicate more effectively his needs for more money and more people. Those are the specific allegations made by Holmes in the story, everything else in the story was the narrative that implied illegal activity added by Michael Hastings...
What I see here is a disgruntled staff officer with an axe to grind against his boss, and a reporter —to play along.
Officer Denies Efforts to Sway Lawmakers - Thom Shanker, New York Times.
"... Lt. Col. Shawn Stroud, communications director for NATO's training mission in Afghanistan, sent out a personal e-mail to friends and colleagues to "categorically deny the assertion" that the commander, Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, or his officers "used an Information Operations cell to influence distinguished visitors."..."
"... The military has no record of Colonel Holmes being listed as a qualified psychological operations officer, according to Pentagon officials. Colonel Holmes acknowledged that on Saturday..."
Military Denies Use of Intelligence Tactics on Senators - Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post.
"... officers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the investigation, said Holmes never was asked to use psychological operations, deception or other tactics that would be illegal when applied to fellow Americans. He simply was being asked to conduct research using publicly available material, they said. They also said Holmes never attended any of the meetings with visiting members of Congress..."
"... independent specialists in military law said Holmes's position as an information operations officer, regardless of whether he was formally reassigned, does not mean he cannot be asked to perform other legal tasks. If you're being asked to chip in and help someone else, that's a lawful order..."
Hastings, Caldwell and PSYOP Kerfuffle - Benjamin Domenech, The Compass.
"... So why would this article even be written? Why would Holmes and Hastings spin what is at most a benign misallocation of personnel into a grand conspiracy? Well, the answer is included in the same piece: an AR 15-6 inquiry and a disciplinary report filed against Holmes. Hastings depicts the investigation as being retribution for Holmes' claiming he was being assigned inappropriate duties, and compares the memo afterward to the Starr report - but the investigation found Holmes was drinking too much, "going off base in civilian clothes without permission," "improperly using his position to start a private business," and most significantly, "having an 'inappropriate' relationship with one of his subordinates." ..."
"While Holmes and the subordinate in question, Maj. Laural Levine, deny that anything inappropriate was going on (they claim they're merely working on starting that private business together), if the two had been busted for an inappropriate relationship, that is not an insignificant thing. In fact, it's grounds enough to boot them both out of the military if one of the participants is married..."
Psy-ops Against Congress -- Count Me as Skeptical - Jack Goldsmith, Lawfare.
"... as far as I can tell, the factual charges against General Caldwell come from a single source, Colonel Michael Holmes, the leader of one of Caldwell's information operations units. Hastings states that Caldwell and his subordinates asked Holmes to "conduct an IO campaign against" visiting officials. But the facts offered in support of this supposed operation are thin. Holmes was (by his account) ordered to research and provide background assessments on the visitors, and prep the General for his meetings. When Holmes complained about the order, it was clarified to specify that he should "only use publicly available records to create profiles of U.S. visitors." Holmes colors this seemingly innocent tasking in dark shades..."
"... Hastings has not charged that Caldwell acted imprudently by selecting the wrong person to prepare him to brief members of Congress. He has charged that Caldwell was running an illegal psychological operation against Congress in order to advance his career at the expense of his mission. That charge is unsupported and highly dubious. The whole story seems like a one-sided hatchet job to me."
Sen. John McCain Responds To Psy-Ops Claims: 'Put Me Down As Skeptical' (Video) - Amanda Terkel, Huffington Post.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) responded on Sunday to a report that he was the target of "psychological operations" by the U.S. military to pressure him on Afghanistan, defending the general at the center of the controversy and saying he was "skeptical" of the accusations.
Hastings Battles Generals on the Pages of Rolling Stone - Editor, War on Terror News.
"When Michael Yon attacked Generals Menard and McChrystal, his readership soared. When Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone magazine published disparaging remarks by General McChrystal's staff, their hits peaked at 943,000 the day after, 600% of their norm. Their American readership soared from 100k to 753k that day. There's no telling how many copies of that issue were sold. The General was fired within hours for daring to note that the POTUS had hardly given him the time of day. Hastings got a Polk Award from for taking down the General. Their online revenue likely hit 6x the norm as well."
"So, it's little surprise, that Hastings and Rolling Stone have decided to try to replicate those numbers. This time, they're going after LTG Caldwell IV, and relying on hearsay and "he said, she said," with a zeal reminiscent of the Inquisition. He's aligned himself with an officer with a bone to pick: LTC Holmes (a married man) was investigated for inappropriate relations with a subordinate and evidently took issue with orders given him by the General, his boss. Hastings decided to get the hackles of Senators up, by implying they had been played."
"But there are some things that don't add up in the LTC's story. He claims that his role is "PsyOps," but one insider has called him out on it. Evidently, the officer was assigned in an "Information Operations" (IO) role, and does not appear to be involved in a "psychological operations" position at all..."
The Men Who Stare At Senators - Blackfive.
"... This whole article is a piece of garbage and Michael Hastings is this century's muck raker extraordinaire. If anyone has access to the 15-6 investigation, I would love to read it. I wonder why Michael Hastings hasn't posted it along with his article? I'm probably going to drop a FOIA on it soon."
"A proper investigation is in order, certainly. I would bet a lot of money that it will reveal that the man with intergrity and honor through all of this is LTG Caldwell and not LTC Holmes..."
"Unfortunately, this creates a significant distraction for a man who's job is relentless in pace with no acceptable outcome other than victory. We wish C3 the best!"
On the Cover of the Rolling Stone: Hastings Aims at Another General, the Military Fires Back - The Brat, Assoluta Tranquillita.
"Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone is at it again. Little punk Mikey, whose most recent claim to fame was writing a story on General Stanley McChrystal, decided to milk his 15 minutes of infamy, and has set his sights on yet another General, in this case LTG William Caldwell IV."
"I really did try to read Mikey's latest breathless prose, but honestly? I just couldn't get past the first few paragraphs to know that, once again, this 'award-winning "journalist" is so intent on claiming another scalp, and yet more notoriety, he doesn't do his homework..."
Rolling Stone Targets Another General - CJ, A Soldier's Perspective.
"Like Blackfive, I wouldn't be surprised if this LTC is out for vengeance and swinging wildly trying to pass the buck. I have worked and do work very closely with Psy-ops units for years and they all know the rules. Being in the military, I see exactly what is happening from this article, but the uninformed that have never served a day in uniform will assume the worst..."
"... I can only surmise that LTC Holmes truly had no grasp of the differences between PAO and IO. I'm confident that LTC Caldwell will come out of this unscathed as I know him to be a honorable, competent, and engaging leader. Believe me, I have no problem saying when I think an officer or any other Soldier is wrong..."
Dissecting the Runaway Journalist - Joe Harlan, Registan.
"Michael Hastings' latest revelation on general officers in Afghanistan reveals more about his sources and how he pastes together his information than anything about how operations in Afghanistan are run. Setting aside the possible motives of LTC Michael Holmes, who at the very least acted improperly by taking what amount to command grievances to the public press, there are some clues as to how Hastings constructs his critiques that need addressing - namely, that he takes a mix of publicly available information, gets a few salacious details from insiders, and writes a piece meant to challenge the powerful. Isn't that what journalists are supposed to do? Not when they get them so fantastically wrong..."
Lawyer Told General His Spin Wasn't Illegal Psyop - Noah Shachtman and Spencer Ackerman, Danger Room.
"The accusation was explosive and unambiguous: A top general in Afghanistan used illegal "information operations" to influence visiting U.S. Senators. But military documents obtained by Danger Room show that at least one Army lawyer deemed the work legal. What's more, the alleged information operator's bosses repeatedly told him that he was just another communications staffer, not some bender of minds..."
Sens. McCain, Lieberman Say Report on 'Psyops' was 'Weird' - Raw Story (CNN Video at the Link).
"Two top US Senators who were reportedly targeted by military "psyop" units said Sunday they don't believe the report was accurate, calling it "weird." Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was particularly hesitant to trust the media over the military given his background as an airman, even though the reporter's last major story forced one of America's top generals out of his job."
Mind Control is Just Not That Easy - Megan McArdle, The Atlantic.
"... I mean, sure, there probably are advanced psychological techniques that could induce senators to appropriate more money for the Afghanistan operations. But those techniques, perfected by Asian communists, are not executed in two hour meetings with a powerpoint deck and an urn full of stewed coffee..."
"... basically the entire story comes from a single guy who seems to have gotten himself into hot water, somewhat coincidentally, not long before he decided to become a whistle-blower. Holmes (and Hastings) argue that this was retaliation for complaining about his inappropriate orders to provide his general reports on visiting legislators. But of course, there's also the possibility that he was the one who was looking for payback..."
NTM-A/CSTC-A-CoS Memorandum for Staff Directors, NTM-A/CSTC-A. Subject: Information Engagement Activities. COL Joseph P. Buche, dated 15 June 2010.
Investigation timeline, undated, authored by COL Joseph Buche, former Chief of Staff at NTM-A, based on a series of e-mails covering the 15-6 investigation concerning LTC Michael Holmes.
26 February 2011 e-mail to Small Wars Journal, from a friend of ours, highlighting the personal thoughts of Lieutenant Colonel Shawn Stroud. LTC Shroud is the Communications Director of NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan.
More to follow, stay tuned.