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Infocon Magazine Issue One, October 2003

Psychological Operations Interview with Larry Dietz, London, 29th April 2003

Interviewer: Wanja Eric Naef


The opinions expressed in this document are those of the interviewee. They do not reflect the official position of the US Government, Department of Defense or the Symantec Corporation.

Lawrence Dietz has 30 years of diversified military and commercial information operations experience. He is currently Director, North American Enterprise Marketing for Symantec Corporation, a publicly held information security software and services provider.

A licensed attorney in California and a member of the Santa Clara County Bar Association and the State Bar of California and a recognized authority in the field of Internet and e-business law. He retired as a Colonel from the U.S. Army Reserve, serving as Deputy Commander NATO's Information Campaign in Bosnia. Previous military assignments include Commander, 12th PSYOP Battalion, Strategic Intelligence Officer, Company commander and Radio Research Platoon Leader. He is currently the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence and Security of the 351st Civil Affairs Command. He holds BS, MBA, JD. and LLM in European Law from Leicester University, United Kingdom. COL (R) Dietz was elected Honorary Colonel of the PSYOP Regiment of the U.S. Army in April 2003.


Q: 1. What is the aim of Psychological Operations and how can it be achieved?

Lawrence Dietz: Psychological Operations in the military context is another weapons system to accomplish the mission set by the commander. Psychological Operations officers work closely with the current and future ops people to determine how that weapons system can be implemented along with all the others. A key facet of this role is being apart of target selection and deconfliction as well as with the overall operations.

Q: 2. Where do Influence Operations fit into the larger picture of Information Operations?

Dietz: Influence Ops have been more generally recognised as a warfighting discipline over the past several years. And they are always found in the ‘three or operations shop’. The Influence Ops can sometimes include deception operations, which can be physical types of deception, as we saw in Kosovo as a complement to the PsyOp.

The PsyOp is geared towards influencing the behaviour of the target. The target can be military or civilian depending on the situation.

Q: 3. What is the importance of Influence Ops compared to other IO elements?

Dietz: I cannot really fully address this question because I have not personally observed all of the IO elements used in concert especially Computer Network Operations. My personal observations have been limited to PsyOp. I have observed interaction among PSYOP, public affairs, civil affairs and in some cases engineering operations in support of civil affairs. You sometimes see all that treated together particularly when you are in a combined headquarters where the different troop contributors have a role in determining what the goals of the campaign are where the commander’s guidance is generic enough so that everyone can put their 2 cents in. Things that touch the population and information presented to the population I have seen orchestrated together, but I have never seen the whole range to include the Computer Network aspects.

Q: 4. Do you think US law hinders PsyOp? This applies especially to PsyOp which is targeted at foreign audiences but which can also be seen by US citizens and hence it can be considered to be illegal?

Dietz: On the strategic level there has been an awful lot of confusion. Some of this dates back to pre-World War II. If you follow the history of PsyOp in World War II the entertainment industry was really mobilised for the war effort and a vital part of government sponsored operations. At that point the work product was designed for US and foreign citizens. In today’s world the State Department is prohibited from ‘influencing’ American citizens and a primary goal is to promote the American message to non-US audiences. In fact as I understand it there is some law, but I do not know what it is, that basically says the State Department will not ‘psyop’ American citizens. This becomes somewhat problematic when you have Internet access, because when I am sitting in America I can log on any url in the world and unless there is some sort of technological way to filter out US domains from accessing the US State Department which I do not believe there is, it gets to be a real problem. Therefore, the State Department, in my opinion, has chosen to deal with this is that they do not devote resources by policy to ‘psyoping the American citizens. On the military side I think the military is much less encumbered because when military PsyOp is deployed it is outside the United States, US laws may not apply to them in foreign countries.

Q: 5. According to a NATO PsyOps officer, it is relatively difficult to convince Commanders to put PsyOp teams ‘on the ground’ before the outbreak of hostilities whilst they have no objections to inserting Special Ops teams into a pre-hostilities environment? How can senior military Commanders be persuaded to use PsyOp in a pre-hostility environment?

Dietz: Special Ops are trained to function behind enemy lines and in most cases are trained not to be noticed. How would put a military PsyOp team in an environment where they are clearly going to be noticed because they are operating in the open and not trying to shield their operations in any way. It would seem difficult to insert a PSYOP team prior to hostilities. The commander understands the weapon systems. If you are going after a target and you think there will be hostilities, you then you have 2 sets of targets, you have civilian targets and military targets. The military target is the province of military PsyOp. This does not mean that PSYOP cannot be conducted against a target from outside that country by alternative means. Broadcast media can often be transmitted into a target from outside its borders. We have already discussed the fact that the Internet renders many borders useless.

Q: 6. Should PsyOp be used in peacetime? If yes, who should conduct it?

Dietz: There is a difference between PsyOp and Public Information. PsyOp is designed to influence behaviour in concert with a military commander’s desire. Information Operations implies a broader context and can provide information to allow the population to make their own decision--hopefully the way the influencer intends. That is a different animal. My personal feeling is when the target is military; then the military is the right vehicle. If the target is the civilian population, there needs to be a different way to do it: in the US case that would be through the State Department as it has the mission of public information. If a military force is deployed for peacekeeping or peace making operations it will very likely be incumbent upon them to engage in effect PSYOP to help influence the population in their favour for a number of reasons not the least of which would be their own security. Today’s situation in Iraq is a case in point where military resources are employed to communicate with the local population for a variety of reasons.

Q: 7. What is the importance of strategic PsyOp?

Dietz: Strategic PsyOp is important to establish a baseline and to realise that credibility is built over time. In the world of public information truth must be the message, because in today’s world there are no secrets. Sooner or later the truth will be revealed. So there needs to be continuing attention to the strategic message.

Q: 8. Where do you think the borderline should be drawn between public diplomacy, public affairs, and Influence Operations, etc.?

Dietz: Again it depends on the target. Public diplomacy and public information is the realm of the civilian population and civilian influence. PsyOp to me is military commander’s and the civilian command chain of an adversary. So for example I do not think that PsyOp would be applied against the commercial enterprises in a target country. But clearly PsyOp could be applied towards the minister of information in the target country as well as leading military commanders and figures. I think it is matter of targeting definition.

Q: 9. Most of the US PsyOp capabilities are drawn from reservists. Do you think the US should have more regular PsyOp forces and could the army do that?

Dietz: Right now the US PsyOp force consists of three groups and only one of those groups is active. As a practical matter there needs to be more active duty PsyOp forces for three several reasons: 1. the operational tempo has become so severe that you cannot rely on a continuing stream of part time soldiers. If an individual wanted to be a full time soldier they would have stayed in active duty and there are a lot of economic and sociological ramifications of being a reservist PsyOp officer as I can personally attest. Continuous exploitation of Reserve forces will bring significant familiar pressure to reduce commitments and will ultimately severely limit the recruiting base. Potential re-employment difficulties upon release from active duty may also serve to hamper recruiting. Another reason in favour of a larger PsyOp force in the active force is so that active duty PsyOp officers can rotate amongst the assignments with the big army remove some of the lack of knowledge surrounding PsyOp in the overall force. This assignment rotation would facilitate a network of professional soldiers who have now worked with each other and understands each other’s discipline.

The second part of your question was could the army do that? I guess they could as there is no physical limitation: certainly there is the capability to train more and there is capability to house more soldiers within the active duty 4th PSYOP Group.. I would not see that an issue at all.

Q: 10. Intelligence support is very important for Influence Operations? How do you think the US Intel community should change to provide better Intel support, especially cultural intelligence?

Dietz: There is not enough attention to the civilian composition of the countries of the world, particularly the media. There are no existing databases to my knowledge that tell you who owns what TV station, who owns what radio station, do these stations take commercial advertising and if so who are the biggest advertisers, what are the rates, who are the leading personalities and what are their backgrounds. This information is very difficult to get. You cannot necessarily go out on the Internet and find out how many TV stations there are in Azerbaijan. The issue of language proficiency is also important and it is difficult to collect intelligence when the collectors cannot employ the native language of the target. Having said that it strikes me as logical that the commercial attachés of particular embassies and consulates should be chartered with the collection of TV guides, radio scheduling, newspaper publishing data and whatever information is available to the public from open sources dealing with the nature of the communications media. I think right now this is really a black hole. And even in the commercial sector you do not see much of that information available, because it is kind of a ‘follow the money thing’, i.e. that countries of the world that have very poor economies are typically the ones that have the most troubles and because they have poor economies they are not good venues for investments. If they are not good venues for investments there is not a lot of research in the media even though some of these countries would be the mostly locations for military intervention of one kind or another.

Q: 11. During the Kosovo war Serbs managed to maintain Information Superiority over its citizens. What lessons can be learned from their undertaking?

Dietz: That goes back to my point: the military is good for military targets and the civilians for civilian targets. The Serbs are very good at controlling the media. The Serbs believe much along Communist lines that the purpose of SRT, Serb Radio Television, is to serve the needs of the State. They are not an objective news providing force nor do they claim to be. They are an arm of the state. Information superiority was gained and maintained because they had much more control over the audience. The lesson learned is you have to quickly disrupt that ownership, deny them access to the audience and provide your own information if you can.

Q: 12. What lesson have you learned when you were deputy Commander of the Combined Joint Information Campaign Task Force in Bosnia?

Dietz: First of all, military people are very similar in terms of characteristics and personality, but they are very different in the way they do business, and what is important to them. Particularly as we Americans have a well-deserved reputation for inflexibility and for being the ‘biggest cowboys in town’. Unfortunately a big part of your initial tasks in a collation is to first establish your personal credibility and ability to relate to your fellow officers from the other nations. The second thing you have to do is establish, even though PsyOp and Information Operations do not involve blowing up things or killing the enemy, they can account for very significant advances in the commander’s goals. In many cases PSYOP personnel must work with their military colleagues to help the military understand how civilians work and think. You are often presented with flag officers who think they absolutely positively know everything because they are flag officers. They may be exceptionally astute in matters of military strategic or tactics, but have not functioned as a civilian since their college days and may have lost touch with what is involved in influencing a population.

Frankly, one of the most important lessons I learned military people have no sense of money. They think Information Operations just happens. Information Operations does not just happen. There is a time factor needed to develop appropriate materials and you there is a need for a budget to buy the access to the media just like every other advertiser. That is sometimes a very difficult thing to teach.

Q: 13. In one of your papers you looked at certain target groups? Which group of people is most likely to susceptible to PsyOps?

Dietz: In that paper you referred to I took a look at the target groups in terms of red, yellow and green. The red group was that group of individuals who, no matter what the heck you would do, you are just not going to change their mind. The green group generally hates the red group and whatever you are going to do they will still hate the red group and they are more likely to believe your friendly message. So you need to provide some level of emphasis on the green group to make sure they maintain their view. The group with the biggest potential is the orange, amber, or yellow group that falls somewhere in the middle. These are the ones that must be influenced

Q: 14. What do you think is the potential of ESpace as PsyOps battleground?

Dietz: First, not everybody has access to the Internet. A fair amount of target analysis is required to determine the importance of the Internet as a influencing media. The second thing is just because the commander has an email, does not mean he is reading it. Perhaps some poor sergeant is reading and answering the Commander’s mail, we know that for sure. So messages via email may or may not go astray. Mobile phones are an interesting phenomena because mobile phones are often a part of the battlefield scenario. Particularly, when you are past the conflict and you are in the peacekeeping mode, it is far easier for many governments to set up a wireless network than to run wires over great distances, particularly with weather problems. The mobile phone becomes a very effective potential media. The mere fact that you know the mobile number of the target and perhaps his physical location as well will be in and of itself an unnerving PSYACT. Future adoption of short message system (SMS) and other similar means of communication may also prove to be effective techniques for selected, high profile targets.

But as far as the Internet goes, we have not seen the Internet become a main access of attack simply because most of the areas where PSYOP are executed do not offer a robust information technology infrastructure. In the target area the ESpace thing may be overrated. When there are targets that are in developed economies with adequate Internet coverage then PSYOP conducted over the Internet may prove effective. Of course there are PSYACTs that can be conducted against internet targets such as websites of governments, groups or individuals. Also from a CNO or CNE operation there doesn’t seem to be a well developed publicly available doctrine. Right now it would appear that the ESpace is far more an enabler of communications and an intelligence gather mechanism for many organizations, state sponsored and otherwise.

Q: 15. What is you opinion of the potential of Information Operations as a whole?

Dietz: IO is so complex a phenomena that today’s commander has difficulty understanding it. Unfortunately IO appears to be populated by a world of specialists today. Until it becomes a general part of the battle system, its effects are going to be limited. You can have different commanders in the same physical locations with the same units who know how to use IO and employ those fundamentals and then you have commanders who do not employ IO at all. Results obtained are perhaps not recorded nor are the lessons learned, nor is there sufficient easily understood doctrine that can aid the Warfighter in exploiting IO for their advantage.

Q: 16. Do you think in the future more and more Precision guided PsyOp will be possible?

Dietz: Yes, I would say so. Particularly, if you can identify the target, and use a variety of means to identify alternative information sources to that target, especially if the target is electronically rich. For example, the typical American with what the research companies call the personal area network, you have a PDA, a mobile phone, a laptop and all kinds of electronic means, maybe more than one email address. The more of those means I can isolate, the better I can target that individual, presumably it is a high payoff target.

Q: 17. What is your opinion about the US PsyOp campaign during Operation Iraqi Freedom?

Dietz: I wish could tell you I know. Unfortunately, my information has come from the American media and The Economist. Based on public sources either the information campaign was a fabulous success or the assessments in terms of urban warfare capabilities were totally screwed up. It is one or the other. So based on the length of time of the actual conflict I must say that something went right whether it was the enemy who was not as strong as people thought or our intelligence was better I do not know. It would appear to me that the broadcast media in the major cities such as Baghdad play an important role in people’s daily lives and that the coalition would have to extend its IO to exploit this capability.

Q: 18. Where do you see the future of PsyOp?

Dietz: The future is such that when people realise that tomorrow’s actions will be characterised by a mobile fighting force. The range and high degree of freedom that this force will have to employ implies that will use PsyOp and Public Affairs to further the commander’s objectives. Key areas for attention will no doubt include civilian interference with the military objectives and the need to keep these down to a minimum. The complementary mission for PSYOP would be to exact as much emotional damage as possible from the adversary force before, during and after the conflict. We will see more and better PsyOp over time particularly as commanders see results. The latest events in Iraq are a pretty good indicator that this stuff can really work and they can really save time and more importantly lives of your friendly forces.

The Interview was conducted as part of an IWS research project on IO Computer Network Attacks.


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