Another big Rolling Stone exposé from Michael Hastings, the journalist who got General Stanely McChrystal canned last June: Hastings reports that over a four month period in Afghanistan in 2010, Lt. Gen. William Caldwell "illegally ordered a team of soldiers specializing in 'psychological operations' to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war."
Before you get all kinds of crazy visions in your head, the techniques this psy-ops team was pressured to use were not exactly borrowed from the Manchurian Candidate. Caldwell wanted the intelligence operation (IO) team to provide a "deeper analysis of pressure points we could use to leverage the delegation for more funds," and ideas and information he could "plant inside their heads." Too bad inception isn't real. (Right? ... Where's my totem?)
But the commander of the IO team, Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes, was uneasy, since "[f]ederal law forbids the military from practicing psy-ops on Americans." He did his best to resist the orders, and sought help from a superior who has apparently never seen Frost/Nixon.
[W]hen Holmes brought his concerns to Col. Gregory Breazile, the spokesperson for the Afghan training mission run by Caldwell, the discussion ended in a screaming match. "It’s not illegal if I say it isn’t!" Holmes recalls Breazile shouting.
Holmes later contacted a JAG lawyer who validated his suspicions.
"The short answer is that IO doesn’t do that," Scott replied in an email. "[Public affairs] works on the hearts and minds of our own citizens and IO works on the hearts and minds of the citizens of other nations. While the twain do occasionally intersect, such intersections, like violent contact during a soccer game, should be unintentional."
Luckily for Holmes, the order to conduct psy-ops on American dignitaries was soon rewritten, and they were now instructed to merely "use publicly available records to create profiles of U.S. visitors." Unfortunately, Holmes had resisted a little to much for his own good, and he was soon the subject of a totally unrelated investigation.
The 22-page report, obtained by Rolling Stone, reads like something put together by Kenneth Starr. The investigator accuses Holmes of going off base in civilian clothes without permission, improperly using his position to start a private business, consuming alcohol, using Facebook too much, and having an "inappropriate" relationship with one of his subordinates, Maj. Laural Levine.
Despite denying the charges, both Holmes and Levine were formally reprimanded. "I’ve lost my faith in the military," Levine, "who has a spotless record and 19 service awards after 16 years in the military," says, "I couldn’t in good conscience recommend anyone joining right now." That's not very good PR.
Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators [Rolling Stone]
Update: General David Petraeus has ordered an investigation. [First Read/MSNBC]