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.
Holmes later contacted a JAG lawyer who validated his suspicions.
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.
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]