Psychological Operations – Description
Psychological operations (PsyOp) are a planned process of conveying messages to a target audience (TA) to promote certain attitudes, emotions, and behavior. These messages are typically conveyed using a line of persuasion known as a theme.
PsyOp is basically the use of communication to influence behavior. It is used against adversaries, their supporters, and their potential supporters. It is defined by the US Army in the following way: “Psychological operations are planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.”
An important consideration here is that a TA can be a group or individual. A TA is defined by the Joint Chiefs of Staff publication Doctrine for Joint Psychological Operations as: “An individual or group selected for influence or attack by means of psychological operations.”
PsyOp is used across the entire spectrum of conflict, with or without any accompanying military action, from special operations, to high-intensity and low-intensity conflict (LIC). This includes variations of LIC such as counterterrorism, peacekeeping, CMO, MOOTW, IW, UW, etc. Planning for PsyOp is the same regardless of the type of warfare in which it is used. It is used in conjunction with all instruments of national power. Most information pertaining to PsyOp is classified.
Despite the Army’s definition, which states that it is only used on foreign audiences, the evidence presented so far suggests that it is being used on civilians domestically in the US and elsewhere. As we’ve seen, it has been officially declared that the military is indeed working with federal agencies in the US during the new war conducting PsyOp as part of CMO.
Furthermore, the Council on Foreign Relations considers psyop a NLW to be used on civilians. The Defense Science Board, another advisory committee to the DOD, announced in its Future Strategic Strike Forces task force report of February 2004, that NLW and PsyOp are to be “directed at the physiological or psychological functions of specific individuals or the populace.”
A book published in 2000 by the DOD’s C4SI Cooperative Research Program, entitled Network Centric Warfare: Developing and Leveraging Information Superiority, mentioned that information operations (PsyOp) will be conducted entirely in the civilian sector where the military will be working closely with civilians.
Although there seems to be a variety of ways it can be categorized, most military publications have it listed as a type of information operation (IO), previously referred to as command and control warfare (C2W). IO consists of five core capabilities that are used in concert and with any related capabilities to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or takeover an enemy’s decision making process.
They include: psychological operations (PsyOp), military deception (MILDEC), operations security (OPSEC), and electronic warfare (EW), and computer network operations (CNO). IO is basically a way of interfering with the various systems that a person uses to make decisions.
Of the five, PsyOp, MILDEC, and OPSEC have been major factors in most military campaigns. They have recently been joined by EW and CNO. Used in combination, these core capabilities are the primary methods of influencing an adversary in this new type of warfare. EW, which includes interfering with the enemy’s electronic informational systems and attacking them with directed-energy weapons, as well as CNO, which is used to attack an enemy’s computer systems, will be discussed later.
There other terms used to describe PsyOp, including: military deception (MILDEC), effects-based operations (EBO), neocortical warfare, political warfare (PolWar), and psychological warfare (PsyWar). The meanings of these terms will be covered at this time.
Military deception (MILDEC) seeks to mislead the enemy by affecting all conduits of information which they rely on to make decisions. This includes all systems, groups, and even individuals, which the enemy uses as a source of information.
It does this to the point of managing the perception of the enemy. MILDEC is similar to PsyOp. PsyOp normally targets groups while MILDEC targets individuals. An individual targeted for MILDEC may also be part of a PsyOp target group. MILDEC is enhanced by operations security (OPSEC). While MILDEC influences the enemy’s interpretation of information, OPSEC prevents the enemy from receiving any unclassified but sensitive information.
Neocortical warfare is RAND’s version of PsyOp that controls the behavior of the enemy without physically harming them. RAND describes the neocortical system as consciousness, perception, and will. Neocortical warfare regulates the enemy’s neocortical system by interfering with their continuous cycle of observation, orientation, decision, and action. It presents the enemy with perceptions, sensory, and cognitive data designed to result in a narrow set of conclusions, and ultimately actions.
Another DOD term that is similar to PsyOp is the effects-based operation (EBO). The DOD describes it as: “coordinated sets of actions directed at shaping the behavior of friends, neutrals, and foes in peace, crisis, and war.” EBO uses the attrition-based approach for the slow physical and psychological destruction of the enemy. The goal is to break the will of the enemy.
Because of their synergistic use, PsyOp, MILDEC, and OPSEC will be called PsyOp. Also, the PsyOp term will cover related ones such as EBO and neocortical warfare due to their underlying similarities regarding techniques and goals. Furthermore, terms used in the UK such as psychological warfare (PsyWar) and political warfare (PolWar) are synonymous with PsyOp. For the course of this study all of these terms will be referred to as PsyOp.
Organizations which had a significant influence on the development of modern PsyOp include private foundations such as Menninger, Rockefeller, Russell Sage, and Ford, as well as the Carnegie Corporation. Some of these groups were involved in such research as early as the 1930s.
They worked with think tanks such as the RAND Corporation and Council on Foreign Relations, as well as universities such as Princeton and MIT. These groups went into partnership with the US military to conduct early PsyOp studies. They kept most of their research results classified.
Psychological Operations – Structure
PsyOp is a core part of civil-military operations (CMO) and CMO is a major component in this new war. CMO combines military, federal agencies, NGOs, civilian organizations and authorities, and the civilian population. It takes place in friendly, neutral, or hostile operational areas. This includes populated civilian areas in which no other military activity is conducted.
The controlling faction of these PsyOp/CMO activities includes the military, federal agencies, NGOs, regional organizations, and international organizations that work with civil authorities. In the US this means FEMA, the DOJ, the CIA, and other federal agencies. PsyOp activities, regardless of national origin, are coordinated by and synchronized with these organizations.
These operations are run from the CMOCs described in The New War chapter of Volume II. The host nation (HN) provides the military with civil assistance in the area of operation (AO). This includes civilian resources such as materials, facilities, services, administrative support, and other resources. It also includes civilian logistics. PsyOp units work with the civilian population in the AO.
These units use civilians and their resources as irregular forces. These are global activities, occurring domestically in the US, allied countries, and opposing countries.
Psychological Operations – Products
Before describing the PsyOp units, their capabilities, methods of profiling, and the themes that they use to attack their TAs, it is necessary to have an understanding of products. What some publications describe as a product, others say is a distribution (dissemination) method. Others appear to use the terms product and distribution interchangeably when referring to the same thing.
Also, some things can be accurately described as both. For instance a TV broadcast can be a distribution method which transmits a product. The internet (which is part of the battlespace) can also be described as a distribution method which contains products. The context that these terms are used here should make their meaning clear.
A product is an action, event, or media used to get the attention of a TA and transmit a message. It is also expected to provoke a response in the TA to achieve psychological objectives. Some include novelties and gifts which may be commercially produced.
Products are typically used as part of a line of communication known as a theme to convey a message to the TA. The products used to transmit PsyOp messages are limitless. The three basic categories of PsyOp products are audio, visual, and audiovisual.
Audio products include radio broadcasts, music, telephone conversations, and loudspeaker announcements. Visual products include items that can only be seen. Some of these are commercially produced. Examples are print media such as newspapers, inserts, magazines, leaflets, posters, pamphlets, books, drawings, paintings, notebooks, calendars, and stickers. Existing literary media is also used to promote themes.
A wide variety of gifts, novelties, and supplies can be used as PsyOp visual products. In addition to the physical product itself, these products may contain short text or symbolic messages. They include: matches, lighters, soap, nail clippers, cards, balloons, puzzles, buttons, pins, T-shirts, hats, other types of clothing, toys, durable goods, sporting equipment, packaged foods, medical supplies, school supplies, etc.
Other visual products are: billboards, vehicles with lettering, statues, gestures, skywriting, and graffiti. Electronic visual products are text messaging, emails, web sites, fax, and chat rooms. Graffiti can be done using symbols or short messages in conjunction with other PsyOp products to fortify the theme. It has the benefit of being quickly distributed in the area of operation (AO) on sides of buildings, fences, etc., as well as on visual media which the TA is accustomed to viewing.
PsyOp audiovisual products use sight and sound to communicate with a TA. This includes TV, videos, and slides with sound, personalities, theater, internet, face-to-face communication, and performances known as psychological actions (PsyActs), which will be discussed shortly. To help create professional quality audiovisual products, PsyOp personnel can use expert contractors with advanced audiovisual studios.
There appears to be some ambiguity in military documents regarding PsyOp organizational structure terms such as group, unit, team, element, etc. To simplify matters, the term group will mean the largest organization conducting PsyOp. A unit/taskforce will pertain to smaller factions within the group and there may be units within units. Teams and elements are the smallest factions of this structure.
Although the names of the organizations and the functions they perform are official military terms, I’ll use the term unit to describe a PsyOp organization which may technically be a group or a team. This should be of little consequence, however, because the activities that these organizations perform are the same.
So far, multiple military and other government sources have revealed that PsyOp is being used on civilians in the US and other countries. These admissions suggest that some the following military forces (or variations of them) are now functioning in your cities and towns: psychological operations group (POG), PsyOp Task Force (POTF), Tactical PsyOp Detachment (TPD), and Tactical PsyOp Team (TPT).
Before explaining these forces in more detail, another look at the battlespace will be instructive. In PsyOp the battlespace is sometimes referred to as the operational area, joint operational area (if it’s being conducted by a joint force), operating environment, or area of operation (AO).
The AO includes the air, space, land, and sea. An area of responsibility (AOR) is a portion of the battlespace which is under the control of a particular PsyOp unit, which is charged with the psychological preparation of that area. They prep the area to allow for the attack of multiple TAs.
Psychological Operations Group
PsyOp units work with civil affairs (CA) personnel to form the core of CMO planning. This includes a psychological operations group (POG), which plans, coordinates, and executes PsyOp activities at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels of warfare. The POG may contain a regional and dissemination battalion.
The POG consists of military and civilian experts in the following areas: psychology, communication, political science, language/linguistics, culture, sociology, economics, country specialties, history, and philosophy. It has sections that specialize in operations, plans, training, intelligence and information, and logistics including supply and transportation. An example of such as group is the US Army’s 4th POG.
The Fourth Psychological Operations Group (4th POG) of the US Army is an active psychological operations unit located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It deploys anywhere in the world on short notice for all levels of conflict. It plans and conducts civil affairs and PsyOp in support of unified commanders or government agencies. The 4th POG is known as the strategic core of the PsyOp community.
It has intelligence sections that gather intelligence and analyze the TA. To help accomplish this, it uses military and civilian experts in linguistics, politics, culture, religion, and other subject areas. These experts profile the TA in order to decide how to best communicate with them.
The 4th POG provides support such as propaganda, product development, media production, and tactical product distribution. It has quality print (graphics, photography), audio, and audiovisual production and distribution capabilities. Professionals in technical fields such as, print, graphics, communications, etc. support the group.
It has mobile radio monitoring stations that are capable of listening to almost any broadcast on the planet. The 4th POG is equipped with high-powered AM, FM, and shortwave radio transmitters for long-range broadcasting, supported by experts in communications and propaganda. It has propaganda development teams that can develop written material on any theme.
The 4th POG has portable printing facilities capable of producing professional quality magazines, brochures, pamphlets, posters, banners, books, etc. It also has tactical teams that conduct short-range PsyOp that are equipped with van-mounted printing, photographic, and media distribution facilities. The 4th POG is part of SOCOM.
United States Special Operations Command
The United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM), established in 1987, is a unified special operations command that oversees various special operations commands of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. It is headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. SOCOM conducts global overt and covert missions including unconventional warfare (UW).
SOCOM has multiple units, or special operations forces (SOF), some of which perform highly classified activities. Two notable units include the First Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (Delta Force) of the US Army, and the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU, the Navy Seals). SOCOM is supported by an intelligence faction known as Intelligence Support Activity (ISA) which provides Human Intelligence (HUMINT) and Signal Intelligence (SIGINT).
SOCOM conducts PsyOp, civil affairs operations (also called civil-military operations), counterterrorism, and other functions. Two SOCOM units which specialize in PsyOp include the 193rd Special Operations Wing (193 SOW) of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, and the Army’s 4th Psychological Operations Group (4th POG).
PsyOp Task Force
The PsyOp Task Force (POTF) is usually the highest organization that performs PsyOp in the battlespace. It may be part of a joint psychological operations task force (JPOTF) if other services or agencies are included. It plans develops, designs, produces, and distributes PsyOp products. This includes the various media, themes, and messages transmitted to the TA. In provides an in-depth profile analysis of the TAs in an AO. It recommends products to influence the TAs and evaluates their effect. SOCOM is usually the supporting command structure of a POTF, which uses factions of the 4th POG as the main PsyOp force.
Tactical PsyOp Detachmenty
The Tactical PsyOp Detachment (TPD) is a team of about 13 personnel with a captain and staff sergeant. It provides tactical PsyOp support to brigade and battalion-sized units in support of Special Forces. It is made up of several small teams known as Tactical PsyOp Teams (TPT).
The TPD conducts mission assessment, determines distribution priorities, and tracks the various products that have been distributed throughout the AO. All teams maintain contact with each other. The TPD is in constant communication with other forces such as the TPDD, POTF, or TPT during the entire operation.
Tactical PsyOp Team
A Tactical PsyOp Team (TPT) is a small group consisting of a team leader, his assistant, and a PsyOp specialist. The TPT may provide planning and PsyOp distribution support to larger units.
The primary purpose of the team is to enable the tactical commander to communicate directly with the TA in his AOR. A TPT can be part of a TPD or under the control of a unit commander. It helps to distribute products throughout the AO. TPTs conduct face-to-face communication with the TA. They also monitor the TA’s reaction to PsyOp products in the AO and advise the commander on their effects. They can modify themes to adjust to the situation but must ensure that they remain within the guidelines of the approving upper unit.
Tactical Product Development Detachment
A Tactical Product Development Detachment (TPDD) is a small unit that works at the division or area level to instantly create PsyOp products for a specific situation in the AO. It provides products for PsyOp personnel that will have immediate tactical use in the AO.
The TPDD works with the civilian sector to supply most of its audio, visual, and audiovisual products for theater (battlespace) distribution. This includes civilian specialists in radio and TV programming, station management, casting, directing, editing, graphic arts, advertising, computers, design, music, photography, audio/video, and printing.
PsyOp Assessment Team
Prior to PsyOp activities, a PsyOp Assessment Team (POAT) moves into an AO to establish contracts with groups and businesses to use their services. It is a small team of about 12 people, including specialists in areas such as tactics, print, broadcast, communications, and logistics.
The POAT observes some of the following features of the AO: TA, production facilities, communications infrastructure, competing media, logistics support, tactical considerations, distribution capabilities, production media (print, radio, TV), broadcast equipment, etc. The POAT is mostly a planning team, although some of its members may remain when the operation becomes functional.
Psychological Operations – Equipment
The equipment used by PsyOp units can be the property of the forces themselves, other governmental agencies, multinational partners, or contracted from local media. Some units are equipped with audiovisual studios, printing facilities, and other equipment. They also have distribution assets such as radio stations, radios, TV stations, TVs, etc.
Production may be done by the 4th POG at Fort Bragg, media production centers that have been deployed to an AO, or contracted to private industry. Van-mounted facilities with broadcasting and print media production capabilities exist.
PsyOp units locate and establish contracts with mass media outlets in the AO. This includes newspapers, TV and radio stations, printing facilities, billboard companies, etc. They recruit these and other facilities to help them create and distribute PsyOp products directly to the TA.
The units also determine the location of radio and TV transmitters and repeaters, so they may be jammed and covertly replaced with their own signals, such as those emanating from an emitter mounted in a van. Airborne or seaborne platforms can also accomplish this. Terrestrial and satellite digital radio and TV broadcasts can even be used to transmit PsyOp products.
In addition to transmitting PsyOp products as part of an attack, spoofing these signals can also isolate the enemy. The Council on Foreign Relations, which considers PsyOp a NLW to be used on civilians, has advocated the interception and spoofing of people’s radio and TV signals in all three of its NLW task force reports.
Also worth mentioning is digital morphing, which is a technology that has been used by the entertainment industry to manipulate voice, video, and photo media. Not only can a person’s voice be spoofed by taking a 10 minute digital recording of their voice, but a complete audiovisual file of a person can be created.
In addition, morphing allows for graphics to be digitally imported into a live broadcast, basically, changing the broadcast in real-time. It has been researched by the Los Alamos National Laboratory and will be used for PsyOp. The DSB recognized the usefulness of this technology in its task force report, and similarly recommended its use for PsyOp.
Psychological Operations – C4ISR
PsyOp units use a C4ISR system which allows for the rapid, interoperable, reliable, and secure exchange of information throughout the chain of command. This C4ISR system may have a centralized control and distributed capability.
Units are connected to the intelligence cycle, which continually provides them with current and accurate knowledge pertaining to the TA, obtained from “all available sources” in order to update their products. This includes HUMINT and SIGINT. The C4ISR system also provides them with any relevant information pertaining to the battlespace itself. In addition, the C4ISR system allows for the generation and distribution of PsyOp products and themes. So, it is not only used for communications, it is linked to the PsyOp production and distribution process.
Each AO has a senior PsyOp officer. Messages and themes, which carry triggers that a TA has been sensitized to, are passed to these commanders in order to influence the TA. These themes and triggers will be explained shortly. PsyOp products are then disseminated to “shape the psychological environment” of the entire AO.
The TA’s reaction to the various products is “continually” done as they move through the battlespace. This information is collected and evaluated through a variety of conduits, which allows the planners to quickly adjust the campaign based on the reaction of the TA.
Psychological Operations – TA Profile
TA analysis is necessary to plan and conduct a successful PsyOp campaign. This includes the creation of a profile based on the intelligence process that allows the planners to understand how the TA perceives their environment.
Experts in the behavioral sciences, religion, culture, politics, linguistics, and other subject areas help profile the TA. The more detailed the profile, the more successful the campaign will be. Factors that are considered include: politics, religion, economics, language, race, educational level, affiliations, location, social conditions, history, etc. Tests are conducted to determine the TAs reaction to a variety of environmental stimuli in order to assess their psychological vulnerabilities.
Themes and Symbols
Communication with a TA usually takes place using a theme. After a TA has been profiled, themes and distribution channels are selected.
A theme can be thought of as a series of PsyOp products that are used to promote a single message with the intent of modifying the behavior of the TA. To accomplish this, a multitude of different products which share a distinct characteristic can be used to promote a theme.
To develop themes, PsyOp personnel use the principles of marketing. The concepts for building PsyOp themes are the same as commercial advertising. PsyOp personnel use themes the same way marketers use advertising.
Themes are used to attack the vulnerabilities of a TA as well as create new ones which can be attacked. Themes that already have meaning to the TA are used and new themes are built on previous ones. PsyOp personnel understand what current themes are used with a particular TA, and are aware of any past themes. Themes are synchronized with all instruments of national power.
Symbols contribute to themes. A symbol is a PsyOp product spanning the visual, audio, and audiovisual realms that is used to convey a theme. A symbol is something that stands for something else by reason of association.
They may be visual (short text, statues, pictures, gestures), aural (music or spoken words), or audiovisual (actions and personalities). Over a period of time these symbols accumulate an emotional meaning to the TA.
There are several categories of themes (also called appeals) that can be used to change the behavior of a TA. Some include: legitimacy, inevitability, in-group/out-group, bandwagon, and self-preservation. Of particular interest are the legitimacy and inevitability themes.
Legitimacy themes use authority (e.g., law, regulations, police, parents, government, etc.), and reverence (worshiped entities and religion) to influence the TA. The US military has done extensive research on how religion can be used to control and attack people. Other types of legitimacy themes are tradition (consistency), and loyalty (military, friends, family, etc.).
Inevitability themes rely on the fear of death or injury for behavior modification. Inevitability themes stress that the TA will eventually lose (die). They exploit any successes that the military has experienced as well as any failures of the TA.
Any recent tragedies suffered by the TA are used in these themes. Themes developed for such tragedies must be distributed quickly or the negative feelings associated with the event will deteriorate. Personal threats of lethal force are also used in themes.
Other types of messages that exploit unfavorable conditions experienced by the enemy that can be conveyed to them include: financial and other types of failures; shortages of basic needs such as food, fuel, housing, clothing, and medical; racial and religious persecution; precarious situations; inferiorities and inefficiencies; physical discomforts and hardships.
Psychological Operations – Psychological Actions
The military also establishes contact with a TA using face-to-face communication (F2C) and psychological actions (PsyActs). F2C and PsyActs are similar. Both are audiovisual products consisting of agents of action who deliver messages to a TA.
Both require that the people involved follow a set of guidelines while play-acting to deliver the messages. Both are used to modify the behavior of the A. F2C usually involves a single individual addressing another individual, or a single individual addressing a group. PsyActs generally require more planning, more resources, and use multiple people to transmit messages. They require the coordination of a variety of resources, while F2C is simple.
Because military documents are vague when differentiating between the two, and due to their similarities, the term PsyAct will be used to describe both of these for the scope of this study.
There are multiple references in military documentation that explain the process of presenting themes in a manner that is consistent with play or movie production. Words such as: sets, props, performance, theater, actors, cast, script, audience, etc., are used.5
In fact, to help create audiovisual products, the military can enlist the services of theater actor guilds and modeling agencies. Because a PsyAct is an audiovisual product, this means that these professional actors can be used for PsyActs. “Only the limitations of the supported unit in planning and accomplishing the action (and the imagination of PsyOp personnel) restrict the variety of operations that can be considered PsyActs,” the US Army tells us.
The people who convey these messages are known as agents of action (also called actors) which the US Army describes as “persons, units, and agencies that perform PsyActs which enhance and amplify the overall PsyOp plan.” These persons are not necessarily military personnel.
Some agents of action can be key communicators. Key communicators are individuals (including civilians) that the TA relies on for information and opinions. These individuals are usually seen as trustworthy to the TA. The military recruits key communicators to convey its messages. The idea is that if a message appears to originate from a trusted source it will seem more credible.
PsyActs are conveyed by these actors in the presence of the TA. This doesn’t mean that the actors conveying the messages are speaking directly to the TA, only that that the TA is in their presence when the messages are transmitted.
PsyActs can take place during rallies, rumor campaigns, group meetings, lectures, theater, plays, speeches, dances, banquets, fiestas, festivals, religious activities, talks with individuals, during interviews on talk radio shows, and other social activities. The messages that are transmitted during these events can be subtly included in the presentation.
The agents of action follow a general script to convey these messages. These scripts are basic guidelines which allow the actors to adjust their message as the conversation progresses so that it doesn’t sound fake. Otherwise, it will be rigid and unresponsive to the reaction of the TA. This type of communication includes key words or phrases spoken by the actors in the presence of the TA.
The messages conveyed by these agents of action can be the primary topic of discussion, or they can be cleverly planted into the presentation. This is a type of live theater performance that can be carried out in a variety of settings, which can include props and sets that help promote the theme.
Psychological Operations – Preparation of AO/Perception Management
Those who design PsyOp campaigns do so to allow for the attack of multiple TAs in the same area. PsyOp personnel change the environment to adapt to the different TAs that move through it. This has been referred to as the psychological preparation of the battlespace.
After a person has been profiled and products and themes have been selected, PsyOp personnel decide on distribution (also called dissemination) methods, which are the actual delivery of PsyOp products to the TA. Distribution is the physical and electronic method of linking developers and producers in order to accomplish the distribution of PsyOp products.
Products are distributed to the TA through audio, visual, and audiovisual means that are referred to as channels (also called conduits and mediums). Intelligence is used to determine the best delivery channel. PsyOp units study the channels which the TA uses to obtain information, and then refine the products in a manner that is consistent with those channels.
Part of PsyOp production involves tailoring the product to make it compatible with the way a TA is accustomed to receiving information. Factors that are considered here include media technique, language, and journalistic style. Others include the type of art, theater, music, and media format that the TA relies on for information/entertainment.
In other words, the product is not just tailored to accommodate a particular channel (e.g. audio, visual, audiovisual), but the style of a specific channel. This means the type of art (visual), music (audio), theater (audiovisual), etc. is replicated. In this manner, the product will be blended into the environment so as to not appear out of place, while still impacting the TA.
In addition to common languages, each individual has their own personal language known as a representational system, which they use to perceive, process, and organize stimuli in their environment. It also serves as a form of verbal and nonverbal communication with others. After learning an individual’s representational system, it is possible to establish a finely-tuned conduit to communicate directly with them in a language that would only be understood by them.
The RAND Corporation explained: “Knowing what the adversary values and using the adversary’s own representational systems allows us to correlate values, to communicate with the minds of enemies in the verbal and nonverbal language of the enemy.”
In order to change the behavior of a TA, their perception, thoughts, and emotions must be modified. This requires that their decisionmaking cycle is accessed and influenced. Some publications refer to this as perception management.
To accomplish this, the entire system which the TA relies on for information is interfered with. Each and every channel of communication is used as a conduit for PsyOp attacks. The Joint Publication of July 2006 entitled Military Deception explained: “Conduits consist of all the systems, organizations, and individuals through which information reaches the adversary.”
According to the RAND Corporation, almost complete control can be established over an individual’s consciousness, perception, and will, without causing physical harm. This is accomplished by interfering with their continuous cycle of perception, decisionmaking, and action. RAND says that the enemy will be paced during each phase of this cycle.
Behavior modification also requires that the TA’s environment is changed. Multiple PsyOp products are used in combination to “shape the psychological environment” of the battlespace in order to influence the TA. This is done using as many different products as possible.
To modify the behavior of the TA, their environment is changed using electronic, psychological, and physical means. These electronic, psychological, and physical actions include adding, modifying, or removing information from the environment. Obviously, the physical portion of this includes tampering with objects in the environment.
“Through maximizing all media assets,” stated the Army, “and contracting with local companies, PsyOp personnel will expand their range of dissemination to reach the TA and influence attitudes and behavior.” The DOD announced that PsyOp themes are to be “powerfully disseminated directly to the targeted audiences” throughout the AO for “aggressive behavior modification.”
“The information battle,” proclaimed the US Marine Corps, “must be fought across all available mediums and no possible channel of communication can be ignored.”8 These attacks are concealed within communication, they describe.
This means that literally every single channel of communication that a TA relies on is interfered with and used to convey PsyOp themes (attacks). Remember, the battlespace is your cities and towns, which, by extension, means homes and workplaces. And a TA can be a civilian individual.
Psychological Operations – Other Tactics
Isolating people from their support structure and discrediting them are a standard part of PsyOp. PsyOp units conduct counterpropaganda in the AO. They attempt to diffuse any influence that the TA has on the civilian population in that area. They also seek to establish their own legitimacy. The types of support that they deny the TA include: political, financial, human, informational, and other.
This covers a wide range of resources that the TA is denied. According to a 2003 report by US Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies, denying the enemy basic human needs may cause them to stop certain behavior until lower-level needs are satisfied. Some of these include: physiological, safety/security, esteem/value, self-realization, and belongingness.
Removing food and water (physiological), denying them refuge (safety), isolating them from the populace (belongingness), or discrediting them (esteem), may cause people to seek to correct these deficiencies before continuing with their behavior, the report tells us.
The US military has specifically stated that it will deny critical services to the enemy. While it does not describe what these critical services are, it obviously includes proper medical treatment, which can be accomplished when the military works with civilian organizations during CMO.
One way that PsyOp personnel can isolate the TA is by conducting a rumor campaign. Well-planned rumors launched by the military are devastating weapons. Their primary elements include the source, the rumor, and the receiver-repeater (R2). In order for the rumor campaign to be successful, the source of the rumor must be credible to the receiver, the rumor itself must be plausible, and the R2 must spread the rumor.
The rumor will be reduced to the memory capacity of the R2. This is referred to as leveling. The R2 levels the story by retaining only the information that they think is relevant or can remember. The R2 also sharpens the story, which means they selectively choose information to retain and expand upon when spreading the rumor. Another characteristic is assimilation, where the R2 adjusts the story to fit his viewpoint based on his experiences, prejudices, interests, etc.
PsyOp attacks are synchronized with core capabilities. This includes directed-energy weapons used for electronic warfare (EW), as well as computer hardware, software, and internet attacks, which are part of computer network operations (CNO).10 They are also synchronized with “all elements of national power” such as CMO (the use of the civilian population, civilian resources, private sector businesses, etc).
Directed-energy weapons, computer attacks, and PsyOp are used in combination throughout the battlespace. The US Army described in its Unconventional Warfare report: “The innovative combination of electronic weapons platforms, networking systems, and strategic-and operational-level PsyOp, enabled by the net-centric operational environment, creates significant opportunities to seize the initiative and dominate an enemy.”
EW is used to isolate, disrupt, and influence, the enemy’s use of the electromagnetic spectrum. EW diminishes the ability of the TA to perceive and process information by broadcasting PsyOp products over frequencies used by the TA (jamming and spoofing). EW also includes the use of directed-energy weapons to attack people, equipment, and facilities.
CNO are used to attack, deny, deceive, degrade, and disrupt networks and computers used by the enemy. This means the destruction of hardware and software (degrading, attacking). It also means spoofing (deceiving). The battlespace includes the internet. Internet applications that transmit PsyOp messages include email, web sites, and chat rooms. When a TA goes online, they are entering the battlespace.
The US and its allies will terrorize the civilian population to achieve their political objectives. The DOD specifically stated: “Some IW activities, such as terrorism and transnational crime, violate international law. US law and national policy prohibit US military forces or other government agencies (OGAs) from engaging in or supporting such activities.”
“However,” they continued, “since our adversaries employ terrorism and transnational criminal activities against the interests of the United States and its partners, these activities are included … as examples of the range of operations and activities that can be conducted as part of IW.” Similarly, the US Marine Corps document, Multi-Service Concept for Irregular Warfare of August 2006 mentioned, “frightening the population into inactivity is sufficient to [achieve] our goals.”
Psychological Operations – Objectives
According to the US military, the ultimate goal of PsyOp is to modify the behavior of the TA. This is accomplished by destroying their will, which, itself, is brought about by continually inflicting pain.
So, there are several considerations here. First, the ultimate goal (behavior modification), and next is the condition which will allow the goal to be realized (the destruction of the TA’s will). Finally, the specific methods which will facilitate the destruction of the TA’s will (the use of pain).
To accomplish this, a relentless campaign is used to demoralize the TA, which includes creating perpetual negative feelings of intense fear and hopelessness. This is done to wear the TA down gradually and break their will. The DOD describes this as the attrition-based approach. It explained: “Attrition is the product of gradual erosion of the will. The victim of this psychological attrition gradually becomes convinced that nothing he can do will yield a satisfactory outcome to a situation.”
The word “victim” is an interesting choice by the DOD to describe its PsyOp targets because themes are used to transmit painful stimuli (also called triggers) which a TA has been sensitized to. The triggers contained in these themes are understood by the military at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels of the campaign. They are passed to the commanders of a particular AO if the TA moves toward that portion of the battlespace.
Simplified, these PsyOp themes are a series of painful triggers used to generate a particular response. “A psychologist who is looking at our efforts,” says the DOD, “would swiftly conclude that what we were talking about was nothing more than a series of stimulus and response interactions. That is, the behavior we seek to shape is nothing more than a response to a stimulus or set of stimuli.”
“Messages and themes must be clearly understood,” explained the School of Advanced Military Studies of the United States Army Command and General Staff College, at the “strategic, operational, and tactical level of war.”
Themes which contain “triggers and thresholds” are “directly passed to the various actors within the commander’s area of operation” to combat asymmetric threats. These actors include the civilian population. The triggers that they’re referring to are part of a behavior modification program known as neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) which uses anchors and triggers to promote change. An anchor is created when an emotional state is linked to something such as an object, person, sound, smell, place, color, etc.
This is easily created by deliberately placing an individual in the desired state, then repeatedly subjecting them to whatever the intended stimulus will be until the emotion becomes linked (anchored) to it. An anchor can also be created in a single instance if the timing is right and the emotion is strong enough. Once the anchor has been established, whatever the individual was exposed to during the anchoring process becomes the stimulus (trigger) that will invoke the emotion.
NLP has been used by personal-growth experts to quickly and massively modify the behavior of individuals and groups. In addition, it can be used as a powerful weapon to deliberately create phobias. By surrounding an individual with painful stimuli it is possible to keep them in a perpetual state of fear or sadness. It is possible to cause them to suffer a nervous breakdown.
An intelligence and security unit of the US Army known as the Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) has conducted much research on NLP. NLW experts such as John Alexander and Mrs. Janet Morris, who have worked with the US military and various federal agencies, have described how NLP can be used to manipulate people.
The RAND Corporation has suggested that NLP experts should be recruited to help facilitate netwar, which includes the battleswarm. These painful messages are repeatedly hurled at the TA over and over again through various stimuli in an environment that has been psychologically prepped. “Pain is inflicted until the victim can stand no more,” the DOD explains.
The BSSR described how the application of scientific knowledge could be used to torture people psychologically. As an example, they mentioned how the Portuguese secret police (PIDE) used psychological torture against the state’s internal enemies accomplished by mounting anxiety. It was also used by the KGB against Communist Russia’s dissidents. Unlike physical torture it is more acceptable to the public because it leaves no visible injury.