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ACLU Calls for Congressional Investigation into Claims of Unlawful Military Options

Posted: March 04, 2011|

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The ACLU has called for an independent Congressional investigation into allegations that U.S. Army officials ordered a “psychological operations” (psyops) unit to manipulate members of Congress visiting Afghanistan, including Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed, in an attempt to influence their decisions regarding increased support and funding of the war there.  In a four-page letter sent to members of Congress, Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington legislative office, said that the operation, if true, “was conducted in direct violation of U.S. law and Department of Defense (DoD) policy, and represents an affront to core democratic principles of civilian control over the military.”

The allegations were first reported last week in a Rolling Stone magazine article, and Senator Reed has called the allegations “very serious and disturbing.” The ACLU letter to Congress notes:

Because … PSYOP targeting adversaries and foreign audiences are often designed to influence,  disrupt  or  corrupt  an  adversary  or  foreign  government,  there  is  no requirement for truth or accuracy.  To prevent the military from using such propaganda operations to mislead Americans, DoD policy makes clear that “US PSYOP forces will not  target  US  citizens  at  any  time,  in  any  location  globally,  or  under  any circumstances.” This prohibition against targeting U.S. persons with propaganda tools is based in U.S. laws, Executive Orders and presidential directives governing international information practices and intelligence operations.

Although the Department of Defense has announced it will be investigating the allegations, the ACLU said “Congress must conduct an independent public investigation.” Citing various other incidents in which the U.S. military has engaged in legally questionable domestic, rather than international, intelligence activities, the ACLU letter concluded by stating:

With such ample evidence of abuse, Congress is obligated to fully investigate all intelligence operations that potentially impact U.S. persons or improperly influence domestic policies with misinformation.  Congress must reassert its independence from the military intelligence community and reassure the American public that civilian elected officials retain control over all military and intelligence activities.

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