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Pentagon Closes 'Disinformation' Office - 2002-02-26

The Pentagon is closing down a new office that was reportedly considering the spread of disinformation overseas.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld denies the Pentagon has ever been interested in telling lies and spreading disinformation.

But Mr. Rumsfeld says much of the reporting that has appeared about the so-called Office of Strategic Influence has been inaccurate and misleading. He tells reporters the office has been so damaged by the publicity that it could not be effective and is being closed.

"There have been so many stories about this office and commentary, some portion of which has contained inaccurate speculation and assertions that the office would, could become involved in activities that the Department has not done, is not doing and would not condone. I guess notwithstanding the fact that much of the thrust of the criticism and the cartoons and the editorial comment has been off the mark, the office has clearly been so damaged that it's clear to me it could not function effectively so it's being closed down," Defense Secretary said.

The office was created after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, when defense authorities said they were concerned about swaying public opinion abroad in the war against terrorism.

But the New York Times reported the office was considering planting false news items in the foreign media -- a proposal that triggered a firestorm of controversy and threatened the Pentagon's credibility.

Mr. Rumsfeld was subsequently forced to say the Pentagon would not spread lies. He also indicated the sole purpose of the Office of Strategic Influence would be what he called tactical deception intended to confuse enemies on the battlefield. He said it would also coordinate such activities now under way in Afghanistan as leaflet drops and propaganda broadcasts by military aircraft.