- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The
Pentagon may scrap its new "strategic information" office based
on concern over reports that the military might spread false information
to foreign journalists and others to bolster U.S. policy, a defense
said on Monday.
- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has ordered the
to re-visit plans for the controversial Office of Strategic Information,
formed two months after Sept. 11 attacks on America, Pentagon spokeswoman
Victoria Clarke said.
- "He has asked us to take a very hard look at it.
And one of the questions, one of the issues raised was should it even
she told reporters in response to questions.
- Clarke said Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas
Feith was studying whether the new office should be disbanded in the wake
of media reports that it might be used to spread false information among
overseas reporters, civic leaders and others in both friendly and
- Those reports last week sparked questions abroad and
an uproar in Congress and elsewhere in the U.S. government.
- Rumsfeld has since stressed that neither he nor the
had any intention of lying to anybody and that misinformation provided
to enemy forces in battle should not be confused with normal, day-to-day
public information efforts.
- 'DISINFORMATION' VIA EMAIL?
- But defense officials told Reuters last week that the
new office under Feith and headed by an Air Force general was considering
spreading "disinformation" as well as true reports e-mailed to
foreign journalists, government officials and civic leaders.
- "The person who's in charge is debating whether
it should even exist in its current form, given all the misinformation
and adverse publicity that it's received," Rumsfeld said on the NBC
News program "Meet the Press" on Sunday.
- "I am always very, very concerned about our
added Clarke, who is assistant defense secretary in charge of the
public affairs office.
- "I think it is very true that a lot of people were
concerned," she told reporters when asked about a Washington Post
report that White House officials were angered when stories of the plan
broke earlier last week as President Bush was visiting Asia.
- "Clearly there are lots of questions, and lots of
issues, and lots of concerns," Clarke said.
- White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters on
Monday that Bush did not even hear about plans for the new office -- which
was formed in November -- until he was in China last week.
- WHITE HOUSE: BUSH DEDICATED TO TRUTH
- "And I think it's fair to say that the president
would be troubled by any office that does not as a matter of public policy
disseminate the truth and the facts," Fleischer said.
- "That's what the president thinks government
and government public affairs officers -- the government -- must be
to -- dissemination of the truth, facts ...," he added.
- Defense officials, who asked not to be identified, told
Reuters earlier they were concerned at the Pentagon plan to provide news
items and possibly false information directly to foreign journalists and
others to bolster U.S. policy and the war on terrorism.
- The officials told Reuters they feared the shadowy Office
of Strategic Influence, headed by Air Force Gen. Simon Worden, could damage
the credibility of the department's everyday public affairs efforts.
- Defense and congressional officials said that even the
suggestion of mixing clandestine activities with the traditional work of
public affairs could create major questions of credibility.
- Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited. All rights
Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited
without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable
for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in