Glenn Greenwald has a good round-up of the media pushback against the latest Rolling Stone article by Michael Hastings, which alleges that Lt. Gen. William Caldwell tried to use psy-ops against VIPs such as Senators and Congressmen. Most of what he finds is anonymously-sourced smears by the WSJ and MSNBC as the millitary fights back.

The New York Times, to its credit, limits its account to a named source, using an email sent to friends by a NATO spokesman. Reading that article, which is full of denials but devoid of smears, it’s clear that the intelligence team was used to gather information on visiting dignitaries, and that the dispute is over the degree to which they were used.

So, the most damning charge against Lt. Gen. Caldwell — that he was more interested in PR for the American public than his mission training Afghan troops — hasn’t been refuted, and it’s hard to see how he survives this:

At a minimum, the use of the IO team against U.S. senators was a misuse of vital resources designed to combat the enemy; it cost American taxpayers roughly $6 million to deploy Holmes and his team in Afghanistan for a year. But Caldwell seemed more eager to advance his own career than to defeat the Taliban. “We called it Operation Fourth Star,” says Holmes. “Caldwell seemed far more focused on the Americans and the funding stream than he was on the Afghans. We were there to teach and train the Afghans. But for the first four months it was all about the U.S. Later he even started talking about targeting the NATO populations.” At one point, according to Holmes, Caldwell wanted to break up the IO team and give each general on his staff their own personal spokesperson with psy-ops training.

23 replies
  1. 1
    cathyx says:

    The reason he is more concerned about the funding stream than he is about training Afghans is because he’s a future thinker. Where will his funding stream come from in the future? Defense contractors, of course.

  2. 2
    Yevgraf (fka Michael) says:

    How do you “psyop” discreet groups of visiting dignitaries? I get that you can manage messaging to entire populations, but this feels like it assigns a credibility to a tactic that sounds like bullshit fluffery, kinda like the interplay between the car salesman and the finance manager in the tower.

  3. 3
    cleek says:

    i’d worry about this more if i thought PsyOps was more than just high-test PR & negotiating.

    still, if it’s illegal, then bring on the punishment!

  4. 4

    The diversion of resources charge is important, but I don’t think it’s the most important charge.

    The most important charge is that psy-ops personnel were used against American officials by the military.

    Pointing out that PR people do a lot of the same things isn’t the point. There is a bright line for a reason. CIA operatives use a lot of the same techniques as FBI agents. Soldiers use a lot of the same practices as local SWAT teams. Nonetheless, it is illegal for the CIA to conduct covert operations on American soil, and it is illegal to use the military in domestic law enforcement.

  5. 5
    Dan says:

    It just goes to what I’ve always said about these wars- the missions, the targets, the logistics, the personnel are all overseas, but the objectives are all here in the US.

  6. 6
    Superluminar says:

    You lost me at “Glenn Greenwald”…

  7. 7
    burnspbesq says:

    Is there some reason why I should assume Hastings knows what he’s talking about when he opines on legal matters?

  8. 8
    General Stuck says:

    No creature more dangerous than an ambitious general.

  9. 9
    jo6pac says:

    it’s hard to see how he survives this

    Let me guess, he gets the 4th star retires to teach college.

  10. 10
    bkny says:

    @Dan: yes yes and yes… methods, tactics and weapons are being devised and tested and you can be sure they will be deployed here against the people.

  11. 11
    gypsy howell says:

    The funding IS the mission.

  12. 12
    scav says:

    Psi-ofs Pays-offs.

    Gee, their defense is we had all these highly trained, valuable specialist people just hanging around our HQ in a war zone difficult area and set them to making coffee and shuffling paper so, hey, throw in a little googling, what’s the issh? !

  13. 13
    Mike in NC says:


    Let me guess, he gets the 4th star retires to teach college.

    More likely that he’ll retire, collect a juicy pension, go to work as a lobbyist for some defense contractor, and also get hired as a ‘consultant/mentor’ by DOD and get paid $1000 a day to be an advisor to other general officers.

    Meanwhile, the population of homeless and mentally ill vets continues to climb.

  14. 14
    jake the snake says:

    Paul M. A. Linebarger, the father of Psy-Ops, is rolling in his grave.

    Of course, this is nothing new. At least not for those of us old enough to remember the death of George Romney’s presidential run.

  15. 15
    Jules says:

    The villagers and usual suspects really don’t like Hastings much, do they?

  16. 16
    Maude says:

    I don’t like single source, unverified articles like this. Sounds a bit like someone wants to get rid of Caldwell.
    It makes me think of Judith Miller.

  17. 17
    C1687 says:

    One feature of the Hastings article that has had limited attention so far is that it demonstrates how readily the brass will use “investigations” of minor but oh-so-convenient charges to attack those that displease them, even if the result is to damage the careers of innocent soldiers and officers. We all suspect that such things happen, but this looks to be a pretty clear-cut case. To me, this is even more shameful behavior than the whole psy-ops business.

  18. 18
    Nutella says:


    I understand you’re a lawyer. Is there some reason why you are not opining on the legal matters Hastings raised rather than making an ad hominem attack on the reporter?

  19. 19


    Is there some reason why I should assume Hastings knows what he’s talking about when he opines on legal matters?

    There is if you read the article:

    On March 23rd, Holmes emailed the JAG lawyer who handled information operations, saying that the order made him “nervous.” The lawyer, Capt. John Scott, agreed with Holmes. “The short answer is that IO doesn’t do that,” Scott replied in an email. “[Public affairs] works on the hearts and minds of our own citizens and IO works on the hearts and minds of the citizens of other nations. While the twain do occasionally intersect, such intersections, like violent contact during a soccer game, should be unintentional.”

    In another email, Scott advised Holmes to seek his own defense counsel. “Using IO to influence our own folks is a bad idea,” the lawyer wrote, “and contrary to IO policy.”

    Is there any reason I should assume a military JAG lawyer doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he opines on the law?

  20. 20


    I don’t like single source, unverified articles like this.

    The article, which you critics appear to have never read, is neither unverified nor single-sourced.

  21. 21
    lol says:

    Is today the day that Greenwald thinks anonymously sourced quotes are bad? I can never keep track.

  22. 22
    jbb says:

    Is today the day that “lol” can’t locate any grey matter between his two auditory receptacles? My anonymous sources say yes.

  23. 23
    vernon says:

    Greenwald is a huge purveyor of falsehoods and I say that because shut up, that’s why.

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