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Background Briefing on Enemy D&D (Denial and Deception)

Background Briefing on Enemy D&D (Denial and Deception)

DoD News Briefing: Senior Defense Official, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2001 - 2:02 p.m. EDT. Source: News Transcript from the United States Department of Defense. (Slides used in this briefing are on the Web).

Staff: Good afternoon, again. Just a quick reminder for some of you who haven't had this experience before:

The ground rule for this briefing is that it's on background. The attribution is a "senior Defense official." For your information only, not for publication or broadcast, this is who the senior Defense official is. If you can't quite see it, we can -- you know, I'll let you know later.

This is on the record in the sense that, you know, what he says you can quote directly, of course. There will be a transcript posted. The slides that he shows will be on DefenseLINK, but no cameras, no recordings, and attribution "senior defense official."

With that --

Q: No voice recording?

Staff: I'm sorry?

Q: No voice recording?

Staff: Well, you can -- I'm talking about for broadcast.

Q: Oh, okay.

Staff: Yeah. Okay. Sir?

Senior Defense Official: Thank you.

Well, good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today on a somewhat complex topic. And forgive me and stop me if I slip into jargon. It's very easy to do. I'm used, of course, to briefing official DoD audiences and lecturing at universities, so I've never dealt with an audience of this type. So I'm going to probably go from being professorial and absolutely arrogant to -- (soft laughter) -- existing in abject terror as you grill me.

I'll probably talk from some slides and some talking points for about 15, 20 minutes, and then we'll open it up to questions and answers.

What we're going to talk about today is something we call "denial and deception," and I will use the term D&D a lot. You got to have an acronym in this building to have any sense of worth.

D&D -- and the idea of denying information to an adversary or deceiving an adversary -- of course is nothing new. It has a long, long history in the history of military warfare. It has a long history in the history of politics, and a very important, growing history, I would say, in the current age -- if you'll indulge me, in the Information Age, where I think denial and deception techniques, and manipulation, is becoming very important in the world media arena, and something we all want to be aware of.

I'm going to just give you some examples of what we mean by denial and deception. Then I'll turn to some slides, and hopefully in the course of the brief and the Q&A, we may be able to answer some of the questions you raised in the earlier session with the admiral.

Not because it's a starting point, but a midway point, certainly during Desert Storm and Desert Shield we saw some classic examples of enemy denial and deception and, if you like the term, disinformation. And some of these should be familiar to you in terms of what's going on in the current struggle.

The United States, for example, was accused by the Iraqis of desecrating Muslim holy sites. The Iraqi press and government frequently referred to secret Israeli involvement in the operations.

They frequently tried to show that the U.S. bombing campaign was ineffective, that it was deliberately destroying civilian sites; that there were children who were being killed and maimed and affected by the embargo. And there's, of course, an ongoing campaign to this very day.

Perhaps one of the classic examples, for those of you who may not be aware, but there's the famous parade of children that's held in Baghdad quite frequently where they bring out, on top of cars, coffins of children that they claim have been killed as a result of the embargo, or the presence of depleted uranium, et cetera, et cetera. And we've seen on several occasions the same picture of the same child reappearing in some of these parades. That's not to say that some may indeed have been killed in the course of the campaign, but again, it's a classic technique of playing to public sympathy for purposes that suit the government.

In Serbia, we saw some even more dramatic examples of denial and deception. And again, I have to refer to -- again, an unfortunate incident, which was the accidental NATO airstrike on the Djakovica refugee column. Those of you, again, who are familiar with this, there's the famous baby doll story. There were numerous bodies; the Serb brought the media there, and there was, of course, right in the middle of the photo opportunity a blood-stained doll, that in subsequent occasions appeared at other incidents of massacres, et cetera. Again, that's not to say that people weren't killed, et cetera, but that there was a deliberate attempt to stage the environment to magnify the effect, again for the purposes of denying or deceiving or enhancing the effect for political propaganda purposes.

The Serbs also were quite good at posting this kind of material on the Internet. This was a new phenomena that we're seeing now and expect to continue to see in world crises in the 21st century, where we have a new form of media that can instantly transmit information, whether it's correct or not. And, of course, that has a very dangerous dimension to it.

Another popular technique that we've already seen in Afghanistan, and I'm sure we'll continue to see, and we saw in Serbia, are these arranged tours at hospitals, where you'll be taken in to see those severely maimed and wounded. And often statements are given that are meant to have a very profound psychological effect not just on you, the media, or the civilian population, but also on our military forces.

There was a case in Serbia where a woman who had lost her leg said in the interview statement, "Greetings to the German pilots who did this to me. They're the ones who made me a cripple." So there's an attempt to reach out and I think impact the morale.

And again, this is classic military technique. If you put it in a military context, it's meant to have an effect on the adversary. We're already seen several tours of Afghani hospitals, et cetera, and we expect that to continue.

Let me turn to the slides and try and be a little more exact for you in terms of what within the Department of Defense we actually mean by denial and deception, what our precise definitions are and how we can translate that into actual cases, and then I'll give you some concrete examples at the very end of the briefing from the current situation.

Denial is what it says it is. It's attempts to deny your adversary key information either about your military forces, your leadership, the status of your country, the effect of the adversary's campaign on your country, on its infrastructure, et cetera, et cetera. And there are a lot of ways that that can be done, from the simplest, such as hiding in caves, as we've seen now, to erecting false buildings et cetera to conceal or hide information from intelligence or otherwise.

Deception is slightly different. That's -- if you look at denial as what we would call hiding the real, deception is showing the fake. Okay? That means actually generating, in your classic case, inflatable aircraft or tanks, and again, this goes back to ancient times. Very prolific in World War II. Again, we saw both the Iraqis and the Serbs, who were schooled by the Soviets, fairly advanced deception techniques.

And then of course in between those two is the realm of disinformation and propaganda. If you look at denial and deception and think of it as a process, propaganda and disinformation is a product of that process, in other words, a product that's meant to proliferate the information that denied or the fake information that's developed.

And again, that can run the gamut from attempting to mask where the leadership is, as in the case of UBL or Omar, or their current state, or a more broader global objective such as generate worldwide opposition to the U.S. campaign, or cause a strategic incident that's going to look quite ugly in the press, embarrass the United States, build moral pressure, if you will, against us.

We'd kind of like to talk about a few ways in which often the environment is manipulated to simulate or fake an incident. And there are numerous historical cases of this. A classic one occurred in Iraq at a Mosque where the Iraqis brought the media in to show them some damage to a wall around a mosque that had been knocked down, according to them, by a U.S. cruise missile. On close examination, it was pretty obvious from the bulldozer tracks and the fact that the wall fell in a straight line that they had deliberately knocked the wall down. It didn't demonstrate the classic circular pattern of a warhead explosion.

Sometimes they can be a little more tricky than that, and we saw cases in Serbia where they would scatter the wreckage in a circular pattern again to try and make it appear that a warhead had detonated there. Unfortunately, they did not take the time to dig the crater deep enough so that it corresponded with the size of a typical warhead and what we'd expect to see.

They can even take it one step further and attempt to scorch the area with smoke pots or burning tires, and again, we've seen that in a lot of different cases.

Another way is to, again, deny -- there's that terms -- deny you access to the full view of the target that may have been attacked. And this was classic in Iraq and in some of the inspection tours where, you know, you would see only a portion of an area, and there were deliberate attempts to prevent you from seeing other parts of what might have been the actual target, and you're only seeing one part of it, and it looks like a civilian structure has been damaged, when in fact it's part of a bigger military base and a military target.

We anticipate there may be a problem with this in Afghanistan because the country has been at war for so long and there's plenty of damage throughout the country, it may be difficult to attribute that damage to U.S. weapons or Soviet weapons, et cetera.

Often another way to detect when this is going on is to take a long, hard look at who's speaking, who the spokesperson is in these tours, these staged affairs. Is it an NGO representative? Is it a government official, such as a Taliban official? Do you know this person? I know that the media is often very aware of who the contacts are and what their reliability is from past occasions.

Disinformation is an ugly, difficult word, because no one likes to be fooled. And I know you don't like to be fooled, in particular. And we, on our side, in looking at information don't like to be fooled. But it's something that is a weapon in the arsenal of our adversary, and it is used with deliberate intent to plant information, again, with the hope of achieving either a political or diplomatic or morale effect, or a military effect. And this can often stem from a plant by an intelligence service that gets published in a sympathetic paper or media, and gets proliferated. And again, now with the Internet, it can be very difficult to track and detect when this kind of disinformation goes on. And I know you've spent probably a lot of your careers running down leads that, you know, proved to be totally worthless. And I do the same on a daily basis.

There are simple visual effects. Some of you may remember the famous sign at the baby-milk factory in Iraq during the Gulf Storm (sic). A simple sign can convey a message that, again, when proliferated has a very negative effect. And we're already seeing this happening to some degree in Afghanistan for tours for the media.

In the case on the picture on the right, this was a women's hospice, as I recall, and, you know, there was a sign posted in English, "No weapons." We're not sure what that meant, if it meant there are no weapons allowed inside, or there were no weapons inside, et cetera, et cetera. But again, it's just a little visual trick there.


Some more troubling stuff, and then we'll turn to one example, and I'll open it up to Q & A.

This is a case of a tour that was set up not too long ago -- about a week ago -- for some Western journalists in Pakistan. The interesting thing here was they had been previously refused entry into Afghanistan, and there was a quick turn-around, and they were told they were going to be taken to a mass-casualty site; caravanned in Taliban vehicles in a night convoy when the airstrikes were still going on. And there was a lot of concern here in this building that that was a deliberate attempt to place you at risk -- you know, to create a nasty incident. I mean, we don't have anything to further confirm that, but it just looked very, very suspicious.

In the previous session [ transcript:], you asked about the placement of military equipment, et cetera, at some of these civilian sites, and that's what I want to conclude with today.

We've got an example here of a photograph of an early warning and radar -- and aircraft-control facility near the Herat airfield. You see the airfield up in the upper-left-hand corner, and this is a residential area down in the lower-right-hand corner, and a mosque near the center of the picture and the military vehicles stationed around that area.

Now, initially, in looking at this, this is a military base. Our military bases have churches, et cetera, on base, and one could argue, "Well, so what?" But if you look at the next photo, it's a post- strike photo after we've struck this facility.

I want to draw your attention to the arrow in the center near the mosque; it's probably a little difficult for you to see -- right in here. But there was a helicopter there. You can see the helicopter blades that got destroyed in the strike. And it was deliberately positioned directly next to the mosque, we think -- you know, with the purpose of either tempting us to cause some collateral damage or preserve the helicopter from strike. Well, in that case, neither worked. The helicopter was destroyed, and the mosque was not damaged.

Q: Was the helicopter in the previous picture?

Senior Defense Official: I'm sorry?

Q: Was the helicopter in the previous picture?

Senior Defense Official: No. You want to roll back?

Q: Yes.

Senior Defense Official: You can see there's nothing there in the previous picture -- in the courtyard. Then you've got the military vehicles and the radar site within the confines of this area, but -- you want to roll back to the second picture? Everyone follow that?

Q: (Inaudible) -- the space between the helicopter and the mosque?

Senior Defense Official: Gee, I would say maybe, what?, 20 yards. I'm guessing. I'm not a mensurator, as we say.

Q: Will these pictures be released?

Senior Defense Official: They'll be posted, yes. Yeah.

Q: So this was moved -- the helicopter was destroyed, and then afterwards, you're saying it was moved next to the mosque?

Senior Defense Official: No, no. No, the -- you want to role back again. When we first imaged the site, you know, the military vehicles were there, and this was clearly a military target. And then a mission was planned, and when they showed over target, there was a helicopter positioned next to the mosque.

Q: What's the time lapse between the first picture and the second picture? Do you know?

Senior Defense Official: Approximately two days.

Senior Defense Official: Two days.

Q: And when -- I'm sorry, when was that picture taken? The second picture taken.

Senior Defense Official: 8 October.

Q: And so you found it as a target of opportunity.

Senior Defense Official: It was a target of opportunity, sir, yeah.

Q: So you managed -- so you hit the helicopter but you managed to miss the mosque is what you're saying, but you --

Senior Defense Official: Managed to miss, I don't know if I'd say it that way. (Laughter.)

Q: But the point is that -- I mean, what is you point? You didn't --

Senior Defense Official: The point is, the helicopter was positioned next to the mosque for one of two possible reasons. One, two deliberately draw us to attack the helicopter with the hope that we would in fact damage the mosque and, you know, cause an uproar that again, here we're hitting holy sites. Or two, to protect the helicopter because it was so relatively close to the mosque that we would chose not to attack it.

Q: But does this example really make your point, since, as the explanation you offered, that as the United States has churches on its military bases, this is a military facility? It's not in a -- it's not in the heart of a town someplace. And you hit all the military targets there. I mean, does this really -- it obviously didn't afford them any protection. Does this really make your point?

Senior Defense Official: I think it makes the point that they are positioning military vehicles pretty -- I mean, excuse -- perhaps the point I missed is why put a helicopter here when you've got an airfield over here? (Laughter.) I mean, the helicopter was deliberately positioned there, again, for one of two reasons. And, you know, we were able to destroy it, but again, it's clearly a technique used to either invite collateral damage and create an incident or deny us the ability to destroy the military vehicle.

Q: And you're seeing this more and more, right, allegedly?

Senior Defense Official: Yes.

Staff: Yeah. And we're looking at further imagery to review and release --

Q: Today or sometime?

Staff: In the future.

Q: I don't know if you can get into this without talking about intelligence methods that I know you won't talk about, but I mean, from that image, you can't tell whether that's a mosque or a warehouse or whatever it is. Do you have better fidelity that you're not showing us on images, or are you getting that kind of information elsewhere as to what that building is?

Senior Defense Official: I don't think I can answer that directly, but generally we do keep a -- you know, we keep a database of where key civilian and religious facilities are for that -- the very reason, to avoid collateral damage. That includes, you know, hospitals, mosques, schools, et cetera, and that's part of the -- you know, our policy of deliberately avoiding those kinds of facilities in the campaigns.

Q: And the single incident at the beginning of the war -- the date is 8 October.

Senior Defense Official: Yes, sir.

Q: And you say it's becoming more common. I mean, give us a -- some way of quantifying "more common." Are there dozens of instances where military equipment has been positioned next to holy sites? Are there scores? Are there hundreds? What is it?

Senior Defense Official: I can't quantify that today. We -- again, we do hope to be releasing additional information in the near future on this.


Q: How much of this is going into cities, as opposed to sort of -- this looks like it's out in the middle of nowhere. How much of this is --

Senior Defense Official: This is on the edge of Herat, where the airfield is. Again, we've seen instances of both, but


Q: Do you see more going into the cities and getting closer to schools or hospitals or --

Senior Defense Official: (To colleague.) I'll defer to you on that.

Staff: There are reports -- we're taking a look at the reports we're seeing that come out in local media reports, the reports that we see come in the media. We're going back and looking at the imagery to see what is there, if there's stuff that supports some of the open- source reports coming out. And we'll see if we can make those available. A lot of it depends on if it's around a military site. Obviously, if we're going back for restrikes in the near future, we're not going to use imagery such as that. So there is a method for reviewing this stuff and releasing that at the appropriate time.

Senior Defense Official: Keep in mind that's a civilian airfield in a civilian residential area, so it's not really a classical military facility in that regard.

Q: What about the other question -- what is that off to the far right there? Is that residential areas?

Senior Defense Official: Yeah. This is the residential area right in here.


Q: I have two questions. One is, CNN was taken on one of these hospital tours in Kandahar and shown alleged victims of a bombing that supposedly took place about 16 miles from Kandahar. People had been brought to the hospital there. Do you have any information about that specific event, or whether it was in any way staged or distorted? Or -- can you give us any guidance on that?

Senior Defense Official: No, I'm sorry, I don't. I don't.

Q: And then I have a question that -- I hope this doesn't sound specious, but when it comes to the denial aspect of this, and whether it's moving something near a mosque, or something, what's wrong with that in the sense that this is a war; people are being attacked; they're trying to protect themselves or defend themselves or hide. Are you suggesting that that's, you know, somehow immoral or against the norms of war?

Senior Defense Official: No. No, not at all. All we're trying to do is highlight it as a technique. And it does complicate our targeting strategy -- we recognize that. You know, denial and deception is a classic military technique we've used, again, you've seen through history. So I'm not trying to pass any moral judgment at all on it.

Q: What kind of denial and deception did the U.S. military use?

Senior Defense Official: I don't study the U.S. military.

Q: How can we be losing this propaganda war with the medieval Taliban?

Senior Defense Official: I'm sorry?

Q: How is it that we are losing this propaganda war with a medieval -- this medieval cult over there, at least in the media in that region?

Senior Defense Official: I can't comment on the propaganda war. I'm not sure we're losing or winning, at this point.

Yes, sir?

Q: You mentioned inflatable tanks and aircraft. I mean, have you seen things that look fake to you? There were some shots early on in this campaign that appeared on the video that they were really old MiGs. Are there possible decoys that you guys know of that have been trotted out to be targets?

Senior Defense Official: I don't know if the Afghanis have decoys in their inventory. You know, their military inventory is pretty archaic, and the MiGs are -- you know, the aircraft and tanks, you're talking T-55s, you know, early Cold War equipment.

During the Kosovo campaign, we saw fairly sophisticated decoys. But right now, we don't expect to see the same degree of sophistication from the Afghanis. But they clearly have absorbed some of the lessons from that war and are attempting, with their level of knowledge, to conduct a similar campaign.

Yes, sir.

Q: Can I take you back to that staged tour you talk about on October 12th that you showed us the slides of earlier. Were you just raising the question of whether that was -- that bomb damage had been rearranged there, or was that an empirical observation on your part? I mean, have you concluded that that was not what it was purported to be? And have there been any other incidents where you can flatly talk about disinformation like that?

Senior Defense Official: No, no. We were focused mainly on the techniques that the Taliban used in inviting the journalists and lining up the vehicles. And, you know, we saw similar techniques like that in previous historical occasions to place journalists at risk in order to cause an incident. We have not looked at the actual site you're referring to.

Q: Is that the one that they took them up to the Jalalabad area? Because I remember General Myers brought that up as that site having no bomb craters, for example. Do you have --

Senior Defense Official: No, I don't have any --

Q: You haven't actually analyzed that footage, for example, to determine conclusively whether --

Senior Defense Official: I haven't seen the results of the analysis. My understanding is it's being looked at. But --

Q: We recognize that they're using these techniques. What are we doing to counter it? What can we do to counter it?

Senior Defense Official: We started with this briefing -- no. (Laughter.)

That was self-congratulatory, I guess. Sorry.

Well, again, as you saw from the introduction with the history we're obviously -- we have some experience in trying to analyze and pick up on these. Deception can be very difficult if you place yourself, you know, in the cockpit of an F-16 traveling at X miles an hour from X number of feet -- it can be difficult to detect, you know, what's a decoy and what's not. And, you know, we do provide training for our operational forces.

Q: I'm talking about in terms of how can we counter it when it's towards the public? I mean, this stuff is aimed at getting out to the public and influencing the public, especially in Muslim countries. How are we countering that? Not necessarily the pilot that's doing the bombing -- I mean, what are we saying to the public?

Senior Defense Official: Yeah. I'm sorry; I understand.

I think that's in the purview of the Public Affairs Office. My job is to provide them kind of with that information, but it is a difficult challenge.

Q: Can I ask --

Q: Strategic incident was in quotes. Is that -- you said try to create a, quote/unquote, "strategic incidence."

Senior Defense Official: Yeah.

Q: Why is that in quotes? Is that a term that the Taliban uses?

Senior Defense Official: No, no. It's a term I invented, for lack of a better --

Q: And does the strategic incidence -- give us an example -- can you give us an example of a strategic incident they have tried to create?

Senior Defense Official: The Afghanis?

Q: Yes.

Senior Defense Official: No.

Q: Because there aren't any, or because --

Senior Defense Official: Yeah, we have, again, Iraq and Serbian examples. But I think we're leaning forward, being careful to prepare, if that happens; you know, to analyze where that might occur. But I don't think, at this point, we've seen that. Yes, please.

Q: To what extent do you think that, well, first of all, that they've prevented you from actually going after certain targets that were so close to the things that you didn't want to hit, and also that they've been successful in hiding stuff from you so well that you haven't actually located it yet? Do you have a feel for that?

Senior Defense Official: We have a saying in intelligence: We don't know what we don't know. Some forms of denial are very difficult. I think earlier in the campaign you saw the case of a strike on one of the cave complexes where there were secondary explosions. And unless you have someone on the grond telling you beforehand that they're in there, yeah, you can effectively disguise where you're handling military assets.

And it's very difficult to quantify that. A lot depends on how accurate your knowledge of the country and its military structure and order of battle, if I can use the jargon term, was before the conflict broke out. So we keep track of these incidents and try and keep a tally.

Q: Can I ask you -- you said you couldn't judge who's winning the propaganda war. But could you characterize how good the Taliban are at it? Are they crude? Is this -- are they terribly skillful, clever at denial and deception?

Senior Defense Official: I don't know how far I want to go down that path. I think, from my personal viewpoint, we're not just dealing with the Taliban. You know, there is a broad anti-U.S. community that is either pro-Taliban -- in this case pro-UBL -- that participates in that campaign. So it's more than just the Taliban in the degree of skill that they may or may not have. So I think we need to look at the broader --

Q: Well, how good are they? How do they compare to, say, the Iraqis or the Serbs in terms of D&D?

Senior Defense Official: In terms of D&D? I don't think they're as sophisticated as either the Serbs or the Iraqis; certainly not in a technical sense. Some of the military practices are fairly classical in nature. I think they learned from the Soviet experience, to some degree, seeing what the Soviets did and how they conducted themselves. I don't think they have the technical expertise or the technical equipment to do a high-level D&D campaign from that perspective. But, you know, they are applying other techniques that can be fairly simple in nature.

Q: One of your slides referred to protecting the leadership and ensuring the leadership's survival.

Senior Defense Official: Yes.

Q: Have you had any indication of how they might be disguising the whereabouts of the leadership? Are they using any particular techniques there? I mean, there were reports at one stage that there were dozens of bin Laden look-alikes running around the countryside. I mean, have you come across anything like that?

Senior Defense Official: I'm walking a line here. I'm trying to think of the best way to answer. Excuse me. First of all, they're using, again, fairly classical techniques, which is dispersing, staying out of, you know, government facilities, buildings. We know they operate out of caves, et cetera. And we expect that they'll continue with that technique. That's about the limit, I think, of what I can say.


Q: You talked about how the Afghans are, you know, less sophisticated than the Iraqis and the Serbs in carrying out this D&D operation. How about the physical landscape of Afghanistan? Is it more conducive to these type of operations than Iraq or Serbia? Are they aided much more than the other adversaries in the past?

Senior Defense Official: That's a good question. Iraq had a more difficult challenge because you had a lot of wide-open, flat desert space. Serbia, very similar to Afghanistan in this regard -- mountainous, a lot of terrain where you can hide, burrow into, et cetera, and disguise your activities.

Afghanistan is a little different from Serbia because Serbia had some green cover too that helped them in terms of D&D techniques. And, of course, the Serbs, unlike the Afghans, did have a higher degree of technical skill, you know, in terms of camouflage nets, et cetera, that worked better for them.


Q: Folks at that podium have been pretty specific in the last several weeks that the United States is not going to hit civilian targets. Is there a point at which a civilian target becomes a military target? For example, this mosque -- if they move cots in there and have 100 Taliban soldiers sleeping there, do we no longer consider it a mosque?

Senior Defense Official: That is a good question for a lawyer. (Laughter.) We had this very problem, again, during Desert Storm with the al Firdos (ph) bunker -- the al Amarah; some of you may have heard it referred to that -- where we had good information that it was being used by the Iraqi intelligence service, that there was a command center in the lower levels of the bunker and that they had moved civilians into the upper level of the bunker. So is that a valid military target, et cetera? There are cases, yeah, where you face tough

-- someone put it earlier -- moral dilemmas.

Q: But you see no evidence of them moving any sort of equipment inside mosques or small arms or armor or any kind of things inside mosques?

Senior Defense Official: None, other than the reports we've seen. Again, we're trying to follow up on some of those that have appeared in the press.

Q: We just heard in the previous briefing that we have information that the Taliban plans to poison humanitarian deliveries of food from the U.S. And Admiral Stufflebeem said that he was telling us that this apparently hasn't happened yet. Is that an example of denial and deception? Is it possible that the Taliban are putting out that word, that they really don't plan on poisoning food, just so they can make us look bad?

Senior Defense Official: I don't know either way for sure, but it certainly is. It can be a classic, you know, disinformation campaign. I think we -- throughout ancient history, I think we saw that way back in the '50s with U.S.-delivered goods to, I think -- was it India or Bangladesh, where someone had changed the lettering on the food and made it look like it came from somewhere else? So, yeah, I don't know either way, but it is a classic disinformation campaign.

Q: Is the propaganda and disinformation having an effect on public opinion in the region? (Inaudible.)

Senior Defense Official: Yeah, I don't really look at public opinion. Sir.

Q: Are there any other red flags that we should be looking for? You mentioned earlier we should look for shallow bomb craters. We should look for walls that are collapsed rather than scattered. Are there any other red flags we should look for?

Senior Defense Official: One, again, is to look at the way you've been brought to the site. Is it a circuitous route? Are you suspicious of the way it's been handled? Does it look like it's been staged? Is there a crowd there of crying widows? Does it look realistic?

Second, you know, a lot of this takes a trained eye; you know, the direction of the scorching relative to the bomb crater; the dispersal of the debris. Are there windows in the area that have been broken or that are unbroken, so it looks, again, like, "Well, how could this bomb have detonated when the rest of the windows are not shattered?" There's kind of a long list of what-ifs that one develops. We're mainly asking -- you know, you mainly have to ask yourself to challenge what you're seeing.

Q: You talked about the staging of civilian casualties at hospitals, right? So are you -- what are you suggesting there? Are you suggesting that those aren't civilian casualties? Are you suggesting that they were hurt by the Taliban forces?

Senior Defense Official: No, not at all. The point of the hospital tours is it's, forgive me, a time-honored technique, again, to have a propaganda impact. And whether or not there are actual casualties of the campaign, that's not the point I'm trying to make. Hospital tours, you know, are frequently used to generate, you know, public images and create an uproar in certain cases.

Q: But, I mean, you're not saying that those aren't actually civilian casualties --

Senior Defense Official: Right.

Q: -- of the bombing campaign?

Senior Defense Official: I mean, we did see -- again, in Serbia, we saw certain bodies used in more than one staged scene.

Q: What about in Afghanistan? (Inaudible.)

Senior Defense Official: To my knowledge, we haven't seen that yet.

Q: Can you say whether there are targets that you would like to be able to get that you can't because of the way they've placed them?

Senior Defense Official: I'm sorry, I don't do targeting. (Laughter.)

Q: Can you go back to the helicopter next to the mosque again. I'm not sure if it's a possibility or highly unlikely as a third scenario. You said there were one of two possible of them. As a third scenario, is it possible that the helicopter may have been put there for a short-term basis to drop somebody off and pick somebody up and maybe taking off again?

Senior Defense Official: Well, again, it's a rather unusual place for a helicopter to land when you have an airfield right next-door. I don't have the exact details on, you know, the imagery, et cetera, but we just found it highly unusual, given the location and the timing.

Thank you very much. You're very kind.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).