Comment: Bin Laden’s Alleged ‘Magazine Stash’ May be CIA PsyOp
May 15, 2011 12 Comments
By IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
Rumors of an alleged discovery of “a stash of pornography” in Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan have spread like wildfire since Friday, when Reuters published an “exclusive” report on the subject. The report, written by Mark Hosenball and Tabassum Zakaria, cites “current and former US officials [...] who discussed the discovery [...] on condition of anonymity”. According to the allegations, “[t]he pornography recovered in bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, consists of modern, electronically recorded video and is fairly extensive”. The report was almost immediately picked up by several news outlets, including The New York Times, which notes that the disclosure “will be welcomed by counter-terrorism officials because it could tarnish [the al-Qaeda founder's] legacy and erode [his] appeal”. Indeed. It appears that only Danger Room‘s Spencer Ackerman thought it wise to air a brief disclaimer to the effect that the “welcomed disclosure” may in fact be “a CIA information operation”. He has a point.
‘Information operations’ is a technical term that includes a variety of tactics, such as psychological and deception operations, aimed at distorting enemy information and information systems. The history of information operations is as long as spying itself. Spreading rumors of alleged sexual impropriety to encourage disillusion among adherents of adversary ideologies was used by the Allies and the Axis alike during World War II —most effectively by Nazi media propagandist Julius Streicher. Soon afterwards, it was turned into a science by the Cold War’s principal adversaries. After the Sino-Soviet split, the Soviet KGB circulated countless stories about Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong’s alleged preference for underage virgins from the Chinese countryside, supposedly delivered to him every evening by his trusted advisers. According to the Mitrokhin Archive, the Soviets were also instrumental in encouraging rumors about FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s alleged homosexuality.
In more recent times, allegations of sexual impropriety have been used extensively against North Korean strongman Kim Il Sung by South Korean intelligence, as well as by the Malaysian secret services against the country’s former Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, in an attempt to sabotage his political career. The history of American secret services, particularly as revealed in the post-Watergate investigations of the Church and Pike Congressional committees, reveals that they frequently employ information operations in the pursuit of strategic goals. Observers of such methods can point to several post-9/11 “news stories” of alleged sexual impropriety by members of al-Qaeda and other militant Islamist groups. In one recent example, a news report alleged that “Islamic terrorists rape young men as a means of recruitment for suicide bombings”. According to that highly improbable story, which first surfaced in British tabloid newspaper The Sun, “[r]ape creates a social stigma and fear [...] that leave Muslims prepared to die”.
Of course, the allegations about bin Laden’s “porn stash” may well prove to be true. However, considering the nature and mission of the CIA and other US intelligence agencies involved in the “war on terrorism”, news outlets must exercise caution in swallowing every “anonymous revelation” about the intelligence ramifications of Osama bin Laden’s assassination. This is indeed a “wilderness of mirrors”, and news reporters ought to know better by now.