February 28, 2011

Stay classy, Michael Hastings! Part II

Michael Hastings and Rolling Stone had a bad weekend. First, Rajiv Chandrasekaran of the Washington Post (who is obviously a shill who would never under any circumstances criticize the military when it deserves it), did a little actual reporting on what happened in Afghanistan:

The problems began on March 22, 2010, when Maj. Vanessa Hillman, a
public-affairs officer in the training command sent an e-mail to Holmes
asking his team to help provide weekly assessments of the prior week's
meetings with visitors. "How did we do with our communication efforts
and messaging," she wrote in the e-mail, obtained by The Post. "What
results did we get."


Holmes fired back an hour later. "No - we cannot. We are not set up (at
all!) to do assessments - nor should we assess the effects of
information engagements on US or Coalition allies. We are focused on the
adversary, and on the Afghan population - by both joint doctrine and US


That prompted Hillman's boss, Col. Gregory T. Breazile, to respond with
what Holmes calls an illegal order: "Mike, You will do the assessment
piece for the IEWG [Information Effects Working Group]. You are are
directly tasked to support the IEWG and all of the DV [distinguished
visitor] visits."


The following day, Holmes wrote to a military lawyer, who called the
order "a bad idea and contrary to IO policy."


But independent specialists in military law said Holmes's position as an
information operations officer, regardless of whether he was formally
reassigned, does not mean he cannot be asked to perform other legal
tasks. "If you're being asked to chip in and help someone else, that's a
lawful order," said Jeffrey Addicott, who was as an Army lawyer for 20
years and now is a law professor at St. Mary's University in San


That is the same conclusion the top lawyer for Caldwell's command

Read the entire article. What you have here is one disgruntled staff officer who didn't like the way he had been re-tasked by his commanding officer. Chandrasekaran also revealed that Holmes had no psychological operations training whatsoever and that the St. Petersburg Times in Florida had this information a month ago (again, leaked from the same disgruntled staff officer) and decided not to report it. (Probably because the St. Petersburg Times famously shies away from controversial reporting.) Holmes griped to Hastings, who deeply reported and wrote this article in, uh, well, actually less than a week.

‘Illegal Psyop’ Neither Illegal Nor Psyop, General’s Lawyer Ruled was the says-it-all headline of a post written by friends-of-Hastings Spencer Ackerman and Noah Shachtman* on Wired's Danger Room. If Hastings did not have such an obvious axe to grind, he might have reached a similar conclusion. Instead, he was too busy taking cheap shots at respected officers.

Politico's Morning Defense has a similar take on all of this worth reading.

*In the interests of full disclosure, Spencer and Noah are also friends of this blogger -- and Caldwell.