Code name:P.O.N.I.S. (Public Opinion and the Intelligence Services)
Public Diplomacy is not just about the public relations of the state, it also can be practices by non state actors such as the UN, NGOs and forms of citizen diplomacy. However, when Public Diplomacy is combined with intelligence, “the government seeks to harness the political power of an intelligence assessment to justify some policy or action to the public… The central objective of this strategy is to change public opinion.” (1) So even though Public Diplomacy offers greater openess and the employment of soft power principles, when intelligence is involved the concept of propaganda seems to come forward.
The first example of public deception is the secret campaign of ‘Operation Mockingbird’ by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Operation Mockingbird was established to influence the domestic and foreign media. Beginning in 1948, Frank Wisner was appointed director of the Office of Special Projects, later renamed to Office of Policy Coordination (OPC). The operation influenced 25 newspapers and wire agencies accepting to act as organs of CIA propaganda. (2) The following video is giving an iside of the issue of ‘Operation Mockingbird’: Another risk of using the Intelligence service as a tool to inform the public is misrepresentation by the politicians and the media. Great example of this is the use of Intelligence to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the British and American. In America the speech on February 5, 2003 by Secretary of State Colin Powell revealed that 79 percent of the population thought that Powell made either a strong case for the invasion of Iraq. In Britain, years after the invasion it became clear that “ministers intentionally exaggerated intelligence assessments of WMD in their efforts at public diplomacy.”(3) The following video shows a small round up from the The Democratic Policy Committee that held a hearing on June 26, 2006 in the afternoon on the manipulation of pre-war Iraq intelligence: Later in 2013, the British and American once again publicly presented intelligence in an attempt to persuade the public that a military strike on Syria was needed. The Obama administration “In a similar fashion to Powell’s 2003 speech to the UNSC, the intelligence summary was cited by Secretary of State John Kerry in a televised briefing the same month, who argued that a military response was justified.”(4) Knowing the invasion of Iraq, members of Congress have requested a record number of NIEs (National Intelligence Estimates). However, the White House chose to release a statement themselves, and in the end the strategy was poorly received and there was a strong opposition to the proposed strike. In Britain this time they decided to release the full JIC assessment of the attack. However, “it was clear that the public was unimpressed by the JIC’s statement…In the end, the government’s proposal to pursue action in Syria was rejected by the British Parliament.”(5)
The intelligence services use propaganda because they know that when people feel fear they do not question the message. However, what seems to be ignored here is the bad effect propaganda has on society. So “in order to regain the public’s trust, both the United States and the United Kingdom will need to present intelligence in a more transparent fashion when it is used for public diplomacy.”(6)