We hear that word thrown around often, but what does it mean?
In an interview with Army Times published Nov. 2, 2017, Lt. Col. Brad Carr, director of information operations, U.S. Army Special Operations Command defined PSYOP as: “the ability to operate in an approved area to influence the behaviors and attitudes of foreign target audiences, in line with national objectives.”
In marketing, as Kurian M. Tharakan points out, it is an unethical tactic unless you offer something concrete to back the claim. In war, however, FUD is not only ethical, as part of psychological operations (PSYOP), but as with the defeat of ISIS, is actually a best practice.
American citizens may not be targeted by PSYOP, which is administered by the Department of Defense. Per Joint Publication 3-13.2, “Psychological Operations” (January 7, 2010), “US PSYOP forces will not target US citizens at any time, in any location globally, or under any circumstances.” (Statutory framework, per JP3-13.2: Title 10, USC; Title 50, USC; Public Law 402, Smith-Mundt Act)
But foreign enemies can be. For example, there has been widespread coverage of the fact that in the fall of 2016, “U.S. Psyops Blasted ISIS With Recordings Of Crying, Troops Retreating, And Other Confusing Audio.” Regardless of who gets the credit (Trump or Obama), as of summer of 2020, this once-advancing terror group is essentially gone.
What about the immense security buildup we are seeing in Washington, D.C. right now, just before the Biden inauguration? I believe that the point is not just physical defense, but also to enact a psychological operation against enemy combatants, one that demonstrates the might of our Nation, and our resolve to defend it–not just to foreign invaders but also to the Americans who are accompanying them.
Such Americans are subject to military authority, as UCLA-Davis Professor Carlton F.W. Lawton explains below. In disputing the notion that traitors are automatically subject to trial by a military court, Lawton argues that individuals “accompanying an invading military force” — such as Americans who are accompanying China as they invade America, I would argue — are indeed subject to “military authority,” because they have defected to the side of the enemy. Logically, that military authority would include PSYOP.
“From at least the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries, English and American treatise writers, public officials, and courts consistently distinguished between persons subject to the law of treason and persons subject to military authority.
“Those persons subject to the law of treason were entitled to trial under the ordinary processes of the criminal courts; by contrast, those persons not subject to the law of treason could be treated as enemies and subjected to military authority. The line was explicitly drawn on the basis of allegiance: those persons who owed allegiance were subject to trial for treason; those who did not were subject to military authority.”
“Significantly, Anglo-American law has never held that allegiance is simply a question of citizenship. Indeed, under American law, allegiance is owed to the United States by any person present within its borders other than those persons accompanying an invading military force.”
Because of the broad sweep of the doctrine of allegiance, most suspected terrorists apprehended within the United States, regardless of citizenship status, owe allegiance to the United States and may commit treason against it. It follows that such individuals cannot constitutionally be subject to military authority as enemy combatants.” – Professor Carlton F.W. Lawton, “The Forgotten Constitutional Law of Treason And The Enemy Combatant Problem,” February 2006, pp. 867-868
It remains to be seen how things will play out. I hope this article clarifies what I believe to be the legal basis for using PSYOP against Americans accompanying an enemy invader, namely China.
SF Source Dannielle Blumenthal Jan 2021