WASHINGTON – After recent reports suggested an information office in the Pentagon was preparing to spread falsehoods to earn support for the U.S. war effort, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld decided to shut down the office.
"While much of the thrust of the criticism and the cartoons and comment has been off the mark, the office has been damaged so much that it could not operate effectively," Rumsfeld told reporters.
The Defense Department created the Office of Strategic Influence after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to help get the United States' side of the story out to counter the views of opponents such as the Taliban and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.
But last week, reports surfaced that the office had proposed giving false information to foreign journalists. Rumsfeld denied the reports and said the Pentagon has not spread lies and would never do so in the future.
The Pentagon will continue trying to get its message across overseas, just not through the Office of Strategic Influence, Rumsfeld said.
"The office is done. What do you want, blood?" he said in response to reporters' incessant questions about the failed agency.
Despite assurances that the United States would not engage in disinformation, Rumsfeld said last week that the Pentagon might undertake what he called "strategic" or "tactical deception," as it has in the past. For example, if U.S. troops were about to launch an attack from the West, they might "do things" that would make the enemy believe an attack was instead coming from the North, Rumsfeld said.
Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense who oversaw the now-closed office, had said he created the bureau to oversee all of the military's "information operations," such as dropping leaflets and broadcasting radio messages in battlefield areas.
Rumsfeld said he met with Feith Tuesday morning and Feith said he decided to close the office.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.