The accusation was explosive and unambiguous: A top general in Afghanistan used illegal “information operations” to influence visiting U.S. Senators. But military documents obtained by Danger Room show that at least one Army lawyer deemed the work legal. What’s more, the alleged information operator’s bosses repeatedly told him that he was just another communications staffer, not some bender of minds.
At the very least, this new information complicates the charges, first leveled by Lt. Col. Michael Holmes in Rolling Stone magazine. At most, it could neuter Holmes’ allegations, just as an investigation by the office of Afghan war commander Gen. David Petraeus gets underway.
(Full disclosure: Both Michael Hastings, the author of the Rolling Stone piece, and Caldwell are longtime friends of this blog.)
According to Holmes, Lt. Gen. William Caldwell — the general in charge of training Afghanistan security forces — had him “playing with people’s heads.” And not just any people; Holmes was allegedly ordered to use his information operations, or IO, skills on senators and congressmen visiting Afghanistan. So in March, Holmes contacted a military lawyer in the United States who told him “IO doesn’t do that.” American law forbids the government from targeting propaganda at American citizens.