Report: Army deployed psy-ops against Franken, other senators

DFL Sen. Al Franken was one target of an illegal psychological warfare campaign led by a US Army unit in Afghanistan, according to a story published in the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine.

The unit was assigned to Afghanistan to “assess the effects of U.S. propaganda on the Taliban.” But they were soon ordered by Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, who’s in charge of training Afghan troops, to use their expertise to influence visiting lawmakers and pressure them into providing more funding for the war effort.

The campaign reportedly targeted VIPs traveling to Afghanistan, including Franken, fellow Sens. John McCain, Joe Lieberman, Jack Levin and Jack Reed as well as members of the House of Representatives, members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and foreign dignitaries.

The story says of the psy-ops campaign directed at lawmakers, “there is no way to tell what, if any, influence it had on American policy,” but notes that one of the biggest supporters of increased funding for the war effort was Sen. Carl Levin, one of the campaign’s targets.

The unit’s commander, Lt. Col. Michael Holmes, tried to resist the orders, which he considered illegal under U.S. law. When Holmes raised his concerns, he was reportedly countermanded by higher-ups and disciplined.

A spokesman for Gen. Caldwell told Rolling Stone categorically denied the magazine’s assertions.

The story was written by journalist Michael Hastings, who broke the news last year that members of Afghanistan commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s staff were disparaging the Obama Administration’s policies in the region. McChrystal was relieved of his duties and resigned his commission after the story came out.

MPR News has asked Sen. Franken’s office for a reaction to the story but has not yet received a response.

UPDATE: Sen. Franken’s office just provided us with the following statement:

“Along with Senator Carl Levin, I participated in a CODEL and made a visit to Kabul in January 2010, during which time Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, Commander, NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan, and several others briefed me on the progress being made in the country. While the briefings provided me with a helpful update on what was happening on the ground, I knew that I would have to crosscheck their assessment by talking to other military officials, diplomatic officials, outside experts and troops in the field, and I always raise skeptical questions when discussing this topic.

“Although this was my first trip to Afghanistan as a senator, it was my fifth trip to the country since the war started, and I’ve learned that to get a clear sense of what’s happening on the ground you have to talk to everyone from privates to generals. My perspective on the effort in Afghanistan is the product of countless face-to-face meetings with soldiers and marines, Pentagon officials, State Department officials, outside experts and my constituents in Minnesota, as well as extensive review of reports and classified material. I’ll continue to solicit the best advice from the most knowledgeable people as the situation in Afghanistan evolves.”

  • jeff-minneapolis

    Al has been compromised?

  • Rich

    When I first read the headline, I thought I was reading The Onion.

  • suestuben

    I do not think that Al has been compromised. I believe him to be astute enough to see through attempts to ‘psych him out’. I know he has visited the troops numerous times over the years and that he spends more time with ordinary troops than with their commanders. He is a skeptic and looks to many sources of information before reaching a conclusion, and so, relying upon his own resources, it would be very difficult for the military to force Al to accept false information.

  • gourmet

    I don’t think Al could be bs’d either, his bullshit spewing mouth is usually going to fast for him to hear anyone else speak anyhow. As long as I’m on hear, I’d like to wish MPR/NPR good riddence is they get defunded by the House. Cya girlie-boys and man like girls!

  • John O.

    Bad news gourmet, it’s only passed the House. You watch way too much Faux News. You also cannot spell. NPR and MPR won’t go anywhere either. Floss your teeth while you are at it.

  • suestuben

    Here! Hear! John O.

  • Stuart Smalley

    He’s good enough, smart enough and dog-gone it people like him!!

  • Crystal Harrison

    There is no way Al Franken was compromised. I believe him when he said he talks to all sorts of people from privates to generals and others knowledgeable of the situation in Afghanistan. Al Franken is smart enough to take all info pased on to him, filter it through his mind and ask the questions raised by his healthy dose of sceptcism.

  • wigout

    Anyone else waiting for Al to morph out of Senatorial character and take the war hawks and wingnuts for a psyops loopfest of his own? hee.