Would-be spy unveils foolishness of Pentagon

I once wanted to be an international spy. Initially, my parents thought it was cute. Then, tragedy struck and I realized my chances of being on the CIA’s payroll were about as good as the safety record of Pan Am.

After I began accusing friends and relatives of being spies for other countries, drastically reducing the number of parties my parents were invited to, I was encouraged to seek careers in other “”practical”” professions such as medicine, law and engineering.

I was talked out of a career in international espionage quite easily. I had no idea how much work went into becoming a spy.

An elite government agency needs employees who can keep their mouths shut. Even I knew that telling me classified information was like giving a thief keys to a car; in short, it was dangerous and irresponsible.

On top of that, I learned that I had to have expertise in an area that an agency could use to counter terrorism. Although I was skilled in eating an enormous amount of food in a single sitting, I concluded that an intelligence agency had no need for people with those “”talents.””

As time went on, I was indoctrinated with numerous tales of corruption and evil at the top levels of government. I gradually lost my enthusiasm for working for agencies such as the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Pentagon.

Until recently I still thought that those intelligence agencies — while plagued with certain problems — fundamentally served some good purpose. This is why I am so shocked by recent events that suggest certain “”intelligence”” agencies may not be so intelligent after all.

I realize that the Pentagon has a difficult task of maintaining some semblance of order after the Sept. 11 attacks. Nevertheless, the military’s plan to disseminate false information to foreign media organizations, as an effort to promote American views or criticize anti-American governments, is ridiculous and absurd.

The office handling this, created after the terrorist attacks, is the Office of Strategic Influence. Even some senior Pentagon officials have voiced their hesitation about the plan, which still awaits approval from the Bush administration.

Supporters have said that the new Pentagon office will help influence attitudes toward the United States in the Middle East and beyond. Whether this is the best way to change opinions about the U.S. government is unknown. If the programs are implemented in nations already hostile toward the United States, we may only further damage our image.

The executive in charge of the OSI, Brig. Gen. Simon P. Worden of the U.S. Air Force, has already proposed guidelines for the campaign. He would have strategic campaigns use the Internet and foreign media outlets to help promote American interests and dispel suspicious attitudes toward the United States. Included among one of the office’s proposals is deliberately placing false stories and spreading them among foreign media organizations.

I realize that the United States often looks like a big bully to some nations and is eager to revamp its image after the military campaign in Afghanistan, but I think it is foolish and dangerous to plant false stories portraying the government in a positive light and then intentionally spread them among various organizations. This would diminish public trust in our institutions.

I sincerely doubt that Middle Easterners, conflicted by decades-long, deep-rooted problems with the United States and its foreign policy, are suddenly going to change their attitudes once the United States begins proliferating pro-America propaganda.

Even though I am only 20 years old and have no experience or firsthand knowledge of the military’s inner operations, I know stupidity when I see it. The Pentagon’s obvious lack of common sense is perhaps what bothers me most about this entire operation.

Why tell the American public that you are going to release false information in other countries as a highly coordinated effort to change opinions toward us, and then expect other nations not to know about the program?

It seems idiotic that the Pentagon, fueled by hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and at least a few thousand rational employees, completely overlooked the blatant fact that once other nations hear about the Pentagon’s plans, ill feelings toward this administration will only increase and make foreign media outlets more suspicious of the information filtering through their borders. The Pentagon’s proposal to disseminate lies will only heighten tensions and aggravate conflicts.

As an aspiring top secret special agent, I would like to believe that the top branches of our government understand the consequences of enacting such proposals. I would not want to work for a government that lacks the intellect to carefully think through whether implementing plans such as these will actually eradicate lingering resentment.

The Pentagon’s proposal may in fact serve as a catalyst for further anti-American sentiment in the Middle East and beyond. The government must be aware of that.

And now that I think of it, maybe my mom was right — a career in engineering doesn’t sound so bad after all.