Washington, 22 February 2002 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the Pentagon has no intention to lie or mislead anyone as it continues to press the war on international terrorism. Rumsfeld made the comments at a Pentagon news conference today.
"We have tried and we will continue to try to do our best to get the truth out as soon and as fully as possible. The Department of Defense does not now and has no plans to conduct any disinformation campaigns or to promulgate false or inaccurate or misleading information to domestic or foreign audiences."
It was the second straight day that Rumsfeld was dealing with this issue.
Earlier this week, "The New York Times" reported that the Pentagon was considering feeding false news stories to foreign media to gain more influence as it conducts the war on terrorism. Rumsfeld responded by saying that the Pentagon is not in the business of lying.
The controversy stemmed from the Pentagon's decision to establish a special office following the 11 September terror attacks on the United States.
"The so-called Office of Strategic Influence was created in November of 2001 to assist in fashioning policy regarding the military aspects of information operations. The charter of the office is under development. Consistent with the Defense Department policy, under no circumstance will that office or its contractors, for that matter, knowingly or deliberately disseminate false information to the American or to foreign public."
Both Rumsfeld and U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney drew distinctions between lying to the public and engaging in tactical deception on the battlefield.
For example, Cheney said that during the Gulf War in 1991, the U.S. spent time practicing in a visible way for amphibious operations. He noted that the Iraqis tied up several divisions defending the beach in Kuwait City when the main thrust of the U.S.-led attack was not going through the beach but much further to the west.
The idea that the U.S. government may be considering a misinformation campaign was criticized by private analysts and commentators.
Steven Aftergood, who is with the Federation of American Scientists, said it would "call into question the credibility of government officials." Aftergood heads the federation's project on how the U.S. government conducts itself.
Others said they saw nothing wrong with the U.S. trying to deceive the enemy.