Pentagon strips out training language that refers to protesters, media as ‘adversaries’

Pentagon strips out training language that refers to
protesters, media as 'adversaries' 1

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has directed the Pentagon to adjust
the wording in a mandatory training course that identifies
protesters and journalists as “adversaries,” a day after POLITICO

first reported on the materials
.

The training material has been in use since 2010 and was last
updated in 2015, but it was shared with a wider audience following
Esper’s new guidance aimed at clamping down on leaks released this
month, chief Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman told reporters
on Thursday.

Esper raised alarms over unauthorized leaks after The New York
Times reported allegations that the Russians had paid bounties to
Taliban militants to kill U.S. troops. The media training is now
mandatory for all Defense Department personnel.

Hoffman defended the use of the term “adversaries” to describe
anti-government protesters and journalists in a fictional scenario
presented in the training materials, noting that “adversaries” is a
common term for “a person or group that opposes one’s goal.”
However, he acknowledged that “it clearly has different
implications when used by the military.”

To avoid confusion and respond to criticism following the
disclosure, Esper directed that officials update the language to
identify those trying to obtain information as “unauthorized
recipients,” Hoffman said.

“The intent of the mandated operational security, OPSEC,
training is to encourage our personnel to treat sensitive
information appropriately, which includes staying vigilant for any
efforts to obtain information by anyone without a valid need to
know,” Hoffman said. “This could be an individual from a foreign
nation, an allied partner, an Industry company, DoD co-worker or
yes even the media.”

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In POLITICO’s original report on the language, former public
affairs officials blasted the language as inappropriate and
tone-deaf, particularly amid worsening relations between the
federal government and protesters. President Donald Trump on
Thursday doubled down on threats to keep federal law enforcement in
Portland, Ore., until the governor clamps down on unrest.

George Little, who was a Pentagon press secretary and CIA
spokesperson in the Obama administration, called the
characterization “appalling and dangerous.”

“It brings to mind the same tin ear Secretary Esper recently
demonstrated when he used the military term
battlespace to describe America’s city streets
,” Little said.
“The Pentagon and the press have a long history over working
alongside each other in service of the American people. Even when
they don’t see eye to eye on the issues, there’s been a long
history of respect for their common mission, and it’s unfortunate
that the current Pentagon leadership has largely abandoned it.”

In one section of the course, trainees are given a fictional
scenario in which news of a secret military exercise gets out, and
TV cameras and hundreds of “anti-government protesters” show up.
The exercise and the protest end up as the lead story on the
evening news.

In such a scenario, the course instructs trainees to identify
the “adversaries,” who it says are driven to exploit
“vulnerabilities” for their own gain. In the particular scenario in
the course material, the exercise organizers aimed to keep the
event unnoticed, a goal that was contrary to the aims of reporters
and protesters.

“The protest group was an adversary, not because of its
political beliefs, but because its intentions were contrary to the
success of the training mission,” the narrator says. “Reporters
also had contrary intentions and capabilities. They wanted to
capture exercise activities and on video and report them on the
evening news. In this instance, the reporters are
adversaries.”

In the scenario, the protest group “clearly exploited one or
more vulnerabilities,” the narrator states.

In another section of the course on insider threats, the media
is labeled an adversary, and DoD personnel are instructed to report
any contact with the press to their “information security
office.”

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