The CIA and the Army have received secret authorization for a propaganda campaign to undermine the confidence of Iraqi troops and citizens, a newspaper said today.
Sources told The New York Times the campaign includes anti-government broadcasts into Iraq and circulation of audio and videocassette tapes depicting the United States as powerful and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as corrupt.It also involves a plan to smuggle thousands of small radios into Iraq to receive American broadcasts, the Times said.
The campaign became visible when war erupted as allied aircraft dropped a million leaflets on Iraqi troops in Kuwait urging them to desert or surrender.
On Thursday, Kuwait's minister of state for cabinet affairs maintained that hundreds of soldiers had deserted, and Egypt's press briefly reported that 50 Iraqi tanks and their crews had surrendered to Egyptian forces in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia denied the Egyptian report, and the Kuwaiti account could not be confirmed.
The Times said the psychological warfare program is funded by three secret authorizations President Bush signed in August and December.
One authorization broadly permits CIA-sponsored propaganda and deception, another allows the agency to work with Army Special Operations forces to help guerrilla fighters in Kuwait. A third gives the CIA authority to try to "destabilize" the Iraqi government, the newspaper said.
The Times noted that skeptics predict the program will be no more effective in eroding morale than the crude radio broadcasts, featuring an announcer nicknamed "Baghdad Betty," directed against U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia.