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Dear Ms Betts Gray, Thank you for your response dated 27/11/12. In this response you took the time to expand on the reasons for refusing information I requested. You explained the conclusion that you believe that the public interest in 'transparency and openness in the operation of public authorities' is outweighed by the interest in withholding the information. I have tried to surmise your points as I understand them immediately beneath this: Citing FOIA 2000 SECTION 40 Personal information: -There is a risk that if the employers are revealed people may find out who the students were -This may cause damage and distress -Who a student's employer is is personal data Citing FOIA 2000 SECTION 43 Commercial interests. -Other public or private organizations could set up similar courses and poach clients resulting in loss of income for you -You provide a secure framework and environment for national/international defence courses and there is an 'extremely strong public interest' in maintaining this
I would like to begin by discussing your use of Section 40. I am unconvinced that the lists of the NGOs and/or Contractor Organisation's names would lead to any discoveries, damage or distress. This is all hypothetical conjecture. I have struggled to get some of the most fearless investigative journalists, human rights campaigners and ministers to even look at Information Operations; so it takes some leap of imagination for me to imagine someone even having strong enough motivation to attempt such a feat as you envisage, never mind them actually managing to procure the data or risking their liberty by doing anything to misuse it. Either way I believe it is the duty of the employer to maintain the secrecy of who their employees are if they are engaged in a business where it is appropriate for them to do so. I believe they are also likely to do a pretty good job of this. Operatives receive comprehensive training and expansive resources in order to protect the secrecy of operations. Information security is their art more than anyone else, and they spend a large amount on it. Those employed are encouraged to apply the highest levels of care in all of their actions to prevent discovery; to the point that paranoia is actively encouraged as a means to foreseeing and averting any potential risks or undesired results. I also strongly believe that the general nature of an organisation's business should be public information. If the nature of that work is secretive for defence or security reasons; the burden of taking reasonable measures to protect identity/privacy is surely it's own. That is not to say that I agree with contractor organisations or NGOs being involved in covert operations. If I can be frank, to the discerning eye it appears very possible you may be trying to shield these organisations and their activities from reasonable scrutiny.
The public has a right to know what private organisations are involved with operations such as these because they ultimately pay for them, and they are directly affected by them. Now I would like to move on to section 43. There are many different factors to be considered when someone decides where to attend a course. To my mind the greatest of these is the quality delivered by the institution. This is what provides client retention and return. You mentioned in the letter to Ms Russell which we have referenced that: 'this is the only course of it's kind in the world, and one that takes an entirely different approach to the domain of information operations. The Postgraduate Certificate in Information Operations is unique to Cranfield because it is practitioner centric, rather than process centric.' (http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/62550/response/160102/attach/html/2/Resp onse%20to%20Russell%20request.DOC.doc.html) You are obviously proud of the standard and the nature of the course you deliver; and if this is as good as you believe then you should not struggle to keep a steady stream of students. Some would argue that if similar courses were set up this would be likely to heighten the standard overall by providing some competition and leading to raising of the bar. If this were to happen then surely you might see that as being in the public interest? In honesty I struggle to see any competitors trying to usurp your position in the near future. I believe the foremost strength of your course would be the multitude of experts whom you mention, and with whom you have a unique intrinsic link. Allow me to proceed further and focus specifically on the strength behind the public interest. If I can again refer to the response to Ms Russell in the link above; you mention on page one that those who apply for the course are: 'assessed to ensure that they have the competencies and abilities to advocate the use of an information operations approach amongst decision makers at a senior and national level in military and other national security contexts.'
The Oxford dictionary definition of an advocate is as follows: '1. a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy . 2. a person who pleads a case on someone else's behalf' The immediate thought that springs to mind is that such involvement of contractor companies, NGOs or any other group for that matter should not be based on their ability to advocate/lobby/sell the idea of information operations to parties who could further them and their financial interests. It should be that the individuals in question are virtuous, have strong moral values, and a matching desire, professionalism and
aptitude for dealing with matters which are in the interests of the greater good. When there is any type of Covert Operations such as this, there is massive scope and opportunity for abuse of power. It is of paramount importance that the people who have such powers bestowed upon them are only the most morally upright and responsible individuals our society produces. Allow me to quote from the document named JWP 3-80 Information Operations, produced by the Ministry of Defence in 2002. Page 1-1 states: 'Inter-state conflicts.........are increasingly being replaced by intra-state conflicts, or asymmetric attacks by transnational organisations. These usually involve a wide variety of actors and parties, often in loose or ad hoc alliances, frequently operating outside the geographic area in dispute, or even globally. The causes of these conflicts are equally complex; religion, ethnicity, politics, poverty and perceived oppression are among the many factors behind them.' Later, page 4-3 states: 'The effectiveness of Info Ops is improved if influence is exerted by all instruments of power and by local and regional governments and organisations that may be more readily trusted than ‘external’ parties. This requires the development of linkages to a wide range of external actors.' …........ Later within that document it references the key tools used in such operations are Psychological Warfare and Electronic Warfare. It implicitly states that Directed Energy Devices are being used to influence humans (effectively, targeting them with radiation) and that Info Ops are heavily influencing the media. This is happening within operations both on home soil and abroad. And they are doing all of this for an agenda which the voting public are not privy to. There is an obvious public interest in knowing who these organisations are who are involved in or connected with these Information Operations. The combination of quotes referencing the advocacy to instruments of power, and the multifarious staff components give the obvious impression that Information Operations are their own entity separate of government. Which begs many questions: Whose interests are they serving? Who is deciding where these operations are situated and why? Who is setting the various agendas for these operations? Who is setting the objectives within these operations, and who decides what is appropriate and what is not? And in relation to Cranfield University it gives cause for wonder who specifically your graduates are advocating for? Who's interests are they serving? Who is setting their agenda.....and for what purpose, to what end, and with what means? Having done some research, it seems as though funding and interests in the furtherance of these operations is coming from both public and private sources. In general it appears to me that Info Ops are a massive unregulated industry. It's methods are murky at best, it's powers self appointed, it's decision making autonomous, it's operators filled with an obvious vested interest in their continuity and
growth, and with many millions of public and private money at it's hands. Not to mention the best technological advantage these collaborators can muster (e.g. collaborations with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, multiple universities, multiple space organisations, private defence companies like Thales, Finnmeccanica, Qinetiq etc. in UK alone). They use all of this advantage to target people as they please without any type of proper accountability whatsoever and attempt to completely formalize and validate the one sided affair by applying a 'cause' to it and calling it asymmetric warfare. There has been no public debate on the appropriateness of Information Operations in the UK, Nor their agenda, Nor whether they should have any role in the media, Nor the operational means they use or the powers they have, Nor the technology they use (or how they use it), Nor whether the cost is value for money, Nor the appropriateness of the multitude of different parties being involved in such sensitive and intrusive matters. The privatisation of such unregulated, uncontrolled, unaccountable, and largely unknown activity is something for which the term 'extremely strong public interest' is fitting. I would like to conclude by saying that I have not asked for any personal information. And whilst I do agree with you that declaring client titles could lead to more competition, I see the significance of this concern as minuscule and short sighted compared to the public interest in knowing who the organisations are who are connected with these Operations. I believe the public should know the extent and titles of organizations involved in Information Operations. If they continue as is and the full extent is known, this will provide a level playing field for competitors where all clients can be courted. Any measures which help this transparency to happen have to be a step in the right direction. If you want to suggest any other public organisations who I might ask similar questions; I would be happy to do so. Similar queries already reside with the MOD. This response is to be considered a request for an Internal Review. Please could you forward this to the appropriate individual whom you referenced in your last contact. Yours Sincerely, Donnie Mackenzie
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