27 July 2010

I'll admit it, I was wrong

Military service members are subjected to public service announcements about OPSEC, or Operational Security, almost non-stop through the military's television network, AFN.  Frequently, the commercials are little more than updated "loose lips sink ships"-style rhetoric that are generally used to frighten those evil milbloggers into submission.

I've always treated anecdotes about seemingly innocuous OPSEC violations with a degree of cynicism.  One of the more persistent rumors involves the number of pizzas delivered to the Pentagon one night in August 1990, after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.  As the story goes, reporters were tipped off to late-night military planning after witnessing dozens of pizzas delivered to the Pentagon in the wee hours of the morning. 

To me, it sounded like an urban legend.  I asked Jeff Schogol, Stars and Stripes' Rumor Doctor, to look into it.  Much to my surprise, there's a degree of truth to it.  According to the Rumor Doctor:

[Wolf] Blitzer, who was CNN’s Pentagon correspondent in 1990, said he learned about Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait from a Pentagon official, but when he saw pizzas arrive at the building, he knew that Defense officials would be burning the midnight oil to deal with the situation.
“Later, by the way, when I was CNN’s senior White House correspondent, I always knew there was some sort of crisis going on in the West Wing after hours when I saw the arrival of pizzas,” Blitzer said in an e-mail. “Bottom line for journalists: Always monitor the pizzas.”
Could it be true that the White House – which traditionally despises leaks –is inadvertently tipping its hand every time it orders a large pepperoni, sausage and onion pizza with Buffalo wings?
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor threw cold water onto this theory.
“It’s a fun premise, but I don’t think it’s at all true,” Vietor said via e-mail.
However, CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller said it is common practice for White House staffers to order out when working late.
“You can see pizza and Chinese food deliveries being made to the northwest gate of the White House,” Knoller said in an e-mail. “It's not all that convenient, because White House staffers have to be outside the gate to receive the food, pay the delivery person and then take it through security.”
THE RUMOR DOCTOR’S DIAGNOSIS: Forget Wikileaks. Watch Papa John’s.

(Hear that, Danger Room?)


Without Gun said...

If I recall from the book Generation Kill, the Marines knew they were invading when about 20 delivery cars from the Kuwait Pizza Hut showed up at their staging area loaded with pies the night before they invaded. Swofford tells a similar story from GWI, the only time you got free fast food from the military was when you were about to be told to do something really crappy, like add a .50 cal and ammo to your kit.

Mav said...

dated thought, but still current pilot. OPSEC for elected and their staff, go figure . . .