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Winning the information war

Torie Clarke, considered a high-ranking officer in the modern “information war,” will appear tonight at 7 in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center Ballroom as part of the University Lecture Series. Clarke’s presentation, entitled “Communications Strategies: Winning the Information War in the 21st Century,” is supported by her history of service in the public affairs division of the Defense Department and as press secretary for former President George H. W. Bush and Sen. John McCain.

Clarke was nominated by President George W. Bush to be the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs in the spring of 2001. She was responsible for all matters of public relations pertaining to the Department of Defense in this position, according to her DOD biography.

When the Twin Towers were attacked on Sept. 11, Clarke was in her Pentagon office but had already moved to the command center by the time the Pentagon was attacked. She spent the day with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and left only to assess the damage at Ground Zero and to brief the media, according to her press release.

Clarke stepped down from her position in June of last year, citing personal reasons. Commenting on her resignation, Rumsfeld told CNN reporters, “During her remarkable two years of service in the Department of Defense, she has developed countless new methods to tell the story of our fighting forces and bring their courage, dedication and professionalism into sharp focus for all Americans.”

Clarke’s most notable achievement regarding media coverage of Operation Iraqi Freedom is the concept of embedded journalism. She takes responsibility for developing and running the program, according to her press release.

Stephen Hess, a senior fellow at Washington think tank The Brookings Institution, called the program a “win-win proposition” in a press conference with Clarke, because journalists are given the access they seek and the army is shown in a more positive light than it may have been without the embedded journalists.

Many feared that only positive light would be allowed to escape from the field, but recent reporting shows otherwise.

Representatives of The Harry Walker Agency, Clarke’s current employer, as well as Ms. Clarke were unwilling or unavailable to comment.

Michael Crump, director of the University Lecture Series, doesn’t believe that Clarke’s republican background will have much influence on tonight’s presentation.

“She may allude to it, since that’s where she’s from, but it shouldn’t be too political,” said Crump. “(The lecture) should be accessible to anyone who wants to know how the new millennium has changed how we discuss issues.”

The “information war” about which Clarke will speak is defined by Dr. Ivan Goldberg, director of The Institute for the Advanced Study of Information Warfare, as “the offensive and defensive use of information and information systems to deny, exploit, corrupt or destroy an adversary’s information while protecting one’s own. Such actions are designed to achieve advantages over military, political or business adversaries,” according to the IASIW Web site.