Pentagon: Yes, we study body language

The Pentagon has spent $300,000 per year since 2009 to study the body language of world leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Pentagon confirmed Friday.

But the studies have not made their way into the office of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and are not playing a role in any U.S. decision-making toward Russia, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said.

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Kirby confirmed the Thursday report from USA Today that the body language studies were being conducted in the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment, but he did his best to distance them from Hagel’s office.

“The secretary has not read these reports. And I don’t believe that — I can tell you for sure that they have not informed any policy decisions by the Department of Defense,” Kirby said at a Pentagon press briefing.

“The reports are given right to the Office of Net Assessment. As I understand it, that is where they stayed,” he added.

Kirby said that the study examined Putin’s body language in 2008, and again in 2012.

“The researcher that determines the identity of the individuals that she wants to look at on her own, there's no guidance from DOD to tell her to go look at a certain person,” Kirby said.

The body language study is run out of the Office of Net Assessment, a think tank within the Pentagon that’s been run by Andrew Marshall for four decades.

Nicknamed Yoda, Marshall has been given lots of latitude on the topics his think tank tackles. The Office of Net Assessment used to report straight to the Defense secretary, but under a recent restructuring it now reports to the undersecretary for policy.

Kirby said that Hagel “was interested” in the press reports of the body language study.

Hagel “asked some questions about it this morning, and I suspect he'll be asking more questions about it,” Kirby said, declining to elaborate.

The Pentagon spokesman said that the body language program dates back to the State Department in the mid-1990s, and it was taken over by the Pentagon around 2003.

Kirby said the body language reports are not classified, but the Pentagon did not intend to make them public.

He wouldn’t say whether the Pentagon would release them if requested by journalists through freedom of information laws.