March 2, 2011


Mind Games: Why Rolling Stone's article on the military's domestic psy-ops scandal gets it so wrong. (MATT ARMSTRONG | MARCH 1, 2011, Foreign Policy)

[A] huge reality check is required here. The Smith-Mundt Act does not apply to the whole of government, the Defense Department, or even the whole of the State Department. It applies to -- and was only ever intended to apply to -- the part of the State Department that had been the USIA until it was abolished in 1999 and the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the body overseeing the U.S. government's international media efforts. It does not apply to the State Department's office of counterterrorism; Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; or Bureau of Public Affairs and Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley. (Crowley once noted from the podium that "I, as the head of public affairs, can communicate both domestically and internationally.") In short, even if the allegations by Holmes are correct, the Smith-Mundt Act would still not apply. There is other legislation that does apply, including "anti-propaganda" language in congressional authorizations and appropriations, Defense Department directives, and in the case of the activities of PSYOP units, explicit prohibition against targeting Americans.

The original purpose of the Smith-Mundt Act was to give America a voice in the building war of information around the world. Introduced in Congress in October 1945, the prohibition on domestic dissemination of material intended for foreign audiences by the State Department was to protect the government and the American public from the "drones," "loafers," and "men of strong Soviet leaning" within the department. In other words, it not an anti-propaganda law, but a protective measure against a department of questionable loyalty. If it had been, or currently is, a broad brush law, we would not have had the campy "perils of communism" films or administration officials appearing on Sunday talk shows. It is ironic that a law intended to counter disinformation is subject itself to so much misinformation.

This is ultimately another cautionary tale about people doing something they are not trained for and the media commenting on something they know little to nothing about. Both of which must be fixed for the sake of U.S. national security.

Meanwhile, as was said of Mitt's dad, it's not like you need to brainwash pols, "only a light rinse is required."

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Posted by Orrin Judd at March 2, 2011 6:33 AM
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