Bipartisan House Coalition Seeks to Lift Domestic Propaganda Ban
Two House members—Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.)—have proposed an amendment that would "neutralize" the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and Foreign Relations Authorization Act in 1987, both of which strictly govern the creation of propaganda and ban its dissemination on U.S. soil:
The amendment would "strike the current ban on domestic dissemination" of propaganda material produced by the State Department and the Pentagon, according to the summary of the law at the House Rules Committee's official website.
The bill's supporters say the informational material used overseas to influence foreign audiences is too good to not use at home, and that new techniques are needed to help fight Al-Qaeda, a borderless enemy whose own propaganda reaches Americans online.
The new law would give sweeping powers to the State Department and Pentagon to push television, radio, newspaper, and social media onto the U.S. public. "It removes the protection for Americans," says a Pentagon official who is concerned about the law. "It removes oversight from the people who want to put out this information. There are no checks and balances. No one knows if the information is accurate, partially accurate, or entirely false."
According to this official, "senior public affairs" officers within the Department of Defense want to "get rid" of Smith-Mundt and other restrictions because it prevents information activities designed to prop up unpopular policies—like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.