Once again, the National Defense Authorization Act is used as a Trojan horse to unload a dangerous threat on America. This time it is offered up in an amendment sponsored by Representative Thornberry from Texas and its called Dissemination of Information Abroad. This bill has also been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs as a separate bill titled HR 5736, The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012. This bill will overturn a prohibition that has been in place since 1948 and make it possible for the US Government to fund the dissemination of propaganda to influence American citizens.
Immediately, the question comes up, why should we care? Isn’t domestic propaganda something that this administration has been engaging since 2008? Would any of us disagree that the mainstream media is a tool of this administration? Read on and see just why there should be national outrage over this bill.
Woodrow Wilson established the Committee on Public Information through an executive order with the purpose of influencing American public opinion toward supporting the US involvement in World War I. The man appointed to be the chairman over this committee was George Creel, a well renowned investigative journalist and editor of the Rocky Mountain News.
In 1942, FDR established the United States Office of War Information by executive order to “truthfully inform” the American people about the government’s efforts in World War II. FDR appointed Elmer Davis, a well-known CBS News analyst, as director of OWI. Davis’ job was to coordinate information from the military and mobilize public support of the war. OWI was to create an avenue for the government to develop and disseminate the information that they believed people needed to know about the war.
"Our job at home is to give the American people the fullest possible understanding of what this war is about …not only to tell the American people how the war is going, but where it is going and where it came from." Elmer Davis. AP/Wide World
In 1946 Rep. Sol Bloom (D-NY) introduced a bill that would grant the Secretary of State the power to give monetary, service, or property grants to nonprofit public and private corporations to prepare and disseminate informational materials. Although this act was intended to disseminate information abroad, there were no limitations to keep it from being used upon the American people and opposition began to form. After having lived through two regimes of government propaganda and having seen the effects of such government propaganda machines as Joseph Goebbels’ Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Congress decided this was not something they wanted to engage in.
An AP Press Release stated “government cannot engage in news casting without creating the fear of propaganda which necessarily would reflect the objectivity of the news services from which such news casts are prepared.”
The Bloom Bill passed the house, but failed in the Senate. In 1948, the Smith-Mundt Act was passed with three key limitations on the government. The first and most well-known restriction was originally a prohibition on domestic dissemination of materials intended for foreign audiences by the State Department. This restriction has been supported by the courts even in the face of freedom of information act challenges. In November 1996 the federal District Court in Washington, D.C., ruled that the material under the Smith-Mundt Act is not to be available, applying the Freedom of Information Act's Exemption 3 to block access.
The Smith-Mundt Act is now found in 22 USC 1461-1a titled, Ban on domestic activities by United States Information Agency. The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 is set to change all of that. This act does several very destructive things. First, it puts the President’s Board of Broadcasting Governors on the same level of authority as the Secretary of State. The Board of Broadcasting Governors is an independent government agency whose members are appointed by the President and whose sole function is to create American propaganda and disseminate this propaganda abroad.
The Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 created a limitation for propaganda to be released in the United States. If such propaganda was requested, the information could not be released until 12 years after its publication. This was an additional protection established so that this government created information could not be used to influence current public opinion. Thornberry’s HR 5736, The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act, would preserve that 12 year limitation for all propaganda created prior to the adoption of this act but would remove the limitation for everything created after. Therefore, you have to wait 12 years to obtain propaganda created in 2010, but propaganda created in 2013 would be immediately available for dissemination domestically.