Right now, the US military is free to use a wide variety of propaganda overseas, but it’s prohibited towards aiming the propaganda machine towards US citizens… and that soon could change if the Senate passes a legislative amendment that strikes down the ban. NOTHING TO SEE HERE, CITIZEN.
The Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to mark up the defense authorization bill tomorrow morning, making crucial decisions on an amendment that seeks to “strike the current ban on domestic dissemination” of propaganda.
The amendment received bi-partisan support in the House of Representatives last wek and was voted on en bloc along with 15 other amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), whose other controversial, Republican-backed provisions include indefinite detention and banning same sex marriage on military facilities.
Although it remains unclear whether the Democrat-led Senate committee will introduce an amendment similar to the one sponsored by Rep. Mac Thornberry from Texas and Rep. Adam Smith from Washington, the Senate has traditionally advanced versions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that align closely with Administration policy preferences. The amendment’s passage in the House as part of a group indicated that key members in both parties either back it or haven’t been paying attention. The change — which would give the Department of State and Broadcasting Board of Governors a free hand in what it sees as a borderless Internet propaganda war against Al Qaeda — has been on the intelligence community’s wish list for years.
The House amendment repeals the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and Foreign Relations Authorization Act in 1987, which were enacted during the Cold War to prevent against the spreading of propaganda to U.S. audiences.
The law has raised concerns among human rights activists, Congressional officials, and even those inside the Pentagon.
“This continues a trend that hands the government increasing control of our population and continues the genuine erosion of our 1st Amendment freedoms,” says one Pentagon official critical of the Thornberry-Smith Amendment.
“No American wants their tax dollars spent on US Government propaganda directed at him or her,” says Michael Shank, Vice President at the Institute for Economics and Peace in Washington D.C. “Indeed, what does distinguish America from foreign governments where domestic propaganda is a primary government activity?”
The Amendment’s sponsors referred BuzzFeed to a press release that casts the move as “modernization” to “help counter threats in the information age.”
The bill focuses on relatively innocuous instances, complaining that in 2009 the current law “prohibited a Minneapolis-based radio station with a large Somali-American audience from replaying a Voice of America-produced piece rebutting terrorist propaganda.
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