Richard Stengel, a former high-level U.S. government official, head of the office for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs at the State Department from 2013 to 2016, former editor of Time Magazine, and a regular pundit on MSNBC, said in April of 2018 at a Council on Foreign Relations forum about “fake news”, that he “supports the use of propaganda on American citizens”. He then continued; “Basically, every country creates their own narrative story and, you know, my old job at the State Department was what people used to joke as the ‘chief propagandist’ job.”

Keep in mind, that in 2013, Congress passed legislation allowing the federal government to fund and create propaganda they knew could be used to manipulate Americans on American soil. This legislation was called ‘The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act’, sponsored by Mac Thornberry (R-TX), that failed in 2011 when it was submitted on its own. But in 2013 Thornberry and his co-sponsors buried this legislation in the NDAA of 2014, where it was surreptitiously passed.

The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act overturned a prohibition against domestic propaganda that had been in place since 1948. This act was passed as a result of a series of events in American history that drew the concern of those who wanted to secure a free press and the freedom of speech of the American people. 

The concern began when 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’ (OWI) 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. decided 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 changed all of that. This act does several very destructive things. First, it puts the 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. The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act eliminated that protection. The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act not only legitimized the heinous manipulation of mainstream media, but allowed Congress to fund it with tax-payer dollars

In 2011, I wrote a detailed analysis of the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act and its potential dangers. In spite of our concerns, many congressmen were adamant that this legislation would not be used to spend tax dollars to create propaganda to be used domestically. They told us it would just be used to create propaganda on foreign soil. Nothing to worry about here, right?

Six years later, a former State Department Official admitted he created and used domestic propaganda, and believes it’s the right thing to do. 

Americans should be outraged over the intentional loopholes in The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act and the dangerous consequences of legalized propaganda. Simply put, it’s fake news, courtesy of elected fake conservatives, and must not be tolerated at any level - federal, state or local.

An objective free press, independent from government influence, must never be compromised.

KrisAnne Hall is an attorney, former prosecutor, a disabled Army veteran, a Russian linguist, a mother, a pastor’s wife and a patriot. Hall hosts weekly radio and TV programs and teaches an average of 265 classes each year on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Learn more at krisannehall.com.

The Language of Liberty series is a collaborative effort of the Center for Self Governance (CSG) Administrative Team. CSG is a non-profit, non-partisan educational organization, dedicated to training citizens in applied civics. The authors include administrative staff, selected students, and guest columnists. The views expressed by the authors are their own and may not reflect the views of CSG. Contact them at CenterForSelfGovernance.com

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