Once Again, "Loophole" Allows Government To Violate Propaganda Laws
The Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, amended in 1972 and 1998, prohibits the U.S. government from propagandizing the American public with information and psychological operations directed at foreign audiences.
But in two recent examples, the government has found "loopholes" in the law, allowing it to allow propaganda to inadvertently reach U.S. audiences.
TV and Radio Marti are spending $377,500 of taxpayer dollars over the next six months to air propaganda on South Florida broadcast stations, in spite of laws that prohibit the distribution of propaganda within the United States.
The spin -- the "loophole" -- is that the intended audience for Radio Mambí 710 AM and WPMF-TV are residents of Cuba. That the Cubans have a radio station on the same frequency should be overlooked.
The situation is remarkably similar to a loophole that came to light back in January, when a 2003 Pentagon document was released that said that "information intended for foreign audiences, including public diplomacy and PSYOP (psychological operations) increasingly is consumed by our domestic audience," most often because of the Internet.
Just consider: today's loophole is tomorrow's precedent. A government that inadvertently propagandizes Americans without being held accountable now may decide to look for more "loopholes" later. And that's dangerous.
The connection to these events is the Republican leadership in Washington.
Larry Hart, a spokesman for the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees the TV and Radio Marti, told the Miami Herald, ''We believe we have the authority to do this.'' Wby? Because Hart had met extensively with the Republican-led Congressional committees overseeing TV and Radio Marti.
The Pentagon document was approved by then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The Pentagon's response when the document came to light? Larry Di Rita, a senior adviser to Rumsfeld, rejected the "premise" offered by critics that as long as the American public is not "targeted," leakage of propaganda to Americans doesn't count.
But Di Rita told the Associated Press that the Pentagon has no guidelines regarding the loophole. That also means the Pentagon has no real idea how many Americans are receiving their propaganda.
And that, too, is dangerous.