Buzzfeed's Michael Hastings reports on a revision to the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and Foreign Relations Authorization Act in 1987, which prohibit the use of government disinformation and propaganda campaigns within the USA. The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Mac Thornberry from Texas and Rep. Adam Smith from Washington State, would allow the US government to knowingly tell lies to its people in order to promote the government's own policies.
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.
Critics of the bill point out that there was rigorous debate when Smith Mundt passed, and the fact that this is so "under the radar," as the Pentagon official puts it, is troubling.
The Pentagon spends some $4 billion a year to sway public opinion already, and it was recently revealed by USA Today the DoD spent $202 million on information operations in Iraq and Afghanistan last year.