Matt Armstrong's blog on public diplomacy, international journalism, and the struggle against propaganda

Smith-Mundt’s Censorship

A fundamental part of the discussion surrounding the Smith-Mundt Act and the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 is the activities and material that Americans, or anyone within the U.S., will be able to see and re-use.

Below are two short lists of activities by the State Department’s Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).  The “public diplomacy” side of the Under Secretary’s office is covered by the current Smith-Mundt Act, as arguably are the U.S. Embassies abroad. The entire State Department is not covered by the current Smith-Mundt Act. The BBG includes the Voice of America, RFE/RL, and other broadcasters.

It may surprise the public that the Congress often has little additional insight into public diplomacy because of the lack of transparency created by Smith-Mundt.


Below are some recent activities of State Department’s public diplomacy bureaucracy that Smith-Mundt prevents Americans from knowing about, either partially or in detail: 

  • The Fulbright Program in Afghanistan is seeing a 42% increase in applications this year, especially for masters and PhD candidates.  Education outreach is growing capacity and interest in coming to the U.S.
  • 5  alumni of educational exchanges by the State Department were just appointed to positions in the new Russian Government.
  • Hundreds of English language books have been sent to Syrians in the North of Jordan.
  • In Uganda, State’s speaker program on health has resulted in improved maternal health care and service delivery.
  • State’s public diplomacy is producing videos on countering violence in Pakistan are part of a program to end recruitment of youth.
  • Alumni of educational and cultural exchanges are now teaching Human Rights in Rwanda this week.
  • The Bureau of International Information Programs is reaching 100,000 Egypitans via a portal called Al Amreekania, the 8th largest website in Egypt.
  • In Korea, the YEOSU US Pavilion just greeted its 100,000 visitor to an expo that talks about U.S. values around sustainable development and global issues like water.


Below list is partial list of BBG material cited by U.S. media for the first week of June 2012. None of these should have be permitted under the current Smith-Mundt Act:

The following VOA news stories appear at NewJerseyNewsroom.com, a news site created by former employees from New Jersey’s The Star-Ledger.