The Smith-Mundt Symposium in the blogosphere and “formal” media.
VOA News Blog by Alex Belida (link)
VOA Director David Jackson, a panelist at the symposium, did make a couple of points we believe are worth repeating here. First of all, he stressed that all those working in the VOA headquarters in Washington are journalists. He said U.S. officials can “no more tell them what to write” than they can tell journalists at the Washington Post (newspaper) what to write.And he suggested that removal of the Smith-Mundt restrictions on VOA could help silence critics who claim the contents of VOA shows must be suspicious if the American people aren’t allowed to see them.
Intermap by Craig Hayden (link) ** REQUIRED READING **
Here are some basic takeaways:
1) The dissemination ban contained in the Smith-Mundt Act was for many an irrelevance.
2) The difference of perspective between what we might call “traditional” PD experts, usually from the ranks of the former USIA (retired or otherwise), and those charged with implementing new policies of public diplomacy.
Reliable Sources by Pat Kushlis (link)
A Rear Admiral on one of the panels admitted that the US military did not have and will not have in the near future anywhere near the number of language qualified troops needed to engage people overseas in their own languages. As a result, Uncle Sam relies on contractors to carry out the function. He later added that what was most important was that the Iraqis and the Afghans see what we do, not just rely on being told what to think.
Talking Smith-Mundt by Pat Kushlis (link)
State has just never “gotten” the importance of the information game – either at home or abroad. It’s not and never will be part of its “core diplomatic functions” so will always receive the short end of the stick. Secrecy and hierarchy are the rules of State’s road – and they’re so ingrained in the bureaucracy and its operation – that they just plain aren’t going to disappear.
Congressman to Propose Some Form of Update for Smith-Mundt Act by Fawzia Sheikh of Inside Defense (subscription only)
Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) plans to propose some form of update for the Smith-Mundt Act, a Cold War public diplomacy law, but many experts who spoke at a recent, related conference argued the current statute is not problematic and no more than minor tweaks should be made.
Two Agenda Items for Next Week’s Smith-Mundt Pow Wow by Steve Corman (link)
The SMA impairs domestic oversight. In response to a “so what” question from Spencer Ackerman, the panelists pointed out that the SMA prevents proper oversight of U.S. strategic communication by those outside the government. For example if the press has questions about specific overseas communication efforts, the State Department can’t answer them for fear of violating the SMA.
Getting Past Smith-Mundt by Craig Hayden (link)
George Clack related some humorous stories about how his department has to navigate around the prohibition in order to help US students who wish to use its resources to do school work, and offered two interesting observations. First, in response to a question from Patricia Kushlis of Whirled View – he worried that a removal of the dissemination ban might muddle the divisions between messages designed for foreign audiences, and those that already are released to explain policies to the American people. Basically, he argued that the U.S. needs to retain its capacity to tailor its publications and messages to specific audiences, and not have that process be subsumed by the production of domestic, political talking points. Second, he concluded that the future of U.S. diplomacy will be defined by the notion of “dialogue” – and that the Department of State should embrace Web 2.0 technologies such as Twitter and other social networking tools.