Public Diplomacy,  Smith-Mundt

Smith-Mundt in CQ Weekly

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cA few select quotes from the article are below. To read the whole article, you’ll have to visit the CQ website.

“The central problem is that the law has not kept up with changes in technology,” said William M. ‘Mac’ Thornberry, a Texas Republican who is sponsoring the new legislation with Washington Democrat Adam Smith. “Whether it is the Internet, the most obvious example, or even satellite television broadcasts, it becomes extremely difficult to say this broadcast is not only intended for foreign audiences but will only go to foreign audiences.”

Although Smith-Mundt was aimed at State Department information activities, Thornberry and others say the Pentagon has embraced some of the law’s precepts. The House Armed Services Committee, in fact, wrote last year that the Pentagon had misinterpreted the statute and taken an “overly cautious approach” to communications for foreign audiences.

It’s not clear to what degree the Defense Department is using the law as a guidepost [today]. “I hear from some people inside the department that Smith-Mundt doesn’t come up anymore; I hear from others that it comes up all the time,” says Matt Armstrong, a principal with Armstrong Strategic Insights Group, and an authority on the subject.

Thornberry said Congress would use its oversight to ensure that the [amended] law wasn’t abused for domestic propaganda purposes.

The bill’s co-sponsors includes Democrats:

  1. Smith (WA)
  2. Tanner (TN)
  3. Loretta Sanchez (CA)
  4. Langevin (RI)
  5. Giffords (AZ)
  6. Boren (OK)
  7. McIntyre (NC)
  8. Murphy (NY)

and Republicans:

  1. Rohrabacher (CA)
  2. Rehberg (MT)
  3. Miller (FL)
  4. Poe (TX)
  5. Rogers (AL)
  6. Conaway (TX)
  7. Inglis (SC)

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