Found on page 7 of the Spring/Summer 2010 issue of USC College Magazine is a violation of federal law, specifically the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, as amended. This magazine contains a quote from the Voice of America, a US Government broadcaster that is not permitted to be disseminated within the territory of the US (see image at right). Concern over USIA and US Government broadcasters like VOA led the DC Circuit court in 1998 to exempt USIA from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Think of the damage Wikileaks could have caused if it was around in the 1990s to “expose” Americans to VOA!
A sixty year old law affects virtually all U.S. engagement with foreign audiences by putting constraints on what we say and how we say it. Perhaps more importantly, it limits the oversight by the American public, Congress, and the whole of government into what is said and done in America's name abroad. The impact of this law, the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, must not be ignored if policymakers hope to improve how the United States communicates overseas.