Al-Shabaab receiving support from U.S. citizens and others in the U.S.

In a press conference today, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Justice Department unsealed four separate indictments charging 14 individuals in Minnesota, California, and Alabama with terrorism violations, including providing money, personnel, and services to the terrorist group Al-Shabaab. An indictment in Minnesota charged 10 men for leaving the U.S. to join al-Shabaab, an organization with ties to al-Qaeda, as foreign fighters. In Minnesota alone, 19 have been charged with material support of al-Shabaab. Two women, naturalized U.S. citizens and residents of Minnesota, were charged with raising money to support al-Shabaab through door-to-door solicitations and teleconferences in the Somali communities in Minneapolis, Rochester, and elsewhere in the U.S. and Canada.
Holder noted that members of the American Muslim community “have been – and continue to – strong partners in fighting this emerging threat” through denouncing terrorist acts and those who carry them out, as well as helping law enforcement disrupt plots and radicalization.

As laudable as these efforts are, they happen too late in the process of radicalization. Facts about Somalia, al-Shabaab, and the region are too often ignored by the mainstream media and largely unavailable to these communities, even those actively engaged online.

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The 2009 Smith-Mundt Symposium: a Discourse on America’s Discourse

2009 Smith-Mundt Symposium
2009 Smith-Mundt Symposium

The 2009 Smith-Mundt Symposium brought together public diplomacy and strategic communication practitioners from the State Department, the Defense Department, the Agency for International Development, and other governmental and non-governmental groups, including academia, media, and Congress for a first of its kind discussion. The goal to have a frank and open discussion on the foundation and structure America’s global engagement was achieved. Held on January 13, 2009, just one week before the Obama Administration came into office and just short of the Smith-Mundt Act’s sixty‐first anniversary, this one‐day event fueled an emerging discourse inside and outside of Government on the purpose and structure of public diplomacy. The symposium was convened and chaired by Matt Armstrong.

Filling the largest room of the Reserve Officers Association on Capitol Hill, the symposium was a frank, on the record discussion among a diverse group of stakeholders, practitioners, and observers from the Congress, the Departments of State, Defense, and Homeland Security, and outside of government to discuss public diplomacy, strategic communication, or whatever their particular “tribe” calls communication and engagement. Many of the attendees never had a reason to be in the same room before, let alone share tables to discuss surprisingly common interests.

Smith-Mundt Symposium Final Report (2009) - cover page
Smith-Mundt Symposium Final Report (2009) – cover page

Recorded and almost televised (C-SPAN had planned to broadcast the event but the sudden scheduling of several confirmation hearings the same, including Hilary Clinton’s, took precedence and meant C-SPAN had to cancel broadcasting this Symposium), transcripts and audio are available below.

A 23-page summary report on the symposium is available here (434kb PDF).

The agenda, transcripts, the original audio recording of the event, and biographies are available below or at this page.


Morning Keynote by then-Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs James Glassman. Amb. Glassman’s remarks are preceded by opening comments by event chair Matt Armstrong.

  • Transcript  (65kb PDF). Glassman’s comments begin at the bottom of page 5, after Armstrong.
  • Audio (54min, 13mb). Glassman’s comments begin at the 13:45 mark after Armstrong.
First Panel
First Panel

Panel 1: History of Smith-Mundt (transcript)

Rear Admiral Greg Smith, Jeff Grieco
Rear Admiral Greg Smith, Jeff Grieco

Panel 2: America’s Bifurcated Engagement (transcript)

Mike Doran
Mike Doran

Lunchtime Keynote by former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Support to Public Diplomacy Mike Doran

Panel 3: Rebuilding the Arsenal of Persuasion (transcript)

Kristin Lord, Ted Tzavellas, Nancy Snow, Colleen Graffy, Bill Kiehl
Kristin Lord, Ted Tzavellas, Nancy Snow, Colleen Graffy, Bill Kiehl
Doug Wilson, Congressmen Paul Hodes and Adam Smith
Doug Wilson, Congressmen Paul Hodes and Adam Smith

Panel 4: The View from the Hill (transcript, 140kb PDF)

Closing Comments by Matt Armstrong (transcript included above)


On January 6, 2010, a pre-event media roundtable was hosted by the AOC (transcript). Speaking at the roundtable were:

  • Rear Admiral Greg Smith
  • David Firestein
  • George Clack
  • Matt Armstrong

Matt Armstrong convened and chaired the symposium. Financial support came from Mr. Armstrong’s firm, Armstrong Strategic Insights Group, LLC, and promotional support was through Mr. Armstrong’s blog, Additional financial support came from the Center on Communication Leadership.

Questions or comments should be directed to Matt Armstrong at

See also:

Public Meeting of the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy

The US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy will hold a public meeting on July 20, 2010 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the conference room of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) located at 1850 K Street, NW., Fifth Floor, Washington, DC 20006.

The Commissioners will discuss public diplomacy issues, including measurement of U.S. government public diplomacy efforts.

The Advisory Commission was originally established under Section 604 of the United States Information and Exchange Act of 1948, as amended (22 U.S.C. 1469) and Section 8 of Reorganization Plan Numbered 2 of 1977. It was reauthorized pursuant to Public Law 11-70 (2009), 22 U.S.C. 6553.

The public may attend this meeting as seating capacity allows. To attend this meeting and for further information, please contact Gerald McLoughlin at (202) 632-6570, e-mail: Any member of the public requesting reasonable accommodation at this meeting should contact Mr. McLoughlin prior to July 15th. Requests received after that date will be considered, but might not be possible to fulfill.

Declaring Independence: an act of public diplomacy

Declaration_Pg1of1_AC On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress resolved that the bonds between the British crown and Colonies should be dissolved. This day of decision was the date to be remembered and celebrated. Instead, we celebrate the date of bureaucracy two days later when the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776.

The Declaration was not received on either side of the Atlantic as the declaration of life and liberty it is celebrated today, but as a declaration of grievances, prerogatives, and justification. It was ultimately a document of public diplomacy, written and disseminated to the world to create support for a cause.

As we Americans celebrate the act of diplomacy in public toward European political, economic, and social leaders, we should recall the passages that were critical to the Founders and not the selected text we remember we tend to recall today. Reread the text below as it was intended: a declaration of reason, purpose, a call for support, and ultimately an act of public diplomacy.

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USA Wins! and other news

USA just won its group in the World Cup! Despite more bad referring! USA advances to the next round to play a team to be determined later this morning. Matt Ygelsias unbelievably jokes this is a result of the “failure of Obama public diplomacy” soon before Twitter’s fail whale appears.

Right, and England advances from Group C as well.

In other news:

  • General McChrystal and his staff ironically fail to grasp true and full nature of the information war they are in as they roll their stones into new careers (excluding the oft-repeated highlights, the Rolling Stone article isn’t bad).
  • Psychological Operations gets a necessary name change to Military Information (or possibly Military Information Support… but not Military Information Support Operations as I tweeted on Monday). Perhaps now we can have the necessary shift in Public Affairs to take on some of the proactive and preactive tactics, techniques, and procedures of Military Information Support (MIS) / PSYOP that are required in today’s environment.  
  • And Ann Stock is confirmed as Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs while the nominees for the Broadcasting Board of Governors are not.

Posting will remain sporadic as I am still in Hawaii. Next week I’ll be at the European IO Conference presenting on Now Media with attention on Wikileaks. The following week I’ll be in DC to conduct a seminar on Now Media with presentations from Duncan MacInnes, acting Coordinator of the Bureau of International Information Programs (just announced: 2010 Democracy Video Challenge winners), Adam Pearson, and others.

National Security Strategy punts on strategic communication and public diplomacy

Last month, President Obama released his first National Security Strategy. It is a substantial departure from President George W. Bush’s narrowly focused 2002 strategy that imagined “every tool in our arsenal” as only “military power, better homeland defenses, law enforcement, intelligence, and vigorous efforts to cut off terrorist financing.” In contrast, President Obama’s new National Security Strategy acknowledges that countering violent extremism is “only one element of our strategic environment and cannot define America’s engagement with the world.”

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The need for a national strategy for Communication and Engagement

It is clear from the general discourse surrounding the terms public diplomacy, strategic communication (and a recommended alternative “Signaling Integration” to be announced), and global engagement that each of these terms face their own inadequacies. None of them can be used to capture the essential elements required to convey the value, importance, and imperative of addressing the failings at the strategic down to the tactical levels, overcoming the institutional friction to adapt to modern requirements that may be simultaneously local, regional, and global. As each of the aforementioned terms are tainted in some way or another, I recommend a new label that is comprehensive, simple, and flexible.

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Defense Department releases its Section 1055 report on strategic communication

According to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, the Defense Department was required to provide a report on

the organizational structure within the Department of Defense for advising the Secretary on the direction and priorities for strategic communication activities, including an assessment of the option of establishing a board, composed of representatives from among the organizations within the Department responsible for strategic communications, public diplomacy, and public affairs, and including advisory members from the broader interagency community as appropriate, for purposes of (1) providing strategic direction for Department of Defense efforts related to strategic communications and public diplomacy; and (2) setting priorities for the Department of Defense in the areas of strategic communications and public diplomacy.

This report (PDF, 660kb) is known as the 1055 report, after the section of the NDAA that called for it.

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