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Lawmakers Move to Lift Domestic Propaganda Ban

Lurking in the new defense authorization bill is an amendment that would legalize the use of propaganda on Americans, reports BuzzFeed.

As matters stand now, the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 1987 operate to protect U.S. audiences from their own government’s information campaigns. The proposed bipartisan amendment, sponsored by Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, and Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., would “strike the current ban on domestic dissemination” of propaganda material produced by the State Department and the Pentagon.

The new law would allow the State Department and Pentagon to beam television, radio, newspaper, and social media onto the U.S. public. “It removes the protection for Americans,” one Pentagon official told BuzzFeed. “It removes oversight from the people who want to put out this information. There are no checks and balances. No one knows if the information is accurate, partially accurate, or entirely false.”

According to one BuzzFeed source on Capitol Hill, the law would allow "U.S. propaganda intended to influence foreign audiences to be used on the domestic population." The source adds that “senior public affairs” officers within the Department of Defense want to “get rid” of Smith-Mundt and other restrictions because it prevents information activities designed to bolster public opinion on such issues as the unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, supporters argue the information used overseas to influence foreign audiences is needed to help fight al-Qaida, whose own propaganda reaches Americans online. In a press release, Thornberry said the current ban "ties the hands of America's diplomatic officials, military, and others by inhibiting our ability to effectively communicate in a credible way."

Critics argue there are ways to keep America safe without turning the propaganda machine within the federal government on Americans.

The Pentagon spends about $4 billion a year to influence public opinion, according to BuzzFeed, which cites a report in USA Today that the Department of Defense allocated $202 million for information operations in Iraq and Afghanistan last year.

I just wish the government would stop chiseling away at our constitution and civil rights for the sake of keeping us safe. Its backfireing.