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Punting on Propaganda

Last week in a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Sen. Joe Lieberman pressed senior U.S. intelligence officials on their efforts, if any, to counter the dissemination of radical Islamic ideology both here and abroad.

  • FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III testified that the Bureau has no counter propaganda effort of note, save for its Muslim-American outreach program that "addresses" radical Islam.
  • DHS Secretary Chertoff testified that there was no organization under his control that participated in the war of ideas.
  • The head of the National Counterterrorism Center said that one of the "four pillars" of the U.S. war strategy is the "war of ideas," but that there was no office that dealt with these issues in the US.

Smith-Mundt - the law that protects US citizens against propaganda we used to aim at our adversaries – has so far proven to be an insurmountable challenge to any effort to defeat Jihadist propaganda. That those leading the fight against radical Islam still cling to the idea that the audience for information can be divided by geography is a clear sign that al-Qaeda and its ilk are destined to win the information war.

6 Comments

The whole concept of counterpropaganda has been demonized and lawfared to the point that no government agency will touch it. The morale, will, and objective reasoning of the American voter is under constant attack, and nobody who is subject to being hauled before a Congressional oversight committee is going to do a damn thing about it.

IF the Good Guys are going to win the Infowar, We The People are going to have to do CYOP.

The whole concept of counterpropaganda has been demonized and lawfared to the point that no government agency will touch it. The morale, will, and objective reasoning of the American voter is under constant attack, and nobody who is subject to being hauled before a Congressional oversight committee is going to do a damn thing about it.

IF the Good Guys are going to win the Infowar, We The People are going to have to do CYOP.

Sen. Lieberman is a very good man. Unfortunately, most of the political world (both Democrat and Republican) have passed him by.

On the one hand it is not suprising to me that we have no plan to counter jihadist propaganda. We (at least this Administration) are still fighting this asymmetrical war with pseudo traditional tactics. On the other hand, it is still a fact that 9/10/01 is when the FBI's request for funds for Arabic translators was rejected.

A "War of Ideas" indeed. I hesitate to say it (this way), but to fight a war of ideas, you must first define it as such, and then have "ideas" of your own.

JMW and I have the same running buddies and he is a font of knowledge and expertise in this area, but sadly he's not DOD GC. As many times as that position has been argued, it has not won. Actual or de facto, this is a mountain we have yet to cross.

And the Regulars in DoD, DoS, DoJ and DHS whom ignorant citizens would assume would be charged with countering enemy propaganda are never going to cross that mountain overtly while the majority of their political masters are owned lock, stock and barrel by adherents of an ideological cousin to that of the enemy.

The Constitution is not a suicide pact, and neither is Smith-Mundt. The spirit of the law has been overtaken by events. How heinous can violation of the letter of it be? We operate in an environment of self-imposed limitations, voluntarily ham-stringing ourselves while fighting the most over-lawyered war in history, and trying snipers for murder. Everything that is illegal is not wrong. Nor is everything legal, right. Some way to circumvent Smith-Mundt must be found. Volunteer civilian information operators, not subject to Smith-Mundt, may be the way.