Indefinite detention not the only problem with NDAA

Much has been made over the “indefinite detention” language included in the National Defense Authorization Act. As Ron noted earlier, an effort to fix the legislation — the Amash-Smith Amendment — was defeated by the House, which opted for much less clear language.

But the failure to get rid of the indefinite detention provision isn’t the only thing to be concerned about. The NDAA for FY 2013 includes a provision, sponsored by Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), who sponsored the language to axe the indefinite detention provision, that would allow for taxpayer-funded propaganda to influence Americans:

An amendment that would legalize the use of propaganda on American audiences is being inserted into the latest defense authorization bill, BuzzFeed has learned.

The amendment would “strike the current ban on domestic dissemination” of propaganda material produced by the State Department and the Pentagon, according to the summary of the law at the House Rules Committee’s official website.

The tweak to the bill would essentially neutralize two previous acts—the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and Foreign Relations Authorization Act in 1987—that had been passed to protect U.S. audiences from our own government’s misinformation campaigns.

The bi-partisan amendment is sponsored by Rep. Mac Thornberry from Texas and Rep. Adam Smith from Washington State.

In a little noticed press release earlier in the week — buried beneath the other high-profile issues in the $642 billion defense bill, including indefinite detention and a prohibition on gay marriage at military installations — Thornberry warned that in the Internet age, the current law “ties the hands of America’s diplomatic officials, military, and others by inhibiting our ability to effectively communicate in a credible way.”

The bill’s supporters say the informational material used overseas to influence foreign audiences is too good to not use at home, and that new techniques are needed to help fight Al-Qaeda, a borderless enemy whose own propaganda reaches Americans online.

It’s not like the federal government doesn’t already engage in some level of propaganda to sell various government programs to the public. You’ll recall the campaign to sell ObamaCare and changes to Medicare to the public back in 2010. But this similar, but also more concerning. Americans have constantly been told that we need to sacrifice liberties to fight the so-called “war on terror,” which is why the PATRIOT Act has been extended, warrantless wiretapping programs, and now, measures to detain terror suspects inside the United States.

We’re constantly being sold fear so that we’ll run back to Washington and give up more of our civil liberties. When the next attack or crisis happens, we’ll rinse and repeat as politicians tell us more measures need to be taken and more liberties sacrificed on the alter of security.


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