The latest defense authorization bill passed Friday afternoon in the House without much attention until Michael Hastings over at Buzzfeed noticed something out of the ordinary in the procedural legislation: an amendement that would overturn the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and Foreign Relations Authorization Act in 1987; legislation that protects U.S. audiences from our own government’s propaganda and misinformation campaigns. The authors of the bill, Texas Republican Rep. Mac Thornberry and Washington Democrat Rep. Adam Smith say that in this age of social media our government needs to be flexible in combating, for example, Al Qaeda’s propaganda that lands on U.S. shores and in front of U.S. citizens via the internet. Critics contend that with the repeal of this legislation whatever administration is in power would now be enabled to disseminate false and biased information to American citizens.
The “Real News” panel opened Monday examining the possible implications of this amendment, as well as the historical context of the Smith-Mundt Act and Foreign Relations Authorization Act in 1987.
The Blaze’s National Security Editor Buck Sexton commented that propaganda during the majority of the 20th Century consisted of U.S. military operations abroad, but with the many forms of instant communication today, such misinformation becomes assessable to anyone with an internet connection. Andrew Wilkow feared that it is difficult to identify how far government participation in propaganda could go, with S.E. Cupp adding that propaganda could make our efforts to spread democracy to foreign cultures seem disingenuous. Watch a clip below: