The bill, H.R. 5181, called the Countering Information Warfare Act of 2016, comes amid growing calls in Congress and in many NATO capitals to do more to fight «foreign disinformation campaigns».
Sponsored by Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) who co-authored the bill alongside Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA), the new US legislation would, among other things, set up a Center for Information Analysis and Response to analyze «foreign government information-warfare efforts». The center would also develop and disseminate «fact-based narratives and analysis to counter propaganda and disinformation directed at United States allies and partners». The bill, upon formal submission, would become one of at least two circulated in Congress in recent years seeking to change some US international-media operations. In April, the bill, called the Countering Information Warfare Act of 2016, S.2692, sponsored by Republican Senator Rob Portman and Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, was introduced in the US Senate.
The Countering Information Warfare Act of 2016, according to US lawmakers, seeks to promote an «independent press» in countries that are seen by Americans as vulnerable to foreign disinformation. According to congressman Adam Kinzinger, the House bill seeks to incorporate a «whole-of-government approach without the bureaucratic restrictions», which will set up innovative partnerships to combat information warfare with «organizations that have experience in countering foreign propaganda».
Those selected to serve as US information officers will be selected from a list of participants in educational and cultural exchange programs, from countries «deemed vulnerable to foreign propaganda and disinformation campaigns». Under the bill, a new Center for Information Analysis and Response would play the coordinating role. Led by the US State Department, it will operate with the «active participation» of the Department of Defense, the US Agency for International Development, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (which oversees VOA and RFE/RL, among others), «the intelligence community and other relevant agencies». The bill also would set up an Information Access Fund, which would assist in the training of local journalists, as well as award grants and contracts to non-government and civil society organizations, research centers, private sector companies, media organizations and other experts outside the US government that have experience in identifying and analyzing disinformation methods used by foreign governments.
If created, the new agency will add to the effort of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), including the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa). The BBG was established in accordance with the International Broadcasting Act (Public Law 103-236) in 1994. The BBG oversees the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), which provides multimedia broadcast distribution, as well as technical and administrative support to the broadcasting networks. The IBB manages a global network of transmitting sites and an extensive system of leased satellite and fiber optic circuits, along with a rapidly growing Internet delivery system servicing the 61 languages of the BBG networks The BBG became a formally independent, autonomous entity on October 1, 1999 as a result of the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998 (Pub.L 105-277). The BBG has 3,592 employees and a budget of over $750 million.
US international broadcasters – including radio, television and Internet – reach 206 million people weekly in unduplicated audience worldwide.
The BBG is composed of nine members who are supposed to have expertise in communications, media, or international affairs. The Secretary of State automatically has one seat. Although the remaining eight members are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, the positions are supposed to go to four Democrats and four Republicans to reflect the nonpartisan mission of the BBG, but the appointment process can be very political. Members are appointed as it suits the political needs and timing of the White House. In some cases, positions are not filled in a timely manner, leaving the US international broadcasting (USIB) subject to partisan bias because of unbalanced representation on the BBG or rudderless due to insufficient representation to establish a quorum. Although the BBG was created by Congress to provide a firewall against political influence on its news broadcasting, its structure and lax observance of bylaws and agreed practices invites internal conflict and the creation of fiefdoms by individual governors. Moreover, as documented by the State Department Inspector General, the ability of BBG members to serve simultaneously on the corporate boards of nonprofit-affiliated broadcasters such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) can lead to conflicts of interest.
The introduction of the new US legislation has a certain international background.
Last September the EU launched a «rapid response» team of officials within the European External Action Service (EEAS) to deal with «Russian propaganda». The team monitors Russian foreign broadcasting and advises the EU and national authorities and their media campaigns accordingly. The group «helps» journalists in the Eastern Partnership countries – Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The officials are ready to communicate and help provide journalistic training.
The NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence (NATO StratCom COE) became functional in January 2014. Based in Riga, Latvia, it contributes to improved «strategic communications capabilities» within the Alliance and Allied nations. It’s main missions for 2016 include: «Study how social media is being used as a weapon in hybrid warfare», «support the development of a NATO Military Committee Strategic Communications policy and doctrine» and other things related to information warfare. Last May, NATO launched a training program in Riga, teaching advanced counter-propaganda techniques designed to help member states assess and counter «Russia’s propaganda in Eastern Europe». Twenty intelligence analysts, psychologists, and military and defence personnel from across NATO countries will be trained in what is known as Target Audience Analysis, a scientific application developed by the UK-based Behavioral Dynamics Institute, that involves a comprehensive study of audience groups and forms the basis for interventions aimed at reinforcing or changing attitudes and behavior. Significantly, the methodology increases the resilience of susceptible audiences and enables them to withstand foreign propaganda effects. The program is funded by the Government of Canada through a contribution to the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence.
The program is delivered by the UK-based Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL Defence), which has worked for the UK Ministry of Defence and the United States’ Department of Defense for a number of years and is the world’s only company licensed to deliver the Behavioral Dynamics process, and a team of Information Warfare experts drawn from seven nations, called IOTA-Global. SCL’s team of leading experts in Target Audience Analysis, Military Influence experts from IOTA-Global and leading academics from the Behavioral Dynamics Institute, will run the course over a three-month period at the National Defence Academy of the Republic of Latvia in Riga on behalf of the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence.
The development of events scenario seemingly lifted whole from the pages of George Orwell’s 1984. With the experience of working for special services, Orwell wrote a book that served as a warning of what was to come. The author was blowing the whistle. The US is leading the race creating a new Ministry of Truth. NATO and the EU obediently join the effort in an attempt to launch a multi-layered and multilateral global brainwashing offensive.
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