Groundwork Laid for Countering Russian News
Introduction by Kennedy Applebaum
December 25, 2016
Revised December 26, 2016
Zero Hedge and Investment Watch Blog, in two articles posted below, inform us today that the current acting American President has quietly signed into law Bill H.R. 5181 (full text posted below). This bill establishes funding and organizational structure for the U.S. government to carry out the task of identifying and evaluating information sources that publish foreign “disinformation and propaganda”, especially originating from Russia, with a goal of countering that propaganda using “pro-active fact-based narratives”. From the wording of the bill, it seems to authorize research on identifying foreign “disinformation” sources, analyzing why they have influence, and determining procedures for “protecting” America and its allies.
Zero Hedge implies the bill is intended to shut down alternate news outlets, while Investment Watch warns of criminal penalties. H.R. 5181 however does not explicitly mention any actions against American news sites. Nor does it suggest blocking any sites or imposing any penalties. If the latter were true, the Quemado Institute website would have to close down immediately. Many of our articles, particularly on the News from Novorossiya page, originate from the Russian media. We apply strict standards about what Russian news we publish, and articles are evaluated in the context of surrounding events. If a report is doubtul, we either do not post it, or caution readers about potential false reporting. Truth is our goal.
Unfortunately, our standard of truth means nothing to the U.S. government and its ruling elite masters. They are erecting their own standard of truth. That truth will be determined by, of all things, NGO’s and think tanks, the very organizations most likely to generate New World Order propaganda.
NGO’s and think tanks are enemy news as far as we’re concerned. They craft the most devious kinds of persuasive deceptions to be found anywhere on the internet. That these nefarious bodies should be in a position to judge the truth of the Russian media is a flagrant case of the foxes guarding the henhouse.
A ray of hope is that HR 5181 does not indicate actual censorship of honest reporting . . . not yet anyway. The bill provides funding for the development of strategies to counter the influence of Russian “disinformation”, but does not yet authorize specific punitive actions. It is really just a call for more American propaganda, as if there weren’t enough already. So it appears that Investment Watch is warning us of what the future may bring, rather than what is already here.
Ironically, the chief implemention of this bill is assigned to the U.S. Secretary of State. It is almost comedic to imagine Rex Tillerson, Trump’s excellent pick for that post and a great friend of Russia, promoting propaganda to counter Russian news. The funny thing about the bill is, the government is so clueless about why the Russian media has influence, they need to hire think tanks to figure it out.
They could ask the nearest guy with a MAGA hat.
Obama Quietly Signs The “Countering Disinformation
And Propaganda Act” Into Law
By Tyler Durden
December 25, 2016
Late on Friday, with the US population embracing the upcoming holidays and oblivious of most news emerging from the administration, Obama quietly signed into law the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which authorizes $611 billion for the military in 2017.
In a statement, Obama said that:
“Today, I have signed into law S. 2943, the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017.” This Act authorizes fiscal year 2017 appropriations principally for the Department of Defense and for Department of Energy national security programs, provides vital benefits for military personnel and their families, and includes authorities to facilitate ongoing operations around the globe. It continues many critical authorizations necessary to ensure that we are able to sustain our momentum in countering the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and to reassure our European allies, as well as many new authorizations that, among other things, provide the Departments of Defense and Energy more flexibility in countering cyber-attacks and our adversaries’ use of unmanned aerial vehicles.”
Much of the balance of Obama’s statement blamed the GOP for Guantanamo’s continued operation and warned that “unless the Congress changes course, it will be judged harshly by history,” Obama said. Obama also said Congress failed to use the bill to reduce wasteful overhead (like perhaps massive F-35 cost overruns?) or modernize military health care, which he said would exacerbate budget pressures facing the military in the years ahead.
But while the passage of the NDAA—and the funding of the US military—was hardly a surprise, the biggest news is what was buried deep inside the provisions of the Defense Authortization Act.
Recall that as we reported in early June, “a bill to implement the U.S.’ very own de facto Ministry of Truth had been quietly introduced in Congress. As with any legislation attempting to dodge the public spotlight the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act of 2016 marks a further curtailment of press freedom and another avenue to stultify avenues of accurate information. Introduced by Congressmen Adam Kinzinger and Ted Lieu, H.R. 5181 seeks a “whole-government approach without the bureaucratic restrictions” to counter “foreign disinformation and manipulation,” which they believe threaten the world’s “security and stability.”
Also called the Countering Information Warfare Act of 2016 (S. 2692), when introduced in March by Sen. Rob Portman, the legislation represents a dramatic return to Cold War-era government propaganda battles. “These countries spend vast sums of money on advanced broadcast and digital media capabilities, targeted campaigns, funding of foreign political movements, and other efforts to influence key audiences and populations,” Portman explained, adding that while the U.S. spends a relatively small amount on its Voice of America, the Kremlin provides enormous funding for its news organization, RT.
“Surprisingly,” Portman continued, “there is currently no single U.S. governmental agency or department charged with the national level development, integration and synchronization of whole-of-government strategies to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation.”
Long before the “fake news” meme became a daily topic of extensive conversation on such discredited mainstream portals as CNN and WaPo, H.R. 5181 would task the Secretary of State with coordinating the Secretary of Defense, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Broadcasting Board of Governors to “establish a Center for Information Analysis and Response,” which will pinpoint sources of disinformation, analyze data, and — in true dystopic manner — ‘develop and disseminate’ “fact-based narratives” to counter effrontery propaganda.
In short, long before “fake news” became a major media topic, the US government was already planning its legally-backed crackdown on anything it would eventually label “fake news.”
Fast forward to December 8, when the “Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act” passed in the Senate, quietly inserted inside the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Report. And now, following Friday’s Obama signing of the NDAA on Friday evening, the Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act is now law.
Here is the full statement issued by the generously funded Senator Rob Portman (R- Ohio) on the signing into law of a bill that further chips away at press liberties in the US, and which sets the stage for future which hunts and website shutdowns, purely as a result of an accusation that any one media outlet or site is considered as a source of “disinformation and propaganda” and is shut down by the government.
President Signs Portman-Murphy Counter-Propaganda Bill into Law
Portman-Murphy Bill Promotes Coordinated Strategy to Defend America, Allies Against Propaganda and Disinformation from Russia, China & Others
U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) today announced that their Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act—legislation designed to help American allies counter foreign government propaganda from Russia, China, and other nations—has been signed into law as part of the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Report. The bipartisan bill, which was introduced by Senators Portman and Murphy in March, will improve the ability of the United States to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation from our enemies by establishing an interagency center housed at the State Department to coordinate and synchronize counter-propaganda efforts throughout the U.S. government. To support these efforts, the bill also creates a grant program for NGOs, think tanks, civil society and other experts outside government who are engaged in counter-propaganda related work. This will better leverage existing expertise and empower our allies overseas to defend themselves from foreign manipulation. It will also help foster a free and vibrant press and civil society overseas, which is critical to ensuring our allies have access to truthful information and inoculating people against foreign propaganda campaigns.
“Our enemies are using foreign propaganda and disinformation against us and our allies, and so far the U.S. government has been asleep at the wheel,” Portman said. “But today, the United States has taken a critical step towards confronting the extensive, and destabilizing, foreign propaganda and disinformation operations being waged against us by our enemies overseas. With this bill now law, we are finally signaling that enough is enough; the United States will no longer sit on the sidelines. We are going to confront this threat head-on. I am confident that, with the help of this bipartisan bill, the disinformation and propaganda used against us, our allies, and our interests will fail.”
“The use of propaganda to undermine democracy has hit a new low. But now we are finally in a position to confront this threat head on and get out the truth. By building up independent, objective journalism in places like eastern Europe, we can start to fight back by exposing these fake narratives and empowering local communities to protect themselves,” said Murphy. “I’m proud that our bill was signed into law, and I look forward to working with Senator Portman to make sure these tools and new resources are effectively used to get out the truth.”
NOTE: The bipartisan Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act is organized around two main priorities to help achieve the goal of combatting the constantly evolving threat of foreign disinformation from our enemies:
The first priority is developing a whole-of-government strategy for countering THE foreign propaganda and disinformation being wages against us and our allies by our enemies. The bill would increase the authority, resources, and mandate of the Global Engagement Center to include state actors like Russia and China as well as non-state actors. The Center will be led by the State Department, but with the active senior level participation of the Department of Defense, USAID, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the Intelligence Community, and other relevant agencies. The Center will develop, integrate, and synchronize whole-of-government initiatives to expose and counter foreign disinformation operations by our enemies and proactively advance fact-based narratives that support U.S. allies and interests.
Second, the legislation seeks to leverage expertise from outside government to create more adaptive and responsive U.S. strategy options. The legislation establishes a fund to help train local journalists and provide grants and contracts to NGOs, civil society organizations, think tanks, private sector companies, media organizations, and other experts outside the U.S. government with experience in identifying and analyzing the latest trends in foreign government disinformation techniques. This fund will complement and support the Center’s role by integrating capabilities and expertise available outside the U.S. government into the strategy-making process. It will also empower a decentralized network of private sector experts and integrate their expertise into the strategy-making process.
And so, with the likes of WaPo having already primed the general public to equate “Russian Propaganda” with “fake news” (despite admitting after the fact their own report was essentially “fake”), while the US media has indoctrinated the public to assume that any information which is not in compliance with the official government narrative, or dares to criticize the establishment, is also “fake news” and thus falls under the “Russian propaganda” umbrella, the scene is now set for the US government to legally crack down on every media outlet that the government deems to be “foreign propaganda.”
Just like that, the US Ministry of Truth is officially born.
Obama Signs Christmas Bill Making Alternative Media Illegal
By Sean Adl-Tabatabai
December 25, 2016
President Obama has just quietly signed into law a bill that makes it illegal to run an alternative media website in the U.S.
On Friday, just two days before Christmas, Obama signed the “Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017” bill into law.
This bill will “Criminalize ‘Fake News, Propaganda’ on the Web,” a key piece of legislation meant to crack down on free speech and independent media. In Layman’s terms, the act will allow the government to crack down with impunity against any media outlet it deems “propaganda.” The next piece of the legislation will provide substantial amounts of money to fund “counter propaganda,” to make sure the government’s approved stories drown out alternative media and journalists who question the status quo.
The “right to free speech and freedom of the press,” is guaranteed by the First Amendment to The U.S. Constitution. It is a foundation of American values, put in place by our Founding Fathers to protect our liberties, is now being endangered by this new law.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
“The liberty of the press is essential to the security of freedom in a state: it ought not, therefore, to be restrained in this commonwealth.” – John Adams, Samuel Adams, James Bowdoin (1780). Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
This is not the first time that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was used to disguise a piece of legislation. Back in 2012, Obama signed a law that allowed for the “indefinite detention of American citizens” without a judge or jury. Then in 2013, Obama signed an NDAA bill that packaged an end to the Smith-Mundit act that prevented the government from using propaganda against its own citizens enabling the government again to legally produce propaganda.
What does that mean for you if you are an independent journalist or blogger? You can read more here, but it means that for simply writing this and asking questions and pointing out that Obama always signs these bills around the holidays like I did in this poem, if I am accused of “fake news” or propaganda, I could face criminal charges.
In other words the stage is now set for the U.S. government to legally crack down on every media outlet that the they deem to be “foreign propaganda.” The ministry of truth is setup. Welcome to 1984.
In a statement, Obama said that:
Today, I have signed into law S. 2943, the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017.” This Act authorizes fiscal year 2017 appropriations principally for the Department of Defense and for Department of Energy national security programs, provides vital benefits for military personnel and their families, and includes authorities to facilitate ongoing operations around the globe. It continues many critical authorizations necessary to ensure that we are able to sustain our momentum in countering the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and to reassure our European allies, as well as many new authorizations that, among other things, provide the Departments of Defense and Energy more flexibility in countering cyber-attacks and our adversaries’ use of unmanned aerial vehicles.”
Summary of HR 5181 Anti-Propaganda Bill
Introduced in House (05/10/2016)
Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act of 2016
This bill expresses the sense of Congress that: foreign governments, including the governments of the Russian Federation and China, use disinformation and other propaganda tools to undermine the national security objectives of the United States and key allies and partners; the U.S. government should develop a comprehensive strategy to counter foreign disinformation and propaganda and assert leadership in developing a fact-based strategic narrative; and an important element of this strategy should be to promote an independent press in countries that are vulnerable to foreign disinformation.
The Department of State shall establish a Center for Information Analysis and Response to: lead and coordinate the collection and analysis of information on foreign government information warfare efforts; establish a framework for the integration of critical data and analysis on foreign propaganda and disinformation efforts into the development of national strategy; and develop and synchronize government initiatives to expose and counter foreign information operations directed against U.S. national security interests and advance fact-based narratives that support U.S. allies and interests.
When selecting participants for U.S. educational and cultural exchange programs, special consideration shall be given to students and community leaders from populations and countries deemed vulnerable to foreign propaganda and disinformation campaigns.
Full Text of Bill:
H. R. 5181
To counter foreign disinformation and propaganda, and for other purposes.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
May 10, 2016
Mr. Kinzinger of Illinois (for himself, Mr. Ted Lieu of California, Mr. Fitzpatrick, Mr. Lipinski, Mr. Lamborn, Mr. Takai, Mr. Young of Indiana, Mr. Cicilline, Ms. Stefanik, Mr. Quigley, Mr. Guthrie, and Mr. Brendan F. Boyle of Pennsylvania) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs
To counter foreign disinformation and propaganda, and for other purposes. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. Short title.
This Act may be cited as the “Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act of 2016”.
SEC. 2. Sense of Congress.
It is the sense of Congress that—
(1) foreign governments, including the Governments of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China, use disinformation and other propaganda tools to undermine the national security objectives of the United States and key allies and partners;
(2) the Russian Federation, in particular, has conducted sophisticated and large-scale disinformation campaigns that have sought to have a destabilizing effect on United States allies and interests;
(3) in the last decade disinformation has increasingly become a key feature of the Government of the Russian Federation’s pursuit of political, economic, and military objectives in Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, the Balkans, and throughout Central and Eastern Europe;
(4) the challenge of countering disinformation extends beyond effective strategic communications and public diplomacy, requiring a whole-of-government approach leveraging all elements of national power;
(5) the United States Government should develop a comprehensive strategy to counter foreign disinformation and propaganda and assert leadership in developing a fact-based strategic narrative; and
(6) an important element of this strategy should be to protect and promote a free, healthy, and independent press in countries vulnerable to foreign disinformation.
SEC. 3. Center for Information Analysis and Response.
(a) Establishment.—Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall, in coordination with the Secretary of Defense, the Director of National Intelligence, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and other relevant departments and agencies, establish a Center for Information Analysis and Response (in this section referred to as the “Center”). The purposes of the Center are—
(1) to lead and coordinate the collection and analysis of information on foreign government information warfare efforts, including information provided by recipients of information access fund grants awarded under subsection (e) and other sources;
(2) to establish a framework for the integration of critical data and analysis on foreign propaganda and disinformation efforts into the development of national strategy; and
(3) to develop, plan, and synchronize, in coordination with the Secretary of Defense, the Director of National Intelligence, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and other relevant departments and agencies, whole-of-government initiatives to expose and counter foreign information operations directed against United States national security interests and proactively advance fact-based narratives that support United States allies and interests.
(b) Functions.—The Center shall carry out the following functions:
(1) Integrating interagency efforts to track and evaluate counterfactual narratives abroad that threaten the national security interests of the United States and United States allies.
(2) Collecting, integrating, and analyzing relevant information, including intelligence reporting, data, analysis, and analytics from United States Government agencies, allied nations, think-tanks, academic institutions, civil society groups, and other nongovernmental organizations.
(3) Developing and disseminating fact-based narratives and analysis to counter propaganda and disinformation directed at United States allies and partners.
(4) Identifying current and emerging trends in foreign propaganda and disinformation, including the use of print, broadcast, online and social media, support for third-party outlets such as think tanks, political parties, and nongovernmental organizations, and the use of covert or clandestine special operators and agents to influence targeted populations and governments in order to coordinate and shape the development of tactics, techniques, and procedures to expose and refute foreign misinformation and disinformation and proactively promote fact-based narratives and policies to audiences outside the United States.
(5) Facilitating the use of a wide range of technologies and techniques by sharing expertise among agencies, seeking expertise from external sources, and implementing best practices.
(6) Identifying gaps in United States capabilities in areas relevant to the Center’s mission and recommending necessary enhancements or changes.
(7) Identifying the countries and populations most susceptible to foreign government propaganda and disinformation.
(8) Administering the information access fund established pursuant to subsection (e).
(9) Coordinating with allied and partner nations, particularly those frequently targeted by foreign disinformation operations, and international organizations and entities such as the NATO Center of Excellence on Strategic Communications, the European Endowment for Democracy, and the European External Action Service Task Force on Strategic Communications, in order to amplify the Center’s efforts and avoid duplication.
(1) COORDINATOR.—The Secretary of State shall appoint a full-time Coordinator to lead the Center.
(2) STEERING COMMITTEE.—
(A) COMPOSITION.—The Secretary of State shall establish a Steering Committee composed of senior representatives of agencies relevant to the Center’s mission to provide advice to the Secretary on the operations and strategic orientation of the Center and to ensure adequate support for the Center. The Steering Committee shall include the officials set forth in subparagraph (C), one senior representative designated by the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Director of National Intelligence, the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, and the Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.
(B) MEETINGS.—The Steering Committee shall meet not less than every 3 months.
(C) CHAIRMAN AND VICE CHAIRMEN.—The Steering Committee shall be chaired by the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. A senior, Secretary of State-designated official responsible for digital media programming for foreign audiences and a senior, Secretary of Defense-designated official responsible for information operations shall serve as co-Vice Chairmen.
(D) EXECUTIVE SECRETARY.—The Coordinator of the Center shall serve as Executive Secretary of the Steering Committee.
(E) PARTICIPATION AND INDEPENDENCE.—The Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors shall not compromise the journalistic freedom or integrity of relevant media organizations. Other Federal agencies may be invited to participate in the Steering Committee at the discretion of the Chairman of the Steering Committee and with the consent of the Secretary of State.
(1) IN GENERAL.—The Chairman may, with the consent of the Secretary and without regard to the civil service laws and regulations, appoint and terminate a Director and such other additional personnel as may be necessary to enable the Center to carry out its functions. The employment of the Director shall be subject to confirmation by the Steering Committee.
(2) COMPENSATION.—The Chairman may fix the compensation of the Director and other personnel without regard to chapter 51 and subchapter III of chapter 53 of title 5, United States Code, relating to classification of positions and General Schedule pay rates, except that the rate of pay for the executive director and other personnel may not exceed the rate payable for level V of the Executive Schedule under section 5316 of that title.
(3) DETAIL OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES.—Any Federal Government employee may be detailed to the Center without reimbursement, and such detail shall be without interruption or loss of civil service status or privilege.
(4) PROCUREMENT OF TEMPORARY AND INTERMITTENT SERVICES.—The Chairman may procure temporary and intermittent services under section 3109(b) of title 5, United States Code, at rates for individuals which do not exceed the daily equivalent of the annual rate of basic pay prescribed for level V of the Executive Schedule under section 5316 of that title.
(e) Information access fund.—
(1) AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.—There is authorized to be appropriated to the Secretary of State for fiscal years 2017 and 2018 $20,000,000 to support the Center and provide grants or contracts of financial support to civil society groups, journalists, nongovernmental organizations, federally funded research and development centers, private companies, or academic institutions for the following purposes:
(A) To support local independent media who are best placed to refute foreign disinformation and manipulation in their own communities.
(B) To collect and store examples in print, online, and social media, disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda directed at the United States and its allies and partners.
(C) To analyze tactics, techniques, and procedures of foreign government information warfare with respect to disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda.
(D) To support efforts by the Center to counter efforts by foreign governments to use disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda to influence the policies and social and political stability of the United States and United States allies and partners.
(2) FUNDING AVAILABILITY AND LIMITATIONS.—All organizations that apply to receive funds under this subsection must undergo a vetting process in accordance with the relevant existing regulations to ensure their bona fides, capability, and experience, and their compatibility with United States interests and objectives.
SEC. 4. Inclusion in Department of State education and cultural exchange programs of foreign students and community leaders from countries and populations susceptible to foreign manipulation. When selecting participants for United States educational and cultural exchange programs, the Secretary of State shall give special consideration to students and community leaders from populations and countries the Secretary deems vulnerable to foreign propaganda and disinformation campaigns.
SEC. 5. Reports.
Not more than one year after the establishment of the Center, the Secretary of State shall submit to Congress a report evaluating the success of the Center in fulfilling the purposes for which it was authorized and outlining steps to improve any areas of deficiency.
SEC. 6. Termination of Center and Steering Committee.
The Center for Information Analysis and Response and the Steering Committee shall terminate ten years after the date of the enactment of this Act.