Disinformation and Propaganda Amendment to Defense Authorization

December 26, 2016

This is not directly related to our core FISA issue of warrantless wiretapping, but it is clearly of importance to those of us who appreciate truth in media and journalistic standards that include independence and honesty, who prefer our editorial opinions on the Op-Ed page (or Web0site equivalent), not disguised as “hard news”, which we expect to be fact-based reporting.

It was called the “Ministry of Truth” by George Orwell, and some suggest that it is coming to the U.S.A. State Department,  authorized by an amendment to a defense authorization bill that allows the federal government to spread propaganda not just internationally, as it has long done, but also domestically‚ to U.S.A. citizens, using materials created for foreign audiences in support of government policies that might be unpopular here at home—wars, for instance.

The bipartisan bill, which was introduced by Senators Portman and Murphy in March, will . . . .establish 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. (http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-12-24/obama-signs-countering-disinformation-and-propaganda-act-law)

Here is an article with more information: http://vigilantcitizen.com/latestnews/new-bill-legalizes-government-propaganda-and-disinformation-on-american-citizens/

and, from that article, this:

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.

Critics of the bill say there are ways to keep America safe without turning the massive information operations apparatus within the federal government against American citizens.

This amendment 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.

Interestingly, the Smith-Mundt Act was passed shortly after the end of World War II—presumably to rein in the war-propaganda machine?

It seems to me that something so substantial deserved more attention than it was given, both when passed by the Senate back in March and at its passage by the House of Representatives on the Friday before Christmas and quick signature by the president that same day.  It is disturbing that this was quietly done, as described in that same article:

“I just don’t want to see something this significant – whatever the pros and cons – go through without anyone noticing,” says one source on the Hill, who is disturbed by the law. According to this source, the law would allow “U.S. propaganda intended to influence foreign audiences to be used on the domestic population.”

The new law would give sweeping powers to the government to push television, radio, newspaper, and social media onto the U.S. public. “It removes the protection for Americans,” says a Pentagon official who is concerned about the law. “It removes oversight from the people who want to put out this information. There are no checks and balances. No one knows if the information is accurate, partially accurate, or entirely false.”

In a society that relies so completely on checks and balances, on oversight, it is troubling in the extreme to see current limitations removed—particularly just before the inauguration of a president-elect noted for misrepresentations and extremist rhetoric in his use of media.

GPS Privacy Legislation after the PATRIOT Act

November 26, 2016

This post is more a request for information than a provision of same.

I was discussing cell-phone privacy, and a friend mentioned that since the World Trade Center attacks all cell phones have GPS location devices that are trackable even when off.  I was not sure of the accuracy of that statement (though we all know that the so-called PATRIOT Act was a vast overreaction and overreach), so I went hunting for current law.

I did not find much; I did find a government site from 2014 that had a link to a page about pending legislation; that page was updated 2 months ago (28 Oct. 2016).  Here is the link:

The original page (www.gps.gov/policy) also had information on the 2012 Jones decision and on lower-court rulings, including one that required a warrant for GPS-based vehicle trackers (later vacated and to be reheard, according to the site today [26 Nov. 2016]).

I think we have some work to do, between all the other ball-juggling that is happening: Electoral College, vote recounts, proposals for mass registration and deportations, Dakota Access water-protector repression, racist appointments, etc.  Already, many folks are talking about the need for encrypting e-mails and phone conversations/messages—is that actually useful, or just an illusion because Internet Service Providers give everything to the government, anyway?

Dailyish update

January 29, 2009

Note: this is the first attempt at a regular update as described in the Communications Channels post.  It’s longer than an update would normally be and so gives a good idea of the range of things we’ll cover.  The Next dailyish update page on the wiki has more about the process we have in mind.  There’s plenty of room for improvement; feedback welcome.


These are links to active discussions from the blog and wiki.  If there are important discussions in email, Facebook, etc. they could also be listed here although they might be hard to link to.

Discuss: ad campaign choices (blog)

Post Ideas suggestions bills legislation initiaives (wiki)

Communications channels: status and discussion (blog)

Next steps for ad and change.org (blog)

Open thread (blog)

Volunteers Needed

– next editor-of-the-day — please leave a comment here!
– Wiki help wanted! There’s a list of to-dos at http://get-fisa-right.wetpaint.com/todos/updated
bloggers wanted!

FISA in the news

*** Frank suggests: use Google Alerts to track the news yourselves ***

NSA Spying on Journalists: We Need a New Church Committee

Whistleblower: NSA collected credit card info.

Obama sides with Bush in court case

Like Bush, Obama disables our privacy(Nat Hentoff) Obama

A promising start for Obama (discusses his and Holder’s position on FISA)

Communications channels: current status and discussion

January 23, 2009

Ever since the my.barackobama.com email list melted down in July, Get FISA Right has had problems with communications.  We discussed it in November/December, and after getting people’s input, I made a proposal, which included introducing a blog,  trying to shift discussions from the spam-infested message board to the discussion forum on the wiki, and introducing “newsletter-style” updates that get broadcast to the email lists (and twitter, and Facebook).

Putting it into practice for the first time in the Ideas for Change finals, we unsurprisingly ran into a few challenges.  In a message on the Google Group email list, Lee mentioned that she’s still overwhelmed by the number of different communications channels — and bombarded by too many notifications. So this thread is an attempt to describe our current situation, give some recommendations for how to stay in touch today, and discussions for future improvements.

If you only want to check one place, the blog (https://getfisaright.wordpress.com) will have all critical updates and most of the discussion.   The RSS feeds for entries and comments are an easy way of seeing what’s new. If you want to follow a specific thread after you comment, click on Notify me of followup comments via email (more here).   If you want to bring up a new topic, we’ll try to make sure there’s always an “open thread” on the front page — here’s the current one.

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