Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Serious about secrecy? Sign this Revolutionary War oath

With all the counterterrorism secrets leaking out of Congress and the executive branch, it's time to look at how the Founding Fathers would have dealt with the problem.

Our country's founders took secrecy so seriously that all lawmakers had to sign a pledge with teeth so sharp that a leaker would be expelled from Congress and treated as an "enemy."

The Second Continental Congress adopted the following "Resolution of Secrecy" early in the Revolutionary War. Today's Congress should enact a similar resolution for its members:


Resolved, That every member of this Congress considers himself under the ties of virtue, honour, and love of his country, not to divulge, directly or indirectly, any matter or thing agitated or debated in Congress, before the same shall have been determined, without leave of the Congress; nor any matter or thing determined in Congress, which a majority of the Congress shall order to be kept secret. And if any member shall violate this agreement, he shall be expelled [from] this Congress, and deemed an enemy to the liberties of America, and liable to be treated as such; and that every member signify his consent to this agreement by signing the same.

Source: Documents Illustrative of the Formation of the Union of the American States (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1927), p. 18, Quoted from Secret Journals of the Acts and Proceedings of U.S. Congress, Vol. I, p. 34.

We were at war at the time, and we treated enemies with a bit of rope and a stout oak tree. It's time to get back to our founding principles.

Monday, February 27, 2006

See no evil about GRU

The press continues to ignore very quotable concerns from the individual who warned colleagues of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff of a possible connection with Russian military intelligence.

Recently in the Boston Globe, this blogger was quoted as having been asked to help the Abramoff team in 1997 to organize congressional delegations to Russia. The fine article by correspondent Michael Kranish reads:

Abramoff's work on Russian affairs began in the mid-1990s, according to J. Michael Waller, the former editor of a Washington-based newsletter, Russia Reform Monitor. Waller said he was contacted by two Abramoff associates in 1997, and was asked to help organize Abramoff's trip with DeLay to Russia.

"I was told by two of Abramoff's colleagues that he wanted to represent the Russian government," Waller said. He said Abramoff's colleagues explained that Abramoff was working for Naftasib, the Russian energy company, and that "if he performed well on Naftasib then the Russian government would retain him."

That made Waller uncomfortable, he added, because he had read Russian documents that said Naftasib supplied oil to the Russian military, so he declined to help Abramoff plan the trip.

"I was concerned that Abramoff was going to become an agent of influence for the Russian government and that he would mask that relationship," Waller said.

While I praised Kranish for his coverage, I must state that the article - as with others in recent months - omitted my biggest on-the-record concern, which was Abramoff's alleged GRU connection.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

State Department's banned counterdisinformation page

Here's an important State Department web page that everyone should bookmark.

I point it out only because it doesn't appear on the State Department's search engine and is supposedly banned in the United States thanks to a timid interpretation of an obsolete law.

The page is titled "Identifying Misinformation." Is is designed to inform foreign publics about false or misleading statements about the US and American policy.

It is the heroic effort of one individual at the State Department, whose office consists entirely of himself and, at times, a half-time support staffer.

State Department leaders do not believe that countering misinformation and disinformation is a very important issue, and have denied the office any resources to function effectively.

Here's the link: http://usinfo.state.gov/media/misinformation.html.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Ridicule is a powerful weapon. Let's use it.

It's time to add ridicule to our propaganda arsenal against our terrorist enemies and other adversaries.

Incessant, morbid portrayals of an individual, movement, or nation as a mortal enemy might rally support for the American side, but they have a shelf-life that gets tired over time. Constant specters of unrelenting dangers risk sowing defeatism and chipping away at our own morale. Abroad they risk making the U.S. look like a bully in some places and surrender the propaganda advantage to the other side. The questions at this stage of the war are:

* Do we inadvertently aid our enemies and potential enemies by taking them too seriously?

* Does our relentless portrayal of individuals, ideologies, movements and philosophies as mortal dangers to America enhance the enemies’ status and prestige?

* Is it an unsound political strategy to hype the image and power of the enemy and the few leaders who personify it?

* Is there something else the United States and its allies should be doing in their attempts to discredit, undermine and defeat the enemy?

My latest article argues in the affirmative. It suggests that US strategy includes undermining the political and psychological strengths of adversaries and enemies by employing ridicule as a standard operating tool of national strategy.

* Ridicule raises morale at home.

* Ridicule strips the enemy/adversary of his mystique and prestige.

* Ridicule erodes the enemy’s claim to justice.

* Ridicule eliminates the enemy’s image of invincibility.

* Directed properly at an enemy, ridicule can be a fate worse than death.

For the full text of my article, "Ridicule: An Instrument in the War on Terrorism," published by the Institute of World Politics, click here.

For a pdf document of the draft, click here.

(Bag search parody image courtesy of ThePeoplesCube.com. For larger image of the poster, click here.)

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Remember the Iran saboteur at State

Now that the US and Europe are contemplating war against Iran because we have practically run out of political options, let's recall the State Department official who sabotaged funding for Iran's internal opposition.

As we reported last July, the State Department's small but influential Policy Planning office is riddled with political appointees who do not share President Bush's agenda.

When all other relevant government officials had given their approval to provide $3 million to Iranian opposition figures, a political partisan who worked against the president threw sand in the works. It's time to remember who she is and what she did.

That individual was Suzanne Maloney, the Iran advisor on the Policy Planning staff. Maloney tried to defeat President Bush in the 2004 election, aiding the John Kerry campaign, and deferred a job in anticipation of working in a Kerry administration.

She was an ExxonMobil fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations last year when Policy Planning cleverlings brought her on to run the Iran portfolio.

That's when she sandbagged the money for internal opponents to the Islamo-nuts now running Iran.

It's also useful to recall what happened at the State Department when this blog broke the sabotage story. Instead of investigating Maloney, it tried to find out who blew the whistle.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Egypt ran 'insensitive' Muhammad cartoons last October

Before wetting ourselves about whether European, American, Australian, New Zealand, etc., publication of the controversial Muhammad cartoons is offensive to Muslims, let's note that the same Danish drawings appeared in the Egyptian press last October, and nobody said boo.

Thanks to the blogger at Freedom for Egyptians for publishing copies of the October 17, 2005 issue of Al Fager, along with the explanatory notes for those of us who do not read Arabic. To go straight to the images, click here.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The American way of propaganda

Since 9/11, this blogger has heard well over a dozen senior US government officials reject the idea of waging political warfare and all-out propaganda campaigns against terrorists, because such activity is "un-American."

Those officials are wrong.

History proves it. In the first of a series of White Papers on public diplomacy and strategic communications, I explain how aggressive use of propaganda and political warfare is as American as Old Glory.

Our nation's most revered founders - John Adams, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson among them - were skilled propagandists and political warriors.

Our warfighters and strategists would do well to learn from them.

"The American Way of Propaganda: Lessons from the Founding Fathers" is available from the Institute of World Politics. Click for html version or pdf document.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Ahmadinejad to visit Cuba on 9/11 anniversary

Fidel Castro has invited Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Cuba on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Citing the Cuban Communist Party daily Granma, Agence France-Presse reports from Havana that Ahmadinejad accepted Castro's invitation to attend the Non-Aligned summit in Havana from September 11-16, 2006.

Ahmadinejad expressed gratitude for Cuban support for Iran's nuclear program. Cuba, Venezuela and Syria voted against an International Atomic Energy Agency resolution to refer Iran to the UN Security Council due to worries about its nuclear weapons program.

Granma reports that Iranian Parliament leader Ghulam Ali Haddad Adel will also visit Cuba.

Termination is proposed of key VOA broadcast services

The entity that governs America's global broadcasting operations is proposing to do away with much of its English-language programming and to axe broadcasts in languages spoken in parts of the world vital to US interests.

The proposal comes in the form of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) budget request for Fiscal Year 2007, and a notice that the board sent to offices throughout its jurisdiction.

The cuts are a combination of smart realignment to stay abreast of technology developments and global listener/viewer/user trends, and further cannibalization of US broadcasting capabilities to stretch resources for enhanced programming in priority areas. The board has drastically curtailed or canceled entire broadcasts in several languages rather than ask the public and Congress for the resources it really needs, and it plans to do so again in FY 2007.

The board proposes to eliminate VOA's 24-hour "News Now" program in English, and all radio programming in Bosnian, Croatian, Georgian, Greek, Hindi, Russian, Serbian, Turkish and Thai.

The board envisions keeping some non-English-language broadcasts on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (which are not "Voice of America" but gray propaganda with news about the countries where each language is spoken), and/or making TV the main medium for the US to reach people who speak those languages.

FourthWorldWar.com publishes the text of the notice below.

Message from the Board of Governors on the Budget Request for FY 2007

Today, the President’s budget request for fiscal year 2007 has been sent to the Congress. In light of all of the press reports about the tight budget environment, you are all aware of the pressures on the discretionary budget and the post-Katrina and Iraq conflict requirements that have helped to shape it.

In spite of this difficult budget environment, the Administration’s FY ’07 request contains a 4.3 percent increase for the BBG – and a 5.3 percent increase for the Voice of America. This increase specifically recognizes the importance of VOA’s broadcasting to Iran and Afghanistan as well as the role television increasingly plays in what we do.

In a clear vote of confidence in the role of VOA’s satellite television in the war on terror, the President’s budget provides close to $10 million to upgrade VOA’s television production facilities. The budget funds FY ’06 expansion of VOA television to Iran – where Persian television news programming is being increased from 30 minutes to four hours – and radio and television expansions in Afghanistan. The FY ’07 budget continues radio broadcasting to Zimbabwe (previously funded by USAID) and adds a Spanish television news magazine show that would air five days a week.

To fund these and other war-on-terror related enhancements, we will be facing significant reductions in other areas. With increased emphasis on television and the continued drop in shortwave radio listening worldwide, we foresee a significant reduction in transmission operations devoted to shortwave broadcasting. The budget projects elimination of News Now English radio broadcasting in FY ’07, but Special English and English to Africa will not be affected by the cuts, and VOA’s popular Internet site will become the major English outlet for our worldwide news-gathering operation.

Other proposed program reductions include the elimination of VOA
Croatian, Turkish, Thai, and Greek. VOA Georgian and VOA and RFE/RL radio broadcasts in Macedonian would also be eliminated. VOA would continue to broadcast in Macedonian via television, and RFE/RL would maintain its radio broadcasts in Georgian. This budget request also proposes that VOA pursue a television-only strategy in its Albanian, Bosnian, Serbian, Russian and Hindi services. RFE/RL would continue to serve radio audiences in Albanian, Bosnian, Serbian and Russian.

However, RFE/RL would eliminate six hours of its Russian radio
broadcasts as it realigns to pursue an UKV (FM) broadcast strategy in Russia. None of the VOA reductions would take place until fiscal year 2007.

The proposed language service reductions are not a reflection of the quality of the programming of these services. In many cases, these programs are better than ever. And not all of the proposed budget cuts would come at the expense of the language services. More than half of the budget reductions assumed in the FY ’07 request result from reductions in IBB support and engineering. This budget is about positioning our international broadcasting effort for the future. In order to set VOA and other BBG services on a path for growth and enhanced impact, we must respond to changing viewing habits, adopt new technology, and efficiently respond to the nation’s most immediate and vital national security challenges.

The Administration’s FY ’07 request for $671.9 million for the BBG will fund technological innovation as well as highly visible programs in support of the war on terror, and it continues to cement international broadcasting’s key role in the overall U.S. foreign policy effort. These are programs where VOA’s successful implementation will be highly anticipated and, as it has in the past, we are confident that VOA will succeed.

We know that this budget will also bring hardship to the agency. It assumes a loss of positions in parts of the agency, and gains in others, in 2007. To address some of the hardship of realignment, we will try to implement personnel reductions by voluntary means as much as possible.

We are seeking buyout authority and early out authority to try to soften the impact on affected employees. We would like to stress, however, that there will not be any elimination of VOA positions associated with this budget until fiscal year 2007.

As you know, the submission of the President’s budget request to the Congress is just the beginning of this process of charting the agency’s course for FY ’07. Of course, none of the proposed reductions may be implemented until the agency’s final budget is fully vetted by the Congress and signed into law. Until that time, agency management will do its best to keep you informed of our progress in gaining personnel authorities necessary to help moderate the potential impact of the proposed budget reductions inherent in the budget request.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The new cross burners

Fanatical Islamist mobs, outraged by European cartoons about Muhammad, are stomping and burning the Christian Cross in their mad rampages around the world.

In London they are publicly threatening more terrorist attacks like the July 7 transit bombings.

Hamas, the democratically elected terrorist movement that won control of the Palestinian Authority, has called for the artists and publishers to be murdered.

In Jordan, a Muslim newspaper editor who urged people to calm down was sacked.

In Washington, the US State Department tries to sound even-handed, or perhaps, to avoid taking a stand.

In Lebanon, Muslim gangs sack Christian neighborhoods and vandalize churches.

And from Europe to Indonesia, the crazed Muslim fanatics vent their hate on the Christian Cross, stomping it with their feet, burning it amid jeers and laughs and chants of Allahu Akhbar.

The world press reports it all as the burning of the flags of Denmark and Norway, where the offending cartoons appeared. But the sole symbol on both nation's flags is the Christian Cross.

While many Muslim leaders have denounced the violence and appealed for calm, no Muslim leader anywhere has denounced the cross burnings.

No civilized person should miss or pretend not to see the symbolism, and what it means for us all.