Amb. John Tefft “Attends” 9/20 Moscow Rally and Apollo 11 Moon Landing Wearing the Same Trench Coat!

Posted: 1:23 am EDT
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Russian television network REN-TV reported yesterday that the U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Tefft, attended a Moscow rally of opposition activists. It apparently included a photograph purporting to show Ambassador Tefft at the event. Below via RFE/RL:

But there was one major problem with the report by the Kremlin-loyal national television network REN-TV: Tefft was not at the protest in Moscow’s outer Marino district. And the image showing Tefft talking to reporters against the background of the September 20 demonstration was a fabrication.

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow responded snarkily to the report on REN-TV’s website, saying Tefft had spent the day at home and publishing photoshopped images showing Tefft speaking to the same reporters against the background of famous historical events — including U.S. General Douglas MacArthur’s return to the Philippines in 1944 and the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969.

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Apparently, REN- TV  first edited the report to state that it is “unknown whether these images are real or a common photo montage.” According to RFE/RL, later in the day, REN-TV followed up with an item conceding that the photograph was a fake circulated on Twitter and apologized. RFE/RL notes that the image of Ambassador Tefft used in the photo mashup was taken from an interview he gave on February 28 at the site near the Kremlin where Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was shot dead the previous day:

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RFE/RL says that REN-TV is majority-owned by National Media Group, a pro-Kremlin media conglomerate controlled by Yury Kovalchuk, one of numerous influential businessmen and officials sanctioned by the United States in response to Russia’s role in the Ukraine conflict. Read more here.

Well played @WBStevens, well played!

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Read Before Burning: Debating the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act

Matt Armstrong has written a must-read piece on the Smith-Mundt Modernization debate. Something for those who did not get their Smith-Mundt Minute Maid boost before wading into the bush.

There’s this – Congressmen Seek To Lift Propaganda Ban

And then there’s this – Much ado about State Department ‘propaganda’

Here is an excerpt from Matt Armstrong’s Congress, the State Department, and “communistic, fascistic, and other alien influences”:

The current debate on the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act is filled with misinformation about the history of Smith-Mundt, some of it verging on blatant propaganda, making the discussion overall rich in irony. In 1947, the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional committee assembled to give its recommendation on the Smith-Mundt Act declared that it was a necessary response to the danger posed “by the weapons of false propaganda and misinformation and the inability on the part of the United States to deal adequately with those weapons.” Today, it is the Smith-Mundt Act that is victim to “false propaganda” and “misinformation” that affect perceptions of, and potential support for, the Modernization Act.

Many of the negative narratives swirling around the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act are based on assumptions and myths that, like true propaganda, have an anchor in reality but stray from the facts to support false conclusions. These fabrications include the false assertion the Act ever applied to the whole of Government or the Defense Department as well as fundamental confusion, and lack of knowledge, of America’s public diplomacy with foreign audiences.
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From the information programs to the programs for the “interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills,” the Congress made its clear its concerns that the State Department may intentionally, or inadvertently, undermine the American way of life for reasons ranging from Roosevelt and Truman “New Dealers” to the liberal culture of the State Department.
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[T]he distrust of State remained. Rep. Fred Busbey (R-IL) sought to delay the bill until the State Department was cleaned up: “I believe there should be in the State Department an Office of Information and Cultural Affairs, but it should be free of communistic, fascistic, and other alien influences.” Congressman Clare Hoffman (R-MI) believed the exchange program was for the State Department to establish an espionage net directed against the United States.

Continue reading, Congress, the State Department, and “communistic, fascistic, and other alien influences”

We should note that a tiny twig of the federal government had been charged with appraising U.S. Government activities “intended to understand, inform, and influence foreign publics.” That’s the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy (ACPD), created in 1948 and defunded by Congress on December 16, 2011.

On the issue of trust or in this case, distrust — distrust of the Department of State is a shadow that started stalking the organization soon after it came into being following the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1789. Donald Warwick in his 1978 book on bureaucracy points out that the early image of State was influenced by its adoption of the European model of diplomacy and our country’s mistrust of foreign relations.

“As a concrete expression of concern with European contamination, the Continental Congress ruled that diplomats could remain overseas no more than three years. Rapid corruption thereafter was feared. […] Public mistrust of diplomacy in general and of its foreign-oriented practioners was to surface later in the McCarthy era.”

The limit on continuous duty overseas is alive and well. In the Foreign Service Act, Congress imagined that diplomats would still be contaminated but only after 15 years of continuous exposure abroad.

Domani Spero

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Quickie: Louis, this is the beginning of a nasty something online ….

Via Wired.com

The U.S. military’s propaganda activities — known formally and euphemistically as “information operations” — has this week faced serious accusations of targeting Americans, a major infraction. According to USA Today, military personnel (or contractors) apparently took to the web to unleash a vitriolic, and embarrassingly transparent, smear campaign against two of the paper’s staff members. Why? Because they published a damning investigation of the military’s dubious propaganda campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

USA Today reported on Thursday evening that a reporter and an editor, Tom Vanden Brook and Ray Locker, respectively, had been victims of a web campaign intent on damaging their professional reputations. Though the paper couldn’t confirm who was behind the attack, they’ve got their suspicions: It started shortly after the two staffers kicked off an investigation of the Pentagon’s own propaganda contractors.
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The military has been quick to deny involvement in any smear campaign. “We’re not aware of any participation in such activities, nor would it be acceptable,” Lt. Col. James Gregory, a Pentagon spokesperson, told the paper.

On the off-chance that the smear campaign was the work of some random troll unconnected to the Pentagon, that would be merely a massively toolish thing to do. But if the amateurish initiative really was the work of Pentagon staffers or contractors, it’s a flagrant attack on freedom of the press and possibly illegal, since “information operations” are never supposed to target Americans.

Read in full here.

Gawker has identified the purported culprit, and it turns out the same company reportedly owed at least $4 million in federal taxes when the contracts were awarded.  Stripes reported on April 16 that “The tax problems of the military’s top propaganda contractor in Afghanistan would not have prevented the Pentagon from awarding it multimillion-dollar contracts. Oh, dear!

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has his hands full these days but surely, he can easily be persuaded to add one more?

Domani Spero