TRIALS BY FIRE - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

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TRIALS BY FIRE - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

cannot officially deny the existence of such programs unless operating undercovert action authorities.One legal requirement that is uniform across all US government agencies thatconduct IO is a prohibition against directing information operations towardsthe American public.• The US Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 (amendedin 1972 and 1998)—also known as the Smith-Mundt Act—is the cornerstonefor public diplomacy in the post-WWII era. The Act prohibitsthe government from disseminating information within the USthat is meant for foreign audiences. 215• Several Presidential directives and Executive Orders, such as NSD-77 (1983), PDD-68 (1999), and NSPD-16 (2002) further specify thelegal parameters of public diplomacy and information operations.However, as PDD-68 and NSPD-16 are currently classified, the contoursof current IO guidelines are unknown to the general public. 216Of course, given the interconnected nature of global media and the Internet,clandestine IO efforts often will inadvertently be replayed in the US. As onecommentator recently said, “In this day and age it is impossible to preventstories that are fed abroad as part of psychological operations propagandafrom blowing back into the United States—even though they were directedabroad.” 217 In fact, the Pentagon’s 2003 Information Operations Roadmap recognizesthis issue and suggests the utility of formally separating public diplomacyfrom IO, but does not actually provide steps to separate the two disciplines.It remains unclear whether such IO blowback violates US law.When IO becomes Public...When exposed in the press, IO campaigns can quickly metastasize into publicrelations fiascos, setting back overall US strategic goals.• Several military contractors received contracts worth up to $100 millionfor questionable information operations efforts in Iraq, includingbribing Iraqi newspaper boards to place pro-US articles in localnewspapers. Once exposed in the press, the contractors’ tactics weredeemed lawful by a subsequent Pentagon investigation because theywere part of a legitimate psychological operations campaign. 218Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs | Harvard Kennedy School87

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