NEW COUNTER-DIS­IN­FOR­MA­TION CEN­TER

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD -

The fis­cal 2017 de­fense autho­riza­tion bill signed into law by Pres­i­dent Obama last week con­tains a pro­vi­sion call­ing for a new U.S. govern­ment pro­gram to counter for­eign pro­pa­ganda and dis­in­for­ma­tion. The Global En­gage­ment Cen­ter will be lo­cated in the State Depart­ment and must be es­tab­lished in the next six months.

“The pur­pose of the cen­ter shall be to lead, syn­chro­nize and co­or­di­nate ef­forts of the fed­eral govern­ment to rec­og­nize, un­der­stand, ex­pose and counter for­eign state and non-state pro­pa­ganda and dis­in­for­ma­tion ef­forts aimed at un­der­min­ing United States na­tional se­cu­rity in­ter­ests,” the law states. The cen­ter will seek to in­te­grate ef­forts to track and eval­u­ate dis­in­for­ma­tion, an­a­lyze for­eign nar­ra­tives, and dis­sem­i­nate “fact-based” nar­ra­tives aimed at coun­ter­ing the lies and de­cep­tion.

The cen­ter will have an op­er­at­ing bud­get of up to $60 mil­lion for 2017.

The leg­is­la­tion also will al­low the cen­ter to pro­vide funds to civil so­ci­ety groups, me­dia con­tent providers, non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions, fed­er­ally funded re­search and de­vel­op­ment cen­ters, pri­vate com­pa­nies, and aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions. The funds will be used to re­fute dis­in­for­ma­tion and me­dia ma­nip­u­la­tion.

The cen­ter, how­ever, will be tem­po­rary and close down on Dec. 23, 2024.

The cen­ter will re­place some func­tions of the de­funct U.S. In­for­ma­tion Agency, which was shut down in 1999. Its func­tions were trans­ferred to the State Depart­ment and crit­ics say its ef­fec­tive­ness has been lim­ited by diplo­mats more con­cerned with not up­set­ting U.S. for­eign re­la­tions than coun­ter­ing for­eign lies.

The new cen­ter was the re­sult of ef­forts by Sen. Rob Port­man, Ohio Re­pub­li­can and Sen. Chris Mur­phy, Con­necti­cut Demo­crat.

“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,” Mr. Port­man said in a state­ment. “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.”

The bill fol­lows ag­gres­sive Rus­sian in­flu­ence ac­tiv­i­ties that have in­cluded cy­ber­at­tacks against U.S. po­lit­i­cal fig­ures and what U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies have con­cluded was a covert pro­gram de­signed to af­fect the out­come of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Mr. Obama has or­dered an in­tel­li­gence re­view of the Rus­sian in­flu­ence op­er­a­tion. The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported this week that the pres­i­dent may soon im­pose sanc­tions on Rus­sia for the elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence.

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