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Jim, March 19th 05 12:46 AM

( OT ) The White House Fakes It
The White House Fakes It
By , The Progress Report
Posted on March 14, 2005, Printed on March 18, 2005

Continued violence in Iraq, a struggling economy, an unpopular plan to
privatize Social Security, homeland security left underfunded while the
rich get giant tax cuts ... what's a White House to do when the news
about its policies isn't favorable? Fake it. An explosive, front-page
New York Times story this weekend exposes President Bush's vast
manipulation of the media and White House attempts to manipulate public
opinion. Over the past four years, it turns out at least 20 different
federal agencies have been involved in producing hundreds yes,
hundreds of fake TV news segments, many of which were "subsequently
broadcast on local stations across the country without any
acknowledgement of the government's role in their production." In fact,
since President Bush took office, the White House has spent at least
$254 million on these fake segments and other public relations ploys to
spread positive propaganda about his policies. President Bush has paid
lip service to the concept of a free press, saying in January 2005,
"there needs to be a nice, independent relationship between the White
House and the press, the administration and the press." He also claimed
"our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet." Here's what
happens when it can't.

Lose Your Identity: One of the largest concerns about these fake news
segments is that they obscure the fact that they are paid for using
taxpayer money and contain a one-sided, purely positive take on
administration policy. In a now-infamous segment by the Department of
Health and Human Services, a PR official named Karen Ryan posed as a
reporter interviewing then-Secretary Tommy Thompson. (Her role in the
well-rehearsed spot was to give Thompson "better, snappier answers" to
her pre-approved questions.) The Government Accountability Office found
the agency "designed and executed" her segments "to be indistinguishable
from news stories produced by private sector television news organizations."

Office of B.S.: The Office of Broadcasting Services is a branch of the
State Department which traditionally has acted as a clearinghouse for
video from news conferences. That all changed three years ago. In 2002,
"with close editorial direction from the White House," the unit started
producing fake news segments to back up President Bush's rationale for
going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. As one senior official told
Congress, the phony segments were "powerful strategic tools" used to
influence public opinion. In all, the office produced nearly 60
segments, which were then distributed around the world for local
stations to use as actual news footage. Although the White House has
claimed ignorance about the use of fake news, it was well aware this was
happening. A White House memo in January 2003 actually said segments the
State Department disseminated about the liberation of Afghan women were
"a prime example" of how "White-House led efforts could facilitate
strategic, proactive communications in the war on terror."

Ignore the GAO: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is a
nonpartisan branch of Congress that investigates government fraud. The
GAO criticized the administration's role in creating phony news three
separate times in the past year, saying unless viewers are aware that
what they're watching is government produced, it constitutes "covert
propaganda." The GAO also forbade federal agencies from creating
prepackaged news reports "that conceal or do not clearly identify for
the television viewing audience that the agency was the source of those
materials." The administration's response? The New York Times reports
that on Friday, "the Justice Department and the Office of Management and
Budget circulated a memorandum instructing all executive branch agencies
to ignore the GAO findings."

Ignore Federal Law: These fake news spots are produced with taxpayer
money by outside public relations firms. Federal law warns federal
agencies away from doing exactly that; the U.S. Code states
"appropriated funds may not be used to pay a publicity expert unless
specifically appropriated for that purpose." However, the GAO, which
monitors the law, has no enforcement power. That responsibility lies
with Congress and the White House. U.S. federal law also contains the
Smith Mundt Act of 1948, which prohibits the spread of government
propaganda in the United States (although it allows groups like Voice of
America to broadcast it to foreign audiences.) According to The New York
Times, State Department officials claim that provision doesn't apply to

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