Senate Bill Drops “Propaganda” Amendment

A setback for a controversial measure. Fate will be determined in reconciliation.

The version of the defense appropriateions bill that passed through markup in the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday afternoon does not include an amendment to “strike the current ban on domestic dissemination” of propaganda says Glen Caplin, Communicaitons Director for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who is a member of the committee.

The move marks a setback for the approval of Reps. Mac Thornberry and Adam Smith’s controversial amendment to the House version of the bill, which repeals the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948. The House amendment’s press release states that it will “help counter threats in the information age” by lessening restrictions on how foreign information campaigns are shared with U.S. citizens.

Critics, however, said altering the Smith-Mundt Act allow the State Department and Broadcasting Board of Governors to target propaganda materials at U.S. audiences.

Even though the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that passed through Senate committee includes no mention of altering the Smith-Mundt Act, it remains possible for an amendment allowing for domestic propaganda to be introduced on the Senate floor, or added when the House and Senate versions of the bill are reconciled.

It is unclear how much support Thornberry and Smith’s amendment has in the Senate, but it faces some opposition.

“Senator Gillibrand is hopeful this troubling language will remain out of the Senate bill and stripped out in conference committee when the House and Senate bills are reconciled,” Caplin said.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin declined to comment on the bill until the NDAA press release is completed.

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