Monday, March 14, 2005

The Bush Administration: "Accountability?...Huh?"

This is a bit of a Gonzales Watch item, but it's also something that slipped past my radar. It was buried in yesterday's pre-packaged news item.

Long story short, the GAO laid the smackdown on the Administration for issuing "VNR"s [Video News Releases], which have been used by news services as legitimate news items rather than the taxpayer-funded propaganda that they are. The US Government makes literally hundreds if not thousands of these "pre-packaged" news clippings, and they wind up being disseminated as real news when they are not.

After the GAO reports on manipulating the media were issued, the Bush Administration first pled with the GAO:

"You asked that we withdraw our opinion and reconsider its analysis because it (1) is inconsistent with ONDCPs express authorization to conduct a media campaign, (2) ignores the independent intervening decisions of news organizations to disseminate that information as their own, and (3) does not distinguish between deliberate concealment of source by the government from the news media and the subsequent concealment of the source from the public by the news media."

That's right, they argued that, hey, it's the choice of the media to conceal the source. Never mind any pressure that the government brought to bear, right?

But aside from that, now, rather than trying to get the GAO to change its mind, it's just decided "Fuck them, we're not accountable for anything":

"Yet in three separate opinions in the past year, the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress that studies the federal government and its expenditures, has held that government-made news segments may constitute improper "covert propaganda" even if their origin is made clear to the television stations. The point, the office said, is whether viewers know the origin. Last month, in its most recent finding, the G.A.O. said federal agencies may not produce prepackaged news reports "that conceal or do not clearly identify for the television viewing audience that the agency was the source of those materials." It is not certain, though, whether the office's pronouncements will have much practical effect. Although a few federal agencies have stopped making television news segments, others continue. And on Friday, the Justice Department and the Office of Management and Budget circulated a memorandum instructing all executive branch agencies to ignore the G.A.O. findings. The memorandum said the G.A.O. failed to distinguish between covert propaganda and "purely informational" news segments made by the government. Such informational segments are legal, the memorandum said, whether or not an agency's role in producing them is disclosed to viewers.
Friday afternoon.

So, once again, Gonzales is aiding and abetting this administration in getting whatever it wants, whenever it wants. No surprise, right? The problem is that, yet again, Gonzales is bending (or outright breaking) the law. FCC Policy says that this is illegal in practice, but they have yet to do anything about it. There's also something called the 1948 Smith-Mundt Act which prohibits domestic dissemination of American Government-made propaganda. This is in addition to the law that the GAO was citing.

The people HAVE to start making the government accountable for its actions. How long are we going to fund their bullshit? How long are we going to pay them to lie to us? I think it's time to put our foot down - support Senator Lautenberg's Bill! ("A Bill to stop taxpayer funded propaganda"); let your congressman or woman know that you're tired of being lied to, and the bullshit must stop, now.

Posted by crimnos @ 12:50 PM