Last Friday, President Obama signed the 2017 US National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) providing nearly EUR593 billion for war and military spending and restricting transfers from the Guantánamo Bay detention centre, guaranteeing that Obama will leave office without fulfilling his pledge to close the prison. Barack Obama blamed the US Congress for this: " Once again, the Congress has also failed to take action toward closing the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. As I have said before, spending hundreds of millions of dollars, year after year, to keep fewer than sixty men in an isolated detention facility in Cuba is not consistent with our interests as a Nation and undermines our standing in the world. It weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, and emboldening violent extremists," he said.
At the same time, a little-known bill was rolled into the NDAA to create within the Department of State a US national anti-propaganda body, the Global Engagement Centre, to lead, coordinate, synchronize and develop strategies for countering propaganda and disinformation campaigns. The US State Department will must work to recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United States national security interests. The new centre will provide grants to support Civil Society groups, journalists, NGOs, federally-funded R&D centres, private companies and academic institutions in analyzing, reporting on, and refuting foreign disinformation efforts.
"I am firmly convinced that the Russians and others will say, ‘That worked pretty well in 2016, so let’s keep going.’ We have elections every two years in this country." An Obama administration official shared concerns that unless the White House follows through on plans to punish Russia for its cyberattacks during the election, the US electoral system will continue to be a prime target for state-sponsored hackers.
According to US Senators Rob Portman and Chris Murphy, promoters of the new law, it is designed to help US allies counter government propaganda from Russia, China, and other nations.
“Our enemies are using foreign propaganda and disinformation against us and our allies, and so far the US government has been asleep at the wheel,” Portman said. “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. With this bill now law, we are finally signaling that enough is enough; the United States will no longer sit on the sidelines. We are going to confront this threat head-on. I am confident that, with the help of this bipartisan bill, the disinformation and propaganda used against us, our allies, and our interests will fail.”
“The use of propaganda to undermine democracy has hit a new low. But now we are finally in a position to confront this threat head on and get out the truth. By building up independent, objective journalism in places like Eastern Europe, we can start to fight back by exposing these fake narratives and empowering local communities to protect themselves,” said Murphy. “I’m proud that our bill was signed into law, and I look forward to working with Senator Portman to make sure these tools and new resources are effectively used to get out the truth.”
Propaganda pressure on the European Union from Russia and Islamist terrorist groups is growing, the European Parliament warned in a resolution voted recently. According to parliamentary sources, that propaganda seeks to distort the truth, incite fear, provoke doubt and divide the EU. To counteract anti-EU campaigns, Parliament suggested reinforcing the EU’s tiny strategic communication task force and investing more in awareness raising, education, online and local media, investigative journalism and information literacy.