U.S. Public Diplomacy: Legislative Proposals to Amend Prohibitions on Disseminating Materials to Domestic Audiences [September 21, 2012]   [open pdf - 361KB]

"Public diplomacy involves U.S. government activities to conduct U.S. foreign policy and promote U.S. national interests through direct outreach and communication with the population of foreign countries. Public diplomacy and international broadcasting activities, conducted by the Department of State, U.S. diplomatic personnel abroad, and U.S. international broadcasters such as the Voice of America, include providing information to foreign publics through broadcast and Internet media and at libraries and other outreach facilities in foreign countries; conducting cultural diplomacy, such as art exhibits and music performances; and administering international educational and professional exchange programs. For decades, Congress has enacted legislative provisions concerning U.S. government communications to U.S. domestic audiences that prohibit influencing public opinion through unauthorized publicity or propaganda. In the case of U.S. public diplomacy and international broadcasting, two additional legislative provisions prohibit the dissemination and general availability of communications and related materials intended for foreign publics to U.S. domestic audiences: Section 501 of the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 ('Smith-Mundt Act'; P.L. 80-402, 22 U.S.C. §1461) as well as Section 208 of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1986 and 1987 ('Zorinsky Amendment'; P.L. 99-93; 22 U.S.C. §1461-1a). Proposed in the 112th Congress, the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 (H.R. 5736), and identical provisions included at Section 1097 of the National Defense Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2013 (NDAA; H.R. 4310), would amend and restate these two legislative provisions restricting domestic availability and dissemination of communications created by the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to target and influence foreign publics. The proposed amendments to these provisions would remove the prohibition on domestic dissemination of public diplomacy information produced by the Department of State and the BBG intended for foreign audiences, while maintaining the prohibition on using public diplomacy funds to influence U.S. public opinion."

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CRS Report for Congress, R42754
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