Supporters of Barack Obama tout his dedication to the responsibilities of the presidency by noting that he had taken 96 days of vacation at the point in his term that President George W. Bush had taken a reported 335.
But they admit that 51 of Bush’s trips were to his Texas ranch, while records show that Obama’s destinations have ranged from exotic European and African locales to pricey digs to Hawaii, where he’s sometimes traveled separately from his family, effectively doubling transportation costs for taxpayers.
The records released are partial, meaning no firm travel-expense total can be assembled. But individual cases are revealing.
This article originally appeared in WND.com on 5/3/2012. Rights have reverted back to the author, Steve Peacock.
The U.S. State Department is planning to “buy” media broadcasts, as the Obama administration assembles a de facto propaganda machine, according to documents that reveal the president’s plans moving closer to the 2012 election.
According to information that U.S. Trade & Aid Monitor located via routine database research, State’s Bureau of Public Affairs is soliciting the help of “global news coverage service providers” to create and disseminate department “news.”
The selected contractor will provide “full-time, 24/7 service,” the Statement of Work for the plan said.
“The department seeks a service provider for full, turn-key news-style global television coverage of ad hoc open press events featuring the Secretary of State and other officials across the United States and throughout the world,” according to the SOW, “and to send this content back to the department’s Washington headquarters…”
Upon receiving these privately packaged productions, the department, in turn, “will distribute this video content to media organizations through an array of traditional and new media platforms.”
Indeed, just as the department is awaiting contractor bids on the project, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s representative at the World Press Freedom Day in Tunisia heaped accolades upon UNESCO for hosting the annual event.
In a “tweet” from Tunisia, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Esther Brimmer said, “I applaud the tireless, continuing work of #UNESCO in promoting the ideals of free and open media.”
Brimmer delivered remarks on behalf of the Obama administration during the opening ceremony, along with presenting a video speech from Clinton.
Referring to the Arab Spring demonstrations across the Middle East and North Africa, Clinton said, according to a prepared statement, “Voice by voice, text by text, Tunisians, Egyptians, Libyans and many others have dared to say what they believe and stand up for their own rights.
“Many others have dared to report on what they see happening, even when their lives were at risk.”
The State Department plan is twofold: to hire a single contractor to provide television news crew services on the one hand, and to provide transmission/streaming services as a corollary service.
“The television news crew category is both one and two-person crews, and includes one and multi-camera productions,” the SOW pointed out. “The transmission category includes both traditional fiber, terrestrial and satellite-based as well as file-based and Internet delivery platforms.”
The use of such government- as well as industry-funded broadcasts, known as “video news releases,” or VNRs, has increasingly come under fire in the past decade.
VNRs “are segments designed to be indistinguishable from independently produced news reports that are distributed and promoted to television newsrooms,” according to Source Watch, a Center for Media and Democracy project that chronicles the intersecting of public relations and public policy.
The General Accountability Office – the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress – in 2005 declared that several federal entities, such as the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services, may have violated the law by disseminating VNRs as fact-based news reports.
Subsequent to the GAO’s findings, the “Stop Government Propaganda Act” was introduced to rein in and punish such activities; it died, however, after being introduced in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Proponents of VNR distribution claim that use of the video products is wholly legitimate. The Public Relations Society of America is that a VNR simply is “the video equivalent of a press release.”
Organizations that produce VNRs should clearly identify the VNR as such and fully disclose who produced and paid for it at the time the VNR is provided to TV stations.
PRSA recommends that organizations that prepare VNRs should not use the word “reporting” if the narrator is not a reporter.
Use of VNRs or footage provided by sources other than the station or network should be identified as to source by the media outlet when it is aired.
Despite congressional refusal to crack down on VNRs, the Federal Communications Commission issued a reminder to licensees of their sponsor-identification requirements under the Communications Act or 1934. Rather than holding liable the creators of the reports, the commission has placed the burden of disclosure on who ultimately airs the VNR.
“These rules are grounded in the principle that listeners and viewers are entitled to know who seeks to persuade them with the programming offered over broadcast stations and cable systems,” the FCC said.
When such VNRs are aired, “licensees and operators generally must clearly disclose to members of their audiences the nature, source and sponsorship of the material that they are viewing.”
Although the FCC continues to enforce these rules, the penalties arguably have been light.
Last year, for instance, it issued a forfeiture order to Fox Television Stations, Inc. when station affiliate KMSP-TV of Minneapolis used – but failed to identify – a General Motors-provided VNR during a news broadcast.
The State Department through May 21 is reviewing contractor proposals in response to the new solicitation. It did not disclose the estimated cost of the endeavor, for which it will award a year contract with four one-year options.
The next phase of a global information-warfare campaign to influence public and media perceptions about U.S. operations in Afghanistan is unfolding, according to an updated U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) planning document that U.S. Trade & Aid Monitor has located.
“The information domain is a battlespace, and it is one in which USFOR-A must take aggressive actions to win the important battle of perception,” according to the project’s modified Performance Work Statement (PWS), dated June 7.
Consequently, the Dept. of Defense, via the U.S. Army Contracting Command-Rock Island unit, is enlisting the assistance of the private sector not only to monitor how the media reports on Afghanistan, but to sway the opinions of the Afghan people about their government:
USFOR-A requires the ability to develop and implement a comprehensive, self-sustaining, long term media operations capability, to include stand-alone studio and regional communication collection and distribution hubs. This initiative also addresses efforts to collect public information and interpret it to support senior leader decision making, specifically regarding the attitudes of the public and the media concerning political, social and economic issues. This initiative will allow Government representatives in USFOR-A to inform key audiences (media and civilian populations internationally and within the region) to achieve desired affects. (Emphasis added)
Among the various duties and positions that the PWS describes (and for which Strategic Social is hiring) are Afghan Linguists/Media Monitors, who would provide “a minimum of 300 media monitoring hours per week.” At least one Pashto- and one Dari-speaking linguist/monitor “should be available at all times.”
An English-speaking media monitor also would be hired for the project, for which that person will assess and summarize “international, regional, and Afghan” Internet, radio, audio, video, and print media outlets.” That position will provide at least 144 media monitoring hours per week to “supplement three media monitor military personnel” who also will perform those tasks.
The contractor also will provide a comprehensive suite of public affairs services to USFOR-A and to Afghan authorities, including the deployment of media analysts, media monitoring website/database developer and manager, the provision of social media and new media management, and advisement on how to engage in “strategic communications.” The management and maintenance of a Defense Video Information Distribution System (DVIDS) also will fall under the purview of the contractor.
This project is critical, according to the PWS, because insurgents have succeeded in undermining the credibility of USFOR-A, the international community, and Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) “through effective use of the information environment, albeit without a commensurate increase in their own credibility.”
Consequently, U.S. Forces and the GIRoA must “wrest the information initiative from the INS” in order to “maintain and strengthen the Afghan population's positive perception” of Afghan government institutions and the support that USFOR-A and the international community provide, the document says.
As a courtesy to readers and researchers, tomorrow, July 1, the Monitor will make available for download the full text of the Army's Performance Work Statement for the Public Affairs Operations-Afghanistan initiative.
An information blitz aimed at swaying Pakistani citizens' views on U.S. involvement in the region is about to unfold, The Peacock Report (TPR) has discovered. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) yesterday commenced its search for a contractor capable of carrying out the euphemistically titled "USAID/Pakistan Outreach Campaign," as the project officially is known. According to a "presolicitation notice" dated June 5 that TPR has located, the agency envisions a multi-language delivery of U.S. government messages in urban as well as rural areas of Pakistan. The contractor will execute the campaign in English, Urdu, Pashtu, Punjabi, and other regonal languages. This USAID endeavor will place messages in newspapers, magazines, and billboards as well as radio and television broadcasts, according to the document. The agency will make available a formal and more detailed solicitation later this month. USAID hopes to launch the Pakistani campaign by summer's end.
A $100 million contract to support psychological operations (PSYOPS) that U.S. Special Forces carry out internationally via aerial leafleting and radio and TV broadcasts has been awarded to CACI International, a Virginia-based vendor for Defense and Homeland Security IT services. CACI will provide up to four years of PSYOPS technology- and other electronic systems-assistance to the U.S. Navy Air Warfare Center, whose Special Communications Requirements (SCR) Division is tasked with designing and maintaining federal systems for C4ISR – command, control, computers, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
Although the Navy and the Pentagon publicly earlier this week began spinning the award by emphasizing the vague provision of C4ISR services to the military, a closer inspection of related contracting documents reveals an expanded list of possible recipients of the SCR unit’s work, including the White House Communications Agency, the FBI, and "other federal agencies" that the documents did not identify.
The bulk of the direct propaganda segment of the contract indeed appears to center upon the Special Operations Command of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, respectively, for whom CACI would assist in the use of what are known as the Special Operations Media System Broadcast (SOMSB) and the Fly Away Broadcast System (FABS). The contract, however, is not exclusively for those purposes, as it also entails the deployment of digital network technologies, military and commercial satellite communications, and encryption and IT security devices -- goods and services that CACI feasibly could provide to any of the above-named Naval clients. Although the documents do not elaborate on what CACI will offer to the "other" agencies, they point out that systems and sub-systems under the contract will be used at "locations or platforms including shipboard, aircraft/airborne, weapon systems, on small crafts, boats, shelters or vehicles."