18 January 2002
See also "Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on The Creation and Dissemination of All Forms of Information in Support of Psychological Operations (PSYOP) in Time of Military Conflict:"
US Department of State
International Information Programs
18 January 2002
(Ross, others, address Brookings Institution forum) (1360) By Stuart Gorin Washington File Staff Writer Washington -- The United States is developing a total communication strategy utilizing three essential themes to tell its story in the anti-terrorism campaign, says State Department official Christopher Ross. The first is to represent the basic American values that unite the country, Ross said at a Brookings Institution forum on "The Propaganda War" January 16. He is a retired U.S. ambassador who serves as senior adviser to Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Charlotte Beers. "The second theme," Ross said, "is to present democratization and openness as a vision for a better future, a future which does not require people to resort to terrorism." He said the third theme "hits at what we are coming to consider increasingly to be perhaps the most important audience for our work -- young people, those who are going to create the future, whose world views and mindsets are not yet fully formed." This theme focuses on them through a look at educational systems and how they are structured, Ross added. The plan will mobilize the resources of public diplomacy in all aspects both on the information side and on the educational and cultural exchange side, he said. Ross added that while crafting such a strategy, Beers is consulting within and outside the government and will travel abroad to consult with U.S. embassies and local opinion leaders. Ross said he views public diplomacy as being "the public face of traditional diplomacy." While traditional diplomacy seeks to advance the interests of the United States through private discussions with foreign governments, he said, "Public diplomacy seeks to support traditional diplomacy by addressing non-governmental audiences" as well, both mass and elite. Asked if "propaganda" is another name for public diplomacy, Ross said, "Much propaganda contains lies and does not shy away from them. In public diplomacy, we don't deliberately look to state things that are not true. We may couch them a certain way, but we deal with the truth." Appearing on the symposium panel with Ross, Joseph Duffey, former director of the U.S. Information Agency, which is now part of the State Department, said "propaganda is not that bad a word in French" and it used to be used in the United States "without the kind of connotation it now has." The issue now, Duffey said, is credibility. "You can't get away with lies very much. They damage your credibility," he said. Duffey added that public diplomacy is "an attempt to get over the heads or around the diplomats and official spokesmen of countries and sometimes around the press to speak directly to the public in other countries and to provide an interpretation or explanation of U.S. values and policies." Thomas Dine, president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, said the negative view of propaganda is that it is methodological way of either being in favor of something or against it. "From a news and information point of view, you are trying to fulfill the first responsibility of our freedom - the freedom of speech, freedom of the press," he said. Credible news organizations, Dine added, try to understand the difference between important and non-important news, and then disseminate it with the belief that "in a democracy, in a society of pluralistic ideas and situations, that you will be informing people of news and information so that they can make decisions." Washington Post associate editor Karen DeYoung said that from a public diplomacy standpoint, the Bush administration has been doing very well at home because people "are very much disposed to agree with them." Regarding communications overseas, she said the administration is not doing very well, "not because they've been derelict somehow in putting out information, but just because people are not disposed to believe this particular brand of information and they're getting other information from other sources." Ross said that from his perspective, "As we try to address all of this, our first task is to make sure that our government's policies are understood for what they are and not for what other people are saying they are." One of the main accusations hurled at the United States in the aftermath of September 11, Ross said, "was that we were not really fighting terrorism, we were fighting Islam, and I think we've been fairly successful over the weeks in countering that to the point where no serious commentator at this point in the Arab world or the Muslim world is harping on that theme. I think there's been acceptance of the notion that the war was, in fact, against the al Qaeda organization and against the Taliban regime that was harboring the al Qaeda in Afghanistan." Asked about the value of public diplomacy educational and cultural exchanges in the Middle East, where Ross served much of his professional career, he said, "When you look at the number of people who have been brought to this country to be exposed to American values, to return to their own country and take up positions of leadership, I would posit that had that kind of activity not existed, attitudes in the Middle East would be even worse than they are today." Adding that while "the world is better for public diplomacy," he said, "The great dilemma is that there are very few concrete barometers, very few concrete ways to measure the effectiveness of any particular activity." Still, Ross said, the effort continues. Regarding the educational program, he said the United States wants to ensure that "the current campaign against terrorism, particularly in the Muslim and Arab countries, evolves in a way that provides to young people the tools needed for modern life so they are not attracted to the apocalyptic kind of vision that Osama bin Laden and others have proffered." Ross said the United States recognizes it is "an enormous task, but the fact that it's enormous doesn't make it not worth pursuing." One of the problems in the Middle East, Ross said, is that "civil society as we know it here is very weak." He added that one of the tasks at hand is to encourage nongovernmental organizations to fill the void between government and people in many of these countries and to create a different kind of political culture. Asked how the United States is responding to disinformation in the area, Ross said it is through its press guidance operation. "The world press is surveyed on themes that come out, whether they be true or false. If they're of relevance to them and we feel we need to answer them we will. And if something is an outright lie, we will say so," he added. "Another part of it is to make oneself available for media appearances in which these lies come out." Noting that acts of terrorism have been committed by followers of virtually every faith in the world, Ross said, "This is not uniquely a Muslim problem. But it is clear, and this goes back to the early history of Islam, that Islam is a religion open to many different interpretations." He said that "what has happened in the Osama bin Laden phenomenon is that a group of extremists with a very precise agenda coming out of a very fundamentalist branch of modern Islam, have begun to speak in the name of Islam as if that is Islam. The fact is that a vast majority of Muslims do not identify with the kinds of positions that Osama bin Laden and his Taliban protectors would take on how you live a good Muslim life." There is work to be done to try to promote within the Muslim population a discussion about what Islam is today, Ross said, but he stressed that while perhaps it is a discussion for the United States to encourage, "it is not a discussion for the U.S. government to lead." (A transcript of the Brookings forum is available on the institution's website at www.brook.edu [see below]) (The Washington File is a product of the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
Press Coverage and the War on Terrorism:
The Propaganda War: Is America Effectively Telling Its Side of the Story in the Anti-Terrorism Campaign?
The Brookings Institution
1775 Massachusetts Ave., N.W.
***THIS IS AN UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT***
MR. STEPHEN HESS: Last week you may recall that we did a program which was the three months after the bombing in Afghanistan and our assessment of how things were going. Marvin, my co-host. I'm Steve Hess in the Brookings Institution. I co-host the program with Marvin Kalb, the Executive Director of the Washington Office of the Harvard Shorenstein Center. Last week Marvin was under the weather and at the last minute Bernard Kalb filled in. It was heroic. We all want to thank Bernie. I also want to tell you, Marvin, that I'm an only child. If I'm sick in the future, you're on your own.
The report last week was that we were doing very well indeed on the battlefield, and this week we turned to the question of whether we are doing equally well in winning the war for public support around the world.
Today we have to figure out as a group, I hope, with our distinguished panel what the public diplomacy or propaganda is, what it should be, whether we have a strategy for it, and how we can effectively tell our story to the rest of the world. We have a unique panel to help us along.
We have Karen De Young, the Associated Editor of The Washington Post who has been watching, observing, and writing about other nations' perceptions of America since she was assigned as the Latin American Bureau Chief in very dicey days in the late 1970s. She subsequently reported from Europe as the Bureau Chief in London. She was the Foreign Editor of the Post as well as the National Editor. So we're very happy to have Karen with us.
We have Joe Duffey who is one of the great public advocates of public diplomacy. He was the Director of the United States Information Agency from 1993 to '99. He has also been Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs. Do you want all of his resume? It's pretty impressive. But he has also been the President of American University and the Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts. We're happy to have Joe with us.
Tom Dine has a remarkable job and we're particularly grateful to him for being here because he lives in Prague where he is President of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and this, many of us believe, is the great success story of public diplomacy for the role it played in telling democracy's story in Eastern Europe before the fall of communism.
And finally, a very important part of this program which makes it really quite different than some of past efforts. You recall typically we have a war and then after the war the journalists and the government officials have a conference, they write a report, the report is filed, some years later we have another report, perhaps they can still find the report but probably they can't.
What's been different about our program is that the Bush Administration has been sending the people who are most involved in the areas that we're here to talk with us while things are going on. The issue in December, we talked about anthrax, we had the Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Public Affairs with us on this program. Last week when the question was the war coverage in Afghanistan we had Torie Clarke, the Assistant Secretary of Public Information at the Pentagon.
Today we have Chris Ross from the State Department. He is the Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy, a long-time Ambassador of Syria, before that to Algeria, and has been in the news most recently, most interestingly, by the Arab-speaking voice on Al Jazeera when there have been tapes and America wants to make its response.
So this is our panel today. As we usually do Marvin Kalb, my co-host, will start the questioning.
MR. MARVIN KALB: Thank you Steve, very much. I'd like to start with a question that has to do with definition and that is what are we talking about? We talk about public diplomacy and we talk about propaganda. I have in front of me an article that Dick Holberg did for The Washington Post about two months ago and he begins it by saying "Call it public diplomacy, call it public affairs, psychological warfare, if you really want to be blunt, propaganda."
Ambassador Ross, is that about it? Is it simply propaganda? And if it is, that's fine. Just explain it to us.
MR. CHRISTOPHER ROSS: No, I don't think that's the case, and I hope I'll be somewhat more skillful in answering the question than I was in pouring myself some water. (Laughter)
I conceive of public diplomacy as being the public face of traditional diplomacy. Traditional diplomacy seeks to advance the interests of the United States through private exchanges with foreign governments. Public diplomacy seeks to support traditional diplomacy by addressing non-governmental audiences, in addition to governmental audiences, both mass and elite. It works very much in coordination with and in parallel to the traditional diplomatic effort.
When I heard the word propaganda I imagine a much more manipulative kind of process than I would like to think that public diplomacy is.
MR. KALB: Is propaganda as well providing lies, trying to put a bad thing in a good light? Trying to take something good, make it even better? Are you exaggerating? Are you distorting? I'm trying to get at the difference.
MR. ROSS: I think you've pointed out a good difference. Much propaganda contains lies and does not shy away from them. In public diplomacy we don't deliberately look to state things that are not true. We may couch them a certain way, but we deal with the truth.
MR. KALB: Joe Duffey? Dealing with the truth all the time.
MR. JOE DUFFEY: You know propaganda is not that bad a word in French. We used to use it in the United States without the kind of connotations it now has. The Financial Times sometimes talks about "propaganda (what the U.S. calls public diplomacy)."
I think the issue now is credibility. I think lies, you can't get away with lies very much. They damage your credibility. The issue, maybe the sharpest way that I came to understand public diplomacy is it's an attempt to get over the heads or around the diplomats and official spokesmen of countries and sometimes around the press to speak directly to the public in other countries and to provide an interpretation, explanation of U.S. values and policies.
MR. KALB: How would you get around the press to talk to the public?
MR. DUFFEY: Well, sometimes if the press is providing a particular... We give Al Jazeera a very hard time because they ran the tapes. CNN would have run those tapes if they had them exclusively. Al Jazeera is a modern corporatized news network which is doing, in my mind, a pretty good jobs. The governments have been very unhappy with Al Jazeera in many places. So sometimes the press may distort the situation simply by their fascination or their interest in it. Isn't that a phenomena of the competitive sensationalist temptations that the press sometimes has?
MR. KALB: Tom Dine. If the difference between propaganda and public diplomacy as so far described anyway is one of nuance, do you regard yourself as being involved in propaganda, public diplomacy, or what?
MR. THOMAS A. DINE: It gets back to your first question about what is the definition. I think a much more expansive view that Ambassador Ross just articulated, and it's closer to Joe's, propaganda is information with a purpose. And in relationships with people you try to be persuasive, you try to have a truthful relationship.
In the case of a news gathering and news disseminating organization like ourselves, and I'm sure the Washington Post and any other credible organization, you try to gather facts, you try to understand the difference between important news and non-important news, and then disseminate with the belief that in a democracy, in a society of pluralistic ideas and situations, that you will be informing people of news and information so they can make decisions.
The negative view of propaganda is that it is a methodological way of either being in favor of something or against something. From a news and information point of view you're trying to fulfill the first responsibility of our freedomthe freedom of speech, freedom of press. That's how we conduct ourselves in putting together our programs every day.
MR. KALB: Karen, putting aside for a moment definition. As a reporter, as an editor you are observing pretty much the process. How do you think the United States is doing in the dissemination of truth, policy, subtlety to the rest of the world?
MS. KAREN DE YOUNG: I'm going to go to definition just really briefly because I think clearly the word propaganda in English has come to have a pejorative connotation, but in fact in terms of definition just deals with the dissemination of information to further one's purpose.
I think that where it is the same as public diplomacy is that this, it's in how you choose your information. What information you choose to make public. Obviously you choose to make public information that furthers your own aims, which is not the same as telling lies. And I don't think one would expect necessarily any Administration to do differently.
How have they been doing? I think that they've been doing very well in this country because I think people are very much disposed to agree with them. We have found that when you write things that don't necessarily agree with them or at least are seen as not agreeing with them, you get a whole lot of response very quickly.
I think they're not doing very well at all overseas. Not because they've been derelict somehow in putting out information, but just because people are not disposed to believe this particular brand of information and they're getting other information from other sources and when they balance it according to what their own beliefs are it doesn't necessarily measure up.
I also think that because the Administration to a large degree has chosen to present its public diplomacy or have the people who are working on its public diplomacy, with the exception of Ambassador Ross and some others, come from the political side of the Administration.
The person who is in charge of this for the White House is Karen Hughes. Karen Hughes is a very, very skillful person who is utterly and absolutely dedicated to the President and the furthering of the President's agenda and the President's interest and the President's image. Again, I'm not saying that's wrong, but I'm saying that's part of the problem to the extent they have a problem, and again I don't think they do have a problem domestically.
MR. KALB: But internationally, Ambassador Ross, how do you see at this point the major difficulties that you face in getting the position of the United States across?
MR. ROSS: It is not an easy task but it's somewhat different from what has been portrayed in the media since September 11th. If you recall since September 11th there has been a theme to the effect that the world hates us, or at least certain important segments of the world hate America, and that somehow public diplomacy must affect that hate and transform it into something else.
From my perspective, having worked overseas a number of years, I don't think that people hate America, with some exceptions. What you see overseas in most cases is a mixture of admiration and envy and a certain amount of dislike for the fact that we are the sole remaining super power. But that doesn't translate into the kinds of extreme actions that we saw on September 11th.
I think what people react to most abroad is concrete policies that they don't agree with. And that is the focus of their attention. As we try to address all of this, our first task is to make sure that our government's policies are understood for what they are and not for what other people are saying they are. So there's a process of explication here which is useful. It does not change many minds when people are truly not in sync with our policies. But beyond that there is a much longer term effort needed to put those policies in a context, a context of American values, and to do that by a number of long term programs that we can get into.
MR. KALB: Joe...
MR. DUFFEY: Chris is now talking about cultural diplomacy as well as public diplomacy, which is another part of this.
I think we all ought to have an enormous sympathy for the challenge that this effort has right now. John Gaddis at Yale said recently that since September 11th the United States has undergone the most significant revision of its foreign policy in more than a decade.
President Bush goes to the United Nations, to his great credit, and makes a statement about the legitimate objectives of the Palestinians. We'll never again not pay our dues to the UN simply because one Senator doesn't want us to. We've changed that. We're consulting a lot more. I don't hear anybody talking about the indispensable nation. We are approaching the world differently.
Now we've got to have a little time to show the credibility behind that, but this Administration and particularly Chris and his colleagues are trying to interpret that chastened understanding, and to the credit of the Administration, it's genuine changes that are being signaled and in effect. That's not an easy task.
MR. KALB: You're both playing the same horn at the moment.
Could you provide a single element of success, and maybe not...
MR. DUFFEY: Yes.
MR. KALB: Let's have it.
MR. DUFFEY: Actually...
MR. KALB: I mean in terms of the public diplomacy.
MR. DUFFEY: This week I understand that the families of some of the victims in New York and in the plane crashes are going to be going to Afghanistan to meet with the families of victims there. I don't know whether our government arranged that or not, but it's a brilliant move. I think that the real issue is finding those dramatic moments.
Yes, I think some success. I think we can see it in the kind of things that are being written, both inside in the debate about Islam. I think we can see it in some of the columnists in Egypt that I have looked at. Chris probably monitors it more every day. Yes, some successes, but it's a big...
MR. KALB: Chris, tick off the successes for me, because Joe just left me a little limp.
MR. ROSS: Well one of the main accusations that was hurled at us in the aftermath of September 11th and in the lead-up and the execution of the war in Afghanistan was that we were not really fighting terrorism, we were fighting Islam, and I think we've been fairly successful over the weeks in countering that to the point where no serious commentator at this point in the Arab world or the Muslim world is harping on that theme. I think there's been acceptance of the notion that the war was in fact against the al Qaeda organization and against the Taliban regime that was harboring the al Qaeda in Afghanistan. So on that particular theme, I think there has been a shift in the way people are viewing our efforts.
MR. KALB: Tom Dine?
MR. DINE: I think deeds are more important than the rhetoric, although the rhetoric by the President of the United States has been excellent. Simple, direct, and consistent. But the deeds are even more important. Living in Europe you feel the love and the hate. Living in Europe before September 11th you felt the love and the hate. Nothing is really new. The French have been irritated at us for a long, long, long, long time.
But for instances, tracing down al Qaeda's operation in Singapore. It's not a Muslim society, it's a Chinese society. All of a sudden deeds in Afghanistan, caves, urban areas, wherever, going to Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, all of a sudden it's out of the Arab world anyway, although certainly Indonesia is quite Muslim. And that will play better than anything else.
The fact that we can criticize ourselves on a constant basis, we do. That is our glory. That is our exceptionalism to the world.
MR. KALB: But that was true before September 11th also.
MR. DINE: Correct. That's why they love us. Down deep, underneath the rage, underneath the hate, is this admiration for the American system being able to work.
MR. KALB: ...have an extraordinary way of covering it up.
MR. HESS: Can I ask a question here, Marvin? Because we have a little unfinished business from last week and it's this. As I understand the definition as it's presented is by and large the difference between propaganda and what you do in government is you don't lie basically.
MR. DINE: Bill Moyers once said when he was LBJ's press secretary, you don't have to tell all of the truth. But the first casualty of war is...
MR. HESS: Okay.
MR. DINE: I don't think that's the case now.
MR. HESS: Let me go back to last week, our unfinished business, when Sandy Unger, now the President of Goucher, but was the former Director of the Voice of America, and in a question last week he said, "A brief commercial for the Voice of America which is not heard in the United States and where I no longer work. The Voice of America has really made an effort over a period of time that was to present all sides of these extremely difficult stories. The State Department has tried to end the objective role of the Voice of America, tried to turn it into a propaganda agency, I hope without success. And I hope that next week when we take up some of these issues in public diplomacy, I think, Steve, that this will be covered."
What in heaven's name was Sandy Unger talking about, Chris Ross?
MR. ROSS: I think the proximate issue was the tussle over coverage of Mullah Omar. I was not in government at the time of that tussle so I don't really know all the details, but it is, by general agreement the State Department does look over VOA editorials that are quite clearly meant to reflect official U.S. government views. And as for the rest of the VOA's operations, the State Department like anybody is free to suggest, to propose, etc., and the VOA is free to dispose.
I think what happened with the coverage of Mullah Omar's interview was an exception to that rule which at least as far as I'm concerned should not happen again.
MS. DE YOUNG: But again, this is a perennial situation with VOA. I remember it in Argentina in the late '70s covering the U.S. human rights campaign that started with the Carter Administration. And I think it's healthy.
There are a lot of people, particularly in Congress, who believe that VOA should be a propaganda arm of the United States. Under it's charter it's not supposed to be. I think most of the people who work there believe it is not supposed to be. And whenever there is a foreign policy issue that the United States is deeply involved in this question comes up. It's argued out, and sometimes the victory is on the side of more information and sometimes it's on the side of less, but I think it's a relatively healthy argument that's not necessarily unique to this situation.
MR. KALB: Karen, how important is it all? Tom Dine said before, deeds not words are what an awful lot of people around the world measure the success or failure of the United States.
You can be, or one can be brilliant in the exposition of words and the ordering of sentences and yet it may mean nothing. If the United States did not appear to win in Afghanistan militarily, would all of the eloquence of Ambassador Ross been worth, forgive me, not much?
MS. DE YOUNG: Sure. Obviously it's important to win. You don't get into something like this unless you win.
The importance of deeds is that, at least deeds that we consider positive, is that someone covers them, that someone talks about them, that they're written about, that they're broadcast. I think with this visit of the victims' families from New York to Afghanistan, obviously the purpose of it is that people will write about it. All of us are kind of scrambling for stories now in Afghanistan. The well seems to be a little dry at the moment. So that's important.
On the other hand it's important to cover things like civilian casualties from American bombing.
I think Rumsfeld, and this is part of Rumsfeld's brilliance in this situation. He says things like I don't know, I'm not going to tell you, war is hell, things that everybody already knows and kind of stops you short. Whereas the Pentagon itself and the Pentagon's public information apparatus is very poor when it comes to responding to things like that. Their instant attitude is number one, it didn't happen. Then when there is information that shows that perhaps it did happen they say we're investigating. Then as they said last week with the latest report they say well, they fall back on our technology is so good and our targeting is so good that it couldn't have happened. Then you say did you go there to see, because other people went there to see? They say we can't tell you that because we can't tell you about movements on the ground.
So they're kind of stuck but they don't present it very well.
MR. DUFFEY: Life consists of interpretations and words as well as deeds, so deeds can lie out there and the question is what they mean. And sometimes we've all had the experience. Events occurred in history interpreted one way which we understood a decade later were different. So I think the issue of advocacy and explanation is what public diplomacy is essentially about.
MR. KALB: What I was trying to get at, Joe, is that I am old enough to remember the Cold War and we were fighting for the hearts and minds of people, and that was regarded when the Russians did it as propaganda; when we did it, as public diplomacy.
What I'm trying to get at here is the value of public diplomacy today.
MR. DUFFEY: I don't think it was nearly as significant in the Cold War as we think.
MR. KALB: Chris, in this particular time your experience, your professional experience has been largely in the Middle East and you speak Arabic and you know a lot about Islam. How valuable is that asset, this public diplomacy, as you express it to this country at this time?
MR. ROSS: I think in its broadest sense that is, including all of the aspects of what we have considered public diplomacy, both on the information side and on the educational and cultural exchange side in the past, it has been very valuable.
When you look at the number of people who have been brought to this country to be exposed to American values, to return to their own country, take up positions of leadership, I would posit that had that kind of activity not existed attitudes in the Middle East would be even worse than they are today.
So the world is better for public diplomacy. The great dilemma is that there are very few concrete barometers, very few concrete ways to measure the effectiveness of any particular activity.
MR. HESS: One measurement always has to be the measurement that we hold up through the press and otherwise of the truth of what we're saying. That's where we started, that this is true.
The State Department's public diplomacy program is very proud of an advertising campaign that it put out called Rewards for Justice, an advertisement which showed Mohammed Atah [ph]. Then underneath the text had several claims. It said he wanted to learn to fly but didn't need to take off and land. And it said he was interested in crop dusting, an obviously risky behavior, when he couldn't even get a plane off the ground.
Both of those statements were wrong, of course. He wasn't the one who made the first statement, it was Masawi [ph] who made the first statement. And in terms of the second statement we know he had a pilot's license and he did fly small planes.
So isn't one of the ways that we're judged ourselves is the scrupulousness with which we tell our own story?
MR. DUFFEY: Weren't those ads prepared for the United States?
MR. HESS: Yes.
MR. DUFFEY: During the Cold War it would have been illegal for USIA to have tried to propagandize the United States. Smith Bunnack [ph] made it totally out of it, and I still think it's inappropriate to do that in this country through the cultural diplomacy agencies.
So you're talking about an American audience which immediately, of course people knew it was...
MR. ROSS: To reassure you, Joe, this was in fact done through the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. However, preparation of the text, in retrospect, could have been done differently. The audience for that poster and other similar posters was not the legal profession, this was not a legal document. The audience was a mass audience. And what had been intended at the time was a series of statements that would describe situations that one might find oneself in daily life. Why is this one asking to fly but not to take off or land, etc. And we could have put up a generic picture of a terrorist above, but that wouldn't have had the same effect as a fact that was immediately recognizable.
MS. DE YOUNG: But I think that that's part of the point. If you say it wasn't for a legal audience, it was for a broad public audience, so then it was okay that it wasn't totally accurate because putting those quotes with those pictures made a better point. People knew that picture because it had been all over the place. Those quotes were particularly stark. You put them together and it's designed to create a reaction.
Is it then okay that in fact those quotes don't go with that picture? Just because it's for a broad audience.
MR. DUFFEY: On the other hand it was advertising and we don't always expect truth in advertising, and the public diplomacy....
MS. DE YOUNG: But we try to write stories about them when they're not true.
MR. DUFFEY: Public diplomacy shouldn't be advertisements.
MR. DINE: All of this points out a certain disarray in our public diplomacy. From my perspective, one of our brilliances is the ability of successful candidates to put on campaigns, rhetoric, presence, images, substance. Why can't we do this in public diplomacy? If the right hand and the left hand, in this case public diplomacy and the security operation of the State Department are going in opposite directions, you immediately undermine yourself with untruthfulness. That's the worst thing you can do in either diplomacy or public affairs.
So I think this has to be worked on in a way that it has never been worked on before.
The great, late imminent scholar of Chicago Hans Morgenthal once said that there are five elements of national securitymilitary, intelligence, diplomacy, economics, and information. We spend a pittance on information. We don't know what the left and right hands are doing sometimes, and it's not a campaign. It's not systematic. Therefore we are not as good as we could be.
MR. KALB: Tom, tell us a little bit about what you do. For example, during the Cold War Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty were literally front line operations in the fight against communism. What is now you role in this public diplomacy?
MR. DINE: Our mission is the promotion of freedom and democracy. Our mission is to help build democratic institutions, democratic processes in countries that used to be communist, totalitarian, central economies, etc. And we are now on the front lines of that. We broadcast to 27 countries, and at the end of this month we'll add a 28th, Afghanistan. We're now up to 28 languages. We'll be 30 when we start Dhari and Pashtu. Then the next month, on the 28th of February, we'll be up on the air to the Northern Caucasus, a very troubled part of Russia and programs will be in Avar, Czechen, and Secasian languages.
The point is in these languages we report news, and we have people on the ground. Right now today, and I just talked to our headquarters in Prague before this session began, we have 20 people on the ground today in Afghanistan, not just in Kabul but all over the country collecting news, putting it together in terms of stories. It goes back to Prague. Then all of our language services pick it up. But it has to be factual, it has to be accurate, it has to be balanced, and it has to be what's important.
MR. KALB: Are you getting any instructions from Washington as to what you put on the air?
MR. DINE: We're not a government agency.
MR. KALB: But you're getting government money.
MR. DINE: Thanks to the taxpayers of America we are a private, non-profit organization incorporated in the State of Delaware. I don't get a green paycheck, I get a paycheck but it comes from a 501(c)(3), a private non-profit. But the appropriations does come from Congress, therefore I have to keep Congress informed of what we're doing.
MR. HESS: Tom, last week a question was asked of the panel, and particularly Torie Clarke, about whether there were reports on civilian casualties in Afghanistan. And the word was, Mike Getler from the Post said well, it's pretty hard to get to them. We don't have a public transportation system and so forth, but we do the best we can.
You've got 20 reporters on the ground in Afghanistan. Are you looking into that question?
MR. DINE: Absolutely. The degree of destruction, the constant interviewing of the interim government ministers and their people on the difficulty of starting, the role of the United States, the role of the Western Alliance, the role of the grand coalition in this case. So everything is fair game. We're going to report what is happening and what is not happening in terms of nationbuilding.
MR. DUFFEY: Could we hear them here through shortwave or see them on the web?
MR. DINE: You can hear us shortwave, Joe, but we don't broadcast in English. We have all these languages, and as Ambassador Ross will tell you, and we all know, Americans aren't very good in non-English tongues.
MR. DUFFEY: It's not illegal, though, for Americans to listen.
MR. DINE: No. No, no, no.
MR. KALB: Are your reporters any different in what it is that they're trying to find out from CNN, CBS, NBC?
MR. DINE: Maybe the Washington Post reporters, NBC, whomever, are looking at it from an American angle. We're looking at it from the angle of that country, in this case what is happening in Afghanistan to the variety of people that live in Afghanistan and what does that mean in terms of the great, great effort ahead which is to take a destroyed nation and make it into a functioning nation again.
MR. KALB: Chris, you said earlier on when you were explaining your role, that a lot of it goes back to what it is that is American policy. And this is something that the people in an area of the Middle East don't like or do like or aspects of it that they do or don't. There isn't very much that you can do about that with respect to public diplomacy, I imagine, except explain it better.
MR. ROSS: That's true, to explain it in our own terms and not in the terms of third parties that may have one interest or another in presenting a slightly different version of our policy. But also at least on the principal conflict of the region, one on which much of this antipathy has hinged, the Arab/Israeli conflict, also to keep hammering away the fact that we have been involved in efforts to solve that conflict for decades, that no one else has stepped up to that plate in quite the same effective, relatively effective way, and to make the point that peace has after all become an interest of everyone in the region, again with the exception of some extremist fringe elements which we try to isolate from the majority opinion in the region which is fairly supportive of...
MR. HESS: Let me ask you. Of course we come back to the question of what are you doing other than explaining what is already out there. Do you have a ten-point program? In other words, you've mentioned one, and that is to explain that this is not a war against Islam. That you said you've had some success in.
What's point two, three, four? What is it that you are stressing, that American policy, that turns it into a separate division called public diplomacy as opposed to public affairs where a spokesman gets up and gives a statement in order to respond to reporters every day.
MR. ROSS: I would answer from a slightly different vantage point, Steve, to say that the new Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Charlotte Meers [ph], has now been on the job a matter of a few months and has been very conscious of the point that Tom made that there is an absolute necessity for a guiding strategy. She is currently involved in crafting such a strategy and is consulting within the government and outside the government, is soon to travel abroad to consult our embassies there and to touch base with local opinion leaders. What she's sketching out at this point is a strategy of total communication on three essential themes.
One is to re-present the basic American values that unite this country. The second theme is to present democratization and openness as a vision for a better future, a future which does not require people to resort to terrorism. And a third theme which hits at what we are coming to consider increasingly to be perhaps the most important audience for our work, young people, those who are going to create the future who's world views and mind sets are not yet fully formed. The third theme focuses on them through a look at educational systems and how they are structured.
So you have values, you have democratization and openness, you have education as three focal points of a total communications plan that would mobilize the resources of public diplomacy in all their aspects both on the information side and on the educational and cultural exchange side.
Now one thing that's happened, and Joe Duffey will testify to this very well, since the end of the Cold War for a variety of reasons the resources, both human and material, available for public diplomacy, have shrunk dramatically, and...
MR. KALB: How much money do you have for the program?
MR. ROSS: I can't give you an immediate figure off the top of my head, but what is new now in the aftermath of September 11th, partly because of the realization that has grown in this country that foreign attitudes do matter, there is an increasing willingness to provide more for public diplomacy from within existing resources and potentially to increase the overall level of...
MR. DUFFEY: That's the second part of Chris' responsibility which is to give to our policymakers feedback about how policies are perceived and what the international press is saying. So at the time that we condemned the Russians for Chechnya, the USIA was saying at least keep in mind that for many of the residents of Russia this is a terrorism problem. Now I think that wasn't listened to very much and we shouldn't make our foreign policy according to public opinion in other countries, but it's significant and it will be taken more seriously in the future. That's also a part of his responsibility.
MR. HESS: But Karen De Young is taking notes like mad over there. And when she...
MS. DE YOUNG: I was just writing down the three themes...
MR. HESS: She writes that, you will write your story tomorrow on what U.S., the strategy of U.S. public diplomacy, what's your lead going to be?
MS. DE YOUNG: Gosh. This is knee-jerk on my part. I just write things, so it goes in here, comes out here.
What would be the lead on that? I think, the lead would be how they're going to go about trying to influence the education systems in other countries.
Senator Levin made a statement the other day about something that's not new, but about Saudi Arabia, saying that in their education systems they teach people to hate. He said some fairly extreme things. The Saudi Ambassador, Prince Bandar, who happens to be in Saudi Arabia at the moment where he seems to have been most of the time since this started, but issued a statement this morning and said we don't teach anybody to hate in our school, our schools conform to our own values and our own traditions, and basically said I like Senator Levin but he's completely off base and please stay out of our education system.
And I guess my question would be how are you going to do that? How is that a matter of public diplomacy? I would ask more about how you're going to go about that.
MR. ROSS: It's one of the aspects of, it's one of the sectors in which our existing educational and cultural exchange program has always been active. Of course the resources available in that program are minuscule compared to the task. So part of this strategy involves encouraging other agencies within the U.S. government that have much greater resources to work along a common task to focus on this problem.
It's essentially an effort to make sure that educational systems, particularly in the current campaign against terrorism, particularly in the Muslim and Arab countries, evolve in a way that provides to young people the tools needed for modern life so that they are not attracted to the apocalyptic kind of vision that Osama bin Laden and others have proffered.
We recognize it's an enormous task, but the fact that it's enormous doesn't make it not worth pursuing. As a matter of fact there are some government officials in the region who have already expressed an interest in seeking our help on this point.
MS. DE YOUNG: And this would be primarily bringing students here for visits, or helping them form their own school systems there?
MR. ROSS: It would depend very much on the results of consultations with those foreign government officials who are seeking this kind of assistance. We have nothing to impose. It's a collaborative process...
MR. DINE: The interesting thing about Bandar's statement is that it gets at one of the problems we've all faced and had to face up to since September 11th. The Arab/Israeli conflict is what it is, and everybody blames that as the reason for the hate and the rage in the streets against America. But in fact bin Laden's rage and hate is really about the system of Saudi Arabia and so many others who see the United States, the Western allies, as in favor of protecting and furthering oppressive regimes.
I'm a person who believes not in the top down but in the bottom up, and what has happened in the authoritarian Arab countries in this case is that there's no bottom up, and people have had it. You can't stop information any more because of television, radio, and internet. And the fact is, it's sort of like the communist society when they began to touch and see blue jeans and movies, more than jazz, they had it with communist rule. I think that's what's beginning to creep, if not run, in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other places.
So monarchies don't have a bright future. And if the United States can have a long-run strategy of getting the word out that you can only progress with great substance as long as your societies are open, pluralistic, these values which are universal, they're not just Anglo-Saxon, then we've got an interesting future ahead of us which will be quite troubled, filled with turmoil, but important needed change.
MS. DE YOUNG: How do you deal with the fact that to the extent there is opposition in those societies it almost inevitably is channeled into Muslim extremism?
MR. DINE: Yeah, but that's always the excuse. Oh, after Arafat it's going to be worse. After this one or that one. Give it a chance. It doesn't have to be that way. It doesn't have to be bin Laden who comes to power. It may be one of the products of our educational/cultural affairs, somebody who spent more than two weeks in the United States, somebody who may have had an education at Oxford or Cambridge, somebody who ways you know, we don't have it right here. Our folks don't really enjoy the positive side of globalization.
MR. KALB: It's interesting that in the background given to those people involved in the hijacking and the terrorism on September 11th, they were all very educated people and they came from middle class and upper middle class.
Chris, put yourself back to the time that you were our ambassador in Syria. You got the word from Washington, we're going to talk about education. Be practical, realistic, professional. How do you do that in Syria, for example?
MR. ROSS: I think as in most countries you would hit a variety of bases. You would go see the Ministers of Education and open a dialogue with them on the state of education in a given country.
MR. KALB: And they say to you that we have our, as Prince Bandar said this morning, we have our culture, our system, and in effect keep your hands off.
MR. ROSS: And I think we would respond in a given country we're not here to question your values. We're here to help if you wish us to help, develop a curriculum in which the kids receive the tools needed for life in the modern world, in the modern global economy, and go at it that way.
Just to come back to something Tom said. One of the problems in the region which is by and large governed by authoritarian regimes, one of the problems in the region is that civil society as we know it here is very weak. There are no intermediary organization between government and citizens. In fact I once served in a country where a government official said rather proudly to me that "we have turned our people into dust." And one of the tasks at hand under the second rubric I mentioned, the democratization and openness, is to encourage those budding examples of civil society, non-governmental organizations, etc., to begin appearing to fill that void between government and people in many of these countries and to create a different kind of political culture.
MR. HESS: Let me ask a question before we get to audience questions. While we're dealing with these positive values that we want to perpetrate, and this is called public diplomacy, the other side, they're dealing with propaganda. That's disinformation. How are we responding to that? What is the machinery in our government that is analyzing this and disseminating this and making the rest of the world aware of the disinformation, the lies, the innuendos that we've heard about.
MR. ROSS: This is done on a daily basis as you know, Steve, through our press guidance operation. The world press is surveyed on themes that come out, whether they be true or false. If they're of relevance to them and we feel we need to answer them we will. And if something is an outright lie, we will say so. That's one part of it.
Another part of it is to make oneself available for media appearances in which these lies come out. This has certainly happened to me on Al Jazeera. I don't think I will ever forget one session I had with an American-trained Jordanian academic on a panel who insisted to me that a handful of corporations in this country, controlled by a certain minority, ran everything in government and outside of government here, and he could not be shaken off that view. It was a rather sad commentary. Those things exist and all you can do is counter them with facts and say right up front this is simply not true.
MR. HESS: Actually I was hoping to give you an opportunity to talk about the operation that I read about in the paper which was a U.S./UK operation which has branches in Washington, London and Islamabad, which I'm told is set up to do something like that. Maybe I'm wrong.
MR. ROSS: No, that's correct. Much of the surveying of the world press is being done outside of Washington. London is particularly active. But we created these information centers, Islamabad, London, Washington, partly out of the realization that Islamabad is literally, if I recall correctly, 12 hours away from Washington and that the news cycle begins there and that we need to follow that news cycle so that there is someone available in Islamabad to begin the process that culminates in Washington at the press briefings.
But it's proven to be a very useful tool, both of information gathering and of coordination and dissemination of public diplomacy themes in the sense of today's news and what needs to be said. It's worked very well.
MR. HESS: Marvin, shall we turn to the audience? In this case, please introduce yourself and if you have an affiliation tell us. We have a transcript and we'd like to get that all in. There will be folks who have microphones who will come to you and Marvin will be the traffic director.
MR. KALB: Wait for the mike, please.
Q: I'm Gil Robinson with the Center for the Study of the Presidency.
We have a project on called Communicating America, as everybody else does, with many different names. One of the panels came up with a recommendation, and I want to tell you what it is and ask the panel what you think about it. The recommendation was to have a coordinator in the White House, everything stems from the White House, similar to Governor Ridge for information policy. And that would be able to coordinate NIH and HHS and Defense, public diplomacy at the State Department, the White House itself, and have it coordinated. I think one of the panelists mentioned this, that it was uncoordinated.
I'd like to get the opinion of the panel.
MR. DUFFEY: I can't imagine that American government would stand for that. It would sound to me like it's totally inconsistent with our whole traditions and I would think that as a, a united front of American journalists would oppose that.
MR. ROBINSON: You're talking about coordination, not talking about areas, not responding to different areas.
MR. KALB: Karen, isn't this person there in the form of Karen Hughes?
MS. DE YOUNG: Yeah, I think that theoretically exists now. We have this information office that Chris is talking about and it is supposed to deal I think just with war news. At the same time you have the President's spokesman who is supposed to deal with all of those issues. The NSC has its own spokesperson to whom the President's spokesman refers all questions about foreign policy beyond a certain elementary kind of point. Would people put up with it? I think this Administration has tried to centralize information in a way that yes, has been displeasing to a lot of journalists.
If you can say, if you are the head of HHS or FEMA or the FBI and you can say oh, no, that information comes from Tom Ridge's office, I'm not giving you that information. Does that work? Maybe for awhile, but I think it irritates people and I think it's not the best way to get information out.
Does it also result in an uncoordinated message? Sure. But I think that, as someone who was a fairly senior person in the Clinton Administration said to me the other night, I was sort of bemoaning the reticence of the current Administration to disseminate information, and this person said you know, we have learned a great lesson from these people. It works. It works not to be available on the phone. It works to shift responsibility to another office. That's what we're going to do. If we ever come back, that's what we're going to do. You know there was something wrong with the fact that you could call up people any time you wanted to in the Clinton Administration and they would pick up the phone, and they would. They see that as having caused them a lot of problems. That particular problem is one that doesn't affect this Administration quite so much.
It's a tradeoff. It's a tradeoff between our argument that the more information we have the better we are able to reflect the truth and all parts of the truth, and their belief that if we limit the information that's available to you and funnel it through one source, then we have control over that information. And sometimes we lose, sometimes they lose. Hopefully in the end everybody wins.
MR. KALB: Chris, do you answer the phone?
MR. ROSS: I do answer the phone in English and in Arabic.
MR. ROSS: Just a couple of points, though, going back to these information centers, the CICs.
As the war in Afghanistan begins to wind down there is a discussion being opened on what the future of these information centers is. They did play a very useful role in the first phase of the President's campaign against terrorism and it may well be that their role ends up being refined and that they continue in some other form as, again, a mechanism for surveying information and then disseminating themes in response.
At the strategic level, again as the war in Afghanistan has wound down and policymakers have had more time to think systemically, there are discussions underway to create some kind of coordinating body in the realm of public diplomacy, messages addressed to foreign audiences. This is still very much at the preliminary stage, but the need is recognized to coordinate the activities of the main agencies involved in providing information to foreign audiences so we can expect something will emerge from that.
MR. DUFFEY: A quick comment. Your point sounds strategic and that's what I would argue that that's what we have to do, but it just won't work. It won't work in this society which has no tradition of centralization of news and information, and, plus the energy and resourcefulness of our press would break this apart pretty quickly.
And I'll give you an example of how it won't work even in a society that has a tradition of centralization, Russia. Over the last two weeks the Russian government is successfully liquidating TV 6, an independent television station. This follows in the shadow, dark shadow, of having liquidated the previous independent television station owned by Mr. Brezhinsky, NTV.
In the course of this liquidation, which TV 6 announced last Thursday as its lead, it then followed with a statement by the Minister of Press Lesin [ph]. And Mr. Lesin had just said, "Russia today is celebrating freedom of the press." Everybody saw it as a total hypocritical statement. It just won't work with that kind of effort to control news and information, particularly in this society.
MR. HESS: We're all assuming it won't work because the journalists wouldn't want it to work, but there's another side of it too. The government doesn't necessarily want it to work.
I can remember very clearly Mel Laird, when he was Secretary of Defense, saying that he had planned his press briefing an hour before the State Department's so that they would have to respond to him, of course.
So the government is not monolithic either. At the moment this government is quite unusual, but over time that's a lot of how we fight our policy battles.
So I think it's not just the press...
MS. DE YOUNG: I think I can see the usefulness of it from the government's point of view in terms of the foreign press on a day-to-day basis. A lot of times people want an immediate answer and they're not going to be interested in the kind of nitty-gritty nuances that perhaps we are which they can read the next day in our press.
But I can see the importance of having an answer. In news cycles that are much, much earlier than ours and being able to coordinate. The offices that were established, these war rooms in Washington and London and Islamabad, I think they got on it a little bit too late.
MR. DUFFEY: Let me make a very naive, simplistic plea that the answer to America's image abroad is probably more democratic activity from our citizens. We got off on the wrong step after the Cold War ended by saying the free market has won. That's what the struggle was about.
That's not what it was about. It was about a free economy in a humane government structure.
I can tell you that if in the Enron crisis those few employees, relatively, in American who lose their retirement, that issue around the world will be more of anif we can't respond to itmore of an issue to deal with for Chris. So why can't we treat democracy as always a work in progress, always something we have to perfect rather than starting around the world now talking about it as something that's kind of achieved and that this is the ultimate of it. That's not the case. It's just human history.
MR. HESS: The State Department, at least when I studied it, did an awfully good job at that. In other words every day the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs had a briefing. In order to prepare himself for that briefing questions came in from all of the bureaus and they were all written down in a volume before and all signed off. The initials on the bottom said that that negotiation had been, and that was American policy.
Okay. At the end of that briefing there would be questions asked, there would be a USIA person in that briefing, and those answers as such would go out to every consulate in the United States. So that the office in Bombay knew exactly what our policy was in Karachi, or wherever. And that was a very well honed system that I assume is still in business...
MS. DE YOUNG: I think not only that, but it's much quicker because it comes out on the Internet. You don't have to go to the embassy to ask them for it.
Q: Al Millikan, Washington Independent Writers.
In both the government and the media how would you evaluate how propaganda and truth have been presented and communicated looking at Islam as a religion, and how politically it plays out in government laws and in control and persecution of people.
I'm wondering if the repeated government claim, I mean particularly we hear it coming from our President, that Islam is simply a religion of peace and tolerance. It seems like it may be specifically targeted to an American audience, but I'm wondering how those that are facing a reality of terror by terrorists in the name of Islamparticularly those in India, those in the Philippines, those in Israel, those in Somalia, those in the Sudan, do you think they're buying into that?
MR. KALB: Chris, why don't you start us on that?
MR. ROSS: The first point I would make is that acts of terrorism have been committed by followers of virtually every faith in the world. This is not uniquely a Muslim problem.
But it is clear, and this goes back to the early history of Islam, that Islam is a religion open to many different interpretations. Scholars over the centuries have evolved very intricate rules to try and determine what Islam has to say on a wide range of societal points. What has happened in the Osama bin Laden phenomenon is that a group of extremists with a very precise agenda, much as it was described earlier, coming out of a very fundamentalist branch of modern Islam, have begun to speak in the name of Islam as if that is Islam. The fact is that the vast majority of Muslims do not identify with the kinds of positions that Osama bin Laden and his Taliban protectors would take on how you live a good Muslim life.
I have yet to find someone who, in the Arab world at least, who was eager to move to Afghanistan to live under the Taliban regime and its interpretation of Islam.
So there is some work to be done to try to promote within the Muslim population a discussion about where to center Islam, what is Islam today. That's not a discussion for the U.S. government to lead. It's perhaps a discussion for the U.S. government to encourage. But it is clear that there is a silent majority out there that has not reacted in any forceful or effective way to what we loosely call the hijacking of Islam by Osama bin Laden, and at some point it's going to be in the interest of that silent majority to begin taking a more active role in countering that very narrow, very extreme vision of Islam that Osama bin Laden espouses.
MR. KALB: Tom, you wanted to add something?
MR. DINE: Nine of our audiences are Muslim. They're in Russia, throughout Central Asia, the Persian Gulf, Caucasus. Our staff come from those societies. They're horrified at this hijacking, they're horrified at the bad name. Most of them are not even religious. But again, they are professionals, and they're professional news people and they have to report the news as it is.
In Uzbekistan, for instance, a dictator who's now one of our best friends because of the war on terrorism is also trying to strike down those people in the society who call themselves Islamics, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. And that gets reported. The same with Tajikistan.
We broadcast to Iran and to Iraq, so you can imagine those interpretations.
But the point is, I don't think our commentary on how Islam is practice is really for the United States. It's for the whole world.
Q: My name is Andrei Sitov with the Russian News Agency Itar-Tass here in Washington. Thank you for an interesting panel.
You have been discussing values and I don't think anybody would argue with the value of truthfulness or even democracy or freedom around this world. The subject of the discussion was propaganda and public diplomacy. As a Soviet journalist, as a veteran of the Cold War, I have been in the trenches, and I know that, you may not believe it, but I personally always reported things straight, even for Tass for the Soviet Union.
There are very many ways of distorting the situation truthfully without telling outright lies. The easiest way that I can see is citing someone, quoting an official. If you have a stupid government official who would lie for you, that's good for you. You quote him, it's his fault, it's not yours. You find another source, you quote another source that may be telling something that you need and that you may even know or suspect is not entirely truthful.
MR. KALB: Even the journalist knowing that what he's putting out is false?
MR. SITOV: Even with the journalist knowing that the source is not truthful.
So my question is to Mr. Dine and to Ms. De Young about exactly this situation. I know for a fact that Liberty and Free Europe have used this. Chechnya was referred to here. One of the primary sources for the two radio stations was a person named Dudugov [ph] who was the Information Minister for the Chechnyan rebels. The Russians compared him to the Chechnyan gerbels [ph] or whatever, which was fine. Again, they gave us quotes. Dudugov was time and again shown to be telling lies, and he was still carried by the stations.
I remember a situation on the Capitol Hill where the Foreign Minister, Mr. Makado [ph], the official Chechnyan regime, said that Dudugov was telling lies.
So my question is what tools are admissible in a free society, in a democratic society, in pushing the public diplomacy, in pushing your line in propaganda though you do not like that word? Is this using of sources, of dubious sources, is it allowed? Will you be using Dudugov when you go on the air, did you say it was in February in the Caucasus? Will you be using Dudugov again? And Ms. De Young, are there rules in your paper against this sort of practice?
MR. DINE: Thank you for your straight question. I think the first thing to do, and I refer now to the interview by the Voice of America with Mr. Omar, you've got to put things into context. You can't just give someone an audience, a vast audience. Whether it's bin Laden or someone in the Chechnyan crisis, whatever. So hopefully, any interviews we produced were part of a bigger story.
Secondly, you have editors and the editor has to question the journalists. Hey, how valid is this interview or this person versus a few others? And third, knowing that you're going to be following this very closely, we'd better be good in terms of the depth of our programming as well as the fairness of it, the balance of it. So I think you make a very good point. But I also know that in our situation where we have so many groups with different ethnicities, that you have to have someone in charge of that effort who will suppress, if you will, the ethnic orientation and get to what is the news, what is happening. So those things take place in our operation every day all the time.
MR. KALB: Karen?
MS. DE YOUNG: I think you start with what your objective is. What is our objective? Is our objective to further the policies of the U.S. government? Is it to make people feel good? Or is it, as I would like to think, to give people the most accurate accounting of events that we can.
If that's our objective, then I can't imagine a situation in which we would knowingly use a lie, a false quote, without explaining that it's false and the reason why the person who's saying it wants to say it.
Do we get duped sometimes? Sure. Of course we do. Everybody does. But I think that our objective is a sort of, and it sounds very corny and as you say you may not believe it, is a Jeffersonian one, that this democracy works best when people have all the facts. And if certain players in a situation want to give out information that is not factual, then part of our objective has to be to understand that it isn't and to explain why the person who's giving out non-factual information is interested in doing that.
I mean a lot of it depends on the skill of the reporter and the kind of integrity and skill of the organization. Are there newspapers and broadcast entities that will allow someone like the person you're talking about to just get up and say things? I guess there are.
I think that here, there are so many diverse voices here, I think we wouldn't last very long in the position we're in if we made a practice of that because somebody will be up in two seconds and say here's the papers to prove it. You're wrong, and I can show you how.
MR. DUFFEY: In part we learned that lesson in our country almost a half a century ago when a United States Senator from Wisconsin got up and said I have in my hands a list of 205 communists in the State Department, and because we thought we were practicing something called objective journalism, it had to be reported as such. After the fact I think there was a great reevaluation in the American press and I don't think by and large that could happen today, although perhaps it is a lesson that has to be learned.
MS. DE YOUNG: I also think it's important to say an earlier incarnation of the Office of Public Diplomacy, which was during the 1980s in the State Department to disseminate information about the contra war in Nicaragua, and I think it was well proven that some of that information was not true, or at least the circumstances under which it was disseminated were not accurately portrayed. I think that information was given out that was designed to be published without being checked on, and that's a record that this office now has to live down I think.
MR. HESS: And an American Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs resigned over that, his name was Bernard Kalb. And so we learned those lessons, too. We have the ability to resign in protest.
MR. KALB: We have time for one more question.
Q: Phil Dine, St. Louis Post Dispatch.
Tom, could you say something about the recent apparent risk of terrorist attacks against Radio Free Europe in downtown Prague and the extent to which that's become installed in local politics? And more broadly, you mentioned you have 20 reporters in Afghanistan. Do they face any particular danger given their quasi-government affiliation?
MR. HESS: And are you related to the questioner?
MR. DINE: I think we're musbukah [ph], aren't we? Thank you for your question.
When the Congress mandated in 1998 that Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Prague start broadcasting to Iraq and Iran, that created tension immediately, and we soon learned thereafter that Saddam Hussein had ordered his security troops to "blow up" Radio Free Europe. So we've been on guard and vigilant since then, since the first day we began broadcasting in Arabic to Iraq which was October 30th 1998.
Then September 11th occurred, and we also received more visibility because we are, even though we're multinational, multicultural, all these different societies to which we broadcast, we're still seen as an American organization. Therefore, it was necessary to increase the security around our building. This then became part of Czech politics, and it continues to this very moment, but we'll hopefully be able to get beyond this.
Having said that, as we began to be careful about who is watching us, who wants to maybe do some nasty things against us, we picked up a person, a particular person, who was in fact the head of intelligence at the Iraqi embassy in Prague walking around our building, taking notes, interacting with a few others that looked like they were surveiling us. And when the Czechs came forward with their own intelligence that Mohammed Atah from Hamburg had come into the Czech Republic at least twice, they say, there began a myth that Atah and Alarni [ph] had come together and done things and exchanged packages. Nobody knows that to be truthful. There's no video, there's no photograph, there's no witnesses. But that became part of the lore. Whether or not it's true or not, I have no idea.
But yes, people don't like us. Yes, people would like to do nasty things against us. Yes, even our reporters have to be careful, but they have to be careful every day in societies that are not free. In Belarus, which is controlled by a dictator named Lukashanka [ph], we get intimidated almost, our reporters are intimidated some way, some how, once, twice a day, and in these other societies as well.
So to use the Washington cliche, it's a dangerous world out there for all of us.
MR. HESS: Well, that brings to an end our program. It's been a fascinating discussion, a fascinating topic, and a wonderful panel.
Just a few words about next week's program. There is one, same time, same station, Wednesday, the 23rd of January from 9:30 to 11:00 here. Commentators have more and more noted that the media seems to have expanded its ability to affect foreign policy and U.S. diplomacy and we dub that the "CNN effect". So next week we will be talking about the "CNN effect". Our special guest for that program will be Judy Woodward.
Thank you so much for coming, and we hope we see you next week.