The Bush administration, rejecting an opinion from the Government Accountability Office, said last week that it is legal for federal agencies to feed TV stations prepackaged news stories that do not disclose the government’s role in producing them.
That message, in memos sent Friday to federal agency heads and general counsels, contradicts a Feb. 17 memo from Comptroller General David M. Walker. Walker wrote that such stories designed to resemble independently reported broadcast news stories so that TV stations can run them without editing violate provisions in annual appropriations laws that ban covert propaganda.
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The legal counsel’s office “does not agree with GAO that the covert propaganda prohibition applies simply because an agency’s role in producing and disseminating information is undisclosed or ‘covert,’ regardless of whether the content of the message is ‘propaganda,’ ” Bradbury wrote. “Our view is that the prohibition does not apply where there is no advocacy of a particular viewpoint, and therefore it does not apply to the legitimate provision of information concerning the programs administered by an agency.”
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