(Washington, DC) Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and
prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has filed a lawsuit
in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking records under the
provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. '
552, from the Department of Defense concerning Pentagon funded programs engaged
in “strategic influence, perception management, strategic information warfare
and/or strategic psychological operations” through media consultants, “think
tanks,” foreign expatriate political organizations and Internet sites. Judicial
Watch filed its FOIA request with the Pentagon on March 23, 2004. Following eight
(8) requests for a status update, several phone calls and Judicial Watch offers
to accept incremental production of the requested records, the Pentagon produced
only two (2) spreadsheets listing Defense Department contracts. Judicial Watch
was forced to file suit on February 25, 2005.
Judicial Watch is seeking, among other matters; information on a “peace
movement” Internet site that reportedly was funded and established by
the Pentagon called “Empower Peace.” The site was developed by The
Rendon Group, a media consultancy firm the Pentagon has paid more than $40 million
dollars to since 2001, and targets participation of American school age children,
teachers and schools in what appears to be a “grassroots” peace
movement. The Rendon Group’s relationship with the Pentagon has been reported
in the New York Times and public relations trade magazines. “Empower Peace”
offers “cultural awareness,” interactive web broadcasts between
New York and Jordan, as well as Boston and Bahrain, and interaction with school
age children of Islamic countries. There is no indication on the site that it
is a project of the U.S. Defense Department.
The Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 (22 U.S.C. ' 1461), forbids the domestic dissemination
of U.S. government authored or developed propaganda or “official news”
deliberately designed to influence public opinion or policy. The Pentagon has
made aggressive use of various information warfare techniques, developing new
programs and hiring outside media consultants in executing their various missions
in the Global War on Terror.
“Programs such as ‘Empower Peace,’ in addition to their dubious
value, may be in violation of U.S. law,” stated Judicial Watch President
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