Running Covert Propaganda Against Americans Is Illegal. Trump Tried It Anyway.
The whistleblower stopped a covert psychological operation against the American public dead in its tracks
Each new revelation in the money-for-dirt scandal involving the White House and Ukraine appears to add another nail in the impeachment coffin. So far, however, the list of impeachable offenses has focused on whether President Donald Trump’s actions amounted to an illegal solicitation of foreign election interference, or more simply, a broader abuse of his power to secure a personal benefit.
While both of these are important (and impeachable), it’s critical that we not overlook the bigger purpose behind the president’s actions: The White House was attempting to employ an illegal, covert propaganda operation against the American public.
This is explicitly against the law. The 1991 Intelligence Authorization Act prohibits the U.S. government from using covert actions — which include propaganda — to “influence United States political processes, public opinion, policies, or media.”
As a former FBI counterintelligence agent, I know about propaganda operations because I investigated them. Most of my cases involved foreign “perception management” campaigns — covert activities designed to influence the attitudes and opinions of the American public toward particular issues that would benefit the intelligence service’s host country.
These activities pose a national security threat because, in an open society and a free marketplace of ideas, it is essential that people know the true source of information in order to assess credibility and critically evaluate its content — especially when they are exercising fundamental rights, like voting, based on it. Russia’s perception management campaign in the 2016 election is what led special counsel Robert Mueller to indict 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies for spreading misinformation on social media while posing as American groups and citizens.
The Ukraine saga shows how these tactics have been adopted by the Trump administration. Initially, the partial transcript between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky released by the White House…