Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Paying for the Enemy - Al-Hurra

The geekWife forwarded this to me and this is truly pathetic.
Unfortunately, there is no practicable way that Foggy Bottom, or anyone else for that matter, can effectively monitor Al-Hurra, which has come under fire since the publication of my story about it on The Wall Street Journal's editorial page in March. The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the congressionally created independent panel charged with oversight, lacks the ability to conduct even basic auditing, as English transcripts are provided only on request--which rarely happens. Worse, there is no good channel for whistleblowers to communicate with the board without fear of retribution.

With an annual budget now over $70 million, Al-Hurra has for three years served as the centerpiece of America's aggressive post-9/11 courtship of the Arab world. Insiders maintain that the network was fulfilling its mission until it hired former CNN producer Larry Register last November. Mr. Register has not, to his credit, changed Al-Hurra's dedication to showcasing the full range of U.S. politics. The other side of the network, however, has been "gutted," in the words of one staffer. Even though Mr. Register has made some improvements since the March column, Al-Hurra still produces far fewer stories about Arab government corruption and human-rights abuses. (Mr. Register did not respond to repeated requests for an interview.)

Now I must be missing something, but isn't this supposed to be supportive of the US and western side of the issues? Not that I would expect Larry Register to actually consider helping the US, since he most certainly has no record of such activities having worked for CNN. Considering the journalistic uproar in this country over other "news" participation by the US government, I think this is further proof that the US can't actually fight a war any more.

DIME is the acronym. Diplomatic, Information, Military and Economic strategy that is required to succeed in a war, especially a low intensity conflict. That Information piece is completely gutted though. Al-Hurra being the perfect sounding board for the subject. It's also a perfect example of why some things should have oversight, and secrecy. With this dollar cost and the extreme lack of supportive content, I see no reason why the Congressional oversight committees shouldn't be screaming for the elimination of this waste.
Key lawmakers don't share such exuberance. Reps. Dan Burton (R., Ind.) and Robert Wexler (D., Fla.) are circulating to fellow House Foreign Affairs Committee members a letter which asks Ms. Rice for an investigation into Al-Hurra. And Rep. Steve Rothman (D., N.J.), who sits on the panel responsible for funding Al-Hurra, has proposed live Internet streaming of the network, full online digital archives, and English transcripts for all programs.

Lack of active oversight and transparency has obviously contributed to the current mess at Al-Hurra. If someone outside Al-Hurra had been able to view the Nasrallah speech merely by going online, for example, Ms. Rice almost certainly would not have been fed false information.

But that's not enough. The people who already monitor the network--its employees--need to be empowered to report dubious decisions without fear of reprisal. Transparency will allow concerns to be investigated swiftly. Employees simply won't come forward, though, if they believe no one in power cares. For that reason, a clear signal must be sent by firing Mr. Register.

Mr. Register obviously isn't involved with forwarding US interests, so should be removed. This isn't a US news organ, it's a US government information service to help US interests. Apparently no one informed Mr. Register of this, or more likely, those that gave him the job didn't really know what they were doing.

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