BBG – USAGM Watch Commentary
Haroon Ullah, former top official in the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), reported to the Federal Corrective Institution at Cumberland, Maryland to begin serving 90 day sentence for theft of government funds. An official confirmed that Ullah reported to prison at 11:49 a.m. on January 22nd.
Ullah was recruited for his top job as the senior strategic advisor by the then USAGM CEO John Lansing who last year resigned from his job as a government executive and is now in charge of the National Public Radio (NPR). John Lansing was appointed to his USAGM top job in 2015.
Lansing and USAGM heavily promoted Ullah as an outstanding expert on international media outreach to counter terrorism and hostile propaganda until an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), triggered by employee complaints, revealed that Ullah was stealing money from the U.S. government.
Lansing was reported to be completely unaware of his top aide’s criminal activities.
One former USAGM senior manager said that he had warned John Lansing that Ullah was not suitable for such a high-level government position. Lansing ignored his warning, the former manager said. The former manager pointed out that he did not warn Lansing specifically about Ullah’s theft of taxpayers’ money because he did not know about it at that time.
While occupying his senior position at the U.S. Agency for Global Media, Ullah recruited some of his former associates to work for USAGM. Some of them still occupy key positions at the agency. USAGM is in charge of the Voice of America (VOA) and other U.S. government-funded media entities targeting foreign audiences. Multiple scandals have been reported at the agency under Lansing’s and Ullah’s watch.