Bureaucracy Warning Sign

Broadcasting Board of Governors – Information War Lost – Dysfunctional, Defunct and Ungovernable – Penny’s Folly

by The Federalist

Our Memorial Day holiday weekend began in laid back fashion, catching up with our personal “To Do” list.”

It wasn’t long in the making when things became much more interesting with an email from one of our sources. Ever vigilant, our source included a link to a new article from the distinguished Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, Helle Dale, on the subject of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), specifically on the attempt to replace Ambassador Victor Ashe on the BBG. The article was well up to the high standards one comes to expect from Ms. Dale and the thoughtful analysis she provides to the subject of US Government international broadcasting:


Our source alerted us to pay particular attention to the comments accompanying the piece, especially one by “Penny.”

We did so.

This turned into one of those special “Eureka!” moments when much of what has been discussed in our analyses for BBG Watch was affirmed far beyond expectation.

To outward appearances, this is an “inside the Cohen Building” job, most likely from within the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) itself. It reveals in stark detail the malicious and vindictive nature of the person/persons involved in presenting these comments. You need not look any further than this piece for a sterling example of the kind of character assassination and mean-spirited nature the IBB is notorious for.

[Character assassination is a standard play in the IBB repertoire. They have attacked other BBG governors, employees and as the comments make clear anyone – Ms. Dale and author Judy Bachrach – who disagrees with where the IBB has taken US Government international broadcasting. The only difference here is the intensity.]

The author/authors of this diatribe and rant held nothing back. We recall a comment posted to the BBG Watch website not long ago that suggested talking nicely to senior agency officials.

Forget it.

If there is a positive in all of this, these guys exposed themselves for whom and what they really are.

Professional deportment is not a standard or concept these IBB apparatchiks believe in. They are vicious people, plain and simple. Their sole interest appears to be self-preservation. They will destroy the agency and its mission so long as they are left standing on the pile of rubble and irrelevance they have created. And that is patently unacceptable.

The author/authors of the “Penny” comments have a rather skewed sense of timing. Presently, there are three individuals whose names have been submitted to the US Senate in nomination to positions on the BBG: Jeffrey Shell, Matt Armstrong and Ambassador Ryan Crocker.

Here’s a piece of advice to all three:

Remove Ambassador Ashe’s name and replace it with your own.

This is what is in store for you should you have the audacity to challenge the IBB on any subject, particularly their “flim flam, Soviet-style, dysfunctional and defunct strategic plan.”

While we’re at it, let’s add another two more characterizations to their plan:

Malicious and Destructive.

And don’t expect a “chief executive officer” (CEO) to fix any of this. What the IBB would expect is for a CEO to facilitate a miscreant IBB agenda. Otherwise, a CEO would likely experience is the same kind of treatment that Ambassador Ashe is being subjected to.

For the people responsible for the 1.5 million hits to the BBG Watch website, allow us to make the following observation:

Beware of the IBB wolves cloaking themselves in altruistic words like “supporting freedom and democracy.” They have nothing of the sort in common with these concepts. They are a tyranny of bureaucrats. Their tactics replicate those of many extremist elements: to destroy anything and anyone who gets in their way. They are, after all –

A thugocracy.

Let’s be clear on some key points that “Penny” studiously left out of the character assassination of Ambassador Ashe:

This agency got to where it is long before Ambassador Ashe arrived on the scene.

This would include hawking their bogus strategic plan.

It would also include establishing themselves as “the worst organization in the Federal Government.” That comment did not come from Ambassador Ashe. It did not come from BBG Watch and its editors and contributors.

That comment came from a member of the US Senate. It was true at the time it was made and has reaffirmed itself many times over since.

Another part of the construct the IBB has built is being one of the worst places to work in the Federal Government. It has consistently ranked at or near the bottom of the annual Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Federal employee surveys which began and predate Ambassador Ashe’s service on the BBG. Not surprisingly they get the worst marks when it comes to “leadership.” It isn’t hard to understand why:

They have no requisite leadership skills. Leadership gets in the way when honing one’s self-aggrandizement.

Ms. Dale has had direct experience with IBB behavior, including one notable public display by three senior IBB functionaries who took it upon themselves to attack an agency employee representative in one of her panel discussions. When someone wants to talk about “poison,” look no further than the conduct displayed by these individuals.

Let’s move on to things during Ambassador Ashe’s tenure:

It isn’t Ambassador Ashe who declared that “we are losing the information war.” It isn’t Ambassador Ashe who declared the agency “dysfunctional and defunct.” Both came from former Secretary of State Clinton. When expanding on these subjects, what Mrs. Clinton clearly was referencing was the agency’s bogus strategic plan and how that plan has failed in the arena of global public opinion.

“Penny” also raises the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Russian Service debacle. That IBB escapade appears to have been acted out in the manner of a preemptive strike – intended to be executed before anyone on the BBG could react – a classic IBB attempt at a “fait accompli.”

It didn’t play out that way.

And one of the first things the IBB did when the plan started coming off the rails was to approach the BBG – twice – asking that the Board approve an endorsement of the new RFE/RL Russian Service chief. Wisely, the BBG declined to do so when the firings of RFE/RL employees triggered a strongly negative reaction from a broad cross-section of human rights activists both in and outside of Russia.

We seem to recall that there was supposed to be a “Russia review” conducted by the IBB. That too seems to have fallen by the wayside – as one would expect because it would be too revelatory as to who did what – memos, emails and the like. It would be very out of character for the IBB to have a transparent display of its internal machinations in this matter.

This attack by “Penny” was clearly intended to be a public display. This leads to a discussion of who is “in the audience” for this attack.

Clearly, it is an attack intended to play out with the White House and members of the US Senate.

But there is some “collateral damage” here: “Penny” has put IBB behavior on display with the American public. Recall if you will the discussion about the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act and the agency’s intent to reach domestic US audiences. That audience is getting a firsthand broadside of this agency at its worst: engaging in character assassination, disinformation, misinformation and propaganda. And the intended target –

An American citizen. A former US Ambassador.

The “Penny” rant also describes Ambassador Ashe as “an obstacle to reforming the organization.” That is simply ludicrous. The established record of obstructionist behavior is squarely with the IBB.

[Use of the word “reform” is IBB doublespeak for its bogus strategic plan that takes the US Government out of the business of effective international broadcasting.]

The Penny piece is a sterling example of irrational IBB behavior: make a broad array of personal attacks against an individual to see what sticks.

And one should make particular note of another tactic: the IBB bureaucracy – now largely discredited and devoid of credibility except for its maliciousness – attacking individuals and publications which have well-established and maintained credibility with a broad audience of individuals interested in US Government international broadcasting.

The “Penny” comments demonstrate what we already know – that the IBB has become a malevolent and irrational entity with the agency.

It needs to be excised from the organization post haste.

“Penny” did a masterful job of making Ms. Dale’s case regarding the “culture of intimidation.”

The Federalist
May 2013

[Below is the “Penny” comment to the Helle Dale article]

The outsize mythology developing around BBG Governor Victor Ashe approaches a level of dishonesty of startling dimensions. Helle Dale now joins a small but devoted band of Ash-ites, led by the howling of Ted Lipien’s interlocking websites and the unbalanced ranting of someone named Judy Bachrach on the Foreign Policy website. All seem intent on obscuring what has been obvious to anyone tuning into the BBG’s monthly meetings or consuming recent assessments of the BBG’s progress, or lack of it: Ashe is poison. Three other highly respected Republican Governors have fled the BBG, according to those who know them because Ashe proved such an obstacle to reforming the organization and such a loathsome colleague. The Inspector General’s report on International Broadcasting of January 2013 uncharacteristically singled out a single Governor—Ashe—for obstructing the board, intimidating staff, leaking documents to the press, and all round reprehensible behavior for a senior presidential appointee.

A quick search of BBG decisions shows that Ashe voted in favor of just about everything he now purports to oppose as it became opportune for him to do so. Helle Dale once was a thorough journalist. How is it possible that she failed to check Ashe’s actual record? She lauds him for opposing firings at Radio Free Europe, when the record is clear that he approved them repeatedly and enthusiastically, as the successive minutes of BBG meetings reveal. Ashe the Morale Booster? He is indeed wildly popular with the Voice of America’s rigid unions, which oppose all sensible and necessary reforms, because he champions saving their jobs over fixing international broadcasting. Dale’s contention that Ashe must be kept because without him the BBG will lack the Republican it needs for balance is laughable. He is no conservative, and probably not a Republican. All of Ashe’s positions scream RINO: Republican in Name Only. For someone who regularly throws verbal bouquets at Barak Obama at BBG meetings (go watch the tapes!) and supports Big Labor’s agenda, Ashe is a curious choice for Dale and Heritage to support.

Dale needs to do her homework. Ashe is the dysfunction at the BBG, and the sooner he is replaced by Ryan Crocker and sent home to Tennessee the sooner real reform of international broadcasting can begin.