International Broadcasting Bureau – The Standard for Dysfunctional and Defunct in the Federal Government – Shutdowns, Threats and a Car Chase
by The Federalist
Some subjects for your autumnal reading.
IBB = National Security: NOT!
The Congress and the White House are locked in a battle over the administration’s health care program as part of the government’s FY2014 budget. The short version of this long story is that the deadlock has resulted in the partial shutdown of Federal agencies absent the passage of a budget or extension of funding known as a Continuing Resolution.
For its part, the agency issued a press release:
“Core BBG Activities to Continue During U.S. Government Shutdown (October 1, 2013).”
In part, the press release states,
“U.S. international media activities under the BBG that are deemed “foreign relations essential to national security,” such as news programming and distribution, are excepted from the shutdown and will continue.”
We would expect the agency to make this argument. But the reality is that it is more of a bureaucratic sleight of hand and a whole lot less of an effective contribution to US national security.
If anything, the effect of how it operates makes the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) a seeming perpetrator of national insecurity.
Look at this way:
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton labeled this agency “dysfunctional” and “defunct.” This comes as no surprise to us who have been part of the BBG Watch accountability effort. All the indicators are there that this agency is no longer effective in carrying out its core mission, having degraded its capability to reach global publics resulting in precipitous erosion of its audiences. Areas where the IBB “geniuses” have staked their future, the Internet and related social media, show zero growth in comparison to other effective international broadcasters. Social media hits to IBB websites are buried by Russia Today, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), al-Jazeera and others.
Increased reliance upon third party, wire service reports, further dilutes the agency’s effectiveness in carrying out its mission as codified in the VOA Charter.
In short, with no message resonance, the agency is more a liability rather than an asset to US national security interests.
Let’s make it clear:
The IBB is a liability to the national security interests of the United States.
IBB = US National Security Liability
No amount of self-serving posturing in an agency press release can change the facts or the consequences of actions deliberately set upon by the IBB.
To paraphrase a remark,
“If the IBB was in charge of the space program, we’d still be blowing up rockets on the launch pad and they would be claiming success.”
The same applies to the agency’s specious claim of a connection to US national security.
The agency’s employees most certainly are an asset to US national security. The agency’s technical facilities would also be an asset (those that haven’t been shut down).
But the agency’s performance under IBB direction is a bald-faced liability.
It is important to separate fact from fiction. More often than not, the IBB traffics in the latter.
Threats From The Bureaucracy
BBG Watch reports that some high-level IBB bureaucrats are becoming unnerved with the possibility that they may be held accountable for their decisions that represent the failure of US Government international broadcasting.
“We have heard reports of BBG members being threatened with lawsuits if they dare to remove anyone (or) deny them a promotion.”
More than likely, something is afoot. Or, the IBB is attempting a preemptive strike against the BBG.
And we are sitting here with a smile on our face because,
We know these IBB types very, very well.
In short, in addition to being a standard for dysfunction and defunct in the Federal Government, their group behavior is not too bright.
In short, if they are walking around directing threats against BBG members, that is none too smart. In fact, it’s s-t-u-p-i-d.
To appearances, they have ignored a key principle:
“A strategy revealed is no strategy.”
We can’t speak to what the new Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) complement will do.
However, we can lay out a scenario for BBG chairman Jeffrey Shell:
You can bet your last dollar that we would task someone, or more likely seek independent counsel and guidance on what the parameters are for dealing with the renegade IBB, including removal and denial of promotions and/or cash awards.
Keep in mind that the Congress, when it puts its mind to doing something, can legislate the IBB right out of the business of being directly involved in US Government international broadcasting. That would be most welcome.
Further, these IBB types have established a record. If one is prepared to invest the time and effort, combing that record in detail would likely be most rewarding.
Here are some examples:
Do you remember that fiasco involving Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Russian Service?
Do you recall that there was supposed to be a “Russia Review,” tasked to IBB deputy director Jeffrey Trimble?
Where is it?
I’d be looking.
Fiascos like the RFE/RL one are not accidental. All kinds of people are players in the process. This incident crippled US Government international broadcasting in Russia at a critical juncture. It didn’t just happen. It was deliberately set upon.
Which returns us to the question regarding the so-called “Russia Review:”
Where is it?
The next question is:
How thorough is it?
We tend to think, not very. And we think this way because we wonder:
Does it exist at all?
We have a feeling it doesn’t. That is another part of the IBB modus operandi: not doing something it is directed to do. In turn, this raises the issue of:
It would be foolish to believe that the IBB does more than pay lip service to the substance of transparency, especially on an issue of this importance.
In turn, this lead to an indication that,
The absence of transparency results in concealment.
If one were to be the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for the BBG, you’d be looking to get authorization to assemble an external transition team to do some serious digging into what has been going on in that toxic environment known as the Cohen Building, and preparing to make some major changes.
And if this isn’t enough to keep you busy,
How about a look-see at that Gallup research contract and the smoke and mirrors game the IBB is playing, avoiding a hard look at why the agency’s audiences have fallen off a cliff in social media audience engagement, with all of the spending and technology the IBB claims are at its disposal, when compared to Al Jazeera, Russia Today or BBC.
Still not busy enough?
Consider what started this discussion: the favorite tactics of the IBB in dealing with the BBG or anyone else digging into IBB activities: threats, bullying, and intimidation. They think they are being real tough guys by saying they are going to hire lawyers and go after BBG members.
DC is full of lawyers. Help yourself.
And if necessary, the BBG can do likewise…although it likely wouldn’t come to that. And the reason why is a thorough examination of IBB activities would likely be none-to-flattering to “the usual suspects,” putting them on shaky ground, career-wise or otherwise.
But what is useful to note here is that this is a replay of their tactics directed primarily against former BBG member Ambassador Victor Ashe. They tried it with others, too.
We know a lot.
And when called upon…well, you know how we feel.
Here you have it, as plain as day: you are dealing with a defiant bureaucracy.
We know how to deal with this. At the end of the day, if that were to happen, you leave the blowhards of the IBB with the feeling they were in a ring with a heavyweight boxer and got put on the mat.
Cumulatively, you should have no doubt that these are reasons why – and they are only some, not all – this agency is the worst organization in the US Federal Government.
A Car Chase – The Story That Is and the Story That Isn’t Quite
On Thursday, October 3, 2013 a young woman, apparently with serious physical and emotional problems, attempted to ram through barricades surrounding the White House, then leading DC area law enforcement in pursuit of her vehicle and ultimately being shot dead, with a one-year-old infant also in the vehicle.
Some of this incident was captured by an Alhurra television crew. Certain people among the agency’s executives are referring to this as a “scoop,” when in fact it is something less than that…something accidental by virtue of circumstance.
But that’s how it is these days on the Third Floor of the Cohen Building, trying to claw onto some measure of newsworthiness in the United States when a large part of it abroad t has been already tossed overboard by the IBB and its farcical “strategic plan.”
In short, these guys are acting like this is the whole story to this incident when it is only a small part of a much larger story, not the least of which includes how mental illness is dealt with in the United States, the debate over health care, the circumstances that resulted in DC area law enforcement firing multiple rounds that killed the young woman who herself was unarmed and the fact that an infant was also inside the vehicle, mercifully escaping serious injury.
That’s a larger part of the story.
And one wonders how much this story has resonance in the Alhurra target area, where people are killed by dozens and hundreds on a daily basis by improvised explosive devices (IEDs), targeted assassinations, sectarian violence (clearly on the rise in Iraq), the civil war in Syria and a general sense of political instability and anarchy taking hold in many parts of the Middle East.
Lest we forget, Alhurra can’t even protect its own correspondents in the field.
In short, the operatives on the Third Floor of the Cohen Building are trying to be the story, or at least part of the story. You can see what they’re doing: they are trying to score public relations points with the American public. It’s one of those moments for the IBB and senior VOA management: one that is ultimately cheap, tawdry and lost to the established credibility of US domestic media. On its own, the IBB has little or no credibility thanks in large part to its deliberate effort to diminish the agency’s footprint with its global audiences and the desperate attempt to establish some domestic footing with potential American audiences.
At the end of the day, thanks to the IBB, the agency is barely a blip on the radar.
It’s more like ground clutter.