The State Department has been using political litmus tests to screen private American citizens before they can be sent overseas to represent the United States, weeding out critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, according to department officials and internal e-mails....
Late this week, after Knight Ridder inquired about the litmus tests, Alexander Feldman, the head of the department's International Information Programs bureau, which runs the speakers program, sent a memo to his employees warning that "no one is to speak to the press without following the procedures" and getting approval. Knight Ridder obtained a copy of the memo.
Feldman, a political appointee and former media executive, was traveling and couldn't be reached for comment. Seven calls made to two of his press officers and to State Department spokesman Sean McCormack weren't returned by the end of the day Friday.
The effort, known as the "U.S. Speakers/Specialist Program," is part of a public diplomacy effort to change negative foreign opinions of the United States. It's overseen by Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes, although the questionable practices reportedly began before she took up her post in September.
Saturday, January 28, 2006
(Via The Wege, via SusanG at Daily Kos) see this Knight-Ridder article: