Ahmed Younis, who worked in an office of the State Department tasked with combatting Russian propaganda, said this week that “nothing” is being done on the issue because of “incompetence” inside President Donald Trump’s administration.
In an interview with Wired, Younis lamented that the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC), which he was recruited to help run in 2016, had become bogged down and paralyzed by “administrative incompetence.” Younis and two other high-level analysts recently became so frustrated that they quit their jobs.
Although the Global Engagement Center was created in 2016, it did not have the authority to track Russian propaganda until President Barack Obama signed a law last December.
But a number of former State Department staffers told Wired that “the government agency specifically tasked with analyzing and combating this issue has effectively been frozen.”
“The headline is: There’s nothing that’s being done,” one former staffer explained to the magazine. “On this issue of state aggression, I would say we’re doing almost zilch.”
When President Trump took office, appointing former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State, Younis anticipated the usual bureaucratic hurdles that accompany any new administration. But the hurdles his team faced in the first year of Trump’s tenure were higher than anyone expected.
Under the Trump administration, Younis says, the coordinated plan to fight Russian disinformation and propaganda has failed to launch. The GEC has languished in the face of ongoing budget debates, a State Department-wide hiring freeze, and inconsistent views over how, exactly, the United States ought to engage with Russia.
The magazine asked Younis which parts of the GEC’s Russian propaganda mandate he was able to accomplish.
“Nothing. Nothing. Nothing,” he replied.
However, current officials at the State Department insisted that the GEC did not have the budget to take on Russian propaganda this year, and that $40 million in additional funds would become available in January 2018. It was not immediately clear how that money would be spent.
“It was passive aggressively, bureaucratically being ignored,” on GEC employee commented to Wired.
Read the entire report here.