The federal Government Accountability Office was wrong when it ruled that the Office of National Drug Control Policy broke federal law by preparing prepackaged news stories that did not disclose to television viewers that the government had produced them, says Rep. Thomas Davis (R-Va.), the Washington Post reports. The video news releases, with narrators “reporting” on the Bush administration’s anti-drug campaign, constituted “covert propaganda” and violated a ban against publicity and propaganda, the GAO found.
Davis said if anyone had a duty to disclose that the videos were government-produced, it was the news organizations that put them on the air. He noted that the external packaging clearly labeled the videos as government products. Thomas Riley, spokesman for the anti-drug office, said it stopped using the videos, which cost $155,000, in May after the GAO ruling on similar videos by another agency regarding Medicare. Officials believe the videos are legal, he said, “but if it’s going to be controversial or going to be a distraction, it’s just not worth it for us.” Riley said the office’s use of such videos began in 1998 during the Clinton administration.