Pakistan's Daily Times isn't the only foreign newspaper to have picked up this item -- an Indian online paper, New Kerala, has a similar report -- but it seems especially unfortunate that this story will be circulating in Pakistan at a time when American diplomats are trying to repair the damage done by airstrikes on villages along Pakistan's Afghan border.
"Karen's Rules on How to Sell the US," by Khalid Hasan - the Daily Times (Pakistan), 18 Jan 2006
WASHINGTON: Karen Hughes, who is in charge of media diplomacy in the war against terrorism, has asked US foreign missions and such of their officials who deal with the media or the public to “get out in front of an issue or at best have a strong response to a negative story.”
In a memo sent out by her office and made public by the online news and opinion service, Common Dreams, Ms Hughes, one of President Bush’s most trusted aides and advisers, wants US representative out there to get “frequently in front of the cameras, in the columns of your local and regional press” and mobilise their staff “to wake up every morning with media in mind.”
In what she calls Karen’s Rules, Ms Hughes says, “Use what’s out there. You are always on sure ground if you use what the President, Secretary Rice, Sean McCormack, or any USG spokesman has already said on a particular subject. You never need clearance to background a journalist though you should certainly pay careful attention to how your comments may be used.”
Karen’s Rule No 3 lays down, “Think local. Because your key audience is your local - or regional - audience, you do not need clearance to speak to any local media, print, or television. And, you do not need clearance to speak to US media in your country if you are quoting a senior official who has spoken on the record on a particular subject.” This does not apply when the official happens to be in the United States.
Rule No 4 urges “common sense to respond to natural disasters or tragedies” for which no State Department clearance is required. Officials are free to “express condolences in the event of a loss, or express sympathy and support in response to a natural disaster.” However, she advises them not to commit US funds for support or relief without approval from the State Department.
Rule No 5 advises officials in the field not to “make policy”, that being a sensitive area about which they should be careful. She asks them to use their own judgment and always “err on the side of caution.” She also asks them not to come up with “surprises” and to check with her office if they can’t formulate a response using local resources. She emphasises that “forceful advocacy of US interests and positions is critical to our effort to marginalise the extremists and share a positive vision of hope for all countries and people.” She adds, “I encourage you to take advantage of opportunities to speak out, and look forward to our aggressive promotion of US policy. Aggressive promotion of US policy – that’s the problem at the moment.”
'Common Dreams' (commondreams.org) is a newsblog. The article reporting 'Karen's Rules' actually came from a blog maintained by a writer for The Nation.
"Can Karen Hughes Spin the CIA Attack in Pakistan?" by David Corn - posted to his 'Capital Games' blog, 17 Jan 2006
...It was somewhat appropriate that the day the news of this errant assault [the air strike on Damadola, Pakistan] broke, a source sent me a memo that Karen Hughes, Bush's communications guru who is now undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, recently disseminated to chiefs of mission, deputy chiefs of mission and public affairs officers at US embassies around the world. The subject was speaking to reporters, and Hughes wanted to share what she called "Karen's Rules" on dealing with the media....
So how should COMs, DCMs, and PAOs in embassies around the world be talking about the US attack in Pakistan? "I know," Hughes wrote, "that it is important to get out in front of an issue or at best have a strong response to a negative story....I want you out frequently in front of the cameras, in the columns of your local and regional press and mobilizing your staff to wake up every morning with media in mind." But in this instance it might be best for Hughes' subordinates to stay away from the cameras and the reporters. It's tough to be an advocate for "America's story" on such occasions. The message delivered by the attack is all-too clear and has far more resonance than any public diplomacy spin that Hughes could cook up....
Corn provides the full text of the memo.
There's nothing inherently wrong with the memo's content -- it's pretty much common-sense public communications. But the tone of it is mockable, and the simple fact that it was written and disseminated lends credence to complaints that US diplomats have been unduly restricted in working with local media. And public diplomacy is a bit like theater; it loses a lot of its impact when you can see the ropes and pulleys moving backdrops around, and see someone in the wings frantically gesturing to an actor to get back on his mark.
There was an extended exchange about US public diplomacy efforts in the wake of the Damadola air strike in yesterday's State Department press briefing:
Daily Press Briefing - Sean McCormack, Spokesman, US Department of State, Washington, DC, 17 Jan 2006
...QUESTION: How is the public diplomacy reaction going? The Administration here has recognized that, in the past, it hasn't been agile enough responding to issues to get the U.S. message out to improve the image. Here was, if you like, a little boiling point where we've got the protests in Pakistan, people -- the Pakistanis complaining about U.S. behavior. What have you done? Can you take us through, since it started, what have you done to help the diplomacy?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the Secretary yesterday has answered some questions on this very matter -- or day before yesterday on her trip to Liberia. I'm here talking about it today. I can't tell you what the Embassy is doing. I'm sure that they're engaging with the media in Pakistan on this matter.
I understand that there are some who are protesting in Pakistan. Again, I can't speak to the numbers in those protests, but what I can tell you is that in our interactions with Pakistani authorities that we continue to have very good meetings on a variety of topics, including fighting the war on terrorism. So I would emphasize and underline to you that the atmosphere of cooperation and good relations continues throughout all of these meetings.
And as for any questions that arise from the media or others on this matter, we do our best to try to address these concerns. But I would just, again, point out that the greatest threat to the Pakistani people and to a more democratic, more prosperous Pakistan that -- is the terrorists. They are the ones that are threatening the advances that President Musharraf has made in Pakistan over the past several years. So we're going to work with President Musharraf to fight those forces that would try to undermine and stop the progress that has been made in Pakistan....
QUESTION [from a different reporter]: Sean, I mean, what about the Karen Hughes operation, Under Secretary Hughes? Are you doing anything to counter the demonstrations that have been spawned by the attack? You don't want to talk about the attack itself. You have this Rapid Response Team. Is anything being done? Is this subject for the --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I understand that there are some demonstrations that have occurred in Pakistan. I don't know whether those will continue and, again, I can't speak to how large these demonstrations are. My impression is that they're not of the magnitude that we have seen in the past in Pakistan.
Again, as for the public diplomacy, we try to be as forthcoming as we possibly can in answering questions. Sometimes there are questions for which we can't provide information from the podium. And all we can do in this case is to continue to reach out to the Pakistani people, help them understand what it is that we are doing in fighting the war on terrorism, and also to underline for them what a good friend America is. And that means coming to the aid of the Pakistani people in the time of need.
Our efforts to assist the Pakistani people in the wake of the terrible earthquake that the Pakistani people suffered are ongoing. Those efforts are ongoing. We continue to engage with the CEOs that Karen Hughes went with over to Pakistan. While they were in Pakistan, they pledged to raise money on behalf of the Pakistani people for relief and reconstruction. The world has come together to pledge assistance and money for the Pakistani people as they work to get their lives together in the affected areas.
So those are the things that we continue to do, Charlie. We continue to talk about America as a good friend and ally and that comes -- that is true in many different respects, whether that is working with Pakistani forces to address the terror threats that threaten not only the United States but the Pakistani people as well, all the way to helping the Pakistani people in their time of need. So that's what we're going to continue to be doing....