The State Department’s Fumbled Fight Against Russian Propaganda

To Inform is to Influence

JORGE SILVA/REUTERS

WHEN AHMED YOUNIS first took a job at the State Department in September of 2016, the cross-country commute between his office in Washington, DC and his home in Los Angeles, where his wife and daughter live, seemed worth it. An Islamic scholar and college professor, he had been asked to help lead the State Department’s newly formed Global Engagement Center, whose mission is to fight terrorist propaganda, as well as the state-sponsored variety that Russia proliferated in the run-up to the 2016 election. For Younis, who had studied terrorist organizations and their messaging, the critical need for this kind of work made the weekly bicoastal trek worth it.

But one year later, the GEC’s once-promising mission had become paralyzed by what Younis calls “administrative incompetence.” A lack of coherent policy priorities at the State Department and the absence of subject matter expertise among President Trump’s political…

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