National Public Radio (NPR) offered a platform to fellow government-funded employees at the Voice of America (VOA) Monday to amplify a letter condemning their CEO for reforms to safeguard the government agency in the interest of national security.
The article, headlined “Voice of America Journalists: New CEO Endangers Reporters, Harms U.S. Aims,” reported on a letter signed by several of VOA’s veteran journalists rebuking their new parent agency chief Michael Pack for comments during an interview with The Federalist, which National Propaganda Radio falsely characterized as a “pro-Trump outlet.”
“Voice of America journalists are compelled to express our profound disappointment with the actions and comments of the chief executive officer of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which endanger the personal security of VOA reporters at home and abroad, as well as threatening to harm U.S. national security objectives,” several VOA staff wrote, going on to accuse Pack of executing a “purge” of agency employees while threatening to ban face masks and unplug the air conditioning in its D.C. offices. The latter accusation was repeated by NPR, although both conceded it was merely a joke.
A clear and honest reading of the transcript between Pack and Federalist Senior Editor Chris Bedford reveals no such threats made by Pack, only sarcastic commentary from Bedford.
Here’s the transcript outlining the moment when Pack was discussing obstacles to implementing long-neglected security procedures to protect the agency. He brushed off Bedford’s unserious suggestion:
PACK: One of the challenges of taking over an agency at this moment in time is sorting all this out, especially during COVID. The headquarters building – the Cohen Building here in Washington, DC – is largely empty. We’re bringing people back as we move from Phase I…
BEDFORD: Have you considered banning masks and turning off the air conditioning? That’s my prescription for federal agencies.
PACK: [SEGUE] Yeah, well, we’ll have to look into that one. But you know it’s been hard to get to know the employees when they’re largely working from home.
Primarily at issue was Pack’s reasonable suggestion that foreign governments could deploy spies into newsrooms masquerading as journalists.
For years, Pack explained, VOA overlooked critical clearance processes, leaving the U.S. agency vulnerable to foreign interference as it broadcast American news around the world. Pack cited one instance in which an explicitly supportive ad for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was translated into another language to encourage Muslims in Michigan to turn out for Democrats in November.
“I have a responsibility to make sure that the security of these agencies is maintained. The fact is that foreign intelligence agencies from the beginning – from the creation of these agencies – have been interested in penetrating them,” Pack said, going on to offer as a cautious example one British journalist who worked as a double-agent for the Soviet Union. “To be a journalist is a great cover for a spy – famous journalists like Kim Philby who worked for the BBC… It’s just a great cover. And from the beginning of the Cold War, even earlier, they’ve been penetrated. It [the field of journalism] is a great place to put a foreign spy. I have to make sure that doesn’t happen – to stand up for the national security interests of Americans.”
Listen to Bedford’s full interview here: