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The roots of the Information Collection Program lie in the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, in which the U.S. authorized $97 million for various programs designed to promote “democratic reforms” in the country. Ahmad Chalabi and his conservative allies in Congress played a central role in the passage of the act. By that time, Chalabi’s INC, which was formed with American sponsorship after the first Gulf War, had already established something of a spotty record with the CIA and the State Department. Nonetheless, over the next two years $35 million went to seven opposition groups, with about $17.3 million of that going to the INC (in all, the INC would receive about $33 million from the government between March 2000 and May 2003). According to a State Department audit, the initial grants were intended to help the INC establish radio and television broadcasts into Iraq, and to “implement a public information campaign to communicate with Iraqis inside and outside Iraq and also to promulgate its message to the international community at large.” According to a March letter from Senators Carl Levin and John Kerry asking the General Accounting Office to investigate the INC, the terms of the group’s agreement with the State Department strictly barred the INC from “attempting to influence the policies of the United States government or Congress, or propagandizing the American people.” The letter asks the GAO to determine if any taxpayer funds were used to obtain media exposure for defectors or to transport them to meetings with American journalists. Laura Kopelson, a GAO spokeswoman, said the agency would examine the charges as part of a larger investigation into government spending on Iraq, which would get under way this summer.
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Read "How Chalabi Played The Press" here.