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What was U.S. Information Agency?

USIA building

USIA building, 4th and C Street SW, Washington, D.C.

The United States Information Agency (USIA) was an independent foreign affairs agency within the executive branch of the U.S. Government. USIA explained and supported American foreign policy and promoted U.S. national interests through a wide range of overseas information programs.

The agency promoted mutual understanding between the United States and other nations by conducting educational and cultural activities. At the end of 1997, USIA maintained 190 posts in 141 countries where it was known as USIS, the U.S. Information Service. Established in 1953 by President Dwight Eisenhower; renamed the “International Communication Agency” by President Jimmy Carter in 1978; President Ronald Reagan changed the name (ICA) back to “USIA” in 1982.

The mission of USIA was to understand, inform, and influence foreign publics in promotion of the U.S. national interest, and to broaden the dialogue between Americans, their institutions, and their counterparts abroad. Specifically, USIA worked:

  • To explain and advocate U.S. policies in terms that are credible and meaningful in foreign cultures;
  • To provide information about the official policies of the United States, and about the people, values, and institutions which shape those policies;
  • To bring the benefits of international engagement to American citizens and institutions by helping them build strong long-term relationships with their counterparts overseas;
  • To advise the President and other policymakers on the ways in which foreign attitudes will have a direct bearing on the effectiveness of U.S. policies.

USIA Fact Sheet, from American Security Project

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