Hey kids, The New York Times has published an eleven-page article by David Barstow that is absolutely fascinating, and I suggest you read the whole thing. Here are snippets:
In the summer of 2005, the Bush administration confronted a fresh wave of criticism over Guantánamo Bay. The detention center had just been branded “the gulag of our times” by Amnesty International, there were new allegations of abuse from United Nations human rights experts and calls were mounting for its closure.
The administration’s communications experts responded swiftly. Early one Friday morning, they put a group of retired military officers on one of the jets normally used by Vice President Dick Cheney and flew them to Cuba for a carefully orchestrated tour of Guantánamo.
To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.
Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.
The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.
Of course, the networks don’t tell you in their introductions that these guys are shilling for defense contractors and the like.
Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.
In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.
Some of them are expressing regret now for spreading the propaganda.
“It was them saying, ‘We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you,’ ” Robert S. Bevelacqua, a retired Green Beret and former Fox News analyst, said.
Kenneth Allard, a former NBC military analyst who has taught information warfare at the National Defense University, said the campaign amounted to a sophisticated information operation. “This was a coherent, active policy,” he said.
I wonder if all the regret means that they gave back all the money they made from spreading the BS.
The Pentagon defended its relationship with military analysts, saying they had been given only factual information about the war. “The intent and purpose of this is nothing other than an earnest attempt to inform the American people,” Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said.
Many analysts strongly denied that they had either been co-opted or had allowed outside business interests to affect their on-air comments, and some have used their platforms to criticize the conduct of the war. Several, like Jeffrey D. McCausland, a CBS military analyst and defense industry lobbyist, said they kept their networks informed of their outside work and recused themselves from coverage that touched on business interests.
“I’m not here representing the administration,” Dr. McCausland said.
And the media?
Some network officials, meanwhile, acknowledged only a limited understanding of their analysts’ interactions with the administration. They said that while they were sensitive to potential conflicts of interest, they did not hold their analysts to the same ethical standards as their news employees regarding outside financial interests. The onus is on their analysts to disclose conflicts, they said.
Sure! It’s not up the the media, which is supposed to be unbiased, to point out that the people they are presenting as unbiased are really biased.
Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” who could be counted on to deliver administration “themes and messages” to millions of Americans “in the form of their own opinions.”
Though many analysts are paid network consultants, making $500 to $1,000 per appearance, in Pentagon meetings they sometimes spoke as if they were operating behind enemy lines, interviews and transcripts show. Some offered the Pentagon tips on how to outmaneuver the networks, or as one analyst put it to Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, “the Chris Matthewses and the Wolf Blitzers of the world.” Some warned of planned stories or sent the Pentagon copies of their correspondence with network news executives. Many — although certainly not all — faithfully echoed talking points intended to counter critics.
“Good work,” Thomas G. McInerney, a retired Air Force general, consultant and Fox News analyst, wrote to the Pentagon after receiving fresh talking points in late 2006. “We will use it.”
Heckuva job, Pentagon!
Let’s meet one of the fellas, kids…..
John C. Garrett is a retired Army colonel and unpaid analyst for Fox News TV and radio. He is also a lobbyist at Patton Boggs who helps firms win Pentagon contracts, including in Iraq.
In interviews Mr. Garrett said there was an inevitable overlap between his dual roles. He said he had gotten “information you just otherwise would not get,” from the briefings and three Pentagon-sponsored trips to Iraq. He also acknowledged using this access and information to identify opportunities for clients. “You can’t help but look for that,” he said, adding, “If you know a capability that would fill a niche or need, you try to fill it. “That’s good for everybody.”
At the same time, in e-mail messages to the Pentagon, Mr. Garrett displayed an eagerness to be supportive with his television and radio commentary. “Please let me know if you have any specific points you want covered or that you would prefer to downplay,” he wrote in January 2007, before President Bush went on TV to describe the surge strategy in Iraq.
And if you don’t play by the administration’s rules, then you are cut off from all access.
There was a mission to Cuba. About ten of these “analysts” were taken to Gitmo in June, 2005, when criticism of inhumane treatment was high. Pentagon officials spent the flight and the rest of the day telling the gang of ten how hunky-dory everything was at Gitmo. The result….
The analysts went on TV and radio, decrying Amnesty International, criticizing calls to close the facility and asserting that all detainees were treated humanely.
“The impressions that you’re getting from the media and from the various pronouncements being made by people who have not been here in my opinion are totally false,” Donald W. Shepperd, a retired Air Force general, reported live on CNN by phone from Guantánamo that same afternoon.
The next morning, Montgomery Meigs, a retired Army general and NBC analyst, appeared on “Today.” “There’s been over $100 million of new construction,” he reported. “The place is very professionally run.”
In 2002, plans were laid for the invasion of Iraq. The only problem was how to sell it to a population who didn’t see the point in invading a country who had no connection whatsoever to 9/11. Cue Torie Clarke:
Torie Clarke, the former public relations executive who oversaw the Pentagon’s dealings with the analysts as assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, had come to her job with distinct ideas about achieving what she called “information dominance.” In a spin-saturated news culture, she argued, opinion is swayed most by voices perceived as authoritative and utterly independent.
And so even before Sept. 11, she built a system within the Pentagon to recruit “key influentials” — movers and shakers from all walks who with the proper ministrations might be counted on to generate support for Mr. Rumsfeld’s priorities.
And, oh, how the networks ate it up! The so-called analysts often got more time than the reporters did. Even the ones who were not shilling for the Pentagon were complicit:
Even analysts with no defense industry ties, and no fondness for the administration, were reluctant to be critical of military leaders, many of whom were friends. “It is very hard for me to criticize the United States Army,” said William L. Nash, a retired Army general and ABC analyst. “It is my life.”
Torie Clarke put her analysts first, journalists second. There was a regular press office, and there was a small group of political appointees whose job it was to cater to the military analysts. The White House was in in the whole thing, asking who the Pentagon was thinking of using and making suggestions of their own. Clarke and her gang wrote summaries, and Donald Rumsfeld made the decisions of who stayed on the list.
Over time, the Pentagon recruited more than 75 retired officers, although some participated only briefly or sporadically. The largest contingent was affiliated with Fox News, followed by NBC and CNN, the other networks with 24-hour cable outlets. But analysts from CBS and ABC were included, too. Some recruits, though not on any network payroll, were influential in other ways — either because they were sought out by radio hosts, or because they often published op-ed articles or were quoted in magazines, Web sites and newspapers. At least nine of them have written op-ed articles for The Times.
The group was heavily represented by men involved in the business of helping companies win military contracts.
Some more of the fellas (all retired from the armed forces):
Army General James Marks–mouthpiece on CNN 2004-07, senior executive with McNeil Technologies.
Brigadier General Jeffrey McCausland–CBS, Dr. McC works for Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, a major lobbying firm that represents military contractors.
Air Force General James C. Ralston–CBS, vice chairman of the Cohen Group, which has among its clients, Lockheed Martin.
Navy Captain Barry R. McCaffrey and the late Army General Wayne A. Downing–NBC, both members of the advisory board of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, and both heads of their own consulting firms as well as being on the boards of military contractors.
Army Lieutenant Colonel Timur J. Eads–Fox News, V.P. of Blackbird Technologies, a military contractor.
Army Lieutenant Colonel Robert L. Maginnis–works in the Pentagon for a military contractor.
Well, kids, we are only up to page 4! Maybe we will revisit the rest of it, or you can read the rest for yourselves. Its really fascinating.
P.S. Here’s a slightly fuzzy enlargement of what’s on the TV set: