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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon's Hidden Hand

That's the title of a long, blockbuster story in the New York Times today (registration on the Times site required) that is absolutely essential reading. I can do little better than reproduce the first several paragraphs here which pretty much speak for themselves. The only question I would raise is why it took so long for the Times, or any other media outlet for that matter, to do this story. Has it not been more than five years since the invasion of Iraq? Perhaps some bloggers have been on this earlier, and some media critics like the folks at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, but I have not seen much about it--even though it should be pretty obvious when one thinks about it.

April 20, 2008
Message Machine

Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand

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.

Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves. But collectively, the men on the plane and several dozen other military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration’s war on terror. It is a furious competition, one in which inside information and easy access to senior officials are highly prized.

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