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Message Machine: Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon

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A PENTAGON CAMPAIGN Retired officers have been used to
shape terrorism coverage from inside the TV and radio networks.

By David Barstow
Sunday, April 20, 2008

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. …

Please read the remainder of this thorough, excellent story at the New
York Times
website
.