Pentagon strategy to place former military officers in networks to be ‘surrogates’ for Bush administration

John Stauber, Center for Media & Democracy, debates with Robert Zelnick, Boston University on PBS NewsHour April 24 2008, New York Times report ‘Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand’ by David Barstow 20 April 2008. Major networks refuse to appear in PBS story.

NYT, following 2 year investigation, reports Pentagon’s use of former military officers and promotion of them to networks as analysts “in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the adminstration’s wartime performance”. Most analysts had business ties to defence contractors, though this is hardly ever disclosed. Pentagon systematically briefed the analysts, took them on tours and gave them access to classified intelligence. Kenneth Allard, former NBC military analyst, describes this as “a coherent, active policy”

NYT had to sue Defense Department to gain access to records of the briefings which “reveal a symbiotic relationship where the usual dividing lines between government and journalism have been obliterated”.

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.”

Zelnick is happy with military officers acting as consultants or ‘beltway bandits’, sees it as ‘completely natural, completely to be expected and ‘ quotes history of previous Gulf War, says it is in networks’ interest, and in his interest as Washington correspondent to have those ties.

Stauber responds that the former military officers were “agents of the Defence Department”, and describes the strategy planned by Donald Rumsfeld and Torie Clark to recruit “75+ former military officers were recruited and they delivered the talking points of the bush administration to manage the news media coverage and public opinion of the war. Sees this as “illegal government propaganda”. Clark called this “information dominance”.

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