Pundit Program Whitewash
We are no closer today to finding out what the legal consequences are for the Pentagon Propaganda Program than we were when the news broke in the New York Times. After trying to pass off a whitewash report of the program to Congress, the Pentagon withdrew the report.
A copy of the original report can be found HERE: Thanks to CommonDreams this report hasn’t vanished forever. They were wise enough to save a copy of it or we would never see it. So many other agencies never do and we lose the information they had access to. Like the report of the abuse of the H1B visas on the economy and IT professionals pay.
Of course, the report was found unacceptable and, as I said, DOD withdrew it with a letter. The full letter can be found HERE:
INSPECTOR GENERAL DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
400 ARMY NAVY DRIVE ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA 22202-4704
MEMORANDUM FOR DISTRIBUTION
MAY 5 2009
SUBJECT: Inspector General of the Department of Defense Report No. IE-2009-004, “Examination of Allegations Involving DoD Office of Public Affairs Outreach Program,”
We are withdrawing the subject report. Shortly after publishing the report on January 14, 2009, we became aware of inaccuracies in the data concerning retired military analyst (RMA) relationships with Defense contractors that appeared in Appendix K and elsewhere in the report. The discovery of those inaccuracies caused us to conduct an independent internal review of the report and its supporting documentation.
Ya, sure it did. And the reason this was allowed to pass out of the DOD is??? Retracting a report made and published only goes to show how deeply they set out to cover their behinds. But when was it possible for an agency to actually monitor itself and come up with a REAL investigation? To my mind, this report was nothing more than giving reasons why what they did wasn’t so bad and they shouldn’t be held accountable.
Here are some of the statements made in the report as to what happened and why:
The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs (OASD(PA)) manages the DoD public information program, which includes the public outreach function. Between 2002 and 2008, one of the many outreach target groups was the RMA group. For the period 2002 through 2006, the RMA outreach activities included 121 meetings—16 briefings at the Pentagon, 105 conference calls, and 9 trips—4 to Iraq and 5 to Guantanamo, Cuba. We determined that those activities were conducted in accordance with DoD policies and regulations.
Of course you did! < smacks forehead > How could I ever think that the DOD would be guilty, and find themselves so, of propaganda? I am so silly! What was I thinking. Our military rulers are benevolent, kind, and would never try to sway us with false or misleading information now would they?
So, let’s do a quick review of what Propaganda is:
Propaganda is a specific type of message presentation, aimed at serving an agenda. Even if the message conveys true information, it may be partisan and fail to paint a complete picture. The book Propaganda And Persuasion defines propaganda as “the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist.“
Kinds of Propaganda
Propaganda shares many techniques with advertising or public relations; in fact, advertising and PR can be said to be propaganda promoting a commercial product. As commonly understood, however, the term usually refers to political or nationalist messages. It can take the form of leaflets, posters, TV broadcasts or radio broadcasts.
While the war in Iraq was being promoted by the Pentagon, under orders from dubya no doubt, we were bombarded by the pundits with the Pentagon’s message designed to gain support for this war. There were biased views given as facts. There were half truths and media spins confronting the American Public on a daily, if not hourly, basis at times. But the report out of the DOD clearly didn’t see it that way. Of course not!
I’m sure the DOD attempted this white-wash with the help of their lawyers. Who else could come up with the twisted logic that this report spouts? Having read the 81 page memo on torture that John Yoo sent to dubya and company, it is clear that the DOD attempted the same thing here. But this one didn’t fly. It was removed utterly from their website and from any public access it was that much of an embarrassment. Here are some of the justifications for their findings:
The key issue in our review is whether OASD(PA) outreach activities involving RMAs violated the prohibitions on the use of appropriated funds for publicity or propaganda purposes. In evaluating this issue, we considered historic rulings by controlling legal authorities with respect to those congressional prohibitions. In that regard, the Comptroller General has interpreted the publicity and propaganda riders to prohibit three types of activities–self-aggrandizement or puffery, partisanship, and covert communications. Applying these standards, we found the evidence insufficient to conclude that RMA outreach activities were improper. Further, we found insufficient basis to conclude that OASD(PA) conceived of or undertook a disciplined effort to assemble a contingent of influential RMAs who could be depended on to comment favorably on DoD programs.
With regard to RMAs who had ties to military contractors, extensive searches found no instance where such RMAs used information or contacts obtained as a result of the OASD(PA) outreach program to achieve a competitive advantage for their company. Of the 70 RMAs that we examined, we found that 20 (29 percent) had some type of corporate association. We examined publicly available contracting information involving RMA-affiliated companies to identify any pattern of contract award or contract type that might indicate an irregularity. We did not isolate such a pattern and concluded that further investigative work into this matter was not warranted.
Well of course you did! Since when was an agency any good at policing itself? Only an independent review board with no ties to the DOD and no gains received could have made this report anything worthy of publishing. This just goes to show how bad this report really was! It appears that no answer will ever be had for the abuses of the Pentagon. They refuse to investigate further and will not give an accurate accounting. Once again this is our government at work…
The CommonDreams article I read had this to say about this report:
While the Inspector General’s “highly unusual” about-face is welcome, it gets us no closer to accountability. “Additional investigative work will not be undertaken,” the withdrawal memo states, because the Pentagon pundit program “has been terminated and responsible senior officials” — such as Allison Barber — “are no longer employed by the Department.”
Of course, accountability for the Pentagon pundit program was never likely to come from the Defense Department itself. Now it’s up to Congress to demand — and the Government Accountability Office and the Federal Communications Commission to carry out — real investigations into the elaborate propaganda campaign.
I don’t think anyone will forget these faces from the NYTimes article:
A PENTAGON CAMPAIGN Retired officers have been used to shape terrorism coverage from inside the TV and radio networks. By David Barstow April 20, 2008
Yet we know for a fact that these men continue to work for and with the DOD. The DOD letter of withdrawal actually states that those involved refused to answer questions about the operation. Well, just how convenient is that? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all just refuse to answer? No such luck for us. So how come these people got away with it???
In particular, former senior DoD officials who devised and managed the outreach program refused our requests for an interview. Our judgmental sample of RMAs interviewed was too small (7 out of 70 RMAs) to allow that testimonial evidence to be used to support conclusions. As a result, no conclusion can be reached in the affirmative or negative regarding the relationship of the Retired Military Analysts and potential competitive advantage.
We have determined that additional investigative work will not be undertaken to reissue the report because the RMA outreach program has been terminated and responsible senior officials are no longer employed by the Department.
Had this been a police matter you can bet these *senior officials* would not have been allowed to *refuse* to speak. Only the DOD can get away with this crap. How fortunate for them? Would that We the People were treated with this kind of hands off attitude! And why in the world would Congress be satisfied with this answer by the DOD? If these Congressional people were so upset, wouldn’t they demand answers? You would certainly think so!
I just don’t get why this is allowed to remain. Is the government so scared that we will find out the extent to which the dubya administration was willing to go? Do they possibly think we don’t have a clue about this? That because of the *hiding* of facts we won’t be able to discern just how bad it was? Or is it that this way we can’t prosecute them and the pundits won’t have to give back their little bonuses and the Pentagon won’t have to reimbuse We the People??? I’d say it is more that last…
Perhaps it is the fact that We the People are so used to government officials getting away with murder that they feel justified in not pursuing this matter. In my mind this is an outrage. Exactly who do these *officials* think they are? Certainly they are not above reproach nor investigation and We the People need to demand accountability from those who are placed in positions of trust. I personally want the whole story, not some cockamamie bullshit they feel like feeding us. When does passing the buck stop?
Obama has promised both accountability and transparancy, which we have yet to see, but it would be nice if for once we actually got it in an area that matters. This is one of those areas. To see this through would go a long way to restoring the faith of the American People with their government. But it won’t happen. Open, honest transparency is never going to be a part of this administration or any other until the people rise up and demand it. Until we elect officials that cannot be corrupted or manipulated into putting out false statements and placatory DIS-information.
A sincere thanks to CommonDreams.org for not forgetting this matter and for following up on it. How sad that the rest of us did.