DoD Buzz

IG shows no wrongdoing in 'analyst' briefings


But will they get one? I doubt it.

In an explosive story today on the pages of the Washington Times, crack Pentagon reporter Rowen Scarborough exposes the hypocrisy of the entire Bush-era media culture.

According to Scarborough, no less than three investigations into the conduct of the DoD and "military analysts" prompted by hyperbolic media coverage from the New York Times found that there was no misconduct with special briefings given to former military officers who offered their take on military operations on cable and radio news shows.

And here's the kicker: the New York Times and the author of "Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon's Hidden Hand" David Barstow won the 2009 Pulitzer prize for investigative journalism.

The swirl of charges began April 20, 2008, when the New York Times published a front-page story with the headline "Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon's Hidden Hand." The story implied, but did not outright charge, that analysts received contracting favors.

"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," the story said.

It said Rumsfeld aides "used [their] control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse - an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks."

Across the front page were photos of a who's who of prominent retired officers: Thomas McInerney, the late Wayne Downing, Kenneth Allard and Bo Scales.

The New York Times story brought accusations from Democrats that the Pentagon, under the Bush administration, violated rules against conducting a propaganda campaign.

The story failed to show any concrete evidence of wrongdoing, allowing Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin to take over where the story left off, demanding formal investigations by the Pentagon's IG. I wonder who Barstow's primary source was?
Sources familiar with the IG's final report said it will say officials broke no rules or laws when they provided information briefings, some from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The IG also found no evidence that any analyst or his defense contractor employer received favorable treatment or procurement contracts because of his work as an on-air commentator, according to the sources.

"The report basically says the Pentagon activities were in compliance with [Department of Defense] directives and instructions," a government official familiar with the findings told The Washington Times. In terms of financial favors, "they didn't find any evidence of that," the source said.

The IG report is expected to be released in coming weeks. It is the second IG probe into the allegations raised by the New York Times, and then by congressional Democrats.

The first probe, released in January 2009, essentially drew the same conclusions, saying that briefings were "conducted in accordance with [Defense Department] policies and regulations."

The 2009 report added: "We found no indication that partisanship was operative during the interchanges with [retired military analysts] and found no evidence that the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs personnel sought to somehow avoid portraying DoD [the Defense Department] as a source for the information provided. Rather, the briefings were open and transparent."

The briefings conducted by the Pentagon may have been a ham-handed attempt to make a war going down the tubes look brighter, but there was no deception of the American people and no double dealing.

Yet the reputations of the analysts took a beating as a result of the story. The goal seemed to veer very close to trying to discredit the analysts' sometimes upbeat comments based on information they were getting from the Pentagon briefings. The Pentagon does these kinds of things all the time with media (like myself), business types, family organizations and retirees on a variety of issues.

If no wrongdoing was found, the folks who made the accusations should own up to it and make amends.

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