DOD Rescinds Report That Found No Evidence Of Pundit Propaganda

The May 5 order to rescind that report said its conclusions had been based on inaccurate or insufficient data

The Defense Department's Inspector General's (IG) Office last week rescinded a report that had concluded there was insufficient evidence that the Pentagon's imbedded pundit program violated the prohibition on using appropriations for publicity or propaganda. But DOD also said it would not issue a new report.

The January IG report had been demanded by 45 congressmen unhappy with the program, which had been uncovered in an April 2008 New York Times story--which recently won a Pulitzer--about a DOD program to "imbed" military analysts, so-called "force multiplyers," in news programs to talk up administration policy.

In the pundit program, retired military officials were armed with administration talking points about the war in Iraq and other Bush administration policies and were sent to the media front lines--mostly cable and broadcast news channels and programs.

Some of the pundits also had ties to military contractors -- ties not disclosed to viewers.

The IG report in January, according to an online copy of the report at PR Watch, said that its investigation could find no evidence of a concerted effort to assemble a group of talking heads who could be depended on to talk up DOD policy, and could not identify any retired military analysts (RMA's) who had used their role in the imbedded analyst program to benefit a company with which they had ties.

The May 5 order to rescind that report said its conclusions had been based on inaccurate or insufficient data. It pointed out that former DOD officials who implemented the program had refused to talk about it; that "searches of public Web sites" was insufficient to determine whether the RMAs had benefitted financially from the program and that testimonial evidence from only 7 of 70 RMAs was not enough to base any conclusions on.

"We have determined that additional investigative work will not be undertaken to reissue the report because the RAM outreach program has been terminated and the responsible senior officials are not longer employed by the Department," said Deputy Inspector General Donald M. Horstman in rescinding the January report.

Also at the urging of Congress, the FCC undertook a separate investigation last fall into whether TV stations or networks bear any responsibility for not identifying the analyst's connection to the Pentagon or defense contractors.