Published on Sunday, April 20, 2008 by The New York Times
Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon's Hidden Hand
By David Barstow
In the summer of 2005, the
Bush administration confronted a fresh wave of criticism over
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
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
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.
Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its 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.
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.
They have been ta
In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.
A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.
"It was them saying,
`We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you,' "
Robert S. Bevelacqua, a retired Green Beret and
Kenneth Allard, a former NBC
military analyst who has taught information warfare at the
As conditions in
"Night and day," Mr. Allard said, "I felt we'd been hosed."
The Pentagon defended its relationship with military analysts, saying they had been given only factual information about the war. "The intent and purpose of this is nothing other than an earnest attempt to inform the American people," Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said.
It was, Mr. Whitman added, "a bit incredible" to think retired military officers could be "wound up" and turned into "puppets of the Defense Department."
Many analysts strongly denied that they had either been co-opted or had allowed outside business interests to affect their on-air comments, and some have used their platforms to criticize the conduct of the war. Several, like Jeffrey D. McCausland, a CBS military analyst and defense industry lobbyist, said they kept their networks informed of their outside work and recused themselves from coverage that touched on business interests.
"I'm not here representing the administration," Dr. McCausland said.
Some network officials, meanwhile, acknowledged only a limited understanding of their analysts' interactions with the administration.
They said that while they were sensitive to potential conflicts of interest, they did not hold their analysts to the same ethical standards as their news employees regarding outside financial interests. The onus is on their analysts to disclose conflicts, they said. And whatever the contributions of military analysts, they also noted the many network journalists who have covered the war for years in all its complexity.
Five years into the
These records 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."
Though many analysts are paid network consultants, making $500 to $1,000 per appearance, in Pentagon meetings they sometimes spoke as if they were operating behind enemy lines, interviews and transcripts show. Some offered the Pentagon tips on how to outmaneuver the networks, or as one analyst put it to Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, "the Chris Matthewses and the Wolf Blitzers of the world." Some warned of planned stories or sent the Pentagon copies of their correspondence with network news executives. Many - although certainly not all - faithfully echoed talking points intended to counter critics.
Thomas G. McInerney, a retired Air Force general,
consultant and Fox
Again and again, records show, the administration has enlisted analysts as a rapid reaction force to rebut what it viewed as critical news coverage, some of it by the networks' own Pentagon correspondents. For example, when news articles revealed that troops in Iraq were dying because of inadequate body armor, a senior Pentagon official wrote to his colleagues: "I think our analysts - properly armed - can push back in that arena."
The documents released by the Pentagon do not show any quid pro quo between commentary and contracts. But some analysts said they had used the special access as a marketing and networking opportunity or as a window into future business possibilities.
John C. Garrett is a retired
Army colonel and unpaid analyst for Fox
In interviews Mr. Garrett
said there was an inevitable overlap between his dual roles. He said he had
gotten "information you just otherwise would not get," from the
briefings and three Pentagon-sponsored trips to
At the same time, in e-mail
messages to the Pentagon, Mr. Garrett displayed an eagerness to be supportive
with his television and radio commentary. "Please let me know if you have
any specific points you want covered or that you would prefer to
downplay," he wrote in January 2007, before President Bush went on TV to
describe the surge strategy in
Conversely, the administration has demonstrated that there is a price for sustained criticism, many analysts said. "You'll lose all access,"
Dr. McCausland said.
With a majority of Americans calling the war a mistake despite all administration attempts to sway public opinion, the Pentagon has focused in the last couple of years on cultivating in particular military analysts frequently seen and heard in conservative news outlets, records and interviews show.
Some of these analysts were
on the mission to
- how much had been spent improving the facility, the abuse endured by guards, the extensive rights afforded detainees.
The results came quickly. The analysts went on TV and radio, decrying Amnesty International, criticizing calls to close the facility and asserting that all detainees were treated humanely.
"The impressions that you're getting from the media and from the various pronouncements being made by people who have not been here in my opinion are totally false," Donald W. Shepperd, a retired Air Force general, reported live on CNN by phone from Guantánamo that same afternoon.
The next morning, Montgomery Meigs, a retired Army general and NBC analyst, appeared on "Today." "There's been over $100 million of new construction," he reported. "The place is very professionally run."
Within days, transcripts of the analysts' appearances were circulated to senior White House and Pentagon officials, cited as evidence of progress in the battle for hearts and minds at home.
Charting the Campaign
By early 2002, detailed
planning for a possible
11 attacks. Pentagon and White House officials believed the military analysts could play a crucial role in helping overcome this resistance.
Torie Clarke, the former public relations executive who oversaw the Pentagon's dealings with the analysts as assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, had come to her job with distinct ideas about achieving what she called "information dominance." In a spin-saturated news culture, she argued, opinion is swayed most by voices perceived as authoritative and utterly independent.
And so even before Sept. 11, she built a system within the Pentagon to recruit "key influentials" - movers and shakers from all walks who with the proper ministrations might be counted on to generate support for Mr. Rumsfeld's priorities.
In the mont
The analysts, they noticed,
often got more airtime than network reporters, and they were not merely
explaining the capabilities of Apache helicopters. They were framing how
viewers ought to interpret events. What is more, while the analysts were in the
news media, they were not of the news media. They were military men, many of
them ideologically in sync with the administration's neoconservative brain
trust, many of them important players in a military industry anticipating large
budget increases to pay for an
Even analysts with no defense industry ties, and no fondness for the administration, were reluctant to be critical of military leaders, many of whom were friends. "It is very hard for me to criticize the United States Army," said William L. Nash, a retired Army general and ABC analyst. "It is my life."
Other administrations had made sporadic, small-scale attempts to build relationships with the occasional military analyst. But these were trifling compared with what Ms. Clarke's team had in mind. Don Meyer, an aide to Ms. Clarke, said a strategic decision was made in 2002 to make the analysts the main focus of the public relations push to construct a case for war. Journalists were secondary. "We didn't want to rely on them to be our primary vehicle to get information out," Mr.
The Pentagon's regular press office would be kept separate from the military analysts. The analysts would instead be catered to by a small group of political appointees, with the point person being Brent T.
Krueger, another senior aide to Ms. Clarke. The decision recalled other administration tactics that subverted traditional journalism.
Federal agencies, for example, have paid columnists to write favorably about the administration. They have distributed to local TV stations hundreds of fake news segments with fawning accounts of administration accomplishments. The Pentagon itself has made covert payments to Iraqi newspapers to publish coalition propaganda.
Rather than complain about the "media filter," each of these techniques simply converted the filter into an amplifier. This time, Mr. Krueger said, the military analysts would in effect be "writing the op-ed" for the war.
Assembling the Team
From the start, interviews show, the White House took a keen interest in which analysts had been identified by the Pentagon, requesting lists of potential recruits, and suggesting names. Ms. Clarke's team wrote summaries describing their backgrounds, business affiliations and where they stood on the war.
"Rumsfeld ultimately cleared off on all invitees," said Mr. Krueger, who left the Pentagon in 2004. (Through a spokesman, Mr. Rumsfeld declined to comment for this article.)
Over time, the Pentagon
recruited more than 75 retired officers, although some participated only
briefly or sporadically. The largest contingent was affiliated with Fox
The group was heavily represented by men involved in the business of helping companies win military contracts. Several held senior positions with contractors that gave them direct responsibility for winning new Pentagon business. James Marks, a retired Army general and analyst for CNN from 2004 to 2007, pursued military and intelligence contracts as a senior executive with McNeil Technologies. Still others held board positions with military firms that gave them responsibility for government business. General McInerney, the Fox analyst, for example, sits on the boards of several military contractors, including Nortel Government Solutions, a supplier of communication networks.
Several were defense industry lobbyists, such as Dr. McCausland, who works at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, a major lobbying firm where he is director of a national security team that represents several military contractors. "We offer clients access to key decision makers," Dr. McCausland's team promised on the firm's Web site.
Dr. McCausland was not the only analyst making this pledge. Another was Joseph W. Ralston, a retired Air Force general. Soon after signing on with CBS, General Ralston was named vice chairman of the Cohen Group, a consulting firm headed by a former defense secretary, William Cohen, himself now a "world affairs" analyst for CNN. "The Cohen Group knows that getting to `yes' in the aerospace and defense market - whether in the United States or abroad - requires that companies have a thorough, up-to-date understanding of the thinking of government decision makers," the company tells prospective clients on its Web site.
There were also ideological ties.
Two of NBC's most prominent analysts, Barry R. McCaffrey and the late Wayne A. Downing, were on the advisory board of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, an advocacy group created with White House encouragement in 2002 to help make the case for ousting Saddam Hussein. Both men also had their own consulting firms and sat on the boards of major military contractors.
Many also shared with Mr.
Bush's national security team a belief that pessimistic war coverage broke the
nation's will to win in
This was a major theme, for
example, with Paul E. Vallely, a Fox
"We lost the war - not because we were outfought, but because we were out Psyoped," he wrote. He urged a radically new approach to psychological operations in future wars - taking aim at not just foreign adversaries but domestic audiences, too. He called his approach "MindWar" - using network TV and radio to "strengthen our national will to victory."
The Selling of the War
From their earliest sessions with the military analysts, Mr. Rumsfeld and his aides spoke as if they were all part of the same team.
In interviews, participants described a powerfully seductive environment - the uniformed escorts to Mr. Rumsfeld's private conference room, the best government china laid out, the embossed name cards, the blizzard of PowerPoints, the solicitations of advice and counsel, the appeals to duty and country, the warm thank you notes from the secretary himself.
"Oh, you have no idea," Mr. Allard said, describing the effect.
"You're back. They listen to you. They listen to what you say on TV."
It was, he said, "psyops on steroids" - a nuanced exercise in influence through flattery and proximity. "It's not like it's, `We'll pay you $500 to get our story out,' " he said. "It's more subtle."
The access came with a condition. Participants were instructed not to quote their briefers directly or otherwise describe their contacts with the Pentagon.
In the fall and winter
leading up to the invasion, the Pentagon armed its analysts with talking points
The basic case became a
At the Pentagon, members of Ms. Clarke's staff marveled at the way the analysts seamlessly incorporated material from talking points and briefings as if it was their own.
"You could see that they were messaging," Mr. Krueger said. "You could see they were taking verbatim what the secretary was saying or what the technical specialists were saying. And they were saying it over and over and over." Some days, he added, "We were able to click on every single station and every one of our folks were up there delivering our message. You'd look at them and say, `This is working.' "
On April 12, 2003, with major combat almost over, Mr. Rumsfeld drafted a memorandum to Ms. Clarke. "Let's think about having some of the folks who did such a good job as talking heads in after this thing is over," he wrote.
By summer, though, the first signs of the insurgency had emerged.
Reports from journalists
The Pentagon did not have to search far for a counterweight.
It was time, an internal Pentagon strategy memorandum urged, to "re-energize surrogates and message-force multipliers," starting with the military analysts.
The memorandum led to a
proposal to take analysts on a tour of
Bush's request for $87 billion in emergency war financing.
The group included four
analysts from Fox
The trip invitation promised
a look at "the real situation on the ground in
The situation, as described in scores of books, was deteriorating. L.
Paul Bremer III, then the
American viceroy in
"We're up against a growing and sophisticated threat," Mr. Bremer recalled telling the president during a private White House dinner.
That dinner took place on
Sept. 24, while the analysts were touring
Yet these harsh realities
were elided, or flatly contradicted, during the official presentations for the
analysts, records show. The itinerary, scripted to the minute, featured brief
visits to a model school, a few refurbished government buildings, a center for women's rights, a mass grave and even the
Mostly the analysts attended
briefings. These sessions, records show, spooled out an alternative narrative,
line: No reinforcements were needed. The "growing and sophisticated threat" described by Mr. Bremer was instead depicted as degraded, isolated and on the run.
"We're winning," a briefing document proclaimed.
One trip participant, General Nash of ABC, said some briefings were so clearly "artificial" that he joked to another group member that they were on "the George Romney memorial trip to Iraq," a reference to Mr.
Romney's infamous claim that
American officials had "brainwashed" him into supporting the Vietnam
War during a tour there in 1965, while he was governor of
But if the trip pounded the
message of progress, it also represented a business opportunity: direct access
to the most senior civilian and military leaders in
Information and access of this nature had undeniable value for trip participants like William V. Cowan and Carlton A. Sherwood.
Mr. Cowan, a Fox analyst and
retired Marine colonel, was the chief executive of a new military firm, the
wvc3 Group. Mr. Sherwood was its executive vice president. At the time, the
company was seeking contracts worth tens of millions to supply body armor and
counterintelligence services in
"Those sheiks wanted access to the C.P.A.," Mr. Cowan recalled in an interview, referring to the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Mr. Cowan said he pleaded their cause during the trip. "I tried to push hard with some of Bremer's people to engage these people of Al Anbar," he said.
"I saw immediately in 2003 that things were going south," General Vallely, one of the Fox analysts on the trip, recalled in an interview with The Times.
The Pentagon, though, need not have worried.
"You can't believe the
progress," General Vallely told Alan Colmes of Fox
"We could not be more
excited, more pleased," Mr. Cowan told Greta Van Susteren
"I am so much against adding more troops," General Shepperd said on CNN.
Access and Influence
Inside the Pentagon and at
the White House, the trip was viewed as a masterpiece in the management of
perceptions, not least because it gave fuel to complaints that
"mainstream" journalists were ignoring the good news in
"We're hitting a home run on this trip," a senior Pentagon official wrote in an e-mail message to Richard B. Myers and Peter Pace, then chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Its success only intensified
the Pentagon's campaign. The pace of briefings accelerated. More trips were
organized. Eventually the effort involved officials from
The scale reflected strong support from the top. When officials in Iraq were slow to organize another trip for analysts, a Pentagon official fired off an e-mail message warning that the trips "have the highest levels of visibility" at the White House and urging them to get moving before Lawrence Di Rita, one of Mr. Rumsfeld's closest aides, "picks up the phone and starts calling the 4-stars."
Mr. Di Rita, no longer at the Defense Department, said in an interview that a "conscious decision" was made to rely on the military analysts to counteract "the increasingly negative view of the war" coming from journalists in Iraq. The analysts, he said, generally had "a more supportive view" of the administration and the war, and the combination of their TV platforms and military cachet made them ideal for rebutting critical coverage of issues like troop morale, treatment of detainees, inadequate equipment or poorly trained Iraqi security forces. "On those issues, they were more likely to be seen as credible spokesmen," he said.
For analysts with military industry ties, the attention brought access to a widening circle of influential officials beyond the contacts they had accumulated over the course of their careers.
Charles T. Nash, a Fox military analyst and retired Navy captain, is a consultant who helps small companies break into the military market.
Suddenly, he had entree to a host of senior military leaders, many of whom he had never met. It was, he said, like being embedded with the Pentagon leadership. "You start to recognize what's most important to them," he said, adding, "There's nothing like seeing stuff firsthand."
Some Pentagon officials said they were well aware that some analysts viewed their special access as a business advantage. "Of course we realized that," Mr. Krueger said. "We weren't naïve about that."
They also understood the financial relationship between the networks and their analysts. Many analysts were being paid by the "hit," the number of times they appeared on TV. The more an analyst could boast of fresh inside information from high-level Pentagon "sources," the more hits he could expect. The more hits, the greater his potential influence in the military marketplace, where several analysts prominently advertised their network roles.
"They have ta
Mr. Di Rita, though, said it never occurred to him that analysts might use their access to curry favor. Nor, he said, did the Pentagon try to exploit this dynamic. "That's not something that ever crossed my mind," he said. In any event, he argued, the analysts and the networks were the ones responsible for any ethical complications. "We assume they know where the lines are," he said.
The analysts met personally
with Mr. Rumsfeld at least 18 times, records show,
but that was just the beginning. They had dozens more sessions with the most
senior members of his brain trust and access to officials responsible for
managing the billions being spent in
Other groups of "key influentials" had meetings, but not nearly as often as the analysts.
An internal memorandum in
2005 helped explain why. The memorandum, written by a Pentagon official who had
accompanied analysts to
Other branches of the
administration also began to make use of the analysts. Mr. Gonzales, then the
attorney general, met with them soon after news leaked that the government was
wiretapping terrorism suspects in the
When David H. Petraeus was appointed the commanding general in
"We knew we had extraordinary access," said Timur J. Eads, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and Fox analyst who is vice president of government relations for Blackbird Technologies, a fast-growing military contractor.
Like several other analysts,
Mr. Eads said he had at times held his tongue on television for fear that
"some four-star could call up and say, `Kill that contract.' " For example, he believed Pentagon officials misled
the analysts about the progress of
"Human nature," he explained, though he noted other instances when he was critical.
Some analysts said that even before the war started, they privately had questions about the justification for the invasion, but were careful not to express them on air.
then a Fox analyst, was among those invited to a briefing in early 2003 about
" `We don't have any hard evidence,' " Mr. Bevelacqua recalled the briefer replying. He said he and other analysts were alarmed by this concession. "We are looking at ourselves saying, `What are we doing?' "
Another analyst, Robert L. Maginnis, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who works in
the Pentagon for a military contractor, attended the same briefing and recalled
feeling "very disappointed" after being shown satellite photograp
Mr. Bevelacqua and another Fox analyst, Mr. Cowan, had formed the wvc3 Group, and hoped to win military and national security contracts.
"There's no way I was going to go down that road and get completely torn apart," Mr. Bevelacqua said. "You're talking about fighting a huge machine."
Some e-mail messages between the Pentagon and the analysts reveal an implicit trade of privileged access for favorable coverage. Robert H.
Scales Jr., a retired Army
general and analyst for Fox
"Recall the stuff I did after my last visit," he wrote. "I will do the same this time."
Pentagon Keeps Tabs
As it happened, the
analysts' news media appearances were being closely monitored. The Pentagon
paid a private contractor, Omnitec Solutions,
hundreds of thousands of dollars to scour databases for any trace of the
analysts, be it a segment on "The O'Reilly Factor" or an interview
with The Daily Inter Lake in
Omnitec evaluated their appearances
using the same tools as corporate branding experts. One report, assessing the
impact of several trips to
"Commentary from all
In interviews, several analysts reacted with dismay when told they were described as reliable "surrogates" in Pentagon documents. And some asserted that their Pentagon sessions were, as David L. Grange, a retired Army general and CNN analyst put it, "just upfront information," while others pointed out, accurately, that they did not always agree with the administration or each other. "None of us drink the Kool-Aid," General Scales said.
Likewise, several also denied using their special access for business gain. "Not related at all," General Shepperd said, pointing out that many in the Pentagon held CNN "in the lowest esteem."
Still, even the mildest of criticism could draw a challenge. Several analysts told of fielding telephone calls from displeased defense officials only minutes after being on the air.
On Aug. 3, 2005, 14 marines
Mr. Cowan said he was "precipitously fired from the analysts group"
for this appearance. The
Pentagon, he wrote in an e-mail message, "simply didn't like the fact that
I wasn't carrying their water." The next day James T. Conway, then
director of operations for the Joint Chiefs, presided over another conference
call with analysts. He urged them, a transcript shows,
not to let the marines' deat
"The strategic target remains our population," General Conway said.
"We can lose people day in and day out, but they're never going to beat our military. What they can and will do if they can is strip away our support. And you guys can help us not let that happen."
"General, I just made that point on the air," an analyst replied.
"Let's work it together, guys," General Conway urged.
The Generals' Revolt
The full dimensions of this mutual embrace were perhaps never clearer than in April 2006, after several of Mr. Rumsfeld's former generals - none of them network military analysts - went public with devastating critiques of his wartime performance. Some called for his resignation.
On Friday, April 14, with what came to be called the "Generals'
Revolt" dominating headlines, Mr. Rumsfeld instructed aides to summon military analysts to a meeting with him early the next week, records show. When an aide urged a short delay to "give our big guys on the West Coast a little more time to buy a ticket and get here," Mr.
Rumsfeld's office insisted that "the boss" wanted the meeting fast "for impact on the current story."
That same day, Pentagon officials helped two Fox analysts, General McInerney and General Vallely, write an opinion article for The Wall Street Journal defending Mr. Rumsfeld.
"Starting to write it now," General Vallely wrote to the Pentagon that afternoon. "Any input for the article," he added a little later, "will be much appreciated." Mr. Rumsfeld's office quickly forwarded talking points and statistics to rebut the notion of a spreading revolt.
"Vallely is going to use the numbers," a Pentagon official reported that afternoon.
The standard secrecy notwit
a Pentagon official warned subordinates.
On Tuesday, April 18, some 17 analysts assembled at the Pentagon with Mr. Rumsfeld and General Pace, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
A transcript of that session, never before disclosed, shows a shared determination to marginalize war critics and revive public support for the war.
"I'm an old intel guy," said one analyst. (The transcript omits speakers' names.) "And I can sum all of this up, unfortunately, with one word. That is Psyops. Now most people may hear that and they think, `Oh my God, they're trying to brainwash.' "
"What are you, some kind of a nut?" Mr. Rumsfeld cut in, drawing laughter. "You don't believe in the Constitution?"
There was little discussion about the actual criticism pouring forth from Mr. Rumsfeld's former generals. Analysts argued that opposition to the war was rooted in perceptions fed by the news media, not reality. The administration's overall war strategy, they counseled, was "brilliant" and "very successful."
"Frankly," one participant said, "from a military point of view, the penalty, 2,400 brave Americans whom we lost, 3,000 in an hour and 15 minutes, is relative."
An analyst said at another
point: "This is a wider war. And whether we have democracy in
"Yeah," Mr. Rumsfeld said, taking notes.
But winning or not, they
bluntly warned, the administration was in grave political danger so long as
most Americans viewed
Much of the session was devoted to ways that Mr. Rumsfeld could reverse the "political tide." One analyst urged Mr. Rumsfeld to "just crush these people," and assured him that "most of the gentlemen at the table" would enthusiastically support him if he did.
"You are the leader," the analyst told Mr. Rumsfeld. "You are our guy."
At another point, an analyst
made a suggestion: "In one of your speeches you ought to say, `Everybody stop for a minute and imagine an
Even as they assured Mr. Rumsfeld that they stood ready to help in this public
relations offensive, the analysts sought guidance on what they should cite as
the next "milestone" that would, as one analyst put it, "keep
the American people focused on the idea that we're moving forward to a positive
end." They placed particular emphasis on the growing confrontation with
"When you said `long war,' you changed the psyche of the American people to expect this to be a generational event," an analyst said.
"And again, I'm not trying to tell you how to do your job…"
"Get in line," Mr. Rumsfeld interjected.
The meeting ended and Mr. Rumsfeld, appearing pleased and relaxed, took the entire group into a small study and showed off treasured keepsakes from his life, several analysts recalled.
Soon after, analysts hit the airwaves. The Omnitec monitoring reports, circulated to more than 80 officials, confirmed that analysts repeated many of the Pentagon's talking points: that Mr. Rumsfeld consulted "frequently and sufficiently" with his generals; that he was not "overly concerned" with the criticisms; that the meeting focused "on more important topics at hand," including the next milestone in Iraq, the formation of a new government.
Days later, Mr. Rumsfeld wrote a memorandum distilling their collective guidance into bullet points. Two were underlined:
"Focus on the Global
War on Terror - not simply
But if Mr. Rumsfeld found the session instructive, at least one participant, General Nash, the ABC analyst, was repulsed.
"I walked away from that session having total disrespect for my fellow commentators, with perhaps one or two exceptions," he said.
View From the Networks
Two weeks ago General Petraeus took time out from testifying before Congress
Mr. Garrett, the Fox analyst and Patton Boggs lobbyist, said he told General Petraeus during the call to "keep up the great work."
"Hey," Mr. Garrett said in an interview, "anything we can do to help."
For the moment, though, because of heavy election coverage and general war fatigue, military analysts are not getting nearly as much TV time, and the networks have trimmed their rosters of analysts. The conference call with General Petraeus, for example, produced little in the way of immediate coverage.
Still, almost weekly the Pentagon continues to conduct briefings with selected military analysts. Many analysts said network officials were only dimly aware of these interactions. The networks, they said, have little grasp of how often they meet with senior officials, or what is discussed.
"I don't think NBC was even aware we were participating," said Rick Francona, a longtime military analyst for the network.
Some networks publish biographies on their Web sites that describe their analysts' military backgrounds and, in some cases, give at least limited information about their business ties. But many analysts also said the networks asked few questions about their outside business interests, the nature of their work or the potential for that work to create conflicts of interest. "None of that ever happened," said Mr.
Allard, an NBC analyst until 2006.
"The worst conflict of interest was no interest."
Mr. Allard and other
analysts said their network handlers also raised no objections when the Defense
Department began paying their commercial airfare for Pentagon-sponsored trips
"We have clear policies in place to assure that the people who appear on our air have been appropriately vetted and that nothing in their profile would lead to even a perception of a conflict of interest."
Jeffrey W. Schneider, a spokesman for ABC, said that while the network's military consultants were not held to the same ethical rules as its full-time journalists, they were expected to keep the network informed about any outside business entanglements. "We make it clear to them we expect them to keep us closely apprised," he said.
A spokeswoman for Fox
CNN requires its military analysts to disclose in writing all outside sources of income. But like the other networks, it does not provide its military analysts with the kind of written, specific ethical guidelines it gives its full-time employees for avoiding real or apparent conflicts of interest.
Yet even where controls exist, they have sometimes proven porous.
CNN, for example, said it
was unaware for nearly three years that one of its main military analysts,
General Marks, was deeply involved in the business of seeking government
contracts, including contracts related to
General Marks was hired by CNN in 2004, about the time he took a management position at McNeil Technologies, where his job was to pursue military and intelligence contracts. As required, General Marks disclosed that he received income from McNeil Technologies. But the disclosure form did not require him to describe what his job entailed, and CNN acknowledges it failed to do additional vetting.
"We did not ask Mr. Marks the follow-up questions we should have," CNN said in a written statement.
In an interview, General Marks said it was no secret at CNN that his job at McNeil Technologies was about winning contracts. "I mean, that's what McNeil does," he said.
CNN, however, said it did not know the nature of McNeil's military business or what General Marks did for the company. If he was bidding on Pentagon contracts, CNN said, that should have disqualified him from being a military analyst for the network. But in the summer and fall of 2006, even as he was regularly asked to comment on conditions in Iraq, General Marks was working intensively on bidding for a $4.6 billion contract to provide thousands of translators to United States forces in Iraq. In fact, General Marks was made president of the McNeil spin-off that won the huge contract in December 2006.
General Marks said his work on the contract did not affect his commentary on CNN. "I've got zero challenge separating myself from a business interest," he said.
But CNN said it had no idea
about his role in the contract until July 2007, when it reviewed his most
recent disclosure form, submitted mont
"We saw the extent of his dealings and determined at that time we should end our relationship with him," CNN said.
© 2008 The New York Times