Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Analyst-Gate Expected

Is public diplomacy an information operation? It would seem some folks at Pentagon OSD thought so. The New York Times piece on how ex-military analysts were briefed by Pentagon in the period before the Iraq war should perhaps come as little surprise. But neither should the reaction. It isn't rocket science: Nobody likes to get fooled. And deliberate attempts at doing so will only undermine the credibility of the fooler - especially among those where there were the most to gain. Here from AFP:
The Pentagon has suspended a public affairs program that has come under fire for using retired military "media analysts" as surrogates to get out its messages on the Iraq war, a spokesman confirmed Monday. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the program was undergoing an internal review following criticism that the retired officers offered Pentagon talking points as their own during the run-up to the Iraq invasion and thereafter.

"It's temporarily suspended so we can take at look at some of the concerns," said Whitman. Teleconferences and briefings for the military analysts have been halted pending the review, which is being conducted by the Pentagon's public affairs office, he said. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has not directly addressed the issue since the New York Times carried a lengthy report on the program April 20, except to say that the analysts should make clear they were speaking only for themselves.

The New York Times found that the Pentagon laid on special briefings and conference calls for the retired officers, many of whom then repeated the talking points as military experts on television news shows. The Times also found that many of the media analysts also worked as consultants or served on the boards of defense contracting companies, but that those ties often went undisclosed to the public.

Moreover, the whole thing should be a slap oin the wrist for the media whose interest in colorful commentators sometimes exceeds their willingness to research their affiliations. The Onion caught that part brillantly: "Actual Expert Too Boring for TV".

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