Pentagon Suspends Program for Military 'Media Analysts'
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.
The only time Gates has met with the military media analysts was in March 2007, Whitman said, revising his earlier recollection that the secretary met with them in September.
Whitman said the program was designed to provide information to the US public "by any number of means, the media being one of them -- analytical assessments and discussions on network television is another."
He said the Pentagon also interacted with bloggers, corporate leaders and education leaders as part of the effort to reach out to the public.
© 2008 Agence France Presse