Levin Rachets Up Pressure on the Pentagon Puppets

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Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) has asked Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to investigate the claims of a recent New York Times report that found retired military officers have been used as Pentagon puppets in the media.

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 Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

In a letter to Gates, Levin wrote, “While the media clearly have their own shortfalls for paying people to provide ‘independent’ analysis when they have such real and apparent conflicts, that doesn’t excuse the Department’s behavior in giving both special treatment and valuable access to analysts who provide commentary in favor of DoD’s strategy, while not offering similar access to some other analysts and cutting off access to others who didn’t deliver as expected.”

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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