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Government Curries Favor With Military News Analysts

The Pentagon may influence the analysis of some retired military personnel who appear on television news programs, the New York Times recently reported. Media insiders discuss the details of this murky world of defense companies, the current administration and the war in Iraq.

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  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Now a look at the role of military analysts on TV and in the Pentagon. Judy Woodruff has our story.

  • LESTER HOLT, NBC Anchor:

    We turn to retired Army Colonel Ken Allard in "The War Room" — Colonel?

    COL. KEN ALLARD (Ret.), Former MSNBC Military Analyst: Lester, good evening.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Since the months leading up to the start of the Iraq war in March 2003, dozens of retired military officers served as analysts on cable and network television.

  • FORMER MILITARY ANALYST:

    We've got to have Umm Qasr to bring the humanitarian goods in. We've seen the problem about Al Nasiriyah, the fighting with the Marines…

    MAJ. GEN. PAUL VALLELY (Ret.), U.S. Army: In this case, we're moving to Baghdad, Bill, and we're going to remove that regime very shortly.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    These former generals and colonels have been a mainstay of commentary and analysis. And the networks paid them for their appearances.

    Now, a lengthy New York Times investigation, published on Sunday, revealed the Pentagon targeted many of these analysts as part of an information apparatus to generate favorable news coverage of the administration's wartime performance.

    Pentagon officials organized hundreds of private meetings with senior military leaders and the military analysts. They included talks with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

    According to the Times, analysts were also taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated.

    It was also disclosed that most of the analysts have ties to military contractors.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    And we go again now to our retired colonels…

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    For the record, the NewsHour briefly put five military analysts on a retainer in 2003, but none of them attended Pentagon briefings while on retainer to the NewsHour.

    In the Times report, Defense Department Spokesman Bryan Whitman defended the program and said, "The intent and purpose of this is nothing other than an earnest attempt to inform the American people."

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