CMD Cracks Open the Pentagon Propaganda Documents

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Political Challenges, Propaganda and Disinformation

From the Center for Media and Democracy, August 12, 2008

Dear Friend of CMD:

Today, we struck a blow against propaganda, and for transparency and accountability.

pentagon-pundits-200.jpgIn early 2002, the Pentagon began cultivating retired military officers who frequently serve as media commentators to help make the case for invading Iraq. The pundit program continued — promoting the Bush administration’s stance on the Guantanamo Bay detention center, warrantless wiretapping and other controversial issues — until New York Times reporter David Barstow exposed its existence in April 2008.

Thanks to Blake Hall of our IT staff and senior researcher Diane Farsetta, now you and anyone with web access can search the massive cache of military documents detailing the Pentagon’s illegal attempts to shape U.S. public opinion. The New York Times first obtained the documents. After the Times reported on the covert pundit program, the Pentagon posted the documents online in a desperate attempt at damage control. But the documents weren’t text searchable, making systematic analysis of this important information nearly impossible.

But we’ve now cracked the Pentagon’s code and made the 8,000 pages of Pentagon documents fully text searchable, posting them all on our SourceWatch website, for journalists, researchers and concerned citizens.

The Pentagon documents reveal the worst of the U.S. military-industrial-media complex. As pundits, the retired military officers were paid to give supposedly independent analyses of military and security issues to news audiences. The emails, briefing notes and other internal correspondence revealed in the Pentagon documents make clear how Defense Department officials viewed the pundits – as “surrogates” and “message force multipliers.”

Where is the outrage over this massive propaganda campaign? U.S. mainstream media – the same outlets that paid, and sometimes still feature, the Pentagon’s pundits – have failed to report on this issue. One of very few national television shows to report on the Pentagon pundit program was PBS’s “NewsHour,” which featured a debate between CMD executive director John Stauber and Robert Zelnick, a former ABC Pentagon correspondent who defended the propaganda program and criticized the New York Times!

Governments should obey the law. The news media should expose, not partner with, illegal government propaganda campaigns. When both fail, it’s left to watchdogs like we here at CMD to sound the alarm and fight for all of our rights to clean government and accurate, factual journalism.

If you appreciate CMDs work in widening and informing public debates, please make a generous contribution today by going to or by sending a check to the address below.

We’re proud of this important work, and happy to help elevate the scrutiny, criticism and condemnation that this illegal propaganda campaign has received. Thanks to your support we’ve made the Pentagon more transparent to citizens like you.


The staff of the Center for Media and Democracy

P.S. Dig into the documents yourself! They are here.