NYT: Heal Thyself from Pentagon Spin and Conflicts of Interest

04/23/2008 06:20 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The New York Times reported Sunday that over 75 retired US military officers who have been frequent media commentators are being used to disseminate administration talking points on the war in Iraq and the "war on terror" in an effort to manipulate US public opinion.

(As Representative Peter De Fazio notes in a letter to his colleagues -- which your Representative should be urged to sign -- the use of defense dollars for unauthorized domestic propaganda appears to have violated an explicit Congressional prohibition.)

Many of these "analysts" have serious conflicts of interest, since they work on behalf of defense companies seeking contracts from the Pentagon running into the billions of dollars. Yet, US television networks have portrayed them as independent commentators and failed even to reveal these conflicts of interest.

While the Times report focused on TV stations, newspapers including the New York Times have also cited or published op-eds from these retired officers. Just Foreign Policy is asking the New York Times, as a follow-up to their excellent report, to do a public review of their past use of these retired officers and to fully disclose conflicts of interest when citing or publishing retired officers as military analysts in the future.

The Times article reveals that many of these commentators did not share their private doubts over the war due to a well-founded fear that a failure to echo the Pentagon's line would cut off their access to top leaders. The analysts were closely monitored by the Pentagon, and one analyst who criticized the Pentagon in an appearance was then denied access.

News media have a responsibility to warn their audience when a commentator has an economic interest in the issue they discuss -- especially when that conflict of interest leads them to repeat government propaganda supporting war.

The New York Times sets a standard for much of the media. Join us in asking them to take the next step, following this well-done investigation, and implement a policy identifying economic links to the Pentagon of any retired officer cited or published in their newspaper as an analyst on policy issues.