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FCC to investigate Pentagon-funded information campaign

Staff Report • Oct 11, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Congressional Quarterly is reporting that the Federal Communications Commission confirmed it has launched a probe to address congressional questions about a Pentagon program viewed by some lawmakers as propaganda. The FCC is looking into whether TV networks and certain on-air analysts broke the law by failing to disclose to viewers that the apparently independent analysts were in fact part of a Pentagon-funded information campaign, a spokesman for the commission said. "What I can confirm is that the enforcement bureau at the FCC is looking into this matter, and I can confirm that they have sent letters in connection with it, seeking information," the spokesman said late Tuesday, without elaborating on when the inquiry began or who its targets are. Separately, President Bush is expected to sign within days a defense authorization bill (S 3001) that would require that the Pentagon's Inspector General report to Congress within 90 days of the bill's enactment on the findings of the IG's own probe into the matter, which was announced in April. The defense bill also would require that the Government Accountability Office issue within 120 days a legal opinion as to whether the Defense Department violated statutory bans on the use of its funds for propaganda. And the measure would continue to ban such activities. The issue came to light after the New York Times disclosed in April the existence of a Pentagon program to use retired military officers as "message force multipliers" or "surrogates"-- seemingly autonomous experts who could trumpet administration talking points about subjects such as the Iraq War or the treatment of detainees in the "war on terror." Many of the analysts were beholden to the Pentagon for contracts, the story said, and the Defense Department sometimes covered their expenses. According to the report, the analysts' access to senior officials was a function of the degree to which their comments were friendly to the administration's views. CLICK HERE for the full report.

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