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House Passes Amendment Calling for an Investigation of the Pentagon's "Information Dominance" Program

May 22, 2008

Last month, the New York Times published an article outlining how the Pentagon set up private briefings for a network of “military experts,” who often held financial stakes dependent on continued Pentagon access, in order to achieve “information dominance” in the American media. As Chairman Skelton stated in April, “it all comes down to trust and credibility. And it would be a dangerous thing for the American people to lose trust in the Pentagon, in our retired officer corps, and in the press, each of which has a critical role to play in preserving our nation's freedoms.”

Tonight, the House passed an amendment introduced by Reps. Hodes, DeFazio, and DeLauro to the Defense Authorization Act for FY2009 requiring that “not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Inspector General of the Department of Defense and the Comptroller General of the United States shall each conduct a study of, and submit to the Congress a report on, the extent to which the Department of Defense has violated the prohibition on propaganda” and defines propaganda as “any form of communication in support of national objectives designed to influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes, or behavior of the people of the United States in order to benefit the sponsor, either directly or indirectly.”

On passage of the amendment, Speaker Pelosi said:

In his farewell address, President Dwight D. Eisenhower stated that “only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.” The Pentagon media influence program reported by the New York Times struck at the heart of this principle — not only denying citizens the knowledge they deserve but also using the media to manipulate public opinion, and as a consequence, damaging our democracy.

The President and members of his Administration led the country to war on the basis of unproven assertions, later confirmed to be false, and have continued to misrepresent the truth on the ground. The Hodes-DeFazio-DeLauro Amendment which prohibits the Department of Defense from using funds for propaganda purposes and initiates a GAO and IG investigative report into past use of propaganda, is a vital step toward restoring the public's faith in information stemming from the Pentagon.

Rep. Hodes:

Rep. Hodes:“The American people were spun by Bush Administration “message multipliers.” They were fed Administration talking points, believing they were getting independent military analysis. Days after, the Pentagon suspended the program. The news outlets have been remarkably silent. The Department of Defense Inspector General has begun an internal review of the program but given the possibility as well as decision makers in this Congress were misled about the war in Iraq, I believe it is absolutely critical that a public investigation happen that is transparent to this body as well as to the American people. Congress cannot allow an Administration to manipulate the public on false propaganda on matters of war and national security.”

Chairman Skelton:

Chairman Skelton:“The fact that there were a good number of former military officers that were given special access, many of whom had conflicts of interest in various defense businesses and they are considered military television analysts – you see people in the military are trusted by Americans. People who are retired military are trusted by Americans. And what’s interesting is that this special group had special access to information in the Pentagon and obviously used that in their analysis…what’s real interesting is the fact that – their special access was canceled.”

Rep. DeFazio:

Rep. DeFazio:“We have prohibited propaganda directed at the people of the United States using taxpayer dollars by the Pentagon. What happened here was a violation of that law and that anybody would stand here on this floor and say that that law, which we have had in place for more than 50 years, should be repealed or undermined by one narrow-minded Administration or Vice President Cheney or anyone else who wants to manipulate intelligence to the Congress and American people to a war that should not have been initiated. An informed and free press is critical to our system of government to have informed decision makers here. Maybe you don’t want to hear the truth, but I do.”

Rep. DeLauro:

Rep. DeLauro:“This is propaganda, it is a military and industrial complex in which military analysts, many who have ties with the contractors making money off of the war and parroting DOD talking points on the air to mislead the American public and the TV networks did nothing to prevent it. And I would just tell my colleagues that if you voted for the DOD Appropriations Bill last year, you voted to prohibit this. You’ve done it since 2002. Donald Rumsfeld met with these guys 18 times, told them what to say, and then, my friends, DOD hired a company to track their remarks on the TV networks.”