LA Times: Pentagon was in on planted Iraqi press stories
By Lee Russ
Tuesday, December 20, 2005 at 08:31 AM
Remember the solemn assurances from the military brass and their Pentagon bosses that the pro-American stories planted in the Iraqi press by the Lincoln Group were just a misunderstanding? That, in fact, maybe Lincoln had breached their contract with the military, maybe they would be sued or something?
Don't hold your breath waiting for the military to sue Lincoln, if there's any truth to an LA Times story this past Sunday.Planted PR Stories Not News to Military
U.S. officials in Iraq knew that a contractor was paying local papers. Discretion was the key.
By Mark Mazzetti and Kevin Sack
Times Staff Writer
December 18, 2005
WASHINGTON -- U.S. military officials in Iraq were fully aware that a Pentagon contractor regularly paid Iraqi newspapers to publish positive stories about the war, and made it clear that none of the stories should be traced to the United States, according to several current and former employees of Lincoln Group, the Washington-based contractor.
In contrast to assertions by military officials in Baghdad and Washington, interviews and Lincoln Group documents show that the information campaign waged over the last year was designed to cloak any connection to the U.S. military.
"In clandestine parlance, Lincoln Group was a 'cutout' -- a third party -- that would provide the military with plausible deniability," said a former Lincoln Group employee who worked on the operation. "To attribute products to [the military] would defeat the entire purpose. Hence, no product by Lincoln Group ever said 'Made in the U.S.A.' "
A number of workers who carried out Lincoln Group's offensive, including a $20-million two-month contract to influence public opinion in Iraq's restive Al Anbar province, describe a campaign that was unnecessarily costly, poorly run and largely ineffective at improving America's image in Iraq. The current and former employees spoke on condition of anonymity because of confidentiality restrictions.
"In my own estimation, this stuff has absolutely no effect, and it's a total waste of money," said another former employee, echoing the sentiments of several colleagues. "Every Iraqi can read right through it."
Disclosures that the military used a private firm to plant stories written by U.S. troops in Iraqi newspapers have drawn widespread criticism.
The Pentagon has ordered an investigation, led by Navy Rear Adm. Scott Van Buskirk. Army Gen. George W. Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said Friday that he expected a report from Van Buskirk "in a week or so." Casey said that a preliminary assessment made shortly after the military's information operations campaign was revealed in a Times article last month concluded that the Army was "operating within our authorities and the appropriate legal procedures."
Military officials initially distanced themselves from Lincoln Group's activities, suggesting the company may have violated its contract when it masked the origin of stories placed in the Iraqi press.
On Dec. 2, Pentagon officials told Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va.) that all of the published materials were supposed to be identified as originating with the U.S. military but that identification was occasionally omitted by accident.
George Bush is supposedly convinced that he will be vindicated by history. I tend to disagree. From what I've seen in 5 years of a government run by this crowd, methinks they will be known as "the gang that couldn't steal straight or lie straight."