Politics

Perino Defends Pentagon’s Propaganda Campaign: ‘It’s Absolutely Appropriate To Provide Information’

On April 20, The New York Times published an expose revealing the Pentagon’s secret program using retired military analysts to “generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance.” Since that time, the media have been disappointingly silent on the story and their roles in the Pentagon’s program.

Today, a reporter finally asked White House spokeswoman Dana Perino about the Pentagon’s propaganda. In response, Perino attempted to defend the program:

But I would say that one of the things that we try to do in the administration is get information out to a variety of people so that everybody else can call them and ask their opinion about something. And I don’t think that that should be against the law. And I think that it’s absolutely appropriate to provide information to people who are seeking it and are going to be providing their opinions on it.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that all of those military analysts ever agreed with the administration. I think you can go back and look and think that a lot of their analysis was pretty tough on the administration. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t talk to people.

Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2008/04/ppperino.320.240.flv]

The Bush administration, however, wasn’t a passive provider simply giving information to analysts who were “seeking it.” As the NYT reported, the Pentagon proactively pulled these retired military officers — many of whom had business with the government — into private briefings, provided with them classified information, and pushed administration talking points.

Even though a reporter finally forced Perino to address this issue today, a questioner in a Washington Post chat today pointed out that the regular White House press corps may still be sleeping on the job:

It also is worth noting that this was asked by someone who appeared not to be a regular in the room (perhaps a blogger) and only got to ask his question because Lester Kinsolving asked Dana why she wouldn’t call on the guy.

Transcript:

QUESTION: The New York Times has reported that over the last —

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: — over the last six years the Pentagon conducted a secret operation designed to sell the war in Iraq and the war on terror to the American people. It recruited more than 75 ex-military officers, many with financial ties to the defense industry, provided them with talking points and an extraordinary degree of access not available to ordinary members of the press, including meetings with the secretary of defense, and it got them hired as supposedly independent military analysts by every U.S. television network.

One of its participants described the —

PERINO: Do you have a question?

QUESTION: One of its participants described the program as psyops on steroids and others said that —

PERINO: This your opinion?

QUESTION: — if they — I’m describing the program.

PERINO: What’s your question?

QUESTION: Others said that if they departed from the Pentagon’s talking points their access was cut off.

And my question is, did the White House know about and approve of this operation?

PERINO: Look, I didn’t know — look, I think that you guys should take a step back and look at this — look, DOD’s made a decision: They’ve decided to stop this program.

But I would say that one of the things that we try to do in the administration is get information out to a variety of people so that everybody else can call them and ask their opinion about something. And I don’t think that that should be against the law. And I think that it’s absolutely appropriate to provide information to people who are seeking it and are going to be providing their opinions on it.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that all of those military analysts ever agreed with the administration. I think you can go back and look and think that a lot of their analysis was pretty tough on the administration. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t talk to people.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Did the White House know about the operation?

UPDATE

The question was asked by Raw Story reporter Eric Brewer.

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