The Pentagon document dump on its propaganda program reveals this interesting insight as to how the Defense Department worked with conservative allies to manipulate the media.
In a Feb. 16, 2006 email exchange, Pentagon media staffers discussed coordinating with the Heritage Foundation to identify someone to speak about detainee treatment at Gitmo. An anonymous employee suggested retired Army Sergeant Major Steve Short because “he seems to be on message and very articulate.”
Pentagon public affairs official Allison Barber responded by warning that the DoD could not officially “endorse” one particular speaker over another. “Important to remember that heritage can invite anyone to present and that we don’t really have an opinion on anyone,” Barber wrote.
The anonymous author then suggested he or she might lie and pretend not to have ever heard of Short:
Just two weeks after this email exchange — on March 1, 2006 — Short was invited by Heritage to participate on a panel entitled “GITMO: What You Read Vs. What You See.” And he was indeed “on message”:
The next day, UPI reported Short’s comments:
Jennifer Daskal, advocacy director for U.S. programs at Human Rights Watch, endorsed these charges. “Allegations of torture and abuse are pervasive,” she said.
However, Heritage speakers with firsthand experience of Guantanamo dismissed all claims of mistreatment. According to Steve Short, a retired Command Sergeant Major with the U.S. Army, “I can honestly say that when taking part in briefings, I never heard anything that indicated any inappropriate action was being taken against detainees.”
Short emphasized the extensive training received by military personnel running the base. U.S. soldiers “cared for detainees in much the same way that they would like to be cared for if the situation were reversed,” he said.
For the Pentagon propaganda machine — a mission accomplished.