Earlier this month, the Pentagon released a document dump in response to the New York Times’s expose on its military analyst program. The documents raise questions about White House involvement in the program, which it previously denied.
For example, a March 16, 2006 e-mail from a Pentagon staffer said he or she was “hoping to have Hadley brief these guys [military analysts] next week,” referring to National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. Pentagon official Dallas Lawrence added, “Id love to see if we ocould get them in with potus as well. (I think that was submitted to karl and company…last week),” suggesting involvement in the program from then-Bush adviser Karl Rove.
In today’s White House briefing, a reporter asked spokesperson Scott Stanzel about these e-mails and meetings. Without denying White House involvement, Stanzel defended the program, saying it is the equivalent of giving information to someone who writes for a “liberal blog”:
But it’s not unusual for administration officials to brief people who are talking about our plans and our policies… just like I’m standing here answering your question and you go out on your liberal blog and talk about, you know, the way that you see things, we brief people who talk about the president’s policies.
As the reporter noted, however, the White House’s meetings with Pentagon officials and military analysts were “kept secret.” In contrast, the White House press briefings where the “liberal” reporter receives his information are available on cable television. “You can talk to the Defense Department. It was their program,” said Stanzel when asked why the meetings were not public.
Stanzel also ignored the fact that the military analysts often had “ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess.” A Fox analyst, for example, was “seeking contracts worth tens of millions” of dollars while giving on-air assessments of the Iraq war. Liberal bloggers, on the other hand, generally do not have multi-million dollar government contracts at stake in their writing.
QUESTION: The White House has denied that it knew about the Pentagon program that used TV military analysts…
STANZEL: We’ve been through this before. Do you have a question?
QUESTION: Yes, there’s something new.
Last week e-mails surfaced that showed that Pentagon officials, including Donald Rumsfeld, communicated with White House officials, including Karl Rove and Stephen Hadley, about the program. One e- mail, written by a Pentagon official, mentions that Rove was approached about arranging a meeting between the military analysts and the president. My question…
STANZEL: And your question is?
STANZEL: Well, the idea that people in the administration would brief people who were talking to reporters about our programs and our policies doesn’t seem like to be that far-fetched of an idea to me.
QUESTION: Secret, though.
STANZEL: So in terms of the e-mails, I haven’t been monitoring the staff e-mails here, so I can’t tell you what their conversations were like.
But it’s not unusual for administration officials to brief people who are talking about our plans and our policies, much like I’m standing here today briefing all of you…
QUESTION: Right, why was the program…
STANZEL: … just like I’m standing here answering your question and you go out on your liberal blog and talk about, you know, the way that you see things, we brief people who talk about the president’s policies.
QUESTION: Why was the program kept secret?
STANZEL: You can talk to the Defense Department. It was their program, which they’ve discontinued.
QUESTION: Who was in charge…
QUESTION: … of the White House?
RawStory’s Eric Brewer, the reporter who asked the question, writes his account of the exchange with Stanzel here.