Investigating the Pentagon's pundits

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On April 20, the New York Times reported on the Pentagon military analyst program, a concerted effort by the U.S. Defense Department to cultivate retired military officers as "message force multipliers" or "surrogates" spouting Bush administration talking points on Iraq and other hot-button issues. [1]

Shortly afterwards, the Pentagon publicly posted the documents obtained by the New York Times. However, the documents were formatted in such a way that text searches could not be performed on them. This made systematic analysis of the information nearly impossible.

The Center for Media and Democracy has converted the documents, so that they can be searched by keyword. The searchable documents are now available via SourceWatch, at:

and also via Scribd.com. Note: The easiest way to search for a term in all the Pentagon pundit documents is to go to:

  • this page on Scribd.com and use the "Search within the Pentagon pundit documents Group" option in the left sidebar.

There's 8,000 pages of Pentagon emails, talking points, slides and other information. Help us identify and analyze what's in the Pentagon pundit documents!

New citizen journalism ask: What's in the Pentagon pundit docs?

Very few of the 8,000 pages of Pentagon pundit documents have been reported or on analyzed. Now that the documents can be searched by keyword, it's easy to pull out information on particular people, groups or issues.

Go to this page on Scribd.com' and use the "Search within the Pentagon pundit documents Group" option in the left sidebar to search all of the Pentagon pundit documents at once.

Ideas for searches

  • Search for "Afghanistan," "Guantanamo Bay" or "wiretapping" to see how the program was used to spin media coverage of those or other issues.
  • Search for "Victoria Clarke" (or "Torie Clarke"), "John McCain" or "John Murtha" to see how they or other prominent officials involved in military matters interacted with (and are seen by) the Pentagon's PR people.
  • Search for "Fox News," "NBC" or "PBS" to see how the program interacted with these or other media outlets.

Research tips

  • Putting your search term in quotes searches for the exact phrase (e.g., "Guantanamo Bay"). Entering your search term without quotes looks for each word in the document(s), regardless of their order.
  • Some of the most interesting Pentagon documents are informal communications, like emails. Try searching for informal names ("Torie" in addition to "Victoria") or acronyms that may be used in informal communications.
  • If you find an interesting passage in the Pentagon documents, look to see when it's from. Comparing the Pentagon's internal discussions with its external statements (which can be found here) or with news and political developments (using, for example, Google News) can be very informative.
  • If a passage you're interested in involves a certain pundit, don't forget to look up his background (see below; e.g., is he a lobbyist or associated with a think tank?). If you find information not currently on SourceWatch, please add it, with references.

Please share your research with others, via SourceWatch!

Please add noteworthy information to the SourceWatch article on the Pentagon military analyst program or other relevant articles, with links or full references pointing back to the specific Pentagon documents cited. If you write up your findings elsewhere, please list your piece on SourceWatch, under "External links: Articles" on the Pentagon military analyst program page, and drop us a line at editorATprwatch.org (replace "AT" with "@"). Thanks!

Earlier citizen journalism ask: Who are the pundits?

At present, few of those involved in the Pentagon's scheme are the subject of a detailed profile anywhere on the Internet. With your help, SourceWatch could have the best set of profiles on those involved. This information will help journalists, citizens and others better understand the intersection between the pundits and the Pentagon.

The following is a list of known program participants, followed by suggestions on how to research them. Please add any information that you find (specifying your sources) to the article on that person.

Participants

From the New York Times story and associated documents: [1][2]

Points to check and research tips

What did he say, on what news programs?

Use Internet and news search engines (for example, Google News) to search for each person's name. You'll avoid false negatives by enclosing the name in quotes, with and without the middle initial. For example, search for:

"Robert S. Bevelacqua" OR "Robert Bevelacqua"

If you get too many hits, narrow down your search by including terms we know the Pentagon fed its pundits talking points on, such as Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and the government's wiretap surveillance program. For example, search for:

"Montgomery Meigs" AND Iraq
"Montgomery Meigs" AND Guantanamo
"Montgomery Meigs" AND wiretap

Does he also lobby on behalf of defense contractors?

The U.S. Senate has an online database of lobbying registration forms.

  1. Go to sopr.senate.gov
  2. Click "lobbyist name" as your search option (and push the "submit" button)
  3. On the next screen, enter the person's name as "last name, first name" (for example, "McCausland, Jeff")
  4. If any lobbying reports are found, simply click on that row in the results table to open the report in a separate browser window
    • Note: Lobbying registration forms are generally either marked "registration" (the form filed to announce the beginning of a lobbying contract), "mid-year report" (detailing lobbying in the first six months of the calendar year), or "year-end report" (detailing lobbying in the last six months of the calendar year).
    • If you find lobbying reports for a person, please enter on their SourceWatch profile:
      • which firm they're doing the lobbying with (Field #1: Registrant name)
      • how much money was spent on the lobbying (Field #12: Income or expenses - lobbying firms)
      • any details of the contract -- specific lobbying issues (Field #16), agencies contacted (Field #17)

Other lobbying databases:

  • The Center for Public Integrity's LobbyWatch -- search by lobbyist
  • The Justice Department's Foreign Agent Registration Act database -- for lobbying contracts with overseas companies or foreign governments; here, "registrant name" is the lobbying firm, while "short form name" is the individual lobbyist's name (enter as last name, first name)

Is he associated with think tanks or other groups?

Basic biographical profiles have been started on some of those in the list above but others need details added. With all of them, there is material from other biographical notes, media releases and articles they have written that is worth incorporating. If he's a regular commentator for a media outlet, that outlet's website may have a profile on him as well as an archive of links to interviews.

What did his military service entail?

Again, look for biographical notes, or search military websites for his name. You can restrict Google searches to a single website by searching for:

"Carlton A. Sherwood" site: defenselink.mil

SourceWatch resources

External links

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 David Barstow, "Behind Analysts, the Pentagon’s Hidden Hand," New York Times, April 20, 2008.
  2. "Joint Staff E-mails Redacted," Department of Defense, documents and files released to New York Times regarding the Pentagon's military analyst program.