The DOD’s just-released report on its TV pundit hiring program finds that the department did not violate prohibitions on using public finds for propaganda by ceding the networks with retired military analysts (RMAs).
Here’s the key passage:
The Comptroller General has interpreted the publicity and propaganda riders to prohibit three types of activities–self-aggrandizement or puffery, partisanship, and covert communications. Applying these standards, we found the evidence insufficient to conclude that RMA outreach activities were improper. Further, we found insufficient basis to conclude that OASD(PA) conceived of or undertook a disciplined effort to assemble a contingent of influential RMAs who could be depended on to comment favorably on DoD programs.
With regard to RMAs who had ties to military contractors, extensive searches found no instance where such RMAs used information or contacts obtained as a result of the OASD(PA) outreach program to achieve a competitive advantage for their company.
But it also admits at the end that the report wasn’t informed by much information from the networks themselves:
We requested interviews with the official responsible for the news divisions at five networks: ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, and NBC. All declined our request for an interview. ABC, CNN, and FOX provided formal written responses to our inquiry. NBC forwarded copies of their responses to Congresswoman DeLauro and the New York Times. CBS provided “off the record” remarks.
Given that the networks appear to be just as culpable as DOD here, if not more so, that seems like a serious flaw.