Mind Games: CJR on the Military’s Media Manipulation

Some context for the NYT’s excellent investigation

The New York Times’s 7,600-word piece on the secret Pentagon campaign to get retired military officers onto the leading television news channels as analysts to defend the Bush administration’s Iraq policy—“an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse”—is the result of painstaking research and a great deal of tenacity. As its author, David Barstow, notes in a “Talk to the Newsroom” Q&A published this morning,

This article would have come sooner, but it took us two years to wrestle 8,000 pages of documents out of the Defense Department that described its interactions with network military analysts. We pushed as hard as we could, but the Defense Department refused to produce many categories of documents in response to our requests under the federal Freedom of Information Act. We ultimately sued in federal court, yet even then the Pentagon failed to meet several court-ordered deadlines for producing documents. Last week, the judge overseeing our lawsuit threatened the Defense Department with sanctions if it continues to defy his deadlines for producing additional records.

Barstow and his colleagues are to be commended for their work, and we look forward to equally rigorous follow-up reporting from the Times and other outlets. In the meantime, in light of Barstow’s investigation, we point you to Daniel Schulman’s piece from the May/June 2006 issue of CJR, which explores the broader military effort to use the press to influence public perception of the Iraq war.

Read Daniel Schulman’s “Mind Games”

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The Editors are the staffers of Columbia Journalism Review.