Analyzing the Analysts: Mostly Gone (From the Airwaves), But Not Forgotten

By Chris Ariens 

In tomorrow’s NYTimes you’ll find a 7,500 word “examination” by David Barstow on the dozens of retired Generals and Colonels who take to the cable and broadcast airwaves to inform Americans as “military analysts”. Barstow also writes about the “Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage.” The Times sued the Defense Department to gain access to 8,000 pages of documents as the basis for their story.

The documents refer to the analysts as “message force multipliers” who could be counted on to deliver administration “themes and messages.” One analyst even offered the Pentagon tips on how to outmaneuver the “the Chris Matthewses and the Wolf Blitzers of the world.”

Former MSNBC military analyst Ken Allard is among several TV talking heads interviewed for the story. “I felt we’d been hosed,” Allard said as conditions deteriorated in Iraq. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, said it is “a bit incredible” to think retired military officers could be “wound up” and turned into “puppets of the Defense Department.” Another, former FNC analyst Gen. Paul Vallely told The Times, “I saw immediately in 2003 that things were going south,” But on the air, at the time, Vallely told Alan Colmes, “You can’t believe the progress.” He predicted the insurgency would be “down to a few numbers” within months.

Barstow also evaluates whether the military analysts, many of whom worked for companies trying to gain contracts, were given special DOD access for their businesses. “Not related at all,” said CNN analyst Gen. Donald Shepperd. He pointed out that many in the Pentagon held CNN “in the lowest esteem.”

• How the networks deal with their military analysts’ outside business dealings, after the jump…

• CBS News declined to comment on what it knew about its military analysts’ business affiliations.

• NBC News issued a short statement: “We have clear policies in place to assure that the people who appear on our air have been appropriately vetted and that nothing in their profile would lead to even a perception of a conflict of interest.”

• ABC News’ Jeffrey Schneider said that while the network’s military consultants were not held to the same ethical rules as its full-time journalists, they were expected to keep the network informed about any outside business entanglements.

• Fox News executives “refused to participate” in the article.

• CNN requires its military analysts to disclose in writing all outside sources of income. But like the other networks, it does not provide its military analysts with the kind of written, specific ethical guidelines it gives its full-time employees.