Investigate the Pentagon Pundit Program

{cross-posted at Daily Kos}

Like me, I know you'll be following the election returns today - but it's imperative that we not lose focus on some of the issues in play that may be obscured by the election - and I can tell you that if you're watching the returns on television news, there's one story you're almost guaranteed not to see tonight.

It's now been two weeks since the New York Times published their story on the Pentagon Pundits.

I wanted to call out the cavalry here because we still don't know exactly what was going on and exactly what steps were taken to try to shape the news. You can help make sure we find out.

Just to recap, if you didn't catch the original story, the Times described a program to "cultivate" the military analysts you see on so many news programs.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration's wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air. [...]

Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse -- an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.

You know, the first thing I thought of when I heard this story was General Batiste getting put on ice last year when he had the guts to speak up about the need to change course and start bringing our troops home from Iraq. I spoke out then to defend General Batiste's right to say that, but he lost his job as a military analyst.

And now we know the existence of this covert program in the Pentagon designed to spread pro-Administration messages into our newscasts. But there's been - outside of PBS - virtually no coverage of this at all on television news. Media Matters - which has been really dogged in covering these kinds of issues online, they're a great organization - reported on Friday:

Continuing their silence, the major broadcast networks and cable news networks all reportedly declined to discuss the April 20 New York Times front-page article on the hidden ties between media military analysts and the Pentagon on the record with NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik. Further, according to a search* of transcripts available in the Nexis database, the broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, and NBC -- still had not reported on the revelations in the Times story on any of their news programs through May 1

In fact, this has been another great example of how important online media has become in keeping the spotlight on stories like this. The first and I think still only time Dana Perino was asked about this was when a reporter from asked her about it. The great folks at have been working hard to keep the issue front and center for their activists. And I've seen Think Progress and the folks here at Huffington Post keep up the heat, as well as posts at Daily Kos.

And this is really important because we can't let this story slide. We need to push hard to get a full accounting of this program.

The Pentagon now says that it has suspended this program, but we still don't know what really happened. What was the extent of the program? Did the Pentagon leverage the financial interests of the analysts? And, especially, now that the Pentagon has announced this program has been suspended, what steps are being taken to make sure it never happens again?

We know the life-or-death consequences of policy decisions in Iraq and Afghanistan - and we know that these policies should de debated and defended without secret programs designed to tailor the news for the administration's goals. This is too important to brush aside.

So I sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office asking for that independent office to conduct a full investigation of this program and report its findings. But what we need to do is show that the people are watching this. I sent out an email yesterday to the community asking everyone who agrees with me to sign on as co-signers to the letter I sent to the GAO.

I ask all of you here to join me as well.

I don't often come here and ask for something like this, but when there's no coverage of this issue on television, it's hard to build the drumbeat you need sometimes to get results. We need to demonstrate that Americans care about the credibility of their government and the transparency of their media, and I hope I can count on you to back me up on this.

So, click on the link and add your name to the letter, and we'll show everyone that we won't let this secret program slide away unexplained.