The Pentagon’s Media Analyst Domestic Psy-Ops Program: Is It Legal?

By now you have probably heard that the New York Times has an in-depth piece by David Barstow out for Sunday’s edition on the use by the Pentagon of media "military experts" as propaganda conduits.

It would be nice to be able to say that the revelations in Barstow’s article are shocking, but they are not. Spin and propaganda have, from the outset, been more important to the Bush Administration than efficient and effective performance and truth. This already looks to be a big deal around the blogosphere, everybody will be discussing the general parameters of the story. Dave Neiwert serves up a dissection at FDL (and do click through his links here and here to his earlier pieces at Orcinus in 2004 on Bush Administration psy-op propaganda, they are excellent).

Beyond the face value of the NYT article, however, lurk some more interesting issues. Marcy has, as usual, immediately found one in relation to the spotty history of the NYT on Bushco propaganda, most notably in regard to Judith Miller and the case for the Iraq War (can you say "Sweet Judy Blew Lies"? I can). Here is mine; we know this Pentagon propaganda scheme is crass and loathsome, but is it legal?

Arguably, the answer is no, it is not legal; of course, as we have seen time and again, that is never an impediment to the Bush Administration. And, as with so many other Bushco ills, we have a template for analysis because they have made a pattern and practice of crossing the line of propriety in this area. The gang of tricks is all here, "creative" expansion of law and standards, even one of those OLC opinions exonerating the conduct.

The framework for analysis here is supplied by the previous actions of the Bush administration in relation to paying Armstrong Williams to shill the No Child Left Behind program and the propagation of prepackaged fake video news stories. The heavy involvement of the Pentagon in the disingenuous news business was demonstrated by Jeff Gerth in a December 2005 NYT article:

The media center in Fayetteville, N.C., would be the envy of any global communications company.

In state of the art studios, producers prepare the daily mix of music and news for the group’s radio stations or spots for friendly television outlets. Writers putting out newspapers and magazines in Baghdad and Kabul converse via teleconferences. Mobile trailers with high-tech gear are parked outside, ready for the next crisis.

The center is not part of a news organization, but a military operation, and those writers and producers are soldiers. The 1,200-strong psychological operations unit based at Fort Bragg turns out what its officers call "truthful messages" to support the United States government’s objectives, though its commander acknowledges that those stories are one-sided and their American sponsorship is hidden.

The recent disclosures that a Pentagon contractor in Iraq paid newspapers to print "good news" articles written by American soldiers prompted an outcry in Washington, where members of Congress said the practice undermined American credibility and top military and White House officials disavowed any knowledge of it. President Bush was described by Stephen J. Hadley, his national security adviser, as "very troubled" about the matter. The Pentagon is investigating.

But the work of the contractor, the Lincoln Group, was not a rogue operation. Hoping to counter anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world, the Bush administration has been conducting an information war that is extensive, costly and often hidden, according to documents and interviews with contractors, government officials and military personnel.

The campaign was begun by the White House, which set up a secret panel soon after the Sept. 11 attacks to coordinate information operations by the Pentagon, other government agencies and private contractors.

Since 1951, Congress has enacted an annual, government wide prohibition on the use of appropriated funds for purposes of "publicity or propaganda." For instance, in 2005, the prohibition stated

No part of any appropriation contained in this or any other Act shall be used for publicity or propaganda purposes within the United States not heretofore authorized by the Congress. Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005, Pub. L. No. 108-447, div. G, title II, 624, 118 Stat. 2809, 3278 (Dec. 8, 2004). (The language of the prohibition has remained virtually unchanged since 1951.)

All of these ginned up propaganda programs started hitting the public consciousness in 2005, causing a public outcry and Congressional calls for an investigation, which was undertaken by the Government Accountability Office. The GAO issued a formal report in February 2005 indicating that the Bush Administration efforts to shape the news via the prepackaged video news releases were inappropriate. The GAO subsequently issued similar opinions on the other Bush propaganda programs, for instance, this September 2005 report on the paid use of Armstrong Williams on NCLB:

In previous opinions and decisions, we have found “materials . . . prepared by an agency or its contractors at the behest of the agency and circulated as the ostensible position of parties outside the agency” amount to covert propaganda that violates the prohibition. B‑229257, June 10, 1988. A critical element of this violation is the concealment of, or failure to disclose, the agency’s role in sponsoring the material. E.g., B-303495, Jan. 5, 2005. For example, in B-223098, B‑223098.2, Oct. 10, 1986, the Small Business Administration (SBA) prepared “suggested editorials” and distributed them to newspapers. The editorials advocated public support for an administration proposal to merge the SBA with the Department of Commerce. We found that those agency-prepared editorials were misleading as to their origins. The agency intended for the newspapers to print the editorials as their own position without identifying them as SBA-authored documents. This effort to conceal the agency’s authorship and make it appear that respected, independent authorities were endorsing the agency’s position went “beyond the range of acceptable agency public information activities” and violated the publicity or propaganda prohibition. Id. Similarly, in 66 Comp. Gen. 707 (1987), we held that newspaper articles and editorials (supporting the government’s Central American policy) that were prepared by paid consultants at government request and published as the work of nongovernmental parties violated the prohibition. Again, it was the covertness of the government’s actions that led to the violation. In that case, the government was attempting to convey a message to the public advocating the government’s position while misleading the public as to the origins of the message. Id. at 709.

In addition to the violation of the standard Appropriations Act language, the GAO has also pointed to the violation of the provisions of the Anti-Deficiency Act provisions:

The Department’s use of appropriated funds in violation of the publicity or propaganda prohibition also constituted a violation of the Antideficiency Act, 31 U.S.C. sect. 1341(a). This act prohibits making or authorizing an expenditure or obligation that exceeds available budget authority. B-300325, Dec. 13, 2002. Because the Department has no appropriation available to procure favorable commentary in violation of the publicity or propaganda prohibition, it violated the Antideficiency Act, 31 U.S.C. sect. 1341(a). Cf. B-303495, Jan. 4, 2005; B-302710, May 19, 2004. Under 31 U.S.C. sect. 1351, the Department must report its Antideficiency Act violations to the President and the Congress. At the same time, a copy must be sent to the Comptroller General.

The bottom line seems to be that any "covert" program by the government to shape the news, or disseminate false news, to the domestic American audience constitutes a violation of both the Appropriations Act prohibitions as well as the Anti-Deficiency Act. As further evidence of how sensitive the United States has historically been on prohibiting the governmental dissemination of domestic propaganda, keep in mind that the Smith-Mundt Act even prohibits the domestic dissemination of information utilized in foreign propaganda efforts of the US, which, of course, are legal (think Voice of America radio).

You would have to imagine that the first rationalization from Bushco will be along the lines of "well this is different than the Armstrong Williams situation because we didn’t expend any money paying the military analysts and there was no quid pro quo". I would argue that the following snippets from today’s NYT article put the lie to that likely defense:

Early one Friday morning, they put a group of retired military officers on one of the jets normally used by Vice President Dick Cheney and flew them to Cuba for a carefully orchestrated tour of Guantánamo.

In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.

A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.

Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” who could be counted on to deliver administration “themes and messages” to millions of Americans “in the form of their own opinions.”

Conversely, the administration has demonstrated that there is a price for sustained criticism, many analysts said. “You’ll lose all access,” Dr. McCausland said.

Some of these analysts were on the mission to Cuba on June 24, 2005 — the first of six such Guantánamo trips — which was designed to mobilize analysts against the growing perception of Guantánamo as an international symbol of inhumane treatment.

It was, he said, “psyops on steroids” — a nuanced exercise in influence through flattery and proximity. “It’s not like it’s, ‘We’ll pay you $500 to get our story out,’ ” he said. “It’s more subtle.” The access came with a condition. Participants were instructed not to quote their briefers directly or otherwise describe their contacts with the Pentagon.

The memorandum led to a proposal to take analysts on a tour of Iraq in September 2003, timed to help overcome the sticker shock from Mr. Bush’s request for $87 billion in emergency war financing.

Some Pentagon officials said they were well aware that some analysts viewed their special access as a business advantage. “Of course we realized that,” Mr. Krueger said. “We weren’t naïve about that.”

Some e-mail messages between the Pentagon and the analysts reveal an implicit trade of privileged access for favorable coverage.

The Pentagon paid a private contractor, Omnitec Solutions, hundreds of thousands of dollars to scour databases for any trace of the analysts, be it a segment on “The O’Reilly Factor” or an interview with The Daily Inter Lake in Montana, circulation 20,000.

Sure looks like there was a conscious quid pro quo, and that a lot of money and effort went into this program that was not formally appropriated, and therefore was in violation of both the Appropriations Act yearly provisions and the Anti-Deficiency Act provisions.

Oh, by the way, remember my mention of the attempted use of one of those golden OLC Opinion shields? Here it is, although it now seems to be missing from the official list on the DOJ website. The opinion was authored by our old friend Steven Bradbury; although, clearly, neither the GAO not Congress found it persuasive in the least. What a shock.

77 replies
    • bmaz says:

      Ah, see the last paragraph, but the GAO correctly has disregarded it because OLC BS cannot supersede established statutory law.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Odd how so many of Yoo’s conclusions are that the President, in wartime, can do exactly that.

        It’s really the process and its visibility that so many of these programs violate isn’t it? Two things this administration’s top two players loathe because they are explicitly intended to limit executive authority and measure the competence with which that authority is exercised.

        Imagine, an entire shadow government built around a pedestrian emotional frailty whose cure would bore a competent analyst (but who, being competent, would hide that boredom from the patient).

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Isn’t the entire world, and especially the US “homeland” the territory at risk in the GWOT? Doesn’t that excuse any act Mr. Cheney might do, if he imagines it might protect somebody, somewhere, somehow?


  1. Cujo359 says:

    I’ve guessed that this thing will end up costing tens of millions of dollars in the long run. There were political appointees, travel that clearly didn’t come out of the pockets of the people being transported, and at least part of Torie Clark’s time, which means part of her staff’s time as well.

    Anyway, this is a wrinkle I hadn’t thought of, bmaz, and I think you have a case here. Unfortunately, given the spinelessness of Congress, it’s a largely academic point.

    • bmaz says:

      Well, it is largely an academic exercise in the first place, as there does not appear to be any direct penalty provisions specified, so it is not like anybody will be packed off to jail; the repeated intentional disregard of both the letter and spirit of these prohibitions is pretty noteworthy though. It is not an isolated deal, it was a systematic and systemic pattern and practice of the Bush Administration to use the power and modalities of government to misinform and mislead the American public. It is a shame that there is no Constitutional mechanism to address these and other malodorous conduct by the Bush Administration,,,,

      • phred says:

        Naturally you answered my question before I even finished posting it… Perhaps you can explain to me why we have legislation for which there are no penalties if the legislation is violated? What is the point of establishing such rules in the first place?

        • WilliamOckham says:

          In the olden days, the Executive Branch occasionally took its duties to “faithfully execute” laws seriously. No penalties were thought to be necessary.

          • phred says:

            Fair enough, but even as a kid I knew violations of the family rules would have consequences. I am mystified by the existence of laws which appear to be nothing more than optional guidelines. If BushCo has demonstrated anything, it is a willingness to violate laws in a manner intended to just skirt the edge of consequences. Their willingness to moot cases before they can reach the Supreme Court is a good example of this as are their fig leaf OLC opinions they claim make things legal. Given that, the existence of laws without consequences is just begging for such laws to flouted at will. It had never occurred to me that Congress would be so sloppy in the handling of their fundamental reason to exist.

        • dopeyo says:

          To pretend that we have addressed the issue. To actually DO something would require getting up from a comfortable and supine position. Or to stop clipping stock coupons, in the case of our Democratic Leaders / Speakers.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Will have to catch up with your research, but I would be surprised not to find an OLC opinion that found some pretend loophole in the statutes. If not, that those opinions argue that subsequent Congressional appropriations vitiate prior violations. The latter would require disclosure to Congressional leadership, another intriguing avenue to pursue. These guys usually have a Plan B or C to fall back on.

  3. phred says:

    Great post bmaz. As usual, I have a question for you… Given the violations you have noted above, what sort of consequences might there be for those violations? Can either criminal or civil litigation be pursued? If so, what sort of penalties might there be… fines, jail time?

    I have not yet read the NYT article, but from my brief stroll around the blogs, it appears there was little in the way of a mea culpa from the NYT. The only reason these retired generals (and all the other BushCo propagandists) can exert any influence at all is because MSM “journalists” choose to put them in front of cameras, microphones, and tape recorders. If those “journalists” instead actually did their jobs and cultivated their own array of sources (hopefully with disparate interests and views), then the ability of the government to plant stories would disappear.

    As my husband likes to remind me, it’s not what people sell it is what people buy. The MSM bought the neocon world view that BushCo sold them. And now according to the quarterly figures EW noted in an earlier post, the public has stopped buying the bs the NYT has been selling. Sometimes, the middle men are the ones left empty handed, whether it’s worthless mortgage paper or a worthless product in the form of manufactured “news”.

    • watercarrier4diogenes says:

      when an IP address is used in a URL, it usually is 4 groups of 3 digits. When I tried the above link, I also got an error message from FireFox that teh server couldn’t be found.

      But when I googled 0225.0145.01.040, I got numerous links to legal cases at 0225.0145.01.040, none of which would open when I clicked on them. Strange…

  4. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    it’s symptomatic of a social psychosis; they think they can ‘create reality’ and that their fictional imaginings have more power than temperature readings, soil chemistry, acidic seas, or war wounds.

    Anyone that out of touch with reality probably also assumes that they can designate what is, and what isn’t ‘legal’.
    It’s the Psychology of Pixie Dust in yet another setting.

    (FWIW, left long comment in EPU land on previous thread.)

  5. watercarrier4diogenes says:

    Hmmm, one of those Google links was to a TPM Cafe comment:
    Cafe Talk | Talking Points Memo | Data Mining DOJ For Alleged War …
    0225.0145.01.040 — Octal Representation for DOJ OLC. — DOJ OLC IP number Op. O.L.C. at — Legal opinion format: An entire file for all …

    So, using the translation provided to iv4p:, I got the page without problem.

    • Cujo359 says:

      Which greets me with this message:

      We are sorry, but we are unable to locate the page you requested on the Department of Justice Website.

      Hope you took a screenshot.

      • watercarrier4diogenes says:

        bmaz’s upload probably resolves it better, but the link does still work as long as you remove the comma I put after it… *sigh* not one of my better html days.

  6. radiofreewill says:

    Forensically, there has to be an OLC Memo somewhere that *inverts* the notion that the Military, including the Commander in Chief, are Under Civilian Control, because this Secret Military Propaganda Campaign certainly makes it look like We Civilians are currently Subject-To Covert Military Care-taking, with No Oversight by Congress or Review by the Courts.

    If so, how was this agreed-to by Our Elected Officials without US knowing about it?

    Perhaps we can provisionally name the suspected-to-exist document ‘The Secret Gospel W’ or ‘The Secret Bush-Junta Empowerment Memo’?

  7. bmaz says:

    ATTENTION EARTHLINGS: I have no idea what the deal is with the original OLC link, so I changed the link in the body of the post to an uploaded document stored on our website. So, the link in the main post should work for one and all now. Here is the URL…..leases.pdf

  8. masaccio says:

    Well, I found it. But the link doesn’t open for me.

    Stephen Bradbury is a menace. The GAO opinion works naturally with the language of the law to state that an action is propaganda if its source is not disclosed. Bosh, says Bradbury. It isn’t propaganda if it merely provides information, even if not comprehensive, about something the agency is doing. I wonder how they thought the following didn’t apply:

    We have accordingly determined that “the appropriation rider should be read as principally designed to meet the immediate evil perceived by Congress–the unchecked growth of a government public relations arm used to disseminate agency [views] to the public at large–not as an effort to interfere unduly with the normal and healthy functioning of the body politic.”

    The quote is from an earlier opinion on lobbying activity.

  9. FormerFed says:

    BMAZ – Great post. BTW, I looked for the old conflict of interest stuff and couldn’t find it – sorry.

    Just another thought or two on the “Rent a General” program by OSD. I don’t think that most people on the “outside” know how important access is in the Military-Industrial Complex. For a retired General or SES, that is the primary thing you are hired for – get in the door of your former colleagues and find out where the potential business/contracts are hidden. BTW, I refused to play this game, and my consulting was mostly done with civil agencies and/or commercial entities.

    For the people that were invited to briefings with Rumsfeld, this was golden manna to put on the resume. Most Generals, even 4 stars, never get into the SecDef’s inner sanction. The $500 or $1000 bucks that the media paid them was peanuts compared to the value to whatever company they were working for at the moment (many work for multiple companies – file the same report and get paid multiple times!!).

    The smarter ones make sure there are Firewalls built in for their contact on procurement items. However, with the general loosening of the rules for retired senior people, some may have stepped over the Firewall.

    Again, great post. Keep it up; there must be a pony in there somewhere.

  10. WilliamOckham says:

    I wonder if the news organizations understand what happened to them. The government had an on-going illegal covert program to undermine and de-legitimize the press by using the press against itself. The government used these analysts to contradict the honest and accurate reporting of the networks’ own reporters.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      I doubt the press put it as succinctly as you did just now.
      You nailed it, convolutions intact.

    • bmaz says:

      Boy howdy. I remember specifically, and at least a couple, if not several different, times watching that Gen. James “Spider” Marks dude on CNN telling Michael Ware, who was, and has been, on the ground in Iraq the whole time and is certainly not an Iraq war opponent, that he was full of crap and that things were going well. Have seen the same thing on MSNBC too I think, but can’t remember any specifics.

      • sojourner says:

        It is amazing how many of these so-called “experts” have been brought onboard by a number of defense contractors. I guess the contractors think that it helps them land new business, but I have to wonder if the retired military experts don’t serve in their new positions to help advance the idea of privatizing our military forces. The fact that they can serve to provide the media with “expert” opinions is probably another advantage to such a program if there is.

        I have not had the opportunity to read the NYT article yet, but was there any mention of compensation for their efforts? It just makes you wonder if Marks is getting it three or four ways…

  11. emptywheel says:

    I also wonder if one could mount a First Amendment complaint against this. This Adelstein post got me thinking that, if they kick out “anaylysts” who don’t toe the party line, then they’re effectively licensing favored “analysts.”

    • phred says:

      EW what form would such a complaint take? Could a civil suit be pursued? Who would have standing: journalists and bloggers who have been unfairly discriminated against or the public who have been effectively denied their right to a free press that challenges the government’s point of view? Just curious what you’re thinking about this…

  12. Sara says:

    bmaz and ew — as you know, I am not a lawyer, but sometimes I can root the social-political-cultural context of law, and this is one where I can.

    The prohibition in the 1951 law regarding using any appropriations for propaganda purposes inside the US is not the original law. In fact, the original law was passed about 1938 in response to certain WPA projects, which Martin Dies, among others, viewed as propaganda in support of the New Deal and it’s socialistic objectives. Dies, who was a principle in the newly formed House Committee on UnAmerican Activities held hearings in 38 regarding the WPA Theatre Project, and an offshoot of that, a film project. The focus was on “The Plow that Broke the Plains” and “The River” both films by Pare Lorentz, the first dealing with the causes of the dust bowl, the second with major Mississippi River flooding. Dies also attacked Orson Welles FTA production of Marc Blitzstein’s “The Cradle Will Rock” — an opera about a steel strike. Anyhow, out of these early HUAC hearings came the first legislation prohibiting any use of Government funds for propagandizing any Government Program.

    In 1941, when FDR organized the OWI, the Office of War Information, the provisions of Dies earlier legislation were suspended for the duration, because OWI did produce considerable material for the American Public about World War II. The Disney series, Why We Fight, could not have been shown to the American Public without the suspension, nor could all those glorious documentaries on the heroic work of Rosie the Riveter. I have always been particularly partial to “Nightshift” a film about the glories of making tank and jeep parts in the middle of the night. Anyhow OWI was set up as a publicly identifiable source that had to be cited when using the materials — but which was available on an equal basis to Radio, Film, and the Print Press. Elmer Davis headed the operation, and did some of the broadcast reports. The suspension was “for the duration” — so post war they had to go back in and restore with a few revisions, the 1930’s legislation — and it was always seen in 1951 as a curbing of Truman’s powers by the HUAC crowd, because there would not be a peace treaty with Germany till 1990 — and Japan still had not finished its treaty when this restoration took place. (Formally a state of war with all its presidential powers exists till you sign a treaty — but presidential powers can be modified, as they were in 1951.) Richard Nixon was kicking up his heals on HUAC when this was initiated. Putting the ban on Federally produced documentaries of this sort back in place in 51 is why, for instance, it would not be till the Carter Administration that Film Historians would get released John Houston’s work on things like “Battle Fatigue” or Shell shock, or what we now call PTSD. And it is why for many years you had to use pretty bad and “illegal” copies of the Disney “Why We Fight” series, if you were interested in using it in teaching. But it all started with Martin Dies not having much of a taste for the causes of floods, the dust bowl, and opera about Steel Strikes where the workers eventually won.

    There is so much Irony in the origins of this set of laws, and the actual legislative history behind them, that I am actually enjoying dishing this all up — big broad smile thinking about Dies and Nixon. And oh yea, the film for the series “Victory at Sea” was OWI produced, and liberated by Richard Rodgers and Hammerstein who wrote the score for it, edited it, and got it into TV before the ban came back into force. Orson Welles and Leonard Bernstein liberated Marc Blitzstein’s “Airborne Symphony” and got it produced by the NBC Symphony before the ban came back into force. The Airborne, which was commissioned and supervised by Bill Paley and Eisenhower was intended as the American high art response to Shostakovich’s “Leningrad Symphony” — the Airborne being a quite heroic treatment of the mission of the 8th Airforce in destroying Germany. And yes, all these artistic commissions were to some extent Propaganda created to influence Americans opinion of the mission of Government, including the War Department. The difference seems to be that FDR and Truman were able to attract leading artists to create, not grouchy old retired Generals.

    Anyhow, if FDR could suspend in 1941 for OWI — Did Bush formally take the same route? And does the 1951 law have any provisions for suspension? I doubt it.

    • emptywheel says:

      Thanks, as always.

      While you’re here (maybe still), have you read Frances Stonor Saunders’ The Cultural Cold War? I’m curious your take on it?

      • Sara says:

        “While you’re here (maybe still), have you read Frances Stonor Saunders’ The Cultural Cold War? I’m curious your take on it?”

        I came back — tending to my arguments against religious polygamy on other sites.

        Yes and No. I read it about three years ago, and remember some disagreements, but generally found it an excellent history of the involvement of CIA in the — shall I say, Elite, cultural efforts vis a vis Western European Intellectual Socialist Circles of the 50’s and early 60’s. But a whole lot is missing that I know about — particularly the involvement of CIA in the international division of NSA — the National Student’s Association, which was what was “outed” in Ramparts by then radical David Horowitz, in 67 I think. (I worked a project for NSA’s international program, made enough money for a year of grad school in two months part time work, and then a few years later found out my paymaster was CIA. Very disturbing for someone working in the midst of Civil Rights stuff.) But a friend of mine, Joni Rabinowitz, found out through the Ramparts material much worse. Joni was a leader in early SNCC efforts in Albany Georgia, and got herself arrested, tried and convicted for “Treason against the State of Georgia” and was sentenced to death, and sent to death row. Her dad was an old time leftie Lawyer from Brooklyn, but it took him about 5 months to get into Federal Court with a petition regarding the non existant crime of “Treason against the State of Georgia” and get her sprung. Anyhow, Earlier, in 1959 Joni had a relationship with the National Student Association International Division for forming the American delegation to the Helsinki International Student Conference (or was it Youth Festival??) — a real big deal in 1959. So Joni had not only gone, but had cooperated in identifying argumentative leftie Americans who could strike the pose the CIA wanted, very intellectual types, and handed out the free invitations and money for travel. Of course seven years later she would discover she had been passing out CIA money. Doing that was not part of the mindset of a leftie who would sit for five months on Georgia’s death row a couple of years after 1959. Stonor-Sanders missed this level of the use and mis-use of smart and idealistic Americans, particularly students and younger scholars, and others during the era she covered. Joni told me at an Antioch Reunion some years back that she feels responsible for the fact that those she recruited to go to Helsinki representing, in theory, NSA, could never get a security clearance. In my NSA project, in late 1963, (I was being hired at the moment Kennedy was getting shot,) I caused to be published a couple of papers done for the project by African Students, and when the Ramparts outing thing transpired, they used the publication to identify him in Nigeria, suggested he had been recruited by the CIA, and he was murdered. He had been the President of the Nigerian Student Association when he accepeted the NSA offer of 2 years in the US doing an MA in his field, all expenses paid. As I said, Stoner-Sanders did not capture this level of the consequences of the CIA’s cultural programs during the Cold War. I am not sure that she even followed up and said that since all the programs had been “outed” in 67, the CIA had lots of assets to dispose of, including buildings and all in Europe, plus many publications. One of the last things Nixon did before he resigned in August 74, was to sell the lot to Richard Mellon Scaife at a salvage price of a little over a million dollars. Scaife reformed and renamed everything, and it was his European and African Base for 20 plus years. Scaife’s interest — the Oil in Angola where his company had concessions, plus not allowing apartheid to end in South Africa.

        See there are reasons to get a little bitter with dispassionate scholarship, even if you are not an unemployed steel worker in PA. By the way, my friend Joni spent 20 years working with unemployed steel workers near Pittsburgh. Food Shelves, voc/tech training, and stuff like that.

              • phred says:

                Yep. That’s kinda my point. During my travels I finally had a chance to read both Charlie Savage’s Return of the Imperial Presidency and more to the point Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine. Given Bill Clinton’s support of NAFTA and policies implemented during his Presidency by the IMF and WTO, I’m not convinced that Hillary is going to refute Friedman economics which are central to the neocon cause. I suspect Scaife can read the writing on the wall which is that the Republicans will get hammered in November. In which case he needs someone else to protect the corporate agenda he supports. Hillary is much more likely to do so than Obama. In my opinion, Scaife’s support of Hillary is a lot less about his change of heart (hardly likely) than a warning sign about policy choices Hillary is likely to make.

                • emptywheel says:

                  The change of heart, specifically, pertains to support (or not, in Scaife’s case) for Iraq. One of the reasons I find that so striking is that all his earlier international connections (as Sara suggests) would lead you to believe he’d be happy expanding the empire.

                    • emptywheel says:

                      It could be, but if you’re pushing empire there’s still not much point in taking a stance that criticizes the stance of those laying ideological foundations for empire.

                      Scaife’s role on the right is first and foremost to sustain and expand ideology. But by calling for withdrawal from Iraq, he works counter to almost all of the conservative ideological apparatus.

                    • earlofhuntingdon says:

                      So long as he keeps funding his original foundations, won’t comments that run contrary to whom he funds be relegated to the rants of an aging, bitter, but still enormously wealthy divorced man.

                  • phred says:

                    I guess I don’t trust Scaife. As a result, I don’t believe his change of heart is sincere. I can easily imagine him willing to concede a battle (Iraq) in the hopes of salvaging the final outcome of the war (American/corporate hegemony).

  13. MarkusQ says:

    I suspect this is only the tip of the iceberg, based on one mostly anecdotal data point and forty plus years of learning how this world works. I’ll give you the data point and let you draw your own conclusions:

    For years I listened to NPR most week days, including the show Marketplace hosted for over ten years by David Brancaccio. Then a few years back, a rather odd thing happened; the host was replaced by a succession of two men with remarkably similar voices (I defy a casual listener to tell them apart by just their voices).

    Their voices may have been similar but their politics were not.

    Because I was traveling a great deal at the time I did not hear much of the first replacement, David Brown (a laywer presently living in Austin TX), but I heard enough to notice that something had subtly changed about the programs slant.

    By the time I was back to listening regularly the second replacement had taken place, and the repeated, jarring, occurrence of pro-war, pro-Bush, pro-Republican assumptions on the show caused me to dig further. (The youngsters out there might not realize how odd pro-Republican bias on NPR sounds; picture FOX news suddenly getting a mad crush on Gore, Fiengold, Dean, and Conyers).

    A bit of Googling turned up the fact that Kai Ryssdal, the latest host of this financial program does not have a background in finance, or in radio, or even in journalism. Before switching careers he was a briefing officer for the Pentagon Joint Chiefs of Staff, and has a master’s degree in national security studies from Georgetown University.

    – MarkusQ

    P.S. For added context, all of this was going on while we had Tomlinson at the helm on his previously reported witch hunt for liberal bias on PBS.

    • emptywheel says:

      As I was reading, that was precisely waht I was thinking–Tomlinson.

      So here’s a question.

      If the blogosphere were to champion a bill adding teeth to the no-propaganda rule, what would it need?

      A definition of acceptable, versus non-acceptable, propaganda (that is, how do you distinguish from govt info on public health, just taking one possibility)?

      Real punishments, meted to the people as well as the agency.

      Some kind of bipartisan monitoring program for a period after the problem?

      How do we make this illegal for real?

      • MadDog says:


        One thing that I believe should be tightly written into a law is that under no circumstances can government-provided information be “anonymous/covert”.

        Perhaps even more explicitly, all government-provided information must include statements identifying it as such at the beginning of the information provided as well as at the end of the information provided.

        The law could even go so far as to define that very identification. Such as all audio and video information provided by the government must include both these audio and visual statements:

        This propaganda information is provided by the US Government. It should not under any circumstances be confused with “facts” nor with “truth”.

        • bmaz says:

          Oh sure, now you come back around. Heh heh. Actually, if you plow through the GAO opinions, the “covertness” really is already a threshold, or critical point, that was used in their analysis. I think Marcy hit on a pretty big problem here, and that is what the definition of “propaganda” would be. The best I saw as I was researching this was basically an analogy to the “pornography” standard of Justice Potter Stewert, “I’ll know it when I see it”. One thing that struck me was that these “analysts” were really no different than Armstrong Williams at all; and i bet they would not appreciate that fact if they were called on it publicaly.

          • MadDog says:

            phred at 43 makes the point and I’ll reiterate.

            Don’t even try to “define” propaganda. Instead mandate that all government-provided information be identified at the beginning and the end of said information.

            Kind of a “truth in telling” variation of the “truth in lending” laws.

            Now how one goes about handling the stuff churned out by those retire military “analysts”, that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms.

            Delivery of propaganda by 3rd parties doesn’t seem as amenable to simple legislation. When does “opinion” change to “propaganda”?

            While the 1st Amendment apparently doesn’t allow one to wrongly yell “fire” in a movie theater, it also doesn’t mandate “truth”.

          • sailmaker says:

            When the Armstrong Williams thing came up, I wondered if they could not be required to put ‘watermarks’ in the corner of all their videos, like AMC and the rest of the cable networks do so that one immediately knows which company broadcast the material. Apparently Armstrong Williams is only the tip of the governmental broadcasting abuses, they make videos for just about everything they are interested in and give them to news orgs to use as fillers.

            For TV news ‘military analysts’ there should be a requirement for them to state whose payroll they are on before they open their mouths to voice state sponsored propaganda. Retired military included, with the added advisory that they can not speak too far out of line from the military view point or risk being in trouble with their still superior officers (once in the military always in the military).

            If we know where their money comes from, we should have a hugh leg up on where people are coming from, right?

            The rest of the problem – getting rid of the coordinated psych ops domestically is somewhat more difficult, because of the ‘national security’ problem of getting the Pentagon to admit they are doing it – things like hiring bloggers to put out Pentagon generated literature and so on. Naturally they would investigate themselves, but we know how that works – doesn’t.

            My only suggestion is to make the penalty for the military doing any kind of action domestically, any kind of action, is to mandate a gross budget reduction of 1% per infraction per fiscal year if they are found to have been tinkering illegally domestically, with part of that budget being reserved for the whistle blower’s defense and remediation (they always get sacked, no matter what the law is).

        • phred says:

          Agreed. I don’t think there will ever be a way to distinguish propaganda on the basis of content, since that is largely in the eye of the beholder. However, the source must always be disclosed. That way if a news organization decides that they will only present the government viewpoint, then their readers/listeners/viewers will know to go elsewhere for more information.

      • ProfessorFoland says:

        Yay, Tomlinson…I was thinking of randomly venting about the following, but now it’s on topic!

        Since when did public television start handing over airtime to the financial schemes of dubious types like “Rich Dad” or this Slotts guy?I can see there might be some room for financial education, but it really ought to be by people who aren’t trying to hawk their own books and 12-step programs “with Slotts-trained financial advisors standing by to help you!”.

        This stuff used to be the realm of late-night infomercials. This public airtime is gold to them in their bookselling campaigns. I bet there’s an interesting Tomlinson-related story in how they came to get it.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      A bit of Googling turned up the fact that Kai Ryssdal, the latest host of this [NPR] financial program does not have a background in finance, or in radio, or even in journalism. Before switching careers he was a briefing officer for the Pentagon Joint Chiefs of Staff, and has a master’s degree in national security studies from Georgetown University.

      Simply maahveluhs what a little neocon pressure on PBS budget can do; they managed to turn the aircraft carrier of PBS to starboard within a few yards rather than three or four miles. Will we ever enjoy substantive professionals again, and cast aside the scores of “Pentagon briefers”, lobbyists turned agency heads and PR hacks-cum-senior advisers that this administration has thrust upon our public discourse?

  14. masaccio says:

    Actually, the standard used in the OLC opinion doesn’t seem that bad. Essentially, it says that propaganda is the advocating a position, as opposed to providing factual information.

    Congress evidently intended for the appropriations riders to prevent agency advocacy of particular opinions or views; the term “propaganda” cannot fairly be read to encompass agency promulgation of legitimate governmental information about the programs administered by an agency and in furtherance of that agency’s statutory goals.

    I think we would want a disclosure provision as well.

    The plain fact is that nothing can be done that would stop these loathsome people.

    • phred says:

      The plain fact is that nothing can be done that would stop these loathsome people.

      Locking them up in prison and throwing away the key would be a good start ; )

    • bmaz says:

      …propaganda is the advocating a position, as opposed to providing factual information.

      That sounds good at first blush, but with the unseemly group we currently have in power, as you noted, it seems to be an illusory distinction. With the Bushies, the way “facts” are contorted, misrepresented, omitted, augmented, and generally altered beyond recognition and credulity, “factual information” becomes “advocacy/propaganda”. Past Presidents and administrations have flirted with these lines of demarcation before, but were always reeled in when called out on something. The current group of malefactors has no shame, no morals, and no compunction at systematically blowing past the accepted norms of conduct. It brings back something I said a while back:

      You know, bottom line, our system of government is set up wonderfully to deal with individualized, and even pocket areas of criminality and malfeasance in the government; but is vulnerable to systemic criminality and malfeasance, especially when the malefactors and malfeasance are spread and enabled across multiple branches. I am not sure this is a hole that can be plugged or removed and still have our general ethos be what it is supposed to be. At some point, it just boils down to having decent people at the critical nodes, and we have seen the result when we don’t. We have seen the enemy, and to some extent, it is all of us for ever permitting things to devolve this far. This is certainly not to discount the root criminals that have been running amok the last seven plus years…

      • masaccio says:

        Well, you would do it the same way you would do a stop-smoking campaign. The point of the program is to persuade people not to do something, and presumably in both cases the program would have to be specifically authorized by the legislature.

  15. prostratedragon says:

    What about laundering information provenance? Or to put it another way, who bears the penalty? Are departments already more or less required to log distributions to non-public or non-mass entities like, say, university researchers?

    MadDog might have kind of a point, but we should at least try to get ahead of the first round of “innovation.”

      • prostratedragon says:

        Wow. It’d be nice to define it in such a way that you could bust Cheney for leaks to Judy.

        Yep, the case I keep coming back to this wknd, because my first exposure to how bad and how deliberate the propagandizing was likely to be was through a) some growing suspicions about the greek chorus-like reportage that seemed to start at NYT and b) then reading about her relationships to ops like the ones out of Rendon in some of the early exposes that came out (Bamford, etc.).

        Probably it’d be impossible even to catch breath against the problem without somehow creating a liklihood that unlabelled info must have been leaked or provided to evade the law.

        Of course, your next comment to phred is the problem. Whistlblowing by leak is already near the outer edge of civil disobedience these days as it is … Maybe making the dissemination penalty contingent on some kind of intent (which gets us back to the question of defining propaganda, of course, but we know nothing goes anywhere without such a definition anyway)?

  16. phred says:

    Now how one goes about handling the stuff churned out by those retire military “analysts”, that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms.

    Delivery of propaganda by 3rd parties doesn’t seem as amenable to simple legislation.

    I think disclosure would work here as well, analysts must disclose both financial interests (as in who is actually paying them), as well as business ties. For example, an analyst would have to disclose that they work for such and such consulting firm, which has ties to Pentagon contracts (or whatever the case may be). Failure to disclose such information should be subject to massive fines (given the deep pockets of lobbyists and their corporate clients).

      • phred says:

        Ah, but, then how do you protect the genuine whistleblower leaking to a journalist?

        In general, whistleblowers tend to be lower echelon civil servants/employees in the organizations they are blowing whistles on. Even though reporters keep their names anonymous they usually clearly state the organization where they work to establish the credibility of the anonymous source. Although that information doesn’t include the business ties I suggested for lobbyists who benefit from government contracts, it does give a reader (we can eliminate viewers and listeners here, since this sort of whistleblowing where someone needs protection suggests anonymity is required) a sense of self-interest of the source.

        I would think it would not be too difficult to make a legal distinction for whistleblowers. Almost by definition these people are challenging the orthodoxy being promoted by the heads of their companies or governmental organizations. Their need for protection comes from the fact that they will incur financial losses (via job loss, demotion, or non-promotion) for speaking up. This is a very different scenario than the talking head analysts and experts who are unabashed in promoting their views and who stand to gain financially from appearing on TV, radio, or as named sources in print.

        I think the problem that we are trying to solve is one of hidden vested interests that give people an incentive to deceive the public. I fail to see how insisting on full-disclosure from named experts would adversely affect whistleblower protections from anonymous sources that reveal wrongdoing. I suppose the problem you envision has to do with the sort of nonsense pulled by Judy and her ilk in their endless use of unnamed Senior Administration Officials. IIRC the NYT said they would curtail that sort of sourcing. They haven’t, but even they admitted to the inherent dishonesty in that type of reporting. Still, when I see anyone cite a SAO I know what I’m getting… information from a person with a vested interest in the administration’s game plan. Perhaps it is why I have always been so dismissive of such reports. I never bought into Judy’s narrative and tended not to read much of her articles. Perhaps that is why I was such a sceptic of the whole Iraq misadventure from the start…

  17. Mary says:

    Great piece bmaz. The real point of so many of the acts isn’t that Gov can’t go out and say some of what is being said – but that Gov cannot covertly hide behind puppets saying what Gov wants said, but all the while pretending Gov had nothing to do with what the public is hearing.

    I’m going to add to your list the National Security Act of 1947 (which, IMO, Bush and Cheney clearly and on the record (in the Plame case) violated when they covertly planted information with Judy Miller –

    Section 503 discusses Presidential requirements and limitations and provides that, among other things,

    (f) No covert action may be conducted which is intended to influence United States political processes, public opinion, policies, or media.

    with covert action being defined in e above as actions

    where it is intended that the role of the United States Government will not be apparent or acknowledged publicly

    So Bush and Cheney absolutely could have publically held a presser and given the same NIE info that they had Libby covertly palm off to Miller,(of course, then they would have had to deal with the political aspects of members of Congress who had seen the report demanding other info not as cherry picked, etc. be released). But they could not covertly plant new stories.

    That’s the part that Bradbury completely glosses over in his memo as well. In a democracy, laws are not “secret” and government is not authorized to take covert actions against its own people.

    Or at least, once upon a time in a fairy tale world. BTW – do we know who “the boss” is in Rumsfeld’s reference (pointed out in EW’s piece after this one focused on Vallely) to the boss wanting to get op pieces done asap and not waiting for the “big guns”

    I haven’t made it through the NYT piece, but I have to guess that Rumsfeld means Bush. So I have to wonder if Bush was briefing the Intel committees as required for covert actions on all the covert use of Retired Generals to push the war message?

  18. JohnLopresti says:

    Because the psyops were using government money from the taxpayers, to broadcast propaganda over the airwaves, the agency which took action in the AWilliams noChildLeftBehind $USD quarter million was perhaps surprisingly FCC, whose leadership usually is a political plum appointment by the current executive administration, plus a balance between the 2 principal political parties as commissioners. While yet needing to read the GAO report kindly linked, I thought I would leave the coordinates here for a surprisingly repressive outcome of the AWilliams scandal, revocation of the license of an ethnic network of television broadcasters. A quick googlesearch showed NCLB’s propaganda planners botched more surreptitious propaganda efforts than the AW case. It turned out something like the Rollin Post WhitmanElectionday bribe scandal. I have yet to identify who the brainchildren of the scheme were; it all sounds Krovianly inspired to me, for its mediaSaviness, but SaraTaylor liked that kind of pizzaz, as well. The interesting feature of the NYT expose would be the timing if the next presidency is democratic party and there is a new chair of fcc appointment sufficiently early to remain within the statute of liitations for investigation of the quid pro quo side of the unattributed propaganda; note to bmaz, the pdf linked goes thru both CFR and USC bans chapter and verse in the revocation action, v.infra*.

    Then there was the case of the printmedia entity, which, I believe, resolved the payola scandal in FL by firing a reporter, but later rehiring him after the scandal ebbed; this is another case of psyops style compromising of an ethnic minority’s sense of deprivation, though a much more turbulent demographic than the PA case involving AW.
    Licensee of Station WBPH-TV
    Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
    Licensee of Stations WABM(TV), Birmingham,
    Alabama, WVTV(TV), Milwaukee, Wisconsin,
    WUXP-TV, Nashville, Tennessee, KOCB(TV),
    WEAR-TV, Pensacola, Florida, WPMY(TV),
    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, KABB(TV), San
    Antonio, Texas, WTWC-TV, Tallahassee,
    Florida, and former licensee of KSMO-TV,
    Kansas City, Missouri

    These were consolidated in the ruling FCC 07-152: formerly separately docketed:
    File No. EB-06-IH-3489
    File No. EB-06-IH-3486

  19. Sara says:

    As I understand it, when the British Historian, David Cannadine took up his project of writing a social history of the Mellon Family, “An American Life: Mellon” he got a total rejection from Richard Mellon Scaife, probably with a threat to sue if anything about “him” ended up getting probed in the process. But Cannadine is a very clever historian, so if you read his book which I have muchly enjoyed, you will see he left some nice big holes in quite obvious places that should have dealt with RMS, but didn’t. Something like having the city come to do the potholes in your street, but leaving one big obvious hole unattended. On the other hand Paul Mellon was totally cooperative until he died in 1999.

    But just to sketch this out, The Founding Mellon was Andrew, (1785-1856), and he had five children, but only one is particularly relevant to the Business side of the family line, Thomas Mellon, (1813-1908). Thomas had eight children, some died quite young, others (the girls) were not all that critical to business — but two of the sons, Andrew (1855-1937) and Richard Beatty Mellon, (1858-1933)are critical. It was Thomas Mellon who put the family fortune together, based on Real Estate, Coal Mining, Aluminum, Oil — not PA Oil, that was Rockefeller turf, but Gulf Oil down in LA and off shore, and a whole range of businesses involved with steel, ownership of tram systems in Pittsburgh and other PA cities, Railroads, and ultimately of course Banking and Finance. From the time Thomas died in 1908 until about the time of World War One, the family fortune was managed by Andrew and Richard from a Partners desk in the family bank, but their interests divided about the time the US got into WWI, with Andrew moving into Republic Party Orbits, much more involved with Finance as opposed to starting businesses in PA and all. Andrew eventually became Secretary of the Treasury in Republican Administrations in the 1920’s, and after the depression began, and Hoover needed to disappear him, Ambassador to the Court of St. James. While Sec of the Treasury, he furthered his interest in Art Collecting, eventually buying much of the French Impressionist wealth of the Tzar’s collection in the Hermitage in Leningrad from Stalin’s agents — so much that he actually financed the first Soviet Five Year Plan as it needed hard currency. This, plus much else eventually became the foundation collection for the National Gallery in DC, with Mellon financing the museum on the mall. FDR accepted the deed to all this from Andrew Mellon a few weeks before Mellon died in 1937. He left one son, Paul, who also made huge contributions from the Mellon fortune to the National Gallery of Art. Paul’s second wife was Bunny Mellon, who, if you have read New Frontier and Kennedy stuff you will know was Jacqui’s best friend during the WH years. Bunny Mellon designed the Rose Garden.

    The other brother, Richard, stayed home and stuck to the banking business in Pittsburgh when Andrew exited from day to day management of the family partnership during WWI. Eventually Richard had two children, Richard King Mellon (1899-1970), and Sarah Cordelia, (1903-1965). It is Sarah who Married Alan Magee Scaife, resulting in the current Richard Mellon Scaife, who, as I said, is not in the Mellon Family Book, nor in the Index.

    Butttttt — you can get an idea of what he (the unnamed Mellon) might be worth by looking at what his mum inherited when her dad, Richard died in 1933. The Richard Mellon estate was administered by Andrew, and was divided three ways, his wife got a third, Richard King got a third, and Sarah got a third — that is one third of the Richard & Andrew Partnership — with Richard’s estate including the Mellon National Bank, Alcoa, Gulf Oil, and a number of other investments including transit, railroads, coal mines, and other odd things. The estimated value in 1933, (highly depressed dollars) was 200 million. (the convention is to multiply depression dollars by 7 to get a 1990 sense of value — thus in 1990 dollars, 1.4 billion.) And one has to assume that between 33 and today, this kind of Capital would have significantly increased, especially considering it was based in stock in the Mellon Bank, Alcoa, Gulf Oil and the like.

    During World War II both the Andrew and the Richard side of the Mellon Family were involved in OSS. Aside from Paul’s going into Omaha Beach, and eventually participating in OSS activity in both France and Germany behind the lines — not much else is known in specific terms. Alan Magee Scaife’s involvement is vague, but apparently RMS’s dad was involved with the financial side of OSS, and immediate post-war reorganization of French and German politics. Cannadine also tells us that the Richard Mellon side of the family in the post war era, was massively invested in South American projects — oil and mining. But he also tells us that in the 60’s and 70’s some of the Richard Mellon’s side assets lost money pretty big time, particularly the Bank. After Richard King’s death in 1970, professional non-family management was brought in to reorganize.

    The Andrew and Richard sides of the Mellon Family split politically after WWII, with Paul identified more with Democrats, and Richard an early and strong supporter of Eisenhower and particularly Nixon. We know this carried on, as RMS gave over a million dollars altogether to Nixon Campaign Funds in 68 and 72, and then got the favor of a dirt cheap price on those “cultural” CIA Assets in 1974. Perhaps the clear picture would be RMS moving into playing in covert politics just as he was being edged out of Mellon Asset Management, because of loss of money on investments — in otherwords, he wasn’t a particularly good businessman. At least one of the questions I would ask would be about this.

    I actually have another bag of factual evidence about Scaife, but I still cannot reconstruct dates. You see, I have actually met the guy. My Uncle who was President of a small investment bank in the 60’s, merged that bank with Mellon Bank, and during the merger negotiations, I was visiting Aunt, Uncle and Cousin, and RMS came for a visit. (more like an inspection tour), I am sure it was before his first divorce, because it was the first wife that I met. Once I confirm some dates — I’ll post my insight.

    So why is he endorsing Hillary? I don’t think it is a conversion. I think it is his version of Business. The first act was not Hillary, it was lunch with Bill to talk about Africa, resulting in a nice big check to Bill’s African AIDS projects. What is it all about? Don’t know. Angolian Oil, Nigerian Oil, mining interests in several countries, problems recovering from earlier support for Apartheid Regimes in S. Africa? Maybe all of the above?

    • bmaz says:

      Maybe he just thinks they would provide they most stable baseline for business, and of the three candidates, that may be correct from his point of view. Not mine necessarily, but very maybe his.

    • phred says:

      Thanks for the synopsis Sara. Given RMS’ interests in Africa, perhaps he got a pledge from Bill/Hillary to push for free trade agreements in Africa which would potentially benefit him enormously. Bill once famously said “it’s the economy stupid”. Bill was raised in an era when Friedman economics have been treated as the end all be all. There is no reason to believe that the Clintons’ would reconsider their economic vision of the world and that vision aligns with the neocons.

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