FCC Probes Pentagon Analysts

The Pentagon's surrogates program now has the FCC probing conflict-of-interest issues.

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The Federal Communications Commission has begun notifying several TV military analysts that it is probing congressional complaints that the pundits did not properly disclose their ties to the Pentagon when reviewing the war in Iraq on air. According to a copy of the October 2 FCC letter to one of the pundits, the probe was prompted by Reps. John Dingell and Rosa DeLauro, who filed a complaint with the agency after the New York Times reported that some of the pundits were working on or bidding on Pentagon contracts and had also taken free military trips to Iraq. "When seemingly objective television commentators are in fact highly motivated to promote the agenda of a government agency, a gross violation of the public trust occurs," the duo wrote to the FCC. Copies of their May 6 complaint, above, and the FCC letter were provided to Whispers. The Times story discussed the so-called military analysts program, where many former military officials were briefed about the war in Iraq by the Pentagon.

At issue is that some of them were also linked to Pentagon contracts, raising the issue of conflict of interest. In its letter signed by the chief of the investigations and hearings division enforcement bureau, the FCC suggests that TV stations and networks may have violated two sections of the Communications Act of 1934 by not identifying the ties to the Pentagon that their military analysts had. The FCC is so far reaching out to the analysts mentioned in the New York Times article and asking for each to respond to the allegations of wrongdoing within 30 days.

We wrote about this recently when we reported that the Defense Department's inspector general was looking into the program, also at the request of Congress.