We told you recently about how the Pentagon’s program to prep old hands and contractors to talk up the war in Iraq is being probed by the Federal Communications Commission and the Defense Department’s own inspector general. Well now, there is a bill before President Bush, which he’ll likely sign, that would also demand that the Government Accountability Office review the program to see if any laws were broken. Any congressman can request a GAO review but the bill puts more urgency behind the request so it should get completed faster. Media Matters, the press watchdog, drew our attention to the language in the just passed Defense Authorization bill that will further shine a light on the program that the New York Times disclosed and suggested was rife with conflicts of interest. According to Media Matters, the bill would:
--Prohibit taxpayer money from being used for "publicity or propaganda purposes" by the Department of Defense.
--Require the Department of Defense Inspector General to investigate the media analysts program and report the findings back to Congress 90 days after the bill is enacted.
--Direct the comptroller general of the GAO to issue a legal opinion to Congress on whether the media analysts program violated the law within 120 days of enactment. Media Matters has been dogging this program. "By letting these spin merchants--many of whom have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air--act as if they’re unfettered to any agenda, the networks have demonstrated a clear lapse in credibility," said Media Matters spokesman J. Jioni Palmer. "What little we know about the military analyst programs has raised serious questions, and further scrutiny is certainly needed."