Pentagon to the New York Times on Pulitzer: Never mind

The Defense Department trashes its own investigation.

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By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers

What the heck is going on with federal investigators? First Justice scraps the case against former Sen. Ted Stevens, saying that the probe into charges he misused his office was junk. And now, at the Pentagon, the same inspector general's office that trashed a New York Times story that went on to win the Pulitzer Prize is saying, "Oops."

The "never mind" came just days after Whispers quoted two allies of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld citing the inspector general's reporting in saying that the Times and reporter David Barstow didn't deserve journalism's gold medal for detailing a PR campaign to get retired military officers to talk up the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on TV.

It probably wasn't our story that prompted the review, but who knows? At least one Pentagon insider said it was our Whisper that pushed the IG to recant.

Anyway, reporter Barstow is pretty happy that the Pentagon is recanting. He said in an E-mail to me: "Given what you wrote, I hope you will now follow up with the news we wrote about today—the fact that the DoD inspector general has taken the remarkable step of publicly repudiating and withdrawing its own report on the military analysts. Since the IG report was obviously central to your item trashing my articles it seems only fair that you would immediately note this development for your readers." Done.

Still, our question hasn't been answered: Did the Pulitzer committee members consider the IG report when looking at the NYT story? If they did and said it was junk as the IG did this week, then bravo. And if they didn't, should they have?

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