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  1. #1
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    U.S. Is Said to Pay to Plant Articles in Iraq Papers

    December 1, 2005
    U.S. Is Said to Pay to Plant Articles in Iraq Papers
    By JEFF GERTH and SCOTT SHANE

    WASHINGTON, Nov. 30 - Titled "The Sands Are Blowing Toward a Democratic Iraq," an article written this week for publication in the Iraqi press was scornful of outsiders' pessimism about the country's future.

    "Western press and frequently those self-styled 'objective' observers of Iraq are often critics of how we, the people of Iraq, are proceeding down the path in determining what is best for our nation," the article began. Quoting the Prophet Muhammad, it pleaded for unity and nonviolence.

    But far from being the heartfelt opinion of an Iraqi writer, as its language implied, the article was prepared by the United States military as part of a multimillion-dollar covert campaign to plant paid propaganda in the Iraqi news media and pay friendly Iraqi journalists monthly stipends, military contractors and officials said.

    The article was one of several in a storyboard, the military's term for a list of articles, that was delivered Tuesday to the Lincoln Group, a Washington-based public relations firm paid by the Pentagon, documents from the Pentagon show. The contractor's job is to translate the articles into Arabic and submit them to Iraqi newspapers or advertising agencies without revealing the Pentagon's role. Documents show that the intended target of the article on a democratic Iraq was Azzaman, a leading independent newspaper, but it is not known whether it was published there or anywhere else.

    Even as the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development pay contractors millions of dollars to help train journalists and promote a professional and independent Iraqi media, the Pentagon is paying millions more to the Lincoln Group for work that appears to violate fundamental principles of Western journalism.

    In addition to paying newspapers to print government propaganda, Lincoln has paid about a dozen Iraqi journalists each several hundred dollars a month, a person who had been told of the transactions said. Those journalists were chosen because their past coverage had not been antagonistic to the United States, said the person, who is being granted anonymity because of fears for the safety of those involved. In addition, the military storyboards have in some cases copied verbatim text from copyrighted publications and passed it on to be printed in the Iraqi press without attribution, documents and interviews indicated.

    In many cases, the material prepared by the military was given to advertising agencies for placement, and at least some of the material ran with an advertising label. But the American authorship and financing were not revealed.

    Military spokesmen in Washington and Baghdad said Wednesday that they had no information on the contract. In an interview from Baghdad on Nov. 18, Lt. Col. Steven A. Boylan, a military spokesman, said the Pentagon's contract with the Lincoln Group was an attempt to "try to get stories out to publications that normally don't have access to those kind of stories." The military's top commanders, including Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, did not know about the Lincoln Group contract until Wednesday, when it was first described by The Los Angeles Times, said a senior military official who was not authorized to speak publicly.

    Pentagon officials said General Pace and other top officials were disturbed by the reported details of the propaganda campaign and demanded explanations from senior officers in Iraq, the official said.

    When asked about the article Wednesday night on the ABC News program "Nightline," General Pace said, "I would be concerned about anything that would be detrimental to the proper growth of democracy."

    Others seemed to share the sentiment. "I think it's absolutely wrong for the government to do this," said Patrick Butler, vice president of the International Center for Journalists in Washington, which conducts ethics training for journalists from countries without a history of independent news media. "Ethically, it's indefensible."

    Mr. Butler, who spoke from a conference in Wisconsin with Arab journalists, said the American government paid for many programs that taught foreign journalists not to accept payments from interested parties to write articles and not to print government propaganda disguised as news.

    "You show the world you're not living by the principles you profess to believe in, and you lose all credibility," he said.

    The Government Accountability Office found this year that the Bush administration had violated the law by producing pseudo news reports that were later used on American television stations with no indication that they had been prepared by the government. But no law prohibits the use of such covert propaganda abroad.

    The Lincoln contract with the American-led coalition forces in Iraq has rankled some military and civilian officials and contractors. Some of them described the program to The New York Times in recent months and provided examples of the military's storyboards.

    The Lincoln Group, whose principals include some businessmen and former military officials, was hired last year after military officials concluded that the United States was failing to win over Muslim public opinion. In Iraq, the effort is seen by some American military commanders as a crucial step toward defeating the Sunni-led insurgency.

    Citing a "fundamental problem of credibility" and foreign opposition to American policies, a Pentagon advisory panel last year called for the government to reinvent and expand its information programs.

    "Government alone cannot today communicate effectively and credibly," said the report by the task force on strategic communication of the Defense Science Board. The group recommended turning more often for help to the private sector, which it said had "a built-in agility, credibility and even deniability."

    The Pentagon's first public relations contract with Lincoln was awarded in 2004 for about $5 million with the stated purpose of accurately informing the Iraqi people of American goals and gaining their support. But while meant to provide reliable information, the effort was also intended to use deceptive techniques, like payments to sympathetic "temporary spokespersons" who would not necessarily be identified as working for the coalition, according to a contract document and a military official.

    In addition, the document called for the development of "alternate or diverting messages which divert media and public attention" to "deal instantly with the bad news of the day."

    Laurie Adler, a spokeswoman for the Lincoln Group, said the ter.ms of the contract did not permit her to discuss it and referred a reporter to the Pentagon. But others defended the practice.

    "I'm not surprised this goes on," said Michael Rubin, who worked in Iraq for the Coalition Provisional Authority in 2003 and 2004. "Informational operations are a part of any military campaign," he added. "Especially in an atmosphere where terrorists and insurgents - replete with oil boom cash - do the same. We need an even playing field, but cannot fight with both hands tied behind our backs."

    Two dozen recent storyboards prepared by the military for Lincoln and reviewed by The New York Times had a variety of good-news themes addressing the economy, security, the insurgency and Iraq's political future. Some were written to resemble news articles. Others took the form of opinion pieces or public service announcements.

    One article about Iraq's oil industry opened with three paragraphs taken verbatim, and without attribution, from a recent report in Al Hayat, a London-based Arabic newspaper. But the military version took out a quotation from an oil ministry spokesman that was critical of American reconstruction efforts. It substituted a more positive message, also attributed to the spokesman, though not as a direct quotation.

    The editor of Al Sabah, a major Iraqi newspaper that has been the target of many of the military's articles, said Wednesday in an interview that he had no idea that the American military was supplying such material and did not know if his newspaper had printed any of it, whether labeled as advertising or not.

    The editor, Muhammad Abdul Jabbar, 57, said Al Sabah, which he said received financial support from the Iraqi government but was editorially independent, accepted advertisements from virtually any source if they were not inflammatory. He said any such material would be labeled as advertising but would not necessarily identify the sponsor. Sometimes, he said, the paper got the text from an advertising agency and did not know its origins.

    Asked what he thought of the Pentagon program's effectiveness in influencing Iraqi public opinion, Mr. Jabbar said, "I would spend the money a better way."

    The Lincoln Group, which was incorporated in 2004, has won another government information contract. Last June, the Special Operations Command in Tampa awarded Lincoln and two other companies a multimillion-dollar contract to support psychological operations. The planned products, contract documents show, include three- to five- minute news programs.

    Asked whether the information and news products would identify the American sponsorship, a media relations officer with the special operations command replied, in an e-mail message last summer, that "the product may or may not carry 'made in the U.S.' signature" but they would be identified as American in origin, "if asked."

    Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington for this article, and Kirk Semple and Edward Wong from Baghdad.
    Last edited by sojustask; 12-02-2005 at 06:15 AM.

  2. #2
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    Re: U.S. Is Said to Pay to Plant Articles in Iraq Papers

    Demands Grow for Details About Paid Stories By ****** C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer
    Fri Dec 2, 4:47 AM ET



    WASHINGTON - The Pentagon is struggling to answer questions, including those from Congress, about a military program that planted favorable stories in Iraqi media.

    ADVERTISEMENT




    Defense Department officials, summoned to a briefing Friday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, have remained silent about the program. Multimillion-dollar contracts cover paying Iraqi newspapers and journalists to get into print such stories about the war and the rebuilding effort.

    "A free and independent press is critical to the functioning of a democracy, and I am concerned about any actions which may erode the independence of the Iraqi media," said the committee chairman, Sen. John Warner (news, bio, voting record), R-Va.

    Military officials in Iraq say the program is necessary.

    "The purpose of this program is to ensure factual information is provided to the Iraqi public," Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a U.S. military spokesman, said in Iraq.

    One of the companies involved — the Washington-based Lincoln Group — has at least two contracts with the military to provide media and public relations services. One contract, for $6 million, was for public relations and advertising work in Iraq and involved planting favorable stories in the Iraqi media, Defense Department records show.

    The other Lincoln contract, which is with the Special Operations Command, is worth up to $100 million over five years for media operations with video, print and Web-based products. That contract is not related to the dispute over propaganda and was not for services in Iraq, according to command spokesman Ken McGraw.

    The Lincoln Group shares that Special Operations contract with SYColeman, a division of L-3 Communications, and Science Applications International Corp., a San Diego-based defense contractor.

    The program came to light just as President Bush released his strategy for victory in Iraq. It includes the need to support a "free, independent and responsible Iraqi media."

    "We're very concerned," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. "We are seeking more information from the Pentagon."

    Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (news, bio, voting record), D-Mass., characterized the program as a scheme that "speaks volumes about the president's credibility gap. If Americans were truly welcomed in Iraq as liberators, we wouldn't have to doctor the news for the Iraqi people."

    Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said late Thursday he was still trying to gather information from U.S. military officials in Baghdad.

    A military spokesman in the Iraqi capital was asked if the program undercuts the credibility of the military or the news media. Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch quoted a senior al-Qaida leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, as saying that "half the battle is the battlefield of the media."

    Lynch said the terrorists lie to the Iraqi people, but the American military does not.

    "Everything we do is based on fact not based on fiction," Lynch said.

  3. #3
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    Re: U.S. Is Said to Pay to Plant Articles in Iraq Papers

    Lady Mod, also see my thread Bush Paying to Push Propaganda

  4. #4
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    Re: U.S. Is Said to Pay to Plant Articles in Iraq Papers

    Gee... It's looks like they really have established an American style "free" press in Iraq after all.

  5. #5
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    Re: U.S. Is Said to Pay to Plant Articles in Iraq Papers

    Yeah, who needs Al Jazeera now? They can be brainwashed by Americans instead.

    Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, characterized the program as a scheme that "speaks volumes about the president's credibility gap. If Americans were truly welcomed in Iraq as liberators, we wouldn't have to doctor the news for the Iraqi people."

  6. #6
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    Re: U.S. Is Said to Pay to Plant Articles in Iraq Papers

    Hate to burst anyones conspiracy bubble, but having such articles published in a region where we are currently involved in a war is not only acceptable, but it is considered by many to be a vital strategy used in warfare.

    I'm not going to explain why it is useful and beneficiary to the war effort. I'll let you enjoy discovering that for yourselves.

    p.s. that was directed to everyone who has posted on this thread.

    .

  7. #7
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    Re: U.S. Is Said to Pay to Plant Articles in Iraq Papers

    Yeah, let's lie to Iraqi's to get them to calm down and accept our occupation of their country. Good strategy, while it may work, it still doesn't mean it's right.

    Torture would be considered to be a vital strategy in keeping people in line and getting information out of them during war, but that doesn't mean it should happen.

    Wait a second, isn't that what Saddam did to keep his people in line? And yet, here we are, having deposed a sovereign nation's leader for doing things that many would say we're guilty of as well.

  8. #8
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    Re: U.S. Is Said to Pay to Plant Articles in Iraq Papers

    Quote Originally Posted by idshadow
    Yeah, let's lie to Iraqi's to get them to calm down and accept our occupation of their country. Good strategy, while it may work, it still doesn't mean it's right.

    Torture would be considered to be a vital strategy in keeping people in line and getting information out of them during war, but that doesn't mean it should happen.

    Wait a second, isn't that what Saddam did to keep his people in line? And yet, here we are, having deposed a sovereign nation's leader for doing things that many would say we're guilty of as well.
    Wait a second there. Cheney said it was OK to torture too as long as it was during war. And Saddam was always at war, so technically, it was OK, there are ALWAYS civilian casualties, isn't that what we have been told over and over? War is good, we should suck it up and have as many as we possibly can handle. Just look at what it's done for us?

    Lady Mod

  9. #9
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    Re: U.S. Is Said to Pay to Plant Articles in Iraq Papers

    Quote Originally Posted by Grim17
    Hate to burst anyones conspiracy bubble, but having such articles published in a region where we are currently involved in a war is not only acceptable, but it is considered by many to be a vital strategy used in warfare.

    I'm not going to explain why it is useful and beneficiary to the war effort. I'll let you enjoy discovering that for yourselves.

    p.s. that was directed to everyone who has posted on this thread.

    .

    No one has suggested that the articles are not true...they just don't want them printed. We should start paying our own press to publish the 'good news' that they possess as well...because it does not fit their agenda to do so otherwise.

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    Re: U.S. Is Said to Pay to Plant Articles in Iraq Papers

    I want to know how much money we will have to pay the NYTimes, BostonGlobe and the LATimes to have them print the truth. Having to pay them for an honest story is freedom of speech too isn't it? I haven't heard one single story from them about the 3000 new schools in Iraq that have been opened up or the 400 tips per day that are coming in about insurgents and terrorists. How about the fact that we're winning the war, bet you never saw that one above the fold of this country's leading newspapers (leftist propagandist rags - more likely).

    Seriously, how much money will it take to have them print some truth for a change. I bet if they did start printing such truth, the benefit would simply payoff by circulation increases. I like the idea! Reward them for telling the truth and punish them for lying. Raider rubs maniacal hands together and sneers. :cool:

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    Re: U.S. Is Said to Pay to Plant Articles in Iraq Papers

    Quote Originally Posted by Grim17
    Hate to burst anyones conspiracy bubble, but having such articles published in a region where we are currently involved in a war is not only acceptable, but it is considered by many to be a vital strategy used in warfare.

    I'm not going to explain why it is useful and beneficiary to the war effort. I'll let you enjoy discovering that for yourselves.

    p.s. that was directed to everyone who has posted on this thread.

    .
    Yeah right. Unfortunately for The Bush Crime Gang, the Iraqi paople are nearly as stupid as the brain-dead, beer swilling couch potatoes who watch Fox 'News".

  12. #12
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    Re: U.S. Is Said to Pay to Plant Articles in Iraq Papers

    Quote Originally Posted by Grim17
    Hate to burst anyones conspiracy bubble, but having such articles published in a region where we are currently involved in a war is not only acceptable, but it is considered by many to be a vital strategy used in warfare.

    I'm not going to explain why it is useful and beneficiary to the war effort. I'll let you enjoy discovering that for yourselves.

    p.s. that was directed to everyone who has posted on this thread.

    .
    Yeah, right. Unfortunately for The Bush Crime Gang, the Iraqi people aren't nearly as stupid and ignorant as the brain-dead, beer swilling couch potatoes who watch Fox "News". The Iraqis have one of the highest literacy rates of any nation in the Middle East. They are rather unlikely to swallow Neo-Con lies and fairy tales as readily as some Americans obviously do. They will simply consider the source. This latest idiocy will just damage our fragile credibility that much more..if there is any credibility, which I doubt .
    Last edited by dchristie; 12-02-2005 at 10:54 PM.

  13. #13
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    Re: U.S. Is Said to Pay to Plant Articles in Iraq Papers

    Quote Originally Posted by dchristie
    This latest idiocy will just damage our tottering credibility that much more..if that's even still possible. Which I sincerely doubt.
    I'll bet you $100 that they can and will. :P

  14. #14
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    Re: U.S. Is Said to Pay to Plant Articles in Iraq Papers

    Quote Originally Posted by idshadow
    I'll bet you $100 that they can and will. :P

    Hmmm.. I wouldn't want to take that bet. How about this: I'll bet you $100 The Flying Monkey and Cheney tell us some more lies before the day is out.

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    Re: U.S. Is Said to Pay to Plant Articles in Iraq Papers

    Oh, I forgot to mention that the original LA Times article on this said that we were in fact planting the stories, but it also said that the stories we were planting were true stories and not fabrications.


    Rules.... Rules.... dchristie don't need no stinkin rules!

    .

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    Re: U.S. Is Said to Pay to Plant Articles in Iraq Papers

    Quote Originally Posted by Grim17
    Oh, I forgot to mention that the original LA Times article on this said that we were in fact planting the stories, but it also said that the stories we were planting were true stories and not fabrications.


    Rules.... Rules.... dchristie don't need no stinkin rules!

    .
    He's still within the rules. Grim, why don't you just leave rather than fixating on another member? You appear to need a few days away from the forum.

    Lady Mod

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