Sunday, April 20, 2008

When the Generals Lied (a proposed Series)

It might be worth our while to do this as a series.

This is from the New York Times article, a supplementary piece which shows the actual communications and memos. It's pretty devastating.

It should also put to rest any idea that this was all made up. In fact, what I plan to do is to try to correlate procurement and public support for the war. I don't know what I will be able to find, but here's some of the methodology that will likely be used.

I plan to start looking at various retired generals or admirals who comment regularly on CNN, Fox News, NBC News, CBS News, ABC News, CNN and whoever else is out there. I suspect that a number of print or online organizations have had this "message spin" done to them in different ways as well.

I think you can then track down instances where a positive spin was given in public by a general AND a subsequent award of a contract within the procurement realm of DoD. Now, I'm not alleging anything illegal--procurement in and of itself is very detailed and I'm not going to allege that something was awarded to a company that did not produce adequate bids or documentation. I think it's important to begin aligning the positive spin, the business benefits, and who was responsible for giving that spin while sitting on the board of a company that then benefited from a DoD procurement award.

When you start with this info:

Some networks publish biographies on their Web sites that describe their analysts’ military backgrounds and, in some cases, give at least limited information about their business ties. But many analysts also said the networks asked few questions about their outside business interests, the nature of their work or the potential for that work to create conflicts of interest. “None of that ever happened,” said Mr. Allard, an NBC analyst until 2006.

“The worst conflict of interest was no interest.”

Mr. [Wayne] Allard and other analysts said their network handlers also raised no objections when the Defense Department began paying their commercial airfare for Pentagon-sponsored trips to Iraq — a clear ethical violation for most news organizations.

And then when you start to think about this kind of thing:

CNN, for example, said it was unaware for nearly three years that one of its main military analysts, General Marks, was deeply involved in the business of seeking government contracts, including contracts related to Iraq.

General Marks was hired by CNN in 2004, about the time he took a management position at McNeil Technologies, where his job was to pursue military and intelligence contracts. As required, General Marks disclosed that he received income from McNeil Technologies. But the disclosure form did not require him to describe what his job entailed, and CNN acknowledges it failed to do additional vetting.

“We did not ask Mr. Marks the follow-up questions we should have,” CNN said in a written statement.

In an interview, General Marks said it was no secret at CNN that his job at McNeil Technologies was about winning contracts. “I mean, that’s what McNeil does,” he said.

CNN, however, said it did not know the nature of McNeil’s military business or what General Marks did for the company. If he was bidding on Pentagon contracts, CNN said, that should have disqualified him from being a military analyst for the network. But in the summer and fall of 2006, even as he was regularly asked to comment on conditions in Iraq, General Marks was working intensively on bidding for a $4.6 billion contract to provide thousands of translators to United States forces in Iraq. In fact, General Marks was made president of the McNeil spin-off that won the huge contract in December 2006.

General Marks said his work on the contract did not affect his commentary on CNN. “I’ve got zero challenge separating myself from a business interest,” he said.

But CNN said it had no idea about his role in the contract until July 2007, when it reviewed his most recent disclosure form, submitted months earlier, and finally made inquiries about his new job.

“We saw the extent of his dealings and determined at that time we should end our relationship with him,” CNN said.

I sure would like to know how the hell this went on, and at what cost to our government.

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