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Amendment Targets Embedded-Analyst Program

It looks like the inspector general of the Defense Department and the Government Accountability Office may be joining the Federal Communications Commission in investigating the Bush administration's “embedded analyst” program.

This came after the House of Representatives passed an amendment -- to a Defense Authorization bill -- that would try to end the practice, currently suspended by the DOD, of briefing media analysts for networks in an effort to get them to relay the government line on the war in Iraq.

The Defense Authorization bill passed in the House, as well. So if the amendment survives a conference between different House and Senate versions of the bill, it would prevent any DOD funding from being used for propaganda. It would also require the GAO and DOD inspector general to investigate whether the DOD's care and information-feeding of analysts violated existing laws against domestic propaganda.

The amendment -- which passed by a voice vote just before legislators left on their Memorial Day weekend break -- came in the wake of a story in The New York Times about the program, in which the DOD provided talking points to former military officers employed by the TV networks.

FCC chairman Kevin Martin already said the commission is looking into complaints about the program lodged by key legislators including House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.).

The legislators said the program may violate the FCC's sponsorship-identification rules by not informing viewers of the analysts' ties to the White House or various companies that do business with the DOD.

And the investigations may not stop there. One of the key sponsors of the bill, Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.), asked the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs to hold a hearing on the analyst program.

The issue of the administration's efforts to buttress the media image of its Iraq War policy comes as former White House spokesman Scott McClellan alleged in a new book that the administration relied on propaganda to sell the war. The White House has reportedly dismissed the charge as that of a disgruntled ex-staffer.