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Attack on White House Propaganda

There is growing momentum in Washington for a crackdown on government-issued information.

Because of a small addition to a bill that passed the House of Representatives, the inspector general of the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) may be joining the FCC in investigating the Bush administration's “embedded analyst” program.

On April 20, The New York Times reported that the Pentagon regularly brought in retired military officers who as media analysts could relay government viewpoints about the war in Iraq on news programs. After the disclosure, the department suspended the practice.

The House has passed a bill that would formally end the program. It passed, virtually unnoticed as an amendment to a much larger defense authorization bill. If the amendment survives a conference between different House and Senate versions of the defense bill, it would prevent any DOD funding from being used for propaganda.

It would also require the GAO and the DOD's inspector general to determine whether the care and information-feeding of analysts was an effort to educate, as the department says, or instead violated existing laws against domestic propaganda.The House amendment passed by a voice vote just before legislators left for Memorial Day and was buried deep in the document.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has 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 Pentagon. The issue of the administration's efforts to get its Iraq War message out comes as former White House spokesman Scott McClellan alleges in a new book that the administration used propaganda to pitch the war.