Defense Inspector General Ok's Buying Positive Press

The Defense Department Inspector General has decided that it's OK for the Pentagon to buy good press in Iraq as a tactic to win friends and influence people.

In a two-page report , the IG said that our side in the war in Iraq--Multi-National Force-Iraq broke no laws or regulations by paying the Lincoln Group to place positive articles (which the Pentagon asserts were truthful) in Iraqi newspapers to "influence their target population."

The only problem it found with the three contracts--valued at a total of $37.3 million--was with the failure to maintain. "adequate acquisition, oversight and disbursement documentation" for one of them.  IO (Information Operations) products purchased as part of the contracts."

The review of the contracts came after some legislators questioned the legality as well as the advisability of paying for such stories.

The IG called Psychological Operations (psych ops) a central element of psychological warfare.

In a February 2006 speech essentially establishing the importance of a wide-ranging, sometimes "non-traditional" media campaign in the war on terror, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Friday that the government must get better at communicating its message and must not be discouraged by revelations that it was buying favorable news in Iraq.

That was a reference to the L.A. Times initial report early last year that the Army was paying to have stories placed in Iraqi newspapers.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.