Pilgrim's collection of government lies
and propaganda, 2005-2009 --
death of democracy by fake journalism


Freepress -- a resource
on media propaganda & ownership


Shay looks back

Following is a partial listing in reverse chronolological order of fake journalism by government (including abuses of Public Relations techniques) -- and outright lies -- recorded during the years 2005 to 2009:

The George W. Bush administration instructed the CIA to forge a letter that would support the administration's claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and had links to al-Qaida; moreover, the person whose name is forged on the letter (former head of Iraqi intelligence Tahir Jalil Habbush) was given $5 million in hush money, according to an account by Amy Goodman Aug. 22, 2008, in the Seattle P-I telling of recorded interviews with key U.S. and British intelligence agents by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind's for his new book book, "The Way of the World."

A former senior EPA official said July 8, 2008, that Vice President Dick Cheney's office pushed to delete from testimony in October to Congress references regarding the consequences of climate change on health, The Seattle P-I reported July 9.
Jason Burnett said Cheney's office was deeply involved in having nearly half of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) original testimony removed.
Burnett wrote to U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer in a July 6 letter that Cheney's office was seeking deletions of the CDC testimony about "any discussions of the human health consequences of climate change."

The White House in December 2007 refused to open an e-mail from the EPA that said greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled, The New York Times revealed in June 2008 (see Seattle P-I on June 25, 2008, A5).
The e-mail ended up in e-mail limbo, and after six months the EPA was set in June to respond by issuing a watered-down version of the original unopened message.
During the five days before the new, weaker version, the White house successfully pressured the EPA to "eliminate large sections of the original analysis that supported regulations, including a finding that tough regulation of motor vehicle emission s could produce $500 billion to $2 trillion in economic benefits over the next 32 years," the Times reported.

President George W. Bush and top policymakers "led the nation to war on false premises," according to a June 5 U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee report.
The study of major speeches by Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other officials before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003 found statements of wrong and unsupported intelligence.
The long-delayed study supports previous reports and findings that the Bush administration's main cases for war (Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was spreading them to terrorists) were deeply flawed and inaccurate. ("Bush misused Iraq intelligence: Senate report," by Randall Mikkelsen of Reuters, June 5, 2008)

Records and interviews show how the George W. Bush administration used its control over access and information in an attempt to transform media military analysts with ties to the Pentagon and military contractors into a vehicle intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside major TV and radio networks.
The New York Times April 20, 2008, account in the Seattle Times of the deception detailed how analysts were wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, special tours of Iraq, etc. and in turn how the analysts echoed administration talking points.



Forty-one U.S. House members called for the Department of Defense (DoD)inspector general to investigate a public relations effort that used retired military officers to defend the Bush administration's Iraq war policies.
According to a letter the House members wrote, "When the Department of Defense misleads the American people by having them believe they are listening to the view of objective military analysts when in fact these individuals are simply replaying DoD talking points, the depatment is clearly betraying the public trust."
The letter writers want the inspector general to discover how high-ranking officials inside the Pentagon were allowed to perpetrate a program aimed at deceiving the American people.
The Associated Press reported that retired officers who acted as military analysts for major news outlets [such as Fox and CNN] were given extraordinary access to the Pentagon, along with special briefings by Donald Rumsfeld, DoD secretary at the time (according to a Seattle P-I article on May 2, 2008.)

President Bush and his allies uttered "no fewer than 935 false statements" that got the U.S. into Iraq (made during the two years following Sept. 11, 2001), the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported on its editorial page (Jan. 27, 2008 -- see www.publicintegrity.org for the study by Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith).

The minimum number of edits to Wikipedia (since June 2004) that have been traced to the CIA is 310, the Dec. 2007 Harper's Index reports.

President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Carl Rove, Scooter Libby and then chief of staff Andrew Card all knew about the leak involving CIA operative Valerie Plame, Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan says in his book titled "What Happened" (published April 2008). "I had unknowingly passed along false information," McClellan wrote in a publisher's excerpt from the book. But current press secretary Dana Perino said the president would not ask his spokespeople to "pass on false information" -- all this according to a Nov. 21, 2007 AP article in the Seattle P-I (page A4).

The White House was criticized sharply in late October 2007 by two Congressional leaders (Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Bart Gordon) for editing a climate-change document. Two sections of testimony by Dr. Julie Gerberding (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief) were cut ("Climate Change is a Public Health Concern" and "Climate Change Vulnerability"), thus slicing in half a 12-page document. A CDC official told the AP that the original draft "was eviscerated" by the White House. The original draft, reviewed by the Associated Press, noted that public health effects of climate change remain largely unaddressed and used examples (all deleted) of excessive heat, respiratory problems, more air pollution and possible spread of animal-transmitted and waterborne diseases, according to the Seattle PI on Oct. 25, 2007.

A Bill Moyers PBS program, "Buying the War," on April 25, 2007, documented the media's role in accepting Bush administration lies before the war about Iraq (such as having weapons of mass destruction). The documentary included multiple examples of Bush officials (such as Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell) asserting unfactual information in order to justify the upcoming war.

The Seattle P-I reported on April 24, 2007, that Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich filed articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney for manipulating and fabricating intelligence on weapons of mass destruction to justify the Iraq war.

The U.S. military lied about the circumstances surrounding the death of former football star Pat Tillman and fabricated heroism in telling the story of Army private Jessica Lynch, according to congressional testimony Tuesday, April 24 (and reported by the Associated Press). Army Spc. Bryan O'Neal told the committee he was ordered not to tell Tillman's brother the truth about Tillman's death from friendly fire. Lynch said the heroism given her was fake; real heroism belonged to others. "(These stories) were "calculatedly put out for a public relations purpose. ... Even now there seems to be a cover-up," chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., noted.

A March 2006 AARP Bulletin article (Business Week Online broke the story) discusses how lobbyist Jack Abramoff paid newspaper columnists to write stories favorable to his clients' causes. For example, Peter Ferrara, a columnist in publications like Washington Times and the Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.), took payment to write columns advocating the privatization of Social Security. "I do that all the time," Ferrara said. "I've done that in the past, and I'll do it in the future." The Union Leader announced it would no longer publish his columns.

A Dec. 1, 2005, Seattle P-I article ("U.S. military reportedly paid papers to run stories") said the American military paid a consulting firm and Iraqi newspapers to plant favorable stories about the war and rebuilding effort. This is the second time this year that Pentagon programs have been scrutinized for reported payments to journalists for favorable press. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., said he would not "fault somebody trying to get the American message out." The L.A. Times quoted officials as saying some of the stories were written by U.S. troops and were factual but gave readers a "slanted view of what is happening in Iraq."

A Nov. 14, 2005, Seattle Times column (James Bruner) cited the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform 36-page report from March 16, 2004, that detailed false and deceptive public statements in interviews, speeches, news conferences, statements and articles (including before Congress) beginning a year before the Iraq war and peaking at key decision-making times.
President Bush made 55 misleading statements, Vice President Dick Cheney made 51, former National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice made 29, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made 52 (see "Iraq on the Record: The Bush Administration's Public Statements on Iraq").

A New York Times report in the Jan. 2, 2006, Seattle P-I ("Propaganda effort also uses clerics") also noted that the Pentagon contractor who paid Iraqi newspapers to run positive articles has been paying Sunni religious scholars in Iraq for help with the propaganda work. The Pentagon wanted religious leaders "who could help craft messages that would persuade Sunnis in violence-ridden Anbar Province to participate in national elections and reject insurgency."
The aim also was to exercise influence in Iraqi communities "on behalf of clients, including the military." The top commander in Iraq, Army Gen. George W. Casey, said the Army is operating within its authority and within appropriate legal procedure.



According to Harper's in May 2005, the Bush administration spends $62,500,000 per year on contracts with public relations firms; the Clinton administration spent $32 million per year.

The Bush administration spent $254 million on public relations in its first term, a Congressional study by the Democrats showed, according to the Seattle Times on March 13, 2005. The Bush administration has aggressively used pre-packaged news reports called Video News Releases. At least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department, have made and distributed hundreds of VNRs in the past four years. Many were broadcast without any acknowledgment by local stations across the country, the Seattle Times reported March 13, 2005.

Some were produced to support the administration's policy objectives, and they often feature "interviews" with senior administration officials providing rehearsed answers to scripted questions. Some segments were seen in millions of homes, including markets in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta and Dallas.

In February the GAO said federal agencies are not permitted to produce VNRs "that conceal or do not clearly identify for the television viewing audience that the agency was the source of those materials."

Prepackaging news "for purposes of publicity or propaganda" has been banned since 1951, according to the GAO, as reported by Andrea Mitchel, a correspondent of NBC News on March 14, 2005.

The GAO analyzed a number of VNR segments -- spinning everything from the Iraq war to Medicare drug benefits -- and called them "covert propaganda"; 300 TV stations broadcast them, and they reached 22 million households. The Bush administration's Justice Department OK'd the practice and the White House defended their use, According to Melanie McFarland of the Seattle P-I on March 22, 2005.

McFarland said a recently released State of the News Media study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism has found a decline in newsroom resources and a rise in overall news content, which, the study said combined to create a decline in on-air reporting and increased use of material from outside sources.

California Democrats criticized the administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for using state money to produce VNRs that cast an entirely favorable light on some of the administration's most controversial policies. The VNRs are distributed by satellite for stations to use as they wish. An aide (Rick Rice) to the governor said the VNR is "no different from a written press release...the government cranks out millions of press releases every day," the Seattle P-I reported last month.



President Bush was queried Feb. 10, 2005, over how Talon News reporter, using the pseudonym Jeff Gannon was admitted to White House briefings, where he asked questions that had unflattering portrayal of Sen. John Kerry ("might someday be known as 'the first gay president'").

Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., asked Bush to address the issues because of the "mounting evidence that your administration has...paid members of the media to advocate in favor of administration policies" -- and said she has ongoing concern about what appears to be "an organized campaign to mask partisan propaganda as legitimate news" by the Bush administration.

Salon, the online magazine cited C-SPAN TV clips showing Gannon attending White House news briefings as early as Feb. 28, 2003, a month before his Internet news site, Talon News, was ever online or registered.

Jeff Gannon, whose real name is James Guckert, worked for porn internet sites such as Hotmilitarystud.com, Workingboys.net and militaryescorts.com but was given White House press credentials as Gannon, a conservative correspondent for two political Web sites operated by a rich Texas Republican -- but New York Times columnist Maureen Down was not.

In a Feb. 17, 2005, column, Dowd cited a CNN report, noting, "The Pentagon produces Web sites with "news articles intended to influence opinion abroad and at home, but you have to look hard for the disclaimer,'Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense.' The agencies spent a whopping $88 million spinning reality in 2004, splurging on P.R. contracts."

Dowd said press secretary McClellan dismissed the way Guckert used his driver's license to get into the White House and then asked questions as Jeff Gannon by saying blithely, "People use aliases all the time in life, from journalists to actors."



In Denver three people were ejected from President Bush's town hall meeting March 21 after they arrived in a car with a "No more blood for oil" bumper sticker. And, in Fargo, N.D. in February, 42 people were barred from a Bush speech to 8,000 -- a practice that North Dakota Congressman Earl Pomeroy says seems to be standard operating procedure. Rep. Mark Udall asked the White house to investigate and make sure that no American citizen is blacklisted because such appearances "ought to be open to all citizens regardless of their party affiliation or political views."

In the fall of 2005, "The Daily Show" host, Jon Stewart, lampooned President Bush for staging a fake teleconference with American troops in Iraq. Mainstream media had released footage of a rehearsal with the troops involved of the "impromptu" teleconference.

Conservative radio/TV host Armstrong Williams received more than $200,000 from the Bush administration to promote under the guise of news the "No Child Left Behind" education reforms, the Seattle Times reported May 8, 2005.

Zachary Coile of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote in early 2005 that scientists in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that under the Bush administration they've been forced to alter or withhold findings that would have led to greater protection for endangered species.
Citing a mail-in survey by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Coile said 44 percent of the scientists responding said they have been asked by superiors to avoid making findings that would require greater protection of endangered species. And, 56% said agency officials have reversed or withdrawn scientific conclusions under pressure from industry groups."

Before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, federal aviation officials had dozens of intelligence reports that warned about such attacks -- but the Bush administration has blocked the public release of the full classified version of the report to the 9/11 commission for more than five months, Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times reported in February 2005 (Seattle P-I, Feb. 10, 2005).

The Seattle P-I (using an article by Douglas Jehl of the New York Times) on May 20, 2005, printed an article telling how charges by former Bush administration officials Richard Clarke and Paul O'Neill that President Bush decided to invade Iraq (summer 2002) and then had the "intelligence and facts ... fixed around the policy" according to a memo citing Britain's chief of secret intelligence.

Nearly 90 House Democrats have written to the White House asking for an explanation of these new facts about the decision to make up reasons to go to war. The White House says there is "no need" to respond and says the memorandum is based on "circumstantial observations."


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