People Who Brief People: White House stonewalls on its involvement in military analysts scandal
White House equates Pentagon propaganda with liberal blogging
Wonder of wonders—I got called on during the White House briefing without Les Kinsolving putting the press secretary under duress. That's the first time that's happened in two months. Between March 19 and Monday, I attended 10 briefings and was ignored at every one except for the time Les spoke up on my behalf on April 30.
Yesterday, I asked Deputy Press Secretary Scott Stanzel about White House involvement in the Pentagon's recently suspended domestic propaganda program (also known as the military analysts scandal, or 'Psyops on Steroids'). Press Secretary Dana Perino had denied White House knowledge of the program in response to my questioning on April 30th, but last week, Salon's Glenn Greenwald showed that her denial was false. Glenn published several emails (gleaned from 8,000 pages of documents relating to the program that the Pentagon was forced to disclose after it lost a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit) that showed that White House officials Karl Rove and Stephen Hadley had known about the program.
My exchange with Scott Stanzel follows:
Me: The White House has denied that it knew about the Pentagon program that used TV military analysts—
Stanzel: We've been through this before. Do you have a question?
Me: Yeah, there's something new. Last week emails surfaced that showed that Pentagon officials, including Donald Rumsfeld, communicated with White House officials, including Karl Rove and Stephen Hadley, about the program. One email written by a Pentagon official mentions that Rove was approached about arranging a meeting between the military analysts and the President. My question—
Stanzel: Your question is?
Me: My question is: what was the nature and extent of the involvement of Karl Rove, Stephen Hadley, and President Bush in the military analyst program?
Stanzel: Well, the idea that people in the administration would brief people who are talking to reporters about our programs and our policies doesn't seem, like, to be that farfetched of an idea to me. So in terms of the emails, I haven't been monitoring the staff emails here, so I can't tell you what their conversations were like. But it's not unusual for administration officials to brief people who are talking about our plans and our policies, much like I'm standing here today briefing all of you—
Me: Right, and why was the program kept secret?
Stanzel: —and much like I'm standing here answering your question, and you go out on your liberal blog and talk about, you know, the way that you see things; we brief people who talk about the President's policies.
Me: Why was the program kept secret?
Stanzel: You can talk to the Defense Department. It was their program—which they've discontinued. [calling on another reporter] Yes.
Me: Who was in charge at the White House?
Confronted with evidence of the White House's involvement, Scott was forced to abandon Dana Perino's assertion to me three weeks ago that the White House had no knowledge of the program. Indeed, he implicitly concedes that White House officials discussed the program with their counterparts at the Pentagon. But in his attempts to defend the program, he equates a secret multimillion-dollar Pentagon psyops operation directed at the American people—and, apparently, overseen by the White House—with him briefing the press from a podium and my reporting of it on what he describes as my "liberal blog."
First of all, Scott, RAW STORY isn't a blog, and I'm a reporter, not a blogger.
Second, unlike many of the military analysts, I don't have financial ties to corporations that will benefit from the inside information you give me.
Third, if there was nothing wrong with the program, why was it kept secret, why did the Pentagon fight a two-year lawsuit to keep it secret, and why did the Pentagon then stop the program, at least temporarily, after it lost the lawsuit? The White House briefings are broadcast on C-SPAN and available to anyone in the world with an Internet connection. The military analysts, on the other hand, were instructed not to quote their briefers directly or otherwise describe their contacts with the Pentagon. What were they hiding, Scott?
And finally, I can understand why you'd consider most of the rest of the White House press corps to be nothing more than administration "message force multipliers"—as the military analysts were termed by the Pentagon—but I'm not.
The only parallel I see is that, just as the Pentagon did with the few military analysts who strayed from their talking points, you have cut off my access when you don't like what I write.
(Think Progress has video at this link)
The preceding article was a White House report from Eric Brewer, who will periodically attend White House press briefings for Raw Story. Brewer is also a contributor at BTC News. He was the first person to ask about the Downing Street memo at a White House briefing.