Wednesday, December 28, 2011

This is what passes for government investigation these days

Buried on Page 20 of the Sunday NY Times was the resolution of the inquiry into the Pentagon's use of high-profile military analysts to fuel the public relations battle for war in Iraq and Afghanistan. For those of you unfamiliar, from 2002 to 2008 the Pentagon and military contractors pretty much solicited former military personnel to advocate for increased military engagement, warfare, and expenditures in the Middle East on networks like NBC, CNN, and Fox. What made this practice problematic was not the lobbying per se. The government is entitled to sell their warmongering (it's called propaganda my friends, and while pernicious, it's not illegal). What made this particularly egregious was that these analysts were paid by the networks themselves and were supposed-to-be "neutral" military analysts. Clearly "neutrality" needs to be called into question when defense contractors are specifically paying "military analysts" on the major news networks.

This caused a minor uproar (and caused a subsequent investigations), because Democrats proved to be marginally interested in investigating Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld falsities at the time (even aloof Democrats can smell blood in the political waters). Once Obama was elected and we all agreed that "what was past was past," (well we didn't agree but our political bettors did), investigations like these (and Abu Ghraib, warrantless wiretapping, political witchunts in the DA's office, etc.) were squashed. I mean, it just seemed wiser for the executive branch to prosecute government whistleblowers and deport illegal immigrants, both of which we are doing at the highest rate in US history right now.

Unsurprisingly, the investigation concluded that no legal or ethical breaches were made by the Bush Administration in their military version of "pay-to-play." Are you as surprised as I am? Anyway, what struck me as funny in the article, besides the fact that the Pentagon was tasked with investigating themselves, (Gee, I can't believe they found no wrongdoing!), was this part of the article, my emphasis in bold:

The inspector general’s office looked into the issue of whether military analysts with ties to defense contractors used their access to senior Defense Department officials to advance their business interests.
The report found that at least 43 of the military analysts were affiliated with defense contractors. The inspector general’s office said it asked 35 of these analysts whether their participation in the program benefited their business interests. Almost all said no. Based on these answers, the report said, investigators were unable to identify any analysts who “profited financially” from their participation in the program.
You see? They asked them if they profited financially from these connections. And they said no! Well, no reason to investigate further then! I'm satisfied. I mean, we could look at financial records and such but I don't see any reason for that. Nothing to see here!

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