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The PJ Tatler

by
Hans A. von Spakovsky

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September 28, 2011 - 8:17 am

The Washington Times had an article on Saturday that must have annoyed The New York Times. It reported that the Department of Defense Inspector General has cleared Bush administration Defense Department officials of allegations (made by the NYT and congressional Democrats) that they broke federal law by briefing retired military officers who spoke publicly about the Iraq and Afghanistan war effort and supposedly received financial benefits from  the Pentagon.

The NYT actually won a Pulitzer for its unwarranted attacks in its front-page story “Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand.” Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., publicly claimed that the DOD officials had committed crimes for what they did. The NYT implied that the analysts received contracting favors, and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., alleged that that they received financial gain for engaging in a secret propaganda campaign. Many of the officials being probed were forced to hire criminal defense attorneys to protect themselves from this irresponsible attack and the unjustified investigations to which they were subjected.

In 2009, the IG cleared the Bush officials after concluding that there was no financial benefit and the briefings were conducted in accordance with DOD policies and regulations and were “open and transparent.” But this complete exoneration was not good enough for Sen. Levin. Instead, according to the WT, Levin extracted a promise out of the new IG, Gordon Heddell, at his confirmation hearing to reopen the investigation of the cleared officials, to reconsider the earlier findings, and thereby prolong the public harassment and financial burdens incurred by these individuals.

Heddell restarted the probe even though the GAO released a separate report in July 2009 also concluding that the briefings of retired military officers did not violate federal law, and that there was no “evidence that DoD contracted with or paid [the analysts] for positive commentary.” In fact, the claims of wrongdoing by the NYT, Dingell, and Levin were groundless from the very start, since, as the Pentagon rightly pointed out at the time, the briefings were no different than the briefings given to think-tank scholars and reporters and columnists from newspapers such as the NYT.

Dingell even demanded that the FCC open an investigation. It did just that and subsequently sent letters to these retired military officers telling them (incorrectly) that they may have broken the law. (The FCC never issued a report.)

So now we have had two IG investigations and one GAO investigation, all of which have found no wrongdoing of any kind and no violations of any federal law or federal regulations.

To quote former Reagan official Ray Donovan, where do the retired military officials such as Thomas McInerney, Kenneth Allard and Bo Scales, whose photos were splashed across the NYT’s story, go to get their reputations back? Will the NYT, Dingell and Levin do the decent thing and apologize for their unwarranted hounding and public damnation of DOD officials and these analysts? Or offer to pay the cost of their legal fees? Will the Pulitzer Committee withdraw the prize they awarded to the NYT under false circumstances for a bogus story that turned out to be much ado about nothing? Don’t count on it.

This Les Misérables, Inspector Javert-like persecution by Levin and others was outrageous. But it offers an all-too-typical example of how certain politicians and liberal media organs abuse their power.

Hans A. von Spakovsky is a Senior Legal Fellow at The Heritage Foundation and a former counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights at the Justice Department. He is the coauthor of the book “Who’s Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk”.
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