A Times analysis of thousands of e-mails and other records found that the Bush administration's communications team used a group of "military analysts" that frequently appear on TV news programs to skew the media coverage in its favor by offering exclusive access to then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, as well as personal tours of Iraq, talking points on military issues, and even help writing Op-Eds.
Observers of the military-industrial complex have long noted the sometimes ethically questionable ties that bind the military and the private sector. Ex-officers join defense contractors and lobbying firms as executives; defense company executives become Defense Department officials. Thus, it was no surprise to many that the retired military officers not only kept close to the administration and Pentagon, but they also worked at companies with vested interests in military and government contracts.
In the interest of ethics, the retired military officers should have disclosed their private-sector alliances when appearing as commentators on TV and the radio.
The Times quotes the analysts as saying media infrequently inquired about their other activities. Several networks declined comment for the article, while some put the onus on the analysts to disclose those relationships.
Either way, the media did its viewers a disservice. The current and future administration will likely continue to try to find new groups to present as de facto spokespeople, but viewers can't be expected to be aware of these particular conflicts of interest. The media needs to ask the right questions.