Friday, January 6, 2012

Hercule Poirot, Meet The Pentagon's Inspector General

The New York Times reports on an investigation into a Defense Department program to curry favor with retired officers working as TV military analysts:

One former Pentagon official told the investigators that when Barry McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army general and NBC military analyst, “started challenging” Mr. Rumsfeld on air, he was told that Mr. Rumsfeld wanted him “immediately” removed from the invitation list because General McCaffrey was no longer considered a “team player.” Mr. Rumsfeld told investigators that he did not recall ordering General McCaffrey’s exclusion.

Wesley K. Clark, a retired four-star Army general who worked as a military analyst for CNN, told investigators he took it as a sign that the Pentagon “was displeased” with his commentary when CNN officials told him he would no longer be invited to special briefings for military analysts. General Clark told investigators that CNN officials made him feel as if he was less valued as a commentator because “he wasn’t trusted by the Pentagon.” At one point, he said, a CNN official told him that the White House had asked CNN to “release you from your contract as a commentator.”

...Investigators said that to understand the program’s intent, they had to rely on interviews with Mr. Rumsfeld’s former public affairs aides, including his spokeswoman, Victoria Clarke. Based on these interviews, the report said, investigators concluded that the “outreach activities were intended to serve as an open information exchange with credible third-party subject-matter experts” who could “explain military issues, actions and strategies to the American public.”

...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.

In these economically straitened times, here's how we do an investigation: We ask people if they're guilty. If they say no, we go home.

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