Defense Dept. to conduct inquiry

Under pressure from the House of Representatives, the Defense Dept. will conduct an inquiry into its use of retired military officers as surrogates on network television news.

Announcement came hard on the heels of a House vote compelling the government’s chief watchdog agency to start its own probe into the so-called surrogates program, which the Pentagon has suspended.

The double-barrel investigations were reported over the weekend by the New York Times, which first disclosed the existence of the secretive program in April.

Under the program, the Pentagon public affairs office quietly recruited retired military officers who serve as independent analysts for CNN, Fox, ABC, CBS and NBC news ops to promote Iraq war policy and strategy.

Shortly after the disclosure, some 40 House members led by Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.) wrote to Pentagon inspector general Claude M. Kicklighter seeking answers to about a dozen questions about the program.

“When the Dept. of Defense misleads the American people by having them believe that they are listening to the views of objective military analysts when in fact these individuals are simply replaying DoD talking points, the department is clearly betraying the public trust,” they wrote.

Late last week, as part of the annual military authorization bill, the House also passed a provision that would require the U.S. General Accountability Office to investigate the surrogates program. The GAO said it has already started an inquiry, the Times reported.

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