Defense Contractors and Foreign Governments Funding Pundits and Think Tanks

Originally published on September 21, 2014, at NationofChange.org

In a blatant conflict of interest, defense contractors and foreign governments are hiring pundits and think tanks to advocate for their agendas without media outlets disclosing their fiscal ties. Following a strategy developed by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, think tanks funded by military contractors and foreign governments use commentators to influence policy or to generate exorbitant profits. Failure to disclose these financial connections reveals a glaring lack of journalistic integrity on the part of major media corporations.

During last year’s debates to attack Syria, former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley made the rounds appearing on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. In a Washington Post op-ed, Hadley openly advocated for war against Syria. Yet none of these news organizations disclosed the fact that Hadley has also served on the board of Raytheon since 2009.

Raytheon produces the Tomahawk cruise missiles utilized during military campaigns. Regardless of whether the U.S. decided to go to war with Syria, Raytheon’s profits and Hadley’s 11,477 shares traded at all-time highs during the debate. A director and member of the Executive Committee of the Atlantic Council, Hadley is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

Retired Gen. Jack Keane is a fellow CFR member and Chairman of the Washington think tank, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). Funded by defense contractors including Raytheon, DynCorp, CACI, Northrop Grumman, Palantir, and General Dynamics, the ISW is calling for at least 25,000 ground troops to attack forces in Iraq and Syria.

Appearing on BBC, Fox News, and PBS, Keane advocates for military action while networks and publications fail to disclose his roles as both a board member of General Dynamics and a strategic adviser to Academi, the private contractor firm of mercenaries formerly known as Blackwater. Keane’s colleague on the board of General Dynamics, retired Gen. James Mattis was recently quoted in the Washington Post without revealing his association with the lucrative defense contractor.

Earlier this month, retired Gen. Anthony Zinni demanded at least 10,000 U.S. ground troops to fight the Islamic State. Unbeknownst to his audiences watching CBS and CNN, Zinni sits on the board of BAE Systems and works for multiple private equity firms that invest in defense contractors. Zinni is also a CFR member and a Distinguished Senior Advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Appearing on Bloomberg TV, CNN, and MSNBC, former Secretary of Defense William Cohen has called for military intervention in Syria without identifying his affiliations with CSIS and the CFR. As Chair and CEO of the Cohen Group, he lobbies on behalf of defense contractors including General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, and United Technologies. Cohen Group’s Senior Counselor R. Nicholas Burns and Vice-chairman Joseph Ralston have made several media appearances supporting war against Iraq and Syria without disclosing their current positions.

In potential violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, over a dozen Washington think tanks have received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments intending to influence U.S. policy. According to the law, groups paid by foreign governments with the intention of influencing public policy must register as foreign agents with the Justice Department.

Although think tanks including the Atlantic Council, the Brookings Institution, and CSIS receive money and lobby for foreign governments, the Justice Department refuses to prosecute them. Quietly donating over $1 million to build the new CSIS headquarters in Washington, the United Arab Emirates aggressively funnels money into think tanks to improve its public image while targeting its political enemies.

Appearing on MSNBC, former Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy was introduced as a senior advisor at the Boston Consulting Group. MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell neglected to disclose Flournoy was also a director at the Atlantic Council, a CFR member, a cofounder and CEO of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), and a former associate at CSIS. Her fellow CNAS members include Thom Shanker of The New York Times, Tom Ricks of ForeignPolicy.com, former Washington Post contributor Andrew Exum, David Cloud of the Los Angeles Times, Eric Schmitt of The New York Times, former Los Angeles Times reporter Robert Kaplan, and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Other contributors and military analysts that the media failed to properly disclose their financial ties to the defense industry included retired Gen. James Cartwright, former Chief of Staff to the Defense Department and CIA Jeremy Bash, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, former chief U.S. weapons inspector Charles Duelfer, former CIA Director Michael Hayden, former Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, and former Homeland Security Advisor Frances Townsend.

In the case of Holder v. Humanitarian Law, the U.S. Supreme Court decided political advocacy in support of a designated terrorist group will be prosecuted as a felony if the advocacy is coordinated with that group. While listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department, the Iranian dissident group Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) met with several former top American officials and paid them tens of thousands of dollars to advocate on the MEK’s behalf. Those advocates include former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, former White House Chief of Staff Andy Card, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, former DNC Chairman Howard Dean, former FBI Director Louis Freeh, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former CIA Director Michael Hayden, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, and former Homeland Security Advisor Frances Townsend.

As Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld enlisted 74 military analysts to impose the Pentagon’s will upon the American public during the Iraq War. At least 43 of those analysts were affiliated with defense contractors, but the media failed to disclose their glaring conflicts of interest. Granted access to top government officials, these analysts hit the airwaves supporting Pentagon talking points and lobbying for their associates in the defense industry. Commentators with undisclosed financial ties included retired Green Beret Robert Bevelacqua, former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, retired Gen. James Marks, retired Col. Jeffrey McCausland, retired Gen. Thomas McInerney, retired Capt. Charles Nash, and retired Gen. Joseph Ralston.

“It was them saying, ‘We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you,’ ” said Bevelacqua, a retired Green Beret and former Fox News analyst.

Instead of sharing his qualms with the American public, Bevelacqua and another Fox analyst, William Cowan, remained silent hoping to win military contracts for their firm, the wvc3 Group.

“There’s no way I was going to go down that road and get completely torn apart,” stated Bevelacqua. “You’re talking about fighting a huge machine.”

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