The U.S. government has used military analysts to generate favorable news coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the New York Times reported Sunday.
Most of these analysts have ties to defense contractors who make a big fortune from the wars and they admit that they suppressed doubts about the Bush administration's misinformation out of fear of jeopardizing their access or contracts, according to the report.
Over time, the government recruited more than 75 retired officers.
The largest contingent was affiliated with Fox News, followed by the NBC and the CNN, and the other networks with 24-hour cable outlets.
To the public, they posed as military analysts whose long service has equipped them to give "authoritative and unfettered judgments" about the most pressing issues of terrorism.
Hidden behind that appearance, though, they gave ideological and military allegiances to the government, the paper said.
Records show the analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters.
They have also been taken on official tours to Iraq and given access to classified intelligence.
In turn, they echoed the administration's "talking points," sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated.
"It was them saying, 'We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you,'" said Robert S. Bevelacqua, a retired Green Beret and former Fox News analyst.
The findings of the New York Times were based on 8,000 pages of e-mail messages, transcripts and records describing years of private briefings, trips to Iraq and an extensive Pentagon talking points operation.
These records "reveal a symbiotic relationship where the usual dividing lines between government and journalism have been obliterated, " the newspaper said.