The Military-Industrial Pundits: Conflicts of Interest Exposed for TV Guests Who Urged Syrian War



New research shows many so-called experts who appeared on television making the case for U.S. strikes on Syria had undisclosed ties to military contractors. A new report by the Public Accountability Initiative identifies 22 commentators with industry ties. While they appeared on television or were quoted as experts 111 times, their links to military firms were disclosed only 13 of those times.

Posted October 19, 2013


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report, as we move on now to a very interesting study that has just come out. Juan?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, new research shows many so-called experts who appeared on television making the case for U.S. strikes on Syria had undisclosed ties to military contractors. The report by the Public Accountability Initiative identifies 22 commentators with the industry. While they appeared on television or were quoted as experts 111 times, their links to military firms were disclosed only 13 of those times. Let’s take a look at how some of those pundits were identified during recent television appearances.

JAKE TAPPER: For insight into this high-stakes diplomatic mission, I’m joined by former secretary of state to the Clinton administration, Madeleine Albright.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, let’s analyze all this now with our panel of experts. Former vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General James Cartwright.

GREGG JARRETT: General Jack Keane joins us, Fox News military analyst, served as four-star general and Army vice chief of staff. General, good to see you, as always.

JAKE TAPPER: I want to bring in two former generals to talk about this. Anthony Zinni is the former commander-in-chief of CENTCOM, and Michael Hayden is the former CIA director. He’s now a principal with the Chertoff Group, a risk management firm.

FOLLY BAH THIBAULT: Well, joining me now, live from Washington, D.C., is former U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen. Secretary Cohen, thank you for being on Al Jazeera.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN: Joining us is Ambassador John Negroponte. He served as the first U.S. director of national intelligence, as well as U.S. ambassador to Iraq and the United Nations, and many more posts, I should add. Nice to see you, sir.


AMY GOODMAN: A sampling of recent TV coverage on Syria. All the pundits interviewed currently have ties to military and intelligence contractors, investment firms with a significant defense or intelligence focus, or ties to consulting firms with a focus on defense or intelligence. General Jack Keane, for example, is on the board of General Dynamics. General Anthony Zinni is on the board of BAE Systems. General James Cartwright is on the board of Raytheon.

Joining us now from San Francisco, Kevin Connor, director and co-founder of the Public Accountability Initiative, co-author of the report called “Conflicts of Interest in the Syria Debate.”

Lay out what you found, Kevin.

KEVIN CONNOR: Sure. The report really maps out the extent to which the policy conversation on the airwaves around Syria was really dominated by individuals with ties to the defense industry. And these ties, as you laid out there, really were never disclosed—rarely disclosed, only 13 times out of 111 appearances that we identified during the Syria debate.

Now, the importance of that is that readers and viewers at home, who are, you know, seeing these people comment, are introduced to them as having gravitas and credibility—former secretaries of state, diplomats, generals with expertise. You would think these are independent experts who probably retired with a healthy pension, when in fact they’re representing interests that would profit from heightened military activity abroad in Syria. So that has a corrupting effect on the public discourse around an issue like Syria that’s so—so important. And it really goes back to the responsibility of media outlets to disclose these ties and also the individuals here who are implicated in the culture of corruption and the revolving door in Washington.

Anjali mentioned earlier, on the first segment, about the jobs program for the defense industry. And there’s a jobs program in place for the foreign policy establishment as they move out of their public positions onto the boards of these corporations. These aren’t—these are part-time positions, but they’re very high-paying positions. They have financial incentives and fiduciary responsibilities to companies that are profiting from war, profiting from current levels of defense spending. And this is something that viewers at home should be notified of. And it perhaps should preclude their involvement in debates like this, or perhaps they should not get the podium and platform they’re given for their views, given the fact that they have these conflicts of interest that are quite serious in some cases.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Kevin, your report focuses largely on Stephen Hadley, who served as a national security adviser to President George W. Bush. During the debate on Syria, he appeared on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Bloomberg TV. None of these stations informed viewers that Hadley currently serves as a director of the weapons manufacturer Raytheon that makes Tomahawk cruise missiles. He also owns over 11,000 shares of Raytheon stock, which traded at all-time highs during the Syria debate. Here’s Stephen Hadley being interviewed by Greta Van Susteren on Fox News about the so-called red line on Syria.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN: Did he, or didn’t he? And does it matter who did, as we sort of fuss about this red line? Joining us is Stephen Hadley, former national security adviser to the Bush administration. Doesn’t—does it—did he set the line? And does it matter?

STEPHEN HADLEY: He did set the line, and it probably doesn’t matter, because the line is set, and the credibility of the country is on—is on the line. And in some sense, the Congress needs to act in such a way so as not to undermine the credibility of President Obama. You know, we only have one president at a time, and he embodies the United States. So if his credibility is undermined, the country’s credibility is undermined. And I think that’s an argument that people are beginning to think about on the—on Capitol Hill.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Stephen Hadley. And, of course, the Tomahawk missile that Raytheon produces was the one that was going to be used in the attack on Syria. Kevin, your response?

KEVIN CONNOR: Well, this is just a really egregious, significant conflict of interest that people should have been notified of. When Hadley was making the rounds to the outlets you mentioned, he also published an op-ed in The Washington Post arguing strenuously for war, and at the time, as you mentioned, serves on the board of Raytheon, has nearly $900,000 worth of stock in that company, makes $130,000 a year in cash compensation, actually chairs the public affairs committee for Raytheon, which means that he has oversight of sort of the company’s public profile and image in the media and in policy circles. So this is really a quite clear conflict of interest, and it should have been disclosed to readers and viewers. The fact that—

AMY GOODMAN: The Washington Post has also been criticized for failing to inform its readers about Stephen Hadley’s defense ties. On September 8th, as you said, Kevin, the paper published an op-ed by Hadley that was headlined “To Stop Iran, Obama Must Enforce Red Lines with Assad.” The article described Hadley simply as a former national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration. Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor at the Post, defended the paper’s move. Hiatt said, quote, “More disclosure is generally better than less, but I’m confident that Hadley’s opinion piece, which was consistent with the worldview he has espoused for many years, was not influenced by any hypothetical, certainly marginal, impact to Raytheon’s bottom line.” That was Hiatt’s statement. Kevin Connor, your response?

KEVIN CONNOR: Well, first, you know, I would like to say kudos to The Washington Post for actually covering the report and really requiring Hiatt to respond. But his response is really absurd. It demonstrates a really fuzzy understanding of conflicts of interest and ethical issues. This is a clear conflict of interest. The conflicts of interest actually raise the possibility of corruption, the corruption of one’s motives. There are relationships that might call into question one’s motives, and this clearly does. And nothing Hiatt said really, you know, defends against that. Hiatt might, you know, have special insight into Hadley’s inner thinking, given that they are perhaps in the same foreign policy circles. Hiatt has written glowing articles about Hadley in the past, so, you know, this is fairly standard for him in terms of his worldview and his sort of milieu.

AMY GOODMAN: Kevin Connor, we want to thank you for being with us, and we’ll certainly link to your report. Kevin is director and co-founder of the Public Accountability Initiative, co-author of the report called “Conflicts of Interest in the Syria Debate,” which was released last week.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’re going to look at fast-food workers. How much are you paying for them to be paid so little? Stay with us.

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