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DOD Iraq propaganda program legal: Inspector General

[JURIST] The US Defense Department Office of the Inspector General [official website] has concluded that the US military's use of a propaganda program in Iraq was legal, a Pentagon spokesman said Thursday. While the program involved planting and paying for favorable news about US operations in Iraqi newspapers, the IG report - not yet publicly available - concludes that no laws or regulations on psychological operations were broken. The IG investigated three contracts awarded to the Lincoln Group [official website], a Washington DC based public relations firm, which call for Lincoln to monitor English and Arabic media outlets and produce talking points and speeches to be used by US forces in Iraq. Lincoln was embroiled in controversy last year when news surfaced that Lincoln worked with the US military to run positive stories [NYT report] about the US occupation of Iraq. US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld [official profile] has defended the military's use of "nontraditional means" while Gen. Peter Pace [official profile], chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has questioned the program, saying people should know whether what they are reading is done by an independent reporter or by someone paid by the government.

Last year, the Inspector General's office concluded that websites like the Southeast European Times [media website] operated by the US military that pay journalists to write articles and commentary supporting military activities are legal and do not infringe laws or government policies [JURIST report]. The IG investigation determined that two websites aimed at audiences in the Balkans and the Maghreb region of northern Africa are not covert propaganda and are properly identified as US government products [SET "About Us"], although the identifications are not prominent. AP has more.

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