- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 3, 2011

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee is intervening with a Pentagon investigator to influence the final wording of a report that exonerates George W. Bush-era officials who gave war briefings to retired military TV and radio commentators.

Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, has tried for three years to convince federal investigators that the briefing program violated government rules and that some of the retired officers turned analysts received preferential treatment for Pentagon contracts.

Two previous government probes found no misconduct, and the Pentagon inspector general now has wrapped up a third investigation.

A source close to the third probe said that a Levin staffer, committee general counsel Peter Levine, has engaged in written communication with John Crane, the Pentagon inspector general’s congressional liaison.

The source said the communication is designed to convince Mr. Crane that wording should be added to the findings that criticize the analyst program devised by staff for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

The findings, as written, say the program followed Defense Department rules, the source told The Washington Times.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Levin and Mr. Levine declined to comment.

Mr. Crane, who is also director of communications, referred a reporter to an earlier answer his office gave to The Times. At that time, he was asked whether the inspector general’s office had briefed Mr. Levin on the findings, not about Mr. Levine’s communications.

The spokesman at that time said it was a general practice not to brief requesters such as Mr. Levin on a report’s anticipated findings, but rather on an investigation’s methodology and progress.

Urged on by Mr. Levin, the inspector general began investigating Mr. Rumsfeld’s staff three years ago after a Pulitzer Prize-winning article in the New York Times implied that the Pentagon violated rules against propaganda.

The story also implied that the retired officers, some of whom worked in the defense industry, received contracts for favorable comments about the war when they appeared on TV or radio.

The Washington Times reported Sept. 24 that the completed, but not yet released, report had found no wrongdoing.

“They are reviewing it and reviewing it and reviewing it,” said a second source familiar with the process when asked why the report had not been released.

Officials said in September that the inspector general planned to release the report soon, perhaps in the first two weeks of October. Some of the analysts interviewed have been notified that they may request transcripts — something done when a report is completed.

Former Rumsfeld staffers said they were simply practicing public affairs, like any other federal department, when senior officials commented on war operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. They said the analysts had no special access to procurement officials.

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