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The briefers were typically Mr. Rumsfeld or someone from the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the Pentagon’s civilian policy shop.

This is not the first time Mr. Levin has intervened behind the scenes, or the first time that federal investigators have cleared the Rumsfeld Pentagon.

In January 2009, the inspector general released its first report on the analysts, clearing them and the Pentagon of wrongdoing. It said the briefings were “conducted in accordance within Defense Department policies and regulations.”

“We found no indication that partisanship was operative during the interchanges with [retired military analysts] and found no evidence that the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs personnel sought to somehow avoid portraying [the Defense Department] as a source for the information provided. Rather, the briefings were open and transparent,” the 2009 report states.

Unhappy with the findings, Mr. Levin sent a private letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, to Robert M. Gates, the defense secretary at the time.

“While the report finds insufficient evidence to determine that any contractor received a competitive advantage as a result of its ties to retired military analysts, the report fails to assess whether the retired military analysts themselves obtained financial benefits from contractors as a result of their favorable access to [Defense Department] information and officials,” Mr. Levin wrote.

Mr. Gates, who suspended the program in reaction to the New York Times story, forwarded the letter to the inspector general, who retracted the report, saying it had not adequately determined who among the analysts were defense contractors. It said it did not plan another investigation.

But Mr. Levin insisted at the 2009 confirmation hearing of Gordon Heddell for inspector general that it conduct a second investigation.

Mr. Heddell complied in June 2009 with a new team of investigators. It is their unreleased report that again has exonerated the Pentagon, according to the source knowledgeable about the findings.

In July 2009, the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ investigative arm, issued a report saying it, like the Pentagon inspector general, found nothing wrong with what it called the retired military officer (RMO) program.

“We found no evidence that DoD attempted to conceal from the public its outreach to RMOs or its role in providing RMOs with information, materials, access to department officials, travel, and luncheons. Moreover, we found no evidence that DoD contracted with or paid RMOs for positive commentary or analysis. Consequently, DoD’s public affairs activities involving RMOs, in our opinion, did not violate the publicity or propaganda prohibition,” the GAO report states.