News Intelligence Analysis




Yurica Report Note: This report is a compilation of material and reports
from the Free Press web site by the Yurica Report in order to place
all the documentation on the infringement of the freedom of the
press by the Bush Administration before our readers in an
easily accessible format.


The Battle for the Control of the Press

From Reports from the Free Press and Common Cause and Digital Democracy


Click here for a copy of the Inspector General's Report


A host of recent developments have made it clear that the Bush White House is doing battle against the journalistic standards and practices that underpin of our democracy. With its unprecedented campaign to undermine and stifle independent journalism, Bush & Co. have demonstrated brazen contempt for the Constitution and considerable fear of an informed public.

In short, America’s leadership is waging a war against the journalistic standards and practices that underpin not only a free press but our democracy. The Fourth Estate is withering under an unprecedented White House assault designed to intimidate, smear and discredit investigative journalism — and allow the president and his political cronies to lie with impunity. If left unchecked, this and future administrations will continue to:

Infiltrating Public Broadcasting

White House loyalists inside the Corporation for Public Broadcasting have launched a crusade to remake PBS, NPR and other public media into official mouthpieces. Kenneth Tomlinson’s tenure at the CPB was characterized by targeting journalists like Bill Moyers who dared to air dissenting voices or prepare investigative reports on the administration. Here's a specific list detailing Tomlinson's tenure:

Wrongdoings at the CPB

In 2005, Kenneth Tomlinson, the staunchly conservative chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), led a crusade to pull programming into line with the White House. Tomlinson's maneuvering went on behind closed doors -- without public disclosure -- prompting Inspector General Kenneth Konz to launch an investigation. The findings of this investigation forced Tomlinson to resign in shame in November, but he's left behind a CPB offices that is stacked with GOP insiders and seasoned propagandists.

Tomlinson maneuvered behind the scenes to force partisan programming onto PBS, hiring a conservative to monitor "Now with Bill Moyers" and other broadcasts for signs of "liberal advocacy journalism." He recruited Patricia de Stacy Harrison, a former co-chair of the Republican National Committee, to become CPB's president. Since taking office, Harrison has placed Republican Party loyalists and seasoned propagandists from the U.S. State Department in executive positions throughout the CPB.

In September, Tomlinson handed over his chairmanship to Cheryl Halpern, a GOP mega-fundraiser with a background in state propaganda and little experience in public broadcasting. At her Senate confirmation hearing, Halpern joined Trent Lott in questioning the objectivity of Bill Moyers and said that an "objective, balanced code of journalistic ethics has got to prevail across the board, and there needs to be accountability."

Free Press has mobilized hundreds of thousands of Americans to make certain that public broadcasting "accountability" begins at the CPB. Congress must pass sweeping reforms that protect the independence and strengthen the mission of public broadcasting. These reforms should return the CPB to its original mission "to serve the public interest" and be "free of political interference," as defined in the Carnegie Commission report of 1967.


Tomlinson's goal was clearly to fire a shot across the bow of all public stations so managers would shy away from the sort of investigative journalism that might expose Bush administration malfeasance. Tomlinson resigned in disgrace but left behind a cast of cronies to carry out his partisan crusade. And we still don’t know the extent to which Karl Rove and others at the White House orchestrated his efforts.

Groups call for new leadership at CPB after report reveals ethical violations and 'political tests' in hiring Inspector General's report illustrates why Congress must implement sweeping reforms to ensure the health and independence of PBS, NPR and other public media

Free Press, the Center for Digital Democracy and Common Cause called on Corporation for Public Broadcasting President Patricia Harrison to resign following the long-awaited release of an Inspector General's report, which exposes extensive wrongdoing by the leadership of the CPB. The report found that "political tests" were a "major criteria" in hiring Harrison to oversee the CPB.

The 67-page report by Inspector General Kenneth Konz, which was presented in secret to the CPB Board of Directors before it was released to the public. Among its other findings:

  • Former CPB Chairman Kenneth Y. Tomlinson "violated his fiduciary responsibilities and statutory prohibitions against Board member involvement in programming decisions" in creating the "Journal Editorial Report."

  • The report criticizes the secretive hiring of Republican operative Frederick Mann to monitor "Now with Bill Moyers" and other programs without authorization from the CPB Board.

  • While the report concludes the violations were primarily the result of Tomlinson's "personal actions to accomplish his various initiatives," it also identifies "serious weaknesses" in the CPB's governance system.

The above activiist groups also demanded that the CPB make public the "separate investigative report, along with specific evidence indicating possible wrongdoing," that Konz made available to the board as well as any additional documents provided to members of Congress.

Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press said, "This report shows that officials at the very top of the CPB were conspiring to conduct an extreme makeover of our public broadcasting system. Congress needs to immediately clear out the zealous partisans remaining at the CPB and institute sensible reforms that will permanently protect public broadcasting from political interference."

Tomlinson stepped down from the CPB Board on Nov. 3 upon learning of the report's findings. The remaining leadership of the CPB has close ties the Bush administration. Chairwoman Cheryl Halpern and Vice Chairwoman Gay Hart Gaines are veteran GOP operatives and mega-fundraisers, who have praised Tomlinson for "his legitimate efforts to achieve balance and objectivity in public broadcasting." Tomlinson's hand-picked choice to run the CPB, Harrison, is a former chairwoman of the Republican Party, who recently oversaw "public diplomacy" efforts at the State Department.

"The Inspector General's report documents the unnecessary and inappropriate politicization of public broadcasting," said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. "Through a series of covert and overt activities, the CPB board has helped undermine the foundation of public broadcasting. But Mr. Tomlinson shouldn't be singled out as the lone culprit here. All of the board is responsible, as are top CPB executives past and present. The CPB needs new leaders untarnished by this sordid episode."

In response to the Inspector General's report, Free Press, the Center for Digital Democracy and Common Cause endorsed a series of measures that would:

Require the CPB Board to be governed in a bipartisan or independent fashion, mandating that its chairman and vice chairman not represent the same political party. The board should include more members with experience in public broadcasting, including producers of independent programming.

Restore transparency to the CPB Board by requiring open discussion and public votes on all matters. Meetings should be televised and archived online to encourage greater public accountability.

Reformulate the board's position on objectivity and balance, seeking to allow programmers — not political appointees — to determine what the public sees and hears.

Reduce the organization's political involvement by explicitly prohibiting the CPB board and management from hiring outside political lobbyists or consultants.

"The CPB must acknowledge its mistakes and act to restore public confidence, even in the face of this damning report on Mr. Tomlinson's failures," said Common Cause President Chellie Pingree. "We renew our call today for the CPB to be more transparent and accountable by making structural changes to better serve the public interest. The board's initial steps to improve governance don't inspire a lot of confidence given the highly partisan backgrounds of Harrison, Halpern and Gaines."

Manufacturing Fake News

Under Bush administration directives, at least 20 federal agencies have produced and distributed scores of "video news releases" out of a $254 million slush fund set up to manufacture taxpayer-funded propaganda. These bogus and deceptive stories have been broadcast on TV stations nationwide without any acknowledgment that they were prepared by the government rather than local journalists.

The segments — which trumpeted administration “successes,” promoted its controversial line on issues like overhauling Medicare, and featured Americans "thanking" Bush — have been repeatedly labeled "covert propaganda" by investigators at the Government Accountability Office.

The White House has paid people to pose as television reporters praising the benefits of the new Medicare law, which the administration had proffered midst the Bush campaign to win votes from elderly Americans with promises of lowering the costs of their prescription medicines.

Faux-journalist Karen Ryan became infamous in media circles for fronting this series of Bush-friendly “video news releases” that duped local television newscasters broadcast across the country as real news. The Medicare bill wasn’t the only controversial piece of legislation that the Bush administration turned to Ryan for help supporting. She also “reported” for Bush policy in a 2003 video news release that sang the praises of the No Child Left Behind Act. On a similar front the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has produced eight Video News Releases that the GAO found violated laws against undisclosed publicity and propaganda.

Now comes news that the administration has set up a “war room” inside the Treasury Department to pump out information to sell President Bush’s Social Security plan. The internal, taxpayer-funded effort will run a “political campaign” replete with television advertisements, grass-roots organizing and lobbying from business and other groups that support the Bush plan. It’s unclear whether video news releases are a part of the White House’s Social Security plan, but over the last four years, at least 20 federal agencies have used this tactic distributing hundreds of government-produced television news segments via local news outlets.

The Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 (22 U.S.C. ’ 1461), forbids the domestic dissemination of U.S. government authored or developed propaganda or “official news” deliberately designed to influence public opinion or policy. The law singles out materials that serve “a solely partisan purpose.” In the past, the GAO has found that administration agencies violated this and other federal restrictions when they disseminated editorials and newspaper articles written by the government or its contractors without disclosing the conflict of interest.

A September 30, 2005 report by the GAO found the White House violated federal law by buying favorable news coverage from Williams in advance of the 2004 elections. These revelations may just be the tip of the iceberg.

Bribing Journalists

The administration has paid pundits to sing its praises. Earlier this year, TV commentator Armstrong Williams pocketed $240,000 in taxpayer money to laud Bush’s education policies. Three other journalists have since been discovered on the government dole; and Williams admits that he has "no doubt" that other paid Bush shills are still on the loose.

The administration has even exported these tactics. According to the Los Angeles Times, the U.S. military is now secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops.

The administration has paid pundits to sing its praises. Earlier this year, TV commentator Armstrong Williams pocketed $240,000 in taxpayer money to praise Bush’s education policies. Three other journalists have since been discovered on the White House dole; and Williams admits that he has “no doubt” that other paid Bush shills are still on the loose.
Over the past five years, the White House has set aside more than a quarter billion dollars to hire public relations firms to infiltrate our news system with fake news.

A report by the Government Accountability Office found the White House violated federal law by buying favorable news coverage from Williams in advance of the 2004 elections. Michael Massing wrote in the New York Review of Books that the GAO report “presents chilling evidence of the campaign that officials in Washington have been waging against a free and independent press.”

The GAO has issued scathing reports on the White House’s illegal use of taxpayer money to produce “covert propaganda” on four separate occasions. But Attorney General Alberto Gonzales refuses to prosecute these crimes.

The official silence speaks volumes. Without legal recourse, an emboldened White House continues to manipulate the news and deceive Americans.


Lying about the Iraq War

The White House saw the battle for domestic popular opinion as one of the main fronts in the war in Iraq. With the help of a compliant media, truth became the first casualty in their campaign to whip up support. But rather than admit to their lies and misinformation, the administration continues to attack those reporting the truth.

As Frank Rich recently wrote in the New York Times, the administration’s "web of half-truths and falsehoods used to sell the war did not happen by accident; it was woven by design and then foisted on the public by a P.R. operation built expressly for that purpose in the White House."

The White House saw the battle for domestic popular opinion as one of the main fronts in the war in Iraq. With the help of a compliant media, truth became the first casualty in their campaign to whip up support.

Eight months before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, top level British intelligence officers reported that the White House had told them that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed” to fit the administration’s aim of removing Saddam Hussein. This proved to be the pattern throughout the run-up to the war — during Bush’s 2003 State of the Union Address, in Condoleeza Rice’s congressional testimony, and throughout Colin Powell’s presentation to the United Nations about weapons of mass destruction — as officials manipulated and fabricated information to make their case.

Later, when this faulty intelligence was disputed, the administration chose to attack those reporting the truth rather than admit to their own lies and misinformation. As Frank Rich recently wrote in the New York Times, the administration’s “web of half-truths and falsehoods used to sell the war did not happen by accident; it was woven by design and then foisted on the public by a P.R. operation built expressly for that purpose in the White House.”

Among other things, this P.R. campaign involved:

As their deception begins to unravel before the public, Bush, Cheney and their White House colleagues have “stayed the course,” choosing to repeat past untruths in the hope that mainstream media will again err on the side of authority and present the administration’s lies unchallenged.


Eliminating Dissent in the Mainstream Media

Bush has all but avoided traditional press conferences, closing down a prime venue for holding the executive accountable. On those rare occasions when he deigned to meet reporters, presidential aides turned the press conferences into parodies by seating a friendly right-wing “journalist,” former male escort Jeff Gannon, amid the reporters and then steering questions to him when tough issues arose.

They have effectively silenced serious questioners, like veteran journalist Helen Thomas, by refusing to have the president or his aides call on reporters who challenge them. And they have established a hierarchy for journalists seeking interviews with administration officials, which favors networks that give the White House favorable coverage.


The Bush administration has established a hierarchy for journalists seeking interviews with top administration officials, granting access to those networks and newspapers that give the White House the most favorable coverage. At the same time, they’ve stonewalled those who seek to challenge administration talking points.
The White House sends advance teams of handlers to all Bush events to screen audience members and reporters for loyalty to the president and his policies. They eject possible “troublemakers” who might disrupt their contrived public forum.

The White House Press Office turned press conferences into parodies by seating a friendly faux journalist, former male escort Jeff Gannon, amid reporters and then steering questions to him when tough issues arose. They refuse to answer tough questioners such as veteran journalist Helen Thomas, effectively silencing reporters who might challenge the president or his aides.

The administration’s efforts have been amplified by a disciplined and well-organized “echo chamber” of blogs, newspapers, newsletters, journals and radio and televison broadcasters under the influence of conservatives and the Christian right. Often working hand in glove with the White House, these outlets systematically discredit mainstream media that question the official line. This criticism works it way from blogs and other fringe Web sites up the media food chain into radio talk show banter — from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Mark Levin, and Laura Ingraham — until it’s picked up by more mainstream news outlets.

As Michael Massing writes in his recent report on journalism “an unscrupulous critic can spread exaggerated or erroneous claims instantaneously to thousands of people, who may, in turn, repeat them to millions more on talk radio programs, on cable television, or on more official ‘news’ Web sites.” This echo chamber effect has effectively placed White House talking points once considered absurd at the center of media discourse; all the while dismissing as “biased” or “liberal” journalists who question their accuracy.

“We were biased … in favor of uncovering the news that powerful people wanted to keep hidden,” veteran TV journalist Bill Moyers, a frequent target of partisan attacks, recently explained about his PBS news show NOW.

“Conflicts of interest at the Department of Interior, secret meetings between Vice President Cheney and the oil industry, backdoor shenanigans by lobbyists at the FCC, corruption in Congress, neglect of wounded veterans returning from Iraq, Pentagon cost overruns, the manipulation of intelligence leading to the invasion of Iraq… We were way ahead of the news curve on these stories,” Moyers said, “and the administration turned its hit men loose on us.”


Gutting the Freedom of Information Act

The administration has scrapped enforcement of the Freedom of Information Act and has made it harder for reporters to do their jobs by refusing to cooperate with even the most basic requests for comment and data from government agencies. This is part of a broader clampdown on access to information that has made it virtually impossible for journalists to cover vast areas of government activity.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) enshrines the public’s right to access government records. In the past five years, FOIA has been gutted by an administration that would rather cloak its operations from public scrutiny.

In 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a chilling memorandum advising federal agencies that the Justice Department would defend their decisions to deny FOIA requests.

Many have since taken action to fend off public requests for disclosure. Since President Bush entered office, there has been a more than 75 percent increase in the amount of government information classified as secret each year — from 9 million in 2001 to 16 million by 2004.

Yet an even more aggressive form of government information control has gone un-enumerated and often unrecognized in the Bush era, as government agencies have restricted access to unclassified information in libraries, archives, Web sites, and official databases, according to Steven Aftergood, director of the project on government secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists.

“Less of a goal-directed policy than a bureaucratic reflex, the widespread clampdown on formerly public information reflects a largely inarticulate concern about ‘security,’” Aftergood writes. “It also accords neatly with the Bush administration’s preference for unchecked executive authority.”

In their 2004 report, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press provide a rundown of actions taken by public officials to turn basic government information into state secrets. RCFP executive director Lucy Dalglish wrote that many Bush administration actions in fighting the war against terrorism were designed to undermine FOIA. Dalglish and her journalist members hoped that the government’s post-September 11 move toward non-disclosure on all matters would be viewed as temporary or emergency measures.

“Unfortunately, that has not been the case,” Dalglish reported. “Led by secrecy-loving officials in the executive branch, secrecy in the United States government is now the norm.”

The restrictions have now grown so tight that the American Society of Newspaper Editors last fall issued a “call to arms” to its members, urging them to “demand answers in print and in court” to stop this “deeply disturbing” trend. The conservative columnist William Safire complained that “the fundamental right of Americans, through our free press, to penetrate and criticize the workings of our government is under attack as never before.”


Consolidating Media Control

The administration continues to make common cause with the most powerful broadcast corporations in an effort to rewrite ownership laws in a manner that favors monopoly control of information. The Federal Communications Commission will announce plans to rewrite the ownership rules soon – it could happen as early as February – with aims of unleashing a new wave of media consolidation. The administration’s desired rules changes would strike a mortal blow to local reporting and further squeeze journalists.

The Bush administration has worked with the most powerful media corporations – like News Corp, Sinclair and Clear Channel – in an effort to rewrite media ownership laws in a manner that accelerates consolidation and monopoly control of information.

In 1983, fifty corporations owned a majority of the news media. In 1992, fewer than two dozen companies owned 90 percent of the news media. In 2003, the number fell to a total of six. The escalated consolidation of media has precipitated the collapse of journalistic values and the rise of profit-driven “infotainment” and “celebrity news.” Driven by bottom-line concerns, corporate media executives have cut overseas newsrooms from their payrolls. As a result, international reporting dropped nearly 80 percent in the past two decades.

History has shown that the relaxation of media ownership rules always leads to more market consolidation and less competition and diversity in news. Greased by extensive campaign contributions and pressured by intensive lobbying, Washington policymakers have abandoned antitrust enforcement and pursued policies to encourage greater media concentration.

The Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will announce plans to rewrite the ownership rules soon – it could happen as early as February. Unless the public mobilizes to oppose efforts to make Big Media even bigger, the FCC will pass rules that would unleash a new wave of media consolidation and allow conglomerates to swallow up hundreds of independent media outlets.


In a famous 1945 opinion, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black said that "the First Amendment rests on the assumption that the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public, that a free press is a condition of a free society." In other words, a free press is the sine qua non of the entire American Constitution and republican experiment.

Free Press was started because our democracy demands a diverse and independent media. The Bush administration’s attack on the foundations of self-government requires a response of similar caliber. I hope you’ll join us in the year ahead as Free Press works to hold the administration accountable for all its attacks on journalism and see that such abuses will not be repeated in the future.



Please take a moment to visit the Free Press online campaign to defend democracy from the White House assault on the media.

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The End of News?
By Michael Massing

In late September, the Government Accountability
Office—a nonpartisan arm of Congress—issued a
finding that the Bush administration had engaged
in “covert propaganda,” and thereby broken the
law, by paying Armstrong Williams, a conservative
commentator, to promote its educational policies.
The GAO also faulted the administration for hiring
a public relations firm to distribute video news
segments without disclosing the government’s part
in producing them


The Man Who Sold the War
November 17, 2005
By James Bamford
The road to war in Iraq led through many unlikely
places. One of them was a chic hotel nestled among
the strip bars and brothels that cater to foreigners
in the town of Pattaya, on the Gulf of Thailand.
Strapped to the polygraph machine was Adnan
Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, a forty-three-year-old Iraqi
who had fled his homeland in Kurdistan and was
now determined to bring down Saddam Hussein.
There was only one problem: It was all a lie.



Key Bush Intelligence Briefing Kept
From Hill Panel

By Murray Waas,
Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2005
Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist
attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon,
President Bush was told in a highly classified
briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had
no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam
Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant
credible evidence that Iraq had any significant
collaborative ties with Al Qaeda, according to
government records and current and former officials
with firsthand knowledge of the matter.


The Curveball Saga
How U.S. Fell Under the Spell of 'Curveball'
The Iraqi informant's German handlers say
they had told U.S. officials that his information
was 'not proven,' and were shocked when
President Bush and Colin L. Powell used it in
key prewar speeches
By Bob Drogin and John Goetz
November 20, 2005

BERLIN — The German intelligence officials
responsible for one of the most important informants
on Saddam Hussein's suspected weapons of mass
destruction say that the Bush administration and
the CIA repeatedly exaggerated his claims during
the run-up to the war in Iraq.



Moyers Has His Say
By John Eggerton

Bill Moyers became the central figure in absentia
in the controversy surrounding former Corporation
for Public Broadcasting (CPB) Chairman Kenneth
Tomlinson. It was Tomlinson who pointed to Moyers’
Now newscast on PBS as a chief reason for his
efforts to bring “balance” to public broadcasting by
adding conservative shows. Moyers has since left
Now and is currently president of the Schumann
Center for Media & Democracy.



Not Necessarily the News
By Wil S. Hyton

Chances are you’ve never heard of Sinclair
Broadcast Group. Sure, it might be the largest
independent owner of television stations in
America, an empire of sixty channels spread
across thirty-seven cities with a signal that
reaches nearly a quarter of the TV-watching
public, but even if you happen to receive that
signal and watch it every night, getting your
Sinclair news and Sinclair weather and Sinclair
commentary from a Sinclair station, chances
are you’ve still never heard of Sinclair and have
no idea you’re watching it.




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