U.S. Army officers have been secretly paying Iraqi journalists to produce upbeat newspaper, radio and television reports about American military operations and the conduct of the war in Iraq.I guess this shouldn't be a surprise. It's not as though they haven't been buying favorable press in the US, too.
U.S. officials in Washington said the payments were made through the Baghdad Press Club, an organization they said was created more than a year ago by U.S. Army officers. They are part of an extensive American military-run information campaign - including psychological warfare experts - intended to build popular support for U.S.-led stabilization efforts and erode support for Sunni Muslim insurgents.
Members of the Press Club are paid as much as $200 a month, depending on how many positive pieces they produce.
Under military rules, information operations are restricted to influencing the attitudes and behavior of foreign governments and people. One form of information operations - psychological warfare - can use doctored or false information to deceive or damage the enemy or to bolster support for American efforts.
Many military officials, however, said they were concerned that the payments to Iraqi journalists and other covert information operations in Iraq had become so extensive that they were corroding the effort to build democracy and undermining U.S. credibility in Iraq. They also worry that information in the Iraqi press that's been planted or paid for by the U.S. military could "blow back" to the American public.
Eight current and former military, defense and other U.S. officials in Baghdad and Washington agreed to discuss the payments to Iraqi reporters and other American military information operations because they fear that the efforts are promoting practices that are unacceptable for a democracy. They requested anonymity to avoid retaliation.
"We are teaching them (Iraqi journalists) the wrong things," one military officer said.
Moreover, the defense and military officials said, the U.S. public is at risk of being influenced by the information operations because what's planted in the Iraqi media can be picked up by international news organizations and Internet bloggers.
See also San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times (which originally broke the story).