Well, this is certainly an interesting piece of information...psychological warfare experts working at the No. 1 cable news leader. This particular piece from media watchdog group FAIR contains CNN's very interesting response to these allegations (which received little media attention). The document pasted below can be found in its original form at FAIR's web site, specifically at:
On March 27, FAIR released an action alert ("Why Were Government Propaganda Experts Working On News At CNN?") urging readers to contact CNN and ask why the network allowed military propaganda specialists from an Army Psychological Operations (PSYOPS) unit to work in the news division of its Atlanta headquarters.
Since then, FAIR has been contacted by Eason Jordan, CNN's president for international networks and newsgathering, as well as executive vice president for public relations Sue Binford.
On March 29, FAIR received CNN's official response, written by Binford: As executive vice president of CNN Public Relations, I am responding officially on behalf of CNN to FAIR's action alert headlined "Why were Government Propaganda Experts Working on News at CNN?":
1. No government or military propaganda expert has ever worked on news at CNN.
2. Amongst the hundreds of interns from around the world who spent a few weeks at a time at CNN in the past year, were five personnel from a U.S. Army PSYOPS group.
3. Interns at CNN observe under the supervision of CNN staff and have no influence over what CNN reports or how CNN reports it.
4. CNN's intern program is administered by the Company's Human Resources Department, which is made up of hard-working, well-intentioned people who are not journalists and who thought they were doing the right thing when they agreed to a U.S. Army request to allow the military personnel to intern at CNN.
5. The intern program was terminated as soon as the leadership of CNN learned of it. CNN's position: it was inappropriate for PSYOPS personnel to be at CNN, they are not here now, and they never again will be at CNN.
6. CNN prides itself on its journalistic independence and impartiality and is committed to accurate, fair, responsible reporting.
FAIR commends CNN for acknowledging that the presence of PSYOPS personnel in the newsroom was, in its words, "inappropriate." It is unfortunate that the network came to that conclusion only after the program's existence was revealed in February by the Dutch newspaper Trouw (2/21/00).
The only points in CNN's statement that are in factual conflict with FAIR's action alert are points 1 and 3. CNN denies that any military propaganda expert "ever worked on news" at CNN—seeming to contradict FAIR's assertion, made in the headline of our action alert, that PSYOPS personnel were "working on news" at CNN. While PSYOPS personnel did intern at CNN, the statement says, "interns at CNN observe under the supervision of CNN staff and have no influence over what CNN reports or how CNN reports it."
This seems to be essentially a semantic quibble. As interns, some of the PSYOPS officers clearly answered to the news division and assisted CNN news staffers as they produced stories. According to Major Thomas Collins of the U.S. Army Information Service, the PSYOPS interns "worked as regular employees of CNN" and "helped in the production of news." (Trouw, 2/21)
But as we said in our original action alert:
What makes the CNN story especially troubling is the fact that the network allowed the Army's covert propagandists to work in its headquarters, where they learned the ins and outs of CNN's operations. Even if the PSYOPS officers working in the newsroom did not influence news reporting, did the network allow the military to conduct an intelligence-gathering mission against CNN itself?
FAIR then offered specific evidence that military PSYOPS specialists have recently been trying to increase their knowledge of and cooperation with the news media in order to influence coverage.
Indeed, the presence of psychological operations personnel at CNN was first revealed at a PSYOPS conference in Arlington, Virginia by Col. Christopher St. John, commander of the Army's 4th PSYOPS Group (the unit to which the CNN interns belonged), who offered the internship program as an example of the type of "greater cooperation between the armed forces and media giants" which he hoped to see more of (Intelligence Newsletter, 2/17/00).
That is presumably why CNN has admitted that, even as observers, PSYOPS officers should not have worked—or "observed"—in CNN's offices.
ACTION: If you feel this matter is serious enough that CNN should issue a more in-depth explanation of how military personnel came to intern at the network, and precisely what kind of work they did there, you can write to CNN's President of International Networks and Newsgathering, Eason Jordan, at:
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