On February 19 the New York Times reported that the Pentagon's new propaganda agency, the Office of Strategic Information, was planning unethical, possibly illegal activities such as misleading the press in friendly countries. The Pentagon and White House responded to the story by going into damage control mode with a flurry of "clarifications" and backpedalling. "What people have to understand about this is very clear," Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said. "Number one, government officials, the Department of Defense, this secretary and the people that work with me tell the American people and the people of the world the truth." According to the Times, "The Pentagon has hired the Rendon Group, a Washington-based global communications company, to assist the new office overseas. Executives with the Rendon Group say they are not allowed to discuss their contract. ... Even some top Bush aides expressed alarm today at the scope of the classified proposals that the Office of Strategic Influence had been circulating, and were taken aback by its Orwellian-sounding title. 'I wouldn't have picked that name,' a senior administration official said." Columnist Maureen Dowd remains unpersuaded by Rumsfeld's disavowals, referring to the OSI as an "Office of Strategic Mendacity."
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