U.S. Government

The FBI's Shifting Story

"To fabricate an alibi for his nonfeasance, and to cover up his department's embarrassing cut of the counterterrorism budget last year, Attorney General John Ashcroft - working with his hand-picked aide, F.B.I. Director 'J. Edgar' Mueller III - has gutted guidelines put in place a generation ago to prevent the abuse of police power by the federal government," writes conservative pundit William Safire.


Ari Fleischer, "Flack from Hell"

Writing for the New Republic, Jonathan Chait humorously deconstructs White House spokesman Ari Fleischer's spin tactics, which he first encountered when Fleischer represented Republicans on he House Ways and Means Committee. "Fleischer has a way of blindsiding you, leaving you disoriented and awestruck," he writes. "Much of the time Fleischer does not engage with the logic of a question at all. He simply denies its premises - or refuses to answer it on the grounds that it conflicts with a Byzantine set of rules governing what questions he deems appropriate.


H&K's Baby Incubator Story Still Debated

"Lauri Fitz-Pegado, the former Hill and Knowlton staffer who promoted the story about armed Iraqi troops tossing Kuwaiti babies out of their incubators - one of the biggest PR stories of the `90s - is now handling PR for the Cayman Island Cultural Center in New York," noted O'Dwyer's PR Daily on May 28. "H&K, on behalf of the Citizens for a Free Kuwait front group of exiled royals, produced a 15-year-old girl 'Nayirah' who testified that she saw Iraqi troops committing the atrocity in a Kuwaiti hospital. She testified before the Congressional Human Rights caucus in Oct.


World War II All Over Again

"The widely publicized and highly orchestrated public relations campaign adopted by the Bush administration in this 'war on terrorism' is eerily reminiscent of the propaganda war waged during World War II," says Frank Mankiewicz, vice chairman of Hill and Knowlton (the PR firm that orchestrated the campaign to win public support for the war in the Persian Gulf).


Axing the Tough Questions

The recent disclosure that President Bush received a general warning before Sept. 11 of possible hijackings prompted a firestorm of spin. Conservative pundits and politicians fought back on cue, showing impressive message-discipline as they argued in unison that criticism of the president amounts to treason in the face of terrorism. Democrats "need to be very cautious not to seek political advantage by making incendiary suggestions," said Vice President Dick Cheney (without specifying any "incendiary suggestions" that any Democrats had actually made).


Secure Often Means Secret Post-9/11

"In the eight months since the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, the Bush administration has moved more quickly than any administration since World War II to make government activities, documents and other information secret," reports USA Today. "Hundreds of thousands of public documents have been removed from government Web sites. Other public information has been edited, and access to some materials has been made more difficult.


Flacks Americana

Franklin Foer looks at the rise of John Rendon, whose PR firm is working for the Pentagon in the "war on terrorism." Using techniques that he learned running U.S. election campaigns, Rendon focuses on media strategies (as opposed to "grassroots PR," which Foer suggests would be more effective at combatting Muslim fundamentalism). He has a reputation for overcharging for his services, which are sometimes shockingly inept. So why does the government keep hiring him to run propaganda campaigns in places like Panama, Kuwait, the Balkans and Afghanistan?


What Did the President Know, and When Did He Lie About Knowing It?

"In a single day, the capital's media climate has been transformed," writes Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz. Reporters are outraged by recent revelations that President Bush received warnings prior to Sepember 11 of possible terrorist hijackings -- warnings which he has previously denied receiving.


The Pentagon's PR Guru

Stephen J. Hedges profiles the Rendon Group, the PR firm now working for the Pentagon in the "war on terrorism." Company owner John Rendon, who calls himself "an information warrior and a perception manager," has gotten rich working in places like Panama, the Balkans, Haiti, Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the secrecy surrounding his work makes it difficult to assess what, if anything, Rendon is actually accomplishing. "They're very closemouthed about what they do," says Kevin McCauley, an editor at O'Dwyer's PR Daily.



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