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Military Should Reveal Media Payments, Pace Says

THE WORLD

March 24, 2006|From the Associated Press

ANKARA, Turkey — The U.S. military should reveal when it pays foreign journalists for favorable news, and the Defense Department should review policies that let it secretly pay Iraqi media, the Pentagon's highest-ranking officer said Thursday.

In an interview, Marine Gen. Peter Pace said that although the United States needed to get its message out to Iraqis, Pentagon programs should be reviewed so readers would know what to believe.

"We should be more clear so people will understand what they're reading," said Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "I think there are ways to get your message out, but get it out in a form that people understand how the message got there."

Speaking aboard an aircraft flying from Saudi Arabia, Pace added: "They need to know that, so they can make their own judgment about what they believe and don't believe in the article. The worst thing you can have is people feeling like somehow they've been snookered."

Critics have said the program contradicts American values of freedom of the press at a time when the United States is trying to spread democracy abroad.

At a Pentagon news conference later in the day, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said he expected the department to review its policy, but he declined to state his view of the practice.

Such a review typically would be done by Rumsfeld's office rather than by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Pace's remarks seemed to take a different tack than comments this month by Army Gen. George W. Casey, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq.

Casey ordered an initial review of the program that found that the Lincoln Group -- a private company that was handling the program in Iraq -- did not violate its contract with the military.

Casey said he had no plans to stop the practice.

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