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Old 05-06-2008, 05:21 AM
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Default Pentagon suspends controversial briefings

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The secretary of defense will no longer brief retired military officers-turned-network television analysts, the chief Pentagon spokesman said Friday.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Robert Hastings said he suspended the program this week amid media scrutiny of the practice.

An article in the Sunday New York Times alleged that the analysts were used to push the Bush administration's messages topics including the war in Iraq and what was going on in the prison camps at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The report also claimed that some of the analysts were involved in business contracts with the Pentagon -- information the newspaper said was rarely or never disclosed, even to the networks.

The briefings were started by then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in 2003, during the buildup to the war in Iraq.

Hastings said that since his arrival at the Pentagon this year, the group of analysts has not met with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. But he was unclear whether the analysts had ever met with Gates, who took over the post in December 2006.

The New York Times said that some analysts "echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access."

Other analysts said they did not push the Pentagon talking points or allow their business interests to get in the way of their on-air analysis, the Times said.

Hastings said he suspended the program indefinitely until a group independent of the Department of Defense public affairs office can perform a review.

He did not say how long the review would take.
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