Public Accountability Initiative on “impartial” pundits and think tanks presented by the media arguing for war:
During the public debate around the question of whether to attack Syria, Stephen Hadley, former national security adviser to George W. Bush, made a series of high-profile media appearances. Hadley argued strenuously for military intervention in appearances on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and Bloomberg TV, and authored a Washington Post op-ed.
In each case, Hadley’s audience was not informed that he serves as a director of Raytheon, the weapons manufacturer that makes the Tomahawk cruise missiles that were widely cited as a weapon of choice in a potential strike against Syria. He owns 11,477 shares of Raytheon stock, which traded at all-time highs during the Syria debate ($77.65 on August 23, making Hadley’s share’s worth $891,189). Despite this financial stake, Hadley was presented to his audience as an experienced, independent national security expert.
Though Hadley’s undisclosed conflict is particularly egregious, it is not unique. The following report documents the industry ties of Hadley, 21 other media commentators, and seven think tanks that participated in the media debate around Syria. Like Hadley, these individuals and organizations have strong ties to defense contractors and other defense- and foreign policy-focused firms with a vested interest in the Syria debate, but they were presented to their audiences with a veneer of expertise and independence, as former military officials, retired diplomats, and independent think tanks.
The report profiles seven prominent think tanks with significant industry ties that weighed in on intervention in Syria. The Brookings Institution, Center for Strategic and International Studies, and The Institute for the Study of War were the most cited think tanks from our dataset.
Brookings is an influential think tank that is presented in the media as an independent authority, yet it receives millions in funding from the defense industry, including $1 – 2.5 million from Booz Allen Hamilton and $50,000 – $100,000 from Boeing, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Palantir Technologies. Brookings Executive Education’s Advisory Council Chair, Ronald Sanders, is a Vice President and Senior Fellow at Booz Allen Hamilton.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies has ample individual connections to the defense industry through its advisors and trustees. CSIS President and CEO John Hamre is a director for defense contractor SAIC.
Analysts representing The Institute for the Study of War were cited in 22 articles on Syria in our dataset. One such article by former ISW Senior Research Analyst Elizabeth O’Bagy was cited by Secretary John Kerry and Senator John McCain during congressional hearings in their effort to justify intervention. ISW’s Corporate Council represents a who’s who of the defense industry and includes Raytheon, SAIC, Palantir, General Dynamics, CACI, Northrop Grumman, DynCorp, and L-3 Communication.
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