This is so reminiscent of the Nixon era. Can the DoD realistically argue that they have nothing to do with this when these contractors are hired for that exact purpose?
Two USA Today journalists investigating private security companies engaging in foreign propaganda wars on behalf of the Pentagon appear to have been subjected themselves to a dirty tricks campaign, the newspaper has revealed.
Reporter Tom Vanden Brook and editor Ray Locker became the subject of a sustained internet campaign to discredit their work just days after they began publishing the results of their investigation into a multi-million dollar Pentagon-funded propaganda mission in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In the course of the smear campaign, fake websites, Twitter feeds and Facebook accounts were set up under the journalists' names in which they were accused of being backed by the Taliban.
The source of the smear campaign has not been identified, and the Pentagon itself told USA Today that it was unaware of any such activities, which it stressed it would find unacceptable. But the timing of the shady attempts to drag their names into the journalistic mud is certainly suggestive.
The first sign of any strange dealings was on January 7, USA Today said, when a fake website TomVandenBrook.com was created. This was just days after Vanden Brook contacted private contractors used by the Pentagon in Iraq and Afghanistan to carry out "information operations" or "info ops" – propaganda designed to support US war aims.
On February 29 USA Today published the results of the two journalists' investigations which suggested that the Pentagon had handed millions of dollars to private contractors to carry out dark arts, for very little measurable return. Indeed, the paper reported that one of the main contractors had fallen $4m behind in paying their taxes.
Both fake websites and the fake Twitter and Facebook feed have now been taken down. So too has a Wikipedia entry for Vanden Brook dated February 8 from a previously unknown Wikipedia user that attempted to question his journalistic credibility by pointing to a mistake he made – along with several other national US news outlets – during the reporting of the 2006 Sago Mine disaster in West Virginia.