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Rendon Group




The Rendon Group is a public relations firm headed by John Rendon which specializes in providing communications services both nationally and internationally.[1]
In a 1998 speech to the National Security Conference (NSC), company founder John Rendon described himself as "an information warrior, and a perception manager."[citation needed]
"Through its network of international offices and strategic alliances," the Rendon Group website stated in 2002, "the company has provided communications services to clients in more than 78 countries, and maintains contact with government officials, decision-makers, and news media around the globe." In an article in Rolling Stone, James Bamford cites his interview with John Rendon, who said the company had worked in 91 countries. The Rendon Group has responded to the article in a letter posted on its website.[2]

History

John Rendon began his career as an election campaign consultant to Democratic Party politicians. According to Franklin Foer, "He masterminded Michael Dukakis's gubernatorial campaign in 1974; worked as executive director of the Democratic National Committee in the Jimmy Carter era; managed the 1980 Democratic convention in New York; and subsequently worked as chief scheduler for Carter's reelection campaign." In the mid-1980s, however, he began working for clients in the Caribbean and other places outside the United States. "[His] career took an unlikely turn in Panama, where his work with political opponents of Manuel Noriega kept him in the country straight through the 1989 American invasion. As U.S. forces quickly invaded and quickly pulled out, he helped broker the transition of power." This in turn led to contacts with the CIA, and in 1990 the government-in-exile of Kuwait hired him to help drum up support for war in the Persian Gulf to oust Iraq's occupying army.[3]

The Rendon Group and Kuwait


According to Rendon's web site, it "established a full-scale communications operation for the Government of Kuwait, including the establishment of a production studio in London producing programming material for the exiled Kuwaiti Television." Rendon also provided media support for exiled government leaders and helped Kuwaiti officials after the war by "providing press and site advance to incoming congressional delegations and other visiting US government officials."
Rendon's work in Kuwait continued after the war itself had ended. "If any of you either participated in the liberation of Kuwait City ... or if you watched it on television, you would have seen hundreds of Kuwaitis waving small American flags," John Rendon said in his speech to the NSC. "Did you ever stop to wonder how the people of Kuwait City, after being held hostage for seven long and painful months, were able to get hand-held American flags? And for that matter, the flags of other coalition countries? Well, you now know the answer. That was one of my jobs."

Anti-Saddam propaganda

Rendon was also a major player in the CIA's effort to encourage the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.[citations needed] In May 1991, then-President George H. W. Bush signed a presidential finding directing the CIA to create the conditions for Hussein's removal.[citations needed] The hope was that members of the Iraqi military would turn on Hussein and stage a military coup.[citations needed] The CIA did not have the mechanisms in place to make that happen, so they hired the Rendon Group to run a covert anti-Saddam propaganda campaign.[citations needed] Rendon's postwar work involved producing videos and radio skits ridiculing Saddam Hussein, a traveling photo exhibit of Iraqi atrocities, and radio scripts calling on Iraqi army officers to defect.[citations needed]
A February 1998 report by Peter Jennings cited records obtained by ABC News which showed that the Rendon Group spent more than $23 million dollars in the first year of its contract with the CIA.[citation needed] It set up the Iraqi National Congress (INC), an opposition coalition of 19 Iraqi and Kurdish organizations whose main tasks were to "gather information, distribute propaganda and recruit dissidents." Journalist James Bamford reports that Rendon came up with the name for the INC and helped install Ahmad Chalabi as its head.[citations needed] In addition, ABC reports that Rendon channeled $12 million of covert CIA funding to the INC between 1992 and 1996. Writing in the New Yorker, Seymour Hersh says the Rendon Group was "paid close to a hundred million dollars by the CIA" for its work with the INC.[4]
ClandestineRadio.com, a website which monitors underground and anti-government radio stations in countries throughout the world, credits the Rendon Group with "designing and supervising" the Iraqi Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) and Radio Hurriah, which began broadcasting Iraqi opposition propaganda in January 1992 from a US government transmitter in Kuwait. According to a September 1996 article in Time magazine, six CIA case officers supervised the IBC's 11 hours of daily programming and Iraqi National Congress activities in the Iraqi Kurdistan city of Arbil. According to a Harvard graduate student from Iraq who helped translate some of the radio broadcasts into Arabic, the program was poorly run. "No one in-house spoke a word of Arabic," he says. "They thought I was mocking Saddam, but for all they knew I could have been lambasting the US government." The scripts, he adds, were often ill conceived. "Who in Iraq is going to think it's funny to poke fun at Saddam's mustache," the student notes, "when the vast majority of Iraqi men themselves have mustaches?"[5] In any case, the propaganda campaign came to an abrupt end on August 31, 1996, when the Iraqi army invaded Arbil and executed all but 12 out of 100 IBC staff workers along with about 100 members of the Iraqi National Congress.
Franklin Foer reports that Rendon has been dogged throughout his career "by complaints of profligate spending—even charged with being the PR equivalent of the Pentagon's $400 toilet seat. In 1995 CIA accountants demanded an audit of his work. As ABC reported in 1998, Rendon's own records show he spent more than $23 million in the first year of his contract to work with the INC. Several of his operatives in London earned more than the director of Central Intelligence—about $19,000 per month. Rendon shot across the Atlantic on the Concorde, while his subordinates flew on open business-class tickets. According to one of those subordinates, 'There was no incentive for Rendon to hold down costs.'" Others have complained that his work is often inept and ineffective. However, he continues to win contracts because he is "superbly networked" with friends in high places in Washington.[3]

Publics relations work in the war on terror

The San Jose Mercury News reported in October 2001 that the Pentagon had awarded Rendon a four-month, $397,000 contract to handle PR aspects of U.S. military strikes in Afghanistan. Rendon and Pentagon officials declined to discuss details of the firm's work, which included monitoring international news media, conducting focus groups and recommending "ways the US military can counter disinformation and improve its own public communications." All of which can be found in public Contracts between The Rendon Group and the Department of Defense.
The New York Times reported in February 2002 that the Pentagon was using the Rendon Group to assist its new propaganda agency, the Office of Strategic Influence (OSI) Of which it only consulted The Rendon Group. However, the OSI was publicly disbanded following a backlash when Pentagon officials said the new office would engage in "black" propaganda (disinformation) of which The Rendon Group was not part.[6][7]
In December, 2005, the Chicago Tribune reported that the Rendon Group in 2004 received $1.4 million to help Afghan President Hamid Karzai with media relations. According to the paper, after seven months Karzai and Zalmay Khalilzad, then the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, were ready to get rid of the company. Despite the lack of support from Karzai and the ambassador, the company received another $3.9 million for anti-drug programs from the State Department and not the department of Defense. The paper quoted Jeff Raleigh, who helped oversee Rendon in Kabul for the U.S. Embassy, as saying the contract was "a rip-off of the U.S taxpayer". Later Jeff Raleigh's Afghan supervisor said Jeff wanted full control of The Rendon Group and was out of his bound. Furthermore the same official, Ambassador Daod, in a signed letter said that The Rendon Group did a great job and really helped his office.[8]
In late August 2009 Stars and Stripes reported that the Rendon Group had been employed by the United States Department of Defense to profile journalists who wrote about the war on terror.[9] Stars and Stripes reported that Rendon's profiles included recommendations on how to "neutralize" coverage the DoD would regard as negative. According to the General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, Aidan White:
"It strips away any pretence that the army is interested in helping journalists to work freely. It suggests they are more interested in propaganda than honest reporting"
Following the criticism the Department of Defense terminated Rendon Group's contract.[9]

Personnel

  • John Rendon, founder and CEO.
  • Linda Flohr, a CIA covert operations veteran, worked for the Rendon Group at one point before returning to the government, where she is now a top anti-terrorism official at the U.S. National Security Council
  • Francis Brooke worked in the mid-1990s on the Rendon Group's anti-Iraq campaign in London at a salary of $19,000 a month. He subsequently became the chief assistant in Washington to Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress
  • Paul Moran (1963 - 2003) was a journalist who had formerly worked for both the Iraqi National Congress and the Rendon Group.

Clients

Clients of the Rendon Group have included a number of foreign nations, as well as major corporations. Clients have included:[citations needed]
  • Alpura: Ganaderos Productores De Leche Pura
TRG created a detailed and multi-faceted crisis communications plan for ALPURA, the leading producer of dairy products in Mexico. The program included development and extensive use of crisis planning scenarios that provided ALPURA senior leadership and staff with in-depth media-performance and crisis training.
  • American Express, Bahrain
  • Argentina Televisora Color (ATC)
  • Antigua & Barbuda, Government of Aruba
  • Balkan Information Exchange
For the Joint Staff and the US European Command (EUCOM), TRG developed and maintained the Balkan Information Exchange, a news and information Web site focused on issues and events in Eastern Europe. The Web site reflected a wide range of international open-source information on the region and was published in six languages. TRG also deployed a three-person team to Kosovo to gather content, especially photographs, for the site.
  • Bell Atlantic International, Indonesia
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina Privatization
TRG designed and implemented an information mapping project as part of the public education program in support of privatization in Bosnia and Herzegovina. TRG identified the range of sources of information available to privatization stakeholders and the general public and how these information outlets were perceived in the marketplace, when and how these outlets delivered information, and who received information from individual sources and how the sources were motivated or contaminated.
  • Bull HN Information Systems
  • Bustamente Institute, Jamaica
  • Centre for International Projects, Prague
  • Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
  • George Washington University
TRG designed, marketed, and managed a five-part conference series on Post-Privatization Management in the global telecommunications, electric power, oil and gas, banking and finance, and transportation sectors. In cooperation with the White House, TRG helped the university conduct two additional aviation-related conferences attended by international public aviation authorities and officials.
  • Gulf Business Machines, Bahrain
  • Haiti, Government of
  • Industrial Center of Argentine
  • Kuwait, Government of
TRG played an integral part in maintaining the global coalition that liberated Kuwait by designing and implementing a campaign to deliver messages to key international media and governmental decision-makers worldwide. Within days of the 1990 invasion and during the course of Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, TRG placed teams of crisis management personnel in the Middle East, North America and Europe. TRG personnel were among the first U.S. civilians to enter Kuwait after its liberation by allied forces, and continued to provide assistance for many months after the country achieved freedom.
  • Kuwait Petroleum Corporation
  • Kuwait Petroleum Italy
  • Kuwait University
  • Liberal Party of Quebec
  • Marshall Legacy Symposium
The Rendon Group provided media relations for the 50th Anniversary of the Marshall Plan Symposium hosted by The White House and George Washington University. Leaders from 21 former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern European countries met with senior elected and appointed officials of the United States government.
  • Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism
  • National Education Association
  • National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
TRG provided strategic consultation and video production services to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as the agency prepared to deliver its final report regarding the investigation into the crash of TWA Flight 800. TRG worked closely with NTSB investigators to videotape spokespersons at the reconstructed model of TWA Flight 800 in its hangar on Long Island, N.Y. TRG edited new video footage with official animation and existing videotape shot following the accident to create a program that explained the Flight 800 accident in detail.
  • Netherlands Antilles, Government of
  • Panama, Government of
TRG was retained by the democratic Panamanian opposition coalition, Alianza Democratica de la Oposicion Civilista (ADO-Civilista), to design and implement a strategic and tactical communications plan for the May 1989 elections. When the Noriega government nullified ADO-Civilista election victory, TRG continued to support the Party's ongoing effort to establish a democratic government in Panama. TRG helped ADO Civilista leaders deliver a forceful and consistent message to the Panamanian public and restore confidence in the new government as it assumed office after the arrest of General Noriega.
  • Pharmaceutical Laboratories (CILFA)
  • Sari Pan Pacific Hotel, Jakarta
  • St. Lucia Labour Party
  • Toyota, Saudi Arabia
  • United Nations
  • U.S. Department of Defense
  • U.S. Air force - Air Intelligence Agency
TRG conducted an in-depth study of the agency's internal and external communications activities. TRG reviewed current and potential future agency-customer and agency-supplier relationships, and outlined options for improving the agency's strategic communication activities. The study included a review of agency communications materials, executive interviews with senior officials and recipients of agency communications, and other critical research.
  • U.S. Army
  • U.S. Strategic Command
  • U.S. Trade & Development Agency
  • The White House-President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion
TRG helped Council Chairman John A. Koskinen, and his staff plan, and implement a nationwide public education effort regarding the potential threats associated with the Y2K rollover. By the end of the year 1999, more than 350 Y2K community education events had been conducted in all 50 states, encompassing 210 media markets.
  • World Energy Conference, Montreal
  • Zambia Privatization Agency
TRG dispatched a senior communications team to Zambia to work with the Zambia Privatization Agency (ZPA) and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services (MIBS) officials to gauge public perceptions on privatization and design a communications program to improve the public climate for the country's privatization program.
  • Zambia, Southern University

Notes


  1. ^ CEO: John Rendon.
  2. ^ Rendon Group, "Response to Rolling Stone Article," Rendon Group website, November 17, 2005.
  3. ^ a b [1]
  4. ^ Annals of National Security: The Debate Within: The New Yorker
  5. ^ Asia Times
  6. ^ Pentagon Readies Efforts to Sway Sentiment Abroad
  7. ^ New Agency Will Not Lie, Top Pentagon Officials Say
  8. ^ Topic Galleries - chicagotribune.com
  9. ^ a b "U.S. military ends journalist profiling contract". Reuters. 2009-08-31. Archived from the original on 2009-09-01. http://www.webcitation.org/query?url=htt...2009-09-01.


References


External links

Rendon Group

From SourceWatch


[/url]
The Rendon Group is a secretive [url=http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Public_relations_firms]public relations firm
that has assisted a number of U.S. military interventions in nations including Argentina, Colombia, Haiti, Iraq, Kosovo, Panama and Zimbabwe. Rendon's activities include organizing the Iraqi National Congress, a PR front group designed to foment the overthrow of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
In a 1998 speech to the National Security Conference (NSC), company founder John Rendon described himself as "an information warrior, and a perception manager. This is probably best described in the words of Hunter S. Thompson, when he wrote 'When things turn weird, the weird turn pro.'"
"Through its network of international offices and strategic alliances," the Rendon Group website boasted in 2002, "the company has provided communications services to clients in more than 78 countries, and maintains contact with government officials, decision-makers, and news media around the globe."
The Chicago Tribune reports that the Rendon Group has garnered more than $56 million in Pentagon work since September 2001. [1]



John Rendon and the Democratic Party

John Rendon began his career as an election campaign consultant to Democratic Party politicians. According to Franklin Foer, "He masterminded Michael Dukakis's gubernatorial campaign in 1974; worked as executive director of the Democratic National Committee in the Jimmy Carter era; managed the 1980 Democratic convention in New York; and subsequently worked as chief scheduler for Carter's reelection campaign." James Bamford reports Rendon and his younger brother Rick went into consulting in 1981.[2] In the mid-1980s, he began working for clients in the Caribbean and other places outside the United States. His "career took an unlikely turn in Panama, where his work with political opponents of Manuel Noriega kept him in the country straight through the 1989 American invasion. As U.S. forces quickly invaded and quickly pulled out, he helped broker the transition of power." This in turn led to contacts with the CIA, and in 1990 the government-in-exile of Kuwait hired him to help drum up support for war in the Persian Gulf to oust Iraq's occupying army.[3]


Pentagon work

John Rendon "insists that information is terrain and someone will occupy it, either the adversary, a third party, or US." [4]


Vetting reporters requesting embeds

In August 2009, the military newspaper Stars and Stripes reported that Rendon was vetting reporters requesting to embed with U.S. forces in Afghanistan, as part of a $1.5 million media-management contract for the Pentagon. [1] The firm produced profiles of the reporters, grading reporters' past coverage as "positive," "neutral" or "negative," even sometimes suggesting how to "neutralize" expected negative future coverage or how to design embeds to "result in favorable coverage." [2] In some cases, the profiles prompted military officials to reject reporters' embed requests. [3]
After the series of exposés, the Pentagon announced that it was terminating the Rendon contract. Rear Admiral Gregory J. Smith told Stars and Stripes, "As the senior U.S. communicator in Afghanistan, it was clear that the issue of Rendon's support to US forces in Afghanistan had become a distraction." [4] In a statement on the firm's site, Rendon maintains that its profiles did not rank reporters, and weren't "provided as the basis for accepted or rejecting a specific journalist's inquiries." The statement doesn't mention that the profiles suggested how to shape reporters' future coverage. [5]
A second statement on the firm's site reads, in part: "Background briefings on content generated by journalists comprised roughly 10% of the work requested from us by the client. The vast majority of our work was focused on wider analysis of the impact of operations on national, regional and global media coverage against mission objectives as a function of content analysis. This was used to provide critical feedback on measures of effectiveness, attitudes and sentiments as reflected in the media (not directed towards the reporter) and to track and measure perceptions of violent extremist elements as reflected in the media (again not directed at the reporter)." This statement also doesn't address the firm's recommendations on how to shape reporters' future coverage. [6]


Organizing for combat

"In the Pentagon, in addition to the normal public affairs structure, the Special Plans Office was deeply involved in this effort, supported (with information) by the Iraqi National Congress. There was the Rendon Group, headed by John Rendon who gave media advice to OSD, the Joint Staff and the White House. Finally, there were connections to large PSYOPS activities.
"The Rendon Group worked for the Government of Kuwait during the Gulf I. John Rendon proudly tells that it was he who shipped small American flags to Kuwait for the citizens to wave as troops entered Kuwait City. He suggested the same technique for [the war in Iraq], but the Joint Staff information operations office turned down the idea.
"The Rendon Group worked for both OSD and the Joint Staff during this war. John Rendon says he was part of the daily 9:30 phone calls with the key information players to set themes." [5]


Office of Strategic Influence

The New York Times reported in February 2002 that the U.S. Pentagon was using the Rendon Group to assist its new propaganda agency, the Office of Strategic Influence (OSI). However, the OSI was publicly disbanded following a backlash when Pentagon officials said the new office would engage in "black" propaganda (disinformation).[6][7]


Joint Chiefs of Staff

O'Dwyer's PR Daily reported in June 2003 that Rendon had gone to work for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, providing "strategic communications counsel, media analysis and consultation support services" to the Joint Chiefs, combatant commanders and top military advisors.[8]


Strategic Command

In April 2005, O'Dwyer's PR Daily reported that Rendon "is winding down its current $8.2M contract" with the U.S. Department of Defense's Strategic Command (STRATCOM). Rendon had been "handling foreign media analysis for about 15 months," with a whopping "56 staffers handling the account." [9]
Rendon's work for STRATCOM included "analyz[ing] foreign media coverage and handl[ing] strategic communications for its operations and the so-called [Global War on Terror|global war on terrorism]," according to O'Dwyer's. Specific tasks include tracking "media in broadcast, print and online in Arabic, Urdu, Pashtu" and other languages, as well as "building databases of key communicators and media outlets, analyzing the perception of U.S. actions and communication, and identifying vulnerabilities." [10]
Defenselink.mil reported in its September 27, 2005, press release on new contracts that the Rendon Group won a year-long $6.4 million dollar contract with the Army for "Strategic Communications Operations Support" in Baghdad. [11]


Kuwait

According to Rendon's web site, it "established a full-scale communications operation for the Government of Kuwait, including the establishment of a production studio in London producing programming material for the exiled Kuwaiti Television." Rendon also provided media support for exiled government leaders and helped Kuwaiti officials after the war by "providing press and site advance to incoming congressional delegations and other visiting US government officials."
Rendon's work in Kuwait continued after the war itself had ended. "If any of you either participated in the liberation of Kuwait City ... or if you watched it on television, you would have seen hundreds of Kuwaitis waving small American flags," John Rendon said in his speech to the NSC. "Did you ever stop to wonder how the people of Kuwait City, after being held hostage for seven long and painful months, were able to get hand-held American flags? And for that matter, the flags of other coalition countries? Well, you now know the answer. That was one of my jobs."


Iraq

Rendon was also a major player in the CIA's effort to encourage the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. In May 1991, then-President George Bush, Sr. signed a presidential finding directing the CIA to create the conditions for Hussein's removal. The hope was that members of the Iraqi military would turn on Hussein and stage a military coup. The CIA did not have the mechanisms in place to make that happen, so they hired the Rendon Group to run a covert anti-Saddam propaganda campaign. Rendon's postwar work involved producing videos and radio skits ridiculing Saddam Hussein, a traveling photo exhibit of Iraqi atrocities, and radio scripts calling on Iraqi army officers to defect.
A February 1998 report by Peter Jennings cited records obtained by ABC News which showed that the Rendon Group spent more than $23 million dollars in the first year of its contract with the CIA. It worked closely with the Iraqi National Congress (INC), an opposition coalition of 19 Iraqi and Kurdish organizations whose main tasks were to "gather information, distribute propaganda and recruit dissidents." According to ABC, Rendon came up with the name for the Iraqi National Congress and channeled $12 million of covert CIA funding to it between 1992 and 1996. Writing in The New Yorker, Seymour Hersh says the Rendon Group was "paid close to a hundred million dollars by the CIA" for its work with the INC.[12]
ClandestineRadio.com, a website which monitors underground and anti-government radio stations in countries throughout the world, credits the Rendon Group with "designing and supervising" the Iraqi Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) and Radio Hurriah, which began broadcasting Iraqi opposition propaganda in January 1992 from a US government transmitter in Kuwait. According to a September 1996 article in Time magazine, six CIA case officers supervised the IBC's 11 hours of daily programming and Iraqi National Congress activities in the Iraqi Kurdistan city of Arbil. According to a Harvard graduate student from Iraq who helped translate some of the radio broadcasts into Arabic, the program was poorly run. "No one in-house spoke a word of Arabic," he says. "They thought I was mocking Saddam, but for all they knew I could have been lambasting the US government." The scripts, he adds, were often ill conceived. "Who in Iraq is going to think it's funny to poke fun at Saddam's mustache," the student notes, "when the vast majority of Iraqi men themselves have mustaches?"[13] In any case, the propaganda campaign came to an abrupt end on August 31, 1996, when the Iraqi army invaded Arbil and executed all but 12 out of 100 IBC staff workers along with about 100 members of the Iraqi National Congress.


Afghanistan

Newspapers reported in October 2001 that the Pentagon had awarded Rendon a four-month, $397,000 contract to handle PR aspects of U.S. military strikes in Afghanistan. Rendon and Pentagon officials declined to discuss details of the firm's work, which reportedly included monitoring international news media, conducting focus groups, creating a web site about the US campaign against terrorism, and recommending "ways the US military can counter disinformation and improve its own public communications." [14]
In October 2001, Karen P. Hughes, then counselor to President George W. Bush, "worked with PR specialist John Rendon to create the Coalition Information Center (CIC), which Laura Flanders describes as a 'fast-response network [with offices in Washington, London, and Islamabad] set up to respond to anti-US news that appears anywhere in the world.'" [15]
The New York Times reported in April 2004, "The United States has hired a Washington-based communications company, the Rendon Group, to bolster Mr. Karzai's communications office. And in a brief huddle at the palace, Mr. Khalilzad and the head of intelligence, Amrullah Saleh, discussed how the Afghan people regarded the government -- and, as Mr. Khalilzad put it, 'things we could do to help the standing of the government without working through the government.'"[16]
A December 2005 Chicago Tribune story profiled Rendon's work in Afghanistan, including a $1.4 million contract awarded in early 2004, "to help Afghan President Hamid Karzai with media relations"; a $3.9 million contract in late 2004, to "hire and train five Afghan media specialists and support all counternarcotics publicity"; and a third contract, under consideration in late 2005, "a three-year deal to work on counternarcotics public relations." Yet, seven months after the first contract began, Karzai and then-U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, complained that Rendon was getting "too much money for not enough work." [17]


Colombia

The Rendon Group's work for the Colombian Ministry of Defense received attention in the spring of 2004. As coordination with the U.S.'s Plan Colombia, Rendon had created a deck of playing cards depicting Colombian "narco-terrorists" otherwise known as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and two other antigovernment groups. The State Department blocked the distribution of the cards, saying that they were a poor fit in Colombia. [18]


Empower Peace

In 2003, Rendon launched a web site called "Empower Peace," through which they called on young people throughout the world to "help us develop an International Youth Pledge of Peace." Does this mean they've joined the anti-war protests? Not exactly. Empower Peace wants people "not to refer the current political situation going on in the world today but rather focus and emphasize on the importance of breaking down cultural barriers in order to achieve peace." [19]
"The EmpowerPeace website didn't last long. The reason, [Samuel] Gardiner suspects, is that its creation probably violated the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, which bans the domestic dissemination of government propaganda." [20]


Overspending?

Franklin Foer reports that Rendon has been dogged throughout his career "by complaints of profligate spending--even charged with being the PR equivalent of the Pentagon's $400 toilet seat. In 1995 CIA accountants demanded an audit of his work. As ABC reported in 1998, Rendon's own records show he spent more than $23 million in the first year of his contract to work with the INC. Several of his operatives in London earned more than the director of Central Intelligence--about $19,000 per month. Rendon shot across the Atlantic on the Concorde, while his subordinates flew on open business-class tickets. According to one of those subordinates, 'There was no incentive for Rendon to hold down costs.'" Others have complained that his work is often inept and ineffective. However, he continues to win contracts because he is "superbly networked" with friends in high places in Washington."[21]
(An anonymous contributor to SourceWatch has commented on some of Foer's claims in the above paragraph, stating, "The audit found that all Rendon accountings were in order. The person you reference here was paid a salary plus the government rate per diem..the total of which was $19,000. His salary was less than $7,000 per month. At the time, British Air offered a special...buy a business ticket and fly one way on the Concorde at no additional cost.")
In September 2004, Rendon and state officials came under scrutiny in Massachusetts, when it was revealed that the PR firm was awarded "more than $14,000 in [Massachusetts'] anti-terrorism funds to videotape the August 2002 graduation ceremonies for 122 new State Police troopers." Thomas Kiley, the lawyer for Massachusetts' former secretary of public safety, defended the contract. "It's the first post-9/11 class and the training of that class focused on anti-terrorism," said Kiley, who called the graduation ceremony a "highly visible law enforcement event."[22]


Influencing Vieques vote

In July 2005, Judicial Watch released documents it had obtained throught the Freedom of Information Act that indicate that the Rendon Group billed the U.S. Navy $1.6 million for work in 2001 to influence a vote on whether part of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques would continue to serve as a bombing range. Rendon was to "develop methods and tracking procedures to increase support among citizens in Vieques to support and vote in the 6 November 2001 referendum for the option of continued Navy training at Vieques."[23]


Personnel

  • John Rendon
  • Rick Rendon - in the Boston office
  • Linda Flohr, a CIA covert operations veteran, worked for the Rendon Group at one point before returning to the government, where she is now a top anti-terrorism official at the White House's National Security Council.
  • Francis Brooke worked in the mid-1990s on the Rendon Group's anti-Iraq campaign in London at a salary of $19,000 a month. He subsequently became the chief assistant in Washington to Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress.
  • Paul Moran, a freelance TV cameraman who was killed in Iraq by a suicide bomber during the war in Iraq in 2003, also worked as a freelance contractor for the Rendon Group.


Clients

Clients of the Rendon Group have included a number of foreign nations, as well as major corporations. Known specific clients have included:
In Massachussetts, Rendon has worked for the Massachusetts Port Authority, the Governor's Highway Safety Bureau, the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.[24]
Contact information

The Rendon Group, Inc.
1875 Connecticut Avenue N.W., Suite 414
Washington, D.C. 20009
Telephone: (202) 745-4900
Fax: (202) 745-0215
Email: slibby AT rendon.com
http://www.rendon.com/


Articles and resources



Related SourceWatch articles



References


  1. Charlie Reed, "Journalists' recent work examined before embeds," Stars and Stripes, August 24, 2009.
  2. Charlie Reed, Kevin Baron and Leo Shane III, "Files prove Pentagon is profiling reporters," Stars and Stripes, August 27, 2009.
  3. Leo Shane III, "Army used profiles to reject reporters," Stars and Stripes, August 29, 2009.
  4. Kevin Baron, "Military terminates Rendon contract," Stars and Stripes, August 31, 2009.
  5. "TRG Comment on Recent Reporting About Our Work in Afghanistan," Rendon Group website, dated August 26, 2009.
  6. "The Rendon Group Responds to Inaccurate Reports," Rendon Group website, dated September 3, 2009.


External resources



External articles

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Rendon_Group
James Bamford's November 17th, 2005 profile of John Rendon, "The Man Who Sold the War," (RS988) won the 2006 National Magazine Award in the reporting category.
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/sto...d_the_war/

The road to war in Iraq led through many unlikely places. One of them was a chic hotel nestled among the strip bars and brothels that cater to foreigners in the town of Pattaya, on the Gulf of Thailand.
On December 17th, 2001, in a small room within the sound of the crashing tide, a CIA officer attached metal electrodes to the ring and index fingers of a man sitting pensively in a padded chair. The officer then stretched a black rubber tube, pleated like an accordion, around the man's chest and another across his abdomen. Finally, he slipped a thick cuff over the man's brachial artery, on the inside of his upper arm.
Strapped to the polygraph machine was Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, a forty-three-year-old Iraqi who had fled his homeland in Kurdistan and was now determined to bring down Saddam Hussein. For hours, as thin mechanical styluses traced black lines on rolling graph paper, al-Haideri laid out an explosive tale. Answering yes and no to a series of questions, he insisted repeatedly that he was a civil engineer who had helped Saddam's men to secretly bury tons of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. The illegal arms, according to al-Haideri, were buried in subterranean wells, hidden in private villas, even stashed beneath the Saddam Hussein Hospital, the largest medical facility in Baghdad.
It was damning stuff -- just the kind of evidence the Bush administration was looking for. If the charges were true, they would offer the White House a compelling reason to invade Iraq and depose Saddam. That's why the Pentagon had flown a CIA polygraph expert to Pattaya: to question al-Haideri and confirm, once and for all, that Saddam was secretly stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.
There was only one problem: It was all a lie. After a review of the sharp peaks and deep valleys on the polygraph chart, the intelligence officer concluded that al-Haideri had made up the entire story, apparently in the hopes of securing a visa.
The fabrication might have ended there, the tale of another political refugee trying to scheme his way to a better life. But just because the story wasn't true didn't mean it couldn't be put to good use. Al-Haideri, in fact, was the product of a clandestine operation -- part espionage, part PR campaign -- that had been set up and funded by the CIA and the Pentagon for the express purpose of selling the world a war. And the man who had long been in charge of the marketing was a secretive and mysterious creature of the Washington establishment named John Rendon.
Rendon is a man who fills a need that few people even know exists. Two months before al-Haideri took the lie-detector test, the Pentagon had secretly awarded him a $16 million contract to target Iraq and other adversaries with propaganda. One of the most powerful people in Washington, Rendon is a leader in the strategic field known as "perception management," manipulating information -- and, by extension, the news media -- to achieve the desired result. His firm, the Rendon Group, has made millions off government contracts since 1991, when it was hired by the CIA to help "create the conditions for the removal of Hussein from power." Working under this extraordinary transfer of secret authority, Rendon assembled a group of anti-Saddam militants, personally gave them their name -- the Iraqi National Congress -- and served as their media guru and "senior adviser" as they set out to engineer an uprising against Saddam. It was as if President John F. Kennedy had outsourced the Bay of Pigs operation to the advertising and public-relations firm of J. Walter Thompson.
"They're very closemouthed about what they do," says Kevin McCauley, an editor of the industry trade publication O'Dwyer's PR Daily. "It's all cloak-and-dagger stuff."
Although Rendon denies any direct involvement with al-Haideri, the defector was the latest salvo in a secret media war set in motion by Rendon. In an operation directed by Ahmad Chalabi -- the man Rendon helped install as leader of the INC -- the defector had been brought to Thailand, where he huddled in a hotel room for days with the group's spokesman, Zaab Sethna. The INC routinely coached defectors on their stories, prepping them for polygraph exams, and Sethna was certainly up to the task -- he got his training in the art of propaganda on the payroll of the Rendon Group. According to Francis Brooke, the INC's man in Washington and himself a former Rendon employee, the goal of the al-Haideri operation was simple: pressure the United States to attack Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein.
As the CIA official flew back to Washington with failed lie-detector charts in his briefcase, Chalabi and Sethna didn't hesitate. They picked up the phone, called two journalists who had a long history of helping the INC promote its cause and offered them an exclusive on Saddam's terrifying cache of WMDs.
For the worldwide broadcast rights, Sethna contacted Paul Moran, an Australian freelancer who frequently worked for the Australian Broadcasting Corp. "I think I've got something that you would be interested in," he told Moran, who was living in Bahrain. Sethna knew he could count on the trim, thirty-eight-year-old journalist: A former INC employee in the Middle East, Moran had also been on Rendon's payroll for years in "information operations," working with Sethna at the company's London office on Catherine Place, near Buckingham Palace.
"We were trying to help the Kurds and the Iraqis opposed to Saddam set up a television station," Sethna recalled in a rare interview broadcast on Australian television. "The Rendon Group came to us and said, 'We have a contract to kind of do anti-Saddam propaganda on behalf of the Iraqi opposition.' What we didn't know -- what the Rendon Group didn't tell us -- was in fact it was the CIA that had hired them to do this work."
The INC's choice for the worldwide print exclusive was equally easy: Chalabi contacted Judith Miller of The New York Times. Miller, who was close to I. Lewis Libby and other neoconservatives in the Bush administration, had been a trusted outlet for the INC's anti-Saddam propaganda for years. Not long after the CIA polygraph expert slipped the straps and electrodes off al-Haideri and declared him a liar, Miller flew to Bangkok to interview him under the watchful supervision of his INC handlers. Miller later made perfunctory calls to the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency, but despite her vaunted intelligence sources, she claimed not to know about the results of al-Haideri's lie-detector test. Instead, she reported that unnamed "government experts" called his information "reliable and significant" -- thus adding a veneer of truth to the lies.
Her front-page story, which hit the stands on December 20th, 2001, was exactly the kind of exposure Rendon had been hired to provide. AN IRAQI DEFECTOR TELLS OF WORK ON AT LEAST 20 HIDDEN WEAPONS SITES, declared the headline. "An Iraqi defector who described himself as a civil engineer," Miller wrote, "said he personally worked on renovations of secret facilities for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in underground wells, private villas and under the Saddam Hussein Hospital in Baghdad as recently as a year ago." If verified, she noted, "his allegations would provide ammunition to officials within the Bush administration who have been arguing that Mr. Hussein should be driven from power partly because of his unwillingness to stop making weapons of mass destruction, despite his pledges to do so."
For months, hawks inside and outside the administration had been pressing for a pre-emptive attack on Iraq. Now, thanks to Miller's story, they could point to "proof" of Saddam's "nuclear threat." The story, reinforced by Moran's on-camera interview with al-Haideri on the giant Australian Broadcasting Corp., was soon being trumpeted by the White House and repeated by newspapers and television networks around the world. It was the first in a long line of hyped and fraudulent stories that would eventually propel the U.S. into a war with Iraq -- the first war based almost entirely on a covert propaganda campaign targeting the media.
By law, the Bush administration is expressly prohibited from disseminating government propaganda at home. But in an age of global communications, there is nothing to stop it from planting a phony pro-war story overseas -- knowing with certainty that it will reach American citizens almost instantly. A recent congressional report suggests that the Pentagon may be relying on "covert psychological operations affecting audiences within friendly nations." In a "secret amendment" to Pentagon policy, the report warns, "psyops funds might be used to publish stories favorable to American policies, or hire outside contractors without obvious ties to the Pentagon to organize rallies in support of administration policies." The report also concludes that military planners are shifting away from the Cold War view that power comes from superior weapons systems. Instead, the Pentagon now believes that "combat power can be enhanced by communications networks and technologies that control access to, and directly manipulate, information. As a result, information itself is now both a tool and a target of warfare."
It is a belief John Rendon encapsulated in a speech to cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1996. "I am not a national-security strategist or a military tactician," he declared. "I am a politician, a person who uses communication to meet public-policy or corporate-policy objectives. In fact, I am an information warrior and a perception manager." To explain his philosophy, Rendon paraphrased a journalist he knew from his days as a staffer on the presidential campaigns of George McGovern and Jimmy Carter: "This is probably best described in the words of Hunter S. Thompson, when he wrote, 'When things turn weird, the weird turn pro.'"


John Walter Rendon Jr. rises at 3 a.m. each morning after six hours of sleep, turns on his Apple computer and begins ingesting information -- overnight news reports, e-mail messages, foreign and domestic newspapers, and an assortment of government documents. According to Pentagon documents obtained by Rolling Stone, the Rendon Group is authorized "to research and analyze information classified up to Top Secret/SCI/SI/TK/G/HCS" -- an extraordinarily high level of clearance granted to only a handful of defense contractors. "SCI" stands for Sensitive Compartmented Information, data classified higher than Top Secret. "SI" is Special Intelligence, very secret communications intercepted by the National Security Agency. "TK" refers to Talent/Keyhole, code names for imagery from reconnaissance aircraft and spy satellites. "G" stands for Gamma (communications intercepts from extremely sensitive sources) and "HCS" means Humint Control System (information from a very sensitive human source). Taken together, the acronyms indicate that Rendon enjoys access to the most secret information from all three forms of intelligence collection: eavesdropping, imaging satellites and human spies. Rendon lives in a multimillion-dollar home in Washington's exclusive Kalorama neighborhood. A few doors down from Rendon is the home of former Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara; just around the corner lives current Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. At fifty-six, Rendon wears owlish glasses and combs his thick mane of silver-gray hair to the side, Kennedy-style. He heads to work each morning clad in a custom-made shirt with his monogram on the right cuff and a sharply tailored blue blazer that hangs loose around his bulky frame. By the time he pulls up to the Rendon Group's headquarters near Dupont Circle, he has already racked up a handsome fee for the morning's work: According to federal records, Rendon charges the CIA and the Pentagon $311.26 an hour for his services.
Rendon is one of the most influential of the private contractors in Washington who are increasingly taking over jobs long reserved for highly trained CIA employees. In recent years, spies-for-hire have begun to replace regional desk officers, who control clandestine operations around the world; watch officers at the agency's twenty-four-hour crisis center; analysts, who sift through reams of intelligence data; and even counterintelligence officers in the field, who oversee meetings between agents and their recruited spies. According to one senior administration official involved in intelligence-budget decisions, half of the CIA's work is now performed by private contractors -- people completely unaccountable to Congress. Another senior budget official acknowledges privately that lawmakers have no idea how many rent-a-spies the CIA currently employs -- or how much unchecked power they enjoy.
Unlike many newcomers to the field, however, Rendon is a battle-tested veteran who has been secretly involved in nearly every American shooting conflict in the past two decades. In the first interview he has granted in decades, Rendon offered a peek through the keyhole of this seldom-seen world of corporate spooks -- a rarefied but growing profession. Over a dinner of lamb chops and a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape at a private Washington club, Rendon was guarded about the details of his clandestine work -- but he boasted openly of the sweep and importance of his firm's efforts as a for-profit spy. "We've worked in ninety-one countries," he said. "Going all the way back to Panama, we've been involved in every war, with the exception of Somalia."
It is an unusual career twist for someone who entered politics as an opponent of the Vietnam War. The son of a stockbroker, Rendon grew up in New Jersey and stumped for McGovern before graduating from Northeastern University. "I was the youngest state coordinator," he recalls. "I had Maine. They told me that I understood politics -- which was a stretch, being so young." Rendon, who went on to serve as executive director of the Democratic National Committee, quickly mastered the combination of political skulduggery and media manipulation that would become his hallmark. In 1980, as the manager of Jimmy Carter's troops at the national convention in New York, he was sitting alone in the bleachers at Madison Square Garden when a reporter for ABC News approached him. "They actually did a little piece about the man behind the curtain," Rendon says. "A Wizard of Oz thing." It was a role he would end up playing for the rest of his life.
After Carter lost the election and the hard-right Reagan revolutionaries came to power in 1981, Rendon went into business with his younger brother Rick. "Everybody started consulting," he recalls. "We started consulting." They helped elect John Kerry to the Senate in 1984 and worked for the AFL-CIO to mobilize the union vote for Walter Mondale's presidential campaign. Among the items Rendon produced was a training manual for union organizers to operate as political activists on behalf of Mondale. To keep the operation quiet, Rendon stamped CONFIDENTIAL on the cover of each of the blue plastic notebooks. It was a penchant for secrecy that would soon pervade all of his consulting deals.
To a large degree, the Rendon Group is a family affair. Rendon's wife, Sandra Libby, handles the books as chief financial officer and "senior communications strategist." Rendon's brother Rick serves as senior partner and runs the company's Boston office, producing public-service announcements for the Whale Conservation Institute and coordinating Empower Peace, a campaign that brings young people in the Middle East in contact with American kids through video-conferencing technology. But the bulk of the company's business is decidedly less liberal and peace oriented. Rendon's first experience in the intelligence world, in fact, came courtesy of the Republicans. "Panama," he says, "brought us into the national-security environment."
In 1989, shortly after his election, President George H.W. Bush signed a highly secret "finding" authorizing the CIA to funnel $10 million to opposition forces in Panama to overthrow Gen. Manuel Noriega. Reluctant to involve agency personnel directly, the CIA turned to the Rendon Group. Rendon's job was to work behind the scenes, using a variety of campaign and psychological techniques to put the CIA's choice, Guillermo Endara, into the presidential palace. Cash from the agency, laundered through various bank accounts and front organizations, would end up in Endara's hands, who would then pay Rendon.
A heavyset, fifty-three-year-old corporate attorney with little political experience, Endara was running against Noriega's handpicked choice, Carlos Duque. With Rendon's help, Endara beat Duque decisively at the polls -- but Noriega simply named himself "Maximum Leader" and declared the election null and void. The Bush administration then decided to remove Noriega by force -- and Rendon's job shifted from generating local support for a national election to building international support for regime change. Within days he had found the ultimate propaganda tool.
At the end of a rally in support of Endara, a band of Noriega's Dignity Battalion -- nicknamed "Dig Bats" and called "Doberman thugs" by Bush -- attacked the crowd with wooden planks, metal pipes and guns. Gang members grabbed the bodyguard of Guillermo Ford, one of Endara's vice-presidential candidates, pushed him against a car, shoved a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. With cameras snapping, the Dig Bats turned on Ford, batting his head with a spike-tipped metal rod and pounding him with heavy clubs, turning his white guayabera bright red with blood -- his own, and that of his dead bodyguard.
Within hours, Rendon made sure the photos reached every newsroom in the world. The next week an image of the violence made the cover of Time magazine with the caption POLITICS PANAMA STYLE: NORIEGA BLUDGEONS HIS OPPOSITION, AND THE U.S. TURNS UP THE HEAT. To further boost international support for Endara, Rendon escorted Ford on a tour of Europe to meet British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the Italian prime minister and even the pope. In December 1989, when Bush decided to invade Panama, Rendon and several of his employees were on one of the first military jets headed to Panama City.
"I arrived fifteen minutes before it started," Rendon recalls. "My first impression is having the pilot in the plane turn around and say, 'Excuse me, sir, but if you look off to the left you'll see the attack aircraft circling before they land.' Then I remember this major saying, 'Excuse me, sir, but do you know what the air-defense capability of Panama is at the moment?' I leaned into the cockpit and said, 'Look, major, I hope by now that's no longer an issue.'"
Moments later, Rendon's plane landed at Howard Air Force Base in Panama. "I needed to get to Fort Clayton, which was where the president was," he says. "I was choppered over -- and we took some rounds on the way." There, on a U.S. military base surrounded by 24,000 U.S. troops, heavy tanks and Combat Talon AC-130 gunships, Rendon's client, Endara, was at last sworn in as president of Panama.


Rendon's involvement in the campaign to oust Saddam Hussein began seven months later, in July 1990. Rendon had taken time out for a vacation -- a long train ride across Scotland -- when he received an urgent call. "Soldiers are massing at the border outside of Kuwait," he was told. At the airport, he watched the beginning of the Iraqi invasion on television. Winging toward Washington in the first-class cabin of a Pan Am 747, Rendon spent the entire flight scratching an outline of his ideas in longhand on a yellow legal pad. "I wrote a memo about what the Kuwaitis were going to face, and I based it on our experience in Panama and the experience of the Free French operation in World War II," Rendon says. "This was something that they needed to see and hear, and that was my whole intent. Go over, tell the Kuwaitis, 'Here's what you've got -- here's some observations, here's some recommendations, live long and prosper.'"
Back in Washington, Rendon immediately called Hamilton Jordan, the former chief of staff to President Carter and an old friend from his Democratic Party days. "He put me in touch with the Saudis, the Saudis put me in touch with the Kuwaitis and then I went over and had a meeting with the Kuwaitis," Rendon recalls. "And by the time I landed back in the United States, I got a phone call saying, 'Can you come back? We want you to do what's in the memo.'"
What the Kuwaitis wanted was help in selling a war of liberation to the American government -- and the American public. Rendon proposed a massive "perception management" campaign designed to convince the world of the need to join forces to rescue Kuwait. The Kuwaiti government in exile agreed to pay Rendon $100,000 a month for his assistance.
To coordinate the operation, Rendon opened an office in London. Once the Gulf War began, he remained extremely busy trying to prevent the American press from reporting on the dark side of the Kuwaiti government, an autocratic oil-tocracy ruled by a family of wealthy sheiks. When newspapers began reporting that many Kuwaitis were actually living it up in nightclubs in Cairo as Americans were dying in the Kuwaiti sand, the Rendon Group quickly counterattacked. Almost instantly, a wave of articles began appearing telling the story of grateful Kuwaitis mailing 20,000 personally signed valentines to American troops on the front lines, all arranged by Rendon.
Rendon also set up an elaborate television and radio network, and developed programming that was beamed into Kuwait from Taif, Saudi Arabia. "It was important that the Kuwaitis in occupied Kuwait understood that the rest of the world was doing something," he says. Each night, Rendon's troops in London produced a script and sent it via microwave to Taif, ensuring that the "news" beamed into Kuwait reflected a sufficiently pro-American line.
When it comes to staging a war, few things are left to chance. After Iraq withdrew from Kuwait, it was Rendon's responsibility to make the victory march look like the flag-waving liberation of France after World War II. "Did you ever stop to wonder," he later remarked, "how the people of Kuwait City, after being held hostage for seven long and painful months, were able to get hand-held American -- and, for that matter, the flags of other coalition countries?" After a pause, he added, "Well, you now know the answer. That was one of my jobs then."

Although his work is highly secret, Rendon insists he deals only in "timely, truthful and accurate information." His job, he says, is to counter false perceptions that the news media perpetuate because they consider it "more important to be first than to be right." In modern warfare, he believes, the outcome depends largely on the public's perception of the war -- whether it is winnable, whether it is worth the cost. "We are being haunted and stalked by the difference between perception and reality," he says. "Because the lines are divergent, this difference between perception and reality is one of the greatest strategic communications challenges of war."
By the time the Gulf War came to a close in 1991, the Rendon Group was firmly established as Washington's leading salesman for regime change. But Rendon's new assignment went beyond simply manipulating the media. After the war ended, the Top Secret order signed by President Bush to oust Hussein included a rare "lethal finding" -- meaning deadly action could be taken if necessary. Under contract to the CIA, Rendon was charged with helping to create a dissident force with the avowed purpose of violently overthrowing the entire Iraqi government. It is an undertaking that Rendon still considers too classified to discuss. "That's where we're wandering into places I'm not going to talk about," he says. "If you take an oath, it should mean something."
Thomas Twetten, the CIA's former deputy of operations, credits Rendon with virtually creating the INC. "The INC was clueless," he once observed. "They needed a lot of help and didn't know where to start. That is why Rendon was brought in." Acting as the group's senior adviser and aided by truckloads of CIA dollars, Rendon pulled together a wide spectrum of Iraqi dissidents and sponsored a conference in Vienna to organize them into an umbrella organization, which he dubbed the Iraqi National Congress. Then, as in Panama, his assignment was to help oust a brutal dictator and replace him with someone chosen by the CIA. "The reason they got the contract was because of what they had done in Panama -- so they were known," recalls Whitley Bruner, former chief of the CIA's station in Baghdad. This time the target was Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the agency's successor of choice was Ahmad Chalabi, a crafty, avuncular Iraqi exile beloved by Washington's neoconservatives.
Chalabi was a curious choice to lead a rebellion. In 1992, he was convicted in Jordan of making false statements and embezzling $230 million from his own bank, for which he was sentenced in absentia to twenty-two years of hard labor. But the only credential that mattered was his politics. "From day one," Rendon says, "Chalabi was very clear that his biggest interest was to rid Iraq of Saddam." Bruner, who dealt with Chalabi and Rendon in London in 1991, puts it even more bluntly. "Chalabi's primary focus," he said later, "was to drag us into a war."
The key element of Rendon's INC operation was a worldwide media blitz designed to turn Hussein, a once dangerous but now contained regional leader, into the greatest threat to world peace. Each month, $326,000 was passed from the CIA to the Rendon Group and the INC via various front organizations. Rendon profited handsomely, receiving a "management fee" of ten percent above what it spent on the project. According to some reports, the company made nearly $100 million on the contract during the five years following the Gulf War.
Rendon made considerable headway with the INC, but following the group's failed coup attempt against Saddam in 1996, the CIA lost confidence in Chalabi and cut off his monthly paycheck. But Chalabi and Rendon simply switched sides, moving over to the Pentagon, and the money continued to flow. "The Rendon Group is not in great odor in Langley these days," notes Bruner. "Their contracts are much more with the Defense Department."
Rendon's influence rose considerably in Washington after the terrorist attacks of September 11th. In a single stroke, Osama bin Laden altered the world's perception of reality -- and in an age of nonstop information, whoever controls perception wins. What Bush needed to fight the War on Terror was a skilled information warrior -- and Rendon was widely acknowledged as the best. "The events of 11 September 2001 changed everything, not least of which was the administration's outlook concerning strategic influence," notes one Army report. "Faced with direct evidence that many people around the world actively hated the United States, Bush began taking action to more effectively explain U.S. policy overseas. Initially the White House and DoD turned to the Rendon Group."
Three weeks after the September 11th attacks, according to documents obtained from defense sources, the Pentagon awarded a large contract to the Rendon Group. Around the same time, Pentagon officials also set up a highly secret organization called the Office of Strategic Influence. Part of the OSI's mission was to conduct covert disinformation and deception operations -- planting false news items in the media and hiding their origins. "It's sometimes valuable from a military standpoint to be able to engage in deception with respect to future anticipated plans," Vice President Dick Cheney said in explaining the operation. Even the military's top brass found the clandestine unit unnerving. "When I get their briefings, it's scary," a senior official said at the time.
In February 2002, The New York Times reported that the Pentagon had hired Rendon "to help the new office," a charge Rendon denies. "We had nothing to do with that," he says. "We were not in their reporting chain. We were reporting directly to the J-3" -- the head of operations at the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Following the leak, Rumsfeld was forced to shut down the organization. But much of the office's operations were apparently shifted to another unit, deeper in the Pentagon's bureaucracy, called the Information Operations Task Force, and Rendon was closely connected to this group. "Greg Newbold was the J-3 at the time, and we reported to him through the IOTF," Rendon says.
According to the Pentagon documents, the Rendon Group played a major role in the IOTF. The company was charged with creating an "Information War Room" to monitor worldwide news reports at lightning speed and respond almost instantly with counterpropaganda. A key weapon, according to the documents, was Rendon's "proprietary state-of-the-art news-wire collection system called 'Livewire,' which takes real-time news-wire reports, as they are filed, before they are on the Internet, before CNN can read them on the air and twenty-four hours before they appear in the morning newspapers, and sorts them by keyword. The system provides the most current real-time access to news and information available to private or public organizations."


The top target that the pentagon assigned to Rendon was the Al-Jazeera television network. The contract called for the Rendon Group to undertake a massive "media mapping" campaign against the news organization, which the Pentagon considered "critical to U.S. objectives in the War on Terrorism." According to the contract, Rendon would provide a "detailed content analysis of the station's daily broadcast . . . [and] identify the biases of specific journalists and potentially obtain an understanding of their allegiances, including the possibility of specific relationships and sponsorships."
The secret targeting of foreign journalists may have had a sinister purpose. Among the missions proposed for the Pentagon's Office of Strategic Influence was one to "coerce" foreign journalists and plant false information overseas. Secret briefing papers also said the office should find ways to "punish" those who convey the "wrong message." One senior officer told CNN that the plan would "formalize government deception, dishonesty and misinformation."
According to the Pentagon documents, Rendon would use his media analysis to conduct a worldwide propaganda campaign, deploying teams of information warriors to allied nations to assist them "in developing and delivering specific messages to the local population, combatants, front-line states, the media and the international community." Among the places Rendon's info-war teams would be sent were Jakarta, Indonesia; Islamabad, Pakistan; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Cairo; Ankara, Turkey; and Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The teams would produce and script television news segments "built around themes and story lines supportive of U.S. policy objectives."
Rendon was also charged with engaging in "military deception" online -- an activity once assigned to the OSI. The company was contracted to monitor Internet chat rooms in both English and Arabic -- and "participate in these chat rooms when/if tasked." Rendon would also create a Web site "with regular news summaries and feature articles. Targeted at the global public, in English and at least four (4) additional languages, this activity also will include an extensive e-mail push operation." These techniques are commonly used to plant a variety of propaganda, including false information.
Still another newly formed propaganda operation in which Rendon played a major part was the Office of Global Communications, which operated out of the White House and was charged with spreading the administration's message on the War in Iraq. Every morning at 9:30, Rendon took part in the White House OGC conference call, where officials would discuss the theme of the day and who would deliver it. The office also worked closely with the White House Iraq Group, whose high-level members, including recently indicted Cheney chief of staff Lewis Libby, were responsible for selling the war to the American public.
Never before in history had such an extensive secret network been established to shape the entire world's perception of a war. "It was not just bad intelligence -- it was an orchestrated effort," says Sam Gardner, a retired Air Force colonel who has taught strategy and military operations at the National War College. "It began before the war, was a major effort during the war and continues as post-conflict distortions."
In the first weeks following the September 11th attacks, Rendon operated at a frantic pitch. "In the early stages it was fielding every ground ball that was coming, because nobody was sure if we were ever going to be attacked again," he says. "It was 'What do you know about this, what do you know about that, what else can you get, can you talk to somebody over here?' We functioned twenty-four hours a day. We maintained situational awareness, in military terms, on all things related to terrorism. We were doing 195 newspapers and 43 countries in fourteen or fifteen languages. If you do this correctly, I can tell you what's on the evening news tonight in a country before it happens. I can give you, as a policymaker, a six-hour break on how you can affect what's going to be on the news. They'll take that in a heartbeat."
The Bush administration took everything Rendon had to offer. Between 2000 and 2004, Pentagon documents show, the Rendon Group received at least thirty-five contracts with the Defense Department, worth a total of $50 million to $100 million.

The mourners genuflected, made the sign of the cross and took their seats along the hard, shiny pews of Our Lady of Victories Catholic Church. It was April 2nd, 2003 -- the start of fall in the small Australian town of Glenelg, an aging beach resort of white Victorian homes and soft, blond sand on Holdback Bay. Rendon had flown halfway around the world to join nearly 600 friends and family who were gathered to say farewell to a local son and amateur football champ, Paul Moran. Three days into the invasion of Iraq, the freelance journalist and Rendon employee had become the first member of the media to be killed in the war -- a war he had covertly helped to start.
Moran had lived a double life, filing reports for the Australian Broadcasting Corp. and other news organizations, while at other times operating as a clandestine agent for Rendon, enjoying what his family calls his "James Bond lifestyle." Moran had trained Iraqi opposition forces in photographic espionage, showing them how to covertly document Iraqi military activities, and had produced pro-war announcements for the Pentagon. "He worked for the Rendon Group in London," says his mother, Kathleen. "They just send people all over the world -- where there are wars."
Moran was covering the Iraq invasion for ABC, filming at a Kurdish-controlled checkpoint in the city of Sulaymaniyah, when a car driven by a suicide bomber blew up next to him. "I saw the car in a kind of slow-motion disintegrate," recalls Eric Campbell, a correspondent who was filming with Moran. "A soldier handed me a passport, which was charred. That's when I knew Paul was dead."
As the Mass ended and Moran's Australian-flag-draped coffin passed by the mourners, Rendon lifted his right arm and saluted. He refused to discuss Moran's role in the company, saying only that "Paul worked for us on a number of projects." But on the long flight back to Washington, across more than a dozen time zones, Rendon outlined his feelings in an e-mail: "The day did begin with dark and ominous clouds much befitting the emotions we all felt -- sadness and anger at the senseless violence that claimed our comrade Paul Moran ten short days ago and many decades of emotion ago."
The Rendon Group also organized a memorial service in London, where Moran first went to work for the company in 1990. Held at Home House, a private club in Portman Square where Moran often stayed while visiting the city, the event was set among photographs of Moran in various locations around the Middle East. Zaab Sethna, who organized the al-Haideri media exclusive in Thailand for Moran and Judith Miller, gave a touching tribute to his former colleague. "I think that on both a personal and professional level Paul was deeply admired and loved by the people at the Rendon Group," Sethna later said.
Although Moran was gone, the falsified story about weapons of mass destruction that he and Sethna had broadcast around the world lived on. Seven months earlier, as President Bush was about to argue his case for war before the U.N., the White House had given prominent billing to al-Haideri's fabricated charges. In a report ironically titled "Iraq: Denial and Deception," the administration referred to al-Haideri by name and detailed his allegations -- even though the CIA had already determined them to be lies. The report was placed on the White House Web site on September 12th, 2002, and remains there today. One version of the report even credits Miller's article for the information.
Miller also continued to promote al-Haideri's tale of Saddam's villainy. In January 2003, more than a year after her first article appeared, Miller again reported that Pentagon "intelligence officials" were telling her that "some of the most valuable information has come from Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri." His interviews with the Defense Intelligence Agency, Miller added, "ultimately resulted in dozens of highly credible reports on Iraqi weapons-related activity and purchases, officials said."
Finally, in early 2004, more than two years after he made the dramatic allegations to Miller and Moran about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, al-Haideri was taken back to Iraq by the CIA's Iraq Survey Group. On a wide-ranging trip through Baghdad and other key locations, al-Haideri was given the opportunity to point out exactly where Saddam's stockpiles were hidden, confirming the charges that had helped to start a war.
In the end, he could not identify a single site where illegal weapons were buried.
As the war in Iraq has spiraled out of control, the Bush administration's covert propaganda campaign has intensified. According to a secret Pentagon report personally approved by Rumsfeld in October 2003 and obtained by Rolling Stone, the Strategic Command is authorized to engage in "military deception" -- defined as "presenting false information, images or statements." The seventy-four-page document, titled "Information Operations Roadmap," also calls for psychological operations to be launched over radio, television, cell phones and "emerging technologies" such as the Internet. In addition to being classified secret, the road map is also stamped noforn, meaning it cannot be shared even with our allies.
As the acknowledged general of such propaganda warfare, Rendon insists that the work he does is for the good of all Americans. "For us, it's a question of patriotism," he says. "It's not a question of politics, and that's an important distinction. I feel very strongly about that personally. If brave men and women are going to be put in harm's way, they deserve support." But in Iraq, American troops and Iraqi civilians were put in harm's way, in large part, by the false information spread by Rendon and the men he trained in information warfare. And given the rapid growth of what is known as the "security-intelligence complex" in Washington, covert perception managers are likely to play an increasingly influential role in the wars of the future.
Indeed, Rendon is already thinking ahead. Last year, he attended a conference on information operations in London, where he offered an assessment on the Pentagon's efforts to manipulate the media. According to those present, Rendon applauded the practice of embedding journalists with American forces. "He said the embedded idea was great," says an Air Force colonel who attended the talk. "It worked as they had found in the test. It was the war version of reality television, and for the most part they did not lose control of the story." But Rendon also cautioned that individual news organizations were often able to "take control of the story," shaping the news before the Pentagon asserted its spin on the day's events.
"We lost control of the context," Rendon warned. "That has to be fixed for the next war."


James Bamford is the best-selling author of "A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies" (2004) and "Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency" (2001). This is his first article for Rolling Stone.
NOTE: This story has been updated to make two clarifications to the original, published version
We read with some interest James Bamford's article about the Rendon Group ["The Man Who Sold the War, RS 988]. For the record, the Rendon Group (TRG) had no role whatsoever in making the case for the Iraq war, here at home or internationally. Mr. Bamford's contention to the contrary is flatly untrue.
TRG reviews open source media reports for the Department of Defense and analyzes and charts positive and negative trends very much the same way public opinion researchers analyze polling data. Unable to find facts that support his thesis, Mr. Bamford relies on false information and mischaracterization to create his story.
Some of the many mistakes in the article include:
1. Mr. Bamford states "Judy Miller's front-page story, which hit the stands on December 20th, 2001 was exactly the kind of exposure Rendon had been hired to provide." This is false. The Rendon Group does not produce or disseminate false information and has no connection at all with Judith Miller's work.
2. Mr. Bamford incorrectly writes that TRG worked for the controversial Defense Department Office of Strategic Influence. The former director of that office himself has publicly confirmed in the Chicago Tribune that the Rendon Group had nothing to do with the Office of Strategic Influence as Mr. Bamford falsely asserts.
3. Mr. Bamford incorrectly reports that the Kuwait Government worked through Citizens for a Free Kuwait to hire The Rendon Group. The Rendon Group had a contract directly with the Government of Kuwait, had no association with Citizens for a Free Kuwait and had no association with their activities.
4. Mr. Bamford absurdly characterizes the late Paul Moran as an "agent" of the Rendon Group. In fact, Mr. Moran was a journalist tragically killed while reporting for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. While we are proud to acknowledge that Mr. Moran, a gifted freelance cameraman, provided video services to TRG (and many other clients), he had not done any TRG work for years prior to the events described by Mr. Bamford.
5. Mr. Bamford incorrectly states that TRG participated in on-line chat-rooms in Arabic or English or helped clients do that. TRG as a PR company specializing in international media analysis tracks on-line media as part of its core competency but has never participated in any chat rooms.
6. Mr. Bamford states that Mr. Rendon "rises at 3 a.m. each morning ...and begins ingesting information... an assortment of government documents, many of them available only to those with the highest security clearance." Mr. Rendon does not have access to classified material in his home or via Internet, and his limited access to such material is no different from that of thousands of other DoD contractors who work for the US government.
7. Mr. Bamford quotes from a publicly available contract document, which indicated that TRG would "identify the biases of specific journalists and potentially obtain an understanding of their allegiances, including the possibility of specific relationships and sponsorships." Tracking media and journalist dynamics is undertaken by every PR firm, marketing agency and business intelligence company in today's wired world - this is commercial grade media analysis, not "secret targeting of journalists that may have a sinister purpose."
8. Mr. Bamford implies throughout the article that TRG's fees are excessive. TRG's contracts with the US Government are priced according to the GSA-approved billing rates, which are often substantially discounted when compared to corporate rates. A review of published figures regarding US Government contractors will show that TRG's rates are in line with industry standards.
Finally, Bamford implies that the location of his interview with Mr. Rendon, the menu and the expensive French wine were all of Mr. Rendon's choosing. Readers of Rolling Stone should know that Mr. Rendon was an invited guest to Mr. Bamford's elite Washington club described in the story and that Mr. Bamford ordered the French wine and lamb chops. Mr. Rendon had seafood.
Kind Regards,
The Rendon Group
The Rendon Group asserts that it had "no role whatsoever in making the case for the Iraq war, here at home or internationally." In fact, the selling of a war in Iraq began with the creation of the Iraqi National Congress more than a decade ago and the installation of Ahmad Chalabi as its head. In both of these events, the Rendon Group played a major role, and continued to play a major role over the years. The INC had a single purpose: the forceful removal of Saddam Hussein and his government from power and the installation of a government run by Chalabi. To achieve this goal, Chalabi spent more than a decade attempting to hard-sell senior US officials on the idea of launching a war against Iraq - finally succeeding in 2003. As Whitley Bruner, the former CIA station chief in Baghdad, said: "Chalabi's primary focus was to drag us into a war." He added, "Absolutely, that was his goal and he succeeded." John Rendon also told me: "From day one, Chalabi was very clear that his biggest interest was to rid Iraq of Saddam."
It was the Rendon Group that created the INC, helped install Chalabi as its leader, and funded the organization with money supplied by the CIA. John Rendon told me that he himself acted as the "senior advisor" to the group. The job of the Rendon Group was to use "perception management" techniques -- propaganda -- to help put Chalabi in as president of Iraq, the same way they used propaganda to help put Guillermo Endara into the presidential palace in Panama a few months earlier. Again, to quote the CIA's Whitley Bruner, "The reason they got the contract was because of what they had done in Panama."
Another CIA official who worked extensively in Iraq with Chalabi and the INC, Robert Baer, was even more blunt. In 2003 he said: "John Rendon has an enormous contract with the Pentagon until today. He's got easy access, go to the Pentagon any time he wants. He was responsible for selling this war and selling the peace if you like." Baer added, "They are all over the war. Every time you talk to anybody in the government, that's had conference calls on the Iraq war, they tell me that Rendon is on the conference calls that involve all the government agencies involved in the war."
As to the other "mistakes" alleged by the Rendon Group, let me address each individually:
1. I never claimed the Rendon Group was either connected with Judith Miller or deliberately disseminated false information. What I said was that the Rendon Group was hired to provide publicity favorable to Chalabi and his INC and to help them demonize Saddam Hussein around the world. The Rendon Group even created a road show that traveled around Europe hawking the evils of Saddam's regime.
2. Another false accusation. I state clearly in the article that it was The New York Times that made the allegation about the Office of Strategic Influence, and that it was "a charge Rendon denies. 'We had nothing to do with that,' he says."
3. I am happy to accept this correction -- that Rendon worked directly with the government of Kuwait -- and I regret the error.
4. It is clear that Paul Moran alternated between worlds -- working off and on for the Rendon Group, which specializes in highly secret activities, including propaganda and "perception management" on behalf of the CIA, the Pentagon and the INC; and at other times working for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and other legitimate news organizations as a freelance journalist -- reporter as well as photojournalist. According to the June 25th, 2003 issue of Australia's highly respected The Bulletin, the country's longest-running news magazine and part of the American Newsweek:
"Two close friends and two of Moran's brothers sat down with an Adelaide journalist the day after the funeral. They drank coffee and reminisced about their friend . . . one of the friends mentioned that Moran worked for a "shadowy" company. Shadowy company, wondered the journalist. Whatever could you mean? The friend mentioned a name: the Rendon Group. He talked of Moran's involvement in helping an Iraqi defector escape and Moran's work with the INC. Moran, he said, had helped mobilise a popular uprising against Saddam Hussein's regime and trained dissidents in the use of hidden cameras. There were the renowned "Paul Moran channels" -- he seemed able to contact important people with little bother -- and the "James Bond lifestyle." In short, Moran had spent a decade, on and off, trying to destabilise Saddam Hussein's regime for a company hired by both the CIA and Pentagon." In addition, Zaab Sethna, who worked for both the Rendon Group and the INC, told an Australian television audience in 2003: "They continued to use Paul for projects . . .The Rendon group would hire Paul. He continued to work with the Rendon group over the years."
5. As I stated, the Pentagon's contract with the Rendon Group called for the company to monitor Internet chat rooms in both English and Arabic -- and "participate in these chat rooms when/if tasked." The words in quotation are the Pentagon's, not mine, so if the Rendon Group has a problem with that language I suggest they discuss it with the Pentagon.
6. I am happy to accept that Mr. Rendon waits until he gets into his office to read his classified documents. But there are few, if any, other PR companies cleared to "research and analyze information classified Top Secret/SCI/SI/TK/G/HCS," as his Pentagon contract states.
7. I appreciate the Rendon Group's modesty, but "every PR firm" is not cleared for Top Secret/SCI/SI/TK/G/HCS information, does not work for the CIA, doesn't have a history of helping to overthrow foreign governments, and is not targeted against an Arabic news organization accused of helping America's enemy during a war.
8. Throughout the entire article, I never once implied that the Rendon Group's fees were excessive. I simply stated how much they are according to documents I obtained. I am happy to let the public make its own judgment as to whether Mr. Rendon's fee of $311.26 per hour ($12,450.40 per week) is excessive for PR advice.
Finally, I never implied "that the location of his interview with Mr. Rendon, the menu and the expensive French wine were all of Mr. Rendon's choosing." It is a common practice for journalists to pay for a meal when asking someone out to dinner for a long interview. The wine was actually one in the middle price range on the menu and the choice of the club was largely for Mr. Rendon's privacy, not mine. According to the receipt, Mr. Rendon ordered "sate lamb chops" -- I never eat lamb chops. And just for the record, I also paid for Mr. Rendon's apple tart dessert and his coffee -- decaf black.
The Pentagon's Information Warrior: Rendon to the Rescue


by Laura Miller and Sheldon Rampton
"I am not a National Security strategist or a military tactician," says John W. Rendon, Jr., whose DC-based PR firm was recently hired by the Pentagon to win over the hearts and minds of Arabs and Muslims worldwide.
[Image: space.gif]"I am a politician," Rendon said in a 1998 speech to the National Security Conference (NSC), "and a person who uses communication to meet public policy or corporate policy objectives. In fact, I am an information warrior, and a perception manager. This is probably best described in the words of Hunter S. Thompson, when he wrote 'When things turn weird, the weird turn pro.'"
[Image: space.gif]The Rendon Group's contract with the Pentagon was awarded on a no-bid basis, reflecting the government's determination to hire a firm already versed in running overseas propaganda operations. Rendon specializes in "assisting corporations, organizations, and governments achieve their policy objectives." Past clients include the CIA, USAID, the government of Kuwait, Monsanto Chemical Company, and the official trade agencies of countries including Bulgaria, Russia, and Uzbekistan.
[Image: space.gif]"Through its network of international offices and strategic alliances," the Rendon Group website boasts, "the company has provided communications services to clients in more than 78 countries, and maintains contact with government officials, decision-makers, and news media around the globe."
[Image: space.gif]The Pentagon stipulates that the Rendon Group will receive $400,000 for four months of work. Details are confidential, but according to the San Jose Mercury News, Rendon will be monitoring international news media, conducting focus groups, creating a web site about the US campaign against terrorism, and recommending "ways the US military can counter disinformation and improve its own public communications."

Rendon and Desert Storm

[Image: space.gif]In dollar terms, Rendon's Pentagon contract resembles the $100,000 monthly retainer that it received in the early 1990s from the Kuwaiti government as part of a multi-million-dollar PR campaign denouncing Iraq's 1990 invasion and mobilizing public support for Operation Desert Storm.
[Image: space.gif]The Rendon Group's website states that during the Gulf War, it "established a full-scale communications operation for the Government of Kuwait, including the establishment of a production studio in London producing programming material for the exiled Kuwaiti Television." Rendon also provided media support for exiled government leaders and helped Kuwaiti officials after the war by "providing press and site advance to incoming congressional delegations and other visiting US government officials." Several of Rendon's non-governmental clients also have headquarters in Kuwait: Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, Kuwait University, American Housing Consortium, American Business Council of Kuwait, and KPMY/Peat Marwick.
[Image: space.gif]The Rendon Group's work in Kuwait continued after the war itself had ended. "If any of you either participated in the liberation of Kuwait City ... or if you watched it on television, you would have seen hundreds of Kuwaitis waving small American flags," John Rendon said in his speech to the NSC. "Did you ever stop to wonder how the people of Kuwait City, after being held hostage for seven long and painful months, were able to get hand-held American flags? And for that matter, the flags of other coalition countries? Well, you now know the answer. That was one of my jobs."
[Image: space.gif]Rendon was also a major player in the CIA's effort to encourage the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. In May 1991, then-President George Bush, Sr. signed a presidential finding directing the CIA to create the conditions for Hussein's removal. The hope was that members of the Iraqi military would turn on Hussein and stage a military coup. The CIA did not have the mechanisms in place to make that happen, so they hired the Rendon Group to run a covert anti-Saddam propaganda campaign. Rendon's postwar work involved producing videos and radio skits ridiculing Saddam Hussein, a traveling photo exhibit of Iraqi atrocities, and radio scripts calling on Iraqi army officers to defect.
[Image: space.gif]A February 1998 report by Peter Jennings cited records obtained by ABC News which showed that the Rendon Group spent more than $23 million dollars in the first year of its contract with the CIA. It worked closely with the Iraqi National Congress, an opposition coalition of 19 Iraqi and Kurdish organizations whose main tasks were to "gather information, distribute propaganda and recruit dissidents." According to ABC, Rendon came up with the name for the Iraqi National Congress and channeled $12 million of covert CIA funding to it between 1992 and 1996.
[Image: space.gif]ClandestineRadio.com, a website which monitors underground and anti-government radio stations in countries throughout the world, credits the Rendon Group with "designing and supervising" the Iraqi Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) and Radio Hurriah, which began broadcasting Iraqi opposition propaganda in January 1992 from a US government transmitter in Kuwait. According to a September 1996 article in Time magazine, six CIA case officers supervised the IBC's 11 hours of daily programming and Iraqi National Congress activities in the Iraqi Kurdistan city of Arbil. These activities came to an abrupt end on August 31, 1996, when the Iraqi army invaded Arbil and executed all but 12 out of 100 IBC staff workers along with about 100 members of the Iraqi National Congress.

Today's PR War

[Image: space.gif]The work of the Rendon Group is only one element of the Bush Administration's PR campaign. The United States has established "instant response" communications offices in Washington, London and Islamabad, and senior administration officials are regularly talking to Arabic news media.
[Image: space.gif]The Wall Street Journal reported on November 8 that the Army's "4th Psychological Operations (Psyops) group" designed leaflets and radio broadcasts inside Afghanistan "to persuade enemy fighters to quit, and to convince civilians that U.S. bombs raining down on their country will result in a better future for their families."
[Image: space.gif]A separate advertising campaign is headed by Charlotte Beers, a former Madison Avenue advertising executive who was recently named the State Department's Undersecretary of State for "public diplomacy" (the official government euphemism for "public relations"). The New York Times reported that Beers is "planning a television and advertising campaign to try to influence Islamic opinion; one segment could feature American celebrities, including sports stars, and a more emotional message."
[Image: space.gif]In an October interview with Advertising Age, Beers said public diplomacy "is a vital new arm in what will combat terrorism over time. All of a sudden, we are in this position of redefining who America is, not only for ourselves under this kind of attack, but also for the outside world." The corporate-funded Advertising Council is reportedly working with Beers on developing the campaign. According to Advertising Age, the Ad Council "has boiled its message down to one strategic idea: freedom."
[Image: space.gif]Hollywood executives have also joined the White House brain trust, conferring with administration officials on ways to help spread the U.S. message at home and abroad. "It's possible the entertainment industry could help the government formulate its message to the rest of the world about who Americans are, and what they believe," said Bryce Zabel, chairman of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
[Image: space.gif]Voice of America has dramatically increased its radio broadcasts in Arabic, Dari, Pashto, Farsi, and Urdu, but has had difficult reaching crucial elements of the Arab population in the Middle East. "We have almost no youthful audience under the age of 25 in the Arab world and we are concerned that ... this important segment of the population has enormous distrust of the United States," said Marc Nathanson, a spokesman for the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the entity that oversees international public broadcasting operations for the United States.

To Know Us is to Love Us

[Image: space.gif]Many of the people charged with masterminding the propaganda war seem handicapped by a naïve belief that the US is simply misunderstood abroad. "They hate us out of ignorance," is a common trope. Communications strategies are being developed on the assumption that if "they" just knew how good "we" are and how much we love "freedom," then they will support the war.
[Image: space.gif]"How is it that the country that invented Hollywood and Madison Avenue has such trouble promoting a positive image of itself overseas?" asked Rep. Henry Hyde, chairman of the House International Relations Committee. President Bush has expressed similar bafflement. "I'm amazed that there's such misunderstanding of what our country is about that people would hate us," he said. "We've got to do a better job of making our case."
[Image: space.gif]Lee McKnight, director of the Edward R. Murrow Center at Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, says this inability to understand the thinking of the Arab world is the single biggest reason that the United States is winning the military battle but losing the propaganda war. "We can't convince anyone we're right if we don't understand their point of view," he said.
[Image: space.gif]The spin doctors and politicians have failed to realize that propaganda cannot hope to change opinions when fundamental US policies remain the same. "No amount of media management will matter if the US is not also seen--and actually working on--ways to resolve some of the intractable conflicts which have served to feed fanaticism and anti-US sentiment throughout many Arabic and Islamic nations," McKnight said.
[Image: space.gif]"The United States lost the public relations war in the Muslim world a long time ago," says Osama Siblani, publisher of the Arab American News. "They could have the prophet Muhammad doing public relations and it wouldn't help."
[Image: space.gif]"The calculus of human suffering is far less clear from the perspective of the Middle East," observes Princeton University history professor Nicholas Guyatt, "and the awful images of Sept. 11 fade quickly when supplanted by Israeli attacks on Bethlehem or even the 'collateral damage' of the U.S. bombing campaign in Afghanistan." The U.S. cannot hope to win the battle for hearts and minds until its leaders realize the importance of deeds in addition to words and begin to promote real democracy, peace and human rights in the Muslim world.

http://www.prwatch.org/prwissues/2001Q4/rendon.html
The First Casualty

Submitted by Paul Rouse on November 30, 2006 - 6:55am.
The fate of Terry Lloyd has made headline news. But what of the reporter killed by Al-Qaeda who may have been an unwitting accomplice in the countdown to war in Iraq? Paul Rouse investigates.
People who knew him always joked that Paul Moran would be late for his own funeral. When he became the first media casualty of the war in Iraq—aged only 39—the handsome, easy-going Australian news cameraman proved instead to be tragically early for the event.
Paul Moran was killed by a suicide bomber in northern Iraq on 22nd March 2003, just three days into a war that he had—perhaps unknowingly—helped to start. Yet only now is the full story beginning to emerge of the key role he played in the countdown to the invasion of Iraq, in a plan sanctioned at the highest level in Washington.
It is a story of intrigue, political spin and media manipulation on a grand scale which—to date—has barely broken out of the confines of a handful of US websites and the pages of Rolling Stone magazine.
Yet the charismatic Australian's exploits—from his involvement with the cause of Kurdish independence to his untimely end at the hands of an Al-Qaeda terrorist—is a Hollywood epic waiting to happen, a real-life drama that damns American foreign policy and raises the issue of the other first casualty of war: truth.
Crusade

In the wake of 9/11, with the Bush administration keen to find any evidence of the existence of weapons of mass destruction to justify its planned crusade to topple Saddam, the arrival of a Kurdish engineer and defector, Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, prepared to tell all about WMD, must have seemed like a gift from the gods.
It was in fact a gift from John Rendon, head of the Rendon Group (TRG), one of Washington’s leading political PR companies, whose clients included the CIA, the Pentagon and the Iraqi National Congress (INC). Given its name by John Rendon himself, the INC was formed just after the first Gulf War as a loose coalition of Iraqi and Kurdish groups opposed to Saddam, whose original purpose was to gather information, distribute propaganda and recruit dissidents.
Funded by the CIA and US Congress, the INC had become, by late 2001, one of numerous potential governments-in-waiting pending the overthrow of Saddam. This despite the fact that its leader was Ahmed Chalabi, a former chairman of the Petra Bank in Jordan who had fled that country in 1989 under mysterious circumstances, and in 1992 was convicted in absentia for embezzlement, fraud and currency-trading irregularities, with a sentence of 22 years' hard labour.
Crucial

The INC’s dubious credibility notwithstanding, the startling claims made by al-Haideri—including the existence of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in concealed sites in Iraq—turned out to be crucial in 'proving' George Bush and Tony Blair's case, and in helping sway a significant level of public opinion in both the US and Britain in favour of the invasion.
Under US law, Bush would have been prohibited from disseminating government propaganda of this nature at home. But in an age of international communications, there was nothing to stop him, in partnership with experienced media manipulators like the Rendon Group, from planting false pro-war stories that had their origins overseas.
Far from taking what would have been the normal route therefore – calling an international press conference perhaps, or setting up a one-to-one with the likes of Larry King on CNN—John Rendon chose just two outlets for the disclosures from al-Haideri, by this stage safely ensconced in a discreet location in Thailand.
One of these was perhaps predictable: the print exclusive went to Judith Miller, the highly-regarded Pulitzer Prize-winning New York TimesDick Cheney's top aide, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, whose sister, Sandra Libby, happens to be John Rendon's wife. journalist, known to be sympathetic to the INC cause and guaranteed to garner column inches. Miller was also close to Vice President
The worldwide broadcast exclusive however was given to Paul Moran, hitherto only known in media circles to a select band of war reporters for his freelance work—predominantly behind the camera—in such hotspots as Lebanon, Kosovo and Gaza, as well as the first Gulf war.
Questions

The selection of Moran, which went virtually unchallenged at the time, raises several important questions in the light of what we now know: that Saddam’s WMD never actually existed.
Was this an inspired choice of a naturally gifted and gregarious interviewer, who could also connect with al-Haideri on a personal level, as shortly after the meeting the Iraqi defector was due to be spirited away to Australia—indeed Adelaide, Moran’s home town—as part of a witness protection programme?
Or was it an easy way of John Rendon controlling the TV exposure by using a trusted—and trusting—soul with whom he had worked on previous projects? Moran had spent time in Kosovo in 1999 as a photographer for what he described at the time as a “human rights” website, the Balkan Information Exchange, which was being set up by the Rendon Group.
The contract came Moran’s way following a personal recommendation to John Rendon from Lynn McConaughey, a Washington-based PR professional who happened to be Moran’s former long-term girlfriend. Whatever its humanitarian origins may have been, the website—since renamed www.balkantimes.com—has evolved into a propaganda tool for the American point of view in the Balkans, a specialty of the Rendon Group.
What is certain is that Paul Moran’s televised interview with al-Haideri in December 2001 and the revelations made about WMD—aired initially by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), another of Moran’s regular employers—was picked up by the world's media, and along with Judith Miller’s front page article in the New York Times, paved the way for Bush’s famous 'axis of evil' speech at his State of the Union address in January 2002. The scene was set, even if the war was to take a further year of propaganda and manoeuvering by Bush and Blair before it became a sad inevitability.
By March 2003, Paul Moran—who over the course of his career had been based in Washington, London, Cyprus and Bahrain—was living in Paris, happily married to a beautiful Serbian-born pharmacist, Ivana Rapajic, and the proud father of a six-week old baby daughter, Tara. When the call came from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, asking him to cover the invasion of Iraq for them from the Kurdish angle, Moran was faced with the hardest decision of his life.
A long-term advocate of Kurdish independence and a frequent visitor to the region, Moran had—again on behalf of the Rendon Group—used his experience as a cameraman to train Kurdish dissidents in the use of hidden cameras to covertly film military activities. He was also the creator of a hard-hitting documentary about the treatment of Kurdish refugees by the Cyprus government during his time on the Mediterranean island, and felt he owed it to the Kurds to see their story through to what he hoped would be a satisfactory conclusion.
With Ivana’s blessing, he packed his camera bags "for one last war" and flew into Turkey, crossing into the Kurdish-controlled region of Iraq just before the border was closed.
Three days later, Paul Moran was dead. Whilst filming Kurdish militants celebrating a victory in a skirmish in the remote northern mountains, a taxi rigged with a booby-trap, driven by a member of the Ansar Al-Islam group—an offshoot of Al-Qaeda—sped up alongside him and exploded, killing him instantly. His fellow ABC reporter, Eric Campbell, together with several of the Kurdish militants, were badly injured.
Allegations

Unlike the situation with ITN journalist Terry Lloyd and his crew, who were first reported missing later that same afternoon, nobody is suggesting that Paul Moran’s death was anything other than a case of him being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But it was certainly convenient for a number of people, not least John Rendon.
While Washington's public relations firms usually relish attention, the Rendon Group rarely discusses its work—hardly surprising perhaps, as previous tasks have seen it paving the way for regime changes in such countries as Colombia, Panama and Haiti, and supplying American flags to the citizens of Kuwait for the "spontaneous" celebrations following the end of the Gulf War. John Rendon, a self-styled "information warrior," also keeps a fairly low profile for someone so influential in the corridors of power.
TRG has however publicly denied several of the allegations made by James Bamford in Rolling Stone magazine with regard to the al-Haideri interview and the group’s connections to Paul Moran, and whilst it acknowledged that Moran had "provided video services to TRG," it was adamant that Moran "had not done any TRG work for years prior to the events described by Mr. Bamford."
Strange then that such an incredibly busy man as John Rendon, with such a tenuous connection to a mere former freelancer, should take the time to fly halfway around the world to attend Paul Moran’s funeral in Adelaide, saluting when Moran's coffin, draped in an Australian flag, passed by. Strange too that he should have made a generous donation to the Paul Moran Memorial Trust, set up to care for the reporter's widow and child. Despite numerous requests, John Rendon has declined to discuss the Paul Moran connection further.
So what, meanwhile, of the other leading players in the story?
Judith Miller was jailed in July 2005 for contempt of court for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury investigating a leak naming Valerie Plame as a covert CIA agent. According to the subpoena, Miller discussed the matter with an unnamed government official—later revealed to be Lewis Libby—on July 8, 2003, two days after Plame’s husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, published an article in the New York Times—criticising the Bush administration for "twisting" intelligence to justify war in Iraq.
Miller, who spent 85 days in prison before agreeing to give evidence, now works as a freelance journalist. Last year, she apologised to her former readers because her stories about WMD and Iraq turned out to be wrong.
Lewis Libby resigned his government position on October 28th 2005, hours after being indicted on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements in connection with the Valerie Plame case. Jury selection for Libby’s trial is due to begin in January.
In the meantime, he is working as a senior adviser for the Hudson Institute, a Washington-based conservative think-tank, with a focus on issues relating to the war on terror. Other prominent members of the institute include former US Vice President Dan Quayle and disgraced media baron Conrad Black.
Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, following his WMD disclosures, was given a new identity and moved to Australia. His exact whereabouts in The Lucky Country are not known.
Paul Moran, of course, was not so lucky. Nor is he around to answer the numerous questions that have subsequently been raised about him and his eventful life as a globetrotting journalist, inveterate storyteller and genuinely "great bloke," as they say in Australia.
Was he a true Kurdish sympathiser or merely an objective observer with a keen eye for a good story? Was he fully aware of John Rendon's connections with the CIA, or was he used as a political pawn? Did he genuinely believe al-Haideri’s revelations about WMD, or was the temptation of a worldwide exclusive too good to turn down—or even question why he should have been the one chosen to deliver it?
Members of his family—if indeed they know any of the answers—have closed ranks, and the full level of Paul Moran’s involvement in the WMD story is a secret he may have taken with him to the grave.
Unlike most Hollywood blockbusters, this is one story that does not come with a guaranteed happy ending.
© Paul Rouse 2006. Used with permission.
Paul Rouse is an English travel writer and editor who has lived and worked in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. He currently lives in Portugal, working as a freelance journalist and screenwriter. He is the author of Classic Locations Oxfordshire, the first in a series of contemporary travel books, and has had articles on travel, food, cinema and current affairs published in a range of international newspapers and magazines.


http://www.prwatch.org/node/5509
A CASE OF AMNESIA OR A CASE OF BOOTLICKING?

[Image: mizginslogo2.gif]


Mizgin's Desk Reports:


Does anyone remember the Rendon Group? If not, let me refresh your memory.

The Rendon Group is a public relations firm that has specialized in creating propaganda for various US military interventions over the last few decades in places as varied as Panama, Haiti, Colombia, Zimbabwe, and Puerto Rico. Most recently, the Rendon group helped the US government to win hearts and minds for the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Because it has worked with the US government for a long period of time, it has been willing to justify US military actions for both Democratic and Republican administrations, although the Rendon Group's founder, John Rendon, got his start in the propaganda business back in the 1970s as a campaign consultant for the Democratic Party.

There is a lot more information on the Rendon Group at Sourcewatch. James Bamford, whom many will remember as the first guest on The Boiling Frogs podcast interviews, wrote what may be the most definitive article explaining the raison d'etre for the Rendon Group. Bamford named John Rendon as "The Man Who Sold the War" to the American public for the Bush Administration. Prior to the invasion of Iraq, indeed, long before September 11, the Rendon Group created the Iraqi National Congress (INC) and appointed Ahmed Chalabi as the head of the organization. It created the Iraqi Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) and Radio Hurriah, both of which ineffectively broadcast propaganda against the Saddam regime in the early 1990s, first from Kuwait and later from Arbil in the autonomous Iraqi Kurdish region. In 1996, Saddam's army invaded Arbil and killed the vast majority of Rendon's IBC employees and some 100 INC members. What prompted the response by Saddam's army had less to do with the content of Radio Hurriah's propaganda, which was described as "poorly run" by one Iraqi Harvard graduate student, and more to do with the fact that the CIA had poured millions of dollars into the Rendon Group, which then funneled the money into the INC.

According to Bamford, while the CIA dumped money into the INC through the Rendon Group, Ahmed Chalabi dumped questionable "intelligence" information into the New York Times' now discredited war drummer, Judith Miller. Bamford later wrote about Chalabi's secret dealings with Iran, including the possible passing of NSA code-breaking information.

As a result of the Rendon Group's deep and widespread involvement with those who want to maufacture consent for any goal of any American administration, it should come as no surprise that last week the Reuters and the Washington Post revealed news from the US military's Stars and Stripes indicating that the Rendon Group has been hired by the Pentagon to vet journalists for embedded reporting from Afghanistan. From the Reuters article:


The U.S. military in Afghanistan defended itself Thursday against accusations that a company it employs was rating the work of reporters and suggesting ways to make their war coverage more positive.

Stars and Stripes, a newspaper for U.S. troops, said it had obtained documents prepared for the U.S. military by the Rendon Group, a Washington-based communications firm that graded journalists' work as "positive," "neutral" or "negative."

The newspaper, partly funded by the Pentagon but editorially independent, said the journalists' profiles included suggestions on how to "neutralise" negative stories and generate favourable coverage.

It published a pie chart which it said came from a Rendon report on the coverage of a reporter for an unidentified major U.S. newspaper until mid-May, judging it to be 83.33 percent neutral and 16.67 percent negative with respect to the military's goals.

The U.S. military command in Afghanistan said the Rendon Group provided a range of services under a $1.5 million (921,330 pound) one-year contract, including analysis of news coverage -- but it did not grade journalists.

Neither the Reuters report nor the Washington Post noted the Rendon Group's previous propaganda work, particularly it's long fiasco with planning regime change in Iraq. Unsurprisingly, National Public Radio, also failed to mention the Rendon Group's history in a story it aired on its "All Things Considered" program on 27 August. It did include a quote from a press officer from the 101st Airborne Division, in which he admitted he relied on Rendon's ratings:


Maj. Patrick Seiber, the press officer for the 101st Airborne Division, says that during his time in Afghanistan, he dealt with 62 different news agencies and 143 different reporters. He says he relied on the Rendon reports.

"Well, you got to have something, because we don't have enough public affairs guys that can go through and do it our own self," he says. "You got to know what you're dealing with. Our soldiers are at risk. Information is also a risk."

Seiber says he did pay some attention to negative ratings. If someone had many negative ratings, he says, he would want to know why.

"This didn't happen that often," he says. "Out of all those news agencies, I can only remember a couple of times there was somebody we didn't take ... because of their bent."

Both times, he says, the news agencies sent a different reporter.

Seiber doesn't know when the ratings started, but says Rendon has been doing the work for eight years.

So, they did use the Rendon Group's "secret" profiles and they did deny reporters on the basis of their views. It must be problematic to have reporters who might not be willing to sell the Pentagon's angle on a war to an American public that increasingly sees as "not worth fighting".

One reporter working in Afghanistan managed to obtain a copy of his Rendon-generated dossier from a friend in the military. Here's what he has to say:


Most reporters in Afghanistan know about these reports. I obtained a copy of my Rendon report about three months ago from a friend in the military and I’ve posted excerpts below. I don’t really think the reports are some kind of violation, in fact, I think the military is smart to look into the background’s of people who will be writing about them. Rating the coverage that reporters give the military–”positive,” “neutral,” “negative”–seems a bit silly and slightly Orwellian, but if thousands of reporters were covering my organization, I would want a simple shorthand to indentify them as well.

I do think the reports are creepy though. These guys have read almost everything I’ve written in the last few years, even interviews I’ve given to local news blogs. Reading this report is like perusing the diary of your stalker. Rendon also classifies certain publication as “left leaning” which I find odd.

Most troubling by far is that when S&S [Stars and Stripes] asked the military about Rendon, they denied the existence of these reports. I’m holding one of these reports in my hand right now, trust me, it exists. I’ve also met people who work for The Rendon Group in Kabul. In conversations, they deny that there is any nefarious objective to what they do. “We just help the military figure out what embed is right for a particular reporter,” one Rendon employee told me over drinks. “If a reporter is classified as “negative” they are less likely to go where the action is and more likely to be covering a platoon that guards sandbags in Herat.”

Other reporters, like freelancer Nir Rosen, were less than enthusiastic about their dossiers:


Last week Stars and Stripes reported that the Pentagon is employing Rendon to profile reporters. I was shown a copy of the memorandum the Rendon group prepared about me. It is two and a half pages. A public affairs officer told me it was the most alarming report about a journalist that he had ever seen, and as a result I was grateful that Colonel Bill Hix was open minded enough to approve my embed despite the red flags raised about me.

“The purpose of this updated memo is to provide an assessment of freelance journalist Nir Rosen, and give a profile of his work, both through a summary of content and analysis of style, in order to gauge the expected sentiment of his work while on embed mission in Afghanistan.”

In the background section the memorandum describes some of my past work, experience and skills. It also warned that “in late 2008 Rosen ‘embedded’ with the Taliban in several areas of Afghanistan. A lengthy report on his embedded experience appeared in Rolling Stone and was highly unfavorable to international efforts in Afghanistan.

Despite denials from the military in both the Reuters and the Washington Post reports, it's obvious that reporters and news corporations know that they are "rated" so that those providing reports that are most favorably viewed by the Rendon Group are assigned with units in the hottest areas. The "trustworthy" ones are given the plumb embeds, in other words. In fact, that's exactly what Stars and Stripes reported on 29 August:


The secret profiles commissioned by the Pentagon to rate the work of journalists reporting from Afghanistan were used by military officials to deny disfavored reporters access to American fighting units or otherwise influence their coverage as recently as 2008, an Army official acknowledged Friday.

What’s more, the official said, Army public affairs officers used the analyses of reporters’ work to decide how to steer them away from potentially negative stories.

“If a reporter has been focused on nothing but negative topics, you’re not going to send him into a unit that’s not your best,” Maj. Patrick Seiber, spokesman for the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, told Stars and Stripes. “There’s no win-win there for us. We’re not trying to control what they report, but we are trying to put our best foot forward.”

[ . . . ]

The revelations are the latest twist in the controversy over how the military is gathering and using reporter profiles compiled by The Rendon Group, a Washington, D.C. public relations firm contracted by the Pentagon to rate journalists’ work.

[ . . . ]

Pentagon officials repeatedly denied this week that the Rendon profiles are being used to rate reporters or determine whether they will be granted permission to embed with U.S. units in Afghanistan.

"There is no policy that stipulates in any way that embedding should be based in any way on a person’s work," Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters on Monday.

The only one who makes sense in this entire fiasco is Admiral Mullen:


Meanwhile, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Friday published an essay in a military journal that was sharply critical of the U.S. government’s attempts to use "strategic communications" to shape messages directed at the Muslim world.

"To put it simply, we need to worry a lot less about how to communicate our actions and much more about what our actions communicate," Mullen wrote in the essay in Joint Force Quarterly.

"I would argue that most strategic communication problems are not communication problems at all," he wrote. "They are policy and execution problems. Each time we fail to live up to our values or don’t follow up on a promise, we look more and more like the arrogant Americans the enemy claims we are."

It may be that Admiral Mullen's words were heard loudly and clearly by the US military command in Afghanistan because on 31 August, Stars and Stripes reported that the contract with the Rendon Group in Afghanistan had been cancelled:


The U.S. military is canceling its contract with a controversial private firm that was producing background profiles of journalists seeking to cover the war that graded their past work as “positive,” “negative” or “neutral,” Stars and Stripes has learned.

[ . . . ]

“The decision to terminate the Rendon contract was mine and mine alone. As the senior U.S. communicator in Afghanistan, it was clear that the issue of Rendon’s support to US forces in Afghanistan had become a distraction from our main mission,” said Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith, in an e-mail sent Sunday to Stars and Stripes.

TIME reported that the effective date of the cancellation of the contract would be 1 September.

Given Rendon's history with the Pentagon, particularly its assistance to Donald Rumsfeld's Office of Strategic Influence (OSI), one has to wonder what it really means to cancel Rendon's contract for the vetting of reporters in Afghanistan. The OSI was established in February of 2002, with Douglas Feith--whom a less diplomatic American general called "the f***ing stupidest guy on the face of the earth"--assuring the Defense Writers Group of this:


"First of all I want to clarify that when Defense Department officials speak to the public they tell the truth, and despite some of the reports about the Office of Strategic Influence that I've read over the last day or two, Defense Department officials don't lie to the public. And we are confident that the truth serves our interests in the broadest sense of national security and specifically in this war."

Oh, I know I believe him.

The fact is that Donald Rumsfeld merely killed the OSI in name only:


And then there was the office of strategic influence. You may recall that. And "oh my goodness gracious isn't that terrible, Henny Penny the sky is going to fall." I went down that next day and said fine, if you want to savage this thing fine I'll give you the corpse. There's the name. You can have the name, but I'm gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done and I have.

According to James Bamford, the job that the OSI was intended to do was eventually transferred to the Information Operations Task Force. Where will the Rendon Group's work on "secret" profiling be transferred now?

In spite of the claim that the Rendon Group's contract is now terminated, the mainstream media should be held accountable for what it failed to say in any of its reporting of Rendon's recent activity in Afghanistan for the Pentagon, particularly when the general consumer of American media has a notoriously short memory. Why didn't the mainstream media remind the American public of the Rendon Group's shady dealings in the past, how it helped manufacture consent for unpopular wars, how it funneled money for CIA operations, and how it promoted an Iranian double-agent to a position to hand over NSA code-breaking information to Teheran, or how it was involved with the Office of Strategic Information? Were these facts overlooked because of amnesia on the part of the mainstream media? Or was this oversight a case of the mainstream media's bootlicking of the propaganda firm that can veto any reporter?

It's ironic that the one publication to publish the truth about the Rendon Group's operations in Afghanistan is the one publication whose reporters are not vetted by Rendon--the Stars and Stripes.
http://123realchange.blogspot.com/2009_0...chive.html
Magda - more sterling efforts in the service of truth. :handkiss:

It's all quotable, but the passage below is fundamental to the process of news management.

Quote:Most troubling by far is that when S&S [Stars and Stripes] asked the military about Rendon, they denied the existence of these reports. I’m holding one of these reports in my hand right now, trust me, it exists. I’ve also met people who work for The Rendon Group in Kabul. In conversations, they deny that there is any nefarious objective to what they do. “We just help the military figure out what embed is right for a particular reporter,” one Rendon employee told me over drinks. “If a reporter is classified as “negative” they are less likely to go where the action is and more likely to be covering a platoon that guards sandbags in Herat.”

An embedded journalist is not a journalist. He or she is either a propagandist - eg Faux News at the front line in Fallujah, telling lies about the medieval slaughter of men, women and children with conventional or chemical weapons - or a potential security risk.

MSM sucks. But not all MSM journalists necessarily suck.

Robert Fisk remains a truth teller.

ITN's Terry Lloyd and members of his team were murdered for being unembedded, and therefore in the right place at the right time.