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WASHINGTON — Sen. John Warner said Friday that U.S. defense officials are committed to the “long-standing principles of journalism” and are still investigating if a U.S. contractor was paying foreign reporters to write propaganda for Iraqi media outlets.

Defense officials on Friday briefed Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, on recent news reports that employees of the Washington-based Lincoln Group, a defense contractor, had posed as freelance reporters and advertising executives to help push pro-America stories to Iraqi news editors.

Warner, R-Va., said that senior defense officials still are not sure exactly what propaganda products were put in the foreign press, but assured him that the contractors were up front about their status as defense employees. Military public affairs officers were not involved in the creation or dissemination of those reports.

He compared the transactions to advertisers buying spots in U.S. newspapers.

Defense officials could not say whether Iraqi reporters were being paid to write stories on U.S. contractors’ behalf in addition to the story/advertisements, Warner said. “The Pentagon is still trying to obtain many of the facts here,” he said. “But [officials] have been 100 percent cooperative in trying to inform me about what they know.”

Warner said he would not support paying Iraqi journalists to write false or misleading information, but did say that U.S. forces need to do a better job getting the truth out about successes in Iraq.

“The disinformation going out in that country is really affecting the effectiveness of what we’re achieving there,” he said. “There is an enormous amount of reports being put out that are just plain factually wrong.”


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