U.S. military appoints investigator to probe Iraq propaganda program

The U.S. military in Iraq has appointed an officer to investigate the controversial propaganda program that paid Iraqi media to run favorable stories. So far, however, military officials have not suspended the program, which came to light last week, said Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a military spokesman in Iraq. He did not identify the person named to investigate the program.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, as recently as Monday, said the Pentagon is still trying to gather the facts about the program, which military officials in Iraq have defended as part of their campaign to get the truth out about the war and rebuilding effort there.

Officials are trying to determine whether the program was possibly mishandled by a contractor _ the Washington-based Lincoln Group, or if the military deliberately fashioned a covert program to place positive articles in the Iraqi press that were not identified as advertising or originating from U.S. forces.

Late last week Johnson said that defense officials would take appropriate action if the program was not operating properly or if the contractor performed inappropriately, the AP reports.

Under the program, coalition forces compiled the material and the Lincoln Group was authorized to pay Iraqi papers to run the articles, much like they would buy advertising or opinion/editorial space. P.L.

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