The Pentagon’s “Early Bird” Changes…

The Pentagon’s “Early Bird”, a computerized daily compilation of dozens of defense- related articles from the U.S. and some from the foreign press that is widely distributed across the national-security bureaucracy, appears to be in a state of serious transition from the Rumsfeld era to that of Robert Gates.

Articles from the Murdoch press are becoming somewhat more sparse, and the selections from the Likudnik Jerusalem Post (formerly owned by Conrad Black) seem to have disappeared altogether.

So has the “Corrections” section – an apparent attempt to embarrass newspapers like the NYT deemed unsympathetic to the administration — that began leading off the “Early Bird” in the latter part of the Rumsfeld period or the outraged “letters to the editor” by Rumsfeld’s long-time spokesman (and former Heritage fellow), Lawrence di Rita, and his even more-aggressive successor, Dorrance Smith, who apparently qualified for the job in part for his publication in the Wall Street Journal of an op-ed in which he accused the broadcast networks and the cable news networks of being in “partnership” with Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Smith was out the door virtually the minute Rumsfeld resigned.

It was Wednesday’s “Early Bird” first edition, however, that really caught my eye to the changes in the publication’s regime. At the edition’s very end – the space reserved for op-eds and almost never any letters – appeared four blistering letters to the editor published in the NYT in reaction to an article by an op-ed by the chief prosecutor in the Defense Department’s Office of Military Commissions, Morris D. Davis, entitled “The Guantanamo I Know.” The column was a paean to the prison and the commission process, concluding:

Guantánamo Bay is a clean, safe and humane place for enemy combatants, and the Military Commissions Act provides a fair process to adjudicate the guilt or innocence of those alleged to have committed crimes. Even the most vocal critics say they do not want to set terrorists free, but they scorn Guantánamo Bay and military commissions and demand alternatives. The facts show the current alternative is worth keeping.”

The letters — from Jennifer Daskal, the senior Counter-Terrorism Counsel at Human Rights Watch; Marc Falkoff, an assistant professor of law at Northern Illinois University; J. Wells Dixon and Gitanjali S. Gutierrez, staff attorneys at the Center for Constitutional Rights; and Priti Patel, an associate attorney at Human Rights First – were blistering, to say the least – and their appearance strategically placed as the coda to the morning’s “Early Bird” suggested, at least to me, that Gates really does want to close down the prison and doesn’t think much of Col. Davis’ military commissions either.

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.