A Bad Case of Federal Data Manipulation

The latest shenanigans involving the concealment and manipulation of data from the Bush Administration includes blocking search engines from indexing key documents and photographs, and changing or deleting things from the war in Iraq on its White House web site. Bush administration officials say it was just a simple mistake.

The latest faux pas was caught by CNET news. It involved using robots.txt files to block certain documents and pages from search engines so they won’t show up in search results. Whitehouse.gov was programmed to block search engines from indexing a photo gallery of President Bush in a flight suit standing in front of the “Mission Accomplished” banner from May 2003.

According to the Internet Archive, Bush’s carrier speech was originally titled “President Bush Announces Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended” and had pictures of smiling Iraqi children. Since then, the same speech has been renamed “President Bush Announces Major Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended.” Notice the photographs in the before and after articles. Supposedly the problem has since been fixed.

Other Federal Sites Being Manipulated

The White House web site isn’t the only one being manipulated. Mike McConnell the Director of National Intelligence blocks search engines from his web site too. Manipulation of the DNI web site was discovered after McConnell gave an “interview” to the El Paso Times (which has since been pulled from their web site but a cached page from Google is available) saying that Americans will die because of the discussion of National Security Agency spying in public and in the U.S. Congress.

Making one site hidden could be considered “accidental.” Making several sites hidden isn’t. As the author of the CNET articles notes, there are at least two reasons to remain invisible online: (1) avoiding the situation of posting a report that turned out to be embarrassing and was discovered by Google or another search engines and (2) to let the Feds modify a file such as a transcript without anyone noticing. It also appears to be more attempts to conceal illicit activities.

Federal sites found using robots.txt files to be completely excluded from search engines include:

  • Office of the National Director of Intelligence – http://www.dni.gov/robots.txt
  • Government Information Technology Services from the U.S. Treasury – https://gits-sec.treas.gov/robots.txt
  • The Library of Congress – http://thomas.loc.gov/robots.txt
  • The Office of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – http://www.erl.noaa.gov/robots.txt
  • The Northwest Division of the U.S. Army Core of Engineers – http://www.nwd.usace.army.mil/robots.txt
  • Tricare Military Benefits – http://www.tricare.mil/robots.txt

Federal sites that favored one search engine over others include:

Federal sites that appear to have had trouble with misbehaving web crawlers in the past:

More Than Web Site Manipulation

Allegations of Bush Administration altering documents and transcripts have been ongoing for quite a while. The author of the article who found evidence of certain offices of the Federal Government trying to hide their sites online wrote about a NORAD document from a public meeting that was deleted and later restored as part of the Bush Administrations effort to avoid disclosing public information.

Other recent attempts at covering up public information from the White House include changing pages on their web site after claiming that the Office of Administration is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act laws.

Prepackaged News Releases

Worse than changing and deleting web pages is the history of using prepackaged news releases such as the ones that were used to gain favor of the miserably flawed regime change in Iraq wanted by the Bush Administration — spreading pre-fabricated stories full of lies as an excuse to potentially destroy millions of lives as well as making personal and financial gains at the expense of the citizens you were ‘elected’ to serve…or prepackaged commercials with handicapped veterans trying to make the public believe that we need to “stay the course in Iraq” as a way to shove your ineptitude down the publics figurative throats.

Other prepackaged news was used to promote changes in the Bush Administration Medicare policy and the No Child Left Behind policy. According to the New York Times, there are too many of these prepackaged news releases to know for sure how many have been released by the Bush Administration.

A report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) shows that from 2003 through the second quarter of 2005, the Bush administration had 343 contracts with public relations firms, advertising agencies, media organizations and individuals, and reportedly spent about $1.6 billion. The most recent of 3 reports (PDF) on the Bush Administration and their use of prepackaged news releases is available on the GAO web site.

As reported by the New York Times:

“An examination of government-produced news reports offers a look inside a world where the traditional lines between public relations and journalism have become tangled, where local anchors introduce prepackaged segments with “suggested” lead-ins written by public relations experts. It is a world where government-produced reports disappear into a maze of satellite transmissions, Web portals, syndicated news programs and network feeds, only to emerge cleansed on the other side as “independent” journalism.

It is also a world where all participants benefit.”

History Repeating Itself

The latest report of prepackaged news involves instructions from the office of the Vice-President to roll out a campaign for war with Iran involving the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox News and others “designed to knock public sentiment into a position from which a war can be maintained.” Whether it’s true or not remains to be seen, but the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) is now reporting “U.S. to Target Iranian Arms Entering Iraq” about the U.S. building a base four miles from the Iran/Iraq border.

Prepackaged news releases aren’t the only tactic used to cover up actions of this administration…Over 5 million e-mails are missing or have been deleted by the White House…A report by the GAO on the progress in Iraq was watered down by the White House to make the ‘surge’ appear to be a bigger ‘success’ than it actually is…it goes on and on. More information can be found below:

  • The architects of war – where are they now? article from Think Progress
  • John Wesley Dean from MSN – Author of “Broken Government”
  • Is lying about the reason for a war an impeachable offense? article from CNN.com
  • White House: Millions of e-mails may be missing article from CNN.com
  • Bush knew Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction article from salon.com
  • Op Ed News – White House Coverups References and articles
  • Bush: Just so you know…get Bush out of office
  • Bush ‘planted’ fake news stories on American TV article from Independent Online UK
  • Potomac Watch: White House should get out of the media business article from Seattle PI
  • Update: Prepackaged News article from the Washington Post
  • Under Bush, a New Age of Prepackaged TV News article from the New York Times
  • Bush Administration Blurs Media Boundary article from the CS Monitor
  • Interesting times – Testing: cheney orders corporate media to sell iran attack article from the New Yorker
  • As Talk Radio Wavers, Bush Moves to Firm Up Support article from the New York Times
  • U.S. to Target Iranian Arms Entering Iraq article from the Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
  • GAO report (PDF)B-304272 Prepackaged news stories
  • U.S. Government Accountability Office web site
  • Cached copy of the Debate on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act article from the El Paso Times  on Google
  • White House rejects Iraq ‘failures’ article from MSNBC news
  • U.S. Government Accountability Office report on progress in Iraq
  • AlterNet: MediaCulture: The White House fakes it article
  • Biden: Petraeus ‘dead flat wrong’ on Iraq article from MSNBC News
  • Why We Must Leave Iraq article from The Nation
  • Martial Law Plan Kept Secret From Congress video from YouTube.com
  • Fading Superpower? Like all empires before it, the U.S. will slip from the top of the heap. Let’s start getting ready article from the Los Angeles Times
  • Britain stayed in Basra longer because of US article from AFP
  • Not Entitled to Their On Facts article from the Washington Post – White House watch
  • The White House Criminal Conspiracy article from the Nation
  • OpEdNews author’s page – story of P.R. and spin can’t hide failures in Iraq
  • AlterNet: War on Iraq: Six Years After 9/11 – Why We’re Losing the War on Terror article
  • 9/11 Linked To Iraq, In Politics if Not in Fact article from the Washington Post

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