Everyone wants to know: Why did CBS correspondent Lara Logan trust Dylan Davies, the now-discredited security contractor, and the story he told 60 Minutes about the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya? It’s truly mystifying—unless, that is, you know about her last significant lapse in professional judgement involving a security contractor.
Many people know that in 2008 Logan married Joseph W. Burkett, a defense contractor she met while stationed in Baghdad to cover the Iraq War for CBS News. Logan and Burkett were both married to other people when they became involved, and the story of their war-zone love affair—complete with reports of a brawl between Burkett and CNN’s Michael Ware, another rival for Logan’s affections—lit up the tabloids at the time.
What most people don’t know, however, is the nature of Burkett’s work in Iraq. He was an employee of the Lincoln Group, a now-shuttered “strategic communications and public relations firm” hired by the Department of Defense in 2005 to plant positive stories written by American soldiers in Baghdad newspapers during the Iraq War.
“He did information operations,” one former colleague of Burkett’s told Gawker. “It was really spooky stuff. We worked with one of those special spooky IO outfits that didn’t even have a unit patch.” It’s the kind of work for which a close relationship with an American network correspondent might come in handy.
And it paid handsomely. Under an “indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract,” the Pentagon promised the Lincoln Group up to $100,000,000 to assist the military’s Joint Psychological Operations with controlling local media coverage of the American occupation. The Lincoln Group later became the target of congressional and Defense Department investigators over its handling of U.S. cash and its propaganda tactics.
CBS News never saw fit to disclose that one of its star war correspondents became romantically involved with a man who was paid by the U.S. government to manipulate civilian public opinion about the disastrous war in Iraq. Nor has Burkett’s background ever been reported in much detail. Most recently The New York Times described him as a “work-at-home Congressional liaison,” without noting his employer.
Before working at The Lincoln Group, which would eventually be acquired by an Arlington firm called Strategic Social, Burkett served in the Texas Army National Guard for nine years, according to military records maintained by Nexis. (Oddly, Bill Burkett, the retired Army colonel who in 2004 supplied 60 Minutes with fabricated memos about George W. Bush’s military service, also served in the Texas Army National Guard. There’s no evidence the men are related, which would be pretty wild.)
Logan and Burkett did not respond to requests for comment. CBS declined to comment on the record.
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