Lincoln Group

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The Lincoln Group, formed in November 1999[1][2], is "a D.C.-based business 'intelligence' company that handles services from 'political campaign intelligence' to commercial real estate in Iraq."[3][4][5] In August 2007, the firm's website described [6] the Lincoln Group as a "strategic communications firm that provides our clients with access to cultures which have historically been difficult to reach through traditional Western communications."

In November 2005, the firm was outed for covertly planting articles written by U.S. military officers in Iraqi newspapers. [7] In March 2006, the U.S. military's review of a PR firm's covert propaganda program in Iraq, led by Rear Adm. Scott Van Buskirk, was reported to be completed but not public. According to military officials, "The findings are narrow in focus, and conclude that the Lincoln Group committed no legal violations because its actions in paying to place American [information operations troops]-written articles without attribution were not expressly prohibited by its contract or military rules." The report "did not deal deeply" with such issues as how the small, young, well-connected firm received large government contracts, or whether its work was effective. It also did not address how, "in a modern information world connected by satellite television and the Internet, misleading information and lies could easily migrate into American news outlets." The Lincoln Group's Iraq work, on "a contract estimated at several million dollars," remains "fully in effect." The firm continues to bid for U.S. government contracts. [8]

September 2008: More PR in Iraq, and maybe Afghanistan

In September 2008, the Lincoln Group was one of four firms that won an up to three-year, $300 million contract for "information operations" in Iraq and possibly Afghanistan. The other firms were Leonie Industries, a woman-owned company that promises "access to seemingly impenetrable markets" around the world; SOS International, which in 2006 won a contract to monitor foreign media for coverage of the so-called Global War on Terrorism; and MPRI, a unit of L-3 Communications that won a contract in 2003 to involve former Iraqi soldiers in public works projects. The new PR push was described by the U.S. military as "a means toward 'reconciliation' of the country and a way to foster support for Iraqi Security Forces from Iraqi civilians." [9]

August 2008: Against Bombs in Afghanistan

In August 2008, the Lincoln Group won a six month, $14.3 million U.S. Army contract, to promote the Army's "Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization campaign" in Afghanistan. The campaign is designed to separate the "bomb makers and users from the support of the populace," and to encourage Afghans to "take responsibility for their communities and report suspicious activities." The contract involves developing "a broad-based information campaign about IEDs using billboards, radio messages, hour-long TV programming, video compact discs, posters, flyers and newspaper ads." An Afghanistan-based firm, CentenaGroup, received higher marks for its proposal, but Lincoln Group won the contract because it bid in at a lower price, according to O'Dwyer's. [10]

September 2006: Middle East "communicators"

In September 2006, the Lincoln Group "won a competitive review to handle PR and strategic communications for the U.S.-led military force in Iraq. The two-year contract with the Multi-National Force-Iraq is valued at more than $6M per year, although contracting documents indicated that additional efforts could be 'ordered' from the Pennsylvania Avenue firm for up to $20M," according to O'Dwyer's.

"Among the tasks outlined for the Lincoln Group, the military wants the firm to put together a unit of 12-18 communicators to support military PR efforts in Iraq and throughout the Middle East from media training to pitching stories and providing content for government-backed news sites."[11]

July 2006: No more TV ads

On July 18, 2006, the Washington Post reported[12] that the US military Special Operations Command decided not to continue two contracts of the Lincoln Group and SAIC. The contracts were part of a $300 million dollar 5 year contract to make TV spots for Iraq and "other nations where the United States is combating terrorism," according to the Post.

According to the Post the Pentagon claims the contract is unrelated to the controversial unattributed "reports" that were paid for to be printed in Iraqi newspapers. "The newspaper contract was unaffected by the change to the TV and radio contract," according to the Post.

The Washinton Post quotes Col. Jack Summe, commander of the Joint Psychological Operations Support Element: "Certainly we would intend to accept attribution for the spots ... We will not place things under someone else's name, trying to fool people into thinking it's a true news item."

But the Washington Post further reports "But Summe said that the ultimate decision on how the spots will be attributed has still not been made pending the outcome of a policy review and that the military does not have a timetable for when they will air." This would mean that there is no policy review finished more than four years after Donald Rumsfeld's infamous "you can have the name" remark over the Office of Strategic Influence.

The work under the $300 million contract will be continued by SYColeman, a L-3 Communications subsidiary. Though the Washington Post mentions: "Summe said that even though SYColeman's contract is worth up to $20 million this year, he expects actual spending to be far less. Last year, he said, the military paid the three firms a total of just over $3 million under the contract."

Lt. Col. David Farlow, spokesman for the US military's psychological operations unit is quoted saying: "We learned that working with three companies increases expenditures in both time and money and does not provide best value to the government."

Lincoln Group spokesman Bill Dixon is quoted as saying: "[the firm] continues to win contracts in the American effort to engage audiences in transitional areas of the world because of its unique capabilities and proven record of accomplishing the objectives of its clients." He added, "Because confidentiality is vital to this work, the firm will not comment on the details of any contracts." Dixon said the company believes the military's Special Operations Command needs more money "and clearer policy guidance in order to fight the 'War of Ideas,' a key component of the global War on Terrorism."

March 2006: No fault reporting

"The U.S. military plans to continue paying Iraqi newspapers to publish articles favorable to the United States after an inquiry found no fault with the controversial practice," Army General George W. Casey, Jr. said[13] March 3, 2006. Casey said that "the internal review had concluded that the U.S. military was not violating U.S. law or Pentagon guidelines with the information operations campaign, in which U.S. troops and a private contractor write pro-American articles and pay to have them planted without attribution in Iraqi media."

March 2006: Pakistan

In March 2006, O'Dwyer's PR Daily reported[14] the Lincoln Group "is working to boost economic development in Pakistan." Lincoln is working with former U.S. diplomat Carol Fleming to increase "investments in the country's textile, energy, technology and telecom" industries. The firm produced "a documentary" of areas devastated by the October 2005 earthquake, "to remind countries to honor their pledges to support the victims." Lincoln has also "expressed interest" in a contract to help the U.S. Army Reserve communicate its "vision of the future." The contract includes "speech writing, research, development of a comprehensive ... communications plan," support for "national outreach programs," and media outreach for Army Reserve Chief Lt. Gen. James Helmly. Other firms seeking the Army contract include CorpComm Group, MyMic, Polestar Applied Technology and ICOR Partners.

Lincoln Group's Country Director Carol Fleming did an interview -- available on Pakistan Link[15] -- praising the investment opportunities in Pakistan. Its publication coincided with President George W. Bush's trip to the country, during which there where some widely published attacks in the north of Pakistan on suspected militants, including the use of helicopters, by the Pakistani army. Bush was seen in front of a photo meeting two victims of the recent earthquake and attempting to play cricket, all on the U.S. Embassy grounds due to security fears.

According to Fleming's interview:

  • Pakistan is "the hub of economic activities and provides enormous opportunities in Energy, Information Technology, Telecomm, and textile sectors."
  • The Lincoln Group "established its office in Islamabad in November 2005."
  • Fleming said that the Lincoln Group "has realized to accelerate its plan to establish its presence in Pakistan."
  • The Lincoln Group "responded quickly after the October 8 [2005] earthquake by deploying its teams in the earthquake region for documenting the wide range of humanitarian support."
  • Fleming said that "since their teams were already on the ground in Pakistan, they produced a documentary portraying the utter devastation and relief efforts. She added that the video served as a reminder to the international community to continue their aid and to fulfill their promises of support."
  • On women's rights, Fleming said "that women should not compromise on their values. She added that their company would try to enhance and assist the women’s development issues."
  • Fleming said the Lincoln Group "provides insight and influence in challenging and hostile environments. 'Our firm provides its clients access to cultures which have historically been difficult to reach through traditional Western communities'."
  • Fleming said that the Lincoln Group "conducts market research, evaluates political situation and studies demography for the companies intending to invest in Pakistan."

Pakistan "leaflet drops"

On March 24, 2006, Reuters reported on leaflet drops in Northern Pakistan near "Tank, a town close to the boundary with the semi-autonomous tribal agency of South Waziristan." No evidence links the leaflets to anyone but the Pakistani military, and apparently no further information on the mysterious 'well wishers' is reported elsewhere.[16]

January 2006: Expansion

The Lincoln Group's Washington, DC headquarters, which is now located on K Street, is "soon to move to larger quarters in the Pennsylvania Avenue building that housed Jack Abramoff's famous restaurant, Signatures," Justin Fox reported in the January 20, 2006, online edition of Fortune magazine.[17]

"The firm says it has entered into more than 20 Defense Department contracts (the biggest of which could be worth as much as $100 million) and a similar number of commercial and nonmilitary government deals. It has more than 40 employees in the U.S. and 200 overseas, mostly in Iraq, doing research, communications, and even some investing," Fox wrote.

Planting fake news in Iraq

In November 2005, the Los Angeles Times reported[18] that the Lincoln Group was helping the Pentagon covertly place pro-United States stories in Iraqi news outlets. "Dozens" of pieces written by U.S. military "information operations" troops were placed during 2005, according to the LA Times. "The operation is designed to mask any connection with the U.S. military," the LA Times reported. The Lincoln Group "helps translate and place the stories. The Lincoln Group's Iraqi staff, or its subcontractors, sometimes pose as freelance reporters or advertising executives when they deliver the stories to Baghdad media outlets."

The LA Times piece continued, "Military officials familiar with the effort in Iraq said much of it was being directed by the 'Information Operations Task Force' in Baghdad, part of the multinational corps headquarters commanded by Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines. ... As part of a psychological operations campaign that has intensified over the last year, the task force also had purchased an Iraqi newspaper and taken control of a radio station, and was using them to channel pro-American messages to the Iraqi public. Neither is identified as a military mouthpiece."

In response to the story Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said[19] "this article raises some questions as to whether or not some of the practices that are described in there are consistent with the principles of this department ... And that's what we're going to take a look at."

Voice of America noted that while the official communications principles state information will be "timely and accurate," they "do not include any prohibition against paying to place stories in the media."

"Pentagon documents indicate the Lincoln Group ... received a $100 million contract to help produce favorable articles, translate the articles into Arabic, get them placed in Iraqi newspapers and not reveal the Pentagon's role," according to MSNBC's December 1, 2005, Hardball.[20] Additionally, the Chicago Tribune reported that "Lincolns' PR workers in Iraq included three Republican operatives who helped run the Bush campaign in Illinois and had no apparent experience in Iraq."[21]

"The Making of Heroes: Lincoln Group and the Fight for Fallujah"

ABC News reported[22] December 14, 2005, that it had "obtained a strategy document called 'The Making of Heroes: Lincoln Group and the Fight for Fallujah' — part of the Pentagon's multi-million dollar public relations campaign to sell the American war effort to the Iraqis."

Martha Raddatz, who filed the ABC report, wrote that a "small number of Iraqi forces were with the U.S. troops in Fallujah in November of 2004, but some Marines and reporters said the Iraqis were only minimally involved.

"But under the heading 'The Concept,' the document shows, the Lincoln Group seeks to promote 'the strength, integrity and reliability of Iraqi Forces during the fight for Fallujah.'

"Under the heading 'Rumor Control,' according to the document, the Lincoln Group strives to dispel the notion that the war is 'America's fight' or that Iraqi forces were defecting.

"'It's a little strange to see because even the Pentagon's own estimates and the administration's own estimates of the state of the Iraqi forces in 2004 when these fights for Fallujah occurred were never very glowing,' said Michael O'Hanlon, senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution.

"The Lincoln Group said it could not provide a comment about this report under the terms of the Pentagon contract," Raddatz reported.

Pentagon looking into it

Regarding the news reports about the military planting news stories, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said[23] in his November 30, 2005, daily press briefing that his "colleagues over at the Pentagon" were "looking in[to]" and were "probably in the best position to address those news reports." A reporter then commented: "Why would they have to look into the news reports if it's -- if it's happening, wouldn't they know they did it."

On the November 30, 2005, Hardball, Senator John Warner (R-Virginia) told[24] Chris Matthews "I saw that for the first time today. And as chairman of the Armed Services Committee, we'll look into that because I‘m concerned that our credibility abroad is very important. And if we're manufacturing things or taking our wonderful troops and trying to translate their ideas into something that's more our idea, rather than the trooper's idea, then I think we should be looking at it."

In his December 1, 2005, press gaggle, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said[25] that "the Los Angeles Times was the first place" the White House had heard about "the military using this Lincoln Group to plant stories in Iraqi newspapers" and that "We have asked the Department of Defense for more information. General [Pete] Pace has asked people to look into the matter and get the facts, and so we want to see what those facts are."

In response to the controversy, on December 2, 2005, the Lincoln Group issued a media release itself in which it stated that it had "consistently worked with the Iraqi media to promote truthful reporting across Iraq. Our priority has always been, and continues to be, accuracy and timeliness."

"Our clients, our employees and the Iraqis who support this effort have maintained a commitment to battle terror with a powerful weapon - the truth.We counter the lies, intimidation, and pure evil of terror with factual stories that highlight the heroism and sacrifice of the Iraqi people and their struggle for freedom and security. We are encouraged by their sacrifice and proud to help them tell their side of the story," it stated.[26]

In a December 2005 interview on ABC's This Week program, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley claimed[27], referring to the controversy over the military covertly sponsoring Iraqi news, that Bush was "very troubled by it ... If it is inconsistent with the policy guidance it will be shut down."

On Fox News, December 5, 2005, Hadley said[28] that if the stories were factual, "'it's got to be done in a way that reinforces a free media, not undermines it.' ... The policy, he suggested the administration wanted to pursue is 'support for a free media, for truth about what's going on in Iraq -- that is the policy.' Asked by Wallace whether Bush viewed the reports of planted stories as 'inconsistent with that policy,' Hadley said 'Yes. It's very troubling. And if it turns out to be true, I think you'll find that activity stopped.'"

Speaking on NBC's Meet the Press, Republican Senator John McCain, said[29] that "if that's the way to get stories, I'm not terribly offended by it."

In "his most specific comments thus far about the information operations program," U.S. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld told[30] interviewer Charlie Rose in February 2005 that his reaction to reports that the Lincoln Group paid Iraqi newspapers to run Pentagon-written stories was, "Gee, that's not what we ought to be doing." Rumsfeld said "he had not been initially aware of the clandestine program, and ordered it shut down" after the Los Angeles Times report. However, "Army Gen. George W. Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said during a Dec. 16 news conference -- more than two weeks after the existence of the operation was revealed -- that it had not been shut down." An anonymous source told the LA Times that "the program in Iraq was still active as of a week ago." In a separate talk, Rumsfeld said negative media coverage of the Iraq propaganda has a "chilling effect" on U.S. troops' "innovation" to win hearts and minds.

Hiring Sunni religious scholars, working with AEI's Michael Rubin

The New York Times reported[31] January 2, 2006, that the Lincoln Group "has been compensating Sunni religious scholars in Iraq in return for assistance with its propaganda works ... [T]he company's ties to religious leaders and dozens of other prominent Iraqis is aimed also at enabling it to exercise influence in Iraqi communities on behalf of clients, including the military. ... Lincoln has also turned to American scholars and political consultants for advice on the content of the propaganda campaign in Iraq, records indicate. Michael Rubin, a Middle East scholar at the American Enterprise Institute ... said he had reviewed materials produced by the company." Rubin was political adviser for the Coalition Provisional Authority (Baghdad), 2003-2004, following two years (2002-2004) as staff assistant on Iran and Iraq in the Office of Special Plans in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Pentagon contract 2005

On June 11, 2005, the Washington Post reported[32] that the Pentagon had just awarded three contracts, potentially worth up to $300 million over five years, to three companies it hopes will inject more creativity into its psychological operations efforts to improve foreign public opinion about the United States, particularly the military. Lincoln Group won one of the three contracts, Science Applications International Corporation and SYColeman, Inc., a subsidiary of L-3 Communications, the other two. All three companies declined to comment for the article.

On February 15, 2006, the New York Times reported[33] that the Lincoln Group won U.S. military contracts "after claiming to have partnerships with major media and advertising companies, former government officials with extensive Middle East experience, and ex-military officers with background in intelligence and psychological warfare."

"But some of those companies and individuals say their associations were fleeting," the Times reported. "'They appear very professional on the surface, then you dig a little deeper and you find that they are pretty amateurish,'" said former Marine officer and former Lincoln "strategic adviser" Jason Santamaria. Lincoln had short-lived partnerships with The Rendon Group and the New York ad firm Della Femina Rothschild Jeary and Partners. Lincoln also told U.S. Special Operations Command that it worked with the ad conglomerate Omnicom Group, but an Omnicom spokesperson said, 'We're not aware of any relationship with Lincoln Group.'" Lincoln continues to bid for U.S. government contracts.

As the Richmond (Virginia) Times-Dispatch wrote, "The use of contractors in psyops is a new wrinkle. But psychological warfare expert Herb Friedman said he is not surprised. ... With only one active-duty and two reserve psyops units remaining, Friedman said, 'The bottom line is, they don't have the manpower.'"[34]

A December 12, 2005 Sunday Times (UK) article reported[35] that the Lincoln Group’s willingness to work outside the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad helped it to land the lucrative deals with the Pentagon.

In September 2005, the Lincoln Group was looking to hire "senior media and PR professionals to guide an advertising and PR campaign to inform the Iraqi people of 'the Coalition's goals and to gain their support," according to O'Dwyer's. The firm also was recruiting "polling and trend analysis pros to analyze media and compile statistics with the Iraq Centre for Research and Strategic Studies." The new hires are due to an "ongoing expansion (it is in the first year of a $6M, three-year PR contract)."[36]

Lincoln Group company history: Iraqex

(on separate page)


(on separate page)

Contact information

Lincoln Group Corporate Headquarters
801 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Suite 325
Washington, DC 20004
Phone: +1 (202) 470-2211
FAX: +1 (202) 595-0208

Business Development: business.development AT
Media Relations: media.relations AT


Lincoln Group Middle East Regional Office
P.O. Box 212556
Dubai, UAE

SourceWatch resources

External links


  1. Lincoln Group website, November 1999. Archived at
  2. About, Lincoln Group, November 1999. Archived at "The Lincoln Group is an association of retained executive search professionals who have formalized a cooperative working relationship to better serve their clients. By combining search experience, research material and databases, we offer out clients greater resources while maintaining the individuality and flexibility of an independent search consultant. The principals of The Lincoln Group average more than twenty years of search experience."
  3. On Christian Bailey, O'Dwyer's, September 2004. Available by subscription only.
  4. About, Lincoln Group website.
  5. On Iraqex, O'Dwyer's. Available by subscription only.
  6. Lincoln Group website accessed August 8, 2007.
  7. Mark Mazzetti and Borzou Daragahi, "U.S. Military Covertly Pays to Run Stories in Iraqi Press: Troops write articles presented as news reports. Some officers object to the practice," Los Angeles Times, November 30, 2005.
  8. Thom Shanker, "No Breach Seen in Work in Iraq on Propaganda," New York Times, March 22, 2006.
  9. "Defense Taps PR Firms for Iraq," O'Dwyer's PR Daily (sub req'd), September 25, 2008.
  10. "LG Fights IEDs in Afghanistan," O'Dwyer's PR Daily (sub req'd), August 7, 2008.
  11. On the Lincoln Group, O'Dwyer's, September 26, 2006. Available by subscription only.
  12. Griff Witte, "Lincoln Group Out of Military PR Contract: TV, Radio Deal Unrelated to Controversy Over Reports in Iraqi Papers, Pentagon Says", Washington Post , July 19, 2006; Page D03.
  13. Mark Mazzetti, "Military Will Keep Planting Articles in Iraq. The ranking U.S. general there says a Pentagon review found the program does not violate policy. It could be replicated elsewhere," Los Angeles Times (Common Dreams), March 4, 2006.
  14. On Pakistan, O'Dwyer's, March 9, 2006. Available by subsciption only.
  15. "Pakistan providing best investment opportunities: foreign firm," Pakistan Link, March 9, 2006.
  16. The link for the Reuters article is no longer active. See Herbert A. Friedman, "Psychological Operations in Aghanistan,", for information on leaflets dropped in Afghanistan and near the Pakistan border.
  17. Justin Fox, "Secret no more. Inside the Pentagon's Iraqi PR firm," Fortune Magazine/Fox News, January 20, 2006.
  18. Mark Mazzetti and Borzou Daragahi, "U.S. Military Covertly Pays to Run Stories in Iraqi Press: Troops write articles presented as news reports. Some officers object to the practice," Los Angeles Times, November 30, 2005.
  19. Al Pessin, "Defense Department Checking Allegations US Military Paid to Place 'News' Articles in Iraqi Press", Voice of America, November 30, 2005.
  20. Report: "U.S. paying Iraqi journalists," Hardball/MSNBC, December 1, 2005.
  21. John Byrne, "Contract for global propaganda campaign has few safeguards, document shows," The Raw Story, January 31, 2006.
  22. Martha Raddatz, "Inside the Public Relations Blitz to Sell Iraq War Overseas," ABC News, December 14, 2005.
  23. Daily Press Briefing, Sean McCormack, Spokesman, Washington, DC, November 30, 2005.
  24. Transcript: 'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Nov. 30th, MSNBC, December 1, 2005.
  25. News Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, December 1, 2005.
  26. News release: "Truth in Reporting," Lincoln Group, December 2, 2005. Archived copy.
  27. "Bush disturbed by paying of Iraqi newspapers," Associated Press (USA TODAY), December 4, 2005.
  28. "Transcript: National Security Adviser Hadley on 'FNS'," Fox News, December 5, 2005.
  29. "Bush disturbed by paying of Iraqi newspapers," Associated Press (USA TODAY), December 4, 2005.
  30. Mark Mazzetti, "Propaganda Effort in Iraq a Mistake, Rumsfeld Says. The Defense secretary says he ordered the planting of articles to stop after learning of it, although others have said the effort continues," Los Angles Times, February 18, 2005.
  31. David S. Cloud and Jeff Gerth, "Muslim Scholars Were Paid to Aid U.S. Propaganda," New York Times, January 2, 2006.
  32. Renae Merle, "Pentagon Funds Diplomacy Effort. Contracts Aim to Improve Foreign Opinion of United States", "Washington Post", June 11, 2005.
  33. David S. Cloud, "Quick Rise for Purveyors of Propaganda in Iraq," New York Times, February 15, 2006.
  34. This link is no longer active.
  35. Sarah Baxter, "Oxford socialite linked to Iraq propaganda row," Sunday Times, December 11, 2005.
  36. "Lincoln Group Wants Senior PR Help in Iraq," O'Dwyer's PR Daily, September 9, 2005. Available by subscription only.

External articles

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