WASHINGTON — Wayne Simmons, a TV military analyst who was charged this week with lying about having worked for the Central Intelligence Agency, hoodwinked not only Fox News, but the Pentagon.
Media coverage of Simmons's arrest has focused on his TV analysis for Fox News, but Simmons was also involved in a Pentagon program for military analysts that gave them direct access to top officials during the George W. Bush administration. The program, in which officials in former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon recruited former military officers to receive briefings from top officials and transmit talking points on television news, was described at length in a New York Times article from April of 2008. Several dozen military analysts participated in the program.
The Times article does not specifically name Simmons, but he wrote a letter to the newspaper along with other participants in the program refuting the article after it came out.
A source who worked in Rumsfeld's Pentagon said that Simmons was indeed part of the program, and that he met with Rumsfeld himself. Simmons's online bio notes his involvement with the Pentagon analyst program: "In 2004, under the direction of Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, he became a part of the Pentagon Outreach Program for Military and Intelligence Analysts."
The former Pentagon staffer said the revelations about Simmons's alleged lies about his credentials were "shocking" because the analysts in the program "went through some vetting process that assured that they had some credentials."
The 2008 Times article describes the extent to which the analysts in the program were given access: "a powerfully seductive environment — the uniformed escorts to Mr. Rumsfeld’s private conference room, the best government china laid out, the embossed name cards, the blizzard of PowerPoints, the solicitations of advice and counsel, the appeals to duty and country, the warm thank you notes from the secretary himself."
The analysts were also taken on government-sponsored tours of Guantanamo Bay, according to the Times.
"It’s become a media story when it’s really much bigger," said the former Pentagon staffer of the media coverage of Simmons. "The story to me is not, 'Fox has a hack on to talk about whatever.' It’s more like, this guy was given access to senior officials."
"They met, they got briefings from everyone," the former staffer said. "When [General David] Petraeus was in town he would come brief them."
Simmons was arrested on Thursday and charged with having lied about having served in the CIA. Simmons has claimed that he was recruited into the CIA as part of an "Outside Paramilitary Special Operations Group" and that he served in the agency for 27 years.
Simmons used his alleged lies about having worked for the CIA "in an attempt to obtain government security clearances and work as a defense contractor, including at one point successfully getting deployed overseas as an intelligence advisor to senior military personnel," according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's office for the Eastern District of Virginia. The indictment alleges that Simmons did indeed obtain an interim security clearance at one point to work on a government contract. Simmons is also accused of having defrauded someone out of $125,000 in a real estate scam.
He has been charged with wire fraud, major fraud against the U.S., and making false statements to the government, and he potentially faces up to 35 years in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney's press release.
BuzzFeed News reached out to Simmons via email but the request for comment was not immediately returned.