We might be in an age of social media, but cable news channels like Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN still have enormous influence in shaping mainstream narratives about war and U.S. foreign policy.
Therefore, it’s alarming that numerous “experts” that news channels bring on to explain war and conflict are actually — unbeknownst to news viewers — themselves cogs within the military-industrial complex, financially benefiting from weapons sales and war-making, even as they pose as impartial analysts. Moreover, news outlets tout the former government or military position of these “experts” as the basis for their expertise, all while leaving out their more recent and current positions where they profit from war.
This post profiles several of these talking war heads who have appeared on cable news or in major newspapers over the past several weeks, advocating hawkish positions around Israel’s war on Gaza and U.S. support for it, all while their connections to war profiteering — as board members of weapons companies, as corporate defense consultants, and directors of think tanks funded by weapons’ companies — go entirely undisclosed.
Unsurprisingly, the message of these “analysts” almost always comes down to one conclusion: a support for continued war and militarism.
This post builds upon earlier work by LittleSis that examined conflicts of interest of news analysts who war-mongered — inciting fear, spreading disinformation, supporting military intervention — around Syria and Iran all while failing to disclose their personal financial ties to defense companies. Indeed, many of those talking war heads we identified from the past decade are the exact same people appearing on major network news shows today supporting Israeli military escalation, backed by the U.S., on the people of Gaza. This post also builds upon vital reporting on these conflicts from The Lever and other outlets.
Below are some noteworthy “experts” with significant – yet typically undisclosed – ties to the military-industrial complex.
Jack Keane, a former Chief of Staff and Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, has appeared on Fox News in recent weeks, where he is introduced only as “Fox News senior strategic analyst and retired four-star general” and “Chairman of the Institute of the Study of War.”
In his news appearances, Keane has unabashedly called for more weapons sales to Israel. In October he told Fox viewers:
“Whatever the Israelis want, we should be giving them. I know they’ve asked for more interceptors to shoot down rockets and missiles. They want more bombs, obviously, for their fighter aircrafts. They want more offensive missiles for their fire aircraft. Whatever they need we should give them… Let’s give them what they need to win this war, period.”
Keane has also pushed back against any notion of a ceasefire. “We’re going to have to give Israel our backing because there will be calls, as soon as casualties start to mount, for a ceasefire,” he said. “That is not what the Israeli government is about.” He also told viewers to expect an Israeli operation that’s “going to take weeks and possibly months” and “is going to require some patience.”
Keane has also fear-mongered around Iran, claiming that it’s “calling the shots in Gaza,” and that he hopes the U.S. has privately told “the Iranians” that “we will come full throttle if they expand this war, that all of their proxies will be liable as a result of their expansion of the war.” He also pushes for U.S. involvement, saying that if Iran fires missiles toward Israel, “they may ask the United States to assist, and I don’t imagine any president could ever say no to that.”
But what’s not disclosed in Keane’s appearances as an “analyst” are his multiple personal ties to weapons companies.
Keane raked in millions in cash and stock payments serving on the Board of Directors of General Dynamics, the sixth-biggest defense corporation, from 2004 to 2018, which has long sold weapons to Israel.
According to the watchdog site Investigate, General Dynamics’ weapons “have repeatedly been used against Palestinian civilians, resulting in numerous casualties as well as mass destruction of homes and civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, and water and electric systems.”
Moreover, according to investigative reporter Lee Fang, Keane also worked as a special adviser to Academi (previously known as the military contractor Blackwater), and has served as a “venture partner” with an investment firm called SCP Partners that works with defense contractors, including a company called XVionics, which does business with in Air Force drone training.
Fang also reports in the Intercept that Keane “was tapped by the contractor AM General to pressure lawmakers to support a plan to purchase new Humvee vehicles from the company rather than refurbish older models.” AM General makes military automobiles.
Keane is also co-founder and director of nuclear energy company IP3. He has advised private equity firm KKR, which has weapons and defense investments among its portfolio. Keane is also president of a consulting firm, GSI Consulting, and he is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Frances Townsend has appeared on Fox News in recent weeks, being introduced only as “President George Bush’s Homeland security advisor” and “former counterterrorism and homeland security advisor to President George W. Bush.”
On October 13, Townsend praised Israel’s effort to push out 1.1 million Palestinians in northern Gaza to southern Gaza, saying “Israel is trying to do the right thing here” and “No one wants innocent Palestinians, women, children, to be caught in the crossfire, and so Israel is doing what is the right thing and trying to warn them to move south.”
As has been widely documented, civilians fleeing to southern Gaza have been attacked, and many worry that the population move is a pretext for ethnically cleansing northern Gaza. Since the temporary ceasefire ended on December 1, Israel has been intensifying its attacks on Southern Gaza.
Towsend, in a seeming endorsement of population transfer, also said that “the Arab gulf countries ought to be offering to take these folks into countries where they can afford to have them” and “where they can speak the language.” “In the meantime,” she said, “folks in the Gaza strip need to move south because Israel is preparing clearly for a ground operation.”
In another appearance on October 19, Townsend urged that President Biden “has got to explain why these conflicts overseas are important to folks here at home,” and roused fears over terrorist attacks coming to the U.S. “We wanted to fight these fights overseas so we didn’t have to worry about the threats coming here at home,” she said. “I think that’s directly related to the fighting going on in Israel.”
The Wall Street Journal also reported that Towsend “called for military action against Hamas leadership allegedly being provided safe haven in Doha if Qatari authorities don’t hand the officials over to the U.S. or Israel,” only identifying her as a “former senior U.S. security official” and “a top counterterror adviser to George W. Bush and head of the non-profit Counter Extremism Project.”
What’s not disclosed in Townsend’s media appearances, however, are her extensive ties to weapons companies, including companies that do business in Israel.
Perhaps most notably, Townsend has taken in millions of dollars since 2009 as a board director of Leonardo DRS, which describes itself as “a prime contractor, leading technology innovator and supplier of integrated products, services and support to military forces, intelligence agencies and defense contractors worldwide,” which “specializes in naval and maritime systems, ground combat mission command and network computing, global satellite communications and network infrastructure, avionics systems, and intelligence and security solutions.”
Leonardo DRS took in $2.7 billion in revenue and $405 million in net earnings in 2022. In 2022, Townsend was compensated $341,437 by Leonardo DRS, made up of $200,000 in cash and $139,137 in stock awards. Leonardo DRS recently acquired Israeli defense company RADA Electronic Industries.
Townend has numerous other ties to the defense industry. From 2010 to 2020, she served as Vice Chairman, General Counsel, and Chief Administrative Officer at MacAndrews & Forbes, an investment firm whose portfolio companies have included military humvee producer AM General (they sold the company in 2020).
Townsend has worked for several consulting groups, including as a senior advisor for Beacon Global Strategies, which says it “supports clients across defense and national security policy, geopolitical risk, global technology policy, and federal business development.” Beacon’s co-founder and partner, Jeremy Bash, is also a regular pundit on cable news who often fails to disclose his defense industry ties.
Townsend has also sat on the boards of numerous foreign policy establishment think-tanks funded by defense corporations, including the Council on Foreign Relations, the Atlantic Council and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Retired U.S. Army General Barry McCaffrey regularly appears as a “military analyst” for NBC News and MSNBC, often pushing war and militarism. But few viewers are aware that he has a vested personal financial interest in continued war-making and defense sales.
McCaffrey’s X (formerly Twitter) feed has consistently pushed for war in Gaza. On October 8, he wrote “US naval and air power must help deter escalation of the war by Syria, Iran, Hizbollah.” He wrote that “Hamas as an institution must be destroyed and ended as the governance of Gaza.” He said Joe Biden’s call for a “humanitarian pause” was “a terrible policy blunder.”
Indeed, McCaffrey has a long record of posing as a military analyst to news viewers who are unaware that he personally profits from war spending. In 2008, for example, the New York Times featured a stunning exposé on McCaffrey, entitled “One Man’s Military-Industrial-Media Complex,” that documented his egregious record of taking big money from weapons and defense companies to help them obtain government contracts while failing to disclose this personal war profiteering, which has made him a fortune, when he poses as a “military expert” for news viewers.
The NYT article mentions, for example, that McCaffrey’s firm took in hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees for its services in helping “build linkages” between government officials and military contractors that included Defense Solutions and Veritas Capital, which was noted as “by one measure the second-largest military contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
McCaffrey was also a board director of DynCorp International, a private military contractor that raked in billions in defense contracts supporting the U.S. military in Afghanistan (DynCorp was acquired by another contractor, Amentum, in 2020). In 2021, McCaffrey was appointed to the board of Juvare LLC — “the worldwide leader in emergency preparedness and critical incident management software,” according to its website — to “provide guidance as Juvare expands its leading role as a program of record across the federal and defense space.”
On November 1, Jeh Johnson, President Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security from December 2013 to January 2017, appeared on CNN This Morning. The CNN hosts introduced him only as “former Homeland Security secretary” and a “partner with the law firm Paul Weiss.”
After repeating obligatory talking points about Israel needing to be careful about civilian casualties, Johnson endorsed the ongoing war. “Israel must destroy and degrade Hamas,” said Johnson. “That is their mission.” Johnson went on to say, despite “public opinion in this country shifting” because of civilian deaths in Gaza, that “I think we need to stand by Israel.” He also praised the Biden administration, saying “I think our government is doing the best it can right now.”
What CNN hosts failed to disclose is that Johnson sits on the board of directors of the world’s top defense corporation, Lockheed Martin.
Lockheed raked in $63.3 billion in defense-related revenue in 2022. According to the watchdog site Investigate, Lockheed “supplies the Israeli government with a wide variety of weapons, including fighter jets, attack helicopters, and missiles” that include F-16 and F-35 warplanes and Hellfire missiles.
The Financial Review wrote that Israel is now seeking Hellfire missiles from Lockheed, and the Investor’s Business Daily wrote that Lockheed is among the companies currently “primed” to profit from boosted weapons sales to Israel. Lockheed Martin’s stock price jumped with Israel’s war on Gaza.
Johnson swung through the revolving door to join Lockheed’s board in December 2017, less than a year after he left the Obama administration. In 2022 alone, Johnson was compensated with $325,000 for serving on Lockheed’s board, split evenly between $162,500 in cash and $162,500 in stock awards. According to his most recent disclosure, Johnson owns 2,811 shares of Lockheed Martin company stock, worth over $1.2 million.
Johnson also serves as a director with the Council on Foreign Relations, the influential U.S. foreign policy establishment thinktank. His areas of practice with law firm Paul Weiss include “national security.” Johnson also sits on the Board of Trustees of Columbia University.
Stephen Hadley has appeared on Fox News to comment on the war on Gaza, being introduced only as a “former national security advisor to President George W. Bush.”
Speaking of Joe Biden on November 2, Hadley told Fox News that “The president, I think, he’s been very smart. He’s been steadfast in his support for Israel.” While noting the “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza, Hadley warned that the “risk” of a “pause” in fighting is that “it gives Hamas some time to regroup.” Hadley also fear-mongered over whether Iran “unleashes” Hezbollah.
But what wasn’t disclosed in Hadley’s appearances as an “analyst” are his extensive ties to the defense industry. After serving as Bush’s National Security Advisor from 2005 to 2009, Hadley swung through the revolving door and, within months, joined Raytheon’s Board of Directors. As a Raytheon director, Hadley raked in millions, serving on the board for over a decade, until 2020. Raytheon (now RTX) is the world’s second-top weapons company.
Hadley is also currently a principal with the Rice, Hadley, Gates & Manuel LLC, a consulting firm whose clients include corporations around the world (including almost certainly companies who engage in the business of war, though the firm’s client list is extremely opaque). Previously, Hadley has also been a principal in The Scowcroft Group, another consulting firm with defense clients.
Hadley sits on the board of the Council on Foreign Relations, and he is the chairman of the International Advisory Board and an executive vice chair of the Board of Directors of the Atlantic Council, another foreign policy establishment think tank funded by weapons companies.
These are just a few of cable news talking heads who regularly normalize war-making on air while failing to mention their vested financial interest in weapons sales and other business tied to militarism.
Others, mentioned recently by The Lever, include MSNBC analyst Jeremy Bash, a vocal advocate of the war of Gaza. Bash, unbeknownst to viewers, “leads a consulting firm [Beacon Global Strategies] that has reportedly worked for defense contracting giant Raytheon, which supplies missiles for Israel’s Iron Dome defense system.”
Former CIA Director David Petraus, who has suggested that Israel might need to formally reoccupy Gaza, is a partner with KKR, the private equity behemoth that has made defense industry investments, and also sits on the board of Optiv, which The Lever notes “provides cybersecurity technology and services across the US government, including the Department of Defense.”
The “experts” profiled in this post are just a few of the high-profile war profiteers that have agitated for violence without disclosing their financial interest in stoking global conflict.
Israel’s assault on Gaza has clearly awoken a new global movement against corporate militarism and its role in propping up occupation and oppression. As organizers map out actors like big weapons producers and defense industry shareholders, it’s vital to also be aware of how “expert” talking heads facilitate an agenda of war profiteering through their role in shaping public narratives to provide consent and support for war — in essence, normalizing decisions that lead to massive death and destruction, with the result that they, and the corporations they’re tied to, can financially benefit.