By Jeremy Herb - 04/20/12 06:57 PM EDT
The pages were created just days after reporter Tom Vanden Brook had contacted Pentagon contractors involved in the military’s “information operations” program in Iraq and Afghanistan, and again after his editor Ray Locker’s byline appeared on a story involved in the investigation.
The websites have since been taken down, and a Pentagon spokesman denied the Defense Department was involved or had knowledge of the activity.
USA Today said if the sites had used federal funds, it could violate federal law, which prohibits domestic propaganda.
"I find it creepy and cowardly that somebody would hide behind my name and presumably make up other names in an attempt to undermine my credibility," Vanden Brook said.
USA Today’s investigation on the information operations, which ran in February, found that “Pentagon officials have little proof the programs work and they won't make public where the money goes. In Iraq alone, more than $173 million was paid to what were identified only as ‘miscellaneous foreign contractors.’ ”
From 2005 to 2009, the story says, “spending rose from $9 million to $580 million a year, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan.”