Pentagon poised to revive the unpopular press pool

WASHINGTON: Department of Defense public affairs chief Torie Clarke

called together the heads of 40 news organizations last Friday in an

attempt to quell fears regarding access to upcoming military action.

Among those fears, which have been steadily building since the Pentagon

began planning its retaliation to last month's terrorist attacks, are

that the news media will be prevented from covering military actions or

will be lied to in order to mislead terrorists.

Howell Raines, executive editor of The New York Times, told the Los

Angeles Times last week that he feared the Bush administration would be

"limiting access to battlefield areas and trying to control the flow of

any information from the Pentagon."

The meeting was called in order to allow the media to voice their

concerns to Clarke, who would in turn clarify the Pentagon's intentions.

"This will be a very different war than America has ever fought," said

Rear Admiral Craig Quigley, Clarke's deputy spokesperson. "How we're

going to provide an opportunity for the American people to understand

what the military is doing in support of the President's efforts and

still maintain operational security is going to be a challenge."

Quigley said the Pentagon would most likely be employing its

controversial pool operation, in which a handful of reporters from

different media are brought along on missions to report back to the

press in general. Used during the Gulf War, the pool method is much

maligned by the press, which claims that the cherry-picking approach

gives the Pentagon unfair leverage in controlling the news. Quigley

himself conceded, "You try not to have to use the pool. It's not the

preferred way of gathering news for anyone, but sometimes it's the only

way to go."

At a press conference last Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

sought to quell reporters' fears about being fed misinformation in order

to mislead America's enemies. Asked if he could foresee a time during

the campaign when someone at the Pentagon would be authorized to lie to

the press, he responded, "I don't recall that I've ever lied to the

press, I don't intend to, and it seems to me that there will not be

reason for it. There are dozens of ways to avoid having to put yourself

in a position where you're lying. And I don't do it. And Torie won't do

it. And Admiral Quigley won't do it."

- See Analysis, p.17.

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