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.