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Asst. Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs) Victoria Clarke
Dep. Asst. Sec. of Defense (Public Affairs) Rear Admiral Craig Quigley
Prin. Dep. Asst. Sec. of Defense (Public Affairs) Richard McGraw
DoD National Media Pool Coordinator Army Col. Lane Van de Steeg
Meeting with National Media Pool Bureau Chiefs
The Pentagon
Arlington, Virginia
September 28, 2001

CLARKE: Thank you all very much for coming. If you haven't met me or spoken to me on the phone, I'm Torie Clarke, and I'm the assistant secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. What I'd like to do just real briefly is introduce a few other members of my team, of our team, We're going to give you some handouts before you all leave, one of which will be a list of names, numbers, home, cell, every other which way we have of contacting us and encourage you to do so. Dick, why don't we start with you?

(Introductions made)

CLARKE: Let me say at the outset we want this very much to be a conversation and a discussion and a dialogue, the first of many. Because I don't know if you heard the secretary say this last week and the week before I think from the podium or you've heard some of the things we have said, but we are in a whole new world here. We're trying to figure out the rules of the road. We are trying to figure out how to work with you, how to make sure you get what you need, you access the means to do your jobs which we think are vitally important while protecting the national security and the safety of the men and women in uniform.

QUESTION: What are the rules for here today?

CLARKE: The rules for here today are on the record. We'll make a transcript available afterwards if anybody wants it. We will post the transcript. And I'm glad you asked that because we want this very process about trying to figure out these rules of the road to be as transparent as possible, to be as open as possible. We aren't the be all/end all of anything. We certainly aren't on this because we are in such new territory. As the secretary has said again and again every aspect of this war, including how we work with you all, is very different. It's a very unconventional war in many ways. What happens on the military front will be very unconventional. So we have to think of new ways to work with you all.

A lot of the fundamentals will remain, but we've got to think outside the box and try to figure out the best way to work with you all in what will be some very different circumstances.

So the first order of business is everyone and anyone should ask questions, make comments, insults, jokes appreciated if we've got any.

I have to tell you, one of the things I did trying to get ready for this meeting was get the transcript of a meeting Pete Williams did with you all in January of 1991. A casual hands-up of who all was in that meeting. That was something! It must have been two or three hours. Must have been. On and on and on.

QUESTION: There were a number of meetings with Pete within that, from Desert Storm, into Desert Storm.

CLARKE: For some reason that was the one that stood out that people grabbed off the shelf. I called him this morning and he goes, "Yeah, are you having a lot of fun in your job yet?"

But this important. I hope this is the first of several gatherings. As the president has said and the secretary has said, we are talking about something that is going to go on for years, not months and weeks. As circumstances change, we want to be flexible as well.

The fundamentals remain the same. We are about making sure you can do your jobs as well as you possibly can do them. We think what you do is very important. We think providing as much news and information in as timely a fashion as possible is critically important. How we get that done is one of the reasons we're here today.

So I'll stop there for a minute and see if anybody has any questions or comments, and we'll next turn to Lane and have Lane just talk briefly about this is the existing state of play with regard to the pool and the kinds of things we've got set up and the kinds of ground rules we have and I'll kick that around for a bit. But I'll stop before we turn Lane on and see if anybody has any major burning issues or something they want to add to the agenda.

(Pause)

VAN DE STEEG: Most of you should have the ground rules. Most of you if not all of you have the ground rules. We sent those to you when we called and invited you to the meeting or provided them to you when we had the turnover briefing last, I guess it was Monday. We asked if you had any inputs to those or had any recommendations or suggestions to please let us know. They have withstood the test of time. They haven't changed, as far as I can tell, from the day they were written and codified, and probably, perhaps, they don't need to change. But we're in a new world, like Mrs. Clark said, this is a new war, and technology if nothing else has certainly changed over the past 15 or so years. So we'd like your input.

Right now we are very much in the process of making sure the pool is ready to go. I have had a meeting just this week with the group that starts, the deployers that come in on the 1st, at midnight on the 1st and run through December. And I also had the group in there running from January to March because, let's face it, it's more like you're going to be used now than in the last 10 years.

QUESTION: Colonel, can you tell us the members of the pool.

VAN DE STEEG: It's in the blue book. The reason that I asked for both rotations to attend the rotation was because if the pool is called out, who's to say we won't have to call out two pools at the same time? And if the organizations that are in this rotation cannot fulfill the responsibility, I have a standby from the next rotation, and we are going to exercise this pool. We haven't actually moved the pool, deployed it, since 1997. So it's time we exercise it. We're all rusty. Andrews has done a --

MCGRAW: Shall I read them?

VAN DE STEEG: Go ahead, sir.

MCGRAW: For October-December is CBS Radio, NBC for TV, Time Magazine, AP and KRT for wires, AP and KRT for wire photographers. Newspapers, the Baltimore Sun, Christian Science Monitor, and Media General.

Do you want the next quarter? January to March Quarter, Radios -- AP Radio Network, TV is ABC, magazine is US News and World Report, wire correspondents is AP and AFP, wire photographers AP and Reuters. Newspapers are Chicago Tribune, St. Petersburg Times, USA Today.

VAN DE STEEG: We are going to exercise the pool. Andrews Air Force Base Public Affairs Office there that supports this has had 100 percent turnover of personnel just this last summer. We've turned over everybody at least once since '97. We need to exercise this. It doesn't mean we're going to fly any place necessarily, but we are going to exercise and make sure that we can do all the things we're supposed to do and that you guys can do all the things that we're pretty confident you can do. But please don't think we're just doing it out of spite. If we've got to get up at 2:00 o'clock, by God you do too. No. (Laughter)

CLARKE: Or your people do.

Let's stop there for a second and see if there are any major questions or issues in your heads about the pool as it currently sits.

QUESTION: On this exercise, will we have a chance to exercise with the equipment that we bring with us?

VAN DE STEEG: This is not going to fly you any place.

QUESTION: Well not to fly, but to make certain that the equipment that we have works. Will that be a part of the exercise?

VAN DE STEEG: I hadn't anticipated doing that, no, sir.

CLARKE: I think that's a great idea. To make sure things get up on the web site for all the media. That's a good point.

QUESTION: On that point, one of the biggest differences in the pool since we had meetings in '91 is the use of the Internet. The web site, a lot of us don't have passwords that are operational now. The web site hasn't been changed, I don't believe, since '97.

MALE VOICE: It has. We should have gotten a copy, if you don't I'll make sure you've got a copy of this.

Have you got a copy of the handout? She was at the deployers meeting. It's got the new web site and we handed out the passwords, the IDs and the passwords. I didn't bring them with me here; I didn't anticipate that being an issue.

Sir, if you will call me...

QUESTION: I can read it out to everyone.

VAN DE STEEG: Go right ahead.

QUESTION: [deleted]

VAN DE STEEG: Those who have tested it, you bureau guys who called and asked for their IDs and stuff to confirm it, it's worked.

QUESTION: Nothing's been changed on it. Or has it been changed this week?

VAN DE STEEG: No.

QUESTION: No new information.

VAN DE STEEG: No.

QUESTION: Just to clarify on the test. Only those who are on the pool for the last quarter will be called for the test, or will everyone be called...

VAN DE STEEG: Just the guys who are in this rotation for October through December.

QUESTION: And the password?

VAN DE STEEG: You call me, sir.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Deployers needing to e-mail the information you needed on who will be in the pool, but I don't know who to e-mail. You or Captain Player or Mr. Cooper? Who --

MALE VOICE: Any one of us. Me certainly.

QUESTION: But just one would do?

MALE VOICE: Yeah, we all work together on a continual basis every day.

QUESTION: I sent a message the other day and never heard back, just to make sure of the right -- If I send one to you, do you have your e-mail handy?

VAN DE STEEG: Lane.Vandesteeg -- it's my ancestors' fault, I had nothing to do with that -- @osd.mil. [ lane.vandesteeg@osd.mil ]

QUESTION: One other question, and if this is jumping ahead tell me, but are you also talking about establishing perhaps regional pools in addition to pools that will come out of here?

VAN DE STEEG: That would not be from OSD/PA. That would be the CINCs' responsibility and that would be the CINCs' decision.

CLARKE: -- conversations with some of them, sort of working through and having conversations with some of them. And very much inclined to the extent possible, whether we're talking about the national media pool, regional pools, or issues in general, that we have some broad policies, philosophies, principles if you will, and make sure that the decisions get driven down to the local level where they can be driven better. Quite honestly. So we're having conversations with them about just that.

QUESTION: Should people who are already out in the field either in the region or in say Bahrain for example, be in touch with --

CLARKE: Yep, and if you're not getting a response, let us know.

QUESTION: Okay.

VAN DE STEEG: Anything else for me?

CLARKE: Anything on the ground rules you want to talk about?

QUESTION: I have one question. Going back to the review we had after the Gulf War and the principles that we reached at the time were that open and independent reporting would be the principal means of covering the U.S. military in the field.

Can you talk about that, Torie? I know we'll talk a lot about pools today, but how much of a commitment are you getting from the top, whatever --

CLARKE: A very strong one. Let me talk about that for a minute.

Pools are not the ideal by any means, it's almost a last resort. We would much rather have open reporting. We would much rather have you all go out there and do your business the way you do it because we know you're going to do it very very well.

We go through this process because we have to because it may be one of the only ways we have to help you do your jobs and communicate to the American people what's going on. But the absolute ideal is to get you in places and get you in situations where you can cover this to the greatest extent possible. So this is just something we have to do. It is not the ideal; it is not our first choice. It is just one of many contingencies we're trying to plan for.

I've had conversations with many of you on the phone, we're working on this process. We're also working on how can we come up with a variety of situations of scenarios in which we can help medias get embedded in various operations. How can we encourage the CINCs to do more of those sorts of things? Just being as creative and open minded as possible about getting you all out there and getting your people out there so you can do your business.

QUESTION: That comes to the basic question of access to information and how we are going to get access to information and whether we're going to know that it's accurate information. Not that you're not going to give it to us, but that if inaccurate information is out there it's detected. So can we talk a little bit about access to information?

CLARKE: Sure. What's the question?

QUESTION: The question is, if we're going to do any unilateral coverage we're going to need some sort of guidance as to what kind of an operation we're looking at, where the likely places might be, what's going, etc.

QUESTION: At the end of the day you don't know for certain, because what we're doing, and these are things the president has talked about, the secretary has talked about is, we're preparing ourselves and we're organizing ourselves and we're positioning ourselves in a variety of places, in a variety of ways, to prepare for what could be a variety of operations. When I read the transcript last night, and Pete's go-around of January of '91, he said the same thing then. He said this is not Vietnam, this is not World War II. This will not be the Persian Gulf War. The secretary has said repeatedly, we are going after people who don't have armies and navies and air forces, so from a military perspective it's much more likely you're going to see a much more sporadic level of activity. And obviously everyone has talked about and heard about the Special Forces. It's very hard in terms of coverage.

But what we're doing, what we're trying to do with you all, the same way we're doing from a military perspective is, prepare for a variety of contingencies and put as many things in place to try to make something happen, but knowing full well at the end of the day if there are eight things that we prepared for, maybe two of them actually occur.

So there are a lot of unknowns. We're just trying to be as open minded as possible and prepare for many different things so something comes through.

QUESTION: Regarding the CINCs, General Franks is not the world's most press-friendly guy. CENTCOM Public Affairs took down their web site last week. Even with the basic housekeeping information. He won't let his people post his testimony on his web site, unlike a lot of other CINCs.

He won't tell us if he's married, he won't tell us how many kids he's got. We can understand that. But getting access to his congressional testimony and stuff like that, if you could encourage him that that's not risking national security. It would make our job a lot easier.

CLARKE: I had a conversation with him this morning, I've had conversations with him before and will continue to talk with him and the others.

There is a lot of stuff that comes under the category of easy and obvious, and that's all the way on one side of the bright line. There are some things, and you all know what they are, that fall on the other side of the bright line that we'll never talk about, we will never discuss under any means.

What we're trying to do is put as many things as possible on this side of the bright line. It may not be as clear as name, rank and serial number, but we're trying to find a way to put as many things over on that side of the bright line as possible. And it is part of my job. I will continue to work with him and the others to try to be as forthcoming as possible.

QUESTION: Can you define what -- be as specific as possible, Torie. What are the areas that you will not talk about? Right now we're in preparation for this conflict. The experience of my reporters is that they're getting nothing from the Pentagon. That everything is on the dark side of that bright line.

CLARKE: I'll tell you what we believe and what we're saying, and I will also say fully, we're trying to come up with the new vocabulary and we're trying to come up with the new guidelines, if you will. But anything to do with operations, anything that has to do with classified information, we are not going to be talking about. It's just not useful, it's not helpful, and it quite honestly can be quite harmful. And quite honestly, and perfectly understandably, 75-80 percent of the questions we get are who, when, where, how. We can't answer those and we won't answer those.

QUIGLEY: You might mention the USA Today story as an example of something that is not helping other correspondents.

CLARKE: I got eight, nine phone calls last night from several of your very hard working reporters who said my boss is beating up on me, there's this USA Today story, and can you help me on this, and I would say no. And they would go well, can you steer me? Are they in the right direction or not the right direction? I said we're not talking about that.

Talking about a story that talks about operations is talking about operations so we're not going to do it. We spent, we were in the secretary's office a half an hour today making sure that everybody is clear about this, and making sure our colleagues in the Administration are clear about this.

QUESTION: Poll people here, that is not what everyone heard off the record or on background.

CLARKE: I'm sure that's true.

QUESTION: I'm just saying that what you say people are supposed to say and what they actually say on background or off the record is all over the line.

CLARKE: I know. There are only so many people that we can really --

QUESTION: I wanted to address the issue of the pool. To me, my understanding is that the pool system, the activated pool system, is kind of a last resort thing. I thought that the next generation of that was the so-called embedding system.

I guess I would be interested to hear why reporters couldn't be embedded as part of some of these military operations that --

CLARKE: That's what I said. We're looking at -- first of all, we all need to get our heads wrapped around the notion of we need to be thinking about new things. The tradition, the conventional wisdom, everything that has come before us that you do the best thing you can the best ways you can to get everybody out there and cover things the way they want to cover things, have them on the ground, have them there, whatever. Use the pool as the last resort. That's conventional wisdom. We're looking at that.

What I'm saying to you all, we're really looking for ideas and suggestions. Are there other things we should be considering? We're looking really hard and how and where you could embed media. We're looking hard at how could we make the pool work better if we have to activate it. But what I'm saying is, and we are not the end of the line here, we're not the experts on this, are there other things we should be thinking of? Are there other creative things we should be thinking of to help you and your people do the job?

And the pool as the last resort. Maybe it's the last resort. In these circumstances maybe it's a very good thing to be considering.

QUESTION: I think if we're talking about that, I don't think that it's the best way for us. I don't think it works the best way for the press. I think that if reporters were planned into your operations and understanding that that would create some very serious constraints on us that some news organizations might not be willing to go along with, but I think in some cases people would like to get the up close and personal look.

For instance, I don't see any problems with Air Forces or Navy forces, and it's clearly, in this case it's the ground forces. I know that the Special Operations Forces are not going to put reporters on the ground. But perhaps they might consider it in certain circumstances since this is a new situation, or at the very least, consider putting reporters at the logistics tail of what they are so that if they were going to go into an operation that reporters could be at the same place there that would be say on an aircraft carrier or an air base.

CLARKE: I think they're great ideas, all of which we should consider. Ideas like that, the secretary himself was sitting down the other night sketching out some possibilities. And I encourage you all, he is thinking way outside the box on this stuff, and I encourage everybody in this room to do the same. And things like that, things we have not thought of before.

Con't