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
September 28, 2001
QUESTION: Then my key suggestion would be that for certain operations that you
would consider integrating reporters with Special Forces on the ground which
would be definitely a quantum leap, at least for them.
CLARKE: Yeah, because most people say Special Forces, completely off limits,
never will happen. And I can't tell you today that we can make that happen,
but I can tell you that's certainly something we would consider is having them
on the tail.
QUESTION: Torie, when would this embedding start?
CLARKE: It's a very good question, it's a logical question, it's also an interesting
one. When does it start, when does it finish?
We're talking years, not weeks. We're talking marathons, not sprints. So that's
something to keep in mind as we're all trying to figure this out. Myself included.
It's not that necessarily there will be one big bang, one big wave, and then
it's all over.
QUESTION: You've got people moving now --
CLARKE: That would be talking about operations.
Just kidding. Go ahead.
QUESTION: You've got people moving now. Are you talking about in the near future
embedding reporters with --
CLARKE: We're talking about in the near future. I can't tell you how many days
or weeks near future is. But yeah, if you've got ideas or suggestions. If you
guys are willing to, in this group, get above and beyond talking about the pool
we're happy to do it, but that's what we're doing here. But that's fine. But
yeah, ideas, suggestions --
QUESTION: Is there a process or even a contemplated process at this moment for
how you're going to go about reinventing?
CLARKE: There's a lot of consideration, a lot of thought being given to it.
QUESTION: Is there anything you can share with us now about how you might go
about, how people would apply to do it, how people would be staged...
CLARKE: Talk to us. Talk to the CINCs.
QUESTION: Can't this group be the nucleus of the embedded group? We're all,
we've been in this for years. And start with this as the core group. Consider
us I think all on the list.
QUESTION: When we talk about embedded, we're talking about embedded pool members,
is that -- embedded unilateral.
CLARKE: Uh huh.
QUESTION: You have to talk a little at us and if we are, although we'd all love
to be able to do this unilaterally, if you were to say to us, look, you'll have
a much better chance if we formed 10 pools. I'm not talking about the deployment
pool, I'm talking about a pool that -- kind of operations. Most of us obviously
would like to do something sooner rather than later. And if that means that
we have to start with some sort of pool, talk to us about that. Although we'd
all love to send someone, whether it's network or print, to rule this all out
for the first wave, let's say, because you have too many people to deal with,
if you give us some of those parameters maybe then we can come back at you.
Do you see what I mean?
CLARKE: Yeah, I see what you mean. I'll be perfectly honest and tell you we
haven't figured that out yet.
QUESTION: But I guess we all have the sense that it's going to happen, it's
happening, and we're all sitting in this room waiting to get some idea as to
how we can cover this.
CLARKE: Well, come to us with ideas, suggestions, requests. You all in this
room know more about these things than I do in terms of the range of possibilities
of what might happen from an operational standpoint, and quite honestly your
reporters have come to us and have been since September 11th and have said I'm
really interested in this, I'm really interested in that --
QUESTION: Has anyone been embedded? Is anyone about to be embedded?
CLARKE: We're working 48 hours a day as it is. We're trying very hard --
QUESTION: -- embedded with a unit.
CLARKE: No, not yet.
QUESTION: That's not correct. We've asked at Norfolk and we've asked overseas,
and they're taking requests.
QUESTION: I want to go back to operations again. By your definition you don't
have to say anything as everything you're doing now is operational. So we find,
we ask you a question about movements of forces and you don't comment. But our
reporters call around to different units around the country and they get answers
about movements. Yeah, we're deploying or whatever.
The Uzbek government says U.S. forces have landed on their base. We ask you
for confirmation. You don't comment.
It seems to me even on background to give some guidance when there's kind of
(inaudible) in the public arena seems that it's in the public's interest to
at least have some credible support for claims by governments that are saying
either troops are or they aren't here, or they are using a base or they aren't.
I do not understand how the public is served by claming up and allowing other
official sources around the world to say this or that is going on, which may
be true or may not be true, in some cases where lives are not in any kind of
jeopardy, but simply to give the public as accurate a picture as possible. Why
do you take the position of no comment?
CLARKE: I think it depends on the issue, and believe me, I wish we could find
simple categories for all of these things, but simple categories don't exist
yet. But it depends on what's going on.
For instance, as you have heard every senior administration official say, in
terms of the coalition, the coalitions are going to evolve and they're going
to change and different countries will do different things depending on the
circumstances. Some of the things they will be happy about people knowing and
(inaudible); other things they want to be helpful but it can't be known publicly.
We just think as a general practice it is better for the countries themselves
to decide about what they want to talk about publicly or not publicly and continue
to maintain it's just better as a general principle for us not to be talking
about operations, whether it's here or abroad.
QUESTION: But once they announce it or say something publicly, don't you think
it's in your interest and in our interest and the public's interest to be able
to confirm that information?
CLARKE: It probably gets into the category of easy and obvious to confirm, and
that's what we're working with here, is trying to find which of those things
fall on that side of the fence.
I fully admit, we may go overboard in one direction or another. We are in completely
new territory here, and completely new concerns. The secretary was talking to
us about this this morning. Three weeks ago, four weeks ago, unfathomable that
we would be talking about commercial airliners flying into the sides of buildings.
Unfathomable. So it's such an incredibly different environment. We're doing
our best, but I fully admit, we may err. The pendulum may swing too hard in
one direction and we've got to send it back the other way. But we're trying
to find our way through this.
The secretary himself the last three nights that I can remember, I've been up
in his office, and he's sketching some of this stuff out and he's writing things
down, and then he puts a line through it and he starts again. He's trying to
help us figure out how we do these things.
QUESTION: Will he meet with us about this?
CLARKE: He actually has said, when we were talking about this meeting and meeting
with the individual reporters in our hallway and trying to make this happen,
he says why don't I sit down with them sometime and talk about it. He says I
need to get my head wrapped around this as well, and it's very much the Rumsfeld
way, I would say, to take a 360-degree view of these things and really draw
out of the people involved. In this case it's you and it's your reporters, what
it is that you're thinking about, what your needs and your desires are. I think
we do a pretty good job of communicating it, but there's nothing like steeping
yourself in it.
QUESTION: Was that a yes?
CLARKE: I think so, but I'll have to consult his schedule.
QUESTION: I'm a little bit at a loss as to figure out how to present ideas to
you. Do you want structured ideas from us about how to run an embedding operation?
I mean we don't know enough to give you that. We can say that we want to have
people with units, we want to have people with every branch of the military
that's there. We want to be on ships, we want to be with ground forces, we want
to be on air bases. If there are flying missions that can accommodate a journalist,
we'd like to be with that. But the mechanism for doing that once we tell you
that we want to do that, the mechanism for doing that it seems to me has got
to be yours to at least come back to us with --
QUESTION: Logistics are beyond our ability to understand. So I'm not clear where
you are on that process.
QUESTION: I would hope, Torie, that once -- that there would be equal opportunity
access from us, not just the Washington Post that gets to go.
QUESTION: That's the point I was going to make.
QUESTION: If a past exercise with Bosnia on this, there was a wide discrepancy
not just from the Pentagon but from the regional command as to who got what
position. So that some news organizations got to go with the first tank units,
other news organizations got to go with the medical brigade in Hungary.
I think it would be very important if there were some fairness and equity in
And most importantly, I think that one of the problems in the Pentagon public
affairs bureaucracy is the division between the military and the civilian and
that these two have tended to play off each other and if one doesn't want to
answer they'll tell you to talk to the other, and I think that we'll see that
with the CINCs.
If the CINCs are going to organize regional pools as opposed to the Pentagon
organizing a regional pool, there's going to be a lot of inequities.
CLARKE: I hope this is reassuring. I think even before September 11th, I think
we were doing an awfully good job of the civilians and the military working
together. We had already started to lay the foundation, if you will, for more
integration and coordination with the CINCs and their staff. I think it's a
good thing when I'm now calling upon these CINCs or talking with people it's
not the first time of talking with people. So I'm not saying everything will
work perfectly, but I think we're a lot better integrated, coordinated, you
guys can tell me if I'm wrong, than maybe in years past. So I think that will
help. But I totally hear what you're saying.
QUESTION: The U.S. military has a long tradition of not having any secret casualties.
Can you assure us that if anybody is killed or injured that we will hear about
CLARKE: It's one of the things that we have definitely put down on paper is
try to be as forthcoming as possible about casualties.
QUESTION: Try. Will you tell us when men are lost? Or women.
QUESTION: Promptly and under what circumstances?
CLARKE: Promptly. Under what circumstances we're still wrestling with. I'll
ask you guys about Special Forces. I just don't know the answer to that.
MALE VOICE: I guess the only thing we might fuzz is the specific location of
the person when their injury or death occurs. We may not be clear as to the
QUESTION: But notification --
MALE VOICE: You'll also have a timing issue on next of kin notification where
our priority always lies. The time to do that varies. But when next of kin have
been notified, then yes. I mean we have -- the only issue I can think of, just
sitting here thinking real fast, is the specific location where that might occur.
QUESTION: Just to make sure I understand, so you wouldn't, for instance, if
something had happened in the last week and you had notified next of kin, you
wouldn't not tell us because that would be talking about operations.
QUESTION: You would tell us.
CLARKE: We would tell you.
QUESTION: But you might not say where it happened.
CLARKE: Might not.
QUESTION: Would you say what happened? In other words, you wouldn't say someone
died of an automobile accident, for example, it would be --
MALE VOICE: Lying, and the answer is unequivocally no.
QUESTION: Is there any --
MALE VOICE: Let me follow up on this gentleman's question right here about where
individual -- we have said publicly that we have ordered a variety of military
units to deploy to a variety of places around the world.
Now in your example you had a specific country acknowledge that some mixture
of U.S. units was on their soil. Now if I was trying to build a mosaic on that
and I confirmed that, I've got that X in the box. And if another country does
it, I've got another X in the box. And pretty soon, after some number of days
have gone by, I have a complete lay-down of U.S. forces, where they are, and
inherently their capabilities. We are not going to be helpful to help fill in
QUESTION: Are you going to allow press to go with any of those units?
MALE VOICE: That's the issue we're discussing today.
CLARKE: That's what we're looking at.
As we're sitting in this room --
QUESTION: I thought that's why we were doing this so that the media could join
the military on these operations.
CLARKE: It's true, and in some places we can make it happen and some we won't
be able to. It's going to be very difficult, anything with Special Forces, to
make that happen.
QUESTION: Do you really --
QUESTION: -- right?
CLARKE: Certain other ones will be available, but that's what we're working
hard on as we sit here trying to figure out these aspects of it, the people
who are putting this together are looking at a wide variety of options and plans
and contingencies and trying to figure those out. So we're trying to run a couple
of tracks at the same time.
It would be very easy if we knew right now, September 28th, exactly what was
going to happen and where it was going to happen and with whom, but we don't.
So we are trying to put things together.
QUESTION: Days, weeks, months --
QUESTION: Let's say we actually do get some of our people out there. Two issues.
One would be censorship. What kind of censorship do you think you'd be imposing
in terms of what we can see, what we can't see, what we can report, what we
CLARKE: I don't think the choice of the word is correct. Let me say why.
I happen to think that everybody in this room understands and supports, and
I happen to believe every one of your reporters understands and supports that
you won't be writing about, talking about national security, operational matters,
any kind of classified. I have found overwhelmingly people act very very responsibly.
And I think it is totally, totally safe to say that 99.9 percent of the people
who are out there doing their jobs are going to do it well and they're going
to do it responsibly. That is not a concern. When we have people who try to
point out, and the folks who have been on these can weigh in here, they have
more experience than I do, there will be circumstances in which someone will
point out hey, what you just saw is classified information, I'd appreciate it
if you don't do that, and I think most people will respect that.
QUESTION: Fine. I think we're in agreement on that. But beyond that.
CLARKE: There is no beyond that.
QUESTION: During the Persian Gulf there was something called security review.
And it was in the field and then back at the Pentagon. Are you saying that will
not happen this time?
CLARKE: I think we have to come up with a new vocabulary. In the security review,
you help me, it seemed to be very sporadic. There didn't seem to be a lot of
consistency of how it was administered and by whom and those sorts of things.
Again, I just firmly believe that everybody knows the responsibilities, everybody
knows the principles up front, and I think we can count to a great extent that
your people will act responsibly. It's just not a concern on my part.
QUESTION: I would be very worried there because clearly my definition of national
security is going to be different from the U.S. Army's definition. I think in
peacetime it's usually not a problem. But when the balloon goes up it is very
much a problem. I think there should be an effort made to try to refine it a
little bit, rather than just saying we're all concerned about national security
because my experience has been that the military would err on the side of extreme
non-disclosure and --
CLARKE: I don't think that's a fair generalization to make. I just don't.
QUESTION: Well, that's been my experience.
QUESTION: Torie, whatever the vocabulary, are you saying that neither in the
field nor at the Pentagon will anybody review news material produced by pools
before it goes out?
CLARKE: We probably will review it, but just for these very narrow aspects.
QUESTION: But there will be --
QUESTION: Where will it be reviewed?
QUESTION: On that point, weren't people told at the meeting this week that you
won't even allow the use of the last names and home towns of service people
that are being interviewed for stories?
CLARKE: That gets to the safety of the men and women in uniform. That really
does. Things have changed considerably since the Persian Gulf War that makes
their safety even more of a challenge.
QUESTION: Torie, can you explain to us what the issue is here? I'm hearing this
for the first time.
MALE VOICE: I have been told, because I was ignorant in my ways, that that's
not necessarily true. However, in Kosovo we had some rules come out because
of the terrorist threats against family members, that you don't talk about the
family members, etc., etc.
As Ms. Clarke has said, this ain't Kosovo. This is nothing we've dealt with
before. There are going to be limits when we get to the pool -- when any of
you guys get to the scene to cover a story there are going to be some limits
that we'll say please don't discuss location, because of the nature of this
organization don't discuss last names. There are going to be other situations
where they're not going to care if you say this is Joe Schmedlock from lower
Podunk. It's going to be situationally dependent, and that is something that
you should be briefed on before you cover the story so you at least know what
the parameters are and will at least know going into it what your limits are.
QUESTION: Are you saying, for example, a Special Ops person you wouldn't want
to identify that way, but an F-16 pilot you would?
MALE VOICE: I wouldn't say an F-16 pilot. However, a crewmember standing on
the deck of the Enterprise or something, I don't know what the Navy, what that
naval commander's restrictions are going to be. But what I'm saying is that
you guys -- we owe it to you to tell you what they are going in. Whatever that
specific situation is. I cannot stand here and tell you blanket what the situations
MALE VOICE: You'll find a different preference from each and every service member
that you interview in the field. Some will feel comfortable in having you use
their last names and hometowns, some will not.
QUESTION: But it's different if they decide that individually or if you tell
them they can't do it and that we can't do it.
MALE VOICE: What we're asking you is to factor that into your thinking and if
you get different reactions in the field it's going to be predicated on that
person's individual experiences.
QUESTION: That's always the case. I guess the question here is, whether you
want to use the word or not, Torie, there's a long history of military censorship
in this country. We wouldn't expect anything other than that in this case. But
what we need to know is going into this thing, are those sorts of rules going
to be applied on a blanket basis either by a particular service or by the military
as a whole.
CLARKE: What do you mean when you say those sorts of rules?