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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
Con't

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.

CLARKE: Sure.

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: No.

(Laughter)

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 --

CLARKE: Absolutely.

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.

CLARKE: Right.

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 that process.

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 it?

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.

CLARKE: Yes.

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 exact location.

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.

CLARKE: Correct.

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 those boxes.

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 --

(Laughter)

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 can't report.

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 are.

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?

Con't