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

QUESTION: Torie, could you place this principle in the historical context that many of us are familiar with, and that is that you protect information about future operations but you are forthcoming about historical events. Obviously everybody here knows about the operational security rules, about writing, publishing, broadcasting future operations. Why can't we find out about past operations?

MALE VOICE: I think there's been two important shifts since the Gulf War. The Gulf War had an air war of 28 days, a ground war of 100 hours. It was over in a finite amount of time and it was clear early on we were going to win and win big.

We're now in a protracted long-term struggle. We're going to be using special tactics, techniques and procedures. While the military has always prized the element of surprise, you don't want the enemy to know exactly what you're going to do when you're going to do it. Now it's even more important to build on that and to not reveal exactly what we're doing. Even historically. Because what that does is it takes away our ability to use those special tactics, techniques and procedures freely in the future. We have laid out to them exactly how we're doing it. We want this very shadowy opposition to stay confused, to stay off center.

The other point I'd like to make in terms of what's changed since the Gulf War is that we are facing a shadowy opposition that has said they will specifically strike at all Americans, will make no distinction between military and civilian. They practice asymmetrical tactics. They're not going to take us on head on. And on September 11th, they demonstrated both of those principles. They used the asymmetric, unconventional warfare, they killed a lot of civilians. So as in the past we may have been even encouraging the building of public support by telling family stories -- my spouse is off in this distant land fighting. Now we have the very real possibility that in this shadowy conflict, since they can't get that [deleted] soldier, instead they target the family. And it would be very easily done if they've got a high media profile. And the effect on morale would be absolutely disastrous.

QUESTION: Part of operational security, at the briefing on Tuesday, it wasn't clear to me whether while the pool is activated, if you have a member of the pool, that they're being held incommunicado, or if they've got a (inaudible) with them from the organization. I know they can't file through us, but can they call their home office and then say when this is over here's where I want to go?

CLARKE: I can't imagine they wouldn't be able to talk to their home office. And you tell me, in the past they've not been allowed to?

QUESTION: No, I was saying that at the briefing it wasn't clear whether they were going to be held incommunicado while the pool was in operation.

QUIGLEY: There will be a brief period of time where you will be held incommunicado. When you get that phone call in the middle of the night that says it's time, get to Andrews, during that period of time then that is a sure sign that we are about to start a military operation. So during that period of time, yes, that's true. You can't call your boss and say --

CLARKE: You're talking about once they're out there, right?

QUESTION: I'm talking about once they're out there, yes.

MALE VOICE: -- and it depends on what the scenario is. If it works and we get you guys to the scene before it happens, I would be loathe to have you call back to your significant other to say well here I am at da da da and I'll be home in about four days.

CLARKE: Maybe.

MALE VOICE: I'm not trying to be flippant. But if the balloon has gone up and the fighting is going on, and probably just before unilateral coverage is decided upon, probably I would let you call back to your significant others.

QUESTION: The answer you're giving me is it depends. If we're there in advance, then --

MALE VOICE: I would say that absolutely, at some point, if the pool is used at some point there's going to be a decision made that unilateral coverage is possible, and your representative, your deployee, is going to have a choice to fall in on unilateral coverage there or be supported by you or to fly back with us. When that decision is made, absolutely, call back and say I'm coming home. I don't have a problem with that.

QUESTION: But while the pool is operating, before you've gone unilateral, there might be a time they can check in with the home office or families depending on the circumstances.

MALE VOICE: There might be, yes.

MALE VOICE: There's always a way for a reporter to say to me or one of the escorts, I need to contact my bureau chief, for us to call back and say, and to get that going. That's not a challenge. But to have you call with a cell phone directly back to somebody other than the bureau chief -- it starts to get really screwy.

As I explained, not screwy, but detailed, let me put it that way.

As I explained to the deployers, if we call the media pool out and the deployers are told to go to Andrews Air Force Base, don't have your wife drive you to Andrews Air Force Base. Get in a taxicab and let them drive you. Because if your wife has driven you to Andrews then there's one extra person who now knows that somebody is going out to cover a story on the military. Operational security --

(Laughter -- multiple voices)

MALE VOICE: The cab driver doesn't know you're a reporter for CNN.

QUESTION: You're not going to tell your wife I'm going out for days?


QUESTION: After we give you these suggestions will you get back to us with some --

CLARKE: Absolutely. We're going to ask you for suggestions on several things. There is a homework assignment, and the secretary of Defense can sit down and write the stuff down and ask me any questions. What was it, Wednesday night I went up to his office about 6:45 and stayed until about 8:30 because he was talking about this and asking questions and writing things down and all that. I really ask you guys to take a hard look at the existing ground rules on the pool, on the existing principles of information, these documents that were worked out with a lot of hard work and effort on your part and your people's part, which I appreciate. And after a lot of thinking and gnashing of teeth, maybe that's the way they are. But all I'm saying is in this new world we should all be giving some time and some thought and say are there other things we should be considering. So take them with you, give us feedback, you can send them to me -- We're going to give you a contact sheet, you can give it to any of us, and yeah, we will keep coming back to you all as we work through this, and we will have more meetings and calls.

QUESTION: The time part of this I'm having some trouble with. We're talking about if a pool is activated, we're beginning to think about the possibility of embedding people. You've got troops on the move right now and we're not a part of it. Do we have any reason to think we're going to be a part of it any time soon? Or do these new factors in this war mean that we're going to be kept out of it for a long time?

CLARKE: No. That is not the intent at all. The intent is to try to make you all part of it from the very beginning.


CLARKE: That would be great.

QUESTION: -- more people over there as opposed to the commanders on the ground, as opposed to (inaudible) with you?

CLARKE: There are so many uncertainties. It's hard to say. The only advice I can give you is that we're planning for a bunch of different contingencies and not to tell you how to do your business but if I were in your shoes I would be planning for a bunch of different contingencies. I wish we could just sit here and say this is what's going to happen for the next six months. Week by week, day by day. We divided you all up and we've been incredibly fair and equal about it and here's -- we just can't.

QUESTION: Basically what you're saying is there may be regional pools and there may be national pools. There may be embedding but you don't know when. We may have access to units but not Special Forces.

CLARKE: Very unlikely.

QUESTION: Not Special Forces, and a lot of the early parts might be Special Forces, of course.

QUESTION: And we might not be allowed to write about historical events.

QUESTION: And at some point we'll find out whether we get any role in these --

CLARKE: Correct.

QUESTION: What's the expectation once the pool is called up, for how long the pool would be called out?

MALE VOICE: In the ideal scenario a pool would last about two days. And in this day of ubiquitous news coverage, I can't imagine it lasting more than a few days because you guys are going to be on the scene in swarms.

QUESTION: Then it would transition into --

MALE VOICE: As soon as the Unified Command establishes a JIB, a Joint Information Bureau, and there's a lot of you guys out there, the decision's going to be made to cut it loose.

QUESTION: A lot of these places are places where you can't get to in swarms quickly.

MALE VOICE: The pool will last as long as it needs to, but ideally, two to four days, something around there. In Southwest Asia, in Desert Shield and Desert Storm it lasted for weeks, I guess.

QUESTION: But there will be a JIB at some point where there is a significant operation, is that what you're saying?

MALE VOICE: There should be, yes, sir.

MALE VOICE: We don't know that.

MALE VOICE: We don't know, but there should be.

QUESTION: Then you would (inaudible) -- once the JIB was established then there would be some sort of regular overall big picture briefing?

CLARKE: Oh, yeah.

QUESTION: I think the scenario is there would be a pool there for a couple of days, then it becomes unilateral. The JIB, (inaudible) out here, and most of the countries in which you're operating is not a realistic scenario. So therefore, it seems to me that that seems to be about the last likely scenario. (inaudible) put a JIB, and particularly (inaudible). So I think you need to look at whether the pools will be longer, the pool will be bigger, the pool will be configured differently. But I think the idea that this will go on for two days and then something being wide open, that's not the kind of situation we're looking at on the ground anywhere.

CLARKE: Well, it's a good point. As I was saying at the beginning, the conventional wisdom of, the usual thinking about the national media pool is get it up and get it gone as quickly as possible. This ain't conventional. So maybe --

QUESTION: I'm also getting (inaudible), it may well have to go on for a longer time, or if the location is --

CLARKE: I'm agreeing with you.


QUESTION: Why have a pool at all and why not go right to the embedding?

CLARKE: Because with the uncertainties of what may or may not happen, I think it's best for us to prepare for all possibilities. I think we'd be doing a disservice to you all if we didn't prepare for every possibility under the sun. I really do.

QUESTION: Torie, I have to say listening to all of this, it's hard for me to figure out how the CINCs who are dealing with the same kind of uncertainties, are not going to look at all of us with all of our satellite phones and ability to transmit instantly and go thank you very much, I'm going to confiscate all of that, you guys can't do anything. But if they're going to go tighter rather than looser, whatever gets said from here. I believe in the sincerity of everything that's been said here, but I just can't imagine human nature in the situation that you're describing not making this one hell of a mess for us.

CLARKE: Well, I can tell you what the experience has been thus far, and what the statements of support and understanding have been thus far, and I can tell you, it's a priority of ours to make sure they understand what the desire is from the secretary on down, to make these sorts of things happen. And we're going to do our best to make sure they understand that and they act upon it. If appeals are necessary, you can make appeals. These people with their cell phones, their satellite phones, everything else, they know how to reach us. They can say hey, we're getting --

QUESTION: Can we assume that anybody who's on the list, you will assume wants to be embedded or do you want us to tell you individually?

CLARKE: I would think that's probably a safe assumption.


QUESTION: I would like to make a suggestion. On the embedding, I think the concern is that obviously timing, as soon as people are embedded or the pool is activated, that's going to be a signal that something's going to happen, and I know that you'd be concerned about that, so I would suggest that if people were embedded that they could be understood that this was, could be a long term thing and that they could be rotated out, another reporter could take their spot if it turned out to be a long time, and I think that would be one way to get around the time problem.

CLARKE: Good idea.

MALE VOICE: At some point the national media pool -- Desert Shield/Desert Storm as an example. I was not there, but the pool had been there for a couple of weeks, it's well known that things are going on, the pool is there. The opsec in terms of getting media in and out and replacing your reporters is not going to be that big a challenge, I would think. The bureau chief calls and says I need to pull one and replace him with another, I'm assuming that we can make those things happen.

QUESTION: You're going to hear back from us --

CLARKE: Monday?

QUESTION: Great ideas and Monday we're going to get back to you with the rules of the road, or Tuesday or --

CLARKE: It depends on when you get back to us on Monday. But let's say Tuesday at the earliest, Wednesday at the latest. And let me just say as a blanket statement, there is no (inaudible) involved. There's no tablet that comes down from on high and says this is the way it will be and this is the way it will be from now until kingdom come. This will be a very changing, evolving, fluid situation that we're in, and hopefully we'll be sitting down ever X number of times that it takes. If it's every week, we'll do it. If it's every month we'll do it. But things will change, and we should all be open minded and flexible enough to change with that.

So yes, we will put out next week where we think things stand based on your input and the input of the people who work for you, but I fully reserve and support the right to say two weeks from now we might need to revisit it.

Thank you all very very much for coming out here on a Friday.