Thursday, November 29, 2001
(Meeting with DoD National Media Pool bureau chiefs.)
Clarke: I'm sorry I'm late. I got waylaid by the Navy goat upstairs. Could you hear it down here? The Army/Navy Game is Saturday. These guys are used to this, but every year in the days leading up to the big game it just get ridiculous.
I was using my Navy coffee mug, I have mugs for each of the services but I was using my Navy coffee mug this morning and I turned my back and someone upstairs had taken it. Unfairly biased.
But the Navy band and the Navy goat have been running around the hallways all morning and I got stuck. It's a good excuse!
Q: And you're rooting for whom?
Clarke: I'm rooting for them all, it's a wonderful competition. (Laughter)
Bob Timberg: Remember your roots.
Clarke: Very true, Mr. Timberg.
It's been a few weeks so I appreciate you all coming in here. I know I've talked to several of you over the last couple of weeks. I just have a few things to cover and then we'll open it up for the questions and comments and insults.
We continue to brief five days a week. We took Thanksgiving off and those days that we don't brief including the weekends we've tried to have CENTCOM put out some information about what's going on in the war.
We will brief periodically from CENTCOM depending on where General Franks is. I want to significantly improve the technology. We had a sort of patched-together thing the other day which didn't work that well so we're going to try to improve the technology so we can have a true two-way from here. There's not much media in Tampa so we want to make sure the folks here can have access to him when he briefs.
We've been doing quite a few backgrounders and continue to accept suggestions/requests on specific topics. I think those have turned out to be pretty useful.
And as we said, as we put more people on the ground in Afghanistan we'll try to facilitate more media. We have Marines on the ground in Afghanistan. We have started, I'll grant you little bits and pieces, but we have started to get some people in, operating on a pool basis thus far. We just got off the phone with Admiral Quigley who's trying to facilitate the next C-130 scheduled to leave tomorrow? Today, I'm sorry. A C-130 will leave at about 3:00 o'clock our time today to take another seven in. For the time being, for the foreseeable future, we're asking people to operate as pool because we can only take a handful of people in at a time. We are extremely limited by the amount of lift that we can have in and out of Afghanistan, but we will continue to facilitate that as we can.
The other thing Admiral Quigley is doing with folks at CENTCOM is sending a few people to [locations deleted]. This is not for public information for the time being, if you can just use it for your planning purposes. Sending people to [locations deleted] to try to set up some very small media facilities to facilitate some coverage of the activity in those places. Largely the humanitarian assistance variety, but people have an interest, we want to try to facilitate that.
Jeff Goldman: Could you elaborate on that just a little bit? What would that be, a small --
Clarke: It will actually be, because we have to have an acronym, a CPIC. Coalition Press Information Center. So we would work with some of our coalition partners and they will have representatives there as well in those two locations.
Could facilitate, as I said, the coverage of the humanitarian, the medical assistance, the work on the airfields that will take place there, and general multinational efforts.
Howard Arenstein: Reporters would have to get there on their own, or you would take people there?
Clarke: All of the above. There are a lot of media in Afghanistan, so some will get there on their own. To the extent that we get lift and we can provide transportation, we will.
Howard Arenstein: Who would their contacts be? How do they --
Clarke: Right now the best person to contact is Admiral Quigley. I did not bring the numbers down with me but he's based at CENTCOM in Tampa and we will make sure you all have, if you don't, I know most of your correspondents do have his numbers. And Jeff Alderson at the 5th Fleet has been terrific in making these things happen.
Jeff met yesterday afternoon for some time with about 30 or 40 media in Bahrain to talk through some of these issues and talk through some of the ground rules and try to give a sense of what we may have coming up in the days and weeks to come.
The last thing I'd mention is people have been extraordinarily helpful and constructive in their suggestions as we try to figure out travel arrangements with the Secretary. We're working hard on it. I hope to finish up working with my team this week, and then next week have something we can share with you all.
That's all I've got.
Q: Torie, on the press information centers, any idea on timing, when they might be up and running?
Clarke: I hate to give you a date when I can't guarantee delivery, but within the next ten days to two weeks hopefully.
It is still a very, and just from the reporting that you have seen out of Afghanistan, it is still a very uncertain, dangerous place. We care about force protection. Even though reporters will tell us our safety isn't your responsibility, we do care about it. So we are trying to take this one step at a time and as we can get a secure area, and the most critical thing, we can get the transportation, we'll make it happen.
Jeff Goldman, CBS: Torie, for the benefit of your transcriber, Jeff Goldman from CBS.
A question that our bureau chief who I'm filling in for, was wondering, who couldn't make it, how was, in Bahrain, how was CNN selected as the pool for TV to go in on this operation? As far as we understood there was no normal bureau chiefs talk about assigning the pool as they normally do for various things among the networks. How did that come to pass?
Clarke: Two things, and so I don't sound like I'm passing the buck I will fully admit to this gang and others I didn't get dug in as deep on these arrangements over the weekend as I should have, and for that I apologize. I think it could have gone better. I think we could have made it clear from the beginning that this needed to be a pool arrangement, those sorts of things. The honest answer is, Jeff, I don't know. I think Admiral Quigley and Jeff were working a lot on who's been in there the longest, those sorts of things.
I'll try to get you an answer because I don't --
Jeff Goldman, CBS: In Bahrain?
Clarke: Commitment in the region. But I honestly don't know the details of how they picked the rotation. But to the extent we can move people through, the intent, and we are really guided to a large extent by availability of transportation, but the intent is to leave them in there three to seven days, rotate them out, and put another set in.
Q: -- pool. So everything is there including any reporting or on-camera stuff, they have to provide.
Q: Who's going in today?
Clarke: Today, CNN, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Newsweek Magazine.
Howard Arenstein, CBS Radio: I'm representing radio folks who couldn't make it also. Howard Arenstein from CBS Radio.
No radio person on there, no radio person last weekend. Is it possible to get a radio reporter in at some point soon?
Clarke: Yes. When I can't tell you.
I'll tell you, there was a lot going on this weekend and I did not dig in as deeply. I was just pushing really hard from the top saying get them in, get them in, and then once I got that cracked I did not get in as deeply as I should have.
Howard Arenstein: So the best thing to do would be to have some people standing by in Bahrain? Because we need a little bit of advance notice to get people there.
Clarke: Yeah. It helps, it certainly helps if you're there.
Paula Newhouse: Paula Newhouse.
I have one military reporter. I've been keeping him here. He's early on asked to be embedded with Marines, 10th Mountain Division. If I sent him over there, I hate to send him over there to wait because he's the only guy I've got and I'd rather have him here than not doing anything over there. He's been with the Marines in the 10th Mountain Division before.
Do I have to send him to Bahrain for him to ever be included?
Clarke: I think the best thing to do is to talk directly to Admiral Quigley who has the best sense of the queue, if you will, and has the best sense of timing. I want to underscore as I do all the time. There are no guarantees, circumstances can change. We are hopeful that as the days and weeks go on here there is going to be more lift and in and out of the country which makes all of our lives much, much easier. So I just want to underscore the fluidity of the situation. But the best is to talk directly to Admiral Quigley and get a sense of the queue there.
Owen Ullmann, USA Today: Owen Ullmann, USA Today.
I'm a little confused why we had this very elaborate national pool process which was set up to make sure all of the media would be represented fairly, that it would be a good distribution of regional in every way, and that's just sort of sitting, collecting dust. And meanwhile, once again in a very arbitrary fashion you folks sort of choose the pool and there's no rhyme or reason to it. I wonder why we keep meeting with you to sort of talk about coverage issues when you continue to do sort of just what makes sense to you.
You mentioned three East Coast newspapers, all within kind of a 200 miles radius. I don't get it.
Clarke: Gannett's been in there.
Owen Ullmann, USA Today: I'm not even talking for just Gannett. I'm really trying not to speak for me.
Owen Ullmann, USA Today: -- go in, and I'm sure we'll have our chance and everyone else will, but there seems to be a disconnect, Torie, between your pledges to find some fair way for us to cover the war, keeping in mind all the concerns, and then every time something happens in this war it's kind of ad hoc, completely whimsical, and I feel like what's the point of us meeting to talk about how can we work this so everyone is happy when we never come up with a system?
Clarke: I'll push back hard on one thing. There is nothing whimsical about it. It's the furthest thing from whimsical.
Howard Arenstein: -- went out and rented a satellite broadcasting facility, which I have sitting in my bureau in a suitcase that's not being used. And we did that because we're the radio representative of the national pool this quarter.
Clarke: The honest truth is that the DoD national media pool was not an option for going in with the Marines with the first wave of Marines that went in. We had three or four --
Q: -- activated for this. It seems to me this would be a perfect opportunity to activate the national pool.
Clarke: What we're trying to get to as quickly as possible, and even right now. I had to kick and scream yesterday to get seven seats, I guess, instead of five or six. We do not have the means to get the DoD national media pool and the escorts, which is a large number of people in. We just don't have it. They would not be able to get in in that size and scope.
So what we're trying to do as we've said all along, and there are transcripts that attest to this, try to find creative, innovative ways to get around the logistical challenges including using regional pools. Many people around this table are the ones who have said if it's not appropriate or possible for the DoD national media pool then use regional pools.
So the primary interest and concern expressed to us from all of you is find ways to get this to as many people as possible, so that's what we're doing.
Sandy Johnson, AP: I'm Sandy Johnson with the AP.
I think Owen's point is somewhat broader. Ten years ago a group, including some here, sat down and spent many many hours and days trying to put together what was an equitable media plan that covers radio, regional newspapers, the largest newspapers, photos, TV, everything. And I don't think you guys have employed the guidelines, at least, that make sure that every one of those mediums is included even once. Never mind a national pool.
Clarke: The circumstances and the conditions that make the use of the DoD national media pool are different than what we faced over the last couple of months.
So the principles about trying to provide access, trying to facilitate coverage, are absolutely consistent and that's what we're trying to accomplish.
I will fully grant you on this one putting in the first few people with the Marines, we screwed up and I take responsibility for that. I think we handled that very badly.
What we're trying to do now is get a representative group in, have them operate as a pool until pool arrangements are no longer necessary.
I'd just repeat, there is nothing whimsical about it. It is painful, and we spend our days disappointing people for which I apologize. But there has been a fair amount of coverage that has come out of there and hopefully we'll find a lot more going forward.
Doyle McManus, L.A. Times: Torie, Doyle McManus, L.A. Times.
On the current pool arrangement you said, number one, it's limited by lift capability and that governs both the rhythm and the fact that it's pertinent. Okay. You're securing more airfields, you're going to have more lift capability. Where do you expect to be in one week or two weeks?
Clarke: Where we hope to be, and I can't give you numbers because I just don't know. Where we hope to be is that we'll have more people cycling through with the Marines in the southwest part, and we hope to be able to be cycling people through or just letting them, because there are a lot on the ground already in Afghanistan, to what we're doing around [locations deleted].
Doyle McManus, L.A. Times: But your expectation is in the southern part that would have to continue to be a pool rotation?
Clarke: For the foreseeable future. I don't have days. I couldn't even give you a rough estimate on that.
I was talking to a four-star yesterday when I was pushing for more seats and more lift and he just laughed and said if you can find it anywhere let me know because I need it.
Sandy Johnson: To follow up on the rotation, when you say three to seven days and going in and out, is this something that Craig Quigley will sort of try to figure out who's next and to get our people from London --
Clarke: And give them some heads-up, yes.
Sandy Johnson: -- or wherever they're coming from to get to Bahrain to be lifted out with the --
Clarke: Yeah, try to give them some advance notice.
We are --
Q: It's not necessarily always Bahrain, right?
Clarke: Correct. For now that's where they're coming from, and we're really -- again I just want to qualify everything here because that's just reality. Three to seven days. We are at the whim, not the whim, but we're subject to the ability. If we can get people turned around in three days, we'll do it. It might take four or five days depending on when transport is going out.
Gene Marlowe, Media General: Torie, Gene Marlowe with Media General.
What is the status with the national pool now? Is that still an option for you?
Gene Marlowe, Media General: Is it something that you're likely to call up or is it going to continue being ad hoc?
Clarke: I wouldn't characterize it and I don't think it's ad hoc. It's pretty clear what the conditions, the arrangements ought to be for the implementation of the DoD national media pool. We have not seen or experienced those conditions. We just haven't. And it's largely due to the extraordinarily limited ability we have to get people in.
But I'll tell you, as we were seeking input and advice and counsel on developing the arrangements for traveling with the secretary, the media that travels with the secretary, a lot of people took the opportunity to express once again, use the DoD national media pool if you absolutely have to and if the conditions exist that allow you to use it, but push really, really hard for embeds, push really, really hard for doing the pools in as limited a fashion as possible, so that's what we're trying to do.
Howard Arenstein: In '97 the media pool was tested. I was on the plane. You took a KC-135 tanker from Andrews Air Force Base, in two days it was in Tashkent, a whole plane with a crew and it was a TV crew, two correspondents, an AP guy. It was less than ten people.
I don't understand what's preventing that from happening now.
Q: You don't have a tanker?
Clarke: Let me put it this way. What is today, Thursday? When did we send the first ones in with the Marines? Sunday? It was over the weekend.
Late last week the big fight was we knew the Marines were going to be going in. We knew they were going to send some in, very, very limited numbers, shooters in on choppers to assess the situation. Depending on the situation then they were going to bring in larger numbers of Marines with the C-130s.
If I had said the only way we're going to do this with the media is with the DoD national media pool, no one would have gone. No one would have gone. And we'd be sitting here today and you would be screaming and yelling and pitching fits that we didn't get the media in with the first Marines who went into Afghanistan.
Q: Why --
Clarke: Because the number's too large. If you want the DoD national media pool to have done that it wouldn't have happened.
Q: But it was only --
Q: It was less than ten people.
Clarke: Only ten people. We had to fight and kick for the three that went in. I'm just trying to impress upon you how extremely limited the lift is. So you tell me. Would you rather we hadn't done anything?
Q: Well, it doesn't seem to --
Barbara Starr, ABC: Just so I understand, in other words we should advise our people to be directly in touch with Admiral Quigley because he will be the decisionmaking authority as opposed to Jeff Alderson on these rotations?
Clarke: They're working very, very closely together. I think the coordination and the integration is going great. I think they're doing fine --
Barbara Starr: Be in touch with both of them.
Clarke: Be in touch with both of them or either of them, and people can always appeal, which they do, and we talk to Admiral Quigley five, six, eight times a day about these.
Barbara Starr: My other question may be evident to everybody else. What progress is there, or what constants have been put into place now for us to actually get some of this video back? A long term process here.
Clarke: That was one of the things Jeff was talking about yesterday with all the representatives in Bahrain. I don't know the details, but we can try to get them for you.
My understanding from my conversations with Admiral Quigley was the discussions with your people in Bahrain went well, they seem pretty happy with the ability to distribute and disseminate the information. I know there were some problems the first day or so about getting stuff back, actually getting the tape back. But someone has agreed to serve as the source for satellites?
Clarke: God bless AP.
Q: -- in yet?
Barbara Starr: You mentioned that Alderson, and maybe we just have to talk to him, but in terms of what's coming up down the road here, do you have anything you can give us a heads up on?
Clarke: It's very fluid. Just in a general sense the kinds of things we are trying to do, we are hopeful --
Clarke: Right, well that's all we have is trying to get more lift in and out of Afghanistan where the Marines are and then establishing the CPICs in the two areas. That's all we really have and I don't have a date certain.
Tobin Beck, UPI: Tobin Beck from UPI.
With the people that are in there now -- AP, Reuters, Marine Times -- they are set up as a pool?
Tobin Beck, UPI: Where are those pool reports available?
Bryan Whitman: The organizations that are in there have the responsibility for distributing those reports, and you should be talking to those organizations.
Bob Timberg, Baltimore Sun: Wasn't there supposed to be a -- I'm Bob Timberg from the Baltimore Sun.
Wasn't there supposed to be a link, something called MediaLink where pool reports were supposed to show up?
Clarke: That's for the DoD national media pool.
Bob Timberg, Baltimore Sun: Isn't there a way that you could put those pool reports on that?
Clarke: My understanding from Admiral Quigley, the conversations Jeff had in Bahrain with many, many representatives, I think it was 30 or 40, was they felt the system they had in place for distributing it was fine. If there are complaints or concerns, we'll address them.
Q: I don't --
Q: -- get anything.
Q: -- pool. We just cannot have something so we can call the people who are there, but --
Clarke: We will find out and e-mail you all this afternoon.
Francis Kohn, AFP: I just want to follow up on what you said earlier on the rules, because AFP, we feel we have been excluded from the rotation. I understand for the first one, but for the one tonight, you said there were some kind of rules, you mentioned commitments. We have been there since the beginning and we have been there even before some of those people who are going to go tonight apparently, and we are not in there.
So what are the rules?
Clarke: The answer is if you've had conversations with Admiral Quigley or Jeff Alderson, they can explain. What have they told you?
Francis Kohn: Well, we were left yesterday with the strong possibility that we'll be on, but from the list that you mention, we are not on.
Clarke: All I can say is they're trying to be, we are trying to be as fair and equitable as possible and trying to get people through as quickly as possible, so we'll continue to work on it.
Maria Mann, AFP: Maria Mann from AFP.
At MacDill, we had the same problem when Secretary Rumsfeld was there. Reuters was the pool, but then AP got into it and we didn't. We were there. Besides having Jim Mannion on the plane with Rumsfeld, and had someone on the ground for photo, and were just told that nobody could help us. That they didn't want to hear anything we'd say. And it was Admiral Quigley and --
Q: Are you talking about --
Maria Mann, AFP: The reporter was there because he was traveling with the secretary.
Lt. Col. Vic Warzinski: -- to MacDill Air Base was a photo op only, and we did eventually work in the AFP with photographer --
Maria Mann, AFP: Yes, but I was just wondering why we have to fight for that every time. Why can't AFP just be recognized as one of the three major wire --
Voice: We recognize you.
CENTCOM made a decision to add AP, and at that point we had to add AFP as well.
Maria Mann, AFP: That's what happens when there are two and then one's left out. It's very bizarre.
Vic Warzinski: Understood. We worked it out on the ground as best we could then.
Francisco: Francisco, again. I hope we can work that with Afghanistan and to be there as soon as possible considering AP and Reuters --
Clarke: I appreciate the commitment AFP has made to this place on an ongoing basis, to the Department of Defense activities on an ongoing basis, and I appreciate the reach, who you reach on a regular basis. So on an ongoing basis, we will try to have you included to the greatest extent possible.
I say this a lot, but it's true. At the end of the day we're never going to make everybody happy all the time.
Maria Mann: It's very apparent from this side of the table.
Bob Timberg, Baltimore Sun: Again, on the access of the pool reports, you're going to check on that?
Clarke: I had asked them to address it and the response back, Bob, and I apologize, the response back was all the conversations seemed to believe that it was getting distributed fine and people were happy with the arrangements. Clearly not, so we will look into it and we will e-mail you this afternoon, here's what we're doing to address it.
Wendy Wilkinson NBC: Torie, Wendy Wilkinson with NBC. Can I just ask a question about, if there's any change in the status when we started this rotation of DoD media pool, we were told that the INMARSAT, the military INMARSAT was not working, the one that has been used before for pools, for feeding out pool material and we're pretty much on our own. And I think everyone, including the networks, made their own arrangements to just deal with what they could deal with technically.
I was just wondering if there was any change in whether that equipment is up and working. It might be of some help to some of the people who were holding stuff back now.
Clarke: You're right. Let me look into it. I don't know the answer but let me look into it. I think you're right. To the extent we can provide the abilities and means to help you all get your job done, that's what we're here for.
Wendy Wilkinson: We have some of the equipment here for some of these folks. I don't know.
Q: I think when they exercised the pool it was not operating. That was quite awhile ago.
Q: We have (inaudible) sitting in our bureau right now. That's what I mentioned, in a suitcase, ready to go.
Sandy Johnson: I have a question about the 10th Mountain, which is now starting to move into northern Afghanistan. Do you -- how soon do you think you might be moving some reporters in with that group? And would that be from Bahrain also?
Clarke: The people working to set up the centers are leaving, I believe, tomorrow. Tomorrow's Friday. It will take them a couple of days to get there, and I think we'll have a better assessment early next week. We can give you a better estimate.
Sandy Johnson: Are you talking about the CPIC thing?
Sandy Johnson: But I don't know that people have found the Pakistan center terribly helpful. I think everyone here would prefer that you move reporters in like you are with the Marines, with the units.
Clarke: Oh, what the CPICs are for is to facilitate that kind of access. That's what they're for.
Q: Move --
Clarke: Not to name any particular country, but countries in the region, there's not a lot of interest on those countries' parts for us to facilitate a lot of access to U.S. forces. That may be one of the concerns about the place you mentioned.
But the reason we're setting up, or trying to set up these CPICs is so we can facilitate access to the U.S. forces and others. They are going to be multinational press centers. Access to U.S. forces and others in Afghanistan.
Sandy Johnson: So they would be the one to set up any embeds with the 10th Mountain?
Clarke: They would be included. And still, the number of 10th Mountain in Afghanistan is very small.
Doyle McManus: To follow on that, if they're not going to be up and running until early next week, 10 days, two weeks?
Clarke: Our guys will get there in the next couple of days and start to set things up.
Doyle McManus: If we would like to explore the opportunities for embedding with the 10th some day before that ten-day window, where's the right door to knock on?
Clarke: Really Admiral Quigley and us. Consider it knocked upon. It's going to be very difficult because of the small numbers of them but we can take it up. I know people at the 10th Mountain would like to make --
Q: The right place to be, presumably, is on the Afghan side of the fence since they're coming from --
Q: -- that don't exist.
Clarke: Correct. Don't acknowledge our existence with them.
Q: Do you see any other embeds in the near future?
Clarke: No, not right now. It's a very fluid situation, but that's all I see right now.
Q: Would you send any from stateside, or do you think they'll all originate in the --
Clarke: It is just such an uncertain situation it's hard to make definitive statements like that. But primarily from the region.
Howard Arenstein: Are there any plans for Kabul, to set up any sort of a CPIC in Kabul?
Clarke: None that I've heard of. Again, I want to repeat, and I know you all take this into consideration with your people, but very uncertain, unstable conditions. It is still a dangerous place. And we do have concerns about that.
I had a conversation with a very senior defense official the other day about these very matters. The senior defense official was saying we've really got to worry about these people. Several journalists have already been killed. I said the fact of the matter is they accept the responsibilities and they accept the risks that go along with it. The senior defense official said, "I still care." And we do. So we're taking it very seriously.
Jerry Seib, Wall Street Journal: Jerry Seib with the Wall Street Journal.
To go back to the briefing point that you touched on at the outset, do you anticipate a rotation, a regular schedule of MacDill briefings as opposed to Pentagon briefings? Or is it going to be more sporadic?
Clarke: I would say periodic. Not regular. What we really try to do is bring different people through. The secretary obviously, General Myers, the vice chairman, the deputy, Admiral Stufflebeem, myself, we try to bring different people on an as appropriate and as available basis. It would be wonderful to have General Franks available for more briefings. He's extraordinarily busy, so trying to facilitate it from down there helps. We've got to greatly improve the technology side of things. I personally don't think it's adequate to have it just piped in here to be listened to. We want to get it done and we're working on it hard this week to get it done so we can have a real two-way, so the Pentagon press corps and your correspondents who are based here can easily ask him questions and get answers.
Jeff Goldman: As a follow up to that, how much advance notice can they give say if the networks need to pool a camera for those briefings so we can have a camera crew and truck in place. We need a little bit of advance time. I'm not saying --
Clarke: Probably about 24 hours.
Voice: We try to get an advisory out within 24 hours. CENTCOM, they did the same thing for their one they just did. They put out an advisory.
Q: I think CBS did not know about the pool arrangement, as far as I know.
Clarke: In Florida?
Q: Yeah. We heard about it in the morning.
Clarke: You want to get on this side of the table.
Q: Nor did we.
Q: We heard in the morning that CNN was serving as pool, but other than that we thought it was going to be unilateral.
Q: I think the reason for that was because it ended up, the pool that was with Rumsfeld ended up being the pool for the entire event, and so that's a Washington-based pool.
Clarke: But there's a common thread here which is our failing, and I will try to correct. We need to do a better job of informing you all of arrangements on these sorts of things.
A lot of this stuff doesn't get pulled together quickly. It wasn't until late in the afternoon the day before that we decided the secretary and the chairman would be going down. And I admit, quite often we're going so hard on the actual events that we don't take care of the care and feeding of logistics the way we should. So on all of these things clearly we can do a better job of communicating with you all, and the e-mail seems to work pretty well if that's okay with you.
We talk to your correspondents here all the time obviously, but just so we don't miss anybody we'll try to do a better job of alerting you to the logistics of it.
Tobin Beck, UPI: Again, as I sit here and listen -- Again, Tobin Beck from UPI. Several things are disturbing. One, that the media can't get in because there's not enough lift. That the media should stay out because it's too dangerous. Which means, following those points out to their logical conclusion means the media wouldn't be able to get in until basically everything's done which --
Clarke: I don't think that's --
Tobin Beck, UPI: I'm wondering if it might be worthwhile to set up a group from among this group or something to look at what's worked so far and what hasn't, to make recommendations for the future, because as the nature of warfare is changing, technology and everything else, I think it would be worthwhile to look at these things, particularly with the concerns that have been raised by people about the national media pool, the fact the pool hasn't deployed, to look at maybe we should be rethinking how we're doing this.
Clarke: Always ready, willing and able to rethink and think about things again. We've said repeatedly, a very unconventional time. I know everyone says a very unconventional time, unconventional circumstances. Any unconventional thinking we can bring to this discussion, we're happy to kick around. If you want to do it in this forum or create a new one, absolutely happy to do it.
But I want to push back on one thing. I don't think it's correct or right to say if you draw this out to your logical conclusion there won't be any media there until it's all over.
Well for starters, it's not going to be over for some time. Secondly, we went to extraordinary lengths to get media in with the very first Marines who were going into Afghanistan. Extraordinary lengths. And that should not be forgotten.
I only mention the risks because we do care about them and there are a lot of people in terms of U.S. forces on the ground in Afghanistan, a good bit of their time and attention is focused on the mission as it should be. So I want to push back hard on that. But any time anybody wants to talk to this forum, another one, the folks at Brookings, I met with Stephen Hess last week and he said he wants to do another bomb threat free session over at Brookings sometime after the first of the year to kick around some more of these things.
I think the intent is right. Let's get to these things before they become huge problems. Let's continue to just accept the fact that this is going to be an ongoing challenge and we should always be working it. Rather than having, after the fact, looking out to the future whenever this is all over those God-awful seminars, what went wrong?
Kim Hume, Fox News: Kim Hume at Fox News.
Looking forward, if there are other countries, other, as the war on terror continues in its unusual way, is Bahrain looking like sort of a central location for the U.S. military public affairs? In other words I think if there are other countries that we have operations in and we don't hear about them for a couple of weeks, but when we do hear about them is Bahrain a good place to be?
Clarke: Where and when we go next is so above my pay grade. To pull out the talking point we've made very clear, the war on terrorism is not just about Afghanistan. There are other places --
Kim Hume, Fox News: My point is --
Clarke: I just can't -- Kim, it's a business decision for you all, but I can't sit here and as a matter of policy say hmm, you want to be headed to that region of the world; or no, this is the region of the world.
Kim Hume, Fox News: -- what went wrong.
If we use the experience that we already have in this war, I mean in this theater in Afghanistan, we can make some predictions about the kinds of operations that might be conducted in other places. You can just imagine that it would be similar. That's what, it seems to me, what we would have to do in terms of our planning.
We sort of found out about Bahrain by accident, in the sense that that's where the ships were being deployed from, and we were very kindly informed to show up in Bahrain because there was a chance we would get on a ship, which I appreciated very much.
But I'm just trying to figure out, because we're going to go through the same upset and uproar when there's an operation in some other country in the Middle Eastern region and we're going to be yelling and screaming about how come we didn't know and why didn't we get in and why wasn't the pool deployed and all of that, and I'm just trying to figure out the best place to be so that we can recover if it comes up. And you obviously don't know.
Clarke: I can't say.
Kathy Lewis, Dallas Morning News: Kathy Lewis, Dallas Morning News.
You mentioned weekends, at the beginning doing more, not briefings, but what? You're doing more postings on the weekends?
Clarke: CENTCOM puts out -- we do a little morning snapshot, here's what happened yesterday just with some facts and figures about sorties and those sorts of things and they have been putting those out.
Kathy Lewis, Dallas Morning News: So the weekends have at times been a challenge.
Clarke: Right. But we always put out the paper. The press office has been manned constantly with the exception of Thanksgiving Day.
Bryan Whitman: That's the only day we haven't had somebody in the office. But every Saturday and Sunday, normal daylight hours you can find somebody there.
Clarke: Everyone can or should have my home phone number, and feel free to use it. That's what it's for. If you don't have it, it's [Home phone number deleted from public transcript. Duty press officer may be reached via (703) 675-5131.] We are 24x7.
Q: -- reports on the weekends? Is that on the web?
Clarke: A piece of paper gets sent up here and --
Voice: We're doing it through the press office. If you call the press office you can get the information.
Q: Is it posted on DefenseLink?
Voice: It's not actually posted, but we make it available there and we'll talk you through, anybody that calls us we'll talk through it.
Q: Is it possible you could add it to DefenseLink?
Q: It would be an easy way to --
Q: -- a little bit of a time line --
Q: You could do both. I'm not saying --
Clarke: We could post it.
Bob Timberg: Post it on what?
Clarke: On DefenseLink.
Hi, gentlemen. Did you get caught up with the Navy band?
Clark Hoyt: No, but we had an unfortunate encounter with Metro.
Clarke: Oh, sorry.
Clark Hoyt: The Blue Line stopped at Arlington Cemetery and said that's as far as we go today.
Clarke: So you got a little exercise?
Q: They eventually got it.
Q: Your plan worked. (Laughter)
Clarke: This is the grump side of the room. (Laughter)
Q: We sat down in the right place after that.
Clarke: That's all we've got. (Laughter) You guys can stay for a special remedial session, if you like.
Clark Hoyt: Would you mind repeating everything?
Q: I want to thank you. We did get our --
Clarke: McCune's people have been extraordinary. Thank you. I saw them in the hallway the other day with it on. It was very funny, people were trying to get their hard passes, and they're walking in sort of holding the paper out.