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ASD PA Clarke Meeting With Bureau Chiefs

Presenter: Victoria Clarke ASD (PA)
June 20, 2002 10:00 AM EDT

(Bureau Chiefs Meeting. Also participating was Bryan Whitman, DASD(PA), Media Operations)

Clarke: Thanks for coming by. We just have a couple of things that we'll go through and then open it up for whatever anybody wants.

On the photography on the Pentagon reservation. First and foremost, thanks to everybody who put so much time and effort and thought into that process, and working through drafts and trying to get to the place where everyone agreed the intent was to allow people who work in the news business to do their jobs.

Some of you know, because Brian talked to some of you while we were off on 18 different countries, but the harder we try to come up with words you could put on a piece of paper that satisfied everybody, the more clear it became you just couldn't do it.

So after long painful conversations and discussions, we've decided not to have a new and different piece of paper but to continue to do what we have done pretty intently here for the last couple of months, which is pay very close attention to this relationship, work even more closely with Chief Jester and his team than we have before, and make sure people can get the job done.

We have had a couple of, I won't say incidents, but we've had a couple of events over the last month or so, six weeks, in which people wanted to shoot something that was out there and the security people said this might be a concern, but people from public affairs got on it right away and it was resolved to everybody's satisfaction.

So the good news is I think everybody, particularly on our side, has been sensitized to the need to have enough people to staff things when someone wants to go out there and shoot something, and the intent to get to the bottom of things and resolve them quickly. So no new and different piece of paper but I think a good new attitude going forward. I've talked to Chief Jester several times and have said that I will come down and meet with his people on a regular basis, he'll spend more time up here. We're ready, willing and able to meet with you all and your correspondents any time you want. So I think we're in pretty good shape in terms of people understanding what we have to do to make this work.

Q: Can you give us a 30-second description of the other two incidents?

Q: And how they were involved.

Whitman: Actually they were both electronic media/television incidents.

One was where a network believed that they had had proper clearance and everything they needed to be using the Pentagon as a backdrop for a live shot that they were doing for one of their morning shows, a 7:09 shot. They arrived, started to set up. DPS arrived and was unaware of their intent and observed that they didn't have an escort. Questioned them. Of course the crew that was setting up was unaware of any coordination that had taken place. DPS immediately called their desk who called me and asked if they had approval. The reporter immediately called his desk, the crew called their desk, and simultaneously I was receiving a call from the network. I was able to tell the Defense Protective Agency to go ahead and allow them to continue to set up because this was at 6:45, 6:50 now and they were timed for a 7:09 live shot. We went a public affairs officer to the scene. The word got back to the crews that they would be able to continue to set up as it did to DPS and they made their 7:09 shot. So --

Q: Who was the network?

Whitman: It was CBS that was actually doing a shot out there.

Q: Bryan, was there any effort to adjust the camera angle or anything like that?

Whitman: No. In this particular case there was no force protection issue. It was just they were on the reservation, they were shooting, and they had the renovated area in the backdrop, and that was key to the setting that the organization was trying to have for their shot.

Q: And they weren't on the overpass, they were actually on --

Whitman: They were actually on the reservation itself. So that's what alerted DPS that there were people out there with cameras, and when they went to investigate it they couldn't find that there was appropriate clearance and they didn't have an escort. But they did the right thing. They called the desk immediately, called me. Just as the crew did exactly the right thing, they called their desk. They could have called me also, they could have called the public affairs shop, but they had immediate contact with their desk. The morning person called me right away, and simultaneously we were able to talk on the phone, send a public affairs person there, tell DPS we had somebody en-route, let them continue to set it up because at 7:09 they want to go live and we'll have somebody there in three or four minutes.

Q: Had they actually gone through the proper clearances? And if so, do you know why that wasn't conveyed to DPS?

Whitman: They had made contact the day before, and I believe that they had done all the right and reasonable things to do, and in my assessment it did not get passed on to the shift in the morning that was there.

I think everybody was doing the right thing in that case and everybody's goals and objectives were met.

The second incident was one in which we had a partial evacuation of the Pentagon that was going on because of some cleaning solvent, paint thinner, something that had, the fumes had permeated a portion of the building and there were some people that had been evacuated. There was a television crew, an NBC crew in this particular case, that was outside and happened to be there and had gone to the scene, whatever. They were doing some photography of people that were basically coming out of the building. A security person, DPS officer became concerned that there may be some force protection issues that were visible in the picture itself -- monitors, detectors -- raised the issue with the photographer, asked the photographer if they could review the film, the photographer agreed but said he had another assignment to go to, passed the tape to the Defense Protective Service officer who brought it immediately to me. I took it across the hall, Jim Miklaszewski and I put it into the machine, looked at it, DPS left it up to my judgment. I saw no issues of force protection and the tape was surrendered and I think it was given back to NBC. I think the whole process probably took ten minutes at the most.

Q: What about the issue of arrests, which was the original incident? If we have crews that are out there and something is happening, do they shoot it and then suffer the consequences? What is the process or the rule?

Whitman: Well, it starts to get into the hypothetical.

Clarke: Yeah, but the process hopefully, and I feel pretty confident, having many conversations with Chief Jester about this, it isn't their desire or intent to arrest people, that's not what they're about. And if we just have people trained, sensitized enough to what we're supposed to try to do here, if we have enough people available, enough public affairs people available to jump on things quickly, the we should be in pretty good shape.

Q: If we shoot an arrest that is happening without permission, our guys will be busted. That's what you're telling us?

Clarke: I don't think you can make that strong a conclusion.

Whitman: What you're getting at is some of the discussions that we had in trying to draft the guidelines which there are, this is a military installation and there are statutes that provide for protection of the reservation, and as we tried to make a special category within that or a special provision for news media, we weren't able to agree on exactly all the provisions. I think in the end it's going to have to be left up to our collective good judgment in addressing each of these issues as they come up.

Q: But the guide to our photographers is what I'm trying to clarify here. Tell them to go ahead and shoot it and then we'll see what happens and we'll work it out bureaucratically.

Clarke: Right. Work it out bureaucratically, but work it out very very quickly. We've put the onus on ourselves to make sure we have enough people who know what to do and know to do it quickly.

I've told Chief Jester I want to come down and meet with his people three or four times a year because he has new people in, he's training people constantly, just to remind them of what we're trying to do here.

The thing that everybody talks about, Jamie McIntyre is not here but he put his finger on it, what's important is intent. You can put all the words you want on paper, but if people don't have the intent, it's not going to work. I think people have the intent to do the right thing.

Whitman: If it gets rapidly to your attention and our attention, the people around this table, we can resolve it pretty quick. It's when we leave it at the individual officer and the photographer on the scene trying to solve the problem without involving us around the table that we can run into some problems.

They're very much more aware. Like I said, this incident has raised the level of sensitivity to this and our attention, not just on our side but also with the photographers out there. The CBS photographer knew enough to immediately contact the desk and say hey, can you call public affairs, I don't have their number. Can you call public affairs and make sure the coordination is right, and this is the situation we're up against, and we have a live shot in 15 or 20 minutes, can you help us out.

Q: Would you review the shot or would you just look at where that person's been shooting?

Whitman: Again, it's case dependent. In this particular case, the second example that I gave you, because no one was on the scene immediately and because the photographer was going off to something else and didn't have an issue with letting us review the tape, that was a case where we took the tape and just reviewed it. If we were to get somebody on the scene, for example, a DPS officer was with an individual and they were photographing, we got to the scene, we were able to take a look at it and we didn't see that there were any issues there, we would try and resolve it right there on the spot and probably not have to do a review.

Q: You could do the same thing with the digital cameras.

Whitman: Exactly. Digital cameras. The part where it gets a little bit more difficult would be with film, and again, we would try to make those judgments on the spot there based on what the individual was observing and photographing to try to ensure that there weren't any issues. But I could have resolved the same one with the evacuation if I had done it out there, looking at what the photographer was shooting. I could have made that call there. But in this particular case the people on the scene determined that there wasn't anything that was so urgent that he had to feed the tape anywhere or take the tape somewhere. He was confident that DPS would bring it to public affairs, and that public affairs would be able to get it back to the network.

So there's a trust factor there that appears to be working too.

Clarke: Any more on that one?

Q: So you're not going to change the wording in the draft for DPS either. You're going to leave it alone.

Clarke: Yeah. But as I said, I plan to go down and meet with Chief Jester's folks three, four time a year, and every once in awhile I'll ask a few of you if anybody wants to come. Putting faces to names and them seeing that everybody on both sides of the fence here is human is very helpful. And obviously if something really bad happens and it doesn't work, then we'll revisit.

The only other thing I was going to raise is that we've been having these pretty consistently, upset by travel and things like that, but the attendance is coming down a little bit, some of the bureau chiefs are sending correspondents instead of bureau chiefs. No big problem there. But I'm just wondering for the, maybe for the next several weeks, couple of months, whatever, we just take a break from doing these on a regular basis. Do them on an as-needed setup. But it's up to you guys. We're happy to do it.

Q: Get that guidance on the rocks? [Laughter]

Clarke: -- no guidance on the rocks.

Q: I don't have a problem with that. I'd just like you to say that of course you'd be receptive to a meeting on our motion.

Clarke: Oh, absolutely. We'll meet with you any time you want. We just gauge the level of interest and the number of issues has dwindled considerably. So rather than having people -- And I know, I'd like to say we can completely control our schedule. I know we change it often on you for which I apologize. But rather than have people be planning, okay, thinking about this every couple of weeks, let's just not do them for now, start them up again whenever you want, and of course it doesn't have to be on -- It can be on anything you want.

Anything else?

Q: Can I ask a self-serving question?

Clarke: Sure. But identify yourself for your self-serving question.

Q: Carl Lusdorf of the Dallas Morning News.

We got a notice in March that we would be on the pool rotation in the third quarter but there's been nothing since then. Is there still a national media pool --

Clarke: There is. There definitely still is.

Q: Are the new letters going out soon?

[Multiple voices]

Q: letter saying [inaudible] -- third quarter, and I called Colonel, I forget his name now. His name was on the letter, which was from Captain Taylor, and he said there would be something soon.

Whitman: What you're looking for is the deployer's meeting.

Q: That's what I was looking for, yes.

Whitman: That's coming up. The letter goes out to you to notify you that you're on the next rotation and then the deployer's meeting is usually within about two weeks of the next window opening, the new rotation.

Q: The last time there was any action with the pool was the time they went to Andrews, I guess.

Clarke: Right.

Q: Maria Mann, ASP.

Photos still have not been on a trip in a fair amount of time. I'm wondering if there's any reason for that?

Q: The cut appears to be around --

Q: It's pretty --

Q: right at the next seat.

Clarke: We'll continue pushing for seats. When we put together trips like that last one where it was really three separate trips, it takes a lot in terms of the staff, but we will keep pushing

Q: Any chance of our moving up to six? [Laughter]

Clarke: Anybody want to volunteer?

[No response]

Q: Jim Albrecht from Reuters.

Guantanamo. There was a change of command down there in the not too recent past and things have significantly changed, probably for the worst, at least in our estimation, when they moved the detainees from the fences to the modulars that they built. It's very very difficult to work with them at all. Basically nothing.

Is that going to get -- They're in, they're secured. I understand during the movement everything was very tight, but is there any chance of loosening things down there a little bit so we can see actually what things look like -- The only images we have are the roof of the building because it's built down into a bit of a hill there.

And is there any other timeframe on the tribunals or any idea that if and when they do tribunals that we have some structure for how we're going to do that?

Clarke: Commissions. We don't call them tribunals. Commissions.

For starters, Bryan deserves a ton of credit for keeping the access to Guantanamo going. It's not surprising as you get new leadership and they're getting their footing and all that, there are any number of people who would rather there was no access whatsoever to Guantanamo, at all. I fight the good fight when I'm here, and Bryan was working 24x7 while we were gone, ensuring that we could maintain some sort of access. I know from your perspective it is not ideal. There are big, big, big concerns about security and any images, anything by way of descriptions of how these facilities are structured, how the security works could be very problematic if it gets out.

So I don't want to raise your hopes. I would just say let the new leadership get settled, get used to what they're doing and the routine there, and we can always revisit it.

Q: As a point here, you know that because we don't have new images, even vague images of inmates or detainees that frozen in time is the image of these guys totally shackled, on their knees, being dragged around. That's the image we use and that's the image --

Clarke: I just saw some the other day because somebody's doing something on the commissions, so don't let me forget to come back to that. I've seen lots of other images of them when they're walking, during their exercise time, and things like that.

But I take your point. We argue all the time the more visibility the more transparency the more people realize how well these detainees are being treated. Lawyers can make a very very good argument that by permitting even that we are holding -- Everybody around here's heard these arguments before. We are holding these people up for some sort of public ridicule and humiliation, which will then be held against us if and when they ever do go through some sort of legal process. So it's really really hard, and we are hanging on, and every day practically Bryan goes to battle to make sure we can hold on to the kind of access we have.

And there are some, to give you all the thoughts that go around on this, there are some who say it won't matter what we did with these detainees, if we built a Ritz Carlton there and gave them that kind of accommodation, there are people and groups around the world who will give us enormous amounts of grief for it so you're sort of damned if you do, damned if you don't, is the way some people look at it.

But we we'll keep trying. As I said, let's let the new guys get their feet on the ground, feel more comfortable with what they're processing systems are, and we'll try again.

Q: Is there even any combat camera footage that could be vetted?

Clarke: It can always be vetted. Not much, is the short answer.

For instance on the new facilities, and I don't disagree with them necessarily not wanting any images or descriptions of how these things are constructed or how the doors are built, those sorts of things because it's information people could use.

Q: Obviously we're not looking for the security issue as much as we are just showing that they're in some kind of humane area, other than they're not in a fenced in open area any more, but we have done something to give these people some structure and, in the Secretary's words, that maybe they'd be protected in the idea that a hurricane rolled in there quickly and they wouldn't all be at least drowned in the fences. But if there was some kind of view that we could -- and I understand the security concerns and we don't doubt that. Just something to get with an image.

Clarke: We'll try again.

Q: Sandy Johnson, AP.

This isn't really a question so much as a request. The number of embeds over in the theater have dwindled to a very small trickle. One that was ongoing last week was a Stars & Stripes reporter. The group that he was with when they went to the helicopter crash scene, he was literally in the helicopter, then pulled out at the last minute.

So we would like there to be more embeds over there, and when there are embeds that reporters and people with them understand ground rules, and we understood that we were there for the good, the bad and the ugly.

Clarke: Right.

Q: In this case he was pulled off.

Clarke: I didn't know about that one, but we'll find out.

Q: We had a story on it.

The second thing is that I don't believe that there are embeds with Special Ops since the first of the year when there were several. From our vantage point, and I believe from yours, everything went well during that and since Special Ops tends to be doing most of the action over there now, if we could have another round of those.

Clarke: We've got another effort moving through the pipeline, if you will, to try to make some more of those happen. The level of activity is such you're not going to have dozens and dozens of these things going on. But we are working with the Joint Staff on that right now.

Q: On Special Ops specifically?

Clarke: Yes.

Anybody else?

Q: One more thing.

As you do planning for Iraq, there's a request that you keep media, getting the media in there as quickly as possible [inaudible] as well. Some of us have local hires in the region and of course we can get there through Turkey, but the easiest way to get into Iraq.

Clarke: Reviewed and noted.

Q: [inaudible] Larkson, [inaudible].

We have five staff photographers who are coming here on a regular basis but it's not always the same person. I think only one of them at this point has a permanent pass. I know that Bryan's working on that for us, but I was wondering if there's a way to get permanent practices for those five so they don't have to [inaudible].

Clarke: It's difficult. We aren't the only ones trying to get permanent passes for the building, and security obviously is different now than it was before 9/11. It's a fairly reasonable criteria, I think, that people need to be in the building on a pretty regular basis. We try very hard, if somebody wants to come here and cover something they just need to call us and we'll get them an escort. I know it's not ideal, but we can always work on it, but there are just so many times we can ask them to make exceptions for us.

Whitman: Everyone should realize that receiving a building pass doesn't guarantee you access if you haven't been using it. The same thing applies to anybody, even me. If I were to go away for six months and try to come back and use my building pass and run it through the turnstile, most likely I would get the red, do not enter, not the green and the gates opening up for me.

So certainly the press and media are not being singled out. In fact we've been able to achieve more liberal standards for you than for any other category of employee, whether it be concessionaires or contractors. So we're working pretty hard on that, but we're probably at the threshold of where we can be right now.

Q: Two elements of concern for us on that. One is when all hell's breaking loose they can't get in here in time, they can't do it.

The other one is in the conversations that we had before when we were talking about how things were handled for breaking news, these are outside the building too, there was some mention that DPS has some recognition of the building pass. I mean our guys carry passes. They carry White House and they carry the Hill and things like that. But the DPS guys

Whitman: It's a means of identifying somebody as being somebody that regularly comes to the building and not just a person out there with a camera. It's not intended to be a credential, it's a building pass. It does do a lot of that I agree.

Q: It's just that they're here almost every day, but it's not always the same person because of the staffing rotation. It's not the same person every time.

Q: I'm sure you've had these discussions with individual people, but as you know, we're all on planning stages for September 11th coverage. Do you have any sense at all that you can, for planning purposes only, that you can share with us about any events or celebrations on the compound that we should be aware of?

Clarke: It's very much a work in progress. We'll take our lead to a large extent from what the White House wants to do. I think, I'm quite confident the bulk of our activity will be here. An individual basis, facilities around the country may be doing different things, but I'm very confident the Secretary plans to be here, I think most of the senior leadership plans to be here. So we will have something. We've got a team of people, it's practically a company already that's begun to work on that.

Q: [inaudible]

Clarke: Exactly. That's about it for now. But we're starting to crank it up so hopefully in the next few weeks we can fill you in a little bit more.

Q: Thank you.

Q: A question about the passes, to clarify it. I think the rule is you have to use it what, twice a week?

Clarke: Twice a week.

Q: But I assume that's not being absolutely enforced.

Whitman: There are obviously some tolerances built into the system. I guess you might equate it to the IRS codes. [Laughter] I'm not going to tell you exactly what the thresholds are, but even I go on vacation from time to time, not very often.

Clarke: Not any more bucko.

Whitman: And it's accepted that reporters will go on assignments, photographers will be sent to other places for periods of two and three weeks at a time. It's when somebody isn't around for a month or two months that the system will recognize that and say back to public affairs, hey, why are you sponsoring this building pass? It's not being used.

Q: discussion about this last summer before all this happened. That was the concern, was that there would be quiet periods and people who would be the regular designated person wouldn't come here in a quiet period and then suddenly when something happens couldn't get in.

Clarke: They don't get deactivated completely, do they?

Whitman: They will --

Clarke: What I mean by that is, say if somebody doesn't show up for two months if they had a building pass, it's easier for that to be reactivated than starting --

Whitman: justification. We have to go back and explain why it is that this person was in Bosnia for two months, was assigned overseas, whatever. And those are pretty easy to recoup. It's when it's been either expired for many months or a person hasn't come to the building for a long period of time, that it makes it difficult for us to make the case that this is a person that's coming here regularly and should have a building pass.

Q: I understand that.

Q: I shouldn't say anything, but I haven't had trouble and I've been traveling a lot. I haven't had trouble getting into the building.

Whitman: I'll make a note of that. [Laughter]

Clarke: This is Andrea Stone, USA Today.

Q: Your thoughts on the commissions?

Clarke: Yeah, I'm sorry.

We don't have anybody that's been picked or targeted to go through one. There is a strong dose of, to the extent possible if and when a commission would take place to make them open for coverage and open to a certain extent to the public. Again, we don't have a location, we don't have facilities, those sorts of things, so I don't know how many bodies you're talking about. But that was clearly in the guidelines and the criteria, if you will.

Again, hypothetically speaking, if one takes place there are going to be some real security concerns and there will be certain aspects of it that might be closed down because of classified information. But to the extent possible, and I think it was the language, I haven't looked at it in a long time, was to the greatest extent possible permit coverage and access to. So it's accounted for in there.

I'll try to dig it out for you.

Q: Just to rehash the initial -- Bill Gertz, Washington Times.

Initially there was going to be some new joint statement of coverage on the reservation here.

Clarke: In terms of the issue of photography on the reservation, yeah.

Q: And instead of that there's just going to be the Pentagon's old rules as stated in some form.

Clarke: And a very clearly stated intent, and I think we've been demonstrating it in words and actions to do everything possible to allow your folks to cover things that go on at the Pentagon, things that happen on the Pentagon reservation including breaking news. What precipitated this was news broke out and there was some confusion, to put it nicely, about whether or not it was permitted.

One of the conversations we had included Jamie McIntyre who said something that I think is quite true. You can have all the words you want on paper but if the intent isn't to allow these people to do their job it's not going to work.

I am quite confident based on the amount of work that a lot of people around this table, Jim's one of them, Chief Jester's people, the lawyers put into this, the intent clearly is to let your folks do their job and get the images. What we need to do, which we've already put in place, is to make sure we meet regularly with Chief Jester and his people. He has new people and people in different levels of training and orientation, to make sure they understand what the guidelines are and the procedures are.

We have very clear guidelines and procedures about what to do when something like this happens. We have over the last six months had two incidents where the guidelines and procedures have worked. So we all came to a place where we think it's better to try to follow through on that sort of intent and action than to try to find a piece of paper that everyone thinks is perfect. It was impossible.

Q: I agree with that. I wasn't in favor of any kind of a joint agreement there.

Clarke: Okay.

Anybody else?

(No response)

Thanks for coming by. Isn't this better than the room in the basement?

Q: Definitely.

Q: It's nice to be out of there.