Thursday, October 18, 2001
(Meeting with DoD National Media Pool bureau chiefs. Also participating: Victoria Clarke, assistant secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.)
Rumsfeld: I thought I'd stop down and just say hello and say that I am delighted with the sessions that have been held and the discussions that have gone forward and that we're very sincerely anxious to see if we can't worry these things through in a way that makes sense from all of our standpoints. I understand some of the folks here have been involved in this a decade ago.
I've been over the principles and have no problem with them. It is a different time and this is a different conflict and things do change. I don't know quite what I'd want to change about them except one word that leapt out at me that I'm sure you must have discussed at great length ten years ago, and it doesn't bother me at all that it's in there. If I were you it would bother me, I think. That's the word censorship.
It struck me when I read it just fresh, having not seen it, that were I in your shoes I would try not to have that in there because it would rule out certain kinds of things that conceivably one could be involved in where they would be perfectly willing to have that be the arrangement before the fact. But as I say, I'm perfectly comfortable with them the way they're written.
The only thing that's unclear in my mind is, I've read them, I've not inhaled them. I've taken them --
Clarke: Bad word, Mr. Secretary. (Laughter)
Rumsfeld: Until we go through a few weeks and maybe a month or two more of this it's not clear to me that I'm going to fully understand how they're going to apply in the current circumstance, but anything can always be adjusted if it makes sense and everyone's comfortable with that, if it proves to the be case.
With that, I'll stop and respond to questions or hear comments.
Press: Mr. Secretary, I'm Clark Hoyt from Knight-Ridder, and I'm one of those who spent many hours over here in this building with Pete Williams and then with Secretary Cheney on those principles.
Are we to take what you're saying today as an endorsement of them, an acceptance of them now?
Press: And therefore --
Rumsfeld: Subject to the caveats that I made. It's entirely possible that as we go along I, or you, or others may find there are some things that need to be tweaked. I don't know what they are. I'm just not smart enough to see around four corners.
Press: But at least they provide us now going forward a basis on which to --
Rumsfeld: They seem to.
Press: -- to deal with each other on issues of military coverage.
Rumsfeld: Uh huh.
Press: My main concern was the issue of briefings, and I think that's pretty much been addressed. In the last couple of weeks there was an indication that we might only be getting briefings twice a week, and my point was, that I felt, and I think a lot of us felt, that it was very important to have regular briefings, daily, as long as there's a high operations tempo. So I'm satisfied with the fact that we are having briefings.
As for the issue of censorship, I agree with that, too. And one that --
Rumsfeld: What? The paper or --
Press: That it's a problem.
In the sense that if there had been a formal declaration of war then I think it would be understandable, but the administration, for whatever reason, hasn't really done that yet. So I would agree with you, that that would be a problem as well.
Rumsfeld: The reason it jangled in my head was I can conceive, in fact I've talked with some of the members of the Pentagon press corps, I can conceive of a situation where people would not be able to be involved in something unless they agreed beforehand that they would allow their work to be looked at and changed or censored, if you will, to use a harsh word. From my standpoint, that's fine. But I would have thought that from this group's standpoint they would have preferred to have at least a choice which the principles don't offer.
Press: Actually there were originally ten proposed principles, as you know from the history, and the tenth had to do with censorship or security review, and ultimately we didn't agree on the ten principles.
Press: Mr. Secretary, one of the principles, as I recall, I don't have them here with me, is when U.S. combat forces are deployed that they will be covered by reporters.
Right now we have at least 1,000 U.S. troops in Uzbekistan and an undetermined number in Pakistan not being covered by anybody. Can we do something to bring principle and reality together?
Rumsfeld: This is something -- I think you were in the last group when we talked about this. I don't know what the answer to that is. Obviously from our standpoint, we're happy to. The problem is, we're in a country that is not happy to. And to adhere to the letter of the principle would require that we not be in that country, which would be detrimental to our effort. Clearly that's not our first choice.
We see things that we can do and places we can do them and make those arrangements, and we tend to make them, as I'm sure you've all noted, on a basis that is acceptable to them and acceptable to us. In many instances around the world that means that they have the right to characterize what it is they're doing and they have the right to limit the people who come into their country. To the extent they have rules and procedures which we recommend against and we make requests that they do it our way rather than their way, but to the extent they prefer to do it their way, and our only choice then is either doing it their way or not doing it at all, and we feel that doing it their way is advantageous to our effort, clearly we have to do that.
Press: Is that the explanation why reporters who are in Uzbekistan and have gotten the permission of the government to be there apparently are having difficulty getting access to U.S. military units there?
Rumsfeld: I don't know. My impression was that, and I just have to go back and check and see where the glitch is.
Press: In that case it's not being in the country. They're in the --
Rumsfeld: I know there are reporters in the country. I can check that. I have a feeling there are reporters in the country but the -- I don't want to say this, but let's take a hypothetical situation. Let's say there's a country where there are reporters in the country and where we have some troops in the country and where the government prefers that the presence of those troops not be reported on. Therefore, they have rules that reporters in the country not spend time in close proximity to those bases or those troops. That is what my understanding is. I could be wrong.
Clarke: That's approximately where we are right now.
Press: To follow up on that point, Owen Ullmann from USA Today.
What about efforts we've tried to make to get reporters on Kitty Hawk? (Inaudible) foreign country and we're told no, that won't happen. Maybe you can elaborate, explain, we'd like to hear from you directly --
Clarke: Correction. We have not said no, that won't happen. We've said that it's something we're working on and that there are obvious concerns and considerations.
Press: I'd like to know what are the prospects for us getting reporters on the Kitty Hawk. And more broadly, can you address the whole issue of allowing reporters access to cover different aspects of this campaign, whether it's activating the national pool, whether it's --
Rumsfeld: The what?
Press: The national media pool which we were told probably will not be activated. Basically, give us your sense of how can we cover the campaign?
Rumsfeld: Well, first with respect to the Kitty Hawk it's a subject I've discussed with the CINC and it is something that's under discussion. Were it to happen, obviously, it would have to be done under very careful rules and stipulations as to who can do what.
I can't give you my feeling as to how we should cover this, how we can. I think you're asking me that which I don't know. You all know your business an awful lot better than I do, and the business I'm supposed to know about is something that's evolving as we go along, and the Pentagon has a piece of it and only a piece of it. The other pieces are in Treasury, in State, in the White House, the Justice Department, in law enforcement. There's lots of elements to it. So I would think one would, in answer to your question, what you have to do is to recognize that the way you're currently arranged may or may not be appropriate for what is happening, just as I'm finding that the Pentagon arrangements may or may not be appropriate and the U.S. government arrangements may or may not be appropriate because this is something that is different, it is not your Mark 1, Mod 2 war where you pull off the shelf a plan and say okay, execute it or tweak it and execute it. It is very, very different.
It's forcing me and this department to constantly turn things upside down and ask ourselves is what we are currently doing compatible with what we think we ought to be doing, and are there things we're not doing at all that we ought to be doing, and how ought we to be thinking about these things? It is a very intellectually challenging process that we're going through. I spent most of my time on it not trying to figure out how you fit into it, to be very honest. Torie, on the other hand, keeps tugging and pushing at me on it, and as a result I've had several meetings with members of the Pentagon press corps on the subject where we have addressed it, and Torie and her associates and I have addressed it several times. I have read through the materials, and I now have it clear in my mind that it's important that how we do this makes a difference to the country. Not just to the people in this room, but to the country, and it makes a difference unquestionably to the success of this. So we intend to spend whatever amount of time it takes to think it through.
It is not likely that I or Torie or even you are going to be capable of looking down the road far enough to say this is how we ought to best behave or how you ought to best behave, or how those rules of a decade ago that fit a different time and a different circumstances, a different set of threats and a different set of people might be improved to fit this new circumstance. Just as we're having to change our organizational structures and our command structures and other things.
Press: Howard Arenstein, CBS Radio.
As a potential Pentagon pool deployee, we got ready and it seemed imminent that the pool was going to be going somewhere, and now it seems as though it's not going to be going somewhere. We formed this pool nationally just, it seems, for situations like this. And a lot of us are asking, we have this pool, under what circumstances will we ever be deployed if not now?
Rumsfeld: If we had a war that was traditional, if we were engaging a country directly across a front of some kind, we would do what you said, and we would just take out the old rubber stamp and say okay, cool, all the rules apply, everything's the same, go. Go do that. This is the place to go. Give yourself a place to go.
There are places where things are happening. They change. Some are public, some are less public. It is -- I'd be happy to mobilize the pool and send you off but I frankly would not know where to send you.
Press: Sir, short of inventing --
Rumsfeld: -- we're talking about it. It's under discussion.
Press: This might be an opportunity for the pool short of unilateral setting.
Rumsfeld: It might be.
Press: -- the Pentagon (inaudible) -- a couple of days ago off the record that (inaudible) helpful, and I'm wondering if you can do more of those kinds of things, beyond (inaudible) --
Clarke: -- backgrounder.
Staff: A DIA guy.
Rumsfeld: Fair enough. One of the calibrations that has to be made is -- first of all, I think we've had a lot of briefings, haven't we?
Clarke: We've done some --
Rumsfeld: We've been going what, a couple of weeks?
Clarke: We've done some [18 to 20] --
Rumsfeld: In two weeks. It seems like a month!
We've done quite a few briefings, at least I feel like I have, and there have been others who have done them. Again, it's not clear to me that the rhythm of a daily briefing or twice daily briefing is or isn't appropriate depending on what it is that is to be communicated.
I know that if we've seen things we thought ought to be communicated, we were happy to have a briefing. If we saw things that seemed to be running off track, we were happy to have a briefing. And try to tap it back in the right direction so there wouldn't be miscommunications or misunderstandings that are inevitable when lots of people are talking about lots of different things. And we will try to have briefings.
It is not a standard situation where you would go out and -- I didn't read the papers, I read a couple of clips about a whole lot of focus on the airfields. On what basis are we talking here?
Clarke: It's on the record.
Rumsfeld: Fine. It's been nice to see you. (Laughter) Glad you all dropped by.
Press: Thanks for staying since the Ford Administration, sir.
Rumsfeld: Turn in your badges when you leave. (Laughter)
Press: You have the option of going off the record.
Rumsfeld: Let me think about what I was going to say and how I want to say it.
Well, I sensed this morning that there was a high focus on a single thing that was seen given an importance that it might not merit. There's a tendency with daily briefings for that to happen. That is to say for, because of the appetite, that you'll end up mis-serving by contributing to a focus on micro pieces of this thing that are distracting and not interesting or significant. And that they end up having a significance in the media well beyond what they merit. But it's not for me to make those kinds of judgments, I suppose. We'll --
Press: Without a briefing, though, to enlighten us (inaudible) from your standpoint.
Press: The State Department has a daily briefing, the White House has a daily briefing, whether there's news or not. And I think that in these times --
Rumsfeld: By gosh, we ought to, too. (Laughter)
Press: I wouldn't put it that way, but I think that because the public appetite for information on what the armed forces are doing is unlimited and passionate, I would just appeal to you that I think at this time that I think a daily briefing is essential.
Rumsfeld: Let's hear it for the essential daily briefing, however hollow and empty it might be. (Laughter) We'll do it. Five days a week, not seven.
Press: You don't have to make it hollow. You know, you can answer questions.
Rumsfeld: We try. I do my best. (Laughter)
Press: You don't have to say we have nothing for you. I mean --
Rumsfeld: We have what?
Press: You don't have to say we have nothing for you so that what they do is --
Rumsfeld: Is that what they do? Announce they have nothing for you and then answer questions?
Rumsfeld: We can do that. There isn't any reason we can't be available. Someone's available for questions always.
Clarke: Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Rumsfeld: Yeah. So that problem is solved, done. (Laughter) A standing ovation.
Press: -- point of view by being merely with this Northern Alliance and not having people in the field, and that's why we've been asking for a pool report or people to have access to the troops.
You're saying we have this focus on something you don't want us to be focused on. If we had more people in the field --
Rumsfeld: No, I didn't say I didn't want you to be focused on it. I said I questioned the risk that something can gain importance that it doesn't merit. It's not for me --
Press: It would be easier for us to judge the situation objectively if we had more people where they could see what was really going on.
Rumsfeld: I'm sure there are reporters with the Northern Alliance. You're talking to them. I'm sure there are reporters from different countries talking to the tribes in the south. No one's stopping anyone from doing that. The United States is not in a position at the present time to do that for individuals or a pool or a large number. That I know.
Press: I know this is probably being incorporated into other planning, but the issue of embedding reporters with special operations forces. I know, again, other questions, the Kitty Hawk, relate to those. But as a general rule, if this is a different kind of war I think we need to find a way to be able to cover those special operations forces since they are going to be playing a part in this conflict.
Rumsfeld: That of course is a fair comment and it is something that needs to be addressed and we're thinking about how one might do that. Clearly, if you're talking about very small numbers of people you can't embed anything in there without altering it. If you're talking about things that happen in a very short timeframe, you cannot embed anything in there without putting everything at risk and altering it.
If you're talking about larger numbers over longer periods of time, then clearly the question of embedding something in there is a fair question.
Clarke: Thank you, sir.
Press: Mr. Secretary, some of this is really not rocket science. Special forces troops start some place, go some place, return some place. I'm not saying we necessarily need 100 reporters to cover them when they return, but there are a number of quite competent reporters, reporters who you I think consider competent, who we could send to talk to them. These things can be done.
Rumsfeld: I don't quite know how to take that.
Press: These things can be done. And when American --
Rumsfeld: Oh, I agree. I said that.
Press: When American troops are deployed --
Rumsfeld: I said we're considering the Kitty Hawk right now.
Press: -- there should be a way for reporters to cover them.
Rumsfeld: I understand that. I didn't say it was rocket science. He was talking about embedding in special op activity, and you are talking about the subject that came up earlier which is the Kitty Hawk --
Press: No, I'm not just talking about the Kitty Hawk.
Rumsfeld: -- or something like that.
Press: Mr. Secretary, you said things change.
Rumsfeld: They do.
Press: They're going to change a lot during this.
Rumsfeld: Uh huh.
Press: And I think that obviously the military has to be very agile and we have to be very agile. Hopefully we can somehow work together and provide the kind of access that does not create problems for you but allows us to do our job.
Rumsfeld: That's our hope.
Press: Because we're not, as you know, communists.
Press: -- debrief units when they come out of the field.
Press: That's all we're talking about.
Rumsfeld: I understand.
Press: My guess is it would probably be a pretty good story.
Rumsfeld: That's not the measure for us.
Press: I understand.
Rumsfeld: Accurate stories. Okay. Thank you very much.
Press: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Okay, other questions?
Press: Seriously, the idea remains -- You were talking yesterday about the idea that you were looking for a way to deal with special ops, possibly debriefing on the way out. It strikes me and maybe some others here that that would be a way in which --
Clarke: Uh huh.
Press: -- use people to do something if you had a mobile pool --
Clarke: Right, it's a different kind of pool.
Press: -- Kitty Hawk --
Press: But they would be briefed and then provide information on what had happened.
Clarke: Right. Those are the kinds of things we're looking at. I said to Sandy yesterday we probably have 15, 20, 50 different scenarios of the kinds of things we can do, and it's a combination of us talking with right now the CentCom people, the special ops people, going through those. But to repeat the obvious, we're all going to have to be very creative and very open minded about how we do this. It won't be the exact same model each time. One time it may be a very small pool, another time it might be larger.
Press: But he asked the question where would a pool be used. That would be a place a pool could be used.
Clarke: And we agree.
Press: Time seems to be of the essence, Torie, and things are underway right now. You say you have these options on the table. When will some of this come to fruition so we'll know about embedding (inaudible) opportunities in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan --
Clarke: It's ongoing and it will be ongoing. We had conversations yesterday --
Press: Torie, we can't quite hear you down here.
Clarke: I'm sorry.
The conversations are ongoing. The question was, when are we going to have some of these things actually happen, whether it's the pools or the embedding or whatever, and it's ongoing and it's fluid and it will continue to change and evolve as we go on. I don't have a date certain for you on when some thing is going to happen.
Press: What plans do you have to help us cover ground forces in the region?
Clarke: What ground forces are you talking about?
Press: Whatever ground forces are in the region.
Clarke: Right now, as everyone knows, we've got the 10th Mountain folks in Uzbekistan and we are working on, as the secretary said, trying to facilitate some coverage of that.
Press: Could you give us some idea of the options that are being considered?
Clarke: Setting up a JIB [joint information bureau], using the pool, embedding.
Press: Where would the JIB be based?
Clarke: We don't know yet.
Press: Are there places that we can apply pressure, or the State Department? I don't quite understand, you're talking about issues and implying that the Uzbeki government -- Yet they're letting reporters operate quite freely in there. What we don't have access to are the U.S. military forces.
Clarke: I think he addressed that. You've heard the secretary say again and again, you've heard all of us say, we are very careful and we are very sensitive to the concerns of different countries. We've been getting a lot of support around the world in different ways, some of which you can see, some of which you can't see, but we are very sensitive to their internal concerns, and there seems to be a concern on the part of Uzbekistan now that they don't want a lot of coverage of U.S. troops that are there, so we're being very sensitive to that. I don't know if that's going to stay that way forever, but we're working it through with our policy people.
Press: Torie, (inaudible) -- because when our reporter in Tashkent asked the chief Uzbek government spokesman, he said the Americans don't want reporters there.
Clarke: And I heard an Uzbek spokesman the other day on NPR I think it was saying you've heard everything you need to hear from our President. You don't need more. So you get different versions of that as well.
Press: So if we get Uzbek government permission --
Clarke: I'm sorry?
Press: So if we got Uzbek government permission --
Clarke: It would certainly help. Our guys would want to have more conversations with them, which they are, to make sure they're okay with it, but it would help.
Press: Torie, you corrected Owen when he said we're being told that there's no chance of getting on the Kitty Hawk.
Clarke: He said we had said there was no chance of getting on the Kitty Hawk. That is not true.
Press: Well I'm not sure you said -- what we're being advised on the ground there is that there is no chance for --
Clarke: Well, I'm speaking for the secretary.
Press: There's some kind of disconnect, though, because as you said on the call yesterday you're considering it and working on it, and I think all of us who have people there are getting the same word back from there which is they're being told on the scene you're wasting your time.
Clarke: I'm tempted to paraphrase the secretary's line from the other day. I go with the secretary.
Press: Can I get back to the issue about the daily news coverage?
Press: I think having a daily briefing is very important. If you feel you don't have anything to say on the record, background briefings -- as was mentioned, there was a very useful one the other day.
Clarke: What are the sorts of topics on background briefings?
Press: For instance, if the secretary thinks that because at the briefing yesterday we focused too much on this airfield, that's what he was saying. You know, a background briefing saying look, let's put this in perspective.
We want to do a good job. We want to write as much as we can that's accurate and we need all the help we can get.
Clarke: Well what are the sorts of topics?
Press: It could be everything from use of ground troops, it could be use of land-based aircraft, it could be new types of weaponry, it could be the role of the Northern Alliance and whether we're going to be there as advisors. It could be any number of topics. I'm not a military expert myself.
Press: Penetrating munitions, for example.
Press: During the Gulf War oftentimes the service chiefs or a deputy would come out and brief about what the Navy's doing, what the Army's doing.
Press: If you had gunships there, if you had C-130s, someone briefing just on that aircraft. And if you're willing to talk about if there's a new version of it that's being used, or at least generically. If you're using F-15s, what is their significance. If you are introducing new weaponry that you're willing to talk about it would be very helpful, even if it's a tutorial to help, whether it's with graphics or just explaining it.
The appetite for this story is unlimited, as I said, and we want to work with you. We understand your concerns. But there has to be I think daily access at any number of levels to help us do this story accurately.
Press: (inaudible) about what platform (inaudible) -- and so on. That would be a good topic.
Press: And just for a point of reference, they would not be off the record, which is my --
Clarke: We could do background.
Press: Off the record is not useful.
Clarke: I agree.
Press: The weather, the geography, issues about is it to our advantage, is it against us. I can think of all kinds of issues that could be discussed. If you want to do a hypothetical without dealing with direct operations.
Press: I think we're talking about two things. One is some kind of system for getting in-depth into the story and dealing with various things that come up, which we don't know what will be at issue in two weeks from now. The other is regular daily access so that every day we wake up and there are reports out of Pakistan that this happened, out of the Northern Alliance that that happened, and it's hard to tell what the truth. You all have (inaudible) sorts of information. We can't write anything that you're saying unless you say it, but if we wrote about, we focused on something too much, obviously someone said something that prompted that because if we hadn't discussed it we couldn't have written it.
Clarke: With all due respect to daily briefings, I can look around this room right now and think of five correspondents I talked to last night after 9 p.m. We answer questions, inquiries, provide advice and information 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And your correspondents are extraordinarily good at it. And we are constantly helping your correspondents saying what else do you need, what else do you want?
I am a huge believer of these backgrounders. I think they can be very helpful and very useful and provide a lot of context. But the notion that somehow we're not providing information, or may not be --
Press: We're not saying that.
Clarke: No, that is what you are suggesting.
Clarke: That's what you are suggesting. I'm going to push back hard on that. The notion --
Press: It's in your interest, too, to make it clear what's going on, and you might actually get fewer calls after 9 o'clock at night.
Clarke: I think we're doing a pretty good job of saying what's going on within the constraints of operational security. And I take this from all of your correspondents, many of whom have walked in and made a point of saying to us, you know, I don't know what some of the complaining's about, or I read the transcript from the last meeting, but you guys are really helping us out.
Press: -- you said you would have briefings on Tuesdays and Thursdays and (inaudible) every day, so --
Clarke: And let me push back on that. If you go back and look at the transcript. I can't remember what the question was, but I said there is a desire to return to some normalcy around here along the lines of Tuesday/Thursday briefings. And I said for a couple of reasons, as we have pointed out many times. This will go on for years, not weeks. This is a marathon, not a sprint. There are a lot of correspondents with whom we have a lot of responsibilities who care about a lot of other issues. They care about what's happening with weapon systems, they care about what's happening in the industry, some of those sorts of things. And they are regularly in our faces saying hey, you're not addressing these things, we don't get them addressed in our briefings. There are a lot of competing concerns here. But let's be accurate about these things.
And if you just look at the accessibility and visibility of him, it's been pretty extraordinary.
Press: We appreciate the fact that you obviously have decided to do daily briefings.
Clarke: We have not. Don't put words in my mouth.
Press: -- do it.
Press: At this point it's not that we're complaining about what you've done, we're saying keep it up, and provide that accessibility.
Clarke: You don't say that unless you're pushed to say it, but go ahead.
Press: No, I don't think that's true.
Press: We're not being pushed to say that. I'm just saying keep it up. I think it's a good idea to have briefings, and whether they're background or on the record, and Carl's point that every morning when we wake up there are all these reports and they're not reliable. The Northern Alliance says X and it may not be true. They have reasons for embellishing it. We need to have some good source of information.
If you want us all to call individually, have our reporters call, we will do that. But it seems there are efficient ways to do it all at once, and it's really your call, but it just strikes us all to have an opportunity in an open forum to answer a lot of these questions and not have to do it all individually.
Press: Torie, could you interpret something the secretary said earlier? I didn't have a copy of the press pool --
Clarke: -- go ahead.
Press: I didn't have a copy of the principles in front of me when he was talking and I was somewhat taken aback at his use of the word censorship. I couldn't remember it, but it was ten years ago.
Clarke: It's in there a couple of places.
Press: I can't find it in here. I don't see the word anywhere. And I don't remember us ever, ever introducing that word.
Press: I'm looking at the statement of principles, news coverage of combat.
Clarke: It's a different document.
Press: That's not what we were talking about.
Press: The Secretary was talking about the nine principles, I thought, and --
Press: That's what we agreed to disagree on --
Press: Security review is a term that's in there.
Clarke: We need to rename the document because it is confusing.
Press: I just want to understand what he's saying.
Clarke: The free flow of general military information shall be made available without censorship or propaganda. This is the working one. This is not the original one.
Press: No, that's the original one.
Clarke: Are you sure? I don't think so.
Press: Yes, it is.
Press: I believe that's a unilateral DoD statement of information, right? That's not the same thing.
Clarke: You're right. This is what he was talking about.
Press: What is it?
Clarke: This is the principles of information, how do you characterize it, those involved in the --
Press: -- confirmed every time in a new administration. That's the one he's working on now.
Press: That's not what we've been talking about.
Clarke: The statement of DoD principles -- he was talking about the first one. This one he's looked at and says he doesn't see any problems with it.
Press: Which one?
Clarke: This one.
Press: (inaudible) Okay.
Press: That's what I wanted to understand. And just so we're clear about it, there is nothing in those nine principles about censorship.
Clarke: No, he was talking about the other document.
Press: The nine principles --
Clarke: He said he has no --
Press: And then just so we do understand it, I was frankly a little mystified about what he was saying about now that we've established censorship isn't in there, what is it he was saying about censorship? What was he saying we thought we would object to or want to do differently? I couldn't understand that.
Clarke: He's said pretty often that he thinks if you put in the guidelines, if you have the appropriate standards, if you will, in advance, there are certain things that cannot and should be covered such as classified information, then people should feel free to do what it is they want to do. The media should feel free to do the kinds of things they want to do, with all the understanding up front about operational security and classified information and the warnings in advance.
For instance if somebody goes up in an F-15 or somebody goes on an aircraft carrier, there are certain things you cannot film, there are certain things you cannot write on. If all those guidelines, all those standards are set in advance it's a far better world than looking at stuff after the fact and saying you can't include this, you can't include that.
Press: When the secretary was asked if he endorsed the principles, he said, "Sure, subject to caveats I've made. It's possible as we go along some things need to be tweaked."
Who's going to tweak them, what's the procedure for tweaking them?
Clarke: Hopefully all of us. We've said again and again and again we see this as a very collaborative process and we go into it with the fundamental belief that it's going to be a very different, very fluid, changing kind of situation. So we may want to go back and revisit things, you may want to go back and revisit things.
Press: So if he endorses the nine principles, it's evolving, right? Tomorrow he may want to tweak them.
Clarke: He might. You might too.
Press: Is there anything specific you can point to that questions have been raised about?
Clarke: It's a hypothetical conversation but a very real statement about how different things are and how different things may be in the weeks and months and years to come.
Press: Would he unilaterally tweak them?
Clarke: We couldn't unilaterally tweak anything if we wanted to. So no.
Press: Sure you can.
Clarke: No. This is your document as much as it is ours. That's what we've been trying to say all along.
Press: (inaudible) where things stand with that.
Clarke: Just looking at a variety of places, a variety of situations where we might be able to do it. There isn't a really clear sense of where something will be going on for an extended period of time that would make, that make sense. Where you might do it, where you might do a JIB and also working with the sensitivities of the different countries.
Press: Pakistan is pushing back as well?
Clarke: I don't want to go into too many conversations, too many details of the conversations we're having, but we're looking in a variety of places.
Press: Torie, on Uzbekistan, if we have reporters there and they're getting information on the ground about U.S. troops, they of course have no way, there's nobody to get information from. Is it your advice that they pass through our Pentagon reporters to get information? There's no way that they can get any information from the U.S. military even to put down --
Clarke: You mean no --
Press: -- is any one to call or -- I mean we have a situation where our reporters have been manhandled and interrogated by Uzbek security and they're getting informal information from Uzbek military and they are just, there's nobody to check anything with. There's nobody to ask are the Uzbeks doing this with the understanding of the U.S. government? That the reporters there are being manhandled or interrogated. Is that sanctioned in some way? Or is it not or --
Clarke: For the time being, coming back to us for the information is the best we can do.
Press: So there's no way --
Clarke: -- a lot about what may or may not be going on in Uzbekistan, but on a case-by-case basis we can work on things like that.
Press: Okay. There's no way that someone's going to be, there would ever be information coming out of Uzbekistan --
Clarke: There could be. That's what we're working on. Can we get public affairs people there, could we set up a JIB, what sorts of things can we do, can we embed with the folks that are there? That's what we're working on.
Press: Is it possible to use the embassies which have existing PIO officers, functions, to augment those of the military?
Clarke: I hadn't thought of it, but we can check it out.
Press: Right now (inaudible) back here, the embassies. Particularly in Uzbekistan.
Press: (inaudible) Bosnia (inaudible).
Clarke: We can do them in person, we can do them as conference calls, whatever you want. It's your call.
Press: Several of these meetings we've had, people complain about the lack of the deployment of the DoD national media pool, and as somebody who's been with Clark and some of the other people for years, I just want to say on the record that it's not my understanding that that's a pool that's supposed to be deployed in the middle of action, when we've already got people in the region. It's a very limited vision of early access, a secret operation, until we can get our people there.
Now we've all got people in the region, and I think that's sort of like yesterday's discussion and I'd like to see us focus on again, from the region, pushing for access wherever we can. I think to that end, it's moved past the DoD national media pool discussions for getting on board the Kitty Hawk. But any information you can give us on how we can pre-position so that we are in the most likely area we should be in if you're going to deploy from the region. That's the kind of information I think that would be very helpful.
Press: -- forming a pool, but not for (inaudible).
Press: -- keep mentioning the DoD pool and do it only because we're frustrated on the ground and in our efforts to get on the Kitty Hawk. If you're refusing to let us do some of these actions either unilaterally or embedded or regional pools, why not set the DoD pool into motion?
Press: When I mentioned conference calls I didn't mean with you, I meant with people in the field.
Clarke: Oh, I'm sorry. Sure.
Press: In other words, if you're not going to bring us to them, can you bring them to us even with telephone conference calls. If there are people in Uzbekistan from the 10th Mountain and you won't take us there, even a conference call with some of them talking about whatever issue they can.
Press: So you and the secretary keep saying you have to think outside the box, this is a different war. Think about other ways of covering these things. I know it doesn't satisfy every medium, but any way you can improve the lines of communication.
Clarke: Okay. Got it.
The secretary answered so much. Going back to this group. Same time, same place next week? A conference call, what do you want?
Press: Torie, just for myself, I think this is much more valuable than a conference call.
Press: It is.
Clarke: You got it. I can't promise him every time, but --
Press: We'll bring the coffee next time.
Clarke: Okay. Thank you guys.