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Pentagon threatens to target journalists in Iraq.
March 12, 2003 4:52 PM   Subscribe

Pentagon threatens to target journalists in Iraq. (RealAudio, 49 minutes into the broadcast.)
In an interview with Radio One Ireland, Kate Adie, former chief news correspondent for the BBC, drops a bombshell.
If satellite uplinks from the press are detected in Baghdad, they would be "targeted down", said a senior US military official. "They know this. They've been warned."
Ms. Adie also revealed that the US military are openly asking journalists what their feelings are on the war, and are using this information to block reporters from access to reporting on the conflict.
These actions are "shameless" and "entirely hostile to the free spread of information," says Ms. Adie. "What actually appalls me is the difference between twelve years ago and now. I've seen a complete erosion of any kind of acknowledgment that reporters should be able to report as they witness."
posted by insomnia_lj (74 comments total)

 
insomnia, I'm not trying to snark here, but I really would like to know: Did you expect different?

This is the same administration that holds to the belief that if you drop pamphlets warning people that repairing their livelihoods is a death sentence. This is the same administration that drops clusterbomb packets that look like food packets, and then shrugs and claims that they were clearly marked.

Remember, If you're not with us, you're against us. (I don't believe that anybody yet fully realizes how far that little bit of ideological bullshit will carry us...)
posted by Wulfgar! at 5:24 PM on March 12, 2003


*eh* Remove the "if".
posted by Wulfgar! at 5:25 PM on March 12, 2003


US threatens to eliminate independent war journalists -
the transcript

*looks askance at i_lj, rolls eyes*
posted by y2karl at 5:26 PM on March 12, 2003


Tightly controlling reporters is what Saddam does right now. Nice to see that the US is bringing in fresh new ideas about freedom to Iraq. Oh wait...
posted by Space Coyote at 5:36 PM on March 12, 2003


See also The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero and Myth-Maker from the Crimea to Kosovo

Also, Reporting In The Time of Conflict - An essay by Harold Evans

Conceivably, America might have been saved from an even more terrible mistake if the newspapers had been privy at the time to the deliberations of Presidents Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson over Indochina. That story did not emerge until 1971, when Daniel Ellsberg gave Neil Sheehan of The New York Times 7,000 pages of secret government documents, the record of how three succeeding presidents, lacking in candor, took the country step by step into the quagmire. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, by then the publisher of the Times, took a considerable risk in deciding to publish the "Pentagon Papers," as the documents came to be called, and in fighting the restraining orders secured by President Richard Nixon. The case is often misunderstood. Nixon was not defending his own policies in Vietnam. The papers were about preceding Democratic administrations. Nixon was arguing Kennedy's case for national security on policymaking. The Supreme Court's 6-3 ruling in favor of publication gloriously endorsed the people's right to know. Earlier, U.S. District Court Judge Murray Gurfein had vindicated the role of the war correspondent when he declared: "The security of the nation is not at the ramparts alone. Security also lies in the value of our free institutions."
posted by y2karl at 5:37 PM on March 12, 2003




It may be helpful to make a distinction between investigative reporting and war zone reporting.
posted by Postroad at 5:58 PM on March 12, 2003


I may be the first to bring this up. But isn't there a book? Yes a book. What could the name of it be? Ahhh yes.

Nineteen Eighty Fucking Four!!!!!

You don't get this kind of stuff back. Once something like this happens and a vast majority of Americans

a) Never hear about it

and

b) Wouldn't give a shit less even if they did hear about it. (Pussy gun droppers)

A dystopia is finally born.

If a horror is committed against humanity in our name, we deserve to hear about it. If our military does not allow us to hear about the humanistic truth of war either by "embedding" journalists within units to prepare politically useful reports or by targeting and killing "independent" reporters, we all may as just blow our heads off. This isn't a war for humanity. It's a war for humanoid units.

This hyperbole brought to you by:
posted by crasspastor at 5:58 PM on March 12, 2003


Yes. The Pentagon will actually spend valuable minutes while its pilots sortie in a war zone to determine whether a satellite phone transmission belongs to somebody whose reporting they don't like, and then it will assign a pilot otherwise risking his life and flying a valuable quarter-billion dollar plane away from attacking important targets like anti-aircraft emplacements or chemical weapons dumps to, yes, casually murder that one reporter right there. Because that's Amerikkka, you know. It's the man. He's keeping you down.
posted by dhartung at 6:01 PM on March 12, 2003


" I was told by a senior officer in the Pentagon, that if uplinks --that is the television signals out of... Bhagdad, for example-- were detected by any planes ...electronic media... mediums, of the military above Baghdad... they'd be fired down on. Even if they were journalists ...

Ah, then shouldn't that be Yes. The Pentagon will actually spend valuable minutes while its pilots sortie in a war zone to determine whether television signals belong to somebody whose reporting they don't like?
posted by y2karl at 6:07 PM on March 12, 2003


Your post is so indefensible and reactionary dhartung. You don't have any idea who and what decisions are made to strike whatever target.

Don't even pretend to say you believe that a serious, captured on film atrocity that got out would be better than one that didn't. Get my drift?

There's a lot riding on this war. Shan't want to add any more *fuel* to the revolt. Then it gets just that much more expensive.
posted by crasspastor at 6:09 PM on March 12, 2003


There are rumours of Saddam dressing up his soldiers as American troops to commit war crimes in front of TV cameras to be broadcast to Muslim nations. Smuggling a tape out would be possible but much harder and less repeatable. Targeting TV broadcasts would probably be a wise idea.
posted by stbalbach at 6:09 PM on March 12, 2003


Targeting TV broadcasts would probably be a wise idea.

You're being sarcastic, right?
posted by iamck at 6:15 PM on March 12, 2003


To imply that the US military is unable to distinguish between television broadcasts from reporters and military targets is naive. They have done so in several different conflicts, which is precisely why Kate Adie is right in calling this shameless.

I have reasons to doubt that the US actually would target reporters. To date, they have never targeted a reporter's satellite uplinks, so I don't expect them to start now. However, this is a direct threat to those reporters who are already risking their lives to get us the truth.
posted by insomnia_lj at 6:15 PM on March 12, 2003


There are rumours of Saddam dressing up his soldiers as American troops to commit war crimes in front of TV cameras to be broadcast to Muslim nations. Smuggling a tape out would be possible but much harder and less repeatable. Targeting TV broadcasts would probably be a wise idea.

Who are you Stormin' Norman? You're an American man! You don't gain if you don't know. Get it, see! You cannot have a democracy when its citzens don't know the truth. This trumps every war America would ever fight. If democracy fails, so does then its reason to war. To war for anything else isn't of course to war for democracy.
posted by crasspastor at 6:16 PM on March 12, 2003


When you think, and mind you, with press coverage the likes of which the world has not seen since--can you say Pentagon Papers? I knew you could--of how the Viet Nam war has been rewritten and rewritten in the face of the public ADD and short term memory loss.... Jesus, the 1984 metaphor is not such hyperbole.
posted by y2karl at 6:33 PM on March 12, 2003


well said, crasspastor.
posted by pejamo at 6:35 PM on March 12, 2003


Wulfgar- something I hadn't realised till recently was that the ideological "If you're not with us, you're against us" line is from the Bible (Matthew 12:30). WWJD indeed?
posted by Bletch at 6:53 PM on March 12, 2003


Because that's Amerikkka, you know. It's the man. He's keeping you down

Your sarcasm has shown me the way, Dan. I have been won over by your airtight argument. I would, as we used to say, like to subscribe to your newsletter.
posted by jpoulos at 7:06 PM on March 12, 2003


You're being sarcastic, right?

No. There are lots of good reasons to not allow journalists into the war unescorted by the military. This is a very old discussion it goes back to every major war we've had. Every time the journalists cry errosion of civil rights blah blah. Seen and read about it enough throughout history to know this is nothing to be alarmed about and you folks are buying into some journalist from Irelands ploy at gaining a name for herself so she can get access. Write your Senator, she will love you for it.

Gulf War I was no diffrent except they were stupid and allowed that guy from CNN to sit in a hotel and broadcast live bombings so this time they are closeing that loophole.
posted by stbalbach at 7:13 PM on March 12, 2003


fascism/n 1: a political philosophy, movement or regime that exalts nation and race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation and forcible supression of opposition

2: a tendency toward or actual excersise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control.


Should the Merriam-Webster's Dictionary update that with an addendum.... "when said autocrat is in the pocket or placed in power by monies from big businesses"?


Sounds like George was conferring with Putin regarding his days in the KGB and how to squelch dissidents.


Truly sad.


Of course, there is no mention of this in the daily papers! Sports, OTOH, there's plenty.


What's on TV Marge? Not the War, huh?
posted by alicesshoe at 7:32 PM on March 12, 2003


I don't get it. A warning like this is useless unless every journalist who could conceivably using a satellite phone (from behind enemy lines, in a combat situation) knows the danger.

The warning to Kate Adie doesn't do any good if you accidentally kill, say, Peter Arnett, who didn't get the message. So rather than whisper the information on background to one lefty British journalist, it would seem like a better idea to tell ALL reporters, loudly and repeatedly, on record, through your official spokesperson.

I just feel certain that if this is both a) true and b) problematical for the rest of the press corps, we'd be hearing a lot more on the subject by now. Here, for instance.
posted by coelecanth at 7:34 PM on March 12, 2003


Or here.
posted by coelecanth at 7:38 PM on March 12, 2003


shame, a few more journalists on the ground and we might not have embarassments like this.
posted by condour75 at 7:40 PM on March 12, 2003


the articles linked by coelecanth say:

Veteran US war correspondents say that .. the rules appear to offer unprecedented freedom to report the facts ..

Everything else in that article is "could" or "maybe" it's all fears about what could happen. Typical posturing by the press to make sure they get what they want. So in fact we learn not only does the press have access in Iraq, it has unprecedented freedom.
posted by stbalbach at 7:45 PM on March 12, 2003


stbalbach: Kate Adie, who is as English as they come, hardly needs to make a name for herself. Which you would already know, had you read - and heard the links.

You're being sarcastic, right? Nah. Disingenuous.
posted by dash_slot- at 7:46 PM on March 12, 2003


Actually my point was that veteran war correspondents are already condemning the Pentagon's guidelines and opting out of the new "embedded" format. They're doing plenty of complaining already, but not about this alleged plan to "kill independent reporters."
posted by coelecanth at 7:55 PM on March 12, 2003


There are lots of good reasons to not allow journalists into the war unescorted by the military.

Name one. Go on.
posted by ook at 8:15 PM on March 12, 2003


Daniel Pearl?

JB
posted by JB71 at 8:38 PM on March 12, 2003


this article makes my chest hurt.
posted by mcsweetie at 9:12 PM on March 12, 2003


Daniel Pearl's death is tragic, but it's of the same type as the space shuttle astronauts: you accept an occupational risk because you believe in what you're doing. Hopefully our police and military feel the same way.

I think linking to info about Daniel Berrigan is worthwhile in this thread, for some reason.

Also, some links from the paper back home about journalists going with troops.

What's the best war coverage formula?
War Rules for Journalists
Embedded Journalists to report in event of war
posted by namespan at 9:19 PM on March 12, 2003


Targeting TV broadcasts would probably be a wise idea.

How does one wrong make another one right?

The argument that journalist in a war zone might not be a good idea could hold some water, but bombing journalists because the enemy might subvert journalism doesn't seem like a very astute argument to me.
posted by Hackworth at 9:26 PM on March 12, 2003


My fear ultimately is that if such an "accident" should occur (because the military would never admit to purposely targeting civilian journalists) that many American's will be of the opinion that the dead journalists should have never been near the battle field to begin with. Let's face it - freedom of the press is taken for granted in this country and many polls show that not only do many American's believe that our 1st amendment rights should be limited in some cases but they also see journalism as an endeavor on the same level as personal injury litigation.

I happen to work for one of the print publications mentioned in the E&P article and personally know 5 journalists working in or near Iraq - one of which has been living in the journalist hotel in Baghdad since December. I'm scared for all of them and especially my buddy currently in Iraq. Ironically, I had a conversation with her about a month ago via SAT phone about this exact hypothetical situation and at that time I begged her to leave when the word comes down that war is imminent. Her response was that she wouldn't leave because she felt it was her duty to document history should war break out - a history we Americans play some role in whether we like it or not.

The bottom line is this - if no one reports with their own eyes and ears the rest of humanity will never, ever know if what our government is telling us is the truth.
posted by photoslob at 9:56 PM on March 12, 2003


Thanks for posting this important yet highly disturbing piece, insomnia_lj, and thanks, y2karl, for the many upporting links. Just more troubling information in these troubling times. I am just thankful we have the internet to ferret out information that is not generally or easily available through the large media conglomerates.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:59 PM on March 12, 2003


crasspastor, Adie's willfully ignorant and emotional interpretation of what the Pentagon clearly regards as a straightforward safety warning into a threat of murder is what's reactionary and indefensible. I seriously wonder whether such an over-reacting person will be able to give reasonable, objective reporting, no matter her history with the BBC. Of course, insomnia's quotes up the ante further, which is simply daft.

The whole point is that the press should not consider that the military has the resources, signal or human intelligence, or even time to evaluate individual satellite signals in a war zone. Reporters going into the "embed" program are being told to register their satphones; one jokingly said "allegedly so they can make sure they keep working", which may well have been what she was told, but the implication she was going for was that they might choose to censor those phone links. She didn't consider at all that the Pentagon quite rightfully would rather be able to do an identification-friend-or-foe on the satphone signal emanating from that space a little away from one of their own camps.

Clearly Adie is unwilling to register her phone, probably because of the censorship issue, and the Pentagon told her they couldn't, in that instance, guarantee her safety. If they caught a satphone transmission coming from the wrong place at the wrong time, they might have no choice but to assume enemy activity; they might also have operational safety of a mission to consider. You have to know, going in, as an adult, how that decision is going to be made. I'm not impressed by Adie's juvenile, emotional interpretation, especially given the Pentagon's clear efforts to open up more press access. Pretty much, they're saying, "you asked for this; now play by our rules". I don't expect all journalists to want to, because y2karl's links clearly show there would be restrictions, and many journos won't want to live under them. But they're in a war zone, and being told that if you go into a war zone you might get hurt is not a threat; it's a reality. It's the equivalent of a photographer being told "If your camera pokes out from behind that wall one more time, I can't guarantee I won't shoot it."
posted by dhartung at 10:43 PM on March 12, 2003


given the Pentagon's clear efforts to open up more press access

bull dookey, Dan. Chatty Cathy embedded cub reporters with military minders doesn't exactly make for Viet Nam era levels of coverage.

And if we hadn't have had that coverage, how many more would have died needlessly then in that inherited colonial war we could never have won?

Unless you subscribe to the Clavdivs Le May endorsed theory of we should've bombed them back into the stone age so we could prop up an elite of corrupt former colonial lackeys, Roman Catholic and Francophone, over the mostly Buddhist Viet Namese who would have voted in Ho Chi Minh in a landslide had we allowed free elections back in the 50s.

The irony here is, of course, that you are describing a war correspondent in terms of willfully ignorant and emotional interpretation. Ahem...
posted by y2karl at 11:16 PM on March 12, 2003


Wulfgar:
Remember, If you're not with us, you're against us. (I don't believe that anybody yet fully realizes how far that little bit of ideological bullshit will carry us...)

twenty years from you will feel like a genius. but you will be in an ADM/Intel-owned work camp/prison in sector 432.

dhartung:
as always, i appreciate your attention to detail and all, but:

"If your camera pokes out from behind that wall one more time, I can't guarantee I won't shoot it."

what about even that statemnt is not bullshit?

either A: it is macho posturing.
or B: the speaker actually intends to murder a journalist.

admittedly, one of these two outcomes is preferable to the other. but neither is reflective of a nation with democratic ideals. when the executive branch is no longer considered relevant when declaring war, and the judicial branch put the cowboy-in-chief in the saddle in the first place, then the press is all we've got.

we're fucked. and i mean all of us.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:16 PM on March 12, 2003


dhartung: It seems to me that your point, taken to the extreme (inevitable in combat conditions) says that the use of a satellite phone by anyone not registered with the US military would be a capital offense, and the accused would be summarily executed, even if they happen to have nothing to do with either enemy activity or journalism. Can you really mean this?
posted by Nicolae Carpathia at 11:22 PM on March 12, 2003


Here's my stupid analysis...

Sunday morning, on one of the morning American political shows, I heard that our US Military is trying to HELP journalists, and is letting them roll along side them.

Their idea was described as a gamble.

On one hand, the journalists are going to be there to expose to the world just how bad things are in Iraq, and more importantly, that Bush and Blair are right.

On the other hand, the journalists will be there to expose any wrong-doing by our US Military. Apparently, this is a gamble that the Pentagon is willing to take, and if they weren't why would they be showing warzone training for journalists on the cable news networks?

So who's the liar... the person I listened to on Sunday, or the person in this article? Somehow, I doubt reporters would all band together and lie about going through military-lead training for warzone reporting when they're not allowed to be around when shit goes down.

The only thing this could possibly be in reference to is the leaking of sensitive information, like troop position, and that is more than reasonable to me.
posted by cinematique at 11:28 PM on March 12, 2003


cinematique: i think that what the TV person neglected to tell you is that the DOD is handpicking the journalists that it is planting with military units. for evidence of how well the truth can be ascertained when one is chauffered by a military unit see: Iraq, arms inspections thereof.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:34 PM on March 12, 2003


dhartung, you might doubt her ability to be a journalist but she is one of the most respected jornalists in the UK. She made her name as a war correspondent, or at least became the near national institution she is that way. There used to be a joke doing the rounds that you knew it meant war if Kate Adie was sent to cover the story.

Not to put too fine a point on it, she's familiar with the requirements of being a war correspondent.
posted by vbfg at 11:38 PM on March 12, 2003


To date, they have never targeted a reporter's satellite uplinks

True, but NATO did accidentally bomb a portable satellite uplink during the Kosovo war. I think fighter and bomber pilots get nervous around something that's radiating serious wattage in what could be construed to be their direction.

Targeting TV broadcasts would probably be a wise idea.

I can't believe that I'm reading this. Some reporters are undoubtedly self-promoting blowholes -- I've met more than a couple. But you know, most journalists are non-combatants, just doing their jobs, trying to get out the truth for the rest of the world to see. And targeting them for this -- in a war zone or not -- is just plain wrong. I've had a journalist friend clubbed by the LAPD when covering a demonstration. More seriously, a friend and co-worker of mine was shot by a sniper in Sarajevo and almost killed. When I read your comment above, I was thinking of him -- your callous call for the probable deaths of people just like him (and me, incidentally) rankles.

What I haven't seen mentioned in a lot of the coverage of "embedding" is that local commanders have the final say on what gets reported. This is an experiment -- good solid war reporting may come out of it, but I can just as easily see commanders arbitrarily deciding that their unit's failures or embarrassments shouldn't be reported, and will use flimsy excuses to prevent embedded reporters from filing. This could be great, but it could quickly turn into another Second Front. (worth a read, by the way.)
posted by Vidiot at 12:31 AM on March 13, 2003


You would think that Kate Adie having been the chief news correspondent for the BBC would count for something to dhartung, but that's not all.

Her honors include three Royal Television Society awards for outstanding journalism, the Bafta Richard Dimbleby Award for the year's Most Important Personal Contribution On Screen in Factual Television, and the Broadcasting Press Guild's Award for Outstanding Contribution to Broadcasting. She was also awarded an Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth for her public service and outstanding contribution to society.
posted by insomnia_lj at 12:59 AM on March 13, 2003


Another thing worth reading, btw, is the email from CNN correspondent Kevin Sites reporting from Kuwait which was shared on BoingBoing.

Here's an excerpt, showing the threats and intimidation that these reporters face from the military on a regular basis.

-----------------------------------

I attempt to speak with the U.S. Special Forces advisors. They agree as long as I don’t show their faces.

The press officer stops me, “You’re here to show gulf forces,” he tells me, “this story is about gulf forces.”

“Please don’t tell me what my story is about,” I say, “It will be about what I report not you.”

“You can interview them when you make your own arrangements to get here,” he tells me, “this is about gulf forces.” We go back and forth like this for a few minutes—until he says fine, cover what you want, but CNN will not be invited on any more trips.
posted by insomnia_lj at 3:06 AM on March 13, 2003


Name one. Go on.

Troll. Not even the journalists are asking for free reign everyone recognizes the need for rules in war reporting.
posted by stbalbach at 4:16 AM on March 13, 2003


The most recent U.S. conflicts have insulated the public and U.S. troops from both the disgust and pangs of conscience. The Gulf War—waged from bombers high above the fray and reported by carefully controlled journalists—made war fashionable again. It was a cause the nation willingly embraced. It exorcised the ghosts of Vietnam. It gave us heroes and the heady belief in our own military superiority and technology. It almost made war fun. And the chief culprit was, as in many conflicts, not the military but the press. Television reporters happily disseminated the spoon-fed images that served the propaganda effort of the military and the state. These images did little to convey the reality of war. Pool reporters, those guided around in groups by the military, wrote once again about “our boys” eating packaged army food, practicing for chemical weapons attacks and bathing out of buckets in the desert. It was war as spectacle, war, if we are honest, as entertainment. The images and stories were designed to make us feel good about our nation, about ourselves. The families and soldiers being blown to bits by iron fragmentation bombs just over the border in Iraq were faceless and nameless phantoms.

The moment I stepped off an Army C-130 military transport in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, to cover the Persian Gulf War, I was escorted to a room with several dozen other reporters and photographers. I was told to sign a paper that said I would abide by the severe restrictions placed on the press. The restrictions authorized “pool reporters” to be escorted by the military on field trips. Most of the press sat in hotel rooms and rewrote the bland copy filed by the pool or used the pool video and photos. I violated this agreement the next morning when I went into the field without authorization. The rest of the war, most of which I spent dodging Military Police and trying to talk my way into units, was a forlorn and lonely struggle against the heavy press control.

The notion that the press was used in the war is incorrect. The press wanted to be used. It saw itself as part of the war effort. Most reporters sent to cover a war don’t really want to go near the fighting. They do not tell this to their editors and indeed will moan and complain about restrictions. The handful who actually head out into the field have a bitter enmity with the hotel room warriors. But even those who do go out are guilty of distortion—maybe more so. For they not only believe the myth, feed off of the drug, but also embrace the cause. They may do it with more skepticism. They certainly expose more lies and misconceptions. But they believe. We all believe. When you stop believing you stop going to war.


War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning
posted by y2karl at 4:21 AM on March 13, 2003


Someone's intellectual dishonesty is showing ... I'd trust Kate Adie's journalistic integrity above any of the correspondents in this thread.
posted by walrus at 5:13 AM on March 13, 2003


I think you have to trust her, since the way she conveyed the information doesn't really meet the technical demands of journalism. Instead, as the subject of an interview, she repeats something she heard from a single source on background, and never confirmed anywhere else. If it's a story, how come nobody's reporting it? If it's a story, how come even Ms. Adie isn't reporting it?
posted by coelecanth at 7:29 AM on March 13, 2003


The military would just be targeting transmitters in Baghdad. The average civilian doesn't transmit, so they are safe. Someone thinks to warn the press that they might not be as safe, and this reporter gets all huffy about it.
posted by smackfu at 7:29 AM on March 13, 2003


Absolutely amazing.

This is exactly what is wrong with the "peace" movement at the moment... This sort of instant ability to get all bent out of shape no matter what the provocation without any actual understanding - or attempted understanding - of the issues.

lets be absolutely clear on what is the situation:

1) There is every reason for military force to be used in a war zone to prevent communications that may be of value to the enemy. This is a fundamental reality of war.

2) It is the nature of conflict that battlefield decisions need to happen extremely rapidly... The amount of time available for deep signal analysis is extremely limited in many situations.

3) There is no instantaneous way to differentiate an unknown satellite phone transmission from a reporter from one used by the enemy without significant prior information from the reporter. Hence the idea of "registering" that phone. Commercial satellite phone often contain at least minimal encryption that prevents the content of the transmission from being subject to fast analysis. Remember, current encryption technology, even On the consumer level, is VASTLY in favor of the encryption.

4) It then follows that without significant prior knowledge it is extremely reasonable to target those transmissions.

This is not an attempt to "murder" an independent journalist. It is a simple and practical reality of the modern battlefield. If you make a deliberate choice to act in a manner indistinguishable from a military target then you take your chances.

Personally? I am impressed that they are bothering with a "registration" option and even attempting to make a decision before targeting a transmission from inside a war zone with regards to a sat phone.

But hey - don't let facts get in the way ... "viva la revolucion!"

While we are discussion battlefield realities...

"If your camera pokes out from behind that wall one more time, I can't guarantee I won't shoot it."
what about even that statemnt is not bullshit?

All of it. The statement makes absolutely perfect sense... but to be more accurate with the situation it would be...

"If your camera pokes out from behind that wall one more time, I can't guarantee someone won't shoot it."

Do you have any idea what kind of reaction times are needed to survive and achieve victory on a modern battlefield? What you are in effect asking for is someone to discern between a toy gun and a real one in a gunfight - or a rubber knife during hand to hand conflict. While you MIGHT manage it you will eventually get someone who makes a mistake.

Your there with your squad, locking down the street into the haze and smoke - gunfire is impacting all around you and more is coming all the time. You have fraction of a second to aim at a target and make a decision whether or not to fire.

That decision by the way has almost nothing to do with determining the identity of your target. There is little time... You simplify that process extremely... Uniform recognition and dividing your area into zones. If no one from your "side" is in a zone (sector) then you pretty much drop all the recognition time and simply make tactical decisions. If the zone is potentially filled with :friendlies" you take more time... How much depends on many factors.

It is not possible to make an entire war zone subject to the time consuming process of human vision based IFF and succeed/survive.

So... down the block you see something longish and black stick out from behind a wall... you possibly even see the glint of glass at the front... it is hard to see exactly what it is... then it's gone. More gunfire and it's back... you take the shot.

Was it a cameraman? No. It was a soldier with a thermal or IR scope, calling in information to his unit about your locations as the optics cut through the smoke.

Was it a cameraman? No. It was a soldier with a laser designation pack, painting your position for the ordinance on it's way from a distant airplane or artillery system. And yes, designation lasers can operate in places that are visually impaired by smoke.

Was it a cameraman? No. It was a soldier with a large caliber sniper rifle. You didn't see the barrel because it is comparatively thin... the large IR/thermal site has been allowing him to pick off your squad.

Was it a cameraman? No. It was a soldier with a hand held rocket launcher. He is about to blow away the wall you are behind, killing you and several of your squad or possibly the 4 men in the tank to your rear. Or maybe the helicopter you can hear behind you.

Was it a cameraman? Yes. He wasn't anyplace you knew he would be ... and "they could be anywhere" isn't an option. On the off chance he was killed then it is a tragic accident... but one of those things that can happen when you run around a battlefield pointing things at men with guns.
posted by soulhuntre at 8:35 AM on March 13, 2003


I fail to see how this is a "peace" movement issue. Wartime journalism is not exclusive to peace movements, and the international media is not a political party.

soulhuntre, you speak of situations that involve quick thinking in the battlefield, which obviously is a complicated task, but I'm not sure how much this issue is about cameramen hiding behind walls being confused for the enemy. I think the main issue at stake here is about how much information is being let out of the country by the miltary and why. I don't know enough about wartime journalism to say what kind of coverage was allowed in the past, but my main question here would be, "Is this a new development or something that has been done in the past? Is it standard practice to target media transmissions (not cameramen) comming out of a war zone?".
posted by Hackworth at 9:28 AM on March 13, 2003


A more complete quote from the e-mail linked to by insomnia_lj:


The Kuwaiti press officer stands by another field officer as I interview
him. He interrupts every second question, even very innocuous ones. I end
the interview in frustration. Then I attempt to speak with the U.S. Special
Forces advisors. They agree as long as I don’t show their faces. The press
officer stops me,

“You’re here to show gulf forces,” he tells me, “this story is about gulf
forces.”


It appears that it was the Kuwaiti press officer, not the U.S. one, that was obstructing him.
posted by Vidiot at 10:21 AM on March 13, 2003


This is a peace movement issue because it is being used by all the usual people to try and push some bizarre point about a conspiracy in the Bush administration. It is being used as "peace" propaganda... exactly the way the originator intended it to be.

"Is this a new development or something that has been done in the past? Is it standard practice to target media transmissions (not cameramen) coming out of a war zone?"

Semi sorta :)

It has always been a common thing to use broadcast signal tracking to target enemy command and control position or individual units. This has occasionally led to friendly fire or misidentification in a battlefield environment.

However, a few things have changed that increase the danger significantly for journalists and complicate the problem for those making the decisions.

In the past, one could simply listen in to make a decision on the nature of the broadcast... while military broadcasts did come in "code" the code itself was easily distinguished (usually) from normal communication. It was relatively simple to determine the military or civilian nature of the broadcast... both were using clear channel voice or morse code.

Later, when military transmission became more sophisticated they began using dramatically different and better technology than an small news team could carry and use. So while the details were scarce on the content, the very nature of the broadcast helped to make the distinguishing features noticeable. A "simple" broadcast may well be a friendly journalist whereas a burst transmission frequency hopping one was almost certainly not.

Now however civilian technology has gotten so good that it is once again usable for military purposes... so the transmission looks a lot like a military broadcast (unavoidable as military forces begin to use off the shelf civilian equippment, sometimes for exactly the purpose of causing confusion). The broadcasts have global reach, are digital and encrypted by nature. It is no longer possible to distinguish a military and civilian broadcast from these characteristics.

Of course, there has also always been the very real risk of a journalist broadcasting something that may well compromise operational security - and there are very good reasons to prevent that as well.

Given the response time and reach of modern battle field weapons, especially in a war where there are possible chemical, bio or nuke weapons deployed means that a real time video feed of a battle or sufficiently accurate voice feed broadcast to the global news as simple reporting may provide enough information for a significant strike.

In a perfect world, where we could distinguish civilian and military communications with great accuracy we may well be willing to take risk involved in waiting to see if a particular news report was a specific danger to our troops.

In a world where such identification is impossible it is necessary to treat every broadcast you don't know for a fact is friendly as a potentially deadly weapon - and you need to move to shut it down.
posted by soulhuntre at 10:33 AM on March 13, 2003


It's amazing how much rubbish people will talk about subjects that they know next to nothing about.
posted by daveg at 10:50 AM on March 13, 2003


Some of us here are old enough to remember when the phrase
free press stood for something. Some of us are not.
posted by y2karl at 11:03 AM on March 13, 2003


Name one. Go on.

Troll. Not even the journalists are asking for free reign everyone recognizes the need for rules in war reporting.


That's the first time I've been called a troll. I feel so proud. It's like a rite of passage. I'm not trolling, though: I'm pointing out that you made an assertion, and failed to back it up with anything at all. You still haven't backed it up with anything at all. You just keep repeating the assertion. Here it is again:

There are lots of good reasons to not allow journalists into the war unescorted by the military.

So name one. If there are lots, surely you can think of one.

Here's a few samples to get you started: That they may be putting themselves in danger from the enemy? No good. They know they're putting themselves in danger; that's their choice and their risk. That they may be putting themselves in danger from friendly fire? Ditto. (I agree with the several posters above who find it reasonable for the military to target an unknown satellite uplink, or for a soldier to shoot at what might be a news camera or might be an enemy soldier. It's still the journalist's risk to take.) That they may reveal troop movements or other vital information to the enemy? Possible but unlikely. Personally I find it quite difficult to imagine any journalist being that irresponsible and stupid -- and they must know that if they ever did make such a mistake, it would be the last time they or anyone would be allowed in a war zone for certain. And to this extent I agree with your other assertion that 'no-one is asking for free rein' to broadcast, say, troop movements or strategic plans. Of course they aren't. They're asking to be allowed to be in the war zone if they choose, and report what they see instead of what the military wants them to see.

Which is, of course, the crux of the issue. The military doesn't want bad PR. Of course they don't. They want everyone back home to believe that the war is going peachy, that there are no casualties except for the bad guys, and that it's all a big patriotic party. Perfectly natural for them to want that, and to try to corral as many war reporters as possible into safe, "embedded" channels. But it's the other reporters who are going to be bringing home the actual news, and letting us know what's actually going on over there.

And we need that. We need it desperately. In Vietnam, for example, it happened to be Daniel Ellsberg and not an on-site reporter who broke the news that what we were up to over there was not what we were being told we were up to -- but with adequate independent journalism in the area we might not have had to depend on the unlikely appearance of a highly-placed government figure with a conscience to save us from ourselves. I don't think we have a Daniel Ellsberg in government right now. I hope we do, but I don't want to have to count on it.

Ms. Adie is overstating her case rather dramatically, in my opinion. I seriously doubt our military would deliberately target journalists, which I suppose proves I have at least some way to go before becoming a complete cynic. But I am cynical enough to believe that, given the chance, the military and our government would soften the truth, change the truth, hey, just outright lie to us if they felt it served their interests. I don't think we should give them that chance. Do you?
posted by ook at 11:03 AM on March 13, 2003


soulhuntre: you justify threatening to shopot someone by giving an example of a situation in which it is not known who the person is. That set of circumstances would seem to preclude the person being told "take my picture and i'll kill you". but that is nitpicking, no.

for those of you that talk about the "bizarre conspiracy" that we psychos worry about, do you honestly see nothing to be alarmed about, not just here, but in general: given fliescher's statements, the military's threats to reporters, and the constant repitition of "you must be aggin us". obviously, the world is not black and white, and even the biggest wussie commie fags among us understand that sometimes values come into comflict, but this administration seems to loathe oppenness and accountability on principle alone.

if you trust those who stand to benefit most from a given situation to honestly report the goings-on therein, then i feel sorry for you. that goes far beyond war, reporting, politics, or anything else. wait 'til someone tells you guys about insurance scams.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:14 AM on March 13, 2003


"you justify threatening to shoot someone by giving an example of a situation in which it is not known who the person is. That set of circumstances would seem to preclude the person being told "take my picture and i'll kill you". but that is nitpicking, no."

Actually the only "threats" made have been very general... that if you insist on acting in ways that look like a threat in a war zone you may get shot at.

That's as far as it went.

"for those of you that talk about the "bizarre conspiracy" that we psychos worry about, do you honestly see nothing to be alarmed about, not just here, but in general: given fliescher's statements, the military's threats to reporters, and the constant repetition of "you must be aggin us"."

Of course there are things to be alarmed about. I am extremely concerned about much of the "Patriot Act" for instance. I have no inherent trust of the government and I am sure that things are being spun.

The difference is that I see it on both sides. And at the moment, there is a whole lotta BS being spouted in the name of "peace".

I also happen to think this war is a good idea... that doesn't make me an unthinking sheep.

"if you trust those who stand to benefit most from a given situation to honestly report the goings-on therein"

And if you think individual reporters like Kate don't have a lot to gain from spinning stories and/or have a personal agenda then your very confused.
posted by soulhuntre at 11:53 AM on March 13, 2003


soulhuntre:

Kate's credentials as a reporter are unimpeachable. That doesn't mean she's not biased, but at least from me she's getting the benefit of the doubt.

You've created a red herring, I think, by saying that Kate is accusing the US of targeting independent journalists for murder. That's certainly not how I read it. She is saying that they will not make any attempt to distinguish between enemy and journalistic signals. That's the problem. They're creating an environment where independent journalists can be killed indiscriminately, since they depend on these signals.

Your argument is just another example of security being used as an excuse to trump the more fundamental tenets of our society. The military should be bending over backwards, even putting our troop's lives at risk (and I know some of them and think they would agree), to preserve the ability of independent journalists to monitor fighting from whatever angle they see fit. I'm familiar with the military risks you enumerate on your blog. My argument is as an American who believes that we must wage war as Americans or not at all.

Certainly journalists take risks; many will probably even brave the Iraqi war zone with this threat hanging over them. But the fact is that this Pentagon's "cold pronouncement" probably amounts to a death sentence for most who dare to make such important, independent broadcasts.

Finally, although I don't support the coming war, this discussion wasn't about "peace", and the way you came in guns blazing belies your "double sided" vision.
posted by simian at 12:30 PM on March 13, 2003


"if you trust those who stand to benefit most from a given situation to honestly report the goings-on therein"

And if you think individual reporters like Kate don't have a lot to gain from spinning stories and/or have a personal agenda then your very confused.


EXACTLY. Hence the marketplace of ideas that is supposed to be at work within a free press, where a multitude of viewpoints are available. It's like political parties: they're all corrupt, but anyone in their right mind would rather live in a corrupt multiparty system than a corrupt one-party system.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 12:47 PM on March 13, 2003


Of course this discussion was about peace. It was directly framed as a major criticism of current US military actions in the Gulf, and thus, by definition, is about peace. That's not a bad thing, but let's not lose sight of that. Of course, "war" could be subsituted in the previous sentence with equal effect. The difference is in the structure of the post and most of its responses.

This is a situation where everything is being blown out of proportion once again. In some ways, it is similar to Rumsfeld's announcement that the US is able and willing to fight without British support. Rumsfeld was asked a direct question: could the US continue on its present path without British support. He answered in the affirmative. Suddenly every major news organization is spinning it that Rumsfeld is being even more unilateral and spurning the contributions of other nations.

In a similar fashion, the military has warned journalists of its rules of engagement and the dangers they face operating in a war zone. This war is going to be rapid, conducted with stand-off high technology, and will utilize immensly powerful weapons. In fact, by warning independent journalists not to transmit on unregulated sattelite phones etc, the Pentagon is bending over backwards to help journalists. If the Pentagon really didn't care, this warning would never have been made public? Why? Because Iraq now knows definitively that the US will monitor and target unregistered sattelite communications devices. Iraq now knows for certain to avoid use of those devices at all costs.

Is the Pentagon trying to control spin? Sure. So does ANSWER when it puts out press releases and releases rally attendence counts. Spinning will always continue.

However, it is clear that since the '91 Gulf War the Pentagon has gone to great lengths to make American military operations media accessible. The type of media participation being discussed now (whatever its flaws) is a vastly more open process from that of 10 years ago. Look on the positive, not negative side.
posted by pjgulliver at 12:53 PM on March 13, 2003


Hmm. Still I disagree. The issue raised here has nothing to do with whether we should or shouldn't go to war. It's in that sense that I didn't really find soulhuntre's barbs well-placed.

The issue is freedom of the press, in relationship to military necessity. It's not even about spin. It's about accountability. Under the guise of protecting journalists, the Pentagon is instead making sure they are afraid to to their jobs. Shame!

Bottom line: what is the military doing dictating terms to journalists at all? Besides the requirement that journalist's take care not to endanger soldier's lives through careless reporting, I see no reason why permitting a maximum of independent journalism shouldn't have been a requirement of military planning.

A free press is a free people's eyes and ears into the workings of their government. It should be as important to the functioning of America's military as generals and spy satellites. To the extent that it is not, we have a problem.
posted by simian at 1:18 PM on March 13, 2003


Is the Pentagon trying to control spin? Sure. So does ANSWER when it puts out press releases and releases rally attendence counts. Spinning will always continue.

Now that I understand that the issues surrounding a free press during wartime really only boil down to a battle between Uncle Sam and the communists, I have seen the light.

Though it is worth noting that you make a valid comparison, pjgulliver...

(that was a joke, please don't kill me, hama7)
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 1:23 PM on March 13, 2003


IJR, you are a trollbaiter who is unwilling to engage in a real conversation.

All I was trying to say was that the military, like any organization, has a vested interest in putting a positive spin on its activities. Does that mean the military out to revoke freedom of the press? Absolutely not. But it means every little snip about how the military controls press this way or that, needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Of course the military will want and ecourage reporting on its positive activities and not its negatives.

I still don't see how the military is limiting free press here. Independent journalists can easily record and report what is going on. They just need to find a way to get the info back to their audience without using sattelite transmitters if the region they are in is an active war zone.

Really, how would you suggest the Pentagon deal with this isse? Not announce its rules of engagement? Or perhaps the military shouldn't target any sattelite signal. But that would just be dumb as sattelite devices will be used by Hussein.

Again, this whole situation is not the best of all possible worlds. But the military is in no way making public its intentions to kill independent journalists. Let's look at this through a somewhat realistic right.
posted by pjgulliver at 1:30 PM on March 13, 2003


To understand a little about Kate Adie, it is worth reading some of her reflections on the Tiananmen Square massacre, which she covered courageously for the BBC.

I have a lot of time for Kate Adie. Over many years, she has built up a reputation for true integrity and for reporting the truth, as she sees it. Which is, after all, her job.
posted by plep at 2:22 PM on March 13, 2003


Replace 'the Pentagon' with 'the Chinese military, circa 1989', and you see how disturbing this is to someone with Kate Adie's history.
posted by plep at 2:25 PM on March 13, 2003


pj:
you are the one who intorduced the dichotomy of the pentagon and ANSWER to this discussion. believe me, i would rather not discuss the fact that stalinists are not going to take over the US or whatever. and sure, i made a joke about it, but that is because you were being silly.

look, if it is impossible for the governemnt to be doing this without transparency to the press, then it oughtn't be done, but even that is beside the point.

All I was trying to say was that the military, like any organization, has a vested interest in putting a positive spin on its activities.

and all that i am saying is that theirs is the spin that you should LEAST trust, when we are talking a war. not because they are evil, just because they are involved. certainly you wouldn't think it reasonable to get your information from the republican guard commanders? thus, it is worthwhile for a DEMOCRATIC people to want to have as many different viewpoints as possible, as many conduits for info.

this isn't about spin. when the US bombs reporters, they will not be doing so because they are afraid fo their opinions, but because they are afraid of their photos, videos, or interviews. this is about facts, which can almost always survive any butchering of agenda or politics, but will die if they never see the light of day.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 4:42 PM on March 13, 2003


Thanks for the link, plep. Tiananmen Square is a perfect example of why we need people like Kate Adie.
posted by homunculus at 4:58 PM on March 13, 2003


In other press-related news: AP Protests Government Seizure of Package Sent From One Reporter to Another.
posted by homunculus at 5:55 PM on March 13, 2003


Certainly journalists take risks; many will probably even brave the Iraqi war zone with this threat hanging over them. But the fact is that this Pentagon's "cold pronouncement" probably amounts to a death sentence for most who dare to make such important, independent broadcasts.

If it is a death sentence then it is one of their own choosing. In the modern battlefield sending out a digital satellite transmission that looks significantly liege command and control signals is the equivalent of dressing up like one of the enemy and running around shooting blanks from a replica gun.

Your going to get shot at - because you are acting EXACTLY like a target.

If Kate wants to send out her reports in a manner that is significantly less risky she can use straight up analog voice radio in shortwave. The odds are much less that she would be fired upon - though by no means is that assured.

"It's about accountability. Under the guise of protecting journalists, the Pentagon is instead making sure they are afraid to to their jobs. Shame!"

It's about advising them of exactly what the risks are.

What is the solution as some of you see it? Ignore the signals and let an air strike wipe out a unit or two of troops? I am sure that would look great on film. How about let the enemy broadcast with impunity and sacrifice a few thousand Amreican lives? That good?

I don't buy it. If there was a reliable way to determine reporter from foe (I won't use the term friend) I might advocate it - freedom of the press IS important to me - depending on exactly how much it effected our tactical decision making ability, and how many troops were put at risk.

A delay of seconds? No problem. Minutes? Maybe, depending on the exact battlefield circumstance. But a commercially encrypted satphone? Weeks wouldn't do it .. or months. You just wouldn't ever know.
posted by soulhuntre at 9:51 PM on March 13, 2003


I'm not being an absolutist about this. I'm very interested, for instance, in whether not attempting to discriminate between any broadcast signals is SOP, and if so exactly why and for how long. I haven't had much luck finding hard data. Sorry--can't take your word for it.

Don't you think we'll be jamming Iraqi satcoms, though? And what military application is there to unscrabled television signals, that we would need to "unleash hell" on their source? It stinks. Kate Adie is a very brave and even decorated journalist, who has stood down Chinese tanks in Tiennamen Square among other things.

It's not naive fear that's motivating her protestations, but outrage.

From where I'm sitting now, what the Pentagon is saying is not just "advising" journalists of the risks. It has made a decision not to even attempt to treat journalists as noncombatants on this issue. As I think I made clear, that sucks. Every effort should be made, up to and including the institution of procedures that put American troops at risk, to preserve the rights of journalists to cover the war independently.

Why? Because we're the fscking United States of America, that's why. Else what are we fighting for?
posted by simian at 11:31 PM on March 13, 2003


"I'm not being an absolutist about this. I'm very interested, for instance, in whether not attempting to discriminate between any broadcast signals is SOP, and if so exactly why and for how long. I haven't had much luck finding hard data. Sorry--can't take your word for it."

And I'm not asking for you to... by all means do your own research. I am just telling you what the problems and options are - I don't claim to speak for current policy.

I do know that during my training in tanks we were specifically taught to attack anything that looked like an antenna or broadcast point that we could not definitively identify as civilian.

In other words we might not put a shell into a building marked "WXYZ Radio" but we would certainly engage or call in strikes onto a whip antenna sticking up over a hill.

Thats just life on a battlefield.

"Else what are we fighting for?"

Certainly the fate of an entire military mission is not to be put in jeopardy so a lone journalist - who has refused to co-operate one ven the most basic level in helping us try not to shoot her - can run around anywhere she wants in a war zone and act like a target.

Freedom of the press does NOT mean that it is the job of every other US citizen (soldier or not) to get killed so some reporter can walk through the world in a special charmed universe free from consequence and danger.

She wants to report from a war zone? Go ahead.

She wants to use equipment that looks like a military broadcast? Go for it.

Thats freedom.

Doing those things and expecting everyone else to cover your ass and risk their own so you can do it? Hell no.
posted by soulhuntre at 12:18 AM on March 14, 2003


I'm surprised that this hasn't been mentioned, but such warnings have to be seen in the context of the US coughing up a Hollywood-level budget for its media 'presentation' of Operation Self-Aggrandising Bullshit. The last thing a control-freak director likes is improvisers.

(I'd like to know who's footing the bill for the 'embedding' programme, too.)

One reason the most renowned war correspondents will cover any military action in the Gulf on an independent basis is that they're temperamentally incapable of taking orders. And it's a good thing. Frankly, Adie and Robert Fisk (the bane of the 82nd Couchborne, who'll once again be in the line of fire) will probably see more battle than the US military.
posted by riviera at 9:09 AM on March 15, 2003


The problem isn't with the reporters reporting, it's with their live transmissions creating IFF problems on the battlefield. Why is it imperative to make live broadcasts from within the combat zone as something is happening (ratings aside)? Can it not be tape-delayed a few hours until the reporter returns to a safer place/method/condition of transmission? Since when has "reporting" become equated with "live"?

The escalation of rhetoric here (and by Adie) has been ridiculous. A thought experiment: if there were alternate (safer) methods of transmission, would the U.S. permit independent reporters on the front lines (at their own risk of course)? How you answer that hypothetical question sums up your biases about whether this is a freedom of the press issue or not.

I'm saving my outrage for future cases of press censorship where, unlike in this instance, troop safety isn't a clearly complicating factor. Unless someone refutes soulhuntre's points about how these transmissions are perceived by the military, crying wolf when there are genuine battlefield concerns here doesn't farther freedom of the press one iota.
posted by DaShiv at 9:44 AM on April 8, 2003


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