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[] TS 11.04.02: Rumsfeld Charms The Media While Defending Censorship,

Toronto Star April 11, 2002 Pg. 16

Rumsfeld Charms The Media While Defending Censorship

Defence secretary unapologetic in speech to newspaper editors

By William Walker, Toronto Star

At turns charming and unrepentant, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld put 
his straight-shooting ways on display yesterday before an audience with 
enormous power to shape public opinion.

Rumsfeld admitted he's "weird," in that he "likes the press." At the same 
time, he's adamant about favouring censorship of press coverage of the war 
against terrorism and threatening to jail Pentagon staffers who leak 
classified information to the media.

Those were the messages a relaxed Rumsfeld delivered to the annual meeting 
of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), the largest gathering 
of high-powered print executives from across North America.

The man who, for six months now, has delivered some of the most 
entertaining media briefings in Washington - earning him a cult following 
and status as "sex symbol to the over-70 set" - admitted he didn't even 
bother to prepare for his hour-long appearance despite the influential 

Rumsfeld, 69, has emerged as a media darling - he was chosen "Person of the 
Week" by Time magazine this week - with his straight talk, even though the 
Pentagon has restricted information and press access to the war's front 
lines in Afghanistan.

In one case, a U.S. soldier pointed his gun at a Washington Post reporter 
to persuade the journalist to leave one area of Afghanistan.

The defence secretary had no complaints about media coverage of the war, 
but did lament that American mistakes in inadvertently killing civilians 
with off-target bombs often receive 20 times the coverage of U.S. 
humanitarian efforts.

"Anything that is against the U.S. or against civilians is big news and it 
gets on the front page," he said, admitting the Pentagon needs to do "a 
better job" at getting its own message out.

Rumsfeld also denied restricting reporters' access to the war's front 
lines. "Anyone who wanted to go could go, so they should just go. But a lot 
of them went and they got killed. It's not a tidy place," he said.

Rumsfeld was unrepentant about how U.S. soldiers in the field have censored 
some media reports.

The Star's correspondent Mitch Potter was kicked out of a U.S. base in 
Afghanistan for reporting facts the Pentagon deemed to be against the rules.

The defence secretary said he still favours such censorship to keep 
American troops safe, but admitted sometimes soldiers will make mistakes, 
since "they were trained to fire rifles and fly aircraft, not to censor."

Rumsfeld said he stood by his recent statement that anyone who leaks 
classified information at the Pentagon, or elsewhere, is breaking the law.

Asked about leaks ("I'm against them," he said), Rumsfeld was told his 
earlier statements about laws being broken had caused a "chilling" around 
the Pentagon, with officials unwilling to speak with journalists for some 
time after his comments.

"Well, I'd better go back down there (to the Pentagon)," he told the ASNE 
delegates. "If what you're saying is that people who leaked are afraid to 
do so now, then God bless the chilling.

"Look, when a person takes classified information and gives it to someone 
not cleared for classified information, they are violating federal law and 
they should go to jail. It's quite clear.

"They're also putting people's lives at risk, which is a terrible thing to do."

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