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[infowar.de] 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.
"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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