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[] SDU 11.04.02: Rumsfeld Says He Won't Lie, But Will Limit War Information,

San Diego Union-Tribune April 11, 2002

Rumsfeld Says He Won't Lie, But Will Limit War Information

Defense chief explains his rationale to editors

By Otto Kreisher, Copley News Service

WASHINGTON  In an appearance before newspaper editors yesterday, Defense 
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the Pentagon's handling of information 
on the war on terrorism and repeated his pledge not to lie to the news media.

"I've never had any need to lie to the press or felt any desire to," 
Rumsfeld said. "What you have is your credibility, and that is the only 
thing that gives people and governments traction."

 From his previous experiences in Washington, Rumsfeld recalled the 
pervasive distrust of the government because of the obvious lies about the 
conduct of the Vietnam War.

That deception "probably didn't help" the war effort and "there probably 
would've been a way to do it short of lying," he said.

For example, he said he does not "answer things I don't want to answer," 
and does not talk about future operations, intelligence or classified matters.

And when nations that offer to help in the war on terrorism ask that their 
involvement not be revealed, the United States readily agrees, he said.

The U.S. does not deny that U.S. troops might be in such a country, 
Rumsfeld said, "we just don't discuss it."

The reason not to lie, he said, "seems to me is pretty simple. You lose so 
much more if, in fact, people cannot believe what you're saying."

Although he abolished the Office of Strategic Influence in the wake of 
media speculation that it might be used in some cases to give out 
misleading information, Rumsfeld said he would seek other ways to get the 
government's message out.

"We can't just sit there and allow the press to report everything that 
Osama bin Laden is saying and everything the Taliban are saying and 
everything the terrorists are saying . . . and not find a way to rebut it 
when it's not true."

The government has to find alternative ways to get its story out, Rumsfeld 
said, because "anything that is against the United States . . . or is bad 
is a lot more newsworthy," while "anything that is humanitarian or is 
constructive is not going to sell newspapers."

In his hour-plus appearance at the annual meeting of the American Society 
of Newspaper Editors, Rumsfeld also denied that the military has 
unreasonably restricted coverage of the fighting in Afghanistan. He cited, 
among other steps, the first-ever news coverage of special operations 
troops in combat.

His impression of the press is that "there's almost no level to which you 
can feed them that they will not want more," he said with a laugh. "And 
therefore, I expect a certain amount of unhappiness and unease."

Some media analysts say Rumsfeld has gained considerable celebrity through 
his frequent media briefings. But he told the editors that he takes the 
time to conduct the briefings because "I get asked to do it by people in 
government and by people in other countries."

He said those people "feel that the person who is intimately involved in 
the global war on terrorism can be helpful to them by seeing that the 
subject has some structure" because, otherwise, it gets "tugged away" by 
multiple voices and media coverage.

"I don't know if it's helpful or not. But I keep getting asked to do it, so 
I tend to do it," Rumsfeld said.

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