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[infowar.de] U.S. Military Document Outlines War Coverage
Editor&Publisher, FEBRUARY 14, 2003
Exclusive: U.S. Military Document Outlines War Coverage
Promises Wide Access, But Strict Limits
By Greg Mitchell
NEW YORK -- Updated at 5:10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Editor's note:
Late Friday, E&P received a copy of ground rules sent directly by the
Pentagon to a major national newspaper. This document duplicates the
original rules first reported by E&P Friday morning, but offers more
The U.S. military plans to take extraordinary steps to provide the media
access to combat zones in Iraq, but only after making reporters agree to
a series of strict prohibitions, according to a lengthy document sent by
a press officer for a major U.S. military base to a news organization
that will be "embedding" reporters with American forces preparing for an
attack on Iraq.
The document offers the first detailed glimpse into Pentagon planning
for media coverage of the campaign.
Obtained by E&P on Thursday, and its source confirmed by the news
organization, the document reveals that during the invasion,
"Information on on-going engagements will not be released unless
authorized for release by on-scene commander." In addition, "Date, time,
or location of previous conventional military missions and actions, as
well as mission results are releasable only if described in general
On Wednesday the Pentagon began telling news organizations how many
reporters at each media outlet can accompany U.S. forces. The total will
reach 500 or more. Many editors and news directors, while welcoming this
opportunity, have also wondered what the trade-offs might be in working
under official control.
The Pentagon has long promised to release "ground rules" to embedded
According to the military document obtained by E&P, media traveling with
U.S. forces will be prohibited, during an operation, from reporting
"specific information on friendly force troop movements, tactical
deployment, and dispositions that would jeopardize operational security
or lives." It observes, "Embargoes may be imposed to prote ct
operational security" but "will only be used for operational security
and will be lifted as soon as the operational security issue has
The military will strictly prohibit "information regarding future
operations." No information "identifying postponed or canceled
operations" will be allowed.
Also banned is the release of names of military installations "or
specific geographic locations of military units ... unless specifically
released by the Department of Defense" or operation commander. "News and
imagery products that identify or include identifiable features of these
locations are not authorized for release."
Regarding the start of the war, the document (which was sent by the
military press officer to the reporter via e-mail) states, "Extra
precautions in reporting will be required at the commencement of
hostilities to maximize operational surprise. Live broadcasts from
airfields, on the ground or afloat, by embedded media are prohibited
until the safe return of the initial strike package or until authorized
by the unit commander."
In a section labeled "Ground Rules," the military describes 14
"releasable" categories of information, and 19 "not releasable since
their publication or broadcast could jeopardize operations and endanger
The document says, "Ground rules will be agreed to in advance and signed
by media prior to embedding. Violation of the ground rules may result in
the immediate termination of the embed and removal." One such rule is
"Embedded media are not authorized use of their own vehicle while
traveling in an embedded status."
The document adds, however, "These ground rules recognize the right of
the media to cover military operations and are in no way intended to
prevent release of derogatory, embarrassing, negative, or
In fact, the document promises what appears, on the face, to be a
remarkable effort by the military to accommodate media access, although
how much they will be allowed to report remains to be seen.
In the first part of the document, directed at the military units, it
notes, "Use of priority inter-theater airlift for embedded media to
cover stories, as well as to file stories, is highly encouraged. Seats
aboard vehicles, aircraft, and naval ships will be made available to
allow maximum coverage of U.S. troops in the field."
Continuing in this vein, the document says, "Units should plan lift and
logistical support to assist in moving media products to and from the
battlefield so as to tell our story in a timely manner." It even
suggests, "In the event of commercial communications difficulties, media
are authorized to file stories via expeditious military
"No communications equipment for use by media in the conduct of their
duties will be specifically prohibited. However, unit commanders may
impose temporary restrictions on electronic transmissions for
operational security reasons. Media will seek approval to use electronic
devices in a combat/hostile environment."
In laying out general ground rules, the document tells the media, "All
interviews with service members will be on the record." Interviews with
pilots and aircrew members are authorized "upon completion of missions;
however, release of information must conform to these media ground
rules." Visible light sources, such as flash cameras or television
lights, will not be allowed when operating with forces at night unless
approved in advance.
"Battlefield casualties may be covered by embedded media as long as the
service member's identity is protected from disclosure for 72 hours" or
upon notification of next of kin, whichever comes first, the document
says. In addition, media visits to medical facilities will be
Among the 19 "not releasable" categories of information (besides those
already mentioned) is any mention of a specific number of troops,
aircraft, or ships below very large levels.
* Photography showing level of security.
* Rules of engagement.
* "Information on effectiveness of enemy camouflage, cover, deception,
targeting ,direct and indirect fire, intelligence collection, or
* Information on effectiveness of enemy electronic warfare.
* "Information on missing or downed aircraft or missing vessels while
search and rescue and recovery operations are being planned or
* Photographs or broadcast showing an enemy prisoner of war or
detainee's "face, nametag, or other identifying feature."
Material that will be "releasable":
* "Approximate friendly casualty figures by service."
* Within certain limits, "embedded media may ... confirm unit casualties
they have witnessed."
* Figures on enemy personnel detained or captured.
* "Size of friendly force participating in an action or operation can be
disclosed using approximate terms."
* Information and location of military targets and objectives previously
* Generic description of origin of air operations, such as "land-based."
* Types of ordnance expended in general terms.
* Number of missions or sorties flown.
* Names and hometown of military units and service member names and
hometowns with their consent.
The document also notes that the military units are responsible for
ensuring that all embedded journalists and their news organizations have
signed the "release, indemnification, and hold harmless agreement and
agreement not to sue" found at
It further notes, "Media embedded with U.S. forces are not permitted to
carry personal firearms."
Source: Editor & Publisher Online
Greg Mitchell (gmitchell -!
- editorandpublisher -
com) is editor of E&P. Ari
Berman contributed to this report.
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