Monday, February 09, 2004

Hear No Evil, See No Evil 
So the Pentagon has ordered critical news articles be excized from its own clipping service.

From Washington Post media writer Howard Kurtz:

Senior Pentagon managers have repeatedly ordered the department's widely read clipping service to exclude articles critical of the military and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, according to officials familiar with the practice.


(Via Intel Dump)

It's important to understand how the Early Bird is used out here.

There was a time here when troops didn't have email access. In fact, some large installations in Iraq, such as Al Asad Air Base, still don't have regular email access for the troops.

For a long time, the only way I had to keep up with current events was by looking at the day's Early Bird printout. It was really important to me (news junkie that I am).

Now, I have access to the Internet (for now), and can get my own news (not that I have time to read them, but I can grab headlines).

Further, not every unit uses the Early Bird in the same way. Each unit will clip and print only the articles that pertain to them. Units in the field do not need the same print out that Secretary Rumsfeld gets handed to him in his limosine.

We generally just print out articles pertain to events in the Al Anbar Province, the Sunni Triangle, and the Guard/Reserve section articles. We don't bother with articles on defense procurement, or the latest on NCO selection in the US Navy.

And we couldn't give a rat's ass about a Pentagon dinner party. It wouldn't even be read--much less printed out.

So the argument that they're just trying to keep the printout under 40 pages for the SecDef just doesn't wash.

What it amounts to--if true--is an attempt to insulate the professional officer corps from the public watchdog and from the benefits of discourse and healthy criticism.

Nothing good can come of that, in the long run. Actually, I find the whole idea rather insulting. It insults the people who put the Early Bird together, and it insults the officer corps.

Did they think we wouldn't draw critical conclusions on our own?

And do they think that the officer corps is so weak-willed that we'd be so easily discouraged by some negative press that it would disrupt the war effort and compromise our mission?

If not, then why the censorship?

That said, my sense is that it's not as bad as Kurtz makes it out, either.

The sampling of articles on the Early Bird isn't exactly pinko, but I have seen a variety of points of view on it--and even one or two pieces from The Nation, even after the October Surprise memo supposedly came out.

The bottom line: soldiers need to benefit from a free and open press, just like anyone else.

What's the use in having a watchdog if you don't allow it to speak to the very institution it's watching?

Splash, out


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