Wednesday, January 6, 1988
The Michigan Daily
By Muzammil Ahmed
While the Persian Gulf has not captured
front page headlines in the last few weeks,
the U.S. is still maintaining its largest naval
presence since the Korean War there. And
considering the votality of the region, the
Persian Gulf is likely to resurface to headline
news in the near future. Unfortunately, such
news will probably not contain a warning
that some of it was reviewed by a military
censor before being released.
The military censor of some American
press reports from the Gulf is the Pentagon.
Since the U.S. invasion of Grenada several
years ago, during which the Pentagon im-
posed a news blackout on the region,
American journalists had asked the Pentagon
to establish some sort of official accom-
modation for reporters on U.S. military
maneuvers and operations. This would
enable the public to come to an informed
decision on what the armed forces are really
Bowing into this demand, the Pentagon
established the Pentagon Pool: a group of
Washington based journalists who are se-
cretly hustled out to accompany U.S. troops
whenever a newsworthy event occurs. From
this unique frontline perspective, they are
allowed to write stories and take pictures.
Before their work can be published, however,
Pentagon officials must scrutinize it. What
follows are excerpts of interviews conducted
by Muzammil Ahmed with a Pentagon
spokesperson and several reporters who
participated in the Pentagon Pool. The
Pentagon spokesperson will talk about how
the pool is intended to work, the reporters
will talk about how the Pool ends up work-
Ahmed: Can you tell me about the objec-
tives of the Pentagon Pool and its back-
Spokesperson: The Pentagon Pool was
based on the recommendation of the Sital
Commission which was put together
following Grenada to make it easier for
military and media to 1) accomplish their
objectives, 2) to maintain secrecy, and 3)
report all that is reportable back to the
American public...and so based on that it
was decided that...you can establish a pool to
cover the major news gathering services.
A: How is it used specifically in the Persian
S: The Persian Gulf is the first actual de-
ployment of the Pentagon press pool. If
you're, let's say, the CBS crew, you know
on this particular period you're on call. We
call the Bureau chief...of CBS and we say
we're activating the pool, we would like
your representatives to be out...at Andrew's
Air Force Base no later than 11:30...and
that's about all we tell them. Once they ar-
rive at the airport, we brief them on certain
ground rules...once aboard the aircraft we
then say, OK, here's what we're going to do,
here's where we're going, here's how long
it's going to take to get there, and here's
what you'll be seeing.
A: Some questions about the journalists
themselves: What kind of guidelines and re-
strictions were they under?
S: We told them there were three locations
they could not go to on the ship because of
their classification of those spaces, but they
had free access to anything else on the
ship...They couldn't report anything that
would be happening in the future, they could.
report only on events as they saw them.
A: Could they talk to personnel?
S: They could talk to anybody they wanted
to. Everybody was told what they said could
be used to an on the record basis.
A: After the writer writes a story, what
happens to it?
S: A print journalist would write his story,
and we would send it via naval message from
the ship with an immediate priority...which
means it would get put very quickly (20
minutes)...We would then call the bureau
chiefs [from the Pentagon]...and we would
get it in the hands of Associated Press, and
it'll be up to AP to release it to everyone
The next excerpted interview is of Michael
Duffy, a writer for Time magazine.
A: Once you were aboard the navy ship,
what guidelines or restrictions were you un-
Duffy: I could roam anywhere except the
radio room...the outboard, which ...involved
intelligence gathering...and the missile
room...They also read our copy [of the news
story] before we sent it in.
A: How long were your stories held by the
D: Well, it was hard for us to
tell...basically, they got better as time went
on. Our first dispatch we'd write and they'd
read, and then they'd send it, but the guys on
our ship weren't smart enough to know that
they'd told us stuff the Pentagon would
hold...It would have sent some pretty clear
messages to our enemies. And so they at the
Pentagon held it. Now, what should have
happened is that the guys on the ship-our
handlers, the Pentagon handlers-should
have realized that that stuff would have pro-
voked a hold in Washington and ask us to
take it out, which we would have done sim-
ply to get our stories out. We wouldn't have
cared to edit the stuff according to their
suggestions. Subsequent stories which they
read more closely, and we were more careful
in writing, were released in two or three
A: Did they tell you whether they were
holding back your reports?
D: Well, you have to understand that they
were our lifeline for every piece of informa-
tion...Everything we got, we got from them.
They not only told us what happened, they
also told us what happened to our stories.
A: Were [military personnel] ever reluctant
to talk to you?
D: They were proud...and would sometimes
tell us too much...Now, the day we hit the
mines...our handlers disappeared and we got
very ansy and we had to pull some-the way
we finally got some answers from them was
that I wrote up 20 questions with Mark
Thompson of Knight-Riddder, and we just
threatened to file it, you know, "Here's 20
things we don't know." We figured that
would be pretty damaging for the Pentagon
to release, and therefore forced them to an-
swer the questions...The next day, they
coughed up the admiral of the whole opera-
tion for us...Since I've been back, it's been
harder to find out what's been going on in
the Gulf here than there.
The next journalist, Bob Frankin, is a
photographer for CNN.
A: While you were aboard the ship, what
kind of restrictions were you under?
Frankin: Almost none, almost none. We
were not allowed to got into the one room
which was off limits to everybody, and
that's the code room. Standard stuff...They
provided us with one helicopter ride over the
area. Now, I should point out that when you
say 'aboard the ship' were there restrictions:
we were not taken to certain areas. We did
not stay with the convoy as they went
through the Strait of Hormuz - which we
wanted to do...Our prohibitions came up
when we wanted to [accompany the convoy]
to other areas...They were claiming they
didn't have the facilities to do it.
A: Your reports from the Pentagon: were
they held back or censored?
F: No, not at all.
A: None of them were held back for any
amount of time?
F: No, on a couple of occasions they tried
to make changes that I would not accept.
A: Can you give an example?
F: The use of a word. For instance, I used
the word 'embarrassed' to describe the min-
ing of the Bridgeton, and they didn't like that
word, and I had to say to them that that is
not anything that has to do with security, I
will not accept your authority. And that was
the end of it...I consider that perfectly nor-
mal, trying to get your point of view across.
A: Do you think any situation arose where
the Pentagon showed you what they wanted
you to see rather than what you'd like to
F: I at no time was denied seeing what I
wanted to see, except that we were not given
access to certain parts of the convoy. That is
to say, we were basically allowed to be in
the area about 18 hours, and that was much
less time than the whole convoy. After that
we were taken back to Bahrain, so the Pen-
tagon did not let us see the entire trip.
Tim Ahern from AP also participated in
the pool. Although he could not be reached
for comment, he wrote about at least two
personal instances of attempted censorship in
the Persian Gulf by Pentagon officials. In
the Washington Journalism Review (8/87);
he wrote that Pentagon officials
"eliminated...a reference to [navy
personnel's] beer drinking...because [the
official] said it wouldn't look good to readers
back in the United States if they knew." He
also wrote that the Pentagon held back some
of his stories without letting him know,
"because they breached operational security."
The Persian Gulf is bound to spawn more
crises which the media will report. From
these excerpts of interviews and articles of
reporters who have participated in the Pen-
tagon pool, it is clear that some news stories
from the Gulf have been looked over and
okayed by a military censor. Readers should
be warned about this by editors placing an
advisory heading above such stories. While
the Pentagon pool provides a new pe'rspec-
tive on the Gulf, readers should know that
this perspective has been made "acceptable"
to a Pentagon censor.
Muzammil Ahmed is a stifled Daily Opinion
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan
Vol. XCVIII, No. 66 420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Unsigned editorials represent a majority of the Daily's Editorial Board. All other
cartoons, signed articles, and letters do not necessarily represent the opinion
of the Daily.
Smokers vs. non-smokers
A hearty howdy and welcome back to
campus to all my tree town friends and foes.
Happy New Year. I hope all of y'all's breaks
went well and you're gearing up for the new
term. I've got some fat suggestions for you.
First, boycott classes. It's colder than a
well digger's ass out there and that means
it's too damn cold to walk all the way to
campus just to attend class. For sure do not
go to any discussions unless there's already
been a lecture. Maybe even two. How
important can the first lecture be anyway.
Probably just some white haired, hot aired
ol' bag of wind puffing out warnings about
how hard his class is agonna be, and you'd
better be prepared, and yeah, yeah, yeah.
Secondly, you're all gonna be greeted by
friends, acquaintances, and assorted sordid
others with a generic, "How was your
break?" Just nod and retort that it was fine.
Any more detail and you're bamboozled into
a long discourse on the details of couch
potatoing, food inhalation, and the virtues of
sleeping late. Cut the crap and take a deep
whiff. Face it, the break was too short,
maybe the shortest in major college history.
Everyone wishes it was longer. Of course,
the prez who signed the papers didn't care
because he's not here anymore. He signed
the schedule, knowing full well that
Princeton doesn't get going again until late
January. Thanks a lot Hal.
Another alternative is to blow them away
by saying something like "It sucked. My
dog died, my parents farm got repossessed,
and I flunked all my courses. But I feel
great." Then laugh real hard, spit on the
ground, and take a pinch of Copenhagen.
This way, you'll find out who your true
friends are around here anyhow. And who's
got time for the rest anyhow?
Thirdly, I suggest with true corporeal
wisdom that you don't buy your books-
you won't read them anyway. Instead invest
in a warm, dead-animal garment. Hey,
we're the top of the food chain, aren't we?
And, man it's some cold out there and
nothing can keep your blood flowing like a
pelt. Most of you can't trap your o w n
vermin like me, so do the next best thing
and dish out some beans.
Last, it is important for all to remember
that with all of the free time available
because of the aforementioned suggestions,
alternative activities must be found. There
are several options here.
First, for the wimps in the crowd- do
not leave the house except to buy beer. You
can have everything else you need delivered;
Why doesn't anyone deliver beer anyhow?
Sit around, tip a few cold ones, consume,
other substances of your choice, watch TV,
listen to some tunes, abitchin' and amoanin'
about how cold it is, and blah blah blah.
You know if this option is for you.
Now for the rest of you, those with a hope
of salvaging yourselves, hear this. You must
conquer the elements and not let them
conquer you. All that other crapola I wrote
was to test you. If you succumbed, slap,
yourself in the face a few times, drink a coldA
Pabst Blue Ribbon and get your head;
together. I guarandamntee you it's not too
cold to go to it, whatever "it" may be. Buy,
yourself some cross country skis or, as I.
prefer, snowshoes. Then troop through the
Arb and act like a Neanderthal. It's the only
way to be. Heh-heh-heh....
A belated happy holidays. Hope everyone
had a cool yule and a mellow new year...if
this column is a little choppy it's cause I'm
suffering withdrawls and DT's from ma's:,
home cooking. Just think, no road kill stew
for months. My stomach's churning just
athinkin' about it. Hope to hear from you
soon. Where were all those Christmas cards?
My fat feelings were hurt.
THE RINGING IN OF THE New Year
has introduced the start of what
promises to be a very ugly war
between smokers and non-smokers.
California laws eliminating smoking
on intrastate mass transit become
effective January 1, 1988. In April of
this year, a federal statute banning
cigarette smoking during shorter
flights will be implemented. These
and other actions will inevitably
heighten tensions between rights
advocates on both sides of the issue.
Tensions rose to the point of
violence last week, when ten smokers
on a United Airlines flight defied
federal regulations by lighting up on a
non-smoking flight, which occurs
when there are more non-smoking
passengers than non-smoking seats.
When a flight attendant tried to grab a
cigarette from one of the smokers, a
scuffle ensued. The police met the
plane upon landing and made three
Though this conflict was aggravated
by the belligerent smokers, the
incident serves as an example of how
many smokers feel threatened. The
latest health trend is to coerce
smokers into quitting. While the
stated motives for this coercion are
unimpeachable, the new policies of
the airlines and the state and federal
governments smack of hypocrisy.
There is little doubt in anyone's
mind that smoking is hazardous both
to smokers and those who encounter
power of big business and greed of
the state and federal governments is
evidenced in the fact that there is not
one state in the Union that has a truly
protective environmental policy.
This does not dismiss the harm of
tobacco products, or justify smoking,
but it indicates that the airlines and
governments are not serious in their
concern for people's health. If the
airlines really cared about the health
of their passengers, they would not
sell alcohol on board, or even serve
the crap they call food to their
What has brought about these
changes in the laws is the shift in the
balance of power between lobbying
groups for and against smoking.
Whereas tobacco concerns previously
ruled the appropriate committees of
Congress, now politicians are being
forced to mouth anti-smoking jargon
to appease their constituencies.
Several airlines and the Amtrak
railroad system have already
announced their unwillingness to
comply to California's ban, claiming
they are not bound by state laws.
There is also opposition to the
upcoming ban on short flights.
The Daily in no way endorses any
form of smoking or use of other
tobacco products. However, the
runaway juggernaut of anti-smoking
forces must not be allowed to
interfere with the rights of those who
do choose to use tobacco. Other
cr-strn - 1o - .%" rs.t ~c n" n1 hil
A need to understand gay problems
To the Daily:
A friend of mine told me that
an editorial such as this could
take pages. I suppose i t
could-it could take a life-
time. All issues have their
leading threads. I am gay and
have been becoming this way
all my life. If only I had
known perhaps things might
be different. To say I "prefer"
or that homosexuality is a
preference precludes a choice I
never made, nor could I have
made. I am not so masochistic.
I have no prevailing need of
distinction... not more than
any other human.
the closet. Today he is dying
alone of AIDS. Reality has hit
home. The hinges of the closet
door have a squeaking hu-
mility, and mortality is not the
issue; we all will die. Life is a
process to an end-or a new
Rather, dignity is the issue.
The right to be who you are. If
my lover were allowed dignity
... if gays were allowed it, he
might have a future... he might
be healthy. I am lucky. I am
alive. My health is confirmed
by three negative HIV tests
subsequent to this first, and
really last. relationshin. So. I
"natural" distinction than a
virus? Some may argue that
societal distinction correlates to
that of the virus; 75 percent of
the victims are gay. That does
not mean that 75 percent of the
gays have AIDS.
What about the gays who
live? What about sexuality?
Gays have existed in every
echelon of society since the
dawn of humanity, and despite
AIDS, gays will continue to
exist as long as there con-
tinues to be natural variance in
populations. As long as the
process of sexualization con-
tinie. A elong a livingr
not AIDS. AIDS is a means of
rally, but by no means is it our
main or only battle. AIDS
gives us a sense of humility. It
causes us to realize the con-
nected and overall battle-
Two coaches I overheard
discussing homosexual ac-
tivities in a university hall
asked, "Why? Why don't they
have the decency to do it in
their own room? That is
disgusting..." That is the issue.
Why is it that gay bars are
unnamed, in the back of shop-
ping centers? Or in the ghettos
of Detroit? Why is it that wed