ASD PA Clarke Meeting with Media Pool Bureau Chief
NEWS TRANSCRIPT from the United States Department of Defense
DoD News Briefing Victoria Clarke, ASD PA Thursday, Oct. 25, 2001
(Meeting with DoD National Media Pool bureau chiefs.)
Clarke: Sorry for the delays getting in this morning.
I just have a few things to tick through here and then we'll open it up for questions and comments.
A summary from last week and what's been happening since last week in the meeting with the secretary. The daily briefings, five days a week -- we've been doing them. As I noted to someone on the phone the other day, the attendance has dropped off a little in the last couple of days.
Background briefings, we did one yesterday on denial and deception. We're scheduling others and taking requests on specific topics, so if there are specific things you're interested in or your people are interested in, let us know.
Some success on embedding, the embedding aboard the Peleliu (which I cannot pronounce correctly) is underway. We're going to try pooling at first to sort of get it out of people's systems, but those who are interested should contact Jeff Alderson in Bahrain at 973-724-027.
Clarke: Jeff Alderson, A-L-D-E-R-S-O-N, who is the public affairs --
Q: Would you do that number again?
Clarke: Sure. 973-724-027.
Q: What is the Peleliu doing?
Clarke: It's a Marine amphibious assault ship.
Q: Torie, you told us the make up for that authority is (inaudible), correct?
Clarke: To make up for it? What do you mean make up?
Q: For the pool that's going on.
Clarke: Yes. And then once we get that done, then we can just work on individuals, unilaterals who want to get out there. But to sort of burst the initial pressure point, if you will.
Q: Torie, how is the pool mechanic going to work? Will the pool reports be available on the web site, or only in Bahrain?
Clarke: I don't know. Do you know, Captain Taylor?
A2: I think that will be arranged through the correspondents (inaudible). Alderson is the same officer who is coordinating the embarks to the aircraft carriers and I'm confident that all of your correspondents are well acquainted with him. The arrangements will all be made locally.
Clarke: Commando Solo, which a fair number of people had interest in. We've gotten preliminary approval. We have Admiral Quigley out with General Franks right now actually doing some media and he is trying to nail that one down.
The same thing on the 10th Mountain. We're looking at all the different options from getting people in there with them, to doing conference calls and video conferences back here.
Q: (inaudible) to that?
Clarke: We don't have it yet. Contact us.
And just general issues with Uzbekistan. I talked to some of you on the phone since last week. We continue to work with them to try to facilitate access. Short of the access, doing the calls, the videoconferences, etc., from there, but that's very much just a work in progress.
Nothing new to report on the Kitty Hawk.
Last week on one of our calls a couple of people had raised issues that some of the media were being manhandled in Uzbekistan in different places. We talked to Mark Asquino in the embassy there who is also pretty familiar with most of your correspondents, and he said he hadn't heard anything but if there are any problems his phone number is 998-71-133-7096. His name is Mark Asquino, A-S-Q-U-I-N-O.
Q: Where is he?
Clarke: He's the public affairs officer in Tashkent.
Q: At the embassy?
Clarke: Yes. The number is 998-71-133-7096.
Q: This is by Uzbek authorities who were supposedly --
Clarke: It came up, I don't know it if was at the last meeting or one of the calls, but a couple of people had mentioned that, and I said that's the first time we've heard of it. We checked with Mark and he hasn't heard anything, but if there are any problems he's happy to take it on.
Q: On 10th Mountain, the video calls, can you go through what you mean? Where will they be? Will there be people back here who would see the calls? Or people over there?
Q: Would you let us know who the e-mail --
Q: -- available.
Clarke: Trust me, we get it mailed. We'll let you know fast.
Q: We won't have to sign up for the (inaudible).
Clarke: Right. That's all done.
Q: Torie, our interests and your interests converge from time to time. One of them is that the stuff we report is true.
Q: We can't hear.
Q: I was saying that your interests converge with the Defense Department's from time to time, and that one of those interests is that what we report is true. There's a case study that was very troubling, I think, on Friday night when one of the networks reported some action that was in train, reported it, broadcast literally, broadcast broadly, and many of us tried to have our reporters confirm that, and even though it was broadcast over the air and all over the world, you guys refused to tell us what we all knew was true and what you guys knew was true, even though it was already out.
So you put us in a position of having to report things in a way that we couldn't confirm knowledge that was widely disseminated, and as you were to tell us only several hours later, to be true. I don't think that's in your interest or in our interest, and I wondered why that wasn't done more efficiently and more crisply and more rapidly?
Clarke: I'd say for starters, we're never as efficient and as crisp as we would like. We're always working hard on that and we'll continue to work hard on that.
What we got caught in a lot on Friday, and some of you know we were out at Whiteman Air Force Base, we were being asked about it while there were still troops involved and troops on their way out.
Q: I didn't believe what I was hearing from reporters, I actually made these calls myself, as late as 11:15, and was still told we won't have anything on that for you until tomorrow.
Clarke: Well, the secretary spoke about this the other day. We wanted to make sure everyone had cleared the area. We wanted to make sure everything was tied up as much as possible.
Q: I don't think we need to get into a colloquy on this, Torie, but if newspapers that have a combined circulation of over five or six million had had this confirmed and the networks had it confirmed, it strikes me as churlish on your part not to confirm it to newspapers that have 500,000 circulation and that won't be distributed until 7:00 o'clock the next morning.
Clarke: I don't want to get into who did what, but most of the people who work for the secretary were not confirming it. I can't speak for everybody. There are 20,000-some in the building, there are umpteen others around the world. I think it was Admiral Crowe who was telling the story about there are 5,000 people who do background briefings better than anybody else who work in this building. We can't control everybody.
What we were trying to do was say as little as possible about it.
Q: But in real time, Torie, you knew what everybody else knew, and you could call up the Reuter wire and the AP wire as easily as we could, and you knew that that was out and being confirmed, so I wondered why, it was almost gratuitous not to --
Clarke: No, it wasn't gratuitous at all. We're trying to be disciplined about this. Sometimes --
Q: We're trying to be disciplined and accurate as well, and our interest is not to be inaccurate. Our interest is to conform to our standards and values which is to have confirmation on things big and small.
So when it was out there and everybody knew, it was almost, I don't mean to say mean spirited, but it sort of seemed that way not to confirm it.
Clarke: All I can tell you, it was not intended to be mean spirited, it was not intended to be churlish. Some of us were trying to be disciplined about how we were going to do this.
Q: That same urge to discipline led us to try to confirm it rather than to just go up to the typewriter and just rewrite what we heard on CBS, ABC or even the wires. So it put us in a position of trying to serve our readers and to serve our values and to make those in opposition to each other for reasons that weren't apparent then and aren't clearly apparent now.
Q: On the same issue, can I second what David said but make one point and ask one question.
I think some of us differentiate between what happened Friday night and what happened Thursday night where one newspaper had something, and I assume that was the target of the Secretary's comments the other day, the Post story on Thursday night about people on the ground rather than the Friday night --
Clarke: One should not assume any particular outlet or person or story was what the secretary was talking about. It's not true.
Q: More people have this, especially when the two networks have it.
The other is, a question, really, how are we supposed to do our jobs or our reporters do their jobs in such a circumstance? I realize that's our problem, but it's also yours in a way.
Clarke: Ours too.
Q: How are we supposed to deal with such a situation? I think those of us who had reporters working the story went through the normal channels, you were responsive in returning phone calls, but we ended up not being able to confirm something that as David said was widely known and was true.
Clarke: Well --
Q: The Taliban knew it because you were engaged with them so the guys who knew it -- You had guys presumably within 30 feet. And I think the detail of where they were and it was that building, I don't think that came out that night. So that was the most important operational --
Clarke: What we're trying to do, and one of the reasons, for instance, we're using a lot of the secretary -- we try to get out the news and information to as wide a group as possible. We try not to do one off. We try not to. Not always, but we try not to. We can't control every single person. There's a relatively small number of people in the building who knew what was going on on Friday and Friday night, but you get beyond the building, there are a lot of people who are involved and some are more disciplined than others.
So in general, we are trying to get the information to all of you at the same time when we can. That's why we set up a briefing --
Q: We appreciate --
Clarke: Let me finish. That's why we set up a briefing Saturday morning [ transcript: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Oct2001/t10202001_t1020jcs.html ] and we showed the kinds of footage that has never been seen before. To my recollection, and I've asked people, never been seen before because we were trying to make it available to everybody at the same time. I can't control every single person. I just can't. But I hear what you're saying. Once it was out there and once mainstream had it, etc. All I can say is --
Q: -- not to put us in the position of having to write something that we think is true but isn't, just because you guys are trying to show discipline at a time when it doesn't seem to have --
Clarke: I understand.
Q: What is the advantage you have by denying it to the rest of us when it's out there? When it's everywhere?
Clarke: We certainly weren't thinking about advantages/disadvantages. We're trying to be disciplined. I happen to feel, and you can call me a nerd, you can call me old fashioned, but when the Secretary looks at me and says I do not want people talking about this, I take that personally and I won't do it.
Q: Can you explain to him though, that in this kind of situation there's no purpose to that.
Clarke: Uh huh.
Q: That's not the way it works elsewhere.
Clarke: But don't hold us to the same standards -- Don't say we should or will act like others in town.
Q: -- it was over. Once it was over and once it was out there --
Clarke: -- give you more information than you need to know.
Q: We'd appreciate that.
Clarke: This is really in the category of more information than [you] need to know, and as ever, if you don't have my home phone number, you can have my home phone number. And your correspondents, who are terrific, they don't call unless they need it, but if you need it, please call. That's what we're here for.
But very late Friday night, into the wee hours of Saturday morning, there were a lot of us who were working hard on making sure that footage was here, it was cleaned up so we could use it, that General Myers was briefed appropriately so he could brief it. We were really focused very, very hard on that, and I think a lot of your correspondents appreciated that. If you had been in the briefing room when they saw that stuff, and I heard guys who have been in this business for 20 or 30 years say that's amazing.
I'm giving you more information than you need to know. Why I was not thinking about these things, which I clearly should have been focused on. That's what I was focused on that night. I really was. But you know where I live, you know my home phone number.
Q: We are appreciative of the details that we've gotten, the video in particular. It's just that it doesn't eliminate the need for the information --
Q: -- probably more urgent to all of us.
Clarke: Got it.
Q: Would you ever consider doing, when there is something like this, telling us that it's going to happen and telling us that it's going to be over on 10:00 o'clock on Saturday morning and then we can report it? Because it would definitely solve your problem.
Clarke: I'd rather have the problem than telegraph that we might be doing an operation. I'll take the problem every time over that.
Q: -- people on the ground and reporters reporting it before they're gone because we don't have information from you that they're finished with the --
Clarke: I'm sorry. I thought what you were saying is that we would tell you in advance that something's going to happen, and here's what's going to happen --
Q: And they'll be finished at 10:00 o'clock.
Clarke: No. I won't rule it out, but I just can't imagine the circumstances under which we would telegraph what we were doing.
Q: -- the military commanders on the telephone saying Torie, it will be over by 10:00 o'clock. What are the chances of a military commander ever telling you that?
A2: What are the chances of it's supposed to be over at 10:00 o'clock, but something happens and it's not over at 10:00 o'clock and they're still on the ground in a life-threatening situation, and then the media comes out and says well, 15 special forces troops were in an operation in this area --
Q: Well logically, you wouldn't tell us if you didn't know. So if we said --
A2: We cannot foresee when an operation will be over to that kind of detail. And if it doesn't end at that time, how do we stop you?
Clarke: Then there's a story running that says well, despite original Pentagon statements, that the operation was over, it would be over at 10:00 o'clock. It didn't until 12 noon which means something terrible must have happened. That's not going to happen.
Q: I have a concern how you handled the original Post report I guess, that they put on their web site Thursday night. We were told, and other news organizations, were basically steered away from it, basically told there was nothing to the fact that there might be troops there.
I can understand it's your position that you don't comment, we're just not going to talk about it. But in fact my impression from my reporters is that reporters were being steered away almost like disinformation. I'd like you to address that.
Obviously if you choose not to comment on something that is your right and I understand your concerns about lives being in jeopardy. But if we are being steered wrong and given bad information, that goes to the heart of what you said and the Secretary said, that you won't lie to us, you won't mislead us. I'd like you to address that.
Clarke: I cannot speak for everyone. I don't know what everyone said to every reporter. Your reporters talk to a lot of people beyond this building even. But I know when I was asked about it I said, guys, we're not talking about [it], we generally are not going to be talking about operation activity that may or may not happen. We are really not going to be talking about special ops to a large extent. That's what I said. I cannot speak for everyone.
Q: My recollection is even the New York Times on the front page essentially dismissed it on Friday morning, if my memory is correct, and got the same guidance. And again, I think it's really important for you to make a big distinction between them not talking -- We can't make you talk, and believe me I understand your concerns even if we don't always agree on how the procedure should work. But you cross a line, and I don't mean you personally, but the Pentagon, as the chief information officer of the Pentagon you cross a line when people here mislead us or lie to us. That's very serious. I think you have to --
Clarke: I agree, and if you or your reporters have -- So many people refer to "the building". The building doesn't talk. People in the building do. Or people say "your people" waved us on, waved us off, whatever. I can't help you with that.
But if you say to me --
Q: I'm talking about people who work in your department.
Clarke: I'm saying, if you or your reporters feel as though they were deliberately misled then I want to hear about it because I don't agree with that. I think --
Q: My colleague said they got --
Clarke: What I'm saying, more constructively, is why don't you have your reporters come find me and give me a specific example.
Q: Sure. I'd be happy to.
Q: Before our meeting last week, our people, our reporter at Bahrain had been getting advice from the Navy that there was absolutely no way you're ever going to get on the Kitty Hawk. Forget it, it ain't going to happen. Based on that advice, in fact, we started to move him somewhere else, then we had the meeting on Thursday, the Secretary made some comments. I remember asking you, the conflict on the ground and what was being said, and you said go with the Secretary. We sent our person back to Bahrain where he's been sitting for the past week.
The advice as of yesterday locally is, you're never getting on the Kitty Hawk, forget it, it ain't going to happen.
Can you help us out here? What's going on?
Clarke: I think I said in the opening remarks, right now we have nothing, we have no plans, we have nothing we can tell you right now.
Q: You said --
Clarke: We continue to work, we are continuing to work lots of different options. But right now, can somebody get on the Kitty Hawk today? No. Can I tell you a date certain on when they can? No.
Q: Can you tell us the conflict between your saying go with the Secretary in a context which suggested that we are going to get on the Kitty Hawk at some point, and the local advice on the ground which is you may as well forget it. You're never going there.
Clarke: It's always best to take the secretary literally. I think what he said, I don't have the transcript --
Q: -- He said were it to happen very careful rules would have to be employed.
Q: Has there been any progress since we met last time on that? You say nothing new, but internally? Are we closer today than we were?
Clarke: Lots of conversations. I don't want to get in the business of characterizing where we are. People have said how optimistic, how pessimistic are you? I just don't want to do it because then next we'll we're having conversations, well last week you were optimistic and this week you're pessimistic, because that's ten minutes.
Q: I think a (inaudible) keep people in Bahrain long term sitting there waiting. I gather the Peleliu, that's coming up, but do we put them there? Do we put them somewhere else?
Clarke: I can't help you with what are business decisions for you all. I just can't. We've said again and again there are going to be varying levels of activity in this war. Some will be very visible and some won't. And some will be accessible and some won't. I just can't make those decisions for you.
Q: You can't help us with our business decisions. We have to make those, but you can help us with guidance that gives us a little clearer picture. And if we're being told one thing one place and another thing another place it would be helpful to know whether we're wasting our time thinking about the Kitty Hawk or not.
Clarke: I can only repeat what we've said.
Q: The Kitty Hawk is part of a larger picture. We've been asking about the Kitty Hawk and access to the U.S. military in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Pakistan for the month that we've been having these meetings on the phone and in person. So --
Clarke: Well, as I said at the top of the meeting, we had lots of requests about the Peleliu as well. We got that. I know it's a small piece, but we've got it. So we are continuing to try to make progress on a daily/weekly basis. I know it's not as much as you want. Believe me, nothing would be easier, nothing would help me sleep at 3:30 in the morning than just to give everyone free and unfettered access, but it's not going to happen. So we'll continue to work hard.
Q: -- third week of the war that some of this action is going to be imminent from those positions. Kitty Hawk of course we all think has been underway. They're there, there are American soldiers in action, and the media is not there.
Clarke: Well, special operations are very different than thousands of troops going across a desert. It's very different. And I continue to see, I know it's not completely acceptable, but I continue to see reporting off the carriers where we do have people. I continue to have people come to us and say I want to go up in an AWACS, we put them up in an AWACS. So I just don't want to lose sight of the progress that has been made and the level of activity that is there.
Q: I'd like to ask about, Tommy Franks had a press conference yesterday, is that right?
Clarke: Uh --
Q: We've been in touch with MacDill constantly and with you and all of this stuff, and what should we have done to know that he was going to do this? And what could we do to follow him in the future?
Clarke: You could -- we didn't know almost until probably minutes before. We sent Admiral Quigley off with General Franks to try to facilitate some media coverage. I guess they were in Bahrain. We weren't even sure until it happened whether or not he was going to work it onto his schedule to do the availability. I think we do have now a tentative idea of where he will be. You can contact our office and try to find out --
Clarke: Okay. We're trying to build in some media availability as he goes through. We'll try to get you some more information about that. But we really didn't know until he went out that he was actually going to do it. So the media that's there, there's a fair amount in Bahrain knew what was going on.
Q: One of the ideas you took under consideration last week was videoconferences or teleconferences.
Q: It seems to me that would have been a very good opportunity for news organizations that may not have had someone in Bahrain to arrange for him, videoconference obviously which would help television, but at the very least if that could be arranged, a teleconference where our reporters here or elsewhere would have access to that.
Clarke: With Franks, you mean.
Q: With Franks or anyone. Or if you're still reluctant on --
Q: That seems to be a halfway measure. You get the control it seems you want yet it gives us the real-time access and it also, I think, levels the playing field. I think Sarah's point about not every organization knew he was going to be there, and this way we'll have access to that information. And if he's trying to get a message out, or anyone else, we're all here. If you can get us, or reporters, in a room for a weekly meeting, or a conference call with you, surely you could do something with them. I think that would be useful. At least a first step.
Q: I think in terms of 10th Mountain and videoconferencing, if you would do that as a first step, I think it's clear we would prefer to be embedded.
Clarke: Absolutely. We're working both.
Q: Is Admiral Quigley with General Franks as a personal PIO during this trip, or is he trying to facilitate some access for us --
Clarke: Both. And they did. People who are in Bahrain --
Q: I don't mean the Franks news conference, but some of these issues that we've been --
Clarke: Oh, yes. He's working issues as well.
Q: Is he staying in the region?
Clarke: He's going to be with Franks on this trip.
Q: Then come back.
Q: Where does the trip --
Clarke: I don't even know. I haven't looked at the itinerary. I don't know. But we'll get you some information after this.
Q: Can you find out about (inaudible)?
Clarke: Which one?
Q: You mentioned briefings earlier, that you had one topic briefing --
Clarke: The backgrounders? Captain Taylor?
A3: www.defenselink.mil: http://www.defenselink.mil/ then click on subscribe, and you can get all of our announcements, and anyone who's not getting those is not well informed.
Q: Can I switch gears for a minute?
Q: To what extent has Secretary Rumsfeld been involved in the JSF decisions or meetings this week, and would he have been more involved if it weren't for this conflict?
Clarke: What does this have to do with furthering the military and the media access process?
Q: Well, it's --
Clarke: Why don't you come find me after this meeting.
Clarke: Thank you. Nice try. (Laughter) That's what you get when you let non-bureau chiefs in.
Q: -- contract (inaudible) --
Q: When the Chinook lost some parts and the Afghanis were showing them off, all colors, it took two days for --
Clarke: -- al Qaeda.
Q: All right. It took us two days --
Clarke: It's an important point and I have talked to some of you about it. When things started a few weeks ago there were a lot of (inaudible), and a lot of headlines of "Attacks on Afghanistan begin". These are not attacks or strikes on Afghanistan. We have said it repeatedly. It's a distinction. It's a detail that really, really matters. This is about the Taliban, this is about al Qaeda. And it was the Taliban that was out there parading wheels around, so --
Q: So it took the Pentagon two days to confirm that. Clearly you knew the minute it happened that the helicopter lost some --
Clarke: Actually, the --
Q: Why is it taking so long to confirm things that the U.S. knows? Forget about the Taliban or al Qaeda claims.
Clarke: Actually, when, according to the people with whom I've spoken, and Admiral Stufflebeem talked about this some the other day from the podium, they didn't know right away what had happened. The helicopter, and you guys can help me on this, the helicopter is so massive and there's so much going on. At the time, they knew something had happened to the landing gear but they didn't know until they had landed. And there were a lot of other things going on. I fully admit it would have been great to have more information sooner. But reporting in on damage was not the number one priority for the folks at the time.
Q: Even when the Taliban was making an issue of it? We have a helicopter down, here's a part of it?
Clarke: I agree completely, it would be nice to have had the information sooner, but we didn't.
Q: Well when we bring those things to your attention from overseas -- I don't understand why five minutes later you can't have the answer to it.
Clarke: I'd love to have you have some of the conversations with some of these people. Look, our communications can be --
Q: (inaudible) (Laughter)
Clarke: Our communications can definitely be better and it can be faster and we are trying to do that.
Q: The wheel -- it's a process, something to check off the list.
Q: Yes, it's true --
Clarke: It is absolutely to our advantage, and I put the deal with the helicopter wheels in a separate category. But I was thinking about this yesterday in light of some of the questioning. And yes, in the ideal world you get out the perfectly accurate information as quickly as possible. There's no such thing as the ideal world. There's no such thing as perfectly accurate information. There shouldn't be such a thing as quickly as possible.
I would rather get out good information more slowly than bad information quickly. I just will not respond, react, say something just for the sake of saying something, just for the sake of feeding someone's next deadline.
We are going to try very hard to get out good information as soon as we feel we've got some good information. But I will not put out bad information quickly just for the sake of meeting someone's demands. It's just not appropriate, it's not responsible, it's not the way we should behave. I will put the helicopter wheels in a separate category. But when it comes to, well, there are reports of this, and there are reports of that, and what happened here?
We are always trying to get the ground truth. It is very difficult. You guys know all the expressions better than I do. First reports are always wrong. There are a lot of things on the minds of the people who are executing this war. We're trying to work within those constraints.
But I thought about this because we got into it a little bit on Tuesday, I guess it was. I'll just repeat myself. We're going to try to get out good information as efficiently as possible, but we will not get out bad information quickly just for the sake of getting it out.
Q: I have the sense that we've been at this several weeks, that there may be an effort to try and delay some of these issues to the point where military action is going to taper off dramatically. Could you address that? Do you get the sense that the military is not being forthcoming in the sense of having reporters with troops?
Clarke: I think we're being as forthcoming and we're providing as much access as we possibly can.
Q: And what are the issues that are holding up the fact of getting people with say the 10th Mountain or people on the ground?
Clarke: We've talked about them before. In some cases it's operational security. In some cases it's the sensitivities of host nations. The secretary's talked about it, I've talked about it. Some countries with good reason do not want a lot of visibility for their efforts, and that is fine with us. We are very happy with the level and the kinds of support we're getting from around the world. It's not as easy for some countries as others to be out there talking about it a lot. It's the same concerns we've had for two or three weeks.
Q: You said you (inaudible) on the Peleliu and you said you might do some pooling at first to get it out of your system. Are you talking about the national pool or a regional pool?
Q: What is the status of the national pool?
Clarke: I'll admit I don't know much about it because we just found out this morning. Do you know, Dick?
A4: The national media pool?
Clarke: No, how we're handling the Peleliu.
A4: Yes, I can give you a phone number of the 5th Navy Public Affairs Officer in Bahrain who can schedule your people --
Clarke: I'm sorry, I gave them that before you came down. But do we know how we're handling the pool first?
Q: So then national pool is not activated --
Clarke: It's a regional pool.
Q: -- not activated the national media pool.
Clarke: I will call you. What Jeff was trying to do, my understanding, and I apologize for not having more details, but I just found out about it before I came down. I think he was trying to do some sort of regional pool there because there was such interest and so many people wanted to get on. We can't accommodate everybody at once. So we'll do some sort of pooling arrangement, and then after that is done, then start to do the unilaterals.
A5: -- worked out the details right now. I don't think they've been finalized. We've asked them to let us know when they are finalized. So the best advice for all of you is to have your correspondents stay in touch with Commander Alderson.
Clarke: Right. Or if we get more information we can e-mail this gang.
Q: Do you know how far behind the (inaudible) are, behind the pool?
Clarke: Don't know. I'll try to find out.
Q: Is there a point at which you can, if you're not going to use the pool, can you just tell us? My pool reporter's now my anthrax reporter.
Q: We have people waiting to go on the pool, and we're kind of wasting them.
Clarke: I'm sure if somebody wants out of the pool there will be others willing to step in.
Q: That's not really the question.
Clarke: Is there a point at which I can say the pool will never be activated? No. Absolutely not.
Q: But it's unlikely at this point?
Clarke: I wouldn't say it's likely or it's unlikely.
Q: Previously the guidance was unlikely. That's what --
Clarke: No, I think at one time I said I don't see it happening in the next several days to a week or so.
Q: And will we --
Clarke: -- by putting a timeframe on it because at the end of seven day 18 people called and said it's been several days. So --
Q: You're saying it could happen any minute or never happen? That's the range?
Clarke: I'm not saying either. I'm saying we've got the pool ready to do what it does if it needs to do it.
Q: Is it correct that you have no interest in using the pool for an advanced guard action?
Clarke: Why would you say that?
Q: Because it's been more than a month and we've seen nothing.
Clarke: I actually would be -- so you've seen nothing.
Q: Well the pool is still here.
Clarke: And to the extent possible we've been doing what people have asked us to do, which is embed. We've been doing a lot of it. We also got the very strong impression people wanted to see something from special ops. It's very hard to put reporters on a plane dropping guys into Afghanistan in the middle of the night, so we brought footage back. We have not found the circumstances yet in which the national media pool is appropriate.
Is it a correct read that you would rather have the DoD national pool than embed some unilaterals?
Q: No. No one is saying that, Torie. You know we're not saying that. What we want is embedding to the maximum degree possible, but if there is a situation where that isn't possible then we'd like to activate the pool.
The Kitty Hawk is one possible place where you could do that to, as you put it before, it would break the ice. Then start as people get experienced with each other maybe start moving to (inaudible). But we're not posing this as a choice.
Q: The example you mentioned, (inaudible) went back somewhere. Maybe the Kitty Hawk somewhere else. We've talked about tail end, putting people in the tail end, either embedding or the pool. I think this came up last week. That may be one possible place if you feel that security is so tight.
Clarke: Right. And in some places, as I said, some places the concerns are operational security and some places it's host nation sensitivities, but we are working on it. I know we're not giving you what you want, not giving you the success you want, but we are working on it.
Q: Is there any other Marine amphib opportunities other than with the ship that I can't pronounce either?
Clarke: The Peleliu? I don't know. Do you know?
A2: Not at this time, no.
Clarke: A question for everybody, if there aren't more questions or comments. Do you want to keep doing these in person, calls? It's totally your decision.
Q: Two weeks?
Clarke: Two weeks from now? Do you want to say two weeks from today? Hearing no objection --
Q: Subject to call before by the chair --
Clarke: Absolutely. At any time.
Q: And if something comes up that you feel it would be useful to put a conference call on, a fairly short hour or two notice, I think we're all welcome to it. These things are very helpful.
Clarke: They really are.
Q: They are, and the face to face is far superior to the conference call.
Clarke: That's fine. You guys are the ones that have to go to the trouble of getting in the building.
Q: I'd like to say even though we are going to continue to push for embedding and access, that does not change the fact that we do appreciate the daily briefings here, the backgrounders. We've asked you and you've been responsive, and I just want to urge you to continue because particularly since we're not having the access in the field to be able to confirm so many things we're getting anecdotally, that it's really even more essential.
Q: So please continue doing that. And also increase access overseas.
Q: Our reporters have told us they appreciate the ability to get through to you on issues, even when you can't fully confirm what they want confirmed.
Clarke: Okay. Thanks very much, you guys.