DoD News Briefing Victoria Clarke 13th February
NEWS TRANSCRIPT from the United States Department of Defense
DoD News Briefing Victoria Clarke, ASD/PA Wednesday, February 13, 2002
(Meeting of the Washington Metropolitan Cable Club. Also participating was Jamie McIntyre, CNN Pentagon correspondent.)
Clarke: Thank you very, very much.
It is great to be here, and as I started to see people as you all were coming in I just thought I want to sit back at that table, and that table and that table. It would be a heck of a lot more fun.
Jamie McIntyre is with us today. I'll try to get a few tough questions in for Jamie but I also just want to say what an extraordinary pleasure it is to work with him. And one of the reasons my job is as great as it is is because we work with a press corps that is pretty incredible almost 365 days a year, so we're very lucky to have him with us.
On the way over, he hitched a ride with us -- because we're always taking the press everywhere with us. He hitched a ride over with us and we were talking about this and he says tell me about this lunch and who is there and what's happened. I said well, you know, one of my vivid memories of working for the cable industry and this lunch was some years ago when Ted Turner was the chairman of NCTA. These people here were there. He was the chairman of NCTA and he was a great chairman of NCTA because he cares deeply about the industry. I can't even remember what the topic was supposed to be but some people who clearly didn't like me who worked for Ted said NCTA needs to write some remarks for Ted. I said nobody writes remarks for Ted; you just don't do that. No, he needs remarks, so we really need to work this through.
So Jed Granstrom and I put pen to paper, there are ten people in this room who helped work on it and I will name names -- Burt Carp and Tim Boggs, who were responsible for Ted Turner, worked on them as well, signed off on them, approved them, sent them to Ted, said they're great, he loves them, it's wonderful. I think I was sitting in about the front row. And because it was Ted, it was being carried live by C-Span. And as near as my recollection was before I passed out, Ted stands up and he's looking out and he says, "NCTA, Torie, wrote these remarks for me." I'm sinking in my chair. He goes, "They're really awful." (Laughter) He proceeds to go through, for those of you who were here, line-by-line, paragraph-by-paragraph what was wrong with them.
I see all these heads shaking going oh, yeah, I remember that. That was one of the highlights of my career at NCTA. And it started my mother's health problems. She watches C-SPAN all the time.
So having learned the hard way, no prepared remarks today.
What I'd like to do is just talk briefly about what is going on at the Pentagon, what is going on in the war on terrorism, and then have Jamie come up and join us and do a little Q&A with Jamie. I think I have more Q's for him than he does for me, and then open it up to all of you for the questions and the comments. The insults go to Jamie. Because one of the reasons that I'm here, other than it is so great to see everybody here. I told them on the way in, I'm not going back this afternoon. I'm just going to sit down and talk to everybody when this is over.
But one of the reasons I'm here is we are making a very big effort, we at the Pentagon are making a very big effort, to go out around the country and talk to everybody we can find about this war on terrorism. It's such an unconventional thing, and I will talk a little bit about this. But it is so unconventional, it is so unique, it is so demanding, we have to have the American people engaged. We have to have them informed. We have to have them educated. We need to be talking with them because what we hear from all of you and the people you work for is just as important as what we tell you.
But as I was standing out here waiting to come in, Chairman Coelho was nice enough to give me a copy of his book. I was looking, he wrote a very nice comment in here, but it's called "My Wars" by James Coelho and this little blurb in the front. I thought I'd read it to you because it's somewhat relevant.
"The extraordinarily human story of a greatest generation survivor who came through six amphibious landings during World War II before serving six U.S. presidents during 23.5 embattled years with the FTC and in the process helped jump start the information age."
It's an incredible tribute to an incredible person. It's really relevant because it's about what I want to talk about. The two things that are the single most important in this war on terrorism are the people, and I wish every single one of you could see and experience what I see and experience every single day.
The men and women in the U.S. military are just phenomenal. They are so dedicated. They are so disciplined. They are so committed. They work so hard day in and day out, and we ask them to do extraordinary things every day, and they always exceed our expectations.
The other thing that's so relevant from that inscription is about the information age. In terms of communication to say that this being a 24x7 news cycle is just one piece of the puzzle. We are trying to communicate a very unconventional war to a wide variety of people around the world, 24x7 in many different ways. So how we do that and the kinds of things we talk about and the vehicles we use for news media and others are very, very important.
But let me give you -- some really well-meaning people tried very hard to write remarks that I could actually use -- let me tell you what would be in my remarks if I had read them. A few things I want to say about this war on terrorism. It is not just about the military. It is unconventional in the sense that this Administration made a conscious decision that to be successful going against the kinds of enemies we're going against, it could not just be military. It is economic, diplomatic; it's legal. One of the very first strikes in this war was not the military strike that started on October 7th. It was the signing by President Bush of an order that froze some assets, because the financing of these terrorists and those who harbor and foster and sponsor them is a very big deal, so stopping the financing is important.
Working with different countries around the world is extraordinarily important. Another way what we're doing is very different than conventional wars or previous wars, if you will, is there isn't one coalition. We again made a conscious decision that there were going to be evolving, changing coalitions. Different countries would do different things at different times. That's proven to be very, very effective in a policy that sometimes drives Jamie and his colleagues crazy.
We've made a conscious decision that we will let other countries talk about publicly what it is they want to talk about and their contributions to the war on terrorism. There are a lot of countries, a lot of people out there who are united with us in this cause, but because of their domestic considerations, because of their sensitivities, they may not want a lot of visibility. They may not want a lot of publicity for what they're doing with us. They may not want a whole lot of coverage of the fact that U.S. troops are stationed on their soil. They want to be as helpful as possible, but that's something that doesn't work for them. That's one of the unique aspects of the evolving, changing coalitions we have.
It's one of the tensions we constantly have with the media. Tension is something I will talk about.
One of the other ways this has been so unconventional is on the military perspective itself. This is not the war that most people are used to. For most of us our frame of reference might be the Persian Gulf War, which so many cable networks covered so heavily. In which night after night you saw thousands of missiles going through the air. Where day after day you saw thousands of troops coursing across the desert. There is military activity you can see; there's military activity you can't see. We're going against people, when we go after the terrorists we are going after people who don't have armies, navies and air forces. They're in caves, they are in tunnels, and so we have to use unusual tactics to go after them.
Again, this creates a real challenge in terms of how we work with the media. It's absolutely in our interest to get out as much news and information about what we're doing, for the reasons I said before, to keep people engaged so they have a clear understanding of what it is we're trying to do. Sometimes that's very hard for us to facilitate media access, and it's one of the constant tensions we have, balancing what it is we're trying to get done versus the need and desire by the news organizations to get their message out, but we work on that every single day.
It is unconventional in this sense. There isn't going to be a signing on the Missouri. When you're conducting a global war on terrorism which is about more than one man or one network and certainly it's about more than Afghanistan, you're not going to have a final end to it per se, so you won't see that signing on the Missouri. This is something that is probably going to go on for years, certainly not months and days.
Having said that, if you look at what has happened in Afghanistan since October 7th, which was the first day of the strike. September 11th was almost five months ago. The military action started on October 7th. You take a look at what we've accomplished thus far and it's pretty extraordinary.
The Taliban regime is gone. A regime that tortured and oppressed and starved its own people is no longer in power. There's an interim government that is trying very very hard to bring some stability to an incredibly war torn, ravaged country.
The al Qaeda, a lot of those terrorists are behind bars or on the run. We have not completely rid the world of the al Qaeda network, which is in 50 to 60 countries around the world -- hundreds of cells, 50 or 60 countries. But we have debilitated their means of operating. We've reduced their ability to communicate. We have made it harder for them to do business. That is a very good thing.
One of the other accomplishments, which you wouldn't necessarily expect to hear somebody from the Pentagon talking about, is the humanitarian assistance. In the first several weeks alone of this war of the military, at great risk to themselves, and there's still a lot going on in that country, a lot of danger to them and there still is, delivered 2.5 million humanitarian rations. Now to a country in which six or seven million people were near starvation that may not seem like a whole lot but if you were one of those people it was significant. Because of that original assistance and because since then we have helped to make roads safer, we have created land bridges, we have worked with the relief agencies, there have been massive amounts of humanitarian civil assistance going into the country and our toughest critics from the NGOs and other organizations have acknowledged that what should have been and probably was going to be a tremendous, tremendous human disaster there was diverted.
So that's one of the things when we look back at the last four or five months, we look at that rollout of five and say some really good things have happened.
The third point and the final one is just how difficult this is going to be and how long it will take. It's something we say to ourselves and we say to the men and women in uniform and we say to the American people day in and day out. This will take a lot of hard work. It will take a lot of resolve. It will take a lot of innovative, out of the box thinking. You'll hear people from the Pentagon, Secretary Rumsfeld and others, in the weeks and months ahead talk a lot about transformation. Transforming the United States military for the 21st Century.
Transformation is just another one of the many bad words that we use and we have to come up with better ones. But what it means, quite simply, is recognizing that the context of the world in which we find ourselves is very different than 10 or 15 or 20 years ago. We no longer have much certainty from which threats are going to come. We have a great deal of certainty about the wide range of asymmetrical threats we might face such as a terrorist attack.
So we need to be organizing ourselves differently. We need to be preparing ourselves differently. We need to be training our people differently so we can be prepared for a wide range of threats from whatever source they might come.
I'm going to give you one real life example which is just one of my favorites. People say explain this transformation thing to me and we say it's not necessarily a piece of equipment. It's not necessarily something that is new. It is a way of thinking and adapting and integrating things that make the difference that is truly transformational.
One of the best examples we have right now happened in Afghanistan in which our Special Forces found themselves in some very, very rugged conditions trying to call in strikes on things and places and people that they wanted to hit. Adapting to the circumstances and working with Northern Alliance tribes, they got on horseback -- one of the oldest military forms of transport that we have. They got on horseback, they used high tech satellite phones, and they called in Vietnam-era B-52s to hit some targets with great precision. But it was the adaptability and the integration and the flexibility that made that successful, and that's the kind of mindset, if you will, that we're trying to get to in terms of creating a 21st Century military.
I will just leave you with one more thing and then I'm going to show you all a little video that we use when we're out on the road, because the images from this war have been incredible. Of the travels that we've done, we went to Afghanistan right before Christmas. Jamie was with us. We went to several places because Secretary Rumsfeld is inclined to do six countries in three days or Australia in one day. But we were in Afghanistan I think on December 16th, and we were at an airfield outside Bagram, and even just flying in, you can see how devastated this country is. And it's not devastated in the last few months; it's devastated from 30 years of horror.
But we were there for the secretary to meet with Karzai, to meet with a couple of others, and to meet with the troops who were there. It was a lot of Special Forces, just incredible people. And most of them are quite young -- you're talking 18-year olds and 20-year olds and 25-year olds, and we met this 27-year old captain who led one of the charges of the light brigade. And as the secretary was doing all of his thing, meeting with people and talking, I'd be walking around talking to the troops, just asking them how things were and what they were into. With the holidays coming up I would say to a lot of them, boy, it just be tough being over here right before the holidays. We were getting on the plane to fly into Brussels for a couple of days, which is really tough duty, and I said it must be so tough. To a person they looked me in the eye and would go "Oh, no ma'am." And it's very hard to get used to being called ma'am. They said, "No ma'am. This is what I should be doing. This is why I joined the military. This is the most important thing I can be doing. This is my family." You can't write this stuff. It's just so incredible and it's just one sign of what I was saying at the start of my remarks.
I just wish everybody could see and experience what I see and experience every single day. You've got the best military there is and they're just incredible people who are doing so much so we can live the kinds of lives we want to live. So we can go about and do what we want to do. So we can have our cable companies and we can have our movies and we can take our kids to school. They are doing so much to defend the very freedoms that I think since September 11th we don't take for granted quite as much as we used to.
So if you know somebody in the military, thank them. If you know the relatives of somebody in the military, thank them. It is tough duty and it is tough on families.
The other thing I would say to you on a business matter is, it is so important that we get this news and this information out. I know the industry has just been phenomenal in trying to cover it. Jamie McIntyre is in the forefront. If you were watching the news on September 11th, Jamie was doing live shots from our corridor in the Pentagon, which was filling with smoke at the time. But keep after us. Demand more news and information from us. If we're doing a good job, let us know. More importantly, if we're not doing a good job and we're not being straight with you and we're not giving you the information you want, and then let us know. Because that is what is going to make all of this work.
With that I'd like to stop and show you this very short video that says this much better than I could.
Voice: It's a great privilege -- I'm going to introduce Jamie. It's a great privilege to have Jamie McIntyre with us today. Jamie is CNN's longest-serving military affairs correspondent, having taken over the beat in November of 1992 shortly after the election of President Bill Clinton. He is one of the most senior reporters assigned to the Pentagon and Jamie has earned the reputation for fairness and accuracy while covering U.S. military missions in Somalia, Iraq, Bosnia, Haiti, Rwanda, and Kosovo. Jamie joined CNN as a general assignment reporter in February 1992 after several years doing freelance work for the network.
Jamie, welcome, and colleagues please welcome Jamie McIntyre.
Q: As I'm wont to do, I'm going to ask both of you the same question because we know there's a different story. What was going on at your desk on 9/11 when the Pentagon got hit?
Clarke: The morning of 9/11 at about 8:30, something or other, I had my senior staff gathered in my office as we do every morning at 8:15. There was going to be a briefing that day. In the old days we briefed on Tuesday and Thursday. We were talking about some really difficult issue like the weapons collection process in Macedonia. My back was to the screen of TVs in my office. Somebody says well, it doesn't matter what you say because this is going to be the news.
I turned around, and this is when the first plane had hit the first of the towers and the automatic assumption right then was only theory. They thought it was a commuter plane, they didn't know.
I get on the phone with Larry DiRita, the secretary's special assistant, and I said are you watching this? He said yes. I said have you called the secretary? He said yes. We're trying to get -- the second one hit. Wow. So I went upstairs and Larry and I went into the secretary's office.
As I was saying to the people at the table, again, I wish you all could see what I see. Everything worked the way it was supposed to work. The command center, the crisis center in some people's words, was already spinning up and getting organized and getting connected with all the other agencies.
So a few of us went into the command center. The secretary said I'm going to do a few more things here. He had a CIA briefer in with him. He said I'm going to get my briefing here and I'll join you all in a little bit.
So we're in this command center. No windows, tons of screens, hooking up with different agencies all over the place. By this time we knew it had been commercial aircraft. This shows you how unfathomable it is, commercial planes hitting the side of a building. We knew it had been two large airplanes, commercial airliners. Already the guessing had started about whom it was, about who might have been responsible. All of that was underway, and we felt the big thump, heard a big boom.
One person in the room thought it was the heating and cooling, which has a real problem at the Pentagon. The rest of us, myself included, said oh, it's a bomb. It didn't occur to us that it was another commercial airliner. That's how unfathomable, how unthinkable that is that that would happen again. But as I was saying to John, what was amazing about where I was, everything was just working -- we were in contact with the other agencies, everyone was trying to figure out what was the level of the threat out there, what are we doing to get planes down, and so we were just working and never really stopped to think about the enormity of what happened at the time.
It was a very different scene; I'll turn it over to Jamie, a very different scene where he works because of the smoke and the fire.
McIntyre: (inaudible) (Laughter) Find out what we know about it.
But just to make it very brief. The remarkable thing about it, I was sitting at my desk in the Pentagon. I could hear the plane (inaudible); I didn't know what had happened. I'm making phone calls about what happened, (inaudible). I looked up; first of all I get this message on my computer. Are you all right? Is everything okay there? I looked up, I see (inaudible). He was on the air from a cell phone on the other side of the building saying something hit the side of the building and that's how I found out. I didn't hear it because my office is (inaudible). Not everybody in the Pentagon has (inaudible). (inaudible) Then I went out in the center courtyard and talked to people, came back, (inaudible) my desk, (inaudible), to evacuate the building and I ignored it for about an hour. (inaudible) join my colleagues (inaudible). I walked around the Pentagon and I was arrested by (inaudible). (inaudible) press access. (Laughter) Which proves that sometimes in a crisis the first instincts aren't really the best. (Laughter) But this officer eventually let me go [although he confiscated my camera and my press pass]. [Mr. McIntyre --] Can I have my press pass back? Mr. McIntyre, you will never, ever set foot in the Pentagon again, I can assure you of that. (Laughter)
I didn't feel like -- (Laughter)
Clarke: The extraordinary thing about the people who do our job was, all the instincts were right. And as quickly as possible, within a matter of probably an hour or an hour and 15 minutes, people from public affairs -- I'm up in this command center and not leaving the Secretary. People from our office, including Colonel (inaudible) and a whole bunch of reporters got them organized and went up to the CITGO gas station. A lot of the first shots and the first reports you got from the Pentagon were from the gas station up on the hill, and that became the briefing room. And as soon as we had any information that we could get out we'd get it Admiral Quigley and he would communicate what he could.
My real struggle and my challenge in the morning was what information do we have that we can put out? There were so many unknowns. But it was remarkable to see how people did what they were supposed to be doing and just naturally, with incredible dedication, started doing their jobs through the havoc.
McIntyre: We were at the (inaudible). (Laughter) Across the street, down the road, about a half a mile away -- They could have pushed us back farther.
I felt we got a little mini Pentagon briefing there, except that I wouldn't have to wait to get recognized for my questions (inaudible). Your staff actually [gave us] a few questions.
Clarke: They're good. My staff is very good.
McIntyre: It doesn't actually work like this in the Pentagon. They don't give out questions for reporters to ask. (Laughter) The briefings might go a lot smoother if they did. But this question from your staff was provided, "Ms. Clarke, the leadership of the Office of Public Affairs is the most dynamic and inspiring --" (Laughter) To what do you attribute that? (Laughter)
Clarke: A promotion is in the works.
McIntyre: They did suggest a couple of topics to us.
The one I wanted to ask you about, as Ms. Clarke mentioned, on the way over here I rode over with Ms. Clark. There's actually a little bit of a moral (inaudible) which is the press not only wants access to (inaudible).
McIntyre: To take them to where the story is. A lot of talk about innovative techniques and tactics. Why hasn't the Pentagon been more innovative in its public affairs approach in getting reporters access to cover the war in Afghanistan? A lot of this discussion about access to the Pentagon and about how the Pentagon (inaudible) our jobs. Frankly, that's sort of a normal kind of tension (inaudible). The big problems are over there. Why haven't you been more innovative in getting reporters into (inaudible).
Clarke: I think we have. If you go back to the first, the military strikes started on October 7th. On October 7th I think we had maybe a handful, literally a handful of people, under ten, U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan. What we had was an extraordinary amount of different kinds of activity that were responsible for all things military in the region. We had aircraft carriers, we had bombers, and we had AWACS over the United States.
McIntyre: Were there reporters on those aircraft carriers?
Clarke: There were reporters on those aircraft carriers.
McIntyre: When they were operational?
Clarke: Absolutely. There were scores and scores of reporters. Poor Steve Vogel from the Washington Post, I thought I'd ruined his career by saying what a great job he did. But he stayed on one of those aircraft carriers about two or three weeks and did incredible stories about what it was like. The (inaudible) involved, the risks that was involved, etc. So everything that could be seen, that could be facilitated, we did it. And again, people in the media are better at couching these things than we are, but we have been told compared to other previous conflicts, say Bosnia, Kosovo, the first days of the Persian Gulf War in pure column inches, number of minutes on the air, there has been more coverage.
The real challenge and the real friction in the early days, some of which we've overcome, was the Special Forces activities. You had a small handful of people doing something extraordinarily dangerous and risky in the middle of the night, arrayed on (inaudible) for instance, which happened in the middle part of October. It's just not possible to put a handful of reporters. You have 10 or 11 guys flying into dangerous country in which people are shooting at planes, jumping out of the plane in the middle of the night, extremely dangerous operation going into the compounds, trying to grab people, trying to grab things. The notion of secrecy, obviously, not telegraphing that they were going to do this was a big part of it. It's very, very difficult to take reporters along with you. And remember this is the first week of the war. We're all finding our way through unconventional hurdles.
At that time what we did do, though, because we knew there would be intense interest in the first raid, was a thing called Joint Combat Camera which is military photographers who can and do go along, and they shoot these things for documentary purposes and other purposes.
That first raid happened on a Friday night. The next morning, Saturday morning, Chairman Myers was in our briefing room briefing the raid and showing the footage, which I have heard from some correspondents, and you might have been one of them, saying while in the ideal world we would have been with them, this is the first time ever we've seen footage like that.
Then you fast forward to the last few weeks, because unconventional war and the special operations, the special forces have played a really unique role in this war, and we understand and appreciate the need to communicate that, we have embedded individual media with several of those teams. And there's been extraordinary reporting done in the newspapers and by some networks on that front.
So we're trying to find the outer edge of the envelope here, and we're trying to find unconventional ways to cover this unconventional war.
We meet regularly, now it's about once every two weeks with the bureau chiefs. A big part of our meeting is to constantly push one another and say what else can we do? We recognize there's a balance. We recognize that the media's desire to cover every aspect of this war is perfectly understandable. They recognize that there are operation and security issues. There are safety issues. It's still a very dangerous country, people are involved in a very dangerous business, and we care deeply about the safety of the men and women in uniform. We care deeply about the correspondents. They understand we have those concerns in what we try to do to balance them.
I think sometimes we do better than others. But overall, and I'd like to think that some years down the road, people will look back and say there was some extraordinary coverage of a very unusual situation.
McIntyre: A couple of points. One is, (inaudible). In fact during (inaudible) in World War II there were news reporters (inaudible). (Laughter) But the point is that those reporters were there. And while it's easy to say it's not possible to take reporters on special operations missions or release videos (inaudible) operations. An operation, which by the way became fairly controversial (inaudible). Part of the reason for that controversy is (inaudible). That operation that night involved jumping out of an airplane. [Bob Franken] and (inaudible) suggested at a Pentagon briefing that why [six] reporters, number one, and (inaudible). -- can't imagine reporters jumping out of airplanes (inaudible).
Clarke: You were.
McIntyre: (inaudible) subject. (Laughter)
Clarke: But internal [CAN].
McIntyre: But there were other operations, which involved (inaudible) in which reporters could have gone and gotten (inaudible). And (inaudible) combat operations, you can go cover an operation. What we are missing in these times of very limited (inaudible) is the context of the situation.
There are some great stories, heroic stories about the special operations forces, a very small number of people that are untold, may never be told because nobody (inaudible) difficult task. (inaudible) getting reporters out (inaudible).
Right now we have people in Kandahar sitting around (inaudible) dying to go out on missions, and cannot get permission (inaudible).
Clarke: They've gotten permission, and we've facilitated an extraordinary (inaudible) of so many elements of this war. The Special Forces, the SOF teams are one piece of it, albeit a very important piece. And we have done -- Again, I can only go by what other people who have more experience in these matters tell me. They said that's never been done before.
Do we ever do as much as the media would like? Probably not. Would we ever grant them as much access as they want? Probably not. But I think in general we strike a pretty good balance. And one of the issue conversations I've had with the bureau chiefs led us to this conclusion, that the Founding Fathers were pretty smart and they built some pretty amazing things into the Constitution including the right of a free press. They also said the government is responsible for the common defense.
We have very similar objectives -- getting as much news and information out as possible. How we get there is where the tension comes. I happen to think it's a healthy tension. If we did everything they wanted, somebody wouldn't be happy. If they did everything we wanted, we'd probably be living in (inaudible). So I happen to think the tension is a very, very good thing, and one of the things that a lot of people have commented on is there are people who are willing to sit down regularly and say can't we do better? How can we do this differently? How can we find innovative ways? So we're constantly pushing. But I think some years from now when people look back and say look at the coverage of this very unconventional war versus a Persian Gulf War, World War II or etc., they'll see some extraordinary (inaudible).
Q: Do you believe there's a lack of experience, (inaudible) long experience in public relations policy, the cable industry (inaudible). How has that made your job more difficult, or has it? And do you feel confident that when you're up there (inaudible) that you know what (inaudible) giving the correct information (inaudible)? Given the fact that (inaudible), never seems to quite match up. (inaudible) clear cut (inaudible) Pentagon?
Clarke: That's exactly right. But in terms of my background and my capabilities, there are some obvious disadvantages. There's a steep learning curve that seems to be a pattern that I've found myself in terms of my jobs. There are some real advantages in that one of the real challenges for people who are working this war, if you will, as well as for people who are trying to cover this war, is they're all going from their previous frame of reference. In Kosovo we did this. In the Persian Gulf War we did this. And if I can leave you with one thing when I leave here today it's just how different and how unconventional this war is. Because I was not bound by or my mental thinking wasn't bound by a previous experience, I've been able to think about this in very unconventional terms. I've been able to talk about it in ways that a lot of people can understand.
Then just expectations. There are 24,000 people who come to work at the Pentagon every day, 23,999 of whom have more military experience than I do. They don't need another military expert. What they need is somebody who can help facilitate these kinds of things that we're talking about, the relationship between the media and the military. They need somebody who can help explain this to the American people in ways that make sense and are relevant to them.
So in some ways it's an obvious disadvantage. In other ways I think it's a real advantage.
What I feel very confident about when I'm up there briefing is that even more than Secretary Rumsfeld, I have no problem saying I don't know. Absolutely no problem. It gives you a lot of confidence and it gives you a lot of ability not to make mistakes.
Secondly, what I do try to do up there is put things in context.
Third, hardly anything you'll see me say or talk about is something I have not discussed with Secretary Rumsfeld. I'm trying to speak with him on most occasions. So I feel very confident that the things I'm saying, the things I'm talking about come from a pretty good source. Where information, where it can be very challenging the kinds of information that gets out, and you know better than I do, is the classic line of the military -- first reports are always wrong. It is absolutely true.
We both got -- I got a page, Jamie got a phone call as we were coming in here about something going on in Afghanistan. You get some details, you get some facts, and by the time we get back to the building that will have changed three times over.
So again, talk about the tension. There's a real desire to help these people do their business which is get this news and information on the air, in the newspapers, etc. We want the information to be good. We want it to be as accurate as possible, not necessarily as quick as possible. So we're constantly weighing that -- the need to get information out in a timely fashion when you live in 24x7 world, the real desire and responsibility to try to make that information as accurate as possible.
The other thing that makes me feel very good about what we do, we have no problem saying when we've done something wrong. There's absolutely nothing wrong with admitting hey, we've made a mistake, or the information we had wasn't accurate, and here's the more complete picture. So again, you get a lot of confidence from the principle of doing that.
Clarke: On the first one, on the entertainment industry, there is an incredible history of the entertainment industry and its role and its impact in what people knew and how they felt about the military. I was at the Air and Space [Museum] the other day with one of my kids, and Douglas Fairbanks was narrating this great little film there about the coverage, the movies that were created about the air power in World War I. Air power really didn't have a huge impact in the actual war, but because it became part of the popular culture, people loved going to the movies and watching planes in the sky and shooting people and crashing. So the entertainment industry can and has had a huge impact for a long time.
Going to the unconventional, unusual place in which we find ourselves, the news media is our primary means of communicating with the American people and they are absolutely vital to us doing our job and them doing their job.
The entertainment industry can and does play a very important role as well because of the sheer volume of people that they reach. There may be a few people who don't see (inaudible) Pentagon, but there will be people who see the special that A&E has done or the special that the History Channel has done. Or they will see the movie that Jerry Brookheimer has done, Black Hawk Down. Whatever your opinions are about the circumstances that led to that, that was an incredible, accurate portrayal of the kind of risks these people take and the kind of dedication they have. So we see them playing a very, very important role and to the extent we can work with them we do. We have people who work with them every single day. Movies, television, cable networks, cable operators. We've worked with people in this room. It's very, very important.
The second question, how will we know? It's going to be hard.
One of the areas in which I have not figured out how we talk about this yet, but how do you know that we have won the war on terrorism? I think one of the ways you'll know is if we, the American people, and our friends and allies do live our lives the way we want to live them. If we do send our kids off to school knowing they'll come home safely. If we do see our friends and relatives go off to work and feel good and confident that they are going to be coming home safely.
But I think the war on terrorism; I'll throw something out here and reserve the right to correct it. It's more like fighting cancer. Cancer can strike in different parts. You do different things to address it, you try to beat it back, and you have to constantly watch it. Even if cancers are gone, in remission for some years, there's a chance, a likelihood that it might come back. You're constantly watching, you're constantly vigilant. You might change your lifestyle. If changes in your lifestyle can increase the likelihood that the cancer won't come back then you'll do that. And one of the things we're doing in terms of trying to build this 21st Century military is change and adapts the military so it better meets the threats that we face on an ongoing basis.
So I think we'll know it when we're there, but I can't (inaudible).
Q: (inaudible) Saturday Night Live back in November, very funny (inaudible) Pentagon press briefing which (inaudible). (Laughter) (inaudible) -- perception both of Rumsfeld and the President, the perception (inaudible) American public have, how do they perceive (inaudible).
>From your experience, how accurate is that?
Clarke: If you don't generalize (inaudible). And I've said this to people in this room, but I mean it. The people who cover our building on a regular basis, the people who were there prior to September 11th do it because they are serious journalists. Because they care about the (inaudible), because they care about the military. They care as much about the safety and the responsibilities of people in uniform as we do. And prior to September 11th you didn't cover the Pentagon because you were going to be a rock star, you did it because you cared about the (inaudible).
The people, who cover us on a regular basis, day in and day out, do a phenomenal job. They're very responsible. They're very sensitive to our concerns. It doesn't mean they're easy on us, it just means they're really, really good at their job.
The only times we get into challenges with the media is with what I call the interlopers. The people who have decided wow, since September 11th this is a big story, we're going to be there, I want to be famous, I want to be on the top half, front page of the newspaper, and they tend to put (inaudible) are inaccurate, or they tend to increase the hot value of something just to get a longer spot on the air. That's the only place where we have seen any problems. Overall I think the media has done a phenomenal job of covering a very difficult situation.
Clarke: The first part of your question, you don't separate the two. You can't. The nature of our business, the nature of how CNN -- I cannot tell you the number of times when we're going around the world and meeting with defense officials and other leaders who say you know, that story on CNN. You can't separate the two. So it's not as though you can have one message for this audience and another completely different message for that audience. So you have to be very sensitive to that.
Another one of the reasons where it really pays to be relatively straightforward and direct and factual about what you're talking about. Where we as an Administration, as a country need to do a whole lot more work is working with the media from around the world. It's human nature, you tend to focus on who's in your back yard not who's down the street. But we need to do a better job of working with media and other outlets and organizations around the world than we have in the past so they can get the real information, so we can stamp out the rumors and those sorts of things. We're doing better. We've got a long way to go.
I appeared on al Jazeera a couple of weeks ago. There are a lot of people in the Administration who are really making an effort. We in the Pentagon are probably spending more time with international media than we have in the past. The State Department's putting a big effort forward, al Jazeera in particular. It's not the only voice in the Arab world. For lots of different reasons it's gotten a lot of publicity. But al Jazeera for instance, (inaudible) on the planeload of media going into Guantanamo today. So we believe the more we can get our information out there, the better we can do so we are actively trying to do a better job on that front.
Q: (inaudible) (Laughter)
Clarke: Thomas Friedman is a very interesting writer. I started reading the first part and I am so overwhelmed with so much information in this job that I do what I call triage reading. I scan it very quickly, run my hands over it to see if my name is there, and then quickly see if I've made a mistake or not, and Secretary Rumsfeld. And Tom Friedman, who is a brilliant, brilliant person, he is probably one of the smartest, most [thoughtful] people on the Middle East that there is, and he wrote a very interesting piece saying that there are some overseas who say the axis of evil is Cheney, Rumsfeld and Condy Rice, but he was actually quite positive on the President's very clear and very direct statements about the threat posed by the three countries -- Iran, Iraq and North Korea. At the end he was saying I think it's about time, and he was speaking specifically about Iraq, we tell them that we're not just going to sit around and wait for something really bad to happen. I will not repeat the words that he said, (inaudible) Secretary Rumsfeld. But with Secretary Rumsfeld what you see is what you get. He is very, very direct, he is very confident in what he is doing, he feels very good about what he is doing, and I think his directness and his straightforwardness to a lot of people is a tremendous [plus].
Q: Do you see your job more as Donald Rumsfeld's press secretary or his spokesman?
Clarke: I think one, Donald Rumsfeld, the last thing in the world he needs is a press secretary. I think what we're trying to do is about more than being a spokesman for the Pentagon.
Q: To what extent (inaudible)? Do you make the case to your boss (inaudible)?
Clarke: I'm an advocate of the American people. That advocacy means weighing that balance every single day. How much news and information can we put out about this war or what we're trying to do with the military and weighing those basic considerations, those operational security considerations against a very real and legitimate need and desire by the news media. So some days it's advocating one side more than the other, but at the end of the day what I'm advocating is the best military (inaudible).
Q: We could go another half hour but I promised we'd come to a conclusion here. I will ask just one last question, as I'm wont to do. That is, and make your answer short. What effect has technology, and satellite technology, had on each of your jobs? Videophones, the Internet. Has it changed your job in the last 12 months?
McIntyre: Not a lot in the last 12 months, but it has changed. The Internet (inaudible). Of course the videophone is just early technology. It really does give us (inaudible) if the Pentagon would only let us get there. (Laughter)
Clarke: I'm going to spend my afternoon getting Jamie McIntyre over in the most dangerous situation I can find. (Laughter)
McIntyre: I'm a Pentagon correspondent. I'm not a war correspondent. (Laughter) But we have war correspondents at CNN who will go into very dangerous places.
Clarke: For whom you're advocating.
McIntyre: I used to say that, except I do work in the Pentagon and it was attacked. I used to say I reported from a station in the Pentagon. It's relative.
Voice: Jamie, on behalf of (inaudible). And Torie, on behalf of our (inaudible) --
Clarke: This is why I really came. I wanted the book. (Laughter)
Clarke: Thank you very much. Thanks a lot. Thank you all very much.