NewsXchange 2003: Session 1 Part 2 (Report on Embedding)

Christiane Amanpour: I am going to call on my colleagues Richard Tait and Mark Damazer. I think it's time to do the embedded report.

Mark Damazer (BBC): Every war has its talking points whether it's cockpit videos or pool reporting or whatever. And this time round it seems that the focus for much of the debate that has taken place since the war has been about embedded reporters. We should all remember it may be a new term but the idea that journalists might be doing their trade or profession alongside troops who were carrying out their trade and profession is not entirely new, it goes back to the Crimean War. In the First World War the embedded reporters although they weren't called that ended up receiving knighthoods or the American equivalent. So far, thank God, we've been spared that. At the end of the war the BBC decided that there had been already so much talk and fuss about the concept of embedding that we ought to try and take some of the hot air out of the debate and try and see what it actually felt like by doing a bit of proper research. So we commissioned Cardiff University in the form of Professor Richard Tait, formerly editor-in-chief of ITN in London to supervise some research, and what we're about to do in the next 25 minutes is unveil the results. Just a brief, obvious word, there is a danger that this session looks like an Anglo American conspiracy, there are large issues about who was chosen to embed and the fact that there were foreign nationals in the American programme but no foreign nationals in the UK programme. And I am acutely aware that there are nationalities and journalists around the world who felt excluded and felt that that in itself was a political act and will probably talk about that with Bryan Whitman and others later on. But obviously what was different this time was the scale of working alongside one another between journalists and troops was radically different from anything we'd experienced before. There was obviously something different about the technology and the possibilities of the technology and the access was designed to be much greater than had been the case before. So with that context what I would like to do now is played a brief video which will remind you of some of the things that embedded journalists did during the war this year. And its starts with the BBC cameraman Darren Conway talking about what it felt like shooting with his own equipment.

[video clip]

"[I]t is setting up a false antithesis to suggest that this war can best be understood as embeds versus unilaterals. It shouldn't. Embeds very often provided an alternative to some of the weakest bits of the information flow from the military briefers." Mark Damazer, BBC

Mark Damazer: Richard Tait and his team spoke to the best part of 40 people, journalists and also those involved in setting up a programme both in the Pentagon and at the MoD. I'm going to divide the presentation into two broad sections the first is what people themselves actually thought about how it worked in their own experience from the point of view of both the journalists and the Pentagon and the MoD. And in the second, the judgments are based on evidence that Richard Tait and his team came to. So we begin with what the journalists thought about it. There were obviously different experiences but overall people thought that it had been a worthwhile and that they hadn't sold out. Everybody that Richard spoke to had been aware of the fact that there could be censorship, that reports could be unnecessarily delayed, words could be asked to be changed. In fact very little of that happened. There was a very high degree of self-consciousness amongst the embeds about the dangers they came from being part of military units and this is the point I think at which to introduce a one of the main themes of this research, which is that some of the debate and we saw some of it this morning, has been framed up as embeds against unilaterals. This may be the wrong debate. A lot of people who were embedded clearly thought long and hard about what the dangers were and set about trying to conquer them. Now, we will come to whether they succeeded or not later on, but these were not naive rookies who went into conflict gung-ho unaware of the dangers that could come about by being embedded with military units. And they thought that they had indeed succeeded in maintaining their independence. Whether or not that is a fair judgment we can discuss. But they themselves thought they had pulled it off. We come to another thing here which is the difference between the Americans and the British and the way they operated. The access and the degree of ease on the ground with the unit amongst the American troops were terrifically good according to the people embedded with them, Americans and British alike. There was sophistication in the American's approach which was reflected in the technological support there was given and the technical understanding of what television involved. And in the UK's case that was not always true, and when there was dissatisfaction about a lack of access or something not being quite as expected there was a greater range of experience and some worse experiences in fact amongst the UK embeds than there was with the Americans. However, we have a very good little taste of this before in which Christiane and Chris Vernon fought … but in fact the overwhelming consensus amongst the British embeds who were with the forward transmission unit called the hub which was designed to be a place where material could be received and remolded. It was also supposed to be a place which could move forward as the battle changed. And it was also supposed to be a place where there was high-level access to military commanders and military briefings. The feeling was that it simply didn't work and it culminated with this breakdown of trust between journalists and the military and this is a very big theme, which is the reliability of military briefings and the expectations that each side had of each other. I don't think that it behoves journalists to be absolutely self-righteous and say that all the fault was with one side rather than that there had been mistakes made by both. But it's clear that the British embeds in the hub felt that it simply hadn't worked at all. Now what did the Pentagon and MoD say about all of this? Not perhaps all that surprisingly they thought that it was a success. It had worked. There really was a big difference that Richard and his team discovered in the way the Americans went about this. In a very early stage the Americans clearly assumed that there would be a war and that they would need to do some planning and the civilian and military bits of the Pentagon would have to get together and work out what to do with journalists and it was a co-ordinated operation which actually included the notion that apart from protecting the interests of a pluralist democracy and a pluralist media there would be something to be gained by thinking about how it could be integrated into the campaign. The notion that public opinion itself was a key variable was clearly far more straightforwardly in the minds of the Pentagon than it was in the case of the MoD. The Pentagon simply assumed that journalists would be sympathetic. The mistake that I think can be made and I think to some extent may have been reflected in the debate this morning. If the Pentagon thought the journalists were going to be sympathetic then the American journalists who were embedded were all too sympathetic and therefore all produced lousy journalism. I don't think that that is a fair thesis, I think there was good embedded reporting and there was bad embedded reporting and it's not fair to the American embeds simply to assume that because the Pentagon felt there was going to be a degree of spirited optimism about a whole campaign that that would be reflected in the journalism. But it is clear that the way the Pentagon went about it assumed that there was going to be a stream of pictures coming back that would add to the feel-good factor and that the journalists in doing their job and seeing what they were going to see from their embedded units would sustain that. And this is the most obvious quote from the report, Victoria Clark, who many of you will know together with Bryan Whitman who we will be hearing from later on, was the godmother of the embed strategy: "The strategy was pretty simple, but if good things were happening you want people to see it and I knew that if people could see both in the US and abroad the men and women of the US military they would be impressed."

This cliché about Americans and British seems to have been brilliantly fulfilled by the embed programme. The notion that the Americans have a can-do spirit that they are full of energy, when they focus on something they bring shock and awe and overwhelming thought to it all seems to have been the case. In the MoD's position they were very worried about the political build up to the war. There was real anxiety that if they were seen to be doing too much too early we would all get the impression that war was inevitable when it wasn't. It was done extremely haphazardly; the civilians in charge of the programme although separate from the military seem to have had very little idea about what technology was required. They were pretty sceptical and distant and wary about what the journalists would get up to, rather than the Victoria Clark approach: "Let's go for it. It's going to turn out to be OK. When people see what comes back from the troops it will be fine." There was a deep entrenched suspicion about it-"We'll have to put up with it"-and I think that Chris Vernon was very honest this morning in stating, "Look, it may be necessary for democracy but if we had a choice it is not the sort of thing we would get up to" and that was clearly reflected in the way the MoD went about it. And a good quote from Richard Tait's report, "We were prepared for some of the journalists who were going to be embedded to be difficult." And here's a quote from James Mates who was embedded with the American forces but who is a Brit, "There is a big difference between the Americans and the British. He (the American) knew his guy would bring great coverage of the war they were thrilled to have a dish with them, through which they could be seen to be winning the war. Technology, it didn't all work. I think we can all be a little bit in love with technology and think that technology either has all the answers or that every war has revolutionised everything to the nth degree. And the trouble with the sand is that it got in the way. A lot of the equipment got clogged up. The forward and store technology worked variously well, some of it worked better than others but it was far from being a smooth operation [on this technology, see further Technical Review [Mayada - link]in this issue. TBS]. The quality was not universally good. You've seen some of the top end stuff in the video but the fact is that we should acknowledge that we haven't gone from an old world to a new world in one fell swoop. The technology will work better next time round. It worked largely better than it did in Afghanistan and in Afghanistan it worked largely better than it did in the last Gulf war. But we should be careful there were genuine inhibitions on the journalism posed by the fact that the technology occasionally broke down.

And now I think we come to some of the key points from this morning's discussion. Embeds and unilaterals occasionally crossed over. There were I think in the modern parlance "blisters" and people who were supposed to be embedded but managed to become slightly more unilateral and rather more interestingly people who were unilateral but managed to hook themselves on to particular units and then found themselves being adopted by the units rather willingly, despite instructions coming back from Whitehall and the Pentagon as to whether or not they should be given access. Now it's impossible to assume that you're going to have as many free-spirited and enterprising people as the journalists who went to Iraq are, without assuming that some of them will want to change the rules of engagement. I think it would be thoroughly naive if the suits in London or Washington felt that everybody was going to sign up to a set of rules and there would be no attempt to bend those rules in the interests of getting a better story and providing better information for audiences but it does lead to problems. It leads to some problems but I think these can be exaggerated between the competing television companies, even war can be a competitive business. But I think there is a real problem about what turned out to be the pretty severe incoherence between the desks at the Pentagon and the MoD in Whitehall and the commanders on the ground and bluntly there was a very big credibility problem that resulted. If commanders on the ground wanted to do one thing and were being stopped by their desks, there was friction between the bureaucrat's or the politicians in London or Washington and their people on the ground. There was also therefore much likely to be friction between the journalists and the people on the ground from the MoD and the Pentagon and this is something that is going to have to be worked through and not in a naive way because I don't think that everybody will sign up to everything. But I think that the inconsistency that was displayed here was well beyond what was anticipated and I think problems which we can explore later run partly to do with safety and the way the war was being fought are going to arise. Now remember this is what the embeds themselves said, which is why I think this pointed discussion about embeds versus unilaterals is probably the wrong discussion. The embeds themselves think you would be a disaster if they were the only option and there's a big question resulting out if the appalling casualty rate in Iraq amongst journalists as to whether embeds increasingly will be the only option which would undoubtedly be very very poor for democratic government and for public opinion. But the embeds themselves were acutely and consciously aware of the danger that the only thing the public would get would be a series of snapshots from them, rather than being able to have people run around the battlefront and come up with the kind of material that we saw in the earlier video report. The Pentagon were very clear and they said months in advance that unilateral journalism would be dangerous. And again in the interests of trying to put some pepper into the discussion I think it behoves us to see their point of view. Not necessarily to accept it but to understand it. If 1500 journalists on the battlefield who were not embedded and a unilateral want to give their global co-ordinates to the Pentagon or the MoD in the expectation that in some way they wouldn't be targeted and that the battle plan could be altered that clearly is a mistake. It could not happen. It won't happen next time round either. In no way does it excuse any deliberate exclusion for reasons of public opinion manipulation of unilateral journalism but when TV executives and practitioners on the ground, the people who do the hard work at the sharp end come to think about it next time round, it will not be different. The Pentagon will say, with some reason, that unilateral journalism is inherently more unsafe than embedded journalism. That's the problem and the problem won't go away however much we regret the fact that there were signs both from the Pentagon and the MoD that they would rather that unilaterals were not there. There is a difference between the MoD and the Pentagon. The MoD are thinking about it quite hard, they may well change the rules of engagement, as expressed in the Green Book, and they may well try and find a way to define the status of unilaterals in a way that it is at least a halfway house between combatants and non-combatants and embedded and non-embedded. The Pentagon as I understand it, and perhaps Bryan will correct us later on, seem to be less interested in the problem and therefore less likely to come up with an answer.

We now turn to the qualitative aspect. What Richard Tait and his team actually made of the journalism that came out of the embedded. I wouldn't take this slide too seriously: number crunching always has its limitations. This is not a stopwatch exercise in which embedded report made up nine per cent of the total time given to the war. These are about items. The only point I want to draw out of this is that the embeds were a significant part of the coverage but don't run away with the notion that matter how powerful the imagery may have been they were the dominant part of the coverage in terms of at least the number of reports that came on air as measured by the key British television programmes. The picture is slightly different for the 24 hour news services as you would expect but it still remains the case that there were obviously a lot of packages that came out of the embeds but it was by no means the only thing that the British public experienced of the war and a good thing too! Well there were misinformation and mistakes. There always will be there will be next time round. We need a degree of modesty when we talking to our own audiences about the fact that mistakes are going to be made. Some of these mistakes were quite significant mistakes. The MoD say "the problem was that a lot of your guys didn't understand the way the war works, they may have understood the machinery but they came to this with a lack of military knowledge and it was reflected in some of their journalism." The Pentagon felt differently.

Let me just jump there in the interests of time to this slide which points out the extent to which for all the inexperience, allegedly, of the journalists on the ground the MoD themselves very often thought that the right thing to do to find out what was going on was to listen and look at what the TV reports were saying. So you have this quote saying "We were all glued to our sets and yet we had a military machine giving us precise and detailed information but we still chose instead to take the truth from TV".

The Pentagon was less bothered than the MoD about the fact that things occasionally came out wrong. We know what those things were, "Were there Scud missile attacks on Kuwait?" "Has Um Qasar been taken? Yes or no? Maybe? Tomorrow?" "Nasiriya? Maybe? Tomorrow?" The Pentagon felt that this was perfectly natural. Cock-ups happen, conspiracies happen, we are being transparent in the way we are communicating with you about it. We are not too bothered about it. War is a messy thing. They wanted to be seen to be open and truthful and we can argue about whether they were or whether they weren't and about whether that's just a propaganda statement. I'm not too sure that it was. Because to some extent the way the access worked on the ground indicates that the Americans felt that transparency might work for them and in fact in the way that this particular war was fought it may well be that we haven't come to the crunch. Where we've discovered whether or not being open or truthful actually could be disadvantageous. It could well be that this time round being open and truthful worked for everybody.

Now this is a reminder to ourselves. I must have taken part in countless seminars before the war, countless seminars during the war and countless seminars after the war in which everybody said, "The most important thing that we need to get right is to make sure that the audience knows where the information is coming from." And it became a mantra "attribution, attribution, attribution". And the fact is that what this report suggests is that we may have had very high aspirations but we didn't actually quite get there as well as we should have done.

The depiction of the war is a real issue. My own view, and it's a personal view, is that in Britain we have become too sanitised and the extent to which the embeds themselves felt this is reflected in the report. And I think we need an industry wide debate try to see whether we can, particularly after the watershed of 9 o'clock in the UK, have stronger images of the dead and injured than we have been able to put on for some time.

Embeds were not the particular problem. It's a mistaken diagnosis Sometimes it was the embeds who were able to correct the mistakes that were made by military briefers. And the classic examples were Um Qasar and the checkpoint shooting at Najaf but there are others as well. Too much emotion is being invested into the notion that the embeds were in bed and that in some way they represent the central democratic dilemma of the war. I don't believe it to be the case. The Brits were on the whole or slightly more concerned about language than the Americans. There was less of a patriotic "us and them" about the way the British embeds did it. However, it interesting looking back on it that everyone assumed that weapons of mass destruction were there and it was just taken for granted. It was only in a small minority of cases that people thought that there was any question or not as to whether WMDs existed. And another myth, 24 hour news channels, because they've got to fill space represent a particular problem for accuracy and impartiality. Richard Tait and his team did not find that to be the case at all.

It's not embeds versus unilaterals. There are very big issues about the way embeds function as there are about huge issues which we are going to explore this afternoon about what it means to be unilateral and about safety and the industry has got to come together or to try and give the maximum possible legal and physical protection to unilaterals. But it is setting up a false antithesis to suggest that this war can best be understood as embeds versus unilaterals. It shouldn't. Embeds very often provided an alternative to some of the weakest bits of the information flow from the military briefers.

So that's the research. Richard Tait knows an awful lot about the evidence that went into it and I think perhaps should take any questions you may have about it.

Christiane Amanpour: Richard Tait, go ahead. Richard, who is University sponsored and is the person who carried out the research, is going to take a few questions. And I'd also like to go to Alessio Vinci, CNN's embed at the time.

Alessio Vinci: I just wanted to say that before the break the wrong perception of what the embeds were all about was given…. Some of the embeds were with the military commanders back several miles if not several days behind the story. Some embeds were right at the very front of the story. We were embedded for seven-and-a-half weeks with the same unit; I'm talking about foot soldiers. I'm talking about reporting three days after the beginning of the war where the issue whether the war was going to be fast or slow haven't come up yet. We saw the first pictures of marines crying because that remains… [the] single biggest incident of marines killed in combat throughout the war. We showed the same kind of pictures that Linsey did, exactly the same with the only difference that the little girl didn't make it because the helicopter did not arrive in time because there was no communication between our unit which was far too close to the front line and helicopter could not reach us. We showed pictures of marines burying little kids they had killed the night before. So I think that even the pictures we saw in the film just before the session of the trigger-happy marines shooting the car was another example of how embeds can bring a side of the story that is not necessarily a good side of the story. So we definitely had a lot of ugly sides to the story to report that really was reported just because we were there. My question is, how many other incidents happened throughout the war in units where there weren't journalists? What do we know? Obviously the body count is pretty accurate apparently but we do not know what happened to several units. The other big problem is as we heard in the report is that it's not unilaterals versus embeds. The biggest experience I've had being close to the combat is that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to figure out what's going on when there is a combat. Let alone, then going in front of a camera and saying, "This is what happened, the shooting was coming from the side, this person shot first." The reporter in the clip said, "We're not going to know what happened" and he was there, he was shooting the car approaching. You don't know what's happening because there is a lot of confusion and so perhaps the risk of unilaterals versus embeds is that when you're on your own you only have the opportunity to hear one side of the story.

Richard Tait: I think this a very good point. And I think that's the experience of a lot of embeds and one of the things that we found was that a lot of the embeds were actually given access to the US military plan. A lot of the tank commanders had in their laptops the entire plan so a lot of the embeds were shown how the whole battle was going and that gave them a perspective. Clearly one of the difficulties the embeds had, probably not everyone is familiar with British sweet called the Smartie which comes in a long cardboard tube, but somebody rightly described the embeds looking down this long tube through gauze in the dark. You only saw a very narrow part of the battle but because there are so many embeds and because of the unprecedented access you actually got a lot of sources of information. And what we tried to do with the study is show that there shouldn't be a war between embeds and unilaterals, it's counter-productive for a profession to be fighting amongst themselves and blaming one another when in fact both have a valid role. What we need in a war is as many sources as possible because it's only really when you have as many sources of possible you can get close to the truth in an environment where a lot of people are trying to spin you and frankly tell you lies.

(unidentified): So can I just ask then, how are you going to provide the duty of care for your correspondents, in a high intensity war-zone. Not you, but how are you going to do it? It's all very well coming back and saying we've got to have them. What is the practical recommendation that you as an organisation are going to implement? Because I can't see it. I find it very difficult to come up with a solution, or you have people dying.

Richard Tait: Well people died anyway......

(unidentified): But the aim is to get coverage and prevent journalists, who are not soldiers, who were not meant to die. How are we going to do it? That is my question!

Richard Tait: What came out of our study? The embeds and the executives we spoke to were all absolutely clear that you needed to continue to have unilateral reporting. You needed to have people who were working independently. Clearly it is potentially extremely dangerous, particularly dangerous given the current rules of engagement, especially American forces, in my view. But I think that one can see in the way that many of you unilaterals actually operated that there is a way through because some of the unit laterals, take Gerry Thomson of Sky News, operate effectively as an embed. He went to military units for protection, he went to military units for escort. And I think that the British forces on the ground were able to cope with reporters who were operating partly as embeds and partly as unilaterals. There is no reason why the only people at the front need to be embeds under the very strict rules of embeddedness which of course restrict what they can do. Which means that they can't stop and investigate something that they want to. As you saw in that film, if you broke the rules as an embed you're thrown off the trip.

Christiane Amanpour: Wait one second. We are going to come back to all of this but we have …with us now from the Pentagon Bryan Whitman of the United States Department of Defence who had so much to do with creating along with Victoria Clark, the embedded programme. Bryan , thank you for joining us from the Pentagon, we've had quite a long discussion about the pros and the cons and you'll be surprised that there has been a lot of debate on both sides and one of the last things we were talking about following the release of a study on how the embedded situation was viewed, and it's very balanced this study. And we wanted to know whether the Pentagon next time around will change war plans to change the rules of engagement so the unilaterals are not so much considered cannon-fodder, if you like, and dismissed as being on their own and therefore having to absorb the natural dangers that would come. Apparently in the British MoD they are considering how to handle unilaterals. Is the Pentagon doing anything similar?

Bryan Whitman: I think that it's important after any experience like this that you take a look at how things went, and we are doing that. We're doing an extensive After Action Review and we want to learn as much as we can from this experience. I think that the term unilaterals is probably not the best term but it's probably the term that has stuck. There were embedded reporters and there were reporters that weren't embedded. But I think that what it's important to remember is that the United States military wherever it's at is going to control the battle space it is operating in, it has to. It has to control that battle space because it has to insure that anything that is going on in the area its operating isn't in any way aiding the enemy or hindering the success of their operation. And so those reporters who were embedded of course went through some training agreed some ground rules to protect operational security and to ensure that those individuals that were conducting those operations were not put in jeopardy by having what was really, near real time and sometimes real time reporting given the technology that exists today.

Christiane Amanpour: Bryan, what do you mean aiding the enemy?

"I think…that both the military and the media learned from this experience, that they can both do their job without compromising the military mission and without compromising the journalistic integrity of those that are out there to cover it." Bryan Whitman, US Department of Defence

Bryan Whitman: Well, I think that any time in which you have civilians on the battlefield you have to ensure that their activities aren't in any way compromising your military operation. If you have somebody who is reporting real time from the battlefield what you're doing and what your future movements are, that can be potentially compromising to the military mission. And so it's the responsibility of the commanders to ensure that in that battle space that they are doing everything to ensure the success of the operation. I think though that both the military and the media learned from this experience, that they can both do their job without compromising the military mission and without compromising the journalistic integrity of those that are out there to cover it. It takes mature reporters and mature commanders on the ground to have an understanding though of what is sensitive and what could compromise a mission and mature commanders out there to allow the kind of access throughout the ranks of a military unit and not to put reporters in areas where they can't observe what is going on.

Christiane Amanpour: We are going to talk to some of those reporters in a second, particularly some of the American reporters that were embedded. But I want to know is, is patriotism and positive news the kind of thinking, the kind of thing, you were looking for? I'm just confused about this "civilians aiding the enemy" because we are civilians but many of us are war reporters and many of us have been doing this unilaterally for a long long time and I'm trying to figure out what you from the Pentagon particularly right now view as the correct kind of stories that wouldn't "aid the enemy"?

Bryan Whitman: Well first of all we not just looking for good stories. When we started this one of the things we wanted to do was we wanted to make truth an issue in this military campaign. We knew there we were going to be dealing with an adversary who was a practised liar, who had used deception, disinformation and we knew that his behaviour wasn't going to change. And so one way to mitigate that of course was to put large numbers of independent objective observers out on the battlefield and that's what reporters did. What I'm referring to though is this, we had a couple of instances, where reporters inadvertently, who were not embedded with military units, were giving some real-time reports about what the military activity was and their relationship on the ground to other units which could compromise a military unit which was engaged in combat. And that's what we have to be careful of. We want reporters to cover the good, the bad, and the ugly because they will see all of it out there. And the world and the American people should never be shielded from the ugliness of war because no nation should ever go in to the conflict except as a last resort. So it's not that we are looking for good news stories we are looking for accurate news stories and we are looking for a way in which reporters can do their job from the battlefield without compromising a military mission.

Christiane Amanpour: OK stand by Bryan , we're going to ask Kerry Sanders of NBC to join us from Miami who was embedded. Kerry thank you for joining us. You heard what Bryan said. React a little bit to what he said in terms of what they expect from us and how "civilians" could compromise the military effort and your experience?

Kerry Sanders: Well I was embedded with the second Battalion 8th Marines and I hear Bryan saying that there were certain things that he didn't want reporters to report that would aid the enemy and I think that what he is primarily talking about is future troop movements. Now, as I was embedded with this unit I was given access to every briefing Christiane, I knew everything that was going on before it happened. Now, two things that I learned from that. First of all, I probably wouldn't want to report that because it would jeopardise the lives of the people who I'm reporting on and of course I'm travelling with them so I would jeopardise my own life. But something else that I learned when I was on the battlefield with these units was, no matter what they planned it changed. So to report in advance that they are going to do something, I would say that almost 90 per cent of the time would be inaccurate down to the details. Yes they might be heading in a certain direction but I'm not sure as a reporter how important it was for me to say that they were going to move three miles to the east of Nasiriya or to the west of Nasiriya and try and do something to hold back the firepower that they are receiving….

Christiane Amanpour: I want to go to Ross Appleyard of Sky Television. What was your experience because you weren't formally embedded, so what was your experience of trying to cover this?

Ross Appleyard: I think that a classic example was the Jessica Lynch story. When everybody was talking about this, it was obviously a time when America needed a big hero and then suddenly this 19 year-old very attractive girl who emptied her magazine into the Iraqi hordes as they try to arrest her and was shot in both legs and abused in hospital. I think a classic example of how to get round that kind of propaganda is that if you're unilateral you can going to that hospital where she was being held and we discovered that after this huge attempt to rescue her using American special forces where they kicked open the doors and fired weapons inside the hospital, we found that they could have just walked in and asked for her to be discharged! But no one reported that at the time and I'm not saying that the Pentagon put that out deliberately but they certainly allowed information to be leaked through the embed system to say that this is story that happened and it was only months later that they came out and said "Well, actually she wasn't shot and everything went quite nicely."

Christiane Amanpour: I'm going to ask Bryan to respond to that. You heard what Ross said about the Jessica Lynch story and of course the aftermath of that became almost as big as the initial story. But I want you to also comment on a couple of other things along that line. There have been other after action reports amongst members of the military and the press about this embedding system. One that took place at the Army War College at Pennsylvania where a senior Army official said that they did do all they could to use the journalists to send specific messages, for instance to the Iraqis. One officer admitted to bringing an embedded US television crew to a place where they could film, videotape the landing of airborne troops hoping that that Iraqi commanders would realise just how far north the forces had advanced to. And a little bit later on when it was the Baghdad situation if you remember the Iraqi officials, I remember Baghdad Bob or who ever he was saying "No, no, no. There are no Americans anywhere near us" and the American army essentially staging now, they say, the thunder run into Baghdad. Is that within the bounds and rules of engagement; is that something you're comfortable with? How far does this go?

Bryan Whitman: I think what you're implying is that members of the media can be manipulated and I think that that sells the profession short.

Christiane Amanpour: Bryan I'm actually not implying that. I'm actually asking what you think the role of journalists is? And the role of the soldiers who are with them?

Bryan Whitman: Well let me finish. I do think that that implies that journalists can't recognise when perhaps they are being shown a very small segment of what is going on. I'll tell you that again in this campaign the primary effort was to ensure that there was an element of truth in what was going on across the battlefield. And those examples that you mentioned, the fact of the matter is that at the time US forces were in the streets of Baghdad and you did have the Ministry of Information Baghdad Bob as you refer to him and as everybody knows him. He was on a split screen on television saying that no US forces no coalition forces had been at the airport, that they had been repelled, and they were going to take reporters down there, they just needed to clean things up a bit. But on the split screen you had M1 and A1 tanks rolling down the streets of Baghdad. And that demonstrates to me that by having reporters with military units you can have an element of honesty that occurs in reporting like that. Without that reporter there they may have been news organisations there were prepared to accept what the Ministry of Information was saying that there were no US forces in Baghdad.

Christiane Amanpour: I want to ask you something very sensitive for most of us and very personal for those of us who do this kind of work and that is the danger of being wounded and being killed. As you know the line basically out of the Pentagon was "Listen, it's dangerous. You are on your own. We advise you not to be in Baghdad. War is a dangerous thing. This going to be more dangerous than anything you could imagine." There have been people who we have heard from today for example the Al Jazeera news editor who lost one of their own people there. We talked about the Palestine Hotel in which two Western reporters were killed for Reuters and for the Spanish television station Tele5. We've had Mazen Dana killed in the aftermath of the war. There are a lot of complaints that the Pentagon has not done the kind of thorough investigation that the news organisations and families demanded. And certainly has not made those reports public. Are you going to make those reports public, are you going to do any more investigations into what happened there? And what is your attitude about unilaterals in the future going forward? If there is another Baghdad are we going to be are we going to be under the same fear and threats that we were in the Baghdad situation?

Bryan Whitman: That's a lot of questions, let's see if I can remember some of them. First of all we take every death of a journalist to heart. The fact of the matter is, combat and a military operation is a dangerous place for everybody involved. It is dangerous for the military personnel involved and there is no exception for reporters that are out there whether they are unilateral or embedded. We had embedded reporters that were killed in a rocket attack outside Baghdad. Any time we have a conflict and reporters are there, there is an element of danger and I think most reporters understand that and accept that. We do everything possible in the United States military to avoid civilian casualties and that includes journalists on the battlefield, whether they are embedded or unilateral. But we did warn journalists that Baghdad was potentially a very dangerous place and I think that the very nature of unilateral reporting makes it more dangerous for those reporters that are out there. I cannot imagine a more dangerous situation than trying to operate between friendly and enemy lines to try and get the story. It is often very difficult to distinguish between what a reporter who is out there on the battlefield, going across in a sports utility vehicle often looks like, and in this particular case Saddam Fedayin, who were operating out there in civilian clothes. So it's a very dangerous situation, it's one in which we take the utmost care to try and avoid and when we do have incidents like that we do investigate them thoroughly. And when the investigations are completed we provide as much information as we can to the news organisations from which they come so that they can provide that information to the family. We also make a large amount of that information public. There are still some ongoing investigations into some of the incidents that you mention but in the Palestine Hotel case for example we released a very lengthy account of that and we posted it on our own internet site so that everyone could read that account.

Christiane Amanpour: We are going to go now to Stuart Ramsay of the Sky News Network who is in Johannesburg. You were embedded for a short while, Stuart, right?

Stuart Ramsay: No I was embedded for the entire war, I was actually kicked out for a short while!

Christiane Amanpour: Oh dear! Tell us about being kicked out?

Stuart Ramsay: You may recall an incident in which an American soldier attacked effectively the command structure of the 101st. It was the second or third day of the war and we were preparing to go in to Iraq at that time and it was a tense time and a soldier attacked three tents and I think two officers were killed and a number of others were quite seriously injured. When that the attack happened, it was in the middle of the night, the soldiers [heard] quite quickly, the word had been passed down, that the command structure had been attacked. And that each individual tented section in this vast camp had to effectively defend themselves from what was then thought to be an attack from Iraq into the camp. They thought that somebody at least had got into the camp and was carrying out this attack, that they did not know at this stage that it was a soldier. It was a difficult one, because under the strict terms of the embedding which I fully understood, with the action taking place I should not have reported it. But after a few minutes thought, I felt that one had to report this, if the camp was under attack from outside perhaps from Iraqi soldiers, that was a big story. The fact that we'd already confirmed that a senior officer in the camp had been injured and that other soldiers had been killed, we immediately started reporting that. Quite soon afterwards I was able to get to the senior officer, I interviewed him on film and got his permission to broadcast the material. Initially of course in the chaos most of this was done on the phone, the satellite phone but we were able to get a proper link-up via a video phone and send a report. About a few hours into this and it was very tense we were held up a number of times at gunpoint, the soldiers were very jittery, the senior commander came up to me and said, "What have you been saying? Qatar is going bonkers" and I reiterated that we had permission to broadcast from the senior commander, which is allowed under the embedding rules but a few hours later they arrived from Kuwait City and we were taken away, not at gunpoint but it was inferred and we were taken back to Kuwait City where no one would actually talk to me. Eventually I had a phone call to Qatar where they said that there would be a tribunal as it was described, at which the military would represent me. Which was catch 22 really! Anyway I failed and I was officially then kicked out of the embed. Eventually through a variety of contacts, a transcript of what had been reported was given to General Myers and I understand he intervened at the final stage and I was allowed to go back the next morning.

Christiane Amanpour: Stuart, thank you very much, we are going to go back to Baghdad and talk to Sir Jeremy Greenstock there but we still have Bryan Whitman up for a few minutes. I just want to finish this discussion with Bryan with a few questions from the audience, journalists who were unilateral.

Lindsey Hilsum: Are you saying that the 200 plus journalists who remained in Baghdad during the war should not have been there? That our reporting from Baghdad had no value in the democratic societies that we represent?

Bryan Whitman: I missed the first part of that but I think it was about whether there was any value in having reporters in Baghdad reporting on what was going on. I would tell you that there was a value but we had an obligation to inform reporters about the dangers. Quite frankly to have reporters in Baghdad in the days leading up to the conflict and even during the conflict provides a source of information to a military that is perhaps even useful. But it would have been irresponsible of us not to inform the news media of the dangers that exist in a situation like that and that's what we were doing.

Lindsey Hilsum: We were all in one hotel, the Palestine Hotel. You knew where we were, surely it should have been possible to avoid hitting the Palestine Hotel? The one place where all the journalists were. It wasn't that difficult.

Bryan Whitman: Maybe I misunderstood the question earlier but maybe you have to look at the Palestine Hotel and regardless of who knew who was in that hotel, that question presumes that the individuals would have acted any differently. And if you look at the results of the investigation, the individuals involved acted out of self-defence, they acted out of a necessity because they were being fired upon and believed that they were being spotted from that particular location and that's why they took the actions that they did. So I would encourage anyone that hasn't read the full investigation that we've provided on the website to take a look at it because it was done at great length and I think there are a lot if misperceptions out there about that.

Christiane Amanpour: We have time for one more question, I want to ask one of the news managers if they have any question for Bryan Whitman in terms of whether the situation will change, will it be any different, or whether there will be any different rules in the future. Mark Damazer after your study is anything you'd like to ask Bryan?

Mark Damazer: Bryan and I have met and he was commendably frank in February in saying in advance of war some of the things that he is said now and I appreciate the extent to which he isn't trying too hard to put honeyed words on it. My comment would be this Bryan. I think that there is a recognition about some of the things you say about the need, in your words, for the military to have the space to fight the battle. And it may be that we don't like that but we all understand it and we can all see the dangers that are inherent in that. I think the current state of play of the debate is that the embeds seem to have worked reasonably well from both sides - and you got what you wanted out of it, and I think most of the broadcast organisations who were allowed to participate in it thought that they got what they wanted out of it, more or less. Though there is a credibility gap here about the extent to which the Pentagon and the MoD are really prepared to sit down and think hard about how in a pluralist and democratic society more can be done to protect those who aren't going to be part of an embed system. And without going into the detail of it now, it is the question of will. Do you in the Pentagon understand the anxiety and frustration that many journalists and broadcast organisations feel, because they think that you're a closed book on the subject and that you're not prepared to engage sufficiently in the dialogue and part of that is to look at what happened last time round and investigate with enough tenacity to bring some credibility and hope to those people who experienced bad times last time and who want things to be better next time. And there's a feeling that not withstanding your frankness, which I appreciate, that the Pentagon hasn't quite put its finger out to try and discover what it is that went wrong. Because in war things do go wrong and things undoubtedly went wrong in some areas last time round.

Bryan Whitman: Well you're absolutely right and there is nothing that concerns me more in my position than trying to insure that we do everything possible to ensure the safety of journalists out there. I'll tell you that most of the news organisations will come to me and say that the safety of our journalists is not your concern and I understand that but I don't fully accept that because any time that the US military is operating and there are journalists amongst them I feel the we have an obligation to do whatever we can to make that as safe as possible out there. Whether they are embedded or unilateral. And so we are very receptive to try and learn what it is we can do to try making a safe environment for those journalists that are out there. But conflict is always going to be dangerous and that's something that journalists accept as part of their profession when they decide that they are going to take on these very dangerous missions and I applaud their courage. It's a difficult assignment there is no doubt about it and we should learn everything we can from this experience and if there are ways in which we can make it safer for journalists out there. We will certainly be looking and wanting to hear from news organisations, managers, bureau chiefs and individual reporters who lived through this experience and to provide us with their recommendations and their ideas also. TBS

Copyright 2004 Transnational Broadcasting Studies
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