Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, told Congress Tuesday that the military is creating public distrust and resentment with its restrictions on journalists covering the Persian Gulf war.
Owens complained in a House floor speech that the military is going far beyond steps needed to legitimately protect information about vulnerabilities and future operations that could endanger American sol-diers."In Operation Desert Storm, I speak specifically of the restrictive manner in which press pools are operated, prohibitions on independent reporting, the constant presence of government officials at every interview in the field and the suppression of information for political benefit," he said.
Owens added such action is "apparently designed to sanitize the news and shape the reactions of the American people, to make us believe that the war effort is going better than perhaps it is, to assure us that government officials are running things better than perhaps they are, to convince us that the war is more painless and bloodless than perhaps it is."
Owens said such steps "will not lead us on a quicker or more painless road to victory. It will do precisely the opposite by sowing the seeds of distrust and resentment in the public, and it will steadily but ultimately erode support for the war efforts."
He questioned, for example, why the press has not been allowed to interview B-52 pilots but have been given access to all other pilots.
"Could it be that B-52s, which unload thousands upon thousands of pounds of ordnance, don't conform to the pinpoint precision image of the war?"
Owens also questioned, "Why are reporters prevented from interviewing chaplains in the gulf? Why was news of the successful bombing of nuclear targets in Iraq delayed for later release at a Pentagon press conference?"
Owens concluded, "History indicates that the military should allow the press to operate independently in the theater at their own risk, without oversight, without censorship and without unnecessary delays, subject only to the ground rules which will protect the safety of the troops and the secrecy of future military plans."
Owens stressed that he supports the president and the military in current operations but feels they would not be hampered by a public informed on independently gathered news unfettered by government interference.