Information Warfare: November 9, 2001


Journalists are upset that they are not allowed free access to American military operations in the Afghanistan war. Some of the older reporters remember the freewheeling days of the Vietnam war, when journalists could go anywhere they wanted. This was because Vietnam was not, technically, a war. Anyone could buy a airline ticket to South Vietnam and do whatever they wanted. During the Gulf War, journalists were upset at the restrictions put on them. What few journalists remember is that in America's wars during the last centuries, restrictions were the norm. The armed forces have long been leery about journalists inadvertently leaking important information to the enemy. This was first seen in the 1860s, during the American Civil War. After getting burned during the Spanish-American war (1898, and it's aftermath in the Philippines Rebellion) and World War I (1917-1918), a mutually agreeable system was developed for World War II. War reporters were put into uniform. No, they were not part of the military. Their newspapers and radio stations still paid them. But the war reporters were fed and housed as if they were officers and were subject to military law. Press officers accompanied them and saw that their stories went to the military censors before being transmitted back home. There were no damaging leaks. In the Korean War, the reporters were asked to censor themselves. But this didn't always work and many journalists asked for military censors to check their work to make sure they did not release anything that could hurt the troops. While many journalists are not aware of this bit of history, most senior military commanders are. And they have acted accordingly.


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