January 28, 1991

Vol. 3, No. 1

Freedom of Expression and the War:
Press and Speech Restrictions in the Gulf and F.B.I.
Activity in U.S. Raise First Amendment Issues

"...if the American President had control of the media, his job would be much easier."

-- U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie to Saddam Hussein, from a transcript of their July 25 meeting

"Two things people should not watch are the making of sausage and the making of war. All that front-page blood and gore hurts the military. We're guilty by association."

-- Air Force Dr. William Burner, quoted in the Washington Post, January 13, 1991

"The first wrote, wine is the strongest.
The second wrote, the King is the strongest.
The third wrote, women are the strongest.
But above all things, truth beareth away the victory."

-- Apocrypha: 1 Esdras


War is the most profound action any government can take, and for that reason the decision to wage and conduct it must be subject to the continuing scrutiny of a well-informed public. In recent U.S. military operations up to and including the current campaign in the Persian Gulf, the government has treated the press as an inconvenience and an obstacle to its efforts, rather than respecting its role as an independent means of presenting information to the American public.

Operation Desert Storm and the preparations for it have been characterized by an institutionalization of curbs on the right of the news media to cover military operations. Reporters are required to travel in "pools" accompanied by military escorts, and all dispatches must be reviewed in advance by a military censor. Moreover, in apparent deference to Saudi Arabia, the staging ground for allied operations, the Department of Defense has censored publications sent to U.S. troops in the Gulf, imposed restrictions on what they may say or write about a variety of topics, and impeded their freedom to engage in Christian and Jewish worship.

More than one week after the war began, while there has been little information on the success rate of the thousands of sorties made by allied forces, or estimates of civilian casualties in Iraq, it is becoming clear that this policy has in the main resulted in managed news -- uninformative Pentagon briefings, release of selected videotapes showing the results of successful bombing raids, hours of interviews with retired military officers.

The Fund for Free Expression and its parent organization, Human Rights Watch, take no position on the propriety of the decision by the United States and its allies to wage war against Iraq. Middle East Watch will continue to monitor compliance with international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict, and The Fund for Free Expression will closely monitor U.S. policies, including those described below, which impair the free flow of information to and from the war zone.



The following information should not be reported because its publication or broadcast could jeopardize operations and endanger lives:

  • Information on intelligence collection activities, including targets, methods and results.

  • Information on the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of enemy camouflage, cover, deception, targeting, direct and indirect fire, intelligence collection, or security measures.

  • Special operations forces' methods, unique equipment or tactics.

  • Information on operational or support vulnerabilities that could be used against U.S. forces, such as details of major battle damage or major personnel losses of specific U.S. or coalition units, until that information no longer provides tactical advantage to the enemy and is, therefore, released by CENTCOM. Damage and casualties may be described as "light," "moderate," or "heavy."

Operation Desert Storm Press Restrictions

On January 7, the United States Department of Defense issued rules for news media personnel covering Operation Desert Storm (then called Operation Desert Shield):

  • Only reporters who are members of a "pool" selected by military officials will be permitted to cover hostilities.

  • Reporters must stay with a military affairs "escort" at all times.

  • Reporters' dispatches are subject to a "security review" by military officials before release.

Each of these rules hampers the ability of the news media to cover military operations, and therefore obstructs the American public's right to know what is being done in its name. The "pool" requirement, employed during the U.S. invasion of Panama, makes it much easier for the military to exclude the media from any coverage at all of certain operations, and generally works to exclude all but the "mainstream" and established media. It should be used, if at all, for surprise operations where unlimited physical access for all reporters is not possible.

The escort requirement has a chilling effect on the willingness of soldiers in the field to speak freely to the news media. Ron Nessen, who covered the Vietnam War for NBC News and later served as President Ford's press secretary, asks, "...when a reporter has an officer standing over his shoulder at

all times, what soldier being interviewed will spill his guts and speak his personal truth?" 1 CBS News President Eric Ober, who was an infantryman in Vietnam, poses a similar question and answers it: "...if Bob Simon, CBS News' veteran war correspondent, interviews the solider with a military escort by his side, will the soldier really tell the truth? Will we really find out what is happening in the desert? I have to conclude that the answer is no." 2

Predictably, the scope of concern shown by military escorts extends well beyond topics even arguably related to national security. When one Marine told a journalist that the food was too starchy, Marine Major General James McClain intervened to say, "You're not an expert on the components of food. Keep to your area of expertise." 3

A former Pentagon official in the Reagan and Bush Administrations, Fred S. Hoffman, argues that the Administration has not made a persuasive case for the security review system: "In my view, the Pentagon intends to impose de facto field censorship without calling it that. A security review is prior restraint. It is censorship by the government and could be abused to protect the military from criticism or embarrassment." 4 In addition to its potential for restricting criticism and coverage of ineptitude or malfunctioning equipment that could embarrass the military, the mechanisms of prior review make it virtually impossible to get the news out in a timely fashion. As Ron Nessen has written, the security review rules are "great if you're covering the war for a monthly magazine or, better yet, for an annual review, but useless if you're covering it for a network or a daily newspaper." 5

It is also claimed that free-lance reporters are being discriminated against in their effort to cover the Gulf War. Reporters are unable to enter Saudi Arabia without a visa, and according to a number of publications and writers that have sued to block impementation of the rules, the Administration appears to have favored those journalists whose coverage is likely to be favorable to the war effort. 6 In addition, only persons regularly employed by "newsgathering organizations" are exempted from the embargo on expenditures in Iraq and Kuwait, a distinction which disadvantages free-lance journalists.

On January 10, The Fund for Free Expression, joined by the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Library Association, the Association of American Publishers, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the National Coalition Against Censorship and PEN American Center, wrote to Defense Secretary Dick Cheney to express strong opposition to the new rules. A lawsuit raising a First Amendment challenge to the rules was filed the same day by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of nine magazines and news agencies (The Nation, Harper's, Pacific News Service, The Guardian, The Progressive, Mother Jones, L.A. Weekly and The Village Voice) and four writers (Sydney H. Schanberg, E.L. Doctorow, William Styron and Michael Klare). The suit claims that the rules "continue and intensify patterns and practices of conduct to prevent, obstruct and delay plaintiffs from gathering news of activities of United

States armed forces, including overt combat, which are of interest to the press and people of the United States." 7


  • You must remain with your military escort at all times, until released, and follow their instructions regarding your activities. These instructions are not intended to hinder your reporting. They are intended to facilitate movement, ensure safety, and protect operational security.

  • Security at the source will be the policy. In the event of hostilities, pool products will be subject to security review prior to release to determine if they contain information that would jeopardize an operation or the security of U.S. or coalition forces. Material will not be withheld just because it is embarrassing or contains criticism. The public affairs officer on the scene will conduct the security review. However, if a conflict arises, the product will be expeditiously sent to JIB Dharhan for review by the JIB Director. If no agreement can be reached, the product will be expeditiously forwarded to OASD(PA) (Office of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs) for review with the appropriate bureau chief.

In our view, the government has made no case for the imposition of more onerous restrictions than were in place during the entire Vietnam War, when reporters could travel freely on their own and file reports without submitting them to military censors. In order to appreciate how we have traveled the distance from relative openness to highly controlled management of the press, a brief survey of past relations between the military and the press is in order.

Previous Practices

World War II

In a Twentieth Century Fund background paper on the military and the media, Peter Braestrup writes, "American newsmen were allowed easy access to the battlefield in 1941-45." 8 While they did not go everywhere, Braestrup explains, it was because there were simply not enough reporters to cover all land, sea and air battles. In its lawsuit challenging the new Pentagon rules, The Nation Magazine and other plaintiffs assert that during World War II, "correspondents flew on bombing missions, rode destroyers, went on patrols, and accompanied assault troops in the first stages of battle in numerous invasions, including the invasion of North Africa, the invasions of Sicily, Guadalcanal, the Philippines and Iwo Jima. Pool correspondents accompanied the first waves of forces landing on the Normandy beaches on D-Day." 9


Eric W. Ober writes: "During the Vietnam War, reporters could go anywhere -- anytime -- often with the military taking us along. There were two basic restrictions in Vietnam. First, that no troop movements be reported prior to engagement. Second, that no faces of dead or wounded soldiers be shown before their families had been properly identified. Both restrictions were totally understandable, and there were virtually no violations of the guidelines by any American news organization." 10 Ron Nessen recalls that in Vietnam, "to get to the fighting, you got from the Caravelle

Hotel to Tan Son Nhut airbase by taxi or in your rented jeep or on your motorscooter ...when it was time to file, you simply transmitted the film, broadcast radio spots from the ancient PTT studios or telexed your copy directly to the home office. There were no censors." 11

And yet as public support for the war in Vietnam waned, the Administration and many military officers came to believe that the press coverage resulting from an open policy played a principal role in shifting public opinion -- that the press "lost" the Vietnam War for the United States.

In a survey of 100 generals who served in command positions during the Vietnam War, Douglas Kinnard found that 38 believed that newspaper coverage "on the whole tended to be irresponsible and disruptive of U.S. efforts in Vietnam." As for television coverage, 39 said it was "probably not a good thing because such coverage tends to be out of context," and 52 said it was "not a good thing, since there was a tendency to go for the sensational, which was counterproductive to the war effort." 12 The military's belief that the press coverage of Vietnam sapped public support for the war is reflected in the remarks of a "senior Air Force officer" who began a briefing in Saudi Arabia last week by telling reporters: "Let me say up front that I don't like the press. Your presence here can't possibly do me any good, and it can hurt me and my people." 13


The post-Vietnam attitude was first seen at work during the U.S. invasion of Grenada in October 1983. The Nation Magazine claimed in a recent editorial criticizing the new Pentagon rules that "the Reagan Administration established the precedent for total censorship in the Grenada invasion, having watched with envy how Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher kept the ever-servile British press under very tight restrictions and banned television crews from the Falklands during her brief and successful war to recapture that colony from Argentina." 14 Members of the press were not permitted to accompany the invasion force and were kept from entering the island until "conditions were safe." Several journalists made their way to Grenada in defiance of the ban, but were intercepted by the military, and detained incommunicado on the U.S.S. Guam for over two days. After an initial uproar by the press, the Defense Department permitted a small number of journalists access to the island, but only with military escorts. This practice continued for more than a week after the invasion, even though hostilities had been concluded.

The Sidle Commission

Because of the controversy over the handling of the press during the Grenada invasion, the Pentagon appointed an internal commission, headed by retired Major General Winant Sidle, to review relations between the news media and the military. The Commission held hearings in February 1984 and released its recommendations the following August. While some retired journalists served on the commission, all major media institutions refused to provide representatives for the commission on the grounds that participation would be a conflict of interest.

The commission's recommendations included stepped-up "public affairs planning" for military operations; pooling of reporters if necessary to ensure early access to an operation, with the "largest possible pooling procedure to be in place for the minimum time possible"; reliance on "voluntary compliance by the media with security guidelines or ground rules established and issued by the military"; and various forms of technical and logistical assistance to help the news media cover military operations. 15 On October 9, 1984, the Department of Defense formally announced the establishment of the "Department of Defense Media Pool" to cover the initial stages of surprise military operations.

These recommendations were largely ignored during the U.S. invasion of Panama that began on December 20, 1989.


The official press pool was denied access to cover military operations until the second day of invasion, after the fighting had ended at Rio Hato and Patila, and was barred from getting close to fighting still going on at Commandancia. Their main source of information turned out to be CNN broadcasts of Pentagon briefings from Washington. Hundreds of other journalists who arrived to cover the events were restricted to a military base.

According to Patrick Sloyan, senior correspondent of the Washington Bureau of Newsday, the "muzzling" of the press in Panama created the "illusion of bloodless battlefields:" though "23 U.S. servicemen were killed and another 265 wounded and seriously injured in three battles in the first day, not a single photograph, strip of film or eyewitness account was published about the moments of combat at the Commandancia, Rio Hato or Patila Airport." 16

The Panama affair also included a flat claim by Lt. General Tom Kelly, then and now director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that he knew of "no casualties" occurring during a hazardous low-altitude night paratroop drop. It was a month before the Army admitted that 86 had been hurt in the operation. 17

Following the Panama invasion, the Department of Defense commissioned a report by one of its former officials, Fred S. Hoffman. It concluded that "excessive concern for secrecy prevented the Defense Department's media pool from reporting the critical opening battles" and that the pool produced stories and pictures of essentially secondary value" and emphasized the need for the Pentagon to render assistance to the pool to cover combat from the start of operations. 18

There is still a dispute stemming from the Panama invasion over media efforts to gain access under the Freedom of Information Act to official military footage of the combat. Robert Hall, a deputy to Pete Williams, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, asserts that "Combat photography is for combat use -- internal use," despite claims that the photos may shed light on the continuing controversy over the extent of injuries and deaths Operation "Just Cause" inflicted on Panamanian civilians. 19

Effects of Press Restrictions Since January 16

Almost by definition, in the early stages of a military operation in which the press is kept at arm's length, the effects of such censorship are difficult to measure. Five days before the U.S. and allied forces began the bombing of Iraq, Newsday columnist Sydney Schanberg, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his New York Times reporting from Cambodia, complained that most of the articles filed since August from the Persian Gulf had been "soft" stories: "human interest pieces about how our solders are faring in the heat, features about planes being refueled in mid-air, stories about Dan Quayle's visit, stories about the lousy military food, etc. etc. -- and this soft journalism is the direct product of the press controls." 20

In the early hours of the conflict, Schanberg asked where "were the counterparts of the reporters who in 1944 hit the beaches of Normandy with the first waves of troops on D-Day? Why, they were at some headquarters or other -- on an aircraft carrier, in a briefing room, or on an escorted visit to an air base." He compared reporters to "wrap-up sportscasters sitting in the studio, not on the field." 21 Jon Katz, a media critic and teacher at New York University, argued that television's heavy use of retired military officials as commentators is "a substitute for actual reporting." 22 The day after the war began, Michael Getler, assistant managing editor for foreign news at The Washington Post, complained that U.S. officials had yet to provide "a more detailed assessment as to what's happened," such as what targets had been hit, and the estimate of civilian casualties. 23 In The Wall Street Journal, Robert Goldberg summarized the television coverage of the war: "For all the air time, there was, and is, surprisingly little information. The Pentagon is keeping a tight lid on the U.S. side, and over the weekend, both Israel and Iraq imposed censorship. Combat pictures are in even shorter supply than facts. Mostly, this is news by press release." 24

Some practical examples of the new Pentagon rules were provided by Malcolm W. Browne of The New York Times in a January 20 dispatch from Saudi Arabia. Browne said he and other reporters in the authorized pool heard officers claim that U.S. forces had destroyed Iraqi nuclear laboratories. The unit commander denied permission to report the attacks, on the grounds that the information could assist Iraqi intelligence operations. But shortly afterward, the information was reported in detail by U.S. military commanders during their daily news briefing. According to Browne, "the Pentagon is clearly eager to be the first to report the most newsworthy information."

Browne also claimed that "varying interpretations of the rules imposed by the Pentagon have virtually blanked out timely publication of some articles that had been cleared by local commanders." He went on:

A pool dispatch prepared by The New York Times reported that F-117A radar-evading Stealth bombers launched the war against Iraq with precise laser-guided bombs that destroyed key targets in Baghdad.

An Army public information officer cleared the dispatch on the spot for transmission to pool headquarters in Dhahran and then to news organizations themselves. But more than three hours later, the unit commander had second thoughts about the dispatch, striking out a paragraph and changing the words and phrases in others.
To hasten the transmission of the news, the Times reporter agreed to the proposed changes so that American publications and news services could receive it in time for deadlines.
The next day, however, the reporter learned that the entire article had been suppressed by the F-117A unit headquarters in the United States. More than a day after it was written, when it had become stale news, the dispatch was cleared in its original form. 25

At this writing, after over a week of the most intensive bombing in world history, the press and the American public still do not have a clear picture of the results, either in terms of military targets or resulting civilian casualties. The Pentagon's curbs have been so effective that U.S. television networks have monitored reports from Israel, the British Broadcasting Corporation, Radio Baghdad and other foreign sources in the hopes of turning up information about the conduct of the war.

Other Curbs on Expression by U.S. Service Personnel

Reading Material and Correspondence

Magazines and periodicals donated for mailing to troops are being screened by military commanders to bar material that "might be offensive to Saudi sensitivities" with decisions "being left to military commanders who have knowledge of local customs and cultures." 26 A September 24, 1990 letter to Secretary Cheney from PEN American Center President Larry McMurtry and Freedom-to-Write Committee Co-Chairs Faith Sale and Rose Styron, asking what standards will govern the "acceptability" of the material, remains unanswered.

A clearer sense of the standards emerges from a recent Washington Post story about a project to airlift to Saudi Arabia magazines read and discarded by U.S. military families in Germany:

You can't just load a cargo jet full of Peoples and U.S. Newses and Sports Illustrateds and ship it to Saudi Arabia. These magazines are chockablock with ads featuring full-color photos of legs, chests, navels and other assorted body parts that are no go in Islamic countries.

Enter ever-present American ingenuity and the ever-ready energy of high school students with felt-tip markers in their fingers and time on their hands ... some magazines would have to be tossed out -- entirely religious publications, magazines specializing in nude pictures. But ... most could be sent south after just a few minutes of coloring. 27

Efforts by other private groups to provide reading material that is substantively "acceptable" has run afoul of a Department of Defense policy against tobacco advertising. With the encouragement and cooperation of the Defense Department, a South Carolina magazine publisher established a non-profit

organization to ship magazines to troops in Saudi Arabia. The first shipment of 250,000 magazines, supported by a special grant from the R.J. Reynolds tobacco company, contained magazines wrapped in a special cover with the Operation Desert News logo on front, and a Camel cigarette ad on the back. The Defense Department has insisted that the magazines cannot be shipped unless the ad is torn off, and has refused to consider the option of a disclaimer. 28

Of course, some publications have less difficulty finding their way to troops in the Gulf. The Kuwaiti Embassy in Washington paid for the mailing of 200,000 copies of The Rape of Kuwait, a paperback by Jean Sasson. 29

There has been at least one documented instance of disciplinary action against a soldier for comments about conditions and morale at the front. Dick Runels, an Air Force reservist stationed as aircraft maintenance crew chief in Saudi Arabia, began in October to publish letters in The Voice, a weekly newspaper based in New Baltimore, Michigan, where Runels before his call-up worked as a civilian mechanic at nearby Selfridge Air National Guard Base. After a letter "venting frustration at a system that has us completely under its control," Runels ordered to submit all future letters to his base commander in Saudi Arabia for approval. After his reprimand, in a letter that Runels refused to submit for prior approval, he wrote to The Voice that "All I did was write about people, what they've experienced here and how they are dealing with being treated like children and betrayed by their own government, while at the same time being told they are here to `protect democracy' ... in countries that have sheikhdoms and absolute despots ruling them." 30

Opinions on "Controversial" Topics

The Department of Defense has gone to unprecedented lengths to assure that service personnel do not say anything that might offend the Saudi monarchy or its subjects. As Harper's magazine has disclosed, the information pamphlet circulated to all troops in Saudi Arabia urges them to avoid mentioning a host of topics:

  • Articles and stories showing U.S.-Israeli ties and friendship.
  • Material deemed immoral or critical of state policies or actions; pictures of men and women embracing, kissing, in sexual encounters, dancing; images of male or female nudity.
  • Sensual advertisements for perfume, blue jeans, women's lingerie, gambling, alcohol, etc.
  • Ads for pork or shellfish.
  • Arab student demonstrations in the United States.
  • Anti-Arab demonstrations or sentiments in the United States.
  • Films or newsclips featuring pro-Zionist actors and actresses (e.g. Barbra Streisand, Liz Taylor).
  • Discussing U.S. involvement in supporting Israel and Israel's current presence in Lebanon; U.S. strategic cooperation with Israel.
  • Implying that the United States might consider an intervention action in the Gulf without being "invited."
  • Discussing the "Jewish lobby" and U.S. intelligence given to Israel.
  • Discussing strategic cooperation between the United States and any country in the AOR (Area of Responsibility).
  • Discussing the host country's reservations about the peaceful intentions of other Arab States.
  • Discussing the presence and role of AWACS in the AOR.
  • Discussing unfavorable actions by Arabs while out of the AOR, such as "playboy"-type activities; misrepresentation of Arabs in the U.S. press.
  • Proselytizing for non-Islamic religions.
  • Implying that any Arab country is totally dependent on foreign manpower for its economic and military structure.
  • Criticizing Islamic religious customs, women's rights, enforced dress and moral standards, and media coverage and censorship.
  • Photographing airport or port facilities, military sites, women, religious sites, or anything that would cast a negative light on the host country.
  • Referring to the Arab blacklisting of U.S. companies that do business with Israel or the Arab boycotting of companies that have strong Zionist representation in executive positions. 31

For the first time in over fifty years of entertaining U.S. troops abroad during the holiday season, the comedian Bob Hope was limited to "handshake and autograph" meetings with small groups of service members. When comedian and actor Steve Martin and his wife, the actress Victoria Tennant, appeared before 500 troops of the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division, Martin told them: "They said they didn't want us to do a show ... What we're going to do is what they call 'grip and grin.'" 32

The military's concern also extends to soldiers' comments on appropriateness of U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf. When Army Lt. Alexander Dumas told a reporter, "If they [the Iraqis] were threatening us, I'd be ready to lay down my life in a minute -- but this is different," a senior officer warned him that such comments could "get [him] in trouble." 33

Religious Belief

According to The Rutherford Institute, a conservative public interest law group, and the American Civil Liberties Union, families and friends of armed forces personnel stationed in the Persian Gulf are prohibited from sending them Bibles, rosaries, Stars of David or other religious objects. 34

The rules governing reading material, correspondence, remarks, entertainment and religious observance are apparently designed to avoid offense to the sensibilities of the "host" government, Saudi Arabia. Yet Saudi Arabia is one of the most heavily-censored countries in the world. For example, it continues to hold, incommunicado and without charges, Saleh al-Azzaz, an editor who alerted a Western

news organization to the demonstration by Saudi women against the ban on their driving. It is an appalling abandonment of First Amendment values that American citizens facing arduous military duty and the possible loss of their lives may read or say only what is deemed acceptable to the "sensitivities" of such a government.


Questioning of Arab-American Groups

The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently began to interview Arab-American individuals and organizational officials to gather information about possible terrorist activity in the United States. According to Nazih Baydia, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, who was interviewed by F.B.I. officials on January 7, the interrogation contained a number of "political questions ... they asked if the Palestine community is supportive of Saddam Hussein, if the Iraqi community thinks the invasion of Kuwait is right." 35

The specter of singling out persons and organizations for questioning based on their membership in a racial or ethnic group or their presumed sympathy with a foreign government or political cause raises serious civil liberties questions. There is a sorry history of governmental abridgment of the rights of racial and ethnic minorities during wartime and foreign policy crises -- including the World War I harassment of recent German immigrants, the World War II internment of Japanese-Americans, and the deportation of Iranian students during the 1980 hostage crisis. In each of these instances, the minority group involved and critics of the U.S. foreign policy at issue were also the targets of harassment, persecution and violence from private individuals and groups.

In our view, this experience calls for special government efforts to protect the rights of racial and ethnic minorities and political groups which may be at risk of such abuse during a period of tension or hostilities with another country. Instead, the F.B.I.'s actions appear to go in the opposite direction. There is of course a legitimate government interest in curbing terrorist acts. But we urge that law enforcement investigations be based, under existing F.B.I. guidelines, on reasonable suspicion that specific criminal activity is taking place -- not on race, ethnicity or belief. 36

In addition to its offensiveness on equal protection grounds, such an approach presumes the disloyalty of millions of Arab-Americans and persons of Arab origin lawfully residing in the United States, and has a chilling effect on their rights to take part in the public debate over the appropriateness of U.S. actions in the Persian Gulf.

Treatment of Iraqi Nationals

On January 10, the Justice Department ordered immigration authorities to photograph and fingerprint anyone entering the United States with an Iraqi or Kuwaiti passport. The Wall Street Journal

reported that members of suspected "pro-Iraqi cells" have been under surveillance since August and will be rounded up in the event of war, 37 but F.B.I. spokesperson Thomas F. Jones says that "the F.B.I. has no plans along those lines," 38and to date it does not appear that any elements of the plan have been put in place.

Fears that such measures will be instituted have been generated by reports of a 1986 "contingency plan," which the INS claims was drafted by "low-level staffers" and disavowed when it became public in 1987, for dealing with "Alien Terrorists and Undesirables." The 31-page plan was drawn up after the U.S. air attack on Libya in April 1986, and called for the "wholesale" invalidation of visitors or nonimmigrant visitors in a particular nationality group, jailing without bond, closed deportation hearings and a policy of using "fallback" charges when the main charge in a case could not be substantiated. 39

Other issues

Wars and the tensions leading up to them have in the past placed corollary strains on freedom of expression. These include, in addition to the measures cited above, mass demonstrations and other protest activities, and the police and governmental response to them; conscientious objection ; and access to the media, among other issues.

As the Persian Gulf conflict develops, The Fund for Free Expression will monitor these areas and other free expression-related issues that may emerge. A media access issue, for example, has been raised by a thirty-second television commercial prepared by the Military Families Support Network, an organization of people with relatives serving in the Persian Gulf. The ad has been turned down by three television stations in the Washington, D.C. area and by the Cable News Network. Against the backdrop of a photo of the Emir of Kuwait followed by photos of flag-draped coffins, an announcer says: "The Emir is waiting for Americans to go to war ... Don't send our husbands, wives and our children to their deaths for this man and his oil." A founder of the sponsoring group, University of Wisconsin professor Alex Molnar, claims that the Kuwaiti government "is buying millions of dollars of television and radio time to tell American parents their children should die for Kuwait. In the face of this Goliath, a group of family members scrapes together enough money to do a commercial, and we get turned down ... it's kind of hard to swallow." 40 One D.C. area television station official called the ad "exploitative and sensational," and another said it "does not add to the community's dialogue on this very important issue." 41


At this writing, it seems likely that the war in the Persian Gulf will continue for at least several more weeks, and possibly much longer. The need of the American public for credible and independent sources of information about the conduct of the war will therefore grow, not diminish. As this crisis proceeds, divisions in public opinion are likely to intensify, and the civil liberties of Arab-Americans, Iraqi nationals and other Arab nationals -- whatever their views on the Gulf War -- as well as those who oppose the government's policy are likely to come under greater strain. Therefore, The Fund for Free Expression:

  1. Calls upon the Department of Defense to rescind its regulations requiring reporters to travel in pools, be accompanied at all times by military escorts and submit all articles for prior review by military censors.

  2. Calls upon the U.S. Department of Justice and local law enforcement authorities to act with scrupulous attention to freedom of association and other basic civil liberties. We therefore strongly oppose, for example, any plan to revoke the visas of all persons of a particular nationality or ethnic group, and any plan for surveillance or detention on those grounds or on any grounds relating to membership in political organizations or sympathy with a political cause or ideology. We seek assurances that no such plan is contemplated, and that the civil liberties of Arab-Americans, visitors of Arab origin, and those holding unpopular viewpoints are safeguarded -- not invaded.

Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney
The Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20301-1000

Attorney General Richard Thornburgh
U.S. Department of Justice
10th St. and Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530

This newsletter is a publication of The Fund for Free Expression, an independent organization created in 1975 to monitor and combat censorship around the world and in the United States. The Chair is Roland Algrant; Vice Chairs, Aryeh Neier, Sophie C. Silberberg and Robert Wedgeworth; Executive Director, Gara LaMarche; Associate, Lydia Lobenthal.

The Fund for Free Expression is a component of Human Rights Watch, which also includes Africa Watch, Americas Watch, Asia Watch, Helsinki Watch and Middle East Watch. The Chair is Robert L. Bernstein and the Vice Chair is Adrian W. DeWind. Aryeh Neier is Executive Director; Kenneth Roth, Deputy Director; Holly J. Burkhalter, Washington Director; Susan Osnos, Press Director.

1 "The Pentagon's Censors," Washington Post, January 12, 1991.

2 "A War is Waged for the Public's Right to Know," Eric Ober, Wall Street Journal, January 7, 1991.

3 "Military, Media Face Off in Gulf," Los Angeles Times, January 12, 1991.

4 "Rules for Journalists: Necessity or Prior Restraint?" Michael R. Gordon, The New York Times, January 7, 1991.

5 Nessen.

6 The Nation Magazine v. U.S. Department of Defense, 91 civ. 0238 (S.D.N.Y.)

7 Ibid.

8 "Battle Lines: Report of the Twentieth Century Fund Task Force on the Military and the Media," Priority Press Publications, 1985.

9 Nation v. Department of Defense.

10 Ober.

11 Nessen.

12 Douglas Kinnard, The War Managers, (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1977).

13 "Conflicting Censorship Upsets Many Journalists," Malcolm W. Browne, New York Times, January 21, 1991.

14 "No News: Bad News," Nation Magazine, January 28, 1991.

15 Report of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Media-Military Relations Panel (Sidle Panel), August 23, 1984.

16 "The War You Won't See: Why the Bush Administration Plans to Restrict Coverage of Gulf Combat," Patrick J. Sloyan, Washington Post, January 13, 1991.

17 Ibid.

18 Review of Panama Pool Deployment, December 1989, by Fred S. Hoffman, March 1990.

19 Sloyan.

20 "Pentagon-Pasteurized News Tastes Bad," Sydney H. Schanberg, Newsday, January 11, 1991.

21 "We Need to See the War, Not Spokesmen," Sydney H. Schanberg, Newsday, January 18, 1991.

22 "Feast of Viewing, But Little Nourishment," Alex S. Jones, New York Times, January 19, 1991.

23 "Government's Strict Orders Limit Reports," Neil A. Lewis, New York Times, January 18, 1991.

24 "CNN Winning Electronic War," Robert Goldberg, Wall Street Journal, January 21, 1991.

25 Browne.

26 New York Times, September 24, 1990.

27 "For the Troops, Touch Up and Go; Military Coverup Puts Clothes on Magazine Pix," Marc Fisher, Washington Post, November 22, 1990.

28 "Tobacco Ad Requirement Delays South Carolina Group's Magazine Shipment," The State, Columbia, South Carolina, December 22, 1990.

29 "Sales of Mideast Books Surge on New of War," Edwin McDowell, New York Times, January 18, 1991.

30 "Desert Shield: A Reservist's Chronicle," Harper's Magazine, February 1991.

31 "Customs and Cultures," chapter in the troop information pamphlet distributed by the U.S. Central Command to all U.S. armed forces in Saudi Arabia.

32 "USO's Desert No-Show; Arab Sensitivities, Security Curtail Celebrity Tours," Phil McCombs, The Washington Post, November 16, 1990.

33 "Speaking Out on the Gulf: Voices at Home and Abroad; Doubts About U.S. Involvement Grow Among Troops in the Gulf," Molly Moore, Washington Post, December 9, 1990.

34 "Let the Bibles Be Sent," Indianapolis News, January 1, 1991; American Civil Liberties Union News Release, December 7, 1990.

35 "FBI Starts Interviewing Arab-American Leaders; Watch Ordered on Iraqi Embassy, Mission," Sharon LaFraniere, The Washington Post, January 9, 1991.

36 An October 1990 General Accounting Office Report found that the F.B.I. had opened 19,000 counter-terrorism investigations from 1982-88, 40% involving U.S. citizens and permanent resident aliens.

37 "Fears of Terrorist Attacks Bring Iraqis, Other Arabs Under Close Surveillance," Wall Street Journal, January 16, 1991.

38 "U.S. Set to Photograph, Fingerprint All New Iraqi and Kuwaiti Visitors; Unusual Move Taken to Try to Counter Possible Terrorist Attacks," Sharon LaFraniere and George Lardner, The Washington Post, January 11, 1991.

39 Ibid.

40 "Anti-War Ad Shot Down; TV Stations Refuse Spot by Military Families Group," Howard Kurtz, Washington Post, January 12, 1991.

41 Ibid.