Pentagon Rules on Media Access to the Persian Gulf War

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Date: 1991

Region: North America

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Television , Radio , Print Journalism


Artist: Journalists covering the Gulf War

Confronting Bodies: United States Government

Dates of Action: January 14, 1991


The Incident: On February 14, 1991 The Pentagon ruled on Media Access to the Persian Gulf war. The following is a partial list of guidelines published by the Pentagon from that session. "The following information should not be reported because its publication or broadcast could jeopardize operations and endanger lives."

  1. For U.S. or coalition units, specific numerical information on troop strength, aircraft, weapons systems, on-hand equipment, or supplies (e.g. artillery, tanks missiles, trucks, water), including amounts of ammunition or fuel moved by or on hand in support and combat units. Unit size may be described in general terms such as "company size," "multibattalion," "multidivision," "navel task force," and "carrier battle group." Number or amount of equipment and supplies may be described as "large," "small," or "many."
  2. Any information that reveals details of future plans, operations, or strikes, including postponed or canceled operations.
  3. Information, photography, and imagery that would reveal the specific location of military forces or show the level of scrutiny at military installations or encampments. Locations may be described as follows: all Navy embark stories can identify the ship upon which embarked as a dateline and will state that the report is coming from the "Persian Gulf," Red Sea," or "North Arabian Sea." Stories written in Saudi Arabia may be datelined "Eastern Saudi Arabia," "Near the Kuwaiti Border," etc. For specific countries outside Saudi Arabia, stories will state that the report is coming from the Persian Gulf region unless that country has acknowledged its participation.
  4. Rules of engagement details.
  5. Information on intelligence collection activities, including targets, methods and results.
  6. During an operation, specific information on friendly force troop movements, tactical deployments, and dispositions that would jeopardize operational security or lives. This would include unit designations, names of operations, and size of friendly forces involved, until released by CENTCOM.
  7. Identification of mission aircraft points of origin, other than as land- or carrier- based.
  8. Information on the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of enemy camouflage, cover, deception, targeting, direct and indirect fire, intelligence collection or security measures.
  9. Specific identifying information on missing or downed aircraft or ships while search and rescue operations are underway.
  10. Special operations task forces methods, unique equipment or tactics.
  11. Specific operating methods and tactics (e.g.. air angles of attack or speeds, or naval tactics and evasive maneuvers). General terms such as "low" or "fast" may be used.
  12. Information on operational or support vulnerabilities that could be used against U.S. forces, such as details of major battle damage or 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." Page 756

Results of Incident: The U.S. government maintained these guidelines and others throughout the Gulf War.

Source: U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Governmental Affairs. Pentagon Rules on Media Access to the Persian Gulf War... 102nd Congress, first session 2/20/91, pg. 756