Gates tightens rules for interviews with military brass

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered top military officials to tell the Pentagon's public-affairs branch before giving interviews.

The move follows an embarrassing episode that led to the removal last month of Stanley A. McChrystal, the commanding general in Afghanistan, after a long article about him appeared in Rolling Stone magazine. But Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said the move to tighten control on information was in the works long before that.

Morrell said the order Gates issued July 2 wasn't meant to restrict information or press access to officials. But he said Gates was fed up with leaks.

In the memo, Gates wrote that he wanted the military to be as accessible as possible but expressed concern that it “has grown lax” in how it engages with the news media.

The New York Times reported that the memo requires top brass to notify the Pentagon press office — quoting the memo — “prior to interviews or any other means of media and public engagement with possible national or international implications.”

The Times also quoted Douglas B. Wilson, the new assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, as saying the new orders were designed to “make sure that anybody and everybody who does engage has as full a picture as possible and the most complete information possible.”

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