Update on the Pentagon’s targeting of sat-phones and independent journalists
Earlier today, I reported on an interview with the BBC’s Kate Adie and her charges that the Pentagon was adopting a “Who cares? They’ve been warned” attitude toward independent journalists and sat-phone emissions. An unnamed source in the Pentagon allegedly told her that all sat-phone emissions from behind enemy lines in Iraq would be “targeted down” by U.S. pilots and blown up real good.
Well, I talked to Air Force Lt. Col. Ken McClellan at the DoD tonight to update my previous posting.
“I don’t want to say a HARM wouldn’t go after those kinds of emissions,” he said. “But we’re not after reporters.”
He advised me to look at the record in Afghanistan. “We had all sorts of reporters running all over the place and they did better than those large antenna facilities,” he said. He was referring to the bombing of the Al Jazeera offices and transmitters in Kubul. As murky as the situation was regarding the bombing of Al Jazeera, I couldn’t find a single instance of a reporter killed in a missile attack. Presumably, mobile transmitters such as myself, wouldn’t _necessarily_ be targeted, but accidents can happen.
“I wouldn’t stand on the rubble of a command post and light up,” said McClellan echoing Keck’s advice from earlier in the day.
The bottom line: I do believe the Pentagon would make every effort to verify that a transmission was hostile before letting hell loose on it. This video from Afghanistan shows the concern gunners in an AC-130 had about _not_ hitting a mosque. McClellan said that any transmissions would be monitored and that if they heard someone speaking in English, it’s unlikely they would be targeted. That said, it’s possible that some reporters could be put in harms’ way by being in the wrong place at the wrong time or doing something stupid. (See: bombed command bunker, phoning from.)
Oh, and a side note of interest: When I mentioned that I was planning on being in Iraqi Kurdistan (more or less true) McClellan said, “That’s an excellent place to be.” Hmm.