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Trying to Censor Reality

The of the invasion will tive. Such all.

he wisdom of the U.S. invasion of Grenada will be debated for | tive. Such freedom would not be freedom at all. On balance, for all

from that operation requires no debate; clearly it was a bad mistake, an outrage to press freedom and an ominous symptom of a tendency in the Reagan Administration to try to control the flow of information.

All Administrations attempt to do this, up to a point. Actually the Reagan White House has been far more intelligent and helpful in its dealings with the press than was customary during the Nixon age of paranoia and the Carter era of petty meanness. Thus the attempt to fight a little war in secret, out of range of reporters and cameramen, is all the more startling and unfortunate.

The explanations offered by the Administration were preposterous. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger argued that the armed forces could not have guaranteed the safety of journalists. But American journalists have never demanded such guarantees. They have worked and died in the Civil War, World War I, on the beaches of Normandy and Okinawa, in Seoul and Saigon. Weinberger's other reason, that the commander in the field did not want the press along, was a glaring cop-out. No question was raised about press coverage aiding the enemy, that was wise. The press invariably accepts ground rules on matters of true security, where lives and operations are at stake.

Why should anyone care about this? Many people might assume that the press was protesting against its exclusion out of a prurient or even commercial itch, annoyed at missing some sensational headlines and pictures. That is simply not the case. The press has a serious quasi-constitutional function as a representative of the public. Obviously the White House or the Pentagon remembered the Viet Nam "living-room war" and the revulsion it created. Obviously they admired and envied Margaret Thatcher's dealing with the press during the Falklands invasion, when the Iron Lady's government allowed only a small contingent of journalists along, under wraps.

It was quickly apparent that banning reporters and later giving them only a few quick guided tours-hurt the Administration itself. Whenever the press is excluded, speculation and rumor take over. Several days after the invasion there was still determined resistance here and there, but no one knew how much, how serious or by whom. The result was vague and nagging alarm, a suspicion that the world's largest military power had trouble subduing a flyspeck island. However that impression might be dispelled later, some of the damage will linger. More important, the Administration's case for the invasion rests increasingly on the assertion that the Cubans had been attempting to transform Grenada into a sort of island fortress. Eyewitness reports from correspondents might have made that claim quickly convincing. Their absence may cause the question to persist: What was the Administration trying to hide?

Certainly the press has no corner on virtue-far from it. Journalists exaggerate, misunderstand, mislead. They can be irresponsible in big ways and in small. It is hard to forgive those television reporters who, after the Beirut attack, intruded on anxious families with fatuous and cruel questions like "How would you feel if your son were among the dead?" On a larger scale, it can be argued that ever since Watergate much of the press has been too automatically hostile toward government.

But freedom of the press, like all freedom, has its risks. It cannot apply only to journalists who are always responsible or posi

represented a pretty good bargain: the occasional outrageous or merely irritating lapse is an acceptable price for journalism's role as witness and watchdog.

Secrecy is addictive. Perhaps the greatest danger in the banning of the press from the Grenada operation is that the Administration will try to repeat it in other situations. The Grenada ban is not an isolated incident, but part of a pattern. Members of the Reagan Administration try not only to control the news and the "image" of its doings but also to shape a whole chmate of opinion. The Administration has been active in excluding foreign speakers deemed dangerous or subversive. It has tried to discredit as propaganda fairly innocuous foreign films, and it has fought sharply to limit the Freedom of Information Act. To plug leaks, it has made an estimated 2.5 million federal employees subject to random lie detector tests.

Reagan also has moved to establish sweeping new rules requiring senior Government employees with access to highly classified information to submit any writings-books, articles, letters, speech drafts-for advance Government clearance if there is any possibility that they allude to sensitive activities. This rule, temporarily stalled in the Senate, would apply to these Government employees for their entire lifetime. Had it been in force in the past, it would have required previous clearance and presumably endless battles with censors by writers ranging from Grover Cleveland to George Marshall to Henry Kissinger.

There is no denying that the Government must be able to do certain things in secret. Diplomacy is one of them. So are covert activities, in which all nations, democratic or otherwise, engage. Arguably the threat on Grenada should have been handled by the CIA rather than by the Marines and paratroopers except that for years now, the CLA has been unable to do anything much without almost instant publicity. But the fault for this absurd situation lies more with Congress and Government officials than with the press. It is also true that the Freedom of Information Act has been abused. But taken together, the Administration's measures suggest a certain mind-set the notion that events can be shaped by shaping their presentation, that truth should be a controlled substance.

All of this does a real disservice to Ronald Reagan. In many ways he is the most open President we have had in a long time. It is hard to question his sincerity. When he speaks, he radiates conviction. He is attempting to do something important about America's position in the world, to restore its strength and self-respect. One can question specific acts and policies, but the overall goal is urgent and valid. That goal, however, is jeopardized by mispercep tion of what the world is really like, what works and what does not work. The left-wing liberals have been the master illusionists for years, and their image of the world is as mistaken as any rightwing ideologue's. Reagan has a real opportunity to steer between the wishful thinking of the doves and the vengeful daydreams of the hawks, to introduce more realism into American foreign policy. In fact, he has shown signs of doing precisely that in recent months. The crude attempt by bureaucrats in and out of uniform to censor reality, to manage not only news but history, undermines that realistic trend. It also undercuts the trust the country still has in Reagan himself.


-By Heary Grunwald


U.S. Press Curbs in Grenada May Affect International Debate

Some American reporters and press
organizations say the Reagan Adminis.
tration's restrictions on the press in
covering the invasion of Grenada may
damage Washington's position in a con-
tinuing international debate over con-
trols on the gathering and dissemina-
tion of news.

Western news organizations and
most Western countries, including the
United States, have been fighting
proposals for press controls proposed
ing countries. Those proposals, ad-
vanced in the last decade in forums of
by the Soviet Union and many develop
the United Nations Educational, Scien-
tific and Cultural Organization, include
giving governments a right to force the
press to report positively about govern-
ment actions and licensing journalists

as a way to protect them in war zones.
Ima move broadly criticized by press.
groups, the

barred reporters from covering the
Defense Department
of some parts of the island for two more
and then provided limited guided tours
first two days of fighting in Grenada
days. The Pentagon said the limita-
tions were initially needed to prevent
advance disclosure of the operation
and were later retained because the
military could not assure the safety of

An official in the State Department's
Affairs said the delegation to the Paris
Office of Communications and Unesco
Grenada news-control question be
meeting had been instructed on the
cause "it is likely some mention will be
made" of the issue. He declined to say
what the instructions were,

Mr. Sussman said that although he
thought the controls were wrong, he in-
tended to respond to any criticism by
noting that the controls were less re-

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Journalists were particularly critical
of the Defense Department's reasoning
that reporters should not be allowed in
Grenada until their safety could be as-
sured. Unesco has debated the issue of
identification cards to journalists as a
way to protect them in combat zones,
but the Western press has said, as it did
in Grenada, that reporters are respon-
sible for their own security and that the
proposed cards could easily turn into a
system for governmental licensing of

An Insult, Publisher Says

R. M. White 2d, publisher of The Mexico (Mo.) Ledger and chairman of the American Committee of the Inter


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The restrictions surprised the West-
press because in other situations
the press has had almost totally free
access to scenes of fighting. In the bat-
tles around Beirut, for example,
American correspondents have been
able to reach both sides. Some report-
ers interviewed Druse militiamen
under fire from American warships.

In Grenada, however, almost all for-
eign reporters, were expelled after
Prime Minister Maurice Bishop was
overthrown a week before the invasion.

Dwight Whylie, a Canadian Broad-
casting Corporation reporter, filed re-
ports until he was expelled the day be
fore the invasion. He was in St.
George's helping train the staff of the
Government-run Radio Free Grenada
under a program sponsored by Unesco.


Look for Science Times on Tuesday

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It had to do with the fact that the government did not trust you to come to the right conclusion. It thought certain facts would only turn your little heads. This is the ultimate example of the government playing nanny, and deciding, for your own good, of course, that there is certain information you should not have.

The immediate genesis of this policy is the experience of Vietnam. Many critics of the press, especially on the political right, believe that it was the press, not the Vietnamese, who beat the American military in Vietnam. What the communists could not do with bullets, the press accomplished by demoralizing the homefront. This is a neat little theory, laid out in all its absurdity in the

ut it is also true that the two wars

Bcited-Vietnam and Lebanon-were

fought in the wrong place at the wrong time and for the wrong reasons and that both governments had ample opportunity to make their cases. Both governments, having done that, lost the debate. Either domestic or world opinion reached different conclusions. The way around that, of course, is to silence one side of the debate.

This is what was effectively done in Grenada. The government made sure that the public would not have its head turned by the usual pictures of carnage. And it suceeded. For the first time in a long time, we fought a war that resulted -at least where television was concerned-in no dead, no suffering, no civilian casualties. It was a most lovely war. But it was hardly the whole truth.

This management of the news is practiced in countries where the people are not trusted to come to the right decision. It is standard practice in Third World and communist countries where there is no concept of truth-just information that's helpful and information that's not. The latter is proscribed always in the name of the people and always for the good of the people.

That's why I'm talking to you. You're wrong if you think this flap between the press and the government is none of your business. It is your business because it is not about the press at all, but about you. It's the press the government blames. Because it's you it fears.

Information Blackout Revives Old Issues

By David Maraniss

Washington Post Staff Writer

The U.S. military had just com-
pleted a high-stakes operation in the
Caribbean. During its crucial early
days no American journalists were
allowed near the action.

"Do not talk to me about what we
will lose; we already have lost," a
defense industry journalist said. "A
dramatic chapter in history has gone
unrecorded by objective newsmen
because this administration chose a
course that never was undertaken in
the Civil War, World War I, World
War II and Korea. It kept reporters
out of the action. This is an act of

Many considered the news media
blackout part of a widespread and in
some respects unprecedented peace-
time effort by the government to
manipulate the news and stifle the
free flow of information. In one year
alone, polygraph operators admin-
istered 19,122 lie-detector tests to
federal employes for security clear-
ances and investigations of security
leaks. Defense Department workers
were instructed to report to their
superiors every contact they had
with the press. Pentagon spokesmen
said they had a duty to manipulate
some information as a weapon
against communist enemies. One
said the government had, under
some circumstances, an inherent and
basic right to lie to the public.

All this happened two decades ago
during the Kennedy administration,
beginning with the Cuban missile
crisis. Today, in the aftermath of the
Reagan administration's invasion of
Grenada, the conflict between gov-
ernment information control and the
media's assertion of the public right
know is strikingly familiar.

that the free flow of information in
government is inherently good.

"We went through a period where
we were seeing more and more open-
ness in government. And we think it
went too far," said Richard K. Wil-
lard, the deputy assistant attorney
general who drafted several of the
administration's new directives.

"Certainly there was great disil-
lusionment about the government's
national security apparatus in con-
nection with Vietnam and Water-
gate, and this concern produced
some good reforms, but also some
serious problems. There arose a dan
gerous degree of laxity about réal
security concerns."

When asked by a Los Angeles
Times reporter about the press
blackout on Grenada, White House
chief of staff James A. Baker III said
that "a large majority of the Amer-
ican people support it." A Pentagon
spokesman said essentially the same
thing in sharper words when re-
sponding to a query from a Wash
ington Post reporter: "I guess most
of the people think I don't have to
tell you a damn thing."

"A startling lesson of the Grenada
invasion episode is that the news
media, arguing the public's right to
know, found themselves without
general public support," said Cable
News Network's Daniel Schorr, who
noted that four-fifths of the respon-
dents to his network's call-in shows
supported Pentagon restrictions on
Grenada news coverage.

The findings of a Washington
Post/ABC News poll conducted Nov.
3-7 revealed something quite differ-
ent, however. It asked, "Would you
say the U.S. government has tried to

control news reports out of Grenada more than it should, or not?"

Nearly half-48 percent-of the
1,505 respondents nationwide said
yes, that government had tried to
control reports more than it should
have, 38 percent said no and 15 per-
cent had no opinion. A sociological
and demographic breakdown of the
responses indicated that every
grouping except two-Republicans
and persons over age 45-thought
the government controlled the news
coverage from Grenada too much.

The poll was conducted more
than a week after the Oct. 25 inva-
sion, during a period when govern-
ment officials were revising and in
some cases retracting early reports
on, among other things, the number
of Cubans on the island, the resis-
tance American forces met from
Grenadians, the casualty estimates
and the ability of American students
to leave Grenada the day before the

There were two elements to the
Reagan administration's explanation
for keeping the news media out of
Grenada during the early fighting: it
was a military decision, not a civilian
one, and it was based on safety con-

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they were not able to guarantee any
kind of safety to anyone, including
of course anybody participating, and
that you have to maintain some kind
of awareness of the problems going
into areas where we don't know what
kind of conditions totally will be en-

"The airport was obviously heavily
overloaded with all kinds of activity
and we just didn't have the condi-
tions under which we thought we
would be able to detach enough peo-
ple to protect all the newsmen, ca-
meramen, gripmen, all of that."

His explanation struck several for-
mer Pentagon officials as flawed.

"Senior government officials must
remember that for years professional
journalists and professional public
officials have been able to find ways
to provide both troop security and
the flow of information which an
open society demands," said Jerry
W. Friedheim, the assistant secre-
tary of defense for public affairs dur-
ing the most contentious days of the
Vietnam war.

Friedheim, who now serves as ex-
ecutive vice president of the Amer-
ican Newspaper Publishers As
ation, added: "One need only recall
the actions of Gen. Creighton Ab-
rams in personally assuring press-
pool access to his troops during the
troubled days when controversial
combat actions were under way
across the South Vietnam border in
Cambodia. Gen. Abrams understood
that he and his troops were working
within and for a constitutional, free
society. He saw it as his duty to help
a free press serve a free society. He
was right. Today's officials are

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during the Vietnam era, Daniel Z.
Henkin, questioned the wisdom of
leaving such a decision entirely in
the hands of the military.

"I think in our form of govern
ment there is a responsibility that
civilians participate in such deci-
sions," he said. "And I do have the
sense that, if not with the initial
landing, there were ways that could
have been devised to handle the
press very early on."

One White House official said the
top military brass, including Gen.
John W. Vessey Jr., chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, held the view
that "If you get the news people into
this you lose support of public opin-

Throughout his years in public
life President Reagan has shown ab-
solute respect for institutions of au-

thority. This was the case when he
was governor of California and the
police battled students on the Uni-
versity of California campus at
Berkeley, and has held true during
his presidency with the military and
intelligence agencies. One of his self-
proclaimed missions has been to re-
verse what he has called the "Viet-
nam syndrome," a lack of confidence
in the armed forces and the CIA.

In a March, 1982, interview in TV
Guide, Reagan criticized the media
for covering the Vietnam war from
the perspective "that the war was
wrong. Had that been done in World
War II, in behalf of the enemy that
was killing American military men, I
think there would have been a rev-
olution in America."

Reagan similarly criticized media
coverage of the American role in El

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Salvador. "There has been a kind of
editorial slant that has something,
almost, of the Vietnam syndrome,
which challenges what we're doing
there," he said. "I could say to the
press, 'Look, I will trust you by tell-
ing you what we're trying to accom-
plish. If you use that story, it will
result in harm to our nation, and
probably make it impossible to do
what we're trying to do.' But they
just go with the story."

It is from this perspective that
Reagan, from the first days of his
administration, has been consumed
by efforts to keep what he considers
to be sensitive information from
being leaked to the media and dis-
seminated to the public. There is a
long and rich history of presidents
being upset about news leaks and
uttering variations of Reagan's "up
to my keister" lament.

There also is an equally long tra-
dition, carried forward in the Reagan
White House, of senior officials pub-
licly embracing their president's ef-
forts to control leaks while slipping
selected information to the reporters
of their choice. Only recently, for
example, one mid-level official was
lectured sternly by one of Reagan's
senior aides for leaking information.
When his knuckles were white and
he expected to be fired, the others
broke into laughter and told him not
to worry, they do it all the time.

But many in the media and the
law who serve as watchguards of the
public's right to know assert that
never before has an administration
made such a sustained and multidi-
mensional effort to restrict the flow
of information.

"There is a very major Big Broth-
er complex in the Reagan adminis-
tration. 'We know best'-that seems
to be the underlying theme," said
John Moss, a former congressman,

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