“That’s too bad because we could have used it against them,” the president said, understanding that it would have been useful to feed disinformation to the enemy with false messages from the typewriters.
Any reporter who has interacted with the Pentagon’s public affairs bureaucracy knows the effort often can be an “Alice in Wonderland” experience.
Art Pine, a former defense reporter for the Los Angeles Times, once remarked about the Pentagon public affairs shop: “If you ask them what time it is, they’ll tell you call Switzerland because they make watches.”
Last week, the Pentagon public affairs office provided two curiously different responses to press inquiries related to an exclusive report in Inside the Ring revealing that China’s military had conducted the first test of a new and more-capable anti-satellite missile called the DN-2, on May 13.
Asked about the test, Pentagon spokeswoman Army Lt. Col. Cathy Wilkinson said in an email May 14: “We don’t have a comment on it as we don’t discuss intelligence.”
But a day later, Reuters news agency ran a nearly identical story under the headline “U.S. sees China launch as test of anti-satellite missile: Source.”
The article quoted Pentagon spokeswoman Air Force Lt. Col. Monica Matoush as saying of the Chinese missile launch: “We tracked several objects during the flight but did not observe the insertion of any objects into orbit and no objects associated with this launch remain in space.”
In that same story, a U.S. defense official was quoted as saying: “It was a ground-based missile that we believe would be their first test of an interceptor that would be designed to go after a satellite that’s actually on orbit.”
Asked how details of the DN-2 test were classified as secret intelligence matters one day and a matter for public comment the next, Col. Wilkinson said: “The day you asked me the question, the answer was no comment on intel matters. That changed the next day, and Lt. Col. Matoush responded to the new query at that time.”
Col. Wilkinson did not respond when asked why she made no effort to correct the earlier “no comment” response.
WHITE HOUSE HIDDEN HAND
Another Pulitzer Prize may be waiting for The New York Times if the newspaper does to the Obama administration what one of its reporters did to win the prize during the George W. Bush administration: Make a big deal out of nothing.
Investigative reporter David Barstow won a Pulitzer in 2009 for his story with the headline “Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand.” The report suggested that the Pentagon’s hosting of regular briefings for more than 75 retired military officers who then spoke on television was improper.
A Pentagon inspector general probe and a review by Congress’ Government Accountability Office later found no evidence of wrongdoing in the briefing affair, a point The Times has yet to report in its pages.