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Ground rules outline dos and don’ts for embeds

From the Spring 2003 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 6.

From the Spring 2003 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 6.

The following are reprinted from the Pentagon guidelines for embedded media. A complete list of the guidelines is available online.

4. Ground rules. For the safety and security of U.S. forces and embedded media, media will adhere to established ground rules. Ground rules will be agreed to in advance and signed by media prior to embedding. Violation of the ground rules may result in the immediate termination of the embed and removal from the AOR. These ground rules recognize the right of the Media to cover military operations and are in no way intended to prevent release of derogatory, embarrassing, negative or uncomplimentary information. Any modification to the standard ground rules will be forwarded through the PA channels to CENTCOM/PA for approval. Standard ground rules are:

4.a. All interviews with service members will be on the record. Security at the source is the policy. Interviews with pilots and aircrew members are authorized upon completion of missions; however, release of information must conform to these media ground rules.

4.b. Print or broadcast stories will be datelined according to local ground rules. Local ground rules will be coordinated through command channels with CENTCOM.

4.c. Media embedded with U.S. forces are not permitted to carry personal firearms.

4.d. Light discipline restrictions will be followed. […]

4.e. Embargoes may be imposed to protect operational security. Embargoes will only be used for operational security and will be lifted as soon as the operational security issue has passed.

4.f. The following categories of information are releasable.

4.f.1. Approximate friendly force strength figures.

4.f.2. Approximate friendly casualty figures by service. Embedded media may, within opsec limits, confirm unit casualties they have witnessed.

4.f.3. Confirmed figures of enemy personnel detained or captured.

4.f.4. Size of friendly force participating in an action or operation can be disclosed using approximate terms. Specific force or unit identification may be released when it no longer warrants security protection.

4.f.5. Information and location of military targets and objectives previously under attack.

4.f.6. Generic description of origin of air operations, such as “land-based.”

4.f.7. Date, time or location of previous conventional military missions and actions, as well as mission results are releasable only if described in general terms.

4.f.8. Types of ordnance expended in general terms.

4.f.9. Number of aerial combat or reconnaissance missions or sorties flown in centcom’s area of operation.

4.f.10. Type of forces involved […]

4.f.11. Allied participation by type of operation […] After approval of the allied unit commander.

4.f.12. Operation code names.

4.f.13. Names and hometowns of U.S. military units.

4.f.14. Service members’ names and home towns with the individuals’ consent.

4.g. The following categories of information are not releasable since their publication or broadcast could jeopardize operations and endanger lives.

4.g.1. Specific number of troops in units below corps/mef level.

4.g.2. Specific number of aircraft in units at or below the air expeditionary wing level.

4.g.3. Specific numbers regarding other equipment or critical supplies […]

4.g.4. Specific numbers of ships in units below the carrier battle group level.

4.g.5. Names of military installations or specific geographic locations of military units in the CENTCOM area of responsibility, unless specifically released by the Department of Defense or authorized by the CENTCOM commander. News and Imagery products that identify or include identifiable features of these locations are not authorized for release.

4.g.6. Information regarding future operations.

4.g.7. Information regarding force protection measures at Military installations or encampments (except those which are visible or readily apparent).

4.g.8. Photography showing level of security at military installations or encampments.

4.g.9. Rules of engagement.

4.g.10. Information on intelligence collection activities compromising tactics, techniques or procedures.

4.g.11. Extra precautions in reporting will be required at the commencement of hostilities to maximize operational surprise. Live broadcasts from airfields, on the ground or afloat, by embedded media are prohibited until the safe return of the initial strike package or until authorized by the unit commander.

4.g.12. During an operation, specific information on friendly force troop movements, tactical deployments, and dispositions that would jeopardize operational security or lives. Information on on-going engagements will not be released unless authorized for release by on-scene commander.

4.g.13. Information on special operations units, unique operations methodology or tactics […]

4.g.14. Information on effectiveness of enemy electronic warfare.

4.g.15. Information identifying postponed or canceled operations.

4.g.16. Information on missing or downed aircraft or missing vessels while search and rescue and recovery operations are being planned or underway.

4.g.17. Information on effectiveness of enemy camouflage, cover, deception, targeting, direct and indirect fire, intelligence collection, or security measures.

4.g.18. No photographs or other visual media showing an enemy prisoner of war or detainee’s recognizable face, nametag or other identifying feature or item may be taken.

4.g.19. Still or video imagery of custody operations or interviews with persons under custody.

4.h. The following procedures and policies apply to coverage of wounded, injured, and ill personnel:

4.h.1. Media representatives will be reminded of the sensitivity of using names of individual casualties or photographs they may have taken which clearly identify casualties until after notification of the NOK and release by OASD/PA

4.h.2. Battlefield casualties may be covered by embedded media as long as the service member’s identity is protected from disclosure for 72 hours or upon verification of NOK notification, whichever is first.

4.h.3. Media visits to medical facilities will be in accordance with applicable regulations, standard operating procedures, operations orders and instructions by attending physicians. If approved, service or medical facility personnel must escort media at all times.

4.h.4. Patient welfare, patient privacy, and next of kin/family considerations are the governing concerns about news media coverage of wounded, injured, and ill personnel in medical treatment facilities or other casualty collection and treatment locations.

4.h.5. Media visits are authorized to medical care facilities, but must be approved by the medical facility commander and attending physician and must not interfere with medical treatment. Requests to visit medical care facilities outside the continental united states will be coordinated by the unified command PA.

4.h.6. Reporters may visit those areas designated by the facility commander, but will not be allowed in operating rooms during operating procedures.

4.h.7. Permission to interview or photograph a patient will be granted only with the consent of the attending physician or facility commander and with the patient’s informed consent, witnessed by the escort.

4.h.8. “Informed consent” means the patient understands his or her picture and comments are being collected for news media purposes and they may appear nationwide in news media reports.

4.h.9. The attending physician or escort should advise the service member if NOK have been notified.