Diary Of A Hollywood Refugee

Monday, October 02, 2006

On Censorship, CPIC, and Lt.Col Barry Johnson

In response to my Open Letter To LtC Barry Johnson, CPIC, Trevor, who works for CPIC, and has a blog titled The Will To Exist, posted a comment/response which I'll include below. Trevor was merely repeating what LtC.Johnson told him when, after reading my blog, he asked Barry Johnson, for whom he works, why Michael Yon had been denied an embed.

I'm a milblogger who also happens to work for Lt. Col. Johnson. He told me Mike's request was denied due to not having a sponsor and his not having appropriate insurance coverage. Milbloggers are an important voice in the war on Iraq, as are embedded independent bloggers. I wish the path for them to get embedded was an easier one. Perhaps it will be in the future.

Trevor is being lied to by the man he works for. If a Lt.Col. will lie to the people he works with, who else does he lie to??

No one at CPIC, least of all LTC, Barry Johnson, has ever asked Yon IF he had combat insurance. NO ONE. So how can ANYONE at CPIC make the claim that because Yon had no combat insurance he was denied an embed.

Michael Yon has more than enough combat insurance and agreed to sign the indemnification
pro forma signed by ALL embeds regardless of what level of insurance they possess. Mike addressed those lies directly with LTC. Barry Johnson.

With regards to the other lie mentioned about lacking a sponsor - Michael Yon was credentialed/sponsored by The Weekly Standard.

In an email to Trevor, as well as in my previous post, I have provided AMPLE examples of embeds that are neither credentialed nor have combat insurance. And in every example I provided - embeds were granted to these people weeks and months after Yon was denied.

In that same email - I offered up this link to a "blog" written by Chad Hunt - a young photographer who is not credentialed with any major news organization. Chad was given an embed a month back.

A quick review of his "blog" and one sees several OPSEC violations including a full face photo of a terp and details of a mission he was headed out on with the unit he embeds with.

Today I am headed out with the 554th MP Co. based in Stuttgart, Germany, along with members of the 10th mtn division, 3/71 CAV. The mission is to Recon a trail that leads to the village of Kamdesh. We head out in Humvees, dismount and head up the mountain. It reminds me of hiking in the Grand Canyon, only with guns. After we hike for a couple of hours we return to the Humvees. On the way back to base we stop and cross the river to talk to some locals about Taliban operating in the valley. Most Army units operate with "Terps", interpreters that are either local or brought in from the US. Kamdesh has about 10 terps. Below is a picture of "Bob", a terp who is risking his life simply by working with the Americans.

While NOT granting Mike or Walt Gaya embeds, based on lies and false assumptions created by LtC. Johnson, CPIC instead allows the above to happen right under their noses.

Endless incompetence aptly describes CPIC. And endless incompetance leads to censorship, either inadvertantly or deliberately.

During Mike's time in Mosul, as he was writing his most riveting, evocative dispatches, the PAO engaged in deliberate and systematic attempts at intimidation and retribution as they tried to prevent him from writing "Gates of Fire" , and continued to antagonize him even as Gates of Fire was receiving major accolades from the MSM, the Military, and the blogosphere, not to mention Hollywood celebs.

CPIC also engaged in what appears to be malicious and intentional censorship surrounding a dispatch he wanted to write about the now famous letter from Al Zawahiri to Al Zarquawi.

After denying him the opportunity to write a dispatch -which would have provided detailed context about this letter- by claiming this letter would never be released even to the MSM - several days later, letter was in fact released to CNN. In conversations with LtC Kurilla, Mike kept insisting he was being censored and that this letter would find its way into the MSN.

I kept silent for days on the Zarquawi-letter dispatch, ready to post what was probably the single most important piece of insider information to drop into our hands in quite some time. I requested clearance several times per day, each time being asked to hold back. I complied. But then, without even giving the leaders at Deuce Four a heads-up, a typically enthralling military press release went out to major, mainstream, media outlets. We all learned of it on CNN. The Zarquawi-letter story was almost unrecognizable. Because, in the hands of a network that hasn’t had a body in the field in Mosul long enough to get their bearings, the best the media could do is paraphrase the military press release. So what should have been a front page banner headline story ended up buried on page 6

Both LTC Kurilla and Col.Brown were furious, not just about the release of this document to CNN but no doubt about having been "played" by the PAO. They apologized to Mike Yon ensuring him they'd "make it up to him" by providing him an opportunity to write about some highly important mission.

Michael Yon was deliberately censored by the PAO - and when he refused to back down with regards to writing "Gates of Fire" days AFTER MaryAlice Kurilla was notified of Eric's injuries, and days after the news had begun to filter into the media - the PAO continued trying to intimidate and bully Michael as a form of retribution for one line he wrote in "Proximity Delays" and for writing "Gates of Fire".

One such example: Michael was forbidden from entering the mess tent without a military escort. Claiming this was now "procedure" and claiming that terps and contractors also needed escorts, Mike continuosly witnessed both terps and contractors entering the mess tent without escorts. The soldiers were angry that Mike needed an escort, they questioned what was going on. Some days Mike went without eating. When asked by the soldiers why this was happening, Mike told them that he sensed it was because of one sentence he had chosen to include in "Proximity Delays".

And then CPIC engaged in Copyright Infringement of Mike's iconic photo of Major Beiger and Farah. Coincidence......I'll leave you to decide.

What made Mike Yon's reporting so damn important was that it was unbiased and credible because he was independent. Once Mike found out he needed to be credentialed in order to return to Iraq - the Weekly Standard credentialed him, agreeing not to edit or alter his work. Mike wrote a dispatch for The Weekly Standard.

Let me remind CPIC of what a Marine PAO officer had to say:

Quoting Capt. Jeffrey S. Pool, public affairs officer for the 2nd Marine Division about Mike Yon:
"His reporting was objective, credible and compelling. But most of all, it was independent," Pool said. "He didn't have to worry about some editor back in the States altering what he wrote before it got published. Plus, he had no competition from other news sources to churn out a 'marketable' product on a day-to-day basis".

Mike Yon is not the only person to have had problems with CPIC and LTC. Barry Johnson.

Walt Gaya, a two time purple heart recipient who served with Deuce Four, was also denied an embed. He was also credentialed by a major news organization. Walt had intended to go back to Iraq, in order to tell the stories that warrant attention but are still rarely being told.

Below is a comment posted on Pajamas Media from another embed:

David Axe :

Yon is right, LTC. Barry Johnson at the Baghdad Press Information Center is incompetent. I have embedded with U.S. and U.K. forces in Iraq five times (currently on my sixth with the Brits). Johnson suppresses media, not assists them. With people like him running the show, media access to the U.S. military in Iraq will remain limited.


  • At 1:36 AM, October 03, 2006, Blogger kosovodad (Mike) said…

    Well, I was going to stop by and ask, "how's things?" but wow!

    I'm always glad to see -- whenever I think I'm having it rough -- to see that things in my neck of the woods aren't that bad at all.

    Keep it up!

    Mike aka "kosovodad"

    PS I put pics up!

  • At 8:47 PM, October 12, 2006, Blogger Kevin said…

    Go easy on Trevor. He's a nice guy.


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