View Full Version : The NYTimes' unspeakable violation

02-01-07, 04:24 PM
The NYTimes' unspeakable violation
By Michelle Malkin February 01, 2007 12:05 PM

Before Bryan Preston and I embedded at FOB Justice, we had to read and agree to a clear set of ground rules, including this one:

Apparently, the NYTimes didn't think the rules applied to them. Yesterday, the Houston Chronicle blew the whistle on an appalling violation of those rules by Times reporters, who posted a photograph and videotape of a Texas soldier dying in Iraq--before the family had been notified:
A photograph and videotape of a Texas soldier dying in Iraq published by the New York Times have triggered anger from his relatives and Army colleagues and revived a long-standing debate about which images of war are proper to show.

The journalists involved, Times reporter Damien Cave and Getty Images photographer Robert Nickelsberg, working for the Times, had their status as so-called embedded journalists suspended Tuesday by the Army corps in Baghdad, military officials said, because they violated a signed agreement not to publish photos or video of any wounded soldiers without official consent.

New York Times foreign editor Susan Chira said Tuesday night that the newspaper initially did not contact the family of Army Staff Sgt. Hector Leija about the images because of a specific request from the Army to avoid such a direct contact.

"The Times is extremely sensitive to the loss suffered by families when loved ones are killed in Iraq," Chira said. "We have tried to write about the inevitable loss with extreme compassion."

She said that after the newspaper account, with a photograph of the soldier, was published Monday, a Times reporter in Baghdad made indirect efforts to tell the family of the video release later that day. The video was still available for viewing on the Times' Web site Tuesday night, when the newspaper notified clients of its photo service that the photograph at issue was no longer available and should be eliminated from any archives.

The Times is telling a very different account of what happened than others:
The Times said it planned to discuss the issue today with Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander of the Multi-National Force Iraq.

Chira also said she had been told by the reporter in Baghdad that he had reached out to two people with Texas connections to act as intermediaries to alert the family that a video was going to be posted. They were Kathy Travis, a press aide to Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi, and Principal Gilbert Galvan of Raymondville High School.

Travis had a different account.

"Whoa, that isn't what happened," she said Tuesday night in a telephone interview. "The reporter called me late Monday afternoon and said he understood that the family was upset and that he wanted us to know that he had the utmost respect for the soldier and wanted us to let the family know that."

Galvan said a New York Times reporter called Monday, saying he could not reach Leija's relatives and asking Galvan to notify the family of the story and the impending release of the video.

Galvan said he went to the Leijas' house and relayed the message. "They looked upset," he said.

The damage has been done:
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Robert Lobeck, serving as the Army's casualty assistance officer with Leija's family in Texas, said seeing the images of Leija on the Internet was very upsetting to the relatives.

"Oh God, they shouldn't have published a picture like that," Leija's cousin Tina Guerrero, who had not seen the images but was aghast about them anyway, told the Houston Chronicle on Tuesday in Raymondville. She said the images would be especially hurtful to the soldier's parents, Domingo and Manuela Leija, who have remained in the family's home on the edge of town. ''It's going to devastate them," Guerrero said. ''They're having enough pain dealing with the death of their son."

As of this morning, the story and video identifying Leija are still featured on the NYTimes website:

Today, the Houston Chronicle reports that the NYTimes will send a letter to "express regret" for their actions (hat tip: Jim Hoft):
The New York Times will express regret for hurting the feelings of the family of a Texas soldier after publishing a photograph and a video showing him as he lay dying in Baghdad.

The letter is part of an agreement reached Wednesday between the Army and the Times to resolve a controversy about the use of images of Staff Sgt. Hector Leija without his consent.

"The New York Times agreed to write a letter to Sgt. Leija's family explaining the process we go through to notify families and why we run the articles and photographs we do, and expressing regret that the family suffered distress," said a statement from the newspaper.

The decision came after a telephone discussion Wednesday between Times executive editor Bill Keller in New York, and Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander of the Multi-National Corps-Iraq.

Buried at the bottom of the Chronicle article is a troublesome detail:
An Army officer in Baghdad said that as a result of the conversation between the top newspaper editor and the commander, some journalists for the newspaper still would be allowed to embed with military units while the pair involved in the Leija story would not.

But a Times spokeswoman said the paper left the meeting with a different impression, saying a Times representative and military officials will meet to discuss embedding rules and that there was no word of any journalists losing the privilege.

So will the paper suffer any consequences for violating the rules and inflicting harm on the family or not?


Army Staff Sgt. Hector Leija's MySpace page is here. His motto was "Bound by Honor"--a foreign concept at the NYTimes.



02-01-07, 04:52 PM
Story on sgt. death tests embeds’ status

By Robert Tanner - The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday Feb 1, 2007 12:15:37 EST

The intimate portrayal of a sergeant’s death during Army efforts to clear a Baghdad neighborhood has caused friction between the military and The New York Times, while sparking larger questions about war coverage and media-military relations.

Two journalists working on the Times’ story were apparently threatened with expulsion from their embed status, a move that puzzled military reporters who’ve worked in Iraq.

Press advocates were concerned about distrust between military leaders and the media, and other observers noted the power of the video that accompanied the story, capturing the day’s mix of confusion, fear and heroics.

The story released in Monday editions followed Staff Sgt. Hector Leija and his platoon on Haifa Street in Baghdad, part of a joint American-Iraqi effort Jan. 24 to clear out militia fighters. Leija was shot in the head — possibly by a sniper, perhaps accidentally by soldiers in the street. A memorial service was held Wednesday at Fort Lewis, Wash.

A photo that ran with the story pictured the wounded Leija, 27, being carried away by stretcher. On a five-minute video that accompanied the story online, Leija explained the unit’s efforts in the early morning hours. The camera later captured soldiers’ discovery that he had been shot, their frantic efforts to save him and their recovery — at considerable risk — of the equipment left behind when he fell.

Once wounded, Leija was not clearly visible on the video. The unit learned hours later that he had died.

On Wednesday in Leija’s hometown of Raymondsville, Texas, behind a chain-link fence dotted with small American flags and red-white-and-blue ribbons, his family asked to grieve in privacy.

Town leaders said the family was upset by the story and the video that accompanied it. “It doesn’t matter how graphic it was. It’s just — you’re taking them there,” said Elma Chavez, executive director of the local Chamber of Commerce, who had been asked to help arrange public funeral arrangements.

Others noted that the coverage captured the loyalty of soldiers to one of their leaders and the nitty-gritty of the challenges facing the U.S. military in Iraq. Punishing reporters who capture that kind of story is shortsighted, they said.

“The military is hurting themselves,” said Sig Christenson, a military writer for the San Antonio Express-News who has made four trips to Iraq during the war.

“They’re hurting the administration’s argument that these troops are making progress. And most of all they’re hurting the people who read these stories back home and are hungry to know what’s going on in Iraq.”

Christenson and others saw the tension as part of a larger conflict in which the administration and military are increasingly suspicious of reporting that shows things going wrong in Iraq — in sharp contrast to the welcome the press received in the first weeks of the war.

“As this war’s gone on, there’s been a greater level of distrust building,” said James Crawley, a national security reporter for Media General News Service and president of the Military Reporters and Editors group.

The status of the reporter and photographer was unclear. The Houston Chronicle reported Wednesday that New York Times reporter Damien Cave and Getty Images photographer Robert Nickelsberg, working for the Times, had their status as embedded journalists suspended Tuesday by the Army corps.

The paper reported that the journalists broke agreed-upon rules for embeds that require them to contact the family of a soldier killed in action before publishing any photos, even though the family had been notified days earlier of Leija’s death.

The Pentagon did not respond to repeated requests for confirmation Wednesday.

Times executives also did not respond to repeated requests for an interview. However, the paper released a statement that said it was “our understanding is that there is no disembedding or suspension.”

The newspaper said Executive Editor Bill Keller spoke with Army Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno and agreed that the paper would write a letter to the sergeant’s family. The statement said that the newspaper took “extraordinary” measures to let the family know an article and video were going to be published. It also said the newspaper acknowledged that the family was distressed and offered its regret.

Raymondville High School Principal Gilbert Galvan said a Times reporter had called him on Monday and asked him to show the family the story about the incident that killed their son.

Galvan said Leija’s brother read the article while he was there.

“They were upset. They were visibly upset. You could tell,” he said. “To us it’s easier to see it, but for the family it would be hard.

“Maybe in the future they’ll be able to see it differently, but it’s hard right now.”


Sgt Leprechaun
02-01-07, 05:09 PM
I've reached the point where I believe media access in the combat zone, since it's courtesy of the US, should be censored, exactly the way it was during WWII.

BTW, I recently had to take some mandatory training, and came across this, the official army definition of "sedition":

"Subversion is advocating, causing, or attempting to cause insubordination, disloyalty, or refusal of duty by any member of the armed forces or civilian personnel with some intent to interfere with, impair or influence loyalty, discipline, or morale."

Too bad we don't fry a few of these left wing communist scumbag reporters on this. It would set a nice precedent.

02-01-07, 05:45 PM
The real threat and terrorist are the left wing communist scumbag Media, reporters and politicians. Stop embedding the reporters now ! Hold our elected officials accountable for what they say about America. (John Kerry " The U.S. is an International Pariah") They put our troops in danger and embolden the enemy by flinging there antiwar and anti America propaganda around and spewing the crap they write and say. To me they should be tried for aiding and abetting the enemy!

02-01-07, 06:07 PM
the media and military do NOT go together during combat operations. that was the case in viet nam and it's the case now. get them out and send them home.

02-01-07, 08:22 PM
With all the **** going on with the driveby media, I, myself, if these *******s were observed in a combat zone, WOULD BE CONSIDERED "THE ENEMY", and would be engaged and DESTROYED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I agree with Bigdog they, media and military, don't go together AND the military shoots bullets whereas the ****s of the driveby media shoot off their mouths and their cameras!!!!!!


02-01-07, 10:11 PM
Remove ALL of the media from the combat zones!

02-02-07, 08:37 AM
I'd like to get my hands on some photos and file footage of some of these media commie scumbags getting boned in the butt by a Clydesdale! And I wouldn't notify their families before making them public, and putting them on the web!
Then I'd say, "How do you like it...phukker!"


02-02-07, 01:15 PM
Clemdog+++++++++++ I agree with you. But it will niver happen.

02-02-07, 02:52 PM
The media better watch out some day a nut case just might put their deaths on the web and lets see if they scream bloody about it.
I say take them out , then clean house in the theater .
The low life media needs a lesson in life make them see it from our side and see if they like it.

02-02-07, 08:08 PM
Dispute flares over photo of wounded soldier

By Gina Cavallaro - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Feb 2, 2007 15:22:28 EST

A dispute over the boundaries of acceptable war coverage erupted between the Army and The New York Times following the newspaper’s recent publication of images starkly portraying a dying soldier in Iraq.

Despite early reports that commanders ordered the reporter and photographer who filed the story and images out of the unit they were covering, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, the Army denies the pair was kicked out of its embed, saying they had already moved on.

Still, the Army maintains that the Jan. 29 publication of a photograph of a dying Staff Sgt. Hector Leija and an online posting of a five-minute video of the moments in the operation before he was shot were violations of the ground rules that journalists sign when they get their credentials to cover operations in the war zone.

Lt. Col. James Hutton, public affairs officer for Multi-National Corps-Iraq, pointed to the section of the ground rules that states, “Names, video, identifiable written/oral descriptions or identifiable photographs of wounded service members will not be released without service member’s prior written consent.”

Hutton said that despite what the Army contends was a ground-rules violation, reporter Damien Cave of The New York Times and photographer Robert Nickelsberg of Getty Images had left the Fort Lewis, Wash.-based unit before the dispute arose. They are free to continue in Iraq as embedded journalists, Hutton said, but are banned from returning to the 1-23 Infantry.

A defense official said that it is often in the interest of both parties to not have the same reporter-photographer team in place in the same unit after an incident such as this occurs, as a way to reduce the tensions between the parties.

The New York Times did not respond to requests for comment, but the paper’s foreign editor, Susan Chiara, told the Houston Chronicle that the paper was aware of the sensitivity of the issue and had not attempted to make direct contact with the family after military officials specifically asked the paper not to. After the paper published its account of the incident in Iraq, the paper made “indirect efforts” to tell the family that it was posting the video of the incident on their sites later that day.

“The Times is extremely sensitive to the loss suffered by families when loved ones are killed in Iraq,” the Chronicle quoted Chiara as saying. “We have tried to write about the inevitable loss with extreme compassion.”

Bryan Whitman, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, said ground rules are in effect to protect operational security and to maintain the integrity of next-of-kin notification procedures that ensure family members don’t read about a loved one’s death in the news.

“It would be impossible to write ground rules that would address or satisfy 100 percent of the situations that commanders and reporters are going to find on the ground,” he said. “We have to rely on seasoned commanders and mature reporters to address specific issues when they arise in the field,” he said. “From what I understand in this particular case, that was done.”

Following posting of the video and print story, MNC-I commanding general Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno wrote to Times Executive Editor Bill Keller. The two then had a phone conversation, Hutton said.

“We sent two letters, one that was for Bill Keller himself and one that was intended to be published,” Hutton said, noting that he “expected the paper to publish it” the weekend of Feb. 3.

“The letter will express disappointment in the decision to run that photo of Staff Sgt. Leija who was wounded in the picture,” Hutton said.

In addition, Hutton said, the paper sent a letter to the family, the contents of which were not disclosed.

Leija’s family could not be reached for comment, but a soldier who worked with him remembered him as the unit’s “social coordinator, the guy everyone flocked to.”

“He wasn’t your typical leader, simply because the guy was one of the funniest guys you’d ever meet,” said Capt. Dan Johnson, 1-23 Infantry’s rear detachment commander who worked with Leija a year after he came back from his first deployment in September 2004.

“He had parties on the weekends and he took care of the new guys, he taught them how to play hard without getting in trouble. He was the consummate single guy,” Johnson said.
Interpreting the rules

Disputes over war-zone coverage have flared since the war began, often over differing interpretations of the ground rules journalists must sign.

The rules “are somewhat broad,” said Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, who was director of Combined Press Information Center in Baghdad for a year starting in November 2005.

CPIC, which falls under MNF-I, is the credentialing office for journalists covering operations in Iraq and is responsible for keeping track of the movements of journalists who are embedded with U.S. troops.

While, as Johnson said, the rules are broad, they have evolved to be more pointed than before and were most recently updated in May.

“The ground rules were updated to be more specific and to address current operational conditions,” said Johnson, who oversaw the update. “The original ground rules had been written before we even entered Iraq.”

Johnson would not comment on the New York Times case.

Army Times ran into a similar problem in April 2003, when it ran a photograph of a mortally wounded soldier, Spc. Larry K. Brown, of the 1st Armored Division. The Army held that publication was a violation of ground rules, but the Defense Department sided with the newspaper. Army Times has kept an embedded reporting team in Iraq almost continuously since the war began; a reporter and photographer are with Army forces in Iraq today.

Johnson noted he handled six cases in which journalists were disembedded during the year he headed CPIC.

In all six, the action was initiated by the unit in which they were embedded and only one journalist was kicked out of his embed “for giving very explicit, detailed information on detecting and removing improvised explosive devices.”

Whitman said the policy creates a balance between protecting family members and allowing the media to illustrate the impact of war.

“War is ugly, no one is trying to deny the fact that there is a very real human cost to it,” he said, adding that commanders and reporters must act responsibly to ensure the system works.

Staff writer Gordon Lubold contributed to this story.

Current ground rules for media embeds in Iraq can be found on the Multi-National Force-Iraq Web site


Joe Hermosa / Valley Morning Star via AP
Army Staff Sgt. Hector Leija, shown here from his 1997 high school yearbook, died Jan. 24 from wounds he sustained during combat operations in Baghdad. The Army maintains that the New York Times violated embedded journalists' ground rules when it published a picture of a dying Leija Jan. 29 and posted a five-minute video of the moments in the operation before he was shot online.