Obama Administration Lifts Blanket Ban on Media Coverage of the Return of Fallen Soldiers

Policy changed 18 years after Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney first banned news media from covering honor ceremonies at Dover Air Force Base

Linked with the National Security Archive NSA.

Published on NSA, February 26, 2009.

Washington, DC – Today Secretary of Defense Robert Gates lifted a blanket ban on news media coverage of the honor guard ceremonies that mark the return of military casualties from abroad.  The new policy will permit media coverage of the ceremonies, during which caskets draped with American flags are brought home from war, after consultation with the families of the fallen.  The Obama administration’s move restores press access to the honor ceremonies, which had been the practice from World War II through the Panama invasion of 1989. During the lead-up to the Gulf War in 1991, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney instituted the ban.  The news media lost a first amendment challenge to the ban, but Professor Ralph Begleiter and the National Security Archive forced the release of hundreds of images taken by military photographers under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in 2005 …

… “Dick Cheney’s original ban on media coverage in the lead-up to the Gulf War was clearly meant to hide the cost of war.  It reversed decades of respectful open media access,” explained Tom Blanton, the Archive’s director.

Archive general counsel Meredith Fuchs commented, “Overturning a DOD policy that dates back 18 years while trying to ensure the respect that we owe to the fallen is a real change in policy by the Obama administration.” (full text).

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