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Pentagon Maintains Secrecy on Plans - 2001-09-18


Tight-lipped U.S. defense officials are maintaining strict silence about the Pentagon's plans for retaliation following last week's terrorist attacks.

Secrecy enshrouds the military planning now under way for the anti-terrorist operations promised by the Bush administration in the wake of last week's attacks on New York and Washington.

Both formally and informally, Pentagon officials are refusing to discuss either operational or intelligence matters in what President Bush has said will be a different kind of war.

One veteran military affairs reporter says he has never seen anything like it. Mr. Bush said the secrecy is intended to preserve American lives. "I want to make it clear to the American people that this administration will not talk about any plans we may or may not have," he said. "We will not jeopardize in any way, shape or form, anybody who wears the uniform of the United States."

The clampdown is reminiscent of past wars and old slogans like "Loose Lips Sink Ships," a warning that loosely-handled information on military movements could fall into the hands of the country's adversaries with fatal consequences.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that today, leaks could hamper the war on terrorism. "It seems to me that it's important to underline that when people deal with intelligence information and make it available to people who are not cleared for that classified information, the effect is to reduce the chances that the United States government has to track down and deal with the people who have perpetrated the attacks on the United States and killed so many Americans," he said.

Mr. Rumsfeld's comments struck reporters as unusual. They asked whether sloppy handling of classified information somehow contributed to last week's terrorist attacks on New York's World Trade Center as well as the Pentagon.

Mr. Rumsfeld said that was not the case.