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updated 5/10/2004 12:32:35 PM ET 2004-05-10T16:32:35
COMMENTARY

In some aggressive questioning of Secretary Rumsfeld in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Democratic Senator Mark Dayton of Minnesota accused the secretary and the Joint Chiefs chairman, General Myers, of suppressing speech by calling CBS and asking them to postpone a little bit. They wanted to air the disturbing photos they had obtained. General Myers said American troops were engaged in particularly vicious fighting and he was concerned that releasing the photos at that time could be particularly troublesome for U.S. troops. CBS agreed to wait and ultimately aired the photos two weeks later.

There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s no suggestion that CBS was threatened or coerced. Government officials call leaders of media operations all the time. The most well known example was when President Kennedy called “The New York Times,” asking it to refrain from revealing that the U.S was about to invade Cuba. The “Times” agreed.

General Myers seemed to recognize that the release of the pictures was inevitable considering how many hundreds of the pictures apparently exist—remember, taken by soldiers, not members of the media. He just wanted extra time. As long as the media operation is making the final call, that’s not suppression. In fact, we encourage them to offer input. And remember, we often don’t report information that officials say could or would put U.S. troops in harm’s way, like troop movements, for example. There’s nothing undemocratic about a general making a phone call.

Dan Abrams is the host of 'The Abrams Report.' The show airs weeknights, 6 p.m. ET on MSNBC.

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