Madam Speaker, recently coalition forces were forced to retreat in their campaign against insurgents in Afghanistan when the British Ministry of Defense extracted Prince Harry from his front line duties. As third line in line to the British throne, Harry carries a certain amount of importance about him, especially when he is risking his life to make the lives of the British people and their allies safer. Military service is not something new for the Royal Family, as they have a long tradition of serving in the armed forces, including direct combat duties. But why did the British military, one of the most disciplined and well respected organizations in the world, have to pull back? The answer was that it was betrayed by friendly fire in the press.
An Australian magazine entitled New Idea leaked Harry's mission in Afghanistan in late February. While the magazine has apologized, it broke an informal agreement with the British Ministry of Defense that called for a global media blackout on the story. Harry had been successfully calling in coalition air-strikes against Taliban insurgents. But with his identity and location compromised, Harry's security became jeopardized because of the possibility that he and his command would become specifically targeted.
Here is a "New Idea" for the press: exercise some common sense. While it is important that we as a democracy stay abreast of what is occurring in the military, there is a fine line where we have to stop and let the military do its job. This example involving the Prince of Wales shows the great security issue involving the press and the military. Not all information can be given to the general public, and when supplied with details, the press needs to be responsible and exercise basic common sense.
Here is some advice for the press to follow when given military information. Ask the question, "Will this information possibly endanger lives and missions?" If the answer is even close to being "yes," then it is probably not best to publish it. What would happen if our high ranking generals and civilian leaders had their locations and missions revealed? We would have to completely rethink our strategy and decisions. Missions and lives would become compromised, just as they did for the British with Prince Harry. We need to let the military do its job without interference.
And that's just the way it is.