WASHINGTON: Pentagon officials were furious with CNN today after the network failed to respect a media embargo and accidentally aired footage of a successful Navy missile strike from the third week of the upcoming U.S.-Iran war.
- The footage of U.S. strikes against an Iranian nuclear facility (top) and missile launcher are not real yet.
The news network immediately apologized for showing the grainy, 10-second clip of a cruise missile bearing down on an alleged nuclear weapons facility outside Tehran. It came on screen just as anchor Wolf Blitzer was heading into a commercial break, and took him by surprise.
“When we come back,” Blitzer said, “amazing video from Operation T.B.D. of U.S. air strikes on an Iranian military facility that the Navy says completely destroyed… hold on. I don’t think we’re supposed to use this yet … Are we? … No. So our viewers should… to our viewers, that’s… just ignore that.”
The Pentagon provided substantial footage of the upcoming war –- currently labeled ‘Operation To Be Determined’ pending focus group results — to all major news networks last week, asking it not be shown until the conflict starts, most likely in early 2013. Such embargoes are common, notably in business journalism, where reporters are given advance notice of a new product or service but are asked to delay publication until the company is ready to announce.
In the case of war journalism, pre-packaged footage – particularly missile strikes – can be created using CGI or re-purposed from previous wars, although the Pentagon expressly forbids the media from revealing that information. News networks agree to the restrictions because it gives them an opportunity to prepare.
“We want to be proactive instead of reactive and that footage allows us to work ahead on graphics, titles, lead-ins, how to play the story,” said Fox News editor Malcolm Strong. “We also want to make sure we have the right pundits on to discuss it. If you’ve got a retired Army colonel on the air and suddenly you get footage of a Navy strike, that’s just embarrassing.”
At MSNBC, editor Kelly Parsons said the network did consider blowing the whistle on U.S. war plans, but concluded it would put too many people in harm’s way.
“If we expose the war now, we jeopardize literally months of hard work by our staff,” she said. “We’ve got the escalation of war segments, the last minute diplomatic attempts, a two-hour ‘On the Brink’ special slated for November, and the big U.N. vote in January. We’ve already booked the panelists. The bidding with CNN was vicious.”
Iran, however, was outraged, with one Iranian general insisting the video proves America has never been interested in a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear threat.
“Clearly the existence of this false footage proves America intends to go to war with Iran, but when they do, we will be ready,” said Gen. Walid Mujareen. “We have already prepared footage of that same strike, but in ours the missile actually hits a baby milk factory and kills 900 innocent civilians. Iranian forces also shoot down six American planes and capture a dozen pilots, all of whom confess to something. We haven’t decided what.
“I can give you that video now, but it’s under embargo until I say use it, OK?” he added. CNN