Do Embedded Reporters Sign Non-Disclosure Agreements?

01.30.06 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

Puzzled by references to non-disclosure agreements signed by reporters who are embedded with U.S. military forces, Secrecy News requested a copy of such a non-disclosure agreement from the Pentagon.

But there isn’t one.

“The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs has advised this Office that there is no non-disclosure agreement for access to classified material for embedded reporters,” wrote Chief DoD FOIA officer Will Kammer in response to our Freedom of Information Act request.

What there is, however, is a somewhat informal process of negotiation by which access is granted to a reporter in exchange for an agreement to conduct a security review.

“The [unit] commander may offer access if the reporter agrees to a security review of their coverage. Agreement to security review in exchange for this type of access must be strictly voluntary and if the reporter does not agree, then access may not be granted,” according to February 2003 public affairs guidance on embedded reporters.

“If a security review is agreed to, it will not involve any editorial changes; it will be conducted solely to ensure that no sensitive or classified information is included in the product. If such information is found, the media will be asked to remove that information from the product and/or embargo the product until such information is no longer classified or sensitive.”

“This paragraph does not authorize commanders to allow media access to classified information.”

See Mr. Kammer’s letter and the February 2003 public affairs guidance on embedded reporters here.