DoD News BriefingThursday, January 25, 2001
Presenter: Rear Admiral Craig R. Quigley, DASD PA
Q: Have you -- I apologize for coming in late. Have you addressed the subject of Linda Tripp?
Quigley: No. No.
Q: Linda Tripp today -- lawyers for her filed a lawsuit alleging violations of the Privacy Act regarding information being released about her application for employment at the Marshall Center in Germany. Can you give us any reaction to that and tell us whether there's right to privacy for applicants to these kinds of jobs that could have been compromised by any leaks --
Quigley: Yeah, I'm aware of the suit being filed, but we have not received it yet. We've not laid eyes on it. Nobody in the building, to the best of my knowledge, has any -- has seen it or has any knowledge of its contents. So I'm going to have to defer on that one until we have a chance to see it.
Q: Does the Defense Department routinely or ever release the names of applicants for jobs?
Quigley: Jamie, that question is related to the first, and I'm sorry; I'm not going to be very able to be fulfilling in that topic today. We need to understand the contents of the suit, and I need to tread very carefully here.
Q: Craig --
Quigley: So we need to see it first, and we'll go from there.
Q: Aside from what the lawsuit actually says, I mean, can you answer the question of whether someone in the Defense Department provided information to Stars and Stripes that she had applied for this job?
Quigley: No, I can't, Bob. I'm sorry.
Q: Why not?
Quigley: Same answer.
Q: What's the government doing on the --
Quigley: It is all part and parcel of the same topic. We need to have a fundamental understanding of the contents of the suit before I'm going to make any public statements or nibble at the edges on the published statements. I'm sorry.
Q: Can I ask you, this job, this job with the Marshall Center, would it be a Schedule C job, or is it strictly up to the director of the Marshall Center whether or not she would be hired, or is it up to the administration whether or not she would be hired in this job? You see what I mean?
Quigley: I -- I don't know. I'll see what category that job is in. I don't know. We can take that.
Q: And can you give us any -- can you give us any background or describe the Marshall Center, and is it operated by the Department of Defense? And can you tell us how much under the control of the Pentagon is the European Stars and Stripes newspaper? Is that something that --
Quigley: Well, the Marshall Center is one of these facilities that I mentioned in the announcements at the start of the brief this afternoon. This is the European version of this. And these centers, all of them -- the Marshall Center included -- go to enhance the learning and the sharing of information for both civilian and military student bodies of the democratic process. And this is the one that is in Europe.
I think the independence of Stars and Stripes is a fact pretty well known to most of you. Heaven's sake, the Stars and Stripes has had plenty of articles over time that have been critical of the positions taken by the Department of Defense or decisions made by the Department of Defense. The editorial decision-making process is completely independent of anyone in this building. And the positions they take are much more traditionally within what you would think of as a traditional newspaper structure. So it is intended to be and is an independent voice serving principally our men and women in uniform, their families, professional civilians serving overseas, both in Europe and in Asia.
Q: Well, wasn't a European Stars and Stripes reporter recently punished or even dismissed for -- because he published classified information, information that was subsequently published in the Washington Post?
Quigley: No. I believe that a Stars and Stripes employee resigned for reasons that I would defer to him to describe. But it was an editorial decision made by the paper that he disagreed with.
And again, that wasn't a decision taken by anyone in this building, as we are not in that editorial process for the paper on a daily basis.
Q: Just one more follow-up on this. The newspaper, European Stars and Stripes, does it come under the Armed Forces Information Service, which is headed by Cliff Bernath, who was named in the previous action involving Linda Tripp?
Quigley: Yes; administratively, yes. But for editorial control, it is as I described. It is an independent paper; that is what it is designed to be -- both European and Pacific Stars and Stripes -- with an independent editorial voice.
Q: Back to the Marshall Center, just so I understand this. The Defense Department funds that entirely; is that correct?
Quigley: The Marshall Center?
Quigley: Through, I think, the executive agent; the executive agent in this case is the Department of the Army. But yes, it is a DoD entity.
Q: If you are hired by the Marshall Center, one has to assume that the Defense Department and/or the U.S. Army has some say in that; correct?
Quigley: Certainly. I mean -- but I think the hiring decisions are made at the local level, at the center level.
Q: Unless it is someone of very high profile that is well- known to everyone?
Quigley: I don't think there are exceptions.
Q: So there's no influence by the local people? If Washington says, "Hey, we've got somebody we really want to hire here," the local people are not influenced by that?
Quigley: It is a competitive process, and the packages are evaluated fairly for all those who have chosen to submit a package for any open position.
Q: Not on the lawsuit at all, but in recent years we've talked a lot about the Privacy Act. I'm just wondering whether job applications are protected by the Privacy Act?
Quigley: Well, the contents of job applications certainly are.
Q: How about the fact of job application?
Quigley: I don't know. I don't know that we have a policy on that. I'm not sure that it's -- I'm not sure that it's covered under the Privacy Act, of course, which is law, or if we have a policy that speaks to that issue which is a policy. And I don't know the answer.
The contents, I'm sure. But the fact, I'm not sure on that.
Q: Didn't the department generate some new guidelines or something on how the Privacy Act was to be observed after the events of a couple of years ago?
Quigley: Yes, indeed. I mean, all department employees were given both -- additional information on both the Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Act which, as you know, are sometimes very, very carefully balanced -- by design, I must say.
And that's incumbent upon all of us in the public sector to make sure we've got the balance right.
Q: But do you also have a policy against leaks?
Quigley: Say that again?
Q: I said, do you have a policy that discourages employees from leaking unofficial information to the news media?
Quigley: I'm not aware of any such policy, no.
Q: So then the policy permits leaks.
Quigley: I don't think we have a policy that addresses the subject, Jamie.
Q: No policy on leaks?
Quigley: I don't think so. I mean, there's all kinds of specifics on classified information, Jamie, and unauthorized, by any means, disclosure of classified information. You also have, as Chris indicated in his question, the restrictions and mandates of the Privacy Act versus the Freedom of Information Act. So there are many things that discuss the release of information, but I'm not aware of any policy on leaks.
Q: But nevertheless, you would concede that there are many leaks out of the government, including this building?
Quigley: I think you can read some every day.
Q: Not to overstate the obvious, but why don't you stop these leaks? (Laughter, cross talk.) Well, the point -- excuse me, if I could just follow up. The point I'm getting at --
Q: -- isn't it true that you have very little control over leaks of information?
Quigley: Leaks are done for a variety of reasons. Usually, the folks that leak information either have an ax to grind or a program that they really don't like or they really like a lot, and it presents what I would consider oftentimes an unbalanced view of that program or of that information that is shared with a correspondent.
I think there is a better way to do it. The better way to do it is to work it and make sure you understand all of the issues from the different perspectives that exist. I think only then can you have a really good debate on the topic, with everything out there for clarity's sake.
Q: As the spokesman for the department, aside from the fact that you won't comment on this lawsuit, will you confirm that Linda Tripp, in fact, is seeking a job with the Marshall Center?
Quigley: I don't know that that's true.
Q: But the source of this information --
Q: You don't -- you mean you don't whether or not she -- she --
Quigley: No, I don't know if she has applied or not.
Q: Will you take the question?
Quigley: I need to -- yes, I will. But I need to be careful and make sure that I'm on solid ground there as far as if we have a policy -- and I don't know yet -- of acknowledging whether or not any individual has applied for an open position.
Q: In her previous dispute about the release of private information, at least one or two of the parties were identified. Has the source of this information been identified?
Quigley: Of -- say that again, Mick.
Q: Has the source of this information been identified? The source of this information that Linda Tripp is seeking employment at the Marshall Center, has that source been identified, as was -- the sources were previously identified earlier this year.
Quigley: I think I would need to see what the wording of the lawsuit is as to what that suit says is her grievance against the department.
Q: So you don't know if the source has been identified.
Quigley: We have not had a chance to see the -- what the issue is within the lawsuit itself.
Q: But in the previous incident, any lawsuits aside, the department identified the individuals who provided this information to the New Yorker as Clifford Bernath at the direction of Kenneth Bacon, correct? So do we -- could we ask the same question here?
Quigley: Well, I think that's pretty much the same question that Charlie has asked. And I honestly don't know what our policy is on that, nor do I know how that policy -- if we don't have a policy, I need to make sure that the -- to provide an answer to that question, we are in compliance with the Privacy Act. So I will do the best I can to try to deconflict that. But I don't know where we stand right now.
Q: Are you addressing the privacy of the leaker? He's the source who released this information --
Quigley: No, I think the question is -- I think the question is, Charlie's question is, can we identify an individual who has applied for a government position. I'm very sure that we cannot release the content of their application, but I'm not sure on the very fact that they have or not.
Q: I was referring to Mick's question about who provided the information about the fact that she applied.
Quigley: The only thing that I have seen on that was a piece in Stars and Stripes from a couple of days ago earlier this week -- Monday, Tuesday, something like that. I don't know that that's correct as written.
Q: And of course, that also goes to the question of whether or not the leaker violated the law by simply stating that she had applied for a job.
Quigley: Well, and a leaker, in my mind, kind of going back to Jamie's question, is kind of not identified. So I don't know if this person did this in a very overt way or if there was some other way. I don't know.
Q: In my question, I wasn't trying to pursue a facetious line of questioning here, but my question was trying to get at the point about what actual ability the Pentagon has to identify and prevent leaks. Is this something that you really have any control over, given the fact that there are many links all the time from all parts of government?
Quigley: Well, from time to time over the years, I know there are some that have tried very hard to try to find out the identity of someone who has leaked information, but it's unnamed, you know, sources and things of that sort. Usually those attempts just don't have any success because it's too hard. There's too many people that are by design involved in decision-making processes on major weapons programs and purchases and things of that sort, policy development, you name it. And there's just too many folks to go --
Q: Just to clarify, in the previous episode, the facts showed that there was some unfavorable information about Linda Tripp that was released to the news media, or confirmed to the news media, about what she had -- how she had answered questions on her job application. Are you aware that in this case there was any unfavorable information released? Is the fact that somebody, for instance, is applying for a job, is that considered to be unfavorable or in any way put that person at a disadvantage in applying for that job?
Quigley: No, I'm not that there was.
Q: And since she worked for Public Affairs in the Pentagon, has she asked anyone in Public Affairs for a job recommendation?
Quigley: I would defer that question to her.
Q: Craig, I'm a little bit confused about the status of European Stars and Stripes because it is owned lock stock and barrel by the Pentagon; right? It is published 100 percent --
Quigley: It is funded by Department of Defense money, European and Pacific Stars and Stripes. That's correct.
Q: And Clifford Bernath, as the head of AFIS, administratively oversees completely --
Quigley: Correct again.
Q: Okay. But you are assuring us that he has no control over the editorial content of that publication?
Quigley: Absolutely correct.
Q: How is that guaranteed?
Quigley: There is no place for him in the structure of the construction and decisions made on a daily basis as to what news, what photos, where should they be placed. All the daily newspaper decisions that happen, there is no place of him in that structure or process.
It does not exist. And this is something we've been very careful to design in just that way, so that it is not perceived -- it is designed to be an independent voice.
Now its focus is by -- also by design, very much focused on what the members of those papers think are of interest to our men and women in uniform, their families, civil service folks that live overseas. So it is much more heavily oriented towards news that would serve them better, rather than a purely private newspaper that you could buy -- English-language paper you could buy overseas.
But the editorial control was scrupulously designed in there to be independent of certainly anyone in Washington, D.C.
Q: Exhausted with this --
Quigley: I am.
Q: Just back to Linda Tripp for a moment. I've been informed that, in fact, this information that was reported in the European Stars and Stripes was not -- was not a leak, per se, but in fact, an on-the-record release of information by the Center's director, Robert Kennedy, who was quoted directly in the article as saying that Linda Tripp was being considered along with several other candidates for this job and said -- and quoted in the European Stars and Stripes story of January 23rd. Has Robert Kennedy been contacted by anyone in the Pentagon, or will he be? And will there be some determination made whether his on-the-record statements violated any policy or procedure?
Quigley: First things first: I'm not going to have any more to say on this topic until we get the suit and understand its implications.
Q: But when you get the suit, then you'll say, "We're in a lawsuit, so we can't talk about it."
Quigley: That's probably true as well. You can only do what you can do and stay within the law. So Jamie, I can't help you with the answer to your question. I'm sorry. It's all part and parcel of the same thing.