United States Department of Defense.
Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
Thursday, April 22, 2004 12:45 p.m. EDT
Secretary Rumsfeld Remarks to the Newspaper Association of America/American Society of Newspaper Editors[excerpt on freedom of information]
...Our republic was founded on the notion that an unchecked government is a major obstacle to human freedom and to progress, and that our leaders need to be challenged, internally through the complex constitutional system of checks and balances, and externally by a free and energetic press. This is a notion I've supported throughout my adult life. As a matter of fact, as a young member of Congress back in the 1960s, still in my 30s, I was a co-sponsor of the Freedom of Information Act. Now we all recognize that that Act causes government officials occasional pain, but in my view, it has been a valuable Act in helping to get the facts to the American people.
As secretary of Defense this time, I believe and I certainly hope that our department has offered reporters and media as much or more access than possibly ever before. I'm told that I've held over 350 press briefings and press availabilities since I was confirmed in January of 2001. It's unbelievable. It's exhausting. (Laughter.) It's risky! (Laughter.) That's for sure. I've also granted hundreds of interviews, and at Torie Clarke's suggestion, we instituted an embedding program during the combat operations in Iraq, including some 500 journalists from some 250 outlets that we believe enriched the coverage and serve the public well. Even today, we have dozens of embeds with our forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq.
Our great political system needs information to be self-correcting. While excesses and imbalances will inevitably exist for a time, fortunately they tend not to last. Ultimately truth prevails. The American people seem to have inner gyroscopes that keep them centered and balanced.