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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Showdown: Iraq: Look at How Media Access Becomes More Difficult in War

Aired October 18, 2002 - 12:55   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Both this week and last, CNN scored a number of notable firsts as our viewers have come to expect from us. Our crews overcame technological and even more daunting political obstacles to broadcast live from U.S. troop locations, locations that up until now have been off limits to live cameras.
Our senior Pentagon correspondent Jaime McIntyre was part of a three-person CNN team that scored the coups (ph), and today, he takes a closer look at how media access may be even more difficult in times of war.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Our first stop is an airbase in Turkey and gassing up fighters patrolling, and on this day, attacking northern Iraq. The Pentagon, at CNN's request, released the video of the bombing by a U.S. F-16, the first time in years cockpit video has been released shortly after a strike in Iraq.

Turkey doesn't want to advertise its support for such offensive action, so in order to win approval for the first ever live videophone broadcast from the flight line, we had to agree to show no Turkish planes, people or buildings.

With me now is an F-15 pilot who has been patrolling the no-fly zone in the north for a month now.

MCINTYRE: When we did get access to U.S. air crews and pilots, we found them willing to talk and enthusiastic about what they're doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From America's oldest fighting squadron.

MCINTYRE: Our second stop, the U.S. aircraft carrier "Abraham Lincoln," on station in the North Arabian Sea, presented us with new challenges. Since the carrier is 4.5 acres of sovereign U.S. territory, there are no host country sensitivities to worry about, but there a host of other sensitive and technical issues. To get a live signal off the carrier during actual combat operations requires a sophisticated and bulky videophone which we nicknamed R2-D2. It can lock on to a satellite, even while the ship steams at 22 knots. But we still had to shout over the noise of flight operations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be very noisy here. MCINTYRE: The Navy has worried that continuous live reports, or even a sudden media blackout from the carrier, might signal an imminent attack. We also had to disable the videophone's transmission of its coordinates to ensure we didn't give away the ship's location.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While it's important that the American people know what's going on and that the press have access and be able to keep people at home informed, it is also a double-edged sword, and we just need to be careful that it doesn't provide undue advantage to the folks that we might have to go after.

MCINTYRE: At the Udari training range in Northern Kuwait, the concern was more political than technical, although the 106 degree desert temperatures snapped our batteries and knocked us off the air more than once.

Kuwait doesn't want the U.S. exercises portrayed as rehearsal for an Iraq invasion, so the key to winning government approval for the unprecedented live videophone reports was our assurance that we would underscore the defensive mission, even while we asked the soldiers about Iraq.

The prospect of a potential war with Iraq in the future, how does that change things?

MCINTYRE: In the end, media access is based on trust, marked, in this case, by an exchange of ceremonial coins which have become a tradition in the U.S. military.

I am the only correspondent with his own coin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jamie, thanks very much, and I truly mean it, for job that you do.

MCINTYRE: Thank you, appreciate it.

Our whirlwind (ph) tour showed that CNN has the technology to go live from the battlefield. The real question is, to what extent we'll be able to use it during the critical opening days and hours of war.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, Kuwait.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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