The fact that Americans are able to get any news at all about this country's military operations in the Persian Gulf certainly is not due to the assistance and cooperation provided by the U.S. Navy and the Defense Department. In fact, there is evidence that the government of the United States is doing its best to make it difficult for such information to reach its citizens. The situation violates the spirit and the letter of regulations adopted by Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger following the secret attack on Grenada in 1983.
The military has established a press pool of representatives from the print and broadcast media that in theory is allowed to observe events in the Persian Gulf in connection with the U.S. escort of oil tankers through waters made hostile by the war between Iran and Iraq. For convenience, the small pool would share its reports with other correspondents not accommodated on shipboard, or wherever. In practice, the press pool largely has been prevented from covering any of the significant actions such as the U.S. helicopter sinking of two Iranian boats or the attack on an Iranian oil platform.
In an article written for The Times, Arthur A. Lord, acting foreign editor for NBC Nightly News, said that the press pool was not informed when the oil platform was attacked, nor taken to the scene even though it was just a 30-minute helicopter ride away. Rather, the military delivered its own home-quality videotapes to the press more than 24 hours later. When news officials complained, a defense spokesman said the operation was conducted on such short notice, there was no time to advise the correspondents. However, Lord said, it was learned independently that the attack was formally approved more than 36 hours beforehand at the Pentagon. When the question of press coverage come up, sources said, it was dismissed "with a simple wave of the hand."