not a new one. It goes back
the current policy goes back to 1991,
and what I think is one of the redeeming qualities is that it's been tested
over time. It's a policy that reflects what the families have told
us they would like by way of the treatment of remains of the loved ones who
have made that sacrifice. And it also is a policy that has spanned
more than one Administration and more than one party so that it gets away
to the extent any policy in this building can get away from it, it gets away
from a political aspect that might motivate us.
that, I'm really open to whatever you might have by way of questions that
I could help with.
Might we ask in this particular situation which has gained a lot of publicity
where this woman has been fired for taking a picture, did the Pentagon fire
her, or did the firm fire her, or did you advise the firm to fire her or
bring any pressure? How did that come about?
To my knowledge, I had no contact with her company, had no contact with the
firm that fired her. I read in this morning's paper that she had been let
go. I was unaware until I read it that that was even being considered.
an interview with a Seattle-based radio program yesterday and I was asked
about would the Pentagon take any sanctions against the lady and I indicated
that I didn't think that was appropriate.
You didn't think that the question was appropriate or that --
No, no. I didn't think it would be appropriate for the Pentagon to
take any sanctions against her, and none were planned by us. The company
made that decision on their own, as far as I know.
Do you think she should be reinstated?
I think it's a decision that I really have no stake in and shouldn't say.
It's between her company and her.
Mr. Secretary, earlier today Secretary Rumsfeld was championing the FOIA
Act and [inaudible] FOIA Act and how wonderful it [inaudible].
-- release photos of [inaudible]
and then it was immediately, almost immediately shut down, sort of a reverse
[inaudible] from Dover Air Force Base. Would the Department of Defense
at all go to AMC and say you need to reverse this decision, why did you let
these photos out? Were you involved in that decision at all?
I was not involved in the decision about the release of those photographs.
I understand several photographs have been released. I've not seen the
photographs. I do know the attorneys are looking into the case to see
if that was an appropriate action or an inappropriate action.
means we support FOIA. FOIA is the law of the land. The law of the
land trumps policy all the time. If for some reason we find that the policy
is inconsistent with the FOIA we'll look at whether or not the policy needs
to be changed.
say, however, that the current policy has been tested in the courts and has
been withheld. I think it's a reasonable policy. As I said in the opening,
I think it has stood the test of time. And more importantly probably
than any of this, we continually get feedback from families that this reflects
their desires to maintain a degree of privacy that we can while still allowing
you access to information and also maintains the respect and the dignified
treatment of those remains as they're transferred.
short answer to your question is no involvement from my office with Air Mobility
If anyone can hear me, Bryan, can you spell your last name.
Whitman: Except that the person talking is not Bryan Whitman, if you
think it's Bryan Whitman.
No, it's John Molino.
What's your title?
Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family
Policy. It takes two business cards to do that. [Laughter]
You say it represents families' feelings and requests. How do you come
to that determination? Is that anecdotal? Do you ask them, all family
members? Do you take any kind of survey? Can you talk a little
bit about how you come to that conclusion?
Sure, I can. We often have family readiness group meetings. We
have meetings of a Joint Casualty Assistance Board that we have with the
services. After services, graveside services are held we do solicit
family reactions. It's through those means that we get this that we're being
mind that any media coverage at a graveside, for instance, is entirely up
to the families. The appropriateness of that, the degree to which they
want the press at the individual family services is entirely up to them.
But what we're talking about is the policy that deals with the transfer of
remains along the way.
Of course there have been notable exceptions in the last several years to
this for some events. I think the return of the remains from the Cole,
the return of the remains from the Ron Brown accident. What is the
policy and standard, and what happens when there's an exception? What
makes an exception happen?
I don't know if I can adequately address that because I don't know that there's
a general standard or a threshold through which you have to pass to say by
golly that's the one we'd have to waive it for.
In other words, if the President wants to attend some return ceremony that's
Certainly if the Commander-in-Chief said I want to have a ceremony there
would be a ceremony and there would be a -- his presence would certainly
as a rule, there is no ceremony. It's a ritual more than a ceremony
to my mind. It is a dignified passage, if you will, of the remains
from the airplane to the mortuary where the remains are prepared for their
final burial, and then again to an airplane or to a hearse depending on where
the location is and it is moved to that location.
have been exceptions to the policy, you're absolutely correct; and they're
directed by my superiors when that occurs. I don't know what would
go in to say that we've crossed that threshold.
mind, I'm not sure, I could not think of when I would recommend starting
an action and working its way up that we change the policy. Because
I think it's a reasonable policy.
If there's been a court ruling on this then there must have been something
beyond a policy. There must have been a regulation. And how that
would square with our FOI decision, your Freedom of Information decision
to release hundreds of photos last week to an internet site. Could
you just clarify those two things, if you could?
I'll try. My understanding is the policy that went into effect in 1991 was
challenged in the courts by the media to gain access to the transfer of remains
at Dover, and that the Court ruled that the media, the press, did not have
the right under the First Amendment to go to Dover to see this. That
the department, it was within their authority to restrict
to no press
coverage that event at Dover Air Force Base.
have policies that have derived from the DoD policy and the public affairs
guidance that's out in that regard. I don't know if that answers your
That helps, for sure. And then the FOI law, of course, would have been
governing this release to the internet site, a different law.
That appears to be
certainly, the release was made by the FOIA office
at Air Mobility Command and I'm certain that the person who released it believed
they were acting consistent with the law. The attorneys now are looking
to see if the policy and the law are in conflict or if the policy and the
law are not in conflict and there was just some misunderstanding or
misinterpretation of the situation that allowed that release.
Secretary Molino, on that point as I understand, can you confirm whether
that FOIA was released on an appeal? That it was initially denied and
it was on an appeal that those photographs were released, which would suggest
that, on an appeal of course, that this went through an awful lot of vetting
through the Department's legal attorneys.
I can tell you that I don't have a clue as to what the right answer is to
that. I'll have to defer to someone who might know that answer because
I don't know. FOIA is outside my area of responsibility and I don't know
the answer to that.
You say lawyers are reviewing it, do you mean AMC lawyers or Defense Department
I think, and I stand to be corrected, that our general counsel is working
with the AMC folks. I think that is correct, and if it's not I would
ask the folks standing behind me, maybe they're shaking their head either
up and down or across, I don't know.
They're [inaudible]. [Laughter]
And I don't blame them.
What is objectionable? What does the Department of Defense find
objectionable about these images being shown to the public?
It's more a case of what the families might find objectionable to these images.
It's DoD policy though.
Right. It's a DoD policy that we believe and we are convinced reflects the
families' desires. Families can make a decision in their individual
cases insofar as graveside services or church services are concerned, but
the transfer of remains at Dover or in Europe, for that matter, we believe
that we are, we have a policy that is reflective of what the families desire
vis-à-vis privacy, vis-à-vis the dignity of the event, and
until we're shown otherwise I think we're pretty comfortable with the
policy. As I said, it has been around for about 14 years.
So this has nothing to do with quashing, to use the term, quashing public
awareness of the fact that dozens of bodies are coming home from Iraq?
This has nothing to do with that is what you're saying?
It doesn't from my perspective, and the reason why I say that is that when
I go home in the evenings the TV screens are filled with news of what's going
on overseas. The TV that I have in my office during the day is filled
with first-hand accounts of what's going on overseas.
I know releases the numbers of casualties. I know that when families
are notified the department also releases the names and you have a current
So I don't
know what that would achieve. If that were in concert with barring
the other things, goodness, we had embedded reporters during the war who
were showing first-hand what was going on.
So I don't
see that as our motivation, and that's one of the things I'm happy about,
that this has actually spanned different Administrations from different parties
so that we can say when we get to the, when you see it from a perspective
of trying to be responsive to the families, it makes sense.
You hit on a very good point there --
Whitman: Hang on just a second.
-- that the Department of Defense releases the names --
Whitman: Hang on just a second on the phone.
-- and everything else, how is that not an insensitivity to the families
Whitman: Hang on a second. We've got some folks that are on deadline
so we're going to wrap this up with one more question from the room right
You talked about you've spoken with the families and you believe the policy
is the way it is because by and large they don't want images taken of these
returns. Can you give us an idea, is that sort of a continual process,
or did you consult them in '91 and that's why the policy stands today? I
mean do you meet with families on a regular basis?
Yes. That's what I intended to imply. We do meet with
families. We do meet with the service representatives who are responsible
for the service policies, and we would be responsive to any input that would
say it looks like the tide is turning, it looks like families actually think
this would be a good idea. And in fact we're getting none of that.
I think it's pretty obvious that it's not a good idea.
very frank with you we don't want the remains of our service members who
have made the ultimate sacrifice to be the subject of any kind of attention
that is unwarranted or undignified.
Whitman: Thanks for joining us. I know it was on short notice.
I hope this has provided you with some understanding.
encourage you to take a look at Mr. Molino's transcript if you're interested
in this from a year ago. It's on the Defense Link site. [inaudible] and in