THE WASHINGTON POST
I’d like to tell you what Robert Ford, former U.S. ambassador to Syria, said at the National Press Club on Wednesday about recent developments in the war against the Islamic State. The diplomat, who resigned in protest earlier this year because he found it “ever harder to justify our policy” in Syria, had some valuable insights.
I’d also like to tell you what Caitlin Hayden, official spokeswoman for President Obama’s National Security Council, had to say in that very same National Press Club ballroom a few hours later.
But I’m afraid I can’t tell you — because the speeches they gave were off the record. They were so declared at the last minute by the group of defense contractors that hosted the event.
It’s unseemly for current and former government officials to be hobnobbing privately with government contractors. But it’s a whole other level of outrage for them to do it at the National Press Club — a century-old shrine to the free press — and to forbid journalists to report what they say.
The group of contractors, the International Stability Operations Association, had issued a news release announcing the meeting at the press club, saying nothing about media restrictions. Reuters put the event on its news wire. But when reporters and camera crews came to cover Ford, they were turned away. ISOA official Malala Elston, after consulting with Ford, told me I could listen to his remarks as long as I didn’t write about what he said….MORE