In a statement to POLITICO, Air Force spokesman Brig. General Patrick Ryder said the incident was a “misunderstanding” and said the service will “review the policy in the future”.
“Like everyone serving in uniform, Air Force aircrews are expected to protect classified information aboard their aircraft. Under a new policy, aircrew in this case applied a more restrictive approach to security communications, which led to miscommunication about the reporter’s use of personal electronic devices on the plane,” Ryder said.
The policy will not be applied to the reporter for the remainder of the trip, Ryder said.
“We respect the role of a free press and welcome them on board our flights. We regret the inconvenience we have caused this reporter and will review the policy in the future.
The first reporter, who has covered the Pentagon for years and traveled to secure locations including Iraq and Afghanistan with senior officials, had been told days earlier that “there could be a problem “, but had assured that” they were working on it “. and they were hoping they could find something,” according to the person, who spoke to POLITICO on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to do so.
During the flight, the pilot returned several times to explain to the public affairs officer that the reporter could not use his phone at any time because the Deputy Secretary of Defense had to be ready at all times to take a secure phone call.
The journalist found his phone on landing after an eight-hour flight. Deputy Kathleen Hicks travels to Norway, the UK and Germany to meet with senior military and government officials, including the heads of US European Command and US Africa Command.
Journalists of many nationalities — usually those from the Pentagon press pool who have a Pentagon badge and have passed a background check — regularly accompany senior defense officials on official trips. They often go to secure locations and have access to classified information. Officials frequently brief reporters privately and confidentially during flights, and reporters typically record stories from airplanes using their devices.
“It’s not only impossible to do my job without a phone or laptop, it’s also kind of insulting that after taking dozens of trips over the last six years (many to more sensitive places), my telephone has been taken and there is not enough confidence to be able to obtain some kind of exemption so that I can continue to write articles on the plane, ”wrote the journalist in an e-mail addressed to the secretary of Pentagon press, John Kirby, who was consulted by POLITICO.
“We have expressed concern about this rule change regarding members of the press who are not U.S. citizens being able to access electronic devices while traveling with the U.S. Department of Defense and are seeking further information on the matter” , a Reuters spokesperson told POLITICO. .