• SMUCKER OUT OF IRAQ: Philip Smucker, a contract reporter for the Monitor and The Daily Telegraph of London, was escorted by the US Marines from the front lines of the war in Iraq Thursday. He is being taken to Kuwait, the Pentagon says, because of information Smucker reported in a broadcast appearance with CNN early Wednesday.
"My understanding of the facts at this point from the commander on the ground is that this reporter was reporting, in real time, positions, locations, and activities of units engaged in combat," says Bryan Whitman, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. "The commander felt it was necessary and appropriate to remove [Smucker] from his immediate battle space in order not to compromise his mission or endanger personnel of his unit."
Smucker's work in the Monitor is not at issue, but we have read the transcript of the CNN interview and it does not appear to us that he disclosed anything that wasn't already widely available in maps and in US and British radio, newspaper, and television reports in that same news cycle. Of course, the Pentagon has the final say in the field about any threat the information reported might pose.
We are disappointed Smucker has been removed. He is an experienced war correspondent who understands the gravity of such situations and not one who would knowingly put US troops - and himself - in jeopardy. Even during his short time in Iraq, he gave Monitor readers valuable insights into the campaign. Smucker has also covered conflicts in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, and Cambodia for a variety of publications, including The Daily Telegraph, US News and World Report, and The Washington Times.
Smucker was one of several hundred journalists in Iraq who are not officially "embedded" with US troops. But he and Monitor photographer Andy Nelson had crossed into Iraq from Kuwait as part of a US Marines convoy. Our aim was to get reporters positioned to cover Baghdad itself once it was safe to do so. Smucker and Nelson had enjoyed the Marines' support and protection for several days. "The Marines have been awfully kind to us, helping us leapfrog ahead," Smucker told CNN. "We are with the 1st and 2nd battalions of the 5th regiment. They are the most decorated units in the heart of the Marine Corps."
The Monitor has not been able to speak to Smucker since Wednesday morning, just before the Marines confiscated his equipment. Monitor photographer Andy Nelson remains with the 1st Marines Division in Iraq, along with two other non-embedded foreign journalists who have been traveling with these units.
- Paul Van Slambrouck