To the People

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Silent As a Grave - And Keep it That Way!

The Bush Administration has been pulling some weaselly shit at Arlington National Cemetery:
When Gina Gray took over as the public affairs director at Arlington National Cemetery about three months ago, she discovered that cemetery officials were attempting to impose new limits on media coverage of funerals of the Iraq war dead -- even after the fallen warriors' families granted permission for the coverage. She said that the new restrictions were wrong and that Army regulations didn't call for such limitations.

Six weeks after The Washington Post reported her efforts to restore media coverage of funerals, Gray was demoted. Twelve days ago, the Army fired her.

"Had I not put my foot down, had I just gone along with it and not said regulations were being violated, I'm sure I'd still be there," said the jobless Gray, who, over lunch yesterday in Crystal City, recounted what she is certain is her retaliatory dismissal. "It's about doing the right thing."
The Pentagon claims they're respecting the families' privacy -- except that in some cases the families have okayed the reporters being there:
Through at least 2005 -- during Rumsfeld's tenure, no less -- reporters were placed in a location where they could hear the prayers and the eulogies and film the handing of the folded flag to the next of kin. The coverage of the ceremonies -- in the nearly two-thirds of cases where families permitted it -- provided moving reminders to a distracted nation that there was a war going on. But the access gradually eroded, and Gray arrived to discover that it was gone.
Arlington's problems with the burial of the Iraq dead go far beyond Gray; the cemetery is looking for its fourth public affairs director in the past few years. Gray contends that Higginbotham has been calling the families of the dead to encourage them not to allow media coverage at the funerals -- a charge confirmed by a high-ranking official at Arlington, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Gray says Higginbotham told staff members that he called the family of the next soldier scheduled for burial at Arlington and that the family, which had originally approved coverage, had changed its mind. Gray charges that Higginbotham admitted he had been making such calls to families for a year and said that the families "appreciated him keeping the media out."

Higginbotham, White and Metzler did not respond to e-mail messages yesterday seeking their comment. An Army spokesman said Higginbotham and other Arlington officials call families only if their wishes regarding media coverage are unclear.
Wait, it gets better:
On June 27, Gray got her termination memo. White said Gray had "been disrespectful to me as your supervisor and failed to act in an inappropriate manner." Failed to act in an in appropriate manner? The termination notice was inadvertently revealing: Only at Arlington National Cemetery could it be considered a firing offense to act appropriately.
Read the whole thing here.

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