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Defense Department Statement on Photography of Casualties

This article is more than 11 years old.

The following statement was provided by the Defense Department's Public Affairs office:

After looking at the NY Times story and the topic of your panel,
it appears that the focus of the discussion is on the relationship
between embedded photographers and the units they embed with while in
theater. DoD public affairs guidance regarding photography of
casualties is given below for your reference. This guidance serves as a
guideline for commanders in the field; however, as with all guidance,
local commanders are given the flexibility to enforce stricter
guidelines for release of photos if in their determination the
circumstances warrant it.

Our guidance is based on the following principles:

* Operational Security — let's not help the enemy. Images
provide an opposing force with real-time and near real time information
regarding the effectiveness of their own operations which only help the
enemy in his efforts to kill American service members. We in the DoD
have an obligation to protect our forces.

* Right to privacy and rights protected by HIPAA (Health
Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) — the wounded
have a right to determine who and who does not have information
regarding their health. The fact that the wounded in this case are US
service members does not deny them this right.

* Care for the fallen is a task that is accepted with great
care and reverence. We owe nothing less to those who have given their
last full measure of devotion to our nation. Support to the families of
the fallen and ensuring that honors are rendered with the dignity and
respect they are due are high priorities. Honoring the desires of the
family is the right thing to do. The vast majority of families want
their loved ones to be remembered for who they were, what they stood
for, and for all of the sacrifices they made while serving their
country. Their lasting legacy will be what they did — not how they
died.

Excerpts from DoD policy regarding media coverage of casualties:

6.A. GENERAL.

6.A.1. DOD PHOTOGRAPHY OF SERVICEMEMBERS WOUNDED OR KILLED IN ACTION
WHERE THE INDIVIDUAL MAY BE CLEARLY IDENTIFIED WILL NOT BE RELEASED.
PHOTOS OF THOSE KILLED OR WOUNDED, IN WHICH THE CASUALTY IS NOT
IDENTIFIABLE MAY BE RELEASED, HOWEVER, INFORMATION CONCERNING THE TIME
OR CIRCUMSTANCE OF THE PHOTO WILL ONLY BE RELEASED IN GENERAL TERMS
(I.E. MORNING OR AFTERNOON; MINE ACCIDENT, TRAFFIC ACCIDENT, MORTAR
ATTACK, BOMBING, ETC.).

6.A.2. MEDIA REPRESENTATIVES WILL BE REMINDED OF THE SENSITIVITY OF
USING NAMES OF INDIVIDUAL CASUALTIES, OR PHOTOGRAPHS THEY MAY HAVE TAKEN
WHICH CLEARLY IDENTIFY CASUALTIES, UNTIL AFTER NOTIFICATION OF THE NEXT
OF KIN, OR AFTER 72 HOURS, WHICHEVER IS SOONER. PHOTOGRAPHY FROM A
DISTANCE OR ANGLE AT WHICH A CASUALTY CANNOT BE IDENTIFIED IS
PERMISSIBLE.

Regards,

Lt Col Les' Melnyk
Defense Press Officer
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs

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Return to "America's Invisible Casualities"

This program aired on August 13, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.

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