Not By Those Rules
Stars & Stripes Executive Editor David B. Offer cries censorship and hands in his resignation after being ordered to kill a story.
By Lori Robertson
Stars & Stripes Executive Editor David B. Offer cries censorship and hands in his resignation after being ordered to kill a story. The piece, which was slated to run September 1, revealed that the Pentagon could deploy an Army Patriot antimissile battery to Israel, due to concern that Iraq might fire missiles at that country. Publisher Thomas Kelsch says he ordered that it be kept out of the paper, a government publication for U.S. military personnel living abroad, after Pentagon official Clifford Bernath told him publication would " 'endanger the lives of personnel.' " Information he was given, Kelsch says, "did make it a national security issue." However, the same details were published September 1 in the Washington Post. Instead of then being able to publish the Stars & Stripes piece, Offer was ordered to run only the Post's version. "I thought the censorship in the first place was outrageous," Offer says, "and the follow up...as bad or worse." Offer, previously editor of the Daily News in Newport, Rhode Island, quit that day, after only four months on the job. He had just bought a house the night before. This incident, says Offer, 59, "certainly damaged the credibility" of the paper. The original Stars & Stripes story was not published, says Kelsch, because it contained classified information, which the paper is prohibited from generating. Kelsch says once that information is in the public domain, the prohibition "doesn't make any sense." It's a rule he hopes to change. Kelsch, a friend of Offer's, says he respects the editor's decision. In his four years at the paper, Kelsch says the Department of Defense has "played practically no role whatsoever" in editorial matters. A Senate committee is investigating the incident.###
Lori Robertson (email@example.com), a former AJR managing editor, is a senior contributing writer for the magazine.