US Army denies 'gag orders,' but says patients can 'go to Starbucks' to talk to media
Josh Catone
Published: Thursday March 1, 2007
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The US Army is denying yesterday's claims that some patients at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center's Medical Hold Unit were told not to speak to the media.

Army spokesman Paul Boyce tells Think Progress that patients are free to speak to the media; however, they must receive permission to speak with the press while on hospital grounds.

When questioned further, Boyce told TP that if patients wished to speak to reporters without permission, "They can go to Starbucks."

Think Progress writes, "Asked whether this was a reasonable solution for patients recuperating from physical and mental trauma, Boyce said yes. 'It's just a short trip, and many of them want to get out [of the hospital] anyway.'"

Meanwhile the Army Times reports today that the "Pentagon clamped down on media coverage of any and all Defense Department medical facilities, to include suspending queries for interviews and filming by CNN."

An e-mail intended for spokespeople, titled "Media inquiries related to Walter Reed," was quoted by the Times as saying, "It will be in most cases not appropriate to engage the media while this review takes place," referring to an ongoing investigation of problems at the Walter Reed facility.

The Pentagon e-mail sparked a discussion on Capitol Hill, writes Kelly Kennedy at the Times, where Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) issued a press release saying, "Any attempt to silence the very soldiers who brought their own mistreatment to light, or to hide ongoing abuses from the public eye if such attempts are occurring would be morally reprehensible.

"It would be an abdication," she continues, "of one of the most fundamental responsibilities of our government: the protection of those who have fought to protect us."