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Thursday, February 19, 2004





Need to protect governors
motivated false statements to media

There is much to be learned from Governor Lingle's recent trip to Iraq as a guest of the Department of Defense. The governor looks forward to informing the public about what she saw and what she learned there. Also, now that the governor has returned, we can more fully discuss the handling of the mission's secrecy -- secrecy that was mandated by the nature of the trip.

The safety and security of the six governors required that plans for the trip be kept absolutely confidential until the delegation arrived safely in Baghdad early Tuesday morning, Feb. 10. The DOD, which organized the mission, determined the time when information could be released about the trip. The DOD directed that each of the six states with governors on the trip release the information simultaneously.

The DOD also made it clear that any leak could result in immediate cancelation of the trip and, of greater concern, could put the governors and those who accompanied them in immediate danger.

Indeed, on Feb. 9, the day the governors were enroute to the Middle East, all six states received a message from the Pentagon stating that leaks were occurring that could jeopardize the entire mission.

When a reporter asked me that day about the governor's whereabouts, I believed the best way to ensure the safety of the mission was to respond by saying the governor was still at the state Capitol.

Our office has a policy that we do not say "no comment" to reporters. If I answered a question by saying "no comment," it would have sent up an immediate red flag leading to additional questions. If I said the governor was "off island" or "in Washington," that would have led to additional questions as well. My inability to respond further to those questions would have turned the governor's absence into a news story, thus potentially jeopardizing the safety of the mission.

The DOD, not the governor's office, organized the mission. Thus we had only limited information about security arrangements, assessments of potential threats and ways in which America's enemies might be able to exploit a security breach. We did know what our common sense told us: Iraq is still a very dangerous place. We also knew what the DOD told us, which was that any leak could jeopardize the mission and risk lives. Under such circumstances, I felt a particular obligation to all participants in the mission to avoid any activity that would add to the risk.

By responding as I did to reporters, I believed I was protecting Governor Lingle and other members of the delegation until all six states could release information that night (2 a.m. Tuesday morning, Hawaii time). I regret if my actions caused some to question the integrity of Governor Lingle and her administration.

The people of Hawaii elected Governor Lingle in large part because of her unwavering commitment to restore trust and integrity in state government. I believe she and her entire administration consistently demonstrate this commitment by being open, accessible and forthright with the media and the public. The people's right to have full confidence in the administration is not something any of us take for granted.

We will reflect carefully on this incident and try to identify things we could have done differently.

As a spokesperson for the Lingle-Aiona administration, I am committed to ensuring that information coming out of this office, and from every state department and agency, is factual and reflects the integrity and trust the public expects from its government. This has been the Lingle-Aiona administration's charge since Day One, and each of us continues to uphold that responsibility. Personally, I will work harder everyday to make sure our actions reflect that charge.


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[ BRAINSTORM! ]


Can you design a quarter that represents Hawaii??

Some states have issued collectible quarters that commemorate their entry into the union. The front of the coin looks the same but the eagle on the back has been replaced by something that represents that state. For example, Georgia's quarter has a peach on it. If you could design Hawaii's quarter, what would it look like?


Send your ideas and solutions by Feb. 17 to:

brainstorm@starbulletin.com

Or mail them to:
Brainstorm!
c/o Nancy Christenson
Star-Bulletin
500 Ala Moana
7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813

Fax:
Brainstorm!
c/o Nancy Christenson
529-4750


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The Star-Bulletin welcomes letters that are crisp and to the point (150 to 200 words). The Star-Bulletin reserves the right to edit letters for clarity and length. Please direct comments to the issues; personal attacks will not be published. Letters must be signed and include a daytime telephone number.

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