(Smith’s early morning call to the Pentagon does more than focus attention on the importance bureau chiefs attach to pool protocol. It points up the kind of problems drafters of the pool plan might not have identified in attempting to guard against security breaches. Deborah Potter, a CBS News correspondent, is married to Mutual’s Witten, the correspondent Tessler assigned to what became the Honduras operation.)
Despite the collapse of the security arrangements, the Pentagon was not pointing any fingers of blame. Secretary Weinberger, asked about the leaks, said. “This was just an exercise. It was a test. We should try it again.” And that was the theme heard from Pentagon spokesmen last week. The spokesmen also said Pentagon officials would meet with media representatives to discuss all aspects of the test with a view to ironing out the problems. “We think we can sit down and find the problems and square them away,c McClain said.
Indeed, chief Pentagon spokesman Michael I. Burch met on Wednesday with the bureau chiefs of ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN. The meeting had been scheduled before the weekend events, but it was to have covered details of the system that was being put to the test. “We want to make the mechanism work,” Headline said later, “so we discussed the things that worked and the things that didn’t, and the approaches to use to make them better.” McFarland said one of the questions discussed was,” ‘How do we stop the leaks?’ We didn’t figure that out. We’re working on it.”
Pentagon officials said a better evaluation of the test would be possible once the pool had returned from covering the military exercise that simulated an amphibious landing in Central America; they were due back Thursday evening. However But both Pentagon officials and the bureau chiefs felt more attention was due those aspects of the plan that were working well. McFarland noted that “on a lovely spring weekend, we put 10 people on an aircraft and transported them [to Honduras] before anything was reported.” And McClain said that “no additional transportation or bunks or equipment is needed. We’re doing it out of the hide of our commanders.” He noted television material was being flown to Tegucigalpa; from there it was fed by earth station to a satellite for relay back to the U.S and the best canister vacuum. The print press was filing from aboard one of the ships standing off Honduras. “Overall,” McClain said, “it’s going extremely well.”