...the command has concluded from its own review of events that McChrystal was betrayed when the journalist quoted banter among the general and his staff, much of which they thought was off the record. They contend that the magazine inaccurately depicted the attribution ground rules for the interviews.This is bullshit. Journalism is not a game of Red Light/Green Light. There doesn't have to be "evidence" that the comments were made on the record because it doesn't work that way. If someone requests something to be off the record and the reporter uses it, that's a violation, but the subject doesn't have to say something's on the record for it to be used. I would say that goes double for embedded journalists.
"Many of the sessions were off-the-record and intended to give [reporter Michael Hastings] a sense" of how McChrystal's team operated, according to a senior military official. The command's own review of events, the official said, gleaned "no evidence to suggest" that any of the "salacious political quotes" in the article were made during a series of on-the-record and background interviews Hastings conducted with McChrystal and others.
The official, one of many subject to a Pentagon advisory not to discuss the situation without authorization, spoke on condition of anonymity. He said he was motivated by what he described as untrue claims made by Rolling Stone.
Two others with direct knowledge of the command's dealings with Hastings offered similar accounts.
I would also point out to the "officials" in the Pentagon that Army policy on this issue is explicit. As the Army Public Affairs Handbook puts it (pdf link):
Before beginning the interview, collect your thoughts, remind yourself of the ground rules, and remember there is no such thing as “off the record.” (Bold in the original.)The handbook also has a message for the staffers who couldn't keep their mouths in check.
Set the ground rules with the reporter. Tell him you can talk about what your unit does, and its mission, minus details that compromise OPSEC. Remind him not to ask you to speculate about the future or answer questions outside your area of responsibility. (Stay in your lane).And, I would add, Don't speak for the general.
The Pentagon "officials" are also complaining the Rolling Stone fact-checker didn't ask about the most damning quotes in Hastings' article. Guess what? Hastings has said he was openly using a recorder for most of the conversations, so why would a fact-checker have to check on statements which were recorded?
As Hastings said after the fact, no one has come forth to defend McChrystal's statements. For someone in the Pentagon to decide to go after Hastings with this weakass crap is ridiculous.
P.S. Byron York v. Michael Hastings.