BROOKE GLADSTONE: The three big networks have pulled their reporting teams from Baghdad, though ABC and NBC are relying on freelancers. CNN has been expelled. As of Friday NPR still had a reporter there, and so do several other American news outlets as well as many foreign ones, but the prevailing trend seems to be to heed the president's warning and leave -- if they can. Some reporters including John Burns of the New York Times have been hindered or detained by the Iraqi government. The Boston Globe's David Filipov wrote in a recent piece how he was thrown out, against his will, just before the war began. The Iraqi government demands that reporters use their satellite phones from within the Ministry of Information and surrender them at night before they go to bed. Filipov violated that rule. When I spoke to him earlier this week from Tehran, he explained.
DAVID FILIPOV: They caught me using the phone from my hotel room. I had written a couple of stories that day. It was after midnight when I filed that story. It's far away to the press center. I didn't know if I could get a driver and I didn't think it made sense to carry all that equipment around, so I quickly set up, sent the thing, probably took 30 seconds to send it, and I just hoped that the signal wouldn't be something that they'd notice. And-- evidently they did.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Were you surprised by the sophistication of the surveillance apparatus at work here?
DAVID FILIPOV:I wasn't that surprised. The Iraqi government is well known for using high tech methods to keep control -- cameras in the room -- tapping phone conversations -- any of those things in tandem with people outside listening for the signal would have helped them. But I think the main thing that tipped them off is that I had checked my satellite phone bag in the press center sort of to keep them from getting suspicious. And when I went in that morning, my bag had been opened. The lock had been picked. They'd seen that - what was inside it felt like a satellite phone but-- a scale that I'd bought that I'd put in the bag that looked the same and weighed the same.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: You gave them a dummy sat-phone! [SOUND CUT]
DAVID FILIPOV: Yeah, it worked for two weeks.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:You had clearly decided that the Iraqi restrictions on reporters were impossible to follow, but do you worry that you might have made it harder for your fellow reporters who are still in Baghdad? Do you think that what happened to you is going to cause them to be monitored more closely?
DAVID FILIPOV: I think that people were already being monitored more closely. What happened to me gave everyone a clear signal that the Iraqis take it seriously. The day after I got thrown out, there were piles and piles of satellite phones in all the official places where they're supposed to be kept. So I would prefer to think that I provided everybody with a perfect example of how they should behave and that everyone was able to take advantage of that and hold on to their satellite phones.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:This wasn't the first time that you've been based in a city on the brink of war. How does Baghdad compare to experiences you've had as a reporter in other places?
DAVID FILIPOV: Well when I was in Grozny before it was attacked--
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Grozny in Chechnya.
DAVID FILIPOV: -- Grozny in Chechnya, yeah. Both times there you could tell it was coming. Everything seemed so ominous. People were running around with weapons. People were getting ready. Everyone was talking about it. Baghdad, the last day I was there, people were going out of their way to ignore the sandbags and ignore the police on the streets with weapons; ignore the anti-aircraft guns and go about their business. You start talking to people and they're friendly. They're interested in talking about things other than the war. It wa amazing how little enmity the ordinary Baghdad resident felt towards me as an American journalist and how far away the war seemed. You know part of the problem is in that society they can't seem to be too worried because they've got to worry about how they look. There are so many government minders and government watchers around. People worrying too much too early might have gotten themselves in trouble.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: In the piece you wrote you said that one Iraqi official made a rather wry statement as you were being shown the door.
DAVID FILIPOV:Yeah. He essentially put it out that I, I was being thrown out so they could make their point. They want all the journalists to be filing from one place and that place is the Ministry of Information. There's two reasons why they want everyone there. Obviously that they can keep tabs on all the journalists and also in the hopes that U.S. and its allies won't attack that building which is apparently a vital building. Then that same official made a wry comment that I'll probably be back in Baghdad in three weeks on top of an American tank and I can take my phone back.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So David where do you go from here?
DAVID FILIPOV:With any luck I'll be passing through to Northern Iraq, Kurdish-controlled Northern Iraq, and maybe in three weeks I'll be back in Baghdad to pick up my satellite phone. [LAUGHS]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: David thank you very much.
DAVID FILIPOV: Thanks for having me.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Boston Globe reporter David Filipov has since left Tehran and found his way, as he intended, into Northern Iraq. [MUSIC]