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The Embedding Apparatus

Media Surveillance during the Iraq War


Aimé-Jules Bizimana

When the war in Iraq began in 2003, the issue of the special status accorded to journalists covering the military operations arose quite naturally. Promising innovation, the Pentagon’s announcement that they would integrate hundreds of journalists into combat units—what has been known as embedding—attracted the attention of the international media and other observers. How would this be different from previous interactions between the military and the media?

The Embedding Apparatus explains the functioning of the informational control apparatus at work during the Iraq War and the relationships between embedded journalists and the military in the American army’s area of operations. The concept of the apparatus guides this case study, one that brings together the experiences of almost forty participants, journalists and military personnel. The study borrows Michel Foucault’s modern surveillance mechanisms of the disciplinary apparatus and the panoptic apparatus, bringing embedded journalism into close contact with the ubiquitous and flexible surveillance that characterizes the "control society." The author exposes a new embedding apparatus where the power relations between journalists and the military are at play, an apparatus operating within a circumscribed space where all of a journalist’s movements, reporting, behavior and communications are surveilled.

This book offers a fresh insight into this important issue and will certainly be of interest worldwide to scholars and students as well as media and military practitioners interested in this topic. Embedded journalism is studied from a new angle, one related to the broader context of surveillance in contemporary society.

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Chapter 5. The Apparatus of Capture



The Registry

In Discipline and Punish, Foucault evokes a type of surveillance based on “the setting up of a documentary system, the heart of which would be the location and identification of criminals.”1 With disciplinary technology, the data of individuals are stored in a textual field. Disciplinary text flows through dossiers and registers where the data are organized, providing a better understanding of individuals.2 What then does this bring to the embedding apparatus? This chapter will examine the characteristics that make embedding a knowledge tool and will examine how the embedded journalist is identified, what sorts of data are collected by the military system and the types of analysis are applied to these data, and the uses of these analyses.


One of the characteristics of the surveillance apparatus is the identification of individuals. A number of academic works have examined identification in the long march of societies toward a mastery of individual movement, this motivated by concerns for safety and security.3 Identification is defined as “the←63 | 64→ process of assignation, attestation, and certification of a recognizable identity within a group or a community by means of criteria that are relatively stable.”4 What sort of analysis can we apply to the identification processes established in the embedding apparatus?

Upstream of the accreditation process we find the basic identification of a journalist hoping to embed in a military unit. At the time of...

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