Phil Gomes nicely deflates the notion of “off the record” in the current media climate and his post should definitely be read since that’s the real problem.
But what keeps occurring to me is that the “it was supposed to be off the record/on background” argument is being used as a defense of the quotes attributed to the offenders, especially in the case of Gen. McChrystal. It doesn’t actually matter whether or not disrespectful comments about the civilian leadership of the Army or those in the chain of command were on or off the record. If they were said they are out of line and need to be dealt with, regardless of the context. Unless Jeff Ross was hosting a discussion at the Friar’s Club, the context doesn’t count for squat for the defense.