News / USA

Pentagon Bans Four Reporters from Guantanamo Trials

Al Pessin

The Pentagon has banned four reporters from covering military commission hearings for alleged terrorists at the Guantanamo detention center because they revealed the name of a witness.  But the man's name and role in the case were well-known, leading the news organizations involved and press freedom advocates to sharply criticize the ban.  

The hearings this week at Guantanamo involved the case of Canadian Omar Khadr, who was 15-years-old when he was detained in Afghanistan eight years ago.  He is accused of being a member of al-Qaida, killing a U.S. Army sergeant during a battle and helping to plant roadside bombs.

At the hearings, his lawyers claimed he was abused when he was first detained at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.  To support their case, they called one of his interrogators as a witness, a man who has been convicted of abusing detainees.  The man testified that he had never physically abused Khadr, but acknowledged he spoke to him harshly and told him he might be raped in prison if he did not cooperate.

The interrogator's name is well known to those who follow the case.  He gave an on-the-record interview to a Canadian reporter who wrote a book about the Khadr case.  But reporters are not allowed to identify witnesses at the military commissions, and the judge specifically admonished them not to do so in this instance, even though the man's name had been published before.  Four reporters defied the judge and have been banned from covering future military commissions.  

A Pentagon Spokesman, Colonel David Lapan, explained the decision. "They all had copies of these ground rules.  They were well known.  They were established.  And, in this case, the judge had reminded them in court two days ago that the protective order protecting the names, the identities, of the witnesses applied to them.  Yet, they published anyway," he said.

The banned reporters are the Canadian who wrote the book about Khadr, Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star, one of the most experienced Guantanamo reporters Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald, Paul Koring from the Toronto Globe and Mail and Steven Edwards of Canada's Canwest newspapers.

Officials of the newspapers and civil liberties and press freedom groups have objected to the ban.  The American Civil Liberties Union called the move "absurd" and "draconian," and said "no legitimate government interest is served by suppressing information that is already well known."

At the Reporters' Committee for Freedom of the Press, Executive Director Lucy Dalglish said "common sense has apparently left" the process. "To ban the use of his name when virtually anybody who cares about this proceeding and is following it closely knows who he is is really, I think, strange," she said.

Dalglish also noted that the ban on these reporters will remove a tremendous amount of expertise from the coverage of the military commissions.  She said the reporters have followed the commission rules for years, but she acknowledged they took a risk in this instance. "You defy a judge's order at your peril, even if the judge's order is completely unreasonable.  Judges love to be in control.  Judges believe that they need to be in control.  So, when you directly defy a judge in something like this, it's like poking him or her in the eye," she said.

At the Pentagon, Colonel Lapan indicated it was not the particular information the reporters disclosed that was the problem, but rather that they violated the ground rules, particularly after being admonished by the judge. "It has been standard practice in any number of instances to have ground rules, and for any variety of reasons, whether it's security, operational security, personal privacy, I mean all of those things.  You have all operated under ground rules at one time or another for various reasons.  And you all understand the consequences for violating the ground rules.  That's what happened here," he said.

Some of the newspapers whose reporters were banned have said they will appeal the decision to senior Pentagon officials.  In the meantime, the Pentagon says the newspapers are free to send other reporters to cover the Khadr trial and other military commission proceedings.

You May Like

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land In French Port

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching 'Fortress Europe' More

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

New Hints That Dark Matter Exists

New evidence from International Space Station hints at existence of dark matter and dark energy More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid