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

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    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.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora