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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs