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 One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs